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New on Disc: 'The Times of Harvey Milk,' 'Anything Goes' and more …

28 Mar, 2011 By: Mike Clark

The Times of Harvey Milk

Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
There’s never been any doubt in my day-by-day, everyday mind that Rob Epstein’s Oscar-winning documentary is one of the great films of the ‘80s. So it comes as something of a surprise on Criterion’s extras-jammed release to hear it asserted that the timing turned out to be just right in 2008 for the release of director Gus Van Sant’s Milk because so many had forgotten about Epstein’s earlier achievement.
Extras: Close to the top of many typically fine Criterion bonuses here is an interview with Jon Else, a teacher of documentary filmmaking at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism who is very forceful and direct in opining why Times is such a stellar achievement, starting with how immediately its maker gets us into the story. One of the other Criterion extras talks some about the filming of Milk, an endeavor with which Epstein elected to cooperate. For his part, Van Sant (who appears on camera here, as does featured performer James Franco) gave acting roles to some of the surviving interviewees from the documentary.
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Anything Goes

Street 3/29
eOne, Musical, $29.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman, Bert Lahr, Sheree North.
The “Colgate Comedy Hour” presentation of Cole Porter’s perennial had to be trimmed to a buzz-cut degree to fit its TV time slot. And this despite the fact that Porter standards not featured in the stage version got added here. So what we have in this most welcome release isn’t an Anything Goes for purists, but it ought to delight just about any non-grouch you know who has a taste for classic musicals. This “Colgate” show’s standout is the Merman-Sinatra duet of “You’re the Top” at almost exactly the midway point — one of the most infectious sequences in all of ‘50s TV.
Extras: Within the limitations of kinescopes, the copy utilized for this authorized “Archive of American Television” release is superb — as good a kinescope as I’ve ever seen (the commercials are missing). And it ought to be: It’s taken from Merman’s personal 16mm copy, an acquisition described with great charm by Stephen Cole, who provides super liner notes about the show’s history (but especially this rendering).
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Wild Rovers

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $19.95 DVD, ‘PG.’
Stars William Holden, Ryan O’Neal, Karl Malden, Tom Skerritt.
Director Blake Edwards’ troubled Western was envisioned as a three-hour roadshow exhibition, so it’s possible that even this welcome director’s cut (which first surfaced during the laserdisc era and isn’t much improved upon in this somewhat muddy on-demand release) doesn’t have everything that once existed. William Holden’s performance remains authentic and makes this movie (in terms of personal achievement) one of the high points of his later career.
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The Black Sleep

Available via Amazon.com’s CreateSpace
MGM, Horror, $19.98 DVD, NR.
Stars Basil Rathbone, Akim Tamiroff, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi.
This standout curiosity from MGM/Fox’s new on-demand lineup has a cast of the ages and some irresistible elements. For one thing, it deals with something close to grave robbery perpetrated by a megalomaniacal surgeon (Basil Rathbone) —who’s desperate to experiment on real human beings in his efforts to bring a young wife out of a tumor-induced coma. It’s also the final film Bela Lugosi, as a mute servant, knew he would appear in, since he never knew footage taken a few days before his death would end up in Ed Wood’s notorious Plan 9 From Outer Space.
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About the Author: Mike Clark

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