Hitchcock's 'Suspicion' is on Blu-ray, and a 'lost' early talkie has been found
Posted April 24, 2016
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion” gets a Blu-ray upgrade, a very early “lost” film has been found, and several other older titles have been released on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time. (Warner Archive titles are available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Suspicion” (Warner Archive, 1941, b/w, featurette, trailer). This romantic mystery directed by Alfred Hitchcock features Cary Grant in a most unusual role — a sort of would he or wouldn’t he — when his wife (Joan Fontaine) begins to suspect he wants to do her in.
Grant is a charming but penniless playboy with gambling debts who meets and marries the shy and awkward, but very rich, Fontaine. But after the honeymoon, as his true character surfaces and especially after a mysterious death occurs, she begins to suspect that he’s a killer. Hitchcock keeps us on edge until the finale, which has an ending that is not what the filmmaker preferred but which was studio-imposed (as explained on the making-of featurette).
Grant and Fontaine, who won an Oscar for this role, are excellent, as are supporting players Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty and Leo G. Carroll (in his second of six Hitchcock thrillers).
“The Man and the Moment” (Warner Archive, 1929, b/w). Silent-film star Billie Dove headlines this farce, which is one of her few surviving talkies and was a lost film that was recently restored when a negative turned up in Italy. She plays a woman who enters into a marriage of convenience and then regrets it … for a while. It's still largely a silent film but has sound sequences and some title cards that repeat spoken dialogue. Dove is great, but leading man Rod La Rocque is better when he’s silent.
“Bulldog Drummond”/”Calling Bulldog Drummond” (Warner Archive, 1929/1951, b/w, trailer). These two entertaining mysteries are arguably the best of the many Bulldog Drummond films based on the H.C. McNeile novels about a British soldier-turned-sleuth. Ronald Colman makes his talkie debut in the first, helping an American woman (Joan Bennett) investigate a corrupt asylum, and Walter Pidgeon takes over for the second, being pulled out of retirement and reluctantly teaming with a woman (Margaret Leighton) to track down a ring of thieves.
“Not So Dumb” (Warner Archive, 1930, b/w). Marion Davies plays a scatterbrained fiancee whose intended is climbing the business and social ladder. To help him out, she throws a party, and, of course, everything goes wrong. It's a creaky, stagebound early sound film that nonetheless gets laughs as an early screwball comedy thanks to Davies’ talent for slapstick and malapropism-laden one-liners.
“Piccadilly Jim” (Warner Archive, 1936, b/w, trailer).
“The First Hundred Years” (Warner Archive, 1938, b/w, trailer). Robert Montgomery, a dapper leading man of the 1930s and ’40s who alternated between serious drama and farce, stars in these two witty comedies. In the first, he’s a cartoonist whose penchant for basing his characters on those around him makes for unhappy relatives (Frank Morgan and Robert Benchley co-star). The second is a surprisingly relevant look at a husband whose new job means relocating, but his wife (Virgina Bruce) is not happy about giving up her thriving career.
“A Fine Pair” (Warner Archive, 1968, PG, trailer). Rock Hudson is a New York police captain (three years before playing a West Coast police commissioner in “McMillan and Wife”) duped into committing a heist by sexy con artist Claudia Cardinale. This one is more silly than funny, but the stars seem to be having fun.
“Dillinger” (Arrow, 1973, R for violence and language, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer photo gallery; booklet). This is a gritty, straightforward retelling of the exploits of notorious 1930s bank robber John Dillinger, well played by character actor Warren Oates. It’s a satisfying directing debut by screenwriter John Milius, and the great cast includes Ben Johnson, Michelle Phillips, Harry Dean Stanton, Cloris Leachman, and Richard Dreyfuss as Baby Face Nelson.
“Outlaw Gangster VIP: The Complete Collection” (Arrow, 1968-69, not rated, six movies, in Japanese with English subtitles, audio commentary, featurette, trailers, photo galleries; booklet). Tetsuya Watari (“Tokyo Drifter”) stars in these six exciting, albeit violent, Japanese thrillers as a gangster called Goro, whose weapon of choice is a knife as he contends with a variety of bad guys. The women in his life are better, but he tends to reject them — for their own good, of course.
All six are well-conceived action pictures with solid plotting and colorful characters, and Watari hits all the right notes as an antihero who a young Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson would have felt comfortable playing in an American version. Each film is titled “Outlaw” with a different subtitle: “Gangster VIP,” “Gangster VIP 2,” “Heartless,” “Goro the Assassin,” “Black Dagger” (all released in 1968) and “Kill” (1969).
“Melinda” (Warner Archive, 1972; R for violence, sex, nudity, language). Calvin Lockhart exudes charm in this blaxploitation effort as a hotshot karate-kicking DJ who becomes suspect No. 1 when the title character (Vonetta McGee) is found dead in his apartment. So, naturally, he plays detective to clear himself. The routine plot is enlivened by a solid cast, including martial artist Jim Kelly in his first film. Rosalind Cash co-stars.
“The Stuff” (Arrow, 1985, R for violence and language, hourlong making-of documentary, trailer with introduction and audio commentary; booklet). This is a hit-and-miss horror-spoof that lampoons Madison Avenue with a tale of white goo that bubbles up from the ground, is marketed as a new dessert and proves to be both addictive and lethal — think “The Blob” as food. It’s a cult favorite and features Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino and Danny Aiello.
“The Zero Boys” (Arrow, 1986; R for violence, language, sex; audio commentary, featurettes, trailer, photo gallery, music videos; booklet). This bland don’t-go-in-the-woods slasher flick has a band of weekend warriors (actually paintball enthusiasts) taking their girlfriends to a remote cabin in the woods where a mysterious killer begins killing them off one by one.
“Bride of the Re-Animator” (Arrow, 1990; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; R-rated and extended unrated versions, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, trailer; booklet). This is a semi-comic horror gorefest sequel with Jeffrey Combs back as H.P. Lovecraft’s perverted Dr. Herbert West, once again making like Frankenstein in this sort-of tribute to “Bride of Frankenstein.” It’s not up to the first “Re-Animator,” which was a cult favorite.
“Dangerous Men” (Drafthouse, 1979-2005; not rated but with R-level violence, sex, nudity, language; featurette; audio commentary, featurettes, trailers; 16-page booklet). This amateurish, overly violent, distaff “Death Wish” has an abused woman on a killing spree of men she deems dangerous. Iranian filmmaker John S. Rad began the film in Los Angeles in 1979, but it wasn’t completed until 2005, when he paid thousands of dollars for a weeklong release in five L.A. theaters. The film earned back just $70.
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.