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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!

Highlander Director’s Cut: 30th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“Highlander Director’s Cut: 30th Anniversary Edition” is for those who loved the first film and are wanting to see a restored version of the director’s cut (preferably on Blu-ray) but also wanting to see newer special features including recent interviews with filmmaker Russel Mulcahy and actor Christopher Lambert and the two hour making of featurette. Recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1986 Highlander Productions Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


DVD TITLE: Highlander Director’s Cut: 30th Anniversary Edition

YEAR OF FILM: 1986

DURATION: 116 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1 Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH and Spanish

COMPANY: Lionsgate

RATED: R (Strong Action Violence, A Scene of Sexuality and Some Language)

AVAILABLE ON: September 27, 2016


Directed by Russel Mulcahy

Story by Gregory Widen

Screenplay by Gregory Widen, Peteer Bellwood, Larry Ferguson

Produced by Peter S. Davis, William M. Panzer

Associate Producer: Eva Monley, Harold Moskovitz, John H. Starke

Executive Produced by E.C. Monell

Cinematography by Gerry Fisher

Edited by Peter Honess

Casting by Diane Dimeo, Michael McLean

Production Design by Allan Cameron

Art Direction by Martin Atkinson, Tim Hutchinson

Set Decoration by Ian Whittaker

Costume Design by James Acheson


Starring:

Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod/Russell Edwin Nash

Roxanne Hart as Brenda J. Wyatt

Clancy Brown as Victor Kruger/The Kurgan

Sean Connery as Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez

Beatie Edney as Heather MacLeod

Alan North as Lt. Frank Moran

Jon Polito as Det. Walter Bedsoe

Sheila Gish as Rachel Ellenstein

Hugh Quarshie as Sunda Kastagir


Celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the original cult classic that inspired movie and TV franchises! An immortal Scottish swordsman must confront the last of his immortal opponents, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled “Prize.”


Back in the ’80s, Russell Mulcahy (“Teen Wolf” TV Series, “Resident Evil: Extinction”) was known for directing popular music videos from Duran Duran’s, The Tubes, The Buggles and Bonnie Tyler and his popularity of his music videos shown on MTV would easily lead to Mulcahy to feature films.

His second feature film, “Highlander” (1986), based on the story by Gregory Widen, may have not been a huge box office hit, but it would eventually become a cult classic and a film that people would eventually see countless times on cable TV.

Meanwhile, an actor named Christopher Lambert, who shot many films in France, would star in the 1984 American film, “Greystroke: The LEgend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes” and would eventually lead to other prominent lead role in his second American film “Highlander”.

The film would also star Roxanne Hart (“Letters from Iwo Jima”, “The Verdict”, “Chicago Hope”), Clancy Brown (“The Shawshank Redemption”, “Starship Troopers” and voice of Mr. Krabs in “SpongeBob SquarePants”), Sean Connery (“Dr. No”, “The Hunt for Red October”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “The Rock”) and Beatie Edney (“In the Name of the Father”, “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”, “Prime Suspect: The Lost Child”).

And the original “Highlander” would lead to four more film sequels and a television spin-off series, an animated series and two animated films.

With the 30th Anniversary of “Highlander”, the film has been restored and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Lionsgate.

“Highlander” is the title and the name given to Connor MacLeod.  An immortal who has lived for hundreds of years and is now living in New York City, year 1985.

While leaving a wrestling match, he comes across another immortal named Iman Fasil and Connor decapitates him.  But because of the energy surge caused by the defeat of an immortal, it leads to a lot of damage and police arrest him.

As police interviews Connor, the story shifts back to the 16th century in the Scottish Highlands.  A place where Connor and his clan, Clan MacLeod prepare for a major battle.

Meanwhile, in 1985, a detective named Brenda Wyatt (portrayed by Roxanne Hart) finds Fasil’s sword and as an expert in metallurgy, realizes it’s an extremely rare Toledo Salamanca broadsword.  When Connor goes back to retrieve his own personal sword where he fought Faisle, he sees Brenda investigating and examining the sword and metal shards left behind from the battle.

We find out that Connor is madly in love with his wife Heather (portrayed by Beatie) and we learn that the main nemesis is an immortal known as The Kurgan (portrayed by Clancy Brown) who assists Clan Fraser in fighting Clan MacLeod for the sole right to slay Connor.

While the Kurgan injures Connor, his men save him from being decapitated by the Kurgan.  But when his men takes him back to the village to prepare for Connor’s expected death, instead, he recoveries from his wounds and the village thinks it may be thee work of the devil, and the people of his village want him dead.   But because he is the clan leader, he is exiled and he leaves with his wife.

Through his travel, he meets a mysterious immortal named Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (portrayed by Sean Connery) who trains Connor on how to sword fight.   And learns about the game of immortals.  Immortals must be decapitated and the last survivor becomes the winner and for each immortal they beat, they receive a transfer of power known as “The Quickening”.  And that the Kurgan is the most powerful immortal and must not ever die by him or else mankind will enter a dark age.

Fastforward to 1985 and the Kurgan has arrived and wants nothing more but to decapitate Connor MacLeod.


VIDEO & AUDIO:

It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality for this 30th anniversary edition of the “Highlander”, then the Blu-ray version is the way to go.  As for the DVD, the picture quality for “Highlander Director’s Cut: 30th Anniversary Edition” is as good as one can expect on DVD. Comparing to older DVD release, picture quality is evident and the film doesn’t look so aged.

The film is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio and audio is in English 5.1 Dolby Digital is primarily dialogue-driven and there was good use of the surround channels for the film.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Highlander Director’s Cut: 30th Anniversary Edition” comes with the following special feature:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Russell Mulcahy
  • Interview with Director Russell Mulcahy – (23:00) Interview with the director of “Highlander”.
  • Interview with Christopher Lambert – (20:33) Interview with “The Highlander”, Christopher Lambert.
  • The Making of Highlander – A two hour documentary about the making of “Highlander”.
  • Deleted Scenes – (6:09) Five deleted scenes
  • Archival Interview with Christopher Lambert – (8:52) Older archived French interviews with Christopher Lambert.
  • Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Highlander”.

When it comes to LD, VHS, DVD and Blu-ray releases, “Highlander” is one of the films that I tend to repurchase.

Along with films from my childhood, “Star Wars” films, “Indiana Jones” films, “Back to the Future” films, “The Goonies”, “Karate Kid”, “Rocky” films, “Mad Max” and others that were part of the 1980’s, that you would catch on cable many times during the day, “Highlander” was a film that occasionally was shown and a film I enjoyed.

It had everything that a lot of people enjoyed. From its action, a humorous protagonist, a scary antagonist, a cool teacher thanks to Sean Connery’s performance and who can’t forget the use of an excerpt from Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages” hit song, “It’s better to burn out, than fade away”.

And for those who grew up in the MTV years, the fact that the film was directed by popular music video director, Russel Mulcahy was a major plus at the time.

And back in 1986, as a freshman in high school when this film came out, I thought of “Highlander” as a cool action film!

Who wouldn’t like a film about an immortal named Connor MacLeod who has been in this endless game of fighting other immortals to be the last one standing.  The guy who get’s all the girls and a crazy, tall antagonist known as “The Kurgan” who was quite wicked and wild.  And you can’t help but be excited for this film.

And here we are in 2016 and the film is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary and receives another Blu-ray and DVD release, but this time, the film has been restored and you also get a number of special features including a more recent interview with director Russel Mulcahy and actor Christopher Lambert.  Plus a two-hour making of, deleted scenes, archival interviews and an audio commentary!

And while watching this film again, sure, the acting was not all the best at times, but yet, you can’t help but enjoy the humor and also the violence in the film.  The characters have always been the best thing of the film and each moment seeing Lambert with Sean Connery was very cool to watch and you can’t help but think but how cool suave Connery was in his role as Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez.

But also how awesome Clancy Brown was as the main antagonist, Victor Kruger/The Kurgan.  From the facial expressions, his way of words and knowing that he is one heck of a crazy, powerful antagonist.

And while I still find the “Highlander” to be a very cool film, I see it as a cool ’80s film, while the film does hold up 30th years later, similar to when I watch other ’80s films, I have found a few scenes to feature so-so acting and the flow of the film was not as smooth when it comes to scene transitions. But considering what Russel Mulcahy had to work with, in terms of budget and also the technology of its time, he did a great job.

But I wish that for this 30th anniversary, they would have included the original version of the film as well.  But for this DVD release, you get the director’s cut and another DVD with the making of featurette and other special features.

And last, Christopher Lambert embodied the role of Connor MacLeod and would set him up for future films as an action star and if anything, Connor MacLeod continues to be a major character today as “Highlander” still lives on, may it be film, TV series, animation, etc.

Overall, “Highlander Director’s Cut: 30th Anniversary Edition” is for those who loved the first film and are wanting to see a restored version of the director’s cut (preferably on Blu-ray) but also wanting to see newer special features including recent interviews with filmmaker Russel Mulcahy and actor Christopher Lambert and the two hour making of featurette.

Recommended!

You Only Live Twice (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 26, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

“The fifth 007 film, ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967) takes James Bond to Japan and having to learn the way of the ninja, Japanese culture and the woman but also to take on the evil S.P.E.C.T.R.E and the introduction of the big boss Blofeld.”

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FILM:  You Only Live Twice

COMPANy: United Artist

DVD INFORMATION: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC, ASPECT RATIO: 2.35:1

DURATION: 117 minutes

BASED ON THE NOVELS BY Ian Fleming

SCREENPLAY BY ROALD DAHL

DIRECTED BY LEWIS GILBERT III

CAST:

James Bond (Sean Connery)

Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tamba)

Akiko Wakabayashi (Aki)

Kissy Suzuki (Mia Hama)

Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence)

Q (Desmond Llewyn)

M (Bernard Lee)

THE TRAILER:

When an American space capsule is swallowed up by what they believe to be a Russian spaceship World War 3 nearly breaks out. The British Government however suspect that other powers are at work as the space craft went down near Japan. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is the force behind the theft as James Bond discovers but its motives are far from clear and he must first find out where the captured space capsule is held before America and Russia initiate another world war.

In 2008, I said to myself that I would watch every James Bond film from the beginning.  Now having owned all the films on DVD, I’m on the fifth James Bond film titled “You Only Live Twice” which was released in 1967.

The film did quite well, as it was the first Bond summer film and mad $111 million worldwide.  It was also the first Bond film that did not follow the book version and also featured Sean Connery calling it quits in playing James Bond for the first time.

The film starts off with James Bond in China receiving a massage from a Chinese woman who gets up, presses a button and next thing you know, the bed folds up encasing Bond and then Chinese gangsters shooting him down.  James Bond is dead.  And his body thrown to sea.

Of course, James Bond never dies and it was a ruse to learn more about the operations of the terrorist organization SPECTRE and do what he can to get close to the evil organization.

As for SPECTRE, they are capturing US and Russian space technology and trying to create a war between the two countries, so once the two countries destroy each other, SPECTRE can emerge as the new superpower in the world.

This time, Bond’s mission takes him to Japan, where Bond can now get close to the Japanese women but also test out his knowledge of the “oriental” language.

The film is quite interesting as it features two Japanese Bond girls (not non-Asian women trying to look Japanese) but Bond has to learn the Japanese culture, even changed to look more Japanese and to get into a ninja training area and learn the way of the ninja.  And to think that this film features ninjas is pretty cool.

In the SPECTRE end of things, we learn who the boss of SPECTRE finally is and for modern moviegoers, you get a better idea where the character of Mr. Evil from the Austin Powers films was derived from.

This leads to a major battle between the minions of SPECTRE versus James Bond and the ninjas.

The film is loosely based on the Ian Fleming book which actually is much more darker as writer Ian Fleming was dying and the book he wrote featured a James Bond in mourning after the death of his wife and being lured back to the agency.  Also, after the fourth book “Thunderball”, “On Her Majesty’s Request” was the next storyline.  But in the film series, it comes after “You Only Live Twice”.  The reason for this was that “On Her Majesty’s Request” needed a film that was based in an area with high and snowy elevations and thus research to find a location to film would have taken time which the producers did not have.  So, modifications from the novel to film series had to happen.

As for the DVD, in 2007 there was a re-release Ultimate Edition which features more special features and a digital remaster.  And with the Bond films being re-released in Blu-ray, I’m sure that the newer versions will include much more.  This year 2000 version is the first DVD release that came out and hardly came out with anything.

Personally, I enjoyed “You Only Live Twice” because it is so different than the previous films in the fact that it puts Bond in unfamiliar territory and that’s Japan.  With beautiful settings of Japan ala mid-to-late 60s, it definitely was different with the fact that it features Japanese villages and Bond getting accustomed to Japanese culture and having hundreds of ninjas fighting along with him against SPECTRE.

Granted, there are major deviations from the book version but nevertheless, “You Only Live Twice” was a film that I enjoyed quite a bit for its setting and it’s sci-fi style to it.  A 60s film that features a bit of space, an evil headquarters based inside a volcano, a mini-copter full of weapons and interesting ideas for that time.

All in all, “You Only Live Twice” was an enjoyable film and as for the DVD, if you are going the Blu-ray route, definitely wait for the upcoming Blu-ray version or get the Ultimate Version of the DVD released in 2007.

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Finding Forrester (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 27, 2003 by · Leave a Comment 

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MOVIE COMPANY: Columbia TriStar
CAST: Starring Sean Connery, Robert Brown, Anna Paquin,  Busta Rhymes, F. Murray Abraham, Matt Damon and more.
DIRECTED BY: Gus Van Sant
WRITTEN BY: Mike Rich
RATING: Rated PG-13
INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE URL: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0181536
TYPE OF MOVIE: Drama
DURATION: 136 minutes


Jamal Wallace (Robert Brown) is an inner-city kid from the Bronx who has an aptness at basketball and a genius at writing. While always a C student, Jamal comes to the attention of a prestigious New York prep school when he scores highly on his standardized tests. While Jamal is given a heavy load at his new school, both he and the school know that the real reason they took him on is for his prowess on the court. Befriended by fellow student Claire (Anna Paquin) and helped along by Pulitzer-prize winning author and recluse William Forrester (Sean Connery), Jamal pursues his dreams both on and off the court while overcoming obstacles placed by his bitter literature teacher. As Jamal is shaped by Forrester, he finds that he is changing the old writer as well, forcing him to confront his past…and his future. (IMDB)

DVD EXTRAS:

• Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
• HBO Featurette, Found: Robert Brown Featurette, two choir videos
• Commentary by director
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats

KNOWN DVD SECRET(S): None that I know of

DVD REVIEW:

If there is one film that was underrated and left many people asking what movie should of been selected for Academy Award nomination, “Finding Forrester” is that movie.

Gus Van Sant directed a great movie with “Good Will Hunting” and is back again with a different but similar story.  It’s a beautiful film about an African American student Jamal Wallace from the Bronx and a recluse/yet very popular author William Forester.

How both work together and help each other despite their cultural backgrounds.  The friendships that develops and the institution/professor’s unwillingness to accept that a Black kid from the Bronx could write beautifully.

The DVD is beautiful and the audio is typical of a dialogue film.  The special features are pretty cool with the HBO featurette and also how they found Robert Brown for this film.  Also, they included two choir videos and these people can sing!  Very cool special features including trailers for films of people who were part of the cast.

Again it’s a shame this movie wasn’t selected for even an “Academy Award” nomination but I guess the selection board were to enthralled with “Chocalat” instead.  Anyway, this is a very good film and definitely highly recommended!

THE MOVIE:  A
THE DVD EXTRAS:  A
THE DVD OVERALL:  A

The James Bond Story (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

September 30, 2002 by · Leave a Comment 

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MOVIE COMPANY: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
CAST: Starring Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan
DIRECTED BY: Chris Hunt
PRODUCED BY: Chris Hunt
RATING: Not Rated
TYPE OF MOVIE: Documentary
DURATION: 52 minutes


Bond, James Bond.  Perhaps the greatest fictional cinema icon ever.  He first appeared on the big screen in 1962 in Dr. No, and has remained the most powerful action hero ever since.  The secret to his success is his adaptability.  No matter what tight spot he finds himself, he always appears to be suave, sophisticated and cool.

As a spy Bond is constantly reinventing himself, and on the big screen he has done this five times, as Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan.  The documentary looks at the different characterizations each actors has brought to the role to discover the elements that make up Bond.  It also traces the character back to its origin, the Bond novels by Ian Fleming, whose creation was semi-autobiographical.

From the gadgets to the girls, “The James Bond Story” also features interviews with Q (the late Desmond Llewelyn), Maud Adams, Jane Seymour, Terence Young (Director), Cubby Broccoli (producer), Ian Fleming and more, along with extensive film clips from Dr. No to The World is Not Enough.  This action-packed documentary presents an in-depth look at the quintessential spy who has a license to kill.

DVD EXTRAS:

• All Regions
• Color, Widescreen
• Production notes
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• Interactive Trivia Game
• Features interviews with Q (the late Desmond Llewellyn), Maud Adams, Jane Seymour, director Terence Young, producer Cubby Broccoli, Ian Fleming, along with extensive film clips from Dr. No to The World is Not Enough
• Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats

KNOWN DVD SECRET(S): None that I know of

DVD REVIEW:

This documentary is actually pretty good.  It was shown on television via AMC.  You learn a lot about the history and the creation of James Bond and the films.

Although I’m not a hardcore fan (as this DVD is for the hardcore fans), I bought this because I have enjoyed many of the films and wanted to check out the other releases on DVD.

I can’t fault this DVD at all since it’s a documentary for television.  It’s letterbox and the audio and video is typical of television DVD’s.

As for special features, there is a 20-question James Bond trivia and filmographies of the actors.

Worth buying if you are a Bond fan or interested in catching up with the Bond stories and to learn about the history of this fictional English superhero icon.

THE DOCUMENTARY:  A
THE DVD EXTRAS:  C-
THE DVD OVERALL:  C+

THE ROCK – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #108 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 15, 2001 by · Leave a Comment 


TITLE: THE ROCK: THE CRITERION COLLECTION #108

CAST: Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, Vanessa Marcil and more

DIRECTED BY: Michael Bay

WRITTEN BY: David Weisberg, Douglas Cook

TYPE OF MOVIE: Thriller, Action

DURATION: 135 minutes


A group of renegade marine commandos seizes a stockpile of chemical weapons and takes over Alcatraz, with 81 tourists as hostages. Their leader, a former highly-decorated U. S. general, demands $100 million to be paid in ransom, as restitution to families of soldiers who died in covert operations and were thereby denied compensation. Otherwise, he is threatening to launch 15 rockets carrying deadly VX nerve gas into the San Francisco Bay area. An elite SEAL team, with support from an FBI chemical warfare expert (Stanley Goodspeed) and a former Alcatraz escapee (John Mason), is assembled to penetrate the terrorists’ defenses on Alcatraz and neutralize the rocket threat before time runs out. (IMDB)

DVD EXTRAS:

• Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
• Color, Closed-captioned, DTS Surround Sound, Widescreen, Dolby
• Commentary by director Michael Bay, stars Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, technical advisor Harry Humphries, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer
• Two Disc Set
• Disc Two:
• Analysis of the dive sequence by Hoyt Yeatman of Dream Quest Images
• “Movie Magic” episode on the film’s special effects
• Outtakes selected by Michael Bay
• Production Stills
• Storyboards
• Production design drawings
• Do’s and Don’ts of Hollywood gunplay with Harry Humphries and Marshall Teague
• Interview with Jerry Bruckheimer
• Excerpts from “Secrets of Alcatraz” documentary
• “The Rock” world premiere on Alcatraz
• Widescreen anamorphic format
• Number of discs: 2

KNOWN DVD SECRET(S): None that I know of

The Criterion edition of “The Rock” is finally here and it doesn’t disappoint.  The movie is full of action and explosions that the only way to watch this movie is through the Criterion Collection which includes the latest in DTS sound.

The movie is so full of action that you don’t want to get up off your seat for a second.  The visuals are great and the sound is awesome through DTS.  I’ve watched many movies on DTS and this is the first time I seen my receiver with the “OVERLOADED” message.  Many explosions and your subwoofer will have a good workout.

As for the special features, there are so many.  Although not as much as “Armageddon” (Criterion), this DVD still doesn’t disappoint because you get other cool features like the excerpt from the “Secrets of Alcatraz” documentary.  The world premiere at Alcatraz and “Do’s and Don’t of Hollywood Gunplay”.  You also see outtakes and a good behind-the-scenes look at Ed Harris as an actor.  Very serious guy!  I don’t want to be sitting next to him when he messes up a line.  Intense!

If there was any negative, it was the fact that the color selection bars on the menu sometimes worked on my DVD player.  So, sometimes I didn’t know which part of the menu was highlighted and would have to count and guesstimate where I was going into.  That could be my player though…

If you enjoyed the movie and want it on DVD, this version is the only way to go.  Highly recommended!

THE MOVIE: A-
THE DVD EXTRAS: A
THE DVD OVERALL: A

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