Shock Doc

It’s that time when things may have escalated to the (to quote Carole King) “it’s too late, baby” mode, that sixty-minute tick-down before what we pagans call the witching hour; in short, the uneasy thin line between science fact and science fiction (with a bit o’horror thrown in).  It’s the ELEVENTH HOUR, an X-Files/CSI hybrid, now on a two-disc DVD set from Acorn Media/RJL Entertainment/ITV Studios.  A limited 2006 series, comprised of four feature-length TV motion pictures, ELEVENTH HOUR was created, coproduced and coscripted by Stephen Gallagher, best known as one of the writing forces behind Dr. Who (the early 1980s editions).  This tough, gritty no-holds barred show stars the great Patrick Stewart as Dr. Ian Hood, a tough, gritty, no-holds barred Home Office genius, whose penchant for rubbing highly positioned muckety-mucks the wrong way is so perilous that he’s assigned a permanent bodyguard, the DFWM (Don’t Fuck With Me) snarky (at first) disbeliever Rachel Young (Ashley Jensen).  They’re a formidable team, especially when Young gradually comes around to Hood’s way of thinking, and the nightmarish realization that there is evil out there on a grand scale.  It’s a difficult show to peg, covering and (hopefully) solving genuine doomsday factors in our society via procedural sleuthing and high-tech science.  But have we let greed take control?  Are we beyond the crisis level?  These are the uncomfortable questions ELEVENTH HOUR asks, and, so reasonably that it’s often terrifying.

Mixed in with the renegade brilliant psychopaths are the avaricious right-wing government monsters, who willingly prey upon the UK’s 99% to line their pockets, throwing caution to the wind (the wind being the future of mankind).

While some of the initial entry’s dialog tends to be a bit preachy, it is a problem cumulatively rectified as the narratives progress and as the two leads evolve into an unstoppable force of camaraderie; sadly, then, the series abruptly ends – thus adding more frustration to the truly frightening scenarios.  It suggests (to my paranoid psyche) that the repellent powers that be stopped the production before it went too far.  Indeed, it’s astounding that a series with this plotline and a star of Stewart’s magnitude (a bona-fide saleable name on this side of the pond) never found a PBS satellite for US broadcast.  Hmmmm…makes one think, eh?  And these days, that’s extremely dangerous.

That said, it’s not all gloom and doom in ELEVENTH HOUR.  There’s some gallows humor and sexual tension (Hood interrupting Rachel during a much-needed shag).  Nevertheless, if your curiosity transcends your libido, here’s a brief rundown on HOUR‘s tense, volatile subject matter.

In Resurrection, the discovery of two dozen deformed babies and untold “compromised” fetuses lead Hood and Young to a maniac determined to conquer the world of human cloning.  Christened Geppetto by those in the know, this sociopath (a delicious performance by Jane Lapotaire) must be tracked down and stopped by the “volunteered” Professor and Rachel.  But, of course, in real life vs. reel life, you can’t always get what you want.

Containment unleashes a centuries-old flesh-eating virus when a landmark crypt undergoes renovation.  A near-dead, contagious worker releases air-borne particles that threaten to cause a nationwide epidemic that makes the Bubonic Plague look like a Mucinex commercial.

Krytos, the best episode in the series, has Hood confronting his one-time best friend (Donald Sumpter), another big brain, who seemingly has gone mad while on the verge of a major discovery.  The reason for their broken bromance was the demented prof’s wife (Susan Wooldridge, once Hood’s lover).  As Hood investigates, he uncovers that his old compadre is no crazier than he is, but rather furious that his horrifying research on global warming is already accurately encroaching upon civilization in lethal doses, and may be irreversible.  His warnings of ruthless mega-political factions who stand to lose millions if his findings are revealed and scoffed at – until his few contemporaries begin showing up accidentally dead.  Since this program aired, we’ve seen the increasing shrinkage of glaciers and coastlines at an alarming rate.  Like I said, the best episode in the series; also the scariest.

The final installment, Miracle, revolves around a tumor-afflicted boy (Matthew Williams) whose fatal disease mysteriously disappears.  Turns out, his trailer-park dad (Darrell O’Silva) fed him water from a river whose shoreline touches his property.  Soon, the countryside is flooded with Stage 5 cancer victims craving the magic elixir.  Hood knows that this miracle stuff is bollocks, and toils feverishly to find the reason for the child’s recovery.  Truth rears its ugly head when the side effects of the water take hold.  With results bordering on potentially terminal, Hood must work doubly-fast, as Rachel has taken a dose after earlier becoming deathly ill.  A sinister conspiracy unveiling the dumping toxic waste products may just be, too big to fail.

This is riveting, intelligent stuff.  It’s occasionally pretty grim, but certainly different and absolutely worth a peek.  In addition to those mentioned above, there are some wonderful guest stars gracing this quartet, including Roy Marsden, Claire Holman, Stephen Tomlin, Nicholas Woodeson, Clive Wood, Michelle Newell, Joanna Horton and others.  As indicated, the writing is generally excellent (Gallagher sharing scribe duties with Simon Stephenson and Mike Cullen); ditto the direction (Roger Garland and Terry McDonough) and superb Manchester location camerawork by Ben Smithard and Graham Frake.  The stereo-surround is top-notch, keeping with realism of the show, and features a creepy score by the appropriately named The Insects.  The Acorn DVD is terrific, ebullient in its palette of cold imagery, immaculately detailed.

Check it out, if you dare.

ELEVENTH HOUR.  Color.  Widescreen [1.78:1; 16 x 9 anamorphic]; 2.0 stereo-surround.  Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment/ITV Studios. CAT # AMP-2480.  SRP:  $29.99.



The Last of the Summer Whine

In a cinematic definition of bad timing, IF IT’S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE BELGIUM, David L. Wolper’s pleasant, slick romantic comedy, had the misfortune of being released in 1969, quickly disappearing into celluloid oblivion.  Thanks to Olive Films/MGM Studios/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment, it can now be enjoyed via their nifty new Blu-Ray.

The picture, as ably directed by Mel Stuart and scripted by David Shaw (from his story), is a 1960s hybrid of hilarity.  Part of it belongs to the first part of the decade, those Doris Day-Rock Hudson years, unfairly chastised by the young post-Graduate moviegoers of the Sixties’ latter half.  The other, the core male-female relationship, is fairly “mod” and adult, definitely smacking of the influence of Blow-Up, Alfie and other Brit hits.  It’s not as uneasy an alliance as it sounds; in fact, it’s quite fetching and worth a peek.

The movie, as the title implies, is a chronicle of one of those frenzied fast-food European bus treks that sound as lousy and stressful as they likely were.  Commencing in the UK and sprawling across the Continent through France, Germany and Italy, it was a number-cruncher’s dream and a serious vacationer’s nightmare.  The affable guide is dandy dude Ian McShane, who not only has a girl in every port, but sometimes two or three.  He’s a likeable, nonetheless womanizing, cad.  This time about, he doesn’t even have to leave his bus, as he has his Carnaby Street cap set for Yank Suzanne Pleshette, a thoroughly modern Millie, 1969-style (gone are her beehives and bouffants, she’s tripped out in the ironing-the-hair mode that offered an option to the Sassoon Rosemary’s Baby look).  Pleshette’s character is the most admirable in the pic, a smart, savvy career woman who’s taking this jaunt to decide on whether or not she wants to settle down with a total (but adoring) stuffed shirt.  In keeping with the times, she’s not sure about chucking the career for parenthood, but definitely is curious about signing up for the sexual revolution.  McShane can spot a mark when he sees one, and vigorously pursues her through each and every country, and charmingly so (including a busker song and dance).  The conquest comes (no pun) and the two bask (or busk) in the myriad of stunning on-location backdrops (it’s Rome Adventure with penetration).  But Pleshette, as we indicated, is smart enough to know a fling when it’s flung, and happily experienced, merrily returns to her career and searching for true love (with possible sidebar shagging).  It’s McShane who for the first time is taken aback, as he’s found the love of his life, and does the unthinkable:  proposes marriage.  Pleshette is touched and tempted, but wise enough to know he’ll cheat the next time he sets foot on the following bus tour (which is true).

That said, it’s the Greek chorus of IF IT’S TUESDAY that, for the flick’s growing fanbase, makes the movie. It’s a bus load of ugly Americans, a veritable 1960s movie/TV character actor heaven.  And quite funny, too – dealing with such crucial holiday thorns as toilet paper, questionable food, time management and that old tourism bugaboo – being taken for a ride.  To hammer this point home, the tour’s boors encompass the likes of Murray Hamilton, Norman Fell, Peggy Cass, Michael Constantine, Pamela Britton, Sandy Baron, Reva Rose, Mildred Natwick, Marty Ingles and a host of annoying others.  Some of the genuinely laugh-out-loud moments include Fell’s spouse Rose boarding the wrong bus in a parking lot and ending up with a Japanese contingent; Hamilton, craving a pair of handmade Italian shoes, bartering with wily sole-man Vittorio di Sica (Hamilton’s grasp of the language essentially comprises doing a Chico Marx impression loudly); Baron’s visiting seemingly “Sicilian Clan” relatives who have conspired to marry the American to one of their own (his proudly shared latrine escape backfires in a climatic serves-you-right way); Constantine retracing his finest moment (World War II) to Britton while a German tour couple (Peter Esser, Suzy Falk) concurrently do the same; and Ingles, horndog extraordinaire, snapping photos of Euro hotties to deceptively send back to his U.S. pals as nailed foreign goods (deservedly getting the shit slapped out of him when caught; he subsequently pays the ladies to pose, culminating in an impulsively and surprising sweet moment.  In a mercifully brief ancillary running narrative, teen Hilary Thompson and ex-pat hippie Luke Halpin continually bump into each other accidentally on purpose (it’s like the anti-Christ depiction of Hitchcock’s film theory:  a movie with life’s boring parts stuck in).  Non-tourist delights include Patricia Routledge and famed Hammer cutie Yutte Strensgaard.  A creepy performance by Aubrey Morris as an obsessive souvenir hunter is vindicated by a sight gag fade-out that would have delighted Frank Tashlin.

Producer Wolper stacked the deck by not only offering recognizable punims and actual settings, but an array of cameos by an international edition of Actor’s Equity.  Some of Ingles’ “babes” are the current Germany, Belgium and Holland Miss Universe contestants.  And between him, Baron, and McShane are such feminine lovelies as Joan Collins, Virna Lisi, Elsa Martinelli, Marina Berti, Senta Berger, Catherine Spaak, and in one side-splitting sequence, Anita Ekberg (twisting and twerking in a nightclub with Fell).  Male guest stars include John Cassavetes and Ben Gazzara; best of all is a take-no-prisoners Italian photographer, enacted with great comedic panache by Robert Vaughn (no doubt Gazzara and Vaughn were recruited by Wolper, who was simultaneously producing the excellent war drama Bridge at Remagen).

IF IT’S TUESDAY was shot in DeLuxe Color by Vilis Lapenieks.  It’s a pretty good job, but one wonders what the zoom-laden and the occasionally grainy optical work would have looked like a mere three or four years earlier with prime lenses and Technicolor.  The music by Walter Scharf is in perfect unison with the onscreen shenanigans, even with the rock ballad (written and performed by Donovan, who also makes a cameo as a strolling hippie troubadour, the one instance that made me want to throw something at the monitor).  All in all, it’s a spiffy Blu-Ray, looking much better than I remember it when I originally the comedy in 1969.

Tongue-twistingly, a wacky trapped tourist tourist trap, IF IT’S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE BELGIUM is one of those pictures with a Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation conclusion that would ONLY have worked with bitching, carping, complaining Americans.  As such, it’s an endearing part of my Boomer existence.

IF IT’S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE BELGIUM.  Color. Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Olive Films/MGM Studios/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment.  CAT # OF1223.  SRP: $29.95.




Fast-talkin’ Talkie

Overshadowed by Howard Hawks’ brilliant gender-bender remake His Girl Friday, the original 1931 screen version of THE FRONT PAGE has been sadly neglected for over eighty years.  Aside from the above reason, there are others – particularly the fact that having to sell the rights and negatives to Columbia for the 1940 remake (yeah, they used to do that) put the pre-Code pic’s elements in nitrate-rotting jeopardy.  Worse, the property fell into public domain, resulting in prints ranging from fair-good to WTF is that?!  Happily, there’s a sorta alternative now with Kino Classics’ new Blu-Ray, mastered from some of the only 35mm materials known to be in existence.  It’s a mixed bag, but with pros definitely outweighing the cons.

The raucous stage production that debuted to rave reviews and business in 1929 was a triumph for reporters-turned-playwrights Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.  And why not?  It was about the world they knew best – the conniving, thieving, yellow journalistic universe chock full of corrupt, snarky mofos.  The uncut script still packs ’em in with laffs today (it remains one of the most revived plays in theater history).

Howard Hughes wasted no time in securing the screen rights – a savvy move, as what could be a better vehicle for talking pictures?  His favorite director, Lewis Milestone (Two Arabian Nights, The Racket), was recruited to guide the project and a cast of soon-to-be movie faves (Pat O’Brien, Frank McHugh, Edward Everett Horton, Walter Catlett, George E. Stone and, supposedly, in a bit, Clark Gable) delivered the goods in droves.  The women on view were the then highly popular Mae Clarke (her year, with Frankenstein, Public Enemy and Waterloo Bridge under her garter belt) and always-innocent Mary Brian.  The real revelation was sophisticated Adolphe Menjou as the take-no-prisoners ruthless, quicksilver-verbal editor Walter Burns (based on unscrupulous newsman Walter Howey).  Although it assured his foothold in talkies, he was a second-choice replacement for Hughes pal Louis Wolheim, who died suddenly just as filming began (Menjou was deservedly Oscar-nominated, as was Milestone, and the movie for Best Picture).

Hawks’ sex-change operation on the property was, as indicated, a stroke of genius, but, even in this pre-Code form, one can how see relatively easy the transformation was.  Obvious, of course, is the O’Brien character’s name, Hildy (actually based on real-life reporter Hildebrand Johnson) – but the dialog between him and Burns isn’t all that different from some of the Cary Grant-Ros Russell exchanges.  “So, you’re leaving me for marriage,” cries a jealous Menjou to O’Brien.  The plot clearly resembles what would become known as the Warner Bros. Vitaphone style (as pioneered by Daryl Zanuck), and, not surprisingly, both O’Brien and McHugh would eventually be given WB contracts.

Going into the plot is nothing short of a waste of space, the narrative being so iconic; the reporters waiting in a prison press room for the execution of a meek, lovesick befuddled murderer (what Curly Howard used to term “a victim of coik-cumstances”) is but a springboard to expose American political corruption on a grand scale – but with laffs and, as Preston Sturges might logically add, “a little sex.”

Milestone’s direction is quite good – inventively and effectively disassociating the production from the then-still stodgy all-talking tableaus that graced the newly wired-for-sound picture houses.  There’s quick editing to match the overlapping dialog, and a fair amount of camera movement, some of it head-shaking bizarre (careening up and down like a tilt-o-whirl and sideways like other projectile vomit-inducing carnival rides).  Much credit for mastering these liberating visual jaunts must be given to the underrated d.p. Glen McWilliams, who had formidable assist from Hal Mohr who, in turn, replaced Tony Gaudio.  The lightning paced one-liners and auctioneer-esque speeches that Hecht and MacArthur had refined to an art were “movie-ed up” by Bartlett Cormack (who penned The Racket) and Charles Lederer.

In the decades since its release, THE FRONT PAGE has frustrated film archivists, who strove to cobble a respectable, viewable copy.  Prints would be uncovered with (obviously) the same scenes, but with different dialog.  Typical Howard Hughes, rather than cut risqué stuff for various states/territories throughout the nation/globe, he filmed different editions to placate the individual censors.  Of course, this is insanity, but, like I said, typical Howard Hughes.  That said, no matter what evocation one lights upon, it IS a pre-Code title, so there’s plenty of sexist, racist and vicious nastiness to delight us all.

Key faves (that would all be toned-down or removed from subsequent screen versions) include Hildy being asked if his bride is white.  Or the accusation of temporarily installing an African-American cop in a neighborhood where the “colored vote” counts.  When the inept law-enforcement officials scour the city for the escaped dupe Earl Williams, the snarky reporters reveal that the dicks even investigated a “newborn pickaninny’s” point of entry to verify it wasn’t Williams in hiding.  Naturally, the prime spouting is between Menjou and O’Brien.  “You wouldn’t know what to do with a pure girl,” decrees Hildy to Burns about his beloved.  “Ohhhh, yes, I would,” leers Menjou, smacking his lips – one the multitude of instances that nearly lead to blows.  Finally, there’s the Fourth Estate’s evaluation of quack shrink Dr. Engelhoffer (the character actor with the always eyebrow-raising moniker, Gustav von Seyffertitz), author of “that book, The Personality Gland, and where to put it.”).

After years of suffering through god-awful prints of Hughes’ production of Scarface, it was a revelation to see the spectacular 35mm unearthed and restored by Universal Pictures, who handled the majority of the Hughes film library (which also gave us great copies of Hell’s Angels, and later kitsch pics Jet Pilot and The Conqueror).  I was hoping that the Kino 35mm Blu-Ray would be of that caliber.  Sadly, it’s not (again, most likely due to the years of public-domain purgatory).  The print is indeed 35mm, and was uncovered from the East German Film Archive (and remastered in conjunction with the Library of Congress).  Much of it IS excellent (the first time one can ever say that about this title), but there are some dupey sequences, shots, opticals, etc.  Ditto, the audio (while generally miles above the earlier bacon-frying soundtracks, it still is plagued by some muffled, garbled “motorboat” bits).  Don’t let that stop you pre-Code and/or FRONT PAGE fans from purchasing this edition, as it’s probably the best rendition we’ll ever see.

There’s also a plethora of extras worth mentioning.  Two – count ’em – TWO radio adaptations, one (1946) with Menjou and O’Brien reprising their roles and an earlier (1937) presentation by Cecil B. DeMille, featuring Walter Winchell!  Second audio commentary with film historian Bret Wood is there for those who want it.  There’s even a dry, rather lackluster Library of Congress short on preservation, which SHOULD have been fascinating, but has all the appeal of a five-hour El Brendel documentary.

THE FRONT PAGE.  Black and white.  Full frame 1.33:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Kino Classics/Library of Congress.  CAT # K1820.  SRP:  $29.95.



Art is a Lonely Hunter

“I’m Tab Hunter, and I’ve got a secret…” begins the celebrated teen girl heart throb’s intro for the famous 1950s-60s game show, a wink-wink double-whammy for those in the know, and a perfect intro to the superb acclaimed 2015 feature-length documentary TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL, now on Blu-Ray from FilmRise and Automat Pictures.

Hunter, born Arthur Gelien Kelm in 1931, had the genetic good fortune (or, as some see it, misfortune) to be blessed with ridiculous comic-book, chiseled, movie-star looks.  Convenient, since he loved le cinema, along with his family (an adoring, savvy single mother and supportive older brother) and, later, those incredibly spiritual beings that comprise the equine universe (hey, anyone who loves horses is okay by me; people, not so much).

Hunter, in case you Bijou buffs have been living in a cave, was one of the 1950s’ biggest draws – a blond hunky dude whose early inexperience eventually gave way to a genuinely fine actor, gracing a number of memorable Eisenhower Era classics.  The fact that he was gay almost destroyed the meteoric career before it began (a raid at a “fag” party around 1951 was a red flag smack-down from a period where homosexuality was against the law).

Hunter’s previous high-school adventures were nearly as traumatic, if not more so.  Girls wouldn’t leave him alone to the extent that he flew to coop, and, lying about his age, joined the Coast Guard.

His meeting with the infamous one-two punch agents Dick Clayton and then Henry Willson set him on the road to eventual stardom.  Clayton was a hot commodity since he had repped James Dean (but apparently did little else), while Willson was a shadowy (often dubbed “satanic”) figure – the super-agent who coined crazy names for male clients (Hunter, Rock Hudson, and, in a wacky alternative in-joke, John Smith).  The change from Gelien Kelm to Hunter was Willsoned during an exchange where he told the would-be actor, “we gotta tab you something.”  The Hunter part came from the six-foot wannabe thesp telling Willson that in his horse-training lifestyle he showed hunters and jumpers (ironically one of the names originally tossed to him was “Troy Donahue,” who would become his successor at Warner Bros.).  It seemed almost inevitable that at the first signs of trouble (aka, Confidential magazine), either/or both of these creeps would toss Tab under the bus (and so it came to pass).

Suffice to say, TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL is an immensely entertaining and informative look at Hollywood history in the 1950s (a period I really like, so I was hooked from the fade-in).  Hunter himself is an ingratiating subject, smart, intuitive, funny, and, importantly, self-deprecating when necessary (the movie being a worthy companion piece to the actor’s best-selling autobiography of the same name; as Hunter accurately bemuses, it was better his story be told from the horse’s mouth rather than a horse’s ass, since rumors rose that an unauthorized tell-all book was in the works).  His anecdotal abilities are top-notch, and he is aided by many friends and associates, including John Waters, Robert Wagner, Darryl Hickman, Lainie Kazan, Debbie Reynolds, Connie Stevens, Brett Halsey, Robert Osborne, George Takei, Portia De Rossi, Don Murray, Mother Dolores Hart OSB, Venetia Stevenson, Clint Eastwood (who, not surprisingly for these days, makes an idiotic comment) and others.

For me, it’s wonderful to learn that his favorite pics are ones that I consider the actor’s best, particularly the violent, underrated Phil Karlson western Gunman’s Walk (1958) and the butchered but still fascinating all-star adventure They Came to Cordura (1959).

There are so many things I didn’t know.  I knew Hunter had a mega-hit rock ‘n’ roll single with “Young Love” (it knocked Elvis out of the Top Ten), but hadn’t realized that he sustained an impressive, lasting recording sidebar vocation.  The massive success of “Young Love” put him at odds with his employer Jack Warner, who chastised him for making money for other people.  Hunter logically replied, “But Warner Bros. doesn’t have a recording arm,” to which the flustered mogul stumbled and then blurted out “WE DO NOW!”  Thus, Hunter was responsible for Warner Bros. Records.

A veritable bombshell is dropped when the star admits his tumultuous love affair with Anthony Perkins.  Perkins, more career-driven than Hunter, also followed his lover into a recording sideline; but it was an on-screen betrayal that squelched the romance.  Hunter has starred in (and was applauded for) many live-TV performances, specifically an adaptation of Fear Strikes Out, the harrowing story of psychologically damaged baseball icon Jimmy Piersall.  He mentioned to Perkins that he hoped Warner would buy the property for him as a big-screen vehicle (common then, think Marty).  The next thing he knew, Paramount had the project on-tap for Perkins; it would prove to be one of his best movies, one that Hitchcock saw and, well, you know…But it ended the relationship.

Another romance, the acceptable/decept-able kind, emerged during the shooting of William Wellman’s Lafayette Escadrille in 1958.  Hunter developed love-ya-as-a-friend feelings for beautiful French costar Etchika Choureau; it was more than reciprocal from her side, and almost resulted in a traditional marriage.  Hunter ultimately felt he couldn’t do that to Choureau, whom he genuinely cared for (in a brotherly sorta way).  It destroyed her (she returned to France heartbroken after the picture wrapped; she is interviewed for this doc, and is yet another engaging member of the Hunter galaxy).

Hunter’s clash with director George Abbott during the production of possibly his most famous movie, Damn Yankees! (also 1958), is likewise duly covered.  Abbott hated Hunter (although the remainder of the cast, all recruited from the Broadway production, thought he was swell).  Their acrimony is depicted, warts and all; however, no mention is made of co-director Stanley Donen.  I mean, none!  As if he wasn’t involved with the project at all.  A mystery to be solved (that said, I can state that everyone I know who has had any contact with Donen can’t stand him).

Hunter’s great friendship with Natalie Wood is chronicled, their fake  fan-mag “romance” concocted by Warner Bros. to cross-promote their less-than-brilliant on-screen teamings (which nonetheless did phenomenal box office).  Their dates would inevitably end with the couple sneaking off, Wood with Dennis Hopper, Hunter with Perkins.

A lackluster plan for another Hunter-Wood picture finally had the actor throw up his hands in frustration.  Warner charged Hunter 100K to buy out his contract, and Tab’s career never really recovered (possibly sabotaged by Warner, but that’s merely my conjecture).  Hunter quickly became relegated to B-movie hell (The Golden Arrow, Operation Bikini).

Tragedies involving his mother’s bout with mental illness (Hunter should really be commended for a series of daring PSAs underlining the importance of dealing with psychological disorders) and his brother’s death in Viet Nam naturally took their toll.

His re-discovery by John Waters, who paired him up with Divine, finally garnered the coupling he wanted.  No, not the famed transvestite star, but during a pitch to 20th Century-Fox for Lust in the Dust.  It was here that Hunter met rising producer Allan Graser, who was interested.  Fox passed, but Glaser didn’t.  He did the unthinkable; he left his gig at a major studio to seek indy funding, and he and Hunter have been together ever since.

TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL has some impressive pedigrees than transcend Hunter’s champion equines.  It was directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, who previously had made the 2007 documentary Spine Tingler!  The William Castle Story, a movie I screen at least once a year.

The Blu-Ray presentation is terrific, with its specially filmed talking-head footage buttressed by a liberal barrage of movie clips, kinescopes, home movies, stills, etc.

There’s also a mandatory 36-minute supplement featuring excised material, some of which (to me) I find head-scratching, as it constitutes major stuff.   This includes some a really addictive segment on marketing 1950s teen rock stars (via Sirius XM program director Lou Simon), a hilarious tale of dressing-room rumbling by Darryl Hickman, and Hunter’s outstanding (and often side-splitting) reminiscences of working with Tallulah Bankhead in Tennessee Williams’ stage presentation of The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (directed by no less than Tony Richardson).

Yet, it’s a throwaway bit that Hunter feeds us rabid movie-hungry screwballs that forever will stick in my lust-crazed mind.  During the filming of his first movie, 1953’s Island of Desire, the bare-chested newbie had some up-close-and-personal scenes with lead Linda Darnell.  After their first long kiss, the wet, swimsuit-clad Darnell purred into his ear, “Mmmmmm, that was nice!”  Sigh. Whoa! Swoon.

TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL.  Color and black-and-white.  Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 HD-DTS MA.  FilmRise.  UPC # 19109100158.  SRP:  $19.95.