Tough Guys, Tough To Find: Warner Archives is now offering up a salute to a pair of the most iconic figures in the studio’s history—Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney—with the DVD bow of a half-dozen long-sought entries from these two-fisted titans’ respective resumes. Battle Circus (1953) offers Bogie as the sexist MASH unit doctor who falls for pretty nurse June Allyson in Richard Brooks’ Korean War drama…Bogart may be King of the Underworld (1939), but after his hoods leave surgeon Kay Francis a widow, she writes a prescription for payback…Ace pilot Bogart goes head-to-head with driven, ambition-blinded air freighter boss Pat O’Brien in China Clipper (1936)…O’Brien and Bogey are at odds again, as a hard-nosed cop and a traffic violator brought into escalating conflict, in The Great O’Malley (1937)…Cagney portrays an auto race champ fallen into a bitter professional and personal rivalry with his kid brother in The Crowd Roars (1932)…These Wilder Years (1956) finds industrialist Cagney looking to build a relationship with the son given up for adoption a generation ago, and meeting a roadblock in the form of orphanage administrator Barbara Stanwyck.
Boomer Mill: Warner has lately reached into the ‘60s and ‘70s for a crop of controversial, oddball, and—what’s the term?—groovy movies for your enjoyment. Lisztomania (1975), one of Ken Russell’s wildest creations—which says a lot—stars Roger Daltrey as pianist/composer Franz Liszt, Paul Nicholas as rival Richard Wagner, Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman as a Viking and Ringo Starr as the Pope in a visually wacked-out, over-indulgent ode to musical masters…Phillip Roth’s best-selling look at the sexual exploits and psychological problems of a 33-year-old Jewish New Yorker was brought to the screen as Portnoy’s Complaint (1972), with Richard Benjamin in the lead, Lee Grant as his overbearing mother and Karen Black and Jeannie Berlin as the women in his life…Sex researcher Efrem Zimbalist Jr. delved into the intimate lives of subjects Jane Fonda, Shelley Winters, Glynis Johns and Claire Bloom in George Cukor’s potboiler The Chapman Report (1962)…A Covenant with Death (1966) offered George Maharis is a Mexican-American judge asked to rule upon a convoluted and controversial murder trial. Gene Hackman, Katy Jurado also star…In the wake of A Hard Day’s Night came Having a Wild Weekend (1965), a cinematic salute to The Dave Clark Five, directed by John Boorman, also known as Catch Us If You Can…Plenty of period acts populate The Cool Ones (1967), where rock promoter Roddy McDowall tries to manufacture an act out of flash-in-the-pan Debbie Watson and fading pop star Gil Peterson.
Noir Bets: There’re more mysteries and moody melodramas from the heyday of the film noir cycle on tap, as well. Joan Fontaine offers a crackling femme fatale characterization in Born to be Bad (1950), as she wrests wealthy Zachary Scott away from her affianced cousin Joan Leslie, while keeping lover Robert Ryan on the side; Nicholas Ray directs…Ray was also behind the camera for the inventively stellar meller A Woman’s Secret (1949), following the decidedly odd bond between chanteuse Maureen O’Hara and protégé Gloria Grahame…Third Man co-stars Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli reteamed for the RKO crime tale Walk Softly, Stranger (1950), where a gambler’s attempts to flee his past and build a new life in a factory town go awry…Boris Ingster’s underrated film noir Southside 1-1000 (1950) involves a convict who professes to have found religion, but in fact is masterminding a counterfeiting ring from his cell…Singer Jane Russell’s return to Sin City goes bust, when stockbroker hubby Vincent Price gets into trouble with crooks and ex-flame policeman Victor Mature comes back into her life, in The Las Vegas Story (1952).
They’re Baa-aaack: Warner continues to give a new lease on life to out-of-print DVD titles via the Archive program, as evidenced by these resurfacing rousers: The Last of Sheila (1973) is a crackerjack mystery in which James Coburn tries to find out who killed his gossip columnist girl in a hit-and-run accident by luring the suspects to a yacht for a devious mind game; James Mason, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, Richard Benjamin and Joan Hackett also star…The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) stars Paul Newman is the old West outlaw-turned-judge who seeks revenge against those who wanted him to hang in John Huston’s comic oater, co-starring Victoria Principal, Anthony Perkins, and Ava Gardner…Ray Harryhausen’s special effects magic marks The Valley of Gwangi (1969), where the impromptu Mexican expedition by a band of rodeo cowboys uncovers a ravine where prehistoric life still thrives…Warren Beatty and Annette Bening become the vacationers caught up in whirlwind romance, and subsequent heartbreak, in the remake of Love Affair (1994); Katharine Hepburn co-stars…Two American cousins abroad in ‘80s Spain deal with life and the opposite sex in Whit Stillman’s witty Barcelona (1994)…A new-to-the-neighborhood teenage girl bonds with a withdrawn young boy, and a memorable secret is uncovered, in the youth classic The Boy Who Could Fly (1986).
Odds and Ends: The remarkable 1976 Israeli commando raid that liberated a planeload of Palestinian hostages within Uganda’s borders is recounted in the all-star TV film Victory at Entebbe (1976), with an ensemble including Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Dreyfuss, Anthony Hopkins, and Helen Hayes…James Garner faces challenges when he honors his pledge to his late mother, and assumes the care of schizophrenic younger brother James Woods, in the multi-Emmy-winning telefilm Promise (1986)…The selection of America’s first female astronaut inspired the TV drama The Sky’s No Limit (1984), with Anne Archer, Dee Wallace and Sharon Gless as the candidates; minor-league skipper Edward G. Robinson puts baseball prospects through their paces in Robert Aldrich’s first feature directing assignment, Big Leaguer (1953)…Tom Ewell’s assumption of the helm of his son’s Little League team brings nothing but parental pressure in the enjoyable farce The Great American Pastime (1956); Anne Francis, Ann Miller co-star.