“Where the Boys Are,” credited with starting the 1960s teens-at-the-beach craze, gets a Blu-ray upgrade this week, as do several John Wayne movies.
“Where the Boys Are” (Warner Archive, 1960, audio commentary, featurette, newsreel, trailer). An eclectic gaggle of college students heads to Fort Lauderdale for spring vacation with just one thing on their minds — well, the boys’ minds, anyway — in this seminal teens-at-the-beach comedy-drama (a forerunner of the sillier Beach Party series). The result is a funny and sad exploration of youthful sexuality, which, by today’s standards, seems quite innocent, if not downright puritanical. But in 1960, it was considered quite daring, with its observations about men on the make and women who are too smart for them.
The film contains many notable performances, led by Paula Prentiss and Jim Hutton in the first of their four romantic-comedy pairings. Also, singer Connie Francis demonstrates a real talent for wisecracks, Barbara Nichols is funny doing her typical floozy thing and Frank Gorshin has a broad comic role as a musician with very thick glasses. The straight men here are Dolores Hart, George Hamilton and Yvette Mimieux. (The Blu-ray debut is available at wbshop.com.)
“The Sea Chase” (Warner Archive, 1955, trailer). In a bit of offbeat casting, John Wayne plays a German freighter captain racing to get his ship back home at the outbreak of World War II, hotly pursued by the British and Australian navies. It is an entertaining cat-and-mouse effort, with Lana Turner, Tab Hunter, Alan Hale and James Arness in support. (The Blu-ray debut is available at wbshop.com.)
“Blood Alley” (Warner Archive, 1955, newsreel, promos, trailer). Wayne is paired with Lauren Bacall in this colorful adventure about a Merchant Marine captain broken out of a Chinese communist prison by villagers in need of his seafaring skills. He’s conscripted to get them to a British port in Hong Kong, but the vessel for this retreat is a 19th-century wood-burning paddlewheel riverboat. Anita Ekberg co-stars. (The Blu-ray debut is available at wbshop.com.)
“John Wayne Double Feature: ‘Rio Lobo,’ ‘Big Jake’ ” (CBS/Paramount, 1970/1971, G/PG). For his final film, Howard Hawks reworked his 1959 classic “Rio Bravo” for a second time (after 1966’s “El Dorado”), and came up with “Rio Lobo,” unquestionably the least of the three. Still, it’s a rowdy romp designed to please Wayne fans, as is “Big Jake,” also tailor-made for the Duke’s tall-in-the-saddle persona (and the last of Wayne’s five pairings with Maureen O’Hara). Both films are stubbornly traditional Westerns, despite being produced in the wake of the “spaghetti Western” invasion that changed the look of the genre in the mid-1960s. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. (It is reissued on both Blu-ray and DVD.)
“The Taisho Trilogy” (Arrow, 1980/1981/1991; not rated/probable R for violence, sex, nudity; in Japanese with English subtitles, introductions, featurettes, booklet). Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki died in February at age 93, leaving behind a legacy of genre films that remain largely unknown outside Japan, though he has a cult following in this country. Suzuki made a string of yakuza thrillers in the 1950s and ’60s, which became increasingly surreal, and in 1980 began his “Taisho Trilogy,” psychological ghost stories set during 1912-28: “Zigeunerweisen,” “Kagero-za” and “Yumeji.”
“Re-Animator” (Arrow, 1985; not rated/probable R for violence, sex, nudity, language; two versions of the film, audio commentary, deleted/extended scenes, featurettes, comic book adaptation, booklet). H.P. Lovecraft’s 1922 riff on “Frankenstein” is turned into a broad, campy but also extremely sleazy and gory movie about an eccentric medical student who has discovered a way to reanimate dead tissue. But, of course, his experiments do not go quite as planned.