Errol Flynn: Signature Collection, Vol. 2: The Charge Of The Light Brigade, The Dawn Patrol, Dive Bomber, Gentleman Jim, The Adventures Of Don Juan
(Warner, 1936-1948), D: Michael Curtiz, Edmund Goulding, Raoul Walsh, Vincent Sherman, w/ Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, David Niven. Rating: NNNN ; DVD package: NNNN
Spend enough time watching studio films from Hollywood's classical period and you begin to know its physical features. You become adept at spotting the bits of Dracula's castle that pop up in Universal horror films throughout the 30s, or the way RKO's film noirs and horrors endlessly recycled the sets from Citizen Kane.
In this second collection of Errol Flynn pictures from Warner, you'll notice that the Khan's great hall from The Charge Of The Light Brigade is exactly the same grand, abstract space that serves as the Spanish throne room in The Adventures Of Don Juan. And if you go back to the first Warner Flynn collection, it's Elizabeth's throne room in The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex.
The five titles here are a mixed bag. Dive Bomber, with Flynn as an Air Force doctor trying to figure out how to keep pilots from blacking out at high altitude, is the only stinker.
Don Juan is a tremendously fun swashbuckler, and the DVD features a commentary by nonagenarian director Vincent Sherman. Gentleman Jim, with Flynn as boxer James Corbett, was one of the star's personal favourites. The Dawn Patrol is a WWI flying picture, and a good one, though it's a very straight remake of Howard Hawks's 1931 version, using the same script and much of Hawks's aerial combat footage, which you'll quickly notice seems to be shot over the southern California desert, not the French trenches. All these titles are available singly, though if you want three of them, the box is cheaper.
These are beautiful transfers the technicolor of Don Juan glows, and Dawn Patrol's greys have a claustrophobic menace and Warner has mostly gone for its Night At The Movies format, with period-appropriate trailers, newsreels and cartoons to complement the main feature, except for Dive Bomber. Go figure.
EXTRAS Night At The Movies format highlights. What Price Porky? cartoon, documentary short on The Calgary Stampede c. 1948, Oscar-winning dramatic short Give Me Liberty (1936), radio adaptation of Gentleman Jim with Flynn, Alexis Smith and Ward Bond. Theatrical trailers.
(ThinkFilm, 2006) D: Neil Armfield, w/ Abbie Cornish, Heath Ledger, Geoffrey Rush. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: NNN
Candy is a beautifully made film starring Heath Ledger as a layabout poet, Abbie Cornish (A Good Year) as his artist girlfriend and Geoffrey Rush as their mentor in the world of illegal chemicals. It's a junkie romance, and while we all know how much actors love these parts - the lank hair, thousand-yard stare and the junkie scratching - it's still a tedious trip, especially when they put the OD at the beginning and structure the film as a flashback.
Let's be honest. In movies about junkies, who's going to OD and when is pretty much the only bit of narrative suspense. This one's very well made, but we've taken this trip before.
EXTRAS Director and writer commentary that occasionally suggests that the creators are on the nod but also offers the interesting note that they had to write Rush out of the picture early when he left to do Pirates Of The Caribbean. Short making-of documentary. Theatrical trailer.
(Domino, 2002) D: Rodrigue Jean, w/ Sébastien Huberdeau, Hél`ne Florent, Patsy Gallant. Rating: NN ; DVD package: bare-bones.
A brother gets his sister out of the loony bin in Moncton and decides to take her to Yellowknife for no discernable reason. Along the way, they hook up with a pair of gay male strippers and follow the route taken by an aging chanteuse, which at times makes this New Brunswick feature look like a documentary about the world's most obsessive Patsy Gallant fans.
The leads are apparently fans of the forgotten Disney dwarfs Bitter and Resentful, and it turns out they have way bigger issues than just lack of communication. And the narrative logic is, well, tenuous.
Domino has released the film as a 4:3 letterboxed transfer rather than true wide-screen, which makes it instantly non-competitive.
EXTRAS None. French audio, English subtitles.
Curse Of The Golden Flower
(Sony Classics, 2006) D: Zhang Yimou, w/ Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li. Rating: NNN ; DVD package: NN
I'll stand by my review of curse published in NOW's December 21 issue (www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2006-12-21/movie_reviews5.php). This is a well-constructed historical drama, but it's also a prime piece of fabric porn. If it had been the hit Sony Classics wanted, people would be trying to match its decorating scheme.
Chow Yun-Fat is the Emperor Ping. He's poisoning the Empress Phoenix, but slowly, and the sons are brewing their own rebellion. Sony pitched this as the follow-up to the martial arts epics Hero and House Of Flying Daggers, but it's really a Tang Dynasty soap opera on a grand scale. The Tang Dynasty was apparently the only regime in Chinese history whose designers had any interest in cleavage.
EXTRAS Minimialist, but not bad: a 20-minute making-of, and two minutes of red-carpet footage from the L.A. premiere. Chinese and English audio. English, Spanish subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, April 3
Twin Peaks: Season Two
(Paramount, 1990) Well, it's about time, even if season two is kind of attenuated. Lynch knew that once he actually revealed who killed Laura Palmer, he'd have to send Agent Cooper back to wherever it was he came from.
(Sony, 2006) Pedro Almodévar's homage to his mom, who was apparently a real hottie, at least as played by the Oscar-nominated Penélope Cruz.
Death Of A President
(Maple, 2006) A fictional documentary about the assassination of George W. Bush that won the FIPRESCI prize at TIFF, perhaps the first time a FIPRESCI jury featured in American right-wing political blogs.
Ticket To Heaven
(Echo Bridge, 1980) Ralph Thomas's classic study of a young man absorbed by a religious cult finally gets to DVD. No tech details yet. With Nick Mancuso, R. H. Thomson and Saul Rubinek.