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January 29, 2008

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

'Breaker' Morant
Image / Castle Hill

Monday night: I've just returned from the AFI/Weinstein screening of El Cid at the Arclight, which was a pleasant experience. Samuel Bronston biographer Mel Martin came in from Arizona for the occasion, and he introduced me briefly to a number of relatives of Anthony Mann, Miklos Rosza, and to William Bronston, the very personable son of the producer. I was most impressed by Norma Barzman, the widow of uncredited screenwriter Ben Barzman and an extremely sharp and vivacious lady. As seen and heard on the El Cid extras and the excellent commentary for Christ in Concrete, Ms. Barzman is a fireball. She immediately took exception to the fact that the new digital restoration of El Cid still did not carry Ben Barzman's name, even though the WGA has negotiated for that to happen on restorations of classic films now confirmed as written by blacklisted writers. Norma has two interesting books recently published, 2003's The Red and the Blacklist: A Memoir of a Hollywood Insider and 2006's The End of Romance: A Memoir of Love, Sex, and the Mystery of the Violin.

El Cid was projected on a large screen in 2K digital, which looked good enough, and certainly cleaner and with better color than a restoration 35mm print would have. Clearly the 70mm prints made in 1993 were no longer showable or even in existence. The digital projection of all those wide angle exterior shots of thousands of extras simply couldn't look as sharp as it wanted to be, and in many scenes, action in shadow was lost in black. At least this restoration will be viewable without deterioration for many years to come.

El Cid comes out on DVD today. I was told that The Fall of the Roman Empire, presently listed for release on April 29, has been pushed back back to the fall ... and that 55 Days at Peking won't be here until 2009 AB (After Bush). That's one rumor that I hope isn't true. Miklos Rosza's El Cid music score is impressive, but I could listen to those Dimitri Tiomkin scores forever. NOTE, 1.30.08: Mel Martin checked, and a different Weinstein contact says that Fall of the Roman Empire is still on track for an April 29 release. Hopefully, the first information was incorrect. Either way, I've been inadvertently spreading potential misinformation, and will clam up on the issue.

I've also heard that at a museum screening last weekend, Thelma Schoonmaker listed a number of Michael Powell movies supposedly on the way soon from Criterion. We already know that The Thief of Bagdad is coming but the other titles I heard weren't expected. I'd rather not blab more specifics online, as I'm not sure Ms. Schoonmaker realized that the news would reach the ears of a web columnist. That's it 'til Saturday, Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

January 25, 2008

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

4 by Agnés Varda
La Pointe Courte, Cleo from 5 to 7, Le Bonheur, Vagabond

Bugs! A Rainforest Adventure

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Several notes to put across on this rainy day ... Two articles in a row at The Greenbriar Picture Show grabbed my attention: A piece on King Kong theatrical reissues from Wednesday, January 23, and a fine January 17 article on Maila (Vampira) Nurmi and other TV horror hosts. Greenbriar entries are always good but these two are too special to keep quiet about; the graphics are sensational as well.

This Yahoo News article has been forwarded to me from several directions ... it's about Hewlett-Packard signing with Sony to make On-Demand DVDs of Sony's less-popular product. This micro-manufacturing idea is a good one; I remember submitting a similar proposal to MGM over ten years ago, encouraging the company to offer VHS tapes of rare titles as they were requested. I hope the deal works out; nobody is guessing how expensive these on-demand discs will be for us lowly, humble consumers.

Finally, I'd like very much to hear again from the Savant reader who sent me information about the true story behind Operation Petticoat. I've tried to respond, but his return address didn't work. Can he contact me again? Thanks, Glenn Erickson

January 21, 2008

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

Personal Best
Warner DVD

Operation Petticoat

A rainy day in Los Angeles! Last Sunday afternoon the Turner Classic Movies cable channel surprised us with a real treat. I'd never seen Budd Boetticher's 1951 film The Bullfighter and the Lady and had heard grim stories about Republic pictures cutting it from over two hours down to 87 minutes. The UCLA Film Archives restored Boetticher's original-length version so I had to take a look. The movie's nothing less than magnificent, an ode to the tradition of bullfighting that explains its glamour and roots in the Mexican - Spanish culture. The film stars Robert Stack, Gilbert Roland, Katy Jurado and Joy Page, and although it doesn't change my mind about the blood sport it was a big surprise -- one doesn't expect to find too many more hidden masterpieces like this one. Writer Jeremy Arnold tipped me off to the TCM screening. I hope they show The Bullfighter and the Lady again soon -- or that it comes to DVD.

This morning (Tuesday the 22nd) TCM would appear to be airing the uncut extended-length Major Dundee; I'll be curious to hear which music score they show it with, the 1965 original or the 2005 revision! Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

January 18, 2008

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

No Regrets for Our Youth and I Live in Fear
from the Postwar Kurosawa collection


Martin Scorsese Presents Val Lewton: The Man in The Shadows

Correspondent Ed Sullivan has found a well-researched paper by Samuel Bronston biographer Neal Moses Rosendorf, that sheds new light on the producer's Spanish productions including El Cid. It's called Hollywood in Madrid: American Film Producers and the Franco Regime, 1950-1970 and can be found at this URL.

This YouTube gag about the Downfall of HD-DVD is in questionable taste and is certainly profane, but it sure is funny. It's at this URL.------ 1.18.08, 2PM: RATS, Constantin Film made them take it down! Sorry!

Wait -- try this link while it lasts! (thanks Ed!) Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson

January 14, 2008

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

El Cid Limited Collector's Edition
Weinstein Company

El Bruto (The Brute)

Yikes, 2008 has just arrived and it's already 1/24th gone ... but Savant is writing and back up to speed. Business is brisk at Savant's DVD Wish List 2008, where readers continue to suggest eminently list-worthy titles. Home Video Departments across town are starting to shake off their holiday stupors and announce upcoming releases, so hopefully we'll soon be seeing a lot of pleasant surprises.

This week's biggie is El Cid. Judging by the volume of emails received, it's highly awaited by this review page's demographic. This is the kind of release that HD was made for, so I hope the Weinstein Company moves into that territory sooner than later. The second 'El' movie -- a coincidence -- is El Bruto, a very good Luis Buñuel picture from Mexico.

I remember an ancient Mad Magazine gag that lampooned the trend toward bloated blockbuster epics. The cartoon showed how epics could get out of control in a piece on Paddy Chayefsky's colossal 'new' movie EL MARDY, featuring Charlton Heston as a simple Bronx butcher battling armies and riding chariots circa 50 B.C. El Mardy works bare-chested with a chain of sausages around his neck, and worries that his DESTINY may not be served properly if he puts out lamb chops instead of veal cutlets. His layabout bum friends drift in with their hands in their togas, whining, "I dunno, what do you wanna do tonight, El Mardy?" Or something to that effect. Luckily, Mad collector and Savant correspondent Bob Lindstrom was willing to provide a sample.

Next Saturday: a lot of Criterions (Agnés Varda!) and Warner titles (Robert Towne! Alan Arkin!). Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

January 11, 2008

Greetings! Savant's new reviews today are

The Naked Prey
3:10 to Yuma

Hi again! I just received the new double-disc set of Samuel Bronston's El Cid and will be reviewing it post haste; I saw this picture only once in 1993 at the Cinerama Dome. I think it was a Martin Scorsese 70mm restoration. As we stated before, Bronston's Fall of the Roman Empire will be here before summer.

Gary Teetzel tells me that on April 22, Universal is putting out a series of discs called Universal Cinema Classics: Screwball Comedies. The are Easy Living, The Major and the Minor (Billy Wilder!), Midnight (Wilder script) and She Done Him Wrong.

Reader John Wilson tipped me to a new Film Score Monthly release of the entire Dimitri Tiomkin score for Savant's fave Land of the Pharaohs ... it can be found online at This address. Be good and thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

January 07, 2008

Greetings! Savant's new review today is

Chameleon Street
Home Vision

What? Just one review? Well, besides being clobbered by family engagements over the holidays, Savant fell ill a couple of days ago and is just coming out of it. Very soon you'll be seeing reviews of 3:10 to Yuma, The Naked Prey, two titles in the Eclipse Postwar Kurosawa box, and Automatons. Savant never even got the scent of the Fox Ford boxed set from December, so I'm closing the book on requesting that one. Due to Christmas slowdowns or whatever, I also missed a number of other titles. I was glad to review O Lucky Man!, even 70 days late. That one came as a Christmas gift. No complaints, but pickings get slim around the holidays.

Last week we were told that Warners has decided to go with Blu-Ray over HD-DVD, which we are told brings an end to the HD format wars. If so, it's great news, and I only hope that HD discs haven't lost momentum in the two years or so that the pointless struggle has been going on. I have a feeling that this century will probably see the first real Corporate War, with one bloc taking up arms against another for control of a market or a new product. Savant's still not rushing to buy a Blu-Ray player; I've only counted all of ten HD movies that I'd really go for. But I'm sure I'll be lured into climbing aboard sooner than later.

Other news. Besides the long-awaited El Cid coming out the 29th of this month, The Fall of the Roman Empire is now scheduled for April 29. Can 55 Days at Peking be far behind? And thanks for all the additions and corrections to the 2008 Savant Wish List! Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

January 05, 2008

Hello! Savant's new Articles today are

The 2008 Wish List
A second year, a second try at a desired-title wish book.

O Lucky Man!
Warner DVD

Savant gives his popular DVD Wish List a relaunch for 2008. I updated it only about once a month last year, but still found it a fairly useful tool to keep abreast of desired titles. The 2008 edition has a new opening mini-article, and segregates the long list of titles that turned up in 2007 to a concentrated column at the bottom. I'm always looking for new titles (within reason) to add to the list.

One of my sons turned up a fascinating document from our National Archives, an honest-to-goodness official advisory from 1959: "Regulations Governing Mountain Climbing Expeditions in Nepal - Relating to Yeti". It is exactly what it says it is and it's real. I guess all those Abdominal (sic) Snowman movies of the 1950s had to have a basis in fact -- there must have been more than a few expeditions to the high peaks, looking to bag a Yeti, or find Shangri-La, or both.

Take care .. it's finally raining here in L.A., so we're packed in for a quiet weekend! Glenn Erickson

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

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