Friday, February 05, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Thunder on the Hill (1951) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Last year Kino Lorber released a trio of excellent film noir sets, starting with The Dark Side of Cinema II.

I've previously reviewed the other movies in this set, THE PRICE OF FEAR (1956) and THE FEMALE ANIMAL (1958). 

I'm now circling back to this collection to review the last film, THUNDER ON THE HILL (1951).

I first reviewed THUNDER ON THE HILL here after watching it on DVD back in 2013. I liked it then and very much enjoyed revisiting it for the first time in several years.  It's an absorbing, well-crafted film.

The movie, based on a short-lived play by Charlotte Hastings, tells the story of Valerie (Ann Blyth), who is on her way to prison when a storm-caused flood strands her and her guards at a hospital convent.

Valerie has been sentenced to die in the immediate future for her brother's murder, which she swears she didn't commit.  Sister Mary (Claudette Colbert) is convinced of Valerie's innocence and finds a way to help her fiance Sidney (Philip Friend) get to the convent to see Valerie despite the flood.

With the help of Sister Josephine (Connie Gilchrist), who has a habit of hoarding old newspapers for various uses, Sister Mary researches the trial and eventually comes to a startling realization which sheds new light on the case.

The story's theatrical roots show at times, but the adaptation by Oscar Saul and Andrew Solt manages to "open up" the story at some points, and even in the scenes where one has a sense of watching a filmed play, it's so well constructed and performed that it doesn't really matter.  The film's 84 minutes fly by.

Colbert, who is in a majority of the scenes, is excellent as the perfectionist nurse who suddenly seems unable to stick to the rigid discipline she expects of her staff.  A tragedy lurking in Sister Mary's background is part of the impetus for her to continue pursuing the truth of Valerie's case.

Blyth is also excellent as a woman who has adopted a hard protective shell to cope with a nightmare, the impending end of her life.  The scene near the end where she finally breaks down and tells her fiance she doesn't want to die is deeply moving.

Gladys Cooper is also strong as the Mother Superior, who alternates between cautioning Sister Mary and encouraging her.  

As was the case the first time around, I love Connie Gilchrist, who has a nice big role as Sister Mary's assistant detective.  Gilchrist was always a welcome name in movie credits, and this is one of her best roles.

The fine cast is rounded out by Michael Pate, Anne Crawford, Robert Douglas, Norma Varden, and John Abbott.

Special note goes to the set designers, who created a fascinating setting.  I especially loved the huge kitchen and wished I could have explored it! 

THUNDER ON THE HILL was directed by Douglas Sirk.  It was filmed in black and white by William Daniels.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is an excellent print with a strong soundtrack.  This Blu-ray is a true pleasure to watch.

Disc extras are the trailer and two additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

The previously reviewed films in this collection are flawed, but I found them entertaining nonetheless and will watch them again, and I consider THUNDER ON THE HILL the gem of the set.  I quite enjoyed this group of relatively lesser-known movies and recommend The Dark Side of Cinema II for fans of '50s crime films.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

A wonderful review of such an emotional tale. I see some DVD sets in my future.

6:04 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you!

Given our similar tastes I suspect you would enjoy these Kino sets too!

Best wishes,

5:18 PM  

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