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  1. Top News Stories

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    • The Big House (in English, French and Spanish) on DVD

    • The Big House, directed by George Hill from a script by the great Frances Marion, is the original men-in-prison drama. Which is not to say it's the first so much as it is the blueprint for the genre. Produced in 1930 by Warner Bros., which was to become the grittiest of studios in the early thirties with their gangster blasts and scruffy, snappy streetwise pictures, the film gives us social commentary and underworld violence in equal measure.

      The first shots of The Big House present the prison as a massive, intimidating, almost medieval-looking compound and usher us inside along with the new guy getting processed: Kent (Robert Montgomery), an affluent kid convicted of a hit-and-run who goes through the system with a dazed look and a shuffling manner. Montgomery has never had the screen strength or presence of other actors in his early performances role but it works perfectly for the spoiled, weak-willed Kent. He's completely unprepared for prison and his ordeal is compounded when he's assigned to a cell with bank robber Morgan (Chester Morris), our leading man and a kind of underworld aristocracy thanks to his reputation as a criminal mastermind, and prison-yard bully Butch (Wallace Beery), who isn't too bright but defers to Morgan.

      Chester Morris, a somewhat wooden leading man who later eased into B-movies and played Boston Blackie in over a dozen films, comes off as a slightly tougher Richard Barthelmess, the square guy (by underworld standards, at least) rolling with tough breaks. Beery is at once childish and brutal as Butch, a killer with no remorse who nonetheless hews to the prison code. Morgan and Butch may not always agree but they have each other's backs. Montgomery is nervous and sweaty as the wide-eyed fresh meat and he ignores good advice and turns snitch, illustrating the warning given by the warden in the first scene: "Prison doesn't make you yellow, but if you are already yellow, prison brings it out." I guess we know his predilections. Silent movie veteran Lewis Stone (later famed as Judge Hardy to Mickey Rooney's Andy) is the tough but committed warden and Stone is indeed tough, a disciplinarian with a reformer's spirit. He knows that packing men in ever tighter and tighter is simply putting pressure on combustible elements and it's only a matter of time before everything blows up.

      The story is basically a roll call of what will become prison movie clich├ęs. We see the regimentation and overcrowding of the prison, are introduced to the pecking order of tough guys behind bars, shown the culture of bullies and snitches and the prison code of loyalty and retribution. There's a prison reform speech, a frame-up, a spell in solitary, a cafeteria protest that erupts into a food fight, a prison break and a riot that gets way out of control.

      The direct, however, is forceful and the presentation is striking. The cells are small and cramped, with barely any room for the men to move about. The mess hall is like a massive dungeon with high, blank walls looming over the inmates, who are packed into the tables lined up in rows and columns with regimented precision. Guards watch over them from on high. It's mealtime in purgatory and Hill contrasts the surface of resignation to the routine with the covert dealings out of sight for the guards below the table tops: close-ups of hands passing weapons and messages, an assembly line of covert dealings that has become part of the routine. The image is echoed at chapel, where the prisoners file in out of duty rather than faith and then distribute guns for an attempted escape. It makes a mockery of chapel as any kind spiritual reprieve.

      The central cell block itself is an enormous four-story set with rows of cells stacked high and men ascending and descending through a spiderweb of metal staircases and walkways. An elevator camera passes through the levels and takes in the crowds of men in prison fatigues filing and out with every whistle, and when the riot erupts, the vertical movement enhances the sense of chaos as the violence inflames tempers. Hill has a cast of hundreds at his disposal and when he packs them into a set or the prison year, hemmed in by high walls and guard towers that loom over the men, he shows us exactly the kind of pressure that drives them to violence.

      The overall effect is the machine-like ritual and numbing repetition of incarceration and the systematic dehumanization of the prisoners. Even before the opening scene and the impersonal processing of the new inmate, it begins in the credits, which play not over music but the lock-step trudge of marching feet across the prison yard. That beat crunches through the soundtrack of the film, a metronome that picks up with every stage of the prison routine. It's like a ticking time bomb that finally explodes in the riot.

      The Big House was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor (Wallace Beery) and won Oscars for the evocative sound and France Marion's screenplay. It was previously released as a stand-alone movie on the Warner Archive line. The "special edition" of this release features a remastered edition of the film that is a significant improvement over the previous edition, at least according to those who have compared the two. I don't have access to the earlier release but this version looks quite good considering the age and the era. There's some minor wear, the contrast fluctuates throughout and there are some pops and scratches on the soundtrack, but it is perfectly watchable and you can hear all the dialogue clearly, which is good for a sound film of this vintage. The evocative soundtrack favors atmospheric effects over music and it comes through well.

      But the "special" in this edition more specifically refers to the other two films of the triple feature: the French language version, directed by Paul Fejos and starring Charles Boyer as Morgan, and the Spanish language version. Both are shot on the same sets and utilize the same crowd shots, special effects, and even shot-lists and set-ups. The compositions are almost exactly the same, like they were shot on an assembly line production schedule cranking out the alternate versions on the sets in turn with the same machinery but a different shift of workers.

      The biggest difference is in the variations of characters brought by the actors and dramatic direction. Fejos seems constrained by the structure here--see his striking Hollywood work in the Lonesome disc set Criterion released last year (a triple feature in its own right) to see his eye for setting scenes and moving the camera--and he's unable to exercise his own eye for composition and camera movement. He and Boyer, however, turn Morgan into a much more charismatic figure, less hard-boiled, smoother and cooler, with a sense of authority that comes from confidence and ease. The Spanish version, from journeyman director Ward Wing (a sometime actor with a couple of shorts and documentaries to his credit as a filmmaker), hasn't the same strength of character (Jose Crespo is a bland, unimpressive Morgan but Juan de Landa makes a strange mix of childlike clown and psychopathic bully as Butch) but the production value and the momentum keep it rolling along. The French and Spanish versions are not quite as well preserved as the original American version but perfectly watchable and acceptable. The English subtitles are actually close captions and include notations on sound effects.

      by Sean Axmaker

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  1. New Books

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    • Elizabeth and Michael

    • By Donald Bogle

      One of the country's leading authorities on popular entertainment presents an eye-opening and unique biography of two larger-than-life legends--Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson--and their unlikely yet enduring friendship.

      From the moment Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson met, they were hooked on each other. He peered into her violet eyes and was transfixed; she, in turn, was dazzled by his talent, intrigued by his sweet-tempered childlike personality, and moved by the stories she had already heard about his troubled early life. Soon a deep friendship blossomed, unexpectedly unlike anything either had ever experienced. Through thick and thin, through their various emotional upheavals, through the peaks and valleys of their careers, through their personal traumas and heartaches, through the unending health issues and extreme physical pain that each experienced, and through the glare of the often merciless public spotlight, their bond held them together, and their love for each other endured.


      Donald Bogle skillfully recreates the moving narrative of Taylor and Jackson's experiences together and their intense emotional connection, without shying away from the controversies that swirled around them. Through interviews with friends and acquaintances of the two stars, as well as anonymous but credible sources, Elizabeth and Michael emerges as a tender, intimate look at this famous "odd couple" and a treasure to their millions of fans.

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    • Robert Wagner's I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES: Memories of Hollywood's Legendary Actresses

    • By Robert Wagner and Scott Eyman

      In a career that has spanned over sixty years, Robert Wagner has witnessed the twilight of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the rise of television, becoming a beloved star in both film and TV. During this time, he became acquainted, both professionally and socially, with many of the greatest female screen personalities of all time. I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES: Memories of Hollywood's Legendary Actresses (On-sale: 11/15/16) by Robert Wagner, with co-author Scott Eyman, provides an intimate and revealing account of the charisma of these women on film, why they became stars, and how their specific emotional and dramatic chemistries affected the choices they made both as actresses and as women.

      I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES offers a privileged look behind the scenes at some of the most well-known women in show business. Among Wagner's subjects are Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Swanson, Norma Shearer, Loretta Young, Joan Blondell, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Dorothy Lamour, Debra Paget, Jean Peters, Linda Darnell, Betty Hutton, Raquel Welch, Glenn Close, and the two actresses whom he ultimately married, Natalie Wood and Jill St. John. In addition to offering perceptive commentary on these women, Wagner examines topics like the strange alchemy of the camera--how it can transform the attractive into the stunning, and vice-versa--and how the introduction of color brought a new erotic charge to movies--one that enabled these actresses to become aggressively sexual beings in a way that that black and white films had only hinted at.


      Robert Wagner is the star of such films as A Kiss Before Dying, The Longest Day, The Pink Panther, and most recently, the Austin Powers franchise. On television, he starred in It Takes a Thief (with Fred Astaire), Switch (with Eddie Albert and Sharon Gless), and Hart to Hart (with Stefanie Powers). He has recently appeared on Two and a Half Men and NCIS. He is married to actress Jill St. John.

      Scott Eyman is the author of eleven books about the movies, including Lion of Hollywood: The Life of Louis B. Mayer (which the Wall Street Journal called one of the five best books ever written about Hollywood), Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, and more recently, John Wayne: The Life and Legend.

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    • King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue

    • King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue tells the story of the making, release, and restoration of Universal's 1930 Technicolor extravaganza King of Jazz. Authors James Layton and David Pierce have uncovered original artwork, studio production files, behind-the-scenes photographs, personal papers, unpublished interviews, and a host of other previously unseen documentation. The book offers a richly illustrated narrative with broader context on the film's diverse musical and theatrical influences. The story concludes with an in-depth look at the challenges Universal overcame in restoring the film in 2016. Additionally, the book's appendix provides a comprehensive guide to all of the film's performers, music, alternate versions, and deleted scenes.

      King of Jazz was one of the most ambitious films ever to emerge from Hollywood. Just as movie musicals were being invented in 1929, Universal Pictures brought together Paul Whiteman, leader of the country's top dance orchestra; John Murray Anderson, director of spectacular Broadway revues; a top ensemble of dancers and singers; early Technicolor; and a near unlimited budget. The film's highlights include a dazzling interpretation of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," which Whiteman had introduced to the public in 1924; Walter Lantz's "A Fable in Jazz," the first cartoon in Technicolor; and Anderson's grand finale "The Melting Pot of Music," a visualization of popular music's many influences and styles. The film is not only a unique document of Anderson's theatrical vision and Whiteman's band at its peak, but also of several of America's leading performers of the late 1920s, including Bing Crosby in his first screen appearance, and the Russell Markert Dancers, who would soon become Radio City Music Hall's famous Rockettes.


      James Layton is Manager of the Museum of Modern Art's Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center. Prior to this he worked at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, where he curated two gallery exhibitions and the website Technicolor 100. Layton has also acted as Cataloguer and Workflow Coordinator at the East Anglian Film Archive in Norwich, UK, and is co-author of the Image Permanence Institute's informational poster Knowing and Protecting Motion Picture Film (2009).

      David Pierce is an independent film historian and archivist. He was formerly the Head of Preservation and Curator of the National Film and Television Archive at the British Film Institute. His articles have appeared in numerous journals, and his report on the survival of American silent feature films was published by the Library of Congress in 2013. He founded the Media History Digital Library, providing free online access to millions of pages of motion picture magazines and books.

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    • THE ESSENTIALS: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter

    • By Jeremy Arnold
      Forward by Robert Osborne

      Since its inception on Turner Classic Movies in 2001, The Essentials has become the ultimate for movie lovers to expand their knowledge of must-see cinema and discover or revisit landmark films that have had a lasting impact on audiences everywhere.

      Based on the hit series, THE ESSENTIALS by Jeremy Arnold showcases 52 must-see movies from the silent era to modern times. Readers can enjoy one film per week, like on the show, for a year of great viewing, or indulge in a movie-watching binge-fest. Each film is profiled with entertaining discourse on why it's an Essential, and running commentary is provided by TCM's Robert Osborne and Essentials guest hosts past and present: Sally Field, Drew Barrymore, Alec Baldwin, Rose McGowan, Carrie Fisher, Molly Haskell, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Pollack, and Rob Reiner.

      Featuring full-color and black-and-white photography of the greatest stars in movie history throughout, THE ESSENTIALS is the ultimate curated guide to 52 films that define the meaning of the word "classic."


      Jeremy Arnold, a writer and film historian, is the author of Lawrence of Arabia: The 50th Anniversary, a coffee-table book companion to that film's Blu-ray release. In addition to his work for numerous film trade publications, he has written over five hundred programming articles for the Turner Classic Movies website and contributed audio commentaries and historical essays to the DVD and Blu-ray releases of classic films.

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  1. DVD Reviews

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    • Dick Dinman & William Wellman Jr. Salute BATTLEGROUND!

    • DICK DINMAN & WILLIAM WELLMAN JR. SALUTE "BATTLEGROUND!": BATTLEGROUND remains producer/host Dick Dinman's all-time favorite WW2 film and distinguished actor, writer and producer William Wellman Jr. rejoins Dick as both salute William Wellman's Oscar-winning once in a lifetime epic military drama which has just been beautifully remastered on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & Eddie Muller are ON DANGEROUS GROUND!

    • DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER ARE "ON DANGEROUS GROUND": The Warner Archive has just released an astonishing looking (and sounding!) Blu-ray rendition of Nicholas Ray's dark yet hypnotically beautiful film noir ON DANGEROUS GROUND which features a steely yet sensitive performance from noir icon Robert Ryan that easily ranks up there with his finest efforts ever and producer/host Dick Dinman and his guest "Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller dissect the various qualities which make this film so captivatingly unique (including the plaintively emotional score by Bernard Herrmann which was one of his two favorites).

      PLUS: SHORT TAKES: Kino's Kl Classics' THE HOUSE ON 92nd STREET, DAISY KENYON and Cohen Film Collection's SUDDEN FEAR.

      COMING ATTRACTIONS: The Warner Archives' BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK and Twilight Time's KISS OF DEATH.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & Eddie Muller Explore THE ASPHALT JUNGLE!

    • DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER EXPLORE "THE ASPHALT JUNGLE": Producer/host Dick Dinman welcomes back the "Czar of Noir" himself Eddie Muller as both celebrate the Criterion Collection's pristine release on Blu-ray of John Huston's THE ASPHALT JUNGLE which remains conceivably the greatest "heist/noir" masterwork ever committed to celluloid. (It's early in the year but its difficult to conceive that any home video outfit in the ensuing year will be able to top the astonishing "special features" included on this sensational disc.)

      PLUS: Show opener "Dick's Picks" salutes the Criterion Collection's recent Blu-ray releases of Robert Altman's McCABE & MRS. MILLER, Marlon Brando's ONE EYED JACKS and Howard Hawks' HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

      COMING SOON: DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER ARE "ON DANGEROUS GROUND"!

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman Salutes Air Hero Jimmy Stewart!

    • DICK DINMAN SALUTES WW2 AIR HERO JIMMY STEWART: The dual releases of Olive Films stunning Blu-ray incarnation of the James Stewart air power classic STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND as well as author Robert Matzen's awe inspiring book MISSION: JIMMY STEWART AND THE FIGHT FOR EUROPE, which for the first time ever reveals the truth about Stewart's dangerous bombing missions over Germany, give producer/host Dick Dinman ample motivation to salute the spectacular military career of screen icon Stewart and Dick is joined by returning guest Robert Matzen as they marvel at the courage, skill and fortitude of this certifiable American hero.

      The opening DICK'S PICKS segment salutes Olive Films and their latest Blu-ray releases of not only STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND but Orson Welles' MACBETH (two versions!), HOUDINI, THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI, VILLA RIDES. ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING and two new 4k releases of THE QUIET MAN and JOHNNY GUITAR (first time in original widescreen format on home video!).

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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  1. Press Release

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    • Bette Davis Double Feature - 4/4 at Laemmle Theatres in CA

    • Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present Twofer Tuesdays, a classic movie double bill that will screen on the first Tuesday of each month as a recurring event. Our first attraction celebrates Hollywood legend Bette Davis in one of her most beloved roles, Now, Voyager (1942), on its 75th anniversary. As a bonus feature, we are pairing it with Marked Woman (1937; 80th anniversary) starring Davis and Humphrey Bogart. Both movies will show in three locations as a double feature (two movies, one admission price).

      Now, Voyager (1942) is considered a consummate "woman's film," a genre that was Davis' forte in her heyday in Hollywood's Golden Age of the 1930s and 40s, an era that she ruled as a top box office star. The plush melodrama, based on a novel by Olive Higgins Prouty (author of Stella Dallas, another classic tale of a self-sacrificing, independent woman), was adapted by Casey Robinson (Dark Victory) and directed by Irving Rapper (Deception). The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Davis as Best Actress as a repressed spinster who emerges from her shell in one of the screen's most dramatic makeovers. Co-starring Paul Henreid as her suave romantic partner, Oscar nominee Gladys Cooper (Supporting Actress) as her domineering mother and Claude Rains (one of Davis' favorite actors), as a paternal psychiatrist; the film was a huge commercial hit, the biggest box office success for Davis in that period. In Turner Classic Movies' The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter, author Jeremy Arnold calls it "a movie that has stood the test of time for its high entertainment value, romanticism, and subversive theme of female empowerment." Featuring a lushly romantic Oscar-winning score by Max Steiner, and with one of the most memorable closing lines in movie history, Now, Voyager was added to the National Film Registry in 2007.

      Our bonus feature, Marked Woman (1937) stars Davis as a nightclub "hostess" who becomes the target of a vengeful mobster (Eduardo Ciannelli), who in turn is prosecuted by a crusading district attorney (Humphrey Bogart). Co-written by Robert Rossen (All the King's Men, The Hustler) and Abem Finkel (Jezebel, Sergeant York), and directed by Lloyd Bacon (42nd Street), the movie is notable for its "torn from the headlines" realism that characterized Warner Bros. style in the 1930s. Because of the censorious Production Code, the brothel employing Davis' character was disguised as a clip joint. Davis' assured performance and the film's success contributed to her rise as queen of the Warner's lot, a position she held for the next decade.

      The Twofer Tuesdays double feature of Now, Voyager and Marked Woman plays April 4 at three locations: Ahrya Fine Arts, NoHo 7, and Pasadena Playhouse 7. Special Introduction by TCM film historian Jeremy Arnold at the Ahrya Fine Arts only, who will also be available to sign his book, Turner Classic Movies' The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter. Now, Voyager plays at 7:15 pm; Marked Woman at 5:00 pm and 9:45 pm.

      Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre
      8556 Wilshire Blvd.
      Beverly Hills CA 90211

      NoHo 7
      5240 Lankershim Blvd.
      North Hollywood CA 91601

      Playhouse 7
      673 E. Colorado Blvd.
      Pasadena CA 91101

      310-478-3836

      Tickets are available at the theater box offices and here:
      https://www.laemmle.com/films/41976

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The Egg and I DVD
$8.55
was $14.98
Westward The Women DVD
$14.96
was $19.99
The Graduate (Criterion Collection) DVD
$23.35
was $29.95
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  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca