Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Crime, passion, and both together in new Blu-rays

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | June 21st, 2017

A couple of classic courtroom dramas and a romantic melodrama about theatrical ambition, all adapted from popular novels of their day, are among the recently released Blu-rays by Kino-Lorber. All were made by major filmmakers with famous stars, yet each is relatively obscure today and deserves to be better-known.

“Marjorie Morningstar” (1958) was a best-selling romantic saga by noted author Herman Wouk, probably best-remembered today for “The Caine Mutiny” and “The Winds of War,” which became a hit film and popular TV mini-series, respectively.

Wouk published his latest novel in 2012 at age 97, a memoir in 2015 at age 100, and is still active at age 102.

Natalie Wood stars as the title character, a teenage Jewish girl who longs for a career as an actress and changes her name from Morgenstern after meeting the dashing director of a theatre company at a summer resort (Gene Kelly), who himself is hoping for a more lucrative career doing musicals for Broadway.

Naturally they fall in love and the film explores the conflict of following one’s heart vs. the pressures of practical reality, family, and Jewish heritage over several years. Kelly gets in one good dance number near the beginning, but the film centers around Wood’s character.

Wood dominates the picture, torn between sticking by the more worldly, self-centered Kelly and taking various other opportunities as their situations become more complicated. An all-star cast of character actors (including Claire Trevor, George Tobias, Martin Balsam, Ed Wynn, and Everett Sloane) flesh out the other people in their lives. Fitting nicely into the mix are Carolyn Jones and Martin Milner as the more daring best friend and a promising young playwright also in love with Marjorie.

Kino’s Blu-ray displays good film grain structure and color, although splotches of emulsion damage periodically show up as colored spots. Audio dynamic range is quite good. The only bonus feature is a gallery of six trailers to other romantic melodramas of the era.

MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR on Blu-ray: Movie: B+ / Video: A / Audio: A / Extras: D

“Compulsion” (1959) was based on Meyer Levin’s award-winning novel of the same name that fictionalized the famous Leopold-Loeb murder case of 1924 (which also inspired the Hitchcock film “Rope”), but was carefully based on the actual facts in the manner of later nonfiction novels like Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” and Norman Mailer’s “The Executioner’s Song.” To avoid lawsuits, names of characters in the film are all changed.

In the first half of the film, director Richard Fleischer effectively builds the characters of its two college-student protagonists (Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman), both from wealthy Chicago families and mentally brilliant, who decide to commit a murder as an intellectual exercise. The murder itself is not depicted on screen (to avoid disturbing 1950s audiences), but the detailed investigation quickly becomes the main focus, with Leopold and especially Loeb basking in the notoriety of their crime, even giving tips to the detectives.

Once evidence points to them, thanks to a clue discovered by their cub-reporter classmate (Martin Milner), the last half of the film settles into a courtroom drama. Orson Welles then pretty much takes over the movie as defense lawyer Jonathan Wilk, the fictionalized version of Clarence Darrow, who winds up with a gripping, heartfelt ten-minute speech against capital punishment (the actual legendary closing argument went on for twelve hours).

Also notable in the cast are E. G. Marshall as the District Attorney and Diane Varsi as Milner’s girlfriend and a sympathetic friend to Stockwell.

The strong black-and-white CinemaScope cinematography is beautifully rendered in Kino’s HD transfer, and the sound is also very good. Bonus features include a good, if sometimes sparse audio commentary and a trailer, plus trailers to three other suspense thrillers.

COMPULSION on Blu-ray -- Movie: A- / Video: A / Audio: A / Extras: C+

In “The Paradine Case” (1947), made the year before his take on the Leopold-Loeb case, “Rope,” Alfred Hitchcock explored various techniques, character types, and themes he would continue to use. However, due to the overall control and final cut by producer-screenwriter David O. Selznick, the film often looks as much or more like a typically lush Selznick romance than a dryly satiric Hitchcock mystery.

The story begins with the beautiful Mrs. Paradine (Alida Valli) being arrested for poisoning her illustrious (and wealthy) blind war-hero husband.

Taking her case is London’s star defense attorney (Gregory Peck), who despite being happily married to a supportive blonde wife (Ann Todd), very quickly becomes personally obsessed with his dark and emotionally cold client, including visiting her country estate to learn more about her.

There is also a strange and complex relationship between her and her late husband’s darkly mysterious valet (Louis Jourdan) that Peck must unravel to discover the truth.

Along the way are many Hitchcockian touches, often critiques of the British patriarchal class system, but Selznick makes sure the romantic elements are the main focus.

Peck does not come across as very British but makes an effective emotionally confused, lovesick lawyer. The rest of the cast is fine, including Charles Laughton as the judge, Ethel Barrymore as his wife, and Charles Coburn as another lawyer.

This 114-minute re-release cut is a good 20 minutes longer than the television cut but is still about 10 minutes shorter than an earlier theatrical cut, which itself was seven minutes shorter than the 132-minute premiere version.

Picture quality on Kino’s Blu-ray is mostly very good but sometimes shows video noise in the blacks. Audio is good. The generous set of bonus features includes a fine, fast-paced audio commentary by two Hitchcock experts, an isolated music score, separate interviews with Hitchcock by director-fans François Truffaut and Peter Bogdanovich, interviews with two of Gregory Peck’s children, a 1949 radio play, a restoration demo, and a trailer.

THE PARADINE CASE on Blu-ray -- Movie: B / Video: A- / Audio: A- / Extras: A-

Recently in:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Policy, not law, has torn more than 2,300 children from their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Although immigration reform has been a heated topic for decades, the policy of zero tolerance began with a…

Culture

​Dream factory

by HPR Contributor

By Oscar de Leonoscarldeleonjr@gmail.comTucked away near the rolling hills of West Hollywood, Chris Haskell, a former student at MSUM, makes his usual trek into his office where he edits footage to craft trailers to some of the…

Monday, June 25, 7 p.m.Sanctuary Events Center, 670 4th Ave N, Fargo It’s no surprise that Q magazine dubbed The Flaming Lips one of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die," with their elaborate stage shows and multi-layered…

Just last week Raul and I were driving a rental car on the backroads of Mallorca, a small Mediterranean Island off the coast of Spain. Not gonna lie, my nose may or may not have been pressed hard against the window admiring the…

Ireland Has Sent Pope Francis and The Vatican A Dear John Letter: “It’s Over!”The Irish people and the Vatican have been developing a huge cultural grand canyon for decades over the issues of gender identities,…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

Every year the Fargo Moorhead area celebrates its love of food with Restaurant week. Each restaurant involved prepares a special menu to showcase the best of what they have to offer. This year there are seventeen restaurants…

Front Street Taproom has struck up a relation with local record shop, Vinyl Giant. There are two events where turntables are set up and people can play their records. Every Wednesday they host Vinyl Night from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m.…

Scaring up early buzz as a premiere in the Midnight section of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” is the horror film of the year. Anchored by the vital performance of Toni Collette as grieving,…

By Tayler Klimektklimek@cord.eduCome one, come all to the 59th anniversary of the Midwestern Invitational Art Exhibition! This tradition celebrates each year with a preview and awards selection the first night of its showing, with…

Projects have a tendency to take on a life of their own once they’ve reached a certain point. When the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre was established in 1946 to offer other local opportunities for artistic expression outside…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comHow lucky we are in the FM area that we have so many craft breweries, but did you know that we also have two cider houses? Cottonwood Cider House is one of those cider houses and is just a short…

Best Local CelebrityCarson WentzBest Stylist / BarberJed Felix, Everett’s BarbershopBest Salon / Barber ShopEverett’s BarbershopBest Tattoo Parlor46 & 2 TattooBest Tattoo ArtistMeg Felix, No Coast TattooBest Gift ShopZandbroz…

By Melissa Martinmelissamartincounselor@live.comThink back to one of your worst small decisions. Then answer the following questions:How did you make the decision?What happened after the decision?When did you know it was the worst…

Last Word

​Keeping FM C.L.E.A.N

by HPR Contributor

By Paul JensenFargo, as the most populous city in the state with 120,000 inhabitants, added nearly 6,000 20-to-34-year-olds in 2015, just over five percent of the total population. Fargo is attracting well-educated young…