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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biopic > Politics > Character Study > Prison > Crime > Genocide > Holocaust > Trail > Court > Legal > Na > Birdman Of Alcatraz (1962)/Judgment At Nuremberg (1961/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/L'Avventura (1960/Criterion Blu-ray)

Birdman Of Alcatraz (1962)/Judgment At Nuremberg (1961/United Artists/MGM/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/L'Avventura (1960/Criterion Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Birdman Of Alcatraz and Judgment At Nuremberg Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, are limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last from the link below.

Here are three motion picture classics finally getting their due on Blu-ray...

John Frankenheimer's Birdman Of Alcatraz (1962) is an epic drama that works and more than justifies its length as a early character study of the title character (Burt Lancaster in one of his best roles) as a jail prisoner circa 1912 who is embittered, hardened and wants nothing (including sympathy) from no one, including his warden (Karl Malden easily holding his own against the star) who tries to connect with him to no avail. Who he is comes out in his reading, studying and to everyones surprise, love of birds. Based on a true story that seems true for once, the makers take the long way to tell the story without pulling punches and being as raw as a film of its time could.

Like Dog Day Afternoon, the main character has been cleaned up a bit so the star can make him sympathetic, but it makes for still-honest drama and acting that never stops once it starts. With the black and white and the way it is shot, you feel like you are in the prison, yet not totally so you have some slight distance to experience what the filmmakers intended. It may not be the easiest film to sit through, but if you give it a good chance, the rewards are one-of-a-kind experience that few filmmakers could deliver. The supporting cats including the underrated Thelma Ritter, later horror film icon Neville Brand, Edmond O'Brien, a young Telly Savalas who even had it then, Betty Field, Whit Bissell and Hugh Marlowe round out a great cast.

Stanley Kramer's Judgment At Nuremberg (1961) finally gets a Blu-ray edition, receiving a Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray release with some nice extras. We previously covered the MGM DVD at this link:


I agree with my fellow writer that the film is powerful, takes its time showing what it needs to show and makes the big statements as only Kramer could. A film that looks at the insidious nature of murder, genocide and evil by taking on the true trial of the century and asking us the tough questions. It is easy to forget how great this film is, which is why it needed and it, as well as we, deserve this terrific upgrade. Outside of a really good 35mm print, this is the way to see the film with its stunning all-star cast that plays against Classical Hollywood conventions in dealing with had to be dealt with. Looking and sounding better than the older DVD with ease, this is a must-see and for serious film collectors, must own disc. Just remember, they are only making 3,000 copies, so get yours now!

And then there is Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura (1960), a masterpiece of world cinema that is one of the most important films ever to come out of Italy. Antonioni had been a director for years in the business, making documentaries after WWII ended, then made a few films of note like I vinti and Il Grido, but with L'Avventura, Italian Neo-realism, Italian Modernism and the ironic emptiness of the world after the fortunate Allied victory arrive in the cinematic world here with great space that is beautiful, yet alone and makes its characters more alone then they realize or suspect. That it involved the Italian rich is exactly the point, that even their money cannot buy happiness or buy off the opposite as the theme of the search permeates the film throughout.

Anna (Lea Massari) is having a good time meeting with her friends when she suddenly disappears, much to the dismay of her boyfriend (Gabrielle Ferzetti of On Her Majesty's Secret Service among other films) who goes looking for her with her good friend Claudia (Monica Vitti), but the more they look, the more Anna cannot be found, then they start to get unexpectedly involved despite not planning to. This also addresses the concept of Italian alienation where those in the society tend to be more inward and want their solitude, which also speaks to susceptibility to the fascism the country eventually invented. How Marxist the film is can be argued, but something more than and beyond politics is here and that is why it is such a major classic.

The fact that it is a new writerly cinema on a higher level is one aspect of its success and its visuals are like nothing we had ever seen before, beautiful but deceptively troubling. Vitti became an international sensation off of this and fortunately for us, worked with Antonioni again in what became the conclusion of this trilogy: La Notte (1961, issued by Criterion) and L'Eclisse (1962, reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) all in black and white, then followed by a full color trilogy of equally compelling films including The Red Desert (1964, reviewed in two special editions on this site, including the Criterion Blu-ray), Blow-Up (1966, also on this site) and the underrated Zabriskie Point (1970). This is yet another classic worth seeing and reviewing all over again, holding up as well as ever. Bravo!

The 1080p digital High Definition black and white image transfers on all three Blu-rays are very impressive and only some brief moments where they can show the age of the materials used are they a little off. Otherwise, these presentations are top rate, film-print worthy and serious film fans are bound to be impressed. L'Avventura is here in its 1.85 X 1 aspect ratio from a new 4K transfer from the original camera negative and a fine grain print. The rest are in their original 1.66 X 1 frames via new HD masters produced by MGM from their United Artists holdings.

All far superior a transfer to all previous releases of these films on home video, Video Black is always rich, Video White clean and gray scale on the money all the way. The respective genius Directors of Photography are Aldo Scavarda on L'Avventura, Burnett Guffey (and John Alton at some point) on Alcatraz and Kramer collaborator Ernest Laszlo on Nuremberg. All are unforgettable in their imagery and show the greatness of monochrome filmmaking without having to say a word, it is like never having seen these films before for those who have.

As for sound, all offer different soundtracks. Alcatraz has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono lossless mix, Nuremberg has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that brings out as much of the nuance of the sound as possible and L'Avventura has PCM 2.0 Mono from its original optical soundmaster and just edges out the other films as sonically the best entry here. Note the smart use of sound and music in all three films, all in different ways for different purposes.

Extras with all three films include illustrated booklets on each respective film including informative text and essays by Julie Kirgo, save L'Avventura (a paper pullout with many pages) with an essay by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and Cannes announcement on the film by Antonioni himself, while all three discs add Original Theatrical Trailers. Birdman adds a feature length audio commentary track by Julie Kirgo, Paul Seydor & Nick Redman and an Isolated Music Score Track. Nuremberg also adds an Isolated Music Score Track and three vintage featurettes: In Conversation with Abby Mann & Maximillian Schell, The Value Of A Single Human Being and A Tribute To Stanley Kramer. L'Avventura adds a feature length audio commentary track by Gene Youngblood, Jack Nicholson reading the words of & talking about Antonioni, the 1966 Antonioni: Documents & Testimonials documentary (58 minutes) by Gianfranco Mingozzi and Olivier Assayas analyzing the film in three parts.

To order the Birdman Of Alcatraz and Judgment At Nuremberg limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last (along with other great exclusives) at this link:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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