Anyone who has been through a Target or Wal-Mart in the last three years can see, quite plainly, the impact of DVDs on the American economy (last year's sales topped $21 billion). It's no great mystery why studios are now raiding their libraries for more content to sell to a populace already drowning in entertainment. Sometimes, this helps unearth real gems (e.g., Alan Rudolph's wonderful Songwriter was recently found again). Sometimes it unearths lumps of coal posing as gems.
Such is the case with the 1968 Sammy Davis Jr./Peter Lawford buddy picture Salt and Pepper (bundled with its sequel, One More Time, Jan. 25). The nominal plot has Davis and Lawford as SoHo nightclub owners—Davis is Salt and Lawford Pepper in the film's cheeky thinking— in swinging London, who get drawn into a revolutionary plot to take over England. What they really do is chain-smoke cigarettes, make bad jokes that will send P.C. mavens into conniptions, and try to cash in on the youth movement of the day.
There's no question that Davis and Lawford had charisma to spare, but this movie has no charm. It was the first feature that Richard Donner directed, and it would be another 10 years before he found his cinematic rhythm with the first Superman picture. This movie is closer to the manic kiddie serials he directed on the Banana Splits TV series. Still, this is one of the direct forebears to the Austin Powers pictures and as such is something of cultural curio. Some people of a certain age will undoubtedly have fond memories of it (it was a big hit in its day). My advice: Wait until Porgy and Bess with Davis is released and watch Lawford in Little Women instead. Leave the memories of your youth unspoiled.
For Rat Pack completists, One More Time (directed by Jerry Lewis) is even more odd and disjointed than the first picture. Faring better is the 1958 melodrama Anna Lucasta with Eartha Kitt and Davis (very good) in an early role as a fast-talking sailor.
APRIL 5 BRINGS Elektra to disc, of interest only to Jennifer Garner fans. Also out, the Disney documentary Sacred Planet, the anticorporate documentary The Corporation, and Zero Day, one of the better—and sadly still topical—Columbine movies made after Elephant. Barbet Schroeder's 1969 debut, More, is new to DVD. With a remake due April 15, the original 1979 The Amityville Horror is no classic. Sideways is the pick of the week, and we'll review it April 13.