BD Reviews (Continued)
Scripted by Stanley Kubrick from Lionel White's novel "Clean Break", The Killing (1956) essentially put Kubrick on the map as a director after his earlier effort Killer's Kiss (1955) suggested some promise.
Both films have now been committed to Blu-ray by Criterion in a single release on which The Killing takes precedence and Killer's Kiss gets added in as a supplement. The Killing is, of course, Kubrick's case study of a racetrack heist gone awry complete with one of Kubrick's favourite themes - how the inate fallibility of humans and their contrivances work to defeat human endeavors. Buttressed by voice-over narration and featuring a time-hopping story line, the entertaining film noir features the likes of Hollywood character stalwarts such as Sterling Hayden, Vince Edwards, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr., Timothy Carey, Joe Sawyer, Jay C. Flippen, and Ted de Corsia. Then there are the film's many memorable images and characters including Sterling Hayden's clown mask, Elisha Cook Jr.'s obsequious betting teller, and Timothy Carey's smiling sharpshooter. Criterion's black and white HD transfer is marvelous. It offers a nicely-detailed gray scale enhanced by deep blacks and consistent image sharpness and depth throughout. Framing is at 1.66:1 consistent with the original theatrical projection. Moderate grain is evident throughout and there is no evidence of significant digital manipulation. The mono LPCM audio delivers clean dialogue and a sense of dynamism in the shootout sequences. English subtitles are provided. The chief supplement is the aforementioned Killer's Kiss, presented full frame in HD. The transfer looks almost as good as that for The Killing, although there is not quite the same level of consistency in image sharpness. The audio is delivered in Dolby Digital mono and does a decent job although some background hiss is sometimes apparent. There are English subtitles also for Killer's Kiss. Other supplements include a recent interview with The Killing's producer James Harris, archival interviews of Sterling Hayden for 1980s French TV, an interview with author Robert Polito on Jim Thompson who penned dialogue for The Killing, a video appreciation of Killer's Kiss by film critic Geoffrey O'Brien, trailers for both The Killing and Killer's Kiss, and a 22-page booklet including an essay by film historian Haden Guest and a reprinted interview with actress Marie Windsor. Highly recommended.
Alpha Video has 18 classic releases scheduled for September 27th. They include: Abraham Lincoln (1930, Walter Huston); Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet - Christmas Collection (8 episodes); Air Eagles (1935, Norman Kerry); Brilliant Marriage (1936, Joan Marsh); Call of the Coyote (1934, Pat Carlyle)/The Cisco Kid (1950, Duncan Renaldo); Cavalcade of the West/Swifty (1936/1935, both Hoot Gibson); Gun Smoke (1935, Buck Coburn); Happiness C.O.D. (1935, Donald Meek); Pioneers of the West (1927, Dick Carter)/Flashing Steeds (1925, Bill Patton); Sex (1920, Louise Glaum); Taming the Wild (1936, Rod La Rocque); The Trouble with Father, Volume 6 (4 episodes); The Unashamed (1938, Rae Kidd); Under Montana Skies (1930, Kenneth Harlan); Lost Western Classics - Ridin' Gents (1934, Jack Perrin)/The Masked Rider (1945, Tex Ritter)/Galloping On (1935, Wally Wales); The Virginian (1923, Kenneth Harlan); and Wings of Adventure (1930, Rex Lease).
Criterion's November slate will include a Blu-ray upgrade of Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game (1939, Marcel Dalio) on the 15th. On November 22nd, expect Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men (1957, Henry Fonda) on both Blu-ray and DVD. Finally, November 29th will bring Eclipse Series 30: Sabu! containing Elephant Boy (1937), The Drum (1938), and Jungle Book (1942) on DVD only. In December, Criterion will offer both Blu-ray and 2-disc DVD editions of Ernst Lubitsch's Design for Living (1933, Fredric March) on the 6th. Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938, Margaret Lockwood) arrives on Blu-ray on the same date. It will include Crook's Tour (a 1941 adventure film starring Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne as Charters and Caldicott, their beloved characters from The Lady Vanishes) as a supplement. Two of Seijin Suzuki's 1960s films - Branded to Kill (1967) and Tokyo Drifter (1966) - will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD on December 13th.
Entertainment One (eOne) collaborates with The Archive of American Television to deliver two releases of golden-age TV's Play of the Week to DVD on September 20th. Coming are Play of the Week: The World of Sholom Aleichem and Play of the Week: The Dybbuk. The shows were originally telecast in 1959 and 1960 respectively, the former featuring Zero Mostel, Lee Grant, Jack Gilford, Morris Carnovsky, and Sam Levene and drawn from Arnold Perl's 1953 Off-Broadway play based on Aleichem's tales of Jewish life in the ghettos of eastern Europe. The Dybbuk, one of the most famous works of Yiddish theater and cinema, was directed by Sidney Lumet and starred Carol Lawrence. October 25th will bring the release of the Robert Wagner 1968-70 TV series It Takes a Thief: The Complete Series. The set will deliver all 66 episodes on 18 discs with extras including an extended feature-length version of the Pilot Episode; The King of Thieves - an interview with Robert Wagner; A Matter of Larceny - an interview with Glen A. Larson; a limited edition senitype (reproduced 35mm film frame); It Takes a Thief exclusive 4-Piece Coaster Set; and a collectible booklet with retrospective essay.
Flicker Alley will release Landmarks of Early Soviet Film on September 27th. The 4-disc DVD set will contain 8 films from the Soviet silent era and all are new to DVD. Titles include: Sergei M. Eisenstein's last silent and seldom seen Old and New (1929), Dziga Vertov's Stride, Soviet (1926), Victor Turin's Turksib (1930), Esther Shub's The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927), Boris Barnet's The House on Trubnaya (1928), Lev Kuleshov's The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924) and By the Law (1926), and Mikhail Kalatozov's Salt for Svanetia (1930).
Fox has set September 6th as the release date for Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971, Dustin Hoffman, Susan George) on Blu-ray. Even better, 1970's Tora! Tora! Tora! will come to Blu-ray on December 6th. Delivered in Blu-ray book packaging, the release will feature the extended "Japanese cut" containing 10 minutes of previously unreleased footage and rare photos from the Fox archives. Then in a distinct surprise, Fox will reportedly offer Stars and Stripes Forever (1952, Clifton Webb) on Blu-ray on December 13th. (A DVD version is included with the BD.) Several bonus features will focus on John Philip Sousa's contribution to American music. And finally, news from abroad strongly suggests that a Blu-ray of Cleopatra (1965, Elizabeth Taylor) is in Fox's plans for a very early 2012 North American release.
Grapevine Video has four silent offerings for August: Miss Bluebeard (1925, Bebe Daniels), The Jack-Knife Man (1920, F.A. Turner), Hoodoo Ann (1916, Mae Marsh), and The Mad Whirl (1925, May McAvoy). Sound offerings will come as three double features: Millie/Indiscreet (1931, Helen Twelvetrees/1931, Gloria Swanson); Mystery Liner/Night Alarm (1934, Noah Beery/1934, Bruce Cabot); and the Bob Custer Talkie Double Feature (Law of the Rio Grande/Quick Trigger Lee - both 1931). September will bring four more silent titles and two sound double bills. The silents are The Calgary Stampede (1925, Hoot Gibson), Barbara Frietchie (1924, Florence Vidor), Isn't Life Wonderful (1924, D.W. Griffith), and Piccadilly (1929, Anna May Wong). Sound releases include the 1930 double bill of Canyon Hawks (Yakima Canutt) and Phantom of the Desert (Jack Perrin), and a Reginald Denny 1935 double bill of The Lady in Scarlet and Midnight Phantom.
Image Entertainment will release The Phantom of the Opera (1925, Lon Chaney) on Blu-ray on November 1st. The presentation will be that of the 1929 reissue version which includes an early 2-colour Technicolor sequence. Bonus features are not yet known. On November 8th, expect The Collector (1965, Terence Stamp) on Blu-ray. It's one of director William Wyler's final films.
Kino Lorber has indicated that having cleared the music rights, the Giorgio Moroder version of Metropolis (1927) will come to Blu-ray in either late-2011 or early 2012. That release will follow a very limited theatrical run beginning in October. Kino is releasing the 1922 silent version of Sherlock Holmes starring John Barrymore on Blu-ray and Seven Chances: Ultimate Edition (1925, Buster Keaton) on both Blu-ray and DVD on December 13th. Then we'll get the original 1932 Best Picture-nominated version of A Farewell to Arms on Blu-ray and DVD and Nothing Sacred (1937, Fredric March) on Blu-ray and DVD on December 20th. A Farewell to Arms and Nothing Sacred are both mastered from original 35mm nitrite prints and are authorized by the estate of David O. Selznick.
Lionsgate will bring Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974, Gene Hackman) to Blu-ray on October 25th. Extras will include: never-before-seen screen tests, an on-location retrospective featurette, archival audio, all-new interviews with Coppola and composer David Shire as well as archival footage, audio commentaries, a making-of featurette, a short film, marketing gallery, and trailer.
MGM's The Big Country (1958, Gregory Peck) on Blu-ray and The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three (1974, Robert Shaw) on Blu-ray, previously Walmart exclusives, will both see wide release on November 1st.
The Milton Caniff Estate will complete the delivery of the Steve Canyon live-action TV series on DVD with the release of The Complete Steve Canyon on TV, Volume 3 on November 14th. It will be a 2-disc set containing the 1958-59 series' final 10 episodes.
MPI's recent announcement of the October 4th release of The Honeymooners Lost Episodes: The Complete Restored Series turns out to be a most impressive package. As reported at tvshowsondvd.com, the 60th anniversary set will include: 15 DVD set of the complete existing collection of all Honeymooners skits produced from 1951-1957; approximately 50 hours of material, including over 10 hours of Honeymooners productions not seen since the 1950s; first-time-ever home video release of the 8 sought-after 1957 Honeymooners musical hours not seen anywhere in over 5 decades; first-time-ever home video release of half-a-dozen other Honeymooners skits from The Jackie Gleason Show recently found in the vaults; first-time-ever DVD appearance of 8 surviving Honeymooners skits from the 1951-1952 Cavalcade of Stars variety show; digital restoration by the UCLA Film & Television Archive; and a deluxe 42 page booklet with full Honeymooners history and rare photos, compiled by Honeymooners expert Robert Bader. The Donna Reed Show: Season 4 is set for a December 20th release.
Coming on November 1st from Paramount on Blu-ray will be the It's a Wonderful Life (1946, James Stewart) Gift Set. Packaged in a striking shadow box, the set will contain a two-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray with the original, fully restored black-and-white movie in high definition and a colorized version of the film in high definition, as well as The Making of It's a Wonderful Life, a documentary featurette hosted by Tom Bosley, and the original theatrical trailer. The set also includes an exclusive bell ornament and a commemorative booklet. Also on November 1st, we'll get more TV: Rawhide: The 4th Season, Volume 2 in a 4-disc set and The Fugitive: The Complete Series - Most Wanted Edition, a 33-disc set that includes a bonus music CD. Early indications suggest that Little Big Man (1970, Dustin Hoffman) and My Fair Lady (1964, Rex Harrison) will make it to Blu-ray from Paramount on November 8th and 15th respectively. The rights to release My Fair Lady on home video were previously held by Warner Bros. One October release I've previously overlooked is Albert Finney's Scrooge (1970), coming on Blu-ray on October 11th. Finally November 22nd should see the arrival of Perry Mason: The Sixth Season, Volume 2 and Gunsmoke: Season 5, Volume 2 will arrive on December 13th.
Mr. Magoo: The Television Collection 1960-1977 is coming from Shout! Factory on November 8th. It will be an 11-DVD set comprising the 68 episodes that made up all three Magoo shows that aired during the 1960-1977 period plus the 1970 telefilm Uncle Sam Magoo.
Sony provides the welcome news finally that The Guns of Navarone (1961, Gregory Peck) will be released on Blu-ray on October 18th as a 50th anniversary edition. The release will feature an extensive 4K digital restoration from the original camera negative, the same process Sony used for Dr. Strangelove, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Taxi Driver. Extras will include: audio commentary with director J. Lee Thompson, audio commentary with film historian Stephen J. Rubin, the narration-free prologue, the roadshow intermission, the Memories of Navarone retrospective documentary and many featurettes and vintage newsreels (including The Greek Resistance, The Old School Wizardry of The Guns of Navarone, World War II and the Greek Islands, The Real World of Guns of Navarone, The Navarone Effect, Military Fact or Fiction, Forging the Guns of Navarone: Notes from the Set, Ironic Epic of Heroism, Epic Restoration, A Heroic Score, Message from Carl Foreman, Great Guns, No Visitors, Honeymoon on Rhodes and Two Girls On The Town). Columbia's The Caine Mutiny (1954, Humphrey Bogart) will see a wide release on Blu-ray on December 6th.
TCM and Universal collaborate on the double feature release of Back Street (1941, Margaret Sullavan) and Back Street (1961, Susan Hayward), coming as part of TCM's Vault collection on September 26th. Typically these releases first appear as pressed discs, later becoming MOD versions once the pressed stock is depleted. So first come, first served for those who wish pressed-disc versions. Then TCM begins a similar collaboration with Sony with the addition of the Jean Arthur Comedy Collection to the TCM Vault on October 17th. The four-disc set will include: The Public Menace (1935), Adventures in Manhattan (1936), More Than a Secretary (1936), and The Impatient Years (1944). It's not known if the first run of this title will be pressed discs or not.
Destry: The Complete Series, a western series believed lost and which Timeless Media Group is bringing to DVD on September 6th, is being mastered from original prints of the 13 hour-long episodes recently found in the Universal vaults. The release will consist of 4 discs and includes a biography of series star John Gavin. On October 25th, Timeless will release: Wagon Train: The Complete Fourth Season; The Virginian: The Complete Fifth Season; The Men from Shiloh (The Virginian: The Final Season); and Tales of Wells Fargo: The Complete Seasons 1 & 2.
Twilight Time has Inferno (1953, Robert Ryan) in its plans for an eventual release. There's no date set as yet, however. More concrete Twilight Time news, however, comes in the form of the announcement that the specialty label has struck a deal with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment to license and release classic films from the Sony-owned Columbia Pictures library in high-definition Blu-ray editions. In line with Twilight Time's innovative limited series concept, just 3000 units of each title will be produced, aimed at the collector/classic film aficionado market, and available exclusively online through www.screenarchives.com, the largest U.S. independent distributor of specialty soundtracks. The November 8th Blu-ray debut of director Cy Enfield's and special effects master Ray Harryhausen's 1961 science fiction/fantasy classic, Mysterious Island, will be followed by a new release on the first Tuesday of each month. Some of the other titles planned for the near future (through the early part of 2012) are Picnic, Bell Book and Candle, Pal Joey, Bite the Bullet, Major Dundee, and The Big Heat. Meanwhile, in the label's regular series of Fox DVD releases on the second Tuesday of the month, My Cousin Rachel (1952, Olivia De Havilland) was released on September 13th and Stagecoach (1966, Bing Crosby) is planned for October 11th. In the pipeline also are The Left Hand of God (1955, Humphrey Bogart) and Rapture (1965, Dean Stockwell).
Universal has officially set The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 1 for DVD release on November 29th. The 6-disc set should be identical to the discs in the previous, exclusive Time/Life edition, including 13 episodes, all 3 made-for-TV movies and 2 hours worth of bonus additional content.
VCI will have three more DVD releases in its Rank Collection for October 18th: Reach for the Sky (1956, Kenneth More), The Silver Fleet (1943, Ralph Richardson), and The History of Mr. Polly (1949, John Mills). On October 11th, Survive! (1976, Hugo Stiglitz) will be available (including the Mexican release version 26 min. longer that the American release version). November 1st will see several Christmas offerings from VCI including A Christmas Carol: 60th Anniversary Diamond Edition that will arrive as a Blu-ray/DVD combo. The Alistair Sim film will sport a new HD transfer along with over 2 hours of new HD supplements and over 2 hours of carryover SD supplements. Coming on November 15th will be Santa Claus (a 1959 Mexican film) offered on both a Blu-ray version and an anamorphic DVD version, each of which will include both the original Spanish-language version of the film as well as an edited American release version. A Spanish-language-only DVD version will also be available.
Warner Bros. has set MGM's Technicolor musical Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Judy Garland) for release on Blu-ray (in book packaging) on December 13th. Extras will include an introduction by Liza Minnelli, audio commentary by Garland biographer John Fricke (with Margaret O'Brien, screenwriter Irving Brecher, songwriter Hugh Martin and daughter of producer Arthur Freed, Barbara Freed-Saltzman), 3 documentary specials (Meet Me in St. Louis: The Making of an American Classic, the 1972 new-to-home video Hollywood: The Dream Factory and 1996's Becoming Attractions: Judy Garland), the 1966 pilot for the Meet Me in St. Louis TV series (with Shelley Fabares and Celeste Holm), 2 vintage shorts (1930's Bubbles - featuring Judy Garland at age 7- and 1941's Skip to My Lou) and an Audio Vault featuring an outtake of the song Boys and Girls like You and Me and a Lux Radio Theater broadcast (from 12/2/1946).
Well once again, that's it for now. I'll return again soon.