Literary Classics Collection

Title: Literary Classics Collectionlcc

Silent or Talkie: Talkie

Review

Warner Brothers has released the 5-Disc Literary Classics Collection. In these fine examples of taking a story from the written page and transforming them for the screen, we develop a visual appreciation for the characters in these classic works. There are many adventures on the high seas as well as many issues of personal struggle scattered throughout the set! The films in the set are as follows: The Three Musketeers (1948), Billy Budd (1962), Madame Bovary (1949), Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1939 & 1952 versions).

The Three Musketeers (1948)
This 1948 adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas novel boasts an all-star cast in Lana Turner, Gene Kelly, June Allyson, Van Heflin, Vincent Price and Angela Lansbury. The Three Musketeers placed its headliners in roles vastly different from their usual portrayals. Gene Kelly is D’Artagnan, a swordsman who travels to Paris in order to join the Musketeers. He quickly engages in numerous sword fights, which unbeknownst to him, sharpen his duel skills. He meets with the Musketeers, but it’s apparent they aren’t forming an immediate camaraderie. However, he becomes friends with Athos (Van Heflin), Aramis (Robert Coote) and Porthos (Gig Young). Vincent Price plays Prime Minister Richelieu who along with Lady de Winter (Lana Turner) become the roadblocks in the Musketeers mission to save Queen Anne (Angela Lansbury). Special features include: Vintage Fitzpatrick Traveltalk short Looking at London, Classic MGM Tex Avery cartoon What Price Fleadom, Audio-only bonus: MGM Radio Promo with Dick Simmons interviewing Lana Turner and the Theatrical trailer.

Billy Budd (1962)
Herman Melville’s classic novel comes alive in this 1962 adaptation starring Robert Ryan, Peter Ustinov, Terence Stamp and Melvyn Douglas. Billy Budd is played by Terence Stamp (his film debut). He is a young British sailor during a 1797 war between England and France who is well-liked and admired by his fellow crew mates. John Claggart, the master-at-arms (played by Robert Ryan), is the only one on board who despises Budd and accuses him of organizing a mutiny. No one on board can really stand Claggart, he is a ruthless enforcer who seems to take some unspoken pleasure in his rule. Not surprisingly, Claggart is soon found murdered and Budd is accused of the crime. The charge places Budd on trial, forcing him to fight for his life and his innocence. Edwin Fairfax Vere, the Post Captain, is played by Peter Ustinov. Ustinov had only ten randomly scattered roles before Billy Budd, including an uncredited appearance in the classic “Spartacus”. Interestingly enough, Ustinov also directed Billy Budd, along with sharing some of the writing credit. He was nominated for four Oscars, two of which he won for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, one for Spartacus (1960) and one for Topkapi (1964). Melvyn Douglas, who played The Dansker, was a veteran actor who’d acted in over 70 films before his appearance in Billy Budd. He would go on to make another 37 films before his death in 1981. There is no doubt, however, that Terence Stamp is this film’s centerpiece. Again, although this was his film debut, his bonus commentary on this disc is a wonderful glimpse into his acting methods and career. Special features include: Commentary by Terence Stamp and filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and the Theatrical trailer.

Madame Bovary (1949)
One of the set’s best assets is this 1949 classic directed by Vincente Minelli. Based on the novel by Gustave Flaubert, which was somewhat controversial when it was published, Madame Bovary is the story of Emma Bovary (played by Jennifer Jones, a last minute replacement for Lana Turner), a woman who, by current standards, might be considered a gold digger. She strives to satisfy all of her own needs without regard for who is hurt in the process. The premise is vaguely similar to 1933’s “Baby Face” starring Barbara Stanwyck, in the respect that Emma marries for personal gain. Her husband Charles (played by Van Heflin) is the stereotypical hard-working doctor who is married more to his profession than to his wife. Nevertheless, he is likely to receive a more genuine reward from his work, as Emma is merely using him as a rung on a ladder. Charles becomes the victim of debt in trying to provide Emma with the life she demands. When she tires of him she moves on to the next man. The tragic conclusion of the film can once again be compared to Baby Face, in that what goes around usually comes around. The novel by Flaubert was a scandal mainly because of how it painted society. In defense of his writing, he went to trial. In this film adaptation, Flaubert is played by James Mason. Jennifer Jones, although not initially considered for the role of Emma, was still exceptional. Her co-stars were always the cream of the crop, including John Garfield, with whom she starred in “We Were Strangers” the same year as Madame Bovary. That being said, she never seemed to reach superstar status, but that is no reflection on her abilities as a terrific actress. Van Heflin, who played Charles Bovary, is another actor who could have easily been mentioned alongside some of Hollywood’s elite. Three years prior to Madame Bovary, he’d starred with Kirk Douglas and Barbara Stanwyck in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”, which was Douglas’ first film. Special features include: Vintage Pete Smith specialty short Those Good Old Days, Classic cartoon Out-Foxed and the Theatrical trailer.

Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951)
Does it really get any better than Gregory Peck and Virgina Mayo? Peck plays the title role in this 1951 film version based on the C.S. Forester novel. Set in the early 19th Century, Hornblower, a British captain, is sent to deliver weapons to a power-obsessed vigilante calling himself “El Supremo” (played by Alec Mango). The purpose is to support El Supremo’s crusade against Spain, which is allied with France, an enemy of Britain. Unbeknownst to Hornblower, Spain and France have disassociated themselves. Hornblower and his crew, while aboard the HMS Lydia, come across another ship, the Natividad, which they capture in a sneak attack. Complications arise, and Hornblower must escort the Duke of Wellington’s sister, Lady Barbara Wellesley (played by Virginia Mayo) back to England. Naturally, romance develops between the two of them while out to sea, but Hornblower is already married, much to the disdain of Wellesley. Unexpected battles, surprise twists and incredible action add to this already classic film, which was made on a budget of $3,000,000. Errol Flynn was originally slated to play the role of Captain Hornblower, but all opinions suggest that Peck’s portrayal is much better than Flynn’s would’ve been. Surprisingly, the beautiful Virginia Mayo was cast by default after many of the UK’s top actresses turned down the role. She is of course most commonly known in the 1949 classic “White Heat” with James Cagney, where she played Verna Jarrett. Another surprise from Captain Horatio Hornblower was the Spanish captain, played by Christopher Lee. Lee is best known for his string of horror films, most often playing Count Dracula. Special features include: Vintage Oscar-nominated short My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Classic cartoon Captain Hareblower, Audio-only bonus: Lux Radio Theater adaptation with Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo and the Theatrical trailer.

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937 & 1952 Versions)
Another great addition to this set is the two versions of The Prisoner of Zenda. Both versions are adapted from the novel by Anthony Hope, although the 1937 version was made just four years after Hope’s death. The 1937 version also boasts a greater number of stars in Ronald Colman (playing Major Rudolf Rassendyll), David Niven (playing Captain Fritz von Tarlenheim) Mary Astor (playing Antoinette de Mauban, four years before she would star in The Maltese Falcon) and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (playing Rupert of Hentzau). The 1952 version is not so much of a new adaptation as it is a remake of the 1937 version. In yet another swashbuckler tale, the film follows Rudolph Rassendyll, a distant cousin of Rudolf V’s, who also happens to be identical in appearance. Rassendyll is asked to undertake a dangerous operation by impersonating his cousin, the king, when he is kidnapped before his upcoming crowning ceremony. Rudolf V must be present at the ceremony (vicariously through Rassendyll) or he forfeits the crown to his brother. Rudolf’s wife, Princess Flavia (played by Madeleine Carroll), begins to suspect something is amiss when her “husband” is not acting as he usually does. The 1952 version received some negative public reaction. The1937 version had been considered a classic, and therefore needed no remake. When the 1952 version debuted, it failed to live up to its predecessor’s grandeur. Nevertheless, it is an adaptation of the same novel and Warner Brothers presents both versions beautifully with fine audio and video transfers. Special features include: Pete Smith specialty short Penny Wisdom, Cartoon The Wayward Pups, Audio-only bonus: Lux Radio Theater Adaptation with Ronald Colman, Fitzpatrick Traveltalk short Land of the Taj Mahal, Oscar-winning cartoon Johann Mouse and the 1952 theatrical trailer.You can also find the astest reviews for XT buy on spartagenxt.net.

Conclusion

Everybody loves a good read. But once in a while, we all enjoy a good film. The Literary Classics Collection is the best of both worlds. For the first time, these films are presented to us the way they were meant to be seen – in all of their Classic Hollywood glory. This set has it all – romance, action, adventure and a melting pot of stars that bring it all together. This is a must for everybody!

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