Halfway House, The (UK - DVD R2)
Our Marcus takes a trip to a Welsh inn and gets more than he bargained for.
A group of strangers arrive at the Halfway House Inn in rural Wales. Each with their own troubles, the group all have their own reasons to get away from their real lives. However the Halfway House is more than it seems and soon the strangers realise they all may have something in common that only this strange place can fix.
A 1944 Ealing Studio’s black and white movie isn’t exactly what fills my chosen movie watching schedule, so sitting down to watch this I was hoping to be won over. For the first twenty minutes or so I got pretty much what I expected—not to put it too bluntly but it was a collection of far too well spoken characters talking about their situations in an unconvincing fashion. The film was losing me by the second mainly due to the seemingly unending introductions to more and more characters. I wasn’t at all sure where this was going? Then the diverse group arrived in Wales and things started to change.
There’s a scenes where two characters are standing on a hill trying to find the inn. There’s nothing on the horizon and suddenly, as if from nowhere the Halfway House appears where it simply wasn’t before. Okay, now I was intrigued. Then when the characters all started arriving, the host, Rhys (Mervyn Johns) simply appeared out of nowhere too, acting totally normal and started saying things like “A lot of people that don’t know where they’re going find their way here” or implying that the Halfway House actually burnt down a year ago. Okay now The Halfway House had me. This sort of stuff awoke the Lost fan in me and so I started trying to put the mystery together.
During their stay here, the strangers let the hosts of the inn, Rhys and Gwyneth (Glynis Johns) in on their mixed up lives. How they lost their son in the war, or how a daughter wants her mother and father to get back together, or simply what route to take next in their lives. Each story has its spotlight and for every tale, Rhys and Gwyneth subtly nudge the troubled guests towards making the right decision to make their lives better (yeah, my Lost fan alter ego was loving this).
Of course there’s also another motivation here and that’s the war. The propaganda here is thick enough to swim in. Many a suggestion for the next step in these character’s lives is to aid the war somehow. Don’t sit on the fence, support the war, don’t grieve for your failures go back to the war, not sure what to do after getting out of prison, why not go back to the army. Any excuse and it’s the suggestion of maybe going to war. It’s not subtle.
Without giving the game away to this sixty seven year old movie (do spoilers have a cut-off date?) the wrap up here is a satisfying blend of time travel, ghosts, inner turmoils overcome and some explosions (yup, there’s that Lost connection again). For a bunch of characters I cared nothing for in the first twenty minutes, I’d actually grown to like before the end. I love seeing stories like this with a supernatural element being used to enlighten its characters and this was a fine example of how to do it pretty well, other than the fact these ghostly halfway house owners seem to be all about signing people up for going to war.
What more is there to say beyond saying it like it is. This is a British black and white movie from 1947. Now picture your initial take on that description and that’s exactly what this DVD looks like. The transfer is pretty soft, is full of artefacts, scrapes and cloudy edges and exterior location shots look frickin’ terrible. There’s an odd wobble to the frame and from time to there’s even a bit of warping (which is distracting when you notice it).
That said, none of this really takes away from the viewing experience (okay, well the warping does a bit). If this wasn’t exactly what I expected from an old black and white movie, I’d be a little more critical but generally speaking this is an okay presentation with the unavoidable print damage on show.
Again 1947 B&W movie. Think how you’d expect it to sound and it’s exactly that. Shrill children’s voices, a slight hiss to everything and when louder sound effects show up they don’t sound pleasant. Everything is how you’d expect. It’s a relatively talky movie and the dialogue is clear, so that’s one big hurdle passed but every other audio element is less than basic in its design.
No extras at all here. Not even a link to join the army, in case all that propaganda worked sixty seven years later.
The Halfway House wasn’t my ideal movie to watch on a Monday night but it did win me over with its supernatural elements and the simple theme of people having the opportunity to overcome their troubles. The disc is barebones, has nothing flashy in regards to a clean-up and really all I can say to promote this to a modern crowd is Lost fans might get a bit of a kick out of this one, I know I did.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable for all
Release Date: 20th June 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Stereo 2.0 English
Easter Egg: No
Director: Basil Dearden
Cast: Mervyn Johns, Glynis Johns, Sally Ann Howes
Genre: Drama and Mystery
Length: 92 minutes
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