Columbia, 1953, B&W, 118 mins.- Columbia DVD

Deborah Kerr: "Well, on the other hand, I've got a bathing suit under my dress..."

And she's not afraid to use it- thus leading to one of the most-referenced movie scenes ever, as unhappy military wife Kerr and manly Sergeant Burt Lancaster get all friendly in the pounding Hawaiian surf. At the same time, Private Montgomery Clift is cozying-up to "Dance hall girl" Donna Reed, and skinny soldier Frank Sinatra is trying to drink his own weight in whiskey. It's all part of the way those Army types killed time on the Big Island back in 1941. Of course, it isn't all fun and games, especially for Clift, who is the target of an intimidation campaign to get him back into the ring after an unfortunate boxing accident. And then there's Sinatra's conflict with sadistic jailer Ernest Borgnine, which has unfortunate consequences for everybody. But all of their lives, loves and hates will eventually take a back seat to history......on December 7, 1941......

This popular classic, which netted 8 Oscars, balances its harsh portrait of Army life with a healthy dash of soap, as everybody in it either has "A past" or is in the process of creating one. The story avoids any false sentimentality, however- the filmmakers don't pull their punches in showing what happens to their flawed characters. In that, they are greatly helped by the casting, which is both to and against type- Lancaster is a natural as the tough but decent Sergeant, and Clift was just the guy for inner torment. But nobody expected to see the reserved Kerr as an adulterous wife, or to have "Nice girl" Reed win an Oscar for playing a thinly-veiled hooker. And Sinatra's work here was a revelation, earning him his own gold statuette and reviving his flagging career. This is Fifties Hollywood at its best. Extras on the disc include an audio commentary and featurettes.


Columbia, 1959, Color, 83 mins.- Columbia DVD

Peter Sellers: "There isn't a more profitable enterprise for any country than to declare war on the United States and to be defeated."

Bankrupted by a California vintner who has bootlegged the wine that is their only export, the tiny Independent Duchy of Grand Fenwick launches a unique scheme to get some foreign aid from an indifferent Washington. A declaration of war is mailed, and a band of conscripts heads off to New York City in a tramp steamer, outfitted with gear that's centuries out-of-date. Their war plan calls for an "Invasion" and quick surrender, followed by a return to Grand Fenwick with moneyed American occupiers. But as the Fenwickian politicos brainstorm on what to do with the expected windfall, fate throws a monkey wrench into the works in the form of the "Q Bomb," a metallic football of a super-weapon which just happens to fall into the hands of the invaders. And all of a sudden, the smallest country in the world becomes the most powerful country in the world.....

This satirical romp starts out by taking potshots at bureaucracy and silly traditions, and winds up as plea for nuclear disarmament- a heavy load that the film doesn't quite have the muscle to bear. But taken on its merits it's entertaining enough, showcasing Sellers in multiple roles and serving up some funny dialogue and situations. Director Jack Arnold, known for his classic Fifties monster movies, does an efficient job with the material, although the signs of a low budget occasionally interrupt the flow of things. Overall, it's okay if you're in the mood for an amusing trifle, but don't expect too much from it. The disc has no significant extras.



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