Best of Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection (Blu-ray) Directed by Victor Fleming, William Wyler, Milos Forman, et al Studio: Warner Bros. Year: 1932-2010 Aspect Ratio: varied 1080p VC-1/AVC codec Running Time: varied Rating: G-NR Audio: various Subtitles: various
Region: not designated MSRP: $ 597.92
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Review Date: February 8, 2013
All of the fifty films in the collection have been previously released in Blu-ray editions, and most have already been reviewed by HTF staff reviewers. (In the case of box sets or multiple disc releases, only the first disc in the set containing the film and whatever supplements were placed on it has been included in this set.) I have listed the films below which already have Blu-ray reviews on the site with a link for interested readers to find the reviews. For the few films which didn’t have a Blu-ray review already (usually due to their being a corresponding HD-DVD review of the same title), I have reviewed the Blu-ray version below.
Films in Volume One Grand Hotel: Ken McAlinden’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/327266/grand-hotel-blu-ray-review Mutiny on the Bounty: See my review below. The Wizard of Oz: Ken McAlinden’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/293351/htf-blu-ray-review-the-wizard-of-oz-70th-anniversary-ultimate-collectors-edition Gone With the Wind: Timothy Ewanyshyn’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/295049/htf-blu-ray-review-gone-with-the-wind-70th-anniversary-ultimate-collectors-edition The Maltese Falcon: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/304557/htf-blu-ray-review-the-maltese-falcon Mrs. Miniver: Ken McAlinden’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/327085/mrs-miniver-blu-ray-review Casablanca: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/319268/casablanca-70th-anniversary-edition-blu-ray-review The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/304635/htf-blu-ray-review-the-treasure-of-the-sierra-madre A Streetcar Named Desire: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/319856/a-streetcar-named-desire-blu-ray-review An American in Paris: Matt Hough’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/284304/htf-blu-ray-review-an-american-in-paris Singin’ in the Rain: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/322289/singin-in-the-rain-60th-anniversary-collector-s-edition-blu-ray-review Gigi: Matt Hough’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/284570/htf-blu-ray-review-gigi North by Northwest: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/294299/htf-blu-ray-review-north-by-northwest-50th-anniversary-edition-highly-recommended Ben-Hur: Ken McAlinden’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/315127/ben-hur-50th-anniversary-ultimate-collectors-edition-blu-ray-review How the West Was Won: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/276478/htf-blu-ray-review-how-the-west-was-won-highly-recommended Dr. Zhivago: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/300258/htf-blu-ray-review-doctor-zhivago Cool Hand Luke: Pat Wahlquist’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/275954/htf-blu-ray-review-cool-hand-luke 2001: A Space Odyssey: Pat Wahlquist’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/264217/htf-blu-ray-review-2001-a-space-odyssey-highly-recommended Bullitt: See my review below. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/293848/htf-blu-ray-review-willy-wonka-and-the-chocolate-factory Dirty Harry: Pat Wahlquist’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/273365/htf-blu-ray-review-dirty-harry-the-ultimate-collectors-edition A Clockwork Orange: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/311619/a-clockwork-orange-anniversary-edition-blu-ray-review The Exorcist: Extended Director's Cut: Ken McAlinden’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/306151/htf-blu-ray-review-the-exorcist-two-disc-blu-ray-book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Ken McAlinden’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/304040/htf-blu-ray-review-one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-35th-anniversary-ultimate-collectors-edition Superman: The Movie: Expanded Edition: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/312025/superman-the-motion-picture-anthology-blu-ray
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) – 5/5
On a difficult and lengthy 1787 voyage from England to Tahiti after garnering breadfruit plants that will be used as a cheap food source for the English-owned slaves of the West Indies, the men on the H.M.S. Bounty led by disgruntled second-in-command Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) decide to take over command of the ship from the cruelly sadistic, lying, and unreasonable Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton). Set off in a lifeboat with others who didn’t go along with the mutiny, Bligh miraculously makes it 3,600 miles to land, gains another command, and goes back to Tahiti in search of Christian and the other mutineers in order to bring them to justice. Though the story has been streamlined and characters played up or discarded from Charles Nordhoff and James Hall Norman’s trilogy, the film seems all of a piece with lots of scenes which give a real feel for the navy of the 18th century. The script by Talbot Jennings, Jules Furthman, and Carol Wilson doesn’t stint on the sadistic treatment of the men by Bligh and Christian’s continual efforts to soften his bristly nature in order to retain control over the men. Well more than half the movie goes by before the mutiny actually occurs which offers plenty of time to allow audiences to get to know many members of the crew and to take a leisurely segue on Tahiti as Laughton’s role is downplayed there while Gable’s and Franchot Tone (who plays young midshipman Roger Byam) explore the island’s many pleasures both natural and carnal. All three stars earned Oscar nominations (Tone’s climactic oration in court is especially worthy of a nomination) as did director Frank Lloyd who makes great use of alternating close-ups with long and medium shots to set time, place, and mood.
Bullitt – 4/5
Ready-for-anything police lieutenant detective Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) is put in charge of a task force guarding a witness (Pat Renella) who is testifying against the Mob, but the weekend duty has hardly begun before the hiding place is found and the man seriously wounded. Afterward, an operation stabilizes him, but a hit man manages to sneak into the ICU and kill him, so Frank and his partner (Don Gordon) are hot on the trail of the killers. Their job isn’t made any easier by ambitious senator Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) who had wanted the witness to be his ticket to an even brighter political future. The script by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner has built in three suspense set pieces involving chases: one in the hospital, the famous car chase through the steep and winding streets of San Francisco, and the climactic chase at the airport. Director Peter Yates films the first two particularly skillfully (the airport scene is less well sustained and rather messy), but the scenes with Steve McQueen’s Frank and his live-in architect girl friend played by Jacqueline Bisset are tediously written and throw the focus of the film totally off (she is stunningly beautiful, however). Revisits to the film show a fairly clever mystery at play (things are not what they appear to be), and Steve McQueen is the essence of cool throughout. No one else gets to develop much of a character, especially Robert Vaughn whose braying, officious politician couldn’t be more stereotypical and off-putting.
Films in Volume Two
The Shining: Matt Hough’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/264123/htf-blu-ray-review-the-shining Chariots of Fire: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/322014/chariots-of-fire-blu-ray-review Risky Business: Timothy Ewanyshyn’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/277044/htf-blu-ray-review-risky-business Amadeus: The Director’s Cut: Todd Erwin’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/283012/htf-blu-ray-review-amadeus-directors-cut The Color Purple: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/308358/htf-blu-ray-review-the-color-purple Lethal Weapon: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/321672/lethal-weapon-collection-blu-ray-review Full Metal Jacket: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/322854/full-metal-jacket-25th-anniversary-edition-blu-ray-review Driving Miss Daisy: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/326773/driving-miss-daisy-blu-ray-review Goodfellas: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/297995/htf-blu-ray-review-goodfellas-20th-anniversary-edition Unforgiven: See my review below The Bodyguard: See my review below Natural Born Killers: Michael Reuben’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/293844/htf-blu-ray-review-natural-born-killers-unrated-directors-cut The Shawshank Redemption: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/278902/htf-blu-ray-review-the-shawshank-redemption-recommended The Matrix: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/284554/htf-blu-ray-review-the-matrix-10th-anniversary-edition Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/295561/htf-blu-ray-review-harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-ultimate-edition Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King: Ken McAlinden’s review of the trilogy’s theatrical versions can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/299501/htf-blu-ray-review-the-lord-of-the-rings-the-motion-picture-trilogy Million Dollar Baby: See my review below The Departed: See my review below The Dark Knight: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/279358/htf-blu-ray-review-the-dark-knight-recommended The Hangover: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/296046/htf-blu-ray-review-the-hangover The Blind Side: Ken McAlinden’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/299145/htf-blu-ray-review-the-blind-side Sherlock Holmes: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/299472/htf-blu-ray-review-sherlock-holmes Inception: Cameron Yee’s review can be found herehttp://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/306437/htf-blu-ray-review-inception
Unforgiven – 5/5
When two former gunfighters William Munny (Clint Eastwood) and Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) hear that some prostitutes are offering a $1,000 reward for the murder of two cowboys who cut up one of their fellow working girls, they abandon their unsuccessful farms temporarily for a big payday. The problem lies with where the cowboys are located: Big Whiskey, Wyoming, which is maintained with an iron fist by sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), himself another notorious gunman back in his youth. With the two gunfighters taking on a third man The "Schofield Kid" (Jaimz Woolvett), the odds seem a little better for success even though he’s badly nearsighted and the other men’s skills and demeanor make killing men somewhat unpalatable to them now. Clint Eastwood’s meditation on growing older, life choices, and the consequences of past actions gets a beautiful, thorough examination in this wonderfully written and beautifully played film. The ambience of the dying “Old West” is meticulously maintained, and the film’s first half is loaded with comic treatments of the hazards of old age (with Eastwood himself taking pratfalls and looking goofy in probably the performance of his career especially as we see him return to the viciousness of his earlier self as the film runs). Eastwood directs quite a few scenes in shadows giving the film a tremendous sense of quiet before the storm, but the moments of violence which are sprinkled through the movie like salt on meat are never gratuitously filmed or presented. The final showdown between Eastwood and Gene Hackman’s terrific Little Bill is extraordinarily tense, and its denouement is tremendously satisfying.
The Bodyguard – 2.5/5 When hugely popular actress-singer Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston) begins to receive death threats and appears to be the victim of a deranged stalker, her manager (Bill Cobbs) hires the best bodyguard he can find: Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) whose resume includes stints for two sitting Presidents. Rachael’s security around her Los Angeles mansion is a joke, but Frank swiftly gets things under control except for the lady herself who resists all efforts to tame her wild streak. She and Frank find themselves sexually drawn to one another, but his intense professionalism puts an end to their affair after one night which makes Rachael all the more rebellious and resistant to his efforts, and with the Academy Awards looming, it’s more important than ever for Frank to keep a close watch over the superstar. In a box filled with masterpieces and cinematic treasures, The Bodyguard seems like at best fool’s gold. In Lawrence Kasdan’s simplistic screenplay (he wisely left the direction up to Mick Jackson rather than taking it on himself), the characters are one-dimensional and Rachael’s spoiled, tantrum-filled behavior with such obvious danger around her is ludicrous (even after her son is nearly killed by a bomb meant for her, she remains the self-centered diva who waffles between occasional bouts of apprehension and vainglorious bravado). Halfway through the movie, the assassin becomes easy to spot, and even the revelation of the person paying for the hit isn’t the big surprise the movie wants it to be. The film is at least a third longer than it needed to be, and those who purchased and swooned over Whitney Houston’s soundtrack recording of the songs from the film will be disappointed by their truncated renditions in the actual movie. Kevin Costner is on solid ground playing a character without much complexity, but Whitney Houston is at sea with her uncommitted, amateurish performance.
Million Dollar Baby – 5/5 After a lifetime of training boxers who desert him once they get near the big money, Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) seems willing to simply run his Hit Pit Gym and let life take care of itself. Female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) has little experience and no real training, but she’s eager to be managed by Frankie. Frankie, however, doesn’t want to train a woman, but after slow and methodical prodding by his old friend and now gym manager Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman), he takes Maggie on only to find she has natural skill, a willingness to learn, and a fierce loyalty to Frankie even after other trainers and managers notice a good thing and try to move in on her. After eighteen months, Maggie is ready to fight for the title, but unforeseen circumstances intervene that cause the relationships of Maggie, Frankie, and Eddie to change drastically. The film is a marvel of construction (screenplay by Paul Haggis) with wry humor, fast-paced action, wonderful character exploration, and changing moods that director Clint Eastwood handles effortlessly. This is one of those films that defies you to remain unmoved during its unveiling, but the movie is never milked for sentiment, and even in its darkest moments, there’s a sense of triumphant achievement within (Maggie handling her leech-like relatives who want everything she’s got, a gym punk who’s taught a valuable lesson, Frankie’s bedside revelation to Maggie about the meaning of a particular phrase). Eastwood directs the boxing scenes with as much variety as he can muster given that Maggie’s wins almost all come from early knockouts, but it’s in the quieter scenes with particularly the three top-billed stars either in pairs or together where we grow to care enormously about them as people. Hilary Swank impresses in training scenes which depict her improvement as a fighter, and Clint Eastwood’s growing love for her as a surrogate daughter is obvious and tremendously poignant. Morgan Freeman narrates the film in that philosophically dry style that is his alone. All three do career-defining work in the movie.
The Departed – 5/5 Boston mobster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) has been controlling the rackets in Bean Town for many decades. In fact, he’s personally overseen the raising and education of Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) so that he could plant a high-ranking mole inside the police department to keep tabs on their activities. Aware that there is a leak somewhere inside the department, Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and his associate Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) decide to plant their own mole inside Costello’s crew and choose loose cannon Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio). Both Billy and Colin are aware of an unwelcome presence in their respective organizations and move heaven and earth to learn the other’s identity little knowing that they are both involved in their own ways with a therapist (Vera Farmiga) who could bring either or both of them down if she ignored the ethics of her profession. Despite a 161-minute running time, the movie’s carefully crafted cat-and-mouse game between the two moles (kudos to William Monahan’s wonderfully rich script) plays tautly for the film’s entire length aided immeasurably by Martin Scorsese’s fluid direction. Scenes play so effortlessly that even extreme emotions and the expected violence (which increases as the picture runs) don’t really stand out awkwardly from the rest of the movie, and the characterizations are so rich that the film takes on an almost operatic allure. Jack Nicholson’s performance is the most wildly theatrical in the film and sometimes draws undue attention to itself (his unsteady Boston accent doesn’t help), but Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg talk the real deal and own their roles persuasively (Wahlberg has never been better). Leonardo DiCaprio has the most difficult of the major roles playing his character constantly on the edge of losing his footing and giving the whole game away. It’s brilliant work.
Mutiny on the Bounty – 4/5 The film’s original 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. (The titles and opening scene are windowboxed.) The transfer is a distinct improvement on the 2003 DVD with many of the scratches removed and a much sharper picture with more controlled grain structure. There are a few random scratches still remaining, and there are some scenes that are unnaturally soft for no seeming reason. The grayscale rendering is strong though blacks aren’t at their deepest possible levels. There’s a bit of flicker, too, at certain points. The film has been divided into 35 chapters.
Bullitt – 3.5/5
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. Inconsistency is definitely the watchword of this transfer as shots seesaw between stunningly crisp and detailed and soft and uninspired. The image sometimes looks dated with lackluster color and yet other times the color is richer and more vibrant. Flesh tones also vary between realistic, overly brown, and overly rosy tones. Black levels are average, and details sometimes do get swallowed in the shadows. The film has been divided into 23 chapters.
Unforgiven – 4/5
The theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. At its best, the image is astonishingly crisp, clean, and appealing with vivid detail and beautifully reproduced color. There are some shots that out of the blue are soft and indistinct. Flesh tones are generally realistic but occasionally go a bit too red. Black levels are satisfactory but do not reach the depths of inkiness of the best transfers. The film has been divided into 33 chapters.
The Bodyguard – 4/5
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 for this Blu-ray presentation at 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is an erratic commodity throughout this presentation with crisp, distinct shots alternating with soft, less assured imagery (not all of it to glamorize its two above-the-title stars). Contrast is also erratic often draining black levels of real depth. Color is reasonably saturated and flesh tones appear natural and generally appealing. The film has been divided into 38 chapters.
Million Dollar Baby – 4.5/5
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in a 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. Image quality overall is very sharp and detailed, and flesh tones appear natural throughout. Contrast is very consistent which allows the photography throughout to impress. Black levels are good but are a few shades under optimum while shadow detail is often quite impressive. The movie has been divided into 37 chapters.
The Departed – 4/5
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully represented by this 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. While sharpness is generally pleasing, there are some shots that don’t quite match others in the same scene. Flesh tones are generally realistic with only an occasional increase in saturation levels which make them a bit too hot. Black levels are fine without being outstanding. Some vintage footage used early in the film, of course, matches poorly with the rest of the film, no fault of the transfer. The film has been divided into 37 chapters.
Mutiny on the Bounty – 3.5/5 The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 audio mix sounds very typical for its era. Dialogue has been nicely recorded and has been mixed superbly with Herbert Stothart’s stalwart score and the nicely delivered sound effects which give realistic audio especially during squalls at sea. But there is some low level hiss present throughout and some occasional scratchy distortion, too, in the early going.
Bullitt – 3/5
The low bitrate Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround track gets a fair spread across the front channels but apart from the finale chase at the airport, the rear channels have very little to do in this mix. Dialogue comes through loud and clear in the center channel, but Lalo Schifrin’s often interesting music and the sound effects can sometimes sound rather tinny and uninspiring.
Unforgiven – 3.5/5 Warners has not upgraded the soundtrack for the Blu-ray release offering once again a high bitrate but nevertheless lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. While the ambience is occasionally spread through the soundfield and several thunderstorms make use of split surround effects nicely, the sound mix still has an underwhelming quality to it. Lennie Niehaus’ plaintive music gets decent spread through the fronts and rears but again can’t match the more impressive mixes on lossless soundtracks. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
The Bodyguard – 4.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is a genuinely effective one. Of course, with music playing such a major role in the film, its spread through the fronts and rears is important and has been handled with distinction. Dialogue has been well recorded and is rooted to the center channel. Though ambience isn’t always followed through with in the mix, particular set pieces like a riot at a public appearance in a rock club or the excitement at the arrival at the Academy Awards uses the entire soundfield well. A major explosion and some gunfire at random moments also gets more the decent handling in this mix.
Million Dollar Baby – 4/5
The high bitrate Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix offers a quality sound experience without itself being quite a knockout. The soundfield isn’t milked in the many boxing matches that are staged in the movie, but Eastwood does allow his background music score to carefully insinuate itself especially in the movie’s most dramatic moments away from the ring. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel. Bass levels aren’t as deep as one might expect in the action scenes of the picture.
The Departed – 4/5
The disc offers either a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack or an uncompressed PCM 5.1 (4.6 Mbps) sound mix. The movie defaults to the former, but the latter was used for the review, and it’s a track that doesn’t quite exploit its power until some of the climactic shootouts where bullets whiz by and explosions rock the room. Howard Shore’s music doesn’t get much spread into the rears remaining frontcentric through most of the movie. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
Mutiny on the Bounty – 2.5/5 All of the bonus features were ported over from the 2003 DVD and are presented in 480i. “Pitcairn Island Today” is a 9 ¾-minute travelogue detailing the basic story of the mutiny and the sailors who left Tahiti to escape capture by Bligh and showing us scenes on (then) present-day Pitcairn Island where they settled and some of Fletcher Christian’s relatives still on the island. A newsreel detailing the 1935 Academy Awards features a 1-minute acceptance speech by producer Irving Thalberg who won the Best Picture trophy for the movie. Trailers for the 1935 movie ( 3 ¼ minutes) and its 1962 remake (4 minutes) are both present on the disc.
Bullitt – 4.5/5
The audio commentary is by director Peter Yates and is an interesting look back at the making of the film with the director lamenting often how much more difficult picture making was back during this film’s production with effects and camera moves that would be simplicity itself today. The bonus features are in 480i unless otherwise noted. “Bullitt: Steve McQueen’s Commitment to Reality” is a 10 ¼-minute fluff production piece with director Peter Yates and star Steve McQueen mainly talking about the film’s difficult stunt scenes, many of which McQueen himself participated in. “Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool” is an 87-minute documentary produced for TCM on the life and career of the legendary actor. Featuring interviews with many people with whom the actor worked on stage, television, and films, the actor’s busy screen career and rambunctious off-screen personal life are covered in some detail. “The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing” is a fascinating 99 ½-minute documentary produced for the Starz network. Narrated by Kathy Bates, it collects interviews from world renowned directors and film editors who give a brief history of the birth and growth of the art of editing and then talk about many films where editing played a key role in the success of the production. It’s in 1080p. The theatrical trailer runs 2 ¾-minutes.
Unforgiven – 4.5/5 The audio commentary is by critic Richard Schickel. Like most of his commentaries even with films he admires, his unenthusiastic delivery and the many gaps between comments makes listening something of a chore. All of the video bonus material is presented in 480i. “Eastwood on Eastwood” is a 68 ½-minute look back and the life and career of the famed actor/director/producer. It features clips from many of his most famous films and from some of his favorites as well covering ground from his days as a Universal contract player to his (then) most recent directing job Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. “All On Accounta Pullin’ the Trigger” is a 22 ¾-minute behind the scenes documentary which features comments by director/star Clint Eastwood, co-stars Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman, screenwriter David Webb Peoples, and Oscar-winning film editor Joel Cox. It features lots of long clips from the film with brief voiceover commentary by the participants. “Eastwood and Company: Making Unforgiven” is another, briefer behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the movie during its 52-day shooting schedule all on location from the building of the sets through the last shot of the movie. Narrated bty Hal Holbrook, it runs 23 ¾ minutes. “Eastwood…A Star” regurgitates many of the sound and video bites from the previous bonus featurettes for inclusion here in this 16 ¼-minute overview of Eastwood’s film career. A 1958 episode of Maverick which featured Clint as a bullying gunfighter, “Duel at Sundown,” is offered in its complete 49 ¼-minute length. The theatrical trailer runs 2 minutes.
The Bodyguard – 2.5/5
All of the bonus material is in 480i. “Memories of The Bodyguard” is a 26 ¾-minute overview of the making of the movie with brief interviews featuring director Mick Jackson, writer/producer Lawrence Kasdan, producer Jim Wilson, and stars Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” music video runs 4 ¾ minutes. The theatrical trailer runs 2 minutes.
Million Dollar Baby – 3/5 All of the bonus material is in 480i. “James Lipton Takes on Three” is a 24 ¾-minute conversation between interviewer James Lipton and the three stars of the movie. Eastwood seems as willing to talk about Mystic River as he is to talk about Million Dollar Baby, so much of the time is given over to Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman as they each provide interesting and entertaining discussions about their characters and their approaches to acting. “Born to Fight” features brief interviews with actors Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel (who plays simpleton Danger Barch), Anthony Mackie (who plays the bullying Shawrelle Berry), and real-life fighter Lucia Rijker who plays a small role in the film and also served as fight consultant. They discuss their characters and the motivation behind what makes athletes turn to boxing. It runs 19 ¼ minutes. “Producers Round 15” features interviews with three of the film’s producers who praise the cast and crew: Albert S. Ruddy, Tom Rosenberg, and Paul Haggis (who also wrote the script). It runs 13 minutes.
The Departed – 3.5/5
All of the bonus features are presented in 480i. “Stranger Than Fiction” mixes the true story of fabled Boston mobster Whitey Bulger (whose story forms some of the basis for the film’s story) with some behind-the-scenes glimpses of filming the movie. In addition to a stream of Boston politicos, reporters, and ordinary citizens are also the film’s director Martin Scorsese and stars Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mark Wahlberg. It runs 21 ¼ minutes. “Crossing Criminal Cultures” is a 24-minute examination into director Martin Scorsese’s fascination with the world of gangsters with emphasis on his films Mean Streets and Goodfellas. Along with the director himself and actors Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio offering opinions, critic Peter Travers checks in with his own opinions about Scorsese’s gangland movies. There are nine deleted scenes which are combined into 19 ½ minute montage. Each scene is introduced by Martin Scorsese, but there is no way to play them individually. The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
Bonus Feature Disc
The last disc in the set is a flipper DVD (odd for a Blu-ray set to offer these bonus features only in standard definition 480p) which contains these two featurettes: “Tales from the Warner Bros. Lot” is a 106-minute documentary featuring many famous and not-so-famous faces associated in some way with the studio. From offering a biography of the four brothers Warner who founded the company through other owners of the studio down through the years, the faces parade across the screen telling stories of their own personalized memories of working on the lot. Stars of films and television both recent (Ben Affleck, for example) and from an earlier time (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) as well as executives and heads of craft departments all contribute to this interesting look at the Warner Bros. “family.” Apart from one brief clip from The Jazz Singer, there are no film clips to illustrate the memories being recounted. Instead, stills, poster art, and location shots fill in the gaps as the narrators talk. “Warner Bros. Lot Tour” is a brief 26 ¾-minute quick tour of the studio featuring tour guide Gary Laramore quickly driving the viewer down backlot streets and neighborhoods and locations, inside soundstages, The Mill, the wardrobe warehouse, and costume, car, and prop museums. Also included in the package is an envelope containing a poster of Warner films designed by poster creator Bill Gold along with ten post cards also with Bill Gold posterart on the fronts. Inside the box is a code and instructions for adding these films to your digital collection via Ultraviolet. [A note on packaging: The discs are contained in a box holding two thick volumes with the pages serving as disc holders. It’s difficult to extract the discs without getting fingerprints on them and possibly adding some lights scratches to the discs.]
4/5 (not an average) Not all of the films are masterpieces and not all of the selected titles were products of the Warner Bros. Studio system, but this Best of Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection is a mostly wonderful anthology of quality films with good to great transfers to recommend them. For those looking to start a collection of some of the great movies of the 20th and early 21st centuries, this would make a fine foundation to a potentially great collection. Matt Hough Charlotte, NC