Sunday, January 15, 2006

Naughty Gems

Pre-code film series continue to pop up on rep schedules around the country. This January and February, Pittsburgh Filmmakers is showing a Sunday night series featuring some of the better-known films of the period, including "Tarzan and His Mate" and "Blonde Venus" (soon to be released on DVD).

And in February in San Francisco, the Mechanics' Institute CinemaLit film series will shine the spotlight on Pre-Code Hollywood on Friday nights. Curator Michael Fox presents "Baby Face" (Feb. 3rd), "Design for Living" (Feb. 10th), "Downstairs" (February 17th, with former Roxie programmer Elliot Lavine as special guest) and "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" (Feb. 24th).

Speaking of the Roxie (or should I say, the Roxie Film Center), SF Weekly had a good piece about the changes taking place at the theater in order to the cinema from closing its doors forever.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Glamour Girls Gussy Up for DVD Collections

Good news on the DVD release front: NBC/Universal is finally starting to open their vaults to release some of their classic library of Paramount and Universal films. DVD Times announced the April 4th releases of three two-disc "Glamour Collections" devoted to three of Paramount's biggest female stars: Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, and Carole Lombard.

Here are the lineups:

Mae West:
- Mae's first film, "Night After Night"
- her pre-code classic "I'm No Angel," arguably her best movie.
- "Goin' to Town"
- "Go West Young Man" with Cary Grant's roommate Randolph Scott
- and Universal's "My Little Chickadee" with W.C. Fields (which also appears on the "W.C. Fields Comedy Collection").

Marlene Dietrich:
- 1930's "Morocco," her first American film which paired her with a very young Gary Cooper.
- Another Josef von Sternberg pre-code collaboration, "Blonde Venus."
- "The Devil Is a Woman," with pre-code favorites Alison Skipworth and Edward Everett Horton.
- Universal's "The Flame of New Orleans," a period comedy-drama in which director Rene Clair sends up Dietrich's scandalous persona.
- and Mitchell Leisen's WWII romance "Golden Earrings."

Perhaps most exciting to me is the Carole Lombard set, since many of these titles are rarely seen anymore:

- 1931's "Man of the World" - Carole would end up marrying her co-star William Powell.
- Pre-code musical "We're Not Dressing," with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman.
- Three screwball comedies opposite Fred MacMurray, "True Confession," "The Princess Comes Across" and Mitchell Leisen's "Hands Across the Table."
- The 1936 Universal release "Love Before Breakfast"

The only extras are a few original trailers, but it's nice to see Universal give these ladies their due on DVD. MSRP for each set is $26.98, a bargain for five (or in the case of Carole, six) films. Let's hope this means Universal will open the floodgates this year and follow with more classics.