BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE WARNERS’ ARCHIVE

By • Sep 11th, 2009 •

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Many classic film buffs enter a store like Best Buy or Borders, and all they can find are the most well known classic films such as CASABLANCA, GONE WITH THE WIND, or Hitchcock, Shirley Temple and John Wayne box sets. Why can’t you find the lesser known, and many times equally superb and important titles? Simply, there are not enough of us film buffs out there to make a DVD release of, let’s say, Cary Grant in MR. LUCKY, profitable.

Warner Brothers came up with a brilliant idea – make films from their archive available on the internet solely through their website. Here you can find almost 300 (and I know the number is still growing!) cult films, overlooked classics, rare oddities ranging from the silent era to the early 1990’s. These are no frills DVDs. There are no special features (sometimes the original theatrical trailer is included). All the films come in a faux-blue-marble designed container with just the title, lead actors names, and a small box featuring artwork in the center. However, when you are looking for a rare film, that’s more than enough.

Kudos to whomever at Warners is going through their archive. This collection includes such ancient gems as THE BETTER OLE (1926), a funny silent slapstick featuring Chaplin’s equally funny brother Syd, THE TRAIL OF ’98 (1928) a silent epic about the Gold Rush where four stuntmen died during production, BEAST OF THE CITY (1931), a wild pre-code sex-and-bloody-violence gangland potboiler featuring sexy Jean Harlow and tough guy Walter Huston, and WONDER BAR (1934), an Al Jolson romp which ends with a most un-PC Busby Berkeley musical number that will really make you go “What The…?!”.

Sadly forgotten, sometimes wildly experimental films from the 60’s are now here for you to purchase – Warren Beatty in KALEIDOSCOPE (1966), Ursula Andress as She (1965 – the Hammer version with Christopher Lee), and one of my favorites from the Golden era of TV-Movies – BAD RONALD (1974).

BAD RONALD, which has a growing cult following, looks quickly written and filmed, but it has a creepy Gerald Ford era charm you can’t resist. Weird kid on the block Ronald Whilby (Scott Jacoby) accidentally kills a neighbor. His mom hides him in a hidden room in their old house. The mother dies, and Ronald stays hidden in the house, even after a wholesome white-bread family moves in. Fun movie this BAD RONALD.

Recent films deserving a second look are here too – Luciano Pavarotti in the operatic tragedy, Yes, Giorgio (1982), George Segal and Robert Morley in WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE? (1978) and Robert Aldrich’s last film – ALL THE MARBLES (1983) – featuring amazon female mud-wrestlers, as well as Peter Falk and Burt Young. Ads for the archive promise the addition of DON JUAN (1926), the first film to use synchronized sound effects. We’re quietly drooling in anticipation.

The only negatives I have are technical. The Warner’s Archive website takes a long time to boot up. It seems also, in an attempt to save money, that these DVDs are printed as the orders come in, meaning technically they are not quite on par with factory-pressed DVDs. Several DVD’s I ordered from the archive exhibit minor freezing (only for a second at most) and minor digital cubing. Despite this, the film-to-DVD transfers look beautiful. The great cinematographer James Wong Howe lensed THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (Raoul Walsh/James Cagney), which is available here, and the DVD catches the fine care he put into this film.

Each title with shipping will run you about twenty-five bucks. They do offer sweet deals for buying in bulk and box sets. This is a wonderful way to build a serious DVD collection!

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2 Responses »

  1. Wonderful! Thanks for posting this. I have “YES GEORGIO” on laserdisc and tell ya the truth, I love that film-korny fun!! “BAD RONALD”-great example from the era of TV films (He wasn’t bad-just misunderstood!). Warner Brothers has plenty of trasures to share (like “RETURN OF DR. X)!

  2. Wonderful! Thanks for posting this-a great way to see old favs!!!!

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