A couple of long-lost Orson Welles films, a pair of Cary Grant vehicles and two Frank Capra versions of the same story are on the list of oldies making their video debuts this month.
While most critics cite "Citizen Kane" as Welles' greatest achievement, a few prefer his 1966 production "Chimes at Midnight," a collection of scenes from Shakespeare's Falstaff plays starring Keith Baxter as Henry V, John Gielgud as Henry IV and Welles as Falstaff. Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho" was influenced by Welles' treatment of the Henry/Falstaff relationship, while the battle scenes in Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V" owe something to Welles' technique. Plagued by ownership disputes for decades, "Chimes" is now available for $60 from The Arthur Canton Film Collection (1-800-237-3801).
Later this month, MPI Home Video (1-708-460-0555) is releasing a lesser Welles production, "Ghost Story" ($20), a featurette in which Welles plays himself, driving home from rehearsal in Ireland and picking up a stranded motorist. Under its original title, "Return to Glennascaul," it was nominated for a 1953 Academy Award for best two-reel short subject. Peter Bogdanovich provides an introduction to the film, which has been out of circulation for 40 years. Welles shot it while taking a break from filming "Othello"; among his collaborators was the Iago of that film, Micheal MacLiammoir.
One of the top box-office draws of 1951, "People Will Talk" stars Grant as an eccentric doctor who marries a suicidal, pregnant woman (Jeanne Crain). Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, just a few months after he'd been showered with Oscars for "All About Eve" and "A Letter to Three Wives," it's being released along with "I Was a Male War Bride," an equally popular 1949 Howard Hawks farce in which Grant plays a French army officer whose marriage to an American WAC (Ann Sheridan) requires elaborate gender deception. FoxVideo is selling them for $20 apiece.
Capra was often accused of filming the same story over again, and on some occasions he even admitted as much. The first time he made "Broadway Bill," talkies were relatively new and the race-track comedy starred Myrna Loy and Warner Baxter. In 1950, Capra cast Bing Crosby in a pleasant musical remake, "Riding High," that lacked the bittersweet quality of the original.
Paramount suppressed the first film for 40 years, finally restoring it for a 1992 theatrical reissue, by making new prints from a 35mm nitrate version stored at the Library of Congress. Several of the supporting players, including Ward Bond, Margaret Hamilton, Clarence Muse and Douglass Dumbrille, turn up in both films. Paramount Home Video is releasing them for $20 apiece.
Nearly as rare is John (father of Mia) Farrow's "Hondo," an unusual 1953 John Wayne Western that was produced by Wayne's Batjac Productions and is owned by Wayne's son, Michael. MPI Home Video will release it this month for $20; two more Batjac movies, "The High and the Mighty" and "Island in the Sky," will follow, possibly next year.
Based on a Louis L'Amour story about a half-Indian (Wayne) protecting a young woman (Geraldine Page) during an Apache uprising, "Hondo" marked Ms. Page's film debut and earned the first of her eight Oscar nominations. The original 3-D version was shown on television a couple of years back, but this is the standard "flat" edition.