Saturday, January 05, 2013

Fox Cinema Archives Update

The Fox Cinema Archives line which debuted late last spring has continued to release a steady stream of interesting titles.

For the most part, this has been good news. I've now reviewed a few hard-to-find, entertaining films from the '40s which were released in the FCA line and have been happy with both the films and the DVDs themselves. These titles include THE MAN I MARRIED (1940), SECRET AGENT OF JAPAN (1942), THEY CAME TO BLOW UP AMERICA (1943), and DEEP WATERS (1948). I enjoyed them all and think that THE MAN I MARRIED and DEEP WATERS, in particular, were excellent films which should be more widely seen.

Unfortunately it appears that Fox is releasing many of their '50s widescreen titles in pan and scan, as discussed in a thread at the Home Theater Forum, as well as in comments to my review of SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941) -- which incidentally isn't out yet from the Archive, but perhaps in 2013?

In any event, caution should be exercised when purchasing films released in the widescreen era, 1953 and beyond. Perhaps if the program is successful Fox will get its act together and release the widescreen films in their proper ratio. I think everyone understands that in this brave new "MOD" world many films are being released without remastering or restoration, but I do think consumers have a right to the minimal expectation that we won't be sold pan and scan prints!

It was very disappointing, as just one example, to read at the Home Theater Forum that THE BIG SHOW (1961), one of the last Esther Williams films I need to see, was released in pan and scan.

All this said, I'd love to see classic film fans continue supporting the Fox Cinema Archives releases from the '30s, '40s, and early '50s which are being put out in the proper ratio. There are many interesting titles currently available and many more that desperately need an official release, such as CENTENNIAL SUMMER (1946), MARGIE (1946), and APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (1948), as my own starter wish list.

Last October I called attention to eight Fox Cinema Archives titles which were reviewed here in years past, when they were only available from Fox Movie Channel, old VHS releases, and the like. To date there isn't a central website where it's easy to track the new FCA releases -- I recommend regularly checking Lou Lumenick's DVD Extra column in the New York Post for news in this regard -- so I thought I'd similarly call attention to a new group of films released over the last few weeks.

My review is linked at each title, and an Amazon link to the Fox Cinema Archives DVD-R can be found at the end of each review. I want to emphasize I haven't yet seen any of these films in their Fox Cinema Archives versions.

LITTLE OLD NEW YORK (1940) is a mildly engrossing, heavily fictionalized story of Robert Fulton and the steam engine, starring Richard Greene, Fred MacMurray, and, in a straight dramatic role, Alice Faye.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? (1945) is an obscure Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin musical starring Fred MacMurray, Joan Leslie, and June Haver. Although it stars a trio of favorites, this movie didn't really work for me; however, Lou Lumenick is an enthusiast.

THAT LADY IN ERMINE (1948) is a highly entertaining piece of Technicolor silliness from director Ernst Lubitsch, who died during production. It stars Betty Grable, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Cesar Romero. It's a crazy movie but I really enjoy it.

IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING (1949) is an amusing baseball fantasy starring Ray Milland and Paul Douglas. The professor's wood-repelling ball also raised ethical issues for me, although the movie itself skirts around them.

HALF ANGEL (1951) is a cute romantic comedy with Loretta Young and Joseph Cotten, with Young playing a prim nurse who unleashes a second personality when she sleepwalks.

DREAMBOAT (1952) reveals college professor Clifton Webb has a secret past as a swashbuckling silent movie star. Ginger Rogers and Anne Francis costar. This one was a lot of fun.

Other movies now out from FCA which have not been reviewed here to date include an old favorite, THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1939), starring Don Ameche, Loretta Young, and Henry Fonda; HAPPY LAND (1943) with Don Ameche, Frances Dee, and Ann Rutherford; SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (1946) starring Maureen O'Hara and John Payne; and FATHER WAS A FULLBACK (1949) costarring Fred MacMurray and Maureen O'Hara.

I have purchased two more FCA releases, which I'll be reviewing here in the future: THE BRASHER DOUBLOON (1947) and WAY OF A GAUCHO (1952). (Update: My review of THE BRASHER DOUBLOON has now been posted.)


Blogger Melissa Clark said...

I ordered "Deep Waters" recently since I'm in the midst of a Dana Andrews kick right now. Looking forward to seeing that one.

"Margie" is on the top of my list for them to release, too. Such a wonderful movie.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

MC, I'd love to know what you think of DEEP WATERS when you get a chance to see it. I loved the Maine location shooting.

Hopefully we'll see a significant number of good movies out from the FCA this year. I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (1951) is another title which just came to mind that I'd love to see released.

Best wishes,

1:43 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I believe I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN had an earlier Fox DVD release before the MOD program, though maybe it was only VHS.

But speaking of Henry King Americana, Fox MOD did release his very beautiful if melancholy WAIT TILL THE SUN SHINES NELLIE earlier. This is 1952, no pan and scan issues and I would highly recommend it.

Why they are waiting on MARGIE I'll never know. They must know how much so many of us want it.

Moving on from King to Jacques Tourneur, Laura I'm looking forward to your piece on WAY OF A GAUCHO. This is one I did buy (also 1952) and watched again a few weeks ago--it was the first Tourneur I ever saw--a film I've always loved.

3:07 PM  
Blogger James Corry said...

So far I've gotten three of the FCA made-on-demand DVD-R's. They are: "Tampico" "Inferno" and "Mr. Scoutmaster." "Tampico" is "passable", it's from the same source material that has been shown on the Fox Movie Channel. Obviously not re-mastered or restored, but nevertheless it certainly is watchable. "Inferno" looks and sounds fantastic. "Inferno" was originally released in 3-D and this MOD disc. is certainly not 3-D but "Inferno" is a good movie anyway, even in 2-D. "Mr. Scoutmaster" begins with a disclaimer that the film has been "modified from it's original theatrical version" (?!?)"Mr. Scoutmaster" was released in 1953 and was shot just prior to the studio going over to CinemaScope so it would have been 1:37 ratio anyway and shown on TV at 1:33 (which is what this disc. is)so the disclaimer doesn't make sense. "Mr. Scoutmaster" also looks and sounds terrific.
I would love to see the FCA release "White Witch Doctor", "Moss Rose" and "Mr. 880" for starters....and get their act together and release the CinemaScope films in their PROPER screen ratio and mag. stereo sound.


7:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Blake!

If there was an earlier DVD release of I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN it passed me by; that's one I'd really love to own. Borrowed my dad's VHS copy last time I saw it. What a great movie.

Looking forward to seeing King's THE GUNFIGHTER this year. I'm not familiar with WAIT TILL THE SUN SHINES, NELLIE and would like to check it out.

Very much looking forward to WAY OF A GAUCHO -- I've always loved Gene Tierney and have just been getting acquainted with Rory Calhoun in recent months. It's good to know how much you like it, Blake!

Brad, I appreciate your feedback on the Fox DVDs you've seen very much, as I'm sure other readers do! They are all of interest to me due to the casts. (Tried to record MR. SCOUTMASTER on a rare TCM showing a few months ago and my DVR went haywire! Love Frances Dee.)

That is very odd about the MR. SCOUTMASTER disclaimer, and yet at the same time maybe not surprising -- I've seen that very same disclaimer on the occasional film on Fox Movie Channel in the very same situation, when it wasn't a widescreen film!

I just learned of the title MOSS ROSE when I saw Peggy Cummins speak at the Egyptian last spring -- sounds so interesting, and I really like Victor Mature. (Speaking of which, I preordered THE FILMS OF VICTOR MATURE which was due to be published a month ago, and it apparently has not yet been released...)

Thanks again for sharing the info on those discs, Brad!

Best wishes,

9:16 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Hope you get to see TH BIG SHOW which uses the plot theme of House of Strangers. I haven't seen it in a l g time but remember liking Esther Williams and Cliff Robertaon, and the circus setting.
And,Laura, I am thrilled you have added my blog to your listings.Thank you so much.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Vienna, I'm fascinated to learn that THE BIG SHOW was inspired by HOUSE OF STRANGERS, a movie I loved. I'm even more curious to see it now!

You're very welcome, I was happy to add you to my blogroll and appreciate you linking to me!

Best wishes,

10:42 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

The Western BROKEN LANCE (1954) was also based on HOUSE OF STRANGERS and well-worth checking out--the plot just made for a Western--with Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Richard Widmark, Jean Peters and Katy Jurado, directed by Edward Dmytryk. Had a regular Fox DVD release, so letterboxed for CinemaScope.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for mentioning that, Blake, I saw BROKEN LANCE a few years ago -- before I saw HOUSE OF STRANGERS -- and had forgotten all about the connection. I saw BROKEN LANCE via a pan & scan VHS release so I should revisit it in the future as it was meant to be seen. :)

Best wishes,

1:29 PM  

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