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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection "Wave 3"



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#1 of 2 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted September 10 2009 - 08:50 AM

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection Wave 3 

Sci-Fi: Soylent Green (1973), The Time Machine (1960), Forbidden Planet (1956), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Horror: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Freaks (1932), The Haunting (1963), House of Wax (1953)

Murder Mysteries: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), The Big Sleep (1946), Dial M For Murder (1954), The Maltese Falcon (1941)


Studio: Warner
 
Year: Various 1932-1972
 
Release Date: September 1, 2009


TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection

As with previous entries in the series, each of the releases in theTCM Greatest Classic Films Collection series pull together the most recent DVD masterings of four films from the catalog controlled by Warner Home Video including the classic Warner,  MGM, and RKO libraries.

Each entry in the series encodes its four films across two double-sided "flipper" discs (either DVD-18s, DVD-14s or DVD-10s depending on how the titles were authored originally). The discs are packaged in a standard Amaray-style case with a hinged tray allowing it to accommodate both discs. The hard case is inserted into a cardboard slipcover with slightly glossier graphics that are identical to the hard case on the front, but different and more promotional in nature on the back.





The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946 - MGM - NR - 113 Minutes)

Director: Tay Garnett

Starring: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames, Audrey Totter, Alan Reed, Jeff York

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 mono: English

Original DVD Release: January 6th, 2004
 

Extras


All four films include their original theatrical trailers.  

The Maltese Falcon
 includes a commentary by Bogart Biographer Eric Lax, and a set of Warner Night at the Movies vintage materials including a Vintage Newsreel clip, the Technicolor musical short The Gay Parisian, Bob Clampett directed Looney Tunes cartoon Meet John Doughboy, Friz Freleng directed Technicolor Merrie Melodies cartoon Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt, and a trailer for the film Sergeant York.

The Big Sleep includes a featurette called The Big Sleep Comparisons 1945/1946 with UCLA archivist Robert Gitt analyzing the differences between the 1945 pre-release and 1946 theatrical versions of the film.  It also has some text based features with a short essay on the film and a list of key cast and crew members.

Dial M for Murder includes a featurette called Hitchcock and Dial M looking at the film's itself and another featurette called 3-D a Brief History that looks at the 50s 3-D phenomenon and how Dial M... fit into it.

The Postman Always Rings Twice includes a documentary profile The John Garfield Story, an introduction by film critic Richard Jewell, and a behind-the-scenes image gallery.

Detailed Assessments

For a detailed assessment of the A/V Quality and extras for The Maltese Falcon please click on the following link for Herb Kane's forum review of the Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection Vol. 2

For The Postman Always Rings Twice, Herb Kane's forum review of the original DVD release can be found at this link

There is no archived forum review for The Big Sleep, so I will address it directly.  The Big Sleep  is an unqualified classic despite, and in a weird way because of, its nearly impenetrable plot.  Raymond Chandler's source novel was complex enough to begin with, but as adapted by Leigh Bracket and William Faulkner (with subsequent contributions from Jules Furthman) and conformed to the requirements of the Production Code so that key plot elements could only be addressed tangentially, things became so confusing that even the  filmmakers were unclear about certain plot points.  Director Howard Hawks has expressed the view that a good movie has at least three great scenes and no bad ones.  There is probably no better illustration of that philosophy than The Big Sleep which is a masterpiece of local optimization.  Even if viewers becomes totally lost in the plot, on a scene by scene basis, the film is just so darn cool that they are not likely to mind.  The initial 1945 cut of the film was retooled to include more of the sexy banter between Bogart and Bacall that had worked so well for audiences in Bacall's film debut in To Have and Have Not.  This was done at the expense of some potentially useful plot exposition, but having seen both versions, I would say that the filmmakers made the right choice.  The DVD presentation dates back to early 2000, and teh A/V quality was not even especially impressive for its time.  It is not as riddled with massive edge ringing and other video-realm artifacts as early Warner DVD titles such as The Music Man were, but it does have more than its share of anomalies including compression artifacts.  The biggest loss from the original DVD release is the complete 1945 pre-release cut of the film, which had been presented on the opposite side of the disc from this theatrical cut.  One can still at least get a feel for what changes were made, however with the included sixteen and a half minute The Big Sleep Comparisons 1945/1946 featurette in which UCLA film archivist Robert Gitt takes the viewer on a reel by reel tour of the significant differences between the cuts with plenty of clips from the 1945 version.

There is also no archived forum review for Dial M for Murder, so I will address it directly as well.  Dial M for Murder is a largely faithful, mostly successful, adaptation of the hit Robert Knott stage play of the same name.  Director Alfred Hitchcock enlisted Knott to adapt his own work and did very little to "open it up" from its single apartment setting.  Instead, Hitchcock used the nascent 3-D process to create an even more theatrical feeling of actors moving through the limited space.  Given the limitations the filmmakers imposed on themselves, the film is surprisingly successful and engaging, even in its 2-D presentation.  In additon to Hitchcock's technical expertise, the film's success can also be attributed to some excellent casting decisions, starting at the top with Grace Kelly in her breakthrough leading role after well-received supporting parts in High Noon and Mogambo.  She would, of course, come to embody the ideal of the Hitchcock "Cool Blonde" in subsequent years.  Every bit as good if not better is Ray Milland as a curiously sympathetic antagonist.  He is right up their in the pantheon of Hitchcock villains with Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train, James Mason in North by Northwest, and Barry Foster in Frenzy.  Robert Cummings is a bit of a stiff as the ostensible male protagonist, but this actually helps in Hitchcock's slyly subversive efforts to shift the audience's sympathies in dramatically different directions from scene to scene.  Anthony Dawson and Hitchcock favorite John Williams provide excellent support in their roles as a man blackmailed into murder and a "British Columbo" style police inspector respectively.  Williams' character more or less takes over the plot in the final reel of the film, and is probably the most competent and sympathetic policeman to ever appear in a Hitchcock film.  The A/V presentation is a bit hit and miss, due partly to source issues which result in substantial drop in resolution and noticeable artifacts during the rear projection process shots and opticals such as titles or fades.  Additionally, the color timing imbues fleshtones with an orange-brown hue that makes the actors look like they have spray tans. The extras are highlighted by a pair of Laurent Bouzereau featurettes.  The 21 and a half minute "Hitchcock and Dial M"  looks at the film's genesis and production with on-camera comments from Actor Nat Benchley, Director Peter Bogdanovich, Director Richard Franklin, Patricia Hitchcock, Historian Robert Osborne, Critic Richard Schickel, and Director M. Night Shyamalan.  "3D: A Brief History"  is a seven minute featurette focusing specifically on the 3-D era of the 1950s, where DIal M for Murder fit into it (the tail end), and the unique way that Hitchcock used the format.  On camera comments are provided by Director Joe Alves, Bogdanovich, Franklin, and Osborne.  Both featurettes are a blend of talking head interviews with film clips and occasional archival photos.

Packaging

The Maltese Falcon (dual layered) and The Big Sleep (single layered) share opposite sides of a DVD-14.   Dial M for Murder and The Postman Always Rings Twice share opposite sides of a DVD-18.  The back cover of the hard case indicates that all titles are dual layered, but The Big Sleep is actually encoded on a single disc layer.

Summary

Everything old is new yet again in the case of these sets of re-packaged titles from TCM/Warner . All of the sets present excellent value for those who do not already own these films in any of their prior incarnations with nothing new beyond packaging to entice viewers who already own them all.
 

Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 2 OFFLINE   Jeff Willis

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Posted September 10 2009 - 09:32 AM

Ken,

Thanks for the post. BTW, Time Machine is among my all-time favorite movies.  I remember seeing that on TV when I was 7 or 8 yrs old.  Scarrryyy.  Those "talking rings" were awesome back then.

ml1fyo.jpg  "Checkmate King Two, 'Out'" "Combat! A Selmur Production"

 

TV/DVD Collector, mainly 50's thru 90's with a few 2000+ shows.
My 2 all-time favorite TV shows:
"Combat!" & "The Fugitive"
My 2 all-time best blind-buys: "The Fugitive"   "The Donna Reed Show"






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