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DVD SAVANT

(This page holds the Savant
Semi-daily columns between August 3 and October 28 2001)
 Older Columns



October 28, 2001

A pile of new reviews tonight, courtesy of MGM and Fox:

MGM checks in with two Classics from Sam Goldwyn's stable. Sayonara is a very well-done soap opera about the crisis of fraternization between Air Force fliers and the women of occupied Japan. Marlon Brando seems particularly interested in the subject matter. Besides travelogue and romantic material, the show is unusually critical of Armed Forces policy at the time.

The Little Foxes is that rare classic that doesn't seem dated at all, despite the fact that it's just turned 60 years old. Known as a Bette Davis vehicle, but really a director's film, this William Wyler masterwork is one of his best pictures, a perfectly adapted play inhabited by a great cast that includes Teresa Wright and Richard Carlson.

From Fox we have Wing and a Prayer, Guadalcanal Diary, Halls of Montezuma, The Young Lions, & Patton, all coming out (with a few others) under a War Classics banner. Fox has been slow with the output of library titles but high on quality, as I'm happy to report in the review.

On another front, Savant saw a movie perhaps many of you have bought but not bothered to look at yet. SUPERMAN IV, THE QUEST FOR PEACE was included in many a boxed set and I bought mine used by someone who probably turned it in for resale. It has nostalgic value to Savant because I proudly took my kids to it when I worked at Cannon, when they were tots. Screening it again (the 16:9 transfer is excellent) made me realize that although it fails on many counts as an adequate SUPERMAN sequel, it's still a great juvenile kiddie film, and one that you might want to show your tots in our present situation, because of its themes. Superman tries to rid the world of nuclear weapons and fails, but leaves the message that we have to want peace ourselves if we expect to get it. Arms dealers and profiteers are shown in a bad light, while journalism is honored and defended with Perry White's successful rescue of The Daily Planet (both Savant fave themes). And it's all played out in good humor at the level of a six year old, one of whom Superman befriends in the course of the movie. Finally, several action scenes take place over Manhattan and can't help but show those gigantic World Trade Center towers, which as part of the NYC (excuse me, Metropolis) skyline are associated as symbols of our country just like the Statue of Liberty. Frankly, this show might be reassuring to little worried kids, to help reinforce the idea that there is virtue and security in the world, just because Chris Reeve as Superman personifies both concepts so well. Glenn Erickson


October 23, 2001

Happy Tuesday. It's starting to get dark and gloomy early here in Los Angeles, a sure sign to start Christmas shopping. A couple of reviews to report:

Hannah and Her Sisters is Savant's favorite Woody Allen movie, and MGM has given it the treatment it deserves.

The French Connection has been out a while in a glossy 2-disc set from Fox; Savant mainly sticks to a discussion of the movie itself.

With so many great discs going up so fast, their reviews disappear from the Savant main page faster than I'd like them to. If you haven't been around lately, you might check out the following:

The Tiger of Eschnapur & The Indian Tomb, The Mummy, Metropolis, and When Worlds Collide. And don't forget the Savant Search engine to ferret out hidden subjects on the site ... which is currently closing on 350 articles and reviews.

Happy dark afternoons. Anyone got snow yet? Glenn Erickson


October 21, 2001

Another trio of vital video viewing, for the keen peruser of popular pictures ...

Fox's The Bible is a big screen oldfashioned biblical epic that has its good points but is lacking in something. Savant tries miserably to put his finger on the problem but has some good things to say about John Huston along the way.

Dr. Who: The Movie is a Region 2 PAL -format review from Savant's UK contributor, the redoubtable Lee Broughton.

And Criterion's Häxan: Witchcraft through the Ages is a perfectly creepy silent documentary that before now, most of us have only seen in the form of some very disturbing stills. Still fascinating, and made with a care you wouldn't expect from 1922, this exploration of the supernatural's hold on society is pretty essential viewing in the daffy DVD circles where Savant spins.

The studios have been 'warned' against Terror attacks, but they didn't expect the torrent of angry and even borderline-threatening mail they got last week: some joker started a FALSE rumor that John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK was going to be made into a Special Edition, but re-edited to take out references to Air Force One being brought down by anarchist criminals. This is NOT happening. Have no fears, Carpenter's exercise in nihilistic posturing will remain INTACT. Let's not make working conditions for the MGM restorers and Home Video workers any more nervous than it already is! Glenn


October 16, 2001

Three new reviews: 20th Fox's The Robe used to have quite a reputation, but now that I've finally seen it, it isn't all that great. Good elements appear to have eluded the finishers at Fox as well ...

MGM Home Entertainment's Broadway Danny Rose takes what some folks think is lesser Woody Allen, and proves that it's really one of his better movies. Mia Farrow makes her first big impression, and Allen finally plays a loveable character who deserves our support and sympathy.

Columbia TriStar's Places in the Heart really has reputation problems - you should read the negative review over at DVD Resource! Savant loves this movie and thinks it's almost perfect. I also try to make a case for this being a really profound picture ... and I know it stars Sally Field!

More BIBLE action on the way, as well as THE FRENCH CONNECTION and an even better Woody Allen. Glenn


October 14, 2001

A trio of fine-art films - a comedy from Czechoslovakia, and a long-lost classic adventure from Fritz Lang.

Closely Watched Trains is a nifty item from a period of creative freedom under Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Set during another occupation, by Nazis in WW2, a fledgling railway attendant has a humiliating set of experiences trying to find his sexual wings ... an unlikely subject given wonderful whimsical direction by Jiri Menzel.

The Tiger of Eschnapur, and The Indian Tomb, are Fritz Lang's penultimate film, a romantic epic set in India that plays like an American serial, but with the emphasis on weird settings and complicated plotting, instead of action. It's also got a terrific performance from Debra Paget as an incredibly exotic dancer.

Editing is taking a lot of hours out of the week, but Savant is trying to do justice to all the good discs coming out! Anyone seen IRON MONKEY in the theaters? I was wondering if it would be recommended for my martial-arts-minded son, who needs to get away from his books and see a good movie! GE


October 10, 2001

A Tuesday night review to post: Lulu on the Bridge is an offbeat mystery starring Mira Sorvino and Harvey Keitel, a combination of romance and fantasy that's picked up a certain positive reputation. I'll be getting back to those other discs I've promised to review, now ... GE


October 6, 2001

Sorry for being out of touch for almost a full week, but things have been busy in Savant-land, so much even though reviews were being written, there was no time to post them. But the screener drought has abated, and there should be frequent reviews for the forseeable Fall future.

Three great reviews, or should I say, reviews of great movies, this week, including two Savant fantasy favorites.

When Worlds Collide is Paramount's original George Pal sci fi extravaganza that actually destroys the entire planet (not like the cheating Armageddon and Deep Impact of a few seasons ago) and also provides cataclysmic earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding, and a big silver rocketship to jet a core group of Earthlings off the planet! It's a giddy example of early Sci Fi at its most naive, and its most fun.

The Mummy is a title long-awaited by Savant, one of the very best of the Hammer films, and a delightful DVD presentation by the stingy people at Warners, whose vaults leak out library titles at a paltry 2 or three a month, if at all. But this Peter Cushing-Christopher Lee horror fest is a welcome disc from any studio, and a visual feast in its original widescreen ratio, enhanced for 16:9.

Finally comes the oddbal Thumb Wars, a novelty item that would be just a silly throwaway, if it weren't so funny. Short & sweet and not the kind of thing Savant normally reviews, this had its good points.

After some new interruptions for a new DSL connection and some other repairs, Savant Central appears to be up and running again ... back in a couple of days.


September 25, 2001

Just one review to post, but it's a whopper: the Hong Kong Forel release of Lars Von Trier's 1994 Danish minseries, The Kingdom. It's pretty wonderful, almost 5 hours of mystery, drama, humor and comedy, all wrapped up in a macabre package of a ghost story set inside a hospital with dozens of oddball characters. We ended up watching the whole thing in one sitting, and are ready for more ... should have KINGDOM 2 reviewed next week! Glenn


September 30, 2001

Big doings at Savant, or at least Savant thinks so. First up is Criterion's Picnic at Hanging Rock, featured to publicize a special screening program for film fans in the Chicago area: On Tuesday October 9, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs will screen Picnic at Hanging Rock as the second film in their International Dinner and a Movie screening series. This sounds like a bargain - A catered dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center, followed by this classic Australian film. This screening will be introduced by critic Ray Pride of Newcity. The full details for those of you in the Chicago area, can be found at this link.

Second comes the followup miniseries to the amazing THE KINGDOM, The Kingdom 2. The horror quotient goes up in this funny and gruesome sequel, available only as all-region Taiwan discs.

Finally is Savant's non-DVD review of a screening last night at the LA County Museum of Art, of the recent German digital restoration of the timeless METROPOLIS. It was the screening of the year and the payoff for a lifetime of hope that such a restoration could be done. Savant's essay is a full rundown on the show, the restoration, and the better-than-new METROPOLIS that has resulted. See You soon! Glenn Erickson


September 27, 2001

Two fun French Brigitte Bardot features to cheer you up tonight - a comedy farce called Plucking the Daisy, and an Hispanic-French saga of love and murder called The Night Heaven Fell. The comedy is B&W and the drama in color and beautifully enhanced 16:9; both are the kind of French movies my elders supposedly snuck out to see in Arthouse theaters in the late 1950s. Very classy, and with the very special presence of Brigitte Bardot, who is indeed a legend unto herself. They're new DVD releases from HVe, previously only the distributors of Criterion shows on VHS. More Later, Glenn Erickson


September 23, 2001

Two new reviews up: The Inheritors is a Pal region 2 review from Lee Broughton of the UK, of an interesting German melodrama about peasants trying to hold their land against their traditional neigbors. Lee makes it sound very interesting.

Strange Illusion is another bizarre little gem from director Edgar G. Ulmer, one of his most famous. All Day, the Little DVD Company That Could, has made it one of their best DVD packages to date. There's an interesting docu included full of information about the poverty row Producer's Releasing Company.


It's not like Savant has a large following, but I care about it a lot. I attracted some heat last week from a few readers who took strong exception to my remarks about our current national crisis. On the very first day of the attack, I stated that "we should try to think of WHY there are people who would hate America enough to do such a thing." I pulled my comments in a moment of doubt, but still feel they were appropriate.

Savant reviews DVDs not because he likes surround sound, but because of the ideas in the movies. I've had rewarding and educational (to me!) correspondence with several readers whose views are more conservative than my own. Movies often have potent political content: I see a theme of militarizing outer space that I talk a lot about, in 'reviews' of Destination Moon, Invaders from Mars, and others. And I get very 'political' when talking about Westerns that I think have political content.

As we all do, I don't think of myself as liberal but as fair-minded. I made special note in The Tailor of Panama to point out its stupid cartoonish characterization of the American military, for instance. I don't want to lose my conservative readers ... you know who you are ... as I think the dialogue we have is healthy for both of us.

Want to see some topical, 'political' movies? I have three recommendations for viewing, two of which unfortunately might be tough to find.

There's the 1954 THE RAID by Hugo Fregonese, which has startling parallels to our present situation. It's a true story about a Confederate guerilla raid in Vermont during the Civil War, which is definitely a 'terrorist' act as far as the Northerners are concerned. It has a scene where a Northern churchman preaches hate, demonizing rebellion as akin to witchcraft. At its wrenching ending, a Southern guerilla leader (Van Heflin) asks a Northern war widow (Anne Bancroft) if she can understand why his raiders have burnt her town to the ground. THE RAID is infrequently shown on cable movie channels.

There's the 1967 BATTLE OF ALGIERS, a documentary account of Islamic revolutionaries using 'terrorist' tactics against the colonial French. It has scenes of the slaying of innocent civilians by harmless-looking women carrying bombs in handbaskets. At one point a captured rebel tells the press that if the French give him airplanes and missiles, he'd gladly stop using women with baskets. The movie comes off as pro-Marxist propaganda, but it quite fairly shows both sides of the issue, making a good case for the French paratroops who must use torture to fight the rebels.

Finally, and most strangely, there's the misguided but potent STARSHIP TROOPERS. If you'll think past writer Ed Neumeier's purposefully satirical (but commercially miscalculated) Archie comix veneer, you'll find a political gauntlet of a movie. Buenos Aires is wiped out by a blast from space which the one-government world claims is caused by a race of alien insect monsters ... while all along, evidence mounts that the 'terrorist' strike against Earth is only a reaction to Earth's covert campaign to wipe out the insects and colonize (steal) their planets. Besides reacting dumbly to the Nazi-like uniforms, most viewers never got this subversive angle. It's the blind, military-oriented stance of STARSHIP TROOPERS' 'media breaks' that most reminds me of what (the news media implies) we're going through now ... a nation mobilizing to fight undefined, fill-in-the-blank 'Enemies of Freedom'.

I prefer to hope that the media blitz we're undergoing is just the standard hype ... and hope that our leaders are making sound and sane decisions to detect those responsible and apprehend them, whoever they turn out to be. Thanks as always for reading! Glenn Erickson


September 17, 2001

Two new reviews tonight, both from Columbia TriStar:

The Tailor of Panama is a slick and realistic spy thriller with a low-key plot and high-satire leading character. Pierce Brosnan plays nasty agent Andy Osnard as the caddish rogue we always knew James Bond was beneath the tuxedoes and shaken martinis.

13 Ghosts is a William Castle chiller that Columbia has generously given us WITH its original theatrical gimmick - "Illusion-O". The disc is a winner, a silly haunted house story with some very odd color-trick sequences.

We heard today that Samuel Z. Arkoff, one of the founders of American International Pictures, has died at the age of 83. He came to MGM to lecture us a few years back, and certainly lived up to his reputation as a cagey wheeler-dealer with a wry sense of humor. His hundreds of youth-oriented exploitation pictures were usually not the best, but often the best remembered.

My copy of the 2nd VideoHound DVD Guide arrived today, a fat book jammed with thousands of quick reviews of DVDs and their key statistics. Savant wrote the introduction for this edition, and I wish editor Mike Mayo success with it in the bookstores. Glenn Erickson


September 15, 2001

Hello to all of you who may be in the mood to read about DVDs again. It's been a rough week emotionally for us all. Hopefully this will be the beginning of the end for the Age of Terror that was the 20th Century, and the start of an era of Reconciliation and Sanity. Here's hoping our leaders choose our nation's actions wisely, and with the welfare of all in mind.

I've a review up, of a movie which was one of the first big pulp paranoia classics of postwar Germany, one of the first to deal directly with what's become known as Terrorism. Dr. Mabuse the Gambler is Fritz Lang's first unqualified smash hit, and a movie that's difficult to fully understand today; but Image has added a full-length commentary by David Kalat that serves as an annotated special edition, like those Shakespeare volumes that make it possible for healots like myself to fathom the classics.

So it's back to the discs. Take care, one and all. Glenn


September 11, 2001

Greetings from Hollywood, the land of happy losers! The editor of a popular Bruce Springsteen special won in my editorial category last Saturday night, so Savant got the pleasure of hanging out with a couple thousand egocentric Hollywood people in monkey suits and dress gowns, and going to a fancy dress banquet/party. There was good news, in that friend Ernest Farino did win for the effects for the mini-series Dune, so I was able to bask in Emmy's glow vicariously. But he wouldn't let me take it home.

I have a couple of new reviews tonight:

Goliath and the Dragon was originally AIP, but has drifted into the eager hands of Something Weird. Their fun DVD not only has this original Sword 'n Sandal winner, but an entire second muscleman feature film, and a weight-room full of meaty muscleman extras.

Universal's double bill of Dracula's Daughter & Son of Dracula is another mixed bag in Savant's keen estimation. The first is being called the best vampire movie of the thirties, and that just might be right. It's unusually sombre and controlled for a Universal, and balances its lighter aspects with the heroine/villainess' morbid fantasies. SON OF DRACULA has its moments, but is almost completely sunk by a banal screenplay and some dreadful casting.

A landmark silent German masterpiece, an underappreciated 70's drug war drama, and an almost new spy caper are next on Savant's end-of-summer grill. Well done or rare? Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson


September 8, 2001

Well, tonight's Emmy night ... it's supposed to be partially televised on the "E" network. So we'll see how it turns out. I actually remember the wonderful old A.D. Flowers telling me the Nomination is the prize, so I've told myself I've already won. When I saw what the other competitive shows were, I don't know why anyone would vote for the Oscars show anyway!

Three new reviews tonight. From Something Weird Video comes Monsters Crash the Pajama Party, an eclectic gathering of film odd and ends that seems random but actually is themed around a forgotten barnstorming kind of exhibition called Spook Shows. It comes with a very good essay in a booklet, and besides the Spook show errata, there are two entire fright show features, the title movie from 1965, and Tormented, from 1960.

Columbia Tristar's The Blob is a snazzy disc of an '80s remake that substitutes gore effects and top-notch special opticals for the original's simplicity and sweet characters. It has its moments, but seems impaired by a fatal lack of originality.

Finally, Fantoma has brought out one of the key Spaghetti Westerns, The Great Silence, in a special edition DVD with comments from director Alex Cox. The snowbound, nihilistic extermination Western has its infamous bleak ending, and a second extra ending that soft-pedals the pessimism.

Thanks for reading, and for all the responses to The Wicker Man and Rep-tickle-us!


September 5, 2001

Two more fast reviews:

Universal's Blood simple is a great-looking transfer of the Coen brothers' restored original cut that played some theaters last year. This is an unusual early look for Savant, and he has some interesting things to report about the disc's unorthodox commentary track.

Anchor Bay's The Wicker Man already has been covered fairly well elsewhere .. Savant's review disc was the standard theatrical cut, but happily, there's always a friend with a more serious DVD monkey on his back ... a borrowed wooden box deluxe edition, and Savant has material for a real review. The Pagan/Christian theme in this movie has bothered Savant for quite a while, so I'm hoping some readers can help me clear up a few problems I've tried to communicate here ...

Glenn Erickson


September 4, 2001

Here's the lineup, with something for everyone:

Paramount's A Place in the Sun is the sober George Stevens classic with Liz Taylor at her most impossibly beautiful, and Montgomery Clift cutting loose with another superior performance.

Anchor Bay's Schlock is John Landis' funny first comedy, a backyard movie about backyard movies, that introduced the talent of Rick Baker to the screen, if you don't count OCTA-MAN, a title good for 1001 laughs in the disc's funny commentary track.

MGM's Reptilicus is an endearing little loser from Denmark that just refuses to slither away and die. Savant tells its tale here for tender hearted and soft-headed film fans everywhere.

And Criterion's Grand Illusion is herein reviewed two years after its DVD debut to publicize a special screening program for film fans in the Chicago area: On September 11, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs will screen a restored print of La grande illusion as the first film in their International Dinner and a Movie screening series. This sounds like a bargain - French Cuisine at the Chicago Cultural Center, followed by a classic French film. This screening will be introduced by critic Ted Shen of Chicago Magazine. The full details for those of you in the Chicago area, can be found at this link.

Next up, THE GREAT SILENCE from Fantoma, and Universal's new BLOOD SIMPLE disc. Ciao, Glenn


August 31, 2001

Lots of fun tonight. Funeral in Berlin is the second Michael Caine/ Harry Palmer spy picture, certainly one of the best non-Bond spy pictures with a really funny attitude and an unusually intelligent plot. Paramount's made a beautiful widescreen transfer of this anamorphic picture, and it looks great finally seeing it in its Panavision shape again.

Likewise, Columbia Tristar has done very well by the almost-a-classic Kramer vs. Kramer, which has not only a world class transfer but an original docu edited by guess who? Nowhere near as bleak as Ordinary People, this nevertheless is an uncompromised look at how marriage and divorce was changing in the 1970s.

From England, correspondent Lee Broughton reviews a Region 2 Pal DVD of a UK teleseries called Randall and Hopkirk (deceased), which sounds like a quirky version of A GUY NAMED JOE except that the Joe in this case is a detective. Lee is getting quite a following for his observations here, and I'm happy to slip in his articles when he offers them!

So, now for the personal Savant news category, I am proud to say that I am the beneficiary of a genuine California miracle ... Back in June I think I mentioned that I was getting my Mustang out of mothballs and going again ... and then it was stolen not a week afterwards. Well .... it's back! This is the kind of car that is commonly stolen for parts or spirited to another state, and I was convinced some professional car thief had nabbed it for his brother in Phoenix or something. No, it was found abandoned on a downtown LA street, and besides being rather dirty, is intact ... the restored interior, the engine, the battery, the dual carbs .... all there. Life, as they say is indeed strange and I am beginning to believe that I am living a charm-ed one, as MacBeth wouldst say.


August 26, 2001

The rarity this week is a disc from the British Film Institute available only on the web. It's a very nice disc of the impossible-to-see Nigel Kneale telefilm, The Stone Tape. From 1972, it's a superior combination of ghost story and science fiction from the firm hand of the man who created the Quatermass hits that Savant so enjoys writing about. The hitch is that the disc is Region 0, but in PAL format. Hence,it plays on DVD-Rom drives and all-region machines, but not on NTSC desktop DVD players.

Two more monster shows on a Universal doublebill disc: WereWolf of London & She-Wolf of London. One is an unheralded classic and the other pretty forgettable; WereWolf is kind of an odd-Monster-out title in the Universal canon ... without any Horror stars it manages to be one of the best, thanks to excellent atmosphere and a sensitive storyline.

Also reviewed is Paramount's Ordinary People, which is still unsurpassed in its examination of what's become a common buzzword, the dysfunctional family. Most of the events of the story are grim, but the recognition factor in seeing believeable people work out (not always successfully) interpersonal problems is very high ... especially when people like Mary Tyler Moore are involved.

Other parenthetical notes: from Gary Teetzel comes the tip that Monstrous Movie Music, the fantasy-oriented resurrectionists of classic horror and science fiction, has posted more audio clips from their upcoming CDs, including stuff from 20 Million Miles to Earth and even "Beautiful Dreamer" from Mighty Joe Young. You can give a listen at their coming attractions page.

And after my lukewarm review of Columbia Tristar's cult classic The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, I'm playing fair by linking Savant readers to a really thorough site based on the cosmic universe of that movie. Bill's Happy Fingers site has just about everything you ever wanted to know about the movie, and serves as a good antidote to Savant's nattering negativity.

Back soon, more re-vyoos. Glenn Erickson


August 23, 2001

Savant has another Universal double bill of monster movies, Son of Frankenstein & Ghost of Frankenstein. The 'SON' in this combo is one of the genuine classics, with Boris Karloff's last performance as the Monster, Bela Lugosi in one of his better character roles, and Basil Rathbone as an impressive Baron ... you almost expect a greeting exchange to go, 'Welcome to Vasaria, Mr, uh ..." (Rathbone puffs on his cigar) "The name's Frankenstein ... WOLF Frankenstein" (cue jazzy music).

The other review is really three reviews in one. It's the Carl Theodor Dreyer Criterion Boxed Set, containing GERTRUD (1964), ORDET (1955), and DAY OF WRATH (1943). For the so-called discriminating cinema fan, these films are heaven with biscuits and gravy. I thought all three were remarkable, with GERTRUD perhaps being a bit too demanding. But DAY OF WRATH is a must-see drama about witch burning that transcends a horror classification, and ORDET is an out-and-out miracle tale and the most intense drama I've seen this year. A very good docu on Dreyer comes on a third disc. Now obviously, not that many of you are going to rush out and buy this pricey box of three black and white Danish films; but Savant recommends them heartily, even if you just rent. These pictures are easily spoiled, but my reviews are spoiler-free, so please read away even if you don't want the experience compromised!

I think I'm in line for some attractive Anchor Bay and Image titles due now or soon ... in the meantime I'll try to get some of what I have before me reviewed a little more quickly. Thanks for hanging in there ... Glenn


August 19, 2001

Savant has a Criterion review up, for the superlative Sullivan's Travels, one of Preston Sturges' best and now transformed into a superior disc. Savant was especially happy to see such a pristine transfer, after an earlier Criterion disc licensed from Universal that was a tad disappointing. This is a keeper.

A bit downward on the feeding chain but essential viewing for much of Savant's audience is the Universal double bill of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man & House of Frankenstein. Like earlier monster pix, these use the good VHS and Laser transfers from the middle '90s, which are much better than some of the earlier, more famous titles. Seen on DVD, these Monster Rally movies are not only fun, but can be appreciated for their careful and atmospheric photography.

More monsters, some rare Brit Sci Fi, and other goodies soon! Glenn Erickson


August 16, 2001

Two powerhouse titles tonight. Anchor Bay continues its Franco Nero Spaghetti Western series with Compañeros, a rollicking comedy where the Mexican revolutionaries look like they belong in 1968's Paris street demonstrations. The picture is beautiful and there's a memorable Ennio Morrcone score, too.

Anchor Bay's latest entry in their Hammer series is Blood from the Mummy's Tomb, a shocker with a notable reputation ... THE AWAKENING from 1980 is from the same source. As usual, Anchor Bay has really made this an attractive disc. The review is a guest shot from frequent Savant contributor (i.e., he knows what he's talking about and catches my errors faster than I can make them) Gary Teetzel, who's off watching LA STREGHA EN AMORE at the Cinematheque tonight.

A basketful of classic Universal monsters just arrived at my doorstep, so I'm going to be scar-deep in silver bullets and wooden stakes for a few days .... thanks, Glenn Erickson


August 11, 2001

The long awaited Image Euroshock release The Flesh and the Fiends has been dug up and freshly dissected in Savant's new review. A class-A horror effort that's really more of a legit historical drama, FLESH benefits from Peter Cushing's restrained presence, and a career-making turn by Donald Pleasance, playing a vacant-eyed bodysnatching killer. The big news with this release, besides the film's general rarity and its Dyaliscope transfer, is the inclusion of two separate cuts, the original uncut UK release, and an export version sauced up with (surprisingly un-gratuitous) nudity.

Savant also has the miniseries Traffik reviewed this week. It's a very compelling show, quite different from the American remake TRAFFIC in that we learn much more about the drug trade European-style. Two of the major plots are fairly similar, but the Pakistani episodes have nothing in common with the remake's Mexican story. Comparing the two versions is fascinating, for how similar situations are handled in American society vs. the European. With a longer running time, this original 1989 show more satisfactorily rounds out its character arcs.

I bumped into a very impressive website about Andrei Tarkovsky, the Russian director of greats like SOLARIS and ANDREI RUBLEV. It's called Nostalghia, and it's the equivalent of those very good Kubrick sites that are out there, perhaps even more definitively academic. They have unique content, having already posted portions of Tarkovsky's diary not available in English. It also has some beautiful photos from the set of THE SACRIFICE, interview excerpts, etc. Webmasters Jan Bielawski and Trond S. Trondsen are adding material as quickly as they can translate it. It's well worth a looksee. I understand that several Tarkovskys are expected on DVD before the end of the year.


August 5, 2001

Some fun titles today - two very good comedies and one of Savant's ultimate favorites, finally on video in good form.

Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2 are comedies spun off from Saturday Night Live that succeed thanks to Mike Myers' writing skills and a generally positive outlook on life, a quality lacking in the glut of sarcasm and cynicism in many of today's big comedy 'youth' hits.

Ivan Passer's terrific Cutter's Way is another great MGM disc of a movie that they themselves don't seem to understand. This has to be the most underrated and under-seen American film of the '80s. Savant has a theory to push about it, one that involves William Shakespeare ...

Congratulations to DVDTalk Fearless Leader Geoffrey Kleinman, who is a new father this weekend to a son, a new boy with a 2001 birthdate! Here's wishing Geoffrey's newly expanded family the best of happiness, now and in the multi-diapered future.

Back soon, Glenn


August 3, 2001

No new review today (shame), but a report on last night's screening of APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX.

I'm afraid that this is indeed another case of the deplorable trend to go back and create new marketable items out of established hits, by adding scenes and details that the filmmakers never intended to be included. Francis Coppola has joined his pals Lucas and Spielberg by pulling his pretty-darn-amazing Vietnam War movie out and retooling it. According to all the hype, this is the 'expanded version' that fully expresses the filmmaker's intentions, etc. A few days ago the LA TIMES had a big John Milius article on the subject, falling all over itself in hommage to these great artists.

That this is just so much hooey isn't making too much news. The added 'redux' word hangs over the new APOCALYPSE poster like the 'now with Bleach' sticker on a box of detergent. Coppola could have edited together a bunch of trims and outs in 1979 and UA would have released it - he had total control and spent years figuring out the best final form for the movie. This recut is just commercial opportunism ... did somebody in Zooetrope-Land see the need for some extra cash ...?

The added scenes are very damaging to the film. For curiosity value, plenty of us will want to see this - several nice things from the famous work-in-progress rough cut (link) are there, such as the stealing of Robert Duvall's surfboard. But all are unnecessary. The original cut, which savagely ejected major scenes left and right, has been a model of editorial genius for 22 years. Coppola and his editors truly fashioned a diamond out of a lot of discordant material, and gave it a consistent through-line. All of the new material either breaks this through-line, or slows what used to be a deliberate picture into a static one.

The surfboard theft business is cute, but breaks Coppola's sombre tone. A few more details of the Duvall character show him being 'compassionate', which works against his character. There is not a single frame more of the mysterious Scott Glenn character or his fight with Willard. No massive chanting rituals. The added scene with Marlon Brando does exactly nothing but dissipate Kurtz's mystery.

The two major breaks, the visit with the Playboy Bunnies and the French Plantation, are simply all wrong. Coppola himself has been vocal, on several occasions, about the wisdom of not using them . The Bunnies had made their impact already in the concert scene, and the footage with the sailors hopping in the sack with them always had the 'whatever' look of stuff improvised to keep the actors happy while sets were being repaired from a hurricane. The French Plantation scene really kicks the movie into a bucket, introducing a new tone and a 'romantic' subplot that goes nowhere. I got ZERO feel for any idea of the movie tracing a reverse evolution of Vietnam history, as claimed by Coppola. Worse, the scene is wall-to-wall exposition with Frenchmen at a table haranguing Willard about Viet history ... just the kind of specific, literal chatter that the original movie avoided, choosing instead to remain a kind of violent and dreamlike poem about Vietnam. It also reminds me too much of John Milius' screaming right-wing harangues in real life, when he was upset that Carter had decided to give Panama back the canal.

The funeral scene at the French plantation was very nice, especially for the Albert Hall character, but its feeling of military reverence also goes against the grain of what was once subversive and surreal.

The presentation of the new film is nothing to write home about. APOCALYPSE NOW used to be revived at the Cinerama Dome every few years or so, whenever a hole popped up in the booking schedule, and they always trotted out some terrific (70mm?) one-of-a-kind print . The new 35 I saw last night was very uneven, with rich blacks but a yellow haze on lots of scenes. These weren't Vittorio Storaro color effects, either, just printing troubles from mass-producing prints from such an old source. I saw the picture in a screening at one of the best theaters in town, but the sound was not good either. Walter Murch has decided to bury the dialog lines even deeper under his audio montages. The Wagner music in the heli attack sequence now jumps around the screen directionally depending on what the camera angle is. In the new scenes, I only got about half of the dialog that was spoken. It's simply unintelligible. I often couldn't tell if Christian Marquand was speaking French or English.

So that's the skinny. Had I not seen APOCALYPSE NOW 30+ times, I'm sure I'd have a different opinion. These scenes would have made an excellent addendum to a special DVD or something. It's a shame that the promoter Coppola was able to overcome the artist Coppola. All the artistry of APOCALYPSE NOW, one of the monuments of the '70s, now seems like more grist for a moneymaker's mill.

I don't recommend the movie. Glenn



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