The Bowery Boys finally come to DVD for the first time

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8 2012 2:00 p.m. MST

Leonardo DiCaprio, center, stars in "Catch Me If You Can."

Andrew Cooper, Dreamworks, Disney

Movies featuring the Dead End Kids and the East Side Kids have long been on DVD, but the longest running and most popular in the series of B movies about comic juvenile delinquents, the Bowery Boys, has been conspicuously absent — until now.

"The Bowery Boys: Volume One" (Warner Archive, 1946-52, b/w, four discs, $39.95, 12 movies). Top billing in these films goes to Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, who were among the gang of juveniles that called themselves the Dead End Kids, the Little Tough Guys and the East Side Kids for B-movie dramas and comedies that followed their debut in 1937's "Dead End."

In the Bowery Boys series, they're still playing goofball kids playing pinball at the malt shop — despite the fact that Gorcey was 30 and Hall was 26 as the franchise began its 12-year run. They churned out three or four, sometimes five, movies a year, and with 48 in all it remains the most prolific theatrical film series in history.

The comedies here gradually became more reliant on slapstick and farce as Gorcey & Hall developed into a sort of substandard Abbott & Costello, which some of the films in this set demonstrate with Hall becoming a wrestler, a crooner and even switching minds with a villain, as Gorcey plays his manager and mangles the English language by dropping malapropisms right and left.

For some reason, after the first three in this set, the films are not consecutive, skipping over 16 titles between 1946 and 1952. Not that it matters, since each is a stand-alone film.

And this is low comedy, to be sure, most likely to appeal to fans that remember the series nostalgically. Which, I'm not ashamed to say, includes me. (Available at WarnerArchive.com.)

"Francis Ford Coppola: 5-Film Collection" (Lionsgate/Blu-ray, 1974-2009; R for violence, language, sex, nudity, drugs; four discs, $39.99, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes). Coppola's "The Conversation" (the only PG-rated film in this set), "Apocalypse Now," "Apocalypse Now Redux" and "Tetro" have all previously had Blu-ray releases, and their bonus features are included here — with the notable exception of the "Apocalypse Now" Blu-ray bonus disc.

But Coppola's offbeat musical drama, "One From the Heart," his most controversial, love-it-or-hate-it film, and the one that arguably benefits most from a hi-def transfer, is on Blu-ray for the first time and exclusive to this set.

Even those who can't stand the film rave about its cinematography and neon-laden set design, a sound-stage replica of Las Vegas, which is quite the eye-popping achievement in hi-def.

The performances (from Teri Garr, Frederic Forrest, Nastassja Kinski and Raul Julia) and the music (from Tom Waits) are undeniably weird and perhaps off-putting in places, but I can't deny a fondness for the film, and I'm very happy to see it in this beautiful Blu-ray edition.

"Catch Me If You Can" (Paramount/Blu-ray, 2002, PG-13, $22.98, featurettes, photo gallery). This true story directed by Steven Spielberg (with a bouncy score by John Williams) is played as a light comedy much of the way, though some of it is rather dark.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a con artist who ingratiates his way into high-profile professions and Tom Hanks is the FBI agent that spent years pursuing him.

The supporting cast includes Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Nathalie Baye, Amy Adams, James Brolin, Jennifer Garner and Elizabeth Banks. (And for those who remember, this film is not unlike the Tony Curtis picture "The Great Imposter," which was also a true story.)

"Finding Nemo" (Disney/Pixar/Blu-ray + DVD, 2003, G, three discs, $39.99, deleted scene, featurettes, short cartoon "Knick Knack"). (Also on five-disc 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo, $49.99). One of Pixar's most delightful and gorgeously animated features is this hilarious look at anthropomorphic aquatic life, chiefly a fearful clownfish (wonderfully voiced by Albert Brooks) that must leave his comfort zone to find his son. Ellen DeGeneres also scores voicing the clownfish's extremely forgetful companion.

"Gypsy" (Warner Archive, 1962, $19.95, two outtake musical numbers, trailer). True story has Rosalind Russell as Rose, the ultimate stage mother, pushing her daughter (Natalie Wood) into a career on the vaudeville/burlesque circuit until the girl eventually becomes famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Great songs in an enjoyable (and chaste) film with interesting look at life backstage. (Available at WarnerArchive.com.)

EMAIL: hicks@desnews.com

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