Mike’s Picks: ‘Tin Cup’ and ‘The General Died at Dawn’

Tin Cup

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and brief nudity.
Stars Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson.
1996. A golf-backdropped romantic comedy directed and co-written by Ron Shelton, Tin Cup was about as popular at the box office as the filmmaker’s breakthrough Bull Durham, yet it isn’t talked about as much these days — perhaps due to Durham’s extraordinarily sustained shelf life as a movie that really caught on in the home market.
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The General Died at Dawn

Kino Lorber, Thriller, $24.95 Blu-ray, Not rated.
Stars Gary Cooper, Madeleine Carroll, Akim Tamiroff, Porter Hall, William Frawley.
1936.
As a standout film or close in the borderline screen career of Lewis Milestone that additionally features the first screenplay of playwright Clifford Odets’ career, The General Died at Dawn has more going for it than the cosmetic magnitude of its two impossible-looking lead actors captured here in a new 4K mastering that shows how great ’30s Paramounts used to look.
Extras: Historians Lee Gambin and Rutanya Alda share the Blu-ray commentary.
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Kino Lorber Sets Home Release Date for ‘The Woman Who Loves Giraffes’

Kino Lorber has set an April 7 release date for The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, the critically acclaimed documentary by Allison Reid that explores the life and work of pioneering biologist Anne Innis Dagg.

The documentary will be available on Blu-Ray Disc and DVD at suggested retail prices of $34.95 and $29.95, and also for digital download on Amazon, iTunes, InDemand, FandangoNow, Google Play and Kino Now.

In 1956, the then 23-year-old biologist Anne Innis Dagg made an unprecedented solo journey to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. When she returned home a year later, the insurmountable barriers she faced as a female scientist proved difficult to overcome. In The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, Anne (now 86) retraces her steps, offering a window into her life as a young woman who got a first-hand look at the devastating realities that giraffes are facing.

Bonus features will include deleted scenes, Doc Soup Q&A, and trailers.

Mike’s Picks: “Murder, He Says” and “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project”

Murder, He Says

Street Date 4/7/20
Kino Lorber, Comedy, $24.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Fred MacMurray, Helen Walker, Marjorie Main, Jean Heather, Porter Hall.
1945.
Fred MacMurray gives what may be the top comic performance of his long and still underrated career in Murder, He Says, a twisted Hollywood comedy that gets a 4K spiff-up for Blu-ray.
Extras: Includes a voiceover commentary by producer/writer Michael Schlesinger and film archivist Stan Taffel.
Read the Full Review

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

Kino/Zeitgeist, Documentary, B.O. $0.06 million, $29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray, NR.
2019. There’s almost certainly a link between a certain kind of genius and a certain kind of madness, which is one of the themes of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project — director Matt Wolf’s graphically sophisticated documentary about a most unusual woman who was on a mission.
Extras: The Blu-ray includes a commentary by Wolf, interviews, and episodes of a public access talk show hosted by Marion Stokes.
Read the Full Review

Murder, He Says

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 4/7/20;
Kino Lorber;
Comedy;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Fred MacMurray, Helen Walker, Marjorie Main, Jean Heather, Porter Hall.

Other than 1948’s Miss Tatlock’s Millions, which falls just short of being a brother-sister incest farce while getting all jocular about mental illness, Murder, He Says is the most twisted Hollywood comedy I know from the 1940s. This raises an interesting question of why almost all the funniest ’40s comedies I know — both of the above, the Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder libraries, the “Roads” to Morocco, Utopia and Rio — were all from Paramount, but that’s a question for another day. (The Lubitsch’s at other studios would be an exception, though they’re less gut-busting than charming on historical levels.)

Very little about 1945’s Murder, or at least its characters, has been to charm school — starting with the murder of an innocent party that’s played for laughs when it’s not being simply shoved under the narrative rug. There’s also a near-psychopath matriarch who frequently and brutally takes a whip to her imbecilic twin sons; the promiscuous use of firearms in an indoor setting by half the cast; and the played-for-laughs radioactive poisoning that makes as many of them glow, developed by the latest husband of the whip-wielding mom. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t all take place on an Ivy League campus but in backwoods Arkansas, where a rep from a national poll studying rural living makes the mistake of riding his bike onto the property of this inbred-acting array.

Fred MacMurray plays this poor sap in what I’d rate as the top comic performance of his long and still underrated career (The Apartment is, of course, a masterpiece, but he’s mostly a no-joke total heel in that one). His timing is flawless when he has to react about once a second to the mayhem going on around him. The supporting cast, which includes Marjorie Main as “Ma,” is in the same class, including one major acting surprise. And voiceover bonus commentary by producer/writer Michael Schlesinger and film archivist Stan Taffel speculate that Main’s work here might have encouraged MacMurray to get her cast a couple years later in The Egg and I, a huge hit for Universal-International and the movie that launched the Ma & Pa Kettle series (I remember when it was theatrically issued in the summer of 1954, which only the biggest box office wave-makers were in those days).

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Getting back to Murder, which gets a 4K spiff-up here, MacMurray shows up at the sub-ramshackle house as part of his job — and to see if he can figure out what happened to the work colleague who preceded him and was not heard from again (good luck on that one). Instead, he’s accosted on the way by one of the twins; they’re Mert and Bert, and Peter Whitney nails both roles, abetted by some of the best matte work of the era. All the blood relations here seem to be products of Ma Barker’s gene pool, and the source of constant conflict here is the whereabouts of 70 grand from some long-ago family crime spree that’s supposedly hidden somewhere in the house. Grandma (Mabel Paige) knows the elusive location, but she’s on her death bed — and even in her better days was always “tetched.” The only hint is a few musical notes that result in nothing when they’re hummed and a few accompanying lyrics of gibberish that make about as much sense.

Nobody in the family trusts any other member, and this extends to poor MacMurray, who would have been better off lobbying his superiors to handle the Death Valley polling territory. Matters get more complicated when the family member who pulled off the robbery escapes from jail and shows up to mount her own money search. The tragic Helen Walker has this role, and it’s obvious before very long that she’s an imposter with her own agenda, and like very few other people here, is “normal.

Two Hollywood hopefuls in the cast all but had their careers ended by auto mishaps. Jean Heather, who, despite noteworthy appearances in both Going My Way and Double Indemnity, basically came out of career nowhere here to go all the way thoroughly “nailing” the family’s one likable character, who, alas, may be even more tetched than grandma. In real life, beautiful Heather got thrown from a car and disfigured, and made her final screen appearance in a 1949 ‘B’ Western.

The decline of Walker, who’d scored in a high-profile co-lead in her first picture, was more protracted but possibly more of a nightmare. She picked up three soldier hitchhikers on New Year’s Eve of 1946, and when she flipped the car, one of them was killed and the other two badly injured. The survivors charged drunkenness, and the messy trial that resulted cleared her criminally but resulted in career-wrecking publicity. She worked intermittently after that, but after good supporting roles in a couple well-regarded 20th Century-Fox noirs, it was a steep toboggan ride for her. Commentators Schlesinger and Taffel may be too gentlemanly to mention it, but at least at some point, alcohol was indeed a debilitating problem with her. In her final big-screen appearance (The Big Combo), it clearly shows on her face.

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The director here was George Marshall, who spent a 56-year career mixing bombs, god-awfuls, nonentities and several indisputably enjoyable “entertainments” without ever making a really great movie or major factor in any title’s applicable movie year, other than Destry Rides Again (coming soon from Criterion). Schlesinger and Taffel are quite enamored of him in their appropriately breezy mix of the jocular and informative, though one of them claims that Marshall directed three of the five episodes in “How the West Was Won” when it was Henry Hathaway who did (Marshall only directed “The Railroads,” which is the weakest of the quintet). The actors’ dexterity here is so keen throughout that one has to assume that Marshall definitely deserves his share of the praise, especially with the younger players. But even at 94 minutes, the action gets a little labored in the final going before it’s yanked with vigor back into the plus side by a terrifically clever barn-set finale. The script, but the way, is co-written by Lou Breslow, who also penned a comedy that I’ve  coincidentally been watching as we speak, It was 1950’s Never a Dull Moment, in which MacMurray weds and drags the incomparable Irene Dunne to his struggling farm, and this city-dweller begins living a kind of Green Acres existence,

Ultimately, the standout takeaway is that I can’t immediately think of another comedy that’s anything like it — and certainly not from the 1940s — though the commentary notes its warped link with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I suspect Paramount is the only studio that would have attempted it at the time because they really had a flair for off-center farces. I can just see a horrified Louis B. Mayer seeing it at an industry screening and immediately putting out a directive for MGM to speed up development on Love Laughs at Andy Hardy.

Mike’s Picks: “Murder, He Says” and “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project”

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino/Zeitgeist;
Documentary;
Box Office: $0.06 million;
$29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.

There’s almost certainly a link between a certain kind of genius and a certain kind of madness, which is one of the themes of Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project — director Matt Wolf’s graphically sophisticated documentary about a most unusual woman who was on a mission. Though at times, even Stokes herself might have wondered what it was, exactly, despite lucking out posthumously in ways that now invite cautious reverence, at least from researchers and chroniclers of relatively recent lost history. The last involves the period between the mid/late 1970s and the Sandy Hook massacre, which occurred on the day she died.

African-American Stokes came from enough Philadelphia money to stoke her undertaking — and then her ground-floor purchase of Apple stock (Steve Jobs was one of her eclectic but intense passions) set her up for about 50 lives’ worth of funds. This abetted her recording of everything off the air with the first of countless VCRs —  though initially, she  began more modestly, with sitcoms like “All in the Family” and especially the original TV incarnation of “Star Trek,” whose melting-pot crew and its relative communal status appealed to her extreme Left-ish political beliefs. Actually, she was a full-fledged member of the Communist Party, so despite her arguable genius, she had her limitations — serving both as a key player in the post-Revolution “Fair Play for Cuba” Committee (now there’s a blast from the past) and an unsuccessful attempt to move with her first husband to Cuba.

The turning point was the Iran Crisis and the launching of ABC-TV’s “Nightline” with Ted Koppel, whose surprising success against Johnny Carson and other fun-oriented late-nights anticipated 24-hour news stations — as well as the blurring between straight reportage and the ratings benefits accrued from turning political events into a kind of sophisticated daily mini-series. Stokes was extremely savvy on this kind of thing, which included the “coloring” of the news. She not incorrectly sensed, from what she was recording and watching, that the seized hostages in the Iran affair almost certainly had to include CIA personnel. What bothers me some about this is that all governments have agendas and always have — the way that most humans do unless they’re a little on the simple side. This is definitely dog-bites-man material.

Earlier, Stokes herself had hosted a Philadelphia political talk show that looks like public access but may have had a network-affiliate public service connection. A couple of those episodes are included as a Blu-ray bonus via what, like the Stokes archival project itself, is a miracle of preservation taken from long outdated technology. In it, she shows herself to be a good listener to guests invited on for their diverse points of view — a trait she didn’t display toward anyone in her family. An exception to this may or may not have been John Stokes, the professional partner and co-host of her show who became husband No. 2. A white patrician who later benefitted as well from that early Apple stock purchase, he left his wife (for good) and daughters (mostly for good) to devote his now-reclusive entire life to Marion. He’s the kind of guy of whom my Marine D.I. father like to describe as “for someone his age, he’s not wired together right.” But, hey: We live in a pluralistic society.

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Good listening wasn’t a trait that extended to Stokes’s family life, and she made things miserable for her ultimately devoted chauffeur and personal assistant (both interviewed here) whose main job was to record — all the time. She made life impossible for her son from marriage No. 1 (Michael Metelis), even though he was a really good kid and smart as hell in ways that were too conventional for her (she owned somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000  books and read them). She had husband Stokes so cowed that when one of his daughters stalked him into having a brief conversation in the park, he implored her not to tell Marion.

Ultimately, she amassed 140,000 VHS tapes and was wealthy enough that she could store them in her apartments, leaving more room to pack-rat other possessions. Someone here makes the interesting and credible observation that hoarders keep what no one else wants, while collectors stockpile rare treasures that somebody somewhere would likely covet. In terms of her recordings, at least, she was in the latter category, and her collection of national and local coverage of racially motivated police brutality can almost stand alone. But in terms of “mission,’’ she was working with outdated technology on its way to becoming all but permanently unavailable, which meant time wasn’t on her side.

After her death, her son very eventually found the Internet Archive, which was probably the only place capable of copying this trove. Director Wolf comes up with some exceptionally impressive visuals that capture the true scope of Marion’s combined holdings when boxed up, to say nothing of lifting a full clip history of Stokes’s chronicled era, which even includes sporting events and the kind of oddballs who used to appear daily on Phil Donahue’s show. My favorite one splits the screen into four sections to show us simultaneous real-time footage of how quickly NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox were to interrupt the usual morning-show business to cut to the first plane hitting the first WTC tower on 9/11.

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Director Wolf caught a major break when son Michael turned out to be so smart, articulate, philosophical and finally loving of his mother after a very difficult upbringing that many people wouldn’t have survived. That he can relate the personal-story part of the documentary with such objective clarity frees up Wolf’s very fine commentary to concentrate not exclusively but primarily on the technical and labor-intensive efforts by Stokes, himself and the Internet Archive to make the material a reality — and into a viable format.

On a work-obsession level, Project reminds me a little of Finding Vivian Maier, the doc about the American street photographer whose holdings proved to be amazing after she died. As a portrait of an exceptional talent incurring misery on her family while fighting her own demons, it reminds me a little of Liz Garbus’s What Happened, Miss Simone?, the Oscar-nominated and exceptionally great portrait of its “Miss” (Nina Simone). But due to the specialized achievement of its subject, Project kind if stands alone, even though Stokes had one of those personalities that no one will be fully able to read.

Mike’s Picks: “Murder, He Says” and “Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project”

‘Kino Marquee’ Virtual Theatrical Platform Expands to 150 Indie Cinemas

Kino Marquee, the transactional VOD platform launched last week to enable movie theaters shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic to generate revenue, has expanded to include 150 indie theaters.

For a select fee, viewers can watch a digital release on a participating theater’s website with revenue split between Kino and the indie exhibitor.

The platform will stream Cannes-prize winning Brazilian thriller Bacurau, with a virtual Q&A with filmmakers and cast on Wednesday, April 1 at 8 p.m. ET. Kino Marquee plans to offer top films from other independent distributors.

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Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles and starring Sônia Braga and Udo Kier, Bacurau won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2019 and went on to play Toronto and New York Film Festivals.

The virtual theatrical VOD initiative, which now includes Alamo Drafthouse and Laemmle Theaters, is designed to emulate the moviegoing experience as much as possible, enabling movie audiences to support their local theaters by paying to view films digitally.

“We’ve all been thrust into a brave new cinema world. Kino Marquee offers film lovers and the theaters a way to mutually support each other — audiences can keep going to newly released movies and theaters can keep selling tickets to great cinematic experiences online,” CEO Richard Lorber said in a statement.

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Lorber said Kino Marquee is designed as a lifeline to help keep arthouse cinemas in business and keep the work of “top independent filmmakers” under the halo of first release “virtual screens.”

Ken Loach’s festival favorite Sorry We Missed You also is available through Kino Marquee with Film Forum in New York, where the film’s theatrical premiere (launched March 4) was cut short by the theater’s closure. Multiple cities will follow later this week.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Beau Brummell’ and ‘Canyon Passage’

Beau Brummell

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Stewart Granger, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustinov, Robert Morley.
1954.
A flop at the time, this superbly cast costume drama has picked up a cult following who should be pleased by the Blu-ray’s 4K scan off the original negative that pays off with such vivid reds and dark blues on its British military uniforms.
Read the Full Review

Canyon Passage

Kino Lorber, Western, $24.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Patricia Roc, Lloyd Bridges.
1946.
Set in pre-Civil War Oregon amid a settlement that’s pretty isolated even by Northwest standards of the day, Technicolor Canyon Passage on Blu-ray makes for a fairly stunning visual experience, though you can’t tell at first because the opening shot is set of muddy streets during a monsoon.
Extras: Includes a commentary by Toby Roan, who knows Westerns as well as anyone.
Read the Full Review

 

Canyon Passage

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Western;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Patricia Roc, Lloyd Bridges.

So it’s sometime in the mid-late 1960s, and one of the local TV stations was giving my adolescent self his first chance to see Canyon Passage, a Walter Wanger-Jacques Tourneur Western that sounds as if it has a lot going for it even beyond its status as a generously budgeted undertaking by Universal Pictures in 1946 — shortly before the merger that transformed the studio into Universal-International for close to 17 years. I notice that an unexpected curiosity in Passage’s fairly pressure-packed cast is brilliant songwriter, surprisingly engaging singer and sometimes actor Hoagy Carmichael, which inspires the broadcast’s host to ask during one of the commercial breaks (yes, kids, this is how they did it until the dawn of the 1980s), if anyone knows which Carmichael movie was the one where he sang the Oscar-nominated “Ole Buttermilk Sky,” which was among his best compositions.

That’s the setup. Later, my host came back sheepishly to admit that just as it said in the opening credits, Carmichael sang it in this one — though in a way, he could be forgiven. Here’s a song that ended up going No. 2 Billboard for Hoagy himself and No. 1 for Kay Kyser (a super-catchy rendition with future talk show host Mike Douglas as vocalist). Even so, the movie throws it away just before the end credits roll. I’m going through all this because it’s indicative of an impressively budgeted production that always seems to be a little “off,” though you can make a case that some may regard its idiosyncrasies as a plus. Plus, in addition, as noted, it has a lot of ‘A’-list components.

Set in pre-Civil War Oregon amid a settlement that’s pretty isolated even by Northwest standards of the day, Passage was, I think, only the second Technicolor Western Universal made following the previous year’s Frontier Gal. That one was no more ambitious than the usual Rod Cameron picture, but Passage had no lack of casting cred (note the actors listed up top here); Edward Cronjager (Heaven Can Wait, The Gang’s All Here and Desert Fury) behind the Technicolor camera; Ernest (Stagecoach) Haycox providing the original literary source; and director Tourneur taking his first stab at color in any genre between his black-and-white masterpieces of Cat People and Out of the Past. Of course, the visual component meant nothing on early ’60s TV showings because mass purchasing of color sets was a couple years off, and stations weren’t yet even running color prints. Thus, this Kino Lorber release makes for a fairly stunning visual experience, though you can’t tell at first because the opening shot is set of muddy streets during a monsoon.

Dana Andrews is the lead, from during that remarkable three-year run in which he also starred in Laura, State Fair, Otto Preminger’s Fallen Angel, A Walk in the Sun (if you like), The Best Years of Our Lives, Boomerang! and Preminger’s Daisy Kenyon. More interested in conquering the new frontier financially than getting serious about romance despite his definitely enjoying the company of women, he’s part of a situation that we don’t usually see in Westerns, at least as a major subplot: the inability of its protagonist to decide which comely lass in the territory (there’s more than one) he might want to wed, despite not exactly being awash in passion. The same is true of the women as well, which can sometimes threaten to induce viewer whiplash.

Andrews’ ostensible sweetheart is played by Patricia Roc, a major screen star in Britain seen here in her only Hollywood film, though she did reunite with Tourneur back home a few years later for the sleeper Circle of Danger, opposite Ray Milland. Though she and Andrews seem to have an “agreement” of some sort, he also has a repressed attraction to buddy Brian Donlevy’s semi-betrothed (Susan Hayward), who is much more obvious about a yen that’s more obviously reciprocated, though she mostly maintains decorum. Adding further complications are: a) a younger man in town who’s really crazy about Roc; and b) the fact that Donlevy is a very flawed and self-destructive character, albeit one of some sympathy. This is the kind of role underrated Donlevy knew how to play, though he could also do through villainy (Oscar-nominated for Beau Geste); comedy (The Great McGinty); military brass (Command Decision and playing Gen. Leslie Groves in The Beginning or the End) — all top an array of Westerns and sci-fi, some of it memorable. To say nothing of The Big Combo (now, there’s a movie).

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This is a mining boom town, and Donlevy is kind of a banker of the miners’ gold holdings, shelling out crystal dust (same as money) to customers whenever they need it for day-to-day expenses or reveling. But because he’s in heavy gambling debt to the town’s professional gambler, Donlevy has started filching a little here in there from the bags left in his care, and you know that’s not going to have a happy ending. Meanwhile, we have Ward Bond playing the town’s utter slug — one so lacking in a single virtue that I sensed that Blu-ray commentator Toby Roan (who knows Westerns as well as anyone) couldn’t get over it. Yet Bond was such a great actor despite having the most odious politics in Hollywood that the character seems real and not a cartoon stereotype.

He and Andrews have longtime bad history, and the entire town (not just the local goons) keeping egging them on to settle things with a fist-fighting so they can place bets for pure entertainment — not unlike the way the Irish villagers do during the John Wayne-Victor McLaglen climax to John Ford’s The Quiet Man. The only one above all this is Carmichael’s town songbird on a mule; has there been a bigger market for them, he could have cornered the market on all Ichabod Crane parts. When the two adversaries finally do mix it up big-time, the result is one of the most brutal brawls I’ve ever seen in a vintage movie; Roan says that that both actors needed stitches at its conclusion, and I can believe it. The other major issue is attacking Indians (more often than, egged on by worthless whites), and Bond naturally has to be a major catalyst here as well.

According to Roan, Wanger and Tourneur had diametrically opposed ideas on the movie’s tone: producer Wanger wanted more emphasis on punched-up characters, while Tourneur (who won out) preferred distancing the story to make it more about the land and the era. Roan thinks Tourneur was right, but I don’t agree because that approach makes the picture just chilly enough to make it highly watchable but without that ultimate oomph that enables it to break from the historical pack.

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Not too many years later, Andrews’ heroic battle with alcohol started hurting the quality and certainly budgets of his pictures— intermittently at first and then permanently, though some cult movies remained here and there including his Tourneur reunion on Night of the Demon. By the time the actor reunited with Hayward on 1949 for My Foolish Heart, he still commanded top billing, but she’s the one who got an Oscar nomination (her second since Passage). Life comes at you fast in terms of Hollywood careers, something that’s never changed and still true today. For a while, at least, Andrews came pretty close to being a superstar.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Beau Brummell’ and ‘Canyon Passage’

 

Kino Lorber Sets Home Release Dates for April Classic Movie Slate

Kino Lorber has set home release dates for its April 2020 slate of classic movies. The 19-movie slate begins rolling out April 7 with the following releases, available on Blu-ray Disc only:

Angel — a 1937 comedy from the legendary director of The Love Parade and The Merry Widow, Ernst Lubitsch. The film features the wife of a British diplomat who goes to Paris and has a short-lived affair with an American, who turns out to be old war buddies with her husband. Included with the film is a new audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride, author of How Did Lubitsch Do it?

Murder, He Says — a 1945 comedy about a public opinion surveyor who is sent to the town of Plainville after the previous one went missing. As he works with one of the local families, he begins to suspect that the lady and her two sons murdered the previous surveyor. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by filmmaker and historian Michael Schlesinger and film archivist Stan Taffel.

The Lives of A Bengal Lancer — a 1935 feature depicting the tale of the heroic men who guarded the British Empire’s perilous Khyber Pass in India. Deadly threats escalate when the men join a mission to overthrow an evil chieftain, Mohammed Khan. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by film historian Eddy Von Mueller.

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The General Died at Dawn — a 1936 feature directed by Lewis Milestone about a soldier of fortune who winds up falling into conflict between two warlords, when General Yang and General Wu each attempt to purchase arms to control the Chinese provinces. The General Died at Dawn was nominated for three Oscars: Actor in a Supporting Role (Akim Tamiroff), Cinematography (Victor Milner) and Score (Boris Morros, Werner Janssen). Bonus features include a new audio commentary by author and film historian Lee Gambin and Actress and film historian Rutanya Alda.

Beau Geste — a 1939 action film from William A. Wellman, featuring three brothers who join the French Foreign Legion, where they fall under the rule of a tyrannical sergeant. The brothers fight for their lives as they plot a mutiny against tyranny and defend a desert fortress against a brutal enemy. Included with the film is new audio commentary by William Wellman Jr. and historian Frank Thompson.

Subsequent releases will be issued on Blu-ray Disc as well as standard DVD.

Coming April 14 are The Limit, a 1957 feature about a major in the U.S. Army who is accused of aiding his captors while held in a North Korean prison during the war and brought up on charges of treason; Cattle Annie and Little Britches, a 1981 Western from Lamont Johnson; Jenny, a 1970 drama about a woman who winds up pregnant and moves to New York City, where she marries a local filmmaker who wants to avoid getting drafted into Vietnam and offers to support her if he can claim the baby as his own; and Song of Norway, a 1970 musical biography based on the life of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

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Due April 21 are Secret Ceremony, a 1968 drama from Joseph Losey about a mysterious young woman, who, when riding a bus in London, mistakes a middle-aged prostitute for her recently deceased mother and invites her to move into her home and act as her mother; Woman Times Seven, a 1967 anthology film of seven episodes starring Shirley MaClaine, mostly  based on aspects of love and adultery; Connecting Rooms, a 1971 drama about two older people whose lives are linked when they become lodgers in the same seedy boarding house in London; Love Among Ruins, a 1975 drama and winner of six Emmy Awards from director George Cukor that stars Katharine Hepburn as a recent divorcee and Laurence Olivier as her lawyer and, as it turns out, an old suiter of hers from decades before.

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Rounding out Kino’s April 2020 slate are five more releases arriving in stores on April 28: Outcast of the Islands, a 1952 film about a man who is dismissed from his management position at a Dutch East Indies port after being accused of stealing; The Sound Barrier, a 1952 feature about a wealthy oilman with a passion for aviation who, in his quest to break the sound barrier, has already lost his son and chooses his daughter’s husband and World War II pilot to be one of the test pilots; Billy Liar, a 1963 comedy from director John Schlesinger about a working-class man who has dreams of escaping his dead-end job that finally meets a woman who just might inspire him to move out of his parents’ house; The Caper of the Golden Bulls, a 1967 comedy from writer and director Russell Rouse about a retired bank robber that is blackmailed by a former companion in to stealing some precious jewels at a bank in Spain; and Don’t Drink the Water, a 1969 comedy based on a play by actor, writer, and director Woody Allen.

 

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Day of the Dolphin’ and ‘X … the Unknown’

The Day of the Dolphin

Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Paul Sorvino, Fritz Weaver.
1973.
When I first saw The Day of the Dolphin, my reaction was akin to that of so many other film folk in that we couldn’t quite figure out what the hell we’d just seen. This had nothing to do with always on-point storytelling courtesy of what I now realize was an outstanding Buck Henry script, but, instead, with the mix of talent and subject matter.
Extras: Film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson offer a Blu-ray bonus commentary. Kino’s wonderful bonus featurette offers an interview with Henry, who was never absolutely crazy about the film himself. The Blu-ray bonus interviews also include featured players Leslie Charleson and the late Edward Hermann.
Read the Full Review

X … the Unknown

Shout! Factory, Sci-Fi, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, Leo McKern.
1956.
Despite what looks like a glorified Ed Wood budget that’s mercifully camouflaged by a lot of nocturnal outdoor shots and a generally zippy pace, X … the Unknown is an affectionally regarded member of the Hammer Films family that’s sometimes mistaken for one of that studio’s “Quatermass” pictures.
Extras: Acreenwriter Jimmy Sangster, the most revered of the Hammer nucleus of talents who made the organization “go,” is the predominant subject of the Blu-ray’s bonus featurette about the original Hammer gang, not only for his ability to pull off a cheapie like this one but for his exceptionally expressive color horror films. The other featurette is a slapdash jumble of film clips in which the music drowns out a huge percentage of what narrator Oliver Reed is trying to say.
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