DVD Corner: “The Glamour Collections”

Posted July 03, 2009, at 6:18 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:57 a.m.

“The Carmen Miranda Collection”: Includes five films from the Brazilian queen of the fruited hat — and it’s a strong collection. Fox assembles some of Miranda’s best films, many of which lifted spirits during World War II. The set features 1943’s “The Gang’s All Here,” with Miranda, Alice Fay and James Ellison all backed by Busby Berkeley and the Benny Goodman Orchestra; 1944’s “Greenwich Village,” which casts Miranda as a fortuneteller opposite Don Ameche and Vivian Blaine; and 1944’s “Something for the Boys,” in which Miranda’s Chiquita Hart literally saves herself, Vivian Blaine and Phil Silvers from financial straits. Rounding out the set are “Doll Face” and “If I’m Lucky,” both from 1946 and starring Blaine and Perry Como. The latter finds Miranda singing “Bet Your Bottom Dollar,” which is exactly what audiences should do on this entertaining collection. Grade: A-

“The Glamour Collections”: From Universal, three women, three collections, 15 movies — ”The Marlene Dietrich Glamour Collection,” “The Mae West Glamour Collection,” “The Carole Lombard Glamour Collection.” So, yes, that should be enough glamour for anyone — and each is a must. In “Dietrich,” fine films are assembled, including “Morocco,” “Blonde Venus,” “The Devil is a Woman,” “Flame of New Orleans” and “Golden Earrings.” For West, look for “Go West Young Man,” “Goin’ to Town,” ‘I’m No Angel,” “My Little Chickadee” and “Night After Night.” Slapstick rules in the Lombard movies “Hands Across the Table,” “Love Before Breakfast,” “Man of the World,” “The Princess Comes Across,” “True Confessions” and “We’re Not Dancing.” All three of these women were dancing — sometimes literally, often metaphorically — and some scenes in these collections are more than memorable — they’re iconic. In “Morocco,” for example, Dietrich dons a tux with tails and bends to kiss a woman, which caused a sensation upon the film’s 1930 release. In “Blonde Venus,” she appears in a monkey suit to sing “Hot Voodoo” and strips to reveal the sort of glamour for which she was known. For West, all she has to do is put a hand on her hip, flash her eyes and screw up her face, and she gets a laugh. It’s the surprise that comes out of her mouth, however, that sends you over the edge. Grade: A

“Matlock: Season Three”: Andy Griffith’s career is reborn. After years of slogging through such humiliating guest appearances on such shows as “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island” and “Hotel,” Griffith took a cue from Raymond Burr’s “Perry Mason” and realized one of his greatest career successes in a similar show that ran from 1986 to 1995. On five discs, most of the episodes in the third season focus on one culprit, such as “The Other Woman,” “The Starlet,” “The Psychic,” etc. Griffith’s easy Southern charm is in stark contrast to the grisly crime series currently favored in popular culture, but for many, that’s exactly what will make it most appealing. Grade: B

“Monsterquest: Complete Season Three”: The monsters are real! Well, no they’re not. Or maybe they are! But then again, maybe they’re not. Essentially, that’s how this reasonably entertaining series from the History Channel plays out, with real scientists and high-tech gadgetry hauled in to discern what might be living among us (don’t come seeking definitive answers). The monsters in question include everything from the regulars such as the Loch Ness monster to such oddities as Cattle Killers, Swamp Stalkers and Snowbeasts. Eyewitness accounts abound, some humorous — all deadly serious. Grade: B-

“The Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection”: From Fox, 10 films featuring that brooding, camera-ready idol, some of them solid, a few of them good, and others only barely up to par. In it are 1936’s throwaway melodrama “Girls’ Dormitory,” with Powers appearing only fleetingly opposite Simone Simon; two energetic comedies in 1937’s “Love is News” and “Café Metropole,” with Powers waxing cute with Loretta Young. It’s Young again in 1937’s “Second Honeymoon,” but the third time wasn’t exactly a charm — the movie is second-rate. The same also is true for 1939’s disappointing “Daytime Wife,” but not so for 1940’s “Johnny Apollo,” by far the best in the collection, with Powers cast as a gangster in one of his best-regarded films. Look for Joan Fontaine in 1942’s very good “This Above All,” Gene Tierney in 1948’s so-so comedy “That Wonderful Urge,” Jayne Meadows and Cecil Kellaway in the unstoppable “The Luck of the Irish” and Ann Blyth in 1951’s “I’ll Never Forget You,” a movie that neatly sums up how many feel about Power himself. Grade: B-

“The White Countess”: A well-acted, beautifully shot movie that’s maddening in its civility. You watch it hoping for a spark, but forget it — this last film from Merchant-Ivory leaves you feeling ambivalent. Set in 1936, the film stars Natasha Richardson as Sofia, a widowed Russian countess exiled to Shanghai who becomes a taxi dancer to pay the rent for her family (Madeleine Day, Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, Madeleine Potter, John Wood). Ralph Fiennes is Todd Jackson, the blind American diplomat with a troubled past who hires Sofia to be the hostess at his swank nightclub. Before war begins, the club is a success, though the movie isn’t. It keeps Sofia and Todd’s relationship at arm’s length until the very end, when it’s too late to care. Rated PG-13. Grade: C

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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