Editor’s Notes: Strategic Air Command, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Guilt: Season One, Guilt: Season One, & 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor are out on their respective home entertainment formats October 18th.
Strategic Air Command
Strategic Air Command (Olive Films) is a film for those who love aviation and airplanes. Made in 1954 at the height of the Cold War, the movie is the story of the St. Louis Cardinals’ star third baseman, Robert “Dutch” Holland (James Stewart) who, after serving time as a fighter pilot during World War II, is recalled to active duty to be part of the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command (SAC) because experienced pilots are needed as first defense in case of enemy attack. The Soviet union is the enemy most feared as the power likely to launch an attack, and the new B-47 Stratojets will carry atomic bombs as an ever-ready deterrent.
This doesn’t sit well with Sally (June Allyson), Dutch’s wife of five months, who is expecting a baby. Dutch, who is initially upset at being recalled to duty and leaving his wife, attempts to balance his military duty with his private life, which tend to blend together, since Sally lives on the base. The major conflict is whether Dutch will continue as a Major League baseball player or shift his full-time attention to SAC.
The domestic story of Dutch and Sally is secondary to the aviation sequences. The movie can be considered as a propaganda film since it devotes more screen time to the huge bombers than to its human stars. In any case, it is certainly a patriotic flag waver. There is more than a passing similarity to the career of Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams, who served in both World War II and later the Korean War just as his baseball career was at tits peak. The film was a perfect fit for Stewart, who had flown many missions as a pilot during World War II.
Director Anthony Mann has practically fashioned a cinematic valentine to the B-36 and B-47 aircraft — the backbone of our air defense before missiles proved more accurate. The VistaVision camera pans lovingly over their impressive silver bodies, shows them taking off, films them in flight, and includes them in as many sequences as possible. Shots of the planes are lengthy, clearly intended to inspire awe at their power, size, and lethal potential, and are accompanied by Victor Young’s rousing score.
There are no bonus features on the unrated Blu-ray release.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (The Criterion Collection) is Robert Altman’s 1971 revisionist Western starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. In 1902, John McCabe (Beatty) arrives in the Pacific Northwest mining town of Presbyterian Church. His goal in town is to establish a business, and pretty soon he opens a gambling house/brothel, becoming the most prominent man in town. Some time later, Mrs. Miller (Christie) arrives in town, is unimpressed by McCabe’s establishment, and proposes that she and McCabe team up to run a swanky whorehouse, with baths and clean sheets part of the plan.
Like Sam Peckilnpah’s “The Wild Bunch,” McCabe & Mrs, Miller is about civilization inevitably coming to the frontier. It’s also a picture that undermines the image of the Western hero, which reigned supreme in Hollywood from William S. Hart to John Wayne. The whole notion of masculinity is subverted by Altman. We see the townsmen sitting around the bar gossiping while Cockney newcomer Ms.Miller immediately takes command of her destiny to get what she wants. With her larger-than-life personality, she’s no match for McCabe, who appears genuinely flummoxed by this brash, self-confident woman with a strong will. Yet they’re a good team and their partnership is extremely profitable until the mining company becomes a dangerous adversary.
Miss Christie is easily the best thing in the picture. Her Constance Miller is a feminist well before the term existed — a tough, intelligent woman who knows her strengths and exploits them. Though actresses like Bette Davis and Rosalind Russell had portrayed strong, independent women long before Julie Christie, Mrs. Miller is an unexpected ingredient in a familiar genre that usually portrayed women as school marms, prostitutes, or homesteaders’ wives. The supporting cast includes familiar Altman actors Rene Auberjonois, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine, and John Schuck. The Canadian cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond is striking and adds greatly to the atmosphere, as does the set — an entire town constructed for the film.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray release include audio commentary from 2002 featuring director Robert Altman and producer David Foster; new making-of documentary featuring members of the cast and crew; new conversation about the film and Altman’s career between film historian Carl Beauchamp and Rick Jewell; featurette from the film’s original production; Art Directors Guild Film Society Q & A from 1999 with production designer Leon Ericksen; excerpts from archival interviews with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond; stills gallery; excerpts from two 1971 episodes of The Dick Caveat Show featuring Altman and film critic Pauline Kael; and a critical essay.
Guilt: Season One
Guilt: Season One (Lionsgate) explores the meaning of “guilt.” In the murder of Molly Ryan, many are guilty in different ways but only one committed the murder. When Grace Atwood (Daisy Head) becomes the prime suspect in her roommate Molly’s murder and a popular target for the UK tabloids and social media, her sister Natalie (Emily Tremaine) leaves her life in Boston and heads to London to defend her. With the help of ethically questionable ex-pat lawyer Stan Gutter (Billy Zane), Natalie starts to question how innocent her sister may really be as ugly truths start to emerge. The mystery extends through many layers of London society, from a posh, depraved sex club all the way up to the Royal Family itself.
Season One episodes deal with the murder, damning revelations about Grace mounting, Grace’s reaction to hurtful remarks about her on the Internet, the integrity of the investigative team challenged, Grace’s rescue by a stranger who may have an ulterior motive, Natalie struggling with doubts about her sister’s innocence, Stan urging Grace to undergo hypnosis and, finally, the Molly Ryan murder trial going to the jury.
Heavy on melodrama in the soap opera vein, the series draws on many cliches, with many elements introduced solely to amp up the visuals and a routine storyline. A prime example is a lurid sex club frequented by upper-class types — a sort of Plato’s Retreat for the elite. Ms. Head and Ms. Tremaine, the main actors, don’t make much of an impression and fail to draw us in. In style, the show is an awkward blend of Scandal and a Law & Order police procedural.
All 10 widescreen episodes of the first season are included in this 3-disc, unrated DVD set. Special features include deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes making-of featurette.
Hee Haw: Salute!
Hee Haw: Salute! (Time Life) includes six complete episodes of Hee Haw, a country variety show that premiered on TV in 1969. Conceived as a rural alternative to “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” it began as a summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. With a cast of characters including Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones and Archie Campbell, comedy one-liners, and musical performances, the show, co-hosted by Buck Owens and Roy Clark, became a hit. CBS dropped the show 1971, after two successful years, but it was quickly picked up for syndication and aired for the next 21 years, making Hee Haw the longest-running weekly syndicated original series in television history.
The programs on this release are from the early 1970s. Performers include Tanya Tucker, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Kitty Wells, Freddy Fender, Buck Owens and others.
Songs include “I Walk the Line,” “Delta Dawn,” “White Lightnin,” “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” “Love Is a Butterfly,” “Don’t Let the Good Times Fool You,” and All Around Cowboy.” Comedy sketches round out each of the shows.
There are no bonus features on the 3-disc DVD release.
75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor
75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor (Lionsgate) contains interviews and archival footage commemorating the “Day of Infamy” — December 7, 1941 — when the Japanese attacked our naval base in Hawaii. This release claims to be the definitive chronicle of the attack on Pearl Harbor. With archival combat footage, personal accounts, and detailed historical analysis, the six documentaries explore one of history’s most devastating events as seen through the eyes of the Japanese attackers and the U.S. forces on the ground.
Live From Pearl Harbor, from 2001, features interviews with survivors and showcases ceremonies at Pearl Harbor and the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans.
Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor goes into detail on the attack as told by World War II historians and survivors who were stuck inside ships that were bombed.
Pearl Harbor deals with the technology the Japanese used in their attack on the naval base and how the United States utilized technology from a captured submarine that is still used today.
“Pearl Harbor: What Went Down” features a discussion of the bombing by historians and survivors and an examination of how a single bomb sank the Arizona. The bombing is brought to life through computer-generated imagery.
Japanese Sub at Pearl Harbor shows an American dive team searching for a Japanese submarine that sank, proving that America saw the sub an hour before the Japanese attack.
The Other Tragedy at Pearl Harbor covers a second deadly disaster that occurred in 1944 known as the West Loch Disaster. An explosion occurred in an area where ships were being prepared for an invasion of the Japanese-held Mariana Islands. A fire spread quickly, resulting in the sinking of six ships and the death of 163 navy personnel.
There are no bonus features on the 2-disc DVD release.