All that Bogie and Bacall heat sizzles in one collection

Critics' picks: New DVDs

July 23, 2006|By MICHAEL SRAGOW

BOGIE & BACALL: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION: TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, THE BIG SLEEP, DARK PASSAGE, KEY LARGO -- Warner Home Video / 39.98

This terrific 4-DVD box set features one of the great love matches in Hollywood history - on and off screen. The magnetically wised-up and wired Humphrey Bogart could make other tough guys wither in his shriveling gaze. The simultaneously sly and sultry young Lauren Bacall could give an entire room a provocative sideways glance; then she'd focus on one lucky guy and turn a sexual come-on into a work of art. Together they ignited heat lightning. And this DVD anthology contains all their classics (along with one stinker, Dark Passage).

Howard Hawks contended that he created To Have and Have Not on the dare that he could make a good movie out of Hemingway's worst novel. Hawks hit the entertainment empyrean with a hipper Casablanca. Bogart was a Great White Fisherman helping wealthy sportsmen land big ones outside Vichy-ruled Martinique. Bacall was a mysterious drifting beauty who boasted just the right reedy-husky voice to put across a swell tune - Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer's "How Little We Know." Hawks named and patterned her character after his second wife, Slim. And Bacall's Slim perfectly embodied "the Hawks woman," who could talk as smart and tough as any man, and dish out and take as much emotional punishment. Bogart's air of experience would make gals like Slim flock to him. His persona had been places and done things long before "been there, done that" became a late-night comedy contraction. Bacall's sensuality and candor bring out Bogart's hardboiled humor in both The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not (she's more sedate in John Huston's otherwise exciting Key Largo, an existential gangster film). In To Have and Have Not, she's sexy and funny when she test-kisses Bogart and decrees "It's even better when you help." And she's sexy, funny and touching when she tells him, "I'm hard to get, Steve. All you have to do is ask me."

Special features

The making-of documentary for To Have and Have Not sketches in everything from Slim Hawks' discovery of Bacall and the ensuing Bogie-Bacall romance to co-screenwriter William Faulkner's glee at being able to rework his rival Ernest Hemingway's novel. The DVD of The Big Sleep contains the 1946 version of the film, which was rejiggered to exploit Bacall's budding star power, and the version that had been completed a year before and shown only to soldiers overseas. UCLA restoration whiz Robert Gitt, in a pithy documentary called The Big Sleep Comparisons, illustrates the theatrical release print's upgrade in spunk.

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MIAMI VICE: SEASONS ONE AND TWO --Universal / $59.98

When asked to executive-produce a show with hard-edged cops in a languorous climate, the movie director Michael Mann exploited the breakthroughs he'd achieved in his first feature Thief (1981) and helped series creator Anthony Yerkovich come up with the phenomenon of Miami Vice. The series used its soundtrack the way urbanites now use iPods and satellite radio - either to articulate the surrounding chaos, or to provide a defiant counterpoint. With avant-garde cars and clothing, pastel backdrops to bloodletting, and guest appearances by hard-news celebrities such as G. Gordon Liddy and rock icons like Glenn Frey, Mann turned the urban schizophrenia of the '80s into a seductive and influential style. Universal has packaged together the first two seasons of the show's five-season run just in time for the Friday opening of Mann's big-screen version of the series, starring Colin Farrell in the Don Johnson role and Jamie Foxx in the Philip Michael Thomas role. It will be fascinating to see what new style Mann will bring to it - especially since to Mann, style is primarily (as he keeps telling me) "an expression of place and content, the milieu the guys are moving through."

[MICHAEL SRAGOW]

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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