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End of Range Dvds


Show Boat - 1936 -Arguably the finest creation of the Broadway musical theatre, this Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II stage masterpiece has been blessed by two equally fine talkie versions. This one is aided by a screenplay from Hammerstein himself, and by the appearances of the great bass Paul Robeson as Joe, who gets to sing Ol' Man River, and torch singer Helen Morgan as Julie, who created the role and introduced the song Bill on Broadway. Irene Dunne is a fine Magnolia, strutting and cakewalking as though to the manner born, but Allan Jones is nowhere near as dashing a Gaylord Ravenal as Howard Keel in the 1951 Technicolor remake. However, there's little to choose between the versions: both are splendid and well worthy of their superb source material.

A Stolen Life - 1946 - The great Bette Davis sometimes struggled to find vehicles worthy of her talent, but even in this relatively creaky melodrama, historically interesting as the only film she ever produced, she conveys a marvellous sense of the dramatics that made her a Hollywood great. Her star quality is particularly evident here as she plays twins (one good, one bad) in a remake of a 1939 British film, which starred Elisabeth Bergner. Unfortunately, the men in the cast aren't up to Davis's standard. Despite being one of America's most popular stars after playing opposite Rita Hayworth in the same year's Gilda, Glenn Ford is callow and uninteresting here, while Dane Clark and Bruce Bennett provide period good looks and suits and do what little the script allows them to do well. But, frankly, a Warner Bros studio-bound New England fools nobody, and neither does this plot.

The Desert Song - 1953 - The dashing commander of a north African tribe leads a double life as a mild-mannered anthropologist tutoring the daughter of a Foreign Legion general. However, as his battle for justice takes an unexpected turn, he is forced to kidnap his charge, and spirit her off into the desert. Adaptation of Sigmund Romberg's romantic operetta, starring Kathryn Grayson, Gordon MacRae and Steve Cochran. For today's viewer, Desert Song is the name of the Nevada motel Nicolas Cage gets evicted from in Leaving Las Vegas, but to the older generation it is one of the most enduring of composer Sigmund Romberg's popular operettas, still being revived in the post-Beatles 1970s and taken seriously even then. This handsomely mounted Warner Bros remake is easy enough on the eye, and particularly easy on the ear. But the good-looking Gordon MacRae is miscast as the young American anthropologist doubling by night as El Khobar, avenger of the desert Riffs (that's not a musical pun). Still, Kathryn Grayson sings One Alone as if her life depended on it and Raymond Massey is perfect as the cruel and villainous sheik, though Steve Cochran is wasted as a luckless legionnaire. In the 1943 version the hero fought the Nazis, this time the score triumphs over all: it's unlikely there'll be a next time.

Operation Daybreak - 1975 - Fact-based Second World War drama about the assassination of leading Nazi Reinhard Heydrich and the subsequent search for the British-trained Czech patriots who killed him. As German forces scoured the countryside, the apparently insignificant village of Lidice came to bear the brunt of their rage. Starring Timothy Bottoms, Martin Shaw, Joss Ackland, Nicola Pagett, Anton Diffring and Anthony Andrews. A grimly exciting war drama about the Czech resistance's plot to kill Reinhard Heydrich, deputy chief of the Gestapo and better known as Hitler's "Hangman". This is drily, if expertly, directed by Reach for the Sky veteran Lewis Gilbert, and features a motley cast including American Timothy Bottoms and a particularly excellent Anthony Andrews as Czech patriots. That this film convinces is a tribute to the story, and today, when the village of Lidice, which was razed by the Nazis in reprisal for the assassination, is hardly remembered, its telling is still timely.

Maytime - 1937 - One of the best remembered and most expertly produced movies that singing duo Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy made at MGM. They were in their prime in this splendid version of Rida Johnson Young and Sigmund Romberg's melancholy operetta, and the theme song Will You Remember? became for ever identified with them. The production is particularly lavish, and director Robert Z Leonard manages a marvellous tragic tone, unusual for this type of mainstream light entertainment. The classy MGM production values are glorious, and the film is further enhanced by the presence of the great John Barrymore, particularly fine in what was to be one of his last worthwhile roles. Opulent and extraordinarily well done, this movie is a tribute to a great studio at its zenith, as well as being a superb showcase for the silver screen's most popular singing team.

The Trap - 1966 - Made at the height of the Swinging Sixties, this surprisingly moving drama was a distinct change of pace for stars Oliver Reed and Rita Tushingham. Set in Canada in the 1880s, it traces the relationship of fur trapper Reed and the waif-like Tushingham, a mute he purchases at a wife auction. Acting almost solely with her enormous eyes, Tushingham gives a genuinely affecting performance and, as impatience turns to understanding and ultimately affection, Reed also demonstrates a mellow side that he too rarely allowed us to see. Director Sidney Hayers makes their bloodcurdling adventures wholly believable, and ultimately the tragedy of the tale is heartrending. Cinematographer Robert Krasker's views of the snowy mountains are often majestic.

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