Old Movies in HD: An Ongoing Guide

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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Mike Gebert

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PostSat Dec 05, 2009 10:39 am

Slim pickings of late, save for Young and Innocent, and I do have Huston's The Unforgiven recorded.

YOUNG AND INNOCENT-- Generally known as a second-tier 39 Steps with one bravura shot, and it's still that in HD: Derrick DeMarney, who is now Uncle Silas to me, gets lots of chances to show off his limpid matinee idol eyes and long eyelashes, but he's clearly a tier below Donat or Redgrave in charm and humor, and Nova Pilbeam has a nice regular-gal quality but, as Hitchcock females go, she's a Teresa Wright, not a Grace Kelly, let's put it that way. And the tramp they pick up (Edward Rigby) is an English comic type of the indigestible sort to me. That said, as with Sabotage part of the fascination in HD is just how detailed the prewar English settings become, Hitch had a great eye for his own country's middle and working class life that is much more lived-in than his slicked-up idea of America. And this time I suddenly noticed a character (Pilbeam's sternly proper policeman pop, played by Percy Marmont) who had always been part of the background before, but now seems central to the drama as he never did before... but then I was closer in age to Pilbeam's character than her dad's the last time I saw this. (Incidentally, though this isn't on Blu-Ray, it was on HD-DVD, remember that?)

IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE-- MGM-HD continues its tribute to Movies That Alien Ripped Off with this 1957 space thriller in which a spaceship returning from Mars, holding an astronaut believed to have killed his fellow crew, turns out to have a murderous alien stowaway who starts picking them off. The resemblance to Alien is much more closer than the bare outline suggests, though-- the Hawksian interplay of the working class crew, a hunt through air ducts, and the way the creature's finally dealt with are all quite similar. The big difference is... this is a 50s sci-fi movie, and for every thing that seems adult and rather smartly thought out, there's another that's clunkingly, Ed Wood-illogical, not least among them the rubber suit of the creature, which couldn't be more obvious (I'm not expecting a Rick Baker-level of appliance virtuosity here, but it folds and creases like rubber, and the guy inside-- cowboy star turned ape suit performer Ray "Crash" Corrigan"-- moves like a 50-year-old human, not the slightest bit of mystery or strangeness in his performance). The best I can say is, this is almost worth sitting through, but whatever Alien took from it, it improved upon. The drab production doesn't particularly show off HD to any advantage, but at least it doesn't reveal its flaws more than they would have been anyway.
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Christopher Jacobs

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PostTue Dec 22, 2009 8:46 pm

Well, last night I had a couple of people over to watch Universal-International's THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH (1954) on the new Eureka BluRay (preceded by a standard DVD of a Universal cartune, CONVICT CONCERTO, a well-above-average Woody Woodpecker title released to theatres a couple of months after the feature in 1954). We all found both the short and feature quite entertaining. My guests were amazed at the clarity of the 8-foot-wide CinemaScope picture, commenting that the textures were so vivid it was "like you could reach out and pet the horses!" The opening titles are a little soft in the middle (perhaps a different, inferior anamorphic lens used in 1954?) but the rest of the film is consistently crisp except for the few seconds before and after any optical transition like a dissolve or fade (a property of the duping process used for transitions by almost all films of that era). Colors are very strong, not quite as rich as 1940s 3-strip, but still well-saturated, especially the night scenes. Unfortunately Universal did not use the original 4-track magnetic stereo soundtrack, but the optical mono track used for the BluRay is quite high quality and was likely heard in most theatres.

Rudolph Mate's THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH is a classic example of a major studio period adventure movie that seems aimed primarily at the Saturday-matinee audience of 1950s kids (especially boys about 8-12), with enough tongue-in-cheek dialogue, action-intrigue, and production values to appeal to adult viewers and win broad family audiences. Rather harshly treated by many serious critics of the era and afterwards, the film has remained largely underrated except by a core of fans of medieval swashbucklers, and oddly never got an official DVD release in the U.S. (Amazon is still selling old VHS copies of the 1.33 version at prices from $30-$50, yet I got the brand new BluRay from Amazon.co.uk for only $16!)

The young Tony Curtis takes a while to warm up in the role but does just fine for the most part as a late teen/early 20-something boy raised as a peasant, who trains to be a knight and learns he's really the son of a knight who had been unjustly condemned for treason so a rival could seize his property. All of this is going on during the reign of Henry IV (Ian Keith), with a major subplot of that same villain's plot to get rid of the apparently dissolute future Henry V (Dan O'Herlihy) and seize the throne. Meanwhile, of course, impetuous Tony meets and falls for Janet Leigh, daughter of his noble patron Herbert Marshall. A very pretty Barbara Rush plays Curtis' sister.

It may actually be the script and direction as much as Curtis's acting that take a while to get going (or at least for the audience to become accustomed to). The first half-hour or so of the film, with the right crowd of people, could easily be viewed as high camp of "Rocky Horror" proportions, just begging for audience members to talk back to the characters or recite lines in unison. It's hard to believe the screenwriter didn't know how laughable some of the early dialogue exchanges were and may well have done it intentionally to entertain parents who may have accompanied their kids (who would take everything seriously). Once Curtis gets into his military training, however, the plotting becomes more involved, the acting improves, the film picks up in pace considerably, and remains highly enjoyable despite the predictable melodrama through its conclusion. Torin Thatcher is great as the crusty one-eyed Sir James, Curtis' medieval drill-sergeant. It's no ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD by any means, but it's all a lot of good clean Hollywood fun from the days before bloody decapitations became the norm for historical action films.

THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH is also very nice to look at for its effective use of the full width of its CinemaScope frame in almost every single shot. It may be way too overlit in all of the interior shots (the standard Hollywood style of the 50s and 60s), but it's always meticulously composed on the screen. The art direction is quite respectable, and much more noticeable in high definition (and some of the decorative little pennants on the horses certainly look like they're made of plastic!).

The BluRay looks and sounds very impressive, despite no "restoration" being apparent. The original print was just kept in pristine condition and film grain is visible but little or no obvious wear. Unfortunately there are absolutely no extra features on the disc, unless you consider chapter stops as a bonus. Some nice high-resolution scans of posters and lobby cards can currently be found on line, however, at the Dr. Macro site. The Eureka BluRay's copyright statement, unlike the ominous red-background US text screen warnings of massive fines and prison time, is simple white letters on black and its wording is quaintly civil, entreating viewers not to copy the film if they value having more movies like this being made available.

Movie: B
Video: A+
Audio: A-
Extras: F+

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PostTue Dec 22, 2009 10:16 pm

Unfortunately Universal did not use the original 4-track magnetic stereo soundtrack, but the optical mono track used for the BluRay is quite high quality and was likely heard in most theatres.


That's a real let-down, since Universal has those tracks. Most theaters would have played the picture in stereo, since part of the contractual agreement with installing CinemaScope initially was that it had to be shown with stereophonic sound. That part of the deal was dropped around May, 1954 or so, but many of the theaters were already equipped.

On top of that, the mono track is a Perspecta track. There was also an alternate flat version.
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PostThu Feb 04, 2010 4:19 pm

SUNRISE (1927)
Okay, techically not a talkie but it does have a Movietone soundtrack. Although most people have probably seen this on film or DVD, it's now available on BluRay and belongs in every collector's library.

The first and only film ever to win the Academy Award for “Most Artistic or Unique Production” was the Fox film, “Sunrise,” which also picked up Oscars for “Best Actress” (Janet Gaynor) and “Best Cinematography” (Charles Rosher and Karl Struss). Art director Rochus Gliese was also nominated, but lost out to William Cameron Menzies’ designs for “The Dove” and “Tempest.” Since its release in 1927, “Sunrise” has made numerous critical lists of top 10 and top 100 films of all time.
Even in his own time, German director F. W. Murnau (“Nosferatu,” “Faust”) was recognized as one of the world’s major filmmakers, and had been brought to Hollywood to help raise the standards of American films. His first American project was “Sunrise.” One would expect such a prestigious film to be a natural for home video release, but it has been difficult and/or expensive to get hold of.

“Sunrise” came out in a nice DVD edition in 2003 with lots of great bonus features; however, it was first available only by sending in proof-of-purchase from three other titles in 20th Century Fox’s classics series, then only in a four-disc set. Five years later “Sunrise” was included in Fox’s magnificent 12-disc box set of films directed by F. W. Murnau and Frank Borzage, and this time included an alternate European cut discovered in Prague, as well. That version is 15 minutes shorter and often uses different takes, but the original 1927 print survived with higher picture quality than the American release, whose original negative was destroyed in a 1937 fire. Thus all copies had to be made from other copies. Now both versions of “Sunrise” are available on BluRay in a wonderful high-definition transfer, but only through Britain’s Eureka! label in their “Masters of Cinema” series. Luckily it’s an all-region disc that can play on BluRay players worldwide, and its bonus materials are compatible with America’s NTSC video format. The BluRay of “Sunrise” can easily be ordered through Amazon.co.uk. with the cost converted automatically to American dollars.

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans,” is an intimate, emotional story of love lost and regained, complicated by disenchantment with a once-idyllic rural life, temptation to murder, regret, renewal, with and an unexpected intervention of nature to complicate things. A simple farmer falls prey to the charms of a city woman who convinces him he should kill his wife, sell the farm, and move to the city with her for a more exciting life. Far more than a trite love triangle, the film constantly contrasts good and evil, light and dark, innocence and guilt, country and city, peasant and bourgeoisie, traditional and modern. Using elements of German Expressionism, Murnau deliberately distorts settings and actors’ movements to a certain extent, in order to emphasize his themes visually and to give them a timeless setting rather than tying them to a specific period and location. The stylization may seem quaint at first to viewers unfamiliar with silent film conventions, but despite occasional excesses, the film rewards the time it may take to see it for what it is.

“Sunrise” was made near the end of cinema’s silent era, and requires very few titles to explain action or dialogue. In 1927, Fox studios recorded a soundtrack of music and sound effects to accompany the film in theatres that had already installed sound equipment. That track was restored and is included with both versions here (condensed to match the shorter Czech release), with an alternate new orchestra score in digital stereo on the American version.

Because the surviving American version of “Sunrise” looks slightly soft, the BluRay’s hi-def upgrade shows only a marginal improvement over the DVD release, but does reveal slightly more of the lower image area than the DVD. However, the BluRay’s picture quality on the Czech version is incredibly crisper and clearer than either the American release or the Czech release on DVD, as sharp as a film copy would be. Although a quarter-hour shorter, the Czech version doesn’t really delete any scenes. Some scenes are slightly shorter, and others are missing shots or frames, or have different takes or angles, occasionally in a different order. Because it was a silent print, it also has the full 1.33:1 picture width, whereas the American version has the nearly square 1.2:1 ratio that resulted when the soundtrack was added.

Bonus materials are essentially the same as were on the DVD, including a very informative and appreciative analytical commentary by Hollywood cinematographer John Bailey. The trailer, showing some alternate takes of some shots, and a selection of outtakes (also with commentary) are fascinating, as is the 40-minute featurette reconstructing Murnau's lost film “Four Devils” from stills, titles, and production art. A new 20-page booklet has photos and discusses the film’s restoration and the different versions.

Because few people have BluRay drives in their computers, Eureka has put downloadable files of the original “Four Devils” and “Sunrise” scripts on their website (www.mastersofcinema.org), as well as a pdf scanned from the actual “Sunrise” scenario with notations by Murnau in German, plus a pdf of a 39-page critical essay on the film by Dudley Andrew. These are invaluable for in-depth study of the film, especially with the two alternate cuts available for comparison. The “Sunrise” BluRay is a must for any serious video collection.

“SUNRISE” on BluRay:
Movie: A
Video: A-
Audio: B (original score) A+ (new score)
Extras: A
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Christopher Jacobs

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PostSat Feb 20, 2010 10:05 pm

Here are reviews of a few more British import BluRays I've recently gotten. Though perhaps not so "classic" by our usual standarads, they're all more than 30 years old at this point and one celebrates our favorite decade of the late 20s-early 30s. All three of these were selling for the equivalent of just $14 each from Amazon.co.uk (not including shipping).

ZULU (1964)
This epic of British colonial power and native rebellion is based on an actual incident that is sort of Britain's version of "Custer's Last Stand," with a few major variations. Despite a relatively low budget, it has excellent production values, spectacular South African location shooting (in Super Technirama 70, no less), and powerhouse performances. Stanley Baker not only starred in but produced ZULU with expatriate American director Cy Endfield for their own brand-new production company, thanks to the backing of Joseph E. Levine. Michael Caine got his first major role as a young British officer, and Jack Hawkins plays against type as an alcoholic missionary. Unlike most war films, it manages to be a patriotic, moving portrait of personal and national heroism at the same time it undercuts official military policies and makes a powerful anti-war statement. Endfield pulls off a delicate balancing act of making an exciting war picture that glorifies military discipline and bravery while vividly dramatizing its tragic devastation and questioning its ultimate value (and keep it within a PG rating). During the troubled era of the American Civil Rights movement and the South African Apartheid battles, he also dared to depict both the dignity and bravery of the Zulu warriors besieging the lonely British outpost.

For some reason I don't recall ever having seen this film in its entirety before this, only excerpts on TV or pan & scan VHS. I had gotten an apparently PD version on a Front Row Entertainment DVD that at least was letterboxed, but the picture was so soft I finally gave up on watching the whole film. Compared with those, the BluRay from Paramount-UK is an audio-visual revelation including the original stereo soundtrack and incredibly crisp widescreen picture (even though the audio quality is not quite up to modern standards). Unfortunately there is just a little too much digital noise reduction that keeps most of the detail but completely obliterates the film grain. In my basement theatre, this was barely noticeable if I sat in the third or fourth row instead of the first or second, and people two or more screen-widths away from their screens probably won't notice it.

I'd held off ordering this disc for some time, fearing its standard-definition bonus materials would be unplayable on a U.S.-region machine. As it turns out, all four featurettes and two trailers are in the NTSC format so they play perfectly, and all are quite informative. There's also a good audio commentary with a film historian and the film's second unit director.

ZULU on BluRay
Movie: A
Video: B+
Audio: B+
Extras: A-


BUGSY MALONE (1976)
Better known for MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, FAME, MISSISSIPPI BURNING, and others, director Alan Parker came up with a clever concept for his first theatrical feature -- a musical gangster film set in the 1920s that seems to be a cult favorite in Britain but almost unknown in the U.S. I recall it having played here theatrically but missed it during its short run. I remember seeing it on HBO in the late 70s and I think it was on VHS but never even made it to DVD, let alone BluRay on this side of the Atlantic. Besides the fact that both the 1920s and musicals have not been in vogue for some time, the film's biggest obstacle for most viewers is that the entire cast is between the ages of about 10 and 15 (including a young Scott Baio and Jodie Foster)! Stealing the show, however, is Florrie Dugger as "Blousey." The dancers are all impressively self-assured and professional, especially considering their ages, but all the singing appears to be lip-synched to somewhat older voices (including songwriter Paul Williams himself, and what sounds very much like Bernadette Peters, among others).

Paul Williams contributed a fun, bouncy score that is reminiscent of the 1920s with a 1970s Broadway flavor, and fits the quirky concept perfectly. It's all an affectionate tribute to classic Hollywood as a kid might imagine himself or herself showing up in a formula gangster film. What makes the film work is that the director and cast play everything straight, rather than camping it up. A few odd choices threaten to push it into farce, such as the pedal-cars and especially the whipped-cream gun blasts, but once one can accept them as a kid-friendly and non-bloody convention, they actually work in the context. The only exception is some apparent changing of the "rules" during the final free-for-all, but what would Hollywood be without a happy ending? Overall the movie is a lot of fun for any movie buff and fan of classic musicals.

The picture looks very good indeed in high-definition, its 1.78 image half-way between the 1.66 that would have been seen in Europe and the 1.85 that was seen in the U.S. The 5.1 stereo soundtrack is also very nice. This disc is region-free so its high-definition content (the feature film) plays with no problem on Region A BluRay players. There is a very good director's commentary track as a bonus feature. Unfortunately the other bonus features are not merely standard definition but are all in the PAL format, so most American BluRay players will either not play them at all, will display a distorted picture, or will play only the audio.

BUGSY MALONE on BluRay
Movie: B+
Video: A-
Audio: A-
Extras: B (thanks to the commentary -- probably a B+ or A- if the PAL features would play)


ESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979)
This international production filmed on location on the Greek island of Rhodes is a diverting World War II action adventure prison camp picture with an all-star cast. It does not seem to be available in the U.S., only as a Region 2 PAL DVD and as this region-free BluRay from Britain's ITV.

The plot's sort of a "Great Escape" meets "Kelly's Heroes" with assorted other familiar elements that sometimes vary wildly from heavy and disturbingly serious melodrama to smart satire to broad slapstick. David Niven plays a British archaeologist in a German prison camp run by Austrian officer Roger Moore(!), who would rather be collecting antiquities than fighting a war. Meanwhile Telly Savalas is in the head of the local Greek underground, aided by Claudia Cardinale as a madame of the local House of Eros. Other prisoners include Richard Roundtree (the token Black sergeant) and Sonny Bono (as an Italian), joined by the recently captured USO entertainers Stefanie Powers and Elliott Gould. There's even a cute throwaway prison camp cameo by William Holden. Eventually they come up with a plan to seize some priceless gold artifacts and escape with the help of their commandant! Of course there's lots of action and things don't always go according to their plans. None of it is particularly memorable, but it's all competently done and provides a good two hours of entertainment if you're in the WWII adventure-comedy-drama mood (i.e., a perfectly good "program picture" of its era, especially at a bargain price). This disc has the 119-minute European cut rather than the 125-minute version said to be shown in England, or the 101-minute American release (which likely gets further trimmed for local TV station broadcasts).

The movie looks pretty good overall, with a few soft spots here and there I'm not sure if are due to the transfer, a warped print, or the film's lower budget not permitting retakes. The sound is mono but certainly adequate if you turn up your subwoofer response a bit. There's supposed to be over an hour of cast interviews as bonus material, but unfortunately it's all PAL so all I can see is a black screen with audio that sometimes jumps around. There's no audio commentary. At least the original trailer is presented in full 1080p, so it shows up quite nicely on a big screen.

ESCAPE TO ATHENA on BluRay
Movie: B-
Video: B+
Audio: C+
Extras: C+ (or maybe a B if you can play the PAL content)
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PostWed Mar 03, 2010 1:50 pm

Two notable classic Oscar-winning films from 1947 have come out on BluRay, but so far are available only from Britain’s ITV. Since both are British productions, this is perhaps not surprising, but fortunately both are region-free discs that will run on BluRay players world-wide. One is a must-own, and the other is at least a must-see. Both can easily be purchased through Amazon.co.uk for the equivalent of about $14 each.

Both “Great Expectations” and “Black Narcissus” won the Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction at a time when the awards were still split into Black & White and Color categories. “Great Expectations” was also nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay (and probably should have won at least one of those awards, as well). Interestingly, both films feature the late Jean Simmons in early prominent roles while she was still a teenager. I finally got around to watching these BluRays when I had a few people over to see them the other night.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946)
“Great Expectations” was actually made in 1946 but got to the U.S. in the summer of 1947. Director David Lean’s meticulous adaptation is one of the best films made from any Charles Dickens novel. It captures the style and atmosphere of Dickens perfectly, expertly condensing the densely detailed story and coming up with a satisfying conclusion that is a bit different from either of the book’s two alternate endings.

A superlative cast is led by John Mills as “Pip” (with Anthony Wages remarkable as the young Pip), along with Finlay Currie, Francis L. Sullivan, Martita Hunt, Valerie Hobson (as the older version of Jean Simmons’ more memorable Estella), and a young Alec Guinness.

The high-definition transfer for the BluRay is nothing short of spectacular, reproducing the rich grayscale of the film stock and the fine textures of both the mise en scene and film grain with a vividness that would make you swear you were watching an original 35mm film print. There are a few sporadic moments where minor film wear shows through, light black or white lines and specks inherent in the surviving material, which otherwise looks as though it is brand new. The audio is the original mono track and sounds fine for the era, although some may wish to boost the bass on their sound systems. This wonderful disc’s only drawback is the complete lack of any extra features, unless one counts a main menu and chapter stops as a bonus. Still, “Great Expectations” is a film that belongs in every serious BluRay collection.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS on BluRay:
Movie: A+
Video: A+
Audio: A-
Extras: F+



BLACK NARCISSUS (1947)
“Black Narcissus” is an odd but reasonably compelling melodrama that is aided immensely by the outstanding Technicolor cinematography of Jack Cardiff and its lush settings that reproduce a castle in the Himalayas and the surrounding landscape of India.

The plot deals with the emotional and personal conflicts of a small group of Anglican missionary nuns assigned to set up a school and hospital in a remote mountain village. The completely foreign atmosphere, the fact that their new convent was formerly used to house the local sultan’s harem, and the handsome but worldly local British official, only serve to heighten the sisters’ isolation and loneliness, and eventually take a toll on their sense of discipline as they start to recollect their lives before joining the order.

Deborah Kerr is very good as the superior Sister Clodagh, with strong support from Kathleen Byron as her chief adversary, Sister Ruth, and David Farrar as the cynical Mr. Dean. Indian star Sabu is fine as a general’s son who falls for the charms of exotic and sensual beggar girl Jean Simmons.

This disc has the uncut 100-minute British release of the film. By the end of 1947, several minutes were deleted from the American release due to censorship concerns about the image of religious life it presented. The BluRay again has a magnificent film-like hi-def transfer that brings out the luxuriant colors and textures of everything in the scene and preserves the fine grain of the film. Other than one or two brief color fluctuations, it looks like it could have been shot and released this year. The audio is good for its age, and may benefit from boosting the bass slightly during playback.

The only extras on this BluRay are a lovely hi-def transfer of the film’s original British trailer (which plays fine on American BluRay players), plus a brief documentary about the film that is unfortunately in the standard-definition PAL format, and thus may show a distorted image, audio with no image, or nothing at all on American players.
BLACK NARCISSUS on BluRay:
Movie: B
Video: A+
Audio: A-
Extras: C-
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PostWed Mar 03, 2010 2:55 pm

Chris - I agree with everything in your review except one point: I'd also consider BLACK NARCISSUS as a "must own". One of my great favorites of British films, along with THIEF OF BAGDAD.
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PostThu Mar 04, 2010 3:37 pm

Danny Burk wrote:Chris - I agree with everything in your review except one point: I'd also consider BLACK NARCISSUS as a "must own". One of my great favorites of British films, along with THIEF OF BAGDAD.


We disagree on this. I'd consider P&P's films. listed from top down to be: Red Shoes, I Know Where I'm Going, Stairway to Heaven (Matter of Life and Death) Colonel Blimp, and would put BN somewhere below this.

BN is surely one of their strangest films, but P&P tend to think of its location as pure Orientalism, rather than a real place. Not the beautiful concise script of IKWIG, done with real knowledge of the locals. There are of course, many nice touches in BN. I esp. like the scene that explains the title of the film, suggesting that for the locals, a London shop is where one finds the exotic.
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PostThu Mar 04, 2010 5:11 pm

I disagree. Much as I love P&P, they can be too too (and after a certain point, they're mostly too too). Great as The Red Shoes is, good as Stairway to Heaven is, they're both P&P at their "aren't we dazzlingly brilliant" too much at times. IKWIG and Black Narcissus are their lean, pure masterpieces by comparison, and Black Narcissus is a marvelous, mysterious portrait of the rational west destroying itself on the rocks of the inscrutable east.

Or maybe it's just because I went to Catholic school.
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Old Movies in HD

PostFri Mar 05, 2010 2:20 am

When HD was first talked about some years ago the idea was the PAL & NTSC would be no more and all discs would play on all machines. Fortunately in Australia we have no such problems with DVD or Blu Ray except that Blu Ray will on play Region B or ALL. This is what is disappointing about Criterion coeding theirs A. All DVDs play in the same machine and most other types of discs. With my Plasma Full HD TV and Blu Ray recorder(all Panasonic) I can also mix NTSC & PAL footage on the same DVD-R and they playback full screen which was not possible before. But I have a local machine also to play all Blu Ray(and cheap too) discs. This is very fast loading and accessing the parts I want to see via the menu. Other machines are currently very slow. DVDs all play but the Blu Ray requires a remote control code and from the new menu you select the Region A B or C. This has to happen at each time the machine is switched on because it goes back to B on switch off/on. There are only two problems I have one is that on this machine can sometimes not play the sound on some extras and I have to change the sound settings which I don't on other machines.

The other problem is that I got the US Blu Ray of South Pacific and The Robe from Amazon US in Feb 2009 and these will not play on the computer(Blu Ray burner) or my two Blu Ray standalones. I tried software decrypting but nothing. As I got the local Blu Ray just before Christmas, and could not try in a region free device until then, Amazon gave me back all my money and postage and told me keep the discs. They have not been issued to date elsewhere(or any other R&H Fox musicals for that matter), I cannot try an different encoding yet. All other Fox I have in that format I can now play OK.

I have many DVD-R WB films now and three so far have not worked, giving only the FBI notice and 11 seconds of gray screen. Decrypting on the computer and making a second copy corrects this situation and I file it with the original. Maybe the originals will play on something else one day!!!??
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PostWed Mar 10, 2010 10:07 pm

I had several people over Monday night for a BluRay double feature of the original versions of THE LADYKILLERS and THE PINK PANTHER. Everyone enjoyed both immensely.

THE LADYKILLERS (1955), released in the US in 1956, is an entertaining black comedy with a typically British flavor, marking the end of the Ealing era. The cast is superlative and the comic caper story is droll, and though I've never quite liked it as much as, say THE LAVENDER HILL MOB, I'd say it's at least as good as THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT.

This BluRay is from Lionsgate rather than Criterion, and the picture quality is good, but far from the standard set by BluRays of slightly older films like BLACK NARCISSUS, THE THIRD MAN, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, et al. or Warners' amazing restorations of THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND. Scratches and dirt have been digitally erased, but on this film there seems to have been issues with the three-strip color registration beyond the budget for fixing, as a faint color fringe softens the otherwise very clear image. The picture is presented in its original 1.37 ratio rather than cropped to 1.66, 1.78, or 1.85, and seems to look best that way even though it also appears "protected" for a certain amount of cropping for widescreen (while providing the option for people to crop it themselves through their TV sets or projector settings if they prefer the widescreen look). Sound quality is decent, though not what one would call memorable. There are some very good Criterion-like bonus features, including an introduction by Terry Gilliam, an audio commentary, a variety of taped interviews, a somewhat contrasty but very sharp transfer of the original British trailer in HD, and an illustrated booklet with quite an interesting essay on the film's history and interpretation.

THE LADYKILLERS on BluRay:
Movie: B+
Video: B+
Audio: A-
Extras: A



THE PINK PANTHER (1964) is certainly one of the high points of Blake Edwards' directorial career, a brilliant demonstration of how to stage action for the wide CinemaScope (actually Technirama) aspect ratio, a leisurely but often hilarious heist comedy, and a valuable artifact of 1960s culture. Peter Sellers certainly made Clouseau an iconic character in a way that Peter Ustinov, originally intended for the role, probably wouldn't have, although in this first of the series it's not hard to imagine Ustinov doing most of the same lines and sight gags. David Niven is his usual suave self, and his Raffles-like jewel thief is actually the main character of this film. While a fun film, I still prefer the first sequel, A SHOT IN THE DARK, and hope that one makes it to BluRay soon and in as high a quality as this edition.

Picture quality is absolutely stunning on this (the horizontal Technirama negative giving a double-size image area), with the original film grain comparable to 70mm of its era and modern fine-grain 35mm, all of it nicely preserved in this beautiful transfer. The soundtrack is available in its original mono or remixed for 5.1 DTS Master Audio with nice stereo reproduction of the excellent Henry Mancini score and a few directional sound effects. There's a very interesting commentary track by Blake Edwards, giving behind the scenes background and such unexpected information as the fact that Claudia Cardinale's voice was entirely dubbed by someone else (with a similar voice quality) since she did not yet speak English well enough. There are also some fairly interesting featurettes.

THE PINK PANTHER on BluRay:
MOVIE: B+
VIDEO: A+
AUDIO: A
EXTRAS: A-


--Christopher Jacobs
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Jack Theakston

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PostSat Mar 13, 2010 6:02 pm

LADYKILLERS should be 1.66-1. Unfortunately, most TV's zoom settings only fill to 16x9 (1.78), so if you want to see the picture in its proper aspect ratio, you're SOL.

I recently watched the CLASH OF THE TITANS BD— not exactly "classic," but in the same realm. Good transfer, nice uncompressed audio, but the picture itself is a dud and the photography is poor to begin with, so the HD transfer doesn't bring much to the table.
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PostSat Mar 13, 2010 11:54 pm

Luckily, my Panasonic projector has a good zoom range and I've got nice black velvet masking around my screen (movable horizontally as well as vertically) so I can zoom out a full-frame transfer to any aspect ratio, and BluRay's HD image shows minimal loss in sharpness in most cases. I'll probably try THE LADYKILLERS at 1.66 and/or 1.78 the next time I watch it, but the color fringe on this print does reduce its sharpness a bit already, and in this film many if not most shots still look perfectly composed at 1.37 (very effective cinematography to be so compatible with the multiple standards theatres were using at the time). I've seen 1950s trade ads from Columbia Pictures publicizing that upcoming releases would be shot suitable for multi-format projection on standard screens, wide screens, as well as either "flat" or 3D in some cases! Now if only Columbia would put some more of those 50s titles onto BluRay (maybe now with Sony's new 3D TV sets coming out...).

As for CLASH OF THE TITANS, I remember being rather disappointed in it back when it first came out except for the Harryhausen animation. I expect that the BluRay has so much grain that many online critics are complaining about because of all the multigenerational optical effects in the film. THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD has the same problem in all the effects shots, with the BluRay looking like an OK 16mm print because that's basically what the 35mm prints looked like after all the duping required. People who "remember" how good they looked the first time they saw them as kids (on TV or VHS) were obviously interpolating the fuzzy quality of the video medium to what they were used to expecting in theatres. Now good BluRay transfers are able to show us what the original prints actually look like, some outstandingly dazzling, some merely good, and some barely adequate (and sometimes all within the same film), just as they did in theatres when first released.

I'll probably pick up CLASH OF THE TITANS on BluRay when the price drops to the $10-15 range. I splurged for LADYKILLERS at $26, but I waited on PINK PANTHER until its latest and still current drastic drop to only $10 back in January, after it had been out for a year at around $25. Blake Edwards' version of THE PINK PANTHER is truly a bargain BluRay.

What I'm really looking forward to are the Kurosawa classics coming out on BluRay this month: YOJIMBO and SANJURO, the former of which has a digital stereo recreation of its Perspecta stereo soundtrack!

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PostSun Mar 14, 2010 12:16 am

I've seen 1950s trade ads from Columbia Pictures publicizing that upcoming releases would be shot suitable for multi-format projection on standard screens, wide screens, as well as either "flat" or 3D in some cases! Now if only Columbia would put some more of those 50s titles onto BluRay (maybe now with Sony's new 3D TV sets coming out...).


The technique is "compose and protect." The problem is that in many cases, there are still gaffes and losses in composition at narrower ratios. Ideally, you want to spend your resolution on the correct one (in this case, 1.66 was recommended by the producers).

As for CLASH OF THE TITANS, I remember being rather disappointed in it back when it first came out except for the Harryhausen animation. I expect that the BluRay has so much grain that many online critics are complaining about because of all the multigenerational optical effects in the film. THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD has the same problem in all the effects shots, with the BluRay looking like an OK 16mm print because that's basically what the 35mm prints looked like after all the duping required. People who "remember" how good they looked the first time they saw them as kids (on TV or VHS) were obviously interpolating the fuzzy quality of the video medium to what they were used to expecting in theatres. Now good BluRay transfers are able to show us what the original prints actually look like, some outstandingly dazzling, some merely good, and some barely adequate (and sometimes all within the same film), just as they did in theatres when first released.


The problem in CLASH isn't so much the optical effects or Harryhausen's ass-backwards technique (sorry, fans). It's the fact that in shooting, the DP was compensating for this to happen by using all sorts of filters and push processing, and it really makes for an unattractive picture. The film in general feels pretty cheap, probably because they blew most of the budget on the cast. And with all due respect to Laurence Rosenthal, whose scores I generally like, watching the BluRay made me remember how much a really despise the score.

I've no idea what the deal was with the BD of 7th VOYAGE, but the 35mm prints I've run in the past did NOT look that grainy.

What I'm really looking forward to are the Kurosawa classics coming out on BluRay this month: YOJIMBO and SANJURO, the former of which has a digital stereo recreation of its Perspecta stereo soundtrack!


I may be expecting too much, but hopefully Criterion has remastered the Perspecta track with a real integrator. The card or software they used previously correctly decoded the panning tones, but completely forgot the gain control, thereby removing half of the process' effectiveness.
J. Theakston
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PostMon Mar 22, 2010 6:58 pm

I watched most of my new BluRay of Bullett with Steve McQueen today. The film is as good as ever. I've seen it a few times before, but I was really impressed this time with the visual storytelling and the sparsity of dialogue. In fact, I'm betting that quasi-villain Robert Vaughn has more lines than everybody else in the film combined!

The colors are bright and vibrant, yet Peter Yates shows San Francisco in a much different light than Hitchcock did in Vertigo ten years earlier. There is not much music, except in the cat-and-mouse portion of the now-famous car chase. When the chase actually begins, it is great to hear the car engines roar through my sub-woofer.

The contemporary featurette included on the disc shows how the film was made at actual locations such as a San Francisco hospital and the airport. (Ah, the days before the Transportation Security Agency...)

I really enjoyed the film all over again (hadn't seen it in 10+ years).
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PostTue Mar 23, 2010 1:12 am

You probably liked BULLITT a bit better than I did, but the incredibly sharp BluRay transfer makes the film even more enjoyable as an historical document of 1960s San Francisco, all of it looking brand-new like you're watching it in a theatre in 1968. The boxcover misidentifies the aspect ratio, however, stating it's in 2.4:1 (scope) when it's actually a "flat" film presented here in the 1.78:1 ratio that will fill an HDTV screen and show a thin sliver of extra image above and below what would have been seen theatrically at its original 1.85:1 but not as much superfluous picture that would be on an open-matted "full screen" edition.

And don't forget to watch the feature-length (99-minute) documentary THE CUTTING EDGE: THE MAGIC OF MOVIE EDITING that's included as a bonus. It's also in full 1080p Hi-Def and includes numerous hi-def clips of flms from the silent era through the present to demonstrate the history, theories, practices, and styles of editing. I'd actually consider this the main attraction with BULLITT as a bonus feature to give an example of a movie that won an Oscar for editing. The other bonus items are standard-def, but there is a director's commentary on BULLITT.

The BluRay is also a true bargain, as it can easily be found for only $10.

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PostTue Mar 23, 2010 11:01 am

Thanks, Chris. I didn't have time to watch the Magic of Movie Editing extra, but I'll make sure that I see it. The TCM Steve McQueen documentary was about an hour and a half and very informative, especially since I have seen few McQueen movies.

I'm surprised that Robert Duvall had such a small part in Bullitt, since it was several years since his screen debut in To Kill a Mockingbird, but a check of his filmography shows he was busy in television in the 1960s.
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PostTue Mar 23, 2010 1:49 pm

McQueen had one of the great star-making turns in John Sturges' "Never So Few" - (1959). Sinatra stars as a commando leader fighting a guerrilla war in Burma during WWII. While on leave he is assigned McQueen as a driver and is so impressed by him that he takes him back to his unit. McQueen's big moment comes when there is a surprise attacked on the base during a celebration. All of the men scramble for their weapons and take cover. Sturges then cuts to McQueen who is standing there almost frozen with a half-eaten papaya in his hand as bullets whiz by. It turns out he is thinking as he finally sees his weapon of choice and leaps to it as he tosses his fruit away and begins blasting away. His actions help push back the attack.
It's a typical Steve McQueen moment that we would see in "The Magnificent Seven" or "The Sand Pebbles" - the thinking man's warrior.

Gary J.
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PostFri Mar 26, 2010 7:56 am

Thew newly restored 1951 film, The African Queen is released and is gorgeous. It was like watching a whole new film with its lush (rather than muddy) colors. Paramount "created a digital revival of the British negative" for its new DVD/Blu-ray release.

So yes, the FX are primitive, with lots of obvious models and rear projection shots, but the real draw here is the marvelous chemistry between Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart (his Oscar-winning performance) and how they change as they travel down the river.

The NY Times raves that the new edition "picks out every drop of sweat on Bogart's brow."

High praise indeed!
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PostWed Mar 31, 2010 2:28 pm

My BluRay of the new restoration of THE AFRICAN QUEEN was waiting for me when I got back from Cinefest. I've only spot-checked the beginning and a few parts of the feature so far, but it looks amazing, with gorgeous color, sharpness, and film grain, and pretty good sound.

I did take time to watch the wonderful hour-long bonus documentary on the making of the film (unfortunately the only extra), which gives fascinating behind-the-scenes background as well as generous film clips, old home movies, newsreel footage, plus interviews with modern historians, writers, and directors, along with older filmed and taped interviews with John Huston, Katharine Hepburn, Jack Cardiff, and others who worked on the film. It's also in full 1080p 24fps high definition and looks great! It really makes me want to watch the whole movie over again as soon as possible, even though I've seen it enough times already that it's pretty familiar by now.

BluRay sales of THE AFRICAN QUEEN unfortunately did not even crack the top 10 for the week it was released, so I hope they are solid and steady enough not to discourage Paramount from putting any more older titles onto BluRay. (Buy your copies NOW!) Classic film buffs who have standard TVs or 720p HDTVs may see virtually no upgrade in quality from DVD through an upscaling player compared to BluRay, but anyone with a full 1080p monitor/projector who sits within two screen-widths of the picture will be amazed at the improvement a properly mastered BluRay can deliver from original prints and negatives.

--Christopher Jacobs
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Last edited by Christopher Jacobs on Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostWed Mar 31, 2010 4:44 pm

I started watching the existing HD transfer of Lawrence of Arabia on TV a while back and soon stopped, because it clearly wasn't as nice as some others I'd watched (eg Khartoum; and when you start thinking Khartoum is superior to Lawrence of Arabia in any department, you know you've got trouble). So if it's delayed because they're making a new transfer, that's not a bad thing.
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PostWed Apr 07, 2010 12:33 pm

I caught about the last 15 minutes or so of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) on its ABC-TV broadcast last Saturday night. Unfortunately our local ABC affiliate decided to go with 720p instead of 1080 like the CBS, NBC, and PBS stations did, but even so it was drastically sharper than their simultaneous standard-def and cropped-to-1.33 broadcast, and despite some obvious compression artifacts (which I suspect are more likely due to the TV station or the cable company than to the transfer) was even a bit crisper than an upscaled projection of the very nice 50th anniversary DVD Paramount put out around 7 years ago. What really stood out was the intensity and richness of the color, looking like a lush, heavily saturated I.B. Tech print and even better than the already fine DVD release. The stereo sound was also very good.

What I hope this broacast means is that Paramount has a good new HD transfer that is worthy of BluRay release in the near future (and that any BluRay release will also include an HD transfer of the 1923 version as well as HD transfers of all the other bonus features of the 50th anniversary DVD). I'd certainly buy it immediately.

Unfortunately, if BluRay sales of the probably far more popular title THE AFRICAN QUEEN remain disappointing to the accountants, I'm afraid that a BluRay of THE 10 COMMANDMENTS and other Paramount-owned classics will be a long time coming. I'd urge everyone with a BluRay player to buy copies of the excellent BluRay of THE AFRICAN QUEEN and the fine BluRay of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE as soon as possible to help increase the chances of future classics on BluRay from Paramount. (Ironically, the classics they've already released were not even Paramount productions!) I'd really like to see things like SUNSET BOULEVARD, THE MIRACLE AT MORGAN'S CREEK, the original WAR OF THE WORLDS, and others make it to BluRay, not to mention WINGS, THE COVERED WAGON, and the other silents.

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PostThu Apr 08, 2010 3:10 am

Christopher Jacobs wrote:[snip]
I'd urge everyone with a BluRay player to buy copies of the excellent BluRay of THE AFRICAN QUEEN and the fine BluRay of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE as soon as possible to help increase the chances of future classics on BluRay from Paramount.


=====================

Regarding the Blu-Ray of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this article by Robert A. Harris (Film Restorationist Par Excellence) at the Home Theater Forum may be of interest to potential buyers:

http://www.hometheaterforum.com/forum/t ... in-blu-ray
yer pal Dave
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PostThu Apr 08, 2010 11:59 am

I guess I'll have to go back and watch my IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE BluRay all the way through. I just spot checked it through various chapter stops when I first got it, and it looked pretty good (if not quite up to things like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE THIRD MAN, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, et al.). At least on my Panasonic projector (showing slightly larger than a 3-foot by 4-foot image) it didn't seem anywhere near as over-processed as the otherwise impressive ZULU BluRay, which is quite annoying up close but looks nice if you're far enough away that you couldn't see the grain even if there was some.

THE AFRICAN QUEEN, at least, has very obvious grain and substantial restoration, especially in the process shots (the accompanying documentary demonstrates what the previous transfers looked like).

So far the BluRay format is still in the young technophile market demo, people who prefer movies like THE TRANSFORMERS and other digital effects demo movies rather than real "films." It will take some decent sales of properly-transferred classics (buy SUNRISE or any other title from Eureka's Masters of Cinema series, or Criterion BluRay releases, for example) to see more released and done right.

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PostThu Apr 08, 2010 6:04 pm

[quote="davebozRegarding the Blu-Ray of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this article by Robert A. Harris (Film Restorationist Par Excellence) at the Home Theater Forum may be of interest to potential buyers:[/quote]

I hate to be a cynic, but Harris impresses me as one of those people who feels nothing is good if not done by himself. I still remember seeing the "restoration" of "Vertigo" (70mm, if I recall) some years back. The crashing surf as they kiss was dubbed so loud that the theater erupted in hilarious laughter.

I thought the blu-ray "Wonderful Life" looked pretty good. As a cynic, I'm convinced they'll release a new transfer in a year or two to get us suckers to buy it yet again.
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PostThu Apr 08, 2010 8:04 pm

ClayKing wrote:[quote="davebozRegarding the Blu-Ray of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this article by Robert A. Harris (Film Restorationist Par Excellence) at the Home Theater Forum may be of interest to potential buyers:


ClayKing: I hate to be a cynic, but Harris impresses me as one of those people who feels nothing is good if not done by himself.

------------

ME: Stop being a cynic and read what Mr. Harris wrote. He knows his stuff, explains it clearly, and that is all.

------------

ClayKing: I still remember seeing the "restoration" of "Vertigo" (70mm, if I recall) some years back. The crashing surf as they kiss was dubbed so loud that the theater erupted in hilarious laughter.

---------------------

ME: What's that got to do with Mr. Harris?

---------------------

ClayKing: I thought the blu-ray "Wonderful Life" looked pretty good. As a cynic, I'm convinced they'll release a new transfer in a year or two to get us suckers to buy it yet again.

--------------------

The whole point of Mr. Harris' article is that a proper release could easily have been achieved NOW, sparing the need for future releases for "suckers". Cynicism is a dead end.
yer pal Dave
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PostSun Apr 11, 2010 7:47 pm

One of the great things about HD movies is all the background details they reveal. I watched Dirty Harry and in one of the opening shots there's a very well-preserved painted sign, of a vintage not too far on either side of the '06 quake, with a rather curious set of words: "Finke's Widow."

What was Finke's Widow? From a book called A Companion to California Wine:

Image
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PostTue Apr 13, 2010 11:44 am

Last night I watched the new Criterion BluRays of both YOJIMBO (1961) and SANJURO (1962). Both are substantially better than the old pan & scan 16mm prints I'd seen in college, and YOJIMBO is a definite upgrade from Criterion's old letterboxed DVD edition. Both films display great detail in Kurosawa's meticulously composed frames, and he uses the wide CinemaScope image so effectively I'd never before noticed how much of both films were actually shot with telephoto lenses (until after watching the supplementary materials that pointed it out). A few shots look a bit softer and/or higher-contrast, but I'm guessing that's from the source material because overall both films look beautiful, with the image details and film grain both intact.

The 3.0 digital soundtrack on each, reportedly encoded by playing the original through a Perspecta Stereo decoder, was also effective, although I've never heard a Perspecta print actually played through genuine Perspecta equipment. While obviously not true stereo, there was a slightly fuller feeling to most of the music, dialogue was usually centered, and now and then there would be some directional sound effects and/or dialogue from one of the sides.

For overall entertainment value, YOJIMBO is the better film, with much more comedy and action and a tour-de-force performance by Toshiro Mifune as the wandering samurai who calls himself "Sanjuro" (thirty) "although he's really almost forty." It's easy to see how both Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis would enjoy tailoring the same character to their own screen personas in their remakes. The followup SANJURO is better than I remembered it, but a bit slower (even though it's shorter) and sometimes almost seems to be the director's satiric response to complaints that YOJIMBO was too violent. There's much more talking and planning, with only a few action scenes that tend to be less bloody than in its predecessor. It's also more of a character vehicle for Mifune capitalizing on the success of YOJIMBO without quite recreating it, typical to a sequel, and one can easily imagine Eastwood and Willis doing exactly the same thing. Both films get in plenty of wry, metaphoric social commentary on modern civilization in their Western noir plots set in 19th-century Japan, and YOJIMBO is a dark comedy action classic (with Kurosawa's script standing up well in its Italian-Western and American Gangster remakes, both due out on BluRay this summer).

Both films packaged together have a booklet, and each has some nice bonus features including a commentary (which I haven't yet listened to) and recent Japanese documentaries on Kurosawa dealing with those specific films (with English subtitles).

YOJIMBO on BluRay
Movie: A+
Video: A
Audio: A-
Extras: A

SANJURO on BluRay
Movie: B+
Video: A
Audio: A-
Extras: A
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PostFri May 07, 2010 1:57 pm

I received the new region-free Eureka BluRay of PRINCE VALIANT (1954) the other day, just in time so I could watch it last night -- making this the first year I could relax after a nice birthday filet mignon and a smooth Sangiovese/Cabernet blend to watch a movie from the year I was born on BluRay. (Actually I could have also watched THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH, but I got that one back last winter and PRINCE VALIANT has just been released to BluRay.) Interestingly, the only films from 1954 currently on BluRay must be ordered from Britain, even though they're American productions.

The medieval costume movie is definitely juvenile adventure formula fluff, but is better than I expected, and a bit better both dramatically and in production values than BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH. The cast and credits are first-rate, with a script by Dudley Nichols, Henry Hathaway directing, fine CinemaScope cinematography by Lucien Ballard, and a rousing score by Franz Waxman. James Mason has fun as the shady Sir Brack, Robert Wagner is earnest in his first starring role as "Val" the title character, Janet Leigh and Debra Paget don't have a lot to do but are nice to look at, Sterling Hayden is rather campy as Sir Gawain, Victor McLaglen is a lot of fun as the Viking Boltar, and the other leads are well-rounded out by Donald Crisp as King Aguar and Brian Aherne as King Arthur. Fox obviously put a lot of effort and talent into what's really a glorified kiddie show for Saturday matinees, but what's also an obvious attempt to sell the new miracle of CinemaScope ("you see it without special glasses") and "the wonder of stereophonic sound." In fact the trailer stresses those elements repeatedly and to amusing excess.

The plot is based on the newspaper comic strip, about an exiled Christian Viking king and his family given protection by the Christian King Arthur. Naturally the pagan Vikings now in power try to hunt them down, while one of Arthur’s knights is secretly plotting to overthrow his throne, the “Black Knight” terrorizes the land, and the Viking prince (Valiant) begs to train to become a knight of the round table. (We can only hope that Monty Python and the Holy Grail gets to BluRay soon!) There are also the usual romantic subplots fraught with rivalries and misunderstandings.

The BluRay is a lovely transfer overall, with just a little edge weave showing up, especially in the beginning. A number of on-line reviews have warned about disappointlingly erratic picture quality, but it's quite obvious from what they say that they're simply not familiar with the technological artifacts inherent in optical printing, as the only noticeable color shifts I could see are during dissolves and a few optical effects, a byproduct of splicing in opticals from a dupe negative between the scenes printed directly from the original negative. In other words, it might have looked more consistent in 1954 but that's the way it would look on any new theatrical print, as the film stock used for effects usually fades faster than the original negative. The print is incredibly sharp throughout most of it (again softer in the dissolves and a bit soft in the opening credits), and it looks beautiful projected to eight feet wide in its original 2.55 to 1 aspect ratio.

This BluRay does include the stereophonic sound, but only in a 2.0 version rather than the 3.0 or 4.0 that I'd expected. It's also a bit weak on the low frequency response, sounding a bit tinny when running with normal default settings, but by turning up my amplifier's bass control to +10 (I normally keep it set at 0 or +2), it sounded much more natural. Even with only right and left channels and no center channel, the stereo was quite nice throughout, with good fullness to the music, and quite a few scenes with very directional dialogue (one person on each edge of the screen and the sound coming from the appropriate speaker), and a few with sound effects panning across the screen to follow the action.

Unfortunately there are no bonus features other than the original (and entertaining) theatrical trailer, and that is only standard-definition. Still, PRINCE VALIANT is a fun movie that looks great and is worth getting for any fans of medieval adventures or 1950s widescreen, especially when it's only about $16 plus shipping to order it from the U.K. Not only that, but my order from amazon.co.uk arrived just five days after placing it with the normal shipping option -- roughly $12, or an extra $2 per movie since I ordered six at a time.

PRINCE VALIANT on BluRay:
Movie: B+
Video: A-
Audio: B+
Extras: D


--Christopher Jacobs
http://hpr1.com/film
http://www.und.edu/instruct/cjacobs
Last edited by Christopher Jacobs on Tue May 11, 2010 6:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Jack Theakston

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PostFri May 07, 2010 5:30 pm

A number of on-line reviews have warned about disappointlingly erratic picture quality, but it's quite obvious from what they say that they're simply not familiar with the technological artifacts inherent in optical printing, as the only noticeable color shifts I could see are during dissolves and a few optical effects, a byproduct of splicing in opticals from a dupe negative between the scenes printed directly from the original negative. (i.e., That's the way it would have looked on an original release print.)


Not necessarily. The stock that opticals were printed on during that era are notorious for fading faster than the rest of the film, and the difference in color between the camera neg and the optical will be exponential over time.
J. Theakston
"You get more out of life when you go out to a movie!"
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