DVD Pick of the week: NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH (VcI entertainment)
This little-seen 1948 adaptation of James Hadley chase’s controversial bestseller was itself controversial, condemned in its native england upon release, then castigated by the Us media when it opened stateside three years later. Today, however, the film is largely forgotten. linden Travers plays Barbara Blandish, a spoiled heiress who is kidnapped and winds up in the clutches of slim Grisson (Jack la Rue), a sloe-eyed killer whose psychotic behavior Barbara finds irresistible. she doesn’t want to be rescued; she wants to stay with him!
Needless to say, this causes considerable tension within Grisson’s gang, which includes his equally crazy mother (lilly molnar). This star-crossed romance is destined to end badly, and it does — for all concerned. set in New York city but shot in london with a predominantly British cast, this adds to the strange, lurid tone of the story, which is rife with suggestive dialogue and unsubtle innuendos. characters are unceremoniously insulted, roughed up and shot throughout the film with an amazing casualness — and this was 40 years before the likes of Quentin Tarantino made an industry out of it. No wonder the censors were outraged! It’s a weird, wicked piece of work.
Sadly, No Orchids for Miss Blandish marked the last film for screenwriter/producer/director st. John l. clowes, who died the year it was completed. The novel was later remade as The Grissom Gang by the great Robert Aldrich, but this version is a true original, a blunt classic whose crime was being ahead of its time.
ALSo oN DVD
AIR BUD: GOLDEN RECEIVER (Walt Disney studios Home entertainment): A special edition ($29.99 retail) of the predictable 1998 family comedy about a football-playing pooch. This was the second in a long, seemingly endless series of “Air Bud” movies. Rated G.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Walt Disney studios Home entertainment): Nearly 60 years before its current live-action version of the lewis carroll classic, Disney released this enduring 1951 animated feature starring the voices of kathryn Beaumont as Alice, sterling Holloway as the cheshire cat, Jerry colonna as the march Hare, and ed Wynn as the mad Hatter. oliver Wallace’s score earned an oscar nomination. This two-disc “special Un-Anniversary edition,” undoubtedly timed to coincide with the release of the new film, retails for $29.99. Rated G.
CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT (Universal studios Home entertainment): An all-American teenager (chris massoglia) falls in with traveling sideshow headed by a mysterious vampire (John c. Reilly) and populated by supernatural performers in this big-screen adaptation of Darren shaw’s best-selling series of novels, which veers haphazardly between playing it straight and playing it for laughs. The result was a box-office dud (and the likely end of a possible film franchise), but it’s not without points of interest, including stephen Trask’s score and an eclectic (in some cases, wasted) supporting cast that includes salma Hayek, Willem Dafoe, ken Watanabe, Ray stevenson, Josh Hutcherson, Patrick Fugit, orlando Jones, Frankie Faison, Jane krakowski and colleen camp. Rated PG-13.
THE EASTWOOD FACTOR EXTENDED VERSION (Warner Home Video): Noted film critic Richard schickel’s fawning but irresistible documentary tracing the remarkable career of Academy Award-winning filmmaker and boxoffice superstar clint eastwood, as narrated eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby) and focusing almost exclusively on his work at Warner Bros. (Big surprise, given who released it!)
GAMERA, THE GIANT MONSTER (shout! Factory): A special edition ($19.93 retail) of the original, Japanese version of the 1965 sci-fi monster movie about a giant, prehistoric turtle released from his Arctic slumber by an atomic explosion. The flying, fire-breathing beast then does his best (and worst) to level Tokyo. The first in the popular film franchise, and the only one filmed in black-and-white.
LEGION (sony Pictures Home entertainment): Angels wage war on earth in this supernatural shoot-’em-up that boasts a better-than-average cast (including Dennis Quaid, Paul Bettany, kate Walsh and charles s. Dutton) but ultimately falls apart. Initially portentous, then pretentious and, finally, ridiculous. Rated R.
THE LOUIS L’AMOUR COLLECTION (Warner Home Video): A self-explanatory triple-bill of Westerns ($19.97 retail) based on the novels of louis l‘Amour: Yul Brynner plays the title role in Catlow (1971), co-starring Richard crenna and leonard Nimoy, and directed by actor sam Wanamaker; sam elliott produced and plays the title role in the award-winning 1991 adaptation of Conagher, co-starring real-life wife katharine Ross (they also collaborated on the script); and The Sacketts (1979), originally broadcast as a mini-series, with elliott, Tom selleck, Jeff osterhage, Ben Johnson and Glenn Ford.
THE MADELINE MOVIE: LOST IN PARIS (shout! Factory): An exceedingly genteel animated feature based on ludwig Bemelman’s classic series of children’s books, which sees the title character (as voiced by Andrea libman) leaving her home — and her friends — in Paris when a long-lost “uncle“ (voiced by Jason Alexander) claims her. The songs aren’t good, but the presence of christopher Plummer (as the narrator) and lauren Bacall compensate somewhat. Ideally suited to the small screen.
“MARCUS WELBY, MD”: SEASON ONE (shout! Factory): Veteran actor Robert Young returned to television in the title role of this long-running prime-time NBc-TV medical drama that paired him with James Brolin as his young prot’g’. This seven-DVD boxed set ($49.97 retail) includes all 26 episodes from the 1969-’70 season, including the original two-hour pilot. eight emmy Award nominations with four wins, including outstanding Dramatic series, Young for outstanding continued Performance by an Actor in a leading Role in a Dramatic series, and Brolin for outstanding Performance by an Actor in a supporting Role in a Dramatic series.
MINNESOTA CLAY (VcI entertainment): screenwriter/director sergio corbucci’s 1965 spaghetti Western stars cameron mitchell in the title role, a hard-bitten gunman who escapes prison and seeks vengeance against the corrupt lawman (Georges Riviere) who unjustly sent him there. This task is made infinitely more difficult because clay is rapidly going blind, compelling him to “hear out” his enemies. slow going at points, but mitchell’s go-for-broke performance and the exciting climactic gunfight make this a must for fans. The original Italian ending is a real eye-opener (no pun intended), and the theatrical trailer (which compares the film to Treasure of the Sierra Madre and High Noon!) is a treat.
NFL RUN FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP: THE 2009 SEASON IN REVIEW (NFl Films/Warner Home Video): A special-edition DVD ($19.98 retail) summarizing the entire 2009 NFl season. NFl Films/ Warner Home Video is also releasing Road to Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints (the special-edition DVD retails for $39.92, the special-edition Blu-ray for $49.95), which celebrates the saints’ first super Bowl championship; and the self-explanatory NFL New York Jets Best Games of the 2009 Season DVD boxed set, which retails for $26.95.
PETE’S DRAGON (Walt Disney studios Home entertainment): A “high flying” edition of the 1977 Disney musical with sean marshall as a young orphan whose friend and protector is an animated dragon (“elliott” by name) who can render himself invisible. everybody tries: Helen Reddy, mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, Jim Dale, shelley Winters, Jim Backus, et al — but this is overlong and overly talky, with negligible songs — although “candle in the Water” earned an oscar nomination, as did the film’s original score. I actually saw this at Radio city music Hall in New York city when I was a kid. It didn’t impress me then, either. Rated G.
THUNDER IN CAROLINA (VcI entertainment): Racing melodrama from 1960, with Rory calhoun as a veteran and John Gentry (in his last screen role) as the rookie he trains, leading to inevitable competition at the southern 500. A pre-“Gilligan’s Island” Alan Hale (as a one-armed mechanic) and a pre-“mr. ed” connie Hines (in her first and only big-screen role) are on the sidelines. Filmed on location in Darlington, sc with actual footage used in the racing scenes.
“TRUE BLOOD”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBo Home entertainment): HBo hit the jackpot with this steamy, top-rated, awardwinning combination of vampirism and sex in the Deep south, as created by producer Alan Ball and based on charlotte Harris’ popular series of “sookie stackhouse” novels. All 12 episodes from the 2009 season are included in this boxed set, which retails for $59.99 (DVD) or $79.98 (Blu-ray). The hot-blooded cast includes Anna Paquin (as sookie) and her real-life fianc’ stephen moyer, michelle Forbes, Alexander skarsgard, chris Bauer, carrie Preston and William sanderson (a long way from “Newhart”!). Three emmy Award nominations, with a win for outstanding casting for a Drama series.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.