In the early ’70s, producers Ely and Edie Landau launched a series of filmed plays, aiming to bring the best of New York theater to moviegoers everywhere; the result has long been considered a first-class boondoggle. Kino’s 2003 release of these projects in staggered sets helped repair the reputation of these bastard children; seen en masse, courtesy of this new Kino box collecting the entire 14-film output, these adaptations capture a bygone moment when the American stage found new ways to revitalize old forms, and a generation of legendary actors still trod the boards.Preservation of Broadway and Off Broadway’s hit parade du jour was always part of the AFT’s plan, as Edie Landau herself admits in the interview that accompanies each film (each disc also includes a trailers gallery, various essays on the AFT and a vintage promo featuring Ely Landau thanking patrons for their support). And like any season on the Great White Way, the quality varies widely: For every flat-out stunner like Laurence Olivier’s version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, you get one or two productions whose impact is lessened once the proscenium disappears. But Kino’s transfers and overall presentation look outstanding even on the suffocatingly stagey entries, and the crown jewel of the set—Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, starring Lee Marvin (!) and Jeff Bridges—finally allows modern filmgoers to utter the sentence of their dreams: Liberty Valance, meet the Dude.
The American Film Theatre Complete Collection
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