Sad news from Peter Jackson. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit cinematographer Andrew Lesnie has died. http://t.co/kT6IGrA3bx
DVDs covered include Keeper of the Flame, The Sea of Grass, and Moguls & Movie Stars (from Warner Bros.); While the City Sleeps, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Devotion, Whiplash, Wild Rovers, Tim Holt Western Classics: Volume 1 and The Unfinished Dance (all from the Warner Archive); Violent Saturday and The Kremlin Letter (from Twilight Time); and Goodnight for Justice (from Entertainment One). I also have a review of the Blu-ray release of King of Kings (from Warner Bros.) The usual round-up of new classic release announcements is included and the classic announcements database has been updated.
Here's a bit of a heads up on the next edition of Classic Coming Attractions. It will be the 100th column and one of the things planned is a profile on Roy Rogers and his films available on DVD, in honour of 2011 being the 100th anniversary of his birth.
In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy this latest edition of the column.
Classic DVD Reviews and One Book Review
In the 1942 MGM film Keeper of the Flame, a group of reporters gathers outside the gated home of American patriot and national hero Robert Forrest who has been killed in a car accident.
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The dead man's widow, Christine Forrest (Katharine Hepburn), has secluded herself in her home and is unwilling to talk to the reporters. Among the latter is Steven O'Malley (Spencer Tracy), a journalist recognized for covering the developing war in Europe. He wants to write a biography of Forrest extolling his leadership. But as questions arise about whether the great man's death was really the accident it appeared to be and O'Malley manages to get in to see Christine with help from the gatekeeper's son, it seems that Robert Forrest may not have been all he appeared. Keeper of the Flame originated as a story idea that RKO first purchased in the late 1930s and was then bought from that studio by MGM. Donald Ogden Stewart turned the idea into a script with an antifascist message. The resulting film is typical of MGM efforts such as Three Comrades and The Mortal Storm to warn of the growing fascism in Europe and its threat to North America - clearly conveyed messages without the more overt approach of similarly-intentioned Warner Bros. films (Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Watch on the Rhine). Unfortunately, Keeper of the Flame may have the best of intentions, but the film is not completely persuasive. It seems unsure of whether it wants to be a psychological thriller as it meanders along for its first two-thirds in mainly hushed tones with convenient happenings or an action film with the murder, blazing buildings, and suddenly-proclaimed treason of its final third. Spencer Tracy gives a genial performance as O'Malley, but it's never very obvious why O'Malley has the great investigative reputation attributed to him. His efforts to see Christine are uninspired and it takes a young boy to get him into the Forrest mansion. His initial confrontation with Christine is anticlimactic for O'Malley seems prepared to accept her praise of her husband without question. As Christine, Katharine Hepburn convinces us of her role as a grieving widow, but some of her delivery has artifice that can draw the viewer out of the moment. The result is an unsatisfying exercise both in execution and in the effectiveness of delivering an antifascist message. For those used to Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's best pairings such as Woman of the Year and State of the Union, the film is a let-down. The Warner Bros. DVD release is pretty good. The full frame image captures William H. Daniels' brooding photography quite effectively. Image sharpness is a little inconsistent and detail is lost at times, but the overall impact is pleasing. Modest film grain is apparent throughout. The mono sound is in good shape with only some minor hiss occasionally apparent. English SDH subtitling is provided. In standard Warner fashion, era-appropriate supplements are provided. They include an entertaining Our Gang short Going to Press that features Darryl Hickman (who's also in Keeper of the Flame), a riotous Tex Avery cartoon Blitz Wolf that lampoons Hitler via a Three Little Pigs tale, and the theatrical trailer. Tracy and Hepburn enthusiasts will want to have this disc; others should try a rental. The disc is also available as part of Tracy and Hepburn: The Definitive Collection.
A far better Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn film is The Sea of Grass, directed for MGM by Elia Kazan in 1945 and released in 1947.
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Based on the novel by Conrad Richter, the film begins as a love story between society belle Lutie Cameron (Hepburn) who comes from St. Louis to marry cattle rancher Col. Jim Brewton (Tracy) in Salt Fork, New Mexico. Lutie finds life on Brewton's vast and remote ranch difficult. A conflict is developing between ranchers and homesteaders over the right to live on and work the vast grasslands, and Jim's and Lutie's sentiments as to who is in the right are equally divided. The couple are torn apart as a result and their relationship is further complicated by Lutie's feelings for one of Brewton's opponents (Melvyn Douglas), feelings that are further crystallized when Lutie travels to Denver fully intending to leave Jim for good. The Sea of Grass has a western setting and possesses some of the familiar western tropes, but it is at heart a story of family relationships that develop and change during the 2-hour running time. Even if they don't look quite as dusty and rough-hewn as the real thing, Tracy and Hepburn are believable in their roles and the obvious chemistry between the pair strengthens the film's portrayal of the schism in their marriage and its impact on both their lives. There is strong back-up from Melvyn Douglas and particularly Robert Walker who plays the couple's troubled son Brock. A strong supporting cast that includes Edgar Buchanan, Harry Carey, Robert Armstrong, and Phyllis Thaxter is another significant plus. In the uniformly superior work of the cast, we see the results of Kazan's typically good rapport with actors, even though Kazan claimed that Tracy and Hepburn didn't pay much attention to his direction. We don't normally expect to see Tracy, Hepburn, Douglas and Walker in a western, but Kazan's efforts result in them looking entirely at home. Kazan's other characteristic touch is an ability to evoke a non-contemporary time and place effectively, and he manages it again here, even though there is some obvious use of back projection. The film has been described as ponderous in some quarters, but I see no hint of that, instead an engrossing drama that holds interest throughout. Warner Bros.'s DVD release is available separately or as part of Tracy and Hepburn: The Definitive Collection. The full frame image is a strong one that stands up well on large projection systems. There are some speckles and scratches, but otherwise it looks sharp and nicely detailed while displaying good contrast. The mono sound is strong and clear with very little evidence of hiss. English, French, and Spanish subtitling has been provided. Supplements consist of a mildly interesting short on how to better work the land (1947's Give Us the Earth!), the 1946 Tom & Jerry cartoon The Cat Concerto, and the film's theatrical trailer. Recommended.
I divert from the DVD reviews briefly here to pass a few comments on the paperback release of Charlotte Chandler's "I Know Where I'm Going: Katharine Hepburn, A Personal Biography" published in 2011 by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books (a division of Hal Leonard Corporation).
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Chandler is the author of numerous biographies of film stars and directors, each of whom she has interviewed extensively to get their personal feelings on the many films and key incidents in their lives. This approach yields a very personal biography that seems almost autobiographical in nature. The results are intimate portraits of the individuals that reveal much about their characters without imparting the cheap theatricality and at times sordidness of obvious exposes or unauthorized biographies. Chandler conducts us through Hepburn's entire life, but a significant portion of the text consists of Hepburn's own words, reflecting on the different stages of her life and the people in it, both on stage and in films and off. Hepburn is particularly forthright in her remarks about the strengths and weaknesses of her performances and her relationships with other men, including Howard Hughes but particularly Spencer Tracy as one might anticipate. There are no major new revelations, but the degree of insight that one gains into Hepburn's approach to acting and life in general is constantly entertaining. The book is 349 pages in length including an index and listings of Hepburn's theatrical and television movies. There are also16 pages of photographs, some of which were new to me. Recommended. (The book is also available in a hardback edition published in 2010.)
Devotion is a somewhat curious picture to come from Warner Bros. One would expect a story based in the history of the Bronte sisters to be an MGM or even RKO effort.
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It's not that Warners wasn't capable of such fare; it just ran counter to the studio's historically more modern-based and gritty image - though it must be admitted that that image had started to be eroded by the mid-1940s. The 1946 film (made in 1943 but unreleased for three years) stars Ida Lupino and Olivia DeHavilland as Emily and Charlotte Bronte in a story whose factual background is limited to the basics of the Bronte family dynamic. Any similarity to historical reality in the love triangle that involves the two sisters and a curate (Paul Henreid) working with their father is purely fanciful. Lupino and DeHavilland are in good form even if they seem miscast at times, particularly when we see them tripping through the moors. Henreid delivers his usual likable and forthright work as the male love interest. Also billed above the title is Sydney Greenstreet who has a small part playing William Makepeace Thackeray. Montagu Love, in his last role before his death, plays the Brontes' father. It all makes for a mildly interesting but uncompelling film. The delay in the film's release is frequently attributed to the court battle that DeHavilland had with Warner Bros. over her contract, specifically that she objected to the extension that Warners was imposing on her seven-year contract to account for suspension time when she refused several parts and loan-out situations. The film is available from the Warner Archive on a MOD disc. The full frame B&W image is quite good in terms of sharpness and contrast. Moderate grain is apparent and while there are a few speckles and the odd scratch, none is of a distracting nature. The mono sound is fine and the only supplement is the theatrical trailer. Recommended as a rental.
A more typical Warner production is 1948's Whiplash, a boxing tale that combines melodrama with elements of film noir. Dane Clark is Michael Gordon, an aspiring artist with a punch, who's encouraged by fight promoter Rex Durant (Zachary Scott) to try out as a boxer.
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The proposition is attractive because Gordon's artistic career isn't making him a living, but more importantly, it will bring him closer to a mysterious woman he's interested in (Alexis Smith) who just happens also to be Rex Durant's wife, Laurie. Durant seems to have a strange hold over Laurie, one that Michael is determined to investigate. It's always a pleasure to see Zachary Scott in a film. He invariably manages a smooth, snake-like portrayal of morally-corrupt if not downright-criminal characters that enhances every film he's cast in. Fortunately for us, there was a string of such Warner films in the late 1940s, such as Mildred Pierce, Danger Signal, The Unfaithful, Flaxy Martin, Pretty Baby, and the film at hand, Whiplash. It's at the lower end of the scale among these titles, but overall a compactly made and entertaining if rather predictable time-passer. In addition to the main players, Warners has peppered the film with great examples of members of its stock company including S.Z. Sakall as a bar owner, Jeffrey Lynn as a doctor on the bottle, Alan Hale as a boxing trainer, and Eve Arden as Michael Gordon's neighbor (though Arden's talents aren't given nearly enough screen time to add the supporting luster she's capable of). Director Lewis Seiler keeps the film moving along briskly and gives it a shadowy look that fits it well within the noirish film milieu of the times. The flashback nature of the presentation fits the material well. The Warner Archive MOD release delivers the film full frame as originally presented. The image is reasonably sharp with some deep blacks. The transfer seems a little dark overall, but it's not a problem given the intended shadowy nature of the film. Speckles and the odd scratch are apparent, but don't compromise one's viewing pleasure. The mono sound is clear and free of distortion, and gunshots have the typically Warner heft of authority. There are no subtitles. The only supplement is the theatrical trailer. Recommended.
More typically film noir productions are While the City Sleeps and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Both were directed by Fritz Lang and comprise his final two American films.
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Producer for both films was Bert Friedlob, who had the story ideas ready to go and was an independent operator with the sort of decent studio connections that Lang himself lacked. Another connection between the two films was star Dana Andrews and a felicitous one it was, for Andrews' typically low-key approach fit the lead roles perfectly and conveyed a credibility that benefited the plots immensely. His efforts belied the fact that he apparently had significant drinking issues that compromised his readiness to work when arriving on the set each day. In While the City Sleeps, young women are being murdered by someone dubbed the lipstick killer due to his propensity to leave messages scrawled in lipstick at the crime scenes. The heir to a newspaper empire (Vincent Price) promises the position of editor-in-chief to the one of a group of rivals for the job who cracks the case. Among the competitors are George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, James Craig, and Andrews. Also on hand are Rhonda Fleming as Price's indifferent wife and real-life couple Ida Lupino and Howard Duff, she as a scheming newspaperwoman and he as a police detective. The superior cast is a good match for the solid script that benefited greatly from work by Casey Robinson. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a more compact tale of a writer (Andrews) who hatches a plot with his fiancee's father (Sidney Blackmer) to allow himself to be framed and convicted of the murder of a burlesque dancer. The objective is to reveal the setup after the conviction in an attempt to discredit the practice of capital punishment with its potential for executing innocent men - a particular crusade of Blackmer's in his role as a newspaper publisher. The writer is in fact convicted and sentenced to death, but before the publisher can reveal the proof of the elaborate setup, he's killed in a car accident. Joan Fontaine appears to good effect as Andrews' fiancée and it's left to her to try to clear Andrews as the hour of execution approaches. Both films are thoroughly entertaining and intelligent affairs, but it's interesting that Lang achieves the fatalistic feel of noir without many of its visual trappings. And at least Beyond a Reasonable Doubt doesn't resort entirely to the traditional Hollywood happy ending of the time, instead favouring a degree of consistency with the less savory (or noirish) aspects of society. Both films were originally distributed by RKO in 1956 and have now been remastered for home video release by the Warner Archive of MOD discs. The images are both presented with a 2.0:1 aspect ratio and anamorphically enhanced. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is slightly the better-looking of the two titles, offering a more consistently crisp image with good detail evident throughout. While the City Sleeps lacks the same impressive contrast evident on the other disc, it does share the latter's capability of being viewed with comfort on large projection systems. The mono sound on both discs is quite acceptable. No subtitling is provided. Only Beyond a Reasonable Doubt has a supplement - the theatrical trailer. Both releases are recommended.
MGM's The Unfinished Dance (1947) looks good and sounds fine, but is otherwise a rather unnourishing cinematic meal. Margaret O'Brien plays young ballet student Meg Merlin who worships a performer (Cyd Charisse) at her dance school.
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When prima ballerina La Darina (Karin Booth) arrives to overshadow her favourite, Meg tries to sabotage La Darina's performance in Swan Lake. Unfortunately, instead of turning out the lights as planned, Meg accidentally throws a switch that opens a stage trapdoor, causing a fall that ends La Darina's career. That's the film's basic setup; the rest consists of Meg's wide-eyed yawn-inducing guilt trips (reminiscent at times of some of the traits of her character in Meet Me in St. Louis), a caricature of a performance of a clock repairer by Danny Thomas as Meg's guardian while her aunt (a popular stage dancer) is on tour, and an unbelievable redemptive ending. Ballet enthusiasts will no doubt say that any film that highlights their art is worthy, but MGM's glossy but hollow treatment of The Unfinished Dance as directed by Henry Koster belies that point of view. A French film based on the same source material (Paul Morand's novel " La mort du cygne") was released in 1937 with the same title as the novel, but later in North America as Ballerina. I haven't seen it, but it's hard to believe it isn't better than The Unfinished Dance. The film is available from the Warner Archive as a MOD disc. The image is full frame as originally shot and looks fairly sharp with only occasional mis-registration issues inherent with the Technicolor material. The colours are quite lush although skin tones look overcooked at times. The mono sound is in good shape and does convey the musical numbers with some sense of dynamism. The only supplement is the theatrical trailer.
Violent Saturday, an early Fox CinemaScope film, has been released on DVD by Twilight Time, a new company that intends to bring out classic Fox product previously unreleased on DVD in Region 1.
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The 1955 film has all the characteristics of the big budget disaster films or Grand Hotel-like epics with the slow build-up in which the lives of various people who will be affected are laid out. In this case, the focal point is a weekend bank heist in the town of Bradenville, carried out after careful planning by the likes of Stephen McNally, J. Carrol Naish, and Lee Marvin. Caught up in the event are an elderly librarian deeply in debt (Sylvia Sidney), a father whose son thinks him a coward because he didn't fight in the war but instead stayed at his job of overseeing copper mining (Victor Mature), a couple whose marriage is on the rocks - he resorting to alcohol (Richard Egan) and she to promiscuity (Margaret Hayes), a timid bank manager who's a peeping tom (Tommy Noonan), and an Amish family headed by Ernest Borgnine. The film is deeply rooted in its 1950s era via the image of a small town seemingly a bastion of normalcy - the TV sitcom-like family life, the un-environmental concern of the copper mine looming over the town, kids fighting over what their fathers did in the war, afternoons spent by well-off wives at the golf course - hiding all manner of abnormalities. The film's title and the outburst of violence it presages is all the more shocking for the placid surface it's going to disturb. And it's interesting that when it comes, the violence is more that of reaction from the citizens than that of the bank-robbers. (Except of course nervous Lee Marvin with the nose spray - you just know he's going to go off half-cocked.) Violent Saturday is nicely controlled by director Richard Fleischer, both in the methodical build-up and the more urgent action scenes surrounding the hold-up and its aftermath. It's a thoroughly engrossing film well worth your time and bears repeated viewings well. Twilight Time's DVD release is a limited edition of 3,000 units sold through screenarchives.com. Prior to release, purchasers were alerted to the fact that the transfer would preserve the 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio, but that an anamorphic image would not be forthcoming as Fox did not have one available. Twilight Time could have commissioned one itself, but financial considerations precluded that possibility on Violent Saturday. (As the label becomes more entrenched and financially secure, it will likely become more feasible to commission anamorphic transfers on future titles when needed.) In any event what we do have looks quite good although it is best seen on smaller screens. Colours are accurate and quite vibrant. Image sharpness is consistently good with only one slight falter during the bank hold-up interior scenes. On larger screens (>50"), the sharpness and colour vibrancy weaken slightly. The stereo sound is strong, offering clear dialogue and some presence to Hugo Friedhofer's music score. The latter is featured on the disc's only supplement, an isolated score track. No subtitling is offered. An 8-page booklet containing an expository essay on the film by Julie Kirgo is a welcome addition. Recommended.
Trying to invoke the memory of John Huston's impressive successes such as The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle, and The Man Who Would Be King as an introduction to an evaluation of The Kremlin Letter (as is done in the pamphlet accompanying the recent DVD release of the latter film) is a mistake.
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It only serves to remind us how big a failure was and remains The Kremlin Letter. Its script, penned by Huston from the original book by Noel Behn, makes the source material look like a masterpiece of clarity and the general air of failure and contempt it conveys makes viewing the film a dispiriting and at times mind-numbingly drawn-out experience. There are, as in almost any film, some things to applaud. An impressive international cast including Max Von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Richard Boone, Nigel Green, Lila Kedrova, Patrick O'Neal, Orson Welles, and George Sanders labours mightily on all counts. Helsinki stands in impressively as Moscow, as it frequently did in spy dramas. And a spare score by Robert Drasnin at times entrances the viewer enough to take one's mind off the on-screen happenings. The plot revolves around a CIA letter that threatens to spark an international incident whose retrieval from inside Russia draws a young intelligence officer into the orbit of a network of older spies. Huston himself later noted that the tale's qualities of sex, lurid sex, and drugs were all fashionable at the time, but their use in the film ultimately seems more for box office draw than for any integral importance to the plot. The Kremlin Letter was originally announced some half dozen years ago as a release in Fox's Cinema Classics DVD line, but never materialized. Now Twilight Time (with availability through screenarchives.com) has seized on the title as its initial offering in a line of Fox films that it will be releasing in limited edition runs of 3000 units. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer (of the original 120-minute U.S. release version of the film) is a strong one with the image looking quite sharp on large projection systems. The Deluxe colour holds up well both in terms of accuracy and vibrancy. The mono sound provides clear dialogue. There are no subtitles and the film uses the curious and distracting approach of repeating occasional dialogue spoken in Russian or other foreign languages in English right afterwards. The only supplements are an isolated score track and an 8-page pamphlet on the film's production, reception, and reappraisal. The release can be recommended only for Huston aficionados who know in advance what they're getting into with the film. Others should try a rental first.
I missed seeing Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood when it aired on TCM last fall, so it was with some anticipation that I viewed the new DVD release of the 7-hour, 7-part series.
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The series' episodes break down as follows: Peepshow Pioneers (1889-1907); The Birth of Hollywood (1907-1920); The Dream Merchants (1920-1928); Brother, Can You Spare a Dream? (1929-1941); Warriors and Peacemakers (1941-1950); The Attack of the Small Screens (1950-1960); and Fade Out, Fade In (1960-1969). Narrated by Christopher Plummer, the enterprise is an ambitious one, striving to be "the story of Hollywood power - the larger-than-life men and women whose interpersonal relationships, collaborations and conflicts created an industry and an art form" as well as "an exploration of the movies as a major influence on the image and reality of the American Dream". The reality is somewhat less. There is far too much that makes up the history and influence of Hollywood to be told in any depth in even a 7-hour series. As a result, many topics are tantalizingly introduced, only to leave us wanting much more as the documentary moves on to something else. Too often what we see and hear is material we've seen and heard before (at least for seasoned Hollywood aficionados). The episodes consist of numerous film clips and interviews with many film historians, critics and biographers as well as descendants of a number of the movie moguls (Warner, Mayer, Zanuck, Goldwyn, Zukor, Fox, Laemmle). Certainly some of the latter are new and worth hearing, particularly when skillfully interspersed with Plummer's authoritative narration. The film clips seem freshest (least familiar on the whole) for the early episodes covering the pre-history and silent days, becoming much less so from the 1930s onward. The result is a series that will work best for the casual viewer lacking a great knowledge of the Hollywood story. For those individuals, the series is an effective starting point and easily recommended. Warner Bros. has released the series on DVD with digibook packaging that includes three discs and a 40-page supporting booklet. The program is presented with a 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced image that replicates the original television presentation. The results are pretty much as expected. The new interview material looks sharp and sports natural-looking colour. The numerous film clips look their age for the most part and are mainly though not exclusively presented in their original aspect ratios. The stereo sound is clear. English and French subtitling is provided. Supplementary material consists of panel discussions supporting each episode consisting of TCM host Robert Osborne and a mix of film historians/critics David Thompson, Cari Beauchamp, and Jeanne Basinger plus Moguls & Movie Stars producer Jon Wilkman. Each discussion lasts up to about 10 minutes. Recommended for casual fans of Hollywood. More seasoned film enthusiasts should consider a rental.
As the western began to wane in its popularity as a film genre in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a preoccupation with the sometimes rigorous but often mundane life of the 30-bucks-a-month-and-board cowboy was apparent. Films such as Will Penny, The Hired Hand, Monte Walsh are good examples, but one less often remembered, perhaps because of its uneven original critical reception is MGM's Wild Rovers, available through the Warner Archive.
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Written and directed by Blake Edwards, the film was cut from its original 137-minute length to 106 minutes for its theatrical release in 1971. This apparently resulted from preview audiences' restlessness over the film's length and theme - merely illustrating than attention deficit problems are not just a current-day problem. The film stars William Holden and Ryan O'Neal as a couple of ranch-hands who opine superficially over the empty and non-lucrative nature of their existence. The pair, little given to meaningful deep reflection, determine that robbing a bank will cure all ills. A successful though unorthodox heist has them on their way to Mexico. Unfortunately, the rancher for whom they worked (Karl Malden) takes the robbery as a personal affront and tasks his sons (Tom Skerritt and Joe Don Baker) with pursing the pair and bringing them back for justice. Wild Rovers takes this thin story line and works wondrous magic upon it through fine cinematography by Philip Lathrop that beautifully captures the west from Montana to the southwest (actual location work was done in Utah [including Monument Valley] and Arizona [Sedona]) and an enjoyable Jerry Goldsmith score that underscores the elegiac nature of the story throughout. William Holden provides a superb characterization as the older of the two ranch-hands, merely confirming in his work of the late 1960s and 1970s how fine an actor he was. Wild Rovers was the second of a trio of westerns that Holden did at this time, the bookends being The Wild Bunch and The Revengers. Ryan O'Neal also contributes a good characterization as the younger ranch-hand. Indeed it's one of the best and most convincing portrayals he's managed in his career. Under Blake Edwards' sure hand, Wild Rovers is like fine old wine, to be sipped gradually as one appreciates its many components, all familiar yet with just a minor twist that each help to give this particular vintage its unique character. Now if Edwards had just been able to utilize some realistic-looking blood! Wild Rovers has been released through the Warner Archive with a 2.4:1 anamorphic transfer. The results are somewhat inconsistent in terms of sharpness and detail. Unfortunately, "muddy" is term that occasionally comes to mind, particularly in the early going. Colours seem a little subdued and the source material is not particularly clean. We do get the originally conceived cut at 137 minutes, with overture and intermission music included. The stereo sound is quite good, offering some directionality and doing justice to the Goldsmith score. There are no subtitles. The only supplement is the theatrical trailer in a lackluster full frame version. Wild Rovers is a film that deserved a proper pressed DVD release with some thoughtful supplements. Its MOD incarnation on the Warner Archive is grudgingly recommended.
Tim Holt Western Classics: Volume 1 delivers ten of Holt's B westerns produced by RKO.
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Holt would appear in over 40 such efforts between 1938 and 1952, generally maintaining a high standard throughout the run. RKO had three main B western stars in the 1930s and 1940s, beginning with Tom Keene who gave way to George O'Brien, and then finally Holt. Harry Carey also had a short run as a B western star at RKO in the mid-to-late 1930s. Interestingly many of the plots of the westerns the Keene made got recycled for O'Brien and then Holt over the years too. The first two films in the Tim Holt Western Classics set are both ones in which he had supporting roles to the main star (George O'Brien in The Renegade Ranger  and Harry Carey in The Law West of Tombstone ). The remaining eight, beginning with Along the Rio Grande (1941) and all from the 1941-1942 period, have Holt as the main star. Of these eight starrers, I'd say the best are The Bandit Trail (1941, intelligent plot and features Roy Barcroft), Dude Cowboy (1941, very exciting story), and Robbers of the Range (1941, another involving plot). The lesser titles are Come On Danger (1942, remake of The Renegade Ranger included in the set and less exciting) and Fighting Frontier (1942, undercover tale seems uninvolving). That leaves Along the Rio Grande (1941), Bandit Ranger (1942), and Pirates of the Prairie (1942) - all solid entries, with Pirates of the Prairie particularly notable for Roy Barcroft's crooked turn. These Tim Holt westerns don't have the benefit of the likes of a strong sidekick such as Gabby Hayes, settling instead for Lee "Lasses" White or Cliff Edwards. That would be rectified somewhat in later years when Richard Martin would take on the sidekick role. Overall, as an example of the sorts of B western product available in the early 1940s, this Tim Holt sampling offers plenty of fine entertainment. A couple of the films on a rainy afternoon will soon make you forget any troubles. The set is available from the Warner Archive on MOD discs. It consists of five discs each containing two films. The full frame transfers are all solid with the appearance of a bit of specking and the odd scratch being the worst things you can notice on them. Sharpness and contrast are quite good and image detail equally satisfying. The mono sound is in good shape. There is no subtitling. There are no supplements, but with 10 westerns on 5 discs, you don't really need any. Highly recommended. Bring on Volumes 2 to 4!
My final DVD review is certainly not a classic title, but it is a western and even though recently made, I'm slipping it in here anyway. It's Goodnight for Justice, a Jason Priestley-directed effort from 2009 made for the Hallmark Channel and now available on DVD from Entertainment One.
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Decently-made westerns are a rarity these days, particularly those that don't originate with the major studios (though even they stumble, witness last year's lamentably bad Jonah Hex from Warner Bros.). Goodnight for Justice fortunately is not a bad little effort at all. Luke Perry stars as lawyer John Goodnight, now assigned the job of Circuit Judge for Wyoming Territory. As a child he witnessed the brutal murder of his parents and now finds himself back in the territory where it happened with the memory of the man who destroyed his family very much on his mind. There's nothing very much new in this western, but at least it treads familiar territory with proper attention paid to hitting the expected marks effectively. Luke Perry seems to be enjoying his role very much and he provides a good blend of strength and fallibility as the revenge-minded judge. Lara Gilchrist does well as a woman interested in Goodnight, but one who also may hold a key to his past. Ron Lea is the town boss who proves to be Goodnight's chief adversary. The part is not much more than a caricature, but he gives it some gravity. Jason Priestley handles the tale with an unobtrusive camera style and choreographs the action sequences in a generally low-key style. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is quite good. The image looks very clean and crisp. Colours look accurate and decently saturated. The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is fairly unremarkable. Surround usage registers only occasionally. Dialogue is clear with some directionality. Gunshots sound suitably authoritative. English subtitles are provided. Supplements comprise an on-location featurette and interviews with Perry, Priestley, and Gilchrist. Recommended as a rental.
Classic Blu-ray Review
I've never understood the disappointment espoused in some quarters over Jeffrey Hunter's performance as Jesus in Nicholas Ray's King of Kings.
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Now available on Blu-ray from Warner Bros., a recent viewing of the 1961 MGM title merely reaffirmed for me that Hunter's performance is one of the most persuasive, quietly powerful, and heartfelt of any of the screen portrayals of Christ. There's no evidence of the overly gaunt-faced, turmoil-laden figures espoused by the likes of Max Von Sydow in the ponderous Greatest Story Ever Told. Instead Hunter captures effectively the air of a man sure of himself and his destiny. His Jesus speaks quietly but directly with an assurance that conveys his own faith as well as invoking its acceptance in those he encounters. There's no better way of doing justice to such an important role. Hunter is fortunate too that his work has been captured within a spectacular evocation of the times and events - one that provides all the familiar happenings but also broadens our understanding of the background to them. Has artistic license been applied in Philip Yordan's intelligent and engrossing script? Doubtless, but the spirit of the times has been emphatically retained and if characters such as Barabbas are better done by than they deserve, it's only with the best of dramatic intentions. Under the direction of Nicholas Ray, King Of Kings is spectacle at its best - beautifully mounted and shot, with the proverbial cast of thousands used to impressive effect. The presentation of the Sermon on the Mount, for example, is one of the most emotion-stirring set pieces in this or any other biblical film. Beyond Hunter, the film is fortunate too in its other casting choices; rather than distracting well-known faces, we get mainly lesser-known American players well blended with international players of high quality. Those faring best are Siobhan McKenna as Mary mother of Jesus, Rip Torn as Judas Iscariot, Ron Randell as the enlightened Roman soldier Lucius, Robert Ryan as John the Baptist, Viveca Lindfors as Pilate's wife Claudia, and Royal Dano as Simon Peter. Joyously enwrapping the whole film is a superb score by Miklos Rozsa. Warners' 2.40:1 Blu-ray transfer of the Super Technirama 70mm image is marvelous. Sharpness, with but only an occasional soft lapse, is very fine and picture detail is always notably good. Colour fidelity is first rate with the film's many reds stunningly conveyed. Modest grain has been nicely retained and blacks are velvety and deep. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master audio does an impressive job, yielding clear concise dialogue with some good front directionality while also allowing Rozsa's score to really envelop us. The overture, entr'acte, and exit music have all being retained. The disc includes a French mono track and English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles. The supplements are limited to a vintage featurette on the Sermon on the Mount sequence, newsreel footage of the film's premiere on both coasts, and the theatrical trailer. Very highly recommended.
The Ray Bradbury Theater: The Complete Collection will appear from Alliance Canada on May 31st. This is a 5-DVD collection of TV shows that Bradbury wrote over the years. With stars such as Peter O'Toole, Sally Kellerman, Eugene Levy, Shelley Duvall, Elliot Gould, and William Shatner. The set was previously released by Echo Bridge.
There are four classic releases coming from Criterion in June. June 21st brings Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (1955) on both Blu-ray and DVD as well as Eclipse Series 26: Raffaello Matarazzo's Runaway Masterpieces (Chains, Tormento, Nobody's Children, The White Angel) from 1949-55, only on DVD. June 28th will offer the 1930 silent film People on Sunday (from Curt & Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer, Fred Zinnemann) and Louis Malle's Zazie dans le metro (1960). Both will be issued on both Blu-ray and DVD, but the former title will not be available in Canada while the latter will not be available in Quebec. Coming on July 19th are a Blu-ray version of Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Blu-ray and DVD versions of Satyajit Ray's The Music Room (1958). The latter includes a feature length 1984 documentary on Ray's career. July 26th will bring a Blu-ray edition of Akira Kurosawa's High and Low (1963) and Blu-ray and DVD versions of Jean-Pierre Melville's Leon Morin, Priest (1961, Jean-Paul Belmondo). Note that Leon Morin, Priest will not be available in Canada while Beauty and the Beast will not be available in Quebec.
Disney has announced Dumbo: 70th Anniversary Edition for release on Blu-ray and DVD on September 20th. The Walt Disney Restoration team apparently started with the original 70 year old nitrate camera negative stored with the U.S. Library of Congress, and turned to an original nitrate dye-transfer Technicolor print held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a color reference. Audio was sourced from a rare print held by the UCLA Film and Television Archives which was apparently "the earliest surviving generation" of the original audio, and will include a 7.1 DTS mix. Extras on the DVD will include audio commentary (with Pete Docter, Paula Sigman and Andreas Deja), the original Walt Disney television introduction, a deleted scene (The Mouse's Tale), a deleted song ("Are You a Man or a Mouse?"), the Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo documentary, The Magic of Dumbo: A Ride of Passage featurette (on the Disneyland theme part ride) and a sound design excerpt from The Reluctant Dragon. The Blu-ray will include all that, plus a Cine-Explore viewing mode, Disney View, a pair of interactive games ("What Do You See?" and "What Do You Know?"), the Celebrating Dumbo featurette and a pair of animated shorts (The Flying Mouse and Elmer Elephant).
Entertainment One has a specially-priced ($10), best-of collection of six episodes from the classic Abbott & Costello TV show for release on May 31st. The Abbott and Costello Show: Hit the Road will contain "The Vacation", "The Western Story", "The Haunted House", "Las Vegas", "Safari" and "Car Trouble".
Flicker Alley's release of the 1929 silent Norwegian epic Laila has been delayed to May 17th.
Fox has a couple of 50th Anniversary Editions on Blu-ray in digibook packaging for May 17th: The Comancheros (1961, John Wayne) and The Hustler (1961, Paul Newman). The Comancheros will include audio commentary (by Stuart Whitman, Nehemiah Persoff, Michael Ansara and Patrick Wayne), 2 featurettes (The Comancheros and the Battle for the American Southwest and The Duke at Fox: A Two-Part Documentary), a vintage Comancheros comic book gallery, A Conversation with Stuart Whitman (audio only), Fox Movietonews: Claude King and Tillman Franks Receive Award for The Comancheros, theatrical trailers and 24-page book packaging. The Hustler will include audio commentary (by Paul Newman, film historian Jeff Young, film critic Richard Schickel and others), 8 featurettes (Paul Newman at Fox, Jackie Gleason: The Big Man, The Real Hustler: Walter Tevis, Life in the Fast Lane: Fast Eddie Felson and the Search for Greatness, Milestones in Cinema History: The Hustler, Swimming with Sharks: The Art of the Hustle, The Hustler: The Inside Story and Trick Shot Analysis by Mike Massey), A&E Biography's Paul Newman: Hollywood's Cool Hand special, the How to Make the Shot scene gallery, the theatrical trailer and 24-page book packaging. In other Fox news, the studio has confirmed that it is working on a Blu-ray remaster of Patton (1970) to be released later this year (but not for the May 10th digibook version).
Grapevine Video (grapevinevideo.com) has four silent releases for May: The Better Man Wins (1922, a Pete Morrison western), The Love Trap (1929, with Laura La Plante), M'Liss (1918, with Mary Pickford), and Valley of Hate (1924, with Helen Ferguson).
Image Entertainment will release The Twilight Zone: Season 5 on Blu-ray on August 30th. In addition to the previous DVD supplements, exclusive extras on the BD include 20 new audio commentaries, featuring "The Twilight Zone Companion" author Marc Scott Zicree, author/film historian Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), Twilight Zone directors Ted Post, Richard Donner and Robert Butler, writer Earl Hamner, actors George Takei and Peter Mark Richman, author/historian Martin Grams Jr., authors/historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton, American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties author Bill Warren, Sandman writer Neil Gaiman, BSG writer/director Michael Nankin and "Coast to Coast AM" radio host George Noory; conversations with Rod Serling; a vintage audio interview with director of photography George T. Clemens; and 22 radio dramas.
Kino will be releasing a 3-disc box set of all of Buster Keaton's classic silent short films in one collection. The Buster Keaton Shorts Collection will be available on July 12th on both Blu-ray and DVD. All films have been digitally remastered in high definition and include all new extras. The shorts, all from the 1920-1923 period, include The High Sign, One Week, Convict 13, The Scarecrow, Neighbors, The Haunted House, Hard Luck, The Goat, The Play House, The Boat, The Paleface, Cops, My Wife's Relations, The Blacksmith, The Frozen North, Day Dreams, The Electric House, The Balloonatic, and The Love Nest. The extras include: fifteen visual essays, illustrated with clips and stills, written by various Keaton experts; four visual essays on the film's locations by Silent Echoes author John Bengston; an eight page booklet with an essay by Jeffrey Vance, author of "Buster Keaton Remembered"; The Men Who Would Be Buster, a collection of clips from slapstick films influenced by Keaton's work; Character Studies (ca. 1925) a gag film starring Carter DeHaven, with cameos by Keaton, Harold Lloyd Fatty Arbuckle and others; Seeing Stars (excerpts), a 1922 promotional film featuring cameos by Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and others; and a series of brief, alternate/deleted shots from The Goat, The Blacksmith and The Balloonatic.
Legend Films will be releasing some of their licensed Paramount titles on Blu-ray on May 3rd. Included are two double bills - a Tony Curtis one of Houdini (1953) and Those Daring Young Men on Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969), and a Peter Cushing one of The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) and The Skull (1965).
Looser Than Loose's latest DVD release, available now, is a three-disc set entitled Roach: Volume Three. Included are four shorts starring Will Rogers, four starring Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard, a pair of Paul Parrotts, a Charley Chase, a Stan Laurel one-reeler and a handful of oddities and fragments. Supporting casts include favorites like Marie Mosquini, Bebe Daniels, George Rowe, Mark Jones, William Gillespie and many more. There is even an appearance by Harold Lloyd's brother Gaylord, who stars in his own 1921 comedy in the guise of "Lonesome Luke." This is a good look at the Roach Studios "A" and "B" product from 1919 to 1927. Go to the company's website for full details - looserthanloose.com.
MGM's Blu-ray plans include releases of The Horse Soldiers (1959, John Wayne), The Misfits (1961, Clark Gable), and Some Like It Hot (1959, Jack Lemmon) on May 10th. The Big Country (1958, Gregory Peck) is on the way on Blu-ray for May 24th as a Wal-Mart exclusive. June 7th will bring to Blu-ray Vera Cruz (1954, Gary Cooper) and The Long Riders (1980, David Carradine). In other news, MGM has renewed its agreement with Fox, with the latter now continuing to distribute MGM product through 2016.
Meanwhile the MGM MOD program has added more titles, all due out on April 19th: Call of the Wild (1972, Charlton Heston), The Ceremony (1963, Laurence Harvey), Cloudburst (1951, Robert Preston), Davy Crockett Indian Scout (1950, George Montgomery), The Destructors (1974, Anthony Quinn), Fort Bowie (1958, Ben Johnson), Fort Defiance (1951, Dane Clark), Four Boys and a Gun (1957), Geronimo (1962, Chuck Connors), The Gun Runners (1958, Audie Murphy), The Happy Thieves (1962, Rita Hayworth), Old Dracula (1974, David Niven), Stolen Hours (1963, Susan Hayward), and A Thousand Clowns (1965, Jason Robards). May 3rd additions are also substantial in number: The Big Boodle (1957, Errol Flynn), Blood Bath (1966, William Campbell), The Brass Legend (1956, Hugh O'Brian), Burn Witch Burn (1961, Janet Blair), The Careless Years (1957, Dean Stockwell), Crime Against Joe (1956, John Bromfield), The Fearmakers (1958, Dana Andrews), Ghost Town (1956, Kent Taylor), The Girl in Black Stockings (1957, Lex Barker), Gun Brothers (1956, Buster Crabbe), Harry in Your Pocket (1973, James Coburn), Hell Bound (1957, John Russell), High School Hellcats (1958, Brett Halsey), Mr. Wong, Detective (1939, Boris Karloff), My Gun Is Quick (1957, Robert Bray), Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939, Boris Karloff), Nun and the Sergeant (1962, Robert Webber), Oklahoma Territory (1960, Bill Williams), Park Row (1952, Gene Evans), Report to the Commissioner (1975, Michael Moriarty), and Take a Giant Step (1959, Johnny Nash).
Milestone's release of Araya (1959) has been pushed back from April 5th to May 17th. Milestone has also announces the MILESTONE-ON-DEMAND video line. In an effort to create greater access to its extensive Milestone collection, high quality masters and replication will be used in the coming months to release some of its most long-sought-after titles. Silent films, documentaries, foreign films and classic comedy shorts will all be featured in the coming months. Coming on June 7th will be And Now, Miguel (1953).
MPI will have three Best-of Collections with episodes chosen by fans for release on July 26th. Here's Lucy: The Best of Collection will have 7 episodes; The Jackie Gleason Show - The Color Honeymooners: The Best of Collection will have 4 episodes; and The Honeymooners - The Lost Episodes: The Best of Collection will have 5 episodes. All are single-disc releases.
Olive Films, the company that has been releasing some Paramount catalog titles, will have its first such releases on Blu-ray on July 5th. The titles are Crack in the World (1965, Dana Andrews) and Hannie Caulder (1971, Raquel Welsh), both of which Olive released on DVD just last summer. DVD titles forthcoming include Otto Preminger's Hurry Sundown (1967, Michael Caine) and Such Good Friends (1971, Dyan Cannon) on May 17th and Skidoo (1969, Jackie Gleason) on July 19th. Summer and Smoke (1961, Laurence Harvey) is now available. Sands of the Kalahari (1965, Stuart Whitman) is due on August 2nd in both Blu-ray and DVD.
Paramount has a nice wave of four westerns, all in Blu-ray, set for May 31st. The titles are: Big Jake (1971, John Wayne), A Man Called Horse (1970, Richard Harris), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, Charles Bronson), and Rio Lobo (1970, John Wayne). Once Upon a Time in the West ports over all the supplements from the DVD SE. Coming on June 7th will be Rawhide: The Fourth Season, Volume 1 with Volume 2 expected out before the end of the year. July 5th will see the release of Mannix: The Fifth Season. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961, Audrey Hepburn) is coming to Blu-ray from Paramount on August 23rd.
Screen Archives, the company that is releasing classic Fox titles under the Twilight Time label has revealed that the second title in the series - Violent Saturday (planned for April 12th) - will receive only a 4x3 letterbox release, not 16x9 anamorphic as apparently Fox has no anamorphic elements in the vault. Meanwhile, the series' first title, The Kremlin Letter, is now available via screenarchives.com. Fate Is the Hunter (1964, Glenn Ford) is set for May 10th. The forthcoming release of The Egyptian, set for July 12th, will be available in both DVD and Blu-ray.
Sony's MOD Columbia titles, first introduced last autumn, will be available through the Warner Archive site (warnerarchive.com) beginning April 13th (about 150 titles in all). The titles will also continue to be available through Sony's own site, columbia-classics.com. Six new classic titles have been added, for release on May 3rd: Because They're Young (1960, Dick Clark), Eight Iron Men (1952, Lee Marvin), The Goddess (1958, Kim Stanley), Laramie (1949, Charles Starrett), The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970, Roscoe Lee Browne), The Reluctant Saint (1962, Maximilian Schell), and The Return of Daniel Boone (1941, Bill Elliott). Revealed on Sony's Columbia Classics website is news that a third volume of film noir titles is being prepared as is a release of the long version of Carl Foreman's The Victors (1963). Douglas Sirk's Slightly French (1949, Dorothy Lamour) and Phil Karlsen's Key Witness (1960) are on the way as Sony MOD releases in June. No other details are available on these titles as yet.
The TCM/Universal Vault Collection is adding two releases in the spring. Coming on May 2nd is a pre-Code double feature of The Song of Songs (1933, Marlene Dietrich) and This Is the Night (1932, Lily Damita and featuring Cary Grant's debut). Then on June 6th we'll get an Audie Murphy set of Sierra (1950), Ride Clear of Diablo (1954), Drums Across the River (1954), and Ride a Crooked Trail (1958).
Timeless Media Group will release 26 Men on April 12th. It will be a 20-episode 3-disc "best of" set for the 1957 western TV series. On June 7th, The Gene Autry Show: The Complete First Season will be available in a three-disc set. The episodes will be fully restored and uncut, taken from Autry's personal film and TV archive. From the same source comes Autry's first starring appearance, in 1935's Republic serial The Phantom Empire (3-disc set) - also appearing on June 7th. These Autry releases are but the first shot in an arrangement with the Autry estate. Timeless will also release the 40 Gene Autry westerns that didn't previously appear from Image. They'll be packaged in groups of four titles. Eventually Timeless will also re-release all Image-released Autry titles. Timing is yet to be announced.
Time-Life, in conjunction with NBC/Universal Television, will offer The Best of the Dean Martin Variety Show on May 24th. The release will be available as a single DVD (four show episodes and more than 15 musical performances), a double DVD set (seven show episodes and more than 30 musical performances), and a six-DVD Collector's Edition (more than 50 guests and 80 musical performances).
Twilight Time's July 12th release of The Egyptian on both Blu-ray and DVD will include audio commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini as well the isolated score of Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman. Meanwhile, Woman Obsessed (1959, Susan Hayward) is set for June 14th and Stagecoach (1966, Alex Cord) is tentatively planned for this coming October.
The Universal MOD Vault series added a number of titles on April 26th: The Ballad of Josie (1967, Doris Day), Blonde Venus (1932, Marlene Dietrich), Death Takes a Holiday (1934, Fredric March), Lady in a Jam (1942, Irene Dunne), A Lovely Way to Die (1968, Kirk Douglas), Man in the Shadow (1957, Orson Welles), Morocco (1930, Marlene Dietrich), Pete ‘n Tillie (1972, Walter Matthau), Pittsburgh (1942, John Wayne), Raid on Rommel (1971, Richard Burton), Seven Sinners (1940, Marlene Dietrich), Ulzana's Raid (1972, Burt Lancaster), and The Virginian (1946, Joel McCrea). A number of these titles have been previously available on DVD.
VCI has three more British releases for May 17th: We Dive at Dawn (1943, John Mills), The 39 Steps (1959, Kenneth More), and Midnight Is a Place: Complete Series. Coming on July 5th is Miranda (1948, Glynis Johns). Meanwhile, Simon and Laura, Tennessee's Partner, To Paris with Love, and Upstairs and Downstairs have all been delayed from April 19th to May 3rd. VCI's May 3rd releases of Above Us the Waves, The Malta Story, Sea of Sand, Silent Discoveries, and The Way to the Stars have been delayed to May 17th. VCI's latest DVD announcements include Miranda (1948, Glynis Johns), Tiara Tahiti (1962, James Mason), and I Was Happy Here (1966, Sarah Miles). All are due out on July 5th.
The Warner Archive has released four musicals on March 15th: Yolanda and the Thief (1945, Fred Astaire), Invitation to the Dance (1956, Gene Kelly), Little Nellie Kelly (1940, Judy Garland), and Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (1937, Mickey Rooney). All are taken from the best existing masters with no new restoration involved. March 22nd additions to the Archive include The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1970,Peter Cook), The Squeeze (1976, Stacy Keach), The Last Dinosaur (1977, Richard Boone), and Valley of the Dinosaurs (1974, Hanna-Barbera complete collection on 2 discs). Additions for March 29th include The Unfinished Dance (1947, Margaret O'Brien), While the City Sleeps (1956, Dana Andrews), Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956, Dana Andrews), and The Age of Innocence (1934, Irene Dunne). April Fool's Day additions, and no joke about them, are Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952, remastered), Rio Rita (1942, A&C, remastered), Don't Make Waves (1967, Tony Curtis, remastered), The Impossible Years (1968, David Niven, remastered), and Merry Andrew (1958, Danny Kaye, remastered). April 12th additions include Vitaphone Varieties (1926-1930, a 4-disc collection of 60 shorts), The Boy Friend (1971, Twiggy), Savage Messiah (1972, Scott Anthony), Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956, Dan Dailey, remastered), Rose Marie (1954, Ann Blyth, remastered), and I Love Melvin (1953, Donald O'Connor). April 19th additions include six Myrna Loy titles - The Squall (1929), The Great Divide (1929), New Morals for Old (1932), The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933), Third Finger Left Hand (1940), and So Goes My Love (1946) - plus four MGM 60s rock ‘n roll titles (remastered) - Hold On! (1966, Herman's Hermits), Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter (1968, Herman's Hermits), The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967, Roy Orbison), and Get Yourself a College Girl (1964, Mary Ann Mobley). April 26th additions include three James Garner titles, all remastered - The Wheeler Dealers (1963), Mister Buddwing (1966), Marlowe (1969) - and a collection of Hanna-Barbera's Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles (1966). May 3rd brings The Mexican Spitfire: Complete 8-Movie Collection (1939-1943, Lupe Velez), Kongo (1933, Walter Huston), Strictly Dynamite (1934, Jimmy Durante), Probe (1972, Hugh O'Brian), and Smile Jenny, You're Dead (1974, David Janssen). The forthcoming Archive releases of the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald films Naughty Marietta and Sweethearts will be TCM Vault exclusives due on May 10th rather than April 26th. Archive additions for May 10th include: Advance to the Rear (1964, Glenn Ford), Bombardier (1943, Pat O'Brien), Don't Go Near the Water (1957, Glenn Ford), Flight Command (1940, Robert Taylor), The Honeymoon Machine (1961, Steve McQueen), The Horizontal Lieutenant (1961, Jim Hutton), PT-109 (1963, Cliff Robertson), See Here, Private Hargrove (1944, Robert Walker), and Toward the Unknown (1956, William Holden). All are remastered except Flight Command and Bombardier. May 24th will bring The FBI: The First Season, Part One (1965-66) in a four-disc set.
Warner Bros. has confirmed that we'll get a Ben-Hur: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD this fall. The "limited and numbered" edition will be available in stores in time for the holiday shopping season - specific street date yet to be announced. Included will be a reproduction of the personal diary that Charlton Heston kept during the production, complete with personal photos and his own sketches. There will also be a new HD documentary on Heston's experiences during the making of the film, entitled Charlton Heston & Ben-Hur: A Personal Journey, which includes home movie footage shot by his wife Lydia inside the Colloseum set. That's in addition to all of the previous DVD special features, which include audio commentary, Ben-Hur: The 1925 Silent Version, the 2005 Ben-Hur: The Epic That Changed Cinema documentary, the 1994 Ben-Hur: The Making of an Epic documentary, the Ben-Hur: A Journey Through Pictures A/V presentation (featuring photos, storyboards, sketches, music and dialogue from the film), screen tests, vintage newsreels, highlights from the 1960 Academy Awards ceremony, trailers and more. You'll also get an exclusive book filled with production photos, production art and a reproduction of the original theatrical press book. The Blu-ray version will feature 2 BD-50s, while the DVD version will be a 5-disc set. July 12th will bring four more of those TCM/Warner collections of four recycled titles on two discs. They are: TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Burt Lancaster (Local Hero , Seven Days in May , Executive Action , The Flame and the Arrow ); TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Lucille Ball (The Long Long Trailer , Forever Darling , Room Service , DuBarry Was a Lady ); TCM Greatest Classic Films: Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream , Othello , Romeo and Juliet , Anthony and Cleopatra ); and TCM Greatest Classic Films: Literary Romance (Little Women , Pride and Prejudice , Madame Bovary , Anna Karenina ).
Well once again, that's it for now. I'll return again soon.