Vintage movies on DVD and Blu-ray this week are led by a box set of four Bogie classics, a psychedelic fantasy-comedy, a melodrama about an elderly couple and a reissue of a sharp 1964 military satire. (Warner Archive and Sony Choice titles are available at warnerarchive.com.)
“The Best of Bogart Collection” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1941-51, b/w, four discs, $49.99, four films, audio commentaries, deleted scenes/outtakes, featurettes, shorts, cartoons, bloopers, trailers, audio-only radio adaptations; collectible art cards). The four films here are “The Maltese Falcon,” “Casablanca,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “The African Queen,” all starring Humphrey Bogart, three directed by John Huston and each one looking and sounding fabulous in these Blu-ray editions. “Best” is not hyperbolic in this case; these are top-of-the-line Bogies.
So if you don’t have them on Blu-ray, by all means, jump in. The price, cut to $35 at Amazon.com, is very good, the bonus features are bounteous, and they are among the greatest movies of all time. But they have each been available on Blu-ray for a while, and if you already have them, be advised that none of the bonus features is new.
Of course, the compact size of this box set might free up some shelf space, and there are also four “art cards”: colorful reproductions of “Casablanca” and “African Queen” posters and lobby cards from the other two films.
“Wonderwall” (Fabulous/Blu-ray, 1968, not rated, $24.97, theatrical version, director’s cut, outtake, 1966 short film, publicity galleries, John Lennon poem, music video, trailer; 32-page booklet). British comic actor Jack MacGowran stars as a middle-aged, perpetually distracted scientist of Chaplin-esque qualities (though he resembles Albert Einstein) in this odd relic of ’60s psychedelia, primarily remembered today for George Harrison’s equally hallucinogenic soundtrack.
What plot there is has MacGowran obsessed with his young neighbor, a model (Jane Birkin) on whom he spies through holes in the wall of his drab apartment, drawn to the music and bursts of color on her side. This leads him into a series of surrealistic imaginings, some amusing, others just baffling. Not rated, but there is some discreet sex and partial nudity. (And in a reversal of the norm, the director’s cut is shorter by 12 minutes.)
“Boardwalk” (MVD, 1979, $16.95). Low-budget, independent mix of “On Golden Pond” and “Death Wish.” As an elderly couple approaches their 50th wedding anniversary, urban decay ravages their longtime Coney Island neighborhood. Worse, young thugs move in, demanding protection money for their diner. A bit slow but gets a real boost from strong performances by Lee Strasberg and Ruth Gordon as the couple and Janet Leigh as their daughter. (Also on Blu-ray, $19.95)
“The Americanization of Emily” (Warner Archive/Blu-ray, 1964, b/w, $19.95, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). Blu-ray debut of this excellent, razor-sharp World War II satire about a naval officer, a self-described “practicing coward” (James Garner), coerced by his pal (James Coburn) into becoming the first D-Day casualty to appease their unstable admiral (Melvyn Douglas). Meanwhile, Garner falls for a widowed motor pool driver (Julie Andrews).
“The Boy From Stalingrad” (Sony Choice, 1943, b/w, $18.95). Offbeat drama, an interesting example of American propaganda films produced during World War II when Russia was an ally. A group of abandoned Russian kids work together to undermine the advancing German army even as they struggle to fend for themselves.
“The Burglar” (Sony Choice, 1957, b/w, $18.95). Cleverly constructed film noir about a gang of burglars, led by Dan Duryea and Jayne Mansfield, successfully pulling off a jewelry caper then running into trouble with outsiders trying to muscle in as well as their own bickering.
“The Last of Mrs. Cheyney” (Warner Archive, 1937, b/w, $18.95, trailer).
“The Bride Wore Red” (Warner Archive, 1937, b/w, $18.95, trailer).
“Our Blushing Brides” (Warner Archive, 1930, b/w, $18.95). These three Joan Crawford pictures are among her lesser-known titles, but the first two especially are well worth seeing. “Cheyney” is a comedy-drama co-starring William Powell and Robert Montgomery, with Crawford as a jewel thief in London falling for one of her victims. “Bride” has fake sophisticate Crawford pursued by a peasant (Franchot Tone) and a rich playboy (Robert Young). In “Blushing,” Crawford is one of three shopgirls looking for a rich Mr. Right.
“The Big House” (Warner Archive, 1930, b/w, $24.95, three versions, one in French with English subtitles, one in Spanish with English subtitles). This set has three versions of the same film, the classic 1930 prison picture that laid out the template for all that followed. Chester Morris has top billing but Wallace Beery steals the show in this tale of a prison designed for 1,800 that is housing 3,000 and ready to burst. Robert Mongtomery’s here as well. The other versions were filmed on the same sets with French- and Spanish-speaking actors, respectively. The French version stars a very young Charles Boyer.
“The Girl in the Empty Grave” (Warner Archive, 1977, $18.95). The first of two TV-movie pilots for an unrealized series that cast Andy Griffith as Abel Marsh, police chief of a small California town in the mountains. Here he’s investigating the murder of a couple whose daughter supposedly committed suicide, but then she shows up. James Cromwell is Griffith’s deputy. (The second film, “Deadly Game,” is also available on the Warner Archive website.)
“Passion Flower” (Sony Choice, 1986, PG-13, $18.95). Bruce Boxleitner is an American businessman in Singapore who falls for a married femme fatale (Barbara Hershey), which puts a target on his back when the husband is murdered. Nicol Williamson co-stars as Hershey’s art-smuggler dad.
“And So They Were Married” (Sony Choice, 1936, b/w, $18.95). Unhappy single parents (Melvyn Douglas, Mary Astor) are thrown together at a snowbound lodge during Christmas. A romance reluctantly blossoms, but their kids are determined to sabotage the relationship. OK comedy might have been better if it had focused more on the couple and less on the kids.
“The White Squaw” (Sony Choice, 1956, b/w, $18.95). May Wynn stars in this B-movie Western as a white woman reared by Indians who learns about her real father after his death as he leaves half of his considerable acreage to her. Naturally, a ruthless landowner wants it for himself.
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