The Stranger (Fox)
Legend has it this is the movie Orson Welles loathed the most -- the MGM studio job he took to prove he could play the game on a budget and a stopwatch. It's certainly not his best, but The Stranger -- among four movies released this week under the "MGM Film Noir" banner -- remains engaging and enjoyable 61 years later, perhaps because even then it suggested that sleeper cells nap among us: in this case, a Nazi (played by Welles) playing Yankee history prof till the start of the third World War. G-Man Edward G. Robinson travels to Norman Rockwell country to track down a disappeared war criminal engaged to a Supreme Court Justice's daughter (Loretta Young). The beginning's a mess; the middle, a drag; the end, a hoot. But for all Welles' sneering, the movie's beautifully made. -- Wilonsky
The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark (Shout!)
I never understood the Mystery Science Theater 3000 phenomenon -- the joy the cult took from listening to strangers blather over bad movies. Now that MST3000's done, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett have rechristened themselves the Film Crew, and it's back to improvising (this stuff isn't funny enough to suggest it was thought of in advance) one-liners over Z-grade novelties. The stinker on this disc is 1968's Hollywood After Dark, starring Golden Girl Rue McClanahan as a wanna-be actress reduced to stripping -- and, yeah, that's reason enough not to watch the thing. That said, there are a few good gags here and there -- like the protracted stripping scene one of the guys says is what "you'd get if Darren Aronofsky had directed Flashdance." That's as funny as it gets. -- Wilonsky
Home Run Derby: Mickey Mantle (MGM)
From 1959 to 1961, Mark Scott hosted the greatest TV show a boy could dream of: Home Run Derby, which pit two big-name sluggers in a dinger showdown. There wasn't much more to it except some prize money ($2,000 to the winner, plus potential bonuses, with a thou to the loser) adding tension to an otherwise routine slugfest. By today's standards, the show is fairly dull -- a parade of fouls and grounders, with the occasional it's-outta-here to liven things up. But there's something awfully charming about seeing Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, and others aw-shucks-it up on a suburban ball field. Oh, to be a kid on the other side of that wall, shagging the batting-practice balls of Home Run Derby champs on their way to immortality. -- Wilonsky
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