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.

Also being given Blu-ray upgrades by Kino Lorber are Man Without a Star, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Man in the White Suit, and The Good Mother.

Man Without a Star is another western with a reputation that has grown since its initial release, although this one from director King Vidor (The Big Parade, The Citadel) was given a proper release in 1955, complete with a favorable New York Times review and strong box office.

Kirk Douglas was at his ingratiating best as a wandering cowpoke who takes young William Campbell under his wings much in the way John Wayne did Montgomery Clift in Howard Hawks’ 1948 classic Red River, which was also from a story by writer Borden Chase.

Man Without a Star provides Douglas with two leading ladies, Jeanne Crain as the haughty ranch owner who employs him and Claire Trevor as the good time gal who has seen it all before. Informative commentary is provided by film historian Tony Roan.

The three Ealing Studio comedies, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, and The Man in the White Suit, were released between 1949 and 1951 in the U.K. and 1950 and 1952 in the U.S. All were enormous hits on both sides of the Atlantic and Kino Lorber has treated them all astonishingly well.

Kind Hearts ad Coronets is presented with an introduction by director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger along with a featurette on star Dennis Price, a vintage interview with the film’s cinematographer Douglas Slocombe (Raiders of the Lost Ark), and more. This one, directed by Robert Hamer (Dead of Night), is the one in which Guinness plays eight members of Price’s family, seven of whom are murdered by him on his ascension to the family dukedom. A more droll, ironic comedy has never been written and is likely never to be. Guinness won the National Board of Review award as Best Actor of 1950 for this and was runner-up in the New York Film Critics award to José Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac.

The Lavender Hill Mob is presented with an introduction from director Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull) and commentary from film historian Jeremy Arnold along with vintage interviews with writer T.E.B. Clarke (Sons and Lovers) who won an Oscar for the film’s screenplay and Slocombe whose cinematography is as much a star of film as Guinness, who received his first Oscar nomination for his performance, and Stanley Holloway (My Fair Lady), who play the merry bank robbers who turn the gold bullion into Eiffel Tower paperweights. It was directed by Charles Crichton (A Fish Called Wanda).

The Man in the White Suit is not given an introduction but does feature an informative commentary by film historian Dr. Dean Brandon and interviews with director Stephen Frears (The Grifters) and critic Ian Christie. This one, directed by Alexander Mackendrick (Sweet Smell of Success), contains what was possibly Guinness’ most beloved performance as the eccentric chemist who invents a fiber that never wrinkles, wears out, or gets dirty which makes him the most hunted man in England when the mill owners fear the invention will destroy their industry. The stunning black-and-white cinematography was again provided by Slocombe. This one was Oscar-nominated for its screenplay.

There are no extras on Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray of The Good Mother, which is a bit of an odd release considering that it is one of the worst films of the late 1980s.

Diane Keaton was 42 playing a woman in her late 20s or early 30s in this 1988 release, which would be OK if she were playing it straight but her idea of playing a younger woman was to act giddy, if not downright silly through the first half of the film, after which she acts as though she were the most put-upon woman since the invention of the tearjerker.

Keaton plays a divorcée in a relationship with an unemployed artist (Liam Neeson) who one day allows her six-year-old daughter to touch his genitals leading to Keaton’s ex-husband (James Naughton) bringing a suit for custody of the girl, which of course he wins. That’s it, that’s the story. Not even Jason Robards as Keaton’s attorney or Ralph Bellamy and Teresa Wright as her grandparents can breathe life into the film. It was directed with deadly dullness by Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Three Men and a Baby) who should have stuck with fantasy and comedy and stayed far away from straight drama.

This week’s new releases include John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum and Reap the Wild Wind.

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