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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

The Westerns of Warner Bros. and the Coming Releases

In this edition of the column, I'll be acknowledging two of my greatest pleasures in the classic movie field - Warner Bros. and westerns, by looking at that studio's sound westerns output and their availability on DVD. As you will see, there are many of the pre-1970 titles that are unavailable to us on DVD, with the pre-1950 era being particularly lamentable in that respect. After you've had a chance to digest the article, I would be delighted to hear your choices of which westerns Warners should give the highest priority to for release on DVD. I'll compile the results and let you know the outcome in a future column as well as forwarding it to the studio for consideration.


Warner Bros. Westerns

During the early years of sound and despite the release of several westerns, Warner Bros. was not particularly identified with the genre, either through major A productions or even B series films. The company was not entirely alone in this, however, as none of the major studios were then much in the business of producing westerns on a regular basis. After the arrival of sound, the genre was at one of its lower ebbs due to the technical problems posed by adding sound to pictures made outside the studio. The public was also newly enamored of modern wonders such as aviation, which had caught people's fancy by virtue of Lindbergh's transatlantic flight. Horses and the dusty west seemed old hat to many.

The western did not disappear entirely, however, and as location shooting with sound became easier to do, there were a few significant efforts such as Paramount's The Virginian (1929) with Gary Cooper, RKO's Cimarron (1931) with Richard Dix, Fox's The Big Trail (1930) with John Wayne, and MGM's Billy the Kid (1930) with John Mack Brown, the latter two even released in early widescreen processes. But these were exceptions, and for the most part, the western was more likely to be a B series film in the very early 1930s and as such, companies like Warner Brothers, MGM, Paramount, RKO, and even Fox had little to do with the genre. Universal and Columbia at that time were not considered the major studios they would later become, and there, B westerns were more prevalent. In the main, however, B westerns were the domain of the smaller independent studios such as Monogram, Mascot, Tiffany, Ambassador, World Wide, Puritan, and the like.

Despite the poverty row stigma often attached to B westerns of that time, the public (particularly in the southern, southwestern, and western parts of the United States) did start to return the genre to favour, perhaps driven by the effects of the Depression and the desire for inexpensive entertainment that made them forget the present and its problems. As a result, and ever on the lookout for a good business opportunity, Warners eventually saw the merit in a modest B western involvement. During the 1930s, there would be two forays in this direction. The first was a series of six films starring John Wayne released during the 1932-1933 period. These were either direct remakes or used stock footage from the First National (a Warner Bros. component) Ken Maynard westerns of the late 1920s. The titles were Ride Him Cowboy, The Big Stampede, Haunted Gold, The Telegraph Trail, Somewhere in Sonora, and The Man from Monterey. Modest productions budgeted at $28,000 each, they generated good profits and were favourably reviewed for the most part.

John Wayne moved on to Monogram after his Warner westerns and it was not until 1935 that Warners again entered the western fray. By then, the singing cowboy was in favour, spurred on by the arrival of Gene Autry at Republic. Warner Bros.' answer was a series of B westerns starring Dick Foran, a contract player who sang well and offered a pleasing demeanor as a cowboy star. During the 1935-1938 period, he would make 13 westerns for Warner Bros. before the studio switched him to supporting roles in non-westerns. The titles of the Foran westerns are Moonlight on the Prairie, Song of the Saddle, Treachery Rides the Range, The California Mail, Trailin' West, Guns of the Pecos, Land Beyond the Law, The Cherokee Strip, Blazing Sixes, Empty Holsters, The Devil's Saddle Legion, Prairie Thunder, and Heart of the North. This was another profitable series for Warner Bros. who ensured the films had good production values at least, compensating for the fact that the scripts were somewhat on the juvenile side.

By the late 1930s, there was renewed interest throughout Hollywood in major western productions and Warner Bros. was no exception. In 1939, they produced the handsome Technicolor western Dodge City starring Errol Flynn. At first glance, one might question the casting of the Australian-born, British sounding Flynn in such a traditionally American role, but Flynn's athletic ability and power of command on the screen overcame any niggling concerns of accent and he soon came to be Warners' king of the major western. Over the 12-year period ending in 1950, he would appear in eight such productions. While the last two of these (Montana and Rocky Mountain, both in 1950) are lesser titles, the others are all thoroughly entertaining films, featuring excellent casts, the studio's top-rank directors, memorable scores, and Technicolor photography in some instances. Chronologically, the films are:

Dodge City (1939, co-starring Olivia de Havilland, Bruce Cabot, Ann Sheridan, Victor Jory, Alan Hale) Directed by Michael Curtiz, in Technicolor. A thinly-disguised version of the Wyatt Earp saga, full of action and highly entertaining.

Virginia City (1940, co-starring Randolph Scott, Miriam Hopkins, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Hale) Directed by Michael Curtiz. A follow-up to Dodge City with Flynn involved in a Civil War tale. Bogart as a Mexican bandit. A little ponderous compared to Dodge City but still worth seeing.

Santa Fe Trail (1940, co-starring Olivia de Havilland, Raymond Massey, Van Heflin, Ronald Reagan, Alan Hale) Directed by Michael Curtiz. Another Civil War tale with Flynn as Jeb Stuart and Massey as John Brown. Exciting and well-acted.

They Died with Their Boots On (1942, co-starring Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Anthony Quinn, Sidney Greenstreet) Directed by Raoul Walsh. Flynn as General Custer, with the film culminating in the events at Little Big Horn. Hardly accurate, but so what when it's so entertaining.

San Antonio (1945, co-starring Alexis Smith, Victor Francen, S.Z. Sakall, Paul Kelly) Directed by David Butler, in Technicolor. Flynn battles the bad guys in, where else, San Antonio. Predictable, but very slickly made.

Silver River (1948, co-starring Ann Sheridan, Thomas Mitchell, Bruce Bennett) Directed by Raoul Walsh. Flynn as an unscrupulous gambler who becomes a corrupt silver magnate. Under-appreciated film with a somewhat out-of-the-ordinary role for Flynn.

Montana (1950, co-starring Alexis Smith, S.Z.Sakall, Douglas Kennedy) Directed by Ray Enright, in Technicolor. Flynn is an Australian sheepherder intent on moving into cattle country in Montana. A short, by-the-numbers film that offers little; Flynn's poorest western.

Rocky Mountain (1950, co-starring Patrice Wymore, Scott Forbes, Guinn Williams) Directed by William Keighley. Another Civil War tale with Flynn as a Confederate officer hoping to control the West for the Confederacy. A compactly told tale that breaks no new ground, but is well acted.

During the Flynn period, Warner Bros. did produce a few other western features and a number of western shorts. Notable among the features were two from 1939 - The Oklahoma Kid and Juarez. The former is the hugely enjoyable James Cagney outing in which he as the title character goes against Humphrey Bogart as the black-garbed Whip McCord. The latter is Paul Muni's final biographical picture for Warners in which he ably portrays the title character of the Mexican Revolution with solid support from the likes of Bette Davis, Claude Rains, and John Garfield. Other features included the lesser items such as Bad Men of Missouri (1941, with Dennis Morgan), Wild Bill Hickok Rides (1942, with Bruce Cabot), Cheyenne (1947, with Dennis Morgan), The Younger Brothers (1949, with Wayne Morris), and Colorado Territory (1949, with Joel McCrea, a western remake of High Sierra and certainly the best of this bunch). Some people of course would classify Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948, with Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt) as a western and I include mention of that excellent John Huston film here for completeness.

In the late 1940s, Warner Bros. agreed to distribute the films of United States Pictures and Cagney Productions, a couple of independent production companies set up by producer Milton Sperling and the Cagney brothers (James and William) respectively. These would both yield a few western titles that would appear under the Warner Bros. shield over the 1947-1952 period. The best of these were the western noir Pursued (1947, Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright, directed by Raoul Walsh), South of St. Louis (1949, Joel McCrea), and Distant Drums (1951, Gary Cooper, directed by Raoul Walsh).

The 1950s marked a high point in A or minor A western production in Hollywood, as the B series picture fell victim to television. Every studio and it seemed every star tried their hand at such productions. For Warner Bros., the decade was its most active one in terms of westerns, either before or since. Some 47 were released from 1950 to 1959, most in colour. 1952 was the most active year with seven westerns while 1955 had the least with only two. Randolph Scott appeared most frequently, starring in 12 films, many directed by the likes of Andre De Toth and Budd Boetticher. The titles, all worth seeing, included: Colt .45 (1950), Sugarfoot (1951), Fort Worth (1951), Carson City (1952), The Man Behind the Gun (1953), Thunder Over the Plains (1953), Riding Shotgun (1954), The Bounty Hunter (1954), Tall Man Riding (1955), Seven Men from Now (1956), Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend (1957), and Westbound (1959). Next in frequency of appearance was Gary Cooper with four titles (Dallas [1950], Distant Drums [1951], Springfield Rifle [1952], The Hanging Tree [1959]). Alan Ladd follows with three titles (The Iron Mistress [1952], Drum Beat [1954], and The Big Land [1957]). Among others represented by one or two titles are Kirk Douglas (Along the Great Divide [1951]), Guy Madison (The Charge at Feather River [1953]), Barbara Stanwyck (The Moonlighter [1953]), Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger [1956]), and Paul Newman (The Left Handed Gun [1958]).

John Wayne also returned to make westerns at Warners for the first time in over two decades. There was Hondo in 1954 and then a couple of the most highly regarded films of the western genre - The Searchers (1956, directed by John Ford) and Rio Bravo (1959, directed by Howard Hawks). It shouldn't be necessary for me to have to say anything about either of these.

For completeness, I should also mention 1956's Giant (directed by George Stevens, with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson), which some people would classify as a western, and the Doris Day musical, Calamity Jane, from 1953.

In the early 1960s, Warners seemed to lose interest in westerns, but the second half of the decade was more promising with John Ford's interesting but flawed Cheyenne Autumn in 1965, a nice James Stewart effort in 1968 - Firecreek, and then the high point of The Wild Bunch (directed by Sam Peckinpah, with William Holden and Ernest Borgnine) in 1969.

The only people really keeping the western alive in the 1970s and 1980s were John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Wayne would make four of the final films of his career for Warner Bros. in the early 70s (Chisum [1970], The Cowboys [1972], Cahill: United States Marshal [1973], and The Train Robbers [1973]) while Clint would contribute two of his best in the following years (The Outlaw Josey Wales [1976] and Pale Rider [1985]). There were a few other entries of interest during this time including a fine Joseph Mankiewicz film (There Was a Crooked Man… [1970, with Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda]), Robert Altman's superb McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971, with Warren Beatty), the underappreciated Skin Game (1971, with James Garner), the interesting Jeremiah Johnson (1972, with Robert Redford), the overly praised parody Blazing Saddles (1974), and Steve McQueen's next-to-last film, the rather dull Tom Horn (1979).

The western experienced a modest revival in the early 1990s and Warner Bros. had the best of the lot - Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992), as well as the long but interesting Kevin Costner version of Wyatt Earp (1994, directed by Lawrence Kasdan) and the entertaining Maverick (1994, with Mel Gibson and James Garner). Unfortunately, Warners' last forays out west were the miserable Wild Wild West (1999, with Will Smith) and the lamentable American Outlaws (2001, with Colin Farrell), which they distributed on behalf of Morgan Creek.

Warners' record at making its western films available on DVD is particularly distressing for classic film fans. Of the 54 westerns originally released before 1950, the company has issued only one on DVD (Treasure of the Sierra Madre). Of the 47 films released during the 1950s, only four have been made available on DVD by Warner Bros. (Calamity Jane, The Searchers, Giant, Rio Bravo). More palatable is the generally high quality of the DVDs, although there is some grumbling over the lack of an anamorphic transfer for Giant. A new two-disc version of The Searchers is in the works for either late this year or next year (sources vary). Five other films from this whole period have been made available on DVD by other distributors: the ubiquitous public domain title Santa Fe Trail (the Roan Group release is the best one out there), another popular public domain offering The Big Trees (again, the Roan Group effort is your best bet), The Lone Ranger (reasonable versions in both full frame and widescreen from VCI), and two of the United States Pictures efforts (Pursued, available in a disappointing version from Artisan, and Distant Drums scheduled for release from Lions Gate on May 11th).

The 1960s westerns fare little better; only Four for Texas and The Wild Bunch have received a DVD release. A two-disc SE of the latter is also in the works.

Fans of Warners' more recent westerns have been well served. Of the 20 films released during 1970 to the present, 12 are available on DVD (one of which will receive a new two-disc SE treatment on June 29th - Blazing Saddles), one has been announced for a May 18th release (a two-disc SE of Wyatt Earp), and another is understood to be in the works (The Ballad of Cable Hogue) for next year. The six titles so far not released or announced for DVD are: There Was a Crooked Man…, Skin Game, Man in the Wilderness, The Train Robbers, Zandy's Bride, and Tom Horn.


A Warner Bros. Westerns Listing (1930-Present)

The following list of films is a first cut at the westerns released by Warner Bros. from 1930 to the present. For completeness, I have included titles that are marginally westerns - northwest lumbering sagas (e.g. The Big Trees), westerns with modern settings (e.g. Giant), musicals, and parodies. While most of the titles are Warner Bros. productions, some of them, particularly from more recent years, were only distributed by the company. The list indicates the westerns released by year with the main player in brackets followed by the name of the director. Missing years signify no westerns released by the company that year. TC=Technicolor, C=colour, WC= Warnercolor, CS=Cinemascope, PV=Panavision, SPV=Super Panavision, DVD=available or forthcoming on DVD. Any additions or corrections to this list are welcomed.

1930

Song of the West (John Boles, Joe E. Brown) Ray Enright, TC
On the Border (Rin Tin Tin) William McGann
Under a Texas Moon (Frank Fay) Michael Curtiz, TC
The Man Hunter (Rin Tin Tin) Ross Lederman
The Bad Man (Walter Huston) Clarence Badger
The Girl of the Golden West (Ann Harding) John Francis Dillon
River's End (Charles Bickford) Michael Curtiz
Captain Thunder (Fay Wray) Alan Crosland

1931

Gold Dust Gertie (Winnie Lightner) Lloyd Bacon
The Tenderfoot (Joe E. Brown) Ray Enright
Woman Hungry (Sidney Blackmer) Clarence Badger TC

1932

Ride Him' Cowboy (John Wayne) Fred Allen)
The Big Stampede (John Wayne) Tenny Wright
Haunted Gold (John Wayne) Mack V. Wright

1933

The Telegraph Trail (John Wayne) Tenny Wright
Somewhere in Sonora (John Wayne) Mack V. Wright
The Man from Monterey (John Wayne) Mack V. Wright

1935

In Caliente (Dolores Del Rio) Lloyd Bacon
Moonlight on the Prairie (Dick Foran) D. Ross Lederman

1936

Song of the Saddle (Dick Foran) Louis King
Treachery Rides the Range (Dick Foran) Frank McDonald
The California Mail (Dick Foran) Noel Smith
Trailin' West (Dick Foran) Noel Smith

1937

Guns of the Pecos (Dick Foran) Noel Smith
God's Country and the Woman (George Brent) William Keighley TC
Land Beyond the Law (Dick Foran) B. Reeves Eason
The Cherokee Strip (Dick Foran) Noel Smith
Blazing Sixes (Dick Foran) Noel Smith
Empty Holsters (Dick Foran) B. Reeves Eason
The Devil's Saddle Legion (Dick Foran) Bobby Connolly
Prairie Thunder (Dick Foran) B. Reeves Eason

1938

Gold Is Where You Find It (George Brent) Michael Curtiz
The Cowboy from Brooklyn (Dick Powell) Lloyd Bacon
Valley of the Giants (Wayne Morris) William Keighley TC
Heart of the North (Dick Foran) Lewis Seiler

1939

The Oklahoma Kid (James Cagney) Lloyd Bacon
Dodge City (Errol Flynn) Michael Curtiz TC
Juarez (Paul Muni) William Dieterle

1940

Virginia City (Errol Flynn) Michael Curtiz
King of the Lumberjacks (John Payne) William Clemens
River's End (Dennis Morgan) Ray Enright
Santa Fe Trail (Errol Flynn) Michael Curtiz DVD (Roan Group recommended)

1941

Bad Men of Missouri (Dennis Morgan) Ray Enright

1942

They Died with Their Boots On (Errol Flynn) Raoul Walsh
Wild Bill Hickok Rides (Bruce Cabot) Ray Enright

1945

San Antonio (Errol Flynn) David Butler TC

1947

Pursued (Teresa Wright) Raoul Walsh DVD (Artisan, not recommended)
Cheyenne (Dennis Morgan) Raoul Walsh

1948

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Humphrey Bogart) John Huston DVD (WB highly recommended)
Silver River (Errol Flynn) Raoul Walsh
Two Guys from Texas (Dennis Morgan) David Butler

1949

South of St. Louis (Joel McCrea) Ray Enright TC
The Younger Brothers (Wayne Morris) Edwin L. Marin TC
Colorado Territory (Joel McCrea) Raoul Walsh

1950

Montana (Errol Flynn) Ray Enright TC
Colt .45 (Randolph Scott) Edwin L. Marin TC
Return of the Frontiersman (Gordon MacRae) Richard Bare TC
Rocky Mountain (Errol Flynn) William Keighley
Dallas (Gary Cooper) Stuart Heisler
Barricade (Dane Clark) Peter Godfrey TC

1951

Sugarfoot [retitled Swirl of Glory] (Randolph Scott) Edwin L. Marin TC
Along the Great Divide (Kirk Douglas) Raoul Walsh
Fort Worth (Randolph Scott) Edwin L. Marin TC
Distant Drums (Gary Cooper) Raoul Walsh TC DVD (Lions Gate May 11, 2004)
Raton Pass (aka Canyon Pass) (Dennis Morgan) Edwin L. Marin

1952

The Big Trees (Kirk Douglas) Felix Feist TC DVD (Roan Group)
Carson City (Randolph Scott) Andre De Toth WC
Springfield Rifle (Gary Cooper) Andre De Toth WC
The Iron Mistress (Alan Ladd) Lewis Seiler TC
Cattle Town (Dennis Morgan) Noel Smith
Bugles in the Afternoon (Ray Milland) Roy Rowland TC
The Lion and the Horse (Steve Cochran) Louis King WC

1953

The Man Behind the Gun (Randolph Scott) Felix Feist TC
The Charge at Feather River (Guy Madison) Gordon Douglas WC/3D
Calamity Jane (Doris Day) David Butler TC DVD (WB, recommended)
Thunder Over the Plains (Randolph Scott) Andre De Toth WC
The Moonlighter (Barbara Stanwyck) Roy Rowland 3D

1954

Hondo (John Wayne) John Farrow WC/3D
The Command (Guy Madison) David Butler WC/CS
The Boy from Oklahoma [aka Sugarfoot] (Will Rogers Jr.) Michael Curtiz WC
Riding Shotgun (Randolph Scott) Andre De Toth WC
The Bounty Hunter (Randolph Scott) Andre De Toth WC
Drum Beat (Alan Ladd) Delmer Daves WC/CS
Track of the Cat (Robert Mitchum) William A. Wellman WC/CS

1955

Strange Lady in Town (Greer Garson) Mervyn LeRoy WC/CS
Tall Man Riding (Randolph Scott) Lesley Selander WC

1956

The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore) Stuart Heisler WC DVD (VCI)
The Searchers (John Wayne) John Ford TC/VV DVD (WB, single disc version available, 2-disc SE forthcoming)
Seven Men from Now (Randolph Scott) Budd Boetticher WC
The Burning Hills (Tab Hunter) Stuart Heisler WC/CS
Giant (Elizabeth Taylor) George Stevens WC DVD (WB, recommended)

1957

The Big Land (Alan Ladd) Gordon Douglas WC
Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend (Randolph Scott) Richard L. Bare
Black Patch (George Montgomery) Allen H. Miner

1958

Fort Dobbs (Clint Walker) Gordon Douglas
The Left Handed Gun (Paul Newman) Arthur Penn
Badman's Country (George Montgomery) Fred F. Sears

1959

The Hanging Tree (Gary Cooper) Delmer Daves TC
Rio Bravo (John Wayne) Howard Hawks TC DVD (WB, highly recommended)
Westbound (Randolph Scott) Budd Boetticher WC
Yellowstone Kelly (Clint Walker) Gordon Douglas TC

1960

Guns of the Timberland (Alan Ladd) Robert D. Webb TC
Sergeant Rutledge (Jeffrey Hunter) John Ford TC

1964

Four for Texas (Frank Sinatra) Robert Aldrich TC DVD (WB)
The Man from Galveston (Jeffrey Hunter) William Conrad
A Distant Trumpet (Troy Donahue) Raoul Walsh TC/PV

1965

Cheyenne Autumn (Richard Widmark) John Ford TC/SPV

1966

A Big Hand for the Little Lady (Henry Fonda) Fielder Cook TC

1968

The Flaming Frontier [North American release of the German-produced Old Surehand, 1965] (Stewart Granger) Alfred Vohrer C
Firecreek (James Stewart) Vincent McEveety TC
Chubasco (Richard Egan) Allen H. Miner TC

1969

The Wild Bunch (William Holden) Sam Peckinpah TC/PV DVD (WB, single disc flipper available, 2-disc SE forthcoming)
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (Robert Mitchum) Burt Kennedy TC/PV

1970

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) Sam Peckinpah TC DVD (WB, forthcoming)
Chisum (John Wayne) Andrew V. McLaglen TC/PV DVD (WB, recommended)
There Was a Crooked Man… (Kirk Douglas) Joseph Mankiewicz TC/PV

1971

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Warren Beatty) Robert Altman TC/PV DVD (WB)
Skin Game (James Garner) Paul Bogart TC/PV
Man in the Wilderness (Richard Harris) Richard C. Sarafian TC/PV

1972

The Cowboys (John Wayne) Mark Rydell TC/PV DVD (WB, recommended)
Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford) Sydney Pollack TC/PV DVD (WB, recommended)

1973

Cahill: United States Marshal (John Wayne) Andrew V. McLaglen TC/PV DVD (WB, recommended)
The Train Robbers (John Wayne) Burt Kennedy TC/PV

1974

Blazing Saddles (Cleavon Little) Mel Brooks TC/PV DVD (WB, single disc version available, 2-disc SE on June 29th, 2004)
Zandy's Bride (Gene Hackman) Jan Troell TC/PV

1976

The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) Clint Eastwood DC/PV DVD (WB, recommended)

1979

Tom Horn (Steve McQueen) William Wiard TC/PV

1985

Pale Rider (Clint Eastwood) Clint Eastwood TC/PV DVD (WB, recommended)

1992

Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood) Clint Eastwood TC/PV DVD (WB, 2-disc SE highly recommended)

1994

Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner) Lawrence Kasdan TC/PV DVD (WB, 2-disc SE on May 18th, 2004)

1994

Maverick (Mel Gibson) Richard Donner TC/PV DVD (WB, recommended)

1999

Wild Wild West (Will Smith) Barry Sonnenfeld TC DVD (WB)

2001

American Outlaws (Colin Farrell) Les Mayfield TC DVD (WB)


New Classic Release Announcements

This time, the lengthiest lists of announcements come from MGM and Universal, so I'll start with them and then go through the others alphabetically by releasing studio. There's lots of good film noir news here, so look for that particularly. Before I begin, let me alert you to the recent availability of some of the Blondie movies. Platinum Disc Corporation has issued two discs each containing 5 Blondie films on them. These comprise the first 10 of the 28 Blondie movies that Columbia made during the 1938-1950 period. The versions are the ones later released to TV with teaser footage inserted as introductions to each film. The image quality is quite decent and you can get the two discs together for only $10US. It's hard to beat that! Sure, it'd be nice to have the films as originally released with the Columbia logos, but I'm not willing to bet on that happening anytime soon.

I should note that the Classic Release Database has been updated as usual (zipped Word .doc).

Anyway, on to the announcements.

Coming from MGM on July 6th are Kotch (1971, widescreen), Lovers and Other Strangers (1970, full frame), Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came (1970, widescreen), Take the Money and Run (1969, full frame), and confirming news in an earlier column, The Charlie Chan Chanthology 6-disc set, including The Chinese Cat, Charlie Chan in the Secret Service, The Jade Mask, Meeting at Midnight, The Shanghai Cobra, and The Scarlet Clue. The Chan films will be presented in their original full frame ratio and in mono. Each title will also be available separately. On July 13th, The Manchurian Candidate: Special Edition, will be issued and will include the film in anamorphic widescreen video, with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 and mono. Extras will include audio commentary with director John Frankenheimer, the Exclusive Interview with Frank Sinatra, George Axelrod and John Frankenheimer featurette, the Queen of Diamonds featurette interview with Angela Lansbury, the A Little Solitaire featurette interview with William Friedkin on Frankenheimer, 2 Easter eggs, an animated photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer. Confirmed for July 27th by MGM are Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds Are Go! (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968). The films are available separately or together in an International Rescue Edition gift set. Both films are in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 and mono audio. Extras on Thunderbirds Are Go! will include audio commentary with director David Lane and producer Sylvia Anderson.

For August 3rd, MGM will have Walking Tall (1973) and for August 17th, Luther (1973). The Night Stalker (1971)/The Night Strangler (1972), Chastity (1969), Electra Glide in Blue (1973), Good Times (1967), Smile (1975) and Zachariah (1971) are all set for August 24th. There’s no official announcement as yet, but MGM’s September plans likely include a Judgment at Nuremberg: Special Edition (1961) and a David Lean Collection featuring Blithe Spirit (1945), Brief Encounter (1945), Great Expectations (1946), In Which We Serve (1942), Madeleine (1950), Oliver Twist (1948), Passionate Friends (1949), and This Happy Breed (1944). The studio is also working on Robert Rossen's Alexander the Great (1956).

Universal has more of its bargain packagings of films to offer in July, August, and September. First though, on July 6th, look for the film noir classics The Big Clock (1948, Ray Milland), Black Angel (1946, Dan Duryea), Criss Cross (1949, Burt Lancaster), Double Indemnity (1944, Fred MacMurray), and This Gun for Hire (1942, Alan Ladd). The Don Knotts Reluctant Hero Pack (also July 6th) will include the previously released The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966), The Reluctant Astronaut (1967), The Love God? (1969), and The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968).

Following on August 3rd, you'll get the Sandra Dee/Bobby Darin titles If a Man Answers (1962), Come September (1961, starring Rock Hudson), and That Funny Feeling (1965). Also being released by Universal is The Best of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello: Volume 3 box set which will include Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953), Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer Boris Karloff (1949), Comin' Round the Mountain (1951), Lost in Alaska (1952), and Mexican Hayride (1948). Also coming on the same date is a Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack including 100 Men and a Girl (1937), Can't Help Singing (1944), First Love (1939), It Started with Eve (1941), Lady on a Train (1945), and Three Smart Girls (1936).

Finally, on Sept. 7th, Universal will offer the James Stewart: Hollywood Legend Series box containing the previously released Vertigo (1958, letterbox widescreen), Rear Window (1954, anamorphic widescreen), Harvey (1950), Winchester '73 (1950), and Destry Rides Again (1939) [the latter three all full frame].

Alpha again has its usual new monthly package of films for release on May 25th. The titles include: The Adventures of Smilin' Jack [serial] (1943, Tom Brown), Animal Kingdom (1932, Leslie Howard), As You Like It (1936, Laurence Olivier), Chained for Life (1951, Violet Hilton), The Cisco Kid in the Gay Amigo (1949, Duncan Renaldo), Colonel Effingham's Raid (1945, Charles Coburn), Gangbusters [serial] (1942, Robert Armstrong), Hitler Dead or Alive (1942, Ward Bond), Idaho (1943, Roy Rogers), Johnny One-Eye (1950, Pat O'Brien), The Lady in Scarlet (1935, Reginald Denny), Love from a Stranger (1937, Basil Rathbone), Mohawk (1956, Neville Brand), Murder in the Red Barn (1936, Tod Slaughter), Salt of the Earth (1954, Will Geer), Sherlock Holmes - TV Classics, Volume 3 (1954, Ronald Howard), Sin Takes a Holiday (1930, Basil Rathbone), Street Scene (1931, Sylvia Sydney), Student of Prague (1913, Paul Wegener), Swamp Woman (1955, Beverly Garland), Tom Brown's School Days (1940, Sir Cedric Hardwicke), and You Bet Your Life, Volumes 1 & 2 (1950, Groucho Marx).

On June 1st, Columbia will release J.W. Coop (1972, with Cliff Robertson) followed by The Man from Colorado (1948, Glenn Ford) and The Creeping Flesh (1973, Peter Cushing) on June 8th. Best of all, the first of Columbia's Randolph Scott films to appear on DVD is coming on June 15th - Hangman's Knot (1952, full frame and mono).

Criterion's offerings for June (all on the 22nd) are A Woman is a Woman (1961, Jean-Luc Godard); Mamma Roma (1962, Pier Paolo Pasolini) a two-disc set including Pasolini's 35-min film La Ricotta (1963) and a 55-min documentary; and finally, Jean Renoir's 1936 version and Akira Kurosawa's 1957 version of The Lower Depths in a two-disc set. The Kurosawa disc includes a commentary by Donald Richie. Criterion's anticipated release of Gillo Pontecorvo's 1965 film The Battle of Algiers will be a three DVD set and is planned for this autumn. This special edition will include a new transfer supervised by cinematographer Marcello Gatti and a number of features created specifically for the Criterion release, including new interviews with writer/director Gillo Pontecorvo, producer/actor Saadi Yacef, actor Jean Martin, Marcello Gatti, composer Ennio Morricone, and historians Benjamin Stora and Alistair Horne. Note also that the release of Criterion's The Samurai Trilogy box set has been moved from May 4th to 18th.

Disney's release of the Mary Poppins: 40th Anniversary Edition is set for December 7th. The two-disc set will include a new anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. A new live action and animated sequence reuniting the film's stars, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, with music by Oscar-winner Richard Sherman, will be exclusive to the DVD. Other extras will include a new audio commentary, rare television and promotional footage, interactive games, stills and trailers. Of more immediate interest are the June 1st release of The Love Bug Collection Four Pack, which will include the previously released The Love Bug SE (1969), Herbie Rides Again (1974), Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), and Herbie Goes Bananas (1980), and the August 3rd release of The Shaggy Dog (1959) and The Shaggy D.A. (1976).

Flicker Alley has a release of F.W. Murnau's Phantom (1922) in the planning stages.

Fox's June 1st Studio Classics release of The Snake Pit (1948, with Olivia De Havilland) will be remastered in 1.33:1 and Dolby 2.0 stereo. Extras will include audio commentary with film historian Aubrey Solomon, five newsreels, a still gallery, and theatrical trailers.

Image will be releasing My Private Secretary (1948, with Kirk Douglas) and Rita, a new documentary on Rita Hayworth, both on June 15th. The latter will be a two-disc special edition which will include 1937's Trouble in Texas, a full-length Grand National feature film with Hayworth and Tex Ritter. June 29th will see the completion of Image's Dick Van Dyke releases with The Dick Van Dyke Show: Season #5 and five Best of Dick Van Dyke discs each containing four episodes from the five season sets.

Winsor McKay: The Master Edition is a June 1st Milestone special edition release which compiles all of McKay's surviving shorts including Little Nemo, Gertie the Dinosaur, How a Mosquito Operates, The Sinking of the Lusitania, The Centaurs, Gertie on Tour, Flip's Circus, Bug Vaudeville, The Pet, and The Flying House. Included is audio commentary by animator John Canemaker, the documentary Remembering Winsor McKay, and a stills gallery.

On July 13th, Paramount will release Danger: Diabolik (1967, John Philip Law), The Assassination Bureau (1969, Oliver Reed), The Counterfeit Traitor (William Holden), and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965, Richard Burton). Each will be presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 2.0 mono, with no extras at all. Paramount apparently has plans for The Andy Griffith Show: Season One, perhaps as early as late this year.

The following VCI releases are mainly delays (of about a month) from the originally announced dates. Now appearing on April 27th will be Man in the Attic (1953, Jack Palance) and the serials Jack Armstrong (1947) and S.O.S. Coast Guard (1937). Now appearing on May 25th will be Popeye: 75th Anniversary Collector's Edition (cartoons from 1936-1957) and the serials Captain Midnight (1942), The Painted Stallion (1937), and Undersea Kingdom (1936).

Warner Bros. will have the two-disc Blazing Saddles: 30th Anniversary Special Edition for release on June 29th. The disc will include anamorphic widescreen video (2.40:1), Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, scene-specific audio commentary by director Mel Brooks, a cast and crew reunion documentary, the Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn Remembers featurette, the 1975 Black Bart TV pilot inspired by the film, and "additional" scenes. Of more significance is the studio's announcement of the July 27th release of The Film Noir Classic Collection. Included are five films, available as a box set or individually. The titles are: The Asphalt Jungle (1950 with Sterling Hayden, audio commentary with film history professor Drew Casper and actor James Whitmore), Murder, My Sweet (1944 with Dick Powell, audio commentary by film noir expert and Prime Suspects producer Alain Silver), The Set-Up (1949 with Robert Ryan, audio commentary with director Robert Wise and Martin Scorsese), Out of the Past (1947 with Robert Mitchum, audio commentary by film noir expert Jim Ursini), and Gun Crazy (1949 with Peggy Cummins, audio commentary by film noir expert Glenn Erickson).

In Region 2 news, MGM will have Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) out on May 3rd with two-disc special editions of A Bridge Too Far (1977) and Battle of Britain (1969) coming on May 24th to mark the upcoming 60th anniversary of D-Day. In a similar vein, Fox will release a two-disc special edition of The Longest Day (1962) with a new anamorphic transfer on May 31st. On June 2nd, Wild Side will release Robert Siodmak's The Dark Mirror [La Double Enigme] (1946). Carlotta gives us Samuel Fuller's Forty Guns [Quarante Tueurs] (1957) and Anthony Mann's Man of the West [l'Homme de l'Ouest] (1958) on June 3rd. On July 1st, Fox offers John Stahl's Leave Her to Heaven [Péché Mortel] (1945) and Richard Fleischer's The Boston Strangler [l'Étrangleur de Boston] (1968). Some choice titles in that lot!

So once again, we come to the end of another column. As always, I welcome your comments, corrections, and questions on anything you've read here or on classic film issues in general, so don't be shy. See you all again soon.

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com


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