Tracker Pixel for Entry

Diverse classic indie films new to Blu-ray

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | May 17th, 2017

The number of vintage films getting new high-definition video masters and/or restorations has been increasing over the past year, with numerous new releases to the home market on Blu-ray from specialty distributors like Olive, Twilight Time, Criterion, and especially Kino-Lorber through its “Studio Classics” division.

Sadly, these rarely are carried in stores, so must be ordered online from the companies themselves or other online retailers. Last month two very different independent productions adapted from very different novels made their Blu-ray debuts from Kino, a gritty film noir thriller and a lush wartime romance.

Noted author Ernest Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical novel about a World War I ambulance driver’s affair with a Red Cross nurse, “A Farewell to Arms,” became his first best-seller in 1929 and was adapted to the stage in 1930. The terse, moving blend of vivid anti-war imagery and touching tragic romance soon became an Oscar-winning film in 1932 starring Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes under the direction of romance specialist Frank Borzage.

A quarter-century later, independent producer David O. Selznick remade the film on a grand scale as a vehicle for his wife Jennifer Jones, opposite Rock Hudson, released by 20th Century Fox. Charles Vidor took over directing duties after Selznick fired John Huston.

Both film versions are worth watching, but for different reasons. Now that Kino has released Selznick’s 1957 production to Blu-ray, home viewers have an effective way to compare the two looking much as they did on theatre screens when first released.

The 1932 film came out on a beautiful Blu-ray from Kino back in 2011. Borzage’s classic 1932 film more closely captures the tight, stylized dialogue and general flavor of the original novel, aided greatly by the acting of Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes, and Adolphe Menjou. The 1957 film has more of the Hollywood blockbuster attitude and style exemplified later by films like “Doctor Zhivago,” running more than an hour longer.

Selznick reimagines the story as a lavish epic romance punctuated by sometimes overwhelming sequences of battles, evacuations, and massive troop movements, basically trying to recreate the formula he had used so successfully in “Gone With the Wind” (even copying the sweeping opening title).

While much of the film feels overblown and many scenes run on far too long, it is often unfairly over-criticized, as it does contain some very powerful scenes illustrating the idiocy of war. The romance is more heavily stressed (again with portions dragging out longer than necessary), more Selznick than Hemingway, but Rock Hudson’s fine performance is sorely underrated, Vittorio De Sica earned an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor, and Jennifer Jones is credible if slightly older than her character was written.

Kino’s Blu-ray presents a solid reproduction of Oswald Morris’s beautiful color CinemaScope cinematography, although the lenses used yielded an image sometimes a bit soft. The original 4-channel stereo sound is remixed into 2.0 DTS-MA lossless audio that a Pro-logic decoder will play back properly. The only bonus features are a trailer plus trailers to four other classics from the 1950s and early 60s on Blu-ray from Kino.

Kino’s old Blu-ray of Paramount’s Best Picture-nominated 1932 version shows its glistening Oscar-winning black-and-white cinematography in outstanding film-like quality, with impressive reproduction of its Oscar-winning sound. Again bonuses are few, just a modest image gallery and some trailers to other Kino releases.

A FAREWELL TO ARMS (1957) on Blu-ray -- Movie: B / Video: A- / Audio: A / Extras: D

A FAREWELL TO ARMS (1932) on Blu-ray -- Movie: A / Video: A / Audio: A / Extras: D+

The 1946 crime novel “Hollow Triumph” was the only book by radio actor Murray Forbes, and it soon became the first movie vehicle produced by actor Paul Henreid (best-remembered as Victor Lazlo in “Casablanca”) starring in a dual role as a scheming villain and his equally unsympathetic double, rather than his usual suave romantic interest.

The low-budget 1948 film is now best-known under the title used for its reissue and British release, “The Scar.” Often overlooked, it has recently become recognized by film noir aficionados as an archetypal example of the genre, right down to the dialogue line, “It’s a bitter little world full of sad surprises,” emblematic of this film and all film noir.

Henreid starts out as a medical school dropout ex-con who stages a casino heist that goes bad, and then goes on the run from the gambler’s hit-men. When he learns that a prominent psychologist looks exactly like him, except for a scar on his cheek, he decides it would be a perfect cover to duplicate the scar on his own cheek, then murder the doctor and take over his practice, romancing beautiful though cynical secretary Joan Bennett along the way.

As in all films noir, things never go exactly as planned. The darkness of the themes and story, loaded with fate-driven dramatic irony so well brought out by screenwriter Daniel Fuchs, are strikingly complemented by aesthetically harsh, low-key black-and-white cinematography from the great master of shadows John Alton.

Picture quality on Kino’s Blu-ray is often excellent, displaying finely-detailed textures, drastically superior to typical Public Domain DVDs or streaming video copies, but does have quite a few softer, grainy, contrasty sections due either to optical effects or replacement footage. Sound quality is good.

The main bonus feature is a wonderful audio commentary by film noir expert and author Imogen Sara Smith, who discusses not only the cast and crew members but the cleverly crafted use of mirror imagery and the intense noir sensibility that ranks it among the top of its genre. It’s like a mini-course in film noir. There are also trailers for five other fine noir films Kino has on Blu-ray.

THE SCAR on Blu-Ray -- Movie: A- / Video: B+ / Audio: B+ / Extras: B-

Recently in:

Katrina Klett grew up running in fields with bees stinging her bare feet. Her parents constantly reminded her to put on shoes, but she rarely listened. Today, the family company she helps run in Jamestown, Klett Beekeeping, has…

How long have you had your computer monitor? Is it time to get a new one? How do you know if it is time to get a new one? Many people got their monitor bundled with their computer. I don’t have too much to complain about if that…

May 31-June 1Fargo Civic Center 207 4th St N, FargoA platform for you to build your business, your unmanned expertise, or network with fellow enthusiasts. Even more useful, on May 30 and June 2, Part 107 Drone Ground Training…

We’ve just read Mike McFeely’s interview with Governor Burgum, are intrigued by the governor’s vision of the future of higher education; that online courses will largely obviate the need for campuses, tenured faculty, and…

The rich live 20 years longer than the poorSeveral recent incidents in the airline industry are sending messages to the Ninety-Nine Percent around the world. If you can’t hold it, don’t book a flight. A male passenger was…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

Do you eat enough vegetables? Almost no one does. The current USDA nutrition guidelines for adults recommends 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables to be eaten daily. Other nutrition sources indicate this number can be upwards of 6 cups of…

Nine band lineup at The AquariumLocal radio listeners are likely to be familiar with 95.9 Radio Free Fargo, a station devoted to serving the Fargo-Moorhead area and run completely by volunteers. The station plays a little bit of…

Cinema

​Killer serial makes Blu-ray debut

by Christopher P. Jacobs

“Daredevils of the Red Circle.” Who are they? What is it? Before the internet, before television, serialized drama was still a significant part of popular culture. Novels were serialized in magazines and newspapers going back…

Artist Anna Lee brings years of knowledge to Fargo in new workshopsOrganizing and participating in locally-grown fashion shows, years at corporations like Target. And now working as an independent artist, Anna Lee has done it all,…

When we had a chance to catch up with Corey Ruffin, the mastermind behind the Grand Rapids-based traveling burlesque troupe Super Happy Funtime Burlesque, he was at the repair shop getting a tune-up on their tour bus. The retired…

Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

This Memorial Day weekend, thousands of hands will be reaching into icy cold coolers for a refreshing beer to wet the whistle. Mark Bjornstad, co-founder and president of Drekker Brewing Company hopes that at least once during the…

Wellness

​Gut instinct

by Amber Schmidt

While many of us suffer with the occasional upset stomach, long-term digestive issues can lead to increased problems down the road. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 60 to 70…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

With the recent passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) by the U.S. House of Representatives, it is important to have an honest and truthful discussion regarding what the AHCA is and what it is not. But before we get into…