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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

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Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Classic Reviews Round-Up #29 and New Announcements
(Continued)


I know there are many fans of Valley of the Dolls (1967) and for those individuals, Fox has gone the extra mile with a very nice looking two-disc Special Edition as part of its Cinema Classics Collection. Unfortunately, the film - an over-ripe piece of tripe - doesn't merit the effort compared to so many other films in Fox's catalog that get short shrift comparatively speaking. Based on the Jacqueline Susann novel of the same title, the film follows the progress of three different women each seeking stardom amid the pitfalls of backstabbing, infighting, greed, egotism, and the lure of booze and drugs (the "pills" of the title). Barbara Perkins, Patty Duke, and the ill-fated Sharon Tate star. You can guess almost from the beginning what the fate of each woman will be and the film doesn't let you down in that respect. Fox delivers a very nice anamorphic transfer that's bright and crisp most of the time although a few sections look a little soft with slightly inconsistent colour. Some speckles and scratches are evident, but not significant. The supplements are impressive from a very chatty audio commentary by Barbara Perkins and Ted Casablanca to a new in-depth, making-of documentary and a raft of vintage material including screen tests, documentaries, and reprises of the musical numbers (eminently forgettable). The package is certainly worth a rental if you want to see what the fuss is about, but my advice is to skip it in favour of the many much more worthy films available.

TV fare this time out includes The Andy Griffith Show: Season Six from Paramount and CBS. It contains all 30 episodes on five discs. This is the first season without Don Knotts in his regular and popular role as Deputy Barney Fife, although he does make two welcome guest re-appearances as the character. Frances Bavier's role as Aunt Bee takes on added importance as a replacement for Barney's absence. It's also the first season for the show in colour. For the most part, the individual episodes retain the series' homespun and quirky humour by way of its large cast of familiar characters (even though a few of them, like Goober, are more annoying than amusing). The series takes the route of many series that start to get well into their runs by taking the cast out of their normal surroundings in order to provide some variety and fresh plot angles. In this case, Andy, Opie and Aunt Bee travel to Hollywood for a holiday. Several episodes take place there and revolve around the making of a movie based on Andy's life as a sheriff who does his job without a gun. Paramount and CBS 's efforts deliver very nice work on the transfers with colours looking quite vibrant and the image crisp and clean. Other than a few trailers for other TV series, there are no supplements. Recommended for Griffith fans. Others should try a rental or seek out the earlier seasons to see the series at its best.

Universal also contributes to the TV line-up with Leave It to Beaver: The Complete Second Season. The packaging consists of three double-sided discs containing the season's 39 episodes, all uncut according to Universal and free of time compression. All the Cleaver family regulars from the opening season return including Barbara Billingsley, Hugh Beaumont, Tony Dow, and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver. Incidental characters such as Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond) and Larry Mondello (Rusty Stevens) seem to have greater roles to play in the second season. Despite the 1950s ethos of the series, it retains its ability to entertain some 50 years later due to the eternal truths it portrays, the winning nature of its four principal players, and the comfortable interplay between them. If nothing else, the second season answers a burning question for me. I always wondered what Howard McNear played before he appeared as regular Floyd the barber on the Andy Griffith Show. Now I know; he played Andy the barber on the Leave It to Beaver show (the episode "The Shave" features him prominently). As it did with the first season, Universal delivers another nice effort on the episode transfers. While there are instances of modest grain, the images are bright, crisp, and clear with only some minor speckling in evidence. There are no extras. Recommended.

Valley of the DollsThe Andy Griffith Show: Season SixLeave It to Beaver: The Complete Second Season

Finally, on a non-classic note, I'd like to recommend Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight to you all. I know Adam Jahnke has reviewed this elsewhere on The Bits, but I'd just like to add my own support to this recent DVD release from Sony. The documentary takes its title from Frank Capra's series of World War II support films and uses it along with President Eisenhower's prescient words about the dangers of the military-industrial complex as a jumping off point for investigating the past 50 years of American military involvements, particularly the relationships between them and the industrial structure and political decisions that have supported them. Jarecki uses a number of interviews (some more effective than others), profiles of individuals, and archival footage as he skips back and forth across the past half century delving into the decisions that have brought America to where it is now. The profile is a disturbing one and should give pause to even the most ardent supporter of current government policy regarding the war in Iraq. When the reasons for invading Iraq (weapons of mass destruction, Iraqi support for 9/11) are slowly but surely refuted and admitted to by the government, what else is left but the reason (the oil) that President Bush has always claimed was not the case? Particularly troublesome now is the end-game in Iraq. Surely only those with rose-coloured glasses can find it other than impossible to see a satisfactory resolution to the whole affair. In any event, I urge you to see Why We Fight and draw your own conclusions. As Adam noted, technically, the disc is very good. The supplements are illuminating, although I wish Sony had given more thought to the Q&A session with Jarecki which is very clumsy to navigate through. Recommended.

Why We Fight


New Announcements

The news is ordered by releasing studio or company. The Classic Coming Attractions Database has been updated accordingly.

According to inthebalcony.com, AC Comics will release two good Republic serials (King of the Rocket Men [1941] and King of the Texas Rangers [1949]) in July along with a lesser Universal horror film The Mole People (1956). It should also be noted that the previously announced Republic serial Dick Tracy Returns (1938) is now available as is Universal's The Leech Woman (1960, with Coleen Gray). Interested readers should be aware that reviews of the quality of AC Comics' releases are variable with suggestions that their source material is merely existing laserdisc or even VHS versions. I have not viewed any of AC Comics' releases myself.

Criterion's plans for September include a new three-disc version of Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai, a new two-disc version of Fellini's Amarcord, and a new two-disc version of Jacques Tati's Playtime, all on September 5th. The Seven Samurai will include: an all-new restored, high-definition digital transfer; commentary by film scholars David Desser, Joan Mellen, Donald Richie and more; commentary by Japanese film expert Michael Jeck; 50-minute making-of documentary Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful To Create; two-hour conversation between Kurosawa and Nagisa Oshima; new documentary Seven Samurai: Origins and Influences; theatrical trailers and teaser; new and improved English subtitle translation; and essays by Peter Cowie, Philip Kemp, Kenneth Turan, and Sidney Lumet. Amarcord will feature: all-new, restored, high-definition digital transfer; commentary by scholars Peter Brunette and Frank Burke; new 45-minute documentary, Fellini's Homecoming; video interview with star Magali Noel; Fellini's drawings of characters in the film; "Felliniana" collection devoted to the film; audio interviews with Fellini, his friends and family; new restoration demonstration; American release trailer; optional English-dubbed soundtrack; new and improved English subtitle translation; and a book featuring Fellini's memoir La Mia Rimini and essay by Sam Rohdie. Playtime will feature: an all-new, restored high-definition digital transfer; video introduction by writer, director, and performer Terry Jones; selected scene commentary by film historian Philip Kemp; Au-delà de "Playtime" - a short documentary featuring archival behind-the-scenes footage from the set; Tati Story - a short biographical film about Tati; Jacques Tati in Monsieur Hulot's Work - a 1976 BBC Omnibus program featuring Tati; and various other items. On September 19th, Criterion will offer the Japanese horror film Jigoku (1960) featuring a new, restored high definition transfer, a new documentary on director Nobuo Nakagawa, poster galleries, and the theatrical trailer. In other Criterion news, the release of Olivier's Shakespeare (Henry V, Hamlet, Richard III) has been moved to August 1st from July 18th.

For those interested in the Charlie Chan films that Fox has started to release (see my review of the first volume above), it appears that Fox is quite committed to future releases in the series with at least two other boxes presently in the works. It seems likely to me that at least one of these will appear later in 2006. Readers should also be aware that Thunder Birds (1942, with Gene Tierney) is now widely available (as of June 6th), despite seemingly having received no publicity about its release. According to Drew Casper's audio commentary for The Dolly Sisters, both The Gang's All Here (1943, with Alice Faye) and The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947, with Betty Grable) will be forthcoming although no specific date is available as yet. Fox will offer Pretty Poison (1968, with Anthony Perkins on September 5th. To repeat some news mentioned in a previous column, the next wave of film noir will arrive somewhat ahead of schedule, on August 29th. The three releases are: Fourteen Hours (1951, with Richard Basehart), Shock (1946, with Vincent Price), and Vicki (1953, with Jeanne Crain).

Goldhil Entertainment and Liberation Entertainment will release the classic Daniel Boone TV series starring Fess Parker. The series began in 1964 and lasted for six seasons. Seasons One and Two (separate boxes) of the series will arrive on DVD on September 26th, with extras set to include audio commentary from Parker, a photo gallery, and video interviews with Parker.

Grapevine Video will have seven new releases on DVD-R for July (no specific dates provided). Four are silent films: Betsy Ross (1917, with Alice Brady and John Bowers); California Straight Ahead (1925, with Reginald Denny and Gertrude Olmstead); Twinkletoes (1926, with Colleen Moore and Kenneth Harlan); and Up the Ladder (1925, a rare Universal Jewel release with Virginia Valli, Forest Stanley, and Margaret Livingston). The other three are early sound releases: Films of Bing Crosby (1931-33, a featurette and 3 classic musical short subjects); The Flying Fool (1929, with William Boyd and Marie Prevost); and Ten Nights in a Bar-room (1931, with William Farnum and Tom Santschi). All features will also include short subjects from the same era.

As announced in a previous edition of the column, Kino Video will have Fritz Lang's German expressionistic epic Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler (1922, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler) in release on July 18th. It will contain the version restored in 2000 by Germany's F. W. Murnau Foundation, one which at 270 minutes is some 40 minutes longer than the cut currently available in Region 1 and incorporates more than 25 minutes of additional footage, as well as some re-arrangement of the film's structure reflecting the fact that the film was originally released simultaneously as two separate films, The Great Gambler and Inferno. Bonus materials on the two-disc set will include an hour-long documentary The Story Behind Dr. Mabuse, film notes, and a Lang biography/filmography. Also expected on July 18th are two other German expressionist silents - Warning Shadows (1923) and Asphalt (1929). Each will feature newly remastered and restored fullscreen transfers and English subtitles.

Paramount has finally announced the release of Reds (1981, with Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Diane Keaton). This obviously isn't classic news, but I receive so many queries about the film that it warrants a mention here. The release date is October 3rd, but there are no further details as yet other than it being a two-disc edition.

Passport Video will release 100 Years of Horror on September 5th. This is a 26-episode (each a half hour) documentary series from 1996 hosted by Christopher Lee that covers the history of movie horror from the earliest experimental chillers through the golden age of movie monsters and on to today's terrifying fright films. Written and directed by Ted Newsom (Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora, Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror), it feature interviews and appearances by John Carpenter, Robert De Niro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Charlton Heston, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Dante, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cushing, and many more.

Pietrzack Filmways reports (courtesy of DavisDVD.com) that a DVD of Stanley Kubrick's 1953 industrial documentary The Seafarers appears to be on the rails again as a result of financing from the editors of Grey's Anatomy. Among the extras that will be included on the disc are commentary tracks by filmmakers and Kubrick fans Keith Gordon and Roger Avary, a text interview with one of Kubrick's daughters. and more to be announced. The release date is still to be determined.

Shout! Factory will release The Dick Cavett Show: Hollywood Greats on September 12th. The four-disc collection will include 12 episodes featuring the silver screen's top-tiered actors (Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, Robert Mitchum, Debbie Reynolds, Katharine Hepburn and Groucho Marx) and directors (Orson Welles, Robert Altman, Frank Capra, John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich and Alfred Hitchcock), with brand new introductions by Cavett, and a new featurette, Seeing Stars with Dick Cavett and Robert Osborne. Other bonus material includes never-before-seen Hepburn footage and original show promotional spots.

Sony will have a repackaged version of the Columbia release All the King's Men (1949, with Broderick Crawford) on September 5th.

Universal is apparently considering October 17th for the release of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season 2.

Warner Bros. will be repackaging five previous releases in a new set called Leading Ladies of the Studio Era for release August 29th. Included are: Dial M for Murder (Grace Kelly), Father of the Bride (Elizabeth Taylor), For Me and My Gal (Judy Garland), Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford), and Now, Voyager (Bette Davis). Another repackaging is the Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection: Volume 1 which will include Casablanca: SE, Treasure of the Sierra Madre: SE, High Sierra, and They Drive by Night. This is timed to appear with the previously announced Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection: Volume 2. On October 3rd, we'll also get Hollywood's Legends of Horror Collection - a three-disc collection featuring the DVD debuts of classic horror films The Devil Doll (1936), Doctor X (1932), The Return of Doctor X (1939, Humphrey Bogart with streaked hair), Mad Love (1935), Mark of the Vampire (1935) and The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932). All come with newly remastered fullscreen transfers (Doctor X presented in its rare two-strip Technicolor version) and extras including audio commentaries (Tom Weaver on Dr. X; Vincent Sherman and Steve Haberman on The Return of Dr. X; Steve Haberman on Mad Love; Kim Newman and Steve Jones on Mark of the Vampire; and Greg Mank on The Mask of Fu Manchu) and trailers for each film. The studio has also announced a new Motion Picture Masterpieces Collection for release on 10/10 (SRP $49.92) that's due to include Treasure Island (1934), David Copperfield (1935), A Tale of Two Cities (1935), Marie Antoinette (1939) and Pride and Prejudice (1940), all of which are new to DVD. Each film will also be available separately for SRP $19.97 each. Extras will include vintage shorts, cartoons, theatrical trailers and more.

In an interview with George Feltenstein conducted by Amazon.com in connection with DVD Decision 2006, Feltenstein has revealed some more information about upcoming Warner DVD releases. For example, this autumn will see the appearance of the Astaire and Rogers Collection: Volume Two (previously expected in August). Next year, we will likely see a box set of the four "let's put on a show" musicals that Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland made (Babes in Arms, Babes on Broadway, Strike Up the Band, Girl Crazy), as well as Garland favourites such as The Clock (possibly for Valentine's Day) and The Pirate. More Fred Astaire is scheduled for 2007 and in the long term, Warners hopes to issue all the Astaire films they have rights to on DVD. There is also a desire to issue many of Ginger Rogers' RKO films such as Vivacious Lady, Bachelor Mother, and Once Upon a Honeymoon although the timing is uncertain.

Well once again, that's all for now. I hope everyone has an enjoyable summer. I expect to have another column for you in late July to help keep you all up to date on things classic. In the meantime, bye for now.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com


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