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August 19, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Stalker
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray


 Andrei Tarkovsky's bizarre philosophical science fiction epic may be his most successful picture overall -- every image and word makes its precise desired effect. Three daring men defy the law to penetrate 'the Zone' and learn the truth behind the notion that a place called The Room exists where all wishes are granted. Plenty of art films promise profound ideas, but this one delivers. Extra interview pieces give us the inside story from Tarkovsky's collaborators. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/19/17




The Man with Two Brains
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray


 Steve Martin brings down the house with this adoring, hilarious pastiche of mad doctor and disembodied brain motifs -- surely the epitome of cultured comedy. Under Carl Reiner's direction Martin is marvelous, and he's aided and abetted by the daring sexpot-turned comedienne Kathleen Turner -- who has a better handle on outrageous sexy comedy than they do. It's class-act nonsense and inspired silliness. Where else can a crazed surgeon proclaim his special screw-top skull surgery method, and utter the immortal words, "Scum queen?!" With David Warner and Paul Benedict; on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/19/17




and

Tobor the Great
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 Robot roll call! This also-ran robotic fantasy from the 1950s is precisely the kind of movie one would expect from Republic, a two-fisted anti-Commie tract for juveniles. The studio comes up with an impressive robo-hero, but short-changes us when it come time for action thrills. Still, as pointed out in Richard Harland Smith's new commentary, Tobor filled the the kiddie hunger for sci-fi matinees, at least until Robby the Robot came along. Charles Drake is the adult scientist, and genius-brat Billy Chapin is the one who sets Tobor on a Robot rampage. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/19/17





Hello!

I haven't seen a lot of discussion on the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly disc I reviewed a week back, but I was pleased to read this The Edit Room Floor article on various versions of the film. It jibes closely with my own memories of what happened with the versions at MGM, and also agrees with my assessment on the film's color. I have heard from a couple of European contacts that, in their opinion old IB Tech prints from Italy were a little more yellow -- but that they were nothing like the 2014 Fox disc, with its green skies.

A couple of nice items from This Isn't Happiness, a challenging image & ideas page I've been looking at almost daily for at least 13 years now. This item "Oh Boy" is a quote from an old ABC News broadcast, about the impending solar eclipse, but also about a future that happens to be our present.

The second This Isn't Happiness item is Harry Frankfurt's Bull****, a frank and concise appreciation of the difference between fact and baloney in modern discourse. Whups -- those were two non-film related links, even though the second uses some prime film clips to make its case. My quota for the summer is now filled.

Is it true what correspondent Andrew LeBlanc tells me, that a particular Warner disc of King Kong Skull Island is now hitting astronomical prices online? The disc in question, says Andrew, is a Best Buy Exclusive, containing a 4K + 3-D + Blu-ray + Digital. Mine doesn't have the 4K, so I guess I'm out of luck for the Big Payday.

And collectors have found out that Kino's expected Blu-ray of William Dieterle's Portrait of Jennie (due October 24) won't be overloaded with extras, but will be favored with a new commentary from Troy Howarth. I'm hoping Troy supplies more insights into the film's twisted, convoluted production and release history: I've been following it ever since reading an article in one of the very first Cinefantastique magazines. Actually, if Kino delivers a high-quality transfer and audio track, that will be more than enough to rock my jolly meter: The Wind Blows -- The Sea Flows -- No -- bo -- dy knows.

Over at the new page Current Thinking on the Western, Italo-western connoisseur Tom Betts has a new article up detailing the history of his 'zine Westerns… All’Italiana!, from its origins in 1983, when typing and photocopying pages gave way to primitive first-generation home computers. Mr. Betts was an inexhaustible and generous resource for the documentary featurettes we cut on the Sergio Leone movies fifteen years ago, but I was only tangentially aware of the scope of his network of Italo western fandom. Tom's terrific 21st century online 'zine iteration, the Westerns… All’Italiana! webpage, goes into incredible detail on the genre and its colorful stars and filmmakers.

And Gary Teetzel closes out the column with a link to a new trailer for a thing called Godzilla: Monster Planet. You're on your own, brave Kaiju fans...

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 15, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Night Moves
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray


 Arthur Penn's detective movie is one of the best ever in the genre, one that rewards repeat viewings particularly well. Gumshoe Harry Moseby compartmentalizes his marriage, his job, his past and the greedy Hollywood has-beens he meets, not realizing that everything is interconnected, and more than capable of assembling a world-class conspiracy. Gene Hackman tops a sterling cast in the film that introduced most of us to Melanie Griffith, here playing a disturbingly convincing bit of teen jailbait. With Jennifer Warren, Susan Clark, Edward Binns, John Crawford and James Woods. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/15/17




Ronin
Arrow Video
Blu-ray


 Robert De Niro picks up a gun once again as a highly paid spy-mercenary-thief hired for a bit of international larceny, robbing a courier of some undisclosed secrets of one kind or another. Juicing up a Melville- like stoic crime fantasy with superb car stunt work puts director John Frankenheimer back in the game, with a worthy project. With Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Sean Bean, Stellan Skarsgard, Michael Lonsdale and Jonathan Pryce. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
8/15/17




Bob Hope on Blu-ray
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 Trailers From Hell’s Charlie Largent reviews the new releases of Bob Hope’s mid-career comedies on blu ray. The films only occasionally hint at his prodigious skills but, like the great comedian’s career, the results are a mixed but ultimately rewarding experience. The Road to Rio, My Favorite Brunette, The Road To Bali, The Lemon Drop Kid, Son of Paleface. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/15/17




and

Duel in the Sun
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 David O. Selznick's absurdly over-cooked western epic is a great picture, even if much of it induces a kind of hypnotic, mouth-hanging-open disbelief. Is this monument to the sex appeal of Jennifer Jones, Kitsch in terrible taste, or have Selznick and his army of Hollywood talents found a new level of hyped melodramatic harmony? It certainly has the star-power, beginning with Gregory Peck as a cowboy rapist who learned his bedside manners from Popeye's Bluto. It's all hugely enjoyable. Also starring Joseph Cotten, Lionel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Walter Huston, Butterfly McQueen, Charles Bickford and Tilly Losch; directed by King Vidor, William Dieterle and several others. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/15/17





Hello!

The Cohen Collection's new Blu-ray of the long-missed The Old Dark House now has a street date, October 24. Gary Teetzel found the blurb on a Barnes and Noble page. I'm already thinking about a nice po-ta-to. They dropped the video promo from YouTube, the one that made the famous James Whale horror show look better than new.

And just in: Kino has announced that its new Avanti! disc will have new interviews with actors Juliet Mills and Clive Revill!

Here's one for the 'it isn't always me' department. Craig Reardon pointed out that in the review of Duel in the Sun, I had written 'Joseph Cotton' numerous times instead of 'Joseph Cotten.' It's one of the various spell-check programs that changes what I write as I write it, 'correcting' me. So just remember when you read my error-ridden texts, I'm not (quite) as incompetent as I seem. Or, now that I've established plausible deniability, I can behave as if I never make mistakes. Win-win.

Civic wisdom and political sanity are in short supply these days, so here's a genuine boost for your morale. Joe Dante is circulating this link to the short subject Don't Be a Sucker!, which Joe reports was at one time edited into his epochal comedy marathon The Movie Orgy. Done in the earnest style of an educational picture, it's an anti-fascist film, a scary, patriotic 17 minutes with excellent work from Paul Lukas, Felix Bressart, Kurt Kreuger, Richard Lane, George E. Stone, Ivan Triesault and everyone's favorite Nazi swine impersonator, Martin Kosleck (right). As a news report on the nature of Fascist slime, it's highly pertinent today, and who better to teach us basic American values than our favorite character actors from the 1940s?

Produced by the Army, the short subject is dated 1947, but some of its content indicates that it is a slight revision of the 1943 original listed in the IMDB.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 12, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 Will Blondie, Tuco and Angel Eyes be forever facing off on the giant threshing wheel? Sergio Leone's Civil War gunslinger epic is everybody's favorite western, and most everybody has a bone to pick regarding problems with the previous DVDs and Blu-rays. The good news is that Kino's 50th Anniversary Special Edition takes giant leaps in correcting older audio issues . . . but the bad news . . .. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/12/17




Meantime
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray


 Nobody stands up for Britons in the lower class trenches like the fierce, opinionated and outright brilliant Mike Leigh; his unusual writing and directing method yields terrific results in his first feature made for TV. And the early performances of Tim Roth, Phil Daniels and Gary Oldman should be the stuff of acting legend, '80s style. With Marion Bailey, Pam Ferris, Tilly Vosburgh, Alfred Molina and Jeff Robert. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/12/17




and

The Crimson Kimono
Twilight Time
Blu-ray


 Another great Samuel Fuller film on Blu-ray -- this one is a crime tale set in downtown Los Angeles' Little Tokyo, that forms an interracial romantic triangle. It's risky for its year because of the sexual dynamics -- a Japanese-American man falls in love with a Caucasian woman. Fuller's approach is years ahead of its time, even if Columbia's sales job was a little weird. Victoria Shaw and Glenn Corbett get top billing, but newcomer James Shigeta steals the show. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
8/12/17





Hello!

It's upcoming disc round-up time. Newcomers Classic Flix have favored Savant with the Abbott and Costello comedy The Noose Hangs High (August 14), while the UK label Powerhouse Indicator may start sending review material in September. Kino has enough desirable product out to warrant a review every few days; a review of last month's Bob Hope movies My Favorite Brunette, The Road to Rio, The Road to Bali, The Lemon Drop Kid and Son of Paleface is almost finished, with Duel in the Sun, Barton Fink, Prizzi's Honor, Custer of the West, Visit to a Small Planet, They Shoot Horses Don't They, The Birthday Party and Tobor the Great just arrived.

Twilight Time promises 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, The Long Hot Summer, The Emperor in August and Suddenly, Last Summer up next, with Hour of the Gun, Beneath the 12-Mile Reef and Gun Fury 3-D due in September.

Arrow USA is hot as well, with Ronin and The Love of a Woman in hand and Don't Torture a Duckling, Erik the Conqueror and The Big Knife on the way. The loss for this summer are some Shout no shows -- they've put out two-score desirable horror pix and we've only reviewed two because a writer bought them for himself. How are Savant readers going to live without the full skinny on the irreplaceable The Manster? Hey, Tim Lucas loves it!

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 08, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Re-Animator
Arrow Video
Blu-ray


 Trailers from Hell's Charlie Largent resurrects a real favorite, Stuart Gordon's epic gross-out about the grisly adventures of H.P. Lovecraft's Dr. Herbert West. Filmdom's maddest mad scientist brings dead flesh back to life and proves conclusively that the grave is no barrier to one man's libidinous lust. This 2-disc limited edition contains two versions of the film and a long list of extras -- full cast and director commentaries, the works. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
8/08/17




Beggars of Life
Kino Classics
Blu-ray


 A happy discovery! This is a major late- silent-era gem on the order of Von Sternberg's Docks of New York -- a special treat that will please fans of director William Wellman -- he revisited parts of it in a later talkie. It's also a key movie in our education/adoration of the maverick actress Louise Brooks, the timeless erotic sensation too hot and too independent for Hollywood. Also starring Wallace Beery and Richard Arlen. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
8/08/17




and

Freebie and the Bean
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray


 Here's how one pushed the limits of good taste in 1975. James Caan and Alan Arkin run the gamut of racist, raunchy, sexist & homophobic jokes as bad boy cops breaking the rules, and director Richard Rush delivers some impressive, expensive action stunts on location in San Francisco. Does it get a pass because it's 'outrageous?' The public surely thought so. If the star chemistry works the excess won't matter. With Valerie Harper, Loretta Swit and Jack Kruschen. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/08/17





Hello!

I've been reading a bit, thanks to some helpful links. I enjoyed Nick Pinkerton's Film Comment interview with Mario Adorf, especially what the German actor has to say about Sam Peckinpah and Major Dundee, where he played Sgt. Gomez, a Mexican cavalryman. The joke on that movie set was that Adorf made a more convincing Mexican than did the real Mexicans.

Valued correspondent 'B' has sent me an interesting book that I just finished, Hollywood Divided: The 1950 Screen Directors Guild Meeting and the Impact of the Blacklist by Kevin Brianton. It's a fascinating research summary on the famous Directors' Guild meeting in 1950, where, legend has it, John Ford led a rebellion against Cecil B. DeMille's underhanded campaign to toss Guild president Joseph Mankiewicz and institute a loyalty oath, one that would spread to other guilds and take over Hollywood. According to author Brianton, everything we know about this episode is wrong, taken from 1970s accounts either embellished or mis-remembered. DeMille was trying to jam the Mankiewicz recall through, but there's no direct evidence that he mispronounced the names of foreign-born directors at the meeting to make them seem un-American. Mankiewicz was never against a loyalty oath as long as it was voluntary. And John Ford defended DeMille as much as he criticized him. Not only that, but Ford's famed introductory line, "My name is John Ford. I make Westerns" is not an accurate quote! The most fascinating thing about the book is reading what scores of well known directors had to say at the six-hour meeting, and on which side of the fence they stood. According to Brianton, my late friend Robert S. Birchard in his bio Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood, was one of the first historians to correct the ledger as concerns DeMille. The great filmmaker was still a super-patriot who informed for years on the industry to the F.B.I., but he wasn't as dark a villain as painted by other accounts.

Gary Teetzel checks in with a video of comedienne Rose Marie taped at a screening last week at the Aero of a new documentary on her life and career, Wait for Your Laugh. Gary reports:

"At one point during the audience Q & A, someone asked Rose Marie if she dated anyone after the death of her husband. She said she had gone out a few times, and then shared an anecdote about her fellow Hollywood Square panelist who happens to be one of our favorite horror stars . . . how often do we get to hear a new prime-source story about Vincent Price?"

The photo is of Rose Marie in Paramount's International House, a pre-code picture . . . made eighty-four years ago.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 05, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Dinner
Lionsgate
Blu-ray


 How far will the new American aristocracy go to protect its privileges? Oren Moverman's intense four-way war of wills is sourced from a novel but shapes up as an intense stage piece in a chi-chi restaurant interrupted by flashbacks and other stylistic flourishes. The acting foursome is excellent, with Steve Coogan a standout as a truly disturbed character. Four adults debate their sons' high crimes and misdemeanors over designer cuisine. Also starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall. On Blu-ray + Digital HD from Lionsgate.
8/05/17




Hopscotch
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray


 A generic spy story becomes an inspired light comedy with the application of great talent led by the star-power of Walter Matthau. Matthau's CIA spook hooks up with old flame Glenda Jackson to retaliate against his insufferable CIA boss (Ned Beatty) with a humiliating tell-all book about the agency's dirty tricks history. Matthau's sloppy, slouchy master agent is a comic delight; Ronald Neame's stylishly assured direction makes a deadly spy chase into a wholly pleasant romp. With Sam Waterston and Herbert Lom. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/05/17


and

Silkwood
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray


 It's a quality true-life mystery-exposé that doesn't come off as tabloid trash or Oliver Stone hysteria -- the true story of Karen Silkwood is told without cooking the books. The all-superstar cast is something too -- Meryl Streep, Cher and Kurt Russell. Only a fine director like Mike Nichols could steer this one into good entertainment & memorable cinema territory. With Craig T. Nelson, Diana Scarwid, Fred Ward, Ron Silver and Charles Hallahan, on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/05/17





Hello!

Arrow Video has a strong disc line-up for August, starting with Re-Animator but continuing with Frankenheimer's Ronin, Bryan Yuzna's Society and Mario Bava's Erik the Conqueror. Now I'll have to break out my A.I.P. 'Erik the Conqueror' poster.

Olive Films in August is said to be giving us Blu-rays of two seasons of the old Flipper TV series, which I can sheepishly report being a fan of at age 13 or so -- I saw the movie and liked the song, I guess. They're also putting out Larry Cohen's blaxploitation gangster pic Hell Up in Harlem. Finally, Olive has a disc of Orson Welles' The Stranger on the way. If it's licensed from MGM it ought to have a much better image than past discs – I've seen MGM's master and it's beautiful.


Gary Teetzel enlightens us with an interesting link from the Golden Age of Live Television: remember the rather good Toho horror fantasy Matango aka Attack of the Mushroom People? Now on YouTube is a copy (a poor one, unfortunately) of a 1958 episode of the TV series Suspicion called Voice in the Night. It's an adaptation of the William Hope Hodgson story that inspired Matango. A synopsis:"The survivors of a shipwreck escape to an island where a strange fungus grows on everything." Arthur Hiller directs an impressive cast: Barbara Rush, James Donald, Patrick Macnee and James Coburn. Joan Harrison (assisted by Norman Lloyd) produced for Shamley Productions; Robert Boyle did the production design. Not too shabby, huh? Skimming through I can see that the YouTube copy is pretty bad. The first several minutes are so dark that it might as well be a radio show. But with these actors we can recognize the voices!


Finally, for the wedding held at our house last week, artist Patrick Tsao designed personalized place cards for all the tables, each with a Mexi-Aztec design motif customized to the personality of individual guests. I looked at mine for a while before realizing that it beheld the likeness of a certain Irish movie monster. So appropriate!

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

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

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