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Showing Soon; Colossus, High Noon Again & Bette Davis On Tour… March 19, 2008

Posted by John Hodson in : DVD News & Info, Showing Soon , 12 comments

Showing Soon in R2 

More of what’s upcoming for U.K. home entertainment fans in the world of (mostly) classic film and television…

Not the most reliable of sources I know, however, for what it’s worth, a poster on IMDB claims that the 1970 sci-fi classic Colossus; The Forbin Project - released by Universal to howls of derision as a cheapo pan and scan transfer in the U.S. - is coming to the U.K. as an OAR anamorphic ‘Special Edition’ complete with an audo commentary from director Joseph Sargent and star Eric Breaden. Now, it would be easy to dismiss that, but several etailers have a U.K. release listed as coming from Fabulous Films on May 19. I’d rest easier if/when it appears on the Fabulous Films website, but, there’s a glimmer is there not?

Early May brings John Cleese and Connie Booth’s Romance With A Double Bass: “…a truly delightful film and an important piece of film history. Based on a short story by Anton Chekhov this project was one of John Cleese’s first post-Python projects. Romance With A Double Bass was the second writing collaboration for Cleese and Connie Booth, and their first on screen appearance together, before they created the classic, Fawlty Towers.”

The film also starts a host of British talent including June Whitfield, Graham Crowden, Freddie Jones, Jonathan Lynn and Andrew Sachs.

Also May, Universal release a whole host of titles some re-releases, some that have previously been trapped in various box sets, among them Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair (1948) with Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich & John Lund, Leo McCarey’s 1934 Mae West vehicle Belle Of The Nineties, Preston Sturges 1940 comedy Christmas in July, two Dietrich films, Frank Borzage’s Desire (1936) and Von Sternberg’s Dishonored (1931), plus two from Douglas Sirk; All That Heaven Allows (1955) with Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson & Agnes Moorehead and Has Anybody Seen My Gal? with Hudson and Piper Laurie. More Sirk, Lubitsch et al; other titles on the same slate include Dracula’s Daughter, The Flame Of New Orleans, AngelThe Tarnished Angels, Follow The Boys, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, Golden Earrings, House Of Dracula, Magnificent Obsession, Mary Of Scotland, Morocco, My Little Chickadee, Never Give A Sucker An Even Break, Pittsburgh, Send Me No Flowers, and Shanghai Express - Universal also re-releases Dracula (1931) at the same time; hopefully the latest restoration which made it to the ‘75th Anniversary Edition’ in R1.

A cash-in release in May - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the 1982 TV version of the Broadway hit with Angela Lansbury, George Hearn & Cris Groenendaal. Extras for the upcoming (May) Warners SE of O Lucky Man! have been passed at the BBFC; the U.K. edition seems to replicate the U.S. set, including the documentary ‘O Lucky Malcolm’ (and is also included on the new SE of A Clockwork Orange both sides of the Pond).

I mentioned a 4 DVD SE release for Shallow Grave in June a while back; I should add that a Blu-ray disc is being released the same month. Some etailers are also showing June Blu-ray releases for The Boys From Brazil and Black Narcissus from ITVDVD; if the latter follows the same pattern as their recent Capricorn One Blu-ray release, it should come without any of the Network SD release’s extras, which will be a shame, but my God, the prospects of that gorgeous restoration in High Definition..! It’s almost (almost) enough to tip me into the HD camp.

Optimum continues its relentless (and movable) schedule. first up, they appear to have bumped that Assault On Precinct 13: Special Edition to September. In June, alongside the release of Angels One Five (we hope…), they  are also putting the same film in a DVD ‘War’ triple with The Dambusters and Aces High.

Still in June - and these were mooted some time ago from Optimum, so be aware they could disappear off the schedule once again - ‘Screen Icons’ sets for Gerard Depardieu (4 discs) and, a month later, Brigitte Bardot (also four discs). In July, another in their ‘Boulting Brothers Collection’, the 1960 film Suspect, featuring Tony Britton and Virginia Maskell with Ian Bannen, Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Thorley Walters, Raymond Huntley and Kenneth Griffith; look out for Spike Milligan as an Irish caretaker! Optimum have also boxed Richard Attenborough in a ‘Screen Icons’ set in July (five discs), and they use those sometimes dangerous words ‘Ultimate Collection’ to describe a 15 DVD set dedicated to Jean Luc Godard. There’s also a release from the Studio Canal owned outfit for John Boorman’s Emerald Forest. No details yet of the content of any of these - let the speculation begin…

June, and Odeon release Peter Walker’s 1972 film The Flesh & Blood Show; the same company looks set to release 1949’s School For Randle, with Frank Randle (natch), it having been certified at the BBFC.

It was originally included as an extra by Fox on the U.K. SE release of Carousel (which is based on the same story), then pulled, though it is included with the German and U.S. sets - Fritz Lang’s 1930 film Liliom has been passed at the BBFC for release by the BFI, who have also had Anthony Asquith’s superb silent thriller A Cottage on Dartmoor certified for DVD, and coming our way May:

“Shot at British Instructional Films’ newly opened Welwyn Studios, A Cottage on Dartmoor marked another milestone for Anthony Asquith following his impressive 1928 debut Shooting Stars. A straightforward but beautifully realised tale of sexual jealousy, the film easily counters the entrenched criticism that British cinema in the silent era was staid, stagy and lacking emotion.”

In a recent Showing Soon, I mentioned that Warner were releasing Burt Lancaster’s hugely enjoyable romp The Crimson Pirate in April, but now I’m flabbergasted (and very contrite) to see that I was wrong; the release is actually coming from - gulp - PD specialists Orbit Media. I’m not sure how Orbit have secured the rights to The Crimson Pirate, (and Orbit have titles in their catalogue where rights issues are, shall I say, confusing…) but I would warn potential purchasers that past transfers from this outfit have been among the poorest ever committed to DVD. Caveat Emptor…

Metrodome release Lewis John Collins’ 1976 film The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea with Sarah Miles and Kris Kristofferson at the end of May alongside 1952’s The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By, scripted and directed by Harold French from Georges Simenon’s novel of the same name; stars Claude Rains and Marius Goring. Sony give another outing to Groundhog Day, on Blue-ray, early June.

Shameless are set to release two more giallo’s; from 1971 Aldo Lado’s Glass Dolls (aka La Corta Notte Delle Bambole Di Vetro) in May, and in June the 1974 What Have They Done To Your Daughters? (aka La Polizia Chiede Aiuto), Massimo Dallamano’s sequel to What Have You Done to Solange?; “…a perverted murderer preys on Italian schoolgirls while prowling a dark underworld of vice and ‘cappuccino sex’. The police investigate and soon discover evidence of a teenage prostitution racket.”

Showbox release another set of ’50s Group 3 films in June in the shape of the Long Lost Comedy Classics Box Set: Vol.2 (4 Discs) featuring:

Miss Robin Hood: A newspaper columnist conspires with an elderly fan to steal a secret whiskey formula from a wealthy distiller. However, it’s not long before Scotland Yard is on the case!

You’re Only Young Twice: A young girl Ada Shore, arrives at Skerryvore University in Scotland in search of her long lost uncle who was once a subversive Irish poet but is now working under another name as the University Gate Keeper…

Brandy For The Parson: A young couple on a yachting holiday become involved with Tony Rackham who is smuggling brandy from France. Through various mishaps, they find themselves personally responsible for transporting the brandy kegs to London, whilst being pursued by Customs officials.

Time Gentlemen Please: The PM is planning a celebration visit to the model village of Little Hayhoe. However, local lay-about Dan Dance refuses to work, so he’s shipped off to the local almshouse where he awaits an uncertain, yet very funny future.

Axiom films release Wim Wenders Wings of Desire in June, alongside Paris Texas; I’ve no idea what extras if any are included, but retailing around £15, they’ll have to be good. Yume release Nigisa Oshima’s Night And Fog in Japan (aka Nihon No Yoru To Kiri) at the end of June.

Vintage television, and in April they’ll be dancing in the streets of Stoneybridge with the release of an eight disc set that contains the whole of Absolutely called, aptly, Everything!

Network’s next two Armchair Thriller offerings will be Victim and Dying Day. They’ve also added yet another iteration of Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead to their schedule (May) and Jason King; The Complete Series (seven discs), for June. June TV also includes Takin’ Over The Asylum, and the two-disc The Paul Merton Collection (no details as yet).

I can’t for the life of me fathom what’s happening with Fox in R2, but they seem to have abandoned new classic releases altogether. There has been nothing of note in ‘08, certainly no new Studio Classics or Cinema Reserve titles - their only tactic seems to be that old standby: ‘when in doubt, re-release it in a steelbook’. Appalling…and quite worrying.

High Noon; Paramount’s License to Thrill…

A quick huzzah for an upcoming U.S. release; Lionsgate has scheduled High Noon as a two-disc SE for June. Effectively, it will be the set that Paramount abandoned some 18 months ago now, when they made that sudden and depressing about face that left their Republic holdings still in the hands of Lionsgate. Happily, the new set will boast that eye-wateringly wonderful restoration and transfer that has already been enjoyed by fans in Holland, France and Australia (you can read about it here), all the extras from previous releases, plus (the come-on for those of us that already have this) a new and potentially fascinating 50 minute plus documentary. Can’t wait to see it.

Apparently, word has it that Paramount has opened its vaults to Lionsgate and will allow them access, at last, to elements they have been busy restoring over the past few years; if that news is accurate - and Paramount, we know, appears to have little or no interest in classic releases themselves - we could at last see some spanking discs from the Republic catalogue instead of the sometimes awful fare that Artisan / Lionsgate have foisted on fans in the past. Licensing - to Lionsgate, Criterion and possibly others - does appear to be the way forward as far as Paramount is concerned. Now, what about The Quiet Man..?

Bette Davis on Tour…

They called her the ‘First Lady of Film’ – and Bette Davis saw no reason to disagree. “I always had the will to win,” she once proclaimed. Now the career of one of Hollywood’s most colourful grandes dames is being celebrated by the U.K. film channel TCM (Turner Classic Movies), the BFI and distributors Park Circus, with nationwide screenings of 11 of her most memorable dramas to coincide with the centenary of her birth on 5th April, 2008.

The 11 titles include new 35mm prints of Jezebel, The Letter and The Little Foxes, together with a fully restored digital print of All About Eve, which has been back in selected cinemas since the end of November 2007. The tour was launched at the Glasgow Film Festival in February, and it continues through to July, with over 50 cinemas thoughout Britain taking part.

TCM pays its own tribute to this tempestuous screen icon, with an on air season airing on the channel in April 2008. ‘Bette Davis on Tour’ represents ‘a unique opportunity to admire an actress whose contribution to motion picture history lives on.’

More information including broadcast times, full tour map, a run-down of the titles on offer, and more click here to visit the special TCM UK Bette Davis page.

Showing Soon; Jarmusch, Ray & Niven Boxes, Godfather Restored… March 12, 2008

Posted by John Hodson in : DVD News & Info, Showing Soon , add a comment

Showing Soon in R2

More DVD news of (mostly older) film and TV titles in the U.K.

Following the good (then the not so good) news of ITVDVD’s Margaret Lockwood Collection, in a previous Showing Soon, the BBFC has just passed a 20 minute extra for the box set: British Cinema - Margaret Lockwood. As per my previous post on the David Lean Centenary, ITVDVD is to release another Lean collection in August, this time with all nine titles from their 2006 set newly restored, plus a restored In Which We Serve.

The inestimable Roobarbs Forum tells me that Network will be busy in May and June, TV releases include (deep breath): Spitting Image - Series 2, Doctor at Sea - The Complete Series, Jason King - The Complete Series Special Edition, Pipkins - Series 3, Crown Court - Volume 4, Tommy Cooper - Just Like That, John Pilger - Vols 1-3, Peak Practice - Series 4, Only When I Laugh - Series 2, Robin’s Nest - Series 3, Return to Treasure Island - The Complete Series, The Best Of Friday Live, The Fenn Street Gang - Series 2, Agony - Series 2, Tales of the Unexpected - Series 7, The Bill - Series 4, Baywatch - Series 2, Armchair Thriller - Story 3, Armchair Thriller - Story 4, plus, a real treat, Seven Up - Volumes 1-7: Seven To Forty-Nine.

Other TV upcoming includes (apologies if I’ve mentioned them before) The Two Ronnies: Series 4 (2 Discs), The Complete Wombles, The Complete Paddington, Campion: The Complete Collection (4 Discs). And March 30, from 2|entertain, Ben Kingsley as Silas Marner, The Weaver Of Raveloe. April 14 and Artificial Eye continue with the great German saga; Heimat 3 - A Chronicle Of Endings And Beginnings.

2|entertain is to release the Peter Davison ‘Dr Who’ adventure Black Orchid in April. The excellent Zeta Minor reports that there will be a “commentary track recorded by Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and others as yet unconfirmed”. Extras cleared at the BBFC thus far:

00:01:27:11 DELETED SCENE 1
00:04:04:22 DELETED SCENE 2
00:01:09:08 DELETED SCENE 3
00:00:20:15 DELETED SCENE 4
00:00:48:11 (EASTER EGG)
00:08:36:09 (BLUE PETER ITEM)
00:02:23:23 POINTS OF VIEW

This almost sneaked by me; released March 10 The Lost World of Tibet - Director’s Cut. The blurb:

Following the popular and successful TV and DVD collaborations The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon and The Lost World of Friese-Greene, the BFI and BBC have co-produced a new programme The Lost World of Tibet, …broadcast on BBC Four on 3 March at 10.00pm. A 90-minute Director’s Cut version along with additional material (was) released on DVD by the BFI on 10 March.

Presented by Dan Cruickshank and featuring a treasure trove of amazing colour footage, preserved and restored by the BFI, The Lost World of Tibet reveals the story of the Dalai Lama and his secret Himalayan kingdom in a way never told before.

An exclusive interview with the Dalai Lama, focusing on his early life and childhood is intercut with rare colour archive film from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s as well as revealing interviews with ordinary Tibetan people, who remember life as it was before China sent in troops.

This astonishing film allows us to glimpse into the rich culture of Tibet, showing us ancient ceremonies, Buddhist rituals and family life, from a time before the Tibetan people lost their country, nearly 50 years ago.

The Lost World of Tibet is produced and directed by Emma Hindley.

• 60-minute Worldwide TV version
• Footage of contemporary life in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala (23 mins)
• Colour archival footage of Tibetan flora and fauna (6 mins)

Optimum are releasing the Jim Jarmusch Box Set: Vol.1 in May. The contents:

Permanent Vacation (1980): In downtown Manhattan, Allie, a twenty-something guy (Chris Parker) whose Father is not around and whose Mother is institutionalized, is a big Charlie Parker fan. He almost subconsciously searches for more meaning in his life and meets a few strange and surreal characters along the way.

Stranger Than Paradise (1984): Winner of the Camera d’Or for Best First Feature at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, Stranger Than Paradise not only launched Jim Jarmusch’s career but also earned him recognition from critics as one of today’s more inventive and creative filmmakers. Lounge Lizard musician John Lurie stars as Willie, a disenchanted New Yorker, who along with his best friend Eddie (Richard Edson) and cousin Eva (Eszter Balint), decides it’s time to leave behind their boring lives in search of “paradise.” But as their unforgettable road trip to Florida unfolds, they find that amidst the sunshine, blue skies and palm trees, their pursuit of happiness is constantly road-blocked by the very thing they can’t run away from… themselves.

Down By Law (1986): In one of the hippest comedies ever made, three misfits find themselves thrown together in a New Orleans jail cell. There’s Zach the unemployed DJ, Jack the small-time pimp and Bob the crazy Italian tourist. Unavailable for many years, this cult hit stars Tom Waits, John Lurie and the Oscar-winning director and star of Life is Beautiful, Roberto Benigni. A film that firmly established Jim Jarmusch as the coolest director on the American independent scene.

Artificial Eye has scheduled The Satyajit Ray Collection: Vol.1 (3 Discs) for June. More blurb:

Satyajit Ray is internationally acknowledged as one of the great masters of world cinema. His films - many of them masterpieces - have won him legions of admirers, among them Akira Kurosawa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, V.S. Naipaul and Martin Scorsese. This box set features the following films:

Mahanagar (Aka: The Big City) (1963): Set in the mid ’50s, Ray’s often humorous story of
conflicting social values in India’s lower-middle class stars Madhabi Mukherjee as a housewife whose growing independence alarms her traditionalist India 1963 family.

Charulata (Aka: The Lonely Wife) (1964): Neglected by her ambitious journalist husband, the
lonely Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee) befriends his cousin (Soumitra Chatterjee), a sensitive aspiring
writer, and almost inevitably their feelings for each other begin to deepen. Adapted from a story by Rabindranath Tagore, Ray considered this sesnitively realised drama one of his finest achievements.

Nayak (Aka: The Hero) (1966): This beautifully observed character study was one of Ray’s earliest original screenplays. En route to an award ceremony, a famous and egocentric Bengali movie star finds that he is compelled to re-evaluate his life after encountering a disapproving young journalist (Sharmila Tagore).

Lions Gate release Hamburger Hill: 20th Anniversary Edition June, Sony finally get round to an R2 release for Peckinpah’s Major Dundee (1965 - the extended version complete with new score) the same month. 4DVD are releasing Shallow Grave: Special Edition and Trainspotting: Special Edition at the end of June; not quite sure what makes these editions so special right now, but I hope 4DVD have raised their game transfer wise.

Remember those David Niven films - Happy Go Lovely, Happy Ever After & Bonnie Prince Charlie - passed for Optimum at the BBFC? Etailers are listing a five-disc David Niven; Screen Icons Collection for June,  and Optimum say the other titles in the set are The Love Lottery, and Eternally Yours. And it is Optimum who will release that DVD of Peter Brooks’ Beggars Opera in April that I mentioned a while back. By the way, Optimum’s much postponed Angels One Five has now been scheduled for June, and it’s also on the cards in the U.S. soon from Lions Gate, alongside a handful of other Studio Canal owned titles - including King and Country, ditched from 2006’s R2 Dirk Bogarde box set - the fruits of last year’s licensing deal between the two.

Optimum has also added Charles Frend’s 1945 film Johnny Frenchman to the already announced Ealing films coming May: San Demetrio, London, The Square Ring and Pink String and Sealing Wax - another box is on the way, I’m sure of it.

That April Assault On Precinct 13: Special Edition, from Optimum, seems to more or less replicate the ‘03 released R1: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; English Mono; Video Q&A with John Carpenter and star Austin Stoker at the American Cinematheque 2002 (23 mins); Director’s Commentary; Isolated Music Score; Production History (17 mins); 2 Radio Spots; Trailer.

Sony’s 2-disc The Adventures of Baron Munchausen R2 SE also next month, has the following features: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English, French, German, Hungarian and Spanish DD5.1 Surround; Subtitles in a variety of languges including English, English HOH, and (I love this) ‘French (Parisian)’; Commentary with Director Terry Gilliam & co-Writer/Actor Charles McKeown; The Madness and Misadventures of Munchausen - An all new 3 part documentary on the making of the film; Storyboard Sequences with all-new vocal performances by Terry Gilliam and Chris McKeown; Deleted Scenes (some reports say an hour plus of these!)

Metrodome release Robert Altman’s 1983 film Streamers in April; “…a stunningly gripping portrayal of the lives of four American paratroopers as they prepare to be shipped out to Vietnam. Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket) gives a stellar performance as one of the young recruits who along with his fellow soldiers are struggling to come to terms with their fears and the realities of going to war. As tension in the barracks escalates and hostility between the men grows increasingly extreme, an underlying aggression swells and the onslaught of violence, even before setting foot on enemy soil is never far away.”

Stephen King’s Needful Things, the 1993 film of the horror novel adapted by Fraser Clarke Heston, is also coming from Metrodome: “Welcome to Castle Rock, Maine, a lovely place to live… if you don’t mind selling your soul! Oscar nominees Ed Harris (A History of Violence) and Max Von Sydow (Minority Report) star in a dark and haunting tale based on the bestselling Stephen King novel. Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Harris) has a devil of a problem: Suddenly all the residents of his sleepy little town are inexplicably lashing out at one another in outbursts of cruelty. There certainly appears to be no relationship between these strange events and the opening of an unusual antiques shop down the street. However, business is booming and the shop’s mysterious owner (Von Sydow) seems to have something special for everyone… as long as they’re willing part with more than just their money.”

The BFI is releasing what looks like a mouth-watering set next month (April): Land Of Promise: The British Documentary Movement 1930 - 1950. The extensive collection of 40 films spread over four DVDs comprises:

“…a major retrospective of the British documentary film movement during its period of greatest influence. These films many of which are made available here for the first time since their original release - capture the spirit and strength, concerns and resolve of Britain and its people before, during and after the Second World War. These diverse and compelling films are fascinating historical documents, bearing witness to the social and industrial transformations of the rapidly changing world. Yet they are also striking in their different approach to the form. Using poetry, dramatic reconstruction, modernist techniques and explicit propaganda, the film-makers found fresh, new ways to get their message across.

“This set is accompanied by an extensive illustrated booklet - 96 pages with an introduction by Patrick Russell, Snr Curator (Non Fiction) at BFI National Archive.

“It contains a series of introductory essays on documentary film-making in the ’30s, wartime, post war periods, biographies and analysis of the key contributors in the documentary movement in this period.

“The collection contains both classic documentaries and lesser known films, including Paul Rotha’s SHIPYARD (1935), Arthur Elton’s HOUSING PROBLEMS (1935) and Humphrey Jenning’s sublime WORDS FOR BATTLE (1941), LISTEN TO BRITAIN (1942) and emotive A DIARY FOR TIMOTHY(1946). Also featured are films from directors such as Ruby Grierson (TODAY WE LIVE, 1937), Basil Wright (CHILDREN AT SCHOOL, 1937), Paul Dickson (THE UNDEFEATED, 1950) and Donal Alexander (FIVE AND UNDER, 1941).”

Around the same time, Film First seems to be cashing in on the publicity surrounding the BFI release (and why not?), by re-releasing their excellent Humphrey Jennings Collection: “…three films from the man described by Lindsay Anderson as perhaps ‘the only true poet of the English cinema’: Listen to Britain, Diary for Timothy (both from the newly-made BFI 2004 prints) and I Was a Fireman (aka Fires Were Started). In Listen to Britain, Jennings collects and edits the sounds and sights of wartime Britain into an extraordinarily moving and effective collage. Diary for Timothy is a film that is relevant for every generation and bears repeated viewings. The feature-length I Was a Fireman, the story of 24 hours in the life of a fire crew during the Blitz, is an innovative work that should be as iconic to British cinema as Vigo’s L’Atalante is to French.”

The set includes the bonus film, Kevin MacDonald’s documentary Humphrey Jennings: The Man Who Listened to Britain (50 mins); I can’t recommend it enough. These astonishing films represent the true heart and soul of a nation at war, and even though there are duplicates, I’m sure to buy the BFI release at some point.

Some more films on the way, from various independent studios, via Odeon, first, a couple of double headers: in April, The Adventures of Jane (1949) / Murder at 3am (1953) and then May Blackout (1950) / Bond of Fear (1956). In June, comes possibly Odeon’s most interesting release for some months - Charles Laughton as Simenon’s ‘Maigret’ in Burgess Meredith’s The Man On The Eiffel Tower- the first of only two films directed by Meredith, who also features in the cast alongside Franchot Tone, a production partner with Irving Allen. According to IMDB: “Producer Irving Allen was the original director, but after only three days of shooting, Charles Laughton threatened to quit if Burgess Meredith did not take over. Laughton directed the scenes in which Meredith appeared.”

Sounds like fun, even if the film isn’t up to much! It was by the way, an Anscocolor production; previous iterations on home video have beem, shall we say, disappointing (washed out, faded prints); don’t expect too much. I’m not a huge fan of Odeon, their output varies from the not too hot to the really pretty decent, and buying their output can be a bit of a lottery. They obviously don’t have the funds available of some other distributors, but they have two things in their favour - they do try hard, and at least they are getting these films back in front of fans in as presentable condition as possible given budget constraints.

Not showing soon?

Bad news, possibly, on the stalled Columbia films deal with DD Home Entertainment. You may recall there was much excitement over Sony licensing out a whole slew of back catalogue films to DDHE last year - including several sought after Hammer titles, some Boetticher / Scott westerns, Ford’s Gideon’s Day among them - then DD promptly went bust. Within a few weeks, however, DD was taken over, became Simply Home Entertainment, and hopes were high that all would be well.

However, an insider tells me that: “Simply Media have handed back the rights to Sony so it is Sony who MAY be releasing these titles later this year.”

The saga continues; however, the question that’s bothering me right now is will Sony take on the extras DDHE prepped for their proposed two-disc Night of The Demon, or will Tony Earnshaw’s featurette and interviews simply be discarded, and the SE ditched?

Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in…

I’ve previously mentioned the new restorations of Coppola’s Godfather trilogy scheduled for release over here in June. I must quote a little from a post at the Home Theater Forum (HTF), by ‘Vincent P’:

…last night I was in an audience that also included Robert Harris, Allen Daviau, and Gordon Willis himself at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY, and the occasion was a surprise screening of a 35mm answer print of the newly-restored THE GODFATHER followed by a Q&A with the three gentlemen mentioned above, moderated by Janet Maslin…

As the screening was introduced, the audience was informed that we were about to see a very special print of a classic film that had undergone a full 4K digital restoration. The print in question was an answer print struck from the newly outputted restored negative, and some additional tweaks would still be done before arriving at the absolute final product. By this point I had no question what we were about to see, but the majority of the audience was still in the dark, as evidenced by the audible gasp and applause from the crowd as those familiar musical notes started playing over black.

So what did the restored print look like? Well, it looked like THE GODFATHER - that is, it looked as if back in 1972, the pristine and untouched original negative had been locked in a perfectly climate-controlled, hermetically sealed vault, and that vault was just opened and the still-pristine negative was used to strike a brand-spanking new print at the best film lab in the world. You’d never know there was ever anything wrong with the elements watching this print, but hearing of the condition of the negative during the Q&A all I can say is that the final result is a miracle. The texture and detail in the image is incredible - I literally felt like I was watching this great film for the first time ever…

You can read the rest of Vincent’s post here, safe to say the prospect of these films in HD is truly mouth-watering, and may make any upcoming Blu-ray player sales I see an offer I can’t refuse…must resist, must resist…

David Lean Centenary; Special Events, Theatrical Showings, new 10 DVD Box Set… March 10, 2008

Posted by John Hodson in : Film General, DVD News & Info, British Film , 5 comments

This is Sir David Lean’s centenary year. 

To mark the event, and as a tribute to the great director - born 25 March 1908, died 16 April, 1991 - 10 films directed by Lean during the 1940s and ’50s have been ‘faithfully restored’ by the BFI National Archive, in partnership with Granada David LeanInternational. Alongside many special events both at home and abroad, the films will be shown theatrically and form a special season on the film channel Film 4, before being released in the U.K. in a David Lean Cententary Collection box set come August.

The blurb:

…The sparkling new restorations were announced as part of a year-long programme of events, screenings, tributes, book and DVD releases involving different organisations and allowing people across Britain to discover and rediscover Lean’s work.

The £1 million restoration project was completed thanks to generous funding from the David Lean Foundation. The Foundation was set up at Lean’s request to promote the appreciation of film as an art form and to encourage skills and technical excellence in filmmaking.

David Lean remains one of Britain’s most widely known and respected directors and many of his films are part of our national memory, whether the forlorn couple in the station café or that tiny figure shimmering on the desert horizon. A master of visual storytelling, Lean was meticulous in his craft and admired by filmmakers for his loving attention to detail. Like Hitchcock, Lean loved to explore the nature of British or English identity whether on the Home Front of wartime drama, literary adaptations and doomed romances, or on the larger canvas of his later Hollywood-backed epics.

Most of us know the great Lean epics that won many awards here and in Hollywood - The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) - but he directed 16 fiction films and edited numerous others in a career that spanned six decades. The BFI and its partners aim to cast new light on his earlier work which includes the classics In Which We Serve (1942), Brief Encounter (1945) and Great Expectations (1946), also enabling people to rediscover lesser-known films such as The Passionate Friends (1948), to be released by the BFI in June.

At BFI Southbank in June and July there will be a retrospective of the 16 feature films Lean directed, as well as a number of the more significant ones he edited, including Pygmalion (1938) by Anthony Asquith and 49th Parallel (1941), directed by Michael Powell. The two month season, in association with Film 4, will also include events with documentary clips, discussions and feature presentations from experts exploring themes around his career and working style.

Throughout the year, brand new 35mm and high definition digital prints of the restored films will be screened up and down the country by Granada International, through its theatrical partners Park Circus and the BFI, and by Canal Plus. A complete season is also planned for screening on Film 4 in September, taking Lean’s films to a wider audience across Britain. Also ITV DVD and Optimum will release the newly restored pictures on DVD in the UK in August.

BAFTA is a charity organisation with long-established links with David Lean, which supports, develops and promotes the art forms of the moving image. BAFTA will be holding events and screenings in London, New York and Los Angeles for the public and for Academy members, which started with a tribute to David Lean at the Orange British Academy Film Awards on 10 February. There will be further tributes in the US later in the year, and during the first weekend in August four restored prints will be screened publicly at BAFTA’s headquarters on Piccadilly. The annual David Lean Lecture will also take place as usual this year, details of the date and 2008 lecturer are yet to be announced.

Carnforth Tribute

Also paying tribute to David Lean will be Carnforth Station in Lancashire, the location for most of the key scenes in Brief Encounter (1945). This poignant story of unfulfilled passion and guilt will be shown along with other Lean classics during a week of screenings in March at the station itself or in nearby Lancaster.

A week-long calendar of ‘fun-filled activities’ at both Carnforth Station Visitor Centre and the Dukes Theatre, Lancaster will be launched on Saturday 22 March. There will be special screenings of the newly restored films Great Expectations; Brief Encounter; Dr Zhivago and Oliver Twist at both venues, and there will be a David Lean exhibition at Carnforth Station to commemorate the life and career of ‘one of the most iconic film directors of all time’:

22nd – 29th March 2008
Sat 22nd March
3pm Great Expectations Dukes
6pm Brief Encounter Carnforth
6pm-8pm Evening meal / Browse Visitor Centre Carnforth
8pm Brief Encounter Carnforth
Tues 25th March
7.30pm Oliver Twist Carnforth
Thurs 27th March
5.15pm Dr Zhivago Dukes
8.30pm David Lean Lecture/Discussion Dukes
Fri 28th March
7.00pm Still Life Carnforth & 8.30pm After Dark Theatre
Sat 29th March
5.30pm Summer Madness Dukes
An exhibition of the life and work of David Lean will be on display throughout in the Furness & Midland Hall.

In February David Lean: A Biography was republished by Faber & Faber UK. Written by filmmaker and historian Kevin Brownlow who spent many hours in conversation with David Lean, his family and co-workers, this exhaustive book is universally acknowledged to be the definitive biography and provides the reader with a unique insight into the man, the director, his career and his work. It’s a mammoth tome and fascinating reading, not least in the way Brownlow describes how Lean had the capacity to completely cut out of his life those who were no longer of any use, be they ex-lovers or former colleagues.

A two-day conference gathering together filmmakers, writers, scholars and collaborators of Lean is planned for late July at Queen Mary University of London and will offer a broad range of perspectives examining aspects of the director’s life and career in cinema.

The David Lean Film Restoration Project

Perhaps the most mouth-watering prospect for fans is the aforementioned restoration and theatrical presentation of 10 of Lean’s films, from before his ‘epic’ period, and perhaps all the more satisfying for it. It is these films that explore ‘Englishness’, whether we’re stood on the bridge of a stricken Naval vessel with the stiff-upper lipped Captain ‘D’, struggling vainly to maintain some semblance of middle-class morality in a railway canteen, or finding the cracks in the patriarchal society in a Salford boot shop.

The films with then be released in a 10 DVD box set by ITV DVD, with Hobson’s Choice and The Sound Barrier re-released by Optimum; a bit tough on those Lean fans who already have the 2006 released nine disc David Lean Collection (it’s minus In Which We Serve) from ITV DVD, only to find that obsolescence is just around the corner. Incidentally, the transfers in that set range from excellent to average - it will be interesting to see what transpires in the new set; new extras would be nice. The blurb:

All film restorations require collaboration, but the David Lean Film Restoration Project partnership is a model for how this kind of collaboration can most profoundly affect film heritage. The David Lean Foundation, whose resources come directly from the revenue the films of David Lean still generate, sponsored the restoration of eleven* of the sixteen films that David Lean directed.

The BFI undertook the technical side of the restoration of ten of these titles, working with Granada International and Canal Plus. The BFI National Archive in Berkhamsted is now the permanent home of the preservation elements resulting from the restoration work. The restored films will be the basis of all distributed elements in the future, ensuring that every audience everywhere will see the restored version of each film.

The overall technical approach to the project, led by Andrea Kalas, Senior Preservation Manager of the Archive Film Lab, was to find the best surviving material on each title and restore and preserve each film using the best methods available. For 8 of the films this involved collaboration with Granada International’s Perivale archive and working with the technical team headed by Fiona Maxwell, Director of Operations and Servicing. As quality considerations focus mainly on elements duplicated from an original, each element was inspected for quality and condition. Dirt and scratches can be printed in, and focus and fluctuation issues in the image can also occur. Condition issues can include signs of deterioration, mould, and most often the effects of usage.

Original camera negatives of many of the films were badly damaged: with scratches, frames missing, tears, even one important original negative entirely missing. Elements from both the BFI and Granada International archives were viewed and compared to find the best materials to work from.

The next stage was to decide how and where to complete the restoration which needed specialized equipment and expertise. Archival film is often fragile and in need of printers and scanners that have been optimized for this purpose, and the knowledge of the experts who are restoring the films is crucial. The ability to ensure that Guy Green’s black and white cinematography is brought back to life with utmost care is the ability to understand how to effectively reproduce sharpness, contrast and the greyscale range. To ensure that the Blithe Spirit is a shade of green that looks ghostly and not cartoonish, requires an understanding of the Technicolor process and how to replicate that in modern film stocks.

The ten films were restored by one of three standard film restoration processes:
Photochemical, Digital Sections and Full Digital Intermediate. Each film also had digital audio restoration. Although the Archive Film Lab at the BFI National Archive was the main facility for the restoration work, other film labs such as Cineric in New York were used for additional specialized work. Following the photo-chemical work, Granada International remastered their films to High Definition with full digital picture and sound restoration.


Lean shared the directing credit with Noël Coward, who wrote and starred in this tense and moving account of life on board a wartime destroyer. Although based on the experiences of Louis Mountbatten, this is a state-of-the-nation film with social divisions on shore faithfully mirrored aboard ship. Lean arranged all the camera set-ups and directed Coward in his scenes in front of the camera.
With John Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson, Richard Attenborough.
UK / 1942 / bw / 116 mins / Granada International / Park Circus

Noël Coward was again the source for this story of a London lower middle-class suburban family in the inter-war years from 1919 to 1939. The finely and wittily observed family feuds unfold against a panorama of public events ranging from the General Strike of 1926 to the outbreak of war itself. Beautifully acted by an ensemble cast and shot in Technicolor, the film was a huge contemporary hit and has lost little of its appeal.
With Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, John Mills, Kay Walsh, Stanley Holloway.
UK / 1944 / Technicolor / 114 mins / Granada International / Park Circus

David Lean’s first comedy, again scripted by Noël Coward from his Broadway hit, stars Rex Harrison as a successful and cheerfully cynical novelist whose marital bliss is interrupted by the mischievous ghost of his first wife, visible to him but invisible to everyone else. The simple but effective special effects, all the more impressive in Technicolor, won an Oscar.
With Constance Cummings, Kay Hammond, Margaret Rutherford.
UK / 1945 / Technicolor / 96 mins / Granada International / Park Circus

David Lean’s international reputation was established with this study of unfulfilled passion and guilt – themes that were to recur in his later work. Critically debated, mocked, referenced and remade, this account of an unconsummated affair between a middle-class housewife and a doctor, forced to meet at a railway station, retains a tight emotional grip on any contemporary audience.
With Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard.
UK / 1945 / bw / 86 mins / Granada International / Park Circus

Undoubtedly one of the finest Dickens adaptations, the film is studded with memorable setpieces, from young Pip’s hair-raising encounter with Magwitch in the graveyard to the eerie Gothic fantasy world of Miss Havisham. The Oscar-winning team of cinematographer Guy Green and production designer John Bryan bring Dickens’ settings to vivid, indelible life.
With John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Bernard Miles, Alec Guinness.
UK / 1946 / bw / 118 mins / Granada International / BFI (licensed by Park Circus)

Dickens’ extravagant vision of Victorian London is perfectly balanced by superb performances and Lean’s fierce grip on the sprawling narrative. Guy Green and John Bryan lend an Expressionist look to Fagin’s hellish underworld and Alec Guinness, in his second major role, gives a finely judged theatrical – if controversial – depiction of Fagin himself. Lean was always eager to open a film without dialogue and here he excels himself with a tour de force sequence of Oliver’s pregnant mother battling against a storm.
With Robert Newton, John Howard Davies, Kay Walsh.
UK / 1948 / bw / 116 mins / Granada International / BFI (licensed by Park Circus)

Re-released by the BFI to mark David Lean’s centenary in 2008, The Passionate Friends has been hailed by critic David Thomson as his work ‘most deserving rediscovery’. Mary (Ann Todd) has chosen a comfortable secure life with her rich banker husband (Claude Rains) over romantic passion with her first love Steven (Trevor Howard). Turmoil ensues when Steven suddenly reappears in her life. With its subtle performances, nuanced direction and beautiful cinematography, Lean’s absorbing romance, adapted from a story by H G Wells, is a fascinating companion piece to Brief Encounter.
With Ann Todd, Trevor Howard, Claude Rains.
UK / 1948 / bw / 91 mins / Granada International / BFI (licensed by Park Circus)

In this period drama, set in Victorian Glasgow and based on a true story, Lean exploits the ambiguous and enigmatic screen presence of Ann Todd. Here she plays a young woman who, rebelling against her patriarchal father, falls for a penniless but exploitative French aristocrat who later dies of arsenic poisoning. Madeleine is anything but a victim, daring to expose her sexuality. Guy Green’s deep focus photography owes much to CITIZEN KANE.
With Leslie Banks, Elizabeth Sellars, Ivan Desny.
UK / 1949 / 91 mins / Granada International / BFI (licensed by Park Circus)

The human cost of scientific progress underlies this story of an aircraft manufacturer whose obsession for perfection leads him into near madness and brings his family suffering – a tendency shared by Lean himself. The script by Terence Rattigan delivers the drama, but the exhilarating aerial footage and the score by Malcolm Arnold are what lodge in the memory.
With Ralph Richardson, Ann Todd, Nigel Patrick.
UK / 1952 / bw / 118 mins / Canal Plus

Charles Laughton delivers a bravura performance as a self-important Lancashire bootmaker who attempts to dictate his daughter’s choice of husband, only to find that she marries his downtrodden and simple-minded employee and starts a rival business. Set in the 1890s, this working class comedy by Harold Brighouse was first staged in 1916 but is here given a fresh breath of cinematic life thanks to luminous cinematography by Jack Hildyard.
With John Mills, Brenda de Banzie, Prunella Scales.
UK / 1953 / bw / 107 mins / Canal Plus

*Mentioned above, the 11th film restored is Summer Madness, one of the last independent films Lean made and the most important in need of restoration.

The work was carried out five years ago by experts at the British Film Institute at a cost approaching £60,000 with support from the American Academy Foundation and the David Lean Foundation, and a screening of the film closed the 2003 The Venice Film Festival.

Kevin Brownlow, David Lean’s biographer, said: “Colour film has a horrible habit of fading and this was in Eastmancolor, which wasn’t a permanent colour.

“But Lean was such a visual artist it is important to get it as close as possible to what it originally looked like. What is strange about Summer Madness is that it was his favourite film. It’s a curious choice for someone who made Lawrence of Arabia.”

More details on Centenary activities at the BFI here and at the Carnforth Railway Visitors Centre here. Meanwhile, it’s worthwhile ending with a précis of the diary of just some of the special event highlights, though it has still to be finalised:


Screenings of Lean films in Carnforth, Lancaster and, his birthplace, Croydon.

25 March 

Centenary of David Lean’s birth. Academy members’ screening of Ryan’s Daughter in 70mm at 195 Piccadilly, London. Film4 screening of The Bridge on the River Kwai


An evening in honour of David Lean as part of Brit Week, presented by BAFTA/LA in Los Angeles.

7 – 11 April

Granada International to launch the David Lean Centenary collection to international broadcasters at MIPTV in Cannes


Open-air screening events (BFI, Park Circus) TBC


Ten newly restored titles released across the UK - The David Lean Foundation has generously funded the restoration of ten of Sir David Lean’s sixteen films by the BFI National Archive, Granada International and Canal Plus, and these will be available in high quality 35mm prints and HD digital format through BFI Distribution and Park Circus.

June – July

Rediscover David Lean: Retrospective at BFI Southbank. In addition to screening all of David Lean’s works as director and a selection of those which he edited, BFI Southbank will also present a number of events ranging from presentations by experts in particular aspects of his work, to introduced screenings by those associated with individual titles and will also include discussions embracing different perspectives on some of these classic titles.

July – December

USA theatrical tour (BFI, Park Circus)

24 / 25 July

David Lean Conference, Queen Mary University of London. Gathering together film-makers, writers, scholars and people who knew Lean, this conference will offer a broad range of perspectives. Papers welcome on individual films, conditions of production, literary adaptation, key collaborations, as well as all other aspects of Lean’s life in the cinema.


ITVDVD release The David Lean Centenary Collection. Optimum Releasing issue The Sound Barrier and Hobson’s Choice on DVD

2 – 3 August

Public screenings of a selection of four restored prints of David Lean films at BAFTA’s headquarters on 195 Piccadilly, London


An event in honour of David Lean, presented by BAFTA East Coast in New York City. David Lean Season on Film4, including restored prints. Opening of The David Lean Library at the National Film and Television School - Generously supported by the David Lean Foundation, the light and airy David Lean Library is a central feature of the School’s new building, completed in time for the new academic year starting at the end of January 2008. As well as increased space for books and study, the new Library provides improved storage facilities for the School’s collections, including room for many years of growth in audio-visual material.

Date TBC

BAFTA David Lean Centenary Lecture - Since 2001, the David Lean Foundation has generously supported BAFTA’s high profile annual film lecture at 195 Piccadilly designed to educate, inform and inspire practitioners by providing insight into the experiences of some of the world’s most compelling filmmakers. Previous lectures have been given by Sydney Pollack, Robert Altman, Ken Loach, John Boorman, Woody Allen, Oliver Stone and David Lynch. The lecturer for 2008 has yet to be announced.

Showing Soon; All Change for Mills & Lockwood, Ken Russell at The Beeb, It’s Hammer Time… March 3, 2008

Posted by John Hodson in : DVD News & Info, Showing Soon , 5 comments

Showing Soon in the U.K.

More news of (mainly classic) film and TV releases on DVD in R2… 

Odeon release Richard Murdoch and William Kendall in Charles Saunders cheap ’n cheerful 1959 comedy Strictly Confidential and Joseph Losey’s 1957 BAFTA nominated capital punishment drama Time Without Pity (already available in R1 from Home Vision), with Michael Redgrave and Leo McKern, next month (April); Losey fans might like to know that his 1975 melodrama The Romantic Englishwoman, with Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson, has just been released by Slamdunk Media.

At the end of March, Shameless unleash George Hilton in 1971’s Tonino Valerii’s giallo My Dear Killer (Mio caro assassino).

A few more details on the Mike Leigh Collection mentioned in the last Showing Soon, and coming April, from Spirit Entertainment:

Fans will be thrilled that Leigh’s award-winning classic Naked makes its first UK DVD appearance, as does his 1971 feature Bleak Moments. Also included is the recently unavailable Career Girls. The box set includes a 56-page companion booklet with a complete filmography, stills and quotes, plus a bonus DVD. This comprises specially commissioned footage of Mike Leigh in conversation with twelve of his actors, the 2002 broadcast South Bank Show on Leigh, and his controversial 1991 London Film Festival trailer.

It seems that Spirit Entertainment, by the way, are the outfit responsible for last year’s Ken Loach box sets.

What was I saying recently about Optimum and ITVDVD chopping and changing, not just release dates (Optimum’s proposed disc of Seven Days To Noon is a veritable movable feast…), but specs? According to several etailers, ITVDVD has reduced May’s John Mills Centenary Collection Volume 2 from nine discs to eight; out has gone This Happy Breed - which, to be honest, you should have in your collections by now - plus (for shame) Peter Penrose, and, astonishingly in view of the UK rights residing in Warner hands, in comes Ryan’s Daughter. Colour me puzzled…

Meanwhile, coming from Optimum in May (hopefully) more Ealing in the shape of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph’s 1953 boxing drama The Square Ring, with Jack Warner, Robert Beatty & Bill Owen.

I should say that the above mentioned chunnering about changing came about partly thanks to a tip from poster Gary Treharne who told me that ITVDVD’s Margaret Lockwood Collection has been reduced from an eight disc set to six since it was mentioned in Showing Soon recently. Both the Technicolor Jassy and Val Guest’s I’ll Be Your Sweetheart have unaccountably been given the boot, it seems.

May, and Tartan release the Paul Verhoeven Collection (5 Discs). The blurb:

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is one of the most challenging, provocative, and controversial European filmmakers working in Hollywood today. Before a string of US box office hits that include Robocop, Total Recall and Basic Instinct, Verhoeven directed five of the most critically acclaimed and successful films in Dutch history. The five films included in this collection are all filled with the raw sexuality, incredible performances and unique visual style that make him one of the most fascinating filmmakers in cinema today.

Business is Business (1971): A bawdy but sympathetic look at the lives of two Amsterdam prostitutes, Business Is Business was Verhoeven’s film debut.

Turkish Delight(1973): Voted Best Dutch Film of the Century, Rutger Hauer stars as Erik Vonk, a free spirited sculptor who enters into a passionate affair with the beautiful Olga (Monique van de Ven).

Katie Tippel (1975): A young girl Katie moves to Amsterdam in 1881 with her impoverished family, and is led into prostitution in order to survive.

Soldier Of Orange (1977): A gripping World War II tale about the Nazi invasion of Holland and its effects upon six wealthy, boisterous college students.

The Fourth Man (1983): Christine is young, beautiful and rich. Her three husbands all died tragically and mysteriously. It’s time for Christine to find her fourth man…

If your tastes run to the, well, lets face it, the irredeemably seedy you’ll lap up Icon Entertainment’s The Adventures Of… Collection come June (I’m afraid I’m now unable to type anything without it seeming a deliberate double entendre…), thrust deep inside the box (sorry) you can grope around in schoolboy fashion for The Adventures Of A Plumber’s Mate, The Adventures Of A Taxi Driver and The Adventures Of A Private Eye.

Watch the (slightly curdled) cream of British comedy lower themselves deeper than a turd in a Paris sewer; if I tell you that, for the latter title, the cast includes Christopher Neil (as our hero ‘Bob West’), Suzy Kendall, Harry H. Corbett, Diana Dors (’Mrs. Horne’; geddit?), Fred Emney, Liz Fraser, Ian Lavender, Jon Pertwee, Adrienne Posta (sigh…), Willie Rushton, and Irene Handl as ‘Miss Friggin’ (I’m not making this up), you’ll get some idea of what’s in store. And one of the gags involves sexual penetration by snake. Oo-er missussssssss.

Ealing they are not; by comparison the ‘Carry On’ films appear as if penned by Michael Frayn, the ‘Confessions’ films far more modest and demure. To attempt to stand in their corner for a second, they are I suppose fascinating sociological time capsules of Britain as it stood, proud and erect (or flaccid and limp, depending on your viewpoint, and which scene of the film you’re watching) some three decades ago. However, this may not be the way you want to remember it…

A little more on that Otto Preminger double header coming from the BFI at the end of March:

Two films by Otto Preminger, Margin for Error (1943) and A Royal Scandal (1945) will be released together on a double-disc DVD by the BFI in association with Twentieth Century Fox and Hollywood Classics on 31 March.

A fiercely independent producer-director, Otto Preminger as much as any other filmmaker changed the face of Hollywood forever. The two early films in this set offer great insight into the working methods of the Austrian director who went on to create classic masterpieces such as Laura (1944) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959).

In Margin for Error, wisecrackin’ Jewish cop Moe Finkelstein (Milton Berle) has just been put in charge of guarding the proto-Nazi German embassy in New York. He encounters the egoistical, villainous consul (a scene-stealing performance by Otto Preminger himself), his American wife Sophie (Joan Bennett) who is desperate for a divorce, and the Consul’s secretary, the sheltered Baron Von Alvenstor whose blind allegiance to his motherland is being severely tested by both his boss’s increasingly maddening power-hungry pursuits and his own growing affection for Sophie.

A Royal Scandal is a risqué comedy set at the height of the Russian dynasty that features a rare appearance from Tallulah Bankhead in one of her finest roles as Empress Catherine the Great. There is also a hilarious cameo from Vincent Price, a sparkling script and the stunning black and white cinematography that has come to mark Otto Preminger’s work.

The DVDs are accompanied by a fully illustrated 14-page booklet with film essays by Philip Kemp, a director biography and cast and credit details.

The BBFC has passed three David Niven vehicles for Optimum; Happy Go Lovely, Happy Ever After & Bonnie Prince Charlie. Odeon have had Wolf Rilla’s The Scamp certificated; the 1957 drama stars Richard Attenborough, Terence Morgan and Dorothy Alison.

2|entertain continue with their ‘Doctor Who’ archive releases May, cashing in, presumably on the return of an old foe in the next series of ‘new Who’. The Doctor Who - Bred For War Box Set is a Sontaran-themed collection, containing the stories The Time Warrior, The Sontaran Experiment, The Invasion Of Time and The Two Doctors. This ambles along at the same time as the Tom Baker story The Invasion of Time is also released separately.

Other TV series releases upcoming include Lorna Doone from Acorn in May, The Two Ronnies - Series 4, Terry And June - Series 8 and Stig Of The Dump (May), In Sickness And In Health - Series 1 (June) both from 2|entertain, plus Murder Most English (Acorn) also June. You may (or may not) like to note that also coming May are The Complete Adventures Of Rin Tin Tin (12 Discs) from Revelation; 65 episodes ‘remastered in brilliant colour with all new music and effects!’ Woof! What a (crayoned in and generally messed around with) dog…

Courtesy of the Criterion Forum, regarding what’s upcoming on Eureka’s frabjous Masters of Cinema label in R2 (but you won’t thank me for it). If I said the following clues were cryptic, it would be akin to equating Carol Vorderman with an Enigma codebreaker:

“Later in 2008, in addition to releasing previously announced titles (including our SILENT LUBITSCH box set, PHANTOM, VAMPYR, and MAD DETECTIVE), we shall also be releasing previously unannounced MoC titles made in the years:

“1924, 1931, 1932, 1963, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1969, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1997, 1998, 2004.

“by directors whose surnames begin with:

“A, D, F, G, J, L, M, M, P, R, T, V (only two of which have films in the MoC Series already).

– and there’s more to come…”

Blimey; that narrows it down then…

Showing Soon in the U.S.

As you are probably aware, I don’t report many upcoming R1 discs - R1 seems to be pretty well served in this respect elsewhere - but these recent snippets caught my eye. First, at the BBC America website, the DVDs In the Works section reports that a Ken Russell at the BBC Collection is in the pipeline:

Ken Russell at the BBC

When this visionary director burst upon the international scene in 1969 with his bold adaptation of Women in Love, American filmgoers might have imagined that his extraordinary style came out of nowhere. BBC audiences, on the other hand, were able to see his style develop over a number of years through his startling biographies of artistic figures. Russell’s approach was determined by a desire to knock the dust off the biofilm genre: “The whole idea had degenerated into a series of third-rate clichés. I wanted to dress people in old clothes and do it in a totally unreal way, and thus make it more real than ever, and in the process send up this new civil service/academic way of doing films.”

Our collection includes two early films starring Oliver Reed, The Debussy Film and Dante’s Inferno about Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as Always on Sunday about Henri Rousseau, Isadora: The Biggest Dancer in the World, A Song of Summer about Frederick Delius, and Dance of the Seven Veils about Richard Strauss.

The BFI’s R2 iterations of A Song of Summer and Elgar (odd that this is not included) appear to have fallen out of print, so this is particularly welcome. And, of course, the usual order of things BBC wise is that if it’s happening across The Pond, there’s usually a U.K. version in the offing…

Some compensation, then, for the fact that The Devils was spotted on Ken Russell's The DevilsWarner’s U.S. press and P.R. site recently and after the joyous news was reported - complete with lurid cover art - on several internet sites and fora, a Warners exec came out with a statement that it had been ‘a mistake’, it is not, after all, on the slate. The genie is out of the bottle however; if nothing else it proves that they have been working on the film, which, I suppose, is good enough in itself; quick, get Ken in front a camera for some sort of interview for the DVD, or a commentary - he’s not getting any younger you know…

Meanwhile, Hammer fans rejoice. DVD Drive-in reports:

Hammer Adventure Set Coming from Sony!

No exact street date has been confirmed, but this Summer, Sony will release a box set of Hammer Films’ costume adventures originally released theatrically by Columbia Pictures. The films in the set include Terence Fisher’s STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY, TERROR OF THE TONGS, PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER and DEVIL SHIP PIRATES. All films except for STRANGLERS star Christopher Lee. Extras will include three separate commentaries with legendary Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, as well as some to-be-announced short subjects. More details to follow in the coming months.

There are also rumblings about a second R1 set from Sony, largely featuring previously unreleased Columbia distributed Hammer titles starring Peter Cushing. We’ll see.

And Finally…

…for this edition of Showing Soon, Digital Spy is reporting some good news for two (at least) British classics…

Sky is paying for new high definition versions of Zulu and The Italian Job in a push to get British movies remastered in the format.

Sky Movies found many classic titles were not available in HD as it planned a season to mark Sir Michael Caine’s 75th birthday. It ordered the two films from Paramount Home Entertainment UK to air on Sky Movies HD1 later this month.

It could also kick-start a wide-ranging digital remastering process which improves the quality of films broadcast on TV even if they are not shown in HD.

Sky Movies will hold a premiere of The Italian Job HD in London and regional screenings around his birthday on March 14. It will also air several of his other films and new retrospective Michael Caine… From Alfie to Zulu.

Sir Michael said as an HD fan he was pleased with the plans: “I love HD, it’s so difficult to watch anything else once you’ve watched it in HD. Of course it’s very unforgiving, especially on young beautiful ladies, but thank god I’m old, I don’t care… I’ll be recording the whole season.”

Sky Movies director Ian Lewis said it was important the HD remastering process was continued: “Watching a classic title remastered in HD is like viewing a restored painting. The experience is deeper, more immersive and ultimately far more satisfying.

“Yet we found that many great classic films, particularly British titles, are still to be re-mastered. These films are a part of our cultural heritage and it’s vital that they are made available to be seen in the best possible format.

“Sky are now pro-actively looking at opportunities to re-master other classic titles, particularly British product, to ensure the British film archive doesn’t get left behind in a high definition world.”

Paramount’s latest U.K. remaster of Zulu in SD is bloody marvellous; I can only imagine what it will look like in HD - I feel myself being drawn irrevocably towards the Blu-side… happy birthday Sir Michael…

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