He and she met, fell madly in love and wrote decades of cherished love letters . . . proof that the heart still matters, on paper

Perhaps nothing is as sweet and heartfelt as a love letter. Writing them is a lost art . . . in this frenzied society, couples would rather email and text thoughts of affection and love, often punctuated with one of those ugly, rude heart-shaped icons.  Does anyone even know how to write in longhand?

And so we introduce you to Bob and Mariellen, a young man and woman who met at a USO dance in the summer of 1942. She was a college student at UCLA; he was a college student training as an aviation cadet. It was the onset of World War II, and fell madly in love before he was shipped to the South Pacific. They saw each other almost every weekend through the summer and fall, marrying that winter, before Bob was shipped overseas.

And so we introduce you to Letters Across the Pacific: A Love Story in the Time of War (BookLocker, $18.99). This is the story is about lovers and their lives, lives lived mostly through letters. It is a story written by the person who knew them well: Daughter April.

Their love letters are time capsules. We glimpse a marriage during the ’40s, during time in the South Pacific during WWII. We read slang and military jargon. We hear longing on both sides. We listen while they write of babies born and thunderstorms raging.

As time went on, Bob shares his feelings about phone calls, mail and the war. Mariellen continues to be supportive but also deals with the effects of staying home alone, pregnancy and her haunting concern for her husband’s safety.

Through WWII and the Korean War, they continue to navigate their lives through letters. Children arrive. Love endures.

The letters were saved and treasured by both of them. The letters traveled the world. And they survived. This story is the true account of their lives, told by them and related by their daughter.

We cannot think of a sweeter, more touching valentine.

What a cast! What a comedy! “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” hits stores for Valentine’s Day 

Golden Globe winner Paul Hogan plays himself in the boisterous comedy The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee, available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on February 16 from Lionsgate. (This film is currently available On Demand.)

Retired in Los Angeles and overshadowed by his Crocodile Dundee character, Hogan is offered a knighthood by the Queen of England. But before he can accept it, Hogan gets caught up in a series of comical scandals that dominate gossip shows and social media feeds. Can he keep his reputation clean long enough to hang onto his prize—and his dignity?

Take a “Spacewalk” with a couple of Russians. This is a true story, unlike most “news” exported from the country

Who says all Russians are evil criminals who hack America?

Meet Oleg Pogodin, Irina Pivovarova, Sergey Korotkov, Dmitry Pinchukov and Dmitry Kiselev, the team who wrote (first 4) and directed Spacewalker, a nifty thrilling flick.

In the heat of the Cold War, the USSR and USA compete for supremacy in outer space. Both superpowers race to be the first nation to have a man complete a spacewalk. No price is too high and no risk is too great.

To set off one of man kind’s most ambitious missions, the USSR pair the unlikely duo of a seasoned war veteran, Pavel Belyayev, and a fearless test-pilot, Alexei Leonov. Without proper testing, and inside a tiny spaceship, the two astronauts launch into the unknown to take on what no man has done before . . .
Catch the action when the DVD is released on January 17, courtesy of Capelight Pictures and MPI Media Group.

Transgender titillation: Warhol’s he/she chronicled in “Candy Darling”

Poor Candy. She got more than 15 minutes of fame, but died at age 29 . . . four years before he became as she. Her fame was fleeting. Chronicling the short but influential life of transgender pioneer Candy Darling, a major part of Andy Warhol’s entourage, Beautiful Darling delivers audiences to a bygone era, recapturing the excitement of a long lost New York City to recount the story of Darling, a star in the constellation of Warhol’s Factory.
Candy Darling on her death bed
By the mid-’60s Jimmy Slattery, born in the Long Island suburb of Massapequa in ’44, had become Candy, a gorgeous blond actress and throwback to Hollywood’s golden age. This persona won her starring roles in two Warhol movies, parts in mainstream films and a lead role in Tennessee Williams’ play. Her ethereal beauty attracted such taste-making photographers as Robert Mapplethorpe, Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon and Peter Beard. She was the inspiration behind two of Lou Reed’s best known songs, Candy Says and Walk on the Wild Side, and was one of the most unusual and charismatic fixtures in the explosive downtown, underground scene of late ’60s/early ’70s New York.

Candy’s journey of self-discovery and transformation becomes, for director James Rasin, a tragic allegory for our fame and media obsessed times. But it is also a gripping story with a simple, universal theme: One person’s pursuit of their own American Dream. The film interweaves rare archival footage and both historical and contemporary interviews (Tennessee Williams, Paul Morrissey,  Fran Lebowitz, Holly Woodlawn among many others) with excerpts from Candy’s own diaries and letters, which are voiced, to devastating effect, by Oscar nominee and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Chloë Sevigny.

Betty White and Allen Ludden return,. of sorts. The passwords are: ‘Pet Set’.

And the password is . . .
Animals.
Every one knows that Betty White loves animals, especially dogs. Every one she still loves Allan Ludden, her husband of a mere 17 years, who died from complications of  stomach cancer on June 9, 1981, at age 63.
Fifty years ago, the Luddens came up with an idea that remains a a project still close to White’s heart:  The Pet Set, a TV series that she conceived, wrote and produced (and on which Ludden served as announcer).
The show, alas, lasted just one year, and 39 episodes.
According to her autobiography, White recalls that the show was cancelled when Carnation Company decided to put their advertising budget exclusively to commercials rather than having an amount aside for programming.
Finally, the show is back making its debut on digital platforms and DVD on February 23, 2021. Celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary and renamed for publicity push,  Betty White’s Pet Set will be released by MPI Media Group in partnership with Darren Wadyko Media and Albets Enterprises. The three entities have come together to make this series available to fans, marking the first time it will be seen in decades. “If I haven’t told you already, I will now. The Pet Set is one of my favorite shows. I’m thrilled it’s going to be seen again after all these years,” coos White.
The show featured Ludden and White welcoming their celebrity friends with their dogs, cats and horses, in addition to a wide range of wild animals including tigers, bears, elephants, lions, wolves, gorillas, chimps, cougars, cheetahs, seals, kangaroos, zebras, eagles, snakes and penguins––both in the studio and on location.
The 39 episodes of the series, unseen for decades, feature such guests as Carol Burnett, Doris Day, Eva Gabor, Paul Lynda, Agnes Moorehead, Jimmy Stewart, Mary Tyler Moore, Burt Reynolds, Shirley Jones, Michael Landon, Bob Crane, Amanda Blake, Vikki Carr, Barbara Eden, James Brolin, Della Reese, Vincent Price and Rod Serling.
Special features on the set includes a  look behind the scenes of the series, original promotional spots, the featurettes Betty White: Game Show Goddess and Daytime Hostess: The Betty White Show, Betty’s Photo Album and her public service ads.
Bet it becomes your pet set!

The film asks us not to tell a soul. How can we brag about “Don’t tell a Soul”?

The film asks us not to tell a soul, but how can we not brag about the nifty thriller Don’t Tell a Soul? While stealing money to help their sick mother (played by Mena Suvari), teen brothers Matt and Joey (Fionn Whitehead and Jack Dylan Grazer) are surprised by Hamby (Rainn Wilson), a security officer who gives chase and is then trapped in a well.

Over the next few days, Joey and Hamby forge an uneasy relationship. Hamby tells Joey he’ll keep quiet if Joey sets him free. But Hamby holds another secret, one that will threaten Joey and his family, in this twist-filled, cat-and-mouse thriller.
The film, from Lionsgate, is ready on January 15.

“Born a Champion”: A powerful  action film focuses on the love for family and the drive for greatness.

Save the date and save some of the loot Santa stuffed into your stocking, so there won’t be a problem of nabbing a copy of the inspirational mixed martial arts action film, Born a Champion.  The flick fights its way into select theaters, on Digital, and On Demand January 22 from Lionsgate. The film will also be released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 26. Starring Emmy winner Sean Patrick Flanery, Katrina Bowden and Golden Globe nominee Dennis Quaid, Born a Champion was directed by Alex Ranarivelo and written by Sean Patrick Flanery and Ranarivelo.

This powerful  action film focuses on the love for family and the drive for greatness. After a blood-soaked Jujutsu match in Dubai, fighting legend Mickey Kelley (Flanery) falls to superstar Blaine. But years later, an online video proves that Blaine cheated, and the world demands a rematch. Can the aging underdog get back into shape in time to vanquish his foe, get revenge, and claim his prize?                      

Film history made: The long-lost “Mr. Topaze,” the only film Peter Sellers directes, hit DVD

More good news from Film Movement: They have unveiled (and released on DVD) Mr. Topaze, Peter Sellers’ long-lost 1961 directorial debut, newly-restored in 2K from the last surviving 35mm print held in the BFI National Archive.

Albert Topaze (played by Sellers), a poor but proud French schoolmaster, loses his job after he refuses to alter the failing grades of one of his students. Seizing the opportunity to exploit his honesty, actress Suzy Courtois (Nadia Gray) convinces her lover, the corrupt city council member Castel Benac (Herbert Lom), to hire Topaze as a managing director for one of his shady businesses.

Sellers‘ lone directorial effort, Mr. Topaze displays the British comic genius at the peak of his powers alongside his future Pink Panther nemesis Herbert Lom and a stellar supporting cast that includes Leo McKern, Billie Whitelaw and Michael Gough. Long considered a “lost” classic, MR. TOPAZE was digitally restored in 2K from the last surviving 35mm prints held in the BFI National Archive.
In his newly-written essay included in the Film Movement Classics release, Roger Lewis, author of The Life and Death of Peter Sellers writes: “In my opinion we are only now beginning to wake up to Sellers‘ unique qualities as a performer, and the rediscovery of Mr. Topaze will aid this reassessment. It is a film of which Jacques Tati might be proud. It is as good as any of the later Chaplin efforts, Limelight or A Countess from Hong Kong. It is a scandal that it was lost for so long.”

BONUS FEATURES
  • Let’s Go Crazy (1951) – a madcap short film starring Peter Sellers and his Goon Show co-star Spike Milligan
  • The Poetry of Realism (2019) – Kat Ellinger video essay on auteur Marcel Pagnol, the playwright of Topaze
  • Abigail McKern Interview (2019) – Leo McKern’s daughter discusses her father’s life and career
  • 24-page booklet with notes on the film’s rediscovery by BFI curator Vic Pratt and a new essay by Roger Lewis

Cohen Film Collection Creates More Blu-Heaven with “The Buster Keaton Collection: Go West & College”

Someday Santa will make one of our Bucket List dreams possible: To meet the brains behind Cohen Film Collection and thank the geniuses for their output of great films on Blu-ray.
The latest gem: The Buster Keaton Collection: Go West & College. Both flicks have been restored to their luster and laughter.
GO WEST
Heeding the expansionist call of Horace Greeley, an idealistic young man (though aptly named “Friendless”) hops a freight train westward to meet his destiny, first in a teeming metropolis—where he is roundly trampled by rush-hour foot traffic—then into the ranch lands of Arizona. His attempts at bronco busting, cattle wrangling, and even dairy farming all end in hilarious failure, but when a trainload of steer are unleashed on the streets of Los Angeles, “Friendless” decides to undertake an unorthodox, single-handed round-up.
COLLEGE
Keaton’s ode to varsity life demonstrates the performer’s trademark brand of visual comedy as well as his remarkable agility. He stars as Ronald, a small-town, academically-inclined freshman who applies his wiry physique to a series of sports, in order to impress a fellow student (played by Anne Cornwall). He seems destined for failure, but when Mary is accosted by an overzealous rival (Harold Goodwin), Ronald discovers within himself an untapped wellspring of athleticism.

Cohen Film Collection Releases “Sudden Fear”, a truly dark film noir classic

The first time I watched Jack Palance torment Joan Crawford, I was hit with a case of Sudden Fear.  I wanted to join Joan in the closet and watch the wind-up toy getting closer . . .

On January 12, Cohen Film Collection released this rediscovered masterpiece of film noir on DVD. Crawford plays a successful playwright who marries a less than stellar actor (Palance) with a troubling secret.

She soon discovers that he not only married her for her money but that he plans to murder her with the help of his lover (played by Gloria Grahame) in a performance The New York Times hailed as “hard, brash and sexy”.  This taut thriller, featuring a score by Elmer Bernstein, that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

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