From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bet:
Few American historical figures are as revered as Abraham Lincoln, and few director-star collaborations embody classic Hollywood cinema as beautifully as the one between John Ford and Henry Fonda. “Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939), their first together, was Ford’s equally poetic and significant follow-up to the groundbreaking western “Stagecoach,” and in it, Fonda gives one of the finest performances of his career, as the young president-to-be as a novice lawyer, struggling with an incendiary murder case. Photographed in gorgeous black and white by Ford’s frequent collaborator Bert Glennon, “Young Mr. Lincoln” is a compassionate and assured work and an indelible piece of Americana. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray debut. The film is a watershed production — for Ford, for Fonda and, later, in the 1970s, for film theory and criticism. From Geoffrey O’Brien’s essay, from the release:
“In Young Mr. Lincoln, John Ford achieves the perfection of his art. Never were his matter and his method more aptly fitted, and never were his tendencies toward sprawl and overemphasis more rigorously controlled. It is a masterpiece of concision in which every element in every shot, every ratio, every movement, every shift of viewpoint seems dense with significance, yet it breathes an air of casual improvisation. While its surfaces paint, with relaxed humor and effortless nostalgic charm, an imaginary antebellum America, it sustains an underlying note of somber apprehension, all the more powerful for being held in check.
In a by-now famous essay in the August 1970 issue of Cahiers du cinéma, the editors used post-modern rhetoric (based on the work of Louis Althusser, Roland Barthe and Jacques Lacan, and using Marxist, semiological and Freudian discourses) in a scene-by-scene analysis of the film to discover the ideological underpinnings of the film — and American culture. The essay set the standard for a radical, political analysis of cinema that looked at films that, though firmly in the vein of “bourgeois ideology,” revealed the ruptures in that ideology.
Extras include a new audio commentary featuring film scholar Joseph McBride (“Searching for John Ford: A Life”); “Omnibus: John Ford, Part One,” director Lindsay Anderson’s profile of the life and work of director John Ford before World War II; talk show appearance by Fonda from 1975; audio interviews from the seventies with Ford and Fonda, conducted by the filmmaker’s grandson Dan Ford; Academy Award radio dramatization of the film; an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and an homage to Ford by filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. From The Criterion Collection.
From TV to DVD:
“Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season” (1968-69) is the latest DVD installment of TV’s legendary, star-studded, pop culture variety show. The six-disc set features 26 complete, remastered episodes from the iconic and groundbreaking Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series. Guest stars include Mel Brooks, Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr., Kirk Douglas, Hugh Hefner, Jack Lemmon, Liberace, Bob Newhart, Richard Nixon, Don Rickles and many more. When, in 1968, presidential nominee Richard Nixon rhetorically queried “Sock it to me?” on “Laugh-In,” it helped to elevate him to the White House and was named by Time Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Presidential Pop Culture Moments.” That’s just one of the many unforgettable pop culture highlights in a transformative season full of them. The ’60s gave us “in-crowds,” “be-ins” and “love-ins,” and starting in 1968, the happening place for free-form comedy was “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” broadcast from beautiful downtown Burbank. Straight man Dan Rowan and wisecracking co-host Dick Martin led a gaggle of goofballs including Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Gary Owens, Jo Anne Worley and Alan Sues through a rapid-fire assault of one-liners, skits, bits and non sequiturs that left viewers in hysterics and disbelief. This set includes such classic, long-running features as “Sock It to Me,” “Cocktail Party,” “The Fickle Finger of Fate” and “Gladys and Tyrone,”; lighthearted salutes to higher education, machines, pollution, dancing class, police, the telephone company, the post office, and Raquel Welch; Pigmeat Markham, reclaiming his “Here Comes the Judge” routine, dispensing justice with a large rubber gavel to the noggin; Tiny Tim singing and exploring Burbank and more. From Time Life.