|Classic Reviews Round-Up #49 and New Announcements (continued)
New Reviews - New Editions of Previous Releases
Arch of Triumph was a well-known Erich Maria Remarque novel from 1945 that was filmed by the independent company Enterprise Productions and distributed by United Artists in 1948.
Starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, it tells a story of Paris immediately before the outbreak of World War II in which a German refugee and a disillusioned singer fall in love, a relationship that is increasingly pressured by the characters' past and looming threat of war. Lionsgate has now released the film on DVD using a UCLA Film Archive restoration as source material. The film runs 132 minutes (not 123 minutes as stated on the disc's back cover), some 12 minutes longer than its official original release length, but far from its 4-hour initial rough cut. At this length, the film moves at times at a sluggish pace, but it is ultimately a rewarding experience because the story is compelling and both Boyer and Bergman deliver convincing performances. Their work is buttressed by an excellent job from Louis Calhern as a Russian expatriate and confidente of Boyer's character. One is also tantalized by the glimpses of Charles Laughton as a German officer whose involvement in the plot only crystallizes during the final reels of the film. One sees some obvious parallels to Casablanca in the film, but the outcomes are distinctly different and the comparison might be in a more favourable light as far as Arch of Triumph is concerned were the efficient Michael Curtiz at the helm rather than Lewis Milestone. One's consideration of the film would also be more favourable had Lionsgate made the effort to deliver a good DVD transfer rather than just slapping whatever it had on disc. The full screen image is workable but rarely sharp, subject to appreciable dirt and debris, and suffers from a lack of shadow detail and from contrast issues at times. There are some decent passages, but too often the proceedings are shrouded in impenetrable gloom. The mono sound is in decent shape for the most part. There are no supplements. The film content merits a rental despite the transfer issues.
Sony has recently released The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Four. It contains 21 shorts as released chronologically during the 1943-1945 period. The shorts all feature Curly supporting Moe and Larry although the final three come during the period of Curly's health decline, particularly the set's penultimate short, If a Body Meets a Body. The complete list of shorts is as follows: 1943 - They Stooge to Conga, Dizzy Detectives, Spook Louder, Back from the Front, Three Little Twirps, Higher Than a Kite, I Can Hardly Wait, Dizzy Pilots, Phony Express, A Gem of a Jam; 1944 - Crash Goes the Hash, Busy Bodies, The Yoke's on Me, Idle Roomers, Gents without Cents, No Dough Boys; and 1945 - Three Pests in a Mess, Booby Dupes, Idiots Deluxe, If a Body Meets a Body, Micro-Phonies. About a third of these titles have not previously appeared on DVD. For me, some of the boys' best work is represented here, particularly the mayhem-filled They Stooge to Conga, Spook Louder in which Curly excels, Higher Than a Kite, and Gents without Cents. The two-disc set maintains the high standard of the first three volumes in terms of the sharp, nicely-detailed transfers, all with appropriate levels of grain. Some have a little more speckling and scratches evident than others, but it's a very minor issue. The mono sound is quite good. There are no supplements. Recommended. Judging from the recent rate of these volumes' appearance, the fifth volume would seem due to be announced soon.
As usual, the new announcements are presented alphabetically by releasing company. The new announcements database has been updated accordingly. Some of the first announcements for 2009 from Warner Bros. have started to appear and they suggest a good new year's outlook for classic titles from that studio.
AC Comics' latest serial plans include Jungle Girl: The Complete Nyoka Serial Collection (both Jungle Girl  and Nyoka and the Tigermen  on a 4-disc offering, set for a September release); Flying Disc Man from Mars (1950, October release); and The Invisible Monster (1950, November release). All are DVD-R efforts.
Alpha has two waves of new releases coming. On October 28th, expect the following: Cartoon Rarities of the 1920s; Crime and Punishment (1923); Daughter of the Night (1920, with Bela Lugosi); Hidden Guns (1956, with Bruce Bennett); Lady Luck (1936, with Iris Adrian); Minesweeper (1943, with Richard Arlen); All-American Co-Ed (1941)/Swing Hostess (1944); Night Alarm (1934, with Bruce Cabot); One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1941, with Eric Portman); One Too Many (1951, with Ruth Warrick); a Range Busters double bill of Texas to Bataan (1942)/Tumbledown Ranch in Arizona (1941); and a Tom Tyler double bill of Trigger Tom (1935)/Santa Fe Bound (1937). Coming on November 25th will be: a battlefield double feature of Iron Angel (1964)/ Then There Were Three (1961); The Girl Who Came Back (1935, with Sidney Blackmer); a Harlem double bill of Souls of Sin (1949)/Murder on Lennox Avenue (1941); a Tom Keene double feature of Glory Trail (1937)/ Painted Trail (1938); a law and order double bill of Cross Examination (1932)/ Defenders of the Law (1931); a Range Busters double bill of Texas Trouble Shooters (1942)/West of Pinto Basin (1940); a Tom Tyler double bill of Honor of the Mounted (1932)/Silent Valley (1935); Underworld Scandal (1948, with Phillip Reed); and a vintage 1932 double bill of Hearts of Humanity/Hotel Continental. Also sprinkled in among these releases are a number of 4-episode compilations of various vintage TV shows including the Roy Rogers Show, Ozzie and Harriet, Adventures of Robin Hood, and others. Check out the Alpha website (oldies.com) for full details.
BCI plans to release The Best of Password: The CBS Years 1962-1967 on December 2nd. “Password” was a very popular game show that featured Allen Ludden as the host. BCI's four-disc set will include 32 classic episodes.
Criterion has announced its January releases. They include the previously-hinted-at Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession (1954) in a two-disc edition that includes the 1935 version starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor. It will arrive on January 20th. Other major supplements are an audio commentary by film scholar Thomas Doherty and Douglas Sirk: From UFA to Hollywood (1991): a rare 80-minute documentary by German filmmaker Eckhart Schmidt in which Sirk reflects upon his career. Coming on January 13th is Roberto Rossellini's The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (1966) and Eclipse Series #14: Rossellini's History Films: Renaissance and Enlightment. The latter includes Blaise Pascal (1972), The Age of the Medici (1973), and Cartesius (1974).
Disney has replaced its previously-planned Disney Treasures release of Destino on November 11th with The Mickey Mouse Club Presents Annette - the 1957-1958 Season. As previously reported, Destino will eventually show up as part of a future Blu-ray release of Fantasia. The studio has announced March 10th as the street date for its release of Pinocchio: 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition, available as two-disc editions in both DVD and Blu-ray. The DVD will include audio commentary with Leonard Maltin, Eric Goldberg and J. B. Kaufman, song selection, a Pinocchio's Matter of Facts trivia text track, 2 deleted scenes and an alternate ending, deleted songs, the No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio documentary, live action reference footage, art galleries, The Sweat Box featurette and the Pinocchio Puzzles interactive game. The Blu-ray will add the Cine-Explore option, BD-Live features (Movie Chat, Movie Mail, Movie Challenge and Disney Movie Rewards Live) and the Pinocchio Knows Trivia Challenge game. The Blu-ray will also include a bonus version of the film on standard DVD.
Flicker Alley has now confirmed its release of Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer with a revised date of December 2nd. The five-disc set includes: His Picture In The Papers, Flirting With Fate, The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, and The Matrimaniac (all 1916, produced by Triangle); Wild and Woolly, Reaching for the Moon, and A Modern Musketeer (all 1917-18, produced by Fairbanks for Paramount/Artcraft); When The Clouds Roll By, The Mollycoddle, The Mark of Zorro, and The Nut (1919-1921, produced by Fairbanks for United Artists). A Modern Musketeer, long thought to survive only as a fragment, is finally complete in a new restoration by the Danish Film Institute, in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art and Lobster Films, and is accompanied by an optional audio commentary by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta; The Mark of Zorro is digitally mastered from an original 35mm fine grain; both of these films have new orchestral scores by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Included in the bonus material is a gallery of rare stills from Douglas Fairbanks' personal collection at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well as an extensive booklet essay by Tony Maietta and Jeffrey Vance, authors of the new biography, “Douglas Fairbanks” (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences/University of California Press, 2008) which will be published at the same time as the DVD release.
Fox has penciled in April 14th for a Blu-ray release of The Seven Year Itch (1955, with Marilyn Monroe). Hopefully that's just one of several Monroe titles that could appear on that date in high definition. Fox has also updated its classics web page. There's no startling new news there, but there is confirmation that Fox is developing new DVD editions of The Robe (1953, CinemaScope and flat versions), The French Connection (1971) and The French Connection II (1975), Man Hunt (1941), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Vanishing Point (1971), Stars and Stripes Forever (1952), and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945). I would suspect that Man Hunt is not far off, if it's to be at all tied into the year-end theatrical release of the Tom Cruise film about the plot to assassinate Hitler (Valkyrie). Fox will also release The Jackie Robinson Story (1950, starring Robinson himself in a well-regarded film biography) on January 6th.
Belated news from Grapevine Video (grapevinevideo.com) indicates that their September releases were the usual mix of five silents and two sound double bills - Annabell Lee (1921, with Lorraine Harding, transferred from a tinted 35mm nitrate); Irene (1926, with Colleen Moore); The Night Bird (1928, with Reginald Denny); Phantom of the Forest (1926, with Thunder the dog, transferred from 35mm nitrate); The Spieler (1928, with Alan Hale); Glorifying the American Girl (1929)/Dixiana (1930); and Double Cross (1941)/Roar of the Press (1941). Grapevine's late October slate, in honour of Hallowe'en, includes: Haunted Castle (1921, a rare tinted version of this Murnau film); Le Voyage Imaginaire (1926, directed by Rene Clair); Scarlet Days (1919, directed by D.W. Griffith); Where the North Holds Sway (1927, from 35mm nitrate); White Tiger (1923, directed by Tod Browning); The Mad Monster (1942, with George Zucco); and Tales of Tomorrow (1951-53, seven episodes from the TV series).
Image Entertainment will have the National Film Preservation Foundation's Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986 for release on March 3rd, 2009. The 2-disc, 5-hour anthology presents works by 27 artists, from Bruce Baillie to Andy Warhol, who pushed the boundaries of cinema during these key decades. Included are films by luminaries such as Stan Brakhage, Shirley Clarke, and Harry Smith as well as various rediscoveries. The set also features new music by John Zorn and a 70-page book of program notes, with a foreword by Martin Scorsese. The films were selected from the preservation work of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Anthology Film Archives, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Public Library, and the Pacific Film Archive. None has been available before on good-quality video. Coming on November 11th will be a 4-disc set of Mister Peepers: Season 2, the vintage TV comedy series with Wally Cox.
Kino has delayed indefinitely its release of The Man on the Eiffel Tower. It was originally planned for September 16th.
Legend Films will release The Deadly Bees (1967) and The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) on October 21st.
Lionsgate has apparently delayed indefinitely its release of Ulysses (1954, with Kirk Douglas). It was originally set for October 28th.
MGM has now announced that the nine discs of Pink Panther cartoons (that will be included in its November 18-disc set of Pink Panther movies and cartoons) will also be released as a stand-alone 9-disc set on January 27th. It'll be called The Pink Panther and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection. Also due on the same day are standard DVD and Blu-ray versions of the new special edition of The Pink Panther (1963) that is included in November's 18-disc set.
Paramount, in conjunction with CBS, has set January 20th as the release date for My Three Sons: The First Season, Volume Two and January 27th for The Invaders: The Second Season (26 episodes, also the final season). The studio has also added two further titles to its new Centennial Collection for release on January 13th. They are both Audrey Hepburn films - Breakfast at Tiffany's and Funny Face. Yes there are 4 or 5 new featurettes on the discs added to the supplements on the previous releases of these titles, but how many times do we have to see these films released? Paramount needs to start delivering classic titles we haven't seen appear umpteen times already, but if it's going to be re-releases they should at least be in Blu-ray at this stage of the game. I'd say these latest two titles will and should be no-sales for most classic fans. In other Paramount news, the Home Theater Forum has just completed its National meet in Hollywood and Paramount addressed some of their questions about classic films. The studio confirmed that it does have the U.S. rights to The African Queen and that it is now actively working on restoring the title for DVD and possibly Blu-ray release. For a long period there were complications in getting the process underway due to the need to acquire the appropriate elements which Paramount did not have in North America but which did reside in the U.K. where the original production company, Romulus Films, is located (hence the availability of the film as a Region 2 release for some considerable time now). Paramount was not willing to commit to a specific release date as yet, but late 2009 or 2010 seems like a reasonable timeframe. The studio is also actively working on a restoration of Wings, the 1927 Best Picture winner, but again no definite release date is yet available.
Ryko has confirmed that Daniel Boone: Season 6 will get a release on November 18th. This final season set will be 7 discs containing 26 episodes, with several supplements including a round table discussion with cast and fans.
As reported elsewhere here on The Digital Bits, long-awaited news from Sony indicates that A Matter of Life and Death (1946) will apparently finally appear under its American release title Stairway to Heaven on January 6th. It will be paired with Age of Consent (1969) in a Michael Powell double feature release. Supplements on the 2-disc set include introductions by Martin Scorsese for both films; commentaries by Ian Christie (on A Matter of Life and Death) and Kent Jones (on Age of Consent); and a making-of featurette and some cast/crew interviews for Age of Consent. Meanwhile, Sony is packaging a number of its previous releases into three-title, three-disc sets for release on November 4th. The price is $20 list. Most fans will already have the classic titles, but it's a good opportunity if by some chance you don't. Of course, the cynical analysis of this is that Sony is simply trying to milk the titles one more time before the inevitable Blu-ray releases. The classic combinations are: The Awful Truth/Born Yesterday/His Girl Friday and The Man from Colorado/The Man from Laramie/Man in the Saddle. In a similar vein, a Columbia Best Pictures Collection will appear on November 18th. It will be a 14-disc, 11-title set containing It Happened One Night, You Can't Take It with You, All the King's Men, From Here to Eternity, On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, A Man for All Seasons, Oliver!, Kramer Vs. Kramer and Gandhi. Sony will be releasing what it calls newly remastered versions of It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and You Can't Take It with You on December 9th. These are likely just the same transfers that appeared in the Frank Capra Collection a couple of years ago. This will be at least the third go-round for all four titles on standard DVD and they really should now be appearing on Blu-ray. Initial indications suggest the supplements will be the same as on previous releases.
Warner Bros. has moved the release of the Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection: Volume 4 (The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, The Little Giant, Larceny, Inc., Invisible Stripes, Kid Galahad) from September 23rd to October 21st. The studio's first classic announcement for 2009 focuses on romance with eight titles new to DVD coming on January 27th. Available as a collection only called the Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection will be four titles starring Troy Donahue (Palm Springs Weekend, Parrish, Rome Adventure, and Susan Slade). Single releases will include Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969, with Peter O'Toole, original full-length road show version), Far from the Madding Crowd (1967, directed by John Schlesinger, original uncut international version), The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964, with Rex Harrison), and Waterloo Bridge (1940, with Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh). Supplements have not been revealed as yet. Also coming will be the much-requested three-part documentary MGM: When the Lion Roars. It's set for January 20th and will be a two-disc set. There's no indication of any supplementary material as yet, but the Warner press announcement does mention that the release will launch the 2009 TCM Classic Movies Promotion - no details on that either as yet, but let's hope it means really good things for classic fans in the coming year. February 3rd will bring the long-anticipated Natalie Wood Collection. It will contain newly remastered editions of Splendor in the Grass (1961) and Gypsy (1962), as well as Inside Daisy Clover (1965), Cash McCall (1960), Bombers B-52 (1957), and Sex and the Single Girl (1964). Each title will generally include a cartoon and trailer, with Gypsy also having two deleted musical numbers. For Natalie Wood fans, Warner will also release her final film Brainstorm (1983) as a stand-alone title in Amaray packaging. Finally, Warners has also announced the Sidney Poitier Film Collection for release on January 27th. It will include four films. New to DVD will be Edge of the City (1957, never before on home video), Something of Value (1957), and A Warm December (1973, also directed by Poitier). The fourth title is A Patch of Blue (1965) which will be newly packaged.
Well, once again that's all for now. I'll return again soon.