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Andrew Baker (England)

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Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection - Limited Edition [Blu-ray] [1942] [Region Free]
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection - Limited Edition [Blu-ray] [1942] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Alfred Hitchcock
Offered by brrsales
Price: £129.99

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure box, 2 Jan 2013
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I have only just got this fabulous set but I want to say acouple of things.

This is all the UNIVERSAL Hitchcocks. It has everything from Rear Window onwards apart from To Catch a Thief, The Wrong Man and North by Northwest which were not Universal.

It's absolutely essential as it's the first time The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain and Topaz have been released in the UK in the correct format. The older issues of The Bird, Marnie and Tirb Curtian had the sides chopped off to make 4:3 old TV style pictures. Topaz was a 4:3 image but showed the full frame rather than the masked wide screen picture that you should see so you get mike booms nad things you shouldn't see. These films were shot on a 4:3 negative with the intntion of being masked to make a widescreen image in the cinema.

Most important - I feel that Marnie is the best quality we are likely to get here. I have known this film well since seeing it at the BFI in 1972 and this looks right. I think some things people are saying are grainy or fuzzy are actually shots using gauzes and soft focus effects - mainly close ups. On the opening shot you can see the effect of the gauze when the camera pulls out to long shot. In the 6os such effects were common in closer ups.

I might be wrong but I don't think we'll ever see these looking better.

Doctor Who - Paradise Towers [DVD] [1987]
Doctor Who - Paradise Towers [DVD] [1987]
Dvd ~ Sylvester McCoy
Price: £5.70

12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Improves with age, 14 July 2011
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It's easy to see why people don't like these 80s Whos - but in retrospect they are astonishing records of their time - garish, inventive, with dark undercurrents and satire.

I can see a time when Paradise Towers and The Happiness Patrol are seen as absolutely essential for anyone studying social history.

It's only recently seeing it again that I appreciate that why the girl gangs, the Kangs, are like they are. They aren't like violent modern gangs. The point is that they are naive and childlike because there are no parents - only the old rezzies.
It's odd that people like to watch Who for visits to alien worlds but can't take its visits to a world that really is alien and disturbing - the 1980s.

Puccini: La rondine - Live from the Met [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Puccini: La rondine - Live from the Met [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Angela Gheorghiu
Price: £13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delight, 22 Jan 2011
At last a succesful DVD of Puccini's wonderful opera. This is Puccini having a good time. It's not heavy drama but a constant string of good tunes and fresh and delightful orchestration. The DVD has the ideal cast. There are cases where the work that is really the most inventive and enjoyable in a composer's ouevre is seen as one of his lesser works. There are people who would place la Rondine very high indeed. It's a masterpiece of pure pleasure.

The Avengers - Series 6 [DVD]
The Avengers - Series 6 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick MacNee
Price: £35.50

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, 22 Jan 2011
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Probably the most delightfully inventive TV series ever made exquisitely restored in vibrant colour.

A high point of European Culture.

But a word of warning to the new viewer.

This set is in production order. This means that the worst episodes (on the whole) come first. Halfway through a series of 26 episodes which was to have the change from Diana Rigg to Linda Thorson halfway through the producers, Clemens and Fennell were removed as the US backers thought it was too crazy. John Bryce, from the Honor Blackman days was brought back and he hired Linda Thorson.

The first two and a bit episodes filmed were so bad that Clemens and Fennell were brought back. They had very little time to rescue the series. They redesigned Tara as a brunette rather than a blonde and changed the tone of it all. They also brought Steeds vintage cars back - he had been given a maroon AC Cobra prototype. This became Tara's car in the early episodes. Tara originally had a Lotus Elan Mk2 but a few episodes in she was given Lotus Europa and Steed got a cream vintage Rolls. When these later cars arrive you know you are in the "proper" last series.

A couple of new episodes were produced by time was so tight that one episode with ablonde Tara was used and another heavily reshot. Diana Rigg was brought in to do handover (The Forget me Knot).

The last batch of Riggs and the first Thorsons were shown in the US as a single series.

The "real" series begins with "You'll Catch Your Death" and from that point the visual style has changed, the actual look of the colour is fresher with a different film stock and a series of madly inventive surreal episodes follows.

Knowing this you see that the standard is very high indeed and Linda Thorson quickly became a first class performer, ideal at the light comedy style. It's ver hard to imagine anyone doing it better, especially looking at the screen tests that are extras on this DVD set. She is highly underestimated. She's very different from Rigg but to me, even in 1969, she was much more entertaining.

The set is an absolute treasure. The sound problem mentioned on the sEries 5 reviews is only present on The Forget me Knot. It's probably not worth worrying about and the disc can be replaced if you are bothered.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 3, 2013 10:09 PM BST

The Avengers  -  Series 5 [DVD]
The Avengers - Series 5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick MacNee
Price: £35.50

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars More faults, 17 Nov 2010
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This ought to be wonderful but there is a serious sound fault as othe reviewers have explained. I have returned my set to Amazon.

What happens next?

Hammer House Of Horror - Complete Collection [DVD] [1980]
Hammer House Of Horror - Complete Collection [DVD] [1980]
Dvd ~ Peter Cushing
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £9.39

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just an extra comment..., 27 Aug 2009
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The quality of these stories is very varied and other reviewers have given detailed notes - but I want to add an extra comment about "The Two Faces of Evil.".

Most episodes are filmed in a very basic style, even ones by respected directors like Peter Sasdy, but The Two Faces of Evil stands out as the only episode which is made by the quality of directing. It's much more stylish than most, and it manages to have a nightmarish quality throughout - note how strange the hospital staff seem, especially the subtly odd character in the mortuary.

The director was Alan Gibson, not a well known name, who directed the last two 1970s set Hammer Dracula films, which also need reappraising as almost good attempts to create a new style of film, with scripts by Don Houghton who had written early thriller style Jon Pertwee Dr Who stories like Inferno.

Galuppi - Il Re Alla Caccia (Svegliado, Zancope) [DVD + 2cd]
Galuppi - Il Re Alla Caccia (Svegliado, Zancope) [DVD + 2cd]
Dvd ~ Zancope
Price: £19.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a good DVD but a lovely work, 28 Feb 2009
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Yes, the DVD isn't very good. It's a poor picture and a rather ragged performance. As if to make up for it the DVD includes CDs of the opera with a slightly different cast.

But it's still worthwhile because Galuppi's comic operas are a vital missing link in music history - paving the way for Mozart.

Galuppi did beautiful baroque opera ( see L'Olimpiade on DVD - a beautiful disc ) but he was virtually the inventor, with Goldoni, of Italian comic opera in an early classical style. He seems to have jumped from baroque to classical without any trouble. He is credited with inventing the Finale - as an extended number which develops the action - which never happens i n baroque opera. The arias are mostly short and tuneful. Possibly later in life he wrote many lovely piano sonatas in an expressive classical style.

When Dr Burney met him in 1771 he seemed to be one of the two or three greatest living composers - but MOzart and Haydn were already active.
The DVDs in spite of the low quality give an impression of the style of these operas and Elena Belfiore, not on the CDs, is a star. She lights up the stage as Giannina, the down to earth and no nonsense heroine.

The only top notch versions of Galuppi's comic operas are Il MOndo alla Reverso on Chandos and Diavolessa on CPO - superb versions, but believe me Galuppi is a wonderful composer who is creeping back.

So though this is rather poor in sound and picture quality and some singers are a bit weak it is still a pleasant experience, Belfiore is a delight throughout and Galuppi is worth exploring.

L'Olimpiade, opera by Baldassare Galuppi (Teatro La Fenice, Venice 2006) [DVD] [NTSC]
L'Olimpiade, opera by Baldassare Galuppi (Teatro La Fenice, Venice 2006) [DVD] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Andrea Marcon
Price: £24.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delight, 26 Feb 2009
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Galuppi is delightful and hugely underrated - but you need very good performances to bring his music to life. There are some deadly CDs of his operas out there - but this is superb. Hurrah.

L'Olimpiade is a Metastasio libretto that had been set by Vivaldi and others. It's a typical baroque opera - 3 hours of recitative and arias.
But the art is to make every aria distinctive and express the emotion and inner thoughts of the characters. The aria don't move the action on.

This is a simple and tasteful production from Venice from Galuppi's tercentenary year and reveals his tunefulness, expressiveness and imagination. The performance seems pretty well faultless. Some lovely singing.

What we need now are some top class DVDs of Galuppi comic operas. The only other opera CDs that are good enough are Il Mondo Reverso on Chandos and La Diavolessa on CPO - both excellent - and if you don't know the delights of this composer who, between Handel and Mozart was one of the g reatst composers around, there's a fabulous disc of sacred music on Virgin with Gerard Lesne.

He also wrote many piano sonatas in a more romantic style - he covers both baroque and and classical periods.

Discover Galuppi and let's head to Burano for a seafood lunch and toast his statue!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 21, 2012 7:12 AM GMT

Edmund Rubbra: Symphonist
Edmund Rubbra: Symphonist
by Leo Black
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £50.00

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile subject, 26 Feb 2009
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I am in favour of anything that promotes interest in Rubbra. He's a sobre minded but spiritual composer, part of that English mystical tradition that tends to be made up of visionaries and mavericks like Blake and Samuel Palmer, whose pictures are on the covers of the Chandos Cds of Rubbra's symphonies.

It's very pleasing that there is a book about Rubbra's symphonies - but I read this with growing dismay. Leo Black has written interestingly on the ideas behind Schubert so I had high expectations but somehow I felt this book told me nothing. A lot more could be said about the ideas behind the music, and Rubbra's changing religious beliefs. There could be more analysis, but unfortunately all you get here is a decscription that has little value when you can far better listen to the music!

Even the analytical side is limited (and I don't think Rubbra would want us to be interested in technical analysis) and, the final puzzle, Black astoundingly refers to a saxophone theme in the seventh symphony.

Now the 7th is one of all time favourite pieces and that tune my favourite moment in Rubbra. It's not a saxophone, it's flute and bassoon.
How could anyone who writes a book on a set of symphonies not have looked at the score and known there was no saxophone? How could he have listened to the piece and not realised?

So buy the Chandos CDs rather than the book!

Judex/Nuits Rouges [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1963]
Judex/Nuits Rouges [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1963]
Dvd ~ Edith Scob
Price: £10.50

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece and a stinkeroni, 23 Sep 2008
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Franju's Judex is a strangely faithful remake of the 1916 Feuillade serial. Strangely because Franju seems not to have seen the original when he made it, but based it on a novelisation and stills. The remake adds poetic touches, the bird masks, most obviously, but it follows the original in a lot of details, but compresses about 8 hours into 90 minutes!

It's most valuable as a tribute that makes you go back to the original. The original is only available on Region 1 at the moment - but it's a beautiful and inventive (but very long) masterpiece. The original has an astonishigly poetic style for uts period and has actually funny comic relief. If you can't play Region 1 get "Les Vampires" which is wonderful fun - but you have to give it time as they are inventive cinema as they go on - moving from primitive one shot theatrical scenes to proper cutting by the end.

But Nuits Rouges. Dear me. It's awful. It;s cut down from a TV series which was presumably trying to be a 60s (well 70s) take on Feuillade serials. It may have thougt it was being like The Avengers but it is staggeringly dull in its visual style and lacking any real inventiveness.

Most oddly it has Henry Soskin (otherwise Henry Lincoln) as a professor expert on the Templar treasure. It is a curious side light to his notorious "Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" - and the whole hoax that inspired that book comes from the same French fantasy thriller world of Feullade serials and Arsene Lupin stories. Poor Henry is killed by a zombie rather unconvincingly.

So Nuits Rouge is a worry. Judex suggests Franju is a forgotten master. Nuits Rouges suggests he hadn't a clue and that his earlier successes were just luck.

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