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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Melodrama > Literature > Relationships > British TV > Feminism > Discrimination > Italy > Comedy > C > Rudolph Valentino Collection, V. 1 (1919, 1922) + V.2 (1918 - 1922/Flicker Alley Blu-rays)

Anna Karenina (2000/Acorn DVD)/Elena Ferrante On Film (1995, 2005/Film Movement Blu-rays)/Mary Pickford: Fanchon The Cricket (1915) + Little Annie Rooney (1925/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD Sets)/Rudolph Valentino Collection, V. 1 (1919, 1922) + V.2 (1918 - 1922/Flicker Alley Blu-rays)

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

Next up are tales set in the past, sometimes near past, but seeming far away, usually dramas, but some comedy or with some comedy. They are certainly smart and more substantial than the usual fare and worth looking into as follows...

Helen McCory stars in Anna Karenina (2000), a four-episode British Television event - that has just landed on DVD courtesy of RLJ and Acorn. Based on the Leo Tolstoy literary classic (a longer book than many seem to realize), the story centers around a married young noblewoman who has an affair with a handsome soldier named Count Vronksy. Her desires for the man work against her commitment to her husband in a stylish period setting.

The series also stars Stephen Dillane, Kevin McKidd, Douglas Henshall, and Mark Strong.

No extras.

While it's been done several times in various cinematic forms, including a recent big budget Hollywood film, this particular version is very well done, with many critics considering this one of the better adaptations. Given its length, its easy to see how this version can be a bit more extensive than a 2-hour Hollywood movie, and would be ideal to show in classrooms or for those studying the source material.

The remaining entries are all theatrical film sets.

As a new cable TV series based on her works gets released, Film Movement is issuing Elena Ferrante On Film on Blu-ray of older theatrical films: Roberto Faenza's The Days Of Abandonment (2005) and Mario Martone's Troubling Love (1995) that were both made in Italy. The first has a woman named Olga have her husband suddenly end their marriage, which she takes hard and it starts to destroy her. The latter, earlier film has a daughter traveling home to Naples to find out how and why her mother died and when she is not getting easy answers, realizes more is going on than she thought and as she thought.

Though both melodramas, they never get too sappy as they tell their female-point-of-view tales with authenticity and as they are made in Italy, a little less reserved and safe than if they were Hollywood productions. I just found Love to be more interesting, involving and surprising than Days, though I've seen actress Margherita Buy before and she does carry the film well. You'll have to see these for yourself and if interested, do not let subtitles get in your way. Both films respect the audience's intelligence.

Extras include a "Elena and the Books" featurette, Cast & Crew Interviews and 32-page booklet containing Elena Ferrante's letters and script notes about the films (excerpted from Frantumaglia: A Writer's Journey, published by Europa Editions, 2016) plus an introduction by author and professor Giancarlo Lombardi.

Next up are two key feature films saved from one of Hollywood's (and world cinemas) first big stars. Mary Pickford: James Kirkwood's Fanchon The Cricket (1915) and William Beaudine's Little Annie Rooney (1925) feature the actress in different variants of the vulnerable-but-spirited gal who can can come up with what it takes, no matter how bad thing get. Cricket was one of her favorite films (the only film two of he relatives appear with her in) and despite an early archiver of her works, was lost at the time of her death, then was later rediscovered and made the long journey to being found, restored, saved and reissued. Thrown out of 'higher society' in an ugly way. She fights back with womanhood and charm in an interesting statement on class division, then and now, in the U.S. and beyond. Filmed in Pennsylvania, it s a one-of-a-kind gem with its own look and feel (that place is long gone 113+ years later in the condition shown here) and makes for great viewing.

Rooney is one of the first films ever made to have a popular song connected to it, even though it too is a silent film, but the film was a huge hit and the song became more popular over the decades as she plays the title character, a tomboy in a tenement building playing younger than her actual age. It still works and its still often very funny throughout. Again, the camera loves her and this was as big a hit as she apparently ever had. It will remind some of The Little Rascals/Our Gang shorts, among other films of the time and is worth going out of your way for.

Both films easily demonstrate star power and both releases from Flicker Alley add a DVD with the Blu-ray version, plus nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text (including on the restorations of both films), rare photos, essays by Cari Beauchamp and technical information. Rooney adds (on both disc versions at 5:14) a featurette on how young Andy Gladbach created a score so good, it defies the stereotypical silent film scoring (and re-scoring) we've encountered over the years. A nice plus!

Finally we have two more sets focused on silent films from a legendary movie star that drove the public wild. Rudolph Valentino Collection, V. 1 (1919, 1922) + V.2 (1918 - 1922) show the star in great form in six short films between the two releases that demonstrate how he stood out among other actors at the time on his way to becoming a phenomenal big star that had women going insane for him all the way to his shocking, early, untimely death.

The first volume has two of the longer films: Eyes of Youth (1920, a love triangle film that put Valentino on the map) and Moran of the Lady Letty (1922, has him shanghaied to a ship for a really good drama), leaving the second with A Society Sensation (1918, is he a romancer or kidnapper!?!, only 2 of 5 reels of this survived), Virtuous Sinners (1919, he has a bit part here), Stolen Moments (1920, in shortened form, he's a seducer up to no good with complication ensuing) and The Young Rajah (1922, made after The Sheik, reconstructed from stills and any surviving footage). These are all worth seeing and you too will be very glad they've been saved.

Extras include downloadable digital notes on both by film historian Kevin Brownlow, but you can only get them via the www.flickeralley.com website.

Presented in an anamorphically enhanced 1.66:1 aspect ratio and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, Anna looks and sounds fine for the format, but is ultimately compressed despite being shot on film. The production value here is pretty strong and the overall look has a very theatrical feel to it, almost like an episode of Masterpiece Theater. It feels older than it is (intended?), mainly due to the near-full frame letterboxing and general broadcast television feel.

The two Elena films have two different aspect ratios, but both originate on 35mm color film. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Days is not a bad use of the scope frame, but nothing stunning and we get minor flaws throughout. We can also say that about the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Love, maybe with slight motion blur a few times, but both are pretty color consistent and accurate enough.

That leaves the 1080p 1.33 X 1 usually black & white digital High Definition images on the Pickford and Valentino films, all shot on 35mm film in the silent era, meaning flammable nitrate film meaning they are lucky to have survived at all. Some have color tinting that looks fine with Rooney having an impressive golden look. Both have scratches and other flaws that could not be fixed due to age, but the restorations are remarkable all around (especially on the Pickford films) and will surprise those not used to high quality silent film presentations.

As for sound on the remaining Blu-rays, Days offers both a decent DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix and lesser, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 option, but the film is dialogue-driven, so it only delivers sonically so much. Love offers PCM 2.0 Stereo that is as impressive and consistent, also dialogue driven.

Both Pickford films have impressive new music scores here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on their Blu-ray versions and lesser, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 versions on their DVD counterparts. The DTS is much better. Valentino has all of its music scores on both discs in PCM 2.0 Stereo that are just fine and could not sound much better.

- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Anna)



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