New This Week
Let Him Go is a road picture set in the mid-20th century west. Larry Watson’s 2013 novel was set in 1951 with its protagonists traveling from North Dakota to Montana. The film is set in 1963 with the protagonists traveling from Montana to North Dakota.
The film begins with grandparents Kevin Costner and Diane Lane enjoying life on their ranch with their son, his wife, and their infant grandson until their son is accidentally killed from a fall from a horse. Three years later, the son’s widow remarries. Grandmother Lane sees her former daughter-in-law’s new husband strike her grandson and his mother in the street. The next day she goes to visit them at their apartment and finds that they have suddenly left. She convinces her husband that they need to find their grandson and rescue him from whatever danger he may be in.
It turns out the boy is in plenty of danger from the former daughter-in-law’s new family, headed by her new husband’s mad mother (Lesley Manville). What will it take to rescue him?
Written for the screen and directed by Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone), the film benefits from the superb cinematography of Guy Godfree (Maudie) and the acting of Costner and Lane in their first film together since 2013’s Man of Steel in which they played the adoptive parents of Clark Kent. The supporting cast is fine with Manville (Phantom Thread) earning a Best Supporting Actress nomination from the Hawaiian Film Critics. The standout, though, is Booboo Stewart (The Twilight Saga) as an Native American boy living on his own in the wilderness who Costner and Lane meet along the way who proves invaluable in the end.
Universal Home Video has released it on both Blu-ray and standard DVD.
Universal has also released Wild Mountain Thyme, albeit on DVD only.
Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns) and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades Trilogy) are single, middle-aged Irish neighbors, farmers, whose elderly parents (her mother, Dearbhla Molloy; his father, Christopher Walken) have all but given up on their marrying before they themselves die. Walken tries one last time to push his shy son in the direction he knows he wants to go by bringing over a nephew (Jon Hamm) from America to take over his farm when he dies, but the ruse doesn’t work.
Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck, Doubt) from his play Outside Mullingar, this is pure whimsey that never grows tedious thanks to the splendid performances from all. Walken’s character narrates from the grave.
The film has a Places in the Heart ending, albeit one in a karaoke bar not a church.
Kino Lorber has released Anna Lucasta and The Kiss Before the Mirror on both Blu-ray and standard DVD.
Based on the 1944 play by Philip Yordan (Detective Story), who also wrote the screenplay, 1958’s Anna Lucasta, directed by Arnold Laven (Rough Night in Jericho), was the second version of the play to be made into a film following the 1949 version with a screenplay by Yordan and Arthur Laurents, directed by Irving Rapper.
Originally written about a Polish-American family, the play was rewritten for the all-black 1944 Broadway cast. It was not performed in its original version until 1947 on which the 1949 film version starring Paulette Goddard was based.
The 1958 film version starred Eartha Kitt, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Rex Ingram, with members of the original Broadway cast.
Kitt plays the rejected daughter of a sanctimonious drunken father who threw her out of his Los Angeles home on the day she graduated from high school. In the years since, she has become a San Diego prostitute. When a wealthy old friend of her father sends his son to her father to find a suitable wife, he goes to San Diego to convince her to return home without telling her the real reason for his change of heart.
Kitt and Davis, who plays her sailor lover, were already major stars whose popularity would extend even further after this film. She would reach TV immortality with 1967’s Batman in which she played Catwoman. He would become a longtime popular stage, TV, and film star (Ocean’s 11). Here they are playing to already established popularity, while the heavy acting is done by the superb supporting cast led by Ingram (The Thief of Bagdad) as Kitt’s nasty father. Georgia Burke, who played Kitt’s mother, was 80 years old by the time the film was made. She lived to be 107, dying in 1985.
Also in the cast were Frederick O’Neal, Henry Scott, James Edwards, Isabel Cooley, and Rosetta LeNoire.
The Kiss Before the Mirror, directed by James Whale (Frankenstein), was one of the screen’s most notorious pre-code films.
Nancy Carroll (Broken Lullaby) gets top billing thanks to her star status, but the film revolves around Frank Morgan (The Wizard of Oz) as the husband who wants to kill her for having an affair with another man.
The film opens with Gloria Stuart (Titanic) cheating on husband Paul Lukas (Watch on the Rhine) with Walter Pidgeon (Mrs. Miniver). She is caught by Lukas and murdered by him. He asks old friend Morgan to defend him. Morgan is wary at first, but when he catches Carroll cheating with Donald Cook (Show Boat), he decides to take the case and prove him innocent as a set-up for his own murder of Carroll.
Jean Dixon (Holiday) and Charley Grapewin (The Grapes of Wrath) play attorneys Morgan hires to assist him, the only genuinely decent characters in the film, which is best remembered for its striking cinematography by Karl Freund (Dracula) on leftover Frankenstein sets.
Whale remade this in a watered-down version called Wives Under Suspicion in 1938 with Warren William in Frank Morgan’s role, Gail Patrick in Nancy Carroll’s, Frank’s brother Ralph Morgan in Paul Lukas’ role, and Cecil Cunningham in Jean Dixon’s role.
This week’s U.S. Blu-ray releases include The Parallax View and The Suspect.