Fox, 1950, B&W, 138 mins.- Fox Studio Classics DVD

  Bette Davis: "Everybody has a heart. Except some people."

Now, now, Bette- sheathe those claws. Just because aspiring actress Eve (Anne Baxter), a scheming little minx who will do whatever it takes to get to the top of the theatrical heap, has wormed her way into your circle and stabbed you in the back doesn't mean that you can tear her to shreds. Well, okay, maybe a little. After all, when you've reached the danger point of being "A certain age," you've got to defend yourself from the likes of Baxter and her booster, influential columnist George Sanders. The problem is, once Baxter gets rolling she's hard to stop.

This picture offers a cutting view of Broadway and the types who inhabit it, courtesy of noted writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The result is soapy......but it's a bar of soap with a razor blade inside. Aided by a great bunch of supporting players- including a fresh-faced Marilyn Monroe- star Davis is in fine form here, her prima donna-ish character mirroring her real life. Everybody around her in the story, from director/boyfriend Gary Merrill (who actually married Davis) to gal-pal Celeste Holm, has learned to put up with Davis' quirks- but there are limits, and Baxter cunningly lights everybody's fuses before stepping back out of range of the fireworks. Whether Baxter eventually gets burned is up to the viewer to discover, and it's a discovery that led to this picture holding the record for Oscar nominations for over 40 years. Extras include audio commentaries, a documentary, and original promotional footage.

MGM, 1934, B&W, 91 mins.- Warner Bros. DVD

  Myrna Loy: "Darling, you'd better lay off that liquor."

Not likely, as Loy's famed ex-detective hubby, William Powell, seems determined to go through life in a well-lubricated condition, living off of her family money and avoiding seriousness of any kind. But unfortunately for Powell, his wife and everybody else in town seems to think he should stick his nose into a fresh murder case involving some old acquaintances of his- a family that's nutty in the best screwball comedy tradition. As the bodies start to pile up, Powell slips back into his old sleuthing habits, and shows that heavy drinking hasn't impaired his ability to ferret-out the bad guys.

The mystery in this picture isn't all that mysterious, but it's not the real attraction here- that distinction goes to the Powell/Loy relationship, and their interaction with the various shady and colorful characters that they run across. Trading wisecracks, affection, and the occasional punch, Powell and Loy were a perfect match, and they went on to do five sequels. When they're not on screen, the picture drags, and some of the schtick gets a bit too corny, particularly when it involves the pair's dog. But it's all enjoyable enough if you make some allowances for age. Extras are minimal, comprising a set of trailers for all six films.

HandMade Films, 1981, Color, 116 mins.- Criterion DVD

  David Warner: "If I were creating a world, I wouldn't mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would've started with lasers,eight o'clock, day one!"

It seems like everybody's got a gripe against the Supreme Being. Warner, the embodiment of Evil, thinks the world's a mess. And a band of the Supreme Being's little people (literally), ticked-off at being hit with a demotion, have decided to get even with the boss by going on a daring robbery spree. The key to the bandits' enterprise is a map showing a series of flaws in the fabric of creation, which allow them to jump around to various times and places- preferably ones where there are a lot of valuables about. Along the way, young boy Craig Warnock, trapped in a dull suburban existence, gets swept up in the adventure. Pursued by the Supreme Being, the group has its ups and downs, but when Warner discovers that they have the map, he sees a way to impose his Evil will on the world- and that's when the trouble really starts.

Director Terry Gilliam's story, co-written with fellow Python alumnus Michael Palin, aims for a dark, original Grimm's Fairy Tale approach, and scores a bullseye. Children will like the adventure, the rich visuals, and the silly humor, and will identify with the plucky Warnock. Adults can enjoy the script's jabs at technology and consumerism, its deflation of historical figures, and the satirical depiction of the Supreme Being himself. In the end, it's not all sunshine for the protagonists, but some stories go down better without a sugar coating. Recommended for Gilliam fans, and just about everybody else. Extras include audio commentary by the director and several actors, and a photo scrapbook.

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