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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Supernatural > Demonic Possession > Satanism > Australia > Relationships > Counterculture > New > The David Hannay Collection: Alison's Birthday (1979)/Solo (1977/Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD)/Maison Close: Season One (2010/Music Box Blu-ray Set)/The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1945/MGM/Warner

The David Hannay Collection: Alison's Birthday (1979)/Solo (1977/Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD)/Maison Close: Season One (2010/Music Box Blu-ray Set)/The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1945/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/When A Stranger Calls (1979/Umbrella Region B Import DVD Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The David Hannay Import DVD is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can only play on DVD players can handle PAL DVDs, the When A Stranger Calls Import Blu-ray is also from Umbrella and can only play on Blu-ray players that can handle the Region B format, while the Dorian Gray Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Here's a good mix of drama/thrillers, a few of which you may have not seen before, others you may have seen or seen other versions of...

The David Hannay Collection is a double feature of a horror thriller/Ozploitation film called Alison's Birthday (1979) and earlier outright drama (reflecting the Australian counterculture spirit in part) called Solo (1977) that are not bad films if not great. Birthday has Alison at 16 using a de facto Ouija set-up made of something like Scrabble letters with a fatal result, then goes to her at 18 (played by Joanna Samuel of the original Mad Max) having a decent life, dating a radio personality (Lou Brown) and dealing with her dysfunctional family. However, they may be up to more than they should be.

To its advantage, it has some nice leisure stretches for character development and that of the relationship, but not enough suspense and we have seen some of what they do here before and better, but it is worth a look for genre fans, though you might laugh at the ending instead of be terrified by it.

Solo is strictly a relationship film that starts when a gal named Judy (Lisa Peers) goes skinny-dipping while leaving a campfire on, which brings a surprising reaction from the local authorities and a guy comes to extinguish it among with her fun and happy attitude. Then she starts to get involved with that guy in this nicely shot work in New Zealand. Too bad the script is not better, but it is interesting enough to see it once and I was glad I did.

There are no extras.

Maison Close: Season One (2010) with more sex, relationships and some horror situations (S&M, sexual abuse, sexploitation, prostitution), this French TV series set in 1871 Paris could have been a serious drama about such serious subjects, but the arc of the 8 hour-longish episodes soon play more like a prime time soap opera with twists and turns typical of that kind of fiction. You would never see a show with this content made in the U.S. unless one of the cable companies got oddly bold, but it is a hit there and is out in time on Blu-ray for the much-hyped release of 50 Shades Of Grey, no matter how that does commercially or critically.

The show has a good cast, good look, the money is on the screen and it can be creepy. However, ti is ultimately upscale trash TV like Dynasty with more sex and less class, yet I can see the market for this and I could see in it getting some kind of cult following in the U.S. market. No, ti is not perfect, but it is at least original and as good as anything in this review.

Extras include a preview of the next season and illustrated booklet on the show.

Albert Lewin's The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1945) is a popular adaptation of the Oscar Wilde horror classic by MGM with Hurd Hatfield in the title role, Angela Lansbury and Donna Reed as the object of his affections and George Sanders as the man who might figure out his dark secret. The money and talent are on the screen and this is holds up well as far as being professionally done is concerned, but the script had to skip some of the horror and any indication of Wilde's sexuality, so it is filled with repetitive bits of philosophy about literature, thinking and scholarly affairs that hold it back.

Still, it is worth a look and is a really good looking film definitely deserving of a Blu-ray release and the actors gel very well together. Later versions of the story (like the 1973 Dan Curtis telefilm) did a better job of handling the material, but we'll likely never see a version that is as lush, yet gritty as this one is. Cedric Hardwicke narrates and Peter Lawford is among the supporting cast.

Extras include a great feature length audio commentary track with Lansbury and film scholar Steve Haberman, two Academy Award winning shorts (the live action Stairway To Heaven and animated Quiet Please, both in HD) and the Original Theatrical Trailer.

Lastly we have Fred Walton's When A Stranger Calls (1979), the original version of the thriller with Carol Kane as the mother targeted by intimidating calls on the phone (yet another descendant of Bob Clark's classic Black Christmas, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) that is an interesting film, but was never a great one. Charles Durning (a Brian De Palma veteran) is the cop who tries to help her, but what they all really needed was a better script and more suspenseful direction.

It is still better than the disposable remake, has some interesting visual moments and everyone involved is at least trying to cash in on the success of Carpenter's Halloween, et al, so it is a key film in that cycle. Too bad it has not aged well and disappoints throughout its mixed 97 minutes. Still, it is a must-see for fans of the genre.

There are sadly no extras.

The 1.33 X 1 of the Hannay films are second-generation TV prints complete with analog tel-ops to indicate commercial breaks that should have all been cut out of the presentations here. Even worse, Birthday was a 2.35 X 1 scope-shot film, so this is a badly chopped copy, making both trying viewing experiences.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Maison episodes may have some minor flaws, but it is in part from the style chosen that separates it from so many other current TV productions worldwide and it works for the show. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Dorian is in amazing shape with the age of the materials used rarely showing, mostly a black and white film, some shots of the painting are in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor also looking great (and like the inspiration for Rod Serling's Night Gallery TV series). It won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, as lensed by Harry Stradling, Sr. of Hitchcock's Suspicion, My Fair Lady, Johnny Guitar, Funny Girl and A Streetcar Named Desire fame.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Stranger has a print that does show the age of the materials used and the transfer is not the best, but unlike the U.S. Blu-ray release, it has a Blu-ray disc all to itself and looks just better enough to be one fans who can play Region B discs will want to get despite being a basic edition.

In the sound department, Maison is clearly the sonic winner with its nicely recorded DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes across all episodes, followed by the well-preserved DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless sound on Dorian and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless sound on Stranger, which somehow sounds more compressed despite being recorded 34 years later.

That leaves the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the two Hannay films, theatrical mono films here in versions that are compressed and down a generation or two, so be careful of volume switching and high levels.

To order either of the Umbrella import Hannay DVD or Stranger Blu-ray, go to these links for them:

David Hannay Collection - Alison's Birthday/Solo DVD:


When A Stranger Calls Blu-ray


and to order the Dorian Gray Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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