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Bargain Bin

by Shawn Stone on August 25, 2011

Funny Face: The Centennial Collection How many times have Paramount Home Video repackaged their Audrey Hepburn titles? Well, they haven’t released Blu-ray editions yet of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sabrina, Roman Holiday, Paris When It Sizzles or Funny Face yet, so the answer is, three or four so far plus at least one more to come. (Come to think of it, King Vidor’s War and Peace, with Hepburn and Henry Fonda, could use a Blu-ray upgrade, too.) This particular repackaging of Funny Face, as part of the studio’s short-lived Centennial Collection series of 2008-09, is terrific. Stanley Donen’s musical, which pairs Fred Astaire with Hepburn, is a Technicolor musical treat, making wonderful use of Paris locations, Gershwin songs, the stars’ charm and late 1950s haute couture. It’s no masterpiece, but it still feels fresh. The prize of this 2-disc DVD edition is the second disc of extras, which includes featurettes on Paramount in the 1950s and their wonderful widescreen process, VistaVisiton. (FYE)

Wuthering Heights This little-seen 1992 adaptation stars Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff and Juliette Binoche as Cathy, and it’s worth a look. Fiennes is appropriately vicious and brooding, the locations are bleakly gorgeous, and, despite her barely disguised accent, Binoche is the right balance of dreaminess and cool practicality as Cathy. Filmmaker Peter Kosminsky, a Brit TV vet best known over here for the very watchable thriller White Oleander, has a solid grip on the tone of Emily Bronte’s Gothic heartbreaker, but couldn’t find a way to make us feel the generational sweep of the tragedy. Wuthering Heights was made the year before Schindler’s List made Fiennes a star, and Paramount never even bothered to release it theatrically in the United States; this Paramount Home Video edition is bare-bones, but nice to look at. Also, look for Sinead O’Connor in a cameo as the narrator—Emily Bronte? (Big Lots)

Major Dundee (Sony) This is the magnificent Sony Pictures restoration of Sam Peckinpah’s studio-mangled 1965 western. The film itself is flawed, and suffers particularly from the original producer’s hamfisted decision to scrap all of Peckinpah’s experimental action footage, but what’s there is fascinating for Peckinpah fans and very entertaining for everyone else. The restoration is magnificent, with additional scenes and an entirely new musical score by Christopher Caliendo, which improves the experience considerably; the DVD includes some choice extras, including documentary excerpts and a vintage featurette. As for the film, Charlton Heston is perfect as the autocratic Major Amos Dundee, who is banished to running an army prison camp near the Mexican border in the middle of the Civil War for reasons left unexplained. When Apaches massacre a nearby ranch and kidnap a couple of white kids, Dundee launches his own war that will lead him and his men into Mexico—and into something like the heart of darkness. The terrific cast includes Richard Harris as a Confederate officer, James Coburn as a one-armed scout, Brock Peters as a Union soldier and such Peckinpah regulars as Warren Oates, Slim Pickens and Ben Johnson. (Big Lots)

DVD is a dying medium, and you can find some pretty sweet bargains on remaindered classics. All items in this column were purchased in area stores for $5 or less.