The auteur theory is best explored when you have the ability to get ahold of the movies made by a director. This can be a very easy task for a director with a limited output who worked primarily for a few studios. There’s plenty of boxsets celebrating Tarantino, Scorsese, Hitchcock and Kubrick. This bounty of releases isn’t so true for directors who have a major following with academics and cinephiles. Their hits might be readily available, but their lesser films can be extremely difficult to locate. Even when found, the only copy might be a multi-generational VHS dupe from a UHF station. Even with crummy resolution, there’s a sense of relief in getting to see the film instead of merely imagining it based on a film critic’s recollection. There can be several reasons for the lack of a proper release that includes studio apathy to lost in an unmarked can deep inside a vault. So there must be rejoicing when these films finally find their way to a proper home video release. Both directors Joseph Losey and Douglas Sirk have had two of their lesser films get the Blu-ray treatment thanks to Olive Films. Now fans may appreciate Stranger on the Prowl and Sleep, My Love in shimmering black and white transfers worthy of a revival house gala screening.
Stranger on the Prowl (1953 – 82 minutes) wasn’t known as a film by Joseph Losey (The Boy with Green Hair) for quite a few years. The director had fled to Europe after being blacklisted. In order to get this Italian production released in America, he was credited as Andrea Forzano. Losey does a fine job as an Italian woman since the film fit naturally with the neorealism movement. This is about those at the bottom of life and fearing what’s beneath them. Paul Muni (the original Scarface) is a drifter who gets into a fight with a businessman. During a fight, the guy is killed. Complicating his plight is a small boy who is also fearing the law. The kid swears the cops want him from stealing milk from the dead businessmen. The duo roam the ravaged streets searching for some sort of freedom.
Sleep, My Love (1948 – 97 minutes) is a bit of a Hitchockian thriller from director Douglas Sirk. The German director was best known for his melodramas including All that Heaven Allows and Magnificent Obsession. He was namechecked as a dinner item in Pulp Fiction. Sleep, My Love opens with Claudette Colbert waking up on a train heading to Boston. While this shouldn’t be an out of the ordinary experience for a commuter, she has no idea how she got on the train or why she’s going to Boston. Don Ameche (Cocoon), her husband, has already gone to the cops to look for his missing wife. He’s really concerned. Sgt. Strake (Perry Mason‘s Raymond Burr) isn’t quite sure what to make of the case especially when the wife is found swiftly. On her flight home, Colbert strikes up a strange romance with Robert Cummings (Beach Party). The mystery of why she took the train gets completely complicated by an out of control psychiatrist who doesn’t seem to be wanting to sort her out. Will she find herself wandering away again to avoid the nonsense or is this all a plot against her? Sirk does a fine job with putting his actress into an emotional whirlwind where everyone is supposedly looking out for her. Even with such a noted cast, it doesn’t appear that Sleep, My Love had a decent home video release until now. The Hitchcock nature of the film is helped by the fact that cinematographer Joseph A. Valentine shot Shadow of a Doubt and Saboteur.
Stranger on the Prowl and Sleep, My Love are both films that can easily be appreciated by modern fans. It’s strange to think that two directors who have noted followings have had such fine films trapped away in the homevideo era. While the two Blu-rays are being sold separately, they make for a fine rainy afternoon double feature.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The 1080p black and white transfers look fine for two films that haven’t been the most visible over the decades. Stranger on the Prowl rough moments fit with the desolate Italian urban jungle. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. Since Stranger was shot in Italy, the audio track is dubbed.
Neither film has bonus features.
Stranger on the Prowl and Sleep, My Love are two releases from Olive Films that needed to be properly released from the vault. Both movies should appeal to auteurists and those just wanting to enjoy classic cinema.
Olive Films present Stranger on the Prowl. Directed by: Paul Muni. Screenplay by: Ben Barzman. Starring: Paul Muni. Rated: Unrated. Released: April 22, 2014.
Olive Films present Sleep, My Love. Directed by: Douglas Sirk. Screenplay by: St. Clair McKelway & Leo Rosten. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, Raymond Burr and Robert Cummings. Rated: Unrated. Released: April 15, 2014.