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Saturday April 25, 2015
Savant's new reviews today are:A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
On the bleak midnight streets of Bad City, an Iranian vampire stalks -- a mysteriously lonely and vulnerable young woman in a traditional hijab, who strikes not just for blood, but to mete out an odd line in moral justice. She develops a yen for a James Dean-like hipster who sells Ecstasy when not working as a gardener, and drives a '57 T-Bird (what?). Iranian-American writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour pours on the style and attitude, but comes up with a highly personal, mysteriously likeable genre hybrid -- that can't possibly screen in the Old Country, fundamentalist repression being what it is these days. The deluxe presentation comes with an Amirpour-written graphic novel, deleted scenes, BTS footage, featurettes and a lengthy interview where the teasing Ms. Amirpour fields questions from none other than Roger Corman -- who appears to be tickled by her picture. On Blu-ray
from Kino Lorber
Face of Fire
The Warner Archive Collection
A genuinely obscure, wholly worthy art-horror drama filmed by Americans in Sweden with crew personnel from Ingmar Bergman's associates! Cameron Mitchell is a dedicated doctor and James Whitmore his handyman whose face and mind is destroyed by a chemical fire. Based on a Stephen Crane novella called "The Monster", it's not a monster movie but a social critique about prejudice and blind fear of anyone 'different.' Actors Royal Dano, Richard Erdman and Lois Maxwell also went to Sweden to film this very American story that bears hints of Night of the Hunter
and looks like The Miracle Worker
. It's a fine picture about atavistic hatred and irrational injustice. On DVD-R
from The Warner Archive Collection
Sony Pictures Classics
Timothy Spall was robbed at the Oscars, without even a nomination for this performance. Georgian-era painter J.M.W. Turner is an irascible mass of contradictions in addition to being a spirited world-class artist. Mike Leigh's film is as vivid a recreation of past times as his movie about Gilbert and Sullivan, with a marvelous cast and fascinating personal relationships. The depiction of Turner's 'inner circle.' the select guild of painters deemed good enough to display to the crown, is fascinating, as are the dozens of actors who seem to be living their roles, not performing them. The extra documentaries are almost as interesting as this great film. On Blu-ray
from Sony Pictures Classics
andMysteries of the Unseen World
Virgil Films and Entertainment
3-D & 2D Blu-ray + DVD
A 3-D IMAX presentation that takes us from the ultra small to things that move too fast or two slow to be perceived, not to mention the outright invisible. Special 3-D imagery and CG effects prevail in a slick, rather basic expansion on old short subjects that featured slow motion and time-lapse photography. A new wrinkle -- moving 3-D images derived from an electron microscope: get up close and personal with a head louse. With a how-they-did-it making-of featurette. Very slick, with great depth effects for showing off that 3-D TV. 3-D
& 2D Blu-ray
from Virgil Films and Entertainment
A productive week here at Savant! Last Tuesday's review for Blood and Black Lace brought some welcome attention from readers and a massive swirl of talk at Facebook, thanks to the thoughtful endorsement of Tim Lucas. I revised the review soon after posting, after learning that the English edition of this show -- so far the only one scheduled -- is fully Region A safe, even the DVD, which is NTSC. Apparently so many UK video customers have dual-format equipment that there will be no product differences when Arrow's disc eventually arrives here. I receive check discs, so have a hard time getting some of these details straight.
A funny thing happened researching the Face of Fire review. I lucked into a book excerpt with plenty of information on the movie and thought, 'finally -- a great horror source for this era in addition to Tom Weaver.' Then of course at the end of the article I find out that Tom Weaver is the author. I'm told that Tom presently continues with his film research. I suspect that he must spend the bulk of his daylight hours keeping track of reviewers that quote him or parse his research.
And as long as I'm thinking of good men achieving good things, I've learned that The Cohen Group's upcoming disc of Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn will include a commentary from a very busy writer friend, Jeremy Arnold. Jeremy's been an active contributor to TCM and blogs from the TCMfest was well as serving as a film expert on their cruises. His commentaries include one of the Budd Boetticher westerns, and last year he wrote the handsome book that accompanied Sony's Blu-ray of Lawrence of Arabia. For three years straight I've loaned Jeremy a Fez to wear to Hugh Hefner's annual 'Casablanca' party... I guess this year he bought a Fez of his own, to better match his white tuxedo! Rather than show Jeremy with the Fez, here's a snap he sent me from the TCMfest a couple of years back, with Peggy Cummins, the star of Gun Crazy.
Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson
Tuesday April 21, 2015
Savant's new reviews today are:Blood and Black Lace
Region AB Blu-ray + PAL DVD
The hottest disc item of the year to date is this fully restored, stunningly transferred encoding of Mario Bava's 'body count' masterpiece Sei donne per l'assassino:
"Six Women for the Killer." The whodunnit serial murder tale concentrates on homicidal gore plus the fear and suffering of the victims, making it the first modern giallo.
But never has any thriller seen such expressionistic color -- the images seem more like hallucinations than filmed reality. A large cast led by Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok graces a thriller laden with dark & creepy plot twists. This is big news for fans of classic horror. A Dual-Format edition on Region AB Blu-ray
and PAL DVD
from Arrow Video
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD
Paul Thomas Anderson channels Thomas Pynchon and comes up with remarkably witty, inventive and surprising period / genre hybrid that will be cherished by those that 'get' it. Doper private eye Joaquin Phoenix is in the middle of what looks like a giant conspiracy linking a rich land developer, corrupt cops, a rock musician turned police snitch, a consortium of cocaine-smuggling dentists and a feel-good convalescent spa perfect for hiding inconvenient people. The oddly named characters are played by the likes of Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Joanna Newsom, Benecio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short, Eric Roberts, and many others. It's a valentine to lazy days on the Venice boardwalk, while the land developers and drug smugglers take over civilization. On Blu-ray
+ DVD + Digital HD
from Warner Home Video
The Warner Archive Collection
The latest WB vintage restoration completely refurbishes this bottom-of-the-Depression classic, giving it a visual shine and clarion soundtrack that seem brand new. Broadway director Warner Baxter has a bad heart but vows to stage 'Pretty Lady' to save himself and 200 theater people from the breadlines. The backstage drama involves an aging star, gold diggers, a green kid from the chorus, a nice guy who doesn't want to be a kept man, an infantile producer and various racketeers. The electricity that puts the show into action are the Hal Dubin-Harry Warren songs and the mesmerizing, witty choreography of Busby Berkeley. You too can Shuffle Off to Buffalo,
be Young and Healthy
and go to 42nd Street
where "the underworld can meet the elite." With plenty of vintage extras; on Blu-ray
from The Warner Archive Collection
Pat Boone was a HUGE radio star in 1957, just behind Elvis in the hit parade. His second film tells the tale of a juvenile delinquent (make that a polite, adult-respecting juvenile delinquent) banished to his uncle's farm. There Pat meets cute Shirley Jones, fixes his uncle's tractor and tames the champion horse that will turn him into a winning harness racer. Oh, and Boone also sings a #1 hit song, the title of which is, uh, oh, it'll come back to me. With Dolores Michaels, Arthur O'Connell and Jeanette Nolan. Shirley Jones joins Nick Redman on a new commentary track. On Blu-ray
from Twilight Time
Gary Teetzel tipped me off this morning that Kino has just announced a Blu-ray of the great Robert Parrish - Robert Mitchum western The Wonderful Country, for September. Twenty years ago I was told that the movie couldn't be put out on VHS because of a tiny legal hurdle -- clearing a song called "Where Did You Get That Hat". Floyd Crosby's Technicolor images are some of the most beautiful in a western, and Alex North's Mexican-flavored music score is a marvel. Plus the movie has the best film performance of Julie London, along with great work by Pedro Armendaríz, and a screenplay by Robert Ardrey that's a rare case of a western culturally flattering to both Texas and Mexico. Can't wait!
Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson
Le Silence de la mer|
Jean-Pierre Melville's first feature is an assured adaptation of a subversive novel secretly published and distributed in France during the German occupation. Melville reportedly offered to destroy the negative if the book's author didn't approve of the result. A 'good' German officer (Howard Vernon) is billeted with a Frenchman and his niece, who refuse to talk to him or acknowledge his presence... so the German makes little speeches every night, about his naïve dreams for French-German happiness after the victory. It's a powerful statement of 'no forgiveness' from a director who was himself a Resistance agent during the war. The extras include Melville's first short film as well as biographical docus that examine Melville's war years. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
-The Man With the X-Ray Eyes. Roger Corman's best science fiction film goes beyond exploitation to reach the first rank of visionary sci-fi; it seems an even greater achievement now that we're no longer so obsessed with CG effects. The brilliant examination of the limits of perception pushes the Corman-centric theme to a logical conclusion: Ray Milland's surreal explorer wants to 'see' all he can, forgetting that it is not possible to 'un-see.' A new widescreen transfer includes a welcome commentary from Tim Lucas, who communicates spacey science fiction concepts as well as he does notions about gothic horror. Also featuring a nostalgic video intro from Joe Dante, an original trailer and the film's ludicrous network TV 'padding prologue.' On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Dance with Me, Henry |
Abbott and Costello's last feature as a comedy team is a truly sad affair. Not only does Lou Costello look tired and dispirited, the film changes the formula from their usual burlesque routines and slapstick hi-jinks, to a Chaplin-like sentimental tale. Lou runs a child's fun-fair, and fears that the authorities will take away his adopted children. The 'new' Bud is a chronic gambler tangled up with loan sharks, and not a very positive character; the excellent Ted de Corsia is the mob menace. The kids -- Gigi Perreau, Rusty Hamer, Sherry Alberoni -- are more than able, but the show is dragged down by a melancholy vibe. We can't help but think that Costello's personal tragedies have taken their toll. A&C fans that 'believe in the boys' need to see this one. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
That Man from Rio & Up to His Ears|
Tin-Tin? James Bond? Indiana Jones? No, it's Jean-Paul Belmondo in Philippe de Broca's breezy adventure mystery. Belmondo's on-leave soldier follows his girl (gorgeous Françoise Dorléac) to Brazil, to foil two kidnappings and get to the bottom of treasure/curse left by an ancient civilization. Belmondo never stops moving or fighting, in vehicles, up and down every imaginable obstacle, evading killers to rescue his girl. The second feature is an adaptation of a Jules Verne adventure, with a suicidal Belmondo who decides he wants to live when he sees Ursula Andress perform a unique 'reverse striptease.' The setting for chases, romance and intrigue is Hong Kong, India and high in the Himalayas. A two disc set, packed with extras, on Blu-ray from The Cohen Film Collection.
Invaders from Mars |
(1986) Tobe Hooper remakes an old classic with fancy effects but neglects just about every other aspect of this loud and colorful Martians-your-lap epic. Karen Black, Bud Cort, James Karen and Timothy Bottoms cope with the threat of becoming remote-controlled pawns, while Laraine Newman unpacks her best Coneheads voice. The extras include a director's commentary and a lengthy, detailed making-of featurette. Personally, I can't get enough of those cartoonish, grinning Martian drones, the mean green muthers from Outer Space that swallow Louise Fletcher whole. On Blu-ray from Shout! Factory-Scream Factory.
John Boorman's ambitious New Age future dystopia has a savage Sean Connery invade a Vortex of immortality, to grant the Eternals, the Apathetics, the Brutals and what-have-you with the sweet release of death, no Kool-Aid required. Filming in Ireland on a shoestring, Boorman and Geoffrey Unsworth work miracles to invent crazy images for this philosophical talkathon, but what we remember is the wall-to-wall nudity and the preposterous Giant Floating Zardoz Head, that dispenses guns to the savages, plus helpful bits of wisdom: "The gun is good! The penis is evil!" Finally, a Sci-fi epic the NRA can endorse. Helping Connery out on the sexual end of things is Charlotte Rampling, the '70s actress least likely to say No to anything involving skin. Beautiful transfer, by the way, and two good audio commentaries. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Silent Ozu: Three Crime Dramas |
We've seen Yasujiro Ozu's silent comedies, which greatly inform his later humanistic reflections on life. These three lively gangster pictures are beautifully constructed, with vibrant, active camera direction, jazzy characters and an overriding theme of sentiment pulling bad men and women back to the straight and narrow. Heavily influenced by U.S. silent crime pix, we've got guys in fedoras, sinister henchmen, cheerful sidekicks, good and bad women and a cop who understands. Great action but also hearty helpings of Ozu-ian sentiment and humanity. Really fascinating stuff, here: Walk Cheerfully, That Night's Wife, and Dragnet Girl. On DVD from Eclipse (Series 42).
The Way Things Go |
A pair of Swiss artists / mechanics / chemical engineers fashion an astonishingly varied and intricate Rube Goldberg machine that takes a full thirty minutes to play out. It's a seemingly endless set of mechanical cause & effect actions. Things roll, fall, blow, slide, flow, rise, catch fire, explode, tip off balance, dissolve, and simmer in chemical reactions. We watch in an unbroken (more or less) cut, as every delicately-triggered gag moves on to the next as the sequence of spectacular events moves around the concrete floor of a warehouse or factory. It's fascinating, educational and multi-lingual -- there's no dialogue. On Blu-ray + DVD from Icarus Films.
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