Title: The Robert Mitchum Signature Collection
Silent or Talkie: Talkie
Warner Brothers has released the Robert Mitchum Signature Collection. Mitchum, often called the ‘King of Film Noir’, was also noted for his apparent indifference on screen. He claimed to have no interest in the actual art of cinema, and that his primary motivation for acting was to score women and gain notoriety. Whether or not that is true remains to be seen. However, there is no denying that his movies are among the most highly acclaimed and celebrated. In this collection are six films that further prove his genius.
Angel Face (1952)
There’s an old saying that the devil is a woman. If that’s the case, then her name is Diane Tremayne. Robert Mitchum plays Frank Jessup, an ambulance driver who frequently belittles his own profession. To him, it’s just another way to make a buck, there’s no prestige or adoration to be had. On a routine call to the house of Mrs. Catherine Tremayne (Barbara O’Neil), who has been poisoned with gas, Jessup meets Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons), the victim’s step-daughter. Diane is a very sweet-looking girl who seems incapable of any wrong-doing. She has a thing for Jessup and uses his dislike for his job against him, offering him a job as a live-in chauffeur. Under the guise of innocence, Diane is able to manipulate Jessup into believing that her step-mother is an evil old woman who holds her captive, and that her father (Herbert Marshall) is “trapped” as well. Jessup is trying to keep his own relationship at home from falling apart, which is becoming more difficult with every night he spends at the Tremayne household. Through a series of events, he begins to suspect that Diane may not be as sweet as she lets on. When he tries to distance himself from her by quitting the chauffeuring job, she orchestrates situations that will keep him close – and in the middle of criminal activities! Special features include: Commentary by author and historian Eddie Muller, best recognized for his writings on Film Noir; notably The Art of Noir, Dark City & Dark City Dames (The Wicked Women of Film Noir).
Crazy things tend to happen aboard ships, especially those en route to foreign countries. Macao is no different. Robert Mitchum plays Nick Cochran, an American who is perpetually traveling to avoid facing criminal charges back home. While on board he meets Julie Benson (Jane Russell) a nightclub singer that he saves from a sexual attacker trying to get physical attention in exchange for paying her ticket. She rewards Nick with a kiss…and uses it as a distraction to pick his pockets. Also on board is Lawrence Trumble (William Bendix), who is traveling with a bit of a different purpose. Though he masquerades as a salesman, Trumble is actually an undercover cop looking to take down a Hong Kong mob member for killing one of his fellow officers. The mobster, Vincent Halloran (Brad Dexter), has the local police on the payroll, so he can anticipate any/all attempts to arrest him. Once they dock, Halloran assumes Nick is the policeman coming to arrest him, which cannot be refuted since Nick’s identification was in the wallet that Julie lifted from him earlier. Trumble allows the charade to go on, figuring that since Halloran is disillusioned, and it may help apprehend him. They put together a sting operation to lure Halloran away from the island, but instead of going through with the deal, Halloran has Nick attacked and mistakenly kills Trumble. Before dying, Trumble tells Nick that his charges back home have been cleared up. Nick can now return home. Should he get out alive or try to repay Trumble by taking down the mobster? Special features include: A Commentary by author and historian Eddie Muller, screenwriter Stanley Rubin and actress Jane Russell, and TCM Private Screenings with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell, hosted by Robert Osborne.
Home from the Hill (1959)
Home from the Hill is a film that seems to closely resemble Robert Mitchum’s private life, in the sense that women played a major role. Mitchum plays Wade Hunnicutt, a very powerful man around his Texas town. In addition to his wealth, Hunnicutt has another indulgence – women. His constant womanizing basically destroys his relationship with his wife Hannah (Eleanor Parker). He is seldom home, so in his absence, Hannah raises their son Theron (George Hamilton in a very early role) to rely on only her. Hunnicutt has an assiatant, named Raphael (George Peppard, again in an early role). Once Theron is of age, Hunnicutt insists on acting like a father and teaching him how to be a man, with Raphael’s help. Theron has different ideas, which include a young woman. He soon learns some things about his parents that were previously hidden. Home from the Hill was nominated for numerous awards, including one from the Cannes Film Festival. Vincent Minnelli (noted for his marriage to Judy Garland and daughter Liza) directed. Minnelli was voted the 20th Greatest Director of all time, and directed 7 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Spencer Tracy, Gloria Grahame, Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Arthur Kennedy, Shirley MacLaine and Martha Hyer. The only special feature on the disc is the theatrical trailer.
The Sundowners (1960)
Yet another film where Robert Mitchum is paired with a fellow movie legend (Deborah Kerr), The Sundowners is a standout. Kerr had starred in such films as An Affair to Remember, The King and I, From Here to Eternity and Julius Caesar, among others. Now together with Mitchum, the result was sure to be memorable. Mitchum stars as Paddy Carmody, who, with his wife Ida (Kerr) and son Sean (Michael Anderson, Jr.), are constantly in a nomadic state. They are sheep drovers in Australia, and while they are happy with the work itself, Paddy’s wife and son want to stop traveling and secure their own farm. Paddy would rather blow where the wind takes him. Paddy’s idea of home is vastly different from the rest of his family. He feels that wherever he finds comfort, even if it’s in the middle of nowhere, is home. The wife and son are more conservative (read: traditional), so they’d rather nest in one spot and work on becoming successful. In their travels they meet Rupert Venneker (Peter Ustinov), an ex-sea captain who has a better sense of the upper-class world. Paddy must come to grips with having to choose between his family’s well-being and his love for adventure. There is not much in the way of big moments in The Sundowners; however, the film is better understood as a case study on family differences. It focuses on “human-ness” and the very minute details of our personality that shape our interactions with others. Fred Zinnemann, who had also worked with Deborah Kerr on From Here to Eternity, directed. Special features include: A Vintage featurette: On Location with The Sundowners and the Theatrical trailer.
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969)
Nothing unites people like a common enemy. In this case, the common enemy united Robert Mitchum and George Kennedy. Mitchum is Marshal Flagg, a cop forced to retire by the self-centered mayor (Martin Balsam). Flagg catches wind that his old adversary John McKay (Kennedy), an outlaw gunslinger from back in the day, is in the area with his gang and planning a train robbery. McKay’s gang is a group of arrogant, young thugs who have little respect for their criminal predecessors. Though McKay thinks he’s leading them, he’s nothing more than a tag-a-long to the juvenile hooligans. Flagg sets out to stop McKay and Company, but winds up being captured by them, where he finds out that the gang’s leader is actually named Waco (David Carradine). Since McKay is the “antique”, Waco tells him to shoot Flagg, figuring that it was best to get the old man to do the dirty work. McKay refuses the order, and Waco leaves both him and Flagg behind. Once alone, Flagg and McKay “catch up”, where Flagg’s retirement is brought to light. The town’s new marshal is a fool who’s incapable of stopping any major attack in the area. McKay suggests that he and Flagg should let the past remain in the past, and join together to stop Waco and the gang from robbing the train. This was the second film that Mitchum did with writer/director Burt Kennedy. The first was 1969’s”Young Billy Young”. The Good Guys and the Bad Guys was more of a comical film in comparison to their first joint effort. Special features include: Vintage featurette: The Good Guy from Chama and the Theatrical trailer.
The most recent film in the Robert Mitchum Signature Collection is The Yakuza. The “Yakuza” is actually the Japanese Mafia, taking its name from a card game in which one must be very skilled at outsmarting their opponent. In this 1974 drama, there are no games to be played. Robert Mitchum stars as Harry Kilmer, a retired detective whose old marine buddy George Tanner (Brian Keith) is tangled up with a member of the Yakuza. The mob has taken Tanner’s daughter and her boyfriend hostage, in an attempt to strong-arm him into a business deal. Tanner believes that Harry’s contacts in Japan would prove helpful in trying to locate the hostages. Harry suffers from guilt over leaving a woman behind when he had been in Tokyo years prior. This request from Tanner almost seems like a prophetic twist of fate, a chance to clear his conscience. Harry returns to Japan and stumbles upon the same woman he left long ago, and her brother who is a Yakuza member. This, as one would assume, begins a conflict of interest for Harry. With his feelings of debt to the girl he left, and her brother watching him like a hawk, Harry must struggle to keep his head straight, and remember why he is in Japan to begin with. The script for The Yakuza sold for $300,000, which was the highest amount ever paid for a script at the time. Though Sydney Pollack directed, Martin Scorcese wanted to follow up his 1973 “Mean Streets” with this film. The producers opted for Pollack. Special features include: A Commentary by director Sydney Pollack and A Vintage featurette: Promises to Keep.
Robert Mitchum had a few reputations. On one hand he was the indifferent playboy he masqueraded as, and on the other hand, he was a brilliant actor. The side of him that weighs heavy is left up to those of us who can look at him and his work in retrospect. He was known not only for his contributions to Film Noir, but also to the Western genre as well as drama. Here in this six-disc set lies evidence, if you will, for the audience and the world. Warner Brothers’ Robert Mitchum Signature Collection is just that, Mitchum’s signature, on his legacy that continues to inspire the actors of present day.
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