Never before on video in ANY format, Lucky Lady arrives on DVD. This gorgeously filmed 1975 romantic adventure features Liza Minnelli as a prohibition-era widow who gets involved with run-running and two lovers, played by Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman. The director is the great Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers). While the expensive production from Fox didn’t fare well at the box-office, it does have its supporters. And since it has rarely been seen, now is a good time to check out this curio that also has a top-notch supporting cast including Robby Benson, John Hillerman and Geoffrey Lewis.
An Unlikely Couple: Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray
On paper, Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray didn’t seem to make a probable screen couple. After all, she was the French thrush adept at drama, as Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra, and in a host of classic screwballs like Midnight, It Happened One Night and The Palm Beach Story. He was the all-American fellow, usually cast as an easy-going nice guy and a latter-day Disney dad, but with the surprising depth to be bad in Double Indemnity, The Apartment and The Caine Mutiny. But in a series of seven movies, the pair displayed great chemistry. Three of those films made for Paramount have been collected in Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray: The Romantic Comedy Collection.
The set includes The Gilded Lily (1935), where Colbert plays a stenographer who turns down an offer of marriage from Ray Milland, whom she doesn’t realize is a nobleman. After getting media coverage as “The No Girl,” she seeks help from platonic pal/reporter MacMurray, who really takes a liking to her. In The Bride Comes Home (1936), Ms. Colbert goes back into the work force after her wealthy father goes broke, taking a job at a magazine that employs hot-headed MacMurray and reporter Robert Cummings. Sparks fly between Colbert and MacMurray, but Cummings is not out of the picture. And Family Honeymoon (1949) stars Claudette as a widow who marries bachelor Fred, but has to take her three kids with them on their honeymoon while his ex (Rita Johnson) waits in the wings.
By George, We’ve Got Them
HandMade Films, the enterprise partially owned by the late George Harrison, is seeing the reissuing of their idiosyncratic titles on DVD, courtesy of Image Entertainment. Among the films on the way:
How To Get Ahead In Advertising (1989): Richard E. Grant is an ad man who begins nurturing a huge pimple on his shoulder when he’s stuck on a campaign for a pimple cream in a blistering satire;
Checking Out (1989): Jeff Daniels is the harried fellow obsessed with his medical well being after his friend dies in the dark comedy;
Pow Wow Highway (1989): Two Cheyenne buddies take off on a road trip in this drama laced with humor and a perceptive look at contemporary Native American life;
A Private Function (1984): Eccentric farce headlined by Michael Palin and Maggie Smith in which residents of a small town in postwar England have to find a lost, illegally raised pig for Princess Elizabeth’s wedding;
Bullshot (1983): British comic troupe Low Moan Spectacular takes their hit play—about a WWI flying ace-turned-detective—to the screen;
Cold Dog Soup (1990): A pitch-black comedy starring Frank Whaley as a gal-chasing fellow who has to take care of the dead dog belonging to a woman he wishes to have relations with;
Water (1985): Michael Caine stars as a British diplomat whose perfect life in the Caribbean is threatened when a corporation plans to drill for mineral water;
Five Corners (1987): Newly-released ex-convict John Turturro seeks the woman he attempted to rape (Jodie Foster) and the man who protected her (Tim Robbins);
Mona Lisa (1986): Neil Jordan’s stylish drama finds former hood Bob Hoskins becoming the chauffeur for high-priced call girl Cathy Tyson; and
The Long Good Friday (1980): Bob Hoskins again as a British gangster, this time with his empire and his life on the line when his hoods run afoul of the IRA.
All titles are available on DVD and Blu-ray.
The hits keep coming from the little company that knows what they are doing. As always, the discs are filled with terrific extras. Latest releases include:
Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964): Two great in-your-face productions from Samuel Fuller that Criterion is now bringing to Blu-ray as well. The first tells of a reporter (Peter Breck) who gains admittance to a mental hospital to investigate a murder on the premises, only to find all sorts of horrors. And the latter is an unpredictable tale of the darker side of America in which a prostitute (Constance Towers) tries to make a new life for herself in a small town and finds its residents’ lives no less lurid than her own past.
Cronos (1993): Guillermo del Toro’s first feature is a haunting meditation on mortality in which an antiques dealer finds an unusual item, a bug-shaped trinket, that holds secret powers desired by a mysterious American. The seeds of del Toro’s penchant for supernatural scares can be seen here.
Broadcast News (1987): James L. Brooks’ comedy takes a satiric and touching look at the news industry with Holly Hunter, William Hurt, Albert Brooks and Jack Nicholson heading the sublime cast. Bring extra hankies for the sweating scene.
Basil Dearden’s London Underground: Ealing Studios mainstay Basil Dearden started his own company, directing films that often dealt with controversial topics. In the set are: Sapphire (1959), a police procedural in which the authorities find that racism may have played a part in the murder of a pregnant college student; The League of Gentlemen (1960), where a group of former British soldiers get involved in a risky heist; Victim (1961), the envelope-pushing story of a homosexual lawyer (Dirk Bogarde) whose sexual preferences are about to be revealed by a blackmailer; and All Night Long (1962), the Othello-inspired, jazz-infused drama in which a couple—a white singer married to a black bandleader—is targeted by a drummer (Patrick McGoohan) with big plans. Co-star Betsy Blair and screenwriter Paul Jarrico (using a nom de plume) were blacklistees during the McCarthy Era; there’s also music and appearances by Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Tubby Hayes and John Dankworth.
Fish Tank (2009): Andrea Arnold’s acclaimed British coming-of-age saga concerns a 15 year-old’s reaction to her mother’s romance with a handsome Irishman.
Still Walking (2008): Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda’s drama details the intricacies of the emotions of a family reunion.
Senso (1954): Luchino Visconti’s gorgeously photographed period drama centering on a romance between a married Italian countess (Alida Valli) and a younger, unmarried Austrian soldier (Farley Granger.
And from Criterion comes word that the company has contracted with MGM for some titles.
First on the way is Sweet Smell of Success (1957), a tour-de-force from all concerned, involving the edgy relationship between a powerful, Walter Winchell-like columnist (Burt Lancaster) and an aggressive press agent (Tony Curtis). Scottish-British director Alexander Mackendrick, an Ealing Studio favorite (Whiskey Galore, The Ladykillers) made a brilliant American debut with a script worked on by the likes of Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, with cinematography by the great James Wong Howe. Extras include documentaries, featurettes, audio commentaries, essays and more!
Down the line from the deal—and yet to be scheduled– are:
The King of Hearts (1966): A true cult classic, Phillipe de Broca’s WWI-set film stars Alan Bates as a Scottish soldier assigned to dismantle a bomb in a small French village, unaware that the townsfolk have fled and that the “locals” he’s trying to deal with are loosed mental asylum patients—including the beautiful Genvieve Bujold, who has fallen in love with him.
How I Won The War (1967): Richard Lester’s wacked out anti-war film, set in WWII but tweaking Vietnam, features Michael Crawford , John Lennon and Roy Kinnear.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981): Karel Reisz’s adaptation of John Fowles’ acclaimed novel stars Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons in dual roles as contemporary movie stars and 19th century lovers.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985): Stephen Frears directs Hanif Kureishi’s script about a young Indian man (Gordon Warnecke) who, with help from his gay lover (Daniel Day-Lewis), attempts to make a decrepit London laundromat a business success.
Blow Out (1981): John Travolta is a soundman who believes he has recorded the clues to a political conspiracy in Brian De Palma’s shot-in-Philly thriller co-starring Nancy Allen and John Lithgow.
Also slated for future release from the company is a deluxe edition of David Fincher’s The Game (1987) with Michael Douglas as a financial tycoon whose deadbeat kid brother Sean Penn offers him an unusual gift for his birthday—participation in a complex, dangerous gaming simulation that begins to consume his life.
We were told once Sony got into the archive business, they would be going hot and heavy. And they’ve proven themselves right with another eclectic batch from their library. This time out we have:
Psyche 59 (1964): An unusual drama involving Patricia Neal as a woman, suffering from psychosomatic blindness after a fall, who believes hubby Curt Jurgens may be having an affair with newly-moved-in sister Samantha Eggar.
Jungle Man-Eaters (1954): Action-packed Jungle Jim yarn with Johnny Weissmuller taking on smugglers and encountering beasts along the way.
The Swordsman (1948): Best known as playing Al Jolson in two films, Larry Parks made many other films for Columbia. This swashbuckler offers Parks in 19th century Scotland, romancing a woman (Ellen Drew) from a rival clan. Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy) directs.
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973): Joanne Woodward plays a middle-aged NYC woman who reassesses her life as she joins her husband (Martin Balsam) when he makes a return visits to the French battlefields where he served.
X, Y and Zee (1973): Michael Caine and Elizabeth Taylor’s marriage is shaky, and things aren’t helped when he gets involved with a younger woman (Susannah York). Wifey Liz, meanwhile, wants to do something radical about the affair when she discovers what’s going on behind her back.
Paula (1952): Loretta Young is a woman who injures a young boy (Tommy Rettig) in a hit-and-run, and, driven by guilt, surreptitiously gains custody of him in order to nurse him to health.
Return to Warbow (1958): Sagebrush special that finds a convict springing from the pokey and reuniting with his no-good brother to retrieve the loots he hid in a town years ago. Phillip Carey, Andrew Duggan, Jay Silverheels star.
Streets of Ghost Town (1950): Charles Starrett is the Durango Kid in this western yarn in which a group of cowboys enter a deserted town in search of stolen gold.
Fans who like to figure out their movies are in for a treat with a couple of new DVD releases. First and foremost is the much-welcomed appearance of Joseph Losey’s rarely seen 1951 masterwork The Prowler. Van Heflin plays the rookie cop who takes a liking to married Evelyn Keyes, and hatches a plan to invade her home in order to get rid of her disc jockey hubby. In classic noir fashion, the plans go awry. A documentary, a featurette on the film’s restoration and other goodies highlight this first-time release.
Alfred Hitchcock is examined in a whole different light in Double Take, a 2010 film that mixes newsreel footage with Hitchcock film footage, and body and voice doubles of Hitch, to offer a fawscinating look at the master of suspense and the Cold War. Fans of the legendary director and history will get a kick out of the unusual proceedings presented in this faux documentary.
Odds and Ends: New and Views Seen and Heard Behind-the-Scenes
Bambi will be the next Disney animated classic getting the “Diamond Edition” treatment on DVD and Blu-ray. Look for lots of extras, including deleted scenes…Two roadhouse classic from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures are coming out from Shout Factory on a double bill: Jackson County Jail/Caged Heat. The former is a 1976 tale of rape and revenge down south with Tommy Lee Jones and Yvette Mimieux, and the latter, from 1974, is probably the best women-in-prison film from the producer’s canon, directed by a young Jonathan Demme and starring Barbara Steele and Erica Gavin…Warner has announced that America, America, previously only available as part of The Elia Kazan Collection, can soon be had separately. The 1963 film is based on the famous director’s uncle’s experiences growing up Greek in Turkey and encountering adventure by coming to the United States…Conniosseurs of caper flicks will be pleased with the imminent arrival of 11 Harrowhouse (1974), the expertly executed heist saga with Charles Grodin as a diamond merchant enlisted by slimy millionaire Trevor Howard to rob a jewelry exchange owned by John Gielgud. Candice Bergen, James Mason also star.
Synapse has two cult items worth checking out. Hammer Studios’ Vampire Circus (1972) is a wild tale of a travelling circus in which its performers show their true bloodsucking colors at night. This Blu-ray/DVD combo pack includes some great extras, including a tribute from the likes of Joe Dante in a making-of documentary. Embodiment of Evil (2008), also in a Blu-ray/DVD combo, follows Coffin Joe (Jose Mojica Marins) as he leaves prison and seeks the perfect woman to carry on his perverted bloodline in this not-for-the squeamish depraved classic… Among the most interesting documentaries on the way: Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Suss, a look at the legacy of the German director who made what is considered the most anti-Semitic film of all time, and how his descendants dealt with it…William S. Burroughs: A Man Within takes an unflinching survey on the life of the writer and Beat legend who gave us Naked Lunch…Speaking of the Beats, let’s not forget the 2010 bio-drama Howl, which looks at poet Allen Ginsburg (James Franco) and his battle with the charges of obscenity spurred by the titular 1955 poem. The top-notch supporting cast includes Jeff Daniels, John Hamm, Mary Louise Parker and Treat Williams.
It’s Warners, Brother
The hits—obscure and not-so obscure—keep on coming from the Warner Archives, highlighted by a nice selection of long-sought vehicles for Barbara Stanwyck and Errol Flynn.
The recent batch includes:
That Forsyte Woman (1949): Flynn, Greer Garson, Robert Young and Walter Pidgeon star in this colorful tale based on one of the installments in “The Forsyte Saga,” in which Garson rebels against hubby Flynn’s old-fashioned, repressed ways.
Cry Wolf (1947): A switcheroo for star Flynn, this psychological thriller offers him as a wealthy scientist in a battle of wills with Stanwyck, who claims to have been married to his late nephew, and is looking for his cut of the family wealth.
Footsteps in the Dark (1941): It’s not quite The Thin Man, but this attempt by Warner to duplicate MGM’s success is a charming mystery/comedy with Flynn as a wealthy investment broker who doubles as a detective, and Brenda Marshall as his suspicious wife.
Never Say Goodbye (1946): Flynn in another lighter role, this time as a womanizing magazine illustrator whose young daughter tries to reunite him with wife Eleanor Parker after they get divorced.
Man With A Cloak (1951): Stanwyck and Joseph Cotten head the fine cast in this period thriller set in 18th century New York and focusing on a conspiracy out to bilk one of Napoleon’s marshals out of an important cache of money. With Louis Calhern, Leslie Caron and Jim Backus.
B.F.’s Daughter (1948): Stanwyck, daughter of wealthy industrialist Charles Coburn, dumps conservative lawyer Richard Hart for radical professor Van Heflin, destroying the rep of her father in the process, in this politically-charged romantic drama.
The Secret Bride (1935): Political intrigue with Missy again, this time as a governor’s daughter who marries state attorney general Warren William on the sly. Before they can go public with their union, her dad comes under investigation for corruption, causing all manner of complications. Arthur Byron also stars in William Dieterle’s film.
The Woman in Red (1935): Horse trainer Stanwyck falls for a polo player who’s also desired by a wealthy matron. The triangle leads to tragedy on a yacht and a scandal-filled murder trial. Gene Raymond, Genevieve Tobin co-star under Robert Florey’s direction.
Green Light (1937): Flynn is a doctor who takes the hit for his physician mentor in the wake of a botched surgery, and whose quest to restore his reputation leads him to act as guinea pig for an experimental spotted fever vaccine. Anita Louise and Walter Abel also star.
The Human Comedy (1943): Mickey Rooney stars in this much-admired adaptation of the William Saroyan World War II-era story in which he plays a young telegraph messenger who knows everyone in his small California town. With Van Johnson, Marsa Hunt, Robert Mitchum and Barry Nelson.
The Outfit (1973): Top-notch crime saga with Robert Duvall as the ex-con who is out to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of the mob, then finds out that he’s been targeted by them as well. Robert Ryan, Joe Don Baker, Karen Black and Timothy Carey also star.
Hotel (1967): After some delay, this film translation of Arthur Haley’s best-seller finally lands on DVD with Rod Taylor as the manager of the New Orleans establishment populated by eccentrics played by the likes of Merle Oberon, Michael Rennie and Kevin McCarthy.
Oh, Oh, Severin
About to see the light of day again from Severin is The Stunt Man, Richard Rush’s wonderful 1980 meditation on movies and real life. Oscar-nominated Peter O’Toole is the mercurial director who enlists Vietnam vet Steve Railsback for a part in his war epic. Look for lots of insightful extras, too. Also from Severin will be BMX Bandits (1983), one of Nicole Kidman’s first efforts. The story concerns a couple of BMX bikers who get in trouble when they uncover a box of walkie-talkies owned by bank robbers. Lots of BMX action and the teenage Kidman are what have curiosity seekers interested.