Mike’s Picks: ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and ‘The L-Shaped Room’

Night of the Living Dead: Criterion Collection

Criterion, Horror, $39.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman.
1968. In any form, the opening shot seems exactly right: a moving car finessing all the twists and turns of a pastoral setting that turns out to be a graveyard entrance that its sibling passengers would have been better off zooming by — 100 MPH and going backwards. But it’s the heavy contrast and overall crispness of the image that grabs me immediately about Criterion’s 4K, stops-pulled, whoop-de-doo, shirt-sleeves-rolled-up crack at George A. Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead.
Extras: There isn’t a whole lot you can imagine being left out of this Criterion package — some holdover commentaries from earlier releases; a shorter work-print edit; a new featurette/appreciation whose homage-paying filmmaker appearances include one by super-trendy Guillermo Del Toro; a new appreciation of the music; a germane Tom Snyder “Tomorrow” episode; a look-back at filming on a dime; a Stuart Klawans essay; and even a primer about directing ghouls.
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The L-Shaped Room

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Leslie Caron, Tom Bell, Brock Peters.
1962. Buoyed by surprise lead casting that worked at the time and still does,The L-Shaped Roomfairly seamlessly smooshes one of those British kitchen-sink dramas that a lot of critics diss (but I rather like) with an unwed mother saga.
Extras: The commentary track features the likes of Nick Redman, Lem Dobbs and Julie Kirgo.
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Mike’s Picks: ‘The Hanging Tree’ and ‘Steve McQueen: American Icon’

The Hanging Tree 

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gary Cooper, Maria Schell, Ben Piazza, Karl Malden, George C. Scott.
1959.
Gary Cooper made three more movies after The Hanging Tree before his death in the spring of 1961, but due to varied limitations in terms of conception and/or execution, none of them seem like the “real” Gary Cooper movie that this oddball 1959 Western absolutely does.
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Steve McQueen: American Icon

Universal, Documentary, B.O. $1.23 million, $19.98 DVD, NR.
2017. A significant part of this feature-length limited theatrical release deals with a key part of Steve McQueen’s life that never gets a whole lot of attention: his conversion to active Christianity at the very end of his days during his final rejection of the Hollywood rat race.
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Raw Deal: Special Edition (1948)

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

ClassicFlix;
Film Noir Drama;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Dennis O’Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt, Raymond Burr.

Despite enough prowess shooting in color to have won an Oscar for photographing the ballet sequence in An American in Paris, the still revered John Alton ranks way up there with, say, RKO, real-life rap-sheet artiste Lawrence Tierney and the young Anthony Mann as an automatic word-association touchstone when it comes to even rudimentary discussions of film noir. Much of Alton’s photographic work was for Mann himself before the latter went all big-time to direct James Stewart, Charlton Heston and let us not forget Mario Lanza (in Serenade, to save you an IMDb.com stop-off) in major studio endeavors with real budgets. Raw Deal is one of the pictures on which Mann and Alton collaborated for the tiny, relatively short-lived but always-resourceful distributor Eagle-Lion. Running a tight 84 minutes before Raymond Burr takes a memorable big bounce in the climax, it had been preceded by the team’s T-Men, which became one of the standout movie sleepers of 1947 (maybe the sleeper) after that undercover treasury agent melodrama rated a spread in Life magazine, not your everyday occurrence.

Both films shared the same male lead, Dennis O’Keefe, who had recently come into his own with, among other projects, a couple well-received comedies after a long apprenticeship grind. He now suddenly found himself an ideal actor of noir, thanks to looks on the high-side of “Average Joe” and a demeanor that suggested he could take care of himself. I became kind of a fan early on as a child courtesy of Chicago Syndicate (featuring Xavier Cugat as “Benny Chico”) and Inside Detroit — both of them metropolis-underbelly exposés that I caught at my nearby Lane Theater in 1955 and ’56 in a possible attempt to gauge whether five-a-year director Fred Sears (who also had five films in the can when he died of a heart attack at 44) was an auteur. OK, I’m kidding with the auteur crack, but not so about O’Keefe, who’s something of a comfortable presence throughout Raw Deal despite its occasional pronounced brutality, including a pair of wall-mounted antlers that put featured henchman John Ireland’s face in need of Michael DeBakey’s best suture kit. One unexpected extra in this release’s bonus section is an interview with O’Keefe’s son. Nice.

This said, Deal has been equally positioned by some as a “woman’s picture” — notwithstanding the still eye-opening bit where heavy-in-both-senses Burr heaves a flambé at a nagging live-in who’s getting on his nerves (something apparently easy to do). Truth to tell, the picture is a love triangle as much as it is anything, with sympathetic narrator/moll Claire Trevor frustrated that breaking O’Keefe out of jail hasn’t been enough and that Marsha Hunt (employed by O’Keefe’s lawyer) is falling for him against her better judgment and with some small degree of reciprocity. Hunt, an interestingly complicated character, even finds herself a tad excited over entering a world of crime — not nearly to the degree of say, Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy but enough to make us wonder what’s going on in her complicated head. Helping the audience not to be complicit in these shenanigans as well is the fact that O’Keefe has actually taken the rap for Burr and has been stiffed on money owed to him, which explains the latter’s nervy state.

Like most Eagle-Lions, Deal has been fairy seeable for years but in prints of varying quality — none of them capable of showing what Alton could do and does here. I remember a longtime friend of mine coming out of a mint 35mm print of John Ford’s black-and-white My Darling Clementine years ago and raving about how Joe MacDonald’s photography showcased 50 shades of gray (back when there was a different vowel in “gray” and the phrase a purer connotation). Something like that happens here in the nocturnal woodsy scenes in which the permutations of foliage spread out in minute detail — this, of course, in addition to the expected shadowy photography of actors. Which, in this case, is also full of surprisingly complex and situation-revealing blocking that Mann was also great at, even amid a short shooting schedule.

Deal is the newest release from ClassicFlix, a distributor that really knows how to ask for money. But it has also done a stellar job making films that have for decades being seeable in compromised form and making them look the best they have since their original releases, which usually date back to somewhere around the time when I was spitting up on my crib bumpers. There’s some really first-rate talent on the bonus extras: Jeremy Arnold for the voiceover commentary, who, in news to me, is a protégé of Mann expert, movie expert and all-around great person Jeanine Basinger; Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo; director/historian Courtney Joyner; and arguably dominant Alan K. Rode, who’s had a great recent run benchmarked by his mammoth Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film — a 700-pager I was rolling along in, lickety-split, when Michael Woolf’s stop-the-presses Fire and Fury put me on a Rode pause button (absolutely temporary) just as I was getting to The Adventures of Robin Hood. There’s a before/after digital restoration comparison — your eyes will tell the story — and an essay by Max Alvarez, who wrote The Crime Films of Anthony Mann, which constituted most of the director’s early career. And by the way, an on-camera Rode gets off a really good one here about the size of Burr’s shoulders.

Mann would soon branch out in his subject matter, even as his skill with black-and-white briefly sustained itself before he mostly began working in color. Criterion did a wonderful job with the DVD for The Furies — a Mann Western I’ve always liked a lot and one that would almost certainly make a great Blu-ray. And it also would be something to see at least a foreign-region attempt to transfer the outdoor grit of Winchester ’73 into the high-def format. William Daniels shot it for Mann, 36 years years after laboring on (and that must have been the verb) Stroheim’s Greed, which definitely showed he knew a thing or two about photographing Western dust.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Raw Deal’ and ‘Belle Epoque’

Belle Epoque

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Olive;
Comedy;
$24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Jorge Sanz, Fernando Fernan Gomez, Penelope Cruz.

A color-drenched period comedy about robustly healthy (i.e., not leering) sex in the physically resplendent Spanish sticks, Belle Epoque won me over in its first-run theatrical engagement for providing an hour/50 of incessant enjoyment — in other words, even before director Franco Trueba upped my good tidings by thanking Billy Wilder for inspiration when he accepted the foreign-language Oscar on 1994’s telecast.

Good man, though there aren’t a lot of obvious direct lines to Wilder’s work here — except perhaps for when impossibly lucky protagonist Fernando (Jorge Sands) finds that he really likes it hot amid a cross-dressing romp with the one of four comely sisters who happens to be gay. No worries, though, because at least during this one solitary romp on the way back from a costume party, she enjoys getting it on with him as she sports a moustache (he’s in drag as a maid). Hey, whatever works, as Tonya Harding might have said.

The year is 1931, the seeds of the coming civil war are being watered, and Fernando falls into a household of free-living republicans. Household patriarch Manolo (the late hard-working character actor Fernando Fernan Gomez) is a sex-appreciating painter who suffers from erectile dysfunction when it’s anything but afternoon delights with his wife. Unfortunately, she’s always on the international road emptying theaters with her Florence Foster Jenkins soprano act, accompanied by a smitten, money-losing manager who’s naturally distraught when she wants to romp with Manolo on her infrequent trips home. But this is getting ahead of the story.

Most of that has to do with young Fernando’s escape from the seminary and his relationship with the couple’s daughters: a young widow; the aforementioned gay one; a third who’s being pursued by possibly the No. 1 nerd in Spain (he’s mother-dominated, too). No. 4 is the baby of the bunch, though she she’s not exactly still in her diapers, given that Penelope Cruz (in one of her first movies) plays her. Eventually, Fernando works his way through the checklist, though without any guile or duplicity — both unneeded, given that the sisters aren’t exactly reserved about the situation and are, in fact, on the aggressive side. It’s a made-to-order male fantasy for someone trying to get the seminary out of his system, though let it be said that this is already a milieu in which the local priest enjoys playing cards at the best/only brothel in the village.

When I heard that Belle Epoque was coming out on Blu-ray, I immediately wondered if the color values would be rendered right because sheer visual splendor is one of the reasons the pace here never flags (along with a slew of vividly-delineated characters who keep hopping in and out of a gorgeous frame). Though distributor Olive Films (and for that matter, Raw Deal’s ClassicFlix as well) continues to exasperate me when its releases always revert back to the movie’s beginning whenever one shuts down the player for not very long, BE in high-def is very much the visual stunner that it would have to be not to disappoint, though a commentary certainly wouldn’t have been unwelcome. (I’m of the school, however, that it’s far more important to get the presentation right before we go onto to any discussions of gravy.) Trueba’s tickler had a lot of strong Oscar competition in its year: Farewell, My Concubine; Ang Lee’s The Wedding Party; The Scent of Green Papaya; and a fourth title I’ve never seen. We were still in an era when foreign-language releases could at least attract U.S. audiences a little before the dumbed-down video game culture took over.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Raw Deal’ and ‘Belle Epoque’

 

Mike’s Picks: ‘Raw Deal’ and ‘Belle Epoque’

Raw Deal: Special Edition

ClassicFlix, Film Noir, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dennis O’Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt, Raymond Burr.
1948.
Dennis O’Keefe, who’s something of a comfortable presence throughout Raw Deal despite its occasional pronounced brutality, found himself an ideal actor of noir, thanks to looks on the high-side of “Average Joe” and a demeanor that suggested he could take care of himself.
Extras: There’s some really first-rate talent on the bonus extras: Jeremy Arnold for the voiceover commentary; Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo; director/historian Courtney Joyner; and arguably dominant film historian Alan K. Rode. One unexpected extra in this release’s bonus section is an interview with O’Keefe’s son. Nice.
Read the Full Review

Belle Epoque

Olive, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Jorge Sanz, Fernando Fernan Gomez, Penelope Cruz.
1992.
Franco Trueba thanked Billy Wilder for inspiration when he accepted the foreign-language Oscar on 1994’s telecast for this color-drenched period comedy about robustly healthy (i.e., not leering) sex in the physically resplendent Spanish sticks.
Read the Full Review

The Apartment

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD/Arrow;
Comedy;
$49.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Edie Adams. 

When it comes to my personal choice for best/favorite Billy Wilder movie, I usually zig-zag among Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Ace in the Hole and The Apartment — though let it be noted in the name of Joey Bishop that my strongest emotional attachment goes to Kiss Me, Stupid (absolutely and eternally) and Stalag 17 (probably in second place due to how much I loved it as a youngster, particularly in the mail call scenes: “At ease, at ease”). But re-savoring The Apartment in Arrow’s new limited edition and absorbing the bonus backgrounders both new and recycled from a past release, it’s tough to deny the perfection of 1960’s best picture Oscar winner all the way down the line, which in Wilder’s case, always extended to the care he took with, say, the 125th-billed actor.

And though topicality can be a trap when gauging a movie’s effectiveness due to how today’s dominator of news can eventually turn into tomorrow’s LP of Anita Bryant’s Greatest Hits, it’s a real punch to the face (and here, I mean this in a good sense) to see how a once controversial comedy-drama from 58 years ago can be so spot-on about sexual harassment in the work place. This, of course, is an issue not likely to fall prey to topicality limitations, so when we take a fresh jaded look at the comical sleazeball execs who populate the story’s Manhattan-based insurance company — and with its big boss the worst offender of all — there’s simply no way anyone can deny that the movie is more potent than it even was at the time.

Interestingly, especially in view of its commercial success with a public that “got it,” the picture got mixed reviews when it opened in the summer (Psycho, The Apartment and Kazan’s Wild River all opened in close proximity; ponder that the next time you deny that movies have gone to hell). Critically speaking, Pauline Kael got tiresomely huffy about it, but in truth — and in retrospect, this probably isn’t very surprising — it was her male colleagues who were predominantly offended by the idea of a career-hungry insurance company exec (Jack Lemmon) advancing up the “Mad Men” ladder by lending his apartment out to superiors for their extra-marital flings. (After, of course, packing his modest digs out with vodka and the right kind of cheese crackers.) Yeah, right: We all know this didn’t happen in the Rat Pack era.

Yet, something happened over the next few months (most likely, commercial acceptance), and by the time spring rolled around, The Apartment won five Oscars — including three to Wilder himself for producing, directing and co-writing with I.A.L. Diamond. Despite Lemmon’s supporting Oscar for 1955’s Mister Roberts, it was Wilder’s Some Like It Hot in 1959 that had “made” the actor, and Wilder knew even during Hot’s production that not only did he want him for this immediate follow-up — and that if he couldn’t get Lemmon and his ingratiating personality as an audience buffer amid an undeniably sordid premise, the picture probably wouldn’t be made. It was genius casting, as was Shirley MacLaine’s as the plot-central elevator girl (as they used to be called), as was Fred MacMurray as the firm’s slimy personnel director, Mr. Sheldrake — albeit in this case, casting that emerged from tragedy.

Paul Douglas, who hadn’t looked too healthy in swan song The Mating Game from ’59, was signed and ready to go in the Sheldrake role before suddenly dropping dead of a heart attack. Though Douglas is a lifelong favorite of mine and had played the brashly crude Harry Brock character on Broadway in Born Yesterday, he was almost always lovable (if gruffly lovable) in the movies, and I can’t recall his ever having played an absolute heel on screen. MacMurray (and his eyebrows) convey the character’s all but transparent dark side at once, and the No. 1 revelation I’ve taken from this recent viewing is just how great MacMurray is here. Though he initially resisted the part due to his then recent Disney association and the launching of TV’s “My Three Sons” (on this week’s episode, dad cheats with a pert employee who eventually tries to kill herself), this is one of MacMurray’s two career performances. Both were for Wilder — the other being his all-timer as the insurance agent who makes the worst sale possible policy sale this side of the one Bob Hope writes up for you-know-who in Alias Jesse James.

Technical credits are pro here, as Variety reviews used to say, with the visual showstopper being the set for Lemmon’s impersonally cavernous work “hangar” — the creation of Children of Paradise’s always-brilliant production designer Alexandre Trauner, who won an Oscar here. These key scenes were in turn heavily influenced by parts of King Vidor’s The Crowd, a silent so brilliantly off-the-charts that you’d naturally expect it to be on DVD or Blu-ray yet one that only enjoyed a laserdisc release back in the Cro-Magnon video era. Meanwhile, versatile (and nominated) cinematographer Joseph LaShelle gives The Apartment an appropriately noir-ish look while doing a flawless job of navigating Lemmon’s just-functional digs (for him and for the work cronies who use it). Adolph Deutsch’s score wasn’t nominated, but this has to be because his main theme was borrowed or swiped from an obscure British film of the ’40s (I’d like to hear the story behind this). Even so, the music and its many moods give both the comedy and drama a huge boost, and the aforementioned theme caught on with the public and made it to Billboard’s No. 10 when Ferrante & Teicher hugely tickled 176 ivories in their tie-in recording.

MGM’s old Blu-ray never struck me as one of the most obvious titles that begged for a revamp, but the clean-up job Arrow has done here re-emphasizes the point that imagery delivered as the filmmaker intended it can go a long, long way toward totally putting over even a screenplay as verbally kinetic as The Apartment’s. (I love it when Oscar-nominated Jack Kruschen, as Lemmon’s doctor neighbor, refers to the younger man’s perceived sexual dalliances with a wide array of women, on certain evenings, as a “twi-night double header.”) Bruce Block, who delivers an outstanding commentary carried over from the previous release, has a visual background — which, when combined with his massive research, makes for a wall-to-wall informative two hours.

This Arrow version also adds a slew of featurettes that include a Wilder archival interview where he speaks extensively and sweetly about Diamond and a sturdy booklet with critical writings more on the ball than some of the original reviews. From what I’ve seen to date, Arrow has become one of those companies whose name on the box means you can go to the bank, and this fresh viewing has, for me, been somewhat of a revelation. And this despite the fact that The Apartment has always been one of my favorite films since seeing it in a summer drive-in double bill the following year with Elmer Gantry — quite a night for a then recent 14-year-old and one that killed Disney Fred MacMurray’s for me forever. Matter of fact, I’d walked across the street to see Some Like It Hot in ’59 immediately after exiting the Fred-Walt original of The Shaggy Dog, and even then, the comparison was one of “Give me a break.”

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Apartment’ and ‘Captain From Castile’

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Apartment’ and ‘Captain From Castile’

The Apartment (Blu-ray)

MVD/Arrow, Comedy, $49.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Edie Adams.
1960. Though topicality can be a trap when gauging a movie’s effectiveness, it’s a real punch to the face to see how a once controversial comedy-drama from 58 years ago can be so spot-on about sexual harassment in the work place. This, of course, is an issue not likely to fall prey to topicality limitations, so when we take a fresh jaded look at the comical sleazeball execs who populate the story’s Manhattan-based insurance company — and with its big boss the worst offender of all — there’s simply no way anyone can deny that the movie is more potent than it even was at the time.
Extras: Bruce Block, who delivers an outstanding commentary carried over from the previous release, has a visual background — which, when combined with his massive research, makes for a wall-to-wall informative two hours. This Arrow version also adds a slew of featurettes that include a Billy Wilder archival interview where he speaks extensively and sweetly about Diamond and a sturdy booklet with critical writings more on the ball than some of the original reviews.
Read the Full Review

Captain From Castile (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Tyrone Power, Jean Peters, Cesar Romero, Lee J. Cobb, Thomas Gomez.
1947. There’s no shortfall of goodies to carry Captain From Castile, and fairly easily at that, over the lumps you might expect from a 140-minute epic directed by Henry King.
Extras: Twilight Time’s familiar virtue of isolating the musical score of its Blu-ray releases takes on added significance here with Castile because we can now concentrate on how composer Alfred Newman specifically applied one of his foremost achievements to the action at hand. Adding to the musical emphasis is a commentary by music producer and Twilight Time guiding force Nick Redman and writer/producer/historian Jon Burlingame (who are all things to the history of movie music) and the ever-agreeable historian Rudy Behlmer.
Read the Full Review

Captain From Castile

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via ScreenArchives.com;
Twilight Time;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Tyrone Power, Jean Peters, Cesar Romero, Lee J. Cobb, Thomas Gomez. 

There’s no shortfall of goodies to carry Captain From Castile, and fairly easily at that, over the lumps you might expect from a 140-minute epic directed by Henry King, who in his day was probably the most prized house director at 20th Century-Fox (at least after the more freelancing John Ford left). The down side: King was also known for one the greatest disparities I can think of between the really good movies he made and the clunkers, of which there were many.

All components considered, my take has long been that you have to weigh Castile, and in not insubstantial ways, somewhat toward the former grouping — which would include Twelve O’Clock High, The Gunfighter and Margie for personal starters. And a lot this is due to Alfred Newman’s durably famous and oft-recorded score for this shot-on-location 16th-century Technicolor epic, which is one of my three or four favorites screen compositions of all time. For the record, No. 1 would be Newman’s score for How the West Was Won, whose LP version I wore out even more in 1963 than Rat Pack vocals and the early Bob Dylan. As for Newman himself, he put Castile in his own personal top-3 along with his scores for Wuthering Heights and The Song of Bernadette (but while we’re at it, how about a little love for How Green Was My Valley?).

Appropriately, then, Twilight Time’s familiar virtue of isolating the musical score of its Blu-ray releases takes on added significance here with Castile because we can now concentrate on how Newman specifically applied one of his foremost achievements to the action at hand, courtesy of both the lushly romantic “Catana” theme written for leads Tyrone Power and Jean Peters and the majestically ass-kicking “Conquest,” which the USC Marching Band has employed as one of its staples dating back to when I was a very young kid. The latter piece is, of all things, used to enhance our respect for Cesar Romero’s military muscle — though this eye-twinkling comment from me isn’t intended as a diss. Next to his comically oily turn as the island governor in Donovan’s Reef, which always cracks me up just thinking about it, Castile contains my favorite screen performance from Mr. “CR 2” — which I’m told was Romero’s license plate number by a friend who once ended up next to the actor’s gas-guzzler at the same red L.A. traffic light. Regardless of the digit next to his initials, his characterization turns famed conqueror-with-a-mean-streak Hernan Cortes into a tough but fair relatively nice guy who just incidentally finds all-in-a-day’s-work pleasure in plundering Aztecs.

Adding to the musical emphasis is a commentary by music producer and Twilight Time guiding force Nick Redman and writer/producer/historian Jon Burlingame (who are all things to the history of movie music) and the ever-agreeable historian Rudy Behlmer — someone whose writings I began following when I was a young teenager. Behlmer has always been all things to just about anything filmic that ever happened anytime, including (it wouldn’t surprise me) how many bennies David O. Selznick sprinkled each morning on his All-Bran.

Good thing, because there’s a lot of rich screen history for the trio here to discuss: the massive wartime popularity and necessary truncation of Samuel Shellabarger’s doorstop source novel; a long, long location shoot in multiple Mexican locales; censorship problems with the Breen Office over the book’s treatment of Catholicism (there was a little thing called he Spanish Inquisition that didn’t reflect too well on the Church); and returning Marine Power’s attempt to reestablish his mammothly successful career at postwar Fox in a way that never totally took hold. Then there was Peters being plucked from the campus of The Ohio State University and into the lead of a costly picture her very first time out (fairly successfully, too); her courtship by, and eventual marriage to, Howard Hughes; and the ultimate inability of the picture to recover its sizable cost despite otherwise healthy box office in a year (1947) when overall attendance plummeted after wartime peaks (and with TV’s mass acceptance and viewing habits transformation yet to come).

As for the story, Cortes doesn’t even show up or become a factor until Spanish nobleman Power has had a pronounced fall from grace after aiding an escaped slave and onetime friendly acquaintance (Jay Silverheels, pre-Tonto). As a result, Inquisition forces come after Power and his family; his wedding plans go on the rocks; he forces a dastardly pro-Inquisition stooge (John Sutton, who had the market cornered on this kind of role) to do something truly terrible from his point of view before giving this crud a sword in his soft underbelly (the only kind he has). Oh, and he’s nearly executed. After all this, I’d go to Mexico as well, or any other country that Donald Trump hates, just to get away.

The print here has to be real-deal IB Technicolor, which I strongly suspect isn’t true of Twilight Time’s also recent release of the same year’s Forever Amber, another period spectacle I like a lot and one with another all-time great score (by David Raksin). I think there are a lot of preservation horror stories about Fox having scrapped original negative materials on Amber and other three-strip titles, though I wouldn’t absolutely go to the bank on my memory here. But I do absolutely remember that several decades ago, an employee of Warner Bros.-TV (foreign division, which also distributed certain Fox titles at the time) had a beautiful 35mm print struck of Castile just before the cessation of inarguably superior IB printing as a viable endeavor. So maybe (or not) this was the source. In any event, this is the real-deal visually in a manner that’s up to Newman’s scoring, and even the humble tablecloth that Peters’ tavern girl takes to the creek to bang on some rock for cleaning purposes looks sharper than most of my personal wardrobe.

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Apartment’ and ‘Captain From Castile’

Mike’s Picks: ‘Gidget’ and ‘Junior Bonner’

Gidget (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson, James Darren, Arthur O’Connell.
1959. The retro beach-time confection of Sandra Dee’s career-maker just gets by as a time-killer if you missed your beach time this summer.
Read the Full Review

Junior Bonner

Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Steve McQueen, Robert Preston, Ida Lupino, Ben Johnson, Joe Don Baker.
1972. A lot of people revere Junior Bonner, which features a lovingly constructed Jeb Rosebrook screenplay that director Sam Peckinpah fleshes out with a couple of show-stopping extended set pieces, but it could have used an ad campaign that sold its maker’s most gentle movie as a family drama and not another of the rodeo sagas that were flooding the market at that time.
Extras: Offering the commentary are definitive Peckinpah experts Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle, who long ago established themselves as the go-to crew on Sam-related voiceovers, no matter which distributor is behind the home release.
Read the Full Review