'The Sting' among 4 older films getting Blu-ray upgrades

Published: Saturday, June 9 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

John Wayne stars as the title character in "Hondo."

Deseret news archives

Fans of older movies will be happy to see four favorites get Blu-ray upgrades while several vintage titles are released on DVD for the first time.

"The Sting: Collector's Series" (Universal/Blu-ray, 1973, PG, two discs, book-packaging $39.98). The best-picture Oscar (and six more) went to this first-rate confidence-game comedy with Paul Newman and Robert Redford in top form as con artists who create an elaborate scheme to get revenge on a mobster (Robert Shaw) in 1930s Chicago.

This one is pretty much a perfect film with great performances, and just enough twists to be clever and witty without crossing the line into parody or silliness. Wonderful supporting cast is put to good use with many delightful bits of business and terrific dialogue exchanges.

The Blu-ray is a stunning transfer and the book is more entertaining than some, with an introduction by Leonard Maltin.

Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, featurettes, trailer; 46-page booklet (also on Blu-ray Combo without the book, $19.98)

"Hondo" (Paramount/Blu-ray, 1953, $24.99). This John Wayne classic, which was largely out of circulation before its home-video debut in 1994, is a stirring adaptation of a Louis L'Amour short story. Wayne plays the title character, a cavalry scout who finds himself as protector of a woman (Geraldine Page, Oscar-nominated in her film debut) and her son on a remote ranch during an Apache uprising. Filmed in 3D and some of the contrivances that go with that format are evident, but they don't detract from the well-drawn characters and solid dialogue.

Extras: widescreen, introduction by Leonard Maltin, audio commentary (by Maltin, western historian Frank Thompson, and Lee Aaker, an actor in the film), featurettes, photo gallery, trailer

"Smokey and the Bandit" (Universal/Blu-ray, 1977, PG, two discs, $19.98). Burt Reynolds' stardom went into the stratosphere thanks to this redneck car-chase comedy and its many clones. Reynolds is the Bandit, being chased by Smokey, an inept sheriff played by Jackie Gleason. Sally Field co-stars.

Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, featurettes, trailer

"Erin Brockovich" (Universal/Blu-ray, 2000; R for language; two discs, $19.98). Julia Roberts won her Oscar as the real-life title character, a brassy blonde who becomes a lawyer's secretary and then sinks her teeth into a case involving the dumping of illegal toxic waste. Little-guy-takes-on-corporate-giant story has been told many times before but clever script and all-out performances with expert character cast delivers the goods.

Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, deleted scenes, featurettes, trailer

"The Scapegoat" (Warner Archive, 1959, b/w, $17.95). Alec Guinness is excellent in two roles, one a French scoundrel who murders his wife and the other an English lookalike duped into taking his place. Low-key but involving. Bette Davis has a minor but pivotal character role. Based on a Daphne du Maurier novel.

Extras: widescreen, trailer (available at www.Warner Archive.com)

"Vacation From Marriage" (Warner Archive, 1945, b/w, $17.95). Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr star in this melodrama about a humdrum married couple changed by separation and extra-marital romances during World War II. Glynis Johns shines a supporting role.

Extras: full frame, trailer (available at www.Warner Archive.com)

"Show People" (Warner Archive, 1928, b/w, $17.95). Silent comedy offers Marion Davies a showcase role as an aspiring dramatic actress who instead becomes a slapstick-comedy star. Loosely based on Gloria Swanson's career, with cameos by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and others in a fascinating look at backstage Hollywood.

Extras: full frame, (available at www.WarnerArchive.com)

"The Phantom of Crestwood" (Warner Archive, 1932, b/w, $17.95). Early talkie has Karen Morley plotting to blackmail former lovers by gathering them together in an old dark house, but when she's murdered instead, the plot thickens. Enjoyable mystery.

Extras: full frame, trailer (available at www.Warner Archive.com)

"Lucky Devils" (Warner Archive, 1933, b/w, $17.95). This backstage melodrama follows the risky exploits of Hollywood stuntmen, including one who marries and then becomes hesitant in his work, putting others' lives in jeopardy. Hokey B-movie offers some interesting stunts and opportunity to see William Boyd two years before he became Hopalong Cassidy.

Extras: full frame, trailer (available at www.Warner Archive.com)

"The Sport Parade" (Warner Archive, 1932, b/w, $17.95). Joel McCrea and William Gargan star in this so-so yarn about college pals and football teammates who meet again after graduation and fall for the same woman (Marian Marsh). Robert Benchley is amusing in his feature-film debut as a sportscaster.

Extras: full frame, trailer (available at www.Warner Archive.com)

"The Grand Duel"/"Keoma" (Mill Creek/Blu-ray, 1972/1976; R for violence, nudity; $9.98). Two spaghetti westerns, the first with Lee van Cleef rescuing another man accused of murder, and the second with Franco Nero returning from the Civil War to find his hometown overrun by outlaws. Typical entries in the genre.

Extras: widescreen, trailers

EMAIL: hicks@desnews.com

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