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March 31, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Vampire Bat
The Film Detective
Blu-ray


 Another impressive horror restoration! Majestic Pictures pulls together a great cast, including Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill, for a smart gothic horror outing complete with squeaky bats, a flipped-out village idiot (Dwight Frye!), a crazed mad scientist (the worst kind) and a lynch mob with torches that have been hand-tinted in color. Melvyn Douglas is the debonair flatfoot assigned to solve a series of vampire killings. The former Public Domain oddity receives a new lease on horror-life, courtesy of a restoration by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
04/01/17



The Skull
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 Peter Cushing! Christopher Lee! Each is at the top of his game, playing competing collectors of occult incunabula -- the kind that comes with a satanic curse, when the purloined item in question is the Skull Of The infamous, despicable and sharp-toothed Marquis De Sade! Freddie Francis directs up a storm in this amicable Amicus chiller: the mysterious skull-duggery is beautifully shot and edited, giving the horror scenes a real bite... from the unpredictably mischievous & murderous title artifact. With top-rank analysis input from Jonathan Rigby, Kim Newman and, from our side of the pond, the Marquis de Tim Lucas. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
04/01/17



and

'How to Succeed' -- Take 2
A DVD Savant Article


 It's a follow-up to my March 25 review of Twilight Time's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. With correspondent input, Savant rebuts his own review in the interest of better accuracy. I basically said that little had been changed from the stage play because I was ignorant / UA bribed me and then got an earful of corrections, 'with a little help from my friends.' BUT, one of them wrote a convincing account of how How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was changed en route from stage to screen. Face it, either musicals matter and you'll want to read this, or stick to the vintage horror reviews. We beg your indulgence!
04/01/17




Hello!

I wanted to have four new items today, but only made three, prompting a reminder that people don't come here for volume. And I'm doing a little better in avoiding egregious errors (an unwise thing to say upon uploading reviews).

Meanwhile, I have a worthwhile book to tout.

Tom Weaver is the editor of new film book in his 'Scripts from the Crypt' series, which gets my attention because I like his writing style and especially his sense of humor. Up this time is a script book on Dracula's Daughter, which is an excellent choice because there's more to this show than just fan idolatry. It's one of the more serious early Universal horror pix. Savant is a pushover for pix with something to say), and the 1936 chiller is wrapped in a number of issues. There's the difficulty of continuing the vampire theme, and the problem of how to keep Bela Lugosi in the picture, even though his 1931 Dracula character was confirmed as D.O.A.. The show also came at bad time for horror pix and the studio itself. The Laemmles were in the process of losing the studio, with Drac's Daughter and the budget busting Show Boat two of the last Laemmle films out the Universal gate. Worse, the new ownership of Uni was partly from the UK, and that country's censorship had all but outlawed Uni-style monsters and ghouls.

Tom edits the book and adds a fat gallery of trade paper references, and errata derived from ads, promo copy, various letters and other found correspondence, all annotated with is his authoritative observations. He's even rounded up a note from the Daughter herself, Gloria Holden. The book intro is by David Colton, and the main essay by Gary D. Rhodes. Nearly fifty pages in length, it digs deep into the show's twisted genesis, describing all the twists and turns of several treatments and scripts, and the studio politics behind them. Then come the actual shooting script (before changes made on the set), several treatments and partial treatments, and excerpts from another script draft. The writers did back-flips to remove 'supernatural' content, leaving the path open for the psychosexual interpretation many see in the film today. The book is heavily illustrated and appointed. I read the whole script and two of the treatments, with the result that I now have to make time to see D's D again, to process what I've learned. Here is the link to the hardback version, forthwith: Dracula's Daughter by Gary D. Rhodes.


"Why Do Not You Come and See?" Forwarded by Gary Teetzel is this rather pricey-looking Japanese tourism ad: 'Come on Kanmon Straits!'  It's quite a production, but is anybody really going to rush to a place just because the current is strong? That, and I'm not sure the spot really communicates why the big beastie is having difficulty staying on its feet. Is it fair to assume that the advertisement is in English to attract Americans? If so, they really ought to hire some Japanese-American actors capable of reading a line of English dialogue.


Gary has also tipped me to some more desirable upcoming disc announcements:

Kino Classics has Mario Bava's Kill, Baby... Kill! on tap for June 13, with a host of extras. Wa-a-y back in 2007 the cancellation of a Dark Sky DVD deprived fans of a great Tim Lucas commentary. The new Blu-ray will reportedly sport a new, improved Lucas gab track. Not having seen the movie for ten years, I'm hoping it will grab me this time -- the experts rate it as Bava's crowning achievement. Robert Monell once wrote me a persuasive argument for it, but I've never been carried away. Maybe it was the lack of an Italian audio track -- a problem this disc will reportedly correct. As Savant readers know, I can be an original-language snob with language choices. My one holdout movie for a dub track used to be The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, until Robert Seletsky got me access to the superior Italian original.

Yet more Teetzel disc alerts: Kino is getting into the old David O. Selznick library, a pack of pictures all in need of improved transfers. I imagine that the delirious Duel in the Sun would be too much to ask for, due to the problems of IB Tech movies like Forever Amber -- full digital restorations are prohibitive. But the first Selznick title announced is William Dieterle's Portrait of Jennie, the superlative amour fou fantasy. All it will take to make this a great disc is a decent HD transfer, with a punchy soundtrack. We dreamers would of course love to see extras, or perhaps a transfer of a second version, detailing how Selznick released, cut, and re-released the film under more than one title, all for love of Jennifer Jones. I play my old DVD every so often just to hear the music again, With the Claude Debussy themes orchestrated by Dimitri Tiomkin and Bernard Herrmann (and Herrmann's own eerie 'Jennie' song) it's a 90-minute audio poem.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 28, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Invisible Ghost
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 Bela Lugosi fan alert! This Monogram horror opus is yet another narrative-challenged fumble of unmotivated, incomprehensible characters... but Bela's great in it, in a central role. He's a sympathetic, non- maniac this time, if you don't count his tendency to go into trances and smother random houseguests. Savant's review has the lowdown on the interesting cast; Tom Weaver commentary has the authoritative lowdown on whole show. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/28/17



Blow-Up
The Criterion Collection
Elle
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Two Blu-rays
reviewed by Charlie Largent


 Two Guest Reviews from Trailers From Hell's Charlie Largent: Michelangelo Antonioni's alienation circus goes mainstream in Blow-Up with David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave; and Paul Verhoeven guides Isabelle Huppert through yet another strange cinema journey in Elle, which won Ms. Huppert an Oscar nomination. Two class-act art pix are separated by half a century... which one looks more modern. On separate Blu-ray releases from The Criterion Collection and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
03/28/17



Julieta
Sony Pictures Classics
Blu-ray


 Pedro Almodóvar bounces back with an absorbing saga of a mother and daughter told in an interesting style. A woman feels isolated, powerless, alone and anguished about what has happened in her life. Is any of it her fault? Or is all of it her fault? How do we hold relationships together, or do they fall apart no matter what we do? Highly rewarding dramas still exist; they don't all go begging for Oscar nominations... just learn to read subtitles and you too can find out how the rest of the world lives. On Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Classics.
03/28/17



and

Peyton Place
Twilight Time
Blu-ray


 The book was raw & dirty, and did you read what that girl did with that guy on page 167? Racking up a stack of Oscar nominations, Peyton Place became one of the big hits of its year, launched the careers of several young actors, and proved that Hollywood could pasteurize most any so-called un-filmable book. Lana Turner is the nominal star but the leading actress is Diane Varsi, in her film debut. With Hope Lange, Russ Tamblyn, Lloyd Nolan, Arthur Kennedy, Betty Field and Terry Moore; on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
03/28/17




Hello!

Some quick chat today... almost as soon as I uploaded my How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying review on Saturday, I received a response from a close friend, who convinced me that I had gotten one big fact about it very wrong -- major changes were indeed made in the adaptation process, that in his opinion did the show great harm. I asked another correspondent what he knew, and got back what I think is a good take on the differences between the Broadway How to Succeed and what David Swift filmed. Rather than simply amend my article, I've decided to run a second short article -- essentially my correspondent's rebuttal / explanation essay. I should have it up Saturday.



An interesting surprise greeted me on the cover of last week's The New Yorker: I rushed to tell my video producer that he had made the magazine cover, or at least something he produced had. In 2003 he put together the extras for the first major special DVD edition of West Side Story, which included an hour-long video documentary edited by myself.

The March 27 magazine cover has artwork by Luci Gutiérrez, showing a keepsakes shelf in the shape of Manhattan Island. Square in the middle is a representation of the bright red DVD box for that popular, award-winning West Side Story disc set. I don't know of any WSS- related product that looks exactly like that ... programs and pamphlets would be bigger or a different shape, and so would a CD of the soundtrack. Ah, yes, immortality has arrived, in one square inch of nationwide cover space. People across the country will see this and think, 'why, isn't that that little red box the one that holds such fine work from that nice young Erickson man?'

What could be more satisfying? Donations to the Ain't Savant Swell Ego Foundation are now being accepted... debit cards only, please.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 25, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 Broadway's delightful -- and wickedly accurate -- satire of big business was brought to movie screens almost intact, with the story, the stars, the styles and dances kept as they were in the long-running show that won a Pulitzer Prize. This is the place to see Robert Morse and Michele Lee at their best -- it's one of the best, and least appreciated movie musicals of the 1960s. That's F - I - N - C- H, Finch. With Rudy Vallee, Anthony Teague, Maureen Arthur, Ruth Kobart, Sammy Smith. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
03/25/17



Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J.K. Rowling / Warners
3-D Blu-ray

 J. K. Rowling is back with a wizard world tale over which she has complete control -- a diverting period adventure starring Eddie Redmayne and scores of fanciful magic creatures that belong on an endangered species list. Yep, it's 2+plus hours of CGI illusions -- in glorious 3-D for those so equipped, and Ms. Rowling has populated it with charming, personable actors. "You know -- for adults." On 3-D Blu-ray from J.K. Rowling / Warners.
03/25/17



and

23 Paces to Baker Street
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 No, not a blind Sherlock Holmes, but a blind Van Johnson, who directs his butler, his girlfriend Vera Miles and the London police to thwart a crime based on something he overheard in a bar. Henry Hathaway directs a complicated murder mystery that plays like a combo of Rear Window and Wait Until Dark, with a cranky Van Johnson as the central character. Also featuring the interesting actress Patricia Laffan. Terrific CinemaScope views of 1950s London. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/25/17






Hello! .... Interesting... two of my reviewed films today were based on non-narrative 'guide books' -- one on climbing the company ladder, another about fanciful wizards. Just sayin'.

Some links today ---

Dick Dinman interviews Eddie Muller about the recent Warner Archive Collection release of Nicholas Ray's On Dangerous Ground; more online podcast shows can be found at the sidebar at the right of the page.




Gary Teetzel tips us off to an article by Marielle Wakim, about an art installation that replicates a legendary room from a famous film -- There's a Replica of the Otherworldly Bedroom from 2001: A Space Odyssey in a DTLA Warehouse. Do you want to find your inner Dave Bowman, somewhere out near Infinity and Beyond?"




I've got the following titles ready to review -- Blu-rays of Evelyn, Peyton Place, The Skull, Julieta, Being There, A Game of Death, The Invisible Ghost, Lifeboat, The Delinquents, Blast-Off, Blow-Up and The Wanderers. Urgently anticipated are Arrow's Story of Sin and Caltiki, the Immortal Monster, and also the Warner Archive Collection's Ride the High Country. I would also like to revisit two titles in alternate Region B discs -- On the Beach and Eyes Without a Face -- but these 'local' titles need to get covered first.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 21, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Tower
Kino Lorber
Blu-ray

 A fateful day is re-examined by its survivors, whose stories are told via a brilliant narrative arrangement, and the use of animated recreations is only one aspect of it. The Texas tower shootings put our present, everyday reign of violent terror in a humanist context. It's not exploitative -- the killer's name is barely mentioned. It works, it's riveting, and its positive message is one of calm sanity. Highly recommended. Directed by Keith Maitland... and I can see why it is the best- reviewed documentary of 2016. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
03/21/17



Multiple Maniacs
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Reviewer Charlie Largent examines John Waters' breakthrough production from way back in 1970. How are these for product description keywords?: "grotesque, depravity, blasphemous, mockery, Cavalcade of Perversion, misfits, shocking proclivities, anarchic masterwork." I'm told that the extras, which include a new director commentary, are revelatory: an interview piece gives us the input of Pat Moran, Mink Stole, Susan Lowe, George Figgs, and Vincent Peranio. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
03/21/17



Fences
Paramount
Blu-ray

 Verdict? The film of August Wilson's play is absorbing, intense. If we rate by quality of writing, acting skill, and the craft of direction, Denzel Washington's film betters most of its fellow Best Picture nominees. It's also something positive for the arts, a 'black experience' play that can't be pigeonholed as merely black- themed. The appeal of its compelling characters goes beyond racial boundaries. Viola Davis did win a well- deserved Oscar, and this is fine work from one end to the other.On Blu-ray from Paramount.
03/21/17



and

Phaedra
Olive Films
Blu-ray

 Or, "Never on Sunday with Your Stepson."   Director Jules Dassin's monument to his beloved Melina Mercouri transposes a Greek tragedy to a modern setting. The pampered wife of a shipping magnate is like a queen of old -- she can fling a priceless gem into the Thames on just a whim, and she goes in whatever direction her heart takes her. When her attractive stepson Anthony Perkins enters the picture, there will be Hell to Pay. It's a case of exaggerated romantic delirium, and if that's your style there's nothing better. Co-starring Raf Vallone; great music by Mikis Theodorakis. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
03/21/17




Hello!

Something simple and fun today here at the Savant column -- one of correspondent Gary Teetzel's fine movie reviews. I rely on Gary's taste, and he hasn't steered me wrong yet (except we disagree on Something Wild '61.)   The show in question is Kong: Skull Island, and Gary doesn't waste time on generalities (my great sin).

Saw Kong: Skull Island the other day...

The good news: The film effects are excellent and there are some well-done monster battles. Unlike Legendary's fairly ponderous Godzilla '14, this Kong is well-paced and, at a little under two hours, doesn't overstay its welcome. If you just want a giant monster film to eat popcorn by, it's satisfactory if uninspired.

Unfortunately, overall the film is pretty thin gruel. It's a string of action set pieces and not much else. One doesn't go into a film like this expecting or necessarily wanting anything terribly profound, but one is at least hoping for some clever touches, or a fresh take on the material. These are mostly lacking in Kong: SI.

Kong is presented as a scowling, perpetually pissed-off brute. There is little of the curiosity of other screen Kongs, and no loving devotion to a female protagonist. He stares at Brie Larson and lets her touch his face in one scene, and he does indeed rescue her in another--and that's it. This Kong isn't going to turn New York upside down looking for her. The filmmakers are more concerned with emphasizing his size and power than building up our sympathy for him; they seem to be counting on audience good will toward the monster from previous Kong films to take care of that for them. (Speaking of Kong's size: when the forthcoming Kong vs. Godzilla was announced, fans wondered how Kong, if kept to his traditional proportions, would be able to fight the far larger Zilla '14. The answer is they made Kong bigger than usual, and said that he's a juvenile, so presumably he can get even bigger before his title bout with the terror from Toho.)

The humans in the film aren't so much characters as they are stock genre figures or plot conveniences. The talented John Goodman is wasted in a part that is little more than exposition. Once we get to the island he's mostly forgotten--until he's needed to provide more exposition. Tom Hiddleston is the Hero With a Past--although we never really learn what it is, other than that he was a soldier and presumably saw some Really Bad Things. He's hired to be a tracker, but doesn't do any tracking in the film, although he does take charge and gives lots of advice. Brie Larson is in the film, probably just because the writers figured there HAD to be a woman in a Kong movie for him to make goo-goo eyes at. She is given nothing interesting to do. Samuel L. Jackson is an army Colonel who goes all Captain Ahab after a number of his men are killed by the giant ape. His performance isn't much of a departure from what we've seen before from him, but he does inject a good amount of energy into the film.

Among the leads, this leaves John C. Reilly as a World War II pilot stranded on Skull Island since the 40's. He's the Comic Relief and secondary source of expository information. The movie tries for some sentimentality with the character as he yearns for his wife and son, but this material doesn't blend well with the comedy. Reilly is at least a break from all the soldiers and scientists; it's a relief when he shows up to bring a different tone to the proceedings.

Reilly has been living on the island with some natives who are treated as set dressing. They have no dialogue and are not individualized. Again, the writers seem to have injected them into the film solely because their Writing for Kong 101 handbook said there must be natives who worship Kong and build a big wall.

Some of the marketing for the film evoked Apocalypse Now; as with that film, Kong: SI works in allusions to the book Heart of Darkness. Hiddleston's character is named 'Conrad', and Reilly's is 'Marlow.' Perhaps the writers thought of Sam Jackson's character as their crazy Colonel Kurtz, but, as mentioned, he's closer to Ahab. None of these allusions add anything to the film; maybe they're there so we'll think the writers must be smart, because they reference a classic novel (that most of us read in High School).

As for the links that connect this film to Godzilla '14 in a shared 'Monsterverse': John Goodman's character works for Monarch, the super-secret government organization introduced in the earlier film. Except it can't be TOO secret, because in Goodman's first scene he's walking around in public carrying a briefcase with MONARCH emblazoned on it in big gold letters. (Observing Vietnam protestors, Goodman remarks that Washington will never again be as screwed up, which prompted laughter from the audience.) In the previous film, Monarch was aware of Godzilla's existence since 1954, yet in this film giant monsters are discussed as an unproven theory. Huh? The monsters in Godzilla '14 were referred to as ancient 'alpha predators' who survived into the modern era by ... uh ... don't ask so many questions. In Kong: SI we're told that the Earth is hollow -- or at least has large hollow pockets -- and the monsters are just hanging out underground ... although Skull Island is above ground, so what does this have to do with a crackpot Hollow Earth theory? Finally, there is a Marvel-style post- credits scene that teases the appearance of some of Godzilla's Kaiju kin in the next installment of the Legendary Monsterverse, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

So, in summary, Kong: Skull Island is a nice try, but the '33 ape is still the King. -- Gary




AND ... great news -- the Warner Archive Collection's first disc release for April will be Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country, one of the top westerns of all time. I've seen it in HD and it looks sensational -- all the detail and color that can no longer be accessed in photochemical printing is brought out. It's no longer a brown-on-brown movie, but a rainbow of warm hues: the 'browns' break up into everything from hay gold to ruddy red leather. The old gunslingers don't wear makeup, so Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea give us everything -- age spots, liver spots, the whole works. The Wild Bunch may be Peckinpah's violent masterpiece, but Ride the High Country is equally wonderful -- everybody loves it, across the board -- women, kids, liberals, conservatives, Sierra Clubbers.... can you tell I like this movie? I still silently thank professor Jim Kitses for showing it to us back at UCLA.

Other WAC Blu-rays just announced: James Garner in 36 Hours and The Wheeler Dealers, Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda in The Rounders, Delmer Daves' Spencer's Mountain, and.... and.... everyone's favorite walking tree Z-movie, From Hell It Came! And it's not April Fool's Day. Remember guys, marijuana is still only quasi-legal, at least on the Federal level.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 18, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Our Man in Havana
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 It's Obi-Wan versus Fidel! Well, not really. The pre-Bond espionage genre lights up with cool intrigues and comic absurdities, as a Brit vacuum salesman in Havana is recruited to spy for Her Majesty's Secret Service. The filmmakers and stars are all top caliber, and the location is legendary: Castro's Cuba, immediately after the revolution. Alec Guinness is the inoffensive spy, Maureen O'Hara as his clerical assistant, Burl Ives as a holdover from the days of the Kaiser, and the great Ernie Kovacs in a superb character role. Plus some English guy named Noël Coward who did some stuff back when sometime. In glowing B&W CinemaScope. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
03/18/17



Film and Notfilm
The Milestone Cinematheque
Blu-ray

 An experimental film by an Irish playwright, shot in New York with a silent comedian at the twilight of his career? Samuel Beckett's inquiry into the nature of movies (and existence?) befuddled viewers not versed in film theory; Ross Lipman's retrospective documentary about its making asks all the questions and gets some good answers. The first disc contains a classic TV version of Waiting for Godot with Burgess Meredith and Zero Mostel; the docu disc has enough key source interview input to stock a semester's study of the iconoclastic Beckett, in depth. Separate releases on Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.
03/18/17



and

Summer Storm
Sprocket Vault / Kit Parker
DVD

 Here's a real gem -- a 'classic' Chekhov story turned into a compelling tale of lust and murder. George Sanders and Linda Darnell shine as a judge and the peasant girl who intrigues him; Edward Everett Horton is excellent cast against type in a dramatic role. Director Douglas Sirk makes a tiny production look like something from MGM, or better. With Anna Lee, Hugo Haas and Sig Ruman; it's a fine example of a great movie, un-affiliated with a major studio, which needs to be remembered. On DVD from Sprocket Vault / Kit Parker.
03/18/17




Hello! Here are three links that will change your life!

(I'm trying out my new freedom to lie in public with impunity. As I'm male and white and not very young, I understand that this is now my trickle-down privilege.)

Over at The Passionate Moviegoer, Joe Baltake notes Disney's big push to promote a certain live-action musical remake of an animated film that's already been a stage musical, and responds by demanding a release of Disney's long-suppressed live-action + animation film Song of the South. My response is that the Gods of Pee Cee are not likely to let this one through, simply because it's bad for beeswax. The pundits still calling this the year of diversity payback for the Academy aren't going to stand for it either. I credit my thoughtful but ruthlessly honest former co-worker Teresa Wright for setting me straight on the reality of how today's blacks react to blackface in movies, Butterfly McQueen, Stepin Fetchit, etc. I will forever have the luxury of waving off the offense, whereas those affected cannot. I don't see much in the way of a mass black audience for old Hollywood pictures at all, as they're so consistently racist… I mean, look at the crowds for TCM festivals some time. Of course everything should be made available but I hardly expect the suits at Dizz-nay to put their necks in a public relations noose. So good luck with that one, Joe.

NPR was plugging for Disney today with a variety item where people could call in to suggest animated Disney movies that ought to be turned into live-action musicals. I personally am all Bah! and Humbug! on the notion of animated movies imitating Broadway musicals, and reserve my right to be stubborn in my bias. The discussion was so depressing that I turned the dial looking for something more relaxing. Like, you know, Trump news. Just to keep my peace of mind, I find myself lately defaulting to a Classical Music radio station. When the Pods get people like me to simply give up and turn off the news, they'll have won.


Is this next item a timely movie-related report? Thoughtful correspondent Bart Steele directs my attention to a Orlando Sentinel story about an aviation mishap that bears more than a passing resemblance to a 'campy' movie plot hook in that old pre- Airplane! aerial disaster drama Fate Is the Hunter. Bart has a point -- the 'silly' event isn't so silly when it happens in real life. The only question is - what aircraft equipment can be compromised by somebody spilling a soft drink in the passenger cabin?


And finally, Gary Teetzel points me to a favorite cheerful and optimistic subject, nuclear annihilation. Apparently some scientific-type people have grants to scan, preserve and study old 1950s and '60s atom test footage, and post it on the web. You can see tons newly uploaded atom blasts at the Paleofuture page, helpfully titled Rare Nuclear Test Films Saved, Declassified, and Uploaded to YouTube. It's accompanied by an article by Matt Novak. Actually, these appear to be H-Bomb tests, of the humungous variety, so I'd better call them Hydrogen Blasts. Some of the air bursts are just vague blurs a hundred miles away through the haze; a few others are those scary things that look like giant blisters, covered with smaller, boiling plasma bubbles, that resemble a glass-blower's nightmare or something from the 12th dimension. Fascinating and scary.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 14, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

World Without End
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

  "Thru the Time Barrier, 552 years Ahead... Roaring To the Far Reaches of Titanic Terror, Crash-Landing Into the Nightmare Future!"    ... and as Daffy Duck says, "And it's good, too!" Allied Artists sends CinemaScope and Technicolor on a far-out timewarp to a place where the men are silly and the women... very female. Hugh Marlowe stars but the picture belongs to hunky Rod Taylor and leggy Nancy Gates.. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
03/14/17



September Storm
Kino Classics
3-D Blu-ray

  3-D in CinemaScope? That seems like a strange combination, but this obscure treasure hunt adventure with Joanne Dru and Mark Stevens is indeed billed as being filmed in the 'Miracle of Stereo-Vision,' five years after the demise of Hollywood's first fling with 'depthies.' Kino and the 3-D Film Archives extras include two vintage 3-D shorts, one of them never screened in 3-D. With Robert Strauss and Asher Dann. On 3-D Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
03/14/17



and

Cinema Paradiso
Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

  Giuseppe Tornatore's ode to the Italian love of movies was a major hit here in 1990, despite being severely cut by Miramax. A young visitor to a projectionist's booth falls in love with images on screen, and eventually takes over the job. In 2002 the director reworked his long version into an almost three-hour sentimental epic that enlarges the film's scope and deepens its sentiments. Both versions are included. Starring Philippe Noiret, Antonella Attili and Salvatore Cascio. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
03/14/17




Hello!

Various notes today... the archive website for writer Mark Bourne has changed. Mark passed away suddenly a few years back but left a wealth of fine writing that I first discovered at the long-gone The DVD Journal page. I still go back and read his work just to enjoy his personality, and for simple writing inspiration.

The composer of a new score for Alfred Hitchcock's silent The Lodger has leaked the unexpected pre-announcement news that it's coming on Blu-ray from Criterion. We want decent remasters of Alfie's The Secret Agent and Blackmail!

Gary Teetzel reported that blurb, and also the happy news that Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's 1961 One, Two, Three is on the way to Blu-ray from Kino... with, I'm happy to say, a new commentary track by Michael Schlesinger. It ought to be terrific. I saw Michael introduce the story of Coca-Cola manager C.R. MacNamara back at an early TCM film fest, to a crowd of viewers that had never seen it and certainly weren't ready for the experience -- if people don't understand the political jitters in West Berlin around the time of the Berlin Wall, the movie won't make any sense. Michael set it up beautifully, and had everyone laughing before the lights went down.

I also remember the first time I saw One, Two, Three myself. It was on the ABC network in 1965, and I didn't get to see the whole thing -- it was interrupted by President Lyndon Baines Johnson tweeting coming on TV live to announce that he was sending half a million troops to Vietnam. Ouch. James Cagney, Horst Bucholz and Pamela Tiffin are great -- but I always think of Arlene Francis in this picture. Although she gets some of the funniest lines here, I still never forgot Ms. Francis from the pre-Code Bela Lugosi shocker Murders in the Rue Morgue. Her one scene shows her being tortured to death while chained to a crucifix-like wooden "X." That wasn't as funny.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 11, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it. (I haven't reviewed this one!)

Savant's new reviews today are:

Compulsion
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 This classy Fox production was considered the epitome of sick film subject matter in the pre- Psycho year of 1959, at least in terms of mainstream Hollywood. The true story of jazz-age thrill killers Leopold & Loeb plays out with little alteration from the facts. Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman are the nihilistic child murderers; Orson Welles stops the show with his portrayal of Clarence Darrow, going under a different name. With Diane Varsi, Martin Milner, E.G. Marshall and Richard Anderson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/11/17



We Are the Flesh
Arrow Video
Lovers on the Bidge
Kino Lorber
Separate Blu-rays
by Charlie Largent

 Two Guest Reviews from a contributor new to DVD Savant, Trailers From Hell's Charlie Largent. Yes, two wildly disparate films: Lovers on the Bridge is from long time French provocateur Leos Carax, and We Are the Flesh is from a new kid on the block who's ready to shock, Emiliano Rocha Minter. Each is well represented by beautiful new Blu-ray transfers, on separate Blu-ray releases from Arrow Video and Kino Lorber.
03/11/17



and

RoboCop 2
Scream Factory
Blu-ray

 It's ugly, it's violent, it's graphic novelist Frank Miller's nasty vision through and through. Scream Factory's Collector's Edition brings out the amazing backstory of the production of this stop-motion- intensive first sequel to RoboCop. Druglord Caine is a menace, but we're just as appalled by the film's vivid depiction of a greater terror: Predatory Privatization! Meanwhile, Phil Tippett, Irvin Kershner and producer Jon Davison break through with an ultra-violent, high body count tale of corporate-civic-underworld warfare. With Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O'Herlihy, Robert DoQui & Tom Noonan. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory .
03/11/17




Hello!

Greetings from a very warm Los Angeles, where I'm happy to greet the page's new guest reviewer Charlie Largent. You'll find him today writing up two movies, sizing both of them up in about the same space I use for one. Yet the pictures are thoroughly covered. Charlie has a lot of writing experience and I'm proud that he asked to be included on my page.

I wondered when reviewing RoboCop 2 whether I was including too much personal content, but finally decided that all it did was make the review-essay a little longer. I'm sorry that they didn't find good copies of the film's TV spots, which were a lot of fun to put together... we used a Babylon A.D. cue called 'The Kid Goes Wild'. It is barely heard in the movie, but worked beautifully in the TV spots. I saved a 'cassette single' of it all this time.

And Joe Dante circulated this link to a Patrick Shanley Hollywood Reporter story about Classic Godzilla Actors: "We Risked Our Lives."

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 07, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

45 Years
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Andrew Haigh's quiet, two-person relationship tale won a lot of friends last year. A revelation from the past changes everything in the marriage of Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. We read the faces, read the gestures -- just like we do in our own close relationships. The disruption to the marital calm involves a note about a strange event in Switzerland... that almost becomes a hindrance to the film's more interesting intimate drama. With plenty of filmmaker input via a gallery of extras. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
03/07/17



The Valley of Gwangi
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

 Gwangi! Ready your rifles and lariats because this is one of the best -- Harryhausen's happiest dinos- à go-go epic comes thundering back in HD heralded by Jerome Moross's impressive music score. James Franciscus and Gila Golan capture the ferocious title allosaurus in the Forbidden Valley, and unleash a Citches' Worse -- a Witches' Curse. A dinosaur round-up roping scene is perhaps Harryhausen's most accomplished. Unless you count The Animal World, all of the stop-motion magician's feature films are now available in quality Blu-rays. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
03/07/17



and

The Man Who Could Cheat Death
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 Another great-looking vintage Hammer disc! A thyroid operation every ten years, plus regular libations of an eerie green liquid, has allowed Anton Diffring to live over a hundred years without looking a year over forty. Hammer's medical horror show features Christopher Lee, Hazel Court and sumptuous cinematography, but not a whole lot of surprises. Be prepared for bubbling liquids, sizzling acid hand-grips, and lots of painful-looking eye-popping from the very diffident Diffring. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/07/17




Hello!

Today I join the list of Facebook denizens that have been hacked -- you may have gotten a message from a pod-person Glenn Erickson duplicate asking to friend you, and then sending PMs about donations of some kind. I've since been informed that the unidentified interloper has been removed.

Actually, am very sorry for the inconvenience. We'll track the duplicate Glenn down in due time, and eradicate him. For my comfort, this scurrilous 'William Wilson' simulacrum is far too polite and has attracted far too many friends.


In news of more importance to right-thinking Savant readers, we give you -- an Octopus! Gary Teetzel forwards this behind-the-scenes glimpse at the Oscar-caliber octopus used in Toho's 1962 King Kong vs Godzilla. It's not saying a lot that he's the best thing in the movie, but the fact is he's terrific, a real performer.

Although aided by slow-motion camerawork and enhanced with excellent sound effects, the KKVG octopus always gets me -- poetry in motion. The octopus excerpt is at this facebook link. The helpful narration says... ah... the narration is very nice.


And Joe Dante has circulated a Crooks and Liars Saturday Night Chiller article by 'driftglass' about the famous Orson Welles War of the Worlds Broadcast, which has links to two separate TV dramas about the night that scared America (and helped launch a career). One show from 1957, as noted by Dante, features a cast list almost exclusively of soon-to-become star players. The link is called The Night that Panicked America 1957 &1975.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 04, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

Finian's Rainbow
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

 As a musical it's excellent -- fine tunes and lyrics, great singing and dancing by the ever-youthful Fred Astaire, the glorious songbird Petula Clark, and the impishly weird Tommy Steele cast appropriately as a grimacing Leprechaun. The update of what was a politically acute Broadway hit in 1947 -- union protests! racial prejudice! witch burning! -- ixnays the unions and adds unnecessary retrograde racial jokes. But the material where Keenan Wynn turns black works just fine. Beyond the awkward scenes the show is a melodious pleasure -- great color, fine voices and peppy direction by Francis Ford Coppola on his first big studio feature. With Don Francks and Barbara Hancock. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
03/04/17



Chilly Scenes of Winter
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 Joan Micklin Silver applies sensitive direction to Ann Beattie's novel about a lonely guy trying to win back his girlfriend, and going about it in all the wrong ways. John Heard is excellent as Charles, a civil servant who can't understand why Laura (Mary Beth Hurt) has gone back to her husband and child. His only path forward leads to obsessive behavior. With excellent character assists from Peter Riegert, Gloria Grahame, Kenneth McMillan and Nora Heflin. The whole thing plays out during a snowy winter in Salt Lake City... which is not the place to expect unrealistic romantic dreams to come true. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
03/04/17



and

A*P*E
(Attacking Primate monstEr)

KL Studio Classics
3-D Blu-ray

 It's awful, it's terrible, it's difficult to watch -- but the fans keep talking about this South Korean abomination of a monster movie. The switch is that it's finally available in its original 3-D, and as the system in use is the improved Space-Vision process from The Bubble, the 3-D is technically excellent. A giant monkey attacks Seoul, trashing cardboard buildings, toy boats and a dead shark (and it's not shamming). It's painful to watch, so keep a good movie on hand to rinse this one away immediately afterwards. Not recommended for people taking prescription medication. If symptoms simians persist, consult your doctor. On 3-D Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/04/17




Hello!

A couple of links today ... first, Trailers from Hell just tallied up a trio of trailers + commentaries hosted by Brian Trenchard-Smith, who in roughly three minutes x 3 manages to cover the subject of 3-panel Cinerama in great detail, talking about the big-screen features This Is Cinerama, Windjammer and How the West Was Won. I think that Mr. T-S is my favorite TFH commentator; his delivery of interesting information is flawless.

Gary Teetzel sends us to this morsel of movie award news that certainly tops any concern about fumbled envelopes or snubbed nominees: Godzilla Resurgence Wins Big at 40th Japan Academy Prize Awards. I wonder if any other Kaiju or sci-fi fantasy pix won big in Japan, back in the '50s and '60s?

With Arrow Academy premiering Walerian Borowczyk's searing drama Story of Sin this month, Olive Films has announced upcoming discs of a couple of Borowczyk's earlier features and a compendium of his award winning short films: Theater of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal, Blanche; Goto, Isle of Love and Walerian Borowczyk - Short Films Collection. All are scheduled for April.

And finally, an academic book that sounds as if it were written just for me. Kevin Pyrtle of the Exploder Button page tipped me off to Paul Cuff's new release Abel Gance and the End of Silent Cinema: Sounding out Utopia. Why am I so interested? It's 250 fat pages devoted to Gance's apocalyptic sci-fi film La fin du monde (The End of the World). The show, Gance's first film with sound, was a major career disaster after his triumph with Napoleon. So little that makes sense has been written about La fin du monde, that I know I'll have to read this.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


Don't forget to write Savant at [email protected].

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