A Blu-ray collection of Werner Herzog films and a DVD collection of Grace Kelly films lead these vintage movies new to home video this week. (The Warner Archive films are available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Herzog: The Collection” (Shout!/Blu-ray, 1970-99, 13 discs, 16 movies, audio commentaries, featurettes, documentaries, trailers; 40-page booklet). Casual movie fans may know Herzog as an occasional actor (he was the villain in “Jack Reacher”) but foreign-cinema connoisseurs know him as a filmmaker of the first order, comfortably segueing between thoughtful, moving documentaries and quiet but gripping narrative films, with more than 60 directing credits (not counting TV episodes).
Herzog’s films are generally not traditional narratives but rather engage the viewer with dreamlike structure, introspective characters and wild-eyed madness. The 16 movies here include Herzog’s most famous (“Aguirre, the Wrath of God,” “Nosferatu, the Vampyre,” “Fitzcarraldo”) and some that are not as well known (“Fata Morgana,” “Ballad of the Little Soldier,” “Cobra Verde”). All are fascinating, and some are downright mesmerizing.
Among them are the five that star Herzog’s muse and source of aggravation, Klaus Kinski, made over a tempestuous decade-and-a-half. Theirs was a love/hate relationship, which is chronicled in “My Best Fiend,” Herzog’s documentary made nearly a decade after the actor’s death. That one’s also here.
The Blu-ray transfers especially enhance the stunning visual beauty of “Aguirre,” “Fitzcarraldo” and “Where the Green Ants Dream,” among others. This is a fabulous set that should prove difficult to resist for fans of international cinema.
“Grace Kelly Collection” (Warner/DVD, 1953-55, six discs, six movies, featurettes, trailers, audio commentary on “To Catch a Thief”). All of these movies have been available for some time on individual DVDs, and the two Alfred Hitchcock films (“Dial M for Murder,” “To Catch a Thief”) are also on Blu-ray. So it’s a shame this isn’t a Blu-ray set, but it should still appeal to Kelly’s legion of fans. In addition to the Hitchcock films are “Mogambo,” co-starring Clark Gable and Ava Gardner; Kelly’s Oscar-winner, “The Country Girl,” with Bing Crosby and William Holden; “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” with Holden; and “High Society,” a sprightly musical she made with Crosby and Frank Sinatra.
“Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music: The Director’s Cut (40th Anniversary Revisited)” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1970; R for drugs, nudity, language; three discs, bonus concert footage, featurettes). The Oscar-winning documentary about the quintessential ’60s hippie event is reissued in a Blu-ray set that replicates the 2009 “Ultimate Edition,” with the nearly four-hour “director’s cut” and extra performances galore. It also somehow manages to add still more never-before-seen concert footage of Crosby, Stills & Nash; Jefferson Airplane; Joan Baez; Santana; and The Who, etc. Plus there is a packet with reproductions of admission tickets and news articles, including the Life Magazine pictorial overview published immediately after the festival.
“The Long Summer of George Adams” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1981). This TV movie is said to have been one of the late James Garner’s favorites of his own films, a moody, semi-comic slice of Americana set in a small Oklahoma town in 1952. Garner is as charming as ever playing a middle-aged railroad worker suffering a midlife crisis. Some nice vignettes, though the affair with the town floozy feels like a misstep. Joan Hackett is excellent as Garner’s wife in a role that is 180 degrees from her ditsy character in Garner’s “Support Your Local Sheriff!”
“Don’t Look Back: The Story of Leroy ‘Satchel’ Page” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1981). Louis Gossett Jr. is great in the title role of the Negro League baseball star who became the first black pitcher in Major League Baseball at the age of 42 (and the third black player in the Majors). Although based on Page’s autobiography, this is very much a Hollywoodized biopic. Still, it holds interest, and the supporting cast includes Beverly Todd, Cleavon Little, Clifton Davis and Ossie Davis.
“The Secret Heart” (Warner Archive/1946, b/w, trailer). Superior, if odd soap opera bolstered by a great cast. Claudette Colbert marries a widower with two children, but two years later he commits suicide. Colbert vows to pay his debts and raise his children but a decade later her now grown-up stepdaughter (June Allyson) has an unhealthy obsession with her late father. Co-stars include Walter Pidgeon and Lionel Barrymore.
“Drum Beat” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1954).
“The Big Land” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1957).
“The Deep Six” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1958). These three, colorful widescreen adventures star Alan Ladd and all are enjoyable dramas. The first two are Westerns. “Drum Beat” has Ladd negotiating with Indians, and Charles Bronson, in his first significant role, plays the villain. “The Big Land” has Ladd leading a cattle drive, with Virginia Mayo and Edmund O’Brien. “The Deep Six” is wartime tale of a Quaker (Ladd) who is a naval officer with combat causing him to question his values. Co-stars include William Bendix, Keenan Wynn, James Whitmore, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and, in his film debut, Joey Bishop.