King Creole

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Paramount;
Drama;
$29.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones,Walter Matthau, Dolores Hart, Dean Jagger.  

Well known to even cursory fans as Elvis Presley’s fourth and final film before Uncle Sam got him — and also, in the opinion of many, his best film — 1958’s King Creole was, like three of his four pre-army screen outings, shot in black-and-white. But there was nothing stingy about the production, and the New Orleans locales that producer Hal Wallis sprung for add immeasurably to the ambience right from the opening, synching beautifully with the studio-shot material that makes up the bulk of the drama. A lot of writers claim that KC is in VistaVision as you’d expect a Paramount realease of that time to be, but neither posters nor the on-screen credits say this, nor does it look like VistaVision to my eyes. It does, though, boast a first-rate cinematographer, Russell Harlan (Red River and To Kill a Mockingbird are two of many shot by him).

One of several seemingly endless projects intended for James Dean and taken over by other actors upon his death, Elvis’s character was changed to a busboy-turned-nightclub-singer caught between competing owners and two very different women. Of the latter, Carolyn Jones — heavily into that “kookie” phase that defined her entire career — is a bag of neuroses as mistress to the drunken nasty one of the two club rivals (Walter Matthau in one of the best of his early movie roles). The other woman is a dreamboat “nice girl” played by Dolores Hart, still my absolute favorite of that era’s newcomers, lover of porcelain beauty that I am. Working the counter at a local five-and-dime, she seems surprisingly OK with wanting to date Elvis, even though she’s the one employee who picks up on the fact that his singing-troubadour stroll through the store for the customer’s enjoyment is in reality a planned distraction so that his so-called colleagues ran rifle the joint.

Ahhhhhh, Sister Dolores, who is what Hart became after leaving Hollywood to become a nun in the early ’60s, but that’s for another time. Other than to note that this was the second time she’d performed heart-melting labors in an Elvis pic, following the previous year’s Loving You (which, by the way, is in VistaVision and badly needs a restoration.)

Elvis has, as they used to say, “fallen in with a bad lot” — partly in response to his proclivity for being forbidden from graduating from high school (this time, he pops a guy on school grounds before the very last day of classes). And partly in response to the lifelong wimp-dom of his pharmacist father (Dean Jagger), which was exacerbated by the death of the Elvis character’s mother, which led to the loss of the old man’s pharmacy and his worsening life reality of taking the worst kind of guff from everyone. (Including his new boss, something that Elvis covertly witnesses. This is after dad preaches unyielding adherence to the idea of graduation from school in lieu of the much bigger bucks his son can make headlining as a singer. Elvis sees how far that got him.

Of course, he’s hardly a headliner right off the bat and has to take patronizing guff himself of the kind busboys sometimes endure — until, in standard showbiz movie fashion, Matthau tries to humiliate him by asking him to sing for the customers, whereupon he’s a smash. At this point, what has been a straight drama becomes a drama with lots of music — too much for my taste, given that the score has its share of clunkers. Oddly, the tune that RCA Victor elected to release as an RCA Victor single — “Hard Headed Woman” (b/w “Don’t Leave Me Now”) is totally thrown away, though it went to No. 1, as did the soundtrack LP. Of course, this isn’t to say that winners don’t abound as well, including the title tune, also “Trouble” (which he reprised to kick off his 1968 comeback TV special), and “As Long As I Have You,” one his best ballads ever, which contributes to one of the most emotionally satisfying movie wrap-ups I know.

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Man, no wonder this is Elvis’ longest picture because his sister is falling for Matthau’s owner rival (Paul Stewart) despite a 20-year age difference (I love it that no one in those days, morals police or otherwise, gave a damn). To say nothing of mistress Jones going off the rails increasingly by minute, Matthau now trying to pimp her out, a needless production number by Liliane Montevecci, whose big-screen appeal I never got, and Elvis’s punk buddies (led by a very young-looking Vic Morrow) back in the alley with weaponized broken bottles trying to reengage him in crime. Maybe this is an argument for staying in school, but the money is suddenly good.

Directing this is veteran onetime superstar Michael Curtiz, whose career kind of fell apart after the collapse of the studio system, but he did manage White Christmas, this semi-ringer and my very soft spot for swan song The Comancheros, but by that time Curtiz was dying, and star John Wayne reportedly took over as director. Elvis responded with enthusiasm to having a name filmmaker, and both the star’s smirkily amused reactions to Jones’s machinations and reciprocated affection are credible. As natural as Elvis’s raw talent was, I doubt if frequent director and career-long albatross Norman Taurog could have gotten nearly as much out of him.

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For the launch of “Paramount Presents,” its sparse so-called Blu-ray “line,” Paramount has employed my old bud Leonard Maltin to give about a seven-minute overview — a pro job, obviously, but hardly an example of hoopla. He opines himself that this is Elvis’ best movie, but by a sliver-and-a-half, I think I’ll go with the second movie he made back from the army (Don Siegel’s Flaming Star), which was a commercial flop but tighter.

King Creole was Elvis’s only predominantly serious drama to catch on and sent him off to the army with great screen promise that Colonel Parker ultimately wouldn’t let him fulfill upon his return.

Mike’s Picks: ‘King Creole’ and ‘Destry Rides Again’

Charley Varrick

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘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, 1973’s Charley Varrick has always seemed a little off-center to me, serving up what was always the closest we ever got to “Walter Matthau — Action Hero.”

I never really bought that concept and always regarded Matthau as an actor for whom it was difficult to forge an emotional attachment, though his Oscar-winning “Whiplash Willie” characterization in Billy Wilder’s The Fortune Cookie remains, for me, one of the movies’ most memorable characterizations from a reliably comic sourpuss force. A lot of Charley fans disagree with the earlier point, and I have to respect this from a film that originally tanked at the box office and yet has a cult bigger than I knew. Though it’s kind of a cold cookie — which is not the same thing as a lack of sentimentality that was always a Siegel hallmark — it’s something of a model in no-fat story construction and planting seeds that will pay off much later. And the new 4K presentation here captures exactly what Universal Pictures looked like in 1973 (along with another of those Lalo Schifrin scores that recalls what they sounded like: ’60s TV from Universal subsidiary Revue Studios).

Nevada crop duster Varrick is a onetime air show pilot wed to a onetime air show entertainer (Jacqueline Scott) who’s now the getaway driver for her husband’s minor bank heists in the Southwest. We open when another of their presumed small-time stickups goes horribly wrong near Albuquerque, resulting in her death and added fatalities on both sides of the law. This leaves pragmatic Charley with just one accomplice: a not very bright Vietnam vet with a drinking problem played by Andy Robinson — who’s not really that akin to the all-timer psycho Robinson played as Dirty Harry’s central heavy but just a dunce who’s never had a chance to enjoy even the most minor of life’s luxuries.

Well, he has the opportunity now because an expected tally of a couple grand ends up being close to three-quarters of a million dollars, which Charley is savvy enough to realize must be part of a money-laundering scheme likely run by mob-connected parties who’ll be in a vengeful mood to get this booty back. For this reason, he tries to put the kibosh on spending the loot for three or four years while realizing that this just isn’t going to sell with his impatient younger partner in crime. We also get a resigned-to-it vibe that Charley realizes that the kid’s splashy plans will get him killed closer to sooner than later.

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So here we go. The local cops (shown for once as competent) are after the perpetrators. Hood point man John Vernon (in an example of “of course” casting) is after them, too — as is, more directly, the Stetsoned muscle he hires to enforce matters in sadistic ways (a svelte Joe Don Baker, before he put on the pounds that helped make Mitchell my all-time favorite “Mystery Science Theater 3000” entry). This is a movie where everyone is in it for something, including a couple of women characters who turn out to be somewhat more amoral or at least less sincere than they initially seem to be. Yet it’s tough to figure out what even a tidy monetary reward could do to fill the walking void that is Baker. Superficially, he has more on the ball than fellow racist Robinson, but it’s all relative. Neither one would be a likely candidate to named anyone’s Ambassador to the Court of St. James.

The film is based on a John Reese novel called The Looters and screen-adapted by past Siegel collaborators Howard Rodman (Madigan, under a pseudonym) and Dean Reisner (Dirty Harry) — and, if anything, I love Madigan even more than the Eastwood phenom, regarding it as one of the three or four best American cop movies of all time. The same grubby pedigree sets the table for Varrick, and despite never being bowled over, I’m full of objective admiration for the craft with which Siegel put it together. And of the veteran pros he got to be in it (beyond the aforementioned, we get Sheree North, Norman Fell, William Schallert, Tom Tully and even, as a bank guard, veteran ‘B’-pic cowboy star Bob Steele, to whom Siegel probably gave the role as favor to an old-timer). Plot-wise, the only moment that feels blatantly false to me is the zip (and un-zip) with which the Felicia Farr character succumbs to the physical charms of a craggy crop duster when nothing about suggests that she’s particularly indiscriminate. Though as Toby Roan suggests on his Blu-ray voiceover commentary, maybe Siegel couldn’t resist plunking Jack Lemmon’s real-life wife into bed (and a round one at that) with Matthau.

The always encyclopedic Roan loves the picture, as presumably does film historian Howard S. Berger, who obviously put a lot of thought into this disc’s ethereal visual essay on Siegel’s style; for me, it has a low tons-o-fun quotient, and it’s the casting, staccato editing rhythms and brutal attitude toward life that make the best Siegels work for me.

And yet, critic and Blu-ray essayist Nick Pinkerton is also an apparent enthusiast, as are the production veterans or sons of veterans interviewed on an accompanying 72-minute production documentary, which has a lot of stuff on the movie’s standout stunt work. (There’s nothing like having a car hood flying up — unplanned — when you’re the stunt person behind the wheel in a fast-moving getaway scene.) Apparently the only person who didn’t like the picture was Matthau, and some thought his bad-mouthing convinced the studio to give up even on the fall release of a picture that had once intended as an Easter attraction. Starting with its three or four fatalities in the well-staged opening scene, commentator Roan is right to ask, “What about Charley Varrick says ‘Easter’ to you?”

Even at the time, I thought the picture felt overextended, given a director whose movies were known for the taut punch of those great Carmen Basilio-Gene Fullmer bouts from my early adolescence; in other words, it was a warning. I couldn’t have been too wrong because the only Siegels I liked for the rest of his career amid a sea of disasters were John Wayne’s The Shootist (which has always been more of a double or triple to me instead of a home run) and, to some extent, Escape From Alcatraz, which is impresses less if you’ve seen Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped.

Still, Siegel is a major figure in my formative filmgoing experience, and Charley Varrick is well-crafted enough to mandate at least some level of personal appreciation. For the record, were I to list my ten favorite Siegels in order of appreciation, the list would go something like: 1) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (’56); 2) Madigan (all just out from Kino Lorber); 3) Dirty Harry; 4) Baby Face Nelson; 5) Flaming Star; 6) Hell Is For Heroes; 7) The Shootist; 8) The Big Steal; 9) The Lineup; 10) Coogan’s Bluff. One I need to see again is The Duel at Silver Creek, which surprised me at the time by being something of a standout in terms of Audie Murphy Westerns, which I enjoy on sheer principle, anyway.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ and ‘Charley Varrick’

Criterion’s January 2020 Slate Includes ‘Fail Safe’

The list of Criterion Collection Blu-ray and DVD releases for January 2020 includes Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother, George Cukor’s romantic comedy Holiday, Jean-Luc Godard’s Le petit soldat, Sidney Lumet’s nuclear-war thriller Fail Safe, and a Blu-ray edition of Lumet’s Tennessee Williams adaptation The Fugitive Kind.

Arriving Jan. 7 on DVD and Blu-ray is 1938’s Holiday, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. The special edition includes a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include Holiday (1930), a previous adaptation of Philip Barry’s play, directed by Edward H. Griffith; a new conversation between filmmaker and distributor Michael Schlesinger and film critic Michael Sragow; audio excerpts from an American Film Institute oral history with director George Cukor, recorded in 1970 and ’71; a costume gallery; plus an essay by critic Dana Stevens.

Due Jan. 14 is 1960’s The Fugitive Kind, bringing together four Oscar-winning actors: Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward and Maureen Stapleton. The Blu-ray includes a high-definition digital restoration, approved by Lumet, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Extras include an interview from 2009 with Lumet; Three Plays by Tennessee Williams, an hour-long 1958 television presentation of one-act plays, directed by Lumet and starring Ben Gazzara and Lee Grant, among others; a program from 2010 discussing Williams’s work in Hollywood and The Fugitive Kind; plus an essay by film critic David Thomson.

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Arriving Jan. 21 on DVD and Blu-ray is 1963’s Le petit soldat, Godard’s examination of the use of torture in the Algerian War. The special edition includes a high-definition digital restoration, approved by cinematographer Raoul Coutard, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and a new English subtitle translation. Extras include an interview with Godard from 1965; an interview with actor Michel Subor from 1963; an audio interview with Godard from 1961; plus an essay by critic Nicholas Elliott.

All About My Mother, from 1999, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 28 with a new 2K digital restoration supervised by executive producer Agustín Almodóvar and approved by the director, with a new English subtitle translation, and 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a 52-minute documentary from 2012 on the making of the film, featuring interviews with Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar; actors Penélope Cruz, Marisa Paredes, Cecilia Roth and Antonia San Juan; production manager Esther García; and author Didier Eribon. Other extras include a television program from 1999 featuring Pedro Almodóvar and his mother, Francisca Caballero, along with Cruz, San Juan, Paredes and Roth; a 48-minute post-screening Q&A in Madrid from 2019, featuring the Almodóvars and Paredes; plus an essay by film scholar Emma Wilson. The Blu-ray will include an interview with Pedro Almodóvar and a tribute he wrote to his mother, both from 1999.

Also due on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 28 is 1964’s Fail Safe, starring Henry Fonda as the U.S. president and Walter Matthau as a trigger-happy political theorist. The special edition includes a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an audio commentary from 2000 featuring director Sidney Lumet; a new interview with film critic J. Hoberman on 1960s nuclear paranoia and Cold War films; “Fail Safe Revisited”, a short documentary from 2000 including interviews with Lumet, screenwriter Walter Bernstein and actor Dan O’Herlihy; plus an essay by critic Bilge Ebiri.

A Face in the Crowd

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Criterion;
Drama;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Walter Matthau, Anthony Franciosa, Lee Remick.

Lucking out with a good fourth-row seat in mid-auditorium, I was there for 1971’s opening showing at the Museum of Modern Art’s Elia Kazan retrospective, when the director who’d made an unbroken 1954-69 string of movies that I love introduced his personal pick for the launch. It was 1957’s A Face in the Crowd, which Kazan’s On the Waterfront colleague Budd Schulberg had adapted from one of his own short stories, a script to which its eventual director gave co-equal status. And it was an interesting choice because the picture had been a flop at the time, both with critics and public, though even in ’71, you could feel that the tide had already turned in favor of this warning shot about how broadcast mass media might soon be able to “package” political candidates the way Madison Avenue had done for antacid TV spots.

Richard Nixon, whose name rates a brief mention in Crowd, was already president — and though Nixon was about as much of a television natural as (on a contrasting decibel level) William Jennings Bryan, the conceit that you could jerry-build a presidential timber out of a TV background had gained ground. Mother of God and father of Ivanka, has it ever.

As a result, either Crowd or Network (and for not dissimilar reasons) is the most prescient of all American movies, though that’s an adjective critic April Wolfe actively shies away from in an outstanding Criterion essay because, as she notes, America had long seen a mingling of entertainers with the political class. Think of, for one, Will Rogers — who was one of the acknowledged influences on Crowd’s “Lonesome Rhodes” character, though I’ve always had a tough time reconciling the Rhodes malevolence here with the droll senior of easygoing John Ford comedies.

But with a dash of Elvis thrown in — due exclusively to the manner in which teenaged girls go into sexual frenzy over Lonesome’s guitar strumming — the subject most vividly brings to mind is the once ubiquitous workhorse Arthur Godfrey. Now almost totally forgotten, Godfrey was a Hall of Fame carbuncle and anti-semite who at one time hosted two primetime TV shows and a weekday radio/TV simulcast when he wasn’t firing talent demeaningly referred to by him as “Little Godfrey’s.” There’s also a dash here, in Lonesome’s ability to manufacture headlines, of real-life newscaster Walter Winchell — another windy Big Shot who eventually fell from grace, though any roman a clef linkage is defused some by Winchell’s cameo as himself in this movie.

So the deal is this. A rarely better Patricia Neal plays an outwardly mature young woman who left rural Arkansas to attend Sarah Lawrence and then came back to work for her uncle’s radio station in, from outer appearances, a burg largely populated by dogs. One guesses that she must have a really interesting backstory, but the story concentrates on her discovery of a rough gem in the local hoosegow (Andy Griffith). Tape-recording the mostly harmless hoboes behind bars for a human-interest story, she discovers Griffith’s Rhodes character presumably sleeping one off in what looks like the oversized cell’s drunk-and-disorderly nook. And despite these unlikely origins, Lonesome is full of aggressively spouted cornpone homilies, knows how to fake “pickin’” and has a sexual magnetism a lot of women find attractive — something that’s going to get Neal in trouble down the road. One can’t say enough about the actress’s characterization here (which was ignored by the Academy) and the way that Neal can go from borderline plain to sexy practically from scene to scene.

This was Griffith’s screen debut feature — he made surprisingly few big-screen appearances — and he gives one of the two performances from Kazan’s screen prime (the other is Pat Hingle in Splendor in the Grass) that I always thought the director might have toned down some. Overall, though, time has caught up with it almost as much as it has with the picture, and you can now make a case that the Griffith/Rhodes broadness is no more extreme than what we see coming out of the White House everyday. First-timers to Crowd may find it a bit disconcerting to see the Pride of Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show” as a demagogue. It’s a little like seeing visual proof that Aunt Bea once worked the red-light district.

As for the rest of a hand-picked cast, Anthony Franciosa’s congenital oiliness is better suited to his on-the-make agent here than in, say, The Long, Hot Summer from the same period; Walter Matthau is a reflective intellectual (“Vanderbilt, ’44” — with a pipe) and not the sardonic scowl he later became; and Lee Remick (her screen debut) is a majorette who captures Lonesome’s eye enough to become his wife despite an ex all ready to go to Confidential magazine to spill old marital beans if our boy doesn’t come through with a payoff after becoming a network sensation. The Neal character can’t help herself from falling for Lonesome herself and spends a lot of lonely nights on the road promoting his professional cause — except for the times he “drops in” when he can’t find anyone else. He’s insecure enough to know that on some level, he needs her.

The movie’s satirical high point, then and now, is the uproarious New York “agency” material — crasser than anything in “Mad Men” but also (and accurately) dealing with a caliber of TV commercial that were already pretty risible as early as 1960 and likely would have been too crude for much of the “MM” era, which more or less came in with JFK. Owned by a Koch Brother type known as “The General,” Lonesome’s sponsor is something called Vitajex — caffeine-heavy snake oil that brings to mind Geritol, which sponsored the infamous quiz show “Twenty-One” and “The Lawrence Welk Show.” But whereas Welk promised little more than perhaps a little more pop in your polka, Vitajex all but promises you more sexual partners than Wilt Chamberlain.

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These scenes are crucial because they segue into The General’s promoting of a nondescript white-haired old California senator into a presidential run. It is here that Rhodes, brought in as a consultant, mandates using Madison Avenue techniques to “sell” the product on the star’s TV show, a faux cracker-barrel affair where so-called plain folks sit around and jawbone about current events between chaws. Like everything and almost everyone involved in this phony enterprise, you can all but hear the actors counting down the time until the cameras go off so that they can finally ask, “Where are the broads?” The senator, by the way, is played by silent filmmaker Marshall Neilan (a year before his death) following years in limbo after torching his career by making an enemy of Louis B. Mayer. (Gotta love him for that.) I don’t know who got the brainstorm to cast Neilan, but he is bullseye here.

The Criterion bonus extras are illuminating, as they especially need to be on a movie like this, and do not shy away from Kazan’s somewhat delayed pariah status from having not only named names to the House Committee on Un-American Activities but then took an ad out in the New York Times defending the action. Schulberg cooperated as well but didn’t rub people’s faces in it as much, though there’s a part of me that admires — probably against my better judgment — the way Kazan held a decades-long grudge against his perceived artistic inferiors in the Communist Party who were trying to horn in his work. It brings to mind Humphrey Bogart’s comment about how the greatest thing about being successful is that you can tell people you don’t like to go to hell.

In any event, interviewed historian Ron Briley (The Ambivalent Legacy of Elia Kazan) strengthens the undeniable case that Kazan’s work got better and more committed after the HUAC blow-up, while an excellent 2005 featurette doc is carried over from the old Warner DVD release, which this 4K transfer puts very much in the shade. (Though I wouldn’t rate Crowd as one of the more interestingly shot movies of Kazan’s career). In addition to Wolfe’s beauty of an essay, there’s a lengthy excerpt from Kazan’s introduction to the published Crowd screenplay from 1957, as well as the same year’s New York Times profile on Griffith. Also interviewed on camera is Griffith biographer Evan Dalton Smith (as personable as Briley), whose biographical backgrounding intensifies the oft-told stories of just how much this project took out of a performer who’s previously been a kind of standup comic monologuist. Griffith used to say that it took three months to shoot Crowd and four for him to get over it, but I have a feeling that the latter period was longer.

Mike’s Picks: ‘A Face in the Crowd’ and ‘Tarantula’

‘Community,’ ‘Rescue Me,’ ‘Benji’ on September Disc Slate From Mill Creek

Complete Blu-ray series sets of “Community” and “Rescue Me,” two double features and films about animal friends are among the titles on Mill Creek Entertainment’s September disc slate.

Due Sept. 18 is Community: The Complete Series, featuring all 110 episodes from the TV series, on both Blu-ray ($99.98) and DVD ($69.98). The comedy ensemble series, starring Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Ken Jeong, Donald Glover, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Borwn and Jim Rash, centers on a tight-knit group of friends who all meet at Greendale Community College and their hijinks.

All seven seasons are included in Rescue Me: The Complete Series coming out Sept. 11 on Blu-ray ($149.98). Whether pulling survivors from a fiery high-rise or the twisted steel of a subway collision, Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) takes pride in leading the heroic but overwhelmed firefighters of the NYFD. Meanwhile, he’s also drifting between sorrow and anger over a separation from his wife and three kids, and the haunting memories of his fallen comrades.

The lovable mutt Benji returns Sept. 11 in the Benji: Off the Leash Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital) at $19.98. The story, told from the pooch’s point of view, tracks his early days as a pup to his current life in showbiz. Bonus features include a feature-length commentary with director Joe Camp, editor Dava Whisenant, composer Anthony Di Lorenzo and producer Margaret Loesch; a behind-the-scenes featurette; and “Benji Movie Memories,” which covers memorable scenes from five Benji movies starring three different Benjis.

Streeting Sept. 18 are two double features on Blu-ray at $14.98 each. The comedy double feature includes Age of Consent, starring James Mason and Helen Mirren, and Cactus Flower, starring Goldie Hawn, Ingrid Bergman and Walter Matthau. This is the first time either film has been available in high definition.

Also in HD for the first time are Nightwing and Shadow of the Hawk, paired in a double feature of fright. Nightwing follows the investigation of a wave of mysterious deaths on a Native American reservation in New Mexico that turn out to be caused by killer bats. Shadow of the Hawk stars Jan-Michael Vincent in a tale of an old Native American shaman who trains his skeptical grandson as a medicine man to battle enemies and black magic.

Born Free: The Complete Collection comes out on DVD Sept. 11 at $19.98. The franchise collection is based on the 1960 book about raising an orphaned lion cub Elsa and then releasing her back into the wild. The book changed the world’s perception of wild animals. The DVD collection includes the 1966 original film, the 1972 sequel, the 1974 TV series and the 1996 TV movie.

Due Sept. 11 is the Western Buffalo Girls on DVD (plus digital) at $14.98. The film, starring Anjelica Huston, Melanie Griffith and Sam Elliott, celebrates the escapades of tough-talking Calamity Jane Canary. It co-stars Gabriel Byrne, Reba McEntire and Peter Coyote.

The miniseries Family Pictures comes out Sept. 11 on DVD (plus digital) at $14.98. The drama, starring Anjelica Huston, Sam Neill and Kyra Sedgwick, is based on Sue Miller’s best-selling novel. It follows a daughter who comes home to her divorced parents and tells the story of her family, including her younger autistic brother.

Coming Sept. 11 on DVD (plus digital) at $14.98 is Hollywood’s Best and Brightest, featuring more than 12 hours of Hollywood star biographies. Featured legends are Warren Beatty, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Dick Van Dyke, Robert Wagner, Michael York, Julie Andrews, Kim Basinger, Candice Bergen, Catherine Deneuve, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Goldie Hawn, Lauren Hutton, Angela Lansbury, Shirley MacLaine, Ann-Margret, Barbra Streisand, Kathleen Turner and Raquel Welch.