Sony continues its annual tradition of delivering six back catalog classics and favorites spanning the decades of the Columbia archive with Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 3. This set bundles together genuine classics with It Happened One Night, From Here to Eternity, and To Sir, With Love with contemporary classics The Last Picture Show, and Annie, with the 1997 fan favorite As Good as it Gets rounding out the set. Each film has been lovingly restored with exceptional Dolby Vision transfers, terrific audio mixes, and over 35 hours of bonus features coupled with another informative 85-page book. If you love all of these films in this set, this is a great way to add six excellent films to the collection. Highly Recommended
Click on the linked titles for the full reviews:
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Sony delivers their third round of six Columbia Classics to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Once again each film has its own separate case with custom slipcover and original insert artwork. Three Golden Era classics are housed in one foldout bay on the left with the right bay holding the three contemporary entries. Also included is an 85-page hardcover book with essays and facts about each film. Here's the breakdown of discs for each title:
Seeing as how this film is knocking on the door of its 90th birthday, I wasn’t expecting much of an upgrade over Criterion’s already fantastic 2014 Blu-ray release. One starts to believe that there’s a ceiling for improvements with features of this vintage, but this new 2160p Dolby Vision transfer shows that the roofline is quite high. Once again Sony outdoes itself with this magnificent release. On the baseline of fine detail, there isn’t a huge massive leap from the already excellent 2014 disc to this one, but if you watch long enough you start to see small details you never quite picked up on. For how many times I’ve seen this movie I never realized it was Ward Bond as the bus driver and not Nat Pendleton who I always assumed it was! Their voices are so similar it was easy to mistake the two, but now with the extra refinement and detail, it made it easier to spot John Wayne's frequent collaborator. Facial features and costuming all come in with beautiful clarity and a healthy cinematic grain structure. 4.5/5
Admittedly, I didn’t pick up Sony’s 2013 Blu-ray of From Here To Eternity when I had many chances to do so. I borrowed it from the library plenty and wanted to pick it up, but it kept getting pushed down the list, and then when the 4K format came about I figured I’d wait figuring it'd be a shoe-in. I’m glad I waited. This is simply another phenomenal-looking disc as Sony continues to crush it with its catalog titles. Details are exquisite from frame one allowing you a full appreciation of facial features, clothing textures, and the film’s impressive production design work all with a nice and rich cinematic grain structure. The only dodgy parts are the stock footage inserts which really don’t compare to the more recently produced elements, but for that Pearl Harbor attack sequence, these sections still hit you square in the gut. 5/5
Sony once again proves that with a little time, some spit and polish, and a new transfer, the moldy oldies like To Sir, With Love can look amazing on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an often stunning Dolby Vision (and HDR10) transfer. I was already impressed with what Twilight Time accomplished so many years ago - and that disc is still quite something - but there’s no comparison to what Sony achieved here. Fine film grain is retained throughout with a nice cinematic appearance. It’s a little heavier around those optical transitions, but that’s to be expected. I was most impressed with the amount of detail improvement in facial features, clothing styles, and the London locations. 4.5/5
Sony’s Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 3 really has a love for the black and white classics! The Last Picture Show previously dropped on Blu-ray in 2010 as part of the 7-Film America Lost and Found: The BBS Story from The Criterion Collection. That was a lovely presentation (my second viewing), but time and technology are on Sony’s side with this new edition and it’s just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. From the opening shot of the town of Anarene, the image is simply stunning bringing that incredible stark Robert Surtees (father of Bruce Surtees who shot Escape From Alcatraz and High Plains Drifter) to life. The gray scale is just phenomenal allowing for a full appreciation of bright whites, deep inky blacks, and all the shadowy shades in between. Details are immaculate with clean lines, facial features, and clothing textures. 5/5
Both the 4K disc and the Blu-ray score new transfers for this 40th Anniversary (god I’m old) celebration of Annie. The 2160p Dolby Vision presentation is the clear and obvious winner just for the costumes and production design details alone. While this film may not be all glitzed up like classic musicals of Hollywood’s Golden Era for song and dance features, this film is still quite something. From Annie’s day walker red locks to Sandy’s shaggy hair to Albert Finney’s bald head, no amount of fine detail is wasted. I glowed about the 30th Anniversary when I reviewed it all those years ago and this new transfer easily leaves that great disc (for its time) far behind. With fine details clearly rendered, film grain maintains a healthy cinematic appearance throughout. 4.5/5
While I may not love the film itself, As Good as it Gets tip-toes onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a lovely 2160p Dolby Vision (and HDR10) transfer that easily bests the old 2012 Twilight Time Blu-ray. This film loves closeups and every actor gets plenty of face time allowing you to study every laugh line and wrinkle or ball of fur on any given actor or dog’s face. Fine film grain is intact without appearing smoothed out or too noisy to function. Textures in clothing are all on display as are the film’s many New York locations. The Dolby Vision HDR pass does an excellent job of highlighting colors, giving us those deep inky blacks with bright crisp whites. 4.5/5
This release comes in with a pleasing DTS-HD MA mono track. Again at nearly 90 years of age, there is still some age-related anomalies like slight hiss present and some sound effects that don’t quite render well, but there are many attributes to this track that shine. Dialog is clean and clear without any issues. This is a film with many great speeches - mostly from Gable - and they all come through with terrific clarity. It was honestly a genuine pain to decide which clip to choose for the video sample! Scoring is on point without sounding shrill or tinny. Imaging may be restricted given its original mono recording, but it’s still plenty active and engaging - especially whenever there’s a crowd of people to fill the soundscape.
And true to Sony’s recent commitment for home video excellence, not only do they bring in some legacy audio tracks (DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono and DTS-HD MA 5.1), but they’ve also gone and given this film a rather remarkable Dolby Atmos track that gives the film a whole new level of immersion and intensity for any given scene. Usually, I tend to favor the original mixes for films, in this case, the 2.0 mono, but this Atmos mix is something to celebrate. From grunts clacking pool cues in the officer’s club to drilling in the courtyard to the climactic surprise attack sequence, this mix is quite something.
On top of legacy DTS-HD MA 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono tracks (which are both great), I was really surprised to see this film score an Atmos track. Outside of Lulu’s title tune, some of the rock music cues, and a few busy location scenes, it’s just not a title I thought even needed a wall-to-wall immersive audio mix, but we got one and it’s actually pretty damn good! All the basics like dialog, score, and main sound effects are well-covered and balanced with a little more weight and presence than the 5.1 or 2.0 tracks. There isn’t a lot of rumble in the subs to speak of, it’s not that kind of movie, but there’s enough low-end response to ensure even the quietest scenes remain full and alive.
In a break with the other films in the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 3 set, The Last Picture Show comes in with only a single DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track. Which is just fine. Even with some of the more active scenes like a particular pool party or school dance, there isn’t a lot of action activity to justify a more aggressive multi-channel track. Most of what you’d hear is the wind howling around the soundscape, which would be fittingly atmospheric, but it wouldn’t do much to benefit the film in 7.1 Dolby Atmos. As it stands, this is a terrific mix allowing for a full appreciation of dialog, sound effects, and the few fleeting moments of music.
As has been the case for some of the other titles in Sony’s latest Columbia Classics set, Annie picks up an impressive but not altogether necessary Atmos track along with DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks. Now, it’s dealer’s choice which one works best for you depending on your setup. The Atmos mix is excellent and offers many flourishes and enhancements over the 5.1 mix - especially for the big song and dance numbers - but the 5.1 and 2.0 hold their own. I admit I’m usually drawn to the original mixes for catalog titles, if it was in mono or stereo in theaters, I just tend to enjoy that experience more, but this Atmos was quite something.
As Good as it Gets comes in with a pair of audio tracks to choose from, a DTS-HD MA 5.0 (odd right?) mix, and a new Dolby Atmos track. Truth be told, either track works and the 5.0 mix certainly holds its own. The Atmos mix is nice, but aside from busier locations, there’s not a whole hell of a lot of cause for it. Given that it’s such a dialog-heavy film, that’s the main auditory function of either track so there’s very little to move away from the front/center channels. Sides and rears only sporadically come to life with height only carrying some load for those cluttered sequences in restaurants or in city streets. To that end, I’ll say the Atmos track does work best giving a more fully realized sense of space and dimension but between the various character’s apartments, it’s a pretty quiet film that sounds perfectly fine on either track you launch.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc
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Blu-ray Disc One
Blu-ray Disc Two
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Sony continues to deliver physical media fans one exceptional catalog release after another. In the last couple of years, they've fine-tuned their processes such that each film is virtually guaranteed a terrific video transfer, excellent audio, and a solid selection of new and archival bonus features. This is again exemplified with Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 3. This set combines the genuine classics with fan favorites for a pretty fantastic selection of titles all with top-tier A/V presentations and an impressive range of bonus features. My rule for these sets has been if I really love at least four of the six films in the collection, it's worth spending a little extra to get the full set. In this case, I loved five of the six so it was well worth the cash.
However, as wonderful as these Columbia Classics sets have been, they're not for everyone and I more than understand and empathize with the desire to have these issued in single-title releases. It completely baffles me that Sony hasn't done that already for the titles in Vol 1 and Vol 2 with only a scant few of those getting solo releases. Hopefully, they have some future plans in that regard, but so far it's oddly been crickets. I can guarantee all of these titles would sell like gangbusters; people want them. But people don't necessarily want all of them. So ultimately this set is Highly Recommended but understandably for those who like the big box sets and want to have a majority for their collections.