Mike’s Picks: ‘King of Jazz’ and ‘Underworld U.S.A.’

King of Jazz

Criterion, Musical, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Paul Whiteman, John Boles, Laura La Plante, The Rhythm Boys (with Bing Crosby).
1930. King of Jazz isn’t anywhere near perfect, but it is perfectly amazing, and so, again, is one of those discs that justify the invention of Blu-rays.
Extras: Authors James Layton and David Pierce provide a history of this tangled Universal production in another of Criterion’s ultra-classy bonus sections that also includes Michael Feinstein interviewed for a musical backgrounder; a couple germane Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoons; a Paul Whiteman performance short subject; deleted scenes; a jam-packed essay by the knowledgeable and verbally magnetic Farran Smith Nehme; and a voiceover commentary by Garry Giddins, critic Gene Seymour and musician/bandleader Vince Giordano — each of whom can fill in the others’ infrequent blanks.
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Underworld U.S.A.

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay.
1961. The movie loses a little steam after the first hour (of 98 minutes) once the table is set for where it’s inevitably going, but there is definitely pleasure here in watching director Samuel Fuller deal with the no-frills basics.
Extras: It’s perhaps instructional to watch the Martin Scorsese intro before Twilight Time’s crisp new Blu-ray of main event Underworld U.S.A. — the same brief featurette first seen on the old standard DVD Sony box set devoted to the filmmaker’s output at Columbia Pictures over an extended period.
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