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Saturday October 22, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Ther Criterion Collection

 Robert Altman, Warren Beatty and Julie Christie join together for one of the great westerns, a poetic account of the founding of a town and the way big business preys on foolish little guys. Raw and cluttered, the show gives the genre a new look via Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography, and the dreamy mix of snowflakes, opium and the music of Leonard Cohen seals the deal. With a herd of supporting actors, led by Shelley Duvall and Keith Carradine. And Criterion's extras are great too, a lot of good memories. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

Boy on a Dolphin
KL Studio Classics

 Killer Greek scenery in CinemaScope graces Jean Negulesco's relaxed thriller about art theft in the Aegean. But viewers are more likely to remember Sophia Loren's sexy wet diving costume that insured that her first appearance in an American film didn't go unnoticed. She's pursued by the handsome American art expert Alan Ladd, and hoodwinked by the effete international art pirate Clifton Webb. It's a quality first look, or glom, at Loren's exciting Hollywood Debut. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.


Strategic Air Command
Olive Films

 The biggest, most lavish '50s collaboration between Hollywood and the Pentagon was this Anthony Mann-James Stewart collaboration, a morale & recruiting cheer for America's intercontinental bombing air force, the service that kept the peace by holding up our side of the balance of fear. James Stewart is a big league ball player yanked back into the service, who falls in love with something he finds sexier than his chirpy '50s wife -- a new B-47 jet bomber. Paramount filmed the show in VistaVision, and the aerial cinematography looks amazingly good on this quality scan and encoding. With Harry Morgan and Frank Lovejoy... did Frank Lovejoy's name suggest a title character for Stanley Kubrick? Quite a bit of Dr. Strangelove comes from this Cold War epic. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.


An interesting note came in today from correspondent / film professor Clay Steinman, regarding my review of Nicholas Ray's On Dangerous Ground. A comment at the Trailers from Hell page informed me that it had been determined that director Ray had given testimony to HUAC and had indeed named names, in secret session.

Clay did some digging and came up with this counter-reply:

"Hello Glenn -- As far as I have been able to discover, there is no reliable evidence that Nicholas Ray ever named names in secret or otherwise before HUAC. I say this despite the accusation in Bernard Eisenschitz's Nicholas Ray: An American Journey (1993), which Patrick McGilligan repeated in Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director (2011), and Richard Brody repeated again in an online New Yorker piece of Aug. 15, 2014. About forty years ago Bill Rothman brought Ray to Cinema Studies at NYU to show and talk about Wind Across the Everglades (1958). Ray had been fired from the picture before filming was completed and was not involved in the final editing. I remember Ray ranting against the film's writer, Budd Schulberg, not only for supporting Ray's ouster and mucking up the picture, but also for his friendly May 23, 1951 HUAC testimony, in which he named names. (Victor Navasky analyzes Schulberg's testimony in detail in his essential Naming Names [1980]; also see Anthony Giardina's New York Times article, Karl Malden and Budd Schulberg: Naming Names.)

So I was surprised to read decades later that Ray had himself informed. Unlike The New Yorker magazine, I learned in following up Brody's piece, the associated online site has no fact-checking system, or at least didn't two years ago. Was Brody wrong? Or was Brody right and Ray a hypocrite?

Brody wrote to me that the only primary evidence was Eisenschitz's account of his interview with Ray's ex-wife, Jean Evans, and its repetition in McGilligan. Evans and Ray divorced in 1942. According to Evans, Ray told her he had named her secretly and incorrectly to HUAC. Indeed, the statement by Evans to Eisenschitz seems the only indication anywhere that Ray gave secret testimony.

I checked the National Archives, which now holds the HUAC papers. I was told there is no HUAC record of any secret testimony by Ray, no record of any meeting by Ray with a HUAC investigator, and no record of consideration of Ray's case in memos, materials now available for others (e.g., Michael Blankfort's secret testimony, a copy of which I was able to order). According to McGilligan, Ray's FBI file has no information from sometime in 1948 until 1963.

It may be that Ray named one or more names, but while Evans's report may be accurate, Ray and Evans seem to have had a difficult time, and there could be other explanations for what he told her--explanations regarding Evans, Ray, their relationship, etc. I have no idea. Who knows in what context or spirit Ray told Evans he had betrayed her? Without more evidence, I would not write about Ray's informing as if it were fact." -- Clay Steinman, Media and Cultural Studies, Malcalester College

So that amounts to some serious film studies history today... Nicholas Ray led a fairly mysterious life, but from what I feel about what I've read and seen of him, it seemed odd that he could testify in any way and keep it a secret. I hope Mr. Steinman's research turns out to be the last word on one of our favorite directors.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 18, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Laughing Policeman
KL Studio Classics

 In the early '70s Walter Matthau excelled in three powerful cops 'n' robbers movies; the second sees him as a tough, laconic San Francisco detective charged with an impossible task -- running down a machine gun mass murderer, with no clues and no living witnesses. It's also one of the best films to enjoy the great Bruce Dern, and he doesn't play a kook or maniac. Terrific San Francisco locations and supporting actors, one of whom appears in an interview extra. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Five Days One Summer
The Warner Archive Collection

 The great Fred Zinnemann's last feature is a very personal story, a fairly uncomplicated drama with a mountain climbing backdrop. Sean Connery plays older than his age as a Scotsman on an Alpine vacation, toying with social disaster. With excellent, non- grandstanding performances from Betsy Brantley and Lambert Wilson. It's a period picture set in the early 1930s, and is considered the best, most realistic drama about 'vacation' mountain climbing from that time. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.


The Criterion Collection

 Kieslowski's remarkable Polish miniseries -- a brilliant conceptual rumination on the Ten Commandments, numeral by numeral -- gets the Criterion treatment, and the improvement is startling: based on the earlier DVD sets, I got the mistaken notion that the shows were filmed in 16mm. Also stunning is the disc's long list of key-source extras. The set also contains the two extra movies, the long theatrical versions of A Short Film about Killing and A Short Film about Love. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.


I'm back from Lake Havasu City and Phoenix, where I made some long-overdue family visits. On Saturday night we were enjoying our dinner when, only a block away, a big fire erupted. (above) Nobody was hurt, the Phoenix fire department got a good workout, and we had a front-row seat. Coming back from Phoenix is a seven-hour, 400-mile straight westward shot. Once you've seen your first ninety miles of California desert, you've seen enough.

Being passed around on Facebook is a YouTube link to a perfect transfer of an original Son of Frankenstein trailer from 1939, not the 'Realart' paste-up job that we're accustomed to seeing. It's an interesting cut - the 'new' Universal is promoting it as a class-A thriller, not a down-market monster show. Even the typeface for the title treatment is unexpected.

Next up is a steer from correspondent Ian Whittle, who tells me that he "just picked up the Halloween themed issue of The Simpsons Comic for this month and it's got a very clever parody of Metropolis in there. Worth checking out! I assume we in the UK get the same issue as the US does...?" Sounds good to me. I have to walk past a newsstand this afternoon, and I think I'll try and find it. After all, it is Metropolis.

And finally, a BIG batch of discs came in... so I'm digging into them right away. The first good news off the bat is from Olive Films. Their Strategic Air Command is a thing of beauty, a glorious transfer of the VistaVision original. I can't wait to dig into its 'interesting' content... I was an Air Force brat, remember.

I also took a look at Olive's Blu of The Return of Dracula with Francis Lederer. It's a stunner, and the MGM-sourced transfer includes the notorious color shot - just don't blink or you might miss it. Properly matted, the movie plays much better than I remember it. And hey, I can claim that it's a feminist film -- it's written by the accomplished secretary-turned screenwriter Pat Fielding. Reviews on those coming soon.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Violent Cop
 A Japanese crime picture credited with jump-starting a new generation of odd thrillers. The legendary 'Beat Takeshi' goes rogue cop in his first self-directed feature, as Takeshi Kitano. It's excellent, a brutal tale with a fascinating lead character and a directorial style that compels one to watch -- it's never easy to guess what will happen next. Takeshi's brutal cop matches tactics one on one with a dope-dealing mob, and thing go way out of control. With a new documentary by Marc Walkow. On Blu-ray from Film Movement.

 It's a spooktacular reboot that has nothing we haven't seen before -- but the jokes are good and the comediennes form a welcome ensemble. You'd think that this one would have been committee'd and PC'ed to within an inch of its proton packs, but the personalities make it entertaining: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth and a tall stack of cameos. Wall to wall spooky VFX, too. Out in several formats -- I got the non- 3-D Blu-ray and it's fine. On Blu-ray from Sony / Columbia.

The Legend of Tarzan
 Lord Greystoke is back in Africa, righting wrongs, freeing the enslaved, smiting the Belgians and rescuing his blonde damsel in distress. Alexander Skarsgård is the jungle lord with the washboard stomach, Christoph Waltz is the dastardly villain, Samuel L. Jackson the amusingly anachronistic empowered black diplomat-adventurer, Margot Robbie the PC-sanitized empowered Victorian woman, and Djimon Hounsou a very impressive tribal chieftain. It's got more 3-D scenery, irate gorillas and special effects than we can shake a stick at... but do we really have a Tarzan? On 3-D Blu-ray + DVD from Warner Home Video.

It Came from Outer Space 3-D
 Are you 3-D capable? This classic-era Sci-fi is one of the better '50s films ever designed for 3-D, and the restoration on this much-coveted new release is excellent. Meteors explode in your face! A rockslide in your lap! Bizarre superimpositions! Ray gun blasts! And don't forget Ray Bradbury's feel-good sense of wonder speeches, from wide-eyed Richard Carlson. Another coup for the 3-D Film Archive, starring Barbara Rush and Charles Drake. On 3-D Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

On Dangerous Ground
 Warners knocks us out with a beautifully remastered RKO noir. Nicholas Ray's crime tale is like no other, a meditation on human need and loneliness. It's a noir with a cautiously positive, hopeful twist. Robert Ryan is the cop going off the deep end into near-psychotic brutality; Ida Lupino is the woman that gives him a second chance at life. Split between urban vice and rural vigilantism, the Rogue Cop suddenly finds that he's the only representative of law and sanity. With Ward Bond, Ed Begley and Charles Kemper; produced by John Houseman and written by A.I. Bezzerides. And the disc brings back one of my better audio commentaries. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.

 Political terror scenarios were a bit simpler in the 1950s, and movies about them fairly rare. Frank Sinatra stars in this tense tale of presidential assassination by high-powered rifle -- his John Baron is the Chairman's only performance as a psycho villain. Playing in real time, the killers assemble in a California town to wait for a special train. The screenplay has a crazy thesis, blaming fussy mothers for America's going soft on vigilance against bad guys domestic and foreign. Nancy Gates, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Willis Bouchey co-star. This new Public Domain release is a first in Widescreen. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.

 Richard Wenk's 1986 horror comedy is even better than we remember -- funny, reasonably scary and stylish. Grace Jones' stripper vampire queen is intimidatingly strange, and great makeup effects and polished direction insure that the jokes and chills get equal attention. With Chris Makepeace, Robert Rusler, DeDee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe and Sandy Baron, all trapped in a skid-row strip joint that's actually a nest of hungry bloodsuckers. For a sex-oriented mid-80's college farce, this is really well done. On Blu-ray from Arrow U.S..

Face to Face
  (Faccia a faccia; Von Angesicht zu Angesicht) Sergio Sollima gives us one of the best political Italo westerns from the pre- May '68 era... with two top stars in great form, Gian Maria Volontè and Tomas Milian. An Ivy League professor learns banditry from a Texas professional, and aims to elevate Wild West thievery to a new level. This German import plays in U.S. machines and comes on two Blu-ray discs, one for each version -- and both versions have tracks in English, German and the original Italian. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.

October 2016
 Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia  Blu-ray  Fury (1936)  DVD  High Noon Olive Signature  Blu-ray  Body Snatchers  Blu-ray
September 2016
 The Earth Dies Screaming  Blu-ray  Valley of the Dolls  Blu-ray  The Human Condition  Blu-ray  Canadian Pacific  Blu-ray  Stakeout on Dope Street  DVD  Twin Peaks The Original Series, Fire Walk with Me & The Missing Pieces  Blu-ray  Patterns  Blu-ray  Free State of Jones  Blu-ray  Johnny Guitar Widescreen Olive Signature  Blu-ray  The People v. O.J. Simpson  Blu-ray  Blood Simple  Blu-ray  Aliens  Blu-ray  La moglie più bella  Blu-ray  Comanche Station  Blu-ray  Dr. Mabuse the Gambler  Blu-ray  The Horrible Dr. Hichcock  Blu-ray  The Monster of Piedras Blancas  Blu-ray  Night Train to Munich  Blu-ray  Once Were Warriors  Blu-ray  Hammer Films Double Feature: The Revenge of Frankenstein, The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb  Blu-ray  Hammer Films Double Feature: The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, The Gorgon  Blu-ray  The Glory Guys  Blu-ray  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil  Blu-ray  Deadline U.S.A.  Blu-ray  Hardcore  Blu-ray  Cat People  Blu-ray
August 2016
 Fixed Bayonets!  Blu-ray  Tony Rome / Lady in Cement  Blu-ray  American Ninja 3 Blood Hunt  Blu-ray  Chimes at Midnight  Blu-ray  Tab Hunter Confidential  Blu-ray  The Pride and the Passion  Blu-ray  The Ox-Bow Incident  Blu-ray  Wild in the Streets  Blu-ray  The Immortal Story  Blu-ray  Tale of Tales  Blu-ray  Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon  Blu-ray  Love Me or Leave Me  Blu-ray  A Taste of Honey  Blu-ray  Road House (1948)  Blu-ray  Microwave Massacre  Blu-ray  The Spiders (1919)  Blu-ray  Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words  Blu-ray  Chandu the Magician  Blu-ray  These Three  DVD  Woman in the Dunes  Blu-ray  Destiny  Blu-ray  Pioneers of African-American Cinema  Blu-ray  Betrayed  Blu-ray  A Touch of Zen  Blu-ray  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  Blu-ray  The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension  Blu-ray
July 2016
 Muriel, or The Time Of Return  Blu-ray  The Gang's All Here  Blu-ray  Modesty Blaise  Blu-ray  'Neath Arizona Skies  Blu-ray  Miss Sadie Thompson 3-D  3-D Blu-ray  Crimes of Passion  Blu-ray  Mill of the Stone Women  Region B Blu-ray  Gun the Man Down  Blu-ray  Silk Stockings  Blu-ray  3 Bad Men  Blu-ray  Night and Fog  Blu-ray  Scott of the Antarctic  Region B Blu-ray  To Have and Have Not  Blu-ray  Carnival of Souls  Blu-ray  With the Ghouls in Lawrence, Kansas Article by guest contributor Bill Shaffer  Inserts  Blu-ray  Invisible Invaders  Blu-ray  The Daughter of Dawn  Blu-ray  Blood and Black Lace  Blu-ray  The Taking of Pelham One Two Three  Blu-ray
June 2016
 99 River Street  Blu-ray  The In-Laws  Blu-ray  Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan  Blu-ray  The Panic in Needle Park  Blu-ray  The Ninth Configuration  Region B Blu-ray  Forbidden Hollywood Volume 10: Guilty Hands, The Mouthpiece, Secrets of the French Police, The Match King, Ever in My Heart  DVD  Appointment with Crime  Blu-ray  Night Will Fall  DVD  The Hound of the Baskervilles  Blu-ray  Fantastic Planet  Blu-ray  Rollercoaster  Blu-ray  La Chienne  Blu-ray  Gold  Blu-ray  The Magnetic Monster  Blu-ray  Shield for Murder  Blu-ray  They Were Expendable  Blu-ray  Doctor Strangelove  Blu-ray  The Wave  Blu-ray  Hello, My Name is Doris  Blu-ray  Here Comes Mr. Jordan  Blu-ray  Le Amiche  Blu-ray  She Wore a Yellow Ribbon  Blu-ray  Antonia's Line  Blu-ray  The Whip Hand  DVD
May 2016
 The Angry Hills  Blu-ray  City of Women  Blu-ray  The Player  Blu-ray  Cat Ballou  Blu-ray  Hail, Caesar!  Blu-ray + DVD  Dark Passage  Blu-ray  Journey to Space  4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray + 3-D Blu-ray  Blood Bath  Blu-ray  Woman on the Run  Blu-ray + DVD  The King and Four Queens  Blu-ray  Too Late for Tears  Blu-ray + DVD  La fièvre monte à El Pao  Blu-ray + DVD  Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923  Blu-ray  Eureka  Blu-ray  The VVitch: A New-England Folktale  Blu-ray  Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy : Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move, Kings of the Road  Blu-ray  Edge of Doom  DVD  The Private Affairs of Bel Ami  Blu-ray  Garden of Evil  Blu-ray  That's Sexploitation!  Blu-ray  The Naked Island  Blu-ray  A Married Woman  Blu-ray  Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood  DVD  The Chase (1946)  Blu-ray  Mustang  Blu-ray  Roman Polanski's What?  Blu-ray  A Kiss Before Dying  Blu-ray  Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Blu-ray  Phoenix  Blu-ray  Candy  Blu-ray
April 2016
 In a Lonely Place  Blu-ray  Janis: Little Girl Blue  DVD  Where to Invade Next  Blu-ray  Julia  Blu-ray   Theory of Obscurity: A Film About the Residents  Blu-ray  Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street  Blu-ray  When You're Older Dear Adam  DVD  Berlin Around the Corner  DVD  In the French Style  Blu-ray  Three Brothers  Region B Blu-ray + DVD  The Second Civil War  DVD  Father of the Bride  Blu-ray  Cutter's Way  Blu-ray  Dillinger  Blu-ray  Try and Get Me!  Blu-ray   The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates  Blu-ray  The Gallant Hours  Blu-ray  Exodus  Blu-ray  The City of the Dead  Blu-ray  Suspicion  Blu-ray  Blue Denim  DVD  Panic in Year Zero!  Blu-ray  The Stuff  Blu-ray  Alexander the Great  Blu-ray  Journey to the Seventh Planet  Blu-ray  "Manos" The Hands of Fate  Blu-ray
March 2016
 The Purple Plain  Blu-ray  Anastasia  Blu-ray  Brooklyn  Blu-ray  Susan Slept Here  Blu-ray  Dreams Rewired  DVD  The Hateful Eight  Blu-ray + DVD  A Brighter Summer Day  Blu-ray  Kill Me Again  Blu-ray  Vessel  DVD  The Manchurian Candidate  Blu-ray  Losing Ground  Blu-ray  Spies (Spione)  Blu-ray  Michael Collins  Blu-ray  Paris Belongs to Us  Blu-ray  Her Majesty, Love  DVD  I Knew Her Well  Blu-ray  The Trip  Blu-ray  Psych-Out  Blu-ray  Spring Takes Time  DVD  The Strangler  DVD  When Eight Bells Toll  Blu-ray  Murders in the Rue Morgue &  The Dunwich Horror  Blu-ray  The Big Heat  Blu-ray  Bad Boy  DVD  The Decline of Western Civilization + Part II The Metal Years  Blu-ray  Contagion  Blu-ray  Donovan's Brain  Blu-ray  The Hawaiians  Blu-ray  Revolt of the Slaves  DVD
February 2016
 The Vincent Price Collection III :
Master of the World, Tower of London, Diary of a Madman, Cry of the Banshee  Blu-ray  Cowboy  Blu-ray  The Graduate  Blu-ray  Key Largo  Blu-ray  Childhood's End  Blu-ray  The Black Sleep  Blu-ray  5 Dolls for an August Moon  Region B Blu-ray + DVD  Oh! What a Lovely War  DVD  L'Inhumaine  Blu-ray  Spotlight   Blu-ray + DVD  Where the Sidewalk Ends  Blu-ray  Millennium + R.O.T.O.R  Blu-ray  The Vikings  Blu-ray  Inside Llewyn Davis  Blu-ray  All Things Must Pass, The Rise and Fall of Tower Records  DVD  The Big Sleep  Blu-ray  The Emigrants & The New Land  Blu-ray  The Happy Ending  Blu-ray  GOG 3-D  3-D Blu-ray  Woman in the Moon  Blu-ray  Deep Red  Blu-ray  Station West  DVD  Harlock: Space Pirate 3-D  3-D Blu-ray  Crimson Peak   Blu-ray + DVD  Bridge of Spies   Blu-ray + DVD  Death By Hanging  Blu-ray
January 2016
 Gilda  Blu-ray  The Last Detail  Blu-ray  The Wrong Man  Blu-ray  Hawaii  Blu-ray  Beyond the Valley of the Dolls  Region B Blu-ray  The Southerner  Blu-ray  Curse of the Faceless Man  Blu-ray  I Confess  Blu-ray  The Undesirable  Blu-ray  Ex Machina  Blu-ray  Let There Be Light: John Huston's Wartime Documentaries  Blu-ray  Wind Across the Everglades  DVD  From the Terrace  Blu-ray  Figures in a Landscape  Blu-ray  Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things  Blu-ray  Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)  Blu-ray  The American Friend  Blu-ray  Bitter Rice  Blu-ray  Hitler's Children  DVD  Everest 3-D  3-D Blu-ray + Digital HD  The Look of Silence  Blu-ray  The Complete Lady Snowblood  Blu-ray  Four Men and a Prayer  DVD  The Captive City  Blu-ray  The Beginning or The End  DVD  Mysterious Island Encore Edition  Blu-ray  Nightmares  Blu-ray  Born Free  Blu-ray  Faust (1926)  Blu-ray  The Girl Most Likely  DVD

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