Just shy of celebrating the studio's 100th Anniversary, Sony Pictures' Columbia Classics Volume 1 begins the commemorations by bringing together a collection of some of the best films in cinema history -- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Strangelove, Gandhi -- while offering up a couple of recent favorites voted into the set by fans A League of Their Own and Jerry Maguire. The limited-edition UHD box set features all six films with improved native 4K transfers, excellent audio mixes and a robust treasure trove of bonus material that includes a glossy 80-page book. The entire package is a Must-Own collection for any true cinephile.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
"After eighty-years since its initial release, Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington remains a deeply inspiring drama that amazingly feels poignant and relevant no matter the period when it's being enjoyed. For me, personally, it endures as the greatest underdog story that still manages to bring tears to my eyes: first, when our naïve idealist and ordinary person Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) enthusiastically wants to respond to each donation letter and later, after hours of filibustering and holding a handful of telegrams, he gives a heartfelt speech of never giving up. And today, Capra's film feels all the more pertinent." 5/5
Lawrence of Arabia
"If there exists an established, conventional "going-native" narrative, then David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia is the definitive masterwork. The spectacularly beautiful film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence (a memorably remarkable Peter O'Toole) is the standard by which all other such narratives should be estimated and measured. Working very closely with cinematographer F.A. Young (49th Parallel, Treasure Island, Doctor Zhivago), Lean's classic epic historical drama is magnificent in its scope, capturing every detail of the culture, and breathtakingly stunning in its scale, showing the majestic grandeur and splendor that seduced the British Colonel." 5/5
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
"My first encounter with Stanley Kubrick's celebrated classic Dr. Strangelove was on television one Sunday afternoon when I was a kid. At the time, I was much too young to fully appreciate the satirical genius of this reinterpretation of Peter George's political thriller Red Alert. However, I remember enjoying the bizarre wacky behavior of the characters, the dark cartoonish zaniness of their conversations and the comical nightmarish scenario of government officials at the brink of WWIII and nuclear holocaust. Perhaps, it was that eerily uneasy subtext of the story which kept me engaged as a kid. But I was also greatly amused by George C. Scott's General Turgidson slowly descending into tantrum hysterics and Peter Sellers's eccentric but strangely funny former-Nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove." 4.5/5
"It never ceases to amaze me how contemporary experiences or current events can shape our appreciation and understanding of any work of art, such as film. Richard Attenborough's historical epic Gandhi has always been a beloved favorite, but watching with the lens of our present sociopolitical climate, the classic biodrama now carries with it a renewed poignancy and gravitas. The story of Mahatma Gandhi (a still astonishing Ben Kingsley in his award-winning, career-defining role) and his remarkable campaign for India's independence feels all the more harrowing and moving today. His crusade, which matured into a national movement, can be understood not only as a fight for his country's freedom but also as a relatable battle demanding that his compatriots be respected as autonomous persons." 5/5
A League of Their Own
"Of the thousand stories from World War II about the many ways people contributed to the war effort, the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was rarely ever mentioned and went almost forgotten. That is until journalist, politician, filmmaker and professor Kelly Candaele wrote a story about the time his mother and aunt played for AAGPBL and was made into the now-classic sports dramedy A League of their Own. Today, this fictionalized telling of the league and their eventual inclusion to the Baseball Hall of Fame is one of the greatest underdog stories ever told. Directed by Laverne & Shirley's Penny Marshall, the plot doesn't follow the traditional sports narrative where an unlikely team or athlete inevitably faces off against the current sure-bet favorite or the top-dog champion." 4.5/5
"The world of sports and capitalist greed collide with romance and authentic human interaction in Cameron Crowe's beloved dramedy Jerry Maguire, a simple story of a man searching for meaning and purpose when the opportunity at a fulfilling life was right in front of him all along. Overlooking the trite use of the voiceover that ultimately goes nowhere or genuinely affect the plot in any way, I love nearly everything about this story, which Crowe also wrote and produced. From the opening moments, the film makes no qualms about what is at the heart and conflict in the titular character's journey to self-actualization." 4.5/5
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings six iconic and highly-acclaimed films from the Columbia Pictures library to Ultra HD Blu-ray. Dubbed Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 1, the sixteen-disc combo collection arrives in a beautiful dark-gray box with gold lettering, and it opens in gatefold style down the center and closes magnetically. Each film is housed in their own standalone black, eco-elite vortex case with individual glossy slipcovers.
The package contains a flyer with separate Digital Copy codes for each film, which can be redeemed via sonypictures.com and Movies Anywhere. When redeeming those codes, users are granted access to the 4K UHD versions of the movies in Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio, but Mr. Smith and Dr. Strangelove come in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio.
The limited-edition box set also includes an attractive 80-page hardbound book by film historian and writer Julie Kirgo. Along with a brief introduction and epilogue, it features essays on the history and impact of each film. Sprinkled throughout are various production notes on restoration efforts and quotes from the filmmakers.
The entire collection carries three triple-layered UHD100 discs, five dual-layered UHD66 discs, six dual-layered BD50 discs and two single-layered BD25 discs. They are joined by a seventeenth single-layer DVD-5 bonus disc containing a pair of short documentaries exclusive to this set. At startup, each disc goes straight to a static main screen with the usual options along the bottom while music plays in the background.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
"Awash in a fine layer of natural grain, the HDR10 presentation also features lush, velvetier blacks with impressive gradational differences in the various shades. Visibility in the darkest corners and shadows is superb, as in the scene when Saunders and Smith talk outside the Lincoln Memorial. Furthermore, contrast enjoys a welcomed boost. Admittedly, it's a major jump, but whites are a bit more brilliant and vivid. More notable, however, is the unexpected improvement in specular highlights providing the cinematography with a radiantly crisp sparkle in the metal-frame eyeglasses and an intense glow from lamps while revealing more details within the hottest areas." 4.5/5
Lawrance of Arabia
"F.A. Young's memorable cinematography also enjoys a brand-new lease on life thanks to Dolby Vision, supplying the action and drama with a more sumptuous and vibrant assortment of colors throughout. The HDR presentation makes the cerulean blue skies really pop, and the greens of some foliage bloom while the reds of various outfits and furnishings are much richer and dynamic. The varied array of browns, tans and sepias of the desert are more animated while explosions bursts with spirited, fiery oranges. Facial complexions reveal the smallest wrinkle, pore and stumble, but they also appear more lifelike and accurate to the blisteringly hot climate. Meanwhile, black levels come with an inkier, sootier appeal while nighttime sequences are bathed in silkier midnight shadows that maintain excellent visibility within the darkest corners." 5/5
"The more worthwhile and appreciable aspect of this HDR10 presentation is the improved contrast and brightness balance. Blacks are notably richer with excellent gradational differences in the shades and better visibility of the finer details within the darkest corners. Whites enjoy a significant boost, as well, looking more luminous and crisper than its HD SDR counterpart. Specular highlights are a bit more nuanced but nonetheless supply the 2160p video with a brilliant sparkle off metallic surfaces, a tighter bloom from the light fixtures and a narrower glow in the buttons of consoles, allowing for better clarity." 4/5
"The award-winning cinematography of Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor also benefits from the jump to UHD, as the HDR10 presentation shows a more opulent and sumptuous array of colors. Providing the classic film with a sensational new lease on life, the 4K video seems fresh and reinvigorated with brilliantly dynamic marigolds, oranges and yellows in the various Indian wrapped garments. Much of the palette consists of attractive earth-tones, showering the drama and action with lots of browns, tans and sepias, and flesh tones appear healthier and truer to the climate than its HD SDR counterpart. At the same time, primaries are far more dramatic and animated, especially the reds and greens while blues show excellent nuances between the different shades, making this UHD edition a marvelous feast for the eyes and earning it the extremely rare perfect score." 5/5
A League of Their Own
"With the improved contrast balance, we can better out the lettering of advertisements as well as the tiniest imperfections while the whites of uniforms and other clothing are crisper with a significantly punchier pop. Likewise, the specular highlights are most impressive, supplying every scene with a more intense and spirited energy, especially in the daylight sequences where we can appreciate a twinkle in the eyes, a vivid luminosity in the clouds and a beaming glow in the lights without washing over the finer details. On the other end of the spectrum, black levels are notably richer with luxurious-looking midnight shadows, giving the women's hair a realistic silky polish and providing the 2.39:1 image with a stunning cinematic quality." 4.5/5
"The search for a fulfilling life brings the beloved sports dramedy to the cozy embrace of Ultra HD with an attractively charming HEVC H.265 encode, giving fans a welcomed step up over the previous 20th Anniversary Blu-ray edition. Coming from that same remaster of the OCN used for the aforementioned HD release, which was approved by director Cameron Crowe, the native 4K transfer enjoys a notable uptick in overall definition with fine lines and objects looking a tad sharper and cleaner. There still remains the occasional soft, blurry moments sprinkled throughout, which appears to be inherent to the original photography, but in general, the video shows better detailing in the clothing, the furniture and in the lettering while facial complexions are highly revealing with pleasing, lifelike textures." 4/5
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
"Our idealistic but heroic average Joe chases bureaucratic windmills equipped with the same DTS-HD MA 1.0 monoaural soundtrack enjoyed on its Blu-ray counterpart. For a more in-depth take on the audio quality, you can read our review HERE." 4/5
Lawrence of Arabia
"Although still maintaining a very front-heavy presentation, the extra breathing room allows for various audio effects to better discretely travel into the surround channels. Granted, this object-based version is not the sort to battle with the current crop of war films, but the track feels broader and significantly fuller, exhibiting better warmth and superb clarity in the midrange. The upper ranges display the same level of exceptional distinction and separation in Maurice Jarre's iconic score as they do during the loudest moments of warfare. Speaking of which, the music is most effective in engaging the listener, extending into all the channels and generating an enveloping hemispheric soundfield. Action sequences come with background activity spreading evenly across the screen while also subtly bleeding into the top heights, such as an early scene with the echo of German airplanes filling the room." 4.5/5
"The brink of nuclear holocaust comes equipped with an identical DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack enjoyed on the 2016 Criterion Collection Blu-ray. Sony has also included a DTS-HD 1.0 monoaural track, but it does not reveal any significantly discernable differences from its LPCM mono counterpart. Fans can't go wrong with either version, as they both sound terrific. For a more in-depth take on the audio quality, you can read our reviews of the Criterion Collection linked above or the 2009 DigiBook HERE." 4/5
"Attenborough's emotional journey to freedom arrives with a fantastic and highly satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtrack, supplying the stunning visuals with several appreciable enhancements over its Dolby TrueHD counterpart. However, given its original audio design and a dialogue-driven drama, the story remains a very front-heavy presentation. Only, the extra-breathing room allows for a wider sense of presence as the background activity moves more convincingly between the three fronts and very subtly into the top heights, generating a broad and expansive half-dome soundstage. The music of Ravi Shankar and George Fenton also lightly bleed into the overheads while exhibiting extraordinary warmth and definition in every musical piece and instrument. Occasionally, atmospherics sporadically but also discretely pan into the sides and rears, joined, from time to time, by the local wildlife randomly flying above the listening area, but such moments are far and few in between. Dialogue reproduction is superbly clean and well-prioritized while an adequate but also palpable low-end provides a weighty heft to certain scenes." 4.5/5
A League of Their Own
"The beloved classic comedy continues its winning streak with a fantastic and surprisingly immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which amazingly complements many conversations with the sounds of birds chirping in the distance or flying directly overhead. The cheering roars and applause of the stadium crowds also reverberate all around and encircle the listener while the announcer's voice echoes from above, generating an unexpectedly good and satisfying hemispheric soundfield. Meanwhile, imaging feels broad and spacious, continuously kept busy with a variety of background activity convincingly panning between the channels and into the off-screen space, such a people talking or cars driving in the distance. Hans Zimmer's score is highly engaging, effectively bleeding into the surrounds and top heights while exhibiting superb clarity and definition within the orchestration. Vocals are always precise and distinct with appreciable intonation in the performances and never drowned out by other activities in the background. Not surprisingly, the low-end is never really put to work here, but it is nonetheless adequate and sufficient to provide some weight and presence to the visuals and the music." 4.5/5
"Crowe's film has never been one for testing a sound system's capabilities or ever left much of an impression in the audio department, not that it was ever expected to given it is a dialogue and character-driven romance. And things don't really improve much in this Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which remains a very front-heavy presentation and nonetheless makes for an excellent complement to the visuals. Granted, imaging feels a tad broader with background activity smoothly bouncing between the fronts while scarcely bleeding into the top heights. The mid-range also seems to exhibit slightly better fidelity and warmth, particularly in the music, but overall, it's not by much. Meanwhile, the surrounds are inconsistently and sporadically employed while the height channels remain largely silent. The track's real strength comes from the crisp, precise dialogue reproduction, displaying outstanding intonation in the performances. Likewise, the low-end provides a healthy palpable weight to the music, especially in the second half of the film." 4/5
Each film in the Columbia Classics Vol. 1 set is given its own set of new and archival bonus features. There are hours upon hours of content available. See the individual reviews for full details, but the box set also includes an exclusive DVD with another pair of supplements.
As mentioned in the review for Lawrence of Arabia - there was a glitch in the set and not all of the bonus features were shipped. If you ended up with a set missing these bonus features, here is the information necessary to request a replacement.
Due to a manufacturing error, the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection currently includes an incorrect LAWRENCE OF ARABIA special features disc, which does not include the full amount of intended content. This does not affect the 4K UHD presentation of the film itself. The correct special features disc will be available to consumers who purchase the set, whether as a pre-order or as part of a future order, pending the eventual availability of sets that already have the correct disc included. Consumers should receive communication from their retailer about this corrected disc soon, but may contact the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Customer Care team with any questions at consumer@SPHECustomerSupport.
With only five years shy of celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment starts the commemoration with four iconic films and a pair of highly-acclaimed fan favorites collected in one beautiful package dubbed Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 1. The set features beloved classics Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Strangelove and Gandhi, and they are joined by Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own and Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire, making for a memorable anthology that nicely captures the breadth of the studio's success.
The attractively elegant limited edition box set is a collection of sixteen discs, an informative 80-page book and an exclusive DVD disc. Each Ultra HD disc features improved 4K HDR video presentations of the individual films, four of which are also accompanied by satisfying Dolby Atmos soundtracks, making them the best way to enjoy those films. With a treasure trove of archival bonuses and new, exclusive material, the entire package is, honestly, a must-own set that looks beautiful in the library of any true cinephile.