Posts Tagged ‘Academy Awards’

Spine # 897

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: October 17, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 03:05:12

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

English Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 4051 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.66:1

Bitrate: 27.19 Mbps

Title

“The American press was predominantly enthusiastic about the film, and Time magazine ran a cover story about it. The international press was even more enthusiastic. It is true that the English press was badly split. But from the very beginning, all of my films have divided the critics. Some have thought them wonderful, and others have found very little good to say. But subsequent critical opinion has always resulted in a very remarkable shift to the favorable. In one instance, the same critic who originally rapped the film has several years later put it on an all-time best list. But, of course, the lasting and ultimately most important reputation of a film is not based on reviews, but on what, if anything, people say about it over the years, and on how much affection for it they have.” –Stanley Kubrick (Interview with Michel Ciment)

We can announce with some certainty that there are enough admiring cinephiles to call Barry Lyndon a classic. In fact, there are those who would call it Kubrick’s masterpiece—although one might argue that his filmography is full of them. However, one doesn’t wish to imply that it is uniformly admired by general audiences. There are plenty of people who would agree with the following condescending words written by Pauline Kael:

“This film is a masterpiece in every insignificant detail. Kubrick isn’t taking pictures in order to make movies, he’s making movies in order to take pictures. Barry Lyndon indicates that Kubrick is thinking through his camera, and that’s not really how good movies get made—though it’s what gives them their dynamism, if a director puts the images together vivifyingly for an emotional impact. I wish Stanley Kubrick would come home to this country to make movies again, working fast on modern subjects—maybe even doing something tacky, for the hell of it. There was more film art in his early The Killing than there is in Barry Lyndon, and you didn’t feel older when you came out of it…” —Pauline Kael (Kubrick’s Gilded Age)

BTS

Frankly, any critic who hopes that a brilliant director will shovel out the same twaddle being shoveled out by lesser directors should throw their pen or typewriter in the garbage and tape their mouths shut. Kael somehow earned a great deal of respect as a film critic—no small accomplishment considering the fact that she was wrong more often than she was right. She was wrong about Alfred Hitchcock, she was wrong about the Coen brothers, and she was wrong about Stanley Kubrick.

When one is making cinema, details are never insignificant. They are used to build a very distinct world for the viewer, and those so-called insignificant details transport the viewer back in time with an efficiency that has rarely been matched by other directors.  What’s more, Barry Lyndon’s pacing isn’t slow—it is deliberate.  This distinction is an important one, because Kubrick has obviously worked the pacing out with the same meticulous attention. It is the sort of film that requires quite a lot of the viewer and will reward their effort. One must allow the images to wash over them with an understanding that the journey of this film is more important than the destination.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has really been on the ball lately as their beautiful package for Barry Lyndon is one of several exceptional releases in a matter of months. Other examples include last month’s 2-Disc Blu-ray package for Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and a stellar 2-Disc/2-Version release of Orson Welles’s Othello earlier this month. This release for Stanley Kubrick’s period masterpiece is in every way their equal.

On the surface, this 2-Disc edition looks exactly like Criterion’s standard single disc releases. Both discs are housed in their standard clear case with a cover sleeve featuring a slightly altered and more simplistic incarnation of Jouineau Bourduge’s one sheet design for the film. Charles Gehm also contributed a design to promote the film, and Warner Brothers utilized it as the primary poster for Barry Lyndon’s original theatrical run. However, Bourduge’s more simplistic alternative one sheet design has become the most iconic image associated with the film. It is no wonder that Criterion decided to utilize it and they made the right choice!

Charles Gehm's One Sheet

Charles Gehm’s One Sheet Design

In addition to the two discs, Criterion houses an above average 40-page collector’s booklet that includes a scholarly essay by Geoffrey O’Brien entitled “Time Regained,” and two pieces that were originally published in a special March 1976 issue of American Cinematographer that was devoted to the film. The first is an incredibly in-depth interview with John Alcott entitled “Photographing ‘Barry Lyndon’” and it essential reading. Alcott goes into some technical detail about how many of the film’s innovative technological effects were pulled off—so much technical detail that some readers will find themselves ill-prepared to completely understand some of the information. The same can be said about a short article by Ed DiGiulio (president of Cinema Products Corporation) about the special equipment alterations and inventions that Kubrick needed for the film. It is entitled “Two Special Lenses for ‘Barry Lyndon’” and is well worth reading. This all adds up to an incredibly substantial booklet—which we prefer to Criterion’s single essay pamphlets.

One does wonder why Michel Ciment’s famed interview with Stanley Kubrick about Barry Lyndon hasn’t been included within these pages (especially since Ciment was interviewed for one of the disc’s supplements). However, to question why this hasn’t been included makes one feel like an unappreciative brat.

Each disc has its own menu design and features its own piece of music from the film, and both are attractive and intuitive to navigate. Anyone familiar with other Criterion discs will know what to expect.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has wisely secluded this three hour film on its own disc coupled only with a choice of soundtracks. This allows them to make the most of their new 4K digital restoration. The following information about the transfer was included in the collector’s booklet:

Barry Lyndon is presented in the film’s photographed aspect ratio of 1.66:1, as specified in a December 8, 1975, letter from director Stanley Kubrick to projectionists. This new digital transfer was created in 16-bit 4K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film-scanner from the 35mm original camera negative. The high-definition transfer created in 2000 and supervised by Leon Vitali, Kubrick’s personal assistant, served as a color reference for this new master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for jitter, flicker, small dirt, grain, and noise management…” –Collector’s Booklet

The result is a substantial improvement over the 1.78:1 Warner Brothers transfer, and the differences go far beyond the fact that Criterion presents the film in its intended aspect ratio—even though the earlier transfer was really quite wonderful from a technical standpoint. For one thing, Criterion’s handling of the film’s grain results in an organic and very clean representation that is in keeping with the original image without getting in the way of fine detail. The image is much sharper here despite the intentionally soft appearance of the cinematography. This is simply the result of a technically superior 4K scan and not the result of digital tampering. Black levels are gorgeous and deep without crushing detail in shadowy areas of the frame. The clean-up work undertaken by those who restored the film has resulted in an immaculate image. As a matter of fact, the improvements evident in this new transfer are at their most remarkable during the darker scenes. Density is another area that shows a marked improvement over the previous Blu-ray transfers.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The film’s sound elements have also seen a new transfer and restoration and technical details were included in Criterion’s collector’s booklet along with those concerning the image:

“…The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm magnetic DME (dialogue, music, and effects) track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX. The alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack was created in 2000 from original soundtrack stems by Vitali and audio engineer Chris Jenkins.” –Collector’s Booklet

Purists should be very happy to learn that the original mono track has been restored and included here along with the 5.1 mix. Both tracks are quite good and there aren’t any issues to report regarding either track as both sound incredible here.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Making Barry Lyndon – (37:52)

A “making of” documentary about Barry Lyndon should’ve been made years ago, but Criterion has happily corrected this oversight with this thirty-eight minute look at the film’s production. The program features new interviews with several of Kubrick’s collaborators, including Jan Harlan (executive producer/Kubrick’s brother-in-law), Katharina Kubrick, Leon Vitali (actor), Dominic Savage (actor), Brian Cook (assistant director), Michael Stevenson (assistant director), and Richard Daniels (senior archivist at the Stanley Kubrick Archive). It also includes an archival radio with Stanley Kubrick that certainly adds quite a bit to the proceedings. This is a somewhat comprehensive piece that covers such topics as pre-production research, the script—or what there was of a script, the special challenges regarding the film’s innovative cinematography, the meticulous costume designs, and anecdotes from those who worked on the film. One wonders why some of the stand-alone interviews weren’t included as a part of this more comprehensive piece, but this isn’t necessarily a complaint. Obviously, this is the strongest and most instructive supplement on the entire disc (and this is saying quite a lot).

Achieving Perfection – (15:32)

Achieving Perfection is an excellent featurette that focuses primarily on the film’s visuals and the painstaking work that went into creating them. It features interviews with Douglas Milsume (focus puller), Lou Bogue (gaffer), and excerpts from an archival audio interview with John Alcott (cinematographer). This piece gives a more detailed account of the infamous lenses utilized by the production in order to achieve the scenes that were lit using only candlelight. The problems and their solutions of shooting with these special lenses are elaborated on in some depth as are other scenes and their respective challenges. It is an incredibly informative fifteen minutes that seems to fly by all too quickly.

Drama in Detail – (13:34)

Christopher Frayling (Film Historian) discusses the tense working relationship shared by Stanley Kubrick and Academy Award–winning production designer Ken Adam. Their relationship was difficult for Adam because of Kubrick’s insistence on knowing the logic or reasoning behind each and every design. His sets had to work for the director both aesthetically and logically, and this was difficult for Adam who had a very different approach. As a matter of fact, he declined the chance to work with Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey because his experience on Dr. Strangelove was so exasperating. Apparently, his decision to work on Barry Lyndon years later led to more than an Academy Award as he also had a well-earned a nervous breakdown.

Timing and Tension – (13:50)

Timing and Tension is a conversation with Tony Lawson who worked closely with Kubrick on the editing of Barry Lyndon. Lawson is modest about his contributions to the film and claims that he was not an equal partner during the interview, but it is clear that he was an essential cog in Kubrick’s well-oiled machine. His revelations about Kubrick’s approach to editing should fascinate the director’s admirers. The interview’s brief duration is rather deceptive, because there is an incredible amount of essential material here.

On the Costumes – (05:00)

This brief but fascinating interview excerpt with Ulla-Britt Söderlund (co-designer of the film’s costumes) was taken from a French television broadcast entitled Les rendez-vous du dimanche that aired on September 19, 1976. We see some of the costume pieces as Söderlund details the meticulous work that went into making them a reality. There is an incredible amount of information here considering its brief duration, and it is a remarkable addition to the supplemental package.

Passion and Reason – (17:35)

Michel Ciment’s interview is interesting and fulfills the disc’s need for a scholarly voice, but one feels it is one of the least interesting supplements on the disc. It isn’t as focused as it needs to be and the commentary is sometimes rather obvious. It works as an appreciation of the director and of the film but somehow falls short in terms of actual insight.

Balancing Every Sound – (10:13)

Balancing Every Sound is an interesting discussion with Leon Vitali (who eventually became Kubrick’s personal assistant). Vitali talks about the reason behind Kubrick’s decision to present the film with a monaural mix and how these same sound elements were later used to create a 5.1 mix. He goes into somewhat general detail about how their choices were guided by an honest effort to present the sound in a manner that was faithful to Kubrick’s original Mono mix. Several comparisons between the two tracks are offered.

A Cinematic Canvas – (15:04)

Adam Eaker discusses some of the artwork that influenced aspects of the film as well as some of the paintings that appeared in it. It wasn’t at all surprising to find that this scholarly discussion was one of the most instructive academic features on the disc. In fact, it is essential viewing for those who appreciate the film and its director. Artists discusses here include (in no particular order) Thomas Gainsborough, William Hogarth, George Stubbs, Johan Zoffany, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Eaker discusses how the works of these artists directly influenced Kubrick’s vision in an incredibly clear and concise way that makes this an extremely worthwhile fifteen minutes.

Theatrical Trailer #1 – (04:07)

Warner Brothers probably knew that they had an unusual film on their hands—one that would be rather difficult to market to the film going public. Their concept for the trailers was to highlight the film’s artistic merit. It wasn’t “the thrill ride of the year” or the “most fun you’ll have at the movies.” It was a languid but beautifully crafted cinematic experience made by one of the undisputed masters of the art of film. Therefore, quotations from enthusiastic critics and a list of awards and nominations are recited from a distinguished sounding gentleman. This approach is probably not as unusual today as it was then, because one now sees these sort of trailers every Oscar season.

Theatrical Trailer #2 – (02:09)

The shorter second trailer highlights a few different scenes at certain points, but it is essentially a condensed version of the first trailer and utilizes the same “review and award accolades” concept.

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Final Words:

In the opening paragraph of a seven-page cover review of the film for Time magazine entitled “Barry Lyndon: Kubrick’s Grandest Gamble,” Richard Schickel wrote the following:

“In [Barry Lyndon], [Stanley Kubrick] demonstrates the qualities that eluded Thackeray: singularity of vision, mature mastery of his medium, near-reckless courage in asserting through this work a claim not just to the distinction critics have already granted him but to greatness that time alone can — and probably will — confirm.” -Richard Schickel (Time, December 15, 1975)

The film would’ve proven this prophetic statement about Kubrick’s greatness even if it had been the director’s only effort. It is a singular experience that cannot be justified in any review (including Schickel’s). It is an uncompromising film that divides viewers, but this can be said about nearly all truly great films. Cinephiles should abandon all preconceived notions as to what a film should be and how it should be experienced—and if it is being experienced on home video, Criterion’s new Blu-ray is the best way to do this.

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Blu-ray Cover

Limited Edition to 3000

Distributor: Twilight Time

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 126 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes: This release has received numerous DVD releases, but this is the film’s North American Blu-ray debut.

Title

A lot of veteran directors ran into a creative wall in the 1960s. Both the industry and the audience’s sensibilities were changing rapidly, and the greatest auteurs of the previous decades struggled to keep up with these unusual times. Alfred Hitchcock peaked with 1960’s Psycho (despite a strong return to form in 1972 with Frenzy). Like Hitchcock, one of Billy Wilder’s career peaks occurred in 1960 with the release of The Apartment only to fall into a creative slump in the following decades.

Luckily, fate granted Wilder with a temporary reprieve from creative purgatory when he began his seventh script collaboration with I.A.L. Diamond on The Fortune Cookie (1966). Wilder originally wanted to cast Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason but created cinematic history by casting Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon instead. This was the first time these actors were paired together in a film, but the duo would go on to make nine additional movies with one another (although Kotch wasn’t an acting partnership). As a matter of fact, two of these pairings (The Front Page and Buddy, Buddy) were also directed by Billy Wilder.

The tale focuses on the travails of a TV cameraman (Jack Lemmon) who is injured while shooting a professional football game and then inveigled into an insurance scam by his brother-in-law—the infamous Whiplash Willie (Walter Matthau). The resulting film was a financial success and earned Walter Matthau a well-earned Best Supporting Actor Oscar® for his indelible comic performance in the film.

Even so, it is clear in retrospect that The Fortune Cookie doesn’t rank amongst the director’s best efforts. The film is too leisurely paced and the mixture of drama and comedy is decidedly uneven. One sometimes wishes that some of the film’s broadly drawn comic moments were more subdued or that they could have been played straight. After all, a lot can be said for understatement and for simple gestures. Having said this, Wilder’s mid-sixties comeback is essential viewing for Wilder fans and anyone who enjoys the on-screen chemistry between the film’s two principal actors.

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in clear Blu-ray case featuring film-related artwork. The six-page booklet featuring movie stills, poster art, and an enthusiastic short essay by Julie Kirgo sweetens the overall presentation a good deal.

Booklet

Twilight Time’s Collector’s Booklet

The menu utilizes the same film-related artwork and is attractive and intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Twilight Time’s 1080p AVC transfer is surprisingly solid. The image is incredibly rich in detail and with accurate contrast that showcase rich black levels without seeming to crush important detail. It is a vast improvement over the previous DVD edition of the film. Black and white films can look truly terrific in high definition, and this release is no exception.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The English mono DTS-HD master audio track sounds clean without any distracting anomalies to mar the viewer’s enjoyment. Dialogue registers clearly and is well prioritized while the lossless nature of the track gives André Previn’s score adequate room to breathe. Ambience and effects are also well mixed and seem to reflect the original film’s release.

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Special Features:

1 of 5 Stars

Original Theatrical Trailer

As a lover of vintage trailers, the inclusion of this original theatrical trailer for the film is a happy bonus and a much-appreciated addition to the disc.

Isolated Music Track

André Previn’s score is allowed to shine without the film’s other sound elements in this isolated music track. Cinephiles with an interest in film scores will find this feature interesting.

One Sheet

The Official One Sheet

Final Words:

Whether you are a Billy Wilder devotee, enjoy the comic pairings of Matthau and Lemmon, or simply adore classic Hollywood cinema, this Blu-ray release from Twilight Time earns our endorsement—and interested parties will want to purchase their copy as soon as possible.  This is a limited edition release available exclusively at www.twilighttimemovies.com and www.screenarchives.com. There really isn’t any way to know how long it will be available.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: April 25, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:51:23

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Italian Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Notes: This release includes a DVD edition of the film.

Title

“A wonderful film that moves on waves of feeling. Francesco Rosi, who has one of the greatest compositional senses in the history of movies, keeps you in a state of emotional exaltation. A simple image has the kind of resonance that most directors never achieve.” -Pauline Kael (The New Yorker, 1981)

Francesco Rosi established himself as one of the greatest chroniclers of Italy’s stormy postwar history with such riveting classics as Salvatore Giuliano, The Mattei Affair, and Illustrious Corpses. Three Brothers (Tre Fratelli) explores similarly knotty social and political territory through the seemingly straightforward story of three siblings returning to their native southern Italy to pay homage to their late mother. However, their various professions—a judge in Rome (Philippe Noiret), a spiritual counselor in Naples (Vittorio Mezzogiorno), a factory worker in Turin (Michele Placido)—have a profound effect on their response to this reunion.

Three Brothers even received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film but lost the golden statuette to Mephisto. It is only right that all these years later that Arrow Academy is awarding the film with this excellent Blu-ray release.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin and what is presumably the film’s original poster art.

There is also an attractive booklet that includes an interesting essay by Millicent Marcus entitled “Beyond Cinema Politico,” another essay written by director Francesco Rosi entitled “In Opposition to Life, In Opposition to Death,” a 1981 interview with Francesco Rosi about Three Brothers conducted by Michael Ciment, and contemporary reviews of the film. Arrow enhances these interesting writings with several production stills.

 [Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

We aren’t sure, but it seems that this Arrow Academy release may very well be the film’s home video debut in North America. The booklet’s usually detailed information about the transfer is somewhat vague, so we aren’t entirely certain as to the source of this transfer. Contrast and black levels seem to be accurate and the image is relatively sharp considering its age. Colors are also well-rendered and exhibit natural flesh tones. Grain is well resolved and looks natural as well and there aren’t any troublesome digital anomalies—although one can detect moments of aliasing. One can also detect some minor dirt and a few minor scratches, but these aren’t terribly noticeable unless one is looking for them. Depth isn’t particularly impressive either, but one suspects that this isn’t an issue with the transfer but a reflection of the film’s production. All in all, this is a solid but unexceptional transfer.

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Sound Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

The Italian mono linear PCM audio track is also solid as it is in keeping with what one expects from Italian film productions—meaning that it seems the film’s audio was added in post-production. One scene finds a slight fluctuation between ambient audio when Philippe Noiret is speaking, and this is no doubt a result of replacing the original production sound with dubbed dialogue (as Noiret wasn’t a native Italian speaker). Piero Piccioni’s subtle score sounds good in the lossless environment as do the other elements, and this track seems to reflect the original theatrical mix.

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Special Features:

2 of 5 Stars

Archival Interview with Francesco Rosi – (01:12:12)

This audio-only interview with Francesco Rosi was recorded in London during the summer of 1987 and is presented here with various photographs in order to enhance one’s experience. English is the predominant language throughout the interview with some a few moments of translation. Many topics are covered here but Rossi’s 1987 production of Chronicle of a Death Foretold seems to be the predominant focus. Even so, this is an instructive interview that will please fans of the director.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (03:20)

The film’s original Italian theatrical trailer is also included on the disc with English subtitles.

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Final Words:

Francesco Rosi’s Three Brothers is a character-driven story about family. It has an understated grace that is rare and Arrow Academy’s release seems to be the only way one can experience the film on home video.

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Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: March 21, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Theatrical Version02:03:50

Director’s Cut 02:53:31

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

Theatrical Version5.1 Italian DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 2290 kbps, 24-bit)

Director’s Cut 5.1 Italian DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3224 kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio:

Theatrical Version Italian Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Director’s Cut 2.0 Italian Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.67:1

Bitrate:

Theatrical Version34.98 Mbps

Director’s Cut30.00 Mbps

Notes: This film has seen several DVD and Blu-ray releases, but this new restoration release from Arrow Academy is the definitive release by a wide margin.

Title

Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (aka Nuovo Cinema Paradiso) tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director who reminisces about his formative years when he learns about the death of Alfredo—his old friend, mentor, and father surrogate. As memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back to him, he decides that he must return home for the funeral… and this is where radical differences between the two versions included in this set come into play.

Both versions can be divided into three separate sections—or three very distinct “acts” if you subscribe to Aristotle’s theories about dramatic structure: The first concentrates on Salvatore’s childhood, the second on his adolescence, and the third on Salvatore’s journey back to his hometown as a successful but unhappy middle-aged man. However, all of these sections are given equal screen time in the director’s cut while much of the third section has been omitted in the theatrical release.

The result is that the award-winning theatrical release and the director’s cut are two very different films that tell two vastly different stories. The trailer advertising the limited theatrical release of the director’s cut (also known as The New Version) boasts that audiences will “discover what really happened to the love of a lifetime” and it certainly deliver’s on this promise—but there’s the rub. The revelation of what happened to Elena is such that it changes the entire meaning of everything that came before it—including the nature of Salvatore’s relationship with Alfredo. This alters the theme and ones experience to such an extent that it is impossible to view the theatrical version in the same way. Those who remember the film as a charming “celebration of youth, friendship, and the everlasting magic of the movies” (as Arrow’s liner notes boldly announce) will forever be disillusioned. The director’s cut is a much darker film with very different themes—and you can’t un-see it.

The truth is that this longer version is probably the better film, and viewers who see it first will likely be shocked that the theatrical version doesn’t utilize the most important scenes in the entire film. But those who were raised watching the original theatrical cut might very well feel that “their” Cinema Paradiso has forever been perverted, and this reviewer falls into the latter category.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Cinema Paradiso marks the US debut of Arrow Academy and they have set the bar quite high with the release. One might compare Arrow’s standard Blu-ray releases to those released by Criterion in that both boutique labels seem put special effort into the presentation of their packaging. This is usually evident before one even takes shrink-wrap off of the case. However, there are a few minor differences. Criterion’s original designs are usually superior to those commissioned by Arrow. However, Arrow more than makes up for this fact by offering consumers a reversible sleeve that makes use of the film’s one-sheet artwork. This release is a good example of this as we find the two Blu-ray discs housed in the same clear Blu-ray case with the aforementioned reversible sleeve offering a choice between Arrow’s new artwork and the film’s original one-sheet design—which is more attractive and the easy choice.

There is also an attractive booklet that replicates the aesthetic of a vintage roadshow program and includes an interesting essay by Pasquale Iannone entitled “Stolen Kisses: Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso,” which is an informative appreciation of the film that discusses the production and the film’s two different cuts (comparing the director’s cut to Apocalypse Now: Redux). Also included in the booklet is a series of “behind the scenes photos from the film and the usual notes about Arrow Academy, the restoration transfer, and cast and crew credits. It is well worth the time that it takes to read through this attractive booklet and it adds quite a bit of value to the release.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu - Theatrical Version

Menu - Director's Cut.jpg

The animated menus utilize footage from the film and music from Ennio Morricone’s score. They are attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Films has given Cinema Paradiso a much deserved 2K restoration and the results are happily quite satisfactory. In fact, both versions of the film begin with a textual header that includes information about the restoration:

Cinema Paradiso was exclusively restored by Arrow Films for this release. The original 35mm camera negative elements were scanned in 2k resolution at Technicolor Rome, with all grading and restoration work completed at Deluxe Digital Cinema – EMEA, London. Throughout the process, care was taken to ensure that the film’s original texture, details and grain structure remained unaffected by digital processing. Although every effort has been made to present Cinema Paradiso in the highest quality possible, some minor picture issues remain, in keeping with the condition of the original archive materials.” –Opening Header

The Blu-ray transfers of the restoration are of the most excellent quality. Each version is given its own disc at a maxed-out bitrate, and neither version has ever looked as good on home video. Videophiles will be happy to find that the transfer maintains the film’s original filmic texture without sacrificing fine detail—which is really quite impressive for a 25-year-old film. The sharpness of the image is also remarkable and this becomes especially evident in the film’s close and medium shots. The Italian textures of the various buildings come across admirably as do those in the actor’s skin and wardrobe. There are a few moments when the grain patterns can become just a bit unwieldy during a few of the darker moments, but these moments are the exception rather than the rule and never become distracting. Colors are simply brilliant with better than average black levels throughout the duration. The most surprising thing about the transfer is how clean it looks. One would expect a 25-year-old film to be marred by dirt, scratches, and perhaps even a few photochemical anomalies, but such flaws are surprisingly infrequent.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow offers a 5.1 Italian DTS-HD Master Audio mix for both versions of the film along with Linear PCM Audio transfers of each film’s original mix. (The theatrical version’s original mix was in Mono while the Director’s Cut was released in 2.0 Stereo). It is nice that the original mixes have been included here in addition to the 5.1 upgrade and all tracks are reasonably solid. The theatrical version’s original track is predictably flatter than one might prefer, but it sounds quite good. Dialogue is always clear and music has plenty of room to breathe. The surround mix of the film probably isn’t the huge leap forward that one might expect but does offer a more dynamic presentation of the film’s score—although the placement of the various elements sound a bit phony and manage to distract during certain moments. Purists will certainly want to opt for the original mono mix—even if the 5.1 versions do manage a marginally more dynamic experience. The director’s cut’s original 2.0 stereo offers noticeable separations and sounds quite good making this an easy choice for this particular version—although this is merely a matter of taste. All tracks are fairly front heavy but this never becomes a bother.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Disc 1

Audio Commentary by Millicent Marcus and Giuseppe Tornatore (Theatrical)

Disappointingly, this commentary track is 95% Millicent Marcus—who somehow manages to hold one’s interest as she gives a somewhat elementary analysis. That she manages to hold one’s interest is surprising, because she usually relies on giving the viewer a description of what is on the screen. The track becomes more interesting during the few audio excerpts of Giuseppe Tornatore discussing certain aspects of the film. There are occasions when Marcus gives a bit of general background information, and her observations about the director’s cut are both on target and engaging. Viewers are also likely to appreciate when she offers the titles of the various films being projected within the movie. These moments make the commentary worth visiting, but one would do well to curb one’s expectations.

Giuseppe Tornatore’s A Dream of Sicily – (54:47)

This is a surprisingly comprehensive profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring footage early home movies shot by the director, on set footage of Tornatore at work, clips from a few of his films, and much more. The majority of the piece revolves around interviews with the director himself, although Francesco Rosi and Peppino Ducato also make appearances. The documentary is well worth the time it takes to watch it, and may well be the disc’s best supplement—though one suspects that some will prefer the disc’s other documentary more since it focuses solely on Cinema Paradiso.

A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise – (27:28)

A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise is a comprehensive retrospective look at the making of Cinema Paradiso—and it is as entertaining as it is informative. Giuseppe Tornatore, Salvatore Cascio, and Philippe Noiret are all on hand to discuss their experiences during the shooting of the film, the two cuts, and the film’s enthusiastic reception. Some people complain about such “talking heads” documentaries, but I will take a good “talking heads” documentary over a “describe the action” commentary any day.

The Kissing Sequence – (07:03)

This short featurette finds Giuseppe Tornatore as he discusses the final “censored kisses” montage. It is certainly informative and engaging, but one wonders why this footage couldn’t have been included in the body of A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise. It would’ve been a nice addition to the documentary—but one suspects this allows them to advertise another supplement. It is nice to have it included in any case.

25th Anniversary Trailer – (01:42)

The 25th Anniversary trailer is nice enough, but one wonders why the original theatrical release trailers couldn’t have been included either in addition or instead of this one.

Disc 2

Director’s Cut Theatrical Trailer – (01:22)

The Director’s Cut trailer promises “over fifty-one minutes of never before seen footage” and that audiences will “discover what really happened to the love of a lifetime.” Its inclusion here is appreciated.

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Final Words:

Cinema Paradiso is a classic of world cinema and this wonderful 25th Anniversary Restoration release from Arrow Academy is the best it has ever looked on home video.

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Review by: Devon Powell

 

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Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 01:59:23

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 1.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Additional Audio:

1.0 English Dolby Digital Audio 1.0 Polish Dolby Digital Audio

1.0 Portuguese Dolby Digital Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH), Spanish, French, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 30.65 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released in various DVD editions and has been released on Blu-ray. The two previous 70th Anniversary Edition releases offer the same 4K restoration transfer of the film but include supplemental features that aren’t included with this 75th Anniversary Edition.

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“I got that good a contract because I didn’t want to make a film. And you know when you don’t really want to go out to Hollywood—or at least this was true in the old days or ‘Golden’ days of Hollywood—when you honestly didn’t want to go, then the deals got better and better. And in my case, I didn’t want money. I wanted authority. So, I asked the impossible hoping to be left alone. And at the end of a year’s negotiations, I got it—simply because there was no real vocation there. My love for film began only when we started work.” –Orson Welles (Monitor, Interview with Huw Weldon, March 13, 1960)

One can feel Welles developing a true love for film in every frame of Citizen Kane. It is one of those unusual stories that seem quite unremarkable upon hearing a synopsis but are uniquely rewarding due to rich characterization, subtext, and an innovative approach to storytelling. The film’s central character is Charles Foster Kane. Kane is a powerful publisher who eventually aspires to be president of the United States. He starts out with absolutely nothing and proceeds to acquire vast amounts of wealth and power without ever realizing that he is losing himself amongst his numerous acquisitions.

“I must admit that it was intended—consciously as a social document—as an attack on the acquisitive society and indeed on acquisition in general, but I didn’t think that up and then try to find a story to match that idea. Of course, I think the storyteller’s first duty is always to the story… It wasn’t at all a communist picture or a Marxist picture. It was an attack on property and acquisition of property.” –Orson Welles (Monitor, Interview with Huw Weldon, March 13, 1960)

If the film earned a reputation as “communist propaganda” it was most likely due to the efforts of a certain newspaper magnate named William Randolph Hearst who felt that Citizen Kane was a thinly veiled and slanderous account of his own life and sought to use his formidable muscle to halt the film’s production and distribution and ultimately to destroy Welles himself. However, the film’s production was always on extremely shaky ground due to the tumultuous political work environment at RKO.

“There was indeed a very definite effort to stop the film during shooting by those elements in the studio who were attempting to seize power. Because in those days studio politics—particularly RKO, and indeed many of the big studios in Hollywood were very much like Central American republics. And there were revolutions and counter-revolutions, and every sort of palace intrigue and there was a big effort to overthrow the then head of the studio who was taken to be out of his mind because he’d given me this contract which made the making of these films possible. And stopping me or proving my incompetence would have won their case. So, it wasn’t malice towards me. It was a cold-blooded political maneuver. It didn’t have anything to do with Mr. Hearst. That came later…” –Orson Welles (Monitor, Interview with Huw Weldon, March 13, 1960)

It did come a bit later, but when the trouble with Hearst arose it nearly stifled the release of one of cinema’s most cherished masterpieces. It eventually saw a release, but William Randolph Hearst and Hedda Hopper (aka the wicked witch of the west coast) managed to keep the film out of the larger theaters (such as Radio City Music Hall) and the Hearst chain of newspapers wasn’t allowed to advertise or write about the film. The result was relatively disappointing box office.

It was favorably reviewed (in publications that weren’t actually owned by Hearst), and the film went on to receive nine Academy Awards nominations—including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Score for a Dramatic Picture, Best Sound Recording, Best Art Direction (Black and White), Best Cinematography (Black and White), and Best Film Editing. Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles took home the statue for Best Original Screenplay, but legend has it that Welles was booed at the ceremony.

RKO soon locked Citizen Kane away in its archives and by the early 1960s, it had been out of circulation for many years. Luckily, AFI tastemakers selected it as the “Greatest Film of All Time.” Such arbitrary lists are ridiculous but their praise rejuvenated interest in the film.  Since then, Welles’ masterpiece has remained # 1 or # 2 on countless critics’ lists and other surveys including those from Roger Ebert, The BBC, Rolling Stone magazine, Pauline Kael, among many others. While it is easy to argue against the claim that Citizen Kane is the “best film of all time,” one cannot argue that the film isn’t an incredibly rich and rewarding experience, an innovative film, and essential viewing for both cinephiles and future filmmakers.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with attractive film-related artwork. The overall result is rather underwhelming when one compares it to the film’s two previous releases—both of which utilized a more satisfying design concept.

The 70th Anniversary Edition was given two different releases. The first was labeled an “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” and it received ‘digi-pack’ casing with a stellar assortment of collectibles including a hardback book, reproductions of key art and advertisements on cardstock, reproductions of letters and memos from the production, and a reproduction of the opening night’s souvenir program. What’s more, it included two bonus DVDs with supplemental material not available with this release. The second release was given ‘digi-book’ packaging and included only one of the two bonus DVDs.

The point is that Warner Brothers seems to be downgrading each consecutive release.

 The menu utilizes a different design concept than the one utilized for the cover because it is essentially the same disc that was featured in the previous two releases—and the menu design reflects this fact.

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Sound elements from the film’s opening newsreel can be heard over the menu and the overall effect is really quite nice.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers is capable of offering truly incredible Blu-ray transfers, and this is especially true when they are armed with a 4K restoration of the film in question. This particular disc is a case in point. Of course, one might say that Citizen Kane is one of their most prestigious catalog titles, and it deserves the best transfer possible. Their AVC encoded transfer is a beauty to behold. The shadowy chiaroscuro frames exhibit delectably rich black levels with what seems to be accurate detail in the shadows of the frame. What’s more, this is achieved without any distracting compression artifacts. Clarity is also beautifully rendered without sacrificing any of the film’s natural grain structure. There is little room for criticism, but some will no doubt notice a bit of ringing if they are looking for such things. However, this isn’t necessarily even worth mentioning. It rarely ever presents itself and it isn’t noticeable to any distracting degree when it actually does present itself.

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Sound Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

This lossless Mono DTS-HD Master Audio isn’t quite as impressive as its visual counterpart, but one feels that this might be due to the actual source materials. Recording techniques weren’t as advanced at the time of the film’s production as they are today. Minor distortion can rear its ugly head at times—especially during some of the film’s musical interludes. However, one can certainly praise the track for its depth, and Welles offers an impressive sound design for his debut feature—no doubt a holdover from his radio experience. It is nice that the original Mono mix is offered in favor of any faux stereo “upgrade.” Luckily, there aren’t any unfortunate anomalies such as hiss, dropouts, or hum. It is a very good transfer of the film’s original soundtrack—and this is all that anyone should expect.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Why is the film’s 75th Anniversary release less substantial than its 70th Anniversary release? The original Blu-ray release of Citizen Kane was truly remarkable. In addition to the print extras discussed in the “Presentation” section of this review, the release included two DVD discs featuring two feature-length films about the production of Citizen Kane.

The first DVD was devoted to an Oscar-nominated documentary feature entitled “The Battle over Citizen Kane.” It provided fans with a decidedly comprehensive account of Hearst’s battle to rid the world of Citizen Kane. The film offered substantial biographical information about both William Randolph Hearst and Orson Welles while offering a comparison of their personalities. It was probably the best supplemental feature in the entire package, and it is sorely missed in this new release. As a matter of fact, this reviewer would gladly trade both commentary tracks for this single documentary.

The second DVD featured an HBO telefilm entitled RKO 281. While the program was admittedly less revelatory and substantial from an academic perspective, it certainly added quite a bit of value to the package. Of course, none of this ultimately matters because neither of these interesting films is included with this new release.

Luckily, Warner Brothers is still offering a relatively satisfying assortment of supplemental material in this new release:

Feature Length Commentary by Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich is an articulate speaker and an engaging storyteller, and his commentary track is probably the most substantial supplemental feature included here. His well-established friendship with Welles (if it can be called that) allows him to convey a number of revelatory information along with quite a few anecdotes and some technical details about the production. It isn’t the perfect commentary track because only Welles could give a comprehensive account of all aspects of production. Since he isn’t still alive to bestow his wisdom here, Bogdanovich will have to suffice.

Feature Length Commentary by Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert is known for his ability to engage a listener and for his general knowledge of cinema history. However, because he simply brings a general knowledge, his commentary is relegated to general background information, appreciation for Gregg Toland’s contributions to the film (which often involved revolutionary technical advances), and an overall appreciation of the film as a whole. However, this is an incredibly pleasurable way to spend a few hours.

Opening: World Premiere of Citizen Kane (01:08)

This short RKO-PATHE newsreel covers the world premiere of Citizen Kane. A title card informs us that the event was held at the Palace Theater on May 1, 1941. The vintage footage is an extremely interesting artifact, but one wishes that it were longer. There is barely any opportunity to absorb what is being shown here. The actual footage is barely over 30 seconds in length.

Interview with Ruth Warrick – (05:40)

Ruth Warrick is an engaging interview subject and her memories of her work on the film adds quite a bit of value to the disc. One only wishes that her recollections were less generalized and that she would provide a few specific anecdotes from the set (especially since she appears to be an articulate speaker).

Interview with Robert Wise – (03:04)

Robert Wise is equally articulate as he remembers how he came to edit Citizen Kane and the various issues surrounding the production. Again, one simply wishes that the interview was longer and a bit more comprehensive.

Theatrical Trailer – (03:46)

Oddly enough, the most interesting video-based supplement might be this unusual theatrical trailer for the film. Instead of showing audiences footage from the film, Orson Welles announces various cast members and teases the audience with contradictory descriptions of Charles Foster Kane. Even more interesting is the fact that Welles never actually appears in any of the footage. We are only shown a mic as it lowers from a boom into a close-up before hearing his familiar voice. This is obviously a tribute to his fame as a radio personality.

Photo Galleries:

The Production – (15:01)

There are three primary photo galleries included here (Storyboards, Call Sheets, and Still Photography), and they are shown as a video slideshow. No musical accompaniment is included, but the “Still Photography” segment (which clocks in at over ten minutes) includes a commentary by Roger Ebert. Ebert isn’t discussing the photos being shown, gives a general appreciation of the film and its place in cinema history. It is obvious that it is included here as an afterthought as his dialogue goes on much longer than the gallery of stills. It is frankly unnecessary as one would prefer that Ebert’s thoughts were presented in interview format along with the Ruth Warrick and Robert Wise interviews.

Post Production – (05:11)

The four photo galleries include in this section (Deleted Scenes, Ad Campaign, Press Book, and Opening Night) are largely textual in natures and include such things as letters and memos. However, there are a few interesting visual delights—such as a few interesting storyboards and still photographs from a handful of deleted scenes. The press book is also a highlight. All galleries in this section are shown as a video slideshow with no musical accompaniment.

It should probably be freely admitted that photo galleries and on-screen text-based features have never really interested this reviewer. They are nice but rarely feel substantial and it seems that these things would be better represented in some sort of collector’s booklet instead of as part of the disc itself. The inclusion of Ebert’s commentary might have made the Still Photography section more interesting, but it was poorly and awkwardly utilized. Frankly, none of these galleries add much to the overall supplemental package.

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Final Words:

With both of Citizen Kane’s 70th Anniversary Blu-ray releases out of print, this new 75th Anniversary Edition earns an enthusiastic recommendation for anyone who doesn’t already own one of the previous two editions of the film. However, those who already own either of these previous releases can rest easy in the knowledge that they own the better package.

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Review by: Devon Powell

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Limited Edition of 3,000 Units!

Distributor: Twilight Time

Release Date: October 17, 2016

Region: Region Free

Length: 02:12:45

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

1.0  English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0  English Stereo DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 29.99 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released in various DVD editions.

title

“Aldrich knew where to long distance me all over the world when he needed me, but he made no effort to reach me here that he had signed Olivia. He let me hear it for the first time in a radio release – and, frankly, I think it stinks.” –Joan Crawford (Hollywood Reporter)

Whatever happened to the “Grande Dame Guignol” subgenre? It seems to belong to a time when the cinematic landscape was at a crossroads. Hollywood’s original crop of motion picture stars was still living and needed work while the public welcomed a more cynical world-view from their fiction. Robert Aldrich, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford’s collaboration on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane was a unique and effective excursion into the macabre. It was probably born out of the success of Psycho, but it certainly developed into something altogether different.

In an effort to replicate this success, Robert Aldrich contracted Henry Farrell—who had previously penned the source novel for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?—to write a screenplay adaptation of one of his unpublished short stories entitled, “Hush Now, Sweet Charlotte.” Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were also brought on to lend their acting talents to the production, but bloated egos seem to have plagued the production and Joan Crawford resented what she perceived as favoritism towards Bette Davis. There are many conflicting reports as to whether Crawford became legitimately ill or whether she was faking illness to get out of her role, but the end result was the same. She was eventually replaced with Olivia de Havilland, who was actually a more appropriate choice for the role.

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The resulting film, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) finds Robert Aldrich and star Bette Davis in fine Gothic form (even if it pales in comparison to the vastly superior, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?). Here Davis plays a wealthy southern belle who sinks deeper and deeper into madness as the years pass following the sudden decapitation of her married lover. To make matters worse, Charlotte might very well be guilty of the murder. When her decaying plantation house is threatened with demolition, she calls on a cousin (Olivia de Havilland) for help, but this is a decision that she soon begins to regret.  Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, and Mary Astor round out a stellar supporting cast of characters.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in clear Blu-ray case featuring better than average film-related artwork. The six-page booklet featuring movie stills, poster art, and an enthusiastic short essay by Julie Kirgo sweetens the overall presentation a good deal.

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Twilight Time’s Booklet included inside the Blu-ray case.

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The menu utilizes the same film-related artwork and is attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Twilight Time’s 1080p AVC transfer is quite impressive. The image is incredibly rich in detail and contrast is accurately handled. Blacks are rich without seeming to crush and the film has never looked this good in motion. To say that the transfer is superior to those found on the earlier DVD editions is a ridiculous understatement. It was truly a revelatory experience to watch this new high definition Blu-ray transfer of the film. Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte’s atmospheric cinematography is accurately and lovingly represented here.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Twilight Time offers two DTS-HD sound mixes and both sound quite good, though we admit our preference for the original 1.0 English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio track over the faux-stereo offering. Both tracks are surprisingly clean and free from any expected age related anomalies. It is a remarkably clean track that allows for dialogue to register clearly as the effective ambiance and score up the ante on the tension felt by the viewer.

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 Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary with Glenn Erickson (Film Historian)

This excellent track dates back to the film’s original DVD release in 2005. Glen Erickson’s somewhat scholarly commentary is both surprisingly engaging and genuinely informative—especially if one listens without any prior knowledge about the film’s production. He briefly discusses Grand Guignol in general and the Grand Dame Guignol subgenre, production problems and anecdotes, Robert Aldrich’s career, and much more. The track is one of those scholarly offerings that provide a wealth of detail and knowledge. One imagines that the listener’s appreciation for the film will grow exponentially after listening.

Audio Commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros

Twilight Time can be congratulated for offering cinephiles this brand new audio discussion with David Del Valle and Steven Peros. The two historians cover some of the same information that Erickson covered in his track while offering a few new details and their own take on the material. They impart some genuinely interesting tidbits of information about the production, the film’s distinguished cast, and of course Robert Aldrich. The result is a more conversational track that seems to be delivered in a less formal manner.

Isolated Score Track

Viewers that are interested in film scores will be grateful for the opportunity to watch the film with only the score to support the film. This sort of supplementary option is actually quite rare nowadays, and Twilight Time earns a few points for offering such options.

Hush…Hush, Sweet Joan: The Making of Charlotte – (21:47)

This is a better than average look into the production of Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte that focuses primarily on the production problems caused by the rift between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (who was originally cast as Miriam). Adell Aldrich Bravos (daughter of Robert Aldrich) is onboard to provide information about her father’s work on the film and to provide her own on-set recollections (she worked as a script apprentice) while Michael Merrill (son of Bette Davis) provides quite a bit of information about his mother’s work on the film and her uneasy relationship with Crawford. Marc Vieria (film historian) and Bruce Dern (actor) are also on board. The interviews are accompanied by a wealth of production photos, behind the scenes footage, and excerpts from the film that highlight the genuinely interesting information being offered. If this program has a flaw it is that it isn’t more comprehensive in its scope.

Bruce Dern Remembers – (12:51)

Bruce Dern is and has always been a fascinating interview subject. His anecdotes are always engaging and told with enthusiastic relish. This short featurette finds the actor discussing his experiences on and off the set and his memories of working with Bette Davis. He also talks about an amusing dinner party that Davis held for her fellow actors during the production.

Wizard Work – (04:43)

This Fox promotional short is the 1964 equivalent of an EPK featurette, but because it utilizes a good deal of vintage ‘behind the scenes’ footage, it has much more to offer than the average promo. Joseph Cotton narrates this praise-filled tribute to Robert Aldrich and the various cast members involved in the project. It is really a wonderful addition to the disc.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:56)

The film’s theatrical trailer focuses on the film’s broader melodramatic moments and announces that “The winners of five prior Academy Awards and 21 Academy nominations now bring you SUSPENSE unequaled in the history of the screen!” It is an amusing promotional artifact that adds more value to the supplemental package than one might initially expect.

Theatrical Teaser – (01:25)

The included “theatrical teaser” retains a bit more of the film’s mystery while still alluding to some of the film’s more horrific moments. It is really nice to have it included here with the other promotional materials.

TV Spots – (01:38)

The three included TV spots utilize much of the same footage featured in the film’s theatrical trailer but they rely more heavily on voice-over announcements. They are interesting relics that fans will be happy to have included on the disc.

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Final Words:

This is the first and only Twilight Time release that we have ever reviewed, and they are certainly worth keeping an eye on if this release represents them accurately. The transfer is quite good and the supplemental material is much better than one might expect.

Fans of Robert Aldrich, Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, or the Grande Dame Guignol” subgenre will certainly want to add Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte to their Blu-ray collectionsand they will need to do this as soon as is possible. This is a limited edition release offered exclusively at www.twilighttimemovies.com and www.screenarchives.com. There really isn’t any way to know how long that the title will be available.

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Review by: Devon Powell

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Distributor: Paramount

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 131 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono

Alternate Audio:

French Dolby Digital Mono Spanish Dolby Digital Mono

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish

Ratio: 1.34:1

Bitrate: 39.00 Mbps

Notes: This film has had two previous Blu-ray releases and a number of DVD releases. This Platinum Anniversary Edition is essentially a re-packaging and does not represent any major overhaul. However, the advertised six “art cards” are exclusive to this set.

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“It was the story I had been looking for all my life! A man, a good man, ambitious but so busy helping others, life seems to pass him by. Despondent, he wishes he’d never been born. He gets his wish. Through the eyes of a guardian angel, he sees the world as it would have been had he not been born. Wow! What an idea. The kind of idea that when I got old and sick and scared and ready to die – they’d still say, ‘He made The Greatest Gift.’” –Frank Capra

“The Greatest Gift” originated as a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, who famously gave the story to friends as a Christmas card when he couldn’t find a publisher for it, although it isn’t often mentioned that he found various publishers for it soon after it’s informal release. It was published first as a book and was later included in various magazines (sometimes re-titled “The Man Who Was Never Born”) The themes appealed to Frank Capra, who had built his reputation championing the “common man” and a “love thy neighbor” philosophy in his film work. The story seemed to encapsulate all of his favorite themes.

Capra had already directed quite a few films that are undisputed classics, but none eclipse It’s A Wonderful Life—which stands strong as the director’s masterpiece. After being nominated for five Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Recording), the film passed into cinema limbo and was all but forgotten until television revived it many decades later.

Worse yet, the FBI flagged It’s A Wonderful Life for what they perceived to be communist propaganda and most critics charged the film with being “saccharin.” Capra was known for his sentimentality. The press often labeled his films “Capra-corn” for this very reason. Perhaps the sentimental nature of the film’s ending overshadowed the film’s rather dark subject matter. George’s crisis is one that we all face. Responsibilities keep us from the lives we plan for ourselves. We watch our dreams move farther away from us on a daily basis, and the fact is that most of us never live the lives that originally hoped to live. The film’s fantasy elements make us forget that this is actually a very simple story about a man drowning in the realities of life.

If the ending is sentimental, then the sentimentality has been well earned. Audiences recognize the honesty of George’s struggle. This is why they are able to accept and perhaps even embrace the film’s unlikely ending. Viewers rejoice when George Bailey’s friends bail him out of his predicament at the last minute. It reestablishes the themes of the film despite its sentimentality. Classics are classics for a reason and this film is no exception.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

It’s A Wonderful Life has landed on Blu-ray for the third time to celebrate the film’s 70th Anniversary, and the discs are housed in the standard Blu-ray casing with new film-related artwork that is reasonably attractive but not necessarily superior to the artwork featured on the first two Blu-ray editions. The case is protected by an embossed slipcover featuring the same artwork.

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Also included inside the case are 6 attractive “art cards” that feature various posters and lobby cards for the film. The inclusion of these cards is the primary difference between this new edition and the two previous Blu-ray releases.

The menus are identical to those utilized for the previous two releases and feature a decorated Christmas tree. They are attractive and easy to navigate but one feels that they do not truly represent the film.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

My review of the earlier Blu-ray releases of this film was not only extremely forgiving but actually quite enthusiastic. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to be enthusiastic this time around, because Paramount wasted an opportunity to offer fans something even better than this transfer, which is the same one that they have offered twice before. The image is reasonably sharp and a marked improvement over DVD editions of the film and contrast is very nice indeed. Unfortunately, there seems to be some slight digital noise reduction on display. It isn’t quite as bad as some might suggest, but it certainly hasn’t been done as subtly as one might hope. Luckily, this is really the only issue that stands out.

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Sound Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

This Dolby Digital Mono mix is actually pretty decent, but why on earth wouldn’t Paramount take advantage of this new 70th Anniversary release and include a lossless audio upgrade? Could it possibly be anything other than laziness or apathy? Luckily, the track doesn’t contain the pops, hiss, and other distractions that one might expect from a vintage track. Dialogue is always clear and never distorted. Even Dimitri Tiomkin’s score sounds somewhat decent here. One cannot say for certain that a lossless track would be a marked improvement over this Dolby Digital transfer, but one would assume that such an upgrade might at least represent a marginal improvement.

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Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Before discussing the included supplementary material, it is necessary to point out that one of Paramount’s previous featurettes is conspicuously missing here (and from the other two Blu-ray releases.  A Personal Remembrance is a fourteen-minute featurette with Frank Capra Jr. honoring his father and It’s a Wonderful Life. This wasn’t a very comprehensive featurette, but it did feature some interesting vintage interviews with Frank Capra and a short clip of James Stewart discussing the film. This feature was included on the more recent DVD releases of the film and is the only supplement not ported over for any of Paramount’s Blu-ray releases. While most (if not all) of the information covered on this absent featurette is covered in the Making of documentary included on the Blu-ray, it is still a little disappointing not to have it included in this so-called “new” Blu-ray package.

The “Colorized” Version – (HD)

color-title

The second disc in the set features a colorized version of the feature. I have never been a fan of colorization and prefer to see the film as it was originally intended to be seen. However, it is nice to have a good transfer of it included here because one never knows when a friend or relative will have a bias against black and white films. This version will at least allow these misguided people to enjoy the film (even if it is a mutilated version).

color-screenshot

The transfer certainly looks as good as can be expected. The transfer seems to be quite excellent with admirable detail. One cannot expect the colors to be natural because they simply aren’t. Purists will certainly wish to watch the original black and white version, which is more effective on almost every level.

The Making of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ – (480P) – (22:45)

The made-for-television documentary about the making of this holiday classic contains quite a bit of interesting information and features retrospective interviews with director Frank Capra and James Stewart. This is certainly a very welcome addition to the disc even if it isn’t quite as comprehensive as it should have been.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (1080P) – (01:48)

The original theatrical trailer is included here in high definition, and it is a nice little time capsule that offers fans of the film the opportunity to see how the film was marketed upon its release.

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Final Words:

It’s A Wonderful Life is much more than a beloved holiday classic. It is Frank Capra’s masterpiece and it should have a place in everyone’s Blu-ray collection. Having said this, there is absolutely no reason for anyone who owns one of Paramount’s two previous releases to double-dip unless the prospect of owning the six included art cards is too irresistible to pass up. Frankly, Paramount hasn’t taken proper advantage of the film’s 70th Anniversary edition. At the very least, they should have included a lossless audio transfer and the absent A Personal Remembrance featurette that graced DVD editions of the film. This featurette is conspicuously missing from all three Blu-ray releases (and at least one of these advertised that it would be included). Even the relatively nice image transfer probably could have been improved by an all new 4K transfer. However, those who haven’t already added this important classic to their collections should certainly indulge, because it doesn’t look like Paramount is going to spring for anything better than this.

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 Review by: Devon Powell

[Note: Astute readers will notice that the score for each element of this disc has been reduced by half a star for this particular Blu-ray edition of the film. This does not mean that the discs are inferior to the other releases. It simply means that they should have improved upon the earlier releases and didn’t. One is willing to give Paramount the benefit of the doubt once, but to do so twice would be absolutely ridiculous.]