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A few words about... The Controversial Classics


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#1 of 27 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted April 29 2005 - 09:30 AM

Warner Home Video continues to lead the pack as they prepare to release a seven film collection - all fine films - with six acknowledged classics and a seventh (the newest) which doesn't quite fit with the others. From the earliest forward they include: Mervyn LeRoy's 1932 I Was a Fugitive from a Chaingang, with Paul Muni as a wrongly convicted war veteran. This early Warner production has the textural look of their gangster films of the era. The film element is more than serviceable, and with a fine transfer; Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney in Fritz Lang's first American production, the 1936 Fury. Another clean transfer, a bit better looking than the '32 Warner product - in short, a great film; The 1955 Richard Brooks film, Blackboard Jungle, another fine with with a beautifully rendered transfer about 25 year old teenagers in an inner city high school; The only color production in the group, Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan in John Sturges' early CinemaScope Bad Day at Black Rock. Released here with its original stereo track intact; Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, a 1957 production and Andy Griffith's debut performance. This is a gorgeous transfer; Otto Preminger's 1962 Advise and Consent, an early Panavision production. This is one of the finest political films created. Earlier incarnations had a distinct low contrast soft-focus look, which thankfully has been corrected with its first release on DVD; And finally, the 1964 Arthur Hiller film, The Americanization of Emily, with its screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky. This film also has its stereo tracks encoded to the DVD. While the first six in the group are extremely famous for their messages of social injustice, the last, although a fine film, and one which I personally have always enjoyed, doesn't quite seem correctly added to this collection. Nonetheless, Emily will be a superb addition to anyone's collection. I'll not get into the "messages" of these films. They are, each and every one, a landmark film in their own right. Each has been well-handled in their transfer to DVD. This is another of those "no brainers" that need to be added to one's collection. Six of the films are hard-boiled, no nonsense, beautifully written, photographed and produced films, with important messages which were difficult to tell (and for some, to digest) at the time. The seventh, a fine quality entertaining film. The bottom line being that Warner Home Video has now issued a SEVEN disc set, with six of the most important films in motion picture history, with the boxed set working out to just over $8 a title at street price. This set comes very highly recommended.

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 27 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

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Posted April 29 2005 - 10:29 AM

Thanks for the info Robert! Mine is on order & I'm looking forward to it.
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#3 of 27 OFFLINE   ArthurMy

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Posted April 29 2005 - 10:38 AM

Just picked up Emily and I Was a Fugitive, so I'll watch Emily this evening.

#4 of 27 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted April 29 2005 - 10:57 AM

Mine on order as will! This was another "piss my pant's" release for me, the first being Warners Gangster set. ANy word on extras?

#5 of 27 OFFLINE   Gordon McMurphy

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Posted April 29 2005 - 11:26 AM

Nice to hear that the stereo tracks for Bad Day and Emily have been preserved.

This is an amazing batch of films. And such a low price, as well. $46.43 from DVD Import.


#6 of 27 OFFLINE   Simon Howson

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Posted April 29 2005 - 01:04 PM

Is the transfer for Bad Day At Black Rock 2.55:1, or 2.35:1? I thought it should be 2.55:1 - given that the audio is 4 track?

#7 of 27 OFFLINE   Jaime_Weinman

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Posted April 29 2005 - 01:07 PM

Thanks, Mr. Harris, for the words about a set that I'm really looking forward to, but I disagree with this about The Americanization of Emily:
It seems to me that it fits in fine with the box's loose theme of showcasing films that deal with controversial subjects -- true, it's a comedy, and the others are not, but its anti-war (or, as Chayefsky preferred to call it, anti- the glorification of war) message is at least as strong as the messages of any of the other films. One thing I like about the films in this set is that even though they are "message" pictures, almost none of them are preachy or sanctimonious or self-righteous or simplistic as "message" movies often are (like anything by Stanley Kramer, for example). These are entertaining movies, and also movies that deal with issues without simplifying them into triviality.

#8 of 27 OFFLINE   george kaplan

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Posted April 29 2005 - 01:26 PM

Yeah, I hate the preachy sanctimoniousness of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Posted Image
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#9 of 27 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted April 29 2005 - 01:38 PM

FYI, UCLA's Film & Television Archive restored A Face in the Crowd. Image from the original camera negative; sound from the original optical soundtrack negative. I'm looking forward to this box set... I caught Fury on Turner Classic Movies a few months ago. Terrific film and the typical greatness of Fritz Lang's direction. A Face in the Crowd has been one of my favorites for a while, too. What are the aspect ratios for A Face in the Crowd and Blackboard Jungle?

#10 of 27 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted April 29 2005 - 03:08 PM

I believe A Face in the Crowd is 1.85:1 and Blackboard Jungle is 1.75:1 Crawdaddy

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#11 of 27 OFFLINE   BrianHass

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Posted April 30 2005 - 12:33 PM

I haven't seen any of these films, but have purchased all of the recent Warner box sets and have been extremely please with them. Also the $46.04 price from DDD doesn't hurt either. Hopefully it will be a pleasant blind buy. Can't wait for the 2nd volume of the Film Noir Set though. As well as the Thin Man box set

#12 of 27 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted April 30 2005 - 07:13 PM

I am very much looking forward to this, just as I was with the Errol Flynn boxset
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#13 of 27 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted April 30 2005 - 11:39 PM

I had the opportunity to screen Fury last evening in its entirety. Still a brilliant bit of filmmaking, a beautiful element transferred properly, and with a great commentary track based upon a mid '60s discussion with director Fritz Lang. A too seldom seen film gets its due. RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#14 of 27 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted April 30 2005 - 11:45 PM

RAH, Do all of these titles have film length commentary? Crawdaddy

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#15 of 27 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted May 01 2005 - 12:51 AM

All appear to have commentaries witih the exception of A Face in the Crowd, which includes a quality documentary / featurette, discussing Mr. Kazan and the HUAC debacle.

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#16 of 27 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted May 01 2005 - 01:58 AM

wow very good news indeed
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#17 of 27 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted May 01 2005 - 04:58 AM

That's very good news and I suspect that Andy Griffith and Patricia O'Neal contributed to that featurette? Crawdaddy

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#18 of 27 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted May 01 2005 - 06:25 AM

I haven't seen the new FACE IN THE CROWD disc yet, but a reviewer-pal of mine has. He says is it amazing looking, and quite shocking that a 48 year old film was so prophetic in its message. He also says there is an excellent half-hour documentary that features all new footage of Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, and Budd Schulberg commenting on the film NOW. I think there may be archival footage of Kazan, but I'm not certain. In any case, I applaud WB for going the distance for this magnificent and hauntingly brilliant film.

#19 of 27 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted May 01 2005 - 07:09 AM

Roger, Not only is WB "going the distance," but 1/3 the way through the year, I cannot imagine what any other studio might be able to do to take away the 2005 Best Home Video crown from Warner. I'd love to see an entity compete, as it would be wonderful for the industry, but no other studio seems to be able to hold a candle to WB in an overall sense. RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#20 of 27 OFFLINE   streeter

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Posted May 02 2005 - 06:13 AM

This box looks wonderful, and I can't wait to add it to my collection. I have already seen three of the films (Chaingang, Fury and A Face in the Crowd) and highly recommend seeing them. I'm especially looking forward to the new retrospective doc on A Face in the Crowd.
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