Before we get into this week's titles, some readers have been asking me about where they can see a list of MOD (Manufactured On Demand) titles that have already been released. The Warner Archive link on the Warner Bros. shop site (wbshop.com) is a good resource because not only does it list the titles in the Archive to date, but similar lists are also provided there for the Sony and MGM programs. Each title is also provided with detailed information on date, cast, and plot-line. These listings currently indicate that there are 1215 MOD titles available in the Warner Archive, 289 MOD titles in the MGM Limited Edition program, and 271 MOD titles in the Sony Choice Collection. As many of you may know, many MOD releases contain supplements that at most comprise the title's theatrical trailer. For those interested in that, here is a link to a thread at the Home Theatre Forum that maintains such information.
There are other MOD programs in existence that are less well documented - particularly those of Universal's Vault Collection (82 titles to date, but no new titles announced in many months) and Disney's Generations Collection (no new additions of late). I welcome suggestions for web sources that may maintain reliable lists of what's available to date for both Universal and Disney MOD. In regard to the Universal program, the current approach seems to be to partner with TCM's Vault Collection of late, releasing Universal product there that first arrives as pressed discs and then later migrates to MOD versions once the initial press run is exhausted.
The Warner Archive MOD This Week
For the June 5th, 2012 release date, the Archive is focusing on the complete line of the MGM Crime Does Not Pay shorts, a couple of 1950s thrillers, and westerns from Johnny Mack Brown.
Crime Does Not Pay: The Complete Shorts Collection (1935-47). Here's the legendary film series in its entirety! MGM's celebrated sensationalized shorts caused a sensation and gave birth to radio and four-color incarnations that courted controversy as ardently as a mug does a moll. While the comic book almost single-handedly brought an end to comics own pre-Code era, MGM's smartly crafted series helped usher in the new. Proving to be a fertile training for the next generation of cinema creators eager to subvert and undermine the strictures of the Production Code, Crime Does Not Pay was seminal in the birth of Film Noir, the police procedural, and a new wave of "social message" movies. A furtive perusal of the credits reveals the shorts pack an intimidating line up of future masterminds like Fred Zinnemann, Joseph Losey, Jacques Tourneur, Felix E. Feist, George B. Seitz, Joseph M. Newman and Roy Rowland and soon-to-be-front folk like Laraine Day, Hugh Beaumont, Barry Nelson, Dwight Frye, Paul Guilfoyle, J. Carrol Naish, Darryl Hickman, Cameron Mitchell, Van Johnson and Neil Hamilton. This complete, 6-disc collection includes the Oscar-nominated short, Don't Talk, produced in full cooperation with the Bureau and a precursor of sorts to TV's The FBI. Also included is the special bonus non-Crime short Eyes of the Navy, which MGM also released as part of the series.
The Journey (1958). Two years after The King And I, Kerr and Brynner reunite, once again playing lovers star-crossed by history and culture. Set amidst the tumult of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, and shot by Anatole Litvak on the Austro-Hungarian border, The Journey is fully cloaked in the chill of the Cold War. Lady Diana (Kerr) is fleeing the bloodshed of Budapest alongside her wounded paramour, Hungarian nationalist Paul Kedes (Jason Robards), when her group of refugees falls into Soviet Major Surov's (Brynner) sphere of control. Surov and Diana find passions erupting while he interrogates the company in search of suspicious persons. But this sudden warmth of love is no boon for those souls trapped inside the Iron Curtain. Also stars Robert Morley and E.G. Marshall. Newly remastered. 16X9 widescreen
Back from Eternity (1956) Anita Ekberg lends the "Oh!" to director John Farrow's remake of his own 1939 thriller about "five who came back" from a plane crash. Robert Ryan lends his smoldering intensity to this tale of desperate survival inside a green jungle hell as the doomed plane's pilot. Making up the cross-section of humanity that comprises the passenger list are Rod Steiger as a convicted killer, Jesse White as a mobster, Gene Barry as a self-involved entrepreneur and Phyllis Kirk as his hapless, good girl fiance. Newly remastered. 16X9 widescreen
Billy the Kid (1930). This stars Johnny Mack from his earlier John Mack Brown MGM studio days. King Vidor directs in this A-list Western re-telling of the life and crimes of William Bonney. Wallace Beery plays the (in)famous Pat Garrett, while the lovely Kay Johnson provides the distraction. Shot early in the ex-football star's Hollywood career, the six-guns he strapped on would prove to be a comfortable fit.
Monogram Cowboy Collection Volume 3: Johnny Mack Brown (1943-50). Johnny Mack Brown's signature role was US Marshal Nevada Jack McKenzie before the toughest hombre to ever slap leather and punch a cow simply played himself across a series of saddle sagas. This collection showcases both sides of his career, combining a spectacular sextet of Nevada Jack six-gun sagas, a pair of unique character turns, and a Johnny Mack adventure. The Nevada Jack selection includes the Marshal's introductory quartet of adventures, along with emblematic adventures from later in the series lensed across the next two years. The next pair of films sees Mack as a frontier doc and an undercover cattleman, while the final oater sees Johnny Mack himself facing down an outlaw reign of terror. This volume includes: The Ghost Rider (1943), The Stranger from Pecos (1943), Six Gun Gospel (1943), Outlaws of Stampede Pass (1943), Range Law (1944), Navajo Trail (1945), Flame of the West (1945), Shadows on the Range (1946), and Law of the Panhandle (1950).
Warner Archive MOD Pre-Orders
Here are the advance MOD pre-order titles listed on the Warner Bros. Archive site at wbshop.com. These possibilities should be treated with some suspicion until we get closer to the actual availability dates.
June 12th: The Yellow Cab Man (1950, Red Skelton, Gloria De Haven, Walter Slezak, Edward Arnold, James Gleason); The Great Diamond Robbery (1954, Red Skelton, Cara Williams, James Whitmore); A Southern Yankee (1948, Red Skelton, Brian Donlevy, Arlene Dahl); Half a Hero (1953, Red Skelton, Jean Hagen); Watch the Birdie (1950, Red Skelton, Arlene Dahl, Ann Miller); The Clown (1953, Red Skelton, Jane Greer, Tim Considine).
June 19th: For the First Time (1959, Maria Lanza)
July 24th: The Doctor and the Girl (1949, Glenn Ford, Charles Coburn, Gloria De Haven, Janet Leigh); Brass Target (19788, Sophia Loren, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, Robert Vaughn).
Well, once again, that's our Classic Hollywood MOD column for the week ending June 8th here on The Digital Bits.