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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: The Cat People/The Curse Of The Cat People (RECOMMENDED).

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#1 of 31 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted October 14 2005 - 09:38 AM

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 31 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR



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Posted October 14 2005 - 11:38 AM

I'm looking forward to exploring this set too when I receive it in the near future. Nice review. Too bad we could not get pristine transfers, but you know cost vs. return.
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#3 of 31 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted October 14 2005 - 12:42 PM

The quality of CAT PEOPLE was quite nice, yes. I have yet to see the new transfer for CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, but I'll take your word for it. I've also watched BEDLAM, ISLE OF THE DEAD, THE SEVENTH VICTIM and I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, and the contrast on those was good too (thought the battered print on ZOMBIE left much to be desired) . I was one of those saying that THE BODY SNATCHER (and only THE BODY SNATCHER) appeared to be too dark to me. And especially when compared to these others, which do look good. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm certainly aware that the "shadows, lighting, mood and atmosphere" are what these Lewton films are all about.

#4 of 31 OFFLINE   Scott_Lemon



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Posted October 14 2005 - 03:53 PM

Could anyone who has the Val Lewton box set make a comment on what the outer packaging is like, and where you purchased it? Is it a cardboard box, a cardboard or paper slipcase, or some custom sort of thing as Herb's review says?

#5 of 31 OFFLINE   Richard M S

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Posted October 14 2005 - 05:07 PM

Oh that absurdly tall box! And try finding one without the top being crushed or tearing through the plastic. I bought it at Tower Records on the day it came out, only because the clerk was nice enough to go in the back and get me one of the few intact boxes, all of the ones on display were damaged as I described.

#6 of 31 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted October 14 2005 - 10:13 PM

I've heard that there is also a standard sized box available, but unfortunately I was one of the unlucky ones who got stuck with the "tall" version on the first day of release.

#7 of 31 OFFLINE   Dave Jessup

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Posted October 14 2005 - 11:28 PM

My copy, via online order, came in a standard slipcase. (Local stores once again had none in stock.)

Did a quick A/B comparison of the opening minutes of Ghost Ship, disc versus VHS of a Turner Classic Movies airing a few years back. Nice print in both cases, so the VHS safely goes to the bulk-erase pile.

I look forward to seeing these again; haven't watched some since last viewing on Beta tapes, but I did look at The Seventh Victim a couple weeks back to have a fresh basis for comparison.

#8 of 31 OFFLINE   Derek Estes

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Posted October 15 2005 - 10:43 AM

I too, thought this was a fine presentation of these films. I think the damage is considerably minor, and never distracting. I've heard several complaints about the condition of these films, but I wouldn't expect these films to look much better, considering how popular they are, and have been for over 60 years. I'm sure the negatives have seen quite a bit of use over the years besides Ghost Ship which was out of circulation for years, and looks quite lovely. And for the price, this set is a no-brainer for me. In a year of such great releases as the Gangster, and Garbo Collections, this is one of the greatest DVD releases this year, or the last couple years in my opinion.
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#9 of 31 OFFLINE   AlanP


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Posted October 16 2005 - 08:17 AM

VAL LEWTON box set @ COSTCO for $38.99. what a deal !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Got it yesterday !!!!!!!! Watch "I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE" and "BODY SNATCHER". "SNATCHER" was not in great shape, nor was ZOMBIE !!!!!! Lots of scratches and marks.

#10 of 31 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted October 16 2005 - 09:08 AM

There is great irony in this thread and another that dwells on the Lewton films. Alan P. above enthusiastically reports he got the Lewton set, 9 feature films for $38.99. That's less than $4.50 a film. Let's assume it MIGHT be possible that extraordinarily expensive technology POSSIBLY could have eliminated or reduced the occasional appearance of the "scratches and marks" you found on ZOMBIE and BODY SNATCHER. IF such technology could have a positive effect in removing some of those fleeting deficiencies, it likely would have cost a huge amount of money to effect this, and might have only yielded a slightly better result. Those unfamiliar may be aware that of all major studio libraries, RKO's was the worst maintained, worst cared-for, worst inventoried, and most whored out for a buck than any other...by far. The fate of an obscure RKO film might be far more impressive than the most popular ones which were reissued to death worldwide for decades, as the poverty stricken studio always needed money. I think all 9 of the films in the boxed set look better than I've ever seen them, and I grew up watching 8 of the 9 on TV all through my childhood and in revival houses (GHOST SHIP being the exception). They've never looked better than they do here, and most of them look DAMNED GOOD, as Herb points out in his review above of CAT PEOPLE. The reviews for this set have been by-and-large, terrific, the value is obvious, the care that went into the presentation (the Lewton docu is very well done with insight and intelligence). If you are at all on the fence about this set, prepare yourself for an occasional speckle...an occasional mark. It hasn't been sandpapered like BAMBI. The films look great, and are easily worth the bargain price they are now selling for.

#11 of 31 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted October 16 2005 - 12:06 PM

Considering how poorly the RKO films were preserved prior to Turner's purchase, I'm happy to see just a good photographic quality. I'm a really big fan of Robert Wise's The Haunting... would the Lewton films be equally appealing?

#12 of 31 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted October 16 2005 - 12:10 PM

I think the expectation level for some in regard to dvd presentation of classic films is not realistic is some cases.
Some would say that Wise borrowed from these films and his experiences at RKO. Crawdaddy



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#13 of 31 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted October 17 2005 - 08:57 AM

Not only is it "possible," but Warner is doing precisely that for RKO's KING KONG - a film which is even ten years older, and likely to have been run through the mill over the decades far more than all the Lewton movies combined! I wouldn't say the Lewton films warrant such expensive "restoration" treatment as KONG is getting, but I wonder if it would have been necessary to go that far anyway? In the case of the poor-looking I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, people have said they've seen better-looking prints.

#14 of 31 OFFLINE   Brook K

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Posted October 17 2005 - 09:43 AM

I liked both movies, but greatly preferred Curse to Cat People. Planning on watching I Walked with a Zombie and possibly The Body Snatcher tonight.

I believe Greg Mank makes a mistake on the Cat People commentary. He mishears or perhaps one of the source materials he used misinterprets the "Mamalukes" that King John defeated to be the actual Cat People. He even mispronounces the word, inserting an "R" or some other letter.

Actually the Mamalukes were the Muslim occupiers of Serbia at that time.

From "A History of the Knights of Malta":

During the XIV century, the general situation became more complex. The small Christian states of Syria were eliminated by the attacks of the Mamaluke Kings of Egypt and only Cyprus and Rhodes remained in the hands of the western people while the Turks turned their attention to Europe.

These were years of great fervour, during which the Hospital strengthened its organizing structures. From 1396 to 1437 the Grand Masters, Philibert de Naillac and Antoine Fluvian de la Riviere dedicated their means and energies towards increasing the defensive capacity of their stronghold, believing that very soon Rhodes would face even more aggressive attacks than it had already. Grand Master Antoine Fluvian de la Riviere offered his own personal wealth towards this programme. It was to be thanks to his inheritance that churches were erected and a new hospital was built.

The enemy, however, did not wait. In 1440 the Egyptians launched a violent attack but, led on by Grand Master Jean de Lastic who had arrived just in time from Europe, the Knights succeeded in warding off the attackers in a bloody battle after which they chased the enemy ships as far as the coast of Anatolia. In 1444, the Turks also risked a similar undertaking but their attempt failed too.

It was, indeed, a period of uninterrupted military activity. We must bear in mind that the vessels of the Order also took part in all the expeditions that the Catholic Countries, urged by the various Popes, organised now and then against Islam. In 1453, Mohammed II conquered Constantinople and the terrified Christians looked East where, in a few years, the Turkish Sultan occupied the Peloponnese, Trebizond, Mytilene, Euboea, part of Albania, the Genoese colonies in the Crimea, defeated Serbia and imposed levies upon many countries.
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#15 of 31 OFFLINE   StevenA


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Posted October 17 2005 - 10:06 AM

What's this "tall box" people are talking about? Mine came in a regular cardboard slipcase.

#16 of 31 OFFLINE   Jaime_Weinman


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Posted October 17 2005 - 10:35 AM

Re "Body Snatcher" -- the fact that the transfer is too dark seems obvious just from comparing scenes from the feature to the same clips in the trailer. You can see more detail in the trailer. I did find that I got "The Body Snatcher" into what I found a watchable condition by a combination of turning up the brightness on my set and turning off the color (something I like to do with B&W movies anyway). But don't ask me whether the result is true to the film.

#17 of 31 ONLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted October 17 2005 - 01:14 PM

Excellent review Herb. I told Brook in another thread that we're the only two that actually prefer CURSE over CAT PEOPLE.


There are some screenshots (and a heated debate Posted Image) between the HK DVD (taken from the LD) and the Warner disc. From what I gathered, there was only one HK release, which was from 2000 and taken from the LD. According to that thread there's a mysterious "alternate source" but going to Google showed nothing of a second release. The LD was also used on the Turner VHS and is what TCM shows. I don't know if there's a better source out there from a private collector but, to me, those screenshots show how much better the new transfer is.

I went through all nine titles and the documentary. I wouldn't have ANY problem recommending this set. The only transfer I'd really complain about is I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE due to several scenes, which appear to have water damage. THE LEOPARD MAN had a couple frames that were bad but the rest was good. THE GHOST SHIP looked great. The rest look like they were taken from the RKO vaults. I remember watching many RKO titles as a child that had all the black levels missing, washed out or whatever you want to call it. Warner's Film Noir sets restored the proper black levels and I think the Lewton set did the same.

It's far from perfect but I've got to really laugh at those who say Warner was taking short cuts or didn't care for these films. If they didn't care then they wouldn't have bothered releasing the lesser known titles and I doubt they would have spent extra money for seven commentaries and a new documentary. I mean, Film Noir is a big seller right now but the Lewton set still got more attention.

#18 of 31 OFFLINE   Brook K

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Posted October 17 2005 - 06:22 PM

I just watched The Body Snatcher and didn't have a problem with it being too dark. (My display is calibrated) I thought the video quality was fine. Both Cat People films are very good quality-wise. Like others have said, there are definitely problems with I Walked with a Zombie. Aside from the obvious print damage, there was noticeable image pulsing and other video problems that could indicate something went wrong in the transfer, though others don't seem to be noting this so it may be a problem with my DVD player. But it is still watchable and given the RKO Library history, for the price, 1 or 2 bad nuts is acceptable. I've only watched two of the discs but would agree with Michael's opinion. I would recommend this set and will probably end up buying it myself even though Curse of the Cat People is the only one I've really been taken with so far.
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#19 of 31 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted October 17 2005 - 10:02 PM

Good point.

#20 of 31 OFFLINE   Steve...O



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Posted October 18 2005 - 11:59 AM

Thanks for another well written review Herb.

I am 5 films into this set and couldn't be happier with it. Yes, Body Snatcher seemed a bit dark at first, but a simple tweak of my brightness control fixed that.

Warners may be a victim of their own sucess with the criticism they seem to have gotten with this set in that they've set the bar so high with prior releases as to set unrealistic expectations in terms of picture quality. Those of us who have watched RKO films on TV and tapes in the past will find these a revelation compared to what we're used to.

And any DVD release that give us mulitple Skelton Knaggs and Tom Conway films get bonus points. Posted Image

A huge thanks to Warners for another stellar release. An absolute steal for the $38 I paid at Costco for it.

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