Hollywood Video is closing 760 stores as part of bankruptcy reorganization, and that includes the one near us. We stopped by today to see what we could find. We wound up with a bunch of used DVDs, which made us wonder whether visiting was a good idea or a bad one. We found some discs we’d been looking for, but we already have plenty we have yet to watch. Still, it’s hard to resist DVDs at $5 or less — I can’t go the movies for that! (Even though we had to get new blank cases for most of them — that plastic gets nasty with that many hands touching it.) Here’s what we picked up.
Cat Ballou — KC had never seen this 1965 comedy Western starring Jane Fonda in her innocent sexpot days. When her dad’s ranch is endangered, she rounds up a motley crew consisting of her Native American best friend Jackson, a bad boy criminal, his con man uncle (Dwayne Hickman, aka Dobie Gillis), and a drunk gunfighter (Lee Marvin, who won Best Actor for his dual role as this and the creepy assassin twin brother). Plotwise, it’s a very typical Western, except for the cast and the attitude.
It’s got that 60s feel, when they were trying to be a little more realistic (they talk about the bias Jackson experiences and how times have changed from the glory days of the outlaw) but everything still had that glossy Hollywood sheen to it, like how Fonda’s hair is always glorious, even when she’s on the run. And they go through an undercranked “run the film fast with wacky music” section in homage to what they thought of old movies.
One of the best parts of the movie is “The Ballad of Cat Ballou”, a running commentary told in song by strolling troubadours played by Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole (who unfortunately passed away several months before this was released). I’d forgotten that, for a comedy, there’s a pretty dark beginning, as Fonda is shown in jail, sewing a dress, waiting to be hanged for murder. And yes, someone actually says the line, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.”
The vintage trailer shown here is unintentionally hilarious, calling her “girl train robber” and trying to use the phrase “sex maniac” without saying “sex”. It emphasizes how stereotypically female the role is, showing her when she guilts her friends into turning criminal by yelling about how they say they care about her, crying, running out of the room, and then throwing things at them. Bipolar much?
Casino Royale — The only James Bond film we own. Isn’t that a weird choice? Stars Peter Sellers, accompanied by David Niven, Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress, and a Burt Bacharach score. It’s described as psychedelic satire — I haven’t seen it yet — and comes with the other one, the made-for-TV 1954 version starring Barry Nelson, the very first James Bond film.
The Great Race — Another piece of weirdness from 1965, this time via Blake Edwards. Tony Curtis (The Great Leslie), Jack Lemmon (Professor Fate), and Natalie Wood (Maggie Dubois, proto-feminist reporter) star in the story of a 1908 auto race from New York to Paris via Russia. Claims to feature the biggest pie fight ever filmed and inspired the later “Wacky Racers” cartoon. Kids love this movie. It’s so over the top!
Strictly Ballroom — I had an inkling to see this after watching the similarly inspiring Shall We Dance? recently. I’m glad I was able to find it, since the DVD is apparently out of print these days. It’s a wonderful romantic comedy with the underlying dream every girl wishes for of being discovered and made over to demonstrate an unexpected talent.
Chaplin — With my recently discovered love of Robert Downey, Jr., I figured it was time I watched his tour de force, especially given the outstanding cast and the setting in old Hollywood. I think he should have won the Oscar for this performance, given his skill and physicality in this role. Maybe one day we’ll get the director’s cut, with the extra footage Richard Attenborough wanted to include.
Julie & Julia — Loved it when I saw it in the theater, and I was curious to hear writer/director Nora Ephron’s commentary. Plus, I’ll get almost anything Amy Adams is in (although we skipped Underdog, where she’s the voice of Polly).
X-Men: The Last Stand — I sort of feel like I have to have a copy of this on the superhero movie shelf, plus I didn’t hate this as much as others seemed to. I even liked Kelsey Grammer as the Beast. Any movie where I can watch Hugh Jackman jump around being heroic is worth a lazy weekend afternoon.
Taking Woodstock — Haven’t seen it, figured we’d give it a shot, since we like pop history and music-related movies, and the cast is diverse and promising. We got Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist for similar reasons, although we’ve already seen it.
But my favorite discovery was the first three seasons of Coupling! That’ll be a fun rewatch.