Classic Reviews (Continued)
I like Bob Hope, but I usually prefer to take him in small doses. Of his feature films, the ones where he has a co-star that shares the comedy equally (for example, the Road pictures) are much more to my liking than those where he's the main funny man. That's particularly true of his post-1950 films where the extended exposure of his standard cowardly and lecherous wiseguy character began to grate. Fortunately, a new collection from Universal - Bob Hope: Thanks for the Memories Collection avoids that latter problem by focusing on six films from the late 1930s and 1940s.
The release also provides a fine opportunity to watch Hope's early film career and confidence on screen develop. All the films are originally Paramount productions. Thanks for the Memory (1938) which draws its title from Hope's Oscar winning song in The Big Broadcast of 1938 also stars his co-singer of that song (Shirley Ross) and delivers a very pleasing if slight romance about a stay-at-home author and his working wife. The Cat and the Canary (1939) is a terrific blend of comedy and scariness that set the mold for Hope's bluff-but-coward-at-heart, wisecracking film character. It offers some good comedy work also from Paulette Goddard who also stars with Hope in The Ghost Breakers (1940) and Nothing But the Truth (1941). In the former, a film almost equally as entertaining as The Cat and the Canary, Hope is a radio personality who ends up in a haunted castle in Cuba with Goddard (look for some nice supporting work from Willie Best, and supporting appearances from Paul Lukas and Anthony Quinn). In Nothing But the Truth, stockbroker Hope tries to go 24 hours without telling a lie regardless of the consequences in order to fulfill a bet. A lesser-known film than the two preceding ones, it maintains their comedy standard and offers one of Hope's most appealing performances. Goddard's work, this time as a woman with money she wants Hope to invest, is once again very appealing. Road to Morocco (1942) is for me the most enjoyable of the Road pictures. Hope and Bing Crosby are stowaways who survive a shipwreck only to get mixed up with an exotic princess (Dorothy Lamour). The give and take with Crosby is effortless and the comedic situations are frequently amusing even if unbelievably crazy at times, while Lamour is at her beguiling best. In The Paleface (1948), Calamity Jane (Jane Russell) needs to marry someone as cover for her undercover work for the government to root out whoever supplying arms to the Indians. Hope's shy dentist is elected. Many of the film's best gags have been appropriated or embellished by subsequent western spoofs, so that the film seems very familiar now, but it was one of the originals and seen in that light provides diverting entertainment. The lush Technicolor usage heightens the air of unreality of the comic situation very effectively. Universal's packaging offers the six films on three discs in a fold-out digipak enclosed in a cardboard slipcase. Three of the films in the collection have previously been released on DVD - The Ghost Breakers, Road to Morocco, and The Paleface. All are new transfers, with Road to Morocco and The Paleface looking essentially the same as their previous and good DVD releases. For some reason, however, The Ghost Breakers is inferior looking to the previous DVD version. It was quite decent before, but now looks too dark and is not as sharp. The supplements from the earlier DVD versions (several short featurettes and photographic galleries) have been carried over to the new set. The other three titles all look very good, typical of Universal's efforts with its Paramount holdings. Images are sharp with nicely defined gray scales. The mono sound is in good shape. Supplementing each of the new-to-DVD titles is the theatrical trailer. The set is recommended, but would have been more highly rated except for the three double dips.
After the original 39 classic half-hour episodes of The Honeymooners from the mid-1950s, the series' characters would be revived frequently by Jackie Gleason on his subsequent CBS TV variety shows and as TV specials once his weekly series ended. During the 60s and early 70s, Gleason and Art Carney were constants in all the revivals playing their Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton characters respectively.
The original Alice, Audrey Meadows, was replaced by Sheila MacRae while Jane Kean took over from Joyce Randolph in the role of Trixie. Between 1976 and 1978, Gleason agreed to do four final Honeymooners specials for ABC. For these, Audrey Meadows returned as Alice. MPI has now released the first and third of these specials on DVD as The Honeymooners Specials: Second Honeymoon and The Honeymooners Specials: Valentine Special. At 50 minutes each and with frequent reworking of material from the classic series, these specials are pale imitations of the originals. The players are now too old for their roles and the old energy is lacking for the most part. There is of course some pleasure in seeing familiar faces reprising the classic characters, but their efforts too often seem forced and nearly 25 years have robbed the situations of their charm and currency with the actual times. All this is particularly true of the Second Honeymoon special in which Ralph thinks Alice is going to have a baby on the eve of their 25th anniversary. The hefty Gleason was only 60 at the time, but he looks at least a decade older and is obviously labouring with even the slightest physical exertion. The Valentine Special fares a little better with Gleason acting more energetically (even though he doesn't look it) and some genuinely funny bits surrounding Ralph's and Alice's plans for Valentine's gifts - a new suit for Ralph and a new all-electric kitchen for Alice. A highlight is Alice's efforts to get Ralph's suit measurements, which he fears is actually her measuring him for a coffin. MPI's DVD presentations are full frame as originally broadcast and appear to be unedited versions. The images lack the sharpness of the best transfers and some ringing around objects and in the opening and closing credits is evident. Colours are bright and fidelity seems quite good, however. The mono sound is in good shape with dialogue clear and only very minor hiss apparent at times. Supplements consist of a Honeymooners parody on each disc. On the Second Honeymoon release, it's a not particularly funny one from a 1967 Hollywood Palace show in which Audrey Meadows plays an Alice who's a bus driver while Ray Bolger plays Ralph as a stay-at-home husband. On the Valentine Special, the parody is a more effective 1971 effort with Sheila MacRae as Alice, George Kirby as Ralph, and Rich Little as Ed Norton. Worth a rental for Honeymooners fans at most.
I've always had much affection for Kay Francis as a screen performer. Sporting a seemingly endless collection of stunning outfits, she had a grand run of films at Paramount and Warner Bros. from 1930 until about 1937 during which she was virtually the queen of screen soap opera. She then fell out of favour at Warners, but determined to fulfill her contractual obligations there despite the studio's seeming desires to see her go elsewhere. Welcome indeed is the Warner Archive's release of several of her 1930s efforts. I've had the chance to look at two of them - The House on 56th Street (from 1933) and Give Me Your Heart (from 1936).
As a film, The House on 56th Street is the lesser of the two with its contrived tale of a woman convicted of manslaughter who 20 years later returns to her former home, now turned into a gambling establishment, where as a dealer of blackjack, she is the chief attraction. There she encounters her daughter (Margaret Lindsay) who seems liable to repeat her mother's mistakes. The film runs a brisk 68 minutes and despite its contrivances, entertains because of Francis's sincere efforts. The range of emotions that her character must go through - from the charm and freshness of a young lover to the resignation and heartbreak of a convicted killer who must forget her young daughter to the hard-edged cynicism of a con artist - all are conveyed with a realism and maturity that truly impresses. Providing expert support are several familiar Warner faces of the time: Ricardo Cortez, Gene Raymond, and Frank McHugh. Direction is by Warner stalwart Robert Florey. Give Me Your Heart is an entrancing tale of mother love. Francis plays a woman happily married to a wealthy and successful New Yorker (George Brent), but her life is tormented by the remembrance of a love affair that resulted in a young child now being raised by her former lover and his invalid wife. It gives nothing away to say that the situation is happily resolved, but the plot's real joy is the execution of that resolution. It involves a character played by Roland Young who wittily engineers a reunion of all parties. Frank Nugent of the New York Times called the film "an affecting, mature, and sophisticated drama" and that reflects my feelings perfectly. Francis's performance is similarly affecting and classy, and her apparent mental transformation when she is finally forced to meet the woman now mothering her child is heartfelt and entirely believable. Both Warner Archive releases are presented full frame as originally shot. Give Me Your Heart looks quite strong with a sharp and nicely detailed image. Moderate grain is present and some speckles and scratches are evident, though they never intrude on one's enjoyment. The House on 56th Street doesn't look as good. Image sharpness is merely okay and some sequences are quite soft. Shadow detail suffers at times. More speckling and scratches are also apparent. The mono sound on both releases is clear with only minor hiss evident, particularly on The House on 56th Street. There are no supplements with either. Both are recommended, but if you're going to sample only one, definitely make it Give Me Your Heart.
The Caretakers is a 1963 United Artists release of a Hall Bartlett production (he directed, produced, and wrote the screen story based on a novel by Daniel Telfer).
It's an entirely familiar tale of a West Coast mental hospital where a young doctor (Robert Stack) trying to promote modern group therapy treatment techniques faces intense opposition from the old guard who advocate traditional strait-jacket and padded cell methods. Leading that opposition are Joan Crawford as the head nurse (she teaches judo to her staff) and her lieutenant Constance Ford with some support from a senior hospital administrator (a tired-looking Herbert Marshall). The patients are women from a range of backgrounds including a mother whose child has been killed (Polly Bergen), an aging school teacher (Ellen Corby), a prostitute (Janis Paige), and a foreign refugee (Ana St. Clair). The film is an earnest but clichéd effort that seems more like a mediocre made-for-TV movie of the week than the major Hollywood production that its cast would imply. Robert Stack's work in the lead role can't shake one's image of a kinder, gentler Eliot Ness from The Untouchables series that Stack had just finished starring in. Bergen and Paige toil valiantly, but the rest of the players make little positive impression. Films both older and newer have told the same story in much more compelling fashion. The Caretakers has been released on DVD-R under MGM's MOD program in conjunction with Create Space. The film is presented in its original release ratio of 1.85:1 (even though the packaging states it to be full screen), but in a non-anamorphic transfer. Nonetheless, the image is quite sharp and nicely contrasted. Shadow detail does suffer somewhat, however. Modest grain is quite evident. The mono sound is clear and free of hiss. There are no supplements and no disc menu.
If you like films with flashbacks as I do, The Locket will be just up your alley. A film noir from RKO in 1946, the film stars the beguiling Laraine Day as Nancy Blair, a young woman with apparent psychological problems that seem to stem from her childhood when a locket given to her by a childhood friend is later taken from her by the child's mother.
A succession of men are entranced by the adult Blair including an art patron (Ricardo Cortez), an artist (Robert Mitchum, somewhat cast against type), Brian Aherne (a struggling psychologist), and a rich young heir (Gene Raymond). Their intertwined stories lead to the succession of flashbacks within flashbacks that highlight the film, although it's never a problem of keeping track of where one is, as the flashbacks are effectively handled. The acting is solid across the entire cast and the complex tale is ably controlled by director John Brahm (responsible for such other tight entries as The Lodger, Hangover Square, and The Brasher Doubloon). It is Laraine Day who really makes the whole thing work, however. Her beauty and fresh-faced, earnest portrayal constantly make one rethink one's opinion of what's happening even in the face of mounting evidence against her character. The film is available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive in a full frame transfer that properly reflects the original release. The image is a bit soft at times and not as consistently sharp as one would prefer. There are also some obvious issues of debris and other imperfections on the image. Contrast is good, however, and there's a pleasing level of grain. The mono sound is in good shape. There are no supplements. Recommended for noir fans. Others should try a rental first.
None But the Lonely Heart is somewhat of an ambitious but ultimately unsatisfying film.
Made by RKO in 1944, written and directed by Clifford Odets, and starring Cary Grant, it offers moments that remain fixed in the mind and a handful of fine performances, but the narrative is fragmented, the dialogue very mannered, and the film overall doesn't know what it wants to accomplish. Grant plays Ernie Mott, a wandering wastrel who seems to return home to his mother in London whenever he's most down on his luck. His mother (Ethel Barrymore) loves him but gives an ultimatum, either remain and make something of his life or go and never return. When he learns his mother is dying of cancer, he decides to stay, but finds himself running afoul of a local gang boss (George Coulouris) and dealing with the affections of two local women (June Duprez and Jane Wyatt). The film is based on a novel by Richard Llewellyn (who also wrote "How Green Was My Valley"), but the screenplay by playwright Clifford Odets stylizes the dialogue so that it often sounds inappropriate for the setting. The film seems to be trying to communicate something profound about the human condition, specifically the responsibility of the individual in society, and Odets uses the old Greek chorus gambit to try to emphasize it. Barry Fitzgerald performs that role by acting as effectively Grant's conscience at various times in the film, but the technique is compromised by the very contrived nature of Fitzgerald's appearances. Fitzgerald does eschew most of his usual quirkiness with an earnest portrayal though. We get the same earnestness from Cary Grant who looked upon his work as some of his best during a long career. Certainly the dramatic role is a departure from the suave characters he mainly played in his many comedy films. Both Jane Duprez and Jane Wyatt also come off well, but Ethel Barrymore provides the acting highlight of the film. Grant received a Best Actor Oscar nomination while Barrymore won for Best Supporting Actress. The Warner Archive release is listed as a remastered edition and for the most part it's quite good, offering a sharp well-contrasted image most of the time. Those qualities do waver occasionally into a softer image, and shadow detail falters at times too. Speckles and scratches are evident, but not a significant concern. The mono sound is clear with some minor hiss apparent. The only supplement is the theatrical trailer. Recommended as a rental.
The Devil's Doorway is a very good if tragic 1950 MGM western from Anthony Mann.
Robert Taylor stars as an Indian who served in the Civil War with distinction, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor, and returns home to his ranch on his ancestral lands in Wyoming only to learn that he may no longer have any right to own it. With Wyoming Territory officially becoming a part of the United States, its lands are thrown open to any American citizen wanting to stake them, except Indians are not considered American citizens. Taylor pleads his case through a local lawyer (Paula Raymond), but his efforts are thwarted by another crooked lawyer (Louis Calhern). The casting of Taylor seems bizarre on the surface, but he manages an impressive effort as he alternates between western white garb and traditional native costume helped by a good makeup job. The focus on Taylor's character is heightened by Mann's choice of a supporting cast little associated with westerns (Calhern, Raymond, Marshall Thompson, Rhys Williams, Spring Byington). The film was made in 1949 but released only after the success of Delmer Daves' Broken Arrow, a film that is credited with beginning a more-fair handed treatment of Indians on the screen. The Devil's Doorway is a much harder-hitting film, though, and has better stood the test of time. It's buoyed by a sincere script by Guy Trosper that pulls no punches at the end. Anthony Mann's direction is taut and the film began an impressive run of westerns for Mann in the first half of the 1950s - westerns that build on the investigation of the western identity begun in The Devil's Doorway. The Warner Archive release is full frame as originally shot. The image is mainly sharp and quite clean with good detail. There are a few softer sequences but contrast remains strong. Some modest grain is evident. The mono sound is clear and free of hiss or other distortion. The only supplement is the theatrical trailer. Highly recommended.
In The Further Adventures of the Kettles, TCM/Universal packages the final two Ma and Pa Kettle films (The Kettles in the Ozarks and The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm) on a single double-layered, pressed disc.
Thus the last two films of the 10-title series are finally available some half dozen years after the first eight were released on DVD by Universal. For those that may not be aware, the Kettles series originated with the 1947 Claudette Colbert/Fred MacMurray film The Egg and I that focused on the tribulations of a pair of newly-weds who chuck city life for supposed-idyllic country living. Ma and Pa Kettle were two of their country neighbors and were so popular with filmgoers that they got their own series of films. By 1956 when The Kettles in the Ozarks was first released theatrically, the series was becoming pretty tired and Percy Kilbride had departed from the role of Pa Kettle. For this entry, Arthur Hunnicutt essayed the role of Pa's brother Sedge and the Kettle brood of Ma and 13 of her kids all go to visit Sedge in his Ozark home in order to help him out of a jam with the bank, Eventually their efforts involve a run-in with moonshiners whom Sedge has inadvertently allowed to set up business in his barn. Marjorie Main is still in fine form as Ma and she carries the episode well. Kilbride is not really missed as Hunnicutt steps in capably. There's unfortunately very little that's fresh in the usual line-up of "country-folks" gags, though, and the 81-minute running time is a hard slog except for a few highlights, mainly related to Ma's discovery of the moonshine operation. There's some good supporting work from the likes of Una Merkel, Joe Sawyer, and Ted De Corsia. The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm (1957) returns the series somewhat to its roots. A young couple who want to get married and are friends of the Kettles have a trial run on the old Kettle farm to see if the pampered wife- to-be (Gloria Talbott) can cut it as a farm wife. (In a neat switch, her father [Roy Barcroft] doesn't think she's worthy of the young man she wants to marry.) After the usual scenes about the wife's difficulties with operating the old stove, slopping the pigs, scrubbing floors and so on, the film veers off into almost surrealist territory involving a three-toed bear at large and a lumberman's contest. Parker Fennelly plays Pa Kettle, but as he's mainly given bits of business identical to the sort of thing Kilbride supplied, he never gets much of a chance to make the role his own. The familiarity of the film's early material and then the almost desperate desire to inject anything at all that might seem new in the second half really makes the film a chore to sit through. Even the presence of the great Roy Barcroft is little compensation. At least TCM/Universal has given the two black and white films with good 1.85:1 anamorphic transfers. The images are sharp and offer good contrast, both particularly so on The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm. Modest grain is retained, and speckles and scratches are not a significant issue. The mono sound on both films is clear. Each film is graced with a collection of publicity materials and stills/poster galleries, with Old MacDonald's Farm having its pressbook made available on DVD-ROM. For Kettles completists only.
A&E will be offering Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection on September 28th. All 86 episodes of the British spy TV series will be available in the updated, 18-DVD, sleek double thin-pak collector's edition. DVD bonuses in the set include an archival photo gallery, the complete, original U.S. opening featuring Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man" and a Patrick McGoohan biography/filmography.
AC Comics now has released The Crimson Cult (1968, with Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff) and The Night Walker (1964, with Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor). Also newly available are The Mask (1962, with Paul Stevens - in 3D with two pairs of red/blue 3D glasses included) and Voodoo Jungle Women. The latter is a double feature of Voodoo Woman (1957, with Tom Conway) and Jungle Woman (1944, with J. Carrol Naish). All releases are on DVD-R.
Criterion has exciting plans for November. On November 16th, we'll get The Night of the Hunter, Charles Laughton's sole directorial effort, from 1955 with Robert Mitchum. It will be available on both Blu-ray and DVD. Supplements will comprise: audio commentary featuring assistant director Terry Sanders, film critic F. X. Feeney, archivist Robert Gitt, and author Preston Neal Jones; Charles Laughton Directs "The Night of the Hunter," a two-and-a-half-hour archival treasure trove of outtakes from the film; a new documentary featuring interviews with producer Paul Gregory, Sanders, Jones, and author Jeffrey Couchman; a new video interview with Simon Callow, author of "Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor", a clip from the The Ed Sullivan Show, in which cast members perform live a scene that was deleted from the film; 15-minute episode of the BBC show Moving Pictures about the film; an archival interview with cinematographer Stanley Cortez; a gallery of sketches by author Davis Grubb; a new video conversation between Gitt and film critic Leonard Maltin about Charles Laughton Directs "The Night of the Hunter"; the original theatrical trailer; and a booklet featuring essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow. November 16th will also bring Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) in both Blu-ray and DVD versions. An extensive list of extras will include new audio commentary from Chaplin biographer David Robinson. The new HD transfer should hopefully redress the PAL-derived issues that annoyed some fans of the previous Region 1 DVD release from WB. Then on November 23rd, Criterion will release, through arrangement with Sony, America Lost and Found: The BBS Story on Blu-ray (the DVD version will arrive on December 14th). This release includes 7 films: Head (1968, with The Monkees, extras include audio commentary by 3 of the group and a new documentary on BBS); Easy Rider (1969, with Jack Nicholson, extras include a 1999 making-of dcoumentary and audio commentary by director Dennis Hopper); Five Easy Pieces (1970, with Jack Nicholson, extras include audio commentary from director Bob Rafelson and interior designer Toby Rafelson and a 2009 video piece with Rafelson discussing the film); Drive, He Said (1970, with Bruce Dern, extras include a 2009 video piece with director Jack Nicholson discussing the film); A Safe Place (1971, with Tuesday Weld, extras include audio commentary with director Henry Jaglom and a 2009 video piece with Jaglom discussing the film); The Last Picture Show (1971, with Timothy Bottoms, extras include two audio commentaries and a 1999 making-of documentary); and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972, with jack Nicholson, extras include scene-specific audio commentary by director Bob Rafelson and a 2009 making-of documentary).
Disney has confirmed the Blu-ray release (and DVD re-release) of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 on November 30th. There will be a 4-Disc Blu-ray Special Edition and a 2-Disc DVD Special Edition. Each will include both films. Let's start with the DVD, which will include Fantasia (fully restored) on one disc, and Fantasia 2000 on the other. Extras on the DVDs will include the Musicana and Disney Family Museum features, along with audio commentaries. Both of these discs will also be included in the 4-disc Blu-ray, which will add a Blu-ray version of each film. Exclusive features on these Blu-rays will include the Dali & Disney: A Date with Destino documentary and the long awaited Destino film itself. Disney is also set to bring Alice in Wonderland to Blu-ray in 2011. That release will be a special 60th Anniversary Edition. And Bambi is now set to be released in the Spring in a new Diamond Edition.
Fox will be releasing The Sound of Music on Blu-ray as a 45th Anniversary Edition on November 2nd. Meticulously restored and re-mastered, the film will be presented with new 7.1 audio and for the very first time in home entertainment format, a full-length documentary, Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music, hosted by Mary Martin. Also included will be audio commentaries with Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and director Robert Wise; "A City of Song" with a virtual map of filming locations and interactive tour of the movie's locale of Salzburg, Austria; vintage programs including a hilarious send-up of The Sound of Music from Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews herself; an enchanting interview with the real Maria von Trapp on The Julie Andrews Hour; BD-Live "Your Favorite Things: An Interactive Celebration" featuring a Sing-A-Long, behind-the-scenes images, trivia and a location quiz; and more. The release will be available in 3-Disc Blu-ray and DVD Combo Packs. For a limited time, The Sound of Music will also be available in an individually numbered Limited Collector's Set packaged in a keepsake box and featuring a 100-page "My Favorite Things" scrapbook, a 45th Anniversary Soundtrack, a reproduction of the original 1965 souvenir program, an exclusive hand-painted "My Favorite Things" music box and more. The studio has also announced a November 9th release date for The Elia Kazan Collection, an 18-disc DVD gift set including Martin Scorsese's new documentary on Kazan, A Letter to Elia, and 15 of Kazan's most acclaimed and noteworthy films. The full collection, in addition to the documentary, includes: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Boomerang! (1947), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Pinky (1949), Panic in the Streets (1950), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952), Man on a Tightrope (1953), On the Waterfront (1954), East of Eden (1955), Baby Doll (1956), A Face in the Crowd (1957), Wild River (1960), Splendor in the Grass (1961), and America, America (1963). Fox has obviously had the cooperation of Warner Bros. and Sony in assembling the set. Of the collection, five films have never before been released on DVD: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Viva Zapata!, Man on a Tightrope, Wild River, and America, America. The titles will not be available individually to begin with, but likely will eventually.
Grapevine Video has its usual mix of silent and sound titles for release in August. The silent ones include: Anna Christie (1923, once considered lost - the first screen adaptation of the Broadway play, with Blanche Sweet, William Russell and George F. Marion); Broken Hearts of Broadway (1923, Irving Cummings directs Colleen Moore and Johnnie Walker in this drama about the pursuit of fame and stardom); The Non-Stop Flight (1926, Knute Erickson, Marcella Daly and Virginia Fry star in this rare FBO adventure melodrama, disc includes: Felix the Cat in 1927's The Non-Stop Fright);
Sky High (1922, Tom Mix in a Grand Canyon hunt for human smugglers, also features the early 1915 Mix short An Arizona Wooing). Sound releases include: Dagmar's Collection (1953-65, three TV shows either hosted by or featuring Dagmar as a guest, transferred from the star's personal collection); Space Patrol - Volume 4 (Four episodes from the famous live television series complete with the original commercials); and a 1934 Buddy Roosevelt western double feature of Lightning Range and Range Riders.
The Twilight Zone: Season 2 is coming from Image Entertainment in Blu-ray on November 16th. Extras include 25 new audio commentaries; "Nightmare At Ground Zero," an episode from the TV series Suspense written by Rod Serling; vintage George T. Clemens and William Tuttle audio interviews; 15 radio dramas; and many carry-over supplements from the Definitive Collection DVD release.
Infinity Entertainment will release The Legendary Bing Crosby on September 28th. The single-disc release will contain songs, performed in their entirety, by Bing as a solo and in duets. The performances are all from TV specials Bing headlined between 1954 and 1977 and haven't been seen since their original broadcasts. Then we'll get Bing Crosby - The Television Specials: Volume 2 on November 9th. Included in this two-disc collection will be Bing's first holiday special, produced in England in 1961; his first color special from 1962 with Mary Martin; Bing Crosby and the Sounds of Christmas with Robert Goulet and Mary Costa from 1971; and his final special, Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas, which includes the iconic duet of "The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth" with David Bowie.
Kino has set November 16th as the release date for The Complete Metropolis (1927) on both DVD and BD. This will be the restored version utilizing the 25 minutes of footage found in Buenos Aires in 2008. The release will include the original 1927 orchestral score; Voyage to Metropolis - a 50-minute documentary on the making and restoration of the film; an interview with Paula Felix-Didier, Curator of the Museo del Cine, Buenos Aires, where the missing footage was discovered; and the 2010 re-release trailer. Also coming on November 16th will be the Buster Keaton double feature of Sherlock Jr. (1924) and Three Ages (1923) on both Blu-ray and DVD Ultimate Edition. Supplements will include: on Sherlock Jr. - music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround (DTS on the Blu-ray) and 2.0 Stereo, music by the Club Foot Orchestra, a vintage jazz score compiled by Jay Ward, a 15-minute documentary on the making of the film, audio commentary by historian David Kalat, and a stills gallery; and on Three Ages - music arranged and directed by Robert Israel in 2.0 Stereo, organ score by Lee Erwin, piano score, Man's Genesis (1912): a nine-minute excerpt of the D.W. Griffith prehistoric romance that inspired Keaton's parody, a visual essay on the film's locations by Silent Echoes author John Bengston, and Three Ages re-cut as a trio of stand-alone short films.
Legend Films is releasing Blu-ray versions of Laurel and Hardy's March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934) and Mandingo (1975, with James Mason) on September 14th. There's no firm information as to whether March of the Wooden Soldiers will be the colourized or B&W version or both. MGM put out a superior B&W version of the film under its original title Babes in Toyland and a Blu-ray of it would be preferable, but the likelihood of it ever appearing seems very low.
MGM will release Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968, with Dick Van Dyke) on Blu-ray on November 2nd. All the supplements from the previous DVD SE will be included.
MPI has a Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes Double Feature single disc release of Sherlock Holmes in Washington and Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (both 1943) set for September 14th. The release is strictly a repackaging of titles MPI previously released.
Olive Films' third wave of Paramount titles will be released on December 7th. Included are: Escape from Zahrain (1962, with Yul Brynner), WUSA (1970, with Paul Newman), and Riot (1969, with Jim Brown).
Paramount will have The Andy Griffith Show 50th Anniversary: The Best of Mayberry for release on September 28th. It's a 3-disc set that contains a selection of the series' best episodes and one of the TV reunion movies, Return to Mayberry. The studio also is releasing White Christmas in a DVD Giftset and on Blu-ray on November 2nd. Extras on the Blu-ray will include audio commentary by Rosemary Clooney, 6 HD featurettes (Backstage Stories from White Christmas, Rosemary's Old Kentucky Home, Bing Crosby: Christmas Crooner, Danny Kaye: Joy to the World, Irving Berlin's White Christmas and White Christmas: From Page to Stage), plus an SD featurette (White Christmas: A Look Back with Rosemary Clooney) and 2 theatrical trailers in HD. November 2nd will also bring The Fugitive: The Fourth and Final Season, Volume One. Paramount has also announced the release of Perry Mason: The Fifth Season, Volume 2 for November 16th. Available on that date too will be Perry Mason: Five Season Pack. Even better, coming on that date is Monte Walsh (1970, with Lee Marvin) - my goodness, an actual catalog title from Paramount and one that many people want too!
October 19th will bring The Lemon Drop Kid (1951, with Bob Hope) from Shout! Factory. The release will be from a new high definition transfer and will be the first of several ones now out of print that were previously released by BCI. Timed to arrive with Universal's release of Psycho on Blu-ray on October 19th, Shout! Factory will release The Psycho Legacy on DVD the same day. It'll be a 2-Disc Special Edition set that explores the history, impact and mystique of Psycho and the films that it spawned. In addition to the title 90-minute documentary feature by filmmaker Robert V. Galluzzo, the set boasts more than three hours of bonus material, including extended interviews; an hour panel discussion with Psycho star Anthony Perkins; Psycho on the Web; a tour of the Bates Motel; and more. Coming on November 2nd will be a new 7-disc Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection. Included will be a number of great vintage performances and TV specials, including A Man and His Music (1965), A Man and His Music, Part II (1966), A Man and His Music + Ella + Jobim (1967), Sinatra: The Man and His Music (1981), Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back (1973), Sinatra: The Main Event (1974), Sinatra in Concert at Royal Festival Hall (1970), Sinatra in Japan: Live at the Budokan Hall, Tokyo (1985 - previously only released in Japan), Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing (1968), Sinatra (1969) and Concert for the Americas (1982 - first ever U.S. DVD release). Also included are two rare TV specials that include classic Sinatra performances, including Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank (1957) and PBS's Vintage Sinatra (2003). You also get additional previously unreleased performances, included separately. Concert for the Americas will also be released on DVD separately the same day.
Sony's Blu-ray release of Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) is now set for November 2nd as a 2-disc Blu-ray Disc/DVD Combo Collector's Edition. In addition to HD and SD versions of the film (presented in the original 2.55:1 aspect ratio, fully restored and mastered from a 4K scan with audio in newly-remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1), extras on the 2-disc set will include a new Crossing: Picture-in-Graphics viewing mode; an exclusive new retrospective documentary covering everything from the adaptation of the original Pierre Boulle novel to the restoration; 2 featurettes (An Appreciation by John Milius and Rise and Fall of a Jungle Giant); rare audio of William Holden narrating the film's premiere events; a USC short film introduced by Holden; footage of Holden and Alec Guinness on The Steve Allen Show and a photo gallery. The package will also include a 35-page book with liner notes and production photos, as well as original lobby card replicas. The Films of Rita Hayworth collection is now set for November 2nd, in conjunction with the Film Foundation. It will contain three titles restored and new to DVD - Tonight and Every Night, Miss Sadie Thompson, and Salome, plus newly restored and remastered versions of Cover Girl and Gilda. Supplements will include: Baz Luhrman on Cover Girl, Patricia Clarkson on Tonight and Every Night and Miss Sadie Thompson, Martin Scorsese and Baz Luhrman on Gilda, audio commentary with author Richard Schickel on Gilda, and original trailers. Also on November 2nd, the studio is releasing individually the five films previously available only in The Jack Lemmon Film Collection. The titles are: Good Neighbor Sam (1964), The Notorious Landlady (1962), Operation Mad Ball (1957), Phffft! (1954), and Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963). Presumably none of the collection's supplements are included as they were on a separate disc, if memory serves.
Monster-A-Go Go (1965) is set for an October 19th release from Synergy Entertainment.
TCM in conjunction with Universal will be adding to its TCM Vault offerings on September 30th with the release of the Douglas Sirk Filmmaker Collection. Included will be Thunder on the Hill (1951, with Claudette Colbert), Taza, Son of Cochise (1954, with Jeff Chandler), Captain Lightfoot (195, with Rock Hudson), and The Tarnished Angels (1957, with Rock Hudson). Extras will include a Robert Osborne introduction, and various publicity materials. TCM will also be releasing the wartime drama Sundown (1941, with Gene Tierney) on August 30th, in conjunction with Westchester Films. Supplements will include original movie posters, lobby cards, publicity stills, behind-the-scenes photos and more.
Timeless Media Group will be releasing Wagon Train: The Complete Season Two on November 23rd. It will be a 10-disc set containing all 38 hour-long episodes, packaged in a collectible tin. Coming on October 26th in conjunction with NBC Universal is The Deputy: The Complete Series. It'll be a 12-disc set containing all 76 episodes. Timeless Media previously released a Best-Of collection of 12 episodes of the Henry Fonda half-hour western series. And October 19th will bring Alias Smith & Jones: The Complete Series - 50 episodes on 10 discs, while October 5th will see the release of Johnny Staccato: Television's Jazz Detective - a three disc set of the first and only season of the John Cassavetes-starring series.
Universal will have a new release in its Backlot series on November 2nd - The Bing Crosby Collection. It will include six titles on three discs: College Humor (1933), We're Not Dressing (1934), Here Is My Heart (1934), Mississippi (1935), Sing You Sinners (1938), and Welcome Stranger (1947). The only title not new to DVD is We're Not Dressing. The only bonus features will be several trailers. The titles will not be available separately.
VCI has a great lineup of releases set for November 30th. Headlining them is 1941's Meet John Doe: 70th Anniversary Edition - a collaboration between VCI and British DVD producer Ken Barnes' Laureate Presentations. The release is based on a previous Region 2 DVD release derived from one of the surviving European prints subjected to substantial digital restoration. VCI will be doing some further restorative work on Laureate's source material for this release. Extras will include audio commentary by Barnes supplemented with archival comments from Frank Capra; three featurettes on Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, and Capra; two vintage Lux Radio Theater radio productions, and more. Then we'll get two British double features: Tomorrow We Live (1943, with John Clements)/Inquest (1939, with Elizabeth Allan) and Naked Fury (1959, with Reed de Rouen)/Cover Girl Killer (1960, with Harry Corbett). Rounding out the November slate are the Renown Pictures Crime Thrillers Collection (Murder Can Be Deadly /The Marked One /Pit of Darkness ) and a widescreen presentation of the 1954 CinemaScope film New Faces (with Eartha Kitt and Ronny Graham).
August 10th brings five Kay Francis films to the Warner Archive: The House on 56th Street (1933), Living on Velvet (1935), Stranded (1935), The Goose and the Gander (1935), and Give Me Your Heart (1936). Also available will be a remastered None But the Lonely Heart (1944, with Cary Grant) and The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936, with William Powell and Jean Arthur). The Archive adds eight titles for August 17th, including: Invasion Quartet (1961, with Spike Milligan), It's a Small World (1950, with Paul Dale), A Lady Without Passport (1950, with Hedy Lamarr), Oil for the Lamps of China (1935, with Pat O'Brien), Saadia (1953, with Cornel Wilde), Santiago (1956, with Alan Ladd), The Sellout (1952, with Walter Pidgeon), and Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951, with Steve Cochran). Further additions on August 24th are: Song of Love (1947, with Katharine Hepburn), Between Two Worlds (1944, with John Garfield), Flesh (1932, with Karen Morley), Crack-Up (1946 film noir with Pat O'Brien), Riptide (1934, with Norma Shearer), and The Conquerors (1932, with Richard Dix). August 31st additions are Deliver Us from Evil (1973, with George Kennedy) and Eleven Men and a Girl (1930, with Joe E. Brown). Releases for September 7th focus on film noir and vintage documentaries. The noir titles include: The System (1953, with Frank Lovejoy), This Side of the Law (1950, with Kent Smith), Betrayed (1944, with Robert Mitchum), Hot News (1953, with Stanley Clements), The Gangster (1947, with Barry Sullivan), The Underworld Story (1950, with Dan Duryea), High Wall (1947, with Robert Taylor), and Bunco Squad (1950, with Robert Sterling). The documentaries are: The Animal World (1956, from Irwin Allen), The Sea Around Us (1953, from Irwin Allen), and Tale of the Navajos (1949). Warner Archive releases for September 14th focus on the 60s and 70s and include: Atlantis, The Lost Continent (1961); The Power (1968, with George Hamilton); Chubasco (1967, with Christopher Jones); Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975, with Tamara Dobson); Operation Daybreak (1975, with Anton Diffring); Inside Out (1975, with Telly Savalas); They Came to Rob Las Vegas (1968, with Gary Lockwood); and a double feature of The Doberman Gang (1972)/The Daring Dobermans (1973). September 21st offers comedy double features and silents, plus three titles that are remastered. The latter are Stranger on the Third Floor (1940, with Peter Lorre), -30- (1959, with Jack Webb), and Violence (1947, with Ann Mason). The comedy double features are all WB productions from the early 1930s: Big Hearted Herbert (1934)/The Merry Frinks (1934) - both with Guy Kibbee and Aline MacMahon; Side Streets (1934, Aline MacMahon)/Stranger in Town (1932, Chic Sale); Merry Wives of Reno (1934, Glenda Farrell)/Smarty (1934, Joan Blondell); and Girl Missing (1933, Glenda Farrell)/Illicit (1931, Barbara Stanwyck). The silent releases include: The Magician (1926), The Prisoner of Zenda (1922), and a pair of Joan Crawford films - Our Dancing Daughters (1928) and Our Modern Maidens (1929).
Warner Bros. has announced a November 30th release for two more entries in its Looney Tunes Super Stars series - Foghorn Leghorn and Friends: Barnyard Bigmouth and Tweety and Sylvester: Feline Fwenzy. Each set is advertised as containing 15 cartoons new to DVD.
Well once again, that's it for now. I'll return again soon.