Great Jesse James Raid
Lady In The Car With Glasses & A Gun
The High Ground
(1953/MGM)/The Wild North
(1952/MGM/Warner Archive DVDs)
C/B-/C+/C+ Sound: C/B-/C+/C+ Extras: D/C/D/C- Films:
The High Ground
DVDs are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner
Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.
has always had gritty filmmaking even before the 1960s hit and not
just from independent productions, as even the majors tried to do
something different (while spending less money or spending it
differently) resulting in films that would have a one-of-a-kind look,
something that continued through the last Golden Age to the early
1980s before the majors made a blockbuster-driven comeback and home
video led to a standardized look. What I wanted to do in this review
was contrast a new production, even one that happens to be French but
remakes a Hollywood-released crime drama, comparing it two three
older genre films that have one interesting thing in common....
three older films were all shot on a film stock that you cannot get
anymore: Ansco Color aka Anscochrome. Before getting to the actual
films, a background on Ansco because it is an underrated film stock
with a great history that made a significant contribution to
filmmaking and still camera use in a way that is far too forgotten.
Back in 1896 (!), the company began making photo paper to print
stills, then another photo company was merged with it in 1905 and
that began what was Ansco, which won a court case against rival Kodak
in 1913 for patent infringement. By 1928, the competition with Kodak
got wilder when German giant Agfa merged with Ansco in the U.S., but
that all-out photo was would be killed by WWII, as the U.S.
Government interrupted it all in 1941 when it seized Ansco it its
battle with the Axis Powers.
company remained in U.S. Government hands well after WWII when the
Allies won, including GAF, who bought the company in 1939. After
WWII, with the Agfa name long abolished (the Allies gave away all the
patents to Agfa color in Germany to the countries that won WWII,
causing a color film boom worldwide that never ended), Ansco/GAF
reentered the consumer market and started piling on the awards as it
came up with technical film breakthroughs that made it a serious
competitor to every other film company in the world, including Kodak,
newly-free Agfa, Pathe, Ilford, Ferrania, Gevaert and DuPont among
was introduced in 1956 to the consumer market, but before then, it
became a hot alternative to all the color formats that major
Hollywood studios and other production companies who wanted to find
ways to save money and still have color. Technicolor was the best
process and Kodak had some of the best camera negative, but Fox had
founded their Deluxe labs to save costs and MGM decided to work with
Ansco to make a series of films developed in the studio's in house
labs. This only lasted a few years before the lab was renamed
MetroColor and used all kinds of color stocks, but some very
interesting, memorable and good-looking film resulted and we have
three of them here.
was a small producer when they moved into color filmmaking with
releases like Sins
(1956, both reviewed on VCI DVD elsewhere on this site) and Reginald
Le Borg's The
Great Jesse James Raid
(1953), telling the story of how James (Willard Parker of Kiss
gets reacquainted with Robert Ford (Jim Bannon of I
Love A Mystery
and was Red Ryder for a time), the man who eventually turns on him.
Those expecting a showdown will be disappointed, as this involves a
big robbery before that famous betrayal. In that, it's not bad and
we reviewed this before a while ago in one of VCI's collections, but
Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
(2007) has become a cult item. That makes this film a curio, one I
give credit to for being more graphic than expected.
Payton and Arch Clemens (who were having a notorious affair at the
time) offer support from a decent supporting cast and it I snot a
great film, but a good one worth a look, especially with how well it
is shot. More on that below.
are sadly no extras.
remake of the Anatole Litvak thriller from 1970 with Samantha Eggar,
Joann Sfar's The
Lady In The Car With Glasses & A Gun
(2015) with Freya Mavor in the title role of a secretary who takes
her bosses car for an unplanned ride and lands up in all kinds of
disturbing situations that she maybe should not be in to begin with.
It follows some of the 1970 film (there are 3 film versions so far,
all based on the Sebastien Japrisot novel) well and wants to have
some of the style of that film, including using an older car and
shooting with a look that can evoke the older film shoot (in
EastmanColor) by way of Tarantino, but really tries to have that
look. It is not bad at time, but never fooled me and overuse of
split screen with some very video-like shots means they do not pull
off what was intended.
is also more of a woman in jeopardy than you might think, so it would
be fair to call it a bit regressive, thus the film never really adds
up and turns into the surprise I had hoped for. The rest of the cast
is not bad, but when it was all done, I was reminded of how much
better and more original the 1970 film was. Acting like it was only
following the book is an angle I would never buy either.
include an Original Theatrical Trailer and two featurettes with
Director Sfar, including one that shows how he likes to paint.
now for two MGM films that tried for their own unique look by turning
to Ansco Color. Richard Brooks' Korean War drama Take
The High Ground
(1953) is a rare film on the subject of Korea, was lensed by no less
that cinematography legend John Alton and holds up well enough as
after a flashback to the war, Richard Widmark is the Army Sergeant
who is taking on the next set of recruits upon arrival. He is tough,
but his counterpart (Karl Malden) tries to make it a little easier
for them, but war is hell and the new group of guys (including Russ
Tamblyn and Steve Forest) are about to find out how much.
starts getting involved with a a widow (Elaine Stewart) in a way that
helps no one, no matter any good intents, but the film holds up well
in both how solid it looks (a great Ansco Color demo) and that it is
more closer in realism to the likes of a Full
than dozens of its counterparts, so it makes for a key war genre
film. It may not be a classic, but it impresses in its ambition,
effort and mature tone. The density is a plus.
are no extras.
we have Andrew Marton's The
(1952) with Stewart Granger and Wendell Corey as a possible criminal
(he is accused of a murder he did not commit) and a Canadian Mountie
(should we call this film a Northern and not a Western?) when the law
comes to capture him, only for both of them to have to deal with
storms, tons of snow and a few opportunists along the way. It has a
good sense of humor that is not overdone, but the political
incorrectness of native Americans as 'Hollywood Indians' led by Cyd
Charisse as 'Indian Girl' (we kid you not) makes this easily the most
dated, problematic entry on the list.
it is what does work, the performances, some of the plotting and the
superior use of color that makes it worth seeing through, even during
some cringe-inducing moments. The outdoors look good too where
applicable, but there are more than a few fake sets yo see here, of
Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.
1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Gun
is the best performer here being the only Blu-ray and newer than
anything else on the list by 65+ years, yet it is the most color-poor
having limited-to-basic color throughout by design. You also get
some phony shots that do not help and though watchable enough,
nothing here is too memorable.
1.33 X 1 Ansco Color/Anscochrome color image transfers on the Jesse
DVDs can show the age of the materials used, but Jesse
looks very slightly better than the plugged-up DVD we covered years
ago (benefitting from a new pressing by default?) and even when the
print is damaged and not great, you can still see how good the
intended color is, what they did with sets and costumes to show it
all off and how smart Lippert was being to make a showing with the
Ansco Color at hand to make this look grade-A. North
has a better transfer and print, but it still has its share of some
damage and fading, yet color reproduction can be amazing.
leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Road
just edging out the others for the best color on the list, Alton was
a genius and that shows on this often solid print. We even get a few
demo shots. Needless to say all the Ansco Color/Anscochrome films
need and deserve to be restored for 4K HD presentation because their
color is so unique, amazing and special that they are amazing to see
in action. Serious film fans need to catch all these films and not
just big productions MGM shot with Ansco Color/Anscochrome film like
Brides For Seven Brothers
after the studios and independents moved away from Ansco Color and
Anscochrome, it was occasionally used for feature film releases. As
the GAF name started to become more well-known than Ansco, some great
ad campaigns offered the film as an inexpensive alternative to Kodak
as did 3M/Ferrania, Dynachrome (which 3M also owned), K-Mart (which
used Ferrania), Sears/Tower, Sakura and Agfa Moviechrome film. Many
did not hold up years later.
had even become the exclusive film of Disney, whose tie-ins included
camera and film packages with their iconic characters, plus success
with their 3D View Master toy viewer they had acquired from the
Sawyers Company (now made by Fisher Price) that was a big hit. Henry
Fonda even became a company spokesman in the 1970s pitching many of
their products. Even when GAF shut down Ansco/GAF film in 1977, they
made View Masters for many years after. GAF sued Kodak soon after
and won in court for anti-competitive practices, but Kodak landed up
with all of their film patents, folding the film division after 79
years. GAF got out of the toy business later as well, now making
some of the best building construction materials around like their
former film competitor, DuPont who left film production around the
same time (1974) for different reasons. All in all, it is a
little-discussed part of film history everyone should know and these
film gave us the opportunity to share it all.
leaves the sound, with the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) French 5.1
lossless mix on Gun
is the best presentation by default, well mixed and presented for
what it is, but too quiet and refined at times to take total
advantage of the multi-channel possibilities. All 3 DVDs only offer
lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mixes, all sounding as good as they
could for their age in the older codec, but Jesse
sounds more worn and brittle matching its image limits. They all
deserve the best restoration possible, but these copies will do for
order either of the Warner Archive DVDs, go to this link for them and
many more great web-exclusive releases at: