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August 31, 2007

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

Der grosse verhau (The Big Mess)
A Region 0 PAL disc from Filmmuseum
Brigitte Bardot 5-film Collection
Naughty Girl, Come Dance with Me, Love on a Pillow, Two Weeks in September, The Vixen

As soon as I started writing DVD reviews in 1998 I gravitated to The DVD Journal, a review site that was a constant source of inspiration both general and specific. Now, nine years later, The DVD Journal is 'dimming the lights', and its Editor J. Jordan Burke has signed off with a final column entry that sums up the entire history of DVD until now, when the format has reached maturity. Jordan is going on to other interests -- nobody said keeping a web journal is a lifetime commitment -- and I wish him well. Other sites would be well advised to nab the reviewing talent that DVD Journal has left behind, while they can.

In other less spectacular news, Keanu Reeves has been confirmed as taking on the role of the space man Klaatu in a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I just can't summon the energy to get worked up over yet another unnecessary remake, and besides, who knows when somebody will do a good one (although I'm not holding my breath). But Steve Nielson perfectly tapped the problem with Reeves, explaining that whatever qualities a new Klaatu possesses, if it's to be the same general story at all, he has to exude Moral Authority. Keanu Reeves has picked up some ability to act, but the idea of him playing a character who projects Moral Authority ... that's a tough one.

Parting note: Savant correspondent Marshall Crawford writes in that the 1954 English war film The Dam Busters is being given a big reissue next week. A Telegraph article is here, including a lengthy clip of the film's Ruhr Dam raid sequence. I believe that The Dam Busters is out in a separate R1 DVD release now. Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

August 26, 2007

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

Horrors of Malformed Men

RoboCop 20th Anniversary Edition
Luis Buñuel Boxset:
Gran Casino, The Young One

Another pleasant weekend at Savant Central. In response to Kevin Pyrtle's making available a copy of Abel Gance's 1930 La fin du Monde, I've been researching the web for more information. I found a remarkable faux-silent era faux-Russian film called Heart of the World, by Guy Maddin. Although the six-minute short uses plentiful visual ideas from films like Aelita, Queen of Mars and other silent films like J'Accuse, its basic structure comes directly from Abel Gance's end-of-the-world epic. With a great music by Georgi Sviridov. It's available on a Zeitgeist Films disc called The Guy Maddin Collection, where it appears with Maddin's Twilight of the Ice Nymphs and Archangel. Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

August 24, 2007

Hello! Savant's new reviews today are

Sacco and Vanzetti
First Run Features
Clint the Nevada's Loner, There's a Noose Waiting for You Trinity! & Cjamango
by Lee Broughton
Wild East

House of Games

It's a fast pass-through this weekend, with school starting and other projects firing up. I've been persuaded to tackle Synapse's reportedly scary Horrors of Malformed Men, so we'll see if I can still work a keyboard after checking it out. Have a great weekend! Glenn Erickson

August 20, 2007

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Warner DVD

3:10 to Yuma
The Last Cigarette
New Yorker Video

Greetings again. Some local repertory cinema news. At the Cinematheque on Sunday I attended a memorial for Sherman Torgan, the beloved showman of the New Beverly Cinema who passed away suddenly last month. I heard some pleasant testimony about my old friend, and was happy to learn that his son Michael has reopened the theater and that films are continuing to be shown there. Tuesday will be the last night for Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder, a strong Paul Schrader double bill. Seeing movies on DVD is fine, but there's little substitute for the big-screen experience, especially with the kind of receptive audiences found in repertory houses. Dennis Bartok called Sherman "The Last of the Independents" because his theater remains the only surviving repertory venue on a paying basis in a town where classic films are always available at the Museum, UCLA or the Cinematheque. If you live in L.A., the New Beverly Cinema Webpage is here.

In the world of the Internet, the Trailers from Hell website is rapidly expanding, with new titles and new optional commentaries by contributing directors. If you're curious about These are the Damned, its weirdly inadequate trailer is here, complete with a sampling of the beloved Black Leather Rock song and some inspirational comments by Joe Dante. Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

August 17, 2007

Hello -- Savant's new reviews today are

Raise the Red Lantern

Avant Garde 2, Experimental Cinema 1928-1954
Words and Music
Warner DVD

Greetings once more. Last night Savant braved the wilds of Hollywood Blvd. (nightclubbers! cruisers! An LAPD car on every streetcorner!) to see the American Cinematheque's presentation of Crack in the World. I can remember hunkering down with James Heath at the air-conditioned California theater in San Bernardino in the summer of 1965, watching Crack in the World and The Satan Bug and then staying to see Crack in the World a second time -- two major-panic apocalyptic thrillers in one!

The 35mm Technicolor print screened had only minor damage, allowing Eugene Lourie's clever art direction and superb special effects to look their best. The movie has some spectacular scenes of destruction and explosions -- several chapters end with the detonation of something BIG. The climax is still breathtaking, as a 20,000 square-mile slice out of the Indian Ocean and East Africa breaks loose and is hurled into the sky. Several shots attain the feeling of uncontrolled apocaplyse missing from movies from When Worlds Collide to even Deep Impact.

Crack in the World turned out to be as good as I remembered, an intelligent eco-disaster film with a strong anti-nuke message and a decent soap opera-y subplot. This time around, encouraged by a remark by Mike Hyatt, I realized that screenwriters John Manchip White and Julian Zimet were 'having us on' -- the story is really about SEX. Impotent, dying scientist Dana Andrews can't impregnate his wife Janette Scott or hold off the rugged competition represented by scientific rival Kieron Moore, so he sublimates his sex drive into his work. In this case, his upside-down phallic missile 'impregnates' the earth like an atomic sperm plowing into a terra firma ovum -- the symbol for the 'Inner Space' project is a red triangle piercing a blue globe. If he succeeds Andrews will achieve immortality as a sexual Prometheus, bringing unlimited power (potency) to our energy-starved (flaccid) male-dominated world. He instead causes a global cataclysm when the female earth responds with the kind of violence men never expect: Mother Earth has her own agenda. The sterile Andrews fathers a new moon, although like most useless drones, he perishes after fulfilling his function. Crack in the World's message is that men are the despoilers of the earth, and that even their most noble efforts are based on egotistical sexual dreams of power and immortality. Either that, or the movie is about the need to invent Viagra.

Upcoming reviews will be on Luis Buñuel: Gran Casino & The Young One, the Brigitte Bardot Five-Film Collection, Der Grosse Verhau, The Last Cigarette, House of Games, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Milky Way, RoboCop 20th Anniversary and a reissue of 3:10 to Yuma.

And my radar is already scanning for the Fall horror and Science Fiction titles due September 11, including The Universal Sci-Fi Collection 2 and The Universal Horror Collection (both Best Buy exclusives), the 1960 The Lost World, Phantom from 10,000 Leagues / Beast with a Million Eyes, Witchfinder General (finally) and The Fly Classic Collection containing The Fly, The Return of the Fly and the new-to-R1 DVD Curse of the Fly. I'll add Away from Her, not because it fits but because it also comes out on September 11, and I like it. Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

August 14, 2007

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

The Lookout

10:30 PM Summer

The Deadly Companions
R2 PAL (Finnish)

Hello ... posting is late (well, on time) this Tuesday because I just got back from a ride up the California coast, passing wildfires in both directions. On the way back we came across the big pack of elephant seals that bask and play on the beach just north of San Simeon, so here's how I spent my 72-hour summer vacation. Thanks for reading ... and thanks to Olli Larimo for securing a review screener for me of the Finnish disc of The Deadly Companions. I'm told that there is a comparable R2 UK disc of the title out there as well. Glenn Erickson

August 10, 2007

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

The Method
Palm Pictures

The First Films of Sam Fuller
I Shot Jesse James, The Baron of Arizona, The Steel Helmet

I won't be able to review them, but I did get a fun look at Warners' new Popeye Cartoons set last Tuesday. I should think that any fan of Max Fleischer and the sailor who Am What He Am will be overjoyed with it. They're all original with original title sequences and great encoding. We watched his 1933 debut in a Betty Boop short (watch those questionable leg movements, Betty) and the wonderful cartoons A Dream Walking and Brotherly Love before checking out the two two-reel color adventures with Sindbad the Sailor and Ali Baba (actually Abu Hassan).

The B&W cartoons were just amazing; Fleischer has a fundamentally surreal attitude toward cartoon reality completely opposed to Disney's case of the Cutes and Warners' streetwise sarcasm. Each disc starts with a PC disclaimer lecturing on the jokes on every race and ethnicity. My particular screening group happened to think that the Ali Baba show was a grand microcosm of the Iraq war, while every gag in the Sindbad epic seemed to relate to something in fantasy filmmaking. Sindbad's giant flying Roc is almost identical to the monster in The Giant Claw. Even though he's an animated cartoon, he's more realistic than Sam Katzman's flying turkey-piñata! We'll have to get these cartoons back again. Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson.

August 05, 2007

Hello! Savant's new reviews today are

Flash Gordon
Savior of the Universe Edition

Un chien Andalou
Tranflux / Microcinema

Les enfants terribles
Criterion and

Fully Exposed Edition

A pleasant weekend at the American Cinematheque. I did indeed venture into Hollywood to see Blood and Roses (... Et mourir de plaisir) last Saturday night, and it was an intact 35mm Technicolor print (albeit with many scratches) of the short American cut, introduced by Chris D.. The beautifully-photographed Technirama film has many atmospheric scenes of Annette Vadim (Stroyberg) in the Carmilla wedding dress, gliding along in the dark like a ghost. Since everyone in the film is clearly speaking English, I wonder if the longer French version with all the supposed hotter content (some sources say 13 minutes longer) is a truly parallel cut with different takes for every dialogue scene.

Chris D. mentioned more lesbian material between Annette Vadim (Stroyberg) and Elsa Martinelli, yet the film we saw betrays no obvious music pull-ups or visual clues of material excised. I'm still creeped out by stills I saw in an old French film book called Le vampire by Ornella Volta. During the Jean Cocteau-inspired (some say rip-off) dream sequence, the stills showed a disgusting fleshy blob -- with one staring eyeball -- lying atop Martinelli's breast, feeding from her like a vampiric amoeba. It more or less aligns with the phantom bloodstain that Carmilla/Millarca sees on her own breast, the one on the Blood and Roses poster. Anyway, along with a shrinking list of unseeable, hot Euro-horror titles, the original French ... Et mourir de plaisir is in great need of restoration. Criterion already has a release relationship with Paramount, if somebody influential can just get to them!

That goes just as strongly for Paramount's Crack in the World! which will show at the Cinematheque in a couple of weeks. It's said to be a 35mm Technicolor print as well, and I can't wait to relive my memories as a happy 13 year-old, watching it twice in a row in a terrific paranoid double bill! The second feature back in 1965 was The Satan Bug.

While writing about Flash Gordon I again stumbled onto Jim Tushinski's interesting Tom Graeff Biography Project page. He's added new material about his search for more details of the maker of Teenagers from Outer Space, including a brief film clip from Not of This Earth.

Finally, I've seen the web-posted 1931 Abel Gance Science Fiction feature La fin du monde, a Finnish DVD of Sam Peckinpah's 1961 The Deadly Companions and a German disc of Alexander Kluge's until-now elusive 1969 Sci-Fi opus Der grosse verhau (The Big Mess). The stack of films to be reviewed is growing, but I'll be getting to these special titles sooner than later. The particularly good news this week is that Eclipse/Criterion's First Films of Sam Fuller disc set is sensational -- and I've so far only seen Fuller's first movie, I Shot Jesse James. Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

August 03, 2007

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

The Lives of Others

Deluxe Two Disc Edition
(1935) Kino /Legend Films

Illegal and The Big Steal
Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 4
Warner DVD

Hello ... a pleasant Friday, not much to report. The American Cinematheque's fantasy, horror and Sci-Fi month just began, and I'm going to try and see Roger Vadim's Blood and Roses (... Et mourir de plaisir) Saturday night. It's the shorter American cut but is promised to be 35mm and Technicolor. I'm also noticing an increased creativity in the films being shown on the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, and I'll report a few desirable titles as I see them coming up. Early this Monday screens the brutal and propagandistic WW2 combat film Gung Ho! I've seen only a few minutes of a bad copy but will never forget watching a string of Marines (Rod Cameron, Robert Mitchum) give their 'personal' reasons for volunteering, most of which boil down to, "I hate Japs." Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

Don't forget to write Savant at [email protected].

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