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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Mental Illness > Mystery > Spy > WWII > Nazis > French > Politics > Mob Violence > Teens > Gangs > Liter > Abigail Harm (2012*)/Army Of Shadows (1969/Criterion Blu-ray)/Fury (1936/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/The Outsiders 4K (1983/Coppola/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Set)/Lucky Life (2009*)/Munyurangabo (200

Abigail Harm (2012*)/Army Of Shadows (1969/Criterion Blu-ray)/Fury (1936/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/The Outsiders 4K (1983/Coppola/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Set)/Lucky Life (2009*)/Munyurangabo (2007/*all Film Movement DVDs)/Sisters (2020/Icarus DVD)



4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: C+/B/B/X/C+/C+/C+ Sound: C/B-/C+/B-/C/C/C+ Extras: C-/B+/B/B/C-/C+/C- Films: C+/B/B-/B (longer cut) B- (theatrical cut)/C+/C+/C+



PLEASE NOTE: The Fury Blu-ray is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.



With awards season here, a big group of dramas for you to know about...



Lee Isaac Chung's Abigail Harm (2012) is the first of three films here by the Minari director, all getting issued on DVD at the same time by Film Movement to expose the filmmakers early work. All are sparse, simple and naturalistic attempts to tell a narrative, even if they are all limited in their own way.


The great Amanda Plummer is the title character, helping the blind in all kinds of ways, including reading stories to them, but one about a woodcutter saving a deer starts to sort of come to life when a stranger shows up unexpected to help her. Interesting, if not totally effective at 80 minutes, at least it gets to the point and has its moments.


Extended Interviews and a trailer are the only extras.



Jean-Pierre Melville's Army Of Shadows (1969) is a key film about the French Resistance during WWII, which Melville himself was a part of, telling the story of a group of people fighting Nazi occupation against heavy odds. A long, dark film, adding to the ugly tales of Axis terror, it is based on a novel by Joseph Kessel and stars Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret, Claude Mann, Christian Barber and Paul Craucher.


Realistic and filled with all kinds of suspense, twists and turns, one thing I like about it now more than ever is its throwback to the analog era and the tougher, more inventive means even more suspense to match the remarkable lighting and atmosphere for its very well-written script. We recently covered another such film about the darkest side of WWII also issued by Criterion, Visconti's The Damned, so I hope we see more of these films soon.


Extras include another high quality booklet on the film with illustrations, tech info and an essay by critic Amy Taubin, along with (for the Blu-ray) a piece by historian Robert O. Paxton and excerpts from Rui Nogueira's Melville on Melville, Feature-Length Audio Commentary from 2006 featuring film scholar Ginette Vincendeau, Interviews from 2007 with Lhomme and editor Fran├žoise Bonnot, On-set footage and excerpts from archival interviews with director Jean-Pierre Melville, cast members, author Joseph Kessel, and real-life Resistance fighters, Jean-Pierre Melville et "L'armee des ombres" (2005), a short program on the director and his film, Le journal de la Resistance (1944), a rare short documentary shot on the front lines during the final days of the German occupation of France, Restoration demonstration by Lhomme and Original Theatrical Trailers.



Fritz Lang's Fury (1936) is the legendary director's first film in the U.S., involving a relevant-as-ever about an innocent man (a fine early turn by Spencer Tracy) who becomes the target of an angry mob who is out of control and wants to kill him by lynching!


Lang always dealt with the the worst in people and never turned away, especially at a time when he had just fled Europe to get away from the Nazis in real life. Sylvia Sydney is his fiancee, looking forward to a happy, easy life with him, when things take a few ugly turns no one was expecting. Longtime character actor Bruce Cabot (King Kong (1933,) Diamonds Are Forever) is one of the main instigators of the madness and though Lang was not able to keep full control of the film (what we now call final cut,) the conclusion is a classic that influenced other such films and even real life.


Warner Archive has restored and saved this early must-see and everyone should see it at least once, especially serious film fans.


Extras include an outstanding feature length audio commentary track by film scholar and filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich with audio clips from Fritz Lang and an Original Theatrical Trailer.



Francis Coppola's The Outsiders 4K (1983) is the second of a trilogy of smaller films he made after the spectacular Apocalypse Now (1979) that some tried to write off as some kind of retreat, but was really a new groundbreaking direction of making smaller films with more density in acting, ideas and new techniques, as he was always experimenting throughout his remarkable career and this just made him better and better.


Instead of taking a long break after One From The Heart (1981, reviewed elsewhere on this site) bombed after critics decided to destroy it before they saw it (costing him his American Zoetrope Studios space) and tried a new approach to a music film while reviving the old black style classic Hollywood film frame, he immediately tackled this popular and beloved S.E. Hinton novel and came up with a cast of often then-unknowns, helping to put them on the map. Playing various street gang members in 1966 Tulsa, Oklahoma. They include Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, Leif Garrett and Patrick Swayze.


Like Barry Levinson's Diner a year later, we managed to get a solid cycle of these films (Coppola would film Hinton's Rumble Fish next, also a part of the many Matt Dillon films about teens growing up) as a serious counterpart to the comedies, gross out comedies, indie comedies and nerd/teen genius cycle of the time and makes it among the most underrated coming-of-age films. A shorter version was issued, with complaints (starting at the time) that fans which it were longer and you 'have to read the book anyhow' myth which is insulting to the book author and filmmakers.


Fortunately, the longer, better 2005 version delivers much more and has a more leisurely flow that is absolutely more book-like and also shows how much of a grasp Coppola had on the book and how it worked. More than just a curio over the cast in their early years, they all deliver convincing early performances that only a Coppola could have managed to get out of them and it has all aged very well. Its great to have the longer version and in 4K no less, so definitely give it a good look. Fans will want to go out of their way for this one.


Extras include Digital Copy, while the discs add (per the press release, but only the longer version has all the extras): NEW Restoration Interview with Cinematographer Stephen Burum, Zoetrope Head of Archives and Restorations James Mockoski and Colourist Gregg Garvin, NEW Deleted Scenes, NEW Francis Ford Coppola Introduction, NEW Francis Ford Coppola: Anatomy of a Scene, NEW Old House New Home featurette, Audio Commentary with Francis Ford Coppola, Audio Commentary with Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio and Patrick Swayze, Staying Gold: A look Back at "The Outsiders", S.E. Hinton on Location in Tulsa, The Casting of "The Outsiders" and Deleted and Extended Scenes.



Lee Isaac Chung's Lucky Life (2009) is the second of three films here from the Minari director, this time dealing with a young man (Kenyon Adams) who has terminal cancer and the trip he takes with some friends as time runs out. More than just a 'disease of the week' entry and based on Gerald Stern's poetry, it has its moments at 97 minutes, but was also a little too open-ended for me and still had more than a few things we've seen before.


Still, mature and ambitious, those interested will want to give it a look.


A trailer is the only extra.



Lee Isaac Chung's Munyurangabo (2007) is the last of three films from the Minari director (his feature film debut), this time about racism, discrimination, hate and life as the title character wants to avenge his murdered parents against the Rwandan Genocide that also ruined his life, so he steals a machete and is joined by Sangwa, who wants to see his former home there that had to be abandoned for civil war reasons, et al.


Serious territory, though there are some comic and disarming moments here and there during its 98 minutes and of course, Sangwa's parents reject his new friend. Using mostly non-actors, this is an ambitious debut project and worth a look for those interested, but I again felt I had seen some of this before.


Raw Behind-The Scenes footage and a Director's Commentary are the extras.



Finally, we have Yamina Benguigui's Sisters (2020) has Isabelle Adjani as the oldest of three sisters looking for their missing brother for three decades, apparently left in Algeria by their father. Even with the Internet Age, no luck, so the eldest decides to write a whole play about it all, hoping (if he is still alive) their brother will hear about it and wonder if it is him.


A drama with some comedy, it is an interesting idea, but the results are mixed thanks to the script and directing getting a little more bogged-down than it should have. Running 100 minutes, it has little political digs throughout too (a poster for the classic film Battle Of Algiers (see my review of the Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) is an example.


Adjani is hard to take your eyes off, always delivering a solid performance, which extends to the rest of the cast, including Rachida Brakni and Maiwenn as her younger sisters. They are just about convincing enough as such, but this could have been shorter or used its time more wisely in the down parts. Otherwise, it is at least ambitious.


A trailer is the only extra.



Now for playback performance. The 2160p HECV/H.265, 2.35 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on both cuts of The Outsiders looks as good as the film ever has thanks to the superior remastering by Coppola, though I would add that he might not have always been able to get the kind of high quality print treatment (or not enough of it) for this film over the years. Shot in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision by the great Director of photography Stephen H. Burum, A.S.C., it offers a superior use of the scope frame (like a counterpoint or companion to George Lucas' American Graffiti (1974) that Coppola produced) with an authentic period look and fell throughout that not only holds up, it gets better with age.


The two cuts have slights different lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) soundtracks. The theatrical cut is in 5.1, while the longer Complete Novel version is in 5.0, though the film was issued in Dolby's older A-type analog noise reduction format (succeeded in 1987 by the SR format, then joined by Dolby Digital in 1992) and the film was the first Coppola film not to have 6-track 70mm magnetic stereo surround since the originally monophonic Godfather, Part II in 1974, so the sound has some sonic limits and can be on the quiet side. This is as good as this film will ever sound (in either cut) and matches the era in which it takes place at least.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Army Of Shadows is an excellent new HD master from the original 35mm negative and the original theatrical mono sound has been remastered for the original magnetic soundmaster in both French PCM 2.0 Mono and a new surround version in lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo. Impressive all the way!


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer of Fury can show the age of the materials used in spots, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on home video thanks to the impressive results of Warner Archive's restorations efforts. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix of the original theatrical mono is as good as it likely will ever be, but at 85 years old and going, even with MGM's then state-of-the-art technology, its age issues are more permanent. Still, this is impressive.


The anamorphically enhanced DVDs (2.35 X 1 on Abigail and Sisters, 1.78 X 1 on Lucky Life, 1.85 X 1 on the rest) all look as good as hey ever will in this older format, but audio can differ with most of them offering both lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo mixes, but Munyurangabo and Sisters only offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes. They all sound as good as they could, expect the three Lee Isaac Chung films: Abigail, Lucky and Munyurangabo. No mater the mixes offers, they are transferred at too low a volume level and it is not just any location audio issues, so be careful of high volume playback and volume switching.



To order the Fury Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


https://www.amazon.com/stores/page/ED270804-095F-449B-9B69-6CEE46A0B2BF?ingress=0&visitId=6171710b-08c8-4829-803d-d8b922581c55&tag=blurayforum-20



- Nicholas Sheffo


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