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New on Disc: 'North to Alaska' and more …

6 Jan, 2014 By: Mike Clark

North to Alaska (Blu-ray)

Fox, Comedy, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Ernie Kovacs, Fabian, Capucine.
A transitional movie in John Wayne’s career, this Henry Hathaway Western farce is broad even by Donovan’s Reef standards, though you probably haven’t lived until you’ve seen Ernie Kovacs (the heavy of the piece) completely covered in mud after a free-for-all. As the great Johnny Horton title song explains, Wayne’s “Big Sam” is prospecting gold with partner George (Stewart Granger) and brother Billy (1950s pop idol Fabian), at least when George isn’t pining for a French babe he met in Seattle. It’s all kind of poignant in a handsome Blu-ray that looks better than any theatrical print I’ve seen.
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Good Ol’ Freda

Magnolia, Documentary, B.O. $0.14 million, $26.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, ‘PG’ for some thematic material and smoking.
Freda Kelly was a teenager plucked from a typing pool  to become an indispensable aide and even friend to the Beatles — a union extending a little beyond the time when the Liverpool lads finally broke up. For all this, Kelly has remained unassuming and unpretentious for 50 years — finally, just this once, agreeing to tell her story for benefit of any grandchildren who may come to think she was just some old woman who had never accomplished much in life. She doesn’t tell all she knows here — in fact, she won’t even say if she ever dated any of her employers — but this is quite a story just the same. Basically a talking heads documentary augmented by good music and some largely unseen Beatles photos that will likely short-circuit the brains of fans, Freda shows how watchable a purely functional narrative can be if the material is there.
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