Reel Classics

High Sierra: Criterion Collection (1941) - Blu-ray Review

High Sierra: Criterion Collection

“You stinkin’ rat!”

For crime flicks, High Sierra, directed by Raoul Walsh, is indeed a watershed moment as the gangster pictures of the 1930s gave way to the fatalism found in Film Noir, which would dominate the 1940s.  Making spectacular use of its locations (AND THOSE MOUNTAINS!), High Sierra never fails to be anything but high stakes entertainment as it is Humphrey Bogart's breakthrough performance.  

"High Sierra, presented on blu-ray with a newly restored 4K transfer by the Criterion Collection, is a masterpiece of mood and mettle"


 

The heartfelt themes and the fatalism hit hard from the very beginning, cementing its major themes the moment that the tough but tender charisma of the scene-stealing Bogart lands on the screen.  He’s graying around the edges, but Roy Earle is ready to take the world by its strings and pluck at them to his heart’s content.  You can practically see the sparkle in his smile.  It’s a star-making performance that, alongside the top-billed Ida Lupino, would go on to make cinematic history as Roy finds himself deep in the middle of yet another caper..

High Sierra, presented on blu-ray with a newly restored 4K transfer by the Criterion Collection, is a masterpiece of mood and mettle as destiny collides with the tragic rise and fall of the criminal known as Roy Earle.  He’s the last of the old regime.  The young guys don’t have the discipline, nor do they have the strength to not ask questions.  High Sierra: Criterion Collection

All Roy Earle (Bogart), the notorious bank bandit, wants to do is make sure the grass is still green and the trees are still growing. He’s been released from prison and, true to his word, he’s checking in with all the usual suspects.  He’s not used to dancing to other people’s tunes and his temper often gets the best of him, but being locked up wasn’t easy on him and he’s definitely not going back.

Unfortunately, his loyalty to Big Mac (Donald MacBride) might have the upper hand as he finds himself involved in a jewel heist in the resort town of California’s Sierra Nevada.  Big Mac doesn’t trust the new blood criminals.  He wants Roy to lead the charge and mingle with these hoodrats who have no loyalty to anyone or anything . . . this includes Jake Kranmer (Barton MacLane), an ex-policeman, who demands Roy give him the goods.

Written by W.R. Burnett and John Huston, this multi-dimensional crime flick shows both the hard and the soft side of Bogart as his character swoons for Velma, a young woman with a clubbed foot.  He pays for her operation and asks her to marry him.  She refuses and Roy’s fate is sealed alongside Marie (Lupino), a dancer from San Francisco, in a getaway ride full of one unexpected roadblock after another.  She loves him, but Roy only has eyes for Velma.

And nothing for Bogart or for the genre will ever be the same again in the High Sierra of this REEL CLASSIC!

5/5 stars

 

High Sierra: Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- October 12, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Marking the moment when the gritty gangster sagas of the 1930s began giving way to the romantic fatalism of 1940s film noir, High Sierra also contains the star-making performance of Humphrey Bogart, who, alongside top-billed Ida Lupino, proved his leading-man mettle with his tough yet tender turn as Roy Earle. A career criminal plagued by his checkered past, Earle longs for a simpler life, but after getting sprung on parole, he falls in with a band of thieves for one last heist in the Sierra Nevada. Directed with characteristic punch by Raoul Walsh—who makes the most of the vertiginous mountain location—Roy and Lupino’s Marie, a fellow outcast also desperate to escape her past, hurtle inexorably toward an unforgettable cliffside climax and a rendezvous with destiny. 

Video:

Bogart and Lupino in 4K!  Criterion Collection, with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio, presents High Sierra with a glorious 4K transfer that sweeps away sour memories of watching the old DVD copies of the film.  Thank goodness!  This crisp transfer absolutely crackles with depth, definition, and details as we get looks at nightclubs, apartment buildings, and even a courtroom and it all looks amazingly handled.  Even the night scenes are pocketed with details.  The black-and-white photography here sizzles and the blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer. 

Audio:

There is an uncompressed monaural soundtrack for both films.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Complete with a marvelous essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith, this 2-disc release from Criterion is EXACTLY the drama you want it to be.  From its free as a bird beginning to its cliffside climax, High Sierra has it all!  This set contains two movies and a heap of new supplemental material to sink your teeth into.

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Colorado Territory, director Raoul Walsh’s 1949 western remake of High Sierra
  • New conversation on Walsh between film programmer Dave Kehr and critic Farran Smith Nehme
  • The True Adventures of Raoul Walsh, a 2019 documentary by Marilyn Ann Moss
  • Curtains for Roy Earle, a 2003 featurette on the making of High Sierra
  • Bogart: Here’s Looking at You, Kid, a 1997 documentary aired on The South Bank Show
  • New interview with film and media historian Miriam J. Petty about actor Willie Best
  • New video essay featuring excerpts from a 1976 American Film Institute interview with High Sierra novelist and coscreenwriter W. R. Burnett
  • Radio adaptation of High Sierra from 1944
  • Trailers

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars


Film Details

High Sierra: Criterion Collection

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
100 mins
Director
: Raoul Walsh
Writer:
John Huston; W.R. Burnett
Cast:
Ida Lupino; Humphrey Bogart; Alan Curtis
Genre
: Action | Adventure | Classic
Tagline:
Towering Thrills with this Year's Academy Award Star!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I wouldn't give you two cents for a dame without a temper."
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner bros.
Official Site:
Release Date:
January 25, 1941
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 12, 2021.
Synopsis: After being released from prison, notorious thief Roy Earle is hired by his old boss to help a group of inexperienced criminals plan and carry out the robbery of a California resort.

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High Sierra: Criterion Collection

 

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