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Fritz Lang
Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Marilyn Monroe
Writing Credits:
Alfred Hayes

Mae Doyle comes back to her hometown a cynical woman.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 5/2/2023

• Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
• Trailer


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Clash By Night [Blu-Ray] (1952)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 19, 2023)

With 1952’s Clash By Night, we see Marilyn Monroe as a rising star. While not yet an “A-list” actor, Monroe found herself on an upward swing that would see her as a clear box office draw before long.

Though she grew up in Monterey, California, Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) left years ago to move to New York. After a decade away, she becomes fed up with a party/big city lifestyle and returns home.

As she lives with her fisherman brother Joe (Keith Andes), Mae becomes courted by dull, good-natured, homely Jerry D’Amato (Paul Douglas) and misogynistic and condescending but handsome Earl Pfeiffer (Robert Ryan). While Mae eventually chooses Jerry, Mae’s attraction to Earl persists and creates conflicts.

Where does Monroe play into all of this? She plays Joe’s girlfriend Peggy, a role that seems largely superfluous.

Except as an indicator of how miserable and unhappy apparently everyone in Monterey is. Clash comes with a persistently grim and cynical feel, one that makes it tough to embrace.

Not that I demand happy happy sunny sunny from movies, of course. Dark and moody can work just fine.

However, Clash ladles out the dismal material from start to finish, with nary a respite on display. With the possible exception of Jerry, we find no sympathetic characters, and even Jerry doesn’t emerge from the story in an especially positive manner by the end.

All of this makes Clash tough to take. Again, I don’t need a sunny, fluffy narrative to dig into a film, but I do need some reason to invest in the characters and/or situations.

Clash simply fails to earn that desire for engagement. The film feels like such a self-conscious attempt to wallow in human misery that it lacks the ability to create viewer involvement.

We also find oddly overwrought film noir dialogue through much of the movie. In a better project, these lines might feel less ridiculous, but in this one – with its mundane seaside setting – the material comes across as goofy.

With Fritz Lang behind the camera and all the aforementioned actors in front of it, Clash boasts a good level of talent. Unfortunately, they can’t make this depressing tale work.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus C

Clash By Night appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite a few exceptions, this became a largely positive presentation.

For the most part, sharpness worked well, but a few less than satisfying shots emerged, so except occasional instances of softness. Sill, most of the movie boasted appealing delineation.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain felt light but natural, and print flaws never interfered.

Blacks seemed fairly deep and dense, while shadows brought mostly appealing clarity. All of this led to a pretty satisfying image.

I felt less pleased with the mediocre DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Clash. While not bad for its age, it also failed to become a quality affair.

In particular, speech could seem edgy and brittle, and we also found some surprisingly weak looping. Music showed moderate range, though the score favored a slightly shrill sense of high-end.

Effects lacked much range, but they came across as acceptably accurate. Though not a poor mix, the track felt mediocre.

In addition to the movie’s trailer, we get an audio commentary from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich. He brings a running, screen-specific look at the genre and story/characters, cast and crew, and general thoughts about the movie.

The commentary also includes some excerpts from Bogdanovich’s 1965 interview with director Fritz Lang. Those elements cover Lang’s work on the film.

For the first act, we get a reasonably worthwhile view of the film. Bogdanovich offers useful notes, and the remarks from Lang add good perspective.

As the flick progresses, though, Bogdanovich fades, and we also find fewer comments from Lang. It doesn’t help that Bogdanovich appeared not to bother to prep much for the chat.

For instance, early in the film Bogdanovich mentions that the Earl character was a film projectionist in the source play, which means he implies the role’s job changed for the movie. However, that’s wrong, and Bogdanovich realizes his mistake when we formally meet Earl.

Shouldn’t Bogdanovich have bothered to watch the film again before he did the commentary? Clearly he simply relied on old memories, and this means he can’t offer a lot of real insight much of the time.

Again, the track comes with some positives and doesn’t turn into a total dud. However, Bogdanovich loses steam as he goes, and combined with his apparent lack of preparation, this becomes a mediocre chat.

As a form of film noir with good talent behind it, Clash By Night shows promise. However, the end product depicts wholly unsympathetic characters that it fails to make interesting enough to overcome how little we care about them. The Blu-ray provides generally good picture, mediocre audio and an audio commentary. Expect an off-putting film here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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