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Finally restored in 2016 after falling into the public domain, Marlon Brando’s troubled western ONE-EYED JACKS (141 mins., 1961) headlines Imprint’s lovely new FILM FOCUS: MARLON BRANDO VOLUME 1 six-film Blu-Ray retrospective. The most revelatory component to the movie’s resurrection is that, unlike, say, Michael Cimino’s gorgeous but flaccid “Heaven’s Gate,” “One-Eyed Jacks” is a compulsively watchable film, gorgeously shot and intriguing from start to finish.

Brando, who took over the production from Stanley Kubrick, stars as “Rio,” a soulful bandit left to rot in prison after his bank-robber partner, Dad (Brando’s “On the Waterfront” co-star, Karl Malden), leaves him alone to face Mexican authorities. Years later, Rio wants revenge, and after aligning himself with a notorious outlaw (Ben Johnson) and company, finds Dad in Monterey, California – as a reformed sheriff complete with a Mexican wife (Katy Jurado) and a sultry stepdaughter (Pina Pellicer).

As admirer Martin Scorsese noted, Brando’s only directorial outing is a fascinating mix of “old Hollywood” with a story – scripted by Calder Willingham and Guy Trosper from a Charles Neider book – that offers an emotional range more in line with a film from the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Brando’s introspective picture may not have a lot of “action,” but it doesn’t mean that things aren’t consistently happening from a character standpoint: his Rio is a conflicted outlaw, motivated by his desire for revenge but open enough to develop actual feelings for Dad’s stepdaughter. These character shadings give “One-Eyed Jacks” a maturity lacking from genre contemporaries of its era, and Brando’s direction is assured, leisurely paced but surprisingly nuanced throughout.

The film is also beautifully shot by Charles Lang, Jr. in what was the final Paramount production shot in VistaVision. The waves off the Monterey Coast, the beautifully vivid colors and clarity of the image are spectacular to behold – especially when compared to a litany of awful DVD and Blu-Ray releases, mostly sprung off Paramount’s ‘90s laserdisc, that preceded this 4K restoration (first seen in Criterion’s 2016 release). The PCM mono audio, meanwhile, houses a marvelously smoky Hugo Friedhofer score that’s one of his all-time best.

Imprint’s Blu-Ray looks and sounds as good as the Criterion disc, while adding its own set of special features. These include Toby Roan’s commentary (something the Criterion release didn’t offer); “An Authentic Death: Pursuing One-Eyed Jacks” documentary; a featurette on the scoring of the film; another featurette with Mike Siegel looking back on the film’s production; a photo gallery and the original trailer.

Since its restoration “One-Eyed Jacks” ranks as a must for Brando buffs and western fans, its new transfer proving the film wasn’t just a bloated vanity project, but a memorable picture very much ahead of its time.

Though not renowned necessarily for his comedic skills, Brando still manages to be serviceable as a con man opposite competing trickster David Niven on the French Riviera in Universal’s BEDTIME STORY (99 mins., 1964), one of two ‘60s comedies included in Imprint’s Brando box.

This is a colorful, breezy effort with the duo each vying for the hand of heiress Shirley Jones in a Stanley Shapiro-Paul Henning screenplay that fared even better as a vehicle for Steve Martin and Michael Caine in the superior 1988 remake “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” In fact it’s interesting how similar the two films are, with Shapiro and Henning’s script credited alongside the remake’s writer, Dale Launer, yet Martin and Caine yield more laughs than the comparatively uptight Brando and Niven do here.

Nevertheless, “Bedtime Story” certainly fares better than the infamous Charlie Champlin-helmed, alleged comedy A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG (108 mins., 1967). This all-time Golden Turkey is a fascinating curio – at least for a few minutes – with Brando’s U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia trying to hide a prostitute (Sophia Loren) doubling as a Russian countess on a cruise back from Hong Kong. The duo ultimately fall for one another despite numerous obstacles – not the least of which includes the ambassador’s wife (Tippi Hedren) – in a labored…very labored…confection that just doesn’t work on any level, from its shoddy cinematography and crude production values to Chaplin’s repetitive score.

Both movies contain respectable 2K scans (1.85, mono) with “Countess” scoring a number of special features which are all far more compelling than the movie itself. These include a commentary with Lee Pfeiffer, Tony Latino and Paul Scrabo (who perform the same chores on “Bedtime Story”), along with interviews with British character actor Michael Medwin and Monty Python alumus Carol Cleveland; Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance; and assorted crew members including assistant editor Brian Sinclair. A vintage promo film is on-hand while both “Countess” and “Bedtime Story” offer original trailers.

Brando, Anna Magnani, and Joanne Woodward starred in Sidney Lumet’s taut 1960 adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play “Orpheus Descending,” retitled THE FUGITIVE KIND (122 mins.), and on-hand here in a new 4K restoration that’s different than the older, previously issued Criterion transfer.

Some critics took issue with Magnani’s casting – understandably so given her line readings and lack of chemistry with Brando – as well as its “overstuffed” tale of Brando’s drifter getting enveloped in a small town’s affairs and two women (Magnani and Woodward) in particular. Yet even if it’s second-tier Williams, Brando’s performance and Lumet’s direction are enough to make this picture compelling just the same, and Imprint’s Blu-Ray (1.66 B&W, mno) offers a trio of unique supplements in addition to the 4K master: an interview with writer William J. Mann, a commentary from critic Adrian Martin, and a featurette wherein Daniel Kremer and Nat Segaloff talk Williams screen adaptations.

Imprint’s Brando box is rounded out with a pair of Far East oriented pictures, each dated – but still interesting – in their own way.

After starring in (now quite controversially) “The Teahouse of the August Moon,” Brando took the leading role in SAYONARA (147 mins., 1957), Joshua Logan’s adaptation of the James Michener novel as an American serviceman, stationed in Japan during the Korean War, who falls for a Japanese actress (Miiko Taka).

Their relationship, the hostile reaction of the American military, and the tragic relationship between one of Brando’s fellow airmen (Red Buttons) and a local woman inform this slow-going yet attractively lensed, sensitively drawn picture, which manages to be both forward thinking (its depiction of interracial relationships in the mid ‘50s) and dated (Ricardo Montalban essaying a Kabuki performer!) at the same time.

An independent William Goetz production that Warner Bros. originally released domestically, “Sayonara” was initially released on Blu-Ray by Twilight Time. Imprint’s disc appears to be the same 2K remaster (2.35, 2.0 stereo), which is quite good with the occasional speckle and dirt popping up in the source materials. The stereo soundtrack (the sole multi-channel film in the set) does justice to Franz Waxman’s score, with Irving Berlin’s title track making an appearance.

Twilight Time’s disc was one of their later releases which offered no extras outside an isolated score track – Imprint’s Blu-Ray includes that same music/effects mix and the trailer while adding a pair of commentaries. These include Matthew Asprey Gear’s general historian track, while a second commentary features historian Stuart Galbraith IV, one which incorporates interviews with John Waxman, discussing his father’s score, and filmmaker Yayoi Winfrey.

The “Brando: Film Focus” box is capped by the inclusion of THE UGLY AMERICAN (120 mins., 1963), a talky if prescient drama about an American ambassador whose view of Communism in a war-torn southeast Asian nation changes after he sees how his actions are viewed as Imperialistic in nature. A precursor to the Vietnam conflict, “The Ugly American” is reasonably interesting in its look of Cold War-era political revolution, but today, as a movie and as a piece of entertainment, George Englund’s effort comes off as convoluted and a relic of its time. The movie doesn’t do an especially good job explaining the plot despite the fact the film is wrapped up in dialogue, making it mostly noteworthy for Brando’s fine performance.

“The Ugly American” is included here in another reasonably capable 2K scan (1.85, mono) with extras including a Scott Harrison commentary, the trailer, and footage from the 1963 Bangkok world premiere.


New on 4K UHD

Robert Altman’s McCABE AND MRS MILLER (121 mins., 1971, R; Criterion) is something of an acquired taste: while held in high esteem by some critics as one of the defining cinematic works of the 1970s, this undeniably gorgeous looking picture doesn’t always serve up a compelling narrative, with star Warren Beatty muttering some at-times incomprehensible dialogue as an Old West gambler trying to stake his claim in a fledgling Pacific Northwest mining town. He soon strikes a deal with a madam (Julie Christie) to oversee a brothel which promptly becomes popular – too much so, as the corporate owners of the mine ultimately come looking to put an end to Beatty’s American dream.

Vilmos Zsigmond’s spectacular cinematography and Altman’s portrait of an Old West still very much “new” to the American landscape are the elements which help “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” retain its cinematic currency. The harsh weather elements and sense of a still-evolving frontier are memorably portrayed visually, making this an achievement on that scale alone. However, I’ve never been sold on the dramatic element of this “revisionist western” as being nearly as substantial – between Altman’s patented “overlapping” dialogue (hard to make out at times in a cramped mono soundtrack here) and Christie’s not-entirely satisfying casting, “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” feels like less like a masterpiece and something that’s become entrenched as a partially overrated product of its era. You never really care about Beatty’s mission and there’s not much chemistry between him and Christie, leaving that element of the film as chilly as its Vancouver shooting locales.

Nevertheless, Criterion enables viewers to be the judge thanks to their new 4K UHD (2.40) presentation of “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” which features an impressively detailed restoration minus HDR. Extras are reprieved from Criterion’s previous Blu-Ray: a 2002 commentary with Altman and producer David Foster; Making Of doc; historians Carl Beauchamp and Rick Jewell discussing the film; an archival 1970 featurette; a 1999 festival Q&A with production designer Leon Ericksen; archival interview excerpts with Zsigmond; and “Dick Cavett Show” extracts featuring Altman and critic Pauline Kael.

New from Sony, PAPRIKA (91 mins., 2006, R) is one of the defining anime features of the past 25 years: a wild visual trip following a pair of protagonists attempting to recover a literal “dream machine” stolen by a nefarious villain. The plot is mostly an excuse for director Satoshi Kon’s inventive, at-times disturbing, often evocative visuals that bring the dream world to life in a series of sequences that are tailor-made for 4K UHD.

Now available in a Steelbook package from Sony, “Paprika” includes an impressive Dolby Vision HDR grading with Dolby Atmos remixed sound backing the audio end. It’s a dynamic transfer that anime fans should be excited about, and is also graced with a new “Restoring ‘Paprika’” featurette on the UHD. The adjoining Blu-Ray, meanwhile, houses extras including a Making Of, commentary, storyboards, featurettes and a Digital HD code.


Also New on Blu-Ray

GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C. The Complete Series Blu-Ray (aprx. 63 hrs, 1964-69; CBS/Paramount): Television series spin-offs have existed nearly as long as the medium itself, especially where comedies are concerned. Steal a scene, nail a line – supporting characters have a history of propelling themselves into their own series, often times with big success. Case in point: Jim Nabors’ gas station attendant Gomer Pyle was one of the many daffy folks who populated Mayberry in the long-running, classic “Andy Griffith Show,” yet all it took was one season for Nabors to land his standalone series.

“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” functioned like a charm for Nabors and CBS: not only would Gomer get his own chance to lead a sitcom, but it would be in the guise of a military service setting as well. The series, which launched on CBS on Friday nights in September of 1964, found Gomer joining the Marine Corps out on the west coast where he’d get into all sorts of shenanigans – mostly to the consternation of his commanding officer, Sgt. Carter, played by Frank Sutton. Sutton’s performance softened a bit over time with the tough drill sergeant being won over, more or less, by Gomer’s innocence and good heart, despite all the blundering Pyle would do over the course of some five seasons (which started in B&W during its first season before transitioning to color in 1965).

CBS’ 20-disc Blu-Ray box offers all five seasons of “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” in good looking 1080p (1.33, mono) transfers. As is usually the case with series of this era, some edits have taken place for music clearances, yet from what I understand this show isn’t nearly as affected as some others. Extra features include a commentary, vintage sales presentation clip, and the “backdoor pilot” as seen on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Another Blu-Ray box-set, new from Warner Archive, spotlights no less than 10 Hanna-Barbera TV-produced films from the duo’s later years.

Included in Warner Archive’s HANNA-BARBERA’S SUPERSTARS 10 are the complete feature-length animated films that were sold into syndication and broadcast during the 1987-88 season, all featuring some of the duo’s classic cartoon characters. On-hand here are YOGI’S GREAT ESCAPE (1987), SCOOBY-DOO MEETS THE BOO BROTHERS (1987), THE JETSONS MEET THE FLINSTONES (1987), YOGI BEAR AND THE MAGICAL FLIGHT OF THE SPRUCE GOOSE (1987), TOP CAT AND THE BEVERLY HILLS CATS (1988), THE GOOD THE BAD AND HUCKLEBERRY HOUND (1988), ROCKIN’ WITH JUDY JETSON (1988), SCOOBY-DOO AND THE GHOUL SCHOOL (1988), SCOOBY-DOO AND THE RELUCTANT WEREWOLF (1988) and YOGI AND THE INVASION OF THE SPACE BEARS (1988), all in 1.33 transfers with 2.0 DTS MA sound.

While produced years after their respective original series concluded, Hanna-Barbera utilized original voice talent from Daws Butler to Don Messick and Mel Blanc for these enjoyable standalone features which should appeal to kids and nostalgic animation fans alike. The nicely packaged set utilizes a pair of Amaray cases and features two bonus TV specials from the ’70s: “Scooby Goes Hollywood” (1979) and “Yogi’s Ark Lark” (1973).


Also New & Noteworthy

STRANGE INVADERS Blu-Ray (97 mins., PG; MGM): Michael Laughlin’s terrific 1983 homage to ’50s sci-fi, written by the director and Bill Condon, finds Columbia professor Paul LeMat searching for his ex-wife (Diana Scarwid), whose disappearance leaves their young daughter in his care, and a tabloid news journalist (Nancy Allen) hot on the trail. Turns out the quaint little Midwestern town Scarwid hails from harbors a deep, extraterrestrial secret – as does Scarwid herself!

I loved “Strange Invaders” when I watched the old Vestron VHS tape as a kid, and the movie still holds up well today: this is a knowing, funny, and delightful homage to the kinds of sci-fi flicks that were so popular in the ’50s, with just a dash of ’80s gore (it still qualified for a PG) and a fantastic score by John Addison that adds just the right tone to the action. The performances are fun, and the script by Laughlin and Condon (future Oscar-winner for “Gods and Monsters”) manages to rehash old cliches without turning into a campfest.

A cult classic that’s a must for sci-fi fans, “Strange Invaders” is one of my favorite sleepers of the ’80s and MGM’s Blu-Ray includes the same catalog master seen on Twilight Time’s out of print Blu-Ray (1.85, mono).

More thrills are on-hand in a pair of new MGM properties marking their Blu-Ray debuts: RED PLANET MARS (87 mins., 1952) is an early sci-fi genre entry mostly concerned with Cold War era politics, as American scientist Peter Graves ends up establishing a conversation with Martians (or are they?) pushing a religious tone that threatens the stability of the globe. Interesting themes dominate this independent production that debuts here on Blu-Ray from MGM in a no frills catalog master (1.33 B&W, mono)…When a group of co-eds find out their lovely dorm was once an ASYLUM (92 mins., 2008, R), they also uncover a mad doctor still improbably up to his old sick tricks in David R. Ellis’ thriller which went straight to video despite being intended for a theatrical run. Sickly directed with Sarah Roemer providing a likeable enough female lead but undone, eventually, by a silly Ethan Lawrence script, “Asylum” also debuts on Blu-Ray in a decent MGM catalog master (2.35, 5.1).

Making its U.S. Blu-Ray debut following a 2020 BFI release, Tony Richardson’s odd, nasty and viscerally compelling MADEMOISELLE (102 mins., 1966) was heavily criticized at the time of its release, having been dissed off the screen at Cannes. Yet some critics believe the stark B&W cinematography of this subversive feminine critique – as seen through the disruptive (to put it mildly) acts of a repressed school teacher played by Jeanne Moreau – was far ahead of its time and remains one of Richardson’s most unique works. Certainly the look and feel of the film is its most compelling attribute, captured well here in MGM’s catalog master (2.35, mono) in another no-frills MGM disc.

THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE Blu-Ray (80 mins., 2013, PG-13; Sony): Sylvain Chomet’s acclaimed animated film involves a young French boy who grows up to be a champion cyclist thanks to his uncompromising grandmother. One day, while participating in a race, “Champion” is abducted by nefarious bad guys clad in black, leading grandma and their dog Rover to undertake a rescue mission, one which leads them to New York and a trio of crazy triplets who happen to just love cool jazz.

Chomet’s stylized design and mix of hand-drawn animation and computer- generated imagery makes for an eclectic film that you can’t take your eyes off. The humor is mostly gentle and Chomet takes his time building gags without the use of dialogue, enabling his main characters to distinguish themselves through physical humor and movement. For those familiar with the predictable animated efforts we see released on this side of the Atlantic, it can take a few minutes to be acclimated to the look and mood of “The Triplets of Belleville,” but the end result is a unique and unforgettable movie with a moody score by Ben Charest and knockout animation.

Sony’s Blu-Ray features 5.1 French audio with English subtitles and a lovely 1080p (1.66) transfer. Extras include a “Making Of” featurette and a supporting short, “The Cartoon According to Director Sylvain Chomet.” Chomet provides commentary for three scenes while a music video of the movie’s Oscar nominated song and trailers round out the disc.

WAITRESS: THE MUSICAL Blu-Ray (144 mins., 2023; Decal): Adrienne Shelly’s hit indie “Waitress” became a Broadway musical with songs by pop songstress Sara Bareilles, who also took the lead in the successful show. Captured live in performance, “Waitress: The Musical” gives a good indication of the show’s appeal with bouncy songs, likeable performances and a sincere story that worked in feature-length form in the late Shelly’s film and is nicely adapted to the stage here. Decal’s Blu-Ray offers a 2:1 transfer and a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.


New on 4K UHD

Universal’s at-times strange timing when it comes to 4K UHD titles extends to two premieres this month of relatively recent movies.

In time for Black History month (and obviously a good enough film to appreciate any time), HARRIET (125 mins., 2019, PG-13) spotlights a terrific Cynthia Erivo performance as the legendary runaway slave who spearheaded the Underground Railroad, working with abolitionists and others to bring other southern slaves to safety. Kasi Lemmons’ fine film, scripted by Lemmons and Gregory Allen Howard, pretty much sticks to the facts and works as a piece of historical recreation, especially here in a 4K UHD (2.35) with HDR10 and Dolby Atmos sound. Extras are carried over from the Blu-Ray with deleted scenes, two featurettes and commentary with Kasi Lemmons plus a Digital HD code included.

Also debuting on UHD is the 2022 George Clooney/Julia Roberts rom-com TICKET TO PARADISE (104 mins., 2022, PG-13), a fluffy Ol Parker-helmed story of exes (you know who) who end up contemplating their failed relationship after they head to Bali in order to stop their daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) from walking down the aisle. No surprises here but genial chemistry between the stars make “Ticket to Paradise” a decent enough view, now in a HDR10-enhanced UHD (2.35, Dolby Atmos) with the Blu-Ray and its corresponding extras (featurettes, digital copy) also on-hand.


Well Go USA New Releases

A pair of Korean productions are new this month from Well Go USA.

THE MOON (129 mins., 2023) is a near-future tale of South Korea’s first manned mission to the moon – one which ends in tragedy before another attempt is made. This one is likewise fraught with peril after an astronaut is left stranded in space and a solar wind causes the manned spacecraft to fail, leading to the disgraced former director of its space program to return to save the day. Well Go’s Blu-Ray offers an attractive 1080p transfer, DTS MA Korean audio with English subs, character bios, the trailer, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Korean star Gang Dong-Won plays the title role in DR. CHEON AND THE LOST TALISMAN (99 mins., 2023), a breezy supernatural adventure about a “TV exorcist” whose opinion of ghosts is soon changed after a client shows up, bringing him back to revisit a childhood where he was the grandson of a village shaman. Laughs, special effects and a knowing sense of humor made this a hit in its native land and should make “Dr. Cheon” workable for U.S. viewers as well, with Well Go’s Blu-Ray boasting another fine 1080p transfer, DTS MA Korean audio, English subtitles, and character bios.

Coming March 12th from Well Go, ONE-PERCENT WARRIOR (86 mins., 2022) stars Tak Sakaguchi as an action star who decides to make his own movie, yet soon finds the combat becoming increasingly real after feuding yakuza gangs cross into the set. Pressed into finding out how his actual martial arts skills will fare, Sakaguchi’s entertaining film becomes an explosion of movie action on a scale we seldom see these days. Well Go’s Blu-Ray includes Japanese DTS MA audio with English subs or an English dub, plus a featurette and the trailer.

NEXT TIME: LEVIATHAN, KINDERGARTEN COP and more Kino Lorber new releases! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!

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