A simple love affair becomes a deadly game of cat-and-mouse... Katherine Atwell has come up with a foolproof plan: she will kill her rich husband, have her lover take his place, and no one will be any the wiser. Trouble is, she hasn't factored stetson-wearing investigator Donner into the equation, and when he gets wind that something is wrong, there's little that can put him off the trail. NEW HD MASTER.
Sometimes you just got to stick a movie out to receive the long-awaited payoff. Patience is certainly a virtue and if you don't have enough of it you risk missing out on some grand entertainment. Case in point, 1980's Nightkill from director Ted Post and starring Jaclyn Smith, James Franciscus, Miker Connors, and Robert Mitchum. I started this film anticipating - or at least hoping for -a well-crafted thriller that passed a couple hours of my time and left me entertained. Once the film gets going, I started to feel like the film was a bit on the scale of a cheap made-for-T.V. flick, so I stopped it and went to watch something else. By the time I finished it, I wish I'd given Nightkill its due, the payoff is slow coming but it's worth the wait.
Katherine Atwell (Jaclyn Smith) seemingly lives an ideal life. She has a rich and successful husband Wendell (Mike Connors). She's a prominent member of the Phoenix community helping to improve the lives of women in need. She enjoys a lavish lifestyle. What people don't see is a life of abuse. Wendell is a hard-drinking jerk. Their marriage is a sham, only holding on long enough for Wendell to close a big deal. While Wendell is out of town, she enjoys the company of Wendell's business partner Steve Fulton (James Franciscus). Together they silently wait for the day for the divorce papers to be signed and they can openly be together. But Steve can't wait any longer and takes matters into his own hands. When a creepy detective by the name of Donner (Robert Mitchum) appears investigating Wendell's disappearance, the best-laid plans quickly start to unravel.
While the payoff for Nightkill does eventually arrive, even I have to admit that this film carries with it a number of flaws that may make it difficult for some folks to fully enjoy it. For starters, the made-for-T.V. trappings don't help any. Granted, this film does appear to be well budgeted, there is a baked in cheapness that doesn't help things along. The way scenes are staged, acted, camera placements, the edits - they all feel like a T.V. movie of the week. This is largely due to director Ted Post. He may have had some solid theatrical outings with Hang 'Em High, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and Magnum Force, but the focus of his career was always television and it shows. With every big plot reveal you expect to see the telltale fade to black for commercial breaks.
Those misgivings aside, Nightkill turns out to be a decent enough thriller to provide some diverting entertainment. A number of the plot points may borrow too heavily from classic thrillers like Diabolique for its own good, but it makes the most of things. There are several great plot points that rattle the nerves and the film's ending makes up for a number of short fallings - but not completely. It's still a flawed picture. Thankfully some great performances from Jacklyn Smith and Robert Mitchum should provide enough motivation for you to see it through to the end. If you have a love for this style of late night T.V. film, Nightkill should give you your money's worth.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Nightkill arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case. Also included is a booklet containing cover artwork for other Studio Classics releases. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Nightkill enjoys a pleasant 1.85:1 1080p transfer. This is a film that shows the clear signs of being nearly forty years old as it doesn't look like it has received much of a restoration effort - but that's not to say the film looks bad. In point of fact, it looks quite good. Film grain is apparent but stable leading to some strong detail levels. Facial features, the Atwell mansion, and the period clothing all offer up some terrific late 70s early 80s production design. Colors are stable offering up rich primaries with healthy and even flesh tones. Black levels are also on point giving the film a notable sense of depth. As good as things are, there are some notable compression artifacts throughout. Banding crops up from time to time and the film appears to endure some edge enhancement as things look just too crunchy in spots. Some slight speckling is apparent, but nothing too serious. All in all, this is a solid presentation that gets the job done.
Packed with a basic English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix, Nightkill's audio more or less just goes through the motions. Dialogue is intelligible throughout without any issues. Scoring is clear and sound effects allow for a little bit of atmosphere. However, as this film's audio was originally designed and presented in mono, there is a flat lifelessness to everything. There are a number of dialogue exchanges that all sound like they were recorded in post rather than on set. Some hiss is audible, but nothing too terrible to knock the score for. The audio is serviceable, but nothing too remarkable.
While Nightkill was hardly a film worthy of a great "Special Edition" release packed with bonus features, I appreciate that Kino Lorber Studio Classics put in the effort. There may not be a whole lot here, but the content is quality stuff just the same.
Audio Commentary Featuring film historian Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson
Jacklyn Smith Interview (HD 13:43) Smith offers up some pretty great anecdotes about the film. It's brief but better than average.
Heart of Midnight trailer (HD 2:20)
Stone Cold Dead Trailer (SD 2:27)
Still of the Night Trailer (HD 2:06)
Nightkill may not have been the greatest thriller to come out of the 80s, but if you give it the time, it delivers some diverting entertainment perfect for a cold rainy fall night. Again, it's not perfect, but it's fun and a great turn from Robert Mitchum salvages what would have been otherwise a forgettable venture. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Nightkill to Blu-ray in fine order with a solid A/V presentation and a couple of decent bonus features. If you like your thrillers with a late night television feel, Nightkill should be your cup of tea. Worth a look.