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Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013

Home Movies/Out on Digital: Dec. 8

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The cultural cross-connections are fascinating in this rambling documentary. A 1960 instrumental by the British group The Shadows, later covered by The Ventures, found its way into the 1973 album by the Incredible Bongo Band, a bi-racial American-Canadian studio session organized by one-time Robert Kennedy aide-turned-Svengali Michael Viner. When the Bronx’s DJ Kool Herc found “Apache” in a record bin, the nascent hip-hop culture found its most popular, and later most sampled, break.

■ “Vikings” Season 1

“Vikings” plunges directly into the bloody berserker battles of medieval northern Europe—a lush pagan landscape shot in wide focus (and looking more like cinema than TV). It’s a violent world but a coherent one, structured around loyalty to family and clan. Mothers and daughters spear fish for dinner and fathers teach their sons to fight. British writer-creator Michael Hirst was determined to substitute an imaginative historical recreation for the costume-drama clichés.

A Letter to Three Wives

Gracious upper-middle class homes provide the stage for refined cattiness along with romantic and social anxiety in this sophisticated 1949 comedy by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve). The Oscar winner (out on Blu-ray) touched everything from the advertising industry’s assault on the intellect to the class-crossing lure of lust and money. Ann Sothern, Linda Darnell and Jeanne Crain play the wives, with fine supporting performances from Thelma Ritter and (the then little known) Kirk Douglas.

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