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Archive for January, 2011

Review: Paths of Glory (1957)

Monday, January 31st, 2011

 

by Troy Howarth

 

Directed by Stanley Kubrick; Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson; Starring Kirk Douglas, Adolph Menjou, George Macready, Ralph Meeker, Timothy Carrey, Joe Turkel, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson

 

Much has been written in favor and against Stanley Kubrick.  To some, he epitomizes the ivory tower artist – sanctified and embraced by the critical establishment, but lacking in any heart and feeling; to others, he deserves every bit of praise he’s received and much, much more.  Regardless of one’s feelings on Kubrick’s later, more calculated works, his earliest films tend to be more readily accessible.  Nowhere is this more evident than in Paths of Glory.  In addition to offering the technical skill and ingenuity that typifies his later work, it possesses a strong, humanistic quality that’s been known to move even the stoniest of reviewers.  Often described in simplistic terms as an anti-war diatribe, it continues the filmmaker’s obsession with the mechanics of warfare.  In Kubrick’s view, war isn’t so much a spectacle to be condemned as it is to be admired – for its precision, its split-second timing, and for the fact that the stakes can’t possibly get much higher.  The film begins with a simple conceit – a maverick colonel in the French army (played by Kirk Douglas) fails to secure a key location during a battle; his superiors, looking to save face, order him to pick three of his men to act as scapegoats in a trumped up court martial – but it is anything but simplistic in its execution.  Like so many Kubrick films, it unfolds as a series of confrontations – chess matches, as some reviewers have noted – in which the characters actions have a direct impact on the people around them.  That the film condemns the actions of the higher echelon military figures is beyond question, but this in itself does not make the film a fervent anti-war diatribe.  It’s not so much the act of war itself that is ‘on trial’ here, so to speak – it’s the way in which power corrupts weak-willed, power-hungry men.  Kirk Douglas dominates the film with a powerful performance.  Douglas is an actor prone to over emoting, and he certainly chews a bit of scenery here and there, but overall Kubrick is able to keep his excesses in check; it’s one of his most impressive performances.  He is more than ably complemented by a superb supporting cast.  Adolph Menjou and George Macready steal their fair share of scenes as the superior officers who orchestrate the power games; the veteran actors are clearly engaged by their material and their director, and they, too, do some of the finest work of their illustrious careers.  The film builds to a powerful double climax, one inspiring anger in the viewer, and the other a sense of hope.  It’s this ray of sunshine at the end that tends to speak to viewers who often find Kubrick’s films to be cold and remote.

 

Paths of Glory is anything but cold and remote – its passions run hot and deep, and it ultimately emerges as one of the finest films of its genre.Criterion’s blu-ray release of Paths of Glory is a treat.  The transfer is up to the company’s usual lofty standards.  The black and white image is crisp and clean throughout.  Detail is exceptionally strong.  The 1.66:1/1080p transfer simply cannot be faulted.  The uncompressed mono soundtrack is equally impressive.  The spare percussive soundtrack is very crisp, and dialogue and sound effects have ample room to breathe.  English captioning options are included for the deaf and hard of hearing.  MGM’s previous DVD release offered only a theatrical trailer, but Criterion have offered up a surfeit of well-deserved extras.  First up is a commentary by critic Gary Giddins; while some critical commentary tracks can be a bit stuffy and hard to digest, Giddins does an excellent job of balancing trivia about the film and its participants with observations on the film and how its thematic concerns echo throughout Kubrick’s daunting filmography.  Up next are a variety of interviews.  There’s a nice condensed appearance by Kirk Douglas on British TV, in which he discusses aspects of his career, including working with Kubrick.  Douglas comes off as an amiable sort, and he even treats the audience to a little song and dance number.  An audio interview with Kubrick doesn’t amount to much, but it’s still great to hear the legendary filmmaker talking about his early work.  New on camera interviews have also been conducted with key Kubrick collaborators: James B. Harris (who produced this film, along with much of Kubrick’s pre-Dr. Strangelove work), Leon Vitale, the director’s long time associate producer and confidante, and Christiane Kubrick, the director’s beloved wife, whom he met while casting Paths of Glory; she’s used to memorable effect in the film’s final scene, and she is able to provide some fascinating insight into the man himself.  There’s also a piece from French television detailing the real life incident that inspired the film, and the original theatrical trailer.  An informative booklet by James Naremore rounds out this terrific package.

 

Film: ***** out of *****BD: ***** out of *****

Argento’s Deep Red Coming To Blu-Ray

Friday, January 28th, 2011

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Dario Argento’s Thrilling Masterpiece – Now Available in Both the Uncensored English Version and the Full-Length Director’s Cut!

An English jazz pianist living in Rome witnesses the brutal hatchet murder of a renowned psychic and is quickly drawn into the savage crime. With the help of a tenacious female reporter, the pair track a twisted trail of deranged clues and relentless violence towards a shocking climax that has ripped screams from the throats of audiences for more than 35 years!

DEEP RED stars David Hemmings (GLADIATOR, BLOW-UP) and Daria Nicolodi (PHENOMENA, SHOCK), and is widely considered by both fans and critics alike to be Dario Argento’s true masterpiece. Now this classic shocker has been newly transferred in stunning High Definition from its original camera negative, and is presented here in the Uncensored English Version and Full-Length Italian Director’s Cut for the first time ever!

  

Extras: 

Interviews with Co-Writer/Director Dario Argento, Co-Writer Bernardino Zapponi and Goblin (Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante, Fabio Pignatelli & Agostino Marangolo)

U.S. Trailer

Italian Trailer

Goblin Music Video – “Profondo Rosso” (2010)

Daemonia Music Video – “Profondo Rosso” (Directed by Sergio Stivaletti)

 

Technical Specs

English, Italian: 7.1 DTS-HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX; Original Mono

Optional Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, English for Italian Version

HD: 2.35:1

1975

English: 105 Mins / Italian: 126 Mins

Not Rated

Region Code: ALL Street Date: 

April 26, 2011 

Retail: $29.98

 

Official Specs For Argento’s Inferno Blu-ray

Friday, January 28th, 2011

 

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As Bill Lustig told us in his exclusive interview with AV Maniacs, he is set to release Dario Argento’s INFERNO on Blu-ray. The official specs are now in!  The disc will feature a new HD transfer with a 7.1 DTS-HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX; Dolby Surround 2.0; Mono soundtracks. The disc will carry over the trailer, the intro by Argento as well the interview with him and assistant director, Lamberto Bava from the previous release, but will feature a few new extras: Art & Alchemy – Interview with Star Leigh McCloskey and Reflections of Rose – Interview with Star Irene Miracle.

 

The disc is set to be released on March 28th with a retail price of $29.98.

 

Roger Corman’s Women in Cages Collection Coming To DVD

Friday, January 28th, 2011

 

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On July 6th, Shout Factory will be releasing three of Roger Corman’s most poplar Women in Prison films: THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, THE BIG BIRD CAGE and WOMEN IN CHAINS. The films will be released in a 2-disc collection entitled “WOMEN IN CAGES”. Each movie will feature a new anamorphic transfer from the original negatives. Extras are still being gathered, but we do know that DOLL HOUSE and BIG CAGE will carry over the commentaries, trailers and TV spots from the earlier New Concorde releases. New to this release is a new full length documentary on the making of both of these films with Jack Hill. No word on extras for CAGES, but we can expect trailers and TV spots.