The DVD Report #676

The Love of Jeanne Ney, one of G.W. Pabst’s earliest films, was an international success for Germany’s UFA Studios. Released in Germany in December 1927 and the U.S. in July 1928, the film’s style was heavily influenced by that of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and Frtiz Lang’s Metropolis, as well as Russian director Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.

Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray release version is of the 2019 restored French theatrical release of the German version. The heavily censored unrestored U.S. release version is provided as an extra.

Edith Jehanne, a German silent screen star who died shortly after the coming of sound films, has the title role as a bureaucrat’s daughter whose Russian lover (Uno Henning) is a Bolshevik spy who kills her father in self-defense. With the Russian revolution as background, the lovers are reunited in Paris where Jeanne now works for her lecherous uncle (Ernest E. Licto) whose blind daughter (Brigitte Helm) is being courted by the dastardly villain (Fritz Rasp) who caused the confrontation between Jeanne’s lover and her father. It is his intention to marry the girl and kill her for her father’s money. The film is unique in that contrary to most melodramas, it is not the man who unmasks the villain and saves the girl in the end, but the girl who does so, hence the title.

Pabst, who would go on to direct Louise Brooks in both Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, as well as the classics Westfront 1918, The 3 Penny Opera, and Kameradeschaft within the next four years, gets superb performances from all his actors. The lovely Jehanne is especially noteworthy, as is Helm, whose performance equals her legendary work in Metropolis. The informative commentary by film historian Eddy von Mueller is outstanding.

Kino Lorber’s recent Blu-ray releases include David Lean’s 1952 film The Sound Barrier, featuring superb award-winning performances by Ralph Richardson, Nigel Patrick, and Ann Todd.

Reminiscent of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, the 1948 film version of which starred Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster, Richardson is the wealthy industrialist with troubled family relationships this time around. Released in the U.S. as Breaking the Sound Barrier, the film was marketed as an action-adventure film, which it was not. It is, instead, a superb drawing room drama with brief action sequences. Richardson won the National Board of Review, New York Critics, and BAFTA awards for Best Actor but failed to receive an Oscar nomination for his performance. The film did receive an Oscar for its sound and a nomination for Terence Rattigan’s screenplay.

Also newly released on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber are the westerns Canyon Passage and Lonely Are the Brave. The former is an enjoyable 1946 actioner set in the Oregon Territory, directed by Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past) with a cast headed by Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, and Susan Hayward. The latter is a highly regarded 1962 film set in 1950s New Mexico, directed by David Miller (Midnight Lace) with Kirk Douglas as “the last cowboy,” an escaped convict on horseback, who is pursued by sheriff Walter Matthau. Douglas considered it his favorite film. Although it has some fine moments, it suffers from an abundance of violence.

Warner Archive has released Blu-ray upgrades of two films made from popular stage comedies, one from the late 1950s and the other from the early 1960s.

William Douglas-Homes’ The Reluctant Debutante was a successful London play that had already been filmed as a British TV movie in 1955 with its original cast of Celia Johnson, Wilfred Hyde-White, Anna Massey, and John Merivale. Adrianne Allen (Massey’s mother) replaced Johnson on Broadway in the 1956-1957 season. Hyde-White and Massey were nominated for Tonys for their portrayals of a well-to-do Londoner and his British-American daughter. Hyde-White lost to Fredric March in Long Day’s Journey into Night and Massey to Peggy Cass in Auntie Mame. Rex Harrison, who won that year’s Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for My Fair Lady, replaced Hyde-White in the 1958 film version. Kay Kendall, Harrison’s new third wife, played his new second wife with Sandra Dee and John Saxon in Anna Massey’s and Philip Merivale’s roles. Kendall, fresh from her Golden Globe winning performance in Les Girls, steals the show. Just 30-31 at the time of filming, the actress, whose cousin was ace cinematographer Jack Cardiff (Black Narcissus), would be dead of leukemia at 33 a year after the film’s release. See it for her one-of-a-kind performance.

The film was directed by Vincente Minnelli between his two better known 1958 films, Gigi and Some Came Running.

Norman Krasna’s Sunday in New York has unfortunately aged very badly. Originally produced on Broadway in the 1961-1962 season with Pat Stanley, Conrad Janis, and Robert Redford in roles played in the 1963 film by Jane Fonda, Cliff Robertson, and Rod Taylor, is a very static comedy despite being opened up with great NYC locations. Directed by Peter Tewksbury, it is about a playboy airline pilot (Roberson) whose sister (Fonda), a “virgin,” makes an unannounced visit to his bachelor pad. Pretending to be more sophisticated than she is, she meets a guy on a bus (Taylor) who is less experienced than he appears to be. It is a rare miss for the prolific Krasna, whose previous screenplays for The Devil and Miss Jones and White Christmas still hold up.

Paramount has released Blu-ray upgrades of Funeral in Berlin and Urban Cowboy.

Funeral in Berlin is the 1966 sequel to 1965’s The Ipcress File, the film that made Michael Caine a major star. A less tongue-in-cheek thriller than the original, the Berlin locations and the fine acting of Caine, Paul Hubschmid, Guy Doleman, and Oscar Homolka make this thriller directed by Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger) from Len Deighton’s novel even more enjoyable than the original.

Urban Cowboy, the 1980 film from director James Bridges (The China Syndrome) tries to do for country music what Saturday Night Fever did for disco three years earlier with the same star, John Travolta, who is outclassed here by Debra Winger who figured in several of the year’s supporting actress awards nominations but failed to score an Oscar nomination for her sensitive portrayal of the young woman he married shortly after meeting her.

Glengarry Glen Ross did not receive a Blu-ray release until late 2016. Less than four years later it has received an upgrade by Shout Select which adds a couple of extras to the already-bursting extras in the Lionsgate release. The new release, given a 4K remastering, looks great but doesn’t add much to the previous release. The film, with its often-confusing, profanity-laced dialogue by playwright David Mamet, provides gritty performances from its all-star cast of Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Jonathan Pryce, Alec Baldwin, and Kevin Spacey and was directed by James Foley. It remains a matter of taste.

This week’s new releases include new Blu-ray box sets of Deanna Durbin Collection I and Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema III.

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