Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Adventure;
$47.99 Blu-ray, $90.99 UHD BD, 5-disc set.
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Denholm Elliott, John Rhys-Davies, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Sean Connery, Julian Glover, Alison Doody, Shia LaBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Cate Blanchett.

 This latest collection of the “Indiana Jones” films contains some of the greatest action-adventure films ever made, and also Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Timed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Indy adventure, 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, the set for the first time offers the four films of the franchise on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Raiders, as well as 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, have been remastered from the original negatives and are presented here in stunning 4K resolution, with upgraded color timing and sound mixing as well. The films, particular the earlier ones, have never looked this vibrant on home video before.

Raiders is undoubtedly on the short list for any discussion of the greatest action movies of all time. A throwback to classic adventure serials, the film was conceived of as an homage to classic pulp storytelling by creator George Lucas, who then brought on pal Steven Spielberg to direct.

The first follow up, Temple of Doom, was much more grim in tone, no doubt a subconscious manifestation of the personal troubles the lead filmmakers were dealing with at the time of its production.

Last Crusade follows more in the Raiders mold, bringing on Sean Connery as Indy’s father as a subtle nod to Spielberg’s desire to make a James Bond film. The film is perhaps a bit of an overcompensation for criticisms of how dark the second movie was, indulging more in humor than the previous movies.

Crystal Skull pays homage to classic sci-fi ‘B’ movies that tries to recapture the magic of the original trilogy 19 years later, but ends up feeling more like one of those reunion movies TV shows used to do, checking in on what the characters are up to years later.

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While the new remasters would be reason enough for fans to pick up this set (if they can find a copy — supplies were rather scarce its first few days of release), there are a few drawbacks to the set. The cardboard used in the packaging is rather flimsy and subject to crimping from overhandling, though it does come with a nice folded insert with a map of Indy’s adventures on one side and a collage of the four films’ theatrical posters on the other.

Also, the Ultra HD set contains only 4K discs for each of the films, no regular Blu-rays, though redemption codes for digital copies of each film are included. There is a separate Blu-ray collection available, but this appears to be little more than a re-issue of the 2012 Blu-ray collection, now with digital copies. The Blu-ray versions appear to be the same as from 2012, and not the remastered versions.

Each film’s 4K disc also includes a few trailers, but nothing else in the way of extras. As with 2012, the 4K set includes a bonus disc, which is a regular Blu-ray compiling a number of featurettes for each film. This is the exact same disc as the 2012 set, so the new collection really is basically just a 4K upgrade of the 2012 set with worse packaging. Given the number of extras from earlier DVD releases and the standalone Crystal Skull Blu-ray that weren’t included on that bonus disc, it’s a shame they were also weren’t included on this set.

However, with production on a fifth Indy film, there’s always a chance that a future five-film Indy set will be more of the true archive edition that fans would embrace.

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30th Anniversary ‘Hunt for Red October’ Steelbook Set for February Release

Paramount Home Entertainment has set a Feb. 25 home release date for The Hunt For Red October: 30th Anniversary Limited Collectors Edition.

The 4k Ultra HD/Blu-ray Disc combo comes packaged in a limited-edition Steelbook. The combo pack includes access to a digital copy of the film, as well as commentary by director John McTiernan. Also included is a behind-the-scenes featurette, “Beneath the Surface.”

The 1990 techno-thriller, an adaption of Tom Clancy’s 1984 debut novel, stars Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin. The Hunt for Red October earned more than $122 million at the domestic box office to become the year’s No. 6 movie — behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at No. 5 and Pretty Woman at No. 4. Home Alone was the year’s No. 1 earner.

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The film follows a Soviet submarine captain, Marko Ramius (Connery), who goes rogue with his country’s cutting-edge ballistic missile submarine known as Red October. The Soviets tell Americans he is planning to launch missiles on the United States, but CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin) thinks otherwise and tries to prove to the U.S. forces that the Red October isn’t a threat.

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The Hunt for Red October received mostly positive reviews from critics. At the 63rd Academy Awards, the film was honored with an Oscar for Best Sound Editing, along with nominations for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing.

 

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Available via Warner Archive;
Warner;
Drama;
$21.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Gordon Scott, Sara Shane, Anthony Quayle, Sean Connery.

As the first of two unusually well-received Tarzan adventures released by Paramount Pictures in 1959 and 1960, Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure opens with an outrageous visual that some might momentarily think is from an unaired episode from Megyn Kelly’s defunct NBC morning show. At a time when 007 was still three years away from the big screen, we are treated to, of all things, Sean Connery in blackface, though not for any racist reasons on the part of the script. In fact, if for no other reason than that the cast is almost totally Caucasian, this isn’t another Tarzan movie where some white savior saves the black locals from scummy invaders. And having just re-seen Cornel Wilde’s The Naked Prey via Criterion’s new Blu-ray, I can opine that movie natives are capable of doing pretty well for themselves, thank you.

So as it turns out in this robustly spun yarn, Connery’s character and his equally nefarious colleagues are posing as black Africans to facilitate their nocturnal heist of dynamite, which ends up with the death of a doctor and radio operator in the process. As a result, their pursuit becomes a big-league affair that demands a pro, even one who lives in a tree with a chimpanzee. So in comes Tarzan (Gordon Scott) — or, if you prefer, Robert Mueller on a grapevine. And as it turns out, the ringmaster baddie (Anthony Quayle) has some history with the jungle man, and when the latter gets word of who his new adversary is, this becomes perhaps the first movie I can recall where our Tarzan has a look cross his face that might called “world-weary.”

With our late-’50s emergence from the so-called Eisenhower years (which aren’t looking all bad these days), it was obvious even back then that “ungawa” was no longer going to cut it, either in Beat coffee shops or the Duluth car wash. So if Scott and whatever actor it was who played Cheetah aren’t exactly up in their tree reading Remembrance of Things Past, this Tarzan is on a comparably erudite side when compared with Johnny Weissmuller or Lex Barker. Or, at very least, he speaks in complete sentences, albeit ones with fewer clauses than, say, David Halberstam used to employ.

Quayle’s cruds need these explosives for blasting purposes in an as yet un-located mine that they hope and assume contains diamonds. Among the colleagues not played by Connery (who’s pretty nasty here, BTW) is a doughy mold-culture type with coke-bottle glasses — and, it is suggested, a former Nazi. There is also, obeying international law in movies like this, a babe girlfriend (Scilla Gabel) for Quayle. I grew up looking at old issues of Saga and Argosy in the barber shop — the ones whose jungle-motived covers featured buxom women in low-cut blouses, open midriffs, ammunition belts and a live python for the capper style touch. Gabel, though, is no such adventuress but just another looker who mostly sunbathes a lot on their boat. When she eventually meets her end in film spectacular fashion, you can almost hear her mother saying, “I told you that if you didn’t exhibit better taste in men, you’d end up in quicksand.”

What makes this Adventure a little different is the presence of an additional babe — the other one played by Sara Shane as something of what used to be called a “playgirl.” Cocky, traveling alone and seemingly self-sufficient, she nonetheless lands her Cessna in jungle muck the way Jim Backus, Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett might have in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. This means that she has to depend on Tarzan as the alternative to being stranded with crocodiles who haven’t flossed, though how she emerges unscathed from her honey of a crash is a mystery the movie doesn’t pursue.

Given that The 400 Blows, North by Northwest, Some Like It Hot, Rio Bravo and Anatomy of a Murder all came out in 1959 as well, this isn’t really a screen achievement to rate one of those aggressive old TV sales jobs of the Art Fern/Ginsu knife variety. But there isn’t any fat in the narrative, and even the mild suggestion of sexual attraction between the two principals seems natural enough and not a shoehorn job — though personally, I wouldn’t care to rub my hands through the hair of anyone who swims near the hippos. Eventually, in what must be a Tarzan-pic first, Shane is apprehended trying to steal some penicillin from the villains’ boat to cure the Big Guy, which suggests exciting new directions the series might have taken (think: Tarzan Gets a Dose). But no: The injury is suffered as part of everyday Tarzan labors — though, as we know, these can get mighty strenuous just by themselves.

John Guillerman directed, who mixed at least a couple movies I like among his bombs: Guns at Batasi and the “actor” portions of The Towering Inferno. He also did The Blue Max, of which I have no recent opinions, though I sure have rich memories of hearing the late radio evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong ranting on the airwaves about taking his young son to a movie about World War I planes and instead getting Ursula Andress with a towel slung over her nude upper torso (“Hey dad, maybe it’s God’s Plan”). Looking attractive enough on Blu-ray despite the muddy limitations of Eastman Color, Adventure was shot by Ted Scaife, who also worked with Jacques Tourneur, John Ford and Jack Cardiff (Young Cassidy), Robert Aldrich, Andre de Toth, John Huston and George Cukor.

But I couldn’t, by coincidence, watch this movie again the day after Nicolas Roeg’s death without being disproportionately struck by the fact that “Nick” (as billed) was one of the two camera operators here, which points up how long it can take to establish a career that additionally makes the leap from DP to director. As far as I know, Bernardo Bertolucci never worked on a Tarzan movie in any capacity — though, if he did, I’d really like to see it. Though given that monster arachnid in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery (a big one for me at a give-take kiddie matinee in 1953 or ’54), he might have done a bang-up job with a variation on The Spider’s Strategem.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure’ and ‘The Ice Harvest’