CMG’s Jamaica Inn Re-Issue Is A Must Have For Any Classic Movie Buff

Courtesy:  Cohen Media Group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most famed directors in the modern history of the movie industry. Known mostly for helming the likes of Psycho, Dial M For Murder, North by Northwest, The Birds, Rear Window and a handful of other legendary Hollywood hits. While he is most well-known for the noted movies, they are not the only movies that he helmed. Before taking on those famed films, Hitchcock also helmed the big screen adaptations of a pair of books by author Daphne Du Maurier in the form of Rebecca (1940) and Jamaica Inn (1939). The latter of the two was re-issued on Blu-ray this past May to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of its debut. Of course the movie’s seventy-fifth anniversary was technically October 13, 2014. But that is beside the point. The very fact that this classic Hitchcock helmed film has been resurrected by the people at Cohen Media Group is reason enough in itself for audiences to be excited. This movie is a great escape from all of the movies currently polluting America’s theaters and retailers both online and physical. For those that might perhaps be unfamiliar with this classic action/drama movie, its script is the central reason for its enjoyment. The script presents a story that is action packed in its own right especially for its age, and yet is easy to follow. The work of movie’s cast adds even more to the movie’s enjoyment. The bonus material included in the movie’s new re-issue rounds out the presentation and solidifies its place in this year’s crop of re-issues. All three elements considered together, they show Cohen Media Group’s recent re-issue of Jamaica Inn a must-have for any classic movie buff regardless of their familiarity with Hichcock’s body of work.

Cohen Media Group’s recent re-issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn is a must-have for any classic movie buff regardless of their familiarity with Hitchcock’s body of work. It is a movie that not only will classic movie buffs enjoy but even those that lovers of action movies will enjoy. The central way in which it shows itself to be so enjoyable is its script. The script presents a story that is action packed in its own right especially for its time and that is easy to follow. The story presented in this movie’s script is itself timeless. A young woman named Mary (Maureen O’Hara–The Parent Trap, Miracle on 34th Street, The Quiet Man) moves in with her aunt and uncle (played respectively by Marie Ney–Scrooge, Simba, Escape! and Leslie Banks– Henry V, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Most Dangerous Game) and discovers that her uncle is part of a gang responsible for wrecking ships on the British coast. Mary (O’Hara), in moving in with them, inadvertently discovers this and frees a member of the gang who turns out to be a naval officer who has infiltrated the gang in order to find out who is running the operation and in turn shut the whole operation down. The officer, Jem Trehearne, is played here by Robert Newton (Oliver Twist, Treasure Island, This Happy Breed). What happens from here is pretty obvious. It is a story that has been played out countless times throughout the movie industry’s modern age. Though, there are some interesting differences between this movie and those that have attempted to ape it ever since its debut. And those differences add even more interest to the movie’s script.

The story that lies at the center of Jamaica Inn’s enjoyment is in itself a great work. It is just part of what makes the movie’s script so enjoyable and interesting for viewers. The more minute elements of the script that play into its enjoyment, too. Most notable of that minutia is the fact that the movie’s writing staff held off on the romance element that is far too prevalent in so many action flicks that have come along since. It would have been so easy for the movie’s writers to go that route and have Mary and Jem fall in love, etc. over the course of the movie. But they opted instead to not go that route. It was obvious that there was a connection between the pair. But the writers kept that element on the back-burner, opting instead to let the main story holds its rightful place in the grand scheme of things. Even more interesting in examining the movie’s script closely is that while O’Hara is billed as one of the story’s main stars, it doesn’t take long for her to take more of a supporting role than a lead. Laughton on the other hand maintains his lead status. But it is Newton who surprisingly rises to the occasion and becomes the other real lead star opposite Laughton. Maybe that is a result of the era in which the movie was made. Women in that era generally were written as the damsel in distress type of character versus the strong leads that they are often portrayed as today. Considering that O’Hara was billed as one of the movie’s leads it makes this casting and eventual role change all the more interesting and worth the discussion. Whether for this element, the direction taken by the writers in regards to the story’s romance, or for the story itself, it becomes crystal clear in the long run why Jamaica Inn’s script is central to its enjoyment and success.

The script that was crafted for Jamaica Inn is in itself more than enough reason for viewers in whole to check out this classic action/drama flick. Its story is itself classic in every sense of the word. It also avoids the trappings that are far too commonplace in so many of today’s action/dramas. While the essential changing of Mary from a lead to a supporting role is not necessarily a good thing, that seeming cultural reflection is still well worth noting in the larger discussion of Jamaica Inn in whole. The script and its more specific elements in whole collective make up a big part of why classic movie buffs and action/drama fans will appreciate this movie. The work of the movie’s cast adds even more enjoyment and interest to the movie. Viewers will especially find it interesting thanks to the additional video essay by author Donald Spoto (pronounced spoh-toh). That will be discussed at more length later. Simply put, Soto makes note of the conflicts between Laughton and Hitchcock in his essay. The difficulties raised by these conflicts aside, there is no denying the fact that Laughton is an expert in his role. He makes it so easy to hate Sir Humphrey. Sir Humphrey comes across as being so self-righteous and overly confident in himself. He makes audiences want something bad to happen to him just because he is so vile in the type of person he proves to be. In the same vein, Leslie Banks is spot on as Joss Merlyn, the head of the ship-wrecking gang. While not as villainous as Sir Humphrey, he is enjoyable to watch as a bad guy. Yet his defense of Mary late in the story and the reveal of Joss as one of Sir Humphrey’s men makes him not as despicable. As a matter of fact, he comes across as almost a sympathetic character of sorts, especially when he defends Mary against his fellow marauders. Of course one would be remiss to ignore Robert Newton’s portrayal of Jem Trehearn. Considering his character, it would have been so easy for Newton to ham it up and be the standard over-the-top, almost Errol Flynn type a la The Adventures of Robin Hood. But he didn’t go that route. Rather he maintained a certain reserved portrayal throughout. Being that he did, it made it that much easier to root for him as he investigated the ship-wrecking crew. His is just one more portrayal that shows the importance of the cast’s work in Jamaica Inn. Whether for Newton’s work, for that of Laughton, Newton, O’Hara or any of the other cast members, audiences will agree that the work of Jamaica Inn’s cast proves just as pivotal to the movie’s enjoyment and success as the script in all of its minutia.

The work of Jamaica Inn’s writing team and its cast both play their own pivotal parts in the overall success and enjoyment of the movie. Having noted both elements, it is clear why this underrated Hitchcock classic is well worth the watch now that it has been meticulously restored and resurrected on Blu-ray and DVD. Speaking of the movie’s re-issue, audiences have been treated to a couple of in-depth extras that more than ive up to the title of “bonus features.” The extras in question include both an in-depth video essay by author Donald Spoto and full feature-length commentary. Audiences will especially enjoy Soto’s video essay as it goes into quite the depth in regards to what happened both in front of the camera and behind it. One of the most intriguing facts that Soto discusses in his essay is in regards to the working relationship between Hitchcock and Laughton. According to Soto, the relationship in question was strained to say the least as Laughton allegedly was rather difficult to work with. Soto notes that Laughton would not just request but demand multiple takes in a number of scenes and that he was controlling in his nature. Even if he was, it did result in a character that audiences will love to hate. On another note, Soto makes mention of Hitchcock’s eye for detail in making his movies as believable as possible and its consequences. Soto notes that in filming the shipwreck scenes, one of the actors actually developed pneumonia and died after being doused with blast after blast of cold water and cold air from a wind machine at the studio where the scenes in question were filmed. Soto also discusses author Daphne Du Maurier’s displeasure over Hithcock’s take of her book and its effect on the fate of Rebecca and even her book The Birds. That’s right, readers. Even that movie was lifted from a book. It just so happened that it, too was penned by Du Maurier. Obviously Hitchcock was a fan of her work despite the fact that he changed her works to meet his own expectations for his movies. These are just a few of the tidbits offered up by Soto in his essay. There is plenty more that audiences will find interesting in watching his essay. In turn, viewers that watch the essay will agree as to just how much it adds to the overall viewing experience of Cohen Media Group’s new re-issue of Jamaica Inn. The feature-length commentary that comes as an optional audio track adds even more insight and enjoyment to the movie. The commentary in question is provided by one of TCM’s (Turner Classic Movies) employees. Coupled with Soto’s own separate commentary in his video essay, both commentaries add the finishing touch to this new re-issue of Jamaica Inn. They prove once and for all that it is one of the most underrated of the extensive list of movies helmed by Alfred Hitchcock if not the single most underrated of those movies. Together with the work of the movie’s writing team and its cast, it shows in the end to be a movie that any classic movie buff and action/drama should see if not have in their own home movie library.

Cohen Media Group is to be greatly applauded for its re-issue earlier of Jamaica Inn this past May. It never did receive the respect or acclaim that it so rightly deserved in its original release nearly seventy-six years ago. Now thanks to its re-issue it is finally getting the second life, and in turn second chance at respect and acclaim that it so rightly deserves. It exhibits this through the work of its writing team, the work of its cast, and through the additional commentary and content added through its bonus video essay and commentary. All three elements together show just how much this movie has to offer audiences of all ages. They are just the tip of the iceberg, too. One could also make mention of its special effects in comparison to those of today’s action/drama movies. One could also raise a discussion on the level of violence in the movie versus that of today’s movies. Whether for those discussions or the ones noted here, it can be said without a doubt that Cohen Media Group’s recent re-issue of Jamaica Inn is an absolute must see and must have for audiences that are fans and lovers of classic film and action movies alike. More information on Cohen Media Group’s re-issue of Jamaica Inn is available online now along with a trailer for the movie at http://cohenmedia.net/films/jamaica-inn. More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online now at:

Website: http://cohenmedia.net

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Olive Films’ Operation Petticoat Re-Issue Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time

Courtesy: Olive Films

Courtesy: Olive Films

Cary Grant and Tony Curtis’ 1959 military-based rom-com Operation Petticoat is a wonderfully entertaining story that any true lover of film will appreciate. And now thanks to the people at Olive Films, audiences get to see for themselves just why this classic is a must see for audiences new and old alike. That is because Olive Films re-issued the classic comedy earlier this week. This classic comedy could not have come along at a better time. In an era when originality and creativity in Hollywood have become all but extinct, this re-issue serves as an economic and entertaining alternative to all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes currently polluting theaters across the country. The first and most obvious reason that Operation Petticoat works so well is its script. And the acting especially on the part of Curtis and Grant makes for more than its share of laughs. Lastly, audiences will appreciate in this re-issue that the movie looks exactly as it did in its original premiere. These three factors together make this new re-issue of Operation Petticoat an absolute must-have for any true classic movie lover even without any bonus material.

Military movies and rom-coms were two of the most prominent genre of films released in the golden era of Hollywood’s major studios. Unlike in the current era of movies though, those movies actually served a purpose. That aside, few studios even then could boast films that blended both genres into one work. There were military dramas that mixed in a romantic drama. But finding one that mixes the rom-com and military is difficult to say the least. Enter Operation Petticoat. Co-writers Stanley Shapiro and Mauriche Richlincrafted a story with their script that successfully blends both genres into one. The success comes mainly in the ability of both writers to have balanced the elements of both genres without letting one overpower the other. Even with part of the story being a rom-com, the romance is kept to an extreme minimum. Yet there is still a slight level of romance there that some audiences will appreciate. The script’s comedic element is more prominent and will most certainly have audiences of all ages laughing uproariously. Audiences won’t be able to help but laugh as Grant and Curtis face off against one another, and even have to deal with the women brought on board by Lt. JG Nicholas Holden. Their ability to interpret the script makes the movie even more worth watching.

Cary Grant (Arsenic and Old Lace, North By Northwest, Notorious) and Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot, The Defiant Ones, The Great Race) make Operation Petticoat even more enjoyable thanks to their ability to interpret Shapiro and Shiplin’s script for this movie. Neil Simon’s famed buddy comedy The Odd Couple was still some nine years away when Operation Petticoat premiered. Yet Grant and Curtis become their own Odd Couple of sorts as they face off. Audiences will find themselves laughing hysterically at the contradiction of Holden’s naïve yet rather devious personality set against Grant’s far more straight-laced Lt. Cmdr. Matt T. Sherman. And as straight-laced as Sherman shows himself to be, he has his own wit about himself that will have audiences laughing just as much. This is especially obvious as he takes Holden’s personal belongings to make up for Holden stealing a man’s pig at one point. This is one of the most entertaining of the duo’s moments on screen together. He also breaks up an attempt by Holden to woo one of the women that Holden brings on board, making for another of so many wonderfully entertaining moments tossed into the movie. Audiences will find plenty more such moments when they purchase this DVD for themselves. It isn’t the last of the positives that audiences will appreciate in this new re-issue, either. Last but not least of this re-issue’s positives is the overall look of the film.

The overall presentation of Operation Petticoat in its re-issue from Olive Films is the last piece of this movie that audiences will appreciate. Watching the movie, audiences will see that it looks just as it did in its original presentation some fifty-five years ago. And thanks to today’s technology, its DVD presentation is automatically upconverted on any Blu-ray player. It is available on both DVD and Blu-ray. But those that purchase the DVD will be just as impressed with the movie’s look when it is upconverted. Audiences can spot every little nuance of the original movie’s quality whether on DVD or Blu-ray. It’s like watching a movie on Turner Classic Movies without having to turn on the television. Even without any bonus material, the movie’s overall look alongside the acting on the part of its lead actors, and the script collectively make Olive Films’ re-issue of Operation Petticoat a true must see for any true lover of classic films.

Olive Films’ brand new re-issue of Operation Petticoat is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Olive Films’ online store at http://www.olivefilms.com/?s=Operation+Petticoat&submit=. More information on this and other titles available from Olive Films is available online at http://www.olivefilms.com, http://www.facebook.com/olivefilms and http://twitter.com/twitter.com/olivefilms. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Corman’s Wasp Woman Is A Classic In Its Own Right

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Our world is obsessed with youth.  The pressure to be young and attractive is even greater on women than it is on men.  This pressure seems to be even greater today than ever before.  Because it has been such a prominent topic for so long, it’s also been great fodder for movies.  One of the most notable movies that tackles that pressure is the 1992 movie, Death Becomes Her, starring Meryl Streep.  In that movie, Streep plays a woman who discovers a treatment that will keep her young and beautiful for eternity.  As funny as it was, it wasn’t the first movie to go after the pressure facing women.  One of the earliest is a B-movie headed by famed B-movie director Roger Corman call The Wasp Woman.

The Wasp Woman is one of Roger Corman’s best B-movies.  As cheesy as it was, it was also really great in its own right.  In this movie, beauty company head Janice Starlin becomes increasingly obsessed with her looks after a male member of her company’s board mentioned to her that the company’s sales were beginning to fall off because the company tried to use a face other than hers to market its products.  So hearing this, she enlists the aid of sort-of mad scientist Eric Zinthrop (Michael Mark), who is testing the effects of queen jelly from the queen wasp in rejuvenating subjects’ youth.  At first things seem to go okay.  But then things go horribly wrong, leading Starlin to become the hideous Wasp Woman.

The Wasp Woman outfit is cheesy beyond belief.  But that’s beside the point.  It’s not really what makes this flick so fun.  What makes the flick so fun is that whether or not it intentionally made commentary on the impact of the beauty industry and society as a whole, that commentary exists even in this totally funny B-flick that’s perfect for a Halloween party.  That the subject behind the story is very real, it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier.  And the ability to suspend one’s disbelief goes a long way toward making this movie one of Roger Corman’s greatest classics.

Now fans can watch this classic B-Flick any time they want as it’s been included in Mill Creek’s new 100 Greates Sci-Fi Classics double box set.  It’s available in stores and can be ordered online at http://www.millcreekent.com

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The Little Princess Is One of The Greatest Family Films Of All Time

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The 1939 adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book by the same name is a cinema classic.  Given, the movie doesn’t go entirely by the book.  But it still has more than enough charm to make it a favorite among families nearly three quarters of a century after it first debuted. 

While the big screen adaptation of the book doesn’t go entirely by the book, the script and the acting more than make up for the fact that there are some differences between the book and the movie.  Shirley Temple’s take on Sara makes her character an entirely sympathetic character.  While fellow actress Mary Nash makes Amanda Minchin an absolutely vile character that audiences will love to hate.  That means that Nash more than did her job in the role.  The cast’s ability to interpret the story, along with directors William Lang and William A. Seiter makes the movie even better.  The story is one of triumph over great adversity.  Here we have a young girl who goes from being pampered to perpetually punished by the vile Miss Minchin when her father is believed to have been killed in the Boer War.  Throughout all of the adversity, Sara is able to persevere and come out on top.  She’s a relatable character.  Yes she starts out with money.  But even with money, Sara was still a good hearted person.  In being persecuted so harshly by Miss Minchin, audiences are reminded that similar persecution still goes on today around the world.  It isn’t at the same kind of level by any means.  But it does happen.  The average middle-class person is still looked down on by those in higher social classes just because they aren’t rich.  That alone is a big part of what makes this movie still so beloved to this day. 

The primary story in The Little Princess is one of overcoming great odds and defying those would try to hold others down just because of something as minor as not having money.  But there is also a secondary story tied into the main one.  That additional story centers on the power of family, friendship, and personal faith.  Sara continued to maintain the faith that her father hadn’t really been killed, which not to give too much away, proves true at least in this take on the classic tale.  How that is revealed won’t be told here for the sake of those who haven’t seen the movie.  And if not for the friendship of Becky and Ermengarde, getting through her daily harassment from Miss Minchin would have been unbearable.  It was that power of friendship that helped Sara to keep the faith and keep pushing through her seemingly insurmountable odds.  By the story’s end it would be a surprise if any audience is left dry-eyed.  Yes, the final sequence is that saccharine.  But it can be forgiven as audiences will be rooting for Sara throughout the movie.

This take on the classic literary work is a wonderful family film.  It serves as a reminder of everything that is still so great even today about classic movies.  Some movies have been made in the same vein as the Little Princess.  But none since have been able to capture the magic created by this adaptation.  That magic will continue to keep it a family favorite for another seventy plus years as long as families remember and protect it and continue to pass it down to future generations.

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House On Haunted Hill Is Scary Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

B-flick or not, House on Haunted Hill is one of the greatest horror movies of all time.  It’s also one of Vincent Price’s finest moments.  It’s one more piece that shows the importance of classic movies.  Rather than being over worn by unnecessary violence, special effects and sex, this black and white classic relies on storytelling and acting to grab and hold the audience’s attention.  The storytelling itself is perhaps the most interesting factor in House on Haunted Hill.  Being that this story is an ensemble piece, one would automatically think that it will have its share of problems, story-wise.  But somehow the planets aligned just right for writer Robb White.

The mood is expertly set from the story’s opening moments, with both Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) and Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook, Jr.) setting the stage.  Pritchard is up first, telling audiences the ghost story centered on the mansion to which Loren has invited his guests, Pritchard included.  Loren makes the story even creepier with his delivery, explaining why each one of the guests has been invited to stay in the house.  Price’s delivery as Loren will send chills up any first time viewer’s spine.  Of course, the reality of why everyone has been invited is revealed at the end, making the ghost story a little less scary.  It’s only a little less scary because the door is left wide open for audiences to wonder about the house, even as the credits roll.  Could it be that the house really is haunted?  That’s up to the audiences.

Writing is at the base of every good (and bad) movie ever written.  That writing doesn’t just include dialogue.  It also includes little nuances such as lighting, acting, etc.  Those nuances were captured equally well through the direction of William Castle and William Malone.  The entire cast’s acting kept the scare factor on the high end throughout the movie.  The entire cast plays off of Pritchard and Loren perfectly, some of them believing Pritchard’s story.  Some not so sure.  The mixed reactions serve to make the story that much more believable.  Their reactions to things such as the organ playing and the lights going on and off make it all the better.  And best of all is the screams of Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig).  At first her screams are believable.  But the more she does it, the funnier it gets.  And it’s not the only comedy to the story, either.  Audiences will have to find out for themselves what other silliness is in store.  What the inclusion of all this funny business means is that while the movie has a good scare level, it has enough comedy to keep it from being too scary at the same time.

House on Haunted Hill has even more that could be discussed among any classic film buff or even a film studies class.  Keeping in mind that it has so much going for it, it goes without saying that B-flick or not, it’s still a great horror flick that everyone should see at least once in their lives.

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D.O.A. Shows Even B-Flicks Can Be Fun

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

D.O.A. is one of the most underrated crime thrillers ever written.  This 1950 film, written by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene is considered by some to be little more than a B-flick.  But in a weird way, it manages to keep its audience’s attention from beginning to end.  And in comparison to its 1988 re-make starring Dennis Quaid, is far better.  As with so many movies of that era, it didn’t rely on special effects, violence and sex.  It relied on good acting and storytelling.  And through that, it was a success.

The story behind D.O.A. is, as noted, simple.  CPA Frank Bigelow goes on a little vacation to San Francisco.  While there, he is poisoned one night by an unknown assailant while spending an evening at a bar.  As a result, he is left with very little time to live.  So he has to find out who poisoned him and why.  How and why this happens will keep viewers watching throughout the movie’s near ninety-minute run time.  The oddity of this movie is that in a strange way, one can’t help but make some slight comparisons to the likes of the 1998 Will Smith/Gene Hackman movie, Enemy of the State.  The story and action style are very similar.  Odds are, there likely is no link between the two, stylistically.  But it makes for an interesting discussion.  Both have that standard ordinary guy gets unwittingly wrapped up in a big conspiracy, with fast paced action results.  The only difference is the story.

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

D.O.A. sadly is not one of the most memorable crime thrillers ever written.  Sure it isn’t the top notch style movie that others have been over the years.  But audiences must remember that B-movies are classic in their own right, too.  Some of them are awful.  That’s a given.  But then some, like this movie, aren’t that bad, actually.  Any viewer who has any interest in the history of crime thrillers and dramas will easily find this movie a nice addition to their library.  And thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment’s brand new 100Greatest Mystery Classics side-by side double box set, it can be watched any time, along with loads of other classic B-flicks. 

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