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Favorite Discs of 2013

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

Tuesday July 22, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Violent Road

  Howard W. Koch's low-budget re-do of The Wages of Fear sees he-man playboy Brian Keith leading a truck convoy carrying highly combustive rocket fuel up some perilous roads East of the Sierras. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is a semi-suicidal rocket scientist who has lost his family to an explosive accident -- he's a perfect choice to drive one of the trucks. And sexy Merry Anders is there to show Keith why he's risking his hide on such a dangerous mission. And watch out for the nasty stuff in truck #2 -- it burns like acid. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.

Radio Days

  Woody Allen's most affectionate & nostalgic feature is an ode to the grandeur of '40s radio. An eccentric family in Rockaway Beach lives vicariously through the glamorous music and personalities they hear on the airwaves. Actor-wise the film is a regular W. Allen homecoming night: Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest, Julie Kavner, Michael Tucker lead a delightful cast of dozens. And the huge selection of great music is isolated on an M&E track. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.


Witness for the Prosecution

  Billy Wilder shakes up Agatha Christie's whodunnit classic with snappy dialogue, witty humor and razor-sharp direction. The genuinely terrific cast -- Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, Elsa Lanchester -- elevates the nail-biting courtroom drama genre into high art: "Are you not a chronic and habitual LIAR???!!" Comes with a selection of Billy Wilder interviews conducted by Volker Schlöndorff. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Hello -- Thanks to the summer's great disc releases, I'm happily writing away. I'm also filling-in a few holes in my film viewing background, such as Martin Ritt's Paris Blues (KL Studio Classics) and Lewis Milestone's Arch of Triumph (Olive Films). And I just saw a great Brit crime picture recommended to me a while back, Stacy Keach in The Squeeze (Warner Archive).

August has an enormous number of discs coming out, and I want to cover as many of them as possible. It seems strange -- all the pundits have talked about the extinction of Blu-ray for three years now but I just don't believe it. In terms of selection, lovers of older pictures should be really pleased this year. I can't wait to cover new Blus of favorites The Unforgiven, Man Hunt, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, High School Confidential, Love Streams, Vengeance Is Mine, What's New Pussycat? and On the Beach.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 19, 2014

Savant's new reviews today are:

Hearts and Minds
Blu-ray + DVD

  The first and most affecting anti-war documentary about Vietnam told truths that Americans didn't want to hear, just as Watergate and the failed war were winding down. Using an inspired collection of prime news and interview footage, the vision of the war is an undeniable fabric of lies and crimes. General Westmoreland's own testimony damns the military mindset and political rationale, while we see some of the iconic horror moments that made indelible impressions on the American conscience. The extras include excellent unused material, including an interview with newsman David Brinkley that makes one lament our nation's loss of anything resembling objective journalism. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.


Violent Saturday

  This format back-track retrieves Richard Fleischer's combo Grand Hotel- bank robbery movie from an earlier flawed presentation: the new HD master is one of the best-looking transfers ever of a '50s CinemaScope feature. Stephen McNally, J. Carrol Naish and Lee Marvin pull off a bank heist that cuts a bloody swath through several soapy relationships. With sharp characterizations from Richard Egan, Virginia Leith, Sylvia Sidney and Ernest Borgnine as a pacifist with a mean pitchfork. And Victor Mature earns the love of his son the old-fashioned way, by wading into the mayhem with a shotgun. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

Hello and happy summer!

I'm still on the mend but am now writing up a storm and hope to be back up to full capacity right away. I'll need to, as interesting discs are arriving and I want to get to all of them.

As is usual here at DVD Savant, friend and advisor Gary Teetzel continues to save my skin volunteer clever and fun links for this column. He tells me that a new Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray of Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires is in the works, with extras by Tim Lucas, who I hear knows a thing or two about the Italian director's work. I won't bother to link to articles about a Universal reboot of their classic monster franchise... they thoroughly trashed the legacy just a few years before, and the writer chosen for the project is best known for his The Fast and the Furious movies. Let's hope I'm wrong, but I just don't see anything worthwhile in this approach -- there are great talents out there that might make something memorable.

What else? Criterion announced Blu-rays of My Darling Clementine, La Dolce Vita and a massive Complete Jacques Tati boxed set. I'll be interested to learn more about the strange color system used to film his Jour de fête.

Now back to the keyboard, to try and do justice to Arch of Triumph, Radio Days, Witness for the Prosecution, The Essential Jacques Demy, Marty, Born Yesterday, Grizzly, Sorceress, and, and... Shout! Factory's massive new Herzog: The Collection box. I'll have to sample the Herzog movies I know well and start digging into the new ones.

There's less chance that I'll score the fancy Twin Peaks set that comes out at roughly the same time. Even more expensive is Warners' upcoming Complete Batman TV Blu-ray compilation -- that price tag isn't exactly Bat-Friendly but it still looks irresistible. Disc collecting -- habit of champions.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

The North Star + Armored Attack!
  Hoky smokes -- Samuel Goldwyn's 1943 ode to the fighting spirit of Russian peasants is a thick slice of pro-Stalin propaganda, aimed (we hope) to improve relations with our Soviet ally. A top cast led by director Lewis Milestone fights back against the Nazi blitzkrieg in an idealized, sanitized (and non-religious!) Ukraine. Starring Walter Huston, Anne Baxter, Farley Granger, Dana Andrews, Erich von Stroheim, Dean Jagger and Jane Withers. Armored Atack!, believe it or not, is a 1957 re-cut that swings 180 degrees the other way, making the movie into an anti-Communist tract. Both versions are here, intact. With music by Aaron Copland and camera work by James Wong Howe. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.

The Scalphunters
  Burt Lancaster's western ego-fest (he's the most fit and athletic 54 year-old in history) has him sparring with escaped slave Ossie Davis, while struggling to retrieve the furs he's trapped from a friendly (but greedy) Indian chief. Telly Savalas' nasty crew of land pirates scalp Indians for money; the movie's ability to shift modes is pretty impressive when it makes Savalas the henpecked hubby of unhappy frontier broad Shelley Winters. Directed by Sidney Pollack, the show is a lot of action-packed, slapstick fun in Panavision and color. In Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
  Billy Wilder's superb epic about the World's Greatest Consulting Detective remains his most rewarding late-career feature. The beautifully directed film follows Robert Stephens' Sherlock and Colin Blakely's Dr. Watson on a bungled case backstage at the Russian Ballet, and then on to a deductive adventure involving dead canaries, a mystery woman (Geneviève Page), Sherlock's imperious brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee) Trappist Monks, a bicycle tour to Scotland and the Loch Ness Monster. Wilder goes for sentiment this time out, and his bittersweet ending is like nothing else he's done. And the film has a masterful, mesmerizing music score by Miklos Rozsa. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

  Max Ophüls makes a small-scale drama into a major noir attraction, with a screenplay by Arthur Laurents and fine performances by Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan and James Mason (in his first Hollywood film). An ambitious, penniless woman chases a fairy tale scenario of marrying a rich Prince Charming, only to find herself the 'property' of a tyrannical millionaire, a man of industry as ruthless in his personal life as in his business dealings. Only later does she discover other, better values, working for a dedicated doctor. Ophüls' direction is as impressive as ever -- his movie is a potent counterattack on the false material dreams that are central to our culture. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.

Picnic at Hanging Rock
  Peter Weir's Victorian puzzle picture about disappearing schoolgirls on a hike hasn't dimmed in interest. We're still trying to figure out whodunnit, or what kind of supernatural hoodoo voodoo made them vanish into thin air, along with a skittish teacher. Racheal Roberts heads an interesting cast of Australians spellbound and confused by the mystery, what with the mysterious re-appearance of the girl and other weird, unexplainable phenomena. Beneath it all is a sharp look at a repressed society, where young women are idealized and cloistered 'out of existence' just as efficiently as the malevolent rock. With excellent extras including an early Peter Weir feature and a paperback edition of the source novel by Joan Lindsay. A Dual-Format edition in Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.

Woman's World
  What -- another outdated women's picture from the 1950s? Jean Negulesco's tale of three executive couples 'auditioning' for the top slot in Clifton Webb's auto empire takes a rather complacent view of the new class structure in America -- even if the only real issue on the table is if the wives measure up to company standards. June Allyson is a klutz, Lauren Bacall a sophisticate and Arlene Dahl an obvious tease; the men seeking the pinnacle of business success are Van Heflin, Fred MacMurray and Cornel Wilde. It's not Douglas Sirk and doesn't need to be -- all the weird ambitions of '50s glamorous living are right here, in CinemaScope. Too bad the transfer is a digital train wreck. In DVD-R from 20th Fox Cinema Archives.

The Lost Moment
  This atmospheric adaptation of Henry James' The Aspern Papers taps a rich vein of gothic mystery. Publisher Robert Cummings travels to Venice to beg or steal the 'lost' love letters written by a legendary poet, only to discover that the poet's 104 year-old ex-lover (Agnes Moorehead) has a young relative (Susan Hayward) who regularly assumes a ghostly identity of her own -- he's renting rooms from two women equally obessed with a man dead for over half a century. The remarkable movie is so well directed that the nearly outrageous premise is both believable and compelling -- should the publisher seduce his way to the valuable letters, or simply steal them? In Blu-ray from Olive Films.

I Vinti (The Vanquished)
  Michelangelo Antonioni examines youthful nihilism and existential crime in this tryptich of stories -- one each in France, Italy and England -- about young 'children of war' that kill because they have no value system but personal reward. A backlash of official disapproval and censorship resulted in some changes, but the version presented here is the longest possible. One extra is an alternate original cut of one episode, before the producers removed references to a teenaged act of 'terrorist delinguency'. Other extras give plenty of background detail. In Blu-ray from Rarovideo / Kino Lorber.

July 2014
 The Time Machine  Blu-ray  A Hard Day's Night  Blu-ray
June 2014
 Operation Petticoat  Blu-ray  Judex  Blu-ray + DVD  Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid  Blu-ray  L'eclisse  Blu-ray  World on a Wire  Blu-ray  Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison  Blu-ray  All that Heaven Allows  Blu-ray  What Price Hollywood?  Crack-Up  The Train  Blu-ray  The Great Flood  The Man from Laramie  Blu-ray  Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq  Kismet  Blu-ray  The Max Linder Slapstick Symposium Collection  Home of the Brave  Blu-ray  Sullivan's Travels  Region B Blu-ray  Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide  The Nutty Professor 50th Anniversary  Blu-ray  Weekend of a Champion  Bible Quiz
May 2014
 Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?  Prime Cut  Blu-ray  Here Comes the Navy  Red River  Blu-ray  Fate is the Hunter  Blu-ray  Warner World War II Collection: The Big Red One, Where Eagles Dare, The Dirty Dozen, George Stevens D-Day to Berlin (DVD), Memphis Belle, Battle of the Bulge, Defiance  Blu-ray  Two Rode Together  Blu-ray  Johnny Come Lately  Blu-ray  The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou  Blu-ray  The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection: South Pacific, The Sound of Music, State Fair, The King and I, Carousel, Liliom, Oklahoma!  Blu-ray  Monte Walsh  Blu-ray  Overlord  Blu-ray  Flying Tigers  Blu-ray  Il sorpasso  Blu-ray  The Flying Dutchman  Thunderbirds are GO! &  Thunderbird 6  Blu-ray  Wild at Heart  Blu-ray  Memphis Belle  Blu-ray  Ace in the Hole  Blu-ray + DVD  Midnight Lace  White Zombie  Blu-ray + DVD  A Brief History of Time  Blu-ray  Forever Amber  Sorcerer  Blu-ray  Backlash  All-Region Blu-ray  Nosferatu the Vampyre  Blu-ray  The Wind and the Lion  Blu-ray  The Inspector Lavardin Collection  Blu-ray  Show Boat  Professor Mamlock  Dante's Inferno  The Trials of Muhammad Ali
April 2014
 All the King's Men  Blu-ray  The Revengers  Blu-ray  Young at Heart  Blu-ray  The Freshman  Blu-ray + DVD  Get Carter  Blu-ray  King of the Hill  Blu-ray + DVD  Man Without a Star  All-Region Blu-ray  Broadway Danny Rose  Blu-ray  Disco & Atomic War  The Pawnbroker  Blu-ray  Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation  Blu-ray  Touch of Evil  Blu-ray  Used Cars  Blu-ray  Villain  Double Indemnity  Blu-ray  Wonderwall  Blu-ray  Let the Fire Burn  Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia  Blu-ray  The People versus Paul Crump  Men in War  Blu-ray   Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV: So Dark The Night, Johnny O'Clock, Walk A Crooked Mile, Between Midnight And Dawn, Walk East On Beacon!  Stranger on the Prowl  Blu-ray  Providence  Region 2 DVD  King Kong vs Godzilla  Blu-ray  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!


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