I don’t know that it’s really the DVD of the week, but I am very pleased that Honey West: The Complete Series has finally arrived on DVD. Anne Francis created TV’s sexist private eye as Honey West, the society babe who inherited her dad’s business and partner, Sam (John Ericson), a protective buddy and a flirtatious colleague. The show plays off her obvious assets (Francis was as curvy as they come) but also makes her a judo expert and a smart cookie. She’s the brains behind this outfit and Sam has no problem playing sidekick to the headstrong Honey. The half-hour P-I adventure show plays out in the high society glamour of the California sun, and the cool fashions and the swinging score create a groovy little series. Did I mention she has a pet ocelot?
Also new this week are three new releases in the “Fox Film Noir” collection. My favorite of the three is Road House, a rural noir set in a rustic tavern with aspirations to class located near the Canadian border. What makes the film is the terrific cast: Ida Lupino as a throaty torch singer, Cornel Wilde as the manager and Richard Widmark as the unstable owner who hires Lupino and plans to marry her, little realizing she’s falling for his best friend, Wilde. Widmark gives one of his classic near portraits of a slide into revenge-fueled psychosis. My friend and colleague Kim Morgan teams up with Eddie Muller on the commentary for the disc. Also released this week are the moody but slack Moontide, Jean Gabin’s American film debut, and Elia Kazan’s realist noir Boomerang with Dana Andrews:
Elia Kazan’s true life drama of a murder in a small town belongs to the realist wave of American crime movies that newsreel producer Louis de Rochemont brought to Hollywood at the end of World War II. … This is not Kazan’s most gripping film and you can feel his straining to get out of the brightly-lit courtroom drama and back to the dramatic confrontations in backrooms and private dens and shadowy night-time streets, where the dirty business of politics favors power and money over justice. That’s where Kazan – and the film – works best.
Read the complete review here.
Here’s a digest of the other DVD releases featured on my MSN column:
Movies: Then She Found Me by director/star Helen Hunt, The Promotion with Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly, and Married Life with Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Pierce Brosnan and Rachel McAdams:
Set in the post-war forties of middle class affluence, the plot could easily twist into a fifties noir of cheating husbands and seductive sirens and the comforts of suburban life corrupted by lust and greed. Director/co-writer Ira Sachs directs it as a wry comedy of manners, with a naturalistic style and cool sepia tones that evoke a yesteryear of lives lived in restraint and self-suppression. … What begins as a cool, wry noir transforms into a mature and introspective conversation about love, marriage, and happiness in relationships.
Read my interview with Ira Sachs here.
TV: The Office: Season Four, Eli Stone: Season One with Jonny Lee Miller and his musical hallucinations, and Life: Season One with Damian Lewis:
Career cop Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis) was framed for a triple homicide and served 12 years of a life sentence in maximum security prison, a walking target in a population of convicts, before he was exonerated. He went through hell and came through the other side with a new philosophical grounding, a childlike appreciation for the little joys of life, and a multi-million dollar settlement. Now he’s back on the job and promoted to detective, much to the discomfort of a department that would rather see him and the now unsolved murder case just fade away. The high concept show has a lot of things going for it – witty scripts, volatile dramatic tensions, Charlie’s distinctly unique perspective on human psychology (equal parts Zen calm and prison yard insight) – but it’s Lewis’ performance that sells the show. It’s a slow-dance to a private tune and he observes details in his calm that everyone else misses. His tranquility and offbeat sense of humor centers him as he conducts his own private investigation into who framed him for murder. “You don’t have to understand here to be here.”
Chris Marker is known to most cinefiles for his time-travel drama La Jette. Less well known is his legacy of imaginative pointed film essays exploring history, culture, politics and modern society. His 2004 documentary The Case Of The Grinning Cat traces the sudden appearance of smiling cartoon cats graffitied all over Paris through the social and political culture of the 21st century, and the disc supplements the hour-long piece with seven bonus shorts all featuring animal themes. It’s one of four collections of Marker’s works released by Icarus Films this week, all making their DVD debuts.
Back in the days of the hi-def DVD wars, Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg both came out in support of Blu-ray as their home video format of choice. The problem was that their films were being released by Paramount, which had aligned with HD-DVD. Well, HD-DVD lost the war and Transformers gets its Blu-ray release.
The weekly column goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment.