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Saturday February 18, 2017

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Boy Friend
The Warner Archive Collection

 It's hard to think of a musical that would benefit more from a Blu-ray boost than Ken Russell's kaleidoscopic all dancing, all singing send-up of theatrical clichés on the music hall stage circa 1925. We're just happy that the adorable Twiggy got to be put in a film like this, to be enjoyed forever. Gosh! The Russell crowd is all aboard, led by Glenda Jackson and Murray Melvin. Also featuring Christopher Gable, Max Adrian, Georgina Hale, Sally Bryant, Vladek Sheybal and Tommy Tune. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.

The Gate
Lionsgate / Vestron Video

 Screen horror gets a fun-ride boost as a trio of home-alone kids squares off against demons from 'right in their own back yard.' Creative, expertly daring special effects heighten a perfect spook thriller for young kids, that's has more and better 'Boo' moments than most of the hardcore genre classics of its decade. A backyard excavation may lead to Hell, while impish 'Minions,' a cadaverous Work Man, and a monstrous grub-demon worm their way into the house. A wealth of extras explains how it was all done, before the advent of CGI. On Blu-ray from Lionsgate / Vestron Video.


Koch Media / Explosive Media (De)

 Charlie Bronson cashed in big with this lightweight action thriller co-starring Jill Ireland and Robert Duvall. It's the true story of the first major prison breakout using a helicopter. Did Duvall get involved because the original concept was a serious look at political scandals between big business, the CIA and Chile? The clues from the real source story are still there. With Randy Quaid, Sheree North, John Huston, Jorge Moreno, Paul Mantee, Emilio Fernandez, Alan Vint, Roy Jenson, John Huston. On Blu-ray from Koch Media / Explosive Media (De).


It's raining Spaniels and Siamese out there, which made it amusing to come back from an errand to find a new batch of Kino discs had arrived -- including the much-coveted new disc of the 1934 Deluge, starring Sydney Blackmer. I'd listen to your commentary first, Richard Harland Smith, but I've never seen the movie... which should be a common thing since it's been lost for 83 years.

Of prime interest tonight is John McElwee's new book The Art of Selling Movies, which goes on sale next Monday. I've been a huge fan and constant reader of John's website Greenbriar Picture Shows since its inception, and his previous tome Showman Sell It Hot! was a big hit a few seasons back. That book concentrated on the marketing of famous movies, whereas this one is a fascinating collection of print ads for films going back to the early silent days, showing trends, styles, themes and various attention-getting tricks of the exhibitor's trade to get patrons to choose their movie over the next one down the street. It's packed with John's attention to detail, his specialized (specialized is not a good enough word) knowledge of this terrain, and his grasp of the showman's mindset down through the decades. We see films being promoted in all kinds of strange ways, plus we get a good idea of what a mid-sized town had to offer on an average weekend -- a chosen full newspaper spread from 1956 heralds The Searchers, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Our Miss Brooks, Sins of the Borgias (with Martine Carol, but surely not topless), The Violent Years and the French thriller Diabolique! We also see that big city first run bookings usually bracketed the main feature with a live theater show, with big talent, as well as a raft of short subjects. John's text makes it all fascinating.

It's an attractive gift book with excellent reproductions of all the art -- going back to the 'teens -- printed on heavy, glossy paper and handsomely bound. So there's a plug for a worthy product.

In other news, after my whining about my favorite Ray Harryhausen movie being unreleased on Blu-ray, The Warner Archive collection just announced a disc of 1969's The Valley of Gwangi. The terrific dinosaur romp is wedded to a storyline that's watchable mainly because of the exciting music score by Jerome Moross. It's promised for March 14.

On the 3-D front, the 3-D Film Archive's restoration of the musical Those Redheads from Seattle is going to premiere at this year's TCM Film Festival, coming up shortly. And the Archive's restoration of the CinemaScope and 3-D September Storm has been given a hard release date -- Kino Classics has it down for March 28. That, and the Archive's Bob Furmanek is dropping hints that he has another, yet unannounced restoration in the works. Bob had better slow down or he's going to run out of 'fifties classics. Just kidding, full speed ahead.

A couple of horror announcements came down the pike... Gary Teetzel reports that Terence Fisher's Island of Terror with Peter Cushing is set for a Blu-ray release from Scream Factory, early this Summer. Severin is touting an upcoming Blu of the '80s gore shocker Cathy's Curse in an uncut state. A trailer has been posted on YouTube.

And just in from Twilight Time is their release schedule for May and June... and it's got some big favorites. On May 16 come The Man in the Moon, Who'll Stop the Rain, Inferno 3-D, The Stone Killer and Brutal Tales of Chivalry aka Showa Zankyo Den. On June 13th arrive The Bridge at Remagen, The Quiet American, Hell and High Water, The Valachi Papers and Snake in the Eagle's Shadow/Drunken Master. Not shabby at all ... I count several favorites and two or three I've been whining to see since Blu-ray first appeared.

Plus, now I can slap myself for springing too early for a foreign disc... I just just got finished reviewing a Brit release of Inferno 3-D. I shoulda listened to Robert Ryan.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Tuesday February 14, 2017    Valentine's Day

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Blu-ray + DVD

  Yep, a fleet of giant alien spaceships are on the way, just as seen in several other science fiction spectaculars. But Denis Villeneuve's movie is not your garden variety invasion fantasy. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner have a limited time to figure out how to communcate with alien creatures whose intentions are a complete unknown. It's a rare sci-fi thriller that succeeds on a personal and emotional level -- while teaching us how to converse in coffee stain hieroglyphics. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount.

A Walk in the Sun
The Sprocket Vault / Kit Parker

 Lewis Milestone's poetic character study of an infantry landing in Italy gives us a full dozen non-cliché portraits of men in war, featuring a dramatic dream team of interesting character actors. Dana Andrews was the only big star in the cast, joined by hopefuls Richard Conte, Lloyd Bridges and John Ireland; the standout crew includes Sterling Holloway, Norman Lloyd, Steve Brodie and Huntz Hall. On DVD from The Sprocket Vault / Kit Parker.


Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray + DVD

 The story of Mildred and Richard Loving could easily have become a sledgehammer epic about social injustice. Writer-director Jeff Nichols instead sticks to the facts and recounts their ordeal with a quiet subjectivity that neither exaggerates nor sanctifies. The result is a marvelously affecting demonstration of how a civilized, progressive America rights a wrong. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton are terrific as just plain folks oppressed by an obsolete law. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.


It's Valentine's Day, and a time crunch is holding up my reviews... so forgive me if I'm late. I have some links in hand plus an attractive new book to report on, but maybe I'll hold off 'til next time for them, just to chase the schedule.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

The Edge of Seventeen
 It's another teen angst drama with fine writing & direction (courtesy Kelly Fremon Craig) and bright performances from a charming cast. Unhappy sophomore Hailee Steinfeld is so bummed out over her family situation, her best friend's defection and her life in general that she's making some really bad decisions. Will her inattentive mom (Kyra Sedgwick) completely blow a fuse? A patient but surly teacher (Woody Harrelson) may be the only barrier against Steinfeld's losing her self-respect. The bright and funny show is sometimes a bit too clever, but it also has a big heart. With Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto and Alexander Calvert. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD + Digital HD from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Manchester by the Sea
 A top contender for various Oscars gives us a sober, intense story of an ordinary man who cannot reconcile a personal tragedy -- a social pariah, he can barely live with himself. It's a fair account of how an imperfect man deals with human / emotional wreckage. Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges are compelling as an uncle and nephew trying to go forward under difficult conditions; the script and direction are remarkably sensitive to the terrible misfortunes that can befall people like you and me, knock on wood. With Kyle Chandler, C.J. Wilson, Gretchen Mol, Michelle Williams and Matthew Broderick. Contrary to some reports, I didn't find this movie to be depressing. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD + Digital HD from Lionsgate.

Hacksaw Ridge
  Mel Gibson wants it both ways -- it's the deeply sensitive pro-Faith story of a conscientious objector, but also an obscene war comic with bloody gore for the action crowd, leading a rah-rah cheer for military glory. Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn do great work, while director Gibson shows us more of his schizophrenic passion for extreme gristle 'n' grue carnage. Why is so much of what Gibson directs so aesthetically and morally bankrupt? All the cartoonish mayhem looks great on this dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD + Digital HD from Summit Entertainment.

Valkoinen Peura
 The White Reindeer. This gloriously uncomplicated folk tale from the past in Lapland visits a theme familiar to other primitive cultures -- an unhappy woman makes a diabolical pact, which changes her into a shape-shifting vampire. The movie has a classic European look, but star Mirjami Kuosmanen has a look and manner that predate Hammer horror: she's a sensual seducer with a horrid secret to hide from her husband. This may be the first film in which a vampire is seen to sport visible fangs... and they're very effective. Film art from Finland, in 1952, on an imported Region B Blu-ray. On Blu-ray from VLM Media (Finland).

One Million Years B. C.
  The best prehistoric monster vs. cavemen epic is still a little bit of a slog, dramatically speaking. But the ingredients are first-class: ornery dinos courtesy of Ray Harryhausen, the breathtaking primitive vistas of Las Islas Canarias, and the dazzling Raquel Welch as a prehistoric blonde beach bunny with a great... personality. Those Rock people and Shell people preach different philosophies of living, but a irate volcano levels their karma equally, ending the debate over 'loser' ideas like peaceful coexistence. And did I mention the dinosaurs? A cranky Allosaurus is the technical champ, but a gentle giant sea turtle called Archelon is the sentimental favorite at the betting window. Directed by Don Chaffey, and given a wailing music score by Mario Nascimbene. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
 Hammer revisits One Zillion B.C., this time with director Val Guest, sexy Victoria Vetri and the special effect talents of Jim Danforth. It's a second dose of violence and bigotry perpetrated by those zany cave-dwelling deplorables, back when the beach was crawling with colossal crabs and ferocious dinosaurs. The political problem this time is religious mania -- something screwy with a new moon is happening in the sky, and the enlightened Faith-based solution is to sacrifice gorgeous blondes to the sun god. A gigantic mama dinosaur mistakes Vetri for a dino baby, leading to some amusing scenes that mirror Gertie the Dinosaur. Those ridiculous stone-age bikinis average at least one wardrobe malfunction per minute, but that's okay because this is the unrated English cut, with ample nudity to satisfy as a girly show for Lonely Guys among us. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.

  Since I see no domestic disc on the horizon, here's a plug for this 3-D gem from England, which is fully compatible with Region A Blu-ray players. Despicable Rhonda Fleming and her greedy lover abandon husband Robert Ryan in the desert, but even with a broken leg the wealthy man doesn't die according to plan, and they have to go back to finish the job. Lucien Ballard's 3-D desert cinematography is excellent, and some of the 3-D shots of Ms. Fleming are so stunning, it's as if she's right there in front of us. A note from 3-D expert Bob Furmanek tells us some of the background of the disc - until a timely intervention, it was planned to use the inferior red / green analglyphic format. With William Lundigan and Henry Hull. On 3-D Blu-ray from Panamint Cinema (UK).

Gabriel Over the White House
  Savant doubles back to revisit this bizarre, frightening political fantasy from way back in 1933. The buzz on the web now is to re-read 1984, but this story is far more relevant to our present situation. Inspired by heaven, a President seizes control of the country like a European Fascist, which the movie approves of enthusiastically. Walter Huston is the playboy president who undergoes a spiritual rebirth; Karen Morley and Franchot Tone are his aides. A key scene is a drive-by gangland machine gun attack -- on The White House. Weirdly, one read of the movie is that the 'inspired' president is a literal zombie, kept alive by the Will of God. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.

January 2017
 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown  Blu-ray  Love in the Afternoon  Blu-ray  What a Way to Go!  Blu-ray  Mildred Pierce  Blu-ray  The Lair of the White Worm  Blu-ray  Dr. Orloff's Monster  Blu-ray  The Yakuza  Blu-ray  Wagon Tracks  Blu-ray  The Sicilian Clan  Blu-ray  No Highway in the Sky  Blu-ray  Seddok, l'erede di Satana  Region 2 PAL DVD  Stanley and Iris  Blu-ray  Who?  Blu-ray  Two for the Road  Blu-ray  Gas-s-s-s –Or– It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It  Blu-ray  The Mad Magician  3-D Blu-ray  Revenge of the Blood Beast  Blu-ray  David and Bathsheba  Blu-ray  Something Wild  Blu-ray  The Accountant  Blu-ray + DVD  The Keys of the Kingdom  Blu-ray  The Barefoot Contessa  Blu-ray  The Internecine Project  Blu-ray  Battleground  Blu-ray  The People vs. Fritz Bauer  Blu-ray  His Girl Friday &  The Front Page  Blu-ray  The Driller Killer  Blu-ray
December 2016
 Wait Until Dark  Blu-ray  'Pimpernel' Smith  Blu-ray  Loophole (1981)  Blu-ray  Deepwater Horizon  Blu-ray + DVD  50 Years with Peter Paul and Mary  DVD  Bad Day at Black Rock  Blu-ray  Sully  Blu-ray  The 3 Worlds of Gulliver  Blu-ray  Dreamscape  Blu-ray  Savant Picks the Most Impressive Discs of 2016  Fellini's Roma  Blu-ray  I Want to Live!  Blu-ray  100 Rifles  Blu-ray  Brazil  Blu-ray  The House on 92nd Street  Blu-ray  Short Cuts  Blu-ray  The Exterminating Angel  Blu-ray  Bad Girl  Blu-ray  Pretty Poison  Blu-ray  Sudden Fear  Blu-ray  Cry of the City  Blu-ray  Pete's Dragon  Blu-ray + DVD

  Reaching further back in time?  Chronological 2015 and 2016 can't be uploaded yet, but you can search back in the archives, immediately below. Available now is
A Chronological List of DVD Savant's Reviews for 2014
... and for 2013 ... 2012 ... and 2011
Use the search function at the top of the page for individual titles -- it's new and improved and works well.

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


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