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A few words about...™ Preston Sturges: The Filmmaker Collection

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#1 of 24 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted November 24 2006 - 01:57 AM

Some fifteen months ago, I wrote of Preston Sturges work... "Preston Sturges was not a prolific director, although his hand as a writer can be found credited and not, in a number of other director's projects. For those unfamiliar with the dozen or so films left to us by Mr. Sturges, or those who may have only seen Sullivan's Travels because of its earlier availability on DVD, I can only suggest that you attempt to catch up with [those] currently available on DVD." Universal Home Video has given us our wish. First to concept and packaging. There have been numerous comments regarding Universal's use of DVD-18s, and the occasional player problems encountered for some of their budget priced collections. I have never had a problem with them, and these collections give the classic film collector incredible value for their investment. With the Sturges Collection the studio as taken a totally different position, not only listening to the public, but literally going 180 degrees in the opposite direction. With running times as short as 68 minutes, and topping out at 101, Universal has served up some of the greatest, most literate comedy classics of the 1940s, each on its own individual DVD. In addition, the entire collection has been placed in a beautiful fold-out box, which unseals at the center, and then further opens to reveal the seven discs protected within. Seven Preston Sturges classics on seven DVDs. Quality is what one would expect of films derived from secondary elements, the originals, to the best of my knowledge, no longer surviving. Image quality is totally acceptable on all seven films. It has not been scrubbed, processed or shorn of grain. The films look much like their 35mm film counterparts, and there should be no complaints. Savor what is being delivered. As to the films themselves, those new to DVD are extremely important and welcome additions to the availability of the work of Mr. Sturges oeuvre. I decided when beginning this piece that I was going to neither gush nor overstate the case about this collection. I'll say it in extremely simple terms. Universal's aptly named Preston Sturges: The Filmmaker Collection is not only one of the most important studio classic offerings of 2006, it takes an immediate position of one of the most important since DVD first appeared almost a decade ago. It will be one of the most welcomed Christmas gifts for the savvy cinephile, and an even greater gift from the knowledgable gift giver to those who have not yet discovered the wonders of Mr. Sturges work. If one were to use a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most important or "best," Universal's Preston Sturges: The Filmmaker Collection, scores a full 10! This is a collection that could not be recommended more highly. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Sturges work, don't think, simply jump in, grab this set on-line, at your local brick and mortar, or head for the DVD section at your nearest Costco. Priced streeting at around $42, that is $6 per film, this is a consummate "no-brainer." While you're at it, pick up Paramount's release of The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (re-made as Rock-a-Bye Baby) as well as Unfaithfully Yours via Criterion. Hopefully, Fox will give us Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend in the near future. RAH

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#2 of 24 OFFLINE   Charles H

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Posted November 24 2006 - 02:46 AM

In the days of VHS, Universal actually released films made from Preston Sturges scripts: EASY LIVING, I WERE KING, and IMITATION OF LIFE (Sturges uncredited and already out on dvd). Also out on DVD are Sturges' scripted NEVER SAY DIE, COLLEGE SWING, THE GOOD FAIRY, LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST, THIRTY DAY PRINCESS, THE INVISIBLE MAN (uncredited), BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940 (uncredited). WE LIVE AGAIN. Us completists would love to have on dvd (in order of importance): REMEMBER THE NIGHT, DIAMOND JIM, EASY LIVING, IF I WERE KING, NEXT TIME WE LOVE, HOTEL HAYWIRE, FAST AND LOOSE, THE BIG POND and NEW YORK TOWN. The only Sturges-directed films not available on dvd are THE BEAUTIFUL BLONDE FROM BASHFUL BEND (from Fox--it would make a great double-bill with THE POWER AND THE GLORY, Sturges' ground-breaking script) and the reclusive THE FRENCH THEY ARE A FUNNY RACE in both the American and French versions. I have been after TCM for years to show THE PORT OF SEVEN SEAS, Sturges' adaptation of Pagnol's "Fanny." Has anyone ever seen it? I'm beginning to wonder if there are any surviving prints.
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#3 of 24 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden



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Posted November 24 2006 - 02:22 PM

This is hands down my favorite DVD box set of the year, which I suppose is saying something about the quality of the contents considering that it is seven films completely bereft of extras. If you have a digital cable or satellite service that carries the Fox Movie Channel, they air "Unfaithfully Yours" and "The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend" fairly regularly. The latter is not Preston Sturges' best work, but it is better than its reputation may lead you to believe and worth catching. If Fox continues to dig into their Betty Grable catalog, I hope they consider this one soon. Regards,
Ken McAlinden
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#4 of 24 OFFLINE   DavidJ



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Posted November 24 2006 - 02:47 PM

I can't quite commit to this set. I love "The Lady Eve" and "Sullivan's Travels." The latter being my favorite. I don't own any at the moment, but I have borrowed long-term "Sullivan's" from a friend. I am interested in the other movies, but I also want the extras that are on the Criterion versions of "The Lady Eve" and "Sullivan's Travels." I guess if I find a good deal I should consider this set. Does any one know how the transfers here compare to the Criterion transfers?

#5 of 24 OFFLINE   GlennH



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Posted November 24 2006 - 03:35 PM

DVDBeaver.com has some comments and comparisons here.

#6 of 24 OFFLINE   Jefty


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Posted November 24 2006 - 11:10 PM

I bought this without any hesitation--even though I already had the Criterion Lady Eve + Sullivan's Travels (which I'll keep for the wonderful array of bonus materials) and Palm Beach Story (which I can now give away to some poor soul currently unacquainted with these wonderful films)... I do wish that Universal would put more effort into their contextual materials (it can't possibly cost much to commission good commentary tracks--and they add so much to the package).... does anyone know why Miracle of Morgan's Creek isn't on the set? (I know it's available separately--I already had it--but it's still a very strange omission--non-Sturgians might get the false impression that it's not an essential item in the oeuvre!) I second Charles H's call for the release of Sturges' pre-directorial efforts--especially Easy Living + Remember the Night (I still don't understand how it has failed to become a Christmas perennial!)

#7 of 24 OFFLINE   John Hodson

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Posted November 25 2006 - 01:05 AM

It's not available to Universal; the home video rights are still with Paramount.
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#8 of 24 OFFLINE   Richard M S

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Posted November 25 2006 - 03:43 AM

Regarding The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, isn't the story behind why Paramount still has the rights due solely to the film's rather daring subject matter ? I am pretty certain I read someplace that Miracle was one of only a handful of films of that era to which Paramount retained the original rights. I hope I am not confusing it with another film, so please correct me if I am mistaken.

#9 of 24 OFFLINE   seanOhara


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Posted November 25 2006 - 04:00 AM

I don't think so. My understanding is that when Paramount sold their catalog they were developing a remake, which eventually became the Jerry Lewis film Rock-a-Bye Baby.
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#10 of 24 OFFLINE   Jefty


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Posted November 25 2006 - 04:40 AM

thanks for the info everyone this stuff is so fascinating--I suppose I should know better by now, but I always forget about copyright issues! (wishful thinking!) I guess it took home video in order to enable the studio system's final revenge on the auteur theory...

#11 of 24 OFFLINE   Garysb



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Posted November 25 2006 - 04:55 AM

My understanding was that since the purpose of selling the catalog was to license the films to TV, it was felt in the mid fifties that the "Miracle of Morgan's Creek " could not be shown on TV due to content. No spoilers here for those who have not seen the film. There were other remakes of Paramount films, where the originals were sold by Paramount such as "The Major and the Minor" which was remade as "You're Never Too Young" another Jerry Lewis film with Jerry in the Ginger Rogers part

#12 of 24 OFFLINE   BarryM


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Posted November 26 2006 - 03:14 PM

I got it and I think it's swell. The only issue is that I have 3 of the films already.......but those I didn't have are worth the price of the set alone.

#13 of 24 OFFLINE   richardWI


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Posted November 27 2006 - 01:24 AM

Wow, that sounds... frightening.

#14 of 24 OFFLINE   Charles H

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Posted November 27 2006 - 02:29 AM

Many of the Martin & Lewis films were polymorphously perverse remakes of Paramount films: SAILOR BEWARE was a remake of Betty Hutton's THE FLEET'S IN (with Lewos in the William Holden part?); it was subsequently recycled by Hal Wallis for Elvis Presley in G.I. BLUES. SCARED STIFF was a remake of Bob Hope's THE GHOST BREAKERS (with Lewis in the Willie Best part?). PARDNERS was a remake of RHYTHM ON THE RANGE (with Lewis in the Martha Raye role?) LIVING IT UP was based on a Broadway musical that was based on Selznick's NOTHING SACRED (Jerry Lewis in the Carole Lombard role).
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#15 of 24 OFFLINE   Tim-H.


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Posted November 27 2006 - 04:32 PM

I love the set, but decided to make 4 double-slim cases to replace the fold-out box. (I paired the last disc with MORGAN'S CREEK.) Here's a sample (60kb): http://home.earthlin...thyhall/PS1.jpg
If you add .pdf to the above instead of .jpg, you can access a better version, and so on for 1-4 (about 400 kb each). I especially enjoyed creating the portrait of Sturges - PM me if you'd like a copy of that. Enjoy!

#16 of 24 OFFLINE   Eric Peterson

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Posted November 30 2006 - 04:45 AM

I received mine yesterday, and it's a fine-looking set. I'm looking forward to watching the films that I've previously not seen. I have a few open questions. Has anyone compared the picture of the old Criterion editions of "The Lady Eve" & "Sullivan's Travels"? I would rather not keep both and ideally, I would put my Criterion editions in this new set and give away these copies unless the picture is a susbstantial improvement. I also read somewhere that this set comes with a booklet. Mine has no such booklet, so I'm curious if this was changed or if I didn't get one. Also, if said booklet exists, does it contain anything worth while? I already have several books on Sturges, so if it's a simple plot summary sort of thing, I won't make a big deal out of it.

#17 of 24 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden



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Posted November 30 2006 - 06:55 AM

DVD Beaver has comparison shots of "The Lady Eve" and "Sullivan's Travels". They definitely don't look the same, but they have different strengths and weaknesses. I slightly prefer the Criterion transer of "Sullivan's Travels" and greatly prefer the new Universal transfer of "The Lady Eve". YMMV. Regards,
Ken McAlinden
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#18 of 24 OFFLINE   Larry Geller

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Posted November 30 2006 - 07:34 AM

No booklet, just a flyer for other Universal sets. BTW, what's with having NO chapter menu, only a "play film" menu & hidden chapters on the disc? How cheezy can you get?
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#19 of 24 OFFLINE   Mark VH

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Posted November 30 2006 - 09:57 AM

Thanks RH - great to finally have the not-yet-released titles on DVD. I've been craving more Sturges something fierce. Incidentally, I noticed that TCM is going to be airing the Sturges-written (but not directed) "Remember the Night" on Dec. 17. Can anyone tell me if this is worth catching? Who owns the DVD rights?

#20 of 24 OFFLINE   Jefty


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Posted November 30 2006 - 10:15 AM

I'd say it's more than worth catching--it's essential! One of the truly great Stanwyck performances (and a clear precursor to her Lady Eve) and one of the very best Christmas films ever made by a Hollywood studios. Sturges claimed to hate Leisen's direction of his script--but I think that's just a case of an auteur champing at the bit for total control. I'm sure he would have handled it a little differently, but I love it as is. I think Universal owns the rights--they released a VHS of the film in the mid-1990's...and mine's already dead! I already whined about the need for DVD editions of Easy Living and Remember the Night earlier in this thread--but I think it's worth insisting upon.

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