‘Hitchcock Waltzes from Vienna’

January 2, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

This is still the period where the best-of lists start to percolate the media, with everyone chiming in their favourites works of the year, although I’ve never been a fan of indulging in a tally because it is pretty subjective. It’s not a wrong thing to do (far from it), but I think my own scope is less broad, and I tend to base best label & production decisions with a particular eye towards indie labels, producers, and productions.

There’s nothing wrong with major labels doing 8K transfers of films for elaborate boxed sets, but it’s the fact we keep seeing the same top 50-ish classics being re-introduced when they’ve never been out of print. One can argue each high-profile production – bet it Warner Home Video’s Casablanca [M] or Sony’s Lawrence of Arabia or Paramount’s Wings [M] – are test cases to see what high-end gear exists to clean up the vast libraries of studio product, and how much it costs to do it in detail. I’m pretty sure each studio’s own patented or preferred methods have been broken down into grades, with costs relative to a film’s merit in terms of its popularity, need for preservation, and need to keep in circulation.

Most likely the advances over the past 5 years have benefitted titles in the Warner Archives series, but as pretty as the big boxes are, there’s the diligent work of labels that persevere in spite of the slim odds servicing niche markets. Their work deserves a salute – I have to include Shout Factory, Blue Underground, Twilight Time, Cult Epics, Synapse Films, Kinosmith, to name just a few – whereas some of the major labels deserve both praise and a smack to the head for some very daft maneuvers.

Norman Wilner recently gave nods to several studio releases in his MSN column, and much as I love Universal’s catalogue, there’s that chunk of titles unavailable on Blu here in North America, but licensed with extras to U.K. label Eureka, like Touch of Evil and Silent Running. They deserve the 100 year studio anniversary nod, but where are the Region A editions? And don’t get me started on the repackaging of existing top catalogue titles reissued on DVD in O-sleeves with nothing new except some bare historical factoids in the sleeve, and maybe a 100 year featurette that’s pretty banal. I get the series is supposed to tout catalogue titles to a younger generation, but why not spend a little more and make each DVD and Blu a unique special edition?

The dumbest move of 2012 goes to MGM for making their Bond 50 set available for a hair less than 2 months before it was resigned, like every other boxed Bond set and multi-volume series of the past 10 years, to out-of-print status. Almost the day Amazon.com sold Blu sets for $100 as part of their Black Friday sales, the set was gone, making all that work to create and design a tribute set go to a loss leader. MGM’s excuse (at least in Canada) was ‘lack of sufficient packaging materials,’ which is frankly inane. Even Disney, with their warped ‘disappearing classics’ campaign, keeps films in print for 6-8 months before they go back into that un-magical, non-existent ‘vault.’

When the latest franchise entry, Skyfall is in theatres, and a travelling Bond exhibition with reissued films is making its way through major cities, there’s simply no excuse to play games like this with Bond fans, especially when the sets were in demand at Christmas. You don’t delete a giant must-have gift set a month before Christmas. That’s a Homer Simpson move of the highest order.

Moving on.

Sir Tony says: "Embrace the latex fat suit!"

Sacha Gervasi’s dramatically licensed film version of Stephen Rebello’s making of Psycho book yielded a dramatic film that divided (and upset) a few critics, but that’s no reason Danny Elfman’s score can’t be enjoyed on CD. Just uploaded is a review of Hitchcock [M] from Sony Classical, and instead of a review of familiar Hitchcock fare, I’ve added a review of Waltzes from Vienna [M], the 1934 film for which he cared the least. It’s a musical-comedy-drama mélange, which makes it immediately intriguing to Hitchcock fans wanting to see how a suspense director would tackle an idiotic puff pastry sung by nasally ‘heightened’ Britons.

Released on DVD by Universal France (and slated for a reissue within the next month), Waltzes is also available for free from archive.org, since it’s now a public domain title, although you’d think Universal France would package it as some special edition with commentary by an historian.

Like a Touch of Evil SE on Blu for region A, the answer is: not so.

Coming next: a pair of Nikkatsi naughties.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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Alfred Hitchcock on Home Video:  Amazon.caAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Danny Elfman on CD:  Amazon.caAmazon.comAmazon.co.uk

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