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New on Disc: Frank Sinatra Concerts, Elia Kazan and more …

20 Dec, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Frank Sinatra: Concert for the Americas

Shout! Factory/Vivendi, Music, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Recorded at the Altos de Chavón Amphitheater in La Romana, Dominican Republic, Americas represents a DVD premiere (in this country at least) — though Shout! Factory also included it in its seven-disc Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection, which came out Nov. 2 for a $79.95 list price. Except for one relative musical stiff (“Searching”) he wastes time on just after 64-year-old drummer Buddy Rich pounds and sweats up a storm during Sinatra’s intermission, Americas’ 18-tune playlist is all but exclusively made up of familiar benchmarks from the singer’s relatively later Capitol and Reprise eras. This said, he does perform 1945’s Columbia-era “The House I Live In,” a warmly patriotic tune from an eponymous short subject that won him a special Academy Award at the time. Even against a lot of contenders, Americas has to be counted as a high point in the concert box set, which includes several TV specials previously released by Warner and material also fresh to DVD. Another personal favorite is 1973’s Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back, which represented Sinatra’s so-called showbiz comeback after a hiatus in recording.
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The Elia Kazan Collection

Fox, Drama, $199.98 18-DVD set, NR.
Stars Marlon Brando, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Lee Remick.
Its 16 titles include five DVD premieres plus a new documentary from a filmmaker of equal stature. The 10 titles released before include Boomerang!; the badly dated Gentleman’s Agreement and Pinky; the crisp on-location New Orleans melodrama Panic in the Streets; the revolutionary screen acting showcase A Streetcar Named Desire; the even more revolutionary On the Waterfront and East of Eden; the ticklishly lascivious Baby Doll; the prescient A Face in the Crowd; and Splendor in the Grass (easily the most durable and moving of all high-school sex sagas). Of the premieres, one is a cluttered mess (Man on a Tightrope), one is quite good (Viva Zapata!) and three are splendid (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wild River and America, America). Just on the level of this set’s crop of talent, Elia Kazan was the greatest director of actors ever.
Extras: Martin Scorsese’s recent A Letter to Elia (co-filmed with Kent Jones and previously run as an “American Masters” entry on PBS) is obviously one of this boxed-treasure-with-booklet’s selling points — a 60-minute documentary that more than one observer thought was Scorsese’s most personal work in years. Though I’m moved to see it give A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Wild River the major love that is only their due, Letter’s hour-long limitations force it to ignore other titles such as Viva Zapata! and Baby Doll. Mostly it’s about Scorsese’s formative obsession with Waterfront and especially East of Eden.
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The Outfit

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, ‘PG.’
Stars Robert Duvall, Joe Don Baker, Karen Black, Robert Ryan.
Adapting a Donald E. Westlake novel six years after Westlake’s The Hunter had given MGM 1.5 of its finest hours of the 1960s with its screen version (Point Blank), writer-director John Flynn fashioned a very mean movie — can this really be a ‘PG’ film? — in which someone gets shot in the hand and another is threatened with even worse (try one toe at a time). The premise operates on a rude surprise: that the Midwest bank you and your brother knocked off was the personal play-pretty of the local mob. Stick-up perpetrator Robert Duvall, just out of the cooler, is in a foul mood because “the boys” have just exacted revenge on his brother, gunning him down in the backyard. In short order, he recruits Joe Don Baker from a roadside eatery to be his aide; bloodies-up a high-stakes poker game that includes the perennially watchable character actor Timothy Carey (he of the wounded hand); and, in what is probably the movie’s best scene, has one whale of a time at a farmhouse (killer dog included) trying to get a good deal on a car that won’t be linked to him. The result is no world-beater, but it never tries to be more than it is, and the casting hits keep coming.
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