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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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17 Jul, 2017

New on Disc: 'Joe Versus the Volcano' and more …


Joe Versus the Volcano (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Ossie Davis.
1990.
Despite a loopy affability that occasionally comes off as strained though rarely to deal-breaking extremes, Joe Versus the Volcano is liable to leave viewers sporting a mild smile for a hundred minutes.
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The Savage Innocents (Blu-ray)

Olive, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Anthony Quinn, Yoko Tani, Peter O’Toole.
1960.
This cult hit from director Nicholas Ray gets off to something of a rocky start, which it then rebounds from to not insignificant extent by treating Anthony Quinn’s “Baby Huey of an Inuit” character and customs with sympathy and something like respect.
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10 Jul, 2017

New on Disc: 'They Live by Night' and more …


They Live by Night

Criterion, Romance, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Farley Granger, Cathy O’Donnell, Howard Da Silva, Jay C. Flippen.
1949.
Though it deviates from Edward Anderson’s 1937 source novel in key respects, director Nicholas Ray’s screen debut is second only to Citizen Kane as the Hollywood directorial debut of the 1940s.
Extras: Premier noir expert Eddie Muller’s commentary is carried over from the old Warner DVD). Film critic Imogen Sara Smith appears on camera to place the film in the intriguing canon of non-metropolitan “on the road” noirs. Also, the essay by film scholar Bernard Eisenschitz does a similar job of pressing the right buttons when it comes to explaining why I love the movie so much.
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Hell and High Water (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Richard Widmark, Bella Darvi, Victor Francen, Cameron Mitchell, Gene Evans.
1954.
Director Samuel Fuller was far more of a Cold War than parsnip kind of guy, which pretty much mandates that his early CinemaScope political potboiler Hell and High Water would involve Commies, submarines, The Bomb and, yes, a femme scientist from the Vogue blueprint brought along to assist an elderly mentor with his professorial calculations.
Extras: Includes an essay from Julie Kirgo.
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19 Jun, 2017

New on Disc: 'The Ballad of Cable Hogue' and more …


The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive        
Warner; Western; $21.99 Blu-ray; ‘R.’
Stars Jason Robards, Stella Stevens, David Warner, Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Slim Pickens.
1970.
Director Sam Peckinpah referred to Ballad as his personal favorite in later years, and befitting its title, the movie really does play like the parable set to music that it sometimes literally is.
Extras: Included is a commentary by Nick Redman and his longtime gallery of fellow Peckinpah historians (Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle), plus Redman’s frank featurette interview with Stella Stevens from the earlier DVD release.
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Housekeeping (Blu-ray)

All-Region Import
Indicator, Drama, $20 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Christine Lahti, Sara Walker, Andrea Burchill.
1987.
It may be dominated by a character who’s batty and maybe even beyond, but from the very opening we sense that this is a movie about to get under our skins in a subliminal kind of way.
Extras: Featurettes focus on interviews with director Bill Forsyth and cinematographer Michael Coulter; There are also several essays, plus reminiscences by editor Michael Ellis and even author Marilynne Robinson, who seems to be pleased by the adaptation of her book, which was thought to be unfilmable.
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12 Jun, 2017

New on Disc: 'Cheech and Chong's Next Movie' and more …


Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (Blu-ray)

Street 6/13/17
Shout! Factory, Comedy, $27.99 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Evelyn Guerrero, Paul Reubens.
1980.
This is one of the more cogent Cheech & Chong vehicles out of seven this occasionally uproarious team made in a big-screen run known for its severe downward trajectory.
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Obsessions (Blu-ray)

Cult Epics, Mystery, $34.95 Blu-ray/DVD combo, NR.
Stars Alexandra Stewart, Dieter Geissler, Tom Van Beek.
1969.
For those willing to lower expectations, there’s some lukewarm kinkiness to be gleaned from this Dutch Hitchcock homage co-written by Martin Scorsese that never reached U.S. theaters despite provocative displays of supporting actress tan-lines and considerable box office success abroad.
Extras: Includes separate interviews each running about 20 minutes with director Pim de la Parra and star Dieter Geissler, who have contrasting personality styles but otherwise couldn’t possibly be more personable. There’s also a page-by-page replication of the shooting script, complete with copious Scorsese margin notes.
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29 May, 2017

New on Disc: 'Seven Days in May' and more …


Seven Days in May (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive      
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien.
1964.
Though plotting specifics differ markedly and sometimes in polar-opposite fashion from current headlines, you have to believe that the political time is right for a remarkably clean high-def transfer of John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May, which now seems more potent than it ever did.
Extras: Frankenheimer’s typically standout voiceover commentary is carried over from a previous rendering.
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Broken Arrow (1950) (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Western, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Jeff Chandler, Debra Paget, Will Geer.
1950.
Broken Arrow may not be best of the Delmer Daves Westerns, but it was his first and probably the one that comes closes to being a household name, with a story about a person trying to straddle opposed cultures — a theme unlikely, to be sure, ever to lose its topicality or relevance.
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22 May, 2017

New on Disc: 'The Rounders' Blu-ray and more …


The Rounders (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive    
Warner, Western Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Glenn Ford, Henry Fonda, Chill Wills, Edgar Buchanan, Sue Ane Langdon.
1965.
Given that The Rounders has always been an affably outdoor Panavision mix of hooch-loving horses, out-of-work strippers and, above all, easygoing casting synergy, it’s a not-bad way to salvage 84 minutes.
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You’ll Never Get Rich (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Musical, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Robert Benchley, Frieda Inescort.
1941.
There aren’t many Fred Astaire movies this side of Yolanda and the Thief that one might rightfully term as strange, but the first and lesser of two Astaire pairings with Rita Hayworth isn’t far off that mark.
Extras: Julie Kirgo in her liner notes makes a case for Rich being the first World War II musical.
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8 May, 2017

New on Disc: 'Ride the High Country' and more …


Ride the High Country (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive        
Warner, Western, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Mariette Hartley, Ron Starr, James Drury, Warren Oates.
1962.
In a wonderful burst of unexpected late glory, Randolph Scott (his final film) and Joel McCrea (his final one of note) play long-ago lawmen put out to pasture by changing times in director Sam Peckinpah’s career-maker and a movie not a few still think is the best he ever made. The spiffed-up print here looks the best of those I’ve seen: great more often than not and easily acceptable in the frequent autumnal fading foliage scenes
Extras: Includes a commentary with savvy Sam scholars Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle.
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Don’t Give Up the Ship

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jerry Lewis, Dina Merrill, Diana Spencer, Mickey Shaughnessy.
1959.
Jerry Lewis plays a World War II vet and seaman officer in Don’t Give Up the Ship, a Paramount black-and-whiter that some might regard as a semi-outlier in his career.
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1 May, 2017

New on Disc: 'The Young Girls of Rochefort' and more …


The Young Girls of Rochefort

Criterion, Musical, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘G.’
Stars Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, Gene Kelly, George Chakiris, Danielle Darrieux, Michel Piccoli.
1967.
Spirited and sumptuous, yet with an overriding sense of melancholy due in great part to the real-life tragedy that still follows it around, Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort offers fairly persuasive gut evidence that it (as opposed to the prime MGM Hollywood musicals) must have been the primary influence on La La Land.
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Sunset in the West

Kino Lorber, Western, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Roy Rogers, Estelita Rodriguez, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones.
1950.
Sunset’s bad guys are running a gun-smuggling ring, and you’ll recognize the heavies from a lot of other ‘B’-Westerns.
Extras: Includes a commentary track with Roy Rogers buff Toby Roan.
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17 Apr, 2017

New on Disc: 'World Without End' and more …


World Without End (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive        
Warner, Sci-Fi, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Rod Taylor.
1956.
World Without End tells the story of astronauts time-warped to an Earth filled with cave-dwelling creatures that attack Hugh Marlowe and crew in a futuristic society full of mutants in a story that shares many similarities with H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, and the result is all rather charming unless your eyes get stuck rolling back into their sockets.
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Night Passage (Blu-ray)

All-Region French Import (billed as Le survivant des monts lointains)
Elephant/Universal, Western, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Brandon de Wilde, Dianne Foster.
1957.
Sometimes an unexpectedly great-looking disc is its own justification if it catches you in a receptively generous mood. And Passage, whose lack of any substantial dramatic sand may have been a contributor to its unfortunate footnote in Western history, gets a lot of “demonstration” visual utmost out of its source Technirama roots.
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10 Apr, 2017

New on Disc: 'S.O.B.' and more …


S.O.B. (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’
Stars Julie Andrews, William Holden, Robert Preston, Richard Mulligan, Robert Vaughn, Shelley Winters.
1981.
The main claim to fame of this admittedly overlong outing with huge visual compensations is probably as the vehicle in which top-billed Julie Andrews bared her breasts, but more importantly as the source of William Holden’s final screen appearance.
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Peyton Place (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Lana Turner, Diane Varsi, Lee Phillips, Hope Lange, Arthur Kennedy, Russ Tamblyn.
1957.
Producer Jerry Wald did a bang-up getting Peyton Place to the screen so relatively soon after the best-selling 1956 publication of Grace Metalious’s New England scandalmonger. This has to be one of the most handsome Blu-rays that Twilight Time has ever released.
Extras: Both voiceover commentaries here are worth it and the first fabulously so. It’s by filmmaker/historian Willard Carroll, whose bonus then-and-now video of the Maine locales is a treat I didn’t expect. There’s also a spotty but valuable track, carried over from the 2004 Fox Studio Classics DVD, by Russ Tamblyn and supporting player Terry Moore in which Tamblyn comes off as one of the great guys ever, at least if we’re talking actors.
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