Posts Tagged ‘Billy Wilder’

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

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Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Release Date: February 07, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 02:09:56

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

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

title

“He could do more with a closed door than other directors could do with an open fly.” –Billy Wilder (about Ernst Lubitsch)

Billy Wilder’s fondness for the “Lubitsch touch” is very much on display throughout the length of Love in the Afternoon, which is the second film that finds Audrey Hepburn under the accomplished direction of Billy Wilder. The director had just begun his legendary writing partnership with I. A. L. Diamond, who would go on to collaborate on eleven future Wilder films. The result is always enjoyable but cannot be considered one of the director’s best works. The reason for this probably lies in the unfortunate casting of Gary Cooper as the film’s masculine lead.

As American playboy, Frank Flannagan, Cooper finds himself decidedly out of his element—especially when paired with a young Audrey Hepburn. Cooper was only 56 at the time, but he looks quite a bit older than this in the film. It is difficult to believe that the Cooper that we are watching onscreen is the ladies’ man that Maurice Chevalier (as Claude Chavasse) discusses during the film’s opening scenes. Wilder’s original choice was Cary Grant, and one feels that he would have been more believable in the role—even if Grant (at age 53) was only a few years younger than Cooper at the time.

Fortunately, the solid script, Wilder’s expert direction, and admirable performances by Hepburn and Chevalier are enough to make one’s viewing experience a pleasurable one.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with a sleeve containing Saul Bass’s original one-sheet artwork, which is enough to make this release look like a rather special one. One wishes that more Blu-rays would be released with their original poser art.

menu

The menu utilizes this same artwork and are easy to navigate. However, the unusual absence of a chapter menu might annoy some viewers.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

William C. Mellor’s gorgeous black and white cinematography is treated with love and respect in Warner Archive’s wonderful 2K transfer scanned from the original camera negative. Their efforts to clean up the imperfections in the scan was handled with care as the image showcases a very natural grain pattern. The transfer’s high bitrate allows for above average depth and clarity for a film of this age, even if the image is a shade softer than one might expect. It should be made clear that the picture’s softness is a direct result of Mellor’s romantic cinematography and does not reflect any weakness in the transfer. Blacks are deep without giving way to noticeable crush and the various shades of grey are equally well rendered.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The film’s original mono audio track has been carried over to the digital realm and cleaned of any glaring imperfections that might have distracted viewers. The result is a lossless track that accurately replicates what audiences would have heard in 1957. Anyone expecting anything more than this is both unreasonable and slightly ridiculous.

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Special Features:

1 of 5 Stars

Theatrical Trailer – (03:00)

Maurice Chevalier narrates this cute and entertaining marketing artifact and it is nice to see it included on the disc.

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Final Words:

Billy Wilder’s flawed homage to Ernst Lubitsch is a pleasure to watch—even if it isn’t in the same class as his best work.

Review by: Devon Powell