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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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1 May, 2017

New on Disc: 'The Young Girls of Rochefort' and more …


The Young Girls of Rochefort

Criterion, Musical, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘G.’
Stars Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, Gene Kelly, George Chakiris, Danielle Darrieux, Michel Piccoli.
1967.
Spirited and sumptuous, yet with an overriding sense of melancholy due in great part to the real-life tragedy that still follows it around, Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort offers fairly persuasive gut evidence that it (as opposed to the prime MGM Hollywood musicals) must have been the primary influence on La La Land.
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Sunset in the West

Kino Lorber, Western, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Roy Rogers, Estelita Rodriguez, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones.
1950.
Sunset’s bad guys are running a gun-smuggling ring, and you’ll recognize the heavies from a lot of other ‘B’-Westerns.
Extras: Includes a commentary track with Roy Rogers buff Toby Roan.
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17 Apr, 2017

New on Disc: 'World Without End' and more …


World Without End (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive        
Warner, Sci-Fi, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Rod Taylor.
1956.
World Without End tells the story of astronauts time-warped to an Earth filled with cave-dwelling creatures that attack Hugh Marlowe and crew in a futuristic society full of mutants in a story that shares many similarities with H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, and the result is all rather charming unless your eyes get stuck rolling back into their sockets.
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Night Passage (Blu-ray)

All-Region French Import (billed as Le survivant des monts lointains)
Elephant/Universal, Western, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Brandon de Wilde, Dianne Foster.
1957.
Sometimes an unexpectedly great-looking disc is its own justification if it catches you in a receptively generous mood. And Passage, whose lack of any substantial dramatic sand may have been a contributor to its unfortunate footnote in Western history, gets a lot of “demonstration” visual utmost out of its source Technirama roots.
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10 Apr, 2017

New on Disc: 'S.O.B.' and more …


S.O.B. (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’
Stars Julie Andrews, William Holden, Robert Preston, Richard Mulligan, Robert Vaughn, Shelley Winters.
1981.
The main claim to fame of this admittedly overlong outing with huge visual compensations is probably as the vehicle in which top-billed Julie Andrews bared her breasts, but more importantly as the source of William Holden’s final screen appearance.
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Peyton Place (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Lana Turner, Diane Varsi, Lee Phillips, Hope Lange, Arthur Kennedy, Russ Tamblyn.
1957.
Producer Jerry Wald did a bang-up getting Peyton Place to the screen so relatively soon after the best-selling 1956 publication of Grace Metalious’s New England scandalmonger. This has to be one of the most handsome Blu-rays that Twilight Time has ever released.
Extras: Both voiceover commentaries here are worth it and the first fabulously so. It’s by filmmaker/historian Willard Carroll, whose bonus then-and-now video of the Maine locales is a treat I didn’t expect. There’s also a spotty but valuable track, carried over from the 2004 Fox Studio Classics DVD, by Russ Tamblyn and supporting player Terry Moore in which Tamblyn comes off as one of the great guys ever, at least if we’re talking actors.
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20 Mar, 2017

New on Disc: 'Deluge' and more …


Deluge

Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Peggy Shannon, Lois Wilson, Sidney Blackmer.
1933.
The Big Apple gets swallowed by a tsunami yet again and unexpectedly early in screen history — courtesy of a middling movie curio that was thought to have been “lost” for decades and is of viewing interest these days at least as much for its lead casting.
Extras: This new Kino Classics release, which also includes a savvy voiceover commentary by Richard Harland Smith, is arguably better approached as a Peggy Shannon two-fer, thanks to the bonus inclusion of 1934’s bargain basement but not-bad newspaper romp Back Page.
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Kiss of Death (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Richard Widmark, Coleen Gray.
1947.
Whatever its other virtues, which are considerable enough, Kiss of Death will always be renowned as the Fox film noir in which maniacal thug Richard Widmark shoves a wheelchair-bound mother down some steep apartment stairs.
Extras: The two audio commentaries are complementary: In a carryover from the old DVD, noir specialists James Ursini and Alain Silver roam on the technical side, while Twilight Time’s Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo get more into actor personas.
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6 Mar, 2017

New on Disc: '23 Paces to Baker Street' and more …


23 Paces to Baker Street (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Mystery, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Van Johnson, Vera Miles, Cecil Parker.
1956.
It’s still kind of surprising that frequent outdoor specialist Henry Hathaway fashioned such a satisfying mystery out of the predominantly indoor 23 Paces to Baker Street.
Extras: As renowned film historian and sometimes Martin Scorsese associate Kent Jones surmises on the commentary track here, Baker Street was likely made to cash in on the success of Hitchcock’s Rear Window from two years earlier.
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The Klansman (Blu-ray)

Olive, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Richard Burton, Lee Marvin, Lola Falana, O.J. Simpson, Linda Evans.
1974.
The Klansman is an essential artifact of an age on array of dubious place-in-time levels, rightfully regarded as one of the worst big-star screen vehicles ever made, but nonetheless tough to deny and maybe even essential in terms of mind-melting finesse.
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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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