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Another Welles Classic and a Hefty Dose of Dietrich

September 24, 1998|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A bumper crop of oldies awaits this month on home video, including another restored Orson Welles flick, a collection of Marlene Dietrich vehicles and remastered Alfred Hitchcock classics.

It's been a big year for Welles. In June, the American Film Institute declared his 1941 film "Citizen Kane" to be the greatest ever made. Two weeks ago, the reedited, restored version of his 1958 film noir, "Touch of Evil," was re-released to great acclaim and boffo business at the box office.

On Tuesday, Milestone is releasing Welles' compelling and baffling 1963 thriller, "The Trial" ($30), based on Franz Kafka's landmark novel.

Welles considered "The Trial," which stars Anthony Perkins, Welles and Jeanne Moreau, to be the best film he ever made.

Perkins plays a young clerk named Josef K., who is arrested, tried and executed although he never knows for what crime. Beautifully shot in black and white, the film masterfully captures the paranoia of Kafka's novel; each frame seems like a work of art.

This special letterboxed edition was transferred from an original 35-millimeter negative, marking the first time "The Trial" is available in its original wide-screen format. Also featured on the tape is the American preview trailer. To order, call (800) 603-1104.

Also due for arrival Tuesday is Universal's collection of four Marlene Dietrich films ($15 each): "Song of Songs," "The Devil Is a Woman," "Flame of New Orleans" and "A Foreign Affair."

The best of the lot is the amusing 1948 Billy Wilder comedy "A Foreign Affair." Dietrich seems to be having a lot of fun playing a nightclub singer in postwar Berlin who is having an affair with an American captain (John Lund). Enter prim, proper Jean Arthur, a congresswoman who has flown with fellow Congress members to Berlin to check the morale and morals of the American soldiers. Not vintage Wilder but worth checking out.

"The Devil Is a Woman," from 1935, is the movie about which the legendary German actress said: "I was the most beautiful in that." Directed by her mentor, Josef Von Sternberg, "Devil" is a lavish, delicious tale of a beguiling woman who uses her beauty and charm to capture the hearts of every man she meets. Cesar Romero and Lionel Atwill are two of the smitten men.

"The Song of Songs," released in 1933, was the first film Dietrich made in America that was not directed by Sternberg. Rouben Mamoulian ("The Mark of Zorro") directed this campy, silly melodrama that's so bad it's wonderful.

Dietrich--decked out in braids and a dress out of "The Sound of Music"--plays a young, naive country girl who is sent to live with her old aunt in the big city when her father dies. She soon finds herself posing nude for the handsome sculptor (Brian Aherne) who lives across the street. However, she also captures the attention of a grizzled old baron (Atwill again) who connives a way to marry her. Will true love prevail? Who cares, this one is really a hoot.

Acclaimed French director Rene Clair made his American film directorial debut with 1941's entertaining "Flame of New Orleans." Dietrich plays the beautiful "countess" of New Orleans, who finds herself torn between a wealthy older suitor (Roland Young of "Topper") and a handsome sailor (Bruce Cabot). Mischa Auer and Andy Devine also star in this romantic comedy.

Anchor Bay recently unveiled its newly restored, digitally mastered set of four of Hitchcock's thrillers from the '40s ($15 each): 1946's "Notorious," with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman; 1940's "Rebecca," the only Hitchcock film to win the best picture Oscar; 1945's psychological thriller "Spellbound" with Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman; and 1947's "The Paradine Case," with Peck, Ann Todd and Ethel Barrymore.

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