A five-film box set from Sony pays homage to Kim Novak, Columbia Pictures’ last great star and one of the last to be manufactured — with some resistance from Ms. Novak — by the studio system at the height of its industrial efficiency.
The three most familiar titles — Joshua Logan’s “Picnic” (1955), Richard Quine’s “Bell, Book and Candle” (1958) and George Sidney’s “Pal Joey” (1957) — have been remastered, though a blotchiness remains in both “Picnic” and “Candle” that suggests the original negatives may have been in particularly bad condition.
The one surprise is Sidney’s “Jeanne Eagels,” a misguided 1957 attempt to cast Novak in a Susan Hayward-style showbiz breakdown story, which doesn’t rise to the morbidly romantic heights of the Sidney-Novak “Eddie Duchin Story” but does develop some intriguing parallels with Novak’s own career. In typical Novak fashion, her Eagels becomes more closed-off and self-consciously theatrical just as she is supposed to be revealing her inner vulnerability. For cinephiles, the film’s highlight is an extended cameo by Frank Borzage, playing himself (with great warmth and presence) in an otherwise condescending sequence in which Eagels makes a silent movie. (Presumably, Borzage was drafted by the screenwriter Sonya Levien, who wrote a number of Borzage’s pre-code Fox films, including the great “Lucky Star.”)
My New York Times review is here.