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New on Disc: 'The Iron Petticoat' and more …

7 Jan, 2013 By: Mike Clark


The Iron Petticoat

Available via TCM.com
TCM, Comedy, $29.99 BD/DVD combo, NR.
Stars Bob Hope, Katharine Hepburn.
1956.
Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn? Pause here for your eyes to bug out like a Tex Avery cartoon character over the mere existence of this obscurity — especially in light of the fact that until recent weeks via Turner Classic Movies airings, this half-heartedly released Technicolor comedy had never even been televised due to the fact that Hope (who secured rights) basically sat on it for decades. Very much in the mode of Ninotchka, Comrade X and the arguably underrated Jet Pilot, it casts the stars as rival American and Soviet military pilots amid the latter’s gradual transformation into a capitalist of sorts who comes to appreciate sexier garb. Hepburn’s athletic frame still looks terrific in a role that followed two consecutive Oscar-nominated performances (in 1955’s Summertime and then The Rainmaker, which had just opened as well). Otherwise, this may be her worst performance; her accent isn’t that far from Bela Lugosi’s in Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda? With the slightly straighter The Seven Little Foys, That Certain Feeling and the subsequent Beau James, Hope himself was venturing into new territory at the time — and this modest departure, directed by Ralph Thomas of the then popular Doctor in the House, feels much more like a standard British outing that just happens to have the leads it does. (They have slightly more on-camera rapport than they reportedly had off, but it’s only a matter of degree.) MGM originally distributed a shorter version than this more official British cut — which, like several Brit pics but only a few non-Paramount Hollywood releases, was shot in the incomparable VistaVision. Thus, this rendering looks like a trillion dollars — every bit as stupendous as the Blu-rays I’ve seen of a couple other British films from the ’50s: Genevieve and (in VistaVision as well) The Battle of the River Plate. The result is well worth a look if you treat it strictly as a lab specimen, as opposed to a comedy that actually involves you.
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Beloved Infidel

Available via www.ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gregory Peck, Deborah Kerr, Eddie Albert.
1959.
Adapted from a Sheila Graham bestseller of the day that every adult female relative of mine seemed to own in paperback, Infidel relates how the eventual Hollywood gossip columnist (Deborah Kerr) got mentored by the older F. Scott Fitzgerald (Gregory Peck) during the writer’s alcoholic waning days when — as we see in one of this soaper’s better scenes — even The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night were out of print. Frequent Peck collaborator Henry King was among the most indifferent of all major directors, but his credits do include my two favorite Peck films: Twelve O’Clock High and The Gunfighter. In this case, he obviously couldn’t gear the story to Peck’s great screen strength, which was projecting authority that sometimes extended all the way to repressed (and, occasionally, even unrepressed) rage. As a Graham more refined than the real one likely was, Kerr is more on point and looking mighty regal on the beach (watch that redhead’s skin tones, Deb). Given his haircut here and also from the humorous short subjects we see him filming on a soundstage, I assume that Eddie Albert’s fictitious “Bob Carter” character is (in the kind of subterfuge that always sinks old Hollywood biopics) supposed to be humorist Robert Benchley. What makes the movie watchable (kind of) is the fact that we are, after all, witnessing a screen drama about the great FSF — and also, of course, the expected pro job Twilight Time gives to the Blu-ray (including the alternate-channel isolation of Franz Waxman’s score).
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