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.
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.
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X … the Unknown

Shout! Factory, Sci-Fi, $24.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, Leo McKern.
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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Mike’s Picks: ‘Black Angel’ and ‘Kitten With a Whip’

Black Angel

MVD/Arrow, Mystery, $39.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dan Duryea, June Vincent, Peter Lorre, Broderick Crawford.
The big takeaway from Angel, at least speaking personally, is just how much of a visual stylist director Roy William Neill apparently was.
Extras: Alan Rode provides a voiceover commentary, and there’s also an on-camera interview with British film historian Neil Sinyard.
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Kitten With a Whip

Universal, Drama, $21.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ann-Margret, John Forsythe, Richard Anderson, Peter Brown, James Ward.
Kitten With a Whip was kind of an unexpected and even strange choice for Ann-Margret to take on in the immediate aftermath of Bye Bye Birdie and Viva Las Vegas. As with its title, Kitten’s ad art was provocative, too — eschewing a literal whip but still suggesting that this might be the kind of girl you could take home to dad if dad were the Marquis de Sade.
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Mike’s Picks: ‘The Great McGinty’ and ‘Watergate’

The Great McGinty

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus, Akim Tamiroff, William Demarest.
It’s a little surprising that it took Hollywood until 1940 to attack the subject of political corruption as directly head-on as in The Great McGinty. However comparably minor it might be compared to the enduring Preston Sturges masterpieces that were shortly to come, McGinty is nonetheless full-throttle instant auteurism and effortlessly identifiable as a Sturges concoction from just about any 30-second excerpt.
Extras: Includes a voiceover commentary by Samm Deighan.
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Region 2 British Import
Dogwoof/History Channel, Documentary, $15 DVD.
2019. Charles Ferguson’s four-hour, 21-minute documentary on the scandal that brought down the Nixon administration overcomes, for the most part, its inclusion of mostly unfortunate live reenactments.
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Mike’s Picks: ‘Holiday’ and ‘Trapped’


Criterion, Comedy, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Lew Ayres, Doris Nolan, Edward Everett Horton.
Adapted from a play Philip Barry wrote well before he concocted The Philadelphia Story, this comic portrait of the unapologetic rich featured one of the four pairings of Katharine Hebburn and Cary Grant. Hepburn is as full of herself as ever, but this time in charming ways against a story that makes one fully empathize with her character. And Grant, so soon after The Awful Truth “made” him, gets another chance to deliver on his burgeoning screen charm but against a less farcical backdrop.
Extras: The Blu-ray includes the 1930 version of the story. Also included are an often funny back-and-forth from critics Michael Sragow and Michael Schlesinger; excerpts from 1970-72 AFI interviews of director George Cukor; a costume photo tribute; and a welcome essay by Slate critic Dana Stevens.
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Flicker Alley, Drama, $34.99 Blu-ray/DVD, NR.
Stars Lloyd Bridges, Barbara Payton, John Hoyt.
For a tawdry, if seductively so, minor melodrama that director Richard Fleischer apparently didn’t even mention in his memoirs despite early-career finesse with noir, Trapped is full of what genre enthusiasts, at least, would count as curio compensations.
Extras: The esteemed Alan Rode and the luminous Julie Kirgo offer a Blu-ray commentary.
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Mike’s Picks: ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’ and ‘The Story of Temple Drake’

The Bad and the Beautiful

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Dick Powell, Gloria Grahame, Walter Pidgeon.
The Bad and the Beautiful, a critical/commercial hit in its day, is tops of its kind if you’re into Vincente Minnelli’s specialized approach to sometimes gasket-blowing melodrama. A dissection of Hollywood’s underbelly all dressed up in MGM slickness, the relativelycalm-side B&B is both savvy and the next thing to over-the-top, without much attention paid to what was really going on in the industry at the time.
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The Story of Temple Drake

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Miriam Hopkins, William Garage, Jack La Rue, Florence Eldredge.
Paramount’s The Story of Temple Drake remains one of the more obscure Hollywood releases to the masses when it comes to making a list of the ones that caused a scandal in their day.
Extras: The always persuasive Imogen Smith makes a thoughtful feminist case about Miriam Hopkins’ title character, while acknowledging certain ambiguities. Film critic Mick LaSalle also is a bonus interviewee. Rounding out the bonuses are cinematographer/Motion Picture Academy president John Bailey — who joins Matt Severson (head of that organization’s Margaret Herrick Library) to look at the original storyboards, which (again) suggest a horror movie.
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Mike’s Picks: ‘Glorifying the American Girl’ and ‘Great Day in the Morning’

Glorifying the American Girl

Kino Lorber, Musical, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Mary Eaton, Eddie Cantor, Helen Morgan, Rudy Vallee.
The Stock Market crash further jinxed a movie whose production woes and revolving scripts-of-the week were known by those even beyond industry insiders and junkies — at a time when backstage musicals had flooded the market. Yet the picture — seen here via UCLA’s Film & Television Archives’s 35mm — is a somewhat surprising mix of the inevitably clunky and, yes, innovative.
Extras: The Blu-ray has a slow, halting but rather effective commentary by Richard Barrios, a short featurette giving us a brief outdoor glance at movie star homes, a Hearst Metrotone News excerpt of impresario Flo Ziegfeld in rehearsal, and 1934’s Oscar-winning short La Cucuracha.
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Great Day in the Morning

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Virginia Mayo, Robert Stack, Ruth Roman, Raymond Burr, Alex Nicol.
1956. As an assignment for director Jacques Tourneur, who rarely was given break-the-bank budgets, this pre-Civil War love triangle merits the “mid sleeper” accolade if you can get over the once de rigueur Indian shoot-out that opens the action and then a Confederate point of view.
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Mike’s Picks: ‘The Far Country’ and ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’

The Far Country

MVD/Arrow, Western, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, Walter Brennan.
Though his infectious smile directed mostly at Walter Brennan goes a long way to defuse this perception, The Far Country surprises a little by casting James Stewart as a real hard-ass with some unattractive traits, given that his character hasn’t been personally wronged the way he is in some of the other Stewart-Anthony Mann Westerns.
Extras: Includes a substantive Philip Kemp essay (nice still photos, too); a commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin; the always amusing Kim Newman on both the film and other Mann Westerns; and another documentary on Mann and Universal.
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The Bells of St. Mary’s

Olive, Drama, $27.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers.
Olive Films’ much appreciated “Signature” upgrade of director Leo McCarey’s The Bells of St. Mary’s offers a lovely visual rendering.
Extras: Features a voiceover commentary by Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins, a featurette about the film at hand in relation to McCarey; an on-screen essay by Abbey Bender, and a discussion of Bells’ prequel/sequel status from effervescent Prof. Emily Carman.
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Mike’s Picks: ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ and ‘Charley Varrick’

Days of Wine and Roses 

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford, Jack Klugman.
In terms of his overall career, this harrowing warning shot about how alcohol can destroy lives, livelihoods and families seems to have been a highly unusual project for Blake Edwards, and there are a couple set pieces in the second half that give you a Lemmon that audiences hadn’t previously seen and really didn’t again.
Extras: The unusually vintage Edwards commentary may put off some, but I found it fascinating.
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Charley Varrick

Kino Lorber, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Walter Matthau, Joe Don Baker, Andy Robinson, Felicia Farr.
Don Siegel’s much-deserved newfound glory as a full-fledged ‘A’ director was put to use in a slightly eccentric way for his first picture after Dirty Harry turned into a worldwide phenomenon. Though it’s as mean, lean and pepperishly cast as Siegel’s previous pictures, Charley Varrick has always seemed a little off-center, serving up what was always the closest we ever got to “Walter Matthau — Action Hero.”
Extras: Film historian Toby Roan provides a voiceover commentary, and there’s a 72-minute production documentary, which has a lot of stuff on the movie’s standout stunt work.
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Mike’s Picks: ‘David Crosby: Remember My Name’ and ‘My Favorite Year’

David Crosby: Remember My Name

Sony Pictures, Documentary, $25.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language, drug material and brief nudity.
Featuring David Crosby, Cameron Crowe, Roger McGuinn, Jackson Browne.
Filmmaker A.J. Eaton had apparently been working with Crosby for a while fashioning what came to be a combo confessional, irresistible rock-memories clip show and something of an L.A. tourist road movie that veers off into footage of its subject on the road trying to survive the grind of touring to small venues while in his late 70s. Then rock-journalist-turned-auteur filmmaker Cameron Crowe entered the picture to sign on as one of the producers and also as off-camera interviewer. The result displays the savviness toward its subject and milieu that we’d naturally expect from someone of Crowe’s origins.
Extras: In addition to deleted and expanded scenes, there’s a half-hour Q&A with Crowe joining Crosby on stage for questions after a pre-release showing of the film.
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My Favorite Year

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Peter O’Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna.
Richard Benjamin struck gold as a director in a way he never would again in 1982’s My Favorite Year, a modest but transcendently sweeter-than-ever comedy.
Extras: The Warner Archive Blu-ray includes a commentary from Benjamin carried over from the old DVD.
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Mike’s Picks: ‘When We Were Kings’ and ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’

When We Were Kings

Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG’ for images of violence, brief nudity and some language.
Featuring Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton.
The now famed, Zaire-set 1974 Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman provided the century-caliber upset of which Oscar-winning documentaries are made, which is what happened with 1996’s When We Were Kings, one of my favorite movies of any kind ever made, dealing with Ali’s spiritual renewal with the African people who adored him.
Extras: A three-night event featuring concerts by some of the era’s major musical acts was filmed leading to the main event, and much more of the music footage formed the basis for 2008’s theatrically released Soul Power, which is included on this release as well.
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The Return of Martin Guerre

Cohen, Drama, $22.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gerard Depardieu, Nathalie Baye.
The possibility of identity theft in The Return of Martin Guerre provides the drama, as it looks at the effect its title’s mysterious not-exactly-stranger has on a 16th-century village. A onetime arthouse hit that Hollywood later modified and more or less remade, it boasts two international stars, one or two familiar faces from French cinema and a lot of cackling chickens who’d probably be crossing the road if there were any roads here beyond modest horse paths.
Extras: Includes an interview of female lead Nathalie Baye.
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