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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Melodrama > Refugees > Murder > Hong Kong > China > War > Cold War > Ocean > Submarine > Crime > Courtro > Blood Alley (1955/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Hell and High Water (1954/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/The Lincoln Lawyer (2011/Lakeshore/Lionsgate 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Lovers (2

Blood Alley (1955/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Hell and High Water (1954/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/The Lincoln Lawyer (2011/Lakeshore/Lionsgate 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Lovers (2016/A24/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Running On Empty (1988)/The Sea Chase (1955)/Vision Quest (1985/all Warner Archive Blu-rays)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B Picture: B-/B/B-/B-/B/B/B Sound: B-/B/B/B-/C+/B-/B- Extras: C/C+/B-/C+/C-/C-/C- Films: C+/C+/B-/C+/B-/C+/B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Hell and High Water Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, while the Blood Alley, Running On Empty, Sea Chase and Vision Quest Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Drama is war and war is drama. Three of these films are war genre, three dramas with serious war-level conflicts and one, a domestic political Cold War-era tale....

We start with William A. Wellman's Blood Alley (1955) led by John Wayne as a Merchant marine Captain in Hong Kong (then part of the British Empire) is out to save Chinese refugees from the Red Army who wants to stop them from leaving the People's Republic, ready to be a violent as they need to be. He also gets involved with an attractive woman (Laurel Bacall) who's the daughter of a doctor caught in the midst of all this. Can they get through the title locale to safety?

This mix of action and melodrama has some good moments, but tends to be uneven, complicated by a very politically incorrect (or maybe borderline racist?) portrayal of the Chinese, immigrants and aggressors, so it is a dated time capsule with more ideological issues than any review could get into. Still, this was sadly how so many films of the time from Hollywood were and that is the path chosen, but it dates it as the kind of time capsule we have too much of. Bacall more than holds her own and Anita Ekberg shows up in with barely a line of dialogue.

I see why Warner made this a Warner Archive Blu-ray and not a wide release, but it should be in print restored as should all of Wayne's films (like The Alamo, his 70mm epic not being restored yet) and glad to have see it again just the same.

Extras include two looks at the film from the TV series Warner Bros. Presents, two newsreels and (uncredited on the back of the case) an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Samuel Fuller's Hell and High Water (1954) is also water-bounds, but this time, it is Richard Widmark in a submarine going to the Arctic (before it started melting) to stop a nuclear incident the U.S. mighty well get blamed for an worse. It is a stuck-in-a film and also has its share of action and melodrama, but it plays better than Blood Alley and also like a dry run for Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea. Bella Davri, Victor Francen, Cameron Mitchell and David Wayne help out as a solid supporting cast, but the film is a mixed bag overall.

Fox has licensed this to Twilight Time as one of their Limited Edition Blu-rays and that is a good idea as the film has only aged so well, but I can see a larger audience for this one waiting to rediscover it. Fans will be very happy with this new edition too.

Extras include a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and yet another excellent, underrated essay by the great film scholar Julie Kirgo, while the Blu-ray adds an Isolated Music Score Track, Original Theatrical Trailer and biography featurette Richard Widmark: Strength Of Character.

I moved up John Farrow's The Sea Chase (1955) with John Wayne on this list to group the older CinemaScope films together. Wayne is here on a ship again with another major female leading lady facing danger, but this time it is the even more mysterious Lana Turner as Wayne is a German officer who hates Hitler and is currently in Australia where the British want to hold him and his crew for the duration of the war... unless he can get them back to Germany for uncertain fates.

It is also a very mixed film like many of these showy, hyped CinemaScope films (Farrow also directed Wayne in his big 3D movie Hondo) so we get a mix of good and bad moments, but Turner manages to steal all her scenes despite a solid supporting cast that includes Tab Hunter, James Arness, Alan Hale and Claude Akins that will have you saying 'look how young they all look'. Its that kind of film. Like the other two Scope films, its worth a look, but don't have the highest expectations.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is sadly the only extra.

Brad Furman's The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) is the film that saved Matthew McConaughey's career, got him to take himself more seriously and led to a Academy Award later for Best Actor and leads in some of the best films he ever made. I am happy to see this and that I saw the potential for a man whose career was in big trouble beforehand in my review of the film when it first hit Blu-ray at this link...


Now, Lionsgate has upgraded the film early on for the 2160p 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray treatment and it is one of the best choices for an underrated back catalog release choice. The film was not bad on Blu-ray, but this new version makes it more vivid, enjoyable and more of a pleasure to watch. I thought this might lead to some kind of sequel and the film did not do badly, if not an outright blockbuster. Still, not enough people have seen it and this new 4K version is the best. The film holds up well too.

Extras repeat from the previously reviewed Blu-ray including Digital Copy for PC and PC portable devices, Deleted Scenes and three featurettes: Making The Case: Creating The Lincoln Lawyer, At Home On The Road and One On One interview piece with McConaughey and Connelly.

Azazel Jacob's The Lovers (2016) offers a mixed film with one of Debra Winger's rare movie appearances of any kind. The liked actress who became a hit in mixed films like Urban Cowboy and An Officer & A Gentleman started to run into complications after Terms Of Endearment and rejected so many films, we stopped seeing her. Instead of building a catalog of well-picked films, see did a mix of good and forgotten before her partly self-imposed retreat despite accolades from Bette Davis, who thought she was the only actress back then who could take on Davis' toughest roles.

This time, she is part of a married couple (Tracy Letts is her husband) on the slow decline to a break-up and though the acting is not bad, the pacing, script, editing and directing are choppy, sometimes sloppy and never convinced me anything here was real, including the duel extra-marital affairs. The film may not be smug, but this goes on for a long 94 minutes and never gets better down to its supporting cast of mostly unknowns. It is just a disappointment all around and makes one feel Miss Winger (the only live-action Wonder Girl to date, by the way) has lost her sense of high quality choices. We'll see.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds two Making Of featurettes and a feature length audio commentary track with Jacobs.

Sidney Lumet's Running On Empty (1988) is an interesting attempt to tell a story of the remainder of what happened to the most radical people of the counterculture movement, years into the Reagan Era that wanted to erase it all. Christine Lahti (underrated) and Judd Hirsch (better than people give him credit for) are parents somehow managing to avoid the FBI since the Vietnam War where one of their bombing stunts (blowing up a napalm lab) accidentally got someone killed. Now, they have two sons and keep running away from each small town they 'move' to and integrate in before running away again.

However, their older son (River Phoenix, gone way too soon, showing here the massive talent and man we lost) Danny is a musical prodigy and he wants to follow this, but his father finds this impossible as they want to keep the family together. Remarkably, the married couple still has several connections and their political underground network still has money, is still active and helping them run. Danny also gets interested in the daughter (Martha Plimpton) of a music man trying to help him out, not knowing his back story. Will he abandon his family or stay with them?

Despite some script/story issues, it is not a bad film, though its ending seems abrupt and not very believable, yet it is a film that holds up enough and anything Lumet has directed should be seen at least once. Also as usual, Lumet's talent, reputation and greatness always guarantees a top rate supporting cast and this time, we get Stephen Hill, Lynne Thigpen, L.M. Kit Carson and David Margulies shows Lumet's knack for great casts. Nice to have this one finally arriving on Blu-ray.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is sadly the only extra, but it would have been nice to interview the cast or have a Lumet commentary track, et al.

Harold Becker's Vision Quest (1985) is a film that had a mixed release, ad campaign and plays like a product of the smart 1970s and plastic 1980s at the same time. The underrated Matthew Modine is Louden Swain, a guy who wants to be more than just bored with life, wants a girlfriend and become a wrestler. He's so serious about it, he tolerates the goofiness of his classmates and is ready to take on the #1 threat from a competing team, thus embarking on a journey to do just that.

He wants to make his dad (Ronny Cox) happy, but suddenly meets a gal (Linda Fiorentino) he is interested in getting involved with, but she is streetwise and cynical beyond his experience. Still, they allow her to stay at their place for a while, then a relationship sort of starts to happen. From this, the film shifts between their relationship, his training and formula 1980s moments that seem stuck into the film. At a local bar Louden visits, there is a singer (Madonna before most knew who she was, dressed in her iconic 1980s clothing!) singing the two songs (two of her best still to date) that became hits with connected to the film: #1 smash ''Crazy For You'' and dance/cult hit ''Gambler'' to the point that the film has focus issues in trying to tell its story, yet also be Rocky and Flashdance.

Fortunately, Modine is incredible here, carrying the film, making moments and lines work that most actors of his or any age would have probably flubbed and a conclusion that apparently went over too many viewers heads at the time for those who actually saw it. Along with the likes of Full Metal Jacket, this film is absolute proof that Modine is one of the best actors of his generation, even if he never gets credit for it. As a matter of fact, the cast is very impressive here (Forest Whittaker among them), but we did not see more of them enough after this since the film was not a blockbuster or not silly or vapid enough. That's a real shame. However, it is one of the few teen films of the 1980s (along with Real Genius) that actually works (most John Hughes films did not) and that is why despite a title that puzzled some people, Vision Quest may be a minor classic and everyone serious about filmmaking should see this one at least once.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is sadly the only extra, so Music Videos might not be here since Warner Music and Warner Bros. the film studio are no longer part of the same company? A new featurette or commentary would have been nice.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10-bit color; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image on Lawyer has a different frame than the 1.78 x 1 regular Blu-ray, but we get better composition, less motion blur and a more consistent image that was missing before, allowing the film to be more involving.

In a rare occurrence, we have no less than three films shot in the earliest version of CinemaScope at 2.55 X 1 before that was shrunk (to 2.35 or 2.39 X 1) to make permanent room for an optical soundtrack. We get decent 1080p digital High Definition image has all kinds of ghosting and alignment issues and though this is still an HD image transfers for Alley, Chase and Water, but Alley has a few more flaws than the other two. Water is the only film here to get the 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor treatment in release prints and with the DeLuxe lab name also on the poster, was one of the last Fox films to get this treatment before the studio had DeLuxe do the color on all their films in a few years.

Warner had already done this sooner with their own lab processing Eastman Kodak 35mm color negative film under the WarnerColor banner (1954's The Silver Chalice was the only WarnerColor scope film to get Technicolor prints apparently). Warner has done extensive work on the Wayne film and they could not look much better in this format as they do here, while Water is as strong and shows at times how good the Technicolor must have looked in those now very valuable 35mm prints. Fans will not be disappointed by any of them.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 HD shot digital High Definition image transfer on Lovers is on the dull side to create a mood, we guess, but also has some of the motion blur and detail issues the regular 1080p Lawyer Blu-ray has. On the other hand, Warner's great restoration team delivers again with the two 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the 35mm-shot Empty and Quest, which barely show the age of the materials used and look as good as I've ever seen them. This is not to say they looked stunning to begin with, but for the dramas they are, have been lensed professionally, smoothly and consistently, making their dramas all the more enveloping. Those who might only know clips from Quest via the music video for the two Madonna songs will be surprised too.

As for sound, Lawyer has been upgraded to a Dolby Atmos 11.1 lossless mix on the 4K 2160p disc that is fine, but it is only so much of an improvement for the well-recorded, dialogue-based film to begin with. Some scenes are improved a bit, but the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on the regular Blu-ray and lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown on the 4K disc sound fine. In retrospect, this is a more well-recorded film than I remembered.

Lovers (a new digital recording) and Water (originally 4-track magnetic stereo sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects like the two Wayne films) are here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that sound good, but Lovers can be lite and limited being a dialogue-based film, but the real surprise is how good Water sounds for its age to the point that it is the second-best release her sonically. The people at Fox did their work and because it was preserved, it holds up.

Unfortunately, because the 4-track soundmasters to the Wayne films were allegedly thrown out (!!!!), they are here with Quest as DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 lossless Stereo releases that all have their flaws and limits (Quest was originally issued in Dolby's older A-type analog Dolby System theatrical format with monophonic surrounds) so they tie for third-place sonically.

That leaves Empty one of the last major studio releases (along with Woody Allen's many films of the time) as one of the last theatrical monophonic (optical sound) releases and it is represented here in a lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono mix though this can sound good, it unfortunately exposes the flaws and limits in how it was recorded sadly.

To order the Hell and High Water limited edition Blu-ray, buy it and other great exclusives while supplies last at these links:




...and to order any or all four of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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