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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Melodrama > Great Depression > Crime > Relationships > Prison > Character Study > Gangster > Fraud > Comet Over Broadway (1938)/Condemned (1929/Samuel Goldwyn)/Lights Of New York (1928/all Warner Archive DVDs)/Red Sparrow (2018/Fox 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

Comet Over Broadway (1938)/Condemned (1929/Samuel Goldwyn)/Lights Of New York (1928/all Warner Archive DVDs)/Red Sparrow (2018/Fox 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Comet Over Broadway, Condemned and Lights Of New York DVDs are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and all can be ordered from the link below.

These dramatic crime thriller dramas show how the role of women in such cinema has and has not changed...

Busby Berkeley's Comet Over Broadway (1938) is NOT a musical from the legendary choreography-turned-filmmaker/director, but though it is not an outright thriller, it does have this wild combination of performing arts, crime and a desperate woman that reminded me of Red Sparrow. Here, Kay Francis plays a woman who wants to be a big time stage performer, has daughter and child to take care of and runs a newsstand, when she meets an actor who could gibe her a big break. Too bad her dysfunctional husband kills him!

He then goes to jail, but she feels it was an accident, intends to free him and inadvertently becomes the very performer she always dreamed of, but for a new end. Needless to say this can be all over the place, but Berkley can juggle it and it is worth a look for the many things that do work, along with its twists and turns. It also shows he could handle genres outside of the Musicals he became so famous for.

There are unfortunately no extras.

Wesley Ruggles' Condemned (1929) gives us an earlier tale of four men stuck at devil's Island prison, including a murderer, thief, shut-in and warden with issues in this Samuel Goldwyn-produced drama that can get really dirty, ugly and real. It also has a few cliches of such films, but is bold in the portrayal of hurt, flawed, sick individuals who are highly toxic, looking for easy ways out of their situations and the results of everyone going for the easy way adding up to more disaster for all.

This is the kind of film that would be hard to get made by a major studio today, so that Goldwyn's one-man mini-major did it back then tells us something. Ronald Coleman is the bank robber trying to avoid hard labor, even if it makes some others jealous and Ann Harding is really good here as the warden's neglected wife who takes a liking to Coleman. Yes, it is another film that gets that involved and intense. You can also see why no one has dared to take it on; too honest to deal with? Dudley Diggs and Louis Wolheim also star, more than holding their own and though the film shows its age at times, it also has much about it that holds up well.

There are unfortunately no extras.

Brian Foy's Lights Of New York (1928) was the next major sound 'talkie' film from Warner Bros. after The Jazz Singer (1927, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and Don Juan have bootleggers trick two local guys who aren't too bright (Eugene Pallette as Gene and Cullen Landis as Eddie) into buying a barbershop in Manhattan (when such things were so easily affordable 90 years ago!) that turns out to be an illegal speakeasy!

Then things gets worse when Eddie's old flame Kitty (Helen Costello) turns up as a chorus girl and one of the gangsters behind the plot starts taking a quick liking to her! Kitty is not exactly a disposable gal, even if her stage performing might not be considered as 'legitimate' as other such female activity in the 'arts' as the stereotypes go. All in all, not a bad film, but expect some odd moments considering sound was so very new at this point, especially from the studio who finally found a way to make it a permanent part of world cinema. Yet another film not bad for its age and one you should see once if you are a big film fan.

Extras include four restored Vitaphone short films from 1928 so you get the further idea of how early sound cinema was like.

Now compare those three films to this new spy thriller...

Jennifer Lawrence stars in Red Sparrow (2018), a film in which she plays a Russian whose unwillingly enlisted into become a intelligence officer. Taught to be selfless, ruthless and willing to kill, these agents known as Sparrows that use their mind and bodies as lethal weapons. The film spends a lot of time being risque and sexual when it could have more action and suspense. There isn't much humor here and at times the slow pace, length, and exotic locations make it feel almost foreign. Directed by Francis Lawrence (Hunger Games, Constantine w/Keanu Reeves, I Am Legend, endless music videos), the film is a bold (and revealing) choice for Lawrence - an actress who likes to show her range.

The film also stars Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons, Matthias Schoenaerts, Mary-Louise Parker, and Charlotte Rampling.

Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) begins as a ballet dancer who undergoes a tragic injury to her leg. Faced with taking care of her sick mother, she is recruited by her Uncle to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service. There she faces a life changing training process and is set free on a mission that threatens her life. However, Dominika has come far from her humble beginnings and is willing to do whatever it takes...

Special Features:

A New Cold War: Origination and Adaptation

Agents Provocateurs: The Ensemble Cast

Tradecraft: Visual Authenticity

Heart of the Tempest: On Location

Welcome to Sparrow School: Ballet and Stunts

A Puzzle of Need: Post-Production

Director Commentary by Francis Lawrence

10 Deleted Scenes (With Optional Commentary by Francis Lawrence)

While it wasn't quite what I was expecting, Red Sparrow highlights a great performance by Lawrence and a satisfying third act.

Presented in a 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and an English/Russian Dolby Atmos 11.1 lossless track, the film is highly cinematic and is breathing on 4K UHD. The film's lush cinematography is backed by its Russian backdrops that comes across so life-like you'll feel as if you're there. Also included is a 1080p high definition with similar specs and a digital copy.

The 1.33 X 1 black and white image in the three Warner Archive DVDs are watchable, but show their age with scratches, dirt and other instances of damage, meaning they need restorations ASAP when 4K versions are needed. Otherwise, they can look good. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on all three DVDs are also down a generation or two, especially Comet, which was hard to hear at times. Be careful of high playback volumes and volume switching.

To order the Comet Over Broadway, Condemned and Lights Of New York Warner Archive DVDs, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Red Sparrow 4K)



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