Friday, May 31, 2024

TCM in June: Highlights

It's time for a detailed look at the June schedule on Turner Classic Movies!

I'm very excited about the June Star of the Month theme, "Fox Stars." Tuesday evenings will feature movies with many favorite actors, including Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Sonja Henie, Don Ameche, John Payne, Linda Darnell, Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, and more. I'll be highlighting those films below.

The June Noir Alley films will be TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951) on June 1st and 2nd, NEVER OPEN THAT DOOR (1952) paired with IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE (1952) on June 8th and 9th, CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948) on June 15th-16th, THE LOCKET (1946) on June 22nd-23rd, and NO QUESTIONS ASKED (1951) on June 29th and 30th.

NEVER OPEN THAT DOOR and IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE will be TCM premieres. I enjoyed NEVER OPEN THAT DOOR at the recent Noir City Hollywood Festival and plan to review it here when the upcoming Flicker Alley Blu-ray is released.

The TCM Spotlight will focus on Great Film Composers.

There will also be special programming for the 80th anniversary of D-Day on June 6th, including the TCM premieres of EYE OF THE NEEDLE (1981) and CODE NAME: EMERALD (1985). Other films that day will include THE LONGEST DAY (1962) and RED BALL EXPRESS (1952).

Also of special note on Sunday, June 2nd, TCM Imports will feature classic-era Mexican remakes of a pair of RKO films. EL CASADO CASA QUIERE (1950) is a remake of TOO MANY COOKS (1931), while LOS QUE VOLVIERON (1947) remakes FIVE CAME BACK (1939).

Below are a few more highlights from what promises to be a wonderful month of movie viewing on TCM. Please click any hyperlinked title to read my extended review.

...Ethan Hawke guests on the Two for One series Saturday evening, June 1st, discussing a pair of films from 1950: THE GUNFIGHTER (1950) and GUN CRAZY (1950).

...The Great Film Composers series kicks off on Monday, June 3rd, with the movie featuring my all-time favorite film score, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).

...The first evening of Fox Stars films, on June 4th, features Shirley Temple in BRIGHT EYES (1934), Betty Grable, Don Ameche, and Carole Landis in MOON OVER MIAMI (941), Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda in THE GANG'S ALL HERE (1943), and John Payne, Sonja Henie, and Glenn Miller in SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941). This is a wonderful evening of programming which I recommend!

...A four-film tribute to John Ford on June 5th spans films released over two two decades between STAGECOACH (1939) and SERGEANT RUTLEDGE (1960). Everything airing that night is worth watching, of course!

...I saw ANGEL FACE (1953), with Jean Simmons in the title role, for the first time last year and really enjoyed it and its wild story. Robert Mitchum also stars. It will be shown June 8th.

...There are a number of good movies airing on June 9th. The one I most highly recommend is ALIAS NICK BEAL (1949), a spooky, expertly made noir starring Ray Milland.

...There's another great evening of Fox Stars on June 11th: BLOOD AND SAND (1941) starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, and Rita Hayworth; FOREVER AMBER (1947) starring Linda Darnell, Cornel Wilde, and Richard Greene; and BROKEN LANCE (1954) with Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, and Jean Peters.

...A fun evening on June 12th features all three TOPPER films: TOPPER (1937), TOPPER TAKES A TRIP (1939), and TOPPER RETURNS (1941).

...A seven-film birthday tribute to Dorothy McGuire on June 14th includes an interesting film on postwar adjustment, TILL THE END OF TIME (1946). Guy Madison and Robert Mitchum costar.

...Father's Day on June 16th will be celebrated with a lineup including LIFE WITH FATHER (1947) and FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950). Additional films will include a favorite of mine, DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS (1939), seen at right, starring the Lane Sisters, John Garfield, Claude Rains, and more..

...A day of films featuring "Great Composers" on June 17th includes SUPERMAN (1978) and John Williams' superlative score.

...The third evening of Fox Stars, on June 18th, features GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) with Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, and LAURA (1944) starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews.

...A day of Nicholas Ray films on June 19th includes some excellent viewing, with my favorites being the soapy BORN TO BE BAD (1950) and the superb noir ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1952).
 
...The daytime theme on June 20th is "light-hearted Westerns," including the goofy MANY RIVERS TO CROSS (1955) starring Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker. Watch it and see if you can spot the re-used sets from SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954)!

...A tribute to Allied Artists films on June 21st includes the delightful Christmas film IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE (1947).

...One of my favorite actors, Kevin Costner, is the guest programmer on Sunday evening, June 23rd. One of his selections is one of my all-time favorite films, RIO GRANDE (1950), starring John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, and the John Ford "Stock Company." I noticed watching the trailer for Costner's upcoming HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA (2024) that it was filmed around the same area as RIO GRANDE, outside, Moab, Utah.

...The Great Film Composers lineup on Monday, June 24th, includes THE RIGHT STUFF (1984), with Bill Conti's outstanding score, and LITTLE WOMEN (1994), with Thomas Newman's beautiful music.

...On June 25th the final evening of Fox Stars features STATE FAIR (1933) with Janet Gaynor, THE MODEL AND THE MARRIAGE BROKER (1951) with Jeanne Crain, and KISS OF DEATH (1947) with Victor Mature, Coleen Gray, and Richard Widmark.

..."Foreign Adventures" on June 28th includes TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944), the first film costarring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It's one of the key films which helped turn me into a classic film fan, so needless to say I recommend it!

...THE NARROW MARGIN (1952) can never be seen too many times! Charles McGraw, Jacqueline White, and Marie Windsor star. Catch it on June 29th.

...A memorial tribute to Louis Gossett Jr. on June 30th will include AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (1982), costarring Richard Gere and Debra Winger.

For more on TCM in June 2024, please visit my Quick Preview of TCM in June along with TCM's online schedule.

Have a great summer!

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

New at Classic Movie Hub: High Noon (1952)

My newest Western RoundUp column, an in-depth look at the Oscar-winning HIGH NOON (1952), has just been posted at Classic Movie Hub.

I recently revisited the film for the first time in years thanks to the brand-new Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The film also had a 4K release this month.

Unlike many, I'm not much of a fan of HIGH NOON, though I find it thought-provoking and particularly appreciate the women's roles in the movie.

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub for my thoughts, and thanks, as always, for reading!

Previous Classic Movie Hub Western RoundUp Column Links: June 2018; July 2018; August 2018; September 2018; October 2018; November 2018; December 2018; January 2019; February 2019; April 5, 2019; April 30, 2019; May 2019; June 2019; July 2019; August 2019; September 2019; October 2019; November 2019; December 2019; January 2020; February 2020; March 2020; April 2020; May 2020; June 2020; July 2020; August 2020; September 2020; October 2020; November 2020; December 2020; January 2021; February 2021; March 2021; May 2021; June 2021; June 2021 (No. 2); July 2021; August 2021; September 2021; November 2021; December 2021; December 2021 (No. 2); January 2022; February 2022; March 2022; April 2022; May 2022; June 2022; July 2022; August 2022; September 2022; November 2022; November 2022 (No. 2); January 2023 (No. 1); January 2023 (No. 2); March 2023; April 2023; May 2023 (No. 1); May 2023 (No. 2); June 2023; July 2023; September 2023; September 2023 (No. 2); October 2023; November 2023; December 2023; January 2024; February 2024; March 2024; April 2024.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Tonight's Movie: Devil's Doorway (1950) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Western DEVIL'S DOORWAY (1948), directed by Anthony Mann and filmed by John Alton, has just been released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection.

Mann and Alton teamed on a couple of especially grim films in 1949-50, the first being BORDER INCIDENT (1949) and the second DEVIL'S DOORWAY. One film was set in modern day, the other in the post Civil War era, but each details prejudice and crime against minorities in searing fashion.

Although Robert Taylor is one of my favorite actors and his performance in DEVIL'S DOORWAY is widely acclaimed, I'd frankly put off watching it because I knew it would be a difficult watch.

Having tackled BORDER INCIDENT earlier this month at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, it was time to also watch DEVIL'S DOORWAY via the new Blu-ray. My take, in brief: It's a very well-made film, but it's also incredibly depressing.

Taylor plays Broken Lance Poole, a Shoshone Indian newly arrived home in Wyoming after serving three years in the Civil War.

Lance was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, but once back home he finds local attitudes toward Indians have turned negative in his absence; a slimy lawyer named Coolan (Louis Calhern) and a violent cowboy (James Millican) are among those doing their best to displace Indians, and old friends like the sheriff (Edgar Buchanan) are now running cold as well.

In a particularly horrifying sequence, Lance finds that the local doctor has no interest in helping when his father (Fritz Leiber) is dying; the doctor coldly attempts to avoid visiting, and when he finally does, he handles it in the most unkind way possible.

Lance learns that under new homestead laws, the prosperous ranch land he has inherited is considered up for grabs, but Lance cannot file a claim himself as he's not considered an American citizen. Instead, he is a "ward" of the government, and consequently he's on the verge of losing his land and ability to make a living.

Lance turns to the only lawyer in town besides Coolan, who happens to be a woman named Orrie (Paula Raymond, who later appeared in Mann's THE TALL TARGET). Lance and Orrie are each outcasts of a sort, and Orrie does her best to help Lance through various legal processes, to no avail.

In the end, DEVIL'S DOORWAY is 84 minutes spent watching a man's life spiral from prosperity into death, and it's a very hard thing to view, as both people and "the law" do nothing to stop it.

The screenplay by Guy Trosper is very dark in this regard, with only Orrie and her mother (Spring Byington) caring about what's happening to Lance. I imagine this was reality in some cases, but I would have better liked a more inspiring story in which justice prevails. Some have said that this sad tale is a forerunner of the more recent tragedy KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON (2023).

Taylor is outstanding in the leading role, onscreen the vast majority of the time; it's one of many films which illustrates what a fine actor he was, particularly in his films of the '50s. I thought Raymond was fine as the idealistic lawyer torn between her faith in the law and her growing desire to help Lance; she suffers the growing realization that the law isn't going to do a thing for him.

Mann made this movie the same year as WINCHESTER '73 (1950), and while that film also has some very dark moments, it's ultimately a more uplifting story of the west, including justice prevailing. WINCHESTER '73 is a film I rewatch regularly; DEVIL'S DOORWAY, despite my admiration for its execution, isn't something I'll look forward to revisiting.

The cast includes actor-dancer James Mitchell, who was also in BORDER INCIDENT; he has considerable screen time here but his role isn't especially significant. Also in the cast are Marshall Thompson, Rhys Williams, and Harry Antrim.

The Blu-ray print, from a new HD master of a 4K restoration of "best preservation elements," is excellent, showing off John Alton's outstanding black and white cinematography to fine effect. Everything looks great, from the Colorado locations to the glowing closeups of Raymond to the darker interiors. Sound quality is also top-notch.

Disc extras consist of the trailer plus the cartoons THE CHUMP CHAMP (1950) and CUE BALL CAT (1950).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from Movie Zyng, Amazon, and other online retailers.

Tonight's Movie: The Canary Murder Case (1929) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Last week Kino Lorber released the three-film, one-disc Blu-ray Philo Vance Collection.

All three movies are Paramount Pictures films starring William Powell as the great detective, Philo Vance. The titles in the set are THE CANARY MURDER CASE (1929), THE GREEN MURDER CASE (1929), and THE BENSON MURDER CASE (1930).

To my knowledge this is the first time these Philo Vance films have had a release for home viewing. The Warner Archive Collection previously released a six-film Philo Vance DVD set, but all of the movies in that collection are different; they include Powell in his fourth and final Philo Vance film, THE KENNEL MURDER CASE (1933), which was a Warner Bros. release.

In THE CANARY MURDER CASE Powell's detective is solving the mystery of the death of showgirl Margaret O'Dell, aka "The Canary" (Louise Brooks).

The Canary is blackmailing several men in her life, so there are any number of suspects, including young Jimmy Spottswoode (James Hall), who had a brief dalliance with the Canary but has returned to his true love, Alice (Jean Arthur).

Powell is said to have disliked making the Philo Vance films, as unlike all the other characters, the detective is mostly seen lost in thought, but Powell is the perfect person to put this story over.

After the murder takes place, the film is fairly talky, and Powell does indeed spent time in deep thought, but he's such a compelling actor he keeps things interesting. He has extended moments towards the end laying out his theory of the case, and while doing so one also feels his regret at the identity of the murderer.

Brooks has a unique, showy manner as the murder victim. I'm not sure I'd say she's believable, but she's memorable.

While researching the series I learned that this film was originally intended as a silent, and when Brooks was asked to dub dialogue she refused. If IMDb is correct, she was dubbed and in some scenes doubled by Margaret Livingston.

Jean Arthur has very little to do as the "good" girl of the piece, appearing in just a handful of scenes, but it's fun to see her very early in her career.

Eugene Pallette and Ned Sparks liven things up a bit, and E.H. Calvert plays Vance's friend, District Attorney Markham.

The movie was directed by Malcolm St. Clair and the uncredited Frank Tuttle, who directed each of the next two films. It was shot by Harry Fischbeck and the uncredited Cliff Blackstone.

Perhaps my favorite costume designer, Travis Banton, designed the film's costumes.

The print is a new 4K restoration, and given the film's age I have to say I was impressed with both the picture and sound quality. It's a good-looking print

This case comes with a nice cardboard slipcover. Disc extras consist of a commentary track by Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw, plus three trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

The other two films in the set have commentary tracks as well, with Newman and Forshaw also handling THE GREENE MURDER CASE while Jason A. Ney does the commentary for THE BENSON MURDER CASE.

I'll be reviewing the other two films in this set at a future date.  (Update: Here are my reviews of THE GREENE MURDER CASE and THE BENSON MURDER CASE.)

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.

Tonight's Movie: Action in Arabia (1944)

ACTION IN ARABIA (1944) is an enjoyable WWII "B" film starring the great George Sanders.

Sanders plays a newspaper correspondent who stumbles across complicated wartime intrigue in Damascus. Will the local tribes unite behind the Allies or the Axis?

He deals with an interesting cast of characters, including an American (Virginia Bruce) who seems to have shifting alliances; a peddler of information (Gene Lockhart); an American official (Robert Armstrong) who wants him to leave the city; a tribal chieftain (H.B. Warner) and his daughter (Lenore Aubert); and a hotel owner (Alan Napier) suspected of being in league with the Nazis.

The movie zips along, only 75 minutes long, and the screenplay by Philip MacDonald and Herbert J. Biberman is nicely done, filled with quippy comebacks for both Sanders and Armstrong. I really enjoyed the progression of their relationship as they shift from antagonists to jokey partners in espionage.

Both the interior and exterior sets are of a high caliber for a film of this type; it's impressive what could be done on the backlot! If Wikipedia is accurate, the movie received a significant budget upgrade during production. In addition to the backlot, location filming took place at Lasky Mesa in West Hills.

The film was directed by Leonide Moguy, a Russian-born director who made a few films in the United States, including another good Sanders "B" WWII film, PARIS AFTER DARK (1943). PARIS AFTER DARK was released by 20th Century-Fox.

The movie was filmed in black and white by J. Roy Hunt, who shot countless "B" Westerns over the course of his career. The costumes were by Edward Stevenson, and the musical score was composed by Roy Webb.

The supporting cast also includes Marcel Dalio, John Hamilton, Andre Charlot, Michael Ansara, and Robert Andersen.

ACTION IN ARABIA was released in the United States on VHS in the RKO Collection. It does not appear to have had a U.S. DVD release, but is available on multiple Region 2 DVD releases.

I saw the film thanks to Turner Classic Movies.

On Memorial Day


Remembering with heartfelt gratitude the brave men and women who gave their all for our nation and our freedom.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Tonight's Movie: Bluebeard (1944) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The atmospheric period crime film BLUEBEARD (1944) has just been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

It's an 80th anniversary special edition in a cardboard slipcase.

BLUEBEARD is a briskly told tragedy running just 72 minutes. It's the story of Gaston Morel (John Carradine), a Parisian painter and puppeteer who can't seem to stop himself from strangling the women he paints.

Enter pretty dressmaker Lucille Lutien (Jean Parker, LITTLE WOMEN), whom Morel engages to make new costumes for his puppets. Morel is quite taken with Lucille and resolves never to paint again.

Lucille's sister Francine (Teala Loring) returns to Paris at the request of Police Inspector Jacques Lefevre (Nils Asther) to help him solve the murders...and things get complicated, to say the least.

It's not a particularly exciting thriller, with the murderer known at the outset; the suspense lies in how or whether he'll be caught, and who might be killed in the meantime.

While it's only a so-so film, I do appreciate the movie's nice sense of atmosphere, despite its very cheap sets, and I think the cast does a good job with the material. 

Carradine's torment is effective in making him somewhat sympathetic despite his murderous history, and I always enjoy seeing Parker. The movie is worth a look, though perhaps it helps a bit if the viewer isn't expecting too much and can appreciate what was accomplished despite a low budget.

I first saw BLUEBEARD at UCLA a decade ago, introduced by director Edgar G. Ulmer's daughter, Arianne Ulmer Cipes.

Among other things, Cipes described being the flower girl when Carradine married his costar Sonia Sorel, who plays one of Morel's victims, Renee. Sorel became the mother of actors Keith and Robert Carradine.

BLUEBEARD was long in the public domain and only available on TV in poor quality prints, but what we watched at UCLA was a film print which had been found in Paris. Other than the opening credits and the "end" card being in French, the print was in English. I don't particularly remember the quality, but I believe it was likely better than this Blu-ray print.

The Blu-ray is from a 2020 HD master from a 4K scan, but the print shows its history as a public domain film from the Poverty Row studio Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC). There are numerous flaws, beginning with the opening credits, although there are not any skips interfering with dialogue; the issues are mostly scratches, specks, and lines.

The dialogue is also softer than the norm for a Kino Lorber print. This is a case where even those who aren't hard of hearing might want to turn on the captions to better understand the actors.

Having observed the typical high quality of Kino Lorber's prints over the years, with rare exceptions, I have to assume that this was "as good as it gets" as far as what is available to work with for home viewing. On that basis I certainly appreciate it being made available in the best condition possible, and the issues didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the movie.

BLUEBEARD was filmed by Jockey A. Feindel and uncredited Eugen Schufftan. It was scripted by Arnold Phillips and Werner H. Furst from a story by Pierre Gendron.

Extras consist of two separate commentary tracks, one by David Del Valle and the other by Gregory W. Mank teamed with Tom Weaver. The disc also includes a trailer gallery for eight additional films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Tonight's Movie: Secret Beyond the Door (1947) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR (1947), featuring an outstanding performance by Joan Bennett, has just been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR is a "gothic noir" in the manner of REBECCA (1940), in which a woman marries a near-stranger and then makes unsettling discoveries after she arrives at his country home.

Bennett plays Celia, who marries Mark (Michael Redgrave) while vacationing in Mexico. Within a few days of their marriage Mark's behavior becomes baffling, his emotions running hot and cold, but after contemplating leaving Mark, Celia determines to stick it out.

Mark's sister (Anne Revere) is welcoming, but along with Mark's odd behavior Celia must contend with Mark's "Mrs. Danvers-esque" secretary (Barbara O'Neil) and his estranged teenage son David (Mark Dennis); Mark amazingly had neglected to mention his prior marriage and that he had a child, but Celia receives the news with equanimity.

The script by Silvia Richards, based on a story by Rufus King, has flaws, including the writing of Redgrave's almost psychotic character; after the opening scenes, the movie tilts too much toward his strangeness, and he's disturbed enough that one wonders if he can truly recover.

That said, I like this movie a great deal and find it an absorbing 99 minutes. This is chiefly due to the marvelous Bennett, with nods as well to the superb black and white cinematography of Stanley Cortez and the scoring by Miklos Rozsa.

Over the years Bennett has become one of my favorite actresses, certainly in my Top 5, and one of the reasons is the way she absolutely radiates thoughtful intelligence. One might say that a woman who marries a stranger isn't very smart, but I love the way Celia processes her situation, heard via very effective narration, and then commits to trying to make her marriage work.

Bennett is also incredibly beautiful in this film, surely one of the most lovely actresses of the '40s, and she has the chance to wear gowns by one of my favorite costume designers, Travis Banton.  She's a treat to watch, both visually and in terms of performance.

The movie is interesting not only as one of the "woman in peril" film common in the era but as a reflection of the late '40s cinematic obsession with psychology, with SPELLBOUND (1945) and THE LOCKET (1946) being just two other examples.

In the end, despite its flaws and a questionable REBECCA-like ending, I find SECRET BEHIND THE DOOR a very enjoyable watch, especially given that Bennett is onscreen for the vast majority of the film.

This film was the final collaboration between Bennett and director Fritz Lang, who teamed with Bennett on THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (1944) and SCARLET STREET (1945) as well as MAN HUNT (1941); he's also said to have done uncredited work on CONFIRM OR DENY (1941).

For additional thoughts on the film, please visit my 2013 review.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray print is from a 2022 HD master by Paramount Pictures from a 4K scan. It's a very good, if slightly soft, print. There's one strange moment where Bennett gets up from a chair and the shot blurs; I'm not certain if it's the way the movie was originally shot and edited or a print issue.

This is a Special Edition with a cardboard slipcase. The extras consist of a new commentary track by the always-excellent Alan K. Rode, plus an eight-film trailer gallery.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Quick Preview of TCM in July

Here's a brief look at the upcoming July schedule on Turner Classic Movies!

The July Star of the Month will be Eva Marie Saint, who celebrates her centennial birthday on Independence Day.

The July Noir Alley films are ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950), THE WOMAN ON PIER 13 (1950), RED LIGHT (1949), and THE HOUSEMAID (1960).

The TCM Spotlight theme is "Movie Duos." I'll have more information on that once the final schedule is announced.

As usual, Independence Day will feature THE MUSIC MAN (1962) and YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942).

I especially love that one day on the schedule features "summer musicals," including SUMMER HOLIDAY (1948) and SUMMER STOCK (1950). Mickey Rooney and Gloria DeHaven are seen at the right in SUMMER HOLIDAY.

Additional July programming themes will include baseball, royalty, Pacific islands, Westerns, Scotland, hypnosis, surfing, the Olympics, and films from 1954.

July will feature a memorial tribute to Roger Corman. Additional filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes include William Wyler, Richard Egan, Ginger Rogers, Walter Brennan, Clint Eastwood, Karl Malden, Herbert Marshall, and Constance Ford.

I'll share more detailed information about the July schedule around July 1st.  In the meantime, there is one more evening of Sessue Hayakawa as the May Star of the Month, with "Fox Stars" coming in June.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the Internet...

...Exciting news from Kino Lorber: RED MOUNTAIN (1951), starring Alan Ladd and Lizabeth Scott, is "coming soon" to Blu-ray. The print will be a 4K scan of the 35mm nitrate negative. To my knowledge this is the first time it's been released for home viewing in the U.S.

...Also coming from Kino Lorber, on July 30th: The first feature-length 3-D film, BWANA DEVIL (1953). Full details on this release are at the link.

...Director Rian Johnson has announced a third Benoit Blanc mystery, to be titled WAKE UP DEAD MAN (2025). Daniel Craig returns to solve the mystery in this sequel to KNIVES OUT (2019) and THE GLASS ONION (2022).

...Criterion and Janus Films have been sold. Details from Variety.

...Sheila O'Malley has written a very good article for Liberties titled "Lombard: Queen of Screwball."

...For baseball fans: I'm intrigued by a 2021 book by Joe Posnanski I recently came across, THE BASEBALL 100.

...New Blu-ray reviews by Glenn Erickson for Trailers from Hell: BACK FROM THE DEAD (1957), just out from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, and FRIENDLY PERSUASION (1956) from the Warner Archive Collection.

...Remembering one of the greatest storylines from GENERAL HOSPITAL on its 30th anniversary. Earlier this year the show brought some closure to that storyline in a remarkable way, with some of the same actors, three decades older.

...At Shadows and Satin Karen reviews THE ACCIDENTAL STAR: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF WARNER BAXTER, which I reviewed last month.

...At Speakeasy Kristina has an interesting article on Laird Cregar, reviewing his films HUDSON'S BAY (1940) and HANGOVER SQUARE (1944).

...Notable Passings: Casting director-producer Fred Roos, who worked closely with Francis Ford Coppola, has died at 89...Composer Richard M. Sherman and actor Darryl Hickman have each passed away this week. I plan to pay tribute to them in a separate post in the coming days. (Update: Here is that post!)

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please visit my May 18th column.

Tonight's Movies: The Boob (1926) and Why Be Good? (1929) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

One of the most recent Blu-ray releases from the Warner Archive Collection is a two-film "Silent Classics Double Feature" set containing THE BOOB (1926) and WHY BE GOOD? (1929).

THE BOOB was previously released by the Warner Archive as a single-title DVD in 2009, and WHY BE GOOD? followed with a DVD release in 2014.

THE BOOB is a goofy yet entertaining 64-minute comedy directed by William A. Wellman. I'm always happy to see Wellman's name in the credits and was glad to check off another title from his list of credits.

Farm boy Peter (George K. Arthur) is dismayed when his sweetheart Amy (Gertrude Olmstead) falls hard for Harry Benson (Antonio D'Algy) and plans to marry him.

Little do either Amy or Peter know that Harry is a bootlegger pursued by "one of Uncle Sam's crack revenue agents," Jane (Joan Crawford).

The movie is pretty silly but entertaining enough to sustain a little over an hour. I especially enjoyed not only the young Crawford as the stern, brave law enforcement officer but the "Booklovers Club" roadhouse with liquor hidden away in books lining the shelves.

The film has a piano score by Arthur Barrow which dates from 2003 and is appropriate in tone for the movie.

The movie was filmed by William Daniels, and for a movie released not quite a century ago it looks very good indeed.

WHY BE GOOD? has become a favorite which I've now seen multiple times, including at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival; I previously reviewed it here in 2016, and I'd like to suggest readers also visit that review for a more detailed look at the film.

The movie stars Colleen Moore as Pert Kelly, a department store clerk who lives it up at night as a "jazz baby" partier, although in reality she's a "good" girl holding out for the right man.

Pert and wealthy Winthrop Peabody Jr. (Neil Hamilton) fall for each other, but Winthrop's father (Edward Martindel) questions Pert's virtue.

It's a fast-paced, enjoyable, and even thought-provoking story with a gorgeous Art Deco setting.  Moore is a lot of fun in the leading role, and it's enjoyable watching Hamilton (of TV's BATMAN) as the leading man.

WHY BE GOOD? is the longer film of this set, running 84 minutes. It was directed by William A. Seiter and filmed by Sidney Hickox. The disc uses the film's original Vitaphone synchronized score.

Like THE BOOB, WHY BE GOOD? looks very nice for its age. There are no extras on the disc for either film.

I love the idea of combining two relatively short silents into a single set. While THE BOOB is just mildly entertaining, I thought of it as a nice "extra" included with the very fun and rewatchable WHY BE GOOD?, adding to this release's value. I hope we see similar two-film discs released by the Warner Archive Collection going forward.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from Movie Zyng, Amazon, and other online retailers.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Tonight's TV: Columbo (1973) - "Lovely But Lethal," "Any Old Port in a Storm" - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

I've now made it to Season 3 of COLUMBO, watching the first two episodes from that season, "Lovely But Lethal" and "Any Old Port in a Storm."

I found the first one only so-so but really enjoyed the latter!

"Lovely But Lethal" featured Vera Miles as Viveca Scott, a makeup company executive hoping that a new anti-wrinkle cream will help her struggling company rebound.

And then a chemist (Martin Sheen) steals the formula and threatens to sell it to Viveca's rival, David Lang (Vincent Price)...and Viveca kills him. And before Lt. Columbo realizes Viveca's a murderess, she also targets Lang's weird secretary (Sian Barbara Allen).

Although it was fun to see Price and a young Sheen, this episode didn't do much for me. I didn't care for the makeup theme and other aspects of the show, including the oddball chain-smoking secretary.

Jackson Gillis, who wrote the episode based on a story by Myrna Bercovici, strikes me as a very uneven writer for the series. His work included the poor "Dagger of the Mind."

The episode was directed by Jeannot Szwarc. It was filmed by Harry L. Wolf, who also filmed the next episode, "Any Old Port in a Storm."

"Any Old Port in a Storm" was directed by Leo Penn and written by Stanley Ralph Ross from a story by Larry Cohen.

This one is classic COLUMBO, from the clever mystery with intriguing characters to the presence of classic film era actors such as Frank Puglia and Rand Brooks in small parts. I really enjoyed it.

Donald Pleasence plays Adrian Carsini, a wine expert whose beloved winery is losing money. While Adrian owns the winery, his half-brother Rick (Gary Conway) owns the land and plans to sell, leading Rick to end up dead at his brother's hands.

Adrian's suspicious secretary (Julie Harris), who spends her evenings watching movies like THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), sees an opening to push her longtime boss Adrian into a relationship...

This is a fun "cat and mouse" story with a clever solution, and there are many fun touches, including the depiction of a very glamorous '70s plane flight.

Another moment which screams "1970s" is the secretary wanting Columbo to leave her home before her 11:00 movie starts, as she doesn't want to miss it, and Columbo agrees it's a good one and says maybe he can catch the ending when he gets home. The exchange encapsulates the days of "appointment TV" without recorders or DVDS; you had to watch a movie when it aired or you might not see it again for years!

Pleasence is rather pathetic as the villain, as in killing his brother he also "kills" the only things he really loves. Harris is also good as the steely secretary plotting how to use Adrian's situation to her advantage.

There are many familiar faces in the cast, including Dana Elcar, Robert Donner, Robert Walden, and Vito Scotti.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray prints and sound are again of very good quality.

Previous COLUMBO review posts: "Murder By the Book" (1971), "Death Lends a Hand" (1971), "Dead Weight" (1971), "Suitable for Framing" (1971), "Lady in Waiting" (1971), "Short Fuse" (1972), "Blueprint for Murder" (1972), "Etude in Black" (1972), "The Greenhouse Jungle" (1972), "The Most Crucial Game" (1972), "Dagger of the Mind" (1972), "Requiem for a Falling Star" (1973), "A Stitch in Crime" (1973), "The Most Dangerous Match" (1973), "Double Shock" (1973).

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.

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