Hour of the Gun
Director- John Sturges
Cast- James Garner, Jason Robards
Country of Origin- U.S.
Writer - Tyler Miller
Wyatt Earp And Doc Holliday (James Garner and Jason Robards) have survived the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but Ike Clanton is going to give up without destroying Earp and his strict rules of the law. But after Clanton goes after Wyatt’s brothers, vengeance is soon his top priority.
HOUR OF THE GUN (1967) marked a sharp turning point in the western genre. The film was directed by John Sturges, who previously had told the story of the O.K. corral in 1957’s GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL, starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. But while that film was a happy and clean Hollywood production, HOUR became a spiritual sequel. Even more so, it is a darker mirror reflection of the earlier film.
Covering much of the same ground as 1993’s TOMBSTONE, HOUR is a fitting example of the aftermath of the O.K gunfight. While TOMBSTONE, and its star Kurt Russell are now seen as the perfect retelling of the Earp legend, HOUR is a worthy viewing. Cast against type, James Garner makes a fine and downright bitter Earp. As the movie goes along he becomes more quietly deranged. Unlike his popular comic and handsome leading man image, here Garner is a no-nonsense man with a quick firing hand. As Doc Holliday, Jason Robards turns in a earthy and wise performance. He becomes the moral center and brings up the film’s center question of is murder still murder if it’s justified.
On the direction side, Sturges is both skilled with handling action and the actors. The chemistry between Garner and Robards is the glue that keeps the film ticking. There interplay is so natural and fresh. On the action side of things, the gun fights are quick and mean. There is both a nostalgia and disenchantment with the west that would soon become even more pointed when Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH (1969) came out.
While rough in a few spots, HOUR OF THE GUN is a fine western. It’s one of Garner and Robards’ best acting showcases and a fine action movie on top of it.
Per usual with Twilight Time, we get another handsome release of a minor classic. The 1.0 English DTS-HD MA track is a great sound mix with no pops or hiss. English subtitles are included. The 1080p HD picture has a few issues coming from print damage. The picture goes from sharp focus to a softer and duller light. Some clips even having a yellow haze on the corners of the screen. But other than these couple of hiccups it looks above average. The black levels are smooth and there is no motion blur.
As for extras, We get the isolated music and effects track, trailer, and a handsome booklet of liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
The Film 4/5
Audio/ Video 4/5
Director- Michael Winner
Cast- Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan
Country of Origin- U.S.
Writer - Tyler Miller
Marshal Maddox (Burt Lancaster), is the deadly peace officer in the area and he is on a mission. He is dead set in finding justice for a dead man by bringing in cattle baron Vincent Bronson (Lee J. Cobb). Things soon turn nasty as Maddox gets closer to his breaking point in this nihilistic and brutal western.
LAWMAN (1971) was the first western by British filmmaker Michael Winner. Winner was a notorious man in some ways, by his mix of good near classic films, to his dark and mean-spirited movies. Best known for directing the 1974 Charles Bronson classic, DEATH WISH, Winner soon proved he was best suited for making exploitation movies that had a bit more polish.
Which places LAWMAN in a strange spot. It has the law and feel of a classically made American studio western, but also the sudden violence and grit of an Italian western. Almost anyone could die at any moment. But the overall is something more original. The movie is nastier when it comes to death and a depressing feeling towards the old ideas of honor. Lancaster as Maddox is a man who is addicted to this way of life. He seems to enjoy killing criminals and in one shocking moment even breaks his code of honor by gunning a man down in the back. Lee J. Cobb (THE EXORCIST, ON THE WATERFRONT) on the other hand, is a sad and reasonable villain who tries to stop the bloodshed of the ending. By the end he is a shell of a man.
On a filmmaking level, the scope is smaller, yet alien. Everything feels shot like an outsider looking in. Winner as a Brit, gets to show his idea of the west. Which is sunbathed and muted. The littlest details are highlighted which would be left out of any other western of the time. A running gag shows a dead horse as it’s slowly eaten up by foxes and wolves. As for the action, some of the fights and gun battles are poorly stringed together. The rest of the violence is still beefed up and adds to the sense of dread.
The movie does suffer from an odd pacing and standard script. But for what it is, it’s a curious and well-made offbeat western for fans of Winner and the genre.
LAWMAN comes with an English 1.0 DTS-HD MA track that suffers from a few soft spots where the sound is almost muted. The rest of the track suffers from a loud room tone noise in the background. As for the rest of the track there is no hiss or pops. English subtitles are included. The transfer is about average for Twilight Time with this 1080p HD picture. There are no noticeable issues, but the picture is a little soft focused. The black levels are fine, and it shines it’s best during the outdoors scenes.
As for extras, we get the usual Isolated music track, that spotlights the bizarre score by Jerry Fielding and a theatrical trailer. Some excellent liner notes by Julie Kirgo are included in the package itself.
The Film 3/5
Audio/ Video 3/5
Suddenly Last Summer
Director– Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Starring – Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift
Country of Origin- U.S.
Writer - David Steigman
Based on the play by Tennessee Williams, Suddenly, Last Summer was given the cinematic treatment in 1959, capably directed in the sure hands of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With thirty years of directing experience behind him including directing classics such as The Barefoot Contessa and All About Eve, here he once again shows us why he is one of the great directors in our American cinematic history with this wonderful southern mystery drama.
Taking place in New Orleans during the year 1937, Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift from Alfred Hitchcock’s I, Confess) plays a psychiatrist / surgeon who is asked by a wealthy Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn, The African Queen), to lobotomize her niece Catherine Holly (legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor) because she witnessed the death of her cousin Sebastian Venable, which happened “last summer”, and caused severe emotional stress. She wants Catherine to have the lobotomy which will make her forget all about the death of Sebastian.
He takes the case, and evaluates young Catherine, and the longer he observes her, the less he feels that she needs to be lobotomized. He discovers that she can’t recall what exactly happened to Sebastian and wants to truth. There are some intense moments with Catherine trying to escape the hospital as she goes mad and tries to escape the hospital where she is being kept, because she can’t recall what happened. As we enter the final acts, there are the inevitable intense confrontations between Violet and Catherine. Dr. Cukrowicz gives Catherine a truth serum, to find out once and for all if she is crazy and needs a lobotomy. The revelations about what happened with her and Violet’s son Sebastian are startling, and revolting.
Suddenly, Last Summer is such a great compelling movie with the fantastic, very unsettling climax with some tremendous acting and chemistry among the main stars, Hepburn, Taylor and Clift. The performances, especially from Elizabeth Taylor are just over the top outstanding and simply unforgettable. So great were their performances in this film, that both Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn received Best Actress Oscar nominations
There are other great performances from the veteran cast as well; Albert Dekker (Kiss me Deadly) as the doctor who assigns Dr, Cukrowicz to the case, has a great supporting role in Suddenly Last Summer, as does Mercedes McCambridge(Touch of Evil) as Grace Holly, Catherine’s mother.
Twilight Time presents Suddenly Last Summer on Blu-ray courtesy of an HD master provided by Sony. It’s a beautiful transfer in 1080p, with an MPEG-4 AVC encode. This black and white feature looks absolutely gorgeous. Black levels look balanced; the greyscale looks spot-on perfect. The higher resolution enables us to see so many great details with the scenery in the background, as well as the characters faces. The image looks incredibly clear, bright, and sharp with deep textures. I was blown away within the first fifteen minutes during the garden scene about how clear everything appears on the screen. From start to finish the entire film looks just magnificent.
The audio, English 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is excellent, with dialog, music (especially the music!) coming in loud and clear. Optional English subtitles are included.
The always given isolated music and effects track and the original theatrical trailer are the only extras in addition to the also given, eight page essay/booklet written by Julie Kirgo.
Despite the lack of extras, this is a fantastic movie with just outstanding image and audio quality that is well worth owning. Highly recommended!
The Film (4/5)
Tom Sawyer / Huckleberry Finn (1973/1974)
Director– Don Taylor (Sawyer) / J Lee Thompson (Finn)
Starring – Johnny Whitaker, Celeste Holm, Jeff East, Paul Winfield
Country of Origin- U.S.
Writer - David Steigman
Mark Twain’s two creations get musical adaptations in this double feature release from Twilight Time. Both Tom Sawyer, from 1973 and the sequel Huckleberry Finn from 1974 are two adventure films with the added touch of award winning music. In fact, the alternate titles for both films are Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer: A Musical Adaptation and Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn: A Musical Adaptation respectively. Readers’ Digest produced both films.
Both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman who also were responsible for the music and lyrics for both films. They were also responsible for the music from the timeless musical classic Mary Poppins. The two siblings continued their musical mastery with both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
The first film of this double feature, Tom Sawyer (Johnny Whitaker) has Tom and his good pal Huckleberry Finn (Jeff East, who was Finn in the sequel) going on some adventures along the Mississippi and witness a murder at a graveyard, where Doc Robinson (Richard Eastham, Battle for the Planet of the Apes) is being stabbed to death by Injun Joe (Henry O’Brien, The Car). Even though they swore to not to tell anyone what they saw, Tom reveals what they saw in court and nearly gets killed by Injun Joe for it. Tom and Huckleberry then run away, are thought to be dead and arrive back home, just in time for their funeral. In the finale, during an Independence Day celebration, Tom along with his sweetheart Becky Thatcher (a very young Jodie Foster) go to McDougal’s Cave for “the best drinking water in the city” which is from an underground spring, and run into Injun Joe leading to a climatic chase scene.
Tom Sawyer is a one fine movie, due to the acting, in particular. The film has two legendary actors, Celeste Holm (All About Eve) as Tom’s aunt gives a splendid performance, as does Warren Oats (Two-Lane Blacktop) as Muff. The remaining cast members also submit fine performances and the musical numbers are charming and unforgettable.
Huckleberry Finn, the equally entertaining sequel, has Huck minus his pal Tom Sawyer, running away from his greedy, scheming father. He flees on a raft going down the Mississippi and has adventures, along with Jim (Paul Winfield, Mars Attacks!), a runaway slave, also running away because he doesn’t want to be sold. Their destination is Illinois, which is a free state. During their adventure they run into many wild and wooly characters, such as Colonel Grangeford (Arthur O’Connell, Wicked, Wicked), the King (Harvey Korman, The Carol Burnett Show) and the Duke (David Wayne, The Andromeda Strain). The King while entertaining, is actually a con artist ‘shark’ that is up to some money making schemes that Huckleberry Finn and Jim have to prevent.
Both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are a lot of fun to watch and highly entertaining. The direction on both films is more than adequate, the films move with a really good pace and tempo. To me, these two films were just some fun, silly adventure about two kids who would rather be free than part of a society where they are told what to do, what to wear and how to act.
The songs and musical numbers are incorporated perfectly into the films. They might detract for those who aren’t into musicals so much, perhaps feeling that it puts a temporary halt into the story. I didn’t think so. The two films do make for a a good weekend matinee with the family. However, I must note that there are some racist themes in both films, with Huckleberry Finn being the bigger culprit of the two, due to a few lines using some choice language about African Americans. So if you want to see these with your children, proceed with caution.
Twilight Time presents both these films as double feature Blu-ray, as they were previously released on DVD, also as a double feature, so these two films are certainly no strangers for being paired together on home video. This time, both films are now being presented in HD, 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC encode and in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratios. Tom Sawyer looks just delightful in HD with beautiful bold colors, greens, reds and blues looking really strong in particular. Daylight scenes with all the trees, bushes, water and other outdoor scenery look spectacular. Black levels look strong and flesh tones look true. Huckleberry Finn also looks good with the same strong lively colors of the great outdoors, with blue skies and water, and greens, such as plants, grass and trees looking fantastic. I felt Tom Sawyer was slightly more attractive in HD than Huckleberry Finn, but that’s not saying a whole lot as both do look excellent!
There are a few audio options for Tom Sawyer; English 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is used for the film itself, while English 4.0 DTS-HD master audio is used for the isolated music tracks, and English 2.0 DTS-HD master audio is used for the commentary tracks. The dialog, musical numbers and other sounds during the film sound really pleasant in 5.1. The commentaries and musical track also sound perfectly fine and pleasant
The audio used for Huckleberry Finn is English 2.0 DTS-HD master audio, which is also really excellent, with loud but not overly aggressive dialog and musical numbers. There are optional English subtitles for this release as well.
Special Features for this release are good and plenty. There are isolated music tracks, with Tom Sawyer receiving two audio commentaries. One of them is with Screenwriter/Songwriter Richard M. Sherman and music producer/ film historian Bruce Kimmell, while the second commentary is with Director Don Taylor and Screenwriters/Songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. There are still more supplements; there is a Tom Sawyer River Song Featurette, a Tom Sawyer Rehearsal with John Williams and the Sherman Brothers and original theatrical trailers. Julie Kirgo also provides the linear notes booklet that we are all accustomed to. This release is Region Free and also limited to 3000 units.
Two more great musicals are given some great treatment via Twilight Time. The picture and sound quality for both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are just superb, along with a great deal of extras make this a highly recommended release!
The Film(s) 3.5/5 (for both films)
Director– Jose Ferrer
Starring – Pat Boone, Bobby Darin, Ann-Margret
Country of Origin- U.S.
Writer - David Steigman
Actor / musician Pat Boone stars as farmer Wayne Frake in the 1962 musical romance, State Fair which is a remake of the 1933 and 1945 versions. This is the version that had a bigger budget to work with and it shows. Wayne and the rest of the Frake family, sister Margy (Pamela Tiffin, The Fifth Cord), mother Melissa(Alice Faye, In Old Chicago) and the patriarch Abel (Tom Ewell ,The Seven Year Itch) take a break from the simple farm life to go to the Texas State Fair which is held in Dallas. Margy and Wayne find both love and romance during their stay at fair. Margy falls, albeit slowly, for an announcer, Jerry Dundee (Bobby Darin, Too Late Blues). And Emily Porter (Ann-Margret, The Kitten with a Whip herself, in one of her first feature films) gets the attention of Wayne, especially at a musical number where she’s wearing black. Once in love, will the two siblings dreams come true and live happily ever after?
If you love musicals, you are in for a real treat as there are a lot of great numbers and melodies from Pat Boone, Ann-Margaret, Bobby Darin, and even Richard Rodgers from Rodgers-Hammerstein fame added some music. His partner Oscar Hammerstein, had died in 1960, but Rodgers wrote some of the musical lyrics himself.
Outside of the musical numbers, there are the romantic subplots, a car race scene, and even the hogs from the farm get some spotlight!
The cast for State Fair hand in great entertaining performances, each one playing their parts well. Boone and Tiffin play young, inexperienced simpleton siblings on a farm who haven’t learned a whole lot living out in ‘the real world’. The characters and story are all entertaining and will hold your interest. Jose Ferrer does an excellent job directing and keeps everything moving along. Even the farm animals such as the hogs and pigs are entertaining to watch!
Twilight Time presents State Fair in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC encode, in its original letterboxed 2.35:1 aspect ratio and it looks outstanding. The outdoor scenery is very detailed, great textures. Colors look strong and vibrant, with beautiful blue skies, green fields; the colors of the cars during the racing scene (which took place in Oklahoma City!) look vivid. Blacks are solid throughout.
The audio quality for State Fair is also just excellent. The audio, English 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is just wonderful with the dialog and all the wonderful musical scores all coming in loud and clear. English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is used for the isolated track scores
English SDH subtitles are offered for this release. State Fair is limited to 3000 units, as is the case for all Twilight Time releases. Also worthy of note, it’s Region Free!
Special Features for this release include the usual isolated music track, plus some ported over features including audio commentary with Actor Pat Boone, a featurette entitled “From Page to Screen to Stage”. The State Fair 1976 TV series pilot and the original theatrical trailer are also part the extras’ package. Last by not least we will not forget about the obligatory eight page booklet written by Julie Kirgo.
Let’s keep this very simple. A great film plus great hi-def audio video quality plus some great extras, which did come from the DVD, but they are ported over equals a great, great, great release! Highly recommended!
The Film (4/5)