April 22, 2020

PARAMOUNT PRESENTS is Off to a Good Start


Review by Mr. Paws😸

Paramount Presents is a new Blu-ray series consisting of some of the studio’s iconic films, each repackaged, remastered and bundled with a combination of new and vintage bonus features.

Of the first wave of titles, two have been available on Blu-ray for years, but the improved picture and sound might by worth double-dipping. The third is a must-own for any Blu-ray fan who’s ever swiveled their hips to an Elvis tune. In addition to extras carried over from previous releases, each film includes a new bonus feature, “Filmmaker Focus,” a brief retrospective analysis of the movie in question.

But for me, the niftiest aspect is the packaging. Unless significantly different from the box art, I personally think slipcases are a waste of cardboard. But these fold-open to reveal the film’s original poster art, which is pretty creative. This stuff is gonna look great on my shelf!

Starring Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. (106 min)

Hey, you can’t go wrong with the team of Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. To Catch a Thief doesn’t quite rank up there with North by Northwest (then again, what does?). Still, this romantic thriller remains a lot of freewheeling fun, with Grant as John “The Cat” Robie, a retired jewel thief trying to clear his name after becoming the prime suspect in recent burglaries similar to his old modus operandi. He meets his match with Frances (Grace Kelly) - daughter of the mysterious thief’s next potential target – who knows more about Robie than she initially leads on.

To Catch a Thief is atypical Hitchcock for the time, with a bit less emphasis on the suspense-thriller aspects that most of his other films have in abundance. Here, the sexual tension and quasi-adversarial relationship between John and Frances take center stage. And why not? The chemistry of the two stars is undeniable and it’s a shame they never did more films together. But even they are occasionally upstaged by Jessie Royce Landis, who steals every scene she’s in as Frances’ bemused mother.

"FILMMAKER FOCUS” - A new discussion of the film by Leonard Maltin.
"BEHIND THE GATES” - Carried over from a previous release, historians and industry wags discuss the two stars’ onscreen chemistry.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By film historian Drew Casper

Starring Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau, Vic Morrow, Delores Hart, Dean Jagger. Directed by Michael Curtiz. (115 min)

Believe or it not, some classic film collectors might consider King Creole to be the real keeper of the three, since it’s new to Blu-ray. That aside, it’s also one of Elvis Presley’s best films, made before his sad descent into self-parody and movie mediocrity. Much of that is due to a terrific supporting cast and sharp direction by Michael (Casablanca) Curtiz. Though there are plenty of great songs, King Creole isn’t a musical in the purest sense. The musical numbers are stage performances in the film, which has Presley playing a headstrong, semi-delinquent young singer who gets in over his head with local gangster Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau).

Far more story-driven than the typical Elvis vehicle, Curtis makes great use of New Orleans locations and the decision to shoot it in black & white gives it a dark edge similar to film noir. Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Presley’s music or acting abilities, he’s actually really good here, holding his own against the likes of Matthau, Carolyn Jones as Maxie’s jaded mistress, Vic Morrow as a conniving thug and Dean Jagger as Danny’s emotionally fragile father. Considering Presley’s mostly-dubious film career, King Creole is a small winner all-around.

"FILMMAKER FOCUS” - A new discussion of the film by Leonard Maltin.

Starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, Stuart Pankin, Fred Gwynne. Directed by Adrian Lyne. (119 min)

Since Paramount Pictures pretty-much owned the 1980s, it’s fitting to include a film from that era in the first wave of this series. Being that it was both a critical and box office smash – as well as a cultural touchstone – Fatal Attraction is a superlative choice.

Though it may be hard to appreciate today, Fatal Attraction was not-only hugely influential at the time, it firmly established Michael Douglas as a genuine A-Lister and – however briefly – Glenn Close as a sex symbol (albeit a dangerously loony one). Being that it was considered the ultimate argument against marital infidelity, a running joke back then had the film scaring scores of straying spouses into sticking closer to home.

Though time, parodies and countless imitators have probably diminished its impact over the years, Fatal Attraction remains one of the decade’s quintessential erotic thrillers.

"FILMMAKER FOCUS” - A new discussion of the film, this time by director Adrian Lyne.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By director Adrian Lyne.
ALTERNATE ENDING – The much-discussed original ending, which test audiences apparently hated.

While the films speak for themselves, Paramount Presents is an aesthetically fun new series, obviously intended for those of us who take great pride in showing-off how we blow our discretionary income. For the sake of uniformity, each title is also designated by a series number on a black spine. Whether or not every movie will be worth picking up remains to be seen, but the series is off to a good start.


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