Sullivan's Travels (UK - BD RB)
Marcus gets a bee in his bonnet and travels off to make his own movie....
Writer-director Preston Sturges's brings us Sullivan's Travels. John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), is a director who so far has had a string light hearted hits, however now he is now determined to raise output to more serious-minded cinematic art. His proposed movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? (no not that one, this film was made in the forties), gets a cold response from his studio heads, mostly because they have no belief that Sullivan has had any experience with his downtrodden subject matter.
Sullivan decides to set off disguised as a tramp, ready to experience his proposed story face-to-face. This wild story enables Sturges to play in the world of comedy and visual gags, he gets to throw in some romance with Veronica Lake and the forward drive of the story, that both celebrates and mocks the Hollywood approach to filmmaking enables the writer-director to shift his cinematic tones from comedy, to sadness and play with all that’s in between
The black and white image is immediately lovely to look at within this HD overhaul. There's some nice sharp edges, a great contrast between the light and dark elements and once again an old black and white shines on the modern format of Blu-ray. There's a wonderful use of light throughout the film and a there’s nice level of filmic grain to keep the film’s original looks alive.
Some elements are of course soft at times, usually dependent on how the scene is lit and whether it's an interior or exterior shot. Other slightly lacking areas is the odd bit of flicker or dancing grain and despite a very good clean up job here there’s no real escaping the textured look of the film or the well hidden pops of dirt and damage that at times dance away just under the surface of what is otherwise a great HD presentation.
The audio is presented in uncompressed Mono 2.0 PCM Audio so it sounds expectedly small and a bit pitchy but it’s all clear enough, is largely hiss free and all in all proves to be a strong mono track. The score is well placed and never misses a beat with its light Tom and Jerry style mood and it sits snugly with the dialogue and sound effect, neither element dropping away for the sake of the other as is sometimes the case in mono tracks. The dialogue sounds warm and well-spoken like the films of the era should and only occasionally crackles in the higher pitches.
The commentary by Terry Jones hits the ground running with huge enthusiasm, loads of knowledge and genuine affection. It plays like a cross between an read biography of Sturgess and a Terry Jones comedy piece on a film he loves, which makes for an extremely easy listen. He covers how much of the film is symbolic of Preston Sturgess's life and experience in the film industry and takes a great deal of joy from the movie studio in jokes and the layered screenplay.
‘Preston Sturgess: The Rise And Fall Of An American Dreamer’ (75 mins SD) is an vintage(ish) documentary that covers the writer/directors work and how this screenwriter became the first of his kind to literally make his own movies within the studio system. Many are featured, such as screenwriters and some of his cast and the celebration of the man that brought irony to Hollywood becomes the order of the day.
‘Kevin Jackson On Sullivan's Travels’ (21:29 HD) is a great overview of the film and a good study of the genres played with in the film and the broad overview of the comedic variations it displays.
‘The Preston Sturgess Stock Company’ (45:52 HD) looks at the ingredients it requires to make a Sturgess film. It soon focusing in on his cast, or his "Stock Company" and we get a look at his regular cast and just how and why they were used by Sturgess in his career. Looking at all the cast members that were in 3 or more Sturgess films, the actors are listed in alphabetical order intercut with clips and many, many details of their participation.
‘Safeguarding Military Information’ (10:22 SD) is a creaky, hiss, dirty little short film and last up is the film’s trailer.
There’s also a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw and a booklet featuring new writing on the film by expert Peter Swaab, plus archive pieces by Geoff Brown and Preston Sturges, illustrated with original stills and poster designs but I had none of this to look over with my review disc unfortunately.
Sullivan’s Travels is a light look at the odder side of Hollywood. It’s kooky, sharp, fast paced in the dialogue department and a fun little caper that enjoys making fun of itself. The disc looks absolutely great for its age and sound isn't bad either (given the limitations). The extras are crammed packed of great stuff to expand your knowledge of Sturgess (someone I had very little knowledge of until after these extras) and the Terry Jones commentary track is a must for fans of the film or simply Terry Jones as he;s on top form here.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 26th May 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Mono English
Extras: Documentaries, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Preston Sturges
Cast: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 90 minutes
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