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May 31, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?
DVD

Michel Gondry takes us on an airy animated tour through the intellectual life and times of Noam Chomsky, concentrating on his philosophies and the development of his linguistic theories. Gondry's doodle-like sketches don't detract from Chomsky's interview explanations as he works his way from his childhood to adult concerns, to some fairly explicit insights into his breakthroughs on language acquisition and generative grammar. It's charming and funny, to hear Gondry use his animation to explain his personal concerns about the film. And Noam Chomsky is a truly inspiring person. In DVD from Sundance Selects/MPi.
5/31/14

Prime Cut
All-Region Blu-ray

The great director Michael Ritchie throws a bomb into the crime genre with an outrageously honest appraisal of the profit motive: Gene Hackman's Kansas City meat-packing crook sells specially-raised female sex slaves on the side. Lee Marvin is the hard nosed hit man from Chicago who comes to stomp on Hackman's weenies; the orphan-prisoner he rescues is none other than Sissy Spacek in her first screen role. She's absolutely fearless to make her debut in this context, and is the best thing in the picture. An All-Region German Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
5/31/14

and

Here Comes the Navy
DVD-R

What could have been a lame James Cagney-in-uniform vehicle is actually a fun tars-on-liberty tale with Cagney playing a character not far removed from Segar's Popeye. Cagney so badly wants to clobber Pat O'Brien's officer that he enlists, only to fall in love with classy blonde Gloria Stuart, who is of course O'Brien's sister. Frank McHugh steals the show with his clowning as a silly sidekick with the apt name 'Droopy'. To top the whole thing off, the show acquires an unforeseen deeper significance when major sequences take place on the Navy airship Macon, and on the immediately recognizable, ill-fated battleship Arizona! In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/31/14





Hello!


Busy, busy week ... not in the sense of "Important person busy", just busy.

Here's a round-up of reviews expected here soon. Coverage of Icarus Films' The Great Flood, Kino's Max Linder Collection, Olive Films' Home are the Brave (Blu-ray) and MPI's Weekend of a Champion are done and will be up within a couple of weeks. Here and ready to go are The Warner Archive Collection's Americans in Bed and What Price Hollywood?, Criterion's L'Eclisse (Blu-ray) and All That Heavens Allows (Blu-ray), Warner-Paramount's The Nutty Professor (Blu-ray) and Virgil Films' Bible Quiz. Newly arrived from overseas is Arrow Films' Region B Sullivan's Travels (Blu-ray).


Promised and expected soon are Arrow's Region B Pit and the Pendulum (Blu-ray), the Warner Archives' Kismet (Blu-ray), Criterion's Hearts and Minds, Judex and A Hard Day's Night (Blu-ray); Twilight Time's The Mechanic, The Train, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, Resurrected and The Man from Laramie (Blu-ray) and finally, Cohen Media's Capital and Amen (Blu-ray). The real storm won't hit until July, when Olive Films will be bouncing back with (my count) eleven releases in one month alone. Expect to be checking in during vacation time this summer!

Thanks for reading... Glenn Erickson



May 26, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Red River
Blu-ray + DVD

Howard Hawks' monumental western epic is a typical Hawksian triumph of style and personality over plotline -- goofus writing and structure mean little when every actor and every scene is as good as this. John Wayne drives an enormous cattle herd to Missouri, only to become such a menace that his adopted son Montgomery Clift has to take it away from him at gunpoint. With Joanne Dru, Walter Brennan, John Ireland and Coleen Gray. Both versions are included, with a satisfying explanation about their genesis from Peter Bogdanovich. And the Dimitri Tiomkin music soars! A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
5/27/14

Fate is the Hunter
Blu-ray

A jet crashes on takeoff from LAX. Investigator Glenn Ford does his best to keep all concerned from taking the easy way out -- blaming the disaster on pilot Rod Taylor. It's a more serious version of the air calamity thrillers eventually spoofed in Airplane!; that despite an almost absurd twist ending. With Suzanne Pleshette, Nancy Kwan and Nehemiah Persoff. Also in HD on the same disc is the Nancy Kwan biography To Whom It May Concern, Ka-Shen's Journey. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
5/27/14

and

World War II Collections:
Invasion Europe &
True Stories of WWII

Blu-ray

The Shield puts together two Blu-ray compilations for combat-deprived males on Father's Day. Invasion Europe contains The Big Red One, Where Eagles Dare, The Dirty Dozen and a DVD of George Stevens: D-Day to Berlin; True Stories of WWII gives us Memphis Belle, Battle of the Bulge, Defiance and a bonus DVD of war-themed docus and original wartime short subjects. Two separate purchases. In Blu-ray (with an unwelcome exception or two) from Warner Home Video.
5/27/14





Hello! ---It's a regular link circus around DVD Savant today, thanks to a little help from my friends.

Over at the Bright Lights Film Journal, esteemed correspondent Gordon Thomas has up his lengthy study of the nine-hour 1967 Soviet War and Peace, entitled Large, Loose, and Baggy: Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace. The article has the approval of both of the Russian Lit experts in my life, my sister in Colorado and my daughter. I can personally claim the ability to follow the film aspect of the discussion, with no problem! And don't forget the old DVD Savant review of the Ruscico DVD of War and Peace.


Speaking of another monumental epic, here's a link to Mary Ann Bernard's impressive 'Butcher's Cut' of Heaven's Gate that showed up a month ago at Steven Soderbergh's site. It's a fairly astute cut-down of the 4+ hour movie into something about 110 minutes in length, and I think it proves that Michael Cimino's picture is unsound at any speed. With all the redundancies, longeurs, time-wasting atmosphere and empty calendar art gone, the story is revealed to be a practically non-existent skeleton for a pretentious (plus historically suspect) thesis. Or so I said in my own Heaven's Gate review, which I re-read and still think hits the mark.


Is this getting too deep-dish (not to mention Savant-aggrandizing?) Pal Craig Reardon sends along a high-quality blooper reel for the 1948 Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. Strange as it may seem, it doesn't look like a particularly happy set, as if Lou Costello's inattention to the job at hand made things difficult for all. We do get to see Bela Lugosi go up on a dialogue line -- instead of making a joke out of it, he turns respectfully to the director. And they also trick Lugosi in one take, in search of a funny reaction... but the courteous actor doesn't have one to give. This may be the most 'candid' film on Lugosi I've seen.


There was a sizeable reader response to the last Savant Column's link to a Color featurette on the making of John Frankenheimer's The Train. For those out there itching to get their hands on Twilight Time's impending Blu-ray, I've got a great link for you on YouTube: a good-quality transfer, with English subs, of René Clément's 1946 semi-documentary on the same subject, La Bataille du Rail. It's a full-on sabotage war between the German occupiers and the French railway workers that suffered the brunt of Nazi reprisals. Savant's review of a much worse-looking 2006 DVD shows my enthusiasm for Clément's impressive movie, that has even more railroad hardware at its disposal than Frankenheimer got to play with.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



May 23, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Two Rode Together
Blu-ray

James Stewart and Richard Widmark enliven this conflicted John Ford western. A repeat of the 'stolen captives' theme from The Searchers, it takes off in a new, interestingly cynical direction, but then hits us with the same old stuff -- embarrassing ethnic typing & tiresome slapstick comedy. Rescued señora Linda Christian is treated like trash by Ford's formerly benign settlers, while a rescued boy, now a teenager, gets a punishment conservative audiences would have preferred to dish out to the juvenile delinquents of 1961. With Shirley Jones, Woody Strode, John McIntire and the great Jeanette Nolan; the bright and colorful Sony restoration looks great in Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
5/24/14

Johnny Come Lately
Blu-ray

James Cagney split from Warners and made this lively star vehicle with his brother William. The star's everyman hero helps a widow keep her newspaper and fight the local corrupt politicians. The idea is tame, director William K. Howard's pacing is s-l-o-w, but Cagney is generous with his fine cast -- Grace George, Marjorie Main, Marjorie Lord, Hattie McDaniel, Margaret Hamilton, Victor Kilian & Arthur Hunnicut. In Blu-ray from Olive Fiims.
5/24/14

and

The Life Aquatic
with Steve Zissou

Blu-ray

Wes Anderson scores a home run with Savant, normally not a Wes Anderson fan. Morose Bill Murray is Jacques Cousteau reconceived as an almost complete fraud, who travels the world in his research ship manned by crew of colorful misfits. A modern Ahab, he's determined to take revenge on the monster shark that killed his best friend... while semi-adopting a grown son and trying out his best moves on a journalist along for the ride. The terrific cast includes Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor and Bud Cort. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
5/24/14




Hello!

Once again, it's new links time here at the DVD Savant Column:

The Twilight Time must be tickled to see this vintage French featurette on the making of John Frankenheimer's The Train show up on YouTube. Although nobody's heard of it before it's a real winner, in beautiful color. We see Frankenheimer, Burt Lancaster, Michel Simon, Wolfgang Preiss and Howard Vernon on the set; and some of the train wrecks are in bright color as well. Alas, it's in untranslated French... I hope this has been preserved somewhere!


Next up... over at Trailers from Hell you'll find Josh Olson narrating a commentary for the great Don Siegel cop-noir with Eli Wallach, The Lineup.



Finally, UK correspondent Lee Broughton tips Sergio Leone fans to a full reel of Techniscope outtakes from A Fistful of Dollars, found by the Italian restoration team (the one that sees the world through yellow-tinted glasses). We get to see Eastwood setting his serape and cheroot straight in a stiff wind, trying to hit the right 'cool' look; Eastwood and actor Gian-Maria Volonté also share a laugh or two. Great stuff!

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



May 19, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Rodgers & Hammerstein
Collection

State Fair, Oklahoma!, Carousel,
The King & I, South Pacific, The Sound of Music

Blu-ray

It's the monster box of the Spring -- all 6 of Fox's Rodgers & Hammerstein special editions, in one Blu-ray collection. South Pacific and The Sound of Music were previously issued as stand-alones, but the rest are new to Blu -- State Fair, The King and I, Carousel (which includes Fritz Lang's amazing 1934 Liliom) and Oklahoma!, with a fantastic-quality encoding of the 30 frames-per-second Todd-AO version. In Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
5/20/14

Monte Walsh
All-Region Blu-ray

William A. Fraker's 'changing times' western is the best of a bunch of movies about cowboys trying to make a living in an economic depression when Eastern companies are buying up and shuttering all the ranches. Lee Marvin and Jeanne Moreau's romance is like something out of Jules and Jim, while Jack Palance floors us with a reserved, low-key, charming performance. Also starring Jim Davis, Mitchell Ryan, G. D. Spradlin, Matt Clark & Bo Hopkins; music by John Barry with a title theme sung by Mama Cass. An All-Region Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
5/20/14

and

Overlord
Blu-ray

Stuart Cooper's haunting story of an English 'lad' prepping for the Normandy invasion combines new scenes with impressive unseen original docu footage of the real training and transport to France -- all woven together with expressive poetic touches. Soldier Brian Stirner has presentiments of his own death on the beach, and finds that getting ready to 'cross over' means saying goodbye -- to his family as well to the girl who doesn't know she hasn't been stood up, and to his friends. One of the best films about war is given excellent Criterion attention. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
5/20/14




Hello! Links!

The World Cinema Paradise page is making a big web splash this week with writer Steve Ryfle's article, Godzilla, Whitewashed: A Special Report. Steve's basic point is how the new Godzilla film purports to return the franchise to its 'serious' roots, but instead sanitizes the historical truth of the nuclear bombings that inspired the original classic.


In case you missed it in the Thunderbirds are GO!/Thunderbird 6 review, correspondent Rick Notch clued Savant in to a beautiful YouTube rendering of the Peter Cook / Dudley Moore spoof on Gerry & Sylvia Andersons' TV puppet shows, Superthunderstingcar. It's pretty amazing.


And as a final nod to the classic radioactive Super Dragon, here's a link to the Skotak Brothers' website feature, where they've taken several scenes from the original '54 Gojira and embellished them with slightly different editing and subtle added effects: The Skotak's Godzilla-Plus Experiment. Check out the rest of their website -- they have 35 years of excellent effects work to show off.


Finally, here's a short video taken at the last session with our beloved Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, from 1994. The occasion was Ted Newsom's audio session when Lee & Cushing came in to narrate Newsom's Hammer documentary. The footage is charming in the extreme -- Peter Cushing is having a great time, and Lee is completely relaxed and informal, unlike his "serious business" attitude in such situations. You gotta love these old friends!

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



May 16, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Flying Tigers
Blu-ray

In his first combat role of the war, John Wayne sweeps the skies of enemy aircraft, but still has time to woo Anna Lee and sort out squabbles with the volunteer fighter pilots under his command. Republic's ode to the improvised fighter wing of the Chinese Air Force has impressive practical special effects from Howard and Theodore Lydecker, intercut with lots of morale-building shots of enemy pilots grabbing their faces and gushing blood. Pass the popcorn! Wham! Ehhhhh! I'm a dive bomber! In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
5/17/14

Il sorpasso
Blu-ray + DVD

Italian director Dino Risi puts one over on the art-film giants -- his semi-comic road picture with Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant zipping over the Italian highways is just as profound, and more entertaining, than many a 'meaningful' masterpiece. It's a marvelous snapshot of Italy on the move in '62, with a young law student learning how exciting life can be from a roguish womanizer who teaches him to stop making plans. With Catherine Spaak and at a half-dozen fascinating women that the charismatic Gassman works hard to try to pick up. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
5/17/14

The Flying Dutchman
DVD

This East German production presents the Richard Wagner Opera uncut, or so they claim. Cruising into port on a ghostly ship, der Fliegende Holländer is shocked to find that the beautiful Senta is willing to give her life in order to set him free from a hundred-year old curse. Director Joachim Herz uses a technique called "mask frame cine-image" to change the shape of the screen for different scenes. It's also one of the few East German pictures in multi-channel directional stereo sound (retained on the disc). But horror fans take note -- the last act sees the Dutchman's ghostly crew manifest themselves as Zombie-like monsters, swarming ashore to haunt the living. But do they sing? In DVD from DEFA Film Library.
5/17/14

and

Thunderbirds are GO!
&
Thunderbird 6

Blu-ray

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson followed through on a hasty contract with United Artists to produce two big-screen adaptations of their popular Thunderbirds TV show. Although nothing brilliant results, the movies are entertainingly lunatic kiddie shows packed with impressive miniature effects, explosions and some of the weirdest, most nightmare-inducing puppet creations ever concocted as children's fare. Thunderbirds are GO! features a giant Mars spaceship, and Thunderbird 6 a 'round the world trip on a goofy flying luxury liner. All this and spies, FAB jokes and Lady Penelope. And did I forget to say that lots of things blow up? In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
5/17/14




Hello! Greetings from Los Angeles, where 95-degree heat is parching the lawns and atomizing the paint job on the Toyota in my driveway. Nice neighborhood, but no garage to put the car in.

A special treat lies in wait over at Trailers from Hell today, where Larry Karaszwewski narrates a great commentary for Jean-Luc Godard's Brigitte Bardot opus Contempt.

And correspondent Ed Sullivan forwards an interesting link to the site of Dave G. Derrick Jr., about the interesting saga of the making of a great animated short subject by Tim Watts and David Stoten, The Story Behind "The Big Story".

Fox's monster Blu-ray box of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals came in, so I'm sorting them out now ... it's lucky that I've reviewed all but one of the titles previously, so I can concentrate on the presentation. And Warners has forwarded two multi-disc sets of World War II Collections that deserve some digging into -- a couple of the sets' interesting short subjects are new to me. I have a lot to say on my review of Criterion's Red River, but that will be going up first at the Turner Classics Movie site. And now that Stuart Galbraith IV has recovered from his traffic spill, his World Cinema Paradise page is up and running again, with a new review by me as well.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



May 12, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Wild at Heart
Blu-ray

David Lynch goes 'road movie' with the tale of Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune as their mad love, parole busting jaunt alerts a posse of killers, freaks and Lula's deranged, vengeful mother. Stylish raunch and delirious violence are the norm, and Lynch overcooks the whole thing into an opera full of lunatics. With a full body count of Lynchian characters -- Diane Ladd, Harry Dean Stanton, Willem Dafoe, Isabella Rossellini, Grace Zabriskie plus various escapees from Elephant Man, Dune and Twin Peaks. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
5/13/14

Memphis Belle
Blu-ray

1990's retro return to the final flight of the famous B-17 bomber has a great cast but falls short in almost every other category -- script, direction and special effects. Every combat aviation cliché gets screen time except the old "when I get back I'm going to buy that farm" routine. Yet there's enough here to make an enjoyable, suspenseful show, especially if you haven't seen older movies on the same subject. With good performances by Eric Stoltz, Harry Connick Jr., Tate Donovan, Sean Astin, D.B. Sweeney; also starring Matthew Modine, David Strathairn, John Lithgow and Billy Zane. An important bonus: the disc also contains William Wyler's original 1944 Oscar-winning documentary, The Memphis Belle. In Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
5/13/14

Ace in the Hole
Blu-ray + DVD

Billy Wilder's acid-with-an-arsenic-chaser noir is now less wicked fun than it is despairing prophecy -- Kirk Douglas's unprincipled, venal, ruthless reporter is now the norm for much of the business world. Once dismissed as an exaggeration, the film's obscene 'big carnival' deathwatch on the desert now accurately describes the cultural snake pit of modern media exploitation. What was cynical social comment is now a full-on horror movie. Aiding and abetting the tortures are Jan Sterling, Porter Hall, Robert Arthur, Richard Benedict and Ray Teal. With an excellent hour-long Billy Wilder interview docu by Michel Ciment. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
5/13/14

and

Midnight Lace
DVD

Doris Day's in jeopardy -- could somebody be trying to drive her mad? A mysterious phone caller threatens but she can't get anyone to believe her. Is the culprit hiding among her friends, or her acquaintances? What about her husband? Stock domestic scares directed by David Miller are all but rescued by the dramatic camerawork of Russell Metty. The list of possible suspects includes Rex Harrison, John Gavin and Myrna Loy. Actually, this late in Myrna's career it would be nice to see her revert to pre-Code killer vixen form. In DVD-R from TCM Vault Collection / Universal.
5/13/14




Hello!

Over at Christopher LeMaire's Cinematic Vibes is a good little remembrance of Soviet actress Tatiana Samoilova, the wondrous star of The Cranes are Flying (left) and Letter Never Sent. Writer LeMaire had barely finished watching Cranes and like everybody who ever saw the movie, was captivated by Ms. Samoilova. Looking the actress up online, he discovered that she had just passed away. Coincidences stick in the memory.

Criterion's Red River arrived on Saturday and although I have the movie memorized I ended up watching the whole thing plus all the extras. The good news is that Peter Bogdanovich's explanation for the two versions and why the short one was Howard Hawks' favorite finally makes sense -- the short version as released isn't really what Hawks approved either. I'll be writing it up soon.

For film fans in Northern U.K., an announcement from UK correspondent and frequent Savant contributor Lee Broughton: In conjunction with the 2014 Holmfirth Film Festival, Lee has programmed and will be introducing a double bill of revisionist post-Civil War Westerns. Keoma (Enzo G. Castellari, Italy, 1976) (below) and The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (Philip Kaufman, USA, 1972) will screen at the Cinema Truck, Holmfirth, from 1pm on Saturday 24 May. Further information can be found here.

Hope you like today's selection of reviews -- thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



May 10, 2014

..."May 10th. Thank God for the rain which has helped wash away the garbage and trash off the sidewalks. I'm workin' long hours now, six in the afternoon to six in the morning..."


Travis Bickle's Savant's new reviews today are:

White Zombie
Blu-ray

Sourced from Cary Roan's original film materials, this encoding of the Bela Lugosi horror classic is the very best so far. Hatian zombie master Murder Lengendre uses drugs and hypnotism to create a mindless work force, and to impose his will on an unsuspecting bride-to-be. Independently produced, extremely rare in decent condition and given a good HD presentation at last. Its slow pace and stilted acting congeal into a weird, dreamlike mood, as if we were hypnotized as well. In Blu-ray from VCI Entertainment.
5/10/14

A Brief History of Time
Blu-ray + DVD

Errol Morris' spacey documentary about the genius theoretician Stephen Hawking uses interviews to tell his life story, while Hawking's own electronically generated voice narrates an overview of his groundbreaking insights into space-time theory, black holes, and the like. With such heady concepts to contemplate the simple approach works best; we soon recognize Hawking as an incredible thinking machine, unhindered (or intellectually liberated?) by a barely functioning body. With excellent interviews, including one by Errol Morris. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
5/10/14

Forever Amber
DVD

A hugely expensive 'scandalous' epic about a socially-climbing beauty in 17th century London, filmed in Technicolor with every resource available to Darryl F. Zanuck and Otto Preminger. Linda Darnell is actually very good as the ambitious, devastatingly beautiful Amber, with rugged Cornel Wilde as the adventurer she truly loves -- even as she sleeps with many others, including King Charles (George Sanders). My review offers a quick overview of the film's unusual making-of story. With a powerful, beautiful music score by David Raksin. In DVD-R from 20th Fox Cinema Archives Collection.
5/10/14

and

Sorcerer
Blu-ray

William Friedkin hits a wall of bad timing and commercial miscalculation with his impressively mounted, beautifully filmed and dramatically inert remake of a classic by H.G. Clouzot. Friedkin adds compelling back stories for his four desperate truck drivers, but also does his best to guarantee that we aren't emotionally invested in them. Still, there's plenty to admire in the drawn-out saga of men transporting volatile nitroglycerine through an impossible jungle trail. Finally available in a terrific widescreen transfer, to capture every realistic minute. With Roy Scheider and Francisco Rabal. In Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
5/10/14




Hello!

Just a couple of new arrivals to report today. MPI's DVD of Weekend of a Champion follows Grand Prix formula one racer Jackie Stewart through a tough race at Monaco, with producer Roman Polanski asking the questions. Filmed in 1971 and not widely shown, this docu really lets one know what racing is like from the driver's perspective.

I can't wait to spin IFC's Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?, which is promised as an unusual look at the work and politics of Noam Chomsky. Criterion's Blu-ray of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole was almost a tear-inducing experience this time around, as the show's then-exaggerated image of debasing, crass commercial exploitation now describes how our entire media world works.

And finally, bouncing back from debuts on other sites, I'll finally have reviews up for Memphis Belle and Stuart Cooper's mesmerizing Overlord. Looking at the rest of May, we have several good Twilight Time discs on the way (although I need to double back and review David Lynch's Wild at Heart). Add to that Criterion's Blu of Red River and an Arrow import of Roger Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum. And June promises a Criterion Blu-ray of Georges Franju's genteel, delicate serial thriller Judex (at left). What could be better?

Okay, one good link -- over at Trailers from Hell, Neil Marshall examines John Carpenter's original Escape from New York.

Thanks for reading --- Glenn Erickson



May 05, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Backlash
All-Region Blu-ray

From a German distributor comes this Universal western with Richard Widmark and Donna Reed, directed by John Sturges. Searching respectively for a lost husband and father, Reed and Widmark discover that the one still living may be an opportunist and murderer. The script builds to a very unusual confrontation / shoot-out that splits Widmark's loyalties several ways. Great color and action, with Harry Morgan, John McIntire and William Campbell. In All-Region Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
5/06/14

Nosferatu the Vampyre
Blu-ray

Werner Herzog remakes the Murnau horror classic but retains the creepy stillness and repressed emotions of the original. Klaus Kinski is an inspired Graf Orlok/Dracula and Isabelle Adjani's goth-inflected heroine is a thing of grace and beauty. Bruno Ganz is the amusing real estate agent, who becomes an unwitting disciple of a ghoul from Hell. And let's not get started about the rats, as in 4,000 of the little buggers. Both language versions are presented, in German and English. In Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
5/06/14

The Wind and the Lion
Blu-ray

John Milius' grand spectacle could be called 'Teddy Roosevelt versus The Barbary Pirates'. When Candice Bergen is captured by Sean Connery's Moroccan chieftain the Raisuli, Brian Keith's Teddy sends in the Marines. A good primer on colonial politics underlies an entertaining blast of color, horses, flags and massed battle charges, tempered somewhat by a jokey script and its writer-director's penchant for re-staging other directors' macho set pieces. The whole enterprise reeks of nostalgia for mythical militarism with honor. In Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/06/14

and

The Inspector Lavardin Collection
Blu-ray

Prolific director Claude Chabrol plunges into the whodunnit genre with two 1980s features about an energetic, charming and somewhat thuggish French detective, who takes on a couple of murder cases deeply tangled in family politics, business rivalry and illicit sex. Chicken with Vinegar and Inspector Lavardin star Jean Poiret, Stéphane Audran, Michele Bouquet, Lucas Belvaux, Pauline Lafont, Jean-Claude Brialy and Bernadette Lafont. As extras we get two full episodes of the follow-up Lavardin TV show. In Blu-ray from the Cohen Film Collection.
5/06/14




Hello!


Film format and 3-D history expert Bob Furmanek has posted over at his informative 3-D Film Archive website a new article that could easily be the basis of an entire book. The First Year of Widescreen Production goes over the format and screen ratio revolution of 1953, and then lists every widescreen Hollywood production to hit the screen in that year by title in order of start of principal hotography.

The correct aspect ratios listed were determined by research and references prime documentation. We learn plenty, like the fact that there were a fuzzy couple of months in which some flat-filmed movies were projected widescreen, like George Stevens' Shane. But the article establishes (hopefully) a baseline for video producers that seek to recreate the elusive 'original theatrical aspect ratio'. I'm all for this kind of historical clarification.


Aha! If you see me cultivating lots of young friends, you'll know the reason why. This article in the London Telegraph tells the tale: 'Vampire Therapy' Could Reverse Ageing, Scientists Find. Thanks to Joe Dante for the link.


And Gary Teetzel has just pointed Savant to his next unnecessary personal acquisition: a Gorgo Model Kit! Now we just need another kit four feet tall to represent Mrs. Gorgo.


Thanks for reading, and happy reviews .... Glenn Erickson



May 02, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Show Boat
DVD-R

One of the best musicals ever, with emotionally powerful songs and stage-originated performances from Irene Dunne, Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan, Charles Winninger and Alan Jones. Edna Ferber's tale of love and injustice on the riverboat Cotton Palace puts its racial content up front and is more honest for it. A 1951 MGM version caused this superior telling to be locked away in a vault for over thirty years, but now it is here uncut in a fine presentation. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/03/14

Professor Mamlock
DVD

This East German picture is from a famous anti-Fascist play, the first to dramatize the dilemma of German Jews entrapped by Hitler's race edicts. A famous surgeon is expelled from his own clinic and his daughter tossed from school. His son joins the resistance. The surgeon thinks things are getting better when he's asked to come back, but there's a catch -- the 'good Aryans' want his skill but expect him to accept odious conditions. The 1961 film works up some powerful tension despite being packed with pro-Communist speeches -- even from a Nazi doctor who has a 'change of conscience'. In DVD from Defa Film Library / Ice Storm.
5/03/14

Dante's Inferno
DVD-R

This bizarre, wildly expensive 1935 morality play sees an unscrupulous promoter wreaking ethical havoc around a fairground attraction illustrating Dante's nine circles of Hell. He's repaid with spectacular disasters and an impressive ten-minute vision of the underworld awaiting beyond the grave. Fantastic special effects and overblown drama, with collapsing buildings and a gambling ship set ablaze. Spencer Tracy, Claire Trevor and Henry B. Walthall star, and Rita Hayworth makes an early appearance performing a dazzling exhibition dance. In DVD-R from 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives.
5/03/14

and

The Trials of Muhammad Ali
DVD

Bill Siegel's documentary on the life of "The Greatest" focuses not on the specifics of his boxing career but the conscience and character of a man dealing with fame, the Black Muslim religion and his indictment for dodging the draft. Using an excellent variety of interviews and news film sources, we receive a special understanding of Ali, the most famous black man on the planet trying to set the right example for his race. The docu handles the political conflicts especially well -- Ali's support of the Muslims sets him apart from both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. In DVD from Kino Lorber.
5/03/14




Hello!

A couple of interesting announcements today. Bob Furmanek has announced that The 3-D Film Archive will be releasing this Fall a Blu-ray called 3-D Rarities, through Flicker Alley. Among the unusual films included on the disc will be New Dimensions, a 3-D film not seen since its 1940 run at the New York World's Fair Chrysler Pavilion.

Joe Dante is circulating a link to Vulture's article by Christopher Bonanos, Al Feldstein and the Furshlugginer Greatness of Mad Magazine. We all grew up reading Feldstein's magazine; he just passed away a few days ago.

At the moment I'm discovering the pleasures of Claude Chabrol's Inspector Lavardin films, through Cohen Media's new Blu-ray release -- I hope to have some sort of a review up next week. I also just received Warner Home Video's new The Wind and the Lion Blu-ray. Readers have been asking for more news about the quality and content of Region B Blu-rays, so I'm going to continue with the western and action releases from Explosive Media. No European discs of Universal monster movies yet, though -- I'm curious to see if a 2:1 aspect ratio for The Mole People can suddenly transform a turkey into a classic.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson


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