This week, we begin in the Yemen river:
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Rated PG-13, 111 minutes.
Available Tuesday in all DVD formats and streaming.
In an unexpected guilty pleasure from earlier this year, Emily Blunt plays Harriet, an anxious, hard-working public relations agent in London. She lands a client, a rich Yemen sheik (Amr Waked), who wants to somehow find a way to bring fly-fishing to his arid native country.
She recruits a British bureaucrat, Alfred (Ewan McGregor), for the seemingly crazy scheme. Meanwhile, Harriet has a boyfriend, and Alfred is married, but no doubt exists where all of this is eventually headed.
Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules) directs, deftly wavering between satire and cynicism. With its political element, Salmon Fishing comes to resemble 2009’s inspired In the Loop, but it succeeds on its own.
Simon Beaufoy wrote the screenplay from Paul Torday’s novel, and Kristin Scott Thomas nearly steals the film as an edgy, foul-mouthed governmental liaison. Quick paced and consistently entertaining.
The DVD includes a 13-minute “making of” featurette, “Miracles Happen,” complete with cast and crew interviews, and a three-minute conversation with novelist Torday.
Nobody Lives Forever (***1/2), The Conspirators (***), Three Strangers (***) The Warner Archive Collection releases three unrated films from Jean Negulesco, a Romanian exile who came to Hollywood and became a versatile, top-notch director. He eventually helmed more than 80 films and won a Best Director Oscar for Johnny Belinda.
Pioneer Method actor John Garfield stars in Nobody Lives Forever (1946, 100 minutes) as a one-time hardened con man who returns from World War II to Manhattan to find his girlfriend (Faye Emerson) has cheated and abandoned him. He flees to Los Angeles to fall into a scam revolving around his romancing a rich widow (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Negulesco delivers a taut morality tale from the script from legendary writer W.R. Burnett, who contributed to such fare as The Great Escape, Scarface, High Sierra and The Asphalt Jungle.
The Conspirators (1944, 101 minutes) reunites some of the cast for Casablanca for a similar story.
Paul Henreid plays Vincent, a Dutchman, who escapes during World War II to neutral Portugal after killing German soldiers and bombing important German military sites. In Lisbon, he meets the mysterious Irene (Hedy Lamarr), who joins him working with a gang of spies, including Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.
Negulesco keeps the drama going, slowing only when Vincent and Irene pause for the obligatory romance.
John Huston and Howard Koch wrote the screenplay for Three Strangers (1946, 93 minutes), a choppy drama that builds in excitement. The titular threesome (Geraldine Fitzgerald, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre) come together and eventually share a sweepstakes ticket.
Director Negulesco then takes their individual stories and reveals how a possible large sum of money might, or might not, change their lives. Before the finish, murder, adultery and theft all play parts in the outcomes of strangers who have unwittingly become entangled.
The 39 Steps (****) The Criterion Collection has revived and polished Alfred Hitchock’s 1935 classic shaggy-dog adventure based on John Buchan’s rousing novel.
Robert Donat stars as the hounded and beleaguered Richard Hannay, a character type Hitchcock would often return to: the innocent man wrongly accused.
When it looks like Hannay has committed murder, he flees London and heads north on the train, winding up in the Scottish Highlands. He uncovers the workings of a spy ring, but no one will believe him, even the initially reluctant woman (Madeleine Carroll) whom Hannay drags along.
Rapidly paced and beautifully rendered, the film not only presages future Hitchcock masterpieces but also excels on its own.
Not rated, 86 minutes. The amply stuffed single disc has a new high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Supplements include: commentary by Hitchcock scholar Marian Keane, the 24-minute featurette “Hitchcock: The Early Years,” a 40-minute segment on “The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock,” a 24-minute “visual essay” on Hitch from Leonard Leff, 28 stills from the production designs, a complete 1937 audio broadcast of The 39 Steps from the Lux Radio Theatre, and 22 minutes of audio clips of Francois Truffaut’s seminal interviews with Hitchcock. Plus: a 16-page booklet on the film.
And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:
Storage Wars: Volume Three Auctioneers Dan and Laura Dotson return in these 16 episodes, on two discs, of cable channel A&E’s popular reality series. Bidders arrive at warehouses and storage units to bid for what they hope to be hidden treasures. Veterans such as father-and-son team Darrell and Brandon Sheets, store owner Jarrod Schulz, antique collector Barry Weiss and others all turn up in hopes of uncovering riches.
Rated TV-PG-L, 352 minutes. The collection also holds additional footage.
IRT: Deadliest Roads: Season Two — The Andes Intrepid truckers return for more white-knuckle thrills in History’s adrenaline rush of a series. In 13 episodes, on four discs, the fearless group of three American drivers — Lisa Kelly, Rick Yemm and Hugh Rowland — cross the icy roads of the Andes mountain range, often coming perilously close to the edges.
Rated TV-14, 572 minutes. The collection also offers bonus footage.
Dan Vs.: The Complete First Season The 22 episodes of The Hub’s animated series arrive on three discs. Rebellious and paranoid Dan (voiced by Curtis Armstrong) weekly seeks justice in his own bizarre way. Other voices includes Paget Brewster, Dave Foley, Meredith Baxter and Michael Gross.
Rated TV-PG, 485 minutes. The collection also offers the featurette “Burgerphile — The Animatics Version.”
The Inbetweeners: The Complete Series Damon Beesley and Iain Morris created this British series that followed four boys as they experienced all the ups and downs of the teenage years. They grapple with weighty issues such as finding a job, contemplating marriage and pursuing college, while also obsessing over females. A film based on this series arrives here this fall.
Rated TV-MA, 432 minutes. The set of 18 episodes, on three discs, boasts ample supplements, including commentaries, video diaries, cast interviews, outtakes and deleted scenes, and “making of” and “behind-the-scenes” featurettes.
Sanctuary: The Complete Fourth Season Amanda Tapping plays Dr. Helen Magnus in this final season of Syfy’s special effects-laden hit series. With colleagues Will (Robin Dunne), Henry (Ryan Robbins), and Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl), she confronts the hidden enemies disguised among us.
Not rated, 585 minutes. The collection includes commentary, deleted scenes, bloopers and several featurettes: “A Day in the Life of Amanda Tapping,” “Fugue: Making a Musical,” “Behind-the-Scenes,” “Robin Dunne Directs Homecoming” and more.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Get the Gringo, Intruders, Lockout and The Three Stooges.