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Classic Coming Attractions by Barrie Maxwell

Back to Part Two

Barrie Maxwell - Main Page

Classic Reviews Round-Up #39 and New Announcements (continued)

Elvis Presley appeared in a couple of decent westerns early in his film career - Flaming Star (1960) and Love Me Tender (1956) - which may prompt the unsuspecting to consider a look at Charro! (1968) and Stay Away, Joe (1968). Both are available individually or in Warners' Elvis Presley: The Hollywood Collection.

Charro!Stay Away, JoeElvis Presley: The Hollywood Collection

Unfortunately, both are ripe examples of the filmic tripe that Elvis was churning out in the late 1960s. The supporting casts are good (Burgess Meredith, Joan Blondell, Katy Jurado on Stay Away Joe, and lesser known but effective Victor French and Ina Balin on Charro!), but they are wasted on scripts that are either numbingly predictable or offensive and must suffer sharing the screen with an Elvis who appears pretty much disinterested by the whole business. The 2.4:1 anamorphic transfers are very clean and crisp, but that only means you're able to see the films' shortcomings more clearly. The theatrical trailer is the only extra on each disc.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

From the ridiculous to the sublime describes the chasm between the preceding Presley offerings and the new HBO DVD release of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The film is a superb sampling of the events covered by Dee Alexander Brown's bestselling book. It weaves together the story of Dartmouth-educated Sioux doctor Charles Eastman (Adam Beach), Senator Henry Dawes (Aidan Quinn) who is partly responsible for government policy on Indian issues, and Sitting Bull (August Schellenberg) the Lakota chief who refuses to submit to that policy - one aimed at stripping his people of their rights to the sacred lands of the Dakota Black Hills. The film is beautifully written, artfully composed and directed, and acted with insight and empathy (the work of Schellenberg is particularly noteworthy), creating a heartfelt testament to the Indian struggles. The film generates a more epic feel at a two-hour running time than more ambitious miniseries that emphasize extra length rather than incisive writing and fully-rounded characterization manage to attain. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image is crisp and detailed, capturing cinematography that ranges from washed out sequences to sepia images to others that are vibrantly colourful equally well. The surround sound is subtle but effective. Extras include audio commentary by the director (Yves Simoneau) and actors Adam Beach and Aidan Quinn, all of whom communicate considerable enthusiasm for the film, a interactive historical guide that provides further detail for selected scenes of the film, and three featurettes on the making-of the film. Highly recommended.

Gary Cooper: MGM Movie Legends Collection

MGM's recent return to a more active DVD release schedule, particularly of classic films, has yielded a new line of box sets under the MGM Movie Legends Collection imprimatur. The success of these sets has been hit and miss, given MGM's predilection merely to recycle previous releases and old transfers in too many instances. The Gary Cooper edition of this line is not free of this problem, offering as it does the same widescreen, anamorphic transfer of Vera Cruz (1954) that's long been available - one that could stand a little buffing. Fortunately, the set more than makes up for this by providing three new-to-DVD Samuel Goldwyn titles - The Real Glory (1939), The Cowboy and the Lady (1938), and The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926), the latter two of which are westerns or at least have some western trappings. (All three are only available in the set.) The Winning of Barbara Worth is the real prize here, given that prying silent films out of the major studios is an almost impossible task it seems. The film is notable for containing Cooper's first role of consequence (he had previously had bits in several features and shorts) and he provided the most credible performance among those of the main players - stars Ronald Colman as an engineer in charge of an irrigation project and Vilma Banky in the title role both seeming out of their normal milieux in a western setting. The Cowboy and the Lady is a predictable but thoroughly likable gentle comedy that takes advantage of Cooper's comfortableness in cowboy garb to make us appreciate his character and understand why Merle Oberon's character falls for him. The two stars work well together and there's fine support from the likes of Harry Davenport, Walter Brennan, and Fuzzy Knight. The two films are both presented full frame as originally shot and look more than presentable (The Winning of Barbara Worth is particularly clean looking and sports some nice colour tinting). Add in the enjoyable actioner The Real Glory (though I didn't have a chance to evaluate this title's disc quality) and you have quite decent value in this set, making it an easy recommend.

John Wayne: Screen Legend Collection

Finally in this section, I'd like to make brief mention of the John Wayne: Screen Legend Collection from Universal. Not because there are any new titles in it, though - it contains Reap the Wild Wind, Hellfighters, and the three westerns The Spoilers, War Wagon, and Rooster Cogburn. The latter two (and Hellfighters) are, however, now available in anamorphic transfers for the first time and are marked improvements over the original DVD versions. What was muddy and faded (particularly Rooster Cogburn) now looks much brighter and more detailed. The down side is that you have to get the whole set which may not be desirable even at a reasonable online price of $20 for many who are already likely to have Reap the Wild Wind and The Spoilers. If you're missing the majority of these films, though, the set is also an easy recommend.

New Announcements

Criterion's November releases include three classic releases of interest. There will be a new two-disc edition of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938) coming on the 20th. Supplements include an audio commentary by Bruce Eder and the full-length 1940 feature Crooks' Tour starring Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne reprising their Charters and Caldicott roles. Sawdust and Tinsel is an early work (1953) by Ingmar Bergman, also coming on the 20th. It will be a single disc release featuring audio commentary by Peter Cowie. Rounding out the November slate on the 27th is Drunken Angel (1948, Akira Kurosawa), a single-disc release featuring audio commentary by Japanese-film scholar Donald Richie. In recognition of the recent passing of Ingmar Bergman, Criterion will package four of its previously-available Bergman titles in a box set entitled Ingmar Bergman: Four Masterworks. The titles are: Smiles of a Summer Night (1956), The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), and The Virgin Spring (1960). Content will be identical to the previous stand-alone releases and the release date is December 4th. Criterion has also hinted at a January release of the Paramount title The Naked Prey (1966, directed by and starring Cornel Wilde).

Further details are now surfacing about Fox's upcoming release of Ford at Fox, which is sounding more and more like the DVD release of the year, classic or otherwise. Coming on December 4th, the set comprises 20 DVDs housed in a screw-bound folder, a hardback 172-page book, reproductions of souvenir books for The Iron Horse and Four Sons, and the new Becoming John Ford documentary by Nick Redman - all housed in a heavy duty vinyl box. On the DVDs will be found 24 films that John Ford directed for Fox, 18 of which have not previously been available on DVD, some never on any home video format before. The titles are Just Pals (1920, with Buck Jones), The Iron Horse (1924, railroad building epic), 3 Bad Men (1926, shades of Three Godfathers), Four Sons (1928), Hangman's House (1928, early John Wayne appearance), Born Reckless (1930, with Edmund Lowe), Up the River (1930, with Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart), The Seas Beneath (1931, with George O'Brien), Pilgrimage (1933), Doctor Bull (1933, with Will Rogers), Judge Priest (1934, with Will Rogers), The World Moves On (1934, with Madeleine Carroll), Steamboat 'Round the Bend (1935, with Will Rogers), The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936, with Warner Baxter), Wee Willie Winkie (1937, with Shirley Temple), Four Men and a Prayer (1938, with Loretta Young), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), Tobacco Road (1941, with Charley Grapewin), My Darling Clementine (1946), When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950, with Dan Dailey), and What Price Glory? (1952). Some of the previously unavailable titles will also be released individually and some of the titles will also be released in mini collections (The Essential John Ford, John Ford's American Comedies, and John Ford's Silent Epics). The extras on the various discs are extensive and can be found at

Grapevine's August offerings (available via included the usual five silent releases and two sound ones. The latter were yet another version of The Red House (1947, with Edward G. Robinson) and the 1946 Buster Keaton film made in Mexico, Boom in the Moon. The silent releases were: Mack Sennett Biograph Productions, Volumes 1 and 2 (10 shorts each, most starring Mabel Normand), The Last Chance (1926 western), The Lighthouse by the Sea (1924, Rin-Tin-Tin), and Through the Breakers (1928, with Margaret Livingston).

Hen's Tooth Video offered new anamorphic widescreen transfers for the westerns They Call Me Trinity (1971, with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer) and Trinity Is Still My Name (1972, Hill and Spencer again) on September 4th. The films are available individually or as a twin pack.

Image adds three Gene Autry titles to its release list for November 20th - The Last Round-Up (1947), Riders in the Sky (1949), and Twilight on the Rio Grande (1947) - and one more for December 4th - Last of the Pony Riders (1953). The television series Tales of Tomorrow: Collection 3 arrives on November 27th.

Kino will release a two-disc edition of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925) on October 23rd. This new edition will include a version incorporating footage removed from the film before its original premiere. The edited premiere version will also be included as will a documentary on the making and restoration of the film. On November 20th, expect the new 2-disc Nosferatu: Ultimate DVD Edition. Along with a new image restoration by the F.W. Murnau Foundation, there will be a new 5.1 stereo surround performance of Hans Erdmann's 1922 score. Extras include a 52-minute documentary on the film's production and on Murnau's involvement in the occult.

MGM has announced the availability of the MGM Holiday Classics Collection for October 16th. Three films are included - The Bishop's Wife (1947), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), and March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934). The former two titles have been previously released by MGM and are expected to be just reissues as have many titles in MGM's recent box set packagings, but March of the Wooden Soldiers (which MGM expressly states will be black and white) will be a first time release for the company. There's no information about any extras. On December 4th, we'll get the MGM Movie Legends Collection: Bob Hope which will contain seven titles - Alias Jesse James (1959), Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number (1966), The Facts of Life (1960), I'll Take Sweden (1965), The Princess and the Pirate (1944), Road to Hong Kong (1962), and They Got Me Covered (1943). Also coming on the same date is New York, New York: 30th Anniversary Edition (1977). No details are yet available as to possible new transfers or extras.

Paramount will issue a 2-disc It's a Wonderful Life: Special Collector's Edition on November 13th. Why do we need two discs? - why, to put a colourized version on one of them. Otherwise, there's nothing new here beyond last year's 60th anniversary release. Good old Paramount - not only do they save us money by issuing virtually no classic titles; even when they do announce something, they provide a reason not to buy that either.

Sony has now officially announced its Three Stooges Collection: Years 1-3 (1934-1936) for release on October 30th. It will be a two-disc set containing all 19 shorts, chronologically organized, from the boys' first three years at Columbia. All shorts have been restored from the original negatives. There's no word about any extras so far. Additional welcome news from Sony is the November 13th release of Golden Boy (1939), a starring vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck drawn from the very successful Clifford Odets play that debuted on Broadway in 1937 and also the film debut of William Holden. Even more promising for long-suffering Columbia classic fans is Sony's announcement that the disc will include the original trailer, three vintage short subjects from 1930-1940, and a 1957 episode of Ford Television Theater (Stanwyck's first dramatic TV appearance - the western drama "Sudden Silence").

Time-Life will release The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series on November 27th. It's a 41-disc set only available online at and includes all 105 episodes from the series' four-season run plus numerous extras featuring extensive participation by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

Universal has nothing new on the slate, but it is worth noting that the recent Best Buy exclusive on Universal's Classic Sci Fi Ultimate Collection: Volume Two has proven to be the expected fiasco for many fans. Both Universal and Best Buy deserve thumbs down for the situation - Universal for indulging in these sorts of exclusive marketing deals that make it hard for too many true fans to get a title they really want, and Best Buy for a pathetic effort on informing both customers and staff of timing and availability. The only people who benefit from these sorts of situations are non-fans who greedily sell copies on eBay for what the market will bear.

Warner Bros. has been uncharacteristically silent regarding any classic releases in December. In particular, I would have expected to hear some news about Forbidden Hollywood: Volume Two, long expected to be released in that month. The most recent indication I have from Warners, however, shows it to be penciled in for a March 2008 release although that could still be advanced by a month or two. Of equal interest to classic enthusiasts is the Warner Bros. Gangsters Collection: Volume Two, also planned for release during the first three months of the new year. It sounds like an early James Cagney tribute with Picture Snatcher, Lady Killer, Smart Money, and The Mayor of Hell included amongst its titles. Also awaited by many is the promised Bonnie and Clyde: Ultimate Collector's Edition. It's currently planned for a January 2008 release though again that could change somewhat.

In High Definition news, Disney plans to make the animation classic Sleeping Beauty (1959) available on BD in 2008. Fox and MGM are back in the BD business with a re-announced slate of titles for the remainder of 2007. The only titles that come close to the purview of this column are MGM's Battle of Britain (1969) and A Bridge Too Far (1977), both set for November 6th. Warner Bros. has announced the release of That's Entertainment: The Complete Collection on HD and BD for November 13th. Each will be a three-disc set containing That's Entertainment! (1974), That's Entertainment, Part 2 (1976), and That's Entertainment! III (1994), plus the five hours of bonus material previously available on the standard DVD release.

Well once again, that's it for now. I'll be back again soon.

Barrie Maxwell
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