The Passage DVD Review!

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This DVD is offered as part of MGM’s “Limited Edition Collection,” which is available from select online retailers and manufactured only when the DVD is ordered. The DVD features a simple menu with no menu for chapters or scenes. Manufacture-On-Demand (MOD) DVDs are made to play in DVD playback units only and may not play in DVD recorders or PC drives. This DVD did not play in our laptop DVD drive but did play in our Toshiba DVD recorder.

DVD SPECS
RELEASE DATE: September 22, 2011
RATING: R
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
ASPECT RATIO: 2.35:1
SUBTITLES: None
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0
SPECIAL FEATURES: Theatrical trailer

THE SET-UP
During World War II, a farmer (Anthony Quinn) with the Resistance is asked to escort a family across the Pyrenees mountains, all while a sadistic Nazi SS officer (Malcolm McDowell) leads a relentless search for them.
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

THE DELIVERY
Upon reading the premise of this 1979 World War II drama and the fact that it starred four superb actors, I was really looking forward to seeing this film. However, there is a good reason why this film has not been released on DVD before now in the United States. It is terrible.

I really wish I did not have to make such a broad negative statement about this film, but it takes considerable effort to waste this much talent. Somehow, the makers of The Passage managed to do it. It is too bad, because Anthony Quinn, James Mason, and Christopher Lee are all fairly good in the film. However, a terrible script gives them little to work with, and the whole thing sinks under the atrocious performance turned in by Malcolm McDowell, an otherwise fine actor.

While everyone else is playing their roles with some seriousness, McDowell turns in a hammy, showboating performance that would have gotten him kicked out of dinner theater. The man acts like he is playing a Nazi in some World War II comedy spoof, except when he commits some awful atrocity like setting a man on fire or raping a young woman. It is jarring and so offensive that it sets an unbelievable low standard by which bad performances should be measured.

In his defense, McDowell spends little time on screen with any of his counterparts, so the director should have set him straight as to how to play his character. That fact that he never tried to reign in his performance is hard to understand.

Not that the rest of the film is that much better, mind you. It plods along, and takes every effort to throw one terrible circumstance after another at you. The needless, over-the top violence and adult situations do not make you sympathize for the lead characters one bit more. Perhaps the screenwriter thought an extra helping of misery would give the lackluster script some kick. It did not.

There is even a sucker punch of an ending that convinced me that director Thompson has no idea how to make a good film. It is so galactically stupid, you will feel cheated by it.

VIDEO AND AUDIO
The transfer used here varies in quality. Darker scenes show some significant grain and washed-out colors, while scenes in the mountain snow highlight some very visible debris in the print. There is not a lot of detail in the image, and overall the video ranks just slightly better than VHS quality. The audio is fairly clean, but the 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack is flat, without much depth or surround quality.

SPECIAL FEATURES
A theatrical trailer is included. I would suggest not watching it before you watch the movie, because it gives away a major plot point involving one of the characters that you will not want to know.

THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
RATINGS
MOVIE: C-
VIDEO: C
AUDIO: C+
EXTRAS: C

OVERALL GRADE: C

How could a film with so many great actors go so wrong? I cannot honestly recommend anyone buy this film, but some movie buffs may want to consider renting this just to satisfy their curiosity over McDowell’s incredibly overdone performance. It is jaw-dropping bad. Even wanting to see actors like Christopher Lee is not enough. In fact, Lee’s role is quite small. If you choose to rent it because you’ve heard just how bad McDowell’s performance is, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Passage is now available on Manufacture-On-Demand DVD from authorized online retailers.

Click here to order The Passage from Amazon.com!