90° In The Shade - 90° In The Shade(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse Films - 2019]90° In The Shade is a rather grim, carefully paced, yet often an intriguing blend of drama and lo-key thriller.The mid-1960’s film is a Anglo-Czech production, and from Powerhouse, here's a new Blu ray release of this lesser-seen picture- taking in both English & Czech versions of the film,a new commentary track, and an interesting selection of extras.
90° In The Shade ( aka 31 Degrees in the Shade) was made in 1965- and was a British Czech collaboration. The film was directed Austria-Hungary director/writer Jirí Weiss- who had forty-one directional credits between the 1930s and 1990s. And throughout the film one can clearly see his talent for both grim/ gritty realism & creative storytelling.Roger Batty
The films set in summer time communist-controlled Prague- hence the film's title, as during the season the city gets very stifling. The film focuses on an on a small off-license, that is having its regular government stock-taking- and during this a few discrepancy turn–up. The film's lead character/ focus is young female assistant manager Alena( Anne Heywood), and she is having an illicit affair with the shops shifty family man manager Vorell(James Booth). Carrying out the stocktake is Bazant(Donald Wolfit)- who has somewhat of Frankie Howard persona. He’s joined by stern & tubby invertuník JUDr Rudolf Kurka- played by respected Czech actor Rudolf Hrusínský- who does a great job of the by-book/ humorless bureaucrat.
The film unfolds in a steady-if-at-times slightly slow pace- blending together the investigation storyline, with flashback to the beginnings & progression of the illicit affair between Alena & Vorell. The film is wonderfully acted with very honest & real performance from all the main players, with the shops crowded interior captured in often a claustrophobic & stifling manner. We get a few shots from in & around the city, and these mainly focus in on the Vltava River & the cities denizens trying to cool off, as well as the often stuffy & cluttered flats where the film's characters live. The film's plot keeps you nicely held/intrigued- as it moves towards it’s decidedly downbeat/grim ending. 90° In The Shade is captured in stark & moody black and white- and this nicely enhances both the feeling of building tension/claustrophobic, and grim unfold- all in all I was very taken by the film, and it rather brought to mind other 1960’s bleak low-key thrillers reissued this year like The Third Secret( also on Powerhouse) and The Possessed
(on Arrow Video).
The new scan looks nice and crisp- really bringing great clarity/depth to the black and black stock. On the disc we get both the English & Czech cuts of the film- the English cut runs six-minute longer than the Czech, also some scenes are changed around, altered & cut. On the extra side- first off we get a audio commentary from film historian Michael Brook, who is somewhat a expert on Czech cinema- and here he gives a very info-packed track- it moves from lengthy bios on both main & lesser actors in the film, Prague locations & how they’ve changed, the difficulties of working with Czech & English actors, the true story the film script was based on, other worthy Czech film, and more- it’s certainly a great track, that’s interesting through-out. Next, we get the other new extra Degrees of Separation- this is a twenty-two-minute comparison between the two cuts. Then we get a good selection of shorts dating from between 1939 & 1942 which cover wartime Prague, and the cities communist take over- these take in the following- The Rape of Czechoslovakia (17 mins), The Other RAF (7 mins), 100,000,000 Women (8 mins), Before the Raid (34 mins). The extras are topped off with a 1990 audio interview with the film's director- this runs at the 26-minute mark.
So in conculsion this another great reissue of a lesser-known film from Powerhouse, full of worthy extras- if you’re a fan of moody, slowly paced, yet very well acted dramas/ thrillers I can highly recommend 90° In The Shade- and the Anglo-Czech production certainly adds a decidedly distinctive feel to the production