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Write Savant (Glenn Erickson) at

Saturday February 28, 2015 (early!)

Savant's new reviews today are:

In The Land of the Head Hunters
The Milestone Cinematheque

  A thorough reconstruction brings back the first feature film starring an all-Native American cast... from 1914, a full hundred years ago. Even then, the filmmakers had to find older native craftsmen to produce the authentic props and costumes, as some tribal customs and ritual dances had already been banned by law for 30 years. The two-disc package contains two versions of the movie and a wealth of ethnographic and filmic extras. The story? An Indian hero seeks his bride promised in a vision quest, and starts a tribal war waged in impressive war canoes. In Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.

The Prowler

  Joseph Losey and Dalton Trumbo's searing film noir is bitter social criticism with a sordid edge that was shocking in 1951. Scheming cop Van Heflin cheats, lies and murders his way toward a life where he can "make money while he sleeps" -- all he has to do is seduce an unhappy wife (Evelyn Keyes) and get her radio-personality husband out of the way. A key Los Angeles 'nightcrawler' tale, this concludes in existential territory, an arid desert ghost town. A phenomenal missing film brought back from noir limbo by the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film and Television Archives. With excellent extras by Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller. In Blu-ray from VCI.

The End of Violence
Olive Films

 Angels weep and thriller fans scratch their heads: ace cult director Wim Wenders' social sci-fi thriller about class inequality, technological paranoia and escalating violence in Los Angeles is a frustrating, pretentious mess... and Savant likes many a pretentious sci-fi fantasy. Bill Pullman, Andie MacDowell and Gabriel Byrne head a cast of cult favorites, the visuals are gorgeous and Ry Cooder's melancholy music is diverting, but this turkey is a bad idea assembled from stale ideas, adorned with hipster dialogue and sub-Tarantino confrontations. It's all about a... well, even I had to use four paragraphs to just begin to describe what it's about. Track down the long Until the End of the World instead. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.


The Sure Thing
Shout! Factory

  Rob Reiner's first light comedy teams a young John Cusack and the charming Daphne Zuniga for a dumb but diverting college break/road trip. Not bad but awfully inconsistent -- the nice college girl flashes herself naked out a car window, to prove a point to a guy she wants to leave her alone? Cusack and Zuniga -- and Reiner's easygoing direction -- keep such inanities at bay. We like the actors so much that tolerating other character and storyline goofs is not a problem. The sex fantasy scenes show off the acting skills of Nicolette Sheridan's knit bikini - she's done much better since. With a Rob Reiner commentary. In Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.


Today's curious case of mailbox-watching: Savant anxiously awaits Warner Home Video's three Blu-ray musicals -- The Band Wagon, Calamity Jane and the new 3-D disc of Kiss Me Kate. I saw it projected at the Tiffany on Sunset in 1979, and thus experienced the glorious three-dimensional appeal of Ann "Hi Honey!" Miller. Am eager to repeat the pleasure. Great vintage 3-D disc releases don't happen every week.

And Bob Furmanek's new Kiss Me Kate 3-D Page has just gone up at the 3-D Film Archive.

Over at Trailers from Hell that great commentator Brian Trenchard-Smith hits on a movie I never heard of but now want to see, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It's a 2008 release apparently made from an un-filmed 1930s screenplay, and stars "a bubble-brained singer (Amy Adams) and her prim and proper social secretary (Frances McDormand)." It sounds great to me. Thank you, TFH.

Lastly but not least-ly, audio specialist Mike Matessino and writer-director Bob Gale are whipping up a gala night for a big-screen Hollywood premiere of their uncut visual and audio reconstruction of Steven Spielberg's massive comedy epic 1941. The air raid begins on Sunday evening, March 22 more or less where the movie takes place, on Hollywood Blvd. at the Egyptian Theater!

Mike and Bob are presently rounding up the film's actors and technical personnel to take part in pre- and/or post- screening panels. It's a spectacular big-screen picture (bring earplugs) with many funny production stories to be told. Take it from the guy who wrote the book. Civil Defense Wardens do not get free admission.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

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

A Day in the Country
  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
  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
  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
  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).

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.

February 2015
 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!


Don't forget to write Savant at dvdsavant@mindspring.com.

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