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Mike Clark has been writing about film for more than 20 years, starting with a weekly column in USA Today in 1985. He also served as program planner and director of the American Film Institute Theater.

Mike's Picks
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13 Aug, 2012

New on Disc: 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines' and more …

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Terry-Thomas.
Director-co-writer Ken Annakin’s real-life love for aviation permeates every frame of Machines, and the movie is beautiful to look at. Though not the ultimate in star power, Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles and James Fox are easy to take as the three points of a love triangle.
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Rio Grande

Olive, Western, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen, Ben Johnson.
Overall, Rio Grande is the loosey-goosiest of director John Ford’s famed Cavalry trilogy, which began with Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.  Olive’s is a solid Blu-ray job, threading the needle between too much grain and not enough.
Extras: The Leonard Maltin making-of featurette carries over from the old DVD version.
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There’s No Business Like Show Business (Blu-ray)

Fox, Musical, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Marilyn Monroe, Dan Dailey.
Marilyn Monroe is kind of an appendage here to a showbiz family that manages to keep performing with humongous production budgets even after vaudeville dies. Yet her “Heat Wave” number was such a conversation piece at the time that you can see why Fox Entertainment has also included Business on its new $99.98 Forever Marilyn Blu-ray box of seven Monroe features.
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30 Jul, 2012

New on Disc: 'Body and Soul' and more …

Body and Soul

Street 7/31
Olive, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Garfield, Lilli Palmer, Hazel Brookes, William Conrad, Anne Revere, Canada Lee.
The new Blu-ray of Hollywood’s first truly grown-up boxing movie is so pristine that the images suggest moving versions of what we might see in a glossy coffee table book devoted to the great cinematographers.
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Singin’ in the Rain: 60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition

Warner, Musical, $14.96 two-DVD set, $19.98 Blu-ray, $84.99 BD/DVD boxed set, NR.
Stars Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen.
Warner Home Entertainment has given this MGM release the full deluxe treatment, with sterling sound recording (taking the film’s 60 years into consideration) and a visual presentation that isn’t many notches down from the best vintage Technicolor treatments we’ve seen on Blu-ray. 
Extras: Even the bargain $20 Blu-ray includes a new 50-minute tribute documentary. The combo collector’s edition offers a few unique features: a 48-page booklet, miniaturized lobby art from the day and an umbrella.
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The Last Days of Disco (Blu-ray)

Criterion, Comedy, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for some elements involving sexuality and drugs.
Stars Chloe Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale.
A clean and colorful Blu-ray upgrade of what I now think is one of the most engaging movies of its year, with commentary and extras carried over from the DVD.
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23 Jul, 2012

New on Disc: 'High Noon' and more …

High Noon

Olive, Western, #19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado.
Hollywood made a gazillion Westerns of all stripes in the 1950s, but if we’re talking about 1.33 black-and-white, I suspect that this landmark from producer Stanley Kramer, writer Carl Foreman and director Fred Zinnemann was the movie most responsible for the fact that by 1959, something like 35% of network TV programming was devoted to black-and-white Westerns. Just about every generation since the film’s release has been able to grow up with High Noon: It was one of the few really big-name movies of the ‘50s released to television before the decade was even completed. Several of Noon’s characters — particularly the Quaker wife played by Grace Kelly, the morally shaky deputy played by Lloyd Bridges and the community girl friend played by Katy Jurado — are very well drawn in limited screen time. This was a big, big deal at the time because the film had won four Oscars: for Gary Cooper — and also for Elmo Williams’ editing, Dimitri Tiomkin’s world-famous score and the title tune (“Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling”).
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Cover Girl

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Eve Arden.
Cover Girl is to Rita Hayworth in Technicolor what Gilda is to the black-and-white dimension of her drop-you-dead screen persona, in that these are the movies even the semi-educated automatically think of when the subject of Golden Age Columbia’s biggest star comes to mind. Of course, Gilda doesn’t have a Jerome Kern-Ira Gershwin score that produced a standard — “Long Ago and Far Away.” Unlike some musicals of the era (though not to put too fine a point on this) the Virginia Van Upp screenplay here has a few chops. In my experience, the movie’s dark elements have generally gone underreported, though it features a wealthy New York editor who’s been lovesick for 40 years (the ever-malleable Otto Kruger); a head case of a male protagonist (Gene Kelly); and a singing/dancing heroine named Rusty (Hayworth) who, when she finally makes it to Broadway, starts drinking and shedding weight due to personal stress. The production numbers here are good, and a couple of them are even better than that, but the melancholy subtext enables it to get a few more miles to the gallon in terms of lingering effect. This is definitely one of the best musicals in the 1940-60 span not made by MGM. Maybe the best.
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For the First Time

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $17.95 DVD-R, NR.
Stars Mario Lanza, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Johanna von Koczian.
Had Mario Lanza not died of a heart attack at 38 two months after the release of what then became his swan song, I wouldn’t be giving it space here. But he did, and the nature of this very influential tenor’s premature death informs the picture. Lanza looks mighty puffy here, with makeup working overtime to soothe his appearance — though, on the other hand, he is in very good voice, which is why his fans rate this picture near the top of his admittedly small big-screen pool. Lanza’s “Tonio Costa” character meets a young deaf woman (Johanna von Koczian) who eventually has one of those operations termed as experimental and unlikely to work – though in movies like this, they always do. Along for the ride is Zsa Zsa Gabor as a contessa who wears a lot of jewels she’s probably obtained in barter for her own treasures.
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16 Jul, 2012

New on Disc: 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' and more …

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Street 7/17/12
Olive, Sci-Fi, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones.
It must seem to a lot of people that this first screen adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel was a word-of-mouth classic from the get-go, but here’s a movie whose household-name status (“pod people” terminology and all that) was a result of television showings that commenced within four or five years after the film’s relatively unheralded theatrical engagements. It was and is a grabber, no matter how many times one takes the plunge — and Olive’s frill-less but visually sturdy Blu-ray has just given me perhaps my 10th or 12th viewing but the first in many years. For its sustained pleasures, we can thank the novel premise; the allegorical subtext (anti-Communist or anti-Red Scare; who knows for sure?); Don Siegel’s kinetic and even powerful direction (man, does he ever know when to go for a close-up, especially in the great greenhouse sequence); Carmen Dragon’s insistent score (which reminds me of The Night of the Hunter’s); a better-than-expected cast (lead Kevin McCarthy’s Oscar nomination five years earlier for the Fredric March screen version of Death of a Salesman had been no lie); and a Daniel Mainwaring script that lets adults act like adults. All in a pressure-packed 80 minutes.
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Flame Over India

VCI, Adventure, $14.99 DVD, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Lauren Bacall, Kenneth More, Herbert Lom, I.S. Johar.
Director J. Lee Thompson’s kid-centered rouser is among the screen’s better vintage renderings that cheer-lead the days when Britannia ruled and busted chops when dealing with “the usual” Hindu-Muslim mischief. It’s one of those movies that everyone who’s seen it seems to like. The movie is hardly modest, clocking in at about 130 minutes in its original British cut (which this is) when it was released as North West Frontier the year before Fox picked it up. Lauren Bacall (not your everyday action hero) is top-billed, though a by-necessity sweaty Kenneth More delivers one of his typically charming performances as a Brit captain who, happily, is never forthcoming with the kind of Kipling-bred racial slurs we sometimes get in this kind of picture. Geoffrey Unsworth, later of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Cabaret, was the cinematographer, so we’re not talking about anyone’s ‘B’-team. He shot it in Eastman Color (or “Colour”), which has built-in problems, so the result is more like what you’d call a “pro job” than a rendering that knocks off not just your socks but feet.
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A Southern Yankee

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $17.95 DVD-R, NR.
Stars Red Skelton, Brian Donlevy, Arlene Dahl.
This agreeable Civil War farce finds Red Skelton as a St. Louis bellhop mistaken to be a Confederate spy. Almost inevitably, the situation gets Skelton involved with a beautiful Southern spy played by Arlene Dahl. There is almost no one I know who doesn’t rate Yankee as one of Skelton’s best vehicles, a movie where star persona, subject matter and co-stars blend quite harmoniously during 90 minutes that don’t wear out their welcome. Some of the gags are said to have been dreamed up by Buster Keaton, whose name appears nowhere in the credits, but there are a few sequences where one wouldn’t exactly be struck dead to hear specifically that Keaton had done them. One of my favorites is the one in which Skelton carries a two-sided flag down a path in the middle of opposing armies. Then the wind changes.
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9 Jul, 2012

New on Disc: 'The 39 Steps' and more …

The 39 Steps

Criterion, Thriller, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll.
This landmark is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most emblematic and purely entertaining movies — an on-the-lam drama that toyed delightfully with some of the director’s later trademarks. These include the falsely accused protagonist (Robert Donat); a demure blonde for all seasons (Madeleine Carroll); a wild-goose-chase galore — including the early employment of Hitchcock’s famed “McGuffin” (or red herring plot point); and leaps in who-really-cares logic (as in the way Donat traverses an amazing amount of Scottish geography in remarkable little time while ankle-ing it away from a London murder charge).
Extras: This Criterion upgrade, which adds a new essay by Scottish critic David Cairns that tipped me off to these geographical leaps, is a very clean rendering of a now-elderly release whose negative has had to have spent its life being run through the printing ringer. Also carried over here from the standard DVD are an audio essay by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane; a 1937 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation with Robert Montgomery and Ida Lupino; and a short documentary on British Hitchcock films. There are also original production design drawings, a pertinent excerpt from the famous 1962 Francois Truffaut Hitchcock interview and (a special treat) chunky excerpts from broadcaster Mike Scott’s hugely entertaining TV interview in 1966 (probably to promote Torn Curtain), by which time Hitchcock was starting to get used to belated artistic respect and even adulation.
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Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies

Cinema Libre, Documentary, $19.95 DVD.
Narrated by Michael York.
Perpetual groundbreaker Mary Pickford was the first industry-created star to get her name on a movie marquee, and (even though it came for one of her weakest performances) the second actress to win an Oscar and the first for a talkie: the almost congenitally creaky Coquette. The bountiful audio-track interviews of Pickford partly make up for this documentary’s “authorized” aura and rah-rah narration professionally read by Michael York that leans toward the “Here Was a Woman” school. But despite the fact that Pickford at one time actually entertained the unthinkable thought of buying all the rights to her old pictures so that she could destroy them, this portrait is jammed with so many illustrative clips because, in fact, she did have this trove available for Muse director Nicholas Eliopoulos.
Extras: Included is footage from a festival Q&A in which director Eliopoulos (being either disingenuous or a diplomat) claims he couldn’t find any first-hand accounts to legitimize including Pickford’s descent into alcoholism.
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The Journey

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $17.95 DVD-R, NR.
Stars Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner, Jason Robards Jr., E.G. Marshall.
This February 1959 politically tinged drama features Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner back together again only three years after The King and I. In this case, the dynamics are a little different: Kerr is a British “Lady Diana Ashmore” who is divorcing her mucky-muck husband to be with a Hungarian national (Jason Robards in his screen debut) disguised as a Brit trying to escape the 1956 political uprising by traveling to Vienna. Brynner is the occupying Soviet major who detains their bus and acts on his suspicions that something is fishy while also wondering whether to act on his attraction to Lady Diana.
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2 Jul, 2012

New on Disc: 'Night of the Grizzly' and more …

The Night of the Grizzly

Olive Films, Western, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘G.’
Stars Clint Walker, Martha Hyer, Jack Elam, Leo Gordon.
A visually vibrant view and more fun than expected (which by all but the most relaxed standards isn’t necessarily synonymous with “good”), the Techniscope outdoor drama has horses, rural general stores and hooched-up young hotheads doing their best to disrupt the local dance, which the grizzly, at least, has the upbringing not to interrupt. The creature does, however, start clawing up horses and other livestock after former lawman Clint and his clan (including the missus, played by Martha Hyer) inherit and move onto Wyoming property coveted by the town’s vindictive powerbroker (Keenan Wynn). The filmmaker entrusted to all this was Joseph Pevney, who at this point, in consecutive career years, had to direct Martin and Lewis in the second-most contentious shoot of their screen history (3 Ring Circus) and then Joan Crawford in Female on the Beach. So cut him a break, even though Grizzly is a movie less directed than patched.
Extras: The film is easy enough to take in — which is even more true of the nearly half-hour interview of Walker (who recently turned 85) that’s part of this release. A former lawman (in Las Vegas, no less), he still exudes an “I-don’t-know-how-the-hell-I-got-into-this-business-but-am-glad-I-did” manner that is most appealing.
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Star of Midnight

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Mystery, $17.95 DVD-R, NR.
Stars William Powell, Ginger Rogers, Paul Kelly.
Before MGM could even get its first Thin Man sequel into production, RKO borrowed lead William Powell to play another sleuth who liked to drink during the day. And so as not to pound the rip-off point home too much, the character here is not precisely a detective but a lawyer who enjoys dabbling with crimesolving. Nor is this guy married like the “Thin Man” series’ Nick Charles, but he does have a good-natured girlfriend (rich, too) around for aid and wisecracks. She’s played by Ginger Rogers — a performer, who like Powell, had a knack for making her co-stars look good. Working out of a cool ‘30s New York apartment where a male lounges around in a tux that he probably also wears to the deli, the two try to sleuth why the girlfriend of a Powell friend disappeared a year or so earlier in Chicago — and why they can’t even go see a New York play without having the lead actress (whose style is to wear a mask on stage) disappear as well during the performance. 
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Springtime in the Sierras

Film Chest, Western, $11.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Roy Rogers, Jane Frazee, Andy Devine.
Some spiffer-upper at the lab controls, working with a decent 16mm print, has come up with a credible rendering of Republic Pictures’ Trucolor — which means that what we’re seeing here is supposed to look like a blend of turquoise and various burnt shades of reds and brown (or close). This said, whenever the Springtime cast can momentarily bring itself to cool it on the constant singing for a citizenry that includes gravel-voiced Andy Devine (per usual, playing a character who has to be wondering what having sex, the fights aren’t bad).
Extras: Roy and Dale Evans used to sub a lot for Dinah Shore on her Sunday night NBC “Chevy Show,” and the April 2, 1961, Easter presentation — included here as an unexpected supplement — is much more fun than expected.
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25 Jun, 2012

New on Disc: 'The Grapes of Wrath' Blu-ray and more …

The Grapes of Wrath (Blu-ray)

Fox, Drama, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine.
When a movie photographed by Gregg Toland comes to Blu-ray, it is a big deal. The screen version of John Steinbeck’s landmark Depression novel rated a solid 2004 DVD, and this upgrade (which is what it is) is a full mix of movie, commentary, Fox studio chief Darryl Zanuck bio and one of those look-backs hosted by Tom Rothman on the Fox Movie Channel.
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The Color of Money (Blu-ray)

Disney, Drama, $20 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Helen Shaver, John Turturro.
Released a full quarter-century after The Hustler became one of the two or three seminal movies of 1961, Martin Scorsese’s follow-up look at Paul Newman’s Eddie Felson pool shark character occupies a relatively meager place in his directorial canon. The picture has a surprising number of detractors who ought to be grateful for how it kept Scorsese’s career going.
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The Space Children

Olive, Sci-Fi, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Michael Ray, Jackie Coogan.
Whatever else you want to say about a rare Blu-ray release that was previously a “Mystery Science Theater 3000” veteran as well, the photography combines with composer Van Cleave’s sparse scoring to constitute at least a dinky dose of “mood.” And the movie needs it because the dialogue is right out of an entry-level screenwriting course at Ed Wood Correspondence School.
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18 Jun, 2012

New on Disc: 'Hondo' on Blu-ray and more …

Hondo (Blu-ray)

Paramount, Western, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Lee Aaker, Ward Bond, James Arness.
This early Batjac production (which spent many, many late 20th-century years unavailable for viewing) remains in cement as one of the best John Wayne Westerns not directed by John Ford or Howard Hawks. Though come to think, an unbilled Ford did direct Hondo’s concluding battle scene when the credited filmmaker (John Farrow) left to start a previous commitment. Hondo (Wayne) is an 1870 Army rider who loses his horse and ventures onto the secluded ranch of a woman (Geraldine Page) and 6-year-old son (Lee Aaker) and becomes kind of a family protector in the mode of Alan Ladd in Shane, which had a theatrical release seven months earlier. Taken from a Louis L’Amour short story that got expanded into a novel around the same time as this movie, Hondo is the most famed and acclaimed 3D Western. As it turns out, this Wayne-Robert Fellows production played far more 3D engagements at the time than has been thought — and far more than indicated on an otherwise excellent commentary, carried over from the 2005 DVD to this Blu-ray, by Leonard Maltin, Western historian Frank Thompson and Aaker. The bigger surprise to me is that Hondo was filmed not in 1.33:1 but a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and this Blu-ray marks the first time it has been available for the home market in its correct width. Hondo’s screenwriter James Edward Grant (subject of a Blu-ray featurette here) was Wayne’s personal favorite and had even directed Angel and the Badman — still one of the most pleasing of all Wayne vehicles.
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The Wayward Bus

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joan Collins, Jayne Mansfield, Dan Dailey, Rick Jason.
With its shaky reviews offset by hefty sales, John Steinbeck’s 1947 novel upon which this movie is based was, at least on a commercial level, a natural for the screen — putting aside, of course, sexual content that guaranteed it would be watered down if filmed before Hollywood’s cretinish Production Code imploded. So this release is only “kind of adult” for its day, yet in retrospect, the brave and even gonzo casting choices here worked out surprisingly well, and Twilight Time’s most welcome release of a film that came and went (into oblivion) deserves a pat. With points, plugs and a chassis that have seen better days, the title vehicle isn’t even a regular bus but a tiny commuter job into which travelers transfer — after a far more elegant version of “Leave the Driving to Us” deposits them at the entrance of a Southern California hash-house.
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Flight Angels

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $17.95 DVD-R, NR.
Stars Virginia Bruce, Dennis Morgan, Ralph Bellamy, Jane Wyman.
Here’s a sometimes romp-ish curio that’s one of the few movies made at the time about early commercial aviation and, in particular, flight attendants. Remaining man-hungry even as they dis the entire male species with cutting wisecracks, these (corporately literal) American Airlines women-in-uniform occasionally enliven the Chicago stewardess’s lounge with roll-on-the-floor catfights that are all but out of the salon rowdiness in Destry Rides Again. And if 1970’s Airport is one of the rare movies to cast a baritone (Dean Martin) as a pilot, here’s one where a tenor (Dennis Morgan) gets the call.
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11 Jun, 2012

New on Disc: 'The Big Trail' Blu-ray and more …

The Big Trail (Blu-ray)

Available exclusively at Walmart
Fox, Western, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill, Tyrone Power.
It took a while before critics, historians and other future revisionists re-looked at this Oregon Trail epic and saw that it is, in fact, among the most impressive of all early talkies. In fact, the movie probably has no peers when it comes to approximating the feeling of what wagon train travel must have been really like at the time — if, that is, you make sure to see the almost impossibly panoramic “Grandeur” version of Trail that was restored in the 1980s from a surviving 65mm negative and reproduced onto a 35mm fine grain master. Like Stagecoach, this is a revenge saga, at least in so far as John Wayne’s character is concerned. Cast as a well-liked trapper, the young Wayne (22 here, if you can imagine it) is bent on getting the guys who killed his best friend — and by convenient coincidence, they all end up as part of the wagon train’s procession.
Extras: Critic Richard Schickel’s commentary and a slew of informative featurettes on Wayne, director Raoul Walsh, the Grandeur filmmaking process and the film’s restoration have been transferred from the old two-disc DVD to this combo Blu-ray/DVD release. As one of the interviewed historians notes, there are scenes here that you just don’t see in any other Western — including the showstopper where settlers (complete with their own pulley system) lower not just cabinets or dressers but livestock down a treacherous cliff.
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Summer With Monika

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Harriet Andersson, Lars Ekborg.
Though time has been kind to a lot of early works from Ingmar Bergman, here’s a case — judging from a brief interview excerpt of the writer-director included as part of this dependably sterling Criterion release — where the filmmaker concurred that what materialized from a secluded island shoot still pleased him more than 40 years later. Even in its own day, however, Monika upped Bergman’s standing, if perhaps not to the degree of subsequent triumphs that kept shooting him to new 1950s plateaus. Harriet Andersson offers a dead-on portrayal in Monika of what some would call a free spirit — though both her character and that of her equally young lover (Lars Ekborg as Harry) are mired in Stockholm working-class living conditions that anyone would be crazed to flee.
Extras: Also included are a long informative essay by film scholar Laura Hubner; a Bergman publicity or promotional piece from ’53; a 1958 review by Jean-Luc Godard; and a delightful 24-minute interview of Andersson by the formidable Peter Cowie — conducted earlier this year and showing the actress to be (at 80) sharp and still remarkably attractive. And completely unexpected is the 30-minute inclusion of Bergman on-the-set home movies of his acting stock company over many productions.
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The Lawless

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Macdonald Carey, Gail Russell.
Welcome to another familiar story hook about a white guy of community standing coming to the rescue of an oppressed minority — in this case, a Hispanic migrant worker speciously accused of sundry offenses, including the assault of a young, Caucasian California woman. This was director Joseph Losey’s second of five Hollywood features before fleeing to England in permanent blacklist exile.
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4 Jun, 2012

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

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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