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Too Late Blues [Blu-ray]
Review by Gary Tooze
Video:Olive Films / Masters of Cinema - Spine # 85
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
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
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
English (SDH), 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
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
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
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.
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
The Masters of Cinemawins on every front - better a/v, more extras and I definitely appreciated this Cassavetes film more re-watching it via this edition. Strongly recommended!
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.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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