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John Schlesinger
William Atherton, Karen Black, Donald Sutherland
Writing Credits:
Waldo Salt

Set in 1930s Hollywood, an aspiring art director falls in love with a young actress despite her problems with an estranged man and her alcoholic father.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
English DTS-HD MA 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 144 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 12/12/2023

• “Oral History” Audio Commentary
• “Welcome to West Hollywood” Featurette
• “Days of the Golden Age” Featurette
• “Jeepers Creepers, Where’d You Get Those Peepers?” Featurette
• Radio Spots
• Image Galleries


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The Day of the Locust - Limited Edition [Blu-Ray] (1975)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 28, 2023)

When The Day of the Locust hit theaters in 1975, eight-year-old me didn’t know what “locust” meant. When my mom told me, I thought this meant the film offered a disaster movie and wanted to go.

Mom knew better so I never saw the film back then. And that seems like a good thing, as this period drama would’ve gone way over my dopey young head!

Set in Hollywood circa the late 1930s, Yale graduate Tod Hackett (William Atherton) gets a job in Paramount’s art department. He aspires to climb the ladder in the movie business and views this as the first rung.

As Tod goes on his journey, Tod meets aspiring starlet Faye Greener (Karen Black) and falls for her. Alas, he competes with other suitors, and his mix of professional and personal pursuits combine to create drama.

Though he enjoyed a long and successful career, two flicks in director John Schlesinger’s filmography stand out as his classics: 1969’s Best Picture-winning Midnight Cowboy and 1976’s thriller Marathon Man. Of course, Schlesinger created other well-received movies, but those two reside at the head of the pack 20 years after his death.

Day became Schlesinger’s last release before Marathon Man, and apparently it flopped at the box office. It also earned mixed reviews.

Which it probably deserved. While I appreciate aspects of Day, the end result tends to bite off more than it can chew.

Hollywood loves to reflect poorly on itself, and Day follows that pattern. Essentially a collection of ruthless strivers and phonies, it becomes tough to locate a sympathetic character.

Not that every movie needs likable personalities to succeed, of course. However, Day fails to make its roles especially interesting, and that becomes an issue.

In addition, the film’s semi-impressionistic POV makes the movie feel sprawling in an off-putting manner – well, to me, at least. As with likable characters, I also don’t demand that films tell their tales in a concise “A to Z” fashion.

However, Day ambles around in such a loose manner that it often feels unclear where the story wants to go. While its themes become clear, the movie’s absence of real narrative makes it too unfocused.

Day seems to want to remind us that Hollywood exists as a place of callous cynicism and phoniness, and it beats us over the head with these concepts. These lead toward a finale so ludicrous that it inspires mainly eye-rolling.

Again, if this ensemble piece came with more engaging characters, the absence of a tight narrative would matter less. Instead, most of the participants come across as too shrill and annoying to make us want to follow them.

Black feels miscast as Faye. 35 during the shoot, she seems awfully old to play an aspiring starlet, especially since the source novel’s Faye was 17.

In addition, Black just doesn’t seem beautiful enough for the role. Though attractive, the movie paints Faye as irresistible to men, and Black doesn’t fit that mold.

It doesn’t help that Black makes Faye intensely grating and irritating. Perhaps this stems from the role as written in the novel and/or screenplay, but Black’s semi-campy turn makes her even more difficult to take.

Atherton and Donald Sutherland – as fellow suitor Homer Simpson (!) – fare better, perhaps because they get less cartoony parts. Neither can do much with the characters, however, as both remain fairly flat and unmemorable.

We do get an awful lot of talent here. In addition to Schlesinger and the actors already named, we get Oscar-winning screenwriter Waldo Salt, Oscar-winning cinematographer Conrad Hall, and actors Burgess Meredith, Geraldine Page and others.

Unfortunately, all those folks can’t combine to create an engaging movie. Day just seems too rambling and less than engaging to develop into a worthwhile tale.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Day of the Locust appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Although I suspect the disc reproduced the source accurately, it nonetheless became a less than dazzling image.

The film’s photography favored a gauzy, blown-out impression much of the time, and that meant sharpness that rarely felt especially concise. While not overtly soft most of the time, the film tended to come with a somewhat loose impression.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain leaned natural – albeit heavy – and I witnessed no print flaws.

Day opted for a palette heavy on yellows/ambers, and these could lean a bit red at times, too. The colors seemed a bit dense but again, that appeared to stem from photographic choices.

Blacks came across as slightly thick, while shadows seemed adequate. As noted at the start, this turned into an objectively iffy image.

But again, this would appear to reflect filmmaking decisions, not the scan of the source. I wound up with a “B-“ for image quality as a compromise.

Remixed from the film’s original monaural – which also appeared on the disc – the DTS-HD MA 5.1 failed to stray too far from its roots. This meant a pretty limited soundfield.

Music demonstrated reasonable stereo spread, and environmental material blossomed from the side and rear channels in a moderate manner. Day didn’t exactly reinvent wheels, so expected a soundscape that added mild involvement but nothing especially impactful.

Audio quality held up fine over the last almost 50 years, with speech that came across as fairly concise and distinctive. Effects lacked a lot to do, but they nonetheless seemed acceptably accurate and full, without prominent distortion.

Music came across best, as the score showed reasonably full, lush tones. At no point did this 5.1 remix impress, but it seemed more than suitable for the story.

When we go to extras, we find an unusual form of audio commentary. Described as an “oral history”, this track involves remarks from assistant directors Leslie Asplund and Charlie Ziarko, production designer Michael Childers, title designer Dan Perri, costume designer Ann Roth, assistant editor Alan L. Shefland, assistant camera Ron Vidor, and actors Grainger Hines and Pepe Sarna.

Packed into an audio essay hosted by film historian Lee Gambin, we learn about opening titles, cast and performances, sets and locations, photography and visual design, music, deleted scenes, costumes and period details, and the film’s release/reception.

With all those participants, we hear about a broad array of topics. These offer enough variety to tell us about a solid mix of domains.

Most interestingly, most of these folks tell tales that indicate director John Schlesinger was a demanding megalomaniac on the set. Shefland remembers Schlesinger as kind and calm, but no one else provides similar recollections.

That said, Shefland already thinks Day acted as Karen Black’s breakthrough movie, whereas she’d already appeared in big films before then. She’d even earned an Oscar nomination for 1970’s Five Easy Pieces.

Shefland’s questionable memory aside, this becomes a good track. I like this kind of “audio essay” and it delivers a lot of worthwhile material.

A few new featurettes follow, and Welcome to West Hollywood runs 24 minutes, 38 seconds. Critic Glenn Kenny offers an “appreciation” of the film.

Kenny covers the source and the movie’s path to the screen, genre domains, story/characters, cast, and his view of it. While “appreciation” implies basic praise, instead Kenny provides context and introspection in this useful chat.

Days of the Golden Age spans 17 minutes, 55 seconds. It creates a visual essay with info from Ann Roth and film historian Elissa Rose.

As implied, “Days” looks at Roth’s career and the movie’s clothing choices. “Days” boasts a solid view of these subjects.

Next comes Jeepers Creepers, Where’d You Get Those Peepers?, a 23-minute, 55-second program. This one offers notes from Lee Gambin.

“Creepers” delivers another visual essay, this time with a concentration on the movie’s themes. Gambin examines these in a worthwhile manner.

In addition to two radio spots, we conclude with three Image Galleries. We find “Promotional Stills” (41 frames), “Photos by Michael Childers” (20) and “Photos by Ron Vidor” (8). All three offer good elements.

With a strong cast and crew, I hoped to find a solid drama via The Day of the Locust. Instead, the movie seems dull and unfocused, without the character or narrative drive it needs. The Blu-ray brings apparently accurate but challenging visuals with acceptable audio and a solid mix of bonus materials. I just can’t find enough to sustain attention here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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