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New on Disc: 'Project Nim' and more …

6 Feb, 2012 By: Mike Clark

Project Nim

Street 2/7/12
Lionsgate, Documentary, B.O. $0.4 million, $19.98 DVD, ‘PG-13’ for some strong language, drug content, thematic elements and disturbing images.
James Marsh’s new documentary makes it clear that Nim Chimpsky didn’t relish his time in the limelight. In the case of this chimpanzee, screen appearances were restricted to scientifically mandated home movies, which provide a lot of rich source material for Marsh in his follow-up to 2008’s Oscar-winning Man on Wire, which this also-amazing story nearly equals.

It was the 1970s, which meant that when Columbia Prof. Herbert Terrace hatched a brainstorm to raise a young chimp in a human environment to see if the creature could end up communicating in sign language, at least one of the participants (beyond, it sometimes appears, Terrace himself) would turn out to be a flake. The biggest, at least from Nim’s presentation, was probably the wife of a wealthy poet who offered her family’s Manhattan brownstone as a kind of chimp flophouse. Nim occasionally was given alcohol and even a reefer, and he enjoyed knocking the poet’s books of the shelf in an offbeat form of domestic violence. Much later, with the now much-larger Nim treated to intended peace that didn’t quite pan out on writer Cleveland Amory’s ranch for abused animals, his “attitude” escalated. This is when he picked up a pet dog that had proven to be a personal irritant and smashed it to death against a wall. The story has several more byways, and while it isn’t a black-and-white harangue against using animals for research, it likely will be a subject of conversation at PETA mixers and fundraisers because this is one melancholy story.
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The Jazz Singer

Street 2/7/12
Inception, Drama, $14.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Jerry Lewis, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Eduard Franz, Del Moore.
For all its importance as the technological and marketing innovator that put talking pictures into popularity more than any other single movie, Al Jolson’s corn repository The Jazz Singer wasn’t that far away from being an instant museum piece when it opened in 1927. But let’s not forget this Jerry Lewis NBC-TV version intended as homage to Jer’s childhood idol Jolson — one that’s been too obscure in recent years to be notorious, though it certainly was at the time when I watched it live. We can and should view this print from the Lewis archives as the archeological find it is.
Extras: The nicest feature of this release is its inclusion of not just a kinescope of the black-and-white version that actually aired but (as a bonus) one of the earliest color videotape versions that currently exists of a TV show.
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Tall Story

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Anthony Perkins, Jane Fonda, Marc Connelly, Bob Wright, Ray Walston, Tom Laughlin, Anne Jackson, Murray Hamilton.
If you recently saw 74-year-old Jane Fonda looking so smashing on the Golden Globes, it’s possible that you can project how she affected, at age 22, young boys who were entering puberty. The object of Fonda’s affection here is a college hoops star played by Anthony Perkins, who soon after would appear in Psycho. Between the sports and sex angles, I’ve always had some mild affection for what undeniably is romantic piffle, a modest black-and-white comedy running less than 90 minutes.
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About the Author: Mike Clark

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