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July 3, 2012


On DVD/Blu-ray – In the Heat of the Summer


Highs in the low 100s, lows in the mid 70s, and the heat index adds 10 degrees (as we’re fond of saying in the Midwest, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity). And it’s only the first week of July. There’s no relief in sight.

Times like this, the only thing is to go home, crank up the AC, and watch a movie that reminds us how good we have it.

Stray Dog (1949)

During a Tokyo heat wave, a rookie detective embarks on a desperate search of the city after his gun is stolen by a pickpocket on a crowded bus. Akira Kurosawa’s crime drama is the ultimate summer in the sweltering city movie.

The Criterion DVD of Stray Dog is light on features- by Criterion standards- but has a commentary track by Stephen Prince, author of a book on Kurosawa’s films; Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, a 30 minute making-of documentary; and a booklet including an excerpt from Kurosawa’s autobiography.

The African Queen (1951)

Death by sunstroke. Clouds of ravenous mosquitoes. Leeches. ‘Nuff said.

The single-disc DVD/Blu-ray includes an hour-long “making-of” documentary called “Embracing Chaos: Making The African Queen.” The box set offers the documentary, “collectible packaging” highlighting stars Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, a CD of a vintage radio broadcast based on the film and starring Bogart and Greer Garson, a set of cards inspired by original lobby cards, and a reproduction of Hepburn’s out of print memoir, “The Making of The African Queen, or How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind.”

Inherit the Wind (1960)

The setting is a packed courtroom in the American South. In summer. Pre-air conditioning. It’s been years since I saw Inherit the Wind, the (highly fictionalized) dramatization of the Scopes trial, and the only thing I remember clearly is how desperately, miserably hot everybody looked. Take that not as a slam of the movie, but as a compliment to the set dressing.

Amazon’s product page doesn’t list any DVD special features. Although that’s not a sure guide, this has the look of a barebones release.

New releases this week: God Bless America, The Hunter

Nir’s review of God Bless America on his personal blog

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jul 3 2012

    I knew that that was a still from Stray Dog. I still remember the depiction of the heat wave in that film. Also, Drunken Angel (1946) has tons of that happening in it. :O)

  2. Jul 4 2012

    It hurt a little to use a picture that isn’t of Toshiro Mifune but that scene is just too good for the “suffering from the heat” theme.

    The heat wave as symbolic of the characters’ emotional state is classic Kurosawa.

  3. Jul 6 2012

    Absolutely. And watching Takashi Shimura wipe the back of his neck and his face every ten minutes in Drunken Angel is also awesome. :O)

  4. Miriam
    Jul 6 2012

    It’s good to be reminded that things could be worse. This is shaping up to be the hottest summer in years but at least there are no leeches.

  5. Jul 6 2012

    My Brother has been vacationing in eastern Canada in the Nova Scotia area and it has been cool and rainy with highs only in the 50’s and 60’s. It is also one of the coolest summers on record for Seattle where they haven’t even hit 80 yet. It also hasn’t been all that hot in Toronto where Nir is. Of course up there, like in Minnesota, 90’s are considered a novelty.

    A few other great movies with hot locales are “Flight of the Phoenix” with Jimmy Stewart and ‘Sands of the Kalahari”. Both of these films deal with plane crashes in the desert and the surviving victims fighting the brutally hot elements. There is also the Australian classic ‘Outback’ and the African film “The Grass is Singing” starring Karen Black. Both of these films deal with people who move to the desert and then suffer mental breakdowns when they are unable to adjust to the unrelenting heat and brutal climate that comes with it.

  6. Jul 6 2012

    Nice suggestions, especially the Jimmy Stewart version of Flight of the Phoenix. :O)

    Today, in Toronto the temperature is 36 degrees (celsius); we don’t do Fahrenheit here. I actually had to Google a conversion to know what you’re talking about, Richard!


    The temperature’s not actually that cool here, it’s been steadily 30-35 degrees for the past couple of weeks.

  7. Jul 6 2012

    I came very close to including “The Long Hot Summer” in the post, but the demands of the Hollywood glamor machine kept the actors from looking as miserably suffering hot as their characters complained of feeling throughout the movie.

  8. Jul 7 2012

    That makes sense. :O)