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BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (U.A.1962) Olive Films Blu Ray

BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (U.A.,1962) b&w 149 minutes new release by OLIVE FILMS DVD. $18.99 BLU RAY $21.99
https://olivefilms.com/product/birdman-of-alcatraz/

John Frankenheimer (February 19, 1930 – July 6, 2002) is one of my favorite directors of the 1960s. The New York born Frankenheimer first began filmmaking while he was in the Air Force. In 1948, he began as an assistant director at CBS, working his way up to director on the popular YOU ARE THERE series in 1954. He showed himself a fast worker who never sacrificed quality, and soon directed his first theatrical feature in 1957 (THE YOUNG STRANGER, RKO) when he was 26. He had directed the episode “Deal A Blow” for CLIMAX on which it was based two years earlier.

It was a modest success so Frankenheimer returned to television, where he excelled in live dramas. His production of “Turn Of The Screw” (STARTIME, NBC) starred Ingrid Bergman, so he was used to working with star powerhouses.

In 1961, he directed THE YOUNG SAVAGES (U.A.), starring Burt Lancaster and Telly Savalas. Producer /star Lancaster must have liked what he saw, so when he fired British director Charles Crichton from his next pet project, he brought in Frankenheimer to take over BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ.

 

Lancaster was a huge star, and one of the first to create his own production company (Norma Productions, for whom he had begun making films in 1948 with KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS, Universal). A perfectionist, he was a hard person to work for, as the slightest weakness he would tear into you (thus the departure of Crichton).Luckily, Frankenheimer would prove his mettle with this film, and go on to make classics like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE(U.A. 1962 ,starring Frank Sinatra in one of the best political thrillers ever made),SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (U.A.1964 with Lancaster again), THE TRAIN (U.A.1964 again with Lancaster) and SECONDS (1966 Rock Hudson’s best performance).

 


All these films were shot in stunning black and white, with Frankenheimer wisely moving his camera as little as possible, letting the performances play out.

Back to BIRDMAN:


The real Robert Franklin Stroud (January 28,1890 -November 21,1963) was a murderer who in 1909 killed a bartender and took his wallet when the victim refused to pay services to a woman Stroud was pimping. Due to his violence (he stabbed an orderly), he was transferred to Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1916, when he was refused a visit by his brother, Stroud stabbed a guard to death. He was sentenced to death and put in solitary confinement while awaiting his punishment to be meted out.

 


His mother succeeded in convincing President Woodrow Wilson to commute the sentence to life, though remaining in solitary confinement. Over the course of 30 years in Leavenworth, he saved sick birds, and wrote books upon their treatment and care, as well as developing medicines for sale.

He married a woman though more to help him keep his birds and business than any real love on his part, as Stroud was a homosexual, and indeed was considered a violently predatory one.

 


When it was discovered that his medical equipment had also been used as a still, he was transferred in 1942 to Alcatraz, ironically without his birds or equipment (I guess BIRDMAN OF LEAVENWORTH has less of a ring to it). He spent 6 years in solitary and 11 in the prison hospital, then in 1959 until his death from natural causes in 1963 he remained in The Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield Missouri. He was never allowed to see the film based upon his life.

Besides the publicity generated over the years by Stroud, his wife, and mother, author Thomas Eugene Gaddis wrote a biography of Stroud, BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (Random House, NY 1955). Gaddis later wrote KILLER: A JOURNAL OF MURDER (1970) about serial killer Carl Panzram. This story too was adapted for the screen, starring James Wood (Legacy/ Republic ,1995). BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ was a nationwide best seller, which of course brought it to the attention of Hollywood.

The story of Stroud and his birds intrigued Lancaster and screenwriter Guy Trosper (JAILHOUSE ROCK, MGM,1957), who turned the violent Stroud tale into a terrible man redeemed by his love of birds, as well as a story of a little guy who took on the system and, while if he didn’t win, came out better than expected.

 


Lancaster was a lifelong liberal, having grown up poor, and always wanting to make the world better. In this tale, he saw a story of redemption, and indeed Lancaster campaigned unsuccessfully for years to get Stroud released, and for the rest of his life Lancaster was an advocate for prison reform.

Like many cinematic biographies, though following the central story, certain elements were altered to make the main character more likeable (i.e.-General Custer in THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON (WB,1941). In this case, Stroud is whitewashed from the sociopath who inspired the tale. The film works on its own strengths, though knowing the facts makes it harder to enjoy. It also does show the dehumanizing treatment in some prison systems, which is also an important issue.

 

 

The plot
Robert Stroud (Burt Lancaster) is a troublemaker prisoner. On the train to prison for a murder that he committed in Alaska (the film dialogue makes it appear he came to the rescue of a woman’s honor, but in real life he was a pimp who killed the man who refused to pay his working girl), he breaks the window in their car, so the other prisoners can get some air.

Warden Harvey Shoemaker (Karl Malden) notes that he will be keeping a special eye upon his newest prisoner during his stay in Leavenworth Prison. He has several points against him when he is told that his mother was turned away for a visit and told to return another time (in real life it was his brother who was turned away. The brother is eliminated from the screenplay, but in real life Stroud’s mother was a major force ).

After trying to convince a guard not to revoke his visitation privileges, the guard berates him in front of everyone in the dining room and tells him to sit down. Angered, Stroud knives the guard ,who slumps to the floor, dead.

 

Now charged with the additional murder, he is sentenced now to be executed. While awaiting the sentence being carried out, he is placed in solitary confinement. His mother (the wonderful Thelma Ritter, who in real life was the real-life mom of John Ritter) pleads with President Wilson’s wife for mercy for her son. Amazingly, her campaign works, and his sentence is transmuted to life in solitary.

 


Prisoners in solitary were allowed one hour into the courtyard alone, and one day, Stroud finds a wounded bird. He takes the injured creature to his cell and begins to care for it. Soon, he has turned his cell into an aviary, and even gets a prisoner in the next cell Feto Gomez (Telly Savalas, who made his film debut in THE YOUNG SAVAGES) to also begin caring for some. He also receives some aid from his guard, Bull Ransom (Neville Brand, on the other side of the bars, after his wonderful performance in RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11,A.A.,1954)

However, they become ill, and begin dying. Frantic, Stroud scours the library of the prison, and creates a makeshift medicine that seems to cure the birds. The prison doctor (the great Whit Bissell) offers help and suggestions. He publishes a book on his findings and gains some notoriety.

 

One of his fans, Stella Johnson (Betty Field) goes to meet him and Stroud decides that they should go into business. Stella falls in love with Stroud, and they are married. This proves a breaking point for Stroud’s mother, who decides that he has put another woman before her. They never speak again.

 

Stroud gets upset and uses his lab to make some makeshift alcohol. This is what prison officials have been waiting for, and he is sent to the new maximum-security prison, Alcatraz (a federal prison from 1934-1963). Most heartbreaking, he is sent immediately with only the clothes on his back, his equipment and birds they make him leave behind.

At Alcatraz, he finds that his old warden Shoemaker is in charge there. The prison is more modern and the food better, but it is also restrictive of what is allowed. Stroud finds that Feto is also there, now as a trustee. Stroud is visited by Stella, who offers to move nearer so she can still see him, but he tells her that she should find someone else.

Years pass, and Stroud, still rebellious, even manages to help stop a 1946 prison rebellion that became known as The Battle of Alcatraz. The event began when Bernard Paul Coy and five accomplices attempted to escape. Scaling the cages that formed the gallery (known as Times Square and Michigan Ave by the prisoners), Coy also bent some bars with a crude device that he had fashioned. He was able to then get a guard’s Billy club and over power a guard (in the film he uses a gun). Soon he was distributing weapons to other prisoners and the guards were held prisoner.

 

Unable to escape, as one of the guards had hidden the key they most needed, Joseph Cretzer began shooting into the cell where the captured guards were held. The Coast Guard and the marines were called in.


Stroud tried to end the shootout. At 56 years old, he climbed railings and then lowered himself to the second tier, dropping to the floor of D Block. He closed doors to safeguard the wounded, and that there were no weapons now in D block but that if they kept firing the would be killing unarmed guards and wounded prisoners. In the film, he is shown tossing out the remaining weapons, but the battle raged on in another area, with the leader found dead in a guard’s uniform. In real life, two correction officers and three prisoners died, with two others executed together for the murder of a guard, while a third was given an additional 99 years to his life sentence.

It did not seem to do anything to help Stroud, however, and he stayed in Alcatraz until, due to petitions and his failing help, he was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield , Missouri in 1959 .Arriving on the mainland after decades , the handcuffed older Stroud is met by reporters who asks him how it feels to be entering a world so changed. He makes a joke after someone asks him about television (“From what I hear I m not missing much”) then shows how much he has learned, as he looks up to the sky and sees a plane, describes its make and its working specs. He even meets Thomas E Gaddis (played by Edmond O’Brien) who had written his biography. He is going to a facility which will be less restrictive, and he feels free and at peace.

The film received several Oscar nominations :
Lancaster(losing to Gregory Peck in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Universal ), Thelma Ritter(who lost to Patty Duke in THE MIRACLE WORKER,U.A.) , Telly Savalas (losing to Ed Begley in SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH,MGM) ,Burnett Guffey for cinematography (losing to Jean Bourgoin, Walter Wottiz and Henry Persin for THE LONGEST DAY, Fox) and failing to win a Best Picture or Best Director nod . The film was also not a financial success, though a critical one, which is being appreciated more as time goes on.

BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ had been released in 2014 by Twilight Time, but its 3,000-print run quickly sold out. Olive Films picked up the release to make it available to fans who missed the prior release. It is not quite the same, however, as it has some different extras.

Not having the prior version,  I must say that the Olive Film releases is stunning.


The sound in 1.0 DTS-HD MA is clear and sharp and the dialog and Elmer Bernstein’s score is never overpowering but emotionally effective. 1962 was a great year for the composer, as he also wrote the understated but powerful music for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (Universal,1962). The prison riot scene I had to lower the sound a bit, but it was not overwhelming, and no fake stereo was added.

The picture quality (1080p/AVC MPEG-4) is sharp and clear, and I found it one of the best presentations of the title which I have ever seen. Some reviewers found the transfer dark, but I had no such quibble.

The optional subtitles (English only) are easy to read and follow the action and dialog precisely.

Where the Olive Film differs from Twilight Time’s release is the different extras.

There is no isolated score track, and the audio commentary is different.

The running audio commentary here is by Lancaster biographer Kate Buford (BURT LANCASTER: AN AMERICAN LIFE, Knopf,2000). Ms. Buford has a radio program on NPR, but here, she seems a bit ill at ease in front of a microphone. Studied pacing and a continuous monotone show the importance of a commentator to not only be knowledgeable but also able to transfer their excitement about the subject. This should not dissuade you from listening, as Ms. Buford delivers a wealth of information about the film as well as the real-life subjects upon whom the film is based. I also liked her opinion that BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ could have worked very well as a silent film, since the acting and direction tells us much without dialog.

The original Theatrical trailer also appears on this disc (as well as the o.o.p Twilight Time).

Extras aside, the main thing is, is this BLU RAY worth adding to my collection. I would wholeheartedly say YES, due to the quality of the film itself, as well as the audio and image quality of the disc.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for fans of prison pictures, true story adaptations, Burt Lancaster, Telly Savalas, and the superb supporting cast, as well as the work of John Frankenheimer.

-Kevin G Shinnick

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1950s, Action Adventure, Adventure, Blu Ray, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, cult, film, FILM HISTORY, genre, Horror, monsters, Phyliss Coates, Republic, review, reviews, serial, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO (Republic,1955){Olive Films Blu Ray,2017}

PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO (REPUBLIC,1955) {OLIVE FILMS BLU RAY,2017} 2 HRS 48 Min. B&W. DTS-HD Master Audio English. Optional English subtitles. $29.95. https://olivefilms.com/product/panther-girl-of-the-kongo/ (Also on DVD for $19.95

 

Olive Films has done a masterful job of releasing Republic’s penultimate movie serial (the final and 66th one, KING OF THE CARNIVAL, was released later in 1955).

 

Filmed between 16 August and 4 September 1954 as “Panther WOMAN of the Kongo”, the 12-chapter serial was filmed on a budget of $179,341. To put it in perspective, Roger Corman filmed the 69-minute APACHE WOMAN (ARC) that same year for $80,000 and Ed Wood shot his 75-minute BRIDE OF THE MONSTER (Banner) for $70,000.

 

To stretch their budget, Republic had star Phyllis Coates (Lois Lane for the first season of T.V.’s ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN (Motion Pictures for Television,1952) wear the same outfit as Frances Gifford wore in the earlier 22nd Republic serial JUNGLE GIRL (1941) and a lot of footage was lifted from this earlier serial. By the way,14 years earlier the 15-chapter JUNGLE GIRL had cost $177,404!!

Jean Evans is a jungle adventurer who is handy with both a rifle and a camera. Due to a past incident wherein she saved the village, the Utanga tribe refer to her as Panther GIRL (Ms. Coates, who is still alive today at age 90, was 28 at the time.). While out on a photo shoot for a foundation, they spy some very large crustaceans. The natives suggest she get Larry Sanders (Myron Healey in a rare good guy role), a great white hunter.

 

Evil chemist Dr. Morgan (Arthur Space, a nicer doctor on T.V.’s LASSIE (20th Century Fox,1954-71)) has discovered an abandoned gold mine in the area is full of diamonds (when life gives you lemons….) which he covets. To scare of the natives and interlopers, he has developed is “hormone compound “(steroid abuse even then??) to turn ordinary crawfish into the giant ‘Devil Beasts”.

Since the monsters do not scare off Evans and Sanders, Dr Morgan enlists human goons Cass (character actor John Day) & Rand (Mike Ragan, more commonly seen in westerns) who use the personal touch of shooting at, and knock down fights with Sanders, with heroine often knocked out or tied up.

The Lydecker Brothers, wizards of special effects, did what they could to make crawfish look gigantic. Mostly it involved the hard-shelled stars on miniature sets or people against rear screen projections. The interaction involves one giant claw reaching from above rocks of from off frame to grab Panther Girl or some poor native. I wonder if Roger Corman somehow got it and used the claw for his late ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS(A.A.,1957). Probably inspired by the giant ants in THEM! (WB,1954), these creatures also have a mighty roar. Bert I Gordon must have studied this serial, as many of his effects seem to be inspired by the techniques used here (his first film KING DINOSAUR, Lippert,1955, used a lizard magnified via rear projection and double exposure).

What is interesting for a film of the period is that there is no romance between the two leads. Maybe the studio felt that the youngsters would not put up with “icky kissing” getting in the way of the monsters, fistfights, and perils. The villain, too, is not out to rule the world as many serial villains seemed to be trying to attempt, but was motivated by old fashioned greed.

 

What does date the film in many cringe worthy ways are its portrayal of the natives. Easily frightened and superstitious, they are often reliant on the white actors to protect them. They speak in pidgin English, and another tribe (The Returi) is bribed to attack the heroes after being bribed by an elixir (alcohol!).

Plus, for the title character, Panther Girl seems to spend a lot of time tied up, screaming, or knocked out while Sanders punches and shoots his way out of the situation. She is also grabbed by the claw at one point and later ape handled by a murderous gorilla (ape specialist Steve Calvert). A lot of Jean Evans‘ action are lifts from JUNGLE GIRL of her swinging from vines and riding an elephant. She does save Sanders (the name maybe a reference to “Sanders of The River” by Edgar Wallace (U.K. first edition by Ward, Lock & Co. (1911))?) from quicksand*, so she is not completely unhelpful.

The production has a very studio bound feel to it, like many television productions of the time. Republic, through its subsidiary, Hollywood Television Service, had been involved with the earlier COMMANDO CODY (1953). The 12-part serial had been originally envisioned as a television series with each chapter running about 25 minutes. The serial finally aired on NBC television in 1955, the year PANTHER GIRL OF THE KONGO was released. One wonders if this too was planned as a television series?

During the 1950s up to the 1970s, movie serials, especially those from Republic, were aired on television regularly. In 1966, it was edited into a 100-minute feature called THE CLAW MONSTERS. When Super 8 home theatre came out, it was released in silent and sound edits. In the 1990s, they started to receive less air time. The home video market kept the titles out in front of fans for many years thereafter, but few have been released in their entirety on DVD and Blu Ray.

The print quality is of the high standard we have come to expect from Olive Films. The picture is quite sharp with few blemishes. The sound is DTS-HD Master 2.0, though the sound has not been remixed to make use of the new sound systems but instead is a clear replica of the original track. The optional yellow English subtitles are very legible and follow the dialogue and action.

Oddly, there were no extras, not even a trailer. It is a shame, as the trailer is unique, with the star narrating part of it before an announcer takes over:

 

For fans of Republic Serials or the lovely Phyllis Coates, this is one you will want to add to your collection.

Kevin G Shinnick

*- Coates once recalled in an interview that after filming in the swamp, Healey insisted the two of them go get penicillin shots!

 

 

No animals were harmed during the making of the film, though I assume many of the monsters met a boiling pot of water for the wrap party .

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1940s, 1950s, Blu Ray, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, cult, fantasy, OLIVE FILMS, Orson Welles, Shakespeare, Uncategorized

Orson Welles MACBETH(Olive Films Blu Ray)

coverMACBETH (1948/1950 Republic)-Olive Films Blu Ray release date November 15,2016- $39.95
Runtime: 107 (1948), 85 (1950) minutes B&W. First screening Venice Film Festival September 3,1948. USA release October 1,1948. December 27,1950 (re-edited version release NYC).

http://www.olivefilms.com/films/macbeth-%E2%80%93-olive-signature-blu-ray/

Orson Welles’ Shakespearean films were labors of love that were often created against time constraints, budget problems, and often, negative press and indifference audience responses. They were often forgotten, or, at best, footnotes when people referenced his other studio masterpieces.

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 (art by J.S. Rossbach )

After his passing in 1985, his lesser known films began to get rediscovered and restored. His daughter Beatrice helped restore and release his troubled production, OTHELLO (November 29,1951, United Artists). Critics now hailed his brilliant choices (often necessity bringing his creativity to the fore) and how his chiaroscuro lighting and quick editing was a precursor to the directorial styles of creators like Ridley Scott.orson-welles_1972-05-04by-daid-levine

His live televersion of KING LEAR (Omnibus/CBS, October 18,1953), starring Welles and directed by Andrew McCullough is a wonder (watch as he drags Cordelia (Natasha Parry) in by her hair during ‘Howl! Howl! Howl!”) and we are lucky that Sony has released it on DVD in 2010.king-lear

Earlier this year, Criterion released his CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (aka FALSTAFF, December 22,1965) and people once again were in awe of how he used his 1939 play FIVE KINGS, a combination of HENRY VI Pt 1 & Pt 2 and HENRY V, and within the film, with its spectacular battle scenes, he drew out the intimacy of the lives of the characters.

Now OLIVE FILMS have released his MACBETH, making all his completed cinematic works of Shakespeare available. * To be exact, they have released BOTH versions of this bold telling of the macabre tale on two Blu Ray discs. Two versions?ap1360-macbeth-orson-welles-movie-poster

When first released, critics and audiences had difficulty with the actors speaking with Scottish burrs in the speech, and so, the film, under Welles’ supervision was re dubbed into what would be considered standard speech, an opening monologue by Welles added and the film shortened from 107 minutes to 89 .

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Welles had a long-time love of the works of The Bard. At age 19, he worked on several performing editions of Shakespeare. He leaps to national fame with his WPA Federal Theatre production of what became known as “Voodoo” Macbeth (premiered April 13,1936, Lafayette Theatre, Harlem, NYC)
(the only known footage of this production is an extra on one of the discs).voodoo-macbeth2

Welles tried interesting producers for a long time in putting Shakespeare on screen, but during the first decade of the sound era, the few adaptations were prestigious but not money makers so producers were hesitant.

Finally, Lawrence Olivier released HENRY V (Two Cities/Eagle Lion, November 1944) and the film was both a marvelous war rally cry for the beleaguered Allies of WWII, but also a profitable film.

Welles, however, had gone from Wunderkind to pariah. His RKO directorial projects had almost bankrupted that studio. Welles own self-created radio shows ended in 1946 due to his liberal political commentary (he was an ardent F.D.R. supporter) such as his comments on the racial bias attack of returning U.S. Soldier Isaac Woodward (attacked and blinded hours after his honorable release from service). He was still popular as an actor and worked for all the major studios, but he longed for total control of his projects again.

He got a chance with THE STRANGER (International Pictures/RKO May 25,1946) a thriller he starred in and directed. He proved he could make a film under budget and make a great profit.

However, his musical adaptation of AROUND THE WORLD for Broadway (Adelphi Theatre, NYC May 31,1946) had Welles take over producing as well as creating/directing forcing Welles had to borrow money from Columbia Studios exec Harry Cohen to get it on. Sadly, it flopped after only 75 performances,though it did lead to Welles having to make THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Columbia, December 24,1947 in France).around-the-world-playbill

Olivier meanwhile prepared and shot his brilliant adaptation of HAMLET (Two Cities/Rank/Universal, May 4,1948) and it again won critical acclaim as well as box office. Word of this production must have spurred Welles on, and he went to various studios to try and interest them in bankrolling a new American produced Shakespeare movie.

All balked, except Herbert J Yates of Republic Pictures. Republic was best known for grinding out their now classic serials like THE CRIMSON GHOST (Republic, October 26,1946) as well as westerns and second features. Yates was a crude near caricature of a cigar chomping business man who got into producing when several indie filmmakers stiffed his film laboratories. He wanted films done cheap and profitable. Every once and a while, though, he took a chance and made a movie to try and get himself some respect from the industry.

In 1948 Yates agreed to bankroll Welles production of Macbeth if the director could keep the budget under a certain amount, and complete it within three weeks. To keep the film within budget, Welles pre-recorded all the dialogue (with one exception) so that he might avoid the use of microphones, and free up the fluidity of his camerawork. Costumes were rented from Western Costumes (except for the two leads), and were a source of criticism by many.orson-macbeth-rex

Welles did not try to avoid artifice and indeed the production at times resembles a filmed stage play. He also made some big cuts and changes (the Porter’s “Knock Knock” sequence was cut to nothing due to censorship, a character of a priest was added, lines were altered and some placed in different scenes and said by other characters) but nothing to the detriment of the story. As always, he respected the actors, and his long takes not only helped characterization but also kept his film within the allotted shooting schedule.10954376715_a0068edaa8_m

The film had the misfortune to be shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1948 and was compared negatively against Olivier’s HAMLET. This is a shame as when watched back to back they share many similarities (striking black and white cinematography, very theatrical look and mood, and indeed, when Welles edited MACBETH, he added an opening narration that harkens to the one Olivier opened his movie with)amleto48-01.macbeth-1948-poster

           (even the two film posters echoed each other)

 

Yates praised Welles for making such a quality film on time and within budget, and again when it was reviewed negatively and received so so box office, Welles reedited the film, and had the cast redub their dialogue. The new version was better received (or in its shorten state, easier to show more often and thus potentially sell more tickets) and eventually made a small profit. At least Welles could control this re-edit, unlike other films which had been taken out of his control.tumblr_ljg40bgdnr1qf7r5lo1_500

OLIVE FILMS release of both versions will let you decide which version that you prefer.
The image and sound quality of each is superb, and comes from the best elements available with new High Definition digital restoration. The superb cinematography by John L. Russell (later to work on Hitchcock’s PSYCHO(Paramount,1960) really shines in this transfer. The blacks are rich and dark, with the fog and various gray scales allowing characters to drift in and out as if in some nightmare.

 

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 Stately Xanadu from CITIZEN KANE in Scotland?

 

The sound is clear, and Jacques Ibert’s score captures the discordant and uneasy feel that Welles brings to the production (Ibert was mostly a composer of French orchestrations, though he did score a few French movies as well as the Circus Ballet for Gene Kelly’s INVITATION TO THE DANCE (MGM, May 22,1956).

On disc one, there is an informative running commentary by Welles biographer (three books ORSON WELLES (Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, April 24, 1972), ORSON WELLES ACTOR & DIRECTOR (Harvest/HBJ Books, 1977) and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ORSON WELLES (University Press of Kentucky, 2006) Joseph McBride.macbeth_e98791e6aebfe98083e9be9919481

Disc Two has an abundance of extras.

Besides the already mentioned clip from VOODOO MACBETH (itself a clip from WE WORK AGAIN (Federal Work Agency ,1937), a short documentary on the WPA and its efforts to find work for African-Americans during the Great Depression, we have

FREE REPUBLIC-continuing the story of Herbert J Yates that was touched upon in OLIVE FILMS release of THE QUIET MAN(Republic,1952).THE QUIET MAN review can be read at https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/the-quiet-man-olive-films-signature-blu-ray/ . This time, they concentrate on the making of the Welles’ film as well as the final years of the studio. Once again, Marc Wanamaker (EARLY POVERTY ROW STUDIOS (Arcadia Publishing,2014) is our guide.

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The set from his 1936 Voodoo Macbeth resembles this production design sketch for the 1948 film .

 

THAT WAS ORSON WELLES -a new interview with director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich (TARGETS, Paramount, August 15,1968) was also a friend of the late director, and his insights are, as always, delightful.

RESTORING MACBETH with Robert Gitt (former Preservation Officer, UCLA Film & TV Archive) talks about how all prints and negatives from Republic were donated in the 1970s. Gitt found a protection positive of the film that was only the edited version, but some nitrate positives he found clued him in that the original version had survived. Gitt tracked down a nitrate complete version overseas in Europe and from that we have the prints preserved and available to us. Having worked in a film storage lab, I know how easily films decay and can get lost, so we are lucky to have the film in existence thanks to Gitt’s perseverance.

WELLES & SHAKESPEARE -an interview with Professor Michael Anderegg (Cinematic Shakespeare, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, November 2003) discusses the near lifelong obsession of Welles with the works of the Bard.falstaff-1967-poster

ADAPTING SHAKESPEARE ON FILM -two contemporary directors discuss how the works of Shakespeare influenced their careers and adaptations. Both admit a love from an early age for the works, though oddly director Billy Morrissette, director of SCOTLAND, PA (Sundance ,2001), a modern adaptation of MACBETH, admits to originally hating that play! Director Carlo Carlei directed a beautiful looking if controversial adaptation of ROMEO & JULIET(Relativity,2013) which took major liberties with the Immortal prose. Both speak of their adaptations and why they made some of their choices.

ORSON WELLES’S MACBETHS – a nine-page critical study of the two versions by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum’s essay is also enclosed as a small well illustrated booklet stored within the Blu Ray case.macbethhaldposter

The outer cover is reversible, featuring a beautiful shot of both Welles and his Lady Macbeth (Jeanette Nolan, in her film debut).

This is a must have highly recommended release for fans of Welles, classic cinema and Shakespeare. Kudos once again to OLIVE FILMS in another outstanding release from their Signature Collection.

If you would like to know more about Orson Welles, go to

http://www.orsonwelles.org/

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

-Kevin G Shinnick

*-His MERCHANT OF VENICE, a short, was finished but footage was lost shortly after its completion in 1969. A restoration of sorts was released in 2015 at Venice Int. Film Festival. Here is a clip, which also has actor Charles Gray (THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, Hammer/Fox, July 20,1968, U.K.) as Antonio: https://youtu.be/x6xBumLVBLY).

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1950s, Academy Award Winner, Art house, Blu Ray, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, cult, genre, humor, Ireland, John Ford, John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, OLIVE FILMS, Republic, review, romance, studio history, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, Victor McLaglen

THE QUIET MAN ( Olive Films Signature Blu Ray)


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THE QUIET MAN (1952) –Olive Films Signature Series Blu Ray $39.95 Color 129 minutes. Region 1. 1.37:1 mono release date October 25,2016 .
http://store.olivefilms.com/Drama.56/Olive_Films.38/The_Quiet_Man___Olive_Signature__Blu-Ray_.6308.html     

One of the most beloved films of all time gets a wonderful and superlative release from OLIVE FILMS as part of their  inaugural ‘Signature “releases (along with HIGH NOON, covered previously( https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/high-noon-olive-films-blu-ray-and-dvd-signature-release/      ) and the quality and respect that these masterpieces have received from the studio should make movie lovers rejoice.

 

Coming from the original camera negative, the transfer received a 4 K scan and the results are amazing.

 

The Technicolor no longer has that slightly muddy look that the film had for many years. Maureen O’Hara ‘s fiery red hair blazes with the passion that also illuminates her performance. The greens fields make you want to pack your bag and ‘teacht ar ais go hÉirinn” (“come back to Ireland”).

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The story by Maurice Walsh first appeared in the February 11,1933 edition of the Saturday Evening Post, and was later published in a collection called The Green Rushes (1935, Frederick A. Stokes Co.) .
http://dukefanclub.weebly.com/uploads/1/0/9/9/10994017/the_quiet_man.pdf

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downloadJohn Ford ‘s love of the story involved him having to first do a western for Republic (RIO GRANDE 1950). That film was successful enough that the studio approved location filming in County Mayo and County Galway while shooting in the more expensive Technicolor (most of their color films were shot in the cheaper Tru Color Process). Then interiors were shot back at the studios in Hollywood.

 

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American Sean Thornton (Shawn Kelvin in the original story), played to perfection by John Wayne, returns to his ancestral home in Inisfree. He begins to fall for the beautiful colleen, Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), but she wishes to observe the local matchmaking principals, and obstacles and cultural differences keep getting in the way.

 

 

Also, a huge block is her brutish protective brother, Squire ‘Red “Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen, Oscar winner in 1935 for RKO’s John Ford classic THE INFORMER, wherein he played another slow witted but brutish fellow during the Irish Revolution). He cannot stop the couple from falling in love but he can deny them her dowry. Instead, the Squire challenges Thornton to fight, but the Yank walks away. Mary Kate thinks that Sean is a coward, but as the film unfolds we find out he has a dark secret.

 

The film ends with one of the best and most exciting and funny fight scenes ever committed to celluloid.the-quiet-man-005

 

Onto this slim framework, John Ford (via a screenplay adaptation by Frank S. Nugent, who wrote some of Ford’s best films) populates the film with almost every Irish character actor from Hollywood as well as several locals. The film makes the countryside also as much a character, and when the storms and rains hit, we are treated to one of the most electric screen kisses of all time.thyat-kiss

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In 2013, OLIVE FILMS released the film on BLU RAY and DVD. While the film has hardly been out of the public eye since its release (a yearly March must show on television, as well as various releases on VHS by Republic as well as DVD releases by Artisan), the current incarnation from OLIVE FILMS is the must own version.

 

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As mentioned, the film has been given a beautiful video upgrade. I do not have the previous Olive Films release for comparison, but must reiterate that this print is flawless. Colors leap out and the mono sound is ultra clean and hiss free.

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The English optional subtitles follow the action and dialogue precisely. Kudos to whomever is charged with this important option for the hard of hearing audiences.

 

Ported over from the previous 2013 release is
The Making of The Quiet Man – a documentary that originated in the 2002 Artisan release. Leonard Maltin as always guides us through the history of this classic film in his usual fun and informative style.

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New to this release is

Audio Commentary Track by Joseph McBride, author of two John Ford books. The love of his subject comes throughout his feature, dropping facts and info in an easy and informative fashion. It is so informative about the film and Ireland in 1951 that this is a track you will want to listen to it  several times to get the full effect.2995768_orig

Free Republic – a brief little history of the studio as to how a film processing company got into producing no nonsense and profitable films but somehow made films like Orson WellesMACBETH (1948, coming from Olive Films on Blu Ray    http://www.olivefilms.com/films/macbeth-%E2%80%93-olive-signature/         ) and of course THE QUIET MAN. This short is hosted by by Marc Wanamaker, a co-author (along with E.J. Stephens) of EARLY POVERTY ROW STUDIOS (Arcadia Publishing,2014). Mr. Wanamaker is also a founder of the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

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A Tribute to Maureen O’Hara – actresses Juliet Mills, Hayley Mills, and Ally Sheedy share their memories and tributes to the actress. Besides her beauty, they make sure that people are aware of her strong personality, her charm, her career, her grace, and most of all her great talent. The warmth of their memories is truly moving.

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The Old Man- Director Peter Bogdanovich (TARGETS, Paramount,1968) shares his thoughts on Ford and his career. From interviewing Ford for Esquire, the two directors developed a lasting friendship. I enjoyed Bogdanovich’s story of visiting Ford just before his death, along with Director Howard Hawks, and instead of hello Ford barked out how could Hawks stand all the questions that Bogdanovich’s had!

 

 

Don’t You Remember ,Seánín?
– A visual essay using footage from the film by quite voiced Tag Gallagher, film and John Ford expert. I do love his opening comment: “Every Irishmen is an actor “said John Ford, “And how flamboyant they are about it. Exhibitionists, like dancers. Their body language makes emotions vivid, palpable.”

 

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The booklet enclosed has a few photos but no real information besides the cast listing, chapter stops on the disc and listing of the extras.

 

 

The slipcover can be reversed to show a beautiful black and white photo of the courting ride through town. The cover is a shot of the same sequence, with the two lovers walking in front of the carriage driven by Barry Fitzgerald. That shot captures the beauty and the romance of the film, and kudos for this original choice. It is also used for the hardcover cardboard case that it comes in.

 

 

The only way that I could see this release being any better is if they had also added a second disc to include the 2010 documentary DREAMING THE QUIET MAN (available from OLIVE FILMS http://www.olivefilms.com/films/john-ford-dreaming-the-quiet-man-blu-ray/ ) .

 

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I could go on and on as to why this film deserved to be chosen by the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2013, but if you have ever seen the film you have no need for convincing.

 

MOLADH AIRDE! (HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!)

Kevin G Shinnick

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