The Society for Cinephiles is gearing up for its 59th annual Cinecon Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles—actually in El Segundo, at the Old Town Music Hall. Seems the $50 parking tab at the Legion Theatre in Hollywood—last year’s venue—didn’t go over too well. Nor did the alternative “death march” (in the words of one friend) from cheaper parking down the hill, thus prompting planners to move the Labor Day weekend tradition down near LAX. Info:

Meanwhile, if DVDs and Blu-rays are on the endangered species list, a small number of dedicated companies are putting out new ones like there’s no mañana, to phrase a coin. Review copies are arriving one my doorstep so fast I haven’t had a chance to crack the shrink-wrap on most of them, but I’ll cover them all in due time.  

Among them are “Laurel & Hardy Year One: The Newly Restored 1927 Silents” (Flicker Alley), which may well be the most highly anticipated Blu-ray of the year; “Stooge O-Rama” (MVD) which promises eight hours of rarities featuring Moe, Larry, Curly and their cohorts; a double bill of Tom Mix silent westerns (Undercrank); and “The Spanish Dancer” with Pola Negri (Milestone).

“Soundies” The Ultimate Collection” (Kino Lorber) is an extraordinary (fantastic is not too strong a superlative) four-disc compilation of short films that spotlights the stars of the big band era. Soundies were the music videos of the day during World War II—capturing singers, dancers and other entertainers of the 1940s, along with bands and orchestras of every stripe. Many of these shorts offer the earliest and/or best evidence of these individuals and groups on film, and in some cases preserve the only visual record of them performing.

If that enthusiastic blonde songstress looks like a young Doris Day, it is. Dorothy Dandridge is here, along with the likes of Hoagy Carmichael, Count Basie, Liberace, comedy bands Spike Jones and his City Slickers and the rival Hoosier Hot Shots, silent film comic Harry Langdon, Gene Krupa, Gale Storm, and Harry “The Hipster” Gibson.

African American entertainers are particularly well represented on this collection, including Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, The (Nat) King Cole Trio, Louis Jordan, the Mills Brothers and The Delta Rhythm Boys. Other ethnicities are present too, witness an item titled “He’s a Latin from Staten Island” starring  a youthful Ricardo Montalban. Not all the titles are politically correct, “We’ll Slap the Japs” being a case in point.

Curated by author Susan Delson, this 200-film pop-culture time capsule ranges from jazz to country western to boogie woogie. The package includes such bonus features as a 44-page booklet (with essays by Delson, Ellen C. Scott  and jazz-on-film historian Mark Cantor), intros by Delson and conservationist Ina Archer, and an interview with Cantor about the Panoram, the jukebox-like machine that originally showed the Soundies in bars and restaurants when they were new. Info:

Author: Jordan Young