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Tennessee writes about life, not necessarily in the fast lane, but in the backwaters, on the wrong side of the tracks.
The five DVD's are Director's Cuts with all the censored bits put back in ...now we can see what really happened to Blanch du Bois in Streetcar Named Desire...and Miss Du Bois (aka Vivien Leigh) appears again as an aging actress looking for love in The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone with Warren Beatty providing all the action. Night of the Iguana, stars Richard Burton and Ava Gardner teasing each other in the middle of a steamy jungle, little wonder, Elizabeth Taylor was on the set to check that Richard was only acting!. .
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
WB does it again! another great set of DVDS....23 April 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
This review isn't of the great movies contained but the DVD set and their respective presentations.
first..let me say the bonus DVD "Tennesse Williams South"...is exceptional..its a film made about and with him in 1974 and besides his own readings of his work , which are illuminating, it features legends like Burl Ives and Jessica Tandy re-creating his dialog..simply timeless!
now..onto the Discs/Movies
the bonus featurettes are all very well done however, seemingly shorter than they should/could be. By that I mean...they have current interviews with Karl Malden and Eli Wallach for BABYDOLL and Rip Torn for Sweet Bird of Youth and the ever beautiful Jill St John for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, and yet the amount of face time these actual stars of the films in question get is barely a line here or there? Not that the featurettes aren't good...they are..it just seems they could be a could 10minutes longer each...
now...the opposite problem is in the second disc of Streetcar Named Desire....the feature length (90min) Elia Kazan: A directors Journey is wonderful..its a decade or so old but was done while he was still with us and his participation raised it above the level of talking heads documentaries of the day. The strange thing is that the new featurettes on this disc feature way too much culled from the aforementioned feature. I don't understand....WB has wonderful featurettes on all the movies that seem truncated and then BLOATS out the Streetcar featurettes with duplicate material from itself? Only the current footage of Karl Malden saves the Streetcar featurettes from their own plagerism.
Now..the films themselves are all in very good shape considering they go back half a century. I wasn't a particular fan of Tennesse Williams..but after viewing all these films and the bonus film...i most certainly put him in the genius category and am looking for more.
Also, the press is making a big deal about Marlon Brando's screen test which is being included in the Streetcar DVD bonus features...its only a curiosity , not amazing by any stretch. What is far more interesting is Karl Malden's lovely memories of his friendship and admiration for Mr Brando....truly touching and mezmorizing. Malden is a treasure of an actor who starred in more fine films than any but the most ardent fan would know as he was usually second billed...but he IS the star of this set.
Great American films and unlike Universals shameless packaging..WB continues to present these types of films lovingly with extras..oh yeah..and the commentaries aren't bad either...much to enjoy in this set.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Amazing Box Set Collects Some of the Finest Film Performances of Mid-20th Century American Cinema24 May 2006
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If playwright Tennessee Williams's Southern gothic writing style makes his works feel more ornately melodramatic than those of O'Neill or his closest contemporary Arthur Miller, they do provide resonant showcases for the actors inhabiting his characters. This is clearly evidenced in this six-film, eight-disc collection that epitomizes some of the most powerful acting to come out of Hollywood in the 1950's and early 1960's, all directed by true filmmaking masters. Probably because they are the least censored by the studio system at least in the form presented now, the best of the set are Elia Kazan's "A Streetcar Named Desire" and John Huston's "The Night of the Iguana". The others are Kazan's "Baby Doll", Richard Brooks' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", Jose Quintero's "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" and Brooks' "Sweet Bird of Youth".
A feral, smoldering Marlon Brando justifiably made his reputation as brutish Stanley Kowalski in 1951's "A Streetcar Named Desire", and his animalistic charisma still leaps off the screen. Intriguingly, one of the extras included in the two-disc set for the movie is footage from a 1947 screen test of Brando when he was 23, and his stardom seems assured even then. The plot of the movie amounts to the inevitable clash between Kowalski and his visiting sister-in-law, Blanche DuBois, a fading Southern belle on the verge of a mental breakdown. Having proven her ability to be a convincing Southerner in "Gone With the Wind", Vivien Leigh expertly handles all the florid dialogue with her particular blend of defiance and vulnerability.
Strong supporting work comes from Kim Hunter as Blanche's naive sister Stella and Karl Malden as Blanche's seemingly respectful suitor Mitch. Now over ninety, Malden is on hand to provide his own eloquent recollections of the production on an alternate track, and film historians Rudy Behlmer and Jeff Young provide more objective commentary on another track. Film critic Richard Schickel's 1995 feature-length look at Kazan is the centerpiece of the second disk, and there is also a more interesting five-part documentary on the film and original Broadway show, the best portion focusing on censorship and the several minutes that have been reinserted in the DVD version of the film.
1964's "The Night of the Iguana" deals with a similarly dysfunctional group of people, but this time the setting is a dilapidated Mexican beach resort where Reverend Shannon, newly defrocked, has taken a group of spinsters from a women's college. Huston made his reputation on his strong literary adaptations, and his affinity shows in the fulsome characterizations, striking visuals and dark humor. Richard Burton is in peak form as Shannon, and there is also sterling work from Deborah Kerr as the spinsterish Hannah and especially Ava Gardner as the slatternly resort owner, Maxine Faulk. The DVD contains a recent making-of featurette and a vintage video, both fascinating.
"Baby Doll" is an entertaining hoot that doesn't seem as sensationalistic as I'm sure it was when the film was first released in 1956. It's simply a Southern-fried farce about the potential deflowering of a nineteen-year old child bride with a nice, pouty turn by Carroll Baker in the title role and a surprisingly funny one by Karl Malden as her randy husband, cotton mill owner Archie. 1958's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is far more vaunted but ultimately hamstrung by the overly careful portrayal of Brick as an asexual protagonist, this in spite of stellar performances from Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burl Ives.
Newman is even better as gigolo Chance Wayne in 1963's "Sweet Bird of Youth", and he is matched all the way by Geraldine Page's all-cylinders-on performance as faded movie queen Alexandra Del Lago (a role that would have ironically been ideal for Ava Gardner). The weakest film of the set is 1961's "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" about an aging American actress living in Rome who falls recklessly in love with an indifferent gigolo. A decade after "Streetcar", the glamorous-looking Leigh excels in the title role, while a young Warren Beatty fits the physical requirements as the gigolo Paolo even though his faux-Italian accent is a little too emphatic. All four of these movies come with making-of featurettes and original trailers, and "Cat" also includes commentary from Williams' biographer Donald Spoto.
The focal point of the eighth disc is a 1973 documentary, "Tennessee Williams' South", which highlights insightful interviews with Williams in the New Orleans area. The film also includes classic scenes from his plays reenacted specifically for the documentary. You can have the privilege of seeing Broadway's original Blanche DuBois, Jessica Tandy, and compare her work to Leigh's, as well as an impressive turn by Maureen Stapleton as Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie". This is an incredible film collection for anyone who wants to see some of the greatest performances of mid-20th century American cinema.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Once again, another magnificent set from Warner, this time honoring one of America's greatest writers.30 April 2006
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Warner Bros. has assembled a superb group of films derived from the plays, a novella, and an original screenplay by the immortal Tennessee Williams. Each film has been given a stellar presentation, with the finest of them all, his masterpiece, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, given the Warner 2-Disc special treatment. Filled with documentaries, commentaries, screen tests, and outtakes, this set is really an amazing assemblage of much of Williams' best work. At last we also have a remastered CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, which now looks stunning, following a rather faded and pasty DVD in the early days of the format.
Not content to rest on their laurels as others would, WB has unearthed a relatively unknown motion picture that will be a treasure to those who love this man's work.
A Canadian documentary feature from the mid '70s called "TENNNESSEE WILLIAMS' SOUTH" has been rescued from limbo, and how wonderful to have it included as an exclusive bonus in this collection. Not only does it contain rare interviews with Williams shot over the period of a year in both Key West and New Orleans, but it also contains scenes from his plays performed by some of our greatest actors, including Maureen Stapleton, Burl Ives, and most importantly, Jessica Tandy re-creating her performance as Blanche DuBois. A miracle to behold.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Bit Of Heaven In This Southern Madness9 Oct. 2006
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Being a sucker for a good box set, I have accumulated quite a few. You end up with some great DVDs, but also some titles that you might not have purchased on their own. This Tennessee Williams collection is one that I wholeheartedly recommend--each selection might not be a true classic, but each represents a significant part of Williams' lexicon and lore. Put together, they symbolize and honor a master craftsman and a time when words, dialogue and screenplays were more important than quick edits and loud soundtracks.
Of course, the undisputed champion of this set is the two disc "A Streetcar Named Desire." An absolutely perfect rendering of a brilliant play, "Streetcar" boasts some of the most powerful performances you're likely to see. With Oscars going to Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter--this is one of the most honored films in history. And Marlon Brando's Stanley Kowalski has become a legend.
I'm not going to individually review every film, each offers its own merits. What is amazing about these films is how adult they were for their day and how well they stand up today. Southern melodrama never looked or sounded so good.
"Cat on A Hot Tin Roof" is a flawed, truncated version of Williams' play--but still an entertaining vehicle for Newman and Taylor. "Sweet Bird Of Youth" is one of my absolute favorites proving once and for all that Geraldine Page was an acting icon! Those that dismiss "Baby Doll" as a more minor work miss some of its subtlety. It's a very clever romp. "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" and "The Night of the Iguana" are both intriguing and eminently watchable, but not without their problems.
These films represent very adult topics, some great writing--sometimes leaning toward lurid melodrama--and awesome performances. It's easy to see why so many top caliber actors and directors are attached to these pieces--and why so many were honored for their works.
If you love film (or plays for that matter) and you haven't seen some of these titles, do yourself a favor--BUY THIS SET and enjoy. Tennessee Williams was a singular talent and a unique voice. KGHarris, 10/06.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Essential boxset for fans of American theater of the 1950s23 Feb. 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a terrific boxset, collecting six of the films based on Tennessee Williams's plays (plus another disc with the documentary "Tennessee Williams' South"). All the films are transferred with great care, and look quite wonderful. And the films themselves are fascinating, because (with the exception of BABY DOLL), they're invariably sanitized, as the major studios (Warner Brothers, MGM) struggled to constrain the unfettered imagination of one of America's most floridly uninihibited playwrights. Yet Williams' reputation as one of the premiere writers for actors allows some classic performances, starting with Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, one of the most potent displays of Method acting which helped to revolutionize American film and theater. Kazan's hyperbolic direction of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE is tempered in BABY DOLL, possibly the most charming film in the set (with terrific performances from Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, Eli Wallach, and, most hilariously, Mildred Dunnock). It seems incredible that, at the time (1956), BABY DOLL was the most controversial film of its year, with condemnation and cries of "filth" being bandied about. But BABY DOLL is a comic interlude in Williams' career. CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is the most heavily censored, so that all the talk of mendacity makes the film seem mendacious, because no one is talking about what the film is really about. But all the actors go to town with their Southern accents, especially Elizabeth Taylor and Judith Anderson.
But if CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF seems antiseptic, that's nothing compared to SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, which is alternately lurid and dainty. To watch Geraldine Page rip through in an absolutely corrosive and riveting performance is to see one of America's greatest actresses at her peak. THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA is uneven, but, again, some of the performances (in particular, Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and, especially, Deborah Kerr and Cyril Delevanti) are superb. The long sequence with Burton and Kerr talking about demons and love while Burton is tied in the hammock is one of the most poetic sequences in all of Williams, handled with great insight and power.
THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE has worn well with the years, as Vivien Leigh gives an elegant performance as the aging woman desperate for love nad even more desperate for her dignity.
Of course, these are all works which could be done now with a greater fidelity to Williams' original texts, but it would be hard to beat the incredible performances, done (in many cases) in the original acting styles of the period (in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, many of the original Broadway casts were also cast in the films). This is a chance to see some legendary actors in the classic parts which they made famous.