Ah, the shame of a steadily-increasing list of unwatched Blu-ray discs. I really should stop buying any more discs for a few months, until I get through some of these. You know, back when the HD formats started I looked at my huge soon-to-be -history DVD collection and decided that never again would I catch the collecting bug. You know how it is, you love movies, the extras look enticing, you start collecting a director’s movies or a series of films and then you suddenly find you’re building some kind of library of coasters.
The idea I can even watch a film whenever I want is still a kick for me, someone who remembers the olde days of movie-watching being at the whim of terrestrial tv-planners; its all like some kind of ‘pinch-me-it-can’t-be-true’ dream. They made Titanic for $250 million dollars and you can pick it up for just over a tenner even on Blu-ray, with a picture to shame some cinema outlets. I guess that’s where they get us, with those darn bargains…. So anyway, despite my brave and noble intentions, I now have a collection of Blu-ray discs as large as the DVD collection that preceded it. And alarmingly, quite a few of them have not even been played yet. Well, we’ve all got ’em, the Unwatched Blu’s.
So I thought I’d trawl through my collection of films gathering dust that I haven’t seen yet. Maybe even offer up a few excuses.
First off, with today’s post, the guilty secrets department. I think we’ll start with a film oft-quoted in adverts, comedy sketches, countless ‘top-ten of all time’ lists… Casablanca. Everybody seems to love Casablanca. Nope, I’ve never seen it. I bought the American Blu-ray (superior master to the UK one, apparently) from Amazon several months ago for something like £5 before postage. Its a film that I’ve always been curious about, particularly since watching/loving the Woody Allen film Play it Again, Sam, so many years ago as a kid, which was practically a love-letter to the film. I can’t really explain why I’ve never seen it, God knows there have been ample showings on tv. Several years ago I even bought an anniversary making-of book about Casablanca when I was on holiday thinking it would be nice to read after watching the film, but as I never got around to buying the DVD to watch the film, nope, I’ve never read the book either. Its a classic romance apparently, and Ingrid Bergman is wonderful in it, and Humphrey Bogart is no slouch, either. I don’t know. I really should get around to it. I feel guilty just looking at it’s case up on the shelf…
We’ll stay with Mr Bogart with my next guilty secret that sits on the shelf alongside Casablanca– and this is the classic John Huston mystery thriller The Maltese Falcon, which I bought as a rather pretty steelbook, with gorgeous original poster art (more old movies should get this ‘classic’ artwork treatment). Now I gather, rightly or wrongly, that this is a film-noir detective thriller with Bogart playing hard-boiled no-nonsense Private Eye Sam Spade in a story based on a Dashiell Hammett classic piece of pulp fiction. I love film-noir and certainly black and white detective/private eye movies with plenty of twists and turns. I love that whole ‘pulp-fiction/potboiler’ genre. Just how I managed to watch seasons of gangster movies and b&w classics on the BBC over the years but never managed to see this is, well, quite beyond me. So I finally bite the bullet when this bargain-priced Blu-ray appears and it inevitably winds up sitting next to Casablanca. I guess the two films would make a nice Saturday evening double-bill. Someday.
Now, readers of this blog wil know I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock. Vertigo is one of my favourite Top-Five movies. I’ve bought several of Hitchcock’s films on DVD, read a number of books about the director and his films. I’ve even started to buy his films on Blu-ray. But there is one that I have bought (like Casablanca, at a bargain-bin price from America) that even has the added draw that it stars the utterly gorgeous Grace Kelly that I have not watched yet, and that is To Catch a Thief. Okay, maybe its one of Hitchcock’s lesser films, to be honest I really have no idea, it certainly doesn’t appear to get the attention his more famous films get. But with Hitchcock directing, and the film starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, it has to be worth a watch, yes? This darn thing has been sitting on my shelf for a year already. When I bought it it wasn’t even available over here but that UK release has come and gone some several months ago. To add further insult to injury, that UK release costs a lot less than the ‘bargain’ price I bought the American edition for once postage is factored into it.
To Catch a Thief is just the kind of situation that winds me up- I’m a big fan of the director, I’m entranced by one of the stars (Grace Kelly is a screen goddess, no question about it)… I’ve bought the film in HD, offering a quality I could never have enjoyed before. Good grief, its a Hitchcock film I have never seen! And yet it stays on the shelf. Maybe the truth is, there’s not many ‘new’ Hitchcock films for me to ever watch, so maybe its best to treasure them, wait for the perfect moment?
Which might be the excuse for my next guilty secret that sits on the shelf- because its an early film by one of my very favourite directors, Billy Wilder. Its The Lost Weekend, which is a film I know very little about but which was released on Blu-ray last year by Eureka as part of their Masters of Cinema series. I bought a few of these MOC films back then which I actually got around to watching, like the excellent Touch of Evil and Double Indemnity (another Wilder classic). But this one slipped through the net. I will just point out in my defence that I did watch one of the extras on the disc, the near-three hour documentary about Billy Wilder (a BBC doc I believe) which would be worth the price of the disc alone. Its releases like this that really prove the value of home video, as it feels like the film is an unearthed classic, given the HD treatment against the odds, a gem for film historians who know of the film and for those like me who have somehow never heard of it. Its certainly seldom if ever been aired on television (and in this day and age of almost zero-interest even by the BBC in showing old ‘classics’ unlikely to ever be again).
Now, regards films that are well-known, here’s one that I certainly have heard a lot of and yet never seen, even though I’m actually a big fan of it’s Historical Epic genre, and this is Cleopatra. Nope, never seen it. Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, a budget so big it nearly bankrupted the studio- I think I read somewhere that, allowing for inflation, Cleopatra remains the most expensive film ever made, even compared to the monster epics of today like Titanic, Avatar etc. Don’t know how true that is, but you have to be curious about seeing all that money onscreen in the days before cgi ate up all a films budget. I do think the film is famous more for the real-life romance between Taylor and Burton and how it scandalised Hollywood at the time, and to be honest I think that this why it’s never particularly appealed to me. How good can a film be if its more famous for its stars having a sordid affair offscreen than anything actually onscreen? But I have also heard, over the years, that its not a bad film at all, and certainly when the Blu-ray came out last year it came out with some fanfare. So its an old Epic back from the days when the word Epic really meant something, and Elizabeth Taylor is certainly a screen icon (although, to be honest, I cannot think of many films of hers that I have actually seen). Added problem regards watching this one though is its running time, over four hours? Come on, if I struggle to find 90+ mins to watch a Billy Wilder film, what chance does this one have?
Now, the most recent Blu-ray that I have purchased that deserves the term ‘classic’ and that I have yet to see is the Powell and Pressburger film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, a film widely hailed as one of the very greatest of British Cinema. It has recently been restored and is said to look simply wonderful in HD. I adored their Black Narcissus and recently bought and actually watched(!) their The Red Shoes, which was an utterly amazing film. So my expectations are high for this one. Again I know very little about it. But you know, I prefer it that way, and just as with films like The Lost Weekend, I actually work hard at avoiding any info prior to finally watching a film. Certainly not easy in this day and age. Now, if only I could finally get around to watching it…
Sometime I’ll continue this list with a list of those films I have already seen and have now upgraded to HD, only to, yes, fail to watch the darn Blu-ray. Films like Citizen Kane, Shawshank Redemption, Silent Running, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Zhivago (this one still in the shrinkwrap, horrors!), Chinatown, Heat, Total Recall... yes the tale of shame continues… surely I’m not the only guilty party here though? Feel free to share your shame and list the Unwatched Blu’s on your own shelves…