‘Deep Blues’ Re-Issue Will Appeal To Audiences Across The Musical Universe

Courtesy: Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records

Director Robert Mugge has made quite the name for himself over the years heading documentaries that tell the history of America’s music.  More specifically, they present the roots of music, such as zydeco and the blues.  The most recent of those docs came in 2018 the form of Ship to Shore: Launching the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Review, which focused on the famed cross country music tour.  Now Tuesday, one of his even older docs — 1991’s Deep Blues — will get renewed attention when it is re-issued through Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records.  The documentary will appeal to a wide range of audiences in part through its main feature, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the doc adds even more to the record’s appeal.  That all taken into account, it makes the re-issue’s pricing important in its own right.  That item will also be examined later.  Each item noted is key in its own way to the whole of the re-issue’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this doc a welcome addition to the library of any blues aficionado who might not already own it or any of Mugge’s music docs.

The forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue of the Robert Mugge-helmed 1991 documentary, Deep Blues is a presentation that any blues aficionado will find entertaining.  Set for release Tuesday through Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records, the 91-minute documentary (which is actually adapted from journalist Robert Palmer’s book, Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta) focuses on the music of the Mississippi Delta and deep south.  It follows the same format of so many of Mugge’s documentaries in its main feature, which audiences will especially appreciate.  For those maybe less familiar with Mugge’s work, he does not present his docs as some slow, extended lecture about the music’s history, but rather, he immerses audiences in that history with first hand interviews and performances with and by the figures who helped make said music great.  Here, audiences hear from the likes of R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Big Jack Johnson along with so many other greats.  The humility and genuine personality that each figure presents both just talking and performing is so enthralling.  The simple, humble venues where the performances take place adds to that sense of humility.  It and the almost guerilla style cinematography and editing (again for which Mugge is known) further immerses audiences in the history, really making for even more engagement and entertainment.  The overall feature here is a great half and half of history and entertainment that, again, follows a familiar format from Robert Mugge.  That familiarity will appeal just as much to those who are familiar with his documentaries and those who are new to his works.  It makes this presentation just as much a history lesson about the blues as it is a love letter to the genre.  To that end, it is reason enough in itself for audiences to take in the documentary.  It is only one part of what makes the documentary so engaging and entertaining in its new re-issue, too.  The bonus content that accompanies the documentary adds even more to that noted appeal.

The bonus content that accompanies the documentary is not necessarily expansive per se.  It consists mainly of a feature-length audio commentary provided by Mugge, as well as some bonus performances that did not make the final cut for the main feature.  Additionally, the essay penned by Rolling Stone magazine contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis serves as its own bonus content through the background that it provides, too.  Mugge offers quite a bit of insight throughout the course of the documentary’s 91-minute run time.  Right from the feature’s outset, he reveals that Eurythmics star Dave Stewart did not want to appear in the documentary, but that he [Mugge] convinced Stewart to appear as a means to broaden the documentary’s audience.  He points out in his commentary here that Stewart’s appearances in the film would help pull in more than just the typical blues devotees.  That was a wise move on Mugge’s part. Another interesting revelation made by Mugge during his commentary is that when now legend R.L. Burnside was originally interviewed and featured in this documentary, he was not the star that he would go on to be.  He points out that a documentary that Mugge did about famed blues label Fat Possum Records actually played into Burnside’s rise to fame.  It is an unintended pat on the back, but really helps audiences to understand why Burnside was living in such a humble setting at the time that his performance and interview was filmed.  This is, again, something that longtime blues fans will especially appreciate in their understanding, and yet more proof of the importance of Mugge’s commentary.  In yet another interesting note, Palmer (who serves as a semi-host of sorts throughout the documentary) sits in a hotel room at one point, singing a note in the hotel about why the water there was brown.  What he has to say afterward versus what Mugge reveals is somewhat troubling to be honest.  Mugee reveals the real reason that the water in the hotel (and town in which the hotel sat) was dark brown.  The revelation is enough to make anyone second guess drinking it despite Palmer’s light hearted joke.  Between these discussions that Mugge brings up, and his multitude of discussions on the filming for the performances, audiences get so much insight throughout the documentary that was not available in the doc’s original presentation.  That in-depth background offered by Mugge builds on the appeal established through the main feature to make the presentation that much more engaging and entertaining.

The bonus performances noted here build even more on that engagement and entertainment.  The sound is expertly produced (just as with the performances that made the final cut).  That they are so intimate adds even more to their appeal.  It leaves one wondering why they were not added to the final cut.  Regardless, that they were included here completes the original presentation and in turn makes the presentation truly complete.

DeCurtis’ notes add their own appeal to the whole by building even more on everything discussed by Palmer and Mugge in the main feature and audio commentary.  At one point in his essay, for instance, DeCurtis points out the roots of the blues really go back to the days of slavery.  He additionally sets the stage for the experience that audiences will have as they watch, painting such a rich picture through his written tapestry.  What’s more, DeCurtis also points out that the majority of the figures featured in this documentary all went on to some level of stardom as the years went on, not just R.L. Burnside, adding that at the time though, none of the featured performers were stars. This is interesting to note because audiences never get a sense of ego from any of them.  It is all pure humility; Humility that would continue on through their respective careers.  It really serves to strength Palmer’s statement at one point that at the time of the documentary’s debut, blues was still not a major genre, but that it was beginning to see a rebirth of sorts in that popularity.  One can only imagine then, that the documentary served to help bring more attention to each figure and to the blues and its importance as a major form of American music.  Considering everything noted here and so much more, it should be clear at this point that the bonus content featured with Deep Blues is just as important to its presentation in its re-issue as the documentary itself.  Keeping in mind the overall impact of the documentary’s main and secondary content, it makes the Blu-ray’s pricing positive in its own right.

The average price point of Deep Blues – using prices listed through Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy – is $29.12.  It was not listed through Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Books-A-Million.  However, Barnes & Noble Booksellers did list the documentary on DVD along with Walmart and Best Buy at an average price of $26.63.  Again, considering the breadth and depth of the content discussed here, those averages are not that bad, especially being that this is an independent release.  In the case of the re-issue’s DVD listings, Best Buy lives up to its name, giving audiences the best buy with a listing of $22.99.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers has the most expensive of the DVD’s listings at $29.99 while Walmart’s listing of $26.92 is the middle ground here.

In the case of the documentary’s Blu-ray platform, Target offers the least expensive listing, at $26.59.  Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy each list the documentary’s Blu-ray presentation at $29.99, so it is more expensive overall than the doc’s DVD presentation.  At the same time though, that noted listing through Target is still less than $30, and that really brings this discussion to its crux.  The point of all of this is that while the averages are a bit high, the separate listings do have some relatively affordable price points that will not break anyone’s budget.  Adding that realization to the amount of content featured in the re-issue and that content’s impact, the whole makes this overall presentation such a positive new take of one of Robert Mugge’s many music documentaries.

Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records’ upcoming re-issue of Deep Blues is a wonderful new take of the 1991 documentary from director Robert Mugge.  It will resonate with audiences in part through its main feature.  That is because just like with all of Mugge’s other music docs, it immerses audiences in the music and its history, rather than just presenting it as some long-winded lecture.  This is the kind of presentation that is certain to keep audiences engaged and entertained.  The breadth of the content in the main feature builds on that appeal and ensures even more, viewers’ maintained engagement and entertainment.  The secondary (bonus) content that accompanies the documentary this time builds on the appeal ensured through the main feature.  That is because of the added background and other information that it provides through each bonus feature and item.  Keeping in mind the noted overall content and its impact, it makes the documentary’s pricing its own understandable positive, even looking at the slightly higher averages.  The separate listings are, by comparison, mostly affordable and will not break any viewer’s budget.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the documentary’s new re-issue.  All things considered, they make this re-issue a work that will appeal to audiences across the musical universe.

Deep Blues is scheduled for re-issue Tuesday through Dave Stewart Entertainment/Film Movement Classics/Bay Street Records. More information on this and other titles from Film Movement is available at:

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Cinephiles On Both Sides Of The Atlantic Will Enjoy Film Movement, Studio Canal’s BD Re-Issue of ‘The Belles Of St. Trinian’s’

Courtesy: Film Movement/Film Movement Classics/Studio Canal

American television and cinema are all but dead nowadays.  Cinemas and streaming services continue to be overloaded with never-ending seas of prequels, sequels, reboots, and overly embellished movies that are based on actual events.  TV studios and their streaming outlets are also overloaded with their own share of forgettable reboots, many of which have themselves already flopped, and equally unsubstantial new content.  What with the virtual wasteland that TV and cinema remain today, the question remains what actually is worth watching.  Film Movement and Studio Canal have at least one answer in the form of the recently re-issued 1954 British screwball comedy, The Belles of St. Trinian’s.  Re-issued Feb. 23, the classic comedy will entertain audiences who remember the movie and even those who are just searching for plenty of laughs.  Its appeal comes primarily from its central story, which will be discussed shortly.   The cast’s work on camera adds its own touch to the presentation and will be discussed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie’s re-issue rounds out the presentation’s most important elements and will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the re-issue’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this new re-issue of The Belles of St. Trinian’s a great watch for any viewer and an equally positive addition to this year’s list of top new DVD and BD re-issues.

Film Movement and Studio Canal’s recent re-issue of The Belles of St. Trinian’s is a welcome respite from the content that film and television studios continue to churn out.  It is an especially welcome considering audiences’ continued need to laugh.  The movie is so entertaining in part because of its central story.  The synopses that outlets have provided about the story are mostly incorrect.  The story is actually a great screwball comedy that also boasts some heart.  The story centers on the failing all-girls school, St. Trinian’s.  The school is in some dire financial straits, as viewers will learn as the story progresses.  It just so happens that the brother of the school’s headmistress, Miss Millicent Fritton – both of whom are played by Alastair Sim – and his daughter Arabella have a scheme involving a horse race that is planned to take place near the school.  Clarence (Millicent’s brother) and Arabella “kidnap” the horse Arab Boy, the odds on favorite to win the race, so that their horse can win.  When Millicent and her young charges find out that Arab Boy is being kept at the school, the group plans to get the horse back into the race so that they can win enough money to save the school.  The previous synopses noting the role of the young Princess Fatima in the movie over blow her role.  She is really more or less a secondary character here.  Between that central story and the hijinks in which the girls take part throughout – including making illegal alcohol and fixing a field hockey game – the overall story makes for reason enough for audiences to take in the classic cinematic screwball Brit-com.  The work of the movie’s cast builds on the strong foundation formed by the movie’s story.

The cast’s work on camera in this movie ensures just as many laughs as the story itself.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that the story would not even work without the cast’s work.  Sim (A Christmas Carol, School for Scoundrels) leads the way as Millicent.  One can’t help but imagine that his performance played some role in the work of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot, which came along five years later.  The subtleties that he presents as he takes on the role of the prim and proper, but still slightly playful headmistress are spot on throughout the movie.  The result is that while audiences know they are watching Sim in drag, they are still entertained.  His performance against that of George Cole (who played Flash Harry) makes for even more entertainment.  Speaking of Cole, his performance works so well not just of how he delivers his lines, but also his physical performance.  The way he walks into the school, wearing his hat over his head, and his stiff gait as he walks into Millicent’s office are great reflections of the adage, “actions speak louder than words.”   The students at the school make for their own entertainment, too.  Their casual behavior as they brew their own “home made” alcohol and lower it to Flash makes for its own share of laughs, too.  What’s more, the girls’ willingness to cheat at a game of field hockey and even their ability to get Arab Boy back to the track will have audiences laughing just as much.  Between these noted performances and others throughout, the cast’s overall performance in this roughly 90-minute madcap comedy makes for more than enough reason to take in the movie.  Their work interpreting the scripts together with the story itself strengthens the movie’s presentation even more.  They are just a part of what makes the movie entertaining.  The bonus content that accompanies the re-issue rounds out its most important elements.

The bonus content that accompanies the movie’s re-issue is important because of the background that it offers not just the movie but those involved.  Viewers learn through the bonus interview with Steve Chibnall, Professor of British Cinema at De Montfort University, that while Sim and co-director Sidney Gilliat started out working well together, the pair’s working relationship eventually soured over the course of the franchise which was started by this movie. Chibnall alleges during his interview that things eventually got so bad during filming of one of the movie’s sequels, that an argument ensued and the pair never worked together again.  It’s just one of the tidbits shared in the bonus interviews.  Chibnall also points out that while Gilliat and fellow co-director Frank Launder were versatile in their tastes and abilities, the pair was more well-known for the comedies on which it worked.

Dr. Melanie Williams, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, UEA adds her own background insights to the movie during her interview.  She points out that many critics lauded The Belles of St. Trinian’s because its portrayal of women was counter to the culture at the time.  She goes into depth with this discussion, and that depth will keep viewers fully engaged. 

On yet another note, Sim’s daughter Merlith McKendrick pointed out that at the time of The Belles of St. Trinian’s’ debut, she was young, and did not realize he was a celebrity.  The story here will be left for audiences to discover themselves.  What will be stated is that she points out it had something to do with her own view of her father.  This anecdote is certain to generate plenty of laughs among viewers.  It is just one more example of how much the bonus content adds to the viewing experience in the case of this movie.  When it and the other noted discussions are considered along with the remainder of the interview discussions, that whole cements even more, the role of the bonus content in this presentation.  When the bonus content in whole is considered along with the work of the movie’s cast and the story itself, that whole becomes a work that any cinephile will enjoy.  In that agreement, those audiences will agree that The Belles of St. Trinian’s is one of the best of this year’s DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

Film Movement and Studio Canal’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of The Belles of St. Trinian’s is an impressive new addition to this still young year’s field of new re-issues.  It is a work that any viewer will find a welcome alternative to everything being churned out by all   the movie and television studios.  That is proven in part by its story.  The story blends lots of screwball elements with just enough heart and a familiar plot element to make it fun for so many audiences.  The work of the movie’s cast as it interprets the scripts adds its own share of entertainment.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie’s re-issue puts the finishing touch to the movie’s presentation.  The interviews that make up that bonus content offer so much interesting background information on the movie.  That final touch, together with the story and the cast’s work, the whole makes the movie in whole a wonderfully welcome watch that any cinephile will enjoy.  The Belles of St. Trinian’s is available now.

More information on this and other titles from Film Movement is available at:

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Film Movement Classics’ New ‘Forever My Love’ Re-Issue Is Forever Forgettable

Courtesy: Film Movement/Film Movement Classics

Late last month, indie film studio Film Movement re-issued the classic 1962 romantic drama Forever My Love on DVD through its classic movies’ arm, Film Movement Classics.  Coming a little more than two years after its most recent re-issue (July 1, 2016) through Entertainment One, this latest re-issue builds on that release with the inclusion of a new pair of bonus features, which are both pro and con.  The fact that the movie’s footage looks exactly as it did in its original release overseas in 1962 is another item that those noted fans will appreciate about the movie’s presentation here.  For all of the positives noted, the movie is not without one clear negative, its very story.  Obviously fans of the movie will overlook this con, but general audiences who might not be familiar with the movie will find it reason enough to not watch the movie.  This will be discussed at more length later.  Keeping all of this in mind, Film Movement Classics’ recent re-issue of Forever My Love will appeal to the movie’s most devout audiences, but likely only those audiences.

Film Movement Classics’ recent re-issue of Paramount Pictures’ 1962 import Forever My Love is a work that is certain to appeal to the movie’s most devout audiences.  That is evidenced in part through the very look of the movie’s footage.  Almost 60 years have passed since the movie, which culls material from all three of star Romy Schneider’s Sissi movies, first premiered, and it has been barely touched, if at all, since that time.  All of the old scratches, the static and every other imperfection that makes classic films look so good are present from the movie’s beginning to its end.  This is especially important not just for those noted devotees of Forever My Love, but also for movie buffs and historians.  That is because of the sense of nostalgia that said look creates for audiences.  If it had been touched up more than it was (if it was touched up at all, again), it might not have had that impact.  Of course, this is all speculative, but it is clear that the look (and sound) of this presentation is the foundation of its presentation.  If for no other reason than that foundation, the movie is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more.

While the look and sound of Forever My Love does plenty to appeal to the movie’s most devout audiences, the story does just as much to keep less devoted audiences from wanting to take in the movie more than once.  That is due at least in part to the roughly two-and-a-half hour movie’s writing.  There is no real script here, as the movie just cuts and splices bits and pieces of the Sissi trilogy into one long movie that basically outlines the couple’s life together.  The story makes virtually no attempt to grab audiences until the announcement that the Empress is suffering with tuberculosis (TB).  Up until that point, there is no real drama or element that will keep viewers engaged.  This leads the movie to otherwise just plod along from one point to the next throughout.  At least once that announcement is made, audiences have reason to become engaged.  Prior to that point, though, there is just nothing positive about the story.  Even more concerning is the fact that Princess Elisabeth is the Emperor’s cousin.  Given, many societies worldwide “kept it in the family” long ago because they thought it kept the bloodline pure.  However, in today’s age, audiences (and people in general) know the opposite to be true.  To that end, two cousins marrying and even having a child together just seems to be a bit unsettling for a story line.  Keeping all of this in mind, the writing (or lack thereof) detracts quite noticeably from the movie’s presentation, and reduces one’s desire to watch this movie more than once.  Of course while the movie’s writing is without argument, problematic for the movie’s new DVD presentation, the bonus material does help the movie’s presentation, at least in part.

The bonus material featured in this incarnation of Forever My Love helps the movie’s presentation at least a little bit thanks to the “From Romy To Sissi” featurette.  The 20-minute featurette features audio commentary from Schneider herself that follows the making of the second of the Sissi movies.  Audiences learn through the brief discussion that the mountain scenes in said movie were supposed to have taken place in summer, yet were shot during winter.  That explains the snow on the ground in the scenes featured in Forever My Love, as well as the fact that the Empress and Emperor were wearing thick, heavy clothes in said scenes.  Schneider also notes just as briefly – and with a laugh – that her real life brothers were on set during filming of another of the trilogy’s entries, and that they allegedly were troublemakers to a point.  That brief revelation will bring laughs from audiences.  Just as many laughs will come as Schneider reveals a note about one of the movies’ hunting scenes.  She reveals one figure behind the camera wanted to make certain that the scenes were done to certain specifications.  The light-hearted revelation is sure to put smiles on audiences’ faces.  Between these and other discussions raised in the featurette’s short run time, the whole of those discussions makes for its own interest for audiences.

While the disc’s main bonus featurette does plenty to engage and entertain audiences, the secondary featurette, “Sissi’s Great-Grandson At The Movies” does nothing to help that interest.  It is only a short segment from the bigger documentary Elisabeth: Enigma of an Empress, but paints quite a picture of that doc.  That is thank primarily to the general lack of any audio balance whatsoever throughout.  Between Schneider’s in-theatre discussions and his talks in his one-on-one interviews, the lack of a balance in the audio makes this brief segment completely unwatchable.  The interpreter’s overdubs are at the exact same level of the audio from Schneider’s great-grandson, creating its own cacophony.  The same can be said of the balance between the movie audio and the interpreter in the theater moments.  The whole is experience is simply unbearable on the ears.  If the rest of the doc is like this segment, then the doc in whole likely is just as unenjoyable.  When this is considered with the more positive of the DVD’s main bonus featurette, the issues raised by the movie’s writing and the positive of its production values, the whole of this latest re-issue of Forever My Love is sadly a presentation that will likely *ahem* be forever forgettable, even for the most devoted fans of the classic romantic drama.

Film Movement Classics’ recently released re-issue of Forever My Love is a disappointment for the classics arm of the indie film studio.  That is even with its positives.  The positives are not few, but not many, either.  Classic film buffs will appreciate that the movie is presented here with little to no touch-ups on the footage and sound.  They will also appreciate the brief behind-the-scenes featurette, which features Romy Schneider discussing work on the trilogy.  Sadly, those are its only positives.  The story, which splices together elements of the trilogy into one whole does little to engage audiences until late in the second act.  Add in the matter of the story centering on two cousins  marrying and having a child, and audiences have even less reason to watch.  The horrendous secondary “bonus” featurette, which features a brief dubbed discussion from Schneider’s great-grandson detracts from the viewing experience even more.  All things considered, this re-issue is one that is sadly, forever forgettable.  More information on this and other titles from Film Movement Classics is available online now at:

 

 

 

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