“I Thank a Fool” (Warner Archive, 1962, $18.95). Hayward also stars in this contrived thriller as a former doctor who serves prison time for a mercy killing. When she’s offered a caregiver job by the lawyer that prosecuted her (Peter Finch) she is wary but takes it anyway, which leads her to the unraveling of a mystery.
“House of Dark Shadows” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1970, PG, $19.98).
“Night of Dark Shadows” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1971, PG, $19.98). These two theatrical films are derived from the popular gothic daytime-TV soap opera “Dark Shadows,” which is also the title of Tim Burton’s recent spoof. If you’ve seen Burton’s comedy, you’ll recognize the plot in “House,” as Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) seeks a cure for his vampirism. “House” is actually quite good. “Night” is less so, though fans won’t care. (Also on DVD, $14.96 each.)
“Perry Mason: The Original Warner Bros. Movies Collection” (Warner Archive, 1934-37, b/w, three discs, $29.95, six films). It’s hard to think of the intrepid defense attorney without envisioning Raymond Burr, who embodied the character on television from 1957-66, then in TV movies from 1985-93.
But in the 1930s, six theatrical features brought Erle Stanley Gardner’s character to life, with Warren William starring in the first four, then Ricardo Cortez and Donald Woods, respectively, in the last two. All six are here, and though some are better than others, each provides a fascinating look at early Hollywood’s take on the crime-solving lawyer, and unlike the TV series, each film here is an adaptation of a Gardner novel.
“Seven Keys to Baldpate” (Warner Archive, 1929/1935/1947, b/w, two discs, $24.95, three films). Before creating Charlie Chan, Earl Derr Biggers wrote a novel that provided the basis for these three films, all of which carry the book’s title and follow the template of an earlier stage adaptation by George M. Cohan. The comic mystery has a writer accepting a bet he can come up with a book in 24 hours, so he heads for a summer lodge closed for winter. He’s told he has the only key but six eccentrics consistently interrupt his work. Creaky by today’s standards but film buffs will enjoy all three.
“Four Movie Collection: Hollywood Hits: Shamus/Physical Evidence/The Anderson Tapes/Breakout” (Mill Creek, 1973-90, PG/R, two discs, $9.98). The first two films star Burt Reynolds: “Shamus” at the peak of his career and, on the downhill slide, “Physical Evidence,” this set’s only R-rated film. But neither offers much. “The Anderson Tapes,” however, has Sean Connery in his prime in a spiffy caper flick, while “Breakout” is a terrific action flick with Robert Duvall trying to prove he is innocent of a murder conviction with help from Charles Bronson.
“Four Movie Collection: Hollywood Hits: Hero/The Slugger’s Wife/Crazy in Alabama/I’ll Do Anything” (Mill Creek, 1973-90, PG-13, two discs, $9.98). These four are all minor comedies, the latter three very hit and miss, while “Hero” is an offbeat satire with an all-star cast led by Dustin Hoffman.
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