Burt is Ernest: Burt Lancaster leads the cast of Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Robert Aldrich’s much-requested, much-maligned 1977 political thriller. In it, Lancaster plays a renegade U.S. general who escapes from military prison and takes control of a missile silo in Montana. He holds a group of nuclear missiles hostage, negotiating for the release of top-secret papers from the U.S. president (Charles Durning) with incriminating info about the Vietnam War. Also in the top-notch cast are Richard Widmark, Paul Winfield, Burt Young and Joseph Cotten. Aldrich, who helmed such classics as Kiss Me, Deadly and The Dirty Dozen, based the story on the Walter Wager novel “Viper Three” and utilized split-screens to heighten the tension of the situation. The film was a German/American co-production and its rights have been procured from a German company by Olive Films. The enterprising supplier has it out in DVD and Blu-ray with a new feature-length documentary called “Aldrich over Munich.”
More Olive Branches Extended: Olive continues to light the lamp for fascinating DVD and Blu-ray offerings. Consider: Booze, drug addiction and dysfunctional family drama are at the basis of Sidney Lumet’s adaptation of Eugene O’Neil’s Long Day’s Journey into Night (1962), with Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards, Jr. and Dean Stockwell; The Sterile Cuckoo (1969), in which Liza Minnelli experiences the pangs of first love; The Slender Thread (1965), offering riveting drama with college student Sidney Poitier addressing Anne Bancroft’s call at a crisis center; Up Tight! (1968), Jules Dassin’s African-American take on The Informer; Three Secrets (1950) features Patricia Neal, Eleanor Parker and Ruth Roman as women who each believe the young survivor of a plane crash could be the son she gave up for adoption; and the classic Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), directed by Max Ophuls, stars Joan Fontaine as a woman who gets involved with concert pianist Louis Jourdan, leading to tragic results.
Screen and Screen (and Screen) Again: The three-part widescreen format Cinerama was invented to awe theatergoers and take their interest away from the little picture in their living rooms. And in certain cases, the expensive format worked wonderfully. A number of travelogues were filmed in the true three-camera process, as well as the films The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and How the West was Won (some sequences were shot in Ultra Panavision 70). This is Cinerama (1952), the first film shot in the format, was created to dazzle audiences and serve as a promotion for the process. Available on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time in a dual-pack, two-disc release, the Oscar-nominated feature film offers sequences on a roller coaster, at Niagra Falls, a choir in Venice, water skiing and more. Along with audio commentary and featurettes, the film will be available in a “smilebox” format that emulates the Cinerama experience. The company bringing us This is Cinerama has accorded similar treatment to Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958), the rousing sea documentary originally presented in the competing “Cinemiracle” process.
Heaven’s Gate (1980): Michael Cimino’s much-maligned western epic seeks new appreciation with this deluxe Criterion release of the uncut version. Kris Kristofferson is the federal marshal in Wyoming caught in the middle of a range war between wealthy cattle barons and European immigrants. Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke, Isabelle Huppert also star. Is it a disaster or a masterpiece? You decide.
Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971): Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson and Murray Head are involved in a complex three-way romance in John Schlesinger’s searing drama.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968): Mia Farrow is the title character, a woman who doesn’t realize actor husband John Cassavetes has made a pact with the devil that could affect her newborn, in Roman Polanski’s chilling shocker.
Trilogy of Life: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s monumental trilogy of films based on classic literature, and marked by debauchery, religious themes and stunning set pieces, includes The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972), and Arabian Nights (1974).
Weekend (1967): Jean-Luc Godard’s surreal satire of consumerism with the wildest traffic jam ever.
When Horror Came to Shochiku: This new Eclipse release serves up four horror/sci-fi outings from the studio usually associated with works by Ozu and Mizoguchi. Included here are The X from Outer Space (1967); Goke, Body-Snatcher from Hell (1968); The Living Skeleton (1968); and Genocide 1968).
Roger…Not Over and Out: The Roger Corman hits keep coming. But that shouldn’t be a surprise, since the legendary producer has his name on hundreds of productions. CAV has picked up the rights to many of his New Horizons titles, which means low-budget heaven to many. Included in this batch are Black Scorpion, Daydream Believers, Dinocroc, Munchies, Saturday the 14th, Transylvania Twist, and Stepmonster.
Rags Doll: If you’ve only heard the name of legendary silent actress Mary Pickford, and have never seen any of her movies, this problem can be remedied with the release of Mary Pickford: Rags & Riches Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. Milestone Films has lovingly restored the films in this three-disc set, including The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), The Hoodlum (1919) and Sparrows (1926). “America’s (Original) Sweetheart” shines in these films, as she shows off her golden curls, sweetly innocent face and acting abilities—the stuff that made her the biggest star in the world from 1909 to 1933.
Cool Ray: The final years of director Nicholas Ray (Rebel without a Cause, Johnny Guitar) are chronicled in the double feature of We Can’t Go Home Again (1976)/Don’t Expect Too Much (2011). In the former, the focus is on Ray making an experimental film, filled with montage and multi-panel images, as worked with students at State University in Binghamton, New York. In the latter, Susan Ray looks back at the making of We Can’t Go Home Again alongside the students who worked on it, and examines her late filmmaker husband’s unorthodox methods.