New on Blu-Ray | Gold Diggers of 1933, House of Gucci, Ivanhoe, Stage Fright
GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933, Warner Archive)
"The Shadow Waltz" and "Remember My Forgotten Man" are two of Berkeley's greatest numbers, with the elliptical elegance of "Shadow Waltz" giving way to the politically charged roar of anger that is "Forgotten Man," a poignant and impassioned plea for the homeless, out-of-work WWI veterans left behind to an indifferent government. As is usual with Berkeley's showbiz musicals the songs have little to do with the plot, but the numbers of Gold Diggers of 1933 capture Hollywood decadence combined with Depression-era resentment of the elites and mistrust of the Washington establishment with grand, dreamlike relish.
GRADE - ★★★½ (out of four)
HOUSE OF GUCCI (2021, Universal)
Examining House of Gucci as part of Scott's 2021 output, it is almost the exact same length as The Last Duel - yet that film feels swift and fleet while Gucci feels stilted and plodding. Which is a shame considering the quality of acting happening on screen - Gaga, Leto (who despite much social media derision, seems to be the only one along with Gaga who understood the assignment), Pacino, Driver, and Irons are all a blast to watch, but they're trapped in film that cannot match their energy. The performances are worth the prices of admission, but as a whole House of Gucci feels like a giant missed opportunity - a tale of scandal and extravagance that plays it all too safe and straight, while the actors provide a tantalizing glimpse at what could have been. A few brief bonus features, including "The Rise of the House of Gucci," "The Lady of the House," and "Styling House of Gucci" will likely be catnip for Gaga fans.
GRADE - ★★½ (out of four)
IVANHOE (1952, Warner Archive)
Some of these massive productions proved quite popular with the Academy - King Solomon's Mines, El Cid, Quo Vadis, The Robe, Julius Caesar, Ben Hur, employing casts of thousands and flexing the might of their respective studios. Ivanhoe (1952) was one such film; nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture (it lost to The Greatest Show on Earth), it has all the marks of a Major Motion Picture of its time - big stars, grand set pieces, elaborate costumes, and it's as dry as dirt. Based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe is staid, humorless, and utterly lacking in dramatic weight - existing mostly to showcase its elaborate costume and set design and little else.
The centerpiece battle, which includes a siege of Prince John's keep where Ivanhoe is being held prisoner, is impressive, and new Blu-Ray restoration from Warner Archive brings its Technicolor cinematography to vibrant life, but the film is as lifeless as the costumes are colorful. Elizabeth Taylor is the only one who make it our relatively unscathed, turning in a surprisingly grounded performance that is perhaps better than anything the film itself demanded. Ivanhoe was a hit in 1952, but it's been mostly forgotten in the years since in favor of more successful examples of its genre. It may be of some curiosity to Oscar completists and fans of its stars, but there's little to recommend here otherwise.
GRADE - ★½ (out of four)
STAGE FRIGHT (1950, Warner Archive)
Stage Fright would be the last film Hitchcock would make in the UK before returning one final time in Frenzy 22 years later. While it isn't one of his strongest films (Hitch would soon embark on one of the strongest periods in his career just a few years later), it's an awful lot of fun, with Dietrich commanding the screen and Wyman showing off her acting chops in what amounts to a dual role. An oft overlooked gem.