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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Racism > Urban > Relationships > Melodrama > Murder > Crime > Affair > Infidelity > Adultery > Fascism > Silent Revolution (2018/Icarus DVD)/Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey (2018/Umbrella Region 4 PAL Import DVD)

Do The Right Thing (1989/Universal/Criterion Blu-ray Set)/The Letter (1940*)/Pan's Labyrinth 4K (2006/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/The Set-Up (1949/RKO/*both Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Silent Revolution (2018/Icarus DVD)/Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey (2018/Umbrella Region 4 PAL Import DVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Ulysses Import DVD is now only available from Umbrella Entertainment in Australia and can only play on DVD, 4K and Blu-ray players that can handle PAL DVDs,while The Letter and The Set-Up are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Now for some serious dramas with serious themes, including a few with different approaches...

We star with a still-controversial classic, Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing (1989) now celebrating 30 years. We covered the DVD edition ten years ago at this link...


Though I still like Jungle Fever more, this film is as relevant as ever, an American classic and Lee needs to be commended for his prediction about gentrification, that the rich and wealthy would come back to bad neighborhoods abandoned in New York City and and rebuild them, no matter who they might push out. The film has become better with age, more special with age and still (even after all of cinema has become more senselessly violent three decades alter and counting) questions the violent reaction the community has to a senseless police killing.

Far more killings have happened in real life and while most of the violence in films since (fiction mostly, but violence still) has been committed by caucasians, the one rare film with persons of color who have nowhere to turn and cannot take it anymore is still being intellectually criticized. In all cases, those critics never think about alternatives or have any answers in how these persons with no economic or political power are to get justice. That is ultimately the situation and question this film's very title asks us to consider and that it has no easy answers.

Since the first 12-inch LaserDisc of the film, Lee has slowly been building up the extras and discussions of the film and this new Criterion double Blu-ray set has the most ever for it yet, including an excellent 108-page high quality, thick booklet on the film including an essay by critic Vinson Cunningham, and (on the Blu-ray) extensive excerpts from the journal Lee kept during the preparation for and production of the film, while the discs add a feature length audio commentary from 1995 featuring director Spike Lee, Dickerson, production designer Wynn Thomas, and actor Joie Lee, Introductions by Lee, Making "Do the Right Thing," a documentary from 1988 by St. Clair Bourne, New interviews with costume designer Ruth E. Carter, camera assistant Darnell Martin, New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., and writer Nelson George, Interview with editor Barry Alexander Brown from 2000, Programs from 2000 and 2009 featuring Lee and members of the cast and crew, Music video for Public Enemy's "Fight the Power," directed by Lee, with remarks from rapper Chuck D, Behind-the-scenes footage, Cannes Film Festival press conference from 1989, deleted and extended scenes, original storyboards, trailer, and TV spots.

That makes it the ultimate version of the film and one of the best Criterion editions of an excellent year they are having!

William Wyler's The Letter (1940) brings Bette Davis and her favorite director together for one of her finest roles, for this winning adaption of M. Somerset Maugham's novel about an adultering woman who may or may not be behind the title scribement, but could she also be a murderess?

On the down side, Asian characters (sometimes played by Asian actors, sometimes not) date this films in ways it need not be, though Gale Sondergaard is always a welcome presence, but the rest of the film holds up well and Davis has some of her all-time classic moments in a film about to celebrate 80 years. Cheers to Wyler who knew what he was doing and is not always remembered as the great journeyman director he was, getting lost in the shuffle despite an amazing list of hits and other underrated works.

They made a great team, Wyler and Davis, something that deserves a new examination, but this is just typical of the high quality of Warner's big event movies of the time and that spirit has managed through thick and thin to survive at the studio today. This 95 minutes of melodrama is one of the best of its kind and tightest examples of the genre around. That is why everyone should see it or now restored here, see it again.

Extras include an Alternate Ending Sequence, Original Theatrical Trailer and two Radio drama adaptions of the film, both with Davis recreating her role here and the latter with Vincent Price, both installments of the Lux Radio Theater.

Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006) may have seemed like a fantasy genre film from the man who directed hits like Blade II (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and he is an expert in genre filmmaking, no doubt. His knowledge is as exceptional as his application of this kind of storytelling as much as any filmmaker alive, but in one of his greatest triumphs and a film that is still underrated, telling a dark tale of the hatred and evils of murderous fascism in a Spain not long ago and how one young lady has to handle it.

Fortunately, she lands up finding a magic pathway that shows her truths, including powerful truths in what is happening to her and her mother as the mother is involved with one of the main government militarists and how the evil is so deep, how is a young pre-teen female supposed to deal with it all?

In a film that belongs on the same shelf with Wizard Of Oz and several versions of Alice In Wonderland, it also is one of the rare films in the last 40 years to try to make a big statement and succeed in a finale worthy of Lean's Dr. Zhivago. Its arrival in this very impressive $K reissue is a true event and as it is one of the most underrated films of the last few decades, an event for us all to celebrate.

Extras repeat the old Blu-ray edition and includes the feature length audio commentary by Guillermo del Toro on both disc versions, while the older Blu-ray retains a video prologue by Guillermo del Toro, plus featurettes The Power of Myth, The Faun and the Fairies, The Color and the Shape and The Director's Notebook. Yes, a Criterion Blu-ray was issued a few years ago with more extras, but you'll have to get that one separately.

Robert Wise's The Set-Up (1949) is a good boxing film, so much so that it influenced Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980) and I want to add immediately that Wise has never been my favorite director. I am no fan of Sound Of Music and think the big bomb Star! is the more ambitious film, even if it does not work. The Hindenburg was not bad, but most of his work is just flat and dull to me, though West Side Story has its moments, The Andromeda Strain is his best film. The Set-Up is only 72 minutes long, but it is very efficient filmmaking and if not a classic, more like what he was capable of when he had to dig into serious subject matter.

Robert Ryan is very convincing as the boxer who is one punch away from money, fame and success, but the dirty world of the sport and the many dark figures in it stand in the way of he and his wife (Audrey Totter) must face in a world where they otherwise would not be treated well at all. Alan Baxter, George Tobias and Wallace Ford help make up a convincing supporting cast and its nice the film has been so well-restored and finally made it to Blu-ray. It is one worth seeing.

The only extra is a near-feature length audio commentary track by Wise and Martin Scorsese that is worth seeing after the film, but has a few dead spots that could have been filled with more comments or questions.

Lars Kruame's The Silent Revolution (2018) tells the true Cold War/pre-Berlin Wall tale of how a group of students in 1956 East Germany have a moment of silence for victims of a military uprising in Budapest that they heard about and apparently were not supposed to hear. The government and Stazi state police did not jam and stop outside radio broadcasts well enough, so this ruffles the establishment and the students a re told to give up who shared the information or face consequences.

They refuse and go through all kinds of trouble, with the twist that they can still go to the other Germany of West Germany, but why should they leave their home in the first place? What kind of home is it? The film is well made and acted, though I think it missed a few opportunities along the way, but it is worth a look and especially at this time, more people should try it out.

There are no extras.

Finally, we have Federico Alotto's Ulysses: A Dark Odyssey (2018) treating the classic like a few movies have of Shakespeare lately, trying to do a modern, contemporary take on it to be gritty, hip and 'get to younger audiences' et al, but despite good supporting turns by Udo Keir and Danny Glover, this adaptation of Homer's Odyssey book, it looks like every cliched videogame, sci-fi, horror and post-apocalyptic TV show and movie we've seen and not so good at it.

It also tends to follow the classic somewhat closely, but in such a paint-by-numbers way that it wears itself thin early during its long 116 minutes running time. I still have to it credit for going through all this trouble and expense, but it just does not work out well, though maybe it will help some grade school classes get through the book by default. Andrea Zirio is not bad in the lead, but it looks too much like Snyder's 300 for tis own good and will ultimately appeal to few.

There are no extras.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.85 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Labyrinth is impressive. The film was shot on 35mm film and has some earlier digital CGI visual effects, but they look just fine, in part because they were well thought out artistically and not overdone. However, the film is also has dark visuals and great color at times, so we get the best reproduction we could hope for (unless del Toro redid the CGI and did an 6K scan of the negative) and resulting in this looking every bit as good as it did in 35mm when it was first released. The regular 1080p Blu-ray repeats the old, controversial Blu-ray, which was accused of being overly cleaned of grain and resulting in a loss of detail and a slightly waxy look. That is far more apparent vs. the 4K version.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on Letter and Set-Up can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the films, but Letter can have more than a few shots that lack detail and I am uncertain whether it is the film's style or something wrong with the transfer. I expect the 35mm vault materials are in good shape, but it comes up a bit short. Set-Up looks impressive throughout and is another RKO film saved.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Thing looks the best it has ever looked, almost pushing into 4K quality thanks to the new 4K scan supervised by Director of Photography Ernest Dickerson, now a capable director on his own. Maybe some primary colors intended might be a bit darker, but this is another, rich impressive transfer that has Criterion on top of their Blu-ray game with some jaw-dropping shots. It is better than all previous Blu-ray and DVD editions.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on both DVD releases look good for the formats as recent HD production shoots go, but the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Slient is a little to quiet at times, though it is a dialogue-based film dealing with a police state. Ulysses is almost too loud at times to no point.

As for the rest of the Blu-ray sound, it seemed like Labyrinth retained its DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix from the old Blu-ray edition, but the sound a little better on the 4K version and it is actually a 5.1 mix. That means the 7.1 was spreading the sound out a bit and unless del Toro wanted an 11.1 upgrade, this is more authentically the sound intended. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Thing is the best it ever sounded, off of an analog Dolby SR (Spectral Recording) analog soundmaster (with location recording carefully done) from 2009 off of a 4-track soundmaster. That work holds up well here and is the second-best sonic presentation on the list.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes on Letter and Set-Up are from their original theatrical mono soundmasters, but Set-Up sounds older, while Letter is clearer than expected.

To order the Ulysses Umbrella import DVD, go to this link for it and other hard to find releases at:


and to order either The Letter or The Set-Up Warner Archive Blu-rays, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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