Green Dolphin Street
Based on a novel by Elizabeth Goudge, Victor Saville’s 1947 melodrama ranges far and wide, from the Channel Islands to New Zealand, to tell an epic tale of two sisters in love with the same man and the myriad tragedies—an earthquake and a tsunami as well as the deaths of loved ones—that befall them over decades.
A top cast led by Lana Turner and Donna Reed as the sisters, Richard Hart as their mutual love interest, and Van Heflin as the man secretly in love with the married sister make this 140-minute soap opera compelling, and even the primitive special effects—which won an Oscar—are impressive enough for the era. There’s a splendid hi-def transfer of this ravishing-looking B&W film; lone extra is a radio adaptation with some of the film’s cast.
The “mad scientist” of the title, Dr. Xavier, carries out bizarre experiments, reenacting assorted crimes in his basement laboratory, in Michael Curtiz’s tidy 1932 horror flick that includes murders and cannibalism.
Starring a pre-King Kong Fay Wray, whose screams will sound familiar, as the doctor’s daughter and Lionel Atwill as Xavier, the goofy but creepy Doctor X looks marvelous on Blu after being restored in all its two-strip technicolor glory; extras are a restored B&W version, a featurette about Curtiz’s horror-film career, two commentaries and a restoration demonstration.
French composer Charles Gounod’s operatic masterpiece was his adaptation of the Faust legend, and David McVicar’s vivid 2019 staging for the Royal Opera House in London is thrilling in its immediacy.
American tenor Michael Fabbiano is a grandly tragic Faust, Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott is a marvelously mischievous Mephistopheles and Russian soprano Irina Lungu is a truly heartbreaking Marguerite; conductor Dan Ettinger ably leads the Royal Opera orchestra and chorus. Both hi-def audio and video are first-rate; extras are short backstage interviews.
The devastating earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Japanese coast in 2011 also caused the Fukushima nuclear power plant to disastrously malfunction and release radiation into the atmosphere, and this finely detailed docudrama reenacts what the plant’s workers and management did in an almost impossible situation, threatening hundreds of thousands of lives.
Director Setsurō Wakamatsu simply but effectively recreates the often heroic work of the “Fukushima 50” (so-called afterward by international media), stumbling only near the end, as things get slightly mawkish. The hi-def image looks luminous.
Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, one of a very few perfect operas, blends music, drama, comedy and psychological study into a delightful and illuminating three-hour whole; the great Austrian conductor Nicolas Harnoncourt, after a lifetime performing Mozart, brought his considerable musical gifts to bear for this barebones 2014 Vienna performance, with several superb Mozartean singers—such as Mari Eriksmoen’s Susanna and Christine Schafer’s Countess—and Concentus Musicus Wien ensemble providing stellar support.
Baroque era master Christoph Willibald Gluck composed operas adroitly combining dance and drama, and Belgian choreographer/director Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui accentuates both in his visually stunning 2019 Munich staging of Alceste; soprano Dorothea Roschmann is a vocal powerhouse in the title role. Both operas look and sound spectacular in hi-def; lone Figaro extra is a 50-minute documentary about Harnoncourt’s approach to Mozart.
Dutch filmmaker Nouchka van Brakel’s groundbreaking dramas from the female perspective have been pretty inaccessible for decades—until now. Her 1977 seriocomic study, The Debut, follows a 14-year-old who has a brief but intense affair with a 40ish married man, while her 1979 feature A Woman Like Eve explores why a happily married wife and mother falls in love with another woman.
What might seem shocking is rendered so realistically that van Brakel makes the viewer take these characters and their actions seriously. There are excellent, affecting performances by Marina de Graaf (Debut) and Monique van de Ven and Maria Schneider (Eve). Both films look their age but have otherwise decent hi-def transfers; lone Eve extra is a new 40-minute Brakel interview and lone Debut extra is a vintage newsreel.
Vaughan Williams—Symphonies 4 & 6
The great British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) wrote nine symphonies that are as imposing and impressive in toto as those of Beethoven, and the symphonies recorded here are filled with fire and fury, especially as heard in the blistering performances by the London Symphony Orchestra under conductor Antonio Pappano.
Composed in 1934, the fourth symphony has a controlled rage unleashed as a response to the worsening political climate in Europe, while the sixth symphony, written in 1944-47, despairs for a world shattered by war, winding up with a quiet, mournful epilogue. The LSO under Pappano plays with vigor and sensitivity.
Composer Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), known to most as the bitter mediocrity who’s the foil for boy genius Mozart in Amadeus, was a prolific and accomplished composer in his own right, including several operas.
This three-act musical drama, composed when Salieri was just 20, was recently rediscovered in manuscript form by Christophe Russet, who conducts the ensemble Les Talens Lyriques in a lively performance, with persuasive vocal portrayals by Dutch soprano Lenneke Ruiten as Armida and Canadian soprano Florie Valiquette as her lover Rinaldo.