skip navigation

Movie News - Our extensive online Hollywood film and classic DVD news page.

  1. Top News Stories

    •  
    • Lon Chaney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) on Blu-ray

    • Lon Chaney was the most unlikely of Hollywood superstar actors. Talented and ambitious, he fearlessly took on roles of tortured victims, twisted villains, and misshapen outcasts, parts that he brought to life with a mix of elaborate make-up, physically demanding incarnations, and emotionally intense performances. In some ways, you could see him as the De Niro of the silent era, sinking himself into each role so deeply he loses himself in it, at least as far as the viewer in concerned. In an industry that celebrates physical beauty and charisma, Chaney won over audiences by playing characters that looked or acted like monster while communicating their inner drives and torments with his eyes and his face and his body language. The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923 was his first major production, a lavish period drama based on a classic novel and created at a cost of over $1 million by Universal, at the time a second-tier studio with ambitions to compete with the majors in the blockbuster realm. It made him one of Hollywood's biggest screen stars.

      This adaptation largely hews to the narrative of Victor Hugo's novel. Chaney plays Quasimodo, the horribly misshapen, deaf and half blind bell-ringer at Notre Dame, nominally raised by Don Claudio (Nigel De Brulier), the Archdeacon of Notre Dame. He lives in the bell tower of the cathedral and watches the revelry in the public space below the parapets of the church, where he becomes fascinated by Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller), the gypsy dancer and daughter of Clopin (Ernest Torrence), the King of the Beggars. When she shows him kindness, he becomes a devoted protector even while the scheming Jehan (Brandon Hurst), brother to Don Claudio, plots to take Esmeralda as his own.

      Wallace Worsley, who previously directed Chaney in four features (among them the twisted 1920 crime thriller The Penalty), dutifully (if flatly) directs this massive production (he wasn't Chaney's first choice... or second... or third). The major characters get their introductions in turn before Quasimodo's story even begins and the mechanics of the relationships are spelled out in headlines that suggest where the story is heading, even if it turns out a bit misleading. When the dashing womanizer and king's guard Phoebus (Norman Kerry) sweeps the innocent Esmeralda off her feet with pretty words and gallant displays, the scene dissolves into an image of a moth in spider's web, a visual metaphor that is a charming as it is obvious. It's a momentary truth, however, as Phoebus is somehow transformed by her innocence and trust and escorts her home untouched. Esmeralda has that effect on everyone, it seems, except Jehan, who sets Quasimodo to kidnap her and then abandons the wretch when he's caught by the royal guards and sentenced to the lash in front of a cheering crowd.

      The most glaring change from the novel is splitting the character of Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre Dame, into two roles, each incarnating on one of the conflicting halves of his character. Don Claudio is the Archdeacon here, a true, moral man of the church and kindly protector of Quasimodo, while his lustful, corrupt side is spun off into the character of Jehan, his secular brother who keeps up the fa├žade of upper class morality while working with the underworld. One wonders if the change was made to placate the church. In this version, the religious authority is nothing but pure and holy. And, quite frankly, impotent. Where Frollo was keenly aware of everything happening outside the doors of his cathedral, Don Claudio is oblivious to even the wildest revelry, wandering out of his cloistered church only when it fits the dramatic needs of the script. And where Quasimodo's devotion to Frollo arises from his debt to his caretaker and creates a powerful conflict when he takes on the role of protector of Esmeralda, there is no such relationship to bond him to Jehan or explain why he agrees to do the dirty work for this ne'er do well.

      The storytelling is mix of the grandiose and the clumsy, with Chaney largely anchoring the film and the size and scope of the spectacle elevating production. The sets are magnificent, the biggest that Universal had built to date (the giant exterior of the cathedral and surrounding building remained standing for decades and were reused for Universal's defining horror classics of the thirties), and the Cathedral exterior is extended by a hanging miniature so it towers over the public square in in front of the church, where the cast of thousands is gathered for the opening festival sequence and again for the climactic uprising as Clopin leads an assault on the cathedral. It was convincing enough to make some believe that Universal actually shot on location rather than on their backlot.

      Chaney's make-up is spectacularly grotesque, with a gargoylish face of distorted cheekbones, a distended eyeball, and teeth broken to nubs, mats of coarse hair across his chest and shoulders like a werewolf, and of course his hump and bent stance (the strap he designed to hold his plaster hump in place also kept him from standing upright). But the make-up is only the surface. Chaney gave Quasimodo a dynamic physical life, scrambling down climbing ropes (he was at times doubled by a stunt man) or hanging from the bell rope like a big kid, and a childlike innocence that gave every emotion a purity and intensity that drove his loyalties. He's less beast than arrested child in a deformed adult body, treated like an animal for so long he's become accustomed to it, yet still longing for contact. His affection for Esmeralda may begin with sexual attraction but her kindness to him in the face of abuse from everyone else makes him loyal and dedicated, like an animal bonded to its human.

      Patsy Ruth Miller manages to keep her innocence even while dancing for the crowds, becoming the conscience of the underworld, and Ernest Torrence is superb as the King of the Beggars, reluctantly giving in to her pleas of charity. Torrence moved freely between villains and heroes and between serious and comic roles in the silent cinema. He was a physically towering man with a big personality that he wielded well in his character turns and he plays Clopin as a man so powerful he doesn't need to make a show of physical intimidation. The immediate response of the criminal hordes to his orders, his gestures, even a quick glance, confirms his authority.

      Lon Chaney created a lot of twisted wretches, vengeful villains, and criminal masterminds, but Quasimodo remains his most sympathetic screen character. He gives a big, broad performance befitting the film and the character, a simple creature with the look and strength of a beast and the innocence and loyalty of a child.

      According to the liner notes, there are no existing original 35mm prints of the film and no camera negative (not that uncommon for a 1923 feature), so this edition was mastered for Blu-ray from a 16mm reduction print struck in 1926 from the original camera negative, a restoration produced by David Shepard and Serge Bromberg. It's the same source used for the 2007 DVD release from Image (titled The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Ultimate Edition) and apparently the closest to the original release that is known to archivists. The wear on the print is evident in a steady rain of minor surface scuffs and light vertical scratches down the image, but the trade-off is an improvement in sharpness and image from the earlier Image release (which was already far and away better than the other public domain editions on the market). It also features the orchestral score compiled by Donald Hunsberger and adapted and arranged by Robert Israel, conducting a small orchestra in the Czech Republic, from that earlier DVD release. The recording is bright and full, a lively and varied piece that draws in the viewer but ultimately lacks the dramatic scope and darkness that the story calls for.

      New to this edition is a slideshow gallery with over 100 original production and publicity stills set to selections from the score (it runs about 14 minutes) and a digital reproduction of the original souvenir program (both mastered in HD). Carried over from the Ultimate Edition DVD is the commentary track by Lon Chaney biographer and professional make-up artist Michael F. Blake, the (incomplete) 1915 short Alas and Alack featuring Chaney in two roles (one of them a hunchback) but missing the final act of the story, and newsreel footage of Chaney (out of costume) on the Cathedral set of Hunchback. The accompanying booklet features an informative (and well-illustrated) essay on the production of the film written by Michael F. Blake written for the earlier DVD release.

      by Sean Axmaker

    • Comment
      share:
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. New Books

    •  
    • Elizabeth and Michael

    • By Donald Bogle

      One of the country's leading authorities on popular entertainment presents an eye-opening and unique biography of two larger-than-life legends--Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson--and their unlikely yet enduring friendship.

      From the moment Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson met, they were hooked on each other. He peered into her violet eyes and was transfixed; she, in turn, was dazzled by his talent, intrigued by his sweet-tempered childlike personality, and moved by the stories she had already heard about his troubled early life. Soon a deep friendship blossomed, unexpectedly unlike anything either had ever experienced. Through thick and thin, through their various emotional upheavals, through the peaks and valleys of their careers, through their personal traumas and heartaches, through the unending health issues and extreme physical pain that each experienced, and through the glare of the often merciless public spotlight, their bond held them together, and their love for each other endured.


      Donald Bogle skillfully recreates the moving narrative of Taylor and Jackson's experiences together and their intense emotional connection, without shying away from the controversies that swirled around them. Through interviews with friends and acquaintances of the two stars, as well as anonymous but credible sources, Elizabeth and Michael emerges as a tender, intimate look at this famous "odd couple" and a treasure to their millions of fans.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • Robert Wagner's I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES: Memories of Hollywood's Legendary Actresses

    • By Robert Wagner and Scott Eyman

      In a career that has spanned over sixty years, Robert Wagner has witnessed the twilight of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the rise of television, becoming a beloved star in both film and TV. During this time, he became acquainted, both professionally and socially, with many of the greatest female screen personalities of all time. I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES: Memories of Hollywood's Legendary Actresses (On-sale: 11/15/16) by Robert Wagner, with co-author Scott Eyman, provides an intimate and revealing account of the charisma of these women on film, why they became stars, and how their specific emotional and dramatic chemistries affected the choices they made both as actresses and as women.

      I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES offers a privileged look behind the scenes at some of the most well-known women in show business. Among Wagner's subjects are Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Swanson, Norma Shearer, Loretta Young, Joan Blondell, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Dorothy Lamour, Debra Paget, Jean Peters, Linda Darnell, Betty Hutton, Raquel Welch, Glenn Close, and the two actresses whom he ultimately married, Natalie Wood and Jill St. John. In addition to offering perceptive commentary on these women, Wagner examines topics like the strange alchemy of the camera--how it can transform the attractive into the stunning, and vice-versa--and how the introduction of color brought a new erotic charge to movies--one that enabled these actresses to become aggressively sexual beings in a way that that black and white films had only hinted at.


      Robert Wagner is the star of such films as A Kiss Before Dying, The Longest Day, The Pink Panther, and most recently, the Austin Powers franchise. On television, he starred in It Takes a Thief (with Fred Astaire), Switch (with Eddie Albert and Sharon Gless), and Hart to Hart (with Stefanie Powers). He has recently appeared on Two and a Half Men and NCIS. He is married to actress Jill St. John.

      Scott Eyman is the author of eleven books about the movies, including Lion of Hollywood: The Life of Louis B. Mayer (which the Wall Street Journal called one of the five best books ever written about Hollywood), Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, and more recently, John Wayne: The Life and Legend.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue

    • King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue tells the story of the making, release, and restoration of Universal's 1930 Technicolor extravaganza King of Jazz. Authors James Layton and David Pierce have uncovered original artwork, studio production files, behind-the-scenes photographs, personal papers, unpublished interviews, and a host of other previously unseen documentation. The book offers a richly illustrated narrative with broader context on the film's diverse musical and theatrical influences. The story concludes with an in-depth look at the challenges Universal overcame in restoring the film in 2016. Additionally, the book's appendix provides a comprehensive guide to all of the film's performers, music, alternate versions, and deleted scenes.

      King of Jazz was one of the most ambitious films ever to emerge from Hollywood. Just as movie musicals were being invented in 1929, Universal Pictures brought together Paul Whiteman, leader of the country's top dance orchestra; John Murray Anderson, director of spectacular Broadway revues; a top ensemble of dancers and singers; early Technicolor; and a near unlimited budget. The film's highlights include a dazzling interpretation of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," which Whiteman had introduced to the public in 1924; Walter Lantz's "A Fable in Jazz," the first cartoon in Technicolor; and Anderson's grand finale "The Melting Pot of Music," a visualization of popular music's many influences and styles. The film is not only a unique document of Anderson's theatrical vision and Whiteman's band at its peak, but also of several of America's leading performers of the late 1920s, including Bing Crosby in his first screen appearance, and the Russell Markert Dancers, who would soon become Radio City Music Hall's famous Rockettes.


      James Layton is Manager of the Museum of Modern Art's Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center. Prior to this he worked at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, where he curated two gallery exhibitions and the website Technicolor 100. Layton has also acted as Cataloguer and Workflow Coordinator at the East Anglian Film Archive in Norwich, UK, and is co-author of the Image Permanence Institute's informational poster Knowing and Protecting Motion Picture Film (2009).

      David Pierce is an independent film historian and archivist. He was formerly the Head of Preservation and Curator of the National Film and Television Archive at the British Film Institute. His articles have appeared in numerous journals, and his report on the survival of American silent feature films was published by the Library of Congress in 2013. He founded the Media History Digital Library, providing free online access to millions of pages of motion picture magazines and books.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • THE ESSENTIALS: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter

    • By Jeremy Arnold
      Forward by Robert Osborne

      Since its inception on Turner Classic Movies in 2001, The Essentials has become the ultimate for movie lovers to expand their knowledge of must-see cinema and discover or revisit landmark films that have had a lasting impact on audiences everywhere.

      Based on the hit series, THE ESSENTIALS by Jeremy Arnold showcases 52 must-see movies from the silent era to modern times. Readers can enjoy one film per week, like on the show, for a year of great viewing, or indulge in a movie-watching binge-fest. Each film is profiled with entertaining discourse on why it's an Essential, and running commentary is provided by TCM's Robert Osborne and Essentials guest hosts past and present: Sally Field, Drew Barrymore, Alec Baldwin, Rose McGowan, Carrie Fisher, Molly Haskell, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Pollack, and Rob Reiner.

      Featuring full-color and black-and-white photography of the greatest stars in movie history throughout, THE ESSENTIALS is the ultimate curated guide to 52 films that define the meaning of the word "classic."


      Jeremy Arnold, a writer and film historian, is the author of Lawrence of Arabia: The 50th Anniversary, a coffee-table book companion to that film's Blu-ray release. In addition to his work for numerous film trade publications, he has written over five hundred programming articles for the Turner Classic Movies website and contributed audio commentaries and historical essays to the DVD and Blu-ray releases of classic films.

    • More >
    •  
  1. DVD Reviews

    •  
    • Dick Dinman & Eddie Muller Explore THE ASPHALT JUNGLE!

    • DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER EXPLORE "THE ASPHALT JUNGLE": Producer/host Dick Dinman welcomes back the "Czar of Noir" himself Eddie Muller as both celebrate the Criterion Collection's pristine release on Blu-ray of John Huston's THE ASPHALT JUNGLE which remains conceivably the greatest "heist/noir" masterwork ever committed to celluloid. (It's early in the year but its difficult to conceive that any home video outfit in the ensuing year will be able to top the astonishing "special features" included on this sensational disc.)

      PLUS: Show opener "Dick's Picks" salutes the Criterion Collection's recent Blu-ray releases of Robert Altman's McCABE & MRS. MILLER, Marlon Brando's ONE EYED JACKS and Howard Hawks' HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

      COMING SOON: DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER ARE "ON DANGEROUS GROUND"!

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • Dick Dinman Salutes Air Hero Jimmy Stewart!

    • DICK DINMAN SALUTES WW2 AIR HERO JIMMY STEWART: The dual releases of Olive Films stunning Blu-ray incarnation of the James Stewart air power classic STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND as well as author Robert Matzen's awe inspiring book MISSION: JIMMY STEWART AND THE FIGHT FOR EUROPE, which for the first time ever reveals the truth about Stewart's dangerous bombing missions over Germany, give producer/host Dick Dinman ample motivation to salute the spectacular military career of screen icon Stewart and Dick is joined by returning guest Robert Matzen as they marvel at the courage, skill and fortitude of this certifiable American hero.

      The opening DICK'S PICKS segment salutes Olive Films and their latest Blu-ray releases of not only STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND but Orson Welles' MACBETH (two versions!), HOUDINI, THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI, VILLA RIDES. ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING and two new 4k releases of THE QUIET MAN and JOHNNY GUITAR (first time in original widescreen format on home video!).

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • Dick Dinman & Eddie Muller Salute Ultra-Rare Noir Classics!

    • DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER SALUTE ULTRA-RARE NOIR CLASSICS: Producer/host Dick Dinman and Film Noir Foundation's Czar of Noir Eddie Muller wax poetic about the first-rate Blu-ray releases of three rarely seen film noir gems: Flicker Alley's dark and deadly duo of two heretofore thought virtually lost noir thrillers TOO LATE FOR TEARS and WOMAN ON THE RUN and KL Studio Classics 99 RIVER STREET about which Dick and Eddie have a rare major disagreement regarding the validity of what some consider the most memorable two scenes in the film.

      PLUS: A preview of KL Studio Classics upcoming noir Blu-ray release CRY OF THE CITY.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

    • More >
    •  
    •  
    • Dick Dinman & Kathleen Hughes Return to 3-D "Outer Space!"

    • DICK DINMAN & KATHLEEN HUGHES RETURN TO 3-D "OUTER SPACE": Kathleen Hughes, whose breakout appearance in Universal-International's first 3-D blockbuster inspired the media to dub her the "first feminine sensation created by 3-D" rejoins producer/host Dick Dinman to salute Universal Pictures Home Entertainment's wonderfully immersive 3-D Blu-ray release of IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (immaculately restored by the 3-D Archive) and shares priceless memories about her career from her very first film ROAD HOUSE (just released on Blu-ray by Kino's KL Studio Classics) to her time as a contract star at Universal and 3-D Archive's Robert Furmanek chats about the challenges inherent in restoring this certifiable sci-fi classic to its current eye-poppingly spectacular 3-D grandeur.
      PLUS: OPENING "DICK PICKS" SEGMENT SALUTES UNIVERSAL'S "THE MARX BROTHERS SILVER SCREEN BLU-RAY COLLECTION." AND A PREVIEW OF THE UPCOMING KINO RELEASE OF THE 3-D ARCHIVE'S "THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE".

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

    • More >
    •  
  1. Press Release

Alan Ladd: The 1940s Collection DVD
$35.95
was $44.95
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir DVD
$10.47
was $14.98
Hard-boiled detective Sam Spade gets caught up in the murderous...
$14.96
was $19.98
Close

Close

  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca