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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Concert
Stephen Sondheim’s operatic musical Sweeney Todd found a new audience through Tim Burton’s film adaptation. The brilliantly perverse story of a Victorian serial killer waging a one-man class war is captured in a 2001 live performance featuring Tony-winning Patti LuPone, George Hearn and Neil Patrick Harris surrounded by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and a mighty chorus. Acting is forefront in this concert, which dispenses with elaborate staging to concentrate on characters and the Bernard Herrmann-influenced music.
The Laughing Policeman
Cynical Walter Matthau and cocky Bruce Dern play a contentious pair of detectives in this 1973 movie. Odds are The Laughing Policeman influenced Quentin Tarantino for its quirky characters, gritty settings, whip-smart dialogue and convoluted murder-sex plot. Set in a pre-gentrified San Francisco, The Laughing Policeman’s crime investigation brings Matthau and Dern into the shadow worlds of drug and weapons trafficking, strip clubs, leather bars and slums where racial tension is rife. Dern plays it rough.
“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault Series”
James Garner appeared on “The Tonight Show” the night before “Rockford Files” debuted—and that was the show’s point: marketing stars at opportune times. The six-DVD set covers the ’70s when Johnny Carson served as the Greatest Generation’s plaid-suited prototype for Jimmy Fallon. He delivered monologues ripped from the day’s news before retreating behind a desk to await his guest stars. Of great amusement value: the inclusion of the original commercials for TV dinners and eyeliner.
“Gunsmoke: The Twelfth Season”
In episode one of “Gunsmoke” season 12, Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) tosses down his star and resigns. He’s rueful over accidently killing a criminal but—no surprise!—regains his usual stolidity and resumes office. Season 12 (1966-1967) includes guest star Martin Landau leading a gang of desperados with a crazy glint in his eyes, a chase scene shot with a jerky hand-held camera and a few other cinematic moments. It’s available on two separate DVDs.