Rod Serling's 'Patterns' and other vintage titles are on Blu-ray, DVD
Posted October 5
The Rod Serling drama “Patterns” is on DVD this week, along with other vintage titles.
“Patterns” (Film Detective, 1956, b/w). Van Heflin stars in this excellent boardroom melodrama as an ambitious industrial engineer hired by a corporate raider (Everett Sloane) who is impressed with his work ethic. But once he’s on the inside, Heflin sees that Sloane is a ruthless boss.
In particular, Heflin blanches at how Sloane browbeats his second-in-command (Ed Begley), an efficient executive who, according to Sloane, cares too much about the employees and not enough about the bottom line. Heflin is to be Begley’s replacement, and he initially plays along until he witnesses things that are hard to stomach and begins to wonder if he’s made the right decision. A tragedy helps him make up his mind.
The efficient, emotionally charged screenplay is by Rod Serling, who had already churned out more than 70 scripts for radio and television when he wrote “Patterns” for a live 1955 TV broadcast. He won his first Emmy and it established his reputation (leading to “The Twilight Zone” three years later). In 1956, Serling scripted a theatrical-movie version of “Patterns,” and this release marks that film’s Blu-ray debut.
“Love Me or Leave Me” (Warner Archive, 1955, two Ruth Etting shorts, short film about MGM’s 1955 releases, trailer). Doris Day and James Cagney make an unlikely but nonetheless effective duo in this true story of 1920s-’30s singing star Ruth Etting and her relationship with gangster Martin Snyder, nicknamed “The Gimp.” Cagney is forceful (and was nominated for an Oscar) and Day delivers a strong performance and gets to perform some terrific songs. The Blu-ray upgrade enhances the colorful CinemaScope presentation. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)
Two Films from Director Douglas Sirk: "A Scandal in Paris”/“Lured” (Cohen, 1946/1947, b/w, two films, audio commentaries, featurettes, eight-page booklet). These two very early Sirk melodramatic mysteries both offer top billing to British actor George Sanders, who is perhaps best remembered today for his roles in “All About Eve” (which earned him an Oscar), “Village of the Damned” and the Inspector Clouseau comedy “A Shot in the Dark.”
“A Scandal in Paris” and “Lured” feature Sanders in familiar roles, playing sophisticated cads in two slick, highly entertaining productions. “Scandal” has him playing real-life 19th century French criminal-turned-private detective Eugène François Vidocq opposite Signe Hasso and Carole Landis. “Lured” has Lucille Ball as a taxi dancer in London who, after her friend goes missing, helps police inspector Charles Coburn investigate a string of serial killings, which leads her to Boris Karloff, Cedric Hardwicke and Sanders, for whom she develops romantic feelings.
“Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Edition” (Sony, 1986, PG, audio commentary, documentary, featurettes, trailer, 24-page book packaging). A variety of new bonus features should lure fans of this dark, strange Jim Henson musical fantasy with 14-year-old Jennifer Connelly as a girl whose baby brother is spirited off by the Goblin King (David Bowie), and who must traverse the title maze (and lots of grotesque Muppets) to rescue him.
“Carrie: Collector’s Edition” (MGM/Shout!, 1976; R for violence, nudity, sex, language; featurettes, trailers/TV and radio spots, photo gallery). Based on Stephen King’s first book, this scary, vivid horror yarn about a bullied high school girl with telekinetic powers gave Sissy Spacek a star-making platform and an Oscar nomination. Piper Laurie was also nominated as her abusive mother, with attention-getting roles for up-and-comers Amy Irving, Nancy Allen and John Travolta. This film also put the director on the map, that flamboyant master of excess, Brian De Palma.
“Johnny Mack Brown: Monogram Cowboy Collection, Volume 9” (Warner Archive, 1946-48, three discs, b/w, nine movies). These 53-minute Westerns are what were called “programmers” in the 1940s, the lower half of double features — and the Monogram studio churned out each one in just a matter of days. Johnny Mack Brown, one of low-rent studio’s Western stars, made no less than 26 during the three-year span represented here. So, they’re more on the level of a 1950s TV show than a big-screen epic, but they’re efficient and fun, and fans will be happy to see Brown represented here with nine features made from excellent prints. (This manufacture-on-demand DVD-R is available at warnerarchive.com.)
“When a Feller Needs a Friend” (Warner Archive, 1932, b/w). This vehicle for child star Jackie Cooper is a run-of-the-mill sentimental yarn as he plays a sweet-natured boy with a brace on his leg, which subjects him to bullying and causes his parents to worry. But the boy’s uncle (Charles “Chic” Sale) takes him under his wing and helps him persevere. This middling script is brightened by Cooper and veteran silent/early talkies character actor Sale. (This manufacture-on-demand DVD-R is available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Highlander: 30th Anniversary” (Lionsgate, 1986; R for violence, sex, language; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). This film led to several movie sequels and TV spinoffs, but it’s a real mishmash, a mix of genres and styles that results in too broad a stew for me. Christopher Lambert is a time-traveling, immortal warrior with Sean Connery as his Yoda and Clancy Brown as a pursuing villain, heading for a showdown in contemporary Manhattan. A favorite moment is French actor Lambert as a Scotsman, explaining haggis to Connery, a Scotsman playing an Egyptian.
“The Hills Have Eyes” (Arrow, 1977, R for violence, audio commentary, alternate ending, featurette, trailers/TV spots, photo gallery, booklet, poster, six postcards). This early Wes Craven horror film (which led to a sequel and a 21st century reboot) owes something to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with its story of a vacationing family whose camper breaks down in a remote desert area inhabited by cannibals.
“Dead End Drive-In” (Arrow, 1986, violence, sex, nudity, language, audio commentary, trailer, 1973 TV documentary on Australian stuntmen, 1978 short public-information film). This is an Australian, dystopian, teen-exploitation flick, which arrived on the heels of the Australian thrillers “Mad Max” and “The Road Warrior,” about a desolate future where drive-in movie theaters have been turned into delinquent concentration camps.
“Slugs” (Arrow, 1988, R for violence, sex, nudity, language, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer, booklet). This throwback to ’60s creature features (only bloodier and more profane) has toxic-waste yielding mutant slugs that cause an outbreak of health issues in a small town.
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.