Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag - THE WIND & THE LION and HIT THE DECK on Blu-ray ""

Monday, May 12, 2014

Warner Archive Grab Bag - THE WIND & THE LION and HIT THE DECK on Blu-ray

THE WIND AND THE LION (1975; John Milius)
John Milius has been on my mind of late after having seen the recent documentary all about him (MILIUS). He's a fascinating man who has led an eventful, storied life. He was a big part of one of the great golden eras of Hollywood and had his hands in some of the most iconic films of the 1970s - JAWS and APOCALYPSE NOW to name a few. He made his first feature film for American International Pictures in 1973 (DILLINGER) and followed in it 1975 with THE WIND AND THE LION. This film, while successful, came out just around the time that JAWS would become one of the biggest theatrical phenomenons the world has ever known. Who is to say that if THE WIND AND THE LION had come out a year or two later and been given a portion of the marketing push that JAWS was given just how well it would have done.
Milius is a filmmaker who has always fascinated me. He himself, like his films is bigger than life in a lot of ways. He is a man from a classic tradition of storytelling and is truly a remarkable raconteur. While the influences of certain filmmakers can be felt in his work, he makes his own epic stories. Think about it - CONAN THE BARBARIAN, RED DAWN, FAREWELL TO THE KING...and my favorite - BIG WEDNESDAY. I give Milius a huge amount of credit for making a movie about surfers that I count among favorite films ever made. And as for RED DAWN, that film impacted me in a huge way at the time I saw it. I remember running around my best friend's neighborhood, hiding in people's bushes and randomly shouting "Wolverines!" a lot. You know a movie has meant something to you when it makes you run around outside and do your best to re-enact it.
All of  Milius' films seem to be laced with John Ford's sense of mythologizing the past and Akira Kurosawa's sense of epic scope. THE WIND AND THE LION is one hell of a good, rollicking adventure film. One might certainly think of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA when watching it, but it's more of a Milius-style fairytale. For as solid of a movie as it is and considering the cast, it is a sad thing that this movie is not talked about more. Connery and Candice Bergen are both great in it and Brian Keith (as Teddy Roosevelt) should have gotten some sort of award. John Huston does brings his usual Huston-ishness to this at it is also quite satisfying.
Included as bonus features on this gorgeous looking Blu-ray are the John Milius commentary track from the DVD and a 9 minute compilation of vintage behind the scenes footage shot on the set of the film. As Milius is a great storyteller, this commentary has some nice tidbits to offer fans of the film and is absolutely worthwhile.


HIT THE DECK (1955; Roy Rowland)
Pretty much any movie with Russ Tamblyn is worth watching at least once. He's just a helluva cool fella. I mean, you watch him in musicals like this and WEST SIDE STORY and others and he just somehow makes it cooler to be a singing and dancing dude. On top of that, look at him in stuff like Twin Peaks or any of the Tarantino films he's cameo'd in and you can see he's gotten even cooler. He's one of the high points of this lovely looking CinemaScope musical for sure. He and Debbie Reynolds pop off the screen when they are in scenes together. I was cruising along, watching this little film and about 30 mins in, suddenly Debbie Reynolds makes her first appearance in a sprightly musical number with Tamblyn. It was like the film shifted gears and took a step up during that scene. Debbie Reynolds has an adorable rating that's off the charts and she's at the peak of her cuteness here. She, like Tamblyn, has this magnetism that just bellows "I'm a star". There's just something unquantifiable about the star energy that actors like these give off. They have this lovely kind of vibrance that I'm sure they themselves may not have been aware of. Sure, acting styles have changed and they surely don't make films like HIT THE DECK anymore, but I do miss that kind of star prescence a bit. Perhaps it's that it feels like there's no desperation in performances like these. Maybe desperation isn't quite the right word, but there's this humble sense of people loving what they do and just happy to be there dancing and singing.
HIT THE DECK has the classic look of an MGM musical of this period. Colorful, goid-looking costumes and sets, and the previously mentioned CinemaScope factor. It's a fun film to look at and when Tamblyn and Reynolds are on screen it's at its best.
The menu includes a song selection function that will let you skip to whichever of your favorites that you like.

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