James Dean’s films receive gorgeous Blu-ray upgrades

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2 2013 1:00 p.m. MDT

“The Bishop’s Wife” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1947, b/w, $19.98, trailer). Completely winning holiday comedy-drama is the story of an angel (Cary Grant) sent to Earth to help a minister (David Niven) who is ignoring his wife (Loretta Young) while attending to his churchly duties. Then the angel finds himself attracted to her. Great character players Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Gladys Cooper and Elsa Lanchester help move things along.

“The Beauty of the Devil” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 1950, b/w, $34.98, in French with English subtitles, featurette, trailers). Comic reworking of the Faust legend by filmmaker Rene Clair has Michel Simon as an aging professor whose workaholic life has deprived him of living. So he strikes a bargain with the devil (Gerard Philipe), agreeing to exchange his soul for youth, fame, riches and romance. Naturally, all does not go as expected for either party. Clair’s light touch results in a delightful reinterpretation of a familiar tale. (Also on DVD, $24.98)

“Funeral in Berlin” (Warner Archive, 1966, $18.95, trailer). Michael Caine stars as crook-turned-spy Harry Palmer, a sort of low-key anti-007 back when James Bond was taking the world by storm. In this solid second film in the Cold War franchise, which began with “The Ipcress File” (the best one; still not on DVD), Palmer travels to Berlin to facilitate the defection of the head of Soviet intelligence (Oscar Homolka). (Available at www.warnerarchive.com)

“Billy Rose’s Jumbo” (Warner Archive, 1962, $19.95, restored overture, Tom and Jerry cartoon: “Jerry and Jumbo,” 1933 b/w musical short: “Yours Sincerely,” trailer). Doris Day and Jimmy Durante star as daughter and father in this save-the-circus comedy-drama, based loosely on Rose’s 1935 Broadway extravaganza (which also starred Durante). Most of the Rodgers & Hart songs remain and Busby Berkeley’s choreography is terrific. Stephen Boyd is the guy trying to take over Durante’s circus, until he falls for Day, of course. Martha Raye adds wisecracks, Day is luminous and Durante is perfect.

“Kiss Me … Kill Me” (Sony Choice, 1976, $18.95). Fairly typical, if surprisingly gritty, ’70s TV movie stars Stella Stevens as an unlikely but winning investigator for the district attorney’s office looking into an unusual murder case. Cast includes Dabney Coleman, Bruce Boxleitner, Robert Vaughn and, of all people, Pat O’Brien.

“Babies For Sale” (Sony Choice, 1940, b/w, $18.95). Crusading reporter (Glenn Ford) goes after a baby-selling racket and winds up without a job after his editor is pressured. But that doesn’t stop him as he remains determined to expose the truth. Ford is very young in one of his earliest films. Hampered by the usual implausible plot points but sincere and well played.

“Air Hostess” (Sony Choice, 1933, b/w, $18.95). Overly familiar plotting grounds this otherwise interesting look at aviation in the early days of passenger airliners. But it’s worth sitting through the clichéd romance for the exciting stunt work during the climactic chase between a plane and a train! Nice performances from Evalyn Knapp and Thelma Todd.

“Made in Italy” (Sony Choice, 1965, $18.95, dubbed in English). Five-episode anthological Italian comedy-drama, with a variety of human stories played out by an all-star cast: Anna Magnani, Alberto Sordi, Virna Lisi, Sylva Koscina, Catherine Spaak, etc.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com

Email: hicks@deseretnews.com

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