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Blu-ray upgrades 'Cinema Paradiso,' 'Love in the Afternoon,' 'The Boy Friend'

Posted March 15

A number of popular vintage movies have received Blu-ray upgrades, which should please their fans.

“Cinema Paradiso” (Arrow, 1988, two versions: PG-rated 124-minute theatrical film and R-rated 173-minute director’s cut, audio commentary, documentary: “A Dream of Sicily,” featurettes, trailers, booklet). When Salvatore, a famous but unfulfilled filmmaker (Jacques Perrin), learns an old friend has died, he reflects on his childhood growing up in a small Sicilian village after World War II.

In flashbacks, he recalls his gradually deepening friendship with Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), the cranky projectionist at the local movie theater who became a father figure, as well as the eccentrics that populated the town and the priest who screened each film, forcing Alfredo to remove kissing scenes.

This artful, utterly enchanting Italian melodrama — which won the Academy Award for best foreign language picture — is both an unabashed love letter to the movies and a tender coming-of-age story. It’s filled with heart and joy, alternately funny and sentimental. The extended “director’s cut” (with a couple of R-rated sex scenes) is surprisingly inferior to the theatrical version (rated PG).

“Love in the Afternoon” (Warner Archive, 1957, b/w, trailer). Maurice Chevalier is a detective in Paris hired to catch an aging American playboy (Gary Cooper) with a client’s wife. But when the detective’s musician daughter (Audrey Hepburn) overhears the client threaten Cooper’s life, she boldly intervenes to save him, and, of course, winds up falling for the older man. This is a dated but still witty, bubbly bedroom farce from director Billy Wilder, who also co-wrote the script with I.A.L. Diamond, with whom he would collaborate for 10 more films. (The Blu-ray debut is available at warnerarchive.com.)

“The Boy Friend” (Warner Archive, 1971, G, featurette, trailer). In her first film, Twiggy acquits herself nicely, singing and dancing like a trouper in this enjoyable, nostalgic salute to early musicals (with specific nods to “Flying Down to Rio” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” among others). Set in the 1920s, the story follows the “42nd Street” template, as Twiggy is a last-minute sub for an ailing star (unbilled Glenda Jackson), and there are parallel onstage and offstage stories mixed with fantasy sequences. This Blu-ray upgrade restores the film to its original length and enhances the eye-popping colorful designs and Busby Berkeley-style dance routines. (The Blu-ray debut is available at warnerarchive.com.)

“The Yakuza” (Warner Archive, 1974, R for violence, audio commentary, featurette). A retired American detective (Robert Mitchum) is asked by an old friend (Brian Keith) to rescue his daughter, who has been kidnapped by a Japanese mobster, although, of course, Keith isn’t telling the whole story. It is an interesting, if talky and superficial, neo-noir thriller, which benefits from location shooting in Japan and excellent support from Japanese actors Ken Takakura, Keiko Kishi and James Shigeta. (The R rating is pretty soft and would no doubt be PG-13 today.)

“Joe Bullet” (Film Detective, 1973, not rated/probable PG-13, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). The tough guy title character (played by character actor Ken Gampu, “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” “The Naked Prey”) is called upon to help a soccer team that is being pressured by gangsters just before the championship finals. This micro-budget African thriller in the “blaxploitation” mold was banned by Apartheid in the 1970s and hasn’t been seen in four decades. It has nice restoration work, though it’s primarily of interest for its historical value.

“Psychomania” (aka “The Death Wheelers,” Arrow, 1973, PG, archival and new featurettes, trailer, booklet). This is an offbeat, silly, low-budget zombie yarn about a biker gang called the Living Dead whose members make a demonic pact, commit mass suicide and then return to life as the undead. You might logically expect from the title (and poster art of a skull wearing a helmet) that this is a gory R-rated horror film, but it is instead a PG-rated horror film with violence, to be sure, but nothing that rises to an R-rated level.

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 hicks@deseretnews.com.

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