A Life At Stake appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though the film came with some appealing elements, various problems occurred along the way.
Sharpness usually worked well. Only a little softness crept into the presentation, so it usually looked pretty accurate.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain seemed natural, so I didn’t suspect concerns with noise reduction.
Blacks appeared deep and dense, while shadows looked smooth. The image gave off a nice silvery sheen to match the black and white photography.
Stake lost points due to a mix of odd anomalies. Print flaws weren’t a major problem, as I noticed only occasional small marks.
However, the movie suffered from a weird pulsing/warping that occurred through much of the flick. This remained mild enough that it didn’t become a huge distraction, but it added a strange impression to the proceedings.
Also, footage sometimes seemed to go missing. The movie started abruptly and seemed to cut off the score mid-note.
In addition, I saw a frame jump at 9:50, and the score cuts out suddenly at 22:10, a skip that left the impression a shot went absent. A lot of the film offered nice visuals, but these strange issues prompted me to give it a “C”.
The movie’s DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack also came with flaws and inconsistencies. Dialogue remained intelligible, though the lines could be metallic and sibilant at times.
Music sounded somewhat screechy, though it could also appear a little dull on occasions. Effects failed to bring much oomph, but they seemed reasonably accurate given the movie’s vintage.
Background noise didn’t become a persistent factor, but I heard occasional pops. Even for its era, this felt like a subpar soundtrack.
A few extras appear, and we find an audio commentary from film scholar Jason A. Ney. He offers a running, screen-specific look at story/characters and noir domains, cast and crew, some production notes and other reflections on film in this one's era.
If you want a lot of specifics about Stake itself, you won't get a ton of insights from Ney. Perhaps because Stake exists as such an obscure "forgotten" film, he doesn't tell us a whole lot about the shoot itself.
Nonetheless, Ney makes this an engaging track, as he gives us good thoughts about the film in other ways, with an emphasis on genre areas and other information. We get a pretty likable chat.
Hollywood Hitch-Hikers runs 10 minutes, 59 seconds and offers remarks from author/film historian C. Courtney Joyner. He covers the production company behind Stake, with an emphasis on producer Ida Lupino. It becomes an interesting piece.
Finally, the package includes a booklet with photos and an essay from Ney. It provides a nice bonus.
As film noirs go, A Life At Stake seems neither outstanding nor terrible. Wholly mediocre, it creates a watchable 76-minute thriller and not much more. The Blu-ray brings erratic picture and audio along with a few supplements. Even with an ill-cast Angela Lansbury, this doesn’t turn into an especially engaging experience.