Category Archives: DVDs

Arthur Lyons Palm Springs Film Noir Festival Celebrates 25 Shadowy Years

There’s no shadow of a doubt that Palm Springs will soon be swarming with damsels in distress, gregarious gangsters, diminutive dicks, lascivious ladies and odoriferous oddballs.
Welcome to the 25th Annual Palm Springs  Film Noir Festival, officially known as the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.
The festival runs May 9-12 at the Palm Springs Cultural Center,  where 12 films will be screened all for the first time, along with a small handful of special guest appearances.  It takes about a half a year to pull together this excursion into shadowy cinema. The festival was founded in 2000 by noir enthusiast and film historian Arthur Lyons; when he died in 2008, the festival was renamed in his honor.
“I’ve always defined ‘noir’ as films that treat light and shadow like characters,” explains Eric Smith, General Manager of the Palm Springs Cultural Center at The Historic Camelot Theatre.
2024 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival
Opening night’s film is Body and Soul, the 1947 gem starring John Garfield and Lilli Palmer (below), Anne Revere and Canada Lee.  The flick is described as “the undisputed champion of boxing movies” [that] “depicts the seamy world of the so-called ‘sweet science’ as an unforgettable metaphor for loss and redemption.” Scheduled special guest is actor/writer Jim Beaver, who also wrote a biography of Garfield.
All access pass holders and special guests are invited to the opening night reception. Expect to see the wild and wooly: One patron likes dressing as Mickey Spillane; one year the celebratory cake featured an inside filling resembling blood. More food for thought: The center’s cafe has been renamed Mildred’s, as in Mildred Pierce.
None of the films shown since 2001 have been repeated, not an easy task since films are always undergoing restoration and being pulled from circulation. This is one of the reasons the festival has been successful every year;  Smith says that the festival has continually made money. He’s proud to admit that 29% of attendees are repeat customers.
Body and Soul (1947)
Why has the festival lasted a quarter of a century?
“There’s nothing better than sitting together in a  dark theater with like-minded people watching rare, lost and rarely-seen films,”  explains Smith. “These films are black-and-white classics. And they’re never seen on Netflix.”

For a complete schedule of films and screening times, visit arthurlyonsfilmnoir.org/schedule

TICKETS
Tickets can be purchased at the Cultural Center’s box office (2300 East Baristo Road, Palm Springs, CA) or in advance at eventbrite.com/e/2024-arthur-lyons-film-noir-festival-tickets-849709693567?aff=oddtdtcreator

Charles Busch’s “Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy” is a Delicious Romp

Charles Busch is not the boy next door.

He’s not the girl next door either.

What he is is a legendary drag performer who has proven throughout the decades that he is a damn good writer… think Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, The Lady in Question, Red Square on Sunset, Psycho Beach Party, Die Mommie Die!

Now Busch has unleased Leading Lady: A Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy (Smart Pop Books, $27.95), an autobiography that’s fast and furious and funny, funny, funny and at times, sad, but not as sad as you will be when you’re on the last page.

The LGBTG+ icon takes us from Hartsdale, New York (with references to dead celebrity-studded Ferncliff, Westchester County’s take on Forest Lawn) to losing his mother to a damaged heart before he turned eight to his love of theatre (given to him by his father, a failed opera singer) to losing his virginity at sixteen  to his colorful, outlandish friends and family members (including sisters Betsy and Margaret) to the onslaught of AIDS to being nominated for a Tony for The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife to his near-death experience to . . . well, you get the idea.

Busch is a rambunctious raconteur. There are no chapters, but dozens of short tantalizing time capsules. The book is a magnificent mosaic, crammed with so many delicious anecdotes that blindingly shine and rival any cubic zirconia jewel Joan Rivers sold during her QVC career. The gems will have you laughing and crying, though the emphasis is on laughing. The stories are sassy (this is where Claudette Colbert and Kim Novak come in); sinful (this is where Esther Williams and Michele Lee come in); sentimental (this is where Carol Channing and Stephen Sondheim come in) and (bitter)sweet (this is where Liza Minnelli and Valerie Harper come in).

Leading Lady is not the lugubrious diary of some displaced cross dresser who longs to tackle RuPaul; it’s the best (read: candid, honest) autobiography since Joan Rivers’ Enter Talking. Joan pops up several times, beginning on page one. “Joan was the most prominent in a long line of smart, bigger-than-life mother figures I’ve attached myself to,” he writes. “All my life I’ve been in search for a maternal woman whose lap I could rest my head on.”

His life was guided, perhaps sometimes misguided, by his mother’s oldest sister, Aunt Lil Blum, who Busch saw as an Auntie Mame and whose ritzy Park Avenue apartment is where he lived as a teen. Aunt Lil had faith in her nephew since Day One and began taking him to Broadway shows when he was nine years old. “Some, like the talky and sexually explicit John Osborne British drama Inadmissible Evidence, were a bit of an intellectual stretch for a third grader, but Aunt Lil never explained anything to me. There was the assumption that I’d either figure it out or let it pass over my head,” he writes.

Busch cannot remember not wanting to be on stage. “I was desperate to be a child star, but my ambitions were always foiled,” he writes. He recalls auditioning for a Yonkers, New York community theater production of Oliver! — losing the role after five auditions. “In the end, they cast some dreadful butch child without a shred of sensitivity.”

It was Aunt Lil who sent Busch to acting school on Saturdays; he recalls the very first lesson. “The teacher taught us how to make an entrance down a staircase wearing a gown with a long train without ever looking down at our feet—a skill that has proved invaluable in my career in the theater.” Ironically, Aunt Lil never saw Busch on stage in drag. “I’d be worried that the audience might not like you or be unkind,” he recalls she told him.

Aunt Lil supported him when Busch needed the money; before fame hit, part-time jobs usually didn’t work out. Busch acknowledges that in so many ways that she was the one who nourished his dreams, especially before he discovered his gift for writing plays and making a living as a male actress.

Busch witnessed Aunt Lil’s decline for eight years. Her death crumbled him. “Entering the hospital room . . . I climbed onto the bed, snuggling next to her, and buried my face in her long beautiful grey hair,” he writes. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. . . I had so much to thank her for. She had saved my life. She made everything possible. . . . Everything leads me to Aunt Lil.”

The end of Aunt Lil, but not the end of Leading Lady. Even with all the sissified innuendos and campy asides, the book ends up centering around love: love of theatre, of film, of family, of friends and ultimately love of oneself.  To give away much more is to give away the heart and soul of the book. Read it, wander off to the 24 pages of (mostly) color photos, then roam back into Busch’s valentine of memories and magic, vim and vitality.

Douglas Fairbank’s massive “Black Pirate” arrives on Cohen Film Collection Blu-ray

Cohen Film Collection has done it again: A big-screen spectacle that ranks as one of the monumental accomplishments of the silent era, Robin Hood is a timeless story of romance and intrigue, staged on a herculean scale. And now it has been released on Blu-ray.

The film’s sets were erected by an army of 500 carpenters and towered 90 feet in the air, covering acres of land—historically accurate to the smallest detail. For this restoration, a full frame 35MM fine grain positive was scanned at 4K, with 175 hours of digital clean-up at 2K completed.

Shot in two-strip Technicolor, Fairbanks had conceived of The Black Pirate years before it was finally made. According to Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance, it was “the most carefully prepared and controlled of Fairbanks’s entire career,” certainly in no small part due to the expense and limitations of the early color process. The resulting film earned high praise from The New York Times, which praised its “unrivalled beauty…mindful of the paintings of the old masters.” A 35MM color negative was mastered in HD for this presentation.

Bonus Features:

Audio Commentary for THE BLACK PIRATE by film historian Rudy Behlmer | 18 minutes of THE BLACK PIRATE outtakes with commentary BY RUDY BEHLMER | 29 minutes of additional BLACK PIRATE outtakes.

Ignite Films ignites film fan fervor with restored ‘Invaders From Mars’

Ignite Films, the Dutch company formed in 2005 by Jan Willem Bosman Jansen, lives up to its motto, “Classics for the Future,” with the award-winning sensational 4K restoration of William Cameron Menzies’ Invaders From Mars, the first title released under the Ignite Films label. The groundbreaking sci-fi classic will be released in partnership with MVD for retail sales in stores including Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and through online retailers including Amazon.com, on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on July 11, 2023, with pre-orders open now, announced Jan Willem Bosman Jansen, founder of Ignite Films.

Special bonus features include a restored 4K version of the original 1953 trailer and a newly commissioned 2022 trailer, an interview with the film’s star, Jimmy Hunt, an in-depth look at the restoration process led by Scott MacQueen, Restoration Supervisor, plus a new documentary about the film featuring interviews with directors Joe Dante, John Landis, Multiple Visual Effects Academy-Award winner Robert Skotak and other luminaries. These extras and the documentary were produced and directed by award-winning

filmmaker Jeremy Alter.

“I’m excited for audiences, old and new, to finally be able to watch this masterpiece of both film and restoration on Blu-ray and 4K UHD,” says  Ignite Films Director Jan Willem Bosman Jansen.
“We have taken great care to cover as many aspects of the movie in our bonus materials and design to bring it back to life for as wide an audience as possible. The work we have done is also a homage to the overall genius of William Cameron Menzies, and I cannot speak for him of course, but I think he would be thrilled with how his movie looks today.”
Fearful memories of this timeless 1953 bone-chiller still haunt the dreams of fans who have never forgotten the story of David MacLean, a young boy (portrayed by Jimmy Hunt) who witnesses an alien invasion. Invaders from Mars was filmed from a child’s point of view, using exaggerated sets and upward angles. It became a modern classic and was also one of two early ’50s classic alien-invasion science fiction films (the other is Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still) reflecting Cold War tensions, the Red Scare and paranoid anxiety typical of many films in the ’50s.
The restoration of Invaders from Mars has been much hoped for and a long time coming. But the process was not an easy one. Leading the effort was longtime enthusiast and preservationist of classic cinema Scott MacQueen, who previously was head of preservation at UCLA Film & Television Archive for more than a decade, before retiring in 2021.
The biggest challenge for MacQueen was that the color negative confirmed for printing in SUPERcineCOLOR lacked many shots and needed to be sourced from 70-year-old prints.
Invaders from Mars was one of the most complex projects I have ever undertaken,” MacQueen says.  “In the days of analog restoration, it would not have been possible, but 21st century digital tools have been game-changers. Released in an archaic process that is irretrievable today Invaders from Mars was pieced together from five different sources. Additionally, eight minutes of European scenes and an alternate ending, and the original trailer, have been preserved. As star Jimmy Hunt says, ‘Invaders from Mars has never looked so good.'”

The 4K restoration process of the sci-fi classic required a lengthy search for the final elements, which was conducted by Ignite’s Janet Schorer. Additionally, it was imperative to locate the elements necessary to fill in the gaps in the original camera negative, which was stored with great care at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The George Eastman Museum and National Film and Sound Archive of Australia were instrumental in supplying additional key elements which were essential to completing the film.

Bonus Features
  • Restored 4K original 1953 trailer AND a newly commissioned 2022 trailer
  • Interviews with star Jimmy Hunt, William Cameron Menzies’ biographer James Curtis and recollections of Menzies’ eldest granddaughter Pamela Lauesen
  • Featurette with acclaimed film directors John Landis, Joe Dante, editor Mark Goldblatt, special visual effects artist and two time Oscar Winner Robert Skotak (foremost expert on Invaders from Mars), and enthusiast and film preservationist Scott MacQueen
  • John Sayles’ introduction at Turner Classic Movie Festival in Hollywood, April 2022
  • Before/after clips of restoration: Original negative and archival film elements,  with film restoration supervisor Scott MacQueen
  • Restored segments in 2K of the Alternate International Version– alternative ending and extended Planetarium scene
  • Gallery with original Press Book pages, behind the scenes photos from the restoration process
  • Twenty page extensive essay on the restoration process: Invaders From Mars: A Nightmare of Restoration by Scott MacQueen

Cohen Film Collection offers two important French classics

One of Cohen Film Collection’s August DVD and Blu-ray releases feature two titans of French Cinema: Simone Signoret and Alain Delon.  They are brought together for The Burned Burns, a crime drama set in the snow-covered French countryside on the border with Switzerland. The body of a young woman is found savagely murdered near the isolated Burned Barns farm run by Rose (Signoret ) and her family.

The police work begins and the investigating judge, Pierre Larcher (Delon), soon comes to suspect that Rose’s family, and in particular her sons, may have played a role. Signoret and Delon are outstanding as two forces playing a game of wits with profound consequences. Keep your eyes and ears open—Jean Chapot’s film features a stunning soundtrack by electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre.

The second must-have flick: Symphony for a Massacre. In this stylish heist noir from director Jacques Deray, master director of the French crime film, five men tied to businesses with varying degrees of legality pool their money to go in on one huge narcotics deal that can set them up for life—and test their loyalties.

Restored in 2K from a 4K scan of the surviving 35MM interpositive (the negative is lost), the film boasts stunning black and white photography, supported by a lush and memorable score. Deray assembled an impressive cast of stars, including Charles Vanel, Michel Auclair, future director José Giovanni who also co-wrote the film, and Jean Rochefort, in a brilliant casting against type from his largely comedic roles up until then. This rediscovered crime thriller is sure to please fans of classic film noir.

“Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” return in fully restored Americana glory

There’s nothing like keeping it all in the family.

One of the most popular series in television history is making a comeback,  fully restored,  in association with the UCLA Film & Television Archive, and from the original 35mm picture and sound elements. Welcome The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: Seasons 1 and 2 (MPI Media Group), arriving to entertain old fans and new viewers  on four-DVD sets on June 21, 2022. The two sets contain 39 episodes each, representing the complete first two seasons (78 episodes) of the long-running sitcom ranked number 6 on Vulture’s list of “The 50 Most Definitive Family TV Shows.”

For a record-breaking 14 seasons and 435 episodes, the series aired on ABC from 1952 through 1966, becoming one of the most cherished cultural touchstones of the 20th century. The positive, wholesome series epitomized an idyllic American ’50s lifestyle, its gentle humor brought to the screen by the real-life Nelson family: Ozzie and wife Harriet with their sons, David and Rick, all portraying themselves in a trend-setting blend of fact-meets-fiction comedy decades before Seinfeld and other semi-reality-based shows.

The series humorously chronicled the daily lives of the Nelsons as David and Ricky grew up before millions of weekly viewers. While Ozzie  had been a real-life bandleader and Harriet a singer, the series would help launch the musical career of their younger son, Ricky, who would become a teen idol with such enduring hits as “Travelin’ Man” and “Hello Mary Lou.”

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was the longest running live-action sitcom in U.S. television history until It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia surpassed it on December 1, 2021, when that series debuted its 15th season. But Ozzie and Harriet still hold the record for most episodes produced: 435. Among its Emmy nominations and many other accolades, TV Guide placed Ozzie Nelson at number 21 on its list of “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.”

O_HSeason1Cover-300dpiRGB.jpeg

And now, for the very first time, in association with the Nelson family, the entire series has been digitally restored for its 70th Anniversary with complete episodes from the original film negatives for superior picture quality.

OzzieHarrietDVDS2.jpeg

Season One contains all 39 full, fun-filled episodes on four DVDs, starting with the premiere show and other rare adventures not seen on television in decades. Don DeFore appears as Ozzie’s neighbor pal Thorny along with guest stars from classic television and films, including Hal Smith, Ellen Corby, Janet Waldo, Joseph Kearns, Frank Nelson and other familiar faces. Season Two also contains 39 episodes––with more lost moments appearing for the first time since originally broadcast—and features such guest stars as Frank Cady, John Carradine and Lurene Tuttle.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT: WATCH “DANGEROUS ASSIGNMENT” AND RELIVE CLASSIC TV OF THE PAST

Old-time actor [read: great actor] Brian Donlevy stars in the old-time TV series [read: great TV series from yesteryear] Dangerous Assignment: The Complete Series (MPI Media Group]. Here, the veteran plays U.S. Government Agent Steve Mitchell, who travels the globe investigating cases of espionage, sabotage and threats to National Security.
Sound familiar? Donlevy originated the character on NBC Radio. The set includes all 39 episodes of the action-packed TV series from the 1950s.

The forgotten police series “Code 3: LA Sheriff’s Case Files” comes back in all 39 episodes

Interested in binging on an arresting (but forgotten) police series? All 1020 minutes spanning 39 episodes? Then mark July 20 on your must-get list; that’s the date Code 3: LA Sheriff’s Case Files hits the shelves.

In 1957, Hal Roach Studios and producer Ben Fox brought the fast-paced drama to television, starring Richard Travis as Sheriff George Barrett of the Los Angeles County Police Department, Denver Pyle as Sgt. Murchison and Fredd Wayne as Sgt. Bill Hollis.

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Like its sister series Dragnet, Code 3 featured true crime cases–this time from the files of the search and rescue branch of the Los Angeles Police Department–always “changing the names to protect the innocent.” At the end of most of the broadcasts, the real-life Sheriff of Los Angeles County, Eugene W. Biscailuz, made an appearance to recap that night’s adventure.
Code 3 enjoyed a healthy run in television syndication and featured lots of guest stars. Instead of naming names, we are going to tease you by tossing out the names of other TV series from which the guests were imported . . . Star Trek, The Patty Duke Show, Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Mannix, Zorro and The Dukes of Hazard.

Alain Delon + Jacques Deray + Cohen Film Collection = Three French Films that are Must-See

Die-hard film fans know  that Alain Delon (a) French actor is a handsome hunk and (b) Jacques Deray is a daring director. Pair them together,  and French fireworks explode.
Save the date: On August 31, Cohen Film Collection releases “Three Men to Kill: Two New Restored Films by Jacque Deray.”
The Gang (1977): In 1945, as World War Two comes to a close, five small time crooks unite to form a gang lead by Delon. After several bold robberies they become notorious as “the front-wheel drive gang.” The police attempt to stop their crime spree with little success . . . but how long will their luck last?
Three Men to Kill (1980): In this gritty, violent and suspenseful thriller, Delon plays Gerfaut who comes to the aid of a man laying wounded in the road, not knowing the man has taken two bullets to the belly.

Soon he becomes the target for the killers, who see him as a dangerous witness. But Gerfaut has been around the block a couple of times and he won’t be so easily eliminated.

George Chakiris’ autobiography will leave some readers (dis)pleased

Read it. Digest it. And after coming up for air after a whirlwind read of George Chakiris’ autobiography, My West Side Story: A Memoir (Lyons Press, $24.95), you realize you were dazzled.

And duped.

We will explain.

It’s obvious Chakiris loved dancing, a skill so streamlined and stylized that it launched him into a pretty nice career, most notably for West Side Story.

The actor/dancer was first cast in the London production as Riff, gang leader of the Jets. The musical premiered in London in late 1958, and Chakiris received rave reviews, playing the role for almost two years.

The actor, who is of Greek descent, then auditioned for the film version, but the producers thought Chakiris’ dark complexion made him more suitable for the role of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks. (Russ Tamblyn got the role of Riff.)

Switching sides to play Bernardo, brother to Natalie Wood’s Maria and partner to Rita Moreno’s Anita, secured him the role on Broadway after seven months of filming. The film (also co-directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins) returns to theaters for two days only as part of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies’ TCM Big Screen Classics series with an introduction from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. The beloved movie musical will play in select theaters June 24 and 27 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time both days.

The movie not only gained Chakiris a huge  following but also the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in Motion Picture.

West Side Story, all three versions, made him a star.

“I know exactly where my gratitude belongs,” Chakiris writes, “and I still marvel at how, unbeknownst to me at the time, the joyful path of my life was paved one night in 1949 when Jerome Robbins sat Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents down in his apartment and announced, ‘I have an idea.'”

It’s obviously Chakiris was not best friends with Jerome Robbins, the legendary choreographer who was a former Communist Party member and named 10 communists in his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Robbins did propel Chakiris into WSS stardom and the actor dishes Robbins. Up to a point. He doesn’t tap dance the legendary truths about the mercurial, relentless Robbins, but in a few breaths he credits him with shaping Bernardo into such a memorable character.

Yet, before his became known for his stage work, Chakiris  had made a bunch of films—dancing, of course, but unbilled and in teeny roles He was one of the dancers in Marilyn Monroe’ “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).

It’s sad to know that, though Monroe was 23 years old and Chakiris was 19, they did not became friends, something he misses.

As he writes: “Marilyn had a quality that can’t be taught, or created with wardrobe and makeup, a quality you’re either born with or not. . . . Many decades later I accepted an invitation to participate in a documentary about her.  I said then what I’ll always say—I’m sorry I didn’t get to know her, but I’ll always be grateful I had the pleasure working with her.”

Can you spot him in the snippet below?

He appeared as a dancer alongside Rosemary Clooney, as she warbled “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me” in White Christmas (1954). See him?

TV shows, two record albums, sundry stage work and more films were wedges between his years. It’s sad that his film career was so spotty. Two films made in France—Is Paris Burning? (1966) and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort  (1967) are really good and still hold up; The Big Cube (1969, watch Lana Turner on LSD!) and Jekyll and Hyde…Together Again  (1982) are jokes.

Today, the 86-year-old thespian still creates, this time making sterling silver jewelry—pendants, bracelets, earrings. What started as a hobby blossomed into a full-time business. Chakiris’ stunning works can be seen (and bought) at georgechakiris.com/jewelry.

And before you ask, the answer is no. In the book, Chakiris refuses to confirm his sexual orientation.

He has kept details of his love life hidden from the media’s attention, yet it is widely believed among Hollywood actors and actresses that he is gay – even the popular movie and TV series rating website IMDb has featured him  in their “500 Gay Actors & Personalities” list. Some have even claimed that George secretly married his long-term partner sometime in the 2000s, but no proof has been provided to support the claims.

His is a terrible bother to me, born one day after Chakiris came out (of his mother) and into the world. If he is gay, it would serve as a great benefit to those boys and girls, men and women, questioning their sexuality, fighting the bullying, dancing around suicidal thoughts. I have the same feeling about Lily Tomlin and Barry Manilow’s queer denials—the singer especially. Everyone knew he was gay yet for decades he made up girlfriends and excuses. When he finally married his long-time partner and manager Gary Keif in 2004, his excuse for the delay: “I thought it would hurt my career.”

That’s why my Manilow CDs have been destroyed and why Chakiris  book was given away.

Not all acting succeeds.