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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > Ships > War > British > Con Artist > Comedy > Australia > Abortion > Romance > Politics > W > The Wife (2018/Sony DVD)

Billy Budd (1962/Allied Artists/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Dr. Knock (2017/Umbrella Region Free PAL Import DVD)/L-Shaped Room (1962*)/Last Hurrah (1958/*both Columbia/Sony/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/The Wife (2018/Sony DVD)



Picture: B/C/B/B/C+ Sound: B-/C+/B-/B-/C+ Extras: B-/D/B-/B-/C+ Films: B-/C+/B-/B-/C+



PLEASE NOTE: The L-Shaped Room and Last Hurrah Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time and limited to only 3,000 copies, the Dr. Knock Import DVD is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can only play on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD players that can handle the PAL DVD format and the Billy Budd Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.



Now for more challenging dramas you should know about...



Peter Ustinov's film of Herman Melville's Billy Budd (1962) was the legendary actor's only directorial effort, but also co-produced and plays the ship's apparently fair captain, but the big deal here is that the film introduced actor Terence Stamp in the title role and it made him a iconic cinematic star. Robert Ryan has the thankless role as the man who has no friends as he sticks it too all the crew to keep them in line, but he starts to go too far when Budd arrives and complications ensue.


Along with the giant Ultra Panavision remake of Mutiny On The Bounty with Marlon Brando that same year, this was one of the last big years for such ship-bound dramas for a long time. This film did fairly good while the Brando film was a box office disappointment, yet both are very ambitious in scale and big screen productions that do what they can to entertain and connect with an intelligent audience. Meant by Allied Artists to move them into larger productions, the film has a few off moments, but it worth a good look and is one of the final such black and white epics of any kind as color soon took over the big screen for good.


Warner Archive has issued an impressive Blu-ray with extras and a restored version of the film that is the best way to see it outside of a mint condition film print. See more bout it below.



Lorraine Levy's Dr. Knock (2017) is about a fake doctor and con artist in hiding (Omar Sy) who is about to try to con an entire village out of more money in the 1920s, but his identity and luck will soon be challenged as various circumstances (et al) start to shift. This is a drama with some comedy, albeit tainted and is at least consistent, but it was a bit predictable after a point, takes few risks and I only bought it so much. I give it a point for trying, but was unimpressed overall and is only for the very curious. I believe Sy could be this con artist, but can only do so much with the script.



Bryan Forbes' The L-Shaped Room (1962) has the underrated gentleman British journeyman director take on the story of a young woman (Leslie Caron) who is pregnant and is not certain what she wants to do, but is leaning towards an abortion. Without the father or anyone else knowing, she arrives in London and rents a small place (the title locale) and very slowly gets to know the various, sometimes eccentric tenants as she tries to decide what will be best for her and her potential child.


Tom Bell, Bernard Lee (the same year he started his James Bond films run), Cicely Courtneidge, Brock Peters, Patricia Phoenix and Emlyn Williams comprise of most of the supporting cast that helps bring a sometimes claustrophobic film to life with its tight spaces (sometimes intentional) that speak to a cycle of British dramas happening at the time and speaks of a repressive post-WWII U.K. in itself, but it is also a smart film. I cannot say it works all the way through, sometimes getting muddied, but it is always striving to be honest and about the people in almost a character study of they and their surroundings.


In all this, it is definitely worth a look and see more about it below.



John Ford's The Last Hurrah (1958) was not the director's last film, but the adaptation of the rise and fall of old ward politics (the book seems to have inspired the famous phrase of the title) takes what is ultimately a darker look at 'anytown U.S.A.' that had such systems and how changing times, especially with the arrival of early analog television, was bringing an end to it all. Spencer Tracy is the career politician Major who is still trying to hold it all together, not knowing what is ahead (no one apparently gets what is about to happen and how things are about to shift) in what starts out as very slow moving, then eventually picks up.


His family is also unaware of what is about to happen, nor are his friends or enemies, with even his nephew (Jeffrey Hunter) who is also a journalist unaware of the 'media-ated' time they are about to permanently enter. The mayor is able to take on the banks construction bosses and much more to build the community as he sees fit and most fair (as well as most politically advantageous) showing us how these things benefitted voters by default when and before major parties used media to sidestep and manipulate (i.e., vote against their own economic interest for politicians out for themselves) voters, leaving them high and dry. That is more relevant than ever.


Made not long after his classic The Searchers, Ford was becoming increasingly pessimistic about the U.S., world and democracy and this film shows that. More of his longtime list of stock and familiar actors show up here than in many of his then recent films, plus we get the likes of John Carradine and Basil Rathbone as bad people in two of their more serious career performances. Though it is not his greatest film, Hurrah is as insightful as his best and is worth rediscovering, especially at this place in time.



Finally we have Bjorn Runge's The Wife (2018), a film that has great performances, but is a mixed bag in itself. Jonathan Pryce is a successful writer who is about to win a very big award, but his wife (Glenn Close) is only happy for him to a point. Sick of being in the shadows, we discover all is not well with their children and dealing with respectable society can wear thin for them, but more is going on here that challenges what seems like a good marriage and a opportunistic writer (Christian Slater, a but miscast) wants to write about them.


A few more twists and turns happen, but there are a few holes in the plot and a few points I did not buy, partly from a little sloppy pacing and thinking, yet the actors are impressive, Close deserves all the accolades she has received for the role and Pryce is solid as usual. Don't expect much from the film, but do be prepared to be impressed by the better acting here.



The three Blu-ray releases here are all in black and white and look really fine throughout in these new restored presentations. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image on Billy Budd shows once again how unique the combination of scope and monochrome can be, even if it used the older CinemaScope lens system with its flaws and distortions. Warner Archive has done its best to make it look good and I've never seen it look better.


Sony offers recent restorations of L-Shaped Room in a 1080p 1.66 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer that impresses even a bit more as does the 1080p 1.85 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Last Hurrah, delivering great detail and depth along with great grey scale and playing like newly struck 35mm film prints.


As for the DVDs, the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Knock is a little softer than expected, especially with it being a PAL format disc, while The Wife is an HD shoot with good color, but some flaws and motion blur. Both would benefit from Blu-ray, which Wife was also issued in, but it deserves 4K just for Close's performance. Both DVDs have dialogue-based, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, but the three Blu-rays were theatrical mono releases and even sound better in their DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes that are as clear and undistorted as can be expected for films of their age not in stereo.


Extras include Original Theatrical Trailers on all disc save Dr. Knock, which has no extras. All three Blu-rays have feature length audio commentary tracks, with Steven Soderbergh hosting Terence Stamp on Billy Budd, while Julie Kirgo, Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman (who sadly passed away while we were listening to these tracks) deliver more excellent thoughts on L-Shaped Room and Last Hurrah, which both also offer Isolated Music Scores.



To order The L-Shaped Room and Last Hurrah limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at these links:


www.screenarchives.com


and


http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/



...to order the Dr. Knock Umbrella import DVD, go to this link for it and other hard-to-find titles:


http://www.umbrellaent.com.au/


...and to order the Billy Budd Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.wbshop.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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