A Woman's Devotion (1956) Blu-ray Review: Mangled PTSD Crime Drama

Kino Lorber Studio Classics unburies Paul Henreid's butchered, noir-esque tale with Ralph Meeker and Janice Rule.
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Misunderstood in its own time, forgotten in the next, Paul (Casablanca) Henreid's thriller A Woman's Devotion never had an opportunity to deliver its message to audiences when first released in 1956. Instead, the Republic Pictures production was ushered onto screens with a decidedly deceptive ad campaign cashing-in on the film's leads ‒ Ralph Meeker and Janice Rule ‒ who had recent appeared in a successful stage adaptation of the classic melodrama, Picnic. Needless to say, it wasn't the best method to promote a minor film noir-esque title concerning a World War II veteran with a really bad case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Not that anyone really had a handle on what PTSD was back then, of course. A subsequent re-release of the film under the slightly more direct moniker of Battle Shock more than likely confused moviegoers, as did initial studio interference (and re-editing) no doubt did to the story's structure the first time around.

Filmed under the working title Acapulco, the low-budget widescreen Trucolor flick Mr. Meeker as an artist named Trevor. Were the hipster name not enough to already make you dislike him intensely, Trevor also happens to be a killer. Granted, he doesn't know he's a murderer, since his homicidal tendencies only emerge whenever he hears all sorts of screeching sounds which remind him of being on the battlefield, wherein he snaps. Conveniently, his condition also grants him a little amnesia whenever he commits such an awful deed, while his fetching new bride Stella (Ms. Rule) chooses to forget any disturbing connections or coincidences willingly.

Fortunately for the two Mexican beauties Trevor strangles in A Woman's Devotion ‒ neither of whom rank terribly high on the social ladder, I should add ‒ there's a good man on the case: director Henreid himself. Sure, the sight of a blue-eyed Austrian actor playing a Mexican police captain may be a bit of a hard sell, but Mr. Henreid still manages to pull off a good performance here in the attempt. But it's Ralph Meeker's tortured artist that takes the cake here, especially as he goes from a drunken, lustful sketcher to a frightened blackmail victim, and finally to full-blown nutter with shell shock Alas, it's might not be enough to hold your interest all the way through.

Boasting gorgeous location footage marred by a limited budget, a forgettable score (and theme song) by AIP regular Les Baxter and a story/screenplay by Robert Hill (Sex Kittens Go to College, Confessions of an Opium Eater), A Woman's Devotion returns to test your loyalty thanks to a beautiful transfer from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Mastered from a 4K scan of original 35mm elements from the Paramount Pictures vault, the seldom-seen crime drama has truly never looked any better than it does here. The MPEG-4 AVC 1080p encode presents the film in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with rich colors/black levels throughout, and very little wear and tear.

An equally nice DTS-HD MA Mono soundtrack is the sole audio selection here, while the only special features available for this Kino Lorber Studio Classics resurrection consist of a quartet of trailers for other similarly-themes crime dramas, including 23 Paces to Baker Street, Night People, A Kiss Before Dying, and Foreign Intrigue.

Best recommended to completionists and the curious, A Woman's Devotion arrives on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics April 24, 2018.

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