I Want to Live! (1958)

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Released 14-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 114:15
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:35) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Wise

Starring Susan Hayward
Simon Oakland
Virginia Vincent
Theodore Bikel
Wesley Lau
Philip Coolidge
Lou Krugman
Gerry Mulligan
Shelly Manne
Red Mitchell
Art Farmer
Frank Rosolino
Pete Jolly
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Johnny Mandel

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In 1955 Barbara Graham was executed in the gas chamber for a crime she claimed she did not commit. This film tells the story of the last years of her life, the events that led up to her arrest and details the process by which she was executed by the state of California. Graham was an occasional prostitute, passed bad cheques, was convicted for perjury and was married four times, the last time to a drug addict. After an old woman was beaten to death in a robbery, Graham was arrested in the company of three other men, one of whom turned state's evidence resulting in the execution of the other three. He claimed that Graham delivered the fatal blows with a pistol.

    The film tells the story based on newspaperman Ed Montgomery's articles on Graham, and takes the position that she was innocent, but convicted by a flawed system. The truth may be that she was guilty, but we will never know for certain.

    Graham is played by Susan Hayward, who seems to have put everything she had into the role. She is utterly convincing as the unfortunate Graham, and deservedly won the Oscar for Best Actress. The final half hour or so of the film takes the viewer through the detailed process of putting someone to death, including the torture of repeated short stays of execution. This harrowing sequence was cut by British censors, but appears here in its entirety. When I first saw this film, I squirmed throughout the final ten minutes of the film, and did so again on this second viewing. There are obvious parallels with the much later film Dead Man Walking, but while that film sat on the fence regarding capital punishment, I Want to Live! unashamedly puts the case against, and is the better for it. A fine film which is still powerful today.

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Transfer Quality


    This is a good video transfer. The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 but, sadly, is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The video is reasonably sharp and clear. Contrast is good and shadow detail is more than acceptable. Blacks are quite dark and solid with no sign of low level noise. Whites also look good.

    Apart from the occasional shimmer of aliasing, there is sometimes more grain than would be desirable. The moire effect appears occasionally on cross-hatched patterns on suits and ties, but not to distracting levels.

    White spots appear occasionally but with less frequency than other 1950s films that I have reviewed recently. There is a reel change marking at 105:15.

    Optional English subtitles are provided. These are in good sized white text with black borders, and match the dialogue closely.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change placed at 66:35, mid-way through a scene and so is somewhat disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are audio tracks in five languages, the default being English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    This is a disappointing audio transfer. The audio is transferred at a low level, so that I had to turn the volume up considerably for the dialogue to be audible. Even then, there is considerable distortion and lack of clarity to the audio, with some of the dialogue being softer and less audible than the rest. The audio quality varies throughout the film. The film's audio is definitely in need of restoration.

    The music score is by Johnny Mandel, and is a jazzy score evocative of the era, played by a jazz combo including Gerry Mulligan. A pity that the audio transfer does not do the score justice.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided. There is a language selection menu prior to the main menu, but the main menu has only icons, no text. Cost-cutting gone mad.

R4 vs R1

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

    The US Region 1 appears to be identical to the Region 4, with the same audio problems, but there is an extra in the form of a theatrical trailer.


    A fine film with a powerful performance by Susan Hayward.

    The video quality is pretty good.

    The audio quality is poor.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, August 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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