Release Date(s)1977 (September 12, 2017)
Studio(s)Dimension Pictures (VCI Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: D+
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: B-
Advertising for Curtis Harrington’s 1977 slow-burn horror film Ruby was likely the most successful aspect of the venture in the scheme of things. Although it made a bit of a profit, it was more or less left in the cinematic dust for many years, only to be rediscovered by younger genre fanatics who praised much of its atmosphere while overlooking its flaws. Piper Laurie stars in it as the titular Ruby Claire, a bit of a shut-in with a drive-in business and a mute daughter named Leslie. Ruby is being haunted by repeated nightmares of the murder of Leslie’s father, a gangster who swears vengeance from his grave. Soon Leslie begins to exhibit bizarre behavior while deadly accidents begin occurring at the drive-in and around their home.
Curtis Harrington, who had previously been capitalizing on the success of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? with films like What’s the Matter with Helen?, was on the last legs of his career when Ruby came along. Clearly inspired by The Exorcist (which many films around that time attempted to emulate – or just flat out rip off), Ruby isn’t a very good film, to put it mildly. It’s both odd and boring at the same, interspersed with brief fits of insanity. It’s also steeped in repetition, replaying the aforementioned gangster murder sequence over and over again to the point of frustration. Story propulsion is also thrown right out the window as Ruby meanders throughout her home, musing out loud to whomever will listen, regardless if anyone is present or not. The more intriguing horror elements don’t really kick in until the second half, but by then, you may be so dispassionate with the film that you won’t care. Definitely not for casual genre fans, Ruby can be a bit of a slog to get through, to say the least.
VCI Entertainment’s Blu-ray presentation of the film leaves much to be desired as well. It’s watchable, but not that much of a step above DVD. Initially billed (even on the packaging) as a transfer from a new 2K scan of the original 35mm negative, we now know that it’s actually sourced from a print instead. While it has always been inherently dark, being poorly lit and underexposed for the majority of its running time, the transfer presented here is drowning in black. However, when scenes have a bit of light and color pumped into them, it doesn’t look too bad. It’s mostly soft, lacking strong levels of fine detail. Aside from a couple of instances of speckling, it also appears too clean, likely due to filtering as there’s no solid grain structure to be had. Color reproduction isn’t too shabby, but the overall quality of the presentation is definitely lacking. There’s also an apparent dip to black in one scene (at around the 00:21:30 mark) that isn’t meant to be there, which VCI is attempting to fix with replacement discs. If we get more information about this, we’ll let you know. On the flipside, I had fewer problems with the film’s soundtrack, which is presented as an English 2.0 LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s not perfect, but overall fidelity is technically passable with good dialogue reproduction and a decent score, despite the age-related issues, mostly affecting the sound effects and occasionally the dialogue. Some mild heft is present, but nothing that really pushes it into dynamic territory.
The extras are fairly straightforward, but you do get a measurable amount of David Del Valle, which is never a bad thing. Included are two audio commentaries, one with Del Valle and Nathaniel Bell, and the other with Curtis Harrington and Piper Laurie. Both tracks offer some keen insight into the production, and it‘s just nice to hear the director and star reuniting so many years later. Also included is the film’s original theatrical trailer, a two-part archival 2001 interview with Curtis Harrington by Del Valle (Sinister Image Episode Vol. 1 and Sinister Image Episode Vol. 2), a DVD copy of the film, and liner notes on the inside cover by Nathaniel Bell. Unsurprisingly, this material is far more interesting than the film itself.
Ruby on Blu-ray isn’t the site to behold that fans were maybe hoping for, but the supplemental section of the disc makes up for the transfer’s less than favorable quality. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this title pop up again on another label, specifically one overseas. But for now, this one will have to do.
- Tim Salmons