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July 22, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Breaking Point
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray


 You can tell it's film noir -- even the cabin cruiser has Venetian blinds. Ernest Hemingway's favorite film adaptation of his work is this uncompromised story of a good man taking a criminal course on the high seas. John Garfield is again 'one man alone' against the system, and the moral quicksand all but swallows up Patricia Neal, Phyllis Thaxter and Wallace Ford; this release comes just in time to herald Alan K. Rode's new career biography of director Michael Curtiz. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
7/22/17




Kong: Skull Island
Warner Home Video
3-D Blu-ray


 Kong is back, transformed into a 'MonsteVerse' colossus suitable for combat with Kaiju-sized foes. The key inspiration is video games but the day is saved by capable performers in mostly amusing roles. Even though the show treats its fantasy halfway seriously, it's still an infantile guns 'n' monsters romp, embellished with impressive visual effects. With Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson and John C. Reilly. On 3-D Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
7/22/17




and

The Battle of the River Plate
ITV Studios Home Entertainment
Region B Blu-ray


 Powell & Pressburger's big-scale historical epic is perhaps the best show ever about an old-school naval encounter between battleships. The first half depicts the showdown between England and Germany in the South Atlantic, and the second half a tense diplomatic game in the neutral country of Uruguay. Peter Finch, Bernard Lee and Anthony Quayle shine as sea captains; the film was shot in big-format VistaVision and originally printed in Technicolor. On Region B Blu-ray from ITV Studios Home Entertainment.
7/22/17





Hello!

A special FLASH. If you get Turner Classic Movies cable, check tomorrow night's schedule. Contradicting the station's printed guide, my Spectrum cable logs are calling out Wim Wenders' 1991 UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD as having a five-hour time slot, which indicates that it will be the 3-film, 4.5 hour version honored in a twenty-year-old Savant Article that's driven readers crazy to see the thing. The published log still shows a different schedule, with Kurosawa's I Live in Fear filling the second half of the time slot. If the show has Wenders' new Road Film logos, this might be an early indication of an upcoming Blu-ray, knock on wood. I thank correspondent Mike Stubbs for persisting on this -- set your DVR, call your friends, inform your dog, if he likes this show as much as we do.

If you haven't seen the movie, the first indication you'll see that it's the 3-film version will be the Claire Tourneur character, the lady in the faux-roman armor dress, wandering in a room where some little kids are playing, and answering her questions in German or Italian. Wish us luck!


This time I didn't forget to ask. Savant correspondent and advisor Gary Teetzel goes to Comic-Con every year, and consistently writes diary-like emails to his friends that spell out what the experience is like. This time out I'm lining them up as part of the Savant column. I don't know how he does it; it sounds like more waiting in line than Disneyland. But these first three 'diary entries' should speak for themselves, the first from


Wednesday the 19th:

Greetings Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Comic-Con 2017 got off to a bumpy start for me: I got going over an hour later than I hoped, and then the drive from Van Nuys to San Diego took a grueling 4 1/2 hours. So my hopes of leisurely exploring the exhibits outside the convention center were dashed. I didn't get in until 7:00 PM, an hour after Preview Night started. I just had time to hit some of the highlights of the main floor. "Profiles in History" has items from the Debbie Reynolds/Carrie Fisher Estate Sale on display. DC has costumes from Justice League. The Warners booth is a bit dull this year, with two displays of props/costumes from IT, and nothing else. Warner isn't idle, but uses their booth to host a lot of autograph signings during the con. At the Alex Ross booth I saw the outlandishly priced Universal Monsters giclées. I asked if less expensive editions of the art might be made available later; I was told there were no current plans, but it is possible. AMC usually has an elaborate 'photo op' set up to promote The Walking Dead, but this year's is pretty lame -- you can sit next to a fake-looking stuffed tiger and pretend to be King Ezekiel. They also have a big 'Deadquarters' attraction across the street from the Convention Center. It wasn't open yet, but I could see that one of the activities was 'Negan's Batting Cage,' which sounds pretty tasteless.

Lots of promos up for Stranger Things, The Defenders, Inhumans etc. So TV seems to be dominating this year, over features.

I might go to the 20th Century Fox presentation tomorrow, and hope to get into a Battlestar Galactica (reboot version) reunion and a Marvel television panel.

Update tomorrow . . . Gary


Thursday night July 20:

Greetings Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Today began with me attending the 20th-Century Fox panel in the fabled Hall H. Hall H is usually impossible to get into since it hosts the biggest, hottest panels, but Thursday was a lighter day, and I got a wristband Wednesday night that guaranteed me entry provided I got in line by 7:30 AM. (Getting this wristband was easy, but long lines form to get the Friday, Saturday and Sunday wristbands. So essentially these are lines for the privilege of waiting in another line the following day.)

Fox chose to devote their entire panel to Kingsman: The Golden Circle, disappointing fans that were hoping for a glimpse of Deadpool 2, or perhaps a little something on the just-started-filming X-Men: Dark Phoenix. A half dozen members of the cast were present: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal and Jeff Bridges. (photo just below) Also there were comic-book legend Dave Gibbons and co-screenwriter Jane Goldman. We all received T-shirts and fidget spinners. There was an odd moment during the Q&A when Halle Berry was challenged to chug a large glass of (alleged) bourbon -- and did it. Attendees were also offered a chance to get a free hamburger at the Hard Rock Cafe, inspired by a clip that was shown during the panel.

After that, I spent a little time on the main floor, which was insanely busy for a Comic-Con Thursday. I headed next to Ballroom 20, which had some panels I wanted to see. I arrived a bit early and saw 'The Great Debates', in which John Hodgman moderated debates between Adam Savage, Aisha Tyler, Orlando Jones, Charlie Jane Anders and John Barrowman on various pop culture topics: DC vs. Marvel, Star Trek vs. Star Wars, etc. Next there was the first of the panels I wanted to see, a reunion of Battlestar Galactica (reboot version). It brought together producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, and cast members Mary McDonnell, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett and Michael Trucco; there was also a video greeting from Edward James Olmos.

This was followed by a panel on The Strain, which I don't watch. Next up, a panel on the FX series Legion, with creator/writer Noah Hawley, executive producer Lauren Shuler and most of the cast, including Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart and Aubrey Plaza. Since the lead character is, in the Marvel comics, the son of Professor Xavier of the X-Men, the question inevitably arose as to whether we would ever see the Professor on the series and, if so, if he would be portrayed by one of the actors who portrayed him in the film series, Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy. Hawley was evasive, simply commenting that they'd have to see who was willing/available should they ever choose to include Xavier in the show. At the end of the panel, Hawley said that he was developing a feature film with Fox that he felt the audience would be interested in. He said he couldn't say much beyond two words:

"The first word," Noah Hawley said, "is: Doctor

The second word is . . .

Doom

And the crowd went wild at the prospect of a Noah Hawley-scripted feature centered on one of Marvel's greatest villains.

The afternoon came to a close with a panel devoted to Marvel's upcoming Inhumans TV series. Moderated by Marvel's Jeph Loeb, all of the leads were present, and four clips from the pilot were shown.

(One odd detail: In the show, Black Bolt, whose power lies in his voice, uses sign language to communicate to his wife Medusa, who then speaks on his behalf. It's not American Sign Language, though, it's a sign language made up for the show. Imagine you're a deaf kid tuning in. Although Black Bolt isn't deaf, you are excited to see a lead character -- a superhero no less -- who signs. And then you find you can't understand the signs!

Lots of big TV panels in Hall H tomorrow: The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Twin Peaks, The Defenders, etc. I'm not even going to try to get into those, as they're way too popular, with too many people waiting all day to get a wristband, etc. Since most of the other panels early in the day Friday are of only moderate interest to me, I'm thinking that it might be a good day to check out some of the attractions outside of the Convention Center. There are more of these every year spreading over more San Diego; at times the Con seems to be slowly taking over the whole city, spreading Blob-like through the streets to occupy more and more real estate. One can imagine in 100 years San Diego will no longer exist, there will only be Comicconville, a town devoted to pop culture that only appears for four days per year, like a modern-day Brigadoon.

The only problem is that these off-site 'experiences' often feature lines as long as those in the Convention Center. It can take hours to get into, say, the Game of Thrones exhibit. This year there is also a Blade Runner experience, an IT V.R. experience, a Kong: Skull Island exhibit, etc. So there's no way I can see them all. Tune in tomorrow to find out what I managed to see! -- Gary


Friday night July 21

Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. As I indicated yesterday, I decided to devote a good portion of Friday to exploring the off-site attractions. Was going to try to get into the immensely popular Game of Thrones attraction (people camp out overnight on the sidewalk), but I didn't get my wake-up call, so I got there later than planned. Someone estimated from experience that we'd probably get in around 4 PM, so I bailed. Went to the Kong: Skull Island attraction. It wasn't much of anything. There was a photo op where you posed by bones of Kong ancestors, and another where you stood in front of Kong's hand. And you got a free comic book.

I proceeded to the "Interactive Zone" at Petco Park. There was an area for Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones and Luke Cage-themed photo ops. Mr. Mercedes was being promoted with some sort of ice cream truck. There were a few other booths/attractions, but I gravitated to the IT Virtual Reality attraction. The line was short but very slow; I waited over an hour. The attraction was built to resemble a school bus. Inside, there were about eight seats with V.R. headsets and headphones. The V.R. "experience" involved going down into the sewers of Derry, pursuing a spectral child and being menaced by Pennywise the Clown. Pretty well done, even if some of the graphics have a video game feel.

Next it was off to AMC "Deadquarters" with a variety of Walking Dead- themed attractions. There was the Negan batting cage, an area for assorted photo ops, a demo of an "augmented reality" app that involved being put into a photo with a zombie. There were also video games and, most terrifying of all, free Mountain Dew.

Next it was off to the Blade Runner experience. There were two lines, one that included a V.R. portion, and one without. I opted for the "non-V.R." version because the line was shorter. They handed out free BLADE RUNNER umbrellas to people in line--but ran out just before they got to me. Although the line wasn't that long, it was slow, since they stopped you four times: (1) A security check, including a metal detector and bag check; (2) filling out a disclaimer/waiver on a laptop; (3) another stop to give your name, e-mail, etc. and be given a wrist band; and (4) another stop to give your T-shirt size. Fortunately, the attraction inside was pretty good. They had a "L.A. 2049" environment, complete with a full-size spinner and costumed characters that would interact with you. Every once and a while, a police chase would break out. There was a testing station to determine if you were human or a Replicant. (I'm a human. Of course, if I were a Replicant, that's exactly what I'd say . . . ) There was a ramen noodle vendor (yes, you could get real noodles), props and costumes on display, and a "vending machine" that dispensed your BLADE RUNNER t-shirt after you scanned your wristband. Finally, there was free whiskey. Yes, your read that right--free whiskey, courtesy of Johnny Walker, a sponsor of the attraction. That beats a free Mountain Dew.

I then swung by a nearby hotel to pick up my official Comic-Con t-shirt, then onto the exhibit floor, where I witnessed the annual madness of the Game of Thrones autograph session, and, at another booth, a less crazy TWIN PEAKS autograph signing.

Then off to the J. Michael Straczynski panel, an annual tradition. He mentioned that he turned in a draft of Rising Stars to MGM, who hopes to turn it into a franchise.

After a break and some food, I was back in the evening for the Shout/Scream Factory panel. A number of Blu-ray titles were announced, including Matinee, Into the Night, Mac and Me, Cyborg, Attack of the Puppet People, Eye of the Cat, American Gothic, Misery, etc. They also spoke about dipping their toes into the theatrical market, and plans to issue some UHD discs.

Final event of the night was an advance screening of the next episode of Twin Peaks. Executive Producer Sabrina Sutherland gave a brief intro, extending greetings from David Lynch, who she had spoken to via Facetime a little earlier. The crowd was also thrilled to see cast members Don Murray, Kimmy Robertson, Everett McGill, Matthew Lillard and James Marshall join the audience, although they did not do a Q & A.

Tomorrow: Not sure. Maybe Ballroom 20 for a big chunk of the day. -- Gary


Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



July 17, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.
(T'was a chilly night in Westwood in 1970, and the thing was SCARY. Ask Mister Cook and Mister Nielson, they were there too.)

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Sea Chase
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray


 John Wayne plays a German sea captain in a film that goes out of its way to create a favorable image of our former enemy, with hardly a Nazi flag or even a German accent in sight. Wayne and his co-star Lana Turner are as Teutonic as Blondie and Dagwood, yet the film works as a basic adventure – we like the charismatic star, and the sea chase format guarantees extra interest. John Farrow's direction and a fun cast are assets as well: Lyle Bettger, Richard Davalos, Tab Hunter, John Qualen & Claude Akins are all German sailors! On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
7/18/17




Shalako
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 It's 007 in the saddle! Sean Connery didn't become a career cowboy but this one stint as a Louis L'Amour hero is a diverting change of pace. And we couldn't resist the pairing of two of moviedom's most attractive actors -- Connery and Brigitte Bardot. The cast is almost all-star: Jack Hawkins, Honor Blackman, Peter Van Eyck, Stephen Boyd, Alexander Knox and Valerie French -- with Woody Strode as Chato, challenging Bond Shalako to a duel to the death. Actually, it's rather good. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
7/18/17




and

The Quiet American (1958)
Twilight Time
Blu-ray


 There appear to be no rules governing tricky politics in movies -- Joseph L. Mankiewicz's adaptation of Graham Greene's novel about terrorism in French-held Vietnam completely reverses the author's message. Does a conspiracy theory about a movie still carry any weight, when our daily political life now plays like one giant conspiracy? All-American Audie Murphy is the whitewashed 'U.S. aid representative,' while Michael Redgrave is the dissolute Brit correspondent. The main attraction may be all the atmospheric location work filmed in Saigon in 1957. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
7/18/17





Hello!

October's Criterion lineup is out, and it's special: Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, Welles' Othello, Dreyer's Vampyr, Lynch's Fire Walk With Me plus the newer attractions Personal Shopper and The Lure. That's a great month -- I've been curious to see Barry Lyndon again, I'm eager to see Vampyr at higher rez (it appears to be the same restoration as the previous DVD) and . . . wait for it . . . I've never seen more than a few clips of Othello.

Twilight Time's October release list was divulged a couple of days back: Walter Hill's Wild Bill, André De Toth's Play Dirty (!), Henry King's The Captain from Castile and John Gilling's Hammer shocker The Pirates of Blood River. How about some great Hammer-Columbia B&W titles, TT? Double bills, maybe? Twilight Time's July titles just came in and I'm trying to figure out how to tackle the PC minefield indicated by the presence of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but were Afraid to Ask . . . I still find much of it charming and hilarious.

And a welcome 3-D Blu of Kong: Skull Island just sashayed in off a FedEx truck. I have no idea what to expect and am keeping an open mind.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



July 15, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

Straw Dogs
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray


 Trailers from Hell's Charlie Largent takes on Sam Peckinpah's contribution to the ultra-violent movies of 1971. Originally rated 'X', details of a gang rape scene weren't shown until the home video era arrived. What does a nerdy math professor do when uncouth hooligans take his wife and violate the sanctity of his solid-stone country home? Defend his turf with deadly force, that's what. Pauline Kael called it 'fascist cinema,' but it's one of Sam's better pictures. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
7/15/17




The Valachi Papers
Twilight Time
Blu-ray


 Charles Bronson plays a real-life Mafiosi in a period gangland saga with a fine script, some good performances and a production so sloppy that the whole thing could be called The Anachronism Papers. Joseph Wiseman and Lino Ventura supply the tough-guy star-power and Bronson actually commits himself to the role -- quite a change of pace for one of his later pictures. Also with Jill Ireland. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
7/15/17




Obsessions
Cult Epics
Blu-ray + DVD


 What a great sales hook -- a feature film with a Bernard Herrmann music score that we hadn't heard of. And one of the writers was Martin Scorsese, before Boxcar Bertha and Mean Streets! But wait, it isn't as simple as that. The new release is more than a little confusing. Its own ad copy first calls this Dutch production 'obscure,' and not four sentences later describes it as a 'classic exploitation film.' Starring Alexandra Stewart. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Cult Epics.
7/15/17




and

The Angry Red Planet
Scream Factory
Blu-ray


 Hey, Ib Melchoir's Opus Mars-us is back, in a not-bad new scan and color-grading job. If the nostalgia bug has bitten you deep enough to appreciate a fairly maladroit but frequently arresting space exploration melodrama, this may be the disc for you. Let's be honest: NOBODY can resist the allure of the fabulous Bat-Rat-Spider-Crab, and in glorious Cinemagic, no less. Starring the non-angry redhead Nora Hayden, Gerald Mohr, Les Tremayne and jumpin' Jack Kruschen. Finally remastered on Blu-ray in its proper aspect ratio, by Scream Factory.
7/15/17





Hello!

Some fun links tonight. Longtime correspondent 'B' sends along an amusing link to Thrillist Entertainment's illustrated article The 100 Greatest Props in Movie History, and the Stories Behind Them, which has a lot of funky choices but is still an okay read. The Great Whatsis from Kiss Me Deadly is there, so I'm satisfied.

We were told he retired from audio commentaries, but perhaps this one was in the can from an earlier time: Kino says that Richard Harland Smith will be heard on the yak-track for their upcoming Blu-ray of Tobor the Great, which has been given a street date of September 12. The hero brat is the kid from Night of the Hunter!

Gary Teetzel forwards this syfywire link to The 23 Most Hilariously Wrong Genre Movie Closed Captions. I suspect that many of these are from Hong-Kong generated discs.

An excellent trailer-promo surfaced for about a day for Cohen's promised Blu-ray of The Old Dark House, and then disappeared. The quality was phenomenal for a picture we'd only seen pretty grungy quality. A facebook post claimed that Cohen had leaked a release date, but being the Savant, I missed it. If the promo pops up again, check it out, it's quite good.

And finally, judging by the online response, I ought to ditch this movie boosh-wah and call myself OLD MUSTANG CAR SAVANT. Thanks for all the notes and interest in a vehicle I had for many years, but never felt secure enough to invest in properly restoring. Now my daughter is finishing the job. Wotta gal!

I will now return to movie-brain mode, at least until the next time I get to visit my old car again.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



July 11, 2017

No link -- just visiting the car, now in the care of my daughter.

Savant's new review today is:

The Lost City of Z
Broadstreet / Amazon Studios
Blu-ray


 They don't make 'em like this any more, and the original TV spots for James Gray's accurate retelling of history almost didn't know how to sell it. Charlie Hunnam spends his life trying to solve a riddle of the Peruvian rainforest, in between fighting in WW1 and dealing with class prejudice. Yup, one could say the picture was filmed in a 'classic' style . . . can that kind of show find an audience these days? With Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and Tom Holland. On Blu-ray from Broadstreet / Amazon Studios.
7/11/17





Hello!  I've returned from a break. All kinds of time-consuming things loom ahead, but I'll be back on the review warpath soon enough.

This is a book review, for Joseph McBride's big new compendium of his writing for the past fifty years, Two Cheers for Hollywood: Joseph McBride on Movies. It was long ago that I first became aware of McBride, through his first book on John Ford. I also enjoyed the articles and reviews he brought to Daily Variety, at a time when its coverage stopped being pitched solely to exhibitors and became the most reliable review source around. Two Cheers is not a collection of reviews or learned essays but the full range of McBride's journalistic work. Since the early 1970s McBride was being tapped as a key resource for film-related screenwriting and career recaps for famous directors; his interviews of the greats pretty much picked up where Peter Bogdanovich left off.

The book's satisfying loose organization soon reveals a broad range of interests and subject matter. McBride begins with pieces about writers, giving his take on the Blacklist, and the controversy with Elia Kazan's honorary Oscar. A very large section covers his extensive interviews and articles on directors, with more than one piece about John Ford, who was just as irascible with a fellow Irishman as he was with others. McBride doesn't shy away from the politics of his subjects, acknowledging that his favorite actor John Wayne carried totally opposite political opinions. The articles never go for the obvious -- he looks at George Stevens and François Truffaut, but also the partnership of Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg, and the man who directed the Three Stooges, Edward L. Bernds. McBride wrote an entire book on Frank Capra, but explains in articles reprinted here the distinction between Capra's earlier work and his later problematic 'important' pictures. It's refreshing to read someone willing to fully take down Capra, whose 1971 autobiography is mostly self-aggrandizing fiction. He also wades deep into the controversy of the Coen Bros.

McBride's on- set visits reveal unseen personalities for famous actors we think we know, like James Stewart. He has a surprising interview-based piece on Stephin Fetchit, and another on Alma Reville. He even devotes a nice piece to designer Richard Sylbert, and takes time to examine Spielberg's relationship with his editor.

The book is full of surprises. Each piece is preceded by new notes that describe why it was written, and in many cases, how editors removed bits of controversy here and there. Those sections have been replaced. An article in which McBride described the Bush administration as a 'regime' did get him into hot water with one publication. A piece on two movies about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and another on 'George Orwell in the movies' reveal more of McBride's strong opinions on national politics -- one of his books is about the Kennedy assassination. We read about McBride's various efforts to bring suppressed pictures to light, like John Huston's Let There Be Light and Orson Welles' Too Much Johnson. He openly embraces John Ford & Leo McCarey's most sentimental films. Yet McBride is entirely persuasive in his arguments -- he devotes an entire chapter to Elia Kazan's Wild River, which I want to go back and read again.

Joseph McBride has a way with his opinions, which are never taken lightly. When he gets rough with Frank Capra or Jean-Luc Godard, he doesn't care where the fur flies. By just explaining the bizarre storyline of a film left unmade by Alfred Hitchcock, we get deeper into the director's psychology than a dozen essays tossing around gossip about his mistreatment of Tippi Hedren. McBride is a journalist first. His writing invariably finds an interesting hook, and then goes beyond to uncover something meaningful.

It's a big book, almost 700 pages. I know I'm going to be dipping into it again soon. It is always liberating to read the thoughts of people that communicate well. This copy already has six or seven provisional bookmarks. I don't want to forget the exact words McBride uses to slam Lost Horizon.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



July 06, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new review today is:

Blood Alley
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray


 Now a successful producer, John Wayne tries a big budget action picture with an anti-Communist theme. It's The Alamo on a ferryboat, with Wayne as an apolitical adventurer who just feels like savin' Chinese and kissin' Lauren Bacall. Ace director William Wellman holds it together -- barely. Berry Kroeger is a hateful comrade, Mike Mazurki a loyal aide and Anita Ekberg can be spotted in a couple of scenes, looking very . . . Swedish. With some interesting newsreels and TV show excerpts. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
7/08/17





Hello!

One review today -- call it a vacation situation for the next few days, and perhaps updates rather than reviews. But I do have some fun links and announcements.

Gary Teetzel forwards Variety's announcement that Cohen Media is bringing to Blu-ray a 4K disc of a restored version of James Whale's The Old Dark House. The movie was once thought lost until the late 1960s, when none other than Curtis Harrington found it in a vault. It's been in the Library of Congress all this time, while we've had to put up with some pretty unsubstantial releases. Universal is reportedly working with Cohen on this. Gee, Universal, I think you lost rights to Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight, but maybe you can go to the L.O.C and find an uncut, uncensored version!

Gary also forwards a Movie-Censorship.com article comparing the two versions of Sidney Salkow's The Last Man On Earth -- the Italian cut has a scene extension but also trims a lot of shots. The site is illuminating even if it's sometimes hard to read ... does that 9 seconds mean shorter or longer. . . and which version?

And both Joe Dante and correspondent "B." forwarded this article, Memories of a Real 'Witch Hunt' as a rebuff to a distortion of the term that became national news a couple of weeks ago. The author is Julie Garfield, the actress daughter of John Garfield.

And Joe Baltake's opinion columns are fun this week, just because it's good to read contrarian opinions backed up with good reasoning. His The Passionate Moviegoer has 'Blasphemy!'-- themed 'Hall of the Overrated' negative takes on Cabaret, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Casablanca. Interesting.

The summer discs that cry out for good reviews are here -- The Lost City of Z, The Valachi Papers, Where the Boys Are, The Sea Chase, Lost in America, Straw Dogs, Shag, Stalker, The Road to Bali, The Battle of the River Plate (German Region B), The Quiet American, Shalako, Pulse, Obsessions. I'm also hoping to review Scream Factory's The Angry Red Planet and The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake one way or another in the absence of screeners.

And finally, a major book review should be less than a week away -- I'm almost finished but it needs work.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



July 04, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

Ikarie XB 1
NFA (Czechoslovakia)
Blu-ray


 For the discerning science fiction fan, this is the best of the Eastern-bloc Cold War Sci-fi epics, a genuinely brilliant and warmly human 'Voyage to the End of the Universe' restored in 4k resolution. It's from before 2001: A Space Odyssey and has an equally wondrous but totally different vision of the future. Hopefully this will soon be readily available here; buying it required some clever footwork by Foreign Exchange of Culver City. Starring my favorite Czech personalities Radovan Lukavský, Zdenek Stepánek, Frantisek Smolík, Irena Kacírková and Dana Medrická. Please Marek, forgive my incompetent diacritical marks! On Blu-ray from NFA (Czech).
7/04/17




Varieté
Kino Classics
Blu-ray


 At last, an expressionist silent classic that takes full advantage of cinematic principles. The legendary E.A. Dupont goes in for subjective-emotional effects of which Hitchcock would approve; Cameraman Karl Freund and effects wizard Eugen Schüfftan pull off spectacular visuals and special effects. No wonder this was a huge hit in America, it's way ahead of its time (and ours too, in some ways). Emil Jannings shows why he was considered the world's best actor in the 1920's. Plus the enigmatic Lya De Putti. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
7/04/17




and

Free Fire
Lionsgate
Blu-ray


 Have an itch to see a movie about a gunfight, the whole gunfight and nothing but the gunfight? Search no more, for Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump have the movie for you: twenty minutes of angry crooks in conference, and then seventy minutes of non-stop shootin,' with no annoying plot context or character depth to get in the way. Just say 'Bang Bang I shot you down' and then play it in a loop ad infinitum. Starring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Babou Ceesay, Noah Taylor, Jack Reynor, Mark Monero and Patrick Bergin. On Blu-ray from Lionsgate.
7/04/17





Hello!

Wow, I've got little in the way of fabulous new links today, as I think my happy link providers are off hobnobbing with their fellow wizards and otherwise getting into trouble. And no ironic top image today, as I'm putting this one up completely straight, even though the source movie is a house slightly divided against itself, to mangle a phrase.

It's pretty great getting this Blu-ray of one of my top favorite space films Ikarie XB 1. The secret to having a favorite picture become available on disc is apparently to be pessimistic and assume that it will never be released, that the disc Powers That Be out there have my number, and send anything I want to the back of the line. I guess I have to retire that attitude after this year. When I began 'MGM Video Savant' years ago I put out lists of coveted movies, and on top were a group of Fox 'Scope movies that I'd seen only in miserable Pan-scan TV versions: House of Bamboo, Hell and High Water and Garden of Evil etc. What can I say? Now that I can peruse them in beautiful Blu-ray HD, is it time to die? I hope not. To mis-quote Yellow Submarine, newer and bluer blues are always on the way, and greedy collectors never get enough.

This Ikarie disc was a surprise. I saw the restoration trailer for the show a while back, and noted that Trailers from Hell's Joe Dante received a prominent text endorsement quote. But only last night did I watch the trailer on the disc, and saw that there was a flurry of additional one-word quotes further on, with the last one being ME. The important, unique word they pulled from my old review is 'Best,' which is spelled out in bold Czech: "NEJLEPŠÍ." Of course, my name is only up for about 12 frames! And it's misspelled!   I don't care. I've got my names on a bunch of noir and Mario Bava releases, with mostly inane quotes, but this feels special.

Just so you don't think all is perfect here in Los Angeles, starting a few days before the 4th of July we hear fireworks every night. When the booms really echo, we wonder if hostilities have broken out with Orange County. Three days ago we got a shower of ash from the hills burning to the Northeast. And last night we had a helicopter buzzing around the neighborhood for about an hour, searching for Public Enemy numbers one through four. Look how thoughtful I am -- I got this picture for you of a Cop copter with its searchlight. Couldn't do much else, with the chopper doing everything but playing Ride of the Valkyries.

Thanks for reading!, have a great fourth! --- Glenn Erickson



July 01, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Bridge at Remagen
Twilight Time
Blu-ray


 What's the best true-story WW2 combat film for pure-grit, no-nonsense tanks 'n' bombs 'n' crazy mayhem action on a giant scale? This non-stop battle epic gets my vote. George Segal and Ben Gazzara's GI infantry dogs are suitably tough, cynical and desperate, especially when they're repeatedly sent into danger. The history is fairly accurate -- there was indeed a race to seize the last bridge across the River Rhine. With Robert Vaughn, Bradford Dillman, E.G. Marshall, Peter Van Eyck, Hans Christian Blech & Bo Hopkins. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
07/01/17




Ugetsu Monogatari
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray


 Trailers From Hell's Charlie Largent takes a Westernized look at the great Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi and his preeminent masterpiece Ugetsu, brought to us in a stellar new release from the wizards at Criterion.. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/01/17




and

L'argent
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray


 Welcome to the final film of the aesthetically precise, rigorously austere Robert Bresson, an adaptation of a fateful tale by Leo Tolstoy visualized in Bresson's frequently maddening personal style. An extreme artist makes a fascinatingly unyielding show: as with the classic paintings that Bresson admires, appreciation requires special knowledge. With an excellent vintage interview with Michel Ciment to clarify Bresson's theory of cinema: I'm still only part-way there. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/01/17





Hello!

We start with Gary Teezel forwarding us what Classic Flix is touting as their YouTube restoration demonstration for their Blu-ray of the Public Domain (I think) proto-noir from Fritz Lang, You Only Live Once. It certainly looks better than the eyesores we had to watch. Speaking of that, I did review an old Image disc fourteen years ago, and it was no beauty. It'll be great if Sylvia Sydney looks good again ... she was the queen of the Depression-era social injustice pictures. And one reason that the film is so special now is that Lang fills it with expressionist touches that could have come from one of his German silents: the love bond between Sylvia Sydney and Henry Fonda is mirrored by a pair of frogs in a pond; the heavens literally open up to admit pure souls.

Gary couldn't pass this one up either. Apparently at the upcoming Comic-Con, Universal will be hawking an officially licensed sterling silver ring bearing the likeness of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. And it's only $325.00! Gary suggested that I talk my wife into replacing our wedding bands, but I don't think she'll go for it.

And speaking of Comic-Con, maybe this time I can get Gary to let me post his web reports on his adventure in San Diego in the Savant column. He says he spends too much of the convention trying unsuccessfully to get into crowded auditoriums. I say fans that might want to go deserve to know what the experience is like, even for a veteran like Gary. And I like the way he tells stories.

Although the link is a couple of years old, Joe Dante has circulated it again and I find it fascinating enough to re-recommend: 'NZ Pete's' exhaustive article at his Matte Shot - a Tribute to Golden Era Special FX page, about Stanley Kubrick's 2001: One Mans Incredible Odyssey. It's still unsurpassed, methinks.

And finally, out of the blue we seem to be soon to enjoy a new, improved HD scan of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. The frame grab scans being shown online are remarkable. And they've recovered the proper color for the fluffy pinfeather fuzz of the Roc's Chick, as we all remember it from back in the day. We can happily report that THE CHICK IS YELLOW.

Next time up, I should have a major book review for the column. . .

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


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

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