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Stanley Kramer Film Collection (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner / Ship of Fools / The Member of the Wedding / The Wild One / The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T)

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  • Stanley Kramer Film Collection (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner / Ship of Fools / The Member of the Wedding / The Wild One / The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Award-winning producer and director Stanley Kramer was on of the most respected filmmakers in Hollywood history. Contained within this 6-disc collectible box set are five of his greatest achievements: GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER, SHIP OF FOOLS, THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING, THE WILD ONE, and THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR.T. Featuring newly recorded audio commentary and new interviews, featurettes and an exclusive, GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER bonus disc jam-packed with informative new documentaries, rare photo galleries and more, THE STANLEY KRAMER COLLECTION is a five-star tribute to a motion picture legend.

Stanley Kramer is not just a name in film history but a virtual brand name for a subspecies of filmmaking. First as an independent producer (1948-54) and then as a producer-director (1955-79), Kramer specialized in movies with an insistent socio-political consciousness that addressed Big Subjects--racism, bigotry, McCarthyism, juvenile delinquency and violence, military justice, greed, historical guilt, fascism and collaboration, The Bomb--and sought to make them the stuff of instructive drama. Depending on one's disposition, a Stanley Kramer picture was either powerful or preachy, courageous or complacent, thought-provoking or manipulative, challenging or middlebrow, hard-hitting or heavy-handed. Whatever his profile, for the better part of two decades Kramer loomed large on the American cinema horizon as a fighting liberal and truth-seeker. His pictures won or were up for a lot of awards, and Kramer himself was oft nominated for Oscars. In 1961 the Academy's board of governors voted him the Irving Thalberg Award for his career as a producer.

As an introduction, Stanley Kramer Film Collection is a bit odd. Because Sony is the distributor, only films from the Columbia Pictures library could be included, which means many of Kramer's most celebrated titles weren't: e.g., The Defiant Ones, On the Beach, and Judgment at Nuremberg, all released through United Artists. Also, of the five pictures in the set, only two, Ship of Fools and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, were directed by Kramer--though the commentaries, and especially the introductions by Karen Kramer (the producer’s second wife), treat him as prime mover on all of them.

By far the most interesting item is atypical Kramer--indeed, atypical anybody. The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), co-written by Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel, is a musical comedy horror fantasia centered on a little boy at the mercy of a demonic piano teacher. Mostly it takes the form of a nightmare: the opening sequence looks like something from '50s sci-fi, only creepier, while Dr. Terwilliker's labyrinthine headquarters, the principal setting, suggests the Arabian Nights episode of the German Expressionist classic Waxworks reconstituted in psychedelic Technicolor. Overall, the film scarcely seems to have been directed (the credited Roy Rowland goes unmentioned in the commentaries), and some of the song sequences are a drag. But Eugene Loring's ballet for musicians and instruments imprisoned in Dr. T's dungeon is memorably surreal, and Hans Conried makes a juicy Hitlerian villain. "Hitlerian" is no hyperbole: at the climax, as hundreds of little boys are marched off buses and stripped of their belongings before taking their places at Dr. T's stadium-sized keyboard, there's no mistaking the death-camp echo. Small wonder the movie spooked, rather than beguiled, the few families who bought tickets in 1953. Reviewers didn't like it, either. Nevertheless, it's won a cult over the years, and today's viewers should be more receptive to its dark whimsy. (They may even detect Dr. T DNA in Tim Burton's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory!)

Of the other two early films, The Member of the Wedding (1952) boasts hefty credentials--direction by Fred Zinnemann (the same year he did High Noon for Kramer), a Carson McCullers novel and play as source material, the original Broadway cast re-creating their roles--but it's mostly an endurance test. Julie Harris had triumphed on stage as Frankie, the nervy, garrulous 12-year-old whose world in the Deep South of the 1940s has pretty much shrunk to her family's kitchen and the companionship of wise and patient mammy Bernice (Ethel Waters) and next-door kid John Henry (Brandon de Wilde in his first film role). On screen, Harris's real age (26) is distractingly apparent, and her voice, like Frankie's aggressive neediness, can be like fingernails on the blackboard. Although token efforts were made to "open up" the play for cinema, the film's setting and movement remain constrictive. Much more watchable is The Wild One (1953), directed by Laslo Benedek and based on Frank Rooney's chilling short story "Cyclists' Raid" about a motorcycle gang taking over a small town. Props to Marlon Brando, by then an annual Oscar nominee, for agreeing to re-team with Kramer (who had produced the actor's debut film, The Men) on what is essentially a 79-minute B movie. His reward was to become the premier icon of 1950s rebellion, pioneering the way James Dean, Elvis Presley, and others would follow. The Wild One also introduced biker hipster patter to movie audiences and defined biker fashion for decades to come. So the movie is a cultural milestone--but hardly a cinematic one: it rarely escapes feeling schematic and overcautious in its fear of alienating the public on one hand and glorifying violence on the other. Lee Marvin injects a welcome shot of battery acid as the leader of a rival biker gang, and veteran cinematographer Hal Mohr does yeoman work on dull sets.

The two specimens actually directed as well as produced by Kramer are his final bids for Oscar glory. Many Kramer pictures are only a few degrees away from allegory; Ship of Fools (1965), based on the novel by Katherine Anne Porter, sails over the brink with its complement of variously symbolic passengers and crew on a German vessel bound from Veracruz to Bremerhaven in the fateful year 1933. The heart of the film belongs to Simone Signoret and Oskar Werner, Oscar-nominated and also honored by the British Film Academy, the Golden Globes, and (Werner only) the New York Film Critics for their performances as two world-weary souls who briefly console each other en route to their respective dooms. Others in the cast include Michael Dunn (another Oscar nominee, as a dwarf Greek chorus), Vivien Leigh (her final performance, as a spiritual cousin of Blanche DuBois), Lee Marvin, George Segal, Elizabeth Ashley, Heinz Rühmann, and Jose Ferrer. Their roles are mostly die-cut, and although the black-and-white cinematography and art direction won Academy Awards, the film looks crude and stilted.

The intended centerpiece of the collection is Kramer's last critical and commercial hit, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). This is the one about the well-to-do, cozily liberal San Francisco couple--Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in their final screen pairing--suddenly confronted with the news that their daughter (Katharine Houghton, Hepburn's niece) has fallen in love with and intends to marry an internationally renowned doctor who happens to be black (Sidney Poitier, America's top box-office star that year). Kramer took an enormous risk that Tracy, in frail health, would live to finish the film; the beloved veteran actor did, but perished days afterward, lending the movie considerable poignancy. That undoubtedly contributed to the film's overall kindly reception by reviewers, even as some acknowledged its blatant contrivances. For one thing, Poitier's character is so encyclopedically admirable that the script makes a joke of it; and there's the totally arbitrary "necessity" of Poitier's catching a night flight to Europe, so that the two sets of parents have only an evening to get used to their offspring's proposed mixed-race marriage. Given four decades of social progress--and our generally weak sense of history these days--21st century viewers are likely to find the film quaintly anachronistic (and the high-school-play production values--phony scenic backdrops and instant-sunset lighting--don't help). In remarks recorded for the 40th-anniversary DVD, Steven Spielberg salutes Guess Who's Coming to Dinner as "social instrument" and "social entertainment." How instrumental it was in changing prejudiced minds is open to question, but as entertainment the film became identified with a moment in the history of racial consciousness in America.

There's an extra disc devoted to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Stanley Kramer's legacy, though oddly enough no running commentary has been provided on any of the movies except The Wild One (authoritative testimony by film historian Jeanine Basinger) and The Member of the Wedding (meandering remarks by Carson McCullers biographer Virginia Spencer Carr). Michael Feinstein and others offer droll appreciations of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T in peripheral featurettes. Visual quality of all the film materials is first-rate. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Mary Healy, Hans Conried, Tommy Rettig, Vivien Leigh, Simone Signoret
  • Directors: Fred Zinnemann, Laslo Benedek, Roy Rowland, Stanley Kramer
  • Writers: Abby Mann, Allan Scott, Ben Maddow, Carson McCullers
  • Format: Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Unknown), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 12, 2008
  • Run Time: 514 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000TXP56M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,643 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Stanley Kramer Film Collection (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner / Ship of Fools / The Member of the Wedding / The Wild One / The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Phoebe Stogstill on June 25, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I ordered this Stanley Kramer collection because it had a copy of "The Member of the Wedding" on it--one of my favorite movies, and it is almost impossible to get a copy of this as a single. It is a fantastic collection and I have seen all of the movies before, but of course I had to view "Member" first and then "Ship of Fools." The actors that stand out in this collection are Tracy and Hepburn plus Poitier in "Guess," Marlon Brando in "Wild," Vivien Leigh in "Ship" with equally fine performances by Lee Marvin and Michael Dunne, and of course Julie Harris and Ethyl Waters in "Member." The most stellar performance of the whole pack is the young Brandon de Wilde in "Member." If it were re-windable, I could re-wind and watch this young man over and over and over. Too bad we lost this actor, although his skill seemed to disappate with maturity. The odd movie in this pack is the "1000 Fingers." It is a heroic undertaking, the making of this movie, but instead of being the surrealistic masterpiece it could have been, the sets and props seem amateurish. I must review this one several more times to fully appreciate it--the acting by Tommy Rettig is quite good--and I may finally decide that I love it BECAUSE of its faults, instead of in spite of them. (I have given more detailed reviews of the individual movies, previously) Stanley Kramer was a genius as displayed here on celuloid.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By K. Winborne on January 22, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I have been looking for The Member of the Wedding for years after seeing it on TV and only saw the book until last week. I love this movie I am actually watching it right now. I think I got a great deal 5 movies for $18.26!!! You can't beat that. Even if the other movies aren't good to get The Member for that price is a steal!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rick Lane on July 29, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a great collection of movies ranging from 1952-1967. The cover case is cardboard and is very sturdy and the case that holds the disks might be acceptable to damage if you drop it, but that is also made good too. There are a total of 5 DVD and 1 bonus disk, so all movies have there on disk and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" DVD is the 40th Anniversary Edition disk. The menus for the DVD look really good with the same theme as the cover of this collection.

These movies star; Marlon Brando, Spencer Tracy, Sydney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Ethel Waters, George Segal, Julie Harris, Brandon de Wilde, Mary Murphy, Peter Lind Hayes, Jose Ferrer, Lee Marvin, plus others. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" are in color. "Guess Who's..." and "Ship of Fools" are in Widescreen format (16:9) and the rest are fullscreen.

Overall this is a must have for anyone adding to their collection or fans of these actors/actress'.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sylviastel VINE VOICE on May 27, 2013
Format: DVD
Stanley Kramer was a genius in the film industry where he was both producer and director. In this collection, his widow Karen Kramer did a fantastic job in choosing five distinct films such as the following:

"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" is a film classic which earned a third Academy Award for Best Actress to the amazing Katharine Hepburn and a final performance by the dazzling unforgettable Spencer Tracy. He died two weeks after the film's premiere. The film had an all-star cast such as Sidney Poitier as Dr. John Ward Prentice; Isabell Sanford as Tillie; Cecil Kellaway as Monsignor: and Beah Richards as Mrs. Prentice. Katharine Hepburn's actual maternal niece, Katharine Houghton, plays her daughter, Joanna, in the film.

The film takes place in the course of the day when Joanna and Dr. Prentice return from Hawaii to San Francisco, California to announce their wedding plans to Hepburn and Tracy. Everybody including the liberal mother and father are stunned of course. The film was so controversial about interracial marriage that it caused threats against everybody involved. Some might say the film is dated by today's standards but not necessarily so. Unbeknownst to the audience, Spencer Tracy who was married in real life to another woman had a long-term intimate relationship with Katharine Hepburn. Watching Tracy and Hepburn together is amazing. If Tracy could have divorced his wife despite his Irish Catholic religion, perhaps Hepburn and Tracy would have married. Regardless they show a romance onscreen to be genuine and real. They also know of Tracy's ailing health at the time of the film.

The disc features introductions by Karen Kramer; Tom Brokaw; and Quincy Jones.
Read more ›
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30 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Gerald H. Fuller on January 16, 2008
Format: DVD
It's long overdue! Put out a single DVD of Julie Harris's great performance in this great story.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By James A. Butler on December 14, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I read a review from someone lamenting the fact that "The Member of the Wedding" is not available on DVD by itself. I ask you; Where can you get 5 classics for $5.00 apiece? This outstanding Stanley Kramer Collection boxed set features "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner", "Ship of Fools", "The Member of the Wedding", "The Wild One", and "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T." There is also a bonus "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" disk with special features. Anyone waiting for "The Member of The Wedding" to be released on DVD by itself might be waiting a long time! Not to mention a single release could easily cost what these 5 films together are selling for. I believe this package provides an excellent opportunity to add classic films to one's collection!
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