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June 27, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Judex
Blu-ray + DVD

  Georges Franju's re-think of Louis Feuillade's silent French serial is a marvelous concoction of pulp thrills, delicate treachery and fantastic semi-surreal images. The caped avenger uses magic, espionage-like tactics and a corps of henchmen to extract justice and protect a virtuous heiress. It's like nothing else -- you have to image Jean Cocteau crossed with Batman and seen through a veil of antiquity. With a tender music score from Maurice Jarre and starring magician Channing Pollack, Francine Bergé, and Edith Scob from Franju's Eyes without a Face. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
6/28/14

Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid
Blu-ray

  Nunnally Johnson wrote and produced this delightfully funny tale of a mid-life crisis suffered by the affable William Powell. Despondent at entering middle age, he hears a Siren's Call and catches a living, breathing, kissing mermaid of his own, Ann Blyth. The story plays like a farce but ends up as something more wistful, and more true to real psychology than most films of its time. It may be a more satisfying show now than it was in 1948. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
6/28/14

and

L'eclisse
Blu-ray + DVD

  Michelangelo's mesmerizing look at modern alienation (what else?) may be his most radical picture in terms of concept, a statement that will probably be seconded by anybody who sees the puzzling finish. Frustrated Monica Vitti ditches one lover and finds another yet fails to make a truly personal contact and can't make sense of her affluent but empty life. It's another architecturally astute, beautifully filmed and acted expression of the human condition among the well-heeled of Rome, and in terms of film form, is quite likely a masterpiece. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
6/28/14




Hello!

Lots of discs but not too many links to offer this week. The big mail subject was my June 24 link to a letter written years ago by Forrest J. Ackerman to Vincent Price on his deathbed, asking for an autograph and then also asking for some other items. I expressed dismay over this. I'd heard plenty of rancor about FJA's collecting habits over the years and saw no reason to comment on hearsay. But this was the man's own words.

The reader notes I this link prompted mostly shared my dismay, and even my friends and acquaintances who had contact with Forry over the years were honest about some of his peculiarities. The best advice I got was to leave this particular hornet's nest be, as the Forry Fan and Forry Anti-Fan battles are apparently still raging. I met Ackerman a few times, saw "the" ring, heard the usual speeches and thought him a generally legit citizen of the Hollywood scene. And there's no complaining about his open invite to visit his various Ackermansions over the years. So here's another vital controversy that the hard-hitting journalists at DVD Savant will forego. Courageous, no?

Otherwise the mail is mostly approving of recent reviews. I can finally post my thoughts on Criterion's new Judex disc set here for perusal, and come Tuesday (late afternoon) I'll have coverage up of the new Warners' The Time Machine Blu-ray. And more Warner Archive, Criterion, Olive, Kino, Twilight Time and Icarus Films reviews are in the hopper ---

Thanks for reading -- ! Glenn Erickson



June 23, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

World on a Wire
Blu-ray

  Savant backtracks a couple of years to catch up with a challenging science fiction film from, of all people, 'New German Film' director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It's a 2.5-hour epic about a shady corporation that's created a Matrix- like virtual world, populated by 9700 sentient 'Identity Units' unaware that they're only digital phantoms. There's plenty of paranoid suspense and murderous action, but we're most impressed by the script, which manages to retain and develop the concept's philosophical aspects. No fancy special effects or mind-blowing eye candy gets in the way of this remarkably thoughtful adventure -- made decades before such thrills invaded Hollywood thrillers. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
6/24/14

and

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
Blu-ray

  John Huston films a less comedic sort-of re-do of his The African Queen: Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum are an even more impossible couple stranded in the wild, in enemy territory -- a novice nun and a red-blooded Marine. Beautifully filmed on location in the tropics, the provocative pairing is handled in an adult manner, yet with full respect for the castaways' professional codes. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
6/24/14




Hello!

Want to read something to shake your faith in film fandom? Someone is auctioning off a letter written by Forrest J. Ackerman to Vincent Price, shortly before Price's passing. You can read the Ackerman-Price Letter, which is up right now on Ebay. I have to say it is one of the scummiest things I've ever read, and I hope whoever was taking care of Mr. Price didn't show it to him.

I know, I know, Forry's just being a collector, but this is a really low. It's all about FORRY and not Price -- "You're dying but I'm going to dedicate my parasitic magazine to you! And by the way, gimme gimme gimme." Makes me ashamed to be a movie fan.

Much brighter news comes with the first announcement of the first MGM titles to be released in July on a new Kino Lorber Studio Classics line, in both Blu-ray and DVD. Witness for the Prosecution, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Sabata and The Scalphunters will arrive on July 22. A week later on July 29 will arrive Marty, Separate Tables, Duel at Diablo and Paris Blues. The last title is making a debut on both Blu-ray and DVD. We're told that the Marty transfer will be flat full frame.

That's what today's release says. But for the following month, the word out at DVDtalk is that The Children's Hour, The Unforgiven, Mr. Majestyk and Breakheart Pass will be out on August 8, to be followed by Cast a Giant Shadow, On the Beach, What's New Pussycat? and The Party on August 26. That's a lot of choice MGM Blu-ray library product for the summer!

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



June 20, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

All That Heaven Allows
Blu-ray + DVD

  Douglas Sirk does his stylistic overkill job on a straight soap opera about a lonely widow (Jane Wyman) who dares -- dares, I tell you -- fall in love with a younger man Adonis with no human weaknesses (Rock Hudson). The picture is so over-designed yet so basically honest, that its subversive anti-conformity message creeps up on one. With great extras about the interesting director; with Agnes Moorehead, Gloria Talbott and William Reynolds. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
6/21/14

What Price Hollywood?
DVD

  This proto- trial run for A Star is Born hasn't shaped its story and character elements into a full-on glamorous, romantic mold, but it's a much more interesting (and less phony) snapshot of the Hollywood scene. Constance Bennett is the waitress who becomes a star and Lowell Sherman the alcoholic director who remains her best friend. With Neil Hamilton, music by Max Steiner and montages by Slavko Vorkapich. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
6/21/14

and

Crack-Up
DVD

  (1936) This utterly forgotten Fox picture stars Peter Lorre in a half-comic, half-menacing role as a mentally-impaired airport 'mascot' who in reality masterminds a network of vicious international spies. The story is packed with agents, double agents and a stupid goof who steals sensitive defense plans as a 'favor' to a friend. A very young and trim Brian Donlevy is a traitor who might be a double agent; as far as we're concerned Lorre has them all fooled when he stows away aboard a test flight from New York to Berlin! In DVD-R from 20th Fox Cinema Archives.
6/21/14




Hello!

It's link time.... first, we've got They Came. They Sawed, a lengthy John Bloom article from Texas Monthly about the making of Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I'm partial to David Gregory's docu on the subject, but the article is great!

Since my review of The Train is going over so well, I'm happy to link to correspondent Jordan Krug's Unseen Making-Of docu on the movie... we're even shown French crewmembers recovering crushed cameras from that misjudged train wreck scene.

And for those wishing an early peek at my review for the Criterion Blu-ray of Georges Franju's Judex, it's up now at TCM, at this Judex TCM review page.



When my site wasn't functioning properly two weeks back I didn't get a chance to tip off readers to the fact that TCM cable was going to show the seldom-aired Albert Band picture Face of Fire. I missed it on TV as a kid but had heard that it was very good. It turned out to be an excellent, moody little item, and only tangentially a horror movie. The well-produced show was filmed in Sweden, reportedly with some of Ingmar Bergman's crewpeople. It takes place in the late 1800s in a prim and proper community where everyone dresses and acts something akin to the 'decent folk' in Arthur Penn's film of The Miracle Worker. Some scenes may also show the influence of Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter -- although it's not stylized the same way, we see the same kinds of cruel relationships, and a few similar camera setups.


This has to be Albert Band's finest hour after his ambitious and almost-great I Bury the Living. James Whitmore is Monk Johnson, the handsome, admired handyman that all the town's girls admire; he accompanies the local kids to the watering hole to fish. His employer is a responsible doctor (Cameron Mitchell, a fine understated performance). A fire leaves Monk brain-damaged, with a horribly disfigured face. The town soon forgets who he was and hypocritically wants him driven away, or killed. After a couple of relatively harmless incidents an intolerant, vindictive housewife (Lois Maxwell of the James Bond films!) browbeats her husband (Royal Dano) into heading up a lynch mob. Reminding us of the humanist doctor in Johnny Belinda, the doc loses his practice but refuses to abandon Monk, who saved his son's life back in the fire. Current film noir favorite Richard Erdman plays a townsman who sees Monk as a way of earning extra income. The original story, by the way, is from Stephen Crane.


TCM will probably re-screen Face of Fire a second time this year. It was an Allied Artists release. As the print shown had no other distributor logos, I'm hoping that the Warner Archive Collection has legal access and will put it out on disc sooner than later. The picture is an understated little gem.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



June 16, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Train
Blu-ray

 At the top of his form, John Frankenheimer runs amok with the real "biggest set of toy trains a boy ever had." Burt Lancaster does everything physically possible to sabotage Paul Scofield's attempt to spirit away France's art treasures, as the German army of occupation evacuates Paris. The action with the frighteningly massive trains is precise, explosive and very dangerous looking -- mainly because it's all 100% real. Michel Simon and Jeanne Moreau co-star in the most intense large-scale resistance film ever made: it delivers breathtaking action, without a single conventional battle scene. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
6/17/14

The Great Flood
DVD

  Experimental sponsored filmmaker Bill Morrison turns thousands of feet of rare 1927 Mississippi flood newsreel footage into a themed montage, combined with an hypnotic guitar-jazz-country orchestral score by Bill Frisell. Impenetrable, and not particularly informative, but visually arresting nonetheless. Is it an experimental documentary with moody audio accompaniment, or an 80-minute musical concert, with accompanying images? In DVD from Icarus Films.
6/17/14

and

The Man from Laramie
Blu-ray

  A '50s classic that marks the fifth and final western collaboration between James Stewart and Anthony Mann, this is a beautifully structured drama about dynastic power and violence, and an intruder who fulfills a tyrant's feared nightmares. Stewart undergoes traumatic punishment from Alex Nicol's sadistic psycho, while the compromised ranch foreman Arthur Kennedy is caught in the middle. Great CinemaScope cinematography and fine acting support from Donald Crisp, Cathy O'Donnell, Aline McMahon and Wallace Ford. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
6/17/14




Hello!



I have upcoming release news that is sure to really really interest .... me. I hope Savant readers take note as well.



The Cohen Film Group has been releasing mainly newer pictures for a few months, but has now doubled back for a Blu-ray of what I hope is the uncut, full-length Fritz Lang classic Hangmen Also Die! The 1943 film basically shows the work of a Communist resistance cell in Prague, reacting to the Nazi clampdown after their assassination of the Reichsprotecktor Heydrich. All U.S. video releases omitted a final scene showing the fate of the hostages, including the heroine's father. Although completely fabricated (at the time, nobody in Hollywood knew how Heydrich was killed) the movie is one of Lang's most brilliant crime-spy-urban revolt epics. It's coming September 9 and details are not yet out. Cohen restores everything it releases, and at the very least it will run at the proper frame rate, and not a sped-up PAL 25fps. Here's Cohen's Hangmen Also Die! promo.



Criterion has gone back to a separate DVD or Blu-ray policy; no more Dual-Format disc bargains. The company has just announced their titles for September, and they're all winners. On September 16 we get David Lynch's Eraserhead with extra Lynch short subjects and a making-of doc. September 23 brings us Jack Clayton's The Innocents with the Christopher Frayling commentary from the UK disc; and (gasp) Roman Polanski's Macbeth, a movie that ought to look like a zillion bucks in HD. Finally, September 30 (James Dean Day) arrives with Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and Serge Bourgignon's Sundays and Cybèle.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



June 13, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Afternoon of a Faun:
Tanaquil Le Clercq

DVD

  Nancy Buirski's documentary transcends typical performing arts bios with its portrait of an amazingly graceful, alluringly sensual ballet dancer who was struck down by disease just as she was beginning Act 2 of a phenomenal career. Both muse and spouse to ballet legend George Balachine, and a heart-throb of choreographer Jerome Robbins, Tanaquil Le Clercq had the respect of peers and held the public in awe. Backed by excellent video clips, kinescopes, interviews and impressive stills, the story of this remarkable woman after being struck down is almost as interesting -- her letters make us feel as if we know her personally. Produced for American Masters on PBS, where it will soon be making its broadcast debut. In DVD from Kino Lorber.
6/14/14

Kismet
Blu-ray

  Take your choice -- MGM clunker or an unappreciated musical gem? Howard Keel is the marketplace beggar Hajj, who will fast-talk himself into an Emir-ship, provided he can come up with the miracles demanded by Sebastian Cabot's execution-happy Wazir. The fact that the Wazir's oversexed wife Lalume (Dolores Gray) has the hots for Hajj complicates things, but not as much as does the Caliph (Vic Damone), who falls in love with Hajj's ever-smiling daughter Marsineh (Ann Blyth). Director Vincente Minnelli seems asleep at the switch, but the show's music is adapted from Alexander Borodin, and contains such gems as Stranger in Paradise and Baubles, Bangles, and Beads. In beautifully remastered Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
6/14/14

and

The Max Linder
Slapstick Symposium Collection

DVD

  This fine selection of Max Linder comedies contains three full features and one three-reeler; one of them is presented for the first time in a complete print, and another is a much-improved new restoration: The Three Must-Get-Theres, Be My Wife, Seven Years Bad Luck and Max Wants a Divorce. Max is an original comic talent who inspired Chaplin; he was also the likely model for the Oscar winner The Artist from a few years back. The nice thing about this collection is that the three features are so different. One is an excellent parody of costume swashbucklers, and even the jokes on its title cards haven't dated. In DVD from Kino Classics.
6/14/14




Hello!

An eventful week but the writing got done. My review for Criterion's superb Judex release should be up at TCM soon (it will go there first) and I'll try to make a note here when it goes online. Meanwhile, it's link city around these here parts.

Gary Teetzel points out a serious scientific article explaining that Professor Lindenbrook was right: there is indeed (well, indeed sort-of) an ocean at the center of the Earth. And if go back to geology class and get a doctorate, I think I might find the answer at the center of Lisa Winter's article, Huge Underground "Ocean" Discovered Towards Earth's Core. I feel like a scientist until I have to read real scientific writing...



Over at Trailers from Hell, Alan Spencer provided the commentary for a great trailer for George Pal's interesting Tony Randall character-a-thon, The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao.





Also from that direction comes a truly odd editorial effort with a self-explanatory title: Video of every word of dialogue in Star Wars in alphabetical order. The Bind Moggles, as they say. Actually, my daughter took a quick look and was surprised to find out how few times in the original Star Wars that the word "Jedi" is spoken.



A happy announcement from Scream Factory, which is following up on their Vincent Price Collection Blu-ray set with a new Vincent Price Collection II due in October. It's a real mix apparently licensed from multiple studios: the Italo-filmed zombie romp The Last Man on Earth, Jacques Tourneur's The Comedy of Terrors, the sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Roger Corman's great Tomb of Ligeia, Corman's comedy wizard battle The Raven, Fox and Lippert's small-scale, big fly-head sequel Return of the Fly and... the William Castle favorite House on Haunted Hill. Hey, most of those even I like.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



June 06, 2014

DVD Savant is just back up on its feet now after a problem that lasted three days -- an inability to update this front page, the column. Besides that, everything is okay.

Savant's new reviews today are:

Home of the Brave
Blu-ray

  Stanley Kramer brought 'socially conscious must-see cinema' to the screen with his first feature based on a hot-button topic, discrimination in the ranks of the military. Except that Carl Foreman's script has some odd scenes, because Kramer decided to change the film's anguished minority soldier from an ethnic Jew to an African-American. Combined with Mark Robson's resourceful direction, great performances from Jeff Corey, Frank Lovejoy, Steve Brodie and especially James Edwards make this drama into a triple threat winner: Racism! War! Psychology!   In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
6/07/14

Sullivan's Travels
Region 2 UK Blu-ray

  Preston Sturges' 1942 comedy classic is given a slick HD encoding plus a battery of quality extras that include a study of the writer-director's stock company, a wartime propaganda short subject written by Sturges and a booklet with relevant essays. Ambitious director Joel McCrea wants to experience 'misery on the road' so he'll be able to make a deep dish tragedy called "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" What he gets is a lot of trouble. With Veronica Lake, Franklin Pangborn, Capitol and Labor. Not compatible with U.S. players; in Region B Blu-ray from Arrow Films UK.
6/07/14

and

Video Nasties:
The Definitive Guide

DVD

  This three-disc collection probably is the last word on its subject, the United Kingdom's anti-'permissiveness' campaign that criminalized 72 horror films. Thousands of mom & pop video stores were shut down, people were put in jail and the Thatcher Administration was strengthened. The country-wide media scam and vigilante free-for all only made gross-out horror shows more popular with rebellious film fans. In addition to the docu, the set contains trailers, stats and video essays on every one of the films, plus other nostalgic extras for fans of thirty year-old VHS tapes, in those enormous clamshell cases! In DVD from Severin Films.
6/07/14





Hello!

I've got a couple of links here, plus a viewing recommendation:

A friend and associate specializes in biographical interview pieces on actresses, when not engaging me in friendly discussions of movies. New at his page Hill Place is a lengthy interview piece about one of his favorites, entitled Since You've Gone: Cristina Raines.


Gary Teetzel forwards this link to Steve Ryfle's Sci-fi Japan article on a movie-that-was-almost-made by the esteemed writer-producer and friend of film Michael Schlesinger. After producing the English-language version of Godzilla 2000 Millennium and writing its English dub script, Michael came within striking distance of floating his own sequel. Godzilla Reborn was approved all around before a change of executives hit the project like an Oxygen Destroyer. It's a great read. With Schlesinger involved, it's funny too.


And finally, Web-radio impresario Dick Dinman has four new shows up for our auditing pleasure, hosted by Noir 'czar' Eddie Muller. Shows Number One and Number Two cover Universal's new Blu-ray of the Fred MacMurray-Barbara Stanwyck thriller Double Indemnity, while show Number Three takes on the Fox Cinema Archives recent DVD release of Cry of the City with Victor Mature and Richard Conte. Number Four profiles Olive Films' new Blu-ray of the excellent Dick Powell picture Cry Danger.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



June 02, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Nutty Professor
50th Anniversary

Blu-ray + DVD

Jerry Lewis' best-remembered '60s comedy is given the massive gift box treatment, with new input from Lewis himself. The remastered movie pops off the screen in primary colors, as nerdy Julius Kelp transforms himself into the hideous lounge lizard Buddy Love; Stella Stevens is the prize worth imbibing deadly poisons for. The big box contains bonus DVDs of The Errand Boy and Cinderfella, a couple of new books and a reproduction of Lewis' shooting script. In Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video/Paramount.
6/03/14

Weekend of a Champion
DVD

Roman Polanski produced this terrific close-up of Formula One racer Jackie Stewart on the weekend of a big Monaco race. Prompted by Polanski, the engaging Stewart tells us everything we ever wanted to know about the sport, things that big movies like Grand Prix didn't get into. We see how the social requirements work as Stewart and his wife are greeted by Princess Grace; Jackie explains the difficulties of each turn in the course and critiques the techniques of other drivers. The fascinating show was finished in 1971 but has been appended with a new coda with Polanski and Stewart talking about what has changed in the race, particularly from the safety point of view. In DVD from MPI Media.
6/03/14

and

Bible Quiz
DVD

Nicole Tenney's arresting documentary charts the personal ups and downs of a teenager from an evangelical community, competing in a nationwide quiz game that involves memorizing huge sections of the Bible. It's a fascinating inside look at an alternate lifestyle in which the Bible is the center of all daily activity, and kids' energy is channeled into organized group activities all the way through high school. The lead girl is sweet, nothing seems staged but the focus is very narrow -- we don't learn enough about the values of this insular culture-within-a-culture to properly evaluate it. In DVD from Virgil Films/Slamdance.
6/03/14




Hello!

A link or two ...

This 1969 dialogue roundup video of big-name movie directors at The Film Stage has some funny bites, from people like Billy Wilder and Mike Nichols: Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, and More Discuss the State of Filmmaking.

And I have to admit I found this page on Don Rickles, written by Kimberly Potts, very funny, especially a clip halfway down titled "Mad Johnny Tracks Doen Don Rickles on Set of "CPO Sharkey". Craig Reardon sent it over.

Then, courtesy of Gary Teetzel, there's Danny Rogers' bizarre Turn Down for Spock, aka Star Trek Stabilized. No explanation is offered. Enjoy.


Everyone's been talking about Mad Men this week, mostly about the glorious exit of star Robert Morse as Bert Cooper. I found another illuminating angle in the episode. When Don Draper and his wife mentioned the movie The Wild Bunch in a telephone conversation, I wondered how it would 'pay off' later in the show... Mad Men doesn't waste time with idle references. Would there be a film clip, as had been done with Planet of the Apes and Bye Bye Birdie?

The payoff is there. It hit me immediately, although I'd have to give it an Obscurity Rating of at least 7. Roger Sterling has pretty much been clipping coupons, drinking and chasing women for an entire decade, and when he comes whining to Bert Cooper about the takeover of the company and the pending ouster of Don Draper, Cooper lets him have it with a challenging speech: Cooper didn't vote to keep Draper because he agreed with what he did, he voted for him to keep the team together. Bert further stings Roger with the opinion that Roger falls short in the leadership department. This farewell challenge gets Roger to do something proactive. Cooper might as well have said, "when you side with a man you stick with him", from the Peckinpah film. Roger reacts heroically, preventing his advertising bunch from "falling apart." Simple as this is, it is the turning point of the episode: Cooper was Roger's original partner, and he doesn't let him down. It is also a big morale boost for the show in general, after a full 2.5 seasons of Don Draper screwing up and everybody becoming increasingly dissatisfied. And I think the writers' mention of The Wild Bunch up front was a purposeful pre-echo, just to satisfy their own inner quest for thematic symmetry.

Did anyone else see this? Or do I just think I saw it?

Thanks for reading? Glenn Erickson


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

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