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Category:    Home > Reviews > War > Action > Propaganda > Comedy > Melodrama > Faith > Mystery > Noir > Surrealism > Show Business > Politic > Captain Of The Clouds (1942*)/Redeeming Love (2021/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Repeat Performance (1947/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)/Servants (2020/Film Movement DVD)/A Star Is Born (1937/Selznick/*both

Captain Of The Clouds (1942*)/Redeeming Love (2021/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Repeat Performance (1947/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)/Servants (2020/Film Movement DVD)/A Star Is Born (1937/Selznick/*both Warner Archive Blu-rays)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Captain Of The Clouds and A Star Is Born (1937) Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Here are five dramas with very different looks at life and results...

We start with Michael Curtiz's Captain Of The Clouds (1942) made for Warner Bros. around the time they made Casablanca and part of Hollywood's first propagandic assault against the Axis Powers as the Brothers Warner were the first to go after Hitler and company, though the twist I like here is that James Cagney is actually leading a Canadian Air Force! That's a 'good neighbor' policy that we can all endorse.

Cagney is ready to fight and looking for action, which he lands up getting sooner than expected, so with the kind of efficient, quick-enough pace most Curtiz films are known for, we get action, melodrama and story he is known for an this is not bad. It cannot shake off its propaganda side, but the Technicolor and solid supporting cast help it hold up. Joining Cagney are Dennis Morgan, Brenda Mitchell, Alan Hale, George Tobias, Reginald Denny, Reginald Gardiner, George Meeker, Ray Walker and Gig Young, in a small role. And yes, this is the first Hollywood film to be produced entirely in Canada!

Extras include a 1942 Newsreel, Original Theatrical Trailer, live action short Rocky Mountain Big Game and two classic Warner animated shorts: What's Cookin' Doc? and Hold The Lion, Please.

D.J. Caruso strikes again with his latest sappy melodrama, Redeeming Love (2021) where a couple (usually white and heterosexual only, for whatever reasons) slowly find each other during 1850 when the California Gold Rush hits. Not exactly the most 'romantic' background, but the idea (based on Francine Rivers supposed best seller) is that it is more realistic so any kind of love that comes out of this 'rough' situation must be more realistic. Well...

Abigail Coven and Tom Lewis play the couple, backed by a cast of mostly unknowns (so this look and plays like a cable TV movie we've seen hundreds of times, granted you survived watching such 'cinema') and also includes Nina Dobrev, Eric Dane, Logan Marshall-Green and a 'special' appearance by former Bond Gal and X-Men Famke Janssen, minus any of her superpowers. She sure cannot save this script.

Extras include Digital Code, while the discs add Deleted Scenes and two Making Of/Behind The Scenes clips: Casting Redeeming Love and From The Author - Francine Rivers.

Alfred L. Werker's Repeat Performance (1947) is a show biz tale of sorts, but enough of a part of the original Film Noir cycle that it is often as honest as such a film, yet also offers the unrealistic twist that the lead (the underrated Joan Leslie) plays a stage actress who has a very bad New Year's Eve, only to awaken and discover (after being thrown off at first) that it is actually about a year earlier and only she knows what might be happening next.

With the Horror Genre and German Expressionism as forerunners of Noir, it was not going to be long until such surreal elements started working their way into the only genre out of the U.S. cinema that Hollywood did not invent. Not as stark or shocking as what you might get out an actual Horror film or early Twilight Zone episode, that does not make it any less creepy, chilling, smart, unsettling or challenging. It asks some interesting questions and presents some unpleasant people, as well as a few who were still much more invisible then than they would be now.

Louis Hayward, who has played several heroes including a few feature films as The Saint, plays her husband, who is not a nice guy. Tom Conway, who played The Falcon in a series of films that were Saint knock-offs before becoming a Val Lewton veteran is also here with Virginia Field, an up and coming Richard Basehart and Natalie Schafer as a rich, attractive socialite. She later became most famous and iconic as an older such lady on the hit TV sitcom Gilligan's Island, but she gets plenty fo screen time here in her role and is more highly convincing than you might expect. Thus this is very interesting for all kinds of reasons and makes it hard to believe this was a lost film in any way, but that's the sad truth. Now saved, you should all give it at least a good look and I expect most people who see it will be surprised and impressed.

Extras include another nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and another excellent essay, this time by film scholar Brian Light, while the discs add a digital version of the original Promotion Pressbook, a feature length audio commentary track by film scholar Nora Fiore, an on-camera intro to the film by Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller, Eagle-Lion: A Noir-Stained Legacy featurette on the rise and fall fo the studio that made this film (hosted by film scholar Alan K. Rode) and a solid featurette look a our female lead in Profile Of Actress Joan Leslie narrated by film scholar Farrah Smith Nehme.

Ivan Ostrochovsky's Servants (2020) is the sometimes disturbing story of a highly communist, authoritarian and totalitarian Czechoslovakia in 1980, unhappy with a local school for priests (I was surprised one even existed in any communist country, but they apparently let it for propaganda and surveillance reasons here) and the government wants 'social realism' so all it becomes is another part of the government machine.

But this goes further into the lives of these young men trying to become priests and how despite it being illegal and too subversive, some of the old communist guard may have some homosexual designs for some of the seminary students, so you can imagine how creepy this gets when they start trying to force themselves on these guys. Worse when they are not expecting this to begin with.

The film also is shot in black and white to further communicated the dead/dying world they exist in and does this very well for all intents and purposes. At 81 minutes, however, I wish it were longer or did more with the time it had because it is on track to really say even more, but it never gets there. Still, it has its bold moments and can look impressive in its density, so those interested should take a good look.

Extras include Trailers and short film A Good Story (20 minutes) directed by Martin-Christophe Bode.

Finally, another film about show business that is considered one of the all-time classics, was a huge hit in its time and has had three huge hit remakes. William A. Wellman's A Star Is Born (1937) with Janet Gaynor as the acting hopeful who meets and falls for a very talented star (Fredric March) in what seems could be a match made in Hollywood heaven. Too bad he has a drinking problem and his career is in decline, then she starts to become a big star, even against all the artifice of the town and its glamorous productions.

A breakthrough in full color filmmaking, the script, editing and pace are tight and solid, even all these decades later, the acting top rate and this is an outright drama, whereas the three sequels are all music film and first an all-out musical. Lionel Stander plays the quintessential Hollywood agent, Andy Devine shows up with his comic personality and the rest of the supporting players deliver, including Adolphe Menjou, May Robson, Edgar Kennedy, Owen Moore, Peggy Wood and uncredited turns by Dennis O'Keefe and Franklin Pangborn among a surprisingly large cast.

David O. Selznick did everything he could to back this film too, so it all adds up into one of the greatest early classic sound films, holds up really well and more than a few moments are as relevant now as they ever were. There are some serious moments, funny moments and points that are so influential, they have been imitated all over the place since. Consider this a must see film if you are serious about movies, Hollywood, the big screen and great story-telling. It's that good!

Extras include two Lux Radio Theater radio drama versions of the film (9/13/37 with Janet Gaynor and Robert Montgomery, 12/28/42 version with Judy Garland and Walter Pidgeon,) three live action Warner shorts (Mal Hallett & His Orchestra, Taking The Count and Alibi Mark) and classic Technicolor Warner cartoon A Star Is Hatched with a lead character who looks like Miss Prissy trying to make it in Hollywood that is great until the last scene.

For more on other version fo the film, try these links:

1954 version (DVD, Blu-ray available, hoping for 4K soon)


1976 version (Blu-ray, hoping for 4K soon)


2018 version in 4K


and expanded on Blu-ray


What Price Hollywood? (DVD, hoping for Blu-ray and 4K soon)


Now for playback performance. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image on both Clouds and Star were shot in full Technicolor and Warner Archive has done a great job on both. Clouds looks as good as it probably ever will (4K version notwithstanding) and Star is especially amazing after all the bad copies we have suffered though since the Beta & VHS days, even up to an older restoration for Blu-ray that was sufficient for its time, but no match for what we get here.

Both pretty much deliver near-total representations of a 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor version of each film, though Clouds can have some rough moments being a war genre film. Star followed Becky Sharpe (1935) as an all-time groundbreaker on the road to full color filmmaking and so much of this still impresses 85 years (!!!!) later looking more vibrant and wide-ranging than ever. However, some scenes are a little darker and others a little softer than the better shots, but even they are improvements over all older video transfers. As you watch, you can see how this led to the 1939 Wizard Of Oz and how Technicolor became the king of color for decades on the big screen and for all intents and purposes, forever!

Both discs also have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes and this is the best either of these films will ever sound, which is really good for their age.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white high definition image transfer on Performance can show the age of the materials used, but this is a lost film that was lucky it got saved, an orphaned gem Flicker Alley, the great Film Noir Foundation and all of its supporters have delivered another miraculous cinematic recovery of a film everyone can really enjoy again in such fine condition. The PCM 2.0 Mono sound is also as good as it probably ever will, derived from more painstaking work. The combination is a real treat. The 1.33 X 1 DVD with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono included is also fine, but it does not have the impact of the Blu-ray, which is the preferred way to view this.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Love has little to love about it with boring color, detail issues and a little motion blur, plus unmemorable compositions that constantly play like a bad TV movie, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix has a limited soundfield and is not the best mix we've heard lately. The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on the DVD version with its weak, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 is even worse and is best skipped if you must see this for whatever reasons.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white image transfer on Servants is not bad and stylized well, so too bad it is not here on Blu-ray or even 4K, but is effective, while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Slovak Stereo is not badly recorded and is subtitled. A decent combination that is effective enough.

To order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, Captain Of The Clouds and/or A Star Is Born (1937,) go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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