Twilight Time Presents: Our Own Personal Freedoms

A quintet of moving pictures that are guaranteed to hear your prayers (or at least be your friends when you're feeling unknown and all alone).
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Everyone strives for a little more room to breathe in this world. Some seek solace far away from others on islands previously unexplored by man. Others, beget into dystopian lies, defy omnipresent eyes around them in order to discover the truth. Still more are simply born with their own freedom, albeit one that is easily taken away with the mere flick of a trigger. To further illustrate this endeavor, I submit to you this collection of Twilight Time offerings (initially released in December of 2015), which take us into all of the aforementioned mysteries of personal freedoms ‒ and then some.

We begin in the past ‒ 1865, to be exact ‒ wherein a ragtag group of Union soldiers, along with a Confederate soldier whom they have essentially kidnapped, escape a Rebel prison (this is set during the Civil War, Millennials) via a hot air balloon. A simple solution to the cruel torments that await them (unpleasantries which would later be explored on film in great depth in seventeen dozen different TV movies produced by Ted Turner), it just so happens that the night these men escape is the same evening of a massive storm ‒ a violent weather pattern which promptly sweeps everyone to Jules Verne's Mysterious Island, which makes its second appearance under the Twilight Time label here as an "Encore Edition" release, following in the footsteps of the earlier 2011 Limited Edition release (which I had covered in a previous article).

This re-release not only gives consumers who missed out on the initial pressing of 3,000 units (which sold out fairly quickly), but also provides fans of the 1961 Ray Harryhausen classic with more special features. This time around, instead of just a trailer, TV spot, and isolated score, Twilight Time has combed through Sony Pictures' archives for additional advertising spots (read: more trailers and TV spots), two retro featurettes (at least one of which was included on Sony's old 2002 DVD), and an all-new to home video audio commentary with Randall William Cook, C. Courtney Joyner, and Steven C. Smith. This release even boasts another (DTS-HD 2.0) audio option for the feature film itself ‒ sweetening the temptation for viewers to take a much-needed trip to large rocky atolls inhabited by deadly oversized animated critters all the more.

Mysterious Island is not the first title out of this wave to have previously graced my criticizing orbs. In fact, two additional releases from this lot, both of which starred the one and only Frank Sinatra, had been issued on DVD several times before, most notably in the Frank Sinatra Film Collection in 2012 (which our own Dusty Somers provided a take on here), though with much, much better transfers. The first of the pair ‒ 1958's Kings Go Forth ‒ finds Ol' Blue Eyes joined by Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood in an exaggeratedly dramatic tale of love set in the final days of World War II (that's the otherwar, Millennials), wherein two US Army men fall for the same expatriate beauty. Twilight Time's HD transfer includes a trailer and isolated score as extras.

The second Sinatra offering, The Detective from 1968 is a more enjoyable ‒ if highly dated ‒ neo-noir from a time where the personal freedoms of many were subjugated by a supposedly "moral" society. I refer to, of course, the LGBT community, which is delicately referred to by most of the manly straight characters by colorful names only bigots continue to use today. Here, Frankie is a hardened NYC policeman investigating the murder of a prominent creep from the underground gay scene ‒ a case that will eventually lead him into a larger web of conspiracies, cover-ups, and corrupt cops. A fine assembling of supporting players ranging from Lee Remick to Tony Musante also stars. Two trailers, an isolated score, and a new audio commentary with David Del Valle, Lem Dobbs, and Twilight Time's Nick Redman are in accompaniment.

Though being gay in 1968 may have been a social death sentence, it is nowhere near as unfair as possessing free will in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four ‒ Michael Radford's dynamic 1984 adaptation of the 1949 novel, which, sadly, many of today's 1% view as a how-to guide. Here, a despondent John Hurt stars as Winston Smith: a meager cog in a dystopian future under the constant supervision of a totalitarian regime masquerading as a just and fair government (see: Fox News and Donald Drumpf). Doubtful of the true nature of the ever-watchful Big Brother, Smith makes the acquaintance of an equally-inquisitive femme fatale (Suzanna Hamilton) and begin an illegal affair of lust. While they can, that is. The great Richard Burton delivers his final performance in this powerfully bleak tale finally available in High-Definition.

Twilight Time's Blu-ray presentation features the correct (desaturated) color timing (something the OOP MGM DVD did not have), as well as two audio tracks for the film. The original (intended) music score by Dominic Muldowney was replaced shortly before the movie was released theatrically at the behest of the financiers (Virgin Films) with a (theatrical) music score by popular recording group Eurythmics (which was also not included on the MGM DVD). Muldowney's more traditional orchestrative track is included as the primary audio selection (the way Radford wanted it), while the slightly more synth-pop variations can be heard at play on a secondary track (both tracks are presented in DTS-HD MA Mono). A third audio option presents the Eurythmics score as an isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. The original theatrical trailer is the only other extra here.

Lastly in our adventure of personal freedoms (or lack thereof) is an entirely different tale which would seem more at home on the shelf with the recent release of the Warner Archive's The Littlest Hobo. Anyone who grew up in a decade even as late as the 1980s has no doubt been unfortunate enough to hear its once immeasurably popular theme song by regular James Bond film composer John Barry, or had at least thumbed through the umpteen-gazillion LPs that featured a cover of said tune in their grandparents' antiquated music collection (right behind the Andy Williams Christmas record) at one point in time. I speak, of course, of 1966's Born Free, the UK adaptation of the hit Joy Adamson non-fiction book of the same name, as co-produced by Gunga Din himself, Sam Jaffe.

Here, Virginia McKenna portrays Joy Adamson herself (or at least a slightly-fictionalized version of her) in a family-friendly tear-jerker about a young lion cub ‒ affectionately known as Elsa the Lioness ‒ who becomes a part of the Adamson clan after the patriarch of the human family guns down the matriarch of the animal unit (in self-defense, naturally). But Elsa finds out all too late that it's a dog's world out there (and if you just started humming "More," the theme from Mondo Cane, you no doubt really did spend a lot of time combing through your grandfolks' records) after she gets into trouble with the bipedal troublemakers who disapprove of her being too wild. Show it to your dentist to see if he salivates at the sight of lions. If he does, get a new dentist. An isolated score, two trailers, and audio commentary by Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman is also included.

Each title also sports liner notes by the aforementioned Ms. Kirgo. All five titles are limited to 3,000 pressings each, available exclusively for purchase from both the official Twilight Time Movies website, and at Screen Archives while supplies last.

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