New DVDs 6-24-2008

It’s been a heckuva year for Anthony Mann, what with the excellent new versions of “El Cid” and “Fall of the Roman Empire” from the Weinstein Company, the widescreen debut of “Man of the West” from MGM/Fox, the James Stewart westerns set from Universal (with all new transfers, including a razor-sharp “Winchester 73″), and now a luxurious edition of “The Furies” from the Criterion Collection. It’s reviewed here, along with Konrad Wolf’s enduring East German film from 1980, “Solo Sunny.”

105 comments to New DVDs 6-24-2008

  • Professor Echo, one candidate might be FOREIGN INTRIGUE, the flat-footed and super-serious Robert Michum film with Ingrid Thulin — nice atmosphere (or rather, all atmosphere) and nice viral theme that, once heard, will remain in mind down through the ages. I loved it as a kid, must have seen it a half-dozen times

  • jwarthen

    In response to Professor Echo’s request for leads: The IMDb record of the 1967 “Dare I Weep, Dare I Mourn?” doesn’t even credit a director. But after seeing it on ABC’s remarkable 1966-7 Wednesday night series, I have remembered it for being a LeCarre adaptation with a strong carryover from the previous decade’s MAN BETWEEN (Carol Reed)– in both, James Mason, almost paralytic with guilt, is caught between Communist and Western territories. Prints of this 48 minute film may reside wherever they keep the Robards/Olivia deHaviland “Noon Wine” that saved Peckinpah’s career– both were broadcast in that series along with the Frank Perry/Geraldine Page/Capote “Christmas Memory”.

  • Jim Kitses is doing the commentary on The Furies, and since he’s a renowned western film scholar and an awesome dude in general, I’ll be trying to get a copy as soon as I can.

  • Michael Dempsey

    For this stellar Anthony Mann-on-DVD year (may it continue), I’d like to offer a few words about a Mann Western that doesn’t have a stellar reputation but, thanks to DVD, proves to be a great pleasure. Burdened with a reputation for leaden didacticism, “The Tin Star” is a nearly perfect example of how a director can elevate a predictable though craftsman-like screenplay into something honest and moving.

    For one thing, the imagery, from DP Loyal Griggs, is lit with unusual care to make the landscapes, a town’s main street, a sheriff’s office (whose picture window offers opportunities for deep focus views of what transpires outside), and the home of a widow and her young son headily vivid as both workaday environments and resonant genre elements.

    For another, the framing of the shots is always precisely related to the characters and their ambiances; nothing is ever merely pictorial or stock. The opening image provides a wonderful example.

    It begins with a long shot along the main street: a rider enters with two horses, a dead man’s dangling hand draped over one. Who hasn’t seen countless variations on this generic image? But a rightward tracking camera movement, aided by Elmer Bernstein’s subtle music cues, subtly charges the familiar setting with anxiety and uncertainty – in a way that may recall a comparable moment in “Man of the West” famously highlighted by Jean-Luc Godard.

    Here the mood develops subtly in subsequent shots of townspeople gathering while the rider (Henry Fonda), a bounty hunter despised by respectable citizens who want law-and-order but only in polite form, stops at the office of the tenderfoot sheriff (Anthony Perkins). As for the bounty hunter, he just wants his $500 for bringing in the wanted-dead-or-alive (“which means dead”) prisoner and doesn’t care one bit abut the locals’ dismay over how the deed was done.

    The corpse was a relative of a local hard case (Neville Brand) who now has cause to hate and intimidate the inexperienced sheriff. So the young man, now occupying his father’s chair under the thumb of conservative local officials and hoping not to become a corpse himself, prevails upon the bounty hunter for practical lessons in law enforcement. Meanwhile, the hunter boards with the widow (Betsy Palmer) and her boy (Michel Ray), whose father is a murdered Indian. This provides an opportunity for some Dudley Nichols 1950s-liberal dialogue expressing opposition to racial bigotry, but this time the writer effectively curbs his preachy side.

    Just as a plot, this material is full of threatening-to-be-pat elements (like a precursor to a TV movie). But Mann, Griggs, and the entire cast infuse just about every moment with unexpected freshness. Note, for example, how the offscreen assassination of a beloved doctor (John McIntyre) is strikingly disclosed when his horse pulls his shay into a celebration of his 75th birthday. The picture even sidesteps the fascistic potential of its premise, speaking up bravery, skill, intelligence, and restraint rather than simple fast-draw firepower.

    “The Tin Star” has been overlooked — even by Mann’s admirers, it seems. It shouldn’t be.

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