Universal Backlot Series / Universal Studio Selections

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domino harvey
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#51 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 04, 2009 7:12 pm

Two titles in and I'm very pleased with Universal's Pre-Code set. The Cheat is a clear b-picture, but wow, what a scuzzy little number it is! The box warned that even modern audiences might be shocked, and I really was-- I seriously didn't think the film would go as far as it went. One question-- was the heavy supposed to be part-Japanese? I thought he was just a prototype of those white men who fetishize Asian culture to a pretty ridiculous extreme, but the box mentions miscegenation and that's the only way it'd make sense. Would certainly add another level to the weirdness if nothing else. And Merrily We Go To Hell was a very enjoyable, somewhat apologetic treatment of functional alcoholism with great performances and a very fluid camera. I'd heard some grumblings that this was a pretty weak set, but I already feel like I've gotten my twenty bucks worth with four more films to go.

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Matt
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 12:58 pm

Re: Universal Backlot Series

#52 Post by Matt » Tue Aug 04, 2009 8:23 pm

domino harvey wrote:Two titles in and I'm very pleased with Universal's Pre-Code set.
I'm two titles in from the other end of the set (Search for Beauty and Murder at the Vanities) and...uhhh.....

Maybe I'm just disappointed because I spent the entirety of Search for Beauty waiting in vain for just the tiniest glimpse of Buster Crabbe's succulent haunches. I'll start from the other end (of the set, not of Buster) with sunnier expectations.

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david hare
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#53 Post by david hare » Tue Aug 04, 2009 9:16 pm

what's wrong with the other bare assed hunkos!!The fascist/eugenics, blonde white aryan angle is pretty interesting too.

This was a surprising box for me in that the Colbert title, the Arzner and Beauty are at least as interesting, if not more so than the Leisen, which really only shines in the admittedly great musical numbers.

Speaking of Leisen, has anyone else realized the Universal SE of Meet Joe Black (now OOP I think) also includes - as an extra - a very good print source of Death takes a Holiday!! R1 only.

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souvenir
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Universal Backlot Series

#54 Post by souvenir » Tue Aug 04, 2009 10:04 pm

domino harvey wrote:Two titles in and I'm very pleased with Universal's Pre-Code set. The Cheat is a clear b-picture, but wow, what a scuzzy little number it is! The box warned that even modern audiences might be shocked, and I really was-- I seriously didn't think the film would go as far as it went. One question-- was the heavy supposed to be part-Japanese? I thought he was just a prototype of those white men who fetishize Asian culture to a pretty ridiculous extreme, but the box mentions miscegenation and that's the only way it'd make sense. Would certainly add another level to the weirdness if nothing else. And Merrily We Go To Hell was a very enjoyable, somewhat apologetic treatment of functional alcoholism with great performances and a very fluid camera. I'd heard some grumblings that this was a pretty weak set, but I already feel like I've gotten my twenty bucks worth with four more films to go.
I think those first two are the best films in the set, though Search for Beauty is the most nonsensically fun. Surely Irving Pichel isn't supposed to be Asian in The Cheat. The earlier version directed by DeMille did have Sessue Hayakawa in that role, but I think having a white actor play it here intentionally toned the film down. The miscegenation mention on the box is probably just there as part of the laundry list of what couldn't be shown after the Code.

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david hare
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#55 Post by david hare » Tue Aug 04, 2009 10:22 pm

Given Irving's sublime career playing loonies, malformed halfwits, "otherwordly beings", and Claudette's miniskirted manservant Appolodorus in Cleopatra, it's a very easy stretch to see him as a Yellow Peril in the Cheat. Or anything else that takes your fancy, for that matter.

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domino harvey
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#56 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 05, 2009 12:19 am

Hot Saturday was a step down. Thankfully the general dopiness is somewhat salvaged by the still-green Cary Grant, who is game fun and even gets off at least one really good one-liner amidst the amateur hour histrionics of his co-stars. Despite being defanged almost immediately by the ludicrous finish, the twist at the end is pretty slick as well, but not quite enough to save the picture.

HarryLong
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#57 Post by HarryLong » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:21 am

The movie apparently did have Code problems but they related to her "relationship" with Sandor!
I recall reading Production code memos (in FILMFAX?) about the ... er ... seduction scene of Nan Grey. Apparently the PD wasn't all that dense as to the implications of that scene.
... but of course I love him in just about everything he did. Even nonsense like The Phantom Creeps.
You continue to surprise me, Herr S...
Speaking of Leisen, has anyone else realized the Universal SE of Meet Joe Black (now OOP I think) also includes - as an extra - a very good print source of Death takes a Holiday!! R1 only.
Yup. I didn't pick up JOE BLACK to watch Brad Pitt savor peanut butter. (Not that there's anything wrong with that ...)

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HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

Re: Universal Backlot Series

#58 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Aug 05, 2009 12:00 pm

HarryLong wrote:[
... but of course I love him in just about everything he did. Even nonsense like The Phantom Creeps.
You continue to surprise me, Herr S...
I know, I know... but I just cant resist the robot. Image

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Jeff
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 9:49 pm
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#59 Post by Jeff » Wed Aug 05, 2009 12:21 pm

Put some glasses on him, and that robot could pass for Henry Waxman.

HarryLong
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#60 Post by HarryLong » Wed Aug 05, 2009 1:42 pm

but I just cant resist the robot.
Well, he's no Tobor ...

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colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#61 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Aug 05, 2009 1:51 pm

david hare wrote:Speaking of Leisen, has anyone else realized the Universal SE of Meet Joe Black (now OOP I think) also includes - as an extra - a very good print source of Death takes a Holiday!! R1 only.
The only trouble is that I would have needed to actually buy Meet Joe Black, so unfortunately I'm still without the original!

Yes, that was a fad a few years ago with Region 1 DVDs of terrible Universal remakes. I seem to remember that they even threw in a poor quality 'freebie' version of Charade in with The Truth About Charlie - I wonder if that upset Criterion since it was a couple of years into their licensing of the film (but before they went back and anamorphically upgraded their disc) when it happened.

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Matt
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 12:58 pm

Re: Universal Backlot Series

#62 Post by Matt » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:26 pm

colinr0380 wrote:I seem to remember that they even threw in a poor quality 'freebie' version of Charade in with The Truth About Charlie - I wonder if that upset Criterion since it was a couple of years into their licensing of the film (but before they went back and anamorphically upgraded their disc) when it happened.
Actually, Universal had Criterion pull their disc out of print just so that they could release that 2-fer. The consolation was that Criterion got to use the new anamorphic transfer for their eventual re-release.

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HerrSchreck
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#63 Post by HerrSchreck » Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:56 pm

david hare wrote:She's impossible to find in anything else. Among her miniscule credits is a bit as "party guest" in Auntie Mame - if you can stomach sitting through it. I confess I can't find hide nor hair of the woman. In the first "Party scene" there IS an elderly Lesbian couple (sans dialogue of course) in the background with one brief medium shot, but they're both wearing tweeds.

Glore would NEVER wear tweeds - in fact I always think of her, along with Talullah as the Dykonic lipstick Lesbians.

The movie apparently did have Code problems but they related to her "relationship" with Sandor! I thought the real problem in that relationship was that Irving seems to be more interested in slapping on Gloria's pancake and lippy than he is in Madam herself.

Another note - the piano piece she's playing in that sublime pre-cruising scene is the Chopin Nocturne Opus 15 No 2 (F sharp minor.) This is the very Noctune La Crawford plays when first visiting Connie Veidt in Cukor's A Woman's Face. This is the unforgettable moment in which Connie says -
"Quite a girl, you wirte poetry and play the piano! SO you like music my dear?"

"Oh, yes - some Symphonies, most Concertos.."

Some credit for the Drac Daughter atmospherics should go to Lambert Hillyer, whose later Invisible Ray with Karloof as really VERY nice and shows considerable nuance in the relationship between Karloff and the Daughter.
DAVID!! I'm over here watching Bud Boetticher's ESCAPE IN THE FOG, and I'm confirming in imdb that the guy I'm looking at onscreen is indeed Otto Krueger-- and it was-- so it's just a click over to Drac's Daughter, and on a lark I clicked on Gloria Holden's imdb listing--

Gloria Holden
Actress:
1950s
1940s
1930s
Auntie Mame (1958) (uncredited) .... Guest at garden party
This Happy Feeling (1958) .... Mrs. Dover
The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) .... Mrs. Duchin
Dream Wife (1953) .... Mrs. Landwell
Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952) .... Mrs. Pennock


A Kiss for Corliss (1949) .... Mrs. Janet Archer
... aka Almost a Bride (USA: reissue title)
... aka Dangerous Visitor (USA: reissue title)
The Sickle or the Cross (1949) .... Louise Cannon
... aka Seeds of Destruction (USA: reissue title)
"Your Show Time" (1 episode, 1949)
- Birthday of the Infants (1949) TV episode
"The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre" .... Wife (1 episode, 1948)
... aka "Chevrolet Television Theatre" (USA)
... aka "The Broadway Playhouse"
- A Study in Triangles (1948) TV episode .... Wife
Perilous Waters (1948) .... Mrs. Ferris
Killer McCoy (1947) .... Mrs. Laura McCoy
The Hucksters (1947) .... Mrs. Kimberly
Undercover Maisie (1947) .... Mrs. Guy Canford
... aka Undercover Girl (UK)
Sister Kenny (1946) (uncredited) .... Mrs. McDonnell
Hit the Hay (1945) .... Mimi Valdez
The Girl of the Limberlost (1945) .... Miss Nelson
Adventures of Rusty (1945) .... Louise Hover
Having Wonderful Crime (1945) (as Anje Berens) .... Phyllis Gray
Strange Holiday (1945) .... Mrs. Jean Stevenson
... aka Terror on Main Street (USA)
... aka The Day After Tomorrow (USA: alternative title)
Behind the Rising Sun (1943) .... Sara Braden
Apache Trail (1942) .... Mrs. James V. Thorne
Miss Annie Rooney (1942) .... Mrs. White
A Gentleman After Dark (1942) .... Miss Clark
... aka Heliotrope Harry (USA: review title)
Don't Talk (1942) .... Beulah Anderson
... aka A Crime Does Not Pay Subject: 'Don't Talk' (USA: series title)
The Corsican Brothers (1941) .... Countess Franchi
Passage from Hong Kong (1941) .... Madame Wrangel
This Thing Called Love (1940) .... Genevieve Hooper
... aka Married But Single (UK)


A Child Is Born (1939) .... Mrs. Kempner
Miracles for Sale (1939) .... Madame Rapport
Dodge City (1939) .... Mrs. Cole
Girls' School (1938) .... Miss Laurel
Test Pilot (1938) .... Mrs. Benson
Hawaii Calls (1938) .... Mrs. Milburn
The Man Without a Country (1937) .... Marian Morgan
The Life of Emile Zola (1937) .... Alexandrine Zola
Dracula's Daughter (1936) .... Countess Marya Zaleska - Dracula's Daughter
... aka Daughter of Dracula
Wife vs. Secretary (1936) .... Joan Carstairs
The Return of Chandu (1934/I) (uncredited) .... Party Guest [Ch. 1]
... aka Chandu's Return
... aka The Return of Chandu the Magician (video title)

Archive Footage:
The Celluloid Closet (1995) (uncredited) .... Countess Marya Zaleska
The Horror Show (1979)


She's nowhere near as obscure as was thought. She should be quite easy to find in these films..

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Gregory
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#64 Post by Gregory » Fri Aug 07, 2009 2:07 am

I'd thought about mentioning the starring role in Life of Emile Zola.

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myrnaloyisdope
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#65 Post by myrnaloyisdope » Fri Aug 07, 2009 2:19 am

Ok, so I've seen 4 of the films in the set, and though none has convinced me to buy it outright, I'd be tempted to pick it up at the right price.

Thoughts on what I've seen:

Torch Singer - I watched this a couple years ago, and was very impressed. I adore Claudette and I think she's one of the few actresses along with Barbara Stanwyck who could carry a film on personality alone. It's solid stuff through and through, and it's nice to see a great actress get a chance to hold her own.

Hot Saturday - well it had the potential to be both terrible and predictable, but the twist ending really made the film worthwhile. Long live pre-code simply for endings like this.

Merrily We Go To Hell - I'd be hard pressed to criticize a film featuring two of my all-time faves in Fred March and Sylvia Sidney. It's not a great movie by any means, but seriously does a movie need anything more than Freddie acting drunk and Sylvia looking sad?

Search For Beauty - Not a great film either, but fascinating due to content, and the brilliance of Gertrude Michael as a mega-bitch. Seriously she's one of the great forgotten talents of the age.

I'm looking forward to checking out Murder at the Vanities for her and for "Sweet Marihuana".

As for The Cheat, well I'm definitely interested, but I'm wondering how it compares to the original, which is one of the great silent features...and in my opinion De Mille's best film.

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Gregory
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#66 Post by Gregory » Fri Aug 07, 2009 3:28 am

myrnaloyisdope wrote:I'm looking forward to checking out Murder at the Vanities for her and for "Sweet Marihuana".
I was blown away by the Duke Ellington piece, "Ebony Rhapsody" -- utterly fascinating. The "Sweet Marahuana" number is quite short.

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david hare
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#67 Post by david hare » Fri Aug 07, 2009 4:33 am

Isn't it called "Rape of the Rhapsody" in a title card? Anyhow I agree it's the all out high point of the picture and it completely leaves the camp elements sprawling on the ground.

There is an amazing collection of Paramount Jazz Shorts which I've stupidly never gotten around to buying. This and volume 2 look like items essential for functioning life.

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Gregory
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#68 Post by Gregory » Fri Aug 07, 2009 1:11 pm

It's "Rhapsody, Rape, and Revenge." For those unfamiliar, Duke Ellington's band (and dancers dressed as black maids) take over the stage, "raping" Liszt's performance of one of his rhapsodies, prompting Liszt to mow down the jazz performers with a stage machine gun.

David, I have the Kino disc you mention, as well as another DVD, "Duke Ellington: Early Tracks from the Master of Swing." So I'm a little surprised I'd never had the chance to see "Ebony Rhapsody" before.
The Duke Ellington performances on the latter are a lot of fun to watch. I'm actually not sure whether they were shot with sync sound or not. Perhaps some of both. In some of the shorts it seems the musicians are having a bit of fun pantomiming with their instruments (as they do in Murder at the Vanities). Or maybe it's just really badly synced. I've noticed with some of the much-heralded Jazz Icons DVDs of actual performances that the syncing is sometimes very noticeably off. {Edit: It's only a problem on one or two I've seen, I should add; most of these releases are totally fine.]
Last edited by Gregory on Sun Aug 09, 2009 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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david hare
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#69 Post by david hare » Sat Aug 08, 2009 7:44 pm

Greg they would almost certainly be performing to playback/synching. Warner used playback for all the Vitaphone Melody Masters shorts from 1931 onwards which were released in the Swing Swing Swing series Laser boxset in 94. The intros etc are of course live to camera. The synching on the Warners shorts is pretty tight, but 99% of the shorts had the same directors - Joe Henabery or Roy Mack who seemingly did nothing else but these.

I had always thought Astaire and Hal Bourne and Mark Sandrich effectively "invented" the playback to film technique for the Astaire Rogers features but they cleraly "refined" it, including the tap and step sounds which were prerecorded and foleyed in. So I Suppose they "invented" multiple track mixing.

As far as Ellington goes I'll grab everything I can find - including Anatomy of a Murder.

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Gregory
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#70 Post by Gregory » Sat Aug 08, 2009 8:17 pm

Sort of what I'd suspected, David -- thanks for confirming.
david hare wrote:As far as Ellington goes I'll grab everything I can find - including Anatomy of a Murder.
I'm posting a reply to this in the Jazz on DVD, so as not to be off-topic, and as an excuse to bump that thread again.

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Camera Obscura
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#71 Post by Camera Obscura » Sun Oct 11, 2009 4:41 am

Zumpano wrote:Lonely Are The Brave. Finally. One of my favorite westerns/revisionist-westerns. Great Kirk Douglas performance. Any other fans?
Just saw this for the first time and I'm a fan all right. What an unusual film - quite something else. A revisionist Western it may be, but might give people the wrong idea, since it's basically a contemporary police manhunt, except our man here never really came to terms with the 20th Century and happens to envision himself as an old-style cowboy with a self-destructive streak. But even then, it never really goes where you'd expect it to go with a generally off-beat sense of humor and (for the early '60s at least) great use of New Mexico locations that give the film a real local flavor. Kirk Douglas considered this his favorite role, but the rest of the cast are all ace with Gena Rowlands and Walter Matthau in prime form. Stunning black-and-white scope photography, some great writing and dialog by Dalton Trumbo, a great score by Jerry Goldsmith and one of the greatest (and funniest) barfights ever. So much too recommend here. This film needs all the attention and praise it can get.

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Matt
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#72 Post by Matt » Fri Nov 20, 2009 9:35 am

If you value your DVD shelf space at all, you might want to steer clear of the Universal Claudette Colbert Collection. It's three discs, two films on each, and it comes in a fold-out digipak in a slipcase. Problem is, each of the three plastic digipak trays is 3/8 of an inch thick, so with the slipcase the whole package is just under 1 1/2" wide. That might not sound like much, but it's monstrous for a set with 3 discs. It's just a hair bigger than Criterion's Teshigahara and Varda sets, and those have 4 discs each and a fat booklet. It's bigger than my paperback of Ulysses (but then the cover of Ulysses isn't printed on pearlescent cardstock).

In this age of figure-8 double-DVD cases and ThinPAKs, what are they thinking? The only explanation I can come up with is that the deep trays make it easy for aged, arthritic fingers to pop the discs out, and who else would be watching Claudette Colbert films but lonely little grannies?

I've only watched Bluebeard's Eight Wife out of the set, but it looked very good, save for a couple of brief, minor wiggles in the image reminiscent of VHS.

HarryLong
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#73 Post by HarryLong » Fri Nov 20, 2009 11:34 am

The only explanation I can come up with is that the deep trays make it easy for aged, arthritic fingers to pop the discs out, and who else would be watching Claudette Colbert films but lonely little grannies?
Now that hurt!

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HypnoHelioStaticStasis
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Universal Backlot: Barbara Stanwyck Collection

#74 Post by HypnoHelioStaticStasis » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:02 pm

Courtesy of Classic Flix

Titles are:
Internes Can't Take Money
The Great Man's Lady
The Bride Wore Boots
The Lady Gambles
All I Desire
There's Always Tomorrow


Hopefully a sign of things to come...

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domino harvey
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Re: Universal Backlot Series

#75 Post by domino harvey » Fri Feb 05, 2010 9:19 pm

Saves me the trouble of picking up the MOC

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