Worst Transfer Of a Film To DVD: and the winner is………..….

“The Runaway Bus” (Pickwick)

Imagine everything that could be wrong with a film transfer: missing frames, scratches, poor contrast, bad sound, freezing of the image (more than once!), this abysmal Pickwick transfer of the 1954 Val Guest film “The Runaway Bus” has ‘em all! And, just to add insult to injury, there is even a point where we are treated to 4 seconds of leader film during a reel change! It says a lot for the film, and Val Guests direction, that it remains watchable. re-blogged from my Film Journal blog (October 29, 2006)

Spellbound in Sodom with Sherlock


the_private_life_of_sherlock_holmes_-_soundtrack_-_front Spellbound Sodom_gomorrah_CDDM074

The 100th anniversary of  composer Miklós Rózsa’s birth has started well – with releases on CD of his scores for “Sodom & Gomorrah”, “The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes” and a complete “Spellbound”.

Born on the 18th April 1907, maestro Rozsa furnished masterful film scores for many classic Hollywood and international movies, as well as classical compositions.

Digitmovies in Italy has recently issued a 2 CD set of the soundtrack score to the 1962 Robert Aldrich “Sodom and Gomorrah”  sword and sandal  epic.

And Tadlowmusic


(thanks to James Fitzpatrick) are about to give us (well, on the 18th April  2007 to coincide with the composers centenary) a complete re-recording of Rózsa’s magnificent score for Billy Wilder’s 1970 film “The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes”.

And  – as if the above two releases aren‘t enough – INTRADA announces: SPELLBOUND Conducted by ALLAN WILSON, performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (INTRADA MAF 7099), to be released in May or June 2007.

re-blogged from my Film Journal blog (February 25, 2007)

let’s put on a show right here!

mickey and judy dvd set

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland set (Warners US DVD)

After a relatively quiet few months, Warners in the US have given us film fans a bumper treat! They have been in the works for some time, but now all four of the M-G-M musicals that Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney made together are available on DVD in a lavish and spectacular box set.

Containing “Babes In Arms”, “Babes On Broadway”, “Strike Up the Band” and “Girl Crazy”, along with a bonus DVD containing a Judy Garland Jukebox (21 complete song sequences from some of her other M-G-M musicals); a Mickey & Judy Trailer Gallery; “Private Screenings” with Rooney; and with added shorts, introductions and other extras, this set just has to be THE contender for “Best DVD set of 2007″!

Packaging is deluxe, with a hardback book containing the bonus DVD, a portfolio of 20 behind the scenes photos and the film discs themselves, contained in an overlapping digipack. (The only slight cavil – slimcases would have been so much better…)

re-blogged from my Film Journal blog (2007)

You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!… Warners 1927 Jazz Singer comes to DVD

JazzSinger dvd

Rivalling the recent Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland set in packaging, content and extras, this landmark musical finally arrives on DVD in tremendous style – truly worthy of the high esteem in which this movie is held.

A three disc set, the first two discs contain the film, various contemporary film documentaries relating to the early years of film sound, an Al Jolson trailer gallery and a new feature-length documentary “The Dawn Of Sound”, which puts the film in context with developments in early film sound recording. The third DVD consists of over four hours of Vitaphone short films, from the sublime: the delights of George Burns and Gracie Allen in “Lambchops”, to the ridiculous: the antics of the strangely-named Sol Violinsky in “The Eccentric Entertainer”. But as a visual and sound record of some of the acts of America’s vaudeville tradition this disc is second-to-none.  Also included are two surviving colour excerpts from Warners 1929 two-colour Technicolor musical “Golddiggers Of Broadway” (but early pressings have the ballet from “The Rogue Song” incorrectly substituted for one of these.)

Any self-respecting film buff MUST have this set.

re-blogged from my Film Journal blog (2007)

The Undying Lodger From Hangover Square… or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Fox Again…..

fox horror classics set cover

hangover lodger dvd undying_monster dvd


Fox DVD have just redeemed themselves in my eyes – after failing to release some of their classic films on DVD, they have come up trumps (nothing to do with Donald) and issued three of their masterpieces (well, two masterpieces and a close also-ran) in a fine 3 DVD set, just in time for Hallowe’en.“Fox Horror Classics” contains director John Brahm’s “Hangover Square”, “The Lodger” and “The Undying Monster”, the first two starring the excellent and doom-laden actor Laird Cregar. Each disc has extras, including short featurettes on Brahm, Cregar and the making of “The Lodger” as well as radio shows, commentaries and restoration comparisons. My “Hangover Square” slimcase (nice touch using these, Fox) also contained 2 still reproductions, but am not sure if the others should have included these as well? (Any responses out there re this?) A small booklet giving overviews of the films and genres is also included.

Quality is excellent, with crisp blacks, pure whites and a good tonal range throughout. Do yourself a favour – chill yourselves for Hallowe’en………

re-blogged from my Film Journal blog (October 14, 2007)

Heaven, I’m In Heaven……….


Classic Musicals FromThe Dream Factory Volume 3

Once again, Warners have taken MGM’s motto “Do it big, do it right, and give it class” and given us devoted film fans more of what we crave……..yet another fine set of MGM musicals to get our collective teeth into. From widescreen, ravishing colour, big budget blockbusters to Academy ratio, black and white delights, there is something for everyone here. And not content with giving us the films, there are all those extras as well – shorts, cartoons, interviews, trailers, audio and video outtakes, radio shows. Hot damn, this set will take weeks to get through (am I complaining?!)

Hit The Deck,Kismet, Deep in My Heart, Broadway Melody of 1936, Broadway Melody of 1938, Born to Dance, Lady Be Good, Nancy Goes To Rio, Two Weeks With Love.

Hit the Deck

Special Features:
· Soundtrack remastered in both a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and 5.0 presentation of the original 4-track theatrical mix
· Classic M-G-M Pete Smith Specialty comedy short The Fall Guy
· Classic M-G-M Tex Avery cartoon Field and Stream
· Audio-only bonuses: Dolby 5.1 music-only track for song sequences
· Audio-only outtake song Sometimes I’m Happy (Powell/Damone reprise)
· Original Theatrical trailer

Deep In My Heart

Special Features:
· Soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as original theatrical Mono
· Oscar®-nominated musical short The Strauss Fantasy
· Classic cartoon Farm of Tomorrow
· Outtake musical numbers Dance, My Darlings (Traubel) and Girlies of the Cabaret (George Murphy and Esther Williams)
· Theatrical trailer


Special Features:
· Soundtrack remastered in both a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and 5.0 presentation of the original 4-track theatrical mix
· Oscar®-nominated CInemaScope short The Battle of Gettysburg
· Classic cartoon The First Bad Man
· 2 excerpts from The MGM Parade TV Series
· Complete version of partially-censored musical number Rahadlakum
· Audio-only bonus: Outtake Song Rhymes Have I
· Theatrical trailers of both the 1944 and 1955 Kismet

Nancy Goes To Rio /Two Weeks With Love

Special Features: Disc 1
Nancy Goes To Rio
· Oscar®-nominated Pete Smith Specialty comedy short Wrong Way Butch
· Classic cartoon The Peachy Cobbler
· Theatrical trailer
Two Weeks With Love
· TCM special Reel Memories with Jane Powell, hosted by Robert Osbornel
· Vintage short Screen Actors
· Classic cartoon Garden Gopher
· Theatrical trailer

Broadway Melody of 1936/Broadway Melody of 1938
Special Features:

Broadway Melody of 1936
· Vintage short Sunkist Stars at Palm Springs
· Classic cartoon To Spring
· Audio-only bonus: Leo Is on the Air radio promo
· Theatrical trailer

Broadway Melody of 1938
· Oscar®-winning short That Mothers Might Live
· Classic cartoon Pipe Dreams
· Audio-only bonuses: Outtake Songs Yours and Mine,
· Your Broadway and My Broadway and Sun Showers
· Feelin’ like a Million test recording
· Good News of 1938 radio program and Leo Is on the Air radio promo
· Theatrical trailer

Born to Dance (1936)/Lady Be Good (1941)
Special Features:

Born to Dance
· Vintage short Hollywood: The Second Step
· Oscar®-nominated cartoon The Old Mill Pond
· Audio-only bonus: Hollywood Hotel Radio program
· Theatrical trailer

Lady Be Good
· Vintage FitzPatrick TravelTalks short Glimpses of Florida
· Oscar®-nominated cartoon The Rookie Bear
· Audio-only bonuses: outtake song I Love to Dance and Leo Is on the Air radio promo
· Theatrical trailer

re-blogged from my Film Journal blog (2008)



The 2010-issued excellent BFI 4 DVD release “LAND OF PROMISE” is a delightful ramble via 40 film documentaries through Britain of the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. Seminal directors like Robert Flaherty, John Grierson, Alberto Cavalcanti, Paul Rotha and of course Humphrey Jennings are given pride of place here, along with less well-known names: Geoffrey Bell, Ruby Grierson, Basil Wright, Ralph Bond, John Page, Max Anderson and many other fine film craftsmen.

Classic documentaries like “Listen To Britain” (Jennings/Stewart McAllister: 1942), a marvellous, evocative sound and visual record of war-torn Britain, using popular and classical music as its framework – Myra Hess rubs shoulders on the soundtrack with Flanagan and Allen to great effect, while the UK’s versions of Rosie the Riveter sing along as they work tirelessly in the factories – unforgettable! And “Housing Problems”, (Arthur Elton, Edgar Anstey: 1935) a raw view of the UK slum problem, featuring real inhabitants voicing their opinions about the state of Britain’s homes in the thirties.

Mostly filmed in black and white, which paints those massed clouds and the rolling British landscape in such a picturesque light – no vista is  complete without a horse and cart plodding tirelessly home in the setting sun; although there is a rare venture into Dufaycolour in the faded grandeur of “Farewell Topsails” (Jennings: 1937).

Add a 92 page, well written booklet and lavish packaging, and you have an irresistible DVD set for anyone even remotely interested in the state of Britain from the joyful innocence of the ’30’s to the cynical and jaded views of the early post-war 1950’s.

And if you tire of the propaganda, there is always the game of “spot the star”: look out for Bill Owen (Compo from “Last Of the Summer Wine“), John Gielgud, George Woodbridge, Bill Slater and a pre “Dad’s Army” Clive Dunn among others, all doing their bit here.

Disc One : Industrial Britain (Robert Flaherty, 1931) Shipyard (Paul Rotha, 1935) Workers and Jobs (Arthur Elton, 1935) Housing Problems (Arthur Elton, Edgar Anstey, 1935) Children at School (Basil Wright, 1937) Farewell Topsails (Humphrey Jennings, 1937) Today We Live (Ruby Grierson, Ralph Bond, 1937) Eastern Valley (Paul Rotha, Donald Alexander, 1937) People of Britain (Paul Rotha, 1936) If War Should Come (no director credited, 1939)

Disc Two : Britain at Bay (Harry Watt, 1940) Transfer of Skill (Geoffrey Bell, 1940) They Also Serve (Ruby Grierson, 1940) Tomorrow is Theirs (James Carr, 1940) Words for Battle (Humphrey Jennings, 1941) Ordinary People (Jack Lee, J B Holmes, 1941) Five and Under (Donald Alexander, 1941) Night Shift (J D Chambers, 1942) The Countrywomen (John Page, 1942) Summer on the Farm (Ralph Keene, 1943) Listen to Britain (Humphrey Jennings, Stewart McAllister, 1942) Builders (Pat Jackson, 1942) Words and Actions (Max Anderson, 1943) A Diary for Timothy (Humphrey Jennings, 1946)

Disc Three : Land of Promise (Paul Rotha, 1946) The Balance (Paul Rotha, 1947) What a Life! (Michael Law, 1948) The Dim Little Island (Humphrey Jennings, 1948) Britain Can Make It (No 1) (Francis Gysin, 1946) Fenlands (Ken Annakin, 1945) Children’s Charter (Gerard Bryant, 1945) Chasing the Blues (J D Chambers, Jack Ellitt, 1947) Cotton Come Back (Donald Alexander, 1946) Five Towns (Terry Bishop, 1947)

Disc Four : A Plan to Work On (Kay Mander, 1948) Mining Review 2nd Year No 11 (Peter Pickering, 1949) From the Ground Up (no director credited, 1950) Transport (Peter Bradford, 1950) The Undefeated (Paul Dickson, 1950) Family Portrait (Humphrey Jennings, 1950) Extras Close Up: Recollections of British documentary (40 mins) – new interviews with directors Pat Jackson, Peter Bradford, Peter Pickering and Paul Dickson, and with cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky (2007) John Grierson at the NFT (1959, 13 mins)

re-blogged from my Film Journal blog


The newly restored Blu-ray disc of Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film “The Lodger” (Network 7957038) has been released here in the UK recently (October 2012). And what a fine piece of work it is, too!
Starring British matinee idol Ivor Novello, Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, Malcolm Keen and June (just one name – like Mantovani!), this could be considered Hitch’s first recognisable “thriller”: complete with many of his later touches – the innocent hero, wrongly considered to be the murderous “Avenger” who is stalking the foggy streets of London, murdering innocent blonde girls (another Hitchcock trademark ) and strong visual devices – like the use of handcuffs in two key scenes.
This new restoration has a music score by noted composer Nitin Sawhney, which fits the images like a superbly-tailored glove. The one cavil I have is the use of three brief songs, which I think draw the viewer out of the film when they are used. But otherwise the music knits well with the film. I did notice a few brief “hommages” to other Hitchcock composers, mainly Bernard Herrmann (a short quotation from “Vertigo” and the “Psycho” strings).
Tinted throughout, this magnificent Blu-ray comes complete with 2 CDs of the Sawhney music, should you desire to listen without watching the film. Not the nicest cover design though – I found it more than a little messy.
A word about Ivor Novello’s performance would not come amiss here – his “over the top” acting is a little at odds with the performance styles of the rest of the characters in the film and Hitchcock seems to like to give him his head (literally) – in many scenes his magnificent profile is shown against a plain dark background – and those smouldering eyes (surely more than a bit of mascara there?) But when he is on the screen he commands the viewers’ attention and shows what a box-office draw he must have been in those days.