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This is the last of the Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn movies that I've seen and I have to admit, it's shot up into my top 3 Tracy/Hepburn movies upon my first viewing. I was pretty excited to see it that it was being released on dvd last month (August 2006), so I bought it immediately.


"State of the Union" can probably be labeled as a comedy-drama, although I felt the drama elements were stronger. It's directed by Frank Capra and has an excellent all-star cast: Tracy, Hepburn, Van Johnson, Angela Lansbury (who steals the whole show by playing a precursor to her evil mother role in "The Manchurian Candidate") and Adolphe Menjou are the main players, but it's also supported by a great cast of character actors as well. It has all the traditional Capra elements--politics, good vs. evil, upstanding morals, etc.--but it's also fast paced and has plenty of witty dialogue and humorous one liners sprinked throughout.


The picture quality is excellent. I only saw one or two scenes throughout the entire movie that seemed to be "snipped". The sound is crisp and clear and it's presented in it's original full screen ratio.


There are no extras--no trailer, no commentary and not even a "scene selection" menu! However, the movie is divided into chapter breaks (just remember where you are, in case you have to stop it and accidently have to start it from the beginning).


I also found it odd that Universal didn't see fit to somehow fix the opening credits since Katharine Hepburn and Adolphe Menjou's names are spelled wrong. There's also a few seconds of black screen, while Leo the Lion roars in the background before the "Liberty Films" title card appears on the screen!


The bare bones disc is a real disappointment, but the film itself is excellent. It's worth it just to see one of the rarer entries in the Tracy/Hepburn filmography, especially since it never seems to be on tv anymore.

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Leave Her To Heaven" (1946)...


Buy the DVD...you won't regret the purchase.


Are you thinking, "what the hell kind of DVD review is that?"


Okay...I'll add some stuff. I received this by mail the day after the recent Private Screenings with Robert Osborne...child stars version. In case you missed the broadcast, one of Mr. Osborne's guests was the actor Darryl Hickman. During the Private Screenings, Hickman talks a bit about working on "Leave Her To Heaven". The DVD of the movie includes a commentary track and the commentary track includes two commentators--Darryl Hickman and a guy named Richard Schickel. Schickel reviews movies for some news magazine. Oh, I know...Schickel reviews movies for Time. Anyway, the commentary track is very interesting. I think Mr. Schickel and Mr. Hickman watched and recorded their comments at different times and the DVD production team spliced the commentary track together. Why do I think the commentary track is spliced together? A couple of reasons. First, no "give and take" between Schickel and Hickman. Second, the commentary divides up into three parts. The first part I will call, "pre-Hickman" (before Hickman's character makes an appearance). The first part is mostly Schickel commentary with Hickman making "odds and ends" comments. Hickman's comments are really not related to anything you are watching on your television screen. However, Hickman's comments are interesting and if you watched his appearance on Private Screenings will be familiar. For instance, Hickman talks about working with Elizabeth Taylor, going to studio school, etcetera. Okay...so the first third of the DVD commentary is a pretty uninteresting Schickel commentary interspersed with entertaining, but not relevant to the movie, Hickman comments. The second part Hickman's character is on screen and Schickel disappears from the commentary track. Hickman's comments include trivia about making the movie and (I am pretty sure he is watching the movie while recording his comments) talks about the movie's cinematography, costumes, sets and production personnel. If you watched the Private Screenings broadcast, you know Hickman is a raconteur and his comments for this DVD are not a disappointment. So, where did Schickel go? My opinion, based on Schickel's pre-Hickman comments...I don't think he really likes this movie. I bet, Schickel did record stuff during the Hickman-only part of the commentary, but were not included on the DVD because they were boring. The third part is "post-Hickman" (he has left the screen...so to speak) and, I am embarrassed to write this...I left the commentary track. I don't know what happens on the commentary track for the final third of the movie...maybe, another contributor knows?


A couple of other reasons to buy this DVD. It is cheap...I bought mine at Amazon for twelve dollars and fifty cents. Gene Tierney stars...by the way, one of her best roles. Another thread (this forum) is concerned with the best Technicolor movies. The consensus of the contributors to the Technicolor thread is the Powell-Pressburger productions (Red Shoes, Black Narcissus) are the best. Well, I will place "Leave Her To Heaven" in MY top ten Technicolor productions. The video is gorgeous. The audio is pretty good...too. Included with the extras is a side by side comparison of pre-restored and restored for DVD bits of film. This DVD started with a damn good print...Fox's pre-restored film is not significantly worse than the "restored for digital" material.


No other DVD extras are worth mentioning. So...buy this DVD for the price, the story, the beautiful Technicolor, the eccentric commentary track and...of course, Gene Tierney!



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I do a lot of my buying through Amazon, but it is also good to look at www.dvdplanet.com. They have LHTH for $9.95.


Occasionally, I will find Costco has great prices, and am kicking myself because I was in there on the weekend and saw they had a set of 20th Century-Fox films (Gentlemen's Agreement, How Green Was My Valley, All About Eve, and the special DVD of Sunrise) at about $16.95. Kills me because I got the set through Amazon last week at $27.

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Directed by Henry Hathaway

Starring: Gene Tierney, Bruce Cabot, George Sanders, Reginald Gardiner, Harry Carey, Joseph Calleia (sp?)


This one took me by surprise...I rented it purely because I love Gene Tierney but I'm buying it because it's an exciting adventure picture about the English fighting to protect African territories from the Germans in WWII. I thought at first it was actually shot in Africa because the locations are very striking and unusual, but it appear to have been filmed in New Mexico. Hathaway is a terrific action director and the only weak points are the sometimes stiff dialogue scenes. However, Gene has never been more ravishing and the story is interesting.


And an added bonus is an episode (totally unrelated to the feature, by the way) of Ronald Colman's television series dramatizing Somerset Maugham stories. This one features Angela Lansbury and George Macready and was nicely produced (William Cameron Menzies designed it).


Definitely worth having if you are a fan of Tierney.


Miss G

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  • 1 month later...

My Geisha (1962)

Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Edward G. Robinson, Bob Cummings and Yves Montand.


While it's billed as a comedy, it's really not. At least, I didn't find it to be a slapstick-type of comedy. The premise is simple: Yves Montand is Shirley MacLaine's director husband who always casts her and Bob Cummings in his movies. But for once, he wants to direct a a movie without Shirley as his lead. He wants to go to Japan and film Madame Butterfly with a real Japanese actress. Unfortunately, the studio will only give him half his normal budget if he doesn't use Shirley as his leading lady. Therefore, Shirley and Edward G. Robinson, as her agent, devise a plan together. This all happens in the first 20 minutes, so it's not a really big spoiler.


There's some humor here and there, mostly from Bob Cummings (as Shirley's lecherous, self absorbed co-star), but it's mostly a character driven comedy-drama about a husband and wife's relationship. It's very sweet and really not the kind of movie I was expecting. Also, as expected, Edward G. Robinson is wonderful, but then I've never met an Eddie G. movie I haven't liked. The movie is also very respectful of the Japanese culture and the scenes shot on location, are pretty breathtaking.


The movie itsel is presented in it's original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio with minimal flecks or scratches on the print. The sound is fanastic. The extras (as with the majority of classic Paramount releases) are limited to subtitles and scene selections. There is no trailer. It's a great movie though, is highly recommended since it hasn't been in rotation on cable in years, especially if you're a fan of the actors. Good stuff.

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  • 1 month later...

A Summer Place (1959-WB)

Starring: Dorothy McGuire, Richard Egan, Sandra Dee, Arthur Kennedy, Constance Ford and Troy Donahue.


Wow. I've been waiting FOREVER for this dvd to come out. When I heard WB was releasing it, I actually let out a yell of joy at my computer. Everyone who had seen it, had given it glowing reviews. My mother was even looking forward to this, since she had fond memories of it from when she was a child.


After watching it, she said: "What the hell was that?"


It's not a terrible movie at all, but we both found it melodramatic and over-the-top. The best parts were courtesy of Arthur Kennedy and Constance Ford, as the jilted husband and wife of Dororthy McGuire and Richard Egan (who I both found a little dull in comparison to their counterparts). Constance Ford is pure evil (the scene where she subjects poor Sandra Dee to a physical exam is incrediably uncomfortable to watch, even today) and Arthur Kennedy just blurts out the strangest sentences thanks to the fact that he lives on a steady diet of nothing but alcohol. However, he steals the entire movie with his final scene where he gives liquor fuled advice to Troy Donahue (possibly the most wooden actor I've ever seen. It's like he's reading his lines off cue cards!) and Sandra Dee (who's, as always, adorably cute and perfect for the role).


I was slightly disappointed with the dvd, since it contains nothing but the trailer. I guess I've come to expect really fantastic extras from Warner, so I was expecting to see something--a commentary, a documentary, a photo gallery (I've found some fantastic promo shots of Kennedy in his Navy uniform, a whisky glass glued to his hand), but all you get is the trailer. The picture quality is good, not many specks. But it has that weird, flat 1950's quality to it.


I'm not sure if I found this movie so "campy" because of the era I grew up in. Some of the ideas are totally outdated (Dorothy McGuire talking about her wedding night springs to mind) and I think I'm a little hardened by cynicism, but I'd recommend it for the dialogue and if you're a fan of any of the actors, but mostly for the fantastic acting of Constance Ford and Arthur Kennedy*. They're wonderful in this.


*I'm terribly biased because he's one of my favorites, so draw your own conclusions, I guess.

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  • 1 year later...

*Black Narcissus (Blu-ray) (UK import)*


This classic Deborah Kerr film looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray. The colors (so important in a Michel Powell film) are rich and glorious. The picture quality's high definition details are excellent. Well worth owning. The trailer is also in high definition.


Because this is a region free DVD from England, it plays on our Blu players here in America. The movie and the trailer are perfect. There is an extra featurette about the film but since it is recorded in PAL, it won't play here.


All in all, a definite item to have for your collection.

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  • 3 weeks later...

*The Boys from Brazil (Blu-ray) (UK import)*


The 1970s hit starring Gregory Peck in an incredibly unusual bit of casting, as Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, with a plot that could change the modern world forever. Laurence Olivier plays a Nazi hunter trying to discover what the mysterious plot is. While Peck was often over the top as the terrifying Nazi, Olivier (looking very gaunt) truly inhabits his role. You beliive him every second.


The picture quality of this Blu-ray is astounding. There are a number of instances where you feel you are there watching it being filmed. Audio is mono 2.0 but still clear.


The only extra is a trailer.


Well worth picking up and plays perfectly on North American Blu-ray players.

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*Great Expectations (Blu-ray) (UK import)*


This film is a treasure. Based on the Charles Dickens novel, John Mills stars as Pip, a young man who leaves the world of apprenticing a blacksmith to becoming a young gentleman of society. Mills is excellent, as is the whole cast, which also includes Alec Guinness and Valerie Hobson (and Jean Simmons as the love of Pip's childhood).


Director David Lean, before he started doing epic dramas such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and others, was a master at small personal dramas early in his career (In Which We Serve, Brief Encounter, Oliver Twist). The black and white photography is used splendidly here, with sets that often reflect so much bleakness that black and white is perfect for them. There is so much atmosphere in every detail in every shot.


And it is all captured with incredible picture quality crispness on Blu-ray. The film hasn't been remastered but it is still an exceptional Blu disc to own. The audio is 2.0 mono and there are no extras, but I HIGHLY recommend buying this title. (As this is a classic British movie, it is unlikely that it will get an American release, so you should jump on it while it is available from places like Amazon UK. Luckily, this import can be played on all North American Blu-ray players.)

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  • 3 months later...

Fritz Lang's *Man Hunt* (Fox)


This had been one of the most eagerly anticipated classic releases from Fox and it does not disappoint. The Fritz Lang classic has been carefully restored and looks in pristine condition in this newly released DVD, which not coincidentally has been timed to coincide with the DVD/BD release of Valkyrie.


The film's great cast includes Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, John Carradine and Roddy McDowall.


Not only does the movie look and sound great, but it also contains some great bonus features, including a sound commentary by author Patrick McGilligan and the documentary "Rogue Male: The Making of Man Hunt", as well as the original theatrical trailer, restoration comparison, and artwork galleries. With an average price of around $10 from online retailers, it's a steal!


I made some screencaps and posted them in the Fritz Lang thread:


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  • 3 weeks later...

*My Reputation* (WHV)


Now that so many movies are being released by WHV through their Archives label, with no bonus features at all, it is extremely refreshing to go back to one of their classic films released just a couple of years ago, such as the Barbara Stanwyck film My Reputation, with co-star George Brent.


The film itself is quite old-fashioned, as it takes place in 1942 and concerns the attempts by a young widow, Jessica Drummond (Stanwyck, in top form) to rebuild her life some months after her husband's death after a two-year ailment. With her teenage kids just off to boarding school, she seems to be stuck with no real romantic options until she meets Maj. Scott Landis (Brent), quickly falling in love and hoping to eventually remarry.


Ah, but society being what it was at the time, it was not thought proper to start seeing another man so soon after becoming a widow, especially one that doesn't even like to wear black.


The print used for this DVD was in excellent condition, with the slightest little wear and tear here and there. Even better, this old-fashioned DVD release comes with a HUGE number of bonus features, including the musical short "Jan Savitt and His Band", the classic cartoon "Daffy Doodles," and 2 radio adaptations (one with Stanwyck and Brent, the other with Alexis Smith and Wayne Morris).


All in all, an excellent DVD, particularly for Stanwyck fans, either as a purchase or a rental.

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  • 1 month later...

*The Diary of Anne Frank - 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)*




This is an exceptional Blu-ray. Picture and sound quality are wonderful, and there are enough extras to make any film fan happy. A number of the shorts can be picked individually or as "play all" (I recommend that so you can just sit back and enjoy the different parts of the making, pieces about the stars (Millie Perkins and Diane Baker are interviewed, as is Shelly Winters in an older interview), and George Stevens, Jr. provides lots of insight into his father (Jr. worked on the film, too, so he was there). There is also color footage of Stevens, Sr. during WWII and in the death camps.


There is also a commentary track by Stevens, Jr., and Millie Perkins.


Highly recommended!

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The Trail of the Lonesome Pine - (DVD)


Sometimes, just having a movie available on DVD is enough to satisfy a classic movie fan. Such is the case with Universal Home Video's The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, a movie originally released by Paramount in 1936 which stars Sylvia Sydney, Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray.


Directed by Henry Hathaway, Trail also deserves a special place in movie history for being reportedly the first movie in 3-Strip Technicolor to be filmed largely outdoors. The photography is great, although the colors may seem somewhat muted compared to Technicolor movies of the late 30s. Since this movie has been recently restored, it can only be assumed that it is exactly as it was intended to look.


There really aren't any extras here, not even a trailer or one of those Robert Osborne introductions that some Universal DVDs used to have a few years ago. But that's OK, having this movie on DVD in a good transfer is more than enough.

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Grey Gardens (DVD)


I normally don't watch made for cable movies unless they involve major actors who usually work in films, or unless they somehow have a connection with existing classics. Im happy to report that Grey Gardens from HBO fills both requirements.


Inspired by the 1975 documentary that is already a cult item, this new dramatization of the real-life incidents in the lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter is full of great performances, including of course Jessica Lange as the elder Edith and Drew Barrymore as her daughter, Edie. There's also a great cameo by Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jackie Kennedy Onassis.


The film takes the filming of the 1975 documentary as a starting point, then flashes back and forth between the past and the "present-day" filming of the documentary, taking us back into the life of the Beales as far back as the mid-30s. The production values are great, and it's fun to watch and listen to Jessica Lange as Edith Beale as she sings some of the numbers from "Show Boat" while entertaining guests at a party.


Presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the movie looks and sounds great, though of course some of the "documentary within the movie" footage has been aged to make it look like something that was filmed long ago.


Among the bonus features, there is a short 11-minute documentary that skillfully compares footage from the movie with that from the actual 1975 documentary.

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Midnight Express (blu-ray)


Alan Parker's somewhat controversial 1978 film Midnight Express gets a blu-ray release this week, and although the results are less than stellar, it is still comforting to see more pre-1980 movies being released on blu-ray by the major studios.


The movie looks good, but you shouldn't expect crystal-clear images. How some studios can make movies several decades old (like How the West Was Won from WHV) look razor sharp and others can't is a mystery. But, the movie has good performances by Brad Davis, John Hurt and Randy Quaid, and a fairly compelling premise (the screenplay by Oliver Stone has been criticized for taking too much liberty with the actual facts of the real-life case in which it is based).


Fans of the Indiana Jones series will want to note that the guy who plays the prosecutor in this movie also appeared in The Last Crusade as Kazim the head of the Brothers of the Cuneiform Sword.


The extras appear to be mostly ported over from the DVD.

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