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Favorite Discs of 2014

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

Tuesday July 28, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

Fearless Frank
MGM Limited Edition Collection

  More than a guilty pleasure, let's consider this unloved oddity a somewhat challenged minor work of art. Philip Kaufman's campy, comic book approach is so primitive that it's easily tagged as incompetent. But the show has an earnestness that elevates its Second City skit humor and clunky storytelling. In his first film, Jon Voight plays a hayseed who becomes a virtuous superhero, Frank -- but Voight also covers a dual role as the zombified automaton False Frank, built to serve an Al Capp-like gangster. With Severn Darden, Joan Darling, David Steinberg, Ben Carruthers, Anthony Holland and Nelson Algren. A former late-night crazoid item, and a true curiosity piece... with a heart! On DVD-R from MGM Limited Edition Collection.

Pit Stop
Arrow Video USA
Blu-ray + DVD

  Here we have Jack Hill's best movie in a perfect presentation. The story of a stock car figure-8 racer's violent career transcends its exploitation genre to make a bigger statement about the drive to win and the price of competition. Another great ensemble works well together -- Dick Davalos, Brian Donlevy, Ellen Burstyn, Beverly Washburn and Sid Haig. Great B&W cinematography, too. The extras are unusually satisfying, and include a candidly informative interview with Roger Corman, the silent financier behind this deserving obscurity. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Video USA.


Places in the Heart
Twilight Time

  Writer-director Robert Benton tells a personal story from his Texas hometown, of Depression-era hard times. Sally Field loses her husband but is determined to keep her home intact and kids together. Lindsay Crouse, Amy Madigan, Danny Glover, John Malkovich & Ed Harris complete a nearly perfect cast. Field's housewife tries to raise a crop, with no experience, meeting resistance from both the bankers and the Klan. The picture won its share of Oscars, but needs to be better known just the same. The inspirational, powerful ending makes it one of the best of American pictures that express a religious theme. Cinematography by Néstor Almendros. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.


I have to say I'm really enjoying reviewing this summer. The companies putting out library titles are hitting a lot of favorites, and I'm also getting a chance to review some foreign discs of pictures that I've akways wanted to cover, but just aren't being revisited here in HD. I've just seen a surprisingly good foreign disc of Sam Wood's For Whom the Bell Tolls; even though it wasn't obtained as a review screener, I want to review it. Earlier this year a Shout! Factory subsidiary called Timeless Media Group put out a disc of Robert Mitchum's Thunder Road, an old favorite. Shout! will send me good review material, but not everything; I seem to have missed the opportunity to watch my old friend Randall William Cook in I, Madman. But in general I have much more to review than I can ever get to. I don't call this a problem, but I urge readers to write if they should want to see a particular title covered, as I just did with Mississippi Mermaid.

Gary Teetzel comes through once again with an interesting link to a site called Lost Films, where you will find images from movies -- all of which seem to be 80 or 90 years old -- that have yet to be identified. I took a gander at them, used my hyper-acute Savant film detective skills, and came up with -- Bupkiss. The best I could do was to notice that each sample had a watermark reading 'Lost Films' at the bottom. Could they all have come from an old company called 'Lost Films?' No red carpet into the UCLA Film Archive for Savant! But take a peek, maybe you'll recognize your grandmother as a silent movie star.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 25, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
Arrow Films
Region B (UK) Blu-ray

 -Across the 8th Dimension. Freaky cult favorite or failed franchise bid? Earl Mac Rauch and W.D. Richter's full-blown pulp adventure epic posits a ultra-cool multi-talented genius hero and his band of loyal retainers, the 'Hong Kong Cavaliers;' the tale of Red and Black Lectroids trying to seize an invention called an Oscillation Overthruster brings on a battle between Banzai and a madman nemesis, Dr. Emilio Lizardo. He's actually possessed by Lord John Whorfin, but that's another story. The forced but funny proceedings employ an enormous cast: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Rosalind Cash, Pepe Serna, Ronald Lacey, Matt Clark, Clancy Brown, Carl Lumbly, Vincent Schiavelli, Dan Hedaya. Is it cool? Is it hip? Well, it's definitely busy and loud. With a pile of new extras, too. On Region B (UK) Blu-ray from Arrow Films.

Night and the City
The Criterion Collection

  This reissue of Jules Dassin's most extreme noir lays a riveting HD transfer on the hellish images of nighttime London, a collection of war ruins where the dishonest, undeserving Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) plays a get-rich-quick scheme that will make him the target of every informer and hit man in the underworld. Gerald Kersh's seamy novel becomes a critique of the business (under) world, where every deal is a swindle and everybody's looking to betray everyone else. This edition of Dassin's dog-eat-dog epic comes with an entire second encoding of a variant English version. It tries to make things a little 'nicer', to no avail. The disc carries the red-hot interview where Dassin nails down what he really thinks of Elia Kazan. With Gene Tierney, Hugh Marlowe, Googie Withers, Francis L. Sullivan and Herbert Lom. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.


Mississippi Mermaid
Twilight Time

  François Truffaut goes loser noir with this tale of a colonial tobacco planter taken in by a false mail order bride. Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve play against type as a gullible husband who becomes obsessed with an icy adventuress -- who through his example may finally learn what love is, even if it's really amour fou. In Dyaliscope and color, the action moves from Reunion in the Indian Ocean to snowy mountains on the Swiss border. This time the Hitchcock parallels don't accompany an attempt to imitate Hitchcock's style -- Truffaut instead uses his own relaxed, spontaneous approach to drama. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.


Well, I just realized that all three reviews today have at least some personal connection -- I hope that that's not off-putting. I'm not as heavily involved in disc extras these days and it's fun to see these older jobs bounce back.

A link: Gary Teetzel sends us a Daily Mail story about some Texas eccentrics that have way too much discretionary money. They decided to build a replica of the Munsters house. What's that, 1313 Mockingbird Lane ... or was that where the Addams Family lived? I shouldn't get too snooty about the decadence of all this, because a long time ago I daydreamed about buying a house next to a hill -- and then landscaping the hill to look like the weird set from Invaders from Mars. But it was only an idea!

And I'm glad to learn that colleague Shaun Chang will be conducting a film commentary with actress Cristina Raines for an upcoming Scream Factory Blu-ray of Michael Winner's The Sentinel. Shaun writes well about actresses and gets good interviews, so I'll be looking to see how this one comes out. I haven't seen The Sentinel; from what I remember Raines' character discovers that she's been nominated to serve as the 'Gatekeeper' for a portal to Hell, inconveniently located in her New York apartment (not rent controlled). I don't know whether or not Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer, makes an appearance.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau
  David Gregory's in-depth docu about the insane production of a 1996 version of the H.G. Wells horror classic takes us deeper into out-of-control movie madness than ever before. The filming was a nightmare out of Lewis Carroll and Franz Kafka, involving crazy stars Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, warring studio heads, witchcraft, Barbara Steele, an unbelievably tiny 'miniature midget,' scores of severely gross Stan Winston monster creations, a location too remote for practicality, a demoralized film company in unending party mode, aboriginal curses, destructive floods, and a director in over his head and unsupported by most of his crew. Some of what happens is almost too strange to believe. Director Richard Stanley appears in many extras, and a special extra is a full-length 1921 German silent adaptation of H.G. Wells' influential book. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD (with a bonus Audio CD) from Severin Films.

The World of Henry Orient
  George Roy Hill came up a winner with Nora and Nunnally Johnson's great screenplay, enacted by a perfect cast -- Peter Sellers, Angela Lansbury, Paula Prentiss, Phyllis Thaxter and two remarkable teenagers that fully capture the adolescent mindset -- Merrie Spaeth and Tippy Walker. Two 'adventuring' girls roam Manhattan, and fixate on their heartthrob Henry Orient, a no-talent pianist more interested in his extra-marital affairs. Insightful to the nth degree, packed with comedy but also a deeply felt sentiment for families, especially families hit by divorce. With New York as a wonderful setting and fine music by Elmer Bernstein; the new transfer and audio are a big improvement over earlier discs. On Blu-ray from From Twilight Time.

The Clay Pigeon
  Notable future talent -- screenwriter and producer Carl Foreman and director Richard Fleischer -- put together this postwar-themed noir, the first production released by new RKO owner Howard Hughes. Bill Williams is an amnesiac G.I. trying to find out why he's wanted for treason and murder in a Japanese prison camp, and Barbara Hale is the war widow whose husband he is supposed to have betrayed. A chase in Chinatown sees Williams evading the law, but also a group of criminals that seem to want him out of the way as well. An interesting if not dazzling effort, the show also stars future director Richard Quine and veteran Richard Loo. On DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.

The Best of Everything
  Jerry Wald's 1959 soap opera has become more timely than ever -- not only was it a stylistic model for Mad Men, Don Draper is seen reading the original book in the series. It's a story of three girls young women who come to a Big Apple publishing house for careers, but mostly to find eligible marriage partners. Suzy Parker wants fame on Broadway, Diane Baker just wants a man and Hope Lange thinks she's toying with a business career while waiting for her steady to return from England. The work floor is a hive of rumors, gossip and intrigue, with Brian Aherne, Stephen Boyd and Joan Crawford as the editors -- lecherous, disillusioned and demonic, respectively. Sexism is the inescapable norm, what with rogues like Louis Jourdan and creeps like Robert Evans on the prowl. Title song by Johnny Mathis; great pre- Mad Men commentary by author Rona Jaffe. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

He Ran All the Way
 This is the bitter end of first-generation film noir, as romantic stylization gives way to socio-political despair. After his cohort Norman Lloyd kills a man, no-good thief John Garfield holes up with a lower middle class family (Shelley Winters, Wallace Ford, Selena Royle) and the desperation and paranoia sets in. Blacklistees Dalton Trumbo, Hugo Butler and director John Berry lay on the fatalistic determinism -- no matter how much Winters tries to convince him that her family will help with an escape, Garfield believes he'll be betrayed. Strange sympathy for a bad man, twisted into a criticism of the status quo, law & order-wise. Garfield's last film is a gripping drama, beautifully acted and directed. Handsomely remastered in HD. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

The Spider
  This five-hour plus miniseries was a monster hit in Denmark, thanks to its lavish production values, period stylization and smart dramatics. Based loosely on true events, a reporter in the early postwar period (rationing, the black market) uncovers collusion between a corrupt government and a criminal empire borne straight from the German occupation. You likely never heard of the cast but they're great: green reporter Jakob Cedergren, established news veteran Bent Medjing, saxophone-playing prodigal brother Lars Mikkelsen and drop-dead gorgeous film star Stine Stengade, whose father is neck deep in the criminality. Quite demanding and rewarding, this has been favorably compared to the very different The Kingdom by daffy Dane Lars von Trier. On Region 2 DVD from Arrow Video (UK).

Around the World with Orson Welles
  Yet another wild Orson Welles adventure that showed great promise, and could have yielded the funding he needed for his ambitious personal projects. The six completed episodes of this travelogue-interview show, filmed in Spain, Germany, France and England present Welles' incomparable skills as an interviewer, raconteur and guerrilla filmmaker. He takes on a small Basque village, locations for The Third Man, Parisian intellectuals and a gaggle of old ladies in an English retirement home for widows. His technique is brilliant. The plan seems to have broken down on a seventh uncompleted episode about a murder in France. Included on this combo disc are a once-lost Viennese episode and a 2000 documentary on this unfinished episode, that analyzes Welles' progressive approach on the series as a whole. This should have been a big career success for him. On Blu-ray + DVD from from B2MP.

The Monster that Challenged the World
  A modest but solid late-'50s monster-on-the-loose picture that takes its story much more seriously than most, this one is about a sneaky herd of snail creatures from the bottom of California's Salton Sea, that interrupt Navy experiments and gobble up unlucky divers and smooching teenagers. Yet the generic story is given a fine polish, with Tim Holt, Audrey Dalton and our favorite Hans Conried all handed good characters to play. And the monster is halfway impressive -- a twelve-foot drooling sea slug called a Kraken, that smashes its way through doors to threaten the heroine. As a special treat, the disc has a bright, perfectly judged commentary by Tom Weaver, who seems to have interviewed literally everybody who came anywhere near this almost 60 year-old production. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

July 2015
 Come and Get It  DVD  Hiroshima mon amour  Blu-ray  Storm Fear  Blu-ray  Escape from East Berlin  DVD  It Follows  Blu-ray  Miracle Mile  Blu-ray  The Young Lions  Blu-ray
June 2015
 Kern & Hammerstein: Showboat  Blu-ray  Riffraff '47  DVD
 The Killers '46 & The Killers '64  Blu-ray  Report to the Commissioner  Blu-ray  Absolute Beginners  Blu-ray  The Incredible Shrinking Man  Region B Blu-ray  3-D Rarities  3-D Blu-ray   The Golden Year: Five Classics from 1939: Dark Victory, Ninotchka, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dodge City, Gone With the Wind  Blu-ray  The Thing with Two Heads  Blu-ray  The Night of the Generals  Blu-ray  Pandas: The Journey Home  3-D Blu-ray  Monte Walsh  Blu-ray  The Hound of the Baskervilles  Region B (UK) Blu-ray  John Ford: Dreaming the Quiet Man  Blu-ray  Mississippi Burning  Blu-ray  Vincent & Theo  Blu-ray  The Sunshine Boys  Blu-ray  The Onion Field  Blu-ray  American Guerilla in the Philippines  DVD
 The Bridge  Blu-ray  Tentacles &  Reptilicus  Blu-ray  Show Them No Mercy!  DVD
May 2015
 State of Siege  Blu-ray  The Island of Dr. Moreau  Blu-ray  Magician: The Astonishing Life & Works of Orson Welles  Blu-ray  Wolfen  Blu-ray  Shy People Savant Revival Review  A Man for All Seasons  Blu-ray  Carla's Song  Blu-ray  Cops and Robbers  Blu-ray  The Best House in London  DVD  1776  Blu-ray  Face to Face and  The Tramplers by Lee Broughton  DVD  The First Deadly Sin  DVD  Jamaica Inn  Blu-ray  The Confession  Blu-ray  Hombre  Blu-ray  Moonlighting  Blu-ray  Thank Your Lucky Stars  Blu-ray  Tarantula  UK Region B Blu-ray  It! The Terror from Beyond Space  Blu-ray  Ladyhawke  Blu-ray  The Midnight Special  DVD  Make Way for Tomorrow  Blu-ray  Seven Angry Men  DVD  The Beyond  Blu-ray  Richard III 1995  Blu-ray  The Premature Burial  Blu-ray  The Long Good Friday  UK Region B Blu-ray & PAL DVD
April 2015
 The Secret Invasion  Blu-ray  A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night  Blu-ray  Face of Fire  DVD  Mr. Turner  Blu-ray  Mysteries of the Unseen World  3-D Blu-ray  Blood and Black Lace  Region AB Blu-ray & DVD  Inherent Vice  Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD  42nd Street  Blu-ray  April Love  Blu-ray  Le Silence de la mer  Blu-ray  "X"  Blu-ray  Dance with Me, Henry  Blu-ray  That Man from Rio and  Up to His Ears  Blu-ray  Invaders from Mars 1986  Blu-ray  Zardoz  Blu-ray  Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas: Walk Cheerfully, That Night's Wife, Dragnet Girl  DVD  The Way Things Go  Blu-ray  The Friends of Eddie Coyle  Blu-ray  Why Be Good?  DVD  Blue Sky  Blu-ray  Hoop Dreams  Blu-ray  A Most Violent Year  Blu-ray + Digital HD  Solomon and Sheba  Blu-ray  Sullivan's Travels  Blu-ray
March 2015
 Odd Man Out  Blu-ray  Massacre Gun  Blu-ray  U Turn  Blu-ray  Hand of Death  DVD  Without a Clue  Blu-ray  The White Buffalo  Blu-ray  The Day Mars Invaded Earth  DVD  The Imitation Game  Blu-ray + Digital HD  The Babadook  Blu-ray  Journey to the Center of the Earth  Blu-ray  First Men in the Moon  Blu-ray  The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry  Blu-ray  Miami Blues  Blu-ray  Day of Anger  Blu-ray + DVD  The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies  3-D Blu-ray  Goodbye to Language  3-D Blu-ray  Forbidden Hollywood Volume 8: Blonde Crazy, Strangers May Kiss, Hi Nellie!, Dark Hazard  The Soft Skin  Blu-ray  The Falcon and the Snowman  Blu-ray  Alice's Restaurant  Blu-ray  Like Water for Chocolate  Blu-ray  Musicals: 4-Movie Collection: Kiss Me Kate  3-D, Calamity Jane, The Band Wagon, Singin' in the Rain  Blu-ray  Kiss Me Kate  3-D Blu-ray  The Liberator  Blu-ray  Muscle Beach Party  Blu-ray  Ride the Pink Horse  Blu-ray  The Manchurian Candidate  UK Region B Blu-ray & PAL DVD  Dear Heart  DVD
February 2015
 In the Land of the Head Hunters  Blu-ray  The Prowler  Blu-ray  The End of Violence  Blu-ray  The Sure Thing  Blu-ray  Incident  DVD  To Sir, With Love  Blu-ray  Caveman  Blu-ray  A Day in the Country  Blu-ray  Stormy Weather  Blu-ray  The Night They Raided Minsky's  Blu-ray  The Killing  UK Region B Blu-ray  The St. Valentine's Day Massacre  Blu-ray  Syncopation  Blu-ray  How to Murder Your Wife  Blu-ray  Black Sunday  Blu-ray  The Connection  Blu-ray  Rabid  UK Region B Blu-ray  Lust for Life  Blu-ray  The Wild Angels  Blu-ray  Watership Down  Blu-ray  Kiss Me, Stupid  Blu-ray  The Day They Robbed the Bank of England  DVD  Nightcrawler  Blu-ray  The Purple Rose of Cairo  Blu-ray  A Hole in the Head  Blu-ray  Don't Look Now  Blu-ray  Far from the Madding Crowd  Blu-ray  God Told Me To  Blu-ray
January 2015
 Why Don't You Play In Hell?  Blu-ray  Running On Empty  DVD  55 Days at Peking  UK Region B Blu-ray  Pork Chop Hill  Blu-ray  The Palm Beach Story  Blu-ray  The Black Scorpion widescreen  DVD  No Highway in the Sky  DVD  The Weapon  Blu-ray  The Bride Wore Black  Blu-ray  May in the Summer  Blu-ray  World for Ransom  Blu-ray  Breaking Away  Blu-ray  The Night Porter  Blu-ray  The Girl Who Knew Too Much  Blu-ray  The Russians are Coming the Russians are Coming  Blu-ray  Fury  Blu-ray  Bloody Sunday  DVD  52 Pick-Up  Blu-ray  Till the End of Time  DVD  Into the Woods  Blu-ray  The Twilight Samurai  Blu-ray  The Ultimate Invaders from Mars Savant Article Reboot  Ten Seconds to Hell  Blu-ray  Adua and Her Friends  Blu-ray  Kinoshita and World War II  DVD  The Boys from Brazil  Blu-ray

  Reaching further back in time?
A Chronological List of DVD Savant's Reviews for 2014
... and for 2013 ... 2012 ... and 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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