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Columns



DVD SAVANT

(This page holds the Savant
Semi-daily columns between April 26 and July 31, 2001)
 Older Columns



July 31, 2001

It only seems like John Wayne land around here ... of all the discs Savant has requested this year, the Waynes seem to show up like clockwork. Anyone ever notice that I'm not always so kind to them? This new disc is The Shootist, an 'elegiac' oater (read: old coots, not young guns) that is literally about the dee-mise of the Duke himself.

DVDTalk Fearless Leader Geoffrey Kleinman just asked me if my copy of MY MAN GODFREY has no Criterion Collection banner on the front, with the tip that some were issued without, and they may become collector's items! Well, I checked. It has no banner. Is this really as significant as Geoffrey avers? I already have my SEVEN SAMURAI with the restoration demo ( which is no great loss, believe me) but I'd be interested if anyone else thinks the bannerless GODFREY is big news.

Give Savant a good night's sleep, and he'll be back with more. If I can make a recommendation for Western-starved readers, please check out Foreign Intervention and the American Western if you haven't already ... I always ' love to debate the issues in that article!

Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson DVD Savant


July 29, 2001

It's Sunday, and I actually have three hours free to sit down at an html keyboard instead of an Avid station ... so I've brought forth a quickie review of Hatari! complete with a mini discussion of Howard Hawks. I decided to mumble on about Hawks, I admit, after reading a half-dozen other reviews that reiterated the same litany about male group zeitgeist, etc., without putting any of it in context. So I've done it all again, but with Context!

Tomorrow is an exciting time, finishing a DVD docu online in a Symphony Suite, where all of my Avid tricks will either translate into a final product with blazing efficiency or, gum up into every editor's dreaded Online Hell, where nothing goes right and the producer looks to to you to solve every bottomless problem as the rate clock ticks by at 8 or 9 hundred dollars an hour. Naturally we try to be prepared, which is why DVD Savant has been lean for the last five days. (this will change fortwith) I'm already partway through the original British version of Traffik, which is certainly about Horse of a different color ... and there are newer and bluer DVDs on the horizon. Kids are in the house for only a couple of more weeks, so we're going to watch something every night and they can roll their eyeballs at my ridiculous opinions ... see ya soon from LA .. Glenn Erickson

A couple of oddities to throw at you tonight: a PAL English tape of a restored Laurel and Hardy favorite, and a trailer compilation from our friends at All Day.

The March of the Wooden Soldiers is a delight from the early 1930's that's existed under two titles and several different lengths. UK correspondent Lee Broughton has sorted out the versions and given a good rundown on a worthy rent or purchase ... I never seem to remember the titles of Laurel and Hardy movies, and they don't sit in the memory as great works of cinema, but every time I start watching one, they simply make me laugh. And who can complain about that?

David Kalat of All Day (who has just had published a book on the Dr. Mabuse character in print and the movies) has released a Hammer films trailer compilation from the vault of Ted Newsom, called The Horror of Hammer. Quality wise, Savant had some reservations here and there, but had to admit it was one monster collection : 53 trailers (and four bonus titles.)

Fantoma is graciously offering to let Savant review some of their upcoming product, so I don't mind passing on a pair of their announcements that intrigued me. Director Alex Cox is going to contribute notes and commentary for Fantoma's Spaghetti western disc, THE GREAT SILENCE, a film with a very positive reputation. Even better, Fantoma just announced a double-bill disc of Fritz Lang's penultimate German productions, THE TIGER OF ESCHANPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB. These were chopped up and released in America as JOURNEY TO THE LOST CITY, but now we'll finally get to see them intact. Starring are Paul Hubschmid (aka Paul Christian in THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS) and Debra Paget, whose exotic dance was the favorite subject of English film critics for years ... Savant's looking forward to both of these ...

... not to downplay the two we already are awaiting, Anchor Bay's special disc of THE WICKER MAN ( a really superior show) and Image Entertainment's THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS, which, in so far as seeing is concerned, Savant never has and always wanted to, so to speak. So there's cause for elation in DVD land for the lovers of the arcane and never-before-seen.


July 22, 2001

Well, Savant has found a few hours to devote to Savant, but because it's slim pickings this week, I tried to choose something good to write about. Kiss Me Deadly is of course a personal favorite, and I've been waiting a long time for the DVD to appear. It's the right way to see this movie if you never have, and although it's plain-wrap, they haven't left out things like the traditional re-edited ending. MGM doesn't go in for piles of extras on most of their library titles (there is, however, a hot new in-house producer trying to do good work in that direction) but when their basic transfers and presentation look as good as this, there's no room for complaints here.

I'd like to say the ice is melting at Warner's, with their announcement of a Hammer MUMMY (1959) release, but chances are the Kharis DVD is finally leaving its tomb because Universal's big budget mummy sequel is on the way. However, THEM! is coming around the same time too, so maybe there is hope.

I have a couple of half-written items that need to be finished off ... so I hope this won't be a one-review week, when back in June I was happily pumping out four and five. Could I suggest looking at some of the older articles in the Savant Archive? Thanks again, Glenn Erickson

Another Woody Allen disc today, the 1992 black & white anomaly, Shadows and Fog. Every Allen film has its champions, and Savant's tried to play fair with this title, but it didn't leave all that much of an impression, except to nudge me to go dig up my Kurt Weill record, wherever it is.

A funny thing happened on the way to the DVD. A DVD docu I'm working on has a big fan following, and a major volunteer to the effort was a very nice graphics designer who at core also happened to be the film's biggest fan. Usually I've been the fan-type hectoring the studio suits and probably making a nuisance of myself, but I finally understand what the execs talk about when they say 'never get involved with a FAN. They don't know what responsibility is and their only loyalty is to their FAN-tasy about their 'special' movie. Well, our 'consultant' took a partially-completed vhs of our rough cut docu, given him in confidence, to a SCI FI convention, and showed it to the whole congregation! I've learned my lessons how to keep my enthusiasm in check, but this guy is, as Kevin Spacey would say, Sooooo busted.

Savant Wisdom: A major rule of life is, never fall in love with a movie, not really. They don't love you back. - Glenn Erickson


July 15, 2001

Two quick reviews of a couple of fun items: MGM's The Cotton Club is a much-maligned gangster epic with music, dancing, romance and good humor that Savant always liked. Even better, MGM's no-frills disc is practically flawless. And there's a lot of gangster and Hollywood history tied up in the movie, which takes the attitude that Hollywood and Hoodlums do indeed go together.

Image / Something Weird's Terror in the Midnight Sun / Invasion of the Animal People double bill is truly weird, containing both the original Swedish version, and the Jerry Warren abomination created by taking a size 9 meat cleaver to what was barely a real movie in the first place. But Something Weird has packed the disc with extras, including a television show with Lon Chaney Jr., produced by the same entity that originally made this one-and-only Swedish Science fiction film.

Savant has some horn-tooting to do ... it seems that I've been nominated for a primetime Emmy, as one of the editors of the Oscar show this year. Now that's quite a surprise, and I'm not exactly sure what happens next ... but I'll let you know. A lot of my clients have Emmys for various strange things, but the one Emmy-holding friend I know is the inimitable Les Kaye, who picked one up in the early 80's for cutting several episodes of Pee Wee's Playhouse, that extremely creative Saturday Morning Show. I hope they send some kind of certificate of Nomination or something! - Back in a couple of days, Glenn


July 10, 2001

It's time for a Savant favorite which ended up being one of those real thrills that happen when you're surprised by a great disc when you weren't expecting much. MGM Home Entertainment's X, The Man With The X-Ray Eyes looks very good, far better than any vhs or laser I've seen, even better than the slightly faded theatrical prints I used to see. It's a movie packed with ideas, so I even get some meat to chew on in my overheated arguments.

I whined about a slack week a few days ago, and now I'm awash with great discs from Image, Anchor Bay, and a smorgasbord of goodies from a bunch of studios from DVD Talk. So I'll try to get to them sooner than later. And it looks like I'll be getting a gander at KISS ME DEADLY in a few days, courtesy of Gary Teetzel, who's loaning me his copy until mine comes in from Iceland or wherever. Back to editing! Glenn


July 8, 2001

Well, it will be July 8 in a couple of hours! Criterion's come through with a bundle of goodies, and the first two up are the essential screwball comedy My Man Godfrey, yet another title that Criterion has rescued from the anonymity of the Public Domain. It's the best starting point for appreciating the wonderful, short-lived Carole Lombard. Here she sparkles and glimmers like new, in a show that provides more (and smarter) laughs than anything we call comedy today. John Schlesinger's Billy Liar is a big surprise, a powerful film that I had thought was just a comedy about a Walter Mitty -type fantasist. That'll teach me to trust my memories as as 14-year-old, watching the movie on the 'foreign film' tv show on a Saturday night in 1966. Billy Liar letterboxed on DVD is a whole new animal from the pan'n scanned 'thing' available on television, and a major film in anyone's book.

DVD Talk is coming through with some new titles too, so I hope to have at least one more review up before the week's out. Enjoy your summer! - Glenn


July 2, 2001

Let's make this short and sweet, I wanted to get my I Vampiri review up before it streeted tomorrow. It's a fascinating disc really meant for Euro Horror fans - it's kind of a missing link that started off the whole continental genre - a year before Hammer's first color Frankenstein film! Back to editing - hope the review of this Image DVD whets your curiosity! - Glenn


July 1, 2001

July can get pretty hot in Los Angeles, even though we rarely turn on the air conditioning any more. In Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where my parents retired, it's pushing 122 degrees today ... a few years back it reached 134, officially. This always makes me laugh when I see VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, which posits 135 as the median temperature for the collapse of civilization, and Day the Earth Caught Fire, with a similar heat wave hitting London.

This weekend's Savant reviews are a bit cooler. Dario Argento's Cat 'O Nine Tails is a murder mystery (not a gore-fest) with beautiful Roman locations enhancing the giallo Wunderkind's suspense techniques. Uncut and in a great widescreen transfer, it's a coveted title for EuroHorror types.

Brian De Palma's Obsession is a great Columbia Tristar disc that finally lets this film look decent - it's looked like melting green toothpaste for a quarter of a century. This is a Savant favorite, so I've gone into issues beyond Vilmos Zsigmond's suicidal photographic style - the planned fourth act, the altering of the incest motif, and how to tell when Hitchcock imitators are 'riffing on', and when they're ripping off.

Also, there's a substantial addition to an older article. Peter Pistanek has solved my memory problems with the color version of Jour de Fete, and I've added his explanation and a cool website he provided.

Savant's checking out Image's new DVD of the Italo classic I Vampiri, and hopes to have a review up before it streets. Happy hot weekend!


June 27, 2001

The new Image Mario Bava Collection disc is yet another departure from his gothic standard. Knives of the Avenger actually improves on SHANE in the story department, with Cameron Mitchell as a pensive Viking warrior down on his luck and hoping to restart life with an abandoned woman and her son. All Bava films can be called 'unusual', but here we have something even more special, an out-and-out action movie with a sensitive romantic triangle.

Savant's been informed by Gary Teetzel that there's an upcoming DVD from Toho (region 2, I suppose) of my favorite of their movies, The Mysterians. It's enough to get Savant to buy a multi-region player. At least it will be NTSC! This Japan DVD website has a lot of information to decode ... it's supposed to be 16:9. It feels good to think that Toho will lead with this title. - Glenn


June 24, 2001

It's a hot weekend in LA, but Savant was able to run a pair of new Criterions, very handsome discs of All That Heaven Allows and Written on the Wind. Made by Douglas Sirk for Universal in the '50s, they show a great director literally spinning straw into gold. One's a domestic soap opera, and the other the kind of soap opera epic of the rich and their sexual antics, that became so popular in cheap novels and miniseries later on ... yet Sirk manages to make them honest, exciting, and rather socially subversive, with some of the most blatant sex imagery in American movies of the time. I know few male Savant readers are going to be naturally inclined in the direction of these pictures, but good movies are good movies ... maybe you have some girl who likes this stuff. Show her these 'originals' and I bet you get hooked too. - Glenn


June 20, 2001

Yet another MGM action title tonight, the John Ford cavalry (not calvary, mind you) opus, The Horse Soldiers.  While not the greatest Ford movie, it does have its moments, and reasonable films about the Civil War are few and far between.

Savant's been revising and correcting several articles.  'woggly' offered a new image for the Apache review, and this might be a good time to look at Savant's original Kiss Me Deadly restoration article from '97 - the DVD, which Savant hasn't yet gotten a gander at, hit the streets yesterday, along with the irreplaceable The Sweet Smell of Success.  Va-Va Voom! Pretty POW!

This week's Sundance Channel Criterion Classics presentation is Jacques Tati's M. Hulot's Holiday.  That's Thursday night, I believe at 9PM.  Glenn.


June 17, 2001

This time up are two '50s films from MGM, John Huston's Moby Dick and Robert Aldrich's Apache, both matinee favorites.  A commitment to far too many new releases each month is taking its toll on overall quality for some of these titles, which Savant discusses at length in these reviews.

Savant received a VHS (hiss) review tape from FOX for Jeff Goldblum - Ann Heche title I'd never heard of called BEYOND SUSPICION, and watched it the other night.  It was quite good, an excellent little drama that didn't become a crime story but flirted with noirish feelings while telling a fairly uplifting story about a pair of very interesting characters.  It's directed by Matthew Taback.  The very next day, in the LA Times, was a review of the same movie under another, much better title, Auggie Rose - saying that the film was playing at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica.  Savant investigated and found that it originally played on Showtime cable, as AUGGIE ROSE.  It must be frustrating for a good writer/director like Taback to make something exceptional, only to have it not even reach sleeper status because the distribution mechanism is geared toward giant films only, or at least programmers that a studio has enough faith in to back with 20 millions in advertising campaigns.  That Taback would be forced (my guess) to mount a vanity screening to see his work on a big screen is pretty sad.  Under these conditions, movies in general can't progress: how would Val Lewton ever have broken out if you had to watch Cat People on an arcade screen, or something like it?


June 13, 2001

Savant has a retro-Criterion review of Akira Kurosawa's High and Low on tap, a great film always worth another look.  If you have The Sundance Channel, it will be playing in the Classics series this Thursday Night, tomorrow.  Savant's going to be posting reviews of all the films in this 13 week series, from here to August 30, and it'll be good for me to do finally give the Savant take on some of these Film-School standards.  Glenn


June 12, 2001

Two new MGM Reviews: Pit and the Pendulum is one of the most popular, and outright scariest, of the Roger Corman - Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.  Vincent Price is in fine form, joined by the glorious Barbara Steele in her second horror role.

Billy Wilder's The Apartment is a happy surprise: Savant expected a flat letterboxed re-tread, only to be surprised by a beautiful 16:9 transfer that brings out heaps of new details in the busy b&w images.  If you've never seen this show, it's one of the better romantic pictures ever made ... the perfect date movie.

Next up, an older Criterion, and more MGM action films!  Glenn


June 10, 2001

Happy weekend!  Savant has a new article about a Fantastic New Construction underway on Hollywood Boulevard, that I'm happy to be able to report on, with Photos.  It's nice to write something different for a change.

Savant starts a new cutting job come Monday, so this one-review-a-day habit will relax a bit, but not too much.  On the docket today is another eye-popping Criterion disc, Luis Buñuel's Diary of a Chambermaid, an almost perfectly-crafted trip into French domestic perversity between the wars.  The title promises a naughtiness that surfaces with a surreal vengeance ... the fact that the show is a straight drama instead of one of Buñuel's subversive farces, makes this a powerful and disturbing experience.

A personal note having nothing to do with movies - Savant is presently pulling his '66 Mustang GT out of mothballs, to free up another vehicle needed by the family now that school is out.  Not a car freak but unable to get rid of this particular set of wheels (I drove it to my High School prom in 1970!) over the years, I've decided to get it going again, and it's a fun project ...  Thanks, Glenn.


June 7, 2001

Today's new review comes from Criterion, and it's a radiant DVD version of Michaelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura.  This double-disc set is a real dazzler, and makes understanding this famously ambiguous movie a lot easier than listening to the clueless lecturer who confused me in film school!

Criterion has joined with The Sundance Cable Channel: Starting tonight and every Thursday night for 13 weeks, the cable channel will showcase another exponent of Classic World Cinema.  As it so happens, tonight's debut offering is none other than L'Avventura itself, so it's a great chance to check it out, even though it won't be the 16:9-enhanced DVD experience.  The show starts tonight at 9PM Eastern.  Adíos, Savant.


June 6, 2001

Happy D-Day to all!  Just a couple of quickies today.  MGM Home Entertainment's Alice is the review of the moment... a Woody Allen film that doesn't get the respect Savant thinks it deserves.

Savant saw a preview last night of EVOLUTION, which started well but lost energy and spark as it went along, as well as a point.  David Duchovny and company follow the development of slime from a fallen meteorite, as it quickly evolves into larger and more menacing forms of life.   The movie goes from cute comedy to a lame attempt to mimic MEN IN BLACK, and finally a totally failed stab at the feel-good, music-backed finish of GHOSTBUSTERS.  The audience's laughter fell during my screening in a straight descending line as the film played out.  Some of the lifeforms that develop from the goo are great, especially the cute greenish glob hiding in a broom closet (it reminds me of yet another Warner cartoon character) but they all are treated as so much excess rubbish to be disposed of as soon as possible.  The miracle of life is just an extermination problem, so the film has a subtly nasty attitude ... there's nothing said about the effect on the ecosystem or competition between the 'new' life and our ordinary flora and fauna.  Instead we get a bunch of flat jokes, ( and flatulence jokes) some of which are amusing and many not.  The effects range from dinosaurlike flying raptors (anyone say Phil Tippet?) to poorly animated growing tendrils ... two main forms of the ooze from the stars belie the inspiration for the film as being in the first two QUATERMASS epics ... except this movie has zilch to say.  Savant's lack of enthusiasm is doubtlessly a sign that EVOLUTION will be a staggering moneymaker ... is the genre of big, empty CGI epics to go on forever?


June 5, 2001

The new review is MGM Home Entertainment's Salvador Special Edition, which is still Oliver Stone's best movie.  MGM has given it a fine anamorphic transfer, and accompanied it with a well-done docu, and a stack of interesting deleted scenes.  I've always liked James Woods, and this is the best role I've seen him in.

While reviewing Buster Keaton's Seven Chances last year, I was contacted by author John Bengtson, who had just published a book called Silent Echoes, about Buster and the Los Angeles locations for his films.  This Thursday, June 7, John will be conducting a lecture from the book at the Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills, and showing two Keaton shorts, The Boat, and The Goat.  It's called "Lecture in the Lobby: Revisiting Keaton with John Bengtson."

John tells me he's made some new discoveries since his book came out, including connections between the Keaton films and The Kid by Charlie Chaplin and Intolerance by D.W. Griffith. It sounds like a lot of fun.

For more details on John's show, see This Address.  Tickets are $5 for the general public.  They may be purchased when the doors open at 7:00 p.m.  The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, 90211.  For more information, call 310-247-3600.  Free Academy parking is available nearby.

John's a good guy and if this plug gets him some more happy attendees, all the better.  Coming up at Savant, Jayne Mansfield Weird, and Woody Allen Sublime.  Toodles.


June 3, 2001

Just one quick review to report tonight, although it is for two movies, a John Ford double bill of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Donovan's Reef.  Both are great movies, although I'm not so sure many people would agree with me on the South-Seas romp.  But Savant makes the best argument he can.

For Mario Bava fans, Savant can give high marks to MGM's upcoming (way upcoming, August) DVD of il maestro's Planet of the Vampires, which totally changed my opinion of that film.   I can't review it yet, the reason for which will become clear later, but I can say that it is widescreen (far wider than I've ever seen it) and doesn't have the accursed Kendall Schmidt re-score.  And the color is, uh, out of this world!  Hmmm.  Too corny.  It looks great!   GLenn


May 31, 2001

Savant's back in action again, after going to Providence, Rhode Island to see my daughter graduate from College.  A fun trip, but it's good to be back pounding a keyboard ... to punch out two new looks at three very different discs.

Traffic, last year's powerhouse Oscar nominee, still packs a wallop on DVD, where it's possible that a larger audience that avoided its drug theme on the screen, will be won over by its social argument.  A fine disc, this.

Now from the Sublime to the Ridiculous. Image Entertainment's She Demons and Monster from Green Hell discs give you a look at two of the most endearingly maladroit '50s sci fi thrillers that Hollywood hacks could conjure up.  Green Hell is a giant-insect epic that really needed a budget but must have been made for just a few thousand dollars; She Demons is an incredibly tasteless opus that mixes Nazi atrocities, jungle clichés, and caged native women with fanged horror-faces.  It's also the biggest film of cult goddess Irish McCalla, who was the original, one and only Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

Breaking news (probably a couple of days late): my DVDTalk fearless leader is again promoting this humble page with another giveaway, this time several DVD copies of Big Trouble in Little China.  So get in there and try to get one.  With the potential winner pool this small, you actually have a reasonable chance.

And finally, when you're bored or the tv monitor burns out, don't forget to check out the older Articles in the Article Index.  And use the SEARCH function at the bottom of this main page to find individual movies or even topics by single-word clues.  Savant uses it to find out if he's already told some tall tale before or not.

Have a great weekend ... Summer approaches, with bigger and bluer Mean ... bigger and better movies.  GE


May 24, 2001

Big reviews just up, for the following discs, all of which were very good ...Columbia TriStar's Close Encounters of the Third Kind Collector's Edition is the much-awaited Spielberg title that lives up to the hoopla ... it contains a dynamite extra in the form of some fascinating deleted scenes.  The transfer is excellent, the music mix doesn't sound altered, and that awful Mothership interior scene has been shoved out the nearest airlock.

Docurama's The Roots of Rhythm is an excellent 150-minute docu on the history and development of Latin Music, that plays like one long, delightful music video.  It's a retitled PBS show from 1999 called The Routes of Rhythm, and is hosted by Harry Belafonte, who comes off as being delighted to talk about his favorite subject.

Paramount's War series continues with two more winners.  1965's In Harm's Way is a colosssal Otto Preminger Navy epic with John Wayne in one of his best roles, and a huge cast of interesting character actors.  Savant has some inside dope on the miniatures in this one.

Mike Nichols' Catch-22 is a truly black comedy that's uncompromised but also not a crowd pleaser.  But thanks to a great commentary track by the director and Steven Soderbergh, even the scenes that seem indecipherable make sense again.  This is one very creative, but very strange movie.

Savant will be out of commission until the beginning of next week, when I'll be back with TRAFFIC and some other surprises!  Have a nice Memorial Day!  GE


May 21, 2001

Another pair of reviews: the tough 'n gritty war movie Hell is for Heroes, a Steve McQueen favorite, and the irresistably cheerful John Carpenter 2-ring Kung-fu Circus, Big Trouble in Little China.  Carpenter's a moviemaker who's just impossible not to like.  Not all of his movies are really great, it has to be said, but he maintained a visual intelligence after everyone else in the 1980s seemed to be forgetting to look through the camera.  Carpenter starts movies and holds interest with just the 'feel' of his camera better than anyone.  Something like ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 dazzles for its first 40 minutes, until we find out that the only subject of the show is its gunfire.   Similarly THEY LIVE! develops a Philip K. Dick / UBIK-style concept beautifully, until it bogs down in invasion clichés and wrestling matches.  And one of his best, THE THING, still seems to lose control of who's a monster and who's not, despite Carpenter's really good character direction.  BIG TROUBLE sees the talented director inventing a whole new comedy-action genre, at least for American audiences, and is by far his best picture for sheer fun.


May 20, 2001

First up is a Sneaky Preview of Anchor Bay's new DVD of The Tenth Victim, which Savant didn't even know was coming out!  They've done a good job with this cult title.  Dubbed into English, I didn't care for it - but in the original Italian it's very funny, well-orchestrated future dystopia, where legalized murder has turned something called The Big Hunt, into a goldmine of opportunity for superstar killers and their corporate sponsors.  Movies from Rollerball to The Running Man owe it all to this thriller starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress.

Savant's already covered a couple of the Fox War films timed to release with the upcoming Pearl Harbor, and is starting on Paramount's interesting crop of combat pix with The Bridges at Toko-Ri. William Holden and Grace Kelly star with the Korean War as a backdrop: Bill has to come up with the nerve to lead the the raid on Macho Grande, I mean, Toko-Ri.

Lastly, Savant has used a letter from old friend and Bernard Herrmann fan Robert Swarthe as the basis for a non-review (gasp) article,The Bernard Herrmann Soundtrack for Torn Curtain.  The subject is the bonus Herrmann track on the DVD of the Hitchcock movie, parts of which Swarthe is fairly sure are misaligned.  It makes interesting reading, as Robert's familiarity with the title stems from experiments he conducted over 22 years ago!

More War mania coming soon! Glenn


May 17, 2001

A lot of cool titles on the way for Savant to Sav-alivate over!  But today I've got a 3-In-One looksee at Criterion's Jacques Tati discs, M. Hulot's Holiday, Mon Oncle, and the bizarre, trés bizzarre Playtime.  You find yourself really warming up to this man's comedy.  He's known as the thinking man's silent comedian, and he indeed does carry on the traditions of Chaplin and Keaton, while going off on his own delirious directions, artistically speakin'.

By the way .... Nathaniel Thompson informs me that when playing his copy of The Day the Earth Caught Fire, the closed-captions come on just fine!  The rumors that Anchor Bay was supporting closed captioning now must be true, and my bum teevee is the culprit.  So those of you who fear hard-to-understand English movies, need not!

In the next day I should have another early look at ANOTHER controversial Anchor Bay disc, too ... so don't forget your old pal, sniff, Savant.  GE


May 15, 2001

By the grace of Anchor Bay's merciful publicity people, who must have become tired of hearing me cry, Savant has gotten his paws on a review DVD of their upcoming The Day the Earth Caught Fire.  It's a ripping disc of one of the best, and least-seen Science Fiction movies of all time.  Yup, ever.  There's a full commentary from the film's producer-director, Val Guest, well-hosted by Ted Newsom.  Knowing that there's going to be umpteen reviews on the web any minute, Savant still took the time to try to nail what captivates him about this ban-the-bomb epic.  This is the first time I've seen it properly in 'scope, and it just looks great - the tinted scenes make London look like the inside of an oven ... which reminds me, I have to go home to Lake Havasu City, Arizona soon ... the London Bridge transplanted there has actually weathered temperatures of 134o!  The disc, I believe, streets early in June.

DVD Savant and Winstar are doing an Incubus DVD Giveaway, with ten copies of the essential Esperanto fantasy being dished out like so much devil's ale!  The William Shatner-starring demonic fable comes in a collector's edition package with interviews and commentaries that tell the entire bizarre story of this 'damned' production, as already detailed in Savant's rave Incubus Review.  Be the first on your block to see William Shatner speak in tongues!


May 14, 2001

Nothing for Mother on Mother's day ... unless Mother's a fan of Westerns and murder mysteries. Savant has a preview (well, a day early) of the latest Mario Bava disc from Image Entertainment, Five Dolls for an August Moon. It's another very good disc with an original Italian language track - and not distorted, either.  Savant's also finally caught up with MGM's The Magnificent 7, and has some inside facts about the remastering of everyone's favorite gunslinger epic.  Savant edited the docu for this, and also explains the differences between his cut and the BBC original from which it was made.  Thanks always, GE


May 11, 2001

I missed my cue yesterday, so I'll make amends today:  "May 10.  Thank God for the rain.  Maybe someday a real rain'll come along and wash all the garbage and the filth off the streets ..."  It's hard to believe that that was 25 years ago.

Three fast and happy reviews for the weekend:  Another wonderful rarity from All Day Entertainment is the ultra-rare 1928 version of Jean Epstein's The Fall of the House of Usher.  This silent avant-garde film set a standard for weird horror atmosphere that stood for 30 years.  Fox Lorber checks in with their DVD of Incubus, the 'cursed' satanic film starring a young William Shatner.  And from Criterion comes an early peek at their special edition of Josef von Sternberg's The Scarlet Empress, a jaw-droppingly rich movie packed with exoticism, witty code-defying sex content, and ravishing visuals, perhaps Sternberg's most extreme.

Savant is awaiting the latest, hottest fantastic films from Image and Anchor Bay.  THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS is a Peter Cushing movie I haven't seen (imagine that!), and THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE is the best of the ban-the-bomb movies.  It'll also be another first, as it will be letterboxed and retain the original's tinted scenes.

I just looked at the new disc of TORA!TORA!TORA! last week, a reissue that has a new docu and a good commentary with Stuart Galbraith interviewing Richard Fleischer.  It gets me wondering about the new Michael Bay PEARL HARBOR film.  I was at a party with some lab people last week - it's due out in a couple of weeks and I'm told that as of last Saturday, not a single reel was locked (finished) as new special effects are being redone on a daily basis.  The people I talked to thought that it was almost a certainty that the rushed prints for the big opening were bound to vary across the country, with some locales seeing different effects composites than others!

I also wonder what kind of P.C. tack PEARL HARBOR will take. In TORA!, the no-no word 'Japs' is used quite a bit (it was released in 1970) but what has Michael Bay decided to do?  It seems that if the film tries to soft-pedal the racial hatred aspect of the attack (a major component) the movie will be a travesty.  But any attempt to tell the historical facts straight will necessitate angering somebody.  I wouldn't worry about offending Japanese nationals, actually.  A camera crew visited the effects hangar for 1941, and had no problem at all looking at all the authentic WW2 propaganda posters we had up on the walls.  It's just that, with today's historical movies being so relentless about making sure that they aren't about anything, how will it be handled?  PEARL HARBOR may end up being to TORA!TORA!TORA!, what TITANIC was to A NIGHT TO REMEMBER:  History Lite.  GE


May 10, 2001

Hello! Savant's been working again, but he does have another review before an expected onslaught of big-title goodies.  Postcards from the Edge is an almost perfect comedy from Mike Nichols and the 'serious' actress Meryl Streep.  Only a pro like Nichols could direct power actress Shirley MacLaine as a quasi-tyrannical version of Debbie Reynolds, and keep it all in balance.

Savant Secret Cinema struck again Tuesday night, to a packed house of fans who enjoyed a producer-collector's personal print of The Tomb of Ligeia, which is possibly the best Corman Poe adaptation and certainly the one with the highest pedigree.  Vincent Price plays it straight this time, opposite Elizabeth Shepherd, who in the dual role of Rowena / Ligeia gives one of the best female performances in all filmic horror.  Add to this a densely verbal screenplay by a young Robert Towne, doing a really creepy necrophiliac version of Vertigo, and Ligeia is one special film.  Seen in this perfect print on a wide, wide 35mm screen, its quality surprised a lot of the audience.  This is no The Haunted Palace, which attributes its story to Edgar Allan Poe in the credits, and Edgar Allen Poe in the titles!

Hopefully we'll be doing another Savant Secret Cinema in a couple of weeks, instead of a couple of months!


May 7, 2001

It's Springtime, when Savant and a million other guys don't turn into Wolves, but do get their share of frisky notions.  Let's start Monday out with a bright new Marilyn Monroe box set, which Savant has to admit has been given A+ treatment by Fox Home Video.  After two years of commitment to 16:9, letterboxing and crisp restoration, it's time to just drop the whole issue of Fox's tardy entrance into the DVD world.  Marilyn Monroe, The Diamond Collection gathers together all of MM's early color Fox comedies: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, There's No Business Like Show Business, The Seven Year Itch, and Bus Stop.   One of the best things about the set is its demonstration of how important the extra effort of digital touch-up is to helping out these older titles: For the most part they look simply flawless, with digs, mottling, scratches and other film problems painted out.  If only other studios would make a similar commitment.

There's another Savant Secret Cinema to report on next time 'round, as well as new reviews!  Thanks, Glenn Erickson


May 5, 2001

New reviews for this sunny May Day are Fox's bright new DVD of a Steve McQueen favorite The Sand Pebbles, one of the more ambitious Roadshow epics of the '60s, and Anchor Bay's excellent disc of Hammer films' The Plague of the Zombies, another older release that Savant thought deserved some attention.   Zombies has a silly title but is one of the better Hammers, made at a time when most of their output was starting to become stale.  Its 'ghouls emerge from their graves' scene is still spooky, and superior to many later Italian zombie films.

DVD Talk just sent me the Marilyn Monroe Diamond Collection ... and I'm working on a reaction to them ... have a nice weekend! Glenn


May 1, 2001

It's been a ferocious weekend of writing, with few interruptions and some great discs coming through the mail slot.  Criterion's Spartacus has been a long time a-borning; it's actually a retread on a very expensive laserdisc set from the early 1990s.  The difference now is that you don't have to change discs 4 or 5 times, the 16:9 picture is phenomenal, and the DVD costs a fraction of the old laser.  Savant reviewed the Universal Spartacus DVD a couple of years ago and besides an analysis of the film, it has a reader response section that I still get email about; so on the new review I've just concentrated on the lavish set of Criterion extras.

The big surprise of the weekend was another Criterion, Rififi, which if we believe the sultry singer in the film, means the 'rough and tumble' not only of crime but of lovemaking.  Savant once saw a grimy dubbed 16mm print on a public access station and didn't think much - this terrific disc dazzles with an almost perfect uncut picture and soundtrack.  A French crime thriller that set out to imitate THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, and pretty much ended up creating the 'Caper' genre, this is one of the better pictures ever about thieves and their honor, and the DVD has some great interview footage with its legendary director (and actor), Jules Dassin.

Savant wrote about a third film not because he was asked, but because he likes it.   Vera Cruz is just one of MGM's 'regular' releases, churned out with a trailer, 16 chapter stops and nothing more in the way of extras, but it's such a good (and modern) actioner that Savant's been pulling the laser out whenever guests ask to be surprised with a Western they've never heard of.  Very modern, very brutal, and mysteriously untouched by the 1954 censors (Burt Lancaster actually says, "I'll be a son of a bitch" on-camera), the VERA CRUZ disc has been trounced by some web reviewers for not looking like it was shot yesterday.  It looks just fine, and you'll be so entertained you won't care that a few shots are grainier than GLADIATOR.

To write the review, Savant expanded the VERA CRUZ section of an older essay he wrote about gunslingers crossing international lines, called Foreign Intervention and the American Western.  Older Savant articles and reviews are now indexed on separate pages; if you like critical opinions on older movies, you might check this one out: it traces the 'off to Mexico' genre from 1954's VERA CRUZ, through THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, MAJOR DUNDEE, and THE PROFESSIONALS, finally to THE WILD BUNCH.  Happy Tuesday, Glenn


April 29, 2001

Sundays are documentary days, when you can't think of any other way to begin a sentence, and Savant has a pair of winners for you.  The Sorrow and the Pity is a landmark chronicle of the German occupation of France as told by the collaborators, the resistance, and the occupiers.  The distinctions blur really fast - this isn't just a Woody Allen joke, but one of the more important films ever made.  Savant offers balance to the sobriety with D. A. Pennebaker's Bob Dylan docu, Don't Look Back, a stunning glimpse at the poet-rocker during his last acoustical tour in England in 1965.  This is the feature from which comes the famous music video-like shot of Dylan peeling off cue cards to the music of 'Subterranean Homesick Blues.'

It's major format change time at Savant: Readers haven't complained, but I got sick of waiting for this home page to load up, and broke it into three parts.  From now on, the Article Index and the Review Index will be separate pages.  I'll just have to be concientious about keeping up awareness of what's available to read at Savant.  There's a lot of links to change, and I do them all manually, so hopefully this will work and I won't have to go crying to DVDTalk to bail out my html .... If anyone runs into any bum links that I've missed, drop me a line ... Thanks, and see you soon! Glenn


April 28, 2001

Courtesy of DVD Talk, tonight's two reviews are of Billy Wilder's wonderful romantic comedy Sabrina, and Stanley Kramer's Dr. Seuss musical fantasy, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.  Both discs are good examples of the fine quality coming out of the major studios.  Paramount's SABRINA disc is as clean and polished as a b&w film from 1954 can be, and it's obvious that great care was taken to salvage what appear to be partly damaged elements on the Dr. Seuss movie.

The new Criterion discs arrived today and Savant wasted no time checking out the two-disc set of goodies for SPARTACUS, and the glorious new 16:9 transfer.  The review will follow the Bob Dylan DON'T LOOK BACK.  RIFIFI also showed up and and I can't wait to see all of it - it looked very interesting and Savant is a big Jules Dassin fan.  The title onscreen actually reads DU RIFIFI CHEZ LE HOMMES ... and I haven't read the small print to see if they've transliterated it.  Also expecting the new TORA TORA TORA! Special Edition soon.  April is going out like a lion, or maybe more like a tiger, on DVD Savant.



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