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Essential Classic Movies in Blu-Ray

Great Gifts for the 2009 Holiday Season

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The studios are slowly reaching back into the archives to re-mount great classic movies in Blu-ray, although several immortal movies (Citizen Kane, for example) are still awaiting Blu-ray release. If there’s a classic movie buff on your gift list who’s building a library, any of the Blu-ray classics on this list are sure to please.

1. ‘The Godfather’ Trilogy

The Godfather trilogy
Paramount
One of the few series that maintained superb quality from the original through the sequels – although to my mind, none of the sequels quite measures up to the absolute mastery of the first movie. Multi-layered plots; intelligent performances; lush cinematography and a great score bring these movies together in a cinematic symphony. It's the mob as great opera. The Francis Ford-Coppola restoration is the way to go.
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2. 'Casablanca’

Casablanca
Warner Home Video
The classic movie that defines “classic,” Casablanca belongs in every movie buff’s collection, and the reviews of the new Blu-ray edition are positive. Watch Rick, Ilse, Victor, Captain Renault, Sasha the bartender and Sam the piano player with all the scratches and visual noise of the old film magically removed. A romantic gift, and of course, the gift tag just has to say: “Here’s looking at blu, kid!”

3. The Mel Brooks Collection

Mel Brooks Collection
20th Century Fox
Nobody makes me laugh like Mel Brooks. This collection, due out December 15, 2009, has it all: First, my four favorites: Young Frankenstein, the Twelve Chairs, To Be or Not to Be and Blazing Saddles. Then, five more, almost as good: High Anxiety, Spaceballs, History of the World Part 1, Silent Movie and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. If the price tag for all nine movies gives you “shtick”-er shock, you can always go for the more affordable Blu-ray editions of either Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles.
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4. ‘The Wizard of Oz’

The Wizard of Oz
Warner Home Video

Seventy years old, and The Wizard of Oz still charms and delights kids and grown-ups. Music, magic, unforgettable characters and gorgeous, art deco sets make this movie a timeless American masterpiece. There’s just nothing like that gasp-inducing moment when Dorothy opens the door from her black-and-white Kansas farmhouse to the vivid Technicolor of Oz. Follow the yellow brick road!

5. ‘Gone With the Wind’

Gone With the Wind
Warner Home Video
Like The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind is one of the masterpieces of 1939, the most astonishing year in American classic movie history. Due out November 17th, the 70th-anniversary edition promises to be a luscious re-mounting of this sweeping Civil War costume drama. Some aspects of the film are more than a little dated, but the story of Rhett, Scarlett and the fall of the Old South is an undisputed classic. Frankly, my dear, it’s a must for any classic film library.

6. ‘North By Northwest’

North by Northwest
Warner Home Video
Every classic movie library needs a little Alfred Hitchcock, and the 50th anniversary Blu-ray edition of North By Northwest fills the bill. Suspense, romance, comedy -- and Cary Grant at his most suave. The plot is frankly ridiculous, but who cares? It romps from New York to Chicago to, of all places, Mount Rushmore, with style and wit. Essentially an updated and revved-up American remake of Hitchcock’s early British classic, The 39 Steps, it’s fun from beginning to end.

7. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

It's a Wonderful Life
Paramount
Actually released on Blu-ray in 2007, It's a Wonderful Life is Frank Capra’s immortal tribute to an idealized, vanished small-town America. I don’t think any place was ever really like Capra’s Bedford Falls, and I can only wish real-life heroes were as stalwart and steadfast as Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey. Too sweet for some, I like to think of it as a lovely fable. There’s a reason this once-forgotten gem has become a beloved holiday film. Just do NOT watch the colorized version. That’s sacrilege.
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