Ty Burr
June 22, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Lucille Ball on DVD

Lucy made movies? You bet — before, during, and after her reign as TV’s premier funnywoman. Warner’s Lucille Ball Film Collection presents five other sides of Mrs. Ricky Ricardo, all new to DVD.

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
Pre-I Love Lucy, Ball was often typecast as a coldhearted entertainer — a sort of sexier, meaner Eve Arden — and here she shimmies as burlesque queen Bubbles, sneering at ballet dancer Maureen O’Hara. It’s a proto-feminist classic until the big catfight. B

The Big Street (1942)
Possibly the first S&M romance, this cult jaw-dropper casts Henry Fonda as Little Pinks, a busboy hopelessly in thrall to Ball’s cruel, paralyzed nightclub singer. The film’s a fascinating bummer, featuring what may be Ball’s finest dramatic performance. B

Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
Lucy in color — and how. This Technicolor musical casts her as a modern-day singer and the 18th-century mistress of the king of France (Red Skelton). It makes no sense, but the costumes are amazing and Ball gets to show off her comedy chops. B-

Critic’s Choice (1963)
Her post-I Love Lucy screen career was even spottier, and her fourth outing with Bob Hope strains for screwball effervescence. It’s hard to buy Ball as a timid hausfrau writing a play her theater critic husband can’t stand. Where’s Ethel Mertz when you need her? C-

Mame (1974)
Danger: Watching Ball’s final movie, an ill-advised adaptation of the Broadway show, can lead to full motor shutdown and/or brain death. As carefree flapper Mame Dennis, Ball sings like a grackle and looks like a blur in Vaseline-smeared close-ups. Mesmerizingly bad. D-

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