The titles and the stars speak for themselves: Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone and Olivia deHavilland in The Adventures of Robin Hood; James Cagney in Yankee DoodleDandy; Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Of the three,Yankee Doodle Dandy, a musical biopic of singer/dancer/songwriter George M. Cohan,is the one that has been treated the least kindly by the years. Its front and centre flag-waving canbe a bit much, though Cagney’s trem…ndous energy is infectious. But the other two are among thegreatest adventure movies ever made. The Adventures of Robin Hood is the definitiveswashbuckler, and everything lighthearted adventure should be, bursting with colour and derring-do. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is much darker fare, as Bogart gradually succumbsto paranoia under the influence of his greed for gold. These are all high points from the goldenage of Hollywood, and absolutely compulsory viewing. The bonus disc is Here’s Looking atYou, Warner Bros., a 1991 history of the studio. Out of date though it is, and prone tohagiography, it is nonetheless interesting stuff, and narrated by such luminaries as ClintEastwood.
All three movies are in the original mono, with no fancy (and too-often gruesome) attemptsat stereo remixes. The sound is very clean and undistorted, with no noise or static. In fact, theonly disc with inferior sound is the documentary, whose 2.0 mix is prone to surround voices withconsiderable distortion.
Generally excellent for all three films, factoring in, of course, the age of the movies (1938,1942 and 1948). The Adventures of Robin Hood’s colour is gorgeous, with the lusciouslyover-the-top greens and reds of early Technicolor. The other two films are in black-and-white,and a very rich B&W this is, with perfectly rendered shadings. There is some grain in all three,with some shots now and then very grainy (this is particularly true of The Treasure of theSierra Madre), but the pictures are very sharp. (Again, the documentary lets the side downhere, with some very soft images). Edge enhancement does rear its head in The Adventures ofRobin Hood and Yankee Doodle Dandy, but not badly enough to ruin the picture.The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has some noticeable print damage, though this is brief,and for the most part the prints are in superb shape. The aspect ratio is, of course, the original1.33:1.
The scored main menus open the way to a veritable cornucopia of extras. These are double-disc sets, and the films go together nicely as a boxed set, since each has broadly similar (and verygenerous) features. The film scholar commentaries (by Rudy Behlmer, with the exception ofThe Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is covered by Eric Lax) are top-notch: richlyinformative and articulate, they would make these discs musts if they were the only extras. Disc 1in each case gives you the option to simulate a night at the movies from that era: so you get anewsreel from the appropriate year, a short feature, a trailer, and a cartoon. Leonard Maltinintroduces this feature. Rounding out this disc is also a gallery of trailers for the stars of eachfilm.
Disc 2 comes with more cartoons and short features, documentaries, classic radio shows, andoodles of publicity material galleries. Any one of these movies is a film course in itself, but allthree in one box is tantamount to a graduate program.
Frankly, words fail me. To call this boxed set an embarrassment of riches would be tounderstate the case. Sure, the bonus disc is far from perfect, but it isn’t without interest on itsown, and here it is packaged with what will likely be definitive editions of three toweringclassics.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Here’s Looking At You, Warner Bros. Bonus Disc
- Short Features
- Trailer Galleries
- Radio Shows
- Publicity Galleries