Studio Classics - Best Picture Collection (Sunrise / How Green Was My Valley / Gentleman's Agreement / All About Eve) [Import]
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All About Eve (1950)
Showered with Oscars, this wonderfully bitchy (and witty) comedy written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz concerns an aging theater star (Bette Davis) whose life is being supplanted by a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing ingenue (Anne Baxter) whom she helped. This is a film for a viewer to take in like a box of chocolates, packed with scene-for-scene delights that make the entire story even better than it really is. The film also gives deviously talented actors such as George Sanders and Thelma Ritter a chance to speak dazzling lines; Davis bites into her role and never lets go. A classic from Mankiewicz, a legendary screenwriter and the brilliant director of A Letter to Three Wives, The Barefoot Contessa, and Sleuth. --Tom Keogh
Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
Elia Kazan directed this sometimes powerful study of anti-Semitism in nicer circles, based on Laura Z. Hobson's post-World War II novel. Gregory Peck is a hotshot magazine writer who has been blind to the problem; to ferret it out, he passes himself off as Jewish and watches the WASPs squirm. Seen a half-century later, the attitudes seem quaint and dated: Could it really have been like this? Yet the truth of the story comes through, in the wounded dignity of John Garfield, the upright indignation of Peck, and the hidden ways bigotry and hatred can poison relationships. That's particularly true in the Oscar-winning performance of Celeste Holm, who finds more layers than you'd expect in what seems like a stock character. --Marshall Fine
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
John Ford's beautiful, heartfelt drama about a close-knit family of Welsh coal miners is one of the greatest films of Hollywood's golden age--a gentle masterpiece that beat Citizen Kane in the Best Picture race for the 1941 Academy Awards. The picture also won Oscars for Best Director (Ford), Best Supporting Actor (Donald Crisp), Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography; all of those awards were richly deserved, even if they came at the expense of Kane and Orson Welles. Based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn, the film focuses its eventful story on 10-year-old Huw (Roddy McDowall), youngest of seven children to Mr. and Mrs. Morgan (Donald Crisp, Sarah Allgood), a hardy couple who've seen the best and worst of times in their South Wales mining town. They're facing one of the worst times as Mr. Morgan refuses to join a miners union whose members have begun a long-term strike. Family tensions grow and Huw must learn many of life's harsher lessons under the tutelage of the local preacher (Walter Pidgeon), who has fallen in love with Huw's sister (Maureen O'Hara). As various crises are confronted and devastating losses endured, How Green Was My Valley unfolds as a rich, moving portrait of family strength and integrity. It's also a nod to a simpler, more innocent time--and to the preciousness of memory and the inevitable passage from youth to adulthood. An all-time classic, not to be missed. --Jeff Shannon
There are those who rate Sunrise the greatest of all silent films. Then again, some consider it the finest film from any era. Such claims invite a backlash, but do yourself a favor and give it a look. At the very least, you'll know you've seen a movie of extraordinary visual beauty and emotional purity. This universal tale of a farm couple's journey from country to city and back again was the first American film for F.W. Murnau, the German director of Nosferatu and The Last Laugh whose everyday scenes seemed haunted by phantoms and whose most extravagant visions never lost touch with reality. Hollywood afforded him the technical resources to unleash his imagination, and in turn he opened up the power of camera movement and composition for a generation of American filmmakers. You'll never forget the walk in the swamp, the ripples on the lake, the trolley ride from forest to metropolis. This movie defines the cinema. --Richard T. Jameson
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Short answer: Definitely! Fox's DVD transfer of Sunrise, which is an upgrade from an earlier Laserdisc release, is superb. No kidding, it's actually comparable to the best current transfers of silent films, like Kino's Metropolis, WB's Chaplins, and Criterion's Passion of Joan of Arc. Considering that any of those titles would cost you about what you'll pay for this whole collection, you've got to figure that you're getting a pretty good deal.
Long answer: I actually believe that two of the other three films here are masterpieces in their own right. How Green Was My Valley, which has unjustly been labelled as the film that "stole" Best Picture from Citizen Kane, ranks among John Ford's best efforts; it's a genuinely beautiful, though an admittedly sentimental, film. And it's one of those movies that received a solid restoration a few years ago -- back when AMC actually showed good movies and took a hand in these sorts of projects. All About Eve, of course, needs no introduction. I find it a tad too long, but I agree that it has one of the best scripts ever written and some fantastic performances. It has finally received a full restoration from Fox -- all the speckles are gone (though some of the image's sharpness has gone, too). Gentleman's Agreement, on the other hand, is one of those movies that's easier to admire for its aims than for its entertainment value or aesthetics. It has dated badly, and Fox's lack of restoration work isn't likely to get it rediscovered any time soon.
So my opinion is that you get three great films (and one of historical interest) for a very reasonable price. Each title comes with quite a few extras, if that matters to you -- though here again I think Sunrise benefits from the most informative and interesting extras, including a semi-reconstruction of one of Murnau's "lost" films. Highly recommened!
At this time the only way to obtain Sunrise is by buying this box set.
The DVD version of Sunrise includes a restored version of the film, an article explaining the restoration, original theatrical trailer, a few still photos on the making of the film, some very rare outtakes, and audio commentary tracks.
The DVD also includes some real treasures from the 20th Century Fox archive. The film "Four Devils" was the very next film made by F.W. Murnau, the director of "Sunrise." The film, is considered to be lost. Using the original script (which is included on the DVD) as well as still photos and storyboard sketches the film is recreated.
Since this isn't a very common box set to see, i was especially curious about what it would look like, since Amazon didn't show an image at the time. I was really impressed by the packaging, which is the standard slip case, only it has an interesting see-through slide-on case to hold the DVD's in. So in the above picture, the gold trim and logo are on the transparent outer case, and the faded images are on the actual case. It really looks great in my collection (Although i'll admit i initially had difficulty figuring out how to get the DVD's out of the case).
No further comment on the individual movies is necessary. This set is comparable to the Warner Best Picture collection with Ben Hur, Casablanca, and Gone with the Wind, only it costs nearly half as much, and has an additional movie. But there's no reason any set of Best Pictures shouldn't be in your collection--these are the ones you absolutely cannot go wrong with!
I could see his point if they were charging a premium price for the set, but they're not. The cost of this 4-film set is less, for example, than for the 1-disk Criterion edition of 'The Passion of Joan of Arc', or the Kino or Image Entertainment versions of 'Intolerance'. (To say nothing of other silent masterpieces, like 'The Crowd', which have never received DVD release.)
If it helps, you can think of the other three films as bonus filler items. They are all worthy pictures. 'How Green Was My Valley' is often called sentimental, and in some ways it is, but it is a dark, sad movie, and one of Ford's best. 'Gentleman's Agreement' is the weakest film here, a sincere and well-intentioned attack on American anti-Semitism, but rather talky and slow. If it doesn't represent Kazan's best work, it still stands up as historically important. 'All About Eve' was for years the film with the most Oscar nominations (14); it too is talky, but with dialogue this memorable, talky is in this case a good thing.
But the big attraction of this set is 'Sunrise'. Technically, you could argue 'Sunrise' is out of place here, as is not exactly a "Best Picture" Oscar-winner. In the first year of the Academy Awards, 1927-28, the award for "Best Production" was split between 'Wings' and 'The Last Command', while 'Sunrise' got the award -- issued that year only -- for "Best Artistic Quality of Production", beating out 'The Crowd' and 'Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness'. (Incidentally, none of those three films were nominated for "Best Production", and 'The Crowd' would have taken the Artistic Quality award if not for an all-night fillibuster by L.B. Mayer.) But this is trivia; both 'Sunrise' and 'The Crowd' are legitimate masterpieces.
I had never heard of 'Chang', but it is available on DVD, from Image Entertainment -- for about the same price as this 4-disk set.
Bottom line: This set features three great movies, one of which is otherwise unavailable, and one good one. The set is a terrific bargain. Case closed; buy it.
Sunrise (1927) - Winner of "Best Artistic Picture" of 1927-8, this is actually NOT a best picture winner in the strict sense. That film would be "Wings". However, this is a much better movie. The whole picture is a work of art. Director F.W. Murnau actually makes you somewhat sorry that silent pictures are obsolete, and the cinematography has to be seen to be believed. The story is simple - A farmer falls for a woman from the city, almost resorts to killing his wife to be rid of her, comes to his senses, and the man and wife remember why they got married in the first place while having a day of fun in the City. If you don't like artistic pictures, you may not like this one, but it is one of my favorites.
How Green Was My Valley (1941) - The most amazing factoid about this film is that it beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture, and yet today it is relatively forgotten compared to that film. The film is pretty good though. It is about a Welsh family and the impact of how their green lush Welsh valley is ruined by mining at the turn of the twentieth century. John Ford directs.
Gentleman's Agreement (1947) - One of the first "socially relevant" films to win Best Picture. Gregory Peck pretends to be Jewish to collect material for a story on being Jewish in America. The message is powerful, but there are some distracting subplots going on - most notably Peck and his relationship with his sick mother, and Peck's romance with Dorothy McGuire that rings hollow.
All About Eve (1950) - This is a great one. Powerful acting by everyone. Just when you think there is nobody more evil than Anne Baxter's Eve Harrington, along comes George Sander's Addison DeWitt and kicks her to the curb in that category. Then there's the wonderful Bette Davis as aging star Margo Channing. This role reinvigorated Davis' career, which had been on a downward slide for a few years.
In summary you get two great Best Pictures - Sunrise and All About Eve, and two good Best Pictures - How Green was My Valley and Gentleman's Agreement, all for a reasonable price that does not overlap with other Best Picture boxed sets and DVD bundles. I recommend it.
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