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Tuesday May 31, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Angry Hills
The Warner Archive Collection

 Robert Mitchum all but snoozes through this promising war-espionage thriller that pits a lazy Gestapo against particularly clueless partisans in occupied Greece. It's got great locations and a good cast, but director Robert Aldrich seems off his feed -- there's not a lot of excitement to be had. Elisabeth Mueller, Gia Scala and Stanley Baker wrestle with murky characters and a lack of meaningful action. The good news? The WAC's new transfer is an uncensored European cut, it seems. With Sebastian Cabot, Donald Wolfit, Marius Goring, Theodore Bikel and an impressively uninhibited cabaret dancer. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.

City of Women
The Cohen Media Group

 That naughty boy Federico Fellini goes all out with this essay-hallucination about women, a surreal odyssey that hurls Marcello Mastroianni into a world in which women are no longer putting up with male nonsense. It's an honest (if still somewhat sexist) effort by an artist unwilling to give up illusions and pleasures that he acknowledges as infantile. All he wants to do is play, but he's chased, teased, lectured and threatened. With Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers, Donatella Damiani and an army of women -- whether aggressive or oversexed, Fellini just doesn't understand them. A beautiful new restoration, on Blu-ray from The Cohen Media Group.


The Player
The Criterion Collection

 Production exec Tim Robbins murders to keep his grip on his coveted high studio roost. Robert Altman's murder tale reeks of insider access and Beverly Hills hipster BS; its main claim to greatness is its 50+ star cameos, that include every hungry name in 1992 Hollywood. The show reeks of smugness; it was made by the insiders it lampoons. But they don't make Hollywood pix any slicker than this. With Gretta Schacchi, Whoopi Goldberg, Fred Ward and the oiliest Hollywood hipster of them all, Peter Gallagher. But hey, it re-energized Altman's career. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.


As General Turgidson says, let's see what's cookin' on the threat board!

In hand, I have DVDs of The Woman in White, The Whip Hand, These Three, Night Will Fall and Forbidden Hollywood Volume X (Warner Archive), plus the East German Kathe Kollwitz (DEFA). Hot on the review list for Blu-ray are Lilies of the Field, I Could Go On Singing and Appassionata (Twilight Time); Antonia's Line (Film Movement); After the Fox, The Magnetic Monster, Gold, Hidden Fear, Shield for Murder and 99 River Street (Kino); Brief Encounter, Only Angels Have Wings, Le Amiche, La Chienne, and Here Comes Mr. Jordan; She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and Victor/Victoria (Warner Archive).

June ought to be a killer month. Twilight Time's upcoming roster is mostly winners: Romeo is Bleeding, Inserts, The Hound of the Baskervilles ('59), The Member of the Wedding, The Panic in Needle Park and Rollerball (the first one). Criterion has listed Fantastic Planet, The In-Laws and a new special edition ofDr. Strangelove. Kino promises a special edition of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, a movie you need to see if you haven't. And Arrow will be coming out with a Blu of Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan, about which I hope to offer a special report.

Some things I've asked for but am not sure I'll be able to review are 45 Years, Hello My Name Is Doris, The Martian Extended Edtiion, The Wave, Apocalypse Now Triple Feature and Zootopia 3-D.

What in the future interests me? Well, Olive's Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon, The Pride and the Passion, Wild in the Streets and Saved; Kino's Modesty Blaise, Chandu the Magician, 3 Bad Men, Invisible Invaders, Deadline USA and a restored Fritz Lang The Spiders; Mondo Macabro's special edition of Possession, Criterion's Carnival of Souls, Muriel, Night and Fog and McCabe and Mrs. Miller and, believe it or not, Arrow's upcoming disc of Microwave Massacre. You may think you are a well-connected cult film wizard, but (toss head proudly back) I was on the set of Microwave Massacre. Yes, personally. I'll have some stories from the film's editor, who, forty years later, is still a close friend... even though he edited Microwave Massacre. I've never seen the movie, but it won a spot in the Hardy Encyclopedia of Horror, so we all know it must be a classic. Arrow made The Incredible Melting Man watchable, so I have high hopes.

And finally, I need to mention the passing of Robert S. Birchard, a well known film expert and historian (the real kind), author and raconteur, sound editor, picture editor and writer. If you attended special screenings here in Los Angeles, chances are you know about Bob. He helped run or ran the Cinecon show for decades and the last I heard was working for the Academy. He met and dealt with a great many people in the business and in the serious side of film collecting. I met him in 1971 at UCLA, where he'd show prints he'd collected of Tom Mix silent westerns, and rare early musicals. In college he was writing for film journals and contributing photos to Kevin Brownlow -- he was already an expert on silent movie westerns. We projected features for Lawrence Turman, and Binnie Barnes and Mike Frankovich. He also got me in cutting a low budget feature with him at the old Echo Films, a time that is full of great stories. He had the connection at BBS on La Brea Avenue, and we'd watch Bob Rafelson run dailies from the projection room. Bob was a member of my wedding party and a frequent dinner guest in our home. In college and afterwards, Steve Nielson, Randy Cook and I would go to screenings with Bob at the old Vagabond, the Encore, the Fox Venice and the Museum; and poke around at Larry Edmunds' bookstore at its old location. The most legendary story about Bob? He somehow got ahold of John Ford's address in Bel-Air in 1973. Knowing that the director was not well, he and Randy Cook just dropped in to say hello, as admiring film students. They got to see him for a few minutes!

Bob Birchard loved to argue (a lot) and loved to talk politics. He had a great laugh and his personality made a big impact. Search his name at DVD Savant and you'll see that I've often mentioned his practical jokes and quoted his remarks -- he always had a sharp opinion to offer. He'll be greatly missed.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Saturday May 28, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Cat Ballou
Twilight Time

 This breakout hit comedy western gave a lift to star Jane Fonda and especially to Lee Marvin, in an unexpected comedy role that won him a Best Acting Oscar. Lee characteristically said that he owed half of the award to 'some horse out in the valley somewhere.' The spoofy comedy and action hold up quite well, and we still love the ballads sung by Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole. With Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman, Tom Nardini, John Marley, and a horse that can cross its legs to look drunk. On Blu-ray from Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

Hail, Caesar!
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray + DVD

 Not funny enough, or too hip for the house? It's 24 hours of madness in a movie factory, circa 1951. I found the Coen Bros.' send-up of old-fashioned movie studio madness good fun, with a couple of good new actors mixed in with the usual roster of Coen regulars. If you like droll comedy combined with spot-on recreations of old movie genres, this show can't lose. And there has to be somebody out there who wants to see George Clooney in a skirt. The great cast includes Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Channing Tatum. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Dark Passage
The Warner Arichives Collection

 Bogie's back and Bacall's got him. Or, at least she's got his voice, and a bundle of bandages! A David Goodis hardboiled crime tale with excellent San Francisco locations becomes an absurd pile of coincidences and accidental relationships, all wrapped up (literally) in a giant plastic surgery gimmick picture. Humphrey Bogart and his new bride Lauren Bacall are charming as they do their best to put their real-life romance on the screen. But the show is stolen by Agnes Moorehead, who plays the most entertainingly horrible harpy in film history. Great camerawork and an impressively pristine transfer, on Blu-ray from The Warner Archives Collection.


Journey to Space
Shout! Factory
4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray and 3-D Blu-ray

 3-D IMAX goes back to outer space for a repeat of some space shuttle material, and an extended CGI look at how a Martian landing might be accomplished. We also see a lot of fantastic prototype space hardware being tested in the desert and in an underwater lab. It's a grab bag of film sources, and only about half of it is real 3-D material. It's in both 4K Ultra-HD and Blu-ray formats, plus Blu-ray 3-D. But so far the 4K disc format hasn't a 3-D option. A multi-format edition on 4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray and 3-D Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.


Hi! Gary Teetzel sends along this 'Universe Geekdom' link to Rihito Ue's stop motion animation of 'Moguera', Toho's titanic robot monster from the vintage alien invasion classic The Mysterians. It's very clever stuff -- I wish this software were around when I was a kid. Make sure you check out the making-of extra. And tell Mr. Ue that I was one happy kid in 1959, sitting by myself in a USAF theater watching Moguera come rumbling his way out of a mountain.

Kino sent me its promo material for a pair of science fiction Blu-ray releases, for pictures made twenty years apart. Made in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the super-production Gold carries on the Metropolis tradition. The fantastic technical special effects are in some ways far in advance of Hollywood. After the war, the film's enormous alchemy-metal transmuting machine was lifted as stock footage and used for Ivan Tors' first OSI sci-fi film, The Magnetic Monster. Both discs arrive on June 14 -- It'll be great to compare the two. I've never seen Gold, which also happens to star Brigitte Helm. June is going to be a good month!

That's Ann Sheridan just above, who says 'Happy Memorial Day,' even though it's not a day for celebration. Ann is holding comedian Ben Blue in her arms, for a USO skit. Back in 1944 in Burma, my father was a flyer taking cargo 'over the hump' into China to support the Kuomintang; and he took a roll of snapshots at a USO tent show. I should make them into a little article; he's got several more with Ben Blue and one nice shot showing Melvyn Douglas, looking none too happy. On the right is my father, probably in 1943 in North Africa. That would make him 22 or 23 years old. I thought of the snapshots while watching Ann Sheridan's Woman on the Run last week. I've never read a word about Ms. Sheridan to suggest that she was anything but a great lady, and here she is a patriot as well.

And one more last-minute link from Gary: an accessory required for every Alfred Hitchcock fan.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

Blood Bath
 This four-feature set is the weirdest cinematic treasure box of the year, a sort of anti-matter film school. Three of the films are derived (very loosely) from a single Yugoslavian picture with Wiliam Campbell and Patrick Magee that wasn't commercial enough to suit Roger Corman. His acolytes Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman proceeded to add serial killings, supernatural hauntings, a full-on vampire, and an ending that could be called 'Zombies In The Wax Museum.' Tim Lucas tells the whole story in a fascinating extra docu... that's longer than any of the individual feature films it references. Obscure, yes, but I'm really glad I saw this. On Blu-ray from Arrow USA.

Woman on the Run
 What in the world -- an A + top-rank film noir gem hiding under the radar, and rescued (most literally) by the Film Noir Foundation. Ann Sheridan and Dennis O'Keefe trade dialogue as good as any in a film from 1950; the relationships are far more mature than is usual for a noir thriller. It works on several levels at once -- it has a cynical worldview yet a positive personal outlook. With Robert Keith, a cute dog and San Francisco as a terrific backdrop for the drama. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Flicker Alley / The Film Noir Foundation.

The King and Four Queens
 Clark Gable is nearing the end but is still more than frisky enough to attract four well-chosen frontier women -- who in this case happen to be a quartet of robbers' wives, sitting on a rumored mountain of ill-gotten gains. Director Raoul Walsh abets the comedy-drama, as Gable's fox-in-a-henhouse tries to determine which hen can lead him to the promised golden eggs: Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Jo Van Fleet, Barbara Nichols, or Sara Shane. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.

Too Late for Tears
 Noir if I can help it! Sultry Lizabeth Scott out-'fatals' every femme we know in this wickedly ruthless tale of unadulterated female venality. Rough creep Dan Duryea meets his match, as do other unfortunate males that get between Liz and a plump bag of blackmail loot. The Film Noir Foundation's restoration is a valiant rescue job, for a worthy 'annihilating melodrama.' A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Flicker Alley / The Film Noir Foundation.

La fièvre monte à El Pao
 "Fever Mounts at El Pao"  Luis Buñuel's most direct film about revolutionary politics brandishes few if any surreal touches. It's a heady tale of personal intrigues, pitting French star Gérard Philipe against the Mexican legend María Félix. As in the opera Tosca, Jean Servais' sadisic governor blackmails the heroine into surrendering her virtue to save her lover. Yet it's an intelligent study of how not to effect change in a corrupt political regime. Produced in France and filmed in Mexico. A Dual-Format French edition on Region A+B Blu-ray and PAL DVD from Pathé.

Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923
 All hail Buster Keaton! The Great Stone Face's pre-feature output is a comedic treasure trove that allows us to watch a performing genius perfect his filmic persona. Lobster's all-new restorations (newly scanned in 2K and 4K) debut some alternate scenes and fix a number of broken jump cuts. Plus an entire recently discovered original cut of The Blacksmith. It's the whole shebang - all of the earlier Fatty Arbuckle shorts and Buster's later solo efforts, in a five disc set. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.

 Nicolas Roeg's bizarre blend of high drama, searing sex and over-the-top brutality waited a year, only to be given a tiny American release. It then dropped out of sight. We're now in a better position to appreciate the show's great actors - especially Theresa Russell, the boldest and bravest actress of the 1980s. Gene Hackman finds the mother lode; from that point forward it's all domestic fireworks, Voodoo orgies and a particularly gruesome murder. With Rutger Hauer, Jane Lapotaire, Mickey Rourke and Joe Pesci. In an extra, writer Paul Mayersberg compares the film to the real events it is based on. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

The VVitch: A New-England Folktale
 This is not your garden-variety horror picture -- its scares stem from primal guilt and fear of supernatural demons and devils that we can't entirely dismiss because people still believe in them enough to do terrible things. New faces -- Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw -- are excellent as 17th-century Puritans too pure to withstand the tricks of the Devil. Robert Eggers' first film is the best-reviewed horror picture of its year, and quite an achievement. On Blu-ray + Digital HD from Lionsgate.

May 2016
 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

  Reaching further back in time?  2015 can't be uploaded yet, but you can see a
A Chronological List of DVD Savant's Reviews for 2014
... and for 2013 ... 2012 ... and 2011
Use the search function at the top of the page for individual titles -- it's new and improved and works well.

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