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New on Disc: 'Kes' and more …

2 May, 2011 By: Mike Clark


Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13’ for language, nudity and some teen smoking.
Stars David Bradley, Freddie Fletcher, Lynne Perrie, Colin Welland.
A pre-release festival favorite whose subsequent niche popularity even astonished its makers, director Ken Loach’s critical breakthrough (with longtime producer Tony Garnett) is, in trivial shorthand, a boy-and-his-falcon movie. This is among the few of its ilk with a social conscience. As story-central Billy, young David Bradley had a youthful face with no shortage of adult character lines. Finding a kestrel and nurturing it is Billy’s respite from a no-future future that’s been in store for him since birth by a rigged system fostered by bureaucrats and tough-guy teacher/administrators who’ve carved out their own fiefdoms.
Extras: David Bradley is interviewed here in his late 50s as part of an excellent 45-minute look-back that also features Loach and Garnett. The making-of documentary has a lot of interesting material on how Bradley and the crew worked with the falcons. Other extras include 1966’s Cathy Come Home, a Garnett-Loach TV film about homelessness that made major waves in England at the time; and a 1993 “South Bank” show on Loach.
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The Night of the Generals

Sony Pictures, Drama, $14.94 DVD, NR.
Stars Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Tom Courtenay, Joanna Pettit.
Part hefty epic, part camp and part showcase for an over-the-top lead performance that’s in keeping with the rest, Sam Spiegel’s typically un-frugal production was less popular with reviewers and audiences of the time than it is with at least some of today’s fanciers of World War II extravaganzas. Peter O’Toole gives a performance straight from the Nazi-sadist playbook as a general who likes to murder loose women. Investigating the 1942 death of a prostitute in occupied Warsaw is a major in German Intelligence (Omar Sharif), who’s obsessed by a case in which it’s established that the kinky perpetrator had to be one of three highest-ranking honchos (the other generals had alibis). The brass’s feathers get ruffled, but Sharif keeps pursuing matters. Though Generals really isn’t a very successful movie, it is one that can keep you going for an evening if it catches you in the right mood.
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A Thousand Clowns

Available via Amazon.com’s CreateSpace
MGM, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Jason Robards, Barbara Harris, Martin Balsam, Barry Gordon.
Stagebound and patched together with the cinematic equivalent of chewing gum, the low-budget screen version of Herb Gardner’s play breaks most of the rules for constituting a movie that grabbed me from the duration, but sometimes a single performance can be infatuating. However, the performance in question is not Oscared Martin Balsam’s — which gets remarkably little screen time — but Jason Robards’ re-creation of his role from the stage original: as TV kids’-show writer Murray Burns.
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The Unfinished Dance

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Margaret O’Brien, Cyd Charisse, Danny Thomas, Karin Booth.
Here’s some vivid color photography back-dropping the story of a ballet company where Swan Lake is part of the repertoire. But if the hook sounds familiar, we’re not talking Black Swan. Captured at the time when she was no longer tiny but not yet an adolescent, Margaret O’Brien plays a lonely child ballerina in a kids’ troupe packed with pre-pubescent hopefuls.
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