An array of major movie stars from the past is in these vintage films that have found their way to DVD this week. (The Warner Archive titles can be found at warnerarchive.com)
“Dear Heart” (Warner Archive, 1964, b/w, $18.95, trailer). Womanizer Glenn Ford, who works in New York for a greeting-card company, is finally settling down to marry a wealthy small-town widow (Angela Lansbury) when he becomes entangled with a blonde floozy (Barbara Nichols) who works in his hotel, and with an outgoing, blunt, middle-aged spinster (Geraldine Page) in town for a postmasters convention.
Ford also gets mixed up with Lansbury’s adult son (Michael Anderson Jr.). And the ever-acerbic Mary Wickes is one of Page’s plain postmaster pals.
Offbeat, gentle romantic comedy about normal middle-aged adults is one that probably couldn’t be made today, but with these great stars and a witty script, it’s a pleasure.
“Roadblock” (Warner Archive, 1951, b/w, $18.95). Formulaic but tough-as-nails film noir with Charles McGraw as a straight-arrow insurance investigator who falls hard for a prototypical femme fatale (Joan Dixon). She soon drags him down to her level, culminating in a train robbery that leads to murder. Sharp, gritty tale moves fast and never loses its grip, the way only a low-budget, independent programmer can. And tells its story in a scant 73 minutes.
“Broadway Melody of 1940” (Warner Archive, 1940, b/w, $18.95, featurette, “Our Gang” short, trailer). Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell are exceptional dancing partners in their only screen pairing. The story has Astaire and George Murphy as a down-and-out dance team that splits up when Murphy is offered a part in Powell’s Broadway show, unaware that it’s mistaken identity; they really wanted Astaire. Funny, sprightly and laced with terrific Cole Porter songs. (Previously exclusive to the “Cole Porter Collection” box set.)
“I’ll See You in My Dreams” (Warner Archive, 1951, b/w, $14.95, short film, “Foghorn Leghorn” cartoon, trailer). Danny Thomas plays real-life songwriter Gus Kahn (composer of 800 tunes, including “Makin’ Whoopee,” “It Had to Be You,” “Love Me or Leave Me”), told from the viewpoint of his wife (Doris Day). Fairly typical sanitized Hollywood biography, but the stars put it over, and those great songs help. (Previously exclusive to “The Doris Day Collection, Vol. 2.”)
“Free and Easy”/“Estrellados” (Warner Archive, 1930, b/w, $18.95, English and Spanish-language version with English subtitles). Primarily a curiosity for film buffs, this set has two versions of Buster Keaton’s first sound picture from when “talkies” were still getting their footing. And despite some amusing bits as he crashes various Hollywood movie sets, it’s primitive and awkwardly directed. Young Robert Montgomery co-stars, and watch for Lionel Barrymore in one scene as a movie director. (Previously released in TCM’s “Buster Keaton Collection.”) “Estrellados” is a shot-for-shot Spanish-language version of the same film, with a Spanish-speaking cast surrounding Keaton, who is obviously reading phonetic cue cards.
“Bad Dreams”/“Visiting Hours” (Scream/Blu-ray, 1988/1982; R for violence, language, drugs; audio commentary, featurettes, trailer, radio/TV spots). Two sick slasher flicks that rip off other, more popular pictures receive Blu-ray upgrades here. “Bad Dreams” owes much to the third “Nightmare on Elm Street,” with a young woman (Jennifer Rubin) in a sanitarium and whose dreams invite a burn-victim killer into the facility. And “Visiting Hours” is a rehash of “Halloween II,” with hospitalized Lee Grant stalked by a killer (Michael Ironside), with Linda Purl and William Shatner in supporting roles.
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