With today being the birthday for the late great James Mason I made sure to pop in the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea DVD to celebrate. Released by Walt Disney Studios back in 1954, I still find James Mason’s portrayal as the anguished and vengeance seeking Captain Nemo to be the best cinematic interpretation of the character…even though Captain Nemo is supposed to be the son of an Indian Raja.
As I was watching this classic film it got me thinking about a board game that I used to own in my youth, a 3-D game where players each took on the role of Captain Nemo with their own Nautilus. I remembered that the goal was to be the first to navigate your vessel to Vulcania while trying to avoid the gunships that your opponent was using in an attempt to sink you. Each player turned ‘Vulcania’ which controlled the direction the gunships traveled so there always seemed a wonderful element of blind luck in the game.
When your Nautilus was traveling under water you would be safe from the gunships patrolling for you and in exchange for your safety your movement was halved but if you braved the surface of the ocean you could travel much faster…and take the chance that a gunship would shell your mighty vessel of science to a watery grave.
The only thing that would have made this game greater is if they had included a miniature pipe organ to play while you waited for your turn! I want to give a huge thanks to the always impressive Board Game Geek site, especially Scott R. and Eric for the great photos you see above.
So my family was lucky enough to own a VCR around 1980. With corded remote control, top loading tray, and an audio dub feature, this RCA was a work of art.
And like many families in our neighborhood, we traded VHS tapes. Somehow, we got a tape that had TWO awesome made for TV movies on it. One was Captain America 2: Death Too Soon (which I blogged about on this site some months back) AND..the second half of the Salem’s Lot mini-series on CBS, directed by Tobe Hooper.
Have you ever seen the 1979 Salem’s Lot mini-series? It’s quite honestly THE SCARIEST FREAKING MOVIE (TV or NOT) EVER MADE. Now, I believed that when I was 9 years old watching it on VHS and I believe it now, when I’m 38 years old watching it on..well, VHS tape. I bought a two cassette set a few years ago.
The scene where Danny Glick floats into his brother’s room? FREAKY. That part where Mike Ryerson is rocking in the chair, waiting to feast on his own teacher? WATCH THAT RIGHT BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP.
The film freaked me out SO much, that on palm Sunday (which happened to be around the time I watched the tape for the first time), I grabbed a handful of extra palms, and put them on all the doors of my house. No, I’m not making that up.
That retro bumper, while awesomely groovy, doesn’t do the film justice. Well acted, well directed, well scored, well written – this mini-series delivers on every level. Starring James Mason, David Soul, Lance Kerwin and a SMOKING HOT Bonnie Bedelia, it’s top notch and one of my must see Halloween viewings.
Also, do some digging on YouTube – the whole film is there. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Fine, you can say it, but doesn’t mean it’s true.
Look at me….teacher!
(NOTE – Do NOT watch Salem’s Lot: The Movie from 1979 – it’s a two hour cut down of the mini-series and severely lacking in the full length’s awesomeness. And don’t be confused with the 2004 TNT Salem’s Lot mini-series starring Rob Lowe. It’s good, but not 1979 Salem’s Lot mini-series good. And don’t bother with A Return To Salem’s Lot. Look, I’m just being thorough for you guys.)
As a band singer guided to heights of show-business success by an alcoholic ex-matinee idol, Judy Garland performs one superb song after another (most by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin) in a production – also starring James Mason and directed by George Cukor – that exhilarates with its craft and style even as it moves toward a heartbreaking finale. Shortened after its 1954 premiere and reconstructed to near its original length in 1983, A Star Is Born endures as one of Hollywood’s supreme triumphs.
We didn’t get cable TV right away and even when we did, they didn’t have channels like AMC and TCM, so to catch an older film you needed to either stay up late or watch TV on weekend morning and afternoons. Late night meant horror and sci-fi, but on the weekends you could catch anything. As a young film buff I was up for anything and fell in love with most every genre of films, including musicals. Now the problem with musicals on broadcast TV is that they tended to show very popular ones over and over again. So even though one might be brilliant, you would never catch it.
I almost missed the entirety of A Star is Born when they broadcast it locally in the early 80s. I think I caught the last 25 minutes, but that was enough to make me curious (it seemed darker then standard musicals). So when the movie finally came out on VHS I made it a point to rent it. While Garland would appear in many musicals over the years and will always be most famous for her role as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, A Star is Born is arguably the best showcase for this very talented performer and it just happened to be filmed at the height of that talent.
With cable TV now, you can usually catch a musical whenever you want, and I have watched A Star is Born many times over the years, but when I heard it was being released in HD, I figured now would be a good time to pick up my very own copy. I was not disappointed.
To start off with Warner Bros did a major digital restoration of the film, based on a reconstruction of the film from 1983 and it looks amazing. Crisp and vibrant, it is unlike any other copy of the film I have ever seen. I understand that they had unveiled this print on the big screen at a film festival last year. I can only imagine what an experience that might have been. You can get an idea of the pic by checking out this youtube clip (at the very least you can see how talented Garland is):
I tried playing around with the sound, but I do not really have the setup to experience the movies DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. I do not have a super sound setup, but on my TV it sounded good. I cannot imagine what they could pull from audio that is nearly 60 years old to make it better, but I would enjoy hearing from someone with a better audio setup then mine.
Just on the merits of the picture, I would say people should put this in their buy column, but the Blu-Ray version is also chock full of extras including:
* A Short Introduction Featurette
* 22 Minutes of deleted scenes
* 11 Minutes of Alternative Takes
* When My Sugar Walks Down the Street Outtake
* Pantages Premiere TV Special
* Newsreel Montage
* Premiere in Cinemascope
* 100 minutes of Audio Outtakes
* Report by Jack L. Warner
* Film Effects Reel
* Looney Tune’s A Star is Bored
* 3 Theatrical Trailers
* A 40 page Booklet
Impressive right? So if you like musicals and this one is a whopper why not pick up a copy for your collections. You can get it in three flavors: