On Valentine’s Day, romance may be in the air, but comedy, action and family drama light up home entertainment screens courtesy of four Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray releases arriving February 14. They include two acting showcases for screen newcomer Mary Beth Hurt, who gives a couple of memorable performances as the love-confused leading lady of Chilly Scenes of Winter from screenwriter/director Joan Micklin Silver and the love-deprived sister (one of three) in the dysfunctional family at the chilly heart of Interiors from writer/director Woody Allen. One of the most sensational screen debuts of all time is spotlighted in the now-essential 1940s noir Kiss of Death, introducing Richard Widmark as a psychopathic gangster out of your nightmares under the direction of veteran Henry Hathaway. Among the little-known discoveries to mine from deep inside studio vaults is director Don Siegel’s marvelous crime caper Edge of Eternity, starring Cornel Wilde, Victoria Shaw and the awesome expanse of the Grand Canyon in the grandeur of Cinemascope, all playing critical parts in the white-knuckle suspense that results. Preorders open today at 4 PM EST/1 PM EST for this powerhouse quartet that will supplement the delights that hearts, flowers and candy boxes can’t supply.
At this writing during the first week of the new Presidential administration, Intelligence Committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives advised they were engaged in investigating into Russian cyber-hacking efforts that led to information leaks affecting the 2016 election. These efforts will require time, perseverance and technological knowhow way beyond what was available to the creative team behind the international espionage thriller that opened theatrically 47 years ago today: the screen version of Noel Behn’s complex novel The Kremlin Letter (1970), directed and co-written (with Gladys Hill) by John Huston. This all-star attempt at depicting the gritty, unglamorous aspects of spycraft deals with a certain paper document that, if leaked to a particular third party, could trigger explosive global consequences. The arsenal of acting talent caught up in this dangerous game, scenically shot (in captivating widescreen Panavision) in New York, Mexico, Rome and Helsinki locations doubling for Russia, includes Bibi Andersson, Richard Boone, Nigel Green, Lila Kedrova, Micheál MacLiammóir, Patrick O’Neal, Barbara Parkins, Ronald Radd, Raf Vallone, Max von Sydow and Orson Welles, certainly an ensemble worth anyone’s investigation. In Jonathan McCalmont’s view at the Ruthless Culture website: “It is telling that Huston neither shows us the letter at the center of the plot, nor spells out what the letter means. The letter, like any mcguffin, exists purely in order to drive the plot, but can the same not also be said for the ‘information’ sought by real spies? How can a letter ever hope to justify the racism, misogyny, homophobia and outright savagery of the spies? In truth, the letter is but a fig leaf allowing the spies to pursue old professional rivalries and line their pockets at government expense. There is no justifying what spies do…no ‘information’ is worth such savagery, particularly when this is a war in which no shots are ever fired and where military muscle is only ever for show.” He concludes: “Despite the failure of the post-WWII intelligence apparatus to predict either the fall of the Berlin War or the attacks of 9/11, it is still largely unheard of for someone to call into question the need for an intelligence service. For Huston to do the same at the height of the Cold War shows not only remarkable character but also a rare amount of political and historical insight. As unpleasant as it is, The Kremlin Letter remains an astonishing film that deserves to be considered alongside Huston’s greatest cinematic achievements.” While we monitor – and stay vigilantly attuned to – the progress of the inquiry into our secretive and damagingly selective 21st-century information breaches and their repercussions, check out the ruthlessly brutal and cruelly devious machinations of an earlier time by opening The Kremlin Letter on Twilight Time DVD, offered here: http://screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/14942/THE-KREMLIN-LETTER-DVD-1970/.