The new year brought a bumper crop of classic movies on Blu-ray and DVD. The list includes director John Ford's classic Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) starring Henry Fonda.
2018 has brought six old Hollywood films to DVD and Blu-ray that include one of director John Ford's best, an early Technicolor classic starring Charles Boyer and Marlene Dietrich, and two movies from stalwart leading man Spencer Tracy.
There's a complete rundown of each film below and where you can buy them (if you want to save a few steps, you can purchase everything at Classic Flix). The highlighted text has links to full-length articles.
Young Mr. Lincoln (1939, dir. John Ford)
Ford's sentimental classic about the early life of Abraham Lincoln (Henry Fonda) is getting The Criterion Collection treatment with a lavish 4K restoration on Blu-ray and DVD. This film follows Lincoln's early life in New Salem and Springfield, Ill., as he takes up the law and defends two men (Richard Cromwell and Eddie Quillan) from a false murder charge. Young Mr. Lincoln offers a career-defining performance from Henry Fonda as the idealistic, yet down-to-earth future President, and Ford fills each frame with the elegant compositions and homespun charm that would define his body of work.
This two-disc edition has lots of extras. There's a commentary track from Ford biographer Joseph McBride and essays from critic Geoffrey O'Brien and Russian director Sergei Eisenstein (the auteur behind Battleship Potemkin (1925) and Ivan the Terrible (1944) states that the one film he would have liked to have made was Young Mr. Lincoln). There's also a documentary about Ford's early career and interviews with both Fonda (clip below) and the director.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection. Also available on video on demand.
The Garden of Allah (1936, dir. Richard Boleslawski)
This old-fashioned melodrama from producer David O. Selznick finds Charles Boyer and Marlene Dietrich as two lonely people who meet and fall in love in the Sahara desert. The Garden of Allah is one of the first Technicolor films made in old Hollywood, and its pioneering outdoor cinematography won DPs W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson a special Academy Award.
The plot is beyond ridiculous -- the major plot complication is that Boyer's character is a runaway Trappist monk who stole his monastery's famous liqueur recipe (despite the whole vow of silence thing, Boyer's character talks a lot) -- but the movie is also a great deal of fun with Dietrich in gorgeous costumes, a great Max Steiner score, and Boyer giving a sensitive performance despite it all (also, bonus points for a suave Basil Rathbone).
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.
Inherit the Wind (1960, dir. Stanley Kramer)
Inherit the Wind is an absorbing adaptation of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E Lee's play about a Tennessee teacher (a pre-Bewitched Dick York) who was jailed in 1925 for teaching the theory of evolution. The film is somewhat hampered by its stereotypical views of small-town America and its preachy tone (this is a problem with all of Kramer's movies), but it is an acting powerhouse nonetheless, particularly for old Hollywood icons Fredric March and Spencer Tracy. who play legendary attorneys William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. The Blu-ray includes audio commentary from film historian Jim Hemphill.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber. Also on video on demand.
Intermezzo (1939, dir, Gregory Ratoff)
Ingrid Bergman made her Hollywood debut in this Selznick production about two classical musicians (Bergman and Leslie Howard) who fall hopelessly in love. Intermezzo is a remake of a 1936 Swedish film that also starred Bergman; in fact, Selznick agreed to make the film in exchange for Howard's agreement to play Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind (1939). Overall, Intermezzo is a rather dreary and talky affair (ironically, Howard is much better in GWTW than he is here), but Bergman's fire and passion previews her great performance in director Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata (1978). The Blu-ray includes audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber. Also available for streaming on FilmStruck.
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961, dir. Stanley Kramer)
A year after Inherit the Wind, Kramer and Tracy collaborated again in this powerful drama about the trials of Nazi war criminals after the end of World War II. This movie is long (three hours plus), but it's well worth watching at least once for the recreation of an important moment of reckoning in 20th century history, and for powerful performances from its all-star cast, especially Oscar winner Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, and Montgomery Clift. Extras include interviews with Schell and screenwriter Abby Mann and a tribute to Kramer.
Available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
Not as a Stranger (1955, dir. Stanley Kramer)
Kino Lorber's Kramer retrospective concludes with his directorial debut, which stars Olivia de Havilland as the long-suffering wife of idealistic doctor Robert Mitchum. The great cast is rounded out by Frank Sinatra, Gloria Grahame, Charles Bickford, and Lon Chaney, Jr. I haven't seen this one but Leonard Maltin describes it as a "glossy production" with "excellent performances by all." The Blu-ray includes commentary by film historian Troy Howarth.
Available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. Also available on video on demand.