Updated: Feb 29, 2020
This month highlights offerings for fans of silent films, great French directors and iconic costume designers.
Here’s a look at four Blu-ray and DVD releases set to debut this month, each with elements of visual style worth checking out:
Blood and Sand (1922)
Starring Rudolph Valentino, Nita Naldi and Lila Lee
Directed by Fred Niblo
Costumes by Travis Banton
He had already starred in The Sheik and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the year before, but Blood and Sand cemented Valentino’s leading-man status. The story of a bullfighter who finds himself torn between two women — the childhood sweetheart who became his wife and the wealthy Doña Sol, who seduces him after he rises to fame — Blood and Sand was one of the top-grossing films of 1922. Travis Banton did uncredited work as the film’s costume designer, with pieces that include Valentino’s now-iconic toreador “suit of lights,” which was sold for $51,200 at a 2015 auction.
The silent drama is also notable for being edited by Dorothy Arzner; pay attention to the cuts between Valentino and stock footage of bullfights she acquired from Madrid, work that has earned her a nod as an unofficial director of the film, before she went on to become one of cinema’s first female directors. Bonus features alongside this 4K print include an audio commentary by film historian Anthony Slide, a filmed introduction by Orson Welles, and footage of Valentino’s funeral procession; he would die four years after Blood and Sand from a ruptured gastric ulcer.
Starring Serge Reggiani, Michel Auclair and Cécile Aubry
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
List price: $39.95 on Blu-ray, at Shop TCM
Fans of Diabolique may want to check out this film, which Clouzot wrote and directed six years prior to that legendary psychological thriller. Manon is based on the 1731 Abbé Prévost novel Manon Lescaut, which in the years since its publication has been interpreted in opera, ballet and no less than seven films. Clouzot has set his version in post-war France, with Aubry’s titular character facing an angry mob that believes her to be a Nazi collaborator, with Auclair as the man who rescues her and tries to keep her safe. Manon easily can be appreciated for its visual style, and indeed won the Golden Lion when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and was a huge hit with European audiences. Bonus features include a Clouzot documentary.
The Oscar (1966)
KL Studio Classics
Starring Stephen Boyd, Elke Sommer, Joseph Cotten and Tony Bennett
Directed by Russell Rouse
Costumes by Edith Head
Just in time for the Academy Awards, Kino Lorber releases a new 4K restoration of The Oscar, starring Stephen Boyd as an actor who doesn’t mind sacrificing friendships and loyalty in the quest for fame. Not unlike All About Eve’s framing of an awards ceremony, The Oscar indeed opens at the Academy Awards, where Boyd’s character is waiting to hear whether he’s captured the Best Actor trophy; the device allows for both plenty of cameos — including Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Merle Oberon and Joan Crawford — as well as an appearance by costume designer Edith Head, who would be nominated for an Oscar for her work here, especially the glam looks she creates for Elke Sommer (who plays a costume designer herself). This new release includes two new audio commentaries: one by Patton Oswalt, Josh Olson and Erik Nelson, and the other by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson.
It Started With a Kiss (1959)
Starring Glenn Ford, Debbie Reynolds and Eva Gabor
Directed by George Marshall
Costumes by Helen Rose
As its title implies, the film’s plot kicks into gear with a torrid smooch between the showgirl played by Reynolds and Ford’s Air Force sergeant; that moment of passion leads to a quickie wedding, but Reynolds puts the brakes on the marriage, decreeing no funny business until they’ve been together for one month, just to guarantee their union is about more than physical attraction.
Another film released that same year would become more famous as a sex comedy — Pillow Talk, starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson — but It Started With a Kiss teases in much the same vein with its risqué humor. Costume designer Helen Rose, meanwhile, acquits herself nicely with glam showgirl designs, while automaker Lincoln enjoys a notable product placement when Ford’s character wins a 1955 Lincoln Futura, a one-off concept car — if the car looks familiar, it’s because it would be repainted and used as the Batmobile for TV’s Batman series in 1966, starring Adam West and Burt Ward.