"Moonrise"

June 2018

The Criterion Collection Tries to Resurrect Frank Borzage on BD

The Criterion Collection 921
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
**1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***

Extras
**1/2

I seldom listen to music when driving my little bright-red 2008 Toyota Yaris. There, old-time radio is king, and for the past month I’ve been listening to The Chase and Sanborn Hour, with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. This variety show, broadcast from 1929 to 1948, ran the gamut from humor to drama to pop song to opera arias sung in their original languages. From 1937 to 1939 the show was hosted by Nelson Eddy, but listening today, I wonder what all the excitement was about: Eddy bleats his top notes, shamelessly ruins bonbons from Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, and sings the most racially insensitive rendition of “Shortnin’ Bread” ever. One day, when Eddy was on vacation, he was replaced by baritone Donald Dickson, whose voice was worthy of the Metropolitan Opera -- where, indeed, Dickson sang in the mid- to late 1940s.

Read more ...

"Killer Klowns from Outer Space"

May 2018

A Cult Classic Gets a Classy Revival

Arrow Video
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
****1/2

Maybe you’re not afraid of clowns, but you may be after watching Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), a unique cult favorite that this year celebrates its 30th anniversary. Or you’ll appreciate this movie’s outright wackiness and dark humor. Or both. Written by the Chiodo Brothers -- Stephen, Charles, and Edward -- and directed by Stephen, it’s a skillful mix of stop-motion animation and live action -- the seams are hard to spot.

Read more ...

"King of Jazz"

April 2018

A Glorious Restoration from Universal/NBC and Criterion

The Criterion Collection 915
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***

Extras
****

Today, Paul Whiteman (1890-1967) is mostly remembered as the man who commissioned and first performed George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. But in the 1920s he was a superstar comparable to such contemporaries as Babe Ruth (1895-1948). He sold a million copies of every new record, and his frequent diets were front-page news. Whiteman was on the portly side, and didn’t seem to mind critics and fans who called that to everyone’s attention. He was dubbed the “King of Jazz,” yet his music was more dance-hall pop spiced with some jazz elements -- Whiteman himself called it “symphonic jazz.” He and his band, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, led the way to the swing styles of the 1940s. Whiteman’s name was also descriptive of who he was and whom he worked with: although the musicians who created and led jazz itself were black, the faces of the virtuosos in Whiteman’s band were all those of white men -- no African-Americans, and women performed only as singers or dancers.

Read more ...

"Tom Jones"

March 2018

Rollicking Richardson

The Criterion Collection 910
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

In 1963, director Tony Richardson set the cinematic world on its ear with his irreverent film Tom Jones. Looking back, it seems unlikely that any historical genre movie could have brought Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, to such heights of hilarity. Richardson did it by playing against type and treating this work from the mid-18th century as a risqué (for 1963) ribald comedy, complete with sight gags.

Read more ...

"Pulp"

February 2018

Gangsters, 1972 Mediterranean Style

Arrow 02.11.2017
Format: BD and DVD

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***

It’s a delight to watch certain actors at work, regardless of the material, and for me Michael Caine has always been such an artist, using his charming voice, Cockney accent (almost always), and relaxed style to create unforgettable characters. He’s been at it a long time -- his first role was in 1956 -- and has been nominated for an Academy Award six times, and won twice, both times for Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Hannah and Her Sisters (1987) and The Cider House Rules (1999).

Read more ...

"Barry Lyndon"

January 2018

Criterion’s Best-Looking Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection 897
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Extras
****

I first saw Barry Lyndon in its original theatrical release, in December 1975. I thought it was merely okay -- a muted tapestry on which to hang a barrel of cinematic tricks. What a difference 42 years has made! In no small part thanks to this splendid transfer from The Criterion Collection, I now view Barry Lyndon as Stanley Kubrick’s (1928-1999) masterpiece.

Read more ...

"The Big Knife"

December 2017

Hollywood Corruption, 1955 Style

Arrow Academy AA1HA-TM
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
***

Sound Quality
****

Extras
***1/2

The recent allegations of sexual misconduct by Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, and others have come as no shock to film fans. Hollywood’s long history of scandal stretches all the way back to its beginnings in the early years of the 20th century. Rather than being shocked, we’re more likely to see such abuses as just another stumble for Tinseltown. Sad.

Read more ...

"The Breaking Point"

September 2017

Second Filming of a Hemingway Novel Scores on Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection 889
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

The Breaking Point (1950) was Warner Bros.’ second stab at Ernest Hemingway’s novel To Have and Have Not. The better-known earlier version (1944), which shared its title with the novel, featured the onscreen chemistry of Humphrey Bogart and 19-year-old Lauren Bacall. I believe that The Breaking Point is just as good, and one of the best films ever made by its star, John Garfield.

Read more ...

"Lost in America"

August 2017

An Amusing Journey to a Unique Era

The Criterion Collection 887
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***

Lost in America (1985) is a social satire from a period in American history in which many sought to find themselves, usually by letting go of possessions and exploring their spiritual side. David and Linda Howard (Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty) are about to celebrate David’s pending promotion by buying a bigger house and a Mercedes. Instead, David is fired, and decides that he’s now free and that they should sell the house, Linda should quit her job, and they should go on a quest for truth and fulfillment.

Read more ...

"Spotlight on a Murderer"

July 2017

An Oddity from an Unexpected Source

Arrow Films AA011/A-TM
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
*

We have the Criterion Collection to thank for a 21st-century interest in French film director Georges Franju (1912-1987). The release of the black-and-white horror film Eyes Without a Face (1959) singled out Franju as a most interesting artist, and his Judex (1963), also reissued by Criterion, also proved worth watching.

Read more ...

More Articles ...

More SoundStage! Videos

  • 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)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)