In this 1953 publicity photo provided by Running Press, Marilyn Monroe is shown on set in the film, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." / AP/Courtesy Running Press
A dearth of new movies coming out on video this week gives this column the opportunity to call attention to a wealth of older titles on the release schedule. Think of this lineup as your chance to discover an unknown gem, familiarize yourself anew with a film you haven’t caught in decades, or become reacquainted with a movie star you only thought you knew.
America’s most famous sex symbol became a red-hot star during the mid-1950s, a period that saw the release of five of her most famous films — “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “How to Marry a Millionaire,” “River of No Return,” “The Seven Year Itch” (the movie with that iconic subway grate scene) and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” All of these Monroe classics arrive on Blu-ray this week.
Here are the roles that solidified the actress’s status as a dumb blonde, a persona she struggled to overcome for the few remaining years of her career. Monroe learned a lot on these pictures, although this was also when many of her more destructive working habits, brought on largely by crippling stage fright, gave the star a reputation for being difficult. Marilyn Monroe certainly was that, but as these pictures vividly illustrate, she was also so much more.
“LOL.” Only a lucky few teenage stars manage to keep their fame going into adulthood.
Miley Cyrus, alas, appears to have reached her peak with “Hannah Montana,” if “LOL” is any indication. The 19-year-old shows no signs of attempting to transition into more adult roles with this teenage romance, the muddle-headed plot of which need not be detailed here. The film saw only a limited release in the U.S. as its studio’s marketing team did its level best to pretend it didn’t exist. And oh, it also stars Demi Moore, which should tell you everything else you need to know. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving teen sexuality and drug and alcohol use, and for language. 97 min.
“Hatfields & McCoys.” This miniseries didn’t just break viewership records for the History Channel, it was also the most watched entertainment telecast for all of basic cable, according to the Nielsen Co. Who says the miniseries is dead? Even though the program aired on a commercial channel, be aware that its violence is frequent and intense.
Concerned with the legendary feud between neighboring clans along the Kentucky-West Virginia border in the years following the Civil War, the show pulls no punches. Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton and Tom Berenger acquit themselves well in starring roles. Two discs, 290 min.
“Total Recall.” Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, now that he’s evidently done with politics, has voiced a desire to get back into the acting business. I wish him luck, but more than that, really wish he would stay retired and rest on the laurels of movies like this one. Based on yet another short story by sci-fi master Philip K. Dick, “Total Recall” stars Arnold as a man tormented by nightmares of a trip to Mars and a memory implantation gone wrong. The special effects, ambitious for 1990, can’t help but look dated today, and seeing Sharon Stone in a starring role also feels like a trip down memory lane. “Mind-Bending Edition” on Blu-ray. 113 min.
“Body and Soul.” I mention this gritty, little boxing melodrama from 1947 only because I recently watched it for the first time, and was surprised by its quality. Boxing’s best days are long behind it, of course, but this 65-year-old noir shows that the seediness was always there. John Garfield headlines as a pugilist from the streets whose meteoritic rise fails to prepare him for the moral compromises he’s forced to confront. Seduced by the big bucks, will he make the right choice? A young William Conrad also appears as an unsmiling, hard-bitten promoter who’s seen it all, which essentially describes the tone of the movie as well. Great stuff. Blu-ray, 104 min.
This week’s most popular home video releases, as compiled by Rotten Tomatoes: “21 Jump Street,” “American Reunion,” “The Three Stooges,” “Mirror Mirror,” “Wrath of the Titans,” “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” “Safe House,” “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” and “John Carter.”
Email entertainment writer Todd Hill at email@example.com. Twitter: @ToddHillMNJ