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David Leans’s stunning epic Doctor Zhivago comes to Blu-Ray on Monday 4th May. If the masterful Blu-Ray editions of films such as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, North by Northwest and 2001: A Space Odyssey are anything to go by, this is yet another essential and important release from the Warner Bros. archive.
If you are interested in the preservation of classic cinema, as well as getting closer to an original theatrical presentation, then this 1080p release of Doctor Zhivago is essential. Warner has done more for the classic filmgoer than any of the other major studios, always making sure that their releases look and sound as good as possible. Below you’ll find information on the extensive work that the studio has undergone to preserve and restore this essential movie.
For 2002’s Dr. Zhivago Two-Disc Special Edition, Warner went back to the original 35mm camera negative to make new photo chemical restoration, but because negative damage was extensive, they were only moderately successful. The damage was caused in part by the extraordinary number of release prints struck over the years, and many of those prints were enlarged to 70mm, which added wear and tear. In places where the negative was simply too damaged to use and in the past other elements were found, duped and inserted, but they didn’t match the original negative’s quality. Additionally, fine tuned color correction was impossible within the limits of the chemical process.
For the upcoming Blu-ray and DVD 45th Anniversary Editions, debuting May 4, the restoration was successful in completing a digital restoration from the original 35mm camera negative with new digital tools that allow far greater subtlety and accuracy, Warner Bros. has been able to overcome the obstacles above to generate an extraordinarily accurate and beautiful new master that reveals the original negative’s magnificence.
The new Dr. Zhivago Blu-ray master was created from an 8k scan rendered in a 4k finish. Challenges overcome are as follows:
- Sprocket holes. So torn on the film’s negative that when rolling the film through the chemical bath machinery, the image was unstable. The digital scan equipment was able to overcome the unsteadiness and obtain a very stable image
- Frame Damage. Totaled 40,000 frames which equates to about forty minutes of the film. While Warner’s new master was derived from the original camera negative, damaged sections had been removed from the camera negative over time and inferior dupe elements cut into the camera negative. Warner removed the poor dupe sections from the camera negative and replaced them with better quality film elements.
- Color correction. The original camera negative contained much more picture resolution and color information than the film element used for the 2001 version. So MPI scanned the original negative at 8k resolution to capture all the detail and color information and were able to seamlessly match the restored frames to the original color negative, using an original Technicolor print as reference. One of the greatest improvements of new digital color correction over its photo chemical and early digital predecessors is that they could correct color fading, which appears as yellowed hightlights and blue shadow areas, without compromising the original color values or other colors or areas in the frame. Digital tools allow us to isolate and treat each of the 29,360,128 pixels that create a single frame.
Rarely seen, this is a welcome release of master French comic Jacques Tati’s final film as both director and performer. Made for television, Parade is a live compendium of circus, music hall and magic acts hosted by Tati himself. With opening scenes of audience members taking their seats, the film appears at its outset to be a recording of a 1970s Tati-on-tour live show, a final attempt to sell tickets as a comic giant’s career wanes. But although we may witness a mid-show interval and genuine audience reactions, it becomes apparent that the film is a playful and imaginative take on the experience of seeing a show. Sketches play out in the corridors, in the theatre bar and indeed after the show has ended.
In a similar vein to Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight, in which he revisits his music hall past, Parade is a return to Tati’s own music hall experiences during the 1930s. Tati’s key performances during the film revolve around the miming acts that gave him early success. He is transformed into a goalie, a boxer and a tennis player, and even at one point becoming an English policeman. While at first these may appear as comic ideas too antiquated to still remain humorous, Tati infuses them with an accuracy that is indeed very funny – in particular watch for his recreation of a tennis match in slow motion.
The film is filled with surrealistic touches, with cardboard cut-outs planted amongst the audience and a set that is constantly being painted even as the show is playing out. During the interval the bartender bursts open a soft drink only to find his own head springing a leak. With the audience playing a key role in the film’s focus, the space between audience and performers become blurred, especially when members of the audience cross onto the stage and participate in the action. One enthusiastic bald spectator finds himself compelled to jump into the ring and ride a wild pony, while a conspicuously bored blonde boy wanders in and out of the action. As these participations occur, the character of the audience shifts from innocence to complicity, yet throughout the film the audience’s reactions are so convincingly spontaneous that they are clearly fulfilling their role as genuine spectators by having a good time.
Other acts performed by the troupe include juggling, acrobatics, sword swallowing, singing and clowning. Even when performed to the 1970s audience, these acts appear as though from another time, each one evoking a lost circus and music hall tradition. As such Parade acts as a kind of final record of long-forgotten acts and entertainments. Traditions such as mimesis, which Tati himself excelled in, have long since been ridiculed as the cliché of outdated entertainment but what Parade does is show us how it is meant to be done. This results in unexpected reactions; a miming showjumper forces us to imagine a galloping horse, only for that very animal to then stride into the ring for real and put flesh to our fantasies.
Parade is the latest in a range of Jacques Tati films that the British Film Institute have strived to make available on DVD, and they have done so in this case with a pristine transfer. The film was originally produced on a combination of video, 16mm and 35mm, and has undergone a digital restoration which has resulted in Parade looking and sounding as good as it possibly can on DVD.
• Previously unseen interview with Jacques Tati, filmed in London in 1977 (19 mins)
• Illustrated booklet with essays by Philip Kemp and Jonathan Rosenbaum; director biography and credits
Release date: 22 June 2009
RRP: £19.99 / cat. no. BFIVD808 / cert U
France / 1974 / colour / French language with English subtitles / 84 mins /
I will be one half of a debate on The Richard Bacon Show on BBC Radio 5 Live on Thursday 15th January at 12 midnight (Thursday night).
As the classic film expert I will be talking about how they don’t make ’em like they used to.
You can listen live on the BBC Radio 5 Live website.
The Criterion Collection have just announced that they have opened up their collection online. For $5 you can rent a film for an entire week, the fee of which will actually go towards the purchase of the actual disc when you want to buy it.
For now there is a small selection including Au Revoir Les Enfants (Louis Malle, 1987), Cléo From 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962), Juliet of the Spirits (Fellini, 1965), Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983), The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973) and The Thief of Baghdad (Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan, 1940). Every week more titles will be published.
Perhaps even more exciting is that they have partnered with The Auteurs where you can stream movies for free. Right now. These include a selection of modern quality world cinema, including one of my very favourites, After Life (Japan, 1998, dir: Hirokazu Kore-Eda). Other titles currently available include Le Vent de La Nuit starring Catherine Deneuve, Midnight directed by Walter Salles and another Kore-Eda film, Maborosi.
There are huge possibilities here for serious filmgoers and for films that are costly to publish to DVD and to export.
Now to see if I can rent Criterion from outside the U.S…
It has just been announced that Paul Newman has died yesterday (Friday 26th September 2008) after a battle with cancer. Until recently spokespeople for Newman had denied the rumour of cancer but it looks like the star had been suffering.
Truly one of the greats, I hope to commemorate his passing here on the Classic Film Show by looking back at some of his great performances.
I have just had word of an upcoming box set from Fox. It contains 12 discs and features two F.W. Murnau films (including City Girl) and ten by Frank Borzage, four of which are silents. This seems to be in the spirit of the monumental Ford at Fox box from last year. The box contains:
Sunrise (Murnau, 1927)
City Girl (Murnau, 1930)
Lazybones (Borzage, 1925)
Seventh Heaven (Borzage, 1928)
Street Angel (Borzage, 1928)
Lucky Star (Borzage, 1929)
They Had to See Paris (Borzage, 1929)
Liliom (Borzage, 1930)
Song O’ My Heart (Borzage, 1930)
Bad Girl (Borzage, 1931)
After Tomorrow (Borzage, 1932)
Young America (Borzage, 1932)
Warner Bros. continue their exceptional series of gangster box sets with the Warner Bros. Gangsters Collection vol. 4. This release contains 4 Edward G. Robinson titles: The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, The Little Giant, Larceny, Inc., Kid Galahad, as well as the George Raft vehicle Invisible Stripes. Bogart, as always, features as a welcomed supporting player.
The box features the high standard of extra features we have come to expect: commentaries, documentaries, newsreels and cartoons, as well as an all-new feature-length documentary, Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film.
This really is film history in a box!
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938)
Dr. Clitterhouse (Edward G. Robinson) is fascinated by the study of the physical and mental states of lawbreakers, so he joins a gang of jewel thieves for a closer look in this often amusing crime drama. Claire Trevor co-stars as a savvy crime queen, and Humphrey Bogart plays Rocks Valentine, whom Dr. C. calls “a magnificent specimen of pure viciousness.” The movie also marks the start of one of film’s most noteworthy collaborations. John Huston, who was to later direct Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The African Queen, co-wrote the screenplay of The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse.
Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper and Richard Jewell
Racket Busters theatrical trailer
WB short: Night Intruder
Cinderella Meets a Fella
Count Me Out
1941 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (audio only)
1944 Gulf Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (audio only)
The Little Giant (1933)
The era of the bootlegger is past but liquor runner Bugs Ahearn (Edward G. Robinson) has a plan for what he’ll do now that Prohibition is history. He decides to head for California’s posh, polo-playing Santa Barbara to become part of the high society. What he finds there — swindlers, gold diggers, great fun – makes first class entertainment in this pre-Code gem. Edward G. Robinson shows his comedic chops for the first time, paving the way for such subsequent films as A Slight Case of Murder, Brother Orchid, Larceny, Inc. and more persona-skewering frolics.
Commentary by Daniel Bubbeo and John McCarty
WB short: Just Around the Corner
WB cartoon: The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon
Larceny, Inc. (1942)
Edward G. Robinson once more turns his gangster image on its head in a gleeful romp based on the Broadway farce penned by Laura Perelman and S.J. Perelman. Robinson plays Pressure Maxwell, who emerges from Sing Sing planning to run a dog track with cronies Jug (Broderick Crawford) and Weepy (Edward Brophy). But the plan needs funding, so the group (assisted by Jane Wyman) opens a luggage shop as a front while attempting to tunnel into the bank next door. Now add the store’s unexpected success, a gabby traveling valise salesman (Jack Carson) and the arrival of a sour con (Anthony Quinn) who wants in on the action, and the laughs are thick as thieves.
Commentary by Haden Guest and Dana Polan
The Big Shot theatrical trailer
WB short: Winning Your Wings
Porky’s Pastry Pirates
The Wabbit Who Came to Supper
Invisible Stripes (1939)
Parolee Chuck Martin is going straight when he gets out of jail – straight back to a life of crime. In lockup or out in the civilian world, he knows he’ll forever wear a con’s ‘Invisible Stripes.’ As Martin, Humphrey Bogart continues to battle and sneer his way to career stardom in this volatile social-conscience crime saga adapted from a book by warden Lewis E. Lawes. Top-billed George Raft plays Martin’s ex-Sing Sing yard mate Cliff Taylor, who vows to walk away from crime and be a role model for his kid brother (William Holden). But what awaits Taylor are suspicion, public disdain and joblessness. So he turns to a fellow con for help. Then, as now, he finds crime doesn’t pay.
Commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini
You Can’t Get Away with Murder Theatrical trailer
WB short The Monroe Doctrine and Quiet, Please
Bars and Stripes Forever
Kid Galahad (1937)
This influential ring saga dramatically links professional boxing to criminal gambling. Edward G. Robinson is racketeer/fight promoter Nick Donati and tightly coiled Humphrey Bogart is Turkey Morgan. They’re rival promoters who, like fighters flinging kidney punches, end up swapping close-range bullets. Bette Davis plays the moll who has a soft spot for the bellhop (Wayne Morris) that Nick is grooming for the heavyweight title. And prolific Michael Curtiz directs this first of his six collaborations with Bogart that would include the romantic masterwork Casablanca and the sly comedy We’re No Angels.
Commentary by Art Simon and Robert Sklar
It’s Love I’m After theatrical trailer
WB Shorts: Alibi Mark and Postal Union
Egghead Rides Again
I Wanna Be a Sailor
Porky’s Super Service
Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film — Warner Home Video Documentary
As popular as these films were in their heyday, seminal giants like Little Caesar and Public Enemy as well as post-war gems like Key Largo and White Heat still hold power over their audiences today. Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film will explore the invention and development of the crime genre; the rise of Warner stars like Cagney, Bogart and Robinson; as well as directors like Walsh, Wellman and Curtiz. It will cover the films themselves and the influence they had on filmmakers all over the world; and the artistic merit that these defining classic films still warrant. Finally, the documentary will celebrate the impact that Warner Bros. Studios had in establishing the iconic Hollywood Gangster, often imitated but never equaled.
Four WB Cartoons: I Like Mountain Music, She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter, Racketeer Rabbit and Bugs and Thugs
Playing over 3 days (and therefore mimicking the festival itself) The Best of the British Silent Film Festival brings together a hand-picked selection of films screened since the festival began in 1998. The festival was sparked by growing concern over the lacklustre worldwide interest in British silent film.
As an attendant of the festival earlier this year, I can tell you that the films shown were a revelation. Varied in their style and scope, an entirely refreshed perspective on cinema can be gleaned from a festival such as this. It proves that British silent cinema is as vital and fascinating as any other.
I would particularly recommend the enthralling presentation on the Olympic Games, presented by Luke McKernan who also runs the definitive blog on silent film: The Bioscope.
I will certainly be attending The Battle of the Somme, The Lure of Crooning Water and Triumph of the Rat. But I also hope to revisit the crime movies I saw earlier this year which will be re-screened. In fact I hope to take all three days in. See you there!
It turns out that another Bogart movie is heading for a Blu-Ray release: Beat the Devil is slated for the High Definition platform. This is particularly interesting since Beat the Devil has always looked terrible on DVD. As an independent production it eventually fell into the public domain. This resulted in poorly produced DVDs from terrible prints. A motley crew of international thieves get together for a complex scheme, and the ramshackle nature of the plot makes the film quite difficult to follow. Featuring such John Huston regulars such as Peter Lorre and Robert Morley, this was one of six collaborations between Huston and Bogart. While the film often struggles to make sense there are some striking close-ups of Bogart’s particularly haggard face and thinning hair.
I’d be surprised if the film has been remastered but if it ever did receive a full restoration, it could indeed turn out to be a revelation?
Warner Brothers has announced a forthcoming edition of Casablanca on Blu-Ray to be released on 2nd December 2008. The ‘Ultimate Collector’s Edition’ will feature a host of extra features but what is most exciting about this release is of course the High Definition print itself. This will not actually be the first time that the film has been released in High Definition. It received spectacular reviews when it was released on the now (suddenly) obsolete HD-DVD format. Let’s hope the Blu-Ray edition at least matches this previous print and if we’re lucky it could possibly surpass it.
It is interesting how legacy title such as Casablanca continue to make money for studios such as Warner Bros. When films were released during the 20s and 30s it was not conceivable that these films could have a life beyond their initial release. At which point did studios suddenly understand that their giant back catalogues could actually continue to work for them? Did this occur during the late 1970s with the dawn of video or was it earlier?
It wouldn’t surprise me if many of you not only have video and DVD copies of the same film, but have even paid to see them in the cinema several times.
The following are the extras slated for the Blu-Ray release:
• Behind the Story
◦ Introduction by Lauren Bacall
◦ Commentary by film critic Roger Ebert
◦ Commentary by film historian/author Rudy Behlmer
◦ 1988 TCM special: Bacall on Bogart [Laurel Bacall’s candid and moving reminiscences about her husband’s life and career]
◦ You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca [Bacall hosts this spellbinding backstage tour]
◦ As Time Goes By: The Children Remember [Stephen Bogart and Pia Lindstrom remember their parents, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman]
◦ Production history gallery
• Additional Footage
◦ Deleted scenes
◦ Who Holds Tomorrow? Premiere episode from the 1955 Warner Bros. Presents series, starring Charles McGraw
◦ 1995 WB Cartoon: Carrotblanca
◦ Scoring Stage Sessions
◦ Knock on Wood Alternate Version, Wilson with Piano
◦ As Time Goes By Part One Alternate Take, Wilson with Piano
◦ As Time Goes By Part One Film Version, Wilson with Piano
◦ Rick Sees Ilsa Instrumental Medley
◦ As Time Goes By Part Two Alternate Take, Wilson with Piano
◦ As Time Goes By Part Two Film Version, Wilson with Piano
◦ At La Belle Aurore Instrumental Medley
◦ Dat’s What Noah Done Outtake, Wilson with Piano
◦ April 26,1943 Screen Guild Players Radio Broadcast
◦ Theatrical trailer
◦ 1992 re-release trailer
◦ 1993 documentary: Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul