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

Tuesday May 5, 2015 Cinco de Mayo

Savant's new reviews today are:

Make Way for Tomorrow
The Criterion Collection

  Leo McCarey knew it wouldn't sell tickets but he made it anyway -- an uncompromising look at the problem of 'what to do with the old folks.' Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore are temporarily separated when none of their adult children can make the space for them. The heads of the family are suddenly an unwanted burden, and for the younger generation convenience outweighs responsibility. This beautifully acted drama doesn't cheat to wring tears from the audience, but don't be surprised if they come anyway, in a conclusion that gives the old couple a few hours to spend together in the place they were married fifty years before. With insightful extras and discussion. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

Seven Angry Men
The Warner Archive Collection

  Stern, wild-eyed Raymond Massey plays abolitionist rebel John Brown for the second time in 15 years, and this one's a little kinder and gentler -- although the bearded fundamentalist retains his bad habit of executing pro-slavers, claiming he's carrying out the will of God. Allied Artists' script tries to get it right but avoids every issue connected to this controversial -- and weirdly topical -- maniac/martyr from American history. And the production's barely bigger than a one-horse western. Debra Paget plays the upset wife of Jeffrey Hunter, one of Brown's sons: "That man promised he'd stop going out on murder raids! I told him it's me or armed insurrection, but not both!" (Paget doesn't really say that.) A strange '50s historical drama, on DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.


The Beyond
Grindhouse Releasing

  It's gross, it's disgusting, it has little or no redeeming social content (liberals once liked that phrase). The main subject at hand is the sadistic mangling of human flesh, all close up and gooey. But Savant responds to the way the story looks and the way it's told -- building an uncanny mood is to be commended, and the payoff does indeed make us feel as if we've stepped beyond some weird barrier in the mind. No excuses, but I like this one. Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck star in Lucio Fulci's third or fourth tale about unlucky folk that stumble on a direct conduit to hell. This time Fulci got it right. With beaucoup extras, including a full soundtrack CD. On Blu-ray from Grindhouse Releasing.


I've received a couple of notes from readers mindful of the new surge in Star Wars interest, that ask why I haven't reviewed any of the movies and don't discuss them much. I was 25 when the first Star Wars came out and was as dazzled by it as much as anyone else; I had some contact with the original Van Nuys ILM shop while it was being made and remember a few of the young art students / craftspeople / camera geniuses / effects inventors very well. Now of course, the Dees-Nay Empire has gained control of the franchise. I'm hearing rumors (I hope they're more than rumors) that the original unaltered versions of the first three films will finally make it to Blu-ray sooner than later. If so I'll jump in with both feet to cover them. We '70s film students were split by the wholesale takeover of the culture by LucasLand, followed by SpielbergRama. it was exciting to see big audience pleasers being made again, and also to see new Science Fiction fantasies that weren't 100% stupid, like Logan's Run (apologies to little kids who loved it). On the other hand, another part of the 1977 film student demographic judged Star Wars and its ilk as junk, a distraction, as cinematic Kudzu that crowded out the great director-oriented innovations of earlier in the decade. I'm not so sure about that.

I also just came across a booklet I edited for an old Filmex fantasy marathon back in 1985, where I wrote up The Empire Strikes Back. I was rewarded when director Irvin Kershner told me that by his estimation, I got it exactly right. It had to happen once. It will be fun to try and recap what made Star Wars so much fun for its first batch of fans. It's a case of nostalgia, I guess... when these movies hit back in 1977 it felt as if the the biggest, most important pictures were suddenly being made for an audience just like me.

This week at Trailers from Hell is David Cronenberg week. Today's coming attractions + commentary gives us Mick Garris on the gynecologically warped Dead Ringers. By Friday we'll have Josh Olson on The Brood and Katt Shea on The Fly. Hope I learn something new!

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Saturday May 2. 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

Richard III
Twilight Time

  What a trip! Ian McKellen co-wrote and stars in a wildly imaginative, visually energized version of Shakespeare's play, relocating the action to a fantasy fascist England in the 1930s. The crookback S.O.B. schemes and murders his way through the royal family, getting more fun out of pure malicious villainy than anybody since the Devil himself. The murders are as horrible as in any giallo, yet we realize that the evil we see here comes part and parcel with the ambition for power, at least historically speaking. McKellen is joined by an incredible cast of actors, all of whom nail their dynamic roles: Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Nigel Hawthorne, Kristin Scott Thomas, John Wood, Maggie Smith, Edward Hardwicke, Adrian Dunbar, Dominic West, Tim McInnerny, Bill Paterson. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

The Premature Burial
KL Studio Classics

  Roger Corman's solitary non-Vincent Price Poe feature doesn't get half the love it deserves, but this HD presentation is a vast improvement on earlier home video editions. A rich man can't make up his mind whether to make hay with his new wife or mope about because his ancestors have had a bad history of succumbing to cataleptic trances and being buried alive. That never seems to happen to the right people. Ray Milland and Hazel Court are respectively ultra-morbid and warmly gorgeous in the restored color, and the film's central dream sequence with Milland locked in the crypt, all of his escape devices failing him, touches very basic fears. With a new intro by Joe Dante. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.


The Long Good Friday
Arrow Video (UK)
Region B Blu-ray + PAL DVD

  Bob Hoskins' London mob boss Harold Shand thinks he's putting across the biggest legit real estate development deal of all time, but as he closes the deal an unknown force begins blowing his organization to bits. John Mackenzie's ferocious, classic-level gangster tale has great performances from (sigh) Helen Mirren, Eddie Constantine, Paul Freeman, and an amazing bit by Pierce Brosnan in his first movie. Like a doorway to the greed-fueled 1980s, the movie shows London ripe for 'gentrification' by mobsters -- as apt a metaphor for big business as the old-time tales of prohibition. With Anchor Bay's excellent long-form making of documentary. On Region B Blu-ray and PAL DVD from Arrow Video (UK).

Howdy! I just received a screener of Olive's It! The Terror from Beyond Space (due May 19) and popped it into play to make sure the aspect ratio called out on the package (1.37:1) is wrong. Happily, the disc itself is formatted at a proper 1:78 widescreen. What a great little movie -- especially when correctly formatted.

Correspondent Craig Reardon forwards a weird English TV spot from the 1960s -- a Lux Soap Ad with famous makeup man Perc Westmore and bouncy star Jane Fonda smushing soapsuds into her face. Way to go Jane, we wouldn't see you doing that in the states.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

The River
  Jean Renoir's unique, open hearted story of an English family in India is a humanist triumph about 'ordinary' people in a special place, free of easy sentimentality and honest about the universal things of life. The extras on this disc tell the remarkable tale of an artistic genius frustrated by Hollywood, who took a flyer on a film to be shot on the other side of the world, in a completely different culture... in Technicolor. With Arthur Shields, Nora Swinburne and a remarkable Indian actress-dancer, Radha. Mastered from a breathtaking 2004 film restoration. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

Michael Collins
  Neil Jordan's epic looks at a great man central to Ireland's history, and comes back a mixed bag weighted on the positive side. Liam Neeson is better than perfect to play the rebel-revolutionary who forced England to the bargaining table after 700 years of domination. Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea and Alan Rickman bring authority and conviction to their historical characters. The production is impressive, even if Jordan's style undercuts the epic, spectacular qualities. Only co-star Julia Roberts seems out of place; she's shoehorned into the proceedings at regular intervals to smile, laugh or cry. The disc comes with a very good Brit TV show on the historical Michael Collins; it's entertaining and (honest) educational. On DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.

The Secret Invasion
  After making several off-the-cuff features in Europe, Roger Corman dashed off a commando action movie idea -- really a retread of his first western -- and soon had a decent budget to shoot in Yugoslavia. The cast list for Corman's 'Flaky Five' convict-soldiers is name talent on the way up, down, or just hovering at the exploitation level -- Stewart Granger, Mickey Rooney, Raf Vallone, Edd Byrnes, William Campbell and Henry Silva. Their impossible mission includes a clever plan to induce Italian troops to rally and change sides -- a typically sophisticated Corman twist in the midst of machine gun battles and narrow escapes. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  On the bleak midnight streets of Bad City, an Iranian vampire stalks -- a mysteriously lonely and vulnerable young woman in a traditional hijab, who strikes not just for blood, but to mete out an odd line in moral justice. She develops a yen for a James Dean-like hipster who sells Ecstasy when not working as a gardener, and drives a '57 T-Bird (what?). Iranian-American writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour pours on the style and attitude, but comes up with a highly personal, mysteriously likeable genre hybrid -- that can't possibly screen in the Old Country, fundamentalist repression being what it is these days. The deluxe presentation comes with an Amirpour-written graphic novel, deleted scenes, BTS footage, featurettes and a lengthy interview where the teasing Ms. Amirpour fields questions from none other than Roger Corman -- who appears to be tickled by her picture. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Face of Fire
  A genuinely obscure, wholly worthy art-horror drama filmed by Americans in Sweden with crew personnel from Ingmar Bergman's associates! Cameron Mitchell is a dedicated doctor and James Whitmore his handyman whose face and mind is destroyed by a chemical fire. Based on a Stephen Crane novella called "The Monster", it's not a monster movie but a social critique about prejudice and blind fear of anyone 'different.' Actors Royal Dano, Richard Erdman and Lois Maxwell also went to Sweden to film this very American story that bears hints of Night of the Hunter and looks like The Miracle Worker. It's a fine picture about atavistic hatred and irrational injustice. On DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.

Mr. Turner
  Timothy Spall was robbed at the Oscars, without even a nomination for this performance. Georgian-era painter J.M.W. Turner is an irascible mass of contradictions in addition to being a spirited world-class artist. Mike Leigh's film is as vivid a recreation of past times as his movie about Gilbert and Sullivan, with a marvelous cast and fascinating personal relationships. The depiction of Turner's 'inner circle.' the select guild of painters deemed good enough to display to the crown, is fascinating, as are the dozens of actors who seem to be living their roles, not performing them. The extra documentaries are almost as interesting as this great film. On Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Classics.

Mysteries of the Unseen World
  A 3-D IMAX presentation that takes us from the ultra small to things that move too fast or two slow to be perceived, not to mention the outright invisible. Special 3-D imagery and CG effects prevail in a slick, rather basic expansion on old short subjects that featured slow motion and time-lapse photography. A new wrinkle -- moving 3-D images derived from an electron microscope: get up close and personal with a head louse. With a how-they-did-it making-of featurette. Very slick, with great depth effects for showing off that 3-D TV. 3-D & 2D Blu-ray + DVD from Virgil Films and Entertainment.

Blood and Black Lace
  The hottest disc item of the year to date is this fully restored, stunningly transferred encoding of Mario Bava's 'body count' masterpiece Sei donne per l'assassino: "Six Women for the Killer." The whodunnit serial murder tale concentrates on homicidal gore plus the fear and suffering of the victims, making it the first modern giallo. But never has any thriller seen such expressionistic color -- the images seem more like hallucinations than filmed reality. A large cast led by Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok graces a thriller laden with dark & creepy plot twists. This is big news for fans of classic horror. A Dual-Format edition on Region AB Blu-ray and PAL DVD from Arrow Video.

April 2015
 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!


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

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