Category: DVD Report

The DVD Report #638

Aladdin, Disney’s latest live-action version of one of its animated classics to hit the home video market, is a film I wasn’t expecting much from given its mostly negative reviews but was instead pleasantly surprised to find that I liked it.

Most of the negative reviews of the film come from comparing it to Disney’s 1992 animated version but my go-to version of the Arabian Nights story is 1940’s live-action The Thief of Bagdad, which was a remake of the 1924 silent classic of the same name. Although the stories are somewhat different, I find the live-action version of Aladdin closer in spirit to The Thief of Bagdad than Disney’s animated version, which may be why I liked it.

The principal characters in Aladdin are the titled orphan thief, his monkey Abu, the princess Jasmine, the evil Jafar, and a Genie who grants Aladdin three wishes. In one of the wishes, Aladdin is turned into a prince. In the more complex The Thief of Bagdad, the thief isn’t Aladdin but a younger orphan named Abu who is turned into a dog by Jaffar (with two f’s), the evil Grand Vizier who is plotting to become the next sultan. The prince is a separate character. In Aladdin, Abu the monkey is temporarily turned into other animals by the Genie, not Jafar whose name is now spelled with one “f”.

In the 1940 version, Conrad Veidt as Jaffar and Sabu as Abu have top billing with John Justin as the prince, June Duprez as the princess, and Rex Ingram as the Genie also in starring roles. In Disney’s animated Aladdin, it’s the Genie voiced by Robin Williams who dominates. In the live-action version, the Genie is played by Will Smith, but Smith is less dominant in the role, which to me is a good thing. It gives the other actors a chance to make more of an impression in their roles. Smith, as well as Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as the princess, Jasmime, are equally fine as actors, singers, and dancers. Marwan Kenzari makes an interesting Jafar under the direction of Guy Ritchie (The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ).

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The DVD Report #637

Day of the Outlaw is one of those films that owes its legend to home video. Barely released in 1959 in New York, it was dumped directly into neighborhood theatres as the second half of a double bill with Robert Aldrich’s Ten Seconds to Hell, a post-World War II thriller that was also being dumped without the Times Square opening routinely provided major Hollywood films in that era. Neither film was reviewed by the New York Times, although the Times did review Day of the Outlaw when it was first released on DVD in 2008 by which time it had become a bona fide classic.

Directed by André De Toth (House of Wax), Day of the Outlaw has been given a Blu-ray upgrade by Kino Lorber complete with commentary by film historian Jeremy Arnold. One of the bleakest westerns ever made, it’s a constantly surprising work in which the film seems to be going in one direction, but soon goes in another, ending with the good guy outsmarting the bad guys one by one.

Robert Ryan stars as a rancher who comes to town in the dead of winter looking to have it out with local farmer Alan Marshall (The White Cliffs of Dover) over Marshall’s having put up barbed wire fencing but he really wants to kill him so that he can have his wife, Tina Louise, who had played Ryan’s daughter in the previous year’s God’s Little Acre. Ryan, however, soon realizes that Louise loves her husband and will never leave him. Enter wounded gang leader Burl Ives and his men who take over the town.

Ives, fresh on the heels of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Big Country, plays a role very close to his Oscar-winning one in the latter. From then on, it’s a game of cat and mouse between Ryan and Ives as Ryan agrees to lead Ives and his gang on a trek that will take them through a pass in the mountains in the snow, except that there is no pass. Venetia Stevenson, David Nelson, and Elisha Cook, Jr. are among the players in the film’s sterling supporting cast.

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The DVD Report #636

Rocketman, the film about the early-to-middle-aged life of Elton John, was written by Lee Hall who wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Billy Elliot and the book and lyrics for Billy Elliot the Musical for which John wrote the music. It was directed by Dexter Fletcher who took over the direction of Bohemian Rhapsody after the firing of Bryan Singer.

Produced by John, with a writer who previously collaborated with him and the completion director of the similarly themed musical biography of another British rock legend (Freddie Mercury), the project was in good hands. Adding to its anticipated strength was the casting of main stars, Taron Egerton, who previously starred in Dexter’s biographical Eddie the Eagle as the legendary British Olympic ski jumper, and Jamie Bell, who was the original Billy Elliot. Egerton plays John, Bell plays his longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin.

While I generally found the screenplay to be on par with the richly detailed screenplay for Bohemian Rhapsody, which was co-written by three writers, I found the film somewhat disappointing in that it ended with the now 72-year-old John in his mid-40s when he was just entering into a new-found sobriety that has sustained him in the years since. A lot of the music he’s written since surpasses some of what was used in the film. Bohemian Rhapsody ended with the reunion of Mercury and the rest of Queen, not with his death, but nothing after that 1985 Live Aid concert added anything to his legend with just six years left until his death from AIDS. The same can hardly be said of John’s life after 1991 which encompassed scores for movies (The Lion King), Broadway shows (Billy Elliot), great charitable works, knighthood, the meeting of his life partner and eventual same sex marriage, fatherhood, and performing at state funerals. There’s so much there that a TV mini-series would probably be required to capture it all. What is there, though, is good.

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The DVD Report #635

Magnificent Obsession, from Lloyd C. Douglas’ best-selling novel, was a huge hit for Universal when the studio first made it in 1935 as a vehicle for Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor, directed by John M. Stahl. It became an even bigger hit in 1954 when Universal remade it as a vehicle for Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, directed by Douglas Sirk.

Both Criterion’s original DVD in 2006 and their new 2019 Blu-ray release contain both films, although advertising for the set, including the DVD and Blu-ray covers, is for the 1954 version only. This is in complete opposition to Universal’s own dual 2008 DVD and subsequent 2017 Blu-ray releases of Stahl’s 1934 version of Imitation of Life and Sirk’s 1959 remake, for which both versions were given equal promotion.

Sirk, whose credits also include All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, and The Tarnished Angels, long ago became a cult figure, but Stahl, whose credits also include Holy Matrimony, The Keys of the Kingdom, and Leave Her to Heaven, was an equally fine director whose films deserve the same level of respect and interest that Sirk’s now command.

Having watched both versions of Magnificent Obsession in the new Criterion release, my impression is that the Blu-ray restoration of Sirk’s color version doesn’t really add a lot to the previous DVD release, but the restoration given Stahl’s black-and-white version really pops in its shimmering upgrade to Blu-ray.

Author Douglas, a former minister turned writer, is best remembered for The Robe, which in 1953 became the first film released in Cinemascope spurring renewed interest in Magnificent Obsession. The remake made a top box-office star of Hudson as the playboy-turned-surgeon and earned Wyman an Oscar nomination as the woman whose husband’s death was due in part to Hudson’s drunkenness and who is later responsible for the accident in which she is blinded. It’s pure soap opera but played with consummate skill by the stars as well as Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Rush, and Otto Kruger in support that you tend overlook its shortcomings. Sara Haden, Anita Louise, and Ralph Morgan had those parts in the 1935 version in support of Taylor as the playboy and Dunne as the victim.

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The DVD Report #634

Avengers: Endgame takes place after the events of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, but unlike that film, which left me totally cold, this one has a great deal of heart, which sustains it through the non-CGI battle scenes.

The first Avengers film, appropriately titled The Avengers, in which the Marvel superheroes were brought together as a team, was released in 2012. In that one, the principal characters were Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor, all of whom had been the principal characters in previous Marvel films along with newcomers Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsen), and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), a character who had his own incarnation in prior films in which he was played by other actors.

Three years after the initial films came Avengers: The Age of Ultron in which they were joined by War Machine (Don Cheadle), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), whose characters first appeared in other Marvel films released in the interim.

Superheroes joining the group in Avengers: Infinity War included Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), and Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana). The film ends with half the world’s population, including some of the superheroes) killed. It was obvious that the dead, or most of them, would be brought back to life in the follow-up film. How that is done forms the crux of Avengers: Endgame.

The principal heroes in Avengers: Endgame are Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and new-to-the-game Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) with the also new-to-the-game Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) popping in and out as do others.

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The DVD Report #633

Pokémon Detective Pikachu, The Curse of La Llorona, and Tolkien are three 2019 films new to home video for which outside knowledge may well be a factor in their enjoyment. Personally, I found Tolkein, about the formative years of writer-poet-philologist-academic author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), to be the most satisfying of the three.

Tolkien was generally trounced upon by the critics and suffered an agonizing death at the box-office as a result. Most of the critical disappointment seemed to be aimed at the film’s construction which meanders between the future author’s mental and physical suffering in the trenches during World War I and his life prior to that seen in flashback, events that would come to vivid life when mirrored in his later works. It ends with him in his mid-thirties starting to write The Hobbit in 1937. It seems that what the film’s harshest critics wanted was a by-the-numbers story of the author’s life that began where the film ended. This is not that kind of film.

The emphasis in Tolkien is on friendship, fellowship, and love and their effect on the already burgeoning author’s young life. Those familiar with his writings, or the highly successful films made from them, will find parallels in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Former child actor Nicholas Hoult has more than fifty credits to his name, but his portrayal of Tolkien easily ranks with his best from 2002’s About a Boy to last year’s The Favourite. Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror, Rules Don’t Apply) plays a fellow orphan and the love of his life. Patrick Gibson, Anthony Boyle, and Tom Glynn-Carney play the three friends with whom he formed a semi-secret literary society in his school years that they called the T.C.B.S. (Tea Club and Barrovian Society). Colm Meaney and Derek Jacobi play his two mentors, one a priest, the other an academic.

The film is skillfully directed by Finnish actor-director Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland), his first in English. Though mostly factually accurate, the one glaring thing it gets wrong is the timing of the marriage of Tolkien and his beloved Edith, which took place prior to his engagement in the war, not after it.

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The DVD Report #632

Easy Living and A Foreign Affair, two classic comedies from Hollywood’s Golden Age, have been given long overdue Blu-ray upgrades from Kino Lorber. Although both films starred Jean Arthur, they couldn’t have been more different.

1937’s Easy Living, directed by Mitchell Leisen, is among the screwiest of the screwball comedies while 1948’s A Foreign Affair, directed by Billy Wilder, is among the most acerbic of post-war comedy-dramas.

Easy Living begins with Wall Street tycoon Edward Arnold becoming enraged over his spendthrift wife (Mary Nash) having purchased a $56,000 sable coat which he retrieves from her and throws off the roof of his 5th Avenue townhouse where it lands on Arthur as she is travelling to work atop an open double-decker bus. Arthur gets off the bus and attempts to find the coat’s owner when she is spotted by Arnold on his way to work in his limousine knocking on the door of the townhouse next door. He not only convinces her to keep the coat but takes her shopping for a hat to go with it in a store managed by Franklin Pangborn.

Arthur then loses her job and goes to the automat with her last quarter where she is befriended by worker Ray Milland who she assumes is poor like her, but who the audience knows is Arnold’s son trying to make it on his own. In the meantime, Pangborn has told struggling hotel owner Luis Alberni about Arnold’s assumed new protégé who Alberni puts up in his hotel to attract customers. The whole business gets screwier and screwier until Arthur and Milland cause a run on Wall Street over the price of steel which almost ends in ruination for Arnold.

Commentary is provided by film historian Kat Ellinger.

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The DVD Report #631

Do the Right Thing has been given a 4K digital restoration, approved by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack and audio commentary from 1995 featuring director Spike Lee, Dickerson, production designer Wynn Thomas, and actress Joie Lee (Spike’s sister). The two-disc Blu-ray edition includes a documentary from 1989 by St. Clair Bourne in a new 2K digital transfer and new interviews with costume designer Ruth E. Carter, NYC Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., writer Nelson George, and filmmaker Darnell Martin.

Included in addition are three programs from 2000 and 2009, featuring Lee and various cast members, a music video for the film’s theme song, “Fight the Power” directed by Lee, the filmmakers’ 1989 Cannes Film Festival press conference, and more.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last thirty years, you know that Spike Lee has been bemoaning the fact that his film was only nominated for two Oscars – one for Danny Aiello for Best Supporting Actor and one for himself for Best Original Screenplay while the Oscar for Best Picture went to Driving Miss Daisy, a much gentler film about race relations. Let me just say that while Do the Right Thing may be a more important film than Driving Miss Daisy and the other four film nominated for Best Picture that year, Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dream, and My Left Foot, it is not necessarily better than any of them. Time, though, has been kind to Lee’s film about a day in the life of a block in a Brooklyn, N.Y. neighborhood boiling over with the summer heat and rampant racism on all sides.

In only his third film, Lee shows a mastery of film technique that he further perfected over the years through such subsequent films as 1992’s Malcolm X, 1999’s Summer of Sam, 2002’s 25th Hour, and 2018’s BlacKkKlansman. Although classified as a comedy/drama, the film, which erupts into violence in its final half hour, relies a bit too much on insult humor to be genuinely funny but hits its mark with its dramatic fallout.

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The DVD Report #630

Shazam! is a lighthearted action film about teenager Billy Batson who turns into an adult superhero when he utters the word SHAZAM – an acronym comprised of the names of the of the gods who grant him power – (Solomon – Wisdom. Hercules – Strength. Atlas – Stamina. Zeus – Power. Achilles – Courage. Mercury – Speed).

The character’s name, in its original 1939 iteration, was Captain Marvel, not to be confused with Marvel Comics’ character of the same name. The Billy Batson-Captain Marvel was a Fawcett Comics creation, later absorbed by DC Comics in a settlement over a lawsuit in which DC claimed copyright infringement because the character was too much like DC’s Superman. DC later changed his name to the word he utters to avoid confusion with rival Marvel’s ever-changing character.

Zachary Levi makes an engaging superhero, but the heart of the film is its family dynamic. In this version of the character’s beginnings, he wanders away from his mother as a toddler and is raised by a series of foster families. He runs away from all of them in search for his mother who he thinks he has abandoned, even though it was she who abandoned him. He finally finds his true home when he is placed with a diverse family with five other foster children.

Asher Angel as Billy and Jack Dylan Grazer, Faithe Herman, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, and Jovan Armond as his foster siblings are all outstanding. Mark Strong is the villain and Djimon Hounsou is Billy’s wizard-mentor.

Shazam! is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD.

A hero of a different sort is played by Irish actor Andrew Scott in A Dark Place.

Best known as Moriarty to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. Scott plays a mentally handicapped sanitation worker who takes up the cause of a murdered six-year-old boy that the local sheriff has washed his hands of. Set in rural Pennsylvania, where it was filmed in the middle of Trump country, it was made with British money and crew in 2016 and released in the Middle East in 2017, shown in film festivals in the U.K. and South Korea in 2018, and finally released in the U.S. and the U.K. in April of this this year.

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The DVD Report #629

Dead of Night has been released for the first time in the U.S. on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber. The granddaddy of the horror film anthology has been given a 4K restoration that does full justice to the 1945 British film that was released in the U.S. in 1946 with two of its five stories missing. The two missing stories which seemed to bother American film censors of the day were restored for the U.S. television debut of the film shortly thereafter.

Directed by Charles Crichton (A Fish Called Wanda), Basil Dearden (Victim), Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets), and Alberto Calvalcanti (Went the Day Well? ), it features Mervyn Johns, Roland Culver, Googie Withers, and Sally Ann Howes in the linking story with Withers and Howes prominently featured in two of the other segments as well, along with Miles Malleson, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Michael Redgrave, and Elisabeth Welch in other segments. Redgrave and Welch star in the film’s most famous segment, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” with Redgrave’s portrayal of the mad ventriloquist long regarded as the prototype for Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho fifteen years later.

Extras include commentary by film historian Ted Lewis and a 75-minute documentary, “Remembering Dead of Night”.

Criterion has released a Blu-ray upgrade of The BRD Trilogy consisting of three films directed by Germany’s Rainer Werner Fassbinder: The Marriage of Maria Braun, Veronika Voss, and Lola. The films are connected in a thematic, rather than a narrative, way with the emphasis on the title characters in each film set in West Germany in the aftermath World War II. The three-letter acronym stands for Bundersrepublik Deutschland, the official name of West Germany and of the now reunited Germany.

1979’s The Marriage of Maria Braun and 1981’s Lola were given 4K restorations while 1982’s black-and-white Veronika Voss was given a high-definition digital restoration.

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The DVD Report #628

The Aftermath is a British drama about the effects of the aftermath of World War II on the people of Hamburg, Germany and the soldiers who occupy their city. As one British officer puts it, the Russians got the wine, the Americans the views, and the Brits the ruins.

Directed by James Kent (Testament of Youth), the film stars Keira Knightley as a colonel’s wife who lived through the war in London, losing her 11-year-old son in the 1942 bombing of the city. She’s come to Hamburg to reunite with the husband (Jason Clarke) she hasn’t seen for five years, the newly assigned officer in charge of the British occupation. The British Army has commandeered the mansion of an anti-Nazi architect (Alexander Skarsgard) whose wife was killed in the bombings on Hamburg in 1943 as billeting for Clarke and Knightley. Skarsgard and his teenage daughter have been ordered to leave the house and take up residence in a British camp, but Clarke allows them to stay in the house. Skarsgard and his daughter have occupancy of the upper floor while Clarke and Knighley have the lower floor. With Clarke on duty much of the time and Skarsgard’s daughter supposedly attending school, the inevitable happens and Knightly and Skasrgard begin an affair.

The romantic drama plays out against the turmoil of the times as Skarsgard’s daughter falls for a murderous Hitler youth leader. Both narratives are handled sensitively with Flora Thiemann as Skarsgard’s daughter, Jannik Schumann as the Nazi youth, and Fionn O’Shea as Clarke’s driver turning in excellent supporting performances. It’s all very well done, but the two narratives are too quickly resolved at the film’s conclusion. This is one film that would have benefitted from a few additional scenes. An hour and forty-eight minutes running time is too short to do justice to a film with such lofty ambitions. What might have been one of the year’s great films had it been handled differently, becomes instead a pleasant time killer.

The Aftermath is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD.

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The DVD Report #627

Dumbo is the latest live-action version of a Disney animated classic to reach home video.

For eighteen years, 101 Dalmatians was the only animated Disney film to get a live-action remake from the studio. Then in quick succession we got Sleeping Beauty (as Maleficent), Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, the current Aladdin, and the forthcoming The Lion King, Lady and the Tramp, and The Little Mermaid. Discounting Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman, there’s currently talk about remaking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a live-action film as well. There’s no talk of a live-action Disney remake of Pinocchio but Guillermo del Toro is planning his own animated version of Carlo Collodi’s beloved classic.

There’s certainly no harm in reimagining these classics as live-action or combination animated/live-action dramas. Most are based on centuries old tales that have been filmed before as live-action events. Aladdin, for example, was first filmed live-action in 1917 as Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, then in 1926 became the first animated feature as Germany’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed combining Aladdin’s story with that of the prince. 1940’s The Thief of Bagdad, which was a variation on the Aladdin story, remains a beloved live-action masterpiece. The 1992 Disney animated musical version of Aladdin was equally beloved in its day, the current live-action remake, not so much.

I found both Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent to be ho-hum versions of the classic fairy tale. To me, both Disney versions of Cinderella pale in comparison to Rodgers & Hammerstein’s made for TV musical.

I’ve always preferred the 1942 non-Disney live-action version and Disney’s own 1994 live-action version of The Jungle Book to Disney’s animated 1967 musical version and certainly to their 2016 live-action remake of the 1967 animated musical. While I love Jean Cocteau’s 1946 live-action French version of Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s 1991 animated musical version has been my favorite Disney film ever since. I found the 2017 live-action remake to be pretty good in its own right as well.

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The DVD Report #626

Hotel Mumbai marks the feature film debut of Australian director Anthony Maras who co-wrote the screenplay with veteran Scottish writer John Collee (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Happy Feet).

This non-stop thriller is a highly suspenseful action-packed account of the 2008 attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel aka “the Taj” and other locations in Mumbai, India. Although other attacks are shown, the emphasis of the film is on the attack on the five-star luxury hotel, which first opened its doors in 1903.

While the screenplay is a composite of actual and fictional events, the attack by an Islamic terrorist group out of Pakistan was based on hundreds of hours of interviews with survivors and witnesses. A significant amount of dialogue was taken verbatim from intercepted cell phone calls made during the three-day siege.

On the night of November 28, 2008, a group of young men armed with explosives and AK-47s stormed the hotel with instructions fed to them through an earpiece from a controller called “Brother Bull” who promised them Paradise for killing infidels and money paid to their families for their sacrifice in the name of “Allah.” The local police were overwhelmed and initially did nothing but wait for the Special Forces from New Dehli, hours away, to arrive. Eventually, a handful of brave local police did enter the hotel in a mostly failed attempt to help evacuate guests and employees. In the meantime, it was up to the guests and staff members to fend for themselves.

The film plays out much like the 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno in which various hotel guests, staff members, and public officials were indiscriminately killed while others survived an attack on the hotel by fire.

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The DVD Report #625

RKO Classic Romances, the new Blu-ray collection from Kino Lorber, gives us five Pre-Code tearjerkers, all of them preserved by the Library of Congress and restored by Lobster Films.

In chronological order, the films are Sin Takes a Holiday, released in November 1930; Millie, released in February 1931; Kept Husbands, also released in February 1931; The Lady Refuses, released in March 1931; and The Woman Between, released in August 1931.

The odd thing about these five films is that the leading ladies in all but one of them are well-remembered today, but their leading men are all but forgotten.

Constance Bennett, the star of Sin Takes a Holiday, had a career that outlasted her. She died eight months before the release of her last film, the 1966 version of Madame X, in which she played Lana Turner’s mother-in-law. Her co-star, Kenneth MacKenna had a career and a life that lasted almost as long, but most of his later roles were in distinguished but rather small parts in such films as the college president in 1960’s High Time and as one of the judges in 1961’s Judgment at Nuremberg the year before his death.

Bennett plays a poor secretary in love with her wealthy boss (MacKenna) who doesn’t reciprocate her love but is close enough to her to ask her to enter in a marriage of convenience so he can hold off a predatory female who won’t take no for an answer. It takes a shipboard romance between Bennett and third-billed Basil Rathbone to make MacKenna jealous and realize he loves Bennett after all.

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The DVD Report #624

The Man Who Laughs, the 1869 novel by Victor Hugo, has been adapted for the screen less frequently than the myriad versions of Hugo’s better-known works, 1831’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and 1862’s Les Misérables. The most famous version was Paul Leni’s 1928 silent classic, given a 4K restoration for its Blu-ray release by Flicker Alley.

Produced by Universal, The Man Who Laughs was the next to last film made by German director Leni who died of blood poisoning in Los Angeles a year later at the age of 44. Like Quasimodo, the title character in Hunchback, the title character in Laugh is physically deformed. Unlike Quasimodo, who was born physically deformed, Laugh‘s Gwynplaine was the son of a British nobleman who offended England’s despotic King James II before fleeing the country by refusing to kiss his ring. When he returns to England to reunite with his son in 1690, he is captured by the king’s men and told by the king before he has him executed that his son was sold to the Cormanchico gypsies who have carved a permanent grin on his face. When the Cormanchicos are exiled from England, they leave the deformed boy behind. Wandering in the cold and snow, he finds Dea, a blind baby girl, in the arms of her dead mother and rescues her, finding shelter in the home of Ursus, a showman who raises them both, making them stars in his traveling show.

Gwynplaine and Dea fall in love and are about to be married, when Barkilphedro, King James’ evil jester, plots to have Gwynplaine marry the duchess who now owns the estate once owned by Gwynplaine’s father so that Gwynplaine can be named the rightful heir to the estate by James’ successor, Queen Anne, and he, Barliphedro, can be rewarded.

The film’s success owes much to the performances of both Julius Molnar as the ten-year-old Gwynplaine and Conrad Veidt who plays him as an adult. Mary Philbin as the grown Dea, Olga Baclanova as the duchess, Brandon Hurst as Barliphedro, Cesare Gravino as Ursus, and Josephine Crowell as Queen Anne lead the supporting cast.

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