Amazing New/Old B Movie Releases

Foreign Correspondent: four stars out of five — Alfred Hitchcock made so many great movies, some of the genius gets lost in the gushing praise for Psycho and North By Northwest — and all the other movies with big American stars. Yet, just about every picture is a pearl and Foreign Correspondent stands out as one of the most polished pieces of entertainment ever made.

Completed in 1940, the same year he made his Oscar-winning Rebecca, this war-era propaganda piece features Joel McCrea as an American journalist in Europe. He doggedly chases down his story of a brewing war, and the viewer rides shotgun as he gets tripped up, turned around and scammed by pretty dames along the way.

Special features include new 2K digital restoration, interview with Mark Harris, Dick Cavett interview footage with Hitchcock, trailer, booklet and more.

The Big Gundown: Three stars out of five — It bills itself as The Ultimate Spaghetti Western. But The Big Gundown’s box also contains a small-print caveat from Leonard Maltin: “the best non-Sergio Leone” spaghetti western, which may explain why most North Americans haven’t heard of this Lee Van Cleef marvel of western cliché served up with pesto Pancho stereotypes.

Thanks to Grindhouse Releasing archivists, this B-movie has been resurrected from the dust of Italy’s back lots and re-mastered for your viewing pleasure. Even the soundtrack has been cleaned up, although, given that most of the dialogue seems to be dubbed in after the fact — even in the English version — you wonder why they bothered.

Van Cleef looks so comfortable in the role of the wily bounty hunter who gets his man that most the action is entirely predictable in this Sergio Sollima knock-off, but that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t entertaining. How can you resist lines like “I stopped playing with guns when I was a little boy,” uttered from a gunslinger to a duellist? They just don’t make them like they used to.

Special features include additional scenes, the Italian director’s cut, audio commentary and more.

Two Jacks: Three stars out of five — There are two surprises in this double-Jack package. The first is how well the days of Tsarist Russian literature translates into a story of Hollywood insiders. The second is the fact that Danny Huston and Jack Huston (real life uncle and nephew) haven’t appeared together on the big screen until Bernard Rose decided to adapt Leo Tolstoy’s short story, Two Hussars, into a darkly comic tale of father and son.

Though this ambitious little project never finds a slick groove to writhe around in for the duration, it does conjure the whole Hollywood scene with a great feel for the emotionally alienating details, such as being a nobody, or worse yet, a has-been, at a cocktail party attended by the rich and famous.

Pity and ego are the ugliest of bedmates, but director Rose makes a thick custard of self-conscious denial, and serves it up in a jelly jar — without much style or class, but also without a huge investment of time or money. Special features include behind the scenes footage, featurette and film festival Q & A.

Burton and Taylor: Two and a half stars out of five — Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West do a heck of a lot better than Lindsay Lohan and Grant Bowler as the famed, inflamed and frequently defamed celebrity couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in this BBC production.