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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Too Late Blues [Blu-ray]

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/cassavetes.htm

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Paramount

Video: Olive Films / Masters of Cinema - Spine # 85

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' / Region 'B' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:40:55.049 / 1:40:31.066

Disc Size: 16,843,727,629 bytes / 32,227,886,368 bytes

Feature Size: 16,722,511,872 bytes / 29,476,408,896 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.00 Mbps / 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 9 / 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: May 29th, 2012 / July 21st, 2014

 

Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 933 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 933 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

None

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• None

 

David Cairns (17:16)

52-PAGE BOOKLET featuring a new essay by critic and scholar David Sterritt, a 1961 interview profile with John Cassavetes, an excerpt from composer David Raksin s autobiography, and a 2007 interview with actor Stella Stevens.
 

 

Bitrate:

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Description: Too Late Blues was the second feature film directed by legendary director John Cassavetes (A Woman Under the Influence). After his pioneering independent film Shadows, Cassavetes made his major studio directorial debut with this gritty drama about jazz musicians. Music legend (Bobby Darin) plays a bandleader who scuffles from gig to gig with his band, trying to keep body and soul together without betraying his muse. Sex symbol Stella Stevens (The Nutty Professor) plays a would-be singer with a dark past who meets Darin at a party and joins his band. The two fall deeply in love, but their world comes crumbling down after Darin and his band are involved in a bar fight and Darin is overcome by fear and is unable to fight back. The humiliation causes him to reject her and his band mates. The stellar cast includes Vince Edward (TV's Ben Casey) and Cassavetes regular Seymour Cassel (Minnie and Moskowitz).

 

***

 

The supreme master John Cassavetes followed up his earth-shaking 1959 debut Shadows with this, his first directorial effort for a major studio. Positioned somewhere between Cassavetes' ferocious independent productions and the Hollywood fare of the early 1960s, Too Late Blues represents a glimpse at a road not taken neither by the director himself, nor by mainstream American cinema in the era of the studio system's collapse - a parallel-universe of the movies that never came to pass... except in rare instances such as Too Late Blues.

Legendary American singer Bobby Darin (of " Beyond the Sea " fame) plays the leader of a jazz band whose peripatetic performances ultimately lead him to cross paths with a singer (Stella Stevens, later of Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor) with whom he falls in love. Drama ensues when Darin's masculinity is thrown into question following a violent brawl, and the film lurches towards its gripping conclusion.

The critic Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote that Cassavetes' film is a portrait of "the self-laceration and other forms of emotional brought about when a footloose jazz musician decides to sell out and go commercial, " that it "has moments that are indelible and heartbreaking, " and that "if you care a lot about Cassavetes, you should definitely see this".

 

 

The Film:

The success of John Cassavetes's independent Shadows led to a contract with Paramount that yielded only this 1960 feature, Cassavetes's second—a gauche but sincere drama with a highly relevant subject: the self-laceration and other forms of emotional havoc brought about when a footloose jazz musician (Bobby Darin) decides to sell out and go commercial. A lot could be (and was) said about what's wrong with this picture: it's pretentious, lugubrious, mawkish, and full of both naiveté and macho bluster. It also has moments that are indelible and heartbreaking, at least one unforgettable performance (Everett Chambers as the hero's manager), and many very touching ones (by Darin, Stella Stevens, Rupert Crosse, Vince Edwards, Cliff Carnell, and Seymour Cassel, among others), not to mention a highly affecting jazz score featuring Benny Carter and a haunting theme by David Raksin. If you care a lot about Cassavetes, you should definitely see this—otherwise keep your distance.

Excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum at the Chicago Reader located HERE

After his pioneering independent film Shadows (1960), actor/writer/director John Cassavetes made his major studio directorial... debut with this gritty, low-key drama about jazz musicians. Bobby Darin plays John "Ghost" Walefield, a pianist who scuffles from gig to gig with his band, trying to keep body and soul together without betraying his muse. Ghost's agent Benny (Everett Chambers) introduces him to Jess (Stella Stevens), a would-be singer who looks beautiful, even though her voice is fair at best. Ghost falls hard for her and agrees to put her in the band, though it's hard to say if he believes in her musical talent or just wants her companionship. Ghost and his band score a record deal thanks to Jess' presence, but after a humiliating fight in a pool hall and Ghost's discovery that Jess occasionally turns tricks to pay the rent, he puts his integrity up for sale, fires his band, and starts spending his time with a rich woman who likes to hang out with musicians -- and is willing to pay for the privilege. A number of real-life jazz greats appear onscreen and on the soundtrack, including Slim Gaillard, Benny Carter, and Shelly Manne; the role of Ghost was originally written for Montgomery Clift, who was forced to back out at the last minute, leading to Bobby Darin's casting.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

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

Too Late Blues has a modest Blu-ray transfer from Olive Films. This is only single-layered and contrast looks a shade dusty - but this is probably more the condition of the source. I don't know that dual-layering would benefit the visuals extensively. The black levels do seem to improve as the films runs along and detail is acceptable - if not stellar. The outdoor sequences, naturally, looked the best. Detail is modest and there is no real depth but there is some grain and this may be a close approximation of how Too Late Blues looked more than 1/2 a century ago. The Blu-ray improved the presentation over an SD rendering and any minor flaws had no detrimental effect on my viewing.

 

The more robust, dual-layered, Masters of Cinema 1080P transfer with a significantly higher bitrate - looks far superior - as evidenced even in comparing the 800-pixel wide captures below. Black levels are richer and deeper and grain is far better supported - consistent and fine. Toggle between the larger captures to see the extent of the improvement.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample on the Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

Audio :

The jazz ('Benny Carter and a haunting theme by David Raksin...') and Stevens soft vocals shined in the DTS-HD mono track at 933 kbps. There is no depth or range to speak of but it seems a faithful transfer without flaws. Moments are surprisingly crisp at times.  There are no subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Masters of Cinema go with a linear PCM mono track - a shade more robust and - if my ears can be trusted - may support the higher end marginally better - notable in the music and vocals. The MoC also offers optional English (SDH) subtitles and is region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

No supplements - not even a trailer which is the bare-bones route that Olive are going with their releases.

 

Masters of Cinema add 17-minute with David Cairns discussing the film and one of their extensive, liner notes, booklets (52-pages worth) featuring a new essay by critic and scholar David Sterritt, a 1961 interview profile with John Cassavetes, an excerpt from composer David Raksin's autobiography (THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL: My Life in a Golden Age of Film Music by David Raksin), and a 2007 interview with actor Stella Stevens.

 

Olive Films - Region 'A' Blu-ray

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I would probably agree with Jonathan Rosenbaum - those keen on Cassavetes work should indulge - others may find this imperfect effort a bit trying. The performances are wonderful (particularly likable Stella Stevens and edgy Vince Edwards) as is the jazzy aura but the film lacks the cohesiveness found in most of the director's oeuvre. I could easily see Monty (Montgomery Clift) in the lead although he didn't make it to the project. I won't point fingers at the Blu-ray (crappy cover though). I was thankful to actually see this Cassavetes film at all and this 1080P will prove to be the best way to watch it in your home theater.

 

The Masters of Cinema wins on every front - better a/v, more extras and I definitely appreciated this Cassavetes film more re-watching it via this edition. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

May 14th, 2012

July 10th, 2014


 

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 5000 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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