Jewels of July

Jewels of July

Posted by Mike Finnegan on Jul 19th 2018

From our cinematically curatorial colleagues at the Classic Flix and Flicker Alley labels, whose marvelous movie releases – from classic silents to influential films noir to the one-of-a-kind Cinerama three-panel travelogue adventures – have been painstakingly restored in the digital realm from best available sources to provide startlingly lovely Blu-ray viewing experiences, here are two “summer cooler” offerings (here at at substantial discounts off original list) which originally debuted on movie screens during the middle week of July. 

Mostly applauded for their fabulous efforts on “orphaned” (i.e. non-studio library-affiliated) essential golden-age noir thrillers, Classic Flix deserves a tip of a 10-gallon cowboy hat for its spiffed-up release of the fondly remembered Western comedy Along Came Jones (1945, premiering 73 years ago today), starring Gary Cooper (in his one on-screen movie credit as producer), Loretta Young, William Demarest and Dan Duryea. With the urbane Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath, Holy Matrimony) adapting a larkish novel by Western literary icon Alan Le May (who co-scripted the previous Cooper/Cecil B. DeMille outings North West Mounted Police and The Story of Dr. Wassell) and the director’s chair skillfully manned by Stuart Heisler (The Biscuit Eater, The Glass Key), it’s a jovial debunking of Coop’s laconic cowpoke image; he plays a hapless, butter-fingered saddlebum mistaken by the local citizenry for lady rancher Young’s murderous outlaw lover (Duryea), with Young turning out to be the quick-draw sharpshooter of the pair, which comes into play when her romantic feelings for Duryea start turning in Cooper’s direction. Flicker Alley delivers a tantalizingly tropical island idyll with the Technicolor widescreen amazement, South Seas Adventure (1958), balmily blowing into Manhattan’s Warner Cinerama Theatre 60 years ago this week. For reserved-seat prices ranging from $1.20 for a weekday matinee to the steeper weekend evening $3.50 ducat, an armchair adventurer could undertake a two-hour land/sea/air Pacific region grand tour that circled from Hawaii to Tahiti, Tonga, the Fiji Islands, the New Hebrides, Australia and New Zealand, as the velvet voice of Orson Welles partially narrates (one of his eight 1958 screen projects as actor or narrator, including the TT titles The Long, Hot Summer and The Roots of Heaven) and the refreshing score by Alex North enfolds you in its multichannel grandeur. Painstakingly reconstructed and remastered in the immersive Smilebox format by the invaluable David Strohmaier – like all the Flicker Alley Cinerama travelogues offered at a discount on our web portal – and loaded to the brim with new and archival extras, the South Seas Adventure Blu-ray/DVD Combo offers the alluring time-capsule delights of what The New York Times called “especially appropriate summer fare, plenty and pleasantly busy all the time.” 

For additional mid-July fare that offers the convivial comedy of Along Came Jones and the sense of globetrotting abandon found in South Seas Adventure, the Twilight Time label provides two Woody Allen gems that also debuted this week in movie history, the magically romantic country-house caper A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982) and the following year’s technically remarkable comic odyssey of a “human chameleon” that captured the world’s imagination way before social media took over our lives, the one-of-a-kind Zelig (1983). In brief, as well as in crystalline 1080p hi-def, these jewels of July still sparkle.