by Mark Burger



Nearly 50 years after the original screen version of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic anti-war novel won the Best Picture Oscar, Delbert Mann’s fine 1979 adaptation, aired on CBS in the US and was released theatrically overseas – and is that rare remake that equals the original.

Richard Thomas plays Paul Baumer, an idealistic, naïve German student determined to do his part for Kaiser and Country in World War I. Instead, he gets a first-hand look at the grim realities and horrific waste of war.

There’s some “John-Boy Walton” earnestness and he’s rather old for the role, but Thomas does Paul justice, and he’s surrounded by a fine cast including Patricia Neal (Paul’s mother), Donald Pleasence, Ian Holm and especially Ernest Borgnine, in top form as the tough but fatherly Katczinsky.

Winner of the Golden Globe for Best Made for Television Movie and an Emmy for Outstanding Film Editing, the film earned six additional Emmy nominations including Outstanding Drama or Comedy Special, Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series or Special, Outstanding Supporting Actor (Borgnine) and Outstanding Supporting Actress (Neal). The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $22.97.

“ACTION DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A pair of sea-faring sagas: Adventure Island (1947) with Rory Calhoun and Rhonda Fleming, and Rex Lease in Gun Cargo, which began filming in 1930 but went unseen until its 1949 TV debut! The DVD retails for $7.98.

THE BEAR (Shout! Factory): A 25thanniversary special edition of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s spectacular, epic 1988 adaptation of James Oliver Curwood’s novel (originally titled L’ours) follows an orphaned grizzly club through the wilds of 19th-century British Columbia. Noelle Boisson’s editing earned an Oscar nomination. The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $19.99. Rated PG.

“BLUE BLOODS”: THE FIFTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): The Reagan family is back on the beat in all 22 episodes from the 2014-’15 season of the award-winning CBS police series, with Tom Selleck heading an ensemble cast including Bridget Moynihan, Donnie Wahlberg, Will Estes and Len Cariou. The six-DVD collection ($64.99 retail) boasts bonus features.

“CSI – CRIME SCENE INVESTIGA- TION”: THE FINAL SEASON (CBS DVD/ Paramount): After 15 years and countless cases, the award-winning CBS crime series and venerable ratings juggernaut comes to an end … but not before 18 episodes from the 2014-’15 season, available on DVD ($64.99 retail).

ESCOBAR: PARADISE LOST (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Executive producer Benicio Del Toro plays the infamous Colombian crime baron Pablo Escobar in writer/director Andrea Di Stefano’s R-rated thriller, available on DVD ($22.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.99 retail).

THE ETERNAL SEA (Olive Films): Sterling Hayden stars in this fact-based 1955 Naval drama as Rear Admiral John Madison Hoskins, who returned to command after losing a leg in combat during World War II, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

GUNLAND (Moguldom Studios/ Cinedigm): A depressing but undeniably effective documentary examining the cycle of gun violence in Chicago, statistically the murder capital of the world and referred to by some residents as “Chiraq.”

JFK: THE ROAD TO CAMELOT (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD collection ($7.98 retail) of vintage documentaries tracing the life and career of John F. Kennedy.

MAN OF CONQUEST (Olive Films): Richard Dix plays the legendary Sam Houston in this 1939 biographical drama that earned Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Original Score and Best Sound Recording, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

NAZI INTERROGATION (Alpha Home Entertainment): Believe it or not, this little-seen 1944 film (originally titled Resisting Enemy Interrogation) was presented by the U.S. Air Force – and produced by Ronald Reagan (!) – to instruct prisoners how not to inadvertently divulge military secrets or strategy to Nazi captors during World War II, and earned an Oscar nomination as Best Documentary Feature. More melodrama than documentary, but put across by a cast including Lloyd Nolan, Arthur Kennedy, Craig Stevens, Peter Van Eyck, Don Porter, Kent Smith, George O’Hanlon and Carl Esmond. Supposedly, Mel Torme’s here, too. This was essentially remade as a straight feature in 1951’s Target Unknown.

NIGHTINGALE (HBO): A tour-deforce for dynamic David Oyelowo (Emmy nominee for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Mini-Series or Movie), as a troubled combat veteran rapidly losing his sanity. Oyelowo was an executive producer (so was Brad Pitt), and the film also earned an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Television Movie. !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2015, Mark Burger.