Anyone who saw All Creatures Great and Small almost had to love it, and anyone who loved it had to think the best character was played by Robert Hardy. Siegfried Farnon was a fictional version of a real person created by James Herriott, pen name of a real life veterinarian who wrote fiction based on himself and his friends.
Siegfried was not the main character, but he was the dominant one. Employer of James and big brother of Tristan, his dominant, boisterous, hotheaded and contradictory personality was basically just hilarious and endearing. Veteran actor Robert Hardy brought him to life and made Siegfried unforgettable, a performance that no one could have improved on. Rest in peace, Mr. Hardy, and thank you for Siegfried.
They were already bringing movies like The Magnetic Monster and The Neptune Factor to Blu-Ray. Then they recently announced their new 4K restoration of The Man With No Name trilogy. And now they’re going to bring The Outer Limits to Blu-Ray.
Got to love that clone battle, and that spider robot in the thumbnail is a seriously awesome bit of Star Wars design. And the two scenes of Ewan McGregor verbally sparring with first a bounty hunter and then a Sith Lord are some of my favorite moments of the Saga. Fun, underrated movie in my humble opinion.
Check it out! Phil Hall is one of the few people to write anything about Phil Tucker’s Space Jockey and I quoted him thusly in my book. Recently I’ve been happy to make his acquaintance and was interviewed for his wide-ranging cinema podcast, The Online Movie Show With Phil Hall. It’s a fun little chat, and Phil asks all the right questions about Robot Monster, Phil Tucker, and related subjects. Many thanks to Phil for having me on!
I saw Rumble Fish back in 1994, was stunned, and was also stunned that hardly anyone had seen it or written about it in the decade after its release. It’s a real love-it-or-hate-it experience, but it definitely clicked for me. Amazing visuals and sounds, and some outright surrealism in what was ostensibly a Hollywood movie. There’s nothing quite like it, and Criterion is bringing it to Blu-Ray in April.
I briefly mentioned this 1949 movie in I Cannot, Yet I Must because it was directed by Merle Connell, one of Phil Tucker’s collaborators. I said that it is a must for anyone who likes a really bad Western. I stand by that statement:
“After you’ve been working out on the desert fifteen years like I have, you hear a lot of things. See a lot of things too. Sun in the sky, and the heat. All that sand out there with the rivers and lakes that aren’t real at all. And sometimes you think that the wind gets in the wires and hums and listens and talks.”
So saith Ray Bradbury, my favorite writer.
Because I wrote a lengthy book about the making of a very bad but very awesome ’50s monster movie, I’ve seen far too many of these things. But I also have an appreciation for the ones that actually aren’t terrible, and for a few that are actually good. And this is why I’ve seen IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE more than a few times over the years. With Bradbury’s involvement, this 3-D production from Universal in 1953 is one of the best of its kind. The Bradbury in this Bradbury movie was Hollywood-diluted of course, but the movie’s intelligent treatment of contact with alien life makes it unique, as does the sense of mystery and desert atmosphere. The quote above, gracefully read onscreen by actor Joe Sawyer, encapsulates the greatness of this little gem.
So when the news came out that Universal was getting IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE out on Blu-Ray as a Best Buy exclusive, I noticed it was priced like the Wal-Mart bargain bin and knew I had to own it on that basis. It could have been released by Criterion, cost $24.99, and gone into the land of ain’t-buying-because-DVD-is-good-enough. But wiser heads prevailed, despite a lot of trouble going into this release. The 3-D Film Archive did intensive work on the picture and sound, bringing its original three-channel audio to home video for (I believe) the first time.
Old black-and-white movies are tricky for me on Blu-Ray. Some enthusiasts get defensive when someone claims that old movies don’t pop all that much in high definition, the defenders pointing out that 1080p resolution will recreate that silver glow that coats the screen in black-and-white projection. While that is true, I’m not going to pretend. Without color, high definition just doesn’t define that highly to my eyes.
So when I played the disc, I had the same issue I always have with black-and-white Blu-Ray. This looks good, I think to myself, but does it really look that good? But, yes, it does. Comparing it to the 2002 DVD, the Blu-Ray blows it away with significantly more detail and contrast, and an overall brighter image. Atmospheric imagery in a cave late in the movie becomes absolutely beautiful on the new disc, and little visual details like the glittery trail left by the alien shine in a new way.
But having said all that, the audio is just stunning. There is some real channel separation going on, which is a startling thing for my ears to register when watching a movie as old as this one. And the louder moments are downright stunning, like the explosion and musical stab at the beginning.
Extra features to me are extra and not always necessary, but this disc carries a magnificent audio commentary by Tom Weaver from the old DVD. Anyone who has heard a Weaver commentary knows that he not only knows his stuff, but he has specifically prepared it in a pattern that makes sense, and he barely stops talking(!). There’s a good documentary from the DVD too but the commentary is where it’s at.
Based on my limited anecdotal evidence, it seems to be selling. My local Best Buy had three or four copies, and I was surprised to see them sold out later in the week. (Shout! Factory’s outstanding Manhunter didn’t seem to be selling out in the spring.) Anyhow, I hope Universal goes to the trouble with more classic science fiction. Being me, I have to close with a song, one that sampled this movie: