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New on Disc: 'White Christmas' and more …

15 Nov, 2010 By: Mike Clark

White Christmas (Blu-ray)

Paramount, Musical, $26.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen.
As a non-anamorphic alternative to such wider-screen rivals as CinemaScope, Cinerama and the coming TODD-AO, films shot in VistaVision ran through the camera horizontally instead of vertically, and for depth of field and color vibrancy I think it is still the best photographic process ever. Hollywood phased out three-strip Technicolor in the summer of 1955, and VistaVision didn’t launch until late ’54. Thus, the number of films that can boast both are very few, and this is one of them. Just one look at the “Mandy” number with its dramatic reds and blacks should answer any questions about how super this Blu-ray looks.
Extras: The transfer and fairly comprehensive backgrounder extras replicate what were on last year’s standard DVD.
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Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

Kino Lorber, Documentary, B.O. $0.03 million, $29.95 DVD, NR.
Several talkin’ heads here make reference to a still-underrated singer/songwriter’s intolerance of fools and his ability to be an occasional S.O.B. John Scheinfeld’s lovely documentary oozes major affection from everyone interviewed, all of whom (including record producer Richard Perry; ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz; songwriter Jimmy Webb, to name just three) come off as people you might want to have as next-door neighbors. Scheinfeld previously did The U.S. vs. John Lennon, the documentary that proved that the former Beatle and the Nixon Administration did not have instant karma.
Extras: Talkin’ runs just less than two hours but moves at a motor-mouthed pace, with an added 90 minutes of supplementary materials (Nilsson’s widow and now grown children are outstanding) that engage as much as the main body.
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Douglas Sirk: Filmmaker Collection

Available at TCM.com
Universal, Drama, $49.99 four-DVD set, Individual films $24.99 each, NR.
Stars Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Rush.
You didn’t get a whole lot of respect from 1950s tastemakers for directing so-called “women’s pictures,” melodramas or Westerns, which means that Hamburg-born (of Danish parentage) Douglas Sirk had to laugh all the way to the bank during his now revered heyday during that decade at Universal-International. But the film he regarded as his best — 1957’s The Tarnished Angels, which is the standout of a long-savored set Turner Classic Movies is offering as an exclusive — was a box office failure. The set also includes 1951’s Thunder on the Hill, 1954’s Taza, Son of Cochise and 1955’s Captain Lightfoot.
Extras: You expect TCM Robert Osborne’s introductions to be first-rate here — and they are. But I was taken also by the extra care given to the written histories of each film, which are also in the on-screen bonus section. Every movie of merit or even interest should be blessed with this kind of bang-up treatment.
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Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold

Available at WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Action, $19.95 DVD, ‘R.’
Stars Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens, Tanny, Norman Fell.
Though it’s not exactly high scholarship whichever side of the debate you’re on, I’m of the school that prefers this sequel to 1973’s Cleopatra Jones — both of which provided a less buxom alternative to the Blaxploitation era’s Pam Grier action pics. This time, Stella Stevens (in lieu of the first film’s Shelly Winters) plays the obligatory lesbian nemesis. Despite the DVD-R stigma of being an “on-demand” release, Casino looks very, very good in its Panavision aspect ratio. Cinematographer Alan Hume later graduated to a couple James Bond pictures and (for a real resumé gooser) Return of the Jedi — a movie in which lipstick lesbians were few and far between.
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