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May 29, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:


Dracula & The Mummy
Complete Legacy Collections

Universal
Blu-ray


 It's a mass review of two multi-title Blu-ray sets: Universal continues to amaze with their ongoing HD releases of classic-era monster movies. Fast on the footsteps of 2016's Frankenstein and Dracula Legacy collections are the hot-off-the-presses Dracula and The Mummy editions. Trailers from Hell's esteemed Charlie Largent takes a look-see. Separate Blu-ray purchases from Universal.
05/30/17




The Ballad of Cable Hogue
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray


 Easily the most mellow of the films of Sam Peckinpah, this relatively gentle western fable sees Jason Robards discovering water where there ain't none, and establishing his own little way station desert paradise, complete with lover Stella Stevens and eccentric preacher David Warner. Some of the slapstick is sticky but the sexist bawdy humor is too cute to offend . . . and Peckinpah-phobes will be surprised to learn that the movie is in part, a musical. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
05/30/17




and

Trespass
Shout Selects
Blu-ray


 Crooked treasure hunters tangle with menacing black gangsters in this crime-action siege movie from 1992, with a fine filmmaker pedigree - Walter Hill, Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis. The late Bill Paxton leads a great cast -- William Sadler, Ice-T, Art Evans -- in a tense standoff that turns into a murderous ordeal when it's discovered that a million-dollar cache of gold is to be had. The Shout Selects extras include an informative interview with co-writer Bob Gale. On Blu-ray from Shout Selects.
05/30/17





Hello!

We're trying to get these Tuesday reviews off early, so as to take advantage of the Monday holiday!

I finally got a gander at all of MGM's 1933 Men Must Fight the other night, DVR'd from TCM. It's a real jaw dropper, a creaky adaptation of a creaky play with one insanely good special effects sequence. Diana Wynyard, a nurse in WW1, loses her flyer boyfriend (Robert Young) in France but bears his child. To make everything morally Kopasetic for the high-class Diana, she marries her generous admirer, Lewis Stone. The theatrics are beyond stiff.

Back in the USA and twenty years later it's now a futuristic 1940, complete with picture phones. All other progress seems stuck in 1933, however. Stone is now the Secretary of State trying to bolster a failing peace plan. Diana is a vocal pacifist, a position that gets sticky when war breaks out with an enemy unidentified only vaguely as the 'Eurasian States.' When Diana proclaims that the world's mothers must stop producing sons to die in men's wars, the savage hecklers at her speeches turn into an angry mob, screaming death threats and attempting to storm her 5th Avenue home. Diana's grown son Phillips Holmes proclaims that he subscribes to the same pacifist credo, which prompts his outraged fianceé to break off their engagement, and his stepfather to finally divulge the fact that he's a bastard rather than part of his family. The bizarre finish sees the son flip-flopping and racing to a biplane to battle the enemy (who?) in the skies over New York City. Learning that his real dad died a hero, the son becomes a dashing air pilot, seemingly in just one day. An inane final scene sees the three generations of rich women now rooting for the fight, yet also lamenting their abandonment of pacifist ideals. Grandmother May Robson says her last line, that mothers will just be ignored the same as always, as if it's supposed to be funny. Having made no coherent dramatic point, the movie just ends, in mid-war.

TCM's print has a patch with a bad buzz on the soundtrack but is otherwise okay. The shocker is in the next-to-last reel. For over sixty minutes the show has taken place in stuffy interiors, with out-the-window cutaways to silent stock footage of victory parades, etc. Just as the family is breaking up over the pacifism issue, a full-on air raid hits NYC. Massed biplanes (in 1940) drop little wing bombs. One tiny bomb is all that's required to wipe out the Brooklyn Bridge, and just two are enough to blow up the Empire State Building. The miniature effects are excellent, with blasted skyscrapers falling into the streets via traveling mattes and more miniature explosions. It looks like thousands should be killed, but the only casualty we see is Diana, whose arm is broken when her taxi is hit by one of those bombs that obliterate entire buildings. I'd never heard of Men Must Fight until a few years ago when I think Richard Harland Smith mentioned it . . . is it the first negative-subjunctive future history war movie? For the prediction of an aerial war in 1940 it beats Things to Come by three full years.

See you next Saturday -- Thanks for reading --- Glenn Erickson



May 26, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Inferno 3-D
Twilight Time
Blu-ray + DVD


 Now in Region A -- One of the best releases from the early- '50s 3-D boom. Millionaire Robert Ryan is abandoned to die in the desert by his wife Rhonda Fleming and her lover; the 'useless' executive earns self-respect by focusing on the problem of survival. Ryan's terrific, and the depth effects in the attractive desert locations are great, thanks to cinematographer Lucien Ballard. On 3-D Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
05/27/17




One, Two, Three
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 Some like their comedy hot and some like it cold. Billy Wilder opted to step on the joke accelerator to see what top speed looked like. One of the most finely tuned comedies ever made, this political satire crams five hours' worth of wit and sight gags into 115 minutes. The retirement-age James Cagney practically blows a fuse rattling through Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's high-pressure speeches, without slurring so much as a single syllable. With Arlene Francis, Pamela Tiffin, Horst Buchholz, Lilo Pulver and Hanns Lothar - plus a fine new commentary by Michael Schlesinger. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/27/17



and

Ghost World
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray


 Daniel Clowes' comics creation receives an A-Plus film adaptation through the directorial filter of Terry Zwigoff. The show has more going for it than the bleak alienation of disaffected quasi- gen-Xers -- the script offers a depth of character revealing the insecure, hopes and fears behind all the insulting attitudes and behaviors. Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson and Steve Buscemi carve out uniquely affecting characters, with help from Illeana Douglas, Stacey Travis, Bob Balaban and Teri Garr. It's caustic, funny and also strongly affecting. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
05/27/17




Hello!

I've been impressed lately with Phil Hall's The Bootleg Files reviews over at Cinema Crazed, wherein he's tracked down information about barely-known titles not released on, uh, authorized discs. Phil was one of the first critics to welcome me at the Online Film Critics Society, going on sixteen years ago. I think he's found a good vein of reporting here, as every Bootleg entry I've read has been news, and I tend to be one of those people with the illusion that I've seen everything. This week the subject is The Bootleg Files: Afrique 50. Phil's back-story explanation of the film's suppression says a lot about colonial politics -- the filmmaker René Vautier paid the price for defying French law, when he filmed actual conditions in French West Africa. I knew that the French were really touchy about such subjects, because they even censored the old western Major Dundee, taking out dialogue that implied that French colonial Legionnaires used torture. Phil's column serves a useful purpose. Each entry begins with 'just the facts' data: 'where last seen,' 'reason for bootleg status,' 'chances of seeing a commercial DVD release.' Good show.

I'm hoping for a full report next week on the much touted new "ScreenX" format, from a special correspondent. Movie audiences (prompted by David Letterman) rejected Peter Jackson's attempt to raise the frame rate in his Hobbit movies, but maybe they'll respond favorably to what sounds like an exaggeration of Abel Gance's silent 'Polyvision' tryptich effect. Apparently, either the whole show or certain sequences will open up to cover a 270- degree field of vision. That slice of a circle goes beyond ear-to-ear coverage . . . are they looking for a virtual reality effect?  I'll be curious to learn more about the format: is it worthwhile? Does the image have seams? Do the 'sides' show matching live action, or is everything relevant concentrated in the front panel (if there are indeed panels)? Does the camera pan to follow action, or do we instead turn our heads? What happens in close-ups and fast cutting? The good part about this is that my contact knows enough to give an accurate report. Here's the Hollywood Reporter article on the film and the ScreenX format.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 23, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Martin Scorsese's
World Cinema Project 2

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray + DVD


 After four years Martin Scorsese is back with another six filmic gems from all corners of the Earth: Insiang, Mysterious Object at Noon, Revenge, Limite, Law of the Border, Taipei Story. Love struggles in the slums of Thailand and the economic boom town of Taipei; underdog heroes undertake troubled missions in Turkey and Kazakhstan, a Malay storyteller plays cinematic games with basic narrative, and a vintage Brazilian art film is pure visual poetry. They've all been rescued by the World Cinema Project. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.
05/23/17




Things to Come
(2016) MPI Media Group
Blu-ray


 Mia Hansen-Løve's portrait of the travails of a middle-aged philosophy teacher is a plum acting vehicle for Isabelle Huppert It steers clear of crazy, extraordinary events to instead offer insights into how real people live and cope. The professor must dip into her subject matter to make sense of her life, and comes up sane. Folks expecting a feel-good satire about 'goofy' women can make do with Sally Field in Hello, My Name is Doris. Mia and Isabelle do well here. On Blu-ray from MPI Media Group.
05/23/17




and

Who'll Stop the Rain
Twilight Time
Blu-ray


 A killer book (Dog Soldiers) must hide behind a Credence Clearwater tune. Karel Reisz's killer movie about the moral residue of Vietnam scores as both drama and action, with disillusioned counterculture smugglers versus corrupt narcotics cops. Just don't expect it to really have much to say about the Vietnam experience. But hey, the cast is tops -- Nick Nolte, Richard Masur, Anthony Zerbe -- and the marvelous Tuesday Weld is even better as a pill-soaked involuntary initiate into the pre- War On Drugs smuggling scene. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
05/23/17





Hello!

Farewell to Roger Moore, my least favorite 007 yet reportedly a gent in every sense of the word; he made James Bond into a comedy figure but had his share of good moments in the role. I always felt that he was trying to be David Niven.

We've received lots of fun mail praising Wayne Schmidt's Night of the Demon article, asking for more. There are indeed a thousand stories in Naked Hollywood Restoration, but most could only be told by people whose careers prevent them from speaking up; Wayne skipped plenty of personal details, for the sake of civility. Whole generations of Hollywood filmmakers went to their rewards never bothering to set straight the BS histories written by publicity departments, egotistical stars and uninformed bystanders (you rang?). And by retirement time, a lot of pros just don't care any more. So I hope to get more old pals to tell even more revealing versions of the film stories I can only allude to from hearsay.

And I'm grateful to early corrections from correspondents who told me about Rhonda Fleming's good experience as a singer, something I knew nothing of. It seems a crime that they didn't let her sing in Those Redheads from Seattle. On the other hand, what might have happened to Dana Andrews' screen persona if he'd sung with his own voice in State Fair?

A bunch of those desirable holdout May discs showed up in the last two days, so there'll be some busy writing going on here -- it's shorts & sandals weather again in Los Angeles,

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 20, 2017

Why is this rather obscurely chosen picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

Rescuing the Runes:
The Almost-Lost Original Long Cut of Night of the Demon

A Savant Article
By Wayne Schmidt


 Fires, clerical errors, and lab mistakes have caused films to be lost forever, or to become unavailable in good quality; studio indifference also allows vintage films to be ignored to death, while their negatives rot in cans. So it's great to hear a 'lost film' story with a happy ending. Guest writer Wayne Schmidt recounts how the original version of one of our favorite horror pictures was accidentally rediscovered, only for its priceless, irreplaceable original film element to be almost lost forever. Wayne had a tricky problem to solve: how to get it back from a collector, without making a federal case out of it.
05/20/17



Those Redheads from Seattle
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray + DVD


 Another 3-D breakthrough, this time for a Paramount musical rescued from oblivion and remastered by the 3-D Archive. Rhonda Fleming and Gene Barry star in a blend of songs and Alaskan adventure filmed in downtown Hollywood. The depth effects are great, but the big surprise is Teresa Brewer, the radio star turned one-shot movie musical wonder whose voice resurrects memories of pop vocals just prior to the arrival of Rock 'n' Roll. Also with the Bell Sisters, Guy Mitchell and Agnes Moorehead. The story of what was required to bring this one back from the brink of extinction, is fully covered -- and 3-D fans can't get enough of these shows! On 3-D Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/20/17



and

Night of the Demon
+ Curse of the Demon (Rendez-vous avec la peur)
Wild Side (France)

Region A + B Blu-ray + PALDVD


 This French disc release of the Jacques Tourneur classic gets everything right -- including both versions in picture perfect transfers. Devil debunker Dana Andrews locks horns with Niall MacGinnis, a necromancer "who has decoded the Old Book" and can summon a fire & brimstone monster from Hell, no election fraud necessary. Even fans that hate ghost stories love this one -- it's a truly creepy highlight of the horror genre. Co-starring Peggy Cummins and our favorite movie demon -- that's the center of arguments about how much he should be shown, or if Tourneur didn't want him shown at all. The release comes with a 144-page book. . . in French!   A good community college can help you there. A Dual-Format edition on Region A + B Blu-ray and PAL DVD from Wild Side (France).
05//17




Hello!

Let me see here ...my new copy of TCM's monthly movie guide says it's going to be discontinued after August. I love TCM, mainly because its selection continues to reach for interesting and unusual films of all kinds, plus weird short subjects. If a Janus film appears on TCM in a fresh transfer, it's a good bet that it'll show up on disc in a year or so. The cancellation of the magazine is perhaps a result of the passing of TCM's Robert Osborne. But it seems part of a trend that started several years ago, thinning down the website and eliminating great features like Movie Morlocks. To find those old articles isn't easy, so I'm glad I kept a link to Bret Wood's great piece on subliminal advertising in movies. It's now been subsumed into a new blog called 'Streamline.' TCM is rebranding old movies by featuring fresh-faced kids as guest hosts; if that's what's required to keep the mill wheels grinding, I'm all for it. Meanwhile, their film festival and movie cruises have found a way of tapping affluent fans that want to feel connected to the world of movies, or have a 'movie vacation.' Prime host Mr. Mankiewicz has matured into an all-round decent replacement for Osborne, whose congeniality had no match. And pairing up Alec Baldwin and David Letterman so far seems a big success. As for the monthly movie guide, it will soon be online- only.


So what hot discs are looming on the horizon? Everybody's busy right now; these titles are the first to grab my attention.

The Warner Archive Collection has Savant favorite Joe versus the Volcano on tap. As I said in my review for The Accidental Tourist, the WAC seems to be choosing as if trying to personally please me. They also promise Peckinpah's The Battle of Cable Hogue, Sidney Lumet's underrated Running on Empty and The Gumball Rally, but I don't have dates yet. Criterion's August lineup has Alex Cox's Sid and Nancy, Hopscotch and The Breaking Point, the latter just in time for Alan K. Rode's new book on director Michael Curtiz. Earlier in the summer we'll be excited to see Criterion's discs of Ghost World, a new World Cinema Project collection, Mizoguchi's Ugetsu, Nicholas Ray's They Live by Night, Marcel Pagnol's The Marseilles Trilogy, Hitchcock's silent The Lodger, Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, Bresson's chilly L'argent, Rossellini's War Trilogy, Tarkovsky's Stalker and Lost in America.

Twilight Time will probably announce August momentarily, but they're set up through July, when we'll be seeing Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex and Samuel Fuller's The Crimson Kimono; due soon or coming later will be The Man in The Moon, Who'll Stop the Rain, Brutal Tales of Chivalry, The Bridge at Remagen, The Quiet American (1958), Hell and High Water (1954) and The Valachi Papers.

And from Kino comes a surfeit of riches: Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three, Hitchcock's The Paradine Case, Boorman's Hell in the Pacific, Golan's The Apple Nunnally Johnson's Night People, Bava's Kill, Baby, Kill, Murnau's The Last Laugh, and a start on the Hope/Crosby Road pictures. It's going to be a great summer.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 16, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Decoy (TV Show)
Film Chest Media
DVD


 Unsung actress Beverly Garland becomes TV's first lady cop, in what's claimed to be the first TV show filmed on the streets of New York City. This one-season wonder from 1957 has vintage locations, fairly tough-minded storylines and solid performances, from Bev and a vast gallery of stage and TV actors on the way up. It's a full season, when a season of TV shows was 39 episodes. On DVD from Film Chest Media.
05/16/17




The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers
Olive Films
Blu-ray


 Les plus belles escroqueries du monde. A breezy five-episode compilation movie about swindles plays out in five film capitals, under the eye of five different directors including Claude Chabrol and Jean-Luc Godard. But Roman Polanski's Amsterdam segment couldn't be included, which is a shame. It's in B&W 'scope, and everybody gets to bring their favorite cameraman and composer along. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
05//17




and

Pelle the Conqueror
Film Movement Classics
Blu-ray


 Bille August's 1987 award winner is yet another full cinema meal, a deeply satisfying drama about working conditions among Scandinavian immigrants back when being poor was a life sentence to misery. Max von Sydow's performance is stunning, as an aging stock tender forced to begin again as a veritable serf. He and his good son Pelle are surrounded by little dramas dealing with injustices among the workers and servants, as well as between the landholders in the big farmhouse. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
05/16/17




Hello!

Following up on the Jackie Gleason 'The Thing' gag from last time, correspondent Ed Sullivan sends along a link to a Pulp Friday selection of original dust jackets and pocketboot editions of Campbell's original story, "Who Goes There?': Pulp Friday: The Thing From Another World.

And Gary Teetzel lets us know that the newest Japanese Godzilla film, Shin Godzilla, will be getting a U.S. disc release on August 1, from Funimation. An info page is here.

I've been meaning to call out some of the highly desirable films showing this month on TCM, and myself missed out on DVR'ing Seven Days to Noon, which screened last night. Here are a few more that grabbed my attention: I Walked with a Zombie (May 17, maybe it's been re-transferred), The Unknown (1946 - Karen Morley) (May 19), They Came to Rob Las Vegas (May 20 - crazy Eurocrime hybrid), Crime of Passion (May 21 - Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Gerd Oswald), The Wasp Woman (May 25 - Roger Corman and Susan Cabot), Men Must Fight (May 26 - an air attack on New York circa 1933), Nazi Agent (May 28 - Jules Dassin).

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 13, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.
(Things change so fast that the basis of this gag is already old news!)

Savant's new articles today are:

Kiss Me Deadly Restoration
20th Anniversary
A Savant Article


 How did Kiss Me Deadly come to be restored? The real question should be, how did filmdom lose track of its original ending in the first place? Savant re-tells the story with the benefit of two decades' worth of hindsight, uncovering evidence that he thinks explains when, and why, United Artists mutilated the finish of Robert Aldrich's apocalyptic film noir. The director himself addressed the censorship situation, in a 1955 piece he wrote for publication in Daily Variety. A Savant Article.
05/13/17



The Walerian Borowczyk
Short Film Collection

Olive Films
Blu-ray


 That bad boy/great artist of European cinema Walerian Borowczyk has been converting doubters into fans for sixty years, even though many of his pictures were never easy to see. Before he took a headlong leap into soft-core epics, he made some of the most creative and influential short films of his time -- and they eventually became more erotic as well. The excellent restored transfers look much better than prints we saw 'back in the day.' On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
05/13/17



and

Marjorie Morningstar
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 The most-read book since Gone with the Wind looked at the coming of age struggle of an ambitious, upwardly mobile Jewish girl in the 1930s. This glossy film version gives Natalie Wood an 'adult' role and provides Gene Kelly with the seemingly optimal character of a troubled theatrical artiste. Its good intentions aside, the show lacks guidance -- and may have harmed Kelly's acting career. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/13/17




Hello!

It's Saturday afternoon and I'm out of time -- and am also trying to rig the .html for my Kiss Me Deadly article to allow readers to enlarge the scans of old reviews and articles, and read the text. If you can't read them at first, check later.

I do have a couple of links prepared, however!

Orange and Teal, or How Re-Mastering is Distorting Our View of Classic Films is a Not On Blu-ray article by Dennis Fischer that makes clear a few transfer issues usually reported less clearly on the web. Old movies are being re-timed to make their colors seem more modern, something that bugs me when I know the original well. I myself learned something when other, more qualified people pointed out what was wrong with the first Blu-ray transfer of Patton.

And Gary Teetzel points us to a YouTube clip from an old (1951?) Jackie Gleason TV show with a comedy sketch called Son of The Thing. A horrifying space monster threatens the denizens of an Arctic weather station. Don't expect inspired comedy, but we do get the idea that the Hawks' The Thing had to have a significant impact to rate this attention.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 08, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Assassin
Arrow Academy US
Blu-ray + DVD


 Writer-director Elio Petri scores big in his first feature, the story of a heel suspected of murder. Is he a killer, or just an average guy trying to get ahead, who uses women to his advantage? Marcello Mastroianni impresses as well in a serious role, with Salvo Randone shining as the police inspector trying to pry a confession from him. Beautifully restored in HD, Petri's show is an example of great filmmaking from a time when Italian cinema was at its zenith. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Academy US.
05/09/17



Broken Arrow
and
The Loved One
KL Studio Classics / Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray


 Trailers from Hell's Charlie Largent takes on a pair of titles that . . . well, we're still thinking of a connection between them. Broken Arrow is Jimmy Stewart's monster hit western from 1950 with beautiful Debra Paget; it's hard to believe it's taken this long for it to reach Blu-ray. Tony Richardson's caustic satire The Loved One is one of the few genuine Black Comedies, risking bad taste at every turn and featuring enough comedians to be re-titled "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Funeral Parlor." With a character called Aimee Thanatogenous, you know you'll like it. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics and The Warner Archive Collection.
05/09/17



The Mephisto Waltz
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 Jacqueline Bisset's in a heck of a fix. Her talented hubby Alan Alda has been seduced by promises of fame and fortune from creepy concert genius Curt Jurgens, and is responding to weird overtures from Curt's daughter Barbara Parkins. The pianist's mansion is packed with strange associates and occult books, and he displays an unhealthy interest in Alda's piano-ready hands. Do you think the innocent young couple could be in a diabolical tight spot?  Nah, nothing to worry about here!  Ms. Bisset is excellent, but director Paul Wendkos shows how to spoil a supernatural thriller with weak distorted visuals and dead giveaways that reveal too much, too soon, too loudly. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/09/17



and

100 Girls by Bunny Yeager
Cult Epics
Blu-ray


  A look at the art photography of Bunny Yeager, starring Bettie Page? We can think of less pleasant ways to pass the time. Savant raises his standards to check out what's happening in the disc section behind the gray curtain, and finds that the fringe product suppliers are up to their old tricks -- it's a sub-par 'filmization' of one of Ms. Yeager's nude art books, page by page, caption by caption. Bettie participates as one of Yeager's most wholesome, smiling models from 1953 or 1954. On Blu-ray from Cult Epics.
05/09/17




Hello!

What's cooking at DVD Savant? The most interesting disc offerings at the moment are foreign and artsy -- more Walerian Borowczyk with his Short Films, the Parisan comic omnibus The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers, and Bille August's highly praised Pelle the Conqueror. Now, being as this is DVD Savant, we need a steady diet of prime genre titles. We were hoping to catch all of Shout! Factory's horror and sci-fi offerings of late, and got a start with I Bury the Living and The Screaming Skull last week. We're working on more, although they're hard to come by. Nefarious cohort Charlie Largent is helping out in the procurement department. I've also started writing the little '20 year follow-up' article on Kiss Me Deadly that I promised. I've located my file on the restoration done back at MGM and will have a little more documentation to back up my theory of why and how the ending was altered, plus other odds and ends.

A request from a frustrated reader prompts a request to Savant readers: does anybody out there have a recommendation for a decent disc (that they've seen) of the 2002 French film by Alain Chabat, Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre? The mess of options on Amazon and Amazon UK has defeated me as well, and I don't personally know anybody who has a copy. Actually, I wasn't even aware of the film. This has been a public service by you, for someone you don't know and who will likely be thanking me.

Meanwhile, film noir fans in driving reach of Palm Springs need to know about Alan K. Rode's noir screening series to be held there next weekend -- the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival for 2017 runs from May 11-14 at the Camelot Theatres, Thursday thru Sunday. It sounds like a nice way to spend the weekend, as Alan is doing the hosting. A few special guests grace a particularly good lineup of pictures, including the new restoration of Hollow Triumph, the political All the King's Men, the atomic Split Second, the bizarre William Cameron Menzies anti-Nazi film Address Unknown and the desert-set crowd-pleaser Charley Varrick. The finish is the noir masterpiece Night and the City, which I have to say is much more powerful on a big screen than on a home monitor. And Alan puts on a great show.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 05, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Seven Days in May
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray


 A military coup in the U.S.?  General Burt Lancaster's scheme¬†would be flawless if not for true blue Marine Kirk Douglas, who snitches to the White House. Now Burt's whole expensive clandestine army might go to waste - Sad! John Frankenheimer and Rod Serling are behind this nifty paranoid conspiracy thriller, co-starring Fredric March, Martin Balsam, Edmond O'Brien, Ava Gardner and her sexy compromising letters. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
05/06/17



How to Steal a Million
Twilight Time
Blu-ray


 William Wyler's 1960s screwball heist comedy is a squeaky-clean high fashion vehicle for stars Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole -- who of course aren't really crooks despite pulling off a major art theft. It's lush, beautiful to look at and directed with verve by Wyler; with some funny jabs at the art world from screenwriter Harry Kurnitz. With Eli Wallach, Hugh Griffith and Charles Boyer, plus a lot of fancy haute couture and fancy Paris locations. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
05/06/17



and

The Indian Fighter
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 Kirk Douglas grits his teeth and goes full macho, wrasslin' with that beautiful Sioux up in the high country -- the Sioux miss in question being the Italian model Elsa Martinelli in her screen debut. Kirk can't decide if he wants to stay with Elsa, or lead what must be the most shameful bunch of pioneer bigots ever to cross the plains. Walter Matthau and Diana Douglas are standouts in this vigorous action western directed by André de Toth. With Lon Chaney Jr., Elisha Cook Jr. and Walter Abel, not Jr.. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/06/17




Hello!

Gary Teetzel alerts us to a facebook page called P.E.G. Practical Effects Group, which specializes in exactly the kind of hammer 'n' nails visuals we enjoy in old movies. He forwards this image showing an oversized Altair-4 planet-scape backdrop from MGM's giant scene dock, from Forbidden Planet. In the 1950s MGM took CinemaScope indoors by painting enormous cycloramas like this, some of which totally encircled large sets, as in Brigadoon.

I'm pretty sure that this particular backdrop has at least one more panel showing another mountain off to the left, which meets the clear horizon we see. That's where the little cloud of dust shows up when Robbie the Robot makes his entrance. Anyway, the giant-sized artwork was used recently for a Gucci photo shoot. It's a little wrinkly, but after sixty-some years, who isn't? It really ought to be on display in a museum... a big museum. The photo is credited to a company called J.C. Backings, where the historic item is apparently readily available for rent!


I have a book review today, of Thomas Kent Miller's Mars in the Movies. An all-round Mars enthusiast, Miller actually worked for NASA for a number of years. His thorough survey of pictures about Mars -- either us going to Mars or Martians coming here -- encompasses feature films, serials, and short subjects from around the world, and quite a bit of television content as well. In some respects it's like an older McFarland film book, the pre-Internet kind that compiled credits as a reference. Miller also goes in for detailed plot descriptions, which I always find useful for films I really don't want to sit through. His entries for individual movies offer selected outside critical quotes, organized in a pro- vs. con- apposition. He then follows with his own opinions.

Thorough is the correct word here, as the text dutifully checks off silent movies from Denmark, etc, and then set us up with the importance of Mars in the sci-fi boom of the early 1050s. He includes the non-Mars movie Destination Moon for its all-round importance, but not things like the Weimar Woman in the Moon or the Soviet The Cosmic Voyage. The Thing from Another World is only speculated as being a 'man from Mars,' yet he's here too.

Miller quotes pretty much everybody who writes about or reviews sci-fi pictures. He includes a thoroughly indexed set of references, but also often tells us to go to this or that link to read something. That doesn't seem the best use of limited text space, especially when web content has a habit of shifting or disappearing altogether. Although the book's aim is not to review disc media, he also covers some DVD and Blu-ray media, which isn't permanent either. This becomes problematical now and then -- for instance, he directs readers looking for Red Planet Mars, to a gray-market label, which might dissuade a real disc boutique from licensing an authorized release of what is a United Artists film owned by MGM. For that matter, he directs the reader to one of my reviews, but on a website I never heard of. It's there all right, so perhaps I gave permission? I don't remember.

With all the review quotes and re-directs to other sources, not enough room is set aside for Mr. Miller's good analysis of the films. His opinions and observations don't follow an organized agenda. Comparing 'firsts,' he devotes pages to some titles, and for others has little to say. A recurring theme is to advocate for not judging old movies by today's technical standards; but he also expresses dismay when older reviewers dismiss some of his favorites. That genre films below the big-star bracket often received little critical respect is a depressing truth; I've been recently going through Boxoffice reviews of old Films noir, and am shocked at the way their reviewers dissed practically everything.

As is the case with good film encyclopedias, the value is finding new items, and Miller comes through with a bounty of cartoons, short subjects, etc. that I hadn't heard of. And I learned things that I didn't know, about such interesting shows as Disney's "Man into Space" TV trilogy from the 1950s. We get a full rundown on the origin of the cartoon "Marvin the Martian," as well as the story behind George Pal using Woody the Woodpecker in Destination Moon.

Thomas Kent Miller has a friendly writing manner that emphasizes his personal interest in the pictures, which makes the book a pleasant read while limiting its interest for those in need of hard information. The book's cover shows a scene from 2015's The Martian, an exceedingly popular movie that is not one of Miller's favorites -- he's more attuned to older, more romantic space adventures. After all, he was of an age to catch them when they were new . . . this jealous moviegoer reached movie-going age a little later, after the first sci-fi wave was in retreat. Mars in the Movies is from McFarland; their order line is 800-253-2187. And Thomas Kent Miller has a new website, Mars in the Movies: A History, that he calls an extension of the book.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 02, 2017

May Day, international workers' day, rebranded as the blacklist-era 'Loyalty Day?' Nuts to that.


Savant's new reviews today are:

The Young Girls of Rochefort
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray


 All singing, all dancing, all . . . French?  Perhaps motivated by the success of La La Land, Criterion has reissued two impressive Jacques Demy musicals as separate releases. This joyful homage to candy-colored vintage Hollywood musicals is a Franco-American hybrid that allows free rein to Demy's positive romantic philosophy. Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Dorléac, Danielle Darrieux, George Chakiris, Gene Kelly, Michel Piccoli and Jacques Perrin star. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
05/02/17



I Am Not Your Negro
Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray


 A welcome blast of clear thought, Raoul Peck's documentary represents the point of view and philosophy of James Baldwin, the writer and artist best known as a social critic of the Civil Rights movement. Allowing Baldwin to 'speak' thirty years after his passing sheds light and wisdom on the issue that hasn't gone away. The beautifully edited show will hopefully direct readers back to the erudite Baldwin. Some of his opinions are disturbing precisely because they're so brutally honest. On Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment.
05/02/17



and

The Accidental Tourist
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray


 Is it a modern classic? I think so. Lawrence Kasdan's best movie embraces characters often lampooned or dismissed, or stereotyped as kooks -- introverts, extroverts, people trying to make personal connections and those trying to avoid them. William Hurt finds his best role and Geena Davis won an Oscar for hers; thirty years later the entire cast feel like beloved friends. Kathleen Turner, Amy Wright and a Corgi named Edward round out the top cast members; John Williams' music score makes a heartfelt contribution as well. Just remember that the turkey WAS cooked long enough, and at a perfectly adequate temperature. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
05/02/17




Hello!

Links 'r' Us today: Over at Trailers from Hell, fave trailer commentator Brian Trenchard-Smith regales us with more movie lore we were never taught, but certainly ought -- his coverage of an Australian picture from the 1950s called Jedda is fascinating. Brian is candid about the filmmakers' condescending attitude toward native Australians, yet makes a persuasive case for the film's importance.

Gary Teetzel steers us toward an Express article by Shaun Kitchener in which Val Kilmer contradicts everything we ever learned about the making of the Richard Stanley/John Frankenheimer The Island of Dr. Moreau. I'd love to hear David Gregory take issue with this.

And Joe Dante's newsfeed directs us to Anthony Lane's The New Yorker's on The Loss of Jonathan Demme.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


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

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