The much beloved musical “Kismet” has received a Blu-ray upgrade this week, leading new releases of golden oldies. (Both the Warner Archive and Sony Classic titles are available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Kismet” (Warner Archive/Blu-ray, 1955, outtake song sequence, audio-only song, trailers; 1955 theatrical short: “The Battle of Gettysburg,” 1955 theatrical cartoon: “The First Bad Man,” two excerpts from TV series “MGM Parade”). Howard Keel and Ann Blyth star as a beggar/poet and his daughter, who, during one long day of shifting events, live a lifetime’s worth of comic/romantic adventures.
Filmed in widescreen CinemaScope and brilliant color (especially in this Blu-ray edition), this delightful adaptation of the popular stage musical is filled with jaunty comedy and memorable songs (“Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” “Stranger in Paradise,” “Not Since Ninevah,” etc.). Some of the casting is a bit off (Blyth is Keel’s daughter?) but the songs drive the story and are all wonderfully performed.
Vic Damone and Dolores Gray co-star, with familiar character actors Monty Woolley, Sebastian Cabot, Jay C. Flippen, Mike Mazurki, Jack Elam and Jamie Farr, who would play Klinger on TV’s “M.A.S.H.” 17 years later. Look for Barrie Chase in the chorus.
“The Lords of Flatbush” (Sony Classics/DVD, 1974, PG). This is a funny and sharp look at 1950s gang of four teens on the cusp of adulthood in Flatbush (a Brooklyn neighborhood). Not a bad film on its own but mostly notable today as a launching pad for three stars-to-be among the title characters, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler and Perry King. Also in the cast are Susan Blakely, Ray Sharkey and Armand Assante.
“Southern Comfort” (Shout!/Blu-ray, 1981, R for violence and language, featurettes, outtakes, trailer). Rowdy National Guardsmen in Louisiana swamplands for weekend maneuvers arrogantly confront a clan of Cajuns, resulting in a mini-war, and the troops are in unfamiliar territory. The obvious comparison is “Deliverance,” although writer/director Walter Hill manages a surreal dimension that ratchets up the suspense in a different way. The cast, led by Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine, is first-rate.
“Blackwell’s Island” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1939, b/w, trailer).
“Saturday’s Children” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1940, b/w, trailer). These two are John Garfield vehicles. In “Blackwell’s Island” he’s an undercover reporter in the New York prison of the title to bring down a racketeer operating from inside (loosely based on a true incident), while “Saturday’s Children” casts Garfield in a role more suited to James Stewart, as a distracted inventor who marries Anne Shirley and struggles financially. Other Garfield films released in this cycle are “Dust Be My Destiny,” “Flowing Gold,” “Edge of the River” and “Dangerously They Live.”
“Arsene Lupin/Arsene Lupin Returns” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1932/1938, b/w, two movies, trailer). In “Arsene Lupin,” brothers John and Lionel Barrymore are terrific playing off each other as thief and detective, respectively, and the script is witty and clever. For the equally entertaining sequel, Melvyn Douglas takes over the role of Lupin, who fakes his own death so he can retire, then finds he must get back in the game to unmask a copycat. (Shades of “To Catch a Thief.”)
“Chase a Crooked Shadow” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1958, b/w). This Hitchcock-style mystery has Anne Baxter, who identified the body of her brother a year earlier, confronted by a man (Richard Todd) who claims to be that sibling — and everyone who knew him agrees! Is she going mad or is this an elaborate hoax to dip into her wealth? Interesting guitar-music score adds to the atmosphere in this very satisfying thriller.
“The Walls Came Tumbling Down” (Sony Choice/DVD, 1946, b/w). Snappy little murder mystery with Lee Bowman as Broadway columnist who doesn’t believe his friend, a priest, committed suicide, so he does some detective work to find out what happened. Good performances and a quick pace make this one above par.
“The Wreck of the Hesperus” (Sony Choice/DVD, 1948, b/w). The low budget of this programmer shows through a bit too often, ultimately sinking this tale of a disgraced sea captain (John Macready) in the salvage business. Based loosely on Longfellow’s epic poem
“Just You and Me” (Sony Choice/DVD, 1979, PG). George Burns and Brooke Shields are an unlikely team in this dreary farce about a former vaudeville comic who helps a teenage girl on the run from a violent drug dealer. Even appearances by Ray Bolger and Burl Ives don’t help.