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March 28, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

The Best of
Trailers from Hell Volume 1

Trailers from Hell, LLC

Mail Order Bride
Warner Archive Collection

and
Dillinger is Dead
Criterion

Greetings! As they say in real places, as opposed to Hollywood, people out there care: I've gotten a score of emails asking when my review of the new Blu-ray of The African Queen. I haven't been offered a screener for that title, so my answer is that there will probably be no review here. The Word is that it looks fine; I'd like to see how they handled the previously pretty awful-looking matte lines in all the traveling matte work done back in England -- I've seen an original Technicolor print of the film, and the bigger the screen gets, the worse those effects look. It also would have been fun to write a bit about the film's genesis, and its very interesting writer James Agee, who also scripted the very weird Night of the Hunter -- another film, coincidentally, about a flight to safety down a river. Thanks for the request, and sorry I couldn't follow through.

Gary Teetzel found this amusing article at the New York Post about An Apology by the screenwriter of Battlefield Earth, J.D. Shapiro. It's short and funny and indulges a Willy Wonker joke.

Horror fans wondering why the Bob Hope horror comedy The Cat and the Canary (right) hasn't been around for years can stop waiting -- Universal just announced that it's coming out as part of a Bob Hope - Thanks for the Memories Collection on June 8. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



March 25, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Blu-ray
Fox Home Video

Colorado Territory
Warner Archive Collection

and
Days of Heaven
Blu-ray
Criterion

Greetings!

My review of Skin Game a couple of weeks back reminded me of two of Dick Dinman's radio shows about a TV movie called Babe, which also stars Susan Clark. In one show Dick interviews Susan Clark, and in a second he interviews Stanley Rubin, the show's producer and one of the most successful producers of TV movies.


I've heard good things about last year's apocalyptic thriller The Road, starring Viggo Mortenson, Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall. I've put in my bid to review it ... It comes out on Sony Blu-ray and DVD on May 25.


We've been perplexed by the lack of publicity on MGM's Burn-on-Demand Discs, and now there's finally a place to see exactly what's available. The line of product is officially called the MGM Limited Edition Collection and the full list of titles, etc., is up at a special Page on Amazon.


Meanwhile, over at the established Warner Archive Collection site, they're announcing that a newly restored rarity, Al Jolson's very early talkie Mammy (1930), will go on sale on April 6. The film's musical sequences were originally in color, but have been seen only in B&W for 80 years! A pub release by Warners touts the Warner Archive Collection as the perfect venue for problem pictures. Mammy, they say, is "a film whose political (in)sensitivity may make it inappropriate for mainstream audiences, but whose historical importance makes it a 'must-own' for niche fans and historians." Couldn't agree more -- facing the cultural extremes of the past is essential to a society's understanding of itself.

Mammy's historical importance is undeniable. Not only was it one of the biggest films by the era's biggest entertainers, it includes the song "Yes, We Have No Bananas". Warners' release offers this interesting restoration scenario. I bet that it was written by V.P. George Feltenstein, who oversaw the process:

Here's a brief outline of how it happened: Typical of early talkie musicals, key song and dance numbers were in color, utilizing the 2-strip Technicolor process. Early negatives were destroyed, however, and for years only black and white versions survived.

In 2001, a nitrate print of Mammy with all of the color sequences intact was found by the Netherlands Film Institute in Amsterdam. However, that print contained title cards in Dutch, which were cut into the color musical sequences (while the sound continued) to explain the action. When UCLA decided to create a photochemical restoration of the film, they utilized these color sequences, but had to insert black and white footage in place of the Dutch title cards to complete the musical numbers. They rendered those cards in sepia to smooth the transition into the color and cleaned up the sound as well as the B&W main master. The film was shown at a special UCLA archive screening in 2003.

Cut to 2009. Warner Home Video decides to release the film. An MPI colorist utilizing the latest upgraded technology matches the color of the UCLA sepia inter-titles to the Dutch musical sequences and bam! there's Jolson in his complete colorful musical glory as he was 80 years ago. The color footage totals about 20% of the film's running time. For the B&W sections of the movie Warner created a new digitally restored master from their vaulted original negative.

Knowing Mr. Feltenstein's understanding of and commitment to vintage musicals, I thought I'd put in this plug for the upcoming disc. Judging by my email, here's a lot of interest in these "Dawn of Sound" pictures. Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson



March 21, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

An Education
Blu-ray
Sony Classics

Bigger than Life
Blu-ray
Criterion

Rasputin and the Empress
Warner Archive Collection

and
Gatling Gun
Guest review by Lee Broughton
Dorado Films

Greetings! With the L.A. Marathon over, traffic around this town should have settled down by now. When the race route ran near Savant's house the inconvenience could be pretty bad, with confused drivers stuck on blocked streets and people parking and walking like Woodstock was happening a couple of blocks away.

Reader Ed Sullivan gives us a nice chaser for last Tuesday's review of The Men Who Stare at Goats: a couple of years back author Jon Ronson lent his expertise to a BBC Special Docu also called The Men Who Stare at Goats. It's all factual, as opposed to the Looney Tunes version presented in the hilarious Jeff Bridges / George Clooney movie. The show's alternate, rather anti-American title, is Crazy Rulers of the World. The docu nails a possible rationale behind these wild tales that eludes the feature ... all of the hippy-dippy insanity came from an army in defeat and disarray, grasping for straws to regain its relevance. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



March 18, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

The Men Who Stare at Goats
Blu-ray
Overture / Anchor Bay

Skin Game
Warner Archive Collection

and
Howards End
Blu-ray
Criterion

Greetings! A couple of links for the day:

Friend and reader Gregory Nicoll forwards this gag trailer from Cracked.com that attempts to be "A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever. Not only is it funny, it's dead-on accurate.

Gary Teetzel came across this news Stains News.co.uk item: Shepperton Studios has begun a new venture to restore British Film Classics. Sounds like good news to me.

Savant has been following the saga of the restoration of The Day of the Triffids and encouraged Mike Hyatt to submit his beautifully restored film print to the TCM Classic Film Festival; the official website now reports that the seldom-screened classic 1963 monster movie will be shown in its CinemaScope glory at a special midnight screening. Yes indeed, Celery Stalks at Midnight!

Although many of you have doubtless seen them, Craig Reardon let me know about these Color Bela Lugosi Home Movies that must be from sometime in the 1940s. Gary Teetzel comments: "I don't think Bela had relatives in the U.S.; I think those are friends. Too bad there's no commentary from Bela Jr. identifying who they are; other members of the Hungarian community in Hollywood, perhaps?" So where are all these people in the Ed Wood movie?: "Don't believe the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood did not find Bela on his own and lonely. He had his wife Hope; Richard Sheffield and his pals were around; Bela Jr. was around; and he had other friends. Bela was in bad shape during his final days, but Ed Wood and his gang were not his only sources of companionship."

The Rondo Awards have come around on the calendar again, for fans of Classic Horror in films, books, and on the web. I was very pleased to win one of these last year (pictured above in all its glory) and so happily take the opportunity to promote them this go 'round. Access to the Ballot is Here.

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, apparently German scientists have perfected some kind of "invisibility cloak" ... and the technology is real, although in its infancy. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



March 14, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Ponyo
Two-Disc Blu-ray + DVD
Ghibli Studios / Disney Home Video

The Fallen Sparrow
Warner Archive Collection

and
Clash of the Titans
Blu-ray
Warner Home Video

Greetings! The picture's from Florida two weeks ago, where it was cold but pretty ... that view from my room is a golf course called "The Blue Monster", and it's posted here because I'm stuck for a good image tonight.

This has been a quiet weekend, with no disasters and some good movies: I can't believe how enchanting is Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo; I wish I had some small kids around to show it to. Upcoming reviews include Blu-rays of The Men Who Stare at Goats, Yojimbo-Sanjuro, Days of Heaven and An Education, plus a DVD of Dillinger is Dead. A basket of desirable Warner Archive Discs has also arrived on loan, including An American Dream, Colorado Territory, and The Fox (all requested by readers).

Unless plans change, it looks like I'll be reporting on a couple of the big premieres at the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival to be held in Hollywood April 22 through 25. That's a ways off yet, but new programs are being announced weekly. Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



March 12, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

The Informant!
Blu-ray
Warner Home Video

Rocky Road to Dublin
Icarus Films

and
Gone With the Wind
70th Anniversary Single Disc Edition
Blu-ray
Warner Home Video

Greetings! Responding to my notice last Tuesday about a Vincent Price Radio Play, reader Ben Gart sent me this slice of a British talk show in which the host Stephen Fry does a terrific Vincent Price vocal imitation, in addition to spot-on takes on Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It's great to hear these horror greats so honored!

Speaking of Horror, I was not pleased by the miserable Oscar Horror Montage on last Sunday's broadcast. Even given the obvious guideline to emphasize movies that gave breaks to present-day stars, the montage's cumulative message was that Horror Film Is Garbage. They showed a handful of obvious classics and fifteen seconds of standard Universal monsters. No Chris Lee or Peter Cushing, no Val Lewton, nothing foreign. Not even any A.I.P. Poe, despite Roger Corman being right there in the audience. Nothing in the least disturbing and little beyond screaming faces and Freddy menacing babes. That's not very flattering to a once-respected genre, when the Academy is supposed to be honoring film history.

I have only three reviews today but none of them were easy to write ... I hope my observances hit near the mark. Thanks for all the support and emails! -- Glenn Erickson



March 07, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

George Bernard Shaw on Film
Major Barbara,
Caesar and Cleopatra,
Androcles and the Lion
Eclipse 20

The Damned United
Sony Pictures Classics

The Wizard of Oz
Blu-ray
70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition
Warner Home Video


and
Above and Beyond
Warner Archive Collection

Greetings! We're fresh from the Oscars ceremony, which I won't write about because I'm drafting this a few hours before the actual show goes on. I have a couple of interesting notes and links to pass on.

Savant's key contact Darren Gross tips us off to a full Radio Play by Matthew Broughton about Vincent Price's experience in England filming Witchfinder General. It's at BBC and is called Vincent Price and The Horror of The English Blood Beast. It's pretty cute; I just wish they found someone better able to imitate Price's voice.

Reader and reference associate Guido Bibra has been telling me about an old German TV miniseries called Raumpatroullie Orion, which he says premiered in West Germany in 1966, at the same time our Star Trek appeared. According to Guido, it's about an intrepid space pilot who is busted for insubordination and assigned to three years' punitive duty on "patrol", where his flying saucer-like ship The Orion has a number of adventures. Guido's working up a review of the B&W series, which he says is available on a not-terrific-looking R2 disc. But while we're waiting he forwarded three online links to brief clips from the show, which include the title sequence, a quick intro of the main characters, and a not-bad effects sequence showing the Orion launching from beneath the ocean -- through a whirlpool: Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3.

I received word of an unusually good DVD bargain last week: AnimEigo's Japan at War Box, a four-disc set of some of the best WW2-related pictures to come from Japanese film studios. I've reviewed all the pictures at DVD Savant quite enthusiastically. Japan's Longest Day (review link) is an incredibly detailed factual account of the lead-up to the Emperor's final surrender, and the averting of a general army mutiny. Battle of Okinowa (review link) is a harrowing account of the pitched battle, much more intense than Clint Eastwood's films about Iwo Jima. Father of the Kamikaze (review link) tells the weird story of how the Japanese defenders implemented their notorious suicide airplane squadrons. Finishing off the box is Black Rain (review link), Shohei Imamura's classic story of the survivors of the Hiroshima blast, who discover that their troubles are just beginning. It's a really good package, and a terrific alternative to the usual "father's day" marketed war movies -- more likely than not these pictures and this viewpoint will be completely new. Available March 9.



March 05, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Make Way for Tomorrow
Criterion

2012
Blu-ray
Sony

The NeverEnding Story
Blu-ray
Warner Home Video

and
We Live In Public
Indiepix

Greetings! Savant's cooking again ... as even more discs come in the door. I've managed to secure fancy Blu-rays of Warner's classics The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind from last Christmas. I figure that those titles are sufficiently important to write up now -- if Video Watchdog can review discs a few weeks late, why not Savant?

Savant correspondent and frequent advisor Bill Shaffer hails from Kansas; those of you with the Criterion special DVD of Carnival of Souls are most likely aware of Bill as an expert on regional filmmaking in that area, the career birthplace of talents like Robert Altman. Bill writes to say that his old friend John Clifford passed away on March 2 after a massive heart attack: "Clifford was the writer on the cult classic Carnival of Souls (1962) as well as on countless educational and industrial films for Centron Studios in Lawrence, Kansas, where he lived. John always enjoyed the many letters and calls he received about the Carnival film twenty, thirty and forty years after it was made. He was one of the most pleasant people I've ever known - just happy to be alive and delighted to be remembered. Thanks, Bill."

That's a good reminder. I think the Criterion Carnival of Souls DVD is still in print ... I should drag it out and review it!

Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson



March 02, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Lola Montès
Blu-ray
Criterion

The Boy with Green Hair
Warner Archive Collection

and
Ballad in Blue
Music Makers Series
Lionsgate

Greetings! I'm back, after a week's absence, so I hope I still have a reader or two out there. A lot seems to have happened while I was away, with the news cycle hijacked away from the Toyota troubles to Whale troubles, only then to be preempted by massive earthquake troubles. The pattern proves the media's hold on the public ... the Toyota issue that wouldn't go away suddenly evaporated with the appearance of an exploitable story about a killer whale tragedy. Just when a lynch mob was forming to kill the whale (the story needed a new wrinkle), the Chilean terremoto yanked our attention away from Sea World. This apparently allowed the authorities to slip the whale out the back door of the court house. Lesson: the "news" we receive is a packaged entertainment designed to sell commercial time. The truth is something else. Who knows what interesting political hijinks have been going on while the media are so focused on these stories?

Ouch, fell right off my soapbox there, right on my arrogant ... critical faculties. Back to subject "A". A heap of great review discs has arrived, and I plan to start knocking them off on an accelerated basis: The Fallen Sparrow, The Damned United, We Live in Public, George Bernard Shaw on Film (Major Barbara, Caesar and Cleopatra, Androcles and the Lion), Make Way for Tomorrow and Above and Beyond, and Blu-rays of Clash of the Titans, The NeverEnding Story (above right) and Ponyo.

An interesting new film announcement is a Blu-ray of 1954's A Star is Born on June 22; its a major restoration that's been in the works for years. On May 11 Sony will respond to Ridley Scott's new Robin Hood movie by releasing Hammer Films' Sword of Sherwood Forest, directed by Terence Fisher and starring Peter Cushing as the Sheriff of Nottingham.

One Last Announcement: We've been told that the illustrious Trailers from Hell website is celebrating its 400th trailer with "a top-to-bottom redesign aimed at making our site more interactive and user-friendly." The re-upholstered site goes up tomorrow, March 3. I'll definitely be making a look-see stop there. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson


Don't forget to write Savant at dvdsavant@mindspring.com.

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