A pair of Elvis Presley Blu-rays leads a bevy of vintage titles on home video this week.
“Viva Las Vegas: 50th Anniversary” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1964, audio commentary, featurette, trailer; 40-page book packaging).
“Elvis: That’s the Way It Is: Special Edition” (Warner/Blu-ray, two discs, the 1970 G-rated version, the 2000 PG re-edited version, featurette, 12 outtakes, 40-page book packaging). Did you know this is Elvis Presley Week in Memphis? Neither did I. But Warner Home Video knows, hence these two new remastered Blu-ray editions of a pair of Presley fan favorites.
“Viva Las Vegas” is Presley’s biggest movie hit, and his crackling chemistry with Ann-Margret is the main reason as their characters meet at a Vegas casino/hotel where she’s a swimming instructor and he’s a race car driver. The ’60s Vegas backgrounds provide a vivid, colorful backdrop to the action as Elvis sings, Ann-Margret dances and the audience goes nuts.
If you want to actually see the audience go nuts, that’s on display in “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is,” a musical documentary that demonstrates why Presley was such a hot ticket when he returned to live performing after a 13-year layover. There’s also a fair amount of rehearsal footage, all of it in Vegas, of course, from the summer of 1970. Songs include “That’s All Right,” “Love Me Tender,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Suspicious Minds” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
“Ransom!” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1956, b/w, trailer). If you’ve seen Ron Howard’s 1996 thriller “Ransom,” starring Mel Gibson, you may not have realized it was a remake. The ’50s original is also quite suspenseful, with Glenn Ford and Donna Reed as the wealthy parents of an 8-year-old boy who is kidnapped and held for ransom. Informed that the kidnappers may take the money and run without giving up the boy because he’s the only witness, Ford refuses to pay, and the cat-and-mouse games begin. Leslie Nielsen makes his movie debut as a reporter. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Romance Classics” (A&E/Lionsgate/DVD, 1978-2001, five discs, 15 episodes, featurettes, “Biography” episode, text/cast biographies/filmographies). Three BBC period romances that originally aired as TV miniseries are culled for this reissue set: “Pride and Prejudice” (1995, six episodes), with Colin Firth in what is arguably the most popular cinematic version of Jane Austen’s novel; “Victoria & Albert” (2001, two episodes), which focuses on the early life of Queen Victoria and the German duke who became her husband, with Peter Ustinov, Diana Rigg and David Suchet in support; and “Edward & Mrs. Simpson” (1978, seven episodes), which is about a scandalous romance that led to a royal abdication.
“Favorites of the Moon” (Cohen/Blu-ray/DVD, 1984, in French with English subtitles, audio commentary, trailer; 12-page booklet). Obscure surreal comedy from French filmmaker Otar Iosseliani deals with a string of coincidental interactions between thieves, anarchists, police and inventors over a set of 18th-century china and a 19th-century painting. The film has been compared to Robert Altman for its cluttered tapestries and low-key, absurdist humor, and it’s very much a love-it-or-hate-it proposition.
“Stage Struck” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1948, b/w). When a young woman seeking Broadway stardom is murdered, her sister (Audrey Long) goes undercover to retrace her steps and find the killer, clashing with police detectives (Conrad Nagle, Ralph Byrd) along the way. It's a cleverly plotted, well-paced thriller on a shoestring budget. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)
“The Hunted” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1947, b/w). Figure skater Belita appeared in movies that highlighted her athleticism on the ice before she starred in a trio of poverty-row film noir thrillers, this being the third. Here, she is accused in a jewel robbery and her cop boyfriend (Preston Foster) helps send her to prison, though she claims to have been framed. After Belita is paroled, an attorney she had threatened is murdered, and Foster isn’t sure if she’s a victim or a killer. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Incident” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1948, b/w). This entertaining low-to-no-budget film noir has an innocent man, who unfortunately resembles an underworld figure, being beaten to a pulp in an alley. Then he’s arrested by police. Being a noble fellow, he decides to find the look-alike to warn him, which drags him into an unsavory world that may be his undoing. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)