Review by Michael Jacobson
Gene Tierney, Bruce Cabot, George Sanders, Harry Carey August 30, 2010
Director: Henry Hathaway
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.37:1
Features: See Review
Length: 91 Minutes
August 30, 2010
Available exclusively at t cm.com
When reading the description on the back of the DVD case,
you can almost see the words flying out at you from the movie screen:
Fascinating! The Adventure
That Has Everything!Ē Yet, for
all its braggadocio, Sundown is a
curiously flat picture all around, with substandard writing, a somewhat
convoluted plot, and performances that are a bit thin considering the terrific
The story takes place on and around a British army post in
Africa, once led by Captain Bill Crawford (Cabot), but now under the
jurisdiction of newly arrived Major Coombes (Sanders).
Coombes is appalled at the shoddy running of the post, learning that
natives come and go as they please, and prisoners of war arenít kept locked
up. His intention is to tighten the
reigns, particularly since he brings news that some unknown source has been
smuggling rifles to the natives right under their noses.
An interesting curve (no pun intended) occurs when the
beautiful Zia (Tierney) arrives on the scene.
She happens to run the largest camel caravan and string of markets across
the African continent, all left to her by her late husband.
If the enemy is indeed smuggling arms, her connections might be the best
route they have.
But no matter whoís aiding the smuggling, Crawford
eventually decides a risky suicide mission into the nativeís camp to seize or
destroy the cache of armsóan adventure that becomes even more perilous when
itís learned they have not only rifles, but machine guns as well.
I have a feeling that somewhere inside Sundown was a much more interesting picture trying to get out.
The basic story structure was good, though in my opinion, not handled as
well as it should have been, and lacking the sense of urgency it demanded.
The somewhat lifeless script removed a lot of the charisma from Cabot
(most known for playing Jack in the original King
Kong) and Sanders, a favorite of mine who would eventually score an Oscar
for his role in All About Eve.
And Gene Tierney is an interesting story in her own right.
Well reputed as a talented comic actress on Broadway, she was wooed to
Hollywood by studios who were mainly just interested in getting her amazingly
pretty face on the screen. She was
only twenty years old when she made Sundown,
and three years away from her most memorable role in Laura,
but already suffering gross miscasting.
Sheís no doubt one of the most beautiful women to ever come out of
Hollywood, and her presence in this film is certainly welcome in my book, but
this kind of role certainly didnít showcase any of her talentójust her
Butóit sort of goes along with the principle of style
over substance this film clings to. Its
best asset is the beautiful, Oscar nominated cinematography that lovingly
photographs the African landscapes and skies.
The cast and the story might have still played second fiddle to it even
if both were a little better.
Perhaps worst of all, though, is the ending, which takes
place in London and is essentially the Europeans patting themselves on the back
for how noble they were in their protection and care of the African people.
Forgive me, but Iím not going to TOUCH that one.
an eye out for Dorothy Dandridge in a small scene.
This is my first experience with a product from one of my favorite cable channels, Turner Classic Movies. They're the network that delivers quantity and quality of vintage Hollywood films uncut and commercial-free, just for die hard fans like me. This DVD is available exclusively at their website, tcm.com, and I was keen to give it a spin.
beginning to end, I couldnít help but notice the inherent softness in the
transfer, and general lack of good detail in images.
Sometimes, for example, when foreground characters stand against a much
lighter background, their facial features practically vanish.
The picture exhibits a good range between true whites and blacks, but
darker scenes suffer from a bit of haziness thatís extremely noticeable.
Thereís no noticeable grain, but there are some bits of shimmer around
the edges of the frame from time to time. Overall,
the disc is certainly watchable, but not one thatís going to inspire pride in
Sadly, the audio fares much worse than the video.
This is one thin sounding Dolby Digital mono soundtrack, and one of the
noisiest Iíve ever heard. From start to finish, itís filled with annoying hiss, pops
and scratchiness. Dialogue is only
adequately recorded, as sometimes, when a character speaks in a lower tone,
words are completely lost (and the lack of subtitles or closed captioning
doesnít help in this area). The
picture received another Oscar nomination for its score, but the music suffers
from the same thinness and noise as the dialogue.
Iíd have to rate this as one of the worst overall audio tracks Iíve
yet heard on DVD.
The disc contains galleries of behind-the-scenes photos, lobby cards, press and publicity stills, posters, and pressbook, plus an article from Turner Classic Movies and some trivia.
Sundown boasts a great cast, but is a bit off the beaten path as far as what I would consider a true Hollywood classic.