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A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Golden Year: 5 Classics Films from 1939 -- in Blu-ray (1 Viewer)

Robert Harris

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What a great set!


Everything that I've been hearing is that Warner Home Video is in a huge upward move toward higher quality, and more rational packages of films, when in boxed sets.


This may be one of the final sets to emerge, the concept of which comes from the old, as well as new management team.


To stick to absolute facts, if this set were not all 1939 productions, with 1.37 aspect ratios, there might be problems.


But fortunately, there aren't.


Four extraordinary films, from what is generally recognized as the most critically acclaimed year in American film production, plus a leftover, which I cannot image is not owned by everyone interested in film, now relegated to being on the lower half of the bill.


The four films are:


Dark Victory (WB), directed by Edmund Goulding, with Bette Davis, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Ronald Reagan;


Dodge City (WB), directed by Michael Curtiz, with Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Ann Sheridan and Bruce Cabot;


The Hunchback of Notre Dame (RKO), directed William Dieterle, with Charles Laughton, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Maureen O'Hara and Edmond O'Brien, and;


Ninotchka (M-G-M), directed by Ernst Lubitsch, with Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi, and Sig Ruman.


Technically, for this set, they differ in several ways.


The images of all but Ninotchka are harvested from original camera negatives, as that single production was lost in a fire.


The scan used is derived from a very high quality fine grain master.


Dodge City is derived from an IP, produced from the original camera negatives. While a set away from Warner's ubiquitous Ultra-rez process of recombine, the IP was beautifully made, and represents the original colors and textures of the film beautifully.


Dark Victory and Hunchback are original nitrate negative harvests.


Here's where it gets interesting, and might have been problematic.


Beyond that fifth film, Hunchback is the only title to be released on a BD-50. Dodge City was set to be on a 50, but didn't make it in transition.


I bring up the BD-25 vs. BD-50 question, as inquiring minds will want to know, but beyond that simple point of reference, it makes very little difference in the final product, unless you begin to dissect the imagery, and do a grain comparison.


One of the things that I'm hearing about the new way things are being done at WB, is that BD-25s can be used for reproduction -- there is a small cost savings -- but only if the average data rate is a minimum of 30 kbs.


Dark Victory, Dodge City and Ninotchka don't make that number.


Since Ninotchka is off a fine grain, we'd probably see little difference. But William Daniels cinematography still shines.


Dark Victory is a magnificent looking film, shot by Ernest Haller, with rich, nitrate-like blacks, extraordinary shadow detail, and an overall luster that shines on the screen.


Dodge City jumps toward you, with brilliant hues of true Technicolor, gorgeous blacks, and the requisite shadow detail to go with them. Flesh tones are absolutely perfect. Sol Polito's work comes to the fore in brilliant color.


Since Hunchback is the one on the 50, you'll get a bit more crispness to the grain structure, and Joseph August's work behind the camera will at times look otherworldly. His work on Hunchback, reminds me in several ways of the way he handled imagery on Selznick's Portrait of Jennie (1948), his final film.


The bottom line is simple. Things are changes for the better at WB. We're getting down to the last of those strange boxed sets, mixing and matching films new to Blu-ray with those already in release. What that means to the consumer, is that you won't be forced to re-purchase titles you already have, in order to obtain new releases.


Quality will continue to rise, as the last of the releases on BD-25s, which make little difference for 1.37 films, but can make a huge difference for color productions in 1.78.


Dark Victory


Image - 4.75


Audio - 5


Pass / Fail - Pass



Dodge City


Image - 4.25


Audio - 5


Pass / Fail - Pass



Ninotchka


Image - 4.25


Audio - 5


Pass / Fail - Pass



The Hunchback of Notre Dame


Image - 5


Audio - 5


Pass / Fail - Pass


As an extra you'll find a documentary on the films of 1939. Not just those in this package, but the entire industry. It's a worthwhile, high quality extra, that runs 68 minutes.


The street price of The Golden Year is just over $50, which is a bargain. $12.50 per film, with a free documentary, and a fifth film that you can give to an indigent friend.


This is what home video on Blu-ray is all about, and for those potentially waiting for 4k, this is not a series of films that will be affected in any major way by the higher resolution.


Very Highly Recommended


RAH
 

Oblivion138

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While I try not to get TOO excited over screenshots, I have to say that every shot I have seen from this set has looked stellar, and made me very excited to pick up this set. Your endorsement certainly adds to that anticipation.
 

Alan Tully

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Great stuff! The two I'm interested in, Dodge City & Hunchback, I never expected to see on Blu-ray. A warning for Warner, we're going to be asking for more Flynn after this, The Sea Hawk & They Died With Their Boots On, but meanwhile I'm going to enjoy the hell out of Dodge City (which like, The Adventures Of Robin Hood, I grew up seeing in b/w on our little telly).

...& I had no idea that The Hunchback Of Notre Dame original negs. still existed, esp. as it's an RKO production
 

Andrew Budgell

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I've been so looking forward to this set and am thrilled to hear that it comes with Mr. Harris's seal of approval. For some reason this isn't being released in Canada (the musicals set from a few months back was--I hope this isn't a new trend), but my copy should arrive from Amazon US on Wedneday. Can't wait!
 
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marsnkc

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Sounds like a banner year for movies. Must check to see if anything else of interest came out of it...
 
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benbess

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If this question is allowed here, what are people's top ten or so films from this banner year?
 
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classicmovieguy

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benbess said:
If this question is allowed here, what are people's top ten or so films from this banner year?
I don't care if it's allowed or not - I'm jumping! In no order...


* Gone with the Wind

* The Old Maid

* Dark Victory

* Ninotchka

* The Rains Came

* The Wizard of Oz

* Nancy Drew... Reporter

* Hollywood Cavalcade

* Bachelor Mother

* First Love

* The Women
 

RMajidi

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My boxset will take a few weeks to arrive, but looking at the specs, including average bitrates, it seems like the Hunchback disc is of the high-end quality we've become accustomed to from Warner Archives Collection, whereas the rest are in keeping with the slightly lower, yet still high quality Warner Home Video Blu-ray releases of the past.

Can't wait!
 
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JohnMor

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benbess said:
If this question is allowed here, what are people's top ten or so films from this banner year?

Mine (11) choices would be:



Dark Victory

Dodge City (tied with Gunga Din)

Drums Along the Mohawk

Gone With the Wind

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Mikado

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Ninotchka

The Wizard of Oz

The Women
 

classicmovieguy

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JohnMor said:
Mine (11) choices would be:



Dark Victory

Dodge City (tied with Gunga Din)

Drums Along the Mohawk

Gone With the Wind

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Mikado

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Ninotchka

The Wizard of Oz

The Women
How COULD I have forgotten "The Women"?!!! Amending my list to include 11 films...
 

Cineman

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benbess said:
If this question is allowed here, what are people's top ten or so films from this banner year?

Top Ten...


Gone With the Wind

The Wizard of Oz

Of Mice and Men

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Stagecoach

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Jesse James

Gunga Din

On Borrowed Time

Young Mr. Lincoln


or so... ;)


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Gulliver's Travels

Babes in Arms
 

lark144

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mark gross
Let's not forget ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, which happens to be my number 1 film fave from 1939.


Number 2 would be Leo McCarey's LOVE STORY.


If we were making this list international, we could also include Marcel Carne's LE JOUR SE LEVE, Jean Reroir's LA REGLE DE JEU, & Kenji Mizoguchi's ZANGIKU MONOGATARI (TALE OF THE LAST CHRYSANTHEMUMS)


Now those are three of the greatest films ever made, in any year, at least to my way of seeing things. That's not to put down GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ, THE WOMEN & co, which are equally great, albeit in a different way, as those three films from France & Japan, are the works of great filmmakers,and every frame of these films reflects their unique vision. These three films also seem to be a summation of the most characteristic, as well as the most individual qualities, of these three masters.


You could say the same thing about Howard Hawks' ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, Leo McCarey's LOVE AFFAIR, and John Ford's STAGECOACH, for all three of these later films were made as independent productions by these directors, outside of the studio system. (ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS was made at Columbia, but Howard Hawks was the producer as well as the director, and I believe he had some kind of a deal with Harry Cohn, that allowed Hawks to make his film without any interference.)


I also have a soft spot for NORTHWEST PASSAGE, MIDNIGHT, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE ROARING TWENTIES & John Stahl's WHEN TOMORROW COMES, a great film staring Irene Dunne & Charles Boyer (and is almost impossible to see) which was later remade by Douglas Sirk as INTERLUDE (For the record, WHEN TOMORROW COMES won an Oscar in 1939: for best sound.)


Now, perhaps this list is a bit obscure, but these are films that I love nevertheless, and have changed the way I look at the world; for after seeing these movies for the first time, the memory of their images became ingrained in my consciousness. Of course after these ten items I would have to include all the films everyone has already listed, starting with NINOTCHKA,,& STAGECOACH, then working my way down.
 

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