'Ryan's Daughter' wartime epic, extras on DVD
By Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
By Terry Lawson
Depending on one's point of view, David Lean's "Ryan's Daughter" is either an epic romantic tragedy or a film whose extravagant production overwhelms what might have been a genuinely affecting drama. Though this Lean fan is part of the latter group, I am also among those happy to see it finally released on DVD — in, of course, a two-disc "Special Edition" (Warner).
Written by Robert Bolt, who had far more to chew on with his screenplays of Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Dr. Zhivago," "Ryan's Daughter" tells the story of a headstrong pub owner's daughter (Sarah Miles) living in a coastal town in British-occupied Ireland in World War I. She fulfills a childhood dream by marrying her handsome schoolteacher (a poorly cast Robert Mitchum), only to be disappointed by the realization he is actually a passionless bore.
She is subsequently all too open to fall in love with a shattered, shell-shocked, yet handsome and virile British soldier (Christopher Jones).
Despite its simplicity, it was originally released theatrically, in 1970, in Super-Panavision 70mm, and in many cities, shown on the curved screens designed for the already-abandoned Cinerama format. It was given a sweeping, lavish "Zhivago"-style score by Maurice Jarre, while the cinematography was directed by the great Freddie Young — who would win one of its two Oscars. The other went to John Mills, who played the village idiot.
Extras include a commentary cobbled together from interviews with Miles, Lean's widow Sarah, Lean biographer Stephen Silverman and Trini Mitchum, daughter of the late Mitchum, along with various crew members and admiring directors Hugh Hudson and John Boorman.
'TIFFANY'S' ANNIVERSARY EDITION
A lot of people, upon encountering the 1961 adaptation of Truman Capote's screen version of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," are surprised to find it more of a dessert than a full-course meal, despite the fact that it follows the text of Capote's novella fairly faithfully, while all but abandoning its incisive inspection of modern manners and mores, easily as sociologically astute as "In Cold Blood."
This "Anniversary Edition" (Paramount) has been visually cleaned up and sharpened since its original DVD release, and its original mono soundtrack has been given one of the better artificial remixes to 5.1 Surround, although I still prefer the optional mono version. The film's producer, Richard Shepard, is recruited for the commentary, where he claims Marilyn Monroe was originally considered for the role of Holly played by Audrey Hepburn; one hopes it wasn't considered very long. The making-of doc is entertaining, even if it never really sparkles.
VINTAGE CARY GRANT
The Hepburn iconography makes it easy to underestimate the depth of her talents, which for many years also was the case with Cary Grant; fortunately, it was eventually conceded he was one of the most gifted and versatile of all the great movie stars.
That means we can be comfortable in indulging ourselves in the comically suave persona in "The Cary Grant Box Set" (Columbia-TriStar), containing four previously issued Grant films — the hilarious screwball classics "The Awful Truth" and "His Girl Friday," released in 1937 and 1940 ; 1939's airplane adventure "Only Angels Have Wings" and 1942's deceptively intelligent "The Talk of the Town" — and the new-to-disc "Holiday," the 1938 delight costarring Katharine Hepburn and directed by George Cukor.
DYLAN SINGS GOSPEL
The generally fine and mostly ignored "Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan" was released in 2003. It had a number of performers, including the legendary Shirley Caesar, the Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Fairfield Four, interpreting songs Dylan wrote and recorded during his born-again period. Some of the performances were captured on video, and they are now included on a DVD documentary (Image) of the same title.
Caesar's "Gotta Serve Somebody," Aaron Neville's "Saving Grace" and Sounds of Blackness' hell fire rendition of "Solid Rock" are interspersed with interviews with producer Jerry Wexler and musicians who played on the sessions and the subsequent tours.