Several old movies have come to DVD or Blu-ray for the first time this week, led by a 1966 Mexican western with a surprising authorship.
(Film Movement, 1966, b/w, not rated/probable PG-13, in Spanish with English subtitles, audio commentary, introduction; 16-page booklet). After spending 18 years in prison for murder, Juan Sayago (Jorge Martínez de Hoyos) returns home, only to be confronted by the revenge-minded sons of the man he killed in a duel. This tale of remorse, revenge and resolution comes from Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez (before he won the Nobel Prize for literature) in collaboration with famed Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes. So it should come as no surprise that this spare little western is quite literary in tone and more thoughtful than most.
(Warner Archive, 1955, trailer). Marines go through boot camp, then are assigned to lowly mop-up duty before taking part in the Battle of Saipan, led by a no-nonsense major (Van Heflin). Compelling World War II examination of young men (Aldo Ray, Tab Hunter, Fess Parker, L.Q. Jones) who yearn for combat before confronting its harsh realities. This one benefits from an intelligent script by Leon Uris, based on his novel, and direction by veteran Raoul Walsh. With Anne Francis, Dorothy Malone and James Whitmore. (Blu-ray debut available at wbshop.com)
(Warner Archive, 1936-37, b/w, three films, trailers). Glenda Farrell was a reliable stock-company regular who performed lead and supporting roles for dozens of (mostly B-level) Warner Brothers films during the entire decade of the 1930s. Both a reliable dramatic actress and an adept comic, Farrell co-stars in these three samples: "The Law in Her Hands" is about two waitresses who become lawyers (Margaret Lindsay and Farrell) and get mixed up with gangsters; "Here Comes Carter" has Farrell billed over Anne Nagel, though Nagel gets the bigger part in this story of a radio gossipmonger (Ross Alexander) taunting a gangster; and "Dance Charlie Dance" (which may have influenced Mel Brooks' "The Producers") has a rich rube (Stuart Erwin) financing a bad play that unexpectedly becomes a hit, with Jean Muir and Farrell along for the ride. (Manufacture-on-demand DVD-R available at wbshop.com)
(Film Movement, 1955-57, five discs, three movies, in German with English subtitles, featurette; 1962 condensed English-dubbed version of the trilogy: "Forever My Love"; 20-page booklet). Austrian actress Romy Schneider became an international star in such films as "What's New, Pussycat?" and "Boccaccio 70," but in the mid-1950s she starred, beginning at age 17, in this trilogy of movies about Austrian empress Elisabeth, known to her family by the titular nickname. Together, the films — "Sissi" (1955), "Sissi: The Young Empress" (1956) and "Sissi: Fateful Years of an Empress" (1957) — are a romanticized, fictionalized biography, with gorgeous locations that pop in this new Blu-ray edition.
(Warner Archive, 1971, PG, trailer). Robert Mulligan ("To Kill a Mockingbird") directed this coming-of-age comedy-drama based on screenwriter Herman Raucher's teenage experiences on Nantucket Island in the early years of World War II. Hermie (Gary Grimes) and two pals try to score with some local girls but Hermie is more interested in an adult woman (Jennifer O'Neill) whose husband has gone off to war, so he ingratiates himself into her life. Originally rated R for its attempts to be both sensitive and raunchy (though it's quite tame by today's standards), the film was re-rated to PG, and became an early-'70s pop-culture phenomenon. (Blu-ray debut available at wbshop.com)
(Warner Archive, 1973; R for language, nudity, sex; featurette, trailer). A hardened ex-con (Gene Hackman) and a naïve former sailor (Al Pacino) team up in California and head to Pittsburgh to start a car wash together. But to say the road ahead is rocky for these two (and for the audience) is an understatement. Still, this downbeat character study benefits from strong lead performances and has built an enthusiastic cult following. (Blu-ray debut available at wbshop.com)
(Shout Select, 1980, PG, deleted scene, featurettes, trailer, photo gallery). Lily Tomlin stars in this very broad, very silly spoof of Richard Matheson's "Shrinking Man" while also attempting to satirize Madison Avenue and America's blind acceptance of toxic household products. Charles Grodin and Ned Beatty co-star; Tomlin's longtime partner Jane Wagner wrote the screenplay.