"Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle / Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi." - Jacques Prévert

09.2020

1 from Kino

The Grey Fox (Canada, 1982)

Finally: a Canadian classic gets a much-anticipated release on disc, in a fine-looking 4K restoration on Blu-ray with a maxed-out bitrate. Richard Farnsworth stars in the real-life tale of Bill Miner, set free from San Quentin prison in 1901 after serving 33 years for robbing a stagecoach. Known as the "Gentleman Bandit" and coiner of the phrase "Hands up!"," Miner heads north to British Columbia, adopts the alias of "George Edwards" and plans his next big heist: this time he'll rob a train, a Canadian Pacific Railways train carrying a sizeable shipment of payroll money. The robbery near Kamloops goes wrong, however: he and his gang target the wrong railway car and wind up with only $15. Arrested soon after, Miner and his accomplices are tried in a Kamloops court and sent to New Westminster penitentiary, from which Miner eventually escapes back to the United States. Several robberies, imprisonments and escapes later, he dies in a Georgia prison farm. The movie of his life is a dandy: Farnsworth brings just the right touch of grace, cunning and old-dog stoicism to the role, and is flanked by a fine cast of co-stars including Canadian greats Jackie Burroughs and Wayne Robson. Directed by Phillip Borsos (The Grey Fox was his debut feature) and shot by cinematographer Frank Tidy (The Duellists), The Grey Fox is memorable moviemaking, and its availability on digital home video is long overdue. On the Blu-ray, Kino provide all-new extras: an audio commentary by filmmaker Alex Cox, interviews with producer Peter O'Brian (10 mins.) and composer Michael Conway Baker (13 mins.), a restoration featurette (4 mins.) and the movie's re-release theatrical trailer.

2 from Eureka! Masters of Cinema

Made in Hong Kong (Hong Kong, 1997)

A young triad named Moon (Sam Lee) finds redemption in 1990s Hong Kong helping his terminally ill teenage girlfriend, Ping (Neiky Hui-Chi Yim). There are four interviews as extras on the Region-B Blu-ray: with director Fruit Chan (47 mins.), producers Doris Yang (7 mins.) and Daniel Yu (13 mins.) and with Marco Muller, former director of the Locarno Film Festival (4 mins.). The booklet has new writing by film historians Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Tony Rayns; Chan’s director’s statement from the film’s original 1997 press release; and an interview with Chan from 2017, after the film was restored.

This Gun for Hire (U.S., 1942)

Not yet known for classics like The Blue Dahlia and Shane, Alan Ladd shot to fame opposite Veronica Lake is this film noir, playing a hit man pursued by a cop (Robert Preston) and his nightclub-singer moll (Lake). Restored in 4K, the movie comes to Region-B Blu-ray with an audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin and two radio adaptations: an hour-long Lux Radio Theater one from 1943 with Ladd and Joan Blondell, and a half-hour Screen Guild Theater one from 1945 with Ladd and Lake. There's also a trailer and a stills gallery. The booklet has essays by film writers Barry Forshaw and Craig Ian Mann.

1 from Paramount

Roman Holiday (U.S., 1953)

Audrey Hepburn plays a runaway in Rome – a princess, no less – who falls in love with an American journalist played by Gregory Peck. Cue the Vespa rides for two. Directed by William Wyler (The Best Years of Our Lives, Ben-Hur), Roman Holiday is a romantic comedy of its time and for all time, and Paramount's all-region Blu-ray, number 9 in its "Paramount Presents" series, shows the film looking better than ever, despite a badly damaged original negative used as the basis of the new restoration. Extras include a new appreciation by critic Leonard Maltin (7 mins.) and five featurettes from Paramount's 2002 "Centennial Collection" DVD: a tour of the locations where Roman Holiday was shot (9 mins.), a look at the film's screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo (12 mins.), a look at Hepburn and the six films she made at Paramount (30 mins.), clips from other Paramount movies of the 1950s (10 mins.), a tour of costumes in the Paramount vaults (6 mins.), and an appreciation of Hepburn as movie star, mother, lover and fashion plate (12 mins.). Completing the package are four photo galleries (36 behind-the-scenes production shots, 43 stills from the movie, 13 publicity shots and eight snaps of the premiere)  and three trailers (two original and one for the new re-release). 

1 from Powerhouse

Eva (France/Italy, 1962)

An oddly compelling dive into early 1960s existentialism, Eva (aka The Devil's Woman) was a flop for American expat director Joseph Losey (The Servant, Monsieur Klein). À la Orson Welles with RKO and The Magnificent Ambersons, he put the blame squarely on his producer-overseers, in this case the famous Hakim brothers of France; he complained they re-cut the picture behind his back, butchering it beyond recognition. Shot in Venice in black-and-white by Gianni Di Venanzo (La Notte, Salvatore Giuliano, 8½) with sound post-synced in typical Italian style, Eva stars Jeanne Moreau as a ruthless femme fatale who pursues men and money; Losey regular Stanley Baker (Blind Date, Accident) is a successful Welsh novelist who's come to Venice to marry a princess (Verna Lisi) but hides a dirty secret: he's a fraud living off the unacknowledged brilliance of his writer brother, now deceased. Adding atmosphere to the dramatic proceedings are a soundtrack of Billie Holiday tunes ("Willow Weep for Me," "Loveless Love") and costumes designed by Pierre Cardin, Moreau's fiancé at the time. On its Indicator series Blu-ray (code-locked to Region B), British distributor Powerhouse has given Losey and his labour of love their due and restored some pride in this neglected picture: like the notoriously high tides of Venice itself, it overflows with special features. There are four versions of the film: a restored one called Eve (126 mins)., the same with an extended ending (127 mins.), an original release version called Eva (109 mins.) and an alternate original release called The Devil's Woman (108 mins.). Extras are extensive: a two-hour audio interview from 1987 with the film's editor, Reginald Beck, that can be played as an alternate track while watching the two restored versions; a new appreciation by British film scholar Neil Sinyard (24 mins.); a new featurette called "The Many Faces of Eve" (16 mins.), a new reminiscence by Losey's son, Gavrik (19 mins.), who helped sync the audio before the Hakims got to it; a new featurette called "Other Places: An Interview with Joseph Losey," based on an original TV broadcast from 1967 with French voiceover and optional English subtitles (9 mins.); and another new featurette, called "Appetite for Destruction: Jeanne Moreau on Eve," from a 1972 broadcast, again in French with optional English subtitles (5 mins.). Rounding out the disc are two theatrical trailers (one British, one French) and a gallery of 37 images showing promotional material from the time the film was released. There's a 36-page booklet as well, with writing on the film and its different versions, on the restorations, and on the 1945 source novel (originally set in Los Angeles) by James Hadley Chase, author of No Orchids for Miss Blandish, which was also adapted for the screen, in 1948, and released on Blu-ray in May 2019 as an Indicator title (my review here). There also excerpts of vintage reviews and, finally, a selection of various interviews Losey gave regarding Eva.