Author

Tim Purtell

Loved 'Black Swan'? See 'The Red Shoes'

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 ballet classic has often been called one of the most beautiful movies ever made. It’s also among the darkest of backstage melodramas, pinned by Anton Walbrook’s suave turn as a ruthless impresario with a Svengali-like grip on Moira Shearer’s ballerina. What makes the film a masterpiece is the team’s wizardly craft and the startling use of color (best experienced in Criterion’s restored edition on Blu-ray), most thrillingly in a 20-minute dance sequence that will knock your socks off.

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3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg (DVD)

SILENT, BUT DEADLY Josef von Sternberg's Underworld , The Last Command , and The Docks of New York

Before movies made the shift to sound, there were visionary directors in the 1920s who made silence golden. Turned on by the possibilities of cinema, Alfred Hitchcock, F.W. Murnau, Buster Keaton, and Sergei Eisenstein pushed the limits of lighting, camera movement, editing, and mimed emotion to create thrillers, melodramas, and comedies that still feel fresh. Thanks to Criterion’s terrific new box set 3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg, we can add the director best known for his delirious collaborations with Marlene Dietrich to the pantheon.

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The historical epic, often an excuse for over-the-top everything, gets a makeover in The Taking of Power by Louis XIV, a brainy, pared-down made-for-TV snapshot of Louis XIV’s evolution from detached king to empowered monarch. (This film was one of many neorealist director Rossellini made for television, a medium he embraced for its ? educational possibilities.) By Hollywood standards, the drama may be a bit flat, but the director’s fascination with 17th-century court ritual, ?captured with detailed old-master beauty, is mesmerizing.

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Even I, an ardent Douglas Sirk fan, admit Magnificent Obsession is not among the master’s best. Its goopy plot, about a frivolous playboy (Rock Hudson) redeemed by his love for a noble doctor’s widow (Jane Wyman), lacks the sharp edges of All That Heaven Allows or Written on the Wind. That said, it is adroitly constructed (and lovingly restored in this two-disc Criterion set), with committed performances by the two stars, and gorgeous, shadowy cinematography from frequent Sirk collaborator Russell Metty.

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With 12 mostly silent new-to-DVD titles, two books, and a hefty documentary, Murnau, Borzage and Fox serves as a mini film course. German auteur F.W. Murnau, who was wooed to Hollywood by studio head William Fox, conjured the exquisite, Oscar-winning Sunrise and the fascinating City Girl. Director Frank Borzage is represented by the deliriously romantic 7th Heaven and nine other features. This collection?s heaven, but too bad the print quality is uneven. B+

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SciFi sex scenes

SciFi sex scenes

Hey, why should humans have all the fun? Herewith, a look at some carnal encounters of the third, fourth, and fifth kind.

Species (1995) Even aliens have biological clocks! Take Sil (Natasha Henstridge), a model-gorgeous, murderous human/alien hybrid searching for Mr. Right.Sexiest Moment: Suitor No. 1 gets a killer French kiss. And we do mean killer.

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The General

Even in our anything-is-possible digital age, it’s still a wonder to see the quicksilver Keaton executing mathematically precise, guffaw-inducing gags and pratfalls. A sublime comedy, The General is also a Civil War tintype brought to stately life. Kino’s two-disc set includes a sharp new transfer and musty TV intros from a Norma Desmond-esque Gloria Swanson and Keaton fan Orson Welles, who hails the film as ”a hundred times more stunning visually than Gone With the Wind.” A

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