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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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20 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Lusty Men' and more …


The Lusty Men

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Mitchum, Susan Hayward, Arthur Kennedy, Arthur Hunnicutt.
1952.
Newly remastered, this solid rodeo drama from director Nicholas Ray stars Robert Mitchum as an aging rodeo star who comes across a married couple (Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward). The tone Ray maintains throughout is mostly perfect and consistent against a triangular dramatic set-up that seems almost foolproof.
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Al Capone: Icon

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
This lukewarm bio makes some good points about Al Capone’s criminal career, a central thesis being that bootlegging so “made” Capone’s career that if Prohibition hadn’t existed, it’s likely that he’d never escaped the lower rungs of Chicago sociopathy.
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13 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'Dick Cavett's Watergate' and more …


Dick Cavett’s Watergate

Street 10/14
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
Just about the only non-news show that would touch the subject of Watergate during the period was the one hosted by the only Johnny Carson rival who managed to carve out an equally vital late-night niche of his own. This pressure-packed remembrance is hosted by today’s version of Dick Cavett, assisted by star Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, former White House counsel and eventual beans-spiller John Dean, former Nixon Library historian Timothy Naftali (this guy is the final word in historical context) and more.
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Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Randolph Scott, James Craig, Angie Dickinson, James Garner.
1957.
Truth to tell, there’s really no shoot-out in this lukewarm but sporadically ticklish Randolph Scott Western, but you do get a punch-out or two once the baddies start to get theirs in piecemeal fashion in the later reels. James Garner and Angie Dickinson have major roles when they were very young.
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6 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Killer Elite/Noon Wine' and more …


The Killer Elite/Noon Wine

Available via www.ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Caan, Robert Duvall, Olivia de Havilland, Jason Robards.
1975/1966.
Sam Peckinpah’s stirring 48-minute telepic of Katherine Anne Porter’s short novel Noon Wine has been the Holy Grail of his career since it aired on TV once in 1966.
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The Desert Song

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning, Bruce Cabot, Lynne Overman.
1943.
This isn’t a movie that emboldens one to go to the mat even in a fixed wrestling match, but it is a great deal more entertaining than anyone expects from an operetta with Nazis.
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29 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Innocents' and more …


The Innocents (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Drama, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Deborah Kerr, Pamela Franklin, Martin Stephens, Megs Jenkins.
1961.
Truman Capote was the driving force behind the screenplay for this film notable for its weird children and weird visual concepts, based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.
Extras: The bonus material is juicy: an essay by critic Maitland McDonagh that’s heavy on the psychological themes plus lots with cultural historian Christopher Frayling (both a substantial on-screen intro, then voiceover commentary) that’s both substantial and accessible about a production where everything came together.
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South of St. Louis (Blu-ray Review)

Olive, Western, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joel McCrea, Alexis Smith, Zachary Scott, Dorothy Malone.
1949.
Though it’s never more than a satisfying time-killer on the high side of routine, this release is a solid contender for the most dazzling print Olive Films has distributed to date. When it comes to showing what Technicolor really meant to the moviegoing experience most any old week at your ’40s and early ’50s neighborhood theater, this is the real deal. Joel McCrea plays a tough guy in covered-wagon territory who aims to hunt down a creep played by Victor Jory who burned down the Texas ranch McCrea had maintained with two partners.
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22 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Great Race' and more …


The Great Race (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk.
1965.
The best way to enjoy this onetime budget-buster about a farcical auto race back when cars were the new big thing is to take an “it is what it is” approach and appreciate its madcap audacity and director Blake Edwards’ lack of fear when it came to putting it on the slapstick line.
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Trial

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Glenn Ford, Dorothy McGuire, Arthur Kennedy, John Hodiak, Juano Hernandez, Rafael Campos.
1955.
Modified from screenwriter Don Mankiewicz’s Harper Prize novel, Trial deals with a racially charged murder case in 1947 involving a Hispanic teenager, a white girl who dies in his presence at a beach where he was not supposed to be, and an attorney, played by Glenn Ford, who has never actually tried a case. Dorothy McGuire gives one of her best performances and Arthur Kennedy earned an Oscar nomination as a grade-‘A’ charlatan.
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15 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'Casting By' and more …


Casting By

Street 9/16
First Run, Documentary, B.O. $0.02 million, $24.95 DVD, NR.
2013.
This irresistible documentary primarily concerned with the late Marion Dougherty includes anecdotes by several big names, be they other casting directors, former production chiefs, directors and all kinds of actors.
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Juggernaut

Kino Lorber, Thriller, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Richard Harris, Omar Sharif, Shirley Knight, Ian Holm, Anthony Hopkins.
1974.
This suspense thriller, an atypical genre for director Richard Lester, breathes noteworthy life into an old formula.     
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8 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'All That Jazz' and more …


All That Jazz (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Musical, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Ann Reinking.
1979.
Jazz is probably the only musical with graphic footage of open-heart surgery. Protagonist Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider, perfect) is a filmmaker editing a movie about a standup comic while he’s simultaneously mounting a stage musical while also mounting ladies of the chorus and also smoking too much. This is unmistakably director Bob Fosse’s own story.
Extras: There’s an array of extras here that dazzle even by Criterion standards, and three of them are Fosse interviews.
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The Winning of Barbara Worth

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Ronald Colman, Vilma Banky, Gary Cooper.
1926.
Gary Cooper’s first credited non-bit screen role was fairly substantial in this film about a romantic triangle with a lot going on for anyone who likes stories where Mother Nature is in a really bad mood.
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1 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'Man Hunt' and more …


Man Hunt (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, John Carradine.
1941.
This significant hit in Fritz Lang’s career is a most entertaining suspense thriller with a dramatically tantalizing table-setter: How might the life of a sportsman/hunter played by Walter Pidgeon have changed in 1939 had he squeezed the trigger when he had Adolf Hitler in his rifle site?
Extras: The isolated music track, a Twilight Time staple, showcases Alfred Newman’s score, which makes some use of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”
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High School Confidential

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Russ Tamblyn, Jan Sterling, John Barrymore Jr., Diane Jergens.
1958.
This pot-inevitably-leads-to-heroin exposé howler often has enough going for it not to be one of those movies in which production trivia turns out to be far more interesting than what we see on screen.
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25 Aug, 2014

New on Disc: 'Out of the Past' and more …


Out of the Past (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Mystery, $21.99 Blu-ray.
Stars Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming.
1947.
This is just about everything a noir screen experience should be, even down to a title that really plays on the imagination (and the Blu-ray part of the experience really helps).
Extras: James Ursini, a name synonymous with noir reportage, does a commentary.
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The Buddy Holly Story (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Gary Busey, Charles Martin Smith, Don Stroud, Maria Richwine.
1978.
Before his 1959 death in a plane crash, Buddy Holly was a kid with a burning-lava kind of drive, which is exactly what an impossibly slimmed-down Gary Busey conveys in a powerhouse lead performance that got him an Oscar nomination.
Extras: Director Steve Rash joins Busey on a commentary track from 1998.
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18 Aug, 2014

New on Disc: 'Elvis: That's the Way It Is' and more …


Elvis: That’s the Way It Is (Blu-ray)

Warner, Documentary, $27.98 Blu-ray, NR. (Original version ‘PG’)
1970/2007.
In 2001, director Denis Sanders’ cut underwent a major overhaul, removing a lot of the fan interviews and even some of the songs, while adding more songs and table-setting rehearsal footage. The result is pretty electric. This documentary, along with 1972’s now mellow Elvis on Tour, represent the legend’s last two screen appearances.
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Salvaje (The Wild One) (Blu-ray)

Sony Pictures, Drama, Import, NR.
Stars Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Lee Marvin, Robert Keith.
1953.
Playable on Blu-ray machines of all regions, this is a Spanish import of The Wild One, the once notorious star-powered lark starring Marlon Brando as a motorcycle-garbed hipster.
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