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February 28, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Foreign Correspondent
Blu-ray + DVD

Savant still feels that this breathlessly paced concoction of wit and serious wartime anxiety is Alfred Hitchcock's best all-time 'spy chase' picture. Joel McCrea and Laraine Day try to free a harmless Peace delegate from the clutches of Nazi villains, while discovering that people in their own camp are closeted traitors. Exciting set pieces include the terrific windmill scene and a terrifying plane crash at sea, all engineered by effects design maestro William Cameron Menzies. With striking performances by Herbert Marshall, George Sanders and Albert Basserman. An impressively perfect new transfer; a Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
3/01/14

Margin For Error
DVD-R

Otto Preminger directed and stars in this half-serious, half-comic tale of skullduggery in the Nazi Embassy in New York, 1939. Preminger is the nasty consul holding his own wife (Joan Bennett) prisoner and seeking to cover up his foolish gambling losses by framing staff member Carl Esmond for embezzlement and NYPD cop Milton Berle (?... !!) for murder. Low comedy is an uneasy match with sub-plots about concentration camps and the persecution of Jews in Europe, but the lively performances keep the show afloat. In DVD-R from 20th Fox Cinema Archives Collection.
3/01/14

and

Jupiter's Darling
DVD-R

Esther Williams' last MGM picture has one sensational underwater swimming musical number, but mostly sticks with an epic farce about a patrician beauty who uses herself as amorous bait to save glorious Rome from being overrun by the dedicated conqueror Hannibal (Howard Keel). Secondary terrific musical contributions come from Marge and Gower Champion, whose dance with a group of elephants is a unique delight. With George Sanders, Richard Haydn and a hilarious William Demarest. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
3/01/14



Hello!

Northern California knows what rain is but Los Angeles is really on the edge of a desert. When the rain comes it can be violent, but surely no worse than anyplace else. In this big drought we're suddenly inundated by water from the sky, and Angelenos just can't handle it. The news is treating the rain like a natural disaster because fire areas may experience mudslides, which is understandable. But is that a reason for motorists in the flatlands to suddenly start driving like idiots? One trip to the supermarket today, and I feel like I'm driving through a war zone, with emergency vehicles going every which way.

But there's disc news to talk about. Over at the Warner Archive Collection we're being promised special release news for March, which means that Tuesday may be the big day to watch. The WAC has already announced a DVD-R of the James Whale Showboat (1936), one of the greatest musicals ever. George Feltenstein is calling that a 'teaser' announcement, prompting guesses at what treasures might be coming. It's clearly time to get one's hopes up to a properly unrealistic level.

I'm still waiting for a viewer report on the quality of the German "Media Target Distribution GmbH" Region 2 DVD of Roger Vadim's legendary ... et Mourir de Plaisir, aka Blood and Roses aka ...und vor Lust zu Sterben in this Deutsche version. The movie is a complete puzzle to me. I rented Film Incorporated's Technicolor 16mm print for a UCLA Halloween marathon in 1972 or so (that was a great night) so have seen the domestic American release; at the American Cinematheque a few years back they showed a beat-up but fairly complete 35mm Tech print that had the longest surreal/Cocteauesque dream sequence I've seen... but it still seemed incomplete. Terrible copies of a French version have been floating around the web that appear to be a different edit but with no additional horror or erotic content -- and with the dream sequence completely excised. I've been unable to keep myself from investing emotionally in various rumors floating about that Criterion may be working on the picture. It would be great if they actually could untangle the genesis and versions of this picture, even though Criterion can be a little lightweight when dealing with non-classic horror pix. The best team for the task would probably be found among the experts at a boutique label like Severin Films.

Back in 1974 at the UCLA Special Collections Theater Arts Reading Room I was shocked to the quick to see two photos in European 'art' books of an outrageously grotesque scene not shown in any version I've heard of. If the German disc surfaces I'm going to review it for the record, just to post those two photos, which conjure up delirious erotic horror possibilities that the existing dream sequence never even approaches -- of a phantom vampire that resembles nothing less than a shape-shifting blob-monster from Carpenter's The Thing.

Yep, there are still major mysteries to be uncovered in classic Euro-horror! I have always had the depressing feeling that this strange scene never made it into any released or existing version of ...et Mourir de Plaisir, like the Spider Pit from King Kong. Maybe some knowledgeable Video Watchdog writer will get to the bottom of the story for us all. Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



February 24, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
Twilight Time

Blu-ray

Michael Cimino's first movie is a modest enterprise filmed under big Montana skies with the biggest star of 1974, Clint Eastwood. Cimino's original script is a raggedy, vulgar heist picture with lots of loose ends and a showoff role for the great Jeff Bridges, but everything dovetails nicely for the finish. With George Kennedy as a loose cannon, shooting up the high Rockies like there's no tomorrow. With Twilight Time's expected interesting extras. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
2/25/14

and

Thirst
Severin Films

Blu-ray + DVD

This Australian vampire epic is the modern medical kind, in which a society of elitist and slightly superhuman bloodsuckers kidnaps and forcibly indoctrinates the hereditary 'mother' of their subspecies into her crimson destiny. This is the one where the traumatized prisoner finds herself in a 'blood dairy' surrounded by victim/donors, and being fed bizarre hallucinations to reawaken her blood thirst. Ambitious, rather cruel but good; it stars Chantal Contouri, David Hemmings and Henry Silva. A terrific new restored transfer, with excellent extras. In Blu-ray and DVD from Severin Films.
2/25/14




Hello!

Just saw two curious new articles over at World Cinema Paradise -- one by Peter Winkler looks at the weird life of the recently deceased cult actor Christopher Jones, and the other by Stuart Galbraith IV is a book review about Laurel & Hardy's last, weirdest film, Atoll K.

I'm not big on sales announcements, but correspondent Trevor Bartram tells me that his Target store is selling the two James Bond 3- Blu-ray sets for only $15 each .... I hope a reader or two desirous of this gets there soon enough to nab a copy.

National Public Radio KPCC's Off Ramp show has a short piece by fellow UCLA film school graduate Charles Solomon up about George Pal and his Puppetoons; As part of the conversation they discuss the Puppetoon Blu-ray (not a DVD, Charles) I reviewed a few months back. A couple of film clips are viewable as well.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



February 21, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Du Rififi chez les hommes
Blu-ray + DVD

The most famous and perhaps the best 'serie noire' French crime caper looks absolutely fantastic restored to Blu-ray. Worn out ex-con Jean Marais leads a team of experts on a daring jewel heist, a famous no-dialogue scene that lasts half an hour. But the savagery of the underworld leaves no thief untouched. With great extras, including a lively interview with Jules Dassin, the Hollywood blacklistee who fought back and established a thriving career in France and Greece. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
2/22/14

and

Heart of Darkness
DVD-R

Nicolas Roeg directs Tim Roth and John Malkovich in this 1993 TNT Cable original TV movie, shot on location in Belize. All the details of the Joseph Conrad novella are there and Roth's performance is excellent, but the show never seems more than a polite, and very literal adaptation down to small details. Emphasis and a sense of dread are missing, and John Malkovich never seems the slightest bit threatening as the sick, distracted Kurtz, idly engaging Roth's Marlow in what seem like petty conversations. The production itself is quite good, with an impressive steamship and appropriately misty scenes of native attacks. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
/14




Hello!

Still running on stolen hours and minutes here to get Savant together, and rather than just cheat and dash off the reviews, have opted to do fewer (for the moment at least). A couple of good Severin Blu-rays came in yesterday, the Aussie modern vampire tale Thirst and the Kiwi sleeper hit Dead Kids, known over here as Strange Behavior. From Twilight Time I also have Michael Cimino's Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, which I've never reviewed before, and The Eddie Duchin Story, which I have reviewed but looks much better now in Blu-ray.

I've done pieces on Foreign Correspondent and The Blue Max but they will show up elsewhere first and be along here later. It's also time for me to tackle Crimes and Misdemeanors, which at the moment seems to have eclipsed Hannah and Her Sisters as my favorite Woody Allen picture. Twilight Time and Criterion are putting out a constant stream of desirable titles!

Thanks for reading! I hope I can pick up the pace soon! --- Glenn Erickson



February 19, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Come Back, Africa -
The Films of Lionel Rogosin, Volume 2

Blu-ray

One of the most daring documentaries ever made headlines this collection of great Lionel Rogosin filmmaking. Working in secret, the director went to South Africa in 1957 to record the real experience of apartheid. Local black writers and white dissidents helped at great risk, and then- local singing celebrity Miriam Makeba sang a couple of songs. The film's background of life in Sophiatown with crushing racism on all sides, is frightening. With Rogosin's later film Black Roots, plus documentaries about the making of the films, which are equally fascinating. In Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.
/14

and

Gravity
Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet.

This year's big 3-D hit and Oscar hopeful shapes up as one of the most impressive science fiction films ever made, from Alfonso Cuarón who gave us the superb Children of Men in 2006. Cuarón's direction may be the best-ever marshalling of computer generated effects, and his actors Sandra Bullock and George Clooney give impressive performances. The extras offer the full lowdown on the film's unusual production history, plus a warning documentary about the real space junk problem, which could easily create the disaster scenario seen in the movie and make the launching of space flights and satellites impossible for the forseeable future. In Blu-ray and DVD + Ultraviolet from Warner Home Video.
/14





Hello!

I've received new discs from Twilight Time, The Warner Archive Collection and Criterion, plus an unexpected gem from The Fox Studio Classics MOD Collection, Joseph Mankiewicz's Five Fingers with James Mason and music by Bernard Herrmann. Hope to be continuing to turn out reviews on a regular basis!

Thanks for reading -- Glenn Erickson



February 15, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Khartoum
Blu-ray

King of the costumed historical heroes, Charlton Heston is a good fit for "Chinese" Gordon of the Sudan, despite resembling the man not a bit and wisely not doing an English accent. Basil Dearden's huge epic shows massive armies clashing in the desert and assaulting the beseiged city. If it seems odd that neither of the great men played by Heston nor co-star Laurence Olivier take part in the action, they didn't in real life either. And after two hours of refreshing history showing the ruthlessness of the Brit politicos, the film models the end of Gordon after an idealized painting. Still, a beautifully preserved, razor-sharp Ultra-Panavision epic in Blu-ray from Twilight Time. A great transfer by MGM.
2/15/14

and

Savant Q&A Interview:
Greg Kintz of The 3-D Film Archive
on Man in the Dark

Savant reviewed Twilight Time's 3-D of Man in the Dark a couple of weeks ago, but there were more questions to be answered about the film's production and the real state of 3-D at the beginning of the '50s craze. The experts st the 3D Film Archive put me in touch with their Technical Director Greg Kintz. As could be expected, Greg comes forth with plenty of illuminating information, and also corrects a couple of oft-repeated false factoids about Columbia's first 3-D hit.
2/15/14




Hello!

It's minimalist column time here ... both of these reviews were completed a while back, and they're offered now because I'm not in terrific writing shape - - but I'm better than yesterday! For heaven's sake thanks for reading -- and if you feel short-changed, bop over to World Cinema Paradise, Greenbriar Picture Shows and (for weirder stuff) Mondo Macabro. That's what I do --- !

Just in -- valued Savant associate Aitam Bar Sagi has pointed me to a You Tube encoding of the restored The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari that I announced a couple of weeks back. I don't know how long it will be up, so it's a good idea to check it out now.

Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson



February 10, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Dusty & Sweets McGee
DVD-R

Never appreciated when new and as about as obscure as a 1971 movie can get, Floyd Mutrux's tale of heroin junkies trying to survive in sunny Los Angeles is a portrait of misery, paranoia and waste. Much of it looks like a true-life documentry, an impression reinforced by opening text that says that most of the kids we see are playing "themselves", real dope users. But some are actually actors, and the excellent pseudo-docu cinematography by William A. Fraker eventually captures scenes like a fictional movie camera. Still, it's an excellent, absorbing, eye-opening picture that should have been screened for impressionable doper teens primed to make lousy life choices. Instead they showed us insultingly phony propaganda with Sonny Bono. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
2/11/14

and

Thor: The Dark World
Blu-ray

Thor #2 is a sequel to The Avengers as well. Great action, costumes and particularly good character turns prop up a familiar tale of Royal Good versus "Dark Elf" evil. With great work from Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth, and cute supporting turns by Natalie Portman, Jamie Alexander and others. With some hilarious near-comedy associated with Thor's battle hammer, as it tries to return to its master through various dimension-portal crossings. Co-writer on this review is Gary Teetzel. In Blu-ray from Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
2/11/14




Hello!

Still crawling around here sick! But I have some good reviews to get out, and we can't see them held up, can we? I'd also like to let Region B - capable Blu-ray fans know about a couple of desirable titles being released by U.K.'s Arrow Video. They're easily accessed on Amazon.uk.

Don Siegel's 1964 The Killers is a TV movie that was considered too violent for the tube in the months after the Kennedy Assassination. Arrow presents the picture in both 1:33 and 1:85 versions for this reason. The extras include lots of video and text content involving director Siegel and stars Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, and Ronald Reagan, who in his last picture plays a brutal gangster. Reagan is great -- he would later use the same line reading style with the TV cameras while invading the Berkeley and UCLA campuses. In the film's best moment Ronnie slaps Angie Dickinson so savagely, she flies across the room.

Second up is Brian De Palma's eccentric horror comedy Phantom of the Paradise, a funny, colorfull and music-filled romp that somehow went directly to cult status without first capturing a wide audience. Some of the extras on Arrows's disc come from Ari Kahan, who has corresponded with me many times since about 2005. Ari located a great volume of Phantom outtakes, and maintains the Swan Archives website. It goes over the film in detail, pointing out discrepancies that indicate what the original plotline would have been like.

Also on board is a long interview on the picture with director/Superfan Guillermo del Toro, and other docus with producer Ed Pressman, De Palma and key cast members. I've described only a fraction of the extras on the disc, which when fully listed make Arrow's release one of the most fan-thorough ever.

Thanks for (cough) reading! Glenn Erickson



February 07, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Blu-ray + DVD

Stanley Kramer's monumental epic comedy rounds up a galaxy of comedians, links them up to a slapstick plot made of ever-escalating scenes of grandiose destruction, and sees who laughs. I still find it absurd-funny, but mostly react with nostalgia to the dozens of beloved entertainers, most of whom are given bright, amusing parts to play. The Multi-disc set contains a provisional extended cut made from deleted scenes and snippets -- and it's over half an hour longer. Plenty other great extras as well. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
2/08/14

and

This Woman is Dangerous
DVD-R

Joan Crawford surely tailored this unlikely crime thriller / bathetic soap to her own requirements. She's a hard-as-nails leader of a gang of armed robbers, but also a gentle soul who just wants to settle down in a nice family situation. David Brian is the maniac stick-up man and Dennis Morgan the cultured, romantic eye surgeon she takes a liking to. As all men in a Joan Crawford movie must act like raptors in heat when she's around, there are plenty of violent confrontations to go around. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
2/08/14




Hello!

Hey -- Savant has his second cold in two months -- what kind of justice is this? I pride myself on getting sick once every three years, if that, and have no intention of joining the walking, sniffling wounded. So where do I lodge a protest. Someone's responsible!

A couple of nice disc announcements, just in. On February 25 Milestone Film and Video is releasing Come Back, Africa: The Films of Lionel Rogosin, Volume 2. Volume 1 was an eye opener, and in this feature and series of short subjects Rogosin tackles major issues like Apartheid. Extra feature Have You Seen Drum Recently has some of the earliest known coverage of a young Nelson Mandela.

On March 11, my friends at Severin Films will release Blu-rays of two from-down-under thrillers, Dead Kids (Strange Behavior) and Thirst. Dead Kids was an early solo makeup assignment for Savant correspondent Craig Reardon, and the disc will make him the subject of a featurette.

Thanks for Reading! Glenn Erickson



February 03, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Vincent Price Collection
Blu-ray

What? It's only four months late, but my review of this great compendium of top A.I.P. horror titles compensates by looking a bit beyond the usual facts. And I have some information on supposed missing scenes as well. Twenty years after his passing, Vincent Price's horror work only seems to have grown in stature: The Fall of the House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum, The Haunted Palace, The Masque of the Red Death, Witchfinder General and The Abominable Dr. Phibes. For genre fans, this was probably the most desirable item offered last holiday season. So jingle bells, folks. In Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
2/04/14

Million Dollar Baby
Blu-ray

Eastwood scores a home run with Paul Haggis' fine screenplay and remarkable acting teamwork from Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman. Fight manager Eastwood takes forms a strong attachment to a woman boxer as she proves to be a potential winner. But the manager's judgment is not the best -- should he be protective, or stop holding her back, as he's done with other fighters under his guidance? Morgan Freeman's input makes the difference in this moving, suspenseful drama about ambition, trust, and the forming of professional relationships. In Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
2/04/14

and

Zulu
Blu-ray

Everyone thought that a UK Blu-ray of this title from a few years back couldn't be beat.... but Twilight Time's presentation has a definite edge in quality. Cy Endfield and Stanley Baker's mighty battle epic ignores a massive defeat to celebrate a tiny victory, but it's still great filmmaking, with exemplary work in all departments. And it's the film that introduced most of us to Michael Caine (and in this razor-sharp Super Technirama transfer, Michael Caine's blue eye makeup. A great disc, in Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
2/04/14






Hello!

Great news from Twilight Time came in over the weekend -- their final release schedule for May and June is stacked with desirable Blu-rays. TT will soon be releasing five or six titles a month, from Fox, Columbia and now MGM. Here's the rundown for May 13: Thunderbirds Are Go/Thunderbird 6; Rollerball (1975); The Firm; Fate is the Hunter and Two Rode Together. And June 10 brings a quartet of winners: The Mechanic; The Train; Heaven Knows Mr Allison; Resurrected and The Man from Laramie. That list includes classic pictures by John Ford, John Huston, John Frankenheimer and Anthony Mann!

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



February 01, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Trans-Europ-Express
Blu-ray

Famous author and screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet puts a great B&W look on this playful deconstruction of the crime thriller genre. Jean-Louis Trintignant is both himself and a drug smuggler named Elias; the charming Marie-France Pisier is the prostitute who services his kinky needs and then double crosses him. A producer and a director concoct their thriller story on a moving train, and keep re-writing the story as it goes along. Strong on atmosphere, sexual obsessions and paranoia-in-depth: is fate handing Elias a raw deal, or is it those pesky screenwriters? In Blu-ray from Redemption/Kino.
2/01/14

and

Grey Gardens
Blu-ray

The Maysles Brothers' most felicitous films follows two fascinating leftovers from America's Society Set -- Big and Little Edie Bouvier, relatives of Jackie Onassis that in the 1970s were living in poverty in the near wreckage of a grand old house on the most exclusive part of Long Island. They're eccentric holdovers from another age yet have too much spunk and vitality to be pitied. Their stormy mother-daughter relationship is a touching case of adaptation to reality. Call them nuts, but they retain a certain dignity in their bizarre reclusive lifestyle. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
2/01/14




Hello!

I've received number of responses on the subject of The Lady from Shanghai in the last few days, including several nice notes from new correspondents and readers I hadn't heard from in a while. Randy (Randall William) Cook sent along this screen grab to show me the image of Joseph Cotten he's isolated in the film's Cantina scene. Cotten is reportedly pulling on a mule.

I've cropped it quite a bit on all four sides to get a better look at the figure. Randy's no slouch about spotting things like this, so I'm buying that it is indeed actor Cotten. Now who can show me a frame grab of Errol Flynn, supposedly hiding in plain sight in the same film?





Gary Teetzel and Aitam Bar-Sagi have sent me links to some incredibly stunning clips from a new restoration of Robert Weine's 1919 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The images are amazing, as is the artwork for the original German inter-titles. I've got two links: the first has Six Restored Caligari Videos and the second is a YouTube video demo, which isn't quite as impressive. If this comes to Blu-ray and DVD, we'll really be in for a treat ... even in the existing degraded versions, Caligari plays as a sophisticated fantastic drama.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson


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

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