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Nix Pix (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)

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Gun Crazy
Gun Crazy
DVD ~ John Dall
Price: CDN$ 20.27
12 used & new from CDN$ 10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling Noir Classic At Last on DVD, March 5 2005
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.

Roxie Hart
Roxie Hart
DVD ~ Ginger Rogers
Price: CDN$ 10.76
9 used & new from CDN$ 6.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kiss, Kiss and Bang, Bang! Roxie Hart is on her way!, March 5 2005
This review is from: Roxie Hart (DVD)
Never has a girl with so little done so much. When a 1920s has-been showgirl's husband shoots a burglar in her apartment, "Roxie Hart" (Ginger Rogers) decides to take the wrap. Why? Good business...and because outside of 15 minutes in the pen she becomes the biggest little murderess in old Chicago. Based on a true story, but this time played strictly for laughs, the bawdy, gaudy and luscious Roxy kicks up her high-stepping heels into one of the most publicized trials of the last century. There's much to admire in the story and Rogers is outstanding as the vixen turned hot property. Adolph Menjou costars as Roxy's ubiquitous attorney.
TRANSFER: Kiss! Kiss! Bang! Bang! This one's a winner. Despite a few scenes that lay claim to considerable film grain and minor mis-registration (resulting in some minor pesky halos) this DVD is minted from a remarkably clean camera negative. The gray scale is wonderfully realized, with rich, deep, solid blacks. Occasionally the contrast level appears a tad on the low side but only occasionally. For the most part what you get is a genuinely impressive looking transfer. The audio has been rechanneled to stereo with predictable dated characteristics.
EXTRAS: A couple of trailers that illustrate just how awful this DVD might have looked if the good people at Fox hadn't worked some digital magic on this restored print.
BOTTOM LINE: Get ready to shoot it out with "Roxie Hart" on DVD!

The Marx Brothers Collection (A Night at The Opera/A Day at The Races/A Night in Casablanca/Room Service/At the Circus/Go West/The Big Store) (5DVD)
The Marx Brothers Collection (A Night at The Opera/A Day at The Races/A Night in Casablanca/Room Service/At the Circus/Go West/The Big Store) (5DVD)
DVD ~ Groucho Marx
Offered by Kay's Movies
Price: CDN$ 59.99
14 used & new from CDN$ 22.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Inconsistently Rendered Image Quality a Real Downer, March 5 2005
After a career in Vaudeville and a film tenure at Paramount Pictures, MGM signed Groucho, Chico and Harpo to a studio contract under the inspired tutelage of Irving Thalberg. Thalberg so believed in the comedic genius of The Marx Brothers that he fashioned two lavish spectacles, "A Night At The Opera" and "A Day At The Races" to showcase their formidable talents. Unfortunately, with Thalberg's premature death came budgetary restrictions a la Louis B. Mayer. It seems Mayer and Groucho had a disagreement while Thalberg was still alive. Mayer never forgot it. Thus the production values on "The Big Store", "A Night in Casablanca", "Room Service, "Go West", "In The Circus" lag behind the Thalberg masterpieces.
THE TRANSFERS: In a word - INCONSISTENT. "A Night At The Opera" is the worst of the bunch. Suffering from a host of age related artifacts (including nicks, chips, scratches, dirt) the video quality is also hampered by significant edge enhancement, aliasing and pixelization. Contrast levels are poorly balanced in many of the scenes taking place inside the opera house. Film grain and digital grit are glaringly present in long shots. Close-ups fair slightly better. The audio is also poorly balanced for a strident sounding Mono - particularly with the operatic sequences - they are shrill on the ears and rather painful to listen to - even at low listening levels. "A Day At The Races" fairs marginally better on all accounts than "A Night At The Opera" - though every problem I have previously mentioned applies here as well. The remaining films in the collection are remarkably cleaner than these two - presumably because they received less play time and, as a result, were better preserved. The rest of the films feature a nicely balanced gray scale, solid blacks, remarkable clarity and fine detail throughout.
EXTRAS: Two very comprehensive documentaries - one with Kitty Carlysle, as well as a host of short subjects, both live action and animated. There's also a thoroughly engaging audio commentary for "A Night At The Opera" and "A Day At The Races".
BOTTOM LINE: More was, and should have been, expected from Warner Brothers for this box set. It isn't enough to simply give us the Marx Brothers on DVD. We want them in mint condition!

Battleground
Battleground
DVD ~ Van Johnson
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 7.26
10 used & new from CDN$ 3.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Taut and Terrifying Account of the Battle of Bastogne, March 5 2005
This review is from: Battleground (DVD)
"Battleground" is the all-star grim depiction of an Allied offensive in the Ardennes forest during WWII. It's remarkably hard edged by 1949 standards - a tribute to the tough, hard-hitting directorial style of director, William A. Wellman. Starring Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, James Whitmore, Scotty Beckett and John Hodiak the on camera camaraderie amongst the men seems geniune, in part because Wellman insisted that his actors train with real soldiers to fully appreciate their brief tenure in military service. MGM refridgerated a cyclorama built inside one of their sound stages to recreate the unsettling and terribly cold atmosphere of winter. This is a top flight, ensemble war drama that engrosses and entertains. Oscars for screenplay and cinematography.
THE TRANSFER: Warner gives us a much improved transfer from previously available versions. The gray scale is nicely balanced. Blacks are generally solid. Some scenes have a bit more film grain and grit that one would like to see, but over all the image quality is very smooth and consistent. While previously issued versions of this film suffered from a misregistration - resulting in ghostly halos around objects and a general blurring of the image quality, this DVD is remarkably solid and sharp. Edge enhancement crops up but is minimal. Pixelization is also present but only marginally. The audio is MONO but very nicely remastered.
EXTRAS: Sorry, war fans. There's nothing to celebrate about here.
BOTTOM LINE: "Battleground" is one of the best war dramas ever made. It is tops in action, establishing taut tension, providing serious storytelling and detailed character development, and truthfully - how many of the more recent war films (Peal Harbour, anyone?) can you say that about?

Prince Valiant
Prince Valiant
DVD ~ James Mason
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 5.33
20 used & new from CDN$ 3.92

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love That Hair: "Prince Valiant" a Foppish Spectacle, March 5 2005
This review is from: Prince Valiant (DVD)
Director, Henry Hathaway's film version of cartoonist, Hal Foster's Scandinavian hero, "Prince Valiant" is one of those over-blown, wacky-tacky epics that is impossible to take seriously, but so much fun to watch. Robert Wagner is the rather effeminate looking title character who takes Camelot by storm. Determined to regain his own throne, Valiant uncovers the treachery of the Black Knight (James Mason, in a toss away role) and challenges him. Of course, there's also time for love with bombshell, Princess Aleta (Janet Leigh - who quite often found herself squeezed into a corset during her 1950s film tenure.) The film veers between comic book pulp and self-conscious seriousness, but Hathaway's direction ensures that neither become the vice to sink his epic. Brian Aherne (as a credible King Arthur)and Sterling Hayden (a not so credible, Sir Gawain) costar.
THE TRANSFER: Pretty good. Colors are generally bold, vibrant and well balanced. Flesh tones seem a bit pasty but that's in keeping with early Cinemascope/Eastman color dye transfers. Shadow, contrast and black levels are generally solid. Rear projection photography is more obvious than it should be. Pixelization and edge enhancement are present but do not terribly distract. The audio is 5.1, delivering a nice spread in the music tracks. Dialogue is not natural sounding, but again, this was usually to be expected for the vintage of the film.
EXTRAS: Sorry. Nothing but the film.
BOTTOM LINE: This prince is worth a second glance, but its not quite as glamorous as, say "Scaramouche" so much as it belongs as the bottom half of a double bill at your old-time drive in.

Down to Earth
Down to Earth
DVD ~ Rita Hayworth
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 55.42
6 used & new from CDN$ 38.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Up In The Clouds over "Down To Earth", March 5 2005
This review is from: Down to Earth (DVD)
"Down to Earth" is a bizarre musical sequel to a non-musical film called "Here Comes Mr. Jordan." It stars, then reigning love goddess, Rita Hayworth who is miscast (but amusingly so)as Terpsichore. But the Greek 'muse' is none 'amused' when learning that she and her sisters are to become the kitsch and lampoon of a mortal Broadway musical. Assisted by the heavenly MC, Mr. Jordan (Roland Culver) and a messenger(Edward Everett Horton), Terpsichore - renamed Kitty Pendleton - comes "down to earth" to play herself in the Broadway show and set the record straight. This is one of those mindlessly engaging, good humor bits of business that Hollywood used to excel at during its heyday and it's ably aided by performances from James Gleason, George Macready (of "Gilda" fame) and William Frawley (Fred, from "I Love Lucy"). The songs aren't memorable, but they are splashy and exciting and the script ably covers all of the bases with panache and great fun.
THE TRANSFER: Gorgeous. Columbia's film elements are in top notch condition and the picture quality of this DVD will not disappoint. The image is crisp and vibrant, with bold colors, bright whites and rich, velvet blacks. Contrast levels are excellent. There is some slight shimmering of color in certain scenes, due to the vintage of the print, but nothing that terribly distracts from your visual enjoyment. Digital artifacts are not a problem. Age related artifacts are present but not glaringly so, for a generally smooth visual presentation. The audio is MONO but nicely balanced.
EXTRAS: Please, this is Columbia!
BOTTOM LINE: This isn't one you'll always remember but its certainly an enjoyable little romp through musical La-La land, and, with the lush and lovely Miss Hayworth at hand, its more than easy on the eyes. Add this one to your library.

300 Spartans
300 Spartans
DVD ~ Richard Egan
Price: CDN$ 14.98
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only One Reason To See 300 Spartans, March 5 2005
This review is from: 300 Spartans (DVD)
"The 300 Spartans" is the story of an impossible, yet inspiring, stand by 300 Greek soldiers against the greatest army in the ancient world. Richard Egan, a buff, second string matinee idol, is King Leonidas of Sparta. His attempts to back the full scope of his military in defence of Thermopylae is hampered by political squabbling. Undaunted, Leonidas sets out to destroy Persian king, Xerxes - all the while realizing just how futile his journey is and how tragic his destiny shall be. The usual prerequisites of half naked women and massively overdone battle sequences - that all Hollywood epics circa the mid 50s to late 60s had - are reinstated for this film. Visually, it's stunning. Dramatically: below par and very long on spectacle over substance.
TRANSFER: Fox gives us a very clean, very nice looking anamorphic transfer of this would be classic. Colors are rich, vibrant and bold. Contrast and black levels are dead on. There is some fading present during several night sequences. Film grain is noticeable but not distracting. Age related artifacts are kept to a minimum. Digital anomalies (edge enhancement, pixelization) are present but do not distract. The audio is 5.1 and nicely brings back the stereophonic appeal of classic Cinemascope movies. There's a sonic breadth to the musical score that does not extend to dialogue sequences.
EXTRAS: Theatrical trailers and a few TV spots. Big deal!
BOTTOM LINE: This is a movie for people who truly love and admire Hollywood epics. But it does not represent the height or even the best that the genre can offer. If you're starved for this sort of entertainment, I would recommend either "Ben-Hur" or "Cleopatra" over this film.

Man of La Mancha
Man of La Mancha
DVD ~ Peter O'Toole
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 79.89
10 used & new from CDN$ 15.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Their Impossible Dream an Impossibility to Watch, March 5 2005
This review is from: Man of La Mancha (DVD)
Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren dared to dream the impossible dream with this musical film version of "Man of La Mancha". Don Quixote set to music must have seemed like a good idea to director, Arthur Hiller at the time, but on screen it's about as painfully shocking as seeing your own mother drunk! Quixote(O'Toole) is a crazy nobleman who is an embarrassment to his respectable family. Together, with faithful sidekick Sancho Panza, he duels windmills and defends his "lady" (Sophia Loren), who is actually a prostitute.
The songs, including "Impossible Dream" had their merits on Broadway. But on screen - and sung by actors to whom the concept of singing is clearly as foreign as the subject matter of this film - we get a cackling of melodies that is genuinely painful on the ears. All this would be forgiveable if the production values didn't herald the coming of a lavish film that, sadly, vaporizes the moment any of the principles open their mouths. But such a waste of money and talent is malicious!
TRANSFER: Presumably because this film didn't get that much play time in theaters, the DVD picture exhibits striking image quality. Colors are rich, bold and vibrant. Black levels are solid. Fine details are fully realized. There are NO age related artifacts. Digital anomalies; edge enhancement, pixelization, shimmering of fine details, are rarely present for a smooth visual presentation. The audio is 5.1, made all the more strident and shrill by the deplorable lack of musical talent belting out some truly horrific tunes.
EXTRAS: A Photo montage - as if reliving the film experience wasn't scary enough!
BOTTOM LINE: The transfer is stunning but the film is a disaster. Like "One From The Heart", "Man of La Mancha" is a misguided attempt to capture the magic of musicals of old. It fails miserably on all levels of entertainment and isn't recommended for anyone who isn't tone deaf!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (2-disc DVD Collector's Set)
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (2-disc DVD Collector's Set)
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 38.16
20 used & new from CDN$ 11.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Eastwood's Classic Performance looking pretty "Good" on DVD, March 5 2005
"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" is Sergio Leone's ultimate spaghetti western with a plot centered on a gold treasure buried in a cemetary. It stars Clint Eastwood as the "Man With No Name" a gunfighter in the amoral/lawless American west who engages in actions that are not always legal, but never wrong. Naturally, Eastwood butts heads with Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef); a murderer without a conscience, and Tuco (Eli Wallach); a conflicted bandit who remains beyond redemption. Like most of Leone's great masterworks, visual style and long stretches of seemingly silent moments tell far more than any amount of dialogue could. Thus, the film is a rare example in which style is transformed into substance.
THE TRANSFER: The previously issued DVD of this film was excessively troubled by age related artifacts and a non-anamorphic transfer. Although we have been given an enhanced 16X9 transfer this time - the age related artifacts are still present - if slightly tempered. Colors remain dated, though, unlike the previous incarnation, are not as faded. Many scenes remain softly focused with minimal grit and dirt. The Techniscope widescreen process (an absolutely inferior widescreen format)dillutes the film images. The "restored" scenes are not terribly well integrated into the film. At one point the entire image turns jaundice yellow, which is obtrusive to say the least! Fine details and definition are sometimes poorly rendered, that its best to say that this visual presentation is true to its shoddy original film stock. The audio has been remixed to 5.1 but is nevertheless strident and very unnatural sounding.
EXTRAS: Audio commentary that is very informative, and several fine documentaries about Leone, the film's composer -Ennio Morricone, the civil war and the Leone's style. Also, some deleted scenes.
BOTTOM LINE: This is by far the best that the film has looked on any home video format. But the improvements, while substantial, still do not bring the video quality of this presentation up to par with films of the same or similar vintage.

You Were Never Lovelier
You Were Never Lovelier
DVD ~ Fred Astaire
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 25.37
25 used & new from CDN$ 6.22

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living Up To Its Title: Never More Lovelier Than On DVD, March 5 2005
This review is from: You Were Never Lovelier (DVD)
After their resounding success in "You'll Never Get Rich" it was kismet that Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth would reunite for another glossy film musical. The project; "You Were Never Lovelier" is a valiant successor to the aforementioned and, in truth, excels beyond the expectations of that previous venture. Astaire plays a penniless hoofer from New York who, through a series of mishaps, comes to the attention of South American tycoon, Senior Acuna (Adolph Menjou) while on a vacation in Buenos Aires. Acuna has just married off his oldest daughter and, as his family tradition dictates, the rest of his daughters must get married in sequential order. The two youngest daughters are already fixed with a pair of tennis beaux, but the eldest unmarried daughter, Maria (Hayworth) is not only an ice princess of the highest order, but refuses to marry under any circumstance. That is, until she begins receiving orchids from an unknown admirer.
The score by Jerome Kern is magnificent; the poignant `Dearly Beloved', the jazzy `Shorty George' and the classy `I'm Old Fashion'. The latter two songs are danced by Astaire and Hayworth with such polish and finesse that it's impossible not to marvel at their grace and style.
Columbia Tristar's transfer of "You Were Never Lovelier" is outstanding. While "You'll Never Get Rich" suffered from an overall dated appearance, "You Were Never Lovelier" appears to have been the benefactor of a digital restoration at some point. It's black and white picture is stunning and smooth. There are brief and minor occasions where fine details slightly shimmer, but these do not distract from your visual pleasure. Fine detail is fully realized. There is a resounding absence of age related artifacts. Digital anomalies are not an issue. The audio is mono but exceptionally well balanced - at times sounding very close to having a stereo spread.
EXTRAS: Sorry, none!
BOTTOM LINE: "You Were Never Lovelier" has certainly never looked more lovely than in its DVD incarnation. An absolute must have for your library!

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