Saturday 12 August 2017

On Blu-ray - David Hare rejoices in the release of Fritz Lang's classics YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE and THE BIG HEAT

Two unforgettable death scene climaxes from two of Lang's greatest movies.

Sylvia Sidney, Henry Fonda, You Only Live Once
Joe (Henry Fonda) kisses his dead wife (Sylvia Sidney) just before he's shot in the back in Lang's second American film, and an outright first tier Lang masterpiece, You Only Live Once (1937), now reissued in a fine quality Blu-ray from a restored 35mm element by new kid on the block label, Classic Flix in the USA. The next two screens of Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) and a dying Debby (Gloria Grahame) are from a brilliant, high contrast, sharp as a tack Brit label BD from a superb 4k scan of Lang's The Big Heat (1953) out of Sony pictures home vid team under the redoubtable Grover Crisp.

Glenn Ford, The Big Heat
Both movies were previously issued in Blu-ray but both show major improvements. The Big Heat had a fine release from Twilight Time in the USA barely a couple of years ago, taken from the same 4K remaster. You Only Live Once was also given a BD less than two years ago by an Italian label, Eagle Pictures which was completely botched in the disc authoring process by some idiot in the control room who rejigged the picture geometry from the film's original 1.37:1 aspect ratio to 1.24: pinching the image into a squeezed skinny travesty of the film that is unwatchable. The new Classic Flix has no such problem and the restoration appears similar if not the same to the earlier BD, minus the pinched image. It looks very nice indeed if not at the very top range 4K scans from original nitrate elements of more expensive restorations.

Gloria Grahame, The Big Heat
The 35mm source used appears to be a British BFI Archive print down to the opening BBFC censor card. It goes without saying the Blu-ray is yet another essential collector's title from this nifty little label.

Indicator's new disc of The Big Heat is from the same 4K as the older Twilight Time but it goes an extra mile or so in attention to fine shadow detail, grain management and overall visual quality. The acid test for these newer discs encoded from 4K masters is how well they uprez on a 4K/HDR screen and system like my own. The answer is briliantly for The Big Heat. Visual improvements in this over the Twilight Time disc may be incremental to most viewers but they are discernible at 55 inches or over. Indicator at the moment is doing probably the very best transfer work for BD anywhere, in some cases even better than Criterion or Warner MTI, and I think they have taken the 1080p realm to the limits of its technical game. I only wish at least one cinephiic label, perhaps Criterion, would make the first dive into 4K/HDR disc releasing.

For any collector who hasn't yet picked up the Twilight Time The Big Heat this disc is a no brainer. It's also, like all Indicator titles region free.

Fritz Lang

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