I will tell you...
... I spin so many of these @#&^%$#!! discs I have just blown out my first 4K player. That’s right, gentle readers, a few days ago my Sony UBP- X800 gave up the ghost, and it’s not even October. Woe is me. What shall I do?
Simple. Move the other 4K player from my bedroom into the great room. Use the spare Blu-Ray player that’s been sitting in a drawer in the guest bedroom as a temporary replacement for the bedroom player, until such time as the main 4K player is repaired.
Just as long as I always have the BEST player in the joint connected to the BEST monitor in the joint.
Do people still get things repaired? It’s been so long since I’ve broken anything, other than promises, hearts all around the world, and my wife’s hopeful spirit, I don’t know what to do. I could take it to the “Geek Squad” at my local Best Buy, but that big blue building is so covered with dust and cobwebs, I fear going in. It’s as if Best Buy's soulless husk is simply resting... waiting for new life to come... after the bankruptcy hearings... when the building will triumphantly reopen as a Spirit Halloween Superstore.
Hooray! I love Halloween superstores. Until then, let's review some recent spins.
War of the Worlds (1953)
NOTE: When I rave about the picture quality on this new disc (and rave and rave and rave) I am not saying that it looks like our modern notion of exceptional picture quality. Rather, it is the closest approximation I’ve seen to a specific early Technicolor aesthetic. It’s beautiful. I wrote about this aesthetic phenomenon when I wrote about that original Criterion Blu-Ray three short years ago...
The Ranown Westerns (1957 - 1960)
I must admit that these films represented a hole in my knowledge base before I purchased this set. My knowledge of star Randolph Scott was limited to that great line in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, where Cleavon Little chides the recalcitrant townspeople with, “You’d do it for... Randolph Scott,” after which said townspeople sing Scott’s name as if it were a Western anthem.
The films in this boxset present the Western genre stripped of all frills and frippery. I would almost classify these as “Minimalist Westerns” because they present only those elements that are essential to the form. (It is in the same spirit that I often think of Jackie Gleason’s The Honeymooners as a “Minimalist Sitcom.” Has any entertainment ever wrung more laughs from THREE PEOPLE IN ONE ROOM WITH A CHAIR, A TABLE, AND A WINDOW?)
I love how all five films in the set focus on the well-worn Western trope of “What makes a man a man?” Throughout the films, really bad guys keep insisting that there is some reason or justification for their horribleness. This is a lie. They are horrible men because they do horrible things or cause horrible things to happen through their inaction. Randolph Scott seems to be the only character in the films with a moral compass; it's both a responsibility and a burden. The films keep circling back to this simple existential question, “What do you stand for?” The answer, it turns out, is simple. In the words of the Paul Scofield character in Robert Redford’s Quiz Show, “If you want to be a knight, act like a knight.”
Randolph Scott is our knight.
Another plus to the Ranown Westerns boxset is that each film is short and invites multiple viewings. I’m getting so used to theatrical features lately being three and half f’ing hours long, I'd almost forgotten the pleasures of an 80-minute Western.
Invaders from Mars (1953)
Now, it is 70 years later.
The fact that we still have this film in any form is a miracle. Half of all films made before 1950 no longer exist in any form. (If you really want to cry into your beer, consider that only 14 percent of silent films still exist in any form. We citizens of the Twentieth Century have been piss-poor curators of our own culture.)
Invaders from Mars is a seminal film in the genre; it’s nice having it restored to its former glory. Scott MacQueen, who spearheaded the project, deserves a note of thanks from the generations to come that will continue to enjoy this film.
You can watch the restored trailer here:
As Jimmy Hunt says in the film as he watches the aliens land, “Gee Whiz, there goes my 4K Blu-ray disc player! Darn it.”