Warner Archive Offers Merriment, Music and Mystery This January
There was a time when the Warner Archive released only a few titles at a time. Now, that the archive has long been up and running for many years, the release announcements contain a rather large number of titles and offer a wide scope of genres. The latest group of choices include a Doris Day musical, a 1940s college film, a Cary Grant "dramedy", two Elvis Presley movies, and a late David Niven family comedy. As you can see by the films I've chosen to highlight below, there's even more.
The second film in the beloved "Thin Man" series, After the Thin Man (1936) is presented in a new 1080p HD master from a 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements. In other words, this is the best consumer version available as of the date of this posting. William Powell and Myrna Loy return to their roles from the 1934 smash hit The Thin Man for this second of five sequels and now it’s in HD for the very first time! The stars, writers and director of The Thin Man reunite for a second comedy whodunit. Its New Year’s Eve, Nick (Powell) and Nora (Loy) have returned to the West Coast, and a philandering hubby of a cousin has gone missing and ultimately ends up dead. Clues and misdirections abound in this very amusing and entertaining mystery about the privileged class and the nefarious people they associate with. A young James Stewart leads a stellar supporting cast featuring some of the best character actors of the 1930s. There are plenty of special bonuses including an MGM radio promo, the Robert Benchley short How to be a Detective, an MGM cartoon The Early Bird and the Worm, and the original theatrical trailer.
Room for One More (1952) is being released in a new 1080p HD master from the best preservation elements. The film stars Cary Grant and real wife Betsy Drake as on screen husband and wife in a heartwarming adaptation of a book by the same name. Mr. and Mrs. Rose already have three kids when they become foster parents of one, then another, troubled youth. Grant personally chose the book as a vehicle to showcase his and his wife Drake's natural charm and chemistry. It worked. The light-hearted tale has the right balance of drama and comedy, and may even bring a tear or two to the eye. This is a particular favorite of mine due in no small part to the exceptional skills of the child actors who really provide the heart of this endlessly re-watchable film. Two Warner Bros. cartoons are included in the special features.
The Man Who Would Be King (1975) is back in print and on Blu-ray. John Huston crafted a bona-fide modern classic in this adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's immortal tale of adventure, heroism and hubris. Daniel Dravot (Sean Connery) and Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) set out on a quest that takes them on a series of adventures leading to the remote mountains of Afghanistan. The locals mistake Connery for a God and living incarnation of Alexander the Great. It's a mistake that brings power and wealth to the two until the hoax takes hold of the imposter who begins to believe his fantastic con job. Connery and Caine have terrific chemistry as life-long friends who have no hesitations for jumping at every adventure that comes their way. Their performances onscreen relationship may very well depict one of cinema's first "bro-mances". The trailer and a short about the making of film are included in the special features.
Ball of Fire stars Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in a romantic crime comedy from screwball comedy maestro, Howard Hawks. And the script comes from the famous screenwriting team of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder. The lanky Cooper is perfectly cast against type as a scholar set out to write a new encyclopedia with his seven colleagues. In an attempt to research modern slang he visits a swinging nightclub, where he Stanwyck is the reigning burlesque queen. Obviously, opposites attract and so naturally the two fall for each other amidst the adorable gaggle of seven professors. Trouble begins when her mobster boyfriend comes looking for her. Hmm... a beauty, pursued by an evil entity, who hides out with a prince of a guy and his seven little helpers. Sounds familiar some how.
The Princess and the Pirate stars Bob Hope as a 17th-century entertainer with an act so atrocious he’s exiled from England. He takes to the high seas and meets the lovely Virginia Mayo who is trying to escape from the lecherous Walter Slezak, screwball Walter Brennan, and viscous Victor McLaglen. As the ship sails for America, he finds himself falling for the beautiful Princess Margaret (Mayo). She is neither interested in love nor Hope's sense of humor. However, when evil pirates attack and capture the princess, her only hope is, well, the cowardly Hope. This is a Bob Hope film, so you know there's going to be a surprise, twist ending thats full of self-deprecating laughs.