Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits

Site created 12/15/97.



The Digital Bits logo
page created: 7/28/03

Please visit our sponsors!


Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

July Survey of Current Classic Releases

On a fairly regular basis, I'm going to devote this column to giving a rundown on a selection of the recent and occasionally forthcoming classic releases. These won't be full-blown reviews but more reflections on the titles (somewhat akin to my shorter reviews in previous themed columns) that I hope will help you to decide whether a second look or a pass is warranted. I'll certainly have some comments on disc quality and content, but the focus will tend to be on the films themselves. This time out, we look at some DVDs from Paramount, Fox, and Columbia. The titles are arranged chronologically by year of original theatrical release. Following these reviews, you'll find the usual round-up of new classic release announcements.

Brigham Young
(1940) - DVD release date July 15, 2003

It was somewhat surprising though welcome when this film was first announced for release on DVD by Fox. It's one of those titles from a time period of prime original releases by the company that included the likes of Drums Along the Mohawk, Jesse James, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Mark of Zorro to name but a few. Brigham Young is certainly not quite in the same league as these other films, but its dramatization of the formative years of the Mormon religion is an interesting effort nonetheless. The main problem is the overemphasis on a peripheral character played by Tyrone Power for box-office purposes. The result is that the title character, well played by relative newcomer Dean Jagger, is overshadowed for too much of the second half of the film - a portion that deals with the wagon trek west - and makes it too much a tedious facsimile of so many other wagon-train westerns (although at least we avoid the usual Indian attack cliché). The best parts of the film are the first quarter, which deals with church founder Joseph Smith (excellently portrayed by Vincent Price), and the climactic sequences involved the plague of locusts and the miracle of the gulls. The film does convey an epic sweep with several fine set pieces including the flight from Nauvoo, Illinois into Iowa and the first sight of the Great Salt Lake valley. From a historical perspective much has been telescoped in time, person, and space, but the essential facts are preserved at least in spirit.

Brigham Young

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Fox's DVD is a mixed blessing. It contains some admirable supplementary material, but the image transfer is somewhat of a disappointment. The source material is in rough shape with numerous speckles, scratches and debris in evidence. The full frame transfer (in accord with the original aspect ratio) is only intermittently crisp and clear looking. Black levels are usually okay, but the image frequently seems too dark and shadow detail often suffers. At other times, the image looks soft and edge effects are quite noticeable, probably in an effort to compensate. Both stereo and mono English sound tracks are provided, but there's little to choose between them. They manage the job adequately without too much age-related hiss or distortion. English and Spanish sub-titles are also provided.

The disc's prime supplement is a full-length scene-specific audio commentary by James D'Arc, curator of Motion Picture Archives at Brigham Young University. His work is very reminiscent of the commentary efforts of Bruce Eder, both in tone and thoroughness. We get a detailed analysis of the film that touches on its historical accuracy, its connection to worldwide events contemporary to 1940, production details, and cast and crew information. It's certainly one of the better commentaries available on DVD. The disc also includes a number of production supplements including stills of various script covers and pages, special effects shots, and a deleted scene; 27 production stills; and cast photographs. These are followed by a Movietone newsreel and photographs covering the impressive film premiere held in Salt Lake City, various poster and lobby card reproductions, a letter of reminiscences by Vincent Price sent to James D'Arc, and a photo comparison of the real Brigham Young and as portrayed by Dean Jagger (a very close resemblance).

The Desperate Hours
(1955) - DVD release date June 10, 2003

Combine the talents of a first-rate director and two fine actors and the results should be impressive. Unfortunately it doesn't always work out that way, but happily that's not the case with The Desperate Hours. It's terrific entertainment. A suspenseful drama that relies on its two principal players to wring the most out of a screenplay adapted by Joseph Hayes from his successful stage play, The Desperate Hours has a favourite film plot - a group of people held hostage by criminals. This time the hostages are a typical suburban American family whose patriarch is played by Fredric March. The criminals are three escaped felons led by Humphrey Bogart. The unobtrusive direction is by William Wyler. The class of the film is provided by Fredric March whose head of the family metamorphoses from a somewhat timid everyman to an almost ruthless defender of his home, wife and children.

The Desperate Hours

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Bogart is as good as he needs to be although he seems a little old for his role. Even at 75% of his best, however, Bogart is still better than almost anyone else. The film benefits from a fine collection of familiar supporting players from Dewey Martin and Robert Middleton as Bogart's two accomplices to the cadre of law enforcement types composed of Arthur Kennedy, Ray Teal, Whit Bissell, and Ray Collins. Martha Scott is effective as March's wife. Gig Young also appears as a suitor for March's daughter. The main issue with him, however, is how the top on his tiny convertible sports car could ever be put up without Young's head sticking through it.

The film was originally a VistaVision release and is presented on DVD in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer by Paramount. The black and white transfer exhibits excellent gray scale and shadow detail, but seems to lack sharpness at times. Nevertheless, the overall impact is quite positive. Some speckles and debris are present. There are no edge effects in evidence. The English and French Dolby Digital mono tracks are adequate although there is some minor hiss evident at times. English sub-titles are provided, but there are no supplements.

The Long, Hot Summer
(1958) - DVD release date June 3, 2003

Combine six tales by William Faulkner, a script highlighted by juicy dialogue, a dynamite cast of actors both seasoned and new, and a director struggling to escape the shadow of the blacklist and you have The Long, Hot Summer - a lush and steamy tale of the South. The film is justly famous for its initial on-screen pairing of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The couple would wed in real life soon after completing the film, but it was their performances during it with the undercurrent of the strength of their feelings towards one another that contributed so much to the film's rich, sensuous nature. The story concerns one Ben Quick who has reputation as a barn-burner due to his father's actions. Advised to leave one county, he drifts into Frenchman's Bend where he becomes involved with the powerful Varner family. In Ben, Varner patriarch Will Varner sees an answer to his desire for someone to bring fresh blood (and perhaps grandchildren, if he can pair Ben up with his daughter Claire) to the Varner family. The resulting upheaval in the family dynamics bring several relationships to a head.

The Long, Hot Summer

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

As Will Varner, Orson Welles brings an immense presence to the film with his blustering, larger-than-life portrayal. The classically-trained Welles was driven partially by his anxiety over working with a number of young Method players and the need to show them that they weren't quite the last word in acting yet. Although reportedly the scene-stealing actor was difficult to work with, one's appreciation of Welles's resulting performance only grows as the film progresses. Also among the fine cast are Anthony (Tony) Franciosa, Angela Lansbury, a young Lee Remick, and Richard Anderson. Martin Ritt directed and the film's eventual success jump-started his career. The Long, Hot Summer is a fine piece of entertainment that can be enjoyed over and over again due to an ensemble cast all performing at their best.

Fox delivers an appealing 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer of this Cinemascope film. The almost-oversaturated colours have a striking richness that seems just right for the brashness of the story and its characters. The image is a little dark from time to time, but the transfer is pleasingly free of edge effects. A handsome effort indeed. The Dolby Digital stereo track is expansive with some nice separation effects. A French mono track (but no Spanish one as suggested on the disc jacket) and English and Spanish subtitles are also provided. The disc's supplement package is a pleasant surprise. Included are a very informative edition of AMC Backstory on the making of the film; a movietone newsreel covering the film's premiere in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; the film's theatrical trailer; and trailers for five other Fox films starring Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, From the Terrace, Hombre, The Hustler, and The Verdict).

The Mouse That Roared
(1959) - DVD release date July 8, 2003

The Duchy of Grand Fenwick - the smallest country in the world - is in trouble. It's going broke, but it has a plan. Why not declare war on the United States, capitulate after a day or two, and then reap the rewards of lots of American post-war aid? It sounds plausible. Except that the leader of the Grand Fenwick invasion force (composed of about 20 men all decked out in Middle Ages chain mail and sporting long bows) manages to win the war through an incredible sequence of improbable events.

The Mouse That Roared

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

This sort of premise for a film sounds questionable, until you realize that it stars Peter Sellers who plays three key roles in the film - the Grand Duchess of Grand Fenwick, the Prime Minister, and Tully Bascombe, leader of the invasion force. The result is an entertaining, continuously-amusing satire that manages not to overstay its welcome by concluding its tale in a brisk 83 minutes. The Mouse That Roared was the first of Sellers' starring roles, quickly followed by other successes such as I'm All Right Jack, The Battle of the Sexes, and Two Way Stretch. This early portion of Sellers's work is the most appealing part to many of his greatest fans, and rightly so. The roles gave him an opportunity to show his diverse gifts from fine straight acting to farcical nonsense, without being burdened by pretentiousness and an obsession with "important" roles that would better validate his skills in some way. The pleasure of The Mouse That Roared lies in just being able to sit back and enjoy and appreciate a master comedian at work. What more can one ask?

Using a rather good source element, Columbia has produced a generally pleasing 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. There is a touch of inconsistency in that colours vary from bright and vibrant to being somewhat subdued at times. The same is reflected in the black levels. Overall, however, the image is quite sharp and not burdened by noticeable edge effects. We get an English mono sound track that is entirely adequate for the task at hand. Age-related hiss is non-existent. This is the only track provided by Columbia, who seem to have abandoned their policy of multiple language tracks. English and French sub-titles are available. The only supplements are three trailers for The Mouse That Roared, Don't Raise the Bridge Lower the River, and Dr. Strangelove.

The Flight of the Phoenix
(1965) - DVD release date June 3, 2003

James Stewart is one of the few big stars of the Golden Age who is reasonably well represented on DVD. Universal really went all out recently by releasing a number of his westerns and Columbia has already made available most of the films he starred in there. Fox now have just released one of the films he made for them - The Flight of the Phoenix. Maybe that will open the gates for a few other titles in demand such as Call Northside 777, Broken Arrow, No Highway in the Sky, and Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. As for The Flight of the Phoenix, it's a thoroughly entertaining tale of a group of men stranded in the desert when their plane, far off course, crashes during a sand storm. The film is directed by Robert Aldrich who manages to sustain mounting tension despite the almost two and a half hour running time.

The Flight of the Phoenix

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

The script reflects the well-written source novel by Elleston Trevor and actually gives us a group of characters who are not all entire clichés, although there are certainly recognizable types among them. The way it presents the ever-changing relationships between the men is the real strength of the film. James Stewart is effective as always, this time playing the pilot, but he is overshadowed by several of the other players. Standing out are Richard Attenborough as the plane's navigator and Hardy Kruger as an ingenious aircraft designer who believes that he has a way to get the group to safety. Also in the cast are Aldrich favourites Ernest Borgnine and George Kennedy, as well as Dan Duryea, Peter Finch, Ronald Fraser, and Ian Bannen. Perhaps the best way to describe the film is to say that it's intelligent - something rare in comparison to most current-day films.

Fox delivers a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that is quite workable. Black levels are good, but the colour intensity is inconsistent at times. Colour accuracy is occasionally questionable, particularly in respect to flesh tones, although the makeup to reflect the drying effects of the sun and sand may contribute to this. Overall, though, the transfer does manage to convey quite well the feeling of heat and discomfort that the stranded travelers are facing. Both stereo and mono English tracks are provided with the mono one having a slight edge in clarity. Spanish and French mono tracks and English and Spanish sub-titles are available. Supplements consist of trailers in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Is Paris Burning?
(1966) - DVD release date June 10, 2003

This is a film that I've always really wanted to like, because the aspect of the Second World War it attempts to dramatize - the freeing of Paris - is a fascinating but complicated one, as the book of the same title by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre clearly describes. But despite the film's earnest best intentions, it fails to draw one into its story completely. The main problem is the cast. A large part of it consists of French actors many of whom are not very familiar to North American audiences. This casting is admirable given the story, but it makes it quite difficult to keep the various French resistance groups straight during the first half of the film.

Is Paris Burning?

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

In the second half, the film swings the other way with too many familiar faces. Cameos by the likes of Kirk Douglas, Glenn Ford, Robert Stack, George Chakiris, Anthony Perkins, Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, and so on distract one from the story and turn the film into a spot-the-star exercise. More time spent delving into the German command process leading to its commander's decision to yield the city unharmed despite Hitler's wish otherwise would have been rewarding. And were there really as few German troops garrisoning Paris as the film makes it seem?

Direction is by veteran Rene Clement who really makes Paris the star of the film with extensive location shooting at the sites of actual events. The decision to film in black and white works well and allows some fairly fluid integration of historic footage. Maurice Jarre's score is melodic and playful at times, suitably inspiring at others. If only it didn't seem to rely so much on his efforts for Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

Paramount's 2.35:1 anamorphic presentation is a fine one. It includes the film's overture and intermission music. The source material has some imperfections in terms of speckles, scratches and the occasional flurry of blotches, but the transfer effort is admirable. Black levels are deep, and the gray scale range and shadow detail are excellent. Edge effects are not a concern. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is little more than a decent stereo experience. A French mono track and English subtitles are provided. There are no extras - in line with Paramount's policy on most of its catalog items, but still a particular disappointment given the possibilities of including historic information to clarify the story.

Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River
(1968) - DVD release date July 8, 2003

Some people have asked me, "Why don't we have more of Jerry Lewis available on DVD?" Until now, I've had no good answer other than to suggest that after his days with Dean Martin, he never made a film worth watching. But Columbia has now seen fit to release Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River which allows me to say, "Watch this film and you'll know why." For someone who purports to be a comedian, this mishmash of embarrassingly inept nonsense provides further evidence of just how unfunny Lewis was. Not content to restrict setting his films in America, here he takes himself to Britain where he proves that his witlessness knows no borders. It appears to be contagious also, for it infects the usually reliable Terry-Thomas and Bernard Cribbins who turn in sub-standard efforts. I suppose I should report that the film does have a plot of sorts.

Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

If I've got it right, Jerry is an entrepreneur who's made such a hash of things that his wife of three years has finally had enough and seeks a divorce. The rest of the film involves our hero attempting to get back into his wife's good graces by making money through turning their home into a Chinese restaurant and discotheque and trying to sell stolen oil-well drilling plans to some Arabs. It's all very tedious and Lewis's schtick, which consists of running around and mugging outrageously, outstays its welcome after the first five minutes. The only pleasure to be got from the film is seeing Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth in the British comedy series Keeping Up Appearances) in one of her early film roles. I know there are Jerry Lewis fans out there, but surely even they would shrink from trying to be advocates for this film effort.

Turn about is fair play, I guess. We sometimes get let down by less than stellar transfers of good films. Here we have a very good transfer of a terrible film. Working with excellent source material, Columbia has fashioned a sparkling-looking 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that is sharp and clear with vibrant colours and minimal edge effects. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is more than adequate, unfortunately. After all, you can still hear Lewis. English sub-titles are provided. The supplements consist of the film's theatrical trailer plus trailers for The Mouse That Roared and The Three Stooges: Stop! Look! and Laugh!.

Le Mans
(1971) - DVD release date April 29, 2003

Only in his later films did Steve McQueen lose the self-conscious facial expressions that marred his early work up to the mid-1960s. Le Mans is a good example of such a later film. He plays an American driver who returns to Le Mans to compete after crashing there in the previous year's race. His brief exchanges with a woman to whom he is drawn - the widow of a driver killed in the same crash - are skillfully handled with no hint of the diffidence of his earlier films.

Le Mans

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

The focus of the film, however, is a recreation of the running of the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race. At that, it also excels, creating a real feel for the excitement, confusion, variety, sights, and sounds of the event. The camera work of the race itself is top-notch and even if one is not a car-racing fan, the film really draws one into the tension and overall spectacle of the event. The fact that McQueen did much of his own driving in the high-speed racing scenes adds to the film's look and feel of authenticity. This is a winner.

So too is the work of CBS Video in restoring what was originally a Cinema Center Films release. (Paramount has released the 2.35:1 anamorphic DVD on behalf of CBS.) The source material was reportedly in somewhat rough condition, but CBS has done wonders much as they did for Little Big Man and Big Jake. Colours are accurate and fairly vibrant; shadow detail is quite good; and the resulting image has real presence. Edge effects are almost non-existent. The Dolby 5.1 remix is rather good, providing a noticeable surround effect at times. A French mono track and English subtitles are provided. There are no supplements.

The Tenant
(1976) - DVD release date July 1, 2003

Roman Polanski's follow-up effort to his excellent work with Chinatown was The Tenant, a joint U.S./French production filmed in France and featuring an international cast including the likes of Melvyn Douglas, Lila Kedrova, and Isabelle Adjani. Polanski himself starred, making himself a triple threat in the film as he also directed and co-wrote the script. The story is that of Trelkovsky, a timid clerk who rents an apartment whose former tenant - a young woman - committed suicide by jumping from its window. Trelkovsky soon finds that the other tenants in the building seem rather strange and their actions and images begin to prey on his mind, with increasingly sinister results.

The Tenant

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

I actually saw this film at home soon after being subjected to a barrage of trailers for mostly terrible-looking films and a feature that was a merely average piece of summer escapism at the local multiplex, so The Tenant seemed like a veritable Citizen Kane in comparison. It's of course not close to that, but it is an entertaining film, although it does develop a degree of predictability as the plot progresses. The ending is suitably bizarre, leaving plenty of room for individual interpretation. The film is well-acted throughout the cast (look for some nice work by Shelley Winters in a small supporting role especially). Not a "haunting classic" as the DVD case would suggest, but certainly a film of some substance that I think is worth your time taking a look.

You may not be happy with Paramount's lack of supplementary content on their discs (although we do get a trailer on The Tenant), but it's hard to fault their efforts on their film transfers. The subdued (some might say drab) colours of the film are well rendered and shadow detail is very good for the most part. There is perhaps a touch more edge effects apparent than other recent Paramount discs, but it's not obtrusive. The Dolby Digital mono tracks (English and French) are quite adequate for the job. English sub-titles are provided.


New Classic Release Announcements

As we head into summer, the stream of new classic release announcements has diminished only a bit and we are getting some confirmations of previously rumoured titles, particularly from Warner Brothers. Let's start with them this time (and note that the Classic Release Database has been updated accordingly).

Warner Brothers will release two-disc special editions of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) on September 30th.

As previously posted here on The Digital Bits, The Adventures of Robin Hood: Special Edition will include the film in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, along with Dolby Digital mono audio. Extras on Disc One will include audio commentary by author and film historian Rudy Behlmer, a music-only audio track showcasing the Oscar-winning score, Warner Night at the Movies 1938 (introduced by Leonard Maltin, which includes the theatrical trailer for Angels with Dirty Faces, a vintage newsreel, the original musical short subject Freddie Rich and His Orchestra and the vintage animated short Katnip Kollege) and an Errol Flynn trailer gallery with trailers for twelve of his most beloved films including Captain Blood, The Prince and the Pauper, Dodge City, The Sea Hawk, Dive Bomber and The Adventures of Robin Hood (both the 1938 version and 1942 reissue). Disc Two includes the hour-long Glorious Technicolor documentary (narrated by Angela Lansbury), the all-new 65th Anniversary documentary, Welcome to Sherwood: The Story of The Adventures of Robin Hood, the classic Looney Tunes shorts Rabbit Hood and Robin Hood Daffy, the vintage Warner Bros. short subjects Cavalcade of Archery (1945) and The Cruise of the Zaca (1952) with Errol Flynn, the Robin Hood Through the Ages featurette (on the various screen adaptations), the A Journey to Sherwood Forest featurette (with home movies and behind-the-scenes footage), outtakes, the Breakdowns of 1938 Warner Bros. Pictures blooper reel, audio of the May 11, 1938 National Radio Broadcast The Robin Hood Radio Show, audio of Erich Wolfgang Korngold piano sessions and still galleries of historical art, costume designs, scene concept drawings, cast & crew photos and publicity & poster materials.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: Special Edition will also include the film in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, along with Dolby Digital mono audio. Extras on Disc One will include audio commentary by author/Bogart biographer Eric Lax, Warner Night at the Movies 1948 (introduced by Leonard Maltin, which includes the theatrical trailer for Key Largo, a vintage newsreel, the original short subject So You Want to Be a Detective, and the Looney Tunes animated short Hot Cross Bunny) along with a Humphrey Bogart trailer gallery with trailers for twelve of his most beloved films including High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep and The Treasure of Sierra Madre. Disc Two adds the feature-length 1989 documentary John Huston: The Man, the Movies, the Maverick, the all-new Discovering Treasure: The Story of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre documentary, the Looney Tunes animated short 8 Ball Bunny, audio of the scoring stage sessions for the film, audio of the April 18, 1949 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast and still galleries of storyboards, dressed set stills, cast & crew photos and publicity & poster materials.

And finally, the Yankee Doodle Dandy: Special Edition will also include the film in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, along with Dolby Digital mono audio. Extras on Disc One will include audio commentary by author and film historian Rudy Behlmer, Warner Night at the Movies 1942 (introduced by Leonard Maltin, which includes the theatrical trailer for Casablanca, a vintage newsreel, the original short subject Beyond the Line of Duty, the Looney Tunes animated short Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid) as well as a James Cagney trailer gallery with trailers for seven of his most beloved films including A Midsummer Night's Dream, Footlight Parade and Yankee Doodle Dandy. Disc Two adds the James Cagney: Top of the World biographical tribute documentary (hosted by Michael J. Fox), the all-new Let Freedom Sing!: The Story of Yankee Doodle Dandy production documentary, the Looney Tunes shorts Yankee Doodle Daffy and Yankee Doodle Bugs, the vintage wartime short You, John Jones starring James Cagney & Greer Garson, audio of outtakes and rehearsals, audio of the October 19, 1942 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Radio Show with film cast members and still galleries of sheet music, dressed set stills, scene concept drawings and publicity & poster materials.

Looney Tunes fans can rejoice on October 28th when WB releases The Looney Tunes Golden Collection. This will consist of four discs each containing 14 cartoons and various supplements. The Looney Tunes Premier Collection (consisting of discs three and four of the Golden Collection) will also be available. The titles included on each disc are as follows:

Disc One (Bugs Bunny) - 1. Baseball Bugs 2. Rabbit Seasoning 3. Long-Haired Hare 4. High Diving Hare 5. Bully for Bugs 6. What's Up Doc? 7. Rabbit's Kin 8. Water, Water Every Hare 9. Big House Bunny 10. Big Top Bunny 11. My Bunny Lies Over the Sea 12. Wabbit Twouble 13. Ballot Box Bunny 14. Rabbit of Seville

Disc Two (Daffy & Porky) - 1. Duck Amuck 2. Dough for the Do-Do 3. Drip-Along Daffy 4. Scaredy Cat 5. The Ducksters 6. The Scarlet Pumpernickel 7. Yankee Doodle Daffy 8. Porky Chops 9. Wearing of the Grin 10. Deduce, You Say 11. Boobs in the Woods 12. Golden Yeggs 13. Rabbit Fire 14. Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century

Disc Three (All Stars) - 1. Elmer's Candid Camera 2. Bugs Bunny and the 3 Bears 3. Fast and Furry-ous 4. Hair-Raising Hare 5. The Awful Orphan 6. Haredevil Hair 7. For Scent-imental Reasons 8. Frigid Hare 9. The Hypo-condricat 10. Baton Bunny 11. Feed the Kitty 12. Don't Give Up the Sheep 13. Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid 14. Tortoise Wins by a Hare

Disc Four (All Stars) - 1. Canary Row 2. Bunker Hill Bunny 3. Kit for Cat 4. Putty Tat Twouble 5. Bugs and Thugs 6. Canned Feud 7. Lumber Jerks 8. Speedy Gonzales 9. Tweety's S.O.S. 10. The Foghorn Leghorn 11. Daffy Duck Hunt 12. Early to Bet 13. Broken Leghorn 14. Devil May Hare

Confirming earlier news, due on October 21st from WB are The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953, fullscreen), The Valley of Gwangi (1969, anamorphic), and The Black Scorpion (1957, fullscreen) all with featurettes and trailers added. Then on November 4th, great news for Bogart fans. We'll get Dark Passage (1947), High Sierra (1941), They Drive by Night (1940), and To Have and Have Not (1944), each with new transfers, making-of featurettes, outtakes, vintage cartoons, and so on.

The results of the online poll that WB conducted indicate that on January 6th, 2004, the following films will be released on DVD: Days of Wine and Roses (1962), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Where the Boys Are (1960), and The Wind and the Lion (1975). The films will be newly remastered and restored. Extras have not yet been announced, but Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will include both the 1932 Paramount and 1941 MGM versions.

Columbia has announced an August 19th release date for Cover Girl (1944) with Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth. It will sport the company's usual high definition remaster, but will have minimal supplements. On September 9th, we'll get a superbit edition of Lawrence of Arabia and a David Lean 3-pack consisting of a repackaging of Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and A Passage to India. For September 23rd release, In Cold Blood (1967) and The Bedford Incident (1965) will get new anamorphic widescreen transfers. Trailers will be the only extras.

Disney has confirmed the December 2nd release of the third wave of its Walt Disney Treasures line. Titles are: The Chronological Donald, Walt Disney on the Front Lines, Walt Disney's Tomorrowland, and Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume 2. The Chronological Donald presents all of the 36 shorts starring Donald from Donald and Pluto in 1936 to Chef Donald in 1941. Mickey Mouse In Living Color, Volume 2 covers 21 Mickey shorts from 1939 to 1995. Walt Disney on the Front Lines documents the 32 training, propaganda and educational films Walt created over the years, as well as his contributions to the war effort. Finally, Walt Disney's Tomorrowland is a compilation of the six Disneyland TV episodes that focused on outer space and space travel.

Fox's previously announced September 2nd release of Titanic (1953) as part of its Studio Classics line will feature a remastered transfer along with an audio commentary, new documentary, movietone newsreels, restoration comparison, still gallery, and the theatrical trailer. Fox will apparently release a box set called Studio Classics: The Best Picture Collection on October 14th. This will include All About Eve, Gentleman's Agreement, How Green Was My Valley, and Sunrise. For 2004, Fox is in the very early planning stages for a 35th anniversary edition of Planet of the Apes (1969). Titles rumoured to be in Fox's plans for the future (2004) include The Black Swan, Call Me Madam, Cheaper by the Dozen and its sequel Belles on their Toes, The Diary of Anne Frank, I Was a Male War Bride, and Peyton Place.

MGM will issue a new two-disc special edition of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) on November 25th. This new 35th Anniversary Edition includes a remastered anamorphic widescreen version, a new documentary hosted by star Dick Van Dyke, archival cast interviews and a number of other features including a 32-page collectible booklet.

Paramount has announced the Albert Finney version of Scrooge (1970) for a September 23rd release with a new anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. The film's original stereo mix will also be included. On October 28th, The Italian Job (1969) is scheduled. The rumoured Once Upon a Time in the West: Special Collector's Edition (1968) is apparently set for November. Disc One will include the 165-minute version of the film, in anamorphic widescreen video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, a cleaned-up mono mix, and an audio commentary track. Disc Two will include three documentaries on the film, along with a shorter piece on the impact of the railroad in the Old West. The three main documentaries cover such subjects as director Sergio Leone's career, background on the film, the writing and casting process, the location shoot, the style of the film (both cinematographically and other), the film's impact on the Western genre and more. Also featured in the documentary are new interviews with John Carpenter, John Milius, Alex Cox, Claudia Cardinale, Bernardo Bertolucci, Gabriele Ferzetti, cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli, Leone biographer, film historian Sir. Christopher Frayling (author of the excellent book Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death) and more. Also apparently in the works are The Out-of-Towners (1970), The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972), Plaza Suite (1971), and Star Spangled Girl (1971) for November. For December, The Great Gatsby (1974), Hud (1963), and This Property is Condemned (1966) are likely.

Universal has taken the hint and will release the original version of Scarface (1932) along with a new special edition of the vastly inferior Al Pacino Scarface remake (1983) on September 30th. But, in a move of monumental stupidity and a definite slap in the face to classic film fans, the original version will apparently only be available in a deluxe gift set that includes both films and retails at a ridiculous price.

As for the independents...

Criterion will offer Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water (1962) on September 23rd. It will include a new high-definition fullscreen transfer, Polish DD 1.0 mono audio, new English subtitle translation by Roman Polanski, a video interview with Polanski and co-screenwriter Jerzy Skolimowski, and collection of rare publicity and production stills. On the same date, Criterion will also release The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941). The disc will offer a new high-definition fullscreen transfer, DD mono audio, an audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder and author Steven C. Smith, a video comparison between The Devil and Daniel Webster and William Dieterle's preview version of the film titled Here Is a Man, the Columbia Workshop's radio dramatizations of Stephen Vincent Benét's stories The Devil and Daniel Webster and Daniel Webster and the Sea Serpent both with music by Bernard Herrmann, a gallery of behind-the-scenes photos and promotional materials, and a new essay by author Tom Piazza (Blues and Trouble: Twelve Stories).

Elite will add a third release to its "Drive-in" discs line on August 5th with the double bill of I Bury the Living (1958, with Richard Boone) and The Hand (1960, with Derek Farr). There will also be film shorts and other drive-in extras included.

Image Entertainment will offer a triple bill of The Atomic Brain (1963), Love After Death (1968), and The Incredible Petrified World (1960) on September 16th. Four Frank Capra-directed science documentaries combining live and animated footage will be released on two discs on September 30th. The titles are Frank Capra's Wonders of Life: Hemo the Magnificent/Unchained Goddess (1956) and Frank Capra's Wonders of Life: Our Mr. Sun/Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957). Two previously-announced titles in the Gene Autry Collection are confirmed for September 30th: Gaucho Serenade (1940) and Robin Hood of Texas (1947).

Koch International released two box sets on July 22nd. The Laurel and Hardy Collection will consist of 5 discs, but exact content is not known to me. It will presumably consist of the usual public domain titles. The Bob Hope 100th Anniversary Set will include Road to Bali, My Favourite Brunette, Bob Hope on TV, Bob Hope at the Movies, Young Bob Hope, and Bob Hope and Friends. The latter four are presumably all compilations, and likely originally developed for TV.

Milestone (via Image) will release a new two-disc set of 1925 classic The Phantom of the Opera on September 9th. This newly-remastered edition is from a new 35mm print, complete with the restored Technicolor masked ball sequence. The set will include both the original 1925 110-minute version with score by Jon Mirsalis and the 1929 98 minute reedit with a stereo soundtrack by Carl Davis and the original mono theatrical track. Other extras include an audio commentary by film historian Scott MacQueen, the Carla Laemmle Remembers featurette, nine additional dialogue sequences from the 1929 version, interviews with cinematographer Charles Van Enger and historian David Skal, the Faust Opera Extract from the 1929 Tiffany Sound Feature presentation, and still galleries detailing deleted and missing scenes and trailers for both he 1925 and 1930 releases.

Alpha Video has its usual storm of releases, this time for August 19th and September 16th. Rather than go through a lengthy list of the titles (some of which duplicate titles available from other public domain specialists), I suggest that you check them out for yourselves in the date base or at www.oldies.com. There are some seldom-seen films that may be of interest such as the 1934 version of The Scarlet Letter (with Colleen Moore), Hell's House (1932, with Bette Davis), and Shriek in the Night (1933, with Ginger Rogers). Once again, though, with Alpha it's buyer beware as to transfer quality.

With regard to older television series, A&E Home Video has announced The Saint Megaset for release on July 29th. This is a 14-DVD set featuring all 47 colour episodes (1966-1968) of the Roger Moore series. Bonus features include original trailers, the history of The Saint, a Moore biography/filmography, and still galleries. Paramount releases I Love Lucy: Season One, Volume 9 on September 23rd and The Honeymooners: The Original TV Series on October 28th. Among Alpha Video's August and September offerings there are a couple of discs of episodes from the original Dragnet series, one disc of episodes from the One Step Beyond series, and some Jack Benny Show and Racket Squad material.

In R2 news, a new label from BBC Worldwide, "Partner Entertainment", launched on June 30th with the release of 6 classic movies: The Day of the Triffids (1962, with Howard Keel), Fiend without a Face (1958, with Marshall Thompson), Magic Town (1947, with James Stewart), The Stars Look Down (1939, with Michael Redgrave), Thunder Rock (1942, with Michael Redgrave), and The Young Stranger (1957, with James MacArthur). A Fistful of Dynamite will appear from MGM on July 12th. Warners will release an On the Buses DVD triple feature on August 4th. On the Buses (1971), Mutiny on the Buses (1972), and Holiday on the Buses (1973) are included. On the same date, Warners will also have two other double feature discs. The first combines Steptoe and Son (1971) and Steptoe and Son Ride Again (1972) while the second combines two Frankie Howerd films Up Pompeii (1971) and Up the Chastity Belt (1971). On August 25th, Anchor Bay U.K. will release the Roman Polanski Box Set, which will include Cul de Sac, Knife in the Water, Repulsion, and a collection of Polanski short films. The latter will probably be available exclusively in the box set while the others will also be available individually. Eureka Video will release the 1920 version of Der Golem on September 22nd, fully restored and remastered. Artificial Eye is apparently planning to release several Robert Bresson films in the future, but there are no content or timing details as yet. Included will be A Man Escaped (1957) and possibly Pickpocket (1959), as well as a few post-1970 titles.

Well that's it for now. I'll be back with another column soon, but in the meantime, enjoy the summer.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com


Barrie Maxwell - Main Page
E-mail the Bits!

Please visit our sponsors!
Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2002 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com