Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Recent DVD Releases (The First in a Series)

Here are two recent DVD releases that might be of interest to the public. Particularly if you're into exploitation films made after 1960.

(DVD cover of 1964's The Secret Invasion .)

The Secret Invasion (1964; Fox/MGM.) Infamous tight-fisted (with a budget) director Roger Corman (The Fall of the House of Usher; The Intruder .) came up with the idea for a World War II adventure film while at his dentist's office. Shot on location in and around Croatia and the former Yugoslavia, the film revolves around a British Major (Stewart Granger )and the six convicts (including Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, Henry Silva and Mickey Rooney )he leads to rescue a Italian General in 1943 from the Nazis, but unforseen events confront them at every turn. Though the acting is fine, Corman's direction is somewhat draggy and there's a plot twist involving Silva's character (who's ultimately redeemed) that may turn some viewers off. Note that the similar, bigger-budgeted Dirty Dozen would come out three years later. (95 min./Color)

Navajo Joe (1966;Fox/MGM.) For years, star Burt Reynolds put down this film, claiming at various times it was the worst movie he'd ever made. (This from the guy who starred in such classics as Hustle , Stroker Ace and Cop and a Half .) Don't believe him.

Directed by Sergio Corbucci (Django ; The Hellbenders ), Navajo Joe has a involving plot, some great stunts (many by Reynolds himself), a strong supporting performance by spaghetti western vet Aldo Sambrell as the Indian scalping head villain and a pace that never lets up. Plus there's a typically rousing music score by Ennio Morricone (billed as "Leo Nichols") that adds to the tone of the movie. The ending may be seen as a little downbeat to some, but the response of the audience I saw this with at NYC's Film Forum over a year ago was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Take that Burt! (92 min./Color)

Here's the trailer for Navajo Joe. Note the lack of dialogue scenes:

Update: Here are online reviews of Secret Invasion and Navajo Joe that go more in depth.

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