I saw this documentary on PBS last year, and it is highly recommended for anyone who is interested in film history and the history of the most successful entertainment empire today - Warner Brothers. It's much better than "Here's Looking At You", the documentary made in the 90's on the studio. For one, there is one consistent narrator - Clint Eastwood, rather than a series of personalities as there was in "Here's Looking at You". In "Here's Looking at You" it seems like these series of narrators are there to show themselves off rather than talk about studio history. Eastwood keeps the focus on the studio, its product, and its strategy.
Of course, as the studio moves into the era of special effects the documentary can't help but show off a little bit with some of their superhero and fantasy films, but I'll grant them that. Because so many of the directors that were around when Warners transformed from an upstart playing with sound to a major studio have passed on, they have interviews from the 60's and 70's with directors such as Mervin Le Roy talking about what it was like in the early days. Of course, there is a big focus on Jack Warner who turned out to be much a much shrewder studio head than his nemesis Louis B. Mayer over at MGM. It shows how Warner made the decisions that got the studio through the depression, the war, and the competition of television.
I might have missed it, but I don't think the documentary talked too much about a very bad move that Jack Warner made that only the good fortune of the future managed to rectify. At one point Jack Warner sold the pre-1949 Warner film library to raise capital. Warner Bros. would today remain a studio with the finest part of its legacy no longer under its control had it not been for Ted Turner purchasing the RKO/pre-1949 WB/pre-1986 MGM film library in the 80's and then reuniting it under Warner Bros. control at the turn of the century when Ted Turner sold his interests in his cable network and film library back to Time-Warner. This is mentioned in "When the Lion Roared", the sister documentary on MGM.
In conclusion, this is a very good documentary on the history of Warner Bros. and its lasting film legacy. Highly recommended.
on November 24, 2009
Having been long looked forward to, this documentary covering the history of Warner Bros. Pictures is a real disappointment. Compared to the superior, if a bit glitzy, MGM documentary, it is a rather weak entry. The packaging states "Standard Widescreen Version", whatever that means. It also states "Enhanced for widescreen TVs", which it certainly is not. The MGM presentation was presented in a variable format accurately pointing out the differences between widescreen and earlier non-widescreen movies.
The WB presentation is repetitive and the narration shallow. The people being interviewed don't seem to have had much to say that is illuminating, especially when compared to the interviews in the MGM presentation.
The subtitles, giving the names of the interviewees and titles of the movies being shown, appear to have been electronically added as an afterthought and often are too brief to be read comfortably. Apparently, from other reviews I've read, some DVD players don't automatically start these subtitles. In such a case it is necessary to turn on English subtitle no. 5 to get them. These titles should been inserted as an integral part of the film and not as subtitles that can be defeated. Lastly, the closing credits appear to have been forgotten so we don't know who to blame for the poorly written narration. One gets the impression that this project was thrown to a DVD programming beginner.
Considering Warner Bros. Pictures as one of the world's great film producers, which it certainly is, this presentation does them a real disservice.
on October 15, 2009
The story of Warner Brothers is great, and most of the best films are included in this five chapters anthology, narrated by Clint Eastwood. Many of the big names that made Warners one of the major studios in Hollywood make their mark: Cagney, Robinson, Bogart, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, directors like Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh and John Huston, the gangsters era, the Busby Berkeley musicals, the war years, the film noir with Lauren Bacall and Joan Crawford, the post war nonsenses with Doris Day, the new faces (Brando, James Dean, Paul Newman) and the Elia Kazan films, the controversial sixties, the caothic seventies and the blockbusters of the eighties, Spielberg and Eastwood, Superman, Batman, Matrix and Harry Potter, it's all there, well documented, fully explained and related by most of the people that made the films. That's good. But there's something missing, too. In the war years we don't see any clip from WATCH ON THE RHINE (with Bette Davis and an Oscar winning performance by Paul Lukas), in the post war years there's not one word about JOHNNY BELINDA, and the Oscar to Jane Wyman. What about A STAR IS BORN in 1954, with the glorious come back of Judy Garland? And what about the romantic dramas, very popular in their time, with Troy Donahue and the direction of Delmer Daves (A SUMMER PLACE, PARRISH, SUSAN SLADE, ROME ADVENTURE)? I enjoy very much these kind of anthologies. It's much better than read the same story on books, because you simply can't explain a movie in printed words instead of showing it on the screen, just like it must be seen. How can you explain the face of Bette Davis without seeing it, the way she opens her eyes, the way she moves? And the voice of Humphrey Bogart, the kaleidoscopic choreographies of Busby Berkeley and the way that Lauren Bacall says "If you need something, just whistle"? Great fun, and an unforgettable experience!
on October 16, 2009
I do enjoy these studio documentaries & find them fascinating, often wondering what those pioneers of film would of thought to us putting our shiny discs in players & seeing our favorites at any time of the day or night?
The early chapters were much more interesting for me & I found the later chapters to be some what missing in their information, example, I would of thought the Lethal Weapon series would of played a huge part in Warner's income in the 1980's & 90's but they are missed out & the only time we hear from Richard Donner is on Superman, er Goonies anyone? a huge hit in it's time?
I do like the way there was a huge contribution from the then studio heads & their reasons behind some of the movies that were made, that was 1 of the high lights for me.
The other plus point for this presentation, is that you can go to any 1 decade without seeing the whole documentary.
Good picture image in a mixture of ratios from all the different clips.
Worth buying just a little disappointing.
on September 14, 2012
When you have high expectations it is easy to be disappointed ...
Warner Brothers studio has been around a long time, made some great films, used some of the best actors to ever step in front of a lens. So I expected a grand sweeping ride through history and film. This documentary is that, and more, but somehow less.
The formatting is not quite right, the subtitles work on my computer but not on one of my TVs, there are no credits at the end and there are lots of great films missing. All this has been stated by other reviewers, so I will just say that they are correct about this.
Many of the movies Warner Brothers made were violent and uncomfortable to watch. There's something to be said for the risks they took, but to me, many of the films shown in this documentary were pictures I never saw, because of the violence or conflict. Now, before you label me a prude, know that I am not. But I tend to like movies I can watch with my dad, who loves a good story and great acting, but not the screaming and gore.
Having Clint Eastwood narrate is a conflict of interest. He is a sharp guy, but really doesn't bring anything to the role. Pretty dry. Much of the narration is just him reading a script. And towards the end there is a heavy bias towards films he produced and / or directed. It's strange to hear him talking in general about Warner Brothers and then being interviewed about one of his films, and then back again.
Overall the impression is that this documentary could have used some professional direction and editing. And it could have been more uplifting and entertaining. Could have had more history about the people behind the studio, behind the films. Then again, I got the feeling that the people behind the studio were not really nice people, and were driven mostly by the desire for profitability. Maybe that is just my impression, or maybe that's how it is with all studios.
Whatever your profession, if you do something to show off how great you are, it had better be good. Especially if the medium is the very same medium you work in ! Seems pretty basic. Someone ought to get a thrashing over this.
on July 22, 2016
A multi-night viewing, this rich history will amaze you with it's detail and extraordinary story telling. Hollywood's beginnings will never be forgotten as soon as you know how it truly began. A gem in a collection for any Hollywood history seeker, and dare I say a diamond for detail in the always entertaining story of how the silver screen got it's start. You'll feel like you just got off the bus on Hollywood and Highland with a dream.
on April 12, 2012
This is a very pleasant anthology of many of the Warner Brother's movies. It is arranged roughly by decade. There are some attempts at thematic grouping. There is a little on the history of the studio. Some of the narration is very interesting. There are many shots of the studio, the back lots, etc. In general I found it nicely done and interesting. The images are clean, the sound is fine. For my taste the earlier periods were more interesting than the more recent material. The last two chapters seemed to emphasize violence to the point that my wife left the room.
on August 15, 2013
As a documentary, it does what it's supposed to do: combines interviews, narration, and film clips to give a history of the Warner Brothers studio. I like the documentary The Brothers Warner a bit better because of its more personal history, but this one gives you a stronger understanding of the attitudinal changes in Warner Brothers movies from the 30s to the present. Warner Brothers has always been a studio interested in controversy, but under Harry Warner, the original president, it was interested in social reform, while since the 60s (with Jack Warner trying to change with the times, and also under future leadership), its 2 guiding principles have been 1) Does it make money? and 2) Does an important director or actor have a passion for the project? The problem is, an important person who has a passion to make a gruesome movie, like Stanley Kubrick or Martin Scorsese, is given free rein by Warner Brothers to fill movies with obscene content and gore. Nowhere does this documentary include the opinions of people talking about that being wrong. The opinions of people like Scorsese and like-minded film critics fill the documentary, about the greatness of being free to do what you want with your movies at Warner Brothers. The 2nd half of this 5-hour documentary is filled with horribly gory images amid the more interesting narration, which made it more of a record of how awful movies got than an enjoyable documentary.
on January 31, 2016
This doco brought back some great memories of some great actors and movies.
I found the first section with respect to the narration a little 'soft'. It did not sound like Clint Eastwood.
However, one for the memory..!!
on November 27, 2012
To me, Warner Brothers has always been the finest "drama factory" of Hollywood (just as MGM is the great "Music Factory").
and the products of Warners we are reminded of on this disc makes its purchase a must for whoever wishes to recall and enjoy, once again, some brilliant movies of our time.