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New on disc: 'Leap Year,' 'No Time for Sergeants' and more …

10 May, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Perry Mason: Season Five Vol. One

Paramount/CBS, Drama, $54.99 four-DVD set, NR.
Stars Raymond Burr.
I love hopping through vintage TV series to see which ones were employing character actors on their way up, down (usually) or simply sustaining themselves via steady employment. Perry Mason: Season 5 Vol. 1 offers a fair tally, starting with dishy Leslie Parrish in a pair of episodes following her Broadway and screen appearances as Daisy Mae in Li’l Abner — but before she appeared memorably in The Manchurian Candidate as Laurence Harvey’s tragic wife.

In “The Case of the Impatient Partner,” she’s a receptionist the boss honcho is always chewing out whenever she tells him the bad news that Mrs. Honcho is calling. (There’s also a prototypically “Mason” hysterical courtroom breakdown by Ben Cooper, who was previously the one green member of the Dancing Kid’s gang in Nicholas Ray’s classic Johnny Guitar). In "The Case of the Left-Handed Liar," Parrish runs an exercise class (she’d easily fill the bill today as well) but has a really snotty personality.

Robert Armstrong, renowned as the crusty promoter in the original King Kong, plays a crusty seaman in “The Case of the Malicious Mariner” — and working phones in the shipping office is former cowgirl Penny Edwards, who often took over as Roy Rogers’ leading lady when Dale Evans got pregnant in real life. Skip Homier had the kind of facial features that suited his frequent casting as villains, a la the Nazi youth in Tomorrow the World and the punk who shoots Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter. In "The Case of the Pathetic Patient," he’s a good guy doctor getting sued by Frank Cady (previously the neighbor who sleeps on the fire escape in Rear Window and later Sam Drucker on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres”). And look: here’s “Star Trek’s” DeForest Kelley — in a white tux, no less — fairly miserably married to the boss’s daughter in “The Case of the Unwelcome Bride.” There are all kinds of familiar faces in this one: The Crimson Pirate’s Torin Thatcher; frequent underworld smoothie Gerald Mohr; Shane’s string-pulling villain Emile Meyer as a cop; and on the witness stand, Alan Hale Jr. pre-“Gilligan’s Island.”

Leap Year

Universal, Romance, B.O. $25.9 million, $29.98 DVD, $36.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG’ for sensuality and language.
Stars Amy Adams, Adam Scott, Matthew Goode.
When it played in theaters in January, neither critics nor the public got too excited about the admittedly modest Leap Year. But if you have a crush on lead Amy Adams — and I will plead guilty to any of Perry Mason’s judges — this predominantly Ireland-based romance does more for her as a star vehicle than, say, January’s Edge of Darkness did for Mel Gibson. Though, yes, its basic framework has been employed again and again and again (if perhaps not lately) since It Happened One Night.

No Time for Sergeants

Warner, Comedy, $14.97 DVD, NR.
Stars Andy Griffith, Myron McCormick, Nick Adams, Murray Hamilton, Don Knotts.
Watching Sergeants today, you have to think that it must have in some ways influenced “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” in that its rural innocent is drafted into the Air Force, whereby he turns his superiors into basket cases. This screen version’s first hour is much funnier than I remembered.
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The Honeymooners Valentine Special

MPI, Comedy, $14.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, Jane Kean.
This late-1970s special and a new companion volume (1976’s Second Honeymoon) are funnier than expected, though they must have seemed beyond retro at the time, when “Saturday Night Live” was still a fresh rage.
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The Barbara Stanwyck Collection

Universal, Drama, $49.98 three-DVD set, NR.
Two movies I treasure are the hallmarks of a six-title set devoted to my favorite actress of her generation, one who could be vulnerable or charming — but if the script called for it, also capable of taking your head off. Those are Douglas Sirk’s There’s Always Tomorrow (1956) and All I Desire (1953). The other four selections have enough individual ammo to make them worth seeing — Internes Can’t Take Money (1937), The Great Man’s Lady (1942), The Lady Gambles (1949) and The Bride Wore Boots (1946), which features a 7-year-old Natalie Wood.
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Art & Copy

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
There are no specific allusions to “Mad Men” in Doug Pray’s documentary about 1960s ad men and women, but you feel its presence everywhere in this story of how a once stale business and “old boys club” got creative just as the country was changing and getting out of its own cultural doldrums.
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The Gallant Hours

Available now via Amazon.com CreateSpace.
MGM, Drama, $19.98 DVD, NR.
The Gallant Hours was James Cagney’s next-to-last movie before retiring, not counting the late twilight comebacks he made in Milos Forman’s Ragtime and TV’s “Terrible Joe Moran” two decades later. His performance as World War II’s famed Adm. William Fredrick “Bull” Halsey Jr. — think Paul McCartney & Wings’ Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey — effectively submerges the more familiar Cagney flamboyance and is instructive in gauging his acting range, which was underrated. Compare this film, which came out a year after Halsey’s death, with Cagney’s mile-a-second comic monologues in Billy Wilder’s One Two Three, where breathlessly staccato pacing facilitated the exhausted actor’s retirement as retiring to a more placid farming environment suddenly looked attractive.  

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