by Tony Dayoub
The Warner Archive Collection continues to impress with the breadth and depth of movies they release using their made-to-order (MOD) model. It's also fascinating the way they market these DVDs—tying them to holidays, anniversaries, and the like—with relative ease because of their decision to keep increasing their library (as of this writing, 818 titles and counting) at the rapid rate of 5 - 10 releases A WEEK.
February is Black History Month, and the collection released a few titles to celebrate its significance. Most noteworthy is 1969's The Learning Tree, the first studio film by a black director, renaissance man Gordon Parks (Shaft). The semi-autobiographical work, based on his own book, follows two young men in rural Kansas during the early part of the 20th century. Kyle Johnson (son of Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols) plays Newt Winger, the good-hearted protagonist who often has to find the less thornier of two paths out of a moral quagmire. Alex Clarke plays Marcus Savage, the troubled Cain to Newt's Abel. The movie is earnest to a point just short of being cloying. But ultimately, it engages quite effectively because much of its depiction of the hardships faced by Jim Crow-era African Americans rings true.
The fluffy romantic comedy, Sunday in New York (1963), was released earlier this month in advance of Valentine's Day. Overscored by pianist Peter Nero, the movie often seems like a vehicle simply to showcase the musician's talent. The movie's exploration of society's sexual mores is quaint as to appear passe even at the time of the picture's release. But the fresh appeal of a frighteningly young Jane Fonda and her charming co-stars—a befuddled Rod Taylor, clueless Robert Culp, and best of all, a devilish Cliff Robertson—make this a breezy confection worth enjoying on, apropos of the title, a Sunday afternoon.
For a look at the Warner Archive's tie-in to the Reagan centennial celebration, plus a rundown of my personal favorites from the collection...
CONTINUE READING AT NOMAD EDITIONS: WIDE SCREEN