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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
Sale Price: $140 Last Price: $154.78 Buy now! 3rd Party 140 In Stock
Release Date: January 5th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1964

Directed By Sidney Lumet Volume One (1964 -1973) -Imprint Limited Edition

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Matthew Hartman
Via Vision’s Imprint Films gives collectors another incredible box set to celebrate with Directed By Sidney Lumet Vol. 1. A collection of six films, The Pawnbroker, The Group, The Deadly Affair, Child’s Play (no, not that one), The Offence, and Serpico, the box set is an exciting swath of Lumet’s output from the mid-1960s into the ‘70s with some of his best films. A/V varies from one title to another but overall very satisfactory and the amazing bonus features aren’t to be missed. Highly Recommended

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Limited Edition 6-Film 7-Disc Hardbox. 1500 copies only
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Release Date:
January 5th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

It’s something of an understatement to describe Sidney Lumet as anything but a masterclass filmmaker. Sure, not all of his films were the best creations ever committed to celluloid, but the vast majority were exciting works. The man certainly couldn’t sit still for long rarely going longer than a year without having a film in theaters. Some were true greats, among the best films ever made. Some could be rather mediocre or shine with potential brilliance but just miss the mark somehow. Within Imprint Film’s Directed By Sidney Lumet Vol. 1 we have six films from the master’s collection. Three of what I’d argue are among his best, The Pawnbroker, The Offence, and Serpico and three of what I’d call good, but not great - The Group, Child’s Play, and The Deadly Affair

Going by chronological order, The Pawnbroker is an excellent character study of a man who has seen the worst humanity has to offer and doesn’t see anything getting better. Rod Stieger was an imposing performer and this is among his most visceral. He’s not his usual loud, and bombastic but instead a man holding himself back with great restraint and fierce anger about the state of the world. 5/5

Next, we come to The Group. Starring Candice Bergman, Joan Hacket, Shirley Knight, and Jessica Walter, the film focuses on a group of eight female friends at Vasser who go their separate ways after graduation. When tragedy strikes and they rejoin, they discover the vastly different paths their lives traveled. This is one of those films where I felt like Lumet wanted to explore something, but the story just doesn’t have a lot to say. I never read the book it was based on, so I can’t speak to that end, but the film just doesn’t connect for me. But I will say the performances from the great cast are an excellent showcase of talent. 3/5

The Deadly Affair is Lumet going full le Carré. Based on the author’s first novel, the film is a bit compromised because of rights issues, James Mason’s character couldn’t be called “George Smiley” and was renamed “Charles Dobbs.” A decent but overly simplified adaptation, it’s nearly impossible to adapt le Carré’s twisty turning plots let alone do it in under two hours and have it all work. Overall it's a solid film and Mason is an energetic version of Smiley, but the film doesn’t quite stick. At the very least, the Quincy Jones score is a banger. 3.5/5

Child’s Play is the next film in this set. No it doesn’t involve a doll possessed with the spirit of a killer. Here we have James Mason again playing an acerbic Latin teacher at an all-boys Catholic boarding school with Robert Preston playing the more popular English teacher. Caught in the middle of their antagonistic relationship is a former student-turned-gym teacher played by Beau Bridges. It’s a kind of cat-and-mouse game mystery thriller that frustratingly doesn’t get to where it needs to go. While Bridges and Mason are excellent, I couldn’t help but feel Preston’s overly theatrical mannerisms were better suited for River City than this potboiler thriller. 2.5/5

1973 was a hell of a year for Lumet. It started off with The Offence - Sean Connery’s first film after hanging up 007 for the second time, it’s the third pairing with Lumet and it’s one hell of a character piece. After hunting rapists, murderers, and molesters for 20 years, can a cop become the thing he hates the most or does he just snap? Connery is a fierce performer doing everything he can to shake off the James Bond dust and get into a real meaty character. Lumet is in excellent form letting the story unfold while keeping some key details under wraps allowing for a tantalizing amount of ambiguity to cloud the character's morals. I discovered this film thanks to a professor playing the creepy soundtrack in his office ahead of a scheduled meeting. Whatever our meeting was about turned into an impromptu viewing of the film with his then-assistant professor he shared an office with. 5/5

Now we’ve come to Serpico - one of my all-time favorite films. Just go read my 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review for all that explaining and justification. 5/5

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Never one to go small with their box sets, Via Vision’s Imprint Films delivers an incredible six-feature seven-disc collection limited to 1500 copies. All region free, each film The Pawnbroker, The Group, The Deadly Affair, Child’s Play, The Offence, and Serpico are pressed on BD-50 Discs with another BD-50 disc dedicated to Lumet-focused documentaries and featurettes. Each film gets its own title-specific standard case, each film has its own spine number. All six cases are housed in a lovely hard-stock box with spine numbers “280-285” for those aiming to complete their Imprint collections. Each disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options.

Video Review

Ranking:

On the video scale each of these films arrive with excellent presentations. The artwork on each disc indicates they’re sourced from 2K scans, but no date so I don't know the vintage. Regardless they all hold up nicely. 

Serpico I am pleased to see has the normal accurate color timing and is not what we saw for the EU 4K but closer to the KLSC set. I don’t have the 2013 US Blu-ray on hand any more for a comparison but this is a very good 1080p presentation. 4.5/5

Likewise, The Pawnbroker is in excellent shape as well, if I had to bet it’s from the same restoration source Olive used for their disc a few years back. The image offers clean clear details with an often striking black and white grayscale. 4.5/5

The Group is a nice-looking presentation, I hadn’t seen this film on Blu-ray before so I don’t have that comparison in mind, but it’s well-detailed with nice lively colors. It’s a tad on the soft side, but as the film I’m least familiar with I was overall pleased with the appearance of this transfer. 3.5/5

I also don’t have a Blu-ray of The Offence, I haven’t had the gumption to import the UK release but this is a great-looking disc with terrific details and natural colors. The tweed suits, facial hair, and the film’s production design all look great. 4/5

Child’s Play is the one that comes out on the lower end of the set. It’s a fine disc overall, but it has quite a bit more age-related wear and the black levels never quite resolve. Details have their moments to shine but also don’t quite pop. 3.5/5 

The Deadly Affair is also in something of the same range as Child’s Play where it does look very good, but it’s held back a tad. There are nice details to observe with healthy colors, black levels are in okay shape but can become quite thick or murkey and film grain can appear pretty noisy. 3.5/5

Audio Review

Ranking:

Universally, each film has a great audio track to enjoy. Each film benefits from clean clear dialog, lively soundscapes with great atmosphere and scores. Some have a little bit of hiss or a couple of pops and crackles, but nothing to worry about or distract you from enjoying the show. 

The Pawnbroker - LPCM Mono

The Group - LPCM 2.0 Mono

The Deadly Affair - LPCM 2.0 Mono

Child’s Play - LPCM 2.0 Mono

The Offence - LPCM 2.0 Mono

Serpico - DTS-HD MA 5.1, LPCM 2.0

Special Features

Ranking:

The great thing about a ViaVision or Imprint release is the commitment to bonus features. Some releases may not have quantity but score well for quality. In the case of Directed By Sidney Lumet Vol. 1 it’s both. You have hours of new and archival extras to dig into with this release. Some films have more than others (a couple have none at all) but then there’s an entire bonus disc dedicated to Lumet-focused content that’s all worth checking out. There are no bonus features on the Serpico disc. Here’s what you’re getting yourself into:

The Pawen Broker 

Disc One:

  • Audio Commentary featuring Phoef Sutton, Mark Legan, and C. Courtney Joyner
  • The Guardian Interview: Rod Steiger (Audio Interview Played with the Film 1:55:25)
  • Cinema of the Pilpul - Video Essay by Daniel Kremer (HD 25:08)
  • Save Within Myself: Remembering Rod Steiger - Interview with Claudia Myhers Tschudin (HD 12:02)
  • Theatrical Trailer 

Disc Two:

  • One Step Further: Becoming Lumet Documentary (HD 57:01)
  • A Perfectly Outrageous Cut: Editing Lumate (HD 19:24)
  • His Favorite Protagonist: Designing Lumet (HD 12:37)
  • Man with No Anger: Scouring Lumet (HD 18:03)
  • Trailers From Hell: Adam Rifken on Serpico (HD 4:43)

The Group

  • Audio Commentary featuring Adrian Martin
  • Theatrical Trailer 

The Deadly Affair

  • Theatrical Trailer 

Child’s Play

  • Audio Commentary featuring Howard S. Berger
  • Designing Sisney - Interview with Philp Rosenberg (HD 35:46)

The Offence

  • Audio Commentary featuring Lee Pfeiffer, Tony Latino, and Paul Scrabo
  • Sidney Lumet: Childhood Elegy - Video Essay by Howard S. Berger (HD 57:12)
  • Interview with Michael Stevenson (HD 7:49)
  • Interview with Harrison Birtwistle (HD 14:01)
  • Interview with Christopher Morahan (HD 15:46)
  • Interview with Chris Burke (HD 12:50)
  • Interview with Evangeline Harrison (HD 6:29)
  • Interview with Simon Kaye (HD 6:20)
  • Theatrical Trailer

It’s tough to narrow a filmmaker as prolific as Sidney Lumet into a single box, so it’s a good thing that this is only Volume One! Imprint Films delivers film enthusiasts and collections one hell of a grand box set to dive into. Starting with his early 1960s work, the set pulls six terrific films from the director’s very long catalog of films. While I don’t love every film in the set the same way I feel about Serpico, it’s a magnificent showcase of talent in front and behind the camera. Each film is given a respectable to excellent A/V package to enjoy and the set as a whole delivers a magnificent range of bonus features to dive into after the show is over. If you’re a Lumet fan or if you’re just starting to add his films to your collection, this isn’t a set to miss out on. Highly Recommended