THEY LIVE BY NIGHT BLU RAY REVIEW

Youthful longing. Teenage desire. Hopeful expectation. That is what Nicholas Ray THEY LIVE BY NIGHT examines. It might be considered a ‘Film Noir’ as much as ON DANGEROUS GROUND ( Ray’s 1951 film also labelled such) is not really a film about a cop chasing a criminal. Instead we have the body politic. The pieces of a couple. Faces, eyes, kisses, stolen often. These are the things we absorb. Robert Altman returned to this story with his 1974 film THIEVES LIKE US. His is less youthful dream and more era motif drenched tale of the depression and the politics of fame.

Bowie (Farley Granger) has escaped from prison with two other prisoners and now they have set up a gang. One eyed Chicamaw (Da Silva), is the thug and T-Dub (Flippen) is the brains. Both are the older and see Bowie as theirs to take care of. Also maybe exploit. He is their get away driver on a job and after a short stint enjoying the riches, is in a car crash that isn’t his fault. Cue a stay with innocent Keechie (Cathy O’Donnell). She has a soft spot for Bowie and they elope. However just as crime doesn’t pay, it also never allows you to leave….

Another of Ray’s films, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, snips and slices pieces from THEY LIVE BY NIGHT. Its an obvious statement. The director grew and adapted his work but used much of his repertoire to full effect. This also underlines for me his interest in the youthful aspect of the story. Keechie and Bowie are two half’s made whole and we always side with them. Bowie is a victim as much as Keechie is. Watched now THEY LIVE BY NIGHT feels more political and as much a rebellion film for youth as its more famous other. Youth is betrayed by society, media, adults and justice. The couples love is not enough and they are against the wall from the start. Never to survive. Never to reach salvation. Only to be caught in a trap of being to young, to in love and all too soon…

DISC

the 2k restoration has a lot going for it but it also has a few (very few) instances of blur. Caused by the image of camera being out of focus. Not the issue with the transfer more the film itself  ( I checked my older version). However the light leak is cured and the darker opening scenes are the better for it.

EXTRAS

The booklet is the best starting point. It is not a republish, it is new. Maybe its too tightly written but it is really good.  The commentary is illuminating but is an older version that has been around. Granger is especially interesting. He talks about Ray and compares him with other great film makers. The best extra is short piece from 2007 with film critic Molly Haskell, filmmakers Christopher Coppola and Oliver Stone, and film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini. Stone is dynamic and a cine lover par excellence. His part is the most rewarding…

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary featuring film historian Eddie Muller and actor Farley Granger
  • New video interview with film critic Imogen Sara Smith
  • Short piece from 2007 with film critic Molly Haskell, filmmakers Christopher Coppola and Oliver Stone, and film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini
  • Illustrated audio interview excerpts from 1956 with producer John Houseman
  • PLUS: A new essay by film scholar Bernard Eisenschitz

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