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Favorite Discs of 2013

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

Tuesday April 22, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Disco & Atomic War

An absolutely factual, bizarre and frequently hilarious documentary from Finland. Try as the Soviet authorities may, they can't keep the Estonians from tuning in to Finnish TV and being seduced by the evil capitalist plot represented by shows like Dallas and Knight Rider, and movies like Star Wars and Emmanuele. Pirated TV format conversions and an underground market in tv aerials explode, as grim totalitarianism fails to compete with glamour, abundant groceries and sex. Cleverly directed by Jaak Kilme, and with a 2nd documentary feature as an extra. In DVD from Icarus Films.

The Pawnbroker

One of the more famous American art films of the 1960s still holds up as good cinema, with exceptional acting. Sidney Lumet navigates through hazardous subject matter and comes out with a show that's profound, honest and non-exploitative. Rod Steiger is electrifying as a man obsessed by the tragedy that took his wife and children, and who is incapable of feeling emotion or pleasure. He gets sensational support from Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters, Juano Hernandez, Thelma Oliver, Raymond St. Jacques and a very young Jaime Sánchez. It's presented in a terrific, nearly perfect HD transfer as well. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation

James Stewart suffers through a summer with the whole family, putting up with various forms of abuse and familial chaos. The episodic story is a time capsule of America's notion of what a family is supposed to be, when parents managed their daughters' love lives and husbands like Stewart's Roger Hobbs had better not get caught talking with the blonde bombshell on the beach. Maureen O'Hara is the beautiful battleaxe loving wife, and Fabian the Prince Charming that rescues Roger's daughter. With an Isolated Score Track for Henry Mancini's music. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.


Touch of Evil

Finally arriving is a Blu-ray encoding of the 2008 DVD release, the one with three separate versions of Orson Welles' tale of murder and menace in a wild border town. With several commentaries and docu extras (with stars Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh) that tell the entire story. The complex tangle of images is much improved with the added boost from HD. In Blu-ray + Digital HD from Universal Home Video.


It feels like summer here, and this week is getting off to a good start. As you may have noticed, in the last couple of weeks I've quickened the pace on the Savant reviews. I feel confident I'll be able to cover all the great stuff that's been coming out. Already in hand and in the works are Blu-rays of King of the Hill, A Brief History of Time, The Freshman, Young At Heart, Broadway Danny Rose, Wild at Heart, Breaking the Waves, Sleep My Love, Sorcerer, The Inspector Lavardin Collection, Get Carter and Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre; and DVDs of Dante's Inferno, Midnight Lace, Americans in Bed, Here Comes the Navy, Showboat and What Price Hollywood?

Expected in May are VCI's version of White Zombie, Icarus Films' docu The Great Flood, Criterion's Ace in the Hole, Overlord, Red River and Like Someone In Love and Twilight Time's Thunderbirds are Go/Thunderbird 6, The Firm, Fate is the Hunter and Two Rode Together. I also have to tell you I'm excited by a few future releases, which include Criterion's Judex (June 17), Twilight Time's The Train and The Man from Laramie (June 10), and Eclipse's The Essential Jacques Demy, which includes his amazing romance Lola (July 22).

Gary Teetzel attended Wondercon and found this intriguing upcoming model kit that I know I'll have to buy and put the box right next to my unassembled kits of the S.S. Seaview and the Space Ark. This one is the Cosmostrator (or Kosmokrator) from Der Schweigende Stern. I'm a soft touch for keepsakes from old Sci-Fi pictures!

It's a great year for discs --- Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

Saturday April 19, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Used Cars
Limited Edition Blu-ray

Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale chalk up another anarchic comedy, this time a raunchy satire that equates American enterprise with chicanery, fraud and appeals to the baser instincts. Sign me up! Kurt Russell is at the center of a business war between competing used car lots, a no-holds barred competition that quickly becomes R-rated. The picture has some of the funniest gags I've seen -- good healthy wicked laughs. With Gerrit Graham, Deborah Harmon, Jack Warden, Frank MacRae and Joe Flaherty. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.


From the brutal early '70s that brought us Michael Caine in Get Carter, here's another well made Brit crime saga. Richard Burton seems really engaged with his role as a homosexual, mother-devoted psychopathic gang leader. The supporting cast is sensational too: Nigel Davenport, Ian McShane (looking very young), Fiona Lewis, Cathleen Nesbitt, T.P. McKenna, Joss Ackland, Del Henney, Donald Sinden. When Burton's top-dog thug insists on pulling off a robbery scheme personally, utter chaos ensues. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.

Double Indemnity
Blu-ray + Digital HD

Walter Neff, Phyllis Dietrichson and Barton Keyes are in fine form in this polished new video restoration of Billy Wilder's breakthrough noir murder tale. It's premeditated and cold blooded, and as Fred MacMurray's Walter admits, he did it for money and a woman. Barbara Stanwyck's Phyllis dangles an anklet before Walter and it's clear that he'll do anything to possess her. And nobody rattles off suicide statistics faster and better than Edward G. Robinson's Keyes. It's a classic that takes one's breath away even after multiple viewings. It also captures author James M. Caine's mood of suburban California rot, where people will kill for a chance at the good life. In Blu-ray + Digital HD from Universal Home Video.



Joe Massot's hip, cool, happening, far-out excursion into post-mod psychedelia gives us Jack MacGowran as a dotty old professor peeping at the hip, cool, happening, far-out activities in the room next door. It's no ordinary room but the crash pad / photography studio / love nest of '60s superstar model Jane Birkin. With major help from Beatle George Harrison and crew and actors from Roman Polanski's production team (Massot was really well connected in swinging London), the movie does one thing very right: the psychedelic visuals by Harry Waxman are genuinely exciting and attractive, perhaps the best of the era. The film has been given a tip-top restoration by the BFI, too. In Blu-ray from Shout Factory / Fabulous.


A couple of nice links today.

Correspondent Kevin Pyrtle used to help out Savant, and got me my first look at Abel Gance's La fin du monde before a disc was available. Over at his EXB (Exploder Button) page, Kevin has reviewed a German Blu-ray of Universal's The Monolith Monsters. From Kevin's frame grabs, it looks as if the new 2:1 video transfer horizontally distorts the image a bit. I notice it on the title card much more than on the rest of the movie.

And in Seattle, correspondent Scott Henderson forwards the lengthy screening list for a Cinerama Sci-Fi Film Festival being held in May at the Seattle Cinerama Theater. The new DCP versions of the older movies look attractive, as decent 35mm prints for most of those shows are very hard to come by these days.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

Let the Fire Burn
Jason Osder's powerful documentary is made almost exclusively from on-the-spot news video from Philadelphia TV stations. The MOVE organization's ongoing battles with neighbors and the city authorities finished in 1985 in a shootout and siege that escalated into a massacre -- with most of the separatists dead and half a neighborhood burned down. It's beautifully assembled to show the intolerable abuses of the MOVE people as well as the highly questionable police policy, which comes off looking like revenge. In DVD from Zeitgeist Films.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Sam Peckinpah either found the perfect expression for his nihilistic world view with this movie, or he went absolutely freaking nuts. Warren Oates plays a Peckinpah-like opportunist who determines to take on a nasty job for a powerful Mexican landowner, for big money. A trek across the desert turns into a bloodbath, followed by a grotesque, sordid delivery mission that would put Edgar Allan Poe off his feed. Accompanied by several new documentary extras. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

The People versus Paul Crump
Finally out on DVD, this is the legendary show that became a major career steppingstone for William Friedkin. In 1962 Friedkin was a low-echelon local TV director until he made this exposé of the story of Paul Crump, a robber and murderer whose conviction was based on flimsy evidence. The picture is so packed with recreations of the crime and Crump's torture by the police that in modern terms it can barely be called a documentary -- it's an one-sided crusade to free a man from Death Row. A pamphlet of liner notes by Susan Doll gives a context for the film -- and clues us in to a major surprise about the unfortunate Paul Crump. In DVD from Facets Video.

Men in War
This well-received "lost patrol" combat film is an intense low budget effort made by top talent: Philip Yordan, Ben Maddow, Anthony Mann and Ernest Haller. It got its reputation by sticking to a tough-minded, realistic script (no babes in swimsuits) and giving free rein to an excellent cast. Robert Ryan is the exhausted, concerned Lieutenant trying to get his men back to their own lines and Aldo Ray is a one-man-army interested only in saving his Colonel, who's in a state of paralyzed shock. Several classic sequences lead to the inevitiable battle in a narrow mountain pass. With Philip Pine, Robert Keith, James Edwards, Nehemiah Persoff and Vic Morrow. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.

Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV
This is a delayed review, but who could pass up a film noir collection? Sony/Columbia's latest stack of murder and mystery contains two top rank thrillers, one police drama and two Cold War domestic espionage sagas: So Dark The Night, Johnny O'Clock, Walk A Crooked Mile, Between Midnight And Dawn and Walk East On Beacon! Stars include Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, Lee J, Cobb, Dennis O'Keefe, Raymond Burr, Mark Stevens, Edmond O'Brien, George Murphy, Ellen Drew and Nina Foch, and we see films from directors Joseph H. Lewis, Robert Rossen and Gordon Douglas. In DVD from TCM Vault Collection / Sony.

Stranger on the Prowl
I don't know nybody who's seen this rare movie until now. On the run from a subpoena from the HUAC, Joseph Losey directed this Italian movie about a criminal (Paul Muni, very good) fleeing from the law in a port town. Combining noir attitude with Italian neorealism, the show is both grim and sentimental. Joan Lorring has a good part; Ben Barzman wrote the script. Great locations as well. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.

Alain Resnais' masterpiece is a highly accessible puzzle film that (eventually) takes a warm view of its characters. John Gielgud is a famous writer suffering from a possibly fatal condition, who occupies his mind by imagining and re-arranging scenarios using his grown children and other family members as characters. It's an amazing performance in a complex story -- which is also very easy to follow. Dirk Bogarde is Gielgud's son, in a performance that requires him to change characterization as his father rethinks his scenarios. David Warner, Ellen Burstyn and Elaine Stritch fill out the cast. In Region 2 PAL DVD from Jupiter (France).

King Kong vs. Godzilla
Universal's re-cut and re-dubbed version of Ishiro Honda's lavish original is even more of a farce. Goofy dialogue and Universal stock music peg the classic confrontation of the atomic dragon and the hairy ape as a kiddie attraction plain and simple. The spectacle is there, along with effects that range from sensational (a really impressive octopus) to terrible (ocean skies painted on brick walls). Godzilla is in color for the first time, and his wrestling match with a flimsy, patchwork Kong is played for laughs. In Blu-ray from Universal Home Video.

April 2014
 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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