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Archive for the ‘dvd’s’ Category

While the rest of the world is asleep, I’m usually awake. I’ve been an insomniac since I was a child and it’s a habit I haven’t been able to shake. I’ve tried forcing myself to an early bedtime, but I wind up waking up halfway through the night and gravitate towards the television or computer (or sometimes I use the computer while leaving the tv on for background noise). And while I pay for it the next day, I find that massive amounts of coffee and a good healthy dose of Touche Eclat smeared under the eyes helps me become a somewhat fully functioning member of society.

During my insomniac hours, I usually surf through Amazon in search of classic dvds. Currently, they’re having a huge 50% off sale on Westerns, so I wound up grabbing the following titles:

Yellow Sky (1948) – directed by William Wellman, starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter and Richard Widmark

Lust For Gold (1949) – with Ida Lupino, Glenn Ford and Gig Young (one of my faves)

Broken Arrow (1950) – with James Stewart and Jeff Chandler

Duck, You Sucker (Special Edition-1971) – with James Coburn and Rod Steiger. I mainly got this one because I loved Once Upon a Time in the West and the title is pretty awesome. The only other spaghetti western with such an awesome title is God Forgives, I Don’t.

I can’t resist a good bargain. In addition to that, I also grabbed two of the Fox Film Noir titles, Fallen Angel (1945) and The House on Telegraph Hill (1951). I’m a bit wary of Fallen Angel because it’s directed by Otto Preminger and besides Laura, I’m not a huge fan of the man’s work. He just doesn’t do anything for me. I get to the end of one of his movies and go, “That’s it?” It’s like a big build up for nothing. However, Laura is a pretty awesome movie thanks to the performances by Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price, so I’m willing to give another Preminger-directed Noir a chance. However, Skidoo (1968) will not be re-playing in my house–unless TCM would show a letterboxed version of it. I’m a glutton for punishment, but not for Carol Channing in a see-through bra.

I swear, nothing makes my day like checking my email and seeing the subject line “Your Order Has Shipped” sitting in my inbox. I should be getting them any day now and nothing makes me happier than building my dvd collection. Please don’t mention Netflix–it’s a long story which will either frighten you or bore you.

In other news, the Fox Movie Channel is showing 1937’s This is My Affair which features the pairing of Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck before they were hitched. If you don’t happen to catch it, the FMC website says it’s going to be repeated on March 8th and 18th at 6:00 am.

If you’re into Jimmy Stewart movies (and expect to see plenty of his movies in May, since it’s going to be his hundreth birthday), FMC is also showing three of the five collaborations between James Stewart and director Henry Koster: Take Her, She’s Mine (1963), Dear Brigitte (1965) and No Highway in the Sky (1951), which features a reteaming with Marlene Dietrich. He plays a character that is really socially inept, yet brilliant–it’s almost as though he has Asperger’s Syndrome (but really, no one even knew about that yet). It’s a bit strange–the plot doesn’t work out to what I thought it would be (a disaster movie), but it’s decent. I have yet to see Dear Brigitte, but I expect it to be something like the lukewarm Take Her, She’s Mine. Midly funny in spots, but really forgettable once you’ve seen some of his other, better films.

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It’s of my opinion that The Apartment is one of the greatest love stories ever made. I know that’s a pretty broad statement to make, especially when there are so many great classic love stories, but I think many people would agree with me on this one. It’s romantic and tragic, filled with great dialogue and direction by Billy Wilder. A friend once asked me, “If you could go back and rewatch a movie again for the first time?”, my immediate answer was “The Apartment“. It’s magical.

The Special Edition dvd was released just in time for Valentine’s Day and it’s certainly a movie that warrants this treatment. So when I was checking out Amazon to see what the special features were, I absolutely recoiled in horror at the cover art.

The Apartment - new cover
The Special Edition Cover Art

And you’re probably asking yourself: what’s wrong with it? It’s certainly pleasing to the eye and the pictures of the three principal cast members are lovely.

But if I were checking out this dvd for the first time, I would think that The Apartment was one of those silly, fluffy 60’s screwball comedies. And come to think of it, Shirley MacLaine could be the one of the poster girls for that genre (for the ultimate in wacky 60’s fluff, see her and her many husbands in 1964’s What a Way to Go!). All the cast members look happy–you would never think that Fred MacMurray is the ultimate slimeball just by looking at the cover, would you?–and Shirley is holding her arms out in a sort of “Oh my, which one do I choose?” pose.

But The Apartment is not a fluffy comedy. Sure, there are comedic elements–the opening where C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) describes his workday and even the misadventures of his bosses using his apartment elicit a chuckle. But as the movie moves forward, the plot turns into something more serious and heartbreaking. One of the saddest scenes occur in Baxter’s apartment on Christmas Eve, where Sheldrake (MacMurray) tells Fran (MacLaine) to buy herself something nice for Christmas and then gives her a hundred dollar bill. It’s not only depressing, but infuriating that he could trample over Fran’s heart in such a crass manner, treating her like a tramp. It would be easy to play this character as a dim witted elevator girl, but I’ve always felt that Shirley is a better dramatic actress than a comedic one. When she opens up her broken mirror at the Christmas party, you just want to reach through the screen and give her a hug. She has this ability to make you care about her characters, no matter how dense they may be (See also her portrayal as Ginny Moorehead in 1958’s Some Came Running). It’s a shame she didn’t win the Oscar for this role, but was sidelined for Elizabeth Taylor’s “Pity Oscar” for Butterfield 8.

Old Cover Art for The Apartment
The Old Cover Art for the Regular Edition

At it’s heart, The Apartment could be classified under comedy-drama, but light on the comedy and heavy on the drama. All which brings me back to that pesky dvd cover art: maybe I feel so protective over this movie because it was one of the first movies that I fell in love with. To be honest, I thought the old cover art for the regular edition was quite lovely. I would be sad if someone bought this and was slightly disappointed because it wasn’t what they expected (a great film is a great film, but when you’re in the mood for a comedy, a drama doesn’t quite do it). But to go by the old saying, you should never judge a book (or in this case) a dvd by it’s cover, especially when it comes to The Apartment.

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