Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Arrow Video - SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS on Blu-ray ""

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Arrow Video - SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS on Blu-ray

SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1942; Preston Sturges)
Preston Sturges was one of the rare early writer/directors that worked inside the studio system of the 1940s. When you see a Sturges film, you are really seeing a Sturges film in that his movies truly have his stamp on them via the script and direction (and casting). He is a director to which the term "auteur" seems a pretty great fit. Sturges truly is one of the greatest writers of dialogue in all of cinema. When people think of screwball comedies with clever rapid-fire exchanges between characters, they should be thinking of Sturges as he was the king in my opinion (though I certainly love other screwball comedies as well). 
SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS was the first of Sturges' films I ever saw back when I was in college. Yet another film that I was turned onto by a book from my hero Danny Peary (he featured it in Cult Movies 2). I loved it instantly and quickly moved on to others, including THE LADY EVE which may still be my favorite. I was immediately taken in by the Sturges universe which consisted of fantastic dialogue, humorous and intelligent stories and outstanding actors. Like Scorsese uses camera moves and cuts to help create his stylized world, Sturges immerses us with his dialogue and the wonderful group of character actors that he stocked his films with. Sturges had a brilliant ability of casting actors for their faces. So many glorious faces among these actors. One William Demarest is nearly priceless as far as his comic value in basically any movie. For anyone that didn't already know, the Coen Brothers are obviously gigantic fans of Sturges - not only in modeling a lot of their dialogue-based humor off of his model , but even to go so far as to lift the title "O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU" right out of SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS. It has been a little while since Criterion put the movie out on DVD (and has curiously yet to bring it out on Blu-ray), so perhaps some folks have either never heard of it or forgotten about it. It's simply one of the greatest american comedies of all time and must be see by all.
Watching the film this time I was only slightly distracted by my more recent discovery that Veronica Lake (who is remarkably stunning in the film and very funny) was apparently not at all east to work with and not very well liked by almost anyone who ever worked with her.  Apparently Joel McCrea was quoted as saying something along the lines of life being too short to work with Lake again (even though he would make another film with her). Watching this movie, it still shocks me that they didn't get along as the chemistry between McCrea and Lake is among the best in any comedy I've seen. I guess it really says something about just how great the two of them were as actors (and Sturges being now slouch as a director).

Special Features:
Though this disc has one crossover with the Criterion Collection DVD, it has many other new features as well.
-a new Audio commentary from Terry Jones (Monty Python). Jones kicks off this commentary by saying, "To my mind, Preston Sturges was one of the geniuses of film". That pretty well sums up how he feels and gives a sense of this excellent, loving commentary from another great director in his own right. He's always been an incredibly sharp fellow and his comments are very interesting.

-'Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer', a 76-minute documentary made by Kenneth Bowser for PBS’s American Masters series (this doc was also included on the Criterion release).

-'The Preston Sturges Stock Company' (45 mins). I really liked this extremely thorough examination of Sturges stock company of actors that he used regularly in his films. A ton of actors are touched on in this wonderful little retrospective.It was great to put names to the faces.

-'Kevin Jackson on SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS(22 mins). Writer Kevin Jackson (of the UK's The Guardian) talks about the man himself and this film in particular and how it encompasses not only comedy, but nearly every genre of film  (except western) that was popular at the time. An enjoyable and observant analysis of the film and Sturges as a person.

-SAFEGUARDING MILITARY INFORMATION (1942) - a 10 minute propaganda film from 1942, which features Walter Huston and Sturges regular Eddie Bracken and was written by Sturges himself.

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