Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (Network). When the credit titles are designed by Saul Bass you guess you are going to see something with a bit of class. Otto Preminger’s 1955 film about drug addiction is a first-rate example of 1950’s melodrama. A gaunt Frank Sinatra plays a crooked card dealer trying to kick the habit. He wants to go straight and be a drummer. It’s one of his best performances and the role strictly speaking deserves a tragic ending. There’s strong support from Kim Novak as a good friend, Arnold Stag as a retarded pal and by Eleanor Parker in a wheelchair, faking disability, and being thoroughly unpleasant. Elmer Bernstein gets in on the melodramatic act, too, and provides an over-the-top theatrical score.
BLIND (Axiom). An interesting Norwegian film, written and directed by Eskil Vogt, observes and attempts to understand blindness. He focuses on what a blind woman (convincingly acted by Ellen Dorrit Petersen) “sees” in her mental space and in her inner thoughts and the fantasies she creates. He draws a parallel between a blind person and someone who watches porn on the Internet. The blind cannot see but can touch. The voyeur can see but cannot touch. Vogt plays about with reality and time. The film may prove just that bit too overly complicated for some audiences.
50 SHADES OF GREY (Universal). Everybody said it was trash; but that didn’t stop E L James’s erotic novel topping the best sellers lists world-wide. It’s now a film directed by a woman, Sam Taylor Johnson. Female virginal college student wants romance and love. 27-year-old male millionaire wants bondage, dominance, submission and sadomasochism. So what is the poor girl to do? She has to go the playroom to be punished with whips and chains. Dakota Johnson has to take off all her clothes. Jamie Dorman is allowed to keep his pants on. “I don’t do romance,” he says. “I don’t sleep with anyone.” The porn is soft: no genitalia, no orgasm, so what’s the point? I, for one, I shall not be reading the book.
40 GUNS (Eureka). Samuel Fuller, famed for his violence and his tracking shots, writes, directs and produces this 1957 western, which has been underrated and overrated in the past. Barbara Stanwyck (cast as a rich and corrupt ranch owner) sits at the head of a long table at which sit 40 hired gunmen, a striking image. As the song says she’s a high riding woman with a whip. Is there a man big enough, strong enough and tall enough to take her whip away? John Erickson (playing her brother, a baddie) uses Stanwyck as a shield in a gun fight. Will Barry Sullivan (as a sheriff who hasn’t killed anybody in ten years) kill her in order to kill him? Well, you never know.