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Nix Pix (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)

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Public Enemy
Public Enemy
DVD ~ James Cagney
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 11.55
32 used & new from CDN$ 4.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars BETTER THAN AVERAGE TRANSFER OF A CLASSIC CRIME CAPER, Jan. 21 2005
This review is from: Public Enemy (DVD)
William Wellman's "The Public Enemy" (1931) remains the benchmark acheivement in crime cinema by which all successors tip their hats. It stars James Cagney in a breakout performance that established him as one of Warner Bros. 'tough guys' in their so called "murderer's row" roster of heavies. Here Cagney is Tom Powers, a deviant from the wrong side of the tracks who refuses to mellow with age. Together with his buddy, Matt Doyle (Edward Woods), Tom becomes a one man crime wave - taking his chances, living high and accosting and abusing women along the way. His grapefruit in Kitty's (Mae Clarke) kisser is justly remembered as a violent and violating act against the fairer sex. But Tom doesn't care. Life is cheap and exciting. Jean Harlow cuts an elegantly seedy swath as Gwen Allen. Joan Blondell, as another toss away trollop - but with a knife in her - adds to the raw tension of the story. Only the congenial, Mike (Donald Cook) pleads with Tom to mend his wicked ways. He is, after all, Tom's only brother. Taut energy and the enigmatic presence of Cagney (then on the verge of international stardom) make "The Public Enemy" enthralling and electric.
Warner's DVD transfer is justly an improvement over previous video incarnations. Though age related artifacts still exist the remastered print elements are generally smooth and inviting. Certain brief sections of the film appear to have been duped in using second or third generation film sources, leading to a considerable variation in image quality. When it's good, the image exhibits a sharp, nicely contrasted beauty not found in previous releases of this film to video. The gray scale has been impeccibly rendered. There are moments where film grain will appear more excessive but this, again, is the fault of a 70 plus year old negative. The audio is mono and exhibits a decided hiss which is a limitation of the old Warner Vitaphone process of sound recording. No more could have been done by the good people at Warners on this transfer. It is head and shoulders above anything the film has looked like in years. Extras include an engaging audio commentary by film historian Robert Sklar, a featurette and the return of Leonard Maltin, hosting "Warner Night at the Movies." Highly recommended.

The Letter
The Letter
DVD ~ Bette Davis
Offered by MotionPicturesUnlimited
Price: CDN$ 39.89
12 used & new from CDN$ 20.00

4.0 out of 5 stars DELICIOUSLY DANGEROUS AND OVER THE TOP!, Jan. 21 2005
This review is from: The Letter (DVD)
Once you've seen the opening moments of William Wyler's superb "The Letter" you aren't apt to forget what great Hollywood film making is all about for a very, VERY long time. Bette Davis stars in this potent, diabolically delicious melodrama as Leslie Crosbie; the unscrupulous wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner. After packing six slugs into a man exiting her boudoir...not her husband...Leslie embarks on a deeply disturbing odyssey to vindicate her murder. To this end, Leslie is ably aided by the naiveté of her husband, Robert (Herbert Marshall) and by her popular following of fair weather friends, helmed by Mrs. Hammond (Gale Sondergaard).
The play by Somerset Maugham on which the film is based must have seemed like old hat to Davis. For there can be no other reason why she's so cleverly fiendish and stylishly sinister as Leslie. But then all is not to be realized in sweet escapism when a letter surfaces that could blow the whole truth wide open and send Leslie to prison for life. Superbly crafted with the fine animal instincts of a jungle cat at every turn, "The Letter" was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture but won not a single statuette. Wyler's impeccable direction, and Davis's mesmerizing and unsympathetic performance are what transform this standard melodrama into movie art!
Unfortunately all is not well with the transfer from Warner Brothers. Seemingly contrasting a bit on the overly dark side, fine details are generally lost in the deep and foreboding blackness. Yes, most of the picture was designed to have a very dark image, but contrast and tonality in the gray scale here are what seem to be lacking over all throughout this black and white image. Also, the image is not very stable. Long shots tend to be a bit blurry and out of focus. There's also an annoying amount of edge enhancement on the horizontal slats of the bamboo blinds that figure into the mood of the piece throughout the film - making certain scenes seem unnecessarily harshly contrasted. Age related artifacts crop up now and then. Film grain becomes obtrusive and dense at moments, and practically non-existent at other moments. The audio is mono and overall nicely balanced. Occasionally dialogue is muffled. Extras include a fascinating alternative ending only recently discovered as well as 2 audio bonuses and the film's original theatrical trailer. "The Letter" comes highly recommended as a melodrama par excellence from a studio, director and a star who definitely understood the subtly of the art. As a DVD you may find the presentation somewhat disappointing.

Lost Horizon
Lost Horizon
DVD ~ Ronald Colman
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 23.60
25 used & new from CDN$ 6.62

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BOUNTIFUL HARVEST IN THIS CLASSIC WEEPIE!, Jan. 21 2005
This review is from: Lost Horizon (DVD)
One of the all time great four hanky tearjerkers, "Random Harvest" (1942) is a bittersweet tale of love and sacrifice, set against that mythical backdrop of jolly ol' Britain that never was. It stars Ronald Colman as Charles Rainier, a war veteran who is suffering from amnesia. Paula Ridgway (Greer Garson) is the unfortunate dance-hall hostess who falls in love and marries Charles - renamed John Smith. But true love never runs a straight course and John and Paula's brief chance at divine happiness is overturned when a car accident jogs John's memory. He returns to the life he once knew, oblivious that his new and fragile world with Paula ever existed.
Colman's gentlemanly congeniality, as always, astounds with genuine canter and frank grace and maturity - qualities soarly lacking from the leading men of today's cinema. Garson is charming; blowing in as a summer's breeze and just as passionate, divine and charming as Colman. Director Mervyn LeRoy modulates each plot point and circumstance with subtle panache and quiet rectitude for his subject matter. There's never a point at which the melodrama becomes cheap, exploitive or overwrought. Ah, but the years may pass and memories fade, but "Random Harvest" has proven to be that rarest of eternal cinematic treasures - genuine and outstanding in every way.
Warner Home Video delivers a marvelous DVD transfer. The gray scale has been impeccably rendered with fine tonality and attention to fine detail. The picture is generally sharp and pleasing on the eyes. Blacks are very rich, deep and solid. Whites are on the whole clean. Occasionally one will detect a note of edge enhancement and the odd age related artifact, but these are bare quibbling on an otherwise flawless presentation. The audio is mono and very nicely balanced. A hint of background hiss is detected in quiescent scenes, but again, for a film element that is pushing 70 plus years, there's really nothing to complain about here. Two vintage short subjects, a trailer gallery and audio only broadcast of the film round out the extras. A very nicely put together trip down memory lane from the good people over at Warner Brothers. Top marks and highly recommended!

Blazing Saddles (30th Anniversary Special Edition)
Blazing Saddles (30th Anniversary Special Edition)
DVD ~ Cleavon Little
Price: CDN$ 9.93
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.65

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BLAZING, FLAMING HILARITY, FARCE & SLAPSTICK!, July 14 2004
"Blazing Saddles" has no plot - just pretext. It's that a railroad must come through the town of Rock Ridge and that the residence there must be driven from their land. To this end, the despicable Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) sends in a gang of desperadoes to assassinate the newly appointed sheriff (Cleavon Little). Gene Wilder cuts a hilarious swath as Deputy Jim, the Waco Kid, a dimwitted politico who can't help but muddle himself into one raging fiasco after another. Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Shtupp (a wicked spoof of Marlene Dietrich) is the town madam, whose song "I'm Tired" quite simply has to go down as one of the funniest bits of double entendre ever put on film. Once director, Mel Brooks gets started, logic is lost in a cavalcade of outrageous, wacky/tacky lunacy, so utterly juvenile and crude that one cannot help but willingly surrender to its audacity. There are just too many gags to mention and such a waste to spoil the full breadth of hilarious depravity in this film for the first time viewer. I'll not be the reviewer to ruin the experience of witnessing this masterwork of farce and slapstick. See it now and remember it forever more.
Blazing Saddles has been remastered for this 30th Anniversary Edition. While the prior release was marred by age related artifacts and a considerable amount of edge enhancement, this new release seems to have been minted from a pristine camera negative. Colors are rich, vibrant and startlingly three dimensional. Most of the scenes exhibit richness in fidelity that many films of the same vintage wholly lack. Truly, there is nothing to complain about here. Contrast and black levels are bang on. The picture is remarkably solid with limited film grain and NO digital anomalies for a very smooth visual presentation. The audio has been cleaned up and remixed to 5.1 with a very nice - if dated - spread. Extras include two documentaries on the making of the film - one actually an excerpt from a larger documentary on Madeline Kahn, scene specific audio commentaries, the original television pilot for the television series that was supposed to be based on the film but never materialized, stills and a theatrical trailer. Warner Home Video has done a very, VERY nice job on this disc. It's a pleasure to have Mel Brook's insulting satire back where it belongs!

Murder, My Sweet
Murder, My Sweet
DVD ~ Dick Powell
Offered by BuyCDNow Canada
Price: CDN$ 41.16
15 used & new from CDN$ 21.98

4.0 out of 5 stars HOW SWEET IT IS ON DVD!, July 6 2004
This review is from: Murder, My Sweet (DVD)
Interesting choice of career change for Dick Powell. After establishing himself as the light hearted lothario of 1930s Busby Berkeley musicals at Warner Brothers, the crooner side stepped his squeaky clean, boy-next-door image entirely with a string of deep and powerful dramatic performances. In "Murder My Sweet" Powell carries off Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled detective, Philip Marlowe to perfection. Okay, he's no Bogart, whom film buffs will recall played Marlowe in "The Big Sleep." But Powell's performance is a close second, buffeted by his quick thinking, deeply cynical, smart-shooting dialect. In "Murder My Sweet" Marlowe is hired by an ex-con (Mike Mazurki) to hunt down his old flame. But the plot spins out of control when a murder leads to Marlowe's engagement by a manipulative woman (Claire Trevor), to recover her missing jewels. But a drug induced nightmare fraught in symbolism and expressionism turns Marlowe's world on end, devouring his soul beneath a seedy underbelly that permeates both high-society and the dangerous post war bars and flophouses of inner city Los Angeles. "Murder My Sweet" is one of the first great, though often overlooked, film noirs; an absolute must see.
Warner's transfer on "Murder My Sweet" is better than average. In fact it's remarkably clean. The gray scale is very well balanced with deep solid blacks and whites that are vibrant and sharp. There's some film grain but few age related artifacts for a visual presentation that is over all a considerable improvement over previously issued VHS tapes. The audio is mono but nicely balanced. The more intent listener will notice slight pops. Alain Silver delivers a very thorough audio commentary that will most surely enhance your appreciation for this film. A very good disc to add to your library of classic cinema.

Out of the Past
Out of the Past
DVD ~ Robert Mitchum
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 51.39
14 used & new from CDN$ 11.52

3.0 out of 5 stars FINALLY OUT ON DVD!!!, July 6 2004
This review is from: Out of the Past (DVD)
Jacque Tourneur's "Out of the Past" is one of the quintessential film noirs. Everything, from Robert Mitchum's musings - "Build my gallows high, baby" to the darkly mysterious environment is fraught with subtle entendre and troubling meaning. yet so fascinating that you can't turn away. Robert Mitchum is at his sleepy-eyed, dry and brooding best as Jeff Bailey, the ultra-cool, ultra savvy former P.I. hiding out from his former life as a gas station owner in a little alcove of existence that itself is absent from the mainstream world. But the past catches up with Bailey in the embodiment of callous, calculating career criminal, Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). Whit and Jeff had some spurious goings on once upon a time, an old score that Whit isn't willing to overlook or concede once he finds Jeff. If that was not bad enough, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer) enters the picture as the atypical femme fatale, whose bite is more venomous than the poisonous web of destruction and deceit that she manages to ensnare everyone in. This is a palpable taut thriller with few equals, an intellectual crime drama that puts its remake "Against All Odds" to shame. As is to be expected, the plot is anything but straight forward, leading to twists of convention that the first time viewer will be hard pressed to figure out or see coming.
In keeping with Warner's current trend to not really do all that is required to completely remaster classic movies for DVD, the transfer of "Out of the Past" is just a bit above average. The gray scale is nicely balanced with deep solid blacks and whites that are relatively clean. There's a considerable amount of film grain and age related artifacts for a visual presentation that, while a considerable improvement over previously issued VHS tapes, is still below par. Edge effects, pixelization and shimmering of fine details are all present and sometimes distract. The audio is mono but nicely balanced. The more intent listener will notice some hiss. There's a very thorough audio commentary by James Ursini to round out your appreciation of the film. A good disc to add to your library.

Asphalt Jungle, the
Asphalt Jungle, the
DVD ~ Sterling Hayden
Price: CDN$ 21.99
24 used & new from CDN$ 11.30

4.0 out of 5 stars THE LAW OF THIS JUNGLE IS DEADLY, July 6 2004
This review is from: Asphalt Jungle, the (DVD)
The disquieting urban landscape and deeply disturbed motley crew of spurious characters that populate "The Asphalt Jungle" make the film one of the essential destinations for fans of film noir. The films artfully gritty atmosphere is perhaps its best selling feature, though, truth be told, there is nothing about the production that is second rate. Basically, it's a jewel heist caper gone horribly wrong but carried off with such panache and attention to detail by director, John Huston that one has to admire both the economy of plot and depth of characters fleshed out within the context of two hours. Huston's great knack for extolling unusual and breakthrough performances from his ensemble is working overtime on this occasion. While we might be used to seeing Sam Jaffe as a nefarious rogue (here, he's Doc, the criminal mastermind with a weakness for hoop earrings and tight skirts), the extraordinary off kilter performance of Louis Calhern - as middle aged fencer, Ennrich/sugar daddy to Marilyn Monroe, is so menacing in its undertone, that one wishes the actor had been given the opportunity to play more such parts. There is nothing cartoonish or cliché about any of the characters in the film. Sterling Hayden's particularly powerful as Dix Handley, the tense enforcer of the group. This is a story about out of control people losing control of their lives. Huston captures the immediacy of these tragic lives and the overwhelming sense of doom. As one might expect, it ends badly for all concerned though, within the context of this review I won't say exactly how.
The transfer on "The Asphalt Jungle" is better than average, though it's not perfect. The gray scale has a richly balanced look with deep solid blacks and clean whites. On occasion grain looks heavier than it should and contrast levels seem a tad low. Still, this DVD is considerable improvement over previously issued VHS tapes. Age related artifacts are present but do not terribly distract. The audio is mono but nicely balanced. The more intent listener will notice some hiss but nothing that will distract. Drew Casper provides the audio commentary here. There are a few inserts of audio from James Whitmore that will most surely enhance your appreciation for this film. All in all, another good disc to add to your library of classic film noir.

Gun Crazy
Gun Crazy
DVD ~ John Dall
Price: CDN$ 19.02
11 used & new from CDN$ 15.52

4.0 out of 5 stars CRAZY FOR THIS CLASSIC NOIR, July 6 2004
This review is from: Gun Crazy (DVD)
Sigmund Freud would have a field day with Bart Tare (John Dall), the gun crazy marksman who just can't live without always having a firearm in his possession. Feeling more than a little inadequate, shall we say, Bart soon teams up with Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) a woman he meets at a carnival for who the moniker - girls gone wild - must have been invented. Basically, Laurie's pure poison, a sugar coated heartless killer consumed by her obsession to be rich. Naturally, the chemistry between these two ne'er-do-wells is immediate and deadly; Laurie's high life fueling both their rabid passions for each other and a life of crime. In "Gun Crazy" Bart is a pre-teen reprobate who, after a stint in reform school and the army, returns home without much concern or interest in anything other than a life of crime. It isn't that Bart goes looking for trouble - only that the excitement of getting into some is very compelling. The film is one of those cautionary tales that attempts to chart what happens to individuals to whom life does not follow the straight and narrow trajectory. Gun Crazy is a superb example of the must-see, raw B-flick. It sparkles with sordid raunchy performances that, quite frankly, are refreshing in light of the usual antiseptic film output one has come to expect from "the golden age" of Hollywood.
In keeping with Warner's current trend to not really do all that is required to completely remaster classic movies for DVD, this film is just average. The gray scale is nicely balanced with deep solid blacks but the whites are not very clean. There's a considerable amount of film grain and a lot of age related artifacts for a visual presentation that, while a considerable improvement over previously issued VHS tapes, is still below par for what might have been if more digital wizardry had been applied. The audio is mono but nicely balanced. The more intent listener will notice slight pops and some hiss but nothing that will distract. There's a fairly interesting audio commentary by Glenn Erickson that will most surely enhance your appreciation for this film. All in all, a good disc to add to your library of classic cinema.

Big Clock, the
Big Clock, the
DVD ~ Ray Milland
Price: CDN$ 14.99
21 used & new from CDN$ 5.60

3.0 out of 5 stars VICERAL NOIR DRAMA TINGED WITH COMEDY, July 6 2004
This review is from: Big Clock, the (DVD)
"The Big Clock" is a brilliant labyrinth of dark humor and cyclical twists and turns - rather like riding a funhouse car into the murky blackness of uncertainty but with the nervous expectation that you are about to be frightened out of your mind. The film is a taut, lean thriller that presents a curious predicament for its hero, George Stroud (Ray Milland). He's a star reporter who is assigned to cover the murder of a mysterious woman by his punctually obsessed editor, Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton). There's just one little wrinkle that needs to be overcome; the overworked Stroud not only knows the woman in question but spent the night with her before she met with her untimely demise. There's also something else to consider; the woman was Janoth's mistress. Now the question arises for Stroud: how to accurately cover the scoop, report all the facts, expose the killer and keep his own name out of the proceedings. Both men are feverishly working to solve the crime, unwittingly culminating in accusations that will expose both their prior relationships with the corpse. Elsa Lanchester appears as Louise Patterson, the high-strung painter whose sketch of the prime suspect slowly begins to take on the figure of George Stroud. "The Big Clock" was remade in 1987 as the Kevin Costner thriller, "No Way Out".
THE TRANSFER: The gray scale is very nicely balanced with solid, deep and rich blacks and very smooth looking whites. There are instances where contrast levels appear somewhat low and fine detail seems slightly out of focus, but truly, there's nothing to generally disappoint one from this visual presentation. Occasionally pixelization breaks apart the background information - but only briefly and usually between dissolves. There's also a minor hint of edge enhancement that is barely noticeable. The audio is mono but very nicely cleaned up. There are no extras.

This Gun for Hire 42
This Gun for Hire 42
DVD ~ Alan Ladd
Price: CDN$ 14.99
20 used & new from CDN$ 7.73

4.0 out of 5 stars RAVEN A CHILLING SCREEN CREATION, July 6 2004
This review is from: This Gun for Hire 42 (DVD)
"This Gun For Hire" is a watered down, glammed up version of Graham Greene's novel A Gun for Sale. It represents the first of four cinematic outings that teamed sultry Veronica Lake with the stoically handsome Alan Ladd, a potent cocktail of personalities that proved to be much in demand over the next decade. Perhaps a tad heavy on sentimentality than most film noirs, the plot concerns Philip Raven's (Ladd) obsession with Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) a nightclub dancer with a rough and rumble cop boyfriend, Michael Crane (Robert Preston). Ellen is supposed to be working on exposing Alvin Brewster (Tully Marshall), a chemical company CEO who sold poisonous gas to the Japanese. But an odd and Freudian driven relationship surfaces between Ellen and Raven when she senses his childhood pain and angst. Ellen becomes Raven's willing captive, in the process transcending his nightmares and making him more human. The very first scene in this film is so incredibly chilling it begs special mention. After having been double crossed by ne'er-do-well, Williard Gates (Laird Cregar), Raven (Ladd) contemplates killing an innocent little girl who has seen him. Even though the resulting decision is typical "golden age" morality, Ladd makes one believe, if only for a moment, that such cold blooded silencing might be possible.
THE TRANSFER: Universal's DVD transfer is remarkably solid and clean. The gray scale is very well balanced with deep solid blacks and whites that are almost pristine. There's a hint film grain and some age related artifacts. Also, some edge enhancement and pixelization occur, but nothing that will distract from a visual presentation that is a considerable improvement over previously issued VHS tapes. The audio is mono and very well represented.
BOTTOM LINE: There are no extras on this disc. Nevertheless, it is a good disc to add to your library of classic cinema.

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