Technical accuracy is not necessarily what makes science fiction satisfying; more important is storytelling, as illustrated by two older, and one recent, movies released on Blu-ray: Byron Haskin’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964), Joseph Sargent’s Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) and Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016)..
The BFI Blu-ray release of Arthur Robison’s The Informer (1929) offers a fascinating glimpse of the sometimes rocky transition from silent cinema to sound, with restorations of the original silent version and the partial Talkie made simultaneously.
Criterion’s Blu-ray edition of Marcel Pagnol’s Marseilles Trilogy is a revelation, a vibrant, humanistic display of the dramatic possibilities of sound cinema.
Four Twilight Time releases showcase exceptional acting in a variety of styles: Spencer Tracy and Frederick March in Stanley Kramer’s Inherit the Wind (1960); Jeff Bridges, John Heard and Lisa Eichhorn in Ivan Passer’s Cutter’s Way (1981); Sean Penn and Christopher Walken in James Foley’s At Close Range (1986); and David Thewlis in Paul Greengrass’ Resurrected (1989).
His Girl Friday (1940) and Only Angels Have Wings (1939), two of Howard Hawks’ most critically acclaimed movies, have received excellent treatment from Criterion on Blu-ray, along with a restored transfer of Lewis Milestone’s pre-code adaptation of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s play The Front Page (1931), the source of Hawks’ cynical 1940 romantic comedy.
Three more black-and-white movies in excellent Blu-ray editions – Fritz Lang’s Hangmen Also Die!, Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow and John Baxter’s Love on the Dole – offer yet another reminder of the richness of monochrome film art.
Robert Altman’s masterpiece, McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), finally gets a worthy disk release. Criterion gives us a wonderful transfer along with almost three hours of informative supplements.
Two excellent recent Blu-ray releases from the BFI illuminate the extremes of high and low art in British film of the early 1970s. Ken Russell’s version of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love is exemplary literary adaptation, while Don Sharp’s Psychomania is … well, something else again!
Despite truly dismal digital projection a recent big-screen viewing of The Birds reconfirms its status as one of Hitchcock’s finest films, and one of the best disaster films ever made.
Criterion release a subtle masterpiece of Spanish cinema in Luis Garcia Berlanga’s The Executioner (1963), a dark critique of life under the Franco regime disguised as a domestic comedy.