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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!


Vice Squad (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Vice Squad” may be one of Edward G. Robinson’s ’50s B-films but its one of this better ones that he had starred in.  An enjoyable docudrama on the day in the life of a captain of the LAPD.

Images courtesy of © 1953 Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Vice Squad

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1953

DURATION: 88 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White (1:33:1), Monaural

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: January 2012

Directed by Arnold Laven

Written by Lawrence Roman

Based on the novel “Harness Bull” by Leslie T. White

Produced by Arthur Gardner, Jules V. Levy, Sol Lesser

Music by Herschel Burke Gilbert

Cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc

Edited by Arthur H. Nadel

Art Direction by Carroll Clark

Set Decoration by Raymond Boltz Jr.

Costume Design by Raymond Boltz Jr.

Starring:

Edward G. Robinson as Capt. “Barnie” Barnaby

Paulette Goddard as Mona Ross

K.T. Stevens as Ginny

Porter Hall as Jack Hartrampf

Adam Williams as Marty Kusalich

Edward Binns as Al Barkis

Barry Kelley as Dwight Foreman

Jay Adler as Frankie Pierce

Harlan Warde as Det. Lacey

Mary Ellen Kay as Carol Lawson

Lee Van Cleef as Pete Monty

Lewis Martin as Police Lt. Ed Chisolm

Joan Vohs as Vickie Webb

Dan Riss as Lt. Bob Imlay

The life of a captain of detectives during the course of an ordinary day in the 1950s.

It was 1953 when Edward G. Robinson, known for his gangster roles in “Little Caesar”, “Key Largo” and star of hit films such as “Double Indemnity”, “The Stranger” and “The Ten Commandments” would appear in a detective film known as “Vice Squad”.

The film is a film adaptation of Leslie T. White’s “Harness Bull” and was directed by Arnold Laven (“The Rifleman”, “The Big Valley”, “Geronimo”) and written by Lawrence Roman (“A Kiss Before Dying”, “Under the Yum Yum Tree”.

Along with Robinson, the film would also feature actress Paulette Goddard, actress and Chaplin muse who starred in films such as “Modern Times”, “The Great Dictator”, “Second Chorus”, “Pot o’ Gold”.

The police drama follows the day in the life of Capt. Barnaby (played by Edward G. Robinson) and is shot almost in a docudrama style.

The film begins with two thieves known as Barkis & Monty are trying to break into a car, meanwhile at a building nearby, a well-respected funeral director named Jack Hartrampf (played by Porter Hall) is having a fun time (and having an affair) with a woman named Vicki Webb (played by Joan Vohs).  As he tries to leave the area without anyone seeing him, he sees a police officer Kellogg trying to arrest one of the car thieves, while one of them is hiding. The hiding thief shoots the police officer and the thieves leave with the stolen car.

As Kellogg screams for help, Jack comes to his aid and other police officers show up and see him next to the officer and arrest him.

The film then shifts to a police precinct as Capt. Barnaby comes to the office hearing that one of his officers is in the hospital and fighting for his life and we see how operations are going on at the office.  Throughout the day, we see see Capt. Barnaby busy and giving orders to his detectives.

One detective is interrogating Jack Hartrampf who is not cooperating until his lawyer arrives (and keeping quiet because his wife will find out that he has been with prostitutes), meanwhile a thug has information for the Capt. and tells him that two thieves that were released from prison are now out and their plans are to rob a bank.  So, Barnaby has his detectives look into it.

We also see Barnaby trying to help one woman who’s afraid that her mother is being swindled by a man, having to prepare for a televised news conference and also having to deal with the death of an officer, while maintaining his composure in front of the detectives.  But doing all that’s possible to catch them.

It is possible that the two thieves that shot the officer, may be the same people who may be robbing the bank.  Fortunately, Capt. Barnaby has a source to get information from the underground, via escort agency owner named Mona Ross (played by Paulette Goddard), who he hopes will give him information on these two thieves and find out where they may be.

MOD PLAYABILITY:

Part of the worry of viewers who had bad experiences with MOD DVD’s are the printing quality. There are some who can’t get them to play and are literally now just coasters.

With “Vice Squad”, its printed quite well with printing on top of the DVD, it’s not a plain silver disc with letters. If you didn’t know it was MOD, you would think it was an actual DVD release.

As for playability, I played it on my Blu-ray player and DVD player with no problems. I then played it on my Mac, no problems whatsoever.

VIDEO AND AUDIO:

As far as picture quality goes, the film has been manufactured using the best source available. The picture quality for “Vice Squad” is actually very good.  Black levels are nice and deep, white and gray levels and overall contrast is very good, I didn’t see damage or many white specks.  A good amount of grain.

As for audio, dialogue is clear and detected no pops or hissing during my viewing of “Vice Squad”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features.

Edward G. Robinson called his ’50s films as mere B-films, but I have to say that “Vice Squad” was actually quite entertaining and required really good planning and pacing to keep the overall storyline fluid.

The film is a docudrama focusing on a normal day of Capt. Barnaby and because it shows him interacting with many people and it definitely required Barnaby to be in his top game as he would go from room to room and character to character and having to deal with different cases with different levels of emotion.

So, for me the many transitions was a positive, another positive was how many locations shots of Los Angeles during the early ’50s.  There are a good number of shots at various locations that I have driven through and no longer look the way it does in this film.  And for film buffs who always hunt for locations, there are actual sign posts on what streets they are at (ie. Santa Monica Blvd.).  And also because of that era, it was interesting to see officers using shotguns instead of pistols.

And last, another major plus for me as a cinema fan is seeing one of the last few films that Paulette Goddard had shot in her career.  But it’s also important to let viewers know that her role is quite short, despite her getting the top billing along with Robinson.  And speaking of talent, spaghetti western fans will probably be amused that actor Lee Van Cleef plays one of the thieves, Monty, who is one of the two thieves that is wanted in the film.

But for Edward G. Robinson fans, “Vice Squad” is one of the many B-films that he had starred in throughout the ’50s, but this film is one of the better titles.

As for this made on demand DVD, fans of this film will be happy to know that the video is in great shape.  No problems with video or audio whatsoever.

While I’m not sure why the film is called “Vice Squad” (since the film is not about narcotics, illegal sales of alcohol, gambling, etc.), I was quite entertained by this ’50s film.  Especially to see how far the LAPD would go in pursuing the killers (let’s just say that these officers don’t exactly play by the book).

Overall, if you enjoy ’50s police films or shows like “Dragnet”, definitely give “Vice Squad” a try!

Modern Times – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #543 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Prepare yourself for this HD treatment of Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece “Modern Times” because it is the definitive version of the film to own! I have enjoyed “Modern Times” in various video releases in the past but this Blu-ray release looks magnificent, sounds great and you get a number of informative and enjoyable special features to make this release a must-own, must-buy Blu-ray! Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1936 Roy Export S.A.S./2010 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Modern Times

YEAR OF FILM: 1936

DURATION: 87 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), Black and White, Monaural

COMPANY: Janus Films/MK2/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: November 16, 2010

Written and Directed by Charles Chaplin

Produced by Charles Chaplin

Music by Charles Chaplin

Cinematography by Ira H. Morgan, Roland Totheroh

Set Decoration by Charles D. Hall, J. Russell Spencer

Starring:

Charles Chaplin – A Factory Worker

Paulette Goddard as A Gamin

Henry Bergman as Cafe Proprietor

Tiny Sandford as Big Bill

Chester Conklin as Mechanic

Hank Mann as Burglar

Stanley Blystone as Gamin’s Father

Al Ernest Garcia as President of the Electro Steel Company

Richard Alexander as Prison Cellmate

Cecil Reynolds as Minister

Mira McKinney as Minister’s Wife

Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin’s last outing as the Little Tramp, puts the iconic character to work as a giddily inept factory employee who becomes smitten with a gorgeous gamine (Paulette Goddard). With its barrage of unforgettable gags and sly commentary on class struggle during the Great Depression, Modern Times—though made almost a decade into the talkie era and containing moments of sound (even song!)—is a timeless showcase of Chaplin’s untouchable genius as a director of silent comedy.

Charlie Chaplin, the English comic actor and film director who is known as one of the silent kings of comedy. One of the most well-known, influential and creative personalities of the silent film era and is considered one of the greatest male screen legends of all time (voted #10 by the American Film Institute). Known by his peers as a true genius of entertainment.

In 1936, it had been five years since the successful release of Chaplin’s 1931 film “City Lights” and many have wondered how Charlie Chaplin would transcend from his career in silent cinema to the era of the talkies. After all, It is well-documented of how many major silent film talents were unable to succeed or survive during a time when most audiences clamored for movies with sound, movies with spoken dialogue and for Chaplin’s “Tramp” character, the Tramp has never talked and so, there was an expectancy for Chaplin to go with the times.

So, audiences have waited five long years since “City Lights” to find out if Chaplin’s new film would usher a new age of Chaplin talkies.  Questions were asked if Chaplin would embrace the talkies and most of all, will the audience finally hear his character, the Tramp, finally talk?  Would Chaplin finally say goodbye to silent films in 1936?

Sure enough, Chaplin’s “Modern Times” would answer those questions that have persisted and the answer would be “yes” and “no”.

“Modern Times” can be seen as somewhat of a hybrid film which would be a silent but also a talkie. While the film would have sound and visual effects alongside a musical score, there would be dialogue spoken from those using new technology and possibly one of the most surprising sequences, a musical scene, which would feature the only spoken dialogue to be used by the Trap. Granted, it’s not in English and purely gibberish but the Tramp does finally speak in this Chaplin masterpiece.

Inspired by his trips around the world meeting Ghandi, Winston Churchill and many well-known contemporaries of that time, Chaplin would be influenced and inspired by them but also to create a film that would highlight the suffering of people in America during the Great Depression and the plight of factory workers as well as people working during a time of modern industrialization (or more so, the dehumanizing effects of technology) and the social disorders of the early 1930’s. Although the film has a message that people at that time could relate to, the film is practically a satire of , “Modern Times” stays true to the Tramp character featuring plenty of gags and hi-jinks.

And in 1936, “Modern Times” would be hailed as a masterpiece by Charlie Chaplin who had various roles in the film as the director, a writer, a composer, editor, etc. “Modern Times” was so highly anticipated by his fans and Chaplin knew that this film had to be carefully crafted and knew the risks involved. He knew that many people have grown out of favor of silent films. People wanted sounds, music and spoken dialogue, something that his character, the Tramp is not known for and something he was not willing to do. But he would make a compromise.

But the fact is that the film is considered one of the greatest comedy films of all time and considered as one of the greatest films of all time (voted #78 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Movies in 2007) and the expensive film budgeted at around an estimated $1.5 million made over $8.5 million in box office revenue which was significant considering the number of theaters around the country at that time.

“Modern Times” is about a factory worker (played by Charlie Chaplin) who works his job on the assembly line doing the same thing over and over. He’s not very good at his work but he does try.

One day, the boss of the factory has chosen him to take part in a “modern” feeding machine which ultimately fails and with the factory workers expected to work at a much faster speed (via increasing the speed on the conveyor belt), it literally drives the factory worker into a nervous breakdown and causing havoc at the factory and in process, getting him fired.

Meanwhile, a woman known as “a Gamin” helps her siblings while her unemployed father looks for a job. Unfortunately, to feed her family, she has no choice but to steal food. One day, while walking near the factories, a riot breaks out and a gun is shot. Her father was the one shot and now a Gamin and her siblings are orphans. While the two siblings are put into an orphanage, Gamin must fend for herself.

As for the factory worker, now unemployed and starving, while looking for a job, he finds a flag and when he goes to pick it up and holds it up, coincidentally he walks in the front of a major strike for a communist demonstration and is immediately booked into jail because the police thinks he is responsible for the strike.

In jail, he notices that he gets free meals and a place to stay and in many ways, despite the danger, for him, it’s a lot better than being unemployed and starving. While in prison, he accidentally uses someone’s smuggled cocaine (which he accidentally has mistaken for salt) and when a prison break takes place and the thugs put the officers in a jail cell. The factory worker is threatened by the jail breakers but manages to beat the jail breakers and manages to free the officers. Because of his good deed, he is released from jail.

But for the factory worker, he liked being in jail because he was not starving and now, he feels that the only way to survive is by committing a crime that will land him back in jail. So, he goes into a cafeteria and orders a lot of food without paying and he is arrested again.

Meanwhile, a Gamin sees a truck unloading bread to a bakery and steals a loaf of bread but a witness alerts the police. While, a Gamin is running away to escape, she runs into the factory worker and both take a fall. As police officers go to arrest the girl, the factory worker takes the blame for stealing the bread (in hopes it will send him back to jail) and a Gamin looks at the factory worker and it is love at first sight.

But due to circumstances, both end up being arrested but somehow managing to escape from the police.

Now together, both the factory worker and a Gamin have no idea what they will do with their lives. With no food, no home… all the two can do is dream of a better life together. Where he is a working man and she is a wife who prepares food for him. Both love that dream and from that day on, the factory worker promises gamin that he will do what it takes to get a job and try to make that dream a reality, while a Gamin will do what she can to make that dream a reality as well.

Will the once-a-factory worker be able to get a job and provide for him and a Gamin?  Will a Gamin manage to evade from the police and find a job herself?

VIDEO:

This is the best looking “Modern Times” to date. I was floored because David Shepard and company did a wonderful job with the older Image DVD release of the film but “Modern Times” looks great in HD. Presented in 1080p (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and in black and white, the blacks are nice and deep. The contrast is just right and there is a good amount of grain. Previous releases usually were devoid of grain and dust and scratches can be seen. While for this release from Criterion, they did a wonderful job of eliminating the dust and scratches that were seen on the original DVD release.

There is noticeable detail in the images from the close ups of Paulette Goddard, you can see the shimmer in her eyes and she absolutely shines in this film and in HD, she looks terrific. We can literally see the grime on her face, the tatters on her dress. During the technology experiment when Chaplin is eating corn, we can actually see those kernels of corn quite clearly, and those cogs and gears, we can also see the detail and clarity of them even better than before. We can see the wool on Chaplin’s clothing, this release really showcases detail. No offense to previous DVD releases which look very good but those were older releases and you can tell that technology has improved so much since those DVD releases that both Criterion Collection and Cineteca di Bologna really came through for this release. Impressive!

While there are some very short sequences of flicker, for the most part, this Blu-ray release shows us how impressive a silent film can look in HD and for “Modern Times”, the picture quality is fantastic. I was very impressed, especially when I began comparing the BD and DVD. Blacks were more noticeable, picture was sharper and more pronounced. Once again, this is the definitive version of “Modern Times” to own when it comes to picture quality.

According to Criterion, the new high-definition digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN digital scanner from a 35 mm fine-grain master positive that was wetgated from the original 35 mm camera negative. Color correction of the 2K data was done using Assimilate’s Scratch software. Pixel Farm’s PFClean systemw as used to deflicker and stabilize the image, and to remove thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps and jitter. Additional marks and splices were removed using MTI’s DRS system.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Modern Times” is presented in uncompressed monaural. It’s important to note that the film is a silent and talkie. The final silent film to be created by Chaplin and his first talkie. While the majority of the film is silent, there are special effects that can be heard throughout the film, as well as an impressive music score composed by Chaplin. As for the “talkies” portion, dialogue is only featured when a form of technology is used. For example, a video screen of the president of the steel company talking to the employee or a radio program and when Chaplin sings in gibberish for his “nonsense” song. But for the primary characters, intertitles are used at times.

One thing that fans of the film will notice is how clean the track is. No hissing or pops and for the most part, the monaural soundtrack is quite crisp, clear and very clean.

According to the Criterion Collection, the monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, his and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated audio workstation.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Modern Times – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #543” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer David Robinson – A wonderful, informative and excellent commentary by David Robinson.
  • Modern Times: A Closer Look” by Chaplin historian Jeffrey Vance – (18:53) This featurette goes into the production photography and how Chaplin was very strict on what photos were taken and were released to the public.
  • A Bucket of Water and a Glass Matte – (20:02) A featurette on the film’s visual and sound effects, with experts Craig Barron and Ben Burtt.
  • Silent Traces: Modern Times – A Visual Essay by John Bengston – (15:08 ) A very cool featurette by John Bengston that shows the locations of where “Modern Times” was shot in LA back in 1935 and how those locations have changed today.
  • David Raksin and the Score – (15:48 ) This featurette is from the 1992 interview with Raksin about arranging the music for “Modern Times”. Also, included is a selection from the film’s original orchestral track (8:38 ).
  • Two Bits – Featuring a deleted scene “Crossing the Street” (1:48 ) which Chaplin deleted in 1936 before its release the premiere and “The Tramp’s Song Unedited” (4:16) which features the entire nonsense song sequence with a sequence cut by Chaplin for the 1954 re-release.
  • Three Trailers – (7:33) Theatrical trailers for “Modern Times” for U.S. France and Germany.
  • All at Sea – (17:35) In 1933, a home movie by Alistair Cooke featuring Chaplin and actress Paulette Goddard was found in 2004. Alistair Cooke is known for his radio programs and Masterpiece Theater but he was also one of the few in media that Chaplin let into his inner circle at that time. While the three were going to Catalina Island for some R&R (alongside with Andy Anderson ala Keystone Cops fame), the group shot a silent film on Cooke’s 8mm camera. Watch Chaplin show off his Greta Garbo and Janet Gaynor imitation. Also, features an optional new score by Donald Sosin.
  • Interview with Alistair Cooke’s daughter, Susan Cooke Kittredge – (13:02). In this 2010 interview, Susan talks about her father and how when she was a child, her father would tell the children of how he shot a film of Chaplin but the kids always thought he was joking. After Cooke’s death in 2004, after cleaning the home, they found a canister of the 8mm reel titled “All At Sea” and discusses the relationship of Alistair Cooke and Chaplin and the things she remembered told by him to her.
  • The Rink – (24:14) A Chaplin two-reeler. The eighth short film of the 12 that Charlie Chaplin made for Mutual Films, “The Rink” is presented in HD.
  • For the First Time – (9:10) In 1967, filmmaker Octavio Cortazar and filmed a short Cuban documentary about a traveling moving picture company that shows films in remote areas where people have never watched a film in their lives. In this documentary, we see people who live in the mountains of Cuba watching their first film ever… Chaplin’s “Modern Times”.
  • Chaplin Today: “Modern Times” – (27:24) Director Philippe Truffault created a documentary in 2003 starring filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (directors of “L’enfant”, “Rosetta”, “La Promesse”) who are big Chaplin fans and love the film “Modern Times”. The two talk about why they love the film, their favorite scenes and how Chaplin inspired them a little for their 1999 film “Rosetta”. Presented in French and English with English subtitles.

EXTRAS:

Included is a 36-page booklet with photos of Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard and essays: “Exit the Tramp” by Saul Austerlitz (author of “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy”), “Chaplin Sees the World” by Lisa Stein (who is writing a biography about Charlie’s half brother, Sydney Chaplin which is forthcoming).

As we start to see quite a few silent films being released on Blu-ray, many silent fans have wanted to see an HD release of Charlie Chaplin’s popular films and with the announcement by Janus Films of screenings of Charlie Chaplin films remastered, needless to say, for months now, many of us have been quite giddy about the first Chaplin to be released on Blu-ray. And now it’s here and what a wonderful debut of “Modern Times” from The Criterion Collection.

I was absolutely floored by how beautiful this film looked on Blu-ray and how it compares to the previous DVD version. This is a clean print, visually the images just pop out, detail is much more evident and literally, this is the best I have seen of Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Gogdard yet and I’m hoping for more Chaplin on Blu-ray in the near future.

As for the film, “Modern Times” begins with the following words: “Modern Times.’ A story of industry, of individual enterprise – humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness.”

The fact was that in the early ’30s, many people were suffering because of unemployment. Families were in poverty and many people were starving and those individuals with good hearts were being forced to commit crimes to survive or keep their families healthy. Chaplin makes a point of that in this film and also, most importantly how technology has affected factories. How automated technology was taking over jobs once held by human workers but at the same time, those workers at these factories worked as if they were like automated machines themselves and Chaplin does a remarkable job with creating various scenes to show the struggle between man and the machine.

As the film would focus on the dehumanizing effects of technology, we also see the social disorder of the early ’30s. It was a time of the Great Depression, people were starving, people were unemployed, people were afraid of the growing communist demonstrations, people getting drunk, people getting high on cocaine and people doing all they can to survive. All of this is featured in Chaplin’s “Modern Times”.

And although this film was released in theaters over 75-years ago, despite the social disorders and challenges that people had faced, people needed laughter in their lives and I have no doubt that Chaplin’s comedy was instrumental in doing just that. As his comedy had done during World War I, he would continue to entertain the masses during the Great Depression and like his character the Tramp telling his partner a Gamin during those tough times… “Smile”.

In February 1936, New York Times film critic Frank S. Nugent wrote, “So it goes, and mighty pleasantly, too, with Charlie keeping faith with his old public by bringing back the tricks he used so well when the cinema was very young, and by extending his following among the moderns by employing devices new to the clown dynasty. If you need more encouragement than this, be informed then that Miss Goddard is a winsome waif and a fitting recipient of the great Chariot’s championship, and that there are in the cast several players who have adorned the Chaplin films since first the little fellow kicked up his heels and scampered into our hearts. This morning there is good news: Chaplin is back again.”

I absolutely agree with Nugent’s assessment of the film. Chaplin gives an absolutely awesome performance and also Paulette Goddard. I found her performance to be innocent, bubbly, outgoing and there was such amazing chemistry between Chaplin and Goddard (it helps that the two were a real-life couple), that the caring between the two characters shows on screen. And everyone, including the supporting characters play an interesting role, no matter how long or short the part, Chaplin uses these characters in his film with such efficacy.

Watching “Modern Times”, I just really enjoyed the thought of Chaplin bringing his character of the Tramp and finding that partnership with another character, their relationship and together, facing the unknown. This showed a maturity of Chaplin and of course, his love for Paulette Godard at the time. If anything, this film is quite a masterpiece for Charlie Chaplin the filmmaker, the writer, the composer, the editor and it was sort of an unknown territory as many of his other contemporaries from the silent era, were not able to transcend into the talkies era. The fact is that people were done with silent films but yet, nine years after the advent of the talkie era, Chaplin was not done with it yet.

So, “Modern Times” was the melding of the silent and talkies and in many ways a fitting goodbye to the silent era starring Charlie Chaplin. While the humans do not talk, technology does. We also get to hear the musical genius of Charles Chaplin and of course the theme of “Smile” which many people are familiar with, playing throughout the film and most importantly hearing Charlie Chaplin deliver one of the most famous scenes in a film with his gibberish song dubbed by fans as “The Nonsense Song” to the tune of “Titana”.

But possibly the most significant part about this film is how his trip overseas and meeting with Winston Churchill, Ghandi and many other key figures had exposed and inspired him to other perspectives about the world and the suffering of people in the early ’30s during that depression era.  The experience that Chaplin had of seeing the world in his own eyes and seeing the suffering back home, you can tell that there was an urgency to create this film and knowing that as many people are struggling and facing incredible challenges, that he can do what he does best and that is to make the audience laugh and smile.

I do have to note that there was also controversy that had developed with the release of this film back in 1936 as their was similarities between “Modern Times” and the 1931 French Film “À nous la liberté” by René Clair (this film is also available on DVD from The Criterion Collection), most notable in the assembly line sequence and the German film company sued Chaplin (in which the two did settle out of court).  Filmmaker Rene Clair was an admirer of Chaplin and was embarrassed that the film company sued Chaplin.

But there is also some controversy that revolves around “Modern Times” and it’s still a heated debate among the hardcore Chaplin fans and it is that this version featured on this new Blu-ray and DVD release is the film that has been in circulation after 1954.   In 1954, for the re-release of “Modern Times”, Charlie Chaplin cut parts of his famous “nonsense song” segment to the dismay of his hardcore fans. (note: The cut was only less than a minute long)

In 2000, to ease those fans who have wanted the original version of the film on video, David Shepard (known for his work in bringing silent films and restoring them for distribution) and Image Entertainment was able to get permission from the Chaplin Estate to use the uncut version of “Modern Times” for the 2000 DVD release (which has been long out of print). Many fans consider the uncut version as the true version of the film and the cut that Charlie Chaplin made in 1954 as unnecessary and wrong.

There is no clear reason why it was edited but some have suggested that Chaplin felt audiences in the 50’s who were not so into classic films may get bored and so he tweaked not just this film but other films and since then, these revised films have become the versions that the Chaplin Estate is distributing and the last cut that Charlie Chaplin had wanted.

Unfortunately, the hardcore fans have been vocal that for “Modern Times”, Chaplin was wrong for altering that sequence.  And unfortunately, some of these fans will not support any revised version of the film that Chaplin had made for appeasing audiences of the 50’s.  That the original cut was perfect as is and he shouldn’t have edited it.

With that being said, having seen the DVD release and having seen this Blu-ray release, the first thing that comes to my mind is that this HD release of “Modern Times” is the definitive version of the film to watch. The clarity and detail is so impressive. Personally, I really can’t see myself going back to watch the DVD release of this film. This is the best I have seen of Chaplin on video and the digital restoration of this film is fantastic.

As for that cut scene, I am speaking for myself and I feel that those lost 30 seconds was not that big of a deal. I personally didn’t miss it at all.  For me, it was a non-issue but I do know that for others who are passionate about the film, a film without those 30+ seconds makes an incomplete film.  I disagree. But when it comes to silent films, debates will always come into play from film speed, to music selection and in this case, whether 30+ seconds was integral to the film. It is important to note that the full “Nonsense Song” (including the cut scene) is included on the special features.

With that being said, for fans who still own and cherish the 2000 DVD release, that’s great.  But if you are one of those fans who are on the fence,  if you have a Blu-ray player and an HDTV, personally, I can tell you that once you watch this film on Blu-ray, I have no doubt that some of you will be impressed by the video quality of the film and the overall release. If you are a new fan, you are going to be pleased of how much Blu-ray can really enhance one’s viewing pleasure for silent films.  In this case, I felt there was a significant difference between this Blu-ray release and the picture quality compared to the earlier DVD releases.  I personally can’t go back to watching “Modern Times” on DVD as this version is just the definitive version to watch.

Once again the Criterion Collection has done silent film fans a great service by releasing the “Three Silent Classics By Josef Von Sternberg” and now with the release of Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” in 2010.  Chaplin fans, prepare yourself for this HD treatment of Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece “Modern Times” because it is the definitive version of the film to own! This Blu-ray release looks magnificent, sounds great and you get a number of informative and enjoyable special features to make this release a must-own, must-buy Blu-ray!

“Modern Times” is highly recommended!

Unconquered (Universal Cinema Classics) (a J!-ENT DVD Review

May 22, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

unconquered

“Unconquered” may not be the best DeMille film ever made, and possibly will be known as DeMille’s most expensive and most authentic film ever made of the late 1700’s.  But it is a classic that I am glad to see included as part of Universal’s Cinema Classics DVD lineup.

Images courtesy of © 1947 Paramount Pictures Inc.  Renewed 1974 by EMKA. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Unconquered (Universal Cinema Classics)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1947

DURATION: 70 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, English

COMPANY: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: May 22, 2007

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille

Screenplay by Charles Bennett, Fredric M. Frank, Jesse Lasky Jr.

Based on the novel “The Judas Tree”

Produced by Cecil B. DeMille

Music by Victor Young

Cinematography by Ray Rennahan

Edited by Anna Bauchens

Art Direction by Hans Dreier, Walter H. Tyler

Set Decoration by Sam Corner, Stanley J. Sawley

Costume Design by Gwen Wakeling

Starring:

Gary Cooper as Capt. Christopher Holden

Paulette Goddard as Abby

Howard Da Silva as Garth

Boris Karloff as Guyasuta – Chief of the Senecas

Cecil Kellaway as Jeremy Love

Ward Bond as John Fraser

Virginia Campbell as Mrs. John Fraser

Katherine DeMille as Hannah

Henry Wilcoxon as Capt. Steele

C. Aubrey Smith as Lord Chief Justice

Victor Varconi as Capt. Simeon Ecuyer

Virginia Grey as Diana

Mike Mazurki as Bone

Port Hall Leach

Richard Gaines Col. George Washington

Gavin Muir as Lt. Fergus McKenzie

Jane Nigh as Evelyn

Alan Napier as Sir William Johnson

Marc Lawrence as Sioto – Medicine Man

Frank Wilcox as Richard Henry Lee

Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, Boris Karloff. In this sweeping romantic adventure directed by Cecil B. DeMille, an Englishwoman sentenced to slavery in the American colonies falls in love with a Virginia captain. He frees her, but a spiteful slave trader takes her away, setting the stage for a dramatic rescue amid an Indian uprising.

In 1947, Cecil B. DeMille’s “Unconquered” was released in theaters.

Starring Gary Cooper (“High Noon”, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”, “Sergeant York”), Paulette Godard (“Modern Times”, “The Great Dictator”, “The Women”), Boris Karloff (“The Mummy”, “Frankenstein”, “The Bride of Frankenstein”) and a cast of many others, the film would become the most expensive Cecil B. DeMille film and a film that would try to be authentic as possible.

It was also a film that was a surprising box office failure as the studio lost $1.1 million blamed at its high budget (because of casting, going over schedule by nine days) but also partly because many American audiences were not interested in watching films from the Revolutionary period.

Based on Neil Swanson’s novel, “Unconquered” would begin with an introduction to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and before the city became a metropolis and how many years ago, Ft. Pitt would guard the spot and would view the known and unknown.

Around Ft. Pitt was dangerous because of its forest but the Indians saw all White as the enemy.  But as men came West, some were killed by Indians, some traded with the Indians, some pursued freedom and some went to look for land.

The film would then lead us to the trial of Abigail “Abby” Hill (portrayed by Paulette Godard) who is condemned by a British court for the death of a soldier (she was protecting her brother from being killed) which is punishable no matter who is at fault.

But because of the circumstances, instead of execution, Abby is offered clemency if she became an indentured servant (slave) in America.

Abby takes the boat to the United States and immediately Martin Garth (portrayed by Howard Da Silva), a military officer wants to win Abby and make her his servant, but Captain Christopher Holden (portrayed by Gary Cooper) quickly ends up winning the auction of Abby and secures her freedom.

But Abby becomes smitten with Christopher and wants to be his servant until she pays off what he paid for her.  But he tells her to be free as he is to be married to another woman.

As Christopher leaves, Martin Garth goes to the owner of the servants and arranges a deal to buy the contract, so in essence, he is the owner of Abby and not Christopher.  And because of this, Christopher Holden’s payment is void and Abby becomes Martin Garth’s bond slave.

Meanwhile, Christopher goes back home to the woman he loves and finds out that she had married his brother.  Leaving Christopher shocked and broken-hearted.

As for Abby, she works as a bond slave and meets his wife Hannah (portrayed by Katherine DeMille), an Indian woman who appears to be jealous of a beautiful woman as Garth’s bond slave.

As Colonel George Washington (portrayed by Richard Gaines) and a group of men talk about the pending attack of Pittsburgh from the Indians. And as George Washington wants the Pittsburgh land for Virginia, Andrews believe the land belongs to Pennsylvania.  Martin Garth comes in to tell everyone that he owns and rules Pittsburgh thanks to the deeds he signed with the Indians.

George Washington tells Martin Garth that no one owns Pittsburgh until a survey is completed.  But Christopher believes that the Indians may want to stop the survey and can develop a war party if all Indians work together.  As Martin Garth argues that the Fort Pitt has nothing to accomplish, Colonel George Washington argues that access to the Ohio River is vital.  And also, Pittsburgh is important for its coal and iron and that the area can be developed into a city.

But then when Christopher tries to demand answers from Martin Garth about why he is shipping a lot of arms from Britain to the U.S., the others question why Christopher is questioning Garth on every move. Garth insists that Christopher is upset because of the bond slave they met on the ship.

But during the discussion, they learn that there is no defense against the Indians and the only way to prevent war is by giving the Indians peace belts.  And sure enough, Martin Garth recommends Christopher to visit the Indian tribes to give peace belts, a risky mission to obtain peace but also to stall time in order to make sure the Indians don’t attack before the military can prepare for a war, which is a few months away.

Fastforward and we see Abby working as a slave at the bar, while she is being mistreated, Christopher and Abby reunited and he finds out that Abby was never released after he paid her.  Upset about what took place, Christopher gets involved in fight, killing a man and rescuing Abby.

Now, Christopher and Abby become wanted by the White man and the Indians.  As those two are on the run, unknown to the people in Fort Pitt, Martin Garth is working with the Indians behind-the-scenes and is helping them plan out a massacre to attack all forts around the area, knowing well that the military is not strong enough to defend these forts or their people.

What will happen to the people living in the fort areas?  And what will happen to Christopher and Abby?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Unconquered” is presented in 1:33:1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (Monaural).  On DVD, “Unconquered” looks good.  I didn’t notice any problems with the picture quality or any massive artifacts.  The soundtrack is clear through the front channels.

Subtitles are in English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Unconquered” comes with a two minute introduction by “Turner Classic Movies” host and film historian Robert Osbourne.

“Unconquered” is a fascinating film because of the many people cast for the film, the beautiful costume design with soldiers outfits, women’s gowns and its attempt to capture an authenticity of an era long ago.

While one can see the high-budget DeMille film as an epic, “Unconquered” is surely a film that people of today may look down upon because it portrays the Indians in a negative light.  The White men are good people who are slaughtered by savages.  And there is a traitor amongst the White Men who are supplying the Indians with arms to fight back.

While in the 1940’s and 1950’s, depiction of Indians were negative and taking their land to make America was not perceived as anything negative, there are some who may be sensitive towards this and so, I recommend avoiding this film if you are.

Otherwise, “Unconquered” is another DeMille epic that unfortunately, cost the studio too much and audiences weren’t too interested in watching it, despite the film featuring stars Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard.

I suppose as a fan of classic films, seeing Gary Cooper in a heroic role is a positive and seeing Paulette Godard, a woman I have watched before in Chaplin films is a plus.  So, my wanting to see this film was to see these two talents working together and it helps that both have working experience with Cecil B. DeMille.

Because of this film, the relationship between DeMille and Godard ended because DeMille wanted her to stand in a spot while flaming arrows were shot around her.  She did not want to do it, he insisted, both argued, she’d cry and fight to not be in that scene and sure enough, her stunt double came to do the scene and an arrow caught the stunt woman’s wig on fire.  While proving Godard’s point, suffice to say, DeMille is a man that doesn’t not like to be challenged and both never worked together again.

The film starred Boris Karloff as Guyasuta, the leader of the Seneca.  And for those who want to know of the context of this film to history, will want to read up more on the “Pontiac’s War” when Indians who were dissatisfied with British post-war policies was launched by the Indians of different tribes, in order to drive out the British and settlers from the area.

Unfortunately, “Unconquered” cost the studio over a million dollars and while known as the “expensive” Cecil B. DeMille film, not many will remember this film at all.  The film is not exactly the best film, rather it’s more of a film about the White Man fighting back at the Indians and while this may be a common theme during the ’30s through the ’50s in Westerns films, for people today, some may not be impressed.

While others who are, have been impressed, were more positive about DeMille’s drive to capture authenticity of the era, the weapon making for steelmakers of the time and the war to protect Ft. Pitt.  Now shown in the film but possibly for those who want to know more about the history is the fact that it’s one of the first attempts of using a virus as weapons.  British officers used blankets infected by smallpox and gave it to the Indians in order to infect them.  But because the film is one-sided, as most films featuring those in America against the Indians were at that time, Indians were always depicted as savages, while the film doesn’t really show what was done to the Indians by the British/Americans.

The DVD is presented in 1:33:1 and in Dolby Digital 2.0 (Monaural) and comes with an introduction by TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne.

Overall, “Unconquered” may not be the best DeMille film ever made, and possibly will be known as DeMille’s most expensive and most authentic film ever made of the late 1700’s.  But it is a classic that I am glad to see included as part of Universal’s Cinema Classics DVD lineup.

 

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