Sunday 27 November 2016

On Blu-ray - David Hare sends in advance notice on DRAGONWYCK, BRINGING UP BABY and COVER GIRL

(Click to enlarge)
Dame Vincent Price fondles the artificial flowers while trying to remember his next line in Mank's excruciating costume potboiler inherited from Uncle (Ernst) Lube, who probably became ill after reading the screenplay, Dragonwyck (Joseph L Mankiewicz, USA, 1946). The screen is from a new French Fox/ESC label BD, far more charmingly named, as only the French can, Le Chateau du Dragon.

That redolent title - a propos of nothing - reminds me in fact of a long gone Gay porn palace in the Rue du Dragon in Paris, called not surprisingly the Cinema Dragon where during the 80s I managed to see a number of key "transgressive" motion pictures of erotic distinction like Et Dieu Crea les Hommes (Jean Estienne, France, 1978), in which one gentleman takes up the Foucaultian challenge to initiate new sexual fetishes by having insertive sex with a telephone handset while talking on it to his married lover. I only relate this perhaps as yawning evidence of my complete lack of interest in the Mank picture. Fox clearly intended to rematch Tierney and Dame Vincent after Laura (Otto Preminger, USA, 1944) but god only knows why, or not. And the supporting cast of Fox stalwarts carries on with completely uninspired pedestrian direction by Mank of the blank minded screenplay.

If ever there was an assignment that could defeat as great a writer/director as Mank this is surely it. Mank's cinema is one of the great ongoing discourses on marriage at a kind of Shakespearian level. Indeed Cleopatra (Joseph L Mankiewicz, USA, 1963), or at least part 1 of it, the Shakespeare bit - is the greatest film ever made about a marriage (that actually isn't one.) But Dragonwyck I fear is the one completely dead note in his otherwise consistently stratospheric career. The disc is hard coded Region B for the information of those with region locked players.

Bringing Up Baby
The titular "Baby" from Hawks perfect 1938 screwball comedy Bringing up Baby. The screen is from the latest in the long run of prime RKO golden years titles from IVC Japan. In simple terms this has to be the lousiest transfer yet, in a string of pretty haphazard discs. The print for starters is clearly an ancient untouched exhibition dupe of a dupe from, someone's back library, and it delivers every sin in the book: terribly soft, no true blacks, poor grayscale, persistent frame jitter, and big density pops on dissolves and other opticals.

I guess it's almost a relief to say do not buy. The Buddha only knows when if ever Warner Archive will get around to it, meanwhile keep their perfectly fine Warner 2 disc DVD.

Cover Girl 
Click on the link to check out the gorgeous grading and color work on this new 4K restoration of Cover Girl, due out on Masters of Cinema Blu-ray next year, The restoration was completed last year and was sourced from original three strip nitrate negs, then mastered in 4K under Grover Crisp's direction at Sony. The older pale and unsatisfactory 90s video source, most recently used on the recent Twilight Time Time Blu pales into irrelevance in comparison.

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