by Mark Burger


Michael Winner’s underrated 1978 version of Raymond Chandler’s classic novel has long been considered inferior to Howard Hawks’ 1946 version, yet in many ways it’s a more faithful adaptation “” and certainly enjoyable on its own terms.

This was the third 1970s Philip Marlowe thriller, following Robert Altman’s brilliant The Long Goodbye (1973) and Dick Richards’ evocative Farewell, My Lovely (1975). From that film, Robert Mitchum returns as the cynical, worldweary private detective “” though this time the action is shifted to contemporary London. At 60, Mitchum’s old for the role, but who’s complaining? He’s got the perfect persona and delivery.

Marlowe is hired by ailing general James Stewart (in his only R-rated film) to investigate a blackmail threat that proves more complicated than it seems “” as he is inevitably thrust into a web of deception, sexual intrigue and, of course, murder.

Mitchum and fellow Americans Candy Clark and Richard Boone (memorably menacing as thuggish Lash Canino) are joined by a stellar British line-up: Sarah Miles, John Mills, Edward Fox, Joan Collins, Harry Andrews, Richard Todd, James Donald, Colin Blakely (OK, he’s Irish), Diana Quick and Oliver Reed, who are wickedly delightful as debonair, dangerous club owner Eddie Mars, who advises Marlowe “I’m nice to be nice to, but I’m not nice not to be nice to,” to which Marlowe replies: “If you listen real hard, you’ll hear my teeth chatter.” That’s movie magic, folks, and pure Raymond Chandler.

The new widescreen DVD (a bargain at $9.99) includes a jaunty audio commentary by Winner (misspelled as “Michel” on the menu), who died in 2013. Rated R.

“BLUE BLOODS”: THE FOURTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): The Reagan family (headed by Tom Selleck) continues to uphold the family tradition by upholding the law as New York City police officers, in all 22 episodes from the 2013-14 season of the award-winning CBS crime drama co-starring Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynihan, Will Estes, Amy Carlson and Len Cariou. The six-DVD boxed set retails for $64.99 and includes bonus features for “Blue” buffs.

“CESARE MORI”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (MHz Networks): In this 2012 Italian mini-series, Vincent Perez plays the title role of the real-life police prefect (known as “The Iron Prefect”) who was given carte blanche to battle the Mafia in 1920s Italy by Mussolini (played by Maurizio Donadoni). In Italian with English subtitles The two-DVD boxed set retails for $29.95.

“THE CURSE OF OAK ISLAND”: SEASON 1 (LionsGate): A DVD collection ($14.98 retail) of all five episodes (plus bonus features) from the inaugural 2014 season of the popular History Channel reality series following sibling treasure hunters Rick and Marty Lagina.

“DONNA DETECTIVE”: SEASON 1 (MHz Networks): A three-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of all six episodes from the inaugural 2007 season of the popular Italian crime series starring Lucrezia Lante della Rovere in the title role, the head of a crack police unit in Rome balancing the rigors of police work and family life. In Italian with English subtitles.

“THE EAGLE”: SEASON 1 (MHz Networks): A three-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of all eight episodes from the inaugural 2004 season of the awardwinning Danish crime series (originally titled Ørnen: En krimi-odyssé) starring Jens Albinus as a sharp-eyed (hence his nickname) but burned-out police inspector who heads a special task force assigned to investigate international crime. In Danish with English subtitles.

GINGER SNAPS (Scream Factory/ Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.93 retail) of the awardwinning, cult-classic 2000 shocker starring Katharine Isabelle (she’s Ginger) and Emily Perkins as close-knit siblings whose relationship is tested when one is bitten by a werewolf and becomes one herself. It’s a fresh take on the legend, and the first in a trilogy. Bonus features include audio commentaries, deleted scenes, interviews and more.

“THE MEN FROM SHILOH” (Timeless Media Group): A DVD collection ($49.97 retail) of all 24 episodes from the 1970-’71 season of the prime-time NBC Western series, a sequel/spin-off from “The Virginian” set 10 years later, with James Drury and Doug McClure reprising their roles and now joined by Stewart Granger, Lee Majors and John McLiam. Guest stars include Art Carney, Jack Albertson, John Ireland, Desi Arnaz, Susan Strasberg and more.

“NCIS: LOS ANGELES”: THE FIFTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J lead their crack investigation team in all 24 episodes from the 2013-’14 season of the awardwinning CBS crime series (spun off from “NCIS,” obviously). The six-DVD boxed set, which includes special features, retails for $64.99.

NEED FOR SPEED (Buena Vista Home Entertainment): Ex-con Aaron Paul hits the road in this high-octane, low-IQ action melodrama as an ex-con bent on revenge against the former friend (Dominic Cooper) who framed him. Imogen Poots plays Paul’s unlikely partner-in-crime and Michael Keaton the motor-mouthed race commentator. The cars are fancy, and they go fast, but this bigscreen video-game adaptation loses traction in the second half. Rated PG-13.

“NICOLAS LE FLOCH”: VOLUME ONE, EPISODES 1-6 (MHz Networks): A self-explanatory four-DVD collection ($49.95 retail) of feature-length episodes from the 2008-10 seasons of the popular French mystery series based on Jean-Francois Parot’s best-selling novels, starring Jérôme Robart in the title role of a young police commissioner who wends his way through deception, murder, scandal and political skullduggery in 18th-century Paris. In French with English subtitles.

“PERRY MASON MOVIE COLLECTION” (CBS DVD/Paramount): Nearly 30 years after playing the tenacious attorney created by Erle Stanley Gardner, Raymond Burr reprised his Emmy-winning role in a series of top-rated NBC-TV mystery movies, with Barbara Hale back as Della Street and Hale’s real-life son William Katt as investigator Paul Drake Jr. (in the earlier ones). CBS/Paramount has released DVD double-features: Perry Mason Returns (1985)/The Case of the Notorious Nun (1986), The Case of the Shooting Star (1986)/The Case of the Lost Love (1987), and The Case of the Sinister Spirit (1987)/ The Case of the Murdered Madam (also ’87) – each retailing for $16.99 – as well as “Volume 2″ boxed set ($59.99 retail) which includes six films: The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel (1987), The Case of the Avenging Ace (1988), The Case of the Lady in the Lake (also ’88), The Case of the Lethal Lesson, The Case of the Musical Murder and The Case of the All-Star Assassin (all 1989), and the “Volume 3″ boxed set ($59.99 retail) which includes The Case of the Poisoned Pen, The Case of the Desperate Deception, The Case of the Silenced Singer, The Case of the Defiant Daughter (all 1990), The Case of the Ruthless Reporter and The Case of the Maligned Mobster (both 1991). Needless to say, Perry’s streak of courtroom victories remains intact!

“THE WORLD WARS” (Lions- Gate): Jeremy Renner narrates a pair of top-rated, self-explanatory History Channel documentaries: “WWI: The World Changed Them” and “WWII: They Changed the World.” The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.99. !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2014, Mark Burger.