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New on Disc: 'Blow Out' and more …

9 May, 2011 By: Mike Clark

Blow Out

Criterion, Thriller, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars John Travolta, Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz, John Lithgow.
Though I’ve never been too wild in the past about this thriller that remains revered by many, Criterion gives Brian De Palma’s Hitchcockian homage to Antonioni’s Blow-Up by far the fairest shake it’s gotten in my previous experience with it. This is a movie that’s about sound: John Travolta plays a soundman regularly working on movies so trashy that De Palma himself could have made them. The new Blu-ray’s soundtrack sounds as if it has been pumping some iron, and visually, this is just one more example of how Criterion can make a movie of 30 years’ vintage look great.
Extras: Thanks to Criterion, I now appreciate Blow Out’s technical virtuosity more than I ever have — though hardly enough to curtsy to one of Pauline Kael’s most famously unbridled reviews (the kind that made so many revere Andrew Sarris). Reprinted in the Criterion booklet along with critic Michael Sragow’s less breathy brief, it terms the film “great” and puts De Palma’s direction on a level with Robert Altman’s for McCabe and Mrs. Miller. The set also includes several new interviews with the filmmakers.
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Hail the Conquering Hero

Street 5/10
Universal, Comedy, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, William Demarest, Raymond Walburn.
Hail the Conquering Hero is the definitive 4-F movie. Eddie Bracken plays the son of fallen World War I Marine “Hinky Dinky” Truesmith — he has been mustered out of the Corps with chronic hay fever and is hiding out in a San Diego shipyard because he’s ashamed to face his mother, former girlfriend (Ella Raines) and the rest of his small town. This may be my favorite Preston Sturges movie due to the power of Bracken’s performance; its expert skewering of slippery politicians (a Sturges specialty); the best-ever showcase for William Demarest’s brand of gruffness this side of Sturges’ preceding The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek; and, for the time, some incredible satirizing of wartime hero worship (though not of the Marines).
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Violent Saturday

Available at ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Victor Mature, Richard Egan, Virginia Leith, Stephen McNally, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine.
There’s something about seeing Lee Marvin use a nose inhaler in early CinemaScope that’s guaranteed to stay in the memory. The bank robber he plays joins J. Carrol Naish and the ever-malevolent Stephen McNally in a small-town heist, which is a pretext for exposing a whole slew of small-town peccadilloes that movies began to expose around the middle of that decade. Tight (91 minutes), slight and a decent time at the movies, Saturday is the second 20th Century Fox deep library title to be limited-released under the once-a-month banner of a new enterprise called Twilight Time. The movie lovers who run it are invading the Fox vaults, and their launch release The Kremlin Letter (John Huston, 1970) got a crisp transfer last month. The one here has excellent color values but isn’t anamorphically enhanced, apparently because the right elements weren’t available.
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I Love Melvin

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Una Merkel, Richard
Anderson, Allyn Joslin.
Singin’ in the Rain opened on April 11, 1952, and just one month later MGM had this most unpretentious Technicolor spin-off in production, showcasing two of that all-timer’s stars: Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. He plays a Look magazine photographer, and she is a show biz hopeful who, in one Broadway gig, literally gets tossed around like a football in a pigskin-motifed musical number — a fairly amazing scene.
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