Today: July 18, 2024

Columbia Classics: Volume 3

Following on from their previous two volumes that have boasted such classics as Lawrence of Arabia, Taxi Driver, Dr. Strangelove, Anatomy of a Murder and more, Columbia Classics: Volume 3 could just be their best set yet. With another six films making their sparkling 4K UHD debuts, this stunning, content-packed volume is a masterclass in home entertainment.

The volume is off to an impeccable start with It Happened One Night, Frank Capra’s beloved romcom and the first of only three films to win all five major Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay (five points to you, dear reader, if you can name the other two). This wonderful and timeless screwball classic is packed with razor-sharp dialogue and fronted by two pitch-perfect performances from Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, and is easily the highlight of this volume. A genuine masterpiece of the Golden Age that holds up perfectly. A remarkable bonus feature included is You Can’t Run Away From It, a Jack Lemmon-starring 1956 remake, released for the first time in HD.

Next up, we have the landmark war flick From Here to Eternity which earned Frank Sinatra an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor after years of critical and commercial decline. This celebrated drama is packed with iconic moments and stellar performances from its all-star cast, and looks sublime in 4K UHD. A bounty of new and archival bonus features round out this film’s entry in the set, including a fascinating 1980 TV remake pilot, along with a bonus disc including the entire 5-hour 1979 miniseries.

To Sir, With Love is the next entry in the set and remains one of the defining roles of the late Sidney Poitier’s career. Celebrating its’ 55th anniversary, this inspirational Brit flick of the 1960s explores the social and racial issues of education in London’s East End – and still packs an emotional wallop to this day. Poitier reprised his role as teacher Mr Thackeray nearly three decades later in a made-for-TV sequel, which is also included here in HD along with a 1974 TV adaptation pilot. This set is so packed with special features that they deserve just as much praise as the films.

Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show is up next, and what a picture it is. Grossing $29 million on a $1.3 million budget, this hugely successful and influential classic remains a defining film of the 1970s. In starkly beautiful black & white, both the theatrical and director’s cuts are included in stunning 4K restored from original camera negatives. One of the elite few films that boasts a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, The Last Picture Show is a masterpiece that serves as another highlight of this incredible set. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bogdanovich’s weak 1990 sequel is not included…

Perhaps the weakest entry in this release – although by no means a terrible film – is John Huston’s 1981 musical Annie. While certainly iconic and packed with musical numbers that have found their way into the collective subconscious, the film itself perhaps can’t really stand beside It Happened One Night and The Last Picture Show. Still, it remains a charming and gentle comfort watch, and the inclusion of 1932 adaptation Little Orphan Annie offers a fascinating comparison watch. 

Last but by no means at all least is James L. Brooks’ masterpiece As Good As It Gets. Fronted by Jack Nicholson’s Oscar-winning performance as the abrasive, curmudgeonly Melvin Udall, this wonderful romantic comedy is the latest film in the set with a 1997 release date but feels just as much a classic as the rest of them. It’s a wonderful film, and certainly ends the boxset on a high that shows us that this release truly is as good as it gets for home media.

All six films look absolutely spectacular in their 4K restorations, and the love that has gone into them is evident throughout. The almost intimidating wealth of bonus features is worth the price of purchase alone for fans of the films, while the elegant packaging – consistent with the previous entries in this series – remains a true work of art for physical media. This is another stunning and celebratory set that reminds us of the might of Columbia Pictures – now in their 104th year – and their unrivaled cinematic output.

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