Sunday, February 12, 2012

DVD Review: Conflict (1945)

Conflict (1945)

(Released: January 24, 2012 by The Warner Archive Collection)

Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary: You haven’t really murdered your wife until she stays dead!

Doctor, I don’t believe in GHOSTS, and I don’t believe in the supernatural. I don’t believe that people live on in life after they’ve LEFT IT! But I SAW Kathryn – or someone who looked like her!” -- Dick Mason, deciding that the “super” just ain’t “natural”, in “Conflict”.

What would an Alfred Hitchcock-style suspenseful film be like, if it were made at Warner Bros. and starred Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet – and had just the smallest pinch of the supernatural qualities of a Universal horror picture? “Conflict” comes as close to answering that infrequently-asked question as any movie I can name!

Dick Mason (Bogart), a successful engineering executive, had the life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the life he wanted.

On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary to wife Kathryn (Rose Hobart), a not entirely unattractive woman slightly marred by a sort of “Bride of Frankenstein” streak of grey in her otherwise nicely coiffed black hair, Mason has come to the realization that he is in love with Kathryn’s younger sister Evelyn (Alexis Smith) – who has grown into a beautiful young woman over those five years.

Tensions rise, as the couple prepares to depart for a party in their honor, hosted by Kathryn’s close friend, psychologist Mark Hamilton (Sydney Greenstreet), with Evelyn along in their car for a ride to the party. The couple fakes their way through the rain-stormy evening’s festivities and, on the way home Dick looks longingly at Evelyn in his car’s rear view mirror and, in the unsafe driving conditions, smashes into a tree.

Only Dick is hurt, suffering a broken leg – and, waking up in the hospital, tellingly asks of Evelyn before Kathryn.

Using the leg as an excuse (though he has concealed his regained mobility), Dick sends Kathryn up to a mountain lodge via the expected treacherous winding road. Setting up an alibi of having associates visit him at home to confer on vital engineering matters, Dick gets up the lonely mountain road first, blocks Kathryn’s way, kills her, and arranges for her car to go off a cliff and become hopelessly buried beneath a tomb of logs.

With Evelyn and Mark, he goes to the police to report his wife missing. Then, he plans to make his move on Evelyn.

But suddenly, strange things begin to happen…

Kathryn’s safe key (which she carried with her on the ill-fated trip) suddenly turns up in Mason’s home. Followed in short order by the scent of her specific brand of perfume permeating their bedroom, her monogrammed handkerchief, wedding ring, mysterious phone calls from a woman who hangs up before Mason can reach the phone, and an envelope (addressed to Mason in Kathryn’s handwriting) containing a pawn ticket for the gold locket that keeps Kathryn’s and Dick’s pictures inside it – also taken on the trip.
Finally, Mason sees a woman making her way through a crowded city street – in the exact outfit Kathryn wore in the day she was murdered – who enters an apartment building, then enters an apartment, closes and locks the door. Dick follows and pounds on the door to no avail. The landlady tells him the apartment is VACANT and for rent. He asks to see it and, sure enough, that is the case.

And that brings us to our opening quote about “ghosts”!

So what’s going on here? No spoilers coming, but…. Has Bogie gone bats? Or, did he just drive “a Lexus” [ Smith ] down the wrong [ Green ] street! (Pardon for both puns!)

No one can truly know what makes a “Hitchcock Film”, save for Hitchcock himself. But the level of tension and suspense in “Conflict” is more evocative of Hitchcock, than of a Bogart / Warner Bros. film. Even the TITLE – the simple and straightforward “Conflict”– says “Hitch” more than Warner.

Shifting gears: STAR TREK TOS fans will find something to like about “Conflict” as well. Charles Drake (“Commodore Stocker” in “The Deadly Years”) plays Evelyn’s love interest and John Harmon appears, aptly, as a hobo. Harmon was the unfortunate derelict who curiously toyed with Doctor McCoy’s time-displaced phaser and vaporized himself in the ultra-classic “City on the Edge of Forever”. Harmon also had a small role as a lower-level hood in TREK’s “A Piece of the Action”.

Conflict” is a release of “The Warner Archive Collection”. Please GO HERE to read more about this relatively new enterprise from Warner Home Entertainment. .

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.


It’s Warner Archives: That means virtually nothing in the way of Extra Features. No commentary, subtitles, logical chapter skips – or even MENUS specifically designed for this movie. No background or “Making Of” featurette. No “Warner Night at the Movies” that I’ve loved so much in other packages! And, there is a needlessly limited choice of devices on which to play it (no computers), vs. standard DVD.

Chapter Skips: Though mentioned above, “Chapter Skips” gets a special mention in our CONS section for “Conflict” because the situation has actually REGRESSED from prior WAC releases. The earliest WAC DVDs came with fixed 10-minute interval Chapter Skips – regardless of where that put viewers logically within the film. A later wave of WAC releases seemed to correct this situation, offering Chapter Skips that worked more logically with the film. But, now “Conflict” returns us to the “10-minute intervals”, and that is both a step backward for WAC and a CON for this review.

Menu: (Singular): The Main (and only) Menu also takes a step back for this series of releases. (James Cagney’s 1932 film “Taxi”, released by WAC on the same day, exhibits the same regression in menu design. So this can be considered a backward trend). Recent WAC menus offered a nice departure from the original standard, stark dark blue Warner Archives menu (Above). To the left, there was an attractive photo of “The Warner Bros. Theatre” (Was there actually such a thing?), with the marquee reading: “Now Playing: [Insert Name of Film Here], and a large image of the DVD box cover is pictured on the right of the menu.

Now, it’s just an image of an indistinct brick building at left, the iconic Warner Water Tower at right, with a medium blue sky backdrop. There is NO picture of the DVD box cover – or ANY mention of the particular film you have purchased! Only the options to “Play Trailer” and “Play Movie” are offered on this single generic menu.

It must be noted that both “Chapter Skips” and “Menu” had become “PROS” in the last wave of WAC releases – and have now both regressed into “CONS”.


It’s Warner Archives: That means we get a film that would probably not garner sufficient support for a general release. Given a choice between “Conflict” as a Warner Archive Collection release, or no release at all, I’ll gladly take a WAC version.

I fear, as the DVD market contracts (what with downloading and most of the “best material” having already been released), more and more of the remaining as-of-yet-unreleased material will come via avenues such as this one. But, up to now, we’ve sure gotten a LOT of great stuff. More than I could have ever imagined some years ago. So, if the “last of it” arrives in this form… so be it.

Robo-Promos: The usual “Warner Archive Collection” Robo-Promo, standard on earlier releases, appears to have been eliminated.

Warnings: The overabundance of Warnings, present on standard Warner commercial releases (as in THIS ONE), has not manifested itself on Warner Archive Collection product.

The Extra Feature (Singular): Theatrical Trailer for “Conflict”: (02:03)

Cue the Large On-Screen Text:

The brilliant star of ‘Cassablanca’

The heroic skipper of ‘Action in the North Atlantic’

The adventurer of ‘To Have and Have Not’… Humphrey Bogart… Now brings you another magnificent portrayal in ‘Conflict’!”

We now cut to a disembodied head of Sydney Greenstreet (!) set against a field of black. He speaks, as only HE can:

Driven to desperation by the scent of an exotic perfume! Trapped by the conflict that obsesses every killer!”

Who would want to murder the wealthy Kathryn Mason?”

Was it Evelyn?” [Head shot of Alexis Smith]

Was it the ex-convict?” [Shot of John Harmon]

Or, was it…” [Cut to Bogart]

Return to Text:

Never has the screen presented a more daring motion picture! [Joe’s Note: Really? Sure I LIKED this film… BUT…]

Powerful drama, which lays bare the innermost soul of a man, torn between two loves, caught in the inescapable conflict of his overpowering emotions!

It’s Humphrey Bogart at his best – with Alexis Smith – Sydney Greenstreet (The Fat Man) – in ‘Conflict’! …A picture as great as your favorite star!”

…Um, even I’m not sure what that last line means! What if your “favorite star” was the guy who played “Urkel”, or sumpthin’? Odds are he’s got to be SOMEONE’S favorite!

The Film: Does Bogie meet Hitch, not to mention the ghost of his wife? Watch and see for yourself. Those familiar with the films of producer Val Lewton, might also consider what HE would have done with this idea, at RKO. Ratchet up the fear-factor just a tad (not much) – add a trademark “abrupt, loud sound” – and there you have it! …Would have been interesting.

The Cast:

• Humphrey Bogart as “Dick Mason”.
• Alexis Smith as “Evelyn”.
• Sydney Greenstreet as “Mark Hamilton”.
• Rose Hobart as “Kathryn Mason”.


Conflict”, being a product of “The Warner Archive Collection”, and not a standard Warner Home Video release, must be reviewed and rated by a new and different set of standards.

There are no extras (…or no extras to speak of), and print quality is as good as the source material – with only minimal efforts at remastering. In the case of “Conflict”, the print is generally sharp and good overall.

As a film, “Conflict” may not be one of the all time classics, but it is a pretty unusual vehicle for both Bogart and Greenstreet, in terms of story. Directed by Curtis Bernhardt, it is 01:25:26 of Bogie Goodness, with a dash of Hitchcock (or “Hitchcockian motifs”) to keep things interesting. If only there were commentary tracks or other features to discuss this aspect of the film.

Conflict” also plays very fair with its audience, in that a key clue to the picture’s dénouement is available for all to observe. The astute in the audience please take note.

Interested parties might also wish to check out Bogart and Smith -- but no Greenstreet, alas -- in “The Two Mrs. Carrolls” (Also available from The Warner Archive Collection), which takes a similar path, but with less of the intrigue and supernatural aspects.

Conflict” is recommended for fans of Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstret, the type of films they did at Warner Bros., the Hitchcock style of tension and suspense, the crime/murder plot and supernatural genres in general, and for those enthusiasts of Golden Age Hollywood interested in “lesser titles” with “big stars”.

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