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Favorite Discs of 2013

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Saturday September 13, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:


  David Lynch's head split open and let loose all these murky, morbid and gross dreams -- in a unique avant-garde picture that secured him one of the oddest of film careers. Jack Nance suffers through a Fatherhood from Hell, an unending, unendurable purgatory of misery and grotesque hallucinations. Is the Angriest Dog in the World tied up out back? Lynch appears to control the extras, which include six of his short subjects plus some unexpectedly candid video and text interviews. Oh, and the B&W cinematography is much improved, in Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

The Buddy Holly Story

  This 1978 musical bio skates over the details but taps the essence of the great Buddy Holly, starting with Gary Busey's inspiring performance. The smartest move is that Busey, Don Stroud and Charlie Martin Smith actually play and sing the Holly songs live for the camera. There's no fat in this telling of the boy's brief but bright career. We love the scenes that establish the public hostility to Rock 'n' Roll, and Holly and the Crickets' awkward, hilarious New York debut before an all-black audience at the Apollo Theater. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

The Death Kiss

  Talk about a cult picture that proves the strength of a cult star: Bela Lugosi has third billing, few dialogue lines and only twelve minutes of screen time in what isn't even a horror movie. We instead get a not-bad murder mystery on a Hollywood film set, with Lugosi only one of a handful of likely suspects. Horror fans will note that the real stars are David Manners and Edward Van Sloan, Lugosi's co-stars in Dracula. With Adrienne Ames. In Blu-ray from Kino Classics.


The Big Operator

  Another Al Zugsmith howler, a crime film starring Mickey Rooney as labor racketeer Little Joe Braun. He's the kind of guy who has his political rivals tossed into a cement mixer. The cast is just plain goofy -- Steve Cochran and Mel Tormé are lowbrow machinists, Mamie Van Doren is a modest housewife and sinister Ray Danton is an incompetent hit man who likes to set people on fire. Zugsmith adheres to the chicken soup theory of filmmaking -- keep dropping eccentric people into the mix, like Vampira and Jackie Coogan. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.


It's a pleasant September around here, with plenty of time to write and still work on problems around the house. I'm catching up with emails, and if anybody cares to take a look, I've amended my On the Beach review with a stack of reader correspondence, followed by some notes about the film that I took from an NPR story a few years back.

What's cookin' on the threat board? Even after reviewing eight discs a week, I have a number of Olive and Kino titles from late August that I need to get to. Twilight Time's September discs (Peckinpah's The Killer Elite with his rare Noon Wine; The Dogs of War) are due momentarily, as are a couple of highly anticipated discs from The Cohen Collection, including Hangmen Also Die! I have received several September Kinos, among them The Party and The Great Train Robbery. Included with the Kino batch is Rarovideo's Iguana, by Monte Hellman. How often do we get to see a new Monte Hellman release?

Just in from England is Arrow's Region B BD of Joe Dante's The 'Burbs, and I'm eager to click through its extras. Hopefully Arrow's Brute Force and Merci pour le chocolat will be along soon. I didn't score a copy of the new Godzilla but am expecting an anniversary disc set of the two Ghostbusters pictures -- I've been trying to get those for review for a long time.

Universal's Chef has arrived early and is near the top of my screening list. I spent Friday night mesmerized by the new Blu of Criterion's Macbeth. Polanski's direction is just incredible, as is the improvement on the transfer. Jack Clayton's The Innocents is here as well, so it's time to re-evaluate that movie. I change my mind about it with every viewing.

Finally, this time around The Warner Archive has several desirable titles on the way -- Arrowsmith, Bloody Sunday, The White Tower and Drum Beat, among them. For me the big score is 1970's The Moonshine War with Patrick McGoohan, Alan Alda and Richard Widmark. It's written by the great Elmore Leonard, it's loud and corny and amusingly cynical. McGoohan is just weird, which is always good. I've always loved it.

Hope all is well and thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

Tuesday September 9, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Galapagos Affair:
Satan Came to Eden


  Illustrated with photos and movies from over 85 years ago, we see unfold the true drama of German pioneers on an uninhabited island in the Galapagos. A malcontent intellectual and his girlfriend, a homesteading family and a sexually liberated 'Baroness' with her two lover/consorts all seek differing notions of 'paradise'. They eventually clash in a mysterious mix of violence and unexplained disappearances. The absorbing true story is brilliantly assembled from diaries, news accounts and the testimonies of other Galapagos residents, witnesses to the strange events. In DVD from Zeitgeist Films.

The Great Race

  Blake Edwards' most lavish production takes Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Natalie Wood on an epic, around-the-world automobile race. The extravagant, saga-length spoof of silent comedies contains an elaborate Wild West excursion, not to mention a farcical re-staging of the entire The Prisoner of Zenda, on a scale more vast than the classic originals. With Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn and the music of Henry Mancini. Remastered in Blu-ray for The Warner Archive Collection.

Distant Drums

  Raoul Walsh and Gary Cooper team up for this independently produced battle epic about the historic Seminole Wars. Forget Indian politics, as this 1951 costume thriller casts its Native Americans as enemies, plain and simple. Coop's punitive raid against Spanish villains selling flintlocks to the Seminoles is one long combat in the swamps. Mari Aldon and Arthur Hunnicutt co-star, but the real attraction are the Florida locations in Sid Hickox's terrific Technicolor cinematography, here reproduced perfectly in HD. Great fun! In Blu-ray from Olive Films.


God's Pocket

  Actor-director John Slattery top-bills his Mad Men co-star Christina Hendricks in a dark, nearly absurd story of small-time scheming and crime in a godforsaken borough of Philadelphia where everybody's got a racket. In one of his last performances, Philip Seymour Hoffman tries to keep his unhappy wife from bolting by finding out what really happened to her dead son, the victim of a workplace accident. When he pulls in a favor from his partner in thievery John Turturro, the mob gets involved. But newspaperman Richard Jenkins is assigned to the story, and when he sees Hendricks' desperate housewife, he goes after her as well. It's less a black comedy than a gritty update of an old-style Loser Noir... I liked it. In Blu-ray from MPI /IFC.


First up today is a link to a comprehensive and detailed new article over at The 3-D Film Archive that deals with the development of Arch Oboler's improved one-strip 3-D process, "Space-Vision". Restoring a Landmark 3-D Motion Picture gives a wealth of documentation and film samples in its coverage of developments that led to the production of 1966's The Bubble, a science-fiction film with the same basic idea as this year's TV drama The Dome. The Trioptiscope Space-Vision Lens system developed for the picture became the standard for the 1980s wave of 3-D production.

I hope the 3-D Film Archive forgives me for swiping their cool 3-D demo frame image... maybe a plug will compensate. Also on their front page can be found info about three 3-D Blu-rays in release between now and November: Dragonfly Squadron (1954), Inferno (1953) and The Bubble as well.

Coming up in Los Angeles on September 26, Savant associate Arianné Ulmer Cipes will be speaking before a screening of her father Edgar G. Ulmer's classic horror film Bluebeard. It's happening at The UCLA Archives' Exile Noir festival. The co-feature is Douglas Sirk's superior Sleep, My Love; full details are at this page.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

Queen Margot
  What a find! Isabelle Adjani stars in this monumental French epic about The St. Bartholomew Massacre, a super production that has everything -- a great (and true) story packed with intrigues and conspiracies, murders and double-crosses. It's also loaded with sex and violence, plus an impressive romance. The terrific production won all the French film awards, and co-stars Daniel Auteuil, Virna Lisi, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Vincent Perez, Dominique Blanc, Pascal Greggory, Miguel Bosé, Asia Argento, and Thomas Kretschmann. It's The Godfather of costume dramas. In Blu-ray from The Cohen Group.

  Oliver Stone broke into movies in a time-honored way -- he made a horror movie. A trio of fictional characters invade reality, to torture and murder the guests of the author who conceived them. Stone's literate, intense nightmare tale suffers from budget problems and director inexperience, but it can boast iconic genre actors Jonathan Frid, Martine Beswick and Mary Woronov, with Troy Donahue (!) thrown in for good measure. In Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria
  Stanley Kramer didn't make the grade with this expensive, old-fashioned comedy-drama set in an Italian village in WW2. He's got Anthony Quinn, Anna Magnani, Virna Lisi and Hardy Krüger, but his show and its characters look like something we've seen before. The death blow was a release late in 1969, when youth-oriented post-Easy Rider films were all anyone talked about -- it was just ignored. In HD, its better qualities can finally be appreciated. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  The Mighty Marvel steamroller of quality comic-book adventures scores another big hit in this immense, lavishly produced tale of S.H.I.E.L.D. being subverted from within by an older conspiracy called HYDRA. Chris Evans is a dashing Captain America, and he's helped/harmed by colorful characters played by Scarlett Johannson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson and Sebastian Stan. In Blu-ray from Disney/Buena Vista/Marvel.

  Richard Lester enlivens this realistic and tense thriller-spectacle: seven bombs are hidden on a giant ocean liner from which the passengers cannot be evacuated. The screenplay overcomes our expectations on every level -- the potential victims don't panic, for instance. The movie also has a great sense of humor. Most of all, we're entertained by a terrific cast -- Richard Harris, Anthony Hopkins, David Hemmings, Omar Sharif, Shirley Knight, Ian Holm, Clifton James and Freddie Jones. Roy Kinnear is a standout as a cruise social director doing his best to keep spirits high. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Vengeance Is Mine
  Shohei Imamura's docudrama examination of the crimes of a real Japanese serial killer carry a chill factor missing from later American genre exercises -- the charming murderer covers his tracks well and succeeds in seducing women into keeping his secrets. It's cold, clinical and scary. Ken Ogata is Iwao Enokizu, a clever sociopath who undertook a 78-day killing spree before the cops finally tracked him down. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

What's New Pussycat
  Woody Allen's first film as both writer and actor is a sex farce, a Paris-filmed "dirty foreign movie" that goes much farther than most U.S. pictures of its year. Peter Sellers can't get any, Peter O'Toole gets too much, and Woody... [insert Peter joke here]. It's beautifully designed, has music by Burt Bacharach and most of the jokes work. We also get the full benefit of four fabulous '60s actresses -- Capucine, Ursula Andress, Paula Prentiss and Romy Schneider. Believe me, in 1965 every sexually precocious 13 year-old was dying to see this one. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Follow that Dream
  The Mirisch Co. inked The King of Rock and Roll for two pictures, and the first is a strange satire (maybe) about squatter's rights, in which Elvis plays a Gomer Pyle or Forrest Gump- like "Magical Hick". Arthur O'Connell is his slick-talking, chiseling father; pert country girl Anne Helm and evil psychologist Joanna Moore compete to see which can arouse Elvis's dormant sexual instincts. And don't forget the peppy title tune, sung by Elvis as he lies on the beach, scratching flea bites. Actually, this colorful musical carries a reputation as one of Presley's better movie vehicles. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

August 2014
 Man Hunt  Blu-ray  High School Confidential!  Blu-ray  Out of the Clear Blue Sky  7 Faces of Dr. Lao  On the Beach  Blu-ray  Testament  Arch of Triumph  Blu-ray   Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!  Blu-ray  Call Her Savage  Pickpocket  Blu-ray  Out of the Past  Blu-ray  The Unforgiven  Blu-ray  Wildcat Bus  The Essential Jacques Demy: Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Donkey Skin and Une chambre en ville  Blu-ray  Bankers of God: The Calvi Affair  Blu-ray  Marty  Blu-ray  Performance  Blu-ray  Scanners  Blu-ray
July 2014
 Werner Herzog, The Collection: Even Dwarfs Started Small, The Land of Silence and Darkness, Fata Morgana, Aguirre the Wrath of God, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Heart of Glass, Strozek, Woyzeck, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Fitzcarraldo, Ballad of the Little Soldier, Where the Green Ants Dream, Cobra Verde, Lessons of Darkness, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, My Best Fiend  Blu-ray  Savant Article: Military Boomer Movie Confessions  Dark Crimes Volume Two: Ministry of Fear, You and Me, Undertow, Hollywood Story  Paris Blues  Blu-ray  Born Yesterday  Blu-ray  Witness for the Prosecution  Blu-ray  Hearts and Minds  Blu-ray  Violent Saturday  Blu-ray  The North Star + Armored Attack!  Blu-ray  The Scalphunters  Blu-ray  The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes  Blu-ray  Caught  Blu-ray  Picnic at Hanging Rock  Blu-ray  Woman's World  The Lost Moment  Blu-ray  I Vinti (The Vanquished)  Blu-ray  The Time Machine  Blu-ray  A Hard Day's Night  Blu-ray
June 2014
 Operation Petticoat  Blu-ray  Judex  Blu-ray + DVD  Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid  Blu-ray  L'eclisse  Blu-ray  World on a Wire  Blu-ray  Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison  Blu-ray  All that Heaven Allows  Blu-ray  What Price Hollywood?  Crack-Up  The Train  Blu-ray  The Great Flood  The Man from Laramie  Blu-ray  Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq  Kismet  Blu-ray  The Max Linder Slapstick Symposium Collection  Home of the Brave  Blu-ray  Sullivan's Travels  Region B Blu-ray  Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide  The Nutty Professor 50th Anniversary  Blu-ray  Weekend of a Champion  Bible Quiz
May 2014
 Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?  Prime Cut  Blu-ray  Here Comes the Navy  Red River  Blu-ray  Fate is the Hunter  Blu-ray  Warner World War II Collection: The Big Red One, Where Eagles Dare, The Dirty Dozen, George Stevens D-Day to Berlin (DVD), Memphis Belle, Battle of the Bulge, Defiance  Blu-ray  Two Rode Together  Blu-ray  Johnny Come Lately  Blu-ray  The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou  Blu-ray  The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection: South Pacific, The Sound of Music, State Fair, The King and I, Carousel, Liliom, Oklahoma!  Blu-ray  Monte Walsh  Blu-ray  Overlord  Blu-ray  Flying Tigers  Blu-ray  Il sorpasso  Blu-ray  The Flying Dutchman  Thunderbirds are GO! &  Thunderbird 6  Blu-ray  Wild at Heart  Blu-ray  Memphis Belle  Blu-ray  Ace in the Hole  Blu-ray + DVD  Midnight Lace  White Zombie  Blu-ray + DVD  A Brief History of Time  Blu-ray  Forever Amber  Sorcerer  Blu-ray  Backlash  All-Region Blu-ray  Nosferatu the Vampyre  Blu-ray  The Wind and the Lion  Blu-ray  The Inspector Lavardin Collection  Blu-ray  Show Boat  Professor Mamlock  Dante's Inferno  The Trials of Muhammad Ali
April 2014
 All the King's Men  Blu-ray  The Revengers  Blu-ray  Young at Heart  Blu-ray  The Freshman  Blu-ray + DVD  Get Carter  Blu-ray  King of the Hill  Blu-ray + DVD  Man Without a Star  All-Region Blu-ray  Broadway Danny Rose  Blu-ray  Disco & Atomic War  The Pawnbroker  Blu-ray  Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation  Blu-ray  Touch of Evil  Blu-ray  Used Cars  Blu-ray  Villain  Double Indemnity  Blu-ray  Wonderwall  Blu-ray  Let the Fire Burn  Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia  Blu-ray  The People versus Paul Crump  Men in War  Blu-ray   Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV: So Dark The Night, Johnny O'Clock, Walk A Crooked Mile, Between Midnight And Dawn, Walk East On Beacon!  Stranger on the Prowl  Blu-ray  Providence  Region 2 DVD  King Kong vs Godzilla  Blu-ray  The Hidden Fortress  Blu-ray + DVD  Riot in Cell Block 11  Blu-ray  The Bamboo Saucer  Blu-ray  Hatari!  Blu-ray
March 2014
 The Killers (1964) Region B Blu-ray  The Eddy Duchin Story  Blu-ray  The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah  Cry Danger  Blu-ray  The Front  Blu-ray  The Swimmer  Blu-ray + DVD  Gunfight at the O.K. Corral  Blu-ray  Free and Easy + Estrellados  Roadblock  The Hunchback of Notre Dame  Blu-ray  Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom  Blu-ray  American Hustle  Blu-ray  The Americanization of Emily  Blu-ray  Thief  Blu-ray  Dead Kids Strange Behavior  Blu-ray  Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me Theatrical Review  The Nuisance  Invitation  5 Fingers  ...Et mourir de plaisir (...und vor Lust zu Sterben, Blood and Roses)  Region 2 DVD  Crimes and Misdemeanors  Blu-ray  Tess  Blu-ray + DVD  The Blue Max  Blu-ray  Foreign Correspondent  Blu-ray + DVD  Margin for Error  Jupiter's Darling
February 2014
 Thunderbolt and Lightfoot  Blu-ray  Thirst  Blu-ray  Du Rififi chez les hommes  Blu-ray + DVD  Heart of Darkness   Come Back, Africa - The Films of Lionel Rogosin, Volume 2  Blu-ray  Gravity  Blu-ray  Khartoum  Blu-ray  Savant Q&A Interview: Greg Kintz of The 3-D Film Archive on Man in the Dark  Dusty and Sweets McGee  Thor: The Dark World  Blu-ray  It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World  Blu-ray + DVD  This Woman is Dangerous  The Vincent Price Collection: The Fall of the House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum, The Haunted Palace, The Masque of the Red Death, Witchfinder General, The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Blu-ray  Million Dollar Baby  Blu-ray  Zulu  Blu-ray  Trans-Europ-Express  Blu-ray
January 2014
 Grey Gardens  Blu-ray  The Lady from Shanghai  Blu-ray  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)  Blu-ray  Fearless  Blu-ray  Taxi  The Killing Fields  Blu-ray  Throne of Blood  Blu-ray + DVD  Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project: Touki-Bouki, Redes, A River Called Titas, Dry Summer, Trances, The Housemaid  Blu-ray + DVD  Man in the Dark 3D  Blu-ray + 3-D  I Cannibali  Blu-ray  The Jerry Warren Collection Volume 1: Man Beast, Curse of the Stone Hand, The Wild World of Batwoman  Captain Phillips  Blu-ray  Royal Flash  Blu-ray  Young America  More Than Honey  Blu-ray  Sabata  Blu-ray + Region 2 DVD  Vivacious Lady  Many Wars Ago (Uomini contro)  Blu-ray  Corruption  Blu-ray  Lee Daniels' The Butler  Blu-ray  The Beast of Hollow Mountain  Blu-ray  The Neanderthal Man  Blu-ray  The Big Gundown Region A  Blu-ray  Stella Dallas

  Reaching further back in time?
A Chronological List of DVD Savant's Reviews for 2013
... and for 2012 ... and for 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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