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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Spoof > Money > Power > Wealth > Consumerism > Relationships > Western > Drama > Silent Cine > Beverly Of Graustark (1926*)/Mallrats 4K (1995/Universal/MVD/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Strawberry Blonde (1941/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Zander The Great (1925/*both Undercrank Productions Blu-rays)

Beverly Of Graustark (1926*)/Mallrats 4K (1995/Universal/MVD/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)/Strawberry Blonde (1941/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Zander The Great (1925/*both Undercrank Productions Blu-rays)

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

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

Though none of the comedies here are musicals, they all demonstrate the importance music can still play in the genre....

Sidney Franklin's Beverly Of Graustark (1926) has Marion Davies in fine form as the title character, filling in for her cousin (Creighton Hale) who is an actual royal Prince and heir to a real throne, so she has to pretend to be him and be a man who is secretly a woman for the money and power. A comedy with some amusing moments, there are no outright laughs, but it is ambitious and entertaining.

After all the amusing identity politics and secrets, the final sequences are in an older two-strip Technicolor format, which was very expensive for the time, but Davies (famously the mistress of ultra-rich William Randolph Hearst) was able to secure the budgets she needed for her Cosmopolitan Productions company and the interesting, watchable results were a big deal in their time. Also, it backed the idea that she here character was going for big money and wealth when the world suddenly turns into color.

Orson Welles sent her up as a squeaky no-talent in his 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane, but in real lie, she was a groundbreaking actress, producer and enough of a star that she kept a legitimate career going in the silent era as the industry become very male-dominated and was getting final cut on her films in a way anyone at the time was. Because of her special circumstances, seeing any of her films is always interesting because even most men at the time outside of the heads of the studios, had this kind of money or power in the industry. The camera likes her enough and I hope we see more of her output revived and reissued like this soon.

There are sadly no extras.

Kevin Smith's Mallrats 4K (1995) is the first Ultra HD upgrade of any of Smith's films and one we have covered twice, including this older, defunct HD-DVD edition....


And the previous Arrow Blu-ray set that this is the Ultra HD successor of....


Not much of a fan of this one, but two things are now more interesting about it. First, I notice that more of the shots resemble Romero's 1978 Dawn Of The Dead than I recalled and that it is more of an unexpected time capsule since so many, many malls have closed. They were starting to close before COVID hit and now, COVID killed them all the more and with the Internet, killed much of the past mall culture the film sends up. Mind you, in Europe, they respect their malls more where they have things like child care and they are generally more friendly and consumer friendly. Not in the U.S. though.

Smith also uses a good share of rock songs, usually indie releases, in effective ways to say where he and his film are coming from. It adds to the culture and scene, but now, also makes Smith one of the last original rock fans who also happen to be filmmakers. Add the instrumental music and it makes up more of the film and its humor and attitude than many filmmakers could or would go for today.

Extras repeat the previous Arrow Blu-ray set.

Raoul Walsh's Strawberry Blonde (1941) has James Cagney in a comedy intentionally styled to be old-fashioned, set in a recent past before its release. Cagney plays a newly-married dentist who is still rowdy and after things did not work out with a now older flame (played by no less than Rita Hayworth, on the verge of becoming an international sex symbol) when he hears the song of the title, which reminds him of her.

It was a college letterman (soon-to-be Superman George Reeves) who 'strikes up the band' to play it and happens to be next door to where he and his wife (Olivia de Havilland) live and has him arguing with the man to have them change the tune. That's the kind of film it keeps being and when he finds out his former lady love has remarried, he gets even more ticked.

Warner Archive have saved another gem from their catalog, this time from the prime time Cagney was a star and far beyond gangster genre films. Though not the best comedy ever, it is consistent, achieves what it sets out to do and is worth a good look for those most curious and interested. Hayworth landed up signing up at Columbia Pictures, a much smaller studio at the time that Warner and the results were amazing.

Extras include two radio-drama versions of the film (at an hour each, from Screen Guild Playhouse (10/5/41) and Lux Radio Theater (3/23/42), an Original Theatrical Trailer and two Warner Bros. short films: Polo With The Stars (live action, black and white) and the animated Tortoise Beats Hare in three-strip Technicolor.

Finally, George W. Hill's Zander The Great (1925) wants to put Marion Davies in a Mary Pickford-like tale where her character goes from being a child (played by another actress) to the young adult her, landing up with a young boy named Zander and soon, in the middle of The West. They befriend some, but a pair of criminal robbers are also after them and this is partly a Western, but mostly a comedy/drama with aspirations of exceeding genre.

Hill, who was a successful-enough cinematographer does make this more visually interesting than expected and that makes it more interesting to watch. Much of the film gets tinted colors and the early Western scenes are in a sepia-tone, but that switches to a lite purple or lavender for the rest fo the film, which is its way of telling us that it is not just the B-movie, serial fare all Westerns were (or considered to be at the time) until John Ford's original Stagecoach arrived in 1939. Davies had the budgets she wanted and you can see some of that here, making the film a strange mix if genres and possibly some kind of attempt for more respectability as an artist.

There are again sadly no extras.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.85 X 1, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Mallrats 4K looks the best you will see the film outside of a pristine film print with enough of an improvement in Video Red and other colors that even put it ahead of Arrow's regular Blu-ray, but the film has only so much form to it, so you can only expect so much from it. The 2160p also helps any 'comic book colors' the film loves.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on the rest of the regular Blu-ray releases here can show the age of the materials used, especially the Marion Davies films with their 2K scans, those films need some more photochemical archival work. Both have some tinting as well and Beverly ends with its final sequences in dye-transfer, two-strip Technicolor that could also use some work. It was from the brief period where the two strips of color were cemented, but that cement would melt in projectors and the prints would fall apart, so you can see why this might not be always as good as it looks. Strawberry is all-monochrome and has been restored from the original 35mm materials in what looks like a 4K scan, so it looks really good and has aged well.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Mallrats 4K is the same mix from the older Arrow Blu-ray with its sonic limits from its original theatrical release and many moments of dated fidelity, though some of it sounds fine. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Strawberry sounds pretty good for its age, the optical soundmaster luckily surviving as well as it has.

Though I liked the scores on the two Davies Blu-ray by Ben Model, which is better than most fo the rescoring I have encountered on silent feature film revivals, reissues and restorations over the decades. However, the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes are actually holding back the range and fidelity of what sounds like some very well-recorded material. Why he did not choose PCM 2.0 Stereo or something else lossless like DTS-HD MA or Dolby True HD is unclear, but it holds both back a bit. If he really wanted to get creative and break some ground, costs notwithstanding, imagine if he did a new score and presented it with choice silent films like this in DTS: X or Dolby Atmos? That would be great!

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


- Nicholas Sheffo


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