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DEVIL AT 4 O' CLOCK

Review by Chastity Campbell

Stars: Spencer Tracy, Frank Sinatra
Director: Mervyn Le Roy
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star
Features: See Review
Length: 127 Minutes
Release Date: January 14, 2003

“They jumped into hell, to save a part of heaven!”

Film ***

Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?  No?  Well neither have Spencer Tracy or Frank Sinatra, because they met him at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on a bright and sunny South Pacific day!

The Devil At 4 O’clock was one of the most entertaining movies I’ve had the pleasure of watching in a long time.  It was very refreshing to see a movie that relied more on it’s stars and scripting, than the special effects Hollywood has more recently come to rely on.

Although the script itself did have some weak points, Sinatra’s portrayal of the convict Harry and Spencer Tracy’s performance as an alcoholic priest helped to give the film a giant boost of character that allowed you to really sink into the story and worry right along with them as the island they are on slowly but surely tears itself apart.  

Shot almost entirely on location at a small island in the South Pacific, The Devil At 4 O’clock begins as a sea plane headed for Tahiti makes an overnight stop on Talua Island to drop off a new priest who is to take over for Father Doonan, and to let the pilots take a quick dip into the local entertainment pool, if you know what I mean!  Three convicts aboard the plane headed for a Tahitian prison are given a momentary reprieve when Father Doonan asks for their help at a Mountain Hospital before he leaves the island.  He needs help putting the finishing touches on a roof at the hospital, which caters to children with leprosy.   While up on the mountain, Harry, played by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, turns on the charm and steals a quick kiss from a blind girl, who would surely swoon if she could look longingly into those big blue eyes of his. 

This was, according to the movie trailer, the first time Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy worked together.  They did a marvelous job playing off of each other’s character and helped bring out the best in each other during those parts of the movie where the dialogue was its weakest. 

The convicts spend the night on the mountain with the priest, but early the next morning they make a break for it in the hopes of finding a way off the island.  Unfortunately for them, a situation is brewing that will lead to a meltdown in their escape plans.  Back up on the mountain top, Father Doonan and his replacement begin the trek back down so the old priest can catch a plane, when they find the three convicts ready to pass out from heat exhaustion.   They give the jailbirds a lift but almost get knocked over a cliff as the volcano erupts.  Once at the bottom of the mountain Father Doonan immediately turns his attention to getting the children at the hospital down the mountain and off this pressure cooker of a island!    He makes a deal with the captain of a schooner to wait for them at the harbor until 4 o’clock the next day. The seaplane drops Tracy, Sinatra, and the other two convicts right over the hospital where they parachute in and attempt to bring the children to safety by walking them down the mountain.  

Along the way they face death, destruction, and fear of every kind.   This film was a wonderful experience for me from start to finish.  Did everyone get off the island safe and sound, or was the devil truly waiting when the clock struck four?  The only way to find out is to pop in this DVD and start the countdown!

Video **

I wasn’t overly impressed with Columbia Tri Star’s effort where this film to DVD transfer was concerned.   The anamorphic widescreen formatting was very pleasing to the eye.  However it was obvious right from the opening scene that none of the modern restoration techniques for removing dirt and graininess were utilized.  Very visible creases that transferred from the original to the digital format only served to further my unhappiness with this digital transfer.  The vivid island colors, beautiful sets, and scenery did keep this transfer from missing the mark totally, but not by very much. 

Audio ***

The audio quality for this transfer was very nice and helped give balance to other portions of the DVD. A Dolby Digital Stereo mix was used to give this dialogue driven DVD a little kick in the pants.   The sounds were all crisp and clear with the exception of a few explosions, which were obviously taped sound effects looped in during post production.   All the dialogue was in sync and no obvious dubbing flaws could be detected.  All around, a pretty nice sounding disc. 

Features *

For your viewing pleasure three movie trailers come in this DVD’s bag of tricks.  The Devil At 4 O’clock, From Here To Eternity, and The Last Hurrah are a beautiful blast from movies’ past that remind you just how far we’ve come in a short span of time.  

You definitely get a nice list of language choices with this DVD, as the subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Interactive menus, and still frame scene selection finish off the extras for this DVD.  Not a plethora of goodies, but I’ll take some over none any day of the week!

Summary:

Your DVD player will surely have a devil of a time with this disc…mine’s still smoking!  I highly recommend checking out this DVD, even if old movies aren’t your style baby, cause with a title like this, you’ll warm up to it in no time!