Two stories that have been made into multiple films find their way to Blu-ray recently, “Peter Pan,” the Disney version, and “A Star Is Born,” the Streisand version, along with the wondrous silent classic “The Thief of Bagdad,” starring Douglas Fairbanks, and “Top Gun,” which made a top star of Tom Cruise.
“Peter Pan: Diamond Edition” (Disney/Blu-ray, 1953, three discs, G, $44.99; Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; new introduction, deleted scenes/songs, alternate ending, audio commentary, featurettes, music videos; storybook app). Has it really been 60 years since my parents took me to see this film in its first release when I was 5? Yikes. But here it is, making its debut on Blu-ray.
“Peter Pan” has always been one of my favorite Disney classics but I hadn’t watched it in many years, not since my own kids were young. So it’s nice to report that it holds up wonderfully as a charming retelling of the oft-performed J.M. Barrie story, filled with action, memorable songs and laugh-out-loud comedy. Gotta love Captain Hook and his travails with that pesky crocodile (tick-tock) as Smee fumbles in his efforts to assist.
Some films look better but not necessarily amazing in hi-def, but this one definitely falls into the latter category. Watching Peter fly with Wendy and the boys from London to Neverland is stunning, and the film just gets better as it goes along. If you haven’t yet shared this one with your own children or grandchildren, it’s time. And this dazzling Blu-ray edition is a great way to do it. (Also on two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo, $39.99)
“A Star Is Born” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1976; R for language, sex, drugs; $19.97, deleted/alternate scenes, audio commentary [by Barbra Streisand], wardrobe tests, trailers; 40-page book packaging). Reworking this venerable chestnut from a Hollywood cautionary tale — previously filmed with excellent results in 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason — to a rock ‘n’ roll tragedy is an interesting idea.
The familiar story has a big star on his way down when he marries a younger star on her way up, which can only lead to unhappiness in the world of show biz. And casting Streisand for this version is a brilliant stroke; she’s more than up to the task and her concert performances provide the film’s highlights. But Kris Kristofferson is one-note and charisma-free, which is difficult to get past in this two-hour, 20-minute melodrama laced with music.
Still, it’s worth watching for Streisand and was a big hit in its initial release. And this new Blu-ray upgrade really gives the sound and picture a glorious reworking, while the colorful booklet will also please fans.
“The Thief of Bagdad” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 1924, b/w, not rated, $29.98, audio commentary, featurette/photo gallery). One of the biggest hits of the silent era and Douglas Fairbanks’ personal favorite of his own films, this swashbuckling fantasy adapted from “One Thousand and One Nights” is an especially athletic action epic laced with comedy and special effects, and loaded with charm. Two-and-a-half hours long but it zooms on by, and this Blu-ray restoration is absolutely stunning. Even if you opt for the DVD instead of the Blu-ray, you’re still getting a remastered print from two 35mm negatives with color tints, a vast upgrade from earlier editions. (Also on DVD, $24.98)
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