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The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete First Season
The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete First Season
DVD ~ Andy Griffith
Offered by The Thunder Cats
Price: $33.79
78 used & new from $5.18

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The law in an un-lawless town, January 2, 2016
I had never seen this classic sitcom--the first of the "rural" subgenre--when it was actually on TV, and had my doubts about it at first. But it grows on you, perhaps because, despite its occasional slapsticky feel, it's most often a warm, gentle, truly down-home series that just happens to take place in a community (Mayberry, NC) inhabited by a large cast of very individual people. Andy Taylor (Griffith) has served as sheriff and justice of the peace for five years while trying to bring up his motherless six-year-old son Opie (Ronny Howard)--the two love nothing better than to take the afternoon off and go fishing together--and keep his dithery cousin and deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts), out of trouble. (Barney's so incompetent that he's issued only one bullet at a time for his service handgun--and keeps it in the breast pocket of his shirt; but he's also very much a by-the-book type, and several of the conflicts in the series arise from this, since Andy, whom he admires, is much more laid back and easygoing.) Andy's Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) provides a mother-figure for father, son, and cousin alike, lady druggist Ellie (Elinor Donahue of "Father Knows Best" fame) appears as Andy's underplayed romantic interest, and such local folks as barber Floyd Lawson (Howard McNear), town drunk and frequent resident of Andy's two-cell jail Otis Campbell (Hal Smith), Barney's girlfriend Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn), and pompous Mayor Pike (Dick Elliott) provide foils for both lawmen. Yet Andy also has a lot of down-home wisdom and insight into human character, and he's not without his share of cleverness, as we see in one episode in which he helps the State Police to capture an escaped convict without a drop of blood being spilled. Apart from this, there is, as many people have observed, almost no crime at all in Mayberry, except for Otis's regular toots, and that gives Andy plenty of time to hang out at Miss Ellie's drugstore, play with his country band (he's not bad on the guitar), go fishing with Opie, and impart assorted wise saws to the people around him. Occasionally I found the humor a little overdone--watching it made me squirm--but that's true of most sitcoms.

My Three Sons: Season 1, Vol. 1
My Three Sons: Season 1, Vol. 1
DVD ~ Fred MacMurray
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $10.33
43 used & new from $5.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Five men in the house, January 2, 2016
Six (or less) degrees of separation: in his younger days, Fred MacMurray appeared in several theatrical Westerns (notably Gun for a Coward, Quantez, and Day of the Badman ( Day of the Bad man ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - France ], as well as the premiere episode of "Cimarron City"); of the many great classic Westerns now available on DVD, two ("Gunsmoke" and "Rawhide") are consistently issued in split-season format, as is MacMurray's equally classic family sitcom--so I'm going to make the review of the first 18 episodes do for both halves. MacMurray plays Steve Douglas, a former AAC pilot and now an engineer working in the Missiles & Space Division of United R&D, which gets a lot of military contracts. He's been a widower for six years and is trying to be both parents to his sons, Mike (Tim Considine), a high-school senior, 15-year-old Robbie (Don Grady), and second-grader Chip (Stanley Livingston), with the help of live-in father-in-law (and chief cook, bottle-washer, and just-about-everything-else domestic) Michael Francis "Bub" O'Casey (William Frawley), the former manager of a vaudeville theater who still has contacts in the entertainment industry. Steering three boys through the pitfalls of school, girl trouble, neighbor trouble, and assorted other confusions without a woman's hand on the tiller isn't easy, but Steve, like Ward Cleaver, seldom fails to find a useful lesson in the sometimes crazy happenings around his house at 837 Mill Street. Jealousy, nosy neighbors, college applications (and fraternity recruitment) for Mike, discipline, allowances, and overactive juvenile imaginations are just a few of the challenges this all-male household faces--along with, predictably, woman trouble for everyone from Steve down to Chip, not excluding Mike, even though he's been going with Jean Pearson, next door, "pretty much all our lives." There's even one genuinely suspenseful segment in which Steve, away from home on a business trip, is convinced his family is in danger--which, unknown to him, it is: family mutt Tramp has brought home a stick of unstable dynamite. MacMurray is, of course, the pivot-post of both series and family and the glue that holds everything together; this part may well have been the defining one of his varied career (he was active for over 40 years and died in 1991 at age 83).

Scarecrow and Mrs. King: Season 2
Scarecrow and Mrs. King: Season 2
DVD ~ Kate Jackson
Price: $21.82
26 used & new from $9.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Agents at home and abroad, January 2, 2016
In the summer of 1984, camera crews swarmed all over Western Europe as several top-rated CBS TV shows--"Simon & Simon," "Magnum, PI," "Remington Steele," and this one--sent their regulars to the Continent. As might be expected of a series based on international intrigue, S&MK did it five times--in London (twice), Munich (ditto), and Salzburg--to the accompaniment of the expected perils and occasional confusion, as Amanda King (Kate Jackson) and Lee "Scarecrow" Stetson (Bruce Boxleitner) battle Eastern Bloc agents, turncoats, and, back home, security-leakers, economic conspiracies, white-slavery rings, political murder, organized crime, and terrorism, including one unexpected team-up with Lee's uncle, the Air Force colonel who raised him and is now threatened with a court-martial. Though Lee sometimes still gets impatient with Amanda's housewifely mishaps, and insists that he works alone, this season shows a bond definitely growing between them: he praises her courage and initiative when she improvises a way to take a bad guy out of play, exchanges triumphant hugs with her when a mission is successful, and when she's in danger shows his concern (if not to her)--including once threatening the man responsible with the prospect of being the quarry of every American agent on the planet. Amanda's shy but obvious attraction to him is growing stronger, and she's even got a way to excuse her mysterious absences from home--the Agency's cover entity, I.F.F., has "hired" her on a part-time basis, and since it's supposedly a documentary-film company, she has an excuse for bopping off to Europe on no notice. Section Chief Billy Melrose (Mel Stewart) shows his mettle in several segments that find him out in the field with his agents, and Francine Desmond (Martha Smith) displays both skill and developing appreciation for Amanda. Amanda herself even gets a much more attractive haircut--a short, curly bob that suits her much better than '80's shags. This season maintains the quality and momentum of its predecessor, and fans won't be disappointed.

Scarecrow and Mrs. King: Season 1
Scarecrow and Mrs. King: Season 1
DVD ~ Kate Jackson
36 used & new from $7.91

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The unexpected agent, January 2, 2016
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this quirky '80's mix of humor, international intrigue, and (very!) understated romance. Amanda (never "Mandy") King (Kate Jackson) is a "typical housewife," 33 years old, a mainstay of the PTA, the Little League, and the Scouts, with a college degree (major in English lit, minor in photojournalism--she probably planned on a career as a newspaper reporter), "a house (in suburban Arlington, VA), a mortgage, two children (Phillip (Paul Stout), 10, and Jamie (Greg Morton), eight), and a mother (the sometimes slightly dithery Dotty West (Beverly Garland), who shares quarters with her daughter and grandsons)"; she's been divorced for a year and is now tentatively dating a weatherman named Dean (whose face we never see). Lee Stetson (Bruce Boxleitner), who has something of an international reputation under his code name of "Scarecrow," is a service brat and top-rated agent for the otherwise-unspecified "Agency," working out of a front office that proclaims it an independent documentary-film company; emotionally battered by his parents' deaths when he was very young and a strict and unsympathetic uncle who raised him, he's already lost one partner and is determined never to have another. When he's handed a package of vital information and has to go on the run from the people who want it back, he ends up at the Washington Amtrak station, where he passes it off to Amanda with instructions to give it to "the man in the red hat." Though things don't quite go as planned, Lee's Section Chief, Billy Melrose (Mel Stewart), approves of Amanda's intuitive style and ability to think on her feet and improvise (vital gifts for a mother of young boys), and keeps calling on her for courier work, cover jobs, and eventually clerical tasks that expose her to a lot of confidential information. Since this is 1983, the KGB and the Eastern Bloc are still major threats to U.S. security, and Amanda and Lee, often thrown willy-nilly into unofficial partnership, find themselves opposing agents of both, along with international gunrunners, defectors, free-lance assassins, and traitors.

Amanda's not conventionally pretty, with her tall boyish figure, shaggy '80's haircuts, and often endearingly squeaky voice, but Jackson brings her to delightful life, showing the conflicts between family and unexpected new career, including the necessity of often lying to her mother about what she's up to--and the unexpected wellsprings of courage and initiative she discovers within herself. Lee is smooth and tough, if something of a playboy, and his fellow agent, the always-perfectly-coiffed, domestically-helpless, and sometimes snarky Francine Desmond (Martha Smith), adds an underplayed note of humor teamed with, as needed, flinty purpose and competence. The series also has a very coherent, unified feel to it, probably because, out of the 21 episodes in this season, six were scripted by series creators Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner, four by producer Peter Lefcourt, three by Rudolf Borchert, two by Tom Sawyer, and one by executive producer Juanita Bartlett--over three-quarters of the whole.

How Green Was My Valley
How Green Was My Valley
DVD ~ Walter Pidgeon
Price: $9.99
67 used & new from $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars In the shadow of the pithead, January 2, 2016
This review is from: How Green Was My Valley (DVD)
I remember that when I was in high school I struggled through the book on which this film is based (for required summer reading) and didn't enjoy the process one whit. So I had my doubts about the movie--and, in fact, its ending does leave viewers a bit up in the air about the fates of two of the major characters. Yet it's also an engaging story of family bonds and trials. Around 1899, young Huw (Hugh) Morgan (Roddy McDowall in his first major role) lives in a Welsh village where "the colliery" has only just begun to change the land and the lives of the people. His father Gwilym (Donald Crisp) and brothers Ivor (Patric Knowles), Ianto (YAN-to) (John Loder), Owen (James Monks), Davy (Richard Fraser), and Gwilym (Evan S. Evans) are all coal miners and proud of the work they do; his mother Beth (Sara Allgood) and big sister Angharad (an-GAR-ad) (Maureen O'Hara) are the glue that holds the family together. After Huw is very nearly crippled for life in saving his mother from an icy pond, the whole family resolves that he shall have a better life than the mine has to offer, and with the help of the new pastor, Mr. Gruffydd (Griffith) (Walter Pidgeon), he's prepared for the "National School" in one of the nearby valleys. But a tyrannical schoolmaster (Morton Lowry) and the scorn of his mates for a "dirty" miner's child make him choose the colliery even after attaining honors. Meanwhile there are moments of joy, such as Ivor's wedding to Bronwen (Anna Lee) and his summons to a command performance before the Queen with his choir of singers; of conflict, such as Huw's brothers' advocacy of a union, which Gwilym Sr. condemns as socialism; of tragedy, such as Ivor's loss in a mine mishap and the gradual fracturing of the family, with the older boys, one after another, discharged from the mine and leaving for America and points beyond; and, astonishingly, of great honor, as Iestyn (YES-tin) Evans (Marten Lamont), the son of the mine owner, asks permission to court Angharad, and marries her despite her love for Gruffydd. (Exactly why he takes her to South Africa instead of staying on to run the mine--or returning after his father's death--is, frustratingly, never explained; maybe that sequence ended up on the cutting-room floor.)

Crisp won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Gwilym Sr., and deserved it; he creates a strict but loving paterfamilias who insidiously works his way into your sympathies. (McDowall should probably have gotten a special award for his role.) The reproduction of Welsh life, the distinctive lilt and grammar of their speech, and their beautiful spontaneous singing (done in Welsh by actual Welsh singers) are high points, and Gruffydd and Angharad's understated romance is nicely done--but it would have been nice to know whether they ever got together in the end. (I suppose I'll have to read the book again to find out.)

Heller in Pink Tights
Heller in Pink Tights
DVD ~ Sophia Loren
22 used & new from $3.23

3.0 out of 5 stars Before the footlights, January 2, 2016
This review is from: Heller in Pink Tights (DVD)
Tom Healy (Anthony Quinn) is the owner of the Healy Dramatic & Concert Company, one of the many small, struggling road outfits that moved from place to place during the 19th Century, stopping in each town where a useable venue could be found to put on one or more stage shows. His leading lady, Angela Rossini (Sophia Loren), has extravagant tastes that have set the company fleeing from a Nebraska sheriff; his heavy, Manfred "Doc" Montague (Edmund Lowe), is getting too old for jouncy road travel; and his ingénue, Della Southby (former child star Margaret O'Brien), is determined to make her mother, Lorna Hathaway (Eileen Heckart), stop treating her like a child (she's almost 21, but Lorna insists she's 16). In Cheyenne, they find what looks like a good deal with saloon-and-theater owner Sam Pierce (George Mathews), and even stage a smashing success with a performance of "Mazeppa"--until that Nebraska sheriff shows up with a writ of attachment that's been validated by the local JP. Meanwhile Angela, desperately trying to win enough money at poker to pay off the debt, stakes herself in a game with gunfighter Clint Mabry (Steve Forrest), and loses. When the company flees town, Mabry follows, and ends up guiding them through perilous Indian country (at the cost of their wagons) and over snowbound mountains to safety at a mission church. But Tom has lost his spirit and declares the company broken up. In the mining camp of Bonanza, where Mabry has a bone to pick with the man (Ramon Navarro) who hired him to kill three prospectors and then reneged on payment and tried to have him eliminated, Angela's "creative financing" unexpectedly brings the troupe a home and success.

Loren is a bit improbable in her role--there were comparatively few Italians in this country until the 1880's and beyond, and even those in entertainment were likely to be connected to music, not the spoken word--and the ending is ambiguous and slightly disappointing, which is why I rate it at three stars. But seeing the busty Sophia, like Ada Isaacs Menken, playing the title role in the old melodrama (in a fiery red wig!) is fun--and it's by way of the play that Mabry finds himself indebted to Tom for his life, which may be why he (apparently) relinquishes his claim on Angela.

Heaven with a Gun
Heaven with a Gun
DVD ~ Glenn Ford
Price: $17.99
17 used & new from $15.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes it really does take a village, January 2, 2016
This review is from: Heaven with a Gun (DVD)
In the New Mexico town of Vinegarroon, there's no church, but there's a land war between cattlemen and "sheepers"--sheep raisers who, the ranchers say, will ruin the range. When Jim Killian (Glenn Ford) stops to bury one of the victims, he quickly finds himself in a fight with Coke Beck (David Carradine) and his buddy Ned Hunter (Roger Perry)--which he wins. In town, he buys an old barn (winning most of the price at poker), then goes to visit Coke's father Asa (John Anderson), at whose ranch he finds a sheepman, Scotty Andrews (Ed Bakey) being "clipped"--and stops it. Andrews's fellow sheepmen soon learn of the incident and invite him to work for them--something Asa has already done. Come to town tomorrow at noon, Jim says, and we'll talk about it. To everyone's astonishment, when they arrive, he's nailing up a sign that proclaims the barn a church and himself the pastor. That he's also a fast gun confuses them no end. But he's determined to "protect anyone who comes to my church"--cattleman, sheepman, or town-dweller. And he's also eager to settle the war before it can get any worse than it already is. He even makes some progress, enlisting several of the sheepmen and rancher Bart Paterson (William Bryant) in a daring experiment to see whether cattle and sheep can be grazed together. But Asa Beck isn't giving in. When Ned is murdered by the vengeful Andrews, Jim's self-enlisted halfbreed housekeeper Leloopa (Barbara Hershey) is attacked by Coke, and his former Yuma cellmate, a gunman named Mace (J. D. Cannon), comes to town as Asa's hire, things start to get really rough. Now Jim must make a decision: will he resolve this situation as a man of the gun, or as a man of God? The solution he chooses may both surprise and inspire you.

Parents should be aware that there are a couple of incidents of nudity, two semi-graphic murders, and implied rape and prostitution in the film, which might be considered a rougher version of Ford's The Sheepman. Long-time character actor Bryant has an especially nice part as a cattleman who "came here about the same time [Asa] did...fought the same battles...[but] my dreams weren't as big as his...," and Noah Beery, Jr., is equally good as Garvey, the Beck foreman, who "slapped the first breath of life into [Coke]...dug the hole for his ma..."

Seven Angry Men
Seven Angry Men
DVD ~ Raymond Massey
Price: $17.99
15 used & new from $11.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Bleeding Kansas and bloody Harpers Ferry, December 30, 2015
This review is from: Seven Angry Men (DVD)
Although it plays a certain amount of hob with the actual ages of the sons of famed Kansas abolitionist John Brown (Raymond Massey), and sketches his career only briefly, this black-and-white biopic at least includes all of the ones who lived long enough to take part in the "troubles" of the mid-to-late 1850's (no mention is made of the six daughters he also fathered). Soon after the creation of the Kansas Territory as an entity whose fate--"slave" or "free"--was to be settled by its people, two of Brown's eight surviving boys, Owen (Jeffrey Hunter) and Oliver (Larry Pennell), return from a long visit to their mother and kin back East to join their father and brothers at the crude settlement of "free-staters" that Brown has founded at Ossawatomie. On the train Owen meets and falls for Elizabeth Clark (Debra Paget, who in the same year also appeared with Hunter in White Feather), whose father has established a newspaper in Lawrence, but despite the anti-slavery sentiments they share, she can't bring herself to approve of Brown's fanaticism. When Martin White (Leo Gordon), a pro-slavery man who has already clashed with the Browns, leads a raid on the town and Mr. Clark is killed, the Browns take Elizabeth in--and retaliate with a bloody attack on several other pro-slavers who had nothing to do with the incident. John Jr. (Dennis Weaver) is so shattered by this event that brother Jason (James Best) fears for his sanity and takes him to the Army, planning to surrender and seek treatment for him, while Frederick (John Smith), seeking solitude in which to mull over what has happened and how he should react, is killed by a band of "border ruffians." Yet over time Owen and Elizabeth finally find that they can overcome their differences, especially after the "free-soil" Territorial constitution is approved by Congress. But Brown hasn't shot his wad yet: he's determined to do something really big to force the issue of freedom for the slaves. Though inevitably somewhat sketchy, the movie does manage to put a human face on a part of American history now forgotten by most people, and while Brown is never really sympathetic, he's at least understandable; it's his sons (six of them, including Salmon (Guy Williams), played by young men who were to go on to busy careers on screens large and small) who really engage the viewer's caring.

The Romance Of Rosy Ridge (Remastered)
The Romance Of Rosy Ridge (Remastered)
DVD ~ Van Johnson
Price: $14.99
24 used & new from $11.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Healing the wounds of war at Agony Creek, December 30, 2015
In the Ozark Mountains, as throughout Missouri, sentiment regarding the ideas of slavery and secession was mixed. In the summer of 1865, Gill MacBean (Thomas Mitchell), who served for a time with the Confederate forces (why he came home before the war ended is never explained, but he may have been captured and paroled, a common occurrence), and his wife Sairy (Selena Royle), along with their teenage daughter Lissy Anne (Janet Leigh) and young son Andrew (Dean Stockwell), are waiting to see whether elder son Ben (Marshall Thompson), also Southern in sympathy, will return too. Feelings run high in the Agony Creek region, where neighbors now turn their backs on each other because their men served on different sides--and to add to the ill sentiment, a band of masked night riders is making free throughout the district, torching the houses and barns of former Confederates, which quite naturally leads everyone to believe they must be Unionists. The ex-Rebs, understandably, resolve to band together against them, led by Gil and the Dessarks, John (Charles Dingle) and his grown son Badge (Jim Davis). Then into the picture comes Henry Carson (Van Johnson), a harmonica-playing wanderer (and, as he presently reveals, former schoolmaster) whose military breeches are so badly faded that no one can tell which color they were originally. Henry won't say which side he served on, but as time goes by he works steadily, if subtly, to bring the two factions back together--and wins Lissy's love. Gill doesn't approve, but Sairey helps and supports her daughter, and in the end it's through Henry's efforts that the truth about the night riders is revealed and Ben's fate becomes known (it isn't what you think). Full of beautiful scenery and well-played human interaction, this slow-paced but unexpectedly "grabbing" story may surprise you in its ability to suck you in.

Hondo (Full Screen)
Hondo (Full Screen)
DVD ~ John Wayne
Price: $5.99
98 used & new from $1.95

4.0 out of 5 stars The scout, the woman, and the Apache, December 30, 2015
This review is from: Hondo (Full Screen) (DVD)
When Army dispatch rider Hondo Lane (John Wayne) loses his horse and finds himself seeking a remount at an isolated ranch, he doesn't know that his life is about to change. The ranch--made viable by the large spring and pool beside which the house is built--is the home of Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page), whose father established it, and her young son Johnny (Lee Aaker, best remembered as "Rusty B Company" in "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin"); Angie's husband Ed (perennial heavy Leo Gordon) is, as usual, not at home--and, despite her protests to the contrary, Hondo soon sees that he hasn't been for quite some time. Hondo's no innocent when it comes to women--he once had an Indian wife and loved her dearly, as his reminiscences of her show--but he's not a poacher either; at first all he does is try to persuade the Lowes to leave the ranch and take shelter at the fort from which he rides rather than risk the Apaches. But Angie and her father before her have always enjoyed good relations with the Indians, and she refuses to go. Then Chief Vittorio (Michael Pate, who years later played the same role in the short-lived TV series based on the film) presents Angie with an ultimatum: impressed by Johnny's courageous attempt to defend his mother, he makes the boy his blood brother, then declares that it's "not right for Apache brave to have no father," and says she must choose one of his warriors as a husband. Meanwhile Hondo is forced to kill Lowe and takes from his body a tintype of Johnny--which, when the Apaches capture him and find it, understandably persuades Vittorio that *he* is Lowe, and thereby saves his life, as they drop him off, wounded and exhausted, at the Lowes' house. Slowly Hondo finds himself bonding with both Angie and Johnny, although Angie's not sure of him--he has a name as a gunman. But Vittorio keeps his word and leaves the family alone--until he's killed in an engagement with the Army. Now his successor Silva (Rodolfo Acosta), who has a bone or two to pick with Hondo, decides the gloves are off, and it's up to Hondo, his old friend and fellow scout Buffalo Baker (Wayne's long-time buddy Ward Bond), and rival Lennie (Wayne's protégé James Arness, who two years later would find fame as Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke") to save both the brave but inexperienced Lt. McKay (Tom Irish) and a clutch of local settlers from the Apaches' wrath. Filled with the kind of good interrelationships that drive a story and closely following Louis L'Amour's original (still in print 60-plus years later and available on Amazon), this is one of Wayne's best mid-career movies and one that should be in the collection of everyone who enjoys his work.

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