Posts Tagged ‘Twilight Time’

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.png

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.

booklet

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

menu

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