Blu-ray Review: The Anne Bancroft Collection



Rarely when we talk about love and Blu-rays, are we really talking about love. We might have a passion for a film. You can also have a crush on a movie star. But rarely can you look at a Blu-ray boxset and say, “That was put together with love” and mean it on the same level as the love your mother or father put into a special dinner they made you. A major exception to that feeling has arrived. The Anne Bancroft Collection was put together with love. Mel Brooks curated the eight movies. Anne married Mel in 1964 and they stayed together until her passing in 2005. But the boxset is not merely Mel wanting to watch these films, but share Anne’s legacy and talent. The selection covers her a large part of her career and a diverse set of roles. She could do so much. The Anne Bancroft Collection is a rich retrospective of one of cinema’s finest talents.

Don’t Bother to Knock (1952 – 76 Minutes) was Bancroft’s first big break in film. It could have also been her last since she had to go up against Marilyn Monroe when the icon was catching fire with the viewing public. Luckily for Anne, her singer in a fancy hotel doesn’t have to share too many scenes with Marilyn. She can focus on a few songs on the internal radio system while Marilyn plays Elisha Cook Jr.’s niece that gets hired to watch the daughter of Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island). What no one knows is how crazy Marilyn gets especially when Richard Widmark (Panic in the Streets) flirts with her.

The Miracle Worker (1962 – 106 minutes) allowed Anne a chance to bring her Tony Award Winning performance from Broadway to the big screen. She played Anne Sullivan, the educator who connects with deaf and blind Helen Keller (The Valley of the Dolls‘ Patty Duke). It’s an inspiration tale of getting a way for Helen to communicate with others instead of being alone in her silent and dark world. The film won Anne and Patty Oscars for their performances.

The Pumpkin Eater (1964 – 110 minutes) has Anne pull off playing an English wife in this kitchen sink-esque drama. She’s a wife who keep pumping out kids for her lousy husband Peter Finch (Network). She finds out that the screenwriter has been staying busy on the sets hooking up with various ladies including Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) and the wife of James Mason (Lolita. Will she get enough courage to call her husband for his cheating ways?

The Graduate (1967 – 106 minutes) shows how actors can fool you on their ages. In the film we’re supposed to believe Dustin Hoffman is a fresh out of college graduate having an affair with the wife of his family’s friends. In reality Dustin was already 30 years old. Anne was barely 36. Not quite the same level of cougar play we’re supposed to believe as depicted in the movie. But both actors play their age difference right. Anne becomes iconic as Mrs. Robinson, the wife who is tired of her husband’s in attention who teaches Dustin the ways of an extra marital affair. Things go wrong when he’s supposed to take out Mrs. Robinson’s daughter while she was in from college. Katherine Ross was 27. The Blu-ray is the same disc as the Criterion Collection so it really makes this boxset a bargain.

Fatso (1980 – 93 minutes) is a film that Anne not only starred in, but wrote and directed. This is the tale of the battle over overeating starring Dom DeLuise who wants to overcome the call of the refrigerator and accept love into his life. Anne really gets to the core of the matter. She also proves that after all these years or thinking Mel Brooks was the gross out artist in the family that she could give a cinematic moment that was beyond anything Mel could put on the screen.

To Be Or Not To Be (1983 – `07 minutes) finally allowed Anne and Mel to share the screen. This was a remake of the 1942 film starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Mel and Anne are the key actors in a theater company based in Poland trying their best to survive after the Nazi’s takeover the country with the Blitzkrieg. Mel plays a hammy actor while Bancroft is the serious dramatic artist. Both play their characters to the hilt with a supporting cast that includes Charles Durning (The Sting), Christopher Lloyd (Taxi), Tim Matheson (National Lampoon’s Animal House), José Ferrer (Zoltan, Hound of Dracula), Ronny Graham (Spaceballs) and Jack Riley (The Bob Newhart Show). Mel and Anne truly are magical as they deal with the Nazi invaders.

Agnes of God (1985 – 98 minutes) has Anne as a Mother Superior dealing with a novice nun (The Big Chill‘s Jennifer Tilly) who gives birth to a baby and claims the child was a virgin birth. Jane Fonda (Barbarella) is the psychiatrist looking for the truth. The film allowed Bancroft to claim another Oscar nomination for her illustrious career.

84 Charing Cross (1987 – 100 minutes) was the perfect film for the art house scene that was thriving in late ’80s. You can sit back and devour a Toblerone (the official concession stand treat of ’80s art houses). Helene Hanff (Bancroft) is searching for obscure British books and writes Marks & Co, a bookstore in London located at 84 Charing Cross. Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins) has the books she’s looking for and more. The two strike up a friendship through correspondence. It’s remains a charming film from that time before Hopkins was eating humans. Bancroft was so appealing in her role that she won the BAFTA. Mel Brooks surprising produced the sweet film.

The Anne Bancroft Collection is a labor of love from Mel Brooks. He has given us a celebration on Brancroft’s performances. She had the ability to disappear inside a role and handle any tone that her characters require. She could go from the seductive Mrs. Robinson to the holy roller Mother Superior to the supportive sister in Fatso and drama queen of To Be Or Not To Be. She could bring so much out of herself when the camera was rolling.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic for all the films except Don’t Bother to Knock is 1.33:1 full frame and The Graduate at 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfers look fine for all the films. You’ll see how Bancroft worked her characters. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono for all of the films except Agnes of God with DTS-HD MA Stereo and The Graduate & To Be Or Not To Be with 5.1 DTS-HD MA tracks. The levels are fine for all the films. The movies are subtitled in English.

Don’t Bother to Knock
Isolated Music Score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono.

Theatrical Trailer (2:41) teases us with Richard Widmark calling Marilyn Monroe while eyeing her from his hotel room. They sell Marilyn Monroe as the ultimate woman. But Anne Bancroft does show up.

The Pumpkin Eater
Jeremy Mortimer on Penelope Mortimer (32:01) has her son recount extraordinary her life.

Dinah and Fergus (12:04) has actors Frances White and Fergus McClelland recall their time making the movie. Francis was able to land the job by putting her hair in pigtails to fake bring 14 when she was 25. Fergus got to us his own name because there were so many kids.

The Graduate
Audio Commentary From 2007 Featuring Director Mike Nichols In Conversation With Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh (The Limey).

Audio Commentary From 1987 Featuring Film Scholar Howard Suber

Interview From 2015 With Actor Dustin Hoffman (37:50) has him talk about how after a decade of struggle, he finally got a break on Broadway. He didn’t want to test for the film because he didn’t think he was right for the part.

Conversation (24:56) has Producer Lawrence Turman And Screenwriter Buck Henry talk about the film. Turman paid his own money to get the option on the novel even though it sold only 2,000 copies before the film came out. This chat took place in 2015. Buck talks about how the film was also a bit of his story. Besides writing the script, Buck played the hotel clerk.

Interview With Film Writer And Historian Bobbie O’Steen (26:13) about Editor Sam O’Steen’s work on The Graduate. Billy Wilder told Mike Nichols to have an editor to layout the shots to make sure they’d have proper footage in the editing room. That’s how he got involved with Sam.

Students Of The Graduate (25:58) is about the film’s influence. Harold Ramis, Marc Forster, Valerie Faris and David O. Russell praise it.

The Graduate At 25 (22:40) interviews With Actors Dustin Hoffman And Katharine Ross, Producer Lawrence Turman, And Screenwriter Buck Henry about the film in 1992.

Interview With Mike Nichols (15:34) has him talk with Barbara Walters, from a 1966 episode of NBC’s Today Show. He also speaks about working on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. He’s smoking with a glass of liquor on his glass. He talks about doing The Graduate and says there’s no cast yet.

Excerpt From A 1970 Appearance By Singer-Songwriter Paul Simon On The Dick Cavett Show (5:29) features Paul talking about what Mel Brooks told him about the song “Mrs. Robinson.”

Screen Tests (13:18) includes Tony Bill And Jennifer Leak, Robert Lipton And Cathy Carpenter, Dustin Hoffman And Katharine Ross. You can decide if Mike Nichols chose the right couple. Tony Bill would go on to win the Oscar as a producer on The Sting and direct My Bodyguard. He gets screwed in his test because the shot has the bed frame blocking his face for most of the scene.

Trailer (3:46) shows that this isn’t the usual boy meets girl film.

Fatso
Looking Back On Fatso With Producers Stuart Cornfeld and Mel Brooks (12:20) has Mel talk about how the project started when Anne was at AFI. Cornfeld produced that short film version of Fatso. Mel was amazed at how moving and funny his wife’s script was. Cornfeld was brought on to produce the big studio version since he did the first version. Fatso was the first film Mel made at Brooksfilm. Mel is amazed how his wife could go from tears to laughter. He couldn’t pull that off.

Interview with Film Historian Maya Montanez Smukler (26:14) is about women being in the film industry. She points out that women were directing in the silent era. When the sound era comes along, the studios make the director’s chair for men only with rare exceptions.

Image Gallery (2:01) includes posters, lobby cards and press photos.

Press Kit (2:45) is what used to get sent out to newspaper reviewers with production notes and cast biographies. This was how they sold the film before the preview screening.

To Be Or Not To Be
Brooks and Bancroft: A Perfect Pair (14:49) has their castmates talk about going to work with Mel and Anne. Mel admits that Anne taught him how to sing “Sweet Georgia Brown” in Polish. She pushed him in his acting skills.

How Serious Can Mel Brooks Really Get? (2:46) is the short promo about the film. Mel declares that Comedy is everlasting and not drama.

Profiles are short pieces on Mel Brooks (2:39), Anne Bancroft (2:03) and Charles Durning (2:33) put together press kits for entertainment shows.

To Be Or Not To Be: That Is The Trivia! runs with the film to give insights.

Mel Brooks Trailers includes a few of his films.

Trailers includes the theatrical trailer (3:21) and the Portuguese trailer (3:24). Both open with Mel spoofing Hitler.

Isolated Score Track is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

A 20-Page Booklet includes essays and liner notes by film historian and TCM Host Alicia Malone.

Shout! Factory presents The Anne Bancroft Collection. Starring: Anne Bancroft, Mel Brooks, Marilyn Monroe, Dom DeLuise & Anthony Hopkins. Rated: Unrated, PG & PG-13. Boxset Contents: 8 movies on 8 Blu-rays. Released: December 10, 2019.

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