When the folks at Warner Brothers begat their dynamic Warner Archive Collection in early 2009, movie lovers who had long found themselves on the verge of crying over their inability to locate obscure and hard-to-find movies on DVD finally found some peace. The burn-on-demand craze soon spread to other studios, with the folks at Sony, MGM, and Universal all contributed to completing (or at least adding to) cult and classic film enthusiasts’ collections all over. Now, here we are, a little more than three years down the line since Warner said “Hey, what if…?” and our friends at Fox have decided to bring their own movies to the party.
Thus, please join me in welcoming the Fox Cinema Archives to the world of home video.
The Archives open their doors with fifteen new-to-DVD titles, dating from 1937 to 1958. Though the ever-popular horror and science fiction genres were ignored for the initial wave of Manufactured-on-Demand titles, every other variety of motion picture entertainment was well represented, bringing us some of the most obscure titles to ever grace a digital disc.
From the world of comedy come such forgotten classics as Love is News from 1937 (the earliest title in the first wave), with Tyrone Power as a gossip columnist who is forced into a public war with a young heiress (Loretta Young) after he starts writing about her. Don Ameche co-stars along with George Sanders. The great bearded-one, Monty Woolley himself, stars in Life Begins at Eight-Thirty (1942) as a washed-up, washed-out alcoholic actor with a disabled daughter (Ida Lupino) who tries to re-start his career. Cornel Wilde is Lupino’s composer boyfriend.
Also from 1942 is Rings on Her Fingers, a romantic comedy with none other than Henry Fonda and Gene Tierney, wherein a pair of con-artists convince a beautiful lass to woo a supposed millionaire. Love ensues, naturally. Additional comedies include Dorothy McGuire’s breakout piece, Claudia (1943), co-starring Robert Young; Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951) with Clifton Webb; and the Anne Baxter/Macdonald Carey vehicle, My Wife’s Best Friend (1952) — which has the distinction of possibly being the only title in this whole wave to share a name with a direct-to-video porn release.
Drama can be found in the 1938 Tyrone Power epic Suez, which also features Loretta Young (hey, they made for a good pairing, what can I say?), and features an all-star cast of familiar faces in a (highly fictionalized) tale of the construction of the famous Canal; Dangerous Years (1948) stars former Dead End Kid Billy Halop as a young lad from the wrong side of the tracks (the film is better known as the second onscreen appearance of Marilyn Monroe before she was famous, who appears as a waitress in one scene) and the adventure pieces The Foxes of Harrow (1947) with Rex Harrison and Maureen O’Hara, and Kidnapped (1938) — a Robert Louis Stevenson-based flick featuring more names than you can shake a swashbuckling sword at (including Warner Baxter, Freddie Bartholomew John Carradine, and Nigel Bruce).
Adventure leads into war with the World War II-themed titles They Came to Blow Up America (1943), the most exploitive (and therefore, best) film out of this lot, featuring George Sanders, Anna Sten, Ward Bond, Ralph (Dick Tracy) Byrd, and frequent Marx Brothers foil, Sig Ruman. Another wartime article, Fräulein (1958), is not only the oldest film here, but is the only color outing in this entire set, wherein the father of bashful German girl Dana Wynter hides American soldier Mel Ferrer, which inadvertently kicks a slow-building romance into gear. From WWII, we head into the Cold War with Diplomatic Courier (1952): yet another Tyrone Power-ed title, though — this time — Patricia Neal is the female lead.
Finally, we mosey on up the trail and back in time for a couple of westerns. First up is 1939’s Frontier Marshal, which finds the legendary Randolph Scott as Wyatt Earp (can you say “Yes!” to larger-than-life casting, kids?), who sets out to avenge the death of his old pal, Doc Holliday from a fellow named Curly Bill (Curly Joe DeRita was unavailable for comment).
Lastly is Way of a Gaucho (1952), which — surprisingly — is not about a Brazilian fútbol player or a GM van from the ’70s, but rather relays the journey of an Argentinean fellow who enlists in the army to get out of serving time for murder; creating his own group of desperados afterward. Rory Calhoun (who was always great at portraying a handsome slimeball), Gene Tierney (again), and Richard Boone (a few years away from achieving fame in Have Gun — Will Travel) star.
Each movie has been transferred from the best-available (un-remastered) print available, and all are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with the exception of Fräulein, which was shot in Scope — but is presented here in a horribly-cropped pan-and-scan version. Mono English sound accompanies all titles, and there are no special features to be found here whatsoever. Several of the releases depict the original theatrical artwork of the film on the cover, while others utilize a simple (sometimes too simple) still on the front. Additional Fox Cinema Archives are also available, and the studio plans to release a new wave every month.
And, with all those goodies just buried away in the vaults of Twentieth Century Fox, that’s definitely a good thing. Bring it on, Fox!