Film DVD related reviews

DVD title: Bizet - Carmen / Bumbry, Vickers, Freni, Diaz, Hamari, Diakov, von Karajan, Salzburg Opera
Productgroup: DVD
Bizet - Carmen / Bumbry, Vickers, Freni, Diaz, Hamari, Diakov, von Karajan, Salzburg Opera - movie DVD cover picture
Karajan's Carmen finally on DVD... Excellent effort from Deutsche Grammophon

The 1967 film of Karajan's Salzburg production of Carmen is finally on DVD. This marked the first time Bizet's opera was recorded on film. For those who may be unfamiliar with it, this is not recorded at the Salzburg Festival, nor is it even a live recording. It is a filmed memento of the production which first premiered at the 1966 Salzburg Festival and was restaged for the 1967 festival with a slight change of cast. Karajan was notorious for avoiding live recordings. He wanted the kind of perfection in his recordings which could only be achieved in the studio. The music was recorded at the Sofiensaal in Vienna and the filming itself took place in Munich, Germany. It is a lip-synched performance but very well done. Production values are very high. The staging is superb, from the sumptuous sets, to the gorgeous costumes, to the huge supporting cast which even included riders on horseback.

There are several differences between the original festival production and the film version. Karajan managed to assemble some of the finest forces available for the festival. For the film itself he went even further, bringing in the venerable Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera Chorus and Children's Chorus to replace the original Salzburg Festival Orchestra and Chorus. He changed the line-up of singers several times until he was satisfied he had the right mix. He even imported the Ballet de Espa?a, preferring them for authenticity over the traditional Staatsoper ballet.

A still young Grace Bumbry is in full bloom here as the sultry, fiery Carmen. Jon Vickers does an excellent job spanning the emotional spectrum from shy young soldier to jealous lover to enraged murderer. Mirella Freni with her wonderfully expressive voice is simply enchanting as the kind, noble-hearted Mica?la. She outshines everyone else here and tends to steal every scene she is in. And of course you get to see long stretches of Karajan himself, in the Prelude and the three Entr'actes, eyes perpetually closed, seemingly in bliss as he conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in the darkened orchestra pit. The effect is to give the impression that we are watching a live performance. And that performance is without question a glorious triumph.

As a note of interest, Karajan performs the older version of Carmen using the sung recitatives written by Ernest Guiraud. He would later re-record Carmen for Deutsche Grammophon (with Baltsa, Carreras, Van Dam, Ricciarelli & the BPO) using the longer 1964 Oeser Critical Edition with its expanded music and Bizet's original spoken dialogue. Bumbry, Vickers and Freni would also go on to record the newer version with spoken dialogue under Rafael Fr?hbeck de Burgos. But this is the only occasion when the principal participants would come together and as an historical document, old or new, it is to be treasured. Another peculiarity of this production is Karajan's inclusion of music from Bizet's "L'Arl?sienne", including the famous showstopping Farandole for the extended Spanish Dance sequence at Lillas Pastia's tavern. This was obviously meant as a showcase for the Ballet de Espa?a and they acquit themselves admirably.

This film was shot in 1.37:1 aspect ratio (fullscreen). The brilliant colors of the costumes and sets are caught in full technicolor splendor. Deutsche Grammophon has either gotten hold of a pristine print or has taken the trouble of restoring it for DVD. It looks superb. There is almost no dirt or nicks to speak of. The picture is crystal clear and sharp. The colors really leap out. A lovely transfer overall. Sound is in the original uncompressed PCM stereo along with a new DTS 5.1 remix. The sound is good, although a mite aggressive. I personally prefer the plain old stereo. There are 53 cuing tracks but unfortunately no direct access via the menu - you need to read the track contents from the booklet. The original French libretto, along with English and Spanish translations are available as optional subtitles. This is an altogether outstanding production of Carmen which more than holds its own against later cinematic versions.

Studio: Universal Music & VI
Mirella Freni
Jon Vickers
Justino Diaz
Julia Hamari
Herbert von Karajan
Anton Diakov
Grace Bumbry

DVD title: The Crawling Eye (Widescreen European Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Crawling Eye (Widescreen European Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
The Crawling Eye

This one I enjoy during a cold snowy night here in the mountains. This movie sits right next to The Amominable Snowman in my never ending collection of the best horror movies ever made. This black and white feature shot in part in the Alp's will delight your fright buds. WORTH EVERY PENNEY. Count Wolfenstein

Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Quentin Lawrence

DVD title: Futurama, Vol. 2
Productgroup: DVD
Futurama, Vol. 2 - movie DVD cover picture
Make that Pitch your Pitch you Pastard

Obviously edited.Once again...this season rocksAnd once again:The simpsons freakin' suck, TAKE IT OFF TV, IT IS NOT FUNNY ANYMORE. Fox doesnt know a good show when they get one, its sad that hilarious shows like this and Family Guy were cancelled and horedous show like the Simpsons and god knows how mayny reality shows that they have stay on. GAH! Something is wrong here people.

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Matt Groening

DVD title: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Two-Disc Special Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
Spellbinding study of human nature in its raw form

"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", is now always placed in that sacred pantheon of Bogie classics along with "Casablanca", "The Maltese Falcon, and "The African Queen", when his work is discussed, however that was not the case upon the film's release in 1948 when it was a commercial failure and was not well liked at all by Humphrey Bogart's legion of fans. Rejected because of the largely unsympathetic character he portrays, happily with time that situation has been rectified and it is now considered one of his greatest performances worthy of classic status.
"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", tells the uncompromising, warts and all story of three men thrown into a situation where their basic characters and instincts are put to the supreme test. The story in actual fact is a seering study of greed and opportunity and what it does, or can do to essentially ordinary decent individuals. The film has aged very well because its commentary could be very easily transferred to any setting in todays world where temptation and greed can distort lives. Based on a novel by B. Traven and adapted for the screen by multi talented John Huston who also directed, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", gave both Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston (John's father) some of the best roles they ever had. Bogart plays Fred Dobbs who we first see in Mexico living from hand to mouth and literally down to his last dollar when fate intervens and he finds himself teaming up with fellow bad lucker Bob Curtin (Tim Holt in another powerful performance) and old timer Gold Prospector Howard (Walter Huston in his Oscar winning role). The reason for the collaboration is the lure of Gold desposits in the Sierra Mountains which seem to be ripe for the pickings if only one can get to them. While Dobbs and Curtin can provide the muscle needed to extract and carry the gold, Howard provides the know-how and the experience to avoid the other pratfalls that they may encounter along the road to making their fortune. What develops is a gritty, rugged three character study of the lengths that individuals will go in the pursuit of wealth. In their case it leads from basic greed, through mistrust of each other, to violence and even murder. Certainly the story is not a pretty one but it is riverting in its startling depiction of the morale decline so easily possible in even the most decent of men. Humphrey Bogart is the very soul of this story and his is a stunning performance in a complex and unappealing role which alot of actors would not have succeeded in making multi dimensional as Bogart does here. We witness the moral decline of his character into paranoia, and wretched desperation and eventually to attempted murder. The irony here is that eventually he is the victim of the piece when he finds himself the statistic of maurading Mexican banditos who murder him literally for the shoes on his feet. Walter Huston totally deserved his Oscar for playing the old timer who has seen it all and often finds himself acting as referee between the two younger men who through lack of experience and impatience often find themselves in hot water.
All is not totally dark along the way however as we are shown an exciting story of the men being duped out of salary by a corrupt town boss (Barton MacLane in at terrific performance), the group's trek to the Sierras fighting off bands of Mexican Banditos, greedy fellow gold seekers, and encountering the natives who "ask" for Howard's help and literally kidnapp him back to their settlement to assist in saving the life of a young boy. A winner of three Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Director and nominated for Best Picture, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", is a stunning showcase in acting performances, writing and in settings. Indeed the beautiful on location photography both in the Mexican towns and especially in the Sierra Mountains where the film was almost entirely shot really makes the film, displaying in vivid pictures the hardship and isolation that the men encounter in their pursuit of wealth. The blood thirsty banditos, the rugged mountainous terrain, the heat, and the back breaking labour of extracting the gold are all depicted here in a harsh light that gets across the non glamour feel of the piece. The final stunning scene in the film which I wont reveal here for those that haven't seem this classic yet, but which is an unexpected resolution to the story, succeeds in playing up the uncertain life that belongs to people such as the three men here who are gamblers in a world where life can deal out fortune and good luck and then take it away just as quickly.
Stunning is the only word to describe "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre". It is now respected as one of the great American classics and deserves to be revived more than it is. Rarely does a film combine action and excitement with well written character studies but this film succeeds superbly. Despite it's long running time you will find yourself riverted to the screen for its entire running time. I find it always gets me thinking about how quickly human nature can change and be distorted by outside influences that are normally foreign to our way of being. Enjoy dramatics at their very best in John Huston's "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".

Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: John Huston
Humphrey Bogart
Walter Huston
Tim Holt

DVD title: Seven Faces of Dr. Lao
Productgroup: DVD
Seven Faces of Dr. Lao - movie DVD cover picture
An excellent and entertaining movie; never a dull moment!

This fantastic movie wherein Tony Randall plays a majority of the parts, is truly one of my favorites. It never lost my interest and was captivating up to the end. A good movie for youngsters to watch to learn the value of being themselves. I recommend it for the entire family, young and old. A real classic. I have watched it many times and each time I see something new. Buy it! JOHN REMMIE in Dallas, TX

Studio: Warner Studios
Director: George Pal
Tony Randall
Barbara Eden
Arthur O'Connell

DVD title: The Cell (New Line Platinum Series)
Productgroup: DVD
The Cell (New Line Platinum Series) - movie DVD cover picture
Bob from Colorado

A new level in the science of psychology is reached as the doctor is literally able to get inside the mind of the patient in "The Cell," directed by Tarsem Singh and starring Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn. An original, imaginative concept, being able to actually explore the mind of a schizophrenic from the inside, takes this movie into somewhat virgin territory; the story itself, however, is not all that new, something of a cross between "Silence Of The Lambs," and "The Matrix." It is visually stunning, reminiscent of the "Mind's Eye" videos of the early `90s, but advanced, of course, in keeping with the latest technology. The visuals are complimented with a driving, rhythmic score that is mesmerizing, especially when set against some of the wide angle shots of the superb cinematography. The scenes depicting the entrance into the patient's mind has the feel of Kubrick's "2001," making the jump to light speed. Lopez gives a credible performance as Catherine Deane, who agrees to enter the mind of the demented Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio), but the role isn't much of a stretch for her (nor would it have been for any capable actress). She does have a wonderful screen presence, however, that blends nicely and actually adds to the already outstanding visuals, all of which makes for some truly memorable images. Vaughn also does a good job as F.B.I. agent Peter Novak, but there's not a lot of depth to the character. There is some insight into what makes him tick, but it's not much; just enough to take him slightly beyond stereotype. D'Onofrio's Carl isn't much of a stretch either, but he is frightening (especially in the sequences that show how he sees himself in his own mind), more thanks to a lot of makeup rather than any disarming psychological terror he may have wrought (Carl is a somewhat pale imitation of Hannibal Lecter). There are some outstanding supporting performances here, especially by Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Dr. Kent) and Jake Weber (Agent Ramsey); neither character is necessarily cut from original cloth, but they both run with what they have and make them credible. Jake Thomas also does a notable turn as the young Carl Stargher. What "The Cell" really delivers is a memorable visual experience that is quite a trip in and of itself; the creative imagery that alternates an almost claustrophobic sense with breathtaking expansive, pacific vistas is worth the price of admission alone. That the story it frames is credible and interesting as well makes this a film worth seeing. It won't leave you dizzy with excitement, but there are some tense moments that are going to make you sit up and take notice. When all is said and done, this is a movie you're going to be glad you took the time to check out.

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
Director: Tarsem Singh
Jennifer Lopez
Vince Vaughn
Vincent D'Onofrio

DVD title: A Cry in the Wild
Productgroup: DVD
A Cry in the Wild - movie DVD cover picture
" A Cry in the Wild"

"A Cry in the Wild" is a beautifully orchestrated film. It follows closely the plot based on Gary Paulsen's "Hatchet." I was particularly impressed with the realism demonstrated in this piece. The viewer quickly realizes that the main characer, Brian Robeson, is involved in a life and death struggle to survive in the wilds of Canada. The way Brian finds the will, creativity, and courage to stay the course keeps the viewer glued to his/her seat. The natural beauty of the forest is revealed in all its glory and unforeseen danger. As the story progressed, I was really caught with the thought "What would I do if I was Brian?" If you enjoy realistic, survival-type films, then definitely see this one! It's first-rate.

Studio: New Concorde Home Video
Director: Mark Griffiths
Jared Rushton
Ned Beatty

DVD title: The Adventures of Pete & Pete - Season 1
Productgroup: DVD
The Adventures of Pete & Pete - Season 1 - movie DVD cover picture
Incredible set, well worth the already cheap price!!

I don't need to say how amazing The Adventures of Pete & Pete is as a televsision series, or even how special the show has been to me in my personal history. The only thing I need to say is how WELL WORTH the money this DVD set is and how well it was made!

Given how well Nick treats its classics (i.e. Like Dirt), I didn't know what to expect from this set that I had waited quite a long time for. However, it was a pleasant surprise to see that the Brothers Wrigley were taken very good care of, in both digital quality and packaging. The picture is in excellent quality for the 8 series episodes on the DVDs, and is in good quality for the older 4 special episodes and 2 shorts. The packaging was done well, with the exception of the giant Nick logo being stuck all over it.

The extras are very satisfying for Pete & Pete fans!! There are DVD commentaries on a few of the episodes and Polaris music to listen to, but the best thing is the inclusion of some of the original shorts and specials that ran on Nick in the very early years of the network! These are very funny and much more primitive than the series episodes were, and therefore had a unique hyper-paced style of storytelling (explained on the commentary by the creators, this was because they had no idea if the show would continue at the time, so they tried to fit as much story into 30 minutes as possible!) I'm assuming that all of the shorts were not included so that they could be added to later installments of the series on DVD, which I can only PRAY that Nick will bring to us!!

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Michael C. Maronna
Danny Tamberelli

DVD title: Star Trek - The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition)
Productgroup: DVD
Star Trek - The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition) - movie DVD cover picture
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" is the ultimate Trek film!!

I am really glad that Robert Wise and company decided to go back and put in the new special effects and new scenes that were left out in the rushed 1979 release of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". This is among one of the absolute best "Star Trek" films ever made because you get to see what happens to Kirk, Spock, and crew after their famous 5-year mission in the original series. And plus, you get to see a new side of the U.S.S. Enterprise when they transformed it from a smaller ship (original "Star Trek" series) to an even bigger ship! And also, you get to see a couple of new faces, including Stephen Collins as Commander Will Decker and the late Persis Khambatta as Lieutenant Ilia. Some of my favorite improvements of "The Motion Picture" are as follows:
A.) The overture and main title sequencesB.) The color of the sky on the planet Vulcan, Spock's homeC.) Starfleet Headquarters in the future San FranciscoD.) The Enterprise's warp speed sequencesE.) Shots of the Enterprise's warp nacelles inside the officer's loungeF.) The improved Red Alert soundsG.) A full shot of V'Ger heading toward EarthH.) Shots of Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, Decker, and Ilia outside of the Enterprise as they were heading toward V'Ger's source
This "Star Trek" film has pretty much everything that you'd expect from a "Star Trek" film, such as action, a great storyline, and new and improved special effects! And you also get a little romance thanks to Decker and Ilia. This is truly one of the greatest "Star Trek" movies ever made, alongside the other 8 Trek films. And like "Superman: The Movie", there will be no other film like "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"...maybe someday.

Studio: Paramount Home Video
William Shatner

DVD title: Heat of the Sun Boxed Set (Private Lives / Hide in Plain Sight / The Sport of Kings)
Productgroup: DVD
Heat of the Sun Boxed Set (Private Lives / Hide in Plain Sight / The Sport of Kings) - movie DVD cover picture
Absolutely terrific! Crime & passion in 1930's Kenya

I first saw this on PBS's Mystery series a couple of years ago and loved it. I was able to tape two of the episodes on a repeat, but I'm holding out hope (most likely in vain) for a DVD release. And Diana Rigg's introductions on the Mystery version add lots of background and period information about some of the real people some of the characters resemble. I assume that this comentary is not included on the VHS release (?).
Police Superintendent Albert Tyburn has left England and Scotland Yard for the East African colony of Kenya. He left under a cloud and rumours about why have followed him all the way to Nairobi. He's to head up the newly created Criminal Investigations unit that pompous snob and windbag Police Commissioner Burkitt feels is entirely unnecessary. For Tyburn, "crime is crime" and people are people and his determination to treat the natives with respect along with his refusal to show his "betters" proper deference is a continual irritant to his often lofty suspects. He's also constantly irritating his superior, Burkitt who loathes Tyburn and tells him "you're not one of us and you never will be" - for which Tyburn is eternally grateful! Trevor Eve is fantastic as Tyburn - smart, sexy, wry and sardonic he has no qualms about being unpopular as long as the criminals pay.
Then there's aviatrix Emma Fitzgerald (played by the terrific Susannah Harker) an independent woman on the fringe of "polite society" who pilots her own plane for safaris and supply runs. She and Tyburn meet when her sister is murdered in episode one. Their mutual respect and friendship evolves into one of the most understated (but sweet) romances I've ever seen!
Great, tight stories, an authentic period atmosphere and wonderful supporting characters in Dr Mueller, Inspector Valentine, Corporal Karendi, Governor Rex Willoughby, decadent party-boy Chico DeVille and the sleazy and villainous Max Van der Vuerst all add up to intelligent and enjoyable viewing. Highly recommended!

Studio: Wgbh

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