Sunday, March 22, 2009

It might as well be spring

If you have any loose change left over from the Warner Archive, VCI Entertainment is having a spring sale right now, with several of their discs marked down considerably. They sent me a long list—which I’m not going to reproduce, but if you want a copy, e-mail me and I’ll pass it along—and I picked out a few goodies that might pique the interest of classic movie and television fans.

The Moon and Sixpence (1942) – Yes, it’s the Emperor of Cads, George Sanders hizzownself, starring in this drama loosely inspired by the life of Paul Gauguin. Sanders plays a middle-aged stockbroker who chucks it all—wife, kids, friends, job—to become a painter and lives a hedonistic life in Tahiti, until he is forced to confront his good-for-nothing lifestyle. This disc contains two versions of the film—the original theatrical release, with tinted and full color scenes and the black-and-white version.

Burke’s Law: Season 1, Volume 1 – Gene Barry’s popular crime drama series from the 1960s has been reduced, and though I’m still not hip to the split-season stuff it’s an entertaining buy, containing more celebrity guest stars than you can shake a stick at…if you like that sort of thing. The nice thing about VCI’s Burke’s Law releases is that they contain some of the original commercials, which is a nifty extra.

Mandrake the Magician (1939) – This is the very first serial I did for Thrilling Days of Yesteryear and let me just say—if you’re expecting it to be like the comic strip, walk away from it now. Otherwise, you’re in for some prime Columbia serial fromage as future Strike It Rich host Warren Hull battles the odious Wasp as Lee Falk’s popular practitioner of legerdemain.

Jungle Queen (1945) – Another fine dollop of chapter-play Velveeta, this one stars Ruth Roman as Lorelei, “Queen of the Jungle,” in an epic saga that finds Edward Norris, Eddie Quillan and Lois Collier searching for lost treasure and battling Nazis. (Any serial that has Nazis in it is always worth the price of admission—as a famous bullwhip-carrying archaeologist once remarked: “I hate these guys.”) I told Bill Crider I’m tackling this one after G-Men Never Forget is finished.

Riders of Death Valley (1941) – It’s known as “The Million Dollar Serial”—but don’t think for a moment that’s what they spent on this western chapter-play. No, it refers to the star-studded lineup in this fun oater; you get Dick Foran, Leo Carrillo, Buck Jones, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Noah Beery, Jr., Charles Bickford (as the villainous Wolf Reade), Lon Chaney, Jr., Jean Brooks, Monte Blue, Glenn Strange and Roy Barcroft in fifteen thrilling chapters of fun! (Warning: The chapters on this DVD contain a fairly annoying logo that was put on there to keep enterprising individuals from copying it, according to VCI, and while it didn’t bother me too much your mileage may vary.)

King of the Royal Mounted (1940) – Based on the character created by Zane Grey, this is one of Republic’s best-kept secrets—a whiz-bam-wham of a serial starring Allan “Rocky” Lane as the heroic Sgt. Dave King. Lots of non-stop action and stunts in this one, which was directed by legendary William Witney and John English.

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