Director James Whale was mainly known for crafting legendary horror films/adaptations, such as Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, and The Invisible Man. He wasn't exactly famously connected to other genres, so he seemed like a very odd choice to bring celebrated novelist Edna Ferber's 1926 blockbuster saga, Show Boat, to the big screen. However, his 1936 interpretation of the story is considered to the very best and most faithful telling of Ferber's epic five-decade story of the lives of a theatrical family living on a Mississippi river boat.
The great Irene Dunne stars as Magnolia Hawks, a beautiful but sheltered woman who becomes a comedy star after taking over as leading lady when the tragic mulatto Julie LaVerne (Helen Morgan) and her Caucasian husband are run out of town by a very close-minded sheriff. Magnolia eventually falls in love with the ambitious Gaylord Ravenal (Allan Jones), whom she marries, but his incessive gambling bounds to tear them apart.
Despite Dunne performing a racially insensitive bit in blackface, you actually gloss over it because the film is just so good and triumphant, and at the time, it became one of the first and most thoughtful portraits of race relations ever made. It also has winning performances by the great Hattie McDaniel, and the equally great Paul Robson, who timeless rendition of "Ol' Man River" remains one of the greatest moments in film and stage history.
The new release from Criterion features some amazing new and vintage supplements, including a 1989 commentary with musical historian Miles Kreuger; new interview with Whale biographer James Curtis; new interview program with professor and author Shana L. Redmond, entitled Recognizing Race in "Show Boat"; Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, a 1979 Oscar-winning short documentary by Saul J. Turell; four performances from the sound prologue of the original 1929 version, including songs from original Broadway cast members Morgan, Jules Bledsoe, and Tess Gardella, plus twenty minutes of excerpts with commentary by Krueger; two radio adaptations with Morgan, Jones, Charles Winninger, producer Orson Welles, and Ferber herself. If you're looking for something to tide you over while in quarantine, then this should definitely be a must-have in your collection!
The Prince of Tides (Criterion): Barbra Streisand's moving adaptation of the Pat Conroy novel about a troubled man (Nick Nolte) who falls in love with his suicidal sister's psychiatrist (played by Streisand herself).
Star Wars: The Original Trilogy (4K Ultimate Collector's Editions): the first three released films from 1977, 1980, and 1983, which are obviously the best of the legendary Star Wars saga. They each include commentaries, deleted/extended scenes, documentaries, and much more.
VFW: Film greats Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Martin Kove, and Fred Williamson star as war veterans at their local VFW, fighting for survival after a young girl runs into the bar with stolen drugs. They find themselves under attack by a gang of punk mutants who are looking to get back the drugs, at any cost.
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife: Ernst Lubitsch's 1938 screwball comedy with screen legends Claudette Colbert and Gary Cooper. Colbert plays the daughter of an aristocrat (Edward Everett Horton), who falls for a handsome millionare (Cooper), only to discover that he has been married- seven times!
Standing Up, Falling Down: a dramedy about the unlikely friendship between a struggling comedian (Ben Schwartz), and a tragically flawed, alcoholic dermatologist (Billy Crystal), as they to help each other and face the failures in their own lives.