The American home video industry remains unaccountably resistant to directors — I mean, Ma and Pa Kettle have a box set, while Douglas Sirk gets bupkus? — but once in a while something slips through the cracks, like the William Wellman set that Warners released last year under the cover of a “Forbidden Hollywood” pre-Code collection. Now, far more significantly, someone at Warners has smuggled out all four of Raoul Walsh’s imposing World War II propaganda films with Errol Flynn (plus, if only for the sake of contrast, Lewis Milestone’s conventionally preachy “Edge of Darkness”) in a beautifully mastered set they’re calling “Errol Flynn Adventures.” The films evolve in tone from boyish adventure (“Desperate Journey,” 1942) to a blunt, almost anti-heroic realism (“Objective, Burma!”, 1945) as the war deepens, all centered around the development of the Flynn character from a typical devil-may-care Walsh protagonist to a responsible, introspective leader. It’s a magnificent collection of movies which, augmented by “They Died with Their Boots On” (1941) and “Gentleman Jim” (1942), Walsh’s other two wartime Flynn films, and “Background to Danger,” a 1943 George Raft spy thriller recently released through the Warner Archive Collection in a nicely remastered edition, that amounts to one of the richest runs of creativity in Walsh’s sterling career. (I’m afraid we’ll have to wait a while for its nearest rival, a “Walsh at Fox” box that would cover “What Price Glory” through “The Bowery.”) My New York Times review is here.
In some other good news, James MacDowell writes to inform us of the revival of “Movie,” one of the most distinguished names in film criticism, as a web-based journal that’s being organized as joint project among the Universities of Warwick, Reading and Oxford. The editorial board includes veterans of the original publication — among them Charles Barr, V.F. Perkins and Michael Walker — as well as some more recently minted British scholars, and the pieces in the first issue (online here) are refreshingly free of post-modernist cant, reflecting instead the “Movie” tradition of close-reading and ethical engagement. MacDowell’s own piece on the notion of “quirkiness” in contemporary American independent film strikes me as exactly what’s been missing in so much current scholarly criticism: it’s deeply and seriously engaged with the films in question, drawing meaning from them rather than imposing a pre-ordained ideological stance.
Here’s wishing the new “Movie” a long and happy future.