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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > WWII > Jet Planes > Romance > Dementia > Alzheimers > Western > Crime > Biopic > Science > Royalty > War > Chain Lightning (1950*)/The Father (Blu-ray**)/Guns For San Sebastian (1968/MGM*)/Long Weekend (DVD/**both 2021/Sony)/Madame Curie (1943/MGM*)/Objective Burma (1941*)/The Private Lives Of Elizabeth an

Chain Lightning (1950*)/The Father (Blu-ray**)/Guns For San Sebastian (1968/MGM*)/Long Weekend (DVD/**both 2021/Sony)/Madame Curie (1943/MGM*)/Objective Burma (1941*)/The Private Lives Of Elizabeth and Essex (1939/*all Warner Archive Blu-rays)/The 317th Platoon (1965/Icarus DVD)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Chain Lightning, Guns For San Sebastian, Madame Curie, Objective Burma and The Private Lives Of Elizabeth and Essex Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and all can be ordered from the link below.

Up next are a solid group of dramas, including two war films featuring two of the greatest cinematographers of all time...

Stuart Heisler's Chain Lightning (1950) is the first of several war films we will cover here, the drama takes place in WWII and involves Humphrey Bogart as a jet pilot with exceptional skills who might be flying a secret new jet to stop the Axis from gaining the upper hand, but the film is more of a drama and melodrama when Eleanor Parker shows up as an old girlfriend whose relationship mighty not be as wrapped up and over as either thought.

Raymond Massey leads the supporting cast in this film that is also part of a cycle of war films fired up about the latest jet plane technology, a hot topic until the space age of the 1960s arrived. The story is nothing we have not seen before and the flying footage is a mix of stock footage and a little new work that was passable for the time, but looks dated now. If anything, it is a curio, one that deserves to be issued in a nicely upgraded edition like this.

Florian Zeller's The Father (2021) is one of last year's best films with Anthony Hopkins winning the Best Actor Oscar as a man (the title character) who has dementia and is slowly sliding into the condition in worse and worse ways. Instead of just watching, we are put in his position to experience just how bad it can get, reality and logic crumbling, the man suffering. It can be a painful film to watch and experience, but the condition is so bad and there is no cure. One medication is being argued about as we speak as it was approved as we were covering this release.

The always great Olivia Colman is his daughter, trying to help him out, yet, is it always her we are seeing? Who are the other people we meet? Like another Sony release, David Cronenberg's Spider with Ralph Fiennes (reviewed elsewhere on this site) as a schizophrenia sufferer who keeps becoming more ill, the film is honest and says there are no easy answer, easy solutions or solutions at all. Zeller adapted from his book with Christopher Hampton and they do no t miss a beat. The supporting cast, including Rufus Sewell (whose been in plenty of surreal films already,) Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss, and Olivia Williams are good here, but it is Hopkins who somehow manages to pull this all off and is more proof that calling him one of the greatest actors of all time is not hype.

Henri Verneuil's Guns For San Sebastian (1968) is a big Anthony Quinn star vehicle, playing a rebel soldier who has conned the locals he is a priest, but people are out to get him and that includes Teclo (Charles Bronson) as a mean, down-low type up to no good and hiding things himself, going after him. Anjanette Comer becomes the love interest, but the fists and bullets flying get in the way.

This is a Western enough and gritty enough to fit in with the best of the time, but it gets convoluted by the halfway point and never really recovers. I like some moments, but the film as a whole never really worked for me. I was glad to see it again after all these years to give it a second chance and can say it looks more ambitious now than ever and is the kind of film Hollywood used to take risks on then, but not anymore. Another nice restoration job by Warner, Sam Jaffe leads the supporting cast.

Steve Basilone's Long Weekend (2021) features Finn Wittrock (of the instant classic TV hit Stranger Things) as Bart, a good guy with a bad run of luck. He has to stay with friends as he tries to put his life together, but a chance encounter with Vienna (Zoe Chao) might mean new love and a new life. Yet, something is off on his life still and maybe this might not work out, no matter how perfect she is.

Well it was nice to see the actor older and trying something different, but there are two things here that did not work: the often goofy dialogue (no one talks like this unless they watch too many bad movies) and the ending is a failure. He gives a good performance and the rest of the cast is not bad, but with 91 minutes to sit through, this is the best they could do? Oh well...

Mervyn LeRoy's Madame Curie (1943) is a typical Hollywood biopic with Greer Garson as the title discoverer of discovering radium in 1903. That changed the world of course, but the film is heavy with melodrama from romance to a heavy dose of religion, as if the makers had to have glowing faith to match the radium!

That gets heavy-handed very quickly, a supporting cast that includes co-star Walter Pidgeon in an early role, Henry Travers, Robert Walker, C. Aubrey Smith, Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Albert Basserman, Victor Francen and Elsa Basserman are not bad here at all. It is just all held back by layers of pretense. Still, those interested should see it in this new restored edition and skip older versions and bad copies.

Raoul Walsh's Objective Burma (1941) is a WWII film made as the war began raging, led by Errol Flynn as U.S. forces go into the title locale to stop the Japanese Imperialists and Axis powers from winning the war. More convincingly gritty than many such films of the time, it has the added luxury of being photographed by one of the greatest Directors of Photography of all time, James Wong Howe. Thus, to see it in a restored edition is something to celebrate.

Walsh has no problems getting his hands dirty as this more realistically gritty film holds up better than most of its time with Flynn giving one of his better performances backed by the likes of George Tobias, William Prince, Henry Hull and Warner Anderson, all good actors of the day. Definitely worth a look for those interested.

Michael Curtiz's The Private Lives Of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) was Warner's attempt to top the Errol Flynn Adventures Of Robin Hood a year prior and pairs him with Bette Davis in one of her greatest roles and films. The two occupy the title roles as two historic figures who land up more romantically involved than expected, but age, greed, power, betrayal, jealousy and thrones get in the way.

Though some of the acting and dialogue may be more in the 'talk at' than 'talk to' mode, the film holds up very well and since period pieces, royal tales and costume dramas have seen an upsurge in recent years (with or without the Fantasy genre involved) on TV and the big screen, this film is suddenly a curio that is as relevant as ever. Well, with a supporting cast that includes Vincent Price, Olivia de Havilland, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, Henry Stephenson and more, this classic endures. Catch this restoration ASAP!!!

Last, we have Pierre Schoendoerffer's The 317th Platoon (1965) set in 1954 and the earlier portion that rarely gets discussed or dramatized of the Vietnam conflict the U.S. later mistakenly inherited from the French. This is a French film about that earlier period and is not bad, has aged decently and is better than many of the would-be Vietnam films from the U.S. that as the 1980s moved forward, tried to revise the truth on. There is nothing here being lied about to heavily rewritten.

This is not a French New Wave film per se, but part of a new naturalism and realism that War films were seeing and this one is about as visually vivid as any of them since Kubrick's Paths Of Glory (1957, reviewed elsewhere on this site) thanks to Godard's longtime Director of Photography Raoul Coutard (who had finished Alphaville before making this film, skipping lensings Masculin Feminin, also reviewed on this site) so I can see why so many people were impressed when they first saw it.

This is one of those 'simple mission gone wrong' films we have seen more often recently, but it is more convincing, though the film has been imitated a bit since, so some things here age better than others. I thought it was good and anyone interested should give it a good look, but it is a case where I wonder if I would enjoy it more from a quality film print or Blu-ray edition.

Jacques Perrin, Bruno Cremer, Pierre Fabre and Manuel Zarzo lead the solid cast.

Now for playback performance. All six Blu-ray discs deliver fine performance as expected, including the new HD shoot of The Father as presented in 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition, but the big surprise is how incredible the 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Essex is one of the great full color Hollywood films, made in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor and looks so great here, it is loaded with demo images. I would also argue it is every bit as impressive as Gone With The Wind, The Wizard of Oz and Flynn's own Robin Hood film when it comes to a superior use of that greatest of all color format. Yes, it is that good and the visual champ on this impressive list.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Sebastian can show the age of the materials used, but the film is supposed to look a bit rough and this is the best I have ever seen it. Shot in anamorphic 35mm Franscope, it has a look that differs from most films of its hind, which usually were in Panavision, CinemaScope, Techniscope or other odder widescreen scope formats. The result is it always feels a little different and the MetroColor lab work holds up very well.

The four remaining Warner Archive entries are in 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer can sometimes show the age of the materials used, but all are superior transfers to all previous releases of the film and have many sequences that have amazing detail and depth.

All six Blu-rays offer lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) sound with Father the only 5.1 mix here, Sebastian with 2.0 Stereo (may have originally been 4-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects) and 2.0 Mono for the remaining films. Father (well-recorded, but dialogue-based, sometimes very quiet), Sebastian and Curie are the best-sounding films here, with some warmth and good sound. The remaining Blu-rays simply show their sonic age, which is a shame on Essex, because the picture deserves multi-channel sound.

The anamorphically enhanced image on the two DVDs, 2.00 X 1 on Weekend and 1.66 X 1 on Platoon, look as good as they can for the format and deserve Blu-rays at least. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Weekend is fine for the old codec, though this is often dialogue-driven, but the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Platoon is much weaker and lower in volume than expected. In that case, be careful of high volume playback and volume switching.

Extras include Original Theatrical Trailers on all discs, save Lightning, which adds the Joe McDoakes live-action short and So You Want To Be An Actor and the classic dysfunctional bears Warner animated classic Bear Feat in HD, Father adds Deleted Scenes and two Behind The Scenes clips and Weekend has no extras.

Sebastian adds a vintage Making Of featurette, Curie adds the live action Pete Smith Specialty short Romance Of Radium, Burma adds two Warner Wartime live action shorts (The Tanks Are Coming (1941) with George Tobias and Gig Young and The Rear Gunner (1943) with Burgess Meredith and Ronald Reagan) and Essex adds the newer featurette Elizabeth and Essex: Battle Royale, plus we get Leonard Maltin hosting Warner Night At The Movies 1939 with a newsreel, live-action musical short The Royal Rodeo and classic Porky Pig Warner Technicolor cartoon Old Glory, where Uncle Sam visits him to teach him U.S. History and it is very charming. The transfer is in HD and looks good.

To order any of the five Warner Archive Blu-rays reviewed, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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