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post #1741 of 1760 Old 09-30-2016, 01:02 PM - Thread Starter
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All That Heaven Allows (1955), directed by Douglas Sirk.

This tragic romance of an older widow and younger -- very studly -- man is not as "weepy" as other Sirk projects, but is even more direct in its condemnation of social codes and hypocrisy.

Jane Wyman is only eight years older than Rock Hudson here, but we are supposed to imagine a larger gap. She has adult children and I suppose he is supposed to be about their age, although he's been to war, has his own business and seems more mature.

No one understands -- or will accept -- that a widow with grown children can still feel passion. Society and town gossips conspire to keep her from pursuing her own happiness. The kids are particularly vile: Mom's escaping! Can't allow that!

An especially interesting aspect is how mainstream, rigid, judgmental society is shamed in comparison to an alternative, artistic, lightly bohemian counterculture. Who wouldn't prefer the latter to the former? And when did this start in film? You get a touch of it with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in Holiday (1938) and Capra has an eccentric screwball treatment in You Can't Take It With You (1938). Once we reach the beatnik and hippy era it's all over: Hollywood rushes to other side of the boat and the counterculture becomes mainstream.

Sirk's work was once belittled for being merely "women's" pictures, but which seems more radical in retrospect. We are used to movies being about men watching women, with plots made from the effect women have on men. Sirk is able to turn it around: this is about a woman looking at a man and her struggles with what that does to her.

Agnes Moorehead (look at that red hair!) gets a break from villain roles to be a good best friend. Daughter Gloria Talbott was last seen in I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958).

Russell Metty's Technicolor photography is an exciting, saturated assault on the eyes: that lovely New England autumn.

Criterion Blu-ray. The commentary track has good insight into how much the costuming tells the story, something I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.



-Bill

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post #1742 of 1760 Old 10-04-2016, 01:53 PM
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Don't forget the other peculiarity here. Rock Hudson, singing.

Something I think he avoided for the rest of his career...?
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post #1743 of 1760 Old 10-06-2016, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
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X: the Unknown (1956), directed by Leslie Norman

Something uncanny is stalking a remote part of Scotland. Soldiers, doctors, kids out at night: all burned and melted by severe radiation. Scientist and military consultant not-Quatermass-but-just-like-him is present and on the case, if only they will listen to him.

This Hammer Films title was meant to be a Quatermass story but they couldn't get permission to use the name. Nothing else is changed. It has the trademark Hammer seriousness and fine use of real gear and locations. The opening credits give thanks to the War Office.

Only 80 minutes long, I know this sort of SF/mystery/horror doesn't appeal to everyone, but I've always liked down-to-earth, low budget science procedural plots. I also find the notion of mysterious entities emerging from deep within the earth to be pretty scary; I don't know where I get that, unless from seeing Superman and the Mole Men (1951) too many times as a kid.

This is also of that intriguing sub-genre that has no "creature" or even "monster" in the strict sense, just hazardous natural phenomena. The Monolith Monsters (1957) is another example.

Joseph Losey was the original director, replaced when he become ill (or because American Dean Jagger refused to work with the blacklisted director, or because Losey just didn't want to do the film).

Leo McKern fan club!

Available on DVD.



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post #1744 of 1760 Old 10-19-2016, 05:10 PM - Thread Starter
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I Saw What You Did (1965), produced and directed by William Castle.

Two teen best friends plus a kid sister have this fun game where they call random numbers from the phone book and put on breathy sex-kitten voices to ask indiscreet questions. One of their favorite bits is to say "I saw what you did and I know who you are".

Oops. You shouldn't say that to some people. It isn't safe.

Combine the light teen girl fun of The World of Henry Orient (1964) with the shower scene from Psycho (1960) and add Joan Crawford, age 60 and still hungry for John Ireland. Only from the mind of William Castle.

It's not a good film and the acting is often awkward but if you stick with it you sort of get pulled into that world. Teen-thrill filmmaking from the pre-gore years, juvenile delinquents who mean no real harm. And yet the shower murder is pretty horrific.

Young Andi Garrett is awfully familiar looking, but she has only a brief filmography so I must be thinking of someone else:



Photographed by Joseph F. Biroc and the lighting is actually quite good.

Goofy soundtrack, way too light to help the mood. Remade for TV in 1988.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory. The first reel with credits is in poor shape but image quality improves thereafter. Beware of a full-frame cropped DVD-R from Universal.



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post #1745 of 1760 Old 10-24-2016, 12:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Cat People (1942), produced by Val Lewton, directed by Jacques Tourneur.

At first the execution of the film does not seem that promising: Simone Simon has rough English, Kent Smith is handsome but dull, we have a meet-cute opening when she is sketching panthers at the zoo.

And yet it starts going places almost at once. She takes him back to her place at their first meeting. She seems to live in the dark by firelight and begins giving hints of an ancestral curse from medieval Serbia. We never actually hear the story of women who turn into murderous panthers in moments of passion, but we see that the characters understand the tale.

On their wedding night she is approached by a strange feline woman (hints of sexual attraction) and she asks to beg off from sex with her husband for a while. Should she be "kissed" terrible things might happen.

With such a troubled marriage he spends more time with gal-pal Alice. (The two will return in The Curse of the Cat People (1944), which will have them married and with a little girl, trying to forget doomed Irena). The bride becomes jealous; you won't like her when she's angry. She has blackouts at times like this.

This leads to the best scenes: Irena stalking Alice in the park at night. The footsteps go silent and we imagine large cat paws. We can almost see a giant creature on the top of the wall, brushing the tree branches. The bus driver asks frightened Alice: "You look like you've seen a ghost!" She: "Did you see it, too?"

Cut to the zoo where sheep have been killed. Cat paw prints change into shoe prints and we see Irena wiping her mouth.

In one of the few sequences copied by Cat People (1982) she corners a terrified Alice in a darkened swimming pool, with masterful use of concealing shadows.

Convinced by her shrink (the dapper Tom Conway, the "nice" Sanders brother) to make an effort -- or perhaps aroused by her stalking of Alice -- she tells her husband she's ready for sex. He spurns her, having fallen in love with Alice. What do you think happens then?

And now I have to reevaluate the opening. What seemed like bland stiffness in the leading man is more like naive American optimism ("I've never been unhappy", he claims) contrasted with Old World tragedy, the inability to escape history. What might have been a tale a sexual fear or repressed sexual desire seems more like a will to power, to accept the animal within and free it.

Notes:

  • Producer Lewton's first film for RKO, the start of his famous horror series.
  • The studio hated it, a typical experience for Lewton.
  • It did tremendous business, saving RKO after the Orson Welles disaster. Were they grateful? What do you think?
  • Made in 22 days, 5 days over schedule.
  • This sort of thing is a careful balancing act: too heavy and it seems ridiculous, but you have to make the audience believe.
  • In The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) the novice filmmakers do an homage to this when they are assigned to make a ridiculous Doom of the Cat Men feature. Since they can't afford good costumes they make art from necessity by using darkness and shadow to conceal the nightmare reality, an obvious reference to Lewton.
  • The shrink carries a sword-cane.
  • I hadn't noticed before: in the first scene at the zoo, Kent Smith seems to be having lunch with a woman whose back is turned, but who must be Jane Randolph as gal-pal Alice. Looks just like her. He abandons her and goes to Irena without a look back.

Roy Webb score. Photographed by Nicholas Musuraca. 73m long.

Criterion Blu-ray with a busy and informative commentary track copied from the DVD. Includes the documentary Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007).



-Bill
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post #1746 of 1760 Old 10-24-2016, 01:21 PM
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Simone Simon trivia: she was at one time the girlfriend of WWII playboy secret agent Dušan "Duško" Popov. If you can see the 2007 documentary "True Bond," his story is a fascinating one (he was possibly one of Ian Fleming's inspirations for his fictional spy, James Bond).
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post #1747 of 1760 Old 10-28-2016, 07:26 PM - Thread Starter
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The Tingler (1959), produced and directed by William Castle.

For all its cheeziness, this is in many respects quite clever and is a favorite of mine. I first saw it as a child late at night on a old boxy TV in blacked-out room. The deaf-mute woman's freakout scene really was the stuff of nightmares back then.

The cheeziness: you can see threads pulling the creature along.

The cleverness:

  • The concept is a good one: everyone has a microscopic parasite at the base of the spine which grows enormously during the experience of terror...
  • ...and can only be vanquished by screaming.
  • What if a person couldn't scream? Say a deaf-mute woman with a blood phobia that could be used to frighten her to death? In that case a full-sized Tingler could be extracted and studied...
  • ...if it weren't so malicious and curiously indestructable.
  • Is medical examiner and fear-specialist Vincent Price bad enough to do something like that? Good plot twists here.
  • He makes history with the first film use of LSD, in this case to cause "waking nightmares".
  • You have to imagine you are in the theater for the climax. The Tingler is loose in the theater in the film, so of course everyone watching the film is checking under their seats...
  • ...while hired shills scream and faint and are carried out on stretchers...
  • ...when the screen and theater go black and Vincent Price announces "The Tingler is loose in the theater! Scream! Scream for your lives!"...
  • ...and Castle deploys his "Percepto!" gimmick, which are electric buzzers installed in certain seats...
  • ...and when the creature attacks the projection booth the film breaks and we see its magnified outline crawling across the screen.

That must have been fun.

Notes:

  • We last saw the deaf-mute woman in another non-speaking role: Miss Lonelyhearts in Rear Window (1954).
  • Some of the music cues are swiped directly from Herrmann and Vertigo (1958).
  • For some reason we see quite a bit of the silent classic playing at the theater: Tol'able David (1921).
  • The title of the LSD book is printed on the back cover: Fright Effects Induced by Injection of Lysergic Acid LSD25. I can't explain it; this is the bizarro world of William Castle.

Available on DVD.



-Bill
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post #1748 of 1760 Old 10-28-2016, 09:34 PM
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I saw The Tingler in the theater as a kid. Probably a Saturday matinee or double feature.

I only remember being scared witless.
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post #1749 of 1760 Old 11-01-2016, 01:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), directed by Jaromil Jireš.

I don't often venture into surreal Euro art films, but this Czech title is just too gorgeous to skip. At only 1h17m I can live with the weird-god-help-us plotlessness.

Surreal = "incidents which are dramatically symbolic, but which make little sense in terms of coherent plot".

This is part of a little genre of interesting films: the young girl's coming of age told as horror-fantasy inspired by dark fairy tales. The Company of Wolves (1984) and Pan's Labyrinth (2006) are other examples.

I didn't care to try to puzzle out the story (if there is one) but the imagery and fragments of plot strongly invoke the dream imagery of adolescence, those half-forgotten never-understood years when a new world is revealed, then taken away again.

A major attraction is Jaroslava Schallerová as the title character, her first film at age 13 and just beautiful in every way. I try not to feel too pervy when watching this but a girl's fantasy imagery is just intimate. We have brief nudity and erotica, but she and the film are appealing far beyond that. She is a strong character, coming into her powers.

Criterion Blu-ray with a lovely image.

The disc includes a nice isolated score by The Valerie Project, a US band. Described as "psychedelic folk", a lot of it sounds like art-rock of the early 1970s, say by Pink Floyd or King Crimson. You can listen online at their website.



-Bill
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post #1750 of 1760 Old 11-03-2016, 04:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Lost Horizon (1937), directed by Frank Capra.

Years ago, I remember my first serious thought about cinematography was while watching this film -- projected in some campus venue -- and being moved by the scenes of the gateway to Shangri-La, the interface of the howling Himalayan wilderness with the hidden utopian valley:



I thought: "They could not do this shot today. Too lushly romantic, it would be ridiculed". Films were in an anti-romantic phase then. And yet how well the images tell the story. Thank Joseph Walker, Capra's long-time photographer, for that.

Romance and adventure are strong in this one. Being hijacked and flown deep into central Asia, a thousand miles beyond the map to a hidden civilization: that's real Indiana Jones stuff.

The well-intentioned message is still touching: in a world descending into war, a vision of escape to a life ruled by the principle "Be Kind". A dream of life after the war, when Shangri-La would still be waiting, having preserved all the good things.

On the down side, when Capra is earnest he tends to be talky and some conversations drag on a while. His rough cut was six hours long and a three hour version was shown to a test audience. He got it down to 132 minutes, the official release. It has a complicated editing history thereafter: pacifist sentiments by the hero were cut almost immediately and other political considerations took their toll.

Notes:

  • Ronald Colman is perfect as the weary philosopher-soldier-diplomat. He was Capra's first and only choice.
  • In the airport chaos of the first scene, he says "We need to rescue ninety white people!" Later, on the last plane, morose and drinking: "We left ten thousand natives to be massacred". (The background was probably lingering memories of the Boxer Rebellion).
  • His pacifist musings do seem naive set against the looming nazi reality. Well, he was drinking and spinning fantasies. And yet: he found his fantasy world and was able to live there for a while.
  • I hadn't remembered: Shangri-La was built by a Belgian priest starting in 1713. It is the capital of the valley.
  • Somehow I had thought the valley endowed immortality, but no: residents are healthy and long-lived, but mortal.
  • Even in Shangri-la the doors have locks.
  • The Himalayan exteriors were shot in a huge "ice house" where it was really cold, enough to jam the cameras.
  • Comic actor Edward Everett Horton often got thinly-concealed gay parts. Here he and Thomas Mitchell almost seem like a couple during the middle of the film.
  • While appreciating what the High Lama has done, Sam Jaffe gives him a weirdly fanatical intensity.
  • Those distance shots of Jane Wyatt swimming nude: that's a body double. They had to reassure the distributors: "Yes, of course she's wearing a top. You just can't see it. Naked? Certainly not!" But she was.
  • I last saw Jane Wyatt as Spock's mother in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), made 49 years later.

Dimitri Tiomkin score.

My thumbnails are from an all-region imported Blu-ray by "ViaVision / Madman / Columbia Tristar". In 1998 a complete 132m version of the film was assembled from bits and pieces from all over. According to the cover of the Blu-ray:

Quote:

Now for the first time this world premiere on Blu-ray showcases the stunning all new digital 4k 2014 restoration, completed using the preservation negative created in 1998 as the primary source, scanned at 4k and integrated with the director's personal nitrate print and features an additional one minute of previously lost footage preserving the original performance and another full minute of picture previously represented by the original soundtrack and still images.
The running time is almost identical to the North American DVD created from the 1998 source. Image quality of the Blu-ray is quite a lot better, both in detail and in contrast. The whites on the DVD were often blown out and that is corrected here.

Quality declines during some moments (some of the recovered segments are from worn 16mm prints) and the whole title shows heavy grain or what is probably just age.

As with the DVD, a few minutes of missing film are replaced with stills while the soundtrack continues.

The Blu-ray does not have the subtitles or commentary track from the DVD, but these fit the Blu-ray version perfectly when extracted.



-Bill

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post #1751 of 1760 Old 11-08-2016, 09:58 AM
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I remember when the AFI (?) restoration was released with audio loops and stills.

My recollection may be faulty, but the very ending was insisted upon by the studio. Need to research.

The playful "Why??" scene with Jane Wyatt is pure gold.


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post #1752 of 1760 Old 11-10-2016, 02:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), produced and directed by Russ Meyer.

Screenplay by Roger Ebert. I knew it by reputation but had never seen it before.

Unreviewable, but hard to stop watching. I'd class it with other 60s satirical freakout films like:


This is vastly more ambitious than those, a pioneering soft porn studio film starring the most gorgeous women, several former Playboy centerfolds. Featuring their boobs. Everyone says Russ Meyer was some sort of mad genius obsessed with big boobs. The women didn't seem to mind; he made them feel like princesses.

It started as a sequel to Valley of the Dolls and Jacqueline Susan submitted two screenplays that Fox didn't like. So they let in two outsiders and the inmates ran the asylum just this once; studio budget and resources without interference.

Meyer and Ebert quickly decided to do a satire, but that obviously got away from them. This isn't a send up of Hollywood or rock music or fashion. It is more like a exploitation film self-mocking exploitation films and every bit of bad fiction and screenwriting they could find.

As in all Meyer productions the woman dominate. It is ahead of its time in featuring both straight and gay sex scenes and for having solid roles for black actors.

Of the huge cast, mobs of people in practically non-stop sex parties, I recognized only two actors: Charles Napier and Don White.

Practically a musical. Strawberry Alarm Clock appears as themselves.

The fun and games turn into a blood bath in the final moments. Note an oddly prophetic aspect: the character of Ronnie 'Z-Man' Barzell was inspired by Phil Spectre and he murdered actress Lana Clarkson at his house 33 years later. She was shot in the mouth just as happens in the movie.

Ebert stresses that neither he nor Meyer knew Spectre and that all of their satire just came out of their own imaginations, not from any direct experience with their targets.

Criterion Blu-ray with two commentary tracks and many extras. Lovely image.

Roger Ebert does the first commentary. He is lavish in his praise of Russ Meyer, a 30-year friend. Although obsessed with boobs, he was more interested in comedy and satire than actual eroticism. He did not do hardcore because he didn't want to partner with the Mob. (That might be a joke). He was respectful toward his people: none of that casting-couch business. He ran his sets like a military operation, with no screwing around. In every sense of the word.

Several cast members gather for the second commentary. They're having a great time but it is chaotic and low-density for the rest of us.

For the thumbnails I just picked 7 random non-nude images. There is no way to give an adequate overview of something like this.



-Bill
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post #1753 of 1760 Old 11-15-2016, 11:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Chimes at Midnight (1965), directed by Orson Welles.

Because of technical and legal problems this has always been a hard film to see, and very difficult to collect on home video. There were VHS editions and DVDs of questionable provenance, but now Criterion has delivered a rather good Blu-ray which will satisfy many want-lists.

What's it about?

  • The foolishness of old men, fantasizing about their rakehell youth. Maybe they weren't all that much, but that's how they remember it.
  • The excitement of having outlaw friends when you are young, and the relief of escaping their downfall.
  • The ambition of kings, whose job requires sleepless nights and disloyalty to their followers.
  • The joy of exceeding expectations.
  • War: the pomp and glory, the contest of steel, the corrupt underbelly and the confused scrum of the Battle of Shrewsbury, brutal against man and horse, sinking into mud.
  • High and low: princes and paupers.

Welles had done a mashup of several Shakespeare plays featuring Falstaff and Prince Hal on stage before. Now he scraped together a tiny budget and filmed on a shoestring in Spain. Even so he had to stop and run out for more funding.

I once saw a tabulation of how often each Shakespeare play is performed. Some are perennial favorites, other more rare. Henry VI 1 & 2 are odd in that their famous characters -- Hal, Falstaff, Hotspur, King Henry -- are well known, but the plays are almost never done. The figures are more familiar as literary characters than as stage presences.

I wonder if that isn't because these characters and their scenes are all we care about from these plays?

Of the central characters, only Welles (wearing a fat suit as he did in Touch of Evil (1958)) really stands out, a sort of Medieval Kris Kringle. He obviously loves the roguish knight and loves playing him. In previous centuries Falstaff was the villain of these plays, but more recent taste tends to exalt him.

John Gielgud was one of the most esteemed Shakespeareans of the 20th century, but his film work suffers from his formal, declamatory style. Henry IV was an intensely charismatic character, going from exile to invader with a handful of supporters, to the throne itself. We have little of that here.

Keith Baxter is not a well-known actor, and his Prince Hal is frankly dull. The character is meant to have immense wit and liveliness.

Some great faces in the rest of the cast; note Jeanne Moreau as sad-eyed, bordering-on-mental prostitute Doll Tearsheet.

If you want to see a good lead trio in a TV version of the plays, try the BBC Complete Shakespeare series of the 70s and 80s: Henry IV part 1 (1979) has Anthony Quayle, Jon Finch and David Gwillim as Falstaff, the King and the Prince. Shot on video with zero budget. The same cast return for Part 2.

Criterion Blu-ray with a commentary track by a Welles scholar.



-Bill
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post #1754 of 1760 Old 11-19-2016, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Robe (1953), directed by Henry Koster.
This is going back a bit, but I wanted to comment on this film. I recently purged a number of movies from my home video collection to make room for some new stuff (mostly new Hammer horror releases on Blu-ray), and The Robe is about the only major historical/biblical epic that survived.

Actually, this and The Bible: In the Beginning survived, because I got them on Blu-ray as a set. And I also retained a copy of Hammer's The Viking Queen on DVD. I rarely watch The Bible... though, even though it has some pretty cool FX.





I'm not sure why I like The Robe so well. The color and transfer aren't exactly perfect, as noted in your review, but it still looks (and sounds?) pretty good in HD. Burton's performance probably also has a lot to do with it. His portrayal of a man tortured by his own misdeeds reaches me for some reason. Victor Mature, Jean Simmons, and Jay Robinson (as Caligula) are also pretty good in this. And Alfred Newman's score is beautiful.

Another BD that survived the purge (so far) is The Big Country with Jean Simmons, Gregory Peck, and Burl Ives. I also had the original release of Spartacus on Blu-ray, but got rid of it quite some time ago because the HD PQ was just so poor. Still hoping to upgrade to the newer version at some point.

The Robe won't be everyone's taste. But since the holidays are nearly upon us, thought I'd mention this is not such a bad little flick, with some pretty nice widescreen HD imagery and performances.

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post #1755 of 1760 Old 11-20-2016, 08:42 PM
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Watched The Big Country (1958) on Blu-ray this morning. I've been a little on the fence about this film lately, but after watching it again, I think it's probably "a keeper".

The image quality (esp. the detail) is pretty good for the most part. There are a couple of minor issues with the HD transfer that I felt I needed to correct though, which I'll briefly detail here...

For starters, the image is pretty noticeably stretched in the horizontal axis. I think you can probably see that in the two screen caps below...





This is fairly easy to correct though if you have custom sizing controls on either your player or display. What I look for are round or sphere-shaped objects near the center of the screen to use as a reference for scaling either the width or height of the film...

WRONG



RIGHT



Spherical objects are best, because they should look round from any angle of view. And there is (conveniently) a round globe near the center of the frame in the "school marm's" living room in Chapters 2 and 4 (visible on the right in one of the above caps), which is just about ideal for this purpose. Wagon wheels, clocks or shirt buttons can also work though, if they are not photographed at an angle.

Since the image is stretched in the horizontal axis, I corrected the error by stretching the image in the vertical axis (image height). That also had the unintended benefit of making the picture fill more of the screen (which is not a bad thing on smaller TVs like mine).

The other tweaks that I made were to the Gamma, and Brightness (aka black level). The midtones and shadow detail are a bit too dark on this transfer imo, so I brightened the Gamma on my Samsung J5200 from my typical values of -1 or -2 to about +1 or +2. The blacks are also too elevated imo, so I lowered the Brightness on my TV from the normal 45 or 46 to approximately the high 30's (or low 40's?). The net effect of these two adjustments is an increase in overall contrast.

YMMV of course, but the color looks much more natural (and less muddy), and the image has a much better sense of depth, dimension, and richness to my eyes after making these two add'l tweaks. Every display and pair of eyes is different though. So I'd suggest experimenting a little with these controls until you find a combination of settings that looks best on your own TV... Some may prefer the image as is, with no correction.

Before correction, this film looks pretty good. After tweaking the aspect ratio, Gamma, and Brightness though, it looks simply outstanding imo, and is probably one of the best-looking catalog titles that I own.

As far as the movie and story are concerned, it doesn't get much better than this for an old western, imho. The cast includes some of the finest performers of the time. The direction and photography by Wyler and Planer are first-rate in every respect. And you've got a very nice score (rendered monophonically) by Jerome Moross.

I wish the folks who restored and mastered the film were a little more hip to a few of the above image-related issues (esp. the stretching). Perfect HD transfers of older films are rare though, so one does the best with what's available.



The Robe is also a little stretched in the horizontal axis btw. And its picture is not in as good condition as this film overall. I'll have to rewatch it though to see if there are any other useful tweaks that can made to the Gamma, Brightness, or other settings.

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post #1756 of 1760 Old 11-22-2016, 09:22 AM - Thread Starter
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She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), directed by John Ford

The middle entry in the "Cavalry Trilogy" between Fort Apache (1948) and Rio Grande (1950). This is the last one available on Blu-ray and the only one filmed in color. The background is an overly-dramatic aftermath of the Battle of the Little Bighorn where the entire West is threatened by a widespread Indian revolt.

It's lighter and more sentimental than the others, the tale of an old soldier who is not quite ready to fade away. Capt Brittles is in his last week in the Army (always an ominous plot point) and the way he massages his hands we guess he has arthritis. He keeps hidden reading glasses. Rather than having his own romantic interest he visits a wife and daughters at the fort cemetery and serves as a rough cupid to younger lovers.

Given the recurring ensemble of talent Ford uses we sometimes imagine these films are episodes of one continuous story. All three have John Wayne and Victor McLaglen and probably others. In fact: McLaglen and Ben Johnson have the same character names here and in Rio Grande (1950).

McLaglen is always the drunken but loyal, brawling career Sergeant, and we love the big Irishman. But the eye is irresistibly drawn to Ben Johnson as Trooper Tyree, the quiet friendly scout who is master of his craft. I can imagine a reworking of these films to show the stories from his point of view; throw in 3 Godfathers (1948) and Wagon Master (1950) as well.

John Agar and flashing-eyed Joanne Dru are our squabbling young lovers and she looks deadly in uniform. The women ride sidesaddles; would that have been done in the 1870s southwest?

Notes:

  • We have some hokey, unnecessary narration.
  • Dogs run with the cavalry column, which makes perfect sense. How are you going to stop them without shooting them?
  • We see a subgroup of Confederate soldiers now quietly embedded in the US Army. Sergeant Tyree had been a CSA Captain. They perform funeral services for one of their own.
  • Some odd plotting: Sergeant Quincannon's big comical bar fight interrupts the desperate rear-guard holding at the river. Which action we never even get to see.
  • Some rear projection and sound-stages.

Available on Warner Archive Blu-ray. The image quality is just fair.



-Bill
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post #1757 of 1760 Old 11-24-2016, 03:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Fathom (1967), directed by Leslie H. Martinson.

Kino was supposed to have a Blu-ray of this, but then canceled it without explanation. Such was my disappointment that I retaliated by watching the DVD again. That'll show 'em.

A dental hygienist vacationing in Spain with the American parachute jumping team gets roped into dangerous nefarious adventures. Is it atomic secrets or a plain old-fashioned art treasure heist?

It's pretty modest in its ambitions but the Mediterranean locations are lovely and nothing says 1960s action like speedboats, helicopters, planes, trains and fast automobiles. It's good to have the woman's point of view now and then.

Hitchcock mastered the romantic comedy crime adventure with films like The Lady Vanishes (1938), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959). Imitators can't quite pull it off, and we decline from Charade (1963) through Arabesque (1966) and finally arrive at Fathom, by which time the Bond tropes have taken over. Our heroine has exploding earrings.

Raquel Welch is employed for her face and figure. No point in wearing librarian glasses or putting her hair into an ugly bun. She's gorgeous and can't hide it, so she lives with it and often makes jokes. Which is a good approach. You see hunky guys doing it too; all the best action heroes are funny.

The opening credits are a improbably lascivious montage of her folding and packing a parachute. She looks like she knows what she's doing.

At a deserted bull-ring a bull just happens to be hanging out in a closet waiting for someone to open the door.

Photographed by Douglas Slocombe.

Available on DVD. Blu-ray someday?



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It's amazing (not) how many of her films had her on the poster,scantily clad. After FANTASTIC VOYAGE (a great bd, btw), it was all bikini, bikini, bikini.




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Dark Passage (1947), directed by Delmer Daves.

An experimental production, the first half is mostly shot hand-held from Bogart's point of view. We have his voice but not his face because, as an escaped prisoner, he first needs plastic surgery before he becomes the Bogart we know.

It is more conventional thereafter although still with many oddities: one shot is up through a transparent floor.

The plot is strange: vast improbabilities, too many coincidences, and dead bodies accumulate as Bogart tries to clear his name. Bacall is one of those women who falls in love with a convict she's never met, working out something about her father. Agnes Moorehead is way over the top.

On the good side, the sensation of hiding, the paranoid fear of being hunted is well done. It is an interesting effort and worth seeing, but I think it's the least of the four films Bogart and Bacall did together.

A few years later it might have been a candidate for 3D treatment; it's shot with that look.

Warner Archive Blu-ray with prominent grain.



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As a teen, I used to love watching it at the Gateway Cinema[1] in San Francisco, then walking home at night via the same steps that Bogie took up the back of Telegraph Hill (our family flat was at the foot of the hill's west side, on Chestnut). Most of those steps and locations were mostly unchanged from 1947 to 1979, 1980. And still.

And that beautiful building survived the 1989 quake, unlike others perched nearby on the steep slope. See more of it at reelsf.com.





http://reelsf.com/dark-passage-irenes-apartment
http://reelsf.com/dark-passage-irenes-patio
http://reelsf.com/dark-passage-the-steps

Trivia note : the interior studios for Quinn Martin's STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO were nearby at the foot of the hill in an office/industrial section off Francisco St. You might see that building in the 1947 movie.

[1] Paired usually with my perennial favorite,TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1945, dir. Howard Hawks).


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