Tuesday, May 23, 2006

memorial roundup

It is less than a week away from Memorial Day, and we are working on a special post for that day and look forward to honoring our vets and current fighting men and women overseas. In the meantime today is a special edition of media roundup, for there are some great releases and re-releases that hit the Shelves today- some of which are perfect for memorial day viewing. So sit back relax, and take notes; because surely there is something here for you that you will want to get before the weekend comes.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
Double Pick! The Dirty Dozen: Special Edition & The Cecil B. DeMille Collection

The Dirty Dozen; Special Edition
Alright, now this is what I'm talking about! DD has been out on DVD before, but in a paltry release. This is a vast improvement and worth the double dip. Normally, I am wary about double dips- but this set offers more bang for your buck. Among the new special features are: 2 new documentaries on the making of the film and real stories that inspired the original novel (yes, it was a book and there was a second book), a vintage (since when is '67 vintage?) feature on the movie and a recruiting film with Lee Marvin, and new commentary by castmembers Jim Brown, Trini Lopez, Stuart Cooper, and Colin Maitland, producer Kenneth Hyman, author E.M. Nathanson, film historian David Schlow, and military advisor Capt. Dale Dye. The set also features the (less worthy but still fun) made for TV sequel The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission. This is a gritty, action filled guys war movie the way they used to make them. Nothing about it is glamorous or heavy laden with politics or western guilt. These guys were low rung on the military later, and very expendible. They undertake a dangerous mission from which most of them won't return, and in the process reclaim a little of their own dignity and honor. Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, George Kennedy, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel and the rest are all there. Pick it up and call the guys over for a great movie that everyone probably remembers with fondness.

The Cecil B. DeMille Collection
Before I begin- let me say that this set will not be for everyone. If you are expecting Cecil B. DeMille epics of the late 40s and 50s- its not here. What is here is some Pre-Code, and 1930s DeMille. Some good stuff that hasn't been available on DVD, this set features 5 films: Cleopatra, The Crusades, Sign of the Cross, Four Frightened People, and Union Pacific. There really isn't a bad one in the bunch and the fact that these five are in the set is a boon for classic film fans and armchair film historians. Sign of the Cross had some of the more heady things cut from the film when it was released in 1947 and even more so when it was on television; and the original cut was thought lost. The original film was found and restored and is now a centerpiece of this set. John McElwee over at Greenbrier Picture Shows has a great post, along with some great pictures up today about this film and all the ins and outs. Can't wait to see this film. Check it out. The one I'm looking forward to the most is Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrae in the western Union Pacific. Highly recommended.

The Clinging Vine & Age Of Ballyhoo
Also from DeMille is the film 1926 The Clinging Vine, and as a double feature the documentary The Age of Ballyhoo. Let me say that I'm really going for the documentary here, rather than the film, although that should be interesting as well. Suffice it to say that is perhaps why this is a double feature DVD to begin with. The Clinging Vine is about a young women played by Latrice Joy who has a successful career in a "man's world" - one that has stifled any chance at a love life. She decides to make herself over as an extreme case of femininty to win her man. The documentary The Age of Ballyhoo was made in 1973 and won several awards, including 3 Emmys. Gloria Swanson (yes, that Gloria Swanson) narrates this look at the age of the Roaring Twenties in all it's excess and glory. The documentary is worth the price of the disc. Or at least a rental, but good luck in finding that.

Also available this week 3 special editions of some important and great war films:
The Longest Day
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Each of these films have been available on DVD previously (I saw them as recently as a couple of months ago at my local big box electronics store. Now they have been re-released as Special Edtion sets. Again, this is - to me anyway- a situation where the double dip is worth it. If you don't have the films- well then, you've got no excuse. The Longest Day is a 3 hour epic about the alied invasion at Normandy and stars just about every working male actor they could get their hands on: John Wayne, Rod Steiger, Robert Ryan, Peter Lawford, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, and Richard Burton just to name a few. The 2 disc affair contains plenty of new to DVD commentary, documentaries and bonus features. Patton is bio-flick starring George C. Scott in a legendary performance. The 2 disc special edition feautres commentary by Francis Ford Coppola, who was the screenwriter, as well as a plethera of documentaries and bonus features. Tora! Tora! Tora! is the recreation of the events leading to and the actually bombing of Pearl Harbor as viewed from the Americans and the Japanese. The 2 disc edition also features commentary and several feature length historical documentaries. Fox Studios is finally doing right by these three films, and if this and the Film Noir collection are any indication, perhaps the studio has now realized it pays to take care of your classic library.

Other Classic DVDs and Box sets worth looking into:
The Immortal Sergeant
Yellow Sky
You're in the Navy Now
Guns at Batasi
Classic Crime Collection: Street Justice
Classic Western Collection: The Outlaws


The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions

I'm always a little leary about CD box sets. You end up getting a lot of gems, but also a lot of fodder that only a hardcore fan would appreciate. This may be an exception. Jazz fans, both serious and casual, know about Miles Davis. Musicians, in many genres, have been influenced by his work. Now here is a chance to own four discs of his famous quintet, featuring Davis, sax maestro John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. This group recorded this discs in three different several lengthy sessions in 1956, in order to fullfill Davis' contract with Prestige Records and be released from it. The result are recordings of a road-tested, tight, cohesive, and in sync group recording tracks in one take. Other than jam sessions or the road, it doesn't get more raw than that. On the fourth disc in this set are radio and television apparences and performances. Among the highlights: When I Fall in Love, Trane's Blues, 'Round Midnight, My Funny Valentine, There's No Greater Love, and Blues By Five. This set is highly recommended.


The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day, and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion: By Douglas Brinkley

Douglas Brinkley is an excellent historian, and in some ways is picking up where Stephan Ambrose has left off. Which is very appropriate considering that he worked with Ambrose in academics, the D-Day museum, and in other projects. Brinkley tells the story of the 225 members of the US Army 2nd Ranger Battalion, who were assigned to scale and secure the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc on the beaches of Normandy, where allied leaders believed Germanys had powerful batteries that could twart the D-Day invasion. The Rangers didn't find the big guns, but found enough guns and German troops instead and fought them off with only 99 survivors. The Rangers secured the cliffs at a great cost, but ensured a great victory. Brinkley then takes the story forward 40 years to the Presidency of Ronald Reagan and his honoring of the Rangers on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day. Brinkley argues that Reagan's speeches during those memorial services helped to spark a greater interest in the heroes of WWII and especially of the boys at Normandy. This book is now available in paperback and a good read in anticipation of Memorial Day. The best way to honor our vets is the learn about them and remember them with gratitude.


Shelf Recommendations for TCM:

May 24th: Bette Davis finds a new lease on life and a new love in Paul Henreid in Now, Voyager (1942).

May 25th: TCM continues it's look at how Hollywood dealt with and treat race and race issues in several films: In The Heat Of The Night (1967), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), and Shaft (1971).

May 26th: It's a John Wayne marathon to begin Memorial Day weekend: The Long Voyage Home (1940), Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), Donovan's Reef (1963), and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). Stay later for Gary Cooper as the legendary WWI hero Sergeant York (1941).

May 27th- May 29th: It's a Memorial Day weekend with more classic war films Sat: The Red Badge Of Courage (1951), The Fighting Seabees (1944), The Bridges At Toko-Ri (1954). Sun: They Were Expendable (1945), Objective, Burma! (1945), Wake Island (1942), Flying Leathernecks (1951). Mon: The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957), In Harm's Way (1965), The Longest Day (1962) and Destination Tokyo (1943).

May 30th: Don't miss Paul Muni in Howard Hughes' classic Scarface (1932). Stick around for a Bogie and Bacall double bill: To Have And Have Not (1944) & The Big Sleep (1946).

That's all for today Shelfers. Quite a lot of stuff to enjoy and help us to remember and honor those who fought and those who fell in protecting our country. Let's make sure we don't forget what Memorial Day really memorializes...

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Pfc. Al Thomas: That's war.
Pfc. Charlie Bass: What's war?
Pfc. Al Thomas: Trading real estate for men.

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