New to Blu-ray/DVD: Liar’s Dice, Road to Rio, The Lemon Drop Kid, Doberman Cop, & The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny & Friends

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Editor’s Notes: Liar’s Dice, Road to Rio, The Lemon Drop Kid, Doberman Cop, & The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny & Friends will be released on their respective home entrainment formats July 5th. 

Liar’s Dice

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Liar’s Dice (Kino Lorber) is a road drama about a young woman’s search for her missing husband along with a surly stranger’s help. In a snowy village near the Tibetan border, Kamala (Geetanjali Thapa) hasn’t heard from her husband in five months since he took a construction job far from home. Since she doesn’t know whether he’s had an accident, run off with another woman, or encountered foul play, she is determined to set out herself to track him down.

She begins her journey accompanied by daughter Manya and a baby goat, crossing several mountains on foot because an avalanche has closed local roads. As she waits for a jeep that will take her to a bus, he sees a man, Nawazuddin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who’s stowed away on a truck being beaten by the truck’s drivers. He is suspicious looking, but agrees to help her make the rest of the trip for a price. Reluctantly, Kamala agrees and the three set out.

Their journey serves almost like a travelogue, as they travel through diverse landscapes and encounter a range of people enroute. We learn little about Kamala’s life, other than that she is from modest circumstances. The relationship between Kamala and Nawazuddin is one of awkward, mistrustful cooperation, but never develops beyond that. Nawazuddin relies on his street hustler talents to finance their trip, which is frowned on by Kamala, though she recognizes she couldn’t make the dangerous trip alone.

The film is more character study than satisfying narrative story. The characters are thrown together through chance and must make the best of the situation. Writer-director Geetu Mohandas elicits first-rate performances from the cast, which makes their unusual journey involving as well as suspenseful.

There are no bonus features on the unrated widescreen DVD release. The film is in Hindi, with optional English subtitles.

Road to Rio

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Road to Rio (Kino Lorber), made in 1947, is the fifth of seven “Road” movies. Hot Lips Barton (Bob Hope, Son of Paleface) and Scat Sweeney (Bing Crosby, Road to Bali) stow away on a ship bound for South America to avoid being charged with arson after burning down a circus. Aboard the vessel, the duo fall for beautiful Lucia Maria de Andrade (Dorothy Lamour, My Favorite Brunette). Lucia is under the hypnotic spell of her evil aunt (Gale Sondergaard, The Life of Emile Zola), who has arranged a marriage for the young woman to take over her inheritance.

Like its predecessors, Road to Rio is full of Hope and Crosby gags and musical sequences, featuring The Andrews Sisters and The Wiere Brothers. The appeal of the “Road” movies is the breaking down of the fourth wall as Hope and Crosby frequently make comments directly to the camera which often draw upon topical issues, such as Betty Grable’s recent marriage to Artie Shaw or Crosby’s unsuccessful race horses. The easy relationship between the two makes for pleasant and entertaining viewing. The story is slight, but serviceable and essentially a structure to provide the pair with opportunities to create gags.

Songs include “But Beautiful” (sung by Crosby), “Experience” (Lamour), and “You Don’t Have to Know the Language” (Crosby & The Andrews Sisters)

There are no bonus materials on the unrated Blu-ray release.

The Lemon Drop Kid

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The Lemon Drop Kid (Kino Lorber) Stars Bob Hope as Sidney Milburn, (aka The Lemon Drop Kid, named so because of his addiction to candy), a con man who offers a friendly “sure thing” horse tip to the girlfriend of mobster Moose Moran (Fred Clark) at the race track. When the horse loses and Moose’s original pick wins, Moose gives Sidney until Christmas to pay back the $10,000 he lost or his henchman, Sam the Surgeon (Harry Believer), will “open up” Sidney after Christmas.

To pay back the money he owes Moose, Sidney enlists some pals to hit the street corners of New York dressed as Santa Claus accepting donations for a phony elderly ladies’ home on Long Island. But soon after, gangster Oxford Charlie (Lloyd Nolan) tries to muscle in on Sidney’s scam.

As Bob Hope comedies go, this is one of the weakest. The gags simply don’t land and even seem forced. An uninspiring screenplay doesn’t give Hope much to work with, and he resorts to dressing up as Santa Claus and as an elderly woman, taking a page from the Milton Berle Playbook. Hope does machine gun a bunch of one-liners, but they lack the zip and zing so prevalent in the “Road” pictures.

Based on a Damon Runyon story, The Lemon Drop Kid co-stars Marilyn Maxwell, Jane Darwell, William Frawley, and Side Melton. The movie introduced the hit Christmas song “Silver Bells,” which is featured in a big production number. Hope sang the song every year on his annual Christmas TV shows, usually as a duet with his lead female guest star.

There are no bonus features on the unrated Blu-ray release.

Doberman Cop

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Doberman Cop (Arrow Video), made in 1977, reunited director Kinji Fukasaku with star Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba in an American-style crime movie that mixes gunplay and pulp fiction with martial arts and broad comedy to create one of their most entertaining films.

Based on manga — the popular Japanese comic book and graphic novel style — Doberman Cop follows the fish-out-of-water adventures of Joji Kano (Chiba), a tough police officer from Okinawa who arrives in Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho nightlife district to investigate the brutal murder and mutilation of an island girl who had been working as a prostitute. Initially dismissed as a country bumpkin (complete with straw hat and live pig in tow), Kano soon proves himself a more savvy detective than the local cops, and a tougher customer than anyone expected.

As he probes deeper into the sleazy world of flesh peddling, talent agency corruption and mob influence, Kano uncovers the shocking truth about the girl, her connection to a yakuza-turned-music manager, and an elusive serial killer who is burning women alive.

The film has lots of fight scenes filmed with quick cutting to heighten excitement. Chiba’s Kano is as adept with a handgun as he is with his fists and feet, and this is shown in one of the movie’s more graphic and violent scenes. Though the film isn’t up to Fukasaku’s other work, it’s fun to watch Chiba in a role that combines his athletic prowess with his ability to deliver a funny line.

Bonus materials on the 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD release include new video interviews with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba and screenwriter Koji Takada; the making-of featurette “Beyond the Film: Doberman Cop;” and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork. The film is in Japanese, with optional English subtitles.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny & Friends

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The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny & Friends – Steve Martin, Robin Williams & Eddie Murphy (Time Life) is a 3-disc collection featuring over 8 hours of vintage Johnny Carson from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Included are 9 complete, unedited shows, including vintage commercials, highlighting appearances by Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy.

Steve Martin was an Emmy-winning writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. In the 1970s, he performed offbeat, absurdist comedy routines before sell-out audiences on national tours and was a frequent guest and guest host on Saturday Night Live. His three Tonight Show appearances in this collection range from 1976 to 1991.

Robin Williams was known for his utter unpredictability and free-association riffs. Williams’ bits covered the entire social spectrum, bouncing off the latest fads and fashions along with ego-deflating commentary about the day’s newsmakers.

Eddie Murphy’s appearances covered a span of seven months in 1982 and illustrate the comedian’s rapid rise to stardom. His debut on The Tonight Show occurred less than halfway into his first full Saturday Night Live season. By his third appearance, he had become a breakout star, released his Grammy-nominated album, and was shooting his first movie.

There are no bonus materials on the 3-disc DVD set.

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About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.