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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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26 May, 2014

New on Disc: 'Two Rode Together' and more …


Two Rode Together (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Richard
Widmark, Shirley Jones, Linda Cristal.
1961.
John Ford’s Two Rode Together doesn’t splice together too well and is something of a mess, likely a must for Ford fans but probably a much tougher sell for anyone else.
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The Public Defender

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Richard Dix, Shirley Grey.
1931.
Despite it having come out during the Hoover Administration, we could be talking about a movie from today, given the targeted heavies and the methodology used to combat them.
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19 May, 2014

New on Disc: 'Hit the Deck' and more …


Hit the Deck (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jane Powell, Tony Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Walter Pidgeon.
1955.
Essentially a fantastic soundtrack album looking for keener scripting and direction, this is, appropriately, a shore leave musical that romantically teams Jane Powell with Vic Damone, Ann Miller with Tony Martin and then-youngsters Debbie Reynolds with Russ Tamblyn.
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Coogan’s Bluff (Blu-ray)

Koch Media, Drama, $20 All-Region Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Clint Eastwood, Lee J. Cobb, Susan Clark, Don Stroud.
1968.
This German Blu-ray release of director Don Siegel’s amusingly trashy sociopath-out-of-water melodrama starring Clint Eastwood offers Technicolor that’s a little punchier than the DVD’s, and there’s enough grain to satisfy grain fanciers but not enough to repel those not in the club.
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12 May, 2014

New on Disc: 'Up the Junction' and more …


Up the Junction

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Suzy Kendall, Dennis Waterman, Maureen Lipman.
1968.
A curiosity at best, this rather handsome color release stars Suzy Kendall as a rich girl who runs away from her privileged life.
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A Slight Case of Larceny

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Mickey Rooney, Eddie Bracken, Marilyn Erskine, Elaine Stewart.
1954.
This is a minor comedy with a short running time, and yet stars Mickey Rooney and Eddie Bracken play so professionally off one another that their nicely synchronized teaming is a pleasure to watch.
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5 May, 2014

New on Disc: 'Double Indemnity' and more …


Double Indemnity (Blu-ray)

Universal, Drama, $29.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson.

1944. The Blu-ray of this increasingly durable version of James M. Cain’s novel is the visually darkest rendering I’ve ever seen of the picture, but the image clarity is super sharp. Similarly sharp were Billy Wilder’s casting instincts over many years, and as good as the script is, it is tough to imagine the definitive insurance-fraud movie being as revered as it is were the choice of players not so distinctive. 
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Riot in Cell Block 11

Criterion, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Neville Brand, Emile Meyer, Leo Gordon.

1954. The backstory to this example of what used to be called a “shaky-A” is probably a little more interesting than the film itself, an exposé of prison abuses. Brutal for its day, Riot runs a tight 80 minutes and occasionally reflects a low budget that doesn’t give the great cinematographer Russell Harlan that much to do, though his deep-focus shots of the darkened prison corridor are not unimpressive.
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28 Apr, 2014

New on Disc: 'The King of Comedy' and more …


The King of Comedy (Blu-ray)

Fox, Comedy, $24.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis,
Sandra Bernhard, Diahnne Abbott.
1983.
This discomforting film from Martin Scorsese absolutely nails the show-biz nerd subculture, particularly in terms of what New York City fringe living was at that time. 
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Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Gig Young, Robert Webber, Emilio Fernandez.
1974.
This is the one Sam Peckinpah movie, according to the director himself, that he got to make without studio or producer interference.
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21 Apr, 2014

New on Disc: 'Funny Face' and more …


Funny Face (Blu-ray)

Warner/Paramount, Musical, $19.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson.
1957.
One of the most beautiful-looking movies ever to come out of Hollywood, Funny Face benefits from the participation of Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, a Gershwin score and Stanley Donen directing against Paris locales and runway lushness.
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Men in War

Olive, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray, Robert Keith, Vic Morrow.
1957.
Gritty and even brutal for its day, Men in War is one of the better and grownup combat movies of the period, and has the feel of an auteur work from director Anthony Mann.
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14 Apr, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Swimmer' and more …


The Swimmer

Grindhouse, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray/DVD combo, ‘PG.’
Stars Burt Lancaster, Janet Landgard, Janice Rule.
1968.
Imperfect as it is, this troubled adaptation of the deservedly famous John Cheever short story is still haunting and not a little creepy — and if you love Burt Lancaster, there’s no way you can miss one of his major performances.
Extras: Includes five exceptionally good featurettes.
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Young at Heart

Olive, Romance, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Gig Young, Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Malone.
1954.
Frank Sinatra’s first post-comeback romantic lead deserves attention even today, though the market for Young at Heart is probably limited to those whose hearts have never fully left the 1950s.
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7 Apr, 2014

New on Disc: 'Cry Danger' and more …


Cry Danger

Street 4/8
Olive, Mystery, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Erdman.
1951.
Like a lot of noirs from the era, this one affords some welcome location work, which often times did turn out to be of L.A. — sometimes one that no longer exists.
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Conrack (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, PG.
Stars Jon Voight, Paul Winfield, Madge Sinclair, Tina Andrews.
1974.
Conrack’s feel-good message steers clear of white-guy-helps-a-bunch-of-black-kids clichés. A lot of the film is devoted to the entertaining, event-packed classroom scenes, while the cinematography makes the grand outdoors a major character that looms just outside these glorified bull sessions.
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31 Mar, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Front' and more …


The Front (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Woody Allen, Andrea Marcovicci, Herschel Bernardi, Michael Murphy.
1976.
There’s surprising humor to be had in this very grown-up look-back at the early 1950s Hollywood and TV Blacklist about individuals who “fronted” and took credit for the scripts of blacklisted others.
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The First Time

Available via Sony Choice Collection
Sony Pictures, Comedy, $18.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Cummings, Barbara Hale.
1952.
This view of life for young marrieds who are barely making it is a certified hoot for all its obscurity.
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24 Mar, 2014

New on Disc: 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral' and more …


Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (Blu-ray)

Warner/Paramount, Western, $19.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet.
1957.
The casting and production values here are all mighty irresistible within the limitations of a Western that aims to be commercially splashy above all else. This is definitely high-octane Kirk Douglas (about $8 a gallon, I’d say) — and if he isn’t deliciously over the top as Doc Holliday just by himself, the script calls on him to cough rabidly into a pestilence-packed handkerchief on frequent occasion. There doesn’t appear to have been any remastering or polishing of the image here — but VistaVision was VistaVision, so the imagery here is as intense as Frankie Laine’s singing and Douglas’s hacking.
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Here Comes the Navy

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $18.95 DVD, NR.
Stars James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Gloria Stuart, Frank McHugh.
1934.
James Cagney is a San Diego shipyard worker with attitude named Chesty, while Pat O’Brien is the Chesty-loathing naval chief petty officer who goes by “Biff.” The Chesty-Biff combo pretty well suggests the tone of this speedy Warner Bros. “guy fluff.” This movie is a natural for buffs of naval history, and much of the backdrop action involves day-to-day procedures aboard ship, which makes this one of the more intriguing screen time capsules of its era.
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