A Few Words About A few words about... Detective Story

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 12, 2005.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    David Lean considered them to be the finest filmmakers working in America. George Stevens...

    and as he jokingly called them...

    "The three foreigners."

    Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann and the subject of this short piece William Wyler. Each and every one, a great talent in 20th Century Amercian cinema.

    In the hands of many other directors, Detective Story could have easily been routine melodrama.

    But in the hands of Mr. Wyler, it survives, over fifty years later, having passed the test of time, as brilliant gut-wrenching drama.

    Starring a brilliant Kirk Douglas, and with support from Eleanor Parker and William Bendix, Detective Story is police drama in the hands of a master.

    Photographed in black & white and beautifully transferred from film to DVD, Lee Garmes work shines through the years in a beautiful transfer from superb film elements via Paramount Home Video.

    Academy Award nominations went to Mr. Wyler (for Best Director), Ms. Parker (Best Actress), Lee Grant (for Best Supporting Actress), here in her screen debut, and to screenwriters Robert Wyler and Philip Yordan.

    It comes extremely highly recommended, as the second Wyler production released during a six week period -- the other being Ben-Hur.

    RAH
     
  2. Mark VH

    Mark VH Stunt Coordinator

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    Great news, RAH. Wyler is, in my opinion, one of the great "underrated overrated" directors. He's considered overrated (or unknown) by a lot of people these days, and is usually dwarfed in conversation by the likes of the bigger names - Hitchcock, Hawks, Ford, etc.

    But for me, he really was that great. At least two of his films (Ben-Hur and The Best Years of Our Lives) can rightly be listed among the greatest of all time. And films like Dodsworth, The Big Country and The Heiress are virtually unknown by audiences today, but I find all to be relative masterpieces. Even Mrs. Miniver often gets listed as "the worst Best Picture Winner of all time," but I think this is entirely unjustified. To say nothing of Detective Story, Barbary Coast, Frendly Persuasion and his three Bette Davis classics (Jezebel, The Letter and The Little Foxes). I've also heard his Wuthering Heights referred to by more than a few people as terribly overrated, but I think it's a lovely, lovely film.

    Speaking of which, when is WH going to be available on DVD? After Double Indemnity, this is one of the great DVD holdouts.
     
  3. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    I know everyone wants ACE IN THE HOLE but hopefully this release will finally give this film the respect it deserves. I'm really shocked this film doesn't have a stronger following but isn't this the first time it's been officially released?
     
  4. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    I'll be picking this up to the strong reccomendation of this forum, and my uncle who fondly remembers seeing this film as a child. This looks like a winner.

    Now, bring on "Ace in the Hole"
     
  5. Charles H

    Charles H Screenwriter

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    Isn't DETECTIVE STORY the first American film to overtly deal with abortion?

    Another underrated Wyler film is CARRIE (1952) with Laurence Olivier's finest performance.
     
  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    It's a great film with one of Kirk Douglas's best performances. The comedy series Barney Miller was slightly based on this film as far as the NYC setting and detective room.
     
  7. Armin Jager

    Armin Jager Stunt Coordinator

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    Very kind of Paramount to release this film just in time for the William Wyler seminar this semester [​IMG]. Having seen most of Wyler's films I absolutely second the comments of the others. The silly French auteuritis lead to a unjust neglection of directors who were ... well, just excellent directors. Wyler's work is doubtlessly on the level of Hitchcock or Hawks with very few low points like MRS.MINIVER or BEN HUR, but a hard to beat string of major pictures between 1936 and 1965. I think his Paramount years with THE HEIRESS, CARRIE, DETECTIVE STORY and ROMAN HOLIDAY show him at the height of his powers and I'd love it if Paramount would finally release the immensely powerful THE HEIRESS.
     
  8. Shawn Cornwell

    Shawn Cornwell Stunt Coordinator

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    This is indeed the first official release of Wyler's classic 1951 drama, which I find puzzling, given the film's Oscar nominations and its initial critical and box office success (the "Film Facts" book places "Story" at #11 on its list of the top 20 grossing films of 1951). Having only seen the film on television in a blurry, fair-to-poor print, I can't wait to see a cleaner print of the film (especially given Paramount's great track record in dealing with classic titles), which features one of the best ensemble casts found in a 1950's movie.

    Concerning the abortion theme, censorship aside, I think the film makes it very clear the character of Karl Schneider (portrayed by George Macready) is definitely an abortionist; in one vivid scene the hero, Jim McLeod (Kirk Douglas) rages at Schneider, using language strong enough to include the word "butcher" in describing Schneider's practices. Later, McLeod refers to "that butcher Schneider" while conversing with another character. Therefore, I think "Story" can lay claiming to being one of the first major Hollywood films to deal with the controversial topic of abortion ("A Place in the Sun," released just prior to "Story" in '51, has a key scene wherein the pregnant, unmarried Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) goes to a doctor and breaks down while asking him to "help" her overcome her predicament).

    Thank you Paramount, for finally making this "Story" available again to consumers; now, please, get on a DVD release of "The Heiress" ASAP.
     
  9. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    Although he wasn't an auteurist, the biggest champion of William Wyler was Andre Bazin - the founder of Cahiers du Cinema. He championed Wyler because of his use of deep focus, staging in depth, and long takes - particularly in the films photographed by Greg Toland. Bazin's argument was that Wyler's direction promoted photographic realism, in contrast to the deep focus style of someone like Orson Welles (who he also liked) which emphasised the distortion of space (and thus reality) by using shorter focal length lenses (I think Citizen Kane uses lens as wide as 25mm). Wyler may be considered "under-rated" compared to directors like George Stevens because generally viewers aren't interested in the importance of film style as the essential factor in identifying how different film makers can tell stories.

    Whenever I hear Stevens' son promote his father's legend by talking about how his Dad prioritised the importance of editing in the film making process I laugh. Those memos from Warner demanding Stevens hand over Giant are meant to signify Stevens as a man of artistic integrity. I don't consider editing for a year the sign-post of a great film maker at all. Rather it is evidence of a film maker shooting an extraordinary amount of 'coverage' because he didn't know where the camera should be in order to best photograph the action at hand.

    Stevens infuriated James Dean for this very reason; Dean called it the "around the clock" shooting method. Implying shooting for long periods, and from every 'angle' on a clock face. One can not say the same thing when viewing a Wyler film, particularly those of the 40s, the camera is usually in the right place at the right time. Often static, letting the action reveal itself in depth over the course of a long take.
     
  10. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Wyler was also known for shooting a lot of footage while having his actors do many takes until he sees the one he likes, but he definitely didn't take as long to edit his films like Stevens. Both, were great directors, but when it came to shooting their scenes, they were the complete opposite of directors like Ford, Hawks and a modern director like Clint Eastwood.




    Crawdaddy
     
  11. Jaime_Weinman

    Jaime_Weinman Supporting Actor

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    Yeah, Wyler was almost as notorious as Stevens for multiple takes, but they would be multiple takes from the same angle, rather than (as with Stevens) covering a scene from every possible angle. There's a scene in Mrs. Miniver where Wyler liked some bit of business a child actor spontaneously threw in in rehearsal, so he decided to incorporate it -- but he didn't tell the actor what he wanted. He just kept shooting it over and over and over and over until the kid spontaneously did that same thing again.

    An actor in Mrs. Miniver (I forget which one) said that he heard a rumor that Wyler's real reason for shooting so many takes was that he deliberately wanted to spend more time and money on his movies, on the theory that the more the movie cost, the harder the studio would work to promote it and make it a hit. I have no idea if this is true.

    I have to admit, though, that I'm not a big Wyler fan, not because of his technique, which is impeccable, but because I just find a lot of his movies suffer from an excess of good taste.
     

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