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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Relationships > Class Division > Slapstick > British > Greed > Money > Robbery > Biopic > Filmmakin > Admirable Crichton (1957*)/Penny Points To Ponder (1951/MVD Visual/Juno Selects DVD)/Stan & Ollie (2018/Sony Blu-ray)/The Whole Town's Talking (1935/*both Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition B

Admirable Crichton (1957*)/Penny Points To Ponder (1951/MVD Visual/Juno Selects DVD)/Stan & Ollie (2018/Sony Blu-ray)/The Whole Town's Talking (1935/*both Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)



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



PLEASE NOTE: The Admirable Crichton and The Whole Town's Talking Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, are both limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last from the links below.



Here's a fine group of classic comedy, including a new film on the subject that is no mess, but a fine mess everyone should get into...



Lewis Gilbert's The Admirable Crichton (1957) is a sly comedy about class division in the U.K. and places its conflict (at first) under one roof of a home run by Cecil Parker, but it is his butler (Kenneth More) who is about to be needed more than anyone could imagine when the divisions start to come into play when a marriage is afoot and then, a simple trip turns into an unexpected equalizing disaster (they get stuck on an island ala Gilligan's Island, likely inspired in part by this film) taking the divisions to their logical and wacky conclusions.


Gilbert could always handle comedy well, but was no drama slouch ands this does have a few such moments, yet the cast is also really good here and this could be seen as a minor classic 0of British Cinema. Gilbert later directed three of the biggest budgeted Bond films ever, huge hits all three (You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker) starting a mere 10 years after this release, but he just always had a knack for filmmaking and remains one of the great3est journeyman director's in British film history.


Also in the cast are Diane Cliento (Sean Connery's wife for a time), Sally Ann Howes, Miranda Connell, Mercy Haystead, Jack Watling and Gerald Harper, later a big TV star ion the U.K. starting with a show that did not do well and became a cult classic, the underrated spy series Adam Adamant Lives! (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and all in this adaptation of a book by Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie!


This is the kind of film Columbia used to syndicate as part of comedy TV packages decades ago, only to be too forgotten for our own good today. Great to have it back looking and sounding as impressive as ever thanks to Twilight Time.



Tony Young's Penny Points To Ponder (1951) is a film you may not have heard of, but it is the first feature film of the late Peter Sellers, one of the most critically and commercially influential and successful comic actors in cinema history, especially from Britain. Harry Secombe and Spike Mulligan also debuted feature film-wise here and had impressive careers as two men win a fortune and when they visit the summer boarding house they go to annually, the guest want to get their newly-won riches in any way possible. The results are mixed, but it is amusing to see Sellers play several characters, including a turn of doing his best Groucho Marx, which is not what I expected.


Running only 77 minutes, the film did not stick with me too much, but was meant to be a cheap programmer and in that, it is fine, so it is a historical curio worth seeing once, especially if you love Sellers and his work in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1965, reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) in particular. It should be in print and is one of the first releases in the new MVD Visual/Juno Selects DVD series.



Jon S. Baird's Stan & Ollie (2018) is an underrated new film about the final years of the most successful comedy duo in cinema history: Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly in some serious make-up). Lou Costello died too soon and Jerry Lewis broke up with Dean Martin before they ran out of hits, so the title people remain the champ duo of all time still.


The film begins with them still working with the Hal Roach Studios, who were distributed by the biggest studio of the time, MGM. However, Stan feels they are not making enough money for the insane amounts of box office their work is bringing in and it eventually brings their massive run to an end, one that began in silent films, and managed to be even more popular as they switched to sound, a transition most stars did not succeed in making. They also had the same energy, magic, timing and talent, so their popularity was unstoppable and inarguable.


After that brief segment, we switch to the 1950s, where the partnership has not always lasted, the newly arrived craze for television stars playing all their films, but they get zero in royalties (an ugly old story indeed) and they are ready to get money but doing a live comedy tour in the U.K. while hoping for a new Robin Hood comedy movie to be produced over there. However, they are not 100% good with each other, a few regrets have set in.


Still, people love them, but the U.K. promoters and studios there don't get this. Fans cannot get enough of them, but don't go to the shows as they are not promoted like they ought to be. Both have their wives soon visiting them there and they both wonder how long they'll be working overseas. It implies the U.S. studios were also neglectful of them.


This is easily one of 2018's most underrated films, maybe the most as it did not get the theatrical release or push it deserved. Coogan is not well known enough in the U.S., but this could have changed that, while Reilly is more than his equal in this true labor of love honoring two of the most important comic talents not only of cinema history, but of all time. They're work here is amazing and shows an advanced grasps of why these men were such legends. I have been a Laurel & Hardy fan, even including the hit animated TV series that was made after we lost them both and this felt honest and authentic all the way. There are laughs here, but also some great storytelling and you should go out of your way for this hidden gem.



Finally we have John Ford's The Whole Town's Talking (1935), a rare comedy from the legendary director that was made at Columbia but is spoofing the gangster films of Warner Bros. with no less than Edward G. Robinson in the dual roles of a meek newspaper guy and a brutal gangster in this case of mistaken identity comedy that is not quite a screwball comedy, but knows what it is spoofing because Ford knew his way around every genre.


Jean Arthur is the great gal reporter who likes the meek version of him, but no one catches the resemblance (obviously ignoring the office guy as being worth anything) until the actual gangster makes the headlines again and madness ensues. Years after The Sopranos ended, with a spin-off reportedly in the works, this films restoration and release on Blu-ray thanks to Sony/Columbia Pictures as a Twilight Time Limited Edition could not be better since that show referenced Robinson's gangster films and persona plenty of time. Fans of the hit series will not have to have seen any of Robinson's films to get some of the jokes and even in-jokes here.


Thus, this is something for classic movie fans, comedy fans and gangster picture fans to celebrate and is one they'll want to also go out of their way to catch.



The films all look as good as they can in the formats issued and are all from restored sources, save Ollie, which is a brand new shoot and needs no work. The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Crichton is very nice, originally issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor versions of the film in both the U.K. and U.S. and coming from two of the greatest labs of all time, this looks very impressive throughout and leans towards the slightly darker British Technicolor their lab was known for. Great Sony has Twilight Time debut this print with them, lensed by the late, great Director of Photography Wilkie Cooper, B.S.C..


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Ollie can have some slight detail issues in rare occasions, but this is one of the smoothest HD shoots of last year and had to be to portray the past it very accurately does, especially impressive with the relatively slow budget they had.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Talking can show the age of the materials used in very tiny places, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and is yet another great restoration by Sony of a Columbia Pictures classic that has that special monochrome look only Columbia releases had at that time. Some shots are amazing in their depth.


Ollie is the newest film by many decades and despite being somewhat dialogue and joke-based, is the best recording here sonically and is nicely mixed and clear throughout. I also like the use of music and sound effects. Crichton and Talking are offered in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless sound off of their original optical monophonic theatrical sound and they may show their age, but they sound as good as they can here too.


The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on the Penny DVD is from a restored print and not bad for the format, but could look better and the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound is passable, but lossless would get a little more out of the original theatrical monophonic sound.



Extras on the Crichton and Ollie Blu-rays include an Original Theatrical Trailer, Crichton and Talking add the usual high quality, well illustrated booklets on those films including informative text and yet another excellent essays by the great film scholar Julie Kirgo and the Crichton Blu-ray also adds an Isolated Music Score with select Sound Effects Track. Ollie also offers three brief-but-informative Making Of featurettes, Deleted and Extended Scenes and a great Cast & Crew Q&A. Penny adds a restored 32-minutes long short, Let's Go Crazy, also with Peter Sellars.



To order The Admirable Crichton and The Whole Town's Talking limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at these links:


www.screenarchives.com


and


http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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