Out of Order (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Jul 22, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Out of Order (4K UHD Review)

Director

Carl Schenkel

Release Date(s)

1984 (July 26, 2022)

Studio(s)

Subkultur USA/Vinegar Syndrome
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: C+

Out of Order (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!

Review

Out of Order (aka Abwarts) is a nifty little 1984 thriller from the late Swiss-German filmmaker Carl Schenkel. The underrated Schenkel spent his career moving back-and-forth comfortably between films made in his adopted homeland of Germany, and films made for the international market such as The Mighty Quinn and Knight Moves. Out of Order fell into the former category, featuring German actors Gotz George, Wolfgang Kieling, and Hannes Jaenicke, as well as Dutch actor Renee Soutendijk (who was dubbed into German, despite the fact that she spoke the language, in order to cover her accent). The presence of Soutendijk wasn’t Out of Order’s only connection to Holland, as it followed right on the heels of the 1983 Dick Maas effort The Lift. Both films are thrillers set on or around elevators, but whereas The Lift’s preternatural killer elevator was a descendant of The Car and Killdozer, the dangers offered by the elevator in Out of Order are of a much more mundane sort.

Out of Order is essentially the opening section of Speed expanded into a feature film, but without anyone like Keanu Reeves available to save the day. The screenplay that Schenkel wrote (along with Frank Gohre) couldn’t be simpler: When an office elevator malfunctions late at night, four people are trapped on board with no way to call for help. As the condition of the elevator deteriorates, so do the nerves of the passengers, and their fight for survival becomes a battle of wills with each other.

Of course, the real antecedent for Out of Order would be Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, with some passengers who are harboring secrets, and growing relationships between others that only serves to add to the tension. It’s a bottle episode, with the elevator serving as the primary set, and the limited location keeps the interactions between the characters front and center. They’re all broad types, but given the film’s brief running time, that’s more of a feature than a bug. They need to be quickly identifiable within the context of the story in order to maintain momentum. There’s nothing particularly novel about Out of Order, but it’s very efficient, and that’s a lost art these days. Schenkel knew how to stay focused on what was important to his primary narrative, and the lack of discursiveness in Out of Order is refreshing compared to many modern films. Sometimes, less truly is more.

Cinematographer Jacques Steyn shot Out of Order on 35 mm film using spherical lenses, framed at 1.66:1 for its theatrical release. This release uses a 2021 restoration performed by LSP Media Kuhn & Albrecht GBR in Uelzen, Germany. The original camera negative and dupe elements were scanned at 4K resolution, cleaned up, and then graded for high dynamic range. (Both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are included on the disc, and the menu actually offers a manual toggle for them when playing the film.) LSP Media Kuhn also handled the encoding and authoring chores for the disc. The results are quite impressive. Aside from a few shots where Steyn used diffusion filters, everything is sharp and clear, with well-resolved detail. The elevator setting may be a simple one, but there’s ample opportunity for refined textures in the costuming, especially in the corduroy coat worn by Wolfgang Kieling. There are also a few extreme close-ups that display an abundance of fine detail in the textures of the skin and facial hair. Grain is moderate but even throughout. A new title card that precedes the film notes that “No artificial sharpening or grain-reduction was utilized during the restoration process,” and that’s clearly the truth. There are no signs of any obvious digital tinkering on display. The relatively drab nature of the production design and the costuming doesn’t give the HDR grades much room to shine, and the black levels aren’t always the deepest, but that’s due to the nature of the original cinematography and production design. There’s a bit of instability during the opening production logos, though it clears up for the actual credits, and there’s also a hair in the middle of the frame during the credits that was probably baked into the opticals. (There’s another stray hair on the bottom edge of the frame later on during the film.) It’s not a perfect presentation, but it’s close, and it does appear accurate to the original intentions.

Audio is offered in German 1.0 mono and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and English 1.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional German and English subtitles. Out of Order was released in mono, and these options provide an unaltered representation of that experience. The restoration process used the original magnetic sound elements for the German version, and the 35 mm optical tracks for the English version. The title card notes that “no de-noising or dynamic range compression was applied during the audio restoration,” but it’s still a clean track regardless of which version you choose. The German track may sound a bit more robust at first than the English version, but that’s due to level differences between the two. The dubbing isn’t bad, but the German track is still preferable, especially since there’s a bit of excessive sibilance in the English dialogue. The 5.1 track appears to be a processed expansion of the German audio, rather than a remix of the original sound elements. It provides a bit of presence, with an expanded soundstage across the front, and ambient reverberations in the surrounds. It’s still largely focused on the center channel, however. Practically speaking, the two aren’t significantly different, so try both and judge for yourself.

Subkultur’s 4K Ultra HD US release of Out of Order is a two-disc set that includes a Blu-ray copy of the film in 1080p. The insert is reversible, with the original Spanish poster artwork on one side, and new artwork designed by Haunt Love on the reverse. There’s also a slipcover available directly from Vinegar Syndrome, limited to the first 3,000 units, featuring the Haunt Love artwork. The following extras are included:

DISC ONE: UHD

  • Alternate Scene (Upscaled SD – 5:55)
  • Isolated Score Audio Track
  • English Credits (Silent) (4K SDR – 4:25)
  • Textless Credits (Silent) (4K SDR – 3:51)
  • German Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:48)
  • Gallery (HD – 13 in all – 2:36)

The extras on the UHD are thin, but that’s not a bad thing, since it maximizes the breathing room for the film itself. The Alternate Scene is really two scenes, or rather two scene extensions that bookend a scene that was included in the theatrical cut, providing a bit more character development. The Isolated Score presents Jacques Zwart’s music in lossless 1.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio. The variant opening credits offer the English language version, as well as the background plates minus the opticals, with no audio. Finally, the Gallery includes poster artwork for the film, as well as a set of Spanish lobby cards.

DISC TWO: BD

  • Interview with Hannes Jaenicke (HD – 28:00)
  • Interview with Jacques Steyn (HD – 18:32)
  • Alternate Cut (HD with Upscaled SD Inserts – 90:19)
  • Isolated Score Audio Track
  • English Credits (Silent) (HD – 4:25)
  • Textless Credits (Silent) (HD – 3:51)
  • German Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:48)
  • Gallery (HD – 13 in all – 2:36)

The interview with Hannes Jaenicke starts with him explaining how he got into the movie business, and why he ended up working for Carl Schenkel. He describes the late Schenkel as a total film fanatic, with Swiss precision—someone who was completely authentic, and wouldn’t bend. Jaenicke then describes his experiences working on the film, and his feelings about the other actors. (He’s still friends with Soutendijk, who’s the only other surviving lead cast member.) His stories are often entertaining, especially when he describes an unexpected side effect from the updraft in the elevator shaft.

In the interview with Jacques Steyn, he briefly relates his background, including working for legends like Theo van de Sande and Robby Muller, before explaining how he became associated with Carl Schenkel. He says that it was “always business” with Schenkel, who worked with a variety of different cinematographers during his career. Schenkel then describes the challenges of shooting Out of Order on a limited budget. Among other things, he acted as his own camera operator during the opening shot, which meant that he had to be strapped to the outside of the building that served as the exterior location.

The Alternate Cut is a re-creation of an extended version of the film that was originally released on VHS by EuroVideo. It includes the material from the Alternate Scene on the UHD, cut back into the film. Since that material consisted of scene extensions, the actual difference in the running times is 2:48, rather than the 5:55 of the isolated scenes on the UHD. The bulk of this version still utilizes the new restoration, with upscaled inserts from the alternate footage cut back into the appropriate places. The rest of the extras are HD duplicates of the extras on the UHD. It’s worth noting that the soundtrack CD and 16-page insert booklet available on the German UHD edition from Subkultur is not included here, but the disc-based materials are the same.

Out of Order isn’t necessarily the kind of film that was crying out for a 4K release, but this UHD demonstrates the benefits that a quality scan from the original negative can provide. It’s not dazzling in the same way as that brighter and more colorful films can be, but the textures of the film itself are reproduced with an almost tactile quality. For avid film fans, that’s dazzling enough. Subkultur’s UHD is a winning presentation of a film that deserves more exposure—this is one sleeper that deserves to awaken.

- Stephen Bjork

(You can follow Stephen on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook.)

 

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