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Mike Clark has been writing about film for more than 20 years, starting with a weekly column in USA Today in 1985. He also served as program planner and director of the American Film Institute Theater.


Mike's Picks
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27 Feb, 2017

New on Disc: 'Mildred Pierce' (1945) and more …


Mildred Pierce

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Ann Blyth, Eve Arden.
1945.
As an even niftier mix of “woman’s picture” and film noir than some have given it credit for being, there really isn’t much that’s all-out risible in Joan Crawford’s Oscar vehicle beyond Eve Arden’s intentionally funny laugh lines and our glee in seeing Crawford’s Mildred mix it up in violently high-pitched fashion with snotty daughter Veda (Ann Blyth).
Extras: Beyond a lot of 4K digital polish that makes a movie released shortly after World War II ended leap off the screen, the extras here are keenly balanced in terms of the James M. Cain source material, Director Michael Curtiz's prowess, Oscar night lore (when Crawford, perhaps fearful of losing, apparently faked an illness to take her award from a sickbed) and Crawford’s extraordinarily durable career until its howler half-a-decade on the road to swansong Trog. The accompanying essay by Imogen Sara Smith explores the movie’s themes, which are far more grounded in the Depression and its fallout than the barely mentioned war.
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Abandoned

Available via Universal Vault Series
Universal, Mystery, $19.98 DVD-R, NR.
Stars Dennis O’Keefe, Gale Storm, Jeff Chandler, Raymond Burr.
1949.
Abandoned wouldn’t be worth much attention here were it not for two novel components, one of which involves film scholarship of the highest order.
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20 Feb, 2017

New on Disc: 'Bells Are Ringing' and more …


Bells Are Ringing (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Musical, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Judy Holliday, Dean Martin, Eddie Foy, Jr., Jean Stapleton.
1960.
For such a frequently ingratiating movie, Vincente Minnelli’s Bells Are Ringing exudes an air of melancholy that can’t be denied, no matter how sublime its Judy Holiday-Dean Martin teaming was and is.
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What a Way to Go! (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly.
1964.
There were likely people who went to see What a Way To Go! precisely because of lead Shirley MacLaine’s dizzying costume changes, which go in radical new directions each time her “Louisa” character gets married again (the story’s central gag).
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6 Feb, 2017

New on Disc: 'The Barefoot Contessa' and more …


The Barefoot Contessa (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Marius Goring, Rossano Brazzi.
1954.
With cinema-centered The Barefoot Contessa, writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz brought years of professional and family experience, so if this almost illegally gorgeous saga about a Spanish dancer-turned-movie-star can be on the windy and lumpy side, it is a real insider’s movie.
Extras: Includes a first-rate commentary from Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo and the always ticklishly irreverent David Del Valle. An added virtue is a stills gallery from Del Valle’s personal archive.
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Suddenly (Blu-ray)

Image, Drama, $14.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, Nancy Gates, James Gleason.
1954.
Though the picture has some of the limitations associated with ‘B’-movies, Frank Sinatra is spectacularly good here as an all-out villain in ways that we rarely got to see on the screen, given his disinclination to put out in movies the way he did in the recording studio or in concert.
Extras: One of the two voiceover commentaries here is by the late Frank Sinatra Jr., who not only knew some Suddenly family lore but was actually present on the set. The other Blu-ray commentary is by frequent voiceover commentator and standout USC film prof Drew Casper.
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30 Jan, 2017

New on Disc: 'Sudden Fear' and more …


Sudden Fear (Blu-ray)

Cohen, Mystery, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame, Bruce Bennett.
1952.
Joan Crawford’s third and last Oscar nomination came for a fairly irresistible wife-in-peril thriller whose production she personally spearheaded.
Extras: Film historian Jeremy Arnold provides a pro-job voiceover commentary.
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Cry of the City (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Mystery, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Victor Mature, Richard Conte, Shelley Winters, Hope Emerson.
1948.
Cry of the City is an urban toughie from director Robert Siodmak that has a couple knockout supporting performances from Barry Kroeger and Hope Emerson.
Extras: Contains a commentary by Eddie Muller.
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23 Jan, 2017

New on Disc: 'Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Collector's Edition' and more …


Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Collector's Edition

Shout! Factory, Sports, $59.99 DVD, $79.97 Blu-ray, NR.

2016 World Series Champions: The Chicago Cubs

Shout! Factory, Sports, $26.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Narrated by Vince Vaughn.
2016.
We’re talking the historically transcendent Cubs-Indians here — seven games, two of them classics or near-classics, and one of those was game 7 stretching into extra innings after a rain delay.
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Go, Johnny, Go!

Available via Sprocketvault.com
Sprocket Vault, Musical, $14.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Jimmy Clanton, Alan Freed, Chuck Berry, Sandy Stewart.

1959. Of all the rock revue pics made in the 1950s, Go, Johnny, Go! definitely carries the most star-crossed aura, considering the tragic fates that awaited so many members of its cast — a couple of them eerily soon after this quickie’s production.
Extras: The voiceover commentary is funny enough to make this surprisingly pristine DVD looker something of a rollicking affair.
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16 Jan, 2017

New on Disc: 'Bad Day at Black Rock' and more …


Bad Day at Black Rock (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Street 1/17/17
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine.
1955.
As one of the first major movies to tackle the shabby-and-worse treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, Bad Day at Black Rock caught on to such a degree at the time with upscale audiences that even its title became part of the everyday vernacular.
Extras: Academic Dana Polan’s bonus commentary is less about actors and the production than social currents and dramatic staging
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Children of Divorce

Flicker Alley, Drama, $34.59 Blu-ray/DVD combo, NR.
Stars Clara Bow, Gary Cooper, Esther Ralston, Hedda Hopper.
1927.
As a window into the feigned moral stance vintage movies embraced about as much as they did the later invention of television, Children of Divorce is a Frank Lloyd silent discovery (to me, though likely not to hard core buffs) that easily gets by on its curio casting and the sumptuous décor that almost always made the average Paramount title so much more visually scintillating than any MGM counterpart.
Extras: Includes a bonus booklet and Hugh Munro Neely’s excellent 1999 Discovering the “It” Girl Clara Bow documentary.
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19 Dec, 2016

New on Disc: 'The Asphalt Jungle' and more …


The Asphalt Jungle

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, John McIntire, Marilyn Monroe.
1950.
The granddaddy of meticulously high-scale robbery pics remains as vital and robust as ever, though gender-wise, there’s nothing too daddy-ish about the way Marilyn Monroe wears a jumpsuit here in the role that jump-started her career.
Extras: Includes the 1983 documentary Pharos of Chaos about actor Sterling Hayden; it also includes featurettes with noir maven Eddie Muller and cinematographer John Bailey, plus brief archival material of John Huston discussing the film and an almost hour-long documentary of him on Canadian TV promoting the much subsequent Wise Blood. Scholar/academic Drew Casper’s commentary shared with an edited-in James Whitmore is carried over from the DVD.
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The Best of Cinerama

Flicker Alley, Documentary, $39.95 Blu-ray/DVD, NR.
1963.
For an assemblage whose reason for being at the time was mostly to fill a temporary dearth of product, The Best of Cinerama (culled from five preceding travelogues dating back to 1952) plays so spectacularly well that if you need a “demonstration” disc to help show off the home system for which you forfeited your kids’ education, this could be the one.
Extras: Includes a commentary by Cinerama historian David Coles, a pair of 70mm featurettes about Shell Oil and NASA restored and saved from oblivion, heavy samplings of Dimitri Tiomkin music, a lengthy — and magnificent — photo montage of the process’s scores of pioneers, and a chronological theater-by-theater review of all the Cinerama theaters that opened worldwide up until about 1960.
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12 Dec, 2016

New on Disc: 'T.A.M.I. Show/The Big T.N.T. Show' and more …


T.A.M.I. Show/The Big T.N.T. Show (Blu-ray)

Shout! Factory, Music, $29.98 Blu-ray, NR.
1964/66.
The T.A.M.I. Blu-ray presentation looks slightly more vital than previous releases, despite the source limitations, while The Big T.N.T. Show half of a nicely conceived twofer is its home market premiere.
Extras: T.A.M.I. carries over the DVD’s wonderful joint commentary by director Steve Binder and rock journalist/historian Don Waller. T.N.T. has some solid bonus interviews.
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Pretty Poison (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Anthony Perkins, Tuesday Weld, Beverly Garland, John Randolph.
1968.
A still-twisted tale cast to the hilt thanks to leads Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld, Pretty Poison was belated critical success that gets a nifty Twilight Time assist.
Extras: The Blu-ray includes two commentaries: one with director Noel Black carried over from the old DVD, and a new one with film historian Lem Dobbs, Poison producer Lawrence Turman and Twilight Time’s Nick Redman.
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5 Dec, 2016

New on Disc: 'Time After Time' and more …


Time After Time (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Sci-Fi, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, Mary Steenburgen.
1979.
Debuting director Nicholas Meyer, who also penned the screenplay, presents a surprisingly sweet time travel fantasy dealing with novelist H.G. Wells’s pursuit of Jack the Ripper into 1979 San Francisco.
Extras: A commentary is carried over from the old DVD.
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Two Women (Blu-ray)

All-Region Import
Cult Films, Drama, $20 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Eleanor Brown, Raf Vallone.
1960.
Given its reputation for, among other things, having won Sophia Loren the Oscar while establishing her as an international superstar, Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women has been insulted by wretched prints over the years, so while the visual result of this Blu-ray import is on the high side of passable with some room for improvement, the overall release is borderline exceptional thanks to some surprising bonus extras.
Extras: The supplements are a treat. There’s a 54-minute interview with Loren, and the wonderful 2009 documentary Vittorio D., which in 93 minutes substantively covers De Sica’s career as actor, family man, gambling addict, occasional political activist and director. A fairly amazing lineup of interviewees includes Shirley MacLaine, Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, Paul Mazursky, Leonard Maltin, De Sica children from two marriages, John Landis, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Ettore Scola and Lina Wertmuller.
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28 Nov, 2016

New on Disc: 'One-Eyed Jacks' and more …


One-Eyed Jacks

Criterion, Western, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Pina Pellicer, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens.
1961.
Marlon Brando’s sole outing as director is the link between the traditional Western with lush old-school Hollywood production values and the grittier and meaner riffs that Clint and Sergio began playing later in the 1960s as agents of permanent change.
Extras: A great supplement on this Criterion must-own is film historian Toby Roan’s concise and digestible explanation of the picture’s byzantine production history. This rewarding package also includes a visual essay by David Cairns, whose concentration on aesthetics complements Roan’s counterpart about the film’s production history; Brando audio tapes that illuminate how a film that began in one direction quickly went in another; and an essay by critic Howard Hampton.
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It’s Always Fair Weather

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Musical, $17.99 DVD, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, Michael Kidd, Dolores Gray.
1955.
The decline of the movie musical in the 1950s is the main reason It’s Always Fair Weather got hit with stormy box office — and not the fact that it’s widely acknowledged as being cynical and downbeat, notwithstanding its good reviews at the time or the size of its subsequent cult. The Betty Comden-Adolph Green satire is almost as on point about encroaching television as it was about the talkie transition in Singin’ in the Rain.
Extras: Blu-ray bonus materials carried over from the old DVD include a deleted “Love Is Nothing But a Racket” number; a making-of featurette; a deleted Michael Kidd number; some raw footage from “The Binge” scene; two promotional segments from ABC-TV’s short-lived “The MGM Parade”; and two early Scope cartoons, one of them with Droopy.
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