Favor [1994]

Genre: Comedy, Romance
This three-disc, five-film set spans a decade (1952-62) in Rock Hudson's career. It is not the ideal introduction to the strapping, ruggedly handsome leading man who, in his prime, was among Hollywood's top five biggest box office stars for eight years running. But his fans will want to add these more obscure and admirably diverse films--each making its DVD debut--to their collections. The most entertaining film, Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1952) is an amusing trifle set in the 1920s, but it does mark Hudson's first film with Douglas Sirk, who would direct Hudson in some of his best films, including Written on the Wind, All That Heaven Allows, and Magnificent Obsession. Hudson is cast in a small but pivotal role as a poor but honest soda jerk in love with Piper Laurie, whose social-climbing mother does not approve. Charles Coburn is the real star as an eccentric millionaire who teaches the family that "it's not money that makes a person happy." Look for an uncredited James Dean at the soda fountain counter. Hudson was perhaps best known for his romantic comedies opposite Doris Day, and what a difference Day's absence makes in the somewhat icky A Very Special Favor (1965). Womanizer Hudson brings "fulfillment" into the life of career woman Leslie Caron at the request of her father (!), portrayed by Charles Boyer. The Arabian Nights adventure The Golden Blade (1953) is pure escapism with a questionably cast Hudson as Harun, who becomes embroiled in Baghdad palace intrigue as he searches for his father's killer. He is armed with the magical Sword of Damascus, which only seems to work when he wields it. The most provocative film in this set is the 1961 Western The Last Sunset, co-starring Kirk Douglas as a killer sheriff Hudson has sworn to bring in to be hanged. But first, they agree to help Joseph Cotten drive his cattle across the border from his Mexican ranch. Dorothy Malone costars as Cotten's wife and Kirk's lost love, whose 16-year-old daughter's true parentage will cause Kirk some disquieting problems after he romances her. The Spiral Road (1962), very long at nearly three hours, stars Hudson as an arrogant, upstart doctor who seeks to advance his career by working in the Borneo jungle with Brits Jansen (Burl Ives), whose groundbreaking work with leprosy Hudson wants to chronicle. While none of these films rank among Hudson's most essential work, it is a Rock-solid collection that charts the development of an old-school movie star. --Donald Liebenson

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