August 30, 2020

THE POOP SCOOP: Furry Fun for the Fall

SILENT RUNNING on Blu-ray from Arrow 11/17
The first movie that ever made us reach for a tissue! In the not-so-distant future, Earth is barren of all flora and fauna, with what remains of the planet's former ecosystems preserved aboard a fleet of greenhouses orbiting in space. When the crews are ordered to destroy the remaining specimens, one botanist, Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern, The 'Burbs), rebels and flees towards Saturn in a desperate bid to preserve his own little piece of Earth that was, accompanied only by the ship's three service robots. Featuring a captivating central performance by Dern, visual effects that rival anything in 2001 and a powerful ecological message, Silent Running is a haunting and prescient sci-fi classic that resonates even more strongly today than it did at the time of its original release. IN ADDITION TO A NEW 2K RESTORATION, THE DISC INCLUDES A VARIETY OF NEW AND VINTAGE BONUS FEATURES.

THE IRISHMAN on Blu-Ray from Criterion on 11/24
Martin Scorsese's cinematic mastery is on full display in this sweeping crime saga, which serves as an elegiac summation of his six-decade career. Left behind by the world, former hit man and union truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) looks back from a nursing home on his life's journey through the ranks of organized crime: from his involvement with Philadelphia mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) to his association with Teamsters union head Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) to the rift that forced him to choose between the two. An intimate story of loyalty and betrayal writ large across the epic canvas of mid-twentieth-century American history, The Irishman (based on the real-life Sheeran's confessions, as told to writer Charles Brandt for the book I Heard You Paint Houses) is a uniquely reflective late-career triumph that balances its director's virtuoso set pieces with a profoundly personal rumination on aging, mortality, and the decisions and regrets that shape a life. AS USUAL, THIS CRITERION DISC IS LOADED WITH BONUS FEATURES.

TRAIN TO BUSAN presents PENINSULA on 4K UHD/Blu-ray from Well Go USA on 11/24
The long-awaited sequel to, in our humble opinion, the greatest zombie movie of the 21st Century. Four years after South Korea's total decimation in Train to Busan, the zombie thriller that captivated audiences worldwide, acclaimed director Yeon Sang-ho brings us PENINSULA, the next nail-biting chapter in his post-apocalyptic world. Jung-seok, a soldier who previously escaped the diseased wasteland, relives the horror when assigned to a covert operation with two simple objectives: retrieve and survive. When his team unexpectedly stumbles upon survivors, their lives will depend on whether the best—or worst—of human nature prevails in the direst of circumstances.

THE HAUNTING (1999) on Blu-ray from Paramount on 10/20
Paramount Home Media Distribution has officially announced that it will release on Blu-ray Jan de Bont's film The Haunting (1999), starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, and Bruce Dern. The release, which will be part of the studio's recently launched series Paramount Presents, will be available for purchase on October 20. Synopsis: For over a century, the foreboding Hill House mansion has sat abandoned…or so it seemed. Intrigued by its past, Dr. Marrow lures three subjects to the site for an experiment. But, from the moment of their arrival, as night descends, the study goes horrifyingly awry, and Hill House unleashes its supernatural wrath on the unsuspecting subjects.

 

Robbed at the Oscars, CRUEL JAWS on Blu-ray from Severin Films on 9/29
He defied all laws of good taste and international copyright with SHOCKING DARK and ROBOWAR. He reset the bar for batsh*t crazy ItaloHorror with RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR and HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD. And in 1995, legendary director Bruno Mattei – here as 'William Snyder' – stunned the civilized world with this ultimate sharksploitation saga that liberally borrows characters, plot and footage from Joe D'Amato's DEEP BLOOD and Enzo G. Castellari's THE LAST SHARK (and that's just the tip of a very litigious fin). Filmed in South Florida with a cast of now-ashamed unknowns that includes a Hulk Hogan lookalike, experience "the epitome of outrageous thievery cinema" (All Movie) – actually released in some countries as JAWS 5 – now remastered uncut in HD for the first time ever.

 

August 28, 2020

Rest in Peace, Chadwick Boseman


You've Got a Friend in Z

Z (Blu-ray Review)
2019 / 83 min

From RLJE FILMS

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Uncooperative imaginary friends aren’t exactly new to movies. But if done right, they can still be entertaining horror fodder. And for a while, Z is a fun little fright flick that exploits the concept pretty well. However, it doesn’t quite know when to quit and might have been more effective as a short subject.

Little Joshua (Jeff Klyne) is a weird little kid with few friends, as well as teachers who are disturbed by his behavior. His go-to playtime pal is the titular creature, which resembles a cross between Gollum and the Babadook. Josh also gets in a lot of trouble for Z’s behavior, like when one of his only friends gets tossed off a staircase. Family psychologist Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie) has definitely seen this behavior before, but Josh’s mom, Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy), suspects Z might be real.


But of course he’s real, which previously-skeptical dad Kevin (Sean Rogerson) learns the hard way. It’s at this point the movie starts to lose its way. Prior to this, the creature is effectively depicted through hellish charcoal drawings and brief “did-I-just-see-that?” glimpses. Z may not be the most original movie monster to ever grace the screen, but showing it only sparingly helps build tension. However, the spell is broken once it’s fully revealed, sloppily rendered with cartoony CGI. 


"It's you without make-up, Mom. I drew it myself."

It’s
also at this point when the film shifts focus from Joshua to Elizabeth, whose own childhood figures into the narrative. Unfortunately, her reckoning with Z comprises the entire third act, which is not-only anticlimactic, it feels like an attempt to pad-out the story to feature-length, punctuated by an underwhelming resolution. 

Until then, though, Z may not be a game-changer, but is undemanding fun, with a solid cast, some eerie set-pieces and a few well-timed jump scares. Light on graphic violence and language, it might even be a safe, solid pick for some kind of family fright fest, if that’s what you and your brood are into.


KITTY CONSENSUS:

NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

August 25, 2020

THE TRIP TO GREECE: Another Odyssey

THE TRIP TO GREECE (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 103 min

From IFC FILMS

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼

For those previously unaware - like yours truly - The Trip is a British television show starring comic actors Steve Coogan and Ray Brydon, playing semi-fictional themselves as they travel abroad to various countries like Italy, Spain and, most recently, Greece. Each season has also been edited-down into feature films. The Trip to Greece is the first in the series that I’ve seen, and I gotta say it didn’t compel me to go back and see what I’ve been missing.

It starts off great, though, with Coogan & Brydon laying the groundwork: A week-long road-trip through Greece, stopping at various restaurants - lots of restaurants - and ancient ruins. Along the way, their semi-antagonistic banter covers a variety of topics, sometimes related to Greece (Homer's Odyssey, in particular), but more often about each other. It's kind-of amusing, at first, though these guys seem reeeeeally impressed with themselves and it soon becomes apparent the film is gonna be more about them than the country they’re visiting. In fact, Greece often feels like an afterthought.


"I don't think that gyro is agreeing with me, Rob."
I dunno...maybe the main purpose of these films
is to simply provide a framework for improvisation, so I won’t hold that against it. Those in-sync with Coogan & Brydon’s brand of humor - ranging from dry to slightly juvenile - will probably get a big kick out of their plethora of celebrity impersonations and cultural commentary. Sometimes it’s funny, but just as often, they’re so wrapped up in one-upping each other that they seem to have forgotten the audience.

During the final act, The Trip to Greece inexplicably turns serious and doesn’t look back. The sudden shift in tone is jarring and I still don’t understand the purpose of concluding what has been a mostly congenial film on such a somber note. Until then, the film is hit-or-miss, though fans of the two stars are likely to appreciate it a lot more.

KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEH...THOUGH FANS OF THE SERIES MIGHT PURR.

August 24, 2020

EVIL BOY: Title Tells All

EVIL BOY (DVD Review)
2019 / 90 min.

From WELL GO USA

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

This horror film was originally titled Tvar, which is Russian for  “creature” or “beast.” For the English release, it was first changed to Stray (and still listed as such in iMDB). Now it’s simply called Evil Boy, which is almost too literal, like Halloween being retitled “Stabbing Man.” 

While the title does provide a textbook example of truth in advertising, it’s also a sure-fire indication that you’ve seen this movie before. But what ultimately sinks Evil Boy is the scattershot storyline and two main characters whose actions often make little sense.


Polina (Elena Lyadova) and Igor (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), still grieving the loss of their young son, Vanya, hope to fill the void by adopting another one. They visit an orphanage, where Polina chooses the most feral, out-of-control little bastard they have, even though she just spotted him hanging-out in the basement with a mutilated dead body. Ignoring the head nun’s ominous warnings, the couple take him home, where he turns out to be an evil boy indeed.


He endears himself to Polina, who’s taken to calling him Vanja (after their dead son). Igor remains apprehensive and skeptical, a feeling exacerbated when the boy kills their cat and later goes ballistic on a couple other kids while visiting a park. And despite all that, they ignore a psychiatrist’s recommendations to put the kid on meds. More ominously, he increasingly takes on Vanja’s looks and mannerisms. 


"No more Ring Pops for you, kid."

Then in a head-snapping about face, it’s suddenly Polina who’s terrified of new Vanja and Igor who becomes the protective parent, even in-light of mounting evidence that the kid may not be human. Having its two main characters inexplicably change their tune about the boy is one of the film’s many narrative head-scratchers. Overall, it feels like entire transitional scenes have been axed, resulting in a final cut similar to a puzzle with some of the pieces missing.

Despite a pretty terrific performance by little Sevastian Bugaev in the titular role, we’ve seen similarly murderous munchkins in plenty of other, better-executed films. Already undone by story issues, Evil Boy ultimately ends up being as predictable - and forgettable - as its generic title suggests.

KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEH...LIKE SHARING THE BED WITH THE DOG.

August 23, 2020

THE LONGEST YARD (1974) and the Mistaken Message


THE LONGEST YARD (1974)

Starring Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, James Hampton, Mike Henry, Bernadette Peters, Richard Kiel, Joe Kapp, Ray Nitschke. Directed by Robert Aldrich. (121 min)

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON💀

The older I get, the more simplified my wardrobe becomes. Aside from a single suit & tie reserved for weddings and funerals, my closet consists almost exclusively of jeans, shorts, sneakers and t-shirts. Too old and too married to concern myself with being aesthetically appealing to others anymore, the look suits my complex life of working and watching TV (with the occasional road trip to Starbucks).

Taking a cue from Einstein via Seth Brundle, my jeans are all blue, my socks all white, my sneakers all Nikes. Not expending a lot of thought over my daily attire is kind-of liberating. If you’re ever fortunate enough to be in the personal & professional position to purge the pressed pants, Oxfords and button-down collars, I highly recommend it. 


As for anyone who feels I should still take pride in my appearance for the sake of my loving wife...let me assure you that after 31 years of marriage, she’s far more aroused when her man engages in rigorous yardwork and assembling IKEA furniture than preening around the house like a GQ model. Besides, I still dress up - or down - in the one room it matters most (which reminds me...I need to get my Indiana Jones costume in the wash before date-night this weekend).


But despite my scaled-back attire, I do take discriminate pride in my t-shirt selection. Not how they fit - like jet-ski tarps - but what’s printed on the front, since novelty shirts say a lot about the people wearing them. For example, a Cleveland Browns t-shirt demonstrates masochistic tendencies, a Hooters logo tells the world you have trouble getting laid and  someone wearing a “Make America Great Again” shirt would struggle with the words you’re reading right now.


All my shirts are movie related, and not the mass-printed Star Wars or Marvel ones you can snag at Target on any given day. Most are blasts from the past, a lot of them featuring titles, artwork and/or tag lines from films of the 1970s. Since that decade is ancient history, I end up finding most of this shit on Amazon, eBay or some website that specializes in playing the nostalgia card to drain your wallet.


One of my favorites is a replica of the Mean Machine jersey from The Longest Yard. Not only is it one of Burt Reynolds’ few genuine classics, it continues to battle Slap Shot for the top spot on my list of the greatest sports movies of all time.


Your humble author, the fashion plate.
Reynolds plays Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, a burnt-out ex-quarterback who steals his girlfriend’s car and leads the police on a high-speed chase, resulting in an 18 month prison sentence. He isn’t initially held in high regard by the other cons, mainly because he was once accused of “shaving points” in a game. As fellow inmate “Caretaker” (James Hampton) sums-up early on, “You could've robbed banks, sold dope or stole your grandmother’s pension checks and none of us woulda minded. But shaving points off a football game, man, that’s un-American.”

Crewe just wants to do his time and get out, but Warden Hazen (Eddie Albert), has other ideas. He has a semi-pro football team consisting of his thuggish prison guards and wants Crewe to quarterback a team of inmates against them in an exhibition game. Since Hazen more-or-less has him over a barrel (threatening to extend his sentence for attacking a guard), Crewe reluctantly agrees. Hazan sees the game as a demonstration of his power, while Crewe just wants to survive the game. However, he manages to build a team of enthusiastic players by promising the opportunity to get back at the guards.


Most of the middle act has Crewe putting the team together, an amusing assortment of brutes, psychopaths, murderers and misfits, while Caretaker uses his acquisition skills to get game films, guards’ x-rays and anything else that might give them an advantage. He also manages to steal the guards’ new helmets & uniforms for their own use (the aforementioned Mean Machine jerseys).


By this time, our allegiance is clearly with Crewe’s cons and the climactic game is brutal, crude, funny & suspenseful, enhanced by virtuoso direction from criminally under-appreciated Robert Aldrich (whose frequent use of split-screen is utilized to great effect). A superlative example of the triumph-of-the-underdog formula that found its way into nearly every sports-related film since, The Longest Yard is a textbook definition of the “audience picture.” And despite a prologue that simply reeks of the decade from which it sprang, the film holds up as well today as it did back in 1974, meaning it sure-as-fuck didn’t need to be remade...twice.


Burt enjoys it whenever Eddie touches his balls.
One of the things I like about my classic movie shirts is they aren’t always immediately recognized as such. So wherever I bump into a fellow fan who acknowledges my
Rollerball, Towering Inferno or Soylent Green fashion choices, I feel like I’ve met a kindred spirit. Most of those folks are also my age, if not older. But I learned the hard way that many younger people actually are familiar with The Longest Yard...just not the one I grew up with.

Though I teach middle school in the real world, my professional attire is identical to what I throw on during weekends, meaning I wear movie t-shirts and shorts to work. Most of them are unfamiliar to the kids, though a few have been conversation starters. Sometimes I wear specific shirts on certain days. For example, on the last day of school, it’s my Apocalypse Now-themed shirt with “This is The End” printed beneath a swarm of choppers, while on Halloween it’s...well, you get the idea. And since football’s my favorite sport, I wear my Mean Machine shirt during the first week of the NFL season. Most kids don’t get the connection, though it turns out more-than-a-few identify Mean Machine with the god-awful, teen-friendly remake of The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler and a truckload of his frat buddies.


Though many are rather pointless and inferior, I’m not blindly opposed to remakes and there have been some great ones that, in my humble opinion, manage to top the originals. William Friedkin’s Sorcerer, John Carpenter’s The Thing and both chapters of Stephen King’s It are a few which immediately come-to-mind. But not-only has The Longest Yard been liberally ripped-off for decades, an early stab at the same story (Britain’s soccer-themed Mean Machine) already demonstrated the futility of trying to remake it. 


Frequently mistaken by young people - mostly boys - for someone who’s actually funny, Sandler has the Midas touch of turning everything into pre-digested pus (a few decent stabs at drama notwithstanding). I know I’m in the minority on this, but ever since his Saturday Night Live days, I’ve never been able to escape the notion that Adam Sandler’s biggest fan is Adam Sandler, perpetually looking like he’s on the verge of laughing at his own jokes. The infantile man-boy schtick that endears him to millions has got to be the most irritating onscreen persona since the glory days of Jerry Lewis. Sandler’s unique skill of dumbing things down for the mouth-breathers in the audience is especially glaring in his remakes - which include Just Go with It and Mr. Deeds - because we have bonafide classics to compare them to.


"You think I'm funny...don't you?"
While those students I mentioned do indeed love Sandler’s film (and its dumbass hip-hop soundtrack), the notion that they'd assume we share the same shitty taste in comedy is horrifying. I’m quick to inform them my shirt refers to the original 1974 movie with Burt Reynolds, followed by my usual rant about Sandler's version being dumb and pointless. Each time, their blank stares say it all: OK, boomer. 

But hey, they’re kids and nothing existed before they were born, so of course they’re unaware of the original and have no idea who Burt Reynolds was beyond playing the old guy in the remake (assuming Michael Conrad’s role of Nate Scarboro). However, even a lot of adults in my life have assumed the shirt means I love the Sandler movie. I’m quick to correct them, too, because as a movie purist and part-time boomer, I’d rather be a suspected serial killer than a suspected Sandler fan, especially regarding one of the greatest sports movies ever made.


While I don’t begrudge others’ personal tastes, it does sadden me that the 1974 classic is not the first film that comes-to-mind when the title is mentioned. Google The Longest Yard right now and links to the fucking remake show-up before anything else. But I still love my Mean Machine shirt and will continue to wear it regularly, correcting those who mistake the message, one maladjusted millennial at a time.

August 20, 2020

GUNSMOKE Gets Out of Dodge

GUNSMOKE MOVIE COLLECTION (DVD Review)
1987-1992 / 299 min (3 films)

From PARAMOUNT

Review by Cuddles, the Couch Potato😽

Until The Simpsons came along, Gunsmoke was the longest-running scripted television show in history, 635 episodes over 20 seasons. Though I personally don’t recall ever seeing a single episode, the series had an indelible cultural impact. Before Matt Dillon was a teenage heartthrob, the name was synonymous with the lawman who kept Dodge City clean, as portrayed by James Arness, who remained in the Gunsmoke business for most of his career.

That business would extend beyond the original show. Beginning in 1987, Arness returned as Matt Dillon for a series of made-for-TV movies, three of which are featured in this collection. However, he's since-left his days as a marshal in the dust. In Return to Dodge, Dillon is a fur trapper who comes to the aid of a buddy who’s wanted for a murder he didn’t commit. The real killer is Will Mannon (Steve Forrest), a vicious outlaw Dillon put-away in an old episode and now wants some payback. Arness may be a lot craggier - and whoever did his hairpiece should be bushwhacked - but he slips comfortably back into the role, while Forrest makes a great steely-eyed foe. When you think about it, the film kinda has the same plot as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.


Andrew Prine called. He wants his hair back.
Dodge City and any other remaining characters from the original series were long-gone by the time of The Last Apache. In this one, Dillon must rescue Beth (Amy Stock), the daughter of old flame Mike Yardner (Michael Learned) and kidnapped by hunky Apache warrior Wolf (smoldering like he just stepped off the cover of a romance novel). Along the way, of course, Dillon learns he’s Beth’s dad. Solidly entertaining, this one boasts scene-stealer Richard Kiley, who participates in a hand-wringing version of Russian Roulette involving whiskey shots and rat poison.

Too intense for one movie.
In To the Last Man, Dillon - now running a ranch with Beth - goes after rustlers and ends up in the middle of the Pleasant Valley War, the infamous blood feud between the Tewksburys and the Grahams. He also becomes de facto guardian to Rusty Dover (Jason Lively), one of the young rustlers who’s simply fallen-in with the wrong crowd. Meanwhile, ex-army Colonel Tucker (Pat Hungle) leads a gung-ho gang of vigilantes lynching anyone they suspect of cattle rustling. This one features the best supporting cast of the three (including Morgan Woodward, Matt Mulhern and a surprisingly vicious Joseph Bottoms), as well as the highest body count. 

In fact, all three films are far bloodier than the original show (a sign of the times, I suppose). But best of all, prior Gunsmoke-smarts isn’t really a requirement. A few well-placed flashbacks offer all you need to enjoy them on their own merits. Even though watching them back-to-back didn’t quite compel me to go back to see what I’ve been missing, they are solid small screen entertainment.

KITTY CONSENSUS:

PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

August 19, 2020

The Silent Relevance of THE CITY WITHOUT JEWS

THE CITY WITHOUT JEWS (Blu-ray Review)
1924 / 91 min

From FLICKER ALLEY

Review by Stinky the Destroyer🙀

Based on a popular novel by H. K. Breslauer, The City Without Jews is a satiric Austrian film from 1924 which addressed anti-semitism and ended up being ominously prophetic. Recently - and beautifully - restored, its resurrection couldn’t be more timely, since its overall theme is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. 

In the fictional city of Utopia, antisemitism is rampant. Most of its citizens, as well as the new head Chancellor, resent the Jews’ power, wealth and influence. Their solution is to expel every Jew from the country, which they feel will open-up business and employment opportunities for everyone else. Instead, the economy tanks, businesses are ruined and other nations won’t trade with them. Not only that, some families are torn apart. When the country is at its weakest, Jewish exile Leo (Johannes Riemann) disguises himself as a wealthy Frenchman, hoping to influence the government into reversing their decision, as well as reconciling with non-Jewish fiancee Lotte (Ammy Miletty).


The Leo/Lotte dynamic is actually the weakest aspect of the narrative. Contrasting the ominous implications of the concept, Riemann portrays Leo as a comically conniving Snidely Whiplash-like villain, complete with a dastardly mustache. Until then, though, the film is pretty chilling. If modern viewers have been paying even a little attention to the racist bile currently being spewed by certain world leaders, Chancellor Schwerdtfeger’s paranoid rants vilifying the Jews should be absolutely terrifying. And remember, this film predates the rise of the Nazi Party, who later came-to-power power using similar rhetoric. Since one particular paranoid president has-since emboldened millions of mouth-breathers to openly hate anyone different, we still have a lot to learn from past atrocities.


"Forget it, Saul...the Lakers ain't gonna cover the spread."
But even with its lofty agenda and timely message, the movie has a tendency to view Jews as more of a commodity than a culture. No one experiences an epiphany over their treatment of the Jews, expressing remorse only when their own financial futures are in jeopardy. Perhaps that’s intentional, since appealing to a person’s empathy is sometimes a futile effort. Still, the argument might remind modern audiences of those who claim to support immigration because we need vegetable pickers.

That minor quip aside, The City Without Jews is more than a historically interesting curio. The film is an early milestone of Austrian cinema, with themes that remain unfortunately relevant. In addition to an outstanding restoration, this disk from Flicker Alley includes some great bonus features, some of which provide context of the era when it was made.


EXTRA KIBBLES

“VICTIMS OF HATRED” - A 45-minute two-reeler from 1923, similar in theme to The City Without Jews, though considerably more somber in tone.

“SAVING DIE STADT OHNE JUDEN (The City Without Jews) - 4-minute crowdfunding campaign video to raise funds for digitally restoring the film.

“THE CITY WITHOUT...JEWS, MUSLIMS, REFUGEES, FOREIGNERS” - This is a photo gallery from a 2018 exhibit contextually related to the film. It’s only 18 slides, but some of the items in the exhibit, like a board game called “Jews Out!” are jawdropping.

“CONVERSATION WITH DR. NIKOLAUS WOSTRY” - Following a 2019 screening, Filmarchiv Austria director Wostry discusses the film.

SUPPLEMENTARY BOOKLET - Featuring numerous short essays, production stills and film & restoration credits.

DVD COPY

KITTY CONSENSUS:

PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

August 18, 2020

A Double-Shot of TRACY & HEPBURN

"Sorry kid...my name comes first. Always."

PAT AND MIKE and WITHOUT LOVE (Blu-ray Review)
From WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION

Review by Mr. Paws😸

Was there a more consistently engaging on-screen couple than Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn? Maybe William Powell and Myrna Loy (especially their Thin Man series), but other than that, Tracy & Hepburn went together like cops & doughnuts. They appeared in nine films together - most of them classics - before Tracy passed away too soon. Two of those movies, Pat and Mike and Without Love, are now on Blu-ray.

If forced to choose between the two
,
Pat and Mike (1952/95 min) is the obvious choice. Tracy shines as fast-talking sports promoter Mike Conovan, as does Hepburn as even faster-talking super-athlete Pat Pemberton. She appears to be good at every sport she plays, at least when domineering fiancée Collier Weld (William Ching) isn’t around. Seizing the opportunity, Mike takes total charge of her budding sports career and personal life, which eventually includes trying to keep Collier at-bay because Pat has a habit of choking in his presence. But Pat not-only holds her own against Mike’s overreaching authority, she becomes her professional and personal partner.

Though some might understandably throw their hat in the ring for Adam’s Rib, this is Tracy and Hepburn at their most charming. Adding just a hint of romance to the comedy, the film is consistently funny, as is the couple’s quick-witted banter. A hilarious highlight has to be when Pat comes to Mike’s rescue against some local gangsters, then later re-enacts the entire incident at the police station after everyone is brought in. And keep an eye out for a very young Charles Bronson as one of the gangsters, demonstrating comic gifts he’d seldom be allowed to display in his later career.


Pat and Mike is nicely restored for Blu-ray, but is unfortunately lacking any bonus features beyond a couple of theatrical trailers.

KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEE-OW! LIKE BEING TURNED LOOSE IN A BIRD SANCTUARY

Not as widely-remembered, Without Love (1945/110 min) isn’t as consistently funny, but still benefits from the stars’ undeniable chemistry. In this one, Patrick Jameson (Tracy) is a disillusioned government scientist who throws himself into his work after getting his heart broken. Jamie Rowen (Hepburn) is a recent widow who has given-up trying to find love as great as the one she just lost. Their relationship begins antagonistically, but while he’s renting the house she owns, they develop mutual respect. Then Jamie appeals to his logic by suggesting they get married, not for love, but practical reasons, both professionally and intellectually. He agrees, of course, so now the challenge is trying to keep love out of the marriage. 

Watching this one for the first time, I can’t help but think Without Love might have served as an inspiration for Le Miroir á deux faces, which was in-turn remade as The Mirror Has Two Faces. More sweet-natured in tone than truly funny, the film still has its moments. But as good as the leads are, Lucille Ball and Keenan Wynn often steal the show as constantly-bickering, on-again-off-again lovers. Ball, in particular, provides most of the laughs as a fun-loving woman with a morally casual attitude. Ultimately, the film isn’t quite on-par with the couple’s acknowledged classics, but still very enjoyable.


Without Love comes with an odd batch of bonus features, like a cautionary - and surprisingly timely - short subject, “Crime Does Not Pay,” about opportunistic lawyers profiting from a fatal diabetes treatment.  Also included is the Tex Avery cartoon, “Swing Shift Cinderella.”

KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.