Blu-ray Review: Hold Back the Dawn

Whilst Donald Trump’s US-Mexico border wall might be the zenith of his crazy, bigoted and idiotic ideas, the issue of controlling migration from the south has been one haunting politicians for decades. The country has long been a beacon of hope for those looking for a better life and the promise of the ‘American dream’ has led many to take extreme measures to get there. This is the premise of Mitchell Leisen’s film Hold Back the Dark.

Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer) is a Romanian émigré and a gigolo who arrives at a Mexican border town only to discover he’ll have to wait for years to gain entry to the US. He bumps into his former dancing partner (Paulette Goddard) in a bar who advises that his best chance is to marry an American woman. He starts targeting tourists but all they want is a bit of fun behind their husbands’ backs. He’s about to give up when he meets a prim schoolteacher (Olivia de Havilland) and sees his chance.

Hold Back the Dawn is a wonderful film which confounds expectations again and again. It starts out as a rather cynical drama but gradually unfolds into something much more. Leisen’s film is multi-layered, and in de Havilland and Boyer he has actors equal to the script. Hold Back the Dawn draws you in, takes you through a whole spectrum of emotions and really makes you care about these characters.

Special edition contents:

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
  • Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
  • Love Knows No Borders, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew
  • The Guardian Lecture: Olivia de Havilland, A career-spanning onstage audio interview with Olivia de Havilland recorded at the National Film Theatre in 1971
  • Rare hour-long radio adaptation of Hold Back the Dawn from 1941 starring Charles Boyer, Paulette Goddard and Susan Haywood
  • Gallery of original stills and promotional images
  • Original trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by writer and critic Farran Smith Nehme

Hold Back the Dawn is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Academy on 15 July.

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