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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Houdini + Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies [Blu-ray]


(George Marshall, 1953 - Ken Annakin, 1969)



Review by Gary Tooze


NOTE: Houdini is compared to the Olive Blu-ray HERE



Theatrical: Paramount Pictures / Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica

Video: Legend Films

NOTE: Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies stats in green.



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:45:58.393 / 2:04:47.521

Disc Size: 16,949,150,836 bytes / 19,865,081,892 bytes

Feature Size: 16,835,291,136 bytes / 19,825,133,568 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.99 Mbps (both)

Chapters: 16 / 20

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 3rd, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 / 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB (both)



None (both)



None (both)





Description: The wonderfully talented Tony Curtis heads up two all-star casts in these unforgettable classic films. Boasting as his first leading film role, Tony stars as the world's most captivating magician and escape artist in Houdini. From his beginnings as a 'wild man' carnival act to the internationally famous feat of escaping from a locked trunk in an ice-jammed river, Houdini effectively captures the amazing life and courage of this fascinating man.

Those Daring Young Men In Their Jaunty Jalopies is a hilarious, romantic and action-packed romp that follows an international, star-studded cast through the beautiful landscape of Monte Carlo. Tony Curtis stars as the dashing Shofield who teams up with the calculating Sir Cuthbert Ware Armitage (Terry-Thomas) in a zany, winner-take-all car rally beset with scheming competitors, treacherous cliffs and one very beguiling blonde (Susan Hampshire).



The Films:

Houdini was made under the technical supervision of Joseph Dunninger, a veteran of stage magic who had inherited a number of Houdini's devices upon Bess's death in 1943. Efforts were made to recreate the look of some of Houdini's signature illusions, but only the trunk escape "Metamorphosis" is performed on-camera without any cuts. During most of the magic scenes, director George Marshall (Destry Rides Again, 1939) is happy to cheat the illusion by cutting away during the performance (or relying on an optical dissolve). Apparently to Marshall and Pal, the magic of editing was just as impressive as stage illusions.

Curtis remembered that he trained for the role not under Dunninger but under magician George Boston. "I worked with him every day for about four months before the picture started on escapes and sleight of hand. I was a pretty quick study, and it stayed with me for life. I still practice it, and I've been inducted into the Magicians Society here and in Japan."

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

"Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies," the new Paramount release at the Astor, is the four-wheeled follow-up to "Those Magnificent Young Men in Their Flying Machines." Once more, Ken Annakin, the director-producer, has sent international sporting types into a scenic, comic-scramble race. But this time (the late twenties) it's the Monte Carlo Rally, with some snappy-looking old cars streaming toward the French resort from five European starting points.

As before, there is much confusion en route; some cunning (Terry-Thomas again), love (Tony Curtis and Susan Hampshire) and menace (Gert Frobe). Add, among the main racers, two starchy British colonials (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore) and a pair of frenzied Italians (Walter Chiari and Lando Buzzanca) who compete with three saucy French belles (Mireille Darc at the wheel) in this wild roadside slapstick with beautiful color backgrounds.

Judged apart from "Flying Machines," the picture is lively and often hilarious, as the drivers hang on for dear life and the old cars honk, collide and careen. There is hardly a turn without a bang-up or a mix-up. (The stunt men in the film must have been black and blue by the finish.)

Excerpt from Howard Thompson of the NY Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Legend Films (notable for their colorization of films-to-DVD like The House on Haunted Hill, The Most Dangerous Game, Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors and even Pasolini's The Gosepl According to St. Matthew) have a new digital gimmick - dual-release bare-bones packages on Blu-ray. We have this pairing (Houdini + Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies) plus coming out on the same date; Student Bodies +Jekyll & Hyde Together Again (we may review) and The Man Who Could Cheat Death / The Skull!  I think it's a pretty good idea since it is doubtful that many of these films would ever see the HD light of day via Paramount. So, this is 2 separate single-layered discs (maybe cheaper that way?) and both seem adeptly transferred with bitrates far in excess of SD level.  They are both 1080P and look a bit better than I was expecting. Houdini is the 'star' film of the two and appropriately it looks the strongest with some even grain and vibrant colors. Skin tones are very red. I understand the existing DVD was fairly weak visually. There are still light scratches but nothing fatal. Contrast is modest but the image quality is reasonably consistent looking thick and pleasing. It's no demo but does its job well enough for this reviewer. Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies is a bit worse for wear with some inconsistency in the contrast. It looks the fault of the source and, again, no restoration has been implemented. This Blu-rays both gave me a decent to surprising viewing - not in the league of most modern HD transfers but nothing I could sit and complain about extensively either.


NOTE: Houdini is compared to the Olive Blu-ray HERE













Those Daring Young Men and Their Jaunty Jalopies










Audio :

This would be my complaint - in that no uncompressed audio is offered. Both films are transferred in simple stereo and although sound 'okay' (and Jalopies is less consistent) it is certainly not taking advantage of one of the format's greatest strengths. Perhaps, again, though this is a factor of cost. There are no subtitles offered and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Extras :

Nutt'in on either disc and, frankly, I wasn't expecting anything at this price.



I must says that Legend Films may not be fancy but they seem very competent. Houdini is a great film and it was 'bonus' to see it via Blu-ray (I'll take any opportunity to see Janet Leigh in high-res). Jalopies (aka 'Monte Carlo or Bust!') is a bit Brit-goofy but if you are in the mood it can be fun on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Obviously this isn't the height of the format - but we get two films on Blu-ray for a very reasonable price. I endorse. I'm going to check out more and hope Legend Films continues this foray with more, lesser-known, but essentially entertaining films to 1080P. I'm fairly sure we aren't likely to see either film looking any better than this... Houdini is worth the price alone! 

Gary Tooze

May 2nd, 2011

NOTE: Houdini is compared to the Olive Blu-ray HERE


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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