Here’s a quintet of (relatively) new Blu-rays from Kino Lorber, all starring leading men who, despite being past their prime by Hollywood standards, could still carry a picture through talent, screen presence or an abundance of good will generated by their previous efforts. In “Valdez is Coming” (1972), Burt Lancaster is saddled with an unfortunate semi-brownface and Latin accent as a half-Mexican marshal, but even these affectations can’t hinder the then-59-year-old actor and his natural blend of ruggedness and integrity, which are put to fine use in this adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel about an aging lawman and former Indian fighter pitted against a callous rancher (Jon Cypher) and his gang (which includes world-class heel Richard Jordan). Extras include cast-centric commentary by Jim Hemphill and the theatrical trailer.
At 50, John Wayne was a shade too old in 1957 to be romancing Sophia Loren as they pursue treasure in the Libyan Desert in Henry Hathaway‘s “Legend of the Lost,” but the mileage adds credibility to his character, a hard-living guide who leads Loren and Rossano Brazzi in a search for a lost city’s riches. It’s hokey, pulp-adventure-lite, and does little with the pairing of Wayne and Loren (who seem disinterested in each other), but Brazzi’s religious fanatic lends some spice, and the exotic cache of the locations – in particular, the ruins of the Roman city Leptis Magna – and Jack Cardiff‘s Technicolor photography are well showcased by Kino’s widescreen Blu-ray.
Kino also has two of the three film appearances by French national treasure Jean Gabin as mystery writer Georges Simenon‘s well-worn but still unflappable Inspector Maigret. Those familiar with screen incarnations of Maigret from various PBS productions will be pleased to note that “Maigret Sets a Trap” (1958) is more of a full-blooded thriller, with Maigret in pursuit of a serial killer who lurks the murky streets of Le Marais, searching for brunettes to butcher. “Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case” (1959) hews closer to the public television interpretation, with Maigret investigating a murder during a visit to his hometown, but still provides Gabin – 54 at the time of filming and transitioning from angry young proletariat to sage character player – with a showy finale to exercise his explosive side as he grills an array of suspects. Kino’s Blu-rays feature digitally restored presentations, as well as new cover art by the stylish movie lover’s favorite, Nathan Gelgud.
The astonishingly prolific Simenon, who penned nearly 500 books (including 75 Maigret novels), also provided the source material for 1967’s “Cop-Out” – also known as “Stranger in the House” – with James Mason (58 at the time) as a dissolute lawyer forced to defend a young Greek sailor accused of murdering an American seaman (Bobby Darin, who at 31 was past his prime as a young tough), both of whom ran with his wild dollybird daughter (Geraldine Chaplin). Critic turned director Pierre Rouve can’t conjure the same mix of mod mayhem and moral decay here as his previous producing effort, “Blow-Out,” but we do get a song by Eric Burdon and the Animals (“Ain’t That So“) and abundant glimpses of the seedier side of London’s discotheques and street life.