The DVD Report #682

Hair was a worldwide sensation on stage. The rock musical, which debuted off-Broadway in late 1967, quickly moved to Broadway in early 1968 and soon expanded all over the world. The Original Cast Recording was also a phenomenon and the 2009 Broadway revival was a tribute to its timelessness. In the meantime, there was Milos Forman’s 1979 film version.

Olive has released a superb Olive Signature edition of the film on Blu-ray joining the ranks of a select handful of classics that include High Noon, The Quiet Man, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Features include audio commentary by assistant director Michael Housman and star Treat Williams; The Tribe Remembers, new on-camera interviews with cast members John Savage, Beverly D’Angelo, Don Dacus, Annie Golden, Dorsey Wright, and Ellen Foley; and much more.

Although the film version of Hair received high praise from critics and audiences upon its release, its box office was disappointing for a grade A film version of a much-loved Broadway musical. Consensus was that time had passed it by, that a film about hippies and the Vietnam War was not relevant in the more conservative era that would soon usher in Ronald Reagan as the U.S. president. It received no Oscar nominations in which the Best Picture nominations went to the delightful bicycle movie Breaking Away, the beautifully filmed but largely incoherent Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now, the union movie Norma Rae, the open heart surgery musical All That Jazz, and the anti-feminist soap opera Kramer vs. Kramer, which won.

Hair was a much better musical than All That Jazz and, in the end, a more realistic film about Vietnam than Apocalypse Now. It was also a huge improvement dramatically over the stage version which was rather sketchy. John Savage, who during filming was still doing retakes on The Deer Hunter, brought the same level of gravitas to his character here. Treat Williams, in his breakthrough performance, was a revelation as the leader of the Central Park hippies called “the tribe” and the rest of the cast was sensational as well. Forman’s direction is on the same level as in his two Oscar-winning films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, four years earlier, and Amadeus, five years later.

Time heals everything as they say, and Hair on home video is a cause for celebration anytime you give it a spin.

One of the great screwball comedies, Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve from 1941, has been given a 4K digital transfer from Criterion for its long overdue Blu-ray release.

Sturges’ third film as a director was the first of his undisputed masterpieces, followed by Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story, and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek in quick succession.

Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda star as a card sharp and her mark. This was one of three great comedies with Stanwyck to be released that year. The others were Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe and Howard Hawks’ Ball of Fire, for which she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. Good as she is in that, she’s even better in The Lady Eve in which she leads an impeccable cast of farceurs including Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest, and Eric Blore.

Extras include Peter Bogdanovich’s introduction from the 2001 DVD release and a Zoom conference with the director’s son, Tom Sturges, along with Bogdanovich, filmmakers James L. Brooks and Ron Shelton, and critics Susan King, Leonard Maltin, and Kenneth Turan, filmed during the current pandemic plus lots more.

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema IV, Kino Lorber’s latest combo release of films noir features 1946’s Calcutta, 1948’s An Act of Murder, and 1955’s Six Bridges to Cross.

Written by the prolific Seton I. Miller (Here Comes Mr. Jordan), and directed by John Farrow (The Big Clock), Calcutta is an Alan Ladd-Veronica Lake-William Bendix-style noir without Lake. Gail Russell is the femme fatale this time around. Its Chungking (now Chongqing) and Calcutta (now Kolkata) locations set it apart, but it is very formulaic with an ending you can figure out in the first few minutes of the film.

Adapted from Ernst Lothar’s The Mills of God, and directed by Michael Gordon (Pillow Talk), An Act of Murder is about a highly respected judge (Fredric March) on trial for the mercy killing of his wife (Florence Eldredge), defended by the fiancée (Edmond O’Brien) of his daughter (Geraldine Brooks). Taut, and highly provocative, this is a genuine, if little-known masterpiece featuring March in one of his best performances. He and real-life wife Eldredge are sublime.

Based on a real-life story, directed by Joseph Pevney (Man of a Thousand Faces), Six Bridges to Cross is about a lifelong friendship between a cop (George Nader) and a streetwise delinquent (Sal Mineo) who grows up to be a criminal mastermind (Tony Curtis). Curtis, Nader, and Julie Adams as Nader’s wife are excellent, as is Mineo in the opening scenes in one of the better crime films of its era. The young actor would earn the first of his two Oscar nominations for the same year’s Rebel Without a Cause.

Acorn Video has released the popular 2013-2018 Australian series A Place Called Home in several iterations, including an elaborate twenty-disc set of the entire series encompassing 67 episodes, running 54 ½ hours. If you’ve never seen this series, you will want to set aside time to binge-watch the entire thing. Part Downton Abbey, part Dynasty, and completely engrossing, you will want to move quickly past the cliffhangers at the end of each season to find out what happens next.

The story revolves around a mysterious woman on a ship from England to Australia in 1953. All we know about the woman at the outset is that she is a nurse who is returning to Australia after a twenty-year absence. On the voyage, she is asked to administer the health of the powerful matriarch of a family of gentleman farmers in a Sydney suburb. While on board, she stops the woman’s newly married grandson from jumping overboard, setting up the dynamic that will forever link her and the family together.

The impeccable cast includes Marta Dusseldorp as the nurse, Noni Hazlehurst as the matriarch, Brett Climo as her son, David Berry as her grandson, Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood as his wife, Craig Hall as the local doctor, and that’s just for starters. The plot thickens in the first episode and never lets up. The coda at the end of the 67th episode, that ends just after midnight January 1, 1960, tells you what happens to all the major characters. You’ll need to keep a box of tissues handy for that.

This week’s new releases include the Blu-ray releases of Marriage Story and Mephisto.

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