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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

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Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Ellery Queen

Although the Ellery Queen character is well known, the film series associated with it is not. The character came about as a consequence of a detective novel written by cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee in 1928. It was entitled "The Roman Hat Mystery". They employed the pseudonym Ellery Queen for both the author of their book and its principal character who was a mystery novelist son of a police inspector in New York. Republic produced two Ellery Queen films in the mid-1930s, but the character then lay dormant film-wise until Columbia, ever on the lookout for ideas for cheap detective programmers, began a seven-picture Ellery Queen series which lasted until 1942. In the two Republic films, neither Donald Cook nor Eddie Quillan who tried to play Ellery were quite right as they lacked the ability to provide the air of intelligence and vitality the part provided. Columbia had only slightly more success using Ralph Bellamy in the role, and he appeared in only four films before being replaced by the less dynamic William Gargan. Margaret Lindsay (as Ellery's secretary), Charley Grapewin (as Ellery's father, Inspector Queen), and James Burke (as the bumbling Sergeant Velie) had recurring roles in all seven Columbia films. None are available on DVD. Artisan presumably holds the Republic rights, although the titles may be in the public domain. Columbia presumably retains its own films' rights.

The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935, Republic)
The Mandarin Mystery (1936, Republic)
Ellery Queen, Master Detective (1940, Columbia)
Ellery Queen's Penthouse Mystery (1941, Columbia)
Ellery Queen and the Perfect Crime (1941, Columbia)
Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941, Columbia)
Close Call for Ellery Queen (1942, Columbia)
Desperate Chance for Ellery Queen (1942, Columbia)
Enemy Agents Meet Ellery Queen (1942, Columbia)


The Falcon

Michael Arlen's debonair sleuth, the Falcon, was the basis for a very entertaining series of 13 films made by RKO in the early-to-mid 1940s. George Sanders fit the role perfectly and he starred in the first four films before giving way to his real-life brother Tom Conway who took over for the remainder of the RKOs. After a two-year hiatus, the character returned in three final films released by the independent Film Craft. John Calvert played the Falcon in each of those minor entries. In the RKO films, the Falcon character was supported by the usual close friends (played by the likes of Allen Jenkins, Ed Brophy, and Edward Gargan) and plodding police inspector (James Gleason or Cliff Clark). None of the films are available on DVD. The rights to the RKO films are held by Warner Bros.

The Gay Falcon (1941, RKO)
A Date with the Falcon (1941, RKO)
The Falcon Takes Over (1942, RKO)
The Falcon's Brother (1942, RKO)
The Falcon Strikes Back (1943, RKO, directed by Edward Dmytryk)
The Falcon and the Co-eds (1943, RKO)
The Falcon in Danger (1943, RKO)
The Falcon in Hollywood (1944, RKO)
The Falcon in Mexico (1944, RKO)
The Falcon Out West (1944, RKO)
The Falcon in San Francisco (1945, RKO)
The Falcon's Alibi (1946, RKO)
The Falcon's Adventure (1946, RKO)
The Devil's Cargo (1948, Film Craft)
Appointment with Murder (1948, Film Craft)
Search for Danger (1949, Film Craft)


The Lone Wolf

Louis Joseph Vance's Lone Wolf was another of those ex-jewel thieves turned good guy who inevitably gets drawn into solving various crimes. Columbia gave the character its first sound film outings in 1935's The Lone Wolf Returns with Melvyn Douglas in the title role and in 1938's The Lone Wolf in Paris with Francis Lederer. Then in 1939, Columbia turned to the veteran Warren William and he played the role in nine entertaining outings over the next four years. After a three-year break, the series was revived in 1946 for four final films with diminishing returns (three of them with Gerald Mohr as the star and the final one with Ron Randell). The Lone Wolf series featured continuing supporting characters such as Jamison the butler, who was variously portrayed by familiar character actors Raymond Walburn, Eric Blore, and Alan Mowbray, and Inspector Crane (usually played by Thurston Hall). Otherwise, as with other Columbia detective series, one could find several well-known players in their pre-starring days (Gail Patrick, Ida Lupino, Rita Hayworth, and Lloyd Bridges, for example). None of the films are available on DVD.

The Lone Wolf Returns (1935, with Gail Patrick)
The Lone Wolf in Paris (1938)
The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939, Warren William's first appearance as Lone Wolf, with Ida Lupino and Rita Hayworth)
The Lone Wolf Strikes (1940)
The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady (1940)
The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance (1941, with Lloyd Bridges)
The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date (1941, with Bruce Bennett)
Secrets of the Lone Wolf (1941, directed by Edward Dmytryk)
Counter-Espionage (1942)
One Dangerous Night (1943)
Passport to Suez (1943, Warren William's last appearance as the Lone Wolf, with Lloyd Bridges)
The Notorious Lone Wolf (1946)
The Lone Wolf in London (1947)
The Lone Wolf in Mexico (1947)
The Lone Wolf and His Lady (1949)


Mr. Moto

The success of its Charlie Chan films inspired Fox to develop another detective series, this time based on John P. Marquand's Japanese sleuth, Mr. Moto. Peter Lorre essayed the role in eight films over the period 1937 to 1939. His Moto characterization relied simply on a pair of round-framed glasses. Like Chan, Mr. Moto possessed superior deductive powers, but unlike Chan, he also was at home with action, relying on both juju and his prowess with a pistol to get himself out of tight situations. There were no recurring supporting characters, but the series did have quality supporting talent in most of its entries. At least one of the titles is available on DVD.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937, with Virginia Field and Sig Rumann)
Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937, with Sidney Blackmer and John Carradine)
Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938, with Keye Luke and Lynn Bari)
Mr. Moto Takes a Chance (1938)
Mysterious Mr. Moto (1938, with Henry Wilcoxon)
Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939, with Ricardo Cortez, John Carradine, and George Sanders) - available on DVD from Alpha, quality unknown
Mr. Moto in Danger Island (1939, with Jean Hersholt)
Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939, with Joseph Schildkraut and Lionel Atwill)


Mr. Wong

One of the minor studios, Monogram, also saw the idea of an oriental detective as a lucrative area to get into, so it initiated a Mr. Wong series. The character originated in a 1935 "Collier's" magazine story by Hugh Wiley. There were six films in the series and things looked very promising when Boris Karloff was signed to play the title character. Unfortunately, Monogram was unable to give the films the production values needed to make them really attractive efforts and they generally rate third behind the Chan and Moto films in the oriental detective pecking order. Karloff left after the fifth entry and the final film utilized Keye Luke (who had played Chan's Number One son) to portray Wong. Like the four Dick Tracy RKO films, the six Mr. Wong films are popular items for release on DVD by the public domain specialists. The Roan Group collection is the best bet, with the Falcon Picture Group's box also quite workable.

Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)
Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939)
Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939)
The Fatal Hour (1940)
Doomed to Die (1940)
Phantom of Chinatown (1941)

Note that the 1935 Bela Lugosi film, The Mysterious Mr. Wong, is not related either to the Wiley character or in any way to the Mr. Wong detective series.


Philo Vance

Writing under the pen-name of S.S. Van Dine, the scholar Willard Huntington Wright first wrote about his gentleman investigator, Philo Vance, in the 1926 novel, "The Benson Murder Case". Film rights to the character seem to have been easy to come by, for each of Paramount, MGM, and WB had competing entries throughout the 1930s. Most of the early films were a cut above programmer status and thus offered superior entertainment both in look and content. The public's taste for Vance waned by 1940 and he disappeared from the screen for seven years before being resurrected by PRC for three cheap outings in 1947. William Powell is most closely identified with the character, having played him in three films for Paramount and one for Warner Bros. Warren William and Alan Curtis each played the part twice, while single outings came from each of Basil Rathbone, Paul Lukas, Edmund Lowe, Grant Richards, James Stephenson, and William Wright. Sergeant Heath was the only recurring supporting character and was usually played by Eugene Palette. Only one of the Philo Vance films (The Kennel Murder Case) is available on DVD. Rights to the WB and MGM titles are held by Warner Bros. Universal holds the Paramount films' rights. The PRC entries may well be in the public domain.

Canary Murder Case (1929, Paramount, William Powell as Philo Vance, with Louise Brooks and Jean Arthur)
The Greene Murder Case (1929, Paramount, Powell as Vance, with Florence Eldredge and Jean Arthur)
Bishop Murder Case (1930, MGM, Basil Rathbone as Vance, with Roland Young)
Benson Murder Case (1930, Paramount, Powell as Vance, with Paul Lukas)
The Kennel Murder Case (1933, WB, Powell as Vance, directed by Michael Curtiz, with Mary Astor) - available on DVD from Roan Group (combined with Nancy Drew, Reporter) and recommended (also available from Alpha, quality unknown)
The Dragon Murder Case (1934, WB, Warren William as Vance, with Margaret Lindsay)
Casino Murder Case (1935, MGM, Paul Lukas as Vance, with Rosalind Russell)
The Garden Murder Case (1936, MGM, Edmund Lowe as Vance, with Gene Lockhart)
Night of Mystery (1937, Paramount, Grant Richards as Vance, with Roscoe Karns)
The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939, Paramount, Warren William as Vance)
Calling Philo Vance (1940, WB, James Stephenson as Vance)
Philo Vance Returns (1947, PRC, William Wright as Vance)
Philo Vance's Gamble (1947, PRC, Alan Curtis as Vance)
Philo Vance's Secret Mission (1947, PRC, Alan Curtis as Vance)


The Saint

Another in the line of sophisticated sleuths was Leslie Charteris's Simon Templar, also known as The Saint. About ten years after he first appeared in print, the character was brought to the screen by RKO in 1938's The Saint in New York. Louis Hayward provided an excellent characterization of the title character. The film was popular, so RKO followed up with five more entries with George Sanders replacing Hayward. Then the British took over with two entries starring Hugh Sinclair, the first distributed by RKO in North America and the other by Republic. In 1954, eleven years after the previous film, another British-produced Saint film (this time starring Louis Hayward again) was released here by RKO. Recurring characters such as Inspector Teal (in British-based stories) and Inspector Fernack (in U.S.-based stories) were played by Gordon McLeod and Jonathan Hale respectively. None of the films are available on DVD. Rights to RKO films are held by WB and to Republic films by Artisan.

The Saint in New York (1938, RKO)
The Saint Strikes Back (1939, RKO)
The Saint in London (1939, RKO)
The Saint's Double Trouble (1940, RKO)
The Saint Takes Over (1940, RKO)
The Saint in Palm Springs (1941, RKO)
The Saint's Vacation (1941, RKO)
The Saint Meets the Tiger (1943, Rep)
The Saint's Girl Friday (1954, RKO)

Modern viewers are more likely to be familiar with The Saint's 1960s television incarnation where he was played to perfection by Roger Moore. Many of those episodes are on DVD.


The Thin Man

The Thin Man series, based on Dashiell Hammett's 1934 detective novel of the same title, followed the adventures of Nick and Nora Charles who despite Nick's reluctance always seem to find themselves involved in trying to solve some crime. Along for the ride was their dog, Asta. Contrary to popular belief, the term 'Thin Man" did not refer to Nick Charles, but rather one of the characters in the initial film. It merely became a convenient way to identify entries in the continuing series. The Thin Man series was different from other series films in that they were made as A productions by MGM and marketed accordingly. There were six all told, with a new one turned out every two or three years over a fourteen-year period from 1934 to 1947. William Powell and Myrna Loy appeared as Nick and Nora in every entry and support was provided by MGM's rich roster of contract players. The first entry, The Thin Man, is available on DVD from WB in a very nice-looking edition, and WB apparently has plans for further installments possibly later in 2004 (although no official announcement has been made).

The Thin Man (1934, with Maureen O'Sullivan) - available on DVD from WB and recommended
After the Thin Man (1936, with James Stewart)
Another Thin Man (1939, with Otto Kruger)
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941, with Barry Nelson and Donna Reed)
The Thin Man Goes Home (1944, with Gloria DeHaven)
Song of the Thin Man (1947, with Keenan Wynn)


New Classic Release Announcements

Well it's been a rather busy period for new announcements, particularly from Universal and Warner Bros., but with some good stuff from many of the others as well. Among the latter, VCI has a number of quite interesting items on the horizon. Thanks, as always, go out to several correspondents for their tips. So let's get to it, alphabetically as usual. As always, the Classic Release Database has been updated accordingly (zipped Word .doc).

Columbia has the barest classics cupboard among the majors this time. The sole new announcement is for the Italian-made western A Man Called Sledge (1970, starring James Garner), coming March 30th. This state of affairs is just a further example of how Columbia continues to disappoint classics fans and is slowly but surely sinking to the bottom of the roster of major studios when it comes to classic releases.

Criterion has plans for three April releases. Coming on April 20th are Robert Altman's 3 Women (1977) and Yasujiro Ozu's 1934 silent A Story of Floating Weeds each with new high-definition digital transfers. 3 Women comes with a 2.35 anamorphic transfer, Dolby Digital 1.0 audio, an audio commentary with Altman, a still gallery of rare production and publicity photos, and the original theatrical trailer. The two-disc A Story of Floating Weeds comes with a fullscreen transfer, Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 audio, an audio commentary with Japanese film historian Donald Richie and a new score by noted silent-film composer Donald Sosin. Disc two includes the 1959 color remake Floating Weeds with a commentary by film critic Roger Ebert, subtitle translations by Donald Richie and the original theatrical trailer. Also in April, Charade (1963) will be re-released with a new anamorphic transfer, but with the disc content otherwise the same as the original Criterion release. In other news, Stephen Prince who provided audio commentary on Criterion's DVDs of Straw Dogs and Ikiru has reportedly done a commentary for Kurosawa's Stray Dog (1949) which is understood to be on Criterion's release list for the future.

We actually have some Disney news this time. Due on March 2nd is Walt: The Man Behind the Myth (2001), a two-hour documentary detailing the life and work of Walt Disney. The film is hosted by Dick Van Dyke and features all-new interviews with friends, family, collaborators, and experts plus never-before-seen home movies. The disc comes with a 1.66:1 transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Extras include home movie footage shot by Walt himself and five featurettes. In other news, the release date of the next four Walt Disney Treasures titles has been returned to May 18th after briefly being advanced to May 4th and on June 15th, expect the 164-minute roadshow version of The Happiest Millionaire (1967, with Fred MacMurray and Tommy Steele). Looking further into 2004, there are plans for The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964), The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968), The Ugly Dachshund (1966) all in July; Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959), Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow (1962), and The Shaggy Dog (1959) all in August; and The Island at the Top of the World (1974) in September. The Mary Poppins: Special Edition (1964) has been delayed to December 2004 to coincide with the DVD releases of The Princess Diaries 2 and a new special edition of The Princess Diaries.

The Falcon Picture Group, a public domain specialist, has 12 releases planned for March and April. The titles for March 5th are: Adventures of Jim Bowie #2, Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet #2, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes #1, Bulldog Drummond #2 Double Feature, Dr. Christian #1 Double Feature, and The Third Man #1. For April 9th, expect: Adventures of Judge Roy Bean #1, Adventures of Robin Hood #1, Adventures of Topper #2, Dick Tracy #1 Double Feature, Jack Benny Program #3, and Patterns (1956). Note that many of them are of 1950s television series. Falcon will also be partnering with "TV Guide" for a range of classic TV DVDs. The arrangement will begin in September 2004 with 12 two-disc sets of classic programs such as The Andy Griffith Show, You Bet Your Life, The Lucy Show, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Milton Berle Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bonanza, The Burns & Allen Show, The Red Skelton Show, and others. The sets will feature trivia questions, nostalgic ads, and commentary from TV Guide Magazine's editorial team. The TV Guide brand DVDs also plan to include famous Christmas episodes from a variety of series, as well as unaired pilot episodes from The Munsters, Sea Hunt and others.

Fox has scheduled seven classic releases for April 20th - three musicals and four early Marilyn Monroe titles (all feature Marilyn in supporting roles). The musicals are Call Me Madam (1953, with Ethel Merman), Roxie Hart (1942, with Ginger Rogers), and the previously delayed Star! (1968, with Julie Andrews). All include remastered transfers in the OAR. Star! will be a fully fledged SE with audio commentary by Robert Wise, the "Star! The Sound of a Legend" original 1968 featurette, two trailers, and three TV spots. Call Me Madam will have audio commentary by Miles Krueger. The Marilyn Monroe titles, all from the 1951/1952 period, are: Love Nest, Let's Make it Legal, As Young As You Feel, and We're Not Married. All are newly remastered in their OARs. There is also important news from Fox regarding its numerous film noir titles which have been much in demand from fans for some time now. Late in 2004, Fox will initiate a Film Noir line that will parallel its Studio Classics line with a new release each month. The line will continue for as long as sales warrant. The Third Voice (1960, a CinemaScope suspense film with Edmond O'Brien) is understood to be forthcoming from Fox later this year. Finally, Fox has regained the Region 1 rights to The Enemy Below (1957) and will release it as part of its Fox War Classics line, possibly as early as this coming May.

Goodtimes has a whole slew of the usual public domain suspects scheduled for release in several collections due March 30th. Included are: Classic Comedy #1 (The General/The Milky Way/College), Classic Comedy #2 (St. Benny the Dip/Topper Returns/Behave Yourself), Elizabeth Taylor 3-Pack (The Last Time I Saw Paris/Father's Little Dividend/Life with Father), Film Noir #1 (He Walked by Night/Kansas City Confidential/Too Late for Tears), Film Noir #2 (Fear in the Night/D.O.A./The Hitch-Hiker), and Horror 3-Pack (Frankenstein's Daughter/The Bat/Carnival of Souls). Your guess as to whether any of these is any better than what's already available is as good as mine, but I suspect improvement is unlikely.

Kino has firmed up March 30th as the release date for its previously announced DVDs of Douglas Sirk's La Habanera (1937) and Fritz Lang's Liliom (1934).

On May 18th, MGM will release a new two-disc special edition reissue of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966). The film will be remastered in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and English Dolby Digital 5.1, and include extras such as an audio commentary with film critic Richard Schickel, the "Leone's West," "The Leone Style" and "The Man Who Lost the Civil War" documentaries, "Reconstructing The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" audio restoration featurette, deleted scenes, a still gallery, and trailers. A week later, we'll get a new two-disc special edition reissue of The Great Escape (1963), featuring 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, audio commentary with the cast and crew, three featurettes, a photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer. MGM's lineup of May western and war favourites is scheduled for release on the 25th. Titles include: The Last Valley (1970, with Michael Caine), Junior Bonner (1972, with Steve McQueen - also features an audio commentary by Sam Peckinpah biographers Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle), Duel in the Sun (1946, with Gregory Peck), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969, with George Kennedy), The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972, with Lee Van Cleef), A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die (1967, with Alex Cord), Hell in the Pacific (1968, with Lee Marvin), Custer of the West (1968, with Robert Shaw), Too Late the Hero (1970, with Michael Caine), and Shalako (1968, with Sean Connery). All are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, except the two Magnificent Seven flicks and Too Late the Hero, which are in anamorphic widescreen, and Duel in the Sun (full frame in accord with the OAR). MGM will also release Ned Kelly (1970, with Mick Jagger) on March 16th. Finally, in order to correct the framing on two of the titles, MGM has delayed until April 20th the release of the 6-disc Ingmar Bergman Collection originally planned for February. The titles in question are Shame and Hour of the Wolf which had been cropped to 1.66:1 but will now be presented in the correct 1.37:1 ratio.

MPI has set April 27th as the release date for the final two Rathbone and Bruce Sherlock Holmes films. These are the two Fox-produced 1939 titles: The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Each will include audio commentary, liner notes, photo galleries and trailers. On May 25th, The Cisco Kid Second Collection (a four-disc set of more episodes of The Cisco Kid television series) will be released.

Of interest to classic film fans will be the Music Video Distributors release of three DVDs of music from the Swing Era on March 23rd. The first - Nat King Cole-Soundies and Telescriptions - features Nat singing 27 songs on film as originally shot for film and television broadcasts. The second presents Sarah Vaughan & Friends singing 20 songs and the third features vocalist and altoman Louis Jordan performing 30 songs in various films and soundies.

Paramount, which releases about 60 catalogue titles each year, half of those being classic titles, will have two of them out on April 27th: The Molly Maguires (1970, with Sean Connery) and My Side of the Mountain (1969).

Universal continues with what appears to be a very ambitious classic release schedule for 2004. On May 4th, look for The Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle: Volume 2 (Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair, Ma and Pa on Vacation, Ma and Pa at Home, and Ma and Pa at Waikiki), The Best of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello: Volume 2 (Hit the Ice, In Society, Here Come the Co-Eds, The Naughty Nineties, Little Giant, The Time of Their Lives, Buck Privates Come Home, The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap, and the documentary Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld), and On the Road with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby (a repackaging of the previously released set of Road to Singapore, Road to Zanzibar, Road to Morocco, and Road to Utopia). The Night of the Following Day (1969, with Marlon Brando) follows on May 11th and then we get a round of war films on May 25th: Douglas Sirk's Battle Hymn (1957, with Rock Hudson), No Man Is an Island (1962, with Jeffrey Hunter), To Hell and Back (1955, with Audie Murphy), and Wake Island (1942, with Brian Donlevy). Whether all of these will be in their correct aspect ratios and anamorphic where appropriate is still unclear. Then in June, we get the next round of Universal westerns. On June 1st, expect Albuquerque (1948, with Randolph Scott), No Name on the Bullet (1959, with Audie Murphy), The Plainsman (1937, with Gary Cooper), The Spoilers (1942, with John Wayne), War Arrow (1953, with Maureen O'Hara), When the Daltons Rode (1940, with Randolph Scott), Whispering Smith (1948, with Alan Ladd), Coogan's Bluff (1968, with Clint Eastwood), and Breezy (1973, with William Holden). The Adventures of Francis the Talking Mule: Volume 1 (Francis the Talking Mule, Francis Goes to the Races, Francis Goes to West Point, and Francis Covers the Big Town) also appears on June 1st.

Over the next four months, VCI has a very nice selection of offerings mainly focused on serials and B westerns. Some are titles previously released by others, but many are new to DVD. Some of the titles have also been expected earlier from VCI. This is not uncommon for the company, so treat these dates with some caution. The product is usually worth the wait when you do get it, however. On February 24th, we should expect Adventures of the Flying Cadets (1943 Universal serial), the I Married Joan Collection #1, The Miracle Rider (1935 Mascot serial), Red Ryder Double Feature #3 (starring Jim Bannon in The Fighting Redhead and Cowboy & the Prizefighter, both 1949 and in Cinecolor), and Red Ryder Double Feature #4 (starring Allan Lane in Marshall of Cripple Creek and Oregon Trail Scouts, both 1947). March 30th brings three serials: The Green Archer (1940, Columbia, with Victor Jory), Jack Armstrong (1947, Columbia), and S.O.S. Coast Guard (1937, Republic, with Bela Lugosi). April 27th should bring: Captain Midnight (1942 Columbia serial with Dave O'Brien), the John Wayne Cliffhanger Collection (contains three Mascot serials - Three Musketeers, Hurricane Express, and Shadow of the Eagle), The Painted Stallion (1937 Republic serial with Ray Corrigan), Undersea Kingdom (1936 Republic serial with Ray Corrigan), the Joe E. Brown Comedy Collection (The Gladiator, Flirting with Fate, Wide Open Faces, Earthworm Tractors), the Fractured Flickers Collection (26 TV episodes), Popeye: the 75th Anniversary Collection, and the Mr. Wong Collection (all 6 Mr. Wong films). Finally, May 25th will offer Max Fleischer's Gabby Cartoon Collection, The Littlest Hobo Collection: Volume #1, the Dick Tracy RKO Feature Collection (all four films), the Clutch Cargo Collection: Volume #1, The Return of Chandu (1934 Principal serial, with Bela Lugosi), and Terry and the Pirates (1940 Columbia serial, with William Tracy).

Warner Bros. is expected to release some 200 classic titles in 2004. In addition to the previously reported release of the Judy Garland Collection in April, the company will also deliver The Last of Sheila (1970), the Hollywood "whodunnit" written by Steven Sondheim and actor Anthony Perkins, on the 20th. The film comes with an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital mono audio. Extras will include a commentary track with stars Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, and Raquel Welch and a theatrical trailer. On April 27th, expect Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), and the Hammer Horror Collection (a 6-disc set with those three titles along with the previously-released Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula and The Mummy). May will contribute to the classics schedule with The Marx Brothers Collection, a five-disc set containing seven films from the second half of the top comedy team's movie career, coming on May 4th. A Night at the Opera (1935), A Day at the Races (1937) and A Night in Casablanca (1946) will arrive on separate discs while the other two discs will contain double bills of Room Service (1938) and At the Circus (1939), and Go West (1940) and The Big Store (1941). The centrepiece of the collection is A Night at the Opera, which is the first Marx Brothers movie for which Warner owns distribution rights through its MGM library. Leonard Maltin, who recorded an audio commentary for the movie on laserdisc, has recorded a new commentary for the DVD. "The Marx Brothers Encyclopedia" author Glenn Mitchell provides audio commentary for A Day at the Races. Both films also feature an original documentary about the Marx Brothers. All discs include an assortment of vintage MGM shorts of the era and other bonus features. May 4th will also bring Back to Bataan (1945, with John Wayne), Battleground (1949, with Van Johnson), and Flying Leathernecks (1951, with John Wayne).

In Region 2 news, the 1939 Bob Hope version of The Cat and the Canary will be released by Orbit Media on March 1st. As Orbit tends to specialize in public domain titles, the transfer quality of this title is open to question at this time. Apparently the British Film Institute will release DVDs at the end of March of three early Otto Preminger films: Fallen Angel (1945), Whirlpool (1949), and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950).

That's it once more. See you again soon.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com


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