Burt Lancaster Signature Collection

Burt Lancaster Signature Collection

We all know Burt Lancaster as the left-leaning movie star who could do action and drama in equal measure. What we didn’t know was that five of his least auspicious movies could be combined into one thoroughly inessential collection, with the expectation that people would buy it. Best of this bad lot is South Sea Woman, a flagrantly bizarre comedy in which Lancaster and Virginia Mayo redefine patriotism. Told in flashbacks at Lancaster’s court marshal, the stars drift away from the male lead’s Marine station and find themselves on a desert island surrounded by Axis forces and French Fifth Columnists. It’s not exactly funny and is very definitely sexist, but I had no idea where it was headed and was bemusedly surprised when it got there. More well meaning is Jim Thorpe — All American, in which the noted Native American athlete is played by the notably non-Native American Lancaster. His turbulent life is represented in ways that might have been progressive in the early ’50s but seem a mite patronising nowadays, though director Michael Curtiz keeps things moving in a craftsman-like fashion. Another bit of liberal condescension arrives in the form of His Majesty O’Keefe, which is about an enterprising trader who gets some South Sea islanders to harvest their copra before deciding it’s a bad idea for everybody. Juggling the adventure genre with more high-minded ideals, the movie just winds up looking ridiculous. Still, it’s more fun than The Flame and the Arrow, a dull-as-dirt adventure movie in a Robin Hood sort of vein. Lancaster winds up leading a revolt against an evil German prince in medieval Italy; Mayo is on hand again but there’s neither fun nor excitement. Some mildly interesting acrobatics aside, there’s not much to justify its DVD resurrection. But the worst of them all is Executive Action, in which the star, Robert Ryan, and a bunch of paycheck collecting actors re-enact the conspiracy to kill JFK. It’s sub-TV movie quality, with no real political position beyond "conspirators are bad” and some of the feeblest direction ever in a major motion picture. Each disc includes one cartoon and one comedy short with hapless everyman Joe McDoakes, except Executive Action, which makes do with a vintage "making of” featurette. (Warner)