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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Counterculture > Thriller > Drama > WWI > Silent Cinema > Romance > Politics > French > Family > Weal > Brewster McCloud (1970/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/J'Accuse (1919/Flicker Alley Blu-ray)/The Magnificent Ambersons (1942/RKO/Warner/Criterion Blu-ray)/Schindler's List (1992/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-

Brewster McCloud (1970/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/J'Accuse (1919/Flicker Alley Blu-ray)/The Magnificent Ambersons (1942/RKO/Warner/Criterion Blu-ray)/Schindler's List (1992/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

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

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

Four important classics have arrived at the same time you'll want to see in these great new editions as soon as possible...

We start with Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud (1970) finally getting a release and upgrade in the Blu-ray format, though it is Warner Archive once again handling the release of his first film after M*A*S*H was such a tremendous hit. This is what I said about the edgy, provocative, bold comedy when we covered the Warner Archive DVD version at this link...


MGM originally made the film in an attempt to have the next counterculture hit (as they did with Antonioni's Zabriskie Point around the same time) and it holds up well, has aged well and is even more relevant than when we covered the DVD, dealing with dreamers and eccentrics. Altman is one of our greatest filmmakers and more people miss him than you'd think. You can enjoy what he was accomplishing with this film here more than anywhere outside of a high quality scope 35mm (or maybe 16mm) print.

Sadly, the only extra is a Original Theatrical Trailer, but it deserves much more and ought to get it sometime down the line.

Sometimes a great filmmaker makes the same film twice, literally remaking an earlier work. It is rare, but it happens and I am not referring to commercial filmmakers and bad remakes. Able Gance has been controversial, but always consistently good as a filmmaker. The film he made twice is J'Accuse, later as a sound film in 1938, but he made it a long silent epic earlier back in 1919 and Flicker Alley has managed to introduce the remarkable reconstruction and restoration on Blu-ray for the first time ever. We reviewed the remake on Blu-ray at this link...


As was the case later, a love triangle becomes the impetus to get us to the ravages of war and criticism thereof as Edith (Marise Dauvray) is in love with a younger man who writes poetry (Romuald Joube as Jean), though married unhappily to an older one (Severin Mars as Francois) only for both of them to land up fighting in WWI. She also gets abducted, but this is 166 minutes long, so the triangle alone was not going to sustain that length by any means.

Thus, expect a long sit, but if you can get into it, it is very rewarding and may be one of the most impressive silent epics ever made simply by being able to just sustain its very long length. Both films are worth seeing and investing the great amount of time and attention in, so those interested should look into it. It also makes me want to see Gance's Napoleon, which a restoration of is due soon, we hear.

The only extra is Paris Pendant La Guerre (Paris During the War) from 1915, which the press release describes rightly as a: rare comical look at Parisian life during wartime featuring several popular performers of the day, and including Fran├žois Poulbot's famous political cartoons. This vintage 35mm tinted print is courtesy of the Lobster Films Collection with by a Fotoplayer score by Robert Israel. Wish there was something else, but this is good.

As Orson Welles' very last film finally arrives in theaters, a new restoration (if not the full length version that seems lost forever) of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) has arrived with a huge set of extras from Criterion as they continue licensing from Warner Bros. all kinds of classics titles for the first time. However, this RKO film was originally issued by the company (along with Citizen Kane) when Turner Entertainment handled the RKO films and Ted Turner himself owned the catalog. Now, we finally get a Criterion Blu-ray edition and it is the best the film has looked in eons.

Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead lead the cast as members of the title family, who once ran and dominated a part of Indianapolis and their great, well-lived lives there, inly to see the turn of the century change all that forever. About forty minutes was cut from the film when Welles was away making a third film for RKO, who betrayed him and butchered the film in what seems likely a permanent loss. However, it is still a beloved film and still constantly ranks as one of the best-looking films ever made. Some of the shots remain remarkable and the work unmistakably of Welles himself, teamed this time with Director of Photography Stanley Cortez, A.S.C., so there is some slight difference between this and Citizen Kane (lensed by Gregg Toland, A.S.C.) and though we get some variance in quality due to the cutting down, some of the footage looks as good as Kane because materials survived at least as well.

RKO did not know what they had or did not care, which led to a dry spell at the studio that lasted throughout WWII and caused them to be the butt of many jokes (Bing Crosby's bit about hiding there to be safe if the Japanese bombed Hollywood because RKO had not had a hit in years) unnecessarily. Previous copies of the film as it stands were passable, but this new version brings us closest to the film with a superior transfer of the film elements and sound upgrade, plus a ton of extras old and new. This is one of the most written about, researched and discussed films of all time, so Criterion delivers an edition worthy of the film. Whether you've seen the film or not, this is the place to catch it at its best outside of a premium film print. Then you have a ton of added materials worth your time.

Extras include a booklet that imitates a shooting script, but actually contain tech info on the film, plus six essays by the likes of the great critic Molly Haskell and (Blu-ray only) essays by authors and critics Luc Sante, Geoffrey O'Brien, Farran Smith Nehme, and Jonathan Lethem, and excerpts from an unfinished 1982 memoir by Welles, while the Blu-ray disc expands on all previous extras and includes (as the press release notes) two audio commentaries, featuring film scholars Robert Carringer and James Naremore and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, plus new interviews with scholars Simon Callow and Joseph McBride, new video essay on the film's cinematographers by scholar Fran├žois Thomas, a new video essay on the film's score by scholar Christopher Husted, Welles on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970, Segment from Pampered Youth, a 1925 silent adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons, Audio from a 1979 AFI symposium on Welles, Two Mercury Theatre radio plays: Seventeen (1938), an adaptation of another Booth Tarkington novel by Welles, and The Magnificent Ambersons (1939) and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Finally we have the 25th Anniversary release of Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1992), a film about The Holocaust, evil, hate and how, somehow, people survived a living hell. An instant classic upon release, it is the most important film he'll ever make and after recent events, takes on a new importance no one human would have wished with the skyrocketing return of hate crimes and the murder and death they leave in their trail.

Liam Neeson is the title character, a slick, suave businessman who is willing to do business with anyone, as long as he makes a ton of money. This is even true if it is the Nazis (and why not since we found out later big corporations like IBM, Coca-Cola and others put profits ahead of lives) who welcome in their elite inner-circle of the huge cash they expect to steal and make with the war and Final Solution against World Jewry, et al. Schindler's name is established as money-first and they embrace it without question.

As this rolls on, he meets a very dangerous, elite Nazi (Ralph Finnes, brilliant in a totally thankless role) who also wants the good life Schindler implies as an unspoken promise of a better tomorrow and better life for the successes of The Third Reich and those who make it possible, but even Schindler cannot ignore some of the inhumanity he sees (even ignoring it initially) and as it gets worse, he very slowly starts to have the truth dawn on him. His assistant (Sir Ben Kingsley, excellent in a counterpoint role and performance) eventually start making a list of people to get them past any kind of shipping to any death camps and it becomes a race against time when the Nazis become more angry and desperate as they start losing the war.

Save for the fact that anyone who was truly a victim of long stays at any death camp would have been too sick to make any film about it, this remains brutally, sickeningly realistic and necessarily so to show what a nightmare this was from a vivid new perspective that cannot be called 'looking too old' or 'from the distant past' so the crimes cannot be denied. It becomes a one-of-a-kind visual experience that speaks its truth as soon as the start of the film switches from it rare full color opening to its black and white majority.

Universal has issued it in an incredible 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray set that delivers the film as clearly as ever, especially the 4K edition with all kinds of jaw-dropping scenes and moments no other film before or since will ever deliver and make clear. The cast all around is amazing including Caroline Goodall, Embeth Davitz, Jonathan Sagalle and so many others who delivered unforgettable, honest and ugly moments to make sure we never forget how bad this was.

Spielberg himself had to leave his usual commercial, grand sense of filmmaking behind and take an approach he never took before and get his hands dirty in a way few filmmakers ever have to to get to the truth. He actually had to edit the first Jurassic Park at the same time and got so depressed, he turned to one of his best friends of the time to get him to laugh and help him survive bringing this nightmare back to life: Robin Williams.

Watching it again after all this time, after the Tree of Life Massacre had just happened so recently, I could take some solace in the fact that the truth about such hate had been addressed so accurately, so strongly and so recently. Such murder and evil did not happen because no one cared, because no one knew, because no one was paying attention, but because some people are sick, the hate that caused such things to happen never totally ended (and has been awakened in the last few years) and fighting against and having zero tolerance for that ideology takes a vigilance we can never have enough of.

Many films and even TV shows were made about The Holocaust were made before Schindler's List and some more have been made since. More will fortunately, also be made because all the stories and truths have still not been revealed or realized, but Schindler's List went further in full detail about it, the Jewish lives it affected, the full, well-rounded Judaism they lived by and he perpetual desecration of that faith in a way most filmmakers could not begin to put on the screen.

It is a landmark that needed to happen and why it will go own as one of the most important films of the late 20th Century and of all time.

Extras are included on the regular Blu-ray and include two new featurettes: Schindler's List: 25 Years Later and Let Their Testimonies Speak - Stronger Than Hate, then repeat the vital USC Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg, Voices from the List and About Iwitness.

When Schindler's List arrived, one of it few critics was French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, who has been attacking Spielberg for all kinds of reasons, but also going overboard in the process. In this case, he said the film was not shot on 'real black and white film' (HD for feature films had not arrived yet) in part because real monochrome film has silver or retains more silver than such stocks now 25 years ago. Spielberg and Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski created their own distinct black and white look, something that totally went over Godard's head, to make the film distinct. Its one-of-a-kind darkness with tempered light (everyone is in an inescapable hell, whether they realize it or not) and for Godard who himself made a masterwork of darkness in black and white like Alphaville (1965) as one of his best works, its very sad his reaction to this.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 1.85 X 1 Ultra High Definition image is incredible, looking as good as the high quality 35mm print I saw of the film in its original release and offers stunning detail, gray scale and more, though sometimes it is limited in some shots for purposes of realism. Many scenes exceed my rating, but there are amazingly some shots I think could even look better as great as they look here. You cannot run away form or look away from what is here. The 1080p Blu-ray is just fine with the same framing, but could not compete with the 4K much at all.

The other Blu-rays here look great too including the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Brewster McCloud, a nice jump from its DVD edition, showing off the great Panavision cinematography and interesting MetroColor (one of the best labs in Hollywood) throughout. Some of this is stylized to be soft, which meant naturalistic in the 1970s, so expect that, but it holds up very well.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on J'Accuse is miraculous in looking as good for its age as it does (now 110 years old as of this posting!) and we should cheer the amazing restoration we get here because this definitely does not show its age. A 2K reconstruction, it was worth the effort.

That leaves the 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Ambersons from a 35mm fine grain nitrate print in 4K that will shock and stun those who have not seen it for a while or ever in a great copy. Detail and depth can stun beyond my rating at times and Welles intent is more vivd than ever, making one wish the longer version survived even more than ever.

As for sound, Schindler's List was recorded very well for its time and for its 4K version, has been upgraded for Dolby Atmos 11.1 lossless (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for older home theater systems) and sounds as great as it ever did. I like how the soundtrack is constantly picking up small details throughout as the deadening silence of death haunts the film throughout. It is very smart sound design, represented on the regular Blu-ray in a still solid DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix.

The rest of the films have simple soundtracks including the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono sound on Brewster McCloud, which still demonstrates the complex use of sound, dialogue and music Altman was doing even then before he started innovating multi-channel sound for filmmaking as Welles had before him on Kane and Ambersons and Spielberg did in all his films later. That is better here than on the lossy Dolby Mono DVD.

The older J'Accuse has a music score in simple PCM 2.0 Stereo that is fine, though it only does os much for me and sometimes feels more dated than the image. I like my silent films silent and this plays well just the same.

That leaves Ambersons with an upgraded PCM 2.0 Mono that comes directly from a 35mm optical soundmaster that captures more detail and nuance than I ever heard in the film in my life. You can only do so much for an older theatrical monophonic film as this one is, but the atmosphere is improved and it can now keep up better with the amazing visuals.

To order the Warner Archive Brewster McCloud Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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