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New on Disc: 'Hondo' on Blu-ray and more …

18 Jun, 2012 By: Mike Clark

Hondo (Blu-ray)

Paramount, Western, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Lee Aaker, Ward Bond, James Arness.
This early Batjac production (which spent many, many late 20th-century years unavailable for viewing) remains in cement as one of the best John Wayne Westerns not directed by John Ford or Howard Hawks. Though come to think, an unbilled Ford did direct Hondo’s concluding battle scene when the credited filmmaker (John Farrow) left to start a previous commitment. Hondo (Wayne) is an 1870 Army rider who loses his horse and ventures onto the secluded ranch of a woman (Geraldine Page) and 6-year-old son (Lee Aaker) and becomes kind of a family protector in the mode of Alan Ladd in Shane, which had a theatrical release seven months earlier. Taken from a Louis L’Amour short story that got expanded into a novel around the same time as this movie, Hondo is the most famed and acclaimed 3D Western. As it turns out, this Wayne-Robert Fellows production played far more 3D engagements at the time than has been thought — and far more than indicated on an otherwise excellent commentary, carried over from the 2005 DVD to this Blu-ray, by Leonard Maltin, Western historian Frank Thompson and Aaker. The bigger surprise to me is that Hondo was filmed not in 1.33:1 but a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and this Blu-ray marks the first time it has been available for the home market in its correct width. Hondo’s screenwriter James Edward Grant (subject of a Blu-ray featurette here) was Wayne’s personal favorite and had even directed Angel and the Badman — still one of the most pleasing of all Wayne vehicles.
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The Wayward Bus

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joan Collins, Jayne Mansfield, Dan Dailey, Rick Jason.
With its shaky reviews offset by hefty sales, John Steinbeck’s 1947 novel upon which this movie is based was, at least on a commercial level, a natural for the screen — putting aside, of course, sexual content that guaranteed it would be watered down if filmed before Hollywood’s cretinish Production Code imploded. So this release is only “kind of adult” for its day, yet in retrospect, the brave and even gonzo casting choices here worked out surprisingly well, and Twilight Time’s most welcome release of a film that came and went (into oblivion) deserves a pat. With points, plugs and a chassis that have seen better days, the title vehicle isn’t even a regular bus but a tiny commuter job into which travelers transfer — after a far more elegant version of “Leave the Driving to Us” deposits them at the entrance of a Southern California hash-house.
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Flight Angels

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $17.95 DVD-R, NR.
Stars Virginia Bruce, Dennis Morgan, Ralph Bellamy, Jane Wyman.
Here’s a sometimes romp-ish curio that’s one of the few movies made at the time about early commercial aviation and, in particular, flight attendants. Remaining man-hungry even as they dis the entire male species with cutting wisecracks, these (corporately literal) American Airlines women-in-uniform occasionally enliven the Chicago stewardess’s lounge with roll-on-the-floor catfights that are all but out of the salon rowdiness in Destry Rides Again. And if 1970’s Airport is one of the rare movies to cast a baritone (Dean Martin) as a pilot, here’s one where a tenor (Dennis Morgan) gets the call.
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