Weekly Video Picks

Casey's Shadow (1978)

Many people dream of fame and fortune. The key questions are: How far are they willing to go to get there? And what lines are they unwilling to cross? Cajun quarter horse trainer Lloyd Bourdelle (Walter Matthau) has raised his sons in poverty since his wife left him. A colt with a championship pedigree is born on his ranch and named after his youngest (Michael Hershewe), who adores it. Convinced that the horse is his ticket to the top, Lloyd trains it for the million-dollar-purse, All American Futurity race for two-year-olds which takes place at Ruidoso, N.M., on Labor Day.

After the colt shines during try-outs, the trainer rejects a generous offer from a wealthy stable owner (Alexis Smith) to buy it. Then some scheming competitors (Murray Hamilton and Robert Webber) try to sabotage Lloyd's operation as he's put to the test. Director Martin Ritt (Hud) gives Casey's Shadow a documentary look in his depiction of small-town Southern life and the horse-racing environment.

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952)

Hollywood once tried to produce movies that addressed the spiritual interests of its audience without deconstructing Christian institutions or beliefs. Simple piety was celebrated as a prime virtue. Today some describe those films as overly melodramatic and sentimental. But others embrace them as populist expressions of faith that enriched the culture.

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima is an old-fashioned film that dramatizes the 1917 appearances of the Virgin Mary to three Portuguese children (Susan Whitney, Sherry Jackson and Sammy Ong). The emphasis is on the response of their family and the government to the events. Director John Brahm (Hangover Square) depicts the children's courage in the face of disbelief, movingly portraying their relationship with their mother (Angela Clarke) and a sympathetic villager (Gilbert Roland).

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

“Capra-corn” is the label affixed to the unique populist comedy-dramas made by director Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life) in the 1930s and ‘40s. The innocence and optimism of the ordinary citizen is shown to be strong enough to triumph over society's darker forces. The Oscar-winning Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is a screwball romantic comedy that pits small-town virtues against big-city corruption.

Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) is a tuba-playing tallow manufacturer in Mandrake Falls, Vt., who writes greeting-card verse as a hobby. When he inherits $20 million from a distant relative, the estate's crooked lawyer (Douglass Dumbrille) persuades him to come to New York City to manage his affairs. The local tabloids dub Deeds the “Cinderella Man” and a cynical reporter, Louise “Babe” Bennett (Jean Arthur), befriends him to get the best scoop. Deeds is an honest, charitable man, and the romance that develops between them makes her question her sleazy job and his lawyer's criminal machinations.

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy