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Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Thrillers DVD Review - Page 1 of 3

Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Thrillers DVD box cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Thrillers

The Public Enemy (1931), The Maltese Falcon (1941),
The Big Sleep (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951),
North by Northwest (1959), Dirty Harry (1971),
Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Lethal Weapon (1987),
Batman (1989), Goodfellas (1990),
The Fugitive (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994),
The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Seven (1995),
Heat (1995), L.A. Confidential (1997),
American History X (1998), The Dark Knight (2008),
Inception (2010), The Town (2010)

Films' Running Time: 2,523 Minutes (42 Hours, 3 Minutes)
Release Date: September 3, 2013 (All discs previously released) / Suggested Retail Price: $98.92
Twenty single-sided discs (19 DVD-9s & 1 DVD-5) / Two Thick Clear Keepcases in Cardboard Box
Subtitles: English; Some French and Spanish; Some DVDs Closed Captioned; Some Extras Subtitled
See Below for Casts, Directors and Other Film & Disc Details
1.33:1 Fullscreen, 1.78:1-2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (All in Original Aspect Ratios)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Mono (English), DTS 5.1 (English)

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Warner Bros. Pictures has as rich a history as any movie studio and, thanks to decades of savvy acquisitions and partnerships, the company's home video library isn't even close to being rivaled.
With the present of home video cloudy and the future fraught with uncertainty, no one can blame Warner Home Video for choosing to celebrate the studio's 90th anniversary this year instead of waiting another ten for centennial releases.

Beginning with the 100 Film Collection DVD and 50 Film Collection Blu-ray sets issued in January, Warner has reminded us both just how full of cinematic treasures its catalog is and just how full your collection is of Warner movies. Those pricey big box sets and the numerous smaller collections that have followed seem best suited for those who somehow missed out on the millennial DVD boom or are just now getting into Blu-ray. Those who maybe have been trying to consolidate or bolster collections should also find value in these sets that require much less shelf space (and money) than buying the equivalent number of movies separately on their own.

Even when limiting themselves to a single genre and to films originally distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures (or its subsidiary New Line Cinema), as they do in Best of Warner Bros.: 20 Film Collection - Thrillers, the company is easily able to assemble some of the most highly regarded films of all time. This 20-disc DVD set includes some of the finest work of both the greatest directors and biggest movie stars in history.

The chronologically-arranged selections do not accurately convey the full breadth of the Warner library; only five of the twenty chosen thrillers predate 1970 and more than half are products of the 1990s and 2000s. That design unquestionably heightens commercial appeal, an important consideration for any release with a suggested retail price of nearly $100. The word "thriller" is applied to a wide variety of films. Instead of just sticking to works of suspense and near-horror, Warner has included a number of titles you are more likely to describe as dramas or action movies. The result is an agreeably diverse supply of films that mostly range from very good to outstanding.


By far the eldest inclusion, The Public Enemy (1931), starring James Cagney, embodies the gangster genre that thrived even while having to confirm to the strict, newly-established production code. Film noir, a staple of 1940s cinema, is represented by two of Humphrey Bogart's best-known films, The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep.

 

Tom Powers (James Cagney) goes for a rainy walk in the 1931 gangster classic "The Public Enemy." All eyes are fixed on the Maltese falcon in "The Maltese Falcon." Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were recurring co-stars and real-life spouses when they made the 1946 noir "The Big Sleep."

 

The Public Enemy (1931) movie poster The Public Enemy

Theatrical Release: April 23, 1931 / Running Time: 84 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: William A. Wellman / Writers: Kubec Glasmon, John Bright (story), Harvey Thew (screen adaptation)

Cast: James Cagney (Tom Powers), Jean Harlow (Gwen Allen), Edward Woods (Matt Doyle), Joan Blondell (Mamie), Donald Cook (Mike Powers), Leslie Fenton (Nails Nathan), Beryl Mercer (Ma Powers), Robert O'Connor (Paddy Ryan), Murray Kinnell (Putty Nose)

1.33:1 Fullscreen; Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Disc's Original Release Date: January 25, 2005; DVD-9
The Maltese Falcon (1941) movie poster The Maltese Falcon

Theatrical Release: October 18, 1941 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: John Huston / Writers: John Huston (screenplay), Dashiell Hammett (novel)

Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Samuel Spade), Mary Astor (Brigid O'Shaughnessy), Gladys George (Iva Archer), Peter Lorre (Joel Cairo), Barton MacLane (Lt. of Detectives Dundy), Lee Patrick (Effie Perine), Sydney Greenstreet (Kasper Gutman), Ward Bond (Detective Tom Polhaus), Jerome Cowan (Miles Archer), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Wilmer Cook), James Burke (Luke), Murray Alper (Frank Richman), John Hamilton (Bryan)

1.33:1 Fullscreen; Dolby Mono 1.0 (English); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Disc's Original Release Date: October 3, 2006 (Disc 1 of Three-Disc Special Edition); DVD-9
The Big Sleep (1946) movie poster The Big Sleep

Theatrical Release: August 31, 1946 / Running Time: 114 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Howard Hawks / Writers: William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman (screenplay), Raymond Chandler (novel)

Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Philip Marlowe), Lauren Bacall (Vivian Rutledge), John Ridgely (Eddie Mars), Martha Vickers (Carmen Sternwood), Dorothy Malone (Acme Book Shop Proprietress), Peggy Knudsen (Mona Mars), Regis Toomey (Chief Inspector Bernie Ohls), Charles Waldron (General Sternwood), Charles D. Brown (Norris the Butler), Bob Steele (Lash Canino), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Harry Jones), Louis Jean Heydt (Joe Brody)

1.33:1 Fullscreen; Dolby Mono 2.0 (English); Subtitles: English, French
Disc's Original Release Date: February 15, 2000; DVD-5

 

Two of the few popular Alfred Hitchcock thrillers that fall outside the reach of Universal Studios -- Strangers on a Train and North by Northwest -- provide an appealing taste of the master's enduringly effective suspense, one a dark black & white tale of random people committing murders for one another, the other a wrong man mystery in color and with a more prominent sense of humor.

 

The only spectator not following a tennis match's volleys is Bruno Antony (Robert Walker), a sociopath committed to a murder exchange idea in Alfred Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train." Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) and Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) find themselves on Mount Rushmore in the climax of "North by Northwest."

 

Strangers on a Train (1951) movie poster Strangers on a Train

Theatrical Release: June 30, 1951 / Running Time: 101 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Alfred Hitchcock / Writers: Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde (screenplay), Whitfield Cook (adaptation), Patricia Highsmith (novel)

Cast: Farley Granger (Guy Haines), Ruth Roman (Anne Morton), Robert Walker (Bruno Antony), Leo G. Carroll (Senator Morton), Patricia Hitchcock (Barbara Morton), Kasey Rogers (Miriam Joyce Haines), Marion Lorne (Mrs. Antony), Jonathan Hale (Mr. Antony), Howard St. John (Police Captain Turley), John Brown (Professor Collins), Norma Varden (Mrs. Cunningham), Robert Gist (Detective Leslie Hennessey)

1.33:1 Fullscreen; Dolby Mono 1.0 (English, French); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Disc's Original Release Date: September 7, 2004 (Disc 1 of Two-Disc Special Edition); DVD-9
North by Northwest (1959) movie poster North by Northwest

Theatrical Release: July 17, 1959 / Running Time: 136 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Alfred Hitchcock / Writer: Ernest Lehman

Cast: Cary Grant (Roger Thornhill), Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall), James Mason (Phillip Vandamm), Jesse Royce Landis (Clara Thornhill), Leo G. Carroll (The Professor), Josephine Hutchinson (Mrs. Townsend), Philip Ober (Lester Townsend), Martin Landau (Leonard), Adam Williams (Valerian), Robert Ellenstein (Licht), Philip Coolidge (Dr. Cross), Edward Binns (Captain Junket), Edward Platt (Victor Larrabee), Les Tremayne (Auctioneer), Patrick McVey (Sergeant Flamm), Ken Lynch (Charley)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Mono 1.0 (French); Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French
Disc's Original Release Date: November 3, 2009 (Disc 1 of Two-Disc 50th Anniversary Edition); DVD-9

 

The set interestingly altogether skips over the 1960s, a decade that brought dramatic change to Hollywood. The 1970s are limited to two movies. Dirty Harry, the debut entry to Clint Eastwood's longest-running series, is curiously the only contribution to this set from Warner's most loyal and enduring marquee star. An interesting counter to that film celebrating a tough, hard-nosed cop is Dog Day Afternoon, Sidney Lumet's arresting drama about a summer Manhattan bank robbery that features one of the last great understated performances from Al Pacino fresh off the first two Godfather movies (though it's his most explosive scene that everyone remembers).

 

Do ya feel lucky, punk? Do ya?" asks Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in the most-quoted moment of "Dirty Harry." In "Dog Day Afternoon", Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) takes dozens of hostages as part of his Brooklyn bank robbery.

 

Dirty Harry (1971) movie poster Dirty Harry

Theatrical Release: December 22, 1971 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Don Siegel / Writers: Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink (story & screenplay), Dean Riesner (screenplay), John Milius (uncredited)

Cast: Clint Eastwood (Police Inspector Harry Callahan), Harry Guardino (Police Lt. Al Bressler), Reni Santoni (Police Inspector Chico Gonzalez), John Vernon (The Mayor), Andrew Robinson (Charles "Scorpio Killer" Davis), John Larch (Chief), John Mitchum (Police Inspector Frank De Giorgio), Mae Mercer (Mrs. Russell), Lyn Edgington (Norma), Ruth Kobart (Bus Driver), Woodrow Parfrey (Mr. Jaffe), Josef Sommer (District Attorney William T. Rothko), William Paterson (Judge Bannerman), James Nolan (Liquor Proprietor), Maurice Argent (Sid Kleinman), Jo De Winter (Miss Willis), Craig K. Kelly (Sgt. Reineke)

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Mono 1.0 (French, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese); Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese / Disc's Original Release Date: September 30, 2008; DVD-9
Dog Day Afternoon (1975) movie poster Dog Day Afternoon

Theatrical Release: September 21, 1975 / Running Time: 125 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Sidney Lumet / Writers: Frank Pierson (screenplay), P.F. Kluge, Thomas Moore (magazine article)

Cast: Al Pacino (Sonny Wortzik), Penelope Allen (Sylvia), Sully Boyar (Mulvaney), John Cazale (Sal), Beulah Garrick (Margaret), Carol Kane (Jenny), Sandra Kazan (Deborah), Marcia Jean Kurtz (Miriam), Amy Levitt (Maria), John Marriott (Howard), Estelle Omens (Edna), Gary Springer (Stevie), James Broderick (Sheldon), Charles Durning (Moretti), Carmine Foresta (Carmine), Lance Henriksen (Murphy), Floyd Levine (Phone Cop), Dick Anthony Williams (Limo Driver), Dominic Chianese (Father), Marcia Haufrecht (Neighbor), Judith Malina (Mother), Susan Peretz (Angie), Chris Sarandon (Leon)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Mono 1.0 (English, French); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Disc's Original Release Date: February 28, 2006 (Disc 1 of Two-Disc Special Edition); DVD-9

 

The 1980s are limited to two films from late in the decade that launched Warner's two biggest franchises of that era. Viewed today, Tim Burton's Batman, the runaway #1 film of 1989, is silly at times (particularly when utilizing original songs by Prince), but it unquestionably kept the superhero movie alive, bridging the genre's gap between the diminishing returns of the Christopher Reeve Superman series' good-natured fun and the Spider-Man-led revival of the early 21st century. Lethal Weapon, meanwhile, represents the kind of buddy action comedy that has mostly vanished, despite being paid the occasional homage.

 

Partnered police detectives Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) try to stop a madman on the loose in "Lethal Weapon." Batman (Michael Keaton) offers reporter Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) a rescue in Tim Burton's "Batman" (1989).

 

Lethal Weapon (1987) movie poster Lethal Weapon

Theatrical Release: March 6, 1987 (Director's Cut Video Premiere: June 6, 2000) / Running Time: 117 Minutes (Director's Cut) / Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut: R)

Director: Richard Donner / Writer: Shane Black

Cast: Mel Gibson (Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Roger Murtaugh), Gary Busey (Joshua), Mitchell Ryan (The General), Tom Atkins (Michael Hunsaker), Darlene Love (Trish Murtaugh), Traci Wolfe (Rianne Murtaugh), Jackie Swanson (Amanda Hunsaker), Damon Hines (Nick Murtaugh), Ebonie Smith (Carrie Murtaugh), Bill Kalmenson (Beat Cop), Lycia Naff (Dixie)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; DTS 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (French); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Disc's Original Release Date: June 6, 2000 (Disc 1 of Two-Disc Special Edition); DVD-9
Batman (1989) movie poster Batman

Theatrical Release: June 23, 1989 / Running Time: 126 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Tim Burton / Writers: Sam Hamm (story & screenplay), Warren Skaaren (screenplay), Bob Kane (characters)

Cast: Michael Keaton (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Jack Nicholson (Joker/Jack Napier), Kim Basinger (Vicki Vale), Robert Wuhl (Alexander Knox), Pat Hingle (Commissioner Gordon), Billy Dee Williams (Harvey Dent), Michael Gough (Alfred Pennyworth), Jack Palance (Carl Grissom), Jerry Hall (Alicia Hunt), Tracey Walter (Bob the Goon), Lee Wallace (Mayor Borg), William Hootkins (Lt. Max Eckhardt)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; DTS 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (French); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Disc's Original Release Date: October 18, 2005 (Disc 1 of Two-Disc Special Edition); DVD-9

 

The demographic traditionally having the most disposable income, the long-coveted 18 to 34, grew up in the 1990s. As such, it's probably no coincidence that a staggering eight inclusions hail from that decade, whose output is starting to be seriously celebrated with some frequency. This stretch begins with Goodfellas, a defining work in the illustrious career of Martin Scorsese and a brilliant piece of true crime drama.

 

"Goodfellas" centers on New York mobsters Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), and Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino).

 

Goodfellas (1990) movie poster Goodfellas

Theatrical Release: September 19, 1990 / Running Time: 145 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Martin Scorsese / Writers: Nicholas Pileggi (book Wiseguy & screenplay), Martin Scorsese (screenplay)

Cast: Robert De Niro (Jimmy Conway), Ray Liotta (Henry Hill), Joe Pesci (Tommy DeVito), Lorraine Bracco (Karen Hill), Paul Sorvino (Paulie Cicero), Frank Silvero (Frankie Carbone), Tony Darrow (Sonny Bunz), Mike Starr (Frenchy), Frank Vincent (Billy Batts), Chuck Low (Morris Kessler), Frank DiLeo (Tuddy Cicero), Henny Youngman (Himself), Gina Mastrogiacomo (Janice Rossi), Catherine Scorsese (Tommy's Mother), Charles Scorsese (Vinnie), Suzanne Shepherd (Karen's Mother), Debi Mazar (Sandy), Margo Winkler (Belle Kessler), Welker White (Lois Byrd), Jerry Vale (Himself), Julie Garfield (Mickey Conway), Christopher Serrone (Young Henry Hill), Elaine Kagan (Henry's Mother), Beau Starr (Henry's Father), Kevin Corrigan (Michael Hill), Michael Imperioli (Spider), Robbie Vinton (Bobby Vinton), John Williams (Johnny Roastbeef)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (French); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Disc's Original Release Date: August 17, 2004 (Disc 1 of Two-Disc Special Edition); DVD-9

Continue >>
Discs 11-20: 1993-2010

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Reviewed September 3, 2013.



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