King Vidor

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Revelator
Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:33 pm

Re: King Vidor

#26 Post by Revelator » Tue Jan 12, 2010 5:05 pm

Good news--seven Vidor titles previously unavailable on DVD can be bought through the Warners Archive site. They are:

Wild Oranges (1924)
La Boheme (1926)
The Patsy (1928)
The Citadel (1938)
Comrade X (1940)
H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941)
Lightning Strikes Twice (1951)

Of the entries I've seen, Patsy has already been acclaimed as a classic and thus needs no cheerleading; Oranges is a small but very effective and crackling Southern Gothic; and Citadel and Pulham date from Vidor's "gray, respectable" MGM period but are films of the highest craft, and remain models of integrity and intelligent middlebrow filmmaking. The best of the bunch is perhaps Pulham, with its path-not-traveled wistfulness and expert command of subjective memory, but they're all worth owning.
Discounting these, and any silents now lost, that leaves 23 Vidor films unavailable on DVD:

The Other Half (1919)
The Family Honor (1920)
The Jack-Knife Man (1920)
The Sky Pilot (1921)
Love Never Dies (1921)
Conquering the Woman (1922)
Peg o'My Heart (1922)
Three Wise Fools (1923)
Happiness (1924)
Wine of Youth (1924)
His Hour (1924)
Proud Flesh (1925)
The Big Parade (1925)
The Crowd (1928)
Show People (1928)
Billy the Kid (1930)
Cynara (1932)
The Stranger's Return (1933)
So Red the Rose (1935)
Northwest Passage (1940)
An American Romance (1944)
Beyond the Forest (1949)
Japanese War Bride (1952)

Of these, I would nominate The Stranger's Return and An American Romance as the biggest hidden treasures. The latter, Vidor's most visionary talkie, might have been his masterpiece if MGM hadn't hacked off half an hour. As it is, it's still one of those rare works of intense patriotism that is awe-inspiring instead of laughable.

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perkizitore
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Re: King Vidor

#27 Post by perkizitore » Tue Jan 12, 2010 7:45 pm

It seems that Manoel De Oliveira is breaking King Vidor's record for the longest director's career ever

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zedz
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Re: King Vidor

#28 Post by zedz » Tue Jan 12, 2010 7:54 pm

perkizitore wrote:It seems that Manoel De Oliveira is breaking King Vidor's record for the longest director's career ever
Didn't De Oliveira break that record some time last century? I don't think any of us will ever see anybody break that run (79 years and counting!)

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perkizitore
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Re: King Vidor

#29 Post by perkizitore » Tue Jan 12, 2010 8:01 pm

Vidor made his first film in 1913 and his last in 1980, De Oliveira in 1931 and 2009 respectively. Sorry, i should have said longest in terms of decades. Moreover, their longest hiatus lasted 21 and 14 years respectively.

Wittsdream
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Re: King Vidor

#30 Post by Wittsdream » Fri Jan 15, 2010 3:14 pm

The only other director I can think of that comes close to de Oliveira would be the Dutch documentarian Joris Ivens. He directed his first film, a short called De Wigwam in 1911 (barely a teenager), and concluded his career with 1988's Tale of the Wind. That would give him a career span of 77 years in moviemaking. Kenneth Anger is another one in contention, as he's continuously working on new video projects, and his career began in 1941. His latest effort, My Surfing Lucifer completed in 2009, gives him a span of 68 years and counting.

But in terms of both quality and longevity deep into one's career, I'm not sure any filmmaker henceforth is going to approach the Portuguese master's level of lucidity at over 100 years of age!

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Re: King Vidor

#31 Post by Saimo » Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:23 pm

Revelator wrote: Discounting these, and any silents now lost, that leaves 23 Vidor films unavailable on DVD:

Northwest Passage (1940)
We have an Italian DVD for this:
http://www.ibs.it/dvd/8032825669942/nor ... ovest.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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stereo
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Re: King Vidor

#32 Post by stereo » Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:49 pm

Wittsdream wrote:Kenneth Anger is another one in contention, as he's continuously working on new video projects, and his career began in 1941. His latest effort, My Surfing Lucifer completed in 2009, gives him a span of 68 years and counting.
That's because of the pact with the devil he made (true story) to overthrow Harry S. Truman.

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Der Spieler
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Re: King Vidor

#33 Post by Der Spieler » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:10 pm

Anybody here seen Vidor's adaptation of Tolstoy's "War and Peace"?

I've been thinking of buying it but I'm unsure if the movie and transfer are anything worthwhile.

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domino harvey
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Re: King Vidor

#34 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:18 pm

It's unbearable and virtually indistinguishable from any number of equally-forgettable period pieces of the era. The transfer was a decent VistaVision reproduction, if I remember correctly-- maybe a little dark, but the film was probably shot that way.

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Der Spieler
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Re: King Vidor

#35 Post by Der Spieler » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:25 pm

Thanks.

I won't spend a dime on it then.

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david hare
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Re: King Vidor

#36 Post by david hare » Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:57 pm

Hate to be a contrarian, but I consider it one of Vidor's best pictures, and the only great adaptation of Tolstoy to film. The way he has transcribed the narrative and emotional scope of the novel to a movie is on object lesson in narrative directness, pure story telling and characterization. And the casting is flawless.

The print looks pretty weak to me - like a faded Eastman reduction. But this is Paramount so what do they care.

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Der Spieler
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Re: King Vidor

#37 Post by Der Spieler » Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:30 pm

How does it compare to the novel?

There must be lots of aspects left out, I would guess.

Revelator
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Re: King Vidor

#38 Post by Revelator » Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:09 pm

Der Spieler wrote:How does it compare to the novel?

There must be lots of aspects left out, I would guess.
Of course. Even the eight hour Russian version ended up leaving a lot of material out. Vidor's adaptation is a tasteful streamlining that preserves the novel's basic structure, and Bondarchuk's film takes after it in that respect and shape (both do little to nothing with Nikolai's subplot)--it's also worth noting that the makers of the Russian film had a lot of respect for Vidor's film, which was very popular in Russia. So I would advise you to disregard Domino's advice, listen to David's and give the film a chance (the DVD itself is often sold for just $10 or less). Audrey Hepburn is an ideal Natasha, and though Fonda is physically miscast, his integrity comes in useful when portraying Pierre. Herbert Lom's Napoloeon is excellently petty, and though Ferrer is stiff, he does have Andrei's gravity and snootiness. The art direction is ornate, and though too much is shot in the studio, when let outside Vidor demonstrates his customary clarity of direction--Vidor did not have Bondarchuk's budget or resources, but his battle scenes actually give you a clear sense of the motion of the armies and greater forces at work, unlike Bondarchuk's endless chaos.
Though the film's final cut was not Vidor's own, he still considered it one of his best works. Just bear in mind that an awful lot of the book had to go missing, but what's there is a fine approximation. There is no way any film within such constraints could approach the depth and capaciousness of the novel as a whole, but Vidor succeeded within those limits.

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Der Spieler
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Re: King Vidor

#39 Post by Der Spieler » Sun Jan 24, 2010 2:41 am

I'll give it a try, thank you very much!

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david hare
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Re: King Vidor

#40 Post by david hare » Sun Jan 24, 2010 3:54 am

Thanks for the wrap on the Vidor,Rev.

I have to confess I'm getting a bit old to keep arguing this stuff. I can understand perfectly well anyone feeling slighted that Tolstoy may not have been flawlessly served by the Art of the Cinema. But to understand the Vidor, I think you have to return to something primeval like Griffiths, and go straight for story, arcs, characters and most importantly the ideas and vision of the original.

If any American filmmaker had an unshakebale belief in the redemptive possibilities of the human race, in the face of war and tragedy, it was Vidor.

I am also sure I loathed the film as much as Domino apparently does, 30 years ago. Things change.

Revelator
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Re: King Vidor

#41 Post by Revelator » Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:41 pm

david hare wrote:Thanks for the wrap on the Vidor,Rev.
I have to confess I'm getting a bit old to keep arguing this stuff. I can understand perfectly well anyone feeling slighted that Tolstoy may not have been flawlessly served by the Art of the Cinema. But to understand the Vidor, I think you have to return to something primeval like Griffiths, and go straight for story, arcs, characters and most importantly the ideas and vision of the original.
If any American filmmaker had an unshakebale belief in the redemptive possibilities of the human race, in the face of war and tragedy, it was Vidor.
Let me in turn thank you for defending the film. I actually just watched it for the first time around Christmastime last year, right after reading the book (also for the first time). It was a good experience too,since I watched it with my parents, both of whom had fond memories of seeing the film decades ago (neither has read the novel). For them the experience was that of seeing a very well-made and intelligent Hollywood epic of the old school, and that 50s sheen and tidiness, which imparts a slight sense of artificiality, might put off some viewers who come in expecting the grit and sprawl of Tolstoy. That's certainly missing, but as you noted, Vidor brings to the film the thick-lined integrity of Griffith and clearly delineates the story and characters--valuable attributes for trying to shave such a monster of a book into a film with a three hour running time. Vidor said his first cut was something around six hours, and I regret that the excised footage doesn't seem to have survived, since the film could only have benefited from even greater breadth.
The film seems somewhat forgotten today, which may lead some to think it a failure, but one needs to remember that if quality was the issue than stuff like Ben-Hur would have been forgotten instead. (Vidor had the distinction of turning down both the silent and sound versions of that film.)
I'm now going to try the BBC version of War and Peace, which is apparently the most faithful one (not surprising, since it clocks in at 15 hours!), but I'm not expecting too much, given that it's old TV and follows the old BBC model of shooting interiors on video and exteriors on film. I expect faithfulness at the cost of visual interest, but that's what some Tolstoy purists want of course.

Revelator
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Re: King Vidor

#42 Post by Revelator » Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:20 pm

Incidentally, Vidor's near-masterpiece An American Romance is now available from the Warner Archive! The link is at http://www.wbshop.com/American-Romance- ... html?cgid=
I look forward to being able to see this film's hallucinatory colors on DVD, instead of old TCM recordings. And perhaps now this drastically underrated film will get more of the attention it deserves. There are very films that manage to be patriotic and works of art, and this is one of them. And there are even fewer films that have given romance and poetry to brute industry, which makes An American Romance all the more remarkable.

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david hare
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Re: King Vidor

#43 Post by david hare » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:48 pm

Lightning strikes Twice is also out on WB Arcive in a very good transfer.

It may not be as major a fifties title as Man Without a Star or Ruby Gentry but it is fascinating for the narrative and visual arc which follows Ruth Roman's character from the relative innocence of dark, high contrast but unthreatening Night time city to the bright, highly open air South West US of whcih si full of danger and neurosis. A nice reversal of the usual Country to City trajectory post Murnau.

Warner contract star Ruth Roman may not be ideal for the role but she does what she can with an underwritten part. Mercedes Mc Cambridge steals the show of course.

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tojoed
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Re: King Vidor

#44 Post by tojoed » Mon May 17, 2010 6:12 pm

North West Passage on DVD in the UK in June.

Jonathan S
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Re: King Vidor

#45 Post by Jonathan S » Tue May 18, 2010 3:10 am

Not from Warner, though. Would they licence it to Pegasus, who seem to specialise in Grade Z Brit films? Sorry to be so sceptical of this release! :)

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tojoed
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Re: King Vidor

#46 Post by tojoed » Tue May 18, 2010 5:27 am

That's quite true, Jonathan, but I suppose the big question is: How good are the transfers of their Grade Z films?

Jonathan S
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Re: King Vidor

#47 Post by Jonathan S » Tue May 18, 2010 6:38 am

The bulk of the customer comments on Amazon UK (at least those I read) refer to Pegasus' jerky NTSC to PAL conversions and most of all to fuzzy VHS-sourced off-air recordings bearing what are believed to be old satellite TV logos.

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tojoed
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Re: King Vidor

#48 Post by tojoed » Tue May 18, 2010 8:13 am

Oh dear. Not encouraging then.

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Der Spieler
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Re: King Vidor

#49 Post by Der Spieler » Sat Jun 12, 2010 11:36 am

Revelator wrote:
Der Spieler wrote:How does it compare to the novel?
(both do little to nothing with Nikolai's subplot)
You mean his love affair with Sonya, and then his marriage, etc.? Do they leave Sonya and Marie out of the movies?

Revelator
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Re: King Vidor

#50 Post by Revelator » Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:07 pm

Der Spieler wrote:
Revelator wrote:
Der Spieler wrote:How does it compare to the novel?
(both do little to nothing with Nikolai's subplot)
You mean his love affair with Sonya, and then his marriage, etc.? Do they leave Sonya and Marie out of the movies?
They're both still there, but their presence is much less keenly felt and seems perfunctory. Pierre and Natasha and Andrei always take up most of the character development screen-time.

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