Chris Hicks: 'A League of Their Own' and a bevy of 'Looney Tunes' theatrical shorts have received Blu-ray upgrades
“A League of Their Own,” classic Looney Tunes shorts and a pair of Disney animated features get Blu-ray upgrades to lead these vintage titles arriving on home video this week.
“A League of Their Own” (Columbia/Blu-ray, 1992, PG, $19.99, deleted scenes (with introductions by director Penny Marshall), audio commentary, featurette, music video). If you don’t know the line “There’s no crying in baseball,” and if you haven’t seen this movie, you should, and this Blu-ray upgrade is a good way to go.
A very funny comedy-drama about the pioneering women who played baseball in the 1940s All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II, the film was directed by Marshall after her success with “Big” and “Awakenings,” and it was another home run.
Geena Davis and Tom Hanks star, with great support from Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, Bitty Schram, Lori Petty and Ann Cusack, among others (look sharp for Tea Leoni). Great fun, and informative about a historical event few of us knew about before this film. (This Blu-ray is available exclusively at Amazon.com.)
“Looney Tunes Platinum Collection, Volume Two” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1938-59, three discs, $44.98, 50 cartoons, 11 bonus Tex Avery cartoons, “lost” WWII-era cartoons, featurettes; 28-page booklet). More remastered theatrical cartoons — 10 of them never before released — featuring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Pepe Le Pew, Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzales, etc. (Also on two-disc DVD without bonus features, $26.99.)
“The Great Mouse Detective: Mystery in the Mist Edition” (Disney/Blu-ray + DVD, 1986, G, two discs, $29.99, featurettes, sing-along). Enjoyable Disney animated feature has a Sherlock Holmes-ish mouse named Basil and his companion Dr. Dawson trying to stop evil Professor Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Price) from deposing their queen. Aimed at children but with some stunning animation and enough thoughtful gags to engage parents.
“Pete’s Dragon: 35th Anniversary Edition” (Disney/Blu-ray + DVD, 1977, G, two discs, $29.99, deleted sequence, featurettes). Very broadly played musical animation/live-action comedy has a young orphan and his giant cartoon dragon pal wandering into a coastal Maine fishing village where they are taken in by a lighthouse keeper (Mickey Rooney) and his daughter (Helen Reddy) before encountering an evil professor (Jim Dale). Way too long and strictly for kids. (Despite the box saying the film’s running time is 88 minutes, both the Blu-ray and DVD are actually 128 minutes.)
“Something Big” (CBS/Paramount, 1971, PG-13, $19.99). Long lost western comedy starring Dean Martin has been something of a Holy Grail for his fans, but it’s really nothing special, an over-the-top farce with Martin as an outlaw who kidnaps the wife of an about-to-retire colonel (Brian Keith) to trade her for a Gatling gun. Some of the comedy works, some doesn’t, but Martin is fun and Keith is typically blustery. With Ben Johnson, Honor Blackman, Carol White, Joyce Van Patten, Harry Carey Jr. and Utahn Merlin Olsen.
“The Sorcerers” (Warner Archive, 1967, not rated, $18.95). Late in his career, Boris Karloff gave a sterling performance in this overlooked low-budget British thriller as a disgraced hypnotist creating a device to control minds, which his megalomaniacal wife (Catherine Lacey) hijacks for her own power-hungry purposes. Well worth checking out. (This and the following two titles are available at www.WarnerArchive.com.)
“The Vengeance of Fu Manchu” (Warner Archive, 1967, not rated, $18.95). Third in the series of 1960s thrillers starring Christopher Lee as the title character, an evil mastermind pitted against his Scotland Yard nemesis Nayland Smith (Douglas Wilmer). This time out, Fu Manchu plots to create killer clones, including one that looks like Smith.
“Confessions of an Opium Eater” (Warner Archive, 1962, not rated, b/w, $18.95). Vincent Price plays a 19th century adventurer who narrates his own story of involvement in a Tong war in San Francisco when he tries to rescue young women forced into servitude. Bizarre, sometimes confused low-budget yarn nevertheless benefits from Price and some imaginative camerawork, particularly during an opium-induced hallucination.
“Greatest Horror Classics” (Mill Creek, 1925-79, b/w and color, various ratings, 24 discs, $44.98, 100 movies). This set combines the previously released “Horror Classics” and Legends of Horror,” each with 50 public-domain movies ranging from classics to movies that are so bad they’re good. Among the better choices are several by Alfred Hitchcock, most notably “The Lodger,” “The 39 Steps” and “The Lady Vanishes.” Stars range from Lon Chaney to Vincent Price to Boris Karloff to Bela Lugosi, and the films include “Phantom of the Opera,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “The House on Haunted Hill,” “Carnival of Souls,” The Killer Shrews,” etc.
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