Columbia, 1975, Color, 109 mins.- Columbia DVD

Warren Beatty: "I mean, after a while, women can get to be an occupational hazard."

Hearing star, co-writer, and notorious womanizer Beatty say that is one of those moments where artifice and reality wind up in a blender together. This popular film rode the wave of permissiveness that followed the death of the movie "Production Code," and at times it is surprisingly explicit in its examination of the shallow lives of Beverly Hills "Beautiful people." Beatty is a stereotypically-gay hairdresser- but only when he has to throw a suspicious husband or boyfriend off-track, for in reality he's bedding a large percentage of his female clients. Now, let's see.........naive actress Goldie Hawn thinks she's his main squeeze, but he's also involved with Lee Grant- whose husband, Jack Warden, is seeing one of Beatty's ex-lovers, Julie Christie, on the side. Warden could be a help to Beatty in setting up his own business, but that doesn't stop Beatty from trying to hook up with Christie again......and when Beatty meets Warden and Grant's teenage daughter, Carrie Fisher- well, you can probably guess what happens.

Despite what it may sound like, this is not a farcical romp- there are darkly funny moments, but on the whole it's a merciless character study of people who may or may not be worth the examination. Beatty, always hustling, always distractedly telling everybody that everything is "Great," has been- let's say, running on instinct- for too long, and he knows it. Watching him try to change isn't what you'd call uplifting, but you have to give the picture points for not copping-out- the finale is entirely believable. It's all presented on a "Plain vanilla" disc, with no significant extras.

Disney, 1954, Color, 127 mins.- Disney Spec. Ed. DVD

Kirk Douglas: "There's one thing you ought to know, Professor- Nemo's cracked."

You said it, Kirk. It's hard to find a scientific genius in the movies who wouldn't benefit from the services of a shrink, and Captain Nemo- compellingly portrayed by James Mason- is no exception. He's created a vessel 90 years ahead of its time, the submarine Nautilus, in order to set himself free from a surface world tainted by violence and bloodshed.......and to carry out a murderous vendetta against those who would profit from war. So it's safe to say that the guy's got some serious internal conflicts. And when noted scientist Paul Lukas, his apprentice Peter Lorre, and macho harpooner Douglas find themselves making an extended stay on the sub, the voyage is a memorable one to say the least.

This perennial adventure, based on Jules Verne's novel, probably inspired more kids to get into oceanography than Jacques Cousteau did. The story unfolds with a healthy sense of wonder, not just for the natural world but for the promise of technology, the latter represented by what is arguably the star of the show- the Nautilus. The sub is a masterpiece of production design, and exemplifies the best aspects of the "Disney touch." Uncle Walt's influence is also felt in the humorous material added to the story, which is laid on a bit thick and clashes with the darker elements of the tale. But you know going in that you're getting family-friendly material, and the comedy does make the grimmer moments stand out. If you dig old-fashioned adventure and science fiction, you can't go wrong with this one. And to make it even better, Disney's gone all-out for this first DVD release, restoring the film and throwing in a whole second disc of extras.

London Films, 1949, B&W, 104 mins.- Criterion DVD

Trevor Howard: "Death's at the bottom of everything, Martins- leave death to the professionals."

Appropriate advice for a story which begins and ends with burials, but Martins- played by Joseph Cotten- isn't too good at taking hints where his old pal Orson Welles is concerned. Arriving in a bomb-damaged, partitioned Vienna not long after World War II, Cotten unwisely plunges himself into the corrupt world of black-market racketeering in order to clear the freshly-deceased Welles' name. Howard and the other authorities try to warn him off, but Cotten, an author of pulpy Western novels, is determined to unravel this real-world scenario- especially when he hooks up with Welles' mourning girlfriend, Aida Valli. But before he's finished, he'll wish that he never learned the truth about his friend.

This old favorite is full of interesting and offbeat elements, from tilted camera angles to a zither-only musical score which spawned countless "Elevator music" knockoffs. Throw in the symbolically-decayed setting, great performances, and moments of Hitchcockian suspense, and you get what you'd expect from writer Graham Greene, director Carol Reed and producers Alexander Korda and David O. Selznick- a classic. Welles went on to reprise his character in radio shows, which is no surprise, as he creates an indelible impression in the film- jovially amoral one moment, menacing the next. And he looks and sounds great, thanks to Criterion's usual standards. Extras on the disc include archival footage, photos, and one of those radio shows.

For more "DVD Movie Reviews" click here to view back issues.


© Melt Magazine 2003