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Nix Pix (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)

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Public Enemy (Sous-titres franais)
Public Enemy (Sous-titres franais)
DVD ~ James Cagney
Price: CDN$ 19.99
28 used & new from CDN$ 4.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 (Sous-titres français) [Import]
The Letter (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Bette Davis
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 61.28
13 used & new from CDN$ 31.87

4.0 out of 5 stars DELICIOUSLY DANGEROUS AND OVER THE TOP!, Jan. 21 2005
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 [Import]
Lost Horizon [Import]
DVD ~ Ronald Colman
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 12.41
24 used & new from CDN$ 8.39

2 of 4 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 [Import] (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 ~ Various
Price: CDN$ 6.88
36 used & new from CDN$ 1.79

2 of 2 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!

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Bilingual)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Maggie Smith
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 91.05
10 used & new from CDN$ 38.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars IN HER PRIME AND HOLDING HER OWN ON DVD, July 6 2004
Maggie Smith is the elegantly pert Miss Brodie, a 1930s Edinburgh school marm of immense panache, charm and wit in a film that's sort of a cross between a female version of "Goodbye Mr. Chips" and "To Sir With Love." Smith's performance easily commands "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" beyond cliche and its theatrical trappings as she becomes the ultimate self-deluding spinster to whom Mussolini is a treasure on par with the Mona Lisa, and passionate love is but a taboo. Dame Brodie marks her existance on over-inflated romantic notions about art and beauty. Adapting from the novel by Muriel Spark, director Robert Neame keeps the pacing sweet and nimble, touching on all the right points without dwelling on any of them. Also in the cast are real-life husband, Robert Stephens as Jean's married lover and Celia Johnson who is marvelously insideous as the hostile headmistress. The film score by Rod McKuen may have been Oscar nominated but it betrays its 60s origins and really pigeon-holes the film as a production of that decade instead of seeming a vital tableau of the 30s.
THE TRANSFER: Fox has done a marvelous job remastering "Miss Brodie" on DVD. Colors are lush and nicely balanced. Black levels are deep and solid. Contrast and shadow levels are bang on. Some of the long shots suffer from pixelization which breaks up fine detail and there is also a very small trace of age related artifacts. These do not necessarily distract. The audio is stereo. Though dialogue does not sound natural it is nevertheless very clearly presented. The score - in all it's twinkle-twinkle get down of 60s flashback is amply displayed.
EXTRAS: An audio commentary and very sparce stills gallery. It really is a mystery to me why Fox's continues to benchmark certain catalogue titles as part of their Studio Series when their attention to suppliments continues to grow more scant by every release. Just call this a general release and be done with it. There's nothing special apart from the film to recommend such titles as part of a special series.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.

Murder, My Sweet (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Murder, My Sweet (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Dick Powell
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 54.37
17 used & new from CDN$ 15.21

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HOW SWEET IT IS ON DVD!, July 6 2004
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.

The Set-Up [Import]
The Set-Up [Import]
DVD ~ Robert Ryan
Offered by eplayplay
Price: CDN$ 10.20
19 used & new from CDN$ 6.12

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars GET SET-UP FOR A CLASSIC FILM NOIR, July 6 2004
This review is from: The Set-Up [Import] (DVD)
Robert Wise's "The Set-Up" is a taut and exciting 71 minute masterpiece that pulls no punches when it comes to exposing the seedy underworld racket of professional boxing. All the essentials are present for one of the undisputed champions of film noir. A travesty that in recent years this film has not gotten the press or accolades that it so rightfully deserves. The sadly forgotten Robert Ryan stars as Stoker, a once optimistic, once handsome pugilist who falls prey to two unscrupulous fight promoters who make a deal with an underworld kingpin to throw the fight. The wrinkle: nobody tells Ryan that he's got to lose, hence he's driven to win. Ryan, still lean and muscled, was himself a boxer before he became an actor and the intensity in his performance is certainly delving on prior experience in the ring. The film unfolds in 'real time' meaning that the action takes place in approximately the same amount of time it would take for the real event to take place. This tough, gritty little masterpiece offers a superb performance by Robert Ryan as the doublecrossed fighter. The stellar supporting cast includes Audrey Totter, George Tobias and Alan Baxter; names that unfortunately mean little to anyone outside of the die-hard film buff. All give compelling performances, genuinely fraught with a sense of immediacy, excitement but ultimate disillusionment. Rarely do boxing movies derive such riveting, gut-punching exhilaration from any action taking place beyond ringside.
Unfortunately, "The Set-Up" is the poorest looking transfer of the bunch in Warner's box set. It's not awful but it is below average. The gray scale is balanced with but blacks are neither as deep or as solid as they should be. Neither are whites very clean. There's a considerable amount of film grain and a lot of age related artifacts for a visual presentation that is below par for DVD and in desperate need of some digital wizardry. The audio is mono but nicely balanced. The more intent listener will notice slight pops and some hiss but nothing that will distract. Robert Wise and Martin Scorsese tag team on the audio commentary which is very compelling. This disc is recommended for film only, not quality of transfer.

Out of the Past [Import]
Out of the Past [Import]
DVD ~ Robert Mitchum
Offered by UNIQ DEALS
Price: CDN$ 43.65
16 used & new from CDN$ 14.69

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars FINALLY OUT ON DVD!!!, July 6 2004
This review is from: Out of the Past [Import] (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.

The Asphalt Jungle (Sous-titres franais)
The Asphalt Jungle (Sous-titres franais)
DVD ~ James Whitmore
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 95.00
8 used & new from CDN$ 54.84

4.0 out of 5 stars THE LAW OF THIS JUNGLE IS DEADLY, July 6 2004
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 (Sous-titres franais) (Sous-titres français)
Gun Crazy (Sous-titres franais) (Sous-titres français)
DVD ~ Peggy Cummins
Offered by torontomediadvd_com
Price: CDN$ 34.88
8 used & new from CDN$ 16.80

4.0 out of 5 stars CRAZY FOR THIS CLASSIC NOIR, July 6 2004
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.

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