Chain Lightning (Blu-ray Review)

Warner Archive Collection in the month of June once again has itself a nifty lineup of classics. And that group that includes some westerns and musicals also features a Humphrey Bogart film making its way to Blu-ray for the very first time. Bogey this time will have the Sturt Heisler helmed film Chain Lightning debuting. It was base on a story written by famous black listed writer Lester Cole. You’ll be able to grab this one when it arrives on the format on June 22nd. And if you’re wanting to pick this one up while also feeling so very generous to the site, you can use the paid Amazon Associates link following the review to land yourself a copy.



Matt Brennan knows how to open eyes to the potential of the experimental jet, the JA-3. He’ll pilot it from Nome over the North Pole to Washington DC and land it on the Pentagon’s lap. The distance is beyond the JA-3’s tested range. Nor can the craft provide the pressurization needed for flight at 80,000 feet. But Brennan has some modifications in mind. And the courage to put them to the test. Humphrey Bogart plays Brennan in Chain Lightning’s lofty mix of adventure and romance. Eleanor Parker, as a World War II flame who reenters Brennan’s life, helps fuel the romance. And the adventure takes wing with a story that, like Breaking the Sound Barrier, The McConnell Story and other postwar films, taps into the era’s fascination with jet aviation. Cleared for takeoff.

Chain Lightning tries telling a “ripped from the headlines” and “popular interest” story and turn it into some thrilling drama. There’s a lot of about dangerous pilot testing and life after war that sort of hits surface level detail. What tends to pry it from that focus is a love story that feels both decent and out of place in the story. No matter, the performers here are all quite fun and the film is pretty well directed, making it shine where the script may falter.

The love story doesn’t hamper the story because its there and its a love story. It feels as if they are trying to just force Bogart into doing Casablanca again. Most of the film’s scenes between the two romantic leads feel like they are reading off line from some knock off Casablanca with the mood and intention of that film that is in no way built or earned here. In fact, to watch and hear Bogart recite these scenes is almost something of a parody. Though, he’s so damn good at what he does, you can by it and never image that you’d chuckle at a scene like this in one of his films.

And at that, Chain Lightning is definitely no Casablanca. I argue Humphrey Bogart is an actor that makes any film he’s in worth watching at least once or twice. This film is no different than that, though it is definitely lower tiered in his body of work. There’s some interesting stuff going on with the story, but this one mostly gets on by watching one of the best at work.


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio:

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Chain Lightning debuts on Blu-ray with no real details about the transfer. One could probably assume its an HD master or 2K transfer. Details are quite strong and the image has great clarity with some nice sharpness. It radiates in its texture and details. This is a really nice work here and its pretty impressive just how fresh the image looks without what I’m imagining an extensive restoration.

Depth:  Some solid depth of field work here. The rear projects scenes do become a little more obvious here due to the clarity and separation. Motion is smooth and cinematic. No issues with motion distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and close in on a natural appearance. Great shading and darkening add to the depth of the texture in the details of the image. Patterns and details are never hidden by darker surfaces, fabrics or shadows. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: Facial features are white/grey and manage a consistent look from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are impressively visible from any reasonable distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.


Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Chain Lightning has a rather strong mono track that is most reliant on the vocals in the film. It does have a pretty well balanced mix with a lovely sounding score and some solid sound effects work. Those effects have some pretty good depth to them and work effectively in this presentation.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.


Cartoon: Bear Feat (HD, 6:53)

Joe McDoakes Short: So You Want To Be An Actor (SD, 10:56) – One of those old school informational reels, focusing on the job of a thespian.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:10)


Chain Lightning coasts of the talent of Humphrey Bogart with some interesting ideas and decently written dramatic scenes. Warner Archive Collection brings it to Blu-ray with a terrific presentation in both the audio and video departments. I admire what they did for extras here in the inclusion of a vintage cartoon and cinema reel in addition to the trailer. If you’re a Bogart fan, you’re gonna add this to collection, if not, it may be more akin to a TCM-type curiosity.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link


Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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