Natalie Wood was a superb actress. She brought true, raw emotion to every role she played. Throughout her career she had many outstanding roles. Sadly, few of those are included here. Instead you get a bunch of her more forgettable films with a few gems tossed in to trick you into buying. But at least, even in the worst of the films, her performances are always great.
Bombers B-52 (1957 106 min.) This collection starts out rather blandly with a film that Wood has very little to do with. B-52 is about a Master Sergeant (Karl Malden) dealing with getting old and looking at retirement while the exciting new B-52 Bomber is being introduced and at the same time fretting over his daughter (Wood) dating a hot shot flyboy (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) It’s a bland ’50s melodrama that is a front for pro-American military propaganda. The romance between Wood and her flyboy is a small aspect of the film and feels completely tacked. Wood hardly in the film at all which brings to question the validity for its insertion in this box set. It’s very boring and a waste of your evening.
Cash McCall (1960 102 min.) Things get a little better with this lighthearted drama starring Wood and James Garner. Garner plays the titular McCall, a scrupulous millionaire who buys up suffering businesses, fixes them up and sells them off for a profit. His strictly business world is turned upside down when he meets and falls in love with Lory Austen (Wood). He gets doubly involved in the Austen family when he offers to buy her fathers business. But will business and love mix or will it all come crumbling down? This film is a little dry when it gets bogged down in the business aspect of the film, but the scenes between Garner and Wood a joy.
Splendor in the Grass (1961 124 min.) This drama directed by Elia Kazan is one big morality tale about young lust. Deanie (Wood) and Bud (Warren Beatty in his first theatrical role) are in high school and madly in love. But the restrictions of their parents and society drive them apart and this drives Deanie into a mental hospital. An entertaining drama that while very dated still has some resonance today. This is the best film of the collection.
Gypsy (1962 143 min.) This musical is adapted from Broadway and based on the real life story of Gypsy Rose Lee, a young girl with an overbearing and controlling mother who forced her daughters to do Vaudeville. Wood plays Gypsy, the older “less talented” sister who eventually becomes one of the world’s most famous Burlesque dancers. This is a pretty fun musical and you actually get to hear Wood sing as her voice was dubbed in West Side Story. But the films drags way too much in the middle taking way too long for it to get to it’s point for it to be a great film.
Sex and the Single Girl (1964 114 min.) While not the best, this is probably the most entertaining film in the set. In this film Wood plays Sylvia Broderick a psychiatrist that has published a book about the single girl in a man’s world. Tony Curtis is Bob Weston, a writer for the trash magazine that almost ruined her career. Now Curtis is going in himself to find out once and for all if she is or isn’t a virgin. But things take a turn when the two fall in love and the whole thing ends with a really wacky and entertaining chase sequence. Lauren Bacall and Henry Fonda have great small roles and there are hilarious references to Tony Curtis looking like Jack Lemon when he has to put on one of Wood’s dresses.
Inside Daisy Clover (1965 128 min.) This the strangest film in the collection. Wood (now 27) plays 15-year-old Daisy, a tomboy with aspirations to be a famous singer she lives on the boardwalk with her crazy mother (Ruth Gordon). Well she gets her chance when film producer Raymond Swan (Christopher Plummer) hears her and makes her his pet project. But fame may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Everything starts to go wrong including a failed marriage to fellow actor Wade Lewis (Robert Redford). This whole film feels very off and never seems to know what kind of film it wants to be. The whole rags to riches in Hollywood story has been done much better in many other films. The performances, however, are great, especially Wood and Redford, which is about the only thing that will hold your interest till the end of the film.
Well there you have it. Six films, three that are really worthy your time. However most of these films are only available in this box set so that will be a big draw to die hard Wood fans.
All films are presented in widescreen 1.85:1. All films are in Dolby Digital Mono accept Gypsy, which is in Dolby Surround Stereo.
Each film has an animated short and the original trailer.
The Shorts are: Boyhood Daze, High Note, Beep Prepared, The Pied Piper Of Guadalupe, Nelly’s Folly and War And Pieces: These range from good to not so good. Most are directed by Chuck Jones.
Two Outtake Musical Numbers: “You’ll Never Get Away From Me” (duet version) and “Together Wherever We Go.” These are okay songs. It’s obvious why they were cut.
Natalie Wood was an amazing actress. Raw and emotional giving her all to every role, even the okay films that are included here are greatly elevated by her presence. Splendor and Sex are the two best films here the rest are okay. If you’re a Wood fanatic you’ll certainly buy this, if you’re curious about Wood’s films almost any of these is worth renting. Don’t waste you’re time with Bombers B-52. This collection is also seriously lacking in extras.
Warner Bros. presents Natalie Wood Collection. Starring Natalie Wood, Karl Malden, James Garner, Tony Curtis Robert Redford and Warren Beatty. Not Rated. Released on DVD: February 3, 2009. Box Set Contents: 6 films on 6 DVDs. Available at Amazon.com.