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New on Disc: 'Route 66: The Complete Series' and more …

4 Jun, 2012 By: Mike Clark

Route 66: The Complete Series

Shout! Factory, Drama, $129.99 24-DVD set, NR.
Stars Martin Milner, George Maharis, Glenn Corbett.
Back when it was a mainstay of CBS Friday nights (and also the 9 p.m. show that set the table for “The Twilight Zone,” which immediately followed), young viewers in the mainland 48 were thoroughly enticed by the idea of two presentable guys in a Corvette convertible zooming across the country each week and falling into fresh jobs — while also frequently romancing locals in the process. In the earlier and most popular of the 116 episodes of “Route 66,” the protagonists were Buz (George Maharis) and Tod (Martin Milner), and you never got the sense that they or their motel rooms were saving themselves for marriage. Later in the series, health reasons had forced Maharis out, and a new character (Glenn Corbett’s Linc Case) was written in — albeit one with enough demons to make him an unlikely regular. As with other dramatic series, the leads had enough things happen to them over a two-week run to fill a lifetime. “Route 66” was never the same after Maharis had to leave, but it isn’t one of those shows that flamed out early, either. Shout! Factory’s new box of the full series’ run has a heavily nostalgic component — or at least one to make younger viewers envious if they weren’t around to view the show at the time. It is, however, pricey, considering that the utilized prints aren’t as pristine as the ones we’ve seen of vintage CBS shows released by CBS/Paramount — and that three of the “66” seasons have been previously available, which means that those buying the set just to get season four are paying the equivalent of, say, eight bucks a gallon. Some will do this, though.
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Too Late Blues

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bobby Darin, Stella Stevens, Everett Chambers.
Paramount’s 1962 sales team must have had a grand old time figuring out how to sell the second feature from actor-turned-director John Cassavetes after his landmark indie breakthrough with 1959’s Shadows (an acknowledged seminal movie in the screen upbringing of Martin Scorsese). Cassavetes wasn’t very comfortable, at least in the early ‘60s, directing for major studios, and Too Late Blues is usually kind of viewed as one of his career aberrations. But you can’t be a Stella Stevens fan without having at least some affection for it, even if the continuity of the script (co-written with Richard Carr) begins to scrap traditional narrative progress. And commercially speaking, the story was never going to be much of a crowd pleaser, what with its fairly downbeat look at jazz musicians living on the financial edge. With no great storytelling shakes but fairly compelling on an observational level consistent with Cassavetes’ usual let’s-try-it-and-see-what-happens style, Blues is usually not the same movie whenever Stevens is off screen.
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Bird of Paradise

Kino Lorber, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joel McCrea, Dolores del Rio.
According to IMDb.com, Dolores del Rio slept 16 hours a day to maintain her beauty in real life, so it’s in keeping with the Bird of Paradise premise that an American pleasure-cruise sailor (Joel McCrea) would become instantly smitten and then fall head over heels from the second he spots her on some primitive island. This version has some affecting moments whenever the actors don’t open their mouths, including a faux nude swimming sequence. The print here, preserved by George Eastman House from the Selznick family collection, looks good for its age.
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