Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Three

Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Three
Despite an extensive filmography that includes Wings, The Public Enemy and The Ox-Bow Incident, Warner Brothers contract director William "Wild Bill" Wellman never earned the respect or name-recognition of many of his contemporaries. In an attempt to rectify the situation, Warner has devoted the third volume of its Forbidden Hollywood collection of early talkies to advancing the legacy of this forgotten filmmaker. Though Wellman was generally considered little more than a capable journeyman, this uneven collection of six films documents a director with enough recurring motifs to make a case for re-evaluation as a minor auteur. "He prided himself on working in every imaginable movie genre," explains one of the set's documentaries, "but wherever he went, he was always looking for action, and he was always on the side of the underdogs: plain Americans struggling against blind brute fate." This populism manifests itself most clearly in the collection's best movie, Heroes for Sales, a grim, unabashedly left wing story about a morphine-addicted WWI veteran who becomes a champion of the workingman during the Great Depression. The salacious "Forbidden Hollywood" tag is most applicable to The Purchase Price, a far-fetched and forgettable pot-boiler in which Barbara Stanwyck flees her gangster boyfriend (Ed Wood favourite Lyle Talbot) to become a mail-order bride in Montreal. More entertaining is Other Men's Women, a delirious infidelity melodrama in the Douglas Sirk vein featuring a supporting role by a young Jimmy Cagney and a plethora of suggestive dialogue. Other films include the Loretta Young vehicles Midnight Mary and Frisco Jenny, and another socially conscious Depression drama, Wild Boys of the Road. Warner Home Video, which has become second only to Criterion in quality releases of classic films, does its usual bang-up job compiling extras for this four-disc set. "Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick," a 95-minute, Alec Baldwin-narrated documentary, makes a strong case for Wellman as a technical innovator and explains how his wartime experiences and explosive temper fuelled some of his best movies — Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier are among those offering gushing testimonials. "The Men Who Made the Movies: William A. Wellman" emphasizes Wellman the star maker — Cagney, Robert Mitchum and Clint Eastwood were first allowed to flourish in front of Wellman's camera. Other extras include commentaries, trailers and vintage shorts and cartoons. (Warner)