Last year, Universal Pictures celebrated its 100th anniversary by releasing several classic movies (such as Jaws, E.T., Scarface, The Birds and Back to the Future). The Anniversary year came with a long lineup of home video releases, some hitting Blu-ray for the first time.
This year, it’s Warner Bros turn to remind movie lovers of its long legacy of cinema magic. Now celebrating its 90th Anniversary, Warner Bros has released a twenty-film DVD collection that includes a phenomenal roster of Academy Award winners and pictures that are just downright memorable. From classics like Casablanca and Ben-Hur to modern day box-office smashes like The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Departed, this collection has something for everyone in the family. My only nitpick is that I wish it were packaged with Citizen Kane or another stand alone film instead of The Return of the King. The final chapter of the Peter Jackson’s trilogy feels like an odd add-in without its peers to usher in the finale to Tolkien’s story.
The Best of Warner Bros 20 Film Collection Best Pictures comes packed in a gold box set, perfect for bookshelf placement. The cover is highlighted by small box pictures of Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, The Return of the King, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Departed and Amadeus. Each movie title shows up on the front and spine of the gold box in light transparency. The set is broken up into three eras, 1929-1942, 1946-1959 and 1975-2006.
Here are some of my favorites:
Who can forget those famed final words, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Truthfully, many people can because more often than not, people replace “my dear” with “Scarlett” when they quote the line.
In 1939, Gone With the Wind captured the tragic romance of Scarlett and Rhett, amidst the Civil War. This film is filled with beautiful set pieces and some of the most emotional scenes in movie history. But most of all, I loved this film for its dark comedy. The movie is a non-stop game of chess between Scarlett and Rhett. Perhaps there is some over acting by today’s standards, but each moment of the 233-minute movie is captivating.
If you asked me on the spot, I’d probably rank Casablanca up there on my list of top five movies of all time. Sure, I love science fiction and comic book films, but few films have the dialogue depth that Humphrey Bogart brings to Rick Blaine. He’s a rogue, hero and tragic figure all rolled up into one. But, it’s the way he plays with words and the choices he makes regarding love that make him so compelling. Once again, for the uninitiated, you may look at Casablanca as a love story. However, this film is also filled with darkly comedic moments.
In one scene, Captain Renault closes down Rick’s café with the utmost urgency and seriousness. When Rick asks how the Captain can close up his business. Renault replies, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Then a croupier hands the captain his winnings from having just gambled, and Renault says, “Oh, thank you very much,” without missing a beat. You’ll find that kind of humor throughout the movie. Casablanca is also one of the most pilfered movies when it comes to modern day clichés and catch phrases.
Although most people think of Moses when they hear the name Charlton Heston, I remember the actor most for Ben-Hur. This tale of politics, social class and religion is arguably the greatest movie epic of all time. From Prince Judah Ben-Hur’s rise in status as a Roman officer to his fall into slavery and life, this film’s tale is as poignant as any novel.
Ben-Hur took won Best Picture of 1959, along with ten other Academy Awards. It sits as one of the cornerstones of movie history.
When it comes to talent, this film has an over abundance. Jack Nicholson, William Redfield, Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd serve up the wildest tale of crazy you’ll ever witness. Nicholson plays McMurphy, a convict who feigns mental illness for a less restrictive sentence at a mental hospital. Unfortunately, his gambit backfires when they try to keep him longer than he expected.
This film is a tale of odd and bizarre. Production used a real mental hospital to film this movie and you get the sense of being trapped in this off-kilter world as you watch McMurphy’s tale unfold. This is an unsettling movie that shifts between humor and disturbing. It offers a nice change of pace from the pre-1960s film included in this set; it also sets the tone for the next seven movies that follow.
I still remember Morgan Freeman as Vincent the Vegetable Vampire on The Electric Company. However, it was probably Driving Miss Daisy that really catapulted him into fame as the sage voice of reason in movies.
Driving Miss Daisy is the delightful tale of Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy), an old Jewish woman, and Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman), her African American chauffeur. The film delivers a touching story of their evolving relationship, while deftly interweaving comedy and race issues. Although the film takes place during the Civil Rights movement in the south, race is used more to pepper their personalities – showing pockets of goodness within a tumultuous time in American history.
What would an all-time DVD collection be without a western? Unforgiven is one of the last great westerns, filmed in 1992 by Director Clint Eastwood, who also starred. Perhaps this movie deserves accolades simply because Eastwood is helming the genre that made him famous. This film is nicely offset by Million Dollar Baby, a non-western Eastwood-helmed movie that is also included in this collection.
The Departed sits as one of the top films in Martin Scorsese’s distinguished movie-making career. It’s also the only film Scorsese ever took home an Oscar for in the category of Best Director.
This film is filled with several nice twists so I won’t spoil too much of the plot details if you haven’t seen the film yet. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg. The film centers on men going undercover in the Massachusetts State Police and the Irish mafia. Lines get blurred and all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of great moments in this film and it’s easily a movie that can be rewatched over-and-over.
I had forgotten that this was under the Warner Bros roster and it’s a perfect addition to this collection.
I love this film. I love the trilogy. But, I honestly don’t think this movie has a place on this collection since it can’t sit with The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Yes, you can argue that it’s the best of the three films. However, if you’re going to watch it, you need to watch the others first in order to get the right build up.
There are only seven movies on this collection that came out after 1980. The Return of the King is one of them. If you buy the collection, and don’t have the other two movies in the trilogy, then you can’t “really” watch the final LOTR film alone without picking up the other two films separately.
It’s a slight miscalculation in an otherwise superb set.
· The Broadway Melody (1929)
· Grand Hotel (1932)
· Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
· The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
· Gone with The Wind (1939)
· Casablanca (1942) – 1943 Academy Award® Winner
· Mrs. Miniver (1942)
1946-1959 (The Golden Years)
· The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
· An American in Paris (1951)
· Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
· Gigi (1958)
· Ben-Hur (1959)
1975-2006 (The New Classics)
· One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
· Chariots of Fire (1981)
· Amadeus: Director’s Cut (1984)
· Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
· Unforgiven (1992)
· The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingTM (2003)
· Million Dollar Baby (2004)
· The Departed (2006)
Best of Warner Bros 20 Film Collection: Best Pictures [Blu-ray]
Warner Home Video
January 29, 2013
9 / 10