Bank robber Cornel Wilde, after being wounded by a bullet, seeks shelter with his gang at his brother's mountain retreat. There he rekindles his romance with his brother's wife, and reconnects with the boy he believes is his son.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover and you can't judge a movie by its title either, as evidenced by 'Storm Fear' (1955). While a storm does occur and some characters do feel fear, it does not contain the man-against-nature premise the two-word title suggests. Instead, it's a home-invasion crime drama, similar to Kino Lorber Studios Classics' recently released title, 'He Ran All the Way.'
Set after Christmas, the Blake family has been living on a farm in the New England countryside for a while. The locale is due in part to the illness suffered by the father, Fred (Dan Duryea), and the isolation is supposed to help with his writing, which, if successful, will allow them to move back into a city.
Also living in the home are Fred's wife, Elizabeth (Jean Wallace), and their son David (David Stollery), who appears in his early teens, if not younger. Hank (Dennis Weaver) is a local handyman that helps out around the property, and the slight flirtation between him and Elizabeth, may be indicative of something more.
One day, Fred's brother, Charlie (Wilde, a triple threat on the production, working also as the director and producer) shows up unannounced with Benjie (Stephen Hill) and Edna (Lee Grant) after no contact between them for four years.
Charlie also brought a bullet in his leg because the bank robbery attempt didn't go as planned. They left behind a wounded accomplice and a dead cop, but they scored $85,000 and are looking to hide out until things cool down and the snowstorm passes. They won't take "no" for an answer.
The screenplay by Horton Foote, based on the Clinton Seeley's novel of the same name, offers intriguing twists and interesting revelations during this family reunion. Although initially displeased to see Charlie on their doorstep, Elizabeth seems more than okay with it, which the poster/Blu-ray cover spoils.
She grabs a small something that may help her predicament but it turns out to be a lipstick and starts wearing her hair down, which he likes. And the scenes of her taking the bullet out of Charlie's leg have a sexual vibe to them.
What also keeps 'Storm Fear' compelling are the performances. While minor characters Benjie and Edna are stereotypical characters that don't offer much for the actors to do, the cast members playing the Blakes, even the young boy Stollery, keep the drama from becoming a complete soap opera. Duryea, frequently seen as a tough guy in films like 'Criss Cross' and "Too Late for Tears', does a great job playing the wimpy, ineffectual Fred. It's definitely worth a look.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber Studio Classics has released 'Storm Fear' on a 25GB Region A Blu-ray disc in a standard blue keepcase. The discs boot up directly to the menu screen.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 1.85:1. The opening exterior shot reveals Danny and Hank walking across the bright, white snow-covered ground, which contrasts greatly with the inky blacks within the frame. The image also delivers a very good spectrum of shades of gray. Shadow delineation is satisfactory.
The picture delivers a sharp focus, allowing for fine details to seen, such as the wood and stone textures in the buildings, and clear depth. Unfortunately, this causes the rear projection to look extra phony. The most significant flaw in the video are the specks of black and white.
The Englsih audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The dialogue is consistently clear, but during the hospital-room scene, the volume gets softer.
The orchestra playing Elmer Berstein's score sounds full and expands the dynamic range on the loud end, when punctuating scenes, like when Charlie is first seen with the bank haul. Charlie plays harmonica and the dubbing sounds so flat, it's distracting.
A faint crackle can be heard on the track during quiet moments. Otherwise, the track exhibits no signs of age or wear.
'Storm Fear' is an entertaining crime drama where the elements have been tweaked just enough to raise the story above the genre cliches. Its success also stems from the talents of the cast. Kino has delivered a pleasing HD presentation to allow it to slip out of the vaults. Recommended.