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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Melodrama > Historical Epic > Royalty > Murder > Insanity > Mental Illness > Power > British > War > S > Spotswood (1991/Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD)

Anne Of The Thousand Days (1969/Universal/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/The Balcony (1963*)/The Crown: The Complete Second Season (2017/Sony Blu-ray Set)/Galveston 4K (2018/RLJ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Spotswood (1991/*both Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Balcony and Spotswood Import DVDs are now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can only play on Blu-ray, 4K Blu-ray or DVD players than can handle the PAL DVD format, while Anne Of The Thousand Days is only available from our friends at Twilight Time, limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last. All can be ordered from the links below.

We'll start with Charles Jarrott's Anne Of The Thousand Days (1969) is the still decent, if long, hit film about King Henry VIII (played most effectively by Richard Burton) who is about to start his killing spree of various wives, stuck with one (Irene Pappas) who is mutually miserable to be with him, when young Anne Boelyn (Genevieve Bujold in an early success) catches his eye and he becomes particularly obsessed with. His current wife cannot bare children and he is also at odds with the Church of Rome, so the entry of the title woman in his life will shake up everything in ways no one could have initially imagined.

Though you may or may not know the results of the fallout, half of it all is telling the story of how it got to being what it is, which the film does well enough, but it is at epic length at 145 minutes. It is now much easier and more of a pleasure to watch now that it has been restored and I can see the intent of what was made fully, but appreciating in value are the performances of the supporting cast that includes great actors like Peter Jeffrey, Anthony Quayle, John Colicos, Michael Horden, Katharine Blake, William Squire, T.P. McKenna, Vernon Dobtcheff, Nicola Pagett, Cyril Luckham and an uncredited Elizabeth Taylor. What most studios and filmmakers would give to have a cast like that, all in top form here.

Universal has started working with Twilight Time om what I hope will be a permanent relationship, as the studio has a bunch of gems long overdue for Blu-ray, so there is a solid Limited Edition Blu-ray to start with and reminds one of how much money the studio was putting into their films starting in the 1960s as they finally became a major studio. A big British production they knew what to do with, this kind of update is long overdue.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the materials used at times, but this is a brand new HD master and I have never seen the film look this good before ever. Detail and depth are greatly improved, light values better than ever and color plus color range superior to anything that has been seen outside of the best 70mm and 35mm prints of the film. This was originally issued in 70mm blow-up prints, so it was shot with that in mind and we also got dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints and now we can see how exciting that must have initially been

Director of Photography Arthur Ibbetson (I Could Go On Singing, The Bounty (1984, both issued by Twilight Time), Die! Die! My Darling, A Countess From Hong Kong, Where Eagles Dare, Hopscotch,) tends to be an underrated artist who knew how to make filmed images very memorable and that is again the case here. Using the very widescreen frame to its fullest extent, your are well caught in both the spectacle and the isolation of the situations shown. Fans will be impressed too.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix is good, but the film originally had two multi-channel soundtracks: 6-track magnetic sound for 70mm prints and 4-track magnetic sound for select 35mm prints. You can still get some sense of the traveling dialogue and sound effects form the original soundmaster, but they'll have top track down those soundmasters before they consider a 4K disc edition sometime down the line.

Extras include another 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 in lossless sound and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

A smaller film that has taken longer to resurface than expected is Joseph Strick's star-studded adaptation of Jean Genet's The Balcony (1963) about a local madam (Shelley Winters) helping her military lover (Peter Falk) entrap certain people to keep a revolution at bay in a 'smaller, militarized country' of 'some note' or the like. Not bad for 84 minutes and its limited budget, people turn up who were about to become bigger stars. Falk was already on his way, but you also have Leonard Nimoy a few years before Star Trek, Kent Smith, Lee Grant, Ruby Dee, Jeff Corey, Joyce Jameson and Peter Brocco.

Censorship has not totally loosened yet, but the suggestiveness at the time was possibly more shocking than it is now, especially since some of the cast were name actors then. Winters does chew up the scenery a bit, but that fits her role and the power she knows she has on some level. There are rough parts (obvious stock footage, moments that do not work as well as others), but this is a curio long overdue for rediscovery and it is finally making it to DVD somewhere.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white image transfer shows the age of the materials used, but this has some fine new shots throughout just the same, yet it is a generation down like the sound, here in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. Its passable, but I wished it were clearer.

There are sadly no extras.

The Crown: The Complete Second Season (2017) continues to be a window into Britain's past, and a great way of feeling as if you're a fly on the wall surveying the complicated life of Queen Elizabeth II. The 'Netflix Original' is now the winner of FIVE Emmys (including Best Actress in a Drama Series for Claire Foy) and lands here in its second season.

The hit show stars Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Olivia Colman, and Helena Bonham Carter to name a few.

10 episodes span four 1080p Blu-ray discs and include the following episodes: Misadventure, A Company of Men, Lisbon, Beryl, Marionettes, Vergangenheit, Matrimonium, Dear Mrs. Kennedy, Paterfamilias, and Mystery Man.

The Crown is presented in 1080p high definition with a 2.00:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a standard DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, both of which are more textured and intricate than the original streaming broadcast. This is a high end production and its many details are caught in this release... though could be improved by a 4K UHD release in the future hopefully. No digital copy.

Special Features include...

Tea Time Trivia

Fact of Fiction with Robert Lacey

The Royal Rules of Etiquette

Horses and Hounds: The Queen's Companions

and a Photo Gallery.

For more on the series ad other royal releases, try our coverage of the First Season Blu-ray set here...


Ben Foster and Elle Fanning give spot on performances in Melanie Laurent's Galveston (2018), which has landed on the 4K UHD format courtesy of RLJ. Based on a novel by Nic Pizzolatto - the creator of HBO's True Detective (past seasons reviewed elsewhere on this site), the film has several twists and turns that you won't be coming. I had no idea that Laurent was this good of a filmmaker, as I only knew of her as an actress in Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds (2009), but her direction and cinematic choices are on point. I'm definitely interested in seeing what her next film will be.

Elle Fanning (Super 8, Neon Demon) continues to impress as a great emerging young talent here, and Ben Foster pulls off the tough guy (whose also dying of lung cancer) character archetype pretty well. The two play off each other naturally, and are really the heart of the film outside of Laurent's great direction.

The film also stars Lili Reinhardt, Robert Aramayo, and Beau Bridges.

Roy (Foster) is a tough as nails criminal, whose mob boss (Bridges) sets him up over a woman. Narrowly escaping for his life, he finds Rocky (Fanning) being held captive by his would-be assassins, and takes her with him on his escape. While on the run, the two relate to one another whilst they know they are both being pursued for their own troubling pasts. On the way, Rocky saves her sister from her abusive stepfather, giving Roy a lot more responsibility than he bargained for.

Galveston is presented in 2160p HEVC/H.265, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on its 4K Ultra HD disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1, HDR (high dynamic range), and a nice sounding DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix. The film is very cinematic and has breathtaking (and colorful) cinematography that's never dull to watch. Also included is a nice looking Blu-ray of the film 1080p that looks fine for the format, but lacks some of the depth and textures the 4K UHD brings to the table.

Special Features include...

The Making of Galveston Featurette

Galveston is an interesting thriller that's definitely worth checking out, especially on this great looking 4K UHD.

Finally we have another curio and gem, Mark Joffe's Spotswood (1991) with Anthony Hopkins (around the time of Silence Of The Lambs) as an efficiency expert trying to help a family business become more profitable in the face of bored workers, conflicts, class division and an up and coming generation not fitting into any of the madness easily. It is a drama with comedy throughout and made in Australia, set in its past. However, it is as relevant to the present of any town that has industry and is a pleasant surprise to see.

Hopkins is at the top of his game as usual, as is the mostly unknown (save in Australia and maybe the likes of the U.K., New Zealand and South Africa) unknown adult cast, who make all this richer and more believable. The biggest surprise is how it shows Toni Collette, Ben Mendelsohn and Crowe in young, early roles. They are impressive here even then and show off their natural talent throughout. If Hopkins is not a reason to revisit/discover this gem (I think he alone would be), they are, so cheers to all who got this out on DVD and those interested should go out of their way for it. They won't be disappointed. Angela Punch McGregor, Bruno Lawrence, Alwyn Kurts and Rebecca Rigg.

I like how the film looks, but the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is a generation down, with the 35mm materials having scratches and dirt here and there, while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is audible, but also a generation down with weak surrounds from its Dolby System analog A-type noise reduction with mono surrounds not what it could be.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is sadly the only extra.

You can order the Anne Of The Thousand Days limited edition Blu-ray while supplies last, with other great exclusives, at these links:




To order either of the Umbrella import DVDs, The Balcony and Spotswood, go to this link for them and other hard-to-find releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Crown, Galveston 4K)



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