A tragedy of a film
Yesterday, I received my review copy of Dark Sky Films’ long-delayed release of Riccardo Freda’s Tragic Ceremony. As many of you will know, this DVD was originally supposed to be released over a year ago, but was held back due to rights issues. These appear to have been resolved now, but I would urge those who want a copy of this film to get their orders… although, to be honest, given how weak the film is, I’m going to have a hard time recommending it. The best I can say about it is that it provides an interesting opportunity to see Camille Keaton, of What Have You Done to Solange? and I Spit on Your Grave fame, playing yet another ethereal and wide-eyed damsel. Really, I’m not surprised Freda reportedly disowned the end product (the director’s credit goes to “Robert Hampton”), as it’s actually worse than his limp giallo, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire.
Presentation-wise, the transfer is really not all that satisfying. It’s anamorphic and progressively flagged, and looks passable once the opening credits are over, but lacks detail and has an overly contrasty look, with poor shadow detail and blown-out highlights. I initially assumed that this was simply what the film looked like, but the theatrical trailer included on the disc shows a much better tonal range, not to mention offering more detail (despite being non-anamorphic and not properly flagged for progressive scan):
Above: the film itself;
Below: the trailer
(click images to view them at their full size)
Oh, and the infamous Dark Sky cropping issue, pointed out to me by a regular reader of this site (thanks, Jeff), appears to be present here, at least in certain shots:
The image above is the most severe instance of overly tight framing that I could find. By and large, I didn’t find it to be bothersome on any other occasions, although this may be down to the fact that much of Freda’s camerawork is so haphazard anyway that, for the most part, framing is a non-issue. It wouldn’t surprise me if this film turned out to have an intended ratio of 1.66:1 and was over-matted to 1.85:1 for this DVD.
I should also say a few words on the issue of the sound. The only audio track provided here is an Italian one, although it’s clear, from the actors’ lip movements, that this one was shot in English (and post-dubbed, of course). In any event, the film is (laughably) supposed to take place somewhere in England, as evinced by several references to Scotland Yard, names like Lord Alexander, and a currency amusingly referred to as “sterling” (as in “You owe me fifty sterling”). Generally, with Italian films from this period, no “original” audio track exists, so I tend not to be too picky about which language is provided. On this occasion, however, the lack of English dubbing is rather problematic, although I do understand the reasoning behind it: apparently, the Italian cut of the film is dramatically different from the version exhibited in the US, so cobbling together a complete English dub would be impossible.
I really enjoyed the Camille Keaton interview, though - considerably more than the film itself, in fact. It was nice to see someone so obviously proud of her achievements and eager to talk about them.
Expect a full review at DVD Times in the near future.