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If your attention was caught by the recent release of La Roue on DVD, then you’ll definitely want to also pick up a copy of J’Accuse (1919), another silent epic by Abel Gance. It promises to be as fulfilling as his other movies, this time concerned with the First World War. It will most certainly be interesting as a contemporary reaction to the war as well as yet another exhilarating silent.

Flicker Alley DVD are really proving themselves with their release record. In particular check out this monumental tribute to the great magician of the silent cinema, Georges Méliès.

Mad Detective on Blu-Ray

Only recently had Criterion announced upcoming titles on Blu-Ray, and now it looks like Masters of Cinema has also. The only title so far to have been announced is Mad Detective (Sun taam, Hong Kong: Johnnie To, Wai Ka Fai, 2007). Although a recent title, the Masters of Cinema are known for their very rare titles, many silent and many from around the world.

If you don’t know the Masters of Cinema which is a UK label, they produce world-class editions including incredible prints of obscure titles and are highly recommended. Check out their great catalogue here.

I predict an exciting time for lovers of silent, world and classic Hollywood cinema – it looks like there may just be something in Blu-Ray for us too…

ealing studios

The Classic Film Show isn’t only about Hollywood. It’s probably fair to say that we do not watch as many British films as we should so it’s great to see three obscure Ealing Studios titles being resurrected on DVD. Of the four I have only seen Pink String and Sealing Wax which I remember being enjoyably melodramatic and set in a very Victorian England.

I have a particular fondness for Ealing movies. Partly because that is where I come from – indeed the studios are ten minutes from here – but have always loved films such as The Lavender Hill Mob, The Man in the White Suit and especially The Ladykillers. 

Here is some info on the movies from the Optimum website:

San Demetrio, London (1943)

San Demetrio, London (1943)

San Demetrio, London follows the compelling true story of a crew of British seaman who in 1940 were forced to abandon ship after being torpedoed by German forces. Having been set adrift in their lifeboat for twenty four hours the crew of the San Demetrio must come to a fateful decision: to either withstand the harsh, deadly and fatal conditions of an unrelenting November Atlantic or risk re-boarding the hazardous, flaming decks of the San Demetrio with it’s highly explosive cargo of 12,000 tonnes of aviation fuel in an attempt to sail it back home to safety of the British coast.

Directed by Charles Frend (The Cruel Sea, Scott Of The Antarctic and TV shows The Man In A Suitcase and Dangerman) and written by Robert Hamer (School For Scoundrels, Kind Hearts And Coronets), San Demetrio, London is brimming with dramatic tension and is a gripping, inspiring testament to the rarely acknowledged bravery of the merchant navy during the second world war.


Johnny Frenchman (1945)

Johnny Frenchman (1945)

From the director of Scott Of The Antarctic, The Cruel Sea and San Demetrio, London (Charles Frend) comes the whimsical, heart warming comedy Johnny Frenchman.

Veteran theatre comedian Tom Walls plays the Harbour Master in a small Cornish fishing village whose constant run ins with a French fish poacher, played by Francoise Rosay, often leave him outwitted and sworn to revenge. To make matters worse the French poacher’s son, played by Paul Dupuis, is starting to make romantic advances towards the harbour master’s young, impressionable, beautiful blonde daughter, played by Patricia Roc. But as the threat of Nazi Germany rears its ugly head, common adversaries suddenly realise that the future of the village depends on them putting their differences aside and joining forces to fight the good fight.

Johnny Frenchman follows in the comedic traditions of the ever reliable Ealing Studios and includes a cast that features genuine Cornish villagers and actual members of The French Resistance.

Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945)

Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945)

In 1890’s Brighton the young son of a puritanical chemist longs to escape the repressive environment of his family life and the overbearing restraints of his cruel, pious father. Eventually finding refuge in a local tavern he his immediately attracted to the sordid glamour of the drinking classes and the gritty world that they inhabit. He also finds himself becoming infatuated with the tavern’s landlady, which will inadvertently lead to him being drawn into a plot to kill her abusive husband.

Directed by Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts And Coronets, San Demetrio, London and School For Scoundrels) , Pink String And Sealing Wax stars Googie Withers (The Lady Vanishes), Mervyn Johns (Dead Of Night) and Gordon Jackson (Whisky Galore, The Quatermass Experiment) in a film that cleverly entwines the dynamics of a thriller with biting social commentary and a multi-layered plot structure that contrasts the parallels of the British class system.

The Square Ring (1953)

The Square Ring (1953)

Richly comic, tensely dramatic, romantically moving – THE SQUARE RING looks beyond the stadium lights of 1950s boxing and into the lives of the men who fight for fame and fortune – and the women who fight to hold them.

Featuring an enviable British cast including Carry On stalwerts Bill Owen and Sid James (Carry On Sargeant, Carry on Nurse), and a touching performance from a young Joan Collins (Dynasty, Fear in the Night), THE SQUARE RING is an Ealing classic not to be missed.


Criterion Blu-Ray

Some very exciting news. I just received a message from Criterion announcing that they will be releasing titles in Blu-Ray, and that we will see them on shelves in October.

Criterion have revealed that, ‘These new editions will feature glorious high-definition picture and sound, all the supplemental content of the DVD releases, and they will be priced to match our standard-def editions.’

And here are their first titles:

The Third Man
Bottle Rocket
Chungking Express
The Man Who Fell to Earth
The Last Emperor
El Norte
The 400 Blows
Gimme Shelter
The Complete Monterey Pop
For All Mankind
The Wages of Fear

It will be interesting to discover how far these Blu-Ray editions from Criterion, who are of course known for their high standards in image quality, enhance the viewing experience of films of varying ages. I am optimistic that the result may very well be worth the wait.

There is currently no information on their site here, but I will keep you posted on any further developments.

How the West Was Won (1962)

Although Cinemascope was the first of the new widescreen processes to hit the screen with the high-profile The Robe in 1953, a rival technology called Cinerama was premiered in September 1952. By using three adjacent 35mm cameras, an extremely wide image could be created. It actually required five projectionists operating three projectors to view these films. Uniquely the image was projected onto large screens that was literally curved. This would provide the viewers with a spectacular, almost three dimensional, image.

How Cinerama Is Projected

Outside of exotic travelogues intended to exploit the Cinerama experience (much like many IMAX films today), only two fiction films were shot in genuine Cinerama: How the West Was Won (1962) and The Wonderful World of The Brothers Grimm (1962). Later films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) were filmed in Super Panavision 70 and then presented in a 70mm Cinerama image rather than the 3-Strip image of the original films.

Well now you can view this fascinating process from the comfort of your own home. How the West Was Won, starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda and James Stewart (above), will be released in a new Blu-Ray edition in August. This will include a special feature known as ‘SmileBox’ which will recreate the curved Cinerama image. This seems to be a simple distortion of the image designed to create the illusion of Cinerama, as in this frame from the SmileBox website:


It will be interesting to see how effective this new stab at old technology is, but it sounds like an admirable attempt to present How the West Was Won as it was originally meant to be seen. Until then you can find more information on Cinerama, including some great stills of film frames, at the highly recommended Widescreen Museum.

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