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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: February 27th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1977

One Man

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Billy Russell
Described as a hidden gem 1970s paranoid political thriller, One Man arrives on Blu-ray, courtesy of Canadian International Pictures and OCN Distribution. The film focuses on a cynical reporter confronted with the scoop and moral dilemma of a lifetime, as he weighs his conscience to do the right thing or to keep quiet to protect himself and his family. Through an impressive transfer, lovingly restored, it now has the chance to find a second life and the audience it deserves and is Highly Recommended.

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.33:1
Audio Formats:
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH subtitles
Release Date:
February 27th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Movies like One Man are why folks like me write reviews. Here is a film that is, by all accounts, a remarkable piece of filmmaking, that made a large splash when it was first released, then quickly vanished from the public eye. Robin Spry, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay, was a documentary filmmaker unlike any other. He was fearless, perhaps even a little mad, and cut his teeth with feature filmmaking here, with a slam-bang debut. Now that it’s been re-released with this definitive home video version from Canadian International Pictures, it has the opportunity to find a wider audience and re-engage conversations. Hidden gems like One Man are such a treat, to find a wonderful, controversial, labor of love, that you had no idea even existed - and to discover the history behind its making.

One Man is about a cynical Montreal television news reporter, Jason Brady (perfectly played by Len Cariou), who specializes in the type of news warned about in movies like Network: Blood and guts, and whatever else is salacious enough to get viewers to tune in. He happens upon the story of a lifetime, in which a local company is responsible for a chemical leak that has injured and killed children. As he investigates, he finds the truth of the disaster is much larger than he ever imagined, and the company will stop at nothing to keep that truth hidden.

Brady is an imperfect everyman, a womanizer, a bad husband, a terrible father, and that’s what makes his trajectory so fascinating. While he’s faced with a moral crossroads (whether to report on the truth and save untold lives or to remain silent and protect the ones he loves), the question isn’t, “What could possess this so-called selfish person to do the right thing?” The question is, “If confronted with the same situation, what would you do?” That’s the question the film begs of us all. 

As the company enacts violence against Brady and other witnesses, the answer isn’t an easy one. And perhaps there is no real answer. We’re left to ponder the ambiguity or morality as we watch hard decisions tear a family apart, none of them being so easily classified as “right” or “wrong” but painted in vast, varying swaths of gray. With Spry’s dedication to realism, scenes of Brady reading the news at the studio are tense and edited to perfection. Brady reads the news with professionalism and argues with the news crew in between takes or when the live feed is off for B-roll footage. Len Cariou deftly balances tones with ease and never loses sight of the character. 

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Canadian International Pictures and OCN Distribution Blu-ray release of One Man is presented on a single disc in 1080p, restored from the film’s original negative. There are a number of special features, for both the existing fan of the film, or larger works of Robin Spry, and for the totally uninitiated (like myself). Inside the disc’s case is a reversible sleeve containing both newly commissioned and original artwork for the film’s cover. There is also a small booklet containing an essay, interviews, and information about the transfer.

Video Review

Ranking:

Presented in a 1080p 1.33:1 transfer from its original 16mm negative, One Man looks incredible. Colors pop here. Reds, blues, and other dynamic colors are vibrant.  Skin tones look natural, with hints of blush. Close-ups are crisp and focused, with fine details on clothes and hair clearly visible. Director Robin Spry came from the world of documentary filmmaking, so there are many handheld shots that lose focus and the subjects become blurry. This is something that would be laughed off as “a feature, not a bug” as it lends a certain amount of realism to the movie and is intentional, per the filmmaker’s technique. Given that One Man is a paranoid thriller from the 1970s shot on 16mm, it is also appropriately grainy and gritty, serving the look and feel of the film appropriately. The film grain is natural and clean, appearing mostly in heavily darkened areas of a shot (like shadows) or brightly lit areas (like a sunny sky). Vinegar Syndrome did an incredible job with this release.

Audio Review

Ranking:

True to its original release format One Man is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono soundtrack, so for anyone with a robust home theater setup, this one is going to be solely a front-speaker presentation. While the soundtrack provided on this release isn’t anything fancy, it does its job extremely well. Dialogue is favored, always clear and audible, but during intense sequences where the musical score builds to a tense crescendo, those highs are allowed to boom out triumphantly. There are a number of crowd scenes, with angry rabble-rabble of shouts and anguish, and every sound is allowed to shine through. Many mono tracks of the era can leave dialogue sounding a little flat, but that’s not the case here. Everything sounds robust and full. Like I said, it’s nothing fancy, but it accomplishes its task not only admirably, but with flying colors.

Special Features

Ranking:

Vinegar Syndrome has gone all out on its release of One Man, which should satisfy both existing fans of the film and the director’s work, and for people like myself who are just now finding out about it, and the exceptional career of Robin Spry.

First off, is a full feature Audio Commentary from filmmaker and film historian Stephen Broomer. There are also two interviews: One Sister (10 mins), conducted with Spry’s sister, Lib Spry; and One Friend (13 mins), conducted with longtime Spry collaborator Bob Presner. In their individual interviews, both have lots of say about the director’s work, influences and political activism through film.

The essay and the interview contained within the booklet help expand upon the making of the film, detailing its release and how it faded away after its initial release and major wins at the Canadian Film Awards.

There are five short films included in the special features directed by Spry: Miner (1966, 19 mins), Change in the Maritimes, (1966, 13 mins), Illegal Abortion (1967, 25 mins), Ride for Your Life (1967, 10 mins) and Downhill (1973, 36 mins).

There are an additional four short films from others involved with the film, like co-writers Peter Pearson and Petter Madden, as well as co-star Carol Lazare: The Dowry (1969, 20 mins), Cell 16 (1972, 14 mins), Red Shoes (1986, 24 mins) and bonus short: Trafficopter (1972, 10 mins).

Though Trafficopter was not made by anyone involved with One Man, it’s a fascinating watch and counterpart to the main feature. It’s my favorite of the shorts included in the features. It’s another look at Montreal from a newsperson’s perspective, this time from the sky. It’s a short documentary and provides a glimpse at the daily work life of a helicopter traffic reporter.

Final Thoughts

Films like One Man are a treat to discover as a long-forgotten, criminally-neglected gem. It’s an angry, cynical film with much to say about the world around us and corporate greed that goes unreported, due to the threats lobbed by powerful forces that silence voices. The audio and video presentation are both painstakingly restored, and the work shows. The nearly 50-year-old film has likely never looked or sounded better. The special features are robust, with hours of interviews and additional short films satellite to One Man and its team of creatives. Canadian International Pictures’ release comes Highly Recommended for the sheer amount of work that lovingly went into restoring an important film for a new audience let alone for the film itself.

Order Your Copy of One Man on Blu-ray