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The 50 Essential DVDs [26-50]

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26 Casablanca

(1942, Warner, PG, $24.98) — By now it’s the cinematic equivalent of a national monument, and why not? Bogie and Bergman are at their romantic peak in Michael Curtiz’s far-flung escapade, and the script is like a memorable-line machine. The revelation here is how DVD clarity, which sharpens actors’ expressions and gestures along with everything else, makes Bogart’s almost existential world-weariness painfully palpable. CHOICE CUT In the 1992 Lauren Bacall-narrated documentary, the late screenwriter Julius Epstein describes how he and his brother/writing partner, Philip, came up with the ”round up the usual suspects” routine at the film’s airport climax.

DEPTH CHARGE [3] SOUND + VISION [8]

27 The Last Picture Show

(1971, Columbia TriStar, R, $27.95) — Make that the latest picture show, a reworked-for-video cut from director Peter Bogdanovich that expands his ode to sexually precocious Texas teens by about seven minutes (the most shocking addition involves Cybill Shepherd’s stuck-up Jacy being ravaged on a pool table). CHOICE CUT A vintage making-of featurette, put together to shill a 1974 rerelease, that showcases Bogdanovich at his most entertainingly self-satisfied — just before the fall.

DEPTH CHARGE [6] SOUND + VISION [6]

28 Gimme Shelter

(1970, Criterion, unrated, $39.95) — This superb Maysles brothers documentary captures all the uneasy gloom that shrouded the Rolling Stones’ fatal 1969 performance at the Altamont Speedway. Criterion went to the 16 mm original and made a new transfer, offering an immediacy never seen before. CHOICE CUT The highlight is a brief but revealing look at the film’s restoration process that lets split-screen comparisons with the murky 35 mm release prints speak for themselves.

DEPTH CHARGE [4] SOUND + VISION [7]

29 The Conversation

(1974, Paramount, PG, $29.99) — A quarter-century on, there’s still no better movie about snoopery than Francis Ford Coppola’s quiet masterwork. The biggest electronic miracle here isn’t the doctoring Gene Hackman’s professional voyeur does to audiotapes — it’s remastering that injects a scrubbed clarity to images the ’70s prints always made grimy. CHOICE CUT A commentary featuring Coppola, who ”wanted the camera just to be dead … as though it was just a passive eavesdropping device.”

DEPTH CHARGE [6] SOUND + VISION [6]

30 Seven Samurai

(1954, Criterion, unrated, $39.95) — Since Criterion has dropped the restoration featurette that was on an initial pressing, there are fewer extras than ever. All you get is a trailer, some play-by-play from film historian Michael Jeck — and the most exciting, profoundly humane, and cinematically influential action epic of all time, gleaming in its original, 207-minute, not-an-ounce-of-fat running time. CHOICE CUT The one samurai Takashi Shimura gives the bandit 23 minutes in.

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