May 6, 2012
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Older films get Blu-ray revamp
By Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency


Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. (Handout)

Blu-ray is carving out a niche for itself.

The high-definition format is now a restoration tool, a reason for Hollywood studios to dig into vaults and dress up older films in their Sunday finest.

For this column, I singled out four current releases spanning decades and genres. Together they demonstrate how worthwhile these restorations can be, and not just for "lost" movies.

The four are: Clueless (1995), Walking Tall: The Trilogy (1973-77), Pillow Talk (1959) and Buck Privates (1941). Walking Tall is coming May 15 while the others are already available.

In every case, the improvement in picture and sound is astounding.

Whether you like them is a matter of taste but I cannot believe they will ever play better than they do in these editions. A closer look:


CLUELESS

Even with its quaint touches -- old cellphones and computers -- this is still a brilliant teen comedy that is as apt today as it was in 1995. Intriguingly, it is also rooted in the early 1800s. Writer-director Amy Heckerling loosely based her script on Jane Austen's 1815 novel, Emma. The literary base gives the entire enterprise a timeless quality.

With the restoration, vivid colours really pop, especially with the gaudy clothes and fashion accessories sported by Alicia Silverstone and her pals. Silverstone, who shot to temporary superstardom, is our intrepid narrator, a 15-year-old teen with a unique view as she describes her "way normal life" as chic chick Cher hanging out with best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash).

"Dionne and I were both named after great singers from the past who now do infomercials," Silverstone says acidly.

In describing her friend's loser boyfriend, Silverstone sneers: "I don't know why Dionne's going out with a high school boy. They're like dogs. You clean them and feed them (but) they're just like these nervous creatures that jump and slobber all over you!"

That kind of wordplay gives Clueless its bite. And vintage Blu-ray extras put us back on set with a sense of fun. Check out the tutorial on the "suck 'n' blow" party game.

WALKING TALL: THE TRILOGY, COLLECTOR'S EDITION

In the 1970s, Joe Don Baker's rough justice series became a wish-fulfilment sensation. The series is based on a true story of a lawman who metes out punishment with a piece of oak timber, but always with an ethical approach that made him a folk hero. The three movies are spread over two Blu-ray discs. A vintage featurette is recycled while the best new extra is a 29-minute doc chronicling the legend of Buford Pusser. We see the man and the movies through the eyes of Baker, his co-stars and members of Pusser's real family.

PILLOW TALK

Doris Day and Rock Hudson demonstrated in three movies that sexual orientation in private life has nothing to do with onscreen sexual chemistry. They were the perfect couple in this classic romantic comedy. Few films before or since have that same giddy air and uncanny knack for making the protagonists both accessible and charming. This release is part of Universal's 100th Anniversary Collector's Series. The movie is offered on both DVD and Blu-ray in a booklet edition. Generous extras include a doc on why the Day-Hudson duo clicked.

BUCK PRIVATES

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were a comedy team long before I was born. This is one of their best movies. And it is still funny as an American war propaganda movie with a funny bone. As part of Universal's 100th Anniversary Collector's Series, there is DVD, Blu-ray and extras. Among them is a bizarre Jerry Seinfeld TV special with classic bits of business from Abbott and Costello, including Who's on First.

 




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