2 New on Blu-ray: The Wild One/The Lady from Shanghai

| March 17, 2015

Mill Creek Entertainment has put out some Blu-rays in the past that I’ve been personally thrilled to add to my collection, especially given the totally reasonable price of their discs. Chief among these previous releases are no doubt Krull, Blue Thunder, Donnie Brasco, their assorted Gamera collections, Flatliners, and even Last Action Hero for the occasional nostalgic rush it provides. Add to that titles like Anaconda (which I also proudly own) and I Know What You Did Last Summer and Mill Creek had themselves, in my mind, the image of a company that put out some seriously fun, if not must-own for most folks, titles. However, the announcement that Mill Creek was plotting to release Blu-rays of Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, completely upset my perception of the company in the most exciting way. These Blu-rays, having sat through each twice now, I can tell you with all sincerity are must-owns from where I sit, offering terrific quality transfers of classic pictures for terrific prices.

 

The Wild One

Most impressively here, Mill Creek’s release of The Wild One actually marks that picture’s Blu-ray debut, and it debuts here with stunning clarity and only the occasional video hiccup along the way. No digital scrubbing here either from what I can see in the transfer’s marvelous film grain. How can Mill Creek offer such a stunningly transferred picture at their usual budget price? Simple: there’re no special features. Tragic? Maybe. But hell, The Wild One speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

On the surface you’ve a biker gang movie in which a gang of no-goodnik drifter—the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club—holds a town hostage with their drunken antics, all hopped up on “vitamin pills.” And why? Because their rebels, you dig!? But beyond the sensational antics of the B.R.M.C. is a wonderful character study of a rebellious youth facing an existential crisis as his wandering ways are challenged by his love of a square.

At the head of the gang is Johnny, played by Brando in one his seminal roles. He enters the picture as a rebel not unlike those of the recently re-released Wild Angels, who, when prodded about what it is precisely he’s rebelling against, responds: “What do you got?” Yes, sir, he’s one of those rebels with no discernible cause… until he meets a nice girl (Mary Murphy), that is. Of course, I’m telling you all this like you don’t already know it, and by all rights you should. And if you’ve somehow not seen The Wild One ever in your life, now’s the time, man. Pick up this Mill Creek Blu-ray. The Wild One’s a pivotal biker picture, a powerful precursor to the Wild Angels and Easy Riders to follow, and this is one hell of a stunning transfer!

 

The Lady from Shanghai

As much as I adore The Wild One, though, it simply can’t compare to Welles’ 1947 film noir, The Lady from Shanghai. Sure, after he made Citizen Kane, Welles was targeted by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and subsequently never again afforded the liberties in Hollywood that he had been on Kane. Despite any constraints Welles may have faced as a result of his conflicts with Hearst, Lady from Shanghai proves that not even the richest of stuffy-shirted business tycoons could keep Welles from making some of the greatest pictures on this here Earth. It’s as compelling, sprawling, and lavish a noir caper as any out there and with a striking lead (Welles himself) at its center and a femme fatale to die for in Rita Hayworth. It’s a must for any cinephile.

Now, this isn’t the first time The Lady from Shanghai has been released on Blu-ray though. It’s also available in a special feature-packed Blu-ray/DVD combo edition of the film exclusively available from the TCM store. That version set me back $25 though, while the special feature-free Mill Creek version will cost you under $10 on Amazon at this very moment. And really, the major difference between the two releases is the missing DVD and features on the Mill Creek edition, so you’ve only to decide how badly you really want those features.

This is not to say there isn’t any difference between the transfers of the films themselves though, because there is. The Mill Creek version is actually a tad sharper and brighter all around (though I’ve read both versions are sourced from the same 4k scan), and while you might think brighter would make it necessarily inferior since this is a film noir, that’s simply not the case. The blacks in the image are still really deep, accentuating those noir shadows perfectly. And the brightness shows most in the scenes when the characters on the yacht at sea anyway, which is when you’d expect it to be bright. There it adds significantly to the clarity of the picture overall. So while I own and plan to keep both the TCM and Mill Creek version, I honestly prefer the Blu-ray transfer of Mill Creek for this added clarity.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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