Saturday, December 15, 2007

SOME LIKE IT HOT (Billy Wilder, 1959, USA) Marilyn Monroe gets top billing though Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis get more screen time in this Billy Wilder classic, considered by many to be the best comedy film ever made! And I am one of those many. The film begins in prohibition era Chicago where musicians Jerry & Joe accidentally witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and barely escape from the gangsters. They seize the opportunity to join a band traveling to Florida but there's a's an all girls band. So they become girls. There they meet Sugar and both fall desperately in love but still can't reveal their secrets because Spats Columbo and his gang are hot on their tails. Billy Wilder parodies every convention of the gangster film (even shooting in black & white) and doesn't miss a trick as our heroes struggle to be heroines. It all ends with one of the funniest one liners in film history! (A)
DVD: But how does the DVD look? Stop worrying, MGM got this one right! An anamorphic High-definition transfer in the appropriate 1:66:1 aspect ration looks fantastic. This is one of the best black & white transfers I've ever seen: Nice detail, good contrast, very little debris (if any), no discernable artifacting. Usually older films tend to loose detail or create "blocking" in dark scenes but I didn't see any problems here. It's obvious that enough money and care went into this remastered edition and I haven't' even mentioned the entire second disc yet. Disc two contains no less than two new documentaries and a full length commentary by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon. This DVD is absolutely a must-have for any film aficionado.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Billy Wilder, 1944, USA) A film noir masterpiece! Director Billy Wilder and writer Raymond Chandler adapt the James Cain novel with unforgettable results. Fred McMurray is Walter Neff, an insurance agent who falls for Phyllis and is manipulated into planning and carry-out the murder of her husband after he unknowingly signs an accidental death policy...with double indemnity if the accident involves a train. Barbara Stanwyck plays the femme fatale with equal parts innocence and evil as she leads Walter down the path of destruction. The great Edward G. Robinson plays Barton Keyes, Walter's friend and co-worker whose gut instinct can detect a fraud a mile away...and he's on to Phyllis's' scheme. Almost. Typical noir-ish voice over, flashbacks, and quick-witted dialogue define this classic and help build the tension until the fatal climax! (A)
DVD: Universal fumbled on this one though they recovered for a loss. It took Universal years to get this to DVD and they put out an average looking disc with just a few extras. They included the throwaway 1973 remake on the second disc so they could pad the release for two DVDs. How does it look? better than it has before but still not very consistent; I have seen other films from this period look much better on DVD. The black levels are a bit gray, blemishes are evident on the transfer, and there is an annoying pulsing effect in some of the darker scenes. The mono soundtrack is crisp and clear without much noise which is important because the dialogue is snappy and quick. Overall a disappointment on disc but this is the only release we're going to get.

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