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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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14 Aug, 2017

New on Disc: 'Variete' and more …


Varieté (Blu-ray)

Street 8/22/17
Kino Lorber, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Emil Jannings, Lya De Putti, Warwick Ward.
1925. Varieté is probably the best and most famous film from the less celebrated E.A. Dupont — with German star Emil Jannings Jannings as the owner of a sideshow.
Extras: The packed Blu-ray includes the previously DVD-released 1922 version of Othello, which also teamed Jannings and Lya De Putti, plus an illuminating supplementary “visual essay” by historian Bret Wood and several options for the background music.
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Money From Home

Olive, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, Marjie Millar, Pat Crowley.
1953. The first nine of 16 total Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis comedies were in black-and-white, the final seven were in color, and Money From Home (a Damon Runyon racetrack farce about a potentially underhanded steeplechase contest) was first of the latter bunch.
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7 Aug, 2017

New on Disc: 'Night People' and more …


Night People (Blu-ray)

Kino Lorber, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gregory Peck, Broderick Crawford, Anita Bjork, Buddy Ebsen.
1954. Contemporary to its time, Night People had to have been one of the first Hollywood releases to treat American vs. Russian espionage in cat-and-mouse fashion the way John le Carre books and movies eventually did.
Extras: Cecilia Peck (daughter of People lead Gregory) says in the Blu-ray bonus interview she shares with two male siblings that she finds it a challenge to follow the plot twists here.
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State Fair (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Musical, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Pat Boone, Bobby Darin, Pamela Tiffin, Ann-Margret, Tom Ewell, Alice Faye.
1962. As the latest eye-filler from the 20th Century-Fox catalog served up on a high-def golden platter by Twilight Time, the third and final State Fair is a splendorous view.
Extras: Pat Boone offers voiceover commentary.
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31 Jul, 2017

New on Disc: 'Running on Empty' and more …


Running on Empty (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Christine Lahti, River Phoenix, Judd Hirsch, Martha Plimpton.
1988. Running on Empty was one of the the last Sidney Lumet films that generally pleased everybody with unqualified success, dealing with ’60s political radicals on the run whose past catches up to their teenaged son, played by River Phoenix. who got his only Oscar nomination for playing this shy brooder.
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Road to Rio & Road to Bali

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $14.95 DVD each, $24.95 Blu-ray each, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour.
1947/1952. By the time the “Road” pictures’ two superstar leads and their writers got to the later series entries, the fourth wall and all other pretenses of conventional storytelling hadn’t merely been shattered but blown to smithereens by a nuclear device. Even though it’s in black-and-white against relatively drab settings, Road to Rio is quite funny for maybe 75% of the time and offers some of the series’ most ticklish guest shots. Road to Bali, the only “Road” pic shot in color, is lovely to look at while also boasting some funny walk-ons of its own.
Extras: Commentary with Michael Schlesinger and Mark Evanier.
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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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