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HTF REVIEW: Literary Classics Collection



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#1 of 12 Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

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Posted March 05 2007 - 02:58 PM

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Literary Classics Collection
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)/The Prisoner of Zenda (1952)/The Three Musketeers (1948)/Madame Bovary(1949)/Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951)/Billy Budd(1962)

The Films

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937 - Selznick International Pictures - 101 minutes)

Directed By: John Cromwell

Starring: Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, C. Aubrey Smith, David Niven, Mary Astor, Raymond Massey, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Ronald Colman plays Rudolf Rassendyll, an English tourist in the country of Ruritania who bears a remarkable resemblance to his distant cousin, the soon to be coronated King Rudolf (also Colman). When King Rudolf is incapacitated through the machinations of power-hungry brother Michael (Massey), Rassendyll is convinced by the King's loyal servants Colonel Zapt (Smith) and Captain Fritz von Tarlenheim (Niven) to masquerade as the King through his coronation. The charade is extended when Michael's right-hand man, Rupert of Hentzau (Fairbanks) kidnaps the true King and spirits him away to castle Zenda. Events are further complicated when Rassendyll finds that he is developing feelings for the King's betrothed, Princess Flavia (Carroll).

This is one of the great adventure films of Hollywood's golden age and the definitive "talkie" version of Anthony Hope's classic novel. The film is perfectly cast from the smallest to the largest role, with Colman leading the way in a flashy dual role that perfectly blends his established suave leading man persona with a hint of self-deprecation. This serves him well whether he is pitching the woo to Princess Flavia, strategically employing furniture as weapons, or bantering in the midst of a swordfight.

Of the supporting cast, Fairbanks gives an energetic performance as the smiling, hissably amoral, Rupert of Hentzau, Smith is great - cast completely to type as the older, stiff upper-lipped loyalist Zapt, and Caroll and Mary Astor manage to make something interesting out of the somewhat thankless principle female roles. A young David Niven offers frequently incredulous reactions to the bizarre events surrounding him. He must have relished the opportunity to work with Colman who was something of the prototype for the screen persona Niven would refine throughout his career.

The screenplay is sharp, moving events along at a brisk pace, with wonderfully witty dialog, especially the snappy bantering between Colman and Fairbanks during their fight scenes.

The technical aspects of the film are equally well realized, with wonderful sets and costumes and beautiful chiaroscuro lighting set-ups from legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe, particularly during the film's second half, which takes place primarily at night. There are some nifty split-screen special effects allowing Colman to interact with himself, and the stunt work is equally impressive. The sword fight at the end is the best I have seen in a classic Hollywood film that did not involve Basil Rathbone, and was reportedly re-shot by uncredited director W.S. Van Dyke after producer David O. Selznick was unhappy with the original footage.

The Prisoner of Zenda (1952 - MGM - 100 minutes)

Directed By: Richard Thorpe

Starring: Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Louis Calhern, Jane Greer, Robert Coote, Robert Douglas, James Mason

Fifteen years after the Selznick version, MGM took a stab at a Technicolor remake. Not taking any chances, they used the exact same script as the hit 1937 version with very minor tweaks. In fact, the 1952 "...Zenda" is about as close to a shot for shot remake of its predecessor as anyone would see until Gus Vant Sant's 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho". MGM also romantically re-paired Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr as the romantic leads following their success in 1950's "King Solomon's Mines". They handed the directing duties over to Richard Thorpe immediately on the heels of his helming the swashbuckling box-office smash "Ivanhoe". MGM even re-adapted Alfred Newman's Oscar nominated score from the original with a larger orchestra. Despite these efforts, they do not quite manage to make lightning strike twice.

Taken on its own merits, the 1952 "...Zenda" is a well made and entertaining film, but viewing it packaged together with its predecessor forces one to notice how it could have been even better.

In terms of performance, Granger is more physically convincing than Colman in the action scenes, but he does not have quite the suave vocal delivery that made Colman's 1937 version so iconic. Of the rest of the cast, only James Mason and Deborah Kerr seem to measure up to their predecessors. Kerr brings a touch more complexity to her final scene where Princess Flavia must resolve her emotional impulses with her sense of duty. Mason's take on Rupert of Hentzau is completely different than Fairbanks', and yet equally enjoyable. Where Fairbanks reveled in the physicality of the role, Mason emphasized the character's ironic observational nature. Both actors, working with the same script, find separate ways to make you really enjoy a basically despicable character.

The staging of the action scenes is another significant difference. The fight scenes in the 1952 Zenda trim some of the amusing banter, tone down the "furniture-fu", and punctuate their classically choreographed elements with bits of rough and tumble brawling that add a bit of realism and underline the desperation of the participants. While I liked it on one level, I prefer the detached swagger of the original, which seems more in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film.

Finally, on a technical level, the Technicolor cinematography on the 1952 "...Zenda" does not quite achieve the level of visual poetry of its Black and White predecessor, although the production design and elaborate matte paintings are typically lavish, if obviously studio-bound, for an MGM production.

The Three Musketeers (1948 - MGM - 125 minutes)

Directed By: George Sidney

Starring: Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, Van Heflin, June Allyson, Vincent Price, Frank Morgan, Gig Young, Robert Coote, Kennan Wynn, Angela Landsbury, Robert Sutton

Gene Kelly and top-billed Lana Turner lead an all-star cast in a lavishly bouncy Technicolor adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' oft-filmed tale. Kelly plays D'Artagnan, a Gascon peasant who has been schooled in swordplay by his father and sent to Paris with a letter of reference to join the King's (Morgan) Musketeers. His romantic naivite and short temper quickly combine to put him at odds with nearly everyone he encounters. After a rocky start, he becomes fast friends with three of the greatest swordsman in the Musketeers, Athos (Heflin), Porthos (Young), and Aramis (Coote). This friendship comes in handy when, through a relationship with his landlord's god-daughter, Constance, he becomes embroiled in court intrigue and international espionage, making powerful enemies of Prime Minister Richelieu (Price) and his agent, Lady de Winter (Turner).

The film enthusistically tries to cram the entirety of Dumas' plot into its just over two hour running time, and it does not quite fit. Those familiar with the source novel and/or other adaptations will notice that some of the story's elements that would put it afoul of the production code were also modified. This includes changing the married status of Constance and secularizing Cardinal Richelieu. While plot holes abound and character motivations are at times questionable, the film's kinetic pacing does its level best to not give audience members time to dwell on these deficiencies.

Kelly's D'Artangan fights like Kelly dances - athletically while making maximum use of his environment and whatever props are at hand. This aspect of the film is a lot of fun, and whenever Kelly removes his sword from his scabbard, you see a blending of dance, fighting, stunts, and physical comedy that is nothing like anything else in cinema until the emergence of Jackie Chan a few decades later. Heflin, continuing a tradition of playing romantic losers that only Ralph Bellamy could challenge, strikes the proper "loved and lost" tone as Athos, whose failed romantic past returns to haunt him with a vengeance. Young and Coote are affable enough as Porthos and Aramis, but they are not given a lot to do. Price and Turner are well cast as Richelieu and de Winter, and are suitably hissable villains.

The production values are high as was typical for MGM in the era. (MGM's production costs were so high in 1948 that it has been reported that they were losing money while achieving record box office numbers.) Numerous key action sequences shot outdoors give the film a sense of scope not obtained by some of their more studio-bound productions. Robert Planck's brightly lit Technicolor cinematography offers eye popping color, but doesn't always serve the story, particularly as things take a darker turn in the movie's later acts.

While I personally prefer director Richard Lester's two-film adaptation of the Musketeers' story, and there are too many head-scratching moments to call it a great film, there is still a lot of entertainment to be had in this fast moving adaptation for fans of the swashbuckling genre.

Madame Bovary (1949 - MGM - 114 minutes)

Directed By: Vincente Minnelli

Starring: Jennifer Jones, Van Heflin, James Mason, Louis Jourdan, Christopher Kent (Alf Kjellin), Gene Lockhart, Frank Allenby, Henry Morgan

The story of "Madame Bovary" centers on the titular character, Emma (Jennifer Jones), who believes her dreams of escape from her rural life into the glamorous world she reads about in magazines and romance novels will come true when she marries a local physician, Charles Bovary (Heflin). While Charles does provide her a social step up from life on a farm, his own expectations are more realistically bourgeois. Despite Charles' obvious affection and attempts to accomodate her, Emma's notions of romance and aristocratic ambition eventually result in adulterous affairs and financial debts with tragic consequences.

The film employs a framing device, opening and closing with scenes of author Gustave Flaubert (Mason) on trial for his novel's indecency. Flaubert contends that rather than endorsing Emma's indiscretions, the novel realistically shows how society creates an environment conducive to them. He then relates the story to the court, becoming the narrator of the film. This seems wholly unnecessary, but probably worked on a "meta" level as an appeal to the Production Code enforcers to allow the film to earn a certificate despite Emma's immoral activity.

Vincente Minnelli brings Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" to the screen substantially intact, but with many of its rough edges rounded off. Considering the film was made under the Hollywood Production Code, it is actually surprising how much of the novel's story remains. The events of the film are portrayed with cinematic restraint, but it is never unclear that Emma participates in two adulterous affairs and receives an indecent proposal from a creditor.

Much of the film hinges on the performance of Jennifer Jones, and for the most part, she acquits herself well. Structurally, the film shortchanges Emma a bit by rushing through her rural childhood, but a brief country wedding scene at least shows a hint of what she is desperate to escape. The tour de force is the elaborate ballroom scene. It is the closest Emma gets to toucing her Cinderella dream and the performances and choreography, both of Emma's dancing and Charles' awkward stumbling through the outskirts of the party, beautifully illustrate the distance between the couple as well as between Emma's dreams and her reality. This is underscored in dialog when Rodolphe (Jourdan), the man Emma later thinks will become her Prince Charming, refers to her in amused tones as "the peasant".

Of the supporting cast, Heflin is especially good as the devoted husband who knows his limitations. Jourdan plays his standard gigolo character as well as ever. His last scene, in particular, is chillingly effective. Henry Morgan, almost unrecognizable with a soup-bowl haircut, registers with a small part as the club-footed boy on whom Emma encourages her husband to perform a risky but possibly reputation-making operation.

Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951 - Warner Brothers - 117 minutes)

Directed By: Raoul Walsh

Starring: Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo, Robert Beatty, James R. Justice

Raoul Walsh's "Captain Horatio Hornblower" an adaptation of three C.S. Forester novels, tells the tale of the title character (Peck), a Captain in the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars of the early nineteenth century. It follow his exploits from the Pacific coast of Latin America to the shores of Britain and France as he repeatedly leads his crew to overcome long odds, meeting his match only when he encounters the lovely Lady Barbara Wellesley (Mayo).

While the Hornblower novels, written in the 1930s, are the most recent works adapted of all of the titles in this box set and may not to some eyes rise to the level of "literary classics", they are certainly popular, influential, and even have an interesting cinematic link in their origins. In the mid-1930s, C.S. Forrester was brought to Hollywood to work with producer Arthur Hornblow and writer Niven Busch on a script for a nautical tale based on historical events. When Warner Brothers produced the similarly plotted "Captain Blood" based on the popular novel by Rafael Sabatini, those plans were abandoned. On his return trip to England, Forester conceived of an original story about a nautical hero, which became his first Hornblower novel "Beat to Quarters" (aka "The Happy Return").

The emphasis on this adaptation is action, and Raoul Walsh serves it up in large helpings highlighted by two very impressivly staged naval battles in which all ships involved take heavy damage. The romance plot is somewhat underserved, particularly by the abrupt and all-too convenient ending, but Virginia Mayo helps the cause greatly by bringing a spark to Lady Barbara whether she is coyly teasing Hornblower about his habitual throat clearing asides or weepily trying to provide comfort to a dying sailor.

Peck makes a terrific movie Hornblower, which is a bit different than the Hornblower of the novels, who is plain looking, financially strapped to the point that he has trouble maintaining his dress uniform, and continuously plagued by self-doubt. While elements of the self-doubt are captured by the differences between Hornblower's journal entries and his outward demeanor, Walsh and Peck focus on portraying Hornblower as he is seen by others rather than through his own critical eyes. This works very well in the context of an action adventure movie, highlighting the character's leadership qualities and cool outward demeanor. In contrast, both his barely contained enthusiasm for his ideas and his occasional uncertainty are manifested by his habitual throat clearing "ha-hmm"s.

Robert Beatty is a solid if unremarkable Lieutenant Bush, and reliable character actor James R. Justice chews just the right amount of scenery as the endearingly prickly Seaman Quist. The film's early going is almost sent off of its keel for modern audiences by over the top "brownface" make-up applied to actor Alec Mango as the crazed revolutionary "El Supremo". Sharp-eyed viewers will spot a young Christopher Lee as the Spanish Captain of the Natividad who has a swordfight with Peck in the film's first big action scene.

The film features impressive Technicolor cinematography by Guy Green, with terrific stunts and effects.

Billy Budd (1962 - Allied Artists - 123 minutes)

Directed By: Peter Ustinov

Starring: Terence Stamp, Peter Ustinov, Robert Ryan, Melvyn Douglas

"Billy Budd", adapted by Ustinov and DeWitt BoDeen from Herman Melville's novel and a previous stage adaptation tells the tale of its title character (Stamp), a merchant sailor who is impressed as a foretopman on a British ship of war. Billy's simple goodness and optimistic outlook win over everyone on the ship save the sadistic and jealous Master-at-Arms Claggart (Ryan). Unlike the rest of the crew, Billy does not have it in his nature to hate him. Claggart, in turn, is infuriated rather than gratified by Billy's attempts to understand him, leading to a confrontation with tragic consequences.

The cast is uniformly excellent. Terence Stamp, in his Oscar-nominated film debut, captures the tragic, angelic, Billy Budd of Melville's novel almost perfectly. Robert Ryan gives one of his best performances as Claggart. Somehow, even the fact that he does not attempt an English accent works for the character, underlining his isolation from the rest of the crew. Ustinov also registers well as Captain Vere, conveying the proper sense of authority as well as the cost his pragmatic devotion to duty and reason is having on his conscience. The cast is rounded out by veteran actor Melvyn Douglas as the sage-like Dansker, Paul Rogers, John Neville, and David McCallum as ship's Officers, Ronald Lewis as a fellow maintopman, and Lee Montague as Squeak, Claggart's lackey.

The symbolism is layed on thick, as it was in the novel, an indictment of beauracracy in the form of Christian allegory. You can not miss it when the film opens with a sailor on a merchant ship called "The Rights of Man" being impressed to serve on a ship of war named "Avenger" (it was called "Bellipotent" - roughly translating to "Martial Power" - in the novel). In case you do miss it, though, Billy conveniently waves to the ship he is departing from a boat and yells "Farewell, Rights of Man!". The characters are allowed a bit more complexity than in the novel, particularly Claggart and Vere, which takes just enough edge off of the allegory for it to play as an effective drama.

Technically, the film does justice to the fine performances with beautiful black and white Cinemascope photography lit by the legendary Robert Krakser. The film is helped immeasurably by the fact that most of the above-deck sequences were actually shot at sea, providing a realistic view of the seemingly infinite horizons. Even in the below deck scenes, the camera and/or sets are kept slowly swaying, creating a believable nautical world.

The Video

The 1937 edition of "The Prisoner of Zenda" offers what appears to be a fine transfer of a very rough source element. I was hoping since this was one of the handful of early Selznick International Pictures productions that came into the possession of a major studio (due to the remake rights, most likely), that it would fare better on video than some of its counterparts such as "A Star is Born". Unfortunately, that was not the case. There is pervasive grain throughout with plenty of film element wear and tear. The second to last reel, containing much of the climactic third act action, is the worst of the bunch with a severe vertical scratch running continuously on the right side of the frame. The compression occasionally has trouble keeping up with the film grain, but a generally high bitrate keeps artifacts reasonably in check. I noticed no significant haloing around high contrast edges. The print has infrequent but noticeable instances of variable density in the frame, but overall contrast is surprisingly good, doing justice to the atmospheric lighting in the films later scenes.

The Technicolor remake of "...Zenda" fares better. There is mild but persistent film grain throughout. The element used for transfer has slight mis-registration resulting in some light color fringing. Colors are vibrant with contrast higher than modern prints, but typical of other three-strip originated films of the era. Detail is rendered well enough that you can notice the subtle drop in film generation during some of the trick opticals where Granger interacts with himself. Compression artifacts are slight, and edge enhancement is not an issue.

The Technicolor 4:3 transfer of "The Three Musketeers" offers a very dramatic color palette with near-perfect registration of the color records. There is infrequent light film element damage visible. The transfer's only drawback is that the contrast seems artificially lowered so that black levels are slighted. Even the day for night scenes rarely have anything that looks like a true black. There are no significant artifacts of digital compression or halos around high contrast edges visible from a reasonable viewing distance.

The black and white 4:3 transfer of "Madame Bovary" overs a pleasing greyscale and a generally sharp and stable image. Light print damage is apparent from time to time, and a few scenes have a bit of flicker, but it is overall a very strong presentation with no signs of compression artifacts or halos around high contrast edges.

The Technicolor 4:3 transfer of "Captain Horatio Hornblower" is the best of the three Technicolor films in this collection. Contrast level is dynamic without appearing boosted. Color registration of the source element is also very good. Light natural film grain is noticeable from time to time, and digital compression artifacts are minimal to non-existent. The transfer is marred slightly by occasional light halos along high contrast horizontal edges, but they seemed most noticeable during shots including Hornblower's hat while he is on deck. This could be partly due to the heavy backlighting employed during rear projection process shots.

The 16:9 enhanced black and white 2.35:1 transfer of "Billy Budd" is generally very good if a little on the soft side. There are a handfull of shots that appear to be from lower generation duplicate film stock and an occasional unevenness to the grain patterns of some of the exteriors, likely due to the difficulties of shooting on a ship at sea. Contrast is very good other than the few "dupe" sections. Compression artifacts are mild, with slight ringing around high contrast horizontal edges (those British Naval Officer hats again!).

The Audio

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track for the 1937 "Prisoner of Zenda" offers reasonable fidelity. There is a persistent background hiss, but not to the point of distraction. Close listening reveals some evidence of processing via noise gates and other tools, but it is usually not applied with a heavy hand. Overall, the track does reasonable justice to the dialog and effects as well as one of Alfred Newman's earliest significant film scores. English subtitles are available.

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track for the 1952 "...Zenda" improves on its predecessor with less audible hiss, and improved fidelity. The underscore seems much lower throughout than for the 1937 version, though it is recorded with a larger orchestra. This is probably a combination of choices made in the mix as well as reduced dynamic range compression versus the older film. English subtitles are available.

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track for "The Three Musketeers" has a persistent hiss, but offers excellent frequency range and better than average dynamics. Noise reduction might have toned down the hiss, but likely at some cost to the tonal fidelity, so I am glad that the disc producers resisted the temptation to use it. Subtitles are available in English and Portuguese.

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track for "Madame Bovary" is a bit limited in its high frequencies and dynamic range, but is overall a very clean sounding track free of any artifacts save a very low level hiss. Subtitles are available in English and Portuguese.

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track for "Captain Horatio Hornblower" has decent fidelity, modest dynamic range, and is substantially free of hiss and noise. I was pleasantly surprised by the low frequency content during the battle scenes with their thundering cannon reports. Subtitles are available in English and Portuguese.

The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track for "Billy Budd" is a solid effort with somewhat wider frequency content than the older films in this collection. It is a dialog-heavy mix with normally light support from the score and occasional wind effects. English subtitles are available.

The Extras

Extra features on the 1937 "Prisoner of Zenda" include a 1937 Technicolor Harman-Ising animated short called "The Wayward Pups". The cat in the cartoon sounds like a dead ringer for Donald Duck's voice. Also included is "Penny Wisdom" a ten minute short in the "Pete Smith Specialty" series offering cooking tips framed by a mildly humorous narrative. Best of all is an audio feature radio adapatation of "The Prisoner of Zenda" starring Colman and his real-life spouse, Benita Hume. Film director John Cromwell appears on-microphone before and after the radio dramatization. It sounds like it was sourced from an acetate disc. In addition to the standard abridgement of the film's story, some segments are clearly speed-adjusted to make the radio play come in at 27 minutes, resulting in an unintentionally humorous Alvin & the Chipmunks effect. Conveniently, the audio feature comes with chapter stops every three minutes.

On the flip side of the 1937 "Prisoner of Zenda", the 1952 version includes a theatrical trailer which is in much rougher shape than the film itself. It also includes a nine minute Technicolor travelogue short from the James FitzPatrick "Traveltalks" series entitled "Land of the Taj Mahal" spotlighting India. It features a somewhat condescending attitude to the Indian people, but includes interesting color (probably monopack from the looks of it) footage of 1950s Bombay, Dehli, and the titular monument. Also included is the 1952 Oscar-winning Hanna-Barbera Tom & Jerry Cartoon "Johann Mouse". It has some funny gags, but aside from some nice waltzing Jerry bits, is not as impressively animated as many of the series entries that preceded it.

"The Three Musketeers" comes packaged with a 10 minute color James FitzPatrick "Traveltalk" short from 1948 looking at postwar London. It covers many of the city's landmarks, the damage caused by the Nazi Blitz during World War II, and some of the buildings that were miraculously spared from damage. Also included is an amusing Tex Avery cartoon called "What Price Fleadom" where a flea abandons his friendly dog host when he spots an attractive lady flea on the backside of a less accomodating bulldog. An audio bonus feature includes a 15-minute 1948 radio promo focusing on Lana Turner. It includes audio excerpts from many of her films and a plug for her latest, "The Three Musketeers" at the beginning and end. Finally, the film's theatrical trailer is presented with the usual marketing hyperbole. It is presented slightly windowboxed so that the superimposed text will be visible on monitors with overscan.

"Madame Bovary"'s extras include a "Pete Smith Specialty" short from 1949 entitled "Those Good Old Days", lampooning the topic of notsalgia. It also includes a hilarious Tex Avery Droopy Cartoon called "Out-Foxed" where Droopy and a group of hounds all compete with each other to round up a very snobby fox. The film's theatrical trailer rounds out the extras.

"Captain Horatio Hornblower" comes packaged with a vintage 15 minute short entitled "My Country 'Tis of Three" that offers a patriotic "good parts version" of American history from the Pilgrim's landing through President Truman's signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. It is prefaced by a disclaimer card indicating that it reflects the attitudes and prejudices of the time, probably due to its condescending attitude towards Native American Indians and/or its complete non-mention of slavery. Also included is "Captain Hareblower" a Friz Freleng-directed Looney Tune pitting Bugs Bunny against "Pirate (Yosemite) Sam" in a nautical setting. My favorite of the extras is an audio-only hour-long "Lux Radio Theater" adaptation of "Captain Horatio Hornblower" starring Peck and Mayo. It includes all of the original integrated advertising and offers a reasonable condensation of the film's plot. The ending actually makes a plot point about what Lady Barbara has been doing while Hornblower was in France more clear than in the actual movie. Finally, the film's theatrical trailer is presented promising the standard thrilling adventure.

Aside from the film's theatrical trailer, presented in 4:3 letterboxed widescreen, "Billy Budd" comes packaged with only one extra, but it is a good one: a screen specific audio commentary with Terence Stamp and Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh acts primarily as a moderator, drawing out comments from Stamp on such topics as the film's production, how he earned his first film role, acting methods, Peter Ustinov, and Stamp's subsequent acting career. While the comments do occasionally stray from the subject of the film and are not really screen specific until close to the end, Stamp is an interesting and engaging raconteur, which makes for an easy listen.

Packaging

The films are all in hard plastic slimcases inserted into a thin cardboard box. All of the films are on single-sided DVD-9s except for the two "...Zenda" films which are on either side of a single DVD-18. The cover and disc artwork for each title is derived from vintage promotional art for the films. The cardboard box cover presents the artwork from the five disc cases arranged inside a faux-leather-bound-book-colored background. All of the discs in the box set are also available separately as individual titles (the two "...Zendas" as a double feature) in full-sized amaray-style cases.

Summary

While I can easily recommend any of the indiviual titles to fans of a particular film, Warner has once again packaged them in an attractively priced box set that is hard to refuse for fans of classic films. The transfers are generally well done, although the film element for the 1937 "The Prisoner of Zenda" appears to be in rough shape. Extras are generally slight, but welcome, with the most substantive one being a full-length audio commentary on "Billy Budd" by Terence Stamp with Steven Soderbergh.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 12 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted March 05 2007 - 03:03 PM

Incredible set of reviews...a real treat to read. Thanks!!
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#3 of 12 John Hodson

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Posted March 05 2007 - 08:18 PM

Superb authoritative review Ken. Many thanks.
So many films, so little time...
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#4 of 12 CineKarine

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Posted March 06 2007 - 01:43 AM

Thank you very much for the truly excellent reviews!!!
Sing your worries away, smile, be kind and accentuate the positive!
DVD wish list: The Accused (48), Margie (46), I'll Get By (50), The Constant Nymph (43), The Voice of the Turtle (47), The Barretts of Wimpole Street (34), Her Twelve Men (54), The Lost Moment (47), I Walk Alone (48), The Glass...

#5 of 12 Haggai

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Posted March 06 2007 - 02:38 AM

I'm too behind as it is on other DVD sets to pick this one up yet, but thanks for the tremendous review, Ken. Hard to imagine a more definitive take than this.

#6 of 12 MikeGale

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Posted March 06 2007 - 10:13 AM

Ken, over at DVD Beaver, they're saying that the Hornblower disk was transferred in interlaced mode, causing aberrations visible on high end systems. Here's the link: http://www.dvdbeaver....hornblower.htm

Did you (or does anyone else) notice any problems in this area? Thanks!

#7 of 12 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted March 06 2007 - 10:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeGale
Ken, over at DVD Beaver, they're saying that the Hornblower disk was transferred in interlaced mode, causing aberrations visible on high end systems. Here's the link: http://www.dvdbeaver....hornblower.htm

Did you (or does anyone else) notice any problems in this area? Thanks!
I saw that screencap too and went back to spot-check the disc. I saw no signs of combing on my Samsung upconverting player sending a 720p signal via HDMI to my Panasonic LCD projector.

I even checked it on Windows Media Player, which is usually very sensitive to such errors, and did not see combing.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#8 of 12 Ira Siegel

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Posted March 06 2007 - 11:57 AM

Thanks for the great reviews, Ken.

#9 of 12 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted March 08 2007 - 09:05 AM

I did not mention this in the review, but for anyone interested, the three Horatio Hornblower novels condensed and adapted into the movie's script are "Beat to Quarters", "Ship of the Line", and "Flying Colours". These are the US & Canada titles. "Beat to Quarters" is actually called "The Happy Return" in the rest of the English speaking world.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#10 of 12 Steve...O

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Posted March 08 2007 - 03:33 PM

An incredibly well written review. Thanks, Ken!

And thanks to WHV for continuing their excellent work with the classics.

Steve
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#11 of 12 Ken_McAlinden

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  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
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Posted March 15 2007 - 04:27 AM

One other bit of information that I did not mention in the review is that on the "...Musketeers" DVD, the Tex Avery cartoon "What Price Fleadom" is the complete uncut version including a dog preparing for suicide bit that has been edited out during most recent TV airings.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#12 of 12 Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

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  • 6,067 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 20 2001
  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
  • LocationLivonia, MI USA

Posted March 28 2007 - 12:54 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken_McAlinden
I saw that screencap too and went back to spot-check the disc. I saw no signs of combing on my Samsung upconverting player sending a 720p signal via HDMI to my Panasonic LCD projector.

I even checked it on Windows Media Player, which is usually very sensitive to such errors, and did not see combing.
I figured out what is going on with this. "Captain Horatio Hornblower" is flagged/encoded as 30 fps video rather than 24 fps film. My Samsung, Sony, and Pioneer DVD players automatically recognized this and treated it as video. If your player/display device shows aliasing artifacts, try manually putting it into "video" mode for this title. This is not a good thing, but it is not as bad as what happened with the "Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 2" where certain cartoons were flagged/encoded improperly such that they would show combing/aliasing artifacts on any progressive display no matter the settings.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA