1078 Nightmare Alley

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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DarkImbecile
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1078 Nightmare Alley

#1 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Feb 12, 2021 4:50 pm

Nightmare Alley

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Darkness lurks behind the bright lights of a traveling carnival in one of the most haunting and perverse film noirs of the 1940s. Adapted from the scandalous best seller by William Lindsay Gresham, Nightmare Alley gave Tyrone Power a chance to subvert his matinee-idol image with a ruthless performance as Stan Carlisle, a small-time carny whose unctuous charm propels him to fame as a charlatan spiritualist, but whose unchecked ambition leads him down a path of moral degradation and self-destruction. Although its strange, sordid atmosphere shocked contemporary audiences, this long difficult-to-see reflection of postwar angst has now taken its place as one of the defining noirs of its era—a fate-fueled downward slide into existential oblivion.

SPECIAL FEATURES
  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2005 featuring film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver
  • New interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith
  • New interview with performer and historian Todd Robbins
  • Interview from 2007 with actor Coleen Gray
  • Audio excerpt of a 1971 interview with Henry King in which the filmmaker discusses actor Tyrone Power
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
    PLUS: An essay by film critic and screenwriter Kim Morgan

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Svevan
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#2 Post by Svevan » Sat Feb 13, 2021 5:00 am

This is a really nasty film, just about as dark as noir gets. I was surprised to see it approaching topics, sometimes frontally and sometimes obliquely, that are still pretty taboo. The geekshow/carnival aspect of the film is appropriately voyeuristic, with that voyeurism carrying over and subtly shifting when the film refocuses on the psychic and psychiatric. Some solid class politics in here and some major HIPAA violations. I especially love the ethereal photography during a key climactic scene. Really hits a lot of notes for one film, as the lead has his fortunes change. I saw it during an ongoing public film noir class locally, amidst a dozen other noirs, and when later reviewing what we’d watched I had to remind myself that it wasn’t two, totally different films but one film, with an extreme high point and an extreme low point.

Can’t say much about the extras here but I’ll be picking it up. Came back to the forum because I wanted to comment on the cover, of which I have opinions.

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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#3 Post by Rupert Pupkin » Sat Feb 13, 2021 11:10 pm

well, this is indeed a really noir movie and I did not expect something like this (the first time I saw it, I totally took the "wrong path" and was really surprised about how it turned out). I found that it we "leave" the circus too soon, but after having seen it I understood why. I really like the very dark irony of the end - I did expect a morality a-la Freaks, but it something else (it just makes the perfect circle, almost like a day nightmare scene (increased by the "coming back from the dead" appearance) to the point that it's like a rise and fall into a nightmare which comes true and you don't really know what was really really real (a bit like Minister of Fear; a kind of torpeur). The young cutie :oops: drinking coca-cola with her incredible suit (one of the best scene (apparently Criterion choose a capture of this scene- they know how to sale it) and the explanation/justification to the police officier about the young girl's suit. Is it a kind of Metropolis Fritz Lang clin d'œil ? this scene is very hot : https://criterion-production.s3.amazona ... 1af0c.jpeg
I also really like the psychiatric scenes (card and psychiatry and mentalist were also around "The Minister of Fear" story); with all these characters which are corrupted but not really the one you would think about the first time you see it.

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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#4 Post by FrauBlucher » Fri Apr 16, 2021 4:25 pm


black&huge
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#5 Post by black&huge » Fri Apr 16, 2021 4:43 pm

So I'm no expert but the Criterion looks to me as: DNR'd or down to the source material limitations or bad compression or 2 of all of the three...

Tenia we need your opinion!

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dwk
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#6 Post by dwk » Fri Apr 16, 2021 6:43 pm

Excessive DNR has been an ongoing issue with some of Fox's "restorations" for a number of years. I don't know if they had different teams working on different titles and certain ones liked to hit that DNR button too much or what, but it is a shame.

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Rayon Vert
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#7 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Apr 16, 2021 8:28 pm

That's awful. I'll stick with the DVD.

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Telstar
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#8 Post by Telstar » Fri Apr 16, 2021 9:22 pm

This looks really bad. How can Gary possibly claim it's simply "a bit waxy in spots" but otherwise "a pure treat"?

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ChunkyLover
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#9 Post by ChunkyLover » Fri Apr 16, 2021 9:24 pm

It looks about on-par with some of Fox's other 40s, B&W, remasters ("The Song of Bernadette", "The Ox-Bow Incident").

nitin
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#10 Post by nitin » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:04 pm

Looks like a recent Fox restoration. I would say better than The Song of Bernadette though (used on the MoC blu) and also The Ox Bow Incident. Although it is degrained rather than strictly DNRed but it has the same look as every Fox B&W restoration of recent years.

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ChunkyLover
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#11 Post by ChunkyLover » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:10 pm

nitin wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:04 pm
Looks like a recent Fox restoration. I would say better than The Song of Bernadette though (used on the MoC blu) and also The Ox Bow Incident. Although it is degrained rather than strictly DNRed but it has the same look as every Fox B&W restoration of recent years.
If only they could all look like "Fixed Bayonets!" (probably one of Fox's better vintage B&W efforts).

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Finch
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#12 Post by Finch » Sat Apr 17, 2021 1:36 am

A bit disappointing that it's no longer safe to assume you can off-load your DVDs even when the MoC is nearly 16 (!) years old. On the plus side, my wishlist of Criterions goes into the dozens so I should be grateful I can strike one or two titles off!

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reaky
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#13 Post by reaky » Sat Apr 17, 2021 6:06 am

To use a technical term, that looks crap. Check out skin tones and Power’s shirt - the blu is blown out and denuded of grain. I’ll hold on to my Fox DVD. So all this waiting for the Signal One blu has been in vain.

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EddieLarkin
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#14 Post by EddieLarkin » Sat Apr 17, 2021 7:23 am

It's a mistake to assume the same level of grain should be present across different remasters of the same film, especially when they're seperated by 15 years of scanning tech and could be from different elements entirely.

Whilst this does bear some of the hallmarks of b&w Fox restos (too smooth appearance) the grain is still plainly visible (plenty of the stuff in cap 6) and crucially the black levels appear healthy unlike the totally gimped Song of Bernadette.

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tenia
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#15 Post by tenia » Sat Apr 17, 2021 7:34 am

Of course, older masters look like older masters with their thicker typical grain but a recent 4k restoration made from the OCN, save for extremely damaged material, should have more high frequencies than this. So outside of a comparative look, this seems to be intrasequially looking smoother than it should.
Telstar wrote:This looks really bad. How can Gary possibly claim it's simply "a bit waxy in spots" but otherwise "a pure treat"?
Because the bitrate is high so he can call this solid or healthy or whatever. His text reviews are mostly useless when it comes to detailing a specific aspect of a presentation, especially because they're too short for that, but also probably because he technically couldn't.

Beaver's limitations aside, this looks indeed just like a Fox 4k restoration sadly hit by their recent habit of filtering high frequencies out. But as Eddie wrote, it isn't that bad (fine grain still is visible, we've seen far worse than this including from Fox) and at least the grading doesn't look to be as flat as, say, The Song of Bernadette (or Dragonwyck IIRC), though it does make me wonder if this doesn't have the opposite issue.
Last edited by tenia on Sat Apr 17, 2021 9:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

FlickeringWindow
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#16 Post by FlickeringWindow » Sat Apr 17, 2021 9:27 am

Worth noting that Fox threw out all their nitrate OCNs in 1976, including the Technicolor films, so they're working from nitrate prints, positives, or dupes. Young Mr. Lincoln was from an archival nitrate print, while The Gunfighter used a safety duplicate negative and Cluny Brown was from a safety fine-grain.

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tenia
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#17 Post by tenia » Sat Apr 17, 2021 9:48 am

Thanks for the reminder about this !
Still, it would only explain a variance in grain size, not "quantity".

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ChunkyLover
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#18 Post by ChunkyLover » Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:19 am

EddieLarkin wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 7:23 am
crucially the black levels appear healthy unlike the totally gimped Song of Bernadette.
Some of that has to do with Silversun encoding their discs at a low gamma; Kino Lorber did the same for years until around early 2018 (I assume the flack from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" is when more people started noticing this practice).

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MichaelB
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#19 Post by MichaelB » Tue Apr 20, 2021 6:06 am

reaky wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 6:06 am
To use a technical term, that looks crap. Check out skin tones and Power’s shirt - the blu is blown out and denuded of grain. I’ll hold on to my Fox DVD. So all this waiting for the Signal One blu has been in vain.
I forget the exact phrase, but in my commentary for the still unreleased Signal One edition (and I'm not holding out any hopes for it ever emerging, but at least I was paid literally years ago) I comment on the glorious high-definition picture, on the assumption that that would be what the eventual viewer would be watching - although the commentary was actually recorded to an old DVD.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#20 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Apr 20, 2021 9:56 am

Jesus, when it's this bad, I feel like Criterion should have passed altogether and put the resources towards another title where the restoration and master has been done right.

beamish14
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#21 Post by beamish14 » Tue Apr 20, 2021 2:31 pm

FlickeringWindow wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 9:27 am
Worth noting that Fox threw out all their nitrate OCNs in 1976, including the Technicolor films, so they're working from nitrate prints, positives, or dupes. Young Mr. Lincoln was from an archival nitrate print, while The Gunfighter used a safety duplicate negative and Cluny Brown was from a safety fine-grain.

That's absolute insanity. I've actually seen Nightmare Alley in nitrate. It looked absolutely stunning; I've never seen black hues look truly like ink before.

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Maltic
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#22 Post by Maltic » Tue Apr 20, 2021 4:37 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 8:28 pm
That's awful. I'll stick with the DVD.
Finch wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 1:36 am
A bit disappointing that it's no longer safe to assume you can off-load your DVDs even when the MoC is nearly 16 (!) years old. On the plus side, my wishlist of Criterions goes into the dozens so I should be grateful I can strike one or two titles off!
reaky wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 6:06 am
To use a technical term, that looks crap. Check out skin tones and Power’s shirt - the blu is blown out and denuded of grain. I’ll hold on to my Fox DVD. So all this waiting for the Signal One blu has been in vain.
It would have to be a very bad transfer/restoration for the BD not to be an improvement, and this one doesn't seem that bad. I must admit, I can almost never bring myself to put on a DVD these days. Of course, this doesn't mean I'll necessarily fork out for a mediocre Nightmare Alley BD. Just as likely, the film will go unwatched for a few more years...

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Drucker
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#23 Post by Drucker » Tue Apr 20, 2021 4:41 pm

beamish14 wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 2:31 pm
FlickeringWindow wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 9:27 am
Worth noting that Fox threw out all their nitrate OCNs in 1976, including the Technicolor films, so they're working from nitrate prints, positives, or dupes. Young Mr. Lincoln was from an archival nitrate print, while The Gunfighter used a safety duplicate negative and Cluny Brown was from a safety fine-grain.

That's absolute insanity. I've actually seen Nightmare Alley in nitrate. It looked absolutely stunning; I've never seen black hues look truly like ink before.
Agreed, were you at the Nitrate Show in Rochester last year? I specifically remember seeing how crisp the grain stood out to me, and how much more visible it was than the prints I generally see of 30s and 40s films elsewhere in NYC.

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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#24 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Apr 20, 2021 4:56 pm

Maltic wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 4:37 pm
Rayon Vert wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 8:28 pm
That's awful. I'll stick with the DVD.
It would have to be a very bad transfer/restoration for the BD not to be an improvement, and this one doesn't seem that bad. I must admit, I can almost never bring myself to put on a DVD these days. Of course, this doesn't mean I'll necessarily fork out for a mediocre Nightmare Alley BD. Just as likely, the film will go unwatched for a few more years...
I'm seeing the grain on the DVD (check out the faces), not here.

beamish14
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Re: 1078 Nightmare Alley

#25 Post by beamish14 » Tue Apr 20, 2021 5:08 pm

Drucker wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 4:41 pm
beamish14 wrote:
Tue Apr 20, 2021 2:31 pm
FlickeringWindow wrote:
Sat Apr 17, 2021 9:27 am
Worth noting that Fox threw out all their nitrate OCNs in 1976, including the Technicolor films, so they're working from nitrate prints, positives, or dupes. Young Mr. Lincoln was from an archival nitrate print, while The Gunfighter used a safety duplicate negative and Cluny Brown was from a safety fine-grain.

That's absolute insanity. I've actually seen Nightmare Alley in nitrate. It looked absolutely stunning; I've never seen black hues look truly like ink before.
Agreed, were you at the Nitrate Show in Rochester last year? I specifically remember seeing how crisp the grain stood out to me, and how much more visible it was than the prints I generally see of 30s and 40s films elsewhere in NYC.

No, this was at the UCLA Film & Television Archive/Billy Wilder Theatre in 2016. It was a double nitrate bill with Leave Her to Heaven. I believe both prints were from the Eastman Museum, as were other nitrate prints I've seen (Rebecca, Laura, Black Orpheus, and Gone to Earth). Rebecca and Gone to Earth were Darryl F. Zanuck's own copies.

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