Kate, Errol, & 7 Butts

Classic box sets for the film purist.

Benjamin Franklin said the only certainties in this world are death and taxes.

I would add (1) the strange popularity of American Idol, and (2) the endless supply of classic films turning up in fancy box collections.

HepburnSince I have zero interest in Sanjaya’s hairdos and less than zero interest in his vocal cords, I’ll concern myself instead with the second category, namely new collections devoted to Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, and “essential” American musicals. …

The title of the Hepburn set, The Katharine Hepburn 100th Anniversary Collection , is maybe a bit misleading because, believe it or not, she really didn’t appear in movies for 100 years. No, they’re celebrating the centennial of her birth (1907) with a box containing Morning Glory (1933), Sylvia Scarlett (1936), Dragon Seed (1944), Without Love (1945), Undercurrent (1946), and The Corn Is Green (1978), the latter being a fine TV remake of a Bette Davis classic. Hepburn won her first of four Oscars for Morning Glory, and it’s easy to see why, but I would single out a couple of the other titles for the must-haves of this set. In Sylvia Scarlett she spends much of the film in drag as a boy who seems to hold great allure for leading men Cary Grant and Brian Aherne. And in Dragon Seed she plays a Chinese girl (I swear I’m not making this up) who becomes a guerrilla to oppose the invading Japanese. (Note: Although I had never seen this film version of the Pearl S. Buck novel, I do recall reading the book at Flynnrather an early age and being maybe a bit too interested in a section where a handsome young Chinese man is gang-raped by a group of Japanese soldiers. Hurd Hatfield, as far as I can tell, plays that young man in the movie, but don’t expect to see that rape scene in a movie from 1944.) …

Considering all the stories, rumors, and innuendos associated with heartthrob Errol Flynn (accused rapist, Nazi agent, bisexual), one almost expects, or hopes, to find him getting it on with a horde of Japanese soldiers in at least one of the films contained in Errol Flynn: The Signature Collection Volume 2. Unfortunately, you won’t find anything like that in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Dawn Patrol (1938), Dive Bomber (1941), Gentleman Jim (1942), or even The Adventures of Don Juan (1948). However, Flynn was probably the “sexiest man alive” of his day, and in this collection you get him in top form as swashbuckler, rogue, and hero–if not rape victim. Actually, I didn’t get around to viewing the rather suggestively titled Dive Bomber, so I’m not really sure what the rascal is up to in that one. …

AmMusicalsEssential Classics: American Musicals includes only three examples of film musical Americana: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and The Music Man (1962). While none of these are what I’d call personal favorites, I guess I’d agree that all three are essential viewing for expanding one’s cinema literacy. For instance, you need to know that the really high point in Meet Me in St. Louis is the scene where cute little Margaret O’Brien brags about killing an old man! You need to hear Shirley Jones’ version of “‘Til There Was You” in The Music Man, so you can compare it with the Beatles’ version. And although Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is hardly what I’d call a great musical, it should be noted that those brothers do quite a lot of very athletic dancing. The film could have been called Seven Butts on Seven Brothers. From Warner Home Video ( The Katharine Hepburn set is available May 29.

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