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New on Disc: World Series 1985 and 'Crack in the World'

26 Jul, 2010 By: Mike Clark

The Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 5

Warner, Thriller, $49.92 four-DVD set, NR.
Stars John Cassavetes, Dick Powell, Richard Kiley, Susan Hayward.
The easy standout pick here is the most eagerly awaited and overdue: director Phil Karlson’s trenchant 1955 The Phenix City Story, which deals with the much publicized (at the time) postwar corruption in Phenix City, AL — once the so-called “Sin City” just across the river from Columbus, Ga., and Fort Benning. The set also includes Dial 1119 (1950), Cornered (1945), Desperate (1947), Armored Car Robbery (1950), Crime in the Streets (1956), Deadline at Dawn (1946) and the underachieving Backfire (1950).
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Kansas City Royals: 1985 World Series Collector’s Edition

Street 7/27
A&E, Sports, $69.95 seven-DVD set, NR.
Chronicling what was called the “I-70 Series” due to the atypically close proximity of the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals in Missouri, here’s a set that transcends specific fandom of one team or another due to the drama that took place on the field, punctuated by Don Denkinger’s blown call that allowed the Royals to win Game 6, and a melee in the Royals’ Game 7 clincher that threatened to resemble one of the saloon brawls in John Ford’s Donovan’s Reef.
Extras: According to a couple interviews in the supplements, the Royals got riled when they went into St. Louis two games down and saw a banner prematurely congratulating their opponents as “World Series Champions.” The extras also include the Royals’ post-game locker-room celebration, and it’s good to see George Brett not just spraying teammates with champagne — but also swigging the stuff, then spitting it out, on national television.=
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Crack in the World

Street 7/27
Olive, Sci-Fi, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Dana Andrews, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore, Alexander Knox.
The kind of movies for which 1960s drive-ins were invented, this dramatically lukewarm but thematically scorching sci-fi melodrama is of interest for its environmental topicality and for its status as one of the “launch” titles in a welcome new line of Paramount oldies now being distributed by Olive Films. The peril is encroaching heat from the Earth’s core — which is intended to solve the world’s energy needs but is instead engendering earthquakes and causing animal populations to run for the hills, or at least cooler temperatures. The workmanlike direction is by Andrew Marton, who is probably best known for co-directing 1950’s King Solomon’s Mines and the only bad movie Grace Kelly ever made (Green Fire) — plus the American exterior episodes in The Longest Day and the famous chariot race for William Wyler’s Ben-Hur.
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College, Inc. (Frontline)

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD.
The $400 billion for-profit higher-education system leaves many graduates saddled with massive student loan debt. “Frontline” continues to do what it does so well: tell a story that other documentaries are not inclined to cover, even though the subject is one that effects huge numbers and probably someone on your block. Like most muckraking documentaries, this one deals with “excesses” — which means the volume of them is either several instances of simple bad apple-dom or the kind of numbers you get when an entire system whose potential for abuse is endemic.
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Prodigal Sons

First Run, Documentary, DVD $24.95, NR.
There’s a cartoon from the 1970s that I used to love from, if memory serves, The New Yorker — though if not, it had a decidedly New Yorker tone. The set-up is a domestic scene that pictures something like a frumpy mom in pin-curlers, one son who’s either gay or a cross-dresser and another on his way out the door dressed for what in the ’50s would have been rumble. In the center of the frame is dad in his chair, reading Ozzie Nelson’s autobiography.

I was thinking about this — and how life can play tricks on all kinds of parental plans and assumptions — while watching this deservedly praised documentary about the surprises that were in store for a Helena, MT, physician and the woman from Texas who married him. Older son Marc (adopted) eventually suffered a severe frontal lobe injury as a young adult and became subject to violent outbursts that went against the grain of his everyday demeanor. Next in line came this film’s transgendered director Kimberly Reed — who turns out to be a role model for displaying grace under stress — who is now a woman but was once a male quarterback for the high-school football team.

Marc and Kim (who was in the same high-school class because Marc got held back in pre-school) have never truly gotten along, due in part to her onetime local star status. Now, after a long layoff, and as Kim pays a visit with her New York female companion as the story begins, they are trying.

Just by itself, this warm-up would make an interesting movie. Here’s married Marc the tinderbox primed to explode unexpectedly at any time, as he does late in the movie when he commits violence against a younger brother whose gayness he sometimes won’t accept (so you can imagine the issues he has with Kim). And Kim is going through what many transgendered individuals do, which is to go into such complete denial of one’s former existence that even seeing old snapshots can conjure up pain. And Marc is a guy with a fondness for old snapshots.

But there’s an added twist, which, unlike the rest of the story, made news a few years back. Marc, who has always been searching for his own identity in a sibling rivalry, finds one in spades when he discovers that the biological mother he never even saw until she was in a casket at her funeral was Rebecca Welles, daughter of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. And the physical resemblance between Marc and his grandfather is unmistakable.

Reed deserves a lot of credit for juggling what could have been some dangling elements, which include a family visit to Croatia at the request of Oja Kadar — Welles’ companion for the last two decades of his life and a memorable presence in 1973’s F for Fake, the last film he directed. Marc and the others swim outside her home in what looks as if it could be anyone’s ideal honeymoon spot, and given the almost folkloric financial woes that plagued Welles for almost his entire career, it’s good to see Kadar apparently living large. More power to her.

Assisting Kim in her own journey are a group of old Helena friends who come off as being non-judgmentally supportive — though when the story opens, she’s on her way a 20th high school class reunion after a long absence and isn’t certain how she’ll be received. Her mother, too, seems to be constituted of uncommonly sound bedrock, and the older woman’s reflections are featured on a DVD bonus section that deals with this film’s festival showings and a special film-related church weekend back in Helena. The story ends, though, with Marc’s plight at an impasse, and just about anyone will exit this haunting documentary wondering about his ultimate outcome.

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