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New on Disc: 'A Farewell to Arms' and more …

19 Dec, 2011 By: Mike Clark

A Farewell to Arms

Street 12/20
Kino Lorber, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Helen Hayes, Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou.
In addition to winning the Academy Award for sound, Frank Borzage’s adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s World War I perennial got Charles Lang a companion Oscar for his prototypically “1930s Paramount” cinematography, which gets in the marrow not just in the love scenes but during the more grimy combat scenes as well. You really do believe that Helen Hayes and Gary Cooper are in love here, which carries this rendering over some bumps. Hayes playing opposite a Cooper we see evolving from semi-cocksure to vulnerable is a pairing that clicks. And historically, you can probably advance the case that this is the movie that took Cooper from popular leading man to the next level of his career. Certainly, by 1935’s The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, he was a superstar, and it’s doubtful that the movies Cooper made between Farewell and Lancer are the ones that did it.
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The Nickel Ride/
99 and 44/100% Dead (Double Feature)

Shout! Factory, Drama, $19.93 DVD, ‘PG.’
Stars Jason Miller, Richard Harris, Edmond O’Brien.
Whenever DVD box art slaps something as impersonally generic as “Action Double Feature” in larger typeface than the respective movies’ titles, you naturally expect the result to be a pair of 1947 John Ireland ‘B’-melodramas about insurance fraud taken from scratchy 16mm prints. But, no: this two-fer highlights not only a pair of 20th Century-Fox/DeLuxe Color productions from, say, the Average White Band era — but a duo that’s even from name filmmakers: Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird) and John Frankenheimer. For director-oriented completists, you can’t say the price isn’t right for a playbill where the Mulligan contribution turns out to be the more assured of the two yet less entertaining than its slipshod companion. The Mulligan is 1975’s The Nickel Ride, a decidedly un-slick underworld mood piece that fell in the director’s career between The Other and the early Richard Gere showcase Bloodbrothers. Frankenheimer’s contribution is the tone-deaf but not unwatchable gangland oddity 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974), which I suspect is a title that market-tested well with only a certain demographic. Chronologically, it followed the director’s four-hour American Film Theater epic of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, which he once called his best movie.
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Lost Horizon

Manufactured on demand via online retailers
Sony Pictures, Musical, $20.95 DVD, ‘G.’
Stars Peter Finch, Liv Ullmann, Sally Kellerman, George Kennedy.
On an apparently never-completed promotional featurette that’s part of the surprisingly extensive bonus material for this on-demand release, the now long-deceased producer Ross Hunter claims that this remake of Frank Capra’s famed 1937 played-straight drama “wasn’t a musical.” Now, don’t you love hearing something like that when the movie’s score has 11 Burt Bacharach-Hal David songs?  Anyway, the picture was such a colossal disaster that its belated DVD release constitutes a contribution to film history. One reason this very handsome DVD gets billed as “uncut” has to do with a beefcake musical interlude that got jettisoned (I was told) because audiences were falling out of their seats with hysterical laughter. I do have a soft spot for big-budget disasters as long as they don’t drag or run for four hours.
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