"War and Peace" (1966-67)

July 2019

Sergei Bondarchuk’s Restored Masterpiece Dazzles in a New BD from Criterion

The Criterion Collection 983
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
****

Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace is in the DNA of all Russians. I don’t know if it’s true any longer, but in the 1960s, when this film version was released, every Russian teenage girl wanted to be Natasha Rostova, here radiantly portrayed by Lyudmila Saveleva -- at least, that’s a view supported by one of the excellent extras Criterion includes in this Blu-ray Disc edition.

Read more ...

"The Heiress"

June 2019

An Oscar-Winning Film Gets the Criterion Treatment

The Criterion Collection 974
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
****

The Heiress, released in 1949, was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Oliva de Havilland; Best Art Direction/Set Direction, Black-and-White, John Meehan, Harry Horner, Emil Kuri; Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, Edith Head and Gile Steele; and Best Music, Aaron Copland. Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s screenplay was based on their play, which in turn was based on the novel Washington Square, by Henry James. In addition to de Havilland, The Heiress starred Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, and Miriam Hopkins. William Wyler, whose The Best Years of Our Lives had won no fewer than seven Oscars only three years before, directed with a sure hand.

Read more ...

“A Face in the Crowd”

May 2019

A Definitive Blu-ray Edition of Elia Kazan’s Cautionary Tale

The Criterion Collection 970
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

In the summer of 1953, Andy Griffith was in Manteo, North Carolina, playing Sir Walter Raleigh in The Lost Colony, the longest-running outdoor production in the history of American theater. That same year, as Deacon Andy Griffith, he recorded the comedy monologue “What It Was, Was Football” for Colonial Records. It was only Colonial’s third recording, and when Capitol Records took it over and put their own label on it, the record became one of the most popular comedy singles of all time, with sales of almost 800,000. I was 12 years old, and Colonial was on a street in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that made a T intersection with the tiny street on which I lived with my parents. My dad knew someone who had a connection, and took me down to meet Griffith. He was warm and friendly, pretty much like the character he later played on TV in The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968).I liked him a lot.

Read more ...

"To Sleep with Anger"

April 2019

Criterion Scores with a Brilliant Blu-ray of a Neglected Masterpiece

The Criterion Collection 963
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Extras
***

Although African-American writer and film director Charles Burnett has long been active as a filmmaker and is highly regarded by his peers, his work is not well known to the general public, especially white audiences. He’s mostly been involved in making documentaries and dramatic films for television that have seemed to fly under the radar. Now, having seen To Sleep with Anger (1990), I’m inclined to think he’s one of our greatest directors.

Read more ...

"The Magnificent Ambersons"

March 2019

Orson Welles's Truncated Masterpiece Looks Great on Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection 952
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
****

RKO Radio Pictures cooked up this truncated version of Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) while the director was away in South America, filming his next (unfinished) film, It’s All True. At first Welles tried to communicate with RKO via long-distance calls, using fellow director Robert Wise as go-between, but to no avail: RKO made drastic cuts, rearranged the order of scenes, shot new scenes -- some directed by Wise -- and tacked on a sappy, happy ending.

Read more ...

"Horror Express"

February 2019

A Cult Classic Done Right from Arrow Films

Arrow Films AV179-TM
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

Produced in Spain in 1972 for a measly $300,000, Horror Express has received terrible treatment since its release. It flopped in Spain but was better received in the UK, where it got excellent reviews. The US release was a disaster. The distributor had so little interest that it provided misleading poster art and, according to some reports, released a workprint to theaters.

Read more ...

"Forty Guns"

January 2019

Barbara Stanwyck as The Woman in Charge

Criterion Collection 954
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
****

Forty Guns (1957) opens in silence. There’s an overhead long shot of the arid prairie, a small wagon crossing it like an ant. In a medium shot, the wagon is revealed as carrying three men whom we later learn are the Bonell brothers: Griff (Barry Sullivan), Wes (Gene Barry), and Chico (Robert Dix). The sound of hooves is heard, getting louder and louder. Suddenly, from around a bend in the road, Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) appears all in black, on a galloping white horse, leading 40 horsemen in two ranks. They split up to surround the wagon, and the point of view nervously shifts between high and low shots, emphasizing the tenseness of the situation. Drummond won’t appear again onscreen for another 20 minutes, but . . . what an entrance! Stanwyck was given one of the most memorable introductions ever caught on film.

Read more ...

"Lost Horizon"

December 2018

Sony Pictures 51742
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
**1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

Most readers know the plot of Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937), based on the novel by James Hilton. British government envoy Robert Conway (Ronald Colman) escapes a war-torn Eastern European country, only to discover that he and his four companions have been kidnapped and transported to Shangri-La, a mythical land in the Himalayas. Conway, a pacifist, almost immediately feels at home in this land that has no rulers, no strife, no war, and little of the other baggage of civilization.

Read more ...

"Dragon Inn"

November 2018

Criterion Succeeds with an Early Wuxia Masterpiece

The Criterion Collection 937
Format: 4K BD

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
**1/2

Extras
***1/2

In film, inns, taverns, and barrooms are usually plain, innocuous settings with an undercurrent of mystery that often attract conniving patrons who ramp up the action and turn them into battlegrounds. You find them in all cultures. Remember Treasure Island and the Benbow Inn? The titular establishment in this film is an isolated, peaceful inn with wooden tables, a bar on the first floor, and, on the second, a balcony leading to bedrooms -- nice accommodations for travelers.

Read more ...

"My Man Godfrey"

October 2018

The Criterion Collection 114
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***

Extras
***

In any conversation about screwball film comedies, My Man Godfrey is sure to be mentioned. Released in 1936, at the height of the Great Depression, it derided the rich as frivolous and empty-headed, and boosted good opinions of the poor, while still being breezy and riotously funny. One wonders if any of the ennobled poor could afford to see it.

Read more ...

More Articles ...

More SoundStage! Videos

  • SoundStage! Shorts -  Paradigm's Dual Voice Coils (July 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Audio Research's CD6SE and CD9SE CD Players (May 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Phono Stages - 1) Why You Need One (April 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Phono Stages - 2) Cartridge Types (April 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Phono Stages - 3) More on Cartridges (April 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Phono Stages - 4) Settings (April 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Phono Stages - 5) Internal vs. External (April 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Phono Stages - 6) External Entry Level to Extreme (April 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Record Care/Cleaning - 1) Hundreds of Thousands of Records (Mar. 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Record Care/Cleaning - 2) Handling Records (Mar. 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Record Care/Cleaning - 3) Record & Stylus Brushes (Mar. 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Record Care/Cleaning - 4) How To Use Record & Stylus Brushes (Mar. 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Record Care/Cleaning - 5) Spin Clean (Mar. 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Record Care/Cleaning - 6) VPI (Mar. 2019)
  • SoundStage! Expert Record Care/Cleaning - 7) Kirmuss Audio (Mar. 2019)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)