Borderline (1950) (NTSC)

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Released 15-Apr-2015

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Film-Noir None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 87:51
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By William A. Seiter
Bounty Films Starring Fred MacMurray
Claire Trevor
Raymond Burr
Roy Roberts
Jose Torvay

Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Hans J Salter

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     LAPD policewoman Madeleine (Claire Trevor) is sent to Mexico to try to infiltrate the drug trafficking gang led by Pete Richie (Raymond Burr). She is in his room when Johnny (Fred MacMurray) bursts in and holds them at gunpoint. Johnny works for the rival gang of Harvey Gumbin (Roy Roberts) and he is there to get information about a drug shipment that Richie is bringing in. During the shootout and ruckus, Johnny leaves taking Madeleine with him.

     Gumbin is about to send Johnny with a shipment of drugs into the USA and decides to send Madeleine with Johnny as his wife, believing her to be part of Richie’s gang. Madeleine accepts, thinking that when they cross the border she will be able to have Johnny arrested, and the two start off, driven by Miguel (Jose Torvay) with the drugs hidden in a music box and the bottom of a cage with a live parrot. We quickly learn that Johnny is also a government agent, although both Johnny and Madeleine remain unaware that, in fact, both of them are undercover agents. On their journey to the border they are followed and attacked by Richie and his men; they escape but on their journey they have adventures with Mexican policemen, a comic Mexican, and an aircraft pilot. But the biggest problem is that they fall in love and have to face the dilemma of turning the other over to the US authorities when they reach the border.

     Borderline, made in 1950 in black and white, is advertised as a film noir crime drama but anyone expecting a hard edged and cynical noir will be disappointed. There are a couple of shoot-outs but the film much of a crime drama either. Instead, it is more a romantic comedy as the two gradually fall for each other on their journey to the USA. Parts of the film are very funny such as the excruciatingly bad song and dance routine in the cantina as Madeleine tries to attract Richie’s attention; as a femme fatale she could really use some lessons! Drugs in the cage of a live parrot also gives rise to amusing situations and there is some nice deadpan dialogue and, indeed, for almost its running time Borderline has a light-hearted tone.

     Fred MacMurray, perhaps now better known for the long-running TV series My Three Sons (1960-1972), certainly had noir credentials with films such as the fabulous Double Indemnity (1944) under his belt, and he is fine here. Raymond Burr in his pre Perry Mason (1957- 1966), pre Ironside (1967-1975) days is suitably thuggish but could have been given more to do. Claire Trevor was a good actress with an Oscar best supporting actor nomination for Key Largo (1948) and a win for The High and the Mighty (1954) but she struggles to make an impact in Borderline and her rapport with MacMurray is minimal. The director of Borderline was William A Seiter, a Universal regular with 150 credits on the IMDb, but as far as I can tell he had no grounding in film-noir so perhaps the comedic tone of the film can be put down to him.

     Borderline is amusing and competently put together but those expecting a cynical film noir with innocent men out of their depth and a femme fatale will be disappointed. Take it as a light-hearted crime film and you will have fun with it.

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Transfer Quality


     Borderline is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in NTSC. My computer does read it as 16x9 enhanced.

     The copyright of Borderline was allowed to lapse in 1970 so the film is in the public domain. This DVD is an unrestored print with numerous small speckles. These are not too distracting; the bigger problem is the blacks which are anything but solid in scenes with low light, such as at 13:17 or 38:49 where they are very mottled and shadow detail non-existent. Close up scenes, such as the sequence where Johnny and Madeleine talk under the trees, are good, but most long shots can quite soft and detail lacking. Grain however was nicely controlled. There was also aliasing on blinds and reel marks at the end of the film.

     No subtitles are provided.

     The mottled blacks were a problem, but for an unrestored 65 year old black and white film it was otherwise quite watchable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 384 Kbps.

     Dialogue was always clear and understandable. The effects, such as shots, engines or the siren of the chasing police motorcyclist, were flat. The score was by Universal stalwart Hans J Salter who had 185 credits on the IMDb including a number of the Universal Frankenstein and Dracula horror films. He was nominated for Oscars six times, mostly for musicals, but won none. His score for Borderline veered towards the light-hearted side.

    I did not notice any lip synchronisation issues. However, there was a constant hiss throughout the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     Nothing. The static menu offers only Play / Scene Selection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     As the film is in the public domain there are a number of releases of Borderline listed on Amazon, one as a “Film Detective Restored Version”. I cannot find a review but if it is restored the video and audio should be better that this release. None seem to have any extras.


     Fans of the stars, Fred MacMurray, Claire Trevor and Raymond Burr, will probably enjoy Borderline more than those expecting a gritty crime drama or film noir. Nevertheless, Borderline is amusing and entertaining enough for a pleasant 90 minutes.

    The video and audio leave a bit to be desired. There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, December 01, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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