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Posted October 1, 2010
Disturbing Investigation into Mental Health
Anatole Litvak's 'The Snake Pit' charts the atypical view of psychoanalysis prevalent in most classic films - a.k.a - everything is linked to one's childhood trauma, repression of that trauma and subsequent guilt. That shortcoming aside, 'The Snake Pit' is a stark, often disturbing, melodrama about life inside a mental asylum. It charts the dementia of Virginia Cunningham (Olivia de Havilland), a woman suffering from an emerging psychosis in which she has developed an intense paranoia of distrust and fear against her placid husband, Robert (Mark Stevens). Leo Genn plays the sympathetic psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Kick to whom Virginia's mental health is entrusted. It is through his care and patience that Virginia's psychosis is finally laid to rest. The ending ¿ true to Hollywood¿s golden age conventions ¿ infused with hope and promise, nevertheless offers a critical commentary on the inner mental anguish that, more often than not, is incurable and debilitating. De Havilland delivers a stellar and shockingly dramatic performance. The film is an apocalyptic vision of insanity under horrendous conditions. The transfer is troublesome. Although the gray scale is presented at a well balanced level, and blacks are generally solid, age related artifacts are sometimes glaringly present. Film grain, as well as edge enhancement and pixelization are present for an image quality that is rarely smooth and only moderately easy on the eyes. The audio has been cleaned up and is nicely presented. Fox Studio Line is about as skimpy on extras as is the rest of their output of classic films on DVD. One wonders why the distinction is made between 'Studio' titles and just regular releases. Here we get a sparse audio commentary, some stills and theatrical trailers. Big deal! I recommend this film for its performances, but the DVD is not up to reference quality.
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