Release Date(s)1968 (September 26, 2017)
Studio(s)United Artists/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C
Elio Petri’s A Quiet Place in the Country (aka Un tranquillo posto di campagna) is a difficult film to critique, particularly after a single viewing. As it’s about the eventual breakdown of a man suffering from mental illness, it’s not easy to follow the first time through due to the number of events taking place that may or may not actually be occurring, depending on your viewpoint. Starring Franco Nero as a successful painter looking to get away from it all and Vanessa Redgrave as his girlfriend who follows him to a country house where his mental faculties soon deteriorate, I would go so far as to say that A Quiet Place in the Country’s overtly avant-garde execution makes it one of the more unsettling films on the subject matter at hand.
Drawing upon the story “The Beckoning Fair One” by Oliver Onions (a novella that Mario Bava was keen on adapting at one time), the film takes very little from its source material, to the point that one ultimately has nothing to do with the other. Nothing about it really makes much sense as it can be incredibly disorienting and bizarre, or what I would describe as a pastiche of odd. Its unique and not in any way palatable for regular moviegoers – or barely any audience for that matter. Seeing it on repeated viewings and relying on interpretation to sort it out is the key to unlocking its nightmarish qualities. On the whole, A Quiet Place in the Country gets major points for being both memorable and interesting – a film you’re still thinking about long after seeing it.
According to Scream Factory’s note at the start of the disc, “This new HD master was created with the best surviving film elements in the vault.” The presentation looks like a battered print with a vast amount of damage on display, but it has its positive points. Grain levels are well-rendered, although a bit clumpy in spots, while levels of detail are quite high. Color reproduction can be lush at times with good skin tones and bold primaries, while blacks tend to be deep. Top that off with excellent contrast and brightness and you have a transfer that appears natural and film-like in all respects. The aforementioned damage is abundant and includes scratches, speckling, damaged frames, density and emulsion issues, discoloration, dirt, debris, and instability, with some areas being more stable than others. However, no evidence of heavy DNR or edge enhancement is on display, so you have a rough presentation that’s entirely watchable but not perfect. The same goes for the audio, which includes tracks in both English and Italian mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English. The aural differences between the two tracks are minimal, with the English track’s dialogue sounding slightly more announced and cleaner than its Italian counterpart. Both tracks exhibit good score and sound effects reproduction, but both tracks also have narrow qualities. Distortion doesn’t play much of a factor, but hiss, crackle, and occasional dropouts are all present due to the limitations of the source.
The extras for this release are brief, but there are a couple of items of note, including an excellent audio commentary with film historian Troy Howarth, who goes into plenty of detail about the film’s background, all of the main players’ careers, and his critical analysis of the film, which is positive and thorough. It’s a track that, if you’re having trouble sorting through the film’s content and want to know more about it, it should help you out quite a bit. Alternatively is a new 32-minute interview with actor Franco Nero entitled Journey Into Madness. It’s in Italian with subtitles and covers his career and experiences making the film. In addition, there’s also the original theatrical trailer, presented in HD.
A Quiet Place in the Country is a truly peculiar film. One expecting something along the lines of a traditional horror film are going to be disappointed. However, if you enjoy cinema that’s challenging and never gives you all of the answers, this is one to seek out. Scream Factory’s presentation of it is, while not perfect, a great representation of it on the format.
- Tim Salmons