September 22, 2020

Misbehaviour

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Philippa Lowthorpe -2020
Shout! Studios

There is not that great a distance between the mischievous children in Philippa Lowthorpe's previous film, Swallows and Amazons and the disruptive women of Misbehaviour. Lowthorpe shows a delight in the shenanigans of this loosely assembled group that made up the beginnings of the Women's Liberation movement in Britain, notably putting a halt to the Miss World competition that was internationally broadcast in November 1970.

It is to the credit of Lowthorpe and screenwriters Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe that they are able to present a story about the cultural shifts that took place fifty years ago without a heavy hand. The essentially true story cross cuts between the burgeoning activism of then student Sally Alexander and her cohorts, with the organization of the 1970 Miss World competition attempting to stay relevant initially based on charges of racism, particularly in the representation of South Africa. For the Miss World organization, progress seems to be one step forward followed by two steps back as Bob Hope is brought in as special presenter, bringing with him his own questionable relationship to the contest.

In retrospect, there was an unintended symbiotic relationship. While the Women's Liberation movement was quite visible in protesting beauty contests, questioning the ways in which women were objectified, the Miss World competition was radical in that a woman of color, Miss Grenada (Jennifer Hosten) had won. The contest also, at the last minute, included a black woman from South Africa (Pearl Jansen) in addition to the white contestant, with Ms. Jansen taking second place. Aside from breaking the racial stereotype regarding notions of physical beauty, Hosten's professional life in academia and diplomacy benefitted from greater gender equality.

The Bob Hope seen here is the one that was generally hidden from the public in 1970. He accepts the gig to go to London, much to the chagrin on his long-suffering wife, Dolores, who knows all about his infidelities. The last time Hope was at a Miss World contest was in 1961. The winner, Rosemarie Frankland, had a long-term relationship with Hope, hinted at in the movie. While Hope was still popular with a sizable audience, his brand of humor was increasingly dated. In a bit of dramatic license, Sally Alexander nearly has a direct face-off with Bob Hope, anarchic feminism versus the hidebound patriarchy. What is true is that Bob Hope, who had years of live performances under the threat of wartime conditions was rattled by this group of unruly women.

Keira Knightly appears as Sally Alexander, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Jennifer Hosten. Greg Kinnear has Bob Hope's facial expressions, but not his speech cadences, alas not in the same league as his impersonation of Bob Crane in Auto Focus. My two favorite performances belong to Jessie Buckley as the joyfully careless Jo Robinson who pulls Alexander into her group of street activists, and Lesley Manville as the steely Dolores Hope. The film ends with brief titles with post contest followups, with the real life Alexander, Hosten, Jansen and Robinson making appearances. If some of the issues raised in Misbehaviour seem obvious or familiar, the film should be understood as noting a time when such issues became inescapably part of the general conversation.

September 15, 2020

Disputed Passage

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Frank Borzage - 1939
KL Studios Classics BD Region A

Disputed Passage was the second of three films based on novels by Lloyd C. Douglas that were filmed by Frank Borzage. Previously, there was Green Light (1937) with Errol Flynn as a doctor facing a spiritual crisis. The Big Fisherman (1959), a big budget religious epic about Jesus' disciple Peter. The theologian turned novelist is probably best remembered for the cinematic adaptations of Magnificent Obsession and The Robe. Disputed Passage shares with Green Light and Magnificent Obsession narratives where the medical intertwines with the spiritual. The title is from a Walt Whitman poem regarding one's path in life.

In terms of Borzage's output, this film is something of a lesser effort, falling in between the more prestigious and better regarded The Shining Hour and Strange Cargo, both starring Joan Crawford. Which is not to say this is a bad or uninteresting film. Contemporary interest would be based on interest in the overall careers of Borzage and star Dorothy Lamour. The film also begins with an appearance by author Douglas giving written approval of this screen adaptation.

Young Dr. Beaven (bland leading man John Howard) has decided to follow his medical school mentor, Dr. Forster (Akim Tamiroff), in approaching medicine from a purely scientific standpoint. It's mentioned sarcastically by Forster that Beaven's undergraduate studies were religious in nature. Beaven's dedication to his medical practice and aloof attitude are challenged when he meets Audrey Hilton. Beaven performs minor surgery and the two fall in love, until Forster gets in the way.

And this would be relatively simple except that for the contemporary viewer, attitudes and representation of race make this film much for complicated. Hilton is a white woman who was raised by a Chinese family in China and thinks of herself as culturally Chinese. Keep in mind that at the time the film was made, interracial love was not allowed to be depicted in Hollywood films. Lamour is not exactly in "yellow face" but her costumes, hair style and make-up signify an exotic other. While it is to the film's credit that the Chinese characters and Lamour speak Chinese to each other, according to IMDb, there is no consistency with the dialogue switching between Cantonese and Mandarin. The film was made at a time when the audience was expected to have some awareness of Japan's attempts to colonize China, yet due to U.S. neutrality at the time of production, the scenes in China only refer to "the enemy". Some might have a problem with a scene in which Keye Luke plays a young medical student who presents himself with an Anglo-Saxon name, but my own experience includes personally knowing several Japanese immigrants who have done the same thing to ingratiate themselves as Americans. It is also of interest to compare Disputed Passage with the more clearly depicted relationship between an American pilot and a Chinese woman, portrayed by a Chinese actress, in China Doll (1958).

Borzage's hand is most evident in the final third of the film. Beaven travels to China in search of Ms. Hilton who has chosen to take a more active role in conflict against Japan. China is first introduced with stock footage which looks to me like it came from the same reel that was used in an earlier Paramount set in China production, The General Died at Dawn. Beaven travels by horseback to a small village. A lateral tracking shot depicts sick, hungry and dead Chinese along the pathway, illuminated in the darkness with expressionistic lighting. The scene with Forster operating on the injured Beaven uses a series of shots with canted angles. Near the end of the film, Dorothy Lamour is framed in an extreme close-up with her face partially in shadow except for her eyes.

Nick Pinkerton's commentary does provide some key information regarding the making of Disputed Passage. He presents the quite plausible theory that Lloyd Douglas, fully expecting that his novel would be sold to Hollywood like his past novels, had deliberately created the character of Audrey Hilton as the white woman with the Chinese identity in order to get around the still active Hays Code regarding interracial relationships. Pinkerton also notes that the leading Chinese-American actress of the time, Anna May Wong, served as an uncredited dialogue coach for the scenes in which Lamour speaks Mandarin. Aside providing brief biographies on several of the cast and crew members, Pinkerton's commentary is most valuable in discussing the historical context in which Disputed Passage was made. For the more serious cinephile, Pinkerton also generously quotes from an earlier piece written by film scholar Fred Camper.

September 04, 2020

My Prince Edward

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Norris Wong Yee-Lam - 2019
Cheng Cheng Films

Even if it was not that good a film, My Prince Edward is refreshing as a true Hong Kong film, rather than a bombastic production financed by mainland Chinese studios. The good news is that Norris Wong's debut as a writer/director is as worthy of acclaim as has been indicated by earlier critical reviews as well as award recognition.

The title alone has multiple meanings, first as the primary location in Kowloon, Hong Kong where most of the film takes place, an area known for its bridal shops. Prince Edward refers to the British royal who abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. Mostly taking place in a bridal shop and the apartment right above the shop in the Prince Edward section, Fong must decide if her co-worker and lover, Edward, is really her prince.

Nothing is easy for Fong as she navigates between the conflicts of contemporary attitudes against traditional expectations regarding love and marriage. At the heart of this conflict is whether she should reveal to Edward that she has been previously married, and the divorce she seeks is delayed due to government red tape as well as a husband who has seemingly disappeared. Wong also touches on the ideas of personal freedom as well as the cost and status of getting a new apartment in Hong Kong. Some aspects of the film may be lost on viewers unfamiliar with some aspects of life in Hong Kong as well as Hong Kong's relationship with mainland China at the time the film was made. The film is primarily in Cantonese with a pointed scene involving mainland bureaucracy that is partially in Mandarin.

In addition to the thematic references in the title, there is the apartment that Fong and Edward share, notable for a couple of movie posters in the background. Edward is the bridal shop's in-house videographer, always attempting to make videos that show an idealized version of the newlyweds. The two posters in the apartment are from films that are centered on more problematic relationships, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Rebecca. Unlike in Gondry's film, Fong is unable to fully erase either her husband or Edward from her life. A possible loose interpretation with a twist would be Fong's entering into a second marriage with a man whose home is subject to the constant interference of his mother, somewhat as Mrs. Danvers dominates the home of Maxim de Winter. When not shooting videos, Edward plays video games, indicative of a situation where he has greater control.

As a modestly budgeted film, Stephy Tang is the most familiar name in the role of Fong. Starting out as a Cantopop star, Tang has evolved into a serious and award winning actress now in her mid-Thirties. The cinematography by Pong Ho-Wai at times evokes the documentary feel of some of the more classic American independent films. The film is also abetted by Eman Lam's piano dominated score. Providing significant assistance to Ms. Wong was the final editing done in conjunction with Wong Car-Wai collaborator William Chang. My Prince Edward is currently making the rounds in various film festivals in the U.S. Check the individual festival sites for concurrent streaming on their affiliated platforms.

September 01, 2020

Black Gravel

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Schwarzer Kies
Helmut Kautner -1961
Kino Classics BD Region A

The most incendiary moment in Black Gravel is also an illustration of how the depiction of an anti-social act can sometimes be misread as an endorsement. A bit of background is required - the film takes place in a very small West German village, with a population of about three hundred people. A U.S. Air Force base is under construction nearby. One of several bars opened to serve the American servicemen is a converted barn. The barn's former owner, an old farmer who probably served in the first World War has a love of marching songs which are part of the offerings on the bar's jukebox. The farmer's attitudes towards the popular dance music is to make the derogatory comment of "Negro music". It is only casually indicated that the bar is now owned by a Jewish proprietor named Loeb. At one point, Loeb asks the farmer to stop with his repeated playing of a marching song, pulling the plug from the jukebox. The farmer calls Loeb a "dirty Jew". The next shot is of Loeb's arm seen through the jukebox glass of his concentration camp tattoo. The farmer reacts in a way that to me indicates a sense of horror and shame. A member of a West German Jewish committee sued writer-director Kautner and the production company for what he interpreted as the film's anti-Semitism rather than as a presentation of one character's verbal assault. The original release version of Black Gravel was cut. This new blu-ray has both that version plus the complete version restored in 2016.

Kautner's film was one of the few to look the impact of American military bases in Germany. Relationships are mostly transactional, with several of the men working on the construction site augmenting their salaries in the black market. The younger, attractive women work in the bars or as prostitutes. The young wife of one of the supervising American military officers, a middle aged man, has chosen security in an uncertain time. By chance, she is reunited with the man she really loves, currently transporting the precious gravel to the construction site, but also rerouting his loads illicitly. The sound of jets overhead are a constant reminder of the American presence in the area.

Programmer and critic Olaf Moller provided the commentary track, which offers a wealth of information about Kautner, as well as putting the film into the contexts of both the filmmaker's work and the events of the time. For those unfamiliar with Moller's writings, he is both erudite and at times extremely funny. His own theory regarding the charges of anti-Semitism is that there may have been more extreme sensitivity as the film was released at the same time as the Adolf Eichmann trial was taking place. Also, with greater tensions between East and West Germany, this was the year the Berlin wall was built. An example of Moller's humor is in his discussion of German beer halls. Kautner remains relatively unknown in the U.S. even though his Captain from Kopenick was a foreign film nominee for the 1956 Oscars. Even two English language films made for Universal, The Restless Years and A Stranger in my Arms are currently unavailable.

While the other German films about the impact of U.S. military bases are unavailable, it may be worth noting a handful of other films. Just one year earlier saw the release of the Elvis Presley vehicle, G.I. Blues, something of a fictionalized version of Presley's own time as a peacetime draftee in West Germany, with the base and soldiers as benign entities. The German-American Town without Pity (1961) was more serious, about four soldiers on trial for the rape of a German girl, while glossing over the cultural impact of the American military in Germany. It is the films of Japan that one can more frequently see action that takes place near military bases. Masaki Kobayashi's Black River (1957) may be the one Japanese film most similar to Kautner's in both subject matter and treatment.

August 28, 2020

When Forever Dies

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Peet Gelderblom - 2020
Tangerine Tree

First, a note that I have had some brief online correspondence with Peet Gelderblom over the course of the past fifteen years.

I am not sure if I can accurately describe Dutch filmmaker Gelderblom's film. What he has done is taken excerpts from various films and edited them into a loose narrative. The excerpts are films that have become public domain, mostly silent films, but also television commercials, children's shows, and documentaries. The idea of cobbling together various pieces from unrelated films is not new, but has mostly been the province of "experimental" filmmakers such as Bruce Conner with A Movie or a significant part of Ken Jacobs' Star Spangled to Death. More recently, there was the feature length film by Gustav Deutsch, Film is a Girl & a Gun. The difference is that while these earlier films were primarily expressing abstract ideas using the connections of the images, Gelderblom has worked with an overall framework of telling a story.

How this works is that there is an onscreen explanation that his two characters, Mr. and Mrs. Forever, have no fixed appearance. At one moment, they may be in the form of Dennis Hopper and Linda Lawson in Night Tide, or the animated Bettie Boop and her soldier boy. Some of the montages are of similar moments in a variety of films. Sometimes previously unrelated images are cut together as when a small army of Medieval knights are in pursuit of Fifties pin-up queen Bettie Page. Gelderblom also plays with split screen imagery, either will multiplying the same image, or having different footage sharing the sharing different parts of the frame.

For cinephiles, some of the footage is familiar, especially from the various shorts films of Georges Melies. There is also a recognizable bit from Bunuel. The film historian side of me wishes that a home video version was also annotated, identifying the various excerpts. One very funny bit from an unfamiliar silent film features a hapless would-be Romeo, an equestrian with a horse that dumps him straight into a well, twice! Gelderblom also uses clips from contemporary film artist Martha Colburn, using demonic imagery and skeletons painted onto film. The soundtrack is a combination of original and classical music. One striking example for me was the combination of Smetana's "The Moldau" with silent era footage of fishermen casting their nets.

Peet Gelderblom also has a website explaining how the film is a very personal work. If I have not written much about the narrative aspects, it is because for myself it is of less concern than the pleasure of the images. This reaction may be rooted in my own cinematic education which included both formal studies of experimental films in the early 1970s as well as peripherally working in film preservation as a volunteer at the Museum of Modern Art. One can certainly enjoy the imagery in When Forever Dies within its new context. One can also take those various clips out of any formalized presentation to be enjoyed for their own power and given meaning.

When Forever Dies premieres at the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, August 31, to be followed by festival screenings.

August 18, 2020

Backlash

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John Sturges - 1956
KL Studio Classics BD Region A

There is a shot of Donna Reed that almost promises a different movie. Reed is wearing a small black cowboy hat, cocked to the side, wearing jeans. The camera is tilted up so that Reed is seen against a blue sky. And for a few moments there is hope that Donna Reed could have been an action hero, at least once, prior to her career defining role as a beloved television mom.

Backlash has a bit of everything in a western - an outlaw gang working on behalf of a wealthy man who owns the small town, rampaging Native Americans, a search for missing gold, and a son looking to avenge the death of his father. If that is not enough, there is also a gunfighter by the name of Johnny Cool. The original story was by Frank Gruber, known as "king of the pulps", while the screenplay was by Borden Chase. Chase is best known for his work for Anthony Mann starring James Stewart. While there is a psychological twist here, it's not given the same kind of weight as one might find in the Mann/Stewart films. John Sturges is more interested in the single-minded completion of a mission, whether chosen or assigned, much like his best known films, be they westerns or war-time action.

There is pleasure in watching the supporting cast of actors, some of whom may be more familiar by face rather than by name. Somewhat jarring is Edward Platt, usually seen as the wise counsel in contemporary dramas, as a no-nonsense sheriff. Those who only know Harry Morgan from his long running role as Sherman Potter in the television series, M*A*S*H, might not recognize him as the perpetually unshaven self-proclaimed fast gun. John McIntire, also more frequently a sympathetic character, is on hand as the villain who has no problem selling out his family for easy money. As for the top billed stars, even winning an Oscar did not do much for Donna Reed. As the mystery woman whose interests may coincide with those of Richard Widmark, I don't think the film would have been much different had the role been handed to a Universal contract player like Mara Corday or Faith Domergue. Richard Widmark does not appear to have been challenged by this role. There is his patented giggle at those who might oppose him, but whatever obsession he has about his search does not have the monomania James Stewart excelled during this time.

Samm Deighan's commentary track is well researched and presented. One of the key points she brings up is that the film was developed by Richard Widmark as a way of controlling his onscreen image. Much of the discussion is how Backlash is connected to film noir, and how director John Sturges made several noir films prior to primarily specializing in westerns during the mid-1950s. Also of interest is how the production code severely hampered the production, eliminating or softening the sex, violence and moral ambiguity of what was intended to be an "adult western". The production was shot on location in Arizona, in Technicolor rather than the more subdued Eastman color, rendered quite nicely from what appears to have been a pristine print.

I am left with wondering why the film was titled Backlash. The source novel title, Fort Starvation certainly would have kept the potential audience away. The tagline for the American poster proclaims, "Suspense that cuts like a whip". Donna Reed is seen with a small horse whip in the opening scenes but she never uses it. Could there have been a scene with that whip that was dropped due the the production code? An interesting speculation especially as there is the suggestion that Reed's character hints at the more fully realized whip-wielding Barbara Stanwyck in Sam Fuller's' Forty Guns released just one year later.

August 04, 2020

The Tony Curtis Collection

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The Perfect Fulough
Blake Edwards - 1958

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The Great Imposter
Robert Mulligan - 1960

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40 Pounds of Trouble
Norman Jewison - 1962
KL Studio Classics BD Three-disc set

Usually, when I've covered blu-ray release sets, it's centered on a genre or filmmaker. What made me interested in this three disc set of films starring Tony Curtis is that the three films in question were all early works by directors who would become major hitmakers within a few years, all with films that became iconic. In terms of the star's career, all three films were made during the time Curtis was under contract to Universal for a second seven year period, but with the option to make films with other studios. It's generally the films Curtis made outside of Universal that have sustained the most interest over the past decades. But there is the simultaneous interest of seeing both how Curtis, especially after his Oscar nominated performance in The Defiant Ones, exercised power in working with directors who were also given the chance to establish their own respective styles that would be more apparent in future work.

The Perfect Furlough was one of four movies starring Curtis in 1958, a year that included Delmer Daves' Kings Go Forth, his only Oscar nominated performance in The Defiant Ones and a second film with then-wife Janet Leigh, The Vikings. Ms. Leigh also appeared in one movie without Curtis that year, a potboiler Universal hacked up and tossed in a ditch, Touch of Evil. Younger readers may not be aware that Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh were the power movie star couple of the 1950s, making five films together as well as being major stars individually. The premise of Stanley Shapiro's script is that Curtis plays a womanizing soldier, one of 104 assigned to a remote base in the Arctic. After seven months of a year long assignment, the soldiers are finding their isolation difficult. Leigh plays the Army psychologist who comes up with the idea that the soldiers will find vicarious release through one soldier who is allowed a three week furlough. Egged by Curtis, the soldiers all describe their perfect furlough as spending three weeks in Paris with an Argentine bombshell actress, played here by an actual Argentine bombshell, Linda Crystal. Curtis finagles his way to winning a lottery, with the rest of the film taking place in a studio lot Paris. Much suspension of disbelief is needed not only for the plot, but the plot twists that take place.

What is of interest are the sight gags that would be re-worked later, primarily in the Pink Panther series. King Donovan appears as the hapless officer who breaks a pointer and walks into closed doors. One still funny bit involves a strategically placed bottle of champagne. Both Leigh and Crystal tumble into giant vats of wine. Edwards' visual style involves very little cross cutting between characters, keeping even his stars in two-shots and group shots within the CinemaScope frame. The film was the second of four films Curtis and Edwards made, followed the next year with Edwards' first major hit, Operation Petticoat, also at Universal.

The commentary track is most conversational between historians David Del Valle and C. Courtney Joyner that goes off in several tangents, although honestly, how could it not? The discussion covers the production of the film and its place in the careers of the primary talent, as well as placing it in the context of the era of production. While the commentary succeeds in being entertaining and mostly informative, I was astonished that of the several supporting players mentioned, nothing was said about Marcel Dalio, appearing here as the winemaker passing his wisdom of love to Curtis. To their credit, Del Valle and Joyner are honest about the film's weaknesses and those aspects that reflect the sexual attitudes of the time, as well as being observant about how the film works in anticipating some of the future films by Blake Edwards.

The Great Imposter was the second of two films Curtis made with Robert Mulligan, following The Rat Race, also from 1960. It was Mulligan's third feature and like The Rat Race essentially a commissioned work, though Mulligan had a major hand in casting of the supporting roles. This is a highly fictionalized story of a high school dropout, Fernando Demara, Jr., who through a reading of people and a photographic memory managed to take on a variety of identities and occupations, most infamously as a Canadian naval surgeon who completed nineteen successful surgeries on board a ship in battle off the South Korean coast. Demara was a celebrity at the time the film was made, profiled in Life magazine, and the subject of a best selling biography published in 1959. The film is lighter in tone than the biography, tailored more to Curtis' onscreen persona. The real Demara was also physically heavyset, unlike Curtis' lithe go-getter. Universal at this time was the most conservative of the big studios, but with Curtis demanding roles with greater dramatic range, there was some drama mixed in with the whimsy.

Although the film was well received at the time, I don't think it has aged as well. The Rat Race, dominated as it is by Garson Kanin's screenplay based on his ten year old play benefits from some on location shooting with Curtis and co-star Debbie Reynolds on the streets of New York City. Even though Mulligan was respected enough by his peers to get nominated for a Directors Guild Award, The Great Imposter lacks the vitality and sense of place of the earlier film. Where it works best as a warm-up for Mulligan's best films is an early scene of Demara's depression era childhood. In two years, Mulligan would make To Kill a Mockingbird. There are also The Other and Man in the Moon, among the better films. Kat Ellinger's commentary reviews how Mulligan was part of the generation of film directors who were trained in television dramas, often shown live at that time, who made their feature debuts in the late 1950s and early 60s. The Great Imposter was also noted for having several major names in supporting roles, notably Karl Malden as a friendly priest who provides some dramatic continuity. Others may delight in seeing the relatively unknown Frank Gorshin as a scheming convict whose constant villainous laugh anticipates his role as The Joker in the Batman TV series.

By the time one gets to 40 Pounds of Trouble, there is a noticeable inverse relationship between the quality of the films and the trajectory of the respective director's careers. Norman Jewison was hand-picked by Curtis following a television career of specials devoted primarily to musical performers, most notably Judy Garland. In the New York Times, Bosley Crowther's summed up his opinion, "The trouble with 40 Pounds of Trouble is that it is just too hackneyed and dull." Time has not helped Jewison's feature debut, which hardly suggests that the director would be the recipient of three Oscar nominations for Best Director including Best Picture winner, In the Heat of the Night.

The film is an uncredited remake, the second, of the Shirley Temple film, Little Miss Marker, about a five year old girl left behind by her gambler father, who has temporarily left in order to pay off a debt. The source is a story by writer Damon Runyon, famed for his tales of gamblers, gangsters and show business types and assorted riff-raff in 1930s New York City. Runyon should be happy that his name is not on the credits for this film, an updated version that takes place mostly in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, with a frenetic chase taking place in Disneyland. There was a fourth version made, also with Curtis, this time supporting his former acting school colleague Walter Matthau.

While Crowthers rightly complained about the weak screenplay, he was oblivious to Jewison's hand in the visuals. In retrospect, it would seem like Jewison was hoping to use as many ideas about making the film as cinematic as possible, starting with an elaborate long take of Curtis walking through the poker tables and one-armed bandits of the casino he manages, weaving in and out of people and multiple conversations. It's an overhead traveling crane shot that may not rival the opening of Touch of Evil, but it is quite striking, as well as evident of the kind of trust Curtis placed in his novice director. The montage of gamblers, including a few direct overhead shots looks straight ahead to The Cincinnati Kid, while the use of split screen in a three way conversation is future practice for The Thomas Crown Affair. Much of the film is devoted to pop culture references very current in 1962, though gags involving John and Robert Kennedy are now painful rather than funny.

The conversational commentary track, again with Ellinger teamed with podcaster Mike McPadden, points out how 40 Pounds of Trouble is of interest as a document of its time. Jewison shot on location in a Disneyland that substantially no longer exists, with many of the rides aged out. Add to that other filmmakers at that time may well have settled for second unit shots, with the actors filmed in front of a blue screen. Ellinger and McPadden also note Jewison's place in the changes in the way Hollywood films were produced. 40 Pounds was enough of a hit that Jewison became a house director at Universal for his next three films, two which were major hits starring Doris Day. As soon as he was tapped to direct The Cincinnati Kid, Jewison was able to make the transition while the old studio system was collapsing, with greater choice in projects, shooting on location, with a freer hand in onscreen and production talent.

Circling back to the star, Ellinger and McPadden discuss Curtis's career and his frustration at not being taken seriously as an actor. It should be noted that 40 Pounds followed The Outsider, a downbeat biographical drama. The story of Ira Hayes, the Native American soldier who helped raise the flag at Iwo Jima, the film was Universal's one attempt with Curtis in a straight drama, and a box office failure. Curtis probably felt he had to go back to formula to maintain his stardom. By the time his contract with Universal had ended, Curtis had one major hit, again with Blake Edwards and The Great Race, followed by diminishing returns through the rest of the 1960s. Even starring in The Boston Strangler was enough to break the typecasting.

The greatest appeal of this three disc set will be for the Tony Curtis fan who will enjoy his presence for its own sake. For serious cinephile, the interest will be in the early development of the three directors, as well as an incidental tracing of the shifts in Hollywood filmmaking and the visible ending of the studio system at the most conservative of Hollywood studios.