Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jun 27, 2018.
The First Nudie Musical
I went back to Morocco tonight. I agree that it looks fairly light and soft, much like it's always looked to me, and the sound still has some hiss, too. (Blonde Venus was very clear.)
I watched the bonuses on it and while I knew most of the information imparted, I either never knew or had forgotten about Marlene's estranged sister who remained in Germany during the war and was a likely Nazi sympathizer.
Watched Blonde Venus - my favorite. This one didn't quite have the luster that Dishonored and Shanghai Express had, but there are tons of opticals in Blonde Venus - it still looked very nice and certainly WAY above any previous release - Hot Voodoo, baby - think that number could get done today? So brilliantly shot and directed - never been a musical number like it. The most interesting thing in Blonde Venus are the subtle changes to Dietrich's face from the previous three films - it's very apparent, especially in the latter half of the film. This movie has some of my favorite dialogue ever and Dietrich is superb, especially the scenes where she's on the run, and really especially in her drunk scene with my favorite line in the film about the envelope with fifteen hundred dollars in it. Cary Grant is suave but has none of the personality he would soon have - probably what von Sternberg wanted, and Herbert Marshall is great and so is the kid.
I got around to The Scarlet Empress this afternoon. Apart from a tiny little scratch, it looked very nice indeed. I remember reading that this movie was a box-office disaster practically sinking Paramount in the process. In addition to so many distasteful characters (and those cruel tortures in the opening scenes must have been shot pre-Code. Can't imagine Breen allowing them after enforcement of the code), it looks like Paramount spent a king's ransom on it with such lavish sets and costumes. Though the public at the time stayed away, I've always enjoyed it, and I liked it just as much this time around, too.
The other day, I criticized Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc for not being a convincing teenager. In this movie, Dietrich does convince in the early scenes as an inexperienced, giddy teen even though she was in her early 30s during production.
Early thirties and married with a daughter and an impressive string of lovers – and still she pulled it off. Ahem.
Scarlett Empress - very impressive transfer - very grainy opticals, but boy does it have some beautiful contrast and detail. As to the film - while all von Sternberg's are one-off films, this one is so outre in so many ways - incredible dialogue, Sam Jaffe frightening even me, Dietrich brilliant, Louise Dresser almost walks away with the film, and the sets - oh, Lord those sets - they are beyond belief in their detail and opulence, not to mention nightmarishness. Costumes, too. It is a film in which nothing should work and everything does. One just sits there with one's mouth open, doesn't one? It is like nothing else, this film - I couldn't help but think "it's the stuff that dreams are made of." I've seen it nine or ten times now and I always forget just how crazy brilliant it is.
I used to say that EMPRESS was my #1 all-time favorite film, with DEVIL as #2, but in recent years I've upgraded the latter to a tie for #1. I watched both Tuesday night - probably the first time I've seen both at one time, although I suppose I've seen each of them 30-40 times, EMPRESS probably a little more than DEVIL.
And I thought the same things to myself again as you've expressed above, Bruce: that there's nothing else like any of these films, but *particularly* nothing else like EMPRESS. It's absolutely unique. The consolidation of lighting, photography, writing, set design, and music is at the very highest level of motion picture art, magic, workmanship - whatever you want to call it. It's hard to fathom the varied imaginations that conceived and produced it...what great fortune that we finally have a version that's worthy of the film.
To get a true concept of the beauty of these films, try to examine some original publicity prints derived from nitrate 8 x 10 negatives. They’re astounding.
I took a break from Miss Dietrich today, but will likely watch Shanghai Express tomorrow.
I recall we watched Scarlett Empress in film class in college. I don't think i cared for it much at the time, though I may not have had as much tolerance for "old" movies back then. I may pick up this set at some point and give it another chance.
I recommend the "extra" on Scarlett Empress - a 1971 interview with Dietrich for Swedish TV. She look unbelievable (she was seventy), she's charming and she suffers the two Swedish hosts inane and incoherent questions with great grace - they continually talk over her. I have to go find my DVD of Maximillian Schell's Marlene.
It was the last time she allowed her image to be filmed. The Schell movie was planned originally to be included in the box. No doubt several things prevented that. Bruce i was playing these through the projector and swooning once again. What realy struck me, especially after reading posts here is how astounding these movies still are. And so many here younger than us seeing them for the first time. I am hearing people seeing Empress for the first time and gasping in disbelief. These movies just embed themselves into you head and each time you watch them they just grow and grow. Empress continues to wipe me out. Like Devil Jo gives it a through composed score, scored by him with (Roger Edens style) lead ins and leitmotifs. The new audio restorations are just as astonishing as the video. Can you imagine even trying to get something like Empress up today? Or even be able to conceive it in Jo’s terms? Or find an audience sophisticated enough to understand it?
Just spent the weekend with Josef and Marlene and these shimmering, lovely presentations. I had forgotten how amusing The Devil Is A Woman is...Dietrich goes right over the top with her performance and it works beautifully. All the films have amusing moments, no matter how dark things get....even Blonde Venus ("...do you charge for the first mile?"). Such remarkable, grown-up movies. I never expected this set to come along...Im genuinely thrilled to have this.
I watched Shanghai Express today and was very impressed with the picture quality. A little bit of hiss in the audio but it was relatively minor. And the wonderful picture quality drew me deeper into the melodramatics and I think I pretty much enjoyed it more than I ever had before.
And then there was The Devil Is a Woman. In this film Dietrich truly becomes DIETRICH. Lionel Atwill is incredible and so is dashing Cesar Romero. There is no way to watch the opening minutes of this film and not know who its director is. The sets, masks, and Travis Banton's absolutely unbelievable costumes are breathtaking, von Sternberg's direction and photography are at his considerable zenith, and the film is just so weird and unique, as are all these films.
Is it really true that Ernst Lubitsch is the man responsible for not renewing von Sternberg's contract for Paramount? I love Lubitsch, but if that is true, then eternal shame must be heaped on him. I now want to see the last of the von Sternberg's I've never seen, the two Columbia films and his solo outing for MGM - are they on DVD? Although now that I think of it I may have seen Crime and Punishment.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT is on DVD; the other two have been shown on TCM, but aren't on licensed DVD. KING STEPS OUT is beautifully photographed (as are the others), but still a major letdown after the Dietrichs. IMO the only later film that comes close is SHANGHAI GESTURE, and I suppose that I, CLAUDIUS would have been a winner.
Well, I love The Shanghai Gesture and wish someone had the negative to that and could put that out with a great scan - one of my favorite films and right up there with the best of him.
I finished off the set tonight with The Devil Is a Woman. Apart from one black scratch, this for me was the most stunning transfer in the box. If ever a black and white movie could be called garish, this is it! The first ten minutes or so are just a wild array of stunning carnival images.
I have never liked Dietrich's performance in this film. It's too self-consciously kittenish, and her tantrums seem like the worst amateur acting in the world. Perhaps it was deliberately so, but I never felt she came off well in her angry moments. But Lionel Atwell is heartbreaking, and Cesar Romero does well by himself too in this early role.
Finished this set the other day. All the films are new to me, but I've always enjoyed the other Dietrich films that I've seen (Destry, Stage Fright, Witness for the Prosecution, Touch of Evil, etc.). Didn't much care for Morocco with its endless tracking shots, and super long dissolves. I also thought Devil is a Woman was in incomprehensible mess. I thought the others were truly outstanding, with Blonde Venus my personal favorite. Thanks, Criterion for a wonderful presentation.
I have this set and was considering the "at paramount" set for the extras but then Warner Brothers got away from their batman animation an horror movies and announced real classic Bette Davis/William Wyler movies and Criterion followed suit, I decided I'm spending my money on those over some extras from the overseas Dietrich Sternberg box set. I do agree with the above poster that Dietrich had better movies after she left Sternberg. Actually her first movie after Sternberg Desire is a better movie with Gary Cooper than morocco in my view. I hope that movie makes it out on blu ray some day.