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November 28, 2011

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Blu-ray

Director Joseph Sargent and writer Peter Stone team up to steer this intense, intensely funny crime-extortion caper picture into the top ranks of American action filmmaking. Mercenary Robert Shaw's band of machine-gun thieves seize a subway car and hold its passengers for ransom. Walter Matthau's transit cop fights red tape and the unpredictable New York attitudes to catch the crooks and save the innocent. With Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, and 101 wonderfully profane Manhattanites. In Blu-ray from MGM/Fox.
11/29/11

Meet Me In St. Louis
Blu-ray

Vincente Minnelli directs Judy Garland in a full Technicolor production with all the MGM trimmings, including award-winning songs and a favored performance by child star Margaret O'Brien. Mary Astor and Lucille Bremer co-star, but the big draw is the eye-popping color cinematography, which looks like picture postcards come to life. With plenty of extras. Billboarding the sentimental song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, this is a prime holiday movie. In Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
11/29/11

and

Harakiri
Blu-ray

Starving Samurai Tetsuya Nakadai shows up at the lodge of the Iwa clan. He asks only to be allowed to commit ceremonial seppuku -- suicide -- in the Iwa courtyard, but his hosts suspect that he really wants a handout or a job. The Iwa are 100% correct, but they cannot possibly guess the depth of the revenge that Nakadai's warrior has in store for them. One of the best Samurai films, Masaki Kobayashi's show is considered a top Japanese film regardless of genre. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/29/11




Greetings!

It's an all- Blu-ray day here at DVD Savant, although I have a new batch of MGM Limited Edition discs in (the rotting zombie in Doctor Blood's Coffin, anyone?) and am hoping for an infusion of Warner Archive Collection titles, which will hopefully include the terrific The Constant Nymph, Juarez, The People Against O'Hara and the incredibly nihilistic Safe in Hell.

I'm just getting into Kino's December offerings and finding some great surprises. The 1932 Farewell to Arms is the uncut original version, not the Production Code's censored version we've been watching for 75 years. The Technicolor Nothing Sacred is in much better shape, audio and video, than I've seen it before. And Buster Keaton's Seven Chances Blu-ray has also been given the benefit of a fine restoration, especially its opening 2-strip Technicolor sequence. Coming from Criterion are Blu-rays of 12 Angry Men, Kuroneko, Design for Living, The Lady Vanishes and the Eclipse "Sabu" disc set with Elephant Boy, The Drum and The Jungle Book.

To readers wondering where the coverage is, I'm sorry to say that I didn't score Image's silent BD of The Phantom of the Opera or Paramount's My Fair Lady. But I've been promised The Help, Midnight in Paris and The Rocketeer. If time permits, I hope to double back and cover Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, the Blu-ray of which is a bona fide stunner.

One really amusing link to offer: the always exciting web page Trailers from Hell! has been endorsed by the National Library Association ... check out this At Your Library.com article on the site. If librarians like it, it has to be good for us.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



November 25, 2011
November 26, 2011

Savant's new reviews today are:

Way Down East
Blu-ray

It's not every day that a 90 year-old movie can transport us to the heights of melodramatic delirium, but D.W. Griffith's down-home classic does the trick. Lillian Gish's superlative acting defies the usual notions of silent movie work. By the time our virtuous, suffering heroine is floating down a river on a freezing ice floe, the picture has us firmly in its grip. Co-starring Richard Barthelmess, and filmed by Billy Bitzer. In Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
11/26/11



The Nickel Ride
and
99 and 44/100% Dead

A terrific Action Double Feature for film fans in search of exotic cult thrills. In Robert Mulligan's fine gangland character study, middle-manager Jason Miller realizes that his superiors are setting him up to be "retired". Then, John Frankenheimer's pop art gang war epic is one half comic book thrills and the other half just plain incoherent. Richard Harris and Ann Turkel star and Henry Mancini provides the music score. Excellent neo-noir tension and crazy underworld satire, from Shout! Factory.
11/26/11

and

Sarah's Key
Blu-ray

Journalist Kirsten Scott Thomas looks into her husband's family's past and uncovers a harrowing history lesson literally locked in a closet -- the strange case of the survival (?) of a brave ten year-old Parisian girl, rounded up with other Jews for deportation to concentration camps. Made from a best-selling novel, this beautifiully scripted and filmed thriller finds inspiration and uplift in its subject without restorting to holocaust clichés. In Blu-ray from Anchor Bay / Weinstein.
11/26/11






Greetings!

Some quickie reviews on Turkey Day Plus Two:

Mark Bourne has some points to poke at Arnold Schwarzenegger in his blog post about the worst DVD commentary ever recorded: "I'm looking at the gun ... Here's the great moment of the sweat running down ... His eyes are popping ..."

Correspondent Curtis Whitear points me to a blog about the fabulous HD restoration of Manos The Hands of Fate ... which comes complete with copious frame grabs. My iffy quality 16mm films should be so lucky!

Twilight Time is posting images of their upcoming, hotly desired Blu-rays licensed from Fox and Sony/Columbia, which I include here. I'm particularly impressed with their clever cover art for the Fox title, as The Roots of Heaven's original poster artwork was just terrible.

Gary Teetzel sends a link to the greatest ice capades ever, if you happen to be a James Cameron fan.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



November 21, 2011

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Legend of Lylah Clare

Robert Aldrich's wild Hollywood horror tale sees obsessed director Peter Finch transforming unknown actress Kim Novak into the volatile, scandalous star he loved, and watched die, twenty years before. Ernest Borgnine, Rossella Falk and Coral Browne wax hysterical in this weird, campy and depraved pot-boiler, with one of the more subversive endings ever to come out of a major Hollywood studio. From The Warner Archive Collection.
11/22/11

Giorgio Moroder's
Metropolis

Blu-ray

In 1983 record producer and film composer Giorgio Moroder undertook a restoration of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, which helped jump-start the search for the silent classics' missing original footage. Moroder's disco score, complete with rock vocals from the likes of Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, Bonnie Tyler and Freddie Mercury, has taken on a life of its own. Only now have the rights issues been cleared away for its reissue on video. In Blu-ray from Kino.
11/22/11

Fanny and Alexander
Blu-ray

Ingmar Bergman's delightful, partially autobiographical family saga follows the fortunes of a clan with roots in the theater. Major episodes involve a new stepfather, the "reality" of magic and a frightening ordeal of domestic tyranny. The movie's overall appeal is such that it makes an ideal Christmas movie for adults. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/22/11

and

The Big Country
Blu-ray

William Wyler and Gregory Peck produced this Cold War Western that imposes the pacifist notions of Jessamyn West's Friendly Persuasion on a sweeping epic western about a range war. Bold characters and conflict play out against Jerome Moross's great music score. Starring Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, Carroll Baker, Burl Ives and Charles Bickford. The new HD restores a sharp image and bright colors; it's a real beauty. In Blu-ray from MGM / Fox.
11/22/11




Greetings!

A great week for Savant's self esteem ... colleague and popular Greenbriar Picture Shows creator John McElwee has a terrific new November 19 article up that combines an assessment of my new book Sci-Fi Savant and his own movie-marketing & exhibition overview of Sci-Fi matinees of the 1950s. In between rare publicity and promotional images ("Has anybody got a picture about the SATELLITE?") come John's thoughts on my book. It's perfect ... readers will check out the entertaining story of selling space to '50s kids, and be mentally impregnated with irrational urges to purchase the book. At least that's how I look at things.

Another busy Savant correspondent is working journalist and genre author/enthusiast Steve Ryfle. Ryfle's no-nonsense approach makes him one of the most frequently consulted experts on Japanese fantasy filmmaking. The website Toho Kingdom has a new Nicholas Driscoll interview that tells me a lot about Steve's writing career than I knew before, especially his sometimes-frustrating experience with Toho over his book, The Unauthorized Biography of Godzilla.

And Rob links to a highly amusing "Lost" movie you may not have heard of -- a 1944 Warner Bros. film noir version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of Rings, with music by Bernard Herrmann. In one of the most interesting mysteries of movie history, this remarkable film came out a full ten years before Tolkien published his three part novel. And it's only a few minutes in length!

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



November 18, 2011

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Silver Fleet

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's company The Archers produced this fine wartime drama about the occupation of Holland. A Dutch shipbuilder collaborates with the Nazis by day, and by night he connives to sabotage his own work. Ralph Richardson leads an excellent cast (Googie Withers, Esmond Knight) in a top-rate, unaccountably obscure story of stolen submarines and personal sacrifice. The entire Archers creative team contributes to this carefully crafted wartime morale thriller. Fooled me -- I never heard of this one before. From VCI.
11/19/11


West Side Story
Blu-ray

Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins' musical triumph should be one of the best discs of the holiday season, but something went seriously wrong on the way to the disc duplicators. Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn star in the story of star-crossed lovers from opposing New York street gangs. Good extras accompany the 1961 classic; also a bonus DVD version. In Blu-ray from MGM / Fox.
11/19/11


and

The Robber
Blu-ray

Director Benjamin Heisenberg gives this no-nonsense crime thriller an unemotional, almost Zen quality. A highly successful bank robber makes his daring getaways on foot: he is also an award-winning marathon runner. He keeps order in his insane life by reducing human interaction to a minimum, yet allows himself a relationship with his old girl friend. It's a true story from 1980s Austria, about a crook who made his running getaways wearing a Ronald Reagan mask. Stars Andreas Lust and Franziska Weisz. In Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
11/19/11




Greetings!

Bits of news here and there. The Turner Classic Movies channel lists Stanley Kubrick's supposedly suppressed Fear and Desire for cablecast in December; I'll be curious to see if it happens or is pre-empted by a last minute substitution. Ver-ry interesting.

Radio host Dick Dinman has a pair of radio shows up and ready for auditing. For Into the Wild Blu Yonder with "Airplane" he interviews stars Robert Hays and the late Peter Graves. Hilarious antics ensue. Also ready for listening is Breakfast at Tiffany's, in which Dinman interviews Paramount executives Ronald F. Smith and Andrea Kalas about the restoration and archiving issues in maintaining such a favorite picture. I saw this title projected at Grauman's Chinese last April in digital 4K, and it was very impressive. The many entries in Dick Dinman's DVD Classics Corner on the Air Archive covers a wide range of films and personalities.

Dean Blake and Gary Teetzel forwarded the new list of Paramount titles to be released on DVD by Olive Films. Just offhand the pictures I most want to review are Too Late Blues (John Cassavetes), The Slender Thread, Come Blow Your Horn, The Trap, The Hangman, The Turning Point, Joseph Losey's The Lawless (one of his very best), Nicholas Ray's Run for Cover and The Savage Innocents.

Finally, Hen's Tooth Video has announced a February release for the 1939 The Man in the Iron Mask, directed by James Whale. It's been pointed out to me that the film is actor Peter Cushing's first. I'm told that he played Louis Heyward's double, and a second bit part as well.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



November 14, 2011

Savant's new reviews today are:

Mysterious Island
Blu-ray

Ray Harryhausen & Cy Endfield tackle the famous Captain Nemo follow-up novel by populating Jules Verne's uninhabited island with giant monsters. A thrilling balloon escape and encounters with a giant crab and a prehistoric bird are even more exciting when backed by the thundering music of Bernard Herrmann. A great transfer at the right aspect ratio; Hermann's work is given its own Isolated Music Score track. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
11/15/11

The Warped World of
Koreyoshi Kurahara

Eclipse's 28th film series honors a Japanese maverick who succeeded with everything from conventional star vehicles to extreme juvenile delinquency films. The selection here ranges from a tense corruption thriller, to an oddball romantic road picture to a complex drama about sexual power in a dysfunctional family. You'll never forget Akira, the jazz-crazed car thief with absolutely no sense of human decency whatsoever. Dig these titles: Intimidation, The Warped Ones, I Hate but Love, Black Sun and Thirst for Love. From Eclipse.
11/15/11

and

Absence of Malice
Blu-ray

Under license from Sony comes a Blu-ray of the controversial show about the abuse of authority and the harm done by irresponsible journalists. Paul Newman is the businessman persecuted by Sally Field's reckless reporter and Bob Balaban's unprincipled government investigator. Also starring Melinda Dillon. In Blu-ray from Image Entertainment.
11/15/11




Greetings!

I'm coping with a changed work situation and have elected, when necessary, to back off on the number of reviews rather than make them shorter. The new discs on view this month are certainly worth the time and effort. Way Down East knocked me out, and I'm expecting big things from Sarah's Key and Kieslowski's Three Colors. Up soon will be Robert Aldrich's over-boiled The Legend of Lylah Clare and Ingmar Bergman's great Christmas picture Fanny & Alexander. Not quite in the door yet but hotly awaited are MGM Blu-rays for three action pictures that were big box store exclusives back last summer: The Big Country, Quigley Down Under and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (the memorable orginal version with Walter Matthau).

What? That impressive book jacket artwork to the left has aroused your curiosity? Let me throw a couple of self-serving links at you:

TCM's press release for the Savant Sci-Fi Book, and
writer-reviewer Mark Bourne's tribute to the book and all things Savant.

Don't get me wrong, I like reading nice things about myself in print, but I may never get used to standing up in the din of web commerce and beating a drum. All I can say is that the world's problems would be a little closer to being solved, if the great leaders would sit down to receive the lessons of vintage science fiction films. I'm sure you agree.

The hot link for the day comes from TCM's Movie Morlocks web page, the first instalment of David Kalat's The Importance of Being Godzilla, an article ablut intriguing discoveries found in various international versions of the original 1954 Godzilla. It's well appointed with film clips. In question is the presumption that ideological influences often determine what gets cut out of movies as they circulate between countries with different political agendas. Will Mr. Kalat end up drawing his own political conclusions, as DVD Savant frequently does? I've been reading David Kalat's articles and listening to his commentaries for twelve years now, and he always offers a thoughtful analysis, whether the movie is Dr. Mabuse or Christ in Concrete. Thanks as ever to Gary Teetzel for steering me to this link. I can't wait to read part two.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



November 11, 2011

Savant's new reviews today are:

Mutiny on the Bounty
Blu-ray

The Marlon Brando-Trevor Howard 1962 version of the tale is a real eye-opener, filmed in 65mm and looking fantastic in HD: Tahitian scenery, beautiful people, tall ships. Includes the never-screened prologue and epilogue scenes that bring the story full circle. In Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
11/12/11



Blue Velvet
Blu-ray

A 25th Anniversary reissue release, prompted by the rediscovery of all the scenes David Lynch was forced to delete for the film's first theatrical run. They're included in a director-prepared 50-minute extra. Weirdness blooms over murders, mutilations and sexual slavery, all in the cozy town of Lumberton. With Kyle MacLachlan. Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern. In Blu-ray from MGM/Fox.
11/12/11

and

The Four Feathers
Blu-ray

A true original from the prolific Kordas, this may be the key epic of the British Empire. Branded a coward, a young ex-officer follows his regiment into the wastes of the Sudan, reclaims his honor and saves the day. Filmed on location under the shadow of war. With John Clements, Ralph Richardson and June Duprez. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/12/11




Greetings!

Just a couple of links today:

Joe Dante has been in New York at a retrospective of his films; they even held a marathon screening of his monumental The Movie Orgy. Critic David Bordwell has covered the screenings in an elegant article about Dante-ism in general and the mind-shattering effect of The Movie Orgy in particular; it's called Dante's Cheerful Purgatorio.

Gary Teetzel points out a YouTube video on The Story of E.C. Comics, a brief but sharp little overview of horror comics in the early 1950s.

And finally, here's a keeper for fans of Laurel & Hardy: an article by Richard W. Bann called Film Preservation - Another Fine Mess!. It goes deep into detail on the subject.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



November 07, 2011

Savant's new reviews today are:

Island of Lost Souls
Blu-ray

Perhaps the last major American '30s horror classic withheld from DVD comes to Blu-ray in a fine restoration. One of the best Mad Doctors ever, Charles Laughton breaks every law of God, Man and the A.S.P.C.A. by converting animals to men through horrible vivisection surgery. Laughton then connives to mate a Panther Woman with a handsome shipwreck victim, and orders a beast-man to rape the blonde heroine. With Bela Lugosi in one of his best (and most fleeting) roles as The Sayer of the Law. Genuine pre-code horror chills undiminished by time and fashion, with excellent extras. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/08/11

Horror Express
Blu-ray

Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and, believe it or not, Telly Savalas fend off a truly nasty monster while riding the rails in the dark of Siberia. The thing kills with its glowing eyes and turns half the train's passengers into blind zombies. It's hectic! It's eclectic! It's a train ride to doom! For once playing stalwart heroes, Cushing and Lee confront the creature with British Fair Play. A beautiful remastered Blu-ray + bonus DVD Edition, from Severin.
11/08/11

and

The Couch

An oddball psycho thriller that sees everybody's favorite Shrinking Man Grant Williams stabbing strangers to death on the streets of Los Angeles, while romancing lovely Shirley Knight, the niece of his shrink. Robert Bloch provided the script for this uneven but entertaining shocker from a time when a random killing spree was an unthinkable event. A sparkling Remastered Edition from The Warner Archive Collection.
11/08/11




Greetings!

Well, today's discs add up to a post-Halloween horror bounty for fans sorry to see the haunted holiday come and go so quickly. I remember being fascinated by Island of Lost Souls at age 13 and again at college when I showed Fox's nitrate print in a sci-fi film series at Melnitz hall -- the picture had a glowing 'silver screen' look. With Criterion's helpful extras, the film is even more impressive to examine frame by frame, to study those many crazy monster make-ups.

I was told about Severin's stunning restoration of Horror Express a couple of years ago, but in the absence of specific permission to blab about it on the web, I kept mum. Like thousands of other fans, I'm very happy to see the disc now. Peter Cushing can do no wrong.

I'll keep the self-promotion short this week: another book review, a testimonial really, to give Savant illusions of competence: at Mark Bourne's Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL.

So that's it for today -- why I decided to try to characterize my aims at DVD Savant here and now, I'm not sure. Along with a few other goodies, the Blu-ray for Blue Velvet has come in, allowing a looksee at those newly recovered missing scenes. I'll have a review on that by the end of the week, perhaps with coverage of one of Image's new licensed Sony Blu-rays. Thanks for reading! Are we not Men? Glenn Erickson



November 04, 2011

Savant's new reviews today are:

Going Places
Blu-ray

Betrand Blier's tale of the sexual and criminal adventures of two randy French scallywags (Gérard Depardieu & Patrick Dewaere) is jaw-droppingly unabashed and completely hilarious. Jeanne Moreau joins a cast of very daring actresses (Miou-Miou, Brigitte Fossey, Isabelle Huppert) in the off-color and surprisingly affectionate fun. In Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
11/05/11

The Music Lovers

Ken Russell let loose his crazy parade for the first time in this historically preposterous, emotionally supercharged mash note to the music of Tchaikovsky. Richard Chamberlain plays the Russian genius as a tragic figure, with Glenda Jackson taking honors as a highly fictionalized, extravagantly ill-fated spouse. It's Pyotr T's Greatest Hits, illustrated with lush, bizarre images shot from guns, like puffed rice. Yours to love or hate, from The MGM Limited Edition Collection.
11/05/11

and

The Last Run

Nobody praised this rather good stripped-down gangster road picture, which requires a Hemingwayesque getaway driver (George C. Scott) to race his turbocharged BMW coupe across Iberia -- twice -- while being pursued by vindictive hit men. The action and tough-guy theatrics are fine, the love triangle with Trish Van Devere and Tony Musante less so. Directed by Richard Fleischer, who became a critical target for replacing John Huston at the last minute. From The Warner Archive Collection.
11/05/11





Greetings!

Just a couple of quick links today, to accompany my plug for you-know-what. I'm waiting for an upcoming interview to answer questions about the book!

Valued correspondent "B" sends this link to one of Dave Strohmaier's in70mm.com pages ... this one is about his shooting of a new short subject in the authentic Cinerama process. Working with the 50 year-old technology looks unwieldy, to say the least, but definitely worthwhile.

One of Joe Dante's link recommendations is a cute Carlsberg Beer commercial, with a really satisfying payoff.

Chief Savant correspondent, alert conscience and lawsuit-repeller Gary Teetzel asked me to hint that readers with $2,000 and desire to see him receive the perfect Christmas gift will find it an an upcoming auction.

Friend and fellow "film detective" Darren Gross now works in the company handling MGM's archiving, preservation and restoration projects. He scored a major coup last year that for months has been a top secret topic: Darren located the original 35mm print and negative material for the many notorious outtake scenes for David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Mr. Lynch has prepared the legendary film material to serve as an extra on an upcoming Blu-ray release. Darren is getting some much-deserved recognition for his effort, both from the famous director and in a new interview article by Cath Clarke in the UK publication The Guardian, a truly classy venue. More power, I say -- it's not often that the right person gets the spotlight.

My "proof" copy of the Sci-Fi Savant Reader arrived yesterday and the verdict is, hey, there's a lot of text in there! The bright front cover will be good for signaling rescue planes should you become lost in the Sahara. I think I like this book much better than my first, just knowing that we had more time to get it into shape. By the way, the first book review is up at *Blogcritics.com. The writer is filmmaker George Godwin, who coincidentally wrote that fascinating diary-account about working with David Lynch on Dune.

Thanks for reading! --- back on Monday --- Glenn Erickson


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

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