Monday, August 8, 2011

Don't Need The "Blu-"s In A Black And White World

At the risk of sounding like a flack for Criterion, it's hard to avoid talking about the stuff they re-release if you're into classic movies. I'm glad that they take the trouble to restore, add special features and commentary soundtracks. You've got to know that the studios would never do it, mostly because they've decided that DVDs and Blu-rays aren't the cash cows they used to be.
So I grabbed a copy of director Robert Aldrich's "Kiss Me Deadly," which has been getting lots of virtual ink since its Criterion rechristening. Especially the Blu-ray version of the 1955 noir.
But I didn't go with the Blu-ray; I copped the DVD instead.
"Why?" you may ask.
Well, here's why: I don't have a Blu-ray player and am doubtful that I'll ever get one. Sure, Blu-ray has the added benefits over DVD -- clearer, hi-def picture, more digital space on the disc for added features, and all.
Call me crazy, but I'm holding off on scoring any technology that's liable to have the life expectancy of a fruit fly.
The studios have settled their Beta-Max/VHS-like debate, of course. And the prices for players are way down. But it's the principle of the thing. The planned obsolescence.
I have a sneaking suspicion that as soon as I plunk down the cash, Sony and the other technology purveyors are going to announce discs are dead, it's all digital downloads from here on in.
Not only that, I wonder if we really need Blu-ray technology to view "Kiss Me Deadly," a 1955 black and white film that was pretty low-budget to begin with.
By the way, the DVD version plays just fine, thank you. And it's a pretty cool film. Ralph Meeker, as Mike Hammer, does himself proud as the lead of the Mickey Spillane-inspired story. I say "inspired" because the title is about the only part of the original hard-boiled novel that wasn't gutted from the script.
The film version is an apocalyptic drama set in the age of the A-Bomb. It's good fun to watch -- 1950s Cold War paranoia abounds. You can practically hear the rantings of "Tailgunner" Joe McCarthy as you watch the ridiculously inaccurate presentation of a nuclear device unleashed in Los Angeles. And Meeker's Mike Hammer is one impressive fascist, who pistol-whips his way through the city's population of gangsters, anarchists and ne'er-do-wells until he gets at the truth. Check out Cloris Leachman, too, who makes a giant impact in the film's opening moments.

Above left, nuclear fire hits the fan inside a Malibu beach house.

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