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[Savant Links] [Year Five Report]
Write Savant (Glenn Erickson) at

Saturday August 23, 2014

Savant's new review today is:


  Lynne Littman's chronicle of a small California town's experience in an atomic war is intensely emotional, and harrowing in a way few post-apocalyptic dramas can touch. When the power goes out and news of the world shrinks to a trickle, housewife Jane Alexander must cope with keeping her family 'normal'. Then common necessities disappear and radiation levels rise. William Devane is the father who goes missing and Lukas Haas the first-grader trying to cope with a grim future. Also with Leon Ames and future stars Kevin Costner and Rebecca De Mornay. A Paramount reissue in DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection / Paramount.


Savant is still long distant (and not in San Francisco, the picture posted is the only one I could find on short notice) but keeping up with things on a regular basis. Although I couldn't attend, I have an early correspondent's report from this year's AMIA convention, called The Reel Thing. It's the get-together where professional archivists and film restorers listen to presentations and screen new work. For instance, there was a seminar on silent movie film speeds which I'd like to have seen -- I write about that subject all the time.

The first of the convention's special screenings was the debut of a new 4K remastering of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I'm told that it looked perfect, although I've never seen a transfer or copy of that title with major flaws. This time around the restoration people have done a little extra -- they've removed the wires that help the robot Gort (Lock Martin) to carry the heroine, Patricia Neal. Cleaning up wires and improving effects work is a much-discussed topic on fantasy film forums. Stray wires can be a distraction, and HD transfers off original elements can be sharper than original film prints. But in general we don't want movies to be revised from their original versions. And where should they stop? Why not remove the visible laces on Gort's arms, too?

The common argument is that the films are being 'improved for modern audiences' that won't accept imperfect visuals. That was the excuse for colorization; my feeling is that people who want history to conform to their personal preferences should go jump in the lake. The other line of thought reasons that the revisions simply carry out the director's original vision. The Day the Earth Stood Still happens to be an almost perfect picture with superb designs. But the directors of many of our fave fantasy films would also liked to have better actors and a better script too.

The bottom line is that money rules. Criterion's total revision of the color scheme of Heaven's Gate breaks all that company's rules about preserving the best original versions of films --- but I have to admit that seeing more colors than brown has made the show watchable.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson

Tuesday August 19, 2014

Savant's new review today is:

Arch of Triumph

  Lewis Milestone had great ingredients for this prewar thriller: stars Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Charles Laughton, and Erich Maria Remarque's tense, romantic story of undocumented refugees come to London to flee the grasp of Nazi Germany. Boyer's a doctor plying his profession on the sly to make ends meet, and Bergman has been 'accepting the hospitality of gentlemen' to avoid starvation. Can they dodge visiting Nazi intelligence agent Laughton? Soon enough the haven of Paris will be overrun by the Germans! The direction and acting are tops, so why is this picture not a classic? At the very least, why is it not better known? Bergman is excellent. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.


As I'm at the moment long gone from Savant Central headquarters, I'm restricted to one post with each new installment of the column. I also can't amend the reviews, but this note from a favorite long-time, knowledgeable correspondent is so good (and for me educational) that I've decided to post it on the front page. It's from "B", and it goes with my review of "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" from last Saturday. There's a lot here about the history of the ratings system that I didn't know:

Dear Glenn: Nice review of a funny non-PC Almodóvar movie. A brief comment, though...

You wrote, Does Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! really deserve its NC-17 rating? ...In 1990 NC-17 meant smut and explicit sex, and the weirdest thing we get here is a cute windup bath toy paddling its way between Victoria Abril's parting legs.

Some audiences of 1990 thought the film wasn't rough enough to earn its NC-17 rating, but who cares about them?

While I take your point about all of this, I guess I can't let it rest; the ratings situation involving Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! was somewhat more complicated than you suggest here.

To begin with, the Almodóvar film actually received an "X" rating from CARA when Miramax submitted it in the early spring of 1990. The ever contentious Weinstein brothers -- who a bit earlier had submitted Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, received (an inevitable) X rating, and simply decided to distribute that film unrated -- took considerable umbrage over Almodóvar's little movie being tabbed with such a restrictive rating. As I recall, Miramax immediately appealed the rating. When CARA reaffirmed the X, the Weinsteins sued the MPAA. Loudly, so the neighbors could hear. This got a lot of publicity; I don't think anyone had seriously (or as determinedly) sued over a rating in quite a while. The MPAA & CARA prevailed, to be sure, and the Weinsteins ultimately released Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! without a rating.

Though the MPAA had won the suit, the Weinsteins had publicly reopened the unwieldy can of worms regarding Art, Commerce and Adult Material in movies that had never satisfactorily been addressed or resolved in twenty-odd years. The foolish decision of the MPAA to not copyright the X rating back in 1968 -- and its consequent rampant use as a lurid signifier by producers of pornography -- really did haunt Jack Valenti to the end of his life. It was clear that this was going to come to a head sooner or later, and something would have to be done. In late summer, as Universal (of all studios) readied Phil Kaufman's arty, very adult-themed Henry and June for release, CARA rated the picture X. This was a problem. Universal actually had a corporate policy that it would not release X-rated pictures (though the studio had produced and released a few such films in the early days of the ratings code, problems with ads and distribution had resulted in the policy), and Kaufman's final cut rights only extended to delivering an R-rated movie. There was a good deal of publicity, and a great deal of conversation. After a few weeks, the MPAA and CARA eventually announced a new rating to replace the X: the NC-17. This was extremely similar to the X rating, but it was a) copyrighted by the MPAA and could not be self-imposed by filmmakers and b) ...well, all right, an "adult" rating, but not an X rating.

In other words, in 1990 anyway, the idea was, an NC-17 wasn't supposed to connote "smut and explicit sex."

Valenti, bless him, said "We are going back to the original intent of the rating system." It was supposed to be the thinking person's X rating -- the socially acceptable X, the arthouse X, an X for the people... I dunno.

Universal was satisfied, anyway, and Kaufman's Henry and June was launched in October with the brand new rating.

As we of course know, this ultimately didn't really work out very well. The mall theaters that hadn't wanted any part of X-rated films decided they didn't want any part of NC-17-rated movies either (in numerous cases, mall operators actually added this to contracts and leases); some papers still were wary of ads for any "adult" pictures at all. The NC-17 turned out to be practically the same kind of signifier as the X.

Both Tie Me Down and The Cook, The Thief (where is this film lately?) bear NC-17 ratings now. As does Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, for that matter. And Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (beware the R-rated version occasionally screened), The Dreamers (but not 1900, which surrendered its rating, and is now unrated). Tropic of Cancer. Inserts. Showgirls.

Yeah, I know -- it wasn't worth all that prose. [Glenn: I strongly disagree.] I hope your vacation is still swell -- you deserve it. Best, Always. -- B.

And that's all for now ... next post on Saturday, Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson

Wildcat Bus
  "Just when you thought it was safe to ride in a bus again." A deadbeat playboy and his chauffeur help Fay Wray's bus line get the goods on crooks that are sabotaging their buses and faking accidents, all to put them out of business. Bet you didn't know that there was a racket in unlicensed long-distance car trips -- we didn't either. Paul Guilfoyle and Charles Lang co-star in RKO's goofiest romance-comedy-crime story. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.

The Essential Jacques Demy
  A marvelous collection of the intensely creative musical romances of Jacques Demy: Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin and Une chambre en ville. The HD transfers are in eye-popping restored color and the marvelous extras cover everything about Demy, from his collaboration with composer Michel Legrand to his theories about the nature of love. The set includes some early Demy short subjects as well. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.

Bankers of God: The Calvi Affair
  This is the most complex, dizzying conspiracy thriller I've seen this year, and it's said to be entirely factual. Director Giuseppe Ferrara tackles a major Italian scandal from 1982. The Mafia, the Vatican, the Camorra and the C.I.A. all relied on the money laundering services of Italy's Banco Ambrosiano to shift illegal profits, make payoffs and fund covert military activities. When an arrest brings some of the truth to light, bank president Roberto Calvi finds himself in a deadly bind. Too many secret and illegal organizations are involved. A nefarious Masonic Lodge and the financial wing of the Vatican both need the problem to disappear, and Calvi with it. Starring Omero Antonutti, Giancarlo Giannini and Rutger Hauer. In Blu-ray from Rarovideo / Kino.

  Kino gives us a classic '50s "little" movie that won moviegoers' hearts and launched a career for Ernest Borgnine. Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster were the first to adapt a Live TV hit for the big screen, and they wisely hired the TV show's writer Paddy Chayefsky, its director Delbert Mann and several original actors. Great performances from Betsy Blair (some back story, there) and Joe Mantell; this is the source of the deathless line, "Boy that Mickey Spillane can really write". Most of all, Marty demonstrates why we have always loved Ernest Borgnine. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

  Mick Jagger struts his stuff and vicious gangster Edward Fox learns how a Rock 'n' Roll star lives in this weird combo of sex, drugs and bizarre identity games. Its release was delayed, probably because it scared Warner Bros. It instead became an instant cult item -- and the few available 35mm prints were screened so much that I never saw a copy that wasn't spliced, broken and scratched to ribbons. Co-directed by Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell, it holds up well. With Anita Pallenberg. In Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.

  David Cronenberg concocts a great thriller about psychic warfare among mutants altered by an experimental drug: this is the notorious movie with the exploding heads! Patrick McGoohan preps 'scanner' Stephen Lack to do battle with Michael Ironside's renegade super-scanner, who is assassinating his fellow psychics and preparing to raise his own generation of all-powerful brainiacs. It's both an exploitation picture and a legit sci-fi classic; the terrific extras include Cronenberg's first experimental feature, Stereo. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.

Werner Herzog: The Collection
  It's a massive group of films from one of the world's most original filmmakers: Even Dwarfs Started Small, The Land of Silence and Darkness, Fata Morgana, Aguirre the Wrath of God, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Heart of Glass, Strozek, Woyzeck, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Fitzcarraldo, Ballad of the Little Soldier, Where the Green Ants Dream, Cobra Verde, Lessons of Darkness, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, My Best Fiend. The sixteen features and documentaries are packed with director commentaries and other extras, including a 40-page book. In Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.

Savant Article: Military Boomer Movie Confessions
  Prompted by colleague Stuart Galbraith IV, Savant relates his atypical upbringing as a U.S. Air Force dependent, growing up discovering movies in a theater system that showed everything, on military bases where I could walk to shows by myself at age seven. I hadn't seen anything written anything about the military movie system but I've already connected with some folk that grew up the way I did. The article contains humiliating photos, too.

August 2014
 Bankers of God: The Calvi Affair  Blu-ray  Marty  Blu-ray  Performance  Blu-ray  Scanners  Blu-ray
July 2014
 Werner Herzog, The Collection: Even Dwarfs Started Small, The Land of Silence and Darkness, Fata Morgana, Aguirre the Wrath of God, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Heart of Glass, Strozek, Woyzeck, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Fitzcarraldo, Ballad of the Little Soldier, Where the Green Ants Dream, Cobra Verde, Lessons of Darkness, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, My Best Fiend  Blu-ray  Savant Article: Military Boomer Movie Confessions  Dark Crimes Volume Two: Ministry of Fear, You and Me, Undertow, Hollywood Story  Paris Blues  Blu-ray  Born Yesterday  Blu-ray  Witness for the Prosecution  Blu-ray  Hearts and Minds  Blu-ray  Violent Saturday  Blu-ray  The North Star + Armored Attack!  Blu-ray  The Scalphunters  Blu-ray  The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes  Blu-ray  Caught  Blu-ray  Picnic at Hanging Rock  Blu-ray  Woman's World  The Lost Moment  Blu-ray  I Vinti (The Vanquished)  Blu-ray  The Time Machine  Blu-ray  A Hard Day's Night  Blu-ray
June 2014
 Operation Petticoat  Blu-ray  Judex  Blu-ray + DVD  Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid  Blu-ray  L'eclisse  Blu-ray  World on a Wire  Blu-ray  Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison  Blu-ray  All that Heaven Allows  Blu-ray  What Price Hollywood?  Crack-Up  The Train  Blu-ray  The Great Flood  The Man from Laramie  Blu-ray  Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq  Kismet  Blu-ray  The Max Linder Slapstick Symposium Collection  Home of the Brave  Blu-ray  Sullivan's Travels  Region B Blu-ray  Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide  The Nutty Professor 50th Anniversary  Blu-ray  Weekend of a Champion  Bible Quiz
May 2014
 Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?  Prime Cut  Blu-ray  Here Comes the Navy  Red River  Blu-ray  Fate is the Hunter  Blu-ray  Warner World War II Collection: The Big Red One, Where Eagles Dare, The Dirty Dozen, George Stevens D-Day to Berlin (DVD), Memphis Belle, Battle of the Bulge, Defiance  Blu-ray  Two Rode Together  Blu-ray  Johnny Come Lately  Blu-ray  The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou  Blu-ray  The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection: South Pacific, The Sound of Music, State Fair, The King and I, Carousel, Liliom, Oklahoma!  Blu-ray  Monte Walsh  Blu-ray  Overlord  Blu-ray  Flying Tigers  Blu-ray  Il sorpasso  Blu-ray  The Flying Dutchman  Thunderbirds are GO! &  Thunderbird 6  Blu-ray  Wild at Heart  Blu-ray  Memphis Belle  Blu-ray  Ace in the Hole  Blu-ray + DVD  Midnight Lace  White Zombie  Blu-ray + DVD  A Brief History of Time  Blu-ray  Forever Amber  Sorcerer  Blu-ray  Backlash  All-Region Blu-ray  Nosferatu the Vampyre  Blu-ray  The Wind and the Lion  Blu-ray  The Inspector Lavardin Collection  Blu-ray  Show Boat  Professor Mamlock  Dante's Inferno  The Trials of Muhammad Ali
April 2014
 All the King's Men  Blu-ray  The Revengers  Blu-ray  Young at Heart  Blu-ray  The Freshman  Blu-ray + DVD  Get Carter  Blu-ray  King of the Hill  Blu-ray + DVD  Man Without a Star  All-Region Blu-ray  Broadway Danny Rose  Blu-ray  Disco & Atomic War  The Pawnbroker  Blu-ray  Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation  Blu-ray  Touch of Evil  Blu-ray  Used Cars  Blu-ray  Villain  Double Indemnity  Blu-ray  Wonderwall  Blu-ray  Let the Fire Burn  Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia  Blu-ray  The People versus Paul Crump  Men in War  Blu-ray   Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV: So Dark The Night, Johnny O'Clock, Walk A Crooked Mile, Between Midnight And Dawn, Walk East On Beacon!  Stranger on the Prowl  Blu-ray  Providence  Region 2 DVD  King Kong vs Godzilla  Blu-ray  The Hidden Fortress  Blu-ray + DVD  Riot in Cell Block 11  Blu-ray  The Bamboo Saucer  Blu-ray  Hatari!  Blu-ray
March 2014
 The Killers (1964) Region B Blu-ray  The Eddy Duchin Story  Blu-ray  The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah  Cry Danger  Blu-ray  The Front  Blu-ray  The Swimmer  Blu-ray + DVD  Gunfight at the O.K. Corral  Blu-ray  Free and Easy + Estrellados  Roadblock  The Hunchback of Notre Dame  Blu-ray  Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom  Blu-ray  American Hustle  Blu-ray  The Americanization of Emily  Blu-ray  Thief  Blu-ray  Dead Kids Strange Behavior  Blu-ray  Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me Theatrical Review  The Nuisance  Invitation  5 Fingers  ...Et mourir de plaisir (...und vor Lust zu Sterben, Blood and Roses)  Region 2 DVD  Crimes and Misdemeanors  Blu-ray  Tess  Blu-ray + DVD  The Blue Max  Blu-ray  Foreign Correspondent  Blu-ray + DVD  Margin for Error  Jupiter's Darling
February 2014
 Thunderbolt and Lightfoot  Blu-ray  Thirst  Blu-ray  Du Rififi chez les hommes  Blu-ray + DVD  Heart of Darkness   Come Back, Africa - The Films of Lionel Rogosin, Volume 2  Blu-ray  Gravity  Blu-ray  Khartoum  Blu-ray  Savant Q&A Interview: Greg Kintz of The 3-D Film Archive on Man in the Dark  Dusty and Sweets McGee  Thor: The Dark World  Blu-ray  It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World  Blu-ray + DVD  This Woman is Dangerous  The Vincent Price Collection: The Fall of the House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum, The Haunted Palace, The Masque of the Red Death, Witchfinder General, The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Blu-ray  Million Dollar Baby  Blu-ray  Zulu  Blu-ray  Trans-Europ-Express  Blu-ray
January 2014
 Grey Gardens  Blu-ray  The Lady from Shanghai  Blu-ray  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)  Blu-ray  Fearless  Blu-ray  Taxi  The Killing Fields  Blu-ray  Throne of Blood  Blu-ray + DVD  Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project: Touki-Bouki, Redes, A River Called Titas, Dry Summer, Trances, The Housemaid  Blu-ray + DVD  Man in the Dark 3D  Blu-ray + 3-D  I Cannibali  Blu-ray  The Jerry Warren Collection Volume 1: Man Beast, Curse of the Stone Hand, The Wild World of Batwoman  Captain Phillips  Blu-ray  Royal Flash  Blu-ray  Young America  More Than Honey  Blu-ray  Sabata  Blu-ray + Region 2 DVD  Vivacious Lady  Many Wars Ago (Uomini contro)  Blu-ray  Corruption  Blu-ray  Lee Daniels' The Butler  Blu-ray  The Beast of Hollow Mountain  Blu-ray  The Neanderthal Man  Blu-ray  The Big Gundown Region A  Blu-ray  Stella Dallas

  Reaching further back in time?
A Chronological List of DVD Savant's Reviews for 2013
... and for 2012 ... and for 2011

 Savant's DVD Wish List FINAL NOTE 2012

Hundreds more Savant reviews at the Other End of this Link!


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

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