|A New Classic Coming Attractions!
I'm delighted to be able to bring you a new Classic Coming Attractions column! Most of you have been aware of my recent health difficulties as mentioned on The Bits and your messages of support have been a source of constant and very great inspiration, for which I can't thank you enough. I'm on the road to recovery and well enough to turn my hand to film things classic, so here's the very latest in new classic release news that I've been able to come up with. I have only three disc reviews this time (Twilight Time's Woman Obsessed, the Warner Archive's The Breaking Point, and an independently-produced disc of Meanwhile Back at the Ranch - all of which I'm able to recommend), but reviews will return in force in all future columns.
As usual too, the new announcements database has been updated accordingly.
Further to the previous column, I have decided to split the column in future into separate streams, with one focusing solely on MOD releases and the other solely on pressed DVD and Blu-ray releases.
I hope you'll all enjoy this latest edition of the column (#101). As always, I welcome any comments or questions you may have.
Well, I've taken a look at Twilight Time's very nice-looking DVD of Woman Obsessed, a 20th Century-Fox CinemaScope release from 1959. It stars Susan Hayward as tough but lonely widow Mary Sharron struggling to bring up a child in the far reaches of Saskatchewan.
Stephen Boyd appears as Fred Carter, an apparent answer to her prayers - someone to help run the ranch and ultimately perhaps a potential husband for her and father for her son. The film develops realistic conflict between the two adults and between the son and potential father, and resolves those conflicts satisfyingly for the most part, given the expected Hollywood ending that one would anticipate for a film of that era. Hayward and Boyd both deliver fine performances though Boyd seems at times uncertain in comparison with the strong-man characterizations for which he's most typically-known. Dennis Holmes is fine as the boy, Robbie. The film's success also owes much to the sure hand of veteran director Henry Hathaway with the actors and the exterior location work (new and stock footage of Lone Pine, California standing in for Saskatchewan). We've all seen somewhat similar-themed stories before and this is an entertaining example of the farm/boy/animal/family-conflict genre. It's no Shane or The Red Pony or The Yearling, but one could easily do worse. Twilight Time has brought the film to DVD with a fine 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Other than the brief stock footage, the image is quite sharp, clean, and offers good colour fidelity. The 2.0 Dolby Digital sound track is free of age-related hiss or crackle and provides clear dialogue with good directionality across the front. There are no subtitles. One of the film's highlights is the score by Hugo Friedhofer and the track does it justice. Supplements include an isolated score of Friedhofer's music, the theatrical trailer, and an 8-page booklet containing production notes and comment by film historian Julie Kirgo, and some poster/stills reproductions. Recommended.
In 1950's The Breaking Point, John Garfield teams with director Michael Curtiz in another Warner Bros. filming of Ernest Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not". The book had previously been filmed in 1944 by the studio as To Have and Have Not starring Bogart and Bacall.
That version, directed by Howard Hawks has sometimes been referred to as Hawks' version of Casablanca. Regardless, this Garfield version is a superior one in terms of proximity to the original Hemingway story. Garfield plays Harry Morgan, the owner of a deep-sea fishing vessel available for hire. After several abortive trips, Harry finds himself involved with transporting racetrack robbers that leads to a fateful shootout. Garfield is in top form with a superbly controlled performance and he gets good support from Juano Herandez as his co-worker. Also adding acting class are Patricia Neal as a prostitute, Phyllis Thaxter as Harry's wife, and Wallace Ford as a seedy lawyer. The film is available as a recent release from the Warner Archive MOD (manufactured-on-demand) program. The full frame image is in very good shape - quite sharp, sporting a nicely graduated gray scale, and exhibiting good image detail. Some modest grain is evident. The mono sound is clear and distortion-free. There are no subtitles. The only supplement is the theatrical trailer. Recommended.
For a lover of westerns in general and one with a particular fondness for the old B series westerns, it was a distinct pleasure to watch Meanwhile Back at the Ranch. This 1976 collaboration between Packy Smith and Richard Patterson is a unique tribute to the B series westerns.
They basically created a new film with a fairly coherent narrative by piecing together scenes from 78 different B westerns from the past. The resulting story doesn't completely hold water, but has enough integrity to entertain. Best of all, over two-dozen B western stars can be spotted in action on screen during the 85-minute program. Think of a name and he's included: Rex Allen, Gene Autry, Don "Red" Barry, William Boyd, Johnny Mack Brown, Buster Crabbe, Lash Larue, Will Bill Elliott, Hoot Gibson, Monte Hale, Gabby Hayes, Buck Jones, Allan "Rocky" Lane, Ken Maynard, Tim McCoy, Roy Rogers, Charles Starrett, Bob Steele, Tom Tyler, John Wayne, and others. The story is one of those "let's get the law in to clean up a valley where rustling and corruption abound", and it has Pat Buttram along to narrate and Eddie Dean to sing a Leslie Bricusse song to bookend it. The film is available on a DVD-R independently-produced and accessible by contacting email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. The 1.85:1 image does crop the original 1.37:1 film clips used, but the composition is generally not unpleasing. The image quality is quite good considering the quality that one often sees the old B westerns available in on disc. It's sharp and offers good contrast on a consistent basis. The mono sound is also clear. There are no supplements, although there is an option to view the film with or without the film title and year of release of the individual clips used in the film listed on-screen either below or within the film image at the same time as they appear in the film. Meanwhile Back at the Ranch was selected for a special program of compilation films at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival, but it was never released due to legal and financial problems. A handful of 35mm prints were made at the time, and one of them served as source material for the DVD-R. Recommended.
A&E will have Mike Hammer: The Complete Series on September 6th. The 12-disc set will contain all 76 episodes of the series starring Darren McGavin.
AC Comics now has the 15-chapter Columbia serial Terry and the Pirates (1940) available for purchase. Delivery is on two DVD-Rs.
Alpha Video has 22 new releases that came out on May 31st. They include Action Shows of the 1950s (3 DVD set containing episodes from 13 different TV shows such as Assignment Mexico, Fu Manchu, Flash Gordon, Joe Palooka, Sea Hunt, and Sheena); Arizona Bad Man (1935, Reb Russell); Buffalo Bill, Jr.: Volume 6 (4 episodes from the TV show); Classic TV Comedies of the 50s (4 episodes of The Great Gildersleeve); Cobra (1925, Rudolph Valentino); Coyote Trails (1935, Tom Tyler); Danny Boy (1945, Robert Henry); Decoy, Police Woman: Volume 5 (4 episodes); The Eagle (1925, Rudolph Valentino); Douglas Fairbanks Silent Rarities (When the Clouds Roll By/Wild and Woolly/The Americano - 3 DVD bundle pack); Great Quiz Shows of the 50s, Featuring Stump the Stars (4 episodes); In Old Montana (1939, Fred Scott); Melody of the Plains (1937, Fred Scott); Racket Squad: Volume 7 (4 episodes); Renfrew of the Royal Mounted: On the Great White Trail (1938, James Newill); Riddle Ranch (1935, David Worth); Roarin' Guns (1935, Tim McCoy); The Shadow Laughs (1933, Cesar Romero); Tailspin Tommy: Sky Patrol (1939, John Trent); Tailspin Tommy: Stunt Pilot (1939, John Trent); The Trouble with Father: Volume 5 (4 episodes); Untamed Fury (1947, Steve Pendleton); Along the Sundown Trail (1942, Lee Powell); and Fatty Arbuckle Follies (1913-18, 4 shorts). Releases for July 31 include: Rex Bell Double Feature of The Fugitive (1933) and Gunfire (1934); Rex Bell Double Feature of Lucky Larrigan (1932) and Fighting Texans (1933); The Birth of Motion Pictures (includes House With Closed Shutters /An Unseen Enemy /Musketeers of Pig Alley /Love, Loot and Crash ); Joe E. Brown Collection (Riding on Air/When's Young Birthday/Earthworm Tractors/Fit for a King/Painted Faces); Cactus Kid (1934, Jack Perrin); Crazy Comedies & Rhythm (contains various Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple shorts - Mickey's Derby , Play Girls , War Babies ); Crossroads, Volume 4 (1955, 4 episodes); Gangster's Boy (1938, Jackie Cooper); Get That Man (1935, Wallace Ford); The Great Gildersleeve, Volumes 1&2 (1955, 8 episodes); Gunners & Guns (1935, Edmond Cobb); Harlem Double Feature of The Bronze Buckaroo (1939, Herbert Jeffrey) and Midnight Shadow (1939); High Powered (1945, Robert Lowery); The Irish Gringo (1935, Pat Carlyle); Pin-Down Girl (1951, Peaches Page); Sand (1920, William S. Hart); TV Mysteries of the 1950s: I'm the Law/I Spy/Into the Night (6 episodes); and Vintage Comedy & Music Classics, Volume 2 (contains Howdy Broadway /A Night at the Biltmore Bowl /Poppin the Cork ).
Available now from Amazon.com as a MOD disc is Thunderbolt (1947), a documentary on the P-47 World War II fighter narrated by James Stewart and directed by John Sturges and William Wyler. Amazon draws on the public domain company Desert Island Films for its source material.
Criterion's big news for October is the release of Island of Lost Souls (1932, Charles Laughton) on both Blu-ray and DVD on October 25th (with audio commentary by film historian Gregory Mank). The Four Feathers (1939, John Clements and Ralph Richardson) will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD on October 11th. Unlike Island of Lost Souls, The Four Feathers has been previously available on DVD (from MGM). Kuroneko (1968, directed by Kaneto Shindo) will be released on both Blu-ray and DVD on October 18th. Being upgraded to Blu-ray will be Harakiri (1962, directed by Masaki Kobayashi) on October 4th.
On July 26th, Entertainment One (eOne) will have another of the Archive of American Television efforts. This one is entitled Omnibus: American Profiles, a 2-DVD collection featuring fourteen segments examining the iconic people and places that have helped to shape American pop culture and society. Across six hours of acclaimed programming, Omnibus: American Profiles (drawn from the 1952-1961 Omnibus TV magazine series hosted by Alastair Cooke) explores the lives of luminaries such as "Life" Magazine photographer Phillipe Halsman, authors William Faulkner, James Thurber and E.B. White, Frank Lloyd Wright, Pearl Buck, the "greatest fighter of the 20th Century" Sugar Ray Robinson, and conductor Leonard Bernstein and places, such as The New York Times and Grand Central Station (directed b y Don Hewitt) and "The Museum that Ought to Be", featuring Dr. Seuss. Among those segments also included is the episode, "New York's Night People" which is an intriguing visit to the city that never sleeps and several segments by Richard Leacock, one of the fathers of the cinema verité movement. Coming on August 16th will be a new line of double feature DVDs under the title of "Elvira's Movie Macabre". The first two releases will be The Terror (1963, Boris Karloff)/Eegah (1962, Richard Kiel) and The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962, Jason Evers)/The Manster (1959, Peter Dyneley). October 11th will bring It Takes a Thief: The Complete Series. That's the Robert Wagner TV series that began in 1968 and lasted 3 seasons. The DVD release will be an 18-disc set and will include interview and featurette extras.
An independent disc release now available from film producer Johnny Legend is The Sadist (1963, Arch Hall Jr.). Although originally available as a pressed-DVD-only last year, this new Special Edition features a burnt Blu-ray version plus the pressed DVD.
Kino will offer Sergei Eisenstein's Strike (1924) on Blu-ray on August 30th.
Lionsgate will release Little House on the Prairie: The Complete 9 Season Set on October 18th. The collection contains all nine seasons and 203 episodes of the series in a 55-disc DVD collection. Special features include the television pilot movie that began the show, plus extensive interviews and featurettes, audio commentaries and more.
MGM will release West Side Story: 50th Anniversary Edition (1961) on Blu-ray on November 15th, featuring hundreds of hours of restoration, new 7.1 digital audio, and bonus features that include: two new documentaries on the film's production and legacy and on its elaborate dance sequences; song specific commentary by lyricist Stephen Sondheim; storyboards; and trailers. The release will be available in both a Limited Edition 4-Disc Boxed Set featuring 2 disc Blu-ray, newly-restored DVD, Tribute CD and collectible memorabilia, as well as a simpler 2-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray set only. On August 2nd, MGM will release individual Blu-ray versions of a number of westerns previously only available as part of box sets. The titles are: A Fistful of Dollars (1964 , Clint Eastwood), For a Few Dollars More (1965 , Clint Eastwood), The Magnificent Seven (1960, Yul Brynner), and The Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966, Yul Brynner).
The MGM MOD program had three waves of June releases. June 7th brought: Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1972). June 14th brought: The Boss (1956, John Payne), Call Me Bwana (1963, Bob Hope), The Halliday Brand (1957, Joseph Cotten), Hennessy (1975, Rod Steiger), Lost Lagoon (1958), Love Is a Ball (1963, Glenn Ford), Man in the Net (1959, Alan Ladd), Phaedra (1962, Melina Mercouri), Quincannon, Frontier Scout (1956, Tony Martin), A Rage to Live (1965, Suzanne Pleshette), Red White and Zero (1967), and Riot on Sunset Strip (1967, Aldo Ray). June 28 brought: Cannon for Cordoba (1970), Curse of the Faceless Man (1958, Richard Anderson), Down 3 Dark Streets (1954, Broderick Crawford), The File of the Golden Goose (1959), Gun Duel in Durango (1957, George Montgomery), Hot Cars (1956), Johnny Cool (1963, Henry Silva), and Return to Treasure Island (1954, Tab Hunter). Additions for August 9th include: One Man's Way (1964, Don Murray), The Revolutionary (1970, Jon Voight), The Broken Star (1956, Bill Williams), and Tomorrow Is Forever (1946, Claudette Colbert - previously available on pressed DVD). For August 23rd, we'll get: Rebel in Town (1956, John Payne), Master of the World (1961, Vincent Price), Hong Kong Confidential (1958, Gene Barry), Hero's Island (1962, James Mason), and Doomed to Die (1940, Boris Karloff).
MPI Home Video has announced that on October 4th they will release The Honeymooners Lost Episodes: The Complete Restored Series on DVD. Supplements will include featurettes, interviews, commercials, and skits.
Paramount gets back on the ball regarding some popular classic TV series in October. Coming on October 4th will be Perry Mason: Season 6, Volume 1. Then on the 11th, we'll get Gunsmoke: Season 5, Volume 1 and Bonanza: Season 2, Volume 2.
RHI Entertainment and Vivendi Entertainment will release Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection in a 10-disc set on October 25th. It will contain the boys' sound shorts produced under legendary movie mogul Hal Roach from 1929 through 1940, now available for the first time in Region 1 all together in one collection. Transferred in high definition for the first time and digitally enhanced for home viewing in the finest quality available to date, the set comes housed in collectible, book-style packaging with an extensive, detailed film guide. The set also boasts over two hours of special features including exclusive, never-before-seen interviews with comedy legends Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis, Tim Conway and more, who discuss the enduring impact and influence of Laurel and Hardy. Additional features will include commentaries by Laurel and Hardy aficionados, along with a virtual location map that allows viewers to take an interactive tour of the iconic places in and around Los Angeles where Laurel and Hardy filmed.
Shout! Factory will release a Collector's Edition of The Inspector General (1949, Danny Kaye). The disc will be mastered from an apparently pristine 35mm print from a collection located in southern California and supplements will include director Henry Koster's family home movies narrated by his son. The 3-disc set Casper: The Complete Collection (1945-1963) is due on October 11th. Dennis the Menace: Season 3 is set for an October 25th release.
There were 6 additions to the Sony MOD program on July 5th: The Fuller Brush Girl (1950, Lucille Ball), Her Husband's Affairs (1947, Lucille Ball), The Magic Carpet (1951, Lucille Ball), Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949, Lucille Ball), Tell It to the Judge (1949, Rosalind Russell), and Hands Across the Rockies (1941, Bill Elliott). Classic additions for August 2nd include: Black Moon (1934, Jack Holt), The Captain Hates the Sea (1934, Victor McLaglen), Counter-Espionage (1942, Warren William), A Dandy in Aspic (1968, Laurence Harvey), Obsession (1976, Cliff Robertson), Passport to Suez (1943, Warren William), The Queens (aka Le Fate) (1966, Monica Vitti), The Stone Killer (1973, Charles Bronson), Vanina Vanini (1961, Sandra Milo), and Young Winston (1972, Simon Ward). The two Warren William films are in the Lone Wolf series.
In the category of strange-but-true, Terror Inc. Films, in association with Shadowland Productions, will be releasing Lon Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera (1925) on a 2-Disc DVD set like it's never been seen before on September 6th. According to spokesperson Andrew Parietti, this version, subtitled The Angel of Music Edition, will feature an all-new dubbed dialogue track with sound effects and a new musical score. The inter-titles will be all gone and, with the addition of actual dialogue, it will supposedly be like watching a sound picture. the film will also be re-mastered in 3D. Each DVD Set will come with 2 pairs of 3D glasses (these will be the red-and-cyan glasses, so viewers can watch it in 3D on any TV). A standard 2D version of the film the film will be included as well. Both versions incorporate the new soundtrack, dub, and effects. In addition, this translation of the film is a complete re-edit and has never before been seen. There are two versions currently in existence of The Phantom of the Opera, a 1925 print and a 1929 print - both employing different camera angles, alternate takes, and differing scenes. Both of these prints will be edited into one version, adhering closely to the original script and character's original dialogue. Countless hours have been spent attempting to make The Angel of Music Edition the ultimate Phantom of the Opera experience while remaining respectful to the original source material. The best possible prints available have been sought out and efforts have been made to restore and re-master them using every technology at Terror Inc.'s disposal, including touching-up and color-correcting the famous Masquerade scene like its never been done before.
Timeless Media will release Destry: The Complete Series on September 6th. The 1964 TV series starred John Gavin and ran for only 13 episodes.
Twilight Time's August offering, available on the 9th, will be The Flim Flam Man (1967, George C. Scott). It will be 2.35:1 anamorphic, mono audio, with isolated film score and theatrical trailer added.
Universal has The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957, Grant Williams) set for August 30th. The Ma & Pa Kettle: Complete Comedy Collection is coming on September 27th. All 10 of their classic films (1947-1957) will be included in the set on 5 discs. Also, the studio has also announced a new Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection DVD box set for release on October 4th, due to include Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds. (Why are we getting another DVD kick-at-the-can on these titles when they should now be all available on Blu-ray?)
VCI is dipping its foot into Blu-ray waters again. Its August 16th releases of Campbell's Kingdom (1957, with Dirk Bogarde) and Agent 8 ¾ (1964, with Dirk Bogarde) will be available in both DVD (1.66:1 and 1.78:1 anamorphic transfers respectively) and BD (no lossless sound apparently) editions. The release of Simba (1955, Dirk Bogarde) has been delayed from July 19th to August 2nd. Genevieve (1953, John Gregson) will be released on both Blu-ray and DVD on September 6th. Christopher Columbus (1949, Fredric March) is set for DVD only on the same date. September 20th will bring The Riddle of the Sands (1978, Michael York), Flame in the Streets (1961, John Mills), and The Black Tent (1956, Anthony Steel). All the September VCI releases are part of VCI's "Rank Collection" line.
Warner Archive releases for June 28th were: Athena (1954, Jane Powell, remastered), The Vanishing Virginian (1942, Frank Morgan), Seven Sweethearts (1942, Kathryn Grayson), and The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947, Van Johnson, remastered). Additions to the Archive on July 12th included Follow Me Quietly (1949, William Lundigan), The Threat (1949, Charles McGraw), One Minute to Zero (1952, Robert Mitchum), The Purple Gang (1959, Robert Blake), The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960, Ray Danton), and Medical Center: The Complete First Season (1969). The Warner Archive selections for July 19th will add: August 2nd will bring The Lucille Ball RKO Comedy Collection: Volume 1. It will include: Go Chase Yourself (1938), Next Time I Marry (1938), and Look Who's Laughing (1941). In related Archive news, Warners has launched an Archive program in France called "Les Tresors Warner". Included among the available films so far is Beyond the Forest (1949, Bette Davis), a title not available in North America due to rights issues (though Warners is in the process of trying to clear them here). Four Connie Francis films were set for July 19th: Where the Boys Are (1960), Follow the Boys (1963, remastered), Looking for Love (1964, remastered), and When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965, remastered). Other additions on the same date include: In Caliente (1935, Pat O'Brien, remastered), Garden of the Moon (1938, Pat O'Brien), Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938, Dick Powell, remastered), Two Tickets to Broadway (1951, Janet Leigh, remastered), and the Hanna-Barbera TV series Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor (1967). July 26th releases focus on Clartk Gable with the following of his titles being added (available separately or together as a value pack): Sporting Blood (1931), Adventure (1945, remastered), The Hucksters (1947, remastered), Any Number Can Play (1949, remastered), Across the Wide Missouri (1951, remastered), and Lone Star (1952, remastered). Man from Atlantis: The Complete Series (a TV series featuring Patrick Duffy from 1977-78) and Man from Atlantis: the TV Films will also be available. Finally, news from the Archive Facebook page suggests that the Andy Hardy films are coming, possibly as early as this Christmas, but if not, likely in early 2012.
Warner Bros. will release Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) on Blu-ray on November 8th. It will be based on restored elements from the original 65mm negative. Supplements will include five featurettes and alternate prologue and epilogue scenes not seen in theatres. On November 1st, The Essential Daffy Duck will arrive - a 2-disc set containing 21 classic and more recent cartoons. And on October 25th, Warners will have Tom and Jerry: Golden Collection Volume 1, available on both Blu-ray and DVD. The set will contain a chronological collection of the duo's first 37 cartoons (remastered and uncut). On November 15th, a Blu-ray Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 1 will be released. There will also be an Ultimate Collector's Edition version. Both versions will offer a digibook 3-disc set that will include 50 uncut cartoons covering all the favorite characters (2 discs) and 5 hours of content saluting Chuck Jones (1 disc). Also included in the UCE will be a character collectible glass featuring Bugs Bunny; a souvenir tin sign magnet featuring an image of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck; a framed litho-cel featuring favorite Looney Tunes characters; a certificate of authenticity; and a digibook with rare images and cartoon guide by historian Jerry Beck (same digibook that houses the discs). November 1st brings three more entries in the "TCM Greatest Classics" series. TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland will include Strike Up the Band (1940), Babes in Arms (1939), and Babes on Broadway (1941). TCM Greatest Classic Films: The Thin Man will include The Thin Man (1934), After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), and Shadow of the Thin Man (1941). TCM Greatest Classic Films: Astaire and Rogers, Volume Two will include Flying Down to Rio (1933), Follow the Fleet (1936), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), and Roberta (1935). Finally, October 18th will see a combo Blu-ray and DVD release of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (1971, Gene Wilder). Supplements will include a new interview with director Mel Stuart, a recently-discovered archival featurette, an interview with original author Roald Dahl, audio commentary, a making-of documentary, sing-along songs, and the theatrical trailer. Collectable content will feature a retro tin, 14 pieces of production correspondence, and a 144-page book.
In news coming from Comic-Con in San Diego in late July, Warner Bros. is working on House of Wax (1953, Vincent Price) and Dial M for Murder (1954, Ray Milland) for Blu-ray 3D release in 2013. The studio is planning on releasing some 40-50 catalog titles on Blu-ray in 2012, so that bodes well for some classic titles we're as yet to hear any rumour of. Warners is also becoming open to releasing the infamous Censored 11 Looney Tunes shorts with appropriate contextual material and with the MOD Warner Archive format likely being the delivery medium.
Well, that's it for now, but I will return again soon.