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Warner Archive Triple Feature

Yankee Doodle Dandy


He's one of the finest showmen who ever lived. To this day, the tunes he composed are fondly remembered, and he remains the only actor to have a statue dedicated in his honor standing on Broadway. He's George M. Cohan (James Cagney), a man who scripted, promoted, acted in, and wrote music for his own shows...and if he could've, he probably would've whipped up the concessions, too. Cohan was raised as the child of vaudeville-bred parents (Walter Huston and Rosemary DeCamp), learning from an early age just how to give audiences what they wanted -- even if his smart mouth and temper kept getting in the way. Fortunately, his business savvy and quick wits would soon set him on the path towards becoming one of the most beloved figures in theatrical history. From military anthems like "Over There" to feel-good plays that hit the sweet spot of many a viewer, Cohan spent his life touching the hearts of a growing nation, efforts that paid off with an influential legacy that continues to be unmatched in the annals of Old Broadway.

Less than a year before Michael Curtiz helmed the wartime rallying cry that was some little ditty called Casablanca, he stood behind the camera for another propaganda piece with an entirely different tone. Yankee Doodle Dandy ranks among the best screen biopics of the 1940s, a film that undoubtedly stretches the truth but posits that its subject was the sort of guy who'd want it that way. Since it was released at a time when Warner Bros. was mustering as much support for our boys in Europe as the studio could, the movie's flag-waving and jingoistic attitude will come on as awfully strong for most modern viewers. But the trick is that Yankee Doodle Dandy isn't the slightest bit mean-spirited in its patriotism, presenting it as an extension of the real-life Cohan and his earnest desire to tap into what made those who flocked to see him perform feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The joy and optimism the flick exhibits from musical number to show-stopping musical number is infectious, but while the editing and staging undoubtedly play a part in helping to keep spirits high, it's Cagney who really makes the whole thing connect with viewers. Having been typecast primarily as tough guys at that point in his career, Cagney relished the opportunity to put his early days as a song-and-dance man to use. The energy he brings to his performance is nothing short of incredible, exuding charm, rattling off zingers, and furiously tapping his toes, in a larger than life role that won him that year's Academy Award for Best Actor.

Further bolstered by a catchy soundtrack and sturdy supporting cast, Yankee Doodle Dandy is one of the few pictures that can get away with being this unabashedly corny. While its sentiment may be out of style and tunes hopelessly old-fashioned, it's a musical with the sort of cheery and well-meaning disposition that makes it almost impossible to hate. Yankee Doodle Dandy might be a simple film, but like Cohan himself, its ability to leave a smile on your face and song in your heart is undeniable.

Video


Warner Archive presents Yankee Doodle Dandy in a 1080p high-definition transfer, with a 16x9 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality throughout remains mostly crisp, although it tends to resemble an upconverted DVD from time to time. The major musical numbers look terrific, but there's some fuzziness that creeps in when the visuals get too dark once in a while. While the film ultimately looks alright overall, it's definitely not the most pristine black-and-white transfer that Warner Archive has masterminded so far. (All special features are in standard definition.)

Audio


Cagney's fancy footwork aside, sound is the most essential aspect of Yankee Doodle Dandy, which the Warner Archive Collection has done a fantastic job of preserving. The movie comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 mono soundtrack. Cagney's motormouthed dialogue comes through loud and clear, as do the booming choruses Cohan attaches himself to over the span of the story. The music sounds fantastic, and with the proper home audio set-up, you'll find your living room pulsating with patriotic beats. English subtitles are included for both dialogue and musical numbers.

Extras


  • Feature-length commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer. With his prior tracks for assorted Universal monster classics having entertained me, Behlmer had little trouble winning my interest here, as he wields a wealth of information about the flick's creation, including what liberties that it took were actually at the real George M. Cohan's behest.
  • Warner Night at the Movies, a line-up of features designed to replicate the movie-going experience in 1942. These can either be viewed on their own or cued up to precede the main movie. The featurettes include: an introduction by film critic Leonard Maltin (3:21), a trailer for Casablanca (2:16), a newsreel (9:16), the patriotic short film Beyond the Line of Duty (22:01), and the Merrie Melodies cartoon Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (7:25).
  • The making-of documentary Let Freedom Sing!: The Story of Yankee Doodle Dandy (44:31).
  • An interview with John Travolta recalling his admiration for Yankee Doodle Dandy and actor James Cagney (5:09).
  • You, John Jones! (10:26), a wartime short starring Cagney.
  • The Looney Tunes short Yankee Doodle Daffy (6:44).
  • A theatrical trailer (3:56).
  • An audio vault featuring rehearsals and outtakes of many of the film's songs, as well as a version of the story performed on the "Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Radio Show" (29:31).


Warner Archive Triple Feature


Warner Archive Triple Feature

Out of the Past (1947)


Even the most hard-boiled of gumshoes can still get fooled by a pretty face, and Jeff Markham (Robert Mitchum) is no exception. The kind of private eye who'll take on the shadiest gigs with no questions asked, Markham is summoned by one unscrupulous Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) to do just that. Our be-trenchcoatted hero is tasked with hunting down and hauling back Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer), Whit's paramour, who put a couple slugs in him before skipping town with a small fortune. Markham soon tails Kathie to Mexico, where -- after gazing into those big eyes of hers -- he proceeds to do everything with her but return her to the States. But the two lovers end up parting ways after an attempt to start life anew together results in a murder...as well as in Kathie showing her true, deadly colors. Markham tries his darndest to move on, but it isn't long before the past comes calling and thrusts him into a new plight involving some figures he'd rather have left behind.

While deception is a key element in the making of any film noir, viewers are often savvy enough to predict what's coming. It can be easy to tell who's going to double cross who and when what plot twists are going to drop, but although the genre classic Out of the Past isn't wholly immune to this itself, it has the good sense to at least hide it well. The film comes stocked with characters who aren't as they seem, from the manipulative mind lurking underneath Kathie's oh-so innocent exterior to Whit's smiling face covering up a vicious, vindictive persona. Out of the Past wisely plays things close to the vest, making it actually kind of suspenseful when these people drop the act and reveal their true selves. The picture does a terrific job of tapping into themes of fate and duality (for which the noir genre is noted), showing just how powerless the characters are to fall for the same song and dance, no matter how many times they get burned. That it conveys these heavy concepts within the structure of an interesting detective drama is a credit to the writing of Geoffrey Homes (adapting from his own novel), but the flick wouldn't fly without the help of its smashing ensemble cast. Mitchum plays tough but vulnerable to great effect, Greer makes for an ideal femme fatale (in that you can never tell when her treacherous nature will come out to play), and Douglas is quietly menacing as a charismatic, glad-handing gangster.

Though overshadowed some over the years by more famous detective-based noirs, Out of the Past more than earns its place in the genre's history. It's got the look and feel of a morally-shifty thriller down pat, but it does one better by including both a surface story and underlying subtext that prove to be equally fascinating. Out of the Past is one trip down cinema's back alleys that's well worth taking.

Video


Warner Archive's 1080p transfer does justice to Out of the Past's army of shadows and seedy dives. The film is presented in a 4x3, 1.37:1 aspect ratio that holds up splendidly throughout the film. The opening and ending credits really stand out, and for a picture draped in darkness for so much of the time, there's little fuzziness to be seen, as Nicholas Musuraca's cinematography has been near-flawlessly preserved in all its moody glory.

Audio


Out of the Past comes presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio English mono soundtrack. As far as I could tell, the audio sounded just peachy, with no prominent hissing or the like to report. Dialogue comes through clearly, Roy Webb's exemplary music doesn't drown anything out, and what the film does have in the way of action is punctuated by effective bursts of gunfire. English subtitles are included.

Extras


  • Feature-length commentary by author/film noir scholar James Ursini. It's a fairly basic rundown of the movie's production history and its influence on the noir genre, but Ursini comes across as knowledgable and lively enough, pointing out a number of aspects (especially just how many of the characters have dual natures) that folks might not pick up on during their inaugural viewing.


Warner Archive Triple Feature


Warner Archive Triple Feature

The Great Race


At the turn of the century, two daredevils were locked in a never-ending struggle for the public's heart. The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) is America's darling, a squeaky-clean do-gooder who has accomplished all manner of awesome feats, which the nefarious Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) fails to sabotage time and time again. But just when it seems as though Leslie has done it all, he issues the ultimate challenge: an automobile race from New York to Paris. With a shot at taking over as the world's reigning risk-taker on the line, Professor Fate can't resist gathering all of the diabolical devices at his disposal and enter against his old foe. Also along for the ride is Maggie Dubois (Natalie Wood), a spunky suffragette chasing down the right scoop to prove her worth as a reporter. The race to the French finish line is on, a grand chase which sees romance bloom, tensions rise, and pratfalls doled out by the truckload.

Between The Great Race and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, comedies sure counted on the "make a lot of talented people be not funny" strategy to sell tickets in the '60s, huh? Granted, the former doesn't waste as many famous cutups in useless bit parts as the latter, but the pared-down ensemble means having to endure the same people rehashing the same hackneyed hijinks for roughly the same amount of time. Whereas I could at least understand the zany chaos behind Stanley Kramer's epic of wackiness, The Great Race is nothing but noise, a bloated cartoon of a motion picture more concerned with showing off its spiffy production design than with whether or not it's actually amusing. This is unfortunate, because the film really did come from a place of love; director Blake Edwards was born into a family with roots in silent movies, and he's taken great pains to recreate the most old-school of gags. But so aggressively does Edwards amp up these vintage bits for a newer era, he loses out on so much potential charm and deals a crushing blow to the cast's own natural charisma. Curtis and Wood try, but their characters are much too wooden to muster much attachment; Lemmon easily makes out the best, though while his turn as Professor Fate is a work of maniacal art, his secondary role as a wimpy prince doesn't coax out a whole lot of chuckles.

The best one can say for The Great Race is that in terms of its production value, it's assembled exquisitely. From Henry Mancini's multitude of evocative musical themes to all the gadgetry with which our characters wage war on one another, the movie looks and sounds fantastic, but in the end, it's all a shallow facade. In spite of all the crazy shenanigans that fill the screen, The Great Race hasn't an ounce of the magic possesses by the classic comedies to which it's desperately, frantically trying (and failing) to pay proper tribute.

Video


Without question, the highlight of The Great Race's high-def debut its its transfer. This is among the spiffiest picture qualities the Warner Archive Collection has offered yet. The film comes with a 1080p transfer, presented in a 16x9, 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Colors are bold without bleeding or seeming overtly garish, characters look natural in spite of the cartoony accoutrements applied to them, and grain is minimal. It's a very crisp presentation that's Warner Archive's poppiest since last year's release of Billy Rose's Jumbo.

Audio


The Great Race comes presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio English 5.1 soundtrack. For the most part, the movie sounds fine, as Mancini's score and (unfortunately) the cast's constant hollering dominate the mix, although there's a good 15- or 20-minute patch after the beginning in which regular spoken dialogue is hard to make out. The option for English captions is included, but they're cut off by the bottom of the TV screen, so it's basically not worth turning them on.

Extras


  • 'Behind the Scenes with Blake Edwards' The Great Race" (15:25), a puff piece featurette that promotes the picture's ensemble cast, talks about the humorous set pieces, and straight up gives away the ending.
  • A theatrical trailer (2:51)


Warner Archive Triple Feature

* Note that the images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.


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