Category Archives: Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #325: The Man Who Would Be King (1975).

Directed by John Huston
Starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Saeed Jaffrey

When Sean Connery passed away in October, one of the things I heard a lot was “It really stinks you can’t get The Man Who Would Be King on Blu-Ray.” Well, technically you could, if you were willing to pay crazy collector prices for it. Luckily, Warner Archive is righting that wrong in January with a re-issue.

Connery, Michael Caine and director John Huston really knocked it out of the park with this one. Huston had been trying to make it for over 20 years, and both Connery and Caine said it was their favorite of their own films. It’s a near-perfect adventure movie and it holds up remarkably well — and the cinematography by Oswald Morris will look splendid on Blu-Ray. Highly, highly recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Huston, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Produced by Anthony Hinds
Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster
Based on the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Director Of Photography: Jack Asher
Production Design: Bernard Robinson
Makeup Artist: Phil Leakey
Music by James Bernard
Film Editor: James Needs

Cast: Peter Cushing (Baron Victor Frankenstein), Melvyn Hayes (Young Victor), Robert Urquhart (Paul Krempe), Hazel Court (Elizabeth), Sally Walsh (Young Elizabeth), Christopher Lee (The Creature), Valerie Gaunt (Justine), Noel Hood (Aunt Sophia), Paul Hardtmuth (Professor Bernstein)

__________

With its first color film, and first foray into Gothic horror, Hammer Films created a brand that would change their direction, launch the horror careers of a couple of iconic actors, and ultimately change the horror movie itself. That’s accomplishing quite a bit, especially when you’re talking about a little company in the UK with a $250,000 monster movie — and working out of a house, not a proper studio.

Of course, we’re talking about is The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. And it’s just been given an incredible restoration and Blu-Ray release by Warner Archive.

While it varies quite a bit from the Shelley novel, it’s right in line with the cinematic Frankenstein story. A brilliant, obsessed doctor (Peter Cushing) assembles a man (Christopher Lee) from parts of dead bodies and brings it to life — with less than the desired result.

Seen today, it’s still a nasty little movie. Victor Frankenstein isn’t just an overly-driven medical researcher, he’s a manipulative lech. Actresses seem to have been chosen, and costumes designed, to highlight the female form. And every gruesome opportunity to dwell upon a lopped-off head, a severed hand or an eye in a jar is taken with relish. And remember, this is the first time audiences had ever seen such gore in color!

But what’s really important, and what makes this new Blu-Ray so essential, is we get to see the level of craft that went into Curse Of Frankenstein. Bernard Robinson’s sets are incredible, especially when you consider he was working in such tight spaces. Jack Asher’s cinematography, his first time working in color, uses shadow and light to draw  the eye to exactly what he wanted us to see and making those tiny sets look as big, as opulent, as possible. His experiments with color and light would continue with each film, making watching these early Hammer horror pictures in order of release a fun exercise.

Phil Leakey touches up Christopher Lee’s hairdo.

For Christopher Lee’s Creature, the makeup had to steer clear of the classic Universal/Karloff look, and Phil Leakey went in an effective stitched-up, patchwork direction. The Blu-Ray’s restored color really aids our appreciation of the look of the Creature, and we can see that Lee’s wounds seem to “heal” as the film goes on. 

James Bernard’s score is kinetic and dynamic, creating a signature sound (with an obviously small orchestra) that instantly IDs a Hammer film. A friend and I had dinner with Mr. Bernard in the early 90s. What a nice, charming man — and so humble.

Terence Fisher, Hazel Court and Peter Cushing on the set.

Terence Fisher’s direction brings all these elements together, beginning to set the tone for what Hammer would make into the mid-60s. He gets pitch-perfect performances from his cast. His camera rarely moves, but when it does, it’s always to great effect. But what probably makes the biggest difference is that he makes sure no one, from the cast to the cameraman to the caterer, looks down on the material. That made all the difference.

Warner Archive has done a remarkable job bringing Curse Of Frankenstein back to life. It’s sharp, the color is a huge improvement over anything I’ve seen before. (This one was shot in Eastmancolor.) We also get the original aspect ratio(s) — from the UK’s 1.66 to the 1.85 seen in the US to the 1.33 we saw on TV and videotape. (I recommend the 1.66.) The supplemental stuff is a real home run — a casket-load of commentaries, documentaries and a trailer. I was particularly happy to see James Bernard and Jack Asher singled out, with a short video on each. They’re key to the lasting impact of these films. 

While Horror Of Dracula* (1958) may get a lot of the glory, Curse Of Frankenstein is where it all began. It’s an important film, and a really cool one. As essential as they come, both as a movie and as an upgrade to whatever format you might currently have it in. 

* Also available (and stunning) on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1957, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Hazel Court, Jack Asher, Terence Fisher, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #323: Mister Roberts (1955).

Directed by John Ford & Mervyn LeRoy
Starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond, Philip Carey, Nick Adams, Perry Lopez, Ken Curtis

By all accounts, Mister Roberts (1955) was a troubled production, with a feud between star Fonda and director Ford (and a illness/bender taking taking Ford off the picture). Some say Ford’s attempt to turn the play into a John Ford movie was a hindrance, but as most folks see it, the end result is just wonderful. It was a huge hit back in ’55 and is beloved today.

Warner Archive is bringing Mister Roberts to Blu-Ray, and early CinemaScope films are a real treat in high-definition. And given how splendid recent Warner Archive Blu-Rays have looked, this should be a huge upgrade. The old DVD’s commentary from Jack Lemmon (who won an Oscar for playing Ensign Pulver) is being kept, which is good news.

This one’s coming December 15, and I highly recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1955, DVD/Blu-ray News, Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, John Ford, Martin Milner, Nick Adams, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #320: Tex Avery Screwball Classics, Volume 2.

Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 was terrific, and here comes number two, which might be even better. It will contain stunning new restorations of:

Little Rural Riding Hood
The Cuckoo Clock
Magical Maestro
One Cab’s Family
Cat That Hated People
Doggone Tired
The Flea Circus
Field And Scream
The First Bad Man
Out Foxed
Droopy’s Double Trouble
Three Little Pups

Dragalong Droopy
Homesteader Droopy
Dixieland Droopy
Counterfeit Cat
Ventriloquist Cat
House Of Tomorrow
Car Of Tomorrow
TV Of Tomorrow

The documentary Tex Avery: King Of Cartoons will be included. Coming in December. Very funny stuff, and absolutely essential.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cartoons, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Tex Avery, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #319: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhardt, Christopher Lee

Boy, this is going to be great! You get The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957), the first of Hammer’s Frankenstein series three different ways (on two discs), restored from preservation separations — the 1.66 UK aspect ratio, 1.85 as it played in the States and 1.37 as we saw it on TV for years and years. There will be commentaries, documentaries and a trailer. And if you’re familiar with what a lot of Warner Archive’s stuff has been looking like lately, you can only imagine how stunning this one would be. Essential!

Leave a comment

Filed under 1957, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Hazel Court, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray Review: Flying Leathernecks (1951).

Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Edmund Grainger
Screenplay by James Edward Grant
From a story by Kenneth Gamet
Director Of Photography: William E. Snyder
Film Editor: Sherman Todd
Music by Roy Webb

Cast: John Wayne (Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby), Robert Ryan (Capt. Carl ‘Griff’ Griffin), Don Taylor (Lt. Vern ‘Cowboy’ Blithe), Janis Carter (Joan Kirby), Jay C. Flippen (MSgt. Clancy), William Harrigan (Dr. Lt.Cdr. Joe Curran), James Bell (Colonel), John Mitchum, Hugh Sanders, Gail Davis

__________

Howard Hughes wanted an airplane picture in Technicolor, and he cast John Wayne in it. Nicholas Ray thought a patriotic picture might keep the HUAC off his back, even though he hated war movies (and the politics of this one), and he cast the likeminded Robert Ryan.

When you take all that into consideration, it’s amazing that Flying Leathernecks (1951) works as well as it does. (In the divided, contentious  political environment of today, it’s doubtful something like this would get past the contract phase, much less result in a completed movie.) Flying Leathernecks has a lot of the things we count on (an ensemble cast, incredible battle sequences) and dread (back-home flashbacks of soldiers) about Hollywood war pictures of this period.

But it was put together by some of the absolute best Hollywood had around at the time — Wayne, Ryan, Ray — who somehow managed to keep the meddling Howard Hughes from screwing the whole thing up. And the end result is a well-acted, technically stunning story of Marine Corps pilots in the Pacific during World War II.

Robert Ryan is the Captain who wants to bond with his men. Wayne’s the Major whose strict methods are intended to bring as many planes back to base, and to get as many solders back home, as possible. The two officers battle each other as much as the Japanese.

Maj. Daniel Xavier Kirby (John Wayne): “You just can’t bring yourself to point your finger at the guy and say ‘go get killed!'”

These kinds of conflicts have fueled war pictures since the silent days. And they provide a bit of interest in watching them — how will this one approach the conventions, and how well will it all work? What will carry this one — the writing, direction, acting, stunts, effects or something else? With Flying Leathernecks, the answer might be all of the above.

Nick Ray was a great actors’ director — many performers were never as good as they were in his films. This was Wayne’s only Ray picture; Ryan and Ray would follow this with On Dangerous Ground (1952). At the same time, Ray had an eye for composition that remains unmatched. (He’d really hit his stride when ‘Scope came along.) Flying Leathernecks was the director’s first color movie, and it looks terrific. Director Of Photography William E. Snyder does a particularly good job of matching his footage to color combat footage. The aerial sequences are really something, especially with the added allure of Technicolor. I’m sure those scenes, and that gorgeous color, made Mr. Hughes very happy indeed.

Snyder’s color camerawork is the main reason for making the leap from Flying Leathernecks on the old Warners DVD to the new, stunning Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. The film’s been given a through cleaning, from dialing in the sharpness and color to dazzling effect to tidying up the 16mm Kodachrome battle footage. You don’t expect a war movie, dominated by greens and browns, to be so vibrant. This is the kind of restoration I’d like to see every Technicolor movie receive. It’s amazing.

Flying Leathernecks is not going to make the list of Nicholas Ray’s best films. It’s job was to please Howard Hughes and make sure Ray could still work in Hollywood, and it seems to have succeeded. It also succeeds as a war movie, a good one — with John Wayne and Robert Ryan doing the good work we expect from them. All that, given a stunning Blu-Ray release, is really easy to recommend. 

7 Comments

Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Nicholas Ray, RKO, Robert Ryan, Warner Archive

Sgt. York (1941) Restoration Before And After.

Before. And After.

Warner Archive has released a couple of minutes of Sgt. York (1941) to give us glimpse of what their upcoming Blu-Ray will look like — from a 4K scan of the best surviving 35mm nitrate elements.

Unbelievable. Coming October 13.

3 Comments

Filed under Gary Cooper, Howard Hawks, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #310: Space Ghost And Dino Boy – The Complete Series (1966-68).

Loved these back in the day, and I thought the comic books were even better. So I’m super-stoked about Warner Archive’s upcoming Blu-Ray Space Ghost And Dino Boy – The Complete Series (1966-68).

This was before Space Ghost was shanghai’d by Cartoon Network for Space Ghost Coast To Coast. Space Ghost was created by comic artist Alex Toth. The voice talent was top-notch: Gary Owens (as Space Ghost), Tim Matheson, Keye Luke, Ted Cassidy, Paul Frees and Vic Perrin. Coming October 13.

2 Comments

Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hanna-Barbera, Paul Frees, Television, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #306: Flying Leathernecks (1951).

Directed by Nicholas Ray
Starring John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Don Taylor, Janis Carter, Jay C. Flippen

Another Howard Hughes airplane movie, and it’s a good one. Shot in Technicolor by William E. Snyder and making good use of actual color war footage, Flying Leathernecks (1951) is impressive stuff. It’s great to see John Wayne and Robert Ryan go at it, and you can never really go wrong with Nicholas Ray. (Ryan and Ray would follow this with the terrific On Dangerous Ground.)

Flying Leathernecks has been restored, and Warner Archive is bringing it to Blu-Ray on September 15th. Highly, highly recommended — and with Wayne, Ryan and Ray, why wouldn’t it be?

1 Comment

Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Nicholas Ray, RKO, Robert Ryan, Warner Archive

DVD/Blu-Ray News #303: Elvis – That’s The Way It Is (1970/2001).

Directed by Denis Sanders
Starring Elvis Presley, James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, Charlie Hodge, Jerry Scheff, Ron Tutt, John Wilkinson, The Imperials, The Sweet Inspirations

Warner Archive is bringing back a very cool thing — the original theatrical cut of the Elvis concert movie That’s The Way It Is (1970) on DVD and the 2001 re-edited “Special Edition” on Blu-Ray. This twin-pack came out in 2014 and has been missing for quite a while.

The 1970 theatrical film plays like a documentary, covering the rehearsals and buildup to Elvis’ return to live performance at the International Hotel in Las Vegas (in August of 1970), while the 2001 cut is more of a straight-up concert movie. Both are terrific — Elvis was at the top of his game, his TCB band was incredible and it was all captured in Panavision by the great DP Lucien Ballard, in-between Sam Peckinpah movies.

Highly, highly recommended. (My wife and I named our daughter Presley, which might indicate a bit of a bias where Elvis is concerned.)

Leave a comment

Filed under 1970, Documentary, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elvis Presley, MGM, Warner Archive