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'Gypsy,' 'Deathtrap' on Blu-ray; 'Bowery Boys' series on DVD from Warner Archive

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

gypsySeveral long-requested titles have been freed from the Warner Archive vaults: Gypsy (1962) and Deathtrap (1982) on Blu-ray for the first time; The Bowery Boys films finally on DVD.

"Deathtrap never had a widescreen master, that’s one of the reasons we selected it," said George Feltenstein, Warner Home Video's senior vice president of Classic and Theatrical Marketing. "That makes the purchase more appetizing. It’s such a popular movie. You’ve got fans of the movie. You’ve got Michael Caine fans. You’ve got fans of Christopher Reeve."

deathtrap Warner Archive, launched in 2009, was among the first major DVD-on-demand services. The first releases had barebones jacket art, generic chapter stops every 10 minutes and advised consumers that most films were not remastered. Eventually, the DVD-R releases began to rival standard pressed discs in quality and looks.

Now, Warner Archive has entered the Blu-ray market.

Gypsy, starring Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood and Karl Malden, is based on the Broadway hit about stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.

The movie, filmed in widescreen Technirama, is a dual-layer disc with a very high bit rate, Feltenstein said. "We really wanted to show this off, it’s a really snazzy, high-budget film."

Feltenstein said he has "a fondness for this picture."

Many theater fans were shocked when Ethel Merman, who starred in the original Broadway production, was replaced in the Hollywood version by "Auntie Mame" Russell.

"It still has a controversial aspect to it, because of the casting," Feltenstein said, adding that Russell "really tried to deliver the goods in this movie." Most of her songs were dubbed by Broadway singer Lisa Kirk (Kiss Me, Kate).

The Gypsy and Deathtrap Blu-rays ($20 each) have been mastered in 1080p with subtitles and DTS Master Audio. (Gypsy is presented in stereo.) Although both films have chapter stops, neither has a chapter menu, making it difficult to find specific scenes.

bowery boys From practically the beginning of home video, film fans have sought The Bowery Boys series, which co-starred Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall.

The old Monogram Pictures produced 48 Bowery Boys films from 1946 to 1958. The short movies (some barely an hour long) ran for decades on weekend television, gaining a cult following.

"They were the predecessor of the sitcoms," Feltenstein said.

The Bowery Boys evolved from the 1937 Humphrey Bogart film Dead End, which featured young actors including Gorcey and Hall. Both actors also appeared in a '40s series known as East Side Kids comedies.

Six Bowery Boys films made it to VHS in the early 1990s and several were shown on Turner Classic Movies. Last month, Warner Archive released 12 of the films on DVD. Three more volumes are planned, Feltenstein said.

These are the 12 films included in Bowery Boys, Vol. 1 ($40):

  • Live Wires (1946)
  • In Fast Company (1946)
  • Bowery Bombshell (1946)
  • News Hounds (1947)
  • Fighting Fools (1949)
  • Hold That Baby! (1949)
  • Master Minds (1949)
  • Blonde Dynamite (1950)
  • Lucky Losers (1950)
  • Blues Busters (1950)
  • Crazy Over Horses (1951)
  • No Holds Barred (1952)

It took years for Bowery Boys to come to DVD because the film elements were in such bad shape, Feltenstein said.

One of the films had “30 splices just in the main title,” he said.

Warner Archive created "all-new masters" for the films, according to Feltenstein. "We brought in elements from all over the world. Boatload of reels from England."

For example, the Warner film master for Bowery Bombshell was missing 46 seconds from the sixth reel.

"We had audio and no picture," Feltenstein said. "We knew there had to be picture somewhere, so we brought it in from England."

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