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HTF REVIEW: Days Of Wine And Roses (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 29 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted December 28 2003 - 12:52 PM

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Days Of Wine And Roses





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1962
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 117 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD Mono
Color/B&W: B&W
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.97
Package: Snap Case






The Feature:
After the recent poll that was conducted by AOL, on January 6th Warner Bros. is about to release five of the classic films that were selected. Listed as possible choices were a number of great old classics but the five that were eventually selected were: The Wind And The Lion, Days Of Wine And Roses, Dr Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (both 1932 & 1941 versions have been released on a single disc), Where The Boys Are and finally The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Jack Lemmon is one of those guys who puts a smile on my face every time I see him. The versatile actor has made many great comedies as well as a number of very convincing dramas. While the first few minutes of this film has the occasional humorous scene, make no mistake about it, Days Of Wine And Roses is the antithesis of the typical comedy-drama. The film is not only a love story but moreover a character study of a husband and wife who love each other more than life itself and whom both struggle and cope with a battle of alcoholism and how they plummet into a spiral of self-destruction.

I hadn’t seen the movie for many years, basically forgetting much of it. And admittedly, it does start out slow and has its comedic parts, but soon turns into a disturbing portrayal of alcoholism and its devastating effects. The other serious film that quickly comes to mind that deals with alcoholism is the 1945 Billy Wilder classic, The Lost Weekend which stars Ray Milland. Days Of Wine And Roses was directed by Blake Edwards who also directed Lee Remick earlier the same year in Experiment In Terror. The B&W photography certainly emphasizes the mood and the sometimes feel of disparity.

The love story focuses on Joe Clay (played brilliantly and most convincingly by Jack Lemmon) and Kirsten Arnesen (played by Lee Remick). Joe is a Public Relations executive who is rather unhappy with his work and feels as though he is nothing more than a pimp to the upper class supplying them with beautiful women under the guise of “business functions”. During one of these rendezvous’, he meets a stunning woman who turns out to be the boss’s secretary. At first the two don't hit it off well but they eventually fall in love. Joe is a social drinker initially, but as the complications of life seem to multiply, so does his use of alcohol.

Kirsten seems almost angelic to a point where her only vice is a love of chocolate. Once a teetotaler, Joe eventually introduces her to alcohol in the form of a chocolate flavored drink. Eventually, they marry and have a baby girl. They both seem to be on top of the world with Joe having an executive job, a beautiful wife and daughter and living in an upscale apartment in San Francisco.

Eventually Joe gets demoted and winds up taking a smaller account which requires him to go out of state. While there on business, he gets a call from his father-in-law Ellis Arnesen (played by the gruff Charles Bickford) who advises him that Kirsten was drinking heavily and had set the apartment on fire. Joe returns home and arrives just in time to find them clearing out what’s left of the charred remains of the apartment.

Joe winds up getting fired from his current job (his 5th job in four years) and eventually the pair go from living in a flashy upscale apartment to living in a run down dilapidated dump and ultimately wind up living upstairs at Kirsten’s father’s house. Though they are able to remain sober for a couple of months, their sobriety is short lived as Joe winds up coming home with bottles taped to his ankles as to not get caught by Kirsten’s father. What follows is a desperate man in search of a bottle he stashed earlier that day in the family greenhouse. What results is arguably the finest performance (the greenhouse scene) of Lemmon's career. While it’s difficult to act drunk convincingly, he pulls it off to a point which is spectacular.

Joe eventually finds help delivered by way of an A.A. representative Jim Hungerford (played by a very young Jack Klugman) and winds up in detox and eventually finds his way. Unfortunately, for Kirsten the once innocent wallflower has fallen to an even lower depth than that of her husband and winds up in a “pay by the hour” motel in a drunken stupor revealing that her circle of new friends have also brought about sexual infidelity.

Joe is forced to make the most difficult decision of his life; whether to carry on sober with his new life and daughter or whether to take back the true love of his life and continue on with life and how it used to be.

Without sharpening too fine a point, the ending is interesting and ambiguous – probably the way it should be. Also interesting to note is that every time Kirsten is caught up in a stupor, she is watching Warner Bros. cartoons (no accounting for great taste, I know…) but what’s fascinating is the statement they’re trying to convey about the state of simplicity. Remick’s performance is every bit as brilliant as the virtuous character takes the identical plunge and becomes a neglectful mother in search of companionship.

It’s somewhat of a shame that this film was released in 1962. Unfortunately, it was up against some heavyweights, but both its stars were deserving of Academy Awards (as was the film but it wasn’t nominated). Other than Lemmon and Remick who were nominated, the other nominees for Best Actor in 1962 were Burt Lancaster (The Birdman Of Alcatraz), Marcello Mastorianni (Divorzio all'italiana), Peter O’Toole (Lawrence Of Arabia) and Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird) who won the award. For Best Actress, the nominees were Katharine Hepburn (Long Day’s Journey Into Night), Bette Davis (Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?), Geraldine Page (Sweet Bird Of Youth) and Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker) who won the award. It was a great year for film, but a bad year if you were looking for a statue.



Video:
In a word… OH MY GOD! Granted, this film is somewhat more recent than many B&W titles that are presently available, but this is pretty spectacular stuff. As usual, let’s start with the good – and there’s plenty of it.

The black levels are as deep as can be imaginable. The grayscale and level of shadow detail was outstanding. I have a pretty healthy collection of B&W titles in my collection and I feel pretty comfortable saying this is one of the better ones. The level of image detail was exceptional. Some of the Remick shots were softer but most assuredly, that was the intent.

For the most part, there was a true sense of dimensionality which really displayed quite handsomely. Some grain was present but at levels which were virtually non-existent.

There were only a couple instances of dust or dirt. I did notice several scenes where a slight shimmer (light instability) affected the picture but they were few and far between. Finally, compression issues were never a problem.

Absolutely gorgeous. Bravo…!



Audio:
For non believers of DD Mono tracks, have I got a track for you…! Obviously, not a track that is a serious contender for any system demo, but this is a mono track that’s about as good as it gets.

There are a number of scenes where there is a lot of yelling, screaming, outbursts and confrontations etc. All of which come across very clearly and discernable, never sounding compressed. Dialogue was always crystal clear.

Also worthy of mentioning was the beautiful yet sometimes haunting score of Henry Mancini’s Academy Award winning song that frequently accompanied the film. It certainly expressed the mood of the film, and it comes across quite nicely.

There was a very slight amount of hiss (particularly at the start of the film) and the track sounded very natural and un-tampered with.

There were a couple instances where I noticed the track was slightly out-of-synch particularly at the 14:30 mark. It lasted only for a few seconds and wasn’t particularly bothersome.

All in all, a very solid track.



Special Features:
There are a few special features offered up on the disc. The first is a:
[*] Commentary By Blake Edwards which is a full length running commentary by the aging but accomplished director who sounds somewhat out of his element here while conducting the commentary (and freely admits it as well). While there are many tidbits that are mentioned (including his own battles with the alcohol demon), Blake Edwards himself admits that he hadn’t seen this film since the early 60’s, so it seems as though even he isn’t all that familiar with events that transpired some 42 years earlier. He even adds (during the third chapter) that “the film was in black and white” which he’d obviously forgotten... I have a difficult time remembering what I did last week. With all due respect, to expect a now elderly man to recall finely tuned details regarding events that happened 42 years ago can be a stretch… and in this case it is. Obviously, he becomes engrossed in the film – again… and, I really can’t blame him! Very little was gleaned from this commentary but I found myself unable to turn it off -- bizarre, perhaps out of respect…?
[*] The second feature is a Jack Lemmon Interview which is interesting in that he is on the phone (a mock conversation..?) and we are only privy to his answers from the conversation. He does cover some generic topics like shooting on a stage versus on location, the physical demands of his role in the film and working with Blake Edwards. Interesting - but brief. Duration: 5:06 minutes
[*] Finally, there are two Theatrical Trailers. The first is a rather lengthy trailer containing many clips as well as a “walk-on” by Jack Lemmon, who sits down to “pitch” the film which he clearly illustrates how passionate he is about the new film. The second trailer is very similar to the first only it’s an abbreviated version. Both trailers are in reasonably good shape.



Final Thoughts:
Days Of Wine And Roses is a tragic and disturbing love story and the affects that are brought upon their relationship due to alcohol abuse. Captured perfectly are the peaks chronicling high end jobs and upscale apartments and the valleys showing the “pay by the hour” type motels they eventually wind up in. Pretty disturbing stuff!

As for the Warner Bros. presentation, it is spectacular. The B&W transfer is among one of the very best now in my collection. I can’t recommend this disc enough. I will say however, if you’re adversely affected by “downer” movies, then this isn’t a movie for you. It most certainly does deserve a place in any serious library.

Highly Recommended…!!




Release Date: January 6th, 2004
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 29 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted December 28 2003 - 12:58 PM

Another superb and provocative review, Herb. This one is a definite must-buy for me.

I'm looking forward to hearing from Herb about the other upcoming WB "winners" : DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE and WHERE THE BOYS ARE DVDs. I'm planning on purchasing both of those too, especially DR. JEKYLL!

#3 of 29 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted December 28 2003 - 03:36 PM

Thanks Roger... Dr. Jekyll is indeed up next.

Herb.
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#4 of 29 OFFLINE   Gabe D

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Posted December 29 2003 - 12:56 AM

I was hoping that they would include the original "Playhouse 90" TV version from 1958 with Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie, directed by John Frankenheimer. I actually liked it more than the feature film.

#5 of 29 OFFLINE   Randy Korstick

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Posted December 29 2003 - 01:32 AM

Thanks Herb. Excellent film and the best film on alcohol abuse. I need to pick this up.
...When you eliminate the impossible whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth

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#6 of 29 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted December 29 2003 - 01:54 AM

Quote:
I was hoping that they would include the original "Playhouse 90" TV version from 1958 with Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie, directed by John Frankenheimer. I actually liked it more than the feature film.


Warner couldn't include this, because they do not own it.
It is owned by a company headed up by former TV show host
Sonny Fox.

I know it was availale on VHS for many years through MGM/UA
Home Video but their rights expired. Perhaps someone else picked the rights up for DVD, but I don't know who....

Meanwhile, I for one am grateful and appreciative that WHV has released this most impressive film itself, as it is a towering achievment from Lemmon, Remick & Edwards.

#7 of 29 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

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Posted December 29 2003 - 02:02 AM

This is one of my top favorites & it is a very powerfully acted film. Thanks for a good review. Posted Image
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#8 of 29 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted December 29 2003 - 02:21 AM

I had not heard of this movie before, any film with Jack Lemmon is a treat so I will buy this

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#9 of 29 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted December 29 2003 - 03:57 AM

Warner couldn't include this, because they do not own it.
It is owned by a company headed up by former TV show host
Sonny Fox.
Now, that's a name out of the past.Posted Image




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#10 of 29 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted December 29 2003 - 03:59 AM

Herb,
Another great review and I have recommended this title to a few friends because of it's powerful message and having IMO, Jack Lemmon's greatest film performance.





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#11 of 29 OFFLINE   Randy Korstick

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Posted December 29 2003 - 04:16 AM

Robert
I agree about Lemmon's performance in this movie as well as Remick's; viewers that have not seen this before will probably never believe that either was capable of such an incredible performance. I saw this for this 1st time on VHS back in 1988 and it changed my view of Lemmon as a dramatic actor ever since.
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#12 of 29 OFFLINE   Roderick Gauci

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Posted December 29 2003 - 06:46 AM

Herb,


Thank you for yet another excellent review. I may be speaking for most of us here when I say that I envy you for being able to sample these stunning Warners discs before anyone else!

I have never watched DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (1962) before so this disc is very welcome. Actually, I didn’t even realize that Blake Edwards had recorded an Audio Commentary for it. It’s a pity that it’s not all that informative but I find being able to watch a film WITH the film-maker (even when there are a lot of dead spaces) rather thrilling! I recall being somewhat disappointed that Edwards didn’t record an Audio Commentary for THE GREAT RACE (1965) – knowing that he previously had for VICTOR/VICTORIA (1983) and, more recently, THE PINK PANTHER (1963) on R2 – but, now I guess, it’s just as well. I have yet to pick up THE GREAT RACE on DVD myself but I might just do that now that THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES (1965) is also coming on DVD in a few months’ time!

As for your review of the DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1931/1941) Double-Feature disc, it can’t come soon enough…

#13 of 29 OFFLINE   Alistair_M

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Posted December 29 2003 - 08:16 AM

Whenever I think of this film I recall the amazing scene in the greenhouse - Jack Lemmon's performance was totally convincing. I couldn't say its his best performance he was often superb eg in Missing, China Syndrome, The Apartment etc.

#14 of 29 OFFLINE   Steve K.H.

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Posted December 29 2003 - 04:53 PM

Quote:
"...and the best film on alcohol abuse. I need to pick this up."

Hahaha... this is the wrong forum for admissions on addictions...Posted Image

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#15 of 29 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted December 30 2003 - 01:55 AM

Just finished watching this film very early
this morning.

What a sensational movie. I am so disappointed
that this film nor its stars received any Oscars.
The performances were just incredible. The greenhouse
scene featuring a frantic Jack Lemmon is perhaps
the most memorable of any film.

I was also extremely proud of the transfer. This
is another top-notch effort by Warner Brothers.

Do not hesitate to pick up this film even if you
have never seen it before. It is truly a "classic."

It is just so cool to discover these classics that
before the DVD format I would never have considered
watching. I suppose, like Jack Lemmon's character,
I too have become hooked on a lethal combination --
classic film and DVD. It is addictive! Trust me!

Thank You Warner Brothers!

Ronald J Epstein
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#16 of 29 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott

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Posted December 30 2003 - 02:14 AM

i'm really torn about picking this one up-
on the one hand i've always liked Lemmon, i still have the hots for Lee Remick, and i love seeing top notch B&W transfers.
but on the other-
i hate 'message' films, and i can't stand being in the presence of drunks-either in real life or on the screen.
no matter how well preformed, a message movie that ends up being "drinking to excess is bad news" doesn't sound all that stimulating.

is there anything more going on in the film than just a 2 hr descent into boorish, alcoholic behaviour?

#17 of 29 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted December 30 2003 - 03:17 AM

Paul,
I suggest you at least watch the film first before you dismiss it as a message film because it's more "than just a 2 hr descent into boorish, alcoholic behaviour". It's a film with some of the best acting you'll find on film.




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#18 of 29 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

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Posted December 30 2003 - 03:28 AM

Quote:
It is just so cool to discover these classics that
before the DVD format I would never have considered
watching. I suppose, like Jack Lemmon's character,
I too have become hooked on a lethal combination --
classic film and DVD
Hmmm...I find it hard to believe Ron that you have not watched "Classic" films in other formats. Posted Image If that is the case, you've been missing a great experience.
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#19 of 29 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted December 30 2003 - 04:53 AM

Quote:
. I am so disappointed
that this film nor its stars received any Oscars.


Also made that year (and nominated) were Lawrence of Arabia, which won and To Kill a Mockingbird, also worthy, as well as The Manchurian Candidate, not nominated, but also a fine film.

As for the performances, Jack Lemmon lost to winner Gregory Peck in what was likely his finest performance as Atticus Finch in ‘Mockingbird’. A stronger case could be made for Lee Remick as Anne Bancroft won for her somewhat one-dimensional performance as Helen Keller’s teacher in The Miracle Worker, whose main virtue was that everyone could feel good about the subject and outcome—very unlike Remick’s character—and for that matter very unlike any of the other nominated actor’s characters that year (Katharine Hepburn as the drug addicted mother in Long Day’s Journey into Night, Bette Davis as the bitter, ex-child star in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Geraldine Page (who is at least sympathetic) as the faded movie star in Sweet Bird of Youth. For me Remick, Hepburn and especially Davis were all better choices than the winner, with Page’s chances being hurt by a poor screen adaptation of the original play.

Glad you are enjoying these classic films, regardless of who won the awards of the day.

A fine review Herb
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#20 of 29 OFFLINE   John KB

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Posted December 30 2003 - 05:32 AM

I can't wait to see this movie again. I watched it for the first time last year on vhs.
I was hoping for more extras, but it would have been a must own if it didn't have any, so I'll take what they give us and be happy!


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