Silver Screen Series, Vol. 2 [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • Digitally mastered
  • Interactive menus
  • Chapter selections
  • Digitally enhanced audio 5.1

Synopsis

Catherine the Great
This historical drama recounts the events that led up to the rule of Russia's 18th-century Catherine the Great. Arriving from Germany as a young woman who is to wed Grand Duke Peter, she soon becomes caught up in the court intrigue and marries the lit-fuse duke. As the Grand Duke's mother lays dying, she relates her fears about her son's mental states, leaving Catherine to contend with his irrational and cruel behavior. When he goes too far with his antics, he is overthrown and put to death, though not by her wishes. Soon, however, Catherine is made the new Czaritza and restores order to her country. Elisabeth Bergner stars with Douglas Fairbanks in this British production. ~ Kristie Hassen, Rovi

Home Town Story
Home Town Story was commissioned as a pro-Big Business tract by General Motors. The story revolves around Blake Washburn, a mildly leftist newspaperman, played by Jeffrey Lynn. Returning to his home town, Washburn turns his journalistic vitriol upon the local business interests. Only after his kid sister Katie (Melinda Plowman), trapped in a cave-in, is rescued by locally produced technology, does Washburn realize the value of the capitalistic system. Home Town Story was fitfully distributed by MGM, then lapsed into obscurity. It might have remained there had it not been for the presence of a young Marilyn Monroe in a supporting part. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Rain
The pleasures of the flesh confront the discipline of the Lord's teachings in this screen adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's story Miss Sadie Thompson. Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford) is a sassy streetwalker who lands in Pago Pago in the South Pacific after an epidemic grounds the ship on which she's booked passage. Sadie's shapely legs, free spirit, and quick wit soon attract the attention of a group of American soldiers stationed on the island; while most are motivated by simple lust, the naive Sgt. O'Hara (William Gargan) falls head over heels for Sadie, thoroughly unaware of her checkered past and shameful profession. Rev. Alfred Davidson (Walter Huston), a fire-and-brimstone preacher bent on bringing salvation to the soldiers, is fully aware of Sadie's occupation and moral code, and is determined to convince her to change her ways. Sadie slowly but surely is softened by Davidson's conviction, but the preacher soon finds himself affected by her sensual presence; O'Hara also learns the truth about Sadie, but hatches his own plan to reform her -- marriage. While a box office failure in 1932, Rain has gone on to become a cult favorite, thanks to Crawford's vivid performance as Sadie and director Lewis Milestone's adventurous visual style. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Oliver Twist
Ostensibly a vehicle for Jackie Coogan, the 1922 Oliver Twist refuses to realign the Charles Dickens novel to accommodate the personality of its star. This Frank Lloyd-directed silent film is one of the most faithful of all cinematic adaptations of the Dickens work. The orphaned Oliver, labelled a "troublemaker" because he dares to ask for more food, is farmed out to work as an undertaker's assistant. Escaping his cruel master, Oliver falls in with a gang of pickpockets, headed by the colorful Fagin (played by Lon Chaney Sr., who steals a lot more than a few watches and wallets in the course of the picture). Kindly Mr. Brownlow (Lionel Belmore), Oliver's real grandfather, tries to help the lad, but the evil Bill Sikes (George Siegmann) complicates matters. While Jackie Coogan may seem a bit too well-fed and self-sufficient to play Oliver, he was certainly more suited to the role than the star of the 1916 filmization of Oliver Twist--actress Marie Doro! Long believed to be a lost film, Oliver Twist was painstakingly restored in the early 1970s, using bits and pieces from various foreign prints and negatives. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

King Lear
One of the first important distinctions to be made about this version of King Lear is that it is not the same version directed by Peter Brook in 1971. Brook was responsible for the staging of this 1953 version, but it was Andrew McCullough who put it to film. Orson Welles portrays the titular character, one of the most memorable and important characters from the Shakespearean canon. The story begins with the famous request Lear makes of his daughters: to express how much they love him. In exchange, Lear will divide his land and power amongst them based on the extent of their answers. Cordelia (Natasha Parry), the youngest and the one whom Lear loves the most, answers very modestly -- yet honestly --and incurs the wrath of Lear, who not only withholds his gift to her, but banishes her as well. Lear divides his lands and power between the two older daughters, Goneril (Beatrice Straight) and Regan (Margaret Phillips), who intend to take swift and complete control of their father's power almost instantaneously. Lear is reduced to an angry, bitter man who realizes too late what has happened. After a series of indignities are inflicted upon him by his daughters, he retreats into a storm, vowing revenge. This film is an above-average adaptation with a very capable cast and a well-staged presentation. The subplot of Gloucester and his sons has been removed, however, presumably in interests of time conservation, but it doesn't seriously hinder the story. ~ Ryan Shriver, Rovi

The Private Life of Henry VIII
Charles Laughton became an international star by chewing both mutton and scenes in his Oscar-winning turn as King Henry VIII. Alexander Korda's British super-production also put the British cinema on the map, which, until this film, received precious little respect in the international film community. The film, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, details the private life of the famous British monarch. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, is barely mentioned -- explained away by a prologue which states that she was "too respectable to be included." Henry then marries Anne Boleyn (Merle Oberon) but she is soon beheaded. His next wife, Jane Seymour (Wendy Barrie), dies during childbirth. His next wife is Anne of Cleves (Elsa Lanchester, in a prelude to her Bride of Frankenstein role), whom Henry reluctantly beds with his famous sigh, "The things I've done for England." They divorce and Henry next marries Katherine Howard (Binnie Barnes), who also finds herself beheaded when she has an affair with Henry's friend, Thomas Culpepper (Robert Donat). Finally, Henry is brought down to size with his final wife, Catherine Parr (Everley Gregg). ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Three Guys Named Mike
Pretty stewardess Marcy Lewis (Jane Wyman) must choose between Three Guys Named Mike in this frothy MGM concoction. There's Mike Lawrence (Van Johnson), a science student who moonlights as a bartender. There's Mike Tracy (Barry Sullivan), a wheeler-dealer ad executive. And finally, there's Mike Jamison (Howard Keel), a handsome airline pilot. Marcy's love life is counterpointed with her ever-increasing expertise on her job; the more self-assured she becomes, the more she changes her views about men. It wouldn't be cricket to reveal which "Mike" Marcy finally chooses, though the order of billing is something of a giveaway. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Whistle Stop
In this drama, Mary (Ava Gardner) returns to her small town after she becomes a success in the city. Meeting up with her old love, Kenny (George Raft), she discovers that he is still the unambitious, lazy man he was when she left, and she begins an affair with nightclub owner Lew Lentz (Tom Conway). When a jealous rivalry arises between Lew and Kenny, the results could be deadly. ~ Iotis Erlewine, Rovi

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