DVDBeaver Newsletter - March 5th, 2007
Good day - 15 new reviews this week, 5 comparisons, 3 Criterion, classic westerns, film noir and even some modern Hollywood stuff. Watch out the UK sales are slowly being removed - buy now and save. More upcoming releases, Feature DVD of the Month and our recommendations...
FEATURE DVD OF THE MONTH (MARCH) : An Imperial Japanese Army regiment surrenders to British forces in Burma at the close of World War II and finds harmony through song. A private, thought to be dead, disguises himself as a Buddhist monk and stumbles upon spiritual enlightenment. Magnificently shot in hushed black and white, Kon Ichikawa’s The Burmese Harp is an eloquent meditation on beauty coexisting with death and remains one of Japanese cinema’s most overwhelming antiwar statements, both tender and brutal in its grappling with Japan’s wartime legacy. REVIEWED HERE PURCHASE HERE
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PRICES ARE INCHING UP (5% increase): Along with the 30 others listed on our homepage - here are the SALES we found from the UK - Prime Suspect Complete Collection Box Set (with Helen Mirren) 43% OFF!,, Marlene Dietrich - 6 Disc Boxset (Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Devil Is a Woman, Destry Rides Again, The Lady Is Willing, A Foreign Affair) 66% OFF!, Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997) Cinema Club 2-disc 65% OFF!, Prison (Bergman, 1949) 60% OFF!, Waiting Women (Bergman, 1952) 60% OFF!, The Rite (Bergman, 1969) 60% OFF!, Music In Darkness (Bergman, 1948) 60% OFF!, Hell Is A City (Guest, 1960) 69% OFF!, From The Life Of The Marionettes (Bergman, 1980) 60% OFF!, Blithe Spirit (Lean, 1945) 60% OFF!, A Lesson In Love (Bergman, 1954) 60% OFF!, The Apu Trilogy (Satajit Ray, 1955) 40% OFF!, Gone To Earth (Powell / Pressburger, 1950) 54%OFF!, Red Lights (Cédric Kahn, 2004) 60% OFF!, L'Argent (Bresson, 1983) 60% OFF!, The Trial Of Joan Of Arc (Bresson, 1962) 60%, 10 Rillington Place 54% OFF, Fantômas (1913) 60% OFF!
Easiest way to catch up is simply read the new Newsletter Archive HERE.
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LATEST Additions to the Release Calendar (PRE-ORDER!):
Sleep, My Love (Douglas Sirk, 1948) R2 DE - Kinowelt Home Entertainment
John Wayne: Screen Legend Collection (Reap the Wild Wind / Rooster Cogburn / The Hellfighters / The War Wagon / The Spoilers) Universal Studios
James Stewart: Screen Legend Collection (Shenandoah / The Glenn Miller Story / Thunder Bay / You Gotta Stay Happy / Next Time, We Love) Universal Studios
Ball of Fire (Howard Hawks, 1941) MGM
Ironside: Season 1 - Complete 1st Season (8pc) (1967) Shout Factory
Mission Impossible - The Second TV Season (1966) Paramount Home Video
Night at the Museum (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Shawn Levy, 2006) 20th Century Fox
Night at the Museum [Blu-ray] (Shawn Levy, 2006) 20th Century Fox
Hot Blood (Nicholas Ray, 1956) R2 UK - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Katharine Hepburn Collection (Morning Glory / Undercurrent / Sylvia Scarlett / Without Love / Dragon Seed / The Corn Is Green) Warner Home Video
Hoosiers [Blu-ray] (David Anspaugh, 1986) Tcfhe/MGM
Blood Diamond (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Edward Zwick, 2006) Warner
The Natural [Blu-ray] - Director's Cut (Barry Levinson, 1984) Sony Pictures
All That Jazz - Music Edition (Bob Fosse, 1979) 20th Century Fox
Death of a President (Gabriel Range, 2006) Lions Gate
Mothra Vs Godzilla (Ishirô Honda, 1964) Genius Products
Godzilla Raids Again (Motoyoshi Oda, 1955) Genius Products
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, 2006) Sony Pictures
Notes on a Scandal (Richard Eyre, 2006) 20th Century Fox
The Last King of Scotland (Widescreen Edition) (Kevin Macdonald, 2006) 20th Century Fox
WWII Collection 2: Heroes Fight for Freedom (6-disc) - Air Force (1943), Command Decision (1948), Hell to Eternity (1960), The Hill (1965), 36 Hours (1964), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) Warner Home Video
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2007) Sony Pictures
RECOMMENDATIONS: Gee... I don't know where to start. Both The Burmese Harp and Fires on the Plain are essential viewing. N'uff said.
If you are at all into classic Hollywood cinema both The Hemingway Classics Collection and Literary Classics Collection have too much value to ignore.
NOIR: Although The Naked City grew on me in subsequent viewings - I am more anxious to rewatch Brute Force by Dassin (and Criterion!).
WESTERN GEMS: Both The Return of Frank James and The True Story of Jesse James are great representatives of the genre - each appealing in totally different ways.
STICK WITH THE NTSC: I fav film, Lovers of the Arctic Circle, but the new PAL edition doesn't improve in image but does give a decent supplement. Not worth the upgrade. And no improvement at all in the PAL version of Rossen's classic The Hustler.
RECALL?: Captain Horatio Hornblower is interlaced - a poor oversight from a generally brilliant DVD production company.
Naked City - “There are eight million stories in the Naked City,” as the
narrator immortally states at the close of this breathtakingly vivid film—and
this is one of them. Master noir craftsman Jules Dassin and
newspaperman-cum-producer Mark Hellinger’s dazzling police procedural, The Naked
City, was shot entirely on location in New York. As influenced by Italian
neorealism as American crime fiction, this double Academy Award winner, The
Naked City remains a benchmark for naturalism in noir, living and breathing in
the promises and perils of the Big Apple, from its lowest depths to its highest
Cinderella Liberty - His ship docked in Seattle, Navy man John Baggs Jr. (Caan) has a "Cinderella Liberty" pass, meaning he can be out until midnight – so he intends to make the most of his evening. And things are clearly going his way when he "wins" call girl Maggie Paul (Mason) in a pool game. But once Baggs finds out that Maggie has an 11 year-old son and another baby on the way, he backs off – anxious to rid himself of complications he just can’t contend with. That is – until he falls in love.
Flesh and Fantasy - Three tales of the supernatural, rather tiresomely linked by reflections on superstition from Benchley and his clubmen friends. A wonderfully atmospheric shot, with Mardi Gras revellers huddling on the riverbank, suddenly hushed as the body of a drowned girl is retrieved from the water, introduces the charming but slightly icky tale of a plain and embittered Cinderella (Field) who is given a mask of beauty to wear at the ball by a mysterious old man in a novelty shop, thereby precariously ensnaring the heart of the student prince (Cummings) who has hitherto ignored her. The second and best episode adapts Wilde's Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, with Robinson as the distraught man told by a fortune-teller (Mitchell) that he's going to commit murder, deciding to get it over with, and finding that fate is not so easily cheated. Superb throughout, the camerawork (Paul Ivano and Stanley Cortez) excels itself here. The third tale (Boyer as a tightrope walker haunted by visions of Stanwyck) is negligible, despite excellent performances.
Captain Horatio Hornblower - A fine action romance, with Peck as the character from C. S. Forester's books, a British naval hero of the Napoleonic wars. He is sent on a mission to turn Napoleon's allies against him by delivering arms to a rebel leader in Latin America. But complications arise, and he ends up having to escort the beautiful sister of the Duke of Wellington (Mayo) safely back to England. The plot expects you to suspend your disbelief for a time, but you are more than rewarded with some terrific, breathtaking battle sequences.
Billy Budd - Ustinov directs himself and a whole clutch of British talent in this worthy but eminently satisfying adaptation of Melville's novel. Stamp, here making his film debut, is excellent as the naive young seaman Billy, who is hauled before the courts after his sadistic master-at-arms (Ryan) is murdered and the finger of suspicion points squarely at him. Dealing sympathetically with the issues of morality which arise from Billy's predicament, and inviting the audience to question how they would behave in the same situation, Ustinov proves as proficient behind camera as he is in front of it.
The Burmese Harp - An Imperial Japanese Army regiment surrenders to British forces in Burma at the close of World War II and finds harmony through song. A private, thought to be dead, disguises himself as a Buddhist monk and stumbles upon spiritual enlightenment . Magnificently shot in hushed black and white, Kon Ichikawa’s The Burmese Harp is an eloquent meditation on beauty coexisting with death and remains one of Japanese cinema’s most overwhelming antiwar statements, both tender and brutal in its grappling with Japan’s wartime legacy.
Fires on the Plain - An agonizing portrait of desperate Japanese soldiers stranded in a strange land during World War II, Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain (Nobi) is a compelling descent into psychological and physical oblivion. Denied hospital treatment for tuberculosis and cast off into the unknown, Private Tamura treks across an unfamiliar Philippine landscape, encountering an increasingly debased cross section of Imperial Army soldiers, who eventually give in to the most terrifying craving of all. Grisly yet poetic, Fires on the Plain is one of the most powerful works from one of Japanese cinema’s most versatile filmmakers.
The True Story of Jesse James - Nick Ray takes the Jesse James legend and turns it around his own feelings of disenchantment. Freely adapting the original (1939) Nunnally Johnson script (which initiated the long line of motifs still recognisable in The Long Riders), he transmutes Jesse into one of his familiar outsiders ('the spokesman for everyone whose life is quietly desperate'): an adolescent who turns to outlawry from a disaffection with adult values, rather than Civil War rivalries. This outlaw, like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, entertains dreams of the good life (along the lines of teen-dream romance), but it's never more than a gesture of hope in a surrounding gone rotten.
The Return of Frank James - Fox's follow-up to Jesse James was Lang's first Western and his first film in colour; if it's more conventional than the later Rancho Notorious, it nevertheless displays the director's interest in the psychology (and indeed the pitfalls) of revenge. At the start of the film, Frank (Fonda) is happy to let the law pronounce sentence on the Ford brothers, who killed Jesse; but when they are pardoned, he begins a deadly hunt that alienates him from society, imperils not only his own life but those of his friends, and threatens to destroy his long-held ideas of justice. For all its fine photography and sturdy performances, the film is finally little more than efficient and routine, with Lang rarely probing beyond the ironic if superficial twists of the narrative.
Ghost - Ghost was a huge commercial success, and Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore were never more popular. Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for making a hysterical (as in hysterics, not laughter) display of herself. Every time that I watch this movie, I wonder why the moviemakers never showed shots of Whoopi hugging and making out with Demi. After all, that is what literally happens when the spirit of Patrick Swayze’s character inhabits Whoopi Goldberg’s character in order to interact with Demi Moore’s character. As with most crowd-pleasing love stories, Ghost is schmaltzy pap that tries to avoid offending viewers. In the process, the movie offends because it does nothing to encourage its audience to change and grow.
Shut Up and Sing - Oddly, the Texan country-music group The Dixie Chicks spoke out against Bush in 2003 as the administration prepared to invade Iraq on the basis of bad information and lies. The Dixie Chicks bravely went against the grain of their commercial base, and they paid a commercial price as radios stopped playing their songs, as fans destroyed their CDs in public rallies, and as the Nashville country-music establishment ostracized the all-time best-selling female group with savage personal attacks.
The Sun Also Rises - This visual magnificence, in CinemaScope and color, frames a picturesque cast, headed by Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner and Mel Ferrer, that looks hand-picked down to the last bit "extra." Director Henry King has staged a personalized, handsome big "show," from Peter Viertel's admirably faithful script, which slices a few corners and minor characters from the source.
Lovers of the Arctic Circle - The Lovers of the Arctic Circle' tells the story of Ana and Otto. We are informed quite early that the character's names are palindromes; spelled the same forward or backward. The patterns of their lives seem to have been influenced in similar mathematical or geometrical continuity. A circle appears to be the defining and repeated vision. The film can be divided into three stages that occasionally drift back and forth in a non-linear timeline
The Snows of Kilimanjaro - Hemingway's portrait of the artist as a romantic hero provides Twentieth Century-Fox with ample scope to meander from Africa to Paris, Spain and back again, sampling the attractions of Hayward, Gardner and Knef en route. Although Henry King shows some sympathy for these suppliant females, veteran screenwriter Casey Robinson's intelligent, talky adaption finally endorses the great white writer's bullish philosophy: 'Real writing is like a hunt... a life-long safari; and the prey is truth'.
The Hustler - The game of pool has a cult-like aura all its own. For the participants it borders on "religious". The color of the felt, the seedy venues its clandestinely played, the purity and simplicity of spherical artistry that surrounds it. Only a black and white drama with brooding film-noir overtones could capture its essence completely... and none has achieved this goal before or since like Robert Rossen's 1961 masterpiece "The Hustler".
Next 2 weeks on the Calendar:
Week of March 5th, 2007
Cinderella Liberty (Mark Rydell, 1973) 20th Century Fox
Fast Food Nation (Richard Linklater, 2006) Fox Home Entertainment
The Hemingway Classics Collection (The Sun Also Rises / A Farewell to Arms / The Snows of Kilimanjaro / Under My Skin / Adventures of a Young Man) - 20th Century Fox
The Host (Joon-ho Bong, 2006) R2- UK - Optimum Home Entertainment
Literary Classics Collection (Madame Bovary (1949), Captain Horatio Hornblower, The Three Musketeers (1948), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937 and 1952 Versions), Billy Budd) - Warner Home Video
Jean-Luc Godard Collection Vol.1 (Alphaville, Pierrot Le Fou, Une Femme Est Une Femme, Le Petit Soldat, A Bout De Souffle, La Chinoise And Made In The USA.) R2 UK Optimum
John & Mary (Peter Yates. 1969) 20th Century Fox
Komissar (Aleksandr Askoldov, 1967) Kino Video
Madame Bovary (Vincente Minnelli, 1949) (Std Sub) Warner Home Video
Quiet Flows the Don (Sergei Bondarchuk, 2004) Kino Video
The Return of Frank James (Fritz Lang , 1940) 20th Century Fox
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Henry King, 1952) 20th Century Fox
Strange Circus (Sion Sono, 2005) TLA Releasing
The Sun Also Rises (Henry King, 1957) 20th Century Fox
The True Story of Jesse James (Nicholas Ray, 1957) 20th Century Fox
Jesse James (Henry King ,1939) 20th Century Fox
The Other Side of Midnight (Charles Jarrott, 1977) 20th Century Fox
Week of March 12th, 2007
The Burmese Harp (Kon Ichikawa , 1956) Criterion
La Belle Captive: Film By Alain Robbe-Grillet (1983) - Koch Lorber Films
Becket (Peter Glenville, 1964) Mpi Home Video
Catherine Deneuve Screen Icons Collection (Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Belle de Jour, Donkey Skin, Manon 70 and Ma Saison Préférée) - R2 Uk - Optimum Home Entertainment
Casino Royale (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition) (Martin Campbell, 2006) Sony Pictures
Casino Royale [Blu-ray] (Martin Campbell, 2006) Sony Pictures
The Ed Wood Collection - A Salute to Incompetence - Glen Or Glenda? (1953), Jail Bait (1954), Bride Of The Monster (1955), The Violent Years (1956), Night Of The Ghouls (1959), Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), Bonus Feature: The Ed Wood Story - Passport
Fires on the Plain (Kon Ichikawa, 1959) Criterion
Guillermo Del Toro Collection (Pan's Labyrinth/Cronos/The Devil's Backbone) - R2 UK - Optimum Home Entertainment
Hoosiers [Blu-ray] (David Anspaugh, 1986) Tcfhe/MGM
Julie Christie Screen Icons Collection (The Go-Between, Billy Liar, Darling and Far From the Madding Crowd) - R2 Uk - Optimum Home Entertainment
Muriel: Film By Alain Resnais (Sub Col Dol) (1963) - Koch Lorber Films
Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) R2 UK - Optimum Home Entertainment
The Perfect Crime (Álex de la Iglesia, 2004) Tartan Video
Shortbus (Unrated) (John Cameron Mitchell) Velocity / Thinkfilm
Tout va bien (Jean-Luc Godard, 1972) R2 UK - Arrow Films
War & Peace 3-disc (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1968) Hurricane Int'l
OUR CURRENT 'A" STORES:
50 CLASSIC TV SHOWS ON DVD- best of vintage TV!
SOME REGION FREE DVD PLAYERS TO CONSIDER
SOME OF THE BEST JAPANESE CINEMA ON REGION 1 DVD
54 DVDs TO CONSIDER WHILE SHOPPING AT AMAZON FRANCE (PAL)
SOME OF THE BEST OF 'FRENCH LANGUAGE' CINEMA ON DVD (NTSC)
'BEST OF WORLD CINEMA' on UK (PAL) DVD
BEST OF ITALIAN CINEMA
(on NTSC DVD)
SEE OUR ESSENTIAL CRITERION STORE - Best of the Best!
SEE OUR ESSENTIAL FILM-NOIR STORE!
May your week be free of snow and freezing rain,
P.S. DVD of the Year - 2006 still remains a popular place to peruse.