Burnt Offerings: MOD DVD

Burnt Offerings For September 10: Universal Unleashes The Wild Life

September 10, 2013 - 12:15 pm   |   By 

Remember the Universal Vault Series, Universal’s intermittent foray into the world of MOD?  Well, apparently Universal just remembered about it, too.  On August 30, they released several new entries, quietly and with zero fanfare, presumably out of respect for those of us who were reverently observing the Feast of Alexander of Constantinople that day.

Of the various MOD programs, Universal and 20th Century Fox seem to be having the most trouble (I’ll be talking about Fox next week).  Sony and MGM went through similar growing pains before partnering with Warner Archive for promotion and distribution.  I’m not saying that all MOD needs to go through Warner Bros.  But all MOD programs should be able to learn from Warner’s model.  At least people know what’s available and when from them.

Anyway, here’s a look at what’s new from the Universal Vault Series.  And if you’re interested in a complete list of available Universal Vault titles, I’ve posted one on the Jahnke’s Electric Theater Facebook page.  All Universal Vault titles are available for purchase on Amazon here at this link.  [Read on here...]

 

NEW FROM UNIVERSAL

The Wild Life (1984) – This has been a JET’s Most Wanted pick for a long, long time, with lots of people waiting patiently for its release.  Written by Cameron Crowe, directed by producer Art Linson and starring Chris Penn, this was originally promoted as a sort of sequel-in-spirit to Fast Times At Ridgemont High.  The large cast includes a lot of familiar faces, including Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson, Hart Bochner, Rick Moranis, Randy Quaid, Sherilyn Fenn and more.  The big question on everyone’s mind: does the DVD have the original soundtrack or replacement music?  I’ll be checking it out as soon as I can and I’ll let you know.

China (1943) – Alan Ladd stars as an American war profiteer selling oil to the Japanese during their invasion of China.  Loretta Young plays a teacher who helps him see the error of his ways in this wartime drama from director John Farrow.

This Day And Age (1933) – Master showman Cecil B. DeMille dials it down a notch for this contemporary, anytown USA crime drama.  When a beloved local merchant is killed by gangsters and the law can’t help, a group of teenagers take it upon themselves to avenge the old man’s death.

Tillie And Gus (1933) – W.C. Fields and Alison Skipworth are a couple of hustlers who get mistaken for missionaries in this rare comedy, one of Fields’ earliest starring vehicles.

The Climax (1944) – Boris Karloff is the official physician to the Vienna Opera House, obsessed with a young diva who reminds him of his former mistress.  This was previously released in Universal’s The Boris Karloff Collection box set in 2006.

Night Key (1937) – Also released in the Karloff set, Boris stars here as an inventor forced against his will to help a gang of thieves.

The Flame Of New Orleans (1941) – René Clair’s first American film stars Marlene Dietrich, torn between two lovers down in The Big Easy.  Previously released in Universal’s Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection in 2006.

Golden Earrings (1947) – Also previously available in the Marlene Dietrich collection, this has gypsy Marlene teamed with British officer Ray Milland for some WW2 espionage.

Mississippi (1935) – Bing Crosby takes a gig as a singer on a riverboat captained by none other than W.C. Fields.  Previously released in Universal’s The Bing Crosby Collection in 2010.

Thunder Bay (1953) – James Stewart reteams with director Anthony Mann for this adventure saga about off-shore oil drilling in Louisiana.  Previously released in Universal’s James Stewart: Screen Legend Collection in 2007.

Torch Singer (1933) – Claudette Colbert is forced to give up her illegitimate baby and take a job as a scandalous nightclub singer by night.  By day, she hosts a radio show for kids and tries to track down her baby.  Previously released in Universal’s Pre-Code Hollywood Collection in 2009.

 

NEW FROM WARNER ARCHIVE

Nichols: The Complete Series (1971-72) – Here’s a real TV rarity.  Post-Maverick but pre-Rockford James Garner stars as reluctant sheriff Nichols, returned home to his Arizona town in 1914.  Margot Kidder costars as a local barmaid in this short-lived but acclaimed series from creator Frank Pierson.  The 6-disc set includes all 24 episodes of the show’s one and only season.

William Powell At Warner Bros. (1931-34) – The suave, sophisticated and sardonic William Powell takes the spotlight in this collection of four rare, pre-Code features.  The set includes The Road To Singapore, High Pressure, Private Detective 62 and The Key.

 

NEW FROM HBO

Phil Spector (2013) – David Mamet directs Al Pacino and a trailer full of wigs in this dramatization of Spector’s murder trial.  Helen Mirren costars as Spector’s defense attorney.  This was nominated for 13 Emmy Awards and the ceremony isn’t even until September 22, so releasing this to MOD instead of the more traditional DVD/BD route may prove to be premature.

Mary And Martha (2013) – Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn star as mothers grieving the loss of their children to malaria, working to raise awareness of the disease in Africa.  Directed by Philip Noyce and written by Richard Curtis.

 

PARAMOUNT – BACK IN PRINT FROM WARNER ARCHIVE

Bad Company (1972) – Jeff Bridges stars as a Civil War draft-dodger who joins a group of thieves headed west.  This underrated western marked the directorial debut of Robert Benton.

Chuka (1967) – A U.S. Army fort is under attack by Indians and only gunfighter Rod Taylor can bring peace.  Ernest Borgnine and John Mills co-star.

The Tin Star (1957) – Young sheriff Anthony Perkins enlists the help of bounty hunter Henry Fonda in taming his wild west town in this western classic from director Anthony Mann.

Waterhole #3 (1967) – James Coburn and Carroll O’Connor costar for producer Blake Edwards in this western-comedy about a frantic search for some stolen gold.

The Beautician And The Beast (1997) – Fran Drescher and Timothy Dalton, together at last!  Drescher doesn’t stray too far from her typical Queens persona as a cosmetologist hired as a tutor for dictator Dalton’s kids. Wackiness, no doubt, ensues.

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

 

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