Judge Christopher Kulik has a small-town secret: he buys all the Caramel DeLite Girl Scout cookies before anyone else can.
Our reviews of An Affair To Remember (Blu-Ray) (published February 14th, 2011), An Affair To Remember: 50th Anniversary Edition (published January 15th, 2008), Leave Her To Heaven (published February 22nd, 2005), A Letter To Three Wives (published February 22nd, 2005), Peyton Place (published June 15th, 2004), Peyton Place: Part One (published May 20th, 2009), and Peyton Place: Part Two (published July 15th, 2009) are also available.
Four classic dramas from the Fox vault.
In celebration of their 75th anniversary, Fox is putting together "quad sets" of classic and contemporary films at reasonable prices (all under $20, according to Amazon). Here, we have two films from the '40s and two from the '50s; all are radically different in tone and theme, yet still have more than enough entertainment value to amuse today's audiences.
Facts of the Case
Leave Her To Heaven
A Letter To Three Wives
An Affair To Remember
I must stipulate that all four of these films were already reviewed by the Verdict staff. Former Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees tackled Leave Her To Heaven and A Letter To Three Wives; former judge Bill Treadway gave us his perspective on Peyton Place; and the 50th Anniversary Edition of An Affair To Remember was done by yours truly. So for this review, I shall simply mini-critique each one and then provide details on the technical specifications on each disc.
After reviewing my original write-up of Affair, I'm not particularly compelled to change anything; fine acting and decent storytelling, yet it remains pretty overrated. As for tech specs, the copy provided in this quad is the original Fox disc from 2003. The A/V quality is pretty much on par with the newer edition; colors are rich, flesh tones are perfect, and black levels are terrific. Hugo Friedhofer's emotionally over-the-top score is superbly rendered in the DD 2.0 stereo track; additional tracks include French stereo and Spanish mono. Dialogue is easily discernible throughout, but Fox does supply English and French subtitles. The original extras have been ported over as well: a commentary with Marni Nixon and film scholar Joseph McBride; an AMC Backstory featurette, a MovieTone newsreel, and a still gallery. Nixon's and McBride's comments were recorded separately; both provide plenty of info about the film.
Of the other three films, Peyton Place is the only one I'd seen before. While Metalious' novel became immensely popular, it also contained many elements which were considered highly taboo for the 1950s (i.e. abortion, rape, and incest). As a result, producer Jerry Wald had to tone down the subject matter to get final approval from the censors; it's still amazing how much he was able to get away with. Regardless, Peyton Place remains a first class soap opera. Engineered as a comeback vehicle for star Lana Turner, the film keeps your attention every second despite its length. Aside from Lee Phillips, who's bland throughout, all the actors contribute excellent performances. Best of all is Diane Varsi, whose career unfortunately took a nose dive when she abandoned Hollywood; she died in 1992 at the age of 54. The ravishingly romantic score is provided by Franz Waxman (Rear Window) and the cinematography—shot on-location in Maine by William Mellor (Giant)—is sumptuous. Peyton Place garnered a record nine Academy Award nominations, and it's easy to see why; even Metalious gave it her seal of approval.
Again, this version of Peyton Place is the exact same one released back in 2004. To be fair, the 2.35:1 anamorphic print has been lovingly restored as close as possible to its original CinemaScope glory. There are minute traces of natural grain, but the colors are exceptionally rich and bright. Black levels and flesh tones are rendered beautifully as well. The DD 4.0 Surround track amplifies Waxman's score to the max; no echoes or intrusive noise were detected. Extras are excellent as well: a commentary with separately recorded comments by actors Russ Tamblyn and Hope Lange, two original newsreels promoting the movie, and a Turner Classic Movies documentary.
The oldest film on the set is Leave Her To Heaven; while no classic, it remains a snappy guilty pleasure. Despite the luridness inherent in the story—and Tierney's ice-cold performance—Fox decided to film this in early, eye-popping Technicolor, as if they were afraid the disturbing subject matter would be too much for audiences to stomach. Nevertheless, Heaven is a gorgeous film, with Leon Shamroy deservedly winning an Academy Award for his cinematography. The acting is, by and large, undistinguished; only Price really gets into the spirit of things by not relying on a single emotion. Overall, it's not a great movie, but it will keep your attention with its rich colors and chilling storyline. If only it went the extra mile by giving us an adequate explanation for Tierney turning into such a monster, then it really could have been a stunning melodrama.
With Heaven's disc, Fox scores highly with the picture and sound, considering it's a 65-year-old feature. Aside from some natural grain in the margins, the full-frame print is astonishingly clean. Colors are as bright and crisp as could be, while the black levels are once again rock-solid. Things are fine, if not overwhelming, on the audio side; dialogue is mostly crystal clear, wish English and Spanish subtitles. Extras include a commentary with film critic Richard Schickel & actor Darryl Hickman (who plays Wilde's younger brother), plus another MovieTone newsreel and still gallery.
Finally, we have A Letter To Three Wives, a real treat for those who love the works of Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve). The film is filled with sharp dialogue and marvelous performances, including Thelma Ritter (Rear Window) in a delicious, uncredited turn as Lora Mae's housekeeper who talks as if she has acid dripping down her tongue. Mankiewicz ended up winning Academy Awards for his satirical script and fine direction.
The black-and-white, full-frame print of Wives has been nicely restored and wiped clean of any scratches or blemishes. Grey levels are particularly good, with a nice balance between the whites and blacks. The English stereo track does this talky film justice, with every word of dialogue understandable. The commentary track this time around has three participants: Mankiewicz' son Christopher, and biographers Cheryl Lower & Kenneth Griest. Additional extras include a Biography episode on Linda Darnell and another MovieTone newsreel.
If you don't any of these titles already, then this set is actually worth a purchase. Fox gives each title loving care and affection, and the extras are enough to have you busy for months. As it stands, An Affair To Remember and Leave Her To Heaven are very good films, yet both contain their individual set of flaws preventing them from soaring the way they should. However, A Letter To Three Wives and Peyton Place are real classics; any old movie-buff would like to get their hands on them. Considering the sweet pricing, the Fox 75th Anniversary Classic Quad: Set 2 is a nice investment.
All four films are free to go. Fox is charged with double-dipping, but they receive a light sentence to do the package and their birthday.
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Scales of Justice, A Letter To Three Wives
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Scales of Justice, An Affair To Remember
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Scales of Justice, Peyton Place
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