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09.03.08

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Phaedra

DVD Reviews

Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol Collection, Joy House and Long Dream


Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol Collection
Five discs; 20th Century-Fox; $49.98

This set of 10 Tyrone Power vehicles, complete with background documentaries, period posters and production stills, shows how our Hollywood heritage should be preserved. These Fox features display Power's skills as both a comedian and a dramatic leading man. In the late '30s, Power specialized in playing callow young cads-- with his brilliantined hair he looks like the man in the Arrow Shirt ads. He sparkles in 1937's Café Metropole, even though the plot saddles him with a fake Russian accent and a screechy Loretta Young. Power is paired again with the gorgeous Young in Second Honeymoon (1937) and Love Is News (1937). In the latter, the pair exhibit an easy comic rapport that makes this fast-paced comedy about a journalist and an heiress a unfairly forgotten delight. The fun ended with World War II. This Above All (1942) is a muddled tale of a lower-class British deserter (Power) and an upper-class woman (Joan Fontaine). Fontaine's teary "why we fight" speech makes Henry V's oratory at Agincourt sound like the mutterings of a defeatocrat who refuses to admit that the surge against France has worked. The proto-noir Johnny Apollo (1940) casts Power as a rich man's son who turns to a life of crime. The weird green tint that overlays the Irish scenes in The Luck of the Irish (1948) can't disguise the corned-beef corn in the story of a newsman who finds true love (Anne Baxter) with the help of an annoying leprechaun (Cecil Kellaway). The strange I'll Never Forget You (1951) begins in the black-and-white present with Power as an atomic scientist. After a bolt of lightning, the film turns to color, and Power imitates one of his own London ancestors, circa 1784, romancing Ann Blyth. As is true in all time-travel stories, the past can't really be recaptured. These films aren't A-list material, but the remarkably high standards of craft--in acting, set direction and cinematography--that informed all of Fox's films glows even 60 years later.

(Michael S. Gant)

Joy House
One disc; Koch-Lorber; $24.98

This rococo 1964 thriller shows what the French New Wave was up against: a widescreen black-and-white movie that, aside from cinematographer Henri Decaë's silvery light, might as well have been directed by Robert Aldrich trying to shock the living daylights out of you. It's René Clément's chic adaptation of a pulp novel by Day Keene. Most of it takes place in a Villefranche-sur-Mer villa, as bursting with bric-a-brac as a Goodwill. The glacial yet acrobatic Alain Delon plays Marc, a Parisian drifter who slept with the wrong married woman back in New York. Some Yankee plug-uglies are looking for him, and he hides out in a church rescue mission in the Riviera. There he's hired as a chauffeur by a rich and devious widow (Lola Albright), who is using her poor-relations cousin (Jane Fonda) as live-in maid and cook. Caroming between the two ladies--both clearly have hidden agendas--the fugitive discovers that there's another man on the premises, artfully hidden from the police. The alternate title, Les Félins, suggests how Marc is batted around as a play-toy between the cougar and the sex kitten; if we don't get the picture, there's plenty of symbolic use of a pet cat, which might have influenced some of the sinister kitty-wielding in Blofeld's scenes in the Bond movies. The film is as swank as can be, with a Plexiglas-lidded Rolls-Royce as seduction chamber. Though the action is mostly devoid of suspense, Fonda looks scrumptious, and composer Lalo Schifrin goes absolutely nutzoid on the soundtrack. Be sure to play French subtitled version because English version is badly dubbed.

(Richard von Busack)

Long Dream
One disc; Tidepoint Pictures/Bone House Asia/Facets Video; $19.95

Japanese horror director Higuchinsky, who made cult fave Uzumaki, cultivates a mysterious persona--his face is pixilated in the interview that accompanies this 2000 TV feature, as if he were a crime suspect. The pose must be an in-joke of sorts, since he is clearly visible in a making-of documentary. Long Dream, only an hour long, is another collaboration with manga man Junji Ito. A Dr. Kuroda (Horiuchi Masami in John Carradine groove) is investigating the troubling case of a young man who suffers from "long dreams," nightmares that seem to go on for days and days, even weeks, months and years. The ordeal ages the patient, so that he appears to be much older after each night's sleep. Eventually, he sprouts blue hair, and giant bloodshot eyes popping out of a rubber mask; in the end, he turns into a weird mutant and simply withers into dust. The good doctor, gone mad like all horror-film medicos, believes that dreams function as a kind of immortality and that he can join his own dead lover in "the eternal world of dreams" by tapping into this strange oneiric energy. Some blood gets spilled, but Higuchinsky relies mostly on atmosphere and clever camerawork to lead up to a spiffy spin ending.

(Michael S. Gant)


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