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January 31, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.


No monsters today! Savant's new reviews are all about Love and Romance and good Mushy Stuff:

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Pedro Almodóvar broke into the international big time with this dazzlingly funny and madly entertaining screwball farce about romantic relationships, Madrid-style: men are swine and the women go crazy, one way or another. Amid the altogether unique visuals and musical fun, we meet some terrific Spanish actors: Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas, Julieta Serrano, María Barranco and the one-of-a-kind Rossy de Palma. With great new interviews with the director and star, and an optional remixed 5.1 soundtrack. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/31/17



Love in the Afternoon
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

  Billy Wilder got defensive and called this Viennese schmaltz, but it's really a prime expression of his bittersweet, cruelly honest look at the nature of romance, with its winners and losers. Innocent Ariane (Audrey Hepburn) falls head over heels for a wealthy playboy (graying Gary Cooper) who has no intention of getting serious. Her scheme to win his heart is to make herself seem like a peerless sophisticate, juggling more lovers than he does. For research, Ariane snoops in the files of her detective father (Maurice Chevalier), a bedroom detective painfully aware that his daughter will have to fight her own battles of the heart without his help. It's funny but also perceptive, and heart-wrenchingly powerful at the finish. The comedy relief is pouty John McGiver, in his first screen role. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/31/17



and

What a Way to Go!
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  The future producer of Planet of the Apes threw together this lavish, grandiose, purposely overproduced trifle seemingly designed to stuff star Shirley MacLaine into more glorious dresses and hairstyles than any actress in history. The silly story is a joke that sees her become a serial widow, as a curse of great wealth and rotten luck haunts her various husbands, one after another: Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert MItchum, Gene Kelly and Dean Martin. The motto is that nothing succeeds like excess. Every 5th gag manages some amusement value -- otherwise it's all a massive display of Hollywood glitz. All them gowns was done sewed up good by costume designer Edith Head, see? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/31/17




Hello!

Yep, it's happening... Valentine's Day is coming, which is a wedding anniversary for a certain white-bearded Savant hereabouts, so why not trot out a trio of wholly romantic pictures? Today we peruse one marvelous Spanish comedy of manners, a heavily romantic valentine from Billy Wilder, and an old-fashioned Hollywood orgy of excess.

Otherwise things are pretty quiet, as the nation is absorbed in news from Washington with nary a scrap of network news air time left over for other events, not even stories about cute cats and patriotic dogs. The noise is enough to drown out the buzz about next week's Super Bowl. The intersection of sports fans and film fans is fairly large, but I must confess that I'm outside those overlapping circles. If I watch the big broadcast, it's just to marvel at the excellent video coverage... I think that cable companies turn the cablecast resolution way up and the compression way down only for the big sports programs.

Very hot stuff should be showing up soon in the Blu-ray bins, the kind of titles that make me eager to get writing: I'm hoping for the docu By Sidney Lumet from FilmRise; The Edge of Seventeen from Universal; The Prince of Foxes, 23 Paces to Baker Street, Deluge and One Million Years B.C. (above left) from KL Studio Classics; a Claude Chabrol Trio from the Cohen Collection; Manchester by the Sea, Hacksaw Ridge and The Gate from Lionsgate; The Boy Friend and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth from the Warner Archive; and The Tree of Wooden Clogs and The 'Before' Trilogy from Criterion; and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (just below) and Our Man in Havana from Twilight Time.

I'm catching up on some older import titles that are so much fun to review, I might toss one in, plus Kit Parker is perhaps going to let me review a pair of his DVD releases, old pictures from Lewis Milestone and Douglas Sirk. TCM is all classic Oscar winners this month, which is mostly Snooze City for me; I'll be eager to get back to the pre-Code fun, odd foreign pictures and crazy weird stuff when it returns in March.

And finally, correspondent Ed Sullivan offers this link to a funny, brief book excerpt about Van Johnson that includes a choice vulgar anecdote related to my recent review of William Wellman's Battleground, in which director William Wellman finally heard an actor's suggestion he liked. The MGM publicity department really passed up a good idea for an ad endorsement, using posed pictures from the movie.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



January 28, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Mildred Pierce
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Joan Crawford makes her mark on western civilization by baking pies, building a thriving postwar restaurant business and raising a daughter who could very well be the spawn of the devil. Crawford's complete self-control matches powerful direction from Michael Curtiz, in James M. Cain's sordid SoCal tale turned into a sensational domestic film noir with a woman as the protagonist. All that, and Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Ann Blythe, Eve Arden and music by Max Steiner. The extras include archived interviews with Crawford, Blythe and author Cain. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/28/17



The Lair of the White Worm
Lionsgate
Blu-ray

 Turning to the horror genre, Ken Russell has fun, fun, fun with his witty and creative take on the last story by author Bram Stoker. An ancient pagan god-monster survives on a Scottish farm, where a slinky, fashion conscious noblewoman takes on the task of finding new sacrifices for it. And that's not difficult, because she's a slippery snake-vampire who spits venom, hypnotizes victims and slithers like a you-know-what when music is played. Amanda Donohoe is the magical snake woman, and the quartet of good-humored dragonslayers are Hugh Grant, Sammi Davis, Catherine Oxenberg and Peter Capaldi. Russell's direction is a delight, and his sexual excesses are so elegant, they're almost in good taste. On Blu-ray from Lionsgate.
01/28/17



and

Dr. Orloff's Monster
Redemption / Kino
Blu-ray

 Jesús Franco's movies aren't all terrible, they only try to be. This early B&W monster romp has real lighting camerawork, an attempt to tell a story and even some effort from its cast, so we give it the benefit of the doubt. Visiting her crazy uncle, student Agnès Spaak runs into a typical Franco horror situation: the uncle is using a radio control robot zombie (RCRZ) to murder various nightclub performers, 'just because.' Hugo Blanco makes a not-bad RCRZ with his dried-up chin and staring eyes, and his nightly depredations are decently filmed. But even taking into account the miniscule budget, there's just not very much of worth here. With a highly informed commentary by Tim Lucas, defender of disparaged genre auteurs. On Blu-ray from Redemption / Kino.
01/28/17




Hello!

As regards last week's review of Sidney Pollack's The Yakuza, correspondent Ed Sullivan has found a partial description of the extra Japanese-version scenes in a review by Dr. Lenera at the HCF Rewind page. I would have asked for more detail, but it all sounds like valuable footage:

"The eventual Japanese cut ended up being ten minutes longer than the cut released elsewhere. Though the three extra scenes are ritualistic in nature and their significance would only be understood by Japanese audiences, the only major change resulting in Ken and Eiko meeting for the first time in twenty years a bit earlier in the story."


Joe Dante has circulated this Wellesnet.com link to a little video essay, credited to Joey Scoma of RocketJump Film School, analyzing Walter Murch's controversial re-cut of Touch of Evil. The page is called Behind the Edit: The Orson Welles Memo.


And Gary Teetzel forwarded a useful link to other kindred Home Video 3-D fans, of a Wikipedia Page that maintains an extensive list of 3-D Blu-rays in release, including notes on what country and (sometimes) whether it is real 3-D or converted 3-D. Gary says that there is some talk online of an Indian 3-D disc of Spielberg's The BFG. It is said to be all-region, but he has no idea where it can be purchased other than eBay. The Region coding on foreign discs is always a sticking point - I have a Region B player, but not one that does 3-D. Many foreign discs claim that they're coded when they're not, but one must find a reliable review to feel confident before ordering.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



January 24, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it. (Ha! I should review this!)

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Yakuza
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

 Sidney Pollack goes to Japan to introduce America to the Japanese yakuza genre, through an intensely dramatic, thematically rich screenplay by the Brothers Schrader that's yet another take on The Searchers. A terrific co-production manages to place Robert Mitchum in battles with tattooed swordsmen, without being silly -- the main martial artist is Ken Takakura, one of the nation's top stars. Excellent swordfights plus actors Richard Jordan, Brian Keith and Keiko Kishi -- who we remember from Kwaidan. The HD transfer brings out the beauty in the widescreen images. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/24/17



Wagon Tracks
Olive Films
Blu-ray

 William S. Hart puts away his six-guns and pulls out his buffalo rifle in this wagon train saga, in which the trip on the Santa Fe Trail is secondary to the hero's quest to find the man who killed his kid brother. Jane Novak is the shy, guilty woman. Although filmed in 1919 (!) the picture looks fairly modern and is in fantastic shape -- the director and cameraman are well known, and one of the actors became a director as well. Presented in full tints, with original title cards, and a new music score. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
01/24/17



and

The Sicilian Clan
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  Alain Delon, Jean Gabin and Lino Ventura run amuck in this classy International Euro-gangster epic that makes multilingualism a definite asset. A Sicilian gang joins with a loose-cannon French murderer to steal a king's ransom in jewels en route to New York. Exciting escapes, sexy intrigues and top-notch policier action make this a highly entertaining thriller -- and it has an eccentric, truly marvelous music score by Ennio Morricone. Presented in two versions; Savant thumps the International cut as the worthwhile one to see -- and ponders the film's incidental / tangential relationship to 9/11. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/24/17




Hello!

Just a couple of notes today...

Kino is releasing new double bills of Buster Keaton features, with new transfers... which I'll have to check out. Another good reason to take a look is that both The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr. carry new audio commentaries by Michael Schlesinger and Stan Taffel. Michael is a born raconteur who usually ups the interest value of any disc by 30%. I don't know anybody else who could keep me happily listening through an entire movie lasting three full hours. As a reminder, Cohen Films will be bringing out another The General Blu-ray this year. Their disc will befrom the same restoration premiered at the TCM Film fest.

Nothing but the classiest cinema offerings here at DVD Savant: I've already received three notes from people who remember seeinga movie I reviewed last week, Atom Age Vampire, in the theater when it was new. One of them said that the striptease scene was intact in the print he saw. The scene is not all that racy, really, but it sure was gone by the time TV copies were printed up. He said he saw it on a double bill with Varan, the Indigestible. Those were the days.

How can you enjoy Valentine's Day and put a definite end to your amorous relationship? Gary Teetzel once again steers us to a must-have product online: Godzilla Chocolate Perfect For That Kaiju Sweetheart. Radioactive sprinkles not included.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



January 21, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

No Highway in the Sky
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 James Stewart is a dotty boffin caught up in an ironic dilemma -- he's a passenger on a new turbojet that he believes is about to break up in midair, because of metal fatigue. The expertly crafted suspense tale is packed with surprises, starting with excellent dramatics between co-stars Marlene Dietrich, Glynis Johns, Niall MacGuinnes, Jack Hawkins and young Jeanette Scott. A terrific HD transfer with a new commentary hosted by Jeremy Arnold, with guest Bob Koster, the son of the film's director. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/21/17



Seddok, l'erede di Satana
(Atom Age Vampire)
Terminal Video Italia SRL

Region 2 PAL DVD

  Euro-horror raises its sleazy, disfigured head in this derivative yet appealing potboiler about mad surgery, mutilated women and a monster tastelessly based on the appearance of Hiroshima victims. But don't worry, the pseudo-science in this one is clogged with contradictory nonsense, too. Susanne Loret is the stripper who wants her face back, and Alberto Lupo the crackpot medico that injects himself with a monsterizing formula to commit surgical murders. This six year-old Italian disc is the wrong region, format and language for the U.S. but it's uncut -- devotees of spicy 'continental versions' won't be able to resist. On Region 2 PAL DVD from Terminal Video Italia SRL.
01/21/17



and

Stanley and Iris
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 Martin Ritt's final film is low key, laid back and small-scale, a combo that flatters the good work of actors Jane Fonda and Robert De Niro. A widow in a dead end factory job has plenty of things to be cynical about, yet she takes on the job of teaching an illiterate co-worker to read and write. Some story points are a stretch but the screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. is a charmer, and so is director Ritt's avoidance of 'big effects' and phony dramatic crises. The show's soft colors are as pleasing as its message. With Swoosie Kurtz, Martha Plimpton, and Jamey Sheridan. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/21/17




Hello!

An interesting development this morning as I post this: a relative and her friends on the way to protest at Pershing Square downtown drove all the way to my house (about seven miles from downtown L.A.), to park here and take a Lyft the rest of the way. They did that because the subway was a mess -- too jammed with people on their way to the protest. I'm very proud of my state this year. I've seen people flying California flags outside their houses, in place of the Stars 'n' Stripes.

But back to the old VDG (video disc grind). I scour Amazon for bargains like anybody else. An older Euro-horror title drifted my way, and I took a break from newly promoted material to write it up. It's a fairly loopy commercial concoction that makes us wonder what the market forces were for a mid-level genre movie in Italy in 1960. The bit of nudity could have been cut for local use, as I understand the Italian censors were pretty unforgiving. But there's such an emphasis elsewhere on ogling the leading lady that it's easy to believe that your average Italo movie producer was in the business just to guarantee a supply of girlfriends. I find it fascinating. This Roman monster romp has its sixty seconds of genre greatness, but it can't hold a candle to the Riccardo Freda - Mario Bava Caltiki, promised from Arrow U.S. a little later in this year. It's definitely fun at my age to re-live the matinee excitement I experienced at age nine.

Also, sometime before spring I'll be writing up a modest 20th anniversary mini-article on the restoration of the original conclusion of Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly. Older articles were full of guesses, some rather feeble, on how the mutilation of the final reel was done. I did figure it out soon enough, and will spell out the obvious solution while discussing how perceptions of the film have changed in twenty years. Believe me, once upon a time Kiss Me Deadly was as obscure as an American studio picture could be.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



January 17, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Who?
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 Pity the small scale sci-fi think piece movie in the modern world of action epics. Director Jack Gold successfully interprets Algis Budrys' philosophical musings on cybernetic identity, aided by stars Joe Bova and Elliott Gould. A top scientist returns from East Germany so completely transformed as a robo-man, that the C.I.A. spooks can't decide if he's still himself, or an impostor. The movie has a couple of car chases jammed into its running time but is otherwise a chamber piece about a melancholy metal man unable to claim his own human identity. Also starring Trevor Howard; it's recommended for adventurous Sci-Fi adepts. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/17/17



Two for the Road
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney define the upscale romantic comedy for the middle '60s, although this story of a marriage in trouble touches on serious issues better than most straight dramas. Audrey and Al meet cute as students on a French vacation, which is intercut with three later French car trips, as their relationship sours. With Eleanor Bron, William Daniels and in a sparkling bit, Jacqueline Bisset. The director is Stanley Donen, he of numerous mod directorial touches that miraculously haven't dated. Music by Henry Mancini. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/17/17



and

Gas-s-s-s
- Or - It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It

Olive Films
Blu-ray

 In the interest of completeness regarding everything Roger Corman, here's a best-attitude take on his final opus for A.I.P., a misbegotten post-apocalyptic hippie satire and road movie. Plenty of up 'n' coming talent on view -- Ben Vereen, Elaine Giftos, Cindy Williams, Bud Cort, Talia Shire and writer George Armitage -- but everything else in this show ran into bad luck or was stifled by a bad concept. A.I.P. did a censor hack job behind Roger's back, which prompted him to pull up stakes and take his circus elsewhere. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
01/17/17




Hello!

Sidestepping non-Blu-ray-relevant current events today, let me proceed to a quick review for a book on Science Fiction films. We all know what book Savant prefers to recommend on the subject, but a new item just out is Escape Velocity: American Science Fiction Film, 1950 - 1982 by Bradley Schauer, a handsomely published (Wesleyan University Press) item available both hardcover or softbound. By its cover illustration it promises to offer a new take on the history of Sci-fi pictures. What it really is, is a history of the marketing and audience acceptance of Sci-fi, starting with its low-esteem roots in comic strips of the 1930s, continuing through the boom years of the 1950s and so forth. It's the first book I've read that makes good sense of the continuum of Sci-fi film culture beyond 2001: A Space Odyssey. Schauer tracks the trend through an astute read of the impact and significance of the Star Wars phenomenon, and doesn't let off until the middle 1980s, when we arrive at Sci-fi fantasy as the reigning genre in box office, and with Horror, practically the 'last genre standing.'

As I suspected from knowledgeable info from John McElwee, Bradley Schauer lets us know that few if any of the 1950s sci-fi / horror / monster movies were huge successes. I differ with some of his choices and categories -- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is reclassified not as mainstream A-picture Sci-fi -- but readily acknowledge that the color cheapies The Fly and The Blob were monetarily more successful than all the classics, including The War of the Worlds and Forbidden Planet. Schauer digs into trade records for his information, and is selective about which movies he describes in detail. Actually, there is more information here about general film business trends than the movies themselves. We get plenty of talk about vertical integration and the wresting of theater chains from studio ownership. The author makes his points as to how the genre was built on copycat trends, and flourished because of enterprising exploitation producers. These same producers would eventually burn out the genre with low-grade product. The one issue I'm sorry didn't figure into Schauer's thesis is the new Guild residual rules that kicked in on January 1, 1960; my own theory is that low-budget Hollywood filmmaking vanished or ran away when producers suddenly had to do proper accounting of individual productions.

Schauer's later chapters show an eagerness to define the way pictures like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars altered the filmic landscape in production, exhibition and audience tastes. The immense profits to be had with a winning blockbuster make the entire Sci-Fi output of the 1950s seem a nickel & dime game played for tiny stakes. (I can remember Steven Spielberg telling me that his point(s) on Star Wars, gifted by George Lucas 'for reciprocal fun,' were earning him $10,000 dollars an hour). Schauer goes into the market forces that made E.T. a huge phenomenon, while the same year's The Thing and Blade Runner became notable flops.

I caught a picayune fact or two that seemed like errors, but nothing serious. Schauer's academic-oriented book is a welcome study item for readers eager to learn how the general flow of their favorite movie genre really added up in business-historical terms.


Another good read for the day is correspondent Kyu Hyun Kim's thoughts this week on his blog page Q Branch Mirror Site -- they range from political nervousness, to the state of media discs versus streaming, and finish with his top twenty favorite Blu-rays of 2016. Kim is a consistently aware and insightful observer of the disc scene and has certainly helped me form opinions; I really enjoy reading his well-reasoned writing. He also comes from a fairly different perspective than my own, and it's always good to be shown that one's own viewpoint is never the only choice. It's a great list with good arguments -- and with some movies I was not even aware of.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



January 13, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Mad Magician
Twilight Time
3-D Blu-ray

 Vincent Price in 3-D, sawing off heads and stuffing victims into a portable cremation chamber? Count me in! Eva Gabor and Mary Murphy are on screaming duty as the Great Gallico takes his magician's revenge, avoiding arrest by impersonating his own victims. It's Patrick O'Neal's first feature as well. Director John Brahm sets up his shots beautifully, making the most of the depth illusion. The 3-D on this classic title is excellent, and TT tosses in a pair of Three Stooges comedy short subjects for good measure. On DVD Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/14/17



Revenge of the Blood Beast
Rarovideo
Blu-ray

 Enterprising (and apparently well-financed) tyro film director Michael Reeves linked up with producer Paul Maslansky to cobble together this ultra-quickie Euro-horror effort, tricking Barbara Steele into one very long workday. Babs gets herself possessed by the pug-ugliest witch in screen history, which compels her husband Ian Ogilvy to dodge thugs and the secret police to get her back. A great transfer brings the show back up to snuff -- directorially it's really quite accomplished. Also elbowing in on the no-budget filmmaking fun are actor-director Mel Welles and writer-director Charles B. Griffith. On Blu-ray from Rarovideo.
01/14/17



and

David and Bathsheba
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 Before muscles, nubile nymphets and slippery sanctimony smiteth the Biblical epic, Henry King & Phillip Dunne surprised us with this intelligent examination of a key Old Testament power problem. Gregory Peck's Mighty King David commits adultery with sultry Bathsheba (Susan Hayward). To clear the playing field he sends her husband off to war... but needs to reconcile his sin with unforgiving elders and his own guilty conscience. David's youthful back story is a formative flashback: "Nothing's too good for the man that hath slayed Liberty Goliath." And we also get a first glimpse at a certain holy artifact that serves as a portable carrying case for the Wrath of God. Is David the first Raider of the Lost Ark? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/14/17




Hello! Happy Friday the 13th, if you're reading this early enough.

There's no getting around it -- the air is buzzing with desirable Blu-ray disc announcements. When we last partook of the news here, I waxed enthusiastic about the upcoming titles Dr. Orloff's Monster, Deluge, Invasion of the Bee Girls, The Vampire, The Screaming Skull, I Bury the Living and The Yakuza. Today we have more!

For March, Olive has just announced Robert Altman's The Delinquents with Tom Laughlin; Jules Dassin's Phaedra with Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins and A.I.P.'s down-market Jules Verne comedy, Blast-Off, (aka Those Fantastic Flying Fools) with Burl Ives, Terry-Thomas, Gert Fröbe, Lionel Jeffries and Daliah Lavi.

The Warner Archive Collection has announced Billy Wilder's sentimental Love in the Afternoon with Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper, and Val Guest & Jim Danforth's When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth with Victoria Vetri and various dinosaur guest appearances.

And to top it all off, Arrow USA says today that April will bring us a fully restored, dual language disc of Riccardo Freda & Mario Bava's Caltiki, the Immortal Monster, a title we thought might never surface in a good encoding. I reviewed NoShame's Italo release a number of years back, and it was no beauty. Arrow UK also has a Region B Blu of John Moxey's Christopher Lee horror show City of the Dead (Horror Hotel), which can also use an improved transfer. Arrow lists it was a new 4K restoration by Cohen Film Collection and the BFI. Whattaya know, we've got reasons to stay alive after all, in the coming months.

Joe Dante sends along a NY Times link to a bit of recovered Marilyn Monroe film footage, and I mean a bit. It's mostly a text rehashing old news, but even 2.6 seconds of new Monroe imagery is worth the click. The link is The Lost Footage of Marilyn Monroe by Helen Stapinski.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



January 10, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Something Wild
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

  Jack Garfein's arty, emotionally searing urban nightmare is yet another Savant favorite that I feel compelled to personally defend. A young rape victim loses her grip on life, and finds herself incapable of dealing with the oppressive indifference and hostility of the big city. Then she becomes a prisoner of a lonely man who claims he only wants to help her. Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker deliver terrific acting in the style of The Method, creating a theatrical reality on the docu-real New York streets. Finally mastered in high quality, featuring the great cinematography of Eugen Schüfftan and the powerful music of Aaron Copland. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/10/17



The Accountant
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray + DVD

  Ben Affleck is a combo 'Rain Man' and 'Terminator' in this well written, excitingly filmed violent conspiracy-assassination thriller that stops just short of being a comic book fantasy. An accountant for the mob & big business makes millions laundering money, but must take extreme measures to keep from being killed by his employers. Hel's both a genius with numbers and an unstoppable killing machine, and the movie is so well made that the concept doesn't come off as ludicrous. With Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, John Lithgow and Jean Smart. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.
01//1017



and

The Keys of the Kingdom
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 Back in the 1940s Fox made the best and most intelligent movies with spiritual themes. This A.J. Cronin story of a Scottish Priest doing good missionary works in China made a star out of young Gregory Peck, whose integrity and honesty comes across strongly in every scene. Peck's Father Chisolm wins converts on a personal basis, and even accepts an atheist as a friend. Vincent Price is a politically savvy church bureaucrat who provides the negative contrast. With Thomas Mitchell, Rose Stradner, Roddy McDowall and Edmund Gwenn; Peck was nominated for an acting Oscar. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/10/17




Hello!

From out of the blue: correspondent Craig Reardon is always sending me great music links. We were talking about composer John Barry, and he sent along a nice YouTube link to Barry's The Girl with the Sun in Her Hair. I'd never heard it before - it's very pretty. The music was originally associated with a shampoo commercial in England.

We have some hard dates to report for genre product: From Kino's KL Studio Classics comes Jesus Franco's Dr. Orloff's Monster (El secreto del Dr. Orloff) with a commentary by Tim Lucas (February 7) and RKO's long lost post-apocalyptic disaster movie Deluge, with a commentary by Richard Harland Smith (February 21).

From Scream Factory will arrive Invasion of the Bee Girls (April 4), The Vampire and Demented (April 11), and The Screaming Skull and I Bury the Living (April 25). I'm already getting enthusiastic emails about Albert Band's I Bury the Living.

And in February, from The Warner Archive Collection, come Ken Takakura and Robert Mitchum in Sydney Pollock's 1975 The Yakuza, a sensationally good movie that will surely improve mightily in HD Blu-ray.

That's future news. Just in the door at DVD Savant are Twilight Time's January titles --Alan J Pakula's Comes a Horseman, Stanley Donen's Two for the Road, Vincent Price in The Mad Magician (in 3-D, with a pair of 3-D Three Stooges short subjects) and Martin Ritt's Stanley and Iris.

Fun time: Correspondent Keith West sends us to a web scan of the original Mad Magazine takeoff on The Barefoot Contessa, by Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis from MAD Comics #23, May 1955: The Barefoot Nocountesssa. It's as mind-numbing as one expects -- and it starts with a parody of the art illustration that I thought looked like a wooly monster in my review of the Twilight Time disc.

And as a welcome parting shot, Joe Dante forwards this pretty amazing comparison of John Ford western scenes in Monument Valley to the actual location today. It's pretty amazing, seeing how so many remote locations in something like The Searchers were filmed more or less on the same spot. I've seen these pictures at least ten times each, and every new comparison is an eye-opener. The Google Earth images threw me until reader Paul Penna straightened me out -- the dramatic rocks haven't actually weathered away today, as they seem to have. Dante calls it The Greatest Backlot Ever, which makes sense when one realizes how many breathtakingly different vistas are compacted into one small area. It's a thirteen-minute Vimeo video called Landscape in Paradigms: Ford's Monument Valley, by Booth Wilson.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



January 06, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Barefoot Contessa
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

  Joseph L. Mankiewicz goes the Hollywood route with a 'Citizen Kane'-like look at a glamorous, exotic movie star that nobody really knows. Ava Gardner is the cabaret dancer-turned screen siren who makes three films but remains an almost complete mystery; Humphrey Bogart is the director who gets close enough to share a friendship and perhaps understand her better. Complicit in this dissection of life for the 1% back in 1954 are Edmond O'Brien, Marius Goring, Valentina Cortese, Rossano Brazzi, Elizabeth Sellars and Warren Stevens. The glorious romantic music is by Mario Nascimbene, and the glowing glamour cinematography is the work of the great Jack Cardiff. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/07/17



The Internecine Project
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  James Coburn is a corporate spook with a private dirty tricks/spy organization; he needs to erase his past to take a presidential post and so determines to have his four operatives kill each other -- none of them knowing that each is a target. Sounds topical right now, ya think? It's a tight little show rigged with a can't-fail suspense mechanism and loaded with a twist we can't predict. Aiding and abetting Coburn in murder and/or political crimes are Lee Grant, Harry Andrews, Ian Hendry, Michael Jayston, Christiane Krüger and Keenan Wynn. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/07/17



and

Battleground
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

 The war had been over for only four years, but Dore Schary brought it back as a combat nostalgia piece, to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice at the Battle of the Bulge. Confined mostly to soundstage interiors, William Wellman gets across the hardship and bitter cold, with a superb ensemble cast: John Hodiak, Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy, Marshall Thompson, Don Taylor, James Whitmore, Douglas Fowley, Leon Ames, Guy Anderson, Denise Darcel, Richard Jaeckel, James Arness. With a terrific extra: an HD encoding of Tex Avery's Little Rural Riding Hood, the one with the wolf that talks like Tom Conway. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/07/17




Hello!

I received a nice note from fellow Hollywoodite Jeff Rosen, who long ago programmed film (and sometimes projected, I think) for the New Beverly Theater over near La Brea, the place now run by Quentin Tarantino. In last week's review for His Girl Friday I related an incident from the early '80s where I tried to see a double bill of movies owned by Howard Hughes, but was turned away when the New Bev maestro Sherman Torgan (pictured, left) stopped patrons at the door with the news that Hughes' lawyers had put the kaibosh on the screening.

On January 4 Jeff wrote in with a welcome fix / elaboration on the incident:

"Glenn, Minor correction. The New Bev double bill was Hell's Angels with The Outlaw. I was the one who got Sherman to screen the unseen Howard Hughes pictures. I even went to The Library of Congress to check if the film's copyright had expired. A lawyer from Summa (Hughes' Company) showed up claiming copyright based on music continuity, etc. THe real reason was that Hughes' estate was trying to sell all of his films to Universal and did not want any complications to reduce the price of the sale. I knew Scarface was still under copyright and did not cross that line.

Anyway, pushing Sherman to run the films was probably one of my biggest mistakes. The L.A. Times gave the screening an unexpected push of publicity, which did not help. It's funny -- today it seems that the exhibition of older pictures has turned into a Wild West. Studios are not so concerned where prints come from, as long as you pay for exhibition, even if they did not supply the print. -- Jeff Rosen"


Is home video 3-D about to become extinct? Say it ain't so!

I've just been told that the LG Company is dropping 3-D from its line of OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) 4k televisions, news that has arrived over a year after we were told that lower-end TV companiess were abandoning the technology. I'd have to think that, if only high-end sets will be capable of playing 3-D, disc companies will drop the format. Disney has already cut back 3-D on some of its high-end titles. When I helped a friend buy a new TV last year, I don't remember seeing any other company's models that combined 4k and 3-D, without costing a fortune. That means that when my nice LG monitor goes kaput in several years (hopefully more than that) my 3-D collection may well become unplayable, joining my laserdiscs, VHS tapes and large 3/4" and other pro format tapes rotting in the attic.

If you've never seen Blu-ray 3-D, believe me it's great -- brighter and more consistent than most theatrical 3-D. The passive glasses are no bother at all to wear, and cheap, too. I'd complain that marketing greed is to blame, but in a non-competitive non-capitalist system nobody would bother with miracles like 3-D TV. No product seems to survive unless it secures an ever-expanding mass customer base. Is the 3-D wave of the Millennium almost finished? It's surely on the endangered list.

Gary Teetzel adds that retailers insist that Blu-ray 3-D lost out because 'people didn't want to wear the glasses at home.' As far as I'm concerned, that only applies to the old, expensive battery-powered active glasses. Gary pointedly adds that the hot technology of the moment is Virtual Reality, which requires a big clunky pair of goggles!

One more thing --the funny Michael Schlesinger has a new commentary up on the trailer for Sh! The Octopus, over at Trailers from Hell...

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



January 03, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.


2017

Savant's new reviews today are:

The People vs. Fritz Bauer
Cohen Media Group
Blu-ray

 What happens when a prosecutor tracks down one of the most evil criminals of the century, only to find that politics and corruption prevent him from issuing a warrant? This is the true story of the hunt for the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann -- not from the POV of the Israeli agents that pounced on him in Argentina, but that of a German prosecutor hemmed in on all sides by Nazi sympathizers in his own government bureaucracy. With Burghardt Klaußner and Ronald Zehrfeld. On Blu-ray from Cohen Media Group.
01/03/17



His Girl Friday and The Front Page
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 The restoration of a newly rediscovered director's cut of the 1931 The Front Page prompts this two-feature comedy disc -- Lewis Milestone's early talkie plus the sublime Howard Hawks remake, which plays a major gender switch on the main characters of Hecht & MacArthur's original play. Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien star in one version, and Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in the cockeyed remake. One's pre-Code and saucy, the second is likely the screwball comedy with the fastest English dialogue deliveries in history. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/03/17



and

The Driller Killer
Arrow US
Blu-ray + DVD

 It's icky, drippy and grindingly gross -- and will make your forehead itch -- but Abel Ferrara's Bowery-set dime store horror opus has withstood the test of time. It's a decent enough psychodrama, if one can set aside all the psychological-philosophical booshwah that's leaked into horror criticism. Oops, Savant's guilty of that too. The crude but sincere Ferrara plays the lead and packs a mean 3/8-inch skull jabber, which works just as well entering the heart from the front, the back, rain or shine. And it comes with a battery pack, convenient accessories and a Home Depot warranty. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow US.
01/03/17




Hello!

It's quiet on Larchmont today, with only dog-walkers about. The traffic is light and I assume some big games are on TV. Yet Savant is thumping away at new reviews, moving forward and grabbing a couple that I missed from November and December. I've just seen a recommendation for the James Coburn movie The Internecine Project so that just got moved higher on the list. But is it something I saw long ago and didn't like? I guess I'll find out.

Coming in a few weeks and highly anticipated: Jack Garfein's Something Wild (Criterion), the rediscovered Deluge (Kino) and an American disc of the French The Sicilian Clan (Kino), which I hope will favor the superior French (International) version.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


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

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