New on Disc: 'Laura' and more …4 Mar, 2013 By: Mike Clark
Fox, Drama, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price.
1944. For a movie to advance past the whodunit threshold to become something or even a lot more, it needs additional components (beyond even Gene Tierney, though this is possibly arguable) to keep enthusiasts tuning in again over the years. For a durable time capsule that even Otto Preminger detractors concede was prime of its type, Laura offers supreme casting that goes beyond its luminous lead; Oscar-winning cinematography by Joseph LaShelle; and, of course, composer David Raksin’s magnificent title tune. Almost all of the major 20th Century Fox noirs — from Nightmare Alley to Road House to Preminger’s own Tierney-Dana Andrews reunion picture Where the Sidewalk Ends — are movies a lot of savvy cineastes would savor seeing on Blu-ray, but Laura is special. Photographically, it’s lavish in its interiors yet hard-boiled when it has to be. Plot-wise, it turns into a different movie at the halfway point with a twist that really does rattle you when you see it for the first time. The cast of characters is full of sick puppies almost straight down the line — starting with a career-enhancing role for Clifton Webb that turned him into an equally major and improbable star for the next 15 years. It occurred to me while watching it that Tierney was the centerpiece of two movies that got the cinematography Oscar in successive years: Laura in black-and-white and Leave Her to Heaven (coming to Blu-ray May 14) in Technicolor. That tells you just about everything you need to know about what a photographic subject she was.
Extras: Handsomely upgrading the previous DVD edition, the Blu-ray carries over two commentaries, A&E Biography segments on both Tierney and co-star Vincent Price, and further adds a new retrospective featurette on why the film endures. The Tierney bio, which snared the participation of first husband Oleg Cassini, is predictably powerful, given the personal tragedies that afflicted the actress and shortened her career.
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Tip on a Dead Jockey
Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $18.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Taylor, Dorothy Malone, Gia Scala, Jack Lord.
1957. One of the last assignments to fulfill Robert Taylor’s MGM contract was this title-has-little-to-do-with-it take on an Irwin Shaw story — the Richard Thorpe-directed movie that did not feature a pop titan as its lead. That’s right: Thorpe sandwiched this one in between Dean Martin’s notorious boo-boo Ten Thousand Bedrooms and that iconographic Elvis classic Jailhouse Rock. Segueing from this mostly Spain-based smuggling drama to Jailhouse Rock was a typical challenge facing a mediocre house director at MGM — though parts of Jockey still stay with me for boasting CinemaScope group shots that include two femme stunners who did a lot for me at a time when my fifth-grade eyes were anticipating adolescence: Dorothy Malone and Gia Scala. Malone was heavily into her blonde period and had just won the supporting Oscar for Written on the Wind, which the Jockey coming attraction (included on this manufactured-on-demand release) naturally touts.
Like other serviceable male heartthrobs, the slightly underrated Taylor got more interesting on screen after he accrued a few lines on his face. Here, he’s playing a pilot who has lost his nerve and is hiding out from life — and a wife. Malone is the latter, unable to secure a divorce, though in this case, the characters get along and even share a piano duet together in a scene of modest charm. Also around are Jack Lord and Marcel Dalio, the latter in a fairly large featured role in a career that includes both Grand Illusion and Donovan’s Reef.
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