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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Epic > Civil War > British > WWII > Crime > Africa > Gasoline > The Adventurers (1970/Paramount/Warner Archive DVD)/The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946/Samuel Goldwyn/Warner Blu-ray)/Viva Riva! (2011/Music Box DVD)

The Adventurers (1970/Paramount/Warner Archive DVD)/The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946/Samuel Goldwyn/Warner Blu-ray)/Viva Riva! (2011/Music Box DVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Adventurers is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the links below.

Here are three ambitious dramas from three very storng directors, one of which is a classic and the rest which should be seen at least once.

Lewis Gilbert is one of the great journeymen filmmakers and one of the most commercially successful British filmmakers of all time. He has proiven himself in comedy (Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine), war drama (Sink The Bismarck!, Damn The Defiant!), the ability to pull of something original (the 1966 Alfie with Michael Caine) and three James Bond films that were all epic and all huge worldwide hits. After his first Bond film in 1967, You Only Live Twice (which followed Alfie), he was very much in demand especially having such success in the face of a new golden age of filmmaking at the time.

After missing out on Oliver! (the 1968 Best Picture Academy Award winner) to Sir Carol Reed, he still had ambitions to do a big feature film. He settled on a major adaptation of Harold Robbins' novel The Adventurers (1970) co-produced by Avco Embassy and Paramount Pictures. Following the rise of a young man whose family is mostly annihilated in a South American Civil War, one Dax Xenos (Bekim Fehmiu in the adult years) becomes a womanizer who keeps marrying into big money and operates in circles of great power.

Running three hours, it has money on the screen, some decent battel sequences and a few memorable moments handled in a mature adult way, but the film has many problems and Gilbert later revelaed he made a mistake taking it on not turning out as he had wished. The ethnic casting that is inaccurate does not work ands dates the film, some of the form and look is too much like a Bond film too often, acting is not bad but not always great and any attempt to make big statements ala Lawrence Of Arabia (1962, see the Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) or the like does not come off.

Still, despite this film even making some worst film lists, it is far from that bad and at least a mature, interesting failure. The cast is really good and includes Ernest Borgnine, Charles Aznavour, Candice Bergen, Alan Badel, Rossano Brazzi, Olivia de Havilland, Fernando Rey, Anna Moffo, Leigh Taylor-Young, John Ireland, Fredy Mayne, Peter Graves, Allan Cuthbertson, Jaclyn Smith, Michael Balfour, an amusing camero by Lois Maxwell and the late, great Angela Scoular.

Warner Archive has reissued the DVD Paramount discontinued a while ago, so everyone can see it more easily. Versus today's obvious-in-advance failures, you will never feel insulted. There are sadly no extras.

William Wyler had as incredible a career as Gilbert and alos made more great films than people seem to realize, including majot hits. Becuase it was made as a film about WWII, is more realistic than most such films today, was made by the independent Samuel Goldwyn Company and tends to have a healthy classical liberal discourse, it is amazing that The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946) gets lost in the shuffle of discussions of great American films, great Hollywood films and especially the often phony talk of great War films that tend to forget anything about Vietnam or lack war porn images. Also a three-hour epic, this one was a huge hit, won a ton of awards (including the Best Picture Academy Award among several of those) and deals with men returning home from WWII after a hard-fought battle won.

Fred (Dana Andrews), Al (Fredrich March) & Homer (Harold Russell) are the focus of the multi-layered storyline script that tends ot happen in the same space and manage to deal with the pain each man has to endure upon returning. Russell steals many of his scenes as a many who had both hands burnt off during the war, but will not let it get him down. From a flight over a junkyard of now spend military aircraft (as metaphor for actual carnage and maybe possibilities of disposable people or society) to predjudice and ungrateful people who did not serve to small toewn America slowly turning into the suburbs with monopolistic capitalism in the wing as spoils for winning in an ironic way, there is not one moment in this film that is wasted.

Perofrmance are exceptional all around including from supporting cast members Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Hoagy Carmichael, Ray Collins, Cathy O'Donnell, Dorothy Adams, Ray Teal, Erskine Sanford and an uncrecited Tennessee Ernie Ford among a larger cast make this a classic that needs ot be rediscovered all over again and in the face of a new wave of U.S. troops comiong home, as relevant as ever.

The film's influence is huge, especially in the War genre including the cycle of Vietnam coming home films before films could deal with the conflict directly, Saving Private Ryan would be impossible without it and Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978) echoes it more than you might suspect and in the best ways. Goldwyn was a great producer and having this on Blu-ray is great!

If you have never seen the film before, see this disc and if you have, time to see it again. You'll get a whole new experience out of it.

Extras include a previous interview featurette with Virginia Mayo & Teresa Wright, Intro for the film by Miss Mayo and the Original Theatrical Trailer.

Djo Tunda Wa Munga's Viva Riva! (2011) is an ambitious drama out of Africa (in Kinshasa) invovling thieves, good people trying to make it and outright criminals and fighting, even killing each other over one resource that is scarce where they live: gasoline. The title character (Patsha Bay) stealing a huge amount for the area and hiding it, but he is not alone in know it is out there, so with a partner, they try to get the money on it, but they soon become the target of said interests.

The most dangerous is a self-stylized gangster type named Caesar (Hoji Fortuna) and there are some brutal cenes of violence, yet we also get more than a few predicytable situations that hold this back. However, helping usa past that is the area as a characetr, a good, convincing cast and some very brutal dialofue that demonstrates how much women are hated and commodified, seen as disposible and it adds an edge of ugly honesty that shows what posers and phonies most in U.S. gangster (or gansta or gangster rap) really are. Munga has some real talent and I hope to see moe of his work soon.

Extras include an interview with the director, Original Theatrical Trailer and Munga's short anti-AIDS film PAPY.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Adventurers repeats the older Paramount DVD rleease and the color is not always good, while the definition and depth are mixed, but the print is clean and Director of Photography Claude Renoir (Jean Renoir's The River, Barbarella, French Connection 2, The Spy Who Loved Me) shot this in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision knowing there would be 70mm blow-ups. The very widescreen frame is often used to its fullest extent, though some of the composition also looks like a Bond film more often than not. It was processed by Technicolor, but we could not confirm if 35mm dye-transfer prints were made by the company for the U.S. market. Still, this is a professional job and miles ahead of most of what we get today.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image transfer on Years can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on home video and we get some great shots despite some that don't look as good as they could. The film was lensed by no less than Director of Photography Gregg Toland, A.S.C. (Citizen Kane, the original Stagecoach among others) remains a remarkable visual experience with fine compositions, depth and thought out shots adding to the story.

That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Viva a fine HD shot with some character despite some limits in color, detail and depth, but the format is often pushed for the better just the same and that is more ambitious than most U.S. HD shoots of late.

Adventurers offers both a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby 2.0 Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds both based off of the 6-track magnetic stereo tracks of the 70mm blow-ups issued of the film. Traveling dialogue and sound effects can be heard to a good extent on the 5.1 option, but the sound could be better in either case. Antonio Carlos Jobim's score stands out in what is well recorded film, though you can tell overdubbing in post production in many scenes.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Lives is well mixed and presented, but the optical monophonic sound still shows its age and is only so dynamic, but this is a fine, solid presentation just the same.

The lossy French and Lingala Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Viva is also not bad for its low budget, yet it also has harshness and compression in its mix plus some location audio issues, so expect flaws and be careful of playback levels somewhat.

To order The Adventurers, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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