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Classic's charm still resonates

Classic's charm still resonates
By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

A fascinating television series and two classic movies are in this week's DVD review column.

Monster Quest: The Complete First Season
A sure bet to take is if I find a documentary on television about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Champie or any other elusive beast, I'm watching it and the History Channel's new series "Monster Quest" is just my cup of tea.
The field of cryptozoology the science of hidden animals is one at which some people might scoff, but the interesting thing is there are more new species of animals being discovered than you might think. This series takes a fairly hard look at a number of animals that may be real or just legend.
What I like about it is its emphasis on obtaining hard evidence tracks, hair, credible photos and video and putting them to forensic examination. Sometimes the results are disheartening for the researchers, but sometimes they aren't.
For instance, on one show about giant squid, video footage was obtained by placing a video camera onto a smaller squid which made its way into the depths and caught a giant cousin on screen. Another episode on very large fish also delivered the goods.
The creepiest moment on the show was on one of the segments dedicated to trying to find evidence of Bigfoot. There were two instances in which the camera crew, located in amazingly remote spots, was pelted with rocks. The primate experts involved in the search reported such behavior was common among apes trying to ward off interlopers from their territory.
If you're a disbeliver these shows aren't for you, but if you have an open mind and think the world still has some mysteries check out this boxed set.

Scarface
I've never sat through the Brian DePalma/Al Pacino remake of this classic 1932 gangster film based loosely on the life and career of Al Capone largely because the first film is so good.
You don't need explicit language and exploding blood squibs to make the point just how brutal the fictional mobster Tony Camonte really was. As played by Paul Muni, a great actor who is largely forgotten today, Camonte is a deadly blend of thug and clever politician. He understands how to achieve power and how to keep it until he goes to the extreme and then things begin to unravel.
Producer Howard Hughes and director Howard Hawks took a page out of Warner Brothers' playbook by making a film "torn from today's headlines." It is both a clever exploitation film that capitalized on the organized crime born out of prohibition and an appeal to audiences to support reform.
This new DVD release has the alternative ending that Hughes shot to try to placate the New York State Censorship Board that showed Camonte going through the legal system and being hung for his sins. Apparently the original ending of him going down in a blaze of gunfire didn't depict an appropriate amount of justice!
This is an essential 1930s era film for any serious film buff's collection.

No Man of Her Own
This 1932 "dramady" features Clark Gable and Carole Lombard before the two were married and it is an interesting, if not an emotionally satisfying, film.
Gable plays Babe, a card shark who leaves New York to lay low in a small town since a police detective began investigating his racket. He has admitted that he is a heel when it comes to women and is prone to loving them and leaving them.
And that is what we expect to happen when he meets the small town's librarian played by Lombard. This time, though, he marries the woman, bringing her back to New York and then masks his illegal gambling activities. When she finds out what he is doing, the question is whether or not she will stay with him.
The film is slow going and relies greatly in the charm and chemistry of the two stars. I liked the film for that reason as the story does treat the characters a bit illogically at times.
Made before the Production Code and self-censorship came in 1933, "No Man of Her Own" has some sexual references that may surprise today's audiences who are unaware of what movies were like in the early 1930s.


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