Stranger in the House [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (3rd March 2019).
The Film

"Stranger in the House" (1967)

John Sawyer (played by James Mason) was once a powerful lawyer, but through alcoholism his personal and his professional career took a steep fall. His wife (played by Lisa Daniely) has left him, and the only other person in the mansion is his teenage daughter Angela (played by Geraldine Chaplin) who barely has even a speaking relationship her father and is more interested in partying. But one day a gunshot when is heard and a murdered body of a young man is discovered in the attic of the Sawyer residence, the former lawyer's mind begins to function once again to find the clues and reveal the killer...

Based on the French novel "Les inconnus dans la maison" written by Geroges Simenon, and was once adapted into a film in France by filmmaker Henri Decoin, with a screenplay adapted by Henri Georges-Clouzot. Bulgarian born England based film producer Pierre Rouve adapted an English language version of the script and decided to direct the film immediately following wrapping of "Blow-Up" in 1966. The film pushed a freshness into the British film industry focusing on twenty-somethings, rock music, sexuality, and energy. While "Blow-up" looked to youth culture, "Stranger in the House" would be a clash of cultures with the young and the old, while also establishing itself as a murder mystery.

The film starts off as a slight clone of "Blow-Up" with its energetic club scene featuring music by The Animals, drugged out kids dancing and smoking while colorful psychedelic visual placed everywhere. The fashion of the youth are bright and bold, countered by the older adults in the picture are stoic, monotone and muted in wardrobe and in living conditions. Things appear to be a straightforward narrative with revelations about the dead body appearing in the house shown in flashbacks of Angela, as her friends Jo met the tragic victim Barney (played by Bobby Darin. Ultimately shown scenes of jealousy, sexual inadequacy, rage, and distrust, things are slowly but surely revealed, but in the end the conclusion and execution are not very well constructed. The focus on the youthful energy and their rambunctious ways can be fun at times and frustrating in others, as the chemistry between the actors never truly gel. Angela falls for Jo (played by Paul Bertoya) but their relationship never feels to be true. The character of Barney, the mysterious American is one of the more interesting characters, but slightly miscast due to Darrin being fairly old compared to the rest of the cast, and his background and direction gives more questions than answers. Interestingly the original casting called for George C. Scott who was even older than Darrin. The main draw to the cast is Mason who gives quite a performance while being mostly intoxicated the entire time. His character arc from useless has-been to a Columbo-like man of detective skills is one that should be seen more on screen, but sadly his screentime seems slightly low in comparison to the rest of the cast, even if he is the lead.

There are some great and wonderful cinematography by Ken Higgins with the use of colors in both interior and exterior segments, as well as the use of split-diopters and unusual angles. Visually the film can be a treat, as well as the upbeat score by John Scott and the music of the The Animals recurring. Many of the modern looking segments at the time is retro to the eyes of the 21st century and the charm of the wildness is captured very well. It's just a little unfortunate that the production didn't have consistency in tone and not a very strong cast of characters altogether. "Stranger in the House" opened in the UK on May 23, 1967 and distributed by The Rank Organization, while the American premiere was in January 1968 by Cinerama Releasing Corporation. For the American version, the film was retitled to "Cop-Out" and ten minutes of the film was removed from the original runtime. The film was not a hit on either side of the Atlantic and it also became the first and last film that Rouve would direct in his career. It may have been a disappointment commercially and critically at the time, but in retrospect there are some interesting moments here and there and deserves a look especially for Mason's performance.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray and region 2 PAL DVD set

Video

The BFI presents the film on Blu-ray in the theatrical 1.66:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The original 35mm interpositive was scanned and remastered in 2K resolution for this release. As the film has many colorful moments in sets such as Angela's bedroom and the club scene, the colors are certainly vibrant in this transfer, though skin tones are slightly on the muted side. In other portions such as at the Sawyer residence colors are very muted and slightly washed out with pale faces. It does seem weak at times while strong in others. As for damage there is very little visible, with specs and dust being extremely minimal in the restored master.

Both the Blu-ray and the DVD have the original longer UK version of the film. The runtime on the Blu-ray is 103:46 while the DVD's runtime is 99:37, accounting for% PAL speedup.

Screenshots are taken from the standard definition version



















Audio

English LPCM 2.0 mono (Blu-ray)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (DVD)

The original mono track has been remastered using the original mono track negative. The sound is fairly good with the music tracks and score coming in full, while never overpowering the dialogue scenes for a well mixed audio track. There are no hisses, pops, or dropouts in the track to speak of.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font, free of grammar or spelling errors.

Extras

This is a dual format release with the film and extras on the Blu-ray and the same content repeated in standard definition PAL on the DVD.

DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Audio commentary by Flipside founders Vic Pratt and William Fowler
The founders of the BFI Flipside series give a fairly light but informative discussion on the film. They comment on the costume designs, the drug use seen by the characters, the differences between the film and the novel, biographies of the actors and crew, the theme of the changing culture, and much more.
in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"James Mason in Conversation" 1981 audio interview, plays over the film (85:43)
Recorded at the National Film Theatre in London on September 5, 1981, Mason talks about his life, the film industry, roles he loved, roles he turned down, and even about some films he was unhappy with in this candid discussion. Some questions from the audience are also taken. This extra plays as an alternate audio track over the film. Once the discussion ends, the audio reverts back to the film's audio.
in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"G.G. Passion" 1966 short (24:16)
A young music star named G.G. who is always surrounded by gorgeous women is suddenly given a death sentence, with only 24 hour to live. This black and white short is an interesting and bizarre compliment to the main feature seeing the side of Swinging London and the clash of the older generation, the ones who stamp the "death" mark. The transfer of the film has scratches and tramline marks especially in the beginning but starts to look better later on. The sound also is a but on the tinny side but is overall listenable.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"Good Strong Coffee" c1968 short (1:59)
A psychedelic coffee ad with tinted wild colors and a fairly good quality image throughout.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"Tram Journey Through Southampton" c1900 short (1:49)
A single shot tramline footage from the front carriage, featuring "May the Chords Be With You"
by Computer Music All-stars for the score.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, Music LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"Charlie Chaplin Sails From Southampton" 1921 short (0:45)
This Topical Budget newsreel features the master comedian about to set sail, featuring "Drop of Water in the Oceaní by
Broke For Free for the score.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, Music LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"Southampton Docks" 1964 short (23:35)
Here is a color documentary about the docks of Southampton, which has a steady stream of cars, cheese, wool, and much more entering and exiting, plus information on the construction of new docks for the future.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Original theatrical trailer (2:59)
The original UK trailer is presented, with very washed out colors.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.66:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles



DISC TWO (DVD)

Audio commentary by Flipside founders Vic Pratt and William Fowler
"James Mason in Conversation" 1981 audio interview, plays over the film (85:43)
"G.G. Passion" 1966 short (23:19)
"Good Strong Coffee" c1968 short (1:55)
"Tram Journey Through Southampton" c1900 short (1:38)
"Charlie Chaplin Sails From Southampton" 1921 short (0:44)
"Southampton Docks" 1964 short (22:38)
Original theatrical trailer (2:53)

All the extras are presented once again on a DVD copy in standard definition PAL.


Booklet
Included is an illustrated booklet with essays, biographies, credits, and stills. The first essay is "Ancient and Modern" by author Jonathan Rigby which covers the making of the film and its themes. "Turning the Lens on Simenon" by Omer Ali is a biography and filmography of the original author Georges Simenon. "The Animals' House" by Antion Vikram Singh Meredith who is more well known by his given name Vic Briggs, a former member of The Animals, recalling the film and the recording of the music. Writer John Oliver gives short biographies of James Mason and Geraldine Chaplin, followed by credits for special features, transfer information, and acknowledgements.


The film was released in the United States on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber, containing the American cut and trailers as extras. While it would have been an interesting curiosity to include it on the UK BFI set, the longer cut seems to be the more preferable option. But of those interested, the shorter version is also available.

Packaging

This is the 37th release in the BFI Flipside series.

Overall

"Stranger in the House" has its charm with the retro aesthetics and James Mason's performance, but overall it mostly falls flat in its command and tone. The BFI release features a great selection of extras and good transfers for video and with the audio.

The Film: C+ Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: B+ Overall: B

 


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