I have a special affection for Warner Bros. (WB) – the studio that gave us Cagney, Davis and Bogart with a tough and gritty attitude, a realism no other studio could emulate – or dared to. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of – for classic film fans in any case. So Imagine my joy when I acquired the Best of Warner Bros. 50-film Collection bluray set – a mammoth with gravitas. That set, released in January of this year along with a 100-film DVD collection, kicked off the studio’s 90th anniversary celebration.
Following is my review – a classic film fan’s perspective.
Best of Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection (BD) Blu-ray
Both the DVD and bluray collections are limited editions and numbered, which is a nice “perk” for diehards who like that sort of thing. And I do! Also, each version includes a poster and series of art cards featuring movie poster designs created by graphic designer, Bill Gold. If you’ve ever visited this blog you know how much I love movie posters. Another perk!
- The cost – undeniably prohibitive. The (bluray) set is listed in the Warner Bros. Shop for $366.99 as of the publishing of this post and that’s the most inexpensive I found. But this “con” is at first glance. See below “pros” regarding the price.
- I read many comments when the set was first released (and before I owned it) about some of the films included in the collection, which are now owned by Warners but were not original WB productions. Honestly, that in itself doesn’t bother me. WB can include any film they see fit. That being said I do think a few of the films included in the collection are odd choices. For example, the set includes both The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. I’d venture to say that even the most lightweight film fan is apt to own these films on video in one version or another so adding them to this collection is strange. I also think they included too many MGM musicals. As wonderful as those musicals are, and I do love them, they are not why I would buy a Warners collection. I’d pay for a WB set for WB movies! (It’s worth noting that of the sixteen Best Picture Academy Award Winners included, the majority are MGM winners.)
- No Cagney. No Davis. No Robinson, for that matter. Unbelievable! The tough, gritty attitude I mentioned to open this post is missing in the 50-film collection! This is why including all those musicals makes little sense.
- The Jazz Singer! One would think a collection that features Warner Bros. milestones, during the sound era no less, would include the film that’s responsible for kicking off that sound era – by this studio.
- Special/extra features? Many of the films included in the set include some really nice special features. However, the details are not noted anywhere. One knows what’s included only when you play individual discs. Speaking for myself, comparing features is a one of the comparisons I make when considering upgrades from DVD to bluray.
- My only other “complaint,” although it’s regarding films I care a bit less about is that there are several films that are now part of hugely popular trilogies or series and only the first one is included in the set. For instance, Superman: The Movie, The Matrix, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Dark Knight include only the first installment. I would think fans of any of those would have no incentive to purchase this set when they can get the entire series of all those franchises in superb WB bluray releases of their own. I know. I own them. (By the way, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is included in its entirety.)
- I must mention – The Hangover? Really? Funny movie. But why? Especially since at least two other 2009 films are included in the set. With Warner’s arsenal there’s no need for this.
- You can’t beat bluray, as far as I’m concerned – the sights and sounds are outstanding.
- The cost – for a film lover or collector, this is worth it at that price. This is particularly true if you are either starting a film collection, or are looking to upgrade from DVD. In either case, buying individual special edition blurays of the films included would run you three times as much.
- Special/extra features – Although they’re not noted, as I mentioned above, the 50-film set does include great features in the form of documentaries, commentaries, additional footage, cartoons, what have you. Many are similar to the features previously released in special and anniversary edition DVD sets but its great to have them here. My favorites are the “Warner Night at the Movies” features, different versions of which are included in both The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre discs. These are fantastic. They include trailers, classic WB cartoons, newsreels, classic radio versions of the films and commentaries. You can’t beat that.
- Space saver! I’m adding this one for anyone who lives in an apartment like I do because it’s a huge deal. One boxed 50-film set designed neatly in manageable, easily accessible sleeves. Fabulous! After my very careful review of the details included in the set – the aforementioned extra features, etc. – I was able to replace about 30 films I already owned in much bulkier DVDs.
- It’s gorgeous! The set is divided into two book-style volumes holding 25 films each. Volume 1 starts with Edmund Goulding’s, Grand Hotel (1932) and goes through Richard Donner’s, Superman: The Movie (1978) and Volume 2 starts with Stanley Kubrick’s, The Shining (1980) and ends with Christopher Nolan’s, Inception (2010). You can peruse the entire, 50-film list here. Incidentally, a little tidbit included that I really like is the timeline on each page, which notes significant events that surround the release of each film. Nicely done.
- Two new documentaries created for the anniversary are also part of the set. Tales from the Warner Bros. Lot, which is a historical look at the studio that includes interviews by many notables, and The Warner Bros. Lot Tour, which gives a virtual tour around the Warner property. The lot tour is particularly special, I must say, because while in California for the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival last month I went on the VIP tour and loved every minute of it. This disc is now part of my personal vacation journal.
The bottom line – this is an impressive set to have in any collection. Even non-cinephiles I know are impressed. And if you give it as a gift there’s no doubt major brownie points will be earned.
If you too are a classic film fan and have yet to visit the Warner Archive Collection, you must! I’ve been introduced to several new-to-me classics there. Finally, since this is an anniversary post of sorts I thought I’d share a previous post I published about Warner Bros.’ history with a discussion of the studio’s inner machinations as dictated by the brothers Warner. You can take a look at that post, The Culture at Warner Bros. here, if interested and hope you find it a worthwhile read.
Now I gotta go watch some movies!