'A League of Their Own' celebrates its 25th anniversary with a new Blu-ray
Posted April 26
“A League of Their Own” leads vintage titles newly released on Blu-ray.
“A League of Their Own: 25th Anniversary” (Columbia, 1992, PG, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, music video, trailer). The All American Girl Professional Baseball League, formed in 1943 when pro ballplayers were being drafted during World War II, provides the basis for this entertaining comedy-drama, with a great cast, a sharp script (by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel) and a fine director (Penny Marshall) at the top of her game. Stars include Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell, Bitty Schram, Jon Lovitz, Bill Pullman and many more. Téa Leoni also shows up in a minor role.
“36 Hours” (Warner Archive, 1965, b/w, trailer). This clever World War II thriller stars James Garner as an American officer with information about the upcoming invasion of Normandy, who is captured by Nazis. He is then subjected to an elaborate ruse so that he’ll willingly give up the information — he’s placed in a fake hospital and told he’s suffering from amnesia, and that it’s 1950 and the war is over. Rod Taylor is the Nazi doctor in charge and Eva Marie Saint is a sympathetic nurse. (The Blu-ray debut is available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Ride the High Country” (Warner Archive, 1962, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). This is an excellent Western from director Sam Peckinpah pairing two 1950s cowboy icons for the first time — Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea — as aging former lawmen in the early 20th century, hired to guard a gold shipment. McCrea is a straight arrow but Scott plans to steal the gold, which becomes complicated when they rescue an abused young woman (Mariette Hartley) along the way. It includes gorgeous color outdoor locations shot in CinemaScope. (The Blu-ray debut is available at warnerarchive.com.)
“The Rounders” (Warner Archive, 1965, trailer). This light comic Western is told in episodic vignettes with Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda as modern-day bronc busters struggling to keep afloat. When they come across a horse that can’t be tamed, they decide to take it from town to town, betting rodeo riders they can’t stay on the nag. Lots of familiar character actors have fun in this one, chiefly Sue Ane Langdon, Hope Holiday, Chill Wills and Edgar Buchanan. (The Blu-ray debut is available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Spencer’s Mountain” (Warner Archive, 1963, featurettes, trailer). Henry Fonda and Maureen O’Hara star in this tender rural family drama set in Wyoming’s beautifully photographed Grand Tetons during the 1940s, with James MacArthur, Donald Crisp, Wally Cox and Veronica Cartwright. It is based on Earl Hamner Jr.’s novel of the same title, which was also the basis for the 1972 long-running TV series “The Waltons.” (The Blu-ray debut is available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Three Brothers” (Arrow, 1982, PG, in Italian with English subtitles, featurette, trailer, booklet). This heartfelt exploration of family and the inherent need for hope is as artistic as a painting, with director Francisco Rosi capturing feelings that are universal. Three brothers — a judge (Philippe Noiret), a blue-collar worker (Michele Placido) and a teacher (Vittorio Mezzogiorno) — haven’t spoken in years but are reunited at the passing of their mother. Memories overtake them and their father (Charles Vanel), whose flashbacks with his young wife are particularly touching.
“The Assassin (L’Assassino)” (Arrow, 1961, b/w, introduction, featurette, trailer, booklet). You’ll be forgiven if Kafka comes to mind with this pretty good mystery that stars Marcello Mastroianni as Alfredo, an antiques dealer who is arrested without explanation. Gradually we learn Alfredo is suspected of murdering his wealthy older lover as the investigation alternates with flashbacks to his past.
“Django, Prepare a Coffin” (aka “Viva Django,” Arrow, 1968, not rated/probable PG-13, in Italian with English subtitles or English dubbed, featurette). Three years before he became an international star with “They Call Me Trinity,” Terence Hill played grim gunslinger Django in this better-than-average sequel, which follows the Sergio Leone-Clint Eastwood template for its style, look, opening credits and musical score, as did uncountable European Westerns of the 1960s and ’70s.
“Caltiki: The Immortal Monster” (Arrow, 1959, b/w, in Italian with English subtitles or in English dubbed, introduction, alternate opening titles, audio commentaries, featurettes, booklet). While digging in Mayan ruins, archaeologists find a strange amorphous blob that attacks them. They fend it off but bring a piece of it back home. Bad idea. This is a goofy ’50s B-movie monster flick with a U.S. cult following for its English-language version.
“Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism” (Arrow, 1969-73, b/w, not rated/probable R for nudity and some violence, in Japanese with English subtitles, introductions, featurettes, audio commentaries, trailers, 80-page booklet). This Blu-ray set is the first sanctioned U.S. release of Japanese new-wave filmmaker Kiju Yoshida’s work. Included are “Eros + Massacre” (both the theatrical version and an extended director’s cut), “Heroic Pergatory” and “Coup d’Etat.” Stylistic, abstract, ethereal and with stunning black-and-white cinematography, Yoshida’s films deserve to be seen by serious students of foreign films.
“Donnie Darko: Limited Edition” (Arrow, 2001; R for language, drugs, violence; theatrical cut, director’s cut, deleted/alternate scenes, introduction, featurettes, storyboards, photo galleries, trailers/TV spots, music video, short film, booklet). This bizarre cult favorite stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character, a schizophrenic high schooler in 1988 plagued by hallucinations of a six-foot rabbit that predicts the end of the world. Or are they hallucinations? “Harvey” it ain’t. Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle and Seth Rogan co-star.
“The Red Queen Kills Seven Times” (Arrow, 1972, not rated/probable R for violence and nudity, in Italian with English subtitles or dubbed in English, audio alternative opening, commentary, featurettes, trailers). After two sisters inherit a castle, a rash of killings begins. Is it the fulfillment of the supposed family curse that says their ancestor, the Red Queen, rises every 100 years to take seven lives? This is a routine exploitation giallo thriller. Barbara Bouchet and Sybil Danning co-star.
“The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave” (Arrow, 1971; R for violence, sex, nudity; in Italian with English subtitles or English dubbed, introduction, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). After killing his redheaded wife, a wealthy aristocrat is institutionalized, but when he’s released he kills more red-haired women by luring them to his home. So much for rehabilitation. This is a sleazy giallo horror, typical of the genre.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at email@example.com.