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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > Stage > Shakespeare > British Telefilms > Melodrama > Music > Divorce > Soap Opera > Ga > Damian Lewis Double Feature (w/Friends & Crocodiles/BBC DVD)/Heart Of The Country (2012/Fox DVD)/Hilda Crane (1956)/Me And My Gal (1932)/No Highway In The Sky (1951/Fox Cinema Archive DVDs)

Damian Lewis Double Feature (w/Friends & Crocodiles/BBC DVD)/Heart Of The Country (2012/Fox DVD)/Hilda Crane (1956)/Me And My Gal (1932)/No Highway In The Sky (1951/Fox Cinema Archive DVDs)


Picture: C/C/C/C+/C+     Sound: C+/C/C+/C+/C+     Extras: C/D/C-/D/C-     Films: C+/D/C/C+/C+



PLEASE NOTE: Hilda Crane, Me And My Gal and No Highway In The Sky are only available from online from Fox and can be ordered on the sidebar from Amazon.com.



Now for some various drams of interest you should know about…



The Damian Lewis Double Feature features two BBC telefilms with the actor now known for the hit TV series Homeland and was first noticed in the U.S. thanks to the HBO Mini-Series Band Of Brothers.  What we get here is a modernized version of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing that is not pretentious and a good supporting cast in Billie Piper, Sarah Parish and Tom Ellis.  Then we get Friends & Crocodiles, a play by Stephen Poliakoff (who directs here!) with Joshi May and Robert Lindsey that takes place in the Thatcher 1980s and is a character study of the people and how gender roles changed despite the odd politics of the beginnings of Neo-Conservatism in Britain.


Both are curios that deliver more than you might think and even if they were not shockingly brilliant, they are quality telefilms worth a look for those interested and it is nice the BBC issued them on one DVD.


Extras in interviews on Nothing, plus three interviews and a feature length audio commentary track Friends with Director Stephen Poliakoff & Actress Jodhi May.



John Ward’s Heart Of The Country (2012) is the one dud here with Jana Kramer as a woman who lives the big city life until her husband is in a big financial scandal, so she has to return home and reintegrate into country living and make amends with her blood.  Despite music involved, this is no musical, but this is a prolonged bore including endless scenes with Gerald McRaney as her father that seem like a break from any kind of narrative.


The film does not blame her for her husband’s failures, but can she get her man back?  The politics are silly and this seems much longer than its 89 dragged-out minutes.  I never bought this for a minute, it starts out as generic and stays that way.  If only Mr. Ed showed up, I might not have nearly fallen asleep.


There are no extras.



Amazingly, Philip Dunne’s Hilda Crane (1956) has almost the same storyline as that film, but no goofy song is involved and Jean Simmons’ title character simply goes back to her small town home after two marriages fail.  Not that the story is more realistic than Heart Of The Country, but the casting is better, the situations unintentionally funny and filmmaking elaborate.  Guy Madison, Gregg Palmer and oddly, Jean Pierre Aumont (in the middle of a small town in the U.S., living there!?!) are among the makes in her life and between bad talk on her and a highly dysfunctional mother (Judith Evans) who could destroy the whole town.


No matter how bad, like Love Is A Many Splendored Thing (see the Blu-ray review elsewhere on this site), Fox really put the money in this film and it was built to last.  Even on this DVD with its limits, it shows so this is a curio worth checking out if you are interested, but only expect so much.


A trailer is the only extra.



Much better is an early, interesting drama from the legendary Raoul Walsh, Me And My Gal (1932) matches a young Spencer Tracy with Joan Bennett (not bad) in a tale about a waitress involved with gangsters and how our male lead inexplicably gets involved with some not so savory happenings.  The script is decent, dialogue well-written and never quits being interesting for its short, yet effective 79 minutes.  I like some scenes more than others and this is a Fox Studios product before the merger with 20th Century, so it has a look and feel the later films did not.


This also has a consistent atmosphere that Walsh would quickly become known for, so it is a little gem worth your time to check out at least once and Tracy has a great wardrobe to boot.


There are no extras.



Last but not least is Henry Koster’s No Highway In The Sky (1951) pairing Jimmy Stewart with Marlene Dietrich in what is really a British production about an airplane designer (Stewart) who is certain a new airplane design has a defect that will cause it to fail, even landing up on one of the new planes.  His family is in England and wife is played by Glynis Johns, but the most interesting thing is that this film is part of a cycle of British productions (extending to TV) that celebrated British aeronautic innovations of the time, so this entry fits right in.


The result is a good drama that has dated in some ways and melds in strange ways between a Hollywood and British film production that showcases the differences and limitations of both.  Still, the cast is top rate extending to the mostly-British cast and seeing the early flying technology adds to the fun along with some suspense.  However, expect some sappy melodrama that holds the film back.


A trailer is the only extra.




The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on both Lewis telefilms, the anamorphically enhanced 2 X 1 Country and the letterboxed 2.35 X 1 image on Hilda are all softer than they should be or I would have liked, though Hilda should look great, but is from an older video master.  Shot in 35mm film CinemaScope, it was likely the last such Fox production to come from the Technicolor lab and might have actually had most or all of its prints processed by Fox’s then-new DeLuxe labs.  Color here is mixed, though you still can see the good color coming through.  You can see the money on the screen too.  The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on Gal and Highway are the best performers here from decent prints in good transfers that are pretty consistent for films their age.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on both Lewis telefilms sound fine, but the same mix on Country is oddly the weakest here with digitally harsh sound to boot, so be careful of turning this one up too much.  That means the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the rest fop the older films actually sounds better by simply being well transferred.  Crane was originally issued in 4-track magnetic stereo on the better 35mm film prints sent to theaters, but that sadly is not the mix here.  If they make a Blu-ray version, hope they have that soundmaster.

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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