White of the Eye Blu-Ray Review
Blu-Ray Review- White of the Eye
Distributor: Arrow Video (Region B/2)
Street Date: March 31st 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Uncompressed 2.0 Stereo PCM, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Runtime: 111 Minutes
White of the Eye stars David Keith and Cathy Moriarty as Paul and Joan White. Paul works as a hi-fi stereo specialist, with the unique gift of being able to perfectly arrange his upper class customer’s audio experience for their home. Cathy is his sexy and supportive wife, who is obviously enamored by her husband’s charm and knowledge. The two of them enjoy their seemingly happy and secure life in Arizona, but all that is about to change. Our drama begins when the wealthy female citizens of their isolated community begin to fall victim to a serial killer, and both Joan and local law enforcement’s suspicions turn to Paul.
There is much to admire about this thriller from the late Donald Cammell. For the majority of this film, this isn’t your standard serial killer “slasher” thriller. In fact, there is a twisted beauty to the unique cinematography, creative use of filtering and lighting, and meticulous editing that you don’t normally find in films of this genre. The murder sequences in particular are brilliantly executed. One of them takes place in a kitchen as our female victim prepares a meal: Glass shatters in slow motion, a fish struggles for air after his bowl is smashed to pieces, red wine sprays violently across the walls, all while the signature electronic 80’s soundtrack pounds in the background. Much like other works in Cammell’s short filmography, this is stylish art-house filmmaking wrapped in a B-movie package.
The acting here is especially involved and dynamic for a genre film, and David Keith turns in a multi-layered performance that is quite memorable. Cathy Moriarty also turns in an effective performance here that exhibits sexiness, vulnerability, and strength interchangeably. The writing is natural, featuring realistic dialogue and a police procedural that unfolds in a believable manner.
Unfortunately, the climax of the film falls into some seriously goofy territory, and without revealing pivotal plot points, settles into a more cliché’ ending that took me out of the film. The events that unfold reminded me of Martin Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear, where you’re completely along for the ride until the ending transforms into a Looney Tunes special. I forgave that particular film for its over-the-top finale, and I feel the same way about White of the Eye. The majority of the film is so stylishly executed, well-acted, and tense, that it’s easy to forgive the uninspired ending.
The folks at Arrow Video have proved once again that they can bring together the right team of people, existing elements, and technology to create a wonderful High Definition transfer of an older film. Other movies of the late 1980’s often suffer from issues related to the film stock used at the time, even when remastered. But Arrow has provided an authentic and natural looking transfer that retains the film grain and color scheme while cleaning up unnatural debris and scratches. Detail is clear and objects defined, and there are no signs of manipulation via digital noise reduction. The desert cinematography and dry dusty landscapes are beautiful to behold on Blu-Ray. Well done!
The original uncompressed Stereo PCM track included here supports the film well enough, and is even quite dynamic during the electronic music sequences. Dialogue is appropriately balanced among background effects and music as well. It’s not as powerful as it could be, but again, it gets the job done. The musical score in particular sounds great on this release.
Arrow Video has, once again, knocked it out of the park. This Blu-Ray release is jam packed with commentary, a feature-length documentary, deleted scenes, a short film, and so much more. This is absolutely one of the best bonus feature packages of the year so far. As a film buff and collector, being able to learn so much more about a film and its creation is exactly what owning physical copies is all about. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary by Biographer Sam Umland– This commentary is rich and entertaining. It’s absolutely worth listening to after watching the film first. Sam Umland knows his stuff, and makes it abundantly clear that Cammell was setting out to make a different kind of thriller. He discusses filming techniques, personal anecdotes, and some of the on-set history behind White of the Eye.
- Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance– Originally broadcast on the BBC following Cammell’s death, this 1998 documentary is fascinating. We get to hear from not only the Director himself, but his friends, colleagues, and family. If you weren’t aware, Donald Cammell committed suicide at the age of 62. His family explains that he had known since the age of seven that he would take his own life one day. Though parts of the documentary are incredibly depressing, it’s so well made, and hearing about his genius from those who knew him is consistently enthralling.
- The Argument (1972)– This is one of Donald’s short films that was discovered posthumously, and re-edited by Frank Mazzola, one of his frequent collaborators on film. Filmed in the Utah desert, the imagery assembled here is breathtaking. It’s only 11 minutes long, but it packs quite the punch.
- Into the White– In this bonus segment we get a brief interview with Larry McConkey, cinematographer and collaborator of Cammell’s.
- Rare Deleted Scenes– This is a special treat for fans of the film! Several deleted scenes that have been newly remastered from the original film negative. I’m always grateful when distributors go to great lengths to find deleted or extended scenes for catalog releases, but Arrow went above and beyond by remastering them in High Definition.
- Bleach Bypass Sequences– A series of comparison shots of the flashback sequences in the film before undergoing the “bleach bypass” processing for the final film.
- Alternate Credits Sequence– This one is rather self-explanatory, but it’s a fun alternate segment of the opening credits and imagery that was left on the cutting room floor.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Arrow Video features some spectacular cover art with a brilliant color scheme and design by Nathanael Marsh. You also have the option of reversing the sleeve for alternate art featuring the original theatrical poster design. The included Blu-Ray and DVD discs include some beautiful and creative artwork as well. You will also find a very detailed booklet with behind-the-scenes photographs and an essay by Brad Stevens. If you’ve never seen the film before, avoid reading the essay as it does contain significant spoilers. With that being said, it’s incredibly well written. Biographer Sam Umland (featured in the aforementioned commentary) also contributes with his essay on The Argument. You’ll also find an insert advertising Arrow’s upcoming release for City of the Walking Dead.
White of the Eye is an incredibly well-made and entertaining thriller that grows increasingly intense up until the goofy, over-the-top ending. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter as much because you will revisit this film for the brilliantly executed cinematography and filming techniques, memorable performances from the cast, and nostalgic 80’s soundtrack. The late Donald Cammell made very few films, but each of them were memorable and unique. The transfer here is authentic, and the audio is generally well balanced. The big reason to purchase this one is the significant amount of worthwhile bonus features on this release, including the heartbreaking and finely assembled documentary. This one comes Highly Recommended.