When political activism was rampant on college campuses in the '60s, "Salt of the Earth" was the movie to see: a low-budget, 1954 movie about a zinc mine strike in New Mexico. Recently Voyager Press released the underground cult classic on videocassette at $59.95.
The movie, based on an actual incident, was a campus favorite partly because it had something for almost everyone: minority rights, feminism and class struggle.
McCarthyites blacklisted the movie, charging that it was backed by Communist sympathizers. Producer Paul Jarrico, director Herbert Biberman and writer Michael Wilson ("A Place in the Sun," "Friendly Persuasion," "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai") were also blacklisted. Though no one ever raved about the acting--it's a cast of amateurs--the writing was usually praised.
As a grainy 16-millimeter film, "Salt" wasn't easy to watch. However, the cassette, which was made from a sharp master, is of good quality.
Many will be disappointed at the price tag. Voyager executive Bob Stein said his company had no choice: "That was part of the deal we made (for the rights). That's not the way we wanted it. We wanted a lower, sales-oriented price."
Voyager cassettes, found in some book stores and assorted video stores, usually aren't easily available. For information, phone 800-443-2001.
VIDEO GRABBAG: People who go to races primarily to see accidents will really get a thrill out of "Havoc 5," a compilation of 100 accidents in car, motorcycle and boat races. This $39.95 cassette is gore galore. In particular, the powerboat crashes are hair-raising. This cassette is somewhat like "Faces of Death," that infamous collection of death sequences, but--if you can believe it--much classier. It was released by a new Tarzana company called Powersports Video (818-708-9995), which has an extensive catalogue of racing videos.
A flood of instructional baseball tapes have just hit the market. One of the most heavily publicized, "Baseball, the Pete Rose Way," is out this week on Embassy, at $19.95. Rose, alias "Charlie Hustle," emphasizes desire as much as skills. Those who just want to learn to hit might be more interested in "The Art of Hitting" (Morris, $24.95), with former star Vada Pinson as the instructor, or Sitmar's $19.95 cassette, "Basics of Hitting," featuring New York Mets batting coach Bill Robinson.
"Whoopi Goldberg Live" (Vestron, $59.95) is based on her one-woman Broadway comedy show of a few years ago. Most people just know her from the movie, "The Color Purple" and don't realize what a talented comedian she is. This cassette is a good introduction to her comedy, which is heavily laced with drama. Audiences invariably flip over her impersonations of a dizzy Valley girl and a jive-talking male junkie.
OLD MOVIES: "The Miracle Worker" (1962) is just out on MGM/UA at $59.95. Best supporting actress Patty Duke, who portrayed young Helen Keller, is one of the few actresses to win an Oscar in her film debut. Anne Bancroft was named best actress for her portrayal of Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan. Worth seeing just for their stunning fight sequence.
Two highly rated Japanese samurai films directed by Akira Kurosawa--"Yojimbo" (1961) and its sequel, "Sanjuro" (1962)--have been re-released by Embassy at $29.95. Both, starring Toshiro Mifune, are like Westerns. According to Italian director Sergio Leone, he reworked "Yojimbo" into "A Fistful of Dollars," which, of course, is the grandaddy of the spaghetti Westerns.
"Tunes of Glory," with Alec Guinness and John Mills, is out this week. (Embassy, $39.95). This 1960 drama, set in Scotland, is about a conflict between an aging colonel and his youthful replacement. Some critics rate this with Guinness' finest performances--just a shade behind his work in "Bridge on the River Kwai."
The fairly obscure, 1951 action-packed drama "Sirocco" (RCA/Columbia, $59.95) is a film serious Humphrey Bogart fans really like. Set in Syria in the 1920s, it's about a gun-runner on a hazardous mission. Film historians don't rate it with Bogart's best, but they do say his rugged presence elevates it considerably above routine status.
Other noteworthy recent releases: "The Naked Prey" (1966), "Fingers" (1978) and "My Darling Clementine" (1946).
NEW AND COMING MOVIES: Three $79.95 Warner Video cassettes debut this week: a cycle racing movie, "American Flyers," with Rae Dawn Chong and Kevin Costner, which got mixed reviews; the rap/funk musical "Krush Groove," with Shelia E. and Fat Boys; and Paul Shrader's "Mishima," a biography of the late Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. This movie, which many critics liked, wasn't that widely released, so it may find an audience on home video.
Next week: "Cocoon," "A Chorus Line," "Agnes of God" and "The Journey of Natty Gann."