DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (VCI Entertainment)
Agatha Christie’s quintessential whodunit Ten Little Indians has been brought to the screen several times. The first and best was this 1945 version, served to perfection by screenwriter Dudley Nichols and director Rene Clair.Ten strangers have been invited to a remote island by the mysterious “UN Owen” (hmmm…) for a weekend gathering that soon turns fatal. Each guest is accused of having gotten away with murder, and one by one each guest turns up dead. It becomes apparent to the remaining survivors that one among them is the killer — but who?A delightful cast of suspects and victims includes such adept scene-stealers as Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Richard Haydn, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, June Duprez, Mischa Auer, Queenie Leonard, C. Aubrey Smith and Judith Anderson, each making a bid to steal the show before bidding farewell to the proceedings. Rarely has murder been this lethally charming and this much fun. When it comes to “golden oldies,” this is one that set the gold standard.The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $19.93.
“ANTIGONE 34”: THE COMPLETE SE- RIES (MHz Networks): A three-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of the 2012 season of the popular French crime series about the murder of a female medical student in the historic city of Montpellier, with veteran detective Anne Le Nen joining forces with the victim’s father (Bruno Todeschini) and an unorthodox criminologist (Claire Borotra) to solve this and other cases. In French with English subtitles.
“THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES:” THE OFFICIAL FOURTH SEASON (CBS DVD/ Paramount): A four-DVD collection ($19.96 retail) of all 32 episodes from the 1965-’66 season of the long-running, award-winning CBS sitcom created by Paul Henning and starring Buddy Ebsen, Max Baer Jr., Donna Douglas, and the inimitable Irene Ryan as Granny.
THE BLUE BIRD (Alpha Home Entertainment): Maurice Maeterlinck’s fairy-tale classic was first adapted for the screen by director Maurice Tourneur in this 1918 silent version, filmed in lovely Fort Lee, NJ — and that’s no fantasy. The DVD retails for $7.98.
BOYS IN BROWN (VCI Entertainment): Sympathetic superintendent Jack Warner oversees the inmates of an English reformatory in screenwriter/director Montgomery Tully’s 1949 adaptation of Reginald Beckwith’s play, boosted by a cast including Richard Attenborough, Dirk Bogarde and Jimmy Hanley.
CARRY ON COLLECTION: VOLUME 2 (VCI Entertainment): A four-DVD collection ($31.99 retail) of comedies from the long-running British comedy series produced by Peter Rogers and directed by Gerald Thomas: Carry On Henry VIII (1971), Carry On At Your Convenience (‘71), Carry On Matron (1972), Carry On Girls (1973), Carry On Abroad (‘72), Carry On Dick (1974), Carry On Behind (1976) and Carry On England (‘76). Regular cast members include Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Sidney James, Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor.
THE LADY VANISHES (VCI Entertainment): Angela Lansbury is the vanished lady in this spotty 1979 remake of Hitchcock’s classic set aboard a train in pre-World War II Germany, written by George Axelrod with an emphasis on humor. Elliott Gould is acceptable as the American hero but Cybill Shepherd is out of her depth as a madcap heiress. Good Douglas Slocombe cinematography and a stalwart supporting cast: Ian Carmichael, Arthur Lowe, Vladek Sheybal and alwayswelcome Herbert Lom. Barely released in the US, this box-office flop was the final film made by Britain’s Hammer Films. Rated PG.
LOST TV CLASSICS (Alpha Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this DVD compilation ($7.98 retail) of rare episodes from the early days of television, including Red Ryder starring Allan “Rocky” Lane, Steve Reeves as Kimbar of the Jungle, Marvin Miller’s The Storyteller and Robert Beatty as Bulldog Drummond (hosted by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.).
THE MAN FROM TORONTO (VCI Entertainment): Jessie Matthews and Ian Hunter will inherit a fortune if they marry, but true love takes longer to bloom than expected in this quaint 1932 romantic comedy based on Douglas Murray’s play and Herbert Jenkins’ novel. Frederick Kerr steals the show as a stuffy attorney.
NARCOTICS SQUAD (Alpha Home Entertainment): Paul Kelly (police inspector) and Regis Toomey (concerned coach) investigate a high school heroin ring in this stodgy 1957 police procedural (also released as Curfew Breakers and Hooked!), the only film directed by Alex Wells, who wrote the screenplay and co-stars as a cop. This DVD also includes 1955’s One- Way Ticket to Hell (AKA Teenage Devil Dolls), a low-budget, cautionary exploitation melodrama — replete with “Dragnet”- style narration — starring Barbara Marks as a teenager hooked on drugs. This was the only released film of writer/editor/ director B. Lawrence Price Jr., who also appears, as do his real-life parents.
THE NEW THREE STOOGES COM- PLETE CARTOON COLLECTION (Image/ Madacy Entertainment): A self-explanatory five-DVD boxed set ($29.98 retail) of all 156 cartoons and 40 live-action shorts from the syndicated animated series which premiered in 1965 and featured Moe Howard, Larry Fine and “Curly Joe” DeRita. A bonus CD includes 12 sing-along and 11 Christmas songs performed by the comedy trio.
NORMAN WISDOM DOUBLE FEA- TURES (VCI Entertainment): Although not as well-known stateside, British-born funnyman Norman Wisdom (1915-2010) was extremely popular in the UK, as this collection of twin-bills proves: “Volume 1” includes Trouble in Store (1953) and One Good Turn (1954), “Volume 2” includes Man of the Moment (1955) and Up in the World (1956), “Volume 3” includes Just My Luck (1957) and The Square Peg (1958), “Volume 4” includes Follow a Star (1959) and The Bulldog Breed (1960), “Volume 5” includes On the Beat (1962) and A Stitch in Time (1963), and “Volume 6” includes The Early Bird (1965) and Press for Time (1966). Wisdom, who co-wrote some of his films, was knighted in 2000. Each DVD volume retails for $14.93.
SILENT COMEDY CLASSICS COLLECTION (Alpha Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this compilation of vintage comedy shorts: “Volume 1” features Charley Chase, Mabel Normand and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle; “Volume 2” features Syd Chaplin (Charlie’s brother), Neal Burns and Lupino Lane. Each DVD retails for $7.98.
SILENT COMEDY MARATHON (Alpha Home Entertainment): A self-explanatory compilation of vintage comedy shorts from the days before sound: “Volume 1” features Mabel Normand, Jimmie Finlayson and Oliver Hardy (billed as “Babe” Hardy); “Volume 2” features Snub Pollard, Jimmie Adams, cross-eyed comic Ben Turpin, and a short directed by DW Griffith! Each DVD retails for $7.98.
THERE GOES THE BRIDE (VCI Entertainment): Runaway bride Jessie Matthews flees to Paris and sparks fly when she encounters Owen Nares on a train. Matthew’s effervescence dominates this frothy 1932 comedy, which includes a couple of tunes and a supporting cast including Roland Culver, Basil Radford, George Zucco and, if you look quickly, David Niven in his screen debut.
WOMAN UNAFRAID (Alpha Home Entertainment): Fast-moving 1934 programmer with Lucile Gleason as a policewoman who opens her home to wayward girls while trying to nail crime boss Jason Robards Sr.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.