YOU MAY THINK THE POINT OF DVDs is new color movies in booming Dolby—but the real point is old black and white movies you’ve only seen in murky TV prints having the velvety blacks and gleaming whites they were meant to. Here are DVDs Ansel Adams would have loved:

Only Angels Have Wings Mail pilot Cary Grant shows Jean Arthur the fatal attraction of flying in this manly drama, like a tougher Casablanca, set at a foggy, dreamily fake airport.

The Scarlet Empress Wildly stylized and full of innuendo, Josef von Sternberg’s lavish version of the rise (in power) and fall (in morals) of Catherine the Great (Marlene Dietrich) is about as out there as old Hollywood ever got.

Portrait of Jennie Painter Joseph Cotten finds his muse in an otherworldly young girl (Jennifer Jones). One of those overheated metaphysical romances only the 40s could get away with; New York has rarely looked lovelier on film.

The Sweet Smell of Success Exhilaratingly cynical noir about a sinister columnist (Burt Lancaster) and a self-loathing PR flack (Tony Curtis), shot like tabloid photography and full of dialogue you could cut yourself on.

Andrei Rublev Russian epic about an icon painter, an awesome vision of the medieval era (the bell-casting scene is about as good as filmmaking gets)... which also said enough about the artist’s role in a corrupt society to be banned by the Soviets.

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