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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biography > Biopic > Writing > Stage > Documentary > Music > Rock > Counterculture > Scandal > Acting > Act One (1963/Warner Archive DVD)/Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words (2016/Sony DVD)/Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (2015/Criterion Blu-ray)

Act One (1963/Warner Archive DVD)/Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words (2016/Sony DVD)/Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (2015/Criterion Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Act One DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

These new releases look behind the scenes of show business as much as they do of life.

Dore Schary's Act One (1963) was the longtime movie studio executive (RKO, MGM) not just pushing into producing, but taking on the task of writing the adaptation, directing and making a name for himself there. The subject is a book by Moss Hart (George Hamilton) and the story on how he was trying to break into stage writing when he eventually managed to become the new writing partner of stage author and legend George S. Kaufman (Jason Robards) it a very long 100 minutes telling of what was a hit book and has its moments of being involving.

The problem is that he lets the melodramatic drag on the story and that has it trying to hard and getting long and stretched out as if trying to be 'important' (i.e., please nominate this film for a few Oscars) and that works against a solid cast that also includes Jack Klugman, Ruth Ford, Sam Levene and Eli Wallach. Needless to say it is a smart, literate work and does not render phony what happens behind the scenes, even capturing its era. Hamilton was here yet again getting another chance to break out as a lead and he had the energy and the camera liked him. Too bad this did not help that launch on the 'A' list as he deserved to have, even if it was briefly.

So the result is a good film you need patience to sit through and one entertainment fans will get a bit more out of, but others might lack patience for. If interested, definitely give it a chance to see it once.

Thorsten Schutte's Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words (2016) compiles a ton of great, vital, archival and revealing footage of the groundbreaking, bold musicians work and leads to a portrait of the man uncompromisable, daring, brave and eventually political without trying on some level. The counterculture music maverick who was as dangerous as John Lennon or Bob Dylan could ever hope to be (think more like Jerry Lee Lewis), he hardly used drugs or drank, invented the term 'groupies' and never had a mainstream hit until a duet with his daughter in the 1980s (''Valley Girl'' just hit the Top 40).

Despite the excellent releases and rereleases in recent years of his album (especially in multi-channel form) along with other great video programs, we see his earliest TV appearance on an episode of The Steve Allen Show playing music on a bicycle (we can now see he was doing dissonant music for an audience who could barely conceive it), the new kind of realism and honesty via Rock (et, al) he was trying to bring to music at the time (comparable to only Lou Reed) and how he grew as an artist, commentator and how this led to launching himself as one of the greatest independent record company owners ever, some of which we've covered and enjoyed on earlier DVD releases.

The more he becomes part of the counterculture, the more he seems 'different' for any era, though he not only fits into the time, he is creating it, easily transitioning into the 1970s and becoming as strong and as influential as ever. The compilation of great interviews (everyone should see them, now more than ever) are honest, hold nothing back and have no problem criticizing any system, preconceived notions, a few injustices and the music industry. This includes his unhappiness with Disco. Then the 1980s arrive and with John Lennon out of the way, The Reagan Administration and Tipper Gore start to become 'concerned' with music content (including album covers, pre-CD boom) and Zappa suddenly becomes the first defense for an industry whose response in retrospect was weak. This led to the (in)famous Parental Advisory stickers, all now highly optimistic and even nostalgia in a world we have now with so many 'clean' versus uncensored Rap/Hip Hop and Alt Rock hits, et al.

Best of all, the clips and music are so rich, so smartly edited together and so revealing that it synthesizes into a great near auto-biography of the man, yet another great, vital artist in dAnger of being forgotten and a reminder of what an individual, original he was. One of the best music documentaries of the last few years, it is a must-see for all serious music fans let alone everyone else.

Finally we have Stig Bjorkman's Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (2015) offering a huge chunk of home movie footage shot by and sometimes featuring the legendary actress, generously using quotes from her notes, writings, life and some vintage audio. Her whole surviving family is interviewed including the great Isabella Rosselini and other fans and experts join in, including no less than a great appearance by Sigourney Weaver, who has some great stories having met her early in her career. Thanks to the generosity of her family sharing so many intimate works and words, we get a great new portrait of one of the greatest international movie stars of all time.

While the Zappa documentary delivers what we expect at its most pointed, blunt and honest, we get that about Bergman here, plus even more intimate sides she was keeping from the public, how she knew how to keep her private life natural, private and normal and felt it was 100% her business no matter the scandal and there was a scandal when she left her first husband for legendary Director Roberto Rosselini. She paid a price for a better life and in the long run, won because she was right and her nebby critics were 100% wrong. The 114 engrossing minutes still have time to trace her amazing career, classic works, all the major stars and talents she associated with and thus, gives us a great side portrait of Hollywood and world cinema itself.

I have to admit that I had high expectations for this release and when I heard the rave reviews, wondered if it could be that good. It is and I STRONGLY RECOMMEND everyone go out of their way to see this one!

The anamorphically enhanced black and white 1.85 X 1 image on Act One can have its share of soft scenes, but looks pretty good, while the 1.33 X 1 image on Zappa chooses that frame because most of the footage is originally in that aspect ratio. Some of that footage is from various film sources, but a good chunk is analog videotape in a few formats (NTSC, PAL), as well as color and black and white. Analog videotape flaws including video noise, video banding, telecine flicker in older film-to-video footage (that just survived that way), tape scratching, cross color, some faded color and some tape damage, but the makers seem to have tried and fixed it the best they could. The result is that the two DVD are on a even keel in presentation.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Bergman can show the age of the materials used, especially since she shot so much home movie footage herself, but the flaws are limited and range from regular 8mm to 16mm film (black & white and color, in both Agfa and Kodak film stocks), with new footage shot in HD and on Super 8mm film and the film is scanned pretty well throughout. The result looks good and smoother than you might expect.

As for sound, both DVDs have monophonic sound to deal with and Act One is totally so, thus it is presented here in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, while Zappa has been bumped up to lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 as his music is often featured in stereo or even subtle multi-channel playback. Some old sources are simple stereo. A Blu-ray was issued with lossless sound and it likely sounds a bit better than what we get here.

Bergman has the best sound with a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that deals with various mono and stereo audio from the older film and sometimes video clips, but the surrounds engage with decent music and the new interview audio is just fine.

Extras on all three releases offer Original Theatrical Trailers, but Bergman adds an illustrated foldout (nearly poster-like) piece on the film including informative text and an excellent essay by the great film scholar Jeanine Basinger, Deleted & Extended Scenes, more 8mm films shot by Bergman, an interview with Director Bjorkman, a Music Video for the song ''The Movie About Us'' by Eva Dahlgren, a clip from Bergman's 1932 film Landskamp and outtakes from her 1936 film On The Sunny Side.

To order the Act One Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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