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Category:    Home > Reviews > Biopic > Cable TV Movie > Telefilm > Film Industry > Racism > Literature > Adventure > Spy > Large Frame F > The Brittany Murphy Story (2014)/Cantinflas (2014/Lionsgate DVDs)/Edith Wharton: The Sense Of Harmony (2014/IndiePix DVD)/Holiday In Spain (1961 aka Scent Of Mystery (1959)/Cinerama/Redwind Blu-ray w/

The Brittany Murphy Story (2014)/Cantinflas (2014/Lionsgate DVDs)/Edith Wharton: The Sense Of Harmony (2014/IndiePix DVD)/Holiday In Spain (1961 aka Scent Of Mystery (1959)/Cinerama/Redwind Limited Edition Blu-ray w/CD)

Picture: C/C+/C/B- Sound: C+/C+/C/B- (CD: B) Extras: D/C-/C-/B Main Programs: C+/B-/B-/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Holiday In Spain Blu-ray/CD set is now only available from our friends at Redwind Entertainment, only 2,000 copies will be made and it can be ordered from the link below.

This group of new releases get us behind the scenes of the arts and show business in unexpected ways...

When it comes to TV movies, the Lifetime Network continues to find new ways to desecrate the format and with their production partners at Marvista, strike again with Joe Menendez's The Brittany Murphy Story (2014) attempting to tell the story of the actress who died way too young and had a promising career ahead of her. It starts with her (Amanda Fuller) as a young, slightly heavy, insecure gal with dark hair, how the film Clueless put her on the map when her mother (Sherilyn Fenn) was not certain what would happen and hits a promising stride when she gets involved with Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher is played as such a nice guy here, you'd think he secretly co-produced this telefilm.

Unfortunately for Murphy, that relationship ends and they become too distant for her own good, a creepy photographer who seems to have obsessed about her all along gets into her life and they marry (!!!???!!!) and she lands up dying under mysterious circumstances. The teleplay is more exploitive than it lets on and there are more than a few historical holes in it all, whittling down a far more interesting story before it is cheapened by this schlocky take. There are enough amusing moments (and wacky unintentional ones) to see this for the mess it is, but proceed with caution.

There are no extras, unless you count Digital Copy.

Sebastian Del Amo's Cantinflas (2014) fares better as a biopic of the the highly successful comic actor (Oscar Jaenada does a great job playing him) and how he struggled before becoming an international sensation. Born Mario Moreno, the script keeps the flashbacks to a minimum, has some great period moments, has Michael Todd (Michael Imperioli really good in the role) going after him for his independent mega-production of Around The World In 80 Days (1956, which took longer to make that you'd think), his personal life, the women who kept trying to bed him, the businessmen who kept trying to use him and what he did with his celebrity.

At 102 minutes, this is not bad, though a little more about his Mexican films (several of which we have been lucky enough to review elsewhere on this site) would have helped, I think this is well-rounded despite falling into some biopic formula. I hope many people see this one and his work is rediscovered again... and Around The World In 80 Days is issued in a restored version finally!

A trailer and Digital Copy are the only extras.

Elizabeth Lennard's Edith Wharton: The Sense Of Harmony (2014) may run only 57 minutes, but it manages to really pack in the details on the life and work of the famous author and her work that is the perfect crash course for those interested. Not only did she write books about proper and polite society, she was divulging its secrets and also wrote horror stories. I like how the history of Capitalist Elites in the U.S. at the time are included and all the interviewees/experts do a great job of adding to the data and information we get. I did not know what to expect from this one, but what a pleasant surprise that I wish were even longer.

A trailer is the only extra.

Last but not least is Jack Cardiff's Holiday In Spain (1961), a cut-down version of Scent Of Mystery (1959) that was meant to be a grand spy thriller in the Hitchcock tradition (shot on 65mm negative akin to the VistaVision Hitchcock thrillers like To Catch A Thief, reviewed elsewhere on this site) with Denholm Elliott (now known for the original Indiana Jones films) in the lead as a mystery writer following a real mystery. He gets assistance from an amusing cabbie (Peter Lorre) who speaks his mind and may know more than he lets on, but off they go. The original film had a Smell-O-Vision gimmick where smells where pumped into the theater, but that was no a big hit, so the film was cut down and turned into a standard big screen movie release to get more money out of it and make it profitable. Michael Todd Jr. (his father had died by this time in a terrible plane accident) and mother-in-law Elizabeth Taylor co-financed this one, but in this cut has many issues.

Outside of the condition of the prints used for this Blu-ray version, scenes cut out has broken up narrative coherence and new, often bizarre and awkward voiceovers added by Elliott for this version only make it seem cheap, dumb and goofy. Some of the shots do look good as expected, but this lacks suspense, humor we get never really works and it is only sometimes amusing. Seeing it once (I had seen the awful, further cut up version from an unfortunate MTV broadcast decades ago instead of seeing at least this version) had ruined seeing it widescreen a bit for the first time, but you'll be luckier to enjoy this version.

What also helps is the supporting cast including Leo McKern, Paul Lukas, Beverly Bentley, Peter Arne and Liam Redmond, plus a cameo by Diana Dors. No, this is not a great film by any means and is not even the original version of said film, but Holiday In Spain is worth a look for the ambitious big screen film it was meant to be and was the end of an era in spy films as the next year brought the first James Bond film, Dr. No.

Extras include a bonus CD soundtrack for the music from the original version of the film by Mario Nascimbene, a thick miniature reproduction of the original Scent Of Mystery movie program, while the Blu-ray disc adds several trailers for Cinerama (and Cinemiracle) films (including the upcoming Golden Head restoration), a Then & Now look at the film's locations, montage of stills & original production ads, restoration/reconstruction featurette, Deleted Scenes & selection of rushes, exclusive interviews with Beverly Bentley & Susan Todd (Michael Todd Jr.'s daughter) and a feature-length audio commentary track with Bentley, historian Bruce Kimmel and restoration/reconstruction head/historian David Strohmaier.

All 3 DVDs offer anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image frames and tend to be on the soft side, Cantinflas by style choice in part and Murphy by bad choices, so it is a surprise that despite some aliasing errors, Wharton tends to look more consistent. Once again, the Blu-ray is the visual champ, but not without its issues.

The 1080p 2.59 X 1 digital High Definition image Smilebox transfer on Spain can show the age of the materials used, as it is a reconstruction of the second version of the film from two surviving 70mm prints of the film in fading Eastmancolor prints. Shot with Mitchell 65mm cameras and standard lenses (versus MGM Camera 65/Ultra Panavision 70/Technirama-type and not in Todd-AO either, despite Michael Todd Jr. producing, the film was originally issued in a longer version with Smell-O-Vision (30 scents were pumped in out of the theater as audiences originally view it in limited release) when it was called Scent Of Mystery. That also included a dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor version of the film when it at least was cut into three strips for Cinemiracle and/or Cinerama presentations, but it was not shot that way, so those were blow-up prints.

David Strohmaier and company have done as much as they could with what they had just for us to see how good this looked in its original release, but the prints are too badly faded in some places, while some in-camera flaws surfaced in other places despite the fact that Cardiff is one of the greatest cameramen of all time and was assisted here by Director of Photography John Von Kotze. The materials were in such poor shape that it is amazing it looks as good as it does, but color is inconsistent and other flaws were very hard to fix. Strohmaier is referring to this as a reconstruction since not all the elements were available, but it gives you an idea of how the older film was repurposed. The sound was originally offered in 8-track magnetic sound, but that soundmaster was lost.

Therefore, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix here comes from the best portions of the surviving 70mm prints and their 6-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects, which is decent, but some sections of those tracks in both cases were a little worn, so expect inconsistencies. Still, they did a nice job considering the circumstances.

The PCM 16/44.1 2.0 Stereo on the Scent Of Mystery CD sounds even better throughout with very consistent sonics and careful remastering. All of this makes you wish the original film had somehow survived instead of being shelved and, for now, is lost in its original form.

As for the DVDs, the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Murphy and Cantinflas are good recordings, but nothing spectacular, while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Wharton is passible, but a little inconsistent like many such low-budget documentaries of its kind.

You can order Holiday In Spain Blu-ray/CD set exclusively at this link:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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