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Favorite Discs of 2014

[Savant Links] [Year Five Report]
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August 4, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

For Whom the Bell Tolls
Koch Media GmbH (DE)
Region B (Germany) Blu-ray

  (Wem Die Stunde Schlägt)  What's with American studios, that we have to sneak away to foreign countries to get quality transfers of Hollywood classics? This German Blu-ray of the Ernest Hemingway / Sam Wood / Dudley Nichols / William Cameron Menzies epic has been digitally polished, in its original 165-minute Road Show cut comes complete with concert-like bookends and intermission music for Victor Young's romantic music score. Gary Cooper is Hemingway's Robert Jordan, a volunteer dynamiter for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War; Ingrid Bergman is the traumatized survivor who falls in love with him. The intensely visual, action-oriented saga has terrific acting by a supporting cast of 'Spaniards' from all over the map: Akim Tamiroff, Katina Paxinou, Vladimir Sokoloff, Joseph Calleia and Mikhail Rasumny. The two-disc set has two encodings and other extras as well. On Region B (Germany) Blu-ray from Koch Media GmbH (DE).

Baby It's You
Olive Films

  It's not easy to get a quality writing & directing career going when you're a Hollywood outsider, but John Sayles just kept coming out with too many good movies, to be ignored. This drama of romance gone crazy sees high school achiever Rosanna Arquette get tangled up with bad boy Joe Spano, an irresistible nonconformist. He dresses like Frank Sinatra and thinks he's headed for a life in show business... when he's not stealing cars. Sayles captures a little bit of the chaos and confusion that results when people try to live real lives instead of stick to the straight and narrow; the film also has an interestingly negative view of a college experience. Due to some conflicting sources, we're not quite sure if several Bruce Springsteen cues were dropped from the picture; authoritative input would be appreciated. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.


Our Mother's House
The Warner Archive Collection

  Director Jack Clayton was apparently drawn to weird stories involving children. This oddball thriller has a gothic - Dickensian feel but comes off as a horror subject with only a bit of horror. Pamela Franklin is one of seven children left behind when a religiously strict mother dies from a prolonged sickness; her very young older kids scheme to keep the authorities from finding out, so the family can stay together. Pretty soon they're enforcing Bible law in the house, and exacting a terrible punishment on their tiny, inoffensive little sister. Then their long-absent father (Dirk Bogarde) returns, and sees in his childrens' situation a greedy opportunity. So-so as an allegory and excellent for acting, there's still something clammy and unhealthy about the whole business. On DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.


Here be the links. They're amazing! They're self-promotional!

Gary Teetzel tips Savant's 20,000 rabid Godzilla fans to a rare film clip: monster actor Haruo Nakajima in a Godzilla suit in 1983 doing a special photo shoot for a magazine: "Nakajima Tries On the Godzilla Suit 0ne Last Time." I think the direction given by the still photographer was, "Try to step on as many people as possible."

Meanwhile, dapper web radio host Dick Dinman continues with his popular series of film-related audio programs. This week he's doing his usual roundup of Blu-ray releases, and across two shows concentrates on Criterion's newer and Bluer disc of Jules Dassin's noir masterpiece Night and the City. And who should Dinman get to discuss it with him than yours truly; it's one title that I've done full research on, besides remembering how it chilled me to the bone when I saw it at the newly-opened UCLA FIlm Archive in (year deleted to protect the innocent). Dick calls my commentary 'incisive and revelatory,' which I take to mean that my remarks are cutting and spiritually delirious. Actually, Dick works up a pretty good discussion of the unheralded actor Richard Widmark, and I chime in well enough to convince you I'm sober. Thanks Dick -- the shows come in two parts, Part One and Part Two.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

August 1, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

Agnès Varda in California
Eclipse Series 43

  Unique, lively, poetic and very much tuned into a special consciousness, Agnès Varda makes most free-range filmmakers look anemic. Here are three efforts from the '60s and two from the '80s -- Uncle Yanco, Black Panthers, Lions Love (...and Lies), Murs Murs and Documenteur. All are in color, and all but one is in 35mm. All are brilliantly restored. Since the subject of several films is Savant's hometown, it's a kick seeing the way it looked in 1968, and then in 1980 ... and I was shocked to find an artist friend of mine, now passed away, strongly featured in what has to be the definitive film record of Los Angeles' multi-cultured murals. With informative liner notes by Michael Koresky. In DVD from Eclipse.

Thunder Road
Shout! Factory / Timeless Media
Blu-ray + DVD

  This is the touchstone film for the hipster lone-wolf existential road film. Robert Mitchum is as close as the movies ever came to Jack Kerouac, and here he channels his laid-back energy into a tale of a moonshine runner battling both the Feds (straight arrow Gene Barry), and a gangster whose mob threatens the small-farm stills up in the hills. Plenty of road chases, explosions, the usual down-home fracas action; Mitchum's hero Lucas Doolin is coveted by both Shirley Knight and lounge singer Keeley Smith. Why the fools out there can't remake this I don't know ... oh, right, CGI has made ordinary realistic car action passé, I guess. Mitchum wrote the story, co-produced and even co-wrote the songs -- including the evergreen radio hit. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from Shout! Factory / Timeless Media.


Black Sabbath
KL Studio Classics

  After a false start or two, the American-International U.S. version of I tre volte della paura now arrives, with Boris Karloff's English-language voice, in synch! And with an additional extra to sweeten the pot, a new commentary from Tim Lucas that goes over the show in loving detail - examining every editorial change from rearranged scenes to deletions and additions. With Suzy Andersen, Mark Damon, Glauco Onorato, Rika Dialina, Massimo Righi, Michele Mercier, Lidia Alfonsi, Jacqueline Pierreux and Harriet White Medin. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.


A couple of fun links here on the first of August, with Los Angeles -- and Portand, I'm hearing -- under scorching heat.

There must be more former insomniacs out there -- I've gotten several positive responses to my review for Philip Kaufman's mostly unloved turnip Fearless Frank. The review has been annotated with a couple of footnotes, by the way. No wonder that the film's narrator Ken Nordine sounds familiar - I likely listened to his voice every day for twenty years. Savant contributor and adviser Ed Sullivan gives us this link to a nice TV show about the inventor of 'Word Jazz', Stare with Your Ears.

Olive Films has announced its September Blu-ray slate, and among its offerings is The Invisible Monster, a Republic Serial in 12 chapters. I should think the fans would flip at the idea that Olive might bring out all the classic serials in HD. It would also be new territory for me -- I'm just old enough to have seen a real '50s Republic serial short subject in the theater, probably in 1957. In this one a mastermind wishes to conquer the world with an army of invisible soldiers. I understand he has difficulties making his formula work on just one guy. Richard Webb and Aline Towne star. Also on Olive's slate for September are BDs of Black Caesar, The Mighty Quinn, Hitler: The Last Ten Days, Fatal Instinct and Prick up Your Ears.

And Gary Teetzel guides us to a talk show excerpt, where the late, great lady of the stage Elaine Stritch reminisces about co-starring with Bela Lugosi in a late- 1940s production of Dracula: Dracula Meets Elaine Stritch.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Fearless Frank
  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
  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 All-Region Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Video UK.

Places in the Heart
  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.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
 -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
  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
  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.

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.

July 2015
 The Clay Pigeon  DVD  The Best of Everything  Blu-ray  He Ran All the Way  Blu-ray  The Spider  Danish miniseries;  Region 2 DVD  Around the World with Orson Welles  Blu-rayDVD  The Monster that Challenged the World  Blu-ray  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!


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