David Hannay Collection: Alison's Birthday
(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)
C/B/B/B- Sound: C/B/B-/C+ Extras: D/C/B/D Main Programs:
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
Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner
Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.
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...
David Hannay Collection
is a double feature of a horror thriller/Ozploitation film called
(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
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.
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.
are no extras.
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.
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
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.
include a preview of the next season and illustrated booklet on the
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.
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.
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
both in HD) and the Original Theatrical Trailer.
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.
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.
are sadly no extras.
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.
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,
and A Streetcar Named
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
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
and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless sound on Stranger,
which somehow sounds more compressed despite being recorded 34 years
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.
Umbrella import Hannay
DVD or Stranger
Blu-ray, go to these links for them:
Hannay Collection - Alison's Birthday/Solo DVD:
A Stranger Calls
Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great
web-exclusive releases at: