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Rare films from Mae West, Frank Capra: Kenneth Turan's DVD pick

October 10, 2012

Although DVD releases tend to focus on recent box-office successes, it can be more interesting to look at those that provide rarities not easily available until now.

One new boxed set is so on this wavelength, it's even got the word in its title: “Universal Rarities: Films of the 1930s.” On tap here are major stars in earlier roles: Mae West appearing with Duke Ellington in “Belle of the Nineties,” Jack Benny starring in “Artists & Models,” Gary Cooper looking serious in “Souls at Sea” and W.C. Fields as the president of Klopstokia, a thankless job if ever there was one, in "Million Dollar Legs."

Also featuring hard-to-see work is “Frank Capra: The Early Collection.” On display are five films released from 1930 to 1933: “Ladies of Leisure,” “Rain or Shine,” “The Miracle Woman,” “Forbidden” and the wonderfully titled “The Bitter Tea of General Yen.”

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The rarest of the rare titles, however, goes to “The Devil’s Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption,” a collection of silent films from the 1910s that deal with hot-button social issues like drug addiction, sweatshop tragedies and the white slave trade. And we think we have it bad.

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