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Favorite Discs of 2014

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

Saturday May 30, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

State of Siege
The Criterion Collection

  Costa-Gavras tells it like it was in 1970, when Uruguayan Tupemaros kidnapped an American aid worker, an incident still officially on the books as an act of terror by haters of freedom. The trouble is, the Yank was a CIA plant training local cops to use torture, as he'd already had been doing in other Latin American countries. Yves Montand stars in what becomes a gripping political thriller. The film was shot in Chile, where a CIA backed and organized coup would overthrow the democratically elected government the very next year. Special extra bonus: the actual vintage NBC news broadcast reports on the kidnapping, on which the movie is based. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

The Island of Dr. Moreau
KL Studio Classics

  Burt Lancaster plays H.G. Wells' mad doctor as if he were a humorless country veterinarian, and Michael York's shipwreck survivor is too stupid to realize that the new babe he's found might have something to do with the doc's 'funny' experiments. But it doesn't make much difference because this colorful version of what was once a shocking tale of obscene science, is now little more than an action movie with monsters that look like they belong on the funny pages. Nigel Davenport and Barbara Carrera co-star: filmed in the Virgin Islands, the HD scan here looks great. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.


The Astonishing Life & Works of Orson Welles

The Cohen Film Collection

  Even the title says that Orson's special, as just 'life and times' wouldn't do! Chuck Workman's entertaining docu gives the amazing Orson's fascinating career a spirited once-over, with excellent vintage interviews (many from Orson himself) focusing on some of the main puzzles and controversies of a highly creative life. Good film clips, especially from the rare and unfinished films, and input from everybody from Norman Lloyd to Jeanne Moreau to Steven Spielberg (who sounds like he's reading from Wikipedia). It's laced together with the music from Welles' films, which has come to represent him as well. On Blu-ray from The Cohen Film Collection.


Correspondent Nicholas McCarthy forwards a nice link to a University of Chicago article by Mark Feeney: What Nixon Saw and When He Saw It. It's a full list of exactly what movies Nixon viewed during his stay at the White House, year by year with exact dates. Just align these popcorn nights with your favorite historical events, and make your own "Tricky Dick got hopped up over a movie" theory, as with Patton and Cambodia.

I was staying neutral until I saw that Nixon actually screened Major Dundee in 1972... in fact, he seemed to be a fan of every American picture about invading other countries. I'm actually rather impressed with his list. I like most of those movies, too!

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Tuesday May 26, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Warner Archive Collection

  Can Wolfen make a comeback? Set aside amid the more traditional werewolf pictures of the early '80s, Michael Wadley's scary, technically adept adaptation of Whitley Streiber's best seller gives us terrific acting (Albert Finney, Gregory Hines, Diane Venora, Edward James Olmos, Tom Noonan, Dick O'Neill) and superb direction. The soundtrack is still a marvel, contributing mightily to the powerful Wolfen-on-the-prowl scenes. A red herring issue is international terrorism, a theme given an unexpected prophetic quality, what with repeated shots of the World Trade Center. Orion took the picture away and added more explicit monster material -- but it's still Wadleigh's show. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.

Shy People
Savant Revival Review

  Andrei Konchalovsky's great, mostly unseen bayou tale sees New York sophisticate Jill Clayburgh journey to a Louisiana backwater where her opposite number, Barbara Hershey, lives in primitive conditions under a harsh pioneer code. The more Clayburgh probes into family matters, the stranger, and spookier, things. Hershey was named best actress at Cannes for this movie -- and then The Cannon Group did not distribute it properly. With a great role for Martha Plimpton and a good one for Mare Winningham, cinematography by Chris Menges and music by Tangerine Dream. Viewed on MGMHD, where it can be seen in proper J-D-C Scope for the first time in 28 years. Not yet on video disc.


A Man for All Seasons
Twilight Time

  Fred Zinnemann's film of Robert Bolt's play holds up as a superior drama in all respects, one of the best historical / costume stories ever. Paul Scofield leads an excellent cast as Thomas More, the man who resisted the will of Henry VIII over an issue of conscience. The political implications are impressive, as More insists on sticking to the law as a way of guaranteeing individual rights -- as his peers and England's institutions bend to Henry's will, he's told more than once, "This isn't Spain, you know." Wendy Hiller, Leo McKern, Robert Shaw, Orson Welles, Susannah York, Nigel Davenport and John Hurt top-line an incredible cast -- this is one 'prestige' picture that's consistently entertaining and truly profound. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.


This Tuesday I'm really out of time getting these reviews in -- they needed extra writing attention, I guess.

I have one, actually two links in the hopper, forwarded by Gary Teetzel for the amusement of fans who want to hear what Brian "Quatermass" Donlevy might sound like as a musical star. (Hello?) First we have a scene from How to Stuff A Wild Bikini, which presents the worst song ever about advertising, called Madison Avenue. Brian Donlevy appears as the head of a big ad firm, and Mickey Rooney is one of his top executives. The musical number takes place in the firm's boardroom; Rooney and other ad execs sing Donlevy's praises while Donlevy mostly just sits there... it's not exactly Mad Men quality material. A.I.P.'s editors must have realized how awful it was, and jettisoned the middle stanzas where the portly Donlevy sings -- for someone has found the long version of the same song on the soundtrack album and posted it for our amusement. So if you've ever wondered what it might be like if Professor Quatermass or Sergeant Markoff or The Great McGinty burst into song, here's your chance. Go about forty seconds into the album version of the song and there he is, croaking away. No, there is no lyric about pipes being blocked with human pulp.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Carla's Song
  Ken Loach extends his social realist concern internationally when a Glasgow bus driver (Robert Carlyle) falls in love with a street dancer (Oyanka Cabezas) and follows her halfway across the globe to Nicaragua -- and into the middle of Reagan's Contra War. The excellent characterizations & believable storytelling are highlighted by Loach's spot-on direction and humanistic point of view. Carlyle finds out just how tough things can be for innocents at the receiving end of flawed political policies. Also starring Scott Glenn; with a commentary by director Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

Cops and Robbers
  NYPD cops Cliff Gorman and Joe Bologna decide that life is too short to let crooks shoot at them any longer -- they make a deal with the Mafia and prepare to steal millions of dollars of negotiable securities from Wall Street. Aram Avakian and Donald E. Westlake team up for this funny, more-serious-than-you'd-think story about the pair's daring daylight robbery and their attempt to fleece the mob and escape with a whole skin. The Devil's in the details -- this overtly mainstream movie has quietly subversive things to say about the workingman's dream of the 'big payday.' On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

The Best House in London
 It's a big-budget name-star sex farce and one of the first "X"-rated studio releases that took cheesy advantage of the new ratings system. Victorian-era conman David Hemmings (in a double role) hoodwinks suffragette Joanna Pettet into procuring the fallen women to staff a glorious house of ill repukes for the wealthy men of London. A huge cast led by George Sanders is on hand, with lots of winking and nudge-nudging, cameo appearances by the likes of Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes, and 1001 smarmy sex jokes. It's an absolute mess in every respect, yet one of those MIA pictures collectors want to see. On DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.

  I'd still like to read a better explanation of what's in and what's out of this new version of Peter Hunt's cheerful Broadway musical adaptation, but the lavish 4K restoration is a huge improvement over even the good DVD edition. The show is basic U.S. history (with a good '70s-liberal spin) that makes the bewigged18th century John Adams, Ben Franklin and Tom Jefferson amusing and clever, and the jokes aren't so corny as to cheapen things. Howard Da Silva, William Daniels and Ken Howard make for great founding fathers, while Blythe Danner and Virginia Vestoff get wonderful singing opportunities. The music is still inspirational, at least to this junior patriot. With two commentaries, a longer version of a musical number, and an 'extended cut' that's extended by all of two minutes. On Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Face to Face and The Tramplers
 U.K. correspondent Lee Broughton is back in the saddle again with a pair of separate DVD releases; a German PAL Region 2 disc of a Sergio Sollima Italo-oater with Gian Maria Volonte, Tomas Milian and William Berger, and a curious Albert Band western with Joseph Cotten, Gordon Scott, Franco Nero and James Mitchum, about a westerner refusing to acknowledge that the South lost the war (nothing's changed). Lee has been reviewing for DVD Savant since 2001, mostly Spaghetti westerns... he ought to put these together in a book! On DVD from Explosive Media & Wild East.

The First Deadly Sin
  Frank Sinatra's final feature film is a surprisingly sensitive, humanistic and low-key drama -- with its main plot centered on a vicious serial killer. Frank's NYC detective nears retirement, but his wife (Faye Dunaway) is sick; to keep his mind busy he breaks the rules and conducts an unauthorized investigation. Superior to many serial slayer pix that became the rage ten years later, this is a much better movie than I remembered. With Brenda Vaccaro, James Whitmore, Martin Gabel, and a tall stack of 'regulars' from New York movies. On DVD-R from The Warner Archives Collection.

Jamaica Inn
  From deep in the Cohen vault, formerly the Rohauer vault, comes a pristine copy of a vintage Hitchcock film that's existed solely in unwatchable PD prints since longer than this reviewer can remember. It's really a showcase for star Charles Laughton, who controlled production to the extent that, although beautifully directed, the film betrays little or nothing of the Hitchcock touch. But the compensations are plenty. Besides Laughton's marvelous, impish perf we've got Maureen O'Hara in one of her first movies and Robert Newton as the hero. He's young, trim and looks like he's never had a drink in his life. Plus Leslie Banks, Mervyn Johns and a whole gang of swarthy Cornwall pirates that wreck cargo ships and murder their crews for profit. It's a striking production, perfectly preserved -- and how often does one get to see a "new" Alfred Hitchcock movie? On Blu-ray from The Cohen Film Collection.

The Confession
  Costa-Gavras and French leftist actors Yves Montand and Simone Signoret make a film about communist Czechoslovakia, but the subject is a surprise: it's a factual, scathing dramatization of the imprisonment plus psychological torture of a loyal high-ranking party member, as part of a huge purge of Franco and Hitler-era anti-Fascists. Montand's bureaucrat is given the works for months, until he 'voluntarily' confesses a litany of false traitorous acts, all so that the party can put on a grossly unjust but power-affirming show trial. The lesson in political reality is all the more convincing coming from the left itself; the many extras begin with a behind-the-scenes docu directed by Chris Marker. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

May 2015
 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!


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

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