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New on Disc: 'The Night of the Hunter' and more …

29 Nov, 2010 By: Mike Clark

The Night of the Hunter

Criterion, Drama, $39.95 two-DVD set, $49.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish.
Even for a movie budgeted in the $600,000 range with a short 36-day shooting schedule, Charles Laughton’s directorial masterpiece from Davis Grubb’s novel was a serious box office failure that by all accounts broke Laughton’s heart. Today, of course, it is routinely included on lists of the greatest movies ever made in any country.
Extras: There’s a trove of background information on this release, but the centerpiece is the 2 hour, 40 minute documentary Charles Laughton Directs The Night of the Hunter — assembled, with the help of Nancy Mysel, by Robert Gitt (retired, though still freelancing, from the UCLA Film & Television Archive). The other extras include a group commentary by Gitt, critic F.X. Sweeney (getting to be a welcome presence on DVDs), Preston Neal Jones (author of a book on both the novel and film) and director Terry Sanders, the second-unit director who shot the Ohio River material. There’s also a remembrance by actor/writer Simon Callow (who penned an excellent Laughton bio many years ago), ‘A’-list critical essays, Grubb’s sketches and Leonard Maltin’s interview of Gitt before the documentary begins.
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The Bing Crosby Collection

Universal, Musical, $49.98 three-DVD set, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray, Carole Lombard.
This six-title set, which goes a long way toward filling some missing-on-DVD Bing Crosby gaps, is almost all 1930s — another way of saying that you’re not going to find many unsung classics, though it is packed with movies hitherto tough to see in recent years. The most historically significant is 1935’s Mississippi, which boasts Bing with W.C. Fields and with Rodgers and Hart (all in good form). The rest of the set includes College Humor (1933), We’re Not Dressing (1934), Here Is My Heart (1934), Sing You Sinners (1938) and Welcome Stranger (1947).
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Trapped in an Elevator

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
Narrated by John Lithgow
Elevators serve 325 million passengers daily. Next to cars, they are the most common method of transportation — and yet, because we can’t see them, everyone takes them for granted. Many of the concerns in this well-organized “Nova” documentary are serious, including an interview with a guy who was riding a World Trade Center elevator during one of the 9/11 attacks, reaching the floor and just getting out of the building before it started to collapse. But the dominant story, which the film keeps returning to like a weekly movie serial, deals with a worker in New York’s McGraw-Hill building (several years back; he didn’t have a cell phone) who went out for a cigarette break on a Friday night and didn’t even get noticed for 41 hours. From here, it’s on to an overview: the history of the technology, and how elevators of the future may dispense with cables — which have limitations in terms of a building’s height — in favor of powerful magnets.
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You’re a Big Boy Now

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Peter Kastner, Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, Elizabeth Hartman.
Just by themselves, a Lovin’ Spoonful soundtrack and eccentric casting would be enough to make this artifact of an era one juicy curio. One of Warner Archive’s most provocative current releases was Francis Ford Coppola’s first major studio outing. Whenever Elizabeth Hartman is on screen, the comedy ratchets up several levels, though you can feel the movie breathing like someone running the 440 to generate mirth.
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