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New on Disc: 'The Voice of the Turtle' and more …

10 Dec, 2012 By: Mike Clark

The Voice of the Turtle

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $18.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Eleanor Parker, Ronald Reagan, Eve Arden.
Following World War II, many of the roles home studio Warner Bros. gave Ronald Reagan were of the caliber to turn a reasonably high-profile performer (neither a major star nor, at least yet, a ‘B’-movie headliner) into president of the Screen Actors Guild. One of the later-career exceptions was Reagan’s agreeably unpretentious lead in this movie of John Van Druten’s play — one with a title of such a “what-was-that-again?” variety that for decades TV played Turtle as “One for the Books,” which was not much of an improvement as an audience magnet. And yet the play had been a smash that ran for years, even if its late 1944 setting now meant that Warner had to mount its story as a flashback vehicle when the movie version finally came to the screen. The story of an aspiring stage actress and a furloughed soldier who ends up sharing her New York apartment for much of a wintry weekend, it made for potentially controversial screen material because you look at these two chance meet-ups (Eleanor Parker plays the actress opposite Reagan) and think that they just have to be sleeping with each other after a few wine-and-dine preliminaries at the well-mounted eatery next door, especially in a wartime situation. Production Code enforcer Joseph Breen slammed it as “a story of illicit sex without compensating moral values.” In the play, there were only three characters, but the movie is opened up to get the story out of the apartment and to toss in some subsidiary support. Director Irving Rapper keeps the narrative moving without displaying much attitude toward the material. Turtle makes for a pleasant, if dated, hour and 43, no question — though the advent of the Pill would eventually turn stories such as these into antiques, which is how you have to approach them today to appreciate what they have to offer.
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Manufactured on demand via online retailers
Sony Pictures, Adventure, $20.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Victor Mature, Janet Leigh, John Justin, Roland Culver.
Safari offers racially motivated political intrigue, Victor Mature in Jungle Jim khaki as Ken and chorus girl Janet Leigh overdressed in the jungle (except for when she’s undressed and skinny-dipping in a scene fairly stimulating for its day) as Linda. One does wonder how a movie this gorgeous to look at (Technicolor and originally 2.55:1) took this long to make it to market. This is no world-beater but one of the best-looking DVDs of a vintage title I’ve seen in a while. Kenya’s anti-colonial Mau Maus slaughter white plantation owners, and worse, the victim is Ken’s male youngster in a scene eerily reminiscent (we’re talking content, not emotional power) to the initial killings in John Ford’s The Searchers, which had opened only about three weeks before Safari’s U.S. premiere. Equally dreadful is the killer’s identity: a Mau Mau general who’d posed as a houseboy and had been considered a friend of the family. The official British law is made up of effete pipe smokers, so when they tell Ken to let authorities handle any retaliation, he is not exactly listening. But he makes his living as a Great White Hunter, and a snob with a trophy wife is in need of one — which is how he gets hired on with Linda’s husband and eventually joins her (chastely) in the same bathing pool. Overall, it’s fairly routine, but Mau Maus and their uprising were big in the day; just a year later, MGM and Richard Brooks would mount a major black-and-white production with Rock Hudson, Sidney Poitier, Wendy Hiller and Dana Winter of Robert Ruark’s novel Something of Value, which dealt with similar material. So did 1956’s Beyond Mombasa (Cornel Wilde, Donna Reed).
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