BLAZING SADDLES--30TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION (WARNER HOME VIDEO )

FANCY PANTS (PARAMOUNT HOME VIDEO )

THE MAN FROM COLORADO (COLUMBIA HOME VIDEO)

JOAN OF ARC (IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT )

THE SNAKE PIT (FOX STUDIO CLASSICS )

BLAZING SADDLES --- Fans of Mel Brooks' aggressively un-pc brand of Borscht Belt humor rejoice! Warner Home Video has, by way of repenting for their previous mis-framed non-anamorphic release of this anything-for-a-laugh horse opera,  released an anamorphic 2.35:1 color transfer so dazzling that it actually bests the original preview print that I saw at the Avco Embassy on Wilshire Boulevard  (gasp!) thirty years ago ! That print was strictly monaural, but Warner's has remastered the soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 , the better to savor the ---- uh ---- sound effects in the (in)famous bean scene, which are now fully directional. Aren't you glad you have a great sound system?

FANCY PANTS --- Twenty-four years before BLAZING SADDLES, Paramount, intent on duplicating Bob Hope's 1948 box-office bonanza Western farce THE PALEFACE, remade, revamped and refurbished their own RUGGLES OF RED GAP, the one about a veddy proper butler who goes West, to fit the considerable talents of Hope and Lucille Ball, who had teamed so successfully in the earlier SORROWFUL JONES (also available, and in very good shape from  Paramount Home Video.) Make no mistake about it: the corn is as high as an elephant's eye (not that there's anything wrong with that!)  and you can savor every morsel in Paramount's stunning full screen 3-strip Technicolor transfer. 

THE MAN FROM COLORADO --- A Western horse of an entirely different color, THE MAN FROM COLORADO is notable for its complete lack of humor. This action-packed tale about a judge (an intense, brooding and uncommonly one-note Glenn Ford) teetering on the brink of insanity, and the best friend (a sandy-haired and unusually insubstantial William Holden) who opposes him, is notable for the excellence of its production values, a fact thatís highlighted by the astoundingly gorgeous 3-strip Technicolor transfer that Columbia Home Video has provided, which seems almost the equal of my thus-far favorite dvd Western Technicolor transfer, Warner's SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON.

JOAN OF ARC is one of the three literate, distinguished,  and expensive "class" pictures that practically put R.K.O Radio Pictures out of business, the other two being the unbearably heavy, endless and mortifyingly boring MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA and George Steven's deeply-felt and magnificent I REMEMBER MAMA. Indeed, at a time when the average film budget was just over $1 million, JOAN's budget of $4 million exceeded even that of Cecil B.DeMille's SAMSON AND DELILAH, which happened to be the biggest grosser of that year. So tepid, in fact, was box-office response that R.K.O. hastily chopped 45 minutes out of JOAN and the original version of Victor Fleming's epic hasn't been seen since ----- until now, through the courtesy of the UCLA Film Archive, archive film preservationist Robert Gitt, and Image entertainment, and I must say the quality of this full-screen 3-strip Technicolor transfer is nothing short of amazing!  It's hard to believe that footage thought to be lost for decades can look so perfect.

THE SNAKE PIT --- During his lifetime, Producer/Director Stanley Kramer liked to take credit for introducing "difficult" social commentary to the screen, but the real pioneer was, in fact,  Darryl F. Zanuck, who, as studio chief at Twentieth Century Fox, (and earlier at Warner Bro0.thers) had the courage, determination, and tenacity to tackle subjects no-one else dared to, such as anti-Semitism ( GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT ) , miscegenation (PINKY)   and 1948's THE SNAKE PIT, a film about mental illness that broke new ground with its unflinching portrayal of the sometimes inhumane practices of psychiatric care. While certain aspects of THE SNAKE PIT may seem a trifle dated by today's standards, there's no question that this gripping film still packs a considerable punch, and Twentieth Century Fox has provided an absolutely pristine full screen black and white transfer that easily equals the best of their previous Fox Studio Classics releases.

--DICK DINMAN

 

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