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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

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Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Classic Reviews Round-Up #45 and New Announcements (continued)


Classic Reviews

The Skull is a 1965 British film of the supernatural (based on a story by Robert Bloch) revolving around the supposed skull of the Marquis de Sade and the fate that befalls those who possess it.

The Skull

The film is a very handsomely mounted and atmospheric production that is elevated further by the fine cast that includes Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Michael Gough, and Christopher Lee. The film’s highpoints come in the build-up of its first two-thirds, so the last third seems like a bit of a letdown in comparison, but overall with a brisk 83-minute running time, it delivers diverting entertainment. The DVD presentation delivers a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that offers a pleasing film-like blend of accurate colour and modest grain. Shadow detail is quite good. Minor speckling is evident at times. The mono sound is in good shape and the film is supplemented by the theatrical trailer. Recommended.

The Busy Body

The Busy Body is a 1967 comedy that’s basically a vehicle for Sid Caesar. He plays a go-fer to a gang boss (Robert Ryan) who’s elevated to full membership in the gang, but then finds himself suspected of stealing a million dollars of the gang’s money. This is a pretty weak film with but mild chuckles and one that doesn’t really exploit Caesar’s comic abilities. Worse than that, it wastes Robert Ryan in a role that doesn’t begin to draw on that superb actor’s skills – an unfortunate state of affairs that characterized too much of the last decade of his film career. A number of comedians of the era (Richard Pryor, Dom DeLuise, Bill Dana, Godfrey Cambridge, George Jessel) appear in small parts in the film and picking them out is perhaps the film’s only real pleasure. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image is a little tired-looking – colours are a little subdued and slight red bleed is evident at times. The mono sound is fine; there are no supplements.


New Announcements

Please note that the classic announcement database has been updated to reflect the following news.

All Day Entertainment will offer American Slapstick: Volume Two for release on July 22nd. It will comprise three discs containing 30 shorts in total. Featured are the likes of Harold Lloyd, Snub Pollard, Lloyd Hamilton, Syd Chaplin, Billy Bevan, and Louise Fazenda, with the various material spanning the period 1915 to 1937.

BCI will release a single-disc The Best of Wanted: Dead or Alive on June 17th. It will contain nine episodes, each with a well-known guest star such as Michael Landon, James Coburn, DeForest Kelly, Lee Van Cleef, Warren Oates, Martin Landau, and Mary Tyler Moore.

Criterion has four double disc releases set for July: Mon Oncle Antoine (1971, directed by Claude Jutra, includes documentaries on the making of the film and on Jutra himself) – July 8th; Trafic (1972, Jacques Tati, includes a two-hour documentary on the evolution of Tati’s Monsieur Hulot character) – July 15th; Vampyr (1932, Carl Theodor Dreyer, includes audio commentary and a documentary on Dreyer’s career) – July 22nd; and High and Low (1963, Akira Kurosawa, includes audio commentary and a making-of documentary) – July 22nd.

Flicker Alley has two films by French director Abel Gance coming to DVD. The titles are J’Accuse (1919) and La Roue. Both will arrive as two-disc sets featuring new symphonic scores composed and conducted by Robert Israel. La Roue has an announced date of May 6th with the DVD release presenting a 4½-hour version (the most complete since the film’s original release in 19323) and also sporting a short film by poet Blaise Cendrars showing the filming in production, and an essay by William Drew on the film’s history and impact. J’Accuse is anticipated on September 2nd. Coming in July is a two-disc set entitled Hardships of the New Land. It will contain Traffic in Souls (1913) and The Italian (1915), both of which depict new immigrants in America and the difficulties that awaited them. Three shorts from the Edison company will accompany the two features: Police Force, New York City (1910), The Call of the City (1912), and McQuade of the Traffic Squad (1915). Currently planned for a November release is a five-disc set entitled Douglas Fairbanks: The Modern Musketeer. It will include eleven of the delightful modern-dress comedies, westerns, satires, dream-fantasies and romances which made Fairbanks a popular hero, before he launched into the costume spectacles for which he is best remembered: Flirting With Fate, The Matrimaniac, His Picture In The Papers, and The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (all 1916, produced by Triangle); Wild and Woolly, Reaching for the Moon, and A Modern Musketeer (1917-18, produced by Fairbanks for Paramount/Artcraft); and When The Clouds Roll By, The Mollycoddle, The Mark of Zorro, and The Nut (1919-1921, produced by Fairbanks for United Artists). Further details are available at the Flicker Alley website (flickeralley.com).

On August 26th, Fox will give us The Alice Faye Collection: Volume 2. It will contain five films: The Great American Broadcast (1941), Four Jills in a Jeep (1944), Rose of Washington Square (1939), Hollywood Cavalcade (1939), and Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943). Fox also plans a release of Seventh Heaven for Christmas 2008; however, it’s not known yet whether this will be the 1927 silent version (Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell) or the 1937 sound remake (Simone Simon and James Stewart) or perhaps both.

Infinity Entertainment has delayed the previously scheduled May release of Route 66: Season Two, Volume One and Route 66: The Complete First Season. According to tvshowsondvd.com, the latter is now anticipated in August with the former being revamped to a complete season 2 set to come later in the fall.

Kino’s May plans include the release on the 6th of The Films of Morris Engel. It will be a two-disc set containing Little Fugitive (1953) on one disc and a double bill of Lovers and Lollipops (1955) and Weddings and Babies (1958) on the other. June 3rd brings the third wave of Kino’s Slapstick Symposium releases. Included are The Stan Laurel Collection: Volume 2 (21 shorts from 1918-1926 on two discs), The Extra Girl (1923, with Mabel Normand, includes the 1913 short The Gusher), and Three’s a Crowd/The Chaser (a Harry Langdon double feature from 1927/1928, includes audio commentary by David Kalat on Three’s a Crowd).

Lionsgate dips into the Republic catalog with the release of the western Only the Valiant (1951, with Gregory Peck) on July 1st.

Looser Than Loose Publishing has just released the 1931 crime drama Corsair (with Chester Morris and Thelma Todd) on DVD. This release apparently sports a brand new transfer from Looser Than Loose’s own 16mm print. It can be ordered through looserthanloose.com. This is the company’s second entry in its Thelma Todd Signature Series. Previously released and still available is the 1932 Monogram film Klondike.

MPI has unearthed two early Michael Powell films – The Phantom Light (1935) and Red Ensign (1934), and will pair them with the James Mason film The Upturned Glass (1947) in Classic British Thrillers, to be released on July 29th.

Allaying the fears of Perry Mason fans that the recent 50th anniversary release might mean the end of the seasonal releases, Paramount has now announced Perry Mason: The Third Season, Volume 1 for an August 19th appearance.

The Serial Squadron is working on the release of several serials at this time. First up will be The Masked Rider (1919, containing Boris Karloff’s first existing film footage) expected this summer. Other titles planned include The Devil Horse, Last of the Mohicans, and The Phantom Creeps: Ultimate Edition. Releases just recently made available include Mascot’s 1933 serial The Mystery Squadron and The Lost Serial Collection (two DVDs) which contains clips, short sequences, and chapters from over 30 extremely rare serials that may be lost forever. Visit serialsquadron.com for details and availability.

Shout! Factory will have The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: Best of Ricky and Dave for release on July 8th. The four-DVD set will have 24 episodes of the half-hour TV series (examples from most of its 14 seasons) plus 12 Ricky Nelson music performances including “Fools Rush In”, “Hello Mary Lou”, and “Young Emotions”.

Sony has now confirmed the set of Hammer films mentioned in the previous column (it contains Stranglers of Bombay, Terror of the Tongs, Pirates of Blood River and Devil Ship Pirates) for release on June 10th under the title Icons of Adventure. I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete Fifth and Final Season (26 episodes) is set for July 8th.

Universal has announced a two-disc set of the 1932 version of The Mummy for release on July 8th. It will be part of Universal’s Legacy Series and will include audio commentary with film historian Paul M. Jenson, a second commentary with Rick Baker, Scott Essman, Steve Haberman, Bob Burns, and Brent Armstrong, four documentaries/ featurettes (including Mummy Dearest: A Horror Tradition Unearthed, He Who Made Monsters: Life and Legacy of Jack Pierce, Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy and Universal Horror), a trailer gallery, and a gallery of poster artwork and production stills.

New VCI offerings, all due on June 24th, include Young Caruso (1951, with Gina Lollabrigida, dubbed in English from the original Italian), Dick Tracy Returns (2-disc set of the 1938 Republic serial starring Ralph Byrd), and Dick Tracy – The RKO Classic Collection (the four mid-1940s films that are ubiquitous as public domain releases).

New release announcements from Warner Bros. include a feast of westerns all coming on August 26th. First up is a 2-disc How the West Was Won: Special Edition (1962). The film will be presented in all its Cinerama glory, along with audio commentary by film historians, the vintage The Making of How the West was Won featurette, the new Cinerama Adventure documentary, and more. Also available will be an Ultimate Collector’s Edition which will contain all the above plus a 20-page theatrical press book reproduction, 10 behind-the-scenes photo cards and 10 postcards, and an exclusive movie poster offer. Also on the way is the Warner Home Video Western Classics Collection containing The Law and Jake Wade (1958), Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), Many Rivers to Cross (1955), Saddle the Wind (1958), Cimarron (1960) and The Stalking Moon (1969). Each title will also be available separately. Theatrical trailers are the only supplements. Finally we also will get the Errol Flynn: The Warner Westerns Collection box set containing Virginia City (1940), San Antonio (1945), Rocky Mountain (1950), and Montana (1950). Only available in the set, all titles are accompanied by a “Warner Night at the Movies” suite of shorts while Virginia City and Rocky Mountain also will offer audio commentary. Three of Warners’ “Santa Fe Trail” series of western shorts accompany each of Montana (Oklahoma Outlaws, Wagon Wheels West and Gun to Gun) and Rocky Mountain (Roaring Guns, Wells Fargo Days and Trial by Trigger). Note that Flynn’s other Warner western, Silver River, could not be included in this set due to extensive damage to the available film elements. It is expected to be released in a later Flynn set after restoration work has been completed. Two sets that Warner Bros. apparently has in the pipeline are The Home Front Collection [including Hollywood Canteen (1944), Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), and This Is the Army (1943)] and Natalie Wood: The Signature Collection – a six-film tribute including Inside Daisy Clover (1965), Gypsy (1962), Bombers B-52 (1957), Splendor in the Grass (1961), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), and Cash McCall (1959). These may initially have been targeted for a summer release, but have been delayed as Warners works to ensure the best looking product possible. There’s no projected release date as yet.

In High Definition classic news, a Blu-ray version of How the West Was Won (1962) with content as listed above for the standard DVD SE release is expected from Warner Bros. on August 26th. The release offers an exclusive in the form of the “SmileBox” version of the film which presents the image with a unique curvature that virtually recreates the true Cinerama® experience in a home theater. This Blu-ray Edition comes with a special digi-book packaging featuring 32-pages of rare press materials and behind-the-scenes photos. Warner has also confirmed that all the elements for the Blu-ray release of the 1938 classic The Adventures of Robin Hood (starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland and Basil Rathbone) have now been completed, so it's likely that the title will street sometime before the end of this year. The Criterion Collection has just officially revealed that its first dozen or so titles on Blu-ray will begin to arrive in stores in October. All will feature new high-definition transfers and will include all of the extras from the DVD editions. They'll also be priced to match the DVDs. Among the first titles will be the following classic ones: The Third Man, The 400 Blows, Contempt, and The Wages of Fear.

Well, once again that's it for now. See you all again soon.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com
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