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The Half-Breed (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 13, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Half-Breed” is a fantastic silent-film Blu-ray release which includes two films directed by Alan Dwan and starring Douglas Fairbanks.  But also one of America’s earlier silent films that tackled racism in America about a man born half Native American and half white.  Fascinating, entertaining and recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2018 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Half-Breed / The Good Bad Man

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1916

DURATION: 72 Minutes/50 Minutes Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), DTS HD-Master Audio, B&W, English Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: May 1, 2018


Based on the story “In the Carquinez Woods” by Bret Harte

Directed by Allan Dwan

Written by Anita Loos

Produced by D.W. Griffith

The Good Bad Man

Directed by Allan Dwan

Written by Douglas Fairbanks

Produced by Douglas Fairbanks

Cinematography by Victor Fleming


“The Half Breed” Starring:

Douglas Fairbanks as Lo Dorman (Sleeping Water)

Alma Rubens as Teresa

Sam De Grasse as Sheriff Dunn

Tom Wilson as Dick Curson

Frank Brownlee as Winslow Wynn

Jewel Carmen as Nellie

George Beranger as Jack Brace

“The Good Bad Man” Starring:

Douglas Fairbanks as Passin’ Through

Sam De Grasse as “The Wolf/Bud Frazer”

Pomeroy Cannon as U.S. Marshal/Bob Evans

Joseph Singleton as Weazel

Bessie Love – The Girl/Sarah May

Mary Alden – Jane Stuart

George Beranger – Thomas Stuart

Fred Burns – Sheriff


In an attempt to brand himself as a serious actor, the smiling swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks starred in THE HALF-BREED (1916), a Western melodrama written by Anita Loos and directed with flair by Allan Dwan. Fairbanks stars as Lo Dorman, who has been ostracized from society because of this mixed ethnicity – his Native American mother was abandoned by his white father. When Lo catches the eye of the rich white debutante Nellie (Jewel Carmen), he becomes a target for the racist Sheriff Dunn (Sam De Grasse), who wants to break them up and take Nelli for his own. This love triangle becomes a quadrangle with the arrival of Teresa (Alma Rubens), who is on the run from the law. Through fire and fury Lo must decide who and what he truly loves.


In 1925, director Allan Dwan was one of the more popular directors for Paramount Pictures, known for directing films starring Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson and also Douglas Fairbanks for his 1922 film “Robin Hood”.

And would transition to sound films starring Shirley Temple and also would directing the highly acclaimed John Wayne 1949 box office hit, “Sands of Iwo Jima”.

While Dwan’s film career started as early as 1911 in short films, he would begin directing full-length silent films in 1914 with “The Unwelcome Mrs. Hatch” but in 1916, Dwan worked with Douglas Fairbanks for two films.  The first is “The Good Bad Man” which was written by Douglas Fairbanks and “The Half-Breed”.

And now both films will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“The Half-Breed” is a film that begins with an Indian woman who had a child by a white man who left her.  Because she gave birth to a half-breed, she was cast out by the Cherokee and the only friend she had was a hermit naturalist.

The hermit would raise the half-breed named Lo Dorman/Sleeping Water (portrayed by Douglas Fairbanks) up until his death.  Unfortunately, because of his death and anyone Native American is not allowed to hold onto property, Lo is kicked out of his home and must now prepare a new life in the world of ruthless white men who constantly insult him.

While Lo Dorman enters a village called Excelsior full of white men, everyone looks down on him including Sheriff Dunn (portrayed by Sam De Grasse), who is unaware that Lo is his son; Dick Curson (portrayed by Nellie) and Jack Brace (portrayed by George Beranger).

And each of these men are interested in marrying the beautiful Nellie (portrayed by Jewel Carmen), daughter of a preacher.

Meanwhile, Nellie tries to flirt with Lo, but mainly to get her father to further her ambitions, so she can marry any (wealthy) man she wants.

But the men who see Nellie with Lo, don’t like it and let him know that because he is Indian, he is not welcomed.

Meanwhile, snake salesmen, Dick Curson (portrayed by Tom Wilson) is trying to sell a medicine that will cure scurvy, sciatica, rheumatism and pulmonary consumption for men, women and children.  He has his assistant, Teresa (portrayed by Alma Rubens) to sell her medicine to the crowd and tries to sell it to Lo (but said because he’s an Indian, he’s not worth saving).

But from this initial meeting between Lo and Teresa, what happens when their paths cross each other once again?  And what happens when Nellie tries to look for where Lo is living?

In the second film, “The Good Bad Man”, the miscreants led by Bud Frazer a.k.a. “The Wolf” literally have a village under their control.  Bob Evans the Marshal (portrayed by Pomeroy Cannon) is not a good sheriff.

Meanwhile, a man named “Passin’ Through” (portrayed by Douglas Fairbanks) comes to the village and needs a place to stay temporarily.  He is greeted by Amy (portrayed by Bessie Love) and her disabled father.

While staying at their place, he starts to become smitten towards Amy, but when The Wolf comes and wants Amy for himself, Passin’ Through stops him and tells him that Amy is his.  Setting up a rivalry among both men.

Meanwhile, Passin’ Through is in search for a man named Frazer, his real father, and a man that Passin’ Through wants to take his revenge against him.


VIDEO:

“The Half-Breed” is presented in 1080p HD, black and white.  And this version presented from Kino Lorber is the best quality and most complete of the film you will find available in home video.

According to the introduction:

Since the film’s release in 1916, the distribution rights were sold to multiple distributors based on a territorial “state rights” arrangement.  So, over the years, the film was re-issued under various guises, re-titled or re-edited.

A few unique elements of “The Half-Breed” have survived. In 1978, an incomplete and heavily damaged 35mm nitrate print distributed by S.A. Lynch Enterprises was discovered in a cache of discarded films in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada.  Preserved at the United Library of Congress, this fragmentary copy (2,076 sq. ft.) is the only known material with original 1916 titles.

A complete five-reel (4,320 ft.) 35mm diacetate Pathe print of the 1924 re-issue version from Tri-Stone Pictures is preserved in the collection of Cinematheque francaise.  This print is of superior visual quality but lacks the original titles, instead featuring titles re-written in 1924.

A re-titled 16mm diacetate abridgment (836 ft.) of unknown origin owned by Lobster Films has also been found to include material not present in extant 35mm sources.

For the film featured, the reconstruction is based on the original continuity of the S.A. Lynch and Tri-Stone prints.  The 16mm diacetate print follows a different continuity but contains unique sequences that fill obvious gaps in the 35mm sources.  These sequences have been included in the reconstruction.

Image restoration was based on black-and-white 2K scans of the source materials and carried out using the HS-ART Diamant film restoration suite.  Restoration was limited to repairing damage and reducing the effects of material deterioration.

Where extant, titles from the S.A. Lynch print have been included as they are the sole source for the original 1916 titles.  In cases where the original title material no longer exists, replacements have been created using the 1924 Tri-Stone title script which is conserved at the Cinematheque francais.  These replacement titles include the designation “TRI-STONE” in the lower right corner in order to differentiate them from the originals.

The restoration of “The Half-Breed” was completed in June 2013 as a collaboration between Cinematheque francaise and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

As for “The Good Bad Man”, no copies of the original 1916 release are known to survive.  The restoration featured on the Blu-ray is based on a copy of the 1923 Tri-Stone re-issue which is preserved in the collection of the Cinematheque francaise.

It’s important to note that because “The Half-Breed” utilizes different film sources, some frames are not pristine and are slightly damaged (especially the frames from Dawson City) but considering the age of both films and the fact that many other silent films have received a lot of damage, both of these films look very good for its age.  Sure, they are not perfectly pristine and one shouldn’t expect silent films to be perfect at all, but to watch both 1916 films on Blu-ray and not severely damaged is amazing.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Half-Breed” and “The Good Man” are presented with English intertitles and features a piano score composed and performed by Donald Sosin featured in DTS-HD Master Audio.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Half-Breed” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentaries – Featuring an audio commentary for both “The Half-Breed” and “The Good Man” by Tracey Goessel and Robert Byrne.
  • Amazing Tales from the Archives Restoring “The Half-Breed” – (43:51) A lengthy special feature about the restoring of “The Half-Breed”.
  • Photo Gallery

 


Watching these two Alan Dwan/Douglas Fairbanks films is fantastic.

For one, these films are over a hundred years old and the overall effort to restore “The Half-Breed” from a variety of sources, is fantastic and to also include “The Good Bad Man” as a second bonus film for this Blu-ray release is wonderful.

But first, let’s discuss “The Half-Breed”.  I was surprised while watching this silent film because racism in America is a hot topic.  And even in today’s social climate, where racism is in the forefront of news reports, typically in America’s past, it’s not something you see featured in American cinema.

But “The Half-Breed” is a film that tackles the fact that a man who is born Indian/White is looked down upon both the tribe and White people is something of a rarity.

Sure, in today’s cinema, the last 20-years have featured film and news articles of people who are half and the challenges that exist for some individuals but back in 1916, Alan Dwan’s film tackles it but there is no happy ending.

This is a film that tries to show sympathy but considering America was never too kind towards people that were non-white, may it be the Native American Indians that they stole land from, the Chinese who were looked down upon and the Black men who were slaves.  There is no way you can think of a happy ending for the character of Lo Dorman (Sleeping Water).

It was no doubt one of the earlier films to expose racism towards a half Indian and half white man.  And while fascinating for viewers now, from seeing Fairbanks play an Indian/white man that is treated lower than a normal human being and seeing how the film tries to expose racism but also incorporate people of color earlier in the film through a saloon scene (which was also surprising to me as well).

But did it make anyone feel bad for the character?  Maybe a few.

Considering that several months prior to the film being released, one of the most racist films ever released in America was D.W. Griffith’s 2015 silent film “Birth of a Nation”.

“Birth of a Nation” would be the first American blockbuster and also the first feature length film over one hour. Because of the cost of making this epic, to watch this film, the average cost was $2 (for that time, is equivalent to around $43 today) and the film was popular and broke box office records.

As the film focused on the Civil War, the death of Abraham Lincoln and the reconstruction via post-Civil War, because it was based on Thomas F. Dixon’s novel, the film is about the corruption of the South by the Republican North by “carpetbaggers” (those from the North who moved to the South) by giving control to the corrupted Black people which would lead to the creation of the Ku Kux Klan, praised as heroes to restore order to the South.

Needless to say, the film received protests and was banned in several cities, especially when Blacks were being beaten and killed by those who took the film by heart and would use to justify their violence to hurt Black people. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) protested and even conducted public education campaigns to let people know of the film’s fabrication and inaccuracies.

To this day, “The Birth of a Nation” continues to be a controversial film because of the film’s racist ideology which has been proven to be filled with inaccuracies. But when the film was created in 1914, people only know what they were taught. And back then, people learned through the Dunning School, a group of historians who shared their historiographical school of thought regarding the Reconstruction period of American history. The leaders of the revisionist movement criticized Dunning’s racially biased narrative, especially as the Dunning school would look at Blacks to be ignorant and savages at the end of slavery.

But as Dunning schools teachings began to be known as “fact” for many people of that time, despite the generalizations and racist biased, that’s how people grew up during that time.

While many film critics have criticized the film because of its racial overtones, if one can separate themselves from that and put themselves in the shoes of viewers at that moment of time, “Birth of a Nation” was a cinematic revolution.

For me, watching “The Half-Breed” probably hits closer to home.  While I’m Asian-American, I grew up in an area where many friends who were White-skinned, came from an upbringing where a parent had Native American lineage.

I happen to be married to a woman who is white and my son is half.  I’ve raised a son who’s skin color is more Caucasian and I’ve had to deal with people who thought either I adopted my son or couldn’t understand why a white child is being pushed around a grocery cart with a brown-skinned man.  Let alone going to a public place with my Caucasian wife.  Sure, times have changed for the best, but ignorant people still exist.

So, watching “The Half-Breed”, I was sympathetic for it, until the second-half when the film changes thanks to the two women that Lo befriends.  Without spoiling the film, I will say I found it interesting to see how the character of Teresa (portrayed by Alma Rubens) would play a major part in the film.

Alma Rubens did such a wonderful job of playing the character of Teresa but it was unfortunate that a decade later, a life of drugs would destroy her career but also the deterioration of her body would lead to her early death.  And another tragic story of another starlet who succumbed to drug use in Hollywood.

Things didn’t fare well for Jewel Carmen nearly two decades after the making of “The Half-Breed”.  Carmen, the actress who played the role of the greedy yet ambitious Nellie, had her name attached to the surprising 1935 death of popular actress Thelma Todd.

Todd was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage of the home of Carmen.  Carmen was the wife of Todd’s lover and business partner, Roland West at the time.  Todd’s death was listed as “accidental with possible suicide tendencies”.

But it would lead Jewel Carmen to escape from the public eye after the scandal.

While I enjoyed “The Half-Breed”, you can’t help that there may be certain parts of the story missing.  But for the most part, what is featured on this Blu-ray is a coherent and entertaining silent film.

The accompanying silent film titled “The Good Bad Man” is a fascinating silent western about a deadly love triangle.  One is a leader of a gang that has a village under his palm, while the other is another bad man, but with a good heart who is smitten with a girl (portrayed by Bessie Love).

I’ve read that “The Good Bad Man” which was written by Douglas Fairbanks, mirrors his real life in the fact that the character Passin’ Through has unresolved feelings and wants revenge against his father who was never in his life.  For Fairbanks, his father abandoned his family when Fairbanks was five-years-old.

So, this film was no doubt an action-driven film for Fairbanks, but also a personal one as well.

As for these two films, once again, Kino Lorber has released another magnificent silent film release featuring an earlier work by filmmaker Alan Dwan.

You get two entertaining Douglas Fairbanks film on one Blu-ray disc and you also get two insightful audio commentaries plus a 45+ minute featurette about the restoration of “The Half-Breed”.

Overall, “The Half-Breed” is a fantastic silent-film Blu-ray release which includes two films directed by Alan Dwan and starring Douglas Fairbanks.  But also one of America’s earlier silent films that tackled racism in America about a man born half Native American and half white.  Fascinating, entertaining and recommended!

 

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

April 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

While we can hope that more silent films starring Gloria Swanson will be found and restored, one can at least be happy that “Zaza”, “Manhandled” and “Star Struck” are available on Blu-ray.  And for silent film fans, these three films are definitely worth owning!

Images courtesy of © 1924 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Manhandled

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1924

DURATION: 63 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), DTS HD-Master Audio, B&W, English Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018


Based on the story by Sidney R. Kent, Arthur Stringer

Directed by Allan Dwan

Screenplay by Frank Tuttle

Adaptation by Sylvia LaVarre

Produced by Allan Dwan

Cinematography by Harold Rosson

Edited by Julian Johnson


Starring:

Gloria Swanson as Tessie McGuire

Tom Moore as Jim Hogan

Lilyan Tashman as Pinkie Moran

Ian Keith as Robert Brandt

Arthur Housman as Chip Thorndyke

Paul McAllister as Paul Garretson

Frank Morgan as Arno Riccardi


Manhandled is an uproarious comedy from silent screen legend Gloria Swanson. Her most successful collaboration with director Allan Dwan (Stage Struck, Zaza), it tells the story of Tessie McGuire (Swanson), a down-on-her-luck salesgirl who climbs the social ladder by pretending to be a Russian countess. Tessie is a working class gal whose boyfriend Jimmy (Tom Moore) stands her up on a date, so she goes to a sculptor’s party instead, where her skill with mimicry makes her a hit. She is hired by a fashionable dressmaking establishment to use her acting skills on their customers. By impersonating a Russian noblewoman she has men at her beck and call. That is, until some authentic Russians arrive, and her scheme is truly put to the test. Manhandled is presented in the most complete version available.


In 1925, director Allan Dwan was one of the more popular directors for Paramount Pictures, known for directing films starring Mary Pickford and also Douglas Fairbanks for his 1922 film “Robin Hood”.

And would transition to sound films starring Shirley Temple and also would directing the highly acclaimed John Wayne 1949 box office hit, “Sands of Iwo Jima”.

But during the silent film era and in the 1920’s, he is known for directing films starring one of the most wanted, one of the most successful actresses and fashion icon, Gloria Swanson in eight feature films and one short film.

In fact, she is considered the screen’s first clothes horse (i.e. fashionista) and she was photographed and featured in numerous publications during that time.

And the working relationship between Dwan and Swanson was solid at the time and they would work together in the 1924 Paramount Pictures film “Manhandled”, which would also star Tom Moore, Lilyan Tashman, Ian Keith, Arthur Housman, Paul McAllister and Frank Morgan.

The film is based off the story by Sidney R. Kent and Arthur Stringer and a featuring a screenplay by Frank Tuttle.

And now “Manhandled”was released with its new 2K remaster on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with Gloria Swanson as Tessie McGuire. She works hard for her money but often has a bad day with a car splashing dirty water on her outfit and riding the transportation with lecherous men doesn’t help for the start of her day.

She just wants to be with her man, Jim Hogan (portrayed by Tom Moore) but Tom Moore is busy working on an invention and will be busy the next two weeks hoping to sell the invention, make money and take care of his girlfriend.

And for Tessie, it’s not easy as she really wants to go out somewhere with Jim but she understands, he is busy.  She just doesn’t like being neglected.

One day while telling things the way it is at her job, she and her co-worker are invited by their boss to attend a party.  She pretends to be a Russian duchess and she is instantly hired by an expensive department store to attract new customers.

And while her boyfriend is gone to sell the invention, she starts to make money but she also gets manhandled by men who want to be with her.


VIDEO:

“Manhandled” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is fantastic with no sign of any significant film damage of warping. Considering the age of this film, one can expect to see the usual scratches and specks from each frame but considering how good this film looks for a silent film (and considering that a huge percentage of silent films are in bad shape or considered lost due to significant damage or nitrate fires), this is the best version to watch of “Manhandled”.

Mastered in 2K from 16mm film elements preserved by the Lobster Films, Paris and Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA).  Footage from the various cuts were combined to make the most complete version possible as no 35mm film elements are known to survive. The film doesn’t suffer any major damage and overall, the film looks great in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Manhandled” is presented with English intertitles and features a piano score composed and performed by Makio Matsumura featured in DTS-HD Master Audio.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Manhandled” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary by film historian Gaylyn Studlar.

EXTRAS:

Featuring a booklet essay by film historian Peter Labuza.


“Manhandled” is another solid collaboration between Gloria Swanson and director Allan Dwan.

If anything, the film is benefited thanks to the performance of Gloria Swanson.

An expert at using physical comedy and also knowing how to work the camera, the film is another example of why she was one of America’s most dominating actresses on the big screen and why she was a fashion icon.

While not the best Gloria Swanson film, the film relies on Swanson’s performance as a blunt employee, a caring yet neglected girlfriend and also showing an individual side of her making her own money and all seems to go well when she is hired by a fashionable dressmaking establishment to use her acting skills to win customers.

By pretending to be a Russian Duchess, everything goes well until real Russians arrive and can Tessie McGuire continue with the scheme?

For the most part, with two remastered films released simultaneously on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, both are good films, with “Stage Struck” being a much better film storywise.  And of the Allan Dwan films available on Blu-ray, one will definitely want to check out the 1923 film “Zaza” which is available on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Manhandled” is great in a way that you can see life at a department store during that era and also be in awe of how magnificent of an actress Gloria Swanson was and why she was one of actresses high in demand.  This performance is quite evident, if anything a mere vehicle for her to shine.

But one can only hope someday the other  Allan Dwan/Gloria Swanson films such as “A Society Scandal”, “The Coast of Folly”, “Wages of Virtue” and “Her Love Story”will be found.   Gloria Swanson is a magnificent actresses, but it’s a shame that so many of her silent films are considered lost.

While we can hope that more silent films starring Gloria Swanson will be found and restored, one can at least be happy that “Zaza”, “Manhandled” and “Star Struck” are available on Blu-ray.  And for silent film fans, these three films are definitely worth owning!

 

Stage Struck (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 6, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Allan Dwan’s “Stage Struck” is a film that exemplifies Gloria Swanson’s comedic skills as an actress.  She was the most sought-out actress in the world and whenever the camera focused on her, she knew how to captivate audiences.  A delightful, lighthearted silent comedy that I recommend!

Images courtesy of © 1925 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Stage Struck

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1925

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), DTS HD-Master Audio, B&W, and Color, English Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018


Based on the story by Frank R. Adams

Directed by Allan Dwan

Screenplay by Forrest Halsey

Adaptation by Sylvia LaVarre

Produced by Allan Dwan

Cinematography by George Webber

Art Direction by Van Nest Polglase

Costume Design by Rene Hubert


Starring:

Gloria Swanson as Jennie Hagen

Lawrence Gray as Orme Wilson

Gertrude Astor as Lillian Lyons

Oliver Sandys as Hilda Wagner

Ford Sterling as Buck


One of the last lighthearted collaborations between Gloria Swanson and Allan Dwan, Stage Struck (1925) is a sweetly funny account of a small-town girl with dreams of fame. Swanson plays Jenny Hagen, a diner waitress who fantasizes about a life on stage. Her heart belongs to Orme Wilson (Lawrence Gray), an expert pancake flipper, who only has eyes for the women in movie magazines. So when a river showboat comes to town, he only has eyes for the star, Lillian Lyons (Gertrude Astor). Inflamed with jealousy, Jenny is determined to get on stage herself, by any means necessary.


In 1925, director Allan Dwan was one of the more popular directors for Paramount Pictures, known for directing films starring Mary Pickford and also Douglas Fairbanks for his 1922 film “Robin Hood”.

And would transition to sound films starring Shirley Temple and also would directing the highly acclaimed John Wayne 1949 box office hit, “Sands of Iwo Jima”.

But during the silent film era and in the 1920’s, he is known for directing films starring one of the most wanted, one of the most successful actresses and fashion icon, Gloria Swanson in eight feature films and one short film.

In fact, she is considered the screen’s first clothes horse (i.e. fashionista) and she was photographed and featured in numerous publications during that time.

And the working relationship between Dwan and Swanson was solid at the time and they would work together in the 1925 Paramount Pictures film “Stage Struck”, which would also star Lawrence Gray, Gertrude Astor and Ford Sterling.  Featuring a story by Frank R. Adams, a screenplay by Forrest Halsey and an adaptation by Sylvia LaVarre.

And it was a silent film that would feature early two-color Technicolor in the opening and ending sequence.

And now “Stage Struck” will be released with its new 2K remaster on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with Gloria Swanson as Jennie Hagen.   We see Jennie as a famous actress who men want to be next to and offer her food that she is not interested in.  But she desires the wheat cakes served by Orme Wilson (portrayed by Lawrence Gray), who many single women are after.

But as Jennie and Orme get closer, it was all a dream.

In reality, Jennie is a clumsy, poor waitress who dreams of becoming an actress but Jennie doesn’t care much, as long as she gets to be close by the wheat cake cook, Orme.

But Orme is a person who loves beautiful actresses, in fact, his whole bedroom is full of photos of actresses.  And that is why Jennie wants to become an actress, so Orme can fall in love with her.

But when Buck (portrayed by Ford Sterling) brings his show on his riverboat to town, he brings actress Lillian Lyons (portrayed by Gertrude Astor) and sets up a date with Lillian and a local, who happens to be Orme.

But can Jennie find a way to win Orme’s attention, despite his attention being focused on Lillian?


VIDEO:

“Stage Struck” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is black and white and color. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is fantastic with no sign of any significant film damage of warping. Considering the age of this film, one can expect to see the usual scratches and specks from each frame but considering how good this film looks for a silent film (and considering that a huge percentage of silent films are in bad shape or considered lost due to significant damage or nitrate fires), this is the best version to watch of “Stage Struck”.

Mastered from 35mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum and it includes the original two-strip Technicolor prologue and epilogue.  The film doesn’t suffer any major damage and overall, the film looks great in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Stage Struck” is presented with English intertitles and features a piano score composed and performed by Andrew Simpson featured in DTS-HD Master Audio.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Stage Struck” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi, author of “Allen Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios”.

EXTRAS:

Featuring a booklet essay by film historian Farran Smith Nehme.


1925 may have appeared as another year for a wonderful collaboration between director Allan Dwan and popular actress Gloria Swanson, was the most famous actress and fashion icon on the planet.  And while she is a professional in the comedy, “Stage Struck”, the year prior was tough for her.

During the filming of her 1925 film “Madame Sans-Gene”, she met her translator and the man who would become her third husband, French aristocrat Henri, Marquis de la Falaise de la Coudraye.  And while their marriage would be the talk of 1925, at the time, she was with Falaise in France, her relationship was kept secret because her divorce was not yet finalized with second husband, Herbert K. Somborn (then-president of Equity Pictures Corporation).

During the filming of that film, it was said that Swanson suffered from an appendicitis attack and while media were covering it and news that her health was not doing well after the surgery, in truth, Swanson admitted in her autobiography many years later that what happened behind-the-scenes was that she was pregnant by her soon-to-be husband.

Because this would put Swanson in violation of the morale clause of her movie studio contract and her career would be destroyed, Swanson actually went through a secret abortion.  Complications did ensue after that surgery and she nearly died from it.  But this was one moment in her life that she would never forgive Hollywood execs for forcing her to do this due to the morale clause.

While Swanson would divorce her second husband and also get married to her new husband in January 1925, it was tough to go through an abortion (which she has said in her autobiography was something that she regretted), but also going through a bitter divorce with her second husband accusing her of adultery with 13 men (including Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino, to name a few).

So, that time in her life was troublesome (actually, her life from her first marriage to her affairs later, had her experience all sort of trouble).  But if there was one thing that did go well for her, for that time, it was her working relationship with filmmaker Allan Dwan.

“Stage Struck” is fascinating as we get an early two-color Technicolor opening and ending sequence but we also get to see Gloria Swanson showcase her comedic skills.  While the fashion icon that many women came out to films in hopes to see the wardrobe she was sporting in the film, for the majority of the film, Swanson plays a poor and clumsy waitress.

It’s her performance that showcases her wonderful physical comedy as a waitress trying to balance a large plate of food or a girl so in love with Orme, that she does whatever is necessary to keep him happy.  May it be doing his laundry or preventing another actress from taking her Orme away.

Her ability to use her eyes and facial expression to hypnotize audiences watching her on the big screen, it’s no doubt another film that shows why Gloria Swanson was the most popular actress in the early 1920’s.

The film rides on the shoulders of Swanson’s performance and she does a great job of nailing it.  But while a fun and enjoyable film, it’s not her best.

Lawrence Gray did a fine job of playing Orme Wilson and if anything, both he and Swanson had great chemistry onscreen.  Gertrude Astor as actress Lillian Lyons also did a good job as the stuck-up actress and was more of the fashionista in the film.  And Ford Sterling also played a solid role as the promoter of the stage show.

But the film is heavy on the reliance of Swanson’s comedy and her performance showed why she was the most wanted actress of the time.  She owns the screen!

And while the comedy was well-done in the film, there is one scene some may feel that it may be out of place today and that is a scene trying to make comedy of attempted suicide.  Some may find the scene to be insensitive.

As for the Blu-ray release, the film looks great for its age.  Mastered from 35mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum and it includes the original two-strip Technicolor prologue and epilogue.  The film doesn’t suffer any major damage and overall, the film looks great in HD.

The piano score composed and performed by Andrew Simpson was also well-done and the Blu-ray comes with an informative audio commentary by author Fredric Lombardi and a booklet essay by film historian Farran Smith Nehme.

Overall, Allan Dwan’s “Stage Struck” is a film that exemplifies Gloria Swanson’s comedic skills as an actress.  She was the most sought-out actress in the world and whenever the camera focused on her, she knew how to captivate audiences.  A delightful, lighthearted silent comedy that I recommend!

 

The Covered Wagon (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 25, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

For a silent film enthusiast, James Cruze’s 1923 film “The Covered Wagon” is no doubt a silent film that is captivating, action-packed.  It’s an adventure, action and romance western rolled into one.  Performances by J. Warren Kerrigan, Lois Wilson, Alan Hale and Ernest Torrence were very good and the enormity of this epic film is no doubt entertaining.  It was a successful landmark film that kicked off the trend for Hollywood western films for many years and decades after.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1923 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: The Covered Wagon

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1923

DURATION: 98 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), B&W, English Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: February 20, 2018


Based on the Novel by Emerson Hough

Directed by James Cruze

Adaptation by Jack Cunningham

Produced by Jesse L. Lasky

Musical score by Gaylord Carter

Cinematography by Karl Brown

Edited by Dorothy Arzner

Costume Design by Howard Greer


Starring:

J. Warren Kerrigan as Will Banion

Lois Wilson as Molly Wingate

Alan Hale as Sam Woodhull

Ernest Torrence as William Jackson

Tully Marshall as Jim Bridger

Ethel Wales as Mrs. Wingate

Guy Oliver as Kit Carson

Johnny Fox as Jed Wingate


The first Western epic! A great caravan of covered wagons, filled with hearty pioneers and their families and possessions, are waiting for the Spring jump off at Westport Landing, now Kansas City. The time is 1848, and the destination is far-off Oregon, in The Covered Wagon (1923), the first big-budget Western epic. Where countless pilgrims fell, a love triangle flourishes, as Molly Wingate (Lois Wilson) must choose between the brutish Sam (Alan Hale) and the dashing Will (J. Warren Kerrigan). Complicating her decision are the perils of the trail: a mile-wide river, prairie fire, heavy snowfall, a buffalo stampede, crippling hunger, and Native American attacks. Boasting a cast of thousands and an unparalleled commitment to authenticity, The Covered Wagon was an enormous box-office success in 1923 and became one of the major milestones in the history of the Western.


In 1923, the James Cruze’s Paramount Pictures western silent film “The Covered Wagon” is considered one of the first major film productions during that era and was no doubt a blockbuster film that would set the trend for western films in early Hollywood.

Considered a landmark film and an American epic, the film was shot in multiple locations in California, Nevada and Utah, to make the film look authentic, real wagons used to bring pioneers to the west were used in the film (and the owners of the family heirlooms were used as extras) and to make the film’s hunting of bison look realistic, seven bison were shot and killed in film.  And the film would also recruit Native American Indians.

The film based on the novel by Emerson Hough features a screenplay by Jack Cunningham (“The Black Pirate”, “The Adventurer”, “Beyond the Rocks”) and would star J. Warren Kerrigan (“The Pool of Flame”, “Samson”, “Captain Blood”), Lois Wilson (“Miss Lulu Bett”, “Bright Eyes”, “Drifting Souls”), Alan Hale (“The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “They Drive by Night”, “Adventures of Don Juan”) and William Jackson (“Mantrap”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”).

And now this American epic will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film about covered wagons traveling across the United States from the Great Plains, the Rockies, the great desert, the Sierra Mountains on their way to California and Oregon and trying to capture with detail and historical facts.

Leading a train of a dozens of wagons is Mr. Wingate who is Oregon Bound and his beautiful daughter Molly (portrayed by Lois Wilson) who is pledged by the rough Sam Woodhull (portrayed by Alan Hale).    They are joined by another wagon train led by former veteran Will Banion (portrayed by J. Warren Kerrigan), Captain of the “Liberty Boys”.

When Molly and Will meet for the first time, there is chemistry between both individuals and immediately, one can tell that both Sam Woodhull and Will Banion are not going to get along.

But as the people make their way to California and Oregon, they must endure crossing from the west of the Great Plains of the Mississippi, crossing the Platte River, take part in a buffalo hunt, attacks from Indians and bare desert heat, mountain snow of the Sierra Mountains and dealing with hunger.


VIDEO:

“The Covered Wagon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is fantastic with no sign of any significant film damage of warping. Considering the age of this film, one can expect to see the usual scratches and specks from each frame but considering how good this film looks for a silent film (and considering that a huge percentage of silent films are in bad shape or considered lost due to significant damage or nitrate fires), this is the best version to watch of “The Covered Wagon”.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Covered Wagon” is presented English subtitles and features a Wurlitzer organ score by Gaylord Carter (presented in 2.0 DTS stereo).

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Covered Wagon” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring an audio commentary by film historian Toby Roan.
  • The Pie Covered Wagon – A 1932 one-reel spoof starring Shirley Temple.

EXTRAS:

Featuring a booklet essay by film scholar Matt Hauske.


“The Covered Wagon” is the first Western blockbuster that is credited for kickstarting the western genre.

Without the financial success of James Cruze’s “The Covered Wagon”, would John Ford have created “The Iron Horse” and without Ford’s success, would there be western films that many people would come to love for the next 50+ years?

There is no doubt that “The Covered Wagon” is considered an American epic for its cost, the many people employed as extras, the magnitude of shooting the film in various states, sacrificing horses and bison and finding families that still had covered wagons as part of their heirlooms and would take part in the film.

Suffice to say, this was a major film to pull off and James Cruze was able to pull off this amazing silent film success.

Even the 29th U.S. President Warren G. Harding loved the film, saying after he viewed it, “I sat entranced. There was more than the picturesque, more than sorrow and discouragement, more than appealing characters and enthralling heroism. There was more than the revelation of the irresolute who failed in fitness to survive, more than tragedy and comedy in their inseparable blend. There was more than the scouts who surpassed our fancies, more than nature’s relentless barriers revealed. Everywhere aflame was the soul of unalterable purpose.”

But Harding wasn’t the only person entranced by this film.  Chicago Daily News Film reviewer Carl Sandburg loved the film so much that he wrote six articles about the film in May and August of that year, which Sandburg rarely does for a film (as he had so many films to review).

Sandburg wrote in May 1923, “[The Covered Wagon] amplifies and glorifies the vivid descriptions of the printed pages and is, on that account, a legitimate and perfect complement in the author’s work.  The theme is so well-suited to the art of the camera that ‘The Covered Wagon’ already taken its place among the four or five wholly admirable pictures, artistically that have been ever made.”

If there is one thing that Sandburg pointed out that I wholeheartedly agree with is that a film of this magnitude would still not be able to capture life of these people who traveled cross-country.  From the atrocities inflicted by the Indians and the pioneers towards the Indians, showing the filth and soot on the wagon covers from crossing cross-country and even mentioning the horse flies that bled the horses, putting them in blind rage along the trail.

But the film doesn’t cookie cut too much, one scene shows the Indians helping Sam Woodhull travel across the water.  When they ask for payment, Woodhull ends up shooting the Indian and leaving.  Of course, the Indians also fight back in this film and both sides lose a lot of life.

In today’s films, the thought of sacrificing animals to get a shot is unheard of.  But 1920’s were a different time and during a scene where the covered wagons and their animals must cross a river to get to the other side, we see water up to chins of the calf and horses.  Some animals died during this scene as they were stressed and drowned.

And of course, during the hunt for food, a scene is shown with a bison hunt where seven bison were shot and killed for food to show how the pioneers had to survive and not die of hunger.  But the mean provided as extra food for the staff.

But considering director James Cruze and producer Jesse L. Lasky wanted to capture realism as best they can during that era ad its budget of $782,000 (in today’s money that would be $11 million) was tremendous for 1923.  The use of a cast of 3000, the hundreds of horses and cattle, the hundred or so covered wagons and more.  It was no doubt a monumental effort carried out by Paramount Pictures.

As for the Blu-ray for “The Covered Wagon”, picture quality is wonderful and the film looks very good considering its age.  Gaylord Carter’s Wurlitzer organ score was well-done and you also get an audio commentary and a 1932 one-reel spoof titled “The Pie-Covered Wagon” starring Shirley Temple.  Plus you get a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Matt Hauske.

For a silent film enthusiast, James Cruze’s 1923 film “The Covered Wagon” is no doubt a silent film that is captivating, action-packed.  It’s an adventure, action and romance western rolled into one.  Performances by J. Warren Kerrigan, Lois Wilson, Alan Hale and Ernest Torrence were very good and the enormity of this epic film is no doubt entertaining.  It was a successful landmark film that kicked off the trend for Hollywood western films for many years and decades after.

Recommended!

 

Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Whether or not you are a Bob Hope fan or a person who wants to own the earlier films of one of Hollywood’s true Kings of Comedy, will no doubt want to check out “Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection

YEAR OF FILM: The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938), College Swing (1938), Give Me a Sailor (1938), Thanks for the Memory (1938), Never Say Die (1939), The Cat and the Canary (1939), Road to Singapore (1940), The Ghost Breakers (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Caught in the Draft (1941), Nothing But the Truth (1941), Louisiana Purchase (1941), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), My Favorite Blonde (1942), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1946), Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), Variety Girl (1947), Where There’s Life (1947), The Paleface (1948), Sorrowful Jones (1949) + America Masters: This is Bob Hope (2017)

DURATION: The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1 hr. 31 min.), College Swing (1 hr., 26 min.), Give Me a Sailor (1 hr., 20 min.), Thanks for the Memory (1 hr., 15 min.), Never Say Die (1 hr., 22 min.), The Cat and the Canary (1 hr., 12 min.), Road to Singapore (1 hr., 25 min), The Ghost Breakers (1 hr., 25 min.), Road to Zanzibar (1 hr., 31 min.), Caught in the Draft (1 hr., 22 min.), Nothing But the Truth (1 hr, 30 min.), Louisiana Purchase (1 hr, 38 min.), Star Spangled Rhythm (1 hr., 39 min.), My Favorite Blonde (1 hr., 18 min.), Road to Morocco (1 hr., 22 min.), Road to Utopia (1 hr., 30 min.), Monsieur Beaucaire (1 hr., 33 min.), Variety Girl (1 hr., 33 min.), Where There’s Life (1 hr., 15 min.), The Paleface (1 hr., 31 min.), Sorrowful Jones (1 hr., 28 min.) + America Masters: This is Bob Hope (2 hours)

RATED: Not Rated

COMPANY: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

AVAILABLE ON: November 14, 2017


Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection features 21 of the funniest movies from the legendary comedian. As a recognized genius of American comedy, Bob Hope has no equal. From his early days in vaudeville to his years as a top Hollywood box-office draw and star of radio, TV and live performances, Bob Hope’s innocent charm and lightning-quick wit have delighted millions of fans throughout the world. Co-starring some of Hollywood’s greatest stars including Lucille Ball, W.C. Fields, Dorothy Lamour, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Paulette Goddard, Jane Russell and, of course, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection will entertain longtime fans and introduce a whole new generation to the unforgettable style of one of the most famous comedians of all time!


Bob Hope is an American comedian and actor who has had one of the most successful careers in Hollywood.

A career that spanned 80 years and starring in more than 70 short and feature films, a longtime host of the Academy Awards, appeared in many stage productions and television roles and also authored 14 books.

Bob Hope has no doubt left a legacy of films and television specials and music that will entertain many generations of people interested in classic Hollywood but also wanting to experience the comedy of one of the true Kings of Comedy.

To celebrate Bob Hope’s career, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will be releasing “Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection” which contains “Bob Hope: The Comedy Essentials Collection” (15 Classic Movies + 1 Documentary) and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby: The Comedy Essentials Collection (6 classic movies).

Included are:

  • The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938) – A musical starring W.C. Fields and Bob Hope and features Bob Hope’s signature song, “Thanks for the Memory”.  Featuring a race between a new $40 million dollar “Radio powered” ocean liner S.S. Gigantic vs. the smaller S.S. Colossal.  Who will win?
  • College Swing (1938) –  A comedy starring George Burns, Gracie Allen, Martha Raye and Bob Hope.  A college founder of the powerful Alden Family leaves his will to the first female who will graduate from college, unfortunately no one has since 1738.  200 years later, Gracie Alden is the last girl of the line and is having problems with her studies, so she hires Bud Brady (Hope) to help her.
  • Give Me a Sailor (1938) – Starring Betty Grable, Jack Whiting, Martha Raye and Bob hope.  Two brothers, Jim (Hope) and Walter (Whiting) who are sailors of the US Navy love the same woman, Nancy (Grable).  Jim tries to get Nancy’s sister to help break Walter and Nancy’s relationship.
  • Thanks for the Memory (1938) – Starring Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.  A story about an out-of-work writer who stays home and plays a husband at home while his wife goes to work for her former fiance.
  • Never Say Die (1939) – A remake of the silent film, multi-millionaire hypochondriac John Kidley (Hope) is told he only has a month to live.  So, he breaks up with his fiance and heads to the Swiss spa of Bad Gaswasser where he meets a young Texas heiress, Mickey Hawkins (Raye).
  • The Cat and the Canary (1939) – A horror comedy, Cyrus Norman is a millionaire who lived in the Louisiana bayou with his mistress Miss Lu.  His will is to be read and a group meets at the mansion for the reading from the will but someone has removed the will from the safe and tampered with it.
  • Road to Singapore (1940) – Starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, Josh Mallon (Crosby) and Ace Lannigan (Hope) are best friends working on the same ship.  After seeing their fellow sailors being mistreated by their wives and girlfriends, the two vowed to never get involved with women again.  The two head to Singapore but can they stay true to their vow?
  • The Ghost Breakers (1940) – Starring Bob Hope, Paulette Godard and Richard Carlson, what happens when a radio broadcaster, a manservant and an heiress investigate a mystery in a haunted castle in Cuba.
  • Road to Zanzibar (1941) – The second “Road to…” film starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.  Chuck (Crosby) and Fearless (Hope) go on a jungle adventure but what happens when these con-men find themselves attracted to two con-women.
  • Caught in the Draft (1941) – Vain Hollywood actor has a big fear of being drafted into the US army, afraid of loud noises, accidentally joins the army.
  • Nothing But the Truth (1941) – Starring Bob Hope and Paulette Godard.  When stockbroker T.T. Ralston promises his niece Gwen (Godard) to double the amount if she can raise $20,000.  So, she asks Steve Bennett (Hope) to raise the money.
  • Louisiana Purchase (1941) – A senator investigating graft in Louisiana is the target of a scheme involving a beautiful woman named Marina (portrayed by Vera Zorina).
  • Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) – An all-star musical.  What happens when former silent movie star Pop Webster (portrayed by Victor Moore), who works as a security guard at Paramount Pictures, tells his son Johnny (portrayed by Eddie Brack), from the Navy that he is the studio’s Executive VP in Charge of Production.  But what happens when Johnny surprises his father with a visit to Hollywood.  When Johnny offers to put on a variety show, can he get Bob Hope and Bing Crosby to perform?
  • My Favorite Blonde (1942) – Starring Bob Hope and Madeleine Carroll. What happens when a vaudeville performer gets mixed up with British and German secret agents?
  • Road to Morocco (1942) – Starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.  What happens when two castaway on a desert shore are sold into slavery by a beautiful princess?
  • Road to Utopia (1946) – Starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, what happens when two vaudeville performers go to Alaska to make a fortune?  Received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
  • Monsieur Beaucaire (1946) – Starring Bob Hope and Joan Caulfield.  What happens when a barber of King Louis XV masquerades as a nobleman engaged to the princess of Spain?
  • Variety Girl (1947) – What happens when two hopeful actresses (portrayed by Mary Hatcher and Olga San Juan) come to Hollywood and exchange identities.
  • Where There’s Life (1947) – Starring Bob Hope and Signe Hasso. Michael Joseph Valentine is an American radio announcer who finds out that he is the new king of “Barovia”, but a secret society known as Mordia (who assassinated the previous ruler) targets him.
  • The Paleface (1948) – Starring Bob Hope and Jane Russell.  Calamity Jane (Russell) finds out who is smuggling her rifles to the Indians.  After marrying a dentist named Peter “Painless” Potter (Hope), can he keep her identity a secret.
  • Sorrowful Jones (1949) – Starring Lucille Ball and Bob Hope.  A remake of Shirley Temple’s film, “Little Miss Marker”.  A young girl is left with the very cheap Sorrowful Jones (Hope). When her father doesn’t show up, he has to take care of the child, which interferes with his lifestyle.
  • America Masters: This is Bob Hope (2017) – The unabridged director’s cut of the film.  Voiced by Billy Crystal and featuring interviews with Woody Allen, Dick Cavett, Margaret Cho, daughter Linda Hope, Kermit the Frog, film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, Conan O’Brien, Tom Selleck, Brooke Shields, Connie Stevens and biographer Richard Zoglin (author of “Hope: Entertainer of the Century”).

 

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Bob Hope and the Road to Success – (14:12) Author Randall G. Mielke discusses Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road to…” films.
  • Entertaining the Troops – (6:17) Bob Hope biographer Richard Grudens reflects on Bob Hope entertaining the troops.
  • “Sweet Potato Pie” Sing-A-Long
  • “The Road to Morocco” Sing-A-Long
  • “The Buttons and Bows” Sing-Along
  • Command Performance 1944 – (6:46) From “Command Performance USA” from 1944.
  • Command Performance 1945 – (5:02) Excerpt from Army-Navy Screen Magazine of Bob Hope’s appearance on “Command Performance USA” in 1945.
  • Hollywood Victory Caravan – (19:44) A 1945 short about a girl trying to get to Washington D.C. to be with her lonseom brother, a wounded G.I. and she persuades Bing Crosby to let her join his caravan.

With the release of “Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection, fans are no doubt getting one of the best sets featuring a collection of Bob Hope films.

Bob Hope emerged as an actor as early as 1934 in numerous shorts, but it wasn’t until 1938 when he starred in “The Big Broadcast of 1938” when Bob Hope would appear in a feature film and the song “Thanks for the Memory” would become his trademark.  And from that first film and on, he would grow into a comedic actor and would become one of America’s most beloved onscreen actors and entertainers for many decades.

And with the collection of films in “Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection”, included are nearly all the films that Bob Hope starred in from 1938-1949. This includes his first feature film,  four of his successful “Road to…” films with Bing Crosby and many films that help define Bob Hope as one of the best American comedians of all time.

Of the 28 films Bob Hope made from 1938-1950, 21 films are included in this set.  Two of his film in the early ’40s were created for MGM (and can be found in the DVD set “Bob Hope MGM Movie Legends Collection”) while others have not been released on DVD.

The majority of the early Bob Hope films were distributed by Paramount Pictures and in 1955, MCA (Music Corporation of America) purchased the pre-1950 sound films from Paramount.  In 1958, MCA purchased Universal (and currently, all of MCA, Universal, NBC are owned by Comcast).  So, that is how many of the pre-1948 Paramount films made it to this set.

Many may wonder how could this be considered an “Ultimate Movie Collection” when four of the seven Bing Crosby/Bob Hope “Road to…” films are included in the “Bob Hope: The Ultimate Collection” and that three films were left out.   Paramount actually let the copyright expire for “Road to Rio” and “Road to Bali” and so they are available via Public Domain (so, many companies have released inferior versions on DVD), while the seventh film “The Road to Hong Kong” is owned by MGM.  Fortuantely, Paramount licensed the rights to Kino Lorber for a few pre-1950 (and later) Bob Hope films such as the 1947 film “My Favorite Brunette”, “Road to Rio” and “Road to Bali” for Blu-ray release.   So, now people can watch much better versions of these films in terms of picture quality.

So, for the most part, this set is not 100% complete but you do get a huge majority of these earlier Bob Hope films in this DVD box set. In my opinion, it’s the classic black and white Bob Hope films that I tend to favor the most.  But if you are a serious Bob Hope fan, he has created many hilarious and entertaining films throughout his career.

And for an actor with so many films created, it’s great to see Universal Studios Home Entertainment releasing a DVD set with nearly two dozen films.

Prior to the release of “Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection”, it was a little costly to purchase Bob Hope sets.  For example, the Universal release of “Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memories Collection” only featured six films and you were paying a little less than $25. The four film “The Bob Hope and Big Crosby Road to Comedy Collection” was over $15.  And now you can get this 21 movie set plus the “American Masters: This is Bob Hope” documentary plus a few Bob Hope shorts for under $42.  So, it’s an amazing deal!

For those who owned prior Bob Hope DVD releases, it’s important to note that there are no new special features and there is no new remastering or restoration that were done with each film.  There are 10 DVD’s are provided with two to three films per DVD.

I wished that Universal would have considered releasing this set on Blu-ray, because it would have given more fans, especially those who owned the previous DVD’s, to upgrade to better quality versions of the film.  But until then, this DVD set with 21 films featuring Bob Hope is magnificent!

Overall, whether or not you are a Bob Hope fan or a person who wants to own the earlier films of one of Hollywood’s true Kings of Comedy, will no doubt want to check out “Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection.  Recommended!


 

Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

This set is amazing and is the definitive Alfred Hitchcock set to own (featuring many of his films from 1942-1976) and any cineaste wanting to own these magnificent Alfred Hitchcock films on Blu-ray will want the Ultimate Collection. And this 2017 release is even better with 10 additional TV episodes included. This set is no doubt a 5 STAR release! “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: Saboteur (1942), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Trouble with Harry (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966), Topaz (1969), Frenzy (1972), Family Plot (1976)

DURATION: Saboteur (1 hr., 49 min.), Shadow of a Doubt (1 hr, 48 min.), Rope (1 hr, 21 min.), Rear Window (1 hr., 52 min.), The Trouble with Harry (1 hr., 39 min.), The Man Who Knew Too Much (2 hrs.), Vertigo (2 hrs., 8 min.), North by Northwest (2 hrs., 16 min.), Psycho (1 hr., 49 min.), The Birds (1 hr., 59 min.), Marnie (2 hrs., 10 min.), Torn Curtain (2 hrs., 8 min.), Topaz (2 hrs., 23 min.), Frenzy (1 hr., 56 min.), Family Plot (2 hrs.) + 7 TV Episodes from “Afred Hitchcock Presents” and 3 TV Episodes from “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: October 17, 2017


Universally recognized as the Master of Suspense, the legendary Alfred Hitchcock directed some of cinema’s most thrilling and unforgettable classics. Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection features 15 iconic films from the acclaimed director’s illustrious career including Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest and many more. Starring Hollywood favorites such as James Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery and Kim Novak, this definitive collection showcases a true cinematic master at his best. Featuring over 15 hours of insightful bonus features plus an exclusive collectible book, each film has been digitally restored from high resolution film elements for the ultimate Hitchcock experience.


 

For the cinema fans who are fans of Alfred Hitchcock, Universal has released “Alfred Hitchock: The Ultimate Collection” which comes with 15 movies and 10 TV episodes plus over 15 hours of bonus features and a booklet.

Included in the “Alfred Hitchcok: The Ultimate Collection” are the following films:

  1. Saboteur – A 1942 film noir spy thriller.  The film revolves around Barry Kane (portrayed by Robert Cummings) who works at Stewart Aircraft Works in Glendale, California.  When he and his friend Mason (portrayed by Virgil Summers) bump into a man named Fry (portrayed by Norman Lloyd), not long afterward, a fire is started and when the men go to stop the fire, Mason is burned to death.  When investigators interview Barry, he tells him that the fire took place after they bumped into a man named Fry, but there are no records of Fry ever working for the company.  And now Barry is accused of sabotaging his worksite and killing his friend.  Barry becomes a fugitive and is helped by a blind man (portrayed by Vaughan Glaser), and when his niece, Patricia “Pat” Martin (portrayed by Priscilla Lane) visits, Barry tries to please his innocence to Pat.  But she is more intent of reporting him to the police.  What happens when he kidnaps Pat?  Will Barry find a way to prove his innocence?
  2. Shadow of a Doubt – A 1943 psychological thriller film noir.  The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film revolves around Charlie Newton (portrayed by Teresa Wright) who is excited when her Uncle Charlie (portrayed by Joseph Cotten) is coming to visit.  When two men come to do a national survey, they want to feature the family but Charlie gets upset when a photographer takes his picture and demands for them to give the film to him.   The men reveal to Charlie that they are detectives and suspect that Charlie is the “Merry Widow Murderer”.  Will Charlie help her uncle or will she keep tabs on him for the detectives?
  3. Rope -A 1948 psychological crime thriller film noir based on the 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton inspired by the real-life murder of Bobby Franks in 1924.  One of Hitchcock’s first Technicolor films.  The film revolves around two intellects, Brandon Shaw (portrayed by John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (portrayed by Farley Granger) who strangled their former classmate from Harvard University, David Kentley (portrayed by Dick Hogan).  The two committed the crime as an intellectual exercise and wanted to prove themselves by committing the “perfect murder” inspired by their prep-school housemaster, publisher Rupert Cadell (portrayed by James Stewart) who talked with them about the intellectual concepts of Nietzsche’s Ubermermensch and De Quincey’s art of murder as a means to show one’s superiority over others.
  4. Rear Window – A 1954 American Technicolor mystery thriller based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 short story “It Had to Be Murder”.  Considered as one of the greatest movies ever made, the film received four academy award nominations and was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film revolves around professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (portrayed by James Stewart) being confined in a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment after breaking a leg while trying to photograph a racetrack accident.  While keeping his windows open to stay cool, he observes various people across the street. One night during a thunderstorm, he hears a woman scream and then the sound of glass breaking.  He sees the woman no longer there and a man with a large knife and handsaw.  Jeff is convinced that the man, Lars Thorwald (portrayed by Raymond Burr) may have killed his bedridden wife.
  5. The Trouble with Harry – A 1955 black comedy.  In the small town of Highwater, Vermont, the body of Harry Worp (portrayed by Philip Truex) is found.  The problem is who the person is, who was responsible for the death and what to do with the body.  No one is upset that Harry is dead.  No one really cares.  And each hope that the body will not bring the attention of the authorities to come to Highwater.
  6. The Man Who Knew Too Much – A 1956 suspense thriller film noir and a remake of Hitchcock’s own 1934 film of the same name.  The film won an Academy Award for Best Song for “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” by Doris Day.  The film revolves around an American family, Dr. Benjamin “Ben” McKenna (portrayed by James Stewart), his wife Jo (portrayed by Doris Day) and their son Hank (portrayed by Christopher Olsen) vacationing in Morocco.  One day, they see a man being chased by the police.  The man who was stabbed in the back approaches Ben and before he dies, tells Bernard that a foreign statesman will be assassinated in London soon and gives him the name “Ambrose Chappelle”.  But when Hank is kidnapped and Ben receives a call that his son won’t be harmed if the McKenna’s say nothing about the warning message Bernard received.  Will the McKenna’s get their son back?
  7. Vertigo – A 1958 film noir psychological thriller based on the 1954 novel “D’entre les morts” (From Among the Dead) by Boileau-Narcejac.  The film focuses on former police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson.  Scottie is forced into early retirement because an incident in the line of duty which caused him to develop acrophobia (an extreme fear of heights) and vertigo (a false sense of rotational movement).  His friend and ex-fiance Midge Wood (portrayed by Barbara Bel Geddes) tells him that perhaps a severe emotional shock may cure him.  One day, Scottie is hired by an acquaintance, Gavin Elster (portrayed by Tom Helmore), as a private investigator to follow his wife, Madeleine (portrayed by Kim Novak) who is behaving strangely.
  8. North by Northwest – A 1959 thriller film considered as one of the “Greatest Films of All Time”.  Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.  The film revolves around two thugs looking for George Kaplan and a waiter calling out for him, meanwhile at the same time, advertising exec Roger Thornhill (portrayed by Cary Grant) is summoning a waiter.  Immediately, Roger is mistaken as George Kaplan and is kidnapped.  He is brought to the estate of Lester Townsend and interrogated by a spy, Phillip Vandamm (portrayed by James Mason).  Roger tries to explain that he is not George Kaplan but they do not believe him.  And now Roger’s life is at risk.
  9. Psycho – A 1960 psychological horror film based on the 1959 novel by Robert Bloch. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.  The film revolves around a real estate secretary named Marion Crane (portrayed by Janet Leigh) who talks with her boyfriend Sam Loomis (portrayed by John Gavin) how they can’t afford to get married due to his debts.  After lunch, her boss asks her to deposit a $40,000 cash deposit for her company at the bank.  Instead of depositing the money, she steals the money and gives it to Sam to pay off his debt.  But while leaving town, she sees her boss and she becomes paranoid.  While driving, she decides to stop for the night at the Bates Motel, which Norman Bates (portrayed by Anthony Perkins) and his mother operates.
  10. The Birds – A 1963 horror-thrilller film based on the 1952 story by Daphne du Maurier.  Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.  Melanie Daniels (portrayed by Tippi Hedren) is a young socialite known for her racy behavior and her pranks.  While going to Bodega Bey to visit Mitch Brenner (portrayed by Rod Taylor) and her family, they all noticed that something unusual is happening to the birds and they are attacking people.
  11. Marnie – A 1964 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the 1961 novel by Winston Graham. The film revolves around Margaret “Marnie” Edgar (portrayed by Tippi Hedren) who steals $10,000 from her employer’s safe and flees.  She changes her appearance and identity and heads to Virginia and Baltimore.  Meanwhile, Mark Rutland (portrayed by Sean Connery), hires Marnie for his company.  But what happened when she tries to pull of the same heist on her new boss?
  12. Torn Curtain – A 1966 political thriller about a US physicist and rocket scientist named Michael Armstrong (portrayed by Paul Newman) who is traveling to Copenhagen with his assistant and fiance, Sarah Sherman (portrayed by Julie Andrews).  As he receives a radiogram to pick up a book, he sees a message which prompts him to go to Stockholm.  She follows him but instead of Stockholm, they are flying to East Berlin and he is welcome to the East German government.  Has Armstrong defected?
  13. Topaz – A 1969 spy thriller based on the 1967 Cold War novel by Leon Uris. The film follows a French intelligence agent who becomes entangled in the Cold War politics which lead up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and eventually the breakup of an international Soviet spy ring in France.
  14. Frenzy – A 1972 British thriller film based on the novel “Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square” by Arthur La Bern.  In London, a serial killer is raping women and strangling them with neck ties.  Who is responsible?
  15. Family Plot – A 1976 Technicolor dark comedy/thriller and the final film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and based on the novel “The Rainbird Pattern” by Victor Canning.  The film is about two couples, a fake psychic and her cab driving boyfriend and another that are professional thieves and kidnappers.

“The Best of Alfred Hitchcock Presents” features the following episodes:

  1. Revenge
  2. Mr. Blanchard’s Secret
  3. Lamb to the Slaughter
  4. Poison
  5. Arthur
  6. Mrs. Bixby and the Colonels Coat
  7. Bang! You’re Dead

“The Best of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour” features the following episodes:

  1. I Saw the Whole Thing
  2. Three Wives Too Many
  3. Death Scene

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Saboteur” comes with the following special features:

  • Saboteur: A Closer Look
  • Storyboards: The Statue of Liberty Sequence
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s Sketches
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Shadow of a Doubt” comes with the following special features:

  • Beyond a Doubt: The Making of Hitchcock’s Favorite Film
  • Production Drawings by Art Director Robert Boyle
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Rope” comes with the following special features:

  • Rope Unleashed
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Rear Window” comes with the following special features:

  • Rear Window Ethics: An Original Documentary
  • A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes
  • Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master
  • Breaking Barriers: The Sounds of Hitchcock
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Masters of Cinema
  • Feature Commentary with John Fawell (Author of “Hitchcock’s Rear Window: The Well-Made Film”)
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Re-Release Trailer Narrated by James Stewart

“The Trouble with Harry” comes with the following special features:

  • The Trouble with Harry Isn’t Over
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“The Man Who Knew Too Much” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of the Man Who Knew Too Much
  • Production Photographs
  • Trailers

“Vertigo” comes with the following special features:

  • Obsessed with Vertigo – New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece
  • Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborations
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Foreign Censorship Ending
  • The Vertigo Archives
  • Feature Commentary with Director William Friedkin
  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Restoration Theatrical Trailer

“North by Northwest” comes with the following special features:

  • Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest
  • North by Northwest: One for the Ages
  • The Master’s Touch: Hitchcock’s Signature Style
  • Feature Commentary by Screenwriter Ernest Lehman
  • Stills Gallery
  • Trailer Gallery

“Psycho” comes with the following special features:

  • The Making of Psycho
  • Psycho Sound
  • In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerps
  • Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho
  • The Shower Scene With and Without Music
  • The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass
  • The Psycho Archives
  • Feature Commentary with Stephen Rebello (Author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho)
  • Lobby Cards
  • Behind-the-Scenes Photographs
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Re-Release Trailer

“The Birds” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scene
  • The Original Ending
  • The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie
  • All About the Birds
  • Storyboard Sequences
  • Tippi Hedren’s Screen Test
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut Interview Excerpts
  • Universal International Newsreels
  • Production Photographs
  • 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics
  • 100 Years of Universal: The Lot
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Marnie” comes with the following special features:

  • The Trouble with Marnie
  • The Marnie Archives
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Torn Curtain” comes with the following special features:

  • Torn Curtain Rising
  • Scenes Scored by Bernard Hermann
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Topaz” comes with the following special features:

  • Alternate Endings
  • Topaz: An Appreciation by Film Historian and Critic Leonard Maltin
  • Storyboards: The Mendozas
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Frenzy” comes with the following special features:

  • The Story of Frenzy
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“Family Plot” comes with the following special features:

  • Plotting Family Plot
  • Storyboards: The Chase Scene
  • Production Photographs
  • Theatrical Trailer

“The Best of Alfred Hitchcock” comes with “Alfred Hitchcock: A Look Back”

“The Best of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour” comes with “Fast Your Seatbelt: The Thrilling Art of Alfred Hitchcock”

EXTRAS:

“Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” comes with a 60-page booklet and slipcase.


For any true cinema fan, owning Alfred Hitchock films comes with the territory of a being a true cineaste.

Alfred Hitchcock films are must-own films (unless you are the type who have foresaken physical media and have gone the digital route) and should earn a spot in your cinema collection.

For this review, I’ve already reviewed many Hitchcock films, so I’m going to approach this set of why you should own “The Ultimate Collection” and whether or not it’s worth upgrading from “The Masterpiece Collection”.

When it comes to Alfred Hitchcock films, to enjoy Alfred Hitchock films,  one must know that Hitchock has worked for numerous companies in his long career.  And that there are several releases that are no doubt key collections to own.

“Alfred Hitchcock: The Classic Collection” (MGM but on Blu-ray), “Classic Hitchcock” (Hitchcock’s British films + 1 American film from the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray), “Alfred Hitchcock: The Signature Collection” (Warner Bros. on DVD) and “Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection” (MGM on DVD)  are no doubt the best collections featuring his films from 1927-1941. His first two films “The Pleasure Garden (1925) and “The Mountain Eagle (1926) may not be easy to find but the majority of Hitchcock films can be found in various collections.

But for his major cinema works from 1942-1976, the Universal Studios release of “Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection” was no doubt the collection to own back in 2005.  Back then, the set featured a 14-movie collection on DVD. But in 2012, a 15-movie collection was released on Blu-ray and DVD and in 2013, Universal releasing a UK version “Alfred Hitcock: The Ultimate Filmmaker Collection” with film reel type casing for the Blu-ray’s and poster art cards.

One wouldn’t think that Universal would release another Alfred Hitchcock set so soon, and if anything, one would probably think that a 4K version release would be on the horizon in the near future.  But here we are, five years later since the release of “The Masterpiece – Limited Edition Set” and Universal has now upped the ante by releasing the “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” on Blu-ray and DVD featuring the 15 films from the previous set but now including 10 TV episodes from “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (NOTE: All TV episodes are on DVD, not on Blu-ray).

And simply, “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” is the definitive Hitchcock Blu-ray set to own!

While Alfred Hitchcock has had a wonderful list of films in his oeuvre, his Universal films are no doubt the more memorable films.  Films such as “Psycho”, “The Birds”, “Vertigo”, “Rear Window”, “North by Northwest” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” are films that people tend to hold Hitchcock to the highest regard.  But films such as “Saboteur”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Topaz”, “Marnie” are entertaining and showcase that wonderful Hitchcock style of filmmaking.

There are no cinema duds in this set.  Sure, some people may find Hitchcock venturing into black comedy for “The Trouble with Harry” may be too different from his other films for their tastes but that is the beauty of Hitchcock films. He took on different types of films and gave it his own personal style.  From his earliest work to “Family Plot” (his final film), we see Hitchcock evolve as a filmmaker and even with his work for Universal, we see Hitchcock show why he is the Master of Suspense.  His style of filmmaking evolving from “Saboteur” to a film such as “Rear Window”, “North by Northwest” and “Psycho” and to even his final film, “Family Plot”.

Hitchcock was a filmmaker who took on various types of films and to this day, these classic films featured in the “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” are still revered, still talked about many decades later and will continue on as topics of discussion among cineaste generations from now.  That is how long-lasting, how effective and how well-respected his cinema work is.

As for the Blu-ray release, as for picture quality, all films are presented in 1080p High Definition.  The first three films are presented in full frame 1:33:1 aspect ratio, while the majority of the films are in widescreen 1:85:1.  The TV episodes are in full frame 1:33:1 aspect ratio.  The films that received the new restoration look fantastic.  Actually, all films look fantastic on Blu-ray compared to the 2005 Masterpiece DVD set.  So, picture quality-wise, you can’t go wrong!  While some may question Universal for not upscaling the TV series to Blu-ray, the fact that you get 10 additional episodes, over 15 hours of bonus features and the booklet is quite amazing.

As for the lossless audio, one should remember that the majority of all Hitchcock films were recorded in monaural and the films are presented in English DTS-HD Master 2.0.  With the exception of “Saboteur”, the other soundtracks for the films include a French DTS Surround 2.0 Mono soundtrack, the only films that have other language selections are Vertigo (which has an Espanol DTS Surround 2.0 soundtrack) and “North by Northwest” which feature a Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese 1.0 soundtrack.

As for subtitles, all films come with an English SDH  and Spanish subtitles.  Only “Saboteur”, “Rear Window”, “Vertigo”, “North by Northwest”, “Psycho”, “The Birds” and “Topaz” come with an French subtitles.

Now, everything I mentioned is positive.  What about the negatives?  Really, there aren’t any.  But if I had to nitpick, I wish that Hitchock’s 1955 film “To Catch a Thief”, which was included in the 2013 UK Blu-ray set “Hitchcock: The Ultimate Filmmaker Collection” but was never included in both the US release of “The Master Collection” or this 2017 “The Ultimate Collection”.  I would imagine because it’s a Paramount Pictures film and what was allowed in UK, was not possible for the US release. It’s also important to note that “To Catch a Thief” from “The Ultimate Filmmaker Collection” had no special features whatsoever and unlike the other discs on that set, “To Catch a Thief” had no label.  So, quality-wise, on that set, the UK received an inferior Blu-ray version of that film.  So, it wouldn’t have matched with this set, as every film disc in “Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” has special features.

A big question that some may ask is if one should upgrade their “Masterpiece Collection” for “The Ultimate Collection”.  My answer is if you own the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” DVD sets, then no.  But if you don’t, ask yourself if the additional ten hours of non-film entertainment is worth it for you.

The booklet is the same.  The digibook style sleeves are the same with the addition of the additional pages to hold the TV series but other than that, if you own the Masterpiece Collection, there is no additional special features as they are the same Blu-ray discs.  “The Ultimate Collection” just includes the additional 10 TV episodes.

Overall, this set is amazing and is the definitive Alfred Hitchcock set to own (featuring many of his films from 1942-1976) and any cineaste wanting to own these magnificent Alfred Hitchcock films on Blu-ray will want the Ultimate Collection.  And this 2017 release is even better with 10 additional TV episodes included.  This set is no doubt a 5 STAR release!

“Alfred Hitchcock: The Ultimate Collection” is highly recommended!

 

Beggars of Life (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

With the popularity of Louise Brooks, there is no denying that “Beggars of Life” is a must-buy, must-own title.  And for silent film fans, the film is entertaining, suspenseful and action-packed. May you be a Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery or Richard Arlen fan, I can faithfully say that this silent film on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1928 Paramount Pictures. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Beggars of Life

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1928

DURATION: 81 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), B&W, 2.0 Stereo, English Intertitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2017


Based on the Book by Jim Tully

Directed by William A. Wellman

Adapatation by Benjamin Glazer

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by Harold Rosson


Starring:

Wallace Beery as Oklahoma Red

Louise Brooks as Nancy – The Girl

Richard Arlen as Jim – The Boy

Blue Washington as Black Mose

Kewpie Morgan as Skinny

Andy Clark as Skelly

Mike Donlin as Bill

Roscoe Karns as Lame Hoppy

Bob Perry as The Arkansaw Snake


An American silent film classic, Beggars of Life (1928) stars Louise Brooks as a train-hopping hobo who dresses like a boy to survive. After escaping her violent stepfather, Nancy (Brooks) befriends kindly drifter Jim (Richard Arlen). They ride the rails together until a fateful encounter with the blustery Oklahoma Red (Wallace Beery) and his rambunctious band of hoboes, leading to daring, desperate conflict on top of a moving train. Based on the memoir of real-life hobo Jim Tully, and directed with adventuresome verve by William Wellman (The Ox-Bow Incident), Beggars of Life is an essential American original.


From legendary filmmaker William A. Wellman (“A Star is Born”, “The Ox-Bow Incident”, “The Public Enemy”) comes his romantic comedy silent film “Beggars of Life”.

A film that was released in 1928 as a silent film but it was considered lost until an incomplete copy was found in Czechoslovakia.

And now the film will be released as a silent film with English intertitles and a musical score compiled and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Pictures Orchestra, who employed selections from the original 1928 Paramount cue-sheet.

“Beggars of Life”  is based on an autobiography by Jim Tully and would star Wallace Beery (“Grand hotel”, “The Champ”, “The Lost World”), Louise Brooks (“Pandora’s Box”, “Diary of a Lost Girl”, “Miss Europe”), Richard Arlen (“Wings”, “Island of Lost Souls”, “Alice in Wonderland”) and Blue Washington (“Haunted Gold”, “The Butler”).

The film is known as being Louise Brooks best American film and also a film that would feature a Black actor, Blue Washington and one of the first films that would feature a man of color in the opening credits which was not common during that era.

And now the 1928 film will be available on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

The film begins with a hungry homeless man named Jim (Richard Arlen) wondering into someone’s property, begging for the owner to please give him food and he would work hard for it.

When Jim sees someone sitting but not answering, he walks inside to find the man shot in the head and dead.  Seeing the deceased man startles him and he hears a young woman named Nancy (portrayed by Louise Brooks) scurrying around.

When Jim asks if she killed the man, she admits to it.  She explains that she was an orphan and taken in by the family but as she got older, the man would sexually assault her and having had enough of being raped, she took his firearm and shot him with it.

The two decide to escape and Nancy disguises herself as a young boy.  Meanwhile, Jim feels he just wants to help her get on the train, so she can get to Canada.  Unfortunately, getting on a train is not so easy for Nancy and she sprains her ankle.  Jim ends up taking care of Nancy and the next day, as they swipe some pastries from a bakery car, he sees a wanted photo of Nancy for murder.

As the two walk, they end up walking into a homeless camp, they meet the blunt and fearsome homeless man that goes by Oklahoma Red (portrayed by Wallace Beery) and they meet gang leader, The Arkansaw Snake (portrayed by Bob Perry).  When the Snake observes Jim and Nancy, he realizes that Nancy is a woman and not a man and wants to have his time with her.  But as Jim tries to come to her rescue, he is overtaken by the other homeless men and is held back.

But Jim ends up showing everyone to Nancy’s wanted poster and everyone steps back, worried about being around a murderer and not wanting to draw authorities to them, so they prefer to distance themselves away from her.

But when the police arrive, they see Nancy and as they are to stop her, all the homeless step in and Oklahoma Red handcuffs them all together, so they are unable to escape.

Oklahoma Red helps Nancy and Jim  but Red also wants to be with Nancy.

Will Nancy be able to escape to Canada with the authorities chasing after her?  Can Jim protect her?


VIDEO:

“Beggars of Life” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness.  Considering the film’s age, I didn’t notice any major film warping and while there are scratches that can be seen on various frames, the fact that this film has been lost and was recently discovered, is a major plus and I’m sure glad that what was found is still a good print that was restored from 35 mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Beggars of Life” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful score compiled and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, employing selections from the original 1928 Paramount cue-sheet.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Beggars of Life” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by William Wellman, Jr.
  • Audio Commentary #2 – Featuring audio commentary by Thomas Gladysz, founding director of the Louise Brooks Society.

EXTRAS:

“Beggars of Life” comes with a booklet essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton.


When it comes to Louise Brooks, many are familiar with her European films directed by George Wilhelm Pabst and of course, her reputation.

Considered an actress that was ahead of her time, she took on roles that were portrayed sexuality that was not common for the era.  She was an intellectual, some considered her a snob, rumors were spread all over Hollywood that she slept with all her actors and facing so much in the U.S., she no doubt developed a tough skin.

For the most part, going to Europe did wonders for her career, especially post-posthumously such as “Pandora’s Box” or “Diary of a Lost Girl” are well-revered today.  But back then, while great films, her loathing of Hollywood and being denied by Paramount for a promised raise was enough for her to leave America which would lead her to become blacklisted.

Prior to moving away from America though, while starring in several silent light comedies and flapper films, it was “Beggars of Life” that would be considered her best American film.

Surprisingly, considering that she never thought about the film positively and not being faithful to Jim Tully’s book, which the film was an adaptation of Tully’s autobiography of the same name.

Nor did Louise Brooks get along with her co-star Richard Arlen and also director William A. Wellman, it’s a sign of a good actress that she was able to take on the role and give a solid performance as murderer on the run, Nancy.

But the tone of the film is set as Nancy was an orphan who was repeatedly raped by the man who took her in and tired of being assaulted, she shot and killed him.  And now she just wants to be free.  Free and happy and Jim, wants to help her escape to Canada but he needs to disguise her as a boy as he knows authorities will be after her.

The film broke new ground, no surprise as William A. Wellman was in an experimentation mode.  You have a woman dressed and disguised like a young man which no doubt, went against Hollywood norm and upset a number of people.  You also have Blue Washington, a Black actor in a major role and also being featured in the opening credits.  While Washington is not featured during the first half of the film, he becomes more prominent towards the second half of the film as a homeless man trying to take care of another sick homeless man.

But along with Louise Brooks, you also have to talk about the two prominent male actors.  Richard Arlen is the main protagonist that is paired with Louise Brooks as the homeless man named Jim who tries to help Nancy escape to Canada.  At first, he just wants to help her get to Canada on train but when he sees that she is not experienced to do much, let alone jumping on trains, he ends up helping her and protecting her from the homeless men who want to take advantage of her.

And of course, the actor who gets top billing, Wallace Beery as Oklahoma Red.  A homeless man who seems like he would be the antagonist, the alpha male among many homeless men, a man with a reputation that some fear him and a homeless man who also carries a heavy wooden barrel wherever he goes.  And he has his eyes on Nancy and wanting her to be his.  But he wants to naturally help her escape as well, just with him and not Jim.

Beery had appeared in many major films and while at that time, it makes sense for him to get top billing and be known as the star of the film.  Since the release of the film and the escalation of Louise Brooks as an actress and has received recognition as an early cinema sex symbol, she has also received respect for her independence as a woman.  Defying Hollywood, defying the norm and some may even make comparisons to modern day stars such as Madonna.

And part of the mystique that surrounds Louise Brooks is that there is much written about her, but yet many of her films are lost.  Fortunately, her key silent films filmed in Europe such as “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of a Lost Girl” have survived.  And of course, her American film “Beggars of Life” that was discovered in 2016, has finally been released and giving many fans a chance to enjoy an early American film starring Louise Brooks.

And earlier this year, 23 minutes of a long missing 1927 Brooks film, “Now We’re in the Air” was found in the Czech Republic and is another significant film in Brooks’ oeuvre as four of the films she had made in 1927 were considered lost.  And this World War One comedy also features Wallace Beery, and Brooks in two supporting roles.

Going back to “Beggars of Life”, it’s important to note that while this film was released as an early sound film, the original sound recordings have not been found and thus was released as a silent film.  And while it is sad that we don’t have the original audio, considering that this was an earlier film that experimented with sound, the film works much more effectively as a silent and the score by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra was fantastic.

Picture quality on this Blu-ray release was digitally restored from 35mm film elements preserved by the George Eastman Museum and they did a magnificent job.  Scratches are not so evident and there is no major damage or film warping at all.  And you get two audio commentaries and a essay booklet included as well.

With the popularity of Louise Brooks, there is no denying that “Beggars of Life” is a must-buy, must-own title.  And for silent film fans, the film is entertaining, suspenseful and action-packed. May you be a Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery or Richard Arlen fan, I can faithfully say that this silent film on Blu-ray is highly recommended!

 

 

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

July 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1923 Paramount Pictures. 2017 KINO LORBER. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Zaza

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1923

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), B&W,

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017


Based on the Play by Pierre Berton and Charles Simon

Directed by Allan Dwan

Written by Albert S. Le Vino

Produced by Allan Dwan

Executive Producer: Adolph Zukor

Music Performed by Jeff Rapsis

Cinematography by  Harold Rosson


Starring:

Gloria Swanson as Zaza

H. B. Warner as Bernard Dufresne

Ferdinand Gottschalk as Duke de Brissac

Lucille La Verne as Aunt Rosa

Mary Thurman as Florianne

Yvonne Hughes as Nathalie, Zaza’s Maid

Riley Hatch as Rigault

L. Rogers Lytton as Stage Manager


Gloria Swanson is all flounce and swagger as Zaza, a street gamine turned music hall star, strutting her stuff, tossing off quips and taunts with her irrepressible backside, which is sometimes adorned with a pert bow for emphasis. Over the course of the film, directed by Allan Dwan (Robin Hood), she engages in two knock-down drag-out cat fights, frisks through playful love scenes, writhes in a hospital bed, nurses a broken heart, and evolves into a soberly dignified woman. Her physicality dominates the film, which does not suffer from being essentially a well-crafted frame for her performance. Swanson s ebullience in Zaza was unfeigned; she called it the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable picture I ever made. Imogen Sara Smith


Back in 1899, the French play “Zaza” had entertained audiences.  So, popular that the play was produced on Broadway and the first film adaptation was released by Paramount in 1915.

While there were a few more adaptations of “Zaza” created, in 1923, a silent romantic drama directed and produced by Allan Dwan (“Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”, “Sands of Iwo Jima”, “Robin Hood”) and executive produced by Adolph Zukor was released.

Starring Gloria Swanson (“Sunset Boulevard”, “Queen Kelly”, “The Trespasser”, “Indiscreet”), H.B. Warner (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”), Ferdinand Gottschalk (“Grand Hotel”, “Les Miserables”, “Tonight or Never”), Lucille La Verne, Mary Thurman, Yvonne Hughes, Riley Hatch and L. Rogers Lytton.

And a print of the film is housed at the George Eastman House and the Library of Congress.

During this time, Gloria Swanson was the most sought-after actress in Hollywood and a box office draw for Paramount.  In fact, what she wore on screen influenced fashion  all over the world.

And now the silent classic will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Zaza” is set in France and begins with showing us how Zaza (portrayed by Gloria Swanson) is a popular performer with a temperament.  Often taking things out on her maid Nathalie (portrayed by Mary Thurman) when she loses things and is frustrated, when she is kind, she can be a major giver of fine jewelry to her maid.

Meanwhile, many men desire Zaza including Duke de Brissac (portrayed by Ferdinand Gottschalk) but the only man Zaza is interested in is Bernard Dufresne (portrayed by H.B. Warner) of the diplomatic corps.  Who often comes to visit the stage as he also fancies Zaza.

While Florianne (portrayed by Mary Thurman), Zaza’s stage rival, was once popular in the Odeon, she also fancies Dufresne.

At the show, it was said whoever catches Zaza’s shoe can be with her and when one man comes to claim his “prize”, he manhandles Zaza, in which Bernard Dufresne comes to her rescue.

But as both Zaza and Florianne vie for Dufresne’s attention, which woman will win?

Meanwhile, what secrets is Bernard hiding from Zaza?  And will the fact that Bernard lives far from Zaza affect any chance of a relationship?


VIDEO:

“Zaza” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:331 aspect ratio) and is presented in black and white. The quality of the film on Blu-ray is very good in terms of clarity and sharpness. The film is does have scratches but for the most part, the film looks very good on Blu-ray considering its over 90-years old.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Zaza” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and the music presented for this release is a wonderful piano score by Jeff Rapsis.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Zaza” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi (author of Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios)

A silent romantic drama about love discovered, distance that hinders romance but secrets that can tear people apart.

This is the story of “Zaza”, among one of the well-known silent films starring the legendary actress Gloria Swanson and actor H.B. Warner and also one of the last films to star Mary Thurman (who could come down with pneumonia working on a film a year later and would die from complications from the illness the following year), who was also engaged to the film’s director, Allan Dwan.

In some ways, since the film is based on a play, the film can also get a little bit of exhausting wondering if these two individuals, Swanson’s Zaza and Warner’s Dufresne would be together.

While Zaza comes off as impetuous and bombastic early in the film, we see her character transform.  Transformed by love, by jealousy, by anger and by sadness.  Gloria Swanson had to no doubt show various sides of Zaza and for the most part, it was a very well-done performance.  From emotional to even action as she and Thurman’s Florianne engage in a few tussles onscreen.

H.B. Warner plays a stoic Bernard Dufresne.  A man who is captivated by Zaza but there is something preventing him from going to far in his relationship wtih Zaza, which we find out the truth later in the film.

The film on Blu-ray features wonderful detail for the film over 90-years old and for its lossless audio, you get a piano score composed and performed by Jeff Rapsis, adapted from the original 1923 cue sheet.  And also included is a very informative audio commentary by Frederic Lombardi.

Overall, I really welcome Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray.  One of the things that I hope to see is more silent actresses films on Blu-ray.  There have been so much focus on Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, on Blu-ray, which is understandable but it would be nice to see more Pickford, more Swanson, more Gish, Bow, Brooks, Talmadge, Normand, Davies, Bara, Thomas, to name a few on Blu-ray.  So, Gloria Swanson’s “Zaza” on Blu-ray is a major plus and hopefully this means more silent actress greats and their films will be featured on Blu-ray in the near future.

If you are a silent film fan, definitely consider Allan Dwan’s “Zaza” and discover one of many films featuring legendary actress, Gloria Swanson.  Recommended!

 

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