DVD Round-up 11 August 2010: The Seven-Ups, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

Made at a time when leading men didn’t have to look like underwear models and New York was still grimy enough to have copious cardboard boxes on street corners on the off chance there may be a car chase along in a few minutes to knock them over, 1973’s The Seven-Ups (Optimum) arrives on DVD with attitude.

Roy Scheider stars as Buddy Manucci, leader of a team of covert New York cops dubbed The Seven-Ups due to the fact that the criminals they catch tend to receive prison sentences of seven years…and up. 

When one member of the team is killed on duty, his colleagues set out to find his killers, uncovering a complex web of crime that stretches across the city and requires them to put their unorthodox methods to the test.

Produced by many of the same crew that worked on The French Connection and Bullitt, with the same director taking charge and Scheider returning after his appearance in Connection, this is a lesser film but one which still has its charms. Scheider is always watchable and the script, though confusing at times, does keep the viewer wondering how things will pan out when so many disparate forces seem to be involved.

New York also looks impressive, if cold, plenty of rusty browns and dark back alleys helping to give it character. The Seven-Ups may not have the staying power of Connection or Bullitt, but the lengthy car chase halfway through does help make it memorable for one aspect at least.

Far from the mean streets of the Big Apple, we head back to 1950s Spain for the DVD release of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Park Circus), a somewhat forgotten classic from director Albert Lewin, featuring the incomparable James Mason and Ava Gardner as star, or rather time, crossed lovers.

Gardner is the beautiful Pandora Reynolds, a soon-to-be married socialite who is the object of desire for most of the men she encounters in the fishing village of Esperanza. When a boat arrives in the harbour, Pandora swims out to meet Hendrick van der Zee (Mason), a sailor who is painting a portrait which looks uncannily like her.

As the film progresses, we learn that van der Zee isn’t quite who he claims to be and that the pair have more of a connection than Pandora first thought: he is the Flying Dutchman of legend, a man doomed to sail the world in search of the woman who will die for him.

Perfectly pitching his performance somewhere between melodramatic and self aware, Mason is a magnetic force throughout, while Gardner portrays Pandora with the requisite air of coldness towards her admirers and confusion at her feelings for the Dutchman.

Supported by a strong cast which includes an extended cameo from John Laurie and lensed by cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who imbues the film with a dreamlike quality, Pandora is a film which demands to be discovered by a new audience, this gorgeous looking new DVD and Blu-ray release the next best thing to seeing it on the big screen. 


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