New DVDs 4-22-2008

This week in the New York Times I demonstrate my newly conferred status as King of the Hipsters by interviewing Claude Lelouch and enthusizing over Shirley Temple.  Hipper than this you simply do not get.

The screen grab above is from Fox Home Video’s excellent new version of John Ford’s “Wee Willie Winkie,” which was included in the Ford box last December and is now part of the final installment of Fox’s Shirley Temple collection (along with William A. Seiter’s pleasant “Stowaway” and Allan Dwan’s quite interesting “Young People”).  After all the work Fox’s archivist Schawn Belston put into restoring the sepia tinting (and blue toned night scenes) used for the first release of Ford’s film, Fox Home Video has thoughtfully released it as a flipper disc, with what they are calling the “colorized” version on one side (i.e., the sepia print) and the black-and-white on the other.  Oh, the irony!  But Fox seems increasingly to have their corporate heart in the right place.  The company is issuing a do-over of their dismal transfer of “The Gang’s All Here” in an upcoming Carmen Miranda collection, and after issuing the Academy ratio version of Raoul Walsh’s key 1930 Western “The Big Trail” as part of their “Studio Classics” collection a few years ago, they will be putting out the 70mm widescreen version — perhaps the most stunning early example of Walsh’s pioneering use of extreme deep focus — as part of a collection of Fox Westerns in the weeks to come.  Now there’s something I’d love to see in Bluray — might even make me buy a player.

48 comments to New DVDs 4-22-2008

  • Robert Chatain

    Elsewhere in your column today, I laughed out loud at “Dogma meets ‘Godzilla’ for “Cloverfield.”

  • Blake Lucas

    That’s great news about “The Big Trail.” The widescreen version has always eluded me somehow,
    and I have only seen it full frame. When I saw the first DVD was not the widescreen version, I was disappointed and have resisted seeing it again
    to this point. Now I’m glad I’ve waited.

    Do you know what some of the other Westerns are Dave? The one I’m always wondering about is
    “From Hell to Texas” (1958, Hathaway), which I remember as outstanding and seems to have virtually fallen into oblivion, hopefully not forever.

    Not strictly a Western but I wish they would put out Jacques Tourneur’s beautiful “Way of a Gaucho” (1952); also Hugo Fregonese’s brilliantly done civil war drama “The Raid” (1954). The latter is a director who I believe is slowly (and
    deservedly) being discovered by auteurists.

  • James L. Neibaur

    I saw the widescreen version of The Big Trail on the Fox Movie Channel a year or so ago. I had only seen it in full frame up to that time. It was like another movie entirely. I certainly recommend seeing it in this fashion, even to those who were unimpressed with it in full screen.

  • jbryant

    Looks like The Big Trail DVD will be a stand-alone special edition released on the same day as a Fox Western Collection, but not part of it. The collection features Hathaway’s Garden of Evil and Rawhide and King’s The Gunfighter.

  • Blake Lucas

    That answers my question jbbryant–too bad it isn’t a Hathaway collection with From Hell to Texas which would nicely round out Garden of Evil and Rawhide–both of which it’s great to have but I still worry about From Hell to Texas. Of course, that’s not say it’s not good news for The Gunfighter to come on DVD–surprising it took so long with that one.

  • Professor Echo

    Blake, you are right in calling FROM HELL TO TEXAS a great, though relatively forgotten, film. I too fear that Fox has abandoned it; to my knowledge the last public screenings of it were faded P&S prints broadcast on local tv stations in the 70’s. I’ve had FOX MOVIE CHANNEL for 15 years and it has NEVER aired on it in any form. When I interviewed Don Murray he said it was one of his favorite films, so I’m sure he would be enthusiastic about doing a commentary, but thus far FOX hasn’t even exhibited knowledge of this film being in their collection, let alone producing a quality DVD of it.

  • Blake Lucas

    Echo, yeah I too have watched FOX MOVIE CHANNEL for a print of it through those years. Not only that but when I co-programmed a Western series at the American Cinematheque several years ago, we agreed on a final double bill of two Hathaways, GARDEN OF EVIL and FROM HELL TO TEXAS. They provided a nice print of the former, but for the latter they said all they had was a totally faded red print and they would not make another for us. It was sad, and we showed a single feature preceded by Western trailers. I don’t get it–so many of the films they’ve shown and released on DVD were suffering from that same DeLuxe color fading on prints. Why leave this one in limbo?

    One they got out on DVD is THESE THOUSAND HILLS (1959, Richard Fleischer). As you interviewed Don Murray, did he say anything about that one? It is even more a favorite of mine, and wrote a piece on it in the last issue of THE FILM JOURNAL online, which I’d really appreciate if you’d call to Murray’s attention if you have saved his address. Thanks.

  • Mike G

    That was a really nice piece on Temple– even though it had one first-class snarky lline (about asexual reproduction), it didn’t condescend in explaining why she was so popular– and is still effective. So, silent Ozu next week, perchance?

    http://www.nitrateville.com

  • Professor Echo

    Blake, I interviewed Don many years ago and if I did have his address it might not be still valid after all this time. If I can find it somewhere, I will drop him a quick note, though I’m sure he will have no memory of me.

    If I recall correctly we mostly discussed another forgotten film of his, Paddy Chayefsky’s THE BACHELOR PARTY from UA in 1957, since that was what we were screening on that particular occasion. I wish I had brought up THESE THOUSAND HILLS and other great films of his, but I was just a goofy, awkward teenager at the time, which may not be an excuse, but I’m sticking to it anyway. By that point, 1979, he had moved into mostly stage acting and directing and that was discussed as well. He was very impressed that someone my age even knew who he was, let alone had seen most of his films and wanted to discuss them with him.

    The reason why I remember his comments about FROM HELL TO TEXAS is because he felt a great affection for the film and was particularly pleased that I brought it up. It’s sad to think that the only times I have ever seen it were in P&S faded prints on The Late Show in Chicago when I was a little kid. Maybe Dave can remember if Films Incorporated ever had a 16mm widescreen print of it back in the day. I think they handled Fox films?

    I’m sorry to hear about your troubles with Fox in securing a new print. I can only surmised that their apathy has to do with the title not having much a recognizable cast nor a relatively lasting reputation. It’s too bad we can’t get a pre-EASY RIDER Dennis Hopper box set, haha.

    It’s a shame that, as far as I know, no one has done a good, solid interview with Murray about his career, which included more than a few great films and television appearances. The last I saw of him was on a TCM promo for their monthly festival of gay and lesbian cinema in 2007, where he was discussing his groundbreaking role in ADVISE AND CONSENT. I was hoping for a longer piece somewhere, but so far it hasn’t surfaced.

  • david hare

    Also looking forward to discussion of the two Leisen DVDs released this week. Despite the addiition of now standard Universal faux grain/video noise to the transfers the image is pretty good (Midnight is the better/”sharper” of the two.) Time for major Leisen worshipping (to paraphrase Rex O’Malley’s “telephone worshipper” line.)

  • Blake Lucas

    Echo, don’t worry about Murray if it was that many years ago. He did appear recently for ADVISE AND CONSENT at Preminger event at Cinematheque, a film I think is great, (with another fine performance by Murray in the key role) and have seen a lot but couldn’t make it that night. I could probably run him down as easily as you.

    I appreciated your response. FROM HELL TO TEXAS was a successful movie–no big stars I guess but neither was THESE THOUSAND HILLS. So Fox’s neglect really makes no sense. It’s pleasing to hear that Don Murray liked it.

    As you mentioned Dennis Hopper yourself in what seemed like a kind of caustic way I can’t resist adding this: Hathaway and Hopper famously fought bitterly on FROM HELL TO TEXAS and the director threatened to keep him out of Hollywood filmmaking and seems to have been at least close to the case until 1965. But strangely, it was Hathaway himself who put him back in an A-budget Western THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER and then again four years later in TRUE GRIT. In these movies, Hopper seems to have been completely cooperative and to good effect. Despite Hopper’s dislike of him, Hathaway is the one guy who directed him really well. Hey, I know plenty of people here won’t agree with me that he’s usually close to being the most absurd actor on the planet. It’s just my opinion, so let’s not argue about it, OK?

  • Alex

    Just when I was going to take a break from silent Ozu and watch “Wee Willie Winkie” after reading the NYT, I get these e-intimations that Temple my not not be hip even when her vehicle’s a Ford!

    As for “asexual reproduction,” Graham Greene’s “certain adroit coquetry” (in 1937 review of “Wee Willie Winkie,” no less) seems to me more telling
    (though itblost Greene a job).

    Hip enough!

  • Professor Echo

    Blake, I remember Hopper being on a local radio talk show in Chicago in the late 80’s expressing some fondness for Hathaway giving him a second chance. The impression was that they had a love/hate relationship. The interview was on a particularly family friendly show on good old faithfully staid WGN radio and maybe it was perhaps that which inspired Hopper to be the most subdued I had ever heard him. He actually spoke intelligently and eloquently about all stages of his career and sounded as far from the “fractions” raving photographer in APOCALYPSE NOW as you can get. He even took calls from listeners.

    I don’t often partake of celebrity interviews by the media, but the pairing of Hopper with this very laid back, family man, film critic/radio host WGN had in those days was a combination I couldn’t pass up. As it happened, Hopper adapted beautifully and was intriguingly clear and cogent throughout.

  • Blake Lucas

    Nice remembrance–and I totally buy it. Everyone has a lot of sides and Hopper’s been around a long time, so of course he does too.

    That “fractions” raving photographer in APOCALYPSE NOW is the main reason I tend to make fun of him by the way–it’s pretty easy to ridicule him when he goes into that “man” mode of his. But you know, we all give in to ridicule too easily, and I must admit I don’t feel all that great about it when I do it.

    So let me bow to your more mature perspective on this one.

  • jbryant

    Coincidentally enough, The Bachelor Party with Don Murray airs tomorrow night (4/25) on TCM, at 8:30 pm PST, 11:30 EST.

  • Mark Kirby

    Dear Dave,
    I have always thought YOUNG PEOPLE underrated. It really is a farewell to the child Shirley Temple and as such is a bit poignant. I may have to get this Fox collection. STOWAWAY and WEE WILLIE WINKIE are also good. I agree with Danny Peary that Temple reciting the Lord’s Prayer while McLaglen is dying is a beautifully done scene. And thanks for letting us know that the new release of THE GANG’S ALL HERE this summer will be from the original eye-popping technicolor print. I was very disappointed when I bought GANG last year. I’d like to get the set of Paramount comedies out this week but my budget tells me no. Drat! Anyway, love your reviews!

  • Joe

    I agree wholeheartedly about “From Hell to Texas” (as well as “These Thousand Hills”). Fox, not unlike a lot of other majors, seems to have an unveiled contempt for (or at least a slouchy indifference to) its films from the mid- to late-1950s. I, for one, have been hoping in vain for a video or DVD (or anything) of – now don’t laugh – Pat Boone’s “Mardi Gras” from 1958. It’s a full-fledged musical with a fine ensemble cast (including the invaluable Sheree North and Barrie Chase) and yet it hasn’t been on home entertainment in any form. For what it’s worth, Boone was a major source of income for Fox early in his screen career and yet none of his films from that era exist on video or DVD. I’m not saying that “Bernadine” or “April Love” is a particularly great film, but I am asking is – where’s the gratitude? Oddly enough, the films of Boone’s counterpart in those days – Elvis Presley – are readily available and shown frequently on Turner. And they are truly horrible.

  • admin

    Thanks, jbryant, for the correction on “The Big Trail.” It is indeed coming out as a stand alone, in a double-disc set that includes both the standard and Fox Grandeur versions. The “Fox Western Classics” colection will have the two Hathaways, “Rawhide” and “Garden of Eden,” plus King’s “The Gunfighter.” And they are doing a third box — “John Wayne: The Fox Westerns” — with the double-disc “Big Trail,” Curtiz’s “The Commancheros” (produced by George Sherman, I suddenly notice), Hathaway’s “North to Alaska” and Andrew McLaglen’s “The Undefeated.” But no sign of “From Hell to Texas.”

  • Professor Echo

    Regarding THE BACHELOR PARTY screening tonight (4/25) on TCM, I recommend it for its fine ensemble cast and as a mature depiction of late 50’s middle class city life.

    As always Paddy Chayefsky has keen, almost organic observations about the natural way of things, but unfortunately, like MARTY, it champions traditionalism and complacency, while mocking and pitying non-conformity.

  • Professor Echo

    Blake, anytime I have the urge to regard Dennis Hopper as being an interplanetary caricature of 60’s self-indulgence I remember him as the sad little man in HOOSIERS searching for just one moment of redemption.

  • seanflynn

    And irony of ironies, Hopper is now a politically conservative Republican.

  • Alex Hicks

    seanflynn,
    “Hopper is now a politically conservative Republican.” Biggest shock since I heard David Lynch was so inclined — bigger even! Now I’m bracing to hear you’re not the son of Erroll!

  • seanflynn

    Unfortunately Errol’s son Sean died as a Khymer Rough prisoner around 1970…

    The GOP group in the industry has some oddball members – Jon Voight, Sam Raimi, the Zucker brothers. Lynch apparently is more libertarian and veers all over the place; though he did vote for Reagan at least once, he disavows being any sort of committed Republican.

    Google Dennis Hopper conservative Republican and you’ll see some interviews…

  • Joe

    It’s been great reading the thoughtful comments about Don Murray (a seriously underrated actor) and his 1957 film, “The Bachelor Party,” which I’ll certainly be watching tonight on Turner. Perhaps not coincidentally, Turner televised (without any fanfare) another Delbert Mann-Paddy Chayefsky collaboration this past Wednesday afternoon – 1959’s almost impossible-to-see “Middle of the Night.” The film holds up remarkably well, has some great vintage shots of New York’s garment district and features an exceptional performance by Fredric March and a quietly revelatory one by Kim Novak (in the roles played on stage by Edward G. Robinson and Gene Rowlands). Great supporting cast, too (Glenda Farrell, Lee Grant, Joan Copeland, Martin Balsam, Edith Meiser, Albert Dekker and Lee Philips).

  • Kent Jones

    Dave the Hipster King – I hope you mean GARDEN OF EVIL.

    Joe – I would like to second your acknowledgment of MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. I know there were many complaints about the casting of March as the Jewish garment industry shop owner, but I think he’s excellent, and the movie is heartbreaking.

  • jwarthen

    With TCM discontinuing in May its regular slot for silent films, its presentation of two Abel Gance restorations Sunday night deserves attention it hasn’t gotten. For his lifetime of service and informed advocacy, film-lovers should make a chorus of Kevin Brownlow, Kevin Brownlow, KEVIN BROWNLOW!

  • Joe

    Kent – March experienced the same resistant criticism when he inherited Lee J. Cobb’s original stage role in the film version of “Death of a Salesman.” I think he’s pretty much one of our great, unheralded actors. Regarding his performance in “Middle of the Night,” his subtle ethnic patterns are particularly impressive. He never stoops to stereotype or caricature, yet he’s totally credible. It’s a deeply shaded, nuanced character performance.

  • Alex

    Thanks for the tweaking and extending the political FYIs. Respects to you namesake.

  • seanflynn

    I was also concerned about TCM dropping their Sun PM silent slot, but it returns in June (initially with a couple early 1930s Chinese silents).

  • Professor Echo

    Apropos of nothing, Top 5 Overused Words In B Westerns:

    5. Mangy
    4. Tinhorn
    3. Hombre
    2. Polecat
    1. Galoot

  • Wait a minute…for those of us who aren’t in the know, what’s the deal with 1930 widescreen? How did I not know about this? How did it happen?

  • Kent Jones

    Seanflynn – I believe that TCM is showing some Ruan Lingyu films. Very much worth seeing.

    Joe – I love March. A remarkable actor, a wonderful presence. He can even liven up a piece of absolute dreck like TOMORROW THE WORLD. I must also express my appreciation of Albert Dekker, who had one of the most beautiful voices in movies.

  • Alex Hicks

    Some of DK’s motives for, under the cover of irony, seemingly decrying, the unhippness of interviewing Claude LeLouch are readily imagined. However, a 1968 photo on page 23 of the print edition of today’s New York Times in which LeLouch is shown alongside Godard, Truffaut Malle and Polanski provides gounds for my “seemingly” –or for mixed motives. DK’s two degrees of separation from these maestros are now a succinctly documented fact, while a very high likelihood of at least three degrees of separation from a very high proportion of the great art film auteurs is at once clinched (or, at least, graphically overdetermined as cineaste of ’68 might have put it). How well the photo establishes LeLouch as one with his hip company I leave to diagnosticians of body language.

  • admin

    Brian, there were several attempts to commercialize widescreen films in the early ’30s, but the studios got together and resolved to set the process aside as long as they were still struggling under the expense of the conversion to sound. MOMA restored two of the best examples several years ago: Roland West’s “The Bat Whispers” and Walsh’s “Big Trail.” The Widescreen Museum at http://www.widescreenmuseum.com is a good source of info.

  • Mike G

    Anybody ever seen Rango, the wildlife documentary by the King Kong guys, that was done in widescreen?

    The one I’d like to see that’s lost is the 1930 Kismet, starring Otis Skinner (who did it on stage for years). It was widescreen and two-strip Technicolor– that plus box office underperformance a recipe for few prints made and none surviving.

  • Joe

    Kent–
    Yes. Albert Dekker. What a voice. My first encounter with him wasn’t by way of film, but in a play that he did with Jack Lemmon in 1960 called “Face of a Hero.” He commanded the stage. I was just a kid but I sort of bookmarked him in my mind and tried to keep up with his career both on film and on stage after than.

    About March… I caught “Inherit the Wind” on Turner about a month ago. I like the film but never really gave it much thought (even though I am certainly in communion with what it has to say). This time, however, I was struck by March’s performance. It is riveting.

  • Alex

    Seems to me the once livley March of, say, “Design for Living” and the nuanced dignity of, say, of Al Stepehenson in the “Best Years of Our Lives”‘ was typically looking pretty stiff and wooden by the mid-1950s –in striking constrast with the continuously growing charisma of (the also sternly sculpted) Burt Lancaster right through, at least, “Atlantic City.”

  • jbryant

    Couldn’t disagree more about March, Alex, if only on the basis of his work in 1954’s “Executive Suite.” I can’t imagine a less “stiff and wooden” performance. He’s really great as a weaselly bean-counter. Also, March was nearing 60 years in old in the mid-50s, compared to Lancaster’s early 40s, so some of the contrast you mention might be attributable to that.

  • Kent Jones

    Alex, you might want to check out what March did as Harry Hope in THE ICEMAN COMETH, his last movie, at the age of 76. But he’s also excellent in THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI and THE MAN IN THE GREY FLANNEL SUIT (very similar roles). This is just a a difference of opinion, I suppose, but I never found March wooden. On the other hand, the same can not be said of many of the movies in which he appeared.

    Joe – thanks for the memory of Dekker. I imagine that he was an excellent stage actor.

  • Professor Echo

    Between DR. JEKYLL and EXECUTIVE SUITE, with the possible exception of BEST YEARS, March for me was another in a long line of what I call INEFFECTUAL MALE ACTORS, with Ralph Bellamy and Fred MacMurray leading the way. Although they may have been competent I never thought they had any screen presence or camera charisma in the slightest. In a word, boring and, at times, boring to the point of displaying unbearable complacency in their absolute utter dullness.

    However, in stark contrast to Alex’s comment above about March’s performances deteriorating with age, I see the older March as being a significantly improved actor in terms of sheer craft and even one who exudes a certain amount of visual on-screen chemistry. In HOMBRE it’s hard to take your eyes off him no matter who he is sharing the scene with.

    Another ineffectual male actor, Robert Taylor, achieved similar results the older and more seasoned he got. Even pallid Ralph Bellamy got his chance to excel in THE PROFESSIONALS. To say March lost his appeal in later years runs completely contrary to my estimation of him. From EXECUTIVE SUITE on he becomes fascinating.

  • Alex

    Maybe I’ve been confusing March the performer with his roles and vehicles both, which I remember as almost consistently hulkish. Perhaps my Lancaster comparison served me too much as a baseline that worked to March’s disadvantage.

    Here’s an age-specific match up of lancaster and March for your interpetations and amusement:
    Lancaster vs. March
    Local Hero (at 70)vs. Hombre
    Alantic City(67) Seven Days in May
    Novecento (63)Inherit the Wind
    Ulzana’s Raid (59) Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
    Airport (57) Executive Suite
    Gattopardo, Il (50-49) Best Years of Our Lives
    Freom Here to Eternity 40 A Star is Born
    The Killers (33) Design for Living

    A guess a safe generalization might be that over time Lancaster mastered a classier, more elderly and perhaps more even imposing charisma, while March, even while staying with stiff roles, got more skilled and even animated in their portrayal (his W.J. Bryant in “Inherit the Wind”)as he and the roles got older. I was surprosed, jbryant, to see that lancaster was playing seemingly older characters by 50 than March

  • Joe

    I like both Lancaster and March for completely different reasons. Which is apt, given that they aren’t the same person. It’s arguable if one could easily step into the other’s roles. But I’ll tell you, those performances that March gave late in his career – “Hombre,” “The Inceman Cometh,” Executive Suite,” “Middle of the Night,” “Inherit the Wind,” “Seven Days in May,” “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, “The Bridges of Tokyo-Ri” and “The Young Doctors,” even “tick…tick…Tick” – have a way of sneaking up on you. He may not have had the dynamic presence of Burt Lancaster, but March was hardly “ineffectual.”

  • Professor Echo

    Joe, if you read my post again you’ll see that I pretty much dispelled the “ineffectual” label for March from EXECUTIVE SUITE on. I think he was born to be a character actor, not a lead, and it’s largely his later supporting work that render him “effectual” for me.

    As for the comparisons to Lancaster, the correlation between the two seems somewhat arbitrary to me, but it’s certainly grist for message board debate and that can be a good thing sometimes.

  • Joe

    Professor Echo– You’re right! You do make the distinction. But I like March even prior to “Executive Suite.” You are correct in your notation that he was really a character actor, but he was totally capable of playing lead roles nevertheless, a la Spencer Tracy and, more recently, Gene Hackman. And whatever happened to Hackman, who seems to have been silent since “The Royal Tennenbaums.” Anyone know?

  • Alex

    Well, from the mid-1930s March (and around 40 years of age) March started increasingly — almost consistently from the late 1940s on– to enact characters in positions of familial and or social status authority; and from the mid-1950s Lancaster played a high proportion of similar roles: Hunsecker/Winchell in “Sweet Smell of Success, John Malcolm in “Separate Tables,” General Scott in “Seven Days in May,” Ben Zachery in “The Unforgiven,” il Principe Salina in “Il GatoParto,” Ned Merrillin “The Swimmer,” Generals Scott and dell in “Seven Days in May,” and “Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” the Professor in “Conversation Piece” and the Berlinghieri patriarch in “1900. So I’d say there’s room for comparison as each enters his mid 40s, despite Lancaster’s much greater range, playing Western and other action heroes until near retirement. On their common, later grounds I’d say all the peaks are Lancaster’s, whether as lead (Gantry, Il Principe) or character actor (the Berlinghieri patriarch), although I’d admit that the face off in “Seven Days” is a standoff and that March did hit perfection a few times early in his career (“Design for Living,” “The Best Years of our Lives”) before the Briadway and TV theatricality of “Executive Suite” onward rushed in a bit loudly upon a fine acting carreer. But many of less distinguished or sustained talent have done attained pitch perfect high fortune– say Ralph Bellamy in “His Girl Friday” or Fred McMurray in “Double Indemnity.”

  • Professor Echo

    Joe, Hackman was quite verbal in expressing his disgust with his last film, WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT. In effect, I believe he felt that the film represented enough of a low point in his career for him to publicly declare it was time to quit. He now considers himself retired from acting and, as far as I have heard, has no plans to return. He is also co-writing novels that seem to be in a Tom Clancy vein, though I haven’t read any of them.

  • Richard von Busack

    The Hackman novels are sea epics, at least the first one was. I can’t imagine Gene Hackman giving up on acting as long as there’s a breath left in him. I trust that the right script will get him back on screen.
    The 70mm transfer of The Big Trail is not to be missed. The focus on some of these landscapes is so impossibly deep it’s like a version of that Saul Steinberg poster about New York; you feel like you can look in all the way from the Missouri River to the Rockies. And that’s just the background; liberals who grouse about Wayne and Native Americans ought to hear this long speech he gives about how much he learned from them.

  • Your NY Times Review of the Shirley DVD set states that now all her films are out on DVD, yet “Poor Little Rich Girl,” one of her most popular (also starring Alice Faye) has yet to see a DVD release. Any idea of why Fox left this one out of the collection? Just discovered your site – love it!