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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

In this edition of Classic Coming Attractions, I'll be taking a look at four recent classic releases from Artisan as well as introducing you to a database that will enable you to keep tabs on what classic titles have been announced or rumoured. And of course, we'll look at the new announcements of classic releases that have surfaced since the last column.


Artisan's Most Recent Classic Releases on DVD

The most significant aspect of Artisan Home Entertainment for classics fans is its control over the old Republic Pictures film catalog. Republic was a small studio that produced films over a two-decade period from the mid-1930s to mid-1950s. It specialized in B-westerns and serials, but did produce the odd A-level title often starring John Wayne with whom the company maintained a contract for much of its production life. During the 1950s as the B-western and serial markets dwindled away in the face of competition from television, the company tried to go upscale with its productions - an arrangement with John Ford's Argosy Pictures, for example, resulted in the superior Rio Grande and The Quiet Man - but success was limited and the company finally ceased film production in 1957.

Republic continued to exist as a corporate entity, however, and when the home video market opened up in the 1970s, it marketed its titles aggressively through its own home video arm. It also bought up the rights to a number of independent productions from the 1940s and early 1950s - productions that had come about as Hollywood stars and directors set up their own production companies with names such as Liberty Films, United States Pictures, and William Cagney Productions. As a consequence, Republic was able to market on video not only its own original productions, but also a few films featuring stars such as Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, and James Cagney even though they had never worked in a Republic film production.

Artisan now controls this expanded Republic catalog and has gradually been releasing some of the titles on DVD. Many of its offerings to date have been films starring John Wayne, but it has now started to show a little more diversity in its releases. Last year, we got James Cagney's Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Gary Cooper's Cloak and Dagger is planned for later this spring, but to kick off 2003, Artisan released four films from the 1940s. They were: A Lady Takes a Chance (1943, Jean Arthur and John Wayne); Flame of Barbary Coast (1945, John Wayne and Ann Dvorak); Copacabana (1947, Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda); and Pursued (1947, Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright).

A Lady Takes a Chance

In a year that included such comic gems as The More the Merrier (Columbia, directed by George Stevens), Heaven Can Wait (Fox, directed by Ernst Lubitsch), and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (Paramount, directed by Preston Sturges), RKO's 1943 production of A Lady Takes a Chance was pretty much overlooked. It did, however, manage to be the company's third highest grossing film of the year - not surprising, I suppose, given that popular stars Jean Arthur and John Wayne were the headliners.

A Lady Takes a Chance

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The plot is somewhat derivative of It Happened One Night with Arthur as New Yorker Mollie Truesdale heading west on a bus for "14 breathless days of romance and adventure". When the bus makes a scheduled stop in Fairfield where the annual rodeo is in progress, Mollie runs into broncobuster Duke Hudkins (John Wayne). The two of them play cat and mouse with each other over the next couple of days after Mollie manages to get left behind by her bus. Mollie's best efforts to corral Duke are apparently for nought, however, and she catches her bus on its return trip, seemingly resigned to a return to the same old New York City grind.

A Lady Takes a Chance is a compact little comedy that passes the time quite pleasantly. It was something of a turning point in the careers of both Wayne and Arthur - that in itself enough to make a viewing worthwhile. For Wayne, it showed he had a flair for more than just straight action. He demonstrated an ability to deliver comic dialogue and engage in comic timing effectively.

For Jean Arthur, the film would be her last comedy. She's certainly worth seeing in it, but in some ways, it was a denial of the strong, independent, romantic heroines and comediennes she had specialized in. Seeing Jean Arthur's Mollie stooping to making dinner as a come-on to John Wayne's Duke was just a little dispiriting when considered in that light. Supporting the two stars are a number of well-known character actors, including Charles Winninger, Phil Silvers, Grady Sutton, Hans Conried, and Grant Withers.

Unfortunately, Artisan's DVD transfer is substandard - characterized by poor contrast, softness, insipid blacks, and speckles, scratches and jumps. The mono sound is in rough shape too, and of course there are no extras. It's too bad Artisan apparently isn't interested in giving this sort of film a real chance on DVD. Trumpeting "digitally mastered" and "stereo surround" on the back of the case when all you've done is throw a bad transfer on a disc shows how little Artisan thinks of classic film enthusiasts.

Pursued

That same disdain is on display in Artisan's DVD for one of the key westerns of the 1940s - Pursued, a United States Production originally released through Warner Brothers. The film was restored by the UCLA Film and TV Archive and Republic issued a nice-looking laserdisc of it. Even better, the disc contained a highly informative and entertaining audio commentary by the reliable Bruce Eder, and also included the original theatrical trailer. Of course, Artisan's DVD includes neither and its film transfer is disappointing also. James Wong Howe's beautiful black and white compositions for this western film noir are compromised by a very inconsistent transfer. Some scenes are crisp and clear, but too many are characterized by poor contrast and over-processing.

Pursued

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What are you missing out on, in not being able to enjoy this film as was originally intended? Only one of the top two or three westerns of the decade, in the same company as My Darling Clementine, Colorado Territory, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and The Ox-Bow Incident. There's a lot of top-flight talent involved in Pursued, from director Raoul Walsh to the afore-mentioned Howe to Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright, Judith Anderson and Dean Jagger to composer Max Steiner to last but very-much-not-least writer Niven Busch. Busch was greatly responsible for helping the western grow beyond the level of the B-series entry and the glossy-looking A westerns that were just dressed-up Bs. (Not that there was anything wrong with the latter. After all, Warner Brothers did very well by Errol Flynn with such A efforts as Dodge City, Santa Fe Trail, Silver River, and San Antonio.) Busch's scripts were intelligent and thoughtful and allowed room for the actors to deliver more nuanced performances than was the western norm. His work heralded the advent of the so-called psychological western, later taken to ridiculous lengths by others, but still adult and entertaining in his hands. Busch followed up Pursued with other superior entries such as The Furies and The Man from the Alamo.

Pursued is the story, told mainly in flashbacks, of Jeb Rand (Robert Mitchum) who is tormented by nightmares from his childhood and unknown killers in the present. Complicating the issue is his love for his stepsister (Teresa Wright). She, however, hates Jeb because he killed her brother and seeks revenge herself. The tale reaches its climax at the site from which Jeb's childhood nightmares originate. The themes of revenge and returning from war, the femme-fatale nature of Wright's character, and particularly James Wong Howe's photography which highlights brooding skies and shadowy encounters in alleys and corrals combine to give this western the feel of a film noir. Yet at the same time, director Raoul Walsh's sure hand with action sequences and Max Steiner's rousing and memorable score remind us of the more-traditional Warner Brother western at its best. The resulting combination makes for a compelling production that must have given audiences at the time a considerable jolt. It's just too bad that Artisan couldn't have given the film the DVD treatment it richly deserves.

Flame of Barbary Coast

This is a tale of San Francisco around the time of the 1906 earthquake. John Wayne is Duke Fergus, a cowboy from Montana who gets caught up in trying to make a go of his own casino - a new establishment but only one among many others on the Barbary Coast. He vies with chief rival Tito Morrell (Joseph Schildkraut) for the affections of Flaxen Tarry (Ann Dvarak), the main performer at Tito's own casino. Of course, the San Francisco earthquake plays a key role in the story, but otherwise the whole thing is curiously uninvolving. The story sort of staggers along with the hint of a climax from time to time, but never really delivers.

Flame of Barbary Coast

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There is a need for more action and less talk, and a more satisfying resolution of the conflict between Duke and Tito. Actually, the film is a good example of what happened all too often when Republic tried to step out of its B western specialty and made a more ambitious western. The studio seemed to have a lot of difficulty in translating its B action capabilities to an A film. There were exceptions certainly, such as 1940's Dark Command, but more often they ended up with the likes of Flame of Barbary Coast.

The film is not a total loss of course. It is well acted by all the main players and it makes good use of a seasoned supporting cast that includes William Frawley, Virginia Grey, Butterfly McQueen, Paul Fix, Russell Hicks, Jack Norton, and Marc Lawrence. Republic's main house director Joe Kane does his best and even manages to throw in a bit of inventive camera movement and positioning. The Lydecker brothers display their special effects magic with a small-scale but effective earthquake sequence. If all this had been in aid of a film with a more compelling dramatic structure, how much better it would have been.

As one might expect, the lesser the film the better Artisan's DVD transfer. Of course it's the usual bare-bones effort, but after a shaky beginning, the image is quite good-looking throughout aside from the usual speckles and odd scratch. The mono sound (although Artisan persists in calling it stereo surround) is adequate.

Copacabana

The last of our four Artisan DVDs is a somewhat questionable pairing of Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda in a musical comedy set in the legendary New York nightclub. Groucho and Carmen play a couple in love who are unable to get work in show business until Groucho realizes that if he withdraws from the act and begins to work as Carmen's agent, they might have a better chance. It turns out he's right, so right that he manages to book Carmen as two different performers at the same club - the Copacabana. One minute she's on stage as the "Brazilian Bombshell"; the next she has to appear as the mysterious veiled singer "Mademoiselle Fifi". The complications are predictable.

Copacabana

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Actually, Copacabana's not a bad piece of entertainment. The musical components are well executed and Carmen Miranda is a real hit. She also gets good musical support from Andy Russell. Groucho on the other hand soon becomes tiresome more than anything else. His jokes come across as old and stale, and he seems somehow lost without his brothers or the likes of Margaret Dumont. The other main player is Steve Cochran as the club owner. He's billed as appearing courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn, but why they bothered to borrow him for the role is hard to see. It's not a part really worth his time. Gloria Jean is appealing as Cochran's secretary.

Artisan's DVD transfer is pretty much akin to its Flame of Barbary Coast effort - fairly good overall, although shimmer problems frequently arise with Groucho's patterned suit. Again, the mono sound is adequate and there are no extras.

Of these four Artisan releases, only Pursued is a film that should be considered a must in your collection. Unfortunately, it's one of the poorer of the transfers. At best, I can recommend a rental to judge for yourself if a purchase works for you. The best of the other three - A Lady Takes a Chance - unfortunately has the poorest transfer. The other two films - Flame of Barbary Coast and Copacabana - due to the combination of middling content and transfer, will likely only be of interest to John Wayne or Groucho Marx completists.


A Classic Coming Attractions Database

For my own needs in keeping track of classic titles (generally items originally released prior to 1970) that are forthcoming on DVD, I maintain a simple database of titles, original release years, DVD release dates, and DVD releasing companies. It occurred to me that it might be useful to readers of this column to have access to this information on an ongoing basis through The Digital Bits. Accordingly, by clinking on this link, you will be able to download the database (in Microsoft Word document format), which in future will be updated regularly. You'll also find it linked from the index page for this column. It consists of four tables. The first is a list of classic films that have been officially announced for release on DVD in Region 1. The films are organized alphabetically by DVD release date. The second table contains classic films that are rumoured to be in production, but for which no official announcement has been made. The third table lists classic TV series that have been announced for future release. The fourth table contains classic films that have been announced for release on DVD in Region 2. This table only contains classic titles that are not already available in or announced for Region 1. No claim for completeness is made for the fourth table. These are merely titles that I happened to have heard about. Similar to the first table, the second, third, and fourth tables are also organized alphabetically by DVD release date. On all tables, entries that are new since the most recent update are highlighted in yellow.


The New Classic Announcements

Since the last column, there have been a number of announcements from almost all the various DVD issuers - other than from WB, no lengthy lists of titles from the major studios like Universal's new western collection coming in May or Fox's next crop of war titles also due in May - but enough to keep us happy, I'd say. Beginning with this column, I'm also going to be mentioning several other types of new announcements: classic TV series for Region 1 and new Region 2 classic film announcements that I feel may be of interest because they don't duplicate titles already available or announced for Region 1. I know most readers will not have multi-region players so I have no intention of being exhaustive about this, but will hopefully at least catch the most significant items. Look for the TV series and Region 2 announcements at the end of this section. And finally, thanks to several readers for helpful tips on some of the forthcoming releases.

All Day Entertainment will release Edward Dmytryk's Christ in Concrete [aka Give Us This Day] (1949) on June 17th in cooperation with Image Entertainment. The film was based on a novel by author Pietro di Donato. The disc will feature a new digital 1.37:1 full screen transfer from original 35mm nitrate elements; an isolated music score; audio commentary by Richard di Donato (son of the author), Norma Barzman (wife of screenwriter Ben Barzman and author of The Red and the Blacklist), film scholar Fred Gardaphe, and DVD producer David Kalat; an archive of rare stills and artwork; a video interview with Peter di Donato and film scholar Bill Wasserzieher; home movies of author Pietro di Donato; and a 1965 recording of Harold Seletsky's experiment musical monodrama Christ in Concrete featuring Eli Wallach.

Alpha Video is a small distributor of public domain material with all that implies in regard to transfer quality. This is not a recommendation of their product, although some of their titles have workable transfers and the price is right ($5 per DVD at their website - oldies.com). Some of their titles I've not seen available on DVD elsewhere, for example, a number of East Side Kids films. April 15th releases include: Bad Man of Deadwood (1941), Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef (1953), Bloody Pit of Horror (1965), Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937), Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police (1939), The Cocaine Fiends (1935), The Devil's Messenger (1961), Drums in the Deep South (1951), The Fast and the Furious (1954), House on Haunted Hill (1958), Monstrosity [aka The Atomic Brain] (1964), Mr. Wise Guy (1942), The Mystery of the Hooded Horseman (1937), One Body Too Many (1944), Outpost in Morocco (1949), The Red House (1947), The Second Woman (1951), The She Beast (1966), The Shock (1923), A Star Is Born (1937), Sunset Serenade (1942), That Gang of Mine (1940), Torture Ship (1939), The Vampire Bat (1933), and Vengeance Valley (1951). May 20th releases include: Bulldog Drummond in Africa (1938), Condemned to Live (1935), Gamera the Invincible (1965), Hittin' the Trail (1937), Junior G-Men [serial] (1940), Peril of Bulldog Drummond (1938), Robin Hood of the Pecos (1941), and The Trial (1962).

Anchor Bay's two-pack of Dead of Night (1945) and Queen of Spades (1949), scheduled for May 20th, features the uncut version of Dead of Night never before available on video. Both features are presented in their original full screen aspect ratios, plus two still galleries on each disc, trailers and an 8-page booklet.

Artisan has two offerings. On June 17, there'll be a double bill of the delightful Hal Roach productions of Topper (1937, with Cary Grant) and Topper Returns (1941, with Joan Blondell). Later in the summer, we'll get a second DVD of Little Rascals shorts to go with the first one that Artisan issued on Hallmark's behalf several years ago. That will make available two of the six discs that were already issued in a box set by Cabin Fever in Canada and still available through some Canadian dealers.

Criterion will issue four classic titles on June 24. From director Ermanno Olmi comes two of his most acclaimed works, Il Posto (1961) and I Fidanzati (1962). Each is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Italian mono, and extras include an exclusive new video interview with Olmi and collaborator Tullio Kezich and an essay by critic Kent Jones. Il Posto also includes never-before-seen deleted scenes. The other two Criterion releases are Alain Resnais films. First is the acclaimed 1955 Night and Fog, presented in its original 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio with English and French mono tracks. Extras include an archival audio interview with filmmaker Alain Resnais, crew biographies and a new essay by historian Phillip Lopate. The other is Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959), presented in its original 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio with French mono track and numerous extras including an audio commentary by Peter Cowie and several archival interviews with Resnais.

Disney will give us two new titles. The Love Bug (1969) is to be released May 20th in a two-disc SE with anamorphic transfer and a whole raft of extras including a commentary by stars Dean Jones, Michele Lee and Buddy Hackett. There will be a two-disc SE of Sleeping Beauty (1959) on September 9th, complete with a new 2.20:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, and many extras. Supplements include the Once Upon a Dream: The Making of Sleeping Beauty, The Design featurettes, 3-D Virtual Galleries, various story reels, the Helene Stanley Dance Reference footage, additional sections with featurettes on The Music, The Restoration, a widescreen-to-fullscreen comparison, the TV show excerpt The Peter Tchaikovsky Story from the 1959 Disneyland program, a Grand Canyon short film, the Four Artists Paint One Tree special hosted by Walt Disney, two interactive games, plus trailers. Disney's Walt Disney Treasures release for this coming December now appear to be The Chronological Donald; Disney: The War Years (which will include Victory Through Air Power as expected); and Mickey Mouse in Living Color 2. Another title - Disney in Outer Space is in production, but will probably not make the 2003 slate.

Fox's slate includes a July 15th release of Brigham Young (1940, with Tyrone Power), which includes a newly restored 1.37:1 transfer and English and French mono tracks, plus an audio commentary (participants TBA), the featurettes The Mormon Trail, Tyrone Power Script and Jane Darwell Script, a MovieTone premiere newsreel, extensive publicity and promo still galleries, and the theatrical trailer. The release of The Enemy Below (1957) has been cancelled as the studio apparently no longer owns the rights to the film. The anticipated June 3rd release of The 300 Spartans (1962) has been delayed due to transfer issues. The Grapes of Wrath (1940), originally planned for an early July release as part of the Studio Classics series, will now appear later, sometime during the next 12 months, due to Fox having located new source material. John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946, with Henry Fonda) will likely appear about the same time as The Grapes of Wrath eventually does.

Home Vision Entertainment's April 29th release of Marcel Carné's Drôle de Drame (1937) will feature a 1.37:1 new digital full screen transfer, a French mono track, and liner notes by film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Image Entertainment will add to the list of Hitchcock films available on DVD with its June 17th release of Under Capricorn (1949, with Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten). It will feature a "rich new Technicolor" digital transfer (full frame) and an English mono track. No extras are indicated. On June 24th we'll get Fritz Lang's impressive drama You Only Live Once (1937, with Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney). Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace (1968) will finally be released on June 3rd. It's the five-disc Ruscico version with the film presented on discs 1-4, and disc 5 containing most of the bonus material. This includes cast and crew interviews, an interview with the president of Mosfilm Studio, a video featurette on the director, a documentary about Tolstoy, a look at the making of the film, and a photo album. In August, Image will release Carl Dreyer's The Parson's Widow (1920), prepared for DVD by David Shepard. The disc will include two Dreyer shorts They Caught the Ferry and Thorvaldsen. This replaces the previously planned release of Dreyer's Leaves from Satan's Book.

Kino has decided to delay its release of Fritz Lang's Woman in the Moon (1919) and Spies (1927) in order to await a more complete restoration of the latter title. In the meantime, it has added three German sound films to its release plans for the fall of this year: Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1943), La Habanera (1937, directed by Douglas Sirk), and Titanic (1943). Kino's forthcoming Erich von Stroheim DVDs will be released June 10th. There are three - Queen Kelly (1928), Blind Husbands (1919) which will also include The Greta Gabbo (1929), and Foolish Wives (1922) which will also include The Man You Love to Hate (1980) documentary. The Queen Kelly disc includes: a digitally remastered transfer from the 35mm negative; audio commentary by von Stroheim biographer Richard Koszarski; rare outtakes (approx. 15 min.); the "Swanson Ending" (approx. 5 min.); Swanson discusses Queen Kelly (20 min. video); photo gallery; screenplay excerpt; production documents; brief note on the film by von Stroheim; audio interview clips: Director of photography Paul Ivano, First Asst. Cameraman William Margulies, Allan Dwan and Billy Wilder; excerpts from Merry-Go-Round (Scenes directed by von Stroheim [music by Rodney Sauer]; excerpt of the novel, brief notes on the film by von Stroheim); and Man of Many Skins (starring Erich von Stroheim and Denise Vernac) - a 27-minute episode of the 1952 European TV series Orient-Express. The Blind Husbands/Great Gabbo disc will include: a score by Donald Sosin adapted from 1919 cue sheets; excerpts from original press books; a dossier on and ill-fated remake of Blind Husbands; The High Command - a 1944 radio broadcast with von Stroheim; various other notes by von Stroheim; and photos. The Foolish Wives/Man You Love to Hate disc will include: audio commentary by Koszarski; rare out-take footage; photo gallery; New York Censor Board cuts; 1922 score performed by Rodney Saur; audio Clips with Valerie von Stroheim & Paul Kohner; and a note on films by Erich von Stroheim.

MGM's World Cinema Series will include a July 1st release of Jules Dassin's Never on Sunday (1960). It will feature a 1.66:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer, a Greek mono track, English, French and Spanish subtitles, and the original theatrical trailer. On July 15th, look for two new Billy Wilder classics - Kiss Me Stupid (1964, with Dean Martin) and One, Two, Three (1961, with James Cagney). These will also be available as part of a new Billy Wilder DVD Collection featuring the previously available Some Like it Hot: SE, The Apartment, The Fortune Cookie, Irma La Dolce, Witness for the Prosecution and (for the first time on DVD) Avanti!, and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. On August 26, there will be a new round of Midnight Marquee releases. Most significant among these is a 70th anniversary edition of the British production of Boris Karloff in The Ghoul (1933). Available for years only in murky transfers made from a ragged, cropped Czechoslovakian print, MGM's new transfer is the first North American release utilizing the film's original 35mm elements held by the British Film Institute. Extensive digital restoration was used to remove thousands of instances of film damage and clean up the soundtrack. Three more Roger Corman horror film double bills are also scheduled. The Comedy of Terrors (1963)/The Raven (1963) - The Comedy of Terrors: 2.35:1, 16 x 9; interview with Screenwriter Richard Matheson; trailer. The Raven: 2.35:1, 16 x 9; interview with Director Roger Corman; interview with Screenwriter Richard Matheson; rare promotional record featuring the voices of Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Paul Frees; trailer. The Haunted Palace (1963)/Tower of London (1962) - The Haunted Palace: 2.35:1, 16 x 9; new high definition transfer--first home video release in original widescreen aspect ratio! Interview with Director Roger Corman; trailer. Tower of London: Letterbox 1.66:1; interview with Producer Gene Corman; trailer. (Note: Director Roger Corman was invited to participate in the discussion of this film, but chose to defer to his brother). The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)/An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (1972) - The Tomb of Ligeia: 2.35:1, 16 x 9; two audio commentaries - commentary track # 1 with Director Roger Corman; commentary track # 2 with star Elizabeth Shepherd and film historian David Del Valle (from the Image laserdisc); trailer. An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe: 1.33:1 (shot for television). On November 4th, expect an SE of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and five rugged adventures: Custer of the West (1968, with Robert Shaw), Duel in the Sun (1946, with Gregory Peck - not clear yet if this will be the roadshow version or not), Hell in the Pacific (1968, with Lee Marvin), Junior Bonner (1972, with Steve McQueen), and Too Late the Hero (1970, with Michael Caine and Cliff Robertson). November 18th will see four Bergman special editions in MGM's World Films series: Hour of the Wolf (1968), Passion of Anna (1969), Persona (1966), and Shame (1968).

Milestone Films will release on DVD (through Image) six silent films restored by Kevin Brownlow and his partners at Photoplay Productions - Patrick Stanbury and the late David Gill. They will be It (1927), Phantom of the Opera (1925), La Terre (1921), The Chess Player (1926), The Blot (1921) (all to be released in 2003), and Nosferatu (1922) (to be released in 2004). Phantom of the Opera is designated an Ultimate Edition for release in summer 2003 and will include: the 1929 Version with three different sound tracks (Carl Davis stereo orchestral score, original 1930 soundtrack edited to fit picture, audio commentary by film historian Scott MacQueen); the 1925 original feature version; the 1925 and 1930 reissue trailers; Faust (opera extract) from the 1929 Tiffany sound feature - Midstream; stills galleries featuring deleted and missing scenes; audio only Tracks 1-9: Phantom of the Opera - 1930 sound reissue; nine (9) chapter selections of dialogue sequences from the 1930 version not found in the restored version; and audio only Track 10: Cinematographer Charles Van Enger's interview edited for the audio gallery (interview courtesy of Richard Koszarski).

Miramax has apparently put the Samuel Bronston 1960s productions of El Cid, Fall of the Roman Empire, Circus World, and 55 Days at Peking on the DVD back burner. There is no early release anticipated.

Paramount will be releasing Is Paris Burning (1966), Murphy's War (1971, with Peter O'Toole) and The Desperate Hours (1954, with Humphrey Bogart) on June 10th. The first two are anamorphic widescreen and feature 5.1 sound. The Desperate Hours is full frame and mono. None have supplements. Paramount has also confirmed that it holds the DVD rights to John Huston's The African Queen (1951, with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn). The film is apparently a candidate for a full-blown restoration, so we aren't likely to see anything soon. Other forthcoming titles include If... (1968, Lindsay Anderson) on October 14th and The Italian Job (1969, with Michael Caine) on October 28th.

We have a few details for some of Universal's May 6th releases. Come September (1961, with Rock Hudson) features a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, an English mono track, and no extras. The Bing Crosby double feature discs - Birth of the Blues (1941) / Blue Skies (1946), Rhythm on the Range (1936)/ Rhythm on the River (1940) and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949)/ The Emperor Waltz (1948) - all sport transfers in their original 1.37:1 aspect ratio and English mono with no extras.

VCI expects to release Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) on April 29th. It will be an SE featuring an anamorphic widescreen transfer of the newly remastered European version plus a nice selection of extras including commentaries, trailers and a photo gallery.

Warner Brothers will finally release a two-disc special edition of George Stevens' Giant (1956) on June 10th. The film is presented in its original 1:66:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital Surround audio, and with English, French and Spanish subtitles. Extras include an introduction by George Stevens Jr; a new audio commentary by George Stevens Jr, screenwriter Ivan Moffat and critic Steven Farber; nearly three hours of new and vintage documentaries, including two new retrospectives; Gala New York and Hollywood Premiere coverage and more; photo and document galleries; extensive production notes; and filmographies. We also have a further indication that The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, with Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston) will be out this fall, but no details on disc content so far. Most recently, a list of WB's planned releases over the July-September time frame has been circulating and there are a number of classic titles on tap. On July 1st, in addition to the already announced Chaplin discs, we should expect such swashbucklers as: The Crimson Pirate (1952, Burt Lancaster), Knights of the Round Table (1953, Robert Taylor in MGM's first widescreen film), The Master of Ballantrae (1953, Errol Flynn), and Scaramouche (1952, Stewart Granger). July 8th will see the release of Spencer's Mountain (1963, with Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara) and The Story of Seabiscuit (1949, with Shirley Temple and Barry Fitzgerald). August too looks like quite a month with The Haunting (1963, directed by Robert Wise), House of Wax (1953, with Vincent Price)/Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933, directed by Michael Curtiz), two Charlton Heston science fiction films - The Omega Man (1971) and Soylent Green (1973, also Edward G. Robinson's last film), The Thing (1951, direction usually attributed to Howard Hawks), and Wait Until Dark (1967, with Audrey Hepburn). All these will appear on August 5th. August 19th will see a collection of Tom and Jerry cartoons - Tom and Jerry: Hijinks and Shrieks. August 26th releases include: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960, a fine version with Tony Randall and Eddie Hodges), Kim (1950, with Errol Flynn), Little Women (1949, with June Allyson and Peter Lawford), and The Prince and the Pauper (1937, with Errol Flynn and Claude Rains). On September 2nd, we'll see the oft-requested Where Eagles Dare (1968, with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton), featuring a new anamorphic transfer. That's quite a line-up. The only quibble I would have concerns the Errol Flynn titles. Why three of the generally poorer 1950s titles, but only one from the richer late1930s/early 1940s period? Perhaps the relative condition of the source material is behind this.

In the realm of TV series, MGM will release the second season of The Outer Limits (1964/65) on September 2nd and the first seasons of Green Acres (1965/66) and Mr. Ed (1961/62) on November 4th. Coming soon from Rhino is a box set of The Lone Ranger television series. This set gathers the first 19 color episodes, in chronological order by airdate, on four discs. It contains the 1956/57 (actually the series' 7th season) episodes The Wooden Rifle, The Sheriff of Smoke Tree, The Counterfeit Mask, No Handicap, The Cross of Santo Domingo, White Hawk's Decision, The Return of Don Pedro O'Sullivan, Quicksand, Quarter Horse War, The Letter Bride, Hot Spell in Panamint, The Twisted Track, Decision for Chris McKeever, Trouble at Tylerville, Christmas Story, Ghost Canyon, Outlaw Masquerade, The Avenger, The Courage of Tonto. DVD extras include interviews with Silver's wrangler, Louise Thomas; Clayton Moore's daughter, Dawn Moore; and his longtime friend, Rand Brooks. Finally, A&E will release (on behalf of NBC) the 1952/53 documentary series Victory at Sea later this year (no firm date set as yet).

Finally, here are the promised Region 2 announcements. On April 28th, Universal Pictures Video in the U.K. will issue 17 of Alfred Hitchcock's films on DVD. Among the titles are three previously unavailable on DVD: Foreign Correspondent (1940), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941), and Suspicion (1941). There are no details as to extras at this time. Warner Home Video in the U.K. will release four British war-related titles on May 12th. Ice Cold in Alex (1958, with John Mills and Sylvia Syms) and The Colditz Story (1955, with John Mills and Eric Portman) will feature 1.66:1 transfers, mono sound, and theatrical trailers. The Cruel Sea (1953, with Jack Hawkins) and The Dam Busters (1954, with Richard Todd) will feature 1.33:1 full frame transfers, mono sound, and theatrical trailers. Carlton Visual Entertainment has announced 12 classic Norman Wisdom movies for release on May 12th in the U.K., available either in a Collector's Box Set or as 6 stand-alone double bills. The double bills are as follows; all 6 make up the 12-disc DVD Box Set: The Bulldog Breed (1960)/One Good Turn (1954), The Early Bird (1965)/Press For Time (1966), On The Beat (1962)/Man of the Moment (1955), A Stitch In Time (1963)/Just My Luck (1957), The Square Peg (1958)/Follow A Star (1959), and Trouble In Store (1953)/Up in the World (1956). Four of the movies in this comprehensive collection of his work - The Early Bird, A Stitch In Time, On the Beat, and Trouble in Store, feature exclusive commentaries recorded by Sir Norman Wisdom especially for the DVDs. Direct Video has announced the U.K. release of four films from producer Samuel Z. Arkoff for American International Pictures on May 26th. The titles are: The Day the World Ended (1956), How to Make a Monster (1958), The Spider (1958), and War of the Colossal Beast (1958). Each DVD includes a 50 minute audio interview with Samuel Z. Arkoff, recorded in 1991 at the National Film Theatre which is accompanied by pictures taken at the time, plus nine original theatrical film trailers of movies from the Arkoff Film library. Direct Video will also release The Brain Eaters (1958) and The She-Creature (1957) on July 21st; The Undead (1957) and Voodoo Woman (1957) on September 2nd; and Blood of Dracula (1957) and Reform School Girl (1957) on November 17th. Anchor Bay in the U.K. will be releasing the Roman Polanski films Knife in the Water (1962), Cul De Sac (1966) and Repulsion (1965) in August. Kinowelt in Germany, which has already released 20 very good quality discs of Laurel and Hardy sound (mainly) material, has at least five more scheduled: Babes in Toyland/Another Fine Mess/Duck Soup in June; Night Owls/The Midnight Patrol/The Fixer-Uppers/Habeas Corpus in August; Do Detectives Think?/Scram!/The Laurel & Hardy Murder Case/ Bacon Grabbers/Leave 'Em Laughing in October; Thicker Than Water/Oliver the Eighth/That's My Wife/With Love and Hisses in December; and Perfect Day/Berth Marks/The Battle of the Century/Flying Elephants in January 2004. Carl Dreyer fans may wish to check out the recent release of Carl Dreyer's Der Var Engang (1922) on DVD, reportedly a very nice effort by the Danish Film Institute.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com


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