A 1980 TV classic and a 1970s family picture, as well as several other vintage favorites, have been released on DVD this week.
“Promise” (Warner Archive, 1986, not rated, $18.95, available at www.WarnerArchive.com). James Garner plays a middle-aged man whose mother dies, leaving him her estate and custody of his brother (James Woods), who suffers from schizophrenia and epilepsy. Garner’s character has been estranged from them for years and he’s loathe to be held to the promise he once made to care for his brother at her passing, but now it’s time to step up.
Woods deservedly won an Emmy, as did Piper Laurie as an old girlfriend, but Garner matches them step for step in a less showy but no less demanding and compelling performance. This Hallmark Hall of Fame classic is quite simply one of the best movies ever made for television.
“The Adventures of the Wilderness Family” (Lionsgate, 1975, G, $14.98, trailer). During the 1970s, an explosion of family movies with wilderness or frontier settings became quite profitable for independent filmmakers, led by this yarn about an L.A. family fed up with city life moving to a cabin in a remote mountainous region. Partially filmed in Utah’s Kamas and Heber City areas. (Followed by two sequels that look like remakes, “The Further Adventures of the Wilderness Family” and “Mountain Family Robinson.”)
“These Wilder Years” (Warner Archive, 1956, b/w, not rated, $18.95, trailer, available at www.WarnerArchive.com). Although this examination of the hazards of teenage sex from the perspective of two generations is coy and somewhat dated, the message is still relevant and it's an interesting look at 1950s mores with fine performances by three A-list actors, James Cagney, Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Pidgeon.
“The Sky’s No Limit” (Warner Archive, 1984, not rated, $18.95, available at www.WarnerArchive.com). Sharon Gless, Dee Wallace and Anne Archer play astronauts vying to become the first woman in space in this TV movie made around the time Sally Ride was making headlines as their real-life counterpart.
“A Woman’s Secret” (Warner Archive, 1949, b/w, not rated, $18.95, available at www.WarnerArchive.com). Did Maureen O’Hara murder Gloria Grahame, whom she was coaching to musical stardom? Flashbacks tell the story in this film noir mystery with fine performances by both stars.
“Born to Be Bad” (Warner Archive, 1950, b/w, not rated, $18.95, alternate ending, trailer, available at www.WarnerArchive.com). As a change-of-pace, Joan Fontaine takes on the femme fatale role, stealing her roommate’s fiance while manipulating an old boyfriend. Robert Ryan co-stars.
“The Las Vegas Story” (Warner Archive, 1952, b/w, not rated, $18.95, trailer, available at www.WarnerArchive.com). Jane Russell stars in this tale of murder as her shady husband (Vincent Price) racks up gambling debts while she runs into an old boyfriend who just happens to be a cop (Victor Mature). Highlights include a helicopter-car chase and Hoagy Carmichael performing three great songs (two with Russell).
“Naked Angels” (Shout! 1969, not rated, $14.99). This Roger Corman production has an ex-con seeking revenge on a biker gang. Amateurish in every way.
“Sweet Kill” (Shout! 1970, not rated, $14.99). Tab Hunter is solid as a psycho gym teacher killing young women in a Southern California beach community — but after the film flopped at the box office, Roger Corman and first-time director Curtis Hansen added nude scenes, retitled it “The Arousers” and it still flopped. Despite the poster on the DVD box, the title on the film confirms that this is, unfortunately, that re-edited version.