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Chris Hicks: White-knuckle thrillers dominate golden oldies new to DVD

John Garfield, left, George Tobias and Harry Carey star in the 1943 World War II propaganda film "Air Force," directed by Howard Hawks.
John Garfield, left, George Tobias and Harry Carey star in the 1943 World War II propaganda film "Air Force," directed by Howard Hawks.
Warner Archive

A vintage wartime movie and several film noir thrillers highlight these golden oldies that have been released on DVD for the first time. (All are available at

“Air Force” (Warner Archive, 1943, b/w, $18.95, short film, two cartoons, radio version, trailer). John Garfield leads a great cast in this early World War II propaganda film about a flight crew arriving in Hawaii during the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the toll it takes on them individually and as a crew.

A relic of its time to be sure, but if you can put aside our hindsight and some of the racist dialogue aimed at the Japanese, it’s an action-filled piece of entertainment that helps with our understanding the era. Co-stars include Harry Carey, Gig Young and Arthur Kennedy; directed by Howard Hawks.

“Terror On a Train (aka Time Bomb)” (Warner Archive, 1953, b/w, $18.95, trailer). Glenn Ford stars in this British thriller as a Canadian bomb-disposal expert called upon to help when a freight train loaded with explosives is sabotaged. Can he find the time bomb before it blows up a nearby English village? Superficial but nifty, quick-paced, 75-minute tension-filled melodrama.

“The Decks Ran Red” (Warner Archive, 1958, b/w, $18.95, trailer). James Mason stars in this high-seas suspense outing as a first-time captain whose crew turns on him, led by blustery Broderick Crawford. Dorothy Dandridge, as the cook’s Maori wife, lends sex appeal aboard the all-male ship (surprising casting for the time). Uneven and way too talky but entertaining in a B-movie way. Stuart Whitman co-stars.

“Don’t Gamble With Strangers” (Warner Archive, 1946, b/w, $18.95). A pair of card-playing grifters, Mike and Fay (Kane Richmond, Bernadene Hayes) decide to team up, posing as brother and sister. But the partnership gets rocky when Mike takes over a casino, gets greedy and begins wooing the rich niece of a powerful banker, prompting jealous Fay to get some revenge of her own. Just over an hour long, this compact, no-budget potboiler is a bit stiff but holds interest. Especially when it turns into a murder mystery in the last five minutes!

“Zandy’s Bride” (Warner Archive, 1974, PG, $18.95, trailer). Good performances from Gene Hackman as Zandy and Liv Ullman as his mail-order bride help this western some, but it’s a little too laid back and meandering as Zandy treats her poorly but eventually sees the error of his ways. Harry Dean Stanton co-stars. (Played on U.S. television as “For Better, For Worse.”)

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parents Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is