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sugarpuss

Dramas

37 posts in this topic

*God's Little Acre* (DVD)

 

When I heard this Anthony Mann movie was in the TCM schedule for January, I became very interested and thought I'd seek it out ASAP on DVD.

 

It seems the best DVD version is the one released by Image Entertainment in 2001, which is OOP but can still be found from some sellers for under $10.

 

Considering that it is an 8-year-old DVD, I found the transfer and picture quality on the Image DVD to be really pretty good. The film is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1, which nicely fills up an HDTV screen. The source material Image used is apparently a UCLA restored print of the film, and the image seems pretty crisp, again, considering it's a 2001 DVD.

 

The sound is good, although the accents can be a little thick at times; the DVD doesn't have closed-captioning or captions for the hearing impaired.

 

Also worth noting, the Image DVD contains both the original theatrical cut and the "uncensored" version. I only watched the 118-minute uncensored version, and it's really rather amazing how things have changed since the 1950s. I don't think there's anything in this movie that wouldn't be considered acceptable in a G-rated movie today.

 

There's not much in the way of extras save for some trailers.

 

The movie has a great cast, including Tina Louise in what was her movie debut. It seems that at least part of what was considered so "racy" about the film at the time involved some of her, um, you know.

 

Even if you can't get a hold of this movie, I highly recommend you watch it when TCM shows it in January, it's got some interesting performances, and it's also a great reminder that Anthony Mann directed something other than Westerns during the 50s.

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*Restoration* (DVD)

 

This is one of those titles I would love to buy, if it were available on blu-ray - or at least a recently restored DVD. As it is, the only version on DVD that exists is a 1999 release, and quite out-of-print.

 

Considering that it's a 10-year-old DVD, I would be inclined to be generous and say that this video transfer is adequate under the circumstances. It is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen, with Dolby Surround-encoded stereo sound. This old transfer doesn't quite do full justice to Michael Hoffman's visually astonishing period drama, which received Academy Awards for Art Direction and Costume Design -- but until something better comes along, it will have to do.

 

And one could only hope Miramax will re-release this at some point, given the fascinating story and the amazing cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Sam Neill, Meg Ryan, David Thewlis, Polly Walker, Ian McKellan, Hugh Grant and Ian McDiarmid.

 

The extras on the 10-year-old Miramax DVD are limited to the theatrical trailer (apparently presented in open-matte Academy ratio), and a 7-minute featurette. The DVD has both closed-captioning and English subtitles.

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*The Late Show* (DVD)

 

I can only assume the title of The Late Show refers to the kind of movies that used to be shown on TV back in the day, because this 1977 Robert Benton film is really a loving homage to those old gumshoe flicks, with a bit of a 70s twist.

 

The movie has been given a first-rate treatment on DVD by WHV; the film is presented in its proper aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The film also offers English subtitles, a theatrical trailer, and a brief TV interview with Lily Tomlin.

 

Aside from Tomlin, who's delightful playing a "New Age" type, the movie also featurs Art Carney - better known perhaps for Harry and Tonto - and Joanna Cassidy, who'd go on to star in a couple of popular 80s flicks, Blade Runner and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

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*A Christmas Carol (Scrooge) Blu-ray*

 

This is the VCI release, similar to their restored edition on DVD about a year ago, but remastered for high definition?and it is a treat to put under your Christmas tree this year. While there are some occasional film scratches and dirt, this is an exquisite version of the movie, incredible to look at in HD with just the right amount of grain to capture the film details. Sound is quite good, too.

 

Extras include the previous DVD?s commentary by George Cole (who played young Scrooge)(be sure to look for Patrick Macnee as the young Marley). There is something new with this release on Blu-ray and that is a pop-up trivia track. It is never intrusive, staying off to the side, and has some very interesting information in it.

 

In addition to the Blu-ray disc, this release contains a DVD containing the movie in both 4:3 format and a 16:9 cropped version (for those who simply refuse to watch a 4:3 movie on their widescreen HDTVs). (Note: the Blu only contains the 4:3 version.) The previous DVD set had a colorized version of the movie, but happily that is not included in this new release.

 

SPECIAL NOTE: There is, apparently, a release on Blu-ray from a company called Morningstar (in Canada). It is reported to be very, very poor. _Be sure you get this VCI release_. I can recommend it.

 

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*The Mountain Blu-ray*

 

The Mountain is an unusual film, and not in a good way. It's the story of two brothers who are mountain climbers. When a plane crashes at the top of a mountain, one brother (Robert Wagner) wants to go up to the crash site in order to steal jewelry, cameras, and other valuable items from the corpses. His brother (Spencer Tracy) tries to stop him, but ends up going along in order to protect his less experienced sibling in the climb.

 

 

Let's start with a major flaw of this movie, and you may have already picked it out from my synopsis above: Casting. Fifty-six year old Spencer Tracy and twenty-six year old Robert Wagner...brothers? They look more like father and son. Further casting problems: you know a film is in trouble when they cast William Demarest as a priest. Claire Trevor, who gets third billing, is wasted in a tiny role as a village woman with romantic plans for Tracy.

 

 

Flaw number two: Studio sets. Except for a handful of scenes with the stars outdoors, most of the scenes on the mountain with the stars are obviously studio sets, intercut with doubles on an actual mountain. And though they are supposed to be on top of a mountain with snow and freezing temperatures, you never see a fog breath.

 

 

Flaw number three: Characters. Robert Wagner plays possibly the most despicable character of all his film roles. He goes on and on about how he wants to get money to escape his life in the village. It is an unbelievable one-note character who annoys you so much you hope he will die as soon as possible in the movie.

 

 

The video quality is a mixed bag. It varies between HD quality shots and upgraded DVD video.

 

 

Audio is good

 

 

No extras.

 

 

Worth a look if you can rent this, but even as a classic film fan I find it hard to recommend it as a buy.

 

 

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*Airport (Blu-ray)*

 

"Airport" was basically the start of the 1970s disaster films. There had been "disaster" movies before: "San Francisco" with Clark Gable, "In Old Chicago" with Tyrone Power, and "The Hurricane" with Jon Hall, to name just three from the 1930s, but they really took off in the Seventies ("The Poseidon Adventure," "Earthquake," etc.). But what was at the heart of "Airport" was...heart. It came from an Arthur Hailey novel, one of those thick kind filled with character plots. Anyway, "Airport" brought together old and new stars in this story of an unhappy marriage, a love affair, a man so driven by desperation who brings a bomb on board to get insurance money for his wife, an old lady stowaway, and a heavy winter storm causing havoc on the runways of the airport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a very enjoyable film in its day and still is today. It was one of the major inspirations for "Airplane!" ("Zero Hour" was another.) The stars of this production were all perfect...except for one. Dean Martin, famous in show business life for his image as a harddrinker, as the co-pilot? (Mad Magazine had fun with that in their satire of the film, named "Airplot".) Burt Lancaster is the general manager of the airport, trying to balance the needs of the many in the terminal and up in the air with those of his demanding wife at home. Jacqueline Bisset is the stewardess whose affair with co-pilot Martin has resulted in her being pregnant. George Kennedy, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Dana Wynter, and Jean Seberg round out the cast. And, oh, yes, Helen Hayes as a charming old lady who has gotten quite good at slipping unchecked onto different flights in order to be able to see her family around the country. Hayes was so delightful that she won the Best Supporting Actress for her performance. (By the way, "Airport" was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was one other element to making this picture successful and that was Alfred Newman's musical score. It comes in powerful at the beginning and plays under the dangerous landing, helping to project the tensions. He is also equally romantic in several sections.

 

The picture quality is very good, probably as good as we will get from this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio is excellent. While dialogue is front and center, you may not notice it but you do get a subtle use of music and sound effects that adds to the whole experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extras are on the extremely slim side. A trailer and two retrospective featurettes (100 Years of Universal: The Lot and 100 Years of Universal: The '70s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

This package comes with a DVD and a digital copy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very much recommended.

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*Gentleman's Agreement* (Blu-ray)

 

 

It is still a powerful piece, though dated, of course. But prejudice still exists for people of all nationalities and religions. We've seen enough of that in the news to know that hate never disappears. Gregory Peck is excellent as the writer, and Dorothy McGuire turns in a good performance. Exceptional in the cast are John Garfield as the writer's best friend (who happens to be Jewish), Anne Revere as Peck's mother, and Celeste Holm, who develops a crush on him. Garfield is best known for his angry young man performances, but except for one brief moment of a fight in this film, he displays a touching inner dignity throughout the picture. Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap) is excellent as Peck's son.

 

 

 

 

The film was a difficult one to get made. It was a best-selling novel, but most of the studio heads wouldn't option the screen rights because they were Jewish and they didn't want to draw attention to themselves by making this story. Maverick producer Darryl F. Zanuck, who wasn't Jewish, was the head of the 20th Century-Fox studio at the time, bought the rights. And after it was filmed, the other studio heads offered to buy the film from him, in order to shelve it. He wouldn't sell out...and the film went on to win the Best Picture Oscar for 1947.

 

 

 

Many of the people in front of the cameras and behind had to face the House Un-American Activities Committee. John Garfield died a few years later of a heart attack due to the hounding by HUAC.

 

 

 

Video quality is exceptional, with definite grain.

 

 

 

Audio is also good.

 

 

 

Extras are carried over from the DVD: A Hollywood Backstory about the making of the movie (25 min.), a trailer, two Movietone clips, and a dry-as-dust commentary by Richard Schickel with tiny bits interjected with film stars Cleste Holm and June Havoc.

 

 

 

Highly recommended.

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this states that Garfield died because he was hounded by the HUAC. What I read online was that it was "McCarthyism" which had nothing to do with the HUAC.

 

 

I guess this anecdotal stuff is supposed to substitute for an autopsy.

 

 

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