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Jack Zaleski column: Cold nights are for warm movies

January has turned as cold as it's supposed to be. Time to hunker down, stoke up the wood stove and pass the wintry nights with good movies. A few suggestions from my film library: Silent Running. This 1971 eco-scifi film features Bruce Dern ...

January has turned as cold as it's supposed to be. Time to hunker down, stoke up the wood stove and pass the wintry nights with good movies.

A few suggestions from my film library:

Silent Running. This 1971 eco-scifi film features Bruce Dern at his intense best. He's a botanist aboard a gigantic greenhouse-dome spaceship. He's preserving the last plants for the day they can be reintroduced to earth, which has destroyed its green environment. Good special effects for the time. Additional treats: songs sung by Joan Baez and a haunting music score by North Dakotan Peter Schickele.

National Velvet. I watched this 1944 classic for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It's a great film. Young Elizabeth Taylor is marvelous as Velvet. So is Mickey Rooney as the rootless young American who finds family and purpose in the English village where the delightful story unfolds. Beautifully filmed, especially the Grand National Steeplechase race in which Velvet, disguised as a boy, rides her beloved horse to victory. The Oscar-winning performance of Ann Revere as the family's wise and witty mother is worth the price of admission.

The Mummy. The 1932 version, not the recent remake, is the one to see. While the new version with Brendan Fraser as an Indiana Jones-type character is a special effects marvel, the old movie is an atmospheric classic. It stars Boris Karloff as the mummy and Zita Johann as the apparent reincarnation of the mummy's love interest. The black and white film captures the mystery, legend and brutality of ancient Egypt, without over-the-top horror.

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Old Yeller. My daughter would watch this 1957 Disney classic over and over again. I never understood why until I watched it with her. The film's theme song says Yeller was "the best doggone dog in the West." The movie is one of the best doggone dog films ever. Yeller is the star -- a big, loveable mutt destined for trouble in the American west of 1859. The relationship between Yeller and Tommy Kirk (the boy who adopts him) tugs at the heartstrings of anyone who's owned and lost a dog. Fess Parker and Dorothy McGuire are perfect as frontier parents. A film for the family to enjoy together.

Zaleski can be reached at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or (701) 241-5521.

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