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New on Disc: 'Sweet Smell of Success' and more …

28 Feb, 2011 By: Mike Clark

Sweet Smell of Success

Criterion, Drama, $39.95 two-DVD set, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner.
Though it was a box office and critical flop in its day, Sweet Smell of Success is now considered a classic, and this new Criterion release makes the movie seem more vivid and immediate than ever — even though the trenchant Clifford Odets/Ernest Lehman script deals with a long-ago era and a central character based on the now rather amazingly forgotten gossip columnist Walter Winchell.
Extras: You’ll have to go a long way this year to find a DVD/Blu-ray with more dead-on extras. The great Gary Giddins opens with a bookleted essay, followed by a remembrance from Lehman (who initiated the project before Odets took over his script). There’s also a Scottish TV featurette about the strange career of director Alexander Mackendrick that explains how an American-born Scot became a star of British cinema before returning to the United States to direct one of this most definitively American of all movies. Relatively inferior to everything else is a short, color-faded filmed portrait of cinematographer James Wong Howe. But it’s a supreme capping treat to see Winchell biographer Neal Gabler giving us a half hour on the differences between his own true-life subject and the latter’s morally worthless screen counterpart.
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Thelma & Louise: 20th Anniversary Edition

Fox/MGM, Drama, $19.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for strong language, and for some violence and sensuality.
Stars Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Brad Pitt.
This most atypical Ridley Scott movie looks exactly as I recall it looking from its theatrical release 20 years ago. For a movie whose Oscar-winning screenplay is so renowned, this prototypical buddy movie for women has a spectacular visual component that got cinematographer Adrian Biddle a nomination as well. In fact, scripter Callie Khouri says on the hour-long documentary (carried over from the old deluxe DVD release) that she thought about and envisioned the production design every step of the way.
Extras: The other extras are carried over from the DVD as well, and one of the two commentaries is co-delivered by Scott.
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The Last Play at Shea

Lionsgate, Documentary, $14.98 DVD, NR.
Features Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Tom Seaver.
The movie Shea (as the real Shea was) is about a lot of disparate things, from Mets baseball to Billy Joel. On the one hand, this is to the disadvantage of Paul Crowder’s sparsely distributed documentary/concert film from last year, which tells the story behind the last in a long line of musical performances at the Queens-based stadium before its 2008 demolition. But if there are enough raw materials here for three or four more fleshed-out movies, it’s almost impossible for the result to be anything less than engrossing, to say nothing of endearing, which is probably the real point.
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Intruder in the Dust

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars David Brian, Claude Jarman Jr., Juano Hernandez, Porter Hall, Elizabeth Patterson, Charles Kemper, Will Geer.
This now semi-obscure adaptation of William Faulkner’s same-name 1948 novel tells the story about a proud black man who is saved from murder conviction and probably even worse by both black and white intervening teens, and was filmed in the author’s hometown of Oxford, Miss. You can’t put a price on the location footage — from a time when studios still wanted to do everything on the backlot. There’s some bad speckling in the first few seconds of this “on-demand” print’s opening credits, but the images otherwise look fine.
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