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February 27, 2012

Savant's new reviews today are:

Something Wild

Jack Garfein's New York art masterpiece sees Carroll Baker undergoing an emotional breakdown in the unfeeling metropolis, hitting the lower depths before being rescued from a suicide bid. But then why does her uncommunicative, crude savior (Ralph Meeker) hold her prisoner in his one-room apartment? Featuring the music of Aaron Copland. From the MGM Limited Edition Collection.
2/28/12



The Moment of Truth
Blu-ray

Certainly the best semi-docu movie about bullfighting ever made, Francesco Rosi's story of a farm boy who becomes a celebrity in the bullring is packed with brutal reality, for both the martyred beasts and the frequently mangled matadors. A very good show, starring real bullfighter Miguelin Mateo and Linda Christian. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
2/28/12

and

The Skin I Live In
Blu-ray

Pedro Almodóvar goes mad doctor crazy in this disturbing concoction that combines the mad surgery horror motif with his personal theme of transformational sexuality. Not gruesome, but strong, twisted stuff packed with creepy ideas and unpleasant sexual violence. With Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes. In Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Classics.
2/28/12




Hello ...

I have some sad news to report. I'm not accustomed to this kind of announcement but I think it appropriate if handled with restraint. A major friend, writing colleague and even employer for a time was Mark Bourne, a prolific published writer that I met online ten years ago when he was a top reviewer for the now-gone (but on-line and readable) DVD Journal. Mark had a great writing style. His work was more than professional; his writing always communicated his friendly quality -- you could almost see him smiling when you read his material. We shared many film interests and would compare reviews. I always liked his more than my own. I've linked many times to Mark's blog Open The Pod Bay Doors, Hal, where you can see for yourself what a gifted writer he was. Mark asked me to write for him when he ran a DVD reviewing column at Film.com and we had a great time together. Then came a terrible health crisis for Mark, that I won't go into except to say that it started with what wasn't supposed to be a major procedure, yet left him unconscious for several months. I followed his ordeal through the blog written by his wife, a real fighter who forced Mark's doctors to do the right thing and practically willed her husband to stay alive.

For the past couple of years things have gone fairly well. Mark had followup issues but his condition had seemingly calmed down. He was writing again and enjoying trips with his missus. He recently helped promote my book out of sheer camaraderie. Then, just yesterday, a Savant reader who also knows Mark wrote to let me know that he passed away very suddenly on Saturday, from a swift heart attack. Mark wasn't old -- you could barely call him middle-aged.

Although I never met Mark in person, I will miss him terribly. He was a heck of a great guy even at this electronic remove. I've cribbed this recent photo of him, taken on a trip to San Francisco, in the hope that his family doesn't mind that I post it here.

Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson



February 25, 2012

Savant's new reviews today are:

Pal Joey
Blu-ray

Frank Sinatra croons, jokes and simultaneously woos both Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak in Columbia's Technicolor musical rather freely adapted from the Broadway hit. Joey is a womanizing hepcat for whom dames are called mice, Hayworth is a socialite with choice San Francisco real estate and Novak is a good-hearted showgirl called upon to perform a striptease. It's 1957, so don't hold your breath. A beautiful Blu-ray, from Twilight Time.
2/25/12

Scarlet Street
Blu-ray

Fritz Lang's most drastic film noir sees the meek Sunday painter Edward G. Robinson victimized by lowlife chisler Dan Duryea and femme fatale Joan Bennett, in an unforgettably bleak tragedy. Once viewable only as a Public Domain eyesore, the new Blu-ray from Kino Classics is sheer beauty in black and white. "Jeepers I love you Johnny!"
2/25/12

and

Unforgiven
Blu-ray

HD encoding brings out new beauty in landscapes and additional grit in the grizzled face of William Munney, a reformed outlaw who turns hit man to feed his impoverished family. Clint Eastwood directs himself, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman and Richard Harris in this Oscar-winning western, a modern classic. From Warner Home Video.
2/25/12


Greetings! I'm exhausted but still enthusiastic... I have every confidence in the mission, and I'm sure all the mistakes will be attributed to human error...

Actually, I'm making a dent in the stack of discs here, almost all of which are interesting. I saw a reasonably good horror-suspense film with Joan Collins today called Revenge from Scorpion Releasing, and am looking forward to seeing Twilight Time's Swamp Water, a Jean Renoir noir I've never caught up with. And I'll be doing RaroVideo's L'automobile for both TCM and DVD Savant. And I've just heard from Gary Teetzle that Twilight Time's Blu-ray releases for May will be Fox's Journey to the Center of the Earth and Columbia-Sony's The Big Heat!

Speaking of TCM, if my work schedule allows and nothing changes (looks good so far) I should be exhausting myself further reporting from Grauman's Chinese for the third annual TCM Classic Film Festival this April 12 through 15. I haven't had a chance to check on what's already been booked for this year but my editor at TCM Online always matches me up with appropriate titles. I just feel lucky to have been asked, and am going to make a point of touting my colleagues' festival web coverage, which last year had a you-are-there, slightly wild vibe. It was fun the last two times and this year should be good too, so I hope it happens!

Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson



February 20, 2012

Savant's new reviews today are:

Columbia Pictures
Film Noir Classics III

They're back -- gangsters, murderers, conspirators, bank robbers, crooked cops and soulful safecrackers! Spanning the years 1945 through 1957 are seven Columbia noirs packed with interesting actors: My Name is Julia Ross, The Mob, Drive a Crooked Road, Tight Spot and The Burglar. With trailers, production notes and a couple of Martin Scorsese intros; from the TCM Vault Collection.
2/21/12

The Magnetic Monster

Intrepid OSI men take charge when a "lone wolf" scientist inadvertently creates a potentially world-destroying nuclear-magnetic element! How many will die before they can find a way to neutralize the growing, unstable mass that slays anyone near and destroys entire buildings? The answers can be found in the A-Men production starring Richard Carlson and King Donovan. From the MGM Limited Edition Collection.
2/21/12

and

Black Fury

A film supposedly about labor unrest in the coal industry stands as evidence of the pernicious effect of the Production Code on freedom of expression in the movies. A code intended to police decency on the screen routinely dictated the political content of studio films. Paul Muni and Karen Morley star in a grossly falsified picture of conditions in coal mining towns. Directed by the great Michael Curtiz; from the Warner Archive Collection.
2/21/12




Greetings!

I've got some terrific links for you at the end of this long Presidents' day weekend.

Dick Dinman interviewed William Wellman, Jr. to come up with two radio shows about the making of of the silent great Wings, newly released on Blu-ray. The two shows are up and ready for auditing, at this link to Part One and this link to Part Two. Dick tells me that Bill Wellman Jr. reveals some facts about the making of Wings (and about mega-hot Clara Bow) that aren't to be found on the Blu-ray.

Second up is a notice for Midwestern silent film fans: the 16th Annual Kansas Silent Film Festival at Washburn University. I've seen the facility where this exhibition plays -- all of the shows come with live musical accompaniment. The full details are at the website.

Gary Teetzel forwards a link to a page at Sci-Fi Japan.com written by Ed Godziszewski, about a Tokyo "Winter Wonder" convention for fantastic Japanese models, mostly of Kaiju figures. The number, variety and enormity of some of these toys is staggering, and I'm not easily impressed. LOTS of pictures here.

Finally, friend of all things Savant Brad Caslor sends this astonishing link to a very high-quality Norwegian short film about -- you won't believe this -- a man who flies from the top of a mountain wearing a free-fall flying body suit, like a Flying Squirrel. It's incredible to see -- check it out at Sense of Flying..

Take care, thanks for reading and for the corrections! Glenn Erickson



February 17, 2012

Savant's new reviews today are:

On the Bowery
The Films of Lionel Rogosin Volume 1

Blu-ray

From the middle 1950s comes a wholly original independent film that impressed and inspired filmmakers like John Cassavetes. Lionel Rogosin's docu drama of New York's skid row defies our expectations -- it's as if an invisible camera had been invented. The truth of life in the bars and on the streets must have looked far more shocking then than it does now, yet no filmmaker since has touched its authenticity. The two-disc set also includes Good Times, Wonderful Times, Rogosin's searing docu about modern complacency on the subjects of war, atrocities and social injustice. Looks fantastic in Blu-ray, from Milestone / Oscilloscope.
2/18/12

The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker

An obscure "youth and freedom" movie from 1970 that's actually about a disaffected Princeton graduate incapable of getting his life in gear as he approaches 30 (been there, done that). Jordan Christopher heads a group of talented New York actors (Robert Walden, Jill O'Hara, Elaine Stritch, Kate Reid, Lois Nettleton) on a decidedly unsteady sex romp that touches all bases -- clueless parents, predatory females, idle laziness masquerading as social rebellion. Also known as Pigeons: no pigeons are actually kicked in the course of this movie. From Scorpion Releasing.
2/18/12

and

Carve Her Name with Pride

The famous, fascinating true-life story about dedication and sacrifice, filmed to honor a patriot spy and to remind England of those who served the flag in unorthodox ways. Virginia McKenna and Paul Scofield star in the story of Violette Szabo, a half-French war widow who volunteers for duty in occupied France. McKenna's performance is still inspiring. The story took on a new dimension in the last decade, with the revelations of spymaster / screenwriter Leo Marks. From VCI.
2/18/12




Greetings!

It's a good week for reviews, with Milestone's On the Bowery simply a knock-out -- if you don't buy B&W independent pictures, consider renting it. Also newly arrived are hotly-awaited Blu-rays of Fort Apache, The Unforgiven, Dangerous Liasions and Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In.

I just watched my first Jerry Lewis movie in maybe twenty years, Olive Films' colorful new VistaVision Blu-ray of The Geisha Boy. It's going to be fun to write about, because although I still have reservations about the talented Lewis's choices as a performer, this show is directed by Frank Tashlin, whose movies look better than ever.

Although I'm working Monday (my apologies to the Presidents) my intention is to really hit the reviews this weekend. There are good titles from Kino, Criterion, MGM and Warners that need proper attention! Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



February 13, 2012
February 14, 2012   Valentine's Day

Savant's new reviews today are:

Day of the Evil Gun

Mystery gunfighter Glenn Ford sets off to rescue his wife from Apache kidnappers accompanied by Arthur Kennedy, who says she's now his woman. This MGM western has a very good script and interesting characterizations, along with a pleasing supporting cast -- Dean Jagger, John Anderson, Royal Dano, Harry Dean Stanton. From the Warner Archive Collection.
2/14/12



Notorious
Blu-ray

Hitchcock's romantic, suspenseful and pointedly perverse espionage thriller sees Ingrid Bergman getting information from Nazi industrialist Claude Rains by sleeping with him, while agent Cary Grant stands on the sidelines, bitter and resentful. Classic scenes and terrific characterizations develop in short order -- it all clicks in Ben Hecht's sharp, daring screenplay. And the film appears to prove that Hitchcock had early information about wartime atomic research! In Blu-ray from MGM/Fox.
2/14/12

and

Hostile Witness

Ray Milland acts and directs a traditional 'big surprises from the witness stand' courtroom drama, aided by a competent English cast. Hit & Run drivers, murder most foul and a celebrated barrister who might be a madman! Adapted from a stage play that had also starred Milland. With Sylvia Sims; from the MGM Limited Edition Collection.
2/14/12




Greetings! It's another dog-tired night, with barely time to get the reviews out. BUT, the good news is that my book signing over the weekend went very well. Everybody was pleased, even the owner of Dark Delicacies, who had invested in a number of copies to support the signing and moved most of them. The store was crowded and busy with Julie Adams, David J. Schow and mime-actor Doug Jones in attendance around me, and signing books by the score. I didn't know there were so many 'investor' book buyers ... who must be re-selling the signed books somewhere. I have a couple of pictures here, courtesy of Gary Teetzel, who talked me into the signing in the first place. Mr. Schow and Ms. Adams are on my left, and Mr. Jones on my right. I got to meet a number of Savant readers, and talked the whole hour. I also managed to keep smiliing, so as not to scare people away.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



February 10, 2012

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Office Wife / Party Husband

Dorothy Mackaill shines in a pair of naughty pre-Code dramas that purport to expose the strain on marriage from the new, 'modern' ideas of sexual equality and women with careers. But in one picture Dorothy still snags the rich executive, and in the other the notion of an open marriage leads to adulterous near-disaster. Important social messages for your delectation, from the thoroughly modern Warner Archive Collection.
2/11/12

All Quiet on the Western Front
Blu-ray

The Best Picture winner and all-time classic pacifist epic gets a new lease on life thanks to a dazzling restoration. Also comes with the alternate silent version, also beautifully restored. With Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim and Slim Summerville. The fancy Collector's Edition contains a DVD and a digital copy as well. In Blu-ray from Universal Home Video.
2/11/12

and

Vice Squad

Police Captain Edward G. Robinson makes deals with madame Paulette Goddard and harasses poor crime witness Porter Hall, but he learns what he needs to corner a gang of vicious bank robbers. Also with Adam Williams, K.T. Stevens and Lee Van Cleef. From the MGM Limited Edition Collection.
2/11/12




Greetings!

Well, if you happen to be reading this on a street corner in Burbank, you might as well walk to the Dark Delicacies bookstore to check out my Sci-Fi Savant Classic Sci-Fi Review Reader Book-signing. Yes, it'll be soon be all over ... so you won't have to read any more awkward promotional gab here in the Savant Column. It should be fun! I for one plan to attend.

News from Olive Films today -- the company is making a big push with Blu-rays, for they've announced a bunch of upcoming titles: Badge 373, The Buccaneer, The Jayhawkers, Pony Express, HIt! and Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, reportedly uncut on three discs. All are slated to street on April 24. I'll be reviewing The Buccaneer soon, on regular DVD.

Now, to find THE right Valentine's Day gift ... which is even more problematic because it's also my wedding anniversary. That's called Double Jeopardy .....

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



February 06, 2012

Savant's new reviews today are:

Godzilla
Blu-ray

Criterion throws a new light on the atomic lizard that rises from the sea to ravage Japan -- this fully remastered and restored transfer also includes a new transfer of the American version with Raymond Burr, an entertaining commentary from David Kalat and a number of intriguing featurettes. The presentation overall is first-rate, and I want to buy a poster of that terrific cover art! In Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.
2/07/12

La Jetée / Sans Soleil
Blu-ray

Chris Marker's pair of intellectual masterpieces return in beautiful HD transfers. The challenging short sci-fi tale La Jetée equates memory with time travel and utilizes a much-celebrated style: 99% of the film is told in still images. Sans Soleil is a fascinating and genuinely profound quasi-docu that begins as a personal rumination but then plumbs the depths of numerous philosophical thoughts all the while taking us on a trip around the world. In Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.
2/07/12

and

A Star is Born
Blu-ray

The original 1937 Hollywood classic stars Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, was directed by William A. Wellman and produced by David O. Selznick. This new Blu-ray is the best release by far, yet doesn't restore the film's original Technicolor sheen. From Kino Classics.
2/07/12







Greetings! Well, it's finally happened. I reviewed the Arrow UK disc of The Tin Drum a couple of weeks ago and was happy to find that it plays on my American region player, even though Amazon UK said it would not. To be extra certain, I checked with DVD Beaver: their review confirmed that the disc played here in the states. A friend ordered it right away but found out that the actual marketed disc is region locked, just as noted online. SO ..... I apologize to any reader I may have misled, and warn other readers not to order the disc unless they have an all-region Blu-ray machine. This means that I'll have to ask Arrow to send me finished product only from now on ...



Next Saturday, February 11 at the Dark Delicacies Book and Gift Store on Magnolia in Burbank: Savant will be sitting behind a rickety table practicing his shaky signature. It's the Book Signing for my Sci-Fi Savant Classic Sci-Fi Review Reader. The signing will stretch 60 minutes -- one entire lonely hour -- between two and three. at the on Saturday, February 11, between 2 and 3. Please drop by! You'll get to see Julie Adams signing a book about The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Gary Teetzel says she's very nice) and also meet David J. Schow, who can answer any question imaginable about The Outer Limits (but will be busy signing books as well)



Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson.



February 04, 2012

Savant's new reviews today are:

Lady and the Tramp
Blu-ray

Disney animated pictures really look great in Hi-Def, mainly because the studio lavishes so much attention on their top titles. A story of romance across the class divide in the world of dogs, this endearing show sees the Disney animation crew at their commercial peak. With great songs and vocal work by Peggy Lee. In Blu-ray from Disney .
2/04/12

GOG

An entertaining Sci Fi treat from the Cold War years, this color (and originally 3D) espionage thriller sees America's secret underground weapons lab threatened by treacherous Enemies of Freedom. They've gained control of the lab's futuristic robots, the ones that maintain the Atomic reactor! With Richard Egan and Herbert Marshall. From The MGM Limited Edition Collection.
2/04/12

Tokyo Drifter
Blu-ray

In Seijun Suzuki's ode to alienated Yakuza, a handsome young gunman is betrayed by a father figure, hunted by eccentric assassins and protected by a less gullible "drifter" with a cynical philosophy. Our hero sings the title tune (over and over again) and director Suzuki lets his color art direction run wild. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
2/04/12

and

Spellbound
Blu-ray

David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock's glamorous Ingrid Bergman / Gregory Peck thriller is also the most outlandish pastiche of silly psychiatry ever. Great Miklos Rozsa music and some sharp visuals are put in the employ of some of the dumbest scripting ever seen in a front-rank work by a great auteur. Oh, and Salvador Dali dream sequence has been added to make it all seem more artistic. But who can resist Ingrid? In Blu-ray from MGM / Fox.
2/04/12




Greetings! I've got one week left to find clean socks for my Sci-Fi Savant Book Signing at the Dark Delicacies Book and Gift Store on Saturday, February 11, between 2 and 3. The store's on Magnolia Blvd in Burbank, and there'll be several other authors and a couple of movie stars to give the event some class appeal. Please drop by!

DVD Savant apparently has readers in England, where my review-writing correspondent Lee Broughton lives. I first got involved with Lee when I discovered how much he knew about Spaghetti westerns, which were a big thing in the early days of DVD. He's giving a lecture this Monday night, in Leeds. Here's the official announcement:

"Following a screening of the Coen Bros' True Grit at Screen Seven (Leeds) on Monday 6th Feb, Lee Broughton will present a paper entitled "True grit? Charting the representation of female characters in classical Hollywood Westerns". The paper will highlight the numerous prescriptive codes and tropes that filmmakers have routinely employed in order to restrict the onscreen activities of female characters in Hollywood Westerns."

.... In other news, there's good news for all those people who have complained that The MGM Limited Edition Collection didn't have a website devoted to its Made On Demand discs, like Warners does with the Warner Archive Collection: Now there is a website--and it's the Warner Archive! Here's the link. I'm told that all the titles are not up yet. This may make the MGM titles more accessible, as I still get notes from customers wondering where they're being sold. As The Warner Archive Collection's website already distributes Sony-Columbia line of MOD product, this is a very interesting development.

And I've been tipped off by Gary Teetzel that a restored Blu-ray disc of the peculiar, highly regarded 1972 horror picture The Asphyx is going to be marketed by Redemption / Kino Lorber. The Robert Stephens, Robert Powell and Jane Lapotaire shocker is due on April 17. Thirteen years ago one of the first discs I reviewed online was David Kalat's 1999 All Day Entertainment DVD release, a very welcome item at the time. I wrote a pretty klunky review for it, if I remember correctly. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson


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

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