Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Legendary tough guys on Blu-ray

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | June 14th, 2017

Kirk Douglas (1917- ), Burt Lancaster (1913-1994), and James Cagney (1899-1986) are iconic movie “tough guys” who had long film careers.

Only nine of Cagney’s numerous films are currently on Blu-ray, the latest being his final starring role (not counting a TV movie made shortly before his death) and one of his rare comedies, released last week by Kino.

Douglas and Lancaster are much better represented on Blu-ray, with over 20 of Douglas’s films and over 30 of Lancaster’s, including four the two starred in together. Last month Kino released Blu-rays of dramatic Douglas production and a comedy starring the pair, while the Warner Archive Collection released the perhaps eerily timely political thriller “Seven Days in May” (1964) starring both Lancaster and Douglas.

“The Indian Fighter” (1955) is a reasonably effective western that bears certain similarities to the 1950 James Stewart film “Broken Arrow” in its sympathetic treatment of Native Americans.

It was the first film produced by Douglas’s own company, trying to appeal to traditional western fans at the height of the genre’s popularity, as well as admirers of the new wave of socially and environmentally conscious films coming out at that time.

The plot has plenty of action with Sioux warriors attacking a fort and members of a wagon train, yet it takes time to show the major Indian characters and how they have been wronged (primarily by a pair of slimy characters looking for gold and trading whiskey for it).

A major plot point is a romance that develops between Kirk Douglas’s title character and the daughter of the Sioux chief, played by Italian model Elsa Martinelli in her movie debut. The film alternately deals with racism and exploits it before building to a reasonably satisfying conclusion.

About 200 local Native Americans played extras, but as usual Hollywood stars and character actors played the speaking roles. The film is loaded with familiar faces from Walter Matthau and Lon Chaney Jr. to Alan Hale Jr. and Elisha Cook Jr. Ubiquitous western character actor Hank Worden plays both a Union soldier and a whiskey-happy Indian in different scenes.

Attractive location scenery in Oregon, substituting for South Dakota and Wyoming, is a major highlight of the color CinemaScope photography.

Kino’s Blu-ray has a fine HD image and good mono sound.

The main bonus is a moderately interesting audio commentary reciting plenty of facts and figures about the cast and director, plus a few production details, but almost never discusses the film’s content or style and has numerous very long pauses between comments. There is also a trailer and trailers to a few other Douglas films on Blu-ray from Kino.

THE INDIAN FIGHTER on Blu-ray -- Movie: B+ / Video: A / Audio: A- / Extras: C+

“Tough Guys” (1986) is an amusing crime comedy/character study that was the final teaming of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas.

They play aging ex-cons released after a 30-year prison sentence for robbing a train. Now they must try to survive in the drastically different Los Angeles of the mid-1980s with the help of a very young Dana Carvey (playing a straight dramatic role) as their sympathetic parole officer.

Naturally they encounter a variety of hip young toughs who must be put in their place. The story starts to drag a few times, but overall holds interest well.

At 70 (playing 67) Douglas is still in top shape, which leads to his character connecting with nubile, energetic young gym owner Darlanne Fluegel, including a date at a dance club featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Meanwhile, Lancaster’s more leisurely character reconnects with old flame Alexis Smith at their retirement home to the music of Glenn Miller.

All the while, the aging cop who had arrested them (Charles Durning) is waiting for them to do something illegal so he can bust them again, and for some reason a myopic elderly hit-man (Eli Wallach) is trying to bump the pair off.

When they learn that the train they robbed in 1955 is about to take its own retirement run, they start new plans to recapture headlines.

Picture quality is superb on Kino’s Blu-ray and the stereo sound is quite effective. There is a highly entertaining and informative audio commentary by director Jeff Kanew that was just recorded this March.

The only other bonus feature is a gallery of seven trailers to various films starring Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, or both, all available on Blu-ray from Kino.

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

In “One, Two, Three” (1961), the great writer-director Billy Wilder takes on politics, consumerism, pop-culture, and the American dream in a great, biting Cold War satire shot on location in Berlin (until the Berlin Wall suddenly appeared overnight during production, requiring some rapid rewrites).

James Cagney stars as a Coca-Cola executive hoping to be reassigned to London, suddenly saddled with entertaining his Atlanta boss’s wild and impressionable teenage daughter (who sneaks into East Berlin and gets involved with a young communist agitator).

There are more than a few similarities to “Ninotchka” (1939), which Wilder had co-scripted, as well as numerous themes and situations from previous Wilder films (and Cagney films, among others).

Wilder twists movie clichés and reverses expectations throughout the film. The mile-a-minute dialogue and bits of physical business feature so many gags and in-jokes that it may take several viewings to catch them all (though many are identified in the very good audio commentary).

Wilder had such a feeling for his era that several gags and throwaway topical references turned out to be uncannily prophetic.

Kino’s Blu-ray looks and sounds very good. Bonus features include a must-listen commentary, two brief video interviews with Wilder about this film and his career in general, a trailer, and trailers to two other films by Wilder and one by Cagney.

ONE, TWO, THREE on Blu-ray -- Movie: A / Video: A / Audio: A / Extras: B-

Recently in:

News

​A trick of the light

by Sabrina Hornung

“In 2 ½ years I’ve acquired 221 plates. The end game is 1,000 wet plates of Native Americans and it’s going to take me 15 more years,” Balkowitsch said. When he started the portrait project, his initial goal was to create…

There will be a rocking event on coming this Thursday called Night Bazaar by Folkways. Night Bazaar is an event highlighting the community with a full spectrum of unique experiences, food, music, art and performances. Night Bazaar…

Thursday, August 23, 5-6:30 p.m.Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave. NDr. Craig Howe, Director of the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS), will lead an art and poetry workshop in conjunction with the…

On August 14, The Bismarck Tribune reported that “A popular insecticide could be banned for agricultural use.” Popular as it may be I can think of a whole slew of adjectives that would be more appropriate like questionable,…

Well, Mr. President, Have You No Sense Of Decency Sir, At Long Last?We might have another flag debate in this country. We still see the Confederate symbol flying in activities promoted by white supremacists on the streets of…

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…

By Ben Myhre benmyhre35@gmail.com If you are a gardener in the area, you know that this is the time of year when zucchini becomes plentiful. In fact, many have a tough time using all of it. You may see just a small little zucchini…

Woodstock: even people who were born years after the original three-day music festival recognize the name. The event, which took place between August 15th and 18th at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in southern New York and attracted…

Elsie Fisher’s Kayla Day is the lonely but indefatigable middle-school protagonist of first-time feature filmmaker Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade,” a winning addition to the pantheon of the adolescent cinematic bildungsroman.…

It may be cliche to say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, but when wet plate artist Shane Balkowitsch found out that his 15-year-old daughter Abby Balkowitsch was following in his photography footsteps, he was…

By Stella Mehlhoffstellamehlhoff@gmail.comAs I stared out of Guthrie Theater’s Amber room at a bird’s eye of the cityscape and river below, I hardly took in the night lights, my mind was too focused on the art I had just…

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…

When I was first introduced to the traditional spirit of my ancestors, Akvavit (or aquavit), I never thought I’d ever find myself standing next to a giant “Viking” ship while comparing different brands of the “water of…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

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…

Well, after nearly a dozen years of delay, it looks like Billings County is finally going to build a bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River north of Medora. The county posted a notice in the Federal Register on October…