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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: James Stewart: The Signature Collection (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Jul 31, 2006.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    The FBI Story (1959 – Mervyn LeRoy)

    In this WB celluloid advertisement for J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the colorful career of Agent Chip Hardesty (played by Jimmy Stewart) is highlighted. In a career that spanned four decades, Hardesty was involved with a number of memorable cases including real life scrapes with Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, Ma Barker and John Dillinger. Mass murderers and Klan members were also dealt with by the legendary lawman. His wife Lucy Ann, is played by Vera Miles. The film was based on the writing of Pulitzer Prize winner Don Whitehead and his bestselling novel and was directed by veteran helmsman, Mervyn LeRoy who was responsible for Random Harvest (1942), Quo Vadis (1951) and Mister Roberts (1955) among many others.


    [​IMG]

    The Naked Spur (1953 – Anthony Mann)

    After a chance encounter, three bounty hunters come together and find themselves charged with the task of transporting the smooth-talking murdering-outlaw, Ben Vandergroat (played by Robert Ryan) to face justice in Abilene, Texas. The payoff is a lucrative one; $5000. With an alternate plan in place, the prisoner plays on the psyche of the lawmen and pits them against each other as greed eventually sets in. An MGM film, The Naked Spur is the third of five Anthony Mann directed films which Stewart starred in. Here, he appears as Howard Kemp, the unyielding leader of greedy bounty hunters caught up in a potential trap of the hunted.


    [​IMG]

    The Spirit Of St. Louis (1957 – Billy Wilder)

    On May 21, 1927, “Lucky Lindy” landed outside Paris and the world was forever changed. Suddenly the limitations of travel ceased to exist. The Spirit of St. Louis chronicles the trials and tribulations of Charles A. Lindbergh, the aviation pioneer who changed everything. Real-life Lindbergh fan and fellow pilot, James Stewart sought the role but was initially turned down. The Warner Brothers film was directed by the legendary Billy Wilder whose credits include Double Indemnity (1944), Sunset Blvd. (1950), Ace in the Hole (1951) and The Apartment (1960) among many others.


    [​IMG]

    The Stratton Story (1949 – Sam Wood)

    Stewart plays Monty Stratton, a Chicago White Sox pitcher whose whip-like delivery earned him consecutive 15-win seasons. However, Stratton’s greatest “win” doesn’t happen on the mound. Stratton loses a leg suddenly in an accident just as his career starts to blossom. The pitcher’s will and resilience lead him to pitch again. The all-American Stewart signed on for the role knowing the film would be an inspiration to injured War G.I.’s returning from service. The film snagged an Oscar nod for Best Motion Picture, and was directed by Sam Wood – responsible for another period baseball classic, The Pride of the Yankees. This MGM film is supported by a cast that includes June Allyson, Agnes Moorehead and Frank Morgan. The pairing of Allyson and Stewart lead to future projects including The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and Strategic Air Command (1955).


    [​IMG]

    The Cheyenne Social Club (1970 – Gene Kelly)/Firecreek (1968 – Vincent McEveety)

    Tough as nails, Stewart and Fonda team up as saddle weary cowboys, who find themselves proud new owners of The Cheyenne Social Club, which they’ve inherited in Wyoming. After traveling half way across the country, they learn the club is a high class brothel. The pair eventually find themselves the protectors of their new establishment and defend it against a gun-wielding gang. The National General Pictures film was produced and directed by legendary dance-man, Gene Kelly.

    Firecreek is located on Side B of the disc. In this Warner Brothers film, Fonda plays a ruthless outlaw preying on small towns and it’s inhabitants. Stewart is the panicked part-time lawman whose job it is to bring him in. The film was directed by Vincent McEveety whose career spanned 5 decades of directing television.

    The Cheyenne Social Club and Firecreek are packaged in a “Double Feature” Keepcase much like other WB titles that have been doubled up, this one falling under the “Western” banner.

    The Features:
    The FBI Story 3.5/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    The Naked Spur 4/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    The Spirit Of St. Louis 4/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    The Stratton Story 4/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    The Cheyenne Social Club/Fire Creek 3/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] and 3/5 [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  2. ChrisRose

    ChrisRose Well-Known Member

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    Too bad The Naked Spur doesn't have the greatest picture quality... it's one of the most interesting (to me) movies here. At least The Stratton Story (my favorite) looks good...and has the best extras.

    Wish there were more extras in this set... I'll probably get slammed for saying this, but why couldn't these movies get the special treatment on DVD (packed FULL of bonus features, including commentaries and new featurettes) that, for instance, Warner's Tough Guys collection got? I imagine they're especially proud of their gangster/crime films, which Warner's very famous for... but I still wish other films they own would get similar attention. Oh well. I'm looking forward to the next James Stewart box, and hoping it'll include more of his early films.
     
  3. Ollie Gatehouse

    Ollie Gatehouse Active Member

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    Thanks for the review Herb! Been looking forward to the set ever since it was announced. As Chris said, shame about the PQ for the Naked Spur but am glad to have it finally on DVD.
     
  4. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Well-Known Member

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    Nice review Herb. This is one my dear Mother would LOVE for Christmas. [​IMG]
     
  5. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Well-Known Member

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    Yay, can't wait! Especially for The Naked Spur, and The Spirit of St Louis. The others are bonuses that probably won't get released locally.
     
  6. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Well-Known Member

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    Very nice! I'll get this one for sure.
     
  7. Johannes S

    Johannes S Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your reviews, Herb!

    The FBI Story / The Spirit Of St. Louis / The Stratton Story / The Cheyenne Social Club / Firecreek are all of quite satisfactory quality.

    But I was shocked what Warner did with the best movie of the box set, "The Naked Spur": The PQ is absolutely terrible. It obviously derived from an old analog source (just look at the typical NTSC composite artifacts at the titles - probably a master directly ported from the LaserDisc and excessively filtered thereafter) There is NO DETAIL AT ALL. This picture is a totally undefined, muddy mess.


    Every TCM and local broadcast of "The Naked Spur" looks better than this "DVD".

    Thanks Warner for this great box set at a great value, but WHAT A SHAME how you treated "The Naked Spur". Please let us know, dear George Feltenstein, why such an UGLY analog composite "master" has been used for this DVD "transfer". Why for the best movie of this box set?

    ...just forgot to say that the trailer looks considerably better than the feature itself.....
     
  8. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Interesting, I'll make sure this is the first title I watch from this boxset to see if I concur with the criticism.
     
  9. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Well-Known Member

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    Johannes... I would definitely agree that TNS is the weakest presentation among the group. Would be curious to hear RAH's thought's on this one.

    H.
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I noted the problems with this release.

    The master is digital. The problem seems to come from the fact that the film was mastered from an older interpositive element, which simply was not well made.

    To make matters worse, this is not now, nor has it ever been a popular title. It has a cult following as a Mann western.

    The current DVD is certainly adequate, but not up to the standards which Warner has set for itself. Although I believe that the film needed to be released and available, with so many other quality films in need of restoration, this is not a title for which I would not have suggested creating new film elements.

    RAH
     
  11. ChrisRose

    ChrisRose Well-Known Member

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    Damn shame. I'm still waiting for my boxset to arrive in the mail. I almost wish I could cancel it...but...still love Jimmy Stewart. And what are the odds WB will re-do The Naked Spur? But if they do, I'll buy it again, being the sucker I am.

    I'm glad to see that once in awhile, even one of the HTF mods can admit Warner Bros ain't always perfect. [​IMG] I know how beloved WB is around here - often feel like I'm being snubbed for daring to say anything against them. But, as much as I love some of the work they've done....I do believe their quality control is slipping lately. Maybe they're getting too cocky from all the consumer adulation. [​IMG] Maybe they're rushing too many releases when they should slow down and take more care.
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    As with any other studio (or business) investments are not unlimited. I don't believe that Naked Spur is an error. It is simply not a film that begs the investment necessary to make it near perfect. As a late (acetate) three-strip production, it carries specific problems, inclusive of the fact that the film base of the safety negatives can shrink at wildly different rates, potentially making a current re-comp extremely problematic and expensive.
     
  13. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Well-Known Member

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    What's the Canadian word on this box set?


    Do we have our own special Warner Bros Canada street date and is it safe as far as content (i.e. ALL films & extras included?)

    What about bilingual art?


    I'm still waiting impatiently for my Noir Classics 3, Tough Guys Collection and Bogie & Bacall Signature sets up here...
     
  14. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Well-Known Member

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    One thing I noticed with The Naked Spur DVD is there seemed to be compression artifacts when there were trees with leaves blowing in the wind. Or is this just problem caused by the restricted resolution of standard DVD?

    I'm quite happy with the disc, it was the first time I had seen the film and I liked it. Sure I would love Warner to release all 3 strip films in ultra resolution, but that is obviously very costly.
     
  15. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Well-Known Member

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    Any idea on CAN. release info for this?
     
  16. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    I'm with Marco, sill impatiently waiting north of the border. Any word on variations in content would be appreciated.
     
  17. ChrisRose

    ChrisRose Well-Known Member

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    Not an error? Fine, so maybe Warner doesn't think this movie is worthy of a restoration...despite the fact that many people on this thread and elsewhere seem to find it the most interesting, anticipated movie in the boxset. But, fine, let's say you're right and Warner considers The Naked Spur just a "minor" western with only a few "cult" Anthony Mann fans.

    Even supposing that's true... if Warner ALREADY owns a superior looking print, which they've shown on TCM, and even theatrically, and the DVD looks vastly inferior... wouldn't you call that an error on their part? And wouldn't that be another example of the kind of carelessness I've been seeing on Warner's part lately?

    Someone else who's making the "it looked better on TV" claim:

    http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDRev...dvd_review.htm

    I understand the HTF mods want to maintain a friendly relationship with WB so they'll keep coming back to do chats, and hopefully be more likely to listen to our requests... But fans/customers do have a right to complain if they're unsatisfied with a product. Warner should be able to take the criticism with the praise. We shouldn't be afraid to say Warner made a mistake!

    So, y'know, some may make excuses for the studio and say this DVD is "adequate"... but I'm siding with those who say it's "terrible".
     
  18. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    A theatrical screening at the Cinematheque has nothing in common with the film element used for the transfer.
     
  19. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Very disappointing. The inclusion of The Naked Spur was one of the reasons I ordered this set.


    Cees
     

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