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Rare Finds On DVD

Rare Finds On DVD

Mainstream studios may have written off home video, but specialty
divisions and entrepreneurs are offering notable discoveries on Blu-ray and
DVD. Olive Films has just released a restoration of Dragonfly Squadron (1954) in both disc formats, thanks to Bob
Furmanek and the 3-D Film Archive. The Allied Artists production was shot—but
never released—in 3-D, making this a historic event. The story behind the film
(and its restoration) is more involving than the picture itself, a decent if undistinguished
B movie starring John Hodiak, Barbara Britton, and Bruce Bennett that takes
place on the eve of the Korean War in 1950. If you have a TV with 3-D
capability, you’ll want to check out this black & white feature, which has
been meticulously restored from the original camera negatives. You can read
more about it, and how it was brought back to life, HERE.

Flicker Alley continues to provide film buffs with a wide
variety of rare fodder. The Mack Sennett
Collection, Vol. One
offers fifty restored short subjects, with valuable
commentary tracks by silent-comedy aficionados and historians. I find the
earliest Sennett work, from Biograph and the first days of Keystone, especially
interesting. Hats off to Paul Gierucki for his diligent work on these important
films. And a deep bow to Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange at Lobster Films for
their impressive work on Chaplin’s Mutual
Comedies.
The multi-disc set includes a new documentary on how Chaplin
developed and refined his Little Tramp character, a reissue of Kevin
Macdonald’s little-seen Chaplin’s
Goliath,
and a poignant
tribute to Eric Campbell, who played the villain so memorably in the Mutual
comedies.

We’re in the Movies
is the most unusual of Flicker Alley’s recent releases, a pairing of two
interesting documentaries. When You Wore
a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose
(1983) involves the discovery of a 1914
feature made in Wausau, Wisconsin when it was a prosperous lumber and
paper-mill town. Itinerant filmmakers persuaded the local gentry to participate
in a feature film that would ostensibly promote their city—though it may have
had its only theatrical run in Wausau itself, where the residents enjoyed
watching themselves onscreen. When Stephen Schaller made his touching
documentary more than thirty years ago a number of Wausau citizens were still
alive who remembered the film and the stir it made in town. (Among the bonus
features is the actual picture, called The
Lumberback
.) On the same disc: Iain Kennedy’s Palace of Silents: The Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles (2010),
a compelling chronicle of the Fairfax Avenue landmark opened by John and
Dorothy Hampton in 1942 and tended by several colorful and controversial owners
ever since. To learn more about these and all of Flicker Alley’s releases,
click HERE.

Warner Archive continues to unearth all sorts of goodies in
its ambitious schedule of weekly releases. Hello
Pop!
, the long-lost Technicolor short featuring Ted Healy and his Stooges is
now part of a compilation titled Classic
Shorts from the Dream Factory Volume 3, Featuring Howard, Fine and Howard.
And
another vintage comedy team, Olsen and Johnson, is spotlighted in an
early-talkie Warner Bros. feature called Oh
Sailor Behave
, which was never part of the WB television package and may not
have been seen since 1930!  I haven’t had
time to check it out as yet, but it’s at the top of my viewing stack.

Warner is also releasing a select number of
digitally-restored titles on Blu-ray, including  Out of the Past, Kismet, and Yankee Doodle Dandy, the latter with
all the bonus features from its last DVD incarnation. (That includes a fine
documentary on the making of the picture and a younger version of Yours Truly
hosting Warner Night at the Movies, featuring
shorts and a cartoon released the same year as Yankee Doodle Dandy.) Next up on Blu-ray is Joan Crawford in Possessed. Learn more at warnerarchive.com.

This represents merely the tip of the iceberg. Be sure to
check for new releases from Olive Films, Twilight Time, Kino Lorber, and of course
The Criterion Collection on a regular basis…or you’ll be missing out on more
good viewing. 

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