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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

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Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Classic Reviews Roundup #19 (continued)


Rebel without a Cause

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Rebel without a Cause (1955)

Director: Nicholas Ray

Theatrical Release: Warner Bros

Cast: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus

DVD Company and Release Date: Warner Bros. - May 31, 2005

Video: 2.55:1 Anamorphic, Colour

Audio: DD 5.1 English Surround, DD French Mono, English, French and Spanish subtitles

Supplements: Commentary by Douglas Rathgeb, author of The Making of Rebel without a Cause, Rebel without a Cause: Defiant Innocents 50th anniversary documentary, James Dean Remembered vintage documentary, additional scenes, 3 segments from the Warner Bros. Presents TV series, screen tests, wardrobe tests, theatrical trailer

The 50th anniversary of James Dean's untimely death is a fitting occasion for Warners to revisit its previous single disc release of Rebel without a Cause. The new transfer is an improvement over what was already a pretty decent effort. Colours are more accurate and image crispness is more striking. The 5.1 surround mix is similar in impact to that on East of Eden - an enhancing feature, although lacking significant surround effects. The supplements are similarly excellent and are highlighted by a top-notch commentary that tells you just about everything there is to know about the film and two fine documentaries, one on the film and the other on James Dean. As for the film itself, it's the benchmark for all subsequent films that somehow deal with troubled youth, highlighted by such seminal sequences as the "chicken" car race and the switchblade fight. Dean gives the most engrossing of his three performances on film and benefits from tight direction by Nicholas Ray and good supporting work from Natalie Wood and especially Sal Mineo. Available as a 2-disc edition either separately or as part of The Complete James Dean Collection. Highly recommended. The Complete James Dean Collection

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The Bravados

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The Bravados (1958)

Director: Henry King

Theatrical Release: Fox

Cast: Gregory Peck, Joan Collins, Stephen Boyd, Albert Salmi

DVD Company and Release Date: 20th Century-Fox - May 24, 2005

Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic, 1.37:1 Full Frame, Colour

Audio: DD 4.0 English Surround, DD Spanish Mono, DD French Mono, English and Spanish subtitles

Supplements: Two Fox Movietone News segments, theatrical trailer

Like Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck took well to westerns and made for a strong, believable western hero. The Bravados is one of his finest such films as a he plays a rancher determined to gain revenge on four men whom he believes raped and killed his wife. Peck's playing of the relentless avenger is marvelous as his eyes convey a dark anger and righteous conviction throughout his search. The film is beautifully structured as it draws us full circle physically to a conclusion that seems shocking despite our growing expectation of it as the story unfolds. The film also looks every bit as beautiful as Peck's one-track crusade seems increasingly ugly. This is a film of intelligence and forcefulness that remains with you long after it's over. Fox's DVD transfer is excellent with a crisp image and accurate colour that captures the wonderful cinematography very well. The surround track is quite dynamic although typically limited in the rear channels. Highly recommended.


Warlock

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Warlock (1959)

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Theatrical Release: Fox

Cast: Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, Richard Widmark, Dorothy Malone

DVD Company and Release Date: 20th Century-Fox - May 24, 2005

Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic, Colour

Audio: DD 2.0 English Stereo, DD English Mono, DD French Mono, DD Spanish Mono, English and Spanish subtitles

Supplements: Movietone News footage, theatrical trailer, six other western trailers

Here's one of the finest westerns of the 1950s, with Henry Fonda in prime form as a gunfighter who makes a living, along with buddy Anthony Quinn, as a town tamer for a price. His latest job is in Warlock where the job at first seems routine, but when a reformed bandit is later appointed sheriff (Richard Widmark in a strong performance), Fonda's character comes into conflict with his long-time friend Quinn and must tread a new path for the first time. Many of the standard western set-pieces are firmly in place, but the story is told with such conviction and so superbly acted by the main players that it's an infinitely repeatable experience to view the film. The characterizations all have depth and feeling and the story's resolution is a satisfying one. Fonda is completely believable as the gunfighter and here is at the height of his acting powers in westerns. Fox's DVD transfer is very good. The image is quite sharp for the most part and offers fairly vibrant colour. Shadow detail does seem a little less than optimal and there is a hint of edge effects at times, but the overall impact is minimal. The sound is clear, with typically little to distinguish between the stereo and mono mixes. Highly recommended.


The Cincinnati Kid

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The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

Director: Norman Jewison

Theatrical Release: MGM

Cast: Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson, Ann-Margret, Karl Malden

DVD Company and Release Date: Warner Bros. - May 31, 2005

Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic, Colour

Audio: DD English Mono, DD French Mono, English, French and Spanish subtitles

Supplements: Commentary by director Norman Jewison, scene-specific commentary by Phil Gordon and Dave Foley, hosts of Celebrity Poker Showdown, vintage featurette, theatrical trailer

The Cincinnati Kid does for poker what The Hustler did for pool. It's the old tale of the young Turk up against the old pro, determined to take over the crown of being the best. Steve McQueen and Edward G. Robinson are the two adversaries respectively and the final game of stud poker they engage in is masterfully set up and dramatized by director Norman Jewison. Both McQueen and Robinson are excellent as they play out a scenario that was very much parallel to their real-life statuses in the acting profession at the time. McQueen particularly sheds some of his self-conscious screen mannerisms and finally starts to learn how to be an actor rather than just a movie star. A strong supporting cast features Karl Malden, Rip Torn, Joan Blondell, Ann-Margret, and Tuesday Weld. Long a desired McQueen title, Warners' new DVD release is very pleasing. The transfer captures the film's generally subdued colour palette accurately. The image is crisp, although there are a few vertical scratches that surprisingly haven't been excised. The mono sound is in good shape. Norman Jewison offers an engaging commentary full of anecdotes about the shooting process and the production's checkered history (it began as a Sam Peckinpah film, but he was fired). An additional commentary on the film's poker aspects is good, at least when poker expert Phil Gordon is allowed to speak. Available as a separate disc or as part of The Essential Steve McQueen Collection. Recommended. The Essential Steve McQueen Collection

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The Texican

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The Texican (1966)

Director: Lesley Selander

Theatrical Release: Columbia

Cast: Audie Murphy, Broderick Crawford, Diana Lorys

DVD Company and Release Date: Sony - April 5, 2005

Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic, Colour

Audio: DD English Mono, English and Japanese subtitles

Supplements: Trailers for The Professionals and Silverado

This is one of those westerns made in Europe with American stars on the down side of their careers. It was the second-last western made by one of the last of the true western stars, Audie Murphy. Filmed in Spain with an all-European cast other than chief antagonist Broderick Crawford and an all-European crew other than veteran B western director Lesley Selander, The Texican is a minor time-passer that finds Murphy's character having to come back across the border from Mexico to avenge his bother's murder. The storyline is very traditional but the European influence with the jarring dubbing and the typical spaghetti-western music identifies it clearly for what it is. The action sequences are handled briskly and executed with decent style except for a rather uninspiring concluding sequence. Murphy still looks athletic enough to make it all convincing, but aside from an unhealthy-looking Crawford, his antagonists are mainly an uninspiring and motley collection of look-alikes. Sony's DVD transfer looks rather soft and also sports a fair amount of grain. The sound is adequate.


Hour of the Gun

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Hour of the Gun (1967)

Director: John Sturges

Theatrical Release: United Artists

Cast: James Garner, Jason Robards, Robert Ryan, Albert Salmi

DVD Company and Release Date: MGM - May 17, 2005

Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic, 1.37:1 Full Frame, Colour

Audio: DD English Mono, English, French and Spanish subtitles

Supplements: Theatrical trailer

Hour of the Gun tells the continuation of the Wyatt Earp story that director John Sturges told in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Beginning with the O.K. Corral shootout, it details Earp's subsequent efforts to bring the Clanton gang to justice. Western fans will recognize that it covers much of the same ground that the second half of 1993's Tombstone does. For all the latter film's admirable qualities, Hour of the Gun tells that part of the story in a much more coherent fashion. It also benefits from an excellent portrayal of Earp by James Garner and fine work by Jason Robards as Doc Holliday and the ever-reliable Robert Ryan as Ike Clanton. Sturges demonstrates his usual fine work in telling a virtually all-male story and in orchestrating the action sequences. MGM's anamorphic DVD transfer offers nicely saturated colour and a reasonably crisp image that shows Sturges' outdoor compositions (shot in Arizona) to advantage. Here's a disc I would have loved to have had a James Garner commentary on, but all we get is the trailer. Recommended.


Johnny Reno

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Johnny Reno (1967)

Director: R.G. Springsteen

Theatrical Release: Paramount

Cast: Dana Andrews, Jane Russell, Lon Chaney Jr., Lyle Bettger

DVD Company and Release Date: Paramount - May 17, 2005

Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic, Colour

Audio: DD English Mono, English subtitles

Supplements: None

Producer A. C. Lyles made a baker's dozen of westerns at Paramount in the mid to late 1960s that featured stars past their prime as well as a number of old B western players. The likes of Dana Andrews, Barry Sullivan, Rory Calhoun, Broderick Crawford, Scott Brady, and George Montgomery all appeared at one time or another, for example. One of the later films in the cycle was Johnny Reno; it was also one of the poorest of what was a slow-moving lot at best. Dana Andrews plays the title character, a marshal who has to protect a prisoner from a town intent on lynching him. The film drags itself along with poorly executed action bursts and a script that must have been made up overnight, all played out to an at-times jokey and inappropriate sound track. The best piece of action is a fistfight between the two main antagonists, but the doubling of Andrews and Lyle Bettger is so poorly disguised that it takes the pleasure out of it. The only remote interest in the film is playing spot-the-familiar-faces. Lon Chaney Jr., Robert Lowery, Richard Arlen, Tom Drake, John Agar, and Edmund Cobb are among them. Paramount's DVD transfer is workmanlike, but seems a little faded. The sound is clear with no background hiss.


Tom Horn

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Tom Horn (1980)

Director: William Wiard

Theatrical Release: Warner Bros

Cast: Steve McQueen, Richard Farnsworth, Linda Evans, Slim Pickens

DVD Company and Release Date: Warner Bros - May 31, 2005

Video: 2.4:1 Anamorphic, Colour

Audio: DD English Mono, DD French Mono, English, French and Spanish subtitles

Supplements: Theatrical trailer

Based on a real-life character, Tom Horn was Steve McQueen's second last film and made just before he learned that he was suffering from a form of lung cancer that would soon prove fatal. The film is a mixed blessing. It offers a fine performance by McQueen, one whose impact is heightened by our subsequent knowledge of the cancer that was already invading his body. At the same time, the film's script lets McQueen down. The first half particularly is a mishmash of scenes and flashbacks that are often disjointed, although things improve as the story later becomes focused on the efforts to convict Horn of murder. The cinematography is beautiful, but there's an air of unreality to the town settings and the film's other characters are not developed enough to give them any depth in comparison to what we learn about Horn. Among the other players, only Slim Pickens is memorable as a sympathetic sheriff. The DVD transfer (not the first widescreen video transfer as stated on the packaging, as there was a previous widescreen laserdisc version) is very pleasing on the whole. The landscapes are well captured by the generally crisp images and the purposefully subdued colour palette. There is some minor grain in evidence that gives the image a film-like quality. The mono sound is in good shape. Available as a separate disc or as part of The Essential Steve McQueen Collection. A noble failure, but recommended as a rental. The Essential Steve McQueen Collection

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The Latest Classic Release Announcements

Alpha has a slate of 24 releases set for August 23rd. Many of these are mysteries from the 1930s with a few rather-obscure television releases thrown in for good measure. There are also four silent films being made available as The Wizard of Oz Collection. See the classic database for the complete list of titles.

Take a Hard Ride (1975, Lee Van Cleef) is a possible Anchor Bay release on October 4th. There are still conflicting reports on this, so the title remains in the rumoured-release portion of the classic database.

BBC Video plans a special edition release of the 1951 Alastair Sim Scrooge for September 27th. Apparently restored and remastered, this new disc version will include such supplements as 1914 and 1922 silent film versions of the Dickens story as well as two complete radio plays from Christmas Day 1950 and 1965.

Criterion will offer three releases on August 23rd. Boudu Saved from Drowning (Boudu sauvé des eaus) is Jean Renoir's wonderful 1932 take on complacency, loosely remade years later as Down and Out in Beverly Hills. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) is Roberto Rossellini's tribute to the universal teachings of the People's Saint. Harakiri (1962) is Masaki Kobayashi's study of feudal authority and hypocrisy that was a Cannes Special Jury Prize winner. All include new high-definition transfers as well as new and archival interviews among assorted other supplements. Harakiri will be a two-disc set with a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer while the other two will be full frame.

Disney will offer the third wave of Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites titles, which will include Volume 8: Holiday Celebration with Mickey and Pals and Volume 9: Classic Holiday Stories, both on September 27th.

Falcon Pictures will offer the Hopalong Cassidy Triple Feature #2 and the Tex Ritter Triple Feature #1 on July 12th. The particular titles being offered in these sets are not known, but unfortunately the track record on the quality of Falcon's releases is not good. Cassidy fans should stick to the high quality Image and Platinum releases already available. Delightfully Dangerous (1945, Jane Powell) will be released on August 9th. It's unclear whether these releases will appear under Falcon's own imprimatur or under that of Critics Choice.

Flicker Alley's third release, F.W Murnau's Phantom (1922), is now planned for an autumn 2005 release. The company was also involved in last year's restoration of three Howard Hughes productions - Two Arabian Knights (1927), The Racket (1928), and The Mating Call (1928) - and it is possible that DVD versions will be forthcoming, although there's nothing definite as yet.

Fox's third film noir wave will appear on September 6th: House on 92nd Street (1945), Somewhere in the Night (1946), and Whirlpool (1949). This continues to leave Kiss of Death (1947) in limbo. Anchor Bay has now indicated (thanks to a reader who received a message from the company) that the title is not in its plans but would come from Fox itself eventually. Kiss of Death now becomes a candidate for the December Fox film noir wave along with such other possibilities as The Dark Corner, Where the Sidewalk Ends, the oft-mentioned Laird Cregar films (Hangover Square, The Lodger), and even No Way Out [1950] (although the latter has also been touted as a Studio Classics release, where it would more correctly be placed). September 6th will also see a number of other classic titles including: The Cabinet of Caligari (1962, with Dan O'Herlihy), The Innocents (1961, with Deborah Kerr), A Man Called Peter (1955, with Richard Todd), Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962, with James Stewart), and Harry and Tonto (1974, with Art Carney). On the same date, Fox will also inflict three more Legend Films colorization efforts upon us. The public domain films being bowdlerized this time are two 1946 Sherlock Holmes titles - Dressed to Kill (aka Prelude to Murder) and Terror by Night - and the ubiquitous House on Haunted Hill (1958). All three already have superior transfers available in the marketplace (from MPI, MPI, and WB respectively) so there's no need to bother with the new ones even to get a black and white version. Finally, Laureate reports that it will work with Fox on a release of Fred Astaire's Daddy Long Legs (1955). A commentary by Astaire's daughter, Ava Astaire Mackenzie, is planned. There is no release date set as yet, but it presumably will be in 2006.

Home Vision plans to release two classic documentaries by Emile de Antonio on September 20th. Point of Order (1964) deals with the Army-McCarthy Hearings, and In the Year of the Pig (1968) with the Vietnam War.

Classic offerings from Image are somewhat skimpy during the upcoming months. Doris Day fans, who have been well served by other studios of late, will likely be pleased to hear that Image will make the documentary Doris Day: It's Magic (1998) available on September 6th. Image seems like the likely source (although unconfirmed) for a new seven DVD, twenty-hour box set called Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film that David Shepard and Bruce Posner have just completed work on. Expected to be released in late 2005, it is a collection of short films made in America or by Americans abroad from the beginnings of cinema until 1941. The seven-disc set will contain over 150 films, with each disc running about 150 minutes and organized thematically: 1: The Mechanized Eye: Experiments in Technique and Form; 2: The Devil's Playground: American Surrealism; 3: Light Rhythms: Music and Abstraction; 4: Inverted Narratives: New Directions in Storytelling; 5: Picturing a Metropolis: New York City Unveiled; 6: The Amateur as Auteur: Discovering Paradise in Pictures; 7: Viva La Dance: The Beginnings of Cine-Dance.

MPI will have The Beverly Hillbillies Ultimate Collection: Volume One (4 discs) on September 27th.

From Paramount, three previously delayed titles have now been rescheduled. Chuka (1967) and Branded (1950, with Alan Ladd) will be released on September 27th and The War of the Worlds: Special Collectors Edition (1953) will appear on November 1st. August 16th will see the release of The Andy Griffith Show: Complete Season Three and I Love Lucy: Complete Season Five. The Red Tent (1971, with Sean Connery) will be released on August 23rd. On September 6th, we will finally get the long-promised Preston Sturges' Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) along with Casanova's Big Night (1954, with Bob Hope) and Red Garters (1954, with Rosemary Clooney). Hogan's Heroes: Complete Second Season follows on the 20th. We also have early notification of two November releases, both Diana Ross pictures: Lady Sings the Blues (1972) and Mahogany (1975).

On September 6th, Passport (distributed by Koch) will have three releases: The East Side Kids Collection (5 discs), The Dean Martin Collection (3 discs), and the serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940). There is no information on the exact content of the former two collections.

Roan Group will offer two Zane Grey adaptations on July 26th. To the Last Man (1933) stars Randolph Scott and Light of Western Stars (1940) stars Victor Jory.

Sony's MGM arm has delayed its Pink Panther promotion from July into early next year. This includes all the individual feature films as well as the cartoon collections. The change was made in conjunction with a similar delay in the release of the new Steve Martin Pink Panther theatrical movie. In more positive news, there will be more Midnite Movies on September 20th with the release of five double bills (some already appeared in Canada this spring): Die Monster Die/The Dunwich Horror, Panic in Year Zero/The Last Man on Earth, Tales of Terror/Twice Told Tales, Voodoo Island/The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake and War Gods of the Deep/At The Earth's Core. Also coming from MGM on July 5th is Monkey on My Back (1957, with Cameron Mitchell). Sony's Columbia component was set to release a Matt Helm Lounge box set on August 2nd, but this has been postponed for now. The Dean Martin films to have been included were The Silencers (1966), Murderer's Row (1967), The Ambushers (1968), and The Wrecking Crew (1969). Sony has also confirmed the new date of August 30th for its release of the extended cut (14 extra minutes of previously excised footage) of Major Dundee (1965, with Charlton Heston). Disc supplements will include an audio commentary by four Peckinpah historians, deleted scenes, featurettes, a photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer. Even better is the news at last that Randolph Scott is getting more attention. Five of his 1950s westerns will be released on September 6th: A Lawless Street (1955), Man in the Saddle (1951), Santa Fe (1951), The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953), and Ten Wanted Men (1955). Also being released concurrently will be Anthony Mann's The Last Frontier (1956) and The Longest Drive (1976, with Brian Keith).

Universal plans to release the first seasons of Emergency! and Adam-12 on August 23rd. Each will be two-disc sets. September 6th will be a major release date for the company. First up are The Bela Lugosi Collection which will contain five films on one two-sided disc and The Hammer Horror Series Collection which will have eight films on two two-sided discs. The former includes Murders in the Rue Morgue (1933), The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), The Invisible Ray (1936), and Black Friday (1940). The title does a disservice to Boris Karloff who appears in four of the films and stars in some of them well ahead of Lugosi. The Hammer collection includes Brides of Dracula (1960), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), Paranoiac (1963), Kiss of the Vampire (1963), Nightmare (1964), Night Creatures (1962), and The Evil of Frankenstein (1964). Universal also will have anamorphic widescreen special editions of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and The Sting (1973) on the same date. Each will be two-disc entries in the "Legacy Series". Coming on October 4th is the anticipated fourth volume of Abbott and Costello: The Best of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Vol. 4. The two-disc set will include the feature films Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, The World of Abbott and Costello, and the 1994 TV special Abbott and Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld. Extras include the bonus half-hour documentary Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters. Also on October 4th, Universal plans the release of Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection. The fifteen disc set will include the current special editions of Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot, along with a bonus disc with special features yet to be announced. The set is rounded out with a collectible Hitchcock book. There is no indication, however, that any new transfers are involved. If not, why bother when we'd be better off by more attention from Universal to its vast virtually untouched classic Paramount catalog rather than going over ground that's already been quite well served. In other Universal news, the planned July release of The Return of the Pink Panther has been delayed in conjunction with MGM's action on its Panther titles.

VCI has delayed the release of its planned May titles to June 21st. Included are: Chu Chin Chow (1934), and the serials The Last Frontier (1932), Fighting with Kit Carson (1933), and Rustlers of Red Dog (1935). Other delays have bumped I Married Joan -Collection #2 and The Moon and Sixpence to July 12th, and Stronghold to July 26th.

On September 13th, Warner Bros. will offer a four-disc SE of Ben-Hur (1959), restored and remastered from 65-mm elements. Also included will be the 1925 silent version. Supplements include an audio commentary and three documentaries. Two James Dean documentaries are set for September 20th. They are James Dean: Forever Young, showcased at this year's Cannes Film Festival and narrated by Martin Sheen, and the "American Masters" documentary James Dean: Sense Memories. The patiently-awaited Val Lewton Horror Collection box set will debut on October 4th. It will be a five-disc set that will include nine Lewton films and a new documentary on Lewton's work at RKO exclusive to the set. The films are The Cat People (1942), Curse of the Cat People (1944), I Walked With a Zombie (1943), Body Snatcher (1945), Isle of the Dead (1945), Bedlam (1946), The Leopard Man (1943), The Ghost Ship, (1943), and The Seventh Victim (1943). The first six will also be packaged as three double-bill discs, each of which will be available separately. Supplements on the set include six audio commentaries (two involving Simone Simon) and theatrical trailers. On September 27th, Warner will offer several compilations of episodes from classic TV programs packaged as "Television Favorites". Getting this exposure will be Maverick (3 hour-long episodes), Cheyenne (3 hour-long episodes) and F Troop (6 half-hour episodes). This confirms the previously rumoured disappointing news that fans of these series will not be getting season sets, unless these releases are just testing the waters to see if such classic series warrant the season treatment. In other Warner news, an anticipated Busby Berkeley box set is rumoured to include at least Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, Dames, and Gold Diggers of 1935, while a proposed MGM Musicals collection is rumoured to include 'Til the Clouds Roll By, Ziegfeld Follies, Summer Stock, Three Little Words, and It's Always Fair Weather. There are no release dates for these sets as yet. Finally, the 1931 Best Picture Oscar winner, Cimarron, is expected to appear in February 2006 as part of Warners' annual Oscar promotion.

Barrie Maxwell
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