Paul Wegener in The Golem (Photo: Kino Classics)

(View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray and DVD. Ratings are on a four-star scale.)

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Martine Carol, Sean Connery and Van Johnson in Action of the Tiger (Photo: Warner Archive)

ACTION OF THE TIGER (1957). Van Johnson, whose film roles generally required him to be as tough as a newborn puppy, lowers his voice and tries to pass as a gruff mercenary in Action of the Tiger, a perfunctory action yarn directed by Terence Young. A few years later, Young would be making cinematic history as the director of the first James Bond flick, Dr. No, so it’s interesting that this movie includes supporting roles for Anthony Dawson (a secondary villain in both films) and Sean Connery (here cast as a drunken, lecherous sailor). That trivia aside, there’s little of merit in this tale of Johnson’s merc agreeing to help a Frenchwoman (dull Martine Carol) rescue her brother (Gustavo Rojo) and a bunch of children from the clutches of Communists in Albania. Herbert Lom adds energy to the second half in the Anthony Quinn-like role of a lusty rebel leader, but his character eventually grows as tedious as everything else in this picaresque but plodding drama.

The only extra on the Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection is the theatrical trailer.

Movie: ★★

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James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again (Photo: Criterion)

DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939). In 1939, James Stewart was so positioned as a new all-American star that it’s not surprising the two classics he made that year both found him playing heroes named Jefferson. In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, he’s Jefferson Smith, an honest politician; in Destry Rides Again, he’s Thomas Jefferson Destry Jr., an honest deputy. Called to the town of Bottleneck to help wrest it from the control of the bullying Kent (Brian Donlevy), Destry arrives with no guns, espousing the belief that there are better ways to solve differences than through violence. Of course, this being an American movie, that notion is completely disregarded in time for the climax, but never mind: This is a rowdy and rousing Western comedy that also finds room for Marlene Dietrich in an atypical (and career-reviving) turn as Frenchy, the hardened saloon singer who falls for the aw-shucks outsider.

Blu-ray extras include an interview with author Donald Dewey (James Stewart: A Biography) and a 1945 radio adaptation starring Stewart and Joan Blondell.

Movie: ★★★½

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Paul Wegener in The Golem (Photo: Kino Classics)

THE GOLEM (1920). Part of the influential slate of silent horror films that emerged from the German Expressionism period (others were Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), The Golem was actually writer-director-star Paul Wegener’s third film based on the ancient Hebrew legend (alas, the two earlier versions have long been lost to time). Sporting the full title The Golem: How He Came Into the World, this finds a well-meaning Rabbi (Albert Steinrück) creating the title monstrosity (Wegener), a lumbering clay-man who eventually goes on a destructive rampage. The special effects and set designs are superb; ditto the cinematography by Karl Freund, the innovative cameraman who would later head to Hollywood to shoot Lugosi’s Dracula, direct Karloff’s The Mummy, and win an Oscar for his lensing of The Good Earth.

In addition to the 76-minute German version of The Golem (complete with 4K restoration), this Blu-ray edition from Kino Classics also contains the U.S. release version. Extras include audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas and a comparison of the German and U.S. cuts.

Movie: ★★★½

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Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier in Love Among the Ruins (Photo: Kino)

LOVE AMONG THE RUINS (1975). Although they had made their film debuts in, respectively, 1930 and 1932, and although they had been friends for almost as long, it wasn’t until 1975 that acting giants Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn finally starred in a film together — and a TV movie, at that. But Love Among the Ruins wasn’t a typical television production in that no expense was spared in its making — that included employing Hollywood legend George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story, My Fair Lady) as director. The result is a pleasant time-passer about a renowned barrister being hired to defend a wealthy widow against a charge of “breach of promise.” Interestingly, Love Among the Ruins went 6-for-7 at the Emmy Awards, winning everything except Outstanding Special — Drama or Comedy (the victor was the largely forgotten legal film The Law). Among the prizes it did snag were ones for Cukor and both of its delightful stars.

Blu-ray extras consist of audio commentary by film historian Stephen Vagg and trailers for other films starring Hepburn or Olivier.

Movie: ★★★

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Richard Widmark in Time Limit (Photo: Kino & MGM)

TIME LIMIT (1957). There have been dozens of actors who tried their one-and-done at directing, never again to venture behind the camera. Charles Laughton made the masterpiece The Night of the Hunter, Marlon Brando tackled the intriguing One-Eyed Jacks, Eddie Murphy tapped out with the cumbersome Harlem Nights, Dan Aykroyd mounted the unwatchable Nothing But Trouble, Drew Barrymore oversaw the irresistible (and underrated) Whip It, and so on. Often lost in the conversation is Karl Malden, the Oscar-winning actor who gave directing a shot with Time Limit. There’s not much that’s distinctive about his helming, but he nevertheless manages to put together a thoughtful piece in which a military officer (Richard Widmark) is tasked with investigating the actions of a former POW (Richard Basehart) accused of collaborating with the enemy. It’s ultimately a movie about messy morality, and it’s all the better for not providing facile answers to its probing questions.

The only  Blu-ray extras are the theatrical trailer as well as trailers for other films available on the Kino label.

Movie: ★★★

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Kevin Costner and Cheech Marin in Tin Cup (Photo: Warner Archive)

TIN CUP (1996). Eight years after collaborating on the best sports movie ever made, Bull Durham’s writer-director and star reunited for another film in the same vein. While Ron Shelton’s Tin Cup isn’t in the same league as Bull Durham (reviewed here), it’s still an amusing and intelligent riff on such topics as the spirituality of sports and the politics of romance. Kevin Costner plays Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, an unconventional golfer who’s content wasting away his days at a remote instructional course until the arrival of a brainy and beautiful psychiatrist (Rene Russo) spurs him to turn his life around by trying to win the U.S. Open. Costner has a ball (no pun intended) playing an overgrown kid who often confuses stubbornness with stupidity, and he’s aptly paired with Russo as his love interest, Don Johnson as his smarmy golfing rival, and Cheech Marin as his exasperated best friend and caddy.

The only extra on the Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection is the theatrical trailer.

Movie: ★★★

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Shirley MacLaine in Woman Times Seven (Photo: Kino & StudioCanal)

WOMAN TIMES SEVEN (1967). Director Vittoria De Sica and writer Cesare Zavattini were the pair responsible for the Italian neorealist classic The Bicycle Thief — merely one of the greatest films of all time — which makes it nigh impossible to believe they were the driving forces behind this dreary comedy. Shirley MacLaine plays seven different women in seven distinct vignettes, and even her boundless energy can’t drag any of the chapters into the win column. In “Paulette,” she’s a widow who’s wooed by her doctor (Peter Sellers) during her late husband’s funeral; in “Marie,” she’s an unhappily married woman who contemplates joint suicide alongside her lover (Alan Arkin); in “Jeanne,” she’s a happily married woman who becomes curious when she realizes a strange man (Michael Caine) is following her. And so it goes, with each episode alternating between boring and banal.

Blu-ray extras consist of audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger and trailers.

Movie: ★½

 

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