BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume II: Thunder On The Hill (1951) - Blu-ray Review

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In which the nuns get it done!

Thanks to the crackling cinematography of William H. Daniels (Six Bridges to Cross, Harvey, Winchester ‘73) and the performance of Claudette Colbert as Sister Mary who is haunted by the past, Thunder On The Hill roars off the screen with a fury that is relatively unmatched when it comes to thrillers about nuns proving a woman's innocence.

"roars off the screen with a fury that is relatively unmatched when it comes to thrillers about nuns proving a woman's innocence"


The opening sequence - full of mud, muck, and misery as a treacherous flood strands a lot of travelers at a convent hospital - strikes a defining chord within the viewer and propels the rich atmosphere in this forgotten film forward . . . and it never lets up as condemned murderer Valerie Carns (Ann Blyth) professes her innocence to Sister Mary (Colbert) and begs for freedom.  

From journeys across fog-shrouded bogs to dark walls in pretty slimy places, Thunder On The Hill takes viewers on a voyage through some pretty dark events and people.  Carns is accused of poisoning her brother, Jason.  She didn’t do it; she cries to the nuns, but proving her innocence isn’t going to be easy.  Especially, since Dr. Jeffreys (Robert Douglas) - who is now the doctor in charge at the hospital where Sister Mary and Mother Superior (Gladys Cooper) work - might know more than he is letting on and goes out of his way to shut their investigation down.

Sister Mary is making enemies wherever she goes due to her stance on Carns' situation.  And now her choice to "save" Carns can be viewed on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber's ongoing examination of Film Noir classics.

Film Noir is all about embracing fatalism.  In fact, much of the genre owes its dark aspect to way too many “Happy Endings” in Hollywood.  It’s a natural response full of pessimism and fatalism and, as a result, it butters this reviewer’s bread.  Now, Thunder On The Hill might not be the first film you think of when it comes to the genre, but this film’s concern with fatal doses and tall, striking shadows means that we might need to reconsider other titles who might not fit in the status quo.  thunder on the hill lg

For about a decade, writers and directors could see that audiences weren’t interested in fairy tales anymore.  There was too much poverty; too much death and destruction; too many wars.  And the push to urban life had created an economic disparity that lingered long after any romantic ending did.  People needed the darkness to be acknowledged and, from 1944 to 1955, it was cinema’s prime celebrity as highly cinematographic films - cheaply made - fell onto the rain-soaked streets of Home Town, USA.  

Directed by Douglas Sirk (Imitation of Life, All That Heaven Allows) and written by Oscar Saul and Andrew Solt, Thunder On The Hill opens as a dark and gloomy mystery and shifts into a dangerous game of "Beat the Clock" as more and more rain-soaked clouds gather on the eve of Carns’ execution.  Her innocence must be proved! 

And only the nuns can do it.

Thunder On The Hill  is now on blu-ray - newly remastered in HD - as a part of Kino Lorber’s Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume II, a three movie set which includes The Price of Fear and The Female Animal.  How certain of a person's guilt or innocence are you?!

Blessed be Sister Mary!

4/5 beers

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Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- May 12, 2020
Screen Formats: 1.37
: English SDH
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; three-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Thunder On The Hill is a most unusual choice for a film noir collection.  Or is it?  In it a convicted murderer is being transported to Norwich for execution when a flood strands her and her guards at a convent hospital. During her stay, a nun becomes convinced of her innocence and sets out to find the real killer. Directed by Douglas Sirk, and starring Claudette Colbert, Ann Blyth, Robert Douglas, Anne Crawford, and Philip Friend, the movie is now on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber's HD restoration.


With a crisp black-and-white transfer, Thunder On The Hill  lands on blu-ray thanks to the crackling efforts of Kino Lorber.  Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  Beads of sweat are visible, wet city streets, textures in clothing, and even the dirt in the pavement is all visible with fine textures throughout.


Bang! Bang! Bang!  Shots are fired on the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which accompanies this film noir flick.



  • None

Special Features:

  • Original theatrical trailer.


Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3/5 stars


Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema, Volume II: Thunder On The Hill (1951)

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