Wednesday, May 30, 2007

get hep

After last week's MEGA SUPERSIZE roundup, you might be saying to yourself, "Self, that was some exhaustive work pulling all of that stuff together. I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Loophole takes off a week from the roundup." Well, not only would you look kind of strange talking to yourself, you'd also be wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why? After such a big week of releases and re-releases of great DVDs, is there more? The answer is yes, but not too much. In fact there is just really one major DVD release to worry about this week, and some excellent books to throw up on the old shelf. So what say we get started?

Top Shelf Pick of the Week!:
TCM Spotlight Collection: Katharine Hepburn
A couple of weeks ago would've been Katharine Hepburn's 100th birthday. We celebrated her 100th here at the Shelf with one of our (patent pending) Top Ten (11) lists of her best films. So if you would like to go check that out, please feel free to do so by clicking this link. We'll wait til you get back.
Back already? Good. For an example of Hepburn's lesser known work, look no further than this DVD collection. This six disc set includes the films: The Corn Is Green, Dragon Seed, Morning Glory, Sylvia Scarlett, Undercurrent and Without Love. What is so interesting about this collection, beyond the fact that these are all first timers on DVD, is that all of these films echo different parts of Kate's career.

Morning Glory is the earliest in this set, and it is the first performance that earned Hepburn an Oscar. It's the story of someone who achieves stardom all too suddenly, and the possibilities of it fading away just as quickly. Next, Sylvia Scarlett is perhaps one of her most different roles. For the time, when it was released, audiences felt is was too different. The film is about a young women and her father on the run from the police because of stolen goods. Sylvia (Hepburn) cuts her hair and disguises herself as a young man. Audiences had difficulty with this, the balance of depression era grit combined with Hollywood fantasy and supposedly one of the first on-screen kiss between two women. Sylvia Scarlett lost money for RKO and began Hepburn's brief reputation as "box-office poison". However, it was the first pairing of Cary Grant and Hepburn and is Grant's first break out role.

Dragon Seed is a follow up of sorts, of MGM's previous adaptation of a Pearl Buck novel, The Good Earth. Hepburn plays a young Chinese women standing up to the occupation of the Japanese prior to World War II. Undercurrent is small drama directed by Vincente Minnelli and was also the feature film debut of Jayne Meadows. The Corn is Green is a TV movie from very late in Hepburn's career; just a couple of years before she was in On Golden Pond. It's a film based on a 1938 play (that became a 1944 film with Bette Davis) about a Welsh schoolteacher who inspires and teaches a difficult child that others have given up on.

Lastly, Without Love is the third film Hepburn did with Spencer Tracy. It's a wartime romantic comedy, with Tracy as a scientist in WW II Washington, and Hepburn playing his assistant. Their is a housing shortage, because of the war, and the two get a marriage of convenience in order to room together and so that his assistant can continue to work for him. They figure they can marry without love, but they don't figure on falling in love after marriage. All in all, this is a strong set, and I'm glad to see that they are releasing new to DVD films, instead of repackaging others. Perhaps we'll see others in the future. The TCM Spotlight Collection: Katherine Hepburn is definitely a must have for fans of both Hepburn and classic films in general. Others who might enjoy discovering a wonderful actress will also be intrigued by the range of films in this set. It is certainly a different look at Kate's body of work than we've had on DVD in the past. Hopefully, we'll be able to get a full review up soon, so stay tuned.

A Side Note: I've had some emails and comments regarding the WB label: TCM Spotlight Collection. Some have asked if this replaces the TCM Archives or a similarly packaged Signature Collection label. I asked Turner Classic Movies about this, and they've asked us to pass this along:
The TCM spotlight series is NOT replacing the WHV [Warner Home Video] Signature series. The spotlight collections are another branded line with accessible films and stars, at a lower price point through our partnership with WHV. It should serve as a nice companion series to the TCM Archives collections.
So, classic film fans should be happy. Now there are several collection series that will becoming our way to ensure that they are able to release many of the films from the exhaustive Warner Brothers and Turner (MGM) libraries. As long as you keep supporting them and purchasing them, a strong base will justify even more library titles being released. Thanks to Sarah at TCM for answering our questions.

Ronald Reagan: The Ronald Reagan Diaries (edited by Douglas Brinkley)
The Ronald Reagan Diaries is a perfect gift for Dad this father's day. It's a great insight into the man's presidency, personal life, and spirit. Not too long ago we mourned him and watched him laid to rest. His legacy and importance may have been debated, but never questioned or doubted. Even his detractors and critics admit his influence and connection with this country and its people, except for the more hard-bitten, politically twisted among us. He was an important figure and in time, his presidency and life will become more studied and appreciated.

Often you hear talking heads discuss how the current President or other Presidents will be derided in the future. They are talking from ignorance of history and humanity. They speak out of the fork in their mouths that sticks in their political craw. A feeling that many will never escape, because they won't attempt to escape from it. There is, what I like to refer to as a "20/40" rule, when it comes to historical figures. Many are often under appreciated or over appreciated during their time. Twenty years after their deaths, many of their contemporaries will look back on things, and in order to write a memoir or two, will begin to allow some of the truth, some of the uncolored stories to appear. And historians will write with a more accurate appreciation and understanding, for good or ill, than previously thought. Then, in a generation (hence the 40 years), time will allow an even clearer picture to emerge; one not as encumbered by petty jealousies and the clutching of imagined sins. Oh, there will be many books that will emerge to discredit or make a name for an author, but much more material will be available to allow us to have a fuller portrait of the man or woman. If you would like to test this theory for yourself, just take two Presidents: Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and see if it applies.

My point is that reading and having in your library a book like this is a jump on the game. It is, of course, a redaction of the whole, but it is Reagan's own words. Discover him, like you never have before. I know some people out there are sputtering about Al Gore's sour grapes in book form release last week, but the real important book that hit the shelves last week is from someone more Presidential, influential and important. I don't carry who's on the 100 Most Influential people list. One more thing - this is from a guy who was actually President.

Don Rickels: Rickles' Book
About a month ago, I read Bob Newhart's book, I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This, and loved it. I've always enjoyed Newhart (and Rickles) and to those who only have a casual familiarity with them will be surprised that the two have been long time best friends. What was even more enjoyable to me about the book, was to read about the life and work of a man who loves his wife and children, and loved them more than his work. No dirty laundry, no desperate attempt to seem relevant (he still is).
Rickles' book seems to be in a similar vein. Here is a man who has had a public face of an insulting and mean man, but according to many accounts of those who know him, nothing could be further from the truth in his private life. There aren't many comedians today that invest much in a public persona that is a character, or an extension of their act. People like Jack Benny, George Burns, even Dean Martin, invested much into it and people still love them and admire them today. I'm looking forward to reading this book precisely because some reviewers that I've read have lamented how boring it was because it doesn't discuss infidelity, drugs, rehab, black outs, terrible childhoods, etc. Wow. Imagine that. A memoir from a famous person who lived and loves the same things you and I do. That's fascinating in my book.

Well, Shelfers, that's all for today. It was a short roundup, but after last week's MEGA SUPERSIZE roundup, that's a good thing. We've still got reviews to catch up on, which we'll be bring you soon. We also have some other posts in the works coming soon, including one tomorrow about TCM (thought I forgot, didn't you? Nope- just saving it for tomorrow). Stay tuned...

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.

Well, we're all fools sometimes. Only you choose such awkward times.


Anonymous said...

The HEpburn set looks pretty good, although I wish they would release the rest of her films with Tracy.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful words on President Reagan. I was touched. I have been visiting for the past several weeks, and am constantly impressed. I'll be back...

Laura said...

"We also have some other posts in the works coming soon, including one tomorrow about TCM."

I'll be back for that -- the good stuff just keeps coming and coming! :) Have to pick up the Reagan book. Thanks for a great write-up.

Best wishes,

Janna said...

Picked up the Reagan book last night after reading your post. I am always impressed by the people who just hang on to whatever past grievences and can't see past them to see what a great man and president he was. We sure could use him today.

Janna said...

I didn't mean to say "impressed by people" but really "surprised"

Michelle said...

Picked up the hepburn set at costco for a good deal.I really enjoyed the films we've watched so far, but dragon seed wasn't that great. The best so far was Without love. Are all of the movies she made with Spencer tracey on dvd?


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