|Classic News, Reviews Round-Up #52 and New Announcements (continued)
Warner Bros. has been busy promoting a series of releases in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies that it refers to as The Greatest Classic Films Collection. These are coming out in four waves spaced out over all of 2009. I've had the chance to sample two of the releases - Best Picture Winners and Romantic Dramas.
Each are composed of two double-sided discs containing four titles in all, all of which have been previously released on DVD. No new transfers or supplements are involved for these repackagings and those titles previously released as two disc special editions are here reduced to simply the first disc. Best Picture Winners contains Casablanca, Gigi, An American in Paris, and Mrs. Miniver. Romantic Dramas contains East of Eden, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Rebel without a Cause. I can't imagine there are many classic enthusiasts who don't already have these titles on DVD. They're targeted strictly at the casual fan who may have heard of the titles and may want to sample them at a bargain price. For that scenario, the new packagings are worthwhile as they at least include the basic films in generally high quality transfers and in most cases audio commentaries, but true fans will want to seek out the more complete special editions already available. Many of the latter have been previously reviewed in this column and those interested are urged to seek out those reviews for full details on content and transfer quality.
The fourth release in Paramount's Centennial Collection is Funny Face, the delightfully entertaining 1957 romantic musical comedy starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn.
This is the third DVD version to be released. The first was a 2001 single disc effort that delivered a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that was decent enough for the time, with pretty good colour but some digital artifacts quite apparent. A short featurette, the theatrical trailer, and photo galleries were the only supplements. In the fall of 2007, we got a single disc 50th Anniversary Edition that looked even more colourful with substantially improved image detail and a very noticeable reduction in not only age-related speckling and debris but also in digital annoyances such as edge effects. A couple of extra featurettes were included. Now less than two years later, we have this new two-disc edition that places the feature alone on the first disc and all the supplements on the second. Three more featurettes have been added this time. There is but minimal difference in the transfer between this new release and the next most recent one - perhaps a slight increase in sharpness, but certainly not enough to warrant an upgrade if you have the latter. Obviously if you don't have the title at all and want a DVD copy, the Centennial Collection release is the one to have, but at this stage of affairs, Paramount should be already releasing such titles in Blu-ray rather than trying to milk consumers with one final kick at the standard DVD can.
Warner Bros.' new release of Forbidden Hollywood Collection: Volume Three is essentially a box set of early William Wellman films.
Wellman, who directed almost four score films during his career, was particularly prolific during the early 1930s when he worked almost exclusively at Warners, directing half a dozen films each year on several occasions. This edition of Forbidden Hollywood is the best one yet - four discs containing six films from 1931-1933, two documentaries on Wellman's career, and a generous array of supplements. All six films have interest and some are superior entertainments. Wild Boys of the Road and Heroes for Sale represent the latter, the pair comprising a Wellman view on the severe economic effects of the Great Depression on ordinary Americans. Wild Boys is a particularly poignant take on American youth and its struggle to find somewhere to fit in as many young people took to the road in recognition of their families' inability to continue supporting them. Frankie Darro, a familiar young actor of the time, is particularly impressive in the leading role, but equally so is Dorothy Coonan (Wellman's young wife at the time). Heroes for Sale takes a somewhat different tack, following the fortunes of a World War I veteran (Richard Barthelmess) suffering from drug addiction as a result of medication necessary to control the pain of wounds suffered in the war. There is a strong focus on the sympathy for Communism that the difficult times of the early 1930s engendered. Aline MacMahon and Loretta Young co-star. Both of these films rip along in typical Warner fashion for the time, covering a tremendous amount of time and space in barely 70 minutes each and with few punches pulled. Loretta Young has a more meaty role in the MGM film Midnight Mary which benefits from an original story by Anita Loos. She plays a young woman who wants to go straight, but is continually drawn back into the circle of a gangster (Ricardo Cortez) and his cronies. The story is effectively told in flashback as Young's character awaits the jury's verdict in her murder trial. Young is particularly luminous in the lead role and gets some nice support from Una Merkel. Less welcome is that dry stick of an actor, Franchot Tone. Frisco Jenny is the box set's representative film starring Ruth Chatterton, one of Warners' leading players of the early 1930s and one too often forgotten nowadays. Here she plays a San Francisco brothel madam who comes to wield considerable influence in the city as the decades pass following the 1906 earthquake (rather well staged for this modest film). The dirty politics of the late 20s and early 30s was a topic frequently mined by Warner pictures of the era and they form an effective backdrop here once again. Chatterton's strong performance dominates the film. Other Men's Women, from 1931, is the earliest film in the set and uses a railroad setting effectively as two friends (Grant Withers and Regis Toomey) fight over one of their wives (Mary Astor). The situation is an interesting one, well resolved with a very effective climax set on a train. Most of interest, however, are early roles for both James Cagney and Joan Blondell, both of whose energy make their characters really stick in one's mind in their brief appearances. The Purchase Price finds Barbara Stanwyck trying to avoid her eastern gangster boyfriend by passing herself off as a mail-order bride to mid-west farmer George Brent. As usual, Stanwyck is a pleasure to watch, but the film bogs down after a promising start as the scenario shifts from slick to hick. The image transfers on all six films are quite good with some of them remarkably sharp and well contrasted given their age. Modest grain is sometimes evident (on Midnight Mary, for example) and there are occasional speckles and scratches, but overall I can't imagine anyone being unhappy with the results. The mono sound is also quite acceptable, with only some minor hiss detectable at times. Three of the films offer audio commentaries (Midnight Mary, Heroes for Sale, Wild Boys of the Road) which collectively offer plenty of enjoyment and a wealth of Pre-Code information. The one by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta for Midnight Mary is particularly good. Each of the six titles also is supplemented by a selection of shorts and cartoons (including several Van Dine detective mysteries, Bosko cartoons, and a silly Pete Smith effort) as well as the theatrical trailers. The two documentaries on Wellman, 1995's Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick and 2007's The Men Who Made the Movies: William A. Wellman, are both well worth watching. The former is particularly good and meaty at 94 minutes in length, containing plenty of excellent interview material with such stars as Clint Eastwood, Robert Mitchum, Sidney Poitier, Gregory Peck, and Robert Redford plus family members William Wellman Jr. and Dorothy Coonan Wellman. Very highly recommended.
Passing somewhat under the radar has been Warners' Sidney Poitier Collection, an assemblage of four Poitier titles spanning the period 1957-1972.
The set offers three superior entertainments (Edge of the City, Something of Value, A Patch of Blue - all in black and white though Something of Value is mislabeled on its case as being in colour) and one marginal timepasser (A Warm December), all in slimcases and none newly available separately. Let's deal with the latter title first - a film that Poitier actually directed as well as starred in. One wonders about the choice as a directorial effort; it's a bland story, set in London, of Poitier's character falling in love with a young woman dying from sickle cell anemia. There's some nonsense about an important medical project that initially seems to have a role in the plot, but that proves to be a red herring, as is another sub-plot about Poitier's dirt bike heroics (‘it's running a little lean”, “it's running a little rich”). The film's focus, predictability, and lack of style are a distinct disappointment given Poitier's penchant for working in roles with some social conscience. Both Edge of the City and Something of Value are more like it, however. Both feature strong male relationships between Poitier's characters and those of his co-stars. In Edge of the City, he's a longshoreman who befriends a young man on the run (John Cassavetes) who's found a waterfront job too, but only at the pleasure of a blackmailing foreman (Jack Warden). The film benefits enormously from New York City location shooting, offering a gritty picture of life lived on the edge. It's full of realistic performances from Poitier's stand-up everyday guy and his two male co-stars to the two women in his and Cassavetes' lives (Ruby Dee and Kathleen Maguire). The film has a somewhat claustrophobic feel, befitting its origins as a TV drama and its ending is somewhat abrupt, but is generally in keeping with the film's spare nature. Something of Value is based on the Robert Ruark novel about the Mau Mau uprising in mid-20th century Kenya. Poitier and Rock Hudson play childhood friends who grow apart in adulthood as a consequence of the uprising. The film is a perceptive look at the injustices that existed under colonial rule, and the relationship between the Poitier and Hudson characters is well drawn and effectively developed as the centerpiece for elucidating the conflict. One might think Hudson miscast in his role, but he handles it with a surprising amount of subtlety. Poitier delivers a dignified and generally restrained performance that only verges on the overly-dramatic in the climactic scenes. A Patch of Blue has long been recognized as one of Poitier's most well-known and thoughtful films. In it he befriends a young blind woman (Elizabeth Hartman) whose home-life at the hands of an uncaring, exploitive mother (Shelley Winters) and drunken grandfather (Wallace Ford) have left her friendless and completely unprepared to deal with life outside. Through a series of meetings in a nearby park, the two eventually fall in love and Poitier must make some hard decisions in order to deal with his and Hartman's character's future. The film never descends into an air of pity or sappiness due to a superior screenplay by Guy Green (who also directs) and wonderful performances by Poitier and particularly Hartman. All four films receive anamorphic transfers with Edge of the City and Something of Value being 1.85:1 and the other two 2.35:1. The three black and white films all fair quite well, offering well-contrasted images with good image detail. Edge of the City has a notable amount of film grain that seems in keeping with its gritty subject matter. A Patch of Blue appears to be the same good transfer as that used for its initial DVD release some 6 years ago. (The supplements are the same too, which means that Warners has apparently re-released the title without any improvement in a box set - a practice that the studio has previously said it would not engage in.) The mono sound on all titles is quite presentable. Each title is supplemented with its theatrical trailer, with only A Patch of Blue offering more (a Guy Green audio commentary, a stills gallery, and a text essay on Poitier). Recommended.
I'm not going to dwell too much on Universal's Clint Eastwood: American Icon Collection. It contains four Eastwood films from the 1968 to 1975 period that have all had previous stand-alone DVD releases - Coogan's Bluff, The Beguiled, Play Misty for Me, and The Eiger Sanction.
In this new release, the four titles are presented on three discs housed in a single keepcase and offered at an attractive price (available online for under $15 the last time I checked). The films all looked quite presentable in their previous DVD versions, although The Eiger Sanction sported only a widescreen, non-anamorphic transfer. All have received new anamorphic transfers for the new release. Predictably, The Eiger Sanction has benefited most as a result, offering a sharp, colourful image with some slight grain and good shadow detail. Differences between the old and new versions of the other three are minor. The Beguiled has some improvement in its colour fidelity and Coogan's Bluff seems a little cleaner looking although there's still noticeable dirt and debris at times. Play Misty for Me looks much the same. All the supplements on the previous editions have been retained in this new release as far as I can tell. That means a suite of short featurettes on Play Misty for Me as well as an in-depth making-of documentary, plus either trailers or nothing on the other three titles. For those who already have the previous DVD releases, there's little compelling reason to upgrade. Sure, the new transfer for The Eiger Sanction is desirable, but the film itself is the least of the four on the set. On the other hand, if you're missing a couple of these titles, an investment in the new release is easily justified. Recommended on that basis.
One of five Paul Newman titles released in February, Rachel, Rachel was the first of half a dozen films Newman directed.
Based on Margaret Laurence's “A Jest of God”, the film stars Newman's wife Joanne Woodward as a young repressed New England spinster schoolteacher who feels her life to be going nowhere. Her days are spent looking after her pupils at school and her mother in the apartment above the funeral parlour that her father once owned. Only when she agrees to attend a revival meeting with a schoolteacher friend and finds her pent-up emotions released does she start tentatively to engage more fully in experiencing life. The film is a tour-de-force for Woodward who provides a very realistic and somewhat understated performance of what is a complex character, and received numerous acting nominations for her work including a Golden Globe for Best Actress. The film was a similar success for Newman's directing efforts. He guides Woodward's performance with assurance, focusing everything in on her character, and delivers a film generally free of directorial contrivances. While the film does hold our attention and is quite forthright in its subject matter, it is likely, however, to prompt multiple viewings only by those able to appreciate the depth of Woodward's artistry. Warner Bros. gives us a nice film-like 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that is sharp and colourful with but a hint of grain. The mono sound is in good shape. Supplements consist of the theatrical trailer and what appears to be a part of an exhibitor's promotional featurette (with sound missing). Recommended.
A lot of talent was invested in Inside Daisy Clover, the 1965 Natalie Wood film about a rebellious 15-year-old who lives in a shack on an oceanside pier with her mother (Ruth Gordon).
Daisy has aspirations of a singing or film career and seems assured of success after she makes a voice recording and receives the star build-up from studio head Christopher Plummer. Unfortunately, so often when Hollywood turns the cameras on itself, the resulting films are much less than the sum of their parts. Here the chief problem is a title character that engenders little audience sympathy and a caricature-like approach to many of the other main characters and their situations. In addition, the film's chief plot angles - that Hollywood is evil and soul-destroying, and that youthful rebellion is always admirable - were stale and not categorically true long before Inside Daisy Clover got a hold of them. Fold in an unconvincing performance by Wood, some forgettable songs (all dubbed for Wood), and a general air of pretentiousness and you've got one of those films that you can easily avoid thus freeing up time for more worthy fare. Warner's 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is quite good, with generally vibrant colour and a sharp well-detailed image. The mono sound is strong. Supplements are limited to a classic Road Runner cartoon and the theatrical trailer. Available only as part of The Natalie Wood Collection.
To wrap up this edition's reviews section, I've had the chance to look at a lesser-known British TV series - Enemy at the Door: Series 1.
The series dealt with the German occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II and was originally aired in Britain over two seasons in 1978 and 1980. The DVD release I looked at, from Acorn Media, covers the first season's 13 episodes. Enemy at the Door mines a little remembered side theatre of the war and has an interesting set of continuing characters including Alfred Burke (as the German commander) and Simon Cadell (as his chief SS officer) on the occupiers' side and Bernard Horsfall (as an island doctor), Emily Richard (the doctor's daughter), and Richard Heffer (a landowner and unsuccessful escaper) on the islanders' side. The series has a continuing historical thread, but each individual episode is generally a self-contained story illuminating a different situation or moral dilemma arising from the occupation. It lacks the compelling sense of drama that more well-known and militarily active campaigns of the war engender in stories about them, but one does become wrapped up in the personal inter-relationships of both the British and German sides due to the high level of acting and generally good attention to period detail evident in the production. The 13 episodes are spread over four discs and presented full frame as originally aired. The image quality is at best decent with interiors generally looking better than exteriors. Colours are rather bland with shadow detail sometimes troublesome for night-time sequences. The mono sound is fine. The only supplement of consequence is a text featurette on the Channel Islands occupation. Rent this one.
Please note that the Classic Announcements database has been updated to reflect the following news. The Warner Archive titles listed above, however, are not included in the database at this time.
AC Comics has relayed news of its latest DVD-R releases. Now available is The Crimson Ghost (1946 Republic serial), but only in the feature-length version. This is actually one of the better condensations of a Republic serial. Charles Quigley, Linda Stirling, and Clayton Moore star, but be aware that this release is of a colourized version only. Also now available is TV Classic Detectives: Volume 8 which contains one episode from each of five detective shows: Richard Diamond, Private Detective; Peter Gunn; Markham; Tightrope; and Shannon. All are apparently mastered from original film prints.
Criterion's May slate includes the previously expected title, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973, with Robert Mitchum), due on May 19th. It will be a single-disc release and include audio commentary by director Peter Yates, a stills gallery, and a booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Kent Jones and a 1973 on-set profile of Robert Mitchum from “Rolling Stone” magazine. Also due on the same date is Pigs, Pimps and Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura. It will contain Pigs and Battleships (1962), The Insect Woman (1963), and Intentions of Murder (1964). The May Eclipse release comes on the 12th - Alexander Korda's Private Lives. It will contain four films - The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934), The Private Life of Don Juan (1934), and Rembrandt (1936). Coming on June 16th will be new DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Seventh Seal (1957, Ingmar Bergman), with special features including: new, restored high-definition digital transfer (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition); Introduction by Ingmar Bergman, recorded in 2003; audio commentary by Bergman expert Peter Cowie; a new afterword to the commentary by Cowie; Bergman Island (2006), an 83-minute documentary on Bergman by Marie Nyreröd, featuring in-depth and revealing interviews with the director; archival audio interview with Max von Sydow; 1998 tribute to Bergman by filmmaker Woody Allen; theatrical trailer; Bergman 101, a selected filmography tracing Bergman's career, narrated by Cowie; optional English-dubbed soundtrack; new and improved English subtitle translation; and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Gary Giddins. Last Year at Marienbad (1961, directed by Alain Resnais) is set for both DVD and Blu-ray release on June 23rd. Supplements will include: new, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Alain Resnais (with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition); new audio interview with Resnais; new documentary on the making of Last Year at Marienbad, featuring interviews with many of Resnais' collaborators; new video interview with film scholar Ginette Vincendeau on the history of the film and its many mysteries; two short documentaries by Resnais: Toute la mémoire du monde (1956) and Le chant du styrène (1958); theatrical trailer; optional original, unrestored French soundtrack; new and improved subtitle translation; and a booklet featuring essays by critic Mark Polizzotti and film scholar François Thomas, and Alain Robbe-Grillet's introduction to the published screenplay and comments on the film. Criterion is also apparently planning to release the Leo McCarey film, Make Way for Tomorrow (1937, with Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi), later in 2009.
Disney will have The Story of Robin Hood (1952, with Richard Todd) for release on April 28th.
Flicker Alley has announced the release of Under Full Sail: Silent Film on the High Seas, set for April 14th. It will contain five films including The Yankee Clipper (1927, produced by Cecil B. DeMille and starring William Boyd); Around the Horn in a Square Rigger (1933, documentary of the record-breaking 83-day voyage of the 1902 barque Parma from Australia to England); The Square Rigger (1932, early sound short); Ship Ahoy (1928, documentary of the North American lumber trade); and a ten-minute sequence from Down to the Sea in Ships (1922).
Fox will finally release Man Hunt (1941, with Walter Pidgeon) on May 19th. Supplements include audio commentary by author Patrick McGilligan, a making-of featurette, trailer, stills gallery, and interactive pressbook. This appears to be the only new war or western classic release from Fox this spring season - a distinct disappointment. June 16th will bring The Diary of Anne Frank: 50th Anniversary Edition on both DVD and Blu-ray. Supplements on both versions include: audio commentary with George Stevens Jr, and Millie Perkins; Introduction: George Stevens Jr. and World War II; The Making of The Diary of Anne Frank: A Son's Memories; The Diary of Anne Frank: Memories from Millie Perkins and Diane Baker; Shelley Winters and The Diary of Anne Frank; The Score of The Diary of Anne Frank; The Diary of Anne Frank: Correspondence; and Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman. Additional supplements only on the Blu-ray (and mainly just ones that were on the previous DVD release of the film) will be: Diary of Anne Frank: Echoes from the Past; Diary of Anne Frank: Excerpt from "George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey”; George Stevens Press Conference; Millie Perkins Screen Test; and Movietone News: Millie Perkins, 18, to Be Anne Frank in Film of Diary.
Grapevine Video (grapevinevideo.com) has seven new releases for February. Five are silents: Battling Orioles (1924, with Glenn Tryon), Daughters of Eve (1928, with Anny Ondra), The Fighting Coward (1924, with Cullen Landis), Markens Grode (1921, aka Growth of the Soil), and Kismet (1920, with Otis Skinner). The two sound releases are Mister Antonio (1929, with Leo Carrillo) and a western double feature of The Texan (1932, with Buffalo Bill Jr.) and Come on Danger (1932, with Tom Keene).
Looser Than Loose (looserthanloose.com) has added to its catalog of classic and early sound releases with three new titles out in the latter part of January. The Larger World of Laurel and Hardy: Volume 10 offers five shorts (one with Hardy, three with Laurel, and the Charley Chase item Now I'll Tell One which has both Laurel and Hardy but not yet together as a team). Sea Devils is a 1931 Larry Darmour sound feature with Walter Long. The Larry Semon Reference Set: Volume 1 is a two-disc set containing 8 Semon shorts from 1917 to 1928.
MGM has announced three westerns and two war films for release on May 12th. It's a sign of the times, I guess; this is a substantial reduction in numbers from MGM spring western and war promotions of the past. Instead, the studio has also announced a number of repackagings of past releases in various multi-packs (such as a 3-disc Cowboy Collection and a 20-disc Ultimate Westerns Collection). As there are no new titles involved and no new transfers mentioned, I'm not reporting on them in detail here. As for the five new releases, they are The King and Four Queens (1956, with Clark Gable), Doc (1971, with Stacy Keach), Young Billy Young (1969, with Robert Mitchum), Time Limit (1957, with Richard Widmark), and North West Frontier (aka Flame Over India, 1959, with Lauren Bacall and Kenneth More). MGM will also release The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966, with Clint Eastwood) on Blu-ray on May 12th.
Paramount continues with Hawaii Five-O delivering the Sixth Season on April 21st. April 28th brings Mission Impossible: The Sixth Season. The studio is also adding to its Centennial Collection with May 19th releases of two John Wayne westerns - El Dorado (1967) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Extras on the former will be audio commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich; Ride, Boldly Ride: The Journey to El Dorado; audio commentary with critic and film historian Richard Schickel featuring actor Ed Asner and author Todd McCarthy; The Artist and the American West (1967) - vintage featurette: Behind the Gates: AC Remembers John Wayne; original theatrical trailer; and galleries. Liberty Valance will offer The Size of Legends, The Soul of Myth featurettes; audio commentary by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich along with his archival recordings with John Ford, John Wayne, and James Stewart; selected scene commentary with intro by Dan Ford along with his archival recordings with John Ford; galleries; and the original theatrical trailer. Gunsmoke: The Third Season, Volume 2 is set for May 26th. The studio will offer 3 Days of the Condor (1975, with Robert Redford) on Blu-ray on May 19th. The first of the June classic offerings is Perry Mason: The Fourth Season, Volume 1 coming on the 9th.
Reelclassicdvd.com recently made available its latest silent release, a Griffith Biograph Collection Featuring Mary Pickford. It‘s a two-disc set containing 12 short films directed by D. W. Griffith between 1909 to 1913, most of which are not duplicated on other available Griffith sets: What Drink Did, As It Is in Life, An Arcadian Maid, The House with Closed Shutters, Wilful Peggy, For His Son, The Mender of Nets, The Girl and Her Trust, A Beast at Bay, Musketeers of Pig Alley, The Reformers, and The Curtain Pole. Also announced as now available is The Phantom of the Opera (1925/1930): The Supreme Collector's Edition. This is a three-disc set that includes a brand-new, needle-sharp transfer of the prized Essex Films/Griggs-Moviedrome version of the film. Complete with the famous "man with the lantern" opening (voiced by John Griggs) and the soaring, exciting pipe organ score performed by Lee Irwin - newly re-mixed for stereo! This is the only authorized release of this much esteemed, copyrighted version of the film. Supplements include: (a) Scream Scenes: The Phantom of the Opera - A short film containing some very unusual title cards believed to be from an earlier version of the film as well as a brief "lost" scene of Lon Chaney at the organ. The boudoir scene, long ravaged by nitrate decomposition, appears here in near pristine condition; (b) a newly reconstructed theatrical trailer - Available nowhere else, this version is taken from several sources and blended together to yield the best, most complete trailer possible; (c) The Phantom of the Opera: 1930 vs. 1925 - An exclusive feature length production created and introduced for this edition by Keith Paynter. Using the 1930 re-release as a foundation, a wide-screen, side-by-side and scene-for-scene comparison is made between the 1930 and the 1925 releases. The sometimes subtle and often unmistakably distinct differences between camera angles, title cards and alternate takes are plainly seen; (d) Two complete versions of the film. Ever since the discovery of the early Technicolor Bal Masque footage, the black and white version of the scene (which is very different in content) has become rather rare. Two versions of the film are presented, one containing the colour footage, the other in black and white; (e) Color vs Black and White - An amazing wide-screen, side-by-side comparison between the Bal Masque de l' Opera scene in color and its black and white counterpart. With commentary by Keith Paynter; and (f) a bonus Chaney film, The Light of Faith (1922).
Ryko Distribution will offer The Three Musketeers of the West, a later Italian spaghetti western from 1973, on May 19th.
Shout! Factory has three classic TV releases on tap. Coming on May 19th is Peyton Place: Part One, a 5-disc set which presumably covers the first season of the series' five year run that began in 1964. Peyton Place: Part Two is apparently set for July 14th. Father Knows Best: Season Three is set for June 9th and will also be a 5-disc set. Additionally, the company is working on Adam 12: Season Three which it plans to release later in 2009.
Sony will have a Peter Bogdanovich double feature release on April 21st of Nickelodeon (1976) and The Last Picture Show (1971). The former is coming to DVD for the first time and will be offered in the original colour version and a black and white director's cut. The Last Picture Show will be presented in the director's cut along with a new interview with Bogdanovich. Both films will have new audio commentaries by Bogdanovich. There is further confirmation from Sony's Mike Schlesinger that the promised Toho, film noir, and Jack Lemmon sets will be out in 2009. As a reminder, the proposed Toho films were Mothra, H-Man, Battle in Outer Space, and Rebirth of Mothra 3. Several sets of film noir are anticipated eventually, but this year's first volume may have such titles as Knock on Any Door and Human Desire. The Lemmon titles are unclear as yet, although presumably Phffft!, My Sister Eileen, Operation Mad Ball, and Good Neighbor Sam are in the mix.
Further to last column's news about the upcoming Universal pre-Code titles, the official press release reveals that the Universal Backlot Series under which the titles are being released will be the home of rare treasures, overlooked groundbreaking work, and films of historical and cultural importance. Each motion picture in the series will be digitally remastered from original film elements and presented in its intended aspect ratio to help preserve its place in cinema history. Many of the films will be available on DVD for the very first time and will include a wealth of revealing new bonus features. The films, along with the documentaries, feature commentary, and archival materials that will accompany them should make the Universal Backlot Series essential additions to every serious cinema collection. There are no further titles hinted at as yet, but all this at least sounds promising. On the other hand, Universal hasn't abandoned its old practice of re-releasing titles already widely available. This time it's Pillow Talk: 50th Anniversary Edition, set for April 14th. The Doris Day/Rock Hudson film has been remastered and this time there are some supplements (audio commentary with film historians Jeff Bond, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, two featurettes, and the trailer).
VCI has plans to release The Green Hornet and The Green Hornet Strikes Again, Universal serials from 1940 and 1941 respectively, later in 2009. The Last of the Mohicans (1932 Mascot serial with Harry Carey) is also in the loop. Of a more concrete nature is the announced release of The British Cinema Collection: Volume 2 for April 28th. Included in the two-disc set are: Our Girl Friday (aka The Adventures of Sadie, 1953, with Joan Collins), Dentist in the Chair (1960), Runaway Bus (1954), Carry On Admiral (1957), and Time of His Life (1955).
Virgil Films and Entertainment (formerly Arts Alliance America) will have The Donna Reed Show: Season Two on May 5th. It'll be a 4-disc set.
Warner Bros. offers the Charles Bronson Collection on May 19th. It'll be a double feature of Telefon (1976) and St. Ives (1977). Other double features that Warner is highlighting at the same time are the Bank Robbery Collection [The Great Bank Robbery (1969) and The Great Bank Hoax (1977)], the Malcolm McDowell Collection [A Clockwork Orange (1971) and O Lucky Man! (1973)], and the Steve McQueen Collection [Bullitt (1968) and Papillon (1973)]. Meanwhile, The Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 1960s and The 1970s have been delayed one week to May 26th. June 9th will bring Get Smart: Season 3 (26 episodes on 4 DVDs) and the 23rd will bring Tom and Jerry: The Chuck Jones Collection. It'll be a two-disc set containing 34 shorts from the 1963-1967 period, all remastered for this release. Two bonus documentaries will be included: Tom and Jerry… and Chuck and Chuck Jones: Memories of a Childhood. Also coming on the same date is Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music - the four-hour director's cut that is being made available in a two-disc Special Edition DVD and a three-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition on both DVD and Blu-ray. Included on the UCEs will be two extra hours of rare performance footage - some of it newly-discovered, some only seen in part, and some never seen at all. On July 7th, Warner will be releasing the Peanuts 1960s Collection - a two-disc set containing the first six Peanuts television specials originally released in 1965-1969. Two of the specials are being made available on DVD for the first time (He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown and It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown) and all six are newly remastered. In other Warner news, Catlow (1971, with Yul Brynner) has been delayed until June 2nd and another Esther Williams collection (no specific titles indicated as yet) can apparently be expected later in 2009. Further word is also filtering out concerning the Blu-ray releases of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, with the former now anticipated in October and the latter in December. So far only Ultimate Collector's Editions have been mentioned, but if they aren't already doing so, Warners needs to be seriously considering more bare-bones versions for titles such as these in order to help grow the Blu-ray format and also appeal to a broader range of purchasers who don't have either the deep pockets or desire for bells-and-whistles versions.
Well, once again that's it for now. I'll return again soon.