It’s time for another look at (relatively) recent Blu-Rays and DVDs aimed at the hardcore movie lover — though more casual viewers looking for something beyond Hollywood’s latest mass-market offerings are certainly allowed to kibitz at the Corner as well. Today’s selections are from Hollywood, off-Hollywood, England, and France and were made mostly in the 1930s or the 1970s, though we will be looking at one from 1998 — only yesterday!
And so we begin…(after the flip, that is.)
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I know, pretty dark headline for a post about a really fun, glamor heavy film fest. All the more so because, at least for me, TCM Fest is the kind of event that can put you in a kind of steel bubble which the daily news can barely pierce. If another Cuban Missile Crisis happened during Comic-Con, what would happen? Maybe if it ended differently this time.
Indeed, even a momentous event like the death of Osama Bin Laden could just barely penetrate TCM’s mix of Hollywood fantasy and scholarship. For me, the news first came as I overheard another filmgoer during an intermission of “West Side Story,” which I had popped in on just to see how good the 70mm print was, say to another. “No, he’s really dead.” I figured it was another classic film star gone forever. George Chakiris, who played Sharks leader Bernardo, had introduced the screening, but how were Jets Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn doing?
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It’s been awhile since I’ve seen “North by Northwest,” so when it was announced that Warner Bros. would be releasing it on Blu-ray in conjunction with the film’s 50th anniversary, I couldn’t wait to check it out again. As expected, it’s like watching the film for the first time, because the movie looks brand new thanks to the brilliant restoration it’s undergone. Warner Bros. has really been on top of their game in regards to re-releasing classic movies in high definition, and though last month’s “The Wizard of Oz” was undoubtedly a much bigger deal than Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 genre mash-up, it’s still hard to deny the effect the film had on the industry.
Even those that haven’t seen the movie seem to know something about it – whether it’s the infamous crop-dusting plane chase sequence or the big finale on top of Mount Rushmore – and it’s been spoofed enough times throughout the years to know that it obviously had a big effect on several filmmakers. If there’s one complaint to be made about the new release, however, it’s that while the picture itself looks pretty darn flawless, the use of rear projection effects (of which there are many) are even more noticeable than they were before. Hitchcock may not have put too much stock in making his movies look realistic, but when your film looks like it was made yesterday but the effects are still dated, it’s a little disruptive.
Additionally, there isn’t quite as much going on in terms of bonus material. Owners of the previously released 2004 DVD will recognize the commentary by writer Ernest Lehman, as well as the Cary Grant biography, “A Class Apart,” and the Eva Marie Saint-hosted making-of special, “Destination Hitchcock.” Still, the latter two featurettes are definitely worth watching if you’re an avid fan of Grant or the film, and Warner Bros. has also included two new featurettes that are just as good. “The Master’s Touch” focuses on Hitchcock’s famous filmmaking techniques, while “North by Northwest: One for the Ages,” features an in-depth analysis of the film by directors like Curtis Hanson, William Friedkin and Guillermo del Toro that will almost certainly give you a new appreciation of what many believe to be Hitchcock’s best film. It’s no surprise that “North by Northwest” was the first to be given the Blu-ray treatment, but it really makes me wonder, how long are we going to have to wait before the others are released as well?