A forgotten John Ford film arrives on DVD for the first time and a passel of Disney animated features with Blu-ray upgrades are among new releases this week.
“Young Cassidy” (Warner Archive, 1965, $17.95, trailer, available at www.warnerarchive.com). This excellent, sprawling biography of acclaimed Irish playwright Sean O’Casey’s early life gives Rod Taylor perhaps his best role, and he gives it his all, plotting with revolutionaries to defy English rule and writing pamphlets to inspire them. With encouragement from a bookstore merchant (Maggie Smith), he begins writing plays and eventually finds himself recognized in literary circles, but at what price?
The film is bolstered by colorful-location filming in Ireland, and the supporting cast includes Julie Christie, Edith Evans, Michael Redgrave and Flora Robson. The unusual credits, “A John Ford Film” and “directed by Jack Cardiff,” reflect Ford’s mounting the production and starting the shoot before falling ill two weeks into filming, prompting the studio to call on Cardiff to take over.
“The Liquidator” (Warner Archive, 1965, $17.95, trailer, available at www.warnerarchive.com). Rod Taylor stars and Jack Cardiff directed this James Bond-style thriller adapted from John Gardner’s first Boysie Oakes novel, a failed attempt to launch a franchise. Still, this is an entertaining, offbeat double-agent satire as Boysie is a very reluctant spy who doesn’t like killing, so he hires an assassin to do his dirty work. But double- and triple-crosses conspire to push Boysie into action whether he likes it or not.
Two women Boysie romances are played by Jill St. John and Gabriella Licudi, who would go on to co-star in James Bond movies. Trevor Howard, Wilfred Hyde White, David Tomlinson and Akim Tamiroff are also on hand.
“The Chapman Report” (Warner Archive, 1962, $17.95, trailer, available at www.warnerarchive.com). This adaptation of the Irving Wallace novel, a thinly veiled fictionalizing of the Kinsey Report, has sex researchers (including Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) invading suburbia and chronicling the lives of an icy young widow (Jane Fonda), a cheating housewife (Shelley Winters), an older woman (Glynis Johns) who desires a younger man, and a repressed nymphomaniac (Claire Bloom). Glossy and superficial but bolstered by a game cast.
“Hercules, Samson and Ulysses” (Warner Archive, 1963, $17.95, dubbed in English, trailer, available at www.warnerarchive.com). During the 1960s a slew of campy muscle-bound sword-and-sandal pictures came out of Italy, following the unexpected U.S. success of Steve Reeves as “Hercules” in 1959. This one may offer some nostalgia for baby boomers as it teams three frequently used characters. (Other Warner Archive titles in this cycle are “The Slave,” “Sandokan the Great,” “The Tartars,” “Damon and Pythias” and “Gold for the Caesars.”)
“The Rescuers: 35th Anniversary Edition”/“The Rescuers Down Under” (Disney/Blu-ray + DVD, 1977/1990, G-rated, three discs, $39.99, deleted song, featurette, short films, sing-along). “The Rescuers” is arguably the best of Disney’s 1970s animated features, a delightful tale of two mice (voiced by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor) and their aid society helping a young kidnapped girl, with many memorable characters. The sequel is nearly as good, with some stunning animation as Newhart and Gabor’s characters head for Australia to do battle with a nasty poacher (George C. Scott). (Also on DVD, $29.99.)
“The Aristocats: Special Edition” (Disney/Blu-ray + DVD, 1970, G-rated, two discs, $39.99, deleted opening scene, deleted song, featurettes, music video, cartoon short). Amusing tale of an aristocratic cat and her kittens, heirs to their owners’ millions but threatened by the scheming butler that is next in line. Not up to the great Disney classics but still fun. (Also on DVD, $29.99.)