Dance with a Stranger (1985)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 21-Apr-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Gallery-Photo-Scenes From The Film
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 98:15 (Case: 101)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mike Newell
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Miranda Richardson
Rupert Everett
Ian Holm
Stratford Johns
Joanne Whalley
Tom Chadbon
Jane Bertish
David Troughton
Matthew Carroll
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.95 Music Richard Hartley

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
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, frequently
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    On 13th July 1955, Ruth Ellis became the final woman to be hanged in the UK. Her story is not particularly new to the screen. In the 1956 film Yield To The Night Diana Dors portrayed a character named Mary Price Hilton in a fictionalised version of the Ellis story.

    In 1985, renowned British director Mike Newell gave us a more retrospective and honest version of the story with Dance With A Stranger . The film concentrates solely on the events that led to her demise, rather than the subsequent court case, conviction and her death sentence.

    In 1950's England, Ruth Ellis (Miranda Richardson) is the hostess of a popular nightclub. The club owner allows Ruth and her ten-year-old son Andy (Matthew Carrol) to live rent-free in a small flat, which is situated in the same building as the nightclub. This works well for Ruth, as she is able to check on her sleeping son from time to time while working at night.

    A frequent patron of the club is the kind-hearted and financially secure Desmond Cussen (Ian Holm ). Over time, he has become a trusted and loyal friend to Ruth, albeit on a strictly platonic level. Desmond is quietly desperate to get closer to Ruth, but she keeps him at a distance, all the while benefiting from his continuous generosity.

    Ruth meets David Blakeley (Rupert Everett) one night at the club. She is immediately entranced by his handsome looks and debonair persona and they subsequently begin a passionate, yet unstable relationship. It isn't long before David begins to treat the relationship with distain and returns to Ruth only for sex. He knows full well that Ruth can't resist his charms, even though she is furious with the lack of care and attention he pays to her.

    Unhealthy obsession and violence now begins to creep into the relationship. Ruth's inability to cope with David's wicked ways ends with Ruth losing her job at the club through a fit of rage. This also causes her to lose the roof over her head, as she is forced out of the flat. Desmond comes to the rescue again, offering to accommodate Ruth and Andy in his modest apartment.

    David attempts a seemingly genuine reconciliation with Ruth, but fails to deliver on an important promise he makes. Overwhelmed by frustration and rage, Ruth reacts resolutely and shatters the lives of many people as a consequence.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer for Dance With A Stranger is reasonable.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is not 16x9 enhanced. The film's correct aspect ratio is 1.66:1.

    Sharpness levels vary quite considerably throughout the film. The main issue with the transfer was the presence of grain that was frequently noticeable. This hampered the overall clarity of the film, especially in darker scenes. Surprisingly though, blacks were generally clean and deep with shadows delivering acceptable results.

    Colours contrasted a generally sterile, fifties looking palette with the occasional vivid burst of bright colour. The vibrant colours are well balanced, but sometimes only just avoided over-saturation.

    There were no issues with MPEG artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts, while not significant, were occasionally noticed. Some aliasing was noticed on a jacket at 11:46 and on curtains at 35:16 . Reel change markings were easily noticed at approximate twenty-minute intervals, beginning at 19:43 and 19:49 and progressing throughout the film on a further four occasions. A small black spot appears in the print at 92:20. It is noticeable approximately in the centre of screen, about two thirds down and stays until the final credits roll. I didn't find this too distracting; my initial thought was that a fly had landed on the screen. Film artefacts were apparent, but were generally of a minor nature.

     There are English subtitles for the hearing impaired available on this DVD. These subtitles are easy to read in bold white and are very accurate.

     This DVD is a single sided, single layer disc. Hence, there is no layer change to report.

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


    The audio transfer is quite plain, but reasonably effective.

    There is one audio track available, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s). I believe this track is the original mono recording.

    Dialogue quality was quite good in general, although I did have trouble picking up the occasional word here and there. I put this down to character accents and also the flat range of the audio track. Audio sync appeared to be very accurate.

    The original music score by Richard Hartley blends in nicely with the era and general mood of the film. Richard is one of Britain's most prolific and successful composers. He has composed scores for an impressive list of films and television programs over many years.

    The surround channels were not used.

    The subwoofer came to life at 48:15, highlighting a slap to the face. Apart from this very minor enhancement, the subwoofer remained dormant throughout the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras on this disc are minimal to say the least.


    The menu is static, 16x9 enhanced, very basic and features a looped sample of music.

Picture Gallery

    A token gallery of nine non-descript images from the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    I will compare this reviewed disc against an R1 version, released in January 2001 by MGM Home Entertainment.

    The R1 edition presents the film in its correct aspect ratio of 1.66:1, although like this local version, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The R1 version features the same audio track as the local version, but has additional Spanish and French subtitles. However, the English subtitles for the hearing impaired featured on this local version are missing from the R1 version. This would be a major issue for people with hearing difficulties.

    The R1 version features an alternate ending and original theatrical trailer as its only extras. Although this alternate ending would be a welcome extra, as would be the correct aspect ratio, I think only big fans of the film need bother hunting down the R1 version for these bonuses.


    Dance With A Stranger is a compelling adaptation of the tragic story of Ruth Ellis. The performances are superb, especially from the under-rated Miranda Richardson.

    The transfer are a little disappointing, considering the calibre of the film.

    The extras are extremely basic.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Friday, January 20, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Al D

Comments (Add)
Miranda Richardson - cztery REPLY POSTED