"Spotlight on a Murderer"

July 2017

An Oddity from an Unexpected Source

Arrow Films AA011/A-TM
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
*

We have the Criterion Collection to thank for a 21st-century interest in French film director Georges Franju (1912-1987). The release of the black-and-white horror film Eyes Without a Face (1959) singled out Franju as a most interesting artist, and his Judex (1963), also reissued by Criterion, also proved worth watching.

Now from Arrow Films, known primarily for the release of splatter/shock movies, comes Spotlight on a Murderer (1961), the black-and-white film Franju made right after Eyes Without a Face. A neat, tidy murder mystery in the Agatha Christie vein, it’s well acted and beautifully photographed, but overall, fairly ordinary.

The Comte Hervé de Kerloguen (played by Pierre Brasseur), a rich old man who knows he’s dying, chooses to succumb behind a two-way mirror in the great hall of his chateau. Were he alive, he could see out, but no one on the other side can see in. Summoned by a lawyer, his relatives assemble. Each wants the inheritance, but it can’t be released without a body. The young relatives explore the castle, but one by one they begin having fatal accidents. Or are they murders?

Along the way, several of the relatives decide to feature the castle in a sound-and-light show. It’s the scenes of this event that provide the most tension, and give Franju a chance to feature one of his passions: microphone and sound systems used in a cool, clandestine way. Other Franju signatures pop up: birds (a statue, some dead crows, a very live owl), ugly little cars, and beautiful young women.

Spotlight on a Murderer

The cast is most appealing to watch. Would that they had better lines to say. Jean-Louis Trintignant is perhaps the most famous, though Marianne Koch and Dany Saval make impressions.

Arrow seems to want to be for horror what Criterion is for mainstream films. Spotlight on a Murderer is given a spiffy transfer in crisp, properly contrasted black-and-white. Except for a few damaged frames, it looks like a Criterion release. The sound is quite good, considering its age. Maurice Jarre’s quirky little main theme comes across well. The only extra is a half-hour fluff piece featuring interviews with Franju and several of the actors.

If you want to expand your knowledge of Franju’s films, rent this one. You’ll probably enjoy almost every minute -- and then have little desire to watch it again.

Be sure to watch for: That light-and-sound show is impressive. At one point, you hear a horse and see the drawbridge illuminated. It’s so impressive that you can easily imagine the horse and rider as if they were right in front of you.

. . . Rad Bennett
radb@soundstagenetwork.com

More SoundStage! Videos

  • Is Room Correction the Answer? The NAD M33 Integrated Amplifier Review (Take 2, Ep:18)
  • Can Small Speakers Sound Better? DALI Menuet SE Loudspeaker Review (Take 2, Ep:17)
  • Peter Thomas: From the BBC to PMC - SoundStage! Icons (October 2020)
  • Focal Diablo Utopia Colour Evo Loudspeaker Review (Take 2, Ep:16)
  • Sonus faber's Paolo Tezzon on the New Lumina Loudspeakers - SoundStage! Talks (October 2020)
  • Is This the Best Class-D Amplifier? Purifi Audio's Eigentakt Amplifier Review (Take 2, Ep:15)
  • The Simaudio Moon Product Universe - SoundStage! Talks (September 2020)
  • Magico A1 Loudspeaker Review (Take 2, Ep:14)
  • Inside the KEF LS50 Meta - SoundStage! InSight (October 2020)
  • Naim Audio Supernait 3 Integrated Amplifier Review (Take 2, Ep:13)
  • Elac Alchemy DDP-2 Streaming DAC/Preamp Review (Take 2, Ep:12)
  • How Hegel Approaches Integrated Amplifiers - SoundStage! Talks (September 2020)
  • Nordost Talks Clocks, Oscillations, and Synchronization - SoundStage! Talks (September 2020)
  • PMC Fact.8 Signature Loudspeaker Review! (Take 2, Ep:11)
  • Which is Better? Elac Navis ARB-51 vs. Focal Shape 65 (Take 2, Ep:10)
  • Amphion for the Home, the Studio, and Billie Eilish - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • The NEW Hegel H95 Integrated Amplifier Review ! (Take 2, Ep:9)
  • Estelon: Loudspeaker Excellence and Originality from Estonia - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Zero-Distortion Amplification: Halcro Out of Hiatus - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Best Active Speaker? Elac Navis ARB-51 Speaker Review (Take 2, Ep:8)
  • Vivid Audio's Inventive and Spectacular S12 Loudspeaker - SoundStage! InSight (August 2020)
  • Qobuz Hi-Res Traction and Younger Listeners, with David Solomon - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier Review (Take 2, Ep:7)