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DVD REVIEWS

Three of Wyler's films make the cut

Also in stores now are two memorable Cary Grant pictures, a 'Star Trek' flick and John Ford's 'The Quiet Man.'

November 19, 2002|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Three early films by William Wyler, two Cary Grant flicks from the 1950s and a "Star Trek" adventure are among the golden oldies that recently made their debuts on DVD.

This year marks the 100th birthday of three-time Oscar-winning director Wyler, and to celebrate, Kino on Video has released three terrific films that the Austrian-born filmmaker made early in his career: "The Love Trap," "Counsellor-at-Law" and "The Good Fairy"($30 each).

"The Love Trap," from 1929, is part talkie-part silent and stars Laura La Plante as a New York hoofer who, on the same day that she loses her job, is propositioned at a wild party by a womanizer, thrown out of her apartment and rescued off the street by a wealthy, handsome young man (Neil Hamilton).

The dancer and the young man fall in love and marry, but their wedded bliss nearly comes to a screeching halt when her husband's uncle recognizes her from the party. "The Love Trap" is a throwaway but a lot of fun.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 20, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 ..CF: Y 12 inches; 448 words Type of Material: Correction
William Wyler -- A review of vintage DVDs that ran in Tuesday's Calendar misidentified director William Wyler as a native of Austria. He was born in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.

Included on the disc is "Directed by William Wyler," a documentary made by his daughter, Catherine, the trailers from 17 Wyler films and a filmography.

Four years after "The Love Trap," Wyler made the brisk and sophisticated drama "Counsellor-at-Law," adapted by Elmer Rice from his hit play. John Barrymore is riveting as a high-powered New York attorney who finds himself in hot water when one of his political enemies discovers a past legal indiscretion and begins disbarment proceedings.

Doris Kenyon plays his social-climbing wife who is having a fling with a ne'er-do-well (Melvyn Douglas), Bebe Daniels is his supportive secretary and Vincent Sherman, who became a well-respected film director, plays an anarchist. The DVD also features rare photographs of Wyler.

Rounding out the collection is the enchanting 1935 comedy "The Good Fairy," which boasts a lovely and funny screenplay by Preston Sturges. Margaret Sullavan (who was briefly married to Wyler) is perfectly cast as a Budapest orphan hired by a movie theater owner to be an usherette at a local film palace.

Taking the advice of the head of the orphanage (Beulah Bondi) a bit too literally to "spread your wings," Sullavan's Luisa decides to live the life of a fairy-tale angel and help someone in need. Herbert Marshall and Frank Morgan play the men in her life. Included on the disc are the trailer and personal Wyler photographs.

Director Alfred Hitchcock found a perfect leading man in Cary Grant. The two collaborated on some of the best tales of suspense made in the '40s and '50s, including "Suspicion," "Notorious" and "North by Northwest." And now Paramount has released their 1955 vehicle, "To Catch a Thief," on DVD ($27). A light, scrumptious souffle, "To Catch a Thief" finds a charming Grant playing a former cat burglar living on the French Riviera who is the prime suspect in a rash of recent burglaries at the fashionable hotels. Grace Kelly, another Hitch favorite, and Jesse Royce Landis also star.

The DVD includes a gorgeous wide-screen transfer that looks light-years better than the TV prints, and three new featurettes: "Writing and Casting: The Making of 'To Catch a Thief,' " "Alfred Hitchcock and 'To Catch a Thief' " and "Edith Head: The Paramount Years."

Grant is also in fine form in the underrated romantic comedy "Houseboat" (Paramount, $25), in which he plays a widower with three children who hires Sophia Loren -- the runaway daughter of an Italian conductor -- to be the nanny. It was directed by Melville Shavelson. The DVD features the wide-screen version of the film, a photo gallery and the trailer.

Also new from Paramount is the classy two-disc set of the 1984 sci-fi adventure "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" ($30), which was directed by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy. The film isn't as good as "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," but it's definitely a good time-killer.

The digital edition includes a wide-screen version of the film, decent commentary from Nimoy, writer-producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll and actress Robin Curtis (who played the Vulcan Lt. Saavik). It also features a very entertaining text commentary by "Trek" experts Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda; "Captain's Log," a new documentary that features interviews with Nimoy, Bennett and William Shatner; "Star Trek Universe," a series of mini-featurettes that include interviews with the Industrial Light & Magic model creators; and a look at the creation of the Klingon language.

"Terraforming and the Prime Directive" is an informative documentary with NASA scientist Dr. Louis Friedman on terraforming: changing the structure of a planet to make it habitable for humans.

The famed British filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger -- whose company was called the Archers -- lamented that their 1943 film, "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp," was cut to shreds when it was released in the U.S.

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