DVD Rating: ***

Reviewed by: Emma Slawinski

Read Emma Slawinski's film review of Caught

Caught is a reasonably comprehensive DVD package, with full commentary by Lutz Bacher, author of Max Ophüls In The Hollywood Studios, stills of scenes and out-takes, and a film-essay by historian Tag Gallagher. The latter illustrates some of the trends in Ophüls' techniques and themes, as seen in his filmography of both Hollywood and European films. He points out Ophüls’ feminist leanings, and the variety of resolutions of his heroines’ narratives (Caught’s Leonora is one of the lucky ones, it seems). Much time is also spent showing how the carefully-designed set complements and accentuates the psychological themes of control and domination in the film.

Gallagher’s short discussion of the film is much easier to digest than Bacher’s commentary, which packs so much in, and is so thick with references and name-dropping, that it’s hard to keep up, if you have little background knowledge of the Hollywood scene of the period. However, a bit of pausing and rewinding is worth the effort, and reveals some fascinating insights into an unusual film-making story.

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Bacher explains that Caught was beleaguered by changes of directorship and a dwindling budget. When Ophüls took over the direction of the film definitively, he changed Leonora’s role so that she was less of a “cheap gold-digger”, and more romantic and idealistic. A later addition to the cast, James Mason was something of a coup, and his part was expanded as befit his star status. Ophüls rose to the challenge presented by the tight budget, and created some innovative indoor sets, often exploited for their claustrophobic atmosphere to create a “dark and closed” world, where “every window looks out onto brick walls, every door leads into tunnels”.

Anecdotes are plentiful, and Bacher notes that Smith Ohlrig - Leonora’s controlling husband - was modelled on the tycoon Howard Hughes. Ophüls was afraid that once Hughes learned of the intention, he would veto the caricature. Apparently Ophüls was pleasantly surprised when Hughes let him go ahead, with the proviso that Ohlrig would not sport Hughes’ characteristic crumpled clothes, and that his line of business in the film would be different to Hughes’ own.

The technical brilliance of Ophüls’ direction is also devoted deserved attention. His use of reverse shots animates the dialogue and highlights the power-play between his protagonists, complemented by a careful use of perspective that either shrinks or magnifies the characters in parallel with their situation in the psychological games of the film. Ophüls also aimed for naturalistic effects, eschewing redundant close-ups (demanded by many stars) in favour of using the camera as “witness”, effectively ignored by the actors.

Reviewed on: 09 Sep 2008
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Caught packshot
Tense psychological drama about a young woman whose dream of marrying into riches descends into a nightmare.
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Product Code: 2NDVD3144

Region: 0

Ratio: 4:3

Sound: Mono

Extras: Commentary by Lutz Bacher, Video Essay by film historian Tag Gallagher, stills gallery, out-takes

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