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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Literature > Politics > Drama > Thriller > Technology > Murder > Atlas Shrugged, Part One (2011/Fox Blu-ray)/Ray Harryhausen Double Feature (She (1935) + Things To Come (1936)/Legend Blu-ray w/Most Dangerous Game (1932) DVD)

Atlas Shrugged, Part One (2011/Fox Blu-ray)/Ray Harryhausen Double Feature (She (1935) + Things To Come (1936)/Legend Blu-ray w/Most Dangerous Game (1932) DVD)


Picture: B-/B- + C+/Colorized Versions: D     Sound: B-/C+ & C     Extras: D/B-     Films: D/B-/B-/B



Science Fiction is still with us, even though technology and some of what we expected a future might be like is with us, the visions and ideas about the future loom large and the ones that did not come to pass still return to cinema thanks to the confines of the genre.  It is also a genre that has much to say at its best and become political in ways no other can.  A few new Blu-ray releases show us how and the extent of how this can go well or go wrong.


Unhappy with the second Bush Administration, Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly delivered the inane Southland Tales back in 2006.  I knew we were in trouble when it was a film that wanted to say something, but cast the likes of The Rock, Justin Timberlake, the overrated Sarah Michele Gellar and usually outright comic Seann William Scott.  Things got worse when it was more of an anti-Republican diatribe that had major issues dealing with possibilities of the future and twisted things to be essentially a propaganda piece more than an intelligent film.  Now, it is the turn of conservatives and Republicans to be as shallow with a remarkably horrid adaptation of an Ayn Rand classic.


Letting us know we are being set up for more bad cinema, the obnoxiously titled Atlas Shrugged, Part One (2011) is an absolute mess, implicitly blaming the Obama Administration for total collapse of the country (he was against oil, so the country lands up in worldwide war and trains become the new dominant form of transportation?!?) with the same overreaching panic and idiocy the Kelly film had five years ago except that they butcher an important book as part of a larger, more disturbing campaign (that includes fans and persons that are part of a Rand organization) to revise Rand’s work falsely as ultra-Right Wing junk.


Director Paul Johansson and writers Brian Patrick O’Toole & John Agualoro have ruined the book and its context, have no idea what the book is about, what the Science Fiction genre is about and have come up with one of the most feebleminded films of the last few years down to its awful acting, very bad digital effects, laughable dialogue and warmed-over revival of the Modernist look that conveniently flies in the face of the post-modern Blade Runner look (they are fighting the ideology of that film among others) in a truly sloppy, embarrassing mess.  This is worse than I had even heard and runs on and on and on for 97 very loooonnnnggg minutes.


Before the events of 9/11, an event this film handles in odd ways, Francis Coppola was working on a film called Megalopolis that he dropped after 9/11 and lost interest in.  Had that been made, I doubt this wreck would have.  The only question we can ask is, can the next part be even worse?  The thin extras include a slideshow, two making of featurettes and feature length audio commentary by O’Toole, Agualoro and co-producer Harmon Kaslow that is one of the most disposable in home video history.



The Modernist Science Fiction look began with parts of Lang’s Metropolis (1926, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), Fox’s 1930 Sci-Fi Musical Just Imagine and William Cameron Menzies’ 1936 British hit Things To Come based on H.G. Wells’ classic book The Shape Of Things To Come which is surprisingly now on Blu-ray in the odd release dubbed The Ray Harryhausen Double Feature.  As the great stop-motion animator really had nothing to do with either film, it is a new Blu-ray/DVD set from Legend Films featuring three classic films colorized including Things To Come and the 1935 version of She on the Blu-ray and 1932 classic The Most Dangerous Game on a separate DVD.


She (later done as a hit with Ursula Andress in 1965) is about a journey to find immortality and how those who take the journey run into the title character Ayesha, who runs a secret society (here played by Helen Gahagan) and full-blown civilization.  One of several “journey to other mysterious lands” films that were popular at the time and RKO was especially good at making, this holds up better than you might expect and is solid Classical Hollywood filmmaking.


The Most Dangerous Game (co-directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack) is even more successful and one of the most imitated thrillers of all time, but the film is also much more as Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks) is a mad hunter who has moved onto humans and an able-bodied man (Joel McCrea) joins others already there (Robert Armstrong, Eve Trowbride, Fay Wray) are about to find this out the hard way.  Yes, this was issued a while ago on DVD by Criterion (maybe they’ll do a Blu-ray soon?), so this has a so-so low def transfer (we’d rate it a C at best) and the colorized version of this and the two films on Blu-ray (also offered in black and white) are also here all hideously colorized.  Sadly, Mr. Harryhausen has been an advocate of the practice and appears in a very brief interview about bringing color to the films that don’t need them.  We’ll count the DVD as an extra, but with reservations.


So back to Things To Come, British Cinema’s answer to German and Hollywood versions of the future is the biggest production here.  Wells had unprecedented creative control on the production of the film, Menzies is best known for his groundbreaking Production Design on other films but does a good job here with the material covering 100 years of human’s rise, fall, rise and possible permanent fall in a sweeping adaptation of its source book that is older that Atlas by 75 years old, but actually takes itself more seriously, is more effective, has better acting and has more fine moments than it gets credit for.


The biggest point of the film is asking what the price of progress is and it takes the on road in this respect to its credit.  No, it is not perfect and some of its predictions did not come true, others did and some of the technology is obviously dated, yet the ambition and energy embarrasses so many of the hundred-million-dollar digitally-plastered blockbusters with no point we get every month or so.  Raymond Massey, Sir Ralph Richardson, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and many other big names in British cinema (or big names to be) are here and the film deserves more respect than it often gets.  Arthur C. Clarke loved the film, but Stanley Kubrick did not and it is reported that when Clarke got Kubrick to finally see it, Kubrick said he would never take up Clarke on any more of his movie recommendations.  Oh, well.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 30 MBPS digital High Definition image on Atlas is poor and degraded for both style and to apparently accommodate the bad digital work throughout making this surprisingly bad for a new release including some compression, staircasing, slight aliasing and color limits that are all as obnoxious as the final cut.  The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image on She may have problems and the film needs some restoration, but this actually looks as good as Atlas with some good Video Black and a consistent print considering the film’s age.  It is not as good as Criterion’s recent Blu-ray of Island Of Lost Souls (reviewed elsewhere on this site), but not bad considering the circumstances and the best we will see of the film for a while.  The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image on Things is sadly not even that good, yet after dozens of bad public domain DVDs, VHS and even Beta tapes, this is the best edition by default.  Needless to say the film needs major restoration and preservation as it deserves it.


As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Atlas is obviously going to be the best sounding of all the films here as it is much harder to botch the sound, yet the mix is still too much towards the front speakers for my liking.  The rest of the films (including Game on the DVD) have Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that show their age and all deserve lossless restored tracks down the line.  Again, She fares better than Things, but both have had much worse sound.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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