Just like all those old ‘classic’ albums I’ve never heard (‘Dark Side of the Moon‘ anyone?) or books that I’ve never read, there are also many old ‘classic’ movies that I have never seen, much to my chagrin. Over the years I’ve tried to correct this (I only got through most of Hitchcock’s films during the DVD days), but as anyone who has tried knows, it can be a long list and a long haul. I have found however that with the clear benefits of good HD remasters, catalogue releases on Blu-ray of films I have never seen can prove to be ideal opportunities to rectify my error.
So I’ve just recently bought two new Blu-ray releases- new over here in the UK, anyway, as they have been out in the States for awhile now. Sunset Boulevard and The Maltese Falcon– and yes, I’ve never seen either of them before. I know, I know, I consider myself a film-buff, albeit one who has watched two many movies -well, too many bad movies anyway- and yes, these glaring omissions clearly demonstrate that as the years roll on I should have become rather more discerning.
The case of Sunset Boulevard though is one that is baffling even to myself. I am a huge Billy Wilder fan; I think many of his films are some of the finest to have ever been made; The Apartment, Double Indemnity, Some Like It Hot, The Fortune Cookie, Irma La Douce, Avanti… even the lesser films are simply marvelous, the better films simply astonishing. Indeed there is some credence to the argument he was the greatest director of all, he’s just not as fashionable a choice as, say, Hitchcock. The fact that Sunset Boulevard is said to be one of his best films makes the fact that I have never seen it particularly baffling, even to me, except to suggest that films of this quality are like a fine wine to be savoured. They don’t make ’em like they used to, so lets not rush into it- consider it a treat amongst all the rest of the dross we are fed by Hollywood these days. Indeed, I bought Wilder’s The Lost Weekend on Blu-ray last year and have yet to see it yet, preferring to keep it to one side for the right time- in the case of Sunset though I am so excited to see it, this one won’t be on the shelf for long!
Regards The Maltese Falcon, again, its a strange one to have missed for so long. Just released in a gorgeous steelbook edition, its one I’ve been eyeing up for import for a while now but this release saves any such hassle- like Sunset, this mirrors the stateside release regards extras etc. and the steelbook case just sweetens the deal. The Maltese Falcon is one of those films that always seemed to be on late-night telly when I was a kid, but nowadays seems to have been consigned to the low-rent basement of morning/afternoon television showings once in a blue moon. I think its very odd that, as HD masters have been struck of so many classic films, such films are not given their due even if it meant being on late-night screenings. A season of b&w classics on BBC HD would be a marvelous use of tax-payers money, but as b&w stuff seems to be The Great Evil of modern tv schedules, that will just never happen (even Christmas Holiday schedules seem to have shook off the movie season idea).
I think the fact that I have never seen The Maltese Falcon reflects the fact that I never warmed to Humphrey Bogart as a kid or teenager. Whatever (little) I’ve seen him in, he seemed rather wooden, a movie star of the John Wayne school- likely I’m being rather unkind to him, but it has even stretched to the fact that I have also never seen -wait for it- Casablanca. I know, I know, I can imagine the tuts and ‘for shame!’s being sighed by readers of that last sentence. I have never owned Casablanca either, in any format, but I’m looking forward to rectifying that- except that there is some strange stuff about the UK edition being an inferior master to the version released elsewhere, and I’ll be damned if I’ll spend money on inferior transfers.
But anyway, Sunset and Falcon are high on my ‘To Watch’ list so hopefully I’ll be able to reveal whether they live up to their hype here soon.