Elizabeth Taylor Signature Collection

Ostensibly collected for fans of glamorous '60s period Elizabeth Taylor — in the days when she was famous for being an Academy Award-winning actor, not a serial bride and friend of Michael Jackson — this four-disc set is a mixed bag indeed. Not because the films are bad, but because two of them would be perfect for the tween set and two explore decidedly adult themes. In the first two films, Taylor's breakout roles, she plays supporting roles to more famous leading men. National Velvet was her breakout performance; starring a young Mickey Rooney, it's the story of a girl and her adopted horse, whom she trains and then, disguised as a boy, rides in the English Nationals, a show-jumping competition. From horses to nuptials, she plays Spencer Tracy's daughter in the 1950 original Father of the Bride, which is more about Tracy's good-natured grumpy dad than it is Taylor's typical giggling bride. In both these films, the young Taylor is a moon-faced idea of young womanhood — fresh-faced, eager to please, with an innocence that belies her burgeoning sexuality. Then things take a turn for the tawdry. The next film in the set is definitely the best, the big screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Southern classic Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. As Maggie the Cat, Taylor smoulders in the heat and bristles at the lack of attention paid to her by her alcoholic husband (Paul Newman). Everything about Tin Roof is top-notch, from Burl Ives' blustering performance as Big Daddy and Newman's glowering, potentially gay Brick to Taylor's lonely devotion. Just two years later, Taylor already begins to resemble the Taylor of our memories — she would depart shortly after finishing Butterfield 8 to start filming the famously disastrous Cleopatra. Butterfield has her playing a down-and-out faux call girl (the lady is a tramp, but the offer of money will have her leave in a huff). While she bobs between her married beau (Laurence Harvey) and devoted best friend (current husband Eddie Fisher), Taylor does a Pretty Woman turn as a bad girl who just needs to find love in order to clean up her act. In all, four quite good and very different films featuring the best period of an actor whose great work wouldn't outlast the 1960s. But with such a strange hodgepodge of films, it's a wonder who would want them all. No extras, either. (Warner)