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Deseret News archives
Folk singer Donovan stars as title character in "The Pied Piper."

Here's a batch of older movies that are new to DVD, some making their debut on home video.

"Papa's Delicate Condition" — (Legend/Paramount, 1962, $14.95). Of all the movies Jackie Gleason appeared in before and after achieving superstardom in television, none was so perfectly shaped to his singular talents as this one.

Set in the early 1900s, the story of a flamboyant, well-to-do, eccentric railroad man with a penchant for alcohol is 100 percent Gleason. Or maybe that's 100 proof Gleason.

Based on the best-selling memoir by Corinne Griffith, the story follows the ups and downs of Gleason's relationship with his perpetually exasperated wife (Glynis Johns), his equally annoyed teenage daughter and a 6-year-old daughter who adores him. In return he dotes on his little girl — to the extent that he even buys her a circus!

Overall, the film plays like a string of comedy skits tailor-made for Gleason (he even uses his signature line — "How Sweet it Is" — and at one point refers to someone as a "poor soul"). But there's also a serious undertone to his drinking and the final third takes a heavily sentimental turn.

No matter. Gleason fans will be in heaven.

Extras: widescreen, trailer

"The Man Who Could Cheat Death" — (Legend/Paramount, 1959, $14.95). This Hammer horror yarn (a remake of 1944's "The Man in Half Moon Street") is a fairly typical tale of rejuvenation set in 1890 London as a doctor/sculptor (Anton Diffring) finds the secret to eternal youth — but he must kill to keep it going.

Rather broadly played but given a boost by Hammer regulars Christopher Lee and Hazel Court, along with Hammer's usual exceptional production values.

Extras: widescreen

"Money From Home" — (Legend/Paramount, 1953, $14.95). Although far from their best film, this Damon Runyon farce provides a colorful vehicle for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis set against the backdrop of horse racing.

The boys are in top form with snappy banter and some funny routines, highlighted by a parody of "Cyrano de Bergerac's" balcony scene.

Fun for M&L fans. (Originally filmed in 3-D!)

Extras: full frame

"The Pied Piper" — (Legend/Paramount, 1972, G, $14.95). Folk singer Donovan stars as the title character in this live-action feature based on the classic story as adapted by French filmmaker Jacques Demy ("The Umbrellas of Cherbourg").

In the 15th century northern Germany town of Hamelin, the Black Plague strikes, and a piper bargains to rid the town of plague-carrying rats. For an hour before that, however, the story is padded by politics, religion and superstition getting in the way of a doctor's attempts to cure the plague.

This one is surprisingly dark and at times plays like a Monty Python sketch. But it's also witty, with fine performances from veteran English character actors, along with an early performance by John Hurt and a post-"Oliver!" Jack Wild.

In addition to writing the songs he sings here, Donovan also delivers the acting goods.

Extras: widescreen

"Desperate Characters" — (Legend/Paramount, 1970; R for nudity, sex, language; $14.95). Slow, talky melodrama about a liberal urban couple (Shirley MacLaine, Kenneth Mars) whose life together is stuck in neutral. MacLaine is great but the film is a turgid series of artificial monologues between self-absorbed New Yorkers. Based on a novel but it feels like a play.

Extras: widescreen

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