Mike’s Picks: ‘My Man Godfrey’ and ‘The Last Hunt’

My Man Godfrey

Street Date 9/18/18
Criterion, Comedy, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars William Powell, Carole Lombard, Gail Patrick, Alice Brady, Eugene Pallette.
1936. With My Man Godfrey’s light-touch treatment of a serious underlying subject (the Depression) and a cast of characters that “loopy” doesn’t even begin to describe, there are about a dozen ways this history-book classic could have gone of the rails, and yet it doesn’t.
Extras: Includes interviews with film critics Gary Giddins and Nick Pinkerton. Also included is a minute-long presentation of blown takes, which is a rarity for Criterion.
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The Last Hunt

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Lloyd Nolan, Debra Paget, Russ Tamblyn.
1956. Into the mix of an already busy year for Westerns and adapted from a highly regarded novel by Milton Lott came MGM’s The Last Hunt — respectable, engrossing and a movie that didn’t deserve to be a box office disappointment, particularly given what the crew but especially the cast had to go through, wearing winter apparel in the toughest 110-degree weather that South Dakota could provide.
Extras: Includes a couple of extras from the old “MGM Parade” show.
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FilmStruck Bows Service in France and Spain

FilmStruck, the online movie subscription streaming service owned by WarnerMedia, has launched operations in France and Spain.

The subscription video on-demand service, which entered the international marketplace with its U.K. launch in February, offers French and Spanish consumers a diverse movie catalogue from the Warner Bros. library and the Criterion Collection library, as well as other global and local content partners.

The service offers a range of critically acclaimed movies across many categories – independent, classic, cult, contemporary and world Cinema – and also features curated themes and exclusive bonus material, including cast interviews, original artwork, Criterion mini-documentaries and hosted introductions.

With a strong emphasis on catering to different audiences with local content, FilmStruck content for each market reflects local curation expertise. The service for France will draw on local content partners Carlotta Films, MK2, RKO and StudioCanal, while the service for Spain will team with local content providers Wanda, Caramel and A Contracorriente Films, among others.

“Rolling FilmStruck out to these additional markets is a significant next step for us,” Aksel van der Wal, EVP, Turner International’s Digital Ventures & Innovation Group, said in a statement. “France and Spain both have a rich heritage in and love for movies, as well as being rapidly developing SVOD markets, which makes them both exciting markets to tap into with what we believe is a fresh and differentiated offering working with fantastic content partners.”

The expansion of the service into France and Spain comes shortly after DV&I and WBDN announced the appointment of Kerensa Samanidis to the role of GM, FilmStruck, International. Samanidis joins from the British Film Institute where she was head of digital products and distribution overseeing BFI’s digital strategy.

The Awful Truth

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Criterion;
Comedy;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy.

 If anything, it’s Irene Dunne who owns the greatest of all screwball comedies — playing off a perfect supporting cast and displaying a no-holds-barred wacky streak that we don’t always associate with lifelong ladylike Republicans (though back then, Republicans even in general could be a lot more fun). Still, the likely selling point these days for The Awful Truth is its status as the movie that “invented” the Cary Grant of our dreams — though only after he’d slogged through 28 programmers (mostly for Paramount). Despite being a handsome workhorse, he’d failed to make that much of an impression — even in two relative exceptions opposite that studio’s box office salvation, Mae West: She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel.

There’d also been a few now familiar Grant flickers in George Cukor’s 1935 Sylvia Scarlett opposite Katharine Hepburn, but that movie was such a colossal ’30s flop before its ’70s embrace by the gay community that there were really no blips on anyone’s radar. Truth’s gutsily improvisational director Leo McCarey encouraged everyone, Grant definitely included, to more or less wing it — an approach that not only made the actor unhappy but even spurred his attempt to buy his way out of the picture. As it turned out, McCarey got the year’s Oscar for direction, while the relationship between Grant and McCarey evolved from enmity into friendship and further screen collaborations — concluding with McCarey’s last essential film: An Affair to Remember, 20 years later. McCarey even looked a little like Grant, an interesting sidelight.

Vina Delmar’s script, which nearly everyone agrees was mostly cast aside, is about as mindful of Depression woes as any other screwball comedy. Though nowhere as filthy rich as a family of mucky-mucks who figure prominently in the final quarter, Grant and Dunne live well with their handsome apartment, fancy lounge-around duds, athletic club membership, getaway log cabin and the like; Wild Boys of the Road this is not. The couple’s pending divorce has more to do with flirtatious dalliances than outright adultery (though, significantly, we’re never completely certain). And neither party’s heart ever seems to be completely into the procedure, especially given the legal squabble over — there’s even a judicial hearing here — who will take possession of their pet terrier. The dog cast in this essential role was “Skippy” — best known for playing Asta in the entire run of the “Thin Man” series. Nothing like being a dog and making more decent movies than, say, Kate Hudson has.

Plunked into this, and uproariously, is Ralph Bellamy — who, like Dunne, got an Oscar nomination in one of the two quintessential comic Bellamy roles (the other, again as a scene-stealing foil for Grant, came four years later in His Girl Friday). An oilman, Bellamy finds himself up New York ways from Oklahoma with (of course) a domineering mother. He’s so instantly smitten with Dunne that he arranges an introduction and then proves himself to be an affable but socially gauche rube whose romantic bungling is such that an amused Grant is happy to simply enjoy himself as he waits out the clock. Of course, Grant’s new choice of girlfriends isn’t flawless, either. The first one with whom he takes up, or at least her chosen profession, inspires Dunne’s greatest scene in the movie — which is, in fact, one of the greatest comedy turns I’ve ever seen.

There aren’t as many extras in number as we sometimes get on Criterion releases, but McCarey disciple Molly Haskell penned the booklet essay (I do not deserve to carry her computer mouse), and the equally great Gary Giddins gets close to half-an-hour to expound upon a subject he also knows exceptionally well: McCarey’s style — or at least to the extent that anyone could ever articulate a directorial approach that can never be totally described (How did he “direct” those incredible children in the school Nativity scene in The Bells of St. Mary’s?) In other words, the A-team has just shown up at the door. Giddins knows that you can’t discuss Truth without bringing up Make Way for Tomorrow, the same-year-release that McCarey thought should have won his first Oscar for him, and (as possibly the greatest Hollywood tearjerker ever, despite its commercially catastrophic performance), he may even have been right. Whatever the case, Truth and Tomorrow are clearly the two greatest Hollywood movies of 1937 and by a fairly robust margin, through internationally speaking, Grand Illusion would likely get the nod.

The Awful Truth has been a big one in my movie life for decades, having first seen it on a 6 p.m. Saturday TV showing in fall of ’59, just after I started seventh grade. There were several more viewings over the years, including the many times I ran it at the AFI Theater (always to appreciative packed houses), but I hadn’t seen it in an age until this release. Criterion has also included a brief Dunne audio interview by James Harvey (another go-to person when it comes to romantic comedy) and a remarkable visual essay on Grant’s pre-Truth career. It’s put together by David Cairns and really goes into deep archives to make it points by excerpting obscure early Paramounts in which the actor was rarely seen to adequate advantage (I haven’t seen 1935’s Wings in the Dark since my early teens and had forgotten that it’s a rare case of Grant overacting).

This is a 4K digital restoration, so it goes without saying that I’ve never seen the movie looking this good (Columbia’s studio prints from the ’30s were often in sorry shape when I was programming the AFIT). There’s also a 1939 “Lux Video Theatre” show with Grant where Claudette Colbert stands in for Dunne — which reminds me that in early 1956, NBC-TV devoted one of its Bob Hope specials to a Hope-Dunne version four years after her retirement from the big screen. I have a copy, which I’ve never gotten around to seeing, though you have to believe that it must be a curio-and-a-half. Get cracking, Mike.

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Awful Truth’ and ‘Singing Guns’

Criterion July Slate Includes ‘Bull Durham’

The Criterion Collection in July will release new Blu-ray special editions of the classic 1988 baseball movie Bull Durham and Steven Soderbergh’s directorial debut, sex, lies, and videotape.

Arriving July 10 (order date June 12) on Blu-ray and DVD, Criterion’s Bull Durham features a new 4K digital restoration supervised by director Ron Shelton, with a 2.0 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, plus an alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD master audio on the Blu-ray.

Extras include two audio commentaries featuring Shelton and actors Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins; a new conversation between Shelton and film critic Michael Sragow; “Between the Lines: The Making of Bull Durham,” a 2002 program featuring interviews with cast and crew, including Shelton, Costner, Robbins and actress Susan Sarandon; “The Greatest Show on Dirt,” a 2008 appreciation of the film featuring former players, broadcasters, and sports-film aficionados; a NBC Nightly News piece from 1993 on the final season of baseball at Durham Athletic Park, where Bull Durham takes place and was shot; an interview with Max Patkin, known as the Clown Prince of Baseball, from a 1991 episode of NBC’s “Today”; the film’s trailer; plus excerpts from a 1989 piece by longtime New Yorker baseball writer Roger Angell, with new comments from the author.

The new DVD and Blu-ray editions of 1989’s sex, lies, and videotape arrive July 17 (order date June 19), with a new 4K digital transfer supervised by Soderbergh, and a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include audio commentary from 1998 featuring Soderbergh in conversation with filmmaker Neil LaBute; a new program Soderbergh responding to fan questions; interviews with Soderbergh from 1990 and 1992; a new documentary about the making of the film featuring actors Peter Gallagher, Andie MacDowell and Laura San Giacomo; a new conversation with composer Cliff Martinez and supervising sound editor Larry Blake; a deleted scene with commentary by Soderbergh; trailers; plus an essay by critic Amy Taubin and, in the Blu-ray release, excerpts from Soderbergh’s diaries written at the time of the film’s production.

Coming July 3 (order date June 5) are Blu-ray and DVD boxed sets of Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood, a collection of six films pairing director Josef von Sternberg with German actress Marlene Dietrich.

The set includes the films Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934) and The Devil Is a Woman (1935).

All six films feature new 2K or 4K digital restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays. Also included are new interviews with film scholars Janet Bergstrom and Homay King; director Josef von Sternberg’s son, Nicholas; Deutsche Kinemathek curator Silke Ronneburg; and costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis. Other extras include a  new documentary about actor Marlene Dietrich’s German origins, featuring film scholars Gerd Gemünden and Noah Isenberg; a new documentary on Dietrich’s status as a feminist icon, featuring film scholars Mary Desjardins, Amy Lawrence and Patricia White; The Legionnaire and the Lady, a 1936 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of Morocco, featuring Dietrich and actor Clark Gable; a new video essay by critics Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López; The Fashion Side of Hollywood, a 1935 publicity short featuring Dietrich and costume designer Travis Banton; a 1971 television interview with Dietrich; plus a book featuring essays by critics Imogen Sara Smith, Gary Giddins and Farran Smith Nehme.

Also due July 10 is 1967’s Dragon Inn on Blu-ray and DVD, with a new 4K digital restoration supervised by cinematographer Hua Hui-ying, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with actor Shangkuan Ling-fung; a 2016 interview with actor Shih Chun; scene analysis by author and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix; newsreel footage of the film’s 1967 premiere in Taiwan; the trailer; a new English subtitle translation; and an essay by critic Andrew Chan.

The 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death, with David Niven and Kim Hunter, arrives on new Blu-ray and DVD editions July 24 (order date June 26), with a new 4K digital restoration, plus uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Bonus materials include a 2009 audio commentary from film scholar Ian Christie; a new interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, director Michael Powell’s widow; a new interview with film historian Craig Barron on the film’s visual effects and production design; an interview from 2009 with filmmaker Martin Scorsese; The Colour Merchant, a 1998 short film by Craig McCall featuring cinematographer Jack Cardiff; plus an essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek.

‘Midnight Cowboy’ Leads Criterion’s May Slate

Director John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 Best Picture Oscar winner starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, is getting a new 4K digital restoration for a Criterion Collection Blu-ray and DVD release May 29 (order date May 1).

The Blu-ray will include an uncompressed monaural soundtrack as well as an alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD Master Audio.

Extras include:

  • A 1991 commentary from Schlesinger and producer Jerome Hellman;
  • New selected-scene commentary by cinematographer Adam Holender;
  • The Crowd Around the Cowboy, a 1969 short film made on location;
  • “Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter’s Journey,” an Academy Award-nominated documentary from 1990 by Eugene Corr and Robert Hillmann
  • Two short 2004 documentaries on the making and release of Midnight Cowboy;
  • A 1970 Voight interview from “The David Frost Show”;
  • A 2000 Schlesinger interview for BAFTA Los Angeles;
  • Excerpts from the 2002 BAFTA L.A. tribute to Schlesinger, featuring Voight and Hoffman;
  • The film’s theatrical trailer
  • An essay by critic Mark Harris; and potentially more.

 

Additional titles from the Criterion catalog due in May include:

 

  • Moonrise (1948) on Blu-ray and DVD May 8 (prebook April 10) with a new, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray; a new conversation between author Hervé Dumont (Frank Borzage: The Life and Films of a Hollywood Romantic) and film historian Peter Cowie; and an essay by critic Philip Kemp.

 

  • The Other Side of Hope (2017) on Blu-ray and DVD May 15 (prebook April 17) with a new 2K digital transfer, approved by director Aki Kaurismäki, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray; a new interview with actor Sherwan Haji; footage from the 2017 Berlin Film Festival press conference for the film, featuring Kaurismäki and the film’s actors; Aki and Peter, a new video essay by Daniel Raim about the friendship between Kaurismäki and film critic Peter von Bagh, to whom the film is dedicated; music videos; a trailer; and an essay by critic Girish Shambu.

 

  • Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985) on Blu-ray May 22 (order date April 24) with a new, restored 4K digital transfer of the director’s cut with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack; two optional English narrations, including one by actor Roy Scheider; audio commentary from 2008 featuring director Paul Schrader and producer Alan Poul; archival interviews; The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima, a 55-minute documentary from 1985; a trailer; and an essay booklet with photographs.

 

  • Beyond the Hills (2012) on Blu-ray and DVD May 22 (order date April 24) with a 2K digital transfer, and 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray; a new interview with director Cristian Mungiu; the 2013 documentary “The Making of Beyond the Hills“; press conference from the 2012 Cannes Film Festival; deleted scenes; a trailer; a new English subtitle translation; and an essay by film scholar Doru Pop.

 

  • Graduation (2016) on Blu-ray and DVD May 22 (order date April 24) with a 2K digital master, and 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray; a new interview with director Cristian Mungiu; press conference from the 2016 Cannes Film Festival; deleted scenes; a trailer; a new English subtitle translation; and an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri.

 

  • Au hasard Balthazar (1966) on Blu-ray and DVD May 29 (order date May 1) with a new 2K digital restoration, and uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray; a 2005 interview with film scholar Donald Richie; “Un metteur en ordre: Robert Bresson,” a 1966 French television program about the film, featuring director Robert Bresson, filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle, and members of Balthazar‘s cast and crew; the original theatrical trailer; and an essay by film scholar James Quandt.