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Preston Sturges: The Filmmaker Collection [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Barbara Stanwyck , Henry Fonda , Preston Sturges    DVD
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £37.95
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  • Actors: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Eddie Bracken
  • Directors: Preston Sturges
  • Writers: Preston Sturges, Ernst Laemmle, Monckton Hoffe, René Fülöp-Miller
  • Producers: Albert Lewin, Buddy G. DeSylva, Paul Jones
  • Format: Box set, Colour, Dolby, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English, Russian
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 7
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: 21 Nov 2006
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000HT3Q2S
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 196,493 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They look simply brilliant 7 Feb 2011
Format:DVD
I need to correct the previous user, claiming that these editions are sub-par. Actually they look brilliant, the prints are the exact same that were used for the exceedingly expensive Criterion editions of some of these titles, they have English subtitles, clean sound, and are hugely recommended.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great films, very poor quality transfer 16 April 2008
By Sully
Format:DVD
This is a great collection of films by a comedy genius.

Sadly the transfer done by Universal is muddy, without contrast and grainy. In fact, it was so bad, (and far worse than any of the other 40's films in my collection), that I had to ask myself if this was a pirated print!

By comparing this collection to original videotapes of the same films as well as off-air tapings from the Studio Universal channel, one can see that this collection simply did not receive the quality transfer treatment that was truly merited.

What a shame. Preston Sturges deserved better.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  49 reviews
77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT REMASTERING OF STURGES CLASSICS 27 Nov 2006
By Lowell S. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
With this collection and the addition of "The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek, which was released on DVD by Paramount last year, we have as complete a collection as we can expect from Universal. The mastering of "The Palm Beach Story" here rectifies a very disappointing job from Universal last year, and the new-to-DVD issues of "The Great McGinty," "The Great Moment," "Christmas In July," and the film Sturges thought was his true masterpiece, "Hail The Conquering Hero," make this release as good as it gets. "Unfaithfully Yours," a Fox picture, has been released on Criterion, and "Sullivan's Travels" and "The Lady Eve" are also Criterion issues. I compared this new remastering of "Sullivan" with the Criterion, and despite a slightly to moderately better transfer--especially the soundtrack--from Criterion, Universal has held its own, quite an undertaking by itself against what has always been superior work by Criterion.

So to complete your collection, be sure to purchase "Miracle," because it's the finest transfer of any of Sturges's films. I, too, like another reviewer, would have appreciated a clean copy of "The Sin Of Harold Diddlebock," also known as "Mad Wednesday," as it has languished in the public domain for a long time.

Universal still doesn't believe in extras and that's a shame. We could have used interviews, documentaries, scripts, and perhaps the many feet that were left on the cutting room floor for "The Great Moment." I recommend the three Criterion Sturges films because of the extraordinary special features that are a hallmark of Criterion. But, again, let's give appropriate credit to Universal for doing its best for us fans and Sturges's masterworks. He pioneered the way for other writer-directors like Billy Wilder, and the appreciation of these films, with its witty satirical situations and urbane dialog, deserves to be passed along to the next film generation. Sturges also accomplished something that we don't see very often today: With Sturges, there's no such thing as a "minor" character; they all possess their own distinct personalities and help to create a complete story with each scene and sequence, supporting or balancing the other characters in the film.
54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bargain for Sturges fans though there COULD be some decent extras included 10 Dec 2006
By Wayne Klein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Preston Sturges has always had a small following among film fans. That's too bad because he was probably one of the most brilliant writers and directors of his generation. His screwball comedies are brilliant examples of Hollywood filmmaking at their best. The first film I saw by Sturges at UCLA was "Sullivan's Travels" and from that point on nobody could compare to this maverick. This boxed set from Universal collects the rest of Sturges most important work ("Unfaithfully Yours" and "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" are also available on DVD). Sturges reign at the top was brief but prolific; he produced most of his best films as a writer/director between 1940 and 1948 when he was at Paramount.

Overall the films in the "Preston Sturges Collection" look quite good although "The Great McGinty" looks a bit gritty at times but still looks quite good. Blacks are pretty solid and the condition of the prints look pretty good with Universal clearly putting digital clean up into some of these films. Keep in mind also that the source material varies in age with the oldest film here being 66 years old. "Sullivan's Travels" compares favorably to the Criterion edition although I'd suggest fans keep that edition since "ST" has no notable extras as part of the package. Audio sounds crisp and clear which is important as Sturges' verbal wit is almost as important as the slapstick comedic set pieces that decorate his films like icing on a cake.

Although this isn't a special feature it is a trend in the right direction for Universal. Many of their "tribute" collections have had as many as five films crammed onto one dual layered dual sided disc. "PSC" keeps it to one film per disc which is a big plus preventing problems during the pressing process that plagued some of their previous releases for some fans.

Sadly all we get are five trailers for the films included. Universal should have ported over some of the Criterion material or, at the very least, put together an hour documentary on Sturges career. It would have been pretty simple to do so in collaboration with his estate which has a website up and running full of biographical and trivia information about the great director. Although I'm not a fan of "Mad Wednesday" Sturges last major film as a director/writer made with Harold Lloyd since it is in the public domain it might have behooved Universal to find a decent print or source element, clean it up and include it as an extra here as well. Commentary tracks would have been welcome as there are a number of bright scholars at UCLA, USC and NYU that would gladly have tackled that here. At the very least having a director that does comedy and appreciates Sturges (or that is stylistically similar) would be great. Although he's not the same type of comedy director Mel Brooks or Buck Henry would have provided great commentary tracks (as would Christopher Guest). Ah the world of missed opportunities. If only I ran Universal's vintage film division.

Keep in mind that three of the seven titles here have been released before two of them in superior editions by Criterion. Still, it's hard to argue with the price for this set. I'd suggest keeping your Criterion titles for the extras since Universal has been stingy with anything worthwhile here.

A collection of terrific films at a great price sans much in the way of extras appears celebrating one of the comedic masterminds of film direction from the 20th century. If Sturges hadn't come along film comedy would have been the poorer for it. His films have had a wide ranging impact on a variety of comedy writers/directors/actors through exposure in revival houses and television. This great collection of some classic (and one not so classic) Sturges films is worthwhile for fans. Between this, the Criterion releases and Paramount the bulk of his best material is available finally on DVD.

Synopsis of the film's plots below (whic don't do their comedy elements justice I might add).

Beginning with Sturges "The Great McGinty" with Brian Donlevy (who reprises the role briefly in "Sullivan's Travels" in an amusing cameo) is one of the best political satires of the era as well. Donlevy plays Daniel McGinty who rises to the top in politics due to his connections and the corruption of the political machine. McGinty eventually becomes Governor but along the way develops a conscience when he falls in love with the woman he married to help propel him to power. Its a brilliant, cynical and dark comedy that makes no apologies nor does it try and take the Capra's more sentimental optimism.

1940 was one of Sturges most prolific periods. He also wrote and directed "Christmas in July" with Dick Powell, Ellen Drew and Sturges regular William Demarest. Adapted from his own play Sturges "Christmas in July" is set during The Depression with Dick Powell playing Jimmy McDonald a naïve character who keeps trying to make his big splash by winning $25,000 in a advertising contest for coffee. He believes he has won and he and girlfriend are offered promotions and become minor celebrities. Of course this is Sturges not Frank Capra so the wit is more cynical.

"The Lady Eve" presented Sturges with a rare opportunity--he gets two top notch stars Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck who take to their comedic roles as if they were born to play them./ Jean Harrington (Stanwyck) just wants to land wealthy shy guy Charles Pike (Fonda) because of the money but ends up falling in love anyway but with a healthy dose of--yes--sly sarcasm at the heart of the film. It's not Sturges most accomplished as its clear the elements of the plot were used before for other screwball comedies but it's more about what Sturges does with the material than the material itself that matters here.

"Sullivan's Travels" has always been my favorite film by Struges. Film director John Sullivan (A very funny Joel McCrea) has had it with making over-the-top comedies. He wants to make SERIOUS films about humanity's plight but has no clue how to as he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. So he becomes a hobo wandering the camps that are occupied by the disenfranchised. What he discovers though is that escape and hope are just as valuable as making films raising social issues. Veronica Lake plays his love interest and with her sweeping hair created a craze. It's brilliant, sarcastic, satirical and a moving drama all within the scope of a comedy. It's one of Sturges' outstanding achievements and definitely still one of the 100 Greatest Films of All Time.

McCrea appears again in "The Palm Beach Story" another of Sturges brilliant great screwball comedies that plays with the conventions of the genre. Tom and Gerry (Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert) are up to their eyeballs in debt. Tom's an inventor with impractical creations. Gerry decides to leave him and find a rich beau John Hackensacker (Rudy Vallee) while Tom tries to collect his wife Hackensacker's sister Centimillia -what a name--(Mary Astor) FALLS for him. It's a rollicking screwball with some of the funniest sequences from any film. Although this wasn't my favorite Sturges comedy for a long time I've come to realize it's probably one of his best.

"The Great Moment" is an odd drama/comedy focusing on a dentist/ inventor (McCrea again) who comes up with anaesthesia during the 19th century. The film chronicles the dentists attempts to protect his invention and profit from it while others push him to release its secret to the public for the greater good. Of course the greater good in this case is for a company to exploit the invention without paying him a penny. It's an odd film and very uneven. We'll never know what Sturges truly intended here as the film was taken away from him and recut by the studio prior to release. It's one of the few Sturges films that I hadn't seen before (I did catch portions of the film on TV though throughout the years but never saw the whole film) and it's not among his best but does have some sparkling passages in it. Needless to say audiences were a bit baffled at the time and the film flopped at the box office.

Finally we have Eddie Bracken as the lead in "Hail the Conquering Hero" the last film that Sturges made for Paramount. Bracken plays Woodrow a man who is forced to masquerade as a hero. Discharged from the military during World War II Woodrow never sees any action and hasn't told anyone back home that he is a civilian again. Convinced by a group of Marines to pretend he served he is greeted as a hero suddenly honored by his home town for his service. Again Sturges uses an absurd situation to act as both social critic and humorists roles that he was born to assume.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic 1940s comedies 26 Aug 2007
By mrliteral - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Preston Sturges may not be a big name nowadays compared to his directing contemporaries such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford or Frank Capra, but he was an important director in his time and even nowadays, for those who know him, he was a great director. Preston Sturges - The Filmmaker Collection - collects seven of his biggest movies.

First in the set is The Great McGinty, which stars Brian Donleavy as a man who goes from being a bum to a governor, only to have it all crash down on him. This is a decent enough comedy about the world of politics. It's advertising that's parodied in Christmas in July, with Dick Powell as a man who thinks he's won a contest to come up with an advertising slogan. It's all the result of a practical joke that gets way out of control before its exposed.

Things really pick up with the next three movies. The Lady Eve has Henry Fonda as a wealthy yet clumsy young man targeted by con artist Barbara Stanwyck. Unfortunately for her, she actually falls for him, but when he finds out her true profession, she must engage in an even bigger con to win him back.

Sullivan's Travels, considered by many to be Sturges's best picture, as Joel McCrea (in the first of three roles in Sturges movies) as the title character, a big-time movie director who makes great comedies but wants to make a message picture. He decides to live the life of a hobo to see how the poor live; at first, this is rather comic but at a certain point things turn much more serious, teaching Sullivan a lesson he wasn't expecting.

Things lighten up in The Palm Beach Story, with the antics even occurring in the opening credits, As McCrea and Claudette Colbert get married. Five years later, things are on the rocks as they are broke. Colbert decides to leave McCrea, figuring that if they divorce, he'll finally be able to be a success. She runs off to Florida, with her husband in pursuit, where they both wind up entangled with an eccentric billionaire and his man-hungry sister.

Next in the set - and the weakest in the septet - is The Great Moment, a drama loosely based on the true story of a dentist (played by McCrea) who discovered the use of ether as an anesthetic. With little in the way of comedy and recutting done by the studio after Sturges had finished it, this muddled film has its moments, but no great ones.

The last movie, Hail the Conquering Hero, gets things back on stride with Sturges sly tribute to the Marines. Eddie Bracken plays a shipyard worker who was medically discharged from the Marines for chronic hay fever. He befriends some Marines, who set up a ruse to make him seem like a hero to his unaware mother. Unfortunately, the ploy gets out of control as his hometown honors him and puts him up for mayor.

This movie set comes in a nice package but offers nothing in the way of extras outside of movie trailers. With four great movies (Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, The Lady Eve and Hail the Conquering Hero), two good ones (The Great McGinty and Christmas in July) and one so-so one (The Great Moment), I am giving this set five stars. For a chance to see some classic comedies, this is worth picking up.
31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great films, very poor quality transfer 16 April 2008
By Sully - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This is a great collection of films by a comedy genius.

Sadly the transfer done by Universal is muddy, without contrast and grainy. In fact, it was so bad, (and far worse than any of the other 40's films in my collection), that I had to ask myself if this was a pirated print!

By comparing this collection to original videotapes of the same films as well as off-air tapings from the Studio Universal channel, one can see that this collection simply did not receive the quality transfer treatment that was truly merited.

What a shame. Preston Sturges deserved better.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A prize package of gems, 20 Jan 2007
By Douglas M - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
While others have noted that some of these films are already available in expensive but very worthwhile Criterion editions, it is terrific that they are now available together in a good value set for all to enjoy. The fact that there are no extras except trailers is fine at the price. It's the films themselves which I want to revisit not the extras. Commentaries etc really do only have a limited audience and there are many essays and books available about these films which you could borrow from your local library; "Romantic Comedy in Hollywood" by James Harvey would be a great place to start.

If you are seeing them for the first time, I recommend you watch them in release date order, with one exception, so you can observe how Sturges progressed. By way of a summary, the set includes:

- Sturges first directorial effort, the excellent political satire, "The Great McGinty", released in 1940. Brian Donlevy was cast in one of his few leads and he is perfect as the roughneck who becomes Governor. The framing device for the film is amusing and Akim Tamiroff is another character actor who gets a great opportunity as the crooked politician. The film won an Oscar for best screenplay. This is not a B film by any means but Sturges cleverly made it on a tight budget, partly by avoiding expensive stars in the main roles.
- "Christmas in July" is a charming film about a regular guy who thinks he has won a slogan competition due to a poor practical joke played on him by some work colleagues. Dick Powell is outstanding in the lead and there is the usual mixture of slapstick, cynicism about capitalism and greed and even some touching sentiment.
- By 1941, Sturges hit solid gold with 2 great films with big stars and generous budgets. "The Lady Eve" is the timeless tale of the seduction of a wealthy nerd by a card sharp. Sturges liked Barbara Stanwyck and wrote the script for her. In the course of the film, she does a breathtaking parody of the English gentry as the Lade Eve Sidwich. It is hard to imagine who could better capture the humour and the cynicism than Stanwyck and Henry Fonda is the perfect foil with some hilarious pratfalls. This film may be the perfect comedy.
- "Sullivan's Travels" is an extraordinary film which starts as a comedy and ends as a very moving drama. There is lots said about capitalism and poverty, themes already referrred to in the previous films. Joel McCrea plays a successful Hollywood director, maybe Sturges himself, who sets off as a hobo to learn about poverty in order to plan a script called "Brother Where Art Thou". Along the way, he meets out of work actress Veronica Lake and she joins him on his adventures. The film takes an unexpected turn towards the end and demonstrates that harsh realism was not beyond Sturges's abilities. McCrea is perfectly cast as Sullivan and Veronica Lake really comes across as a person instead of the zombie she projected in so many of her films.
- In 1942, "The Palm Beach Story" is an hilarious out an out marital romp with the magnetic Claudette Colbert and the charming Joel McCrea. The film is filled with great one liners, an hilarious framing device and a great supporting cast especially Mary Astor and Rudy Vallee. It is probably the closest Sturges came to screwball comedy.
- in 1944, "Hail the Conquering Hero" is one of 2 excellent films Sturges made with Eddie Bracken. Bracken perfected the regular guy who becomes swept up in situations beyond his control. The film takes a poke at small town gullibility as Bracken returns home to a hero's welcome in spite of being tossed out of the marines due to chronic hay fever. All the Sturges regulars are on hand but gruff William Demarest has a larger part than usual.
- the last film in the set is the "The Great Moment". The film was made in 1942 but sat on the shelf due to misgivings about its box office appeal. It tells the story of H T Morton, the discoverer of the use of ether as an anaesthetic for surgery. The film was re-edited after completion and is made up of 2 flashbacks. The main cuts were made in the first flashback and it is extremely hard to follow exactly what is happening. The second flashback is much more coherent and the result is a cogent and entertaining story. The film does not have a good reputation but that is more due to what was done to it than the end result. What remains is still a most interesting story with Joel McCrea perfectly capturing the preoccupation and irritation of a clever mind. It is worth seeing.

All the prints are excellent.
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