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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

Back to Part One

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

The Best of 2004, Reviews and the Latest Classic Announcements (continued)


Carrie (1952)
(released on DVD by Paramount on January 18th, 2005)

Director William Wyler is quite well represented on DVD, with Carrie being the latest of his films to appear. Based on Theodore Dreiser's "Sister Carrie", this 1952 film has nothing to do with nuns or nurses as the original novel's title might suggest. (Nor, I might add, does it have any connection to the later 1976 Sissy Spacek film of the same title.) It is instead a turn of the century drama about a young woman named Carrie who comes to Chicago from the Missouri countryside to seek her fortune. She first falls in with a glib salesman, but eventually develops a relationship with George Hurstwood, a restaurant manager living comfortably but in a loveless marriage. The two leave Chicago for a life together in New York, but George has stolen money to support them and when he is found out, the relationship soon fractures under the strain. Carrie leaves Hurstwood to seek success on stage while Hurstwood finds himself on the skids.

Carrie

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The Dreiser novel had been published in 1900 and was considered quite scandalous at the time due to its amoral characters. William Wyler became interested in filming it in the 1940s but could not get a script to his liking together until late 1949. He then decided that the part of Hurstwood was ideal for Laurence Olivier for whom he was willing to wait until he was available. Elizabeth Taylor was Wyler's choice for Carrie, but MGM would not loan her out and Wyler finally settled for Jennifer Jones for whom David Selznick had been lobbying for months. Although filming was done in late 1950 and Wyler completed his final cut in early 1951, the film did not get released by Paramount until mid-1952. The studio was concerned about the atmosphere in the country due to the ongoing HUAC hearings and feared the film's unattractive view of America would not go down well. Paramount made cuts to the film and finally released it with no fanfare. As a result, it did poorly at the box-office and received little critical support. That's unfortunate because although Jennifer Jones is rather passive as Carrie, Laurence Olivier's work as Hurstwood is outstanding. His transformation from successful businessman to flophouse denizen is mesmerizing and alone makes the film well worth seeing. Eddie Albert does some of his best work as the glib salesman.

Paramount has released the film on DVD full frame in accord with the original aspect ratio. The black and white image is in pretty decent shape and is reasonably sharp. There is some grain and the odd vertical scratch which gives the whole thing a somewhat gritty appearance, but the transfer does provide a pretty film-like experience overall. The mono sound is clear with just a hint of background hiss on occasion. English subtitles are included. There are no supplements, but the version of the film provided restores a flop-house scene near the end. It was presumably one of the cuts made by the studio prior to the original release. As a result, the film runs 121 minutes - three minutes longer than its previous home video laserdisc release. Recommended.


Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)
(released on DVD by Columbia on November 16th, 2004)

Here is one of the movies that helped define the late 1960s - a satire that hits many of the buttons of the era, such as getting in touch with one's feelings and exposing sexual hang-ups. Considered somewhat risqué for its time, it now seems rather dated on first analysis. Once you get used to the chains that used to adorn men's necks and the ultra short skirts that were de rigueur for women, however, it soon becomes apparent that there is still much in the movie's main theme that hasn't changed in 35 years. Understandably, the satire no longer has quite the bite it had, but people are still trying to get in touch with their feelings and although the orthodoxy may have been altered a little - now we follow more holistic New Age therapies - the basic intent remains much the same.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

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The film focuses on Bob and Carol, a young couple who find their approach to their relationship changed by a weekend retreat. They try to introduce their new-found openness (which includes accepting that each other have taken lovers on the side) to their best friends Ted and Alice, but that repressed couple finds Bob and Carol's new approach very difficult to deal with at first. Ted and Alice's initially ambivalent feelings eventually lead to a level of reluctant examination of their own lives - one that finally reaches a climax during a weekend trip with Bob and Carol to Las Vegas. Direction is by first-timer Paul Mazursky, who also co-wrote the script. He draws marvelous performances from all four leads - Robert Culp, Natalie Wood, Elliott Gould, and Dyan Cannon. It's particularly pleasing to see Gould deliver an effort relatively free of his usual smirking mannerisms. The interaction between all four actors is excellent, but each has a chance to shine on their own too. The story is well-structured and builds to the climax effectively, only to be let down somewhat by a silly ending.

Columbia delivers a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that looks very good. The image is crisp and colours look very natural. There are occasional speckles and a few instances of mild grain, but I can't imagine anyone finding much fault with this effort. The mono sound is in good shape with no noticeable hiss or distortion. English and Japanese sub-titles are provided. Supplements consist of a 17-minute interview with Mazursky held at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute in Hollywood, an audio commentary with Mazursky and the three surviving stars, and several trailers. The interview is not particularly informative, only occasionally telling anything useful about the film, and being mainly a promotion for a new book of Mazursky's. The audio commentary is one of the poorer ones, being more an opportunity for self-congratulation than anything else. Of the three trailers, only the one for Easy Rider has any remote relevance to this disc. Still, the film itself remains interesting and sporting a fine transfer, warrants a recommendation.


The Latest New Classic Announcements

The new year is off to a good start with worthy announcements from many of the usual suspects. We go alphabetically by studio as usual, and note that our Classic Coming Attractions Database has been updated accordingly (click the link to download it in zipped Word.doc format).

Alpha has 35 new releases set for February 22nd. Fourteen are TV series including more Adventures of Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes. There are also four volumes of something called Federal Men. Among the features, we've got the usual mix of mysteries, westerns, and serials (Fighting Marines [1936] and The Phantom Creeps [1939]) supplemented by four volumes of Laurel and Hardy shorts apparently featuring each of the boys working on his own prior to the teaming and the 1938 curiosity Terror of Tiny Town featuring a cast entirely composed of little people. Refer to the database for the full list of titles.

Anchor Bay has announced that its anticipated Ealing War Collection (The Cruel Sea/The Dam Busters/Went the Day Well/The Colditz Story/The Ship That Died of Shame/Against the Wind) will be released on March 22nd. Other titles planned by the company for a fall 2005 release are The Anniversary (1968, with Bette Davis) and a spaghetti western The Hellbenders (1967, with Joseph Cotten).

Columbia will release the 1949 15-chapter serial Batman and Robin on March 22nd. Other titles in the works for later in 2005 are The Violent Men (1955, with Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson, presented in 2.55:1 and presumably anamorphic), The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953, with Randolph Scott), and two Frank Capra films - American Madness (1932, with Walter Huston) and The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933, with Barbara Stanwyck).

Criterion's March releases are as follows. On the 1st, we get Jean Renoir's The River (1951). On the 15th, there's a trio of films: Michelangelo Antoninoi's L'Eclisse (1962), Volker Schlondorff's Young Torless (1966), and Kihachi Okamoto's Sword of Doom (1966). The 29th will bring Francois Truffaut's Jules and Jim (1962).

Disney has four releases set for April 12th: The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967, with Roddy McDowell), The Barefoot Executive (1971, with Kurt Russell), Lt. Robin Crusoe (1967, with Dick Van Dyke), and The Million Dollar Duck (1971, with Dean Jones).

Fox has delayed the previously scheduled Frank Sinatra Collection (The Detective/Lady in Cement/Tony Rome/Von Ryan's Express) from February 1st to May 24th. New announcements include a Three Stooges promotion scheduled for April 26th that includes three discs: Soup to Nuts (1930), Snow White and the Three Stooges (1960), and Three Stooges in Color (four public domain shorts [Disorder in the Court, Malice in the Palace, Sing a Song of Six Pants, and Brideless Groom] presumably colourized by Legend Films). In other Fox news, the upcoming Leave Her to Heaven disc includes several trailers for other Studio Classics titles, one of which is In Old Chicago (1938, with Tyrone Power) so that is presumably forthcoming in the near future. The previously anticipated releases of Pinky and Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte no longer appear on Fox's schedule for the near future, but no reason has been given.

In last month's summary of announcements, I mentioned Mackinac Media's planned releases of Industrial Strength Keaton, The Mack Sennett Collection, and The Mabel Normand Collection. The first will be a collection of rare Keaton industrial films, commercials, outtakes, foreign films, trailers, alternate versions, and various other rarities not otherwise available. The other two will each be collections of approximately 35 films of the respective artists' work.

Lion's Gate finally follows up its (Artisan's) first Laurel and Hardy disc (from 2003) with Laurel and Hardy: Volume Two, set for a March 15th release. It will include the features Way Out West (1937) and Block Heads (1938) as well as the short Chickens Come Home (1931). It's nice of Hallmark (who own the rights) to throw out another bone to the boys' adherents in Region 1, but let's hope the quality is better than the first. Not that it matters much; anyone who really cares has already gotten the superior Region 2 releases.

MGM will have a busy April with a new SE of The Graduate (1967, with Dustin Hoffman) on April 5th, followed by four releases on April 12th: Hawaii (1966, with Max Von Sydow, in anamorphic widescreen), Viva Maria (1965, with Brigitte Bardot), Namu My Best Friend (1966, with Robert Lansing), and The Crook (1971, with Jean-Louis Trintignant. This year's set of war releases from MGM appear on April 19th and will include Ambush Bay (1966, with Hugh O'Brien), Attack on the Iron Coast (1968, with Lloyd Bridges), Beach Red (1967, with Cornel Wilde), Beachhead (1954, with Tony Curtis), The Four Feathers (1939, with Ralph Richardson), The Purple Plain (1954, with Gregory Peck), The Quiet American (1958, with Audie Murphy), and Submarine X-1 (1968, with James Caan).

Paramount has postponed its planned February 22nd release of Have Gun Will Travel: Season Two to an undetermined future date. Li'l Abner (1959, with Peter Palmer) and Darling Lili (1970, with Julie Andrews) are set for an April 19th release. In more general news, the company has indicated that it plans to make more of its unreleased film and TV material available on DVD. Of course, what exactly that might translate into for classic fans remains to be seen. A release of 1950's The Furies (Walter Huston's last film) would be a good start and it sure would be nice to see the 1938 The Buccaneer and long-promised Miracle of Morgan's Creek (two of the very few pre-1949 sound films that Paramount retains the rights to).

Further news from Photoplay Productions suggests that Unknown Chaplin is going ahead as a DVD release although in what regions and when exactly is unclear as yet. There is also a desire by Freemantle (the successor to Thames Television) to get Hollywood out on DVD but nothing concrete appears to have happened as yet.

Sparkhill DVD will release a two-disc set on February 1st entitled: Ray Harryhausen: The Early Years Collection. It will feature Harryhausen's earliest work, including the Mother Goose Stories (Little Miss Muffet, Old Mother Hubbard, The Queen of Hearts, Humpty Dumpty) and Fairy Tales (Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, King Midas, The Tortoise and the Hare). Also included will be very early tests and experiments as well as a wealth of supplementary material.

Universal will release the Shirley Temple: Little Darling Pack on April 19th. It will include Little Miss Marker (1934, with Adolph Menjou) and Now and Forever (1934, with Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard). Also in Universal's plans for 2005 is a new SE of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, with Gregory Peck).

On March 15th, VCI will release a couple of westerns - The Sundowners (1950, with Robert Preston, Robert Sterling, and Chill Wills) and High Lonesome (1950, with John Drew Barrymore, Lois Butler, and Chill Wills again). The John Wayne Cliffhanger Collection (The Three Musketeers, Hurricane Express, and Shadow of the Eagle - all Mascot serials from the early 1930s) is now scheduled for March 29th. The Clutch Cargo Collection is also in the works.

As, I imagine, everyone now knows, Warner Bros.' release of Bette Davis's The Letter (1940) did not include the promised 1929 version as an extra. Supposedly a legal problem prevented its inclusion at the last minute. It will apparently be released on its own at a later date this year or next. Other titles believed to be in the works for DVD as a result of recent restorations are Baby Face (1933, with Barbara Stanwyck), Two Seconds (1932, with Edward G. Robinson), and The Scarlet Letter (1926, with Lillian Gish). No timing is known as yet. The marvelous King's Row (1942, with Ann Sheridan and Ronald Reagan) is also understood to be in the works. In May, Warners will reportedly feature Doris Day with six releases: Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962), The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), Love Me or Leave Me (1955), Lullaby of Broadway (1951), Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960), and Young Man with a Horn (1950). Which prompts me to wonder where the long promised Errol Flynn box set is? Other Warner releases for 2005 will include the Maverick television series and High Definition discs of North by Northwest (1959) and The Music Man (1962), the latter two in the 4th quarter.

In Region 2 news, the British Film Institute will release two discs featuring the early (1900-1913) work filmmakers Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon who roamed the north of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, filming the everyday lives of people at work and play. The discs are The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon (due January 31st) and Electric Victorians: The Films of Mitchell and Kenyon (spring 2005). Other 2005 releases from the BFI will include Luis Bunuel's Tristana (1970), The Mysterians (1957), Federico Fellini's Il Bidone (1955), and Jacques Tati Shorts (Soigne ton gauche [Watch Your Left!] (1936), L'Ecole des facteurs [School for Postmen] (1947) and Cours du soir [Evening Classes] (1967)). France's MK2 will issue a companion piece to its Stan Laurel Collection disc on April 6th. It will be called Hardy and feature 10 of Oliver Hardy's silent shorts. Universal will release Double Indemnity on March 28th. Finally, a newly reconstructed version of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925) is proposed for DVD in late 2005, but the distributor is unknown at present.

Well, that's it for another column. Next time I'll be back with a clutch of new reviews in one of the usual Classic Reviews Roundups.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com


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