Thursday, March 26, 2009

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three, William Wellman

TCM Archives
Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three
Six Classic provocative films directed by master filmmaker William Wellman
Other Men’s Women
The Purchase Price
Frisco Jenny
Midnight Mary
Heroes for Sale
Wild Boys of The Road

Reviewer, critic, which am I? I have often thought about this and this is what I know, I don’t especially think much of critics. I am just a regular guy who tries to give a regular take on movies, heck I don’t even know if I am a reviewer, just someone who loves talking about movies. There are benefits of that, I can find a small gem and really have a sense of excitement. When I find a large jewel it is more than excitement, it can be life changing. I have to admit, like most regular folk, I had never really heard of “Wild Bill” William Wellman. Getting the honor and privilege of reviewing Forbidden Hollywood Collection Three, I have discovered a wonderful gem that will likely change my life. While all who enjoy film, including the novice is likely familiar with his movies, William Wellman was a man that is unfortunately not known by many, and one could easily say most, of today’s movie goers are not familiar with William Wellman. That is a shame as Bill Wellman was truly one of the great film makers of all time.

The Forbidden Hollywood Collection is a series of film that was made prior to the MPAA ratings codes. When looking at the films included in Collection Three, I found myself thinking of the criticism many place on film today, the thought where individuals refer to the wholesomeness of “The Good Old Days.” Often people refer to how everything was always pro family, never had adult implications. A look of film in the early days of film can easily change that position. Filmmakers like Bill Wellman was making real life film, facing real life issues since the early days of the movies. From early on in the silent films such as Wings which won the first ever Oscar for Best Picture, to the late 1950’s, Wellman had a lasting impact on movies that will endure forever.

Born in 1896, on Leap Year Day, February 29, this film maker came onto the movie scene directly off of the battle fields of World War One where he was a decorated war pilot. He was a rare breed that believed in the war cause so much that he joined the fight early as an American by fighting for the French, and from there, would take the free spirit, fighting attitude of real life into the legendary films he would direct over the next decades, over 75 films at that.

The Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three, (FHCVT) is a collection of some of the lesser known films by Wellman. Their impact and riveting drama however are not lost in the production. We see some of the imagery that Wellman is noted for, from using driving rain to emphasize part of the struggle and drama, to real life scenarios between characters that could have come directly out of today’s storylines. While these films are not included in the set, some of the impact films that Wellman wrote and directed such as the tragedy of movies like A Star is Born, or the horror of war as illustrated in such films as Ernie Pyle's Story of G.I. Joe . We see those story lines and styles included in FHCVT. We also see the early development of actors like Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, James Cagney. Wellman while using Cagney in some of these films was later credited with the tough guy development of Cagney in his role in Public Enemy, but there were other contemporaries like Clint Eastwood that was highly motivated and molded by Wellman. I have to give it up for Warner Brothers and TCM as well, they have done a wonderful job at restoring the prints and we have a visually beautiful copy of films to watch, especially when considering the age of these movies.

Wellman was a true maverick, true to his values, and strongly molded from his early days as an airman. The lessons of the impact of youth are not lost in these movies. We see real life struggles yet we see that happy endings are not always to be expected. As with real life, there is often tragedy involved as a consequence of poor life decisions. While there may be an attitude of repentance, or one may seek forgiveness, there is still a price to pay for the actions of ones past. We can’t blame anyone else, and certainly not God, we only have to look in the mirror to see who the one to blame for past actions. All one can hope for is to do what they can with the remainder of their life to correct those things, knowing that there are some things that can never be corrected. William Wellman understood this, it is why his career lasted as long as it did, and why it had the impact it did.

Each of the six films in this collection is old, yet has the unique and wonderful attribute of being relevant. That isn’t all though; there is a special disk with this collection that has two features I must comment on.

Wild Bill Hollywood Maverick is a documentary that spans the career of “Wild Bill” William Wellman. Featuring numerous greats telling the story of Bill Wellman it is one of the best documentaries I have seen all year. In fact, with the exception of the second documentary on this film, The Men Who Made The Movies: William Wellman, it was the best documentary I have seen.

The Men Who Made The Movies: William Wellman, is mostly an interview with Wellman with history and film footage weaved into the interview. This is not only the best documentary I have seen this year; it is the best interview I have ever seen put on film. Wellman’s fire, spit, and directness comes across the screen right into your face. This one interview alone is well worth the total purchase price of this entire 6 DVD Collection. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the DVD’s are exceptional, especially the special bonus features on each DVD, but this interview is exceptional.

I could go on and on, but rather than having to write more about it, I think I am going to sit down and watch some of these features again, and again, and again. It is a collection you will be glad you got if you bother to purchase it. It is indeed that rare gem, that can change a life if you will but let it.

I don’t normally do a score for the DVD reviews unless I really didn’t like the DVD or I really do like it. I would consider this collection a must have for any fan of the movies. For this wonderful collection, on a scale of 1 – 10 I give a very well deserving 10.

Wellman addressed many social issues of the day, many of those issues are still applicable today. The following is a clip from the movie, Wild Boys of the Road. It is included on the wonderful DVD Set, Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Three,

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