AICN Exclusive! Mr. Beaks Announces The April Releases From The Warner Bros. Archive!
Last month, a cheer went up amongst cinephiles when Warner Bros. unveiled The Warner Archive Collection, through which the studio intends to release long out-of-print titles from its 6,800-film library. At $19.95 apiece, film collectors can at last start loading up on vintage movies that have for one reason or another been held back from DVD - or, in some cases, VHS. The titles will only be available for purchase online at WB's official website, and will also, for now, be devoid of extras. For some folks, the idea of shelling out twenty bucks for a bare-bones copy of the minor, seventy-two-minute western WESTBOUND might seem obscene; for fans of Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott, it's a pittance (especially since this was the lone unreleased Boetticher-Scott western).
But The Warner Archive Collection isn't just targeting completists. They're also after that Baby Boomer who's been obsessed with finding that one early-'60s Warren Beatty movie where he romances an older - but still quite desirable - Eva Marie Saint (i.e. John Frankenheimer's ALL FALL DOWN), or that Gen X-er who fondly recalls a preposterous 1984 drama in which Rob Lowe enrolls in Oxford to pursue a fetching British socialite (i.e. OXFORD BLUES). I imagine the studio has received hundreds of requests for both titles - which, in the past, probably wouldn't have been enough to merit a retail pressing. Now, however, the consumer can hit up the studio directly for a copy, and, within a week, have in their possession a high-quality DVD-R (in a standard keep-case). Everybody wins.
I say this as a satisfied customer myself. Before I wrote up my brief story on the Archive a few weeks ago, I impulsively ordered a copy of PRIVATE LIVES, George Sidney's pre-code staging of Noel Coward's wickedly funny play starring Norma Shearer (in one of her best performances) and Robert Montgomery. For $19.95, I was expecting a watchable copy of an above-average, not-quite-classic 1931 comedy - nothing more, nothing less. And that's exactly what I got. The print was in fairly respectable shape for a seventy-eight-year-old movie, while the sound was at least clear enough to make out all of the dialogue. Short of a pricy restoration (and there are lots and lots of bona fide classics that are in dire need of such treatment), this is precisely what you should expect. As an admirer of the film, this was $19.95 well spent.
Happy as I was with PRIVATE LIVES, I was absolutely blown away by the copy of WESTBOUND which the good folks at WB sent over a few days after I posted my Archive write-up. Though Boetticher's reputation has been rapidly on the rise over the last decade, WESTBOUND - a terse Civil War drama in which Union Captain John Hayes (Randolph Scott) guards gold shipments from California against a vicious gang of pro-Confederate Coloradans - is the director's one Randolph Scott western that's considered somewhat inconsequential (Boetticher himself dismissed it). For this reason, I figured the Archive's copy of the film would fall far short of the gorgeous transfers seen on Sony's five-film box set released last November. Not so. WESTBOUND looks and sounds damn near perfect. From the flashing metallic glint of horseshoes (a detail only Boetticher, a horseman himself, would think to capture) to an impressively brutal stagecoach wreck, the film could almost be mistaken for an early Peckinpah work. It starts jaunty (thanks to David Buttolph's eye-rollingly obvious score), but darkens quickly; few filmmakers of that era would've had the stones to take the narrative where Boetticher does in the third act. Had Burt Kennedy been available for a dialogue polish, the movie might've risen to the heights of THE TALL T or SEVEN MEN FROM NOW. As it stands, it's a very good, surprisingly tough-minded western - a must for fans of the genre.
Right now, the Archive is two-for-two in my book, and I've a feeling it'll go four-for-four when my screeners of RETURN OF THE BAD MEN and THOUSANDS CHEER arrive later today. While neither film has a superb critical reputation, they're sort of playing with house money: all they need to do is be better than eighty percent of the crap I've endured already this year, and we're good. Somehow, I've a feeling that RETURN OF THE BAD MEN, which stars Randolph Scott as Marshal Vance Cordell and the great Robert Ryan as The Sundance Kid, will be plenty diverting. Same goes for THOUSANDS CHEER, a 1943 musical probably best known for Gene Kelly's exuberant dance with a broom (Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Lena Horn and legendary belter Kathryn Grayson also appear).
Those are two of April's fifteen new releases from the Archive. Below is the full list (with plot summaries from the official site). Looks like there's lots of early Katharine Hepburn on the way!
QUALITY STREET (1937, d. George Stevens) - A woman can change a lot in 10 years. Or, in the case of Phoebe, change even more in a day. After her beau Dr. Gray returns home from a decade in the Napoleonic Wars, he’s disappointed that faithful Phoebe appears worn and unattractive. So Phoebe transforms her looks and poses as carefree, younger Livvy. Dr. Gray, unaware of the ruse, is smitten. And about to discover that the person he truly loves is Phoebe. Katharine Hepburn, her voice a youthful flutter and her hair a mass of ringlets, teams with her Alice Adams director George Stevens for this droll screen version of James M. Barrie’s play. Also among the denizens of Quality Street: Franchot Tone, Fay Bainter, Eric Blore and unbilled Joan Fontaine.
SPITFIRE (1934, d. John Cromwell) - Katharine Hepburn portrayed everything from queens to a Chinese peasant in her splendid career, but her most unusual role may just be Trigger Hicks in Spitfire. The elegant, cultured Hepburn plays an ornery, rock-chuckin’ mountain gal who finds God – and a knack for faith healing – in a pack of stolen Bible cards. But when she exercises her self-declared miraculous powers on a sick baby, the local folks figure Trigger is a force of supernatural evil. Two fine leading men, Robert Young and Ralph Bellamy, lend skilled support in a picture that’s Hepburn’s all the way: “After the story of Spitfire is forgotten, memories of Miss Hepburn’s performance will remain” (The Times (London)).
CHRISTOPHER STRONG (1933, d. Dorothy Arzner) - Katharine Hepburn made her stunning screen debut as John Barrymore’s daughter in 1932’s A Bill of Divorcement. In Christopher Strong, Hepburn’s second film and first star vehicle, the intelligent, liberated and unconventionally beautiful actress chose to play an intelligent, liberated and unconventionally beautiful aviatrix who soars into a torrid affair (with Colin Clive as a fellow aristocrat)…and crashes into unendurable heartbreak. The melodramatic story is as much keen-edged steel as tears, thanks to Hepburn’s gutsy performance and to the taut direction of Dorothy Arzner, classic Hollywood’s only major female director. Among the film’s highlights: Hepburn simply astonishing in silvery lamé heading to a costume ball as the world’s most glamorous moth.
BREAK OF HEARTS (1935, d. Philip Moeller) - Aspiring composer Constance Dane never imagined she would someday meet celebrated New York conductor Franz Roberti. Yet a love of music brings them together, and romantic love soon follows. So, too, do jealousies, human misunderstandings and artistic flareups that will test their devotion. Break of Hearts is a triple-hankie romance to swoon by, swelling with music by Bach, Brahms and other immortals and featuring two box-office legends at their most luminous. Charles Boyer essays the man-of-the-world role of Franz. And Katharine Hepburn, the camera framing and adoring her as only classic Hollywood can, offers a much-acclaimed performance that captures Constance’s freshness and fire.
A WOMAN REBELS (1936, d. Mark Sandrich) - As women, the first thing of importance is to be content to be inferior to men. Rubbish, young Pamela Thistlewaite (Katharine Hepburn) thinks, embarking on an independent life no proper Victorian would approve of, a life that includes love affairs, a child born out of wedlock, a career and national fame. An enthralling personal drama and a forceful plea for women’s rights, A Woman Rebels showcases a Hepburn radiant with beauty and youth, as natural with battle-of-the-sexes banter as with courage in the face of heartbreak.
THE LITTLE MINISTER (1934, d. Richard Wallace) - In 1840, young Gavin Dishart (John Beal) is welcomed to a Scottish village as the new minister. Eager to be a proper shepherd to his flock, Gavin cuts a stern, stiff-necked figure. Then he meets Babbie (Katharine Hepburn), a gypsy girl who champions the poor. Soon Gavin is hopelessly in love with the headstrong, flirtatious lass who, unknown to him, is really a grand lady betrothed to an aristocrat she does not love. Based on a novel and play by James M. Barrie (Peter Pan), this endearing film showcases Hepburn’s irresistible femininity as she conquers the heart of the little minister. “Can a man like a woman against his will?” he asks. “Of course he can,” Babbie replies. “That’s the very nicest way to be liked.”
TRAIL STREET (1947, d. Ray Enright) - Billy Burns (George “Gabby” Hayes) is prone to tall tales. He can tell you about the sprawling ranch of Brandyhead Jones. Or about grasshoppers so big and tough they pick their teeth with barbed wire. But one thing Billy can never overstate is his friendship with Bat Masterson – and how he’s sure Bat will honor his request to come to Liberal, Kansas, and stop the festering range war between wheat farmers and cattlemen.
RETURN OF THE BAD MEN (1948, d. Ray Enright) - The Oklahoma Land Rush means free land – and a cadre of outlaws amassed to prey on the newly prosperous territory. Perhaps the vilest of these lurking bad men is the shoot-first Sundance Kid (Robert Ryan). Vance knows there’s no room in the wide-open spaces for cold-blooded killers like the Kid, and he’ll shoot holes in any contrary notion. He’ll bring peace and justice to the prairie.
CARSON CITY (1952, d. Andre De Toth) - Randolph Scott is a man with a mission in this classic tale, as he endeavors to build a railroad through the lawless land between Carson City and Virginia City, Nevada. It won’t be easy. It might be deadly. Citizens are riled over this new era of steel-and-steam progress. And the man goading the populace just happens to be a furtive thief who knows stagecoach lines are easy targets. Andre Detoth ("House of Wax") directs.
THE MAD MISS MANTON (1938, d. Leigh Jason) - Dizzy heiress Melsa Manton and her manicured band of Park Avenue pranksters think Manhattan is an amusement park built just for them. So when Melsa stumbles across a murder victim, the pranksters decide to play detective. The only trouble is that the murderer is playing too – for keeps.
JOY OF LIVING (1938, d. Tay Garnett) - Broadway star Maggie Garret sings for her supper. And for everybody else’s. She’s the meal ticket for relatives who sap her of money and time, rob her of the joy of living. But Maggie’s workaday world changes when she meets a carefree millionaire who thinks Maggie is a peach. And her family is the pits.
HAVING WONDERFUL TIME (1938, Alfred Santell) - Ginger Rogers also stars alongside Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in this screen adaptation of the Broadway play about young Romeos and Juliets who escape the grit and grind of Depression-era New York City for the canoeing and canoodling of Camp Kare-Free. The stars shine brightly at the resort: Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Grady Sutton and Jack Carson among them. And Red Skelton makes his film debut, dunking donuts and pratfalling down stairs as the camp social director.
LUXURY LINER (1948, d. Richard Whorf) - Perky Jane Powell (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) plays the golden-voiced teen daughter of an ocean liner captain (George Brent) who stows away on dad’s ship in hopes of showcasing her singing skills to a voyaging opera star (played by real-life Wagnerian Lauritz Melchior). Many more musical talents set sail too: Xavier Cugat swings with Con Maracas, the Pied Pipers add silken harmonies and operatic soprano Marina Koshetz trills and spoofs the Cole Porter standard I’ve Got You Under My Skin. Bon voyage!
MEET THE PEOPLE (1944, d. Charles Reisner) - Julie Hampton (Lucille Ball) can tote a lunch pail and carry a tune. She’s a Broadway star who’s joined the Rosie the Riveters at Morgan Shipyards. Working with her is aspiring playwright “Swanee” Swanson, who insists Julie toil among the yard workers before she stars in the play he’s written about them.
THOUSANDS CHEER (1943, d. George Sidney) - The story concerns aerialist-turned-G.I. Gene Kelly (mopping up the dance floor with a mop for a partner) romancing colonel’s daughter Kathryn Grayson. But the real story is the most spectacular camp show in military history, featuring skits and songs with Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Lena Horne, Eleanor Powell, José Iturbi and just about everybody else in Hollywood. Start cheering!!
If you don't see anything you've just got to own this month, check back in May. I can think of one title in particular that's going to make a lot of people very happy.
Also keep your eyes peeled for a contest. It looks like we'll have five copies of RETURN OF THE BAD MEN and THOUSANDS CHEER to give away.
I apologize for the salesman tone of this piece, but I desperately want The Warner Archive succeed - if only to pressure the other studios into opening up their libraries to the public. I'm also giddy for WB to dig deeper into that MGM and RKO catalogue. There are lots of forgotten gems on the way.
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April 20, 2009, 1:32 p.m. CST
Thanks for passing it along.
April 20, 2009, 1:35 p.m. CST
by Banky the Hack
I'm not a rabid movie fan, particularly of old movies, but any time a company respects art by making it available to those who appreciate it...especially when there's not the level of demand to make it perfectly business savvy...well that's pretty damned cool.
April 20, 2009, 1:46 p.m. CST
These are going to make some incredible gifts.
April 20, 2009, 1:55 p.m. CST
I want a WIDESCREEN copy of this Steve Martin / Rick Moranis classic!<br><br>Who doesn't love My Blue Heaven, one of the most criminally underrated comedies in Steve Martin's oeuvre?<br><br>This was one of my favorites growing up, and I can quote almost every single line that Vinny / Todd speaks.<br><br>Please, Warners, give me a Widescreen My Blue Heaven!!!
April 20, 2009, 1:58 p.m. CST
...Ken Russell's The Devils?
April 20, 2009, 1:59 p.m. CST
...Black Belt Jones & Three The Hard Way (since I lost my friggin VHS that I recorded from Encore Action 5 years ago - the ONLY known uncensored version of this movie in existence!).
April 20, 2009, 2:17 p.m. CST
April 20, 2009, 2:20 p.m. CST
...and was VERY pleasantly surprised. I really wasn't expecting much in the way of quality, but the transfer was much better than expected. Between finally getting this and Howard The Duck in March, I have almost completed my guilty pleasure list. Now if only someone would release Max Headroom on DVD....
April 20, 2009, 2:35 p.m. CST
by Harry Weinstein
I'm not ordering jack shit from this overpriced DVD-R based scheme until my order includes TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1 and THE BLADE.
April 20, 2009, 2:44 p.m. CST
and give me my 2.35:1 version of THE KEEP. Thank you.
April 20, 2009, 2:54 p.m. CST
BTW harry my daily emails will continue on the magnet let the right one in front.
April 20, 2009, 3 p.m. CST
I thought harry posted this for some reason, though you having the balls to call out magnet on this stuff would set you apart from harry's lackeys.
April 20, 2009, 3:04 p.m. CST
by axel fff
I like the western titles, would like to see some noir titles, but won't be paying $20 for any of these titles. I wouldn't pay $20 for any single-disc movie with no extras. I'll just catch 'em when they come on TCM.
April 20, 2009, 3:19 p.m. CST
Still patiently waiting for Elke Sommer to give those enormous rounded gas bags a run for their money... C'mon, Warners!
April 20, 2009, 5:20 p.m. CST
Yeah, go right ahead, but right now I'm more stoked to see Transformers 2 than any of those. Rocketeer and Delicatessen are on DVD, what else do we need?
April 20, 2009, 5:28 p.m. CST
by Gungan Slayer
I too hope it succeeds.
April 20, 2009, 5:48 p.m. CST
What do you want? I agree completely with you... I feel gypped for buying the Blu-Ray with the shitty subtitles, but the company released the correct version. The only thing they aren't doing is offering refunds, which sucks, but what will an article about the bad subs do now that it's released and they've already fixed the problem?
April 20, 2009, 6:35 p.m. CST
Nothing on the list really flips my trigger, but I still think this is a brilliant idea on Warner's part. (And my dad has ordered a pile of them.) <P> Here's hoping the other studios get a clue.
April 20, 2009, 7:07 p.m. CST
So much for globalisation.
April 20, 2009, 8:10 p.m. CST
I would LOVE to see some of those old obscure WB and MGM cartoons finally hit DVD...hell,I'd pay 50 bucks or more for a complete Tex Avery collection on DVD(uncensored of course...I wanna see racist squirrels in blackface damnit!)
April 20, 2009, 8:11 p.m. CST
Well... I defy anyone to watch that movie and not lose their minds trying to figure out who's better looking, Rob Lowe or Cary Elwes. Not that I'd throw Julian Sands out of a bed full of crackers either. That movie's got all kinds of *ehem* merit.
April 20, 2009, 8:20 p.m. CST
RANDOLPH SCOTT!!! Hoping other studios follow suit at some point. Though sometimes WB seems to own everything ever made before 1950.
April 20, 2009, 9:29 p.m. CST
by Chesterfield Slacks
As usual, the rest of the world has to wait to give the studios money. Boo-hoo.
April 20, 2009, 9:59 p.m. CST
I have been wanting the Glen Ford, Henry Fonda classic for a long time,it is hard to believe it is not on dvd.
April 20, 2009, 10 p.m. CST
Glenn Ford. A really great film.
April 20, 2009, 10:02 p.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Yeah, the widescreen titles are anamorphic, but it still seems too steep. Ten bucks each, and I'd snap up a couple of these.
April 20, 2009, 10:27 p.m. CST
to know if AICN actually condoned magnet's actions. Harry said jack shit even though he posted his referral link to the initial version on his DVD round up. No mention now a month later and he actually claimed magnet was doing great as a distributor even though they managed to royally piss off anyone who bought the DVD on the opening week and then literally said we were all idiots for caring about subtitles. Just a brick wall of silence is what I got from AICN except for moriarity did make it a big deal on his site. BUt when a ingrained site like AICN who has a wealth of industry insiders reading it as well as film geeks decides to not even mention that a new distributor fucked over a debut films DVD release and then said fuck off when we wanted a refund, well then that's just fucking sad. You acknowledging this is fine, I guess but the fact harry still stays silent is just disappointing.
April 20, 2009, 10:33 p.m. CST
by Tin Snoman
seconded. How is this not out yet in a proper release with extras?
April 20, 2009, 10:39 p.m. CST
Man, if Warners owns the MGM library as well, ya think we might finally have the DARK SHADOWS movies?
April 21, 2009, 12:55 a.m. CST
by Don Lockwood
Do it. A Dalton Trumbo film! Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne and Van Johnson! For the love of all that is holy!
April 21, 2009, 2:45 a.m. CST
so I can replace my crap VHS copy. And they need to release all of the seasons of Maverick, and whatever cartoons they have.
April 21, 2009, 11:56 a.m. CST
gotta love it
April 21, 2009, 1:51 p.m. CST
by Rex Manning
April 22, 2009, 8:33 a.m. CST
Why can't Warner Bros. (or any other studio) print individual dvds of any movie in their vaults when they receive an order (assuming they already have digital copies/backups of their catalogs)? Would it be that costly, difficult, or labour-intensive?
April 22, 2009, 8:37 a.m. CST
I agree with some of the people though that they are a bit overpriced. Hopefully they'll have some extras as time goes on. Hey Leonard Maltin isn't doing anything, get him in for some commentaries. Hell you could even get Joe Bob Briggs for the horror and Sci-Fi movies.<BR><BR>As of now though there isn't much that interests me there. I will keep checking back though (and seeing as I'm a fan of a particular old time funnyman I may have something to look forward too next month). But yeah, you get those old (and uncut) cartoons up there (chronological volumes I hope?) and I am so there.
April 22, 2009, 11:19 a.m. CST
Would love to see Warners release some of the many classic Hong Kong movies they bought....including 'Pedicab Driver' with Sammo Hung & Lau kar-leung, Enter the Fat Dragon, and of course 'Dragon Fight' starring Jet Li & a very young Stephen Chow, in a martial arts adventure shot in the States....actually e-mailed Warners a few times ref some of the HK titles they own, but never got a response....maybe they'll release some of them this way
April 22, 2009, 11:40 a.m. CST
by Sith Angel
Or "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II"? I know they're probably not Warner's, but still want the DVD...or better...Blu Ray...released!
April 23, 2009, 3:25 a.m. CST
Given that the cunts at Warners buried it a couple of years ago. Wankers.
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