DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: SHANE (Warner Home Video)
SHANE (Warner Home Video): One of the best-loved Westerns of its time (if not all time), this 1953 adaptation of Jack Schaefer’s novel is not without its familiar elements, yet director George Stevens assembles and conveys them to maximum effect.Alan Ladd plays the title role, a mysterious but benevolent gunslinger trying to live down his violent past. He befriends settlers Joe and Marian Starrett (Van Heflin and Jean Arthur) and is worshiped by their young son Joey (Brandon De Wilde). But when a greedy land tycoon (Emile Meyer) tries to force the Starretts and other settlers off their land, Shane steps in.The story is told with depth and sensitivity, yet the suspense is always palpable, the action swift and sudden — especially when hired killer Jack Wilson (Jack Palance) arrives on the scene to settle the score. Palance doesn’t have much screentime, but his presence is felt throughout.Loyal Griggs’ beautiful color cinematography won the Oscar, with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Palance and De Wilde) and Best Adapted Screenplay. The new Blu-ray retails for $19.99.
“COMBAT!”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (Image Entertainment): This DVD collection ($39.98 retail) includes all 25 episodes from the 1966-’67 (and final) season of the ABC drama series considered among the most realistic small-screen depictions of World War II — as well as the longest-running. Vic Morrow (who directed some episodes) and Rick Jason star.
GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION: CHARLES BOYER COLLECTION (Alpha Home Entertainment): From 1952-’56, actor/producer Charles Boyer (1899-1978) starred on a rotating basis with Ida Lupino, David Niven and Dick Powell in the CBS anthology series “Four Star Playhouse,” for which he earned an Emmy nomination 1956 as Best Continuing Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. “Volume 1” and “Volume 2” each retail for $7.98 and contain four episodes with Boyer in the lead role
GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION: IDA LUPINO COLLECTION (Alpha Home Entertainment): From 1952-’56, noted actress Ida Lupino (1918-’95) starred on a rotating basis with Charles Boyer, David Niven and Dick Powell on CBS’ anthology series “Four Star Playhouse,” for which she earned an Emmy nomination 1956 as Best Continuing Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. “Volume 1” and “Volume 2” each retail for $7.98 and contain four episodes with Lupino in the lead role.
“HOW THE STATES GOT THEIR SHAPES”: SEASON 2 (LionsGate): The title tells all as host Brian Unger travels the nation in all 19 episodes from the 2012 season of the History Channel documentary series, available on DVD ($19.98 retail).
LETTERS FROM JACKIE: THE PRIVATE THOUGHTS OF JACKIE ROBINSON (MLB Productions/LionsGate): This sports documentary ($9.98 retail) follows the life and career of the legendary Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier, as conveyed in his own words taken from private letters and correspondence.
LI’L ABNER (VCI Entertainment): Granville Owen plays the title role in this low-budget 1940 comedy based on Andy Capp’s popular comic strip, set in the backwoods burg of Dogpatch. Stereotypes abound, but overall everything’s quite harmless. The cast includes Martha O’Driscoll (as Daisy Mae), Buster Keaton (as Lonesome Polecat), Edgar Kennedy, Chester Conklin, Doodles Weaver, Al St. John and Billy Bevan. Milton Berle earns credit as co-writer of the theme song(!). This DVD also includes the full-length 1942 comedy Pvt. Snuffy Smith, based on the comic strip Barney Google & Snuffy Smith, with Bud Duncan in the title role.
LINCOLN (DreamWorks Studios): Daniel Day-Lewis earned his third Academy Award as Best Actor, this time for his remarkable turn as Honest Abe in Steven Spielberg’s sprawling epic dramatizing the last year of Abraham Lincoln’s life, as the Civil War ends and Congress votes on the 13 th Amendment of the Constitution to abolish slavery. One of 2012’s best and most acclaimed films, with an all-star supporting cast: Sally Field (in her best role in years) as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, David Strathairn, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Jared Harris as Ulysses S. Grant, and Hal Holbrook, who knows a thing or two about playing Lincoln. A second Oscar for Best Production Design, with 10 additional nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Jones), Best Supporting Actress (Field), Best Adapted Screenplay (Tony Kushner), Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Sound Mixing. Available as a single DVD ($17.99 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.50), or a four-disc combo ($28 retail). Rated PG-13.
NATION AFLAME (Alpha Home Entertainment): Thomas Dixon Jr., one of the authors of Birth of a Nation (1916), earns a story credit on this engrossing 1937 drama about the rise of “the Avenging Angels” — a thinly veiled version of the Ku Klux Klan — in Depression-era America, made by the Halperin Brothers (producer Edward, director Victor). Noel Madison plays the opportunist who fronts the organization, Arthur Singley the DA opposed to it, and Norma Trelvar the woman torn between them. Dated and melodramatic but still potent. Lila Lee, Douglas Walton, Harry Holman and former silent-era comedian Snub Pollard(!) also appear.
OLIVER TWIST (Entertainment One): A respectable made-for-TV 1982 version of Charles Dickens’ classic adapted by James Goldman, directed by Clive Donner and distinguished by George C. Scott’s performance as Fagin. Martin Tempest (in his film debut) plays Oliver, with Richard Charles (also in his debut) as the Artful Dodger, Tim Curry as the villainous Bill Sikes, Cherie Lunghi, Timothy West, Eileen Atkins, Lysette Anthony, Timothy Spall and the always-welcome Michael Hordern. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup.
“REVENGE”: THE COMPLETE SEC- OND SEASON (ABC Studios): Emily Van- Camp’s burning desire to exact vengeance on the wealthy family that destroyed her life continues in all 22 episodes from the 2012-’13 season of the award-winning ABC drama series, featuring Madeleine Stowe, Gabriel Mann, Henry Czerny, Christa B. Allen, Josh Bowman and guest star Jennifer Jason Leigh. The five-DVD boxed set retails for $45.99.
“SOUTHLAND”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH AND FINAL SEASON (Warner Home Video): A DVD collection ($39.98 retail) of all 10 episodes from the 2013 season of the award-winning police drama set in Los Angeles, which aired its first season on NBC, then found a second home on TNT after cancellation. The ensemble cast includes Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, C. Thomas Howell, Ben McKenzie and Regina King. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series, Mini-Series or Movie. Warner Home Video has also released the self-explanatory six- DVD collection “Southland: The Complete Second, Third and Fourth Seasons,” which retails for $59.98.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.