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Warner Archives: Take 2

It's been two months since my last post detailing the glories of the Warner Archive releases for rent at Scarecrow (and very few other places, if any). Since then, we've gotten in nearly 100 more titles with another 20 en route as I type. In case you haven't read the "Warner Archives at Scarecrow Take 1" post, these are titles in Warner's catalog they're burning on demand for $20 a pop. The big online rental places aren't carrying them, nor are the Seattle Public Libraries, so we are one of the only places to see these fine, fine films. As more and more titles get released, the number of people bemoaning the lack of availability in online forums just increases. I mean, I wouldn't want to pay $20 to see a film I might only watch once, but I damn sure will rent one. To make it easier to browse our selection of these fine additions to Scarecrow, we've grouped them all together in a spotlight section on the other side of our New Release wall. Some choice picks from the 100 we've added since my last post: THE MAN I LOVE (Raoul Walsh, 1947) A strange mix of melodrama & film noir that contains the absolute best Ida Lupino entrance ever. I won't ruin it for you, but even if the rest of the film wasn't already a myriad of pleasure, it alone would be worth the price of a rental. Ida's on the run, seeking refuge with her sister in San Francisco and singing torch songs in a nightclub owned by the incredibly slimy Robert Alda (yep, Alan's papa,). He's in the process of corrupting Ida's sister and brother until Ida decides to take matters into her own hands. Martin Scorsese cited this as a major influence for New York, New York and has been singing its praises ever since I can remember. And if you just can't get enough Ida, she graces two more recent and worthwhile Warner Archive acquisitions - THE HARD WAY & DEEP VALLEY. SEA HAWK (Frank Lloyd, 1924) When this screened at SIFF sometime in the mid '90's, it wowed the audience with its epic scale, gripping story, and the charismatic and heroic lead who in real life went by the positively unheroic moniker of Milton Sills. I remember at the time being sad that I'd probably never be able to see it again, but here it is for all you folks who didn't show up at the Egyptian on that rainy day in May. THE MOON IS BLUE (Otto Preminger, 1953) Preminger directed this successful comedy on Broadway for a run of 924 performances, so when he brought it to Hollywood, you would have expected all to go smoothly. It did not. The Breen office informed Preminger & company that the screenplay was in violation of the production code because of its "light and gay treatment of the subject of illicit sex and seduction." In one of the first instances of the studio taking on the Breen office, they sided with Preminger and even got the Supreme Court to overturn a ban on the film in Kansas. It was released without the production code seal of approval, had great success, and was a key element in doing away with the Breen office's outmoded and prudish policies. And the film itself? Oh, it's a breezy yet un-pc comedy of manners with David Niven and William Holden both trying to bed newcomer Maggie McNamara, who'd rather talk about the concept of "bedding down" than acquiescing to either suitor. NORA PRENTISS & THE UNFAITHFUL (both Vincent Sherman, 1947) Sherman and actress Ann Sheridan collaborated on this pair of well worth watching noir/melodramas. Nora Prentiss, with its outlandish plot and stunning camerawork by James Wong Howe, is probably the more traditionally "noir" of the two, while The Unfaithful is an unofficial remake of the 1940 Bette Davis vehicle The Letter. For you noir aficionados out there, this one boasts a screenwriting credit by David Goodis. Goodis didn't hang around Hollywood for long, but his contributions are all reflective of his uniquely bizarre worldview. THE STORY OF THREE LOVES (Vincente Minnelli & Gottfried Reinhardt, 1953) Minnelli directed Mademoiselle, the middle episode of this portmanteau film in which witch Ethel Barrymore turns young Ricky Nelson into Farley Granger for an evening so that he may romance Leslie Caron. Deliciously wicked, enchanting, and singularly Minnellian. The first and third episodes feature James Mason, Moira Shearer, Kirk Douglas, and Pier Angeli and nicely bookend the middle treat. GET TO KNOW YOUR RABBIT (Brian DePalma, 1972) Made in 1970 then shelved for two years, this film feels a lot closer to DePalma's Greetings (1968) and Hi, Mom! (1970) than the film that followed it (Sisters, 1973.) The wacky story follows Tom Smothers and John Astin as they ditch their corporate jobs to hit the road as tap dancing magicians and features a stellar case of supporting players - Timothy Carey, Orson Welles, Katharine Ross (as a lady with a paperboy fetish,) M. Emmet Walsh, and one of my very favorite '70's character actors, Allen Garfield. FLIRTATION WALK & SHIPMATES FOREVER (Frank Borzage, 1934 & 1935) Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, fresh off a quartet of Busby Berkeley classics, teamed up for this pair of Borzage directed, Delmer Daves penned romances set at military academies (West Point and Annapolis, respectively.) Borzage's all-pervading romantic sensibility make these as different than the Berkeley trifles as you can get, while still retaining the magical chemistry Powell and Keeler brought to their pairing. We are adding more titles weekly to this amazing Warner Archive collection. The next order (hopefully arriving any day now) will include: CARNY (1980), starring the unlikely romantic triangle of Gary Busey, Jodie Foster, and Robbie Robertson ALL THE MARBLES (1981), Robert Aldrich's ode to female tag team wrestling, starring Peter Falk & Laurene Landon MIKE'S MURDER (1984), James Bridges' controversial mystery with Debra Winger THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (1978), a Rankin/Bass live action TV movie directed by Japanese monster specialist Shusei Kotani, starring Burl Ives, Connie Sellecca, giant sea turtles, and ghosts. Yep. WONDER BAR (1934), Busby Berkeley's utterly tasteless musical set in a Parisian nightclub, stars Al Jolson, Ricardo Cortez, Kay Francis, and Dolores Del Rio. Still controversial for its blackface production number "Goin' To Heaven On A Mule," the film manages to be offensive to not only African-Americans, but gays, old ladies and Hispanics as well. I put this on once on the downstairs monitor on Berkeley's birthday, left for lunch, and came back to an entire staff staring daggers at me. RECKLESS, you know, that 1984 JD romance that made the world much more familiar with rising stars Aidan Quinn, Daryl Hannah, & Jennifer Grey, not to mention INXS & Romeo Void, who sang the memorable ditty "Never Say Never" while Quinn and Hannah spun around on the dance floor. Last but not least, we are finally going to see the release of the legendary and highly in demand URGH! A MUSIC WAR. Filmed in 1980 in various locations in England and the U.S., URGH! features seminal performances by The Cramps, Gang of Four, Pere Ubu, Dead Kennedys, Oingo Boingo, Gary Numan, Joan Jett, Devo, The Fleshtones, 999, XTC, Wall Of Voodoo, Klaus Nomi, Surf Punks, X, and, in a mercifully early stage in their career, The Police. We do hope this gets a wider DVD release, but for now, experience the pleasures that renting this will bring.