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Film review: Warner Brothers opens archives

Published: Saturday, Nov. 27 2010 2:00 p.m. MST

"Hotel" (Warner, 1967, $19.95). Melvyn Douglas is the owner and Rod Taylor is the beleaguered manager of a posh New Orleans hotel, where an all-star cast gathers as guests, including a thief (Karl Malden), a tycoon who wants to buy the hotel (Kevin McCarthy), an arrogant duchess (Merle Oberon) and her wimpy husband (Michael Rennie), etc. Based on an Arthur Hailey novel. Think of it as an earthbound "Airport."

Extras: widescreen

"Madam Satan" (Warner Archive, 1930, b/w, $24.95). This early talkie has to be seen to be believed. A married sap (Reginald Denny) is cheating on his wife (Kay Johnson), so to win him back she masquerades as a vamp at a masked ball aboard a moored blimp over New York City. Plenty of weird costumes and out-there sets, along with wacky song-and-dance sequences, until the dirigible is hit by lightning and everyone parachutes into Central Park. Directed, believe it or not, by Cecil B. DeMille!

Extras: full frame

"Warner Bros. Horror/Mystery Double Features" (Warner Archive, 1937-42, b/w, three discs, $24.95). As the title suggests, each of the three discs in this set has two B-movie whodunits: "Find the Blackmailer" has peppy dialogue but a convoluted plot about the blackmailing of a mayoral candidate. "The Smiling Ghost" is fun and funny, an "Old Dark House" variation and as much a comedy as a mystery, about heiress Alexis Smith's fiance's meeting with bad luck.

"Sh! The Octopus" makes a comedy team of Hugh Herbert and Allen Jenkins with mixed results as they run into scary goings-on in a lighthouse. "The Hidden Hand" is the least of these with a mad brother and sister scheming to kill off relatives so they can keep their fortune.

"Mystery House" and "The Patient in Room 18" both feature Ann Sheridan before she became one of Warners' top stars. Though billed second here, "Patient" actually came first, with Sheridan as a feisty nurse named Sarah Keate, who helps bring in her detective boyfriend, Lance O'Leary, played by Patric Knowles, to solve murders at the hospital. More murders bring them back for "Mystery House," with Sheridan again as Sarah and Dick Purcell this time as Lance. Both pictures are fun thanks to Sheridan's presence.

Extras: full frame, six movies

"Eye of the Devil" (Warner Archive, 1966, $24.95). This is a predictable horror yarn about occult doings in a remote area of France, but it gets a genuine boost from a pair of A-list British stars, David Niven, leaving his family behind as he mysteriously heads to the family estate, and Deborah Kerr as his curious wife who follows, with kids in tow. Spooky support is offered by Donald Pleasence, David Hemmings and, in her first credited film appearance, Sharon Tate. (Note similarities to the later "Wicker Man.")

Extras: widescreen

"The Green Slime" (Warner Archive, 1969, G, $24.95). Silly Japanese monster movie stars several American actors (led by Robert Horton) and Italian starlet Luciana Paluzzi, along with cheesy special effects. Astronauts accidentally infect their space station with the title substance, which morphs into bloodshot one-eyed, tentacled creatures.

Extras: widescreen

e-mail: hicks@desnews.com

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