I should add with a certain amount of frustration, that a number of titles available in Region 4 are released without their special features, but I don't know why this is so. Instead of opining about what I've missed, the purpose of this post is to alert people to an almost endless stream of high-quality commentaries that are out there. Sadly, it's impossible to say how much longer this will last, with the upheaval caused by digital technology and the film industry's struggle to keep a hold on Hollywood's preponderance, which appears to be precarious at best. But that's just my humble opinion. Anyway, here's the list with my favourite title The Magnificent Seven, coming in at last position:
|There's always a catch|
Ryan's Daughter (1970) directed by David Lean; audio commentary by Lady Sandra Lean, Petrine Day Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Michael Stevens, Roy Stevens and a number of others; Warner Home Video. This is one of those films that's been re-appraised down the years. It was badly treated by the critics who attacked David Lean to the extent that he only made one other, "A Passage to India" which was sadly his last. Some commentaries that are cobbled together with a lot of participants can be confusing when it seems they have no idea what the person before or after them is going to say, but this is seamless. All the participants worked on "Ryan's Daughter" and they are quick to point out its virtues, and the technicians who worked behind the camera are touching in their obvious affection for David Lean. Sarah Miles is funny, and loyal to her late husband Robert Bolt, Lean's long-time collaborator and has some good stories about working with Robert Mitchum in a role in which he seemed to be miscast. Leans' widow Lady Sandra Lean is respectful and informative throughout. This commentary is a real pleasure and enhances the movie greatly. I think it's really a beautiful film, and the commentary assists no end in convincing me of that opinion.
8.Blackboard Jungle (1955) directed by Richard Brooks; audio commentary by Peter Ford, Paul Mazursky, Jamie Farr and Joel Freeman; Warner Home Video. I discovered this recently, the movie itself which I had briefly seen years ago on television. The commentary is neat, informal and very entertaining. Peter Ford is the son of Glenn Ford who had a successful career in Hollywood playing parts like this, a teacher in a deprived neighbourhood trying to make a difference to the lives of his students. The film is frank for the period in its depiction of juvenile delinquency and it seems that racial issues were as much of a problem then as they ever have been. Peter Ford speaks with affection about his father, and Mazursky who became a reasonably famous director has some anecdotes about his friends and acquaintances from New York and their efforts to break into the movies. Jamie Farr had an on-going role in the MASH TV series and seems grateful for "Blackboard Jungle" and how it helped his career. Also note Peter Ford's modest attribution concerning "Rock Around the Clock" the film's signature tune, as well as numerous other insights into the careers of other cast members and director Richard Brooks.
|"those glorious people out there in the dark..."|
5. Days of Wine and Roses (1962) directed by Blake Edwards; audio commentary by Blake Edwards. Warner Video. This is one of the most off-the-cuff commentaries you are likely to hear, but this only enhances Edwards' sincerity and lack of affectation. Based on a successful television play, Days of Wine and Roses is a harrowing portrayal of a married couple trapped in a loving but dysfunctional relationship that unfortunately includes alcohol as a third party. Edwards candidly discusses his own problems, and what you get is a riveting dialogue about Hollywood and its possible dangers. As well, Edwards has stories about stars Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick and what it was like to make movies in a Hollywood that no longer exists. The beautiful title song written by long-time collaborator Henry Mancini also gets a nod. I have to say this is a terribly sad, but ultimately touching commentary that should not be missed. There's nothing self-aggrandising about it, Edwards just talks, and you have to listen. But it is great talk, and gives you an enormous amount of appreciation for the film you may not have had before.
|watch Harper like girls|
3. The Conversation (1974) directed by Francis Ford Coppola; audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola; Universal Studios. This is the film Coppola made between the two Godfather movies, and it's indicative of the director's desire to make more personal films without pressure from any studio to make it their way. The Conversation is one of a kind, and the audio commentary brings this home to the listener. Shot on location in San Francisco, The Conversation is a frightening look at a paranoid wire-tapper who overhears (and tapes), a benign conversation between two people. The fact that the conversation has been overheard has tragic ramifications, despite the wire-tappers efforts to withdraw himself from the consequences of his actions. Like a lot of great films when you attempt to encapsulate the plot, this hardly seems riveting, but it is. And the commentary is obviously the product of a talented filmmaker who knows exactly what he wants and how to achieve it. A lot of exciting extrapolation of plot and character, Coppola sounds like a born writer, and his stories of some grappling with the studio in order to make this film to the best of his ability, make for great listening. This is a fantastic film, and Coppola has done himself proud by contributing a fantastic commentary.
|The 7 in action|