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Vintage films with Eleanor Parker, Gong Li, Chuck Barris released this week
TV game-show entrepreneur Chuck Barris stars in "The Gong Show Movie," making its home-video debut on Blu-ray this week. - photo by Chris Hicks
Several vintage films make their home-video debuts this week, including a pair of Eleanor Parker golden oldies, an offbeat Chinese comedy-adventure starring Gong Li and Zhang Yimou, and Chuck Barris Gong Show Movie.

The Woman in White (Warner Archive, 1948, b/w, trailer). Eleanor Parker shines in two roles in this compelling period piece: as the ethereal title character, whose identity is gradually revealed, and as newlywed Laura, whose personality changes after marriage when she becomes convinced that her husband is after her money and plans to do away with her.

Gig Young and Alexis Smith co-star as, respectively, an art teacher and Lauras cousin, who join forces to unravel the secrets kept by a variety of shady characters, ranging from Lauras new husband (John Emery) to the Count and Countess Fosco (Sydney Greenstreet and Agnes Moorehead, both standouts).

Based on the hugely popular 1859 Wilkie Collins mystery, this is arguably the best of several film adaptations, dating from two silent versions in 1912 to a British miniseries in 1997. The book was also adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber as a 2004 musical that ran a mere three months on Broadway. (Available at

Lizzie (Warner Archive, 1957, b/w, trailer). Based on Shirley Jacksons novel, this multiple-personality tale is primarily a showcase for Eleanor Parkers acting talents as she plays the title character, alternately becoming a stuffy career woman, a shy spinster and a loud, aggressive floozy.

Parker makes it worth watching, but the script and direction are uninspired despite support from Richard Boone and Joan Blondell. Lizzie was overshadowed by a similar film that was released three months later and based on fact, The Three Faces of Eve, which earned Joanne Woodward an Oscar. (Available at

A Terra-Cotta Warrior (aka Fight and Love With a Terracotta Warrior, Warner Archive, 1990, not rated but probable PG-13, in Mandarin or Cantonese with English subtitles, or dubbed in English). A general serving the First Emperor of China falls in love with courtesan Snowy, which leads to both being condemned to death. She manages to get an elixir of immortality to the general before he is encased in clay as a terra-cotta warrior and then the film abruptly jumps to the 1930s.

With this timeframe alteration comes a shift in focus as the film becomes an anachronistic comedy about a dippy actress cast as an extra in a Chinese version of Gone With the Wind, titled Going With the Wind. Eventually, she stumbles onto the terra-cotta soldier, who awakens and realizes she is Snowy reincarnated. But now they must contend with thuggish tomb robbers.

For the first third, this is an epic Chinese action-adventure and sentimental romance starring Zhang Yimou (celebrated director of Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers, etc.) with his frequent collaborator Gong Li. But then it gives way to a farcical riff on Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Gong having a ball spoofing her patrician image. Its undeniably odd but still fun once you accept its rhythmic shifts in tone. (Available at

The Gong Show Movie (Shout!, 1980, rated R for language and nudity, audio commentary). The phrase vanity project takes on new meaning with this Blu-ray release of the extremely bizarre film from TV producer Chuck Barris, creator/host of the 1970s lowbrow amateur-talent contest The Gong Show a forerunner of American Idol but with truly dreadful performers judged by a B-level celebrity panel.

Despite the title, this is a fictionalized tale of Barris backstage angst combined with clips from the show, many of them previously censored.

The result is a melodrama laced with unfunny, sleazy comedy of Barris, who plays himself, wallowing in self-pity. He also co-wrote and directed the film, composed songs that he sings on the soundtrack, and included just enough sex gags to earn the film an R rating. Yikes!

Death Walks Twice: Two Films by Luciano Ercoli (Arrow, 1971/1972; not rated but probable R for violence, sex, nudity, language; two discs, two films, in Italian with English subtitles or English dubbed, audio commentaries, alternate TV version of the first film, featurettes, trailers; 60-page booklet). This Blu-ray set contains two lurid crime thrillers by the titular Italian filmmaker (compared by some critics to Brian De Palma).

The first, Death Walks On High Heels, has the daughter of a jewel thief stalked by a killer who wants the jewels, and the second, Death Walks at Midnight, has a model who witnesses a murder but no one will believe her. Both films star Italian actress Nieves Navarro, aka Susan Scott.

The Sicilian (Shout!, 1987; R for violence, sex, nudity, profanity). This is the true story (adapted from a novel by Mario Puzo) of a beloved bandit in the hills of Sicily during the 1940s who played Robin Hood, stealing money from the rich and giving it to peasants so they could purchase land.

The interesting subject (adapted for an Italian film in 1962 and an Italian opera in 1985) is directed with a heavy hand by Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter, Heavens Gate) and led by a stiff, one-note performance from Christopher Lambert. Terence Stamp and John Turturro co-star. (This extended version is technically unrated but contains all of the R-rated versions excesses.)

Black Mama, White Mama (aka Women in Chains, Arrow, 1973, R for violence, sex, nudity, language; audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). A partial remake of The Defiant Ones, this exploitation flick takes a distaff path with Pam Grier and Margaret Markov as the racially intolerant criminals who escape a brutal prison while chained to each other. But theyre no Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. Filmed on location in the Philippines. This is a Blu-ray upgrade. (Future Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme co-wrote the screenplay.)
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