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by Michael Barrett

4 Aug 2015


Joseph Losey’s feature debut, The Boy With Green Hair aroused attention because it was such a peculiar little socially-conscious fable, emerging as it did during Dore Schary’s brief, adventurous span as head of RKO, and in a period when postwar Hollywood was releasing more or less heavy-handed message pictures on racial and ethnic prejudice.

The opening scene gives a shock reveal: a bald little boy in a police station. This is Peter (Dean Stockwell), an ordinary American lad whose parents were killed in London during WWII, during which the film is set. In flashback, he tells a friendly doctor (Robert Ryan) about how he got shuffled among various relatives until he came to live with “Gramps” (Pat O’Brien), a singing waiter who’s actually no relation to him. Apparently social services were very informal back then, especially in movies. Gramps may not have any legit claim, but he showers the kid with Irish-accented blarney and even gets a fantasy musical sequence with co-star Walter Catlett.

by Michael Barrett

31 Jul 2015


Here in razor-sharp high-definition Blu-ray is Thank Your Lucky Stars, an entertaining time capsule from WWII. The film is a featherweight all-star revue that refers lightly to the war while corralling a group of dramatic stars to do unlikely things like sing and dance. We’re tempted to quip that never have so many given so little for so much, but the movie was a very successful fundraiser for the Hollywood Canteen founded by Bette Davis and John Garfield, which is why they’re in the picture and got so many of their colleagues to appear.

by Michael Barrett

27 Jul 2015


This unusual suspenser brought together several talents at budget-conscious RKO to become a surprise hit of 1939. It’s now available on demand from Warner Archive.

Five Came Back  might be one of the original “high concept” movies, since the whole idea is spelled out in the title. Twelve diverse people, conceived as quickly sketched types, are in a small airplane that gets blown way off course and crashes in a lush jungle en route from Los Angeles to Panama City. Search planes fail to find them, and they must spend weeks repairing the plane and forming a community.

by Michael Barrett

24 Jul 2015


3-D Rarities promises “22 ultra-rare and stunningly restored 3-D films”, courtesy of the 3-D Film Archive, and it delivers. This is one of the year’s most delightful collections, and it’s accessible to all, for the Blu-ray automatically plays flat versions if you don’t have 3D equipment. That’s a good test, because if a movie’s not worth seeing flat, why bother to add depth? With the Archive’s determination to fix and improve bad parallax work, the results are 3D movies that play better than back in the day.

First come compilations of demo and novelty material from the ‘20s, the earliest surviving examples of a 3D film tradition that goes back to 1915. The first film, with touristy shots of Washington DC and New York, includes footage hearkening back to the gimmicks of the earliest cinema: an approaching train, a pretty dancer, a man pointing a gun at the camera as in The Great Train Robbery (1903).

by Michael Barrett

23 Jul 2015


Dziga Vertov (born David Kaufman in Ukraine) specialized in a hybrid of documentary, fiction, and propaganda that demonstrated his theories of montage by combining footage into forceful, meaningful motions and a sense of life, action, and progress. His work is showcased on a new Blu-ray anchored on an astoundingly clear print of his 1929 masterpiece The Man with a Movie Camera. What the viewer sees is a full-frame silent print (nothing lopped off the sides), struck from the negative, that Vertov himself left in Amsterdam; missing bits have been restored, including chapter numbers and a brief shot of a baby’s birth. The Alloy Orchestra’s score is based on Vertov’s notes. Although these features are excellent, don’t get rid of the 2002 Image DVD if you have it, which has critical commentary, or the 2003 Kino DVD with Michael Nyman’s score.

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