Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag: The Andy Hardy Film Collection Vol. 2, GREYSTOKE Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Warner Archive Grab Bag: The Andy Hardy Film Collection Vol. 2, GREYSTOKE Blu-ray

ANDY HARDY FILM COLLECTION Vol. 2:
As much as I was aware of the cycle of Andy Hardy films out there(and I had no idea just how popular they were) I had never actually seen one until the movies in this set. Mickey Rooney is one of those ridiculously prolific actors who not only maintained his career beyond his "kid" years, but went above and beyond that with his output. 
When watching these films, it is easy to see why they were both popular and successful in their time. These tales of the Hardy family bring with them a sense of folksy charm(from their crochet-stitched credits on in), warm humor and pragmatism that one can't help but get a little caught up by them. The stories came to center around the Andy Hardy(Rooney) character as the series progressed, but they always involve his father, Judge Hardy as well as his mother and sister.
I started with one of the most famous entries in the series, LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY(1938). It is an interesting maiden voyage into the films and has the vibe of a 'LEAVE IT TO BEAVER for the 1930s'. Maybe even more of a 'PATTY DUKE SHOW for the 1930s' actually, with the Patty role being filled by Andy Hardy. It has what I suppose some folks might say it has a pretty corny tone to it, but there's some neat genuine stuff observed. Andy's clearly early on his "liking girls" phase, but the idea of always trying to talk your gal into a kiss and planning when the next kiss might happen is cute and memorable. It reminds me of a simpler time, not only the period in which the film takes place, but also in my own life. We tend to forget those gambits when we get older, but being at that stage in one's life wherein in the 'next kiss' is all you can think about is a pretty romantic one. Makes me feel bad for taking such things for granted. Another big draw of LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY is a young, adorable Judy Garland. Another one of the cute ladies in LOVE FINDS is the always lovely Lana Turner. She is always easy on the eyes, but I was absolutely transfixed by her here.
One departure from the feeling of the other films is with the first one, A FAMILY AFFAIR(1937). A big reason for the difference here is the presence of Lionel Barrymore as the patriarchal Judge Hardy. It's pretty amazing what having Lionel Barrymore at the center of your film can bring to it. I first saw Barrymore as the diabolical Mr. Potter in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. He is so good of course in that role, that I had trouble seeing him in other movies for many years after without feeling the reverberations of Potter rumbling through my bones. In the past 5 years or so, I've started to make more of an effort to watch many of Barrymore's films that I had previously missed out on. He's always pretty fantastic in my experience. Just this year I saw him a couple DR. KILDARE movies and he really anchored them and elevated them in a lot of ways. Same goes for this film. As I said, it's different tonally overall from a lot of the other films. Kind of a stand-alone tale of the judge and his battle with some of the political factions of the town they live in. The Judge taking a moral stand against corruption is one of the main plot thrusts of the movie. The rest of the family certainly plays into things in an ensemble kind of way, but the narrative focus of the films seems to shift away from this kind of story(which is inherently more dramatic than most of the other movies) and move a bit into lighter territory. It's interesting to see this one inside the context of the whole series prior to the success the rest of the films would have.
Other Andy Hardy movies in this 5-disc, 10 feature collection include:
JUDGE HARDY'S CHILDREN (1938)
THE HARDYS RIDE HIGH (1939)
ANDY HARDY GETS SPRING FEVER (1939)
THE COURTSHIP OF ANDY HARDY (1942)
ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE (1942)
ANDY HARDY'S BLONDE TROUBLE (1944)
LOVE LAUGHS AT ANDY HARDY (1946)
ANDY HARDY COMES HOME (1958)
 


Warner Archive also previously released a Vol. 1 Andy Hardy set which includes:
YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE(1937), OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS(1938), JUDGE HARDY AND SON(1939), ANDY HARDY MEETS DEBUTANTE(1940), ANDY HARDY'S PRIVATE SECRETARY(1941), LIFE BEGINS FOR ANDY HARD(1941).

 


GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN(1984; Hugh Hudson)
This film was a very interesting choice by Warner Archive to follow their great Blu-ray release if the Coen Brothers' HUDSUCKER PROXY. It's clear they are aiming for a good bit of variety with their Blu-ray line. I am all the more curious what title will be next(FEARLESS was rumored earlier this year which would be a good selection if it happens).
GREYSTOKE is a film I hadn't seen for many many years and my main impressions of it come from my thoughts on the director, Hugh Hudson. Hudson is a bit of a prestige guy, most noted for his film CHARIOTS OF FIRE(I've always been a fan of LOST ANGELS as well,but that film is all but forgotten these days). One thing that struck me right if the bat was that GREYSTOKE has an opening overture, which was quite rare if I'm not mistaken especially for a film in the 1980s. The film is a bit of an epic in a way and its ape-centric opening couldn't help remind me s bit of Kubrick's 2001. Photographed by John Alcott(BARRY LYNDON, THE SHINING, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE), it is of course a visually lovely film and one that is well suited to the Blu-ray treatment. It's reasonable to assume that Hudson's a fan of the great Stanley based on the use of his cinematographer and also based on the lots of ape interactions that occur in the film. 
Highly praised is Christopher Lambert's performance in GREYSTOKE. It's pretty great and much different than I would have expected based on his later action film work. Also, it was his first American film so it's a solid debut in that respect. Whilst watching his realization of this "animal-man" character, I couldn't help but think of the work Any Serkis is doing now with motion capture. I would be very curious to know, but not at all surprised if this is a performance that Serkis has studied over the years.
As with the other Warner Archive Blu-rays, this discs looks very nice and stays true to the look of the original film without much in the way of artificial enhancement. I very much look forward to all their future Blu-ray releases based on what I have seen from them thus far. Also, Included on this disc is a commentary track from director Hudson that is solid, informative stuff.

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