Tuesday, January 23, 2007

return of the roundup

Whatcha lookin' at punk?
This is it: The long awaited (at least by a few) return of the roundup! The weeks since Christmas are traditional dry spells, as far as releases go, but that's OK. We need a break to catch-up with all the goodies we may have received during the Holidays, or to pay bills for those goodies. Or begin to pay the bills. *Sigh...*
Nonetheless, we are back! It's nice to get back in the swing of things. We got several nice releases this week, and some great stuff on over on TCM (and they've got some great stuff coming up- but more on that next week.) They may have announced the nominations for the Oscars today, but I couldn't tell ya' much about them. I haven't seen any of the films. So you came to the wrong place for prognostication. If it's classic films on DVD you are after- well, buckle up, cause we're about to take off.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week!
Robert Mitchum Signature Collection
Last year one of my favorite "Bargain Bin Discoveries" was Volume 1 of Warner Brother's Film Noir Box set. I really loved the set and got it for a price that I'm afraid to mention here, because I don't believe the retailer has any more copies. Let me just say it was a steal. One of the first movies I watched was Out of the Past starring Robert Mitchum. I loved it, and thought it really brought him more out of obscurity for me.
I've always kind of liked Robert Mitchum. I hadn't really sought out his films, but when I came across them I would watch. He had a rough-hewn, laid back cool about him. He always seemed to be a tough, no-nonsense character. Heck, when he did those beef commercials, I always knew that eating beef was manly, but hearing Robert Mitchum talk about it...hell, I though it wasn't manly if you didn't eat steak. "It's what's for dinner, by God. And don't screw around with it." Yessir, Mr. Mitchum.
This set includes several films that aren't necessarily among his best, but certainly demonstrate the range and breadth of his career. I think that is what these Signature sets have become. They seem to be more about the actor, his range and versatility than just his or her greatest hits. Included in this set are the films: Home from the Hill, Macao, Sundowners, The Yakuza, Angel Face, and The Good Guys and the Bad Guys.

Criterion Collection: Yojimbo and Sanjuro
If you have never seen these films, you are in for a treat. Directed by the phenomenal Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), Yojimbo was the inspiration for Sergio Leone's A Fistfull of Dollars, on its own terms an influential Spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood. (For those keeping score, Yojimbo is based on Dashell Hammett's story Red Harvest. An American film inspires a Japanese film, which inspires an Italian film, which launches the career of an American star and inspired Bruce Willis in Last Man Standing. If that isn't a global market, I don't know what one is.) Yojimbo is the story of a nameless Samurai who comes into a down bitterly divided by two warring clans. The Samurai decides to take matters into his own hands and help the farmers out by pitting the factions against one another.
Sanjuro is a sequel of sorts which finds that our nameless Samurai now has a name: Sanjuro. Sanjuro comes into another town and helps another Samurai at the mercy of some corrupt officials. The sequel is more of an action comedy than the first film, but both films are excellent. This set is a re-release of sorts, but as with last year's Seven Samurai, the films have been digitally restored, the audio improved and new special features added. Check it out.

Fiddler on the Roof: Two Disc Special Edition
If you love musicals, and you don't already own the previous special edition, this will be an enjoyable edition to your DVD library. The musical is excellent and the songs very memorable. However, this is a repackage special edition set. Most of the previous features are present, except everything is spread out on two discs as opposed to a flip disc, like the previous edition.
There are a few new special features added here, but if you own the previous edition, you'll have to make the choice about whether or not it's worth the double dip. Nothing against the film, but for me, I'm sticking with the set I have.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd: 10 Days Out:Blues from the Backroads
Don't let this simple cover fool you: this is a very important album. Kenny Wayne Shepherd, young blues guitarist extraordinaire, took a road trip in 2004 to record some of the surviving blues guitarists of the previous blues generation. Kenny isn't the frontman here, he takes a sideman role to let the masters take center stage and record some of their best work. The artists are the famous (BB King) as well as the little known (Gatemouth Brown, Wild Child Butler and lady blues guitarist, Etta Baker). Some of them have passed away since the album and accompanying documentary were recorded, making this an album to treasure for a long time to come. Shepherd captures the blues in it's truest habitats, the porches, the kitchens, and the dives. This is a must have.

The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public
by Sarah Elizabeth Igo
This may seem an odd choice, but I am intrigued by the book. Igo takes a look at the history of surveys and polls and their effect on American culture and Americans in general. She examines the roll that they have played in the 20th century and how they have come to create such a wide spread influence today. This is very much about not just the creation of public opinion, but the creation of the importance of public opinion. This is no social science textbook, rather a history of the "mass public", and it's (perhaps over-inflated) importance in mass media and it's manipulation by the same. Igo is a history professor out of U Penn, and early reviews make me very interested. I believe it is more relevant than reviews surmise. I may report back when I get my hands on it and finish reading it.

This week: All new- NCIS, The Unit, and Numb3rs. Crossing Jordon is back as well. Don't forget that come February, The Amazing Race and the Mighty Phil K. return for an All-star version of the race!

Turner Classic Movies
Shelf picks for TCM

Jan. 23: Framed (1947) with Glenn Ford in a pot-boiler. Angels Over Broadway (1940) features Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Rita Heyworth, and don't forget the Boston Blackie marathon: Meet Boston Blackie (1941, Confessions of Boston Blackie (1941), Alias Boston Blackie (1942), and Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood (1942).

Jan. 24: Federico Fellini's excellent La Strada (1954). Then catch Kirk Douglas in Detective Story (1951), Lonely Are The Brave (1962), and Ace In the Hole (1951).

Jan. 25: It's the classic Shelf favorite: Anatomy Of A Murder (1959). Later don't miss Martin and Lewis in The Caddy (1953). Then sit back and enjoy an evening of musicals: Summer Stock (1950) and The Harvey Girls (1946).

Jan. 26: Paul Newman classics: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958), The Hustler (1961) and Hud (1963).

Jan. 27: Start your day with the sci-fi classic The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), then head right into the action with Gunga Din (1939). Also don't miss the classic Anthony Mann / James Stewart Western, The Naked Spur (1953).

Jan. 28: First it's Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet (1954). Then watch the film that inspired Webb to create his classic police drama: He Walked By Night (1948).

Jan. 29: Watch Tod Browning's classic, Freaks (1932) and then the sad tale of The Elephant Man (1980).

It's good to be back, kids. And don't go away- next week there is even more roundup goodness and February looks to be an awesome month for classic film fans. So stay tuned. Plus we have Part II and Part III of our Book series coming up during the rest of this month, more wisdom from Wolf and our picks for the best DVDs of 2006 in year-end roundup. So don't go away! Well, if you must, at least be sure to come back...

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.

Cooper. Two coffins... No, maybe three.


Emily said...

Kurosawa is one of my favorite directors! I will be ordering this set soon. Good to see you guys back. Thought you guys had fallen off the face of the internet. :)

ed said...

Robert Mitchum is a great actor, and one who I believe isn't given his due today. I also remember those "beef" commercials. Isn't Sam Elliot (another awesome actor) doing those now? If not it sounds an awful lot like him.


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