This March, titles from a wide range of genres are arriving in 4K Ultra High Definition.
There's Joan Crawford's Oscar-winning performance in a beloved '40s noir, which is receiving the royal treatment from The Criterion Collection, a classic fantasy adventure from the early '80s scored by 15-time Oscar-nominated film composer Alex North, and a late '90s swashbuckler starring Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins. Plus, one of the most ambitious DreamWorks Animation films is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and there's an early 2000s thriller from cult filmmaker Wes Craven that is well worth a revisit.
There's something for everyone this month, and each of the films below has been beautifully restored via their original camera negative and upgraded to glorious 4K UHD.
The Mask of Zorro
Fresh off the success of 1995's GoldenEye, which re-introduced audiences to the 007 James Bond franchise, director Martin Campbell re-introduced audiences to another cult action hero with 1998’s The Mask of Zorro. A charming and skilled masked vigilante, the character first debuted in Johnston McCulley's graphic novel in 1919 and spawned a plethora of further novels, films and television serials in the decades that followed. Campbell's film delighted audiences during the summer of '98, with Anthony Hopkins as the original Zorro, Don Diego de la Vega, on a search for his long-lost daughter, Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and a mission to avenge his wife's death. Revitalizing things is Vega’s successor, Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), who is taking on the Zorro mask, and pursuing his own agenda of revenge and justice, while falling in love his mentor’s daughter in the process.
With its appealing cast, high-energy fight scenes and humor, The Mask of Zorro was both a critical and commercial success. The film went on to receive two Oscar nominations (for Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing). A sequel, The Legend of Zorro, starring Banderas and Zeta-Jones with Campbell directing, was released in 2005.
Hitting its 25th Anniversary, this limited edition steelbook release of The Mask of Zorro comes courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. This release utilizes a previously released 4K restoration but adds a new Dolby Vision and HDR presentation of the film which offers a beautiful depth to Phil Méheux’s large scope cinematography. The presentation is elevated by a rapturous new Dolby Atmos audio track. Supplemental features include an Audio Commentary with Campbell, 12 deleted scenes, trailers, and the documentary Unmasking Zorro.
Get it: March 7 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray (Limited Edition).
Featuring an iconic performance from Joan Crawford, Casablanca director Michael Curtiz left audiences spellbound with his perfectly balanced noirish melodrama, Mildred Pierce. Based on James M. Cain's novel, this 1945 film is a biting study of a single mother’s drive to earn a living amidst the economic hardship of the Great Depression. However, despite her endless hard work and eventual success, even after rising to become the sole owner of a popular restaurant chain, she is faced with the ingratitude and disrespect of her spiteful first-born daughter, Veda (Ann Blyth). With unforgettable performances, Mildred Pierce is an emotionally wrought commentary on the American dream and parental love.
Mildred Pierce received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and two Best Supporting Actress nominations (one for Eve Arden and another for Blyth). Crawford won for Best Actress in a Leading Role. In 1996, the film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress' National Film Registry for being deemed as “culturally, historically, aesthetically significant."
This new release by The Criterion Collection features a previously restored 4K transfer but with the addition of an HDR presentation of the film which has proven to be a game changer for the visual aesthetic of black-and-white films. An extensive array of supplements are offered, including the 2002 feature-length documentary, Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star, along with a Q&A with Blyth from 2006, excerpts from both a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show featuring Crawford, and a 1969 episode of the Today show featuring Mildred Pierce novelist and one of the founding fathers of hard-boiled fiction, Cain. Rounding things off is an essay by film critic, author, and historian Imogen Sara Smith.
Get it: March 7 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
The Prince of Egypt
Celebrating its 25th anniversary is DreamWorks Animation's The Prince of Egypt. As the studio's first foray into hand-drawn animation and a desire to re-frame the audience perception of feature animation being "just for the kids," The Prince of Egypt captivated audiences across the world with its epic and equally moving retelling of the biblical story of Moses. A milestone in cinematic achievement, the film is an ambitious piece of filmmaking, featuring unparalleled artistry from a creative standpoint with its breathtaking animation, Hans Zimmer’s unforgettable Oscar-nominated score, and the superbly grounded voice performances from its cast, which includes Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Patrick Stewart, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Martin Short, Steve Martin and Helen Mirren.
Directed by Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells, upon its initial release in '98, The Prince of Egypt went on to receive universal acclaim, solid box office returns, and was nominated for two Oscars, winning for Best Original Song for Stephen Schwartz's "When You Believe," performed by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. This was the first and only time that these two legendary singers ever sang together on the same track. In the 25 years since its release, The Prince of Egypt has come to be considered as one of the most powerful animated films of its decade.
This new filmmaker approved 4K UHD transfer and audio mix of The Prince of Egypt comes courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Derived from the original 35mm Digital Negative, the film features a stunning new HDR color grade, while the music, performances, and sound effects are elevated by a new DTS:X audio mix which packs a wallop on the surround speakers. The release is complemented with several bonus supplements, including The Making of The Prince of Egypt, a lively Audio Commentary from the film’s three directors, "When You Believe" – A Multi-Language Presentation, The Basics of Animation: The Chariot Race, and Focus on Technical Effects.
Get it: March 14 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray – also on digital.
Director Matthew Robbins' 1981 fantasy adventure Dragonslayer is a unique film from a production standpoint; this was the second film in a short-lived joint venture between Disney and Paramount following their first collaboration, Popeye (1980). Starring Peter MacNicol, Ralph Richardson, Peter Eyre, John Hallam and Albert Salmi, Dragonslayer is set in the fictional 6th Century medieval land of Urland where the land’s King has made a grim pact with Vermithrax Pejorative, a 400-year-old dragon who has been terrorizing the kingdom. But as fate would have it, an unlikely hero and wizard’s apprentice, Galen (MacNicol), must set out on a quest to defeat the dragon once and for all.
Dragonslayer went on to receive two Oscar nominations, one for Best Visual Effects and another for Best Original Score. With a darker and more mature story than that which audiences were expecting from Disney, the film underperformed at the box office. Critics, meanwhile, praised the film’s performances, visuals, and high-stakes storytelling. Thanks to home video, in the decades since its release, audiences have embraced Dragonslayer, elevating it to cult status. With its legion of fans, the film has taken its place among other fantasy favorites from the '80s such as Willow, Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, Return to Oz, The Dark Crystal, and The Neverending Story.
Having never been released previously on Blu-ray, this stunning new 4K restoration of Dragonslayer was approved by Robbins and comes courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution. Featuring both Dolby Vision and HDR presentations of the film, Paramount has even created a new Dolby Atmos track for the film. With such a complex production history, a series of brand-new supplemental features are available, including a retrospective piece The Slayer of All Dragons, featuring interviews with the film’s key production team, Welcome to Cragganmore, offering a look back on Industrial Light and Magic’s Oscar-nominated visual effects, four additional featurettes, screen tests, trailers, and finally, a new Audio Commentary with Robbins and Guillermo del Toro. For collectors, a limited edition steelbook is also available.
Get it: March 21 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Legendary filmmaker Wes Craven, best known for his work within the horror genre directing films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and the original Scream trilogy, pivoted from slashers to the Hitchcockian thriller Red Eye. Released in 2005, the film is a nail-biting, briskly passed two-hander starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy. McAdams plays Lisa, a hotel manager taking a red-eye flight from Dallas to Miami following her grandmother’s funeral. Upon boarding her flight, Lisa is pulled into a life and death political assassination plot by the passenger sitting beside her, Jackson (Murphy).
Confined to a claustrophobic aircraft cabin’s setting for the majority of the film, Craven delivered a unique piece of work within his filmography. Red Eye, hailed as an unrelenting ride for audiences, was widely praised for its brilliant pacing, Craven's skilled direction, and the nuanced performances of McAdams and Murphy.
Red Eye has been given a native 4K-UHD scan from the film’s original camera negative thanks to Paramount Pictures. Released as a limited edition under the studio’s 'Paramount Presents' line, the film is presented with both HDR and Dolby Vision, along with a DTS 5.1 audio track. Paramount has dug deep into their vault for this release, unarchiving never-before-seen interview footage with Craven and offering cinephiles a loaded array of supplements, including Filmmaker Focus – Wes Craven and Red Eye, two filmmaker commentaries, and the featurettes The Making of Red Eye, Wes Craven: A New Kind of Thriller, and Wes Craven: In His Own Words.
Get it: March 21 on 4K UHD Blu-Ray (Limited Edition)
By Adam J. Yeend