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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > Thriller > Comedy > Musical > Epic > Large Frame Format > Frank Sinatra MGM Movie Legends Collection (Manchurian Candidate/Guys & Dolls/Pride & The Passion/A Hole In The Head/Kings Go Forth) + Von Ryan’s Express – Cinema Classics Collection (Fox Double DVD)

Frank Sinatra MGM Movie Legends Collection (The Manchurian Candidate/Guys & Dolls/The Pride & The Passion/A Hole In The Head/Kings Go Forth) + Von Ryan’s Express – Cinema Classics Collection (Fox/Double DVD-Video Set)

 

Picture: C+ (Ryan & Candidate: B-)     Sound: C+ (Kings & Pride: C)     Extras: C+ (Ryan & Candidate: B)      Films:

 

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) A-

 

Guys & Dolls (1955) B-

 

The Pride & The Passion (1957) C+

 

A Hole In The Head (1959) C+

 

Kings Go Forth (1958) C+

 

Von Ryan’s Express (1965) B

 

 

Frank Sinatra’s film career is often forgotten because his music career is so massive and inarguable, but it is far more interesting than you might think and goes beyond his Tony Rome films and only some occasional work.  Fox has recently issued (or reissued) six of his films, five of which are a box set from MGM, which they distribute.

 

That box is ironically called The Frank Sinatra MGM Movie Legends Collection, though none of them were from the original MGM.  Instead, four of the films are from United Artists and the fifth (Guys & Dolls) was made and released by The Samuel Goldwyn Company, two catalogs of which belong to the current, latter day MGM.  We have previously looked at The Manchurian Candidate, which you can read about at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/1351/Manchurian+Candidate+(1962

 

 

Only the picture on this remastered edition as aged.  It is also easily the best and most important film in the box.  The film was made as Sinatra kept launching projects with UA that were always interesting, risk-taking and unusual.  Stanley Kramer’s The Pride & The Passion is one of those rare epics shot in the large-frame VistaVision format that was not produced by Paramount.  Though not great and a bit uneven, the huge production co-starred Cary Grant and Sophia Loren in a story about the Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s invasion led by Miguel (Sinatra) standing in the way of Captain Trumbell (Grant) with Loren caught in the middle.

 

The letterboxed 1.66 X 1 image is not bad, but from an old analog master.  Released in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor 35mm prints and the large-frame VistaVision format even comes through in this older DVD and transfer.  Too bad there are detail and depth limits, but when this comes out on Blu-ray, watch out.

 

Kings Go Forth was a war drama directed by Delmer Davies with Sinatra and Tony Curtis vying for Natalie Wood, a beautiful young lady with a secret in an ugly world beyond the battlefield.  This was risk-taking drama at the time and despite some overall problems with the film, is a plus of a project for all involved.  This is the only film in the set that is both 1.33 X 1 block style and in glorious black and white.

 

A Hole In The Head was intended as a high class family comedy drama project that was so compelling; Sinatra got no less than Frank Capra to come out of retirement.  With a great cast including Eleanor Parker, Carolyn Jones, Thelma Ritter and Keenan Wynn, while the film has the even more famous than it itself for launching yet another Sinatra standard: the hit song High Hopes.  The Top 30 hit also won the Best Song Oscar and is one of those few songs that work with children background singers.  Shot in CinemaScope, it is here in an older letterboxed transfer and though depth and detail suffer, it looks good.

 

That leaves Guys & Dolls, one of the great triumphs of Samuel Goldwyn in his reign as an independent one-man studio producer.  He paid then big bucks for the stage musical, hired Joseph L. Mankiewicz to write and direct, retained the original score, had Michael Kidd’s great choreography, shot the film in CinemaScope (here letterboxed in its original, wider 2.55 X 1 early configuration, looking good enough for an older video master) and the result is one of the most interesting and beautiful of all Hollywood widescreen musicals.  Marlon Brando, Vivian Blane, Jean Simmons and a great supporting cast join Sinatra for a film about hustling, surviving and making it big in New York.  Though it does not get enough credit for this, this early hit helped make widescreen filmmaking legitimate and permanent.

 

Sold separately is Fox’s reissue of Sinatra’s more powerful, enduring and action-packed WWII thriller Von Ryan’s Express.  Mark Robson directed this Saul David-produced hit about the tile character captured by the Nazis and instantly planning a grand escape for his 400+ POW Allies in the middle of Central Italy circa 1943.  The Wendell Mayes/Joseph Landon screenplay adaptation of the David Westheimer book is very masterful and the cast including Trevor Howard, Edward Mulhare, Brad Dexter, John Leyton, Adolfo Celi, James Brolin and more.  The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 CinemaScope shot transfer looks about the same as the old DVD, which was not bad, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound is decent.  Extras include isolated music score by the great Jerry Goldsmith and with audio commentary in the silent sections by Jon Burlingame, Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman.  DVD Two adds three featurettes on the making of the film (Reliving The Adventures Of Von Ryan’s Express, The Music Of Von Ryan’s Express, Hollywood & Its War Films) all wroth seeing, a great piece on Jerry Goldsmith’s legacy as a composer, original Spanish theatrical trailer, stills and TV spots.  Sinatra did radio spots for the film and for Blu-ray, I hope Fox finds them.

 

All the films on the MGM box are Dolby Digital 2.0 mono only, except Candidate and Dolls, upgraded to Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes which thin out the original sound.  Candidate was monophonic to begin with and with new audio and audio restoration advances, could be further upgraded for Blu-ray.  Dolls was originally 4-track magnetic stereo, is the best sounding of the six titles here and has an upgrade that is much older.  Again, new advances could bring out even more of the original fidelity of the master music recordings of the film.  Except for all the extras on Candidate, the only extra on the rest of the MGM titles are only single trailers.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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