Classic DVD Reviews (Continued)
In Bonanza: The Official Second Season, Volume 1 which was recently released by Paramount (18 episodes on 5 discs), we get a continuation of the high standard of western programming introduced in the western series' first season.
At the forefront once again are the Cartwright clan composed of patriarch Ben (Lorne Greene) and his three sons (each from different mothers) - Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) , and little Joe (Michael Landon). The Cartwrights own and operate a large ranch/forestry tract in Nevada known as the Ponderosa and are frequently looked to by others for assistance in solving contentious issues. Their power, however, is also a magnet for those who have an axe to grind. Each of the four family members has distinct and different strengths and weaknesses that are well used in conjunction with each episode. One of the four often tends to take the lead in a given episode with the others having only peripheral involvement. For the first half of the 1960-61 season, it's hard to find a bad episode. Among the best are The Mission (Henry Hull stars as a former scout, now the town drunkard, who agrees to guide a cavalry patrol through the desert); The Mill (The Cartwrights construct a grist mill to help out a crippled rancher [Harry Townes] who blames Ben for his misfortunes); Denver McKee (a tale about a former lawman [Franchot Tone] gone bad); Day of Reckoning (Ben gives an Indian who saved his life [Ricardo Montalban] some of his land); Silent Thunder (a deaf-mute [Stella Stevens] falls for little Joe when he teaches her sign language); The Blood Line (Ben tries to make amends to the son of a man he killed); The Courtship (Hoss falls for the widow [Julie Adams] - a compulsive gambler - of one of Ben's friends); and The Spitfire (Joe prevents a mountain man from starting a brush fire, killing him in self defense, and raises the enmity of his entire family). The full frame transfers are strong, but don't look quite as good in general as those for the first season releases. The colours still hold up well, but sharpness is variable between as well as within episodes. Digital artifacts seem a little more apparent as well. The mono sound is clear and strong. There's no evidence of distortion or crackle, but some mild hiss can be detected. English SDH subtitling has been provided. The set has a whole raft of supplements ranging from four audio commentaries (with episode guest stars Ben Cooper, Stella Stevens, David Macklin, and Julie Adams), vintage interviews with Dan Blocker and producer David Dortort, NBC logos and RCA spots on selected episodes, and various behind-the-scenes and personal appearance photographs. Highly recommended.
Classic Blu-ray Remarks
Disney is creating quite a fine reputation for itself with its superb Blu-ray transfers of its classic animation. A case in point is the latest such offering - Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition.
The studio has undertaken a detailed frame-by-frame restoration of the 1951 film and encoded it to Blu-ray in a fashion that makes it look like a brand new film. The full frame transfer is dazzling in its colour brightness and fidelity, and the image consistently demonstrates cleanliness, crispness, and detail likely not experienced at the time of the original release. There is no evidence of untoward digital manipulation whatsoever. The 5.1 DTS-HD audio extends the reach of the original mono in a carefully judged and plausible fashion. Dialogue is clear and strong while the music is a constant delight in terms of subtlety and surround application. An English stereoo track, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks, and English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are also provided. The supplements include all those from the previous DVD release plus several new HD efforts including a full-length, excellent Picture-in-Picture experience about the making of the film featuring new and archival material. A DVD version of the film has been included in this release. Very highly recommended.
Les vacances de M. Hulot (Mr. Hulot's Holiday) was made by Jacques Tati in 1953 and although well received, was revisited by Tati for refinement in the early 1960s and most recently in 1978.
A detailed restoration of the latter version was undertaken in France in 2009 and the result served as the basis for the full frame transfer used for a Blu-ray presentation by the British Film Institute (BFI). The release is a Region B disc requiring a Region B or Region-free player. The results are very impressive with a very detailed gray scale on display. Fine-scale detail and contrast are notably good. A nice sheen of film grain is plainly evident throughout. The image is quite clean with any minor imperfections not distracting at all. A French 2.0 LPCM track is provided that sounds clear and strong while being well balanced with the background music. An English 2.0 Dolby Digital track and English subtitles are provided. The Blu-ray disc also contains the original 1953 version of the film unrestored in HD. In addition a standard DVD disc (Region 2, PAL) containing the original version is included. It also contains the theatrical trailer and a Richard Lester interview in which he discusses the film with film historian Philip Kemp. A 20-page booklet with an essay by Kemp is also part of the release. For those who have a Region B Blu-ray capability, this BFI release is highly recommended.
Classic Media will be releasing a compilation disc of 10 episodes drawn from its 2008 75th Anniversary release of The Lone Ranger TV show (seasons 1 &2) on April 19th. Being released separately on the same date is a double feature of The Lone Ranger (1956) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958).
Criterion will be releasing Jean-Pierre Melville's Le cercle rouge (1970, with Alain Delon) on Blu-ray on April 12th. Supplements will include: excerpts from Cinéastes de notre temps: Jean-Pierre Melville; video interviews with assistant director Bernard Stora and Rui Nogueria, the author of "Melville on Melville"; thirty minutes of rare on-set and archival footage, featuring interviews with director Jean-Pierre Melville and stars Alain Delon, Yves Montand, and André Bourvil; the original theatrical trailer and 2003 Rialto Pictures rerelease trailer; and a booklet featuring essays by film critics Michael Sragow and Chris Fujiwara, excerpts from "Melville on Melville", a reprinted interview with composer Eric Demarsan, and an appreciation from director John Woo. Coming also is Ken Loach's Kes (1969) on both Blu-ray and DVD on April 19th. Supplements will include: Making Kes - a new documentary featuring Loach, Menges, producer Tony Garnett, and actor David Bradley; The Southbank Show: Ken Loach (1993), a profile of the filmmaker, featuring Loach, Garnett, directors Stephen Frears and Alan Parker, and other Loach collaborators; Cathy Come Home (1967), a feature directed by Loach and produced by Garnett, with an introduction by film writer Graham Fuller; the original theatrical trailer; and a booklet featuring an essay by Fuller.
Entertainment One will have The Abbott and Costello Show: Who's on First? for release on February 1st. The single-disc release contains six episodes from the 1952-53 TV series in which some of the duo's most classic routines are preserved. The episodes are: "The Dentist's Office", "The Birthday Party", "The Charity Bazaar", "Hungry", "The Music Lovers" and "The Actor's Home".
Fox has listed John Huston's The Bible (1966) for a Blu-ray release on March 22nd.
January releases from Grapevine Video comprise the usual mix of four silents and three sound titles. The silent films include: The College Hero (1926, with Rex Lease), The Midnight Message (1926, with Creighton Hale), The Mounted Stranger (1930, both silent and sound versions, with Hoot Gibson), and Trailin' (1921, with Tom Mix). The sound titles are: Big News (1929, with Robert Armstrong and Carole Lombard), His Girl Friday (1940, with Cary Grant), and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934, with Peter Lorre).
Kino has announced the third and fourth volumes in its series of collections of classic shorts based on safety films and sales tips ranging from the 1940s to the 1970s. Coming on February 8th will be Safe … Not Sorry (14 shorts) and The Celluloid Salesman (15 shorts). The films on these sets come from the archives of Skip Elsheimer, founder of A/V Geeks, whose collection consists of more than 23,000 educational titles on the 16mm format. On March 22nd, we'll get Buster Keaton's Our Hospitality: Ultimate Edition (1923) on both Blu-ray and DVD. Features on both versions will include: music composed and conducted by Carl Davis, performed by the Thames Silents Orchestra (in 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo); a musical score compiled by Donald Hunsberger (2.0 Stereo); The Iron Mule (1925, 19 min.) with music by Ben Model; an original documentary on the making of the film, written by film historian Patricia Eliot Tobias with David B. Pearson; Hospitality - a 49-minute alternate cut of the film, with an explanatory introduction, and an organ score by Lee Erwin; and photo and snapshot galleries.
MGM will offer The Manchurian Candidate (1962, with Laurence Harvey) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968, with Steve McQueen) on Blu-ray on May 3rd, but both will be Best Buy exclusives.
The MGM MOD program announced through Fox in November now seems likely to actually kick off in late January as there have been delays in lining up retailers to handle the discs. As a reminder, the titles were: By Love Possessed (1961), Diary of a Madman (1963), Futureworld (1976), The Hawaiians (1970), The Satan Bug (1965), The Spikes Gang (1974), Vigilante Force (1976), The Witches (1968), The 7th Dawn (1964), 99 River Street (1953), Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl (1954), Flight from Ashiya (1964), Leo the Last (1970), and Big House, U.S.A. (1955).
MPI will have Here's Lucy: Season Four for release on March 29th. It will be a 4-disc set containing all 24 of the season's episodes. Extras look to be substantial and include new introductions on all episodes and a featurette on Gale Gordon among others. Also coming on the same date is a 5-disc Blu-ray set of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films (all 14 films) - Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection. MPI will also be releasing the 4th and 5th seasons of The Donna Reed Show, but not likely until near the coming mid-year.
Olive Films will release two of its Paramount-licensed holdings on February 8th: Riot (1969, with Jim Brown) and WUSA (1970, with Paul Newman). Rope of Sand (1949, Burt Lancaster) and The Mountain (1956, Spencer Tracy) are set for April 5th.
To commemorate the 55th anniversary of The Ten Commandments (1956, Charlton Heston), Paramount will release a fully restored version in high definition for the first time ever in an extravagant six-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo gift set, as well as in a two-disc Blu-ray and two-disc DVD. The release date is March 29th. The Blu-ray/DVD Combo gift set comes packaged in a stunning limited edition box featuring an image of the Red Sea that parts when the box is opened to reveal two tablets, which encase all six discs in the set. The set also includes a commemorative photo and archive book, a new 75-minute, in-depth documentary about the film and its impact, original costume sketches, the 1923 silent film The Ten Commandments (also available for the first time on Blu-ray), international premiere photos, production notes from Cecil B. DeMille, correspondence from Charlton Heston, feature commentary by Katherine Orrison on both 1956 and 1923 versions, and more. The two-disc Blu-ray and two-disc DVD of the fully-restored version of the 1956 The Ten Commandments will both include the audio commentary, newsreel footage of the film's New York premiere, and trailers.
Shanachie's release of Car 54, Where Are You?: Season One has been delayed from February 22nd to April 12th.
Shout! Factory will offer Dennis the Menace: Season One on DVD on March 29th in a five-disc set and Dragnet-1970: Season Four on April 12th in a four-disc set. The Ernie Kovacs Collection is set for release on April 19th. It will be a 6-disc set containing more than 13 hours of material including episodes from his local and national morning shows; episodes from his NBC prime-time show; five ABC TV specials; the colour version of his legendary silent show, Eugene; classic sketches; a 44-page booklet featuring rare photos, program notes and essays by Jonathan Lethem ("Motherless Brooklyn") and TV critic David Kronke; and a whole raft of extras as well. For those preordering from the Shout! Factory online store, there will be an additional bonus disc containing 2 hours of material including episodes of the Kovacs-hosted Tonight show. The Bob Hope Collection: Volume Two is coming on April 12th. The titles are: The Great Lover (1949), Son of Paleface (1952), Paris Holiday (1958), The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell (1968), How to Commit Marriage (1969), and Cancel My Reservation (1972).
Sony has a third wave of releases in its MOD program now available through its website and selected retailers. The titles are: Assignment: Paris (1952, Dana Andrews), Battle of Rogue River (1954, George Montgomery), The Black Dakotas (1954, Gary Merrill), The Gun That Won the West (1955, Dennis Morgan), Jungle Man-Eaters (1954, Johnny Weissmuller), The Nevadan (1950, Randolph Scott), Paula (1952, Loretta Young), Psyche 59 (1964, Patricia Neal), Return to Warbow (1958, Philip Carey), Streets of Ghost Town (1950, Charles Starrett), Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973, Joanne Woodward), The Swordsman (1948, Larry Parks), and X, Y and Zee (1972, Elizabeth Taylor). April 5th will bring pressed DVD releases of The Heroes of Telemark (1965, Kirk Douglas) and The Night of the Generals (1967, Peter O'Toole). These two are mixed in with a number of other titles that are seeing re-releases including: The Bedford Incident, Buck and the Preacher, Lost Command, Sahara, Texas Cyclone, and The Longest Drive. The re-releases have not been listed in the new announcement database.
The next release in the TCM/Universal Vault Collection will be a double feature of Murder, He Says (1945, with Fred MacMurray) and Feudin', Fussin' and A-Fightin' (1948, with Marjorie Main). Release date is January 31st.
Timeless Media has announced the release of The Virginian: The Complete Third Season - Collector's Tin for March 15th. It will comprise the 30 episodes from the 1964-65 season on 10 discs. On the same date, Laramie: The Complete First Season is also being released. Timeless will also be the new home for Gene Autry films on DVD. Starting this year, fully restored and uncut Gene Autry feature films that have never been released on DVD as well as complete seasons DVD sets of the TV series The Gene Autry Show will start to appear. Exact dates and titles have not been announced as yet.
Universal is releasing a number of classic titles separately on DVD that were previously only available as part of box sets. They will appear in the Universal Cinema Classics line. April 5th will bring four Gregory Peck titles: Arabesque, Captain Newman M.D., Mirage, and The World in His Arms while on May 10th we'll get Christmas in July, Hail the Conquering Hero, My Little Chickadee, and The Sign of the Cross.
VCI reports that it will release the Columbia serial Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, with Joan Woodbury) on March 1st. Those interested should be forewarned that nitrate decomposition of the source material for the DVD has resulted in several problematic sections including some missing sound and picture. VCI has determined that some of the problems cannot be restored as well as they would like, but that it's more important to have a copy available in a less-than-ideal form than not at all. March 15th brings four British releases: Candlelight in Algeria (1944, with James Mason); Thunder in the City (1937, with Edward G. Robinson); Child in the House (1956, with Phyllis Calvert); and a Renown British Mystery Double Feature of The 20 Questions Murder Mystery (1950, with Robert Beatty) and Tread Softly (1952, with Frances Day).
Virgil Films (formerly Arts Alliance America) will release both The Stranger (1946, with Edward G. Robinson) and Kansas City Confidential (1952, with John Payne) in Blu-ray and DVD combo editions on February 15th.
Vivendi will be releasing The Little Rascals: Volume One on March 15th. Ten remastered and restored shorts from 1929-1930 are included on the single-disc release. Vivendi is the current distributor for rights holder RHI Entertainment.
The Warner Archive has five releases for January 11th, mainly focusing on Greta Garbo and Clark Gable: Torrent (1928, Garbo), Susan Lenox - Her Fall and Rise (1931, Garbo & Gable), Romance (1930, Garbo, remastered), Two-Faced Woman (1941, Garbo), and The White Sister Double Feature (1923, Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman/1933, Helen Hayes and Gable). Additions for January 18th focus on director Vincente Minnelli. Four remastered titles are being released: The Cobweb (1955), Tea and Sympathy (1956), The Reluctant Debutante (1958) and Two Weeks in Another Town (1962). Also coming are the Warren William Collection (The Woman from Monte Carlo , Don't Bet on Blondes , Times Square Playboy ); a Robert Young Double Feature (Paradise for Three , Miracles for Sale ); and a Walter Pidgeon Double Feature (Society Lawyer, Stronger Than Desire [both 1939]). Eight suspense and thriller DVDs are being added to the Archive on January 25th. The first three of them are newly remastered: Home Before Dark (1958, Jean Simmons), Libel (1959, Dirk Bogarde), The Night Digger (1971, Patricia Neal), Bodyguard (1948, Lawrence Tierney), Chicago Calling (1952, Dan Duryea), The Hour of 13 (1952, Peter Lawford), Twenty Plus Two (1961, David Janssen), and Operation C.I.A. (1965, Burt Reynolds). In the plans for February and March are Sunday in New York (1963, Cliff Robertson), The Wild Rovers (1971, William Holden), Finishing School (1934, Frances Dee), and The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947, Humphrey Bogart).
Warner Bros. will release Soylent Green (1973, Charlton Heston, and Edward G. Robinson's last film) on Blu-ray on March 29th. Warners continues to repackage classic titles it's previously released on DVD into its TCM Greatest Classic Films and TCM Greatest Classic Legends lines. On April 5th, we'll get TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Bette Davis (Now Voyager, Dark Victory, Old Acquaintance, Jezebel) and TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire: The Original Director's Version, Julius Caesar, The Teahouse of the August Moon, Reflections in a Golden Eye). Also on the same date expect TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, Volume One (Tarzan the Ape Man, Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan and His Mate, Tarzan Finds a Son) and TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, Volume Two (Tarzan's Secret Treasure, Tarzan's New York Adventure, Tarzan and the Amazons, Tarzan and the Leopard Woman). April 12th brings something new at last to pressed DVD - at least, partially new. Tracy and Hepburn: The Definitive Collection will include Keeper of the Flame (1943) and The Sea of Grass (1947). Both will also be available separately. Extras on each of them will be a short, a classic cartoon, and the theatrical trailer. Otherwise the collection's other titles have all been previously released on DVD: Woman of the Year, Without Love, State of the Union, Adam's Rib, Pat and Mike, Desk Set and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Also in the set on a 10th disc will be Spencer Tracy Legacy: A Tribute by Katherine Hepburn (1986). Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood will come to DVD on April 26th. It will be a 3-DVD set including all 7 episodes of the Turner Classic Movies original series that aired on TCM last fall. Each episode will be accompanied by more reflections on Hollywood history by producer/writer Jon Wilkman and historians. Included will be a limited edition book featuring 40 pages of vintage photographs and insight about the people, power, and periods that created the Hollywood dynasty. Warners has also announced Papillon (1973, with Steve McQueen) for a Blu-ray release (digibook format) on May 24th. Extras will otherwise consist of only the vintage The Magnificent Rebel featurette.
Well once again, that's it for now. I'll return again soon.