Thursday 14 September 2017

On Blu-ray - David Hare on a German edition of Mann's BEND OF THE RIVER and on Kino Lorber's edition of Wellman's BEGGARS OF LIFE

A short break from the seemingly terminal depression that envelopes me every time I read something about Australia. 

Julie Adams, Bend of the River
Two screens from a new German Blu-ray of Mann's Bend of the River from Explosive Media  who are doing a titanic job releasing great westerns. It may be churlish to neglect the two male leads here, Stewart and Arthur Kennedy for screens but who can resist Julie Adams and (blink and you'll miss him) very junior (and delicious) Rock Hudson in one of Mann's earliest existential Westerns from 1952.

Rock Hudson, Bend of the River
I am not sure how I feel about this transfer. The encode from Explosive is technically good and tight for grain and stability but what was original three strip Technicolor filming here looks very much like a relatively faded and overly brown (yellow layer) Eastman print has been digitally massaged for better color balance. The producer (Torsten Kaiser?) has kept the tonality in hand but it never looks like plein air Technicolor. Call it serviceable and quite attractive in motion.

Louise Brooks, Beggars of Life
The black and white screens are from a new Kino Lorber Blu-ray of William Wellman's late silent, Beggars of Life from 1928, coming just after the justly honored Wings (1927).

In the first frame here's a deliciously boy garbed Louise Brooks fresh from the BDSM female angst of all those Pabstian crypto-masochist psycho-pathologized males, and indeed from Hawk's weirdly homo skewed A Girl in Every Port (1928) in which she plays sidekick to a pair of guys, one a drunk who keeps asking his buddy to "pull him off". (I didn't believe it either.) 

Brooks, Richard Arlen, Beggars of life
Louise and second screen, male lead Richard Arlen (also fresh from a male to male kiss in Wings) as bums on the lam in this screenplay that seems like a precursor to Wellman's great 1933 Warner First National actioner Wild Boys of the Road, one of his dozen odd pre-code greats from his incomparable Warner 30s talkie period.

In Kino Lorber's  Beggars Louise morphs from girl in boydrag to dodge near gang rape (as a boy or a girl?) to girl again after several plot menaces, until she and Arlen match alpha credentials with a guignolesque Wallace Beery and his gang of super hoboes. It's a memorable scene. At this point Wellman finally stages and films them in two shots as the couple they are, and by now Arlen is looking quite as gorgeous as Brooks, no mean feat for any of us of any or all three of the great sexual persuasions- homo/het/bi.

The source is still ragged and occasionally thin for texture and detail but it's a million miles ahead of the old bootlegs up till now which had virtually no definition and terrible image qualities which had to pass then. But no longer.

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