CALL ME MADAM    (20TH CENTURY FOX HOME VIDEO)  

CHARADE    (CRITERION COLLECTION)

THE DRESSER    (COLUMBIA HOME ENTERTAINMENT) 

 THE FINAL COUNTDOWN    (BLUE UNDERGROUND)       

CALL ME MADAM: While every single one of the monthly "Fox Studio Classics" have been visually nothing less than superb, the print quality of 20th Century Fox's other more general classic releases has ranged from sublime (GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES) to ------ uh------ not so sublime (CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN. Their release of CALL ME MADAM, however, can firmly be placed in the former category, as this is Fox's best 3-strip Technicolor transfer since the aforementioned BLONDES. The accuracy and warmth of the colors in this full screen transfer are a joy to behold, and the pseudo-stereo sound track works far better than usual, as Alfred Newman's wondrous scoring is heard as never before.

Please note: this is not the Heidi Fleiss story, but a dated and slight tale about a Washington D.C. socialite (Ethel Merman) who becomes a U.S. Ambassador, and finds romance along the way and ------- well, who cares about the story when you've got Merman belting out the great Irving Berlin songs with the finesse of a Mack Truck and uber-talent Donald O'Connor knocking himself (and us) out with some truly terrific tapping, and who knew that George Sanders had what sounds like a classically trained singing voice? (No, he's not dubbed.)                                          

CHARADE: In a recent review I said that you can't improve on perfection. This Criterion rerelease of what was originally an absolutely stunning and (I thought) unimprovable transfer has indeed been marginally improved, because the current release is anamorphically enhanced. If you missed the first release, you will never see a CHARADE that looks this good.                                                       

THE DRESSER: This five-time 1983 Oscar nominee has lost none of its luster. If anything, the passing years have enhanced this brilliantly written, acted, and directed chronicle about the intense relationship between the faltering grandiloquent old man of the theater (Albert Finney) and his put-upon dresser (Tom Courtenay). A good anamorphic 1.85:1 color transfer and solid mono soundtrack maximize the pleasure considerably.        

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: While opinions may vary about the quality of the film itself, there's no question that this is the best restoration I've seen this year by a company (Blue Underground) I'd never heard of, but about whom I expect great things from in the future, if this release is an example of their standards of quality. I first saw this fantastic tale about a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that is hurtled back in time to December 6, 1941, mere hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, at a theatre on LaBrea Avenue in Hollywood on opening day, and I still remember the lackluster and grainy print that was on view, and how it, combined with the murky mono sound, dramatically minimized my enjoyment and involvement in the proceedings. COUNTDOWN, while still not without shortcomings, is a completely different film now, so substantial is the effect of the all-new THX-Certified High-Definition Transfer from the original camera negative, which is presented in a anamorphically enhanced widescreen 2.35:1 ratio  with remixed 6.1 DTS-ES and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX Soundtracks that are nothing less than explosive. Even the commentaries that comprise part of the special features are far more candid and entertaining than the usual studio "puff-pieces" that one normally hears. Make no mistake about it, Blue Underground's THE FINAL COUNTDOWN is the surprise package of the year thus far.    

--DICK DINMAN  

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