Whoa. Double whoa. What’s with all the whoa-ing you ask? Well. I’m a bit overwhelmed by all the terrific classic films that are hitting DVD & Blu-ray this week. There are a veritable smorgasbord of titles ranging from dark and gritty theatrical favorites to complete TV series sets featuring magical genies, singing families and more. So enough of my yapping, here’s what cool classics you’ll want to add to your home video library.
When a Los Angeles bookie is cut down in a brutal shotgun slaying, it’s up to cops Joe Friday (Jack Webb, who directed) and Frank Smith (Ben Alexander) to methodically work the meager leads and connect the crime to a devious racket chieftain. It’s “just the facts” for this first-ever theatrical spin-off from a TV series; Richard Boone, Ann Robinson, Virginia Gregg, Dennis Weaver co-star.
Fellini’s Casanova (1976)
The life and times of the notorious 18th-century author, adventurer, and libertine are lushly and outrageously limned as only Federico Fellini could. Having escaped prison in Venice, Casanova (Donald Sutherland) would spend his remaining existence drifting through the parlors and bedrooms of the highest courts of power across Europe, finding carnal pleasure and little true satisfaction. Tina Aumont, Cicely Browne, Carmen Scarpitta co-star.
Suave British art thief Michael Caine recruits Eurasian chorine Shirley MacLaine as his helpmate in a convoluted scheme to relieve Middle Eastern tycoon Herbert Lom of a priceless sculpture. While the plan looks good on paper, the actual execution winds up leaving something to be desired. Charming caper comedy co-stars Roger C. Carmel, John Abbott; Ronald Neame directs.
McHale’s Navy (1964)
Conniving commander Quinton McHale (Ernest Borgnine) and the men of the PT 73 made the jump from small screen to big screen with this feature-length laughfest spun off from the popular ’60s sitcom. When the crew’s scheme to operate an on-board bookmaking parlor blows up in their faces–and leaves them in hock to angry Marines–their make-good involves smuggling a racehorse. Joe Flynn, Tim Conway, Carl Ballantine, Gary Vinson, and George Kennedy co-star.
Spawn Of The North (1938)
The rugged and hazardous life of Alaskan salmon fishermen was vividly brought to life in this drama starring Henry Fonda and George Raft as former friends caught on opposite sides of a conflict with Russian pirates who pillage other fishermen’s nets. Dorothy Lamour, Akim Tamiroff, John Barrymore, and “Slicker the Seal,” as himself, co-star.
The Hitch-Hiker (Remastered Edition) (1953)
Based on the facts of the Billy Cook killing spree of the early ’50s, this riveting film noir classic follows two family men on a fishing trip as they make the deadly mistake of picking up a psychotic thumb-tripper. Taking control inside the car, the deranged hitchhiker promises to kill his benefactors once they reach their destination. Director Ida Lupino’s film boasts fine performances from Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy, and William Talman.
The Stranger (Remastered Edition) (Blu-ray) (1946)
Suspenseful cat-and-mouse thriller features director/star Orson Welles as an escaped Nazi war criminal living as a teacher in a small Connecticut college town, with Edward G. Robinson as a federal agent tracking him down. The final chase scene in an old clock tower is a classic. With Loretta Young, Richard Long, Philip Merivale
The List Of Adrian Messenger (1963)
An ex-British army officer (George C. Scott) is entrusted with a list of 11 men by his friend, Adrian Messenger (John Merivale). After Messenger’s abrupt and brazen murder, can he deduce what links the listed, and stop the killer before there’s any further carnage? John Huston’s stylish, gripping mystery also features Dana Wynter, Clive Brook, Herbert Marshall, Gladys Cooper, and a slew of surprising star cameos.
Directed by “B”-movie legend Roger Corman, the distaff frontier drama “Gunslinger” (1956) finds sheriff’s widow Beverly Garland taking over her husband’s job. John Ireland is the outlaw who comes to town to kill Garland, but winds up falling for her. With Allison Hayes, William Schallert, and the great Dick Miller. Next, Trinity series star Terence Hill is the “Man Of The East” (1972), a tenderfoot dandy who heads west to fulfill his late father’s wishes by becoming a tough cowpoke. Dominic Barto, Harry Carey, Jr., and Gregory Walcott so-star in this light-hearted Italian-made oater, considered by some to be the third Trinity film. Also includes “Yuma” and “Pioneer Woman.”
Pete ‘N’ Tillie (1972)
Repressed secretary Tillie Schlaine (Carol Burnett) was pretty much resigned to growing old alone when friends fixed her up with glib researcher Pete Seltzer (Walter Matthau). The laughter, joy, and tears that ensue over the decade together that follows propel this offbeat and engaging love story based on two works by author Peter De Vries. Geraldine Page, Barry Nelson, Rene Auberjonois, and Lee H. Montgomery co-star in this under Martin Ritt’s direction.
Sometimes A Great Notion (1971)
Paul Newman (who also directed) is Hank Stamper, the oldest son of an Oregon logging family headed by patriarch Henry (Henry Fonda). When younger hippie son Leeland (Michael Sarrazin) returns to work in the business, friction between him, his brother, and his father threatens to tear the family apart as they face off against union loggers. Lee Remick and Richard Jaeckel also star in this adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel. AKA: “Never Give An Inch.”
Woo woo woo, here’s all of the hilarious ’60s animated adventures of those lovable misfits, Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe! In addition to the 156 cartoon shorts that comprise the entire run of this wacky 1965-66 series, fans get all 40 of the live-action wraparound sketches filmed by the Stooges that were part of the program as originally aired on television. 156 cartoons on 5 discs.
The researchers who thought that the Arizona desert would give them sufficient isolation for their experiments with growth hormones have a second think coming, when their travails turn a simple arachnid into a hundred-foot-tall monstrosity. Memorable sci-fi staple of the ’50s stars John Agar, Mara Corday, Leo G. Caroll, Nestor Paiva; yes, that’s a young Clint Eastwood behind that pilot’s oxygen mask.
Welcome Stranger (1947)
Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald reunited to grab some of the “Going My Way” magic in this tune-filled tale, when a small town’s veteran doctor (Fitzgerald) gets off on the wrong foot with the unconventional young medico (Crosby) brought in to sub while he’s on vacation. Joan Caulfield, Wanda Hendrix, Frank Faylen, Percy Kilbride co-star; songs include “Country Style,” “As Long as I’m Dreaming.”
Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962) (Blu-ray)
A circus owner (Jimmy Durante, reprising his Broadway role of 27 years earlier) and his dutiful daughter (Doris Day) realize that his gambling problem might have to make them fold their tents. A fast-talking young huckster (Stephen Boyd) convinces them that the show must go on, but does he have a hidden agenda? Martha Raye, Dean Jagger co-star; Rogers and Hart score includes “My Romance,” “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” “Why Can’t I?”