Thursday, October 29, 2009

universal on demand: treasure island, part deux

Our friends at Turner Classic Movies have sent us word recently that this was going to happen, and today we received the official word and press release. As part of their ongoing Vault Collection series- TCM and Universal have entered into a partnership to bring to classic film fans more titles from Universal's library. These films are all digitally remastered, and will produced, akin to the Warner Vault Series, on a on a made-to-order basis. What is being now referred to as MOD (Manufactured on Demand), started with TCM's release of the RKO Lost Titles Collection earlier this year.

From the Official Press Release:
"Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Universal Studios Home Entertainment (USHE) have entered into an extensive new partnership to offer classic movie fans rare vintage films, all digitally remastered, on DVD on a made-to-order basis. The TCM Vault Collection Presented by Universal marks USHE’s first foray into the manufactured-on-demand (MOD) arena. TCM began offering MOD featuring lost titles from the RKO library.

TCM and USHE are working to remaster a number of great titles never before available on DVD, with several never available on home video at all. The first titles made available include five chilling horror films, three early Cary Grant pictures and the unsung 1940 holiday classic Remember the Night, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray and scripted by the great Preston Sturges. The films will be made available by request on DVD via for the first time during the fourth quarter of 2009. TCM host Robert Osborne will provide introductions for selected titles, which will also include supplemental materials compiled by TCM and extensive material from the TCM archives. In addition, TCM will present exclusive premieres of the movies over the next six months.

“Many terrific films have been unavailable on home video for far too long, especially the holiday classic Remember the Night,” Osborne said. “It’s wonderful that today’s movie fans will be able to enjoy these rare movies. TCM and Universal have worked hard to restore them digitally and provide historical context, bonus content and behind-the-scenes information, something DVD collectors are sure to appreciate. I’m proud to be part of this great project with TCM and Universal.”

For Universal, the agreement is a great way to reach avid film fans. “Universal is very proud of its prestigious collection of Hollywood screen gems,” said Craig Kornblau, president, Universal Studios Home Entertainment. “Like us, TCM is deeply dedicated to honoring Hollywood’s golden age. This collaboration presents the perfect opportunity to share Universal’s rich cinematic legacy and celebrate vintage works with classic film fans.”

This is welcome news, and should be to classic film fans, as this process seems to be a way to bring more titles out and available to fans - as we have discussed before. The MOD may have some drawbacks, but we at The Shelf still believe it is a great opportunity to be able to have titles in our collections that wouldn't be released otherwise.

The great difference here with TCM, is that the films will be digitally remastered, and select films will include introductions by erstwhile TCM host and all around great guy Robert Osborne, and many titles may also have extras and supplemental material from the TCM archives and library (shorts? documentaries? perhaps!) This is a great step in the right direction and classic film fans should celebrate. Word behind the scenes is that other studios may be trying to do something along the MOD lines as well- so TCM and Universal have stepped up to the plate to give us the goods, as only TCM can. TCM will also premiere some of these films on Turner Classic Movies channel, which adds them to their ever increasing library. The prices for the individual titles seem to be right around $19.99- following the bar set by WB. We hope that as this MOD system continues to prove reliable and as film fans order the sets, these prices will come down. The good news is, as opposed to WB Archive- Many of the TCM titles will include extras and bonus content- which goes a long way toward making the price more palatable.

The Universal Cult Horror Collection will be available to order Oct. 31 (the TCM website actual shows it as available for order now) and includes the following titles (description from the Press Release):
"This collection will include five rarely seen horror gems from the Universal vault, most appearing on home video for the first time. Special features include over a hundred photos, posters and lobby cards, trivia, articles and more.

Murders in the Zoo (1933) – Censors had a heyday with this horror film about a zoologist and sportsman who uses his zoo animals to kill his wife’s lovers. Lionel Atwill plays the villain, with Kathleen Burke as his wife, a young Randolph Scott as the hero and the ever lovable Charles Ruggles providing comic relief as the zoo’s press agent. Among the men playing Burke’s doomed lovers is John Lodge, who later left acting to enter politics, becoming governor of Vermont.

Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942) – Lionel Atwill plays a mad scientist who places people into suspended animation and then revives them. When he is accused of murder following the death of one of his subjects, he flees on a ship, becomes stranded on a tropical island and soon becomes revered as a god by the natives. Una Merkel, Nat Pendleton and Claire Dodd co-star.

The Strange Case of Dr. RX (1942) – A mysterious killer bumps off acquitted murderers who have all been represented by the same lawyer, played by Samuel S. Hinds. Lionel Atwill, Patric Knowles and Anne Gwynne co-star, with Shemp Howard (on hiatus from his work with The Three Stooges) providing comic relief.

The Mad Ghoul (1943) – This creepy tale follows a mad professor, played by George Zucco, who has discovered an ancient Egyptian gas that turns anyone who sniffs it into a heart-eating zombie. David Bruce plays the doctor’s assistant who gets dosed with the gas and goes on a murderous rampage. Evelyn Ankers and Robert Armstrong co-star.

House of Horrors (1946) – The legendary Rondo Hatton, whose acromegaly deformed his face and made him a frequent Hollywood villain, marked one of his last roles with this offbeat film. Martin Kosleck plays a mad artist who, after saving Hatton and making a bust of his face, uses the disfigured hulk to murder art critics. Hatton died of a heart attack the year this film was released."

The Cary Grant Titles will be available January 2010 and include (descriptions from the press release):
"The Eagle and the Hawk (1933) – This vivid World War I drama stars Frederic March as a disillusioned but fearless squadron leader and Cary Grant as his bullied gunner-observer. The gripping interpersonal drama, anti-war sentiments and outstanding aerial dogfights give this film an impact that remains vital today. Carole Lombard and Jack Oakie round out a top-notch cast. The great director Mitchell Leisen, who is billed as associate director, is believed to have directed most of this film.

The Devil and the Deep (1932) – This melodrama is headlined by Tallulah Bankhead, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant and Charles Laughton. The setting is the northern coast of Africa, where submarine commander Laughton is stationed and where his wife, Bankhead, is splitting her time between suitors Cooper and Grant. This marked Laughton’s first American film and one of his most underappreciated performances.

The Last Outpost (1935) – Cary Grant plays a British officer saved from a Kurdish tribe by fellow officer Claude Rains. But when Grant unknowingly falls in love with Rains’ wife, tragedy looms. Gertrude Michael and Kathleen Burke co-star under the dual direction of Charles Barton and Louis Gasnier."

And finally, what I suspect will be welcome news to many classic film fans, including myself, the long awaited DVD release of Remember the Night with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck! It is available starting Nov. 22, 2009, digitally remastered and with lots of bonus features!! (again, from the Press release):

"This heart-warming holiday romance – penned by Preston Sturges – marked the first of four on-screen pairings of Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck and came four years before their iconic work in Double Indemnity. MacMurray plays a prosecutor who finds himself falling in love with a shoplifter (Stanwyck) during a court recess at Christmas time. The atmospheric film co-stars Beulah Bondi, Elizabeth Patterson and Sterling Holloway and was directed by Mitchell Leisen.

Remember the Night is rarely seen and received a brief home-video release on VHS. It is being now remastered and brought back to life so it can take its rightful place as a signature holiday classic. Special features on the DVD will include an introduction by Robert Osborne; still galleries, including behind-the-scenes photos; never-before-seen interview segments on the work of director Mitchell Leisen from the TCM Archives; and the original movie trailer, trivia, biographies and more."

Now the best news of all is that as this new MOD series from TCM and Universal rolls out, they have stated "Future Universal collections and titles for rollout on DVD and TCM include vintage films from Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, Deanna Durbin, director Douglas Sirk and many more."

It looks like an early Halloween treat for Classic Film Fans. And the more that we support efforts like these, the more we will be rewarded with more titles and more access to the films we love! The Treasure Island that started with Warner Archive is getting bigger, and as we suggested- it looks like more studios are finding this to be a great way to use their libraries and reach fans. I believe more studios will soon follow. (FOX! I am looking at you!)

Stay tuned for more Classic film news and of course, more Shelf Halloween Madness 2009!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Now there's nothing as dangerous as a square shooter. If all men were like you there wouldn't be any nice girls left.


Sebina C. said...

This is incredible news, especially concerning REMEMBER THE NIGHT which is truly such an amazing film.

J.C. Loophole said...

I know- I am excited that they will do it right as well with remastering it. I have yet to see the entire film, as I caught just a part of it on TCM. So it will definitely be on my list.
The real treat is how yet another studio is using an alternative way to make these titles available - I hope others will follow. PS- loved your pictures from your visit to Paris! Looks like you had a great time!

Tom said...

Oh, "Remember the Night" is wonderful. I'm so happy all these movies are being released!!

Sebina C. said...

Thanks J.C for the kind words; it was truly a wonderful trip and one I had been looking forward to.

J.C. Loophole said...

Tom- I agree and I hope we might see Fox doing the same very soon.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin