Wednesday, May 30, 2007
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...
Well, we're all fools sometimes. Only you choose such awkward times.
Monday, May 28, 2007
As we fire up the grills today and enjoy family and friends I challenge us all to remember those for whom this day began. For centuries man has engaged in battle. Since time began there has always been a group somewhere who took up arms to defend their own or others who could not do so for themselves. Today we remember those who undertook this duty for our nation, but did not live to return home. I am not ashamed to say that as Americans, we live in the greatest nation on this green earth. God smiles on this country and those who feel otherwise can go jump in a lake.
The Declaration of Independence and Constitution alike are documents inspired of God and we live under the protection of their great canopy today. Lets take today to enjoy our freedoms and remember those who stand watch and hoist that canopy for us.
There is the famous phrase "All gave some and some gave all..". We hear it now and then and most of us pay little attention. Today is the day we remember those who gave all. My grandfather fought in and was wounded in the invasion of Italy in WWII. He is with us today because our family is greatly blessed. There are those who fought alongside him who never made it back to their families. I once heard him talk about the horrors of war saying that since returning home he has thought "Why did I survive? Why is it that when I was injured that I came out OK yet there were so many others who never made it past 19 or 21 years of age and returned home dead." He told me once that he had a great friend in his unit from Tennessee. He said they fought together in North Africa and into Italy. After he was wounded, he was taken to a field hospital and then to Charleston, S.C. to recover. Once he had gained his bearings in Charleston, he says he went to great lengths to check on the status of his friend who was still fighting overseas. In the process of doing so, he discovered to his horror that his unit had gone on to spearhead an attack on a city held by the Nazis and was almost completely wiped out. The list of casualties included his friend. This caused him to wonder why he survived and why he wasn't dead with his friend. I know he is grateful that he is here with us today, but I understand why he has had concern in the past.
There are those who have gone on before who died for the cause of our freedom or for the freedom of another. I don't care what your politics are. Whether it's our freedom or the freedom of some other nation, it is still freedom. People say that our soldier are dying for nothing in Iraq, but I say that disrespects the fallen who went out and put their life on the line for the freedom of another. No soldier ever died for nothing as long as they believed in the cause for which they fought. Let us put partisan views aside today and remember those who will never make it home. For the sake of their memory and the honor of their families, let us join together this day in a moment of silence to remember those who have fallen. I know we've all seen this video clip of the soldier returning from Iraq and surprising his son. As a father of two boys, I know what it is to enjoy the love of your children. In my career I have had several instances where I thought that I might not have made it home to see them again. Luckily I'm still with my family, but as we watch this clip today, let's think of what it is like for all of those little boys and girls past and present who won't get to hug mommy or daddy again. Let's think that even though our soldiers fight for freedom right now in another country, they still fight and die for freedom. Let's honor them for their courage and sacrifice and let's think about what it means when we hear "some gave all".
Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. ."
Sunday, May 27, 2007
100 years ago, a boy was born who would change this country forever. Growing up in a small Iowa town as Marion Robert Morrison, the man we now know as John Wayne had no idea of what he would mean to this country and it's people some day. Much is said of the wonderful influence of his characters and films on the movie going world. He is an insurmountable figure in that industry and I feel that goes without saying. From "the Ringo Kid" to "Rooster Cogburn" his on-screen persona's are spoken of in fond remembrance. As we approached the week of his 100th birthday, I was thinking of his portrayals as well, but in a different light. Sure he has influenced actors and such with his attitude on screen, but what about the influence on America?
Growing up, I saw a lot of John Wayne movies thanks to my mother's father. He would get excited and jab me in the ribs with his elbow saying, "Watch this! Watch this!" with all the excitement of a school boy. (J.C. had his share of those moments as well.) I grew older and understood his excitement, but I also grew to understand something else about Mr. Wayne. As the greatest on-screen hero we've ever seen, the Duke had no super powers. He couldn't fly and he wore no special outfit. He was a man like the rest of us, but there was something special in the characters he portrayed. As a matter of fact, that's what he had: Character. We don't dwell on it too much, but it's his character that has made him a hero to many. When you watch Superman or the Hulk, you don't look at Christopher Reeve of Lou Ferrigno as super-human. They are just seen as actors. When you think of John Elder from 'The Sons of Katie Elder' you think , "He wouldn't have been such a tough character if John Wayne wouldn't have played him." This is the same for all of Mr. Wayne's characters throughout his movie career. John Wayne is the common denominator in the hero value of all of his on-screen persona's. He portrayed the best in all of us. Honesty, integrity, patriotism, toughness and tenacity among other things.
These are things that we as individuals can realistically achieve. I feel that is what draws us to his characters. He has character and we want it. Most of us are honest and patriotic, but in reality do we have all of the admirable traits? John Wayne's characters did and it endears him to us. As a country, we like to think of ourselves as being like him: tough and lasting while commanding respect. He is the greatest example of what we should be. He sets the bar for admirable persona. He inspires us to be strong. He inspires us to be true and he inspires us to be tough. John Wayne the man was just a man, but John Wayne as Ringo Kid or G.W. McLintock was who we want to be. He's true to his word and always fair. I feel that even though there are so many wonderful people in this country, we don't have enough John Wayne. He stands for what's good in this country. He stands for what's good in all of us as well as what we all want to become. That's what makes John Wayne the hero of the American people. We close with this great clip of the Duke havin' fun while singing a duet with the late great Dean Martin.
Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.
Sorry doesn't cut it, dude.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Top Ten (11) John Wayne Westerns
9. The Cowboys
4. Red River
This is the first John Wayne western I was ever able to get my wife to watch all the way through. My wife is more for modern chick flicks and old musicals, but this one was so good it even held her attention. I like to take credit for introducing her to classic movies and though this is a western, it's still very much a classic.
2. The Calvary trilogy (Fort Apache/ She Wore a Yellow Ribbon/ Rio Grande)
1. The Searchers
That's our list. Let's face it, any top ten (or eleven) list is just a list of favorites. Next year, the order might change, but the top three will still be there, in that order. You gotta sound off? Did we miss your favorite? Do you take issue with one of our picks? Then let us know in the comments section. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post celebrating the man himself, which finishes our weeklong tribute to John Wayne.
In today's part of the roundup we'll cover the rest of the great DVDs hitting the shelves this week. And trust me, there are several you'll want to add to your collection and some you at least want to add to your Netflix queue. That means that we have a rare situation this week in which we actually have a tie for Top Shelf Picks. It was too difficult to choose, so we didn't. So we present to you our other Top Shelf Picks of the Week!
Top Shelf Picks of the Week II and III
Ball of Fire and Scarface
Two great classics that have long deserved to be on DVD finally arrived this week: Ball of Fire and the original Scarface. Both are directed by the unrivaled Howard Hawks, and no two films could be more different. The man had range!
Last year, we posted a comprehensive review of Ball of Fire, so you can read that by going to this link. Needless to say, we've been anticipating picking this one up the minute it hit the shelves, so The Shelf is a very happy place this week. Unfortunately the DVD is bare bones. No extras to speak of. I am not going to complain too much (last year we suggested: "It would be nice for some great extras- maybe a feature on Stanwyck or Cooper or a documentary about Screwball Comedies or on Howard Hawks."). This is one of those times where we are just glad to have the movie in an excellent DVD presentation, although more thought could have gone into a commentary or something else to inhance the experience of watching the film. That being said, the print is exquisite. The black and white print is crisp and clean, and I've seen no hint of grain or dust. The sound is equally excellent, showing that the masters must have held up extremely well over the years. It has looked great on TCM when it's been featured, it looks just as good, if not better on DVD.
Howard Hawks' Scarface has been one of the most sought after of the gangster films for classic film DVD fans. The original has been surpassed in modern culture by the Brian DePalma/Al Pacino remake. Tony Montana is, of course, more well known than Tony Camonte. That's OK, pop culture and film change and go in different direction. Now that the original is on DVD, it's my hope that it will be "re-discovered" by the same culture that pops off lines like "Let me introduce to my little friend" with great mirth. It was shocking in its day, and its power can still pack a punch today.
Paul Muni leads a steller cast, including George Raft, Boris Karloff and Ann Dvorak. Muni is a wonderful actor, and he brings an element of homicidal glee, infantile need and desire, and dangerous obsession to the character of Tony Camonte. The Ben Hecht screenplay (adapted from the novel of the same name by Armitage Trail) is wonderfully paced and excellently written. You've got to keep up, but you won't get lost. It is a stunning film, and one I have longed to have in a clear, clean print on DVD. I haven't checked it out yet, but we will soon and we'll have a review up next week. In the meantime, I can safely recommend the DVD on the merits of the film alone, because this is what we've got. And to really understand the genesis and rise of the gangster film you need to really to start by seeing two: The Public Enemy and Scarface. And now we have both on DVD.
Scarface is just one of four films being released this week under the Universal Cinema Classics banner. The three other films are:
Unconquered, So Proudly We Hail, and No Man of Her Own
Universal continues to dig in their catalog to bring out some classics that deserve to be seen. Earlier this year this first wave hit and brought fans some great films. This is the next wave of releases, with more planned for the rest of the year. No Man of Her Own stars Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in this lightweight comedy about a card shark who falls in love while hiding out from the police in a small town. Side note: this film was made sometime before Lombard and Gable fell in love and got married. So Proudly We Hail features Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake in a the story about American Army nurses trapped behind enemy lines in the Phillippines in the beginning of World War II, after MacArthur's retreat to Australia. Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard star in Cecil B. DeMille's Unconquered, a sort of colonial America romantic pot-boiler. You've got to see it, at least to witness Boris Karloff as leader of the Native Americans gunning for our hero. All films include an introduction by film historian and Turner Classic Movies host, Robert Osbourne.
MGM Movie Legends Collection: Gary Cooper
Three other Gary Cooper films are being individually released. They also carry the banner label of "Movie Legends Collection." Why the just weren't added to the box set, or released as a Vol. II set, I don't know. Either way, you can click the links for more info: Casanova Brown ,
Two films that are being released by Criterion this week include the reissue of The Third Man in a special two disc edition. The added features may be worth upgrading to this edition if you have the previous Criterion release. Check out this review over by DVD Savant for a closer look. This movie is a Shelf favorite so I think the added documentaries definitely warrent checking it out.
Broken Arrow (Mini-Review)
James Stewart stars is this excellent, thought-provoking story that is based on the historical account of the Apache leader Cochise and the attempts to create a treaty of peace during a time of hostile and relentless war. Stewart plays Captain Tom Jeffords, former soldier and Army Scout who oversees the mail route through dangerous Apache territory. While out panning for gold, Jeffords comes across a wonded Apache boy and heals him and nourishes him back to health. They are soon come upon by a patroling Apache group of men who let Jeffords go unharmed. Jeffords begins to think that there is honor and a sense of fair play among the Apache and he decides to attempt to talk to their leader Cochise about at least letting the mail riders go through in safety. Cochise admires Jefford's courage and honesty, and the two eventually become good friends. So much so, that when a new Army General arrives in the territory with orders to make a lasting peace with the Apache, he seeks out Tom Jefford's help in talking to Cochise. The men agree to an attempt at a treaty and peace, but there are factions on both sides that believe it can never happen. The film also stars Jeff Chandler, who won an oscar for his excellent portrayal of Cochise. This film was perhaps one of the more balanced films of its time, in terms of seeking to portray both sides in a fair light. The digital transfer of the print is fantastic, as the technicolor really comes out and shines, especially during landscape scenes. The sound is as good, and there are several extras included on the DVD, including a reproduction of press material that is digitally accessible with your remote. Two Movietone news segments about the film are included, but for some reason Fox continues to just show the pertinent clips, rather than the whole Movietone reel. I know this doesn't bother many others, but I personally would rather have the entire reel. All in all, this DVD is a great presentation of a classic western. Fans of the genre and of James Stewart or Jeff Chandler in particular will definitely want to pick this up.
Fury and Furnace Creek
Gun the Man Down
The Hills Run Red
Sabata, Adios Sabata and Return of Sabata
Tired yet? Don't give up on me now, we're almost done. We can't finish this MEGA SUPERSIZE edition of the roundup without mentioning some 20th Century Fox musicals being released!
Speaking of a fun time, Fox is also releasing an entertaining Frank Sinatra musical, Can-Can. The film also stars the legendary Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Juliet Prowse and a young Shirley MacLaine. Can-Can is set in France in 1896, and is the story of a night club owner, Simone, whose dancers specialize in the saucy dance known as the Can-Can. While it is forbidden, law enforcement is usually too busy looking and talking to Simone's girls to notice. Then a judge decides to rurn up the heat and come down hard on the club. Simone decides to turn up the heat in own way on the judge, which doesn't sit to well with her boyfriend. This 1960 film is based on the Broadway hit of the same name, and the film itself won several Oscars. It isn't the caliber of the musicals that you are used to, but it is light fun and it's entertaining to see the stars perform the Cole Porter tunes. The DVD includes several interesting features. Featurettes: A Leg Up: The Making of Can-Can, The Classic Cole Porter and Book By Burrows: The Man Who Wrote Can-Can. Also included are the trailers, restoration and still galleries.
And... that's a wrap! That was a really MEGA SUPERSIZE edition of the roundup. I hope we've made it easier for you to separate the good stuff from out of the stacks and stacks of junk. We know this was a lot to go through, but classic film fans don't often have a bang-up week like today. Warner Brothers continues to lead the way, but after today's releases I am getting more confidence in MGM and Fox's efforts to dig out the gems in their vaults. The Fox Musical and Western DVDs are particularly note worthy for the fine prints and the thought given to the special features, including the on -disc reproduction of press and pr material. Those discs are highly recommended.
Don't go away yet, Shelfers. We've got a bang up conclusion to the Week of the Duke later today and tomorrow. Stay tuned...
Listen, Little Boy, in this business there's only one law you gotta follow to keep out of trouble: Do it first, do it yourself, and keep on doing it.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Alrighty gang, here we go with part II of our mega roundup. We've divided up the roundup into a three parter because there is just so much darn good stuff out there it just boggles the mind. If you are a classic film fan, you have a DVD player, extra time and have come into a sizable inheritance recently - well, this is your week! Realizing that most of us don't have sizable inheritances coming our way every week (we hope), The Shelf does our bit in the cause for the classic film fan, but telling you what we think is essential, what are retreads, and what is worth your hard earned dollars.
Today, in part II, we'll cover all of the John Wayne DVDs that are hitting the shelves this week. There are a lot, but there are really a few absolute must haves (after all, you need to save a little for what's coming up in part III). We've dissected ALL of them, and have layed out what's what. Is it new? Is it repackaged? Is it an upgrade from a previous release? We'll answer all those questions for all of the Duke's films hitting the shelves. We'll also link to several excellent recent reviews, so you can know more. If you don't have any of them on DVD, you've got an entirely different problem (see remark about "sizable inheritance" above). So, grab a snack and hang on 'cause here we go!
All of the DVDs in this section have been previously released in other DVD editions, but are definitely worth the expense in upgrading and highly recommended
Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
John Wayne Special Editions
Rio Bravo: Ultimate Collector's Edition
If you read our post about these special editions from last week, then you already now that Warner's went the extra mile in giving us some great special features and commentaries. If you haven't read it, do so for more information. Suffice it to say, this Rio Bravo: Ultimate Collector's Edition follows in the footsteps of last year's Ultimate Collector's Edition of The Searchers. This film is widely regarded as one of John Wayne's finest westerns, but it should be remembered also as one of Dean Martin's best performances and a great Howard Hawks film. Ricky Nelson makes his screen debut here, and handles himself fairly well with his co-stars.
Rio Bravo is the story of a Sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne), who comes to town and arrests Joe Burdette, the brother of the area's most prominent cattleman, Nathan Burdette, for murdering an unarmed man in a bar. Nathan is none to happy and has more than enough money to hire all of the gunman in the vicinity who don't already work for him. There plan is to free Joe before Sheriff Chance is able to move him to a safer jail and court venue out of Burdette's influence. Chance enlists the help of his former deputy, Dude (Martin), who is now a mess; drunk and transfixed on the woman who left him. With Dude, and the old jail guard, Stumpy (Walter Brennan) and a young gun man (Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson), the men attempt to hold off Burdette and his men in the small jail.
Rio Bravo is known as Howard Hawks and John Wayne's answer to the film High Noon, which starred Gary Cooper as a lawman left alone by the cowardly townspeople and former comrades to defend against a killer he put in jail. The Duke felt that Cooper's portrayal and the storyline was much too cynically and "cowardly" and Rio Bravo is their response. Hawks and Wayne also remade this film later as El Dorado, with Robert Mitchum in the Dude part. Warner's has remastered the film and audio, packed on the extras, and added reprints of the press book and comic book from the time the film was first released. It's also available in a two disc, Special Edition, without the reprinted material and a few of the extras.
The Cowboys: Deluxe Edition
I saw this film, like I did with most of John Wayne films, with my Grandfather when I was younger. He loved it, but then again, he loves a lot of westerns. I remember seeing this and thinking it wasn't as great as some of the other films. After all, John Wayne was older in this and the bad guys were really mean. Then I watched again when I was much older and I have to say, it had an entirely different effect on me. I was awed by Wayne's performance and the power of the story. Mark Rydell's direction is spot on, and the emotional impact of this film probably resonates more when you are older and can sympathize with what the characters go through.
Warner's also put a lot of thought into the extras and added a commentary with the Rydell, which I am really looking forward to hearing. I won't go into a summary, because DVD Talk (home of Shelf Link resident, DVD Savant) has an excellent review of the film and the DVD. The only justice I can do, is direct you there, and direct you to the store to purchase it.
True Grit: Special Collector's Edition
This is another Wayne film from very late in his career, that I believe gets better with age.., that is the viewer's age. It's hard to connect with John Wayne's characters as they battle age, change in the west, and the feeling of irrelevance (The Shootist) when you are younger. You remember the lines and the shoot outs and the toughness from his earlier films. I think as you go back and revisit his films as you get older, and perhaps having viewed even more of them, you can have a greater appreciation for Wayne's acting and talent. It is unmistakable, but I think when you are younger you just love the fact that the Duke can take out the bad guys. True Grit is a classic, the film he won the Oscar for (although he deserved it for others as well). This film is so much better than I first remember. It has Wayne's comedic flair (if you don't think he had any, you didn't see McLintock!), his toughness and his wonderful portrayal of a flawed, cantankerous, yet tough hero. Paramount has included some excellent extras in the film and I will direct you to check out DVD Talk's excellent review of this DVD edition.
In this section we point you to the John Wayne films that are out this week, new to DVD.
The John Wayne Film Collection
The films in this set: Big Jim McLain
Without Reservations, Allegheny Uprising, Tycoon, Reunion in France, and Trouble Along the Way are hitting DVD for the first time in this collection. We covered most of the extras in last week's post. These films show John Wayne in some roles we may not be used to seeing. None of the films will be on many Top Ten John Wayne films, but they are interesting nonetheless. Perhaps Without Reservations is the hidden gem of the set, which pairs John Wayne with Claudette Colbert in a romantic comedy, and features cameos from other stars like Cary Grant, Louella Parsons and Jack Benny. Big Jim McClain is perhaps the most forgettable, putting John Wayne in contemporary Hawaii hunting commies. This is an interesting set and one that you should enjoy, especially if you would like to see Wayne in other roles.
These are all the DVD's that are being re-released today, but have been (and in some cases are still) available in previous editions.
There are no extras or any new features to speak of on these DVD's , and as of this posting, we are not aware of any major remastering of film or audio. Basically, if you've got it, don't worry about it. If you don't - now is a good time to pick up a title you've been missing in the collection. We're not including any pictures of individual titles or summaries or links to most individual titles, for space considerations. So check this list against your own collection, to see what's out there:
Individual releases of the films from last year's John Wayne/John Ford Collection:
The Long Voyage Home
The Wings of Eagles
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
They Were Expendable
Other reissues of past releases:
The Green Berets
The Train Robbers
Cahill US Marshall
Back to Bataan
Tall in the Saddle
The Sea Chase
Double feature discs of past releases:
In Harm’s Way/Donovan’s Reef
The Sons of Katie Elder/The Shootist
How the West was Won
Individual Releases of last year's Triple Feature DVDs:
The Man From Monterrey
Ride Him Cowboy
Somewhere in Sonora
The Telegraph Trail
The Big Stampede
Also many of these films are collected in several new box sets. Again, nothing new- just repackaging, but it's a great way to get an instant John Wayne collection if you are eager to start:
The John Wayne Adventure Collection
The High and Mighty
In Harms Way
Island in the Sky
The John Wayne Western Collection
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
The Sons of Katie Elder
And The John Wayne Century Collection, which basically includes all of the films from the Adventure and Western Collections
Whew! That was a lot of work, but I hope we've dispelled much of the confusion and overwhelming nature of all of the John Wayne releases this week. But don't think this is all for this week's roundup. We've got even more great classic film releases coming your way in part III, including a film that we've been looking forward to being released on DVD for a long time. A Shelf Favorite. Stay tuned...
I've broke my back once, and my hip twice. And on my worst day I could still beat the hell out of you.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
It's John Wayne's 100th birthday this week and the celebration is being embodied in the many DVD releases and re-releases of many of his films on DVD. Turner Classic Movies is also celebrating with a week-long schedule of many unforgettable John Wayne classics. So to give you a heads up on all things John Wayne and to include so many great flicks coming to DVD, we've decided to break up this week's roundup in several parts. First off, our look at some of the things hitting the small screen.
Television: (as always, check local listings for times)
This is the week for several season finales. Our beloved NCIS is having it's finale, The Unit and Numb3rs each had finales last week. Mrs. Loophole is looking forward to the end of The Bachelor (and so I am I, although for a different reason) and she's excited to see who wins Dancing with the Stars. Me? I just wish they still had Circus of the Stars...
Turner Classic Movies:
Being that this is the week of the Duke, naturally we'll present the Shelf's picks for TCM with a John Wayne heavy schedule, with a couple of other great films thrown in for good measures. Here are our picks for the week:
Don't miss this updated documentary by Peter Bogdanovich on the maverick filmmaker, who helped make John Wayne a star: Directed By John Ford (2006). Also today are several of John Wayne westerns that have become legendary classics: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Red River (1948), El Dorado (1967) and The Sons of Katie Elder (1965).
Today's schedule includes a wide range of John Wayne films. You'll see him in the kind of western you've come to expect such as with Gabby Hayes in Tall In The Saddle (1944), or with Gail Russell in the underrated Angel And The Badman (1947), or in Hondo (1954). You'll also see him from some of the better films from his own production company Batjac, like the historical drama, The Alamo (1960) or the always fun McLintock! (1963). For John Wayne in a different kind of adventure see Island In The Sky (1953) and don't miss the high drama of The High and the Mighty (1954).
For a change of pace don't miss the wonderful small romantic comedy/drama with James Stewart: The Shop Around The Corner (1940). Then catch the Duke as military leader and all around tough guy with In Harm's Way (1965) and The Fighting Seabees (1944).
Start off with a little film noir with Robert Mitchum as he tries to figure a way out of The Racket (1951). Then you'll want to see some of the best films from late in John Wayne's career (aside from True Grit). First is Big Jake (1971) then The Cowboys (1972). Finish off the night with a bit of a fright: Tod Browning's Freaks (1932).
The John Wayne marathon may be over, but the parade of great films continue. See Andy Griffith as you've never seen him before in A Face In The Crowd (1957). Then try a thriller double biller: King Kong (1933) and Mighty Joe Young (1949). Then make sure you see a film that doesn't make it around very often: a comedy starring The Ritx Brothers and Bela Bela Lugosi: The Gorilla (1939).
It's one of the best musicals to come out of the Dream Factory, with the unrivaled Fred Astaire and lovely Cyd Charisse: The Band Wagon (1953). Then it's Disney brand adventure and comedy: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954) and The Absent Minded Professor (1961). Later, it's the classic political drama All the King's Men (1949).
Memorial Day Movie Marathon. Don't forget to thank a soldier and the veterans.
Here's the full day's schedule:
Command Decision (1948)
Action In The North Atlantic (1943)
From Here To Eternity (1953)
Sergeant York (1941)
The Battle Of Britain (1969)
Where Eagles Dare (1969)
A Soldier's Story (1984)
Stalag 17 (1953)
The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
Wake Island (1942)
This is only part I of the roundup, kiddies. Next in part II we'll cover the Duke's DVD releases for the week- and believe me, there is a bunch of 'em! Stay tuned....
If I felt cynical, this would be a good opportunity to observe that we're about to see a perfect example of "an eye for an eye", et cetera. Unfortunately, I can't quote chapter and verse... and I'm too tired to be cynical.