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Queries about some interesting Region 2 (U.K.) releases (1 Viewer)

Roderick Gauci

Stunt Coordinator
Mar 3, 2002
11-06-00 Yojimbo (1961)

07-16-01 The African Queen (1951)

09-24-01 Smiles Of A Summer Night (1955)

11-19-01 La Belle Et La Bete (1946)

12-03-01 The Way To The Stars (1945)

01-21-02 Faust (1926)

02-25-02 The Thief Of Bagdad (1924)

02-25-02 From The Life Of The Marionettes (1980)

03-04-02 Sleeping Beauty (1959)

03-18-02 Scarlet Street (1946)

03-25-02 Rocco And His Brothers (1960) [2-Disc Set]

03-26-02 Stray Dog (1949)

05-06-02 The Fall Of The Romanov Dynasty (1927)

05-06-02 All That Jazz (1979)

05-13-02 The Great Escape (1963) [2-Disc Set]

05-20-02 Baby Doll (1956) [2-Disc Set]

05-20-02 A Face In The Crowd (1957)

05-20-02 America, America (1963)

06-03-02 A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

06-10-02 The Creeping Flesh (1972)

06-24-02 Pandora's Box (1928)

TBA Persona (1966)

The above list consists of recent and upcoming DVD releases on Region 2 in the U.K. (in order of street date) which I am looking forward to adding to my collection. However, I have some reservations about purchasing them in their present (or proposed) state, as I will try to explain below. I would appreciate it if you would give me your opinions and perhaps convince me otherwise.

Like the majority of their Kurosawa DVDs, BFI’s STRAY DOG is virtually a movie-only edition. Which is a shame since this is one of the Kurosawa films I am most eager to add to my collection. I have only seen snippets of it about a decade ago on Italian TV. At the moment, there is no proposed Region 1 DVD but perhaps one day The Criterion Collection may release their own version of it, complementing their masterful RASHOMON and SEVEN SAMURAI DVDs. However, I was quite disappointed that the rest of their Kurosawa titles [THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958), YOJIMBO (1961), SANJURO (1962), HIGH AND LOW (1963)] feature little or no extras at all, especially considering their steep retail price. Ironically, the BFI version of YOJIMBO has an Audio Commentary but I have read several reviews lamenting the poor quality of their transfer, so I suppose I have to stick with my PAL VHS copy on this one. Perhaps Criterion will revisit their Kurosawa titles one day, who knows?

THE AFRICAN QUEEN, released by Carlton Home Entertainment contains a full-length Audio Commentary by Director Of Photography Jack Cardiff, an Original Theatrical Trailer, Biographies and a Stills Gallery. There are no Region 1 alternatives at the moment, and I think the DVD is good enough as it is, but one never knows when a superior version will creep up on you from nowhere.

SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT and FROM THE LIFE OF THE MARIONETTES form part of "The Bergman Collection" from Tartan Video. They are actually Region 0 releases and contain, unfortunately, only very basic extras: Star and Director Filmographies, Film Notes and "The Bergman Collection" Trailer. Tartan is also planning to release PERSONA later on this year. Although I have read very favorable comments on the video and audio qualities of "The Bergman Collection" DVDs, I am disappointed that, unlike the Bergman DVDs released by The Criterion Collection [THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957), WILD STRAWBERRIES (1957), CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972), AUTUMN SONATA (1978)] in the U.S., none of them have been given the Special Edition treatment (Audio Commentaries, Documentaries, Interviews, etc). While MARIONETTES is, I guess, minor Bergman, both SMILES and PERSONA are among his greatest works. Since PERSONA is owned by MGM in the U.S., there is not much chance that Criterion will get their hands on it. However, the fact that none of the three titles are mentioned as forthcoming as Region 1 releases makes the Tartan DVDs all the more alluring.

About four months ago, the British Film Institute launched its DVD version of LA BELLE ET LA BETE on Region 2. It features a Commentary by writer and cultural historian Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, a documentary "Screening at the Majestic", in which, 50 years on, Jean Marais, Mila Parély, Henri Alekan and others recall the experience of making the film, a picture gallery, and biographies. The film has been digitally mastered from a new, restored print. Also, Criterion has recently announced that it intends to re-release LA BELLE ET LA BETE (originally issued on 06/02/1998) on DVD with new supplements. I have bought my copy about a year ago for around $28. Although I am pleased with the supplements included on the disc, I agree that the film’s visual quality (or transfer) left room for improvement. Already owning the VHS PAL version released by the British Film Institute, I noticed that, regretfully, the amusing opening titles, featured in the original European release were jettisoned in favor of the more conventional ones adopted for its American run. Let’s hope that the Criterion re-issue fixes this liability. Still, I have been considering keeping my copy and “upgrading” to the BFI DVD, but I guess I will wait until Criterion launch their “new” version after all before I take any measures. Once again, I have not been able to find any reviews of the BFI DVD on the Internet.

Anthony Asquith's THE WAY TO THE STARS, released by Cinema Club, is also a supplement free disc. Once again, Criterion has released Asquith's PYGMALION (1938), albeit bare-bones, and is also planning a DVD of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (1952), so one never knows when this film will crop up on Region 1. On a more sour note, I had also intended to include in the above list Carol Reed's THE WAY AHEAD (1944), released on 15th January 2001 by Video Collection, but I just learned that it has been deleted. I have never read any reviews on these two DVDs, so any input would be much appreciated.

Eureka Video has recorded Audio Commentaries for FAUST, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (with the original Souvenir program also included as a supplement) and Fritz Lang's SCARLET STREET. The extras of both FAUST and THIEF make them superior to the Region 1 editions I own (released by Kino On Video and Image Entertainment respectively) and both films are good enough to warrant an upgrade. However, Kino is also planning its version of THIEF later this year so I guess I will wait until then, but still I would like to hear the opinions of someone who has purchased these two DVDs. At the moment, there are no plans for either SCARLET STREET or THE FALL OF THE ROMANOV DYNASTY to be issued on the U.S. market, although I cannot see how the Region 2 editions could be bettered: SCARLET STREET is Digitally Remastered with Commentary and FALL is accompanied by a Commentary, Extensive Royal Photo Essay and Documentary Essay.

Walt Disney’s SLEEPING BEAUTY has a host of special features: Ink and Paint Studio - colour your favourite characters, Art Attack - how to make a magic castle, The Making of Sleeping Beauty featurette, Rescue Princess Aurora interactive game, Character design Virtual Galleries - original artwork, Storyboard sequences: The capture of the Prince and The fairies put the castle to sleep, and Briar Rose dance reference. However, unlike the recent SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, DUMBO and PETER PAN, there is no Audio Commentary. For the record, there is also a French 2-Disc edition of this underrated Disney classic. Unfortunately, there is still no Region 1 release on the horizon and I was wondering if I should wait for that.

ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS, a C’Est La Vie 2-Disc DVD release, has several interesting supplements: Visconti Documentary (61 mins) featuring Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon et al, Photo gallery, Trailer, Biographies and Filmographies of Cardinale, Delon, Annie Girardot and Luchino Visconti, Color Booklet about the Film and the Documentary including Background Details on the Film, Stills and Reviews. Quite a worthwhile package I should think and definitely superior to the no-frills Region 1 Image Entertainment disc. Although not as well-known as A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951), ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) and EAST OF EDEN (1955), C’Est La Vie will have three of Elia Kazan’s films released exclusively as Region 2 DVDs. BABY DOLL, another 2-Disc set, comes with a commentary track by Carroll Baker and also Eli Wallach, ELIA KAZAN: A DIRECTORS JOURNEY documentary, stills gallery, filmographies, biographies and trailers. A FACE IN THE CROWD and AMERICA, AMERICA are also on the C’Est La Vie schedule but no supplements have been announced yet for these titles. Again, it would be hard to improve on the BABY DOLL package, especially since there are no plans for a U.S. release that I know of. And while we are at it, Fox should give similar treatment to another three early Kazan classics: A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945), BOOMERANG (1947) and PANIC IN THE STREETS (1950).

ALL THAT JAZZ was mentioned as a possible Region 1 release for 2002 but I cannot remember where I read it. Anyway, it will be available on Region 2 from 20th Century Fox in about five weeks’ time. No special features have been announced yet. On Region 1, I already own Fosse’s CABARET Special Edition DVD, but, unfortunately, LENNY (released on 04/16/02) will only have its Theatrical Trailer as an extra. Still, I would guess that a Roy Scheider Commentary would not be amiss on JAZZ. After all, he already did one (so to speak) for THE FRENCH CONNECTION, and the part of the self-destructive Joe Gideon was arguably his best ever.

According to Play.com and Amazon.co.uk, the 2-disc set of THE GREAT ESCAPE, released by MGM, will have several supplements: Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew, Steve McQueen Featurette: “An American Icon” (30 mins), Two Documentaries: “History vs Hollywood” (48 mins) and “The True Story of The Great Escape”, Trivia Track, Theatrical Trailer, Photo Galleries and an unspecified Region 2 Exclusive Feature. However, Blackstar.co.uk. lists three documentaries: “The Real Virgil Hilts”, “The Great Escape: Heroes Underground” and “The Great Escape: The Untold Story”, additional interviews, Theatrical trailer, Photo gallery, Collectible booklet and Trivia track. I hope a commentary is included, even though it may not be the one John Sturges, Elmer Bernstein and Bud Ekins recorded for the Criterion Laserdisc in the early 1990s. I hope someone can clear up the discrepancies in the special features listed for this classic war film.

Although I already own a budget-priced PAL VHS of A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, I would gladly upgrade to a no-holds-barred Collectors’ Edition of this seminal Swinging Sixties milestone. There are no information whatsoever what this upcoming DVD might include as extras, and Miramax are reportedly preparing their own edition for the U.S. market. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

THE CREEPING FLESH was delayed by three months by its manufacturer, Metrodome. No specifications have been forthcoming with regards to extra material for the DVD, but one hopes that it will complement Metrodome’s excellent disc of the Vincent Price classic WITHCHFINDER GENERAL (1968). I have never watched THE CREEPING FLESH but it is generally regarded as one of the better Peter Cushing-Christopher Lee collaborations outside Hammer.

Finally, the great Silent classic PANDORA'S BOX, G.W. Pabst’s masterpiece starring Louise Brooks, will be released by Second Sight accompanied by the 1998 documentary LOOKING FOR LULU. Narrated by Shirley MacLaine, this hour long, critically acclaimed documentary features rare film footage and photographs, interviews with friends, relatives and acting colleagues, as well as a fascinating interview with Brooks herself recorded in 1976. It is a fascinating insight into one of the silver screen’s greatest legends. On the downside, Play.com lists its running time as 104 minutes. Although in the past this film has been released in various versions running anywhere between 97 and 110 minutes, my PAL VHS copy runs for 131 minutes! Also, while the DVD will have a musical accompaniment, the Tartan Video (VHS) version, for some reason, did not. Even though I may still get it for the improved visual quality and the documentary, there had been rumors that Criterion was preparing its own version of PANDORA’S BOX [and Pabst’s THE THREEPENNY OPERA (1931)] but no official statement has been released.

This impressive list seems to me to dispel the generally-held belief that U.K. DVD releases are inferior to their American and Canadian counterparts. On the other hand, for those of us who have a DVD player with multiregion capabilities, it offers a slew of mouth-watering releases to look forward to.

Malcolm Cleugh

Second Unit
Jan 11, 2002

I can comment on a couple of the titles

Great Escape

The R4 press release from MGM states

Documentary "The Great Escape - Heroes Underground"

Documentary "Return to the Great Escape"


Commentary - No further details I'm afraid

No confirmed spec but I would expect the R2 UK version to be identical as they usually share the same master.

Sleeping Beauty

Don't touch with a barge pole. This is a travesty being P/S with only a few extras. Disney got all the extras of the continential European version certified with the BBFC here in the UK. Supplied a check disk for review to one of the websites but then pulled days before release the W/S 2 disk special edition and currently state have no plans to release it. It was planned to be identical to the French version without the DTS track (as Disney won't release DTS in the UK unlike France).

The French release is due later this month and the only concern is possible locked French subs during the film and over dubbing in French of the extra docs. May want to wait until reviews are available.

Hope this helps


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