Blu-ray Review: Eye of the Needle - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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The late Richard Marquand (1937-1987) directed Eye of the Needle, a rather stately World War II thriller starring Donald Sutherland. Star Wars buffs will certainly recognize Marquand as the director of Return of the Jedi. If nothing else, his filmography (cut short by his premature death) was considerably varied. Prior to Needle, Marquand directed an early Fab Four biopic, Birth of the Beatles. After Needle and Jedi, he scored a hit with the Glenn Close/Jeff Bridges' thriller Jagged Edge. How does the largely forgotten Eye of the Needle stand up 35 years later? It's talky, old fashioned, and requires a measure of patience from viewers. It's also pretty interesting—sort of a poor man's combination of Hitchcock espionage thrillers and John le Carré adaptations.

Twilight Time has added Eye of the Needle, based on Ken Follett's 1978 novel of the same name, to their Limited Edition Blu-ray series. That means only 3,000 units were issued, so you'll want to head to distributor Screen Archives or the official Twilight Time site for ordering info. 
rsz_eyeoftheneedle_bdbookletcover.png Despite a strikingly bold opening credits sequence, Needle quickly settles into a somewhat staid pace. Sutherland is German spy Henry Faber, nicknamed "The Needle." He's working diligently in England, attempting to decode information about the upcoming D-Day invasion. Anyone who learns of his true profession swiftly meets the business end of his trusty blade. Sutherland inhabits the role with ease, his naturally sinister demeanor almost too 'on the money' for such a character. Faber appears to feel absolutely nothing as he eliminates any threat to his mission.

The story (screenwriter Stanley Mann, who passed away in January 2016, adapted Follett's book) takes a hard turn into unexpected territory, which is where Needle becomes more compelling. Prior to Faber's attempt to flee England, we're introduced to a parallel story thread about Lucy Rose (Kate Nelligan) and her family, including her disabled husband David (Christopher Cazenove). For awhile it isn't entirely clear what these people have to do with Faber. But when the spy becomes stranded on the Rose's small island (inclement weather), he develops a romance of sorts with Lucy. A sense of chilly ambiguity runs throughout the second half, ensuring that Needle remains curiously gripping until the very end. Helping matters is a strong performance by Nelligan, whose scenes with Sutherland are consistent highlights.

Twilight Time's Blu-ray edition offers a clean high definition visual presentation and a lossless DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono sound. Following a TT tradition, the score (by three-time Academy Award winner Miklós Rózsa) is offered as a isolated track. Additionally, there is audio commentary by film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, joined by music historian John Burlingame. Eye of the Needle's original theatrical trailer is included as well.


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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