Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

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Harlett O'Dowd

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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostTue May 30, 2017 6:48 am

Mike Gebert wrote:Jeff Rapsis contributed the piano score, based on the original cue sheets, and it's pretty much ideal, moving adroitly between comedy and tasteful Continental melodrama. The only extra is a commentary track, as well as a short essay in the booklet.

Weird fact from the notes: Swanson's last picture with Wood had been a film called Bluebeard's Eighth Wife; the Lubitsch film from the same play was what Colbert made just before her version of Zaza.


Thanks for the review. Anyone know if any of Leoncavallo's operatic treatment is included in Rapsis' score?
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Jun 07, 2017 10:33 pm

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NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950) 95m ***½ (Blu-ray released August 4, 2015)

I let the box be a little bigger for this one because the art is so good. This one's almost two years old, but if Chris ever reviewed it, I can't find it.

Jules Dassin's last film before he was blacklisted and resurfaced five years later as the director and co-star of Rififi, Night and the City is a crackling, at times bonkers noir set in London's seedier, slimier side. Richard Widmark, echoing his giggling psycho Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death, is a high-energy hustler working as a tout for nightclub owner Sydney Gree--, er, Francis Sullivan. He sees a way to move in on the wrestling racket controlled by Herbert Lom when he manages to get his hooks into Lom's father, the great wrestler Gregorius (played by actual wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko). He gets the money to make his scheme happen from both Sullivan and his wife (Googie Withers), who has her own motivation for shafting her hubby, but this is noir, so it all goes spectacularly wrong, to the dismay of his girlfriend Gene Tierney (who seems to be in another movie, really, but they needed American names on the marquee— Hugh Marlowe pops up too for a colorless minor supporting part).

The real star of this movie after Widmark, who's terrific in loud zoot suits and running like a tap dancer, is cinematographer Max Greene/Mutz Greenbaum, who got his start in silent era Germany and did lots of things you've vaguely heard of in England— the Expressionist 1934 Chu Chin Chow with Fritz Kortner, Pimpernel Smith, Thunder Rock, I'm All Right Jack and so on. If this isn't his masterpiece, I'd like to know what would be, because his noir-Expressionist version of London's nightlife leaps off the screen in brilliant noir shadowing. Criterion's disc includes a stunning transfer of the 95-minute American cut, in which the shadows are dazzling and 3-D sculptural, certainly one of the best black and white transfers they or anyone has put out.

As for the movie itself— it starts in third gear and never lets up, and it's exciting as heck, but as I say, occasionally a bit bonkers— especially the climactic set piece in which Grigorius and The Strangler (Mike Mazurki) have a fight to the death which everyone else just stands by and watches, as if Godzilla and Ghidorah were having it over Tokyo. (No one can find a bucket of cold water to throw on them?) Beyond that it seems kind of a bummer that Widmark's Harry Fabian is so doomed— yeah, he's a slippery rat, but so is everyone else in the picture, so why does he alone get punished by fate for it? Because that's what noir does, I guess. Well, you won't be bored, though I'd have liked more to explain Withers' character, how she happened to marry that big louse and why she's turned on him.

In any case, it may well remind you of The Sweet Smell of Success, and I suspect that's not accidental, nor would be a resemblance to the movie that made Bob Hoskins famous, The Long Good Night (1980); while some of the chase scenes seem to be echoing one of the best homegrown noirish tales, It Always Rains on Sunday (1947).

Besides the 95-minute cut, there's a British cut, about 5 minutes longer, which promotes Googie Withers to the main title with Widmark and Tierney; the big differences are that the British version softens Widmark a bit (removing a key scene up front where he's trying to pilfer Tierney's purse), and in place of Franz Waxman's American noir-style score, there's a rather more whimsical one by Benjamin Frankel. An essay devoted to the differences explains them; the American one was Dassin's preferred, but the quality of the British one is about as good and you could pick either one to go all the way through.

ADDENDUM: I remembered Leonard Maltin's guide giving it a so-so review, but I looked it up in the latest edition of his Classic Movie Guide and it had a 3-1/2 star review. Then I looked up the 1992 remake in the last edition of the overall movie guide... and it still has the older 2-1/2 star review for the 1950 film. It's like discovering an alternative Maltinverse where movies can have different reviews!
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostFri Jun 09, 2017 6:10 pm

Thanks, Mike, for bringing up and reviewing NIGHT AND THE CITY. After your post I double-checked and discovered I had bought the Blu-ray during Criterion’s November 2015 half-price sale while I was still living in Rochester MN recuperating from my bone marrow transplant. For whatever reason, I could remember nothing of the plot and not only had not reviewed it but had made no notes on the film or when I saw it, so I ran it again last night, and it all seemed vaguely familiar, including the bonus interview with Jules Dassin. I probably watched it on my computer or in one of the TV rooms at the recovery house but never followed up with the alternate cut or commentary once I got home (I plan to do that tonight). I found it a good but not quite great noir, probably 3 out of 4 stars or a B+ rating, but Richard Widmark is certainly in his prime with a strong supporting cast. Meanwhile here are observations on four other noir films released to Blu-ray late last year.

The genre, or as some say the style, of film noir, which deals with crime and various other unsavory activities usually happening at night, developed in Hollywood around 1940. Its focus on mostly antiheroic protagonists and a pervasive sense of doom separates it from standard crime or mystery-thrillers, consciously or unconsciously reflecting the dark times of a troubled world during World War II. Even the “good guys” have their bad points and sometimes may be nearly as corrupt and/or cynical as the “bad guys,” who may actually display some good points. Film noir reached its most prolific period in the postwar decade from 1945 through the mid- to late1950s as uneasiness about the world situation competed with the benefits of an economic boom that didn’t always bring what many people expected and a growing feeling that official authority could not always be trusted. A few examples of noir continued into the 1960s before being replaced by more standard crime dramas of “good guys vs. bad guys.” A generation later the genre revived as “neo-noir” with films such as BODY HEAT (1981) and the Coen brothers’ BLOOD SIMPLE (1984) consciously imitating the dark, expressionistic lighting and having no particularly admirable characters. More recently neo-noir has become more frequent and often rougher-edged with L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, the “Sin City” films, THE KILLER INSIDE ME, and the like, even Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, again reflecting a disillusionment with a once-respected establishment.

Whether it’s due to more people discovering and becoming fans of the genre or today’s uncertain economic situation or both, more and more films from the classic noir era have been showing up on Blu-ray over the past year or so, an ideal format for its high-definition image’s ability to bring out the textures and details of the genre’s typically harsh lighting that often looks merely muddy or merges to black on old DVDs and streaming versions of the same films. Here are three that came out last November and one especially rare title from last October.

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I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941) 82m *** ½ (Blu-ray released Nov. 1, 2016)
This evocatively titled film by journeyman director H. Bruce Humberstone, is an excellent mystery thriller that was also shown under the title HOT SPOT. While theoretically made before the proliferation of what would become known as “film noir,” the film is loaded with elements that would become standard of the style/genre, from an often-seedy underworld of nightlife to circumstantial evidence pointing at a wrongly-accused man with a less-than-great reputation who must struggle to prove his innocence, to questionable police procedures, to a beautiful woman with dark secrets, but most especially the visual look of the film. The police, especially intimidating detective Laird Cregar, are positive that a promoter and publicity agent (Victor Mature) murdered a fashion model he made famous (Carole Landis). Mature and the model’s sister/roommate (Betty Grable) must try to figure out who the real killer is, as there are a number of other logical suspects. Grable is quite good in a straight dramatic role, and Mature is at his best in a role that’s both a victim and an investigator. The well-scripted plot is fun but the biggest draw is the stunning use of light and shadow and camera angles by cinematographer Edward Cronjager. Interestingly, the then-current pop tune “Over the Rainbow” shows up on the soundtrack a number of times.

The image on Kino's Blu-ray is generally outstanding with crisp textures, but the print sometimes shows some wear. Audio is good but a bit tinny with some pops at splices. Bonus features include a good audio commentary by Eddie Muller, an image gallery of photos and advertising, a trailer (in SD and missing titles and narration), plus trailers to four other film noir titles offered by Kino on Blu-ray: HE RAN ALL THE WAY (HD), 99 RIVER STREET (HD), DAISY KENYON (SD), and BOOMERANG (HD, also missing titles and narration). Inexplicably, the boxcover lists a deleted scene, alternate HOT SPOT opening title, and alternate advertising, none of which are actually on the disc.

I WAKE UP SCREAMING on Blu-ray --
Movie: A-
Video: A
Audio: B+
Extras: B

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CRY OF THE CITY (1948) 95m ***
(Blu-ray released November 15, 2016)
Robert Siodmak’s CRY OF THE CITY (1948) is another good solid noir thriller starring Victor Mature in a rather different role. This time Mature plays a generally low-key, serious-minded cop who is after a boyhood friend from his old neighborhood (Richard Conte) who is now a jewel thief and cop-killer. Shelley Winters and a very very young Debra Paget make brief but key appearances as the crook’s two girlfriends, one who wants to help him escape and the other who wants him to give himself up. It’s all stylish and well-done, but somehow lacks the character charisma of something like I WAKE UP SCREAMING.

Again, Kino’s Blu-ray has a mostly beautiful-looking picture that starts out a bit contrasty and soon gets much better, with good sound. Bonus features are a really excellent Eddie Muller audio commentary that brings out many of the film’s subtleties, a trailer (SD), and trailers to other five other noir titles available on Blu-ray from Kino: BOOMERANG, I WAKE UP SCREAMING, 99 RIVER STREET, SHIELD FOR MURDER (HD in 1.78), and HE RAN ALL THE WAY.

CRY OF THE CITY on Blu-ray --
Movie: B+
Video: A-
Audio: A-
Extras: B-

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THE HOUSE ON 92nd STREET (1945) 88m ** ½
(Blu-ray released November 15, 2016)
Henry Hathaway incorporates a number of noir elements into this moderately interesting documentary-style spy thriller based on an actual case declassified after the war. A young FBI recruit of German heritage (William Eythe) becomes a double-agent hoping to expose Nazi spies trying to steal secrets of the Manhattan Project about the atomic bomb during the period of 1939 through 1941. Lloyd Nolan plays the head FBI agent. Rather than a traditional, complexly-plotted film noir melodrama driven by character actions and interactions, it’s more of a fairly routine procedural with events dramatized to plenty of voiceover narration, and a relatively minor twist to add some interest.

Kino’s Blu-ray looks and sounds fine, although there is a fair amount of grainy stock footage especially at the start. Bonus features are an Eddie Muller commentary, an image gallery, and trailers to six other noir films (but not this one): BOOMERANG, I WAKE UP SCREAMING, 99 RIVER STREET, CRY OF THE CITY, SHIELD FOR MURDER, and DAISY KENYON.

HOUSE ON 92nd STREET on Blu-ray --
Movie: B-
Video: A-
Audio: A-
Extras: B-

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PRIVATE PROPERTY (1960) 79m *** ½
(Blu-ray released October 25, 2016)
This rather obscure independent feature was directed by Leslie Stevens, who later produced “The Outer Limits” TV series (now announced for Blu-ray release this fall). Made in 1959, the film was refused a seal of approval by the Hollywood Production Code and had only limited theatrical showings in 1960. This well-made thriller follows two unstable and sometimes violent drifters (Corey Allen and a young Warren Oates) stalking a blonde in a Corvette (Kate Manx). They make serious plans to seduce her, especially after they discover the house next door to her upscale suburban home is empty. The smarter of the pair realizes the woman is often frustrated by the frequent long absences of her businessman husband and tries to get hired on as their gardener, beginning a psychological cat-and-mouse relationship. A slow, deliberate, and very gradual building of characterizations and tension leads to a climactic nighttime sequence in the last ten minutes. It all has the feeling of a film made a decade or more later, although the surprisingly (for 1959) substantial violence and sexual tension, depicted primarily through implication, would be much more explicit by the 1970s and 80s.

Although newly restored in 4k, the Cinelicious Pics Blu-ray still looks slightly soft much of the time, but the 1.66:1 picture is very clear, with fine audio. The only bonus features are a new interview with the film’s still photographer, a trailer, and an enclosed leaflet with an essay on the film.

PRIVATE PROPERTY on Blu-ray --
Movie: B+
Video: A-
Audio: A
Extras: C
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Jeff Rapsis

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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostMon Jun 19, 2017 5:15 am

Harlett O'Dowd wrote:Thanks for the review. Anyone know if any of Leoncavallo's operatic treatment is included in Rapsis' score?


Hi there! Apologies for the slow response but just noticed your question. The answer is: alas, no! The music I came up withis based a cue sheet for the film unearthed by the George Eastman house and obtained by Kino-Lorber, plus some tunes I invented myself in the spirit of the French music hall scene.

By the way, when I received the cue sheet, I didn't recognize any of the pieces, which all seemed to be standard-issue silent film photoplay music. But Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra was kind enough to root through his files, and sent along many of the cues in various orchestrations.

One odd thing is that throughout ZAZA, a piece of music plays a big on-screen role: a piano arrangement of the old French love ballad 'Plaisir d'Amour.' It's played several times at big moments as a kind of signature tune (pianos are always handy in this movie), and the sheet music even appears on-screen in close-up!

Weirdly, for these moments, the cue sheet calls for an entirely different tune! (I forget what, but it was another obscure thing I'd never heard of.) Complicating matters further is that parts of 'Plaisir d'Amour' sound exactly like the Elvis hit 'Can't Help Falling In Love With You.' So if I used the original tune, I was concerned that people might think I was slipping a little of the King into ZAZA.

In the end, I went with 'Plaisir' as it's seen on screen, but tried to play it in a way that wouldn't automatically conjure the spirit of Elvis, if indeed he's no longer among us. So it was more Mozart than Memphis.

I have to admit I'm not familiar with the Leoncavallo score. But having read about it, now I'm interested. I'm planning to accompany ZAZA live again at some point, and I'll try to incorporate your suggestion when I do. Thank you so much!
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Jun 21, 2017 10:20 pm

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"—ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS" (1939) 121m **** (Blu-ray released April 12, 2016)
There was a recent discussion of Only Angels Have Wings here, so I don't need to go into it in detail. This is one of my favorite Hollywood films, but so are its remakes in other genres, To Have and Have Not and Rio Bravo. I love the Hawksian universe, in which men are guys and women are prettier, slightly more insolent and suggestive guys in the model of Hawks' own wife Slim Keith; I love the special effects, that jungle that one of Skull Island's stegosauruses might lumber out of at any moment, to fight a Trimotor; I love the dialogue, sharp as diamonds, often the old coal of other movies newly compressed into jewels. A new scene caught me this time, that I hadn't paid attention to in any previous viewing—the one where Victor Kilian as Sparks tells Jean Arthur that she better go tell Cary Grant goodbye. It's all done in whispers, which is a little funny (in a good way), but it also suddenly confers on Sparks—a background utilitarian character—the gravity of being one of the grownups in the picture who she knows she can trust and get wisdom from. A lovely scene.

Criterion issued a new blu-ray about a year ago; there was one a few years back which I never bought, but I've had the old DVD for many years. I've seen complaints that the Criterion is too dark, and it is a bit darker than the DVD, but it didn't seem off to me. This is a movie that is mostly silver and shadows—when we actually get a daylight scene, it seems somehow pedestrian—and I was fine with the overall inkiness of this version of the film. The uncompressed mono soundtrack is ideal.

Besides the film, there's a Lux Radio Theater version with all the major players, a short film on Hawks' aviation films, and audio interviews with Hawks conducted by Peter Bogdanovich.
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostThu Jun 22, 2017 6:29 am

Only Angels Have Wings is in a long line of men under pressure and the insolent women who love them that Hawks made many times. I see its first iteration in 1928's A Girl in Every Port, in which Louise Brooks played the girl. You can find echoes of it in a lot of Hawks' movies, including Red River.

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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostThu Jun 22, 2017 4:17 pm

True, but those three in particular, you could intercut scenes and not miss a beat, Lauren Bacall talking to Cary Grant and Angie Dickinson replying.
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 3:15 pm

Thanks for the write-up. I like ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS a lot, and had meant to review it after getting the TCM Vault Blu-ray (which looks quite good), but that suddenly went out of print and Criterion came out with a Blu-ray (with apparently slightly better picture quality) but the different bonus features weren't enough to get me to double-dip.

Regarding "Plaisir d'Amour" being mistaken for an "Elvis" song, it was obviously the Elvis song that stole (um, "borrowed") the same melody decades later. To save paying composer royalties, a number of Elvis recordings were simply old Public Domain tunes and folk-songs with new lyrics that Elvis was able to sell as new songs. "Love Me Tender" is really the old song "Aura Lee" and "Wooden Heart" is an old German song, for example (he even sings a bit of it in German). Similarly during an ASCAP strike during the 1940s, lots of pop songs were written to melodies taken from the music of classical composers. Incidents like this are good occasions to educate the public that there's a lot more story behind what they think they know about music!

Anyway, back to another pair of Blu-ray reviews of discs I've had lying around for a while...



Todd Haynes’ Oscar-nominated period romantic melodrama FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002) will have its 15th anniversary this fall. The film has a socially-conscious edge that earned it widespread acclaim, yet it is still not available on Blu-ray in the United States (there are Blu-rays from Canada, France, and Spain, however). Those who appreciated his visually striking story of a 1950s New England housewife’s awakening to the hypocrisy, racism, and homophobia of her apparently perfect little world may want to check out the two films that heavily influenced Haynes. Douglas Sirk’s ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955) and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s sort-of semi-remake ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (1974) both came out on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection in mid-2014. Both are as timely today as ever, especially the Fassbinder variation, and each is somewhat more satisfying than the Haynes film they influenced.

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ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955) 89m *** (Blu-ray released June 10, 2014)
Despite (or perhaps because of) its box office success, when ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS first played theatrically it was largely dismissed as just another “women’s picture” or a “weepie,” a domestic drama depicting typical small-town activities, with a star-crossed romance carefully calculated to reduce its target audience to tears. Jane Wyman (former wife of Ronald Reagan) stars as Cary Scott, a well-off middle-aged but still-attractive widow who gradually falls for her working-class and more free-spirited gardener Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson), who is about ten to fifteen years younger. The shock and overwhelming disapproval of her shallow, gossipy country-club friends and especially her two snobbish college-age children, however, cause her great distress. Everyone insists she is more suited to marry an urbane but unexciting aging widower she can take care of, or simply should get a television to satisfy her loneliness. Cary’s conflicted and shifting feelings about whether to pursue love and happiness or conform to society’s expectations drive the plot through the rest of the film.

It’s easy to view the film as a simple romantic melodrama and a vivid Technicolor time capsule of 1950s life. By a decade or two after its release, however, a number of film critics and other directors re-evaluated the film. They picked up on its strong social commentary, both obvious and subtly ironic, on class prejudice and the hypocrisy of middle-class American values, as well as its focus on a female protagonist who thinks and grows emotionally rather than merely reacting to what happens. While not unusual today, it was remarkable for a genre film produced within the heavily-standardized studio system, aimed squarely at a target audience that critics of its era disdained, critics who rejected its unashamed sentimentalism and perhaps identified too closely with the elite establishment Sirk was criticizing.

A bit of analysis reveals how skillfully Sirk manipulates audience emotions and simultaneously reveals character qualities as well as his ironic subtext through his symbolic use of colors, settings, costume designs, lighting, positioning of actors, and camera framing. His expert control over the cinematic elements and incorporation of a lush and emotional musical score (hence the origin of the term “melo-drama”) complement and intensify the performances, as well as providing subtext for deeper interpretation. Sirk had a classical education, studying philosophy and art history before becoming a director for stage and screen in Germany in the 1930s, even working with Bertolt Brecht. Ignoring the pleas of Josef Goebbels to remain, he was able to escape Nazi Germany with his Jewish wife before World War II, soon settling in Hollywood as a writer and director, eventually specializing in romantic melodrama like ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS. However, after one of his biggest hits, the 1959 remake of IMITATION OF LIFE (which I reviewed a couple years ago), he retired and moved to Switzerland, also teaching at a Munich film school.

Criterion’s Blu-ray, a 2k restoration transferred at the 1.75:1 aspect ratio, looks amazing, with richly saturated colors and a film-like image that shows only minor traces of age. The mono audio sounds very good. The main feature includes optional English subtitles. A fine selection of bonus features include a booklet including an essay by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, an insightful audio commentary, interviews with Sirk for British and French television done in the 1970s and 80s, an interview with William Reynolds who played Wyman’s spoiled son and acted in other Sirk films, a trailer, and an interesting hour-long documentary on how star Rock Hudson’s sexuality was hinted at in many of his films.

ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS on Blu-ray --
Movie: A-
Video: A
Audio: A
Extras: A


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ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (1974) 93m ***
(Blu-ray released September 30, 2014)
At the midpoint of his brief but prolific and controversial career, six years before his epic 15½ -hour masterpiece BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, 29-year-old German writer-director Rainer Werner Fassbinder created his first big international hit and one of his most memorable films with his 1974 production of ANGST ESSEN SEELE AUF (ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL, but more accurately translated as “Fear Eat Up Soul” in the broken German of its title character). The touching character drama was inspired greatly by the films of Douglas Sirk, specifically ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS. Its story of two lonely people exemplifies Fassbinder’s common theme of alienation in an uncaring world where everyone is expected to conform to certain standards. His adaptation also was and is a powerful indictment of xenophobic social attitudes in Germany (and elsewhere). Fassbinder turns his film’s widow into a working-class cleaning-lady named Emmi Kurowski but makes her a good decade or two older than Jane Wyman’s 40-ish Cary Scott, and makes the unexpected, unconventional object of her affections into a dark-skinned immigrant Moroccan laborer about half her age.

The film poignantly compares and contrasts the isolation felt by the aging woman whose Polish immigrant husband has died and whose children rarely visit, with the isolation of the exotic foreigner forced to move to Germany to find work where he’s faced with having no friends (only a few Arab colleagues from work who are basically just drinking buddies) as well as the language barrier, racial prejudice, animosity, and suspicion from the society he’s now living in. The two meet by chance in a bar on a rainy night and somehow feel a strange connection with each other, recognizing one another’s need for meaningful companionship. When they impulsively decide to get married, the entire neighborhood is as shocked and upset as Emmi’s children. In a nod to Sirk’s film, Emmi’s enraged son even kicks in the screen of her TV set when he finds out. Fassbinder himself plays her obnoxious son-in-law. Again the couple must get through numerous ups and downs before their acquaintances start to accept them and they can fully accept each other. Again a deep thread of irony permeates various incidents and reactions, again with the staging and camerawork helping to intensify their feelings for the viewer. An interesting and important subplot not fully explored involves Ali with Barbara, the 30-ish blonde woman who owns the bar they patronize. While certain scenes linger over shots and actor expressions for dramatic effect, the film as a whole is tightly-structured, effectively edited, and rarely feels slow, running barely over an hour-and-a-half.

Transferred in 4k at 1.37:1 from the original camera negative, Criterion’s Blu-ray looks and sounds great, as usual. Bonus features include a leaflet, a 20-minute discussion by filmmaker Todd Haynes, interviews with the star Brigitte Mira and film editor Thea Eymèsz, a short related to the film, a clip from Fasssbinder’s 1970 film THE AMERICAN SOLDIER that helped shape this story, a 1976 BBC documentary about New German Cinema, and a trailer.

ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL on Blu-ray –
Movie: A-
Video: A
Audio: A
Extras: A-
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 4:53 pm

Christopher Jacobs wrote:Regarding "Plaisir d'Amour" being mistaken for an "Elvis" song, it was obviously the Elvis song that stole (um, "borrowed") the same melody decades later. To save paying composer royalties, a number of Elvis recordings were simply old Public Domain tunes and folk-songs with new lyrics that Elvis was able to sell as new songs. "Love Me Tender" is really the old song "Aura Lee" and "Wooden Heart" is an old German song, for example (he even sings a bit of it in German).


Don't want to start a fight, but I do want to defend Elvis and the songs he recorded. While it's true that "Love Me Tender" is based on "Aura Lee," the new version was written by Ken Darby, not "stolen" by Elvis. (Elvis did share publishing royalties, a not uncommon practice at the time.) And his "It's Now or Never" may have been based on "O Solo Mio," but it really came from an earlier adaptation sung by Tony Martin. "Can't Help Falling in Love" uses the melody of "Plaisir d'Amour," but composers like Mozart, Ravel, and Beethoven also borrowed liberally from folk music and themes of their time.

A lot of supposedly original songs by Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, Hank Williams, and many blues artists were adapted from public domain songs once producers and publishers like Ralph Peer realized they could make money from them—not to avoid paying royalties. Col. Parker was meticulous about songwriting fees and royalties, and Elvis never had to defend himself against plagiarism charges like George Harrison and others.
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 5:41 pm

Did you know that many popular songs were actually written by the great masters?

“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 6:42 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:Did you know that many popular songs were actually written by the great masters?


John Williams in "Dial M for Music."

About the only ad of its type (known in the trade as "PI" or per inquiry) that I looked forward to and usually let play out, just so I could relish Williams's ultra-cultured intonation.
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Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 6:57 pm

Paul Penna wrote:John Williams in "Dial M for Music.

Correction: John Williams in "To Catch A Tune Thief"
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Daniel Eagan

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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 7:30 pm

I was young enough when I saw that ad to be duped into buying it. All 120 tunes were there all right, only in extremely truncated form.
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greta de groat

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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 9:45 pm

I must have seen that commercial hundreds of times, and i still enjoyed seeing it again. I still can't listen to Prince Igor without thinking of that stuffy old gent.

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Greta de Groat
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http://www.stanford.edu/~gdegroat
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ClarenceE

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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostThu Jun 29, 2017 2:12 pm

"Friends, if you were to go into a record store and ask for them, they would think you were crazy. Hullo! I'm Don G. O'Vanni and I'm proud to represent the Musical Heritage Surplus Club of Hong Kong. Wouldn't you like to raise the level of your home? Bring your family closer together around the hi-fi? Listening to such immoral pieces of art like "Bedaze the Fountain"! Or, "The Duke's Duet" from Il Schizofreino!"
-"40 Great Unclaimed Melodies", The Firesign Theatre

:D First thing that came into my head soon as I saw the first 20 seconds of the ad.
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Christopher Jacobs

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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostSat Jul 01, 2017 10:14 pm

I had no intention of disparaging Elvis for singing songs with lyrics written to Public Domain tunes. I expect that with the control of Col. Parker he probably had relatively little input into the songs he should record or perform, and as I noted, it was already a common practice to write and arrange hit pop songs to long-existing tunes and melodies from classical music (one of my favorites is “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows"). The problem comes with so many modern-day audience members who may have broken out of the limited top-40 playlists to discover and recognize old pop songs they like (by Elvis, Glenn Miller, or numerous others) but do not have a broad enough musical background to realize that they were already old standards or adapted from brief segments of classical compositions long-known to devotees of “serious” concert-hall music; or for that matter, that a frequently-covered hit light pop ballad from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 2010s like “I Only Have Eyes for You” is actually a hit Warren & Dubin number crooned by Dick Powell in 1934’s Busby Berkeley musical DAMES (the first Google hit for the song is a doo-wop recording by the Flamingos) or that “You Made Me Love You” might be used in a lot of modern commercials and might have been sung by Judy Garland, but had long before been a 1913 hit for Al Jolson, and of course is currently Public Domain, which accounts for its frequent use in commercials.

Anyway, back to a movie review, and speaking of music, this time of a film containing several popular singers acting and giving rousing musical performances in a 1953 romantic melodrama shot in 3-D with stereophonic sound!


Stereoscopic photography, which goes back to the 1860s and thrived in the 1950s, adds literally another dimension to still photos and movies. It can make them seem either more realistic or more exaggerated, with 3-D effects either more enjoyable or distracting (or both) than a traditional flat image. After reviving the 3-D craze in the mid-2000s, Hollywood is still making some movies in 3-D (or more often computer-converting movies shot in 2-D into 3-D), especially digital animated movies. However, for some reason after ballyhooing 3-D television sets since 2010, HDTV manufacturers have been quietly dropping 3-D models from their 2017 lines over the past several months, so anyone thinking of switching to 3-D should consider buying a 2016 or older model as soon as possible, or (perhaps a better choice) investing in a 3-D capable HD projector, plus a 3-D Blu-ray player. Probably not coincidentally, major studios and retailers alike have been much less aggressive in marketing 3-D Blu-rays the past couple of years, as well, although they are still usually available for recent movies shown theatrically in 3-D.

Ironically, the past couple of years and for the foreseeable future, new 3-D Blu-ray releases of classic films originally made in 3-D have been on the upswing. After occasional isolated 3-D movies from the 1910s through the 1940s (mostly shorts, some of which are on the 3-D RARITIES Blu-ray), the first Hollywood 3-D movie craze lasted from late 1952 through early 1955. There were 50 full-length 3-D features released to theatres during that period, most shot during 1953. Out of those 50, all but two still survive in 3-D right/left pairs. Of the 48 surviving, about 30 have been recently restored and 13 are currently available on 3-D Blu-ray, with another three or more planned for later this year (including the location-shot Korean War docudrama CEASE FIRE, William Cameron Menzies’ horror-thriller THE MAZE, and Raoul Walsh’s Rock Hudson-Donna Reed western GUN FURY). A few of the scattered 3-D films made during the 1960s, and 70s and the mini-revival of 3-D in the 80s are also on 3-D Blu-ray. MGM’s classic musical KISS ME KATE got a beautifully restored 3-D Blu-ray release by Warner Home Video two years ago with its original stereo soundtrack, and this spring the very first 3-D musical made its 3-D Blu-ray debut from Kino Lorber.

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THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE in 3-D (1953) 90m *** ½ (or *** in 2-D) (Released to Blu-ray May 23, 2017)
This period melodrama with romance and several lively songs can be viewed as pleasantly diverting entertainment but might quickly fade from memory or blend in with any number of other films with similar plot lines. However, this film took advantage of all the modern movie technology that was available at the time to create a memorable impression and draw moviegoers away from their television sets at a time when TV ownership was growing rapidly. Paramount Pictures chose this musical to be their first film designed from the outset to be shown in widescreen (at the 1.66 to 1 aspect ratio). It was also filmed in color using three-dimensional cinematography and had a three-channel stereo soundtrack, all of which add greatly to the impact and enjoyment of the story.

The year 1953 was the height of 3-D in movies, comic books and amateur photography. Unfortunately when this film was originally released in fall of 1953, the initial 3-D craze was subsiding, due mainly to poor quality control in the theatres that had to synchronize two projectors perfectly, one showing the left-eye image and the other the right-eye image projected through polaroid filters. Despite carefully designed 3-D photography, faulty projection frequently resulted in viewer headaches (which led to some bad reviews by critics attending substandard presentations). Thus only a tiny fraction (about two percent) of the theatres that played THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE decided to run it in 3-D, and even fewer with its stereo soundtrack. (MGM’s 3-D musical comedy KISS ME KATE opened about a month later to better success.) Thanks to the efforts of the 3-D Film Archive, the original left and right 35mm film elements of “REDHEADS” were scanned in high-definition so the faded color could be digitally restored and various alignment and steadiness issues could be corrected. An expert audio technician was able to recreate the long-lost stereo soundtrack by isolating individual frequencies and reassigning sounds to left, center, and right the way they would have originally been placed. The restored color widescreen 3-D stereophonic sound version premiered at the TCM Classic Film Festival this past April, and came out on 3-D Blu-ray last month.

The plot unfolds during the 1890s gold rush in the Yukon with four spunky sisters and their straitlaced Victorian mother traveling north to join their newspaper-editor father. Rhonda Fleming, Teresa Brewer, and the musical duo the Bell Sisters play the sisters, and noted character actress Agnes Moorhead is their mother. They get a ride from a saloon owner (Gene Barry) who is bringing his new stage entertainer (recording artist Guy Mitchell), but when they reach the town they discover their father has been murdered and the saloon owner they’ve befriended might be implicated. Of course various romances develop along the way, complicated by incomplete understanding and mistaken assumptions. The plot pauses periodically for several pleasant songs that are worked nicely into the story (enhanced even more by the 3-D picture and stereo sound). The Hollywood happy ending is not unexpected.

The disc will play in 2-D on a normal Blu-ray player, but the 3-D is a primary reason for watching. The attractive color, vivid 3-D, and effective stereo sound raise the film’s entertainment value substantially. Staging and camerawork provide beautifully-composed three-dimensional images with several notable out-of-the-screen moments (particularly dancing girls’ arms and legs, and a Guy Mitchell song and dance number when he thrusts his hat towards the camera). Most of the 3-D concentrates on depicting a natural depth and roundness to things in the scene, with some very nice outdoor 3-D work showing buildings, trees, and mountains on different planes. Even the opening titles use clever 3-D effects, with some titles floating in front of the screen on different levels from other titles, while the background picture recedes into the screen.

There are many grainy sections from dupe footage (mainly around optical effects) but many shots are very sharp. For some reason the stereo sound has much lower volume in the center dialogue channel, which makes the music and sound effects quite loud if the dialogue is at a comfortable level. Otherwise the stereo is amazingly realistic with believable musical presence and nice occasional use of directional dialogue and sound effects. The original mono audio most viewers heard is available as an option. Kino’s Blu-ray has an informative and nearly non-stop audio commentary discussing the 3-D process, the production, and some of the actors, as well as the difficulties in restoring the surviving film elements. An interesting bonus restoration demo shows some of the severe problems with fading, jitter, and 3-D alignment in the original negative. There’s also a 2006 interview with star Rhonda Fleming. There are no English subtitles. For more details on this and other 3-D movies as well as the technology itself, be sure to check out the http://www.3dfilmarchive.com" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank website.

THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE on 3-D Blu-ray --
Movie: A- (or just a B without the 3-D or stereo sound)
Video: A-
3-D: A+
Audio: A-
Extras: B+
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostMon Jul 24, 2017 5:33 pm

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WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967) ***1/2 (Released on BluRay on January 24, 2017)
Wait Until Dark (1967) has been recently released on BluRay by Warner Brothers, and if you love suspense movies it deserves a spot on your shelf. The film was based on a play by Frederick Knott which opened in 1966 with Lee Remick in the starring role. The story revolves around Susy Hendrix, a married woman who has recently become blind and is still learning how to navigate in a dark world.

The film opens with a woman (Samantha Jones) is flying from Montreal to New York with an old doll that is being used to smuggle heroin. When she arrives, she sees a man she apparently knows and gets worried, so she gives the doll to another passenger who happens to be Sam Hendrix, Susy's husband. Sam brings the doll home and it is promptly lost.

Later, two con-men enter a New York apartment to wait for information about a job. Mike (Richard Crenna) and Carlino (Jack Weston) make themselves at home. After waiting a while, they are joined by Roat, who they have never met before. Roat (Alan Arkin) blackmails the two and promises $4000 each if they can help him find the heroin. They are interrupted by Susy, who comes home, as they are still in her apartment. They quickly learn that they can stay in the apartment undetected as long as they don't make any noise.

The next day they cook up an elaborate ruse to convince Susy to turn over the doll. Mike plays an old Marine buddy of Sam. Carlino plays a police sergeant, since he used to be one before switching to a life of crime. Roat plays an old man who burglarizes the apartment and later an apologetic son. The scam gets complicated when the latchkey girl from upstairs comes down to assist Susy with grocery shopping. Initially Hepburn trusts them all, but she starts to notice behaviors that don't make sense.

I won't spill the beans on the rest of the plot, but the last fifteen minutes is as suspenseful as any movie can get. While Hepburn's character is as sweet as any other role that she played, she is willing to do anything to protect herself and the ending is quite violent for a 1960s film. Director Terence Young magnifies the suspense by having some scenes with little or no light and only sound (or complete silence). The two trailers included as supplements both warn audience members that no one will be admitted during the last eight minutes of the film. They also ask smokers in the audience to extinguish their cigarettes near the end of the film so that the theater will be completely dark.

Hepburn gives a masterful performance that was nominated for an Academy Award. You will truly believe that she is blind. Alan Arkin, in a very early performance, alternates between goofy creepy and scary creepy. Richard Crenna gives an excellent performance as a con man who sounds completely earnest as he lies through his teeth. Jack Weston is also good as the angry and frustrated ex-police sergeant. I'm dumbfounded how Mr. FBI-from-TV Efram Zimbalist, Jr. was nominated for a Golden Globe. He seems slightly miscast for his part.

Charles Lang's cinematography is drab at first, but it is outstanding for the long finale which was shot with little or no light. This is a new 2K color-corrected transfer, and will look excellent on a large TV screen. The film is captioned in English only.

As you would expect with a film based on a play, most of the action takes place in the apartment where Susy is trapped by her blindness and the criminals. The beginning of the film does have some expository scenes at the airport. We also experience some important scenes taking place on the street outside the apartment. The soundtrack has been remixed from mono to stereo. Henry Mancini's score is just as disturbing as the film. He tuned two pianos a quarter-tone apart for a very distinctive sound.

As for supplements, there are two trailers included. The longer one is transferred in high-def 1080p. There is also a featurette that was produced either for the original DVD release or for TCM. Alan Arkin talks about how people hated him after the film was released because he was so mean to Audrey Hepburn. Mel Ferrer (Hepburn's husband and the film's producer) talks about how he convinced her to play this role so that she could stretch herself as an actress.

WAIT UNTIL DARK on Blu-ray --
Movie: A
Video: A
Audio: A
Extras: C-
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Re: Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

PostWed Aug 16, 2017 9:30 pm

Concerns over potential nuclear war with South Korea have been in the news recently. This week marks the 72nd anniversary of Japan’s agreement to unconditional surrender about a week after the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the official surrender ceremonies were held in early September 1945. Earlier this year two very different but interesting films depicting Japanese takes on World War II came out on Blu-ray, one filtered through an American director’s views shortly after the war, the other an official wartime Japanese government production.

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ANATAHAN (1953/58) 91m *** (Blu-ray released April 25, 2017)
Noted American director Josef von Sternberg flourished in the late 1920s and 1930s, especially remembered for his silent classics UNDERWORLD (1927), THE LAST COMMAND (1928), and THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK (1928), plus several major films that made Marlene Dietrich an international star in the early sound era including THE BLUE ANGEL (1930), MOROCCO (1930), SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932), and more. He continued making films until his final feature in 1953, which he revised in 1958.

That film, ANATAHAN, came out on Blu-ray this April from Kino Lorber in a new restoration of the uncensored 1958 director’s cut (plus the complete 1953 cut for comparison, which is essentially the same length but with slightly different editing and minus the nudity). They were mastered from film elements preserved by the Library of Congress and Cinematheque Francaise.

Von Sternberg filmed ANATAHAN independently on a modest budget in Japan, largely within a studio with some location shots. The plot was loosely inspired by a memoir of one of the survivors recounting the true story of several Japanese sailors marooned on a Pacific island near the end of World War II, and not realizing that the war had been over for six years when they are finally rescued in 1951. The only other inhabitants on the island are a man at an abandoned plantation and a beautiful young woman. Naturally this causes various power struggles among all the men, in addition to their official military duties and devolving sense of official discipline.

The film is an interesting exercise in style and exploring human emotions under stress, although its approach may be problematic for viewers until adjusting to its unusual narrative tactics. The film uses an all-Japanese cast speaking in Japanese. However the director provides his own somewhat odd voiceover narration/commentary on the action, instead of presenting a straight dramatization with English subtitles. This tends to make it feel more novelistic, like a storyteller, and takes some getting used to, although it does make sure we understand the director’s views on his characters and human nature. There is plenty of the recognizably von Sternbergian artistic use of light, shadow, shooting through nets, carefully-designed studio sets, etc., as well as effective performances by the actors. A more traditional dramatic narrative might have made it more effective, but it remains an interesting experiment. A few too-obvious cheap effects shots distract in a couple of scenes, and the film tends to drag at times, but the overall visuals make up for that.

Kino’s Blu-ray has a mostly beautiful HD image scanned from the original camera negative (on the 1958 cut, but the1953 cut looks mostly very good as well). Audio is adequate, reflecting the film’s low budget. The modest but nice selection of bonus features, all in HD, includes trailers, a reminiscence by von Sternberg’s son, outtakes shot for the revised cut (with plenty of aesthetically tasteful nudity), a visual essay, newsreels of the actual Japanese survivors’ rescue, and the full-length reconstructed 1953 theatrical cut assembled from several sources of varying quality.

ANATAHAN on Blu-ray --
Movie: B
Video: A
Audio: A-
Extras: B-


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MOMOTARO: SACRED SAILORS (桃太郎 海の神兵) (1945) 75m ***
(Blu-ray released May 9, 2017)
Momotaro (“Peach-boy”) and his four animal friends were long-time Japanese folk heroes/fairytales that became animated short films in the late silent era. With the expansion of the Japanese Empire in the 1930s, they were pressed into service beyond their folktale roots to support patriotic (and militaristic) themes. Several of these original short cartoons (plus numerous other early examples of Japanese animation) are available for viewing on line thanks to the Japanese Animated Film Classics website from the National Film Center of Tokyo at http://animation.filmarchives.jp/en/index.html" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank (with English translation).

In 1943, a 37-minute sound cartoon MOMOTARO’S SEA EAGLES dramatized the attack on Pearl Harbor (“Demon Island”). It can be found on line. Then in 1945, Japan’s first feature-length animated cartoon was another Momotaro wartime propaganda adventure, MOMOTARO: SACRED SAILORS. This past May, FUNimation Entertainment released a Blu-ray edition that includes that historically significant feature plus another, non-propaganda (or at least far more subtle propaganda) cartoon short, “The Spider and the Tulip” (1943).

MOMOTARO: SACRED SAILORS is a fascinating look at World War II propaganda from the perspective of Japan against the British and Americans. It has plenty of beautiful black-and-white animation and several catchy songs. Even at only 75 minutes, it does tend to drag on a bit at times, emphasizing its didactic messages about selfless cooperation in the war effort, including teaching simple islanders Japanese customs and language. The plot assumes its audience is familiar with the characters so it never gets around to exploring them as much as the earlier shorts from 1928, 1931, and 1932 had done. When their paratroop mission captures the island navy base, it’s especially interesting to see that among their prisoners are Popeye (with spinach can!) and Bluto, considering that there were some rather intense anti-Japanese Popeye cartoons circulating around the same time this was made.

The FUNimation Blu-ray looks quite good overall, with occasional slightly soft portions likely due to the film itself. A bonus short is the lovely 1943 cartoon THE SPIDER AND THE TULIP along with trailers to a few recent anime films, plus a nice little illustrated booklet with a couple of essays and restoration information.

SPIDER AND TULIP is a cute, beautifully animated 15-minute musical cartoon (also in black-and-white) about a spider trying to seduce a ladybug who gets protective help from a friendly tulip. The style appears to have a heavy influence from Disney’s Silly Symphonies and the MGM Harmon-Ising nature-oriented cartoons of the 1930s.

MOMOTARO: SACRED SAILORS on Blu-ray --
Movie: B
Video: A-
Audio: A-
Extras: C
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