Embarrassment of Riches
Tennessee Williams Film Collection (Warner Bros.)
All that's missing from this boxed set -- six movies, one doc, eight discs -- is a jar of sweat; even Williams is here, in a 1973 documentary. Then there's Brando, Beatty, Newman, Taylor, Burton, Gardner, Leigh, Malden, Huston, Kazan -- the last of the red hots, when they were burning at their sexed-up, whacked-out brightest. The centerpiece is obviously A Streetcar Named Desire, expanded into a whiz-bang twofer containing everything from 23-year-old Brando's screen test to a handful of outtakes and numerous makings-of. But just as humid are the other entries, among them the creepy-crawly Baby Doll, the damp-sheet use-'em-and-lose-'em Sweet Bird of Youth,and the one-two-punch-up of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Watch with the air conditioning on; it's getting hot in here. -- Robert Wilonsky
Before getting the indie world all atwitter with the gloopy joy of Amlie, Jean-Pierre Jeunet made films of a considerably darker tint. Delicatessen, along with The City of Lost Children, is the highlight of Jeunet's collaboration with Marc Caro, who helped temper Jeunet's visual gifts with a shadowy streak. Not just another post-apocalyptic black romantic cannibal comedy, Delicatessen is filled with wonderful set pieces and small moments of beauty. Most center around the clownlike talents of rubber-faced lead Dominique Pinon, who transforms mundane acts like painting the ceiling into little ballets. The film's not perfect -- especially in its very French disdain for the concept of pacing. But its mixture of comedy, horror, science fiction, and music is a welcome reminder that independent film isn't bland by definition. -- Jordan Harper
Broadway's Lost Treasures Collection (Acorn Media)
This 360-minute collection of Broadway classics as performed on the Tonys forms a remarkable archive for an ephemeral art. While only a fanatic would watch all four discs straight through, even a casual fan will enjoy cherry-picking performances like Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd, Jerry Orbach (who, before Law & Order, was a major Broadway player) in 42nd Street and Chicago, and Yul Brynner in The King and I. There's also music from Cabaret, West Side Story, and Guys and Dolls, just to scratch the surface. For those who hate tap-dancing, the fourth disc covers non-musical performances; with offerings from James Earl Jones, Gary Sinise, Kevin Kline, and Annette Bening, even theater-phobic viewers will find something interesting here. -- J.H.
Kate & Allie: The First Season (Universal)
Eliminate the ham-and-cheesy soundtrack and the braying laugh track, and Kate & Allieholds up better than most 1980s sitcoms. Perhaps it was the acting: Jane Curtin and Susan Saint James, already big-screen pals in the chick-flick caper How to Beat the High Co$t of Living, had the old-pal patter down like Altman escapees. Or maybe it was the subject matter, this gender-bending of Odd Couplematerial that swaps the sarcasm for sincerity tinged with acrimony and autonomy. Or perhaps it was the suggestion these divorcées were more than friends. ("What's Allie doing in the closet?" Kate asks, and a literal gag takes on subtextual weight.) It was beloved then -- these scant six episodes, the first of which co-stars a thin and dapper Kelsey Grammer, scored top-10 ratings and led to five more full seasons -- and deserves your affections even now. -- R.W.
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