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Milestone, Flicker Alley, Oscilloscope, Cinema Guild...they're all here.
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Scharphedin2
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#1 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Dec 30, 2006 10:18 pm

So, I am completely engrossed in A Walk In the Sun, which I had picked up on a trip to London for about £5. It is a disc from something called WHE, and after a rather wooly start, the disc looked about the way I remember TV broadcasts of old films looking in the eighties. So, not a fantastic presentation, but I could live with it... Then, ten minutes before the end of the film, the disc just shut down, and no amount of trickery would get it to play the end of the film. Naturally, I am not a happy camper... I look up the title on the internet, and I now come across several different editions of the film.

In the States it has been released by Alpha, and costs about $7; buy it wrapped up with We Dive at Dawn and The North Star, and the price per film is even cheaper. I looked up Alpha's other releases, and spent about half an hour looking through a lot of dross, but also a long list of minor classics, many of which I find it difficult to imagine that anohter company will give a big make-over.

My mind is made up to get Walk In the Sun from this outfit, but I would be curious to hear of any experiences with Alpha. Naturally, I am not expecting these discs to look amazing, but surely there must be some of their discs that look reasonably good in a batch of more than a thousand titles. Add to that a price tag of less than what a ticket costs at the local multiplex, and I suppose it is alright, if one is destined to watch a given film.

Please share your Alpha recommendations and experiences!

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HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#2 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Dec 31, 2006 5:50 am

Reasonable Alpha's that I've seen:

Actual, digital transfers:

THE BRAIN/HEAD THAT WOULDN'T DIE
PHANTOM PLANET
HUHNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
DETOUR
CARNIVAL OF SOULS


Worth watching analog:

THE BAT (because no other ed.)
MARIHUANA Weed W Roots In Hell (Sp correct, D Esper 1936)
THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN
COCAINE FIENDS (Terrible print but a nearly lost film)
CHILD BRIDE (one of the most notorious explo films on earth in very good analog)
GAMBLING WITH SOULS (Ditto)

The STUDENT OF PRAGUE (from 1913 is horrible, 8mm!)

Not anywhere near complete-- just my experience. I've also heard that ORPHANS OF THE STORM is a digital transfer.. the HUNCHBACK is actually an old sonorized-- cropped-- D Shepard transfer.

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reaky
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 8:53 am
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#3 Post by reaky » Sun Dec 31, 2006 8:32 am

Alpha's THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME seems to be pinched from - er, a port of - the Criterion. So there's a tip for my fellow cheapskates (if you don't miss the commentary. Certainly can't say I miss the cover).

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skuhn8
wax on; wax off
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#4 Post by skuhn8 » Sun Dec 31, 2006 10:32 am

reaky wrote:Alpha's THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME seems to be pinched from - er, a port of - the Criterion. So there's a tip for my fellow cheapskates (if you don't miss the commentary. Certainly can't say I miss the cover).
But it's a Bruce Eder commentary. Definitely worth the price of admission.

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HerrSchreck
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#5 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Dec 31, 2006 11:01 am

reaky wrote:Alpha's THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME seems to be pinched from - er, a port of - the Criterion. So there's a tip for my fellow cheapskates (if you don't miss the commentary. Certainly can't say I miss the cover).
That bad boy is already cheap-- check out hammocks recent post on cd-wow about it. But yeah, me & gregory got into a funny little discussion about that cover where I said it was one of the worst CC covers, he disagreed, and I called him a cheap date or "easy" or something like that.
But Eders commentary is a perfect example of the kind of commentary I do enjoy-- less metaphorical theory and personal interp, and far more History Of The Film, it's inception, making, reception, and actors fore & aft. (The inclusion of the commentary on a low teir CC makes that edition a kickass value)

As for Alpha, I use them to plug gaps when certain discs are not available (hence many exploitation flicks on the list... they may have the biggest line of 30's-50's exploitation flicks along the Clifton/Esper line beyond even Something Weird Video)... hence THE BAT and STUDENT OF PRAGUE. The others I either saw at random or picked up as cheap subs because I had a hankering to see something and a premium edition wasn't available on stocked shelves.

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Gordon
Waster of Cinema
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#6 Post by Gordon » Sun Dec 31, 2006 12:34 pm

This thread at DVD Maniacs covers the best releases by Alpha, Brentwood, etc as well as their new and future releases.

Alpha's disc of The Big Combo is pretty good for the price and presents Alton's awesome lighting better than any other tape or disc.

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HerrSchreck
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#7 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Dec 31, 2006 12:55 pm

O and Alpha are the only guys so far who have the great Mann/Alton THE BLACK BOOK. Amazing film, perhaps superior to COMBO in photog as well as mose en scene and story. French Revo Noir! Paranoia for weeks!

I used to have a better vhs of it, but lent it out and it developed legs (or I just forgot who I lent it to).

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Scharphedin2
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#8 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Dec 31, 2006 2:00 pm

Thanks both of you! This is hugely helpful and appreciated.

I will be going trough that thread at DVD Maniacs with a comb. It would be interesting to have more dialogue in the forum about these "small" labels that specialize in public domain titles and the underground of filmmaking. My discovery through the forum of VCI resulted in one of the most fun and rewarding (and cheapest) DVD experiences of the past year. Maybe we could start a list/thread similar to DVD Maniacs' here in the new year -- there are literally thousands of releases out there that are just about unknown to everyone.

Ordered Alpha's The Black Book and Big Combo discs, along with Walk In the Sun.

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Gordon
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#9 Post by Gordon » Sun Dec 31, 2006 3:53 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:O and Alpha are the only guys so far who have the great Mann/Alton THE BLACK BOOK. Amazing film, perhaps superior to COMBO in photog as well as mose en scene and story. French Revo Noir! Paranoia for weeks!
Richard Basehart as Robespierre?! I was checking over Alton's filmography yesterday and this one obviously came up, but I'm not too sure about it. I first heard about it when Mr Tooze reviewed it three years ago and the transfer looks shite, so that put me off giving it a go. Isn't there an Australian DVD?

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HerrSchreck
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#10 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Jan 01, 2007 4:59 am

Gordon wrote:[Richard Basehart as Robespierre?! I was checking over Alton's filmography yesterday and this one obviously came up, but I'm not too sure about it.
Spencer Tracy as Hyde? Yet you dug him more than the Mamoulian.

Thus, the joy of Acting...

Film is full of these wonderful little personal epiphanies... and if you have seen HE WALKED BY NIGHT you know that Rich Basehart can be one of the most masculine, sinister villains ever to traverse an acedemy ratio film frame. Take the tip and swim in film paranoia heaven. THE BLACK BOOK will knock your socks off-- it's far beyond the (near) excercise in pure style that is THE BIG COMBO (a film that is certainly inferior to RAW DEAL & TMEN & HE WALKED BY NIGHT... and THE BLACK BOOK).

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manicsounds
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#11 Post by manicsounds » Mon Jan 01, 2007 1:48 pm

Image

the 1938 classic which MST3K almost did......
but decided that the jokes couldnt change the disturbing context.

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Scharphedin2
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#12 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Jan 06, 2007 8:31 pm

I did a thrawl through most of Alpha's releases, and at $6 a pop, I will probably give the majority of the titles listed below a chance at some point in the future. In addition to the films already mentioned above, I thought I would post this short list, as other forum members may not even be aware that these titles exist on DVD. How good or bad the quality is obviously a gamble. If anyone here has any first hand experience with any of these titles, comments are very welcome:

Eternally Yours (Tay Garnett, 1939)
Hell's House (Howard Higgin, 1932)
The Outlaw (Howard Hughes, 1943)
Bird of Paradise (King Vidor, 1932)
Giant of Marathon (Jacques Tourneur, 1959)
Love Affair (Leo McCarey, 1939)
Man On the Eiffel Tower (Burgess Meredith, 1949)
The Cat and the Canary (Paul Leni, 1927)
Quicksand (Irving Pichel, 1950)
Rain (Lewis Milestone, 1932)
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (Preston Sturges, 1947)
Dementia 13 (Francis Ford Coppola, 1963)
The Painted Desert (Howard Higgin, 1931)
Becky Sharp (Rouben Mamoulian, 1935)
Marie Galante (Henry King, 1934)
Milky Way (Leo McCarey, 1936)
Our Daily Bread (King Vidor, 1934)
Salt of the Earth (Herbert J. Biberman, 1954)
Heart of a Nation (Julien Duvivier, 1943)
The Bigamist (Ida Lupino, 1953)
The Student of Prague (Henrik Galeen, 1926)
Two Women (Vittorio De Sica, 1960)
Damaged Lives (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1933)
I Dream of Jeanie (Allan Dwan)
Rin-Tin-Tin: The Lightning Warrior (serial by Armand Schaefer and Benjamin Kline, 1931)
Why We Fight -- series of 7 documentaries on 2 discs (Frank Capra, 1943)
Bombs Over Burma (Joeph H. Lewis, 1942)
Letter of Introduction (John M. Stahl. 1938)

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waxy
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#13 Post by waxy » Sat Jan 06, 2007 9:56 pm

From the Bird of Paradise disk. It's pretty murky in the nighttime scenes, but I was able to watch the whole thing...

Image
Image
Image
Image

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HerrSchreck
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#14 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Jan 07, 2007 1:49 am

There is a fabulous restored CAT & THE CANARY by Paul Leni that totally rules...

I know I've seen RAIN in a premium edition somewhere.. Here...

On the Lupino I've had an old "Matinee Classics" vhs on that for years (same with OUR DAILY BREAD from Kino) but I do have the Ulmer DAMAGED LIVES from Alpha.. if memory serves it's probably an analog broadcast ripped onto dvd. But a rare title nonetheless which I'm glad to have for 6 bucks.

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Ashirg
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#15 Post by Ashirg » Sun Jan 07, 2007 3:20 am

There's a better release of Dementia 13 from Roan Group.

Two Women is dubbed and full screen. Better wait for a restored edition.

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Scharphedin2
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#16 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Jan 07, 2007 10:39 am

Thanks for pointing this out Ashirg. I can live with murky/poor image quality to see a film, but pan&scan and dubbing is probably where I draw my personal line. Is this a common practice with Alpha (and the other public domain labels) -- letterboxing has become such a universal phenomenon that I forget to even think that something could be released cropped these days. The only other title from the ones listed that would really have this issue is Tourneur's Giant of Marathon, and it is listed with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which should be fine.

And, thank you very much waxy for going to the length of posting those screen caps. I am sure that I am not alone in being curious about what these Alpha discs look like.

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Scharphedin2
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#17 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:06 pm

Scharphedin2 wrote:So, I am completely engrossed in A Walk In the Sun, which I had picked up on a trip to London for about £5. It is a disc from something called WHE, and after a rather wooly start, the disc looked about the way I remember TV broadcasts of old films looking in the eighties. So, not a fantastic presentation, but I could live with it... Then, ten minutes before the end of the film, the disc just shut down, and no amount of trickery would get it to play the end of the film. Naturally, I am not a happy camper... I look up the title on the internet, and I now come across several different editions of the film.
All is well that ends well... I began to look into Alpha's releases, because I needed to finish A Walk In the Sun, the UK disc of which bailed out on me a few minutes before the end. I just received the Alpha disc, and viewed the film to the end (and what an ending!)

The image quality here is pretty much the same as on the UK WHE disc -- looks a little like the 16mm prints we used to watch at my high school back in the '80s -- the print is fairly clean, but the general look is a little flat. In other words, it is an acceptable way to get to see this excellent picture, but it is incomprehensible to me that this particular World War II film has not received some kind of more dignified release, as it is one of the most original films of its genre that I have seen.

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Scharphedin2
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#18 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Jan 28, 2007 5:54 am

Gordon wrote:
HerrSchreck wrote:O and Alpha are the only guys so far who have the great Mann/Alton THE BLACK BOOK. Amazing film, perhaps superior to COMBO in photog as well as mose en scene and story. French Revo Noir! Paranoia for weeks!
Richard Basehart as Robespierre?! I was checking over Alton's filmography yesterday and this one obviously came up, but I'm not too sure about it. I first heard about it when Mr Tooze reviewed it three years ago and the transfer looks shite, so that put me off giving it a go. Isn't there an Australian DVD?
Gordon, did you find out if there is an Australian release (that looks better than the Alpha release)? I just viewed this, and it is clear that in a better presentation the photography will be absolutely stunning. The disc is poor in image quality (a notch below A Walk In the Sun, and really only for the very curious). However, the film is good (Baseheart does a convincingly quietly psychotic Robespierre), and a lot of care went into the look of the film -- not only the photography, but the crowd scenes in 18th century Paris, and the scenes taking place in the conference are superbly imagined and staged.

EDIT -- btw, thanks for the excellent recommendations Schreck. In fact, I also viewed He Walked By Night a couple of days ago. Another gorgeously photographed film (by Alton), and a very fine disc by MGM, I think. Baseheart is awesome again (really strange to see him in these turns as villain, being only really able to remember him in La Strada prior to this. You mention this as a film by Anthony Mann, and I think I have seen that elsewhere before... do you know the story? Obviously Mann receives no official credit, and the film signed by Alfred Werker.

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HerrSchreck
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#19 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Jan 28, 2007 6:07 am

I had this film on a VHS which grew legs some years ago, but the quality was far far better than this miserable dvd, which still at least gives a chance to see this Mann/Alton masterpiece, and I do believe that's what it is, right up there along with TMEN & RAW DEAL, ratcheted up considerably in my humble estimation due to the oddball stylistic and hitherto (and forthwith) unseen hybridizing of french/historical period melodrama with an atomically amped up noir stylization. When seen in a good print the high contrast photography, the darkness that drenches the film, the fingers & noses & mouths peeking & whispering out of the shadows potentiate some of the unhealthiest doses of pure paranoia I have ever seen in the cinema.

One hell of an overlooked gem, and-- with the 5 bucks I paid for the Alpha (versus 35 bucks that FacEtS would charge if they brought out the precise same disc) I'll gladly suffer thru it for the time being, at least being able to see the damned thing. I just pretend I'm a little kid in the early 70's again watching the old b&w tv we had in the basement (color unit in living room) with the rabbit ear antennae that we had to move around the room, occasionally whapping the side of the unit. It pretty much duplicates the experience of watching tv in those days, especially on one of the non-"big three" stations which didn't have the signal strength of ABC/NBC/CBS... and were where most of the old films wound up being played, regularly.

EDIT:
Scharphedin2 wrote:[You mention this as a film by Anthony Mann, and I think I have seen that elsewhere before... do you know the story? Obviously Mann receives no official credit, and the film signed by Alfred Werker.
Mann's credit is well known, i e well know to be an uncredted saviour for this film as Werker was fucking up something that was on the high end of a B production. You should be able to get a recap of the story online, and probably start here to start the confirmation process.

From AllMovie:
Though the direction is credited to Hollywood old-timer Alfred Werker, most of He Walked By Night is the handiwork of an uncredited Anthony Mann.

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tryavna
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#20 Post by tryavna » Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:26 pm

Scharphedin2 wrote:Baseheart is awesome again (really strange to see him in these turns as villain, being only really able to remember him in La Strada prior to this.
Basehart is one of those actors whom I always forget about being really good -- until I see one of his films. I have to say that I find him less interesting as actor when he's playing heroes/protagonists (like Ishmael in Huston's Moby-Dick or the hero of Joseph Losey's Intimate Stranger), but he had a wonderful knack for portraying depravity. If you're interested, the surprisingly bland 1962 film Hitler is worth watching just for Basehart's portrayal of one of the most depraved men of the 20th century. It's a shame that Hitchcock never used him. Think how much better a film like I Confess would have been if Basehart had played the real killer!

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HerrSchreck
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#21 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:37 pm

Yeah-- I know him primarily as a villain i e the aformentioned films by Mann, then seeing him as a young nervous innocent man in 14 HOURS was a bit anticlimactic (and a weak link in the Fox Noir series).

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htdm
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#22 Post by htdm » Sun Jan 28, 2007 2:16 pm

Scharphedin2 wrote:If anyone here has any first hand experience with any of these titles, comments are very welcome:
The Outlaw (Howard Hughes, 1943)
Bird of Paradise (King Vidor, 1932)
The Cat and the Canary (Paul Leni, 1927)
Rain (Lewis Milestone, 1932)
Milky Way (Leo McCarey, 1936)
Our Daily Bread (King Vidor, 1934)
Salt of the Earth (Herbert J. Biberman, 1954)
Roan Group's Bird of Paradise is taken from a 35mm sepia toned print that looks cleaner (and brighter) to my eyes than the grabs waxy posted.
Similarly, Rain and The Outlaw look slightly better on the Roan releases. Schreck already mentioned the Image version of Cat & the Canary which leaves Alpha's version in the dust. The Harold Lloyd Collection (New Line) has the definitive version of The Milky Way. And Image's versions of Our Daily Bread and Salt of the Earth look better to me than the Alpha versions.

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souvenir
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#23 Post by souvenir » Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:29 am

Dave Kehr on the Alpha release of Corsair

[quote="NY Times"]The flood of fascinating Poverty Row and B pictures coming out of the independent budget label Alpha Video (oldies<129>.com) continues to yield unexpected pleasures and extreme rarities, not always in the greatest of prints but generally quite watchable. (For $6, Alpha gives you a perfectly fine $6 DVD.)

“Corsair,â€

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Scharphedin2
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#24 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:37 pm

I just viewed Three Came Home, and it can definitely be added to Alpha's credit sheet. There are a handful of minor scratches along the way, but otherwise the image is clean, and the transfer fine (on a par with the best of Editions Montparnasse's RKO titles).

It is a moving film, and I was more than a little surprised that Fox has not released this as a Studio Classics title. The film is presented by Zanuck, produced by Nunnally Johnson, directed by Jean Negulesco, starring Claudette Colbert, and it was filmed (largely on location in Borneo) by Milton Krasner, and scored by Hugo Friedhofer. All in all a real quality Hollywood production from the dying days of the studio era.

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devlinnn
Take a chance you stupid ho
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#25 Post by devlinnn » Wed Feb 14, 2007 3:36 am

Has anyone viewed the Alpha release of Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker? My Roan LD has finally bitten the dust, the Roan DVD hardly looks any better (and possibly deleted), the Kino release is still full-price, and the other el-cheapo copies look laughable.

One Alpha to avoid or recommend depending on taste - the t 'n a double A Virgin in Hollywood/Protect Your Daughter. PQ dreadful - but in this case it kind of works to advantage, giving Virgin... (aka Side Streets of Hollywood) an even seedier L.A. Forties/James Ellroy on downers/cheap motel/cactus on damp carpet/where's Lynch when you need him feel that some of us love. Fans of Elmer Batters will appreciate a few scenes in particular, with the use of cheap props wonderfully put to use. Happy Valentines Day - what a time, what a place it was -

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