Classic Blu-ray Reviews (Continued)
Turner Classic Movies, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and The Film Foundation have partnered on the Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics III box set DVD collection now available in the TCM Vault Collection. The five-disc collection includes My Name Is Julia Ross (1954), The Mob (1951), Drive a Crooked Road (1954), Tight Spot (1955), and The Burglar (1957).
These are all nifty little films with good entertainment quotients. Viewers will likely find director Joseph H. Lewis's My Name Is Julia Ross, in which Nina Foch plays a London secretary who takes a job in a secluded mansion on the Cornwall coast, the most appealing of the bunch and a film awash with both style and substance. Close behind is a fine teaming of Ginger Rogers and Edward G. Robinson in Tight Spot in a claustrophobic tale directed by Phil Karlson of a former model whose testimony against a powerful mobster she had known is being sought by a district attorney. Slighter lesser overall entertainments like The Burglar, The Mob, and and Drive a Crooked Road all offer certain unique perspectives that viewers will enjoy. The Mob gives Broderick Crawford a nice undercover part involved with organized crime; Drive a Crooked Road highlights later Mickey Rooney as a getaway driver for a bank robbery; and The Burglar stars the underrated Dan Duryea as a cunning jewel thief. The transfers of the five films are all of a high standard with image detail and contrast all good. My Name Is Julia Ross is marginally the class of the bunch in regard to its feel of image presence. Anamorphic 1.85:1 images grace the more recent three titles while the other two are presented full frame as originally shot. The mono sound is quite workable on all titles. Supplements variously consist of a mix of introductions by Martin Scorsese, various galleries, and theatrical trailers. Recommended.
Warner Bros.'s increasingly rare slate of pressed DVD releases bears a little fruit this month with the appearance of 1957's The Prince and the Showgirl. There was a previous full frame release about a decade ago, but that continues here, and the full frame choice looks reasonably enough accurate.
Given the original 1957 release year, the film may have been theatrically released in various locales at 1.66:1 as implied by Warner's standard version warning on the disc case, but not necessarily uniformly so. Based on a witty play by Terence Rattigan and directed by as well as acted in by Laurence Olivier, The Prince and the Showgirl plays off Olivier's eastern European monarch against Marilyn Monroe's American actress working in London (MM's typical dumb blonde versus LM's best stuffed shirt character stand-off!). Despite the difference in acting styles, Monroe and Olivier actually work quite well together and the results yield an amiable and interesting outing. Monroe is well-filmed in colour by cinematographer Jack Cardiff. I don't know that we're dealing with a new transfer here, but some digital cleanup from Warner Bros. seems evident, for there appears to be improvement in some of the excessive grain of the previous version which was clear and bright enough with decent though not always consistent colour fidelity. The DD mono sound is fine, and a French mono track and English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and four Asian language subtitle sets are provided. Supplements include a film announcement newsreel, the theatrical trailer, and some cast and crew credits. Modestly worth an upgrade if you greatly admire the title.
It's nice to see a fine little classic western receive a good presentation in the WB Archive of MOD discs. William Wellman's Westward the Women (a 1951 MGM production) about a wagon train journey to California that features the usual standard male characters headed by scout Robert Taylor and enlivened by the presence of a huge group of feisty women needed out west as wives in the view of California rancher John McIntyre.
Included are a couple of ex-show girls (Julie Bishop and Denise Darcel) and a hearty widow (Beverly Dennis). The mix of the sexes is enough to elevate the story, one originally by of all people, Frank Capra. The film is sharply composed by Wellman and there's enough action to satisfy fans with the women pitching in well themselves rather than just acting as dependants. The liberal use of Utah, California, and Arizona locations for the filming is a welcome plus. The 1.37:1 WB Archive MOD transfer is fairly sharp and offers good contrast. Even a bit of grain is evident. The mono sound is quite workable. Supplements include a welcome and informative audio commentary by film historian and biographer Scott Eyman, the original theatrical trailer, and a vintage MGM promotional featurette Challenge the Wilderness that addresses the film story and historical reality. Recommended.
Blue Underground will release Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! (1967, Tomas Milian) on Blu-ray on July 7th, not June 19th as originally planned. The film is already available on DVD.
Criterion's classic slate for July comprises Eclipse Series 34: Jean Grémillon during the Occupation, available on DVD on the 24th. It will contain Remorques (1941, Jean Gabin), Lumières d'été (1943), and Le Ciel est à vous (1944). In August, on the 28th, Criterion will offer Blu-ray and DVD versions of Paul Fejos's early Hollywood gem, Lonesome (1928). Included as a supplement will be a reconstructed sound version of Fejos's Broadway (1929), in its time the most expensive film ever produced at Universal. Quadrophenia (1979) will also be released on that date, again on both Blu-ray and DVD, and coming too is Eclipse Series 35: Maidstone and Other Films by Norman Mailer (includes Maidstone , Wild 90 , and Beyond the Law  - on a two-DVD set).
Entertainment One will release three volumes of The Best of Person to Person: American Icons, Hollywood Legends, Legendary Entertainers on June 19th.
Film Chest (on its Cinema Classics label) will release a Blu-ray version of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946, Barbara Stanwyck) on May 29th.
Flicker Alley has announced a July 3rd release date for The Most Dangerous Game (1932, Joel McCrea) on Blu-ray. Included in the set will be the 1931 exploration classic documentary Gow (aka The Headhunter). This Is Cinerama (1952) will be available on a Blu-ray/DVD combo edition in mid-September, as will Windjammer (1958, The Voyage of Christian Radich). Both of the latter will be presented in Smilebox.
Fox will release The Grapes of Wrath (1940, Henry Fonda) on Blu-ray on June 5th. The previously planned Blu-ray release of Titanic (1953, Barbara Stanwyck) in April has been delayed to later in 2012. Although there's been no sign of a studio announcement as yet, Amazon is reporting a July 31st release of a Fox Marilyn Monroe Blu-ray Collection that will include The Seven Year Itch (1955), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), and River of No Return (1954).
Fox and MGM are collaborating on two ten-film DVD sets - The Frank Sinatra Film Collection due on April 3rd and The John Wayne Film Collection due on May 8th. The only thing of import here is the first DVD appearance of The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958) in the latter collection which will also include: The Big Trail, Red River, Legend Of The Lost, The Horse Soldiers, The Alamo, North To Alaska, The Comancheros, The Longest Day, and The Undefeated. As previously announced, The Barbarian and the Geisha will also be available on Blu-ray as a Walmart exclusive. The Sinatra set will contain: The Pride And The Passion, Kings Go Forth, A Hole In The Head, Can-Can, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Von Ryan's Express, Cast A Giant Shadow, Tony Rome, The Detective, and Lady In Cement.
Grapevine Video's new releases for May will include four silent titles and three sound ones. The silents include: The Confession (1920, Henry B. Walthall), The Blot (1921, directed by Lois Weber), Sand (1920, William S. Hart), and Tillie's Punctured Romance & Tillie Wakes Up (1914 & 1917, Marie Dressler). The sound releases will be Dishonored Lady (1947, Hedy Lamarr), a double feature of Bridge of Sighs & Missing Girls (1936, Onslow Stevens & 1936, Roger Pryor), and a Tom Tyler double feature of Deadwood Pass (1933) & The Forty-Niners (1932).
Image Entertainment will have The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series and The Twilight Zone: Fan Favorites for Blu-ray Disc release on June 5th. The Complete Series will include all 156 episodes (5 seasons) on Blu-ray in one 24-disc box set. All the extras from the individual season Blu-ray sets will carry over. Fan Favorites will include a sampling of 19 of the show's best episodes on 2 Blu-ray discs.
Kino will bring Buster Keaton's The Saphead (1921) to Blu-ray on July 10th. Extras are yet to be announced. Also coming on the same date will be The Devil's Needle and Other Tales, including The Devil's Needle (1916), Children of Eve (1915), and The Inside of White Slave Traffic (1913). The release comes in conjunction with the Library of Congress and will be mastered in HD from original film elements. Supplements will include outtakes from Children of Eve and a shorter un-restored version of White Slave Trade. July 24th will bring Alberto Cavalcanti's They Made Me a Fugitive (1947, Trevor Howard), also on Blu-ray. On August 14th, look for Louis Feuillade's serial crime drama Les Vampires (1915) on both Blu-ray and DVD.
Lionsgate will offer Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion (1937) on Blu-ray on July 24th. It will include a trio of articles (La Grande Illusion: Success and Controversy by Olivier Curchod, La Grande Illusion by Ginette Vincendeau and The original negative of La Grande Illusion by Natacha Laurent), the Restoring La Grande Illusion featurette, a John Truby film presentation, and trailers from 1937 and 1958.
New MGM MOD classic releases for April comprise the following titles: Outlaw Trail (1944), Robbers' Roost (1955), Running Target (1956), Run For the Sun (1956), War Drums (1957), Tomahawk Trail (1957), Toughest Gun in Tombstone (1958), The Last Mile (1959), Noose for a Gunman (1960), and Saintly Sinners (1962).
Olive Films will add to its Blu-ray release schedule on June 19th with The Colossus of New York (1958) and The Space Children (1958). June 26th will bring Blu-ray and DVD releases of The Hangman (1959, Robert Taylor) and The Night of the Grizzly (1966, Clint Walker). July 17th will bring High Noon (1954, Gary Cooper) and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, Kevin McCarthy). This appears to imply that Olive has acquired access to Paramount's Republic Pictures holdings - replacing Lionsgate which did nothing with them when it had control. July 31st Blu-ray releases will be the John Garfield titles Body and Soul (1947) and Force of Evil (1948). August 7th follows up with the addition of Johnny Guitar (1954, Joan Crawford) and Rio Grande (1950, John Wayne). DVD versions will also be available.
Paramount will have Bonanza: Season 3, Volume 1 and Bonanza: Season 3, Volume 2 for release on July 17th. And in some good news, we'll be getting The Untouchables: Season 4, Volume 1 and The Untouchables: Season 4, Volume 2 both on July 24th. Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Volume One is planned for August 7th
Shout! Factory will have the 1976 film The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (Sarah Miles, Kris Kristofferson) for Blu-ray release on June 19th only via the Shout! Factory online store.
There continue to be pretty good indications from Sony that we will finally see David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962) arrive on Bu-ray for this, the film's 60th anniversary year, perhaps as early as September.
Sony's Columbia Classics MOD offerings on May 1st include two Chester Morris Boston Blackie titles One Mysterious Night (1944) and A Close Call for Boston Blackie (1946), as well as Strange Affair (1944, Allyn Joslyn) and She Played with Fire (1957, Jack Hawkins).
There will be a TCM Vault offering on July 2nd of the Columbia Pictures Pre-Code Collection. It will be a five-disc set containing Arizona (1931, Laura La Plante), Ten Cents a Dance (1931, Barbara Stanwyck), Virtue (1932, Carole Lombard), Three Wise Girls (1932, Jean Harlow), and Shopworn (1932, Barbara Stanwyck). In conjunction with Universal, the TCM Vault will offer Women in Danger: 1950s Thrillers on June 5th. The four-disc set will contain Woman in Hiding (1950, Ida Lupino), Female on the Beach (1955, Joan Crawford), The Unguarded Moment (1956, Esther Williams), and The Price of Fear (1956, Merle Oberon). And on August 6th, the TCM Vault and Universal connection will bear more fruit in the form of the four-disc set 1930s Rarities. It will contain Million Dollar Legs (1932, W.C. Fields); Belle of the Nineties (1934, Mae West); Artists & Models (1937, Jack Benny and Ida Lupino); and Souls at Sea (1937, Gary Cooper and George Raft).
Timeless Media have a number of additions planned. The Gene Autry Collection 2 is coming on May 22nd and on 2 discs will include The Cowboy and the Indians (1949), The Blazing Sun (1950), The Hills of Utah (1951), and On Top of Old Smoky (1953). 87th Precinct: The Complete Series (with Robert Lansing, 30 episodes) is set for August 7th, as is Yancy Derringer: The Complete Series (with Jock Mahoney, 4 discs).
Twilight Time had The Big Heat (1953, Glenn Ford) on Blu-ray for release on May 8th, the same date that Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959, James Mason) was also set for Blu-ray. The later title was being offered as Pat Boone signed copies for the first 1000, but those are now sold out. June 12th will bring John Steinbeck's The Wayward Bus (1957, Joan Collins) on Blu-ray, followed up by Blu-rays of Those Magnificent Men on Their Flying Machines (1965, Stuart Whitman) and Cover Girl (1944, Rita Hayworth) on July 10th, plus High Time (1960, Bing Crosby) and Bye Bye Birdie (1963, Janet Leigh) on August 14th.
Additional VCI June releases are set for the 19th of that month. They include: The Way Ahead (1944, David Niven, first time U.S. release of the complete uncut UK version); Morning Departure (1950, John Mills); Carry On Double Feature Volume 6 (Carry On Matron, 1972/Carry On Girls, 1973); and Never Let Go (1960, Peter Sellers). All are entries in VCI's Rank Collection. More Rank Collection titles are set for July 3rd. They will include: Carry On Double Feature Vol. 7 (Carry On Abroad/Carry On Dick, 1972/1974); Carry On Double Feature Vol. 8 (Carry On Behind/Carry On England, both 1976); First a Girl (1935, Jessie Matthews); The Naked Truth (1957, Peter Sellers); and Woman Hater (1948, Stewart Granger). July 17th will bring: The Long Memory (1953, John Mills), Highly Dangerous (1950, Dane Clark), The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1938, Leslie Banks), and The Seekers (1954, Jack Hawkins). VCI followers should note that both Love Story and Eagle's Wing will see their previously announced mid-May release dates pushed back a week or ten days because of technical difficulties with their elements.
The Warner Archive additions for March 20th comprise three musicals and five features from the year 1930. The former are Listen Darling (1938, Judy Garland), The Sky's the Limit (1943, Fred Astaire), and Living in a Big Way (1947, Gene Kelly). The 1930 titles are: Conspiracy (Bessie Love), Doorway to Hell (James Cagney), Lovin' the Ladies (Richard Dix), The Matrimonial Bed (Frank Fay), and Mothers Cry (Dorothy Peterson). For March 27th, the Archive announced: Gallant Sons (1940, Jackie Cooper), Young Ideas (1943, Mary Astor), The Youngest Profession (1943, Lana Turner), Two Smart People (1946, Lucille Ball), Grand Central Murder (1942, Van Heflin), Hate for Hate (1967, John Ireland), The Cats (1968, Rita Hayworth), and two double feature offerings - The Saint Double Feature: The Saint's Vacation (1941, Hugh Sinclair)/The Saint Meets the Tiger (1943, Hugh Sinclair) and The WB Film Noir Double Feature: Homicide (1949, Robert Douglas)/The House Across the Street (1949, Wayne Morris). April 3rd offerings include: Shazzan: The Complete Series (1966), Big City (1948, Margaret O'Brien), Bewitched (1945, Phyllis Thaxter), Beat the Band (1947, Frances Langford), Truck Busters (1943), Hitting a New High (1937, Lily Pons), While the Patient Slept (1935, Aline McMahon), Smashing the Rackets (1938, Chester Morris), and The Case of the Black Parrot (1941, William Lundigan). For April 10th, the Archive releases lead off with William Wellman's Westward the Women (1951, Robert Taylor) which will also include audio commentary by film historian Scott Eyman. Other offerings on the same date will be: Bright Road (1953, Dorothy Dandridge), Desperate Search (1952, Howard Keel), Exclusive Story (1936, Franchot Tone), I'll Wait for You (1941, Robert Sterling), Tish (1942, Marjorie Main), Three Loves Has Nancy (1938, Janet Gaynor), If Winter Comes (1941, Walter Pidgeon), Penrod and Sam (1937, Billy Mauch), Penrod's Double Trouble (1938, Bobby Mauch), A Yank at Eton (1942, Mickey Rooney), and Clear All Wires! (1933, Lee Tracy). April 17th Archive releases lead off with four Lon Chaney titles: The Black Bird (1926), West of Zanzibar (1928), Where East Is East (1929), and Tell It to the Marines (1926). Added to those were four adventure classics back in print now in the Archive replacing their original DVD versions: Prince and the Pauper (1937, Errol Flynn), Kim (1950, Errol Flynn), Scaramouche (1952, Stewart Granger), and Knights of the Round Table (1953, Robert Taylor). Also on the docket are Rendezvous (1935, William Powell), Romance in Manhattan (1935, Ginger Rogers), The Bride Walks Out (1936, Barbara Stanwyck), Easy Living (1949, Lucille Ball), and A Millionaire for Christy (1951, Eleanor Parker). May 1st additions include: Flareup (1969, Raquel Welsh), Bridge to the Sun (1961, Carroll Baker), This Could Be the Night (1957, Jean Simmons), Star of Midnight (1935, Ginger Rogers), and Hullabaloo (1940, Frank Morgan). For May 8th, the Archive highlights The Maisie Collection Volume 1. It will include 5 titles: Maisie (1939), Congo Maisie (1940), Gold Rush Maisie (1940), Maisie Was a Lady (1941), and Ringside Maisie (1941). Also being released the same date is Navy Blue and Gold (1937, James Stewart). May 15th classic additions comprise: Show People (1928, Marion Davies), Stand By for Action (1942, Robert Taylor), Flight Angels (1940, Dennis Morgan), The Scapegoat (1959, Alec Guinness), and Vacation from Marriage (1945, Robert Donat).
Warner Bros. pressed releases include the Mark Rydell-directed documentary James Dean: An Invited Life, due out on June 5th. Singin' in the Rain: 60th Anniversary Three-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition (1952, Gene Kelly) has been announced for a July 17th release on Blu-ray. The set will include a brand new documentary, Singin' in the Rain: Raining on a New Generation, presented in high definition on Blu-ray. In addition to another half-dozen vintage special features, this new edition will be presented in a 48-page hard cover book, with never-before-seen production memos and photos. It will also contain reproductions of the original theatrical posters from the film's premier and a full-size commemorative umbrella. August 7th will bring The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1962, Don Knotts) in Blu-ray. August 28th will offer up the Looney Tunes Mouse Chronicles: Chuck Jones Collection consisting of 19 remastered theatrical shorts on 2 discs and available on Blu-ray and DVD.
In other Warner news, Warner Home Video has announced that they've acquired the home video release rights to a whopping 74 films from the Samuel Goldwyn library, including such classics as The Best Years of Our Lives, the long out-of-print Wuthering Heights, The Pride of the Yankees, Guys and Dolls, Hans Christian Andersen, The Bishop's Wife and more. Some of these may be released on Blu-ray and/or DVD as early as the 4th Quarter of this year. The complete list of titles includes: The Adventures of Marco Polo, Arrowsmith, The Awakening*, Ball of Fire, Barbary Coast, Beloved Enemy, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Bishop's Wife, Bulldog Drummond, Come and Get It, Condemned, The Cowboy and the Lady, Cynara, Cytherea*, Dark Angel*, Dead End, The Devil Dancer*, The Devil to Pay!, Dodsworth, Edge of Doom, Enchantment, The Goldwyn Follies, Guys and Dolls, Hans Christian Andersen, His Supreme Moment*, The Hurricane, In Hollywood with Potash & Perlmutter*, I Want You, The Kid from Brooklyn, The Kid from Spain, Kid Millions, The Little Foxes, The Magic Flame*, The Masquerader, My Foolish Heart, Nana, The Night of Love*, One Heavenly Night, Our Very Own, Palmy Days, Partners Again with Potash & Perlmutter*, Potash and Perlmutter*, The Pride of the Yankees, The Princess and the Pirate, Raffles, Raffles (1930), The Real Glory, The Rescue*, Roman Scandals, Roseanna McCoy, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Secrets, A Song Is Born, Splendor, Stella Dallas, Stella Dallas* (1925), Strike Me Pink, Tarnish*, These Three, They Got Me Covered, They Shall Have Music, A Thief in Paradise*, This Is Heaven*, Two Lovers, The Unholy Garden, Up in Arms, We Live Again, The Wedding Night, The Westerner, Whoopee!, The Winning of Barbara Worth*, Woman Chases Man, Wonder Man and Wuthering Heights. Note that films marked with * are silent. It's certainly good to anticipate of the release of such long-requested titles as Wuthering Heights and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Some of the others have had previous MGM DVD releases, but titles such as The Best Years of Our Lives, The Little Foxes, Ball of Fire, Dead End, and The Westerner warrant much better attention than they have received to date. How great would it be to see a Collector's edition on Blu-ray of The Best Years of Our Lives?
Well once again, that's it for this outing of Classic Coming Attractions. I definitely plan to return again soon.