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New on Disc: 'A Streetcar Named Desire' Blu-ray and more …

16 Apr, 2012 By: Mike Clark

A Streetcar Named Desire (Blu-ray)

Warner, Drama, $34.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden.
The Tennessee Williams-Elia Kazan screen adaptation of their preceding Streetcar stage success still seems contemporary, or at least timeless. Streetcar was filmed predominantly on two sets with predominantly low-key lighting. This may be why the new Warner Blu-ray doesn’t obviously jump out as a notable DVD-to-BD upgrade the same way as Fort Apache or Citizen Kane did. In addition to chronicling the censorship problems the screen version had to endure both before and even after production, this upgrade-from-DVD naturally includes the three-minutes plus of sexually unacceptable footage (in Legion of Decency terms) that was removed before the film could be released — though restored in the ’90s after it was discovered in some unmarked cans.
Extras: The Blu-ray carries over the extras from 2006’s deluxe two-DVD set, which covered the bases even down to containing Marlon Brando’s screen test (which comes from something other than the play) and Richard Schickel’s feature-length director interview, Elia Kazan: A Director’s Journey, which goes a long way toward making us see why Kazan was the greatest actors’ director ever.
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Demetrius and the Gladiators (Blu-ray)

Available at ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Victor Mature, Susan Hayward, Michael Rennie, Ernest Borgnine.
According to Julie Kirgo’s liner notes, Fox chief Darryl Zanuck had this follow-up in the works while The Robe was in production — which goes a long way to explain how the first movie could come out in September of one year with the sequel showing up by the following June. The Robe’s title red apparel, which Christ had worn at Calvary, is again a key plot point — making emperor Caligula rabid to obtain it in his quest for personal immortality. Some of what we get is lumbering in that early Scope religious-pic kind of way, but the cast is full of fun faces, led by Victor Mature returning as Demetrius, who is sent to the arena after being arrested for defending the robe. For a Twilight Time release, this version is somewhat of a disappointment — though by default, it still is the best one I’ve seen since the ‘50s. Visually, the source material here isn’t great — and this is true even if you don’t compare it to Fox’s handsome Blu-ray of The Robe (which underwent a costly studio restoration).
Extras: The Blu-ray includes an isolated Franz Waxman score track.
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The Sky’s the Limit

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $17.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Fred Astaire, Joan Leslie, Robert Benchley, Robert Ryan.
Fred Astaire, the most dapper of all screen history’s dancers, is cast as a nationally famous bomber pilot first seen shooting down Japanese planes in World War II. The bulk of the picture has to do with furloughed Fred striving to keep his true identity away from a pert photographer he is trying to woo without any fuss. This is a minor affair with compensations — in this case, a cute leading lady (Joan Leslie) and the surprise appearance of two introduced pop tune standards by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer from what is otherwise not a particularly voluminous score. Most movies could take their place in history for having simply introduced “My Shining Hour,” but near the end, Astaire performs a solo number of what turned out to become the greatest saloon song of all time: “One for My Baby.”
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About the Author: Mike Clark

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