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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Spoof > Satire > Heist > Romance > Wealth > British > Wrestling > Diamond > Horse Racing > Beat The Devil (1953/Sony restoration*)/Fighting With My Family (2019/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Hot Rock (1972/Fox/*both Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/Three Men On A Horse (1936/Warner Ar

Beat The Devil (1953/Sony restoration*)/Fighting With My Family (2019/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Hot Rock (1972/Fox/*both Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)/Three Men On A Horse (1936/Warner Archive DVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Beat The Devil and Hot Rock Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, while the Three Men On A Horse DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Here are a wide range of comedies with something more to them, plus a new one with zero comedy in it...

We start with a restored version of a what turns out to be a lost film, John Huston's Beat The Devil (1953) from a mislabeled print that turns out to be the original cut of the film. For 60 years, we've put up with a print that had scenes missing, a last-minute voice over that never worked, and yet, the film has still had a big cult following. I reviewed that version before, including on a Blu-ray edition at this link...


This new version has been picked up by Sony and the restoration makes it both a better comedy and heist film than even I could have expected. The film was shot in chronological order with the writing being done as they were shooting, so hardly anyone knew where they were going next, yet it has some interesting chemistry with its great cast and the locations are looking better than ever.

Whatever the approach, by necessity or not, the film is much better in this slightly longer cut and plays more nationalistically like a Huston film would. Truman Capote co-wrote with Huston and they are successful in mocking the caper film (upped by the likes of Topkapi and Rififi around this time) subtly sending up several such films, though many tried to say it was mainly targeting The Maltese Falcon, I saw it being broader than that and knowing its way around the genre, et al. You can enjoy the locales and great cast better than ever in this version and should get ti while supplies last. It is incredible how great this looks. See more on that below including some great extras...

Stephen Merchant is already far and away the lead for worst director on every single such list for his WWE-produced atrocity Fighting With My Family (2019, in two versions !?!?!?!) that manages to make you loose a few hours of your life while desecrating the names of two of the greatest studios of all time: MGM and Universal. A brother and sister want to be in the WWE, but only the young lady makes it when the time comes and how far can she go? Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson shows up to smile and mug the same way he has been doing for decades and even Vince Vaughn cannot stop this disaster from transpiring.

The box states this was 'based on a true story' but if so, it is the loosest adaption of any such thing in recent memory and hard to believe any living humans act or talk like this. I am rarely surprised by my intelligence being insulted, but this one managed to pull that off. The WWE is the worst producers of any kind of filmed or video-recorded entertainment and this catastrophe will be the nadir of many nadirs. This is one of the most pre-processed, phony, formulaic things I have ever suffered through, so beware!

Peter Yates' The Hot Rock (1972) is the underrated director's next attempt at a heist film following Robbery in 1967 and the classic Bullitt in 1968. This time, Robert Redford is the lead in an adaption of a Donald E. Westlake/John Dortmunder novel penned by no less than William Goldman. It also has a good supporting cast including George Segal, Ron Leibman, Paul Sand, Moses Gunn, William Redfield, Topo Swope and the great Zero Mostel, but its attempt to be hip and off-beat too often hurts the film's pacing and you get an uneven film that should have been shorter or changed around to make up its mind on what it wanted to be.

This hurt it as the box office, but the film has a following just the same and is at least ambitious to its credit. I like the heist moments and some of the character moments, but then it has goofy moments one too many times that I guess try to punch up the film and account for some kind of realism that says the characters move in a world that is not always so serious. Unfortunately, it seems contrary to Yates as a director and is not for everyone.

This, this is why Fox decided this should be a Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray and there is more than enough talent here that makes it overdue for release in high definition in the format. Redford was just becoming a big star at this point, hard as that is to believe, but it was all uphill for him from here where he was on a big box office streak like few actors ever were (even a big hit like The Way We Were with Barbra Streisand actually got the Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray treatment in a surprise for such a well known film).

This film is not as well known as most of Redford's later films, but I believe it has a larger audience as it once did once it hit network TV, then later cable and home video, so those interested will want this Blu-ray with extras and fine playback performance while they can get it. See more tech information below.

Finally we have Mervin LeRoy's Three Men On A Horse (1936) with Frank McHugh as a writer having trouble breaking through in his profession, but suddenly finding out he has a way to guess the results of every horse race he takes on... as long as it is under certain conditions. Of course, greed rears its ugly head and his wife thinks his horse book is a list of other women he is cheating on her with, not helped by the appearance of Joan Blondell and everyone else in his life has some wacky complaint about him.

The film is fairly good, but has no big laughs, though it is at least a little amusing and interesting for its cast, but it also plays like a sitcom too often. At best, it is a curio for the stars and director, so it makes sense Warner Archive makes sure its issued on DVD. Now you can see for yourself, but only have expectations be so high.

Now for a look at the playback quality of each disc starting with the remarkable restoration on Beat The Devil, here in a sharp, crisp, impressive 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer that is so beyond all previous releases of the film we've seen in the last 60 years that it is like finding a lost film. By not being a generation down or more, a bad print or rough otherwise from censorship, it is a revelation that includes several demo shots above its grade rating and you can really appreciate what Director of Photography Oswald Morris, B.S.C., achieved here. For the first time ever, you can see how great the deep focus photography moments are. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix still shows its age (dubbing and all), but has hardly any background noise and is the best the film has sounded maybe ever.

Unfortunately, despite constant motion blur and bad lighting, you can still too clearly see the bad acting, et al, in the bad HD shoot that makes for the hideous waster of time the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Fighting is, much worse on the even softer, anamorphically enhanced DVD with lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 that almost makes you miss out on the awful writing. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Blu-ray is one of the worst recorded and mixed such presentations I've heard in a major studio release in many years, os think of it as bad stereo trying to stretch to more tracks. Ugh!

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Hot Rock is a great use of 35mm anamorphic Panavision with some great shots and a few surprises that you will not forget, looking better than it plays, allowing for nighttime to be rightly dark. The DeLuxe color is just fine with few issues and the sound is here in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 or 1.0 lossless mixes with Quincy Jones' score that are not bad, but I preferred the 2.0 mix.

Finally, the 1.33 X 1 black & white image on Horse comes form a copy (or two?) that are a little worn and so it is no surprise that the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sounds as worn and the combo plays like it is a few generations down. Bet this would be more amusing if it were in better shape.

Extras on all but Fighting include a Original Theatrical Trailer, Fighting adds Digital Copy so you can show your friends how bad it is, Deleted & Extended Scenes that differ little from the final versions of the 'film', two lame featurettes, an actual audio commentary where the Director tries to make us believe this works and a Gag Reel that will make you gag for all the wrong reasons.

Devil and Rock add nicely illustrated booklets on each respective film including informative text and more excellent, underrated essays by the great film scholar Julie Kirgo, who participates in two great feature length audio commentary tracks with writers/film scholars Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman (who we sadly lost recently, so hearing him is a real pleasure and something to treasure), Isolated Music Scores with select Sound Effects and Devil has one more goodie: a featurette Alexander Cockburn on Beat The Devil, an on camera piece on the film with the son of the author of the original book.

To order Beat The Devil and The Hot Rock limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at these links:




and to order the Three Men On A Horse Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:

- Nicholas Sheffo


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