Paramount Pictures has apparently decided that everything old is new again, especially in the time of coronavirus quarantines.
This week, the studio launches “Paramount Presents,” a new way to market library titles that are “enduringly popular movies, as well as films that had a cultural impact upon their release.” The new label will also be used to bring some of these films back to theaters for limited theatrical runs to revive the big-screen experience.
The first Blu-rays, all remastered from a 4K film transfer, include two iconic titles from the ’50s: King Creole (1958) starring Elvis Presley, and Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955) with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Both feature a new specially produced documentary with historian and critic Leonard Maltin. also out now is 1987’s immortal and endlessly imitated thriller Fatal Attraction, which includes a new “Filmmaker Focus” with director Adrian Lyne as well as the previously released alternate ending among other extras. Fatal Attraction is also slated for a still-to-be-announced 2020 theatrical reissue — that is, when theaters begin to reopen of course. It is the first of their announced titles to get that planned treatment.
Actually, the idea of taking some Paramount vault items back for another spin in theaters was hatched before coronavirus shut most of them down, but now it seems prescient. I would imagine the studio could be looking to expand the plan of putting more of these easily recognizable classics in movie houses just as theaters will really be in need of repertory product more than ever when they begin to reopen.
Although it is not listed among the early titles in this program, wouldn’t Top Gun be a natural? It is not only a movie that plays well on a large screen, but also would be a surefire way to whet appetites for the long-gestating sequel now scheduled to hit theaters on December 23, 2020 after being bumped from its original summer date due to the current crisis. Outside of Los Angeles and New York, where a couple of revival houses still thrive thanks to the likes of Film Forum, American Cinematheque and Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Theatre, most states don’t have regular access to seeing these kinds of vintage gems in all their original glory.
Of the first three titles, it is interesting the studio chose to showcase the black-and-white King Creole. considered by many to contain The King’s finest screen work in a much different kind of vehicle than the Technicolor musicals he turned out regularly through most of the 1960s. He’s really good in this, a film based on the Harold Robbins novel A Stone For Danny Fisher, and it makes you wonder how it might have turned out differently for him if he was allowed to do more challenging material like it. Walter Matthau was among the co-stars.
As for Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, it was filmed in Monaco, where Kelly met future husband Prince Rainier and would two years later give up Hollywood and become Princess Grace. She made three films for Hitchcock in her short Oscar-winning movie career including Rear Window and Dial M For Murder. He tried to lure her back for 1964’s Marnie, and almost did, but it wasn’t to be, and he reunited instead with Tippi Hedren just a year after The Birds terrified audiences — and her. To Catch a Thief is one of his lightest films, but so fun to see again. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.
Many of the films included in the new Blu-ray releases will be tied to anniversaries. Those include 1995’s Oscar-winning Braveheart and 2000’s Gladiator both on June 16 (with theatrical and extended versions for the latter), plus iconic hits like a 40th anniversary Friday the 13th and John Travolta’s Urban Cowboy, also from 1980. Not celebrating an anniversary but getting the new Blu-ray treatment is 1983’s evergreen Flashdance on May 19. Earlier this month, Paramount released an elaborate three-disc set of its Easter perennial The Ten Commandments in both the 1956 and 1923 silent versions plus tons of extras.
“We look forward to opening the vault and sharing some of our most treasured films with fans under the new Paramount Presents banner, both in theatres and in our new Blu-ray collection, which as been crafted to offer something special to casual fans, dedicated film enthusiasts and collectors,” said Bob Buchi, president of Paramount’s worldwide home media distribution.
More directly tied to the new age of quarantining, Paramount is also getting into the virtual screening business — for the bargain-basement price of $1.99 to access CYA.LIVE, where fans can watch and participate via text and video, at least for the next couple of Saturdays. It actually started last weekend with a 25th anniversary showing of Tommy Boy, hosted by the film’s director Peter Segal (and ironically serving as a nice tribute to co-star Brian Dennehy, who died the day before). Coming up this Saturday is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan along with hosts of the Inglorious Treksperts podcast, Mark A Altman and Daren Dochterman. On Saturday, May 2, my personal favorite movie ever Breakfast at Tiffany’s — just two days before the late Audrey Hepburn’s birthday. That will be hosted by Andrea Kalas, head of Paramount Pictures Archives.
Speaking of the Par Archives, in past years the studio has farmed out quite a bit of product to other video distributors, notably Olive Films and Kino Lorber’s Studio Classics line, generally titles that might not generate the kind of business the majors feel is worth the marketing spend on their own. It is nice to see studios like Paramount, and as previously reported Sony Pictures and its high-end 4K editions of Columbia Classics, as well as the continuing work of Warner Archive, in giving some great movies new life. I have been watching a lot of classics lately, revisiting them or seeing for the first time, and it may be at least one good thing that has come out of this dark time and uncertain future we are currently living through.