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August 29, 2014

Savant's four (count 'em, 4) new reviews today are:

Man Hunt
Blu-ray

  Fritz Lang and Darryl Zanuck had some nerve -- this movie partly about an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler was produced and released before America entered the war. Walter Pidgeon is the big game hunter who finds himself hunted by Nazi spies George Sanders and John Carradine; Joan Bennett is the sweet seamstress who protects him in the London Fog. Good action scenes and Lang's precise direction highlight this winning spy drama. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
8/30/14

High School Confidential!
Blu-ray

  Slam! Bam! Thank you, ma'am! Jack Arnold and Albert Zugsmith concoct the ultimate juvenile delinquent shocker, with slick hepcat Russ Tamblyn angling to become the top drug pusher on campus. Shocking the faculty and charming the students, Tamblyn romances his teacher and repels advances from his sexy "aunt": Mamie Van Doren! Jackie Coogan, Jan Sterling, John Drew Barrymore, Diane Jergens star: Jerry Lee Lewis makes his entrance pounding out "Boppin' at the High School Hop" from the back of a flatbed truck. "Turn your eyes inside and dig the vacuum!" In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/30/14

Out of the Clear Blue Sky
DVD

  Danielle Gardner's intense documentary follows the harrowing experience of the executives and families of Cantor Fitzgerald, a trading company that lost over 600 of its 900 employees in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. With the drama played out on TV news shows, CEO Howard Lutnik had to put together something that could do business when the stock market reopened just two days later. Then came a storm of anger and hate mail when survivors' families thought he was going to leave them financially in the lurch. It's a fascinating story told in quality interviews and well chosen news clips. In DVD from Virgil Films.
8/30/14

and

7 Faces of Dr. Lao
DVD-R

  George Pal confects a warm family story from Charles G. Finney's nihilistic original novel, but the result is too magical and charming to complain about. Tony Randall plays the multiple mythical characters that populate Lao's mysterious circus, and Barbara Eden is the librarian given a lesson in passion by the seductive Pan. Clever special effects bring to life a talking serpent and The Loch Ness Monster, animated by Jim Danforth. Makeup artist Craig Reardon contributes to the review with an assessment of the film's impressive makeups, designed by William Tuttle. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/30/14




Hello!

Yep, that's me about one week ago, doing what folks do about 2 degrees South of the Equator. Much of our trip was serious family business but the experience was amazing overall, meeting marvelous people and getting a look at how a foreign country works from the inside out. As longtime readers know Savant holds the achievement record for homebody excellence, mostly by necessity. This travel thing can clearly be fantastic.

But the sign on my door says that Discs Are Us, and I now have a huge volume of desirable titles to properly review. The Warner Archive is releasing a Blu-ray of The Great Race that I sampled last night; it looks very good. So does Scorpion/Kino's new BD of Oliver Stone's odd horror opus Seizure, with Jonathan Frid and Martine Beswick.

Other favorites that I'll soon be reviewing are Criterion's Love Streams and Vengeance is Mine, Twilight Time's Follow that Dream and The Secret of Santa Vittoria, Olive Films' Distant Drums and The Big Operator, KL Studio Classics' What's New Pussycat, Juggernaut and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Cohen's Queen Margot and Hangmen Also Die! (I hope) and a Blu of Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Thanks for reading ! Do you wanna see more exotic travel pictures? No? Aw, please.... --- Glenn Erickson



August 25, 2014

Savant's new review today is:

On the Beach
Blu-ray

  Last Saturday's post was the grim Testament, so I guess I'm gambling that there are lots of readers out their who can't wait for another dose (75 Rads and rising!) of atomic doom. This is Stanley Kramer's big-daddy doomsday drama, the one that raised the subject of radiation extinction to the mainstream and did a lot to promote the Ban the Bomb movement. Nevil Shute's story of Australians and an American sub captain waiting for the end in Melbourne is probably Kramer's best job of direction, and his stars (Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins, Fred Astaire) couldn't be better. Beautiful visuals by Giuseppe Rotunno. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/26/14




Hello!

Am writing from afar as we pack to return. Despite the picture of the Golden Gate I'm not in San Francisco but much further away. I'll post a picture of some kind when I'm back on solid terra firma, U.S.A..

Thanks to all the readers that caught a typical Savant-ism -- I mis-wrote Stanley Kubrick in place of Stanley Kramer, the same way I always seem to make Eleanor Powell and Eleanor Parker interchangeable. I appreciate the help. It would have been fixed fairly quickly if I had remote access to that part of the website.

I also find that I can't access links at the moment -- I'm on an iPad. Therefore these recommended links are really 'go look for it' suggestions. In the regular DVDtalk review section you'll find a Blu-ray review by Stuart Galbraith IV of On the Beach. I always thought that Stuart's reviews complemented my own. Our tastes are very similar but his observations take a different approach than mine.

By this time the entertaining Trailers from Hell page should also be showing the coming attractions for Albert Zugsmith's bizarro Vincent Price vehicle, Confessions of an Opium Eater. The movie took me completely by surprise when I reviewed it a couple of years ago. Joe Dante does the commentary, and clearly loves Zugsmith's mangy, quasi-horror freakout.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



August 22, 2014

Savant's new review today is:

Testament
DVD

  Lynne Littman's chronicle of a small California town's experience in an atomic war is intensely emotional, and harrowing in a way few post-apocalyptic dramas can touch. When the power goes out and news of the world shrinks to a trickle, housewife Jane Alexander must cope with keeping her family 'normal'. Then common necessities disappear and radiation levels rise. William Devane is the father who goes missing and Lukas Haas the first-grader trying to cope with a grim future. Also with Leon Ames and future stars Kevin Costner and Rebecca De Mornay. A Paramount reissue in DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection / Paramount.
8/23/14




Hello!

Savant is still long distant (and not in San Francisco, the picture posted is the only one I could find on short notice) but keeping up with things on a regular basis. Although I couldn't attend, I have an early correspondent's report from this year's AMIA convention, called The Reel Thing. It's the get-together where professional archivists and film restorers listen to presentations and screen new work. For instance, there was a seminar on silent movie film speeds which I'd like to have seen -- I write about that subject all the time.

The first of the convention's special screenings was the debut of a new 4K remastering of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I'm told that it looked perfect, although I've never seen a transfer or copy of that title with major flaws. This time around the restoration people have done a little extra -- they've removed the wires that help the robot Gort (Lock Martin) to carry the heroine, Patricia Neal. Cleaning up wires and improving effects work is a much-discussed topic on fantasy film forums. Stray wires can be a distraction, and HD transfers off original elements can be sharper than original film prints. But in general we don't want movies to be revised from their original versions. And where should they stop? Why not remove the visible laces on Gort's arms, too?

The common argument is that the films are being 'improved for modern audiences' that won't accept imperfect visuals. That was the excuse for colorization; my feeling is that people who want history to conform to their personal preferences should go jump in the lake. The other line of thought reasons that the revisions simply carry out the director's original vision. The Day the Earth Stood Still happens to be an almost perfect picture with superb designs. But the directors of many of our fave fantasy films would also liked to have better actors and a better script too.

The bottom line is that money rules. Criterion's total revision of the color scheme of Heaven's Gate breaks all that company's rules about preserving the best original versions of films --- but I have to admit that seeing more colors than brown has made the show watchable.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



August 18, 2014

Savant's new review today is:

Arch of Triumph
Blu-ray

  Lewis Milestone had great ingredients for this prewar thriller: stars Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Charles Laughton, and Erich Maria Remarque's tense, romantic story of undocumented refugees come to London to flee the grasp of Nazi Germany. Boyer's a doctor plying his profession on the sly to make ends meet, and Bergman has been 'accepting the hospitality of gentlemen' to avoid starvation. Can they dodge visiting Nazi intelligence agent Laughton? Soon enough the haven of Paris will be overrun by the Germans! The direction and acting are tops, so why is this picture not a classic? At the very least, why is it not better known? Bergman is excellent. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/19/14




Hello!

As I'm at the moment long gone from Savant Central headquarters, I'm restricted to one post with each new installment of the column. I also can't amend the reviews, but this note from a favorite long-time, knowledgeable correspondent is so good (and for me educational) that I've decided to post it on the front page. It's from "B", and it goes with my review of "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" from last Saturday. There's a lot here about the history of the ratings system that I didn't know:

Dear Glenn: Nice review of a funny non-PC Almodóvar movie. A brief comment, though...

You wrote, Does Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! really deserve its NC-17 rating? ...In 1990 NC-17 meant smut and explicit sex, and the weirdest thing we get here is a cute windup bath toy paddling its way between Victoria Abril's parting legs.

Some audiences of 1990 thought the film wasn't rough enough to earn its NC-17 rating, but who cares about them?

While I take your point about all of this, I guess I can't let it rest; the ratings situation involving Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! was somewhat more complicated than you suggest here.

To begin with, the Almodóvar film actually received an "X" rating from CARA when Miramax submitted it in the early spring of 1990. The ever contentious Weinstein brothers -- who a bit earlier had submitted Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, received (an inevitable) X rating, and simply decided to distribute that film unrated -- took considerable umbrage over Almodóvar's little movie being tabbed with such a restrictive rating. As I recall, Miramax immediately appealed the rating. When CARA reaffirmed the X, the Weinsteins sued the MPAA. Loudly, so the neighbors could hear. This got a lot of publicity; I don't think anyone had seriously (or as determinedly) sued over a rating in quite a while. The MPAA & CARA prevailed, to be sure, and the Weinsteins ultimately released Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! without a rating.

Though the MPAA had won the suit, the Weinsteins had publicly reopened the unwieldy can of worms regarding Art, Commerce and Adult Material in movies that had never satisfactorily been addressed or resolved in twenty-odd years. The foolish decision of the MPAA to not copyright the X rating back in 1968 -- and its consequent rampant use as a lurid signifier by producers of pornography -- really did haunt Jack Valenti to the end of his life. It was clear that this was going to come to a head sooner or later, and something would have to be done. In late summer, as Universal (of all studios) readied Phil Kaufman's arty, very adult-themed Henry and June for release, CARA rated the picture X. This was a problem. Universal actually had a corporate policy that it would not release X-rated pictures (though the studio had produced and released a few such films in the early days of the ratings code, problems with ads and distribution had resulted in the policy), and Kaufman's final cut rights only extended to delivering an R-rated movie. There was a good deal of publicity, and a great deal of conversation. After a few weeks, the MPAA and CARA eventually announced a new rating to replace the X: the NC-17. This was extremely similar to the X rating, but it was a) copyrighted by the MPAA and could not be self-imposed by filmmakers and b) ...well, all right, an "adult" rating, but not an X rating.

In other words, in 1990 anyway, the idea was, an NC-17 wasn't supposed to connote "smut and explicit sex."

Valenti, bless him, said "We are going back to the original intent of the rating system." It was supposed to be the thinking person's X rating -- the socially acceptable X, the arthouse X, an X for the people... I dunno.

Universal was satisfied, anyway, and Kaufman's Henry and June was launched in October with the brand new rating.

As we of course know, this ultimately didn't really work out very well. The mall theaters that hadn't wanted any part of X-rated films decided they didn't want any part of NC-17-rated movies either (in numerous cases, mall operators actually added this to contracts and leases); some papers still were wary of ads for any "adult" pictures at all. The NC-17 turned out to be practically the same kind of signifier as the X.

Both Tie Me Down and The Cook, The Thief (where is this film lately?) bear NC-17 ratings now. As does Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, for that matter. And Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (beware the R-rated version occasionally screened), The Dreamers (but not 1900, which surrendered its rating, and is now unrated). Tropic of Cancer. Inserts. Showgirls.

Yeah, I know -- it wasn't worth all that prose. [Glenn: I strongly disagree.] I hope your vacation is still swell -- you deserve it. Best, Always. -- B.


And that's all for now ... next post on Saturday, Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



August 16, 2014

Savant's new review today is:

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
Blu-ray + DVD

  Pedro Almodóvar's follow-up to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is a racy anti-PC comedy. Some critics were offended because it presents a kidnapping and possible rape as fun movie subject matter. Asylum graduate Antonio Banderas stalks and imprisons ex- porn star and junkie Victoria Abril in an apartment, to wait until she falls in love with him. With Pedro writing and directing, it's perfectly charming stuff. Some audiences of 1990 thought the film wasn't rough enough to earn its NC-17 rating, but who cares about them? Great Ennio Morricone music too. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
8/16/14




Hello!

DVD Savant is absent, gone, AWOL and nowhere to be found at the moment, but this solitary review has arrived by secret messenger. We post it here in the hope that responsible authorities can find Savant, and when they do make sure that he stays far, far away...

Another review should follow on Tuesday. The search for Savant continues! Thanks for reading -- Glenn Erickson



August 11, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Call Her Savage
DVD-R

  A notorious pre-Code pot-boiler resurfaces to show us a great silent actress struggling to survive in the talkies. Silent screen legend Clara Bow tries outdoes the competition in risqué costumes and outrageously sordid plot contrivances. The story's theme is 'The Sins of the Fathers' but what we get is an unbroken parade of salacious content and offensive racial attitudes. The film's Depression-era Greenwich Village "artists and radicals" cafe is a hoot -- the resident commie agitator is Mischa Auer! The sad part is that the show didn't help Ms. Bow keep her career afloat. Also starring Thelma Todd. In DVD-r from 20th Fox Cinema Archives.
8/12/14

and

Pickpocket
Blu-ray + DVD

  Robert Bresson's hypnotic ode to spiritual transcendence (as per Paul Schrader) is a fascinating film, especially after one reads about the director's approach to filmmaking -- no professional actors, no 'performing' or emotions allowed. A Parisian loner decides that the only way to personal freedom is to become a pro sneak thief. It's a fascinating experience -- although the actor doesn't 'act', he nearly becomes a soul-mirror for the viewer. Will the pickpocket break free of his perverse mission, and make a meaningful connection with life and people? A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
8/12/14




Hello!

It's vacation time, but I don't intend to go away entirely ... the next few Savant columns will be very sparse, probably with just one review each (I know, I know). But I'll still be checking my mail every couple of days or so! Things will pop back to normal sooner than later. Thanks for all the feedback on the reviews...

... and thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



August 09, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Out of the Past
Blu-ray

  It looks and sounds great! Not since original 35mm prints were screened has Jacques Tourneur's romantic noir masterpiece looked this good. Robert Mitchum reached stardom playing a detective too tough to be taken in by anything... except the alluring, devious fugitive Jane Greer, a genuine drop-dead beauty of the 1940s. Nicholas Musuraca's dreamy cinematography weaves a B&W spell over the picture, as Mitchum's PI tries to work his way out of film noir's tightest frame-up. Easily one of the top five noir titles, now in HD with uncompressed audio. With Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Steve Brodie and Virginia Huston. In Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/09/14

and

The Unforgiven
Blu-ray

  John Huston gets remarkable performances from a top cast in this excellent frontier drama. The author of The Searchers reworked the elements of that story into a new pattern, and Huston's love for outdoors adventure does the rest. When rancher Burt Lancaster's adopted sister Audrey Hepburn is accused of being an Indian, it looses a storm of racial hatred and violence. The local Kiowas want her back, while Lancaster's neighbors -- and his brother Audie Murphy -- want her dead. With John Saxon, Charles Bickford, Lillian Gish, Albert Salmi, Doug McClure, Carlos Rivas and a terrific Joseph Wiseman, whose demented drifter aligns with John Wayne's Ethan Edwards in the John Ford movie. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/09/14




Hello!

  What a great week: Out of the Past in Blu-ray ! This is something that will please every film noir fan alive. Who said August is a slow month for home video?

  Just a reminder for readers that receive MGMHD -- on August 30 the cable channel will screen a new remaster of Billy Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid. I'm informed that several brief dialogue lines have been restored, and that at least one is a "new" joke line. They were apparently cut in a failed attempt to appease the censors back in 1965. Many fans have all but memorized a bunch of Billy Wilder films. They're just not making any more of them, so any additions will be noticed and appreciated.

  Also "re-premiering" on MGMHD around the same time are some more titles that should be new remasters: August 29 brings I Want to Live! and Last Embrace, August 30 is Driving Me Crazy, August 31 gives us Kings Go Forth (reportedly the first time in widescreen), Juggernaut and Welcome to L.A.. And finally on September 1, Cast a Giant Shadow takes a bow, reportedly a new transfer as well.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



August 04, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Wildcat Bus
DVD-R

  "Just when you thought it was safe to ride in a bus again." A deadbeat playboy and his chauffeur help Fay Wray's bus line get the goods on crooks that are sabotaging their buses and faking accidents, all to put them out of business. Bet you didn't know that there was a racket in unlicensed long-distance car trips -- we didn't either. Paul Guilfoyle and Charles Lang co-star in RKO's goofiest romance-comedy-crime story. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/05/14


The Essential Jacques Demy
Blu-ray + DVD

  A marvelous collection of the intensely creative musical romances of Jacques Demy: Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin and Une chambre en ville. The HD transfers are in eye-popping restored color and the marvelous extras cover everything about Demy, from his collaboration with composer Michel Legrand to his theories about the nature of love. The set includes some early Demy short subjects as well. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
8/05/14

and

Bankers of God:
The Calvi Affair

Blu-ray

  This is the most complex, dizzying conspiracy thriller I've seen this year, and it's said to be entirely factual. Director Giuseppe Ferrara tackles a major Italian scandal from 1982. The Mafia, the Vatican, the Camorra and the C.I.A. all relied on the money laundering services of Italy's Banco Ambrosiano to shift illegal profits, make payoffs and fund covert military activities. When an arrest brings some of the truth to light, bank president Roberto Calvi finds himself in a deadly bind. Too many secret and illegal organizations are involved. A nefarious Masonic Lodge and the financial wing of the Vatican both need the problem to disappear, and Calvi with it. Starring Omero Antonutti, Giancarlo Giannini and Rutger Hauer. In Blu-ray from Rarovideo / Kino.
8/05/14





Hello!

New York readers might want to hear about Strange Lands: International Sci-Fi, a week-long film series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. This is one serious collection of rarities, starting with a more accessible Czech fantasy by Karel Zeman (The Fabulous World of Jules Verne) and moving on to East German DEFA space movies by Herrmann Zschoche (Eolomea) and Gottfried Kolditz (In the Dust of Stars).

West Germany checks in with Ulrike Ottinger's (Freak Orlando). Polish films by Piotr Szulkin (Golem) and Edward Zebrowski (Hospital of the Transfiguration) are accompanied by the Andrez Wajda short subject (Roly Poly). Russian Aleksandr Sokurov presents Days of Eclipse, a film said to be a response to Tarkovsky's sci-fi films. Russia's Georgiy Daneliya (Kin-dza-dza!) and Czechoslovakian Jan Schmidt (the violent End of August at the Hotel Ozone) offer post-apocalyptic tales, while Italy is represented by Emidio Greco (Morel's Invention) and Elio Petri (The 10th Victim, with Ursula Andress, pictured). I've read about most of these pictures yet have only seen five of them -- so expect a rarified audience of sci-fi fans.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



August 01, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Marty
Blu-ray

  Kino gives us a classic '50s "little" movie that won moviegoers' hearts and launched a career for Ernest Borgnine. Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster were the first to adapt a Live TV hit for the big screen, and they wisely hired the TV show's writer Paddy Chayefsky, its director Delbert Mann and several original actors. Great performances from Betsy Blair (some back story, there) and Joe Mantell; this is the source of the deathless line, "Boy that Mickey Spillane can really write". Most of all, Marty demonstrates why we have always loved Ernest Borgnine. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/02/14

Performance
Blu-ray

  Mick Jagger struts his stuff and vicious gangster Edward Fox learns how a Rock 'n' Roll star lives in this weird combo of sex, drugs and bizarre identity games. Its release was delayed, probably because it scared Warner Bros. It instead became an instant cult item -- and the few available 35mm prints were screened so much that I never saw a copy that wasn't spliced, broken and scratched to ribbons. Co-directed by Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell, it holds up well. With Anita Pallenberg. In Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/02/14

and

Scanners
Blu-ray + DVD

  David Cronenberg concocts a great thriller about psychic warfare among mutants altered by an experimental drug: this is the notorious movie with the exploding heads! Patrick McGoohan preps 'scanner' Stephen Lack to do battle with Michael Ironside's renegade super-scanner, who is assassinating his fellow psychics and preparing to raise his own generation of all-powerful brainiacs. It's both an exploitation picture and a legit sci-fi classic; the terrific extras include Cronenberg's first experimental feature, Stereo. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.




Hello!

What do we have in the way of disc news .... I see that MGM has announced a Blu-ray of Duck You Sucker for October 7, and that The Warner Archives is giving us a Blu of Out of the Past almost immediately, on August 12. You'll hear no complaints from me about either of these developments -- I hope Duck retains the DVD extras.

I've gotten some pleasant responses to my article Military Boomer Movie Confessions, from readers that also had contact with the armed forces theater system. Kenneth George Godwin remembers seeing Jim McBride's freakish, radical sci-fi movie Glen & Randa on an air base, confirming my thought that the system showed movies that didn't win wide distribution. Lou Spector saw movies at the Los Alamitos Naval Air Station. Frequent correspondent Tom Giegel's father was a career airman too, and he confirms that the price of a kid's ticket around 1960 was 15 cents. And from his note, it looks like Tom was allowed to attend all those scary horror movies I couldn't.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson


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

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