Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “The Sidney Poitier Collection”

(Warner Home Video.) Edge of the City (1957, B&W, Not Rated, 85 minutes, directed by Martin Ritt). Something of Value (1957, Color, Not Rated, 114 minutes, Richard Brooks). A Patch of Blue (1965, B&W, Not Rated, 105 minutes, Guy Green). A Warm December (1972, Color, Rated PG, 101 minutes, Sidney Poitier).

Hey, I love Sidney, so I’ll tell you up front: no, these aren’t the “big” Poitier movies; most of those were made for United Artists or Columbia Pictures. However, there are two here worth noting for fans of The Man. Edge (not available on home video before now) looks at corruption on the New York dockyards, but kinda got lost at the box office, coming after the similarly-themed, superior On The Waterfront 3 years earlier. Still, Poitier and co-star John Cassavetes do a good job for first-time director Martin Ritt (best known for the 6 movies he did with Paul Newman: Hud, etc.). The other good one here is Blue, a touching drama about a blind girl (Elizabeth Hartman), her controlling mother (Shelley Winters), and the girl’s friendship with a man she doesn’t know is black (Poitier). It went on to earn 5 Oscar nominations, winning one for Winters.

Value teams Poitier with Rock Hudson in a tale of the real-life Mau Mau uprising in Kenya; despite the cast and director, the effort ultimately falls flat. The true clunker here is December, directed by and starring Poitier. It’s a so-called romance about an American widower (Poitier) who travels to London with his young daughter to race motorcycles; he falls for a mysterious African princess (the attractive but minimally-talented Esther Anderson, actually born in Jamaica). Obviously influenced by the James Bond movies (who wasn’t in those days?), the scriptwriter tries for a flavor of international intrigue, but it’s just poorly written and the movie is amateurishly directed. I suspect part of the problem was that this was Poitier’s initial project for First Artists, the production company he had formed with Newman, Barbra Streisand, and Steve McQueen (Dustin Hoffman would join later), to try to exert creative control over their own pictures. (Poitier would fare better with his next First Artists films, those mid-70s comedies with Bill Cosby: Uptown Saturday Night and its followups.) Scant extras in the set (there is a commentary with Guy Green for Blue), and we don’t hear from The Man himself, who just turned 82 and is still active but retired from show business. Final score: 2 up, 2 down.

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