Shot in the Dark, A (1933)

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Released 21-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1933
Running Time 53:13 (Case: 52)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By George Pearson
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring O B Clarence
Jack Hawkins
Michael Shepley
Dave Burnaby
A. Bromley Davenport
Russell Thorndyke
Hugh E Wright
Henrietta Watson
Margaret Yarde
Dorothy Boyd
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    There are several films called A Shot in the Dark, made in 1912, 1914, 1915, 1933, 1935, 1941, 1964 (that's the Peter Sellers Pink Panther one), and 2002.

    The IMDB entry for the 1935 film reads: "A group of people gathered in an old mansion are being systematically murdered by a hooded killer.", and then there's a review (written in 2001 by a Randy H. Farb) that reads: "This mystery has all the right elements-mistaken identity, professors, comedy, etc. Who committed the crime? Was it the lady on the cruise? the cab driver? the maid? Don't miss Edward Van Sloan's excellent performance. He proves that he can be more than just Van Helsing."

    The blurb on the back cover of this case reads: "A group of people gathered in an old mansion are being systematically murdered by a hooded killer. This stylish mystery has all the right elements-mistaken identity, professors, comedy and suspense. Who committed the crime? Was it the lady on the cruise? The cab driver? The maid? Don't miss Edward Van Sloan's most excellent performance. He proves that he can be more than just Van Helsing."

    OK, so that looks a lot like plagiarism, but you haven't heard the real punch line yet. The movie on the DVD inside the cover is not the 1935 film, made in the USA. It's the 1933 film, made in the UK. Which is missing almost all of the elements listed. There's no hooded killer. There are exactly zero professors (I counted them several times). There's no lady on a cruise. No cab driver. No maid. And, surprisingly enough, no Edward Van Sloan.

    The photos on the back cover look like they may have taken from the PR material for the 1935 film, and the cast list on the front cover definitely matches the 1935 film. The front cover image, which is also the menu image, may well be from the 1935 movie too.

    So what is this film about? Well, I could quote the IMDB entry for the film, but I'd rather tell you in my own words (besides, there were several misspellings in the IMDB entry). This is a short (less than an hour) murder mystery, the kind of short feature that used to be shown before intermission — the original "B" movie. And it shows. This is a rather melodramatic affair, replete with dreadful overacting, with the worst offenders being A. Bromley Davenport (playing the victim, Peter Browne) and Russell Thorndyke (as Dr Stuart), but we get dialogue that's too clearly enunciated from most of the cast — they act as though they are on stage, and trying to ensure that the back stalls can hear every word.

    The plot is classic: we see a few minutes of a man (Peter Browne) in bed, and then the verdict of a coronial inquest — it is pronounced suicide, at the prompting of the decedent's doctor, Dr Stuart. Afterwards, the family members are gathered by lawyer Yarrow (Hugh Wright), and he starts to play a record which contains Peter Browne's last will and testament — Browne opens by opining that he has been murdered. The playing is interrupted, and in the disturbance, someone swipes the record. The obvious inference is that someone was worried about what might be revealed on the record. The gathered family members are:

    The reason for the interruption was a golf ball through the window, struck by the Rector, Reverend John Makehan (O B Clarence). The good Rector turns out to be something of a Father Brown (sorry, the family name made it hard to resist that comparison), but Anglican instead of Catholic. The Rector is definitely of the opinion that Peter Browne's death was no accident, and he sets to the task of working out whodunnit. In this he is aided by a plethora of confessions. Nonetheless, he works through the various clues, and gathers everyone in the dead man's bedroom to reveal his findings. And then...

    This film is interesting, partly because of the insight it gives us into the quality of a real B movie, and partly because it is so truly dreadful a melodrama. This is a classic example of a drama so bad it becomes a comedy. I enjoyed it, and you may too, if you approach it that way. Just, umm, don't believe what's on the cover...

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This movie was made as a fairly disposable piece of entertainment in the 1930s. It's 70 years old this year. It's kind of amazing that it's not in worse shape. It clearly hasn't been restored.

    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical aspect ratio was 1.37:1 (the classic Academy ratio that we'd expect for any film of this era).

    The picture is mostly just soft, but it gets quite blurry at 35:53. Shadow detail is limited, but not as bad as some. There's consistent light film grain. There's no low level video noise, but that's about the only artefact we don't see.

    Colour is, well, completely absent: this is a black-and-white film. The blacks are quite black most of the time, although there are a few shots that are distinctly over-exposed (such as around 25:05 and 43:29). The brightness rises and falls at times.

    There are lots and lots of film artefacts, including black and white flecks, spots, and speckles, white cuts (such at 17:04), lots of vertical scratches, and a variety of reel change markings (1:04, 4:12, 9:48, 20:44, 21:55, 30:59, 33:05, 41:49). There is plenty of telecine wobble (both horizontal and vertical), and the occasional missing frame.

    There's no significant aliasing, no moiré, and no shimmer, and no MPEG artefacting. There is some visible edge enhancement, but it's the least of the troubles. As far as I can tell, almost all of the damage was done before the video compression took place.

    There are no subtitles.

    The disc is single sided and single layered, so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one soundtrack, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 224kbps. One has to wonder why they bothered using 224kbps, given the low fidelity of the sound.

    The dialogue is mostly comprehensible, but muffled and quite low fidelity. There's surprisingly little hiss, though. There are no obvious audio sync glitches, but there are plenty of pops and cracks, some dropouts, and a period from 27:49 to 27:51 where the sound is completely missing.

    There is very little score, with basically just a bit of bombastic music at the start.

    The surrounds and subwoofer aren't used by this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras on this disc

Menu

    The menu is static and silent, offering only Play Movie and Chapter Selection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I can tell, this movie has not been released in another region, so your only choice is this disc.

Summary

    A real B movie from 1933 that's interesting as a piece of film history, in a cover that describes another movie of the same name.

    The video quality is quite awful.

    The audio quality is poor.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, December 27, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews NONE
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