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New on Disc: 'Anatomy of a Murder' and more …

5 Mar, 2012 By: Mike Clark

Anatomy of a Murder

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Ben Gazzara, Lee Remick, George C. Scott, Joseph N. Welch.
Never again would director Otto Preminger get his act together the way he did with his almost universally praised adaptation of a monster late-1950s bestseller by Robert Traver — a pseudonym for Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker, who previously had been defense attorney in a case that served as the novel’s inspiration. Ben Gazzara plays the army officer on trial for shooting his wife’s alleged rapist, and Lee Remick is perfect as a naturally frisky young woman who may or may not like to exploit the effect she has on men. One doesn’t automatically think of Murder as a cinematographer’s picture, but Sam Leavitt’s (A Star Is Born) intriguing angles earned him one of Murder’s seven Oscar nominations and definitely have something to do with the fact that a 160-minute courtroom drama grips throughout (and never more so than in the trial scenes). In fact, it’s not a stretch to claim that this probably  is the best courtroom drama of all time, an assertion with which many agree.
Extras: The Criterion extras hit the major points. Preminger biographer Foster Hirsch talks a lot about the filmmaker’s style, marketing savvy and moral umbrage he took over censors (Hirsch also reminds us that Preminger was trained as a lawyer as well). There’s also a section on Saul Bass’ genius with opening credits and movie ads (often with Preminger) during an era when the latter were so much more exciting than now. There’s also an interview with the great Gary Giddins about Duke Ellington’s famous Murder score, whose recording I’m guessing has never been out of print.
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Frontline: The Interrupters

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Working with an array of collaborators who surely deserve their share of the credit, documentarian Steve James continues to amass an impressive body of work on socially relevant subjects. Everyone knows James’ Hoop Dreams, of course, but nearly as impressive was 2002’s Stevie, one of the most poignant movies ever about a needful kid who fell through society’s cracks. Now comes a documentary basically photographed in a war zone: the toughest parts of Chicago. The documentary is superbly titled: “interrupting” is exactly what its protagonists try to do. As a subdivision of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention, the central initiative profiled here is called CeaseFire. Its members attempt to interrupt street violence in the making, which often erupts when youngsters try to protect their own turf for often-shaky reasons.
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The Buccaneer

Olive, Adventure, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston, Claire Bloom, Charles Boyer, Inger Stevens, E.G. Marshall, Lorne Greene, Henry Hull.
During a pre-credits sequence in the final movie “supervised” by one of the industry’s foremost legends, an aged Cecil B. DeMille appeared on screen to deliver some historical context for what audiences were about to see. The Buccaneer’s gist, which is true, is that Gen. Andrew Jackson (Charlton Heston, who has so much authority in a role that’s something between an extended cameo and a full part) agreed to pardon any pirates who aided Americans on the lines against the invading British at the Battle of New Orleans. Official directing duties were handled by C.B.’s longtime son-in-law, Anthony Quinn. Olive presumably is releasing The Buccaneer (and the original 1938 version with Fredric March on April 24) to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
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