July 18, 2006

DVDs, 7/18.

DK Holm follows up on his first column with a roundup of takes on classic film noir, an attaché case-load of James Bond for the Brits, early John Woo, the latest from Criterion and more.

On Dangerous Ground On DVD Tuesdays in America, there is usually one super huge release, around which lesser discs spin like mere satellites. Perhaps the most anticipated DVD release of the day, at least in Region 1, is Warner Home Video's Film Noir Classic Collection Vol 3. The DVD Savant, Glenn Erickson, does an audio commentary track for one of the films in the package, On Dangerous Ground, but reviews the set anyway, making the pertinent query, "Film Noir Vol 3 has two MGM titles and three RKOs, so the big question is, where are the Warner noirs? The only answer is that the restoration process hasn't quite caught up with desirable titles like The Unsuspected, Nora Prentiss and Nobody Lives Forever."

At the DVD Journal, the set is split up among reviewers, and Dawn Taylor handles His Kind of Woman (1951), which she finds "the most delicious kind of noir cinema - it's all style and witty patter with a plot so ancillary to the proceedings that it almost could have been done away with entirely," and Lady in the Lake (1947), finding that the film's almost unique subjective camera technique "while an interesting concept, ironically serves to make the viewer more aware of every camera angle and shift in perspective, and when the movie's obligatory femme fatale leans in with huge, puckered lips to kiss Marlowe/us, it's almost like a parody of a bad 3-D film."

Dave Kehr at the New York Times finds evidence of a cunning studio plan within Warner's six-film simultaneous box set, the Tough Guys Collection, which, as a sequel to Warner's previous gangster box, "suggests the chief strategy Warners adopted in changing unbridled killers into censor-friendly figures of high moral standing. They simply switched sides, with [James] Cagney as an FBI agent in William Keighleys 1935 G-Men and [Edward G] Robinson as an undercover agent infiltrating a mob in Mr Keighley's 1936 Bullets or Ballots."

At DVD Talk, the DVD Savant also handles the double dipping release of Some Like it Hot, now in a two-disc collector's edition, which Erickson praises for finally offering up an anamorphic transfer; it's "a satisfactory replacement for [MGM's] old, flat letterboxed special edition. The enhanced transfer is a great improvement, although the encoding doesn't 'pop' as it might; Savant remembers seeing B&W prints of this movie that were incredibly rich." Speaking of transfers, Gary W Tooze at DVD Beaver likes the job done on V for Vendetta better than the movie, calling it a "wonderful tight, anamorphic, progressive transfer."

James Bond Ultimate Editions In England a whole slew of James Bond Ultimate Editions came out under the aegis of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and Eamonn McCusker's comments on From Russia With Love are representative of the overall take in DVD Times: "Deep within the Bond series lies a murky, densely plotted spy thriller far away from what one assumes to be the legacy of the James Bond films. Within a smaller frame than its predecessor and never as flirtatious as those that followed it, From Russia With Love is a low-key revenge thriller that reveals how the shadow of SPECTRE infiltrates both East and West, predating the more modern concept of terrorism without national allegiance."

McCusker also reviews Thunderball, but there is no word if this is the complete film, i.e., has restored the words "James Bond will return in On Her Majesty's Secret Service" instead of fading to black. As Brad Stevens wrote in his Choice Cuts column for The Dark Side, "As it happens, the next Bond film proved to be You Only Live Twice, but that hardly provides an adequate justification for truncating the finale of Thunderball, particularly since the sudden fade to black looks extremely amateurish - even someone who had never seen the film before would immediately realize that this is not how it was supposed to end."

Also in DVD Times, Noel Megahey catches up with two early John Woo films. The once-shelved Heroes Shed No Tears (1986) is a film "showing a great deal of the techniques and style that Woo would become better known for, but also not quite having bridged the credibility gap of B-movie plots involving cardboard cut-out heroes and villains and the somewhat cloying sentimentality of the studio system imposed schematic." Megahey also reviews a dubbed Run Tiger Run (also 1986). "If you can imagine [Woo] applying his extraordinary visual style and the kinetics of his action movies to a remake of Home Alone or The Prince and The Pauper, that's effectively what John Woo achieves in this colourful, cute-kid comedy."

Shakespeare Behind Bars DVD Verdict's Brett Cullum raves about the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars, calling it a "brave film" and adding, "There's something powerful about convicts speaking in iambic pentameter, and letting their passions seep in to the words." Felix Gonzalez, Jr at DVD Review notes that "although the movie is filled with bright and often poignant moments during rehearsals, Hank Rogerson makes sure that viewers understand the heinous nature of these men's crimes," and deems Shout! Factory's R1 disc "a small triumph."

While considering Pathfinder's disc of Olympia, Joe Lauper at DVD Review finds that, though the film is "considered by many to be one of the greatest sports documentaries ever made," it can't be recommended, thanks to a poor source print ("there is minor dirt and debris as well as splice lines popping up throughout"), limp extras and inaccuracies about the content on the box.

Henrik Sylow, writing at DVD Beaver, has high praise for the R2 disc of The Proposition, judging the film to be "one of the most valuable contributions to the western genre since Eastwood's Unforgiven," and deeming the transfer "stunning."

Finally, Glenn Erickson, the DVD Savant again, reviews the Criterion Collection's two-disc set of Powell and Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale, spine No 341, bringing the consumer "what is perhaps the creative team's most experimental movie of the 1940s." Erickson likes the extras and the "sharp and clean transfer of the restored version (125 minutes versus 95) with excellent audio. The movie has many light scratches and other marks that for visual quality put it a half-notch lower than the average Criterion."

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Posted by dwhudson at July 18, 2006 5:40 AM


The link for the Canterbury Tale review points to the Olympia review. Just thought you should be advised.

Posted by: James Russell at July 19, 2006 5:57 AM

Whoops - thanks, James. Fixed it..

Posted by: David Hudson at July 19, 2006 8:51 AM