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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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13 Jun, 2016

New on Disc: 'Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood' and more …


Cinema’s Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Documentary, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Narrated by Sigourney Weaver.
2009.
The arguable high point of this two-hour history from filmmaker Karen Thomas shows just how many of that Warner Bros. landmark’s memorable performers came from the Olympic-sized pool of displaced actors who fled Hitler for successful careers in Hollywood.
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Garden of Evil (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gary Cooper, Susan Hayward, Richard Widmark, Cameron Mitchell.
1954.
Set in the late 1880s, this yarn about a goldmine cave-in’s aftermath is fairly basic, but its stars both in front of and behind the camera are compensation for its narrative concerns.
Extras: Twilight Time maestro Nick Redman, with colleagues Stephen C. Smith, John Morgan and William T. Stromberg, devote a huge amount of the voiceover commentary to composer Bernard Herrmann and a discussion of sound cues. As with other Twilight Time releases, you can isolate the music track. With archive featurettes on Hayward, Hathaway and the film’s making, this is one of TT’s more “packed” releases.
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30 May, 2016

New on Disc: 'The Chase' and more …


The Chase

Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Robert Cummings, Michele Morgan, Steve Cochran, Peter Lorre.
1946.
The word a lot of people use to describe The Chase is “dreamy,” with Arthur Ripley directing screenwriter Philip Yordan’s take on a Cornell Woolrich novel.
Extras: Filmmaker Guy Maddin provies a commentary that’s unusual in that it’s laid back and sometimes distinguished by long pauses, yet also passionate about this movie. There are also two radio broadcasts of the original Woolrich source (The Black Path of Fear), one of them with Cary Grant.
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Background to Danger

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $19.99 DVD, NR.
Stars George Raft, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Brenda Marshall.
1943.
The moderate rewards to be gleaned from this 80-minute quickie are definitely around the edges.
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23 May, 2016

New on Disc: 'Too Late for Tears' and more …


Too Late for Tears

Flicker Alley, Mystery, $39.95 Blu-ray/DVD, NR.
Stars Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea, Don DeFore, Arthur Kennedy, Kristine Miller.
1949.
This arguably definitive Lizabeth Scott performance and more were saved from extinction by UCLA’s Film and Television Archive working with the Film Noir Foundation to juggle various imperfect sources. Scott is such a piece of work here that one can only chuckle at her character’s rabid greed after this so-called housewife flukes her way into a tempting situation that immediately swallows her up and ends up destroying lives.
Extras: Includes an informative but infectiously wry commentary by historian/writer/programmer Alan Rode; a making-of short; cool production photos and press-book ads; some on-screen nuts-and-bolts regarding the restoration; and a background essay.
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The King and Four Queens (Blu-ray)

Street 5/24/16
Olive, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Clark Gable, Eleanor Parker, Jo Van Fleet, Barbara Nichols.
1956.
Looking a little weary on the range, Clark Gable took his one stab at producing a movie with this easy-to-tolerate Raoul Walsh trifle.
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16 May, 2016

New on Disc: 'Dillinger' and more …


Dillinger (Blu-ray)

Arrow, Action, $39.95 Blu-ray/DVD combo, ‘R.’
Stars Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Michelle Phillips, Harry Dean Stanton, Richard Dreyfuss.
1973.
This John Milius-directed salvo is one of the better examples of the gangster genre, though it helps that some of the supporting casting means more now than it did at the time.
Extras: Stephen Prince’s all-business commentary is diligently researched in terms of juxtaposing real facts with the movie’s fictions.
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Dark Passage (Blu-ray)

Street 5/17/16
Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Mystery, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead, Bruce Bennett.
1947.
This third of four Bogart-Bacall teamings (all within a four-year period) can be enjoyed by those fanciers of star-power willing to overlook even the rudiments of logic when it comes to jumbo coincidences and the making of the difficult look relatively easy.
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9 May, 2016

New on Disc: 'In a Lonely Place' and more …


In a Lonely Place

Street 5/10/16
Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy.
1950.
As an artful hybrid of film noir and what used to be called the “woman’s picture,” this now revered movie of Dorothy P. Hughes’s same-titled but much altered novel is regarded by a few as Humphrey Bogart’s big-screen apogee, though it has to be said that co-star Gloria Grahame fights him to a draw here in the acting department.
Extras: There’s a commentary by film scholar Dana Polan, an essay by Imogen Sara Smith; a 1948 radio adaptation of the Hughes novel that aired on “Suspense”; an interview with Grahame biographer Vincent Cursio about her (euphemistically speaking) colorful life; and a featurette, carried over from the old Sony DVD, in which director Curtis Hanson visits some of the original settings.  There’s also a slightly pruned version of the famous but relatively little-seen I’m a Stranger Here Myself, which mostly chronicles director Nicholas Ray’s tenure as a faculty member at Binghamton University in upstate New York.
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In the French Style (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Jean Seberg, Stanley Baker, Philippe Forquet.
1963.
Either co-creators Irwin Shaw and director Robert Parrish were going for ambiguity with In the French Style, or they didn’t quite know what they were doing.
Extras: Includes a commentary by Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo and Lem Dobbs.
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2 May, 2016

New on Disc: 'Cutter's Way' and more …


Cutter’s Way (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Jeff Bridges, John Heard, Lisa Eichhorn, Ann Dusenberry.
1981.
The succulent set-up for what appears to be a conventional murder yarn set in a haves-vs.-have-nots beach town is as good as these things get.
Extras: Includes commentary by Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo.
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Susan Slept Here (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dick Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Anne Francis, Glenda Farrell, Alvy Moore.
1954.
The fourth Frank Tashlin comedy has always been regarded as being somewhat culturally disreputable, and maybe it even is — but the cradle-robbing here is from a more innocent era.
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25 Apr, 2016

New on Disc: 'Jackie Robinson' and more …


Jackie Robinson

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
2016.
It’s a challenge to think of anyone who’d be more appropriate to receive the Ken Burns treatment than the man who carved out a place for himself both before and after he integrated Major League Baseball.
Extras: This home-viewing keeper includes interviews with key production personnel about how Jackie Robinson came to be, plus additional interviews not used in the documentary proper.
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Try and Get Me!

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Frank Lovejoy, Lloyd Bridges, Kathleen Ryan.
1951.
Except for some preachy soap-boxing that does its best to undermine inherent dramatic punch at every turn, this is one of the toughest and least compromised movies from the entire noir era.
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18 Apr, 2016

New on Disc: 'Suspicion' and more …


Suspicion (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Thriller, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Nigel Bruce, Cedric Hardwicke.
1941.
Though not the most effective of the four Cary Grant/Alfred Hitchcock collaborations (North by Northwest, Notorious and To Catch a Thief are the others), it still makes for a good night at the movies, with a script that still seems psychologically apt.
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Donovan’s Brain

Kino Lorber, Sci-Fi, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Lew Ayres, Nancy Davis (Reagan), Gene Evans.
1953.
This loose remake of a Curt Siodmak novel is one of the few films from Nancy Reagan’s film career that has any kind of rep.
Extras: Includes commentary by film expert Richard Harland Smith.
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11 Apr, 2016

New on Disc: 'The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates' and more …


The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates

Street 4/26/16
Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
1960-64.
The four JFK-oriented documentaries here are Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier, Crisis and Faces of November. This is one of those home releases where viewers should take the mammothly rewarded time to watch all the bonus features.
Extras: In addition to still-gripping background material on how the once unlikely Kennedy presidency came to be, there’s a lot of interview footage with the filmmakers, plus outtakes.
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The Gong Show Movie (Blu-ray)

Shout! Factory, Comedy, $24.97 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Chuck Barris, Robin Altman, Jaye P. Morgan.
1980.
Chuck Barris (playing himself) questions whether or not his career as a game show host has been worth the time and effort — due, in part, to all of those novelty acts who insist on auditioning for him when he’s standing at the urinal.
Extras: Includes a commentary by pop culture historian Russell Dyball.
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4 Apr, 2016

New on Disc: 'The Vikings' and more …


The Vikings

Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, Janet Leigh.
1958.
The Vikings is closer to first-rate entertainment than a truly first-rate movie, but above and beyond its prodigious nostalgic currency, the result is still fairly irresistible for anyone inclined toward its red-meat sentiments.
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RKO Varieties Triple Feature — Variety Time, Make Mine Laughs, Footlight Varieties

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Musical, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Jack Paar, Gil Lamb, Liberace, Jack Haley, Leon Errol.
1948/1949/1951.
Made up of film clips strung together by an emcee’s patter, these hour-long revues were both a lament for long dead vaudeville and an embrace of the new medium of television that was making life miserable for studios and exhibitors.
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