Knight at HOME at the Movies
Classics Roundup (End of Winter 2009)
A real range of everything, a whopping 12 titles, in this end of winter '09 edition of Classics DVD roundup. Enjoy!
When the Lion Roars – From Warner Home Video. This indepth look at mighty Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, ably hosted by Patrick
Stewart, was first aired on TNT in the early 90s and makes a great companion to the much earlier, Emmy Award winning, Dick Cavett
narrated "Hollywood: The Dream Factory" (included as a special feature on the Meet Me In St. Louis DVD). Anything you ever wanted
to know about the creation and running of the dream factory, Hollywood's greatest during its halcyon days, is here. Entertaining and
well researched, this is one of the best documentaries ever made about a film studio.
Magnificent Obsession – From the Criterion Collection. Film collectors have been waiting for this beautiful transfer of Douglas
Sirk's 1954 classic and the wait was worth it. A beautiful transfer by Criterion (as always) makes this florid romantic drama shimmer
as never before. Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman co-star in this tale of a woman who suffers, unwittingly, at the hands of a
thoughtless playboy who redeems himself after a lot of soul searching (and thanks to the icky "pay it forward" philosophy
babblespeak espoused by the man who becomes his overbearing mentor). This edition includes the 1935 Irene Dunne-Robert Taylor
version (which makes for interesting comparisons), a rare on camera interview conducted in German with Sirk, a long, thoughtful
essay booklet, and a few other featurettes.
The Gregory Peck Film Collection – From Universal. I'm happy to see Universal dipping into their vaults for more than just
another horror film collection. This welcome 6-disc set contains several new to DVD releases and is a nice overview of Peck in his
prime. The centerpiece of the set, of course, is the special edition version of Peck's one real triumph - his Oscar winning performance
in To Kill A Mockingbird from 1962. Also included is the 1962 thriller Cape Fear (with Peck battling bad boy Robert Mitchum, set to
Bernard Herrmann's thrilling score), the new to DVD Mirage, a neat murder mystery with Peck a victim of amnesia who awakens during
the 1965 blackout in New York City (costarring with Diane Baker and Walter Matthau) that doesn't quite pan out on its first riveting 40
minutes, Captain Newman, M.D., a 1963 dramedy set inside a psychiatric hospital during WWII (Tony Curtis co-stars), Arabesque, a
tongue-in-cheek comedy thriller from 1966 in the Charade mode with the luscious Sophia Loren batty nifty dialogue back and forth
with Peck and Alan Badel as a sinister, Bond-type villain. The World In His Arms dates back to 1952, a swashbuckling pirate flick with
Peck as a rogue sea captain and gives us a glimpse of Peck during his heartthrob, man of action days.
Mary Poppins - 45th Anniversary Edition – From Walt Disney Video. Another 2-disc edition of this 1964 magical adaptation
of the P.L. Travers book and my favorite all time Disney film. Julie Andrews won the Oscar, Dick Van Dyke won millions of hearts with
his charm (if not his Cockney accent) and Disney's magical production didn't stint on the budget (except in the wardrobe department
for Glynnis Johns as the daffy mother). The main reason to "trade up" for this new edition (which contains all the special features
and goodies from the previous version) is for the new batch of featurettes focusing on the stage edition - reason enough for this
Touch of Evil - 50th Anniversary Edition – From Universal. A spectacular 3-disc version of the Orson Welles' much maligned
(at the time) 1958 classic. Now revered by critics and noir fans, this truly fabu-lush new set includes all THREE vesions of the film,
including the one that most closely follows Welles' notes (his memo outlining his suggested revisions to Universal executives is
reproduced in miniature - a GREAT special feature). There are also making of featurettes and many other bonuses but mostly, there
is the pleasure of seeing all three versions one after the other. For film enthusiasts like myself, this is a rare treat indeed. A
sensational edition and a must for film collectors.
The Sidney Poitier Collection – From Warner Home Video. A long overdue set with several little known Poitier films, many new
to DVD. Edge of the City pairs Poitier with John Cassavetes in a tale of dock workers and corruption, A Patch of Blue is the 1965 story of
a delicate, budding interracial romance between Poitier and Elizabeth Hartman as a blind woman. The romance is discovered by
Hartman's shrewish mother, Shelley Winters who does her best to destroy it (and pretty much everything else in shouting distance -
the performance won her an Oscar). The film has a gorgeous main theme and score by Jerry Goldsmith. Next up is Something of
Value, an early Poitier effort set in South Africa with Poitier paired up with Rock Hudson - the two, once friends, become bitter
enemies. Finally, A Warm December from 1974 finds Poitier as an expat in London, falling in love amid romantic complications. Lots
of "funky" montages firmly place this one in its time capsule though the film is pleasant enough (Poitier directed). A nice batch of
overlooked Poitier movies.
To Catch A Thief – From Paramount. Paramount goes back to the vaults for this minor but very enjoyable 1955 heist caper from
director Alfred Hitchcock. Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Jesse Royce Landis as Kelly's mother, a droll John Williams as an insurance
investigator reveling in his first sampling of quiche, and gorgeous Cannes scenery, all add to the fun (not to mention Edith Head's
spectacular costumes). This is another nice add to Paramount's Centennial Collection and they've spiced up this 2-disc edition with a
few more featurettes though the transfer looks the same as the previous Special Edition.
Quo Vadis – From Warner Home Video. Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr star in this 1951 sword and sandal epic set in ancient
Rome during the reign of good old debauched Nero (played to the hilt by Peter Ustinov). And epic this one is - with a three hour
running time that might seem a mite long. But director Anthony Mann keeps things moving along nicely and there's plenty of
spectacle, faux licentiousness (this was only 1951 after all) to warrant the lengthy running time. This was a huge hit, a signature
MGM style road show movie and it shows - no expense has been spared and Warners has done a great job, as usual, in this 2-disc
edition that features a very nice new transfer. The second disc gives us the usual detailed making of featuettes. By the time you're
done with the movie and all the features many, many hours will have gone by but hopefully, you'll enjoy them as much as I did. A
good Sunday afternoon matinee.
The Yellow Rolls Royce – From Warner Home Video. An all-star, international cast (Rex Harrison, Jeanne Moreau, Shirley
MacLaine, Alain Delon, Omar Sharif, Ingrid Bergman, et al) liven up this 1964 light anthology with the title vehicle linking the various
stories. Bergman as a demanding countess and McLaine as a floozy are the most memorable and boy were Delon and Sharif easy
on the eyes!
Goodbye, Mr. Chips– From Warner Home Video. By the time this 1969 musical remake of the 1939 classic arrived, the musical
spectacular was most decidedly on the way out. Bad news for this enjoyable but admittedly too long version that features a wonderful
lead performance by Peter O'Toole (minus his, ahem, singing) and I think a lovely one from his co-star Petula Clark as well (many
reviewers at the time forget about her many film roles in English movies in the 1950s and wrote her off as "just a pop singer" - she's
much more than that). Though the score isn't much, the film has it's moments and certainly has its devotees. Give it a go - eh
The Odd Couple – From Paramount. Another welcome add to Paramount's Centennial Collection is this 1968 film adaptation of
the Neil Simon Broadway comedy about two divorced (Not! Gay! Heaven! Forbid!) men living together, one a slob (Walter Matthau)
and one a persnickety clean freak (Jack Lemmon). I have always preferred this wacky screen version to the long running sitcom that
arrived not long after - especially the sequence with the English "Pigeon sisters." Gene Saks directs with a sure touch. The second
disc has multiple features - a nice, broad comedy with lots of laughs for those not familiar with the material.
Sleeping Beauty - From Walt Disney. Finally, a welcome 50th Anniversary, Platinum Edition of the beloved 1959 fairy tale classic -
the last that Walt oversaw himself. An eye-popping new transfer and a second disc packed with all new features makes this a must
have for the collection. That an Verna Felton, voicing the head fairy, is reason enough to pop this one in. As thrilling and beautiful as
I remembered from my childhood, the magic of Disney's adaptation still casts quite a spell.