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Deluge (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“Deluge” on Blu-ray can be seen as a watching an entertaining 1933 natural disaster film, which was once considered as lost. Others may find the Blu-ray as a wonderful collection of two films starring actress Peggy Shannon.  I will say that this Blu-ray release is a fantastic collaboration between Kino Lorber and Lobster Films giving audiences the opportunity to watch and enjoy two entertaining films from the 1930’s.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Deluge

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1933

DURATION: 70 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1:33:1, English DTS-HD 2.0

COMPANY: Lobster/Kino Lorber Inc.

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2017


Based on the Novel by S. Fowler Wright

Directed by Felix E. Feist

Written by Warren Duff, John F. Goodrich

Produced by Samuel Bischoff, Burt Kelly, William Saal

Music by Val Burton

Cinematography by Norbert Brodine

Edited by Martin G. Coh, Rose Loewinger

Art Direction by Ralph M. DeLacy


Starring:

Peggy Shannon as Claire Arlington

Lois Wilson as Helen Webster

Sidney Blackmer as Martin Webster

Lane Chandler as Jack

Ronnie Cosby as Ronny Webster

John Elliott as Preacher

Ralf Harolde as Norwood

Samuel S. Hinds as Chief Forecaster

Fred Kohler as Jepson

Matt Moore as Tom


Newly Restored! Earthquakes in the Pacific send a massive tsunami around the globe, reducing New York City to rubble. Martin Webster (Sidney Blackmer, Rosemary’s Baby) survives the catastrophe but is separated from his wife (Lois Wilson) and children. Pairing up with a headstrong young woman (Peggy Shannon), Webster struggles to rebuild civiilzation and cultivate a new post-apocalyptic moral code amidst the pillagers and vigilantes who remain. For years considered a lost film, and later emerging in a poor-quality Italian-dubbed version, Deluge is the holy grail of disaster movies. In 2016, Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, with the help of the Library of Congress, located the original 35mm film elements, including the English-language soundtrack, and it is from these materials that the restoration has been meticulously performed. Directed by Felix E. Feist (The Devil Thumbs a Ride, Donovan s Brain), DELUGE lives up to its near-mythic reputation. Not only are the destruction scenes truly extraordinary, the drama of survival among the rubble is presented with a dark candor that is far more complex than one expects of a film of this vintage. Also featured on this disc is the Pre-Code drama BACK PAGE, starring Peggy Shannon (DELUGE) as a small-town newspaper woman who tries to bring down a notorious white-collar criminal.


In 1933, RKO Radio Pictures released a loose adaptation of S. Fowler Wright’s 1928 novel “Deluge”.

A film about life after a worldwide disaster, the film was directed by Felix E. Feist (“The Big Trees”, “Donovan’s Brain”, “The Man Who Cheated Himself”) and a screenplay co-written by Warren Duff (“Angels with Dirty Faces”, “Varsity Show”, “Frisco Kid”) and John F. Goodrich (“My Lady’s Lips”, “The Last command”, “Lilies of the Field”).

The film stars Peggy Shannon (“Back Page”, “Hotel Continental”, “The Devil’s Mate”), Lois Wilson (“Guiding Light”, “Miss Lulu Bett”, “Bright Eyes”), Sidney Blackmer (“Rosemary’s Baby”, “High Society”, “Little Caesar”), Lane Chandler (“Winds of the Wasteland”, “Samson and Delilah”, “The Well”), Fred Kohler (“Underworld”, “Fighting Caravans”, “The Iron Horse”), Ralf Harolde (“Murder, My Sweet”, “I’m No Angel”, “Smart Money”) and Samuel S. Hinds (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, “Scarlet Street”).

The film was a modest hit for RKO Radio Pictures but the film (which was later bought by Republic Pictures) is more remembered for its destruction footage which was used for films in the ’40s.

But for many decades, the film was lot until  an Italian print dub was found (note: there are two versions of how this Italian version of the film was found, one via a film archive in 1981 discovered by Forrest J. Ackerman.  The other is Wad Williams discovering a nitrate version of the film in an old mansion in Rome in 1981).  The film was eventually subtitled in English and released on VHS.

But in 2016, the nitrate dupe negative with the English soundtrack was discovered and Lobster Films did a 2K scan restoration and the film would receive a theatrical released and now a Blu-ray and DVD release courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with scientists discovering that a violent storm is heading towards New York City and they issue warnings throughout the city.  Suddenly an eclipse of the sun leads to global destruction as unending earthquakes slam cities causing major tsunamis and leveling cities.

We are introduced to Claire Shannon (portrayed by Peggy Shannon), a world-class long distance swimmer who was supposed to go on another challenge but since the change of weather, she ends up going with a friend and staying with her family in the country.

We are then introduced to lawyer Martin Webster (portrayed by Sidney Blackmer) and his wife Helen (portrayed by Lois Wilson) putting their two kids to sleep.  As the couple know bad weather is coming their way and their home may be destroyed, Martin takes his children and wife to stay behind a huge boulder in hopes it would protect them from the bad weather.

As Martin knows they need more provisions and clothes, he leaves his wife and children to go back to the house.  But the next major earthquake hits, which destroys New York City and destroys the home.

Martin is knocked unconscious and when he awakes, his home and land is gone and water has covered  the ground all around him.  And he fears that he lost his family to the tsunami.

Meanwhile, at a small house nearby, two men, the burly Jepson (portayed by Fred Kohler) and the anxiety-filled Norwood (portrayed by Ralf Harolde) are afraid they may be the last two people on the planet.  As Jepson goes outside the cabin, he discovers an unconscious Claire.

Fastforward and over a month and a half has passed.  Martin has built a shelter behind a rock and uses a nearby tunnel in a cave to store many provisions.

As for Jepson and Norwood, the two get into a major disagreement of who owns Claire.  Jepson tells Norwood that since he found the house and Claire, she belongs to him.  As Jepson goes to work on the boat, Norwood tries to sexually assault Claire and Jepson walks in and angered, he chokes and kills Norwood.  As for Claire, it gives her the moment to slip away and swim away from Jepson.  Who then gets his rifle and boat to go after her.

As Martin walks out of his home, he sees a body from the distance.  He goes to it and discovers Claire who is nearly unconscious and nurses her back to health.  Meanwhile, he sees from a distance, Jepson arriving near his home with his boat.  As he trails Jepson from a distance, both men discover a woman who was raped and killed.

Jepson comes across a gang of ruffians and he tells him that he is looking for a woman that belongs to him.  Meanwhile, Martin goes back hom to make sure he can protect Claire.  And the two start to have feelings towards each other.

Meanwhile, not far from the area, survivors in a nearby town have gathered to start a new civilization.  Among the survivors are Helen and her two children.  One of the townsmen, Tom (portrayed by Matt Moore) has taken care of Helen (and has fallen in love with her).  He tells her to forget about her husband, but she says that she believes Martin is alive.  She can feel it.

Tom tells her that soon, the women in the town will be assigned a man.  If she wants to prevent being hooked up with someone else, she should marry him now.

What will happen to Martin, Claire and Lois?


VIDEO:

“Deluge” is presented in 1080p (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Before I begin, it’s important for everyone to know that when it comes to film cleanup, Kino Lorber and Lobster Films do not invest in significant cleanup compared to major film releases from the large studios or film foundations.  What you are going to get are HD scanning of the original negatives to feature the film in the best resolution, but you will see white specks, scratches, slight frame damage, mild flickering, etc.

For those who watch silent films to early talkies, I’m just grateful these films are released and for this release, Lobster Films had done a 2K scan of this film once considered lost.

Picture quality is good considering the age of the film and the fact that a nitrate version of the film with an English soundtrack, “Deluge” is no doubt a film that looks very good.  The film maintains its grain structure and I’ve seen classic Hollywood films with major damage and this film does not suffer from major damage.  Yes, there are white specks, scratches, and some frames with an occasional larger white speck but really, this is common with older films, let alone nitrate films.  So, I felt the picture quality was very good in HD!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Deluge” is presented in English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround. The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear through the front channels and the dialogue and soundtrack is crystal clear with no major crackle or pops.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Deluge” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an insightful audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith.
  • Interview with Director Gabriel Mascaro – (21:09) Interview with filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro about “Neon Bull”
  • Back Page (1934 film) – (1 hr., 04 min.) In this film starring Peggy Shannon, the film features Peggy as Jerry Hampton, a young female reporter who was fired from a major big city newspaper.  Jerry decides to take over a troubled small town newspaper and learns about small town politics and the difficulties of finding advertisers to keep the newspaper afloat.  Also, the troubles she receives as people don’t feel confident a woman can run the newspaper.
  • The Hurricane Trailer
  • Avalanche Trailer
  • Meteor Trailer

“Deluge” is a fascinating 1934 natural disaster film that despite its visual effects for its time and at times for its corny dialogue, I actually enjoyed “Deluge” more than many other natural disaster films, including big budget natural disaster films that came out decades after.

A loose adaptation of S. Fowler Wright’s novel, “Deluge” focuses on a global natural disaster during a time when technology and natural disaster warnings was limited, where earthquakes become rampant and along with a tsunami, cities were destroyed and humanity is reduced.

While no one knows how many people survived, the storyline of “Deluge” shows a side of humanity that is often depicted in post-apocalyptic films and that is the worst of society where gangs are rampant and some reverting to troglodyte behavior.  Women are raped and murdered and women are seen as possessions and not equal partners.

Sure, its a film that rings loud and clear of society back in the 1930’s, but the film provides a glance of the 1930’s through its characters.

Ziegfeld Follies Peggy Shannon who was to be the new “It” girl, is glamorous and beautiful sporting a bikini (when most women wore one piece swimsuits) and a woman who behaved independently until being convinced by her protector that she must make a decision to fall in love.

I bring up Peggy’s character of Claire as being independent because Shannon starred in a film titled “Back Page” about a fired big city reporter who wants to prove that she can run a smalltown paper, despite people thinking she can’t do that because she’s a woman.  The 1934 film is also included on this “Deluge” Blu-ray release, which makes the release quite enticing because it’s a film that follows a woman determined to succeed despite the challenges she may face.

Unfortunately, like a few other Hollywood talent of that time who were hooked on drugs and alcohol, Peggy Shannon’s star career was dimmed due to her alcoholism.

“Deluge” also stars Sidney Blackmer and Lois Wilson.  Blackmer plays the main protagonist Martin Webster, a man who thinks his wife and children died from the earthquake/tsunami and has built a home near a rocky mountain and in better shape as he has managed to stockpile on provisions.  His life changes when he meets Claire and slowly falls in love with her, not knowing that his wife Lois and her children are very much alive.

The primary antagonist is Jepson (portrayed by Fred Kohler), a burly man who thinks he is one of the last people left alive and since he found a house and also an unconscious Claire, he assumes that she belongs to him and no other.

Claire escapes from him and thanks to her world class swimming skills, she swims to the area that Martin is staying.  But not far behind is Jepson, who wants nothing but to bring Claire back.  Jepson meets the Bellamy Gang, who raped and killed a woman.

The film manages to establish that there is a good number of riff raff and in the new world, but there are good people who are willing to fight back which we have seen in movies such as “Mad Max” and other storylines.

This classic film manages to incorporate a lot of action and drama and definitely one of the earlier lower budget natural disaster films that is upstaged by the bigger budget MGM natural disaster film “San Francisco” starring Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Jeanette MacDonald that was released three years later (1936).

Part of the problem with “Deluge”, while some may point to visual effects, while cheesy for today’s standards, I felt the visual effects were customary for its time and the fact it uses stock footage of a natural disaster (hurricane) in the film shows that RKO Film, really wanted to drive the images of chaos and panic, while many cities are being destroyed by a global natural disaster, leading to the death of millions.  And one must remember, this is a low budget RKO film, not a big budget MGM film.

Where “San Francisco” focused on few characters, it also tries to show humanity really being affected by a major disaster.  In “Deluge”, too many times where the female characters are just seen as objects meant to be possessed.  They must make a choice to be with a man or else it’s too late.

Because it’s a pre-code film, I do like the fact we see violence in the film.  People die in this film, not just through the natural disaster but because of greed or envy.  The film goes to show how people are affected by chaos but even for those in the side of good, I feel later in the film, they aren’t more affected by the natural disaster, but the fact that their relationships are affected.

With the 1936 film “San Francisco”, the film was ambitious in special effects but the 1906 earthquake gave writers the opportunity to craft a story about the human spirit of willing to rebuild a city and start over.  In the 1993 film, “Deluge”, it’s not about human spirit during a time of chaos but the man and woman and the importance of a relationship during a time of chaos.

But once again, there are differences between the two films from star power and money budgeted.  And “Deluge” is in essence a low budget film, with no major big name talent, but still you see talent who had true potential and a natural disaster film that rivals big budget natural disaster films made in the last 40 years.  I enjoyed “Deluge” and what they were able to accomplish.

And as mentioned, this Blu-ray release comes with the Peggy Shannon 1934 film “Back Page”, and it’s one of the few pre-code films which shows an independent business woman trying to prove everyone that she can be a leader and a woman who can run a small town newspaper.  Also, for “Winnie the Pooh” fans, the longtime voice of the popular character courtesy of Sterling Holloway, has a role in the film.

But I found “Back Page” quite interesting because you rarely find career-driven women in classic Hollywood films.  Far too often, women were portrayed as vamps seducing men, women who need saving by a man or women having to be good wives or mothers.  But “Back Page” was interesting to see a protagonist running a newspaper and one that is so driven and standing her own ground.  A rarity to see in older Hollywood films.

As for the Blu-ray, as mention earlier, picture quality is very good, not pristine but considering what Lobster Films was able to accomplish, I’m quite grateful to have the best presentation of “Deluge” and “Back Page” to date with this Blu-ray release.  The lossless soundtrack features no significant crackle or pops and the special features include a wonderful and insightful audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith.

Overall, “Deluge” on Blu-ray can be seen as a watching an entertaining 1933 natural disaster film, which was once considered as lost. Others may find the Blu-ray as a wonderful collection of two films starring actress Peggy Shannon.  I will say that this Blu-ray release is a fantastic collaboration between Kino Lorber and Lobster Films giving audiences the opportunity to watch and enjoy two entertaining films from the 1930’s.  Recommended!

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Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is a timeless Frank Capra classic. Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration and a digibook release, the “You Can’t Take It With You” Blu-ray release is highly recommended and the definitive version of the film to own!

Image courtesy of © 1936, renewed 1963 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

YEAR OF FILM: 1936

DURATION: 116 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, black and white, English Mono DTS-HD MA, French, German, Italian, Spanish Monaural, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Czech, Dutch Fininish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Swedish, Turkish

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2016


Directed by Frank Capra

Screenplay by Robert Riskin

Story by Clarence Budington Kelland

Produced by Frank Capra

Cinematography by Joseph Walker

Edited by Gene Havlick

Art Direction by Stephen Goosson

Costume Design by Samuel Lange


Starring:

Gary Cooper as Longfellow Deeds

Jean Arthur as Babe Bennett

George Bancroft as MacWade

Lionel Stander as Cornelius Cobb

Douglass Dumbrille as John Cedar

Raymond Walburn as Walter

H.B. Warner as Judge May

Ruth Donnelly as Mabel Dawson

Walter Catlett as Morrow


Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a resident of small-town Vermont, leads a simple life until he inherits a vast fortune from a late uncle. Soon, unscrupulous lawyer John Cedar (Douglas Dumbrille) brings Deeds to New York City, where the unassuming heir is the object of much media attention. When wily reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) gains the trust and affection of Deeds, she uses her position to publish condescending articles about him — but are her feelings for him really that shallow?


As the legendary Frank Capra was known to churn out box office hits and win several Academy Awards with films such as “It Happened One Night”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, “Lost Horizon”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, to name a few.

Back in 1935, a short story titled “Opera Hat” was written by Clarence Budington Kelland for “The American Magazine”.  Not long after, Robert Riskin would write a screenplay and once again, Riskin and Capra would collaborate for the fifth time.

While casting the film, Gary Cooper was Capra’s only choice for the film, but for the female lead, he had wanted Carole Lombard, who was the film’s original lead but quit three days before principal photography in order to star in the film, “My Man Godfrey”.  And he would choose actress Jean Arthur, which the film would be her first feature film debut as a leading character.

And the film would become another big hit for Frank Capra as he would receive his second Academy Award for Directing and the film was nominated for “Best Picture”, “Best Screenplay” (Robert Riskin) and “Best Sound Recording” (John P. Livadary).  The film would be nominated by the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review as “Best Picture of 1936”.

The film would star Gary Cooper (“High Noon”, “Sergeant York”, “Meet John Doe”, “Pride of the Yankees”), Jean Arthur (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, “Shane”), George Bancroft (“Stagecoach”, “Angels with Dirty Faces”, “The Docks of New York”), Lionel Stander (“Ince Upon a Time in the West”, “New York, New York”), Douglass Dumbrille (“The Ten Commandments”, “Road to Utopia”, “A Day at the Races”), Raymond Walburn (“Hail the Conquering Hero”, “The Sin of Harold Diddlebock”, “Christmas in July”), H.B. Warner (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), Ruth Donnelly (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Bells of St. Mary’s”, “The Snake Pit”) and Walter Catlett (“Bringing Up Baby”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Friendly Persuasion”).

In 2013, the film received a digital restoration by Sony Colorworks.  The digital images were restored frame-by-frame at Prasad Corporation to remove dirt, tears, scratches and this restoration would be fully restored and mastered in 4K for the film’s 80th Anniversary.

And now the film is available on Blu-ray ala Digibook courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is set during the Great Depression and the wealthy, late uncle Martin Semple has left his money ($20 million dollars) to his nephew, Longfellow Deeds (portrayed by Gary Cooper).

Semple’s attorney, John Cedar wants some of that money and so he head to Mandrake Falls, Vermont and finds Deeds, who is a co-owner of a tllow works, a part-time greeting poet and a tuba musician.

Cedar brings Longfellow Deeds to New York in order for Deeds to receive his inheritance and to become the new chairman of the company.  But as Cedar tries to get Deeds to use his money for other things, Deed is not the type to follow everyone and prevents any greedy opportunists from taking his money.

Meanwhile, the journalists want to know more about Deeds and star reporter, Louise “Babe” Bennett (portrayed by Jean Arthur) disguises herself as a damsel in distress and pretends to be a poor woman named Mary Dawson.  And eventually wins his confidence and starts to hang out with Deeds and each time.

Eventually, Deeds starts to fall in love with her, but he does not know that she is hanging out with him, so she can write articles about his adventures and his country ways, which many people find as odd.  Nicknaming him “Cinderella Man”, Deeds becomes a popular person in media, embarrassing his uncle’s business partners.

But when Deeds finds out who Babe really is and that she is responsible for writing the “Cinderella Man” articles, it leads to Deeds spiral ling downward into depression.  Leaving himself vulnerable for people to go after his money.

Will Deeds be able to recover from his depression?


VIDEO:

“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are sharp. The film shows amazing clarity on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition.

The print features the digital restoration that was done by Sony Colorworks in 2013 and the digital pictures were frame by frame digitally restored and dirt, tears, scratches and artifacts were removed. I personally did not notice any damage to the film and was very content with the beautiful picture quality of this classic film.

Comparing to the original DVD releases that I’ve had, clarity is evident. Sharpness is clearly evident, along with the black levels which were inky and deep. There is a good amount of grain throughout the entire film and no doubt, this is the definitive version of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” in terms of picture quality!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” is presented in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio Monaural. The monaural lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Danish, dutch, Finnish, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilan), Swedish and Turkish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frank Capra Jr.
  • Frank Capra Jr. Remembers… “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – (11:11) Frank Capra Jr. talks about his father and his father working on “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”.
  • Vintage Advertising Gallery -Featuring vintage posters, lobby cards, and more.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”.

EXTRAS:

“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” comes in a digibook package with 30-pages. Featuring photos from the film plus “The Making of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” essay by Jeremy Arnold and “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Restoration in 4K” by Rita Belda. 

Also, the Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet Digital code for the film.


When “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” was released in theaters, it really affected a lot of people.  With the effects of the Great Depression still strong within viewers, you had an unlikely man becoming a wealthy multi-millionaire but also a man who didn’t exhibit the ego or attitude with one who has money.

If anything, Longfellow Deeds is a man who never had much and was content with what he had.  But now that he has money, everyone is after it and he has been quite defensive.  Especially when articles about him, dubbing him the “Cinderella Man” try to paint him as a goofball because of his country ways.

So, putting myself in that era, I can see why people gravitated towards the character of Mr. Deeds, but it helps when you have a talented actor such as Gary Cooper playing the role.

A film full of humor but also occasional drama, I personally enjoyed Frank Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” because it’s main character is your everyman.  A man who believes in hardwork but a man who doesn’t mind living his life, the way he wants, even though it doesn’t appeal to others.   He is not a person who loves money nor is he controlled by it, he has the money and if he wants to give it away, its his own prerogative.  Unfortunately, others do not feel the same way.

While many of Frank Capra’s films of the mid-to-late ’30s are known to become more darker overtime,  “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” starts off lighthearted but slowly transitions to a film in which Deeds changes for the worse, after finding out the woman he loves, is not who he thinks she is.  And everyone, the rich and poor, wanting his money.  He realizes that money doesn’t always bring happiness and he no doubt must live through tough situations, considering he has become a media spectacle.

As Gary Cooper is well-known and did a magnificent job as the main character, Jean Arthur makes her film debut.  Known as the “Queen of Screwball Comedy”, even during the making of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”, while the actress looked natural onscreen, is surprising that in reality, during the time of the film and even later in her career, she had extreme stage fright during production, which Capra would write about in his autobiography.

But Frank Capra did a magnificent job directing the film, Robert Riskin with the screenplay, Gary Cooper as the main protagonist and as for Jean Arthur, it was the film that helped make her a star.

As for the Blu-ray release, while I have owned “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” on DVD, this is no doubt the best version of the film to date. Fully restored in 4K, the picture quality looks absolutely amazing. The film is sharp, white and grays are well contrast and black levels are nice and deep. I saw no blemishes while watching this film (which I was expecting, considering the restoration that took place in 2013) and I was absolutely pleased with the overall look of the film. The lossless soundtrack is in DTS-HD Master Audio monaural. The special features includes an insightful commentary by Frank Capra Jr., but also good insight of the making of the film in a featurette featuring Frank Capra Jr.

And last, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is released in digibook format with 30-pages and for anyone who is not familiar with digibook, they look like a book. There are pages with an essay and photographs from the film throughout the digibook.

Overall, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is a timeless Frank Capra classic. Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration and a digibook release, the “You Can’t Take It With You” Blu-ray release is highly recommended and the definitive version of the film to own!

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In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you love film noir, the Criterion Collection’s release of “In a Lonely Place” is worth watching and owning. Showcasing the wonderful performance by both Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame and also fantastic direction by filmmaker Nicholas Ray, you’ll see why “In a Lonely Place” is considered a classic. Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1950, renewed in 1977.  Columbia Pictures Industries, LLC. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810

YEAR OF FILM: 1950

DURATION: 93 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2016


Directed by Nicholas Ray

Written by Andrew Solt

Adaptation by Edmund H. North

Story by Dorothy B. Hughes

Produced by Robert Lord

Associate Producer: Henry S. Kesler

Music by George Antheil

Cinematography by Burnett Guffrey

Edited by Viola Lawrence

Art Direction by Robert Peterson

Set Decoration by William Kiernan

Costume Design by Jean Louis


Starring:

Humphrey Bogart as Dixon Steel

Gloria Grahame as Laurel Gray

Frank Lovejoy as Det. Sgt. Brub Nicolai

Carl Benton Reid as Capt. Lochner

Art Smith as Agent Mel Lippman

Jeff Donnell as Sylvia Nicolai

Martha Stewart as Mildred Atkinson

Robert Warwick as Charlie Waterman

Morris Ankrum as Lloyd Barnes

William Ching as Ted Barton

Steven Geray as Paul

Hadda Brooks as Singer


When a gifted but washed-up screenwriter with a hair-trigger temper—Humphrey Bogart, in a revelatory, vulnerable performance—becomes the prime suspect in a brutal Tinseltown murder, the only person who can supply an alibi for him is a seductive neighbor (Gloria Grahame) with her own troubled past. The emotionally charged In a Lonely Place, freely adapted from a Dorothy B. Hughes thriller, is a brilliant, turbulent mix of suspenseful noir and devastating melodrama, fueled by powerhouse performances. An uncompromising tale of two people desperate to love yet struggling with their demons and each other, this is one of the greatest films of the 1950s, and a benchmark in the career of the classic Hollywood auteur Nicholas Ray.


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From Nicholas Ray, the legendary filmmaker of “Rebel Without a Cause”, “Johnny Guitar”, “King of Kings” and “Bigger Than Life” is his 1950 film noir “In a Lonely Place”.

The film is an adaptation by Edmund North which is based on the novel of the same name by Dorothy B. Hughes.

The film would star Humphrey Bogart (“Casablanca”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, “The Big Sleep”), Gloria Grahame (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Oklahoma!”, “The Big Heat”), Frank Lovejoy (“The Adventures of McGraw”, “House of Wax”, “The Hitch-Hiker”), Carl Benton Reid (“The Little Foxes”, “The Great Caruso”, “Pork Chop Hill”), Art Smith (“Letter from an Unknown Woman”, “Quicksand”), Jeff Donnell (“Sweet Smell of Success”, “Tora! Tora! Tora”), Martha Stewart (“Daisy Kenyon”, “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”, “Doll Face”) and Robert Warwick (“Sullivan’s Travels”, “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “The Awful Truth”).

Considered as one of Humphrey Bogart’s finest performances in a film, the film has been included in top 100 lists and in 2007, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

And now “In a Lonely Place” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection May 2016.

The film revolves around Dixon “Dix” Steele (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart), a Hollywood screenwriter who has a violent temper and has not had a hit screenplay since before the war.

While Dix is driving to meet with his agent, Mel Lippman (portrayed by Art Smith), he gets into a confrontation at the stoplight with another driver in which Dix threatens to fight the man.

As Dix and Mel meet, Mel tries to convince Dix to adapt a book for a film.  Dix meets the hat-check girl, Mildred Atkinson (portrayed by Martha Stewart) and she reads his screenplay which she loves.  Meanwhile, Dix has another violent outburst when a young director bad mouths Dix’s friend Charlie (portrayed by Robert Warwick), who has not had any success in a very long time and is considered a washed-up actor.

Too tired to read the novel, he invites Mildred to come home with him and read it.   As the two walk towards his apartment, they pass by one of the new tenants, Laurel Gray (portrayed by Gloria Grahame).  As Dix and Mildred enter his home, Dix tries to let her know that she is there to read and he’s not trying to seduce her.  But as she describes the book, Dix loses interest and thinks the book is trash and tells Mildred to go home, giving her cab fare, as he is tired.

The following morning, his old army friend and currently a police detective, Brub Nicolai (portrayed by Frank Lovejoy) comes to visit and tells Dix that he needs to come downtown for questioning by Captain Lochner (portrayed by Carl Benton Reid).

They explain to Dix that Mildred, the hat-check girl was found murdered and that Dix is the subject.  Meanwhile, Laurel Gray is brought in to confirm that Dix and Mildred came home together, which she confirms.

While Brub doesn’t think Dix is guilty, Captain Lochner is not put off by the fact that Dix is not showing any sadness, sympathy or emotion towards the death of Mildred.  But the Captain is not aware that after the questioning, Dix anonymously sends two dozen white roses to Mildred.

When Dix goes home, he connects with Laurel and finds out that she is an aspiring actress.  They eventually start to fall in love and Dix gets the passion to write the screenplay adaptation.  But Laurel starts to notice Dix’s violent outbursts and starts to question her relationship with him but also wondering if he may be responsible in the murder of Mildred Atkinson.


VIDEO:

“In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. Picture quality is fantastic, the film features great clarity, wonderful detail and sharpness.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This 2K digital transfer was created on a Spirit datacine from a new 35 mm fine grain master positive made him from the original camera negative.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” in LPCM 1.0 Monaural audio.  The lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no signs of major hissing, crackle or audio pops.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24 bit from the original 35 mm soundtrack negative at Chace Audio by Deluxe in Burbank, California, under the direction of Grover Crisp and Bob Simmons.  Additional restoration was undertaken by the Criterion Collection using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4.”

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring the audio commentary by film scholar Dana Polan.
  • I’m a Stranger Here Myself: A Portrait of Nicholas Ray – (40:33) A 1975 documentary about director Nicholas Ray, presented in a slightly condensed form.  Featuring interviews with Ray, filmmakers Francois Truffaut and actors Natalie Wood and John Houseman, among others.
  • Gloria Grahame – (16:39) Author Vincent Curcio (“Suicide Blonde: The Life of Gloria Grahame” discusses her talents, her marriage to Nicholas Ray and her unforgettable life.
  • “In a Lonely Place”: Revisited – (20:23) Filmmaker Curtis Hanson discussing “In a Lonely Place” and why its an enduring cinema classic.
  • Suspense Episode 287 – (59:56) (audio) A radio adaptation of Dorothy B. Hughes novel which differs from Nicholas Ray’s film.  Priginally broadcast on March 6, 1948 as part of the CBS radio series “Suspense”.  Stars Robert Montgomery and Lurene Tuttle.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “In a Lonely Place”.

EXTRAS:

“In a Lonely Place – The Criterion Collection #810” comes with a six-page foldout which comes with the essay “An Epitaph For Live” by Imogen Sara Smith (author of “In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City” and “Buster Keaton: The Persistence of Comedy”).


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Years after “In a Lonely Place” debuted in theaters, the film has become a film noir classic.

Beloved by classic film fans for the performances by legendary actor Humphrey Bogart and actress Gloria Grahame.

But for cineaste, many found it to be as captivating because of the director Nicholas Ray and how the two characters in the film, were inspired by the real life relationship and failed marriage between Ray and his wife, the film’s lead actress, Gloria Grahame.

A film that would make one wonder, is the character Dix innocent or is he actually guilty for murder?  Known for his violent temper, the way Nicholas Ray would manage to find balance in trying to portray the character as possibly innocent and possibly worked to the film’s efficacy.

But for actress Gloria Grahame, this is probably the film that would showcase the actress in a whole new light, allowing her to be the leading lady of a screen legend but showing that she is fully capable to take on a lead role in which the character goes through many emotional highs and lows.

The film benefits from the cinematography of Burnett Guffey, for example, one scene in which Bogart describes how Mildred may have been murdered, he is able to shine a light on Bogart, making the character visually frightening as the character of Dix starts to beam during his discussion of something quite macabre.

I also have to say the film also incorporates great writing and the quotes are memorable, especially:

“I was born when you kissed me. I died when you left me. I lived a few weeks while you loved me.”

As for the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, the film does a great job of honoring both Nicholas Ray and his return to filmmaking after leaving the industry while he was one of the most wanted directors in Hollywood but also the good times and also the troubled life of actress Gloria Grahame (and how her fourth marriage would be to her ex-husband, Nicholas Ray’s son).  You also get a the radio episode from 1948 of “In a Lonely Place” included as well!

As expected from the Criterion Collection, the picture quality of the film features wonderful clarity and sharpness and a clear soundtrack.  No damage and the film looks and sounds great in HD.

Overall, if you love film noir, the Criterion Collection’s release of “In a Lonely Place” is worth watching and owning.  Showcasing the wonderful performance by both Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame and also fantastic direction by filmmaker Nicholas Ray, you’ll see why “In a Lonely Place” is considered a classic.  Recommended!

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The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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“The Kid” is a Charles Chaplin masterpiece which any cineaste or silent film fan should have in their collection.  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799

YEAR OF FILM: 1921/1922

DURATION: 53 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white/color-tinted, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Monaural

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2016


Directed by Charles Chaplin

Written by Charles Chaplin

Produced by Charles Chaplin

Music by Charles Chaplin


Starring:

Carl Miller as The Man

Edna Purviance as The Woman

Jackie Coogan as The Child

Charles Chaplin as A Tramp


Charlie Chaplin was already an international star when he decided to break out of the short-film format and make his first full-length feature. The Kid doesn’t merely show Chaplin at a turning point, when he proved that he was a serious film director—it remains an expressive masterwork of silent cinema. In it, he stars as his lovable Tramp character, this time raising an orphan (a remarkable young Jackie Coogan) he has rescued from the streets. Chaplin and Coogan make a miraculous pair in this nimble marriage of sentiment and slapstick, a film that is, as its opening title card states, “a picture with a smile—and perhaps, a tear.”


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In 1921, Charles Chaplin released his first full-length film as a director titled “The Kid”.

The film is produced, written, directed and music composed by Charles Chaplin, the film would feature the America’s first child star Jackie Coogan  (who would become popular three decades later as Uncle Fester in the hit TV series “The Addams Family” from 1964).  The film would also star Edna Purviance, an actress who would play the leading lady in many of Charlie Chaplin’s early films.

In 2011, “The Kid” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is considered one of the greatest films of the silent era.

And now “The Kid” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“The Kid” begins with an unwed woman (portrayed by Edna Purviance) leaving a charity hospital with her newborn son.  Meanwhile, the father is shown looking at her photo and the photo falling into the fireplace and would burn up.

Struggling with a decision to abandon her child, the woman leaves her baby in the back seat of an expensive automobile and she leaves behind a note with him about caring and providing love for the baby.

As the woman leaves, two thieves steal the car, unaware a baby is in the back seat.  Meanwhile, the woman has second thoughts and when she returns back to get her baby, she sees the car no longer there.    When she goes to the wealthy home where the car was parked, she finds out from the chauffeur that the car was stolen and the woman faints.

As the two thieves drive to an area of town, they hear the baby cry and put the baby near a trash can.

The baby is found by the tramp (portrayed by Charles Chaplin).  While the tramp tries to rid of the child onto other people, with police walking nearby, he is unable to and decides to raise the baby after seeing the note that came with him.

Five years later, the child (portrayed by Jackie Coogan) has been raised with street smarts, thanks to the tramp.  The tramp has taught the boy to be his partner in crime, making money by the boy breaking windows and the tramp being paid to fix them.

Meanwhile, the child’s real mother has become a successful and wealthy star.  But despite her financial success, she contributes her time doing charity work with the poor as a way to make amends for abandoning her child.

But one day, she ends up going to the neighborhood where the Tramp and child are living.


VIDEO:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” is presented in 1:33:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!

White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic. I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.

The film is a new 4K digital restoration of Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 re-release version of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new high-definition digital transfer was created from a 35 mm first-generation 1921 element preserved by the Cineteca di Bologna.  The element was scanned on an ARRISCAN film scanner and edited to match Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 rerelease; for a severely decayed 370-foot portion for the film, a first-generation 1921 fine-grain from the collection of Roy Export was used instead.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” is presented in LPCM 1.0 and features Charles Chaplin’s original score. The soundtrack is fantastic and Chaplin’s score as conducted by composer Timothy Brock is just great to listen to in HD without any buzzing or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.

Features English intertitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Chaplin historian Charles Maland.
  • Interviews – Featuring interviews with Jackie Coogan (11:04), Lita Grey Chaplin (10:00), cinematographer Rollie Totheroh (7:48 – audio only) and distributor Mo Rothman (9:42 – audio only).
  • Jackie Coogan: The First Child Star – (19:09) A video essay by Charles Chaplin scholar Lisa Haven about the first child star Jackie Coogan and the legacy he left behind to other child actors.
  • A Study in Undercranking – (25:09) Featuring silent film specialist Ben Model discussing how films were made and how cameras were cranked by hand.
  • Charlie Chaplin Conducts the Kid – (2:04) Brief footage shows Charlie Chaplin conducting his newly composed score for “The Kid” in 1971.
  • From the 1921 Version – (7:22) The deleted scenes Chaplin made when revisiting the film in 1971, removing three scenes featuring “The Woman” Edna Purviance.  Also, including the original First Nationa opening titles, various intertitles and closing card.
  • “Charlie” On the Ocean – (4:00) A newsreel which documents Charlie Chaplin’s first trip back to Europe after relocating to the US from England in 1914 to become a movie actor.
  • Nice and Friendly – (10:53) Filmed at Pickfair, the home of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford in 1922, as a wedding present for Lord and Lady Mountbattten, this short features Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan and the newlyweds.  Featuring a new score by composer Timothy Brock.
  • Trailers – Theatrical trailers for “The Kid”.

EXTRAS:

“The Kid – The Criterion Collection #799” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “The Grail of Laughter and the Fallen Angel” by Tom Gunning.


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“The Kid” is a silent film that I have adored for many years but watching it on Blu-ray and seeing the detail and the beauty of the film in HD, I have fallen in love with this film once again.

It’s no doubt a masterpiece from Charles Chaplin, who wrote, starred, directed, produced and even composed the music for the film.  Going through strains of a marital breakdown and literally so much personal drama, he was able to craft a film showing how much of a cinema genius at the time.  And even now, not far from a century since this film was released in theaters we can only marvel of how well-crafted “The Kid” really is.

In fact, there were high expectations for this film, so much that Ralph Kettering, representative of Jones, Linick & Schaefer Co. stated, “The First National exhibitions’ circuit paid over to Mr. Chaplin $800,000 in gold for the purchase of this picture and we have paid an enormous sum to secure the first screening anywhere on earth here in Chicago”.

But the high expectations for Chaplin was because gossip of his divorce and his life had captivated America who hasn’t seen much of the actor.  But when his six-reeler was released, film critics were positive of his film.

The legendary silent film critic Carl Sandburg of the Chicago Daily News wrote, “‘The Kid’ is a masterpiece and should satisfy either those who want knock down and dragout or something the whole family will enjoy.”

But one must have to admit that what made this film work was finding the right child actor.  Watching many silent film with child actors, not many have that skillset as the young Jackie Coogan.  I’ve read of how mature this child was at such a young age, so much that Chaplin and other well-known silent film talents included the child in a personal film together made for a friend, but it’s the fact that this film features a wide-range of emotion and Chaplin was able to bring that out with the young Jackie Coogan.

Also, what makes this film so relevant today is the fact that the situations featured in “The Kid” still resonate strongly today.  Single parent unable to afford their child, struggles to give their baby up.  Edna Purviance as the mother who lives with her decision and is able to change her life and give back to charity in order to make amends, is something that viewers can sympathize with.

Similar to Coogan, Purviance has had a long career with Chaplin and like the short films, he is able to showcase her talent and emotions with efficacy.

But it’s that fatherly role which Chaplin provides to the kid that makes us feel laughter, sadness and just knowing that for the tramp, despite being poor and not living in the best conditions, he does what he can to parent the child and raise him.

As for the Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection, this is a fantastic release with a good number of special features and in depth look into the film thanks to audio commentary by Chaplin historian Charles Maland, a wonderful featurette about Jackie Coogan courtesy of Chaplin historian Lisa Haven and more.

The Blu-ray is the best I have seen of “The Kid” by far.  The details and sharpness are magnificent in HD, the new score by composer Timothy Brock is fantastic!

But I have to mention that this Blu-ray release features the 1972 re-release version of the film.  An older Chaplin wanted to make some revisions for the re-release, so if you want the full version of the film, a complete version was released on LaserDisc long ago.  But the good news is that “The Kid” features the deleted scenes in the special features.

For those who owned the 2004 Warner Bros. DVD, you still want to hang on to that DVD for the Chaplin and Coogan shorts.  But it’s definitely worth upgrading to the Criterion Collection Blu-ray as this release is magnificent.

Overall, “The Kid” is a Charles Chaplin masterpiece which any cineaste or silent film fan should have in their collection.  Highly recommended!

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Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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While my favorite Harold Lloyd film will always be “Safety Last!”, I enjoy “Speedy” in a much different level, mainly for the adventure that Harold Lloyd takes the viewer and enjoying New York City of that era but also the fascinating stunts and scenes that will surely entertain generation after generation. A wonderful Criterion Collection silent comedy Blu-ray release that I recommend!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788

YEAR OF FILM: 1928

DURATION: 86 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white/color-tinted, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: December 8, 2015


Directed by Ted Wilde

Story by John Grey, Lex Neal, Howard Emmet Rogers

Executive Producer: Suzanne Lloyd  Hayes

Producer: Kevin Brownlow, David Gill

Associate Producer: Peter Langs

Cinematography by Walter Lundin

Edited by Carl Himm

Art Direction by Liell K. Vedder


Starring:

Harold Lloyd as Harold “Speedy Swift

Ann Christy as Jane Dillon

Bert Woodruff as Pop Dillon – Her Grand-daddy

Brooks Benedict as Steve Carter

Babe Ruth


Speedy was the last silent feature to star Harold Lloyd (Safety Last!)—and one of his very best. The slapstick legend reprises his “Glasses Character,” this time as a good-natured but scatterbrained New Yorker who can’t keep a job. He finally finds his true calling when he becomes determined to help save the city’s last horse-drawn trolley, which is operated by his sweetheart’s crusty grandfather. From its joyous visit to Coney Island to its incredible Babe Ruth cameo to its hair-raising climactic stunts on the city’s streets, Speedy is an out-of-control love letter to New York that will have you grinning from ear to ear.


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Harold Lloyd, one of the three kings of silent comedy in the United States has entertained many with films such as “Safety Last!” (1923), “The Freshman” (1925), “The Kid Brother” (1927), to name a few.

But in 1928, he would create his final silent comedy, “Speedy”, which was directed by longtime Harold Lloyd confidant and director, Ted Wilde (his final film as he would die of a stroke at the age of 36 while working on another film project).

Beloved by silent comedy fans, especially for its footage from Hollywood and New York City and the film was one of the films to be nominated for the short-lived “Academy Award for Best Director of a Comedy”.

The film would star Harold Lloyd, Ann Christy (“Halloween”, “The Love Charm”, “Dream House”), Bert Woodruff (“Spring Fever”, “Children of the Dust”, “The Delicious Little Devil”), Brooks Benedict (“The Freshman”, “Follow the Fleet”, “What Price Hollywood?”) and baseball great, Babe Ruth (as well as a very short cameo from fellow New York Yankees, Lou Gehrig).

While the film will be known as Harold Lloyd’s final silent film, the film also gets its reputation for Harold Lloyd showing off his middle finger (possibly the first middle finger gesture seen in a film).  But for its extensive location shooting, it is one of the best films to capture New York City during the late 1920’s.

Considered as one of his highlights of his oeuvre, “Speedy” was released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Speedy” revolves around Harold “Speedy” Swift (portrayed by Harold Lloyd), a man who can’t keep a job for more than a week and is dating Jane Dillon (portrayed by Ann Christy).

Her father Pop (portrayed by Bert Woodruff) is the owner of a horse-drawn streetcar, one of the last ones in the city.  But the wealthy railroad entrepreneur Steve Carter (portrayed by Brooks Benedict) wants to build a trolley system in the city, but unfortunately the route is being used for many years by Pop Dillon.  And the only way he can lose it, is if he doesn’t provide rides on the route for 24 hours.  Something that Pop has not missed since starting his business.

But when Pop is willing to negotiate for $10,000 for the route and streetcar, seeing a newspaper article of how badly Steve Carter needs the route, Speedy changes the $10,000 to $70,000 which Carter refuses to pay.

Now Steve Carter will do all he can to prevent Pop from operating his streetcar and force him out of business.  But wanting to protect Pop’s business, Speedy decides to operate the street-car.

Featuring a day between Speedy and his girlfriend Jane at Coney Island, watching a New York Yankees game and also giving New York Yankees star, Babe Ruth a ride, “Speedy” is one of Harold Lloyd’s most memorable silent films ever created.


VIDEO:

“Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788” is presented in black and white and color-tinted (1:33:1 aspect ratio). The film is well-preserved and looks fantastic compared to its earlier DVD set release in the “Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection”.  The film features better picture quality, better sharpness and detail for the characters.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from a safety fine-grain master positive deposited at the UCLA Film & Television Archive by the Harold Lloyd estate; certain insert segments were scanned in 4k from the archive’s preservation negative.  The film was restored by Digital Film Restore in Burbank, California.”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio, “Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788”. The soundtrack features the musical score by composer Carl Davis from 1992, synchronize dand restored under his supervision and presented in uncompressed stereo.

Intertitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary with Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum and Scott McGee, director of program production at Turner Classic Movies.
  • “In the Footsteps of ‘Speedy'” – (31:06) A short documentary featuring Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York Film Forum and founder of Rialto Pictures visiting and discussing several of the key New York locations in “Speedy”.
  • Babe Ruth – (40:25) Featuring David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University, presenting and discussing a selection of rare Hearst Metrotone newsreel footage featuring Babe Ruth from the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
  • Narrated Stills: Deleted Scenes – (4:24) Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum narrates a selection of rare stills featuring scenes that were deleted from the final release version of “Speedy”.
  • Home Movies – (17:46) Harold Lloyd’s granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd narrates a selection of home movie footage shot around the time that “Speedy” was made.
  • Bumping Into Broadway – (25:51) A 1939 Harold Lloyd short shot entirely in Los Angeles and the first two-reeler to star Lloyd’s glasses character.

EXTRAS:

“Speedy – The Criterion Collection #788” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “The Comic Figure of the Average Man” by Phillip Lopate.


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A final silent comedy by Harold Lloyd before he became interested in creating talkies a year later with “Welcome Danger”, “Speedy” is a film in which the well-known silent film director/actor wanted to go grand by shooting in New York.

Featuring wonderful video footage of scenery of New York City long ago, and utilizing hidden cameras to shoot various scenes, especially Harold Lloyd and Ann Christy’s adventures in Coney Island, one can easily marvel on how Harold Lloyd was able to pull this film off.

As thousands of people became the film’s extras, many crowds gathering…and would typically stop film production and stunt scenes that were risky and dangerous, “Speedy” was no doubt an ambitious film but yet still within the scope of focusing on create an entertaining and riveting silent comedy film.

But in terms of being even more ambitious, what was supposed to be Lloyd’s final silent film in 1929 with “Welcome Danger”, Lloyd chose to reshoot and utilize audio technology for its time and create a Harold Lloyd comedy for the “talkies” era.  While “Welcome Danger” did well in the box office as moviegoers were excited to hear this new technology and wanting to hear what Harold Lloyd sounds like, his talkies afterward, would never achieve the same success as his silent films.

So, here we are with “Speedy” now released in HD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.  The film looks absolutely fantastic compared to its Warner Bros. DVD counterpart.  The sharpness and detail are much better, as can be expected.  But its the subtle details in watching in HD that you see things in the background that catch your attention.

And this is where “Speedy” is quite effective because of its location shooting throughout New York City, you get to see New York of yesteryear.  There are a few films, especially from Harold Lloyd that showcase a city background and in many ways, historically are significant for capturing the lifestyle and pop culture of that era.  And “Speedy” has so much to give, as the characters are seen in Coney Island and New York City, not for a short moment, but for a significant amount of time.

The audio retains the 1992 Carl Davis musical score, which will leave purists happy and there are a number of special features that really go into the making of the film but also showcasing New York Yankees slugger, Babe Ruth and really going into details of the legend’s career as a player and manager.

Also included are glimpses of home movies and also the two-reeler “Bumping into Broadway” featuring the 2004 musical score by Robert Israel.

For silent comedy fans, the Harold Lloyd films released by the Criterion Collection have been wonderful and timing has been perfect as Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton have been the focal point of many Blu-ray releases, it’s great to have Criterion Collection honoring the third king of silent comedy with another release in HD.

While my favorite Harold Lloyd film will always be “Safety Last!”, I enjoy “Speedy” in a much different level, mainly for the adventure that Harold Lloyd takes the viewer and enjoying New York City of that era but also the fascinating stunts and scenes that will surely entertain generation after generation.

A wonderful Criterion Collection silent comedy Blu-ray release that I recommend!

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You Can’t Take It With You (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“You Can’t Take It With You” is a timeless Frank Capra romantic comedy classic.  Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration and a digibook release, the “You Can’t Take It With You” Blu-ray release is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1939, renewed 1968 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: You Can’t Take It With You

YEAR OF FILM: 1938

DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, black and white, English 1.0 DTS-HD MA, French, German, Italian, Spanish Monoraul, Subtitles: English, Arabic, Czech, Dutch Fininish, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, Turkish

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 8, 2014


Directed by Frank Capra

Based on the Play by George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart

Screenplay by Robert Riskin

Produced by Frank Capra

Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

Cinematography by Joseph Walker

Edited by Gene Havlick

Art Direction by Stephen Goosson


Starring:

Jean Arthur as Alice Sycamore

Lionel Barrymore as Martin Vanderhof

James Stewart as Tony Kirby

Edward Arnold as Anthony P. Kirby

Mischa Auer as Kolenkhov

Ann Miller as Essie Carmichael

Spring Byington as Penny Sycamore

Samul S. Hinds as Paul Sycamore

Donald Meek as Poppins

H.B. Warner as Ramsey

Halliwell Hobbes as DePinna

Dub Taylor as Ed Charmichael

Mary Forbes as Mrs. Anthony Kirby

Lillian Yarbo as Rheba

Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as Donald

Clarence Wilson as John Blakely

Josef Swickard as Professor


Academy Award(r) winner James Stewart (1940 Best Actor, The Philadelphia Story), Jean Arthur, Academy Award(r) winner Lionel Barrymore (1931 Best Actor, A Free Soul) and Edward Arnold star in this classic screwball comedy. Arthur stars as Alice Sycamore, the stable family member of an offbeat clan of free spirits who falls for Tony Kirby (James Stewart), the down-to-earth son of a snooty, wealthy family. Amidst a backdrop of confusion, the two very different families rediscover the simple joys of life. Based on the phenomenally successful Kaufman-Hart play, You Can’t Take It With You was directed by Frank Capra and won two Academy Awards(r) (1938 Best Picture, Best Director). Now fully restored in 4K, this heartwarming and timeless classic is perfect for every family.


 As the legendary Frank Capra was known to churn out box office hits and win several Academy Awards with films such as “It Happened One Night”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”, “Lost Horizon”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.

While Frank Capra and James Stewart have had a wonderful work collaboration, it began in 1938 with the romantic comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” and the first collaboration between Stewart and Jean Arthur (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”).

While the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards (and winning two Academy Awards for “Best Picture” and “Best Director”) and was the highest grossing picture of 1938, the film would continue to elevate Frank Capra’s career as a filmmaker as the film was his third Oscar for “Best Director” in five years.

The film is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play (of the same name) by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart and was released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2015 and the film has received a full restoration in 4K and will be released as a Digibook, with rare behind-the-scenes photos and an all-new essay about the making of the film.

The film begins with an introduction of wealthy banker Anthony P. Kirby (portrayed by Edward Arnold), who has returned from Washington D.C. after being granted a government-sanctioned munitions monopoly, which will make him and his partners even more wealthy.  But he needs to buy the property within a 12-block radius around a competitor’s factory in order to put them out of business, and as all owners were quick to sell, only one has resisted, no matter how much money they are offered.

Kirby tells his real estate broker, John Blakely (portrayed by Clarence Wilson) to cause trouble for the family in order to get them to move.

Meanwhile, his son Tony (portrayed by James Stewart) is the vice-president and possibly successor to the family’s business.  Tony is in love with the company’s stenographer, Alice Sycamore (portrayed by Jean Arthur) and wants to marry her.

When Tony’s mother (portrayed by Mary Forbes) sees him flirting and kissing Alice, Alice is scared because she feels that her parents will look at her family as poor and not want Tony to marry her.  But Tony doesn’t care, he wants to marry her.

Alice also turns out to be the granddaughter of Grandpa Vanderhof (portrayed by Lionel Barrymore), the patriarch who is holding out of selling his home to the Kirby’s (Tony is unaware of this).

At the Vanderhof home, this is where many people live and do experiments for their inventions.  It’s also the home that Vanderhof does not want to sell because it’s where he and his deceased wife had lived, and will never let the home go.

Meanwhile, without Alice’s knowledge, Tony has his parents come to her home and visit her parents.  But unfortunately, the home is in disarray and it leads to more trouble for both sides of the family.


VIDEO:

“You Can’t Take It With You” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are sharp. The film shows amazing clarity on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition.

The print features the digital restoration that was done by Sony Colorworks in 2013 and the digital pictures were frame by frame digitally restored and dirt, tears, scratches and artifacts were removed.  I personally did not notice any damage to the film and was very content with the beautiful picture quality of this classic film.

Comparing to the original DVD releases that I’ve had, clarity is evident. Sharpness was evident, along with the black levels which were inky and deep. There is a good amount of grain throughout the entire film and no doubt, this is the definitive version of “You Can’t Take It With You” in terms of picture quality!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is presented in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. The monaural lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“You Can’t Take it With You” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frank Capra Jr. and author Cathrine Kellison.
  • Frank Capra Jr. Remembers… “You Can’t Take It With You” – (25:37) Frank Capra Jr. talks about his father and his father working on “You Can’t Take It With You”.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “You Can’t Take It With You”.

EXTRAS:

“You Can’t Take It With You” comes in a digibook package with 28-pages. Featuring photos from the film plus “The Making of You Can’t Take It With You” essay by Jeremy Arnold plus an ultraviolet code for the film


When “You Can’t Take It With You” was released in theaters, there was a lot of speculation of how the film would hold up to the Pulitzer-Prize winning play.

If anything, becoming the box office hit of 1938 and also earning seven Academy Award nominations, suffice to say, “You Can’t Take It With You” was a major success.  And for many film critics, the majority were positive about the film adaptation but with those who were passionate about the original play, were the main viewers to criticize the film for not being a 100% faithful adaptation.

I personally enjoyed Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take It With You”.  In a historical cinema sense, both James Stewart and Jean Arthur had amazing chemistry which would get even better with each Capra film afterward.

It’s also one of the more joyful romantic comedy’s from Frank Capra considering that his films later in the ’30s become more darker, but the film does have a little touch of darkness but not as much as we would see later in Capra’s films.

The film has its moments where the character Martin Vanderhof is presented with doses of reality, that wealth is not everything and when you go on the path of not caring, bad things can happen.

But as Lionel Barrymore did a wonderful job as playing the elder Vanderhof, as did Edward Arnold did in playing Anthony P. Kirby, with a large cast, the film does rely on the talent of James Stewart and Jean Arthur.

From their tender moments and scenes of flirtation early in the film, as Martin holds on to Alice’s hand, while the phone is ringing.  She answers the phone by using her teeth on the telephone cord.  It’s a scene that you just don’t see happen in Hollywood films.

But the film and future films would escalate the popularity of James Stewart as an actor and as for Jean Arthur, cementing her role as the “Queen of Screwball Comedy”.  Both were true professionals and for Jean Arthur who looked as natural onscreen, is surprising that in reality, during the time of the film and even later in her career, had extreme stage fright during production, which Capra would write about in his autobiography.

But for Capra fans, the film is entertaining but as Screwball Comedy fans of the 1930’s, the film is truly heightened by its significant collaborations.

While I have owned various versions of “You Can’t Take It With You” throughout the years, this is no doubt the best version to date. Fully restored in 4K, the picture quality looks absolutely amazing. The film is sharp, white and grays are well contrast and black levels are nice and deep. I saw no blemishes while watching this film (which I was expecting, considering the restoration that took place in 2013) and I was absolutely pleased with the overall look of the film. The lossless soundtrack is in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0.  The special features includes a wonderful documentary but also good insight of the making of the film courtesy of Capra’s son, Frank Capra Jr.

And last, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is released in digibook format with 28-pages and for anyone who is not familiar with digibook, they look like a book.  There are pages, but at the front and back is where the Blu-ray’s are inserted.  Also, digibooks are released for a short time and are often changed to the usual Blu-ray casing later on. If you are a digibook collector, you will definitely want to get this film when it’s released.

Overall, “You Can’t Take It With You” is a timeless Frank Capra romantic comedy classic.  Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration and a digibook release, the “You Can’t Take It With You” Blu-ray release is highly recommended!

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Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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I know that many people prefer the silent films of Chaplin, and there are those who are not familiar with his later films. But “Limelight” is a later Chaplin film that is recommended for viewing. There is no doubt that Chaplin put his heart and soul into this film and in essence, you can look at it as the great entertainer passing his baton to a new generation of talent. Chaplin’s final American film receives a magnificent Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection and is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756

YEAR OF FILM: 1952

DURATION: 137 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, English Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 19, 2015


Directed by Charles Chaplin

Original Story and Screenplay by Charles Chaplin

Produced by Charles Chaplin

Music by Charles Chaplin

Cinematography by Karl Struss

Edited by Joe Inge

Art Direction by Eugene Lourie

Costume Design by Riley Thorne


Starring:

Charles Chaplin as Calvero

Claire Bloom as Thereza

Nigel Bruce as Postant

Buster Keaton as Calvero’s Partner

Sydney Chaplin as Neville

Norman Lloyd as bodalink


Charlie Chaplin’s masterful drama about the twilight of a former vaudeville star is among the writer-director’s most touching films. Chaplin plays Calvero, a once beloved musical-comedy performer, now a washed-up alcoholic who lives in a small London flat. A glimmer of hope arrives when he meets a beautiful but melancholy ballerina (Claire Bloom) who lives downstairs. An elegant mix of the comic and the tragic, this poignant movie also features Buster Keaton in an extended cameo, marking the only time the two silent comedy icons appeared in a film together. Made at a time when Chaplin was under attack by the American press and far right, Limelight was scarcely distributed in the United States upon its initial release, but it is now considered one of his essential and most personal works.

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The 1950’s were not the kindest to Charles Chaplin.

The film star that was on top of the world in the teens and twenties and a career that continued to stay strong in the ’30s, became more involved in politics much to the dismay of J.Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI and a smear campaign was developed to destroy Chaplin.

With a film career now waning in the late ’40s and ’50s and with the failure of his film “Monsieur Verdoux” (1947), Chaplin would begin working on the story for his next film “Limelight”.

Because many theaters decided to pass on showing “Limelight”, Chaplin would hold the world premiere in London and by the time he left with his family in September 1952, the attorney general revoked Chaplin’s re-entry permit and that if he intended to re-enter the U.S., he must submit to an interview concerning his political views and moral behavior.  And because of this, Chaplin would cut his ties with the United States to never appear until 1972 when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences offered Chaplin an Honorary Award.

That year, “Limelight” would be re-released in the United States, twenty years after its initial release.  And through the year’s the film would grow in reputation, considered as Chaplin’s last great film and would also be the only film to star two of silent film’s kings, Chaplin and Buster Keaton.  It will also become known as his most personal and introspective film.

While many feel it is an autobiographical film about Chaplin’s fall from grace in cinema and Chaplin insisting the film’s primary character was about stage actor Frank Tierney, there is no doubt that the film does mirror Chaplin’s own personal life.

And now, “Limelight” will be released by the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD in May 2015.

“Limelight” is set in London 1914, the eve of World War II, and a once famous stage clown named Calvero (portrayed by Charles Chaplin) is now a drunk.

As he is entering his apartment complex, he smells gas and finds a young dancer named Thereza (portrayed by Claire Bloom) unconscious.

Calvero eventually saves the young woman but finds out that Thereza a.k.a. “Terry” had tried to kill herself after suffering an injury that will prevent her from dancing again.

Eventually he has Terry live with him and help her regain her self-esteem, help her get back on her feet and walk again.  While he tries to help her, she returns to dancing and is recognized for her dancing and becomes famous.  Unfortunately for Calvero, his comeback is not successful.

A young military man named Neville (portrayed by Sydney Earl Chaplin) tries to get closer to Terry and falls in love with her, but for Terry, she is in love with Calvero and does not care about their age difference.

Wanting to give Terry a chance with Neville, Calvero leaves her in hopes she will succeed on her own.


VIDEO:

“Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio).  The film is well-contrast with white and grays featuring fine detail.  Blacks are inky and deep.  There is a good amount of grain and for the most part, there is no discoloration, blurriness and picture quality is magnificent.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new restoration was undertaken by the Criterion Collection in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna. For the restoration, a new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35mm original negative at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, flicker, and jitter.”

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756” is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural. Dialogue is clear with no sign of hiss or crackle.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was digitized at 24-bit, using COSP technology, from the 35mm sound negatives. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756″ comes with the following special features:

  • Chaplin’s “Limelight” – (21:11) Chaplin biographer David Robinson explores the evolution and personal nature of “Limelight”.
  • Claire Bloom and Norman Lloyd – Interview with actress Claire Bloom (15:53) and actor Norman Lloyd (14:53).
  • Chaplin Today: “Limelight” – (26:43) A 2002 program directed by Edgardo Cozarinsky featuring interviews with filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, Claire Bloom and Sydney Chaplin.
  • Outtake – (4:31) An outtake that was included in the original premiere of “Limelight” in 1952 but was removed before the film was distributed worldwide.
  • Charlie Chaplin Reads from Footlights – (2:16) Chaplin reads two excerpts from his novella “Footlights”, the basis for “Limelight” (audio only).
  • Short Films – Featuring two shorts: “A Night in the Show” (1915, 25:06) – Chaplin’s 12th film from Essanay Film Manufacturing Company.  And “The Professor” (1919, 6:27) – An uncompleted short by Charles Chaplin.
  • Trailers – Featuring the English and Italian trailers for “Limelight”.

EXTRAS:

“Limelight – The Criterion Collection #756” comes with a 42-page booklet featuring the essays “Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man” by Peter Von Bagh and “Hollywood Chaplin” by Henry Gris.


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Chaplin’s final American film “Limelight” is a film that I felt entertained but also made me feel sad for the great entertainer.

For those of us who are able to live today, to watch a Chaplin film in HD, to read nothing but praise but also to celebrate his career and acknowledging how great he was as a man of all trades is amazing.  Charlie Chaplin was no doubt an amazing man that directed, wrote, produced, starred, composed a lot of his films but to know that the way we look at Chaplin today, was a much different experience for viewers during the ’50s is heartbreaking.

To know that the FBI would do all they can to damage his career but prevent him from coming back to the United States is one of the great entertainment tragedies to play out in media, considering how much he has given to cinema but also entertain millions of people worldwide.

The community hunt for those in the entertainment industry is well-documented but “Limelight”, although Chaplin insists in his books that it was about a real life stage actor not of himself, does seem autobiographical in the sense that a Chaplin in his ’50s, was no longer loved in the entertainment world as he was once decades ago.

He felt at the time that this would be his final movie because all that has gone on in his personal life but yet, with great resolve and being the professional that he is, he created a magnificent film that many Americans and theaters passed on.

While the film was re-released in 1972, 20-years later to coincide with him receiving an honorary Academy Award, for many Americans not familiar with his later films, thanks to the Criterion Collection, many will get to see his last great American film.

The film would become the springboard for stage actress Claire Bloom (who would go on to star in “The King’s Speech”, “Cash of the Titans”, “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, “The Haunting”) who continues to have a strong acting career today.

“Limelight” would be the first pairing of the two silent comedy kings, Chaplin and Buster Keaton but also a film that shows how grateful Chaplin was to his friend by giving him a part in his film, considering the troubles that Keaton had in his personal life.

The movie would also become the debut of Sydney Chaplin, the second son of Charles and his second wife Lita Grey, as the man who falls for Terry.

The film would also feature Chaplin’s children – Charles Chaplin Jr., Geraldine, Josephine, Michael and wife Oona Chaplin would also appear in the film.

But “Limelight” is a fitting final American film for Charles Chaplin (his final film was in 1969 titled “A Countess from Hong Kong”), as if it was created to be the last hurrah for the great entertainer.

The Criterion Collection also made sure that viewers and collectors would have a magnificent product thanks to the wonderful picture and audio quality but also the number of special features which includes two Chaplin short films.

Overall, I know that many people prefer the silent films of Chaplin, and there are those who are not familiar with his later films.  But “Limelight” is a later Chaplin film that is recommended for viewing.  There is no doubt that Chaplin put his heart and soul into this film and in essence, you can look at it as the great entertainer passing his baton to a new generation of talent.

Chaplin’s final American film receives a magnificent Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection and is highly recommended!

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Make Way For Tomorrow – The Criterion Collection #505 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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A touching yet hearbreaking Leo McCarey classic.   The film will forever have its relevance in American society today and the future as every family must deal with how they will handle their aging parents.  A fantastic film and a worthy addition to the Criterion Collection!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Make Way For Tomorrow – The Criterion Collection #505

YEAR OF FILM: 1937

DURATION: 92 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, English Monaural LPCM 1.0, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 12, 2015


Directed by Leo McCarey

Based on the novel “The Years are So Long” by Josephine Lawrence

Based on the play by Helen Leary, Nolan Leary

Written by Vina Delmar

Produced by Leo McCarey, Adolph Zukor

Music by George Antheil, Victor Young

Cinematography by William C. Mellor

Edited by LeRoy Stone

Art Direction by Hans Dreier, Bernard Herzbrun

Set Decoration by A.E. Freudeman


Starring:

Victor Moore as Barkley Cooper

Beulah Bondi as Lucy Cooper

Fay Bainter as Anita Cooper

Thomas Mitchell as George Cooper

Porter Hall as Harvey Chase

Barbara Read as Rhoda Cooper

Maurice Moscovitch as Max Rubens

Elisabeth Risdon as Cora Payne

Minna Gombell as Nellie Chase

Ray Mayer as Robert cooper

Ralph Remly as Bill Payne

Louise Beavers as Mamie

Louis Jean Heydt as Doctor

Gene Morgan as Carlton Gorman


Make Way for Tomorrow, by Leo McCarey, is one of the great unsung Hollywood masterpieces, an enormously moving Depression-era depiction of the frustrations of family, aging, and the generation gap. Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore headline a cast of incomparable character actors, starring as an elderly couple who must move in with their grown children after the bank takes their home, yet end up separated and subject to their offspring’s selfish whims. An inspiration for Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story, this is among American cinema’s purest tearjerkers, all the way to its unflinching ending, which McCarey refused to change despite studio pressure.


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In the 1930’s, both Leo McCarey and Frank Capra are held to the highest regard.

Legendary American film critic Andrew Sarris wrote of McCarey, “McCarey represents a principle of improvisation in the history of the American film.  Noted less for his rigorous direction than for his relaxed digressions, McCarey has distilled a unique blend of farce and sentimentality in his best efforts.” (The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968, Andrew Sarris)

For many classic cinema fans, McCarey was known for his directorial efforts in silent films for Hal Roach’s Little Rascals, Charley Chase’s silent shorts to directing many popular hits for Laurel and Hardy and also the Marx Brothers.

As McCarey is known for classic films such as his Academy Award winning films “The Awful Truth” (1937) and “Going My Way” (1944) in 1937, McCarey received recognition for his film “Make Way for Tomorrow” (1937).

Unfortunately, due to America was still suffering the sting of the Depression, American cinema faced major challenges in attracting people to the box office and despite receiving critical praise, the film was a box office failure.  But since its theatrical release in 1937, the film has been considered one of the greatest American films of all time and a film that would inspire screenwriter Kogo Noda in writing the 1953 film “Tokyo Story” directed by Yasujiro Ozu.

McCarey believed that “Make Way for Tomorrow” was his finest film created and in his Academy Award acceptance speech for Best Director for “The Awful Truth”, McCarey said, “Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture.”

And now “Make Way For Tomorrow” will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Make Way for Tomorrow” revolves around the Cooper family.  The children are brought together at the home of their father Barkley (played by Victor Moore) and their mother Lucy (played by Beulah Bondi).  The children are informed that their parents will be losing their home because Barkley has not made any money for four years and is unable to make any payments.

So, the children decide what will happen to their parents.  Unfortunately, many of them don’t have the room for two people, so the only decision is to split them up for at least three months and each child can take their turns watching over a parent.

Lucy will stay with her oldest son George’s (played by Thomas Mitchell) home while Victor will stay with Cora (played by Elisabeth Risdon) for three months.  But the truth is, the children have their own lives and having a parent live with them becomes a bit intrusive and we start to see how life for Victor and Lucy will be away from each other and how their children and their families deal with having to take care of a parent.

For George, he loves his mother but his wife Anita (played by Fay Bainter) feels that Lucy is quite intrusive to her personal life as a Bridge teacher.  Since Lucy is missing her husband considerably and has no one to talk to, she is feeling depressed.  Whenever Anita feels disturbed by Lucy, she tries to have her daughter Rhoda (played by Barbara Read) watch over her grandmother.

Meanwhile, Victor is not having that much fun living with Cora either.  She and her husband are quite mean to him and if anything, he misses his wife a lot and the only thing he can do is try to find a job (which no one is hiring an older person) and making friends with store owner Max Rubens (played by Maurice Moscovitch).

With each parent missing each other considerably and have never been separated this long in their 50 years of marriage, they don’t know when they will ever see each other and despite their children telling them that they will reunite in three months, both parents have a feeling that they may never see each other again.

“Make Way for Tomorrow” is a film that takes place before social security and before there was any organized government programs for the elderly.  The film gives us a snapshot of how things were back then for families trying to take care of their elder parents but also how relevant the story is today as families also must deal with this issue of aging parents and what they must do for them, especially with the social security program that was created to help those when they grow older, now probably not going to be existent for aging parents in the near future.


VIDEO:

“Make Way for Tomorrow – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #505″ is presented in 1080p High Definition and in 1:33:1 black and white.  For a film released in 1937, the picture quality of this film is very well done.  There is a fine layer of grain and scratches are quite light.  Blacks and grays show a very good contrast and for the most part, the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray and sharper, well-contrast compared to its older DVD counterpart.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm fine-grain master positive.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean system, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Make Way for Tomorrow – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #505″ is presented in English LPCM 1.0.  Dialogue is clear but I have to admit that at times, there was certain dialogue spoken by Victor Cooper I couldn’t tell what he was saying (more because of the way he was saying the dialogue), I had to rewind and turn on the English subtitles to find out what was said.  But that is more about me having difficulty understanding the dialogue clearly.  But the soundtrack seems much clearer than its older DVD counterpart.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and lZotope RX 4”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Make Way for Tomorrow – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #505” comes with the following special features:

  • Tomorrow, Yesterday and Today – (19:53) A new video interview featuring filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich discussing the career of Leo McCarey and “Make Way for Tomorrow”.
  • Gary Giddins – (20:09) New video interview with critic Gary Giddins in which he talks about McCarey’s artistry and the political and social context of the film

EXTRAS:

“Make Way for Tomorrow – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #505” comes with a 28-page booklet booklet featuring new essays by critic Tag Gallagher and filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, and an excerpt from film scholar Robin Wood’s 1998 piece “With This Wedding, I Thee Unwed”.


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“Make Way for Tomorrow” is an excellent Leo McCarey film that will always resonate strongly with me.

From the magnificent and heartbreaking performance by Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi, to the well-planned camera shots showing the emotions of the characters and most of all, the pacing of the film and not showing that one person is to blame but it’s a part of life that families need to deal with.

The issue of aging parents have been featured in quite a few films in the past but it was McCarey’s that really struck a chord with the audience and because of the film’s nature, released during a time of the Great Depression, Americans were just not in the mood to deal with a realistic and heavy issue, no matter how critically acclaimed the film was.  It’s the type of film that many people just don’t want to deal with until that time comes.

And that was in 1937, flashforward 78-years-later to 2015 and its still a major issue today.

But the film tries to make the viewer sympathetic.  Granted, you would expect the children to be a little more understanding and helpful after all their parents did for them, raising them and you want to see that same type of respect from the children to their parents but realistically, not many people in America are like that.  We look at George’s family who has to take care of her mother and immediately, we know that things are not going to work out.

When George’s wife Anita tries to teach Bridge to her students who are wearing tuxedos and nice dresses, all Lucy wants is companionship because her husband is not there and no one else in the family is willing to communicate with her.  So, she does what is natural.  She tries to sit and be quiet and watch them play, but her rocking chair makes too loud of a noise for the students to concentrate and embarrasses Anita.  But possibly one of the most interesting and saddest scenes in the film is when Lucy receives a call from her husband and you can feel the sadness in her voice of being away from her husband and really missing him.  And just that moment where the students can not play because they are entranced to her conversation with her husband, it was a sad scene of the film.

But what is probably the most difficult scene is to see both Lucy and Victor together, as they visit the city and reminisce of the locations they one shared when they were younger.  These scenes are not just fun to watch but it’s also very sad that knowing what will become of the two.  During 1937, there was so social security, there was no government programs to assist the elderly and their children have their own lives and none of them have the extra room to take in both parents.  Some of the children are willing to take one, others are not willing to do anything anymore knowing that having their parent in their house is a big responsibility.

And what is so sad is that parents have to go through so much in order to raise their children when they are young.  But when it’s reverse and the children have to take care of their parents, too many decide its not worth their stress and none are willing to take on that responsibility.  And for both Lucy and Victor, they know that.  They know it’s an inconvenience and they know that what is going to happen next in their life, they know they may have to take on these challenges alone rather than together.

You can watch “Make Way for Tomorrow”, watch the excellent performance by Bondi and Moore and just see the faces on both Lucy and Victor’s face as they spend which may be their final day together as husband and wife.  It’s heartbreaking and it was very noble of director Leo McCarey of going through with this film despite the studio wanting him to change the ending.

I have seen many Leo McCarey films and none have resonated this strongly with me than “Make Way for Tomorrow” and I know people tend to misuse the word “masterpiece” when describing a film but the truth is “Make Way for Tomorrow” is a masterpiece filmed and released during the depression-era.  As heartbreaking as Ozu’s “Tokyo Story”  or De Sica’s “Umberto D.” was in the ’50s and “Bicycle Thieves” was in the late ’40s, “Make Way for Tomorrow” was an American film during the Golden Era of Hollywood that really captured a storyline of family and aging parents successfully.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality for this Blu-ray release is fantastic!  Compared to the 2010 DVD release from the Criterion Collection, the Blu-ray release is much sharper, features better black and gray levels and the two special features and the 28-page booklet are great inclusions.  Leo McCarey fans should be happy with this release as well as any Criterion Collection fan.  It’s definitely a worthy release worth checking out!

Overall, “Make Way for Tomorrow” is a magnificent film that will stand the test of time and will continue to be relevant for many generations to come.  Definitely recommended!

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Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Sullivan’s Travels” is an American classic and Preston Sturges at his best.  But the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of “Sullivan’s Travels” also celebrates the life of this filmmaker but also showing us that even for great successes, when their luck has ran out, things don’t work out as great as you once have hoped.  The definitive release of this Hollywood classic, “Sullivan’s Travels” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118

YEAR OF FILM: 1941

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Black & White, Monaural LPCM 1.0

COMPANY: Universal/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2015


Written and Directed by Preston Sturges

Executive Producer: Buddy G. DeSylva

Produced by Preston Sturges

Associate Producer: Paul Jones

Music by Charles Bradshaw, Leo Shuken

Cinematography by John F. Seitz

Edited by Stuart Gilmore

Casting by Robert Mayo

Art Direction by Hans Dreier, A. Earl Hedrick

Costume Design by Edith Head

 


Starring:

Joel McCrea as John L. Lloyd Sullivan

Veronica Lake as The Girl

Robert Warwick as Mr. Lebrand

William Demarest as Mr. Jones

Franklin Pangborn as Mr. Casalsis

Porter Hall as Mr. Hadrian

Byron Foulger as Mr. Johnny Valdelle

Margaret Hayes as Secretary

Robert Greig as Burroughs

Eric Blore as Sullivan’s valet

Torben Meyer as the Doctor

Victor Potel as Cameraman

Richard Webb as Radio Man

Charles R. Moore as Colored Chef


Tired of churning out lightweight comedies, Hollywood director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) decides to make O Brother, Where Art Thou?—a serious, socially responsible film about human suffering. After his producers point out that he knows nothing of hardship, Sullivan hits the road disguised as a hobo. En route to enlightenment, he encounters a lovely but no-nonsense young woman (Veronica Lake)—and more trouble than he ever dreamed of. This comic masterpiece by Preston Sturges is among the finest Hollywood satires and a high-water mark in the career of one of the industry’s most revered funnymen.


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In 1941, producer/writer/director Preston Sturges (“The Lady Eve”, “Unfaithfully Yours”, “The Great McGinty”)  created his masterpiece “Sullivan’s Travels” starring actor Joel McCrea (“Foreign Correspondent”, “Buffalo Bill”, “The Virginian”) and actress Veronica Lake (“I Married a Witch”, “This Gun for Hire”, “Hold That Blonde”).

The film was selected for preservation by the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1990 as being “Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and in 2007, was ranked #61 in the American Film Institute’s “Greatest Movie of All Time”.

As “Sullivan’s Travels” was the 118th release by the Criterion Collection, the film has received a new high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack in this 2015 Blu-ray release.

“Sullivan’s Travels” revolves around director John L. Sullivan (played by Joel McCrea).  After having his share of profitable films, which were comedies that were not showcasing him as a serious director, Sullivan decided that he wanted to change things up and direct a film titled “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”.  Of course, the studio head Mr. Lebrand (played by Robert Warwick) wants him to focus on comedy but Sullivan will not do it.

Sullivan comes up with an idea.  Why not learn first-hand on how to be a homeless person (know in the 1940’s as the word “tramp”) by actually becoming one in order to gain the research he needs for his serious film that would depict the sorrow of humanity.

Of course, the studio is not so thrilled about their profitable director getting into that kind of trouble, so they have an entourage following Sullivan who is dressed as a tramp hitchhiking.  The problem is that the entourage are just a bit too close and nearby.  So, Sullivan tells them that he needs his space and distance from them to make this research possible and will meet them in Las Vegas.

Sullivan eventually breaks free and starts working as a helping hand for a woman who tries to keep him locked up in the house but Sullivan manages to escape and hitchhikes his way out of the area and is given a ride by a truck driver.  When he wakes up, he finds out that he is taken back to Hollywood.  Upset and hungry, he goes into a diner but with not much money, a failed actress (played by Veronica Lake) buys him breakfast.

Sullivan learns that the girl has only been taking extra work and has not done so well in Hollywood.  So, he wants to help her.  He pretends that he knows a successful director named Sullivan and borrows his car and tells her that he can stay at the director’s home for several weeks and he’ll fly her back home.  But when the two are busted by police, Sullivan is forced to reveal that he is not homeless or a washed up director, he is actually a successful director dressing up as a tramp in order to do research for his upcoming film.

Upset by Sullivan lying to her, she tells him that if he is going to disguise himself as a homeless person to research this role, she is going to join him.  And thus begins, Sullivan’s travels along with the girl to learn how it is to be homeless in America during these harsh times.

 


VIDEO:

“Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). This is the definitive version of “Sullivan’s Travels” to date.  The picture quality surpasses the original DVD release in clarity and detail.  White and grays are well-contrasted, black levels are nice and deep and the film looks absolutely magnificent as I did not see any major damage, scratches or dust.  The mild flickering from the original DVD is not as evident in the Blu-ray release.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from a 35 mm nitrate fine-grain at Universal Studios in Universal City, California, where the film was also restored.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118” is presented in English LPCM 1.0 monaural.  Dialogue is clear with no signs of hiss or popping.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monoraul soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic soundtrack made from the original 35 mm soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX4.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Sullivan’s Travels – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #118″ comes with the following special features:

  • Audio commentary by filmmakers Noah Baumbach, Kenneth Bowser and actors Christopher Guest and Michael McKean – An enjoyable commentary by the four who discuss the film.  Very good insight on Preston Sturges by Kenneth Bowser.  Note: All four were not in the studio watching the film at the same time for the commentary.
  • Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer – (1:15:10) A 76-minute documentary made by Kenneth Bowser for PBS’s “American Masters” series.  A very well-done documentary on Preston Sturges from his earlier family life to being blackballed by the industry and losing the business he started and losing a lot of his money.
  • Sandy Sturges – (13:37) An interview with Preston Sturges’ widow Sandy Sturges in 2001.  Who also reveals of why things may have gone sour between Howard Hughes and Preston Sturges.
  • Ants in Your Plants of 1941 – (17:20) A video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns features director Bill forsyth and was produced by the Criterion Collection in 2014.
  • Sturges Talks to Hedda Hopper – A four minute radio interview from 1951 for Heda Hopper’s Hollywood.  Sturges talks about the importance of television and film.
  • Preston Sturges Recites “If I Were King” – A recital written by Justin Huntly McCarthy used for McCArthy’s play and was the basis for the screenplay “If I Were King” (1938).
  • Sturges Sings “My Love” – A Homemade recording of Sturges singing “My Love” from 1938.

EXTRAS:

“Sullivan’s Travels – The Criterion Collection #118” comes with a five-page insert with the essay “Self-Portrait in a Fun-House Mirror” by Stuart Klawans.


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I have to admit that when I first watched “Sullivan’s Travels”, I was a bit surprised.  I was expecting a screwball comedy and at first, the film was very comedy-driven until you get to the final half hour and see how serious the film gets and then it transitions back to a comedy film once again.

But there are scenes that made me happy to see.  First, the chemistry between Joeal McCrea and Veronica Lake was just magnificent.  To see how Sturges avoided any problems by the censors but yet still making sure he was compliant with the Hays code was quite interesting.  Where depiction of a couple sleeping together was typically not possible (thus the two beds were separated during the Golden Era) but then sidestepping the code by having the two sleep together in other scenes without the use of a bedroom. But to watch these two together on screen and have so much fun made this film quite enjoyable.  Veronica Lake looks absolutely stunning in this film.

Another scene that I absolute enjoyed was how it depicted the Southern church and its Black parishioners.  With Blacks typically shown stereotypically in roles that made fun of their characters, we see both black and white people watching a film together and both races are enjoying the film together.  In fact, the NAACP secretary Walter White even wrote a letter to Sturges congratulating him in creating a film and showcasing Blacks decent treatment.  I was definitely a moving scene.

Although the film received rave reviews, within the 70+ years after the film’s release in theaters, many critics are discovering how important and significant this film is and also how this film ranks up there among Sturges’s other popular films

As mentioned earlier, this is the definitive version of “Sullivan’s Travels” to date.  I have various DVD versions but to see the clarity with this Blu-ray release, I was quite happy to watch this film digitally restored in HD!  Definitely an improvement from the original Criterion Collection DVD.

It’s one thing to give the film credit but I also give credit to the Criterion Collection for including the documentary “The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer”.  I had no idea how much turmoil Sturges had to face after the 1940’s.  For a man who’s films are so highly regarded, it’s a shame that the early Hollywood system really turned their backs on him and literally blackballed him from ever writing, directing or producing another film during the 1950’s.  Kenneth Bowser does a remarkable job in featuring the career of Preston Sturges and interviews with those close to him.

Also included on the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release is the addition of the “Ants in Your Plants of 1941” video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns and featuring director Bill Forsyth.  While the audio portions remain, the only thing from the original DVD not included on the Blu-ray release are storyboards, blueprints and stills.  Plus you get an essay featured on the 5-page insert.

Overall, “Sullivan’s Travels” is an American classic and Preston Sturges at his best.  But the Criterion Collection Blu-ray release of “Sullivan’s Travels” also celebrates the life of this filmmaker but also showing us that even for great successes, when their luck has ran out, things don’t work out as great as you once have hoped.

The definitive release of this Hollywood classic, “Sullivan’s Travels” on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

 

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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a timeless Frank Capra classic that is relevant today and it will continue to remain relevant for many decades to come.  Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration, a digibook release and a great amount of special features about Frank Capra’s oeuvre, this Blu-ray release is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1939, renewed 1967 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

YEAR OF FILM: 1939

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, black and white, English 1.0 DTS-HD MA, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish DTS-HD MA,  Subtitles: English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Spanish, Thai

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 2, 2014

Directed by Frank Capra

Screenplay by Sidney Buchman

Story by Lewis R. Foster

Produced by Frank Capra

Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

Cinematography by Joseph Walker

Edited by Al Clark, Gene Havlick

Art Direction by Lionel Banks

Costume Design by Robert Kalloch

Starring:

Jean Arthur as Saunders

James Stewart as Jefferson Smith

Claude Rains as Senator Joseph Paine

Edward Artnold as Jim Taylor

Guy Kibbee as Governor Hopper

Eugene Pallette as Chick McGann

Beaulah Bondi as Ma Smith

Harry Carey as President of the Senate

H.B. Warner as Senate Majority Leader

Grant Mitchell as Senator MacPherson

An idealistic, newly-appointed senator (James Stewart) heads to Washington, where he single-handedly battles ruthless politicians out to destroy him. Winner of the 1939 Academy Award® for Best Writing (Original Story), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a timeless and stirring ode to the power of democracy.

As the legendary Frank Capra was known to churn out box office hits and win several Academy Awards with films such as “It Happened One Night”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”, “Lost Horizon”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, his optimistic films that were known to be happy and full of hope, would take a turn in the late ’30s for a more darker path.

After working on war films that depicted the genocide brought by the Nazi’s, this brought a change in Capra, as evident in his 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.

While the film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won “Best Original Story” (and in 1989, the Library of Congress added the film to the United States National Film Registry, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, it was not a film that would receive a lot of praise from Washington or the press.

Mainly because it was one of the more popular films to portray politicians as corrupt, including the Washington press.  While the politicians and political press would become vocal about the film, the film was also banned in other countries.  But the controversy over the film and the political response would do nothing but to benefit the film and over 70-years since the film was released in theaters, become an American classic as a film about one Senator trying to make a stand against political corruption.

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” would be nominated for 11 Academy Awards and would earn Lewis R. Foster an Oscar for “Best Writing, Original Story”.

Considered as one of Capra’s best, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” will be released on Blu-ray in Dec. 2014 and the film has received a full restoration in 4K and will be released as a Digibook, with rare behind-the-scenes photos and an all-new essay about the making of the film.

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” begins with the death of U.S. Senator Sam Foley.  Governor Hubert “Happy” Hopper (portrayed by Guy Kibee) must choose a replacement and under the pressure of corrupt political leader Jim Taylor (portrayed by Edward Arnold) to hire a reformer named Henry Hill, Happy’s children pressure him to vote for Jefferson Smith (portrayed by James Stewart), the head of the Boy Rangers.

Torn about who he will vote for, Hopper decides to flip a coin and the winner would be Jefferson Smith, in hopes that this politically naive newcomer will be easy to manipulate.

Junior Senator Jefferson Smith is taken in by his father’s late friend, Senator Joseph Paine (portrayed by Claude Rains).  Not knowing that Senator Paine is working with the corrupt Jim Taylor.

But because the Washington media smells inexperience with Senator Smith, they begin publishing news articles that he is nothing but a country bumpkin, which tarnishes his reputation in Washington amongst his colleagues.  As he tries to fight against the media for trying to hurt him, he is told by many media that he is nothing but a man who follows whatever his political leaders tells him to do.

Senator Smith wants to make a difference but Senator Paine tells him to sit back and to not let it affect him.

Wanting to prove that he is ready for the job as Senator, to assist Senator Smith is his secretary Clarrisa Saunders (portrayed by Jean Arthur), who worked for the late-Sam Foley and knows the political system very well.  Clarissa sees the naive politician as being too good for politics but hearing him want to make a difference with society and wanting him to be important, she suggests that he propose a bill.

And wanting to show his importance, he proposes a bill to his fellow Senators and that is to authorize a federal government loan to buy some land in his home estate for a national boys’ camp, which would be paid back by youngsters across America and while it receives attention from children and the proposal begins to receive donations, Jim Taylor does not like it.

Taylor despises the proposal because the proposed campsite is part of a dam-building scheme included in an appropriation bill  by Taylor and Senator Paine.

And just when things are going right, Taylor and Paine concoct a plan that Senator Smith is profiting from his bill because he owns the land in question.  Senator Smith realizes he is being framed and can’t understand why Senator Paine is trying to frame him for a crime he did not do.  And with the U.S. press picking up a story, Senator Smith’s reputation is tarnished.

Will Senator Smith be able to prove that he is a good man and that the things he was accused for is not true?

VIDEO:

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are nice and deep.  The film shows amazing clarity on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition. I did not notice any damage to the film.

Comparing to the original DVD releases that I’ve had, clarity is evident. Sharpness was evident, along with the black levels which were inky and deep. There is a good amount of grain throughout the entire film and no doubt, this is the definitive version of “It Happened One Night” in terms of picture quality!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is presented in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. The monaural lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Chinese Traditional, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frank Capra Jr.
  • Frank Capra Jr. Remembers… “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” – (11:52) Frank Capra Jr. talks about his father and his father working on “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.
  • Conversations with Frank Capra Jr.: The Golden Years – (17:53) Frank Capra Jr. talks about his father’s work during the 1930’s (The Golden Years of Hollywood).
  • Frank Capra Collaboration – (19:20) Film historians discuss Frank Capra’s influence in cinema.
  • Conversations with Frank Capra Jr.: A Family History – (25:57) A featurette about Frank Capra Jr. talking about his father, Frank Capra coming to America and how his father was to the family.
  • The Frank Capra I Knew – (13:06) Jeanine Basinger, curator of the Frank Capra Archives at Wesleyan University, discusses her working relationship and friendship with Frank Capra.
  • Frank Capra’s American Dream – (1:49:03) The full 1997 documentary about Frank Capra and his cinema work.
  • Trailer – (1:24) The original theatrical trailer  and international trailer for “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.

EXTRAS:

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” comes in a digibook package with 28-pages.  Featuring photos from the film plus “The Making of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” essay by Jeremy Arnold.

My first introduction to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is perhaps how many adults today have known about the film and that is through school.  In my case, it was shown multiple times during political science class in high school and again in college.  While it was used as an educational tool for the term “fillibuster”, it wouldn’t be until my adult years when I discovered the oeuvre of Frank Capra thanks to “It Happened One Night” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”, that I began to learn and also rediscover Capra’s films with better insight.

But while “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a film that stood up to political corruption back in the 1939, it is a film that has had its relevance decades later.

Sure, we know there are corrupted politicians and that there are corrupted newspaper media but back then, it was a different time in which Frank Capra was seen as evil, his film to be pro-communist, something that the filmmaker would have to deal with years later, considering that he was a man who loved America, created films beloved by Americans but yet, when he creates a film that is seen as a renegade film to Washington politicians, today’s society would praise it, yesterday’s politicians detested it.

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” marked the end between Frank Capra and with Harry Cohn and Columbia Pictures.  He worked for Columbia Pictures which was seen as a Poverty Row studio, earned them Academy Awards for “It Happened One Night” and for years later, he would become the #1 director in America, but also during wartime, having to work on films that deal with what is happening at war, but also the atrocities that were committed against humanity which would change him before working on “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.

His eyes saw the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and to see the crimes of humanity and while his films have always ended with hope, his films would be less about the comedy but also to depict the sad, frailty of human nature.  This can be seen in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and even the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” which dealt with suicide.

The story was about a good man, wanting to make a difference as a Senator but to quickly learn the dark side of politics behind-the-scenes and how his own friend, would turn against him for the sake of politics.

Both James Stewart and Jean Arthur gave a wonderful performance.  For me, I always am amazed to watch Jean Arthur, may it be on a screwball comedy or a drama film, she was a woman full of anxiety and was so shy that she spent most of her time in her dressing room.

Frank Capra wrote in his book “The Name Above the Title” about Arthur, “Jean Arthur is my favorite actress.  Probably because she was unique.  Never have I seen a performer plagued with such a chronic case of stage jitters.  I’m sure she vomited before and after every scene.  When the cameras stopped, she’d run headlong to her dressing room, locked herself in-and cry.”

For James Stewart, I always thought he gave a wonderful performance faking a man with his throat roached from standing hours of talking.  In truth, a doctor swabbed mercury solution that irritated his vocal chords, to the point that it was hard for him to speak, but yet he gave a wonderful performance nonetheless, making us see and believe Senator Smith.

While I have owned various versions of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” throughout the years, this is no doubt the best version to date.  Fully restored in 4K, the picture quality looks absolutely amazing.  The film is sharp, white and grays are well contrast and black levels are nice and deep.  I saw no blemishes while watching this film and I was absolutely pleased with the overall look of the film.  The lossless soundtrack is in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0.  And another plus to this amazing Blu-ray release is the plethora of special features included.

And last, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is released in digibook format with 28-pages and for anyone who is not familiar with digibook, these are released for a short time and are often changed to the usual casing later on.  If you are a digibook collector, you will definitely want to get this film when it’s released.

Overall, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a timeless Frank Capra classic that is relevant today and it will continue to remain relevant for many decades to come.  Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration, a digibook release and a great amount of special features about Frank Capra’s oeuvre, this Blu-ray release is highly recommended!

 

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