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Label:
Name: TWILIGHT TIME
Number: TWILIGHT248-BR

I WANT TO LIVE (1958) (SPECIAL PROMOTION) (BLU-RAY)
Starring:  Theodore Bikel, Simon Oakland, Philip Coolidge, Virginia Vincent, Wesley Lau, Susan Hayward
Directed By:  Robert Wise
Composed By:  Johnny Mandel

“A harrowing synthesis of drama and cold documentary detail…Miss Hayward plays it superbly, under the consistently sharp direction of Robert Wise, who has shown here a stunning mastery of the staccato realistic style.”
– Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

“Wise is a true professional, and skillfully shifts the film stylistically from the nourish first half to the documentary realism of the second half. Hayward’s explosive performance dominates.”
– Leonard Quart, Cineaste

I Want to Live! (1958) tells the brutal true story of a brazen bad girl (Susan Hayward, who won an Academy Award® for her performance) who is implicated in murder and sent to death row, where she awaits the ghastly inevitable while a journalist (Simon Oakland) wages a campaign to save her life. The singular Robert Wise directs with almost unbearable, utterly brilliant tension. Highlighted by a jazz score from Johnny Mandel, available on this Twilight Time release as an isolated track.

LANGUAGE: English
VIDEO: 1080p High Definition / 1.85:1
AUDIO: English 1.0 DTS-HD MA
SUBTITLES: English SDH
1958 / B&W
121 MINUTES
NOT RATED

Special Features: Isolated Score Track with Audio Commentary Segment by Robert Wise Associate Mike Matessino / Original Theatrical Trailer

Limited Edition of 3,000 Units

  
Reviews and Comments: (1)
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Posted by Mark Turner on August 11, 2017 1:59 AM
Times have certainly changed for the most part. The world of the 24/7 news cycle has led to constant coverage of news stories and murder tales in particular. When a suspect is announced we are presented non-stop with information about that person from their earliest moments until their capture. Many have an opinion on their guilt before they even go to trial. I would imagine it would make it difficult to find an impartial jury.

I WANT TO LIVE is the true story of Barbara Graham, a woman whose life was far from perfect and filled with wrong choices early on and who was sentenced to death in the gas chamber in 1955. While the movie doesn’t talk about her upbringing we find it opening with her as a party girl, a woman who lives life like there is no tomorrow. Within moments of the credits finishing she is arrested for prostitution. Not long after she finds herself convicted of perjury.

Released from prison she’s determined to go straight. She meets Henry, they marry and have a child. But Harry is a junkie, more concerned with drugs than his family. Faced with losing her home and her child Barbara returns to her old ways, working in card games helping cheat marks out of their money. She gets involved with two criminals only to be arrested alongside them by the police. The charge is murder.

While we never see what transpired it seems that Barbara gained access for the group into the home of 64 year old Mabel Monohan, an elderly widow who supposedly had a large amount of cash on hand in her home. During the course of the robbery she was murdered. Now the men arrested place her death solely at the hands of Barbara.

What follows is the back and forth in the story of Graham. We’re presented with her love of her child, wanting him to grow up and to be there with him. We see the legal system as it does its best to ignore her upbringing and convict her on the evidence provided in seemingly unscrupulous ways (such as being set up by fellow inmate). The toll it takes on Graham as each appeal is built up and then lost is also on view.

The highest amount of tension in the film takes place in the last 30 minutes or so as Barbara is about to head to the gas chamber. Each appeal sent is met with denial, and yet the appeals continue, the stays of execution continue and it isn’t until the very last moment that we see Barbara Graham face the gas chamber on her own.

The movie is played for sympathy towards the character of Barbara Graham while at the same time showing her as a semi-floozy, a woman of lose morals who likes a good party, a good time and cares little about answering for her actions. When she becomes a mother and attempts to lead a straight life, life once again throws her to the curb. All of this is done in an attempt to make us feel the death penalty was too harsh a judgement for Graham. This may end up making the movie one of the first activist films made involving that penalty.

What it doesn’t do is show us what happened to Mabel Monohan. The murder of Monohan is discussed but never shown. The pistol whipping of Monohan is discussed once and then ignored. The few criticisms of the movie since its release have involved that fact, that Graham was actually guilty of the murder of Monohan but that the film presented it as if there was a chance she didn’t do it. Evidence presented then and gone over again since have proven otherwise.

Director Robert Wise does a good job at telling the story of Graham in the way that the screenwriters wanted though. He gets great performances from all involved. This movie resulted in an Oscar win for Susan Hayward in the role of Graham. For myself I thought it was a bit overdone. That may be because the script calls for her to scream and rant far too often where a more subtle touch might have left me more sympathetic. Touches of stylistic efforts by Wise are also seen on hand and to be enjoyed. And the soundtrack should be a delight for fans of jazz music from the fifties, littered with notables from that time.

Twilight Time has done their usual excellent job of producing the best picture you can find on blu-ray for this film. Extras are fairly limited here though to an isolated score track with audio commentary segment by Robert Wise associate Mike Matessino and the original theatrical trailer. As with all of their titles it is limited to just 3,000 copies on hand so if you’re interested make sure to pick one up before they’re gone.

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