The DVD Report #681

Hud is a film that collectors have long wanted to see released on Blu-ray but remains, like many other films from Paramount, unreleased in the U.S. There is, however, a perfectly fine region-free Australian Blu-ray from Shout Entertainment that was released under license from Paramount Pictures International in September 2019. Ironically, it is sold out on Shout International’s website, but is available from Amazon.

Shout Entertainment’s Blu-ray is barebones, no extras, not even a trailer, but the film itself is there in all its pristine black-and-white glory.

The 1963 film was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Actor (Paul Newman), Director (Martin Ritt), Adapted Screenplay (Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr.), and Black-and-White Art Direction. It won three for Best Actress (Patricia Neal), Supporting Actor (Melvyn Douglas), and Black-and-White Cinematography (James Wong Howe).

Ravetch and Frank’s screenplay was from the acclaimed novel of Larry McMurtry, whose The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment were later made into Oscar favorites as well. McMurtry himself won an Oscar of his own for his screenplay for Brokeback Mountain.

Ravetch and Frank and director Ritt were longtime collaborators, who first worked with Newman as the star of 1958’s The Long, Hot Summer. Later collaborations included Hombre, again with Newman, and Norma Rae, for which Sally Field won her first Oscar.

Wong Howe’s Oscar was his second out of eight nominations. His first was for 1955’s The Rose Tattoo. He would receive later nominations for 1966’s Seconds and 1975’s Funny Lady.

Paul Newman’s portrayal of the arrogant, egotistical son of an honest, hard-working rancher is one of his best. It ranks up there with The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, and The Verdict. He lost the Oscar in a tough, three-way race with Albert Finney in Tom Jones and winner Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field.

Melvyn Douglas’ portrayal of the uncompromising old rancher brought the celebrated actor his first Oscar nomination as well as his win. He would subsequently be nominated for Best Actor for 1970’s I Never Sang for My Father and Best Supporting Actor for 1979’s Being There, for which he again won.

Brandon de Wilde’s portrayal of Newman’s impressionable nephew and Douglas’ loyal grandson is of the same caliber as the film’s other three stars. It’s a shame he wasn’t nominated as well, although he did get to accept Douglas’ Oscar for him. His only nomination came for playing the little boy in 1953’s Shane.

Although Patricia Neal’s role is clearly supporting as the family’s housekeeper, the star of such previous films as The Day the Earth Stood Still and A Face in the Crowd was so impressive that she was elevated to the lead category on her first nomination and win.

Hud has long been available on standard DVD.

1953’s The War of the Worlds and 1961’s The Day the Earth Caught Fire have been released on Blu-ray with load of extras, the former from Criterion, the latter from Kino Lorber.

The War of the Worlds, from H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel, was first dramatized in Orson Welles’ notorious 1938 Halloween radio show in which half the population thought the Martian invasion updated to the then-present time was happening for real. Paramount had owned the rights to the property since 1924 but it wasn’t until 1953 that it was finally made into the instant classic it became under George Pal’s direction. The print used by Criterion is of the film’s 2018 restoration in which the eye-popping colors of the film’s initial release were restored. Extras include a documentary on the restoration. All other extras are imported from the film’s 2005 DVD release.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire is a literate sci-fi classic in which the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. have unwittingly tested atomic bombs at the same time, taking the Earth 11 degrees off its axis. It is later discovered that it is also 11 degrees off its orbit and moving closer to the Sun meaning that everyone on Earth will be burnt to a crisp in four months. Can setting off four strategically placed atomic bombs at the same time return the Earth to its proper axis and orbit?

The film, which was released in the U.S. in 1962, initially received an X Certificate in the U.K. due to the highly suggestive sex scenes between Edward Judd and Janet Munro. The ending of the U.S. release version had church bells ringing out suggesting a happy ending. The Blu-ray release is of the British version which has an ambiguous ending.

Also newly released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber is Peter Hyams’ 1990 remake of Richard Fleischer’s 1952 film noir, The Narrow Margin, with the title shortened to Narrow Margin. The highly suspenseful drama of a game of cat-and-mouse played out on a high-speed train stars Gene Hackman at his best with strong support from Anne Archer and a gallery of fine supporting players including M. Emmet Walsh and J.T. Walsh.

Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears is a full-length feature film follow-up to the beloved Australian series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Alas, it may be pretty to look at, but both as a follow-up to the series and a stand-alone mystery for the uninitiated, it’s a disappointment.

It’s available on both Blu-ray and standard DVD for completists.

Much more satisfying is Murdoch Mysteries, Season 13.

The venerable Canadian series originally set in the mid-1890s has advanced every year since its inception and is set in 1907 in its 13th season. The series continues to alternate deadly serious entries with more comical ones. Among the subjects explored this season are women’s suffrage, cryonics, euthanasia, racism, homophobia, and alcoholism in addition to murder most foul. The season’s finale is one of the best episodes ever. Thankfully, there is no cliffhanger as there often has been in the past with this series.

As with releases of previous seasons, it is available on both Blu-ray and standard DVD.

This week’s new releases include the Blu-ray releases of The Lady Eve and The Missing.

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