Here are some movies arriving on DVD this week, led by a second volume of Tyrone Power films. The first set concentrated on Power's swashbuckling epics while this one is from his earlier, "pretty boy" period.
"Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection" (Fox, 1936-51, b/w, five double-sided discs, $49.98). The 10 films included here feature Power in his prime, when he really was a matinee idol. Some are better than others, but fans will be in heaven.
The first disc features a couple of light romantic comedies, "Girls' Dormitory" (1936), in which Power has a supporting role in his first Fox film, romancing schoolgirl Simone Simon, and "Cafe Metropole" has Power posing as a prince to romance Loretta Young.
Disc 2: "Love Is News" (1937) was Power's first pairing with Loretta Young, in a farce about an heiress trying to teach a lesson to a relentless reporter, with Don Ameche as Powers' conniving editor, and "That Wonderful Urge" (1948), a remake of "Love Is News," which has Power repeating his role as Gene Tierney takes over for Young. Both films are amusing, but I'll give the edge to the second.
Disc 3: "This Above All" (1942) is one of Power's most popular pictures, and he and Joan Fontaine shine in this World War II soap opera about an upper-crust woman who falls for a damaged soldier, and "Second Honeymoon" is a formulaic but charming marital comedy, again with Loretta Young (1937).
Disc 4: "Day-Time Wife" (1939) has the stale plot of a wife suspecting her husband of cheating with his secretary and setting out to teach him a lesson, but Power and Linda Darnell have chemistry to spare, making it an enjoyable comedy, and "Johnny Apollo" (1940), despite some plot holes toward the end, is a first-rate look at an innocent (Power) who falls in with a gangster (Lloyd Nolan) and then falls for the gangster's moll (Dorothy Lamour).
Disc 5: "The Luck of the Irish" (1948) casts Power as an Irish foreign correspondent who meets up with a leprechaun (utterly charming Cecil Kellaway), leading him to romance with barmaid Anne Baxter, and "I'll Never Forget You" (1951), which pulls the "Wizard of Oz" stunt of opening in black-and-white then turning to color for the bulk of the film, has Power leaving fellow scientist Michael Rennie to travel back to the 18th century, where he falls for Ann Blyth. (A remake of "Berkeley Square.")
Extras: full frame, deleted scenes, featurettes, trailers, art/publicity galleries; eight-page booklet
"Classic British Thrillers" (MPI, 1935-47, b/w, $24.98). This disc boasts three 1930s and '40s English thrillers, led by two early efforts from Michael Powell, who would eventually become one of the most respected filmmakers in Europe with "The Thief of Bagdad" (1940) and "The Red Shoes" (1948), among others.
His two 1935 films here, "The Phantom Light," about a lighthouse that is reputedly haunted, and "Red Ensign," about a shipbuilder dodging sabotage to revive the shipping industry both filled out with stock footage from newsreels are well-structured and reveal the seeds of Powell's talent. But they are also quite primitive, made while the film industry was still adjusting to the use of sound.
The third film here is a real gem, however, though it comes not from Powell but from director Lawrence Huntington, who seems to have been paying close attention to Alfred Hitchcock.
"The Upturned Glass" (1947) is a dandy Hitchcock-style thriller about a doctor/criminologist (James Mason) who reveals to his university class a "perfect-murder" scenario. What he doesn't tell them is that he's actually planning to carry it out.
Mason is great in the lead role (he also co-produced), and his wife at the time, Pamela Mason (billed as Pamela Kellino), is terrific as the conniving woman he goes after. (She also co-wrote the screenplay.)
Extras: full frame, three films
"Wargames: 25th Anniversary Edition" (MGM/FOX, 1983, PG, $14.98).
"Wargames: The Dead Code" (MGM/Fox, 2008, PG-13, $26.98). Back in 1983 I gave "WarGames" a rave, and if it seems a bit more contrived and juvenile today, perhaps that's simply because computers have come so far in 25 years. The machines here are clunky, to say the least.
But "WarGames" remains highly entertaining when taken on its own terms as a fantasy-thriller about a young computer wizard (Matthew Broderick) who hacks into what he thinks is a video game but instead accidentally trips the U.S. nuclear defense system and nearly starts World War III. Broderick, Ally Sheedy, a seasoned supporting cast and John Badham's gee-whiz direction make it work.
"WarGames: The Dead Code," on the other hand, is a new straight-to-video sequel that plays more like a 21st century remake, substituting bio-terrorism paranoia for '80s nuclear paranoia. The ante is upped on special effects, profane and vulgar language, quick-cut editing and music-video sequences along with inferior acting, plotting and directing, with a complete lack of wit.Extras: widescreen, audio commentaries (only on "The Dead Code"), featurettes, galleries, trailers
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