Is there a more frustrating experience for a dedicated classic movie fan than being told at the local video store that a much-sought-after title perhaps a bit out of mainstream is NOT available on DVD?

Hello, everybody. Your classic movie guys recalling today that we published not too long ago blogs about a pair worthy films that were simply unavailable on DVD. Rats!

No sooner had we lamented that fact than a reader missive updating us rolled in from Samuel Cochran, who keeps track of these things. And, it’s at least partially good news (no wonder we love reader email).

Hello Joe and Frank,

 I went back looking for someone in your archives and you talked about 2 films that are impossible to obtain, at least until now.
1) from 5/30, the 1960 ‘The Angel Wore Red’ is completely unavailable on DVD. Turner plays it but does not sell it. I got a copy from someone who copied a Turner broadcast.
I voted on their site for a DVD release but who knows?

2) from 4/24, the 1954 ‘Journey to Italy’ was always on my wish list but never released on DVD until now.  I’m very excited to tell you that Criterion is releasing ‘3 Films By Roberto Rossellini’ in Blu-Ray on 9/24.  ‘Journey to Italy’ (never available), ‘Europa ’51’ (never available), and ‘Stromboli’.  I’ll be the first in line.

In 1960 Ava Gardner costarred with British actor Dirk Bogarde (both seen above) and Joseph Cotton in a not-great but oddly enjoyable historical drama set during the Spanish Civil War, The Angel Wore Red, written and directed by Nunnally Johnson.

Ava’s role was that of a “cabaret singer” although it’s clear when you see The Angel Wore Red that “prostitute” is the more accurate characterization.  She harbors for a night in her bedroom a handsome former priest (Bogarde) on the run from various Civil War factions. As Johnson put it, its was a tale of “horny priest and virgin-type prostie.”

Bogarde told a British newspaper in 1961 that the movie provided a magnificent part for Ava. It would have done for her what “Two Women” did for Sophia Loren.  She really put her heart into it. (Two Women won Loren a best actress Oscar in 1962.)

Cotton, who portrays a veteran, one-eyed war correspondent who sports a beret and eye patch, is in the movie and a dead ringer for Hollywood director Raoul Walsh. In his autobiography, Cotton said of Ava that she was born to be an actress; I never saw her make a false move or miss a word.

In any case, it’s a blankety-blank shame that The Angel Wore Red is STILL not out on DVD.

Terrific news about Criterion’s new reissue of Journey To Italy, the movie that George Sanders made in Italy in 1953 opposite Ingrid Bergman. Directed in black and white by Bergman’s then husband Robert RosselliniViaggo in Italia (Journey To Italy) follows a worn out middle-aged couple’s visit to Naples to dispose of a deceased relative’s villa.

The vitality of the surrounding Neapolitans effects the couple in ways that they could not have  predicted. Few movies portray the vicissitudes of a long term marriage more realistically and honestly than this one.

As it turns out, Sanders hated making the picture. He had accepted the offer because of his admiration for the director and also because he wished to work with Bergman again (Sanders and Bergman were teamed at MGM, and appeared in 1941’s Rage In Heaven).

But upon his arrival in Naples, (Sanders) learned that the Maestro, as he came to call Rossellini disdainfully, intended to shoot the picture without a script. This and other of the director’s eccentricities — aimless shooting, jumbled dialogue, non-existent plot — eventually reduced George to tears of frustration, according to Sanders biographer Richard VanDerBeets.

When he asked to be released from the picture, he was told that Rossellini, whose reputation was at a low ebb, had been able to raise money for the production only by getting a ‘name’ actor to costar with Bergman and that backing had been secured on the basis of his being in the film. (Sanders) felt ill-used… 

Be that as it may, he wound up giving the performance of his career. We too look forward to the newly release Blu Ray edition of this fine film.



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