Three vintage thrillers two starring Ida Lupino lead off this look at new-to-DVD movies and TV shows.
"Moontide" (Fox, 1942, b/w, $14.98).
"Boomerang" (Fox, 1947, b/w, $14.98).
"Road House" (Fox, 1948, b/w, $14.98).
These three thrillers are the latest entries in the "Fox Film Noir" series, and they are all welcome editions although a couple of them somewhat strain the parameters of noir.
"Moontide" is set in a Southern California seaside town and is the softest of these three. It is also hampered a bit by the obvious use of studio sets instead of location shooting. Still, it's a satisfying, albeit slow-to-build, melodrama with Lupino rescued from suicide by French drifter Jean Gabin who may or may not have murdered a local sailor in a drunken stupor. Lupino and Gabin give it a real boost, along with Thomas Mitchell and Claude Rains in solid support. (It's also interesting to notice a subtext that addresses the dangers of alcoholism.)
"Boomerang" is a compelling courtroom drama, an early film by Elia Kazan, who would go on to make "A Streetcar Named Desire," "On the Waterfront," "East of Eden" and many more. This is Kazan's first foray into the more "realistic" filmmaking that marked the post-World War II years and was filmed entirely on location. Based on a true story, the film begins with a local minister in a small Connecticut town being gunned down on a public street. The police are unable to find a suspect but eventually arrest itinerant Arthur Kennedy, and evidence mounts against him. But prosecutor Dana Andrews isn't so sure, and despite political pressure, he begins to defend Kennedy in court! Great cast includes Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Ed Begley, Cara Williams and Jane Wyatt.
"Road House" gets its juice from a superb cast, led by Lupino at her toughest as a Chicago saloon singer hired by Richard Widmark to add class to his nightclub/bowling alley near the Canadian border. Widmark is obsessed with her, but Lupino falls for his longtime friend and employee, Cornel Wilde. As you might suspect, that sets off some real fireworks but the film goes in unexpected directions. Celeste Holm is also fine in a wisecracking role as another employee in love with Wilde.
Extras: full frame, audio commentaries, featurettes, photo/advertising art galleries; four-page booklet (in "Boomerang" only)
• "Supernatural: The Complete Third Season" (CBS/Paramount, 2007-08, five discs, $59.98). Squabbling siblings Sam and Dean (Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles) continue in their quest to bring down demons and devils, with added impetus since Dean has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his brother's life. Alternately horrifying and hilarious, this is a sharp series for fans of fright. (A highlight is the episode spoofing reality TV shows.)
Extras: widescreen, 16 episodes, featurettes, bloopers
• "Storm Over Everest" (WGBH, 2007, $24.95). This gripping "Frontline" documentary about three climbing teams who were trapped by a storm on Mount Everest in May of 1996 is told chronologically by survivors as the camera cuts between interviews with photographs and occasional re-creations. Drags a bit in the middle but this is generally compelling stuff. (My only real complaint is the PBS and "Frontline" logos that repeatedly pop up on the screen. I thought one of the reasons people bought DVDs was to avoid these distractions.)
Extras: widescreen, featurette
• "Cheers: The Tenth Season" (CBS/Paramount, 1991-92, four discs, $39.98). This penultimate season of the venerable sitcom has Sam (Ted Danson) thinking about fatherhood, Rebecca (Kirstie Alley) thinking about Sam, Norm and Cliff (George Wendt, John Ratzenberger) thinking about therapy with Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), Woody (Woody Harrelson) thinking about marriage and Carla thinking about her son becoming a priest. Still funny stuff as the series winds down.
Extras: full frame, 25 episodes
• "Arthur: SEASON 11" (WGBH, 2007, five discs, $49.95). More animated adventures from the PBS series starring aardvark Arthur, a curious 8-year-old whose everyday experiences reflect the lives of the children who make up this show's target audience.
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