“Out of the Past” is upgraded to Blu-ray this week, as are more “Looney Tunes” shorts, and a number of fan-favorite titles mark their DVD debut. (Warner Archive titles are available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Out of the Past” (Warner Archive/Blu-ray, audio commentary). Fans of the genre might debate the point, but for me, this is the best film noir thriller ever made. It's cleverly plotted, strong in character development and rich in dialogue, with smart quips galore and a central fall guy you care about. That fall guy is Robert Mitchum in one of his strongest, most affable performances. (This is the film with his famous “Baby, I don’t care” line.)
Mitchum is running a small-town service station in Northern California when he’s tracked down and told that mob boss Kirk Douglas wants to see him at his Lake Tahoe digs. On the drive to Tahoe, Mitchum confesses his past to his girlfriend, revealing in a lengthy flashback that he used to be a private eye and was hired by Douglas to track down a double-dealing girlfriend, played with icy perfection by Jane Greer. Naturally, Mitchum fell for her and was double-crossed and abandoned for his effort.
When he arrives in Tahoe, he finds Douglas is downright cheery, and Greer is there, too. Mitchum braces himself for a setup. He’s not disappointed. And as you watch this in glorious hi-def black and white, you won’t be either. (My favorite line, from Mitchum after Greer says she doesn’t want to die, is, “Neither do I, baby, but if I have to, I’m gonna die last.”)
“Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 3” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1941-1961, two discs, 50 cartoons, audio commentaries, documentaries, featurettes, storyboards; 12-page booklet). Disc 1 is all Bugs Bunny all the time, while Disc 2 has everyone else — Road Runner, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety, Sylvester, Speedy Gonzalez, etc. Many classic cartoon shorts are here, and they’ve never looked so good.
But die-hard fans will be more excited about the multitude of audio commentaries, the many featurettes and the lengthier documentaries, all of which are real treats as they offer reflections by and about Mel Blanc, Stan Freberg, the directors, the animators, the characters, etc.
“Raffles” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1930/1939, b/w, two movies). Here are two early film versions of the same lighthearted yarn, both wonderfully cast and produced by Samuel Goldwyn. Raffles is a gentleman thief who decides to go straight for love, but to help someone in trouble, he sets his sights on a prize jewel during a weekend stay with some One-Percenters. Ronald Colman stars in the first, a very early “talkie,” with Kay Frances, and David Niven takes over for the second with Olivia de Havilland.
“The Winning of Barbara Worth” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1926, silent, b/w). Colman also stars in this Goldwyn production as an engineer bent on irrigating an area of the Southwest desert. Frequent co-star Vilma Banky provides the romantic interest and, in his first co-starring role, Gary Cooper impresses as a cowpoke that has long taken Banky for granted but now finds competition from sophisticated Colman.
“Queen Margot” (Cohen/Blu-ray, 1994; R for violence, sex, nudity; in French with English subtitles, audio commentary, trailer; 28-page booklet). Restored for its 20th anniversary, with 20 minutes that had been cut for the U.S. release back in place, this melodrama is famous for its very bloody depiction of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre as its centerpiece. It's jumbled and messy but benefits from strong performances by Daniel Auteuil, Virna Lisi and especially Isabelle Adjani, who is ice-cold in the title role as the queen’s daughter with canny power plays up her sleeve even as she is forced into a loveless marriage.
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