(1968/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Ashton
Celebration: The Royal Ballet Dances Frederick Ashton
Glass: The Perfect American
(Opus Arte/Davies/Teatro Real/Naxos Blu-rays)
B) Sound: B (Oliver!:
B-) Extras: C+ (Oliver!:
B-) Main Programs: C+
is a Limited Edition Blu-ray release from Twilight Time with only
3,000 copies produced, is only available from the Screen Archives
website and can be ordered from the link below.
music programs that work, even when you have great material and a
great idea, does not mean you will totally succeed. In each of the
following cases, this was true, though they are are at last
successful to a degree and the following releases all oddly have that
start with Sir Carol Reed's hit film version of the Lionel Bart
musical version of Dickens' Oliver Twist, Oliver!
(1968), which amazingly beat the likes of Kubrick's 2001:
A Space Odyssey
for the Best Picture Academy Award. Thrilled with the big box office
Sound Of Music
(1965), all the major studios went into musical overdrive to
duplicate the blockbuster success, but landed up mostly with
disappointments, duds and some serious bombs. Oliver!
managed to somehow buck the trend despite its 153 (!!!) minutes
running time. Made by a rising Columbia Pictures, it as a British
film production all the way and would be influential on more such
films and TV shows to follow.
the film itself does drag out, musical numbers can look too staged
for their own good and like Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang,
the Britishisms become a sort of schtick that dates the film, a
dynamic some will embrace while others will pass on. It is worth
seeing once because of the cast, craftsmanship, the classic songs and
some good moments. Mark Lester is the title character, wondering
about with no friends or money in an England of long ago until The
Artful Dodger (Jack Wild) finds him and he gets involved with Fagin
(the great Ron Moody, stealing every single scene he is in) with
crime and mischief ensuing. Backing them are Oliver Reed, Leonard
Rossiter, Hugh Griffith, Sheila White, Shani Wallis, Norman Mitchell
and a huge cast that also has uncredited turns by Anthony Kemp,
Norman Pitt and Elaine Page.
there are the songs, including the title song, As
Long As He Needs Me,
Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two
which became part of an anti-hunger campaign in the 1970s in part
thanks to this film. Bart's songs all work and it is sad he was not
able to make more musicals, as like some of the stars of this film,
fell into substance abuse. Any dark overtones have odd resonances
which work for the film, but hit closer to home than some might have
it is still significant enough a work, but hard to believe it will
not be a general release Blu-ray. Reed helms this well enough, but
if anything, it seems like a long goodbye to the genre in England and
as color TV was just arriving in the US and about to in the UK, the
end of an era of big screen color exclusivity. Fans of the film and
musical will want to get this disc while supplies last, especially
with the isolated music score, but more on that below.
up is Ashton
Celebration: The Royal Ballet Dances Frederick Ashton
which is a live stage ballet release celebrating the choreography and
work of Mr. Ashton. It only runs 84 minutes and in an odd twist,
this is in subsections that do not run smoothly and non-stop like
virtually all the dozens of other Naxos-distributed ballet titles we
have covered over the years. The dancers are great with set-ups and
costumes that try to show and do something different, but this is so
different all around that it becomes one of the most fragmented
ballet Blu-rays we have ever encountered. Good, but uneven.
we have two entries from the San Francisco Ballet that offer up two
lesser-known operas on familiar themes and subjects. Fist we have
(composed by Gaetano Donizetti) has the great Renee Fleming as the
historical title woman out for power at any cost and she is great
here, as are her supporting singing cast. Costumes are nice, the
sets are not bad and yet, this is not always as dark, effective or
overall as convincing as it could have been. Still, it has some good
moments and is definitely ambitious enough, but have moderate
expectations if you decide to take it on. It runs 127 minutes.
(music by Jake Heggie) adapts the Herman Melville novel into a
musical opera epic of sorts (running 142 minutes) that is faithful to
the book, has a good cast, more good singing and a solid ship set.
Unfortunately again, not everything is as fleshed out as I would have
liked, the subject here had been covered more often than that of the
Borgias and it finds itself competing with those many variant
interpretations. Faithful as it is, I was hoping for something more,
some new points. It is not necessarily playing it safe, but it only
has so many places to go. It does make for a nice alternate version
of the story, though.
we have Philip
Glass: The Perfect American
in which the famed composer goes after icon Walt Disney the man,
focusing on his last days of life, deconstructing him, criticizing
him for being anti-union and anti-Semitic, plus being darker than he
was in real life. He then starts to add the likes of Andy Warhol and
Abraham Lincoln into the picture to make what he sees as the big
statement, but I was not convinced, did not agree, think this is one
of the composer's big misfires (like the unfortunate theme to the
unfortunate revival of The
in 2005) and there is something, surreal, uninformed and ultimately
unconvincing about the 120 minutes of presentation which lands up
being more like an alternate universe comic book than anything I
could ultimately take seriously. Now you can judge for yourself, but
I was disappointed.
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Oliver!
some good shots and good color, but also has some grain and can show
the age of the materials used, yet this is far superior a transfer to
all previous releases of the film on DVD. This
has been issued on Blu-ray overseas already. Guess sales were only
so big. Issued in 70mm blow-up film prints as well as dye-transfer,
35mm, three-strip Technicolor versions of the film (as shot in real
anamorphic 35mm Panavision) on both sides of the Atlantic, you can
see how good that color must have looked often in this presentation.
The great Director of Photography Oswald Morris, B.S.C., (David
Lean's 1948 Oliver
Man With The Golden Gun,
Man In Havana,
Guns Of Navarone,
On The Roof,
and John Huston's 1956 Moby
is another one of the reasons the film was a hit with its great use
of widescreen compositions and color. Despite its age and some minor
print issues, it is still the best presentation on the list.
rest of the Blu-rays have their stage performances recorded in 1080i
High Definition and also have some good color, but Video Black can
get crushed, there is minor detail issues on these discs and that can
break into the good shots at bad times. Still, they all look good
for the format they were recorded in.
five releases offer their main soundtracks in DTS-HD MA (Master
Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that offer fine soundfields in the case of
the four newer performances, but Oliver!
has some sonic limits in its mix and it id likely that the 5.1
soundmaster is an older one, even if it does a good job of recreating
the 6-track magnetic stereo from the 70mm blow-up prints. However,
when you switch to the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 4.0 lossless isolated
music score tracks sounding so dynamic and superior, the main
soundtrack suffers by comparison but will be favorites of audiophiles
and fans of the film's songs.
with all releases include booklets on the respective main programs
including informative text with Ashton
adding two introductions and an Ashton Foundation clip equaling 15
minutes, the two San
releases have 4 previews for related releases and American adds a
Cast Gallery. That leaves
by far he most extras, including that isolated music score we already
covered, a solid Julie Kirgo essay in its booklet and a bunch of
extras from the best DVD versions of the film including a Behind The
Scenes featurette, the Original Theatrical Trailer, 8 sing-alongs, 3
dance instructions, 3 dance & sing-alongs and two more clips in
order the Oliver!
Limited Edition Blu-ray while supplies last, go to this link for more