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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > College > Music > Spoof > Murder > Drama > Italian Neo-Realism > High Time (1960/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993/Sony/Umbrella Region 4 PAL DVD Import)/Umberto D. (1952/Criterion Blu-ray)

High Time (1960/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993/Sony/Umbrella Region 4 PAL DVD Import)/Umberto D. (1952/Criterion Blu-ray)


Picture: B/C+/B†††† Sound: B-/C+/B-†††† Extras: C+/C-/B†††† Films: C+/B-/B



PLEASE NOTE: The High Time Blu-ray is limited to 3,000 copies and is available exclusively at the Screen Archives website which can be reached at the link at the end of this review, while this DVD version of Manhattan Murder Mystery is a PAL Region 4 DVD edition and can also be purchased from links listed below.



The male-centered comedy film only works when the lead actor is funny and can be capable of comedy beyond being amusing.What follows are three different films that prove this, even when one of them is playing against Hollywood standards.



Blake Edwards became a well-known and very successful comedy director and High Time (1960) with Bing Crosby is interesting in that it is one of Crosbyís only solo starring efforts.When I told people he made this film, several of them, not knowing the plot, asked me what it was about.I said that he gets bored hanging with Bob Hope, so he seeks out the counterculture and tries LSD!


Of course, that is not the case, but it gets big laughs.In real life, Crosby plays a middle-aged widow and food industry businessman who decides to go back to school and pick up in college.He graduated high school in the 1920s!It is a little more than a one-note comedy and there are a few good gags and funny moments, but somehow not enough to fill its 103 minutes.Still, it is interesting to see him try and be hip, living with Fabian (from the bobby soxer era between serious eras of real Rock Music) and Richard Beymer (of The Diary Of Anne Frank, about to really break out in West Side Story and The Longest Day, all reviewed elsewhere on this site).


There are a few new songs for Crosby to suddenly sing, but they actually are breaks in what is obviously already weak scripting.Tuesday Weld, Nicole Maurey and soon to be Batgirl Yvonne Craig make up the female cast and even Gavin MacLeod shows up, so this is worth a look to get all the laughs and unintentionally funny moments out of it, but donít expect it to hold up overall.


Extras include an isolated music score, Original Theatrical Trailer and nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text with another winning Julie Kirgo essay on the film.



Returning to his comic roots around the time his scandal broke with Mia Farrow, Woody Allenís Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) holds up pretty well two decades later as he and his wife (played by Diane Keaton, replacing Farrow for obvious reasons) are having fun, but he is not one for the arts.She agrees to go to his baseball game, but he walks out on her Wagner concert for personal reasons, but all that is soon put aside when an old couple they know suddenly finds the stamp-collecting husband a widow.The couple starts to suspect it is murder.


Anjelica Houston and Alan Alda help make up the supporting cast and sadly, this is one of Allenís last comedies set in New York City before he started doing more serious films and found NYC too expensive top make his low-budget films in.It is a nice return to form, even though some complained at the time it was regressive, that missed the point.Woody Allen is one of the great comedy directors and he can go back and be funny anytime he wants.He proves that here.A trailer is the only extra.



Finally we have one of Vittorio De Sicaís Italian Neo-Realist classics, Umberto D. (1952) with Carlo Battisti as the title character, an elderly man with a dog, limited resources and few alternatives in life on his pension.After working for the country for 30 years, he is barely getting by, has few friends and now his big-mouthed landlady wants him out if he cannot pay his rent on time.This has much comedy to it, but also some drama, melodrama and eventually, some more profound points about life, living and our worth to ourselves and others, even when we are increasingly invisible to society in general.


Umberto Domenico Ferrari (is that last name supposed to be ironic?) is one of the Italian cinemaís classic characters and the script and directing by De Sica take their time to also make this a character study, as well as an examination of the human condition.Some moments work better than others, but this stands up as among his best work along with Shoeshine and The Bicycle Thief among the best works of the famous key international filmmaker who also had a long, successful character actor career. This new Criterion Blu-ray edition is a major upgrade over the many copies on video and even film I have seen in the past, so it was like seeing the film for the first time and is a must-see film for anyone serious about filmmaking and its art.

Extras include Criterionís always nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text, technical information, reprints of writing on the film by De Sica and Battisti and a new essay by film scholar Stuart Klawans, while the Blu-ray itself adds a nice Theatrical Trailer, 55-minutes-long 2001 Italian TV special called Thatís Life: Vittorio De Sica and 2003 interview with actress Maria Pia Casilio, who played the title characterís young female teen friend.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Time can look a little color limited at times, but considering the age of the film and distortion the old CinemaScope lenses were capable of, looks about as good as it is going to and was issued in DeLuxe color, which tends to have some fading more often than not.The scope frame is used very effectively and you get the idea of good the film looked upon first release from most of the scenes here.The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital black and white High Definition image transfer on Umberto has been sourced from the original nitrate camera negative, including some damage that has not been fixed, but the new transfer yields detail, depth, jet blacks and ivory white missing from most copies of the classic 60 years after its smash international debut.DuPont film was used to shoot it and it is not always the sharpest stock, but this looks as good as it is going to here.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Mystery is the same video master as the U.S. Sony DVD and looks good for the format, but this is a good-looking film and I hope we see a Blu-ray sometime soon.



The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 4.0 lossless mix on Time is towards the front speakers as expected with a film that was a film originally designed for 4-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects, but the DTS-MA 2.0 Stereo isolated music track offers fidelity you just will not hear in the music mixed-down with the rest of the sound elements.This too is as good as this is going to sound, but donít expect a consistent soundfield as we know it today, plus some dialogue is more in the center channel than I would have liked.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 sound on Mystery is basically mono with weak stereo-elements at times and analog Dolby noise reduction to make it sound cleaner.That leaves PCM 2.0 Mono on Umberto coming from the original analog optical soundtrack and it does show its age, but Criterion has cleaned it up and this is as good as this film is ever going to sound.



As noted above, High Time can be ordered while supplies last at:




Ö and you can get the PAL Region 4 DVD import of Manhattan Murder Mystery exclusively from Umbrella at:





-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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