From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Highlights:
There’s a trio of classic films due this week, headed up by a pair of restorations from the 1940s:
“The Sea Wolf” (1941), starring Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, Ida Lupino, Alexander Knox, Barry Fitzgerald, Gene Lockhart and Howard da Silva, one of the great Warner Bros. classics that has existed only in truncated form for 70 years has been restored to its original length as first released in 1941, with 14 minutes of long-missing footage, remastered from a 4K scan. “The Sea Wolf” stars Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino and John Garfield and is directed by Michael Curtiz. It was one of Warner Bros. highest-grossing titles of 1941, well-received by both critics and audiences. Robert Rossen’s adapted screenplay — which contemporized the story by adding a strong anti- fascist component by making the main character a thinly disguised figure reminiscent of a European dictator — is still considered the benchmark version of Jack London’s best-selling psychological thriller. Executive producer Hal B. Wallis brought together a stellar team of Warner talents to further the studio’s reputation for prestigious, action-packed, yet socially conscious productions. “The Sea Wolf” was the fifth screen version of London’s 1904 best-seller. The story had been filmed three times during the silent era and was released as an early talkie from Fox Film Corp. in 1930, before the rights were eventually acquired by Warner Bros. Eight worldwide film and television versions followed. In order to present a 1947 “sea-faring” double feature re-issue with 1940’s “The Sea Hawk,” Jack Warner cut both films to accommodate more daily showings in theaters. The 14 minutes from “The Sea Wolf” were physically edited and removed from the original camera negative and no 35mm copies were thought to have remained — until a recent extensive archival search yielded a thought-lost nitrate positive fine grain master made at the time of the film’s production. The latter became the basis for the new 4K scan which was used by Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging to meticulously restore the picture. An audio restoration was also performed to take full advantage of the rich musical underscoring by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Robinson gives one of his strongest performances as Wolf Larsen, the brutal sea captain of the seal-hunting schooner “Ghost,” who gives save haven to fugitives George Leach (Garfield), Ruth Webster (Lupino) and writer Humphrey van Weyden (Knox). Larsen’s crew mutinies against his horrific abuses; van Weyden, Webster and Leach attempt an escape, only to return to find what they think is a deserted ship. They tangle with Larsen, during which the commander reveals a dark secret he’s been hiding as he and the boat sail toward disaster. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Warner Archive.
A major box office success upon its release, “T-Men” (1947), directed by Anthony Mann and starring Dennis O’Keefe, Alfred Ryder, Wallace Ford, Charles McGraw, Jane Randolph and June Lockhar, holds a special place in the film noir canon not only as director Mann’s breakout film, but as the initial pairing of the filmmaker and cinematographer John Alton. Like none before them, their combination of highly stylized camera set-ups, along with the brilliant uses of light and shadows, created the gritty realism and visual tension that made their crime thrillers popular with critics and movie patrons alike. When the trail goes cold on a counterfeit ring in Los Angeles, Treasury agents Dennis O’Brien (O’Keefe) and Tony Genaro (Ryder) are called upon to infiltrate the shadowy and dangerous underworld of organized crime. Their only lead takes them to Detroit where they convince mob kingpin Carlo Vantucci of their criminal pedigree and start piling up clues to tie the Vantucci mob to the “tough, tight outfit” in L.A. But the deeper O’Brien penetrates the organization, the more harrowing the mission becomes for him and fellow T-Man Genaro, with their every move being scrutinized and carrying the risk of deadly exposure. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from ClassicFlix.
Gloriously cinematic despite being made on a tiny budget, Orson Welles’s “Othello” (1952/1955) is a testament to the filmmaker’s stubborn willingness to pursue his vision to the ends of the earth. Unmatched in his passionate identification with Shakespeare’s imagination, Welles brings his inventive visual approach to this enduring tragedy of jealousy, bigotry, and rage, and also gives a towering performance as the Moor of Venice, alongside Suzanne Cloutier as his innocent wife, Desdemona, and Micheál MacLiammóir as the scheming Iago. Shot over the course of three years in Morocco, Venice, Tuscany, and Rome and plagued by many logistical problems, this fiercely independent film joins “Macbeth” and “Chimes at Midnight” in making the case for Welles as the cinema’s most audacious interpreter of the Bard. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc. New, restored 4K digital transfers of two versions of the film, the 1952 European version and the 1955 U.S. version, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
Also from Criterion this week is “The Lure” (2015 — Poland), a genre-defying horror-musical mash-up — the bold debut of Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska — that follows a pair of carnivorous mermaid sisters drawn ashore to explore life on land in an alternate 1980s Poland. Their tantalizing siren songs and otherworldly auras make them overnight sensations as nightclub singers in the half-glam, half-decrepit world of Smoczynska’s imagining. The director gives fierce teeth to her viscerally sensual, darkly feminist twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” in which the girls’ bond is tested and their survival threatened after one sister falls for a human. A coming-of-age fairy tale with a catchy synth-fueled soundtrack, outrageous song-and-dance numbers, and lavishly grimy sets, The Lure explores its themes of emerging female sexuality, exploitation, and the compromises of adulthood with savage energy and originality. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, from The Criterion Collection.
And, last but not least, is “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (1987). Written and directed by the incomparable John Hughes, the celebrated comedy makes an on-time arrival for its 30th anniversary on Blu-ray Combo Pack with a Digital HD copy and on DVD. Starring comedy greats Steve Martin and John Candy, the uproarious classic follows a businessman (Martin) who is struggling to get home for Thanksgiving, but burdened by one travel mishap after another, as well as the company of an annoying traveling salesman (Candy). Filled with outrageously funny situations and a generous helping of warmth, the film also features appearances by Michael McKean, Edie McClurg and Kevin Bacon. The Blu-ray features an in-depth retrospective on John Hughes’ career that includes interviews with those who worked with him and explores his indelible impact as a writer and filmmaker. Additional features include “Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains And Automobiles,” “John Hughes For Adults,” a tribute to John Candy and a deleted scene. From Paramount.
From TV to DVD:
“Dynasty: The Complete Series” (1981-89) is a 57-disc set with all 217 episodes. An icon of catfights, camp and 80s excess, the Golden Globe-winning (Best Television Series – Drama, 1984) primetime soap opera arrives on DVD for the first time in a new shelf-friendly complete series collection — timed for the modernized reboot of the series on The CW. The outrageously entertaining pop culture phenomenon aired from 1981-1989, and changed the entertainment landscape with its larger-than-life portrayal of the luxurious lives and passionate loves of the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. Famous for its plotlines of treachery and betrayal mixed with unforgettable camp and larger-than-life glamour, the captivating series was created by Richard and Esther Shapiro and produced by TV legend Aaron Spelling. The primetime soap opera features Golden Globe-winning performances by John Forsythe as oil magnate Blake Carrington, Joan Collins as former wife Alexis Carrington Colby, Linda Evans as Blake’s new wife Krystle Carrington, Heather Locklear as Sammy Jo Dean Carrington, Pamela Sue Martin as Fallon Carrington Colby, and Diahann Carroll as Dominique Deveraux. From CBS/Paramount … “Everybody Hates Chris: The Complete Series” (2005-09) is a 16-disc set with all four seasons. The coming-of-age comedy that follows the childhood of legendary comedian Chris Rock. Narrated by Rock and inspired by his formative years, the acclaimed sitcom follows a black teen in Brooklyn during the early 1980s who attends a mostly white school. Bolstered by a soundtrack that beautifully evokes the 80s, he show
chronicles the life-of the young Chris, whose family’s penny-pinching is leavened by love (and laughs). From CBS/Paramount … “Impractical Jokers: The Complete Fifth Season” (2016) is a four-disc set with all 26 episodes of truTV’s top-rated series. In season five, the guys visit the world-famous Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York, play an epic game of catch-and-release at the supermarket and go on a helicopter ride from hell. The four jokers also pose as receptionists, cashiers, restaurant hosts, pet store employees and wreak havoc at a pawn shop. The season ends with a two-hour event in which the guys team with NITRO CIRCUS and face obstacle courses, high-flying jumps, and much more. From truTV … “Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland” (2017) is based on the best-selling book written by the late Michael Jackson’s most trusted bodyguards, Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard with Tanner Colby. The scripted Lifetime Original Movie — featuring the acting debut of Navi, a Michael Jackson tribute artist who worked closely with the pop legend as his body double for many years — gives an intimate view of The King of Pop both as a caring father and as a man enduring untold hardships during the last years of his life. A behind-the-scenes perspective from those closest to the music icon. Co-stars Chad L. Coleman, Sam Adegoke. From Lionsgate … “Murdoch Mysteries: Once Upon a Murdoch Christmas” (2016) is set in Toronto in the late 1890s and early 1900s during the age of invention. “Murdoch Mysteries” (aka The Artful Detective) centers on Detective William Murdoch, a methodical and dashing detective, who enlists radical new forensic techniques to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders. Days before Christmas in Edwardian-era Toronto, Detective William Murdoch is called to investigate a daring train robbery. When witnesses insist the culprit exhibited superhuman abilities, Constable Crabtree realizes the robber bears a striking resemblance to the title character of his new graphic novel, Jumping Jack. As more robberies targeting gifts from Eaton’s luxury department occur around Toronto, Murdoch and his team are forced to consider the possibility that Crabtree’s character has come to life. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Acorn Media … “Reign: The Fourth and Final Season” (2017) is a three-disc set with all 16 episodes. The story of young Mary Queen of Scots comes to an end. Season four finds Mary rising to the challenge, taking back her country and establishing her rule in Scotland, the land of her birth but a wild nation foreign to her, and now, once again, her home. It’s a season of impossibly high stakes, unexpected betrayals, sexual exploits, a royal wedding, a royal birth and a rising body count as three queens in three nations fight for their people, their loves, and their lives. From Warner.