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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

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Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Reviews of Recent Classic Releases (continued)

Title, Star, Company & Release Date Cover Art Key Extras
Barbara Stanwyck: The Signature Collection
(Annie Oakley/My Reputation/East Side West Side/To Please a Lady/Jeopardy/Executive Suite)

(Barbara Stanwyck)
WB - Oct. 30
Barbara Stanwyck: The Signature Collection Vintage WB or MGM short and cartoon with most titles; theatrical trailers for all titles except Annie Oakley; audio commentary by director Oliver Stone on Executive Suite.
The six films in this set (released in honour of what would have been her 100th birthday) are all interesting. The car racing film To Please a Lady is the least of them although a Clark Gable film is always cause for celebration. The others are all very good to excellent in terms of showcasing Stanwyck as well as providing diverting entertainment in their own right. My Reputation is typically fine Warner melodrama from the mid-1940s while East Side West Side (James Mason in good form) shows MGM could rival Warners in that regard too. Executive Suite is the class of the set, containing a powerhouse cast and a riveting performance by William Holden. Even the oldest film in the set, Annie Oakley (1935), stands up well with a fine western portrayal by Stanwyck and strong direction from George Stevens. The film transfers are all strong, particularly Executive Suite and East Side West Side which each feature excellent grayscales and crisp images. The mono sound on all does the job effectively. Each title is also available separately except for To Please a Lady and Jeopardy which are packaged as a double bill.

Girl Next Door, The
(Dan Dailey)
Fox - Nov. 13
Girl Next Door, The Featurettes on the film itself, Dan dailey, and Billy Gray; theatrical trailer; four lobby card reproductions.
Hardly one of the key musicals of the time, The Girl Next Door is still a fine entertainment. Fox's musical unit couldn't rival the breadth of talent in MGM's, but it tried hard and if the musical numbers weren't quite the equal or eventually as memorable, the stories often were superior. Dan Dailey and June Haver provide appealing characterizations, as does Billy Gray (later Bud on Father Knows Best). The image transfer of the Technicolor film is excellent - colourful, crisp, and clean. The mono sound is equally good.

Golden Boy
(Barbara Stanwyck)
Sony - Nov. 13
Golden Boy Cartoon The Kangaroo Kid that parodies the film; comedy short Please to Mitt You featuring Shemp Howard; 1930 Screen Snapshots showing various stars of the day at play, including Stanwyck playing golf; Ford Theater episode Sudden Silence (Stanwyck's first TV dramatic appearance; theatrical trailer - a package that's amazing given Sony's record to date.
This boxing film (based on the Clifford Odets play) introduced a very young-looking William Holden to the screen and he handles the title role well. He doesn't overshadow fine performances by Stanwyck and particularly Adolphe Menjou as the fight manager, however. There's a rather ripe performance by Lee J. Cobb as Holden's father and the ending is a slight let-down, but the film otherwise stands up well against other 1939 fare (and that's saying something given the status of that year in film history). The film transfer by Sony is top-notch - clean and clear with an excellent grayscale. The mono sound is clear and free of hiss.

Perry Mason: Season 2, Volume 2
(Raymond Burr)
Paramount - Nov. 13
Perry Mason: Season 2, Volume 2 None.
Paramount continues its winning streak with the Perry Mason series. Here we have the 15 episodes that complete the 1958-59 season, presented on four discs. The stories as usual are packed entertainments in their approximately 52-minute running times, presented here in full with no time compression. It's interesting to compare several of the titles that were previously made into feature films in the 1930s by WB - The Case of the Stuttering Bishop, The Case of the Howling Dog. The transfers are also strong, continuing that film noir look of the earlier episodes. The mono sound is in good shape.

With a Song in My Heart
(Susan Hayward)
Fox - Nov. 13
With a Song in My Heart Featurettes on the film and , Jane Froman herself, as well as audio comments from John Burn (co-pilot of the plane that crashed and later Froman's husband); theatrical trailer; four lobby card reproductions.
The biography of Jane Froman, a singer very popular in the 1940s who suffered severe injuries in a plane crash, is movingly presented in this film. Susan Hayward gives a strong performance as Froman and the music numbers are well staged as well as given appreciable screen time. Despite some minor registration problems in the film's second half, the transfer is another winner from Fox, who is really taking its presentation of its classic titles seriously. The mono sound does a surprisingly dynamic job with Alfred Newman's Oscar-winning score.

Body and Soul
(Kristin Scott Thomas)
Questar - Now Available
Body and Soul None.
I've slipped this one in here as regular readers will know that I have a fondness for British TV fare. This 1993 six-part miniseries (which also aired on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre) stars Kristin Scott Thomas as a nun who must choose between continued life in the convent or a return to the modern world when her brother dies tragically. Thomas is particularly convincing in one of her earliest roles and with a strong supporting cast (especially Amanda Redman as Thomas's sister-in-law), the story wards off predictability and holds interest throughout. Questar presents the series on two discs. The full frame presentation (as originally shot) looks and sounds quite acceptable though nothing stunning.



New Announcements

Well, here are the latest classic announcements with the Classic Release Database having been updated accordingly. As mentioned up front, Warners and Fox continue to lead the way, but so far Sony and Universal are shaping up as major disappointments for early 2008.

AC Comics have updated their release news in its various lines of serial, mystery and detective films on DVD-R. Currently planned for November are Volumes 1, 2, and 3 of TV Classic Detectives, each of which will contain four or five episodes of vintage detective series from the first decades of network television. Examples are Richard Diamond, Private Detective (David Janssen); Markham (Ray Milland); Tightrope (Mike Connors); Peter Gunn (Craig Stevens); Mike Hammer (Darren McGavin); Johnny Staccato (John Cassavetes); and Phillip Marlowe (Philip Carey). Source material for this series is 16mm film prints. Also on the docket is the 1944 Republic serial Perils of the Darkest Jungle. December plans include X the Unknown (1956, with Dean Jagger) and the 1939 Republic serial Dick Tracy's G-Men. January features The Mad Magician (1954, with Vincent Price), a double feature of The Brute Man (1946, with Rondo Hatton) and The Man Who Turned to Stone (1957, with Victor Jory), and TV Classic Detectives Volume 4. February will bring Fiend without a Face (1957, with Marshall Thompson), Diary of a Madman (1962, with Vincent Price), and The Girl Hunters (1963, with Mickey Spillane) while March plans include TV Classic Detectives Volumes 5 and 6, and the 1939 Columbia serial Mandrake the Magician.

Criterion's plans include a release on February 12th of four early sound films from Paramount, all directed by Ernst Lubitsch (The Love Parade [1929], Monte Carlo [1930], The Smiling Lieutenant [1931], and One Hour with You [1932]). The films will be packaged together as Eclipse Series 8: Lubitsch Musicals. Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou (1965) is due on February 19th in a two-disc edition.

Fox's An Affair to Remember: 50th Anniversary Edition will arrive on January 15th in a two-disc edition featuring a new digital transfer, commentary by Marni Nixon and film historian Joseph McBride, new featurettes on various cast and crew members, the AMC backstory, and various newsreels, galleries, and trailers. Charlie Chan: Volume 4 will be coming down the pipe on February 12th. Included will be Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938), Charlie Chan in Reno (1939), Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939), and Charlie Chan in City of Darkness (1939). Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (one of the best of all the Chans) will include audio commentary and all the films will have new featurettes, still galleries, restoration comparisons, and trailers. On March 11th, a new film noir wave arrives, including the previously anticipated Black Widow, Daisy Kenyon (not film noir, but whatever, so long as another Joan Crawford title gets released), and Dangerous Crossing.

Grapevine Video's December releases (grapevinevideo.com) include five silent offerings and two sound ones. The silent ones include a double feature starring Glenn Tryon consisting of Barnum Was Right (1929) and Dames Ahoy (1930); the William Boyd/Bessie Love film, Dress Parade (1927); a flapper era film starring Evelyn Brent and Louise Brooks, Love 'Em and Leave 'Em (1926); early Douglas Fairbanks, The Man from Painted Post (1917); and the Ken Maynard western, Red Raiders (1927). The sound releases are a double bill of two documentaries, The Forgotten Village (1941)/The Quiet One (1948), and a double bill of two Monogram wartime comedies, Horace Takes Over (1942)/The Last Three (1943).

Kino will release a second set of film noir titles that previously were only available individually. No new transfers are involved. Packaged as a box set of five thin cases entitled Film Noir: Volume 2 - Five Classics from the Studio Vault and available on November 20th will be Scarlet Street (1945), Contraband (1940), Strange Impersonation (1947), They Made Me a Fugitive (1947), and The Hitch-Hiker (1953). Coming on December 4th is Ernst Lubitsch's The Doll (1919) combined with the 2006 documentary Lubitsch in Berlin. Lubitsch in Berlin is also the title of a five-disc box set that packages the aforementioned titles along with five other Lubitsch silent titles previously available individually (The Oyster Princess, I Don't Want to Be a Man, Anna Boleyn, Sumurun, and The Wildcat - all from 1919-1921). That set will be available on December 4th also. The Houdini: The Films box set is now penciled in for a March 2008 release (delayed from early October).

MGM is trying to make a big splash for United Artists' 90th anniversary (an 18-month global celebration leading up to the actual 90th anniversary in 2009, being done in conjunction with Panasonic and the American Film Institute), but there's precious little news that goes beyond repackaging previously available titles. Concrete news so far has concentrated on anniversary editions for such post-1960 titles as In the Heat of the Night (40th anniversary, coming on January 15th), Last Tango in Paris (35th, coming in 2008), The Thomas Crown Affair (40th, coming in 2008), and New York, New York (30th, coming on December 4th). Several of these titles already have had good DVD releases and news to date indicates that the new versions merely add a few new supplements or perhaps an enhanced audio track. In the plans too are massive gift sets such as the United Artists 90th Anniversary Prestige Collection Gift Set (90 of UA's most acclaimed films plus an accompanying book of photos and text for each film, but no new transfers - available December 11th) and the United Artists 90th Anniversary Essential Collection Gift Set (a 30-film subset of the Prestige Collection, also due on December 11th). And just in case anybody wants another release of the James Bond films, the James Bond Ultimate Collector's Set (also December 11th) gathers all 21 Bond films together for the first time. I'll get excited if MGM starts to release some pre-1960 UA product on DVD for the first time or gives proper anamorphic transfers to previously released titles. We live in hope. Meanwhile, the latest announcement that's part of the UA tribute is a new special collector's edition of The Apartment (1960) set for February 5th, a release long sought by enthusiasts. Indications are there will be an audio commentary by Bruce Block (film producer, UCLA professor and AFI member), an "Inside The Apartment" documentary, and a "Tribute to Jack Lemmon". What's key, however, would be a new transfer but whether that's the case is unclear at present. In other news, MGM seizes upon the upcoming Will Smith theatrical film I Am Legend as a reason to release the Earlier Vincent Price version from 1964, The Last Man on Earth, on December 4th. The transfer will be widescreen but whether anamorphic or not is unclear so far.

Continuing its emphasis on TV releases rather than classic theatrical product, Paramount will bring us Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume One (3 discs) on January 8th. Hawaii Five-0: The Third Season (6 discs) and The Odd Couple: The Third Season (4 discs) are set for January 22nd. Pioneers of Television is a new PBS four-part documentary series that offers a fresh look at TV's first celebrities - available through Paramount on January 29th. March 18th will see the release of The Wild Wild West: The Fourth Season.

Restored Serials' release of the 1934 First Division serial Young Eagles is now available.

Sony has now announced a February 12th release date for The Stanley Kramer Collection, previously delayed from early fall. The titles included are Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, The Wild One, Ship of Fools, and Member of the Wedding. The latter is the only title not previously released on DVD by Sony. Although not explicitly stated, the re-releases likely sport new transfers just as the ones in last year's Frank Capra Premiere Collection did. There will be a significant amount of bonus material created in conjunction with Kramer's widow Karen Sharpe Kramer and the Stanley Kramer estate. The Guess Who's Coming to Dinner title will be a new 40th anniversary edition and it will also be available separately.

Unknown Video (unknownvideo.com) has added a new DVD release to its current offerings. It's Mabel Normand's What Happened to Rosa (1920). Supplements on the disc include the Normand short Hide and Seek (1913), a photo gallery and liner notes. There's also a new musical score by Ben Model.

Warner Bros. will release TCM Archives: Forbidden Hollywood Volume 2 on March 4th. The three-disc set will contain five pre-Code films plus a new documentary, all of which will only be available as part of the set. The films are: The Divorcee (1930) and A Free Soul (1931) - both Norma Shearer titles (the first her Best Actress award performance and the second co-starring Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore [Best Actor award]); Three on a Match (1932, Bette Davis), Female (1933, Ruth Chatterton), and Night Nurse (1931, Clark Gable); and the documentary Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood (2007). Commentaries will be provided for The Divorcee and Night Nurse. Following one week later on March 11th will be The Warner Bros. Gangster Collection, Volume 3 containing Picture Snatcher (1933), Lady Killer (1933), Smart Money (1931), The Mayor of Hell (1933), Black Legion (1937), and Brother Orchid (1940) - that's four Cagneys, two Bogarts, and two Robinsons. Included as extras are the usual delectable collections of vintage shorts, cartoons and trailers. Interestingly, the latter include I Loved a Woman, Other Men's Women, The Perfect Specimen, The Kennel Murder Case, Crime School, Hell's Kitchen, and It All Came True which may presage future DVD releases. Warners will also dip into its animated catalog in honour of the Oscars with two releases on February 12th. Academy Award Animation Collection - 15 Winners, 26 Nominees will be a three-disc set while Academy Award Animation Collection - 15 Winners will be a single disc release. The winners apparently include all the cartoons so honoured by Oscar during the 1940-1965 period and within Warners' control. Finally, having missed the 40th anniversary, Warners will now release Bonnie and Clyde (1967) as both a 2-disc SE and an Ultimate Collector's Edition (UCE) on March 25th. The SE will contain the newly remastered film, a new in-depth making-of documentary, the History Channel documentary "Love and Death: The Story of Bonnie and Clyde," Warren Beatty wardrobe tests, and deleted scenes. The UCE will add various publicity material reproductions and a 36-page hardcover book. This release will be part of the WB 85th anniversary celebration next year, details for which will be announced in January. Promised are a number of branded collections including new-to-DVD releases, various high definition debuts, and other UCEs.

The Weinstein Company's promised release of El Cid will arrive on January 29th in a 2-disc DVD edition featuring audio commentary, and new featurettes and interviews. A collector's edition (same discs plus a book of stills and historical articles) will also be available.

In High Definition news, MGM's Blu-ray releases of The Battle of Britain and A Bridge Too Far have been delayed (for unspecified "marketing reasons") until 2008, perhaps as part of a Father's Day promotion then. Sony continues to work on Blu-ray releases of three David Lean films (Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Passage to India) and The Guns of Navarone. Announcement of the release of the latter two of these four now appears likely in the first quarter of 2008, with the others coming later in the year. Recognizing how important these titles are to many fans, Sony is really hoping to put its best Blu-ray foot forward with them, hence the long delay in bringing them out. Warner Bros. will issue Bonnie and Clyde (1967) on Blu-ray and HD-DVD on March 25th. Otherwise, the lack of announced classic titles in forthcoming HD-DVD or Blu-ray plans is disappointing to say the least. One final note - I somehow missed the release of The Omega Man (1971) in both HD-DVD and Blu-ray by Warner Bros. It appeared on November 27th.

Once again, that's all for now. I'll return with one further column in time for Christmas.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com
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