FOR CLASSIC FILM FANS
And here’s what’s astonishing: Criterion had already put out one of the best Blu-ray boxes of the year. Back in July, they unleashed this marvelous collection of six unforgettable, early ‘30s collaborations between visionary director Josef von Sternberg and frequent leading lady Marlene Dietrich. These hypnotic, often erotic fever dreams – Morocco, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress, and The Devil is A Woman – are gorgeously designed and strikingly photographed, and these six discs are tribute to one of the industry’s true icons and the director who brought out her best.
Another celebrated Hollywood partnership is appropriately commemorated in this Blu-ray set from Warner Archives, which brings together four feature co-starring efforts from Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall: To Have and Have Not (the film on which they met and fell in love), The Big Sleep (in both its early and final versions), Dark Passage, and Key Largo. All four are straight-up classics, but for my money, the real find of the bunch is Dark Passage, a clever experiment in cinematic sleight-of-hand that tinkers with our notions of movie-star empathy.
For those who prefer their classics a bit more scream-y, Universal’s recent round-up of their iconic monster movies is an essential buy, even if you picked up the smaller set of the key titles (Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, etc.) a few years back. The sheer scope of this one means it includes more of the entertaining oddities – like the later Abbott & Costello comedies, for example, or the all-hands-on-deck “monster rallies,” or best of all, the (superior) Spanish language version of the original Dracula. Put simply, it’s full of wonderful discoveries, and that’s what a great box set is all about.