National Velvet (1944) is one of the most beloved horse movies out there. A veryyoung Taylor wins a horse named Pie, and dreams not only of entering the horse in the GrandNational, but of riding him, too. Helping her achieve this dream is jockey Mickey Rooney. Alsoon hand is Angela Lansbury as Taylor’s older sister. This is innocent fun of the most perfectlycrafted variety, and it expertly tugs at heartstrings from the opening moments on.
Father of the Bride (…950) belongs more to Spencer Tracy than Taylor. Tracy’s homelife is disrupted when Taylor falls in love and plans to get married. After Tracy overcomes hisinitial suspicions about his prospective son-in-law, his hopes for a small, intimate, inexpensivewedding collapse the as the event, gathering a life of its own, grows more and more monstrous insize. Enough to make the fathers of any bride break into a cold sweat, this is good fun (thoughTaylor’s simpering character is almost impossible to like), with a standout nightmaresequence.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) features Taylor at her most sexually incendiary. Sheand Paul Newman co-star in this adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, though they havethe film stolen out from under them by Burl Ives’ unforgettable Big Daddy. Very faithful for thefirst half to Williams’ tale of a rich southern family undergoing meltdown, the film then jettisonsthe play’s homosexual theme, and replaces it with precisely the pat solution that Williams wastrying to avoid. Nonetheless, the picture is enormously entertaining, and is arguably the highpoint of this collection.
Butterfield 8 (1960) won Taylor her first Oscar, though her work in Cat wasmore satisfying. Here she plays a good-time girl, bouncing between platonic and disapprovingfriend Eddie Fisher and upper-crust cad Laurence Harvey (was there ever a colder fish in themovies than Harvey?). Though it might have seemed shocking at the time of its release, this filmhas dated very badly, and will likely bore contemporary audiences silly. It’s the one real dud inthe collection.
All the soundtracks are in their original mono. The sound is clean and clear, and there is littleto no background hiss or static. Other than that, not much to say, though it is a relief not to beforced into badly though-out stereo remixes.
The transfers are all very good to excellent. National Velvet’s age shows more thando those of the other films, here primarily in the form of speckling and grain, and a greenishtinge to the edges. The grain is generally minimal, however, and most of the prints are in verysharp shape (Cat has the odd soft shot here and there). The colours are strong, as are theblack-and-white tones on Father of the Bride. All the films are presented in their originalformat, ranging from fullscreen to 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.
This is where the collection is at its most sparse. Father of the Bride has are twonewsreel clips, one of Taylor’s wedding, the other of Tracy meeting Harry Truman, but the soundis absent. There are a few brief behind-the-scenes notes, the theatrical trailer, and a cast and crewlist. And this is the disc with the most features.Butterfield 8 also offers some notes, butotherwise the only features in the collection are the respective theatrical trailers. The best youcan expect from the menus is a scored main screen, but most are basic.
The discs are no-frills (this is a repackaging job, not a collection of special editions). Thechoice of films is pretty good, however, and this really is a showcase of Elizabeth Taylor in herprime as a movie star. No sign, of course, of such tour-de-force performances as Who’sAfraid of Virginia Woolf?, however.
Special Features List
- Behind-the-Scenes Notes
- Theatrical Trailers