Reel Reviews

Ray Harryhausen Double Feature: She & Things to Come - Blu-ray Review

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She - Blu-ray Review

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3 stars

Considering this release of The Ray Harryhausen Double Feature from Legend has only a small connection to the imaginative wonder we know Harryhausen capable of and contains two films on Blu-ray (1935’s She and 1936’s Things to Come) and a bonus film on DVD (1932’s The Most Dangerous Game), one can argue about the use and logic of the title.  Fact is, Harryhausen is all over this release.  Interview after interview pops up with him in the special features and, while the release does offer both She and Things To Come in their original black and white look, Harryhausen himself supervised over their colorizing process.  Legend did him proud, too.  While I am not the usual fan of colorizing older films, as witnessed here, Legend has taken the process to a whole new level with tasteful strokes and saturated hues without making a mess of things with bleeding images and a hasty splattering of thick colors without rhyme or reason.  No, this whole release of some fun adventure type flicks is top notch.  The release is proof that, sometimes, there is merit to pushing quantity over the whole of a product’s quality.

With She, from 1935, producer Merian C. Cooper (King Kong) and principle Harryhausen mentor, tells an artic adventure yarn for the ages about two explorers - Randolph Scott and Nigel Bruce – who believe they are out to find a mysterious stretch of undiscovered land.  What an unexplored cave leads them to, however, is a chance at immortality via reincarnation.  A small group of natives, led by Ayesha (Helen Gahagan), come to believe that one of the explorers (Scott) is the reincarnated lover of their goddesss and she must never go without or be disobeyed.  Loosely based on H. Rider Haggard's novel, She is altogether goofy, complete with adventure beats that echo into future productions of The Mummy trilogy of films, but does feature a stellar production design that transports its limited budget and story into a forgivable territory.  Fun, but not classic material, She is an agreeable date for those aching for tales of high adventure from the yesteryear of the public domain bins.

The preserving world, however, has not been too kind to 1936’s Things to Come.  This is the better tale of the two films, but its 16mm transfer has seen its fair share of better days.  Written by H.G. Wells, Things to Come is a fresh tale of futureshock that centers itself on Man’s unquenchable thirst for war and destruction.  In the film’s timeline, World War II went on far longer than it actually did and led to some significant plagues and, ultimately, the creation of a dictator-like figure named Boss (Ralph Richardson) who must be defeated by Cabal (Raymond Massey).  While the film’s rich design is somewhat deflated by a less-than pristine source print and a shorter running time (due to one to many splices from camera operators of yore), Things to Come is an interesting anti-war statement from Wells and its legendary director William Cameron Menzies (The Bat, Invaders from Mars).

Finally, The Most Dangerous Game, starring Joel McCrea, is included on DVD only.  Here, producer Merian C. Cooper, gives us actors Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray in yet another high seas adventure…this time without a giant ape and as supporting actors only.  Truthfully, King Kong was damn near shot at the same time as The Most Dangerous Game (part of Merian’s wheeling and dealing to get some ape-sized financing) and some of the same jungle sets and locations are used, but – as should be expected – the special effects are toned down for this sporting tale of one man hunting another man for the sheer joy of it.  While it doesn’t maintain the cool of She or the topicality of Things to Come, the film does feature a commanding performance from Leslie Banks as the blood thirsty Count Zaroff.

To be fair, neither of these films achieves a stunning sense of “oohs” and “ahhs” from their presentation here in the blu-ray format.  They are simply fun matinee films that time might have forgotten at one time.  They were created by cinematic legends and, for completists, they are must owns.  For everyone else?  Maybe not.  Yet, the collection is noteworthy for collecting all three, updating their looks, and presenting them as best as they can in the HD Market for now.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Ray Harryhausen Double Feature - Blu-ray ReviewShe

MPAA Rating: This film has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director
: Lansing C. Holden, Irving Pichel
Writer: Ruth Rose
Cast:
Helen Gahagan; Randolph Scott; Helen Mack; Nigel Bruce
Genre: Adventure | Fantasy | Romance
Tagline: From H. Rider Haggard's weird, wondrous story of the beautiful woman who bathed in flame and lived 500 years .. at last to find her first love at this very hour!
Memorable Movie Quote: "She's wicked I tell you."
Distributor:
RKO Radio Pictures
Release Date:
July 12, 1935
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 27, 2011

Synopsis: 'She' is an all-powerful woman who has been given the Flame of Eternal life and who dwells in an Arctic snow palace. Based on H. Rider Haggard's 1887 novel.

Ray Harryhausen Double Feature - Blu-ray ReviewThings to Come

MPAA Rating: This film has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director
: William Cameron Menzies
Writer: H.G. Wells
Cast:
Raymond Massey; Edward Chapman; Ralph Richardson; Margaretta Scott
Genre: Sci-fi
Tagline: What will the next hundred years bring to mankind?
Memorable Movie Quote: "But... we're such little creatures. Poor humanity's so fragile, so weak. Little... little animals."
Distributor:
United Artists
Release Date:
May 2, 1936
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 27, 2011

Synopsis: A story of 100 years: a decades-long second world war leaves plague and anarchy, then a rational state rebuilds civilization and tries space travel.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

She - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
3 stars

3 stars



Blu-ray Experience
3 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - September 27, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: None
Audio:
English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD)
Playback: Region A

While Legend Films presents the HD features with AVC encoded 1080p transfers in 1.33:1, the overall quality, when considering all three films, is a bit of a toss up.  She is, without a doubt, the best looking of the three.  The image is crisp and free of debris and other ravages of time and mishandling.  Things to Come is pretty rough.  There is obviously a missing reel in the source material as the narrative makes little sense and, while some cleanup has been attempted, this is by far the ugliest transfer on the set.  The Most Dangerous Game, presented solely in standard definition on the bonus DVD, is a consistently quality affair.  Nothing too distracting to report; colors and black levels strong throughout with no trace evidence of noise filtering.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There is one fantastic commentary provided by Harryhausen for She.  It is rich with insight into the business circa 1935 and explains how some of the designs were achieved.  What’s interesting is that in this commentary Harryhausen explains the colorizing process and why certain colors were chosen over others during the restoration process.

Special Features:

Containing some fairly new interviews with Harryhausen about each of the films, the supplemental material makes the primary material seem secondary.  Sometimes the person editing the interview segments together gets a little lazy and there are moments of inglorious repetition.  The Most Dangerous Game DVD offers a collection of interviews with Cooper scholars and remembrances of composer Max Steiner.  Overall, a good selection of interviews about movie scores, the way things were, and colorization.

  • ‘She’ interview with Ray Harryhausen (5 min)
  • ‘Things to Come’ interview with Ray Harryhausen (4 min)
  • ‘She’ Colorization Process with Ray Harryhausen (9 min)
  • ‘Things to Come’ Colorization Process with Ray Harryhausen (9 min)
  • Ray Harryhausen on the Movie Score (3 min)
  • James V. D'Arc, Curator of the Merian C. Cooper Paper (5 min)
  • John Morgan, Composer, on Max Steiner (8 min)

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