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Tuesday March 3, 2015
Savant's new reviews today are:Ride the Pink Horse
The Criterion Collection
Robert Montgomery stars in and directs a noir tale about a tough guy's visit to New Mexico. He's a hero but also a blackmailer bent on a twisted revenge. The only help he's offered comes from Mexican-American locals, a carousel operator (Thomas Gomez) and a love-struck teenager (Wanda Hendrix). Superior in every normal way, the thriller is intelligent yet still problematic -- it's sensitive to the minority yet makes the old stereotypes seem more offensive than ever. A terrific new encoding, with a commentary by James Ursini and Alain Silver. In Blu-ray
from The Criterion Collection
The Manchurian Candidate
Blu-ray + DVD
Laurence Harvey loves Ma Angela Lansbury, yet keeps finding himself doing weird things he can't control, like jumping into Lake Michigan. Pal Frank Sinatra lauds Harvey as "the finest man I ever knew" yet knows that not one word of it is true. Mysterious Janet Leigh reminds Sinatra that she was one of the Chinese laborers who laid the track for this line. This UK edition of John Frankenheimer's political paranoia classic repeats MGM's excellent domestic transfer, and adds two essays that will convince you that every nefarious political crime from 1963 forward was part of a heinous conspiracy using sinister mind control techniques. A Dual-Format edition in UK Region B Blu-ray
and PAL DVD
from Arrow Academy
The Warner Archive Collection
A square romance that needs rediscovery: Glenn Ford and Geraldine Page are the most endearing couple of the 1960s -- ordinary decent people looking for the right mate in the confusion of big city relationships. She's a postmaster attending a convention and he's getting ready to marry Angela Lansbury, who
somehow survived being shot in the head by Laurence Harvey
expects far too much from him. Tad Mosel's funny screenplay takes time out to embrace the problems of a kind soul with an open heart but sensitive feelings. Page is terrific. Theme song by Henry Mancini. DVD-R
from The Warner Archive Collection
Gary Teetzel sends along a wickedly funny surprise for anybody who had to suffer through last year's mega-hit Frozen: it's the film's alternate ending directed by John Carpenter (in spirit) with a slightly different style of animation by Lee Hardcastle. Caution, it's NSFW and too gross for kids. Gary wondered, "Gee, this original ending was pretty dark for Disney."
Format historian and expert Bob Furmanek has confirmed that he's working on the restoration for Blu-ray of the 3-D version of "GOG", Ivan Tors' 1953 science fiction thriller about O.S.I.'s top-secret underground laboratory. This is the crazy color 3-D picture that everybody thought would never be screened that way again; the ability to show it emerged when experts matched up the studio's Right Eye print with a collector's Left Eye print, fifty years after they'd wandered away from each other. The full story is over at the 3-D Film Archive.
A few days ago on the Warner Archive Facebook page, someone asked if Blu-rays were on the way for the science fiction movies Them!, The Thing (From Another World) or Time After Time. The WAC's prudently cryptic answer was, "One of the trio has just been remastered for Blu-ray release later this year. The others are very likely to follow." That's a lot better than, "Outlook hazy, try again tomorrow". But evidence popped up immediately that seems to give us a direct answer. The trusted fellow John McElwee of the great Greenbriar Picture Shows noticed that Monday's TCM cablecast of Them! was in native HD, and formatted for widescreen... it's always been flat and standard def before. So for Halloween this year, the smart money is on GIANT ANTS.
Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson
Saturday February 28, 2015 (early!)
Savant's new reviews today are:In The Land of the Head Hunters
The Milestone Cinematheque
A thorough reconstruction brings back the first feature film starring an all-Native American cast... from 1914, a full hundred years ago. Even then, the filmmakers had to find older native craftsmen to produce the authentic props and costumes, as some tribal customs and ritual dances had already been banned by law for 30 years. The two-disc package contains two versions of the movie and a wealth of ethnographic and filmic extras. The story? An Indian hero seeks his bride promised in a vision quest, and starts a tribal war waged in impressive war canoes. In Blu-ray
from The Milestone Cinematheque
Joseph Losey and Dalton Trumbo's searing film noir is bitter social criticism with a sordid edge that was shocking in 1951. Scheming cop Van Heflin cheats, lies and murders his way toward a life where he can "make money while he sleeps" -- all he has to do is seduce an unhappy wife (Evelyn Keyes) and get her radio-personality husband out of the way. A key Los Angeles 'nightcrawler' tale, this concludes in existential territory, an arid desert ghost town. A phenomenal missing film brought back from noir limbo by the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film and Television Archives. With excellent extras by Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller. In Blu-ray
The End of Violence
Angels weep and thriller fans scratch their heads: ace cult director Wim Wenders' social sci-fi thriller about class inequality, technological paranoia and escalating violence in Los Angeles is a frustrating, pretentious mess... and Savant likes
many a pretentious sci-fi fantasy. Bill Pullman, Andie MacDowell and Gabriel Byrne head a cast of cult favorites, the visuals are gorgeous and Ry Cooder's melancholy music is diverting, but this turkey is a bad idea assembled from stale ideas, adorned with hipster dialogue and sub-Tarantino confrontations. It's all about a... well, even I had to use four paragraphs to just begin to describe what it's about. Track down the long Until the End of the World
instead. In Blu-ray
from Olive Films
andThe Sure Thing
Rob Reiner's first light comedy teams a young John Cusack and the charming Daphne Zuniga for a dumb but diverting college break/road trip. Not bad but awfully inconsistent -- the nice college girl flashes herself naked out a car window, to prove a point to a guy she wants to leave her alone? Cusack and Zuniga -- and Reiner's easygoing direction -- keep such inanities at bay. We like the actors so much that tolerating other character and storyline goofs is not a problem. The sex fantasy scenes show off the acting skills of Nicolette Sheridan's knit bikini - she's done much better since. With a Rob Reiner commentary. In Blu-ray
from Shout! Factory
Today's curious case of mailbox-watching: Savant anxiously awaits Warner Home Video's three Blu-ray musicals -- The Band Wagon, Calamity Jane and the new 3-D disc of Kiss Me Kate. I saw it projected at the Tiffany on Sunset in 1979, and thus experienced the glorious three-dimensional appeal of Ann "Hi Honey!" Miller. Am eager to repeat the pleasure. Great vintage 3-D disc releases don't happen every week.
And Bob Furmanek's new Kiss Me Kate 3-D Page has just gone up at the 3-D Film Archive.
Over at Trailers from Hell that great commentator Brian Trenchard-Smith hits on a movie I never heard of but now want to see, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It's a 2008 release apparently made from an un-filmed 1930s screenplay, and stars "a bubble-brained singer (Amy Adams) and her prim and proper social secretary (Frances McDormand)." It sounds great to me. Thank you, TFH.
Lastly but not least-ly, audio specialist Mike Matessino and writer-director Bob Gale are whipping up a gala night for a big-screen Hollywood premiere of their uncut visual and audio reconstruction of Steven Spielberg's massive comedy epic 1941. The air raid begins on Sunday evening, March 22 more or less where the movie takes place, on Hollywood Blvd. at the Egyptian Theater!
Mike and Bob are presently rounding up the film's actors and technical personnel to take part in pre- and/or post- screening panels. It's a spectacular big-screen picture (bring earplugs) with many funny production stories to be told. Take it from the guy who wrote the book. Civil Defense Wardens do not get free admission.
Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson
Monogram's ten-cent noir has a good script and good ensemble acting, with known names Robert Osterloh and Anthony Caruso as villains and the fresh-faced Jane Frazee as a terrific leading lady. Ordinary guy Warren Douglas is mistaken for a mobster marked for death, but is Frazee's beauty helping him, or running interference for the underworld? The small-scale drama generates considerable interest thanks to the committed performances. It's also the odd exceptional noir that begins with a male protagonist, but the emphasis soon shifts to the street-smart, take-charge heroine. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
To Sir, With Love |
A true-life source novel proves the ideal vehicle for idol Sidney Poitier, especially since his star power and the writing and direction of James Clavell smooth over the potential pitfalls in what is really a sentimental, idealized semi-fantasy. Poitier's teacher takes control of his students and improves their lives, by demanding respect and in return offering his good will, good advice and excellent example. Naturally, every female from age fourteen up falls for this gentleman teacher, a charismatic inspiration who heralded by his own #1 theme song - that implies a teacher-student romantic fantasy. The film introduced both Judy Geeson and singer Lulu to America, not to mention genre fave Suzy Kendall; filmed in a realistic-yet-idealized London background. With great extras. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
The live-action laughs in this One Zillion BC comedy are stone-age familiar, but its film's stop-motion special effects are hilarious. Ringo Starr, Shelley Long & future Mrs. Starr Barbara Bach frolic in furs while outwitting prehistoric perils from all sides; Jack Gilford is an amusing old blind duffer. But Jim Danforth's goofy dinosaurs steal the show. A pop-eyed green frog-lizard loves to chow down on cavemen, while a chubby T-Rex is too stupid to walk straight -- and that's before he gobbles up a mouthful of narcotic berries. Beautiful animation provides prehistory's funniest jokes, with some of the most creative pre-CGI visual effects ever. You will believe Ringo can ride atop a dinosaur. A little. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
A Day in the Country |
The French dearly love Jean Renoir's short feature, filmed but not finished in 1936 and completed by its producer a full ten years later. The subject is a holiday from work, where a country picnic along a placid waterway turns into a double seduction. Freed from a complex narrative Renoir concentrates on the atmospherics of a gala day so precious that unexpected things can happen -- and he doesn't flinch from their emotional consequences. The presentation includes an extra comparable only to Criterion's disc of Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter -- the French producer saved all of the daily negative outs, and we get to see 90 minutes' worth of footage showing exactly how Renoir directed his masterpiece. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Stormy Weather |
The monumental black musical from the war years, this takes place in an all-Black show business fantasy world, and therefore is mostly free of the cultural stereotyping of Cabin in the Sky. The singing and dancing talent on view is phenomenal, as is the direction by Andrew L. Stone. Stars Bill Robinson and Lena Horne are supported by Cab Calloway, Katherine Dunham, Fats Waller, Ada Brown and Dooley Wilson. It's Horne's best screen appearance, while the socko conclusion lets Cab Calloway's hair-tossing showmanship lead into one of the most amazing dancing finales ever, courtesy of Harold and Fayard Nicholas and their impossible vaulting splits. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
The Night They Raided Minsky's|
William Friedkin doesn't talk much about this rather good movie, that according to legend was given a full re-edit in post production. Jason Robards and Norman Wisdom are Burlesque comics out to bed Britt Eklund, a virginal Amish girl who dances stories from the Bible. Elliott Gould promotes Britt as the 'dancer who drove a thousand Frenchmen wild', while censor Denholm Elliott tries to close the theater for good. Plenty of rowdy, vulgar and authentic comedy from 1925. Also starring Forrest Tucker, Harry Andrews, Joseph Wiseman... and Bert Lahr in his final role as "Spats". The great music score and songs are by Charles Strouse. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
The Killing |
Stanley Kubrick scores big artistically, in this late-period noir classic that borrows a great narrative trick from authors Lionel White and Jim Thompson. Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr. and Marie Windsor are at the center of a robbery caper gone wrong. We see the entire robbery from one point of view -- and then Kubrick winds back the clock three hours to see another POV, and so forth. The crooks that don't end up mincemeat probably wish they did. The unhappy campers include Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, Joe Sawyer, James Edwards and everyone's favorite maniac, Timothy Carey. Cinematography by Lucien Ballard, music by Gerald Fried. Also included is the entire Kubrick short feature Killer's Kiss. In Region B Blu-ray from Arrow Academy (UK).
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre |
Roger Corman's semi-doc approach to Al Capone's wipeout of the Bugs Moran outfit didn't win critical accolades in 1967, but the its elevated violence quotient was a good match for the competition coming from John Boorman and Arthur Penn. Jason Robards doesn't look like Scarface but works up a righteous fury when killing men with razors and baseball bats; Ralph Meeker's Bugs has little screen time. But George Segal and David Canary are fair hands with Tommy Guns, and the huge cast covers a big hunk of the Corman stock company plus every actor in Hollywood suitable for a vintage gangland epic. Corman never made another big studio picture, and very shortly quit directing to open his own distribution outfit. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
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