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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Animation > Comedy > Martial Arts > Drama > Melodrama > Mutilation > Silent > Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4K (2019/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Man Who Laughs (1928/Universal/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)

Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4K (2019/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Man Who Laughs (1928/Universal/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)

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

As the 80th Anniversary of Batman continues, an unlikely meeting and a key film older than the character that had a huge influence on his history have arrived and are both releases you should know about...

When I first saw the announcement of Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019) as a special event release, I wondered what that could amount to. No Turtles fan, the various animated versions have been comical and live-action films unwatchable to me, but the characters continue to be popular and new shows remain in production. The early comic books are supposed to be darker, but I did not expect that version of the quartet. Things begin when Barbara Gordon is interrupted by masked invaders, then a smoke bomb is unleashed, the shadows of four 'mysterious figures' show up and when the smoke clears, all are suddenly gone.

Reporting the event to Batman, he calculates that the four later fighters are the Turtles and is wondering why on earth they would be in Gotham City. He decides they may be a problem and intends to get rid of the ASAP, with the help of Batgirl and Robin. Of course, it is them and they are not there for hostile reasons, but because there is trouble. At first they clash, but eventually various threats are revealed and the tale takes a few turns...

Two things to say up front: I thought this worked much better than I could have expected and the makers really cared to do right by big fans of both sets of characters and in that, the production is more violent than usual (rightly PG-13) and easily the most violent version of the Turtles I have ever seen, so this might not be for younger children. Otherwise, an unexpectedly pleasant surprise with some good comedy that manages not to go overboard, so cheers to the makers who pulled it off. Be sure to see the fun end credits too.

Extras include Digital Copy, featurettes Cowabunga Batman: When Comic Book Worlds Collide, Fight Night In Gotham and sneak peak at Batman Hush, the next straight-to-video feature animated release.

Then we have a film many have been wanting to see and it is finally available, Paul Leni's The Man Who Laughs (1928) is not a horror film or superhero precursor, but a drama about a young boy named Gwynplaine (played as an adult by the legendary Conrad Veidt) has his face cut to look like its smiling all the time and is part of the theme of disposable children the Victor Hugo book deals with as the film does and very well, As an adult, he becomes part of a circus and has to deal with ignorance all the time, but can he find true love with a young blind woman?

A classic from Universal Studios towards the end of the silent era, the title character inspired Bob Kane to create The Joker and his capturing of Veidt here is uncanny and now classic for the ages, but it all started in this well-made and decently long 100 minutes for a silent film. Highly influenced by German Expressionism, Universal had worked out their absorption of that great moment in silent cinema and it helped build the foundation for the studio, Horror films in the U.S. and so much more. Mary Philbin leads the rest of the solid cast in a film that has to be seen to be believed, highly influenced Tim Burton as well (to say the least) and is definitely worth going out of your way for. Flicker Alley has issued this as a Blu-ray/DVD with Universal.

Extras include another nicely illustrated booklet on the film (Flicker Alley does some of the best booklets) including informative text and yet another excellent essay, this time by the great scholar Kevin Brownlow on the film and you also get great stills and other tech info, while the discs add John Soister's visual essay Paul Leni and The Man Who Laughs (just over 13 minutes), Rare Image Gallery and Notes On A New Score essay by composer Sonia Coronado featurette.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.78 X 1 HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Batman is very nice, nothing with any particular demo shots, but very consistent and much more vivid than the still-decent 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the regular Blu-ray, but the color, detail and depth are just better in 4K.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on Laughs is from a 4K master restored of the original film, but the film materials have a few flaws and this is not a 4K disc. Still, most shots look amazing and even remarkable for a film so old, so bravo to the restoration efforts here. The 1.33 X 1 DVD is passable, but misses so much the Blu-ray delivers. There are two soundtracks, a newly recorded track in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix and the original 1928 Movietone score in DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless sound that has background noise, but I actually preferred it and think it has more impact, but try both when you get it. The DVD has lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and Mono respectively for each track that is not as good, but not awful either.

Batman has DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on both versions and it is one of the better such surround mixes for a DC animated release of late, so no complaints there either.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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