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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Mystery > Kidnapping > Terrorism > Corporate Espionage > Murder > Detective > Lawyer > Comedy > S > Getaway (2013/Warner Blu-ray)/Paranoia (2013/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Perry Mason: The Original Warner Bros. Movies Collection (1935 - 1937/Warner Archive DVDs)/Seven Keys To Baldpate Triple Feature (1929,

Getaway (2013/Warner Blu-ray)/Paranoia (2013/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Perry Mason: The Original Warner Bros. Movies Collection (1935 - 1937/Warner Archive DVDs)/Seven Keys To Baldpate Triple Feature (1929, 1935, 1947/RKO/Warner Archive DVDs)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Perry Mason and Seven Keys To Baldpate DVD sets are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can both be ordered from the link below.

Mystery thrillers are not easy to make, so here we have two new ones that are total duds and some older ones that sometimes worked...

Courtney Solomon's Getaway (2013 and not to be confused with similarly titled films by Steve McQueen and Alec Baldwin) has Ethan Hawke as a man whose wife has been kidnapped and has to do what a mysterious voice (Jon Voight) tells him to do or the wife will be murdered. This wants to be Phone Booth on wheels, but lands up being Blair Witch driving Fast & Furious on crack!

The initial premise is familiar, but instead of doing something new with it, between some very sloppy, bad and badly edited camera work with some of the worst shooting in a major studio release we have seen in a while and having Selena Gomez trying to rob his Shelby Mustang, only to get trapped with him in the car for the near-death ride, this intends to appeal to the lowest common denominator all the way through its endless 90 minutes and Gomez playing a streetwise car thief is about as convincing as Ernie & Bert doing the lead roles in Pulp Fiction, but that would actually be more credible than what we get here. As Ms. Gomez complains, drones and wines on and on and on and on in endless shrillness, you wonder why Hawke's character does not throw her out of the car and run her over or that the Voice commends him to kill her. With Gomez around, it is surprising thousands of lives are suddenly not endangered.

Dark Castle co-produced this desperate slop job and I actually felt bad for Hawke, who deserves much better and the audience, who should never have to see Gomez ever, ever again.

Extras include five weak making of featurettes and Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, we gather to torture your friends and relatives with just in time for the holidays.

Hardly better is Robert Luketic's Paranoia (2013) which pretends to sell itself as an intense, paranoid thriller, has lead star Liam Hemsworth speaks some startling truth-to-power paragraphs, than quickly forgets all of that and becomes a stupid, dull, dumb, wasted film whose MacGuffin (the thing everyone in the story chases after by we are not supposed to care much about) is a cell phone of the future. The writers (and this was based on a book?) should have used a new digital Morse Code device instead, because the phone bit are a huge yawner throughout.

Hemsworth comes into conflict with the owner (Gary Oldman) of the company he works for and uses his company credit card to take his gang of now-fired friends out for a night of partying, but the head honcho uses this against him to blackmail him with jail unless he spies on and infiltrates the competing company, befriend his arch rival (a bald Harrison Ford who could become Dr. Evil at any moment) and steal their new ultra-advanced cell phone...

Again, there was potential here, but WOW is it wasted and not even the Oldman/Ford showdown scenes generate anything, so you know what a dud you have here. Also, every time the script runs out of ideas or places to go, which is often, we see Hemsworth go shirtless so often, you'd think he was auditioning for modeling as if he knew this film could kill his young career. He need not worry, as no one will remember this despite how ridiculous it is. Amber Heard, Lucas Till, Julian McMahon, Josh Holloway and an out-of-his-element Richard Dreyfuss also show up and are wasted. Sad.

Extras include lame Deleted Scenes, three weak making of featurettes, a weak DVD version and Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, which will ironically include cell phones.

Going back a ways, most people know the lawyer detective Perry Mason from the very successful Raymond Burr TV series and revival TV movies, but not only was a revival tried in between all those with no success, but a movie series was attempted in what is now 80 years ago and it includes some of the best adaptations of the character ever filmed. Perry Mason: The Original Warner Bros. Movies Collection (1934 - 1937) collects all six films the studio made when they got the rights to the book series by Erle Stanley Gardner, which can be broken down into three sets.

The Case Of The Howling Dog (1934 with Mary Astor!) and The Case Of The Curious Bride (1935, directed by Michael Curtiz with Errol Flynn!) star Warren William as Mason in the two best entries. Tight, smart mysteries with wit, a good pace and clues that add up, William plays the character as well as anyone and hold up extraordinarily well. William continued in The Case Of The Lucky Legs (1935 with Lyle Talbot) and The Case Of The Velvet Claws (1936 with Claire Dodd the only actress to repeat playing Della Street after Curious Bride), but Warner got oddly impatient with the series, so they unnecessarily increased the comedy and even marry Mason and Della Street in Legs. This ruined the series, did not succeed in making it more profitable, so Warner dumped William!

That leaves two new actors doing a decent job of playing Mason in the final two entries which improved over the last two but were not quite as good as the first two. The Case Of The Black Cat (1936) was a bit like the debut film, but is not bad and Ricardo Cortez makes a good showing as the detective, though Warner felt otherwise. Donald Woods (who was in the second film as a different character) was hired to be Mason in The Case Of The Stuttering Bishop (1937 with Ann Dvorak as Della Street), adapting one of the best known books in the series, but it is still too comical and Woods is the youngest (or youngest looking) to play the part, so it is a mixed film and by this time, Warner threw in the towel and cancelled a series that could have run much longer if they had just left it alone after the first two films and tried to stick with one actress as Secretary Della Street instead of having five!

Trailers are the only extras.

Finally we have three versions of a mystery tale written by Charlie Chan creator Earl Derr Biggers, but he penned I before creating Chan in six novels and George M. Cohan of all people turned it into a stage comedy. RKO got the rights to the book and filmed it three times. The Seven Keys To Baldpate Triple Feature offers all three filmed versions and they vary, as well as become increasingly problematic.

The 1929 version is set mostly on one big room and stars Richard Dix as a writer accepting a bet to be able to write a novel overnight in the isolated mansion of the title, where he allegedly has the only key to the place. This will turn out not to be true and Baldpate will find itself with visitor after visitor, some of whom are intruders. This eventually involved big stolen money and possible murder. However, there are several twists and turns as the film has fun being an early all-sound (read talkie) mystery. I like the cast, energy and joy in the film, even if it does not totally pan out, it is a remarkable film for its age.

RKO tried again in 1935 with Gene Raymond as the writer, but they dumped the comedy, energy and too much of the lighting as the new makers try to get away from the idea of it being on a stage and land up killing any of the fun, suspense or tension. It looks cheaper than the earlier film and Raymond never gets a fix on the writer character

Finally in 1947, RKO made it into a sort of Noir with more comedy and Phillip Terry as the writer (also not really pulling it off well), including in-jokes targeting the previous films and those in the know of the book and play. By this time, the material was worn out by the admission of the script's retro approach and with nothing new to add, this is not as good as the 1929 version either. However, RKO tried to get the most out of the book and the comparisons are interesting. Now you can see for yourself. Nice to have all three together.

There are no extras.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Getaway has such a bad mix of digital HD video formats that more than some of it is very phony, not necessarily HD and mixes the HD footage with some of the worst-looking digital shooting I have seen all year and definitely in a major studio release. Shockingly unprofessional too often, you'd think a desperate indie made it until you see the stars. The worst digital cannot even compete with the 1.33 X 1 black and white image on both DVD mystery sets, which have their share of print dirt and damage (especially on the Mason films), but never fail to look good and professional, all looking like they come from real monochrome prints with good silver content.

That leaves the 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 33 MBPS digital High Definition image transfer on Paranoia also having some faux video camera footage, but it never looks pedestrian and goofy to its credit, so this is the best looking entry here, though its anamorphically enhanced DVD version ties for the weakest on the list and is incredibly soft with limited color range.

Both Blu-rays offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, but Paranoia is the only one with a consistent soundfield, which dissipates a good bit in the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the DVD version, which the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the Mason and Key DVD sets can just equal in consistency. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Getaway is therefore the second-best sounding mix here, but that is by default because we get so much location audio trouble (which does not cut off Gomez enough) and is a choppy as the picture.

To order either of the Warner Archive DVD sets on Mason and Key, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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