Monday, August 02, 2010

DVD: Discs I Should Have Mentioned Last Month

Night Train to Munich (1940). It’s hard to believe that a thriller written by the team of Gilliat & Launder (The Lady Vanishes) and directed by Carol Reed (Odd Man Out, The Third Man) could be forgotten. Luckily the Criterion Collection has rescued it from oblivion. A Czech munitions expert is able to flee the German invasion of his homeland, but his daughter (Margaret Lockwood) is left behind. She escapes a prison camp and makes her way to England, where her father is under the watch of singing spy Rex Harrison. (OK, he doesn’t sing, exactly. He sort of ... Rex Harrisons it.) Only her lucky break isn’t what it appears to be. Soon Harrison is in Germany, masquerading as a Nazi officer mere hours before war is declared, trying to spirit Lockwood and her father back to freedom. It’s grand entertainment in the Hitchcock mode: romantic badinage (of a sort, given that the prickly, preening Harrison only loves himself), derring-do and a slam-bang climax at an exotic locale. Charters and Caldicott, the upper-crust gents played by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne in several films beginning with The Lady Vanishes, lend a stiff upper lip here.

It Came From Kuchar (2009). Jennifer Kroot’s engaging documentary about the brothers George and Mike Kuchar, stars of the 1960s underground film circuit – John Waters cites their alternative take on Hollywood genres as a huge influence – who have never stopped making movies and plundering their own lives for material. (For decades George has taught a legendary hands-on course in filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute.) A low-key look at the obsessive need to create.