The Disappearance (1977)
Twilight Time Blu-Ray Review
Starring Donald Sutherland, Francine Racette,
David Warner, John Hurt, David Hemmings
and Christopher Plummer
Directed By Stuart Cooper
COLOR/1977/1 HOUR 31 MINUTES/RATED R
DIRECTOR'S CUT: 1 HOUR 41 MINUTES
ASPECT RATIO: 1:85.1 1080p (Theatrical Version)
ENGLISH 1.0 DTS-HD MA MONO
There are unusual and intriguing films that have come out over the last few decades that have a rather intriguing aspect to it or lack thereof. "The Disappearance" directed by Stuart Cooper is one such case. A film that was released and quickly theaters at a blink of an eye in 1977 (it's rumored that the film played in New York in one theater and vanished soon after much like the film's leading lady, the film stars then 70's leading man, Donald Sutherland as Jay Mallory, a professional high powered assassin contracted by a powerful unknown, nameless corporation when he returns home to Montrealfrom one of his "assignments" to see that his wife, Celandine (Francine Racette) has disappeared. Initially thinking that Celandine may have just left of her own free will, Malloy soon finds that her disappearance may have to do with his latest assignment confirmed by his organizational source, Burbank (David Warner, "Titanic"). Burbank soon disappears without a trace and Mallory is given another assignment by the organization to travel to England. Mallory has a feeling that there is something unusual about this job as he is given very little information about who the target is being sanctioned for the hit and that it too is associated with Celandine's disappearance. Despite feeling that he may be being set up, Mallory decides to take the job anyway to see how it plays out and if it leads him back to Celandine. Co-starring Oscar winner Christopher Plummer, David Hemmings, and John Hurt, the film had the potential to be a good, solid action thriller, but unfortunately.
It's easy to see why the film was pretty much dismissed by those who actually saw it as it was really too artsy than a real gritty action thriller along the lines of current films such as "Taken" for example. Nothing wrong with Sutherland's performance in this film, he's cool and calculating as a hit man should be but his leading lady Racette, really looks out of place and intimated by Sutherland's presecence instead of supporting or playing off him. The supporting cast is very solid led by Plummer and Hurt, but they are really wasted in the end all told because of the film's rather art house styled setting and with the inclusion of some soft sex scenes that were more tame than erotic didn't even help this mess. The director's cut of the film that's included on this Twilight Time Blu-Ray in standard definition and not HD does add a little bit, but in the end it really doesn't make any difference because the film is entirely uneven from start to finish. The film might have been much better if it had set a strong, in your face tone from the get go instead of just going for the more maticulous planning and plotting and personal life of Mallory's character which was executed with precision in Fred Zinnemann's memorable "Day Of The Jackal" which came out years earlier and really set the bar for films of this type. "The Mechanic" starring Charles Bronson and Jan Michael Vincent definitely comes close. There are moments you do like, but the majority of it is somewhat frustrating to watch knowing that there are two excellent movies about this subject out there.
Twilight Time's Blu-Ray release is a solid, high quality production as usual featuring solid picture for a film that's over forty years old with no DNR applied to it despite the very soft color image. The sound quality is also very solid with Robert Farnon's score (which is an isolated score special feature) standing out with the 1.0 stereo mix. The clarity of the dialog and effects are very clear and stable.
Also on hand is some very nice special features for a film that clearly no one's really noticed or ever of (including myself until this Blu-Ray).
The Disappearance: Original Director's Cut (1 HOUR 41 MINUTES) This version of the film is a bit more developed than the 91 minute version and provides some additional background on Sutherland's character The most immediately compelling and interesting thing about it is simply the different way it tells the story. Merely comparing the opening of this version versus the two other versions on this Blu-ray is a fascinating study in how editing can affect storytelling. The video quality here is fairly variable, but it improves markedly for the most part after a dicey opening few minutes during the credits.
An Interview with Stuart Cooper (9:02) is a brief but really interesting sit down with Cooper, who talks about his school days, where he met people like John Hurt, and his early career, which included run-ins with the likes of George Harrison. He seems somewhat mystified by the 91 minute cut included on this Blu-ray, but approves of its general ambience, at least when compared to the botched distributor version.
An excerpt from the re-edited and re-scored U.S. release version of The Disappearance (15:29). Director Stuart Cooper talks about how hideous this version is in his interview, but watching this opening section reveals a rather interesting reformulation of the story. Despite Cooper's dismissal of Craig Hundley's score for this version, it's at least atmospheric and suspenseful. This is yet more fascinating watching for those interested in how different cuts of the same material can create a manifestly different experience.
Isolated Score Track: The score is credited to Robert Farnon, one of the titans of British "easy listening" music (an unfair appellation given Farnon's really exquisite arranging skills), but a lot of the music here consists of dolorous piano pieces by Ravel, which perfectly suit this film's wintry mood.
A wonderful informative booklet is also on hand here by the terrific Julie Kirgo, who talks about the film and its' bumpy history.
"The Disappearance" is one of those films you either like it or really hate it with a passion. While there are good ideas here and some of the performances are solid, the film's uneven tone (thanks to the films' distributors hastily re-editing the film to its' ninety minute form. I can't quite recommend it for that reason alone, despite its' unique and potentially intriguing ideas.