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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!

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

December 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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


TITLE: You Can’t Take It With You

YEAR OF FILM: 1938

DURATION: 126 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 8, 2014


Directed by Frank Capra

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

Screenplay by Robert Riskin

Produced by Frank Capra

Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

Cinematography by Joseph Walker

Edited by Gene Havlick

Art Direction by Stephen Goosson


Starring:

Jean Arthur as Alice Sycamore

Lionel Barrymore as Martin Vanderhof

James Stewart as Tony Kirby

Edward Arnold as Anthony P. Kirby

Mischa Auer as Kolenkhov

Ann Miller as Essie Carmichael

Spring Byington as Penny Sycamore

Samul S. Hinds as Paul Sycamore

Donald Meek as Poppins

H.B. Warner as Ramsey

Halliwell Hobbes as DePinna

Dub Taylor as Ed Charmichael

Mary Forbes as Mrs. Anthony Kirby

Lillian Yarbo as Rheba

Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as Donald

Clarence Wilson as John Blakely

Josef Swickard as Professor


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO:

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

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

mrsmith

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

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

TITLE: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

YEAR OF FILM: 1939

DURATION: 129 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: December 2, 2014

Directed by Frank Capra

Screenplay by Sidney Buchman

Story by Lewis R. Foster

Produced by Frank Capra

Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

Cinematography by Joseph Walker

Edited by Al Clark, Gene Havlick

Art Direction by Lionel Banks

Costume Design by Robert Kalloch

Starring:

Jean Arthur as Saunders

James Stewart as Jefferson Smith

Claude Rains as Senator Joseph Paine

Edward Artnold as Jim Taylor

Guy Kibbee as Governor Hopper

Eugene Pallette as Chick McGann

Beaulah Bondi as Ma Smith

Harry Carey as President of the Senate

H.B. Warner as Senate Majority Leader

Grant Mitchell as Senator MacPherson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO:

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

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

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

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

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

SPECIAL FEATURES:

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

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

EXTRAS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

You’ve Got Mail (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Another delightful and enchanting pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the 1998 Nora Ephron film “You’ve Got Mail”.  But fans of this romantic comedy will definitely want to upgrade and purchase the Blu-ray release as you also get the Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romantic comedy “The Shop Around the Corner” on DVD.  Two romantic comedies for under $10…what a fantastic deal and two films that are highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Warner Bros., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: You’ve Got Mail

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1998

DURATION: 119 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Francois Dolby Digital 5.1, Espanol 2S, Subtitles: English SDH, French & Espanol

COMPANY: Warner Bros.

RATED: PG (Some Language)

Release Date: January 3, 2012

You’ve Got Mail

Based on the play “Parfumerie” by Nikolaus Laszlo

Directed by Nora Ephron

Screenplay by Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron

Executive Producer: G. Mac Brown, Julie Durk, Delia Ephron

Produced by Nora Ephron, Lauren Shuler Donner

Co-Producer: Donald J. Lee, Jr.

Associate Producer: Dianne Dreyer

Music by George Fenton

Cinematography by John Lindley

Edited by Richard Marks

Casting by Francine Maisler

Production Design by Dan Davis

Art Direction By Ray Kluga, Beth Kuhn

Set Decoration by Susan Bode, Ellen Christiansen

Costume Design by Albert Wolsky

The Shop Around the Corner

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch

Based on the play “Parfumie” by Miklos Laszlo

Screenplay by Samson Raphaelson

Produced by Ernst Lubitsch

Music by Werner R. Heymann

Cinematography by William H. Daniels

Edited by Gene Ruggiero

Art Direction by Cedric Gibons

Set Decoration by Edwin B. Willis

“You’ve Got Mail” Starring:

Tom Hanks as Joe Fox

Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly

Greg Kinnear as Frank Navasky

Parker Posey as Patricia Eden

Jean Stapleton as Birdie Conrad

Steve Zahn as George Pappas

Heather Burns as Christina Plutzker

Dave Chappelle as Kevin Jackson

Dabney Coleman as Nelson Fox

John Randolph as Schuyler Fox

Hallee Hirsh as Annabelle Fox

Jeffre Scaperrotta as Max Fox

“The Shop Around the Corner” Starring:

Margaret Sullavan as Klara Novak

James Stewart as Alfred Kralik

Frank Morgan as Hugo Matuschek

Joseph Schildkraut as Ferencz Vadas

Sara Haden as Flora

Felix Bressart as Pirovitch

William Tracy as Pepi Katona

Inez Courtney as Llona

Cara Seymour as Gillian QuinnThe stars (Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan) and director (Nora Ephron) of Sleepless in Seattle reteamed for this charming audience favorite. Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton and more great co-stars add note-perfect support to this cinematic love letter in which superstore book chain magnate Hanks and cozy children’s bookshop owner Ryan are anonymous e-mail cyberpals who fall head-over-laptops in love, unaware they are combative business rivals. You’ve got rare Hollywood magic when You’ve Got Mail.

1998.  It was a time when more and more people would be using the Internet, a time when a lot of news showcased people who found love on the Internet.

Having enjoyed “The Shop Around the Corner” (which was an adaptation of the 1937 Miklos Laszlo Hungarian play “Parfumerie”) and the Broadway musical adaptation, “She Loves Me”,  writer/director Nora Ephron and producer Laura Schuler Donner wanted to create a modernized version featuring a romantic comedy centered around love found on the Internet but yet using elements from Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romantic comedy”.

And having struck gold with romantic comedies that starred actress Meg Ryan in “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally” and the amazing chemistry between Ryan and Tom Hanks in the 1993 film “Sleepless in Seattle” and the 1990 film “Joe Versus the Volcano”, the filmmaker would reunite the two talents for her 1998 romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail”.

The film which can be seen as a sign of the times as it utilized then-popular Internet provider American Online (AOL) and it’s popular trademark e-mail greeting “You’ve Got Mail”, “You’ve Got Mail” would become a major hit in the box office as the $65 million film would earn over $250 million in the box office and would go on to also achieve success in the home video market.

And now both the original Ernst Lubitsch 1940 film “The Shop Around the Corner” via DVD and “You’ve Got Mail”  (via Blu-ray) was released together in January 2012.

“You’ve Got Mail” is a film that focuses on two characters.  Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan) is dating liberal postmodernist New York Observer journalist Frank Navasky (played by Greg Kinnear) and is a happy owner of the bookstore “Shop Around the Corner” which her mother started long ago.

While Frank is not so keen about technology, Kathleen has been communicating with a mystery man over e-mail via American Online using a screen name “Shopgirl”.  Both met in a chat room and enjoy their conversations through e-mail.  Because there is no personal discussion nor there is any personal contact, Kathleen is perfectly fine with the anonymous communication with this man, who she knows as his screen name “NY152”.

While Kathleen loves to spend her time communicating with NY152, she is often busy working at her bookstore along with her three store assistants, Birdie (played by Jean Stapleton), Christina (played by Heather Burns) and George (played by Steve Zahn).

Which leads us to the second character, Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks) is a businessman who’s wealthy family are the owners of “Fox Books”, known for it’s chain of “mega” bookstores around the country and for its discounts and serving coffee.  Also, a threat to independent and smaller book stores who can’t compete with a megastore selling books with a discount.

But for the Fox family, it’s all business.  And the family is planning to open a new store, not far from the bookstore “Shop Around the Corner”, a place which Joe’s grandfather is familiar with and was smitten by the woman who once owned the bookstore but passed it on to her daughter.

Joe is currently dating Patricia Eden (played by Parker Posey), a woman that is the opposite of him.  Meanwhile with the creation of the new Fox Books in New York, he leaves it to branch manger Kevin (played by David Chappelle) to keep an eye on business.

And when he’s not busy with business, Joe loves to go online via American Online and communicate with a mystery woman known as “Shopgirl”, not knowing that she is Kathleen Kelly, the owner of the family bookstore that his own Fox Books will force to make them lose business and close.

One day, while Joe is taking his eleven-year-old aunt Annabel (played by Hallee Hirsh) and four-year-old brother Matthew (played by Jeffrey Scaperrotta) around town, Joe and the children decide to stop by the family bookstore Shop Around the Corner and Joe meets Kathleen Kelly.  Both individuals enjoy their short time with each other but Joe manages to keep it secret that he is the owner of the Fox Books store that will be opening several blocks away.

Needless to say, Kathleen eventually finds out that Joe is the owner of Fox Books and responsible for taking customers away from her store and through the help of “NY152” who gives her advice to fight back, Kathleen goes on a media war campaign against Joe Fox and Fox Books, meanwhile maintaining communication with NY152 and enjoy those moments.

Eventually, Kathleen “Shopgirl” Kelly and Joe “NY152”, both who have no idea who each other are via e-mail decide to meet with each other for the first time.  But when Joe is about to meet Shopgirl at a restaurant, he finds out that she is Kathleen Kelly.  He then decides to not tell her he is “NY152” and tries to get closer to her as Joe Fox.  But will she ever accept the man who may end up hurting her business?

Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romantic comedy “The Shop Around the Corner” is a film that stars James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan and Frank Morgan and has been well-regarded as one of the top romantic comedies of all time (#28 in the American Film Institute’s “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions”) and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1999 by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

The film is set in Budapest where Alfred Kralik (played by James Stewart) is a top salesman at a gift shop owned by the wealthy Mr. Hugo Matuschek (played by Frank Morgan).

Alfred reveals to his friend Pirovitch (played by Felix Bressart) that he has been corresponding anonymously to an intelligent and cultured woman whose ad that he saw on the newspaper.  For Alfred, communicating with this woman is the light of his life.

Meanwhile, Mr. Matuschek expects all his employees at the gift shop to push sales, especially a cigarette box that plays “Ochi Chernye” when it is opened.  Alfred thinks the cigarette box is annoying and that Matuschek should keep away from it.  Meanwhile, a young woman named Klara Novak (played by Margaret Sullavan) who worked in sales for another store and is desperately looking for a job as a saleswoman at the gift shop.

Mr. Matuschek has no plans to hire anyone new and Alfred tries to tell Klara that his boss is not hiring.  But when Klara shows Mr. Matuschek that she can sell, by using the cigarette musical boxes as an example with customers and selling them.  She is eventually hired.

As both Alfred and Klara are now working together at the gift shop, unfortunately both do not get along at all and are often bickering with each other.

But for Klara, despite the aggravation she feels…nothing is going to ruin her day as the mysterious man that she is communicating with by mail has made her happy.  And she dreams that this man of her dreams will one day marry her.  But Klara doesn’t know the man she has been communicating with is Alfred Kralik and Alfred doesn’t know that the intelligent and cultured woman he is smitten with is Klara.

For Alfred Kralik, he has worked at the gift shop for many years and is the top salesman.  He hopes to ask Mr. Matuschek for a raise but lately, the relationship between Alfred and Mr. Matuschek have soured.  The reason is that Mr. Matuschek has an investigator following his wife, as he fears she is having an affair with one of his employees.  Mr. Matuschek thinks the only person that can do such a thing is Alfred Kralik, because he was the closest one to the family (when in reality, it’s another one of this male employees that is having an affair with his wife).

When Alfred goes to ask for a raise, instead he is fired by Mr. Matuschek and shocked by what has taken place (because he was the most trusted employee with the best sales record), Alfred knows that without a job, he probably should stop communicating with the mystery woman but he has made a promise to meet with her at a restaurant. So, he feels obliged to do just that.

So, along with Pirovitch, Alfred has Pirovitch check inside the restaurant to let him know how the mystery woman he is to meet, looks like.  And sure enough, Pirovitch tells Alfred that the woman that he has been communicating with all this time, is his former co-worker that he doesn’t get along with… Klara Novak.

But despite how Klara does not like Alfred, Alfred now knowing that Klara was the intelligent and cultured woman that he has been communicating with all this time, decides to keep his identity of the mystery man as a secret to Klara, but as Alfred Kralik, try to get close to her on his own.

But will Klara ever let someone like Alfred, a man she doesn’t like or care for, into her life?

VIDEO:

“You’ve Got Mail” is presented in 1080p (1:85:1 aspect ratio) and unfortunately it is a film that slightly shows its age, yet there is enough detail and better colors that makes this version much better than the previous DVD releases.

First the bad.  There are some moments where the film looks oversaturated and also soft and there are moments where you do see artifacts popping up once in a while.  While it shows up a few times, most people will probably not be bothered by it.  But for those expecting a pristine version of the film, it does have its issues which can be seen on a larger monitor/screen.

With that being said, the film still looks better than its previous DVD counterparts.  The colors tend to pop much more, you can see the skin pores on Tom Hanks’ face during closeups and while some areas look its age, some don’t and look very good.  So, for the most part, this is the best looking version of the film thus far.  It may not be the pristine picture quality that I was hoping for, but nevertheless, it does look much better than the DVD version.

As for “The Shop Around the Corner”, the film looks absolutely wonderful considering it is a 71-year-old film.  The contrast levels are good, the film source looks very good for its age and I didn’t detect any major problems with video quality at all.  Grays and whites are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the presentation of “The Shop Around the Corner” looks good on DVD.  Too bad, this classic film it was not converted to a Blu-ray release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“You’ve Got Mail” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital Francois and Espanol 2.0 stereo.

For this romantic comedy and like most films of the genre, most of the lossless soundtracks tend to be center and  front-channel driven with mild use of surround channels for ambiance.  The same can be said about “You’ve Got Mail”.  Primarily, everything is center and front channel-driven and dialogue and it’s musical soundtrack is crystal clear.

As for “The Shop Around the Corner”, the film’s dialogue is also clear and didn’t notice any more hiss or crackling during my viewing of the DVD.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Francois and Espanol.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“You’ve Got Mail” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by writer/director Nora Ephrone and producer Lauren Shuler Donner who discuss the film, the cast and more.
  • Delivering You’ve Got Mail – (25:29) A 10th year anniversary interview with Nora Ephron and her two leads, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Also, featuring producer Lauren Shuler Donner, co-writer Delia Ephron and more.
  • You’ve Got Chemistry – (26:18) A Warner Bros. featurette about iconic couples that appeared in Warner Bros. classic films including Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and others.
  • Isolated Score Track – Watch the film with only George Fenton’s musical score.
  • First Look Television special – (14:19) The HBO preview for the film.
  • Discovering New York’s Upper West Side – (10:09) Nora and Deliah Ephron talk about their favorite scenes in New York City featured in the film.
  • Music Video – Featuring Carole King’s “Anyone at All” music video.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The two original theatrical trailers for “You’ve Got Mail”: “The Best Way to Meet Someone” (1:24) and “They Couldn’t Stand Each Other” (1:26)

EXTRAS:

“You’ve Got Mail” comes with a DVD version of the classic Ernst Lubitsch 1940 romantic comedy, “The Shop Around the Corner”.

I’m not afraid to admit that I am a big fan of Meg Ryan’s hit romantic comedies and especially enjoy the chemistry and pairing of Ryan along with Tom Hanks.

Back in the 1930’s through the 1950’s, there were Hollywood couples that would light the screen in multiple films, for today’s modern films, there really hasn’t been American couple other than Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, two talents that viewers fell in love whenever they were together in a romantic comedy.

And like many people who couldn’t wait for “You’ve Got Mail” to be released in theaters, I was among the many who look forward to watching the film.  For one, I love Nora Ephron romantic comedies and how she is able to focus on character but also incorporate the city that a film is shot in.

She has an eye for location but also knows what she wants from her talents and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have discussed how Nora Ephron’s direction is much different than other filmmakers.  And for Ephron, her love for the Ernst Lubitsch classic “The Shop Around the Corner”, especially for her passion towards the Broadway musical “She Loves Me” would lead to romantic magic for “You’ve Got Mail”.

But back in 1998, this film was highly anticipated because I enjoyed watching Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together, watching a Nora Ephron film but interesting enough, I also had a similar experience of meeting someone on the Internet with similar circumstances as the characters featured in the film.

And I was there to buy the first DVD release of the film and here we are 14-years later with a Blu-ray release of “You’ve Got Mail”.  And where films such as “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” are not dated due to technology, “You’ve Got Mail” manages to date itself with old technology via modem connection, old product placement during a time when American Online (AOL) was on top of Internet providers and also during a time when mega bookstores were not threatened by the emergence of online bookstores such as Amazon.

But still, despite the older technology and the fads of the time, I was not turned off by it.  In fact, I was nostalgic of how things were back then.

But “You’ve Got Mail” still manages to captivate me as it did back then.  Sure, it was not my favorite Meg Ryan romantic comedy especially when compared to “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” but there is a magic that exists in the film, because of the wonderful chemistry between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  The two can literally take on these characters and bring amazing life to them, making them believable and entertaining to watch.  And also Nora Ephron’s ability to make the locations and the music selections compliment the characters as well.

Also, the film managed to bring in a pretty enjoyable supporting cast with Parker Posey, Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, Heather Burns and Dabney Coleman.  But also “You’ve Got Mail” would feature actor Greg Kinnear (“As Good as It Gets”, “Ghost Town”, “Little Miss Sunshine”) and “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Sara Ramirez before they became popular.

Also, I was impressed at the time of how the Ephron sisters were able to modernize the film from its original predecessors.  I absolutely adore Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 classic “The Shop Around the Corner” and I’m so glad “You’ve Got Mail” was not a remake.  Sure it incorporates certain situations that were seen in the original film, but for the most part, everything was new and everything worked.

“The Shop Around the Corner” is simply a wonderful romance film that is different in the fact that both lead characters work in the same gift shop but there is also a dramatic element as the shop owner thinks the lead character Alfred Kralik (played by James Stewart) is having an affair with his wife.  But this classic film is a wonderful feel-good romantic comedy that has managed to stand the test of time, even over 70-years-later…I’m still enjoying this film no matter how many times I have watched it.  And while not on Blu-ray but on DVD, the film still looks very good on DVD!

While the Blu-ray release of “You’ve Got Mail” and its video quality does show the film’s age due to softness and also some instances of artifacting, there is still a good amount of detail and beautiful colors that make this Blu-ray release worth owning and worth upgrading from the DVD release.  If you were an owner of the first DVD release, a lot of the special features do make it onto this Blu-ray, but also the inclusion of the 2008 10th anniversary reunion between Nora Ephron, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the featurette “Delivering You’ve Got Mail” (which was released in a later DVD release of “You’ve Got Mail”).

Also, the biggest addition for me which I absolutely loved was the inclusion of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romantic comedy, “The Shop Around the Corner”.  While a DVD, not Blu-ray…still you are getting two films when you purchase the “You’ve Got Mail” Blu-ray release and for hopeless romantics, the fact that these two films are included is fantastic!  And did I mention that you can find this Blu-ray release for under $10 on Amazon?  Awesome!

Overall, “You’ve Got Mail” is still as delightful and highly entertaining as when I first watched it in theaters back in 1998.  Sure, things have changed a lot in technology and also economic settings when it comes to the mega bookstores in today’s society, but Internet romance is much more prevalent today than it was back then and more and more people are discovering love online, so the film still has relevance today.

If you love romantic comedy films, you’re going to enjoy “You’ve Got Mail” on Blu-ray for the fact that you get two films for the price of one and if you enjoyed the film back then and owned the DVD, you’re definitely going to want to upgrade to Blu-ray.  It’s a wonderful deal and both films are highly recommended!

THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – PARAMOUNT CENTENNIAL COLLECTION #8 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 8, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

“The ultimate Western classic directed by John Ford, ‘THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE’ stars two of the biggest stars of Hollywood – James Stewart and John Wayne.  The CENTENNIAL COLLECTION features a new digitally remastered video transfer and new special features.  This is the definitive version of this classic Western to own on DVD! An overall, such a wonderful release!  Highly recommended!”

Images courtesy of © 1962 Paramount Pictures Corporation and John Ford Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – PARAMOUNT CENTENNIAL COLLECTION #8

DURATION: 123 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Widescreen Version Enhanced for 16:9 TVs, Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround/English Mon, Spanish Mono, Subtitles: English, French and Spanish, 2-Discs

COMPANY: Paramount Home Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE:  May 19, 2009

Directed by John Ford

Based on a Short Story by Dorothy M. Johnson

Screenplay by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck

Produced by Willis Goldbeck and John Ford

Music by Cyril J. Mockridge

Director of Photography: William H. Clothier

Edited by Otho Lovering

Art Direction by Eddie Imazu and Hal Pereira

Set Decoration by Sam Corner and Darrell Silvera

Costume Design by Edith Head and Ron Talsky

Starring:

John Wayne as Tom Doniphon

James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard

Vera Miles as Hallie Stoddard

Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance

Edmond O’Brien as Dutton Peabody

Woody Strode as Pompey

Andy Devine as Marshal Link Appleyard

Ken Murray as Doc Willoughby

John Carradine as Major Cassius Starbuckle

Jeanette Nolan as Nora Ericson

John Qualen as Peter Ericson

“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Behind the camera? John Ford, a director whose name is synonymous with “Westerns.” Gathered in front of it? An ideal cast – James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles and Lee Marvin. Now presented on two discs, with all-new special features, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance rides into town as classic entry in the Paramount Centennial Collection. Director Ford brings us to the lawless frontier village of Shinbone, a town plagued by a larger-than-life nemesis, Liberty Valance (Marvin). Stewart plays the bungling but charming big-city lawyer determined to rid Shinbone of Valance, and he finds that he has an unlikely ally — in the form of a rugged, local rancher (Wayne). The two men also share the same love interest (Miles). But when the final showdown becomes inevitable, one of the two will attempt to get the gunman … but the other one will wind up getting the gal.

“THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” is considered one of the greatest Westerns of all time.  Directed by longtime and legendary Western director John Ford, the film would bring together two of Hollywood’s top film stars James Stewart and John Wayne.

Paramount has chosen for its latest “CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” releases to feature two westerns.  #8 “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” and #9 “EL DORADO”. Both films featuring John Wayne and paired with a top actor but showing two directors known for their Westerns, John Ford and Harold Hawks.

“THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” would become one of the last Western films to be shot in B&W and in Dec. 2007, the film was selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as part of the few films deemed as “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.

The film begins with a US Senator Ransom “Rance” Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) coming back to the small town of Shinbone.  The two are there for a funeral but when a newspaper editor shows up to the funeral demanding for an interview and pressing on the Senator to answer him on why he has returned to Shinbone to bury someone insignificant.

Stoddard decides to talk to the media in hopes that his story will get published.

The story goes back into the past when Stoddard was an attorney who is influenced by law and order.    As he and a few people are riding in a stagecoach, they are stopped and robbed by an outlaw named Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).  When Valance’s henchman try to steal one of the women’s pendant given to her by her dead husband, Stoddard tries to defend her and vows that he will bring Valance to the court of law and put him in jail.

The threat to Valance doesn’t come off that well and Stoddard is immediately beaten with Stoddard’s silver whip.  The outlaws leave Stoddard alone and beaten but is found later by Dom Doniphon (John Wayne).

Doniphon takes the injured Stoddard to the town of Shinbone where he is being taken care of immediately by Hallie and the restaurant owners Peter Ericson (John Qualen) and his wife Nora (Jeanete Nolan).  When Stoddard comes to, he tells them that he is an attorney and will put him in jail.  But Doniphon tells him that in the West, there are no laws and one will need a gun if he was going to survive.

When the bumbling, lazy and overweight Marshal Link Appleyard (Andy Devine) is brought to hear Stoddard’s story, he says that since it happened outside of Shinbone, he has no jurisdiction.  So, nothing can be done.  Doniphon tells Stoddard that there is one quick gun in the town that Liberty Valance  can’t keep up with and that’s him.

Stoddard helps the Ericson’s and Hallie at the restaurant  as a dishwasher, meanwhile Doniphon who is very much in love with Hallie brings her a cactus when flowers on them.  She loves them.  When Stoddard looks in his law books about jurisdiction, he learns that the Marshal does have jurisdiction and can get involved.  He tries to show Hallie the book but we learn that she is illiterate (it turns out that many of the people in Shinbone are illiterate).  And Stoddard agrees to teach Hallie how to read and others who want to learn as well.

As Donaphon sits down in his seat at the restaurant awaiting his food, he talks to the town’s publisher Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien) about the rumors circulating about Liberty Valance (about him robbing and what he did to Stoddard).

Meanwhile, Liberty Valance and his henchman come into the restaurant and take a table and food from people who were eating.  Everyone sits in fear except Tom Doniphon who eyes him carefully.  When Stoddard comes out to take Doniphon’s food to him, Valance and his henchman see him and Valance trips him and spilling Doniphon’s food all over the floor.

This leads to a confrontation between Doniphon and Valance in which Doniphon asks for Valance to pick up his food that he spilled.  The two engage each other’s eyes as they look as if they will shoot each other down.  Stoddard disgusted by what he sees, picks up the spilled food and can’t believe people will kill each other for a steak.

Dutton Peabody is surprised by Stoddard standing up for his belief and gives him inspiration to write the news about what he saw.  He talks about Stoddard sharing an office for him and even putting his sign of “Attorney-at-Law” at his office.  Even using the space to teach people to read and Stoddard decides to stay longer in the town of Shinbone.  Hallie is very happy and Doniphon is a bit jealous of what he sees.  He tells both Peabody and Stoddard that if they print any news about Valance, they will be dead men.

Meanwhile, Doniphon leaves the town for business and we see Stoddard become good friends with Peabody, as Stoddard admires his written work.  Even the school is successful as adults and children have come to learn to read and have learned a little about the US government.  Hallie starts to grow closer to Stoddard because of his kindness and helping her and the townspeople to read.

Doniphon arrives and is shocked the whole town is now trying to learn to read including his workhand Pompey (Woody Strode) which upsets him.    He tells the townspeople that Valance has killed two homesteaders (the Homestead Act in the 1860’s gave an applicant freehold title to 160 acres of undeveloped land outside of the original 13 colonies).

Stoddard now gets the idea that the law in the West is about using a gun and not the law.  He borrows Peabody’s gun and learns to shoot.  Doniphon tells Peabody to follow him to his ranch and tries to teach him how to shoot a gun.  When Doniphon tries to size him up, he learns that Stoddard can’t shoot.  He then tells Stoddard to place three paint cans on top of the posts and immediately Doniphon shoots the paint cans which explode paint on him.  Stoddard not too happy, punches Doniphon.

We learn that Doniphon has Pompey and a few men building a house for Hallie.  Doniphon intends to marry Hallie and live on their ranch.  Telling Stoddard that Hallie is his woman and that ever since he came into town, he has interfered.

Meanwhile, a convention is being held for two delegates that would go to the territorial capital city and Valance who works with cattle land barons and against statehood wants to be voted in and even bullies the townspeople.    But the people choose Stoddard and Shinbone Star publisher Dutton Peabody.  Valance then challenges Stoddard to a gunfight.

Peabody gains courage and prints a story on the Shinbone Star about Valance.  When he enters his newspaper office at night, Valance and his henchman are in there waiting for him.  They beat him severely and destroy his printing press.  Stoddard runs into the printing press and can’t believe that Valance has beaten him so badly.  He asks the townspeople to get a doctor but tells the Marshal that he is ready to get into a gunfight against Valance.

“THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” is a film that features a well-written screenplay but most of all John Ford’s experience of getting the best of his talent for this film.   What happens in the final 15-minutes of the film is amazing and when you get to the final moments of the film, you literally are left in awe.   Overall, a magnificent film!

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” get the “CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” treatment from Paramount and that means the film gets the digitally remastered treatment.  The picture quality on DVD is absolutely magnificent and video is presented in Widescreen (enhanced for 16:9  TV’s).  The black and white picture seems to look clean without any imperfections and like many “CENTENNIAL COLLECTIONS”, the film definitely received fabulous treatment as blacks are nice and deep and for a 1966 film, no sign of that “aged” look of older films.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital: English 5.1 Surround and English and Spanish Mono.  The film is primarily a dialogue-driven film and aside from a few gunshots and a little action in the beginning and near the end of the film, this film is front and center channel driven.  But dialogue is crystal clear.

With that being said, “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” looks and sounds great due to the digitally remastered treatment it received.  Because it has been restored, I can only hope for a High Definition 1080p treatment on Blu-ray because if Paramount went this far in making this film look so good (and include all these new features), a cinema fan can only wish for this classic to get the HD treatment (as of all the CENTENNIAL COLLECTION releases).

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” is strong on features and informative interviews from John Bogdanovich’s audio recordings with John Ford, James Stewart and Lee Marvin.

Disc 1:

  • Commentary by Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, along with his archival recordings with John Ford and James Stewart – John Bogdanovich always has informative director commentary for his films but he also has a lot to say about Westerns since he had done interviews with John Ford and the talent (note: Bogdanovich offers commentary also on the Vol. 9 “EL DORADO – CENTENNIAL COLLECTION”).  Bogdanovich has a lot of knowledge about the film and during the commentary, he would have his audio interviews with Ford and Stewart playing during the commentary.
  • Selected Scene Commentary by Dan Ford, along with his archival recordings with John Ford, James Stewart and Lee Marvin – The following scenes below have commentary that focuses on the experiences of Director John Ford but also James Stewart and Lee Marvin working on a John Ford film.  The commentary is not about a certain scene but mostly experiences.

– Stagecoach Holdup
– Bringing Injured Ransom Back to Town
– Showdown at Peter’s Place
– Town Meeting
– Ransom Shoots Liberty
– Who Really Shot Liberty Valance
– Leaving Shinbone

Disc 2:

• The Size of Legends, The Soul of Myth: 7 -Part Featurette – (50:52)  An informative featurette about “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” broken down to seven parts.  Interviews with John Ford’s son Dan Ford, Peter Bogdanovich (include audio from his interviews with John Ford, James Stewart and Lee Marvin), interviews with critics, former Paramount execs and more.  Here is what to expect from this featurette:

– CHAPTER 1: CHANGING OF THE GUARD – (2:53) The change that was happening during the time with the late 60’s and civil unrest.   Hollywood was changing and people who worked in the silent era and the contract system was now ending.  Television was taking away audiences and it was a blow to the industry.  So, the directors and talent had to adjust to the new Hollywood.

– CHAPTER 2: THE IRASCIBLE POET – (4:41) “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” was based on Dorothy M. Johnson’s short story but John Ford executed things differently.  In the book,  Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) nudging and coaching Stoddard but in the film, Donophan’s character is less proactive in helping Stoddard’s character.   How John Wayne’s had a ten picture deal with Paramount and John Ford trying to get the financing for the film.

– CHAPTER 3: THE HERO DOESN’T WIN, THE WINNER ISN’T HEROIC – (10:39) “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” was John Ford’s last great film.  How it was different from past Ford films.  How a lot of the film was shot at MGM and how Ford’s shots were economical.  Why John Ford wanted to shoot in black and white.  Focusing on the filmmaking and the characters of the film.

– CHAPTER 4: MOST THINGS HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT – (13:52) How Director John Ford would say the good things on screen would happen by accident.  How John Wayne was fascinating to watch.  And behind-the-scenes on how Ford dealt with people on set with interviews with Lee Marvin by Dan Ford (recorded in 1970).  Also, how John Ford will pick on some of his actors and the biggest story that came from “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” and with three days left, how John Wayne said to Jimmy Stewart how he never been under the barrel (picked on by Ford) but it was until Jimmy Stewart made a dumb, racist comment in regards to the outfit of Woody Strode (Pompey), that is when Ford got the whole film crew together and admonished Stewart in front of everyone for his comment.  The actual audio interview from 1965 between John Bogdanovich and Jimmy Stewart about this incident is featured.  The two respected each other despite the admonishing by Ford.  Also, discussion about Vera Miles and how important she was to the film.

– CHAPTER 5: THE GREAT PROTECTOR – (5:17) Interview with Peter Bogdanovich of how there was no way to prepare an interview with John Ford.  Featuring an interview in 1966 when John Ford doesn’t like the questions from Peter Bogdanovich.  Also, an interesting behind-the-scenes who John Ford, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and Woody Strode were military veterans and how John Ford would beat up on John Wayne because he could take it but more because these actors fought in wars while John Wayne got credit as a film actor.  Reflecting on why John Wayne would let John Ford treat him this way but the respect John Wayne had for Ford.

– CHAPTER 6: SPOTLIGHT – LEE MARVIN – (8:02) How Lee Marvin and John Wayne worked together in one film and how John Wayne recommended him to John Ford.  How Lee Marvin was excited to be part of a John Ford film.  How Ford respected him because of his military experience. Audio interview from 1970 by Dan Ford with Lee Marvin about working with John Ford.  A featurette celebrating the career of Lee Marvin.

– CHAPTER 7: PRINT THE LEGEND – (5:59) “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” did not receive critical appreciation  when it was released in theaters back in 1962 and thought about as passe and a tired Western.  Bogdanovich talks about how he went to a screening and only four people showed up but over the years, it received critical support worldwide.  Europeans appreciated John Ford and John Wayne films and eventually Americans started to appreciate the film around the mid-to-late 70’s and became known as the last great Western by John Ford.

• Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:44) The original black and white theatrical trailer.
• Galleries: – This still photo gallery features Lobby Cards, Production photos, John Ford photos and Publicity photos.

Included with “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” is a short booklet with information on the film, providing a few tidbits of the talent, Director John Ford and more.

“THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” is truly an awesome John Ford film unlike many Westerns that focused on the gun battles and outlaw exchange.  Although, “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” does include some elements of the standard Western but in a way, it’s more of a tragedy.  Saying anything more than beyond that would spoil the film.

But with such a strong screenplay under the directing of John Ford, you get powerful performances from John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and Vera Miles.  Actually, there are a bunch of other talents with their own characters who also shine in this film that stick in your mind and how these characters contributed to making the town of Shinbone come alive.

I am absolutely delighted with Paramount giving this film the “CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” treatment.  Not only do you get the film digitally remastered, the picture quality and the audio quality is very well done.  Again, because it has been remastered with all new special features, one can hope this day and age to see such a film get the High Definition treatment on Blu-ray.

For those who are just becoming cinema fans and want to enjoy a Western and have never seen a John Wayne film, these two “CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” releases (vol. 9 – “EL DORADO”) are just amazing.  Paramount gives us two distinct styles of Western films from both legendary directors John Ford and the other with Harold Hawks and hopefully, will usher in a new generation of movie fans who can appreciate these classic Westerns.

There is nothing bad that can be said about this release.  Paramount continues to give cinema fans definitive versions of these classic films through the “CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” and I just have to point out that for so long, especially with situations that have happened behind-the-scenes of “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE”, we only learn about these situations from what we have read.

It’s absolutely wonderful that Peter Bogdanovich and Dan Ford has shared a lot of their audio recordings through the commentary and special features because with many of these great talent no longer with us, it was definitely special to have Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin and even John Ford discuss their experiences several years after the film was released in theaters.  There have been a few books and publications that have featured the story of Jimmy Stewart’s comment about Woody Strode’s outfit and what John Ford had to say afterward.  But it’s very good to hear it come from Jimmy Stewart’s mouth and hear his tone that he knew he said something dumb and regretted it.

The 7-part featurette “The Size of Legends, The Soul of Myth” is absolute magnificent and an amazing tribute to Ford’s last great Western.  But also a tribute to the talent who were involved in the film.  So, very informative and enjoyable to watch.

I absolutely enjoyed this release and I really enjoyed the film.  I watched it once and watched it again the following day with the various commentary and I’ll be the first to tell you that I have not watched many John Wayne films, nor have I watched many John Ford films but after watching “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE”, it gave me an appreciation for the Western film genre and makes me want to go back and watch other classic Western films featuring the collaboration between the two.  “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE” is absolutely wonderful!

Overall, “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – CENTENNIAL COLLECTION” is highly recommended!

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