Friday, February 9, 2007

THE SNAKE PIT (20th Century Fox 1948) Fox Home Video

Anatole Litvak's The Snake Pit (1948) is an exercise in psychoanalysis; re: everything is linked to childhood trauma, repression of that trauma and subsequent guilt over it. That shortcoming aside, the film is a stark, often disturbing melodrama about life inside a mental asylum.

Virginia Cunningham (Olivia de Havilland) is a woman suffering from early dementia and a neurotic impulse to suddenly – and quite inexplicably – mistrust her husband, Robert (Mark Stevens). Besought with worry, Robert commits his wife to the tender compassionate care of Dr. Mark Kick (Leo Genn). Through Kick’s understanding and patience Virginia's psychosis is slowly exposed and she is eventually restored to her former self – presumably cured of all that ailed her.

The film presents an apocalyptic vision of insanity. But its ending – true to Hollywood’s golden rule and conventions – presents a rather optimistic resolution for its heroine. De Havilland delivers a stellar dramatic performance.

Fox’s transfer is a tad troublesome. Although the gray scale is adequately balanced, and blacks are generally solid, age related artifacts are sometimes glaringly present. Film grain as well as edge enhancement and pixelization provide for an image quality that is rarely smooth. The audio has been cleaned up and is presented at an adequate listening level. A sparse audio commentary, stills gallery and theatrical trailers are the extras.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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