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

Tuesday February 24, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Warner Archive Collection

  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
Twilight Time

  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.


Olive Films

  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.


Savant associate Gary Teetzel steers me to a facebook post by Ted Newsom with a link to a Soundcloud page with an Audio Lecture by Vincent Price. Fave horror star Price is heard giving a talk around the time of the production of Cry of the Banshee. Lots of the usual stories, but some fresh ones as well, and Price is in good humor throughout.

Meanwhile, another accomplished Savant contact David J. Schow has an upcoming premiere for us. Several years ago I helped him research the "lost" Joe Stefano film The Haunted a bizarre supernatural spin-off of Outer Limits that didn't get very far. On Friday March 13th (!) David will be helping to present a Los Angeles re-premiere of Leslie Stevens' long-unavailable feature Private Property, restored by Scott MacQueen and the preservationists at the UCLA Film Archive. The legendary film stars Kate Manx, Corey Allen and Warren Oates. It was refused an MPAA code seal yet Stevens promoted a profitable release for it anyway -- and then it all but disappeared. It's at the Billy Wilder Theater on Wilshire, with details available here. Good luck, David --

And I've just received VCI's new Blu-ray of Joseph Losey's The Prowler, restored to HD by the UCLA Film Archive, the Stanford Theatre Foundation and the Film Noir Foundation (hey, Noir City is coming soon...) . Even VCI calls it subversive!

But first I need to give The Milestone Cinematheque's 2-disc set In the Land of the Head Hunters the review it deserves.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Saturday February 21, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

A Day in the Country
The Criterion Collection

  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
Twilight Time

  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
Olive Films

  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
Arrow Academy
UK Region B Blu-ray

  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).


Three links tonight... first, over at Trailers from Hell, director Don Coscarelli comments on the trailer for the original 1956 Godzilla, King of the Monsters, you know, the version where the monster is not a dinosaur, but an atomic demon loosed by America. Coscarelli's fine, but make sure you listen to the original track. It's wall-to-wall hyperbolic taglines, the more alliterative the better. "Towering Titan of Terror!" Back in 1956, TV cereal ads had voiceovers like that.

Gary Teezel sends along this odd link to a YouTube demo of a thing called a Multi-Terrain Guard Bot, a robotic bowling ball with wall-eyed cameras that will surely soon be deployed for all kinds of nefarious purposes. Sort of terra-drone, it doesn't look like it can climb stairs, but it can go most places a lot more quickly than a robot with tank treads... including across water.

And several people have written me about Steven Morowitz and Joel Bender's Distribpix article touting a newly-discovered print of Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight. I saw the movie only once at the Fox Venice around 1973, either with UCLA friend Clark Dugger, or perhaps Randy Cook. At the time I thought it was the Orson Welles movie I liked the most. The print was beautiful but the soundtrack was an abomination... there has to be a way on improving it without undue revision. Should you go snooping around the Distribpix site, take caution as other pages are X-rated NSFW. How did Orson's film end up there?

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

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.

  This musical history of jazz is racially integrated, but its good intentions go only so far -- the music is great and the sentiment honest, but it's still a movie about black music told mostly from the viewpoint of white leads Bonita Granville and Jackie Cooper. Dixieland tunes move North to Chicago, WW1 takes its toll and the twenties are well underway before the public accepts jazz as more than vulgar trash; the semi-fantastic conclusion sees a concert by an "all-American dance band" that includes Charlie Barnet, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Jack Jenney, Gene Krupa, Alvino Rey and Joe Venuti. Beautifully crafted by William Dieterle and edited by John Sturges; the extras consist of over 90 minutes of musical short subjects with Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ivy Anderson, Fredi Washington and Hoagy Carmichael. In Blu-ray from the Cohen Film Collection.

How to Murder Your Wife
  Richard Quine directs George Axelrod's broad farce in high style, presenting Jack Lemmon as a playboy cartoonist pampered by the perfect man's-man butler, Terry-Thomas. But the Hugh Hefner fantasy crumbles when Lemmon falls for Italian bombshell Virna Lisi, who emerges from a cake at a stag party and takes over his life. The devastatingly alluring Lisi is eventually targeted for death -- or, at least a death in Lemmon's comic strip. Claire Trevor and Eddie Mayehoff provide additional comedy while Neal Hefti's peerless lounge- bachelor pad music score is a great fit for one of the best bachelor pad pictures of the '60s. And don't forget the goop from the gloppita-gloppita machine. Perfect farce magic all around:"Buona sera." In Blu-ray from Olive Films.

Black Sunday
  The U.S. Release Version. After an aborted release attempt last October, Mario Bava's directorial debut and Barbara Steele's horror debut finally arrives in its American-International version, with its great replacement music score by Les Baxter. Savant quickly steers his 'review' into a personal diatribe essay about the 'old days' of cult film fanaticism before home video and the Internet, when Eurohorror was scarce and even horror authority James Ursini had to be resourceful to catch the work of greats like Mario Bava. In many cases we had to wait ten years and more to see the movies we read about in European articles and magazines -- and for some of them we're still waiting! It's great to see A.I.P.'s Black Sunday again! In Blu-ray from Kino Classics.

The Connection
  Project Shirley. Banned and suppressed, I suppose because the authorities didn't want anybody to sympathize with drug addicts, or know anything about them -- Shirley Clarke's adaptation of a stage play about a group of heroin junkies awaiting their fix comes across beautifully on this UCLA Archive-restoration, right from the original negative. Clarke adds a filmic perspective by pretending that what we see is raw footage by a filmmaker seeking to reveal the lives of these desperate men. The combination of stage artifice and 'New American Cinema' freshness is compelling. With Warren Finnerty, Garry Goodrow, Carl Lee, Roscoe Lee Browne and William Redfield. The show comes with a selection of insightful extras. In Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.

  David Cronenberg's sophomore horror thriller puts a new wrinkle on the old vampire tale; porn superstar Marilyn Chambers is a surgically-created bloodsucker who starts a plague of mindless killings by her rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth victims. It's exciting, well directed and as effective a genre picture as one would want. The extras include two commentaries and a fat list of featurettes and documentaries, on Cronenberg, producer Ivan Reitman and Cinépix, Canada's maker of "Maple Syrup Softcore" product. In Region B UK Blu-ray and PAL DVD from Arrow Films.

Lust for Life
  Vincente Minnelli and John Houseman drench this tale of that old psycho-genius Vincent Van Gogh with terrific production values -- perfect period déor, European locations and careful images of original paintings borrowed from museums and collectors. Kirk Douglas provides the visually accurate, teeth-gnashing bigger than life performance that makes Vince into a tortured soul in search of an Oscar. It was won by Anthony Quinn's muted Paul Gaugin. With James Donald, Pamela Brown and Jill Bennett; photographed by Russell Harlan and Freddie Young. And the screenplay adaptation is by Norman Corwin. Looking appreciably better than the old DVD, in Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.

The Wild Angels
  Roger Corman goes wild and takes risks with this fairly respectable tale of the outlaw Hell's Angels biker gang of Venice, California. Cool misanthrope Peter Fonda makes lousy, self-destructive decisions that send his biker pack onto roads to nowhere. Bruce Dern takes the prize as a bad-luck lieutenant appropriately named Loser; Nancy Sinatra, Diane Ladd, Joan Shawlee, Michael J. Pollard, Dick Miller and Barboura Morris make this a happy homecoming for Roger Corman fans. And Rog even shelled out for a hit pop tune -- the Arrows' Blues Theme. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.

February 2015
 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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