A number of familiar vintage titles receive Blu-ray upgrades this week
Posted June 5
Blu-ray upgrades are arriving this week for a number of fan-favorite vintage titles.
“Father of the Bride” (Warner Archive, 1950, b/w, newsreels). If you are only familiar with the Steve Martin remake, consider this funny, warm and poignant black-and-white original with Spencer Tracy in the title role as a harried lawyer who worries about his daughter (young Elizabeth Taylor) — and his cash reserve — when her wedding plans spiral out of control.
After his daughter casually announces her plans to marry into a wealthy family, Papa has trouble accepting that his little girl has grown up. Then the wedding-planning games begin, and Tracy’s wife (Joan Bennett) is no help, wanting to provide their daughter with the biggest and brightest shindig possible. Terrific support from Don Taylor, Billie Burke, Russ Tamblyn, Leo G. Carroll and Utah native Moroni Olsen. (Available at warnerarchive.com)
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Warner Archive, 1966, b/w, two audio commentaries, featurettes, screen test, trailers). A much older Elizabeth Taylor and her husband at the time, Richard Burton, star in this rough-and-tumble adaptation of Edward Albee’s play about a middle-aged couple’s volatile marriage, which erupts in front of a naive young married couple (Sandy Dennis and George Segal).
Director Mike Nichols’ first film is an edgy, dark dramatic satire and was one of the movies that provided the impetus for the movie-rating system, which followed two years later. Certain language in this film was considered quite shocking at the time, though today it would easily earn a PG-13 (no F-words). Nominated for 13 Oscars, the film won five, including Best Actress (Taylor) and Best Supporting Actress (Dennis). (Available at warnerarchive.com)
“Blood Bath” (Arrow, 1963-66, b/w, not rated but in PG-13 territory, two discs, four films, new/vintage featurettes, outtakes, photo gallery, trailers; booklet). Is it a vampire flick, a variation on “House of Wax,” a supernatural tale of reincarnation or simply a thriller about a mad artist? Actually, it’s all of these in four different iterations of the same movie, each of which is included here. The result is a fascinating study of on-the-cheap filmmaking and how the manipulative-editing of existing materials can drastically alter a storyline. Movie buffs in particular should find it instructive.
Initially, “Operation Titian” was a 1963 Yugoslavian thriller that co-producer Roger Corman deemed unreleasable in the United States, so it was re-edited and shortened as “Portrait in Terror.” The next year new scenes were shot to turn it into a supernatural horror film and it became the even shorter — and more luridly titled — “Blood Bath.” Finally, in 1966, another version was constructed with yet more new footage turning it into a vampire picture, “Track of the Vampire.” All four versions are mediocre at best. The most enjoyable element is the 80-minute documentary amid the bonus features that chronicles the convoluted production history.
“Comrade X” (Warner Archive, 1940, b/w). Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr star in this prewar comedy that echoes “Ninotchka” and pokes a stick at Nazi Germany in the story of an American reporter pursuing an icy Soviet streetcar conductor in Moscow. Not up there with Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” but an enjoyable, light wartime political satire. Eve Arden co-stars. (Available at warnerarchive.com)
“Bad Influence” (Shout!, 1990; R for violence, sex, nudity, language, drugs; featurette, trailer). This raunchy variation of Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” has button-down James Spader befriended by tough-guy Rob Lowe in a bar, beginning a friendship that finds Lowe leading Spader down a booze-and-drugs road that leads to murder and mayhem. Needless to say, Spader has trouble extricating himself from the relationship.
“A Married Woman” (Cohen, 1964, b/w, not rated but with some discreet sex and nudity, in French with English subtitles, featurettes, trailers; eight-page booklet). This is an intellectually demanding story of adultery directed in an artsy, abstract manner by maverick filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, with something to say about the objectification of women. The title character becomes pregnant and doesn’t know whether the father is her husband or her lover as she debates which one she wants to stay with.
“City of Women” (Cohen, 1980, R for sex and nudity, b/w and color, in Italian with English subtitles, featurettes, trailers; eight-page booklet). One of Federico Fellini’s lesser films is a sleazy fantasy that explores the Italian filmmaker’s obsession with women. Marcello Mastroianni is his stand-in, wandering through a dreamlike — and at times nightmarish — landscape of a wide variety of women who treat him with hostility.
“Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers By Emilio P. Miraglia” (Arrow, 1971/1972; not rated but R-level violence, sex, nudity, language; two movies, in Italian with English subtitles, audio commentaries, introductions, new/vintage featurettes, trailers; 60-page booklet). Two sordid exercises in the Italian 1970s giallo horror/mystery genre: “The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave” and “The Red Queen Kills Seven Times,” both featuring female protagonists whose propensity for mayhem stems from curses they can’t control.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.