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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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7 Nov, 2016

New on Disc: 'Under the Cherry Moon' and more …


Under the Cherry Moon (Blu-ray)

Warner, Romantic Comedy, $14.97 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Prince, Kristin Scott Thomas, Morris Day, Steven Berkoff.
1986.
In his flop follow-up second feature to Purple Rain, Prince plays a piano-playing gigolo whose relationship with a rambunctious rich-girl (played by Kristin Scott Thomas in her feature debut) runs afoul of her father. Prince, in a truly terrible performance, goes full-throttle lounge lizard here in a story with a French Riviera setting in next-to-unheard-of ’80s black-and-white. It helps — along with the visual cosmetics, some of the supporting casting and overall affability — that not a whole lot of time passes until there’s another musical number.
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Strategic Air Command

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, June Allyson, Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan.
1955. The equally gorgeous and lumbering Strategic Air Command must be the only Air Force movie whose opening scenes are set against the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training, with Jimmy Stewart as a baseball player called back into military service.
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31 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary Edition' and more …


Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary Edition

Sony, Comedy, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Douglass Dumbrille.
1936.
The new Blu-ray of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town looks stunning, further reminding us that for all of director Frank Capra’s defining common-man sentiments and ability to direct actors, his films were enduring advertisements for the trademark luminosity of cinematographer Joseph Walker. Capra never considered anyone other than Gary Cooper for the title role, figuring he was the only choice to bring off a whopper premise about a small-town Vermont tuba player considered crazy because he wants to dispense an unexpected $20 million inheritance to the Depression downtrodden as a grub stake for the family farms his largesse will make possible.
Extras: The digibook utilizes glossy paper for still photo reproduction and includes both a good backgrounding essay and a two-page layout of lobby cards. The movie includes a commentary with the late Frank Jr.
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Abilene Town (Blu-ray)

Panamint, Western, $29.99 Blu-ray, Import, NR.
Stars Randolph Scott, Ann Dvorak, Edgar Buchanan, Rhonda Fleming, Lloyd Bridges.
1946.
Everything about ‘Abilene Town’ is on the high side of boilerplate, which presumably explains why so many people who take a flyer with this onetime United Artists indie have a better time than expected, assuming they have a tolerance for Westerns in the first place.
Extras: This British import is accompanied by a 16-page booklet that provides bios of the film’s cast and crew.
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24 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Hot Type: 150 Years of The Nation' and more …


Hot Type: 150 Years of 'The Nation'

First Run, Documentary, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2015.
Filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s portrait of spiritually old-school stalwarts laboring in the digital age at America’s oldest continuing weekly magazine is predominantly for political junkies.
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On Dangerous Ground (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner Archive, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond.
1951.
An unusual movie for its day that it addresses police brutality, the first half of director Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground is a grimy noir cop drama, the kind that RKO did better than anyone.
Extras: Includes expert commentary from Glenn Erickson.
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10 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Body Snatchers' and more …


Body Snatchers (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive       
Street 10/18/16
Warner, Sci-Fi Horror, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for violence, nudity and language.
Stars Gabrielle Anwar, Terry Kinney, Meg Tilley, Forest Whitaker, R. Lee Ermey.
1994.
Here’s the third and probably most obscure of four variations of Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers novel filmed from 1956 through 2007, in a Blu-ray that isn’t easy to resist.
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La Moglie Piu Bella (The Most Beautiful Wife) (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ornella Muti, Alessio Orano, Tano Cimarosa.
1970.
Ornela Muti plays a 14-year-old in this fact-based fiction about a landmark 1966 Italian legal case in which a teenager sued a former fiancé who kidnapped and raped her after she broke off their engagement.
Extras: Includes about 45 minutes of bonus interviews carried over from the onetime NoShame standard DVD release.
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3 Oct, 2016

New on Disc: 'Valley of the Dolls' and more …


Valley of the Dolls: Special Edition (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Drama, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Sharon Tate, Susan Hayward.
1967.
This new release of the box office hit of Jacqueline Susann’s majestically trashy best-seller is nothing if not pressure-packed with bonus material.
Extras: The terrific Criterion extras, which include a brave guilty-pleasure Valley paean by Kim Morgan, go a lot into some tabloid history about Judy Garland’s firing from the film. Also included are screen tests, reflective interviews with writer Amy Fine Collins, a vintage documentary on Susann, a look at the film’s ship-board premiere, a half-journalistic/half-jokey commentary carried over from the original Fox DVD, an essay by Glenn Kenny, and an excerpt from a 2009 interview of Patty Duke by Bruce Vilanch.
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Moby Dick (1930)

Available via Warner Archive      
Warner, Adventure, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars John Barrymore, Joan Bennett, Lloyd Hughes.
1930.
A good way to take in this not-quite-faithful adaptation of the Herman Melville novel is to block out the title and enjoy a surprisingly acceptable primitive talkie about whaling on which obvious production care was taken.
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26 Sep, 2016

New on Disc: 1948's 'Road House' and more …


Road House (1948) (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Mystery, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, Richard Widmark, Celeste Holm.
1948.
This is not the better-known Patrick Swayze gutter trash from 1989, but an earlier one with a notably name cast for its day — the one that starts out as an unlikely feminist drama and then turns noir-ish around the time Richard Widmark’s character begins to go over the brink.
Extras: Includes a featurette about stars Ida Lupino and Richard Widmark, plus a commentary by Eddie Muller and Kim Morgan, carried over from the DVD.
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Tony Rome/Lady in Cement (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR (Tony Rome)/’R’ (Lady in Cement)
Stars Frank Sinatra, Jill St. John, Raquel Welch, Richard Conte.
1967-68.
Tony Rome is halfway-good grindhouse/drive-in fodder that remains guiltily entertaining, while Lady in Cement is a conspicuously ragged toss-off that arguably plays a little breezier than it did at the time.
Extras: Tony Rome includes an entertaining, factoid-filled commentary with historians Eddy Friedfeld, Anthony Latino, Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo.
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19 Sep, 2016

New on Disc: 'The Enemy Below' and more …


The Enemy Below (Blu-ray)

Street 9/20/2016
Kino Lorber, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Robert Mitchum, Curt Jurgens, Theodore Bikel.
1957.
This intelligent, if not all-out stirring study in logistical one-upmanship, is something of a groundbreaking 1950s film due to Curt Jurgens’ characterization of the German counterpart to Robert Mitchum’s U.S. Navy captain amid their 97 screen minutes of cat-and-mouse between an American destroyer escort and a German U-boat that the former has the misfortune to encounter in the South Atlantic.
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Love Me or Leave Me (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell, Robert Keith.
1955.
Doris Day, as Broadway/radio/recording notable Ruth Etting, goes fully toe-to-toe with James Cagney in one of the most rewarding of all show biz biopics, a socko achievement given that the latter’s third and final Oscar nomination was indisputably deserved in what is one of the essential films of his 31-year career.
Extras: Includes a couple of Etting’s Warner Vitaphone shorts (her voice never had the oomph of Day’s), plus an amusing 1955 CinemaScope featurette that deals with what was then MGM’s coming imminent release schedule: a 17-minute commercial called “Salute to the Exhibitors,” which rightfully touts Love Me.
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12 Sep, 2016

New on Disc: '3 Bad Men' and more …


3 Bad Men (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars George O’Brien, Olive Borden, Lou Tellegen, Tom Santschi.
1926.
John Ford’s finest silent movie, and his last Western until Stagecoach, is a jewel on any count and one that looks forward to the director’s more mature achievements.
Extras: The Blu-ray includes a commentary from Joseph McBride, author of the spectacular Ford biography Searching for John Ford.
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A Taste of Honey

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Rita Tushingham, Dora Bryan, Murray Melvin, Robert Stephens.
1961.
Director Tony Richardson’s opened-up movie of young Shelagh Delaney’s stage play A Taste of Honey can be enjoyed in the same manner as any movie that was ahead of its time.
Extras: Includes an essay by scholar Colin MacCabe, recent interviews with stars Murray Melvin and Rita Tushingham, Richardson and Delaney in archival pieces; a look-back at Joan Greenwood helping to spearhead the original stage production; a portrait of cinematographer Walter Lassally; and the full 1956 documentary short Mamma Don’t Allow.
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5 Sep, 2016

New on Disc: 'Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words' and more …


Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words

Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
2015.
Stig Bjorkman’s exceptional Ingrid Bergman documentary turns out to be the kind of near-miraculous filmed portrait that can emerge when its subject was one of those individuals who apparently saved everything over a long period (or had friends who did).
Extras: Includes an interview with Bjorkman and an extension of the feature’s remarkable group interview with Berman daughter Isabella Rossellini, Autumn Sonata co-star Liv Ullmann and Sigourney Weaver (they were on stage together) where everyone is informal and relaxed.
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Wild in the Streets

Olive, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Shelley Winters, Christopher Jones, Diane Varsi, Hal Holbrook.
1968.
This yarn about a rock star who becomes a California senator on his way to the presidency was a bona fide mid-level hit when it opened, but in an age of celebrity politicians it’s possibly more interesting now than it was at the time.
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22 Aug, 2016

New on Disc: 'Rawhide' and more …


Rawhide (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, Hugh Marlowe, Jack Elam.
1951.
Though a sizable chunk of Rawhide (including several of its best scenes) takes place indoors at a stagecoach way station, the picture does convey the impression that its relatively small cast is trapped and imperiled in the middle of nowhere — with its “good guys” (who include a woman and a girl toddler) receiving minimal help beyond their own desperate efforts to combat a four-man band of prison escapees. Nothing that happens here departs too markedly from what we’ve seen in other hostage Westerns, but this is still a stagecoach movie written by the guy who wrote the screenplay for Stagecoach (Dudley Nichols).
Extras: Includes a before-and-after primer on Rawhide’s 2007 restoration; interviews from the standard DVD; a Susan Hayward featurette; and a look at Lone Pine, Calif., whose geographical location and mountain/desert locales made it ideal for the may Westerns that were shot there.
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A Cry in the Night

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Edmond O’Brien, Brian Donlevy, Natalie Wood, Raymond Burr.
1956.
A Cry in the Night is a grimy black-and-white hybrid of a police procedural and twisted domestic drama where both plot-central families are having a dysfunctional time of it, and there’s something about it that gets a little under the skin the way that sleazy melodramas with name casts can sometimes do.
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