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ON DVD

Onto the seas and into the soapsuds

Remember when moviegoers went on adventures with pirates, missionaries and men with a past?

July 09, 2006|Susan King

Fox Studio Classics

(Fox, $15 each)

The Black Swan

BASED on the classic novel by Rafael Sabatini, 1942's "The Black Swan" revolves around a handsome pirate named James Waring (played to the hilt by Tyrone Power) and his love-hate relationship with the beautiful daughter (Maureen O'Hara) of the former governor of Jamaica.

However, the real star of this zestful 1942 swashbuckler is director of photography Leon Shamroy, who won an Oscar for his lush, expressionistic Technicolor cinematography. The strong supporting cast includes Laird Cregar as the notorious pirate Henry Morgan, who was given a pardon by King Charles II of England, knighted and sent back to Jamaica as deputy governor; George Sanders -- in a dreadful red wig and beard -- as a sly British pirate and Thomas Mitchell as Waring's pal.

The dependable Henry King directed.

Extras: Restoration comparisons, the theatrical trailer and informative commentary with film historian Rudy Behlmer and a feisty 85-year-old O'Hara. Behlmer offers a historical overview of the film while O'Hara talks about her experiences making the film. She confesses she originally didn't want to do the movie because the bright lights on her last Technicolor movie, "To the Shores of Tripoli," had hurt her eyes. When Shamroy showed her how he was going to mute the lights for "Black Swan," she agreed to do the film.

Keys of the Kingdom

After making his film debut in a rarely seen 1944 movie, "Days of Glory," Gregory Peck was given the lead role in this engrossing 1944 soap opera based on the novel by A.J. Cronin.

The film's success quickly established Peck as the hottest new commodity in Hollywood.

Peck received his first best actor Oscar nomination for his endearing, sincere turn as a young Catholic priest who spends several decades as a missionary in China, where he struggles with hostility, disease, poverty and isolation. Vincent Price plays his boyhood friend, who is also a Catholic priest.

Extras: The trailer and astute commentary with film historian Kenneth Geist and Chris Mankiewicz, son of screenwriter and producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who talks about his father's work on the film.

The River's Edge

Veteran Allan Dwan ("The Sands of Iwo Jima") directed this deliciously decadent "B" film noir/thriller from 1957.

Anthony Quinn plays a humble rancher living in the New Mexico desert married to a former convict (Debra Paget) who is bored with her humdrum existence.

Enter her former lover (a dastardly Ray Milland) with a trunkful of stolen loot, who forces Quinn and Paget to take him to safety in Mexico

Extras: Deft commentary from historians James Ursini and Alain Silver as they discuss the historical significance of Dwan, who had been directing since the earliest days of silent films. In the 1950s, Dwan found continued employment with producer Benedict Bogeaus, who managed to attract "A" actors to rather seamy material by offering the performers a hefty salary. Milland, who had won the best actor Oscar for 1945's "The Lost Weekend," was nearing the end of his star status in Hollywood -- his role in "River's Edge" was one of the meatiest he had had since 1954's "Dial M for Murder." Quinn, who had just won his second best supporting Academy Award for "Lust for Life," was lured to this lurid tale by the money.

-- Susan King

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