Cleopatra        The Crusades       Four Frightened People

 

Sign of the Cross         Union Pacific


Synopses:

 

Cleopatra
In 48 BC, Cleopatra, facing palace revolt in her kingdom of Egypt, welcomes the arrival of Julius Caesar as a way of solidifying her power under Rome. When Caesar, whom she has led astray, is killed, she transfers her affections to Marc Antony and dazzles him on a barge full of DeMillean splendor. But the trick may not work a third time...

 

The Crusades
The Third Crusade as it didn't happen. King Richard Coeur de Lion goes on the crusade to avoid marrying Princess Alice of France; en route, he marries Berengaria to get food for his men. Berengaria.is captured by Saladin, spurring Richard to attack and capture Acre. But Saladin, attracted to her, takes her on to Jerusalem, and Richard is in danger of assassination.

Four Frightened People
Four passengers escape their bubonic plague-infested ship and land on the coast of a wild jungle. In order to reach safety they have to trek through the jungle, facing wild animals and attacks by primitive tribesmen

Sign of the Cross
After burning Rome, Emperor Nero decides to blame the Christians, and issues the edict that they are all to be caught and sent to the arena. Two old Christians are caught, and about to be hauled off, when Marcus, the highest military official in Rome, comes upon them. When he sees their stepdaughter Mercia, he instantly falls in love with her and frees them. Marcus pursues Mercia, which gets him into trouble with Emperor (for being easy on Christians) and with the Empress, who loves him and is jealous.

Union Pacific
One of the last bills signed by President Lincoln authorizes pushing the Union Pacific Railroad across the wilderness to California. But financial opportunist Asa Barrows hopes to profit from obstructing it. Chief troubleshooter Jeff Butler has his hands full fighting Barrows' agent, gambler Sid Campeau; Campeau's partner Dick Allen is Jeff's war buddy and rival suitor for engineer's daughter Molly Monahan. Who will survive the effort to push the railroad through at any cost?
 

About the DVD package:  From the description - 

'Legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille earned a place in cinematic history when he helped create Hollywood’s first feature-length film, an event that established Hollywood as the motion picture capital of the world. A master of spectacular epics, his films garnered unparalleled acclaim for their scope and grandeur. Now, for the first time ever, five of his most popular films are available in one premium DVD collection. Experience the breathtaking dangers and delights of ancient Rome in The Sign of the Cross; trek through a perilous jungle with Four Frightened People; thrill to the passion, suspense and intrigue of Cleopatra; journey back in time with the glorious story of The Crusades; and see how the West was really won in the explosive Union Pacific. With a glamorous roster of screen legends, including Claudette Colbert, Charles Laughton, Barbara Stanwyck, Anthony Quinn and many more, this 5-disc collection is a phenomenal reminder of the innovator who made moviemaking what it is today.'

 

This boxset is both interesting and eventful - seeing these classic DeMille films on digital is a definite bonus for this reviewer. I was pleased by the selection although I was really hoping for Samson And Delilah, Unconquered or Northwest Mounted Police (his first Technicolor). DeMille's films all seem punctuated by a grandiose style - the first real raconteur of cinema. From that angle his cinema is immensely enjoyable if you give yourself over to the spectacle and contrived perceptions. They each have an inherent sex appeal that radiates throughout the films.

 

Universal have done an admirable job giving dual-layer status on single sided discs, which kind of bucks their trend of recent DVD packages. I'd have preferred individual cases as opposed to the overlapping digipak (its a terrible way to house discs). I am not bothered by the evenly spread digital noise that comes across as film grain (but isn't) and I like the optional white subtitles with the black border font. No extras at all, which is a shame as much could have been introduced to viewers as supplements - and it would only heighten appreciation of the films. Union Pacific looks the best and Four Frightened People probably the weakest, but the differences are not immense. The screen captures tell the quickest story on the appearances. It is not going as reasonably priced as some current packages, but I suspect these films are well worth it. We recommend.       

 


 

 

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
USA 1934

 

Cleopatra gets the typically over-the-top Cecil B DeMille treatment, which, as history lessons go, could hardly be more inaccurate, but it is the business as far as grand spectacle is concerned. Colbert is fun to watch as the Egyptian queen who has to cope with unrest among her closest allies. After her boyfriend Julius Caesar has been killed, she decides it's best to get it on with Marc Anthony in order to keep her options open. Despite the grand settings, this is a surprisingly intimate portrayal of the Queen of the Nile.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Releases: October 5th, 1934

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  1.33 (technically should be 1.37) 

Edition Details:

•  none

DVD Release Date: May 23rd, 2006

Tiered Digipak inside VHS sized bookstyle case
Chapters: 18

 

 

Comments:

Aside from the heavy faux-grain, this image looks fabulous. Contrast is excellent and black levels are pitch. There is s smattering of damage and audio is not especially dynamic (understandable). A great film that I encourage all to view at some point. Claudette Colbert looks every inch a Goddess, even by modern standards of beauty - hard to believe this is over 70 years ago... 

Gary W. Tooze

 


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Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
USA 1935

Another of Cecil B. De Mille's hallucinatory historical pageants, this 1935 feature gives you sober Henry Wilcoxon as Richard the Lionhearted, a blond and lovely Loretta Young as his bride, Ian Keith as the polished chief infidel, and several billion extras running each other through with plywood swords. Pretty terrific, charged up with De Mille's linear narrative drive and a handsome visual design.

Excerpt of Dave Kehr from The Chicago Reader located HERE.

Poster

Theatrical Releases: August 21st, 1935

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  1.33 (technically should be 1.37) 

Edition Details:

• none

DVD Release Date: May 23rd, 2006

Tiered Digipak inside VHS sized bookstyle case
Chapters: 18  18

 

 

Comments:

The weakness in this transfer is contrast which is blended. It is not especially bright (which is fine). Generally it looks about a mid-point in comparing the other DVDs in the package. This is acceptable to me. the film, like many of DeMille's work, is quite bombastic in its melodramatic tendencies. It is one heck of a ride.        

Gary W. Tooze


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Cecil B. DeMille in his latest picture, "Four Frightened People," an adaptation of a novel by E. Arnot Robertson which is now at the Paramount, focuses his attention on two men and two women who find themselves on a Malaysian jungle island. It is an extravagant mixture of comedy and melodrama and the terror in some of the scenes stirred up almost as much mirth from an audience yesterday afternoon as did the levity in others.

The four frightened persons are: Stewart Corder, a bombastic newspaper correspondent; Arnold Ainger, a reticent chemist; Mrs. Fifi Marsdick, an attractive and matronly lecturer, and Judith Jones, a meek, bespectacled school teacher. They flee from a Dutch coastal steamer on which the bubonic plague has broken out and make their way in a boat to an island. No sooner do they land than it seems as if they had jumped from the frying pan into the fire, for in the Malaysian hamlet there are many cases of cholera. Therefore they employ a half-caste native to guide them to a more healthful section of the island. Montague, as the half-caste is known, ventures that the journey will take only three days, but evidently he does not calculate on sundry interruptions caused by savages and wild beasts.

Anything to take their mind off their discomforts, so the four at one point of the proceedings decide to play bridge. Mr. DeMille has his own ideas of a card game in the jungle and the bidding ceases temporarily when a scorpion wanders on one of the players and when another drops a card she just misses being bitten by a snake, but she does not know how near she was to death. Then a cobra is attracted by the foursome and through the Unerring aim of the war correspondent the reptile is killed.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

 

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
USA 1934

Poster

Theatrical Releases: January 26th, 1934

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios: 1.33 

Edition Details:

•  none

DVD Release Date: May 23rd, 2006

Tiered Digipak inside VHS sized bookstyle case
Chapters: 18 

 

 

Comments:

Firstly great to have this available as I don't think it was ever even on VHS previously. The digital noise on this is so thick you could cut it with a knife and there is some damage in the form of scratches and blemishes. The film is pretty cute and there are certainly comparisons to Gilligan's Island which may have stolen some of its imputes.     

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus


 

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Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
USA 1932

 

Throughout this really mammoth production the fine DeMillean hand is noticeable. Where there was a chance to touch up episodes it has been done. It is as though Nero were living in the twentieth century, with some of the lines and the squabbling in the Rome arena for places to see the big bill, which includes many combats between Nero's own subjects and scores of Christians and others marching to their deaths. The hungry lions rush up stone steps, eager to get to their human prey, and, just before that, a dying man is supposed to have his head trampled on by an elephant.

The principal rôles are all well played, even though they are more or less in the modern manner. But the outstanding histrionic achievement comes from Charles Laughton, who shoulders the responsibility for Nero. He is a petulant Nero, a man who has no thought for other than himself, and when he is asked to grant the life of Mercia, acted by Elissa Landi, he begs not to be delayed any further or he will be late for the games. He sucks the fruit juice from his fingers as he watches men die, and most casually he puts his thumb down on a request for mercy, Nero looks as if he had adenoids and his voice is unmistakably English of the present day. But what matters that? It is a remarkable performance of the fiddling Emperor as Laughton sees him; perhaps quite a restrained piece of acting, considering what is generally known of this creature.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE.

 

Posters

Theatrical Releases: November 30th, 1932

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  1.33 (should be 1.37)

Edition Details:

•  none

DVD Release Date: May 23rd, 2006

Tiered Digipak inside VHS sized bookstyle case
Chapters: 18 

 

 

Comments:

And I thought Claudette Colbert was hot in Cleopatra! The progressive image is again punctuated by a heavy grain-like appearance but it is not as visible during viewing as on some of the other discs. In fact this looks very good aside from minor damage and some contrast flickering. Black levels are not pristine but grey tones are solid. The mono audio is acceptably consistent and the film explores the decadence of Roman life as well as most delving into this historical era. This is good cinema folks!     

Gary W. Tooze


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Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
USA 1939

 

Terrific western from Hollywood's greatest showman. Plot concerns the bitter competition to build America's first transcontinental railroad in the country's post-Civil War expansion. McCrea plays the chief of the Union Pacific line who has to deal with injuns, rival company Central Pacific's dirty tricks campaign (headed by gambler Donlevy) and the distracting attraction of hardy postmistress Stanwyck. DeMille accelerates the drama throughout the film so that come the spectacular cavalry charge finale it's hurtling at full steam. Most actresses would be swamped by the scale and machismo of the action, but the formidable Stanwyck takes it all in her stride.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

 

Posters

Theatrical Releases: April 27th, 1939

  Reviews    More Reviews     DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Universal - Region 1 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Universal Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio English (Dolby Digital Mono)
Subtitles English (hearing impaired), Spanish, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Universal Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratios:  1.33  

Edition Details:

• none

DVD Release Date: May 23rd, 2006

Tiered Digipak inside VHS sized bookstyle case
Chapters: 18 

 

 

Comments:

Another reminder as to why I'm in love with Barbra Stanwyck. This image is the best of the lot. It still has the same deficiencies - faux grain, slight damage etc. but it is to the least degree on this DVD. Contrast and separation are very good. The film reminds me of why I love Hollywood's Golden Age so much - and this was the HUGE year - 1939! McCrea is grand and the supporting cast are superb - Stanwyck still steals my heart and this is a film that I highly recommend!   

Gary W. Tooze


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