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The Ghost Ship / Bedlam (Blu-ray Review)

Warner Archive Collection released a sweet lot of horror titles back in October. While late to the game on reviewing them, the review copies weren’t sent out til later on. In the current climate of home video physical media distributing, there have been many a fulfilment center delay on titles each and every month. So that’s not too surprising at the end of the day. Nonetheless, still very exciting with what they chose to put out last month. Val Lewton is a producer that Warner Archive typically dips into his catalog. They have paired up The Ghost Ship and the Boris Karloff starring Bedlam for release. This is its first time for both of them on Blu-ray with a new 2021 1080p master from a 4K scan of the original nitrate negative, lossless audio and a commentary for Bedlam. The disc was released back on October 12th, but its available to order now from the paid Amazon Associates link below.

The Ghost Ship (1943)

In 1943’s The Ghost Ship, Tom Merriam (Russell Wade), the young third mate on a freighter bound for Patagonia, witnesses the murder of a crewman by the ship’s captain, Will Stone (Richard Dix). Merriam realizes Stone is going insane, but the rest of the crew won’t believe him…or that he may be the mad captain’s next victim!

There are no real ghosts to speak of in this film despite its title. There is a ship though, and its quite a haunting place of paranoia and terror throughout its runtime. Lewton’s terror at sea fills up the screen with a claustrophobic tale of distrust and questioning one’s sanity. The film plays in a classic sense of one character knowing a deadly secret and struggling to find those who would either believe him or to support him in it.

While The Ghost Ship is a short film and does pack some nice set pieces and a good sense of dread, it does manage to drag a bit. It doesn’t seem to know how to harness its in between scenes to counter with its wonderful suspenseful ones. While this has no relation to the 2002 film that dropped “The” from the title, there are some coincidental similarities and set pieces that are a bit amusing. Sadly, neither ship of ghosts is something you really need to rush to see.

Bedlam (1946)

Boris Karloff reunites with Lewton for a third and final time in 1946’s Bedlam, set in 1971 at a London asylum. Karloff gives an unforgettable performance as the doomed overseer who fawns on high-society benefactors while ruling his mentally disturbed inmates with an iron fist. Newly restored from their original nitrate negatives, both showcase Nicholas Musuraca’s cinematography under the inspired direction of Mark Robson.

Bedlam brings about the kind of horror thriller that a Val Lewton movie can deliver. This focuses on the evil of man and the torment of an innocent individual. Its also an insane asylum based horror film and deals in both the horror and compassion of the inmates which lie therein. Having a sensitive touch like that gives the film a more interesting angle than trying to treat them as spooky monsters as many a more exploitative film may have.

At the center of this is a deliciously vile performance by Boris Karloff. He relishes in being an absolute monster in this and seems to enjoy his torment of Anna Lee at every turn. Its all complimented by wonderfully shadowy cinematography that really relishes in making a beauty of a dark, mysterious asylum. To some degree there’s a slight colonial horror feel to this as well. Bedlam is easily the gem of this release and a big step up from The Ghost Ship, which accompanies it here.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: This Val Lewton double feature comes to Blu-ray with Warner Archive Collection boasting “new 2021 1080p HD masters from 4K scans of the original nitrate negatives”.  Both features have a surprisingly sharp and very clean image with an insane amount of detail and texture with a healthy complimentary layer of grain. There is great black saturation and impressive depth on display throughout both films and really showcases the cinematography well.

Depth:  Spacing is quite good here and really shows off in separation with good dolly movements. Motion of the performers is natural and filmic with no issues concerning distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich to almost natural levels. Both films romantically handle the shadows and darkness with such gothic beauty. No issues occur with losing information. Many finer details, textures and patterns come through in very dark areas with ease. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: N/A

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are gray/white and depend on the actor for which area they steer more in. The appearance is consistent from start to finish. Facial features come through astounding clear in medium and close up shots, showing moles, stubble, wrinkles, make-up and more with great clarity.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

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

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Both films come with comparable sounding mono tracks. There’s a good touch on the foley effects sounds with good depth, clarity and impact for mono sound of almost 80 year old features. There’s a good balance of vocals, score and those effects where they all feel a room to breathe and work harmonious with one another. A slight hiss, like a record, lies underneath it all as a solid base, keeping a nice classical feel.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with a nice steady analog hiss underlying.

Extras

The Ghost Ship / Bedlam share a disc.

Audio Commentary

  • Bedlam commentary by Tom Weaver

Summary

Fans surely have to be enjoying Warner Archive Collection’s consistent output of Val Lewton material the last few years. Perhaps at some point they can put a box set in order. The double feature of The Ghost Ship and Bedlam offers up a top notch restoration for an outstanding transfer with rock solid audio. A commentary is a nice touch on Bedlam. For those looking to add this to their collection, the transfers on the film are strong enough to offset the lack of supplemental material.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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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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