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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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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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15 Aug, 2016

New on Disc: 'Five Days One Summer' and more …


Five Days One Summer

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, ‘PG.’
Stars Sean Connery, Betsy Brantley, Lambert Wilson.
1982. 
The swan song of director Fred Zinnemann has become something of a minor cult film. Sean Connery, who’s the only marquee bait here, plays a Scottish physician traveling in 1932 with a much younger woman for a short climbing holiday in the Swiss Alps. With a mostly no-name cast and confined setting, this is an interesting picture to observe strictly from a visual point of view since a lot of the budget (which wasn’t minor) had to have gone toward challenges posed by the physical setting and lots of mountain footage that rarely looks fake because it apparently wasn’t.
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Amateur Night at City Hall

MVD, Documentary, $19.95 DVD, NR.
1978.
Amateur Night at City Hall, whose major drawback is that it was perhaps made too soon, is a documentary from Robert Mugge that focuses on Frank Rizzo, the attitude-heavy street cop who advanced from Philadelphia police commissioner to becoming the city’s two-term mayor beginning in 1971, while managing to politicize every institution he touched along the way.
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8 Aug, 2016

New on Disc: 'Zelig' and more …


Zelig (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Woody Allen, Mia Farrow.
1983.
Carried to an extent by a one-joke premise that a 79-minute running time keeps from wearing out its welcome, this black-and-white production deals with a literal human chameleon who manages to insinuate himself into just about every major political and pop culture event between the Jazz Age and the Depression/Third Reich early 1930s.
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’Neath the Arizona Skies

Olive, Western, $14.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Sheila Terry, Shirley Jean Rickert, Yakima Canutt, Gabby Hayes.
1934.
As one of 16 low-budget “Lone Star” Western releases that John Wayne ground out between 1933 and 1935, ‘Neath the Arizona Skies must be one of the cheapest-looking movies to have rated a Blu-ray release. Still, this is Wayne in his formative years, so by definition a fun view.
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25 Jul, 2016

New on Disc: 'Deadline U.S.A.' and more …


Deadline U.S.A. (Blu-ray)

Street 7/26/16
Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Humphrey Bogart, Kim Hunter Ethel Barrymore, Martin Gabel.
1952.
One of the reasons that Deadline U.S.A., the cheerleading newspaper melodrama that writer/director Richard Brooks, continues to have a following is that certain things never change.
Extras: Includes another dynamically entertaining commentary from film historian Eddie Muller.
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Stakeout on Dope Street

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Yale Wexler, Jonathan Haze, Morris Miller, Abby Dalton.
1958.
The debut feature for both director Irvin Kerhsner and cinematographer Haskell Wexler halfway falls into the teen-exploitation genre itself due to its plot-central portrayal of three out-of-their-league rookies who find an entire canister of uncut heroin that’s been desperately abandoned by thug kingpin subordinates during a police drug bust that goes south.
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18 Jul, 2016

New on Disc: 'To Have and Have Not' and more …


To Have and Have Not (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, Lauren Bacall, Hoagy Carmichael.
1944.
Lauren Bacall was billed third and under the title for what is still among the more smolderingly explosive debuts in screen history, but To Have and Have Not is still on history’s map in large part because it romantically paired Humphrey Bogart opposite a statuesque looker who once made cigarettes look sexy.
Extras: Carried-over extras from the old DVD include a highly germane Merrie Melodies cartoon (Bacall to Arms); a making-of featurette that notes how Hawks had to settle for featured player Dolores Moran when Bogart took up with Bacall off the set; and the two leads in a “Lux Radio Theatre” broadcast of the same in which filmmaker/host William Keighley assures us that Bogart has assured him that there are plenty of Lux suds in the Bogie household.
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Yellow Sky (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter, Richard Widmark.
1948.
William A. Wellman’s Yellow Sky was another of the postwar bread-and-butter Fox studio Westerns — big-star efforts that didn’t aspire to reinventing the wheel but which radiated a significant degree of viewer comfort from watching pros at work.
Extras: Wellman Jr.’s commentary here is on the sporadic and reserved level despite some valuable anecdotes from his days on the Sky set as a kid.
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11 Jul, 2016

New on Disc: 'The Member of the Wedding' and more …


The Member of the Wedding (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ethel Waters, Julie Harris, Brandon de Wilde, James Edwards.
1952.
Fred Zinnemann’s ever-resonant film of Carson McCullers’ book-to-play was the ultimate in outsiders’ cinema for its day — and is, of course, far more in keeping with today’s indie-pic times than it ever was.
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I’ll Take Sweden

Olive, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bob Hope, Tuesday Weld, Frankie Avalon, Dina Merrill, NR.
1965.
Though lacking even a single laugh, Bob Hope’s I’ll Take Sweden does offer some mild curio currency, courtesy of its immediate supporting cast.
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27 Jun, 2016

New on Disc: 'The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T' and more …


The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (Blu-ray)

Mill Creek, Fantasy, $14.98 Blu-ray, ‘G.’
Stars Peter Lind Hayes, Mary Healy, Hans Conried, Tommy Rettig.
1953.
Fingers has the only original screenplay that Dr. Seuss ever wrote, and whatever you think of the picture, which is absolutely one of a kind, it sounds, looks and feels like a product of the good doctor — brandishing far more charm and invention than the Seuss screen adaptations of the early 2000s.
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Le Amiche

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
In Italian with English subtitles.
Stars Eleonora Rossi Drago, Gabriele Ferzetti, Franco Fabrizi, Valentina Cortese.
1955.
Michelangelo Antonioni’s third fictional feature is pure Region A Criterion: super new print and good bonus section context that explores Italy’s societal changes and the rising importance of fashion (it, a kind of Antonioni trademark) following World War II. Adapted and somewhat altered from a novel by Cesar Pavese, it explores the kind of upscale life not many Italian women were able to enjoy in this period.
Extras: Strengthening the backgrounders we get in the bonus interviews is an essay by film scholar Tony Pipolo.
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20 Jun, 2016

New on Disc: 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' Blu-ray and more …


She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Starring John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Victor McLaglen, Harry Carey, Jr.
1949.
In terms of Technicolor, to say nothing of its signature John Wayne performance, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is still a movie for which John Ford fans have enduring affection.
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99 River Street (Blu-ray)

Street 6/21/16
Kino Lorber, Mystery, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Payne, Evelyn Keyes, Brad Dexter, Frank Faylen, Peggie Castle.
1953.
There are a few hoked-up bits here that compromise the rest but not in any truly serious ways because we aren’t, after all, talking about Henry James but the cinematic equivalent of lurid paperbacks.
Extras: The Blu-ray commentary here is infinitely more fun than a lot of movies.
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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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