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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > French New Wave > Comedy > Filmmaking > Biopic > Melodrama > Politics > Silent Cinema > War > Breathless 4K (1959/Godard/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Hugo 4K (2011/Scorsese/MVD/Paramount/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray3D and Blu-ray2D)/Foolish Wives (1922/Flicker Alley Blu-ray

Breathless 4K (1959/Godard/Criterion 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Hugo 4K (2011/Scorsese/MVD/Paramount/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray3D and Blu-ray2D)/Foolish Wives (1922/Flicker Alley Blu-ray w/DVD)/Queen Christina (1933/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/Spanish Dancer (1923/Paramount/Milestone Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+/A- 3D Picture: A- Picture: B/B/B- & C+/B/B- Sound: B & C+/B/B- & C+/C+/B Extras: B+/C+/B/C/C Films: B+/C+/B/B/B-

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

Four classics and a film about the dawn of cinema are all here for you to know about...

We start with a fine upgrade to Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless 4K (1959) which we have reviewed a few times over the years. Here is our coverage of the Criterion Blu-ray-only version:


Godard is now starting to get 4K releases of his films and I hope they are as good as this one. More on the welcome technical improvements below, but I remembered an interview with the late, great William Friedkin where the editor kept flipping which camera was shooting him in the digital video set-up the studio had and explained that it was all Godard. Not that they understood what he was saying, but Godard fans did.

Before Breathless, such editing and switching was considered sloppy (often still is) and would be considered only that, pointless, confused and proof the person(s) behind the scenes did not know what they were doing. Here, it suddenly became a way to speed up visuals, allow a book-like narrative to flow in new ways and/or make the European writerly approach freer if a filmmaker would go down that path.

Godard does all three here and opened up cinema to endless new possibilities as a result. That is why having such a classic in 4K matters so much, even on top of it being such a great film.

Extras are the same as the older Blu-ray-only Criterion edition, including the thick booklet on the film.

Martin Scorsese's Hugo 4K (2011) is the director's only 3D film, but not his only biopic and is interested in the rise of filmmaking and cinema worldwide. I was expecting something darker, I guess, but he surprised many by also making this the closest thing he would ever make to a 'children's film' though it is far from childish or pointlessly commercial. It does well to deal with the old days where everything was an experiment, trial and error and Ben Kingsley is a solid choice to play Georges Melies.

It starts with two orphan children and their story, based on the Brian Selznick book, then this eventually leads to the main core of the film, how Melies not only created many short movies, but movies with all kinds of elaborate trick photography, unusual sets, setups and visual ideas ahead of their time.

Scorsese cannot make a bad film and I have seen every one of them, but even with all the talent involved, but I could never get into this one and time did not change that. I even like Melies' surviving films, many of which are reviewed elsewhere on this site. The film still holds up well enough, but you'll have to see it for yourself to decide.

Cheers to the cast, including Chloe Grace Moritz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee, Asa Butterfield, Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer, Ray Winstone, Jude Law, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour and Michael Stuhlberg.

Extras are many and (per the press release) include:


  • 4K Ultra HD (2160p) debut of the 2D version of the film

  • Includes High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation of the film in 2D and 3D

  • Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tommy Pocket

  • Illustrated collector's booklet with writing by film critic Farran Smith Nehme

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tommy Pocket


  • 4K Ultra HD (2160p) presentation of the 2D version of the film in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)

  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation of the film in 2D and 3D

  • DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 and 2.0 Stereo lossless audio options

  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  • Audio commentary by filmmaker and writer Jon Spira, publisher of The Lost Autobiography of Georges Melies

  • Theatrical trailer


  • Inventing Hugo Cabret, a new interview with Brian Selznick author and illustrator of the original novel on which the film is based

  • Capturing Dreams, a new interview with director of photography Robert Richardson

  • The Music of Dreams, a new interview with composer Howard Shore

  • Ian Christie on Hugo, a new interview with the acclaimed film historian and editor of Scorsese on Scorsese

  • Secret Machines: Hugo and Film Preservation, a new visual essay by filmmaker and critic Scout Tafoya

  • Creating New Worlds, a new featurette in which French film historian and author Julien Dupuy examines the life and the legacy of Georges Melies and his impact on cinema and special effects

  • Papa Georges Made Movies, a new featurette in which film critic and historian Pamela Hutchinson explores the days of early cinema

  • Melies at the time of Hugo, a new a visual essay by filmmaker and writer Jon Spira

  • and five archival featurettes on the making of the film: Shoot the Moon: The Making of Hugo, The Cinemagician: Georges Melies, The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo, Big Effects, Small Scale and Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime.

Erich von Stroheim's Foolish Wives (1922) was only the famed director's third film ever and was so critically and commercially successful that he was one of the hottest filmmakers alive as the film was a huge critical and commercial success. The first feature film to cost a million dollars (adjust for inflation if you must) and it shows, the money is up one the screen and even if it was made for the then-smaller Universal Pictures, he also stars in it!

Pretending to be a Russian diplomat, he plays a con artist trying to get cozy with the wife of a U.S. diplomat to blackmail her for money, but can he pull it off? He has been doing this kind of thing for a while, but this time, things will not work out as he or anyone suspects and the screenplay is able to keep this going with ease for its full 147 minutes.

Yes, that makes it just long enough to be an epic and if the image of him in his upscale clothes looks familiar, it became one of the first massively iconic images of anyone from any major film. Some of would be sent up at times later (think The Carol Burnett Show) and left a lasting, permanent impression and even when he fell from grace two years later 'going too far' for the Hollywood studio moneymen to handle with his masterpiece Greed, even that did not erase his image.

Now we have the film restored and the original was even longer, but there is more than enough of it here to really see why he was an early cinematic visionary and also showing that Hollywood and the U.S. could produce and keep producing feature films of the highest quality and artistic merit to match anything being made by any country in the world. It is so good, you start to forget you are watching a silent film and the visuals are often stunning throughout. It even has a color sequence done by hand so good, you'll think it was some early color format.

The cast is great and fits in smoothly into all of it, including Dana Fuller, Albert Edmondson, Cesare Gravina and an uncredited Robert Edeson. The money is absolutely on the screen and it still looks it a century later. That part will still shock you.

Flicker Alley has once again pulled off a priceless, key release for all serious film fans and film history.

Extras (per the press release) include:

  • Restoring Foolish Wives: A detailed, behind-the-scenes look at the brand-new restoration, with film restorer Robert Byrne

  • Erich von Stroheim and Hollywood's First Million-Dollar Picture: A short documentary on the background of Foolish Wives, presented by MoMA film curator Dave Kehr

  • The Waves and the Merry-Go-Round: On Location with Erich von Stroheim: A documentary short presented by cultural historian Brad Rosenstein

  • Filming ''Foolish Wives'' (1922): An excerpt from Pathe's popular Screen Snapshots series, featuring rare behind-the-scenes and on-set footage from Foolish Wives, restored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival

  • Source Comparison Demo: A side-by-side examination of the elements consulted and used in the film's restoration

  • Restoration Demo: A before/after clip comparing original film elements to the newly restored version

  • Photo Galleries: Over 100 rare on-location stills, publicity and trade press material, and photo excerpts from a French novelization of the film

  • Souvenir Booklet: Featuring a new essay by James Layton ''Searching for Foolish Wives: The Decades-Long Effort to Reconstruct Erich von Stroheim's Masterpiece,'' excerpts from an examination of Foolish Wives by film critic[, great film scholar] and author David Thompson, an introduction to the newly commissioned score by Timothy Brock, as well as additional production stills and promotional materials.

  • and Reversible Cover Artwork.

Rouben Mamoulian's Queen Christina (1933) offers more iconic images, this time by Great garbo in one of her best films as the 17th Century title character, building her country a formidable political force defending country and their Protestant religion, battling all comes who want to invade and destroy their culture, faith and lives, replacing them with that of any said victors. A queen since 5-years-old, this is the only life she has known.

She continues to lead them to victory when she unexpectedly falls for a foreign ambassador (John Gilbert) in a situation that could compromise her, her future and her country. Thus, this unique live triangle happens in the midst of all this warfare. An epic and a biopic, we even get some character study and Garbo does not back down form playing her boldly, sexual ambiguity and all.

The film holds up very well for turning 90 this year and the production values (MGM was the #1 studio and they knew how to spend to make a film work) and Garbo can more than compete with the actors, sets and massiveness of the production. Now you can really see that in this amazing new restoration, with the film looking as good as I have ever seen it and about equal to the best clips and stills I have run into all these years, including many a book and coffee table book. A must-see film for all serious film fans (like so many here) it is great it has survived to look and play so greatly as intended.

Ian Keith, Elizabeth Young and Lewis Stone also star.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer and 1956 episode of The MGM Parade about Garbo's career.

Herbert Brenon's Spanish Dancer (1923) with major star actress Pola Negri as a gypsy fortune teller who is about to get involved with the title character (Antonio Moreno) in a romance that has epic drama in the background and even some commentary on class division that eventually involves a love triangle and the accompanying conflicts. When this was made, this was fresher material and as produced by Paramount Pictures in their early, is richly made, has more money in it than you might expect and shows why they were one of the biggest movie studios in Hollywood.

Even with all that in the background, Negri steals the show and the romance storyline is played up effectively enough. Moreno was also a big star in his time, but is not as remembered, though a recent documentary with the title of this film tried to correct that. That the film was not available in any long version and after seeking and working on many varied copies, they managed to reconstruct the film to 95 % (!!!) of its length is miraculous in itself. And to think this was a hit film and was still almost totally lost.

The rest of the cast is great and includes Wallace Beery, Kathlyn William (who 110 years ago this year was the first female cliffhanger star,) Anne Shirley, Gareth Hughes Robert Agnew and Adolphe Menjou. They are really good in this and remember, this is a silent film.

Cheers to yet another amazing restoration by Milestone.

Extras include a restoration demonstration, feature-length audio commentary track by film historian Scott Eyman and dance historian Naima Prevots and an interview with music composer Bill Ware.

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 Hugo 4K is very well shot and mastered, thanks to Scorsese and Director of Photography Robert Richardson, A.S.C., delivering another impressive and impressing visual experience.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 MVC-encoded 3-D - Full Resolution digital High Definition image on Hugo 3D is also very impressive and like Hitchcock making Dial 'M' For Murder came at the end of the 1950s 3D cycle, this came as the latest 3D craze started to end, even if you can still see select films in 3D in theaters worldwide.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the regular 2D version of Hugo is just fine for the format, but 4K and 3D are the ways to go, especially if you have not seen the film and are interested.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 1.33 X 1, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Breathless 4K is better than the previous-yet-decent Blu-ray editions we have covered before, including the 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on the regular Criterion Blu-ray that is included here. Yes, the new 4K edition can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and will impress everyone. The lossy sound on the older Blu-ray, highly atypical for Criterion, has been replaced with lossless mono on the 4K edition and that is highly welcome!

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on the remaining three Blu-rays look really good, especially on the newly restored versions of Wives (which includes maybe the most impressive hand-painted frame-by-frame work in cinema history) and Dancer (shot by no less than the legendary James Wong Howe, A.S.C.; it includes tinted sequences in golden sepia and blue) painstakingly saved and preserved beyond anything we could have expected for two silent films that could have been lost and are celebrating turning 100 years! The 1.33 X 1 (anamorphically enhanced in a 1.78 X 1) image on the Wives DVD (with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) is good for the format and good to have, but it is no match for the Blu-ray's great playback.

Queen Christina has also been restored very thoroughly and looks amazing, another great release by Warner Archive delivering playback results that only a pristine film print (or 4K edition?) could surpass. It also shows why we still talk about Garbo after all these years. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix is also as good as the film will ever sound, but despite the money MGM spent on the film at the time, the sonics still cannot stop showing their age. This is still impressive just the same, as is the combination.

Wives PCM 2.0 Mono on its Blu-ray edition is just fine and Dancer offers its impressive new music soundtrack score in both DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 or 2.0 Stereo lossless mixes

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


- Nicholas Sheffo


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