If you're a DVD movie collector and don't already have TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD or CAPE FEAR, this is a must, because it also contains one of the most stylish Bond-era thrillers ever made, ARABESQUE (in which Sophia Loren appears at her most stunningly beautiful), and three interesting and rarely shown films. The inclusion of the three lesser-known movies makes this a special and unpredictable collection.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a true classic, with fine acting, gorgeous black and white photography and a compelling musical score. Most of all, it's a fascinating and well-written story. CAPE FEAR may not approach MOCKINGBIRD as a classic, but it's certainly a minor one; much better than the gratuitously violent remake. This is my second favorite Robert Mitchum performance, behind his other great villainous role in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Gregory Peck is perfect as the guy trying desperately to protect his family. His wife, played by Polly Bergan, a good, too. it's too bad she made so few movies of any note, because she's not only attractive, but a superb actress.
ARABESQUE is one of my all-time personal favorite thrillers. It's been unavailable in the United States for a long time, and it's good to finally have it on DVD, and it's a gorgeous print, to boot. Sophia Loren's first entrance in the film, in a stylish, black evening ensemble, ranks with the most sexy moments in her career, and all she does is walk into the room! Her character is fun, because it's not clear for some time into ARABESQUE if she's with or against Mr. Peck's harried college professor. He's on the trail of a coded heiroglyph containing vital information regarding an assassination plot. This is one of Peck's looser, more humorous performances, too, as he seems to be having great fun, being chased by thugs and trying to crack the code, and he's got such good chemistry with Loren. His drug induced bicycle ride through oncoming traffic on a rainy night is a memorable scene, and SO sixties! The stylish art direction, psychedelic photographic effects and catchy score by Henry Mancini combine to make this a worthy followup to Donen's CHARADE, although many prefer the previous film. I find ARABESQUE equally enjoyable, with its flashes of witty humor and tongue-in-cheek political intrigue. It's all pretty fake, like a paste jewel, but it sparkles just the same, as if it were a real diamond, beginning with the wonderful opening theme and 007 Movie-like titles, designed by famous titlemeister, Maurice Binder.
Of the three other movies in this boxed set, I like CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D. the best. I don't know how I ever managed to miss this one. It's a fascinating, if somewhat dated, study of a psychiatric facility's military doctor treating traumatic mental injuries in young soldiers during war. Peck is very good in this, but the ones who steal the show are Tony Curtis as a wisecracking intern, Bobby Darin as a guilt-ridden airman recovering from a tragic plane crash that killed his buddy, and most of all, Eddie Albert (!) as an army colonel suffering from violent delusions. This could easily be Albert's finest moment. Angie Dickinson is the only weak link, miscast as an army nurse, although her acting does contain a few screen moments that feel emotionally genuine. Otherwise, she fails to make much of an impression (on me, anyway).
The other two films are entertaining fun, if not A-List. MIRAGE is a so-so mystery lifted above its routine script by excellent performances by Peck as a man with amnesia, and Diane Baker as another ambiguous female (is she with him or against him)?
The last movie is an okay swashbuckler with Ann Blyth as the love interest. She's pretty dreadful, and the costumes are way over the top, Hollywood travesties of historical research. Redder lips were never seen, and Blyth's odd mouth is all one can look at in some scenes. But Peck is fine as a barely moral seafaring rogue, and Anthony Quinn is great fun as his unabashedly immoral foe. This film is worth seeing once, but it's tied with MIRAGE as the weakest of the six movies here.
Because three of these movies are so good, and one of those is otherwise hard to get, I give this Five Stars, considering the other three films as icing on the cake.