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New on Disc: 'On the Bowery' and more …

20 Feb, 2012 By: Mike Clark

On the Bowery: The Films of Lionel Rogosin Vol. 1

Street 2/21/12
Milestone, Documentary, two-disc set, $34.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
John Cassavetes, who mentored Martin Scorsese early in the latter’s career, regarded the late Lionel Rogosin as one of the great filmmakers and On the Bowery as a major filmmaking influence (think Cassavetes’ Shadows right out of the box). Thus, it’s rather fitting that Scorsese introduce the home release of Milestone Films’ highly successful theatrical re-issue from 2010, which includes a wealth of supplementary materials that only strengthen the package of a fiction/nonfiction hybrid (though feature documentary Oscar nominee) that can pretty well stand on its own. Scorsese notes that when he looked out the window from where he grew up, the Bowery is what he saw. The subject is not the domain of Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and the Bowery Boys. Bowery is a drama constructed around raw faces, which is one reason why Cassavetes must have loved it — and if the acting here is a little in and out, it absolutely seems authentic and serves the filmmaker’s purpose. The squalor quotient was, in fact, so high that usually estimable interviewer Dave Garroway is fairly patronizing to Rogosin in a 1956 TV clip included as one of the bonus extras. Why, Dave asks, would the latter want to make a movie bound to depress anyone who saw it?
Extras: This material dovetails effectively with then-and-now short subjects included as bonus material (one a look at Bowery life in 1933). Included as well is a making-of look back at the production — treatment afforded to this release’s second feature as well. This would be Good Times, Wonderful Times, made and shown on the early side of the mid-1960s when protests against the Vietnam War hadn’t taken full hold.
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Woody Allen: A Documentary

Docurama, Documentary, $29.95 two-DVD set, NR.
From roughly 1973’s Sleeper (but certainly follow-up Love and Death) through, say, 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway, Woody Allen was on one of the great rolls of the modern era — occasionally stumbling (usually with his dramas) but rarely going more than a couple pictures, artistically speaking, without a loud extra-base hit. Allen has amassed 15 Oscar nominations for screenwriting and seven for directing. This is the kind of life achievement that ultimately gets you pedigreed “American Masters” treatment, and Robert B. Weide’s three-and-a-half-hour portrait indeed aired during two nights in November. Though this is so much an authorized biography that it utilizes the same opening-credits font style that we automatically associate with Allen’s own movies, Weide isn’t hesitant to bring up Allen’s early 2000s fallow period — nor is he afraid to bring up Allen’s marriage to quasi-stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn.
Extras: The entire bonus section here is a highlight, but the Q&A part is special: Weide says he labored to ask Allen 10 that no one else had ever asked.
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Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars James Cagney, Loretta Young, Guy Kibbee.
Perhaps best known as the movie where consummate Irishman James Cagney speaks Yiddish in an early scene, Taxi is transported over its plot holes (sometimes wide enough to swallow up an entire cab caravan) by the palpable chemistry between the actor and co-star Loretta Young, who in one scene even joins him in a dance contest.
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