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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Hello everyone. I've been busy working on reviews of several box sets including the latest western collections from Warners, some film noir from VCI, and horror from Fox, but none are completely finished yet. So rather than hold the latest release news any further, I present this abbreviated new-announcements-only edition of Classic Coming Attractions. The next edition of the column should appear, with the aforementioned reviews and more, in two weeks time at most. Note that the classics release database has been updated to reflect the latest announcements.


New Announcements

I'm starting off this new announcements section with several bits of release news that all reflect an annoying trend - the inclusion of previously-released titles in sets along with new releases that are only available in the sets. This forces collectors who want the new titles to either double dip or forego the titles entirely, at least until hopefully the new titles get a separate release at some undefined future date. The current chief culprits of this odious practice are Universal and MGM with Fox implicated somewhat because of their association with the latter. Even Warner Bros., who declared it would not indulge in the practice, has gone back on its word with the forthcoming November 11th re-release of the WHV Holiday Collection Volume 1 that will now include The Singing Nun. Now don't get me wrong - some of the releases I'm going to mention are very worthy and will be welcomed by some, but the studios could have made everyone happy by making the titles not previously released also available as separate releases at the same time.

One of Universal's current additions to this nonsense is the October 28th release of Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection. This will finally include It Ain't Hay (1943), the only Universal A&C title not previously released, but it won't be available separately. Yes, the other 27 films [One Night in the Tropics (1940), Buck Privates (1941), In the Navy (1941), Hold That Ghost (1941), Keep 'Em Flying (1941), Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942), Pardon My Sarong (1942), Who Done It? (1942), Hit the Ice (1943), In Society (1944), Here Come the Co-Eds (1945), The Naughty Nineties (1945), Little Giant (1946), The Time of Their Lives (1946), Buck Privates Come Home (1947), The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Mexican Hayride (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949), Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Comin' Round the Mountain (1951), Lost in Alaska (1952), Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953), Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953), Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)] will all apparently be remastered and no longer delivered on the reviled double-sided DVD-18 discs, but many of them already looked great and fans shouldn't have to re-buy them to get the one film they don't have. That aside, this new release will offer collectible trunk packaging, six audio commentaries, an exclusive book "Abbott & Costello: The Universal Story", 20 original theatrical trailers, production notes, and a bonus disc containing The World of Abbott & Costello, Abbott & Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld, and Abbott & Costello Meet the Monsters. The set is priced at $120.

A second Universal release that is in the same vein is a 7-disc set planned for November 4th - The Gregory Peck Film Collection. Once again we get two films already out on DVD - To Kill a Mockingbird (SE) and the 1962 Cape Fear, but at least the rest are all new - Arabesque (1966), Mirage (1965), Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), and The World in His Arms (1952). The only extra with the four new titles apparently will be a trailer for The World in His Arms. The new titles will only be available in the set, which will retail at $60.

MGM has one of its entries in this dubious sweepstakes with the Pink Panther Ultimate Collection, coming on November 25th. It will contain nine films (The Pink Panther Collector's Edition, A Shot in the Dark, Inspector Clouseau, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Revenge of the Pink Panther, Trail of the Pink Panther, Curse of the Pink Panther, Son of the Pink Panther, and The Pink Panther [2006]); nine Pink Panther cartoon collections; and the Pink Panther encyclopedia, "Pink Panther: The Ultimate Guide to the Coolest Cat in Town!" written by Jerry Beck. The one new title in this set, sort of, is a new collector's edition of the original The Pink Panther. It contains over 60 minutes of never-before-seen footage, but it'll only be available in the set. The price? How about $200.

Taking the prize, however, is MGM's announcement of a November 11th release of the Hollywood Musicals Collection. It's a 50-film, 61-disc set of musical titles culled from the MGM and Fox catalogues. Sounds great, except that 48 of the films have been previously released on DVD. I won't bother to list them all, but suffice it to say that they include the likes of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, a bunch of Elvis Presley titles, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, some 1930s/40s Fox titles, etc. Only two are new and of course they're ones that fans have been requesting for ages - Eddie Cantor's Kid Millions and Whoopee! So far, there's no indication that either will be available other than in the set. The set's price? - a cool $500. The only new supplement is a set of 50 postcard reproductions of the original theatrical one-sheets.

And now, here's the rest of the new announcements. Note that beginning with this column, I am integrating classic Blu-ray release news with the standard DVD release news.

Criterion's latest newsletter hints that Douglas Sirk's Magnificent Obsession (1954) is in the company's release plans. Such hints usually come to fruition within about 6 months of appearing. Let's hope that the 1935 version is also included. Meanwhile, the company's November plans include Fanfan la tulipe (1952, with Gérard Philipe) on November 18th and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965, with Richard Burton) on November 25th. The former will include a new video program about actor Gérard Philipe, a clip from the colourized version of the film, the theatrical trailer, and a booklet featuring a new essay by Kenneth Turan and an excerpt from Georges Sadoul's monograph on Philipe. The latter film (part of Criterion's arrangement with Paramount) will arrive in a two-disc edition featuring new interviews with author John Le Carré and cinematographer Oswald Morris, The Secret Center: John Le Carré (2000) - a BBC documentary on the author's extraordinary life and work, "Acting in the '60s: Richard Burton" - a 1967 interview with the BBC's Kenneth Tynan examining the actor's performances and accomplishments, a gallery of set designs, the theatrical trailer, and a booklet featuring a new essay by critic Michael Sragow and a reprinted interview with director Martin Ritt. Canadians interested in these films should note that Fanfan la tulipe will be a U.S. release only, as presumably there is a different rights holder for the title in Canada. Criterion has also announced that The Third Man will be released on Blu-ray on November 18th. (The release is a U.S.-only one.) Content and price will be the same as on the previous Criterion standard DVD release.

Disney is reporting that the planned release of Destino as part of this fall's Walt Disney Treasures wave has been postponed. It was an unfinished animated feature film created by Walt Disney and surrealist painter Salvador Dali, begun in 1946 and rediscovered in 2003 and completed by Walt's nephew, Roy Disney. Destino will now be released in 2010 as part of the recently announced program of additions to the studio's Platinum Collection of animated features. The other additions will be Pinocchio (standard DVD and Blu-ray, coming in spring 2009); Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (standard DVD and Blu-ray, coming in fall 2009); and Fantasia (standard DVD and Blu-ray, coming in 2010).

Flicker Alley has now set November 18th as the release date for its 5 disc set Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer. Included are eleven features that Fairbanks starred in during the 1916-1921 period: His Picture in the Papers (1916), The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916), Flirting With Fate (1916), The Matrimaniac (1916), Wild and Woolly (1917), Reaching for the Moon (1917), A Modern Musketeer (1918), When the Clouds Roll By (1919), The Mollycoddle (1920), The Mark of Zorro (1920), and The Nut (1921). Many of the titles are mastered from 35mm or original-negative sources and supplements will include a photo gallery and original pressbook material reproductions.

The uncertainties raised about Fox's release of Boomerang in my previous column have been allayed, the title having now shipped in North America. Note that it retains the spine number 16 from the originally announced release that was pulled at the last moment a couple of years ago. The other two titles in the current wave (Road House, Moontide) sport no spine numbers at all. Meanwhile, Fox has started to provide news on its December releases. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Special Edition) is set for the 2nd. Content has not yet been announced, but presumably will at least contain all that on the original release (included audio commentary by Robert Wise and the 70-minute Making the Earth Stand Still documentary). December 9th is the date for Fox's Murnau/Borzage Box Set (not necessarily the final title). Content detail so far is pretty much restricted to the titles (Sunrise, City Girl, Lazybones, Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, The River, Lucky Star, They Had to See Paris, Song O' My Heart, Liliom, After Tomorrow, Young America) and the inclusion of a bonus documentary. Retail price will be $240. Classic TV fans of The Mary Tyler Moore Show will be glad to know that Fox has indicated that it will be releasing the series' final three seasons. (The first four arrived during 2002-2006.) No concrete release dates have been revealed as yet, however.

Kino will release a new two-disc edition of Buster Keaton's The General (1927) on November 11th. It is mastered in HD from a 35mm archive print struck from the original camera negative (which begs the question, why does not Kino do a Blu-ray release while it's at it). Anyway, supplements will include: three different musical scores (music composed and conducted by Carl Davis and performed by The Thames Silents Orchestra [in 5.1 Stereo Surround or 2.0 Stereo], music arranged and directed by Robert Israel, and theatre organ score by Lee Erwin; video tour of the authentic General, presented in association with The Southern Museum; tour of the filming locations, presented by John Bengtson, author of "Silent Echoes"; behind-the-scenes home movie footage; filmed introduction by Gloria Swanson; filmed introduction by Orson Welles; and "The Buster Express," a brisk montage of train gags from throughout Keaton's career. Also coming on the 11th is Little Fugitive: Special DVD Edition (1953).

Lionsgate will release Little House on the Prairie: Complete Set on November 4th. This will include 60 discs containing all 9 seasons and 3 movies, as well as three discs of special features (no details yet available). Coming on November 11th is The Director's Series: Roberto Rossellini 2-Disc Collector's Edition. It will contain Era Notte a Roma (Escape by Night) (1960) and Dov'e La Liberta? (Where Is Freedom?) (1954).

On October 7th, Paramount will release TV Sets: Holiday Treats, a compilation of eight holiday-themed shows from a selection of popular TV series ranging from I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners to Frasier. On November 11th, the studio will introduce the first three entries in its new Centennial Collection - new two-disc editions of each of Sunset Boulevard (1950), Roman Holiday (1953), and Sabrina (1954). There will be appreciable new supplementary content for each title, but it's not clear yet whether new transfers are involved. Also unknown more generally is Paramount's intent with this new collection. For example, of principal interest to classic enthusiasts is whether any previously unreleased titles are going to appear, such as - dare one ask - The African Queen. Mind you, it wasn't a Paramount release originally, so wouldn't really fit the bill if the series is meant to be a celebration of the studio's own productions. Paramount will also offer Petticoat Junction: The Official First Season (‘official' no doubt being an allusion to MPI's previous partial release of the first season) on December 16th.

ReelClassicDVD.com has just announced a new release - a new special edition of The Birth of a Nation (1915). It's apparently derived from a brand new digital transfer, presented in B&W without tints, and features a new organ score by Ben Model.

Providing further impetus to Sony's increased commitment to the classics is the news that Martin Scorsese's The Film Foundation has partnered with Sony to bring a variety of classic films to DVD. Films will be released under the "Collector's Choice" banner and include restored and remastered transfers of previously unreleased titles from the Sony catalog. Hollywood talent will contribute commentaries and introductions in films that have inspired their own work. The first release will be the previously announced The Films of Budd Boetticher, a boxed set of five Westerns that will arrive on November 4th. The set includes The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome, and Comanche Station, all released theatrically between 1957 and 1960, and will feature introductions and commentary from a trio of Oscar-winning directors inspired by Boetticher's work: Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Taylor Hackford. Sony and The Film Foundation will continue their alliance with several upcoming DVD sets, including a Michael Powell double feature (presumably finally including A Matter of Life and Death) as well as Rita Hayworth, Frank Capra, William Castle and film noir collections. These releases have been previously mentioned to enthusiasts in various correspondence with Sony's Mike Schlesinger.

Timeless Media has upgraded its M Squad release to The Complete Series, having located the missing episodes. The 15 disc set (117 episodes) will now be released on November 11th (instead of September 23rd) and will also include a bonus CD "The Music of M Squad".

In the previous edition of this column, I mentioned Warner Bros.' release of the double bill of World Without End and Satellite in the Sky on July 29th as a Best Buy exclusive. Please note that there were two other double bills released similarly - Moon Zero Two/When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (both 1970, the latter the uncut version) and Battle Beneath the Earth (1967)/The Ultimate Warrior (1975). Note also that the Best Buy exclusive on all three double bills will end when they get wide release from Warners on October 7th. On the same date, however, there'll be two new Best Buy exclusives from Warner. This time it's two horror double bills - The Brides of Fu Manchu/Chamber of Horrors (both 1966) and The Shuttered Room/It! (both 1967). Western fans should be aware that the SE and UCE DVD and Blu-ray releases of How the West Was Won have been delayed from August 26th to September 9th. Also delayed is Popeye the Sailor: Volume 3, 1941-1943 - from September 30th to November 4th.

Well, once again that's all for now. I'll return again soon.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com

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