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Category:    Home > Reviews > Melodrama > Great Depression > Family > Faith > WWII > Italy > Spencer's Mountain (1963/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Three Brothers (1981/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)

Spencer's Mountain (1963/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Three Brothers (1981/Arrow Blu-ray w/DVD)

Picture: B/B & C+ Sound: C+/C+ & C Extras: C/C+ Films: C/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Spencer's Mountain Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Melodramas can be successful as these two have been, but that does not mean they totally work...

Delmer Daves' Spencer's Mountain (1963) is based on a book by Earl Hamner Jr., whose work here later was the basis for the endlessly successful (if dull and formulaic) hit TV series The Waltons, but this self-contained film has a different family led by Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara heading the family whose family has owned their land for eons. There are also music moments (played out songs for that matter) that help add to the fakeness and flatness of this long, long, long film, but Wally Cox (Mr. Peepers, Underdog) shows up in a decent turn and future Hawaii 5-0 (original series, of course) James MacArthur shows up (often without a shirt?!) as their oldest son who may be leaving to go to school.

MGM made this film, but not the TV show that it inspired (that was Lorimar, who was later bought by Warner) and it is a curio at best, but it goes on and on and on and on and is just too sappy to take at times. I saw it a very long time ago, forgot it and I can see why.

Two vintage featurettes in black and white promoting the film and an Original Theatrical Trailer are the extras.

Francesco Rosi's Three Brothers (1981) is a drama that tries too hard at times to deal with Italian history, recent, good, bad, dark and including how WWII and fascism affected the whole country. Phillippe Noriet (Cinema Paradiso) plays one of the three title characters in later life, dealing with how their futures will land up, are there any regrets and did they miss anything? The film opens with another brother running an orphan boys institution, a metaphor for refugee Italy post-WWII and the title even wants to reference Rocco & His Brothers (a character here is even maned Rocco), but the result is a mixed bag that never rang true for me despite the critical acclaim and big names who like this one.

Still, it is a key Italian film release that did well internationally and Arrow's new Blu-ray/DVD does justice to the film with its extras and a competent new transfer than gets the film to look and sound as top-rate as it can. Now you can judge for yourself.

Extras include a booklet featuring an essay by Professor Millicent Martin, a 1981 interview with Rosi and a selection of contemporary reviews (first printing only), a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin, while the discs add an archival interview with Francesco Rosi and an original theatrical trailer.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Mountain (Panavision and Technicolor, the latter of which the print can absolutely look like) and 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Brothers can both show the age of the materials used, but these are far superior transfers to all previous releases of the film and look good colorwise and with the definition you'd expect from 35mm film. Both have good, if not always stunning images and there's little to complain about in either restored upgrade. The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on the Brothers DVD is passable, but you can see how it pales as compared to the Blu-ray.

Both also have lossless sound with the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix on Mountain good for its age, if not in multi-track and more limited in range than expected. Brothers gets a PCM 2.0 Stereo on the Blu-ray version and it is more compressed and limited than I expected for a newer monophonic theatrical film. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the DVD is weaker still, so be careful of loud playback or volume switching with that one.

To order the Warner Archive Spencer's Mountain Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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