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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

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Classic Reviews Roundup #20 (continued)


The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete

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The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Second Season (1961-1962)

Director: Various

Television Release: CBS

Cast: Andy Griffith, Ronny Howard, Don Knotts, Frances Bavier

DVD Company and Release Date: Paramount, May 24, 2005

Video: 1.33:1 Full Frame; B&W

Audio: DD English Mono; No subtitles

Supplements: Original sponsor spots; Trailers for other TV series on DVD

The second season of The Andy Griffith Show builds on the success and quality of the first with 31 new episodes of the very popular series. As Andy and his son Opie, Andy Griffith and Ronny Howard continued to be top billed, but Don Knotts as deputy Barnie Fife had more opportunities to shine in the second season. Some of the series' best-remembered episodes were aired that season (1961-1962) and many featured important opportunities for Knotts' character. A particular favourite is "Barney and the Choir", but other good ones include "Andy on Trial" and "Barney's Replacement". "The Pickle Story" (in which Andy replaces Aunt Bee's awful homemade pickles with store-bought ones) is also a highlight of the season. One, however, won't go wrong with any of the episodes. They're all told with warmth and wit, and the character relationships are a real pleasure to behold. Paramount gives us the 13 hours worth of entertainment on five discs housed in 3 thin-cases. The transfers look very presentable with only some mild speckles and a bit of softness from time to time to detract from it all. They're perhaps slightly better-looking overall than the first season ones. The original sponsor spots with the series characters extolling the virtues of Sanka coffee and Post cereals are a welcome extra on each disc. Highly recommended.


The Wrong Arm of the Law

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The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963)

Director: Cliff Owen

Theatrical Release: United Artists

Cast: Peter Sellers, Lionel Jeffries, Bernard Cribbins, Davy Kaye

DVD Company and Release Date: Shanachie, February 24, 2004

Video: 1.37:1 Full Frame; B&W

Audio: DD EnglishMono; No subtitles

Supplements: None

Peter Sellers operates an haute couture dress salon, but is actually Pearly Gates, the head of a London gang of thieves. A number of Pearly's well-organized jobs go wrong when a trio of Australians pose as police officers, intercept Pearly's gang members in the course of their robberies, and make off with the loot each time. Known as the IPO (impersonating police officers) gang, these fake cops are soon a problem for the entire mob syndicate in London as well as Scotland Yard itself. The solution - an unusual alliance between the mob and the police in an effort to trap the IPO gang in the course of a specially planned heist. This is a very funny British comedy with Sellers providing the main comic spark, but well-matched with Lionel Jeffries as an incompetent Scotland Yard detective. Bernard Cribbins is also a delight as a nervous rival gang leader. Director Cliff Owen orchestrates the action very smoothly and shows real aptitude for comic timing. The resulting film is a fine blend of funny characters, slapstick, and droll dialogue. The DVD release is an entry in Shanachie's British Cinema Collection using source material provided by Carlton International. The full frame transfer is workable, offering some deep blacks and a reasonably detailed image. Unfortunately, blooming whites frequently intrude and various speckles and scratches are in evidence. The mono sound is similarly a mixed bag and the lack of any supplements is a disappointment. The film is funny enough to warrant a rental, however.


Waterhole #3

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Waterhole #3 (1967)

Director: William Graham

Theatrical Release: Paramount

Cast: James Coburn, Carroll O'Connor, Margaret Blye, Claude Akins

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

Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic; Colour

Audio: DD English Mono; English subtitles

Supplements: None

The gradual demise of the western as a major movie genre beginning in the mid-1960s was accompanied by a number of variations on the western film, not the least of which was the western parody. Support Your Local Sheriff was one of the really good ones, but many others were merely dull and witless. Waterhole #3 is one of the latter. It seems a shipment of army gold has been stolen and hidden at a waterhole. After the loot are opportunist James Coburn, slightly bent sheriff Carroll O'Connor, and crooked soldier Claude Akins. The gold is tracked down early in the film and much of the rest of the effort sees the gold changing hands as the various searchers get the upper hand. The film degenerates into a lot of noisy and pointless gunplay at the end, all somehow supposed to be funny. This is the sort of mediocre stuff that one is not surprised to see O'Connor or Akins in, but James Coburn should have known better. Joan Blondell and James Whitmore are wasted in supporting roles. Paramount delivers a nice-looking anamorphic transfer as usual. Too bad the content doesn't measure up accordingly.


The Front Page

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The Front Page (1974)

Director: Billy Wilder

Theatrical Release: Universal

Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Vincent Gardenia, Susan Sarandon

DVD Company and Release Date: Universal, May 31, 2005

Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic; Colour

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

Supplements: None

Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's play "The Front Page" has been filmed four times. A very finely constructed comedy about the relationship between a crusty newspaper editor and his top reporter who wants to quit and get married just when a convicted murderer escapes from jail, it first appeared in 1931 as The Front Page, a very fine adaptation starring Adolph Menjou and Pat O'Brien. Then Howard Hawks got his hands on it and made an even better version in 1940 called His Girl Friday, with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. For some reason Billy Wilder thought he could improve on perfection and consequently we got the third version, in 1974, again entitled The Front Page and this time starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. In 1988, the story was updated as Switching Channels with Kathleen Turner and Burt Reynolds. As far as the 1974 film is concerned, better they should have all stayed in bed. This is a noisy, unpleasant version that offers nothing that even comes close to, never mind improving on, the first two incarnations. The acting from the leads and the supporting players is unmemorable and the writing is lackluster. Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond seem to think that throwing in a profusion of four-letter words updates things to more current sensibilities. All it does is emphasize how uninspired the script is overall. Among the cast, the most glaring deficiencies are Carol Burnett as the murderer's girlfriend and Vincent Gardenia as the sheriff whose stupidity lets the murderer get away. Universal's anamorphic widescreen transfer, for what it's worth, is a distinct improvement on the previous full screen Goodtimes release.


The Latest Classic Release Announcements

As is typically the case in mid-summer, release news is not quite as voluminous as at other times. Still, Warners has its usual plateful of planned goodies to delight us. We'll start there and then go through the other companies alphabetically in reverse order just to shake things up. The Classic Coming Attractions Database has been updated accordingly.

On October 18th, look for Warner Bros. to release The Adventures of Superman: The Complete First Season of the television series that starred George Reeves and aired in the 1950s. It will provide all 26 episodes on five discs with supplements that will include several audio commentaries and the complete 1951 film Superman and the Mole Men. October 25th will bring Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume Three and The Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection: Volume Two. The former will have 60 restored cartoons on four discs while the latter will have 40 restored cartoons on two discs. Fans will be waiting to see if the Tom and Jerry efforts are truly restored, unlike some released in last year's first volume (a situation not so far satisfactorily resolved). Also on October 25th, Warners will bring out a new Ultra Resolution restoration of The Wizard of Oz (1939). Both two- and three-disc versions will be available, each with extensive supplements. The extra disc (in the three-disc version) will feature a documentary on L. Frank Baum and five earlier filmed versions of the story. On November 8th, there will be five new classic releases. Boys Town (1938, with Spencer Tracy), A Christmas Carol (1938, with Reginald Owen), and Christmas in Connecticut (1945, with Barbara Stanwyck) will be available separately or as part of the Warner Bros. Holiday Collection. Each title will be accompanied by vintage shorts, newsreels, and trailers. The Boys Town disc will also include the 1941 feature Men of Boys Town. The other two November 8th releases are The Nun's Story (1959, with Audrey Hepburn) and The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968, with Anthony Quinn).

VCI has moved two of its serial releases from July to August 30th. The titles are Captain Video (1951) and Riders of Death Valley (1941). Other August 30th releases are two more Red Ryder discs: Red Ryder Double Feature: Volume 9 (Marshal of Laredo/ Tucson Raiders) and Red Ryder Double Feature: Volume 10 (Marshal of Reno/Sheriff of Redwood Valley). Both volumes star Bill Elliott as Red Ryder, with all films from the 1944-1946 time period. VCI has also announced that it has signed a deal to distribute films from the Kit Parker library (some 800 titles) on DVD. The Parker library contains a large number of genre films (westerns, mysteries, comedies), serials, film noir, and some silent titles. VCI expects to release two or three of the films on DVD each month. Specific titles mentioned so far (although with no specific dates attached to them) are: Black Tuesday (1954, with Edward G. Robinson), Stranger on Horseback (1955, with Joel McCrea), Promises! Promises! (1963, with Jayne Mansfield), and Three Nuts in Search of a Bolt (1964, with Mamie Van Doren).

Universal is now indicating that the Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection previously announced for October 4th will indeed have newly remastered transfers including anamorphic ones for Vertigo and Psycho. The bonus fifteenth disc in the set will contain the exclusive bonuses "AFI Salute to Alfred Hitchcock," "Masters of Cinema," "The Making of Psycho" and "All About the Birds". October 4th will also bring the anticipated Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season One. It will contain all 39 episodes and a new bonus featurette.

Sony has rescheduled the release of the Matt Helm Lounge Set (all four Matt Helm films starring Dean Martin) from August 2nd to August 30th. On October 4th, Sony will have The Man with Nine Lives (1940, with Boris Karloff) and Torture Garden (1967, with Peter Cushing), while the 18th will bring The Sabata Trilogy Collection (Sabata [1969, with Lee Van Cleef], Adios Sabata [1971, with Yul Brynner], The Return of Sabata [1971, with Lee Van Cleef]) and the 15-chapter 1943 Batman serial (with Lewis Wilson). Sony also plans a re-release of its current Oliver! (1968) DVD on September 27th, this time with a separate CD of the long-out-of-print soundtrack.

Paramount's plans for September 27th include Anything Goes (1956, with Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor), We're No Angels (1955, with Humphrey Bogart), and a 2005 documentary on Mary Pickford. In October, John Wayne's Hondo (1953) and McClintock! (1963) are set for the 11th. Darling Lili (1970, with Julie Andrews), Detective Story (1951, with Kirk Douglas), and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946, with Barbara Stanwyck) are planned for October 25th. Paramount has also indicated that it expects to release Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951), Save the Tiger (1973, with Jack Lemmon), and a Martin & Lewis double bill of My Friend Irma (1949) and My Friend Irma Goes West (1950) - all in October, but with no set date announced as yet. The November 1st Special Collector's Edition of War of the Worlds (1953) will include a new transfer; an audio commentary with stars Gene Barry and Ann Robinson; a second commentary with director Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns and Bill Warren, author of "Keep Watching the Skies!"; two featurettes ("The Sky is Falling: The Making of War of the Worlds" and "H.G. Wells: The Father of Science Fiction"); the original trailer; and the complete Mercury Theater on the Air radio broadcast that panicked the nation in October 1938.

MGM will release Billion Dollar Brain (1967, with Michael Caine) on October 4th.

Kino apparently has plans for the following three releases on September 13th: The Harold Lloyd Collection II [High and Dizzy (1920), From Hand to Mouth (1920), Captain Kidd's Kids (1919), Now or Never (1921), Among Those Present (1921), Ring Up the Curtain (1919), Two Gun Gussie (1918), The Non Stop Kid (1918), The City Slicker (1918), and Never Weaken (1921)]; The Charley Chase Collection II [His Wooden Wedding (1925), Isn't Life Terrible (1925), Innocent Husbands (1925), Dog Shy (1926), Bromo and Juliet (1926), Shine 'em Up (1922), and A Charley Chase Biography (2004)]; and The Oliver Hardy Collection [The Show (1922), The Sawmill (1921), Should Sailors Marry? (1925), Hop to It! (1925), Stick Around (1925), Along Came Auntie (1926), Crazy to Act (1927), and 45 Minutes from Hollywood (1927)].

The previously-announced Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941 will be released on October 18th by Image. As anticipated, it will have 7 discs containing 155 films and will be produced by David Shepard. In other Image news, the company has purchased Home Vision and its catalog, and will henceforth operate Home Vision as a separate specialty label out of its California headquarters. Image's current distribution of Criterion titles will extend to 2010. Criterion itself, however, remains an independently owned company.

A Fox release for September 6th that I previously overlooked is A Guide for the Married Man (1967, with Walter Matthau). Fox will release Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944) as a Special Edition on October 18th. The film has been restored and the disc will include commentary by Drew Casper as well as a making-of documentary and the theatrical trailer. On the same date, Fox will also re-release its Studio Classics version of The Mark of Zorro (1940), except that this release will also include a colourized version on the flip side of the disc. Why bother?

Falcon Pictures Group will release the TV series Racket Squad #2 and the Randolph Scott Double Feature #1 on September 13th. October 11th will bring Happy Go Lovely (1951, with David Niven) and the TV series Gabby Hayes Show #1 and The Lucy Show #1. There are no details on the exact content of these discs.

In 2006, Criterion will apparently release three films directed by Samuel Fuller and currently held by Kit Parker Films. The titles are: I Shot Jesse James (1949, with Preston Foster), The Baron of Arizona (1950, with Vincent Price), and The Steel Helmet (1951, with Gene Evans). One of Criterion's October releases is expected to be a new restored version of Henri Clouzot's The Wages of Fear (1952).

Barrie Maxwell
barriemaxwell@thedigitalbits.com


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