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April 29, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Last Flight
Warner Archive Collection

Vivre sa vie

Greetings! Well, one of my favorite movies, Matinee comes out next Tuesday. At the moment it's not looking good for a Savant review, as no disc has yet surfaced -- for all I know, Universal may not even be circulating review copies. The movie is a comedy about teens caught up in a monster movie matinee -- at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I hope this one gets good write-ups, as it belongs on the shelf with movies I'll watch once a year.

Icarus Films has announced that they're going to release Marcel Ophüs influential Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, on DVD on October 26. The very long documentary is even more compelling than Ophüls' The Sorrow and the Pity.

I've heard rumors that Sony has plans to initiate some sort of direct-sale Burn On Demand system. If it works like MGM, Universal and Warners, their older titles will slip out of reach of reviewers, bad news to sites like DVD Savant. Meanwhile we've been enjoying Sony's current series of boxed DVD sets. They've recently announced a Film Noir Vol. 2 and a Kim Novak set. I hope they persist in the same pattern.

For New York residents: the BAMcinématek has scheduled a film retrospective at the BAM Rose Cinemas honoring the Brooklyn born artist Charles R. Knight (1874-1953), known as The Father of Paleo Art. Many classic films were inspired by his genius, such as King Kong and Fantasia, as well as those made by Ray Harryhausen (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms). The silent The Lost World will be accompanied by The Alloy Orchestra. The series will take place from May 20 - 23. Here is a link to the retrospective.

Joe Dante sends this link to what may be the last of the "Downfall" YouTube parodies: the nervous generals tell Hitler that the parodies are all being removed, for copyright violation. Meanwhile, Roger Corman has joined the list of director-narrators over at Trailers from Hell for a spin of the trailer for The Wild Angels. Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson.

April 26, 2010

Good morning! Being pretty much exhausted, I'm not doing any more reviews until the end of the week. But I do have the final day of the TCM Fest to report on. Four days of watching pleasant out-of-towners really, really enjoying themselves puts a good perspective on our movie-going habits here in the Town of Tinsel. Being able to see quality copies of classic films is a big deal that a lot of Angelenos take for granted. For these tourist-movie fans to have a movie star or two wrapped up in the package is apparently too good to be true. At one screening Leonard Maltin asked to see who didn't live in Los Angeles, and about 70% of the house raised their hands.

At some point on Saturday it dawned on me that a group of movie fans capable of paying $400 - $600 dollars a head to attend the festival, not to mention flying here and staying in hotels, etc, aren't going to be the typical movie buffs I know. I was told that when Jon Voight introduced Midnight Cowboy, someone in the audience greeted him with a call of, "You're a real American, Jon!" Uh-oh. But a few minutes later Voight hit the crowd with a comic punchline that equated Democrats with idiots, and I'm told that the response was a sort of uncomfortable buzz. All this really proves is that the well-heeled TCM audience is too polite to let politics interfere with a fun trip to the movies. But I felt better anyway.

Very often the enthusiasm drops on the last day of a film festival -- the tents are half-struck and the fun is gone. The people who came to make deals have left in frustration. Things had thinned out a tiny bit up on Hollywood Blvd. but the three screenings I peeked in on were all sold out. Over at the Egyptian, the 100 year-old Luise Rainer had come on stage to talk after The Good Earth. Things weren't working out because she'd lost or forgotten her hearing aid. They finally wrote out questions for her, which she would slowly read before figuring out what to say. Ms. Rainer was with a patient crowd that appreciated the fact that she'd flown all the way from Switzerland. I'm told that she was still quite capable of being a demanding guest, something that many Golden Era stars have in common. But the sell-out crowd was in awe of her.

We had to hotfoot it across the street to see Hitchcock's Saboteur. Sunday afternoon is peak tourist time for the Boulevard so it took at least ten minutes to walk the single block over to the Chinese. Leonard gave the film a fine introduction. As Saboteur isn't one of my favorites, I was surprised how funny it was, and how subversive. Characters make wisecracks about cops; Federal Agents behave like the KGB. The hero-on-the-run finds out that the only Americans who will hide him from the cops are a caravan full of circus freaks. The only dissenter is an obnoxious midget, who gets called a "malignant jerk". After the show Maltin introduced actor (and writer and director and producer) Norman Lloyd, who is in his nineties yet sharp as a tack, mentally. Lloyd bowled over the crowd with some nuggets about Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin (they used to play tennis together) but also offered interesting responses to questions about the Hitchcock TV show, St. Elsewhere etc..

In between shows I had parting words with my TCM contacts and local "fellow bloggers". The TCM website has a very active blog called Movie Morlocks, and I essentially was performing as a Guest Morlock for the weekend. At the moment all of our posts have been reprinted there. The ability to hang out with these people for a few minutes was a real boost, as writing for the web is such a solitary occupation.

This brought us to the big windup event, the North American premiere of the restored Metropolis. This is a big deal for me, but plenty of the attendees treated it like a pilgrimage to Mecca. The large Grauman's Chinese auditorium filled up once again, and fast. Again, it wasn't a local crowd. Back in 2001 (three weeks after 9/11) we gathered at The County Museum of Art for what we presumed would be the longest version of Metropolis we'd ever see. I looked around the auditorium then and picked out at least twenty people I'd known since college. Here it was mostly strangers. Except for the KINO people, theatrical and video importers of the German restoration, many of the industry freeloaders (cough, cough, professional associates) were missing; as with the opening day's A Star is Born, the crowd was by and large composed of the TCM faithful. The festival has several tiers of tickets, and I believe not all four-day subscribers had access to this gala event.

TCM host and patron saint Robert Osborne arrived, preceded by his immaculate head of white hair. The audience channeled its enthusiasm for the festival as a whole onto his personage. This genial host should run for public office on the Matinee Ticket. After the sincere ovation settled down, Osborne mentioned only a few facts about the movie, as it was obvious that everybody in the hall had been reading about it for over a year and knew what they were seeing. Osborne then added that a decision had been made to bring the TCM Fest back to Hollywood next year, which was answered by even more enthusiastic applause.

Projected digitally, Metropolis looked very, very good. All of the 35mm-sourced scenes displayed an excellent spectrum of gray tones, and there are always those hypnotic shots of Brigitte Helm. The orthochromatic film and bright lights make her blue eyes look like diamonds, and Fritz Lang often has her staring point blank at the camera. Twenty or thirty archive sources are listed in the restoration credits at the end. I understand that the editing of the entire film had been tweaked in the last year, as the intact Argentinian print showed exactly where cuts occurred.

The new scenes are understandably in rough shape but they integrate well into the flow of the story. They were reformatted with thick black bars on the top and left, where picture info had been cropped away when the 16mm print was struck; perhaps the print had been given a soundtrack. The jump in quality let us know when "new" material is on screen. I won't get into it now except to say that the movie no longer plays like a series of brilliant but disconnected visuals. A very Langian 'surveillance' plot in the middle gives Slim the Security Agent, Josephat the discharged aide and the worker 11811 a lot more to do. We see plenty of Lang-style transitions: a character mentioning an absent character inevitably results in a cut to that person. A close-up of an ad for Yoshiwara is followed by a cut to the interior of a nightclub, and we know where we are. Best of all, restored 'connective shots' finally make sense of the extended sequence where, from his sickbed, the "Mediator" Freder experiences the False Maria's erotic dance for the young men of Metropolis. A Biblical sermon, the seven deadly sins, and an illustration of Maria riding a chariot of serpents all come together in one of the better montages of the silent era.

The Alloy Orchestra provided a terrific musical accompaniment, playing for 2.5 hours without a break. An organist carried the melodies and the moody tonalities for corridors and catacombs, while the percussionist beat out terrific rhythms to best the old Giorgio Moroder disco score. The musician on the metallic gongs and other instruments kept up a constant cacaphony of bells, extended cymbal noises and various tortured metal sounds that fit the movie like a glove. It all was closely synchronized with the action on screen. The choice of retro-jazzy themes for the Yoshiwara club really stood out; overall the music added immeasurably to the screening. I think Fritz Lang would have approved of its abstract quality. The historically authentic Gottfried Huppertz orchestral score works up considerable excitement, but some of its passages ignore what's happening on screen. I hope KINO finds a way to put both on the expected disc release.

The show broke up about ten P.M and the Festival dissolved on a very high note. I ran home to post my final comments at the Festival Blog Site. Today is when I normally have three new reviews up, but that's just impossible as I've been up and running for four days. Thanks for reading, and I'll be back later in the week! Glenn Erickson

April 23, 2010

D.W. Griffith-style elephants atop the Hollywood-Highland complex next to Grauman's Chinese Theater.

I have to get back into harness for the afternoon activities so this won't be as thorough as yesterday's post. Saturday was another big day at the TCM Fest, with many programs selling out. All but a couple of the scheduled presenters and guests showed up, which attests to the organization of the festival. If anything, there seem to be too many ushers and guides there to keep attendees from getting lost, which is pretty easy among all the crowded tourist glitz on that block of Hollywood Blvd.

At seven I saw The Story of Temple Drake, a key Pre-Code title and one of the ones that instigated the full enforcement of the code. Miriam Hopkins is a too-adventurous southern belle caught in a storm, who has no choice but to fall in with some degenerate crook at a country shack. Richard Harland Smith likened the setup to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, right down to a blind, deaf paterfamilias wandering around and a mentally impaired "feeb" who likes to stare at Hopkins. The movie is clear on the point that Temple Drake is raped. She appears to like it, voluntarily deciding that she's forever ruined and remaining with her slimy attacker, a gangster named Trigger. It's all from William Faulkner's story Sanctuary, which is even more graphic -- all that remains of a particularly gross sexual outrage is the sight of Drake lying on a bed made of corncobs. Most books on Hollywood censorship feature this title heavily in their discussion -- the audience watched in rapt attention. There's nothing funny or "woo hoo" racy about the movie, although one line did bring down the house: the maid notices that Temple's underwear is all torn, apparently from roughhousing with her several boyfriends. Holding up a ragged pair of undies, the maid remarks, "If Judge Drake did the laundry, he'd know more about Miss Temple".

I sat with a nice group of people. The father worked at bookstore specializing in mysteries; when I asked him why they'd come he pointed to the young lady next to him, who introduced herself as an enthusiastic Pre-Code fan. She had made a point of coming to see just this picture. As that's just the kind of film fan I like, I plugged DVD Savant. If you aren't too timid (normally I'm a bit that way) these festivals are a great chance to talk to interesting people.

After a quick bite to eat down the block we came back to see a restored print of the 1951 Pandora and the Flying Dutchman which was originally in Technicolor. I'm told it may be coming out again with this much better transfer, and I'm hoping that will be on Blu-ray as well. I didn't use any scenes from Pandora in my 2001 Jack Cardiff montage because the previous DVD was so dark. The movie is a heavy romantic fantasy filmed on a Spanish beach. Ava Gardner and James Mason compete to see who is more beautiful. If writer-director Albert Lewin's hadn't jammed his script with so many dull literary references it would be a lot better. The characters spend too much time discussing each others' motives; eventually the whole thing sounds like a radio show. But the chemistry and the star power are definitely there.

Pandora was introduced by Angela Allen, who was the continuity girl (script girl) on the film 59 years ago. A gasp went up when we were told that Ms. Allen also worked on a few other "little movies" -- including The Third Man and The African Queen! The very pretty lady gave a cute speech about her career and work and the situation on location in Spain. At one point the crew had to hide Ava Gardner's bullfighter boyfriend from the actress'es fiancé... Frank Sinatra. Ms. Allen also told us that she doubled Gardner for long shots of Pandora's nude swim to the yacht.

We then popped right over to the midnight show of The Bride of Frankenstein. Being beat, I stayed only about ten minutes or so to check out the print quality. I've seen the 1935 movie only in 16mm and was impressed overall by the print. A reader asked me to report on the sound, which apparently has been tweaked recently; all I can say is that it sounds great. According to another attendee who saw the whole show, the print wasn't radically cropped, as is my DVD copy.

So now I'm home prepping to go see tonight's big closing show of the festival, the restoration of Metropolis. I'll probably scribble more about it tomorrow in lieu of a Tuesday review entry -- I couldn't watch any movies to review this weekend because I was too busy watching movies! And as long as this account (blog? blather?) continues to have an "I" every twenty words or so, let me shamefully self-promote one more time. I'm pleased to see that Kenneth Turan quoted me in today's L.A. Times Calendar article on Metropolis -- that's certainly a big deal for me.

Saturday April 24, 2010

Hello again! Here's my Friday report on the TCM Classic Film Festival, where I spent about 11 hours on Hollywood Blvd. watching movies. It started at 9am at the Egyptian with a 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The TCM crowd seems to consist of a lot of out-of-towners who normally don't attend artsy film presentations, which is something of a pleasant surprise. You don't get that stare of "I'm an ultra-connected industry personage, and it's just terrible that I have to stand in line with ordinary people like you". I jumped in line with the rank-and-file attendees (who paid upwards of $400 to attend, as a baseline sum) and met a nice kid from Hawaii who had never seen a 70mm movie before and wanted to see a real special effects genius. Other ladies were still agog from the big TCM bash the night before, where they saw Esther Williams and synchronized swimmers on the Roosevelt Hotel's rooftop pool. I would have attended but ... uh ... press representatives under national magazine rank were excluded. Fair enough. Anyway, I heard a nice conversation where one lady from Alaska expressed true excitement meeting Margaret O'Brien and seeing people like Alec Baldwin and Cher (who, at 64, impressed the hell out of them by looking extremely good).

Leonard Maltin was in attendance, and could be seen chatting happily with any film fan who struck up a conversation. Mr. Maltin personally is always congenial, but this is still a friendlier atmosphere than I'm used to. It's nice to be in line with people who are perfectly happy mistaking Anne Jackson (attending with Eli Wallach) for Glenda Jackson, instead of blathering loudly about their industry cred.

TCM has hired a small army of guides, ushers and all-round helpful people to make the festival work. You point to the pass around your neck, say what you've come to see and they direct you to the proper line. They're very pleasant people, and they seem to be having a good time too.

2001 looked fine indeed. It's funny that when anybody screens a Road Show film these days, they hold a full intermission. When everybody comes back, they darken the lights and then play the Entr' acte music that actually belongs over the last half of the break! Host Ben Mankiewicz, who is very personable when freed from his canned TCM speeches, gave a nice intro. At the end he brought out Doug Trumbull to talk about special effects then & now, James Cameron and 3D and the future of exotic film formats. I don't agree with Trumbull's ideas that future movies must be "immersive experiences" instead of narratives; even as far back as Close Encounters he was saying that Westerns are dead because we've done all we can with horses and covered wagons and good guys ... you know, all that story stuff. Then again, Trumbull has the success of Cameron's Avatar behind his argument, so why argue?

Unlike other busier TCM bloggers I'm only officially covering two shows, so the offer of a pass to most of the screenings is exceedingly generous. I gravitate to the extremes of the theater so as not to hog the choice seats. I came back at six to catch Elia Kazan's superb Wild River on the big screen one more time. This 1960 film is one of the last of my holy grail titles not yet on disc, but I have a feeling it will be out soon. After a promo for the Film Foundation, director Curtis Hanson delivered a sharp, brief intro (the best kind) and Wild River unspooled to an appreciative crowd. We actually heard some crying over a couple of scenes with Jo Van Fleet; I'm still moved by the slow romantic stuff between Montgomery Clift and Lee Remick.

After a short break we drifted over to see the bizarre Brit Noir thriller No Orchids for Miss Blandish, which was a packed sell-out. The one festival title so far that I hadn't seen, this was the most rewarding show of the evening because I got to meet in person some people I'd only known from afar through DVD or reviewing work, like the pleasant New York KINO folk here to premiere Metropolis. Also got a quick intro to their talented writer-producer Bret Wood. Distributor Bruce Goldstein's opening speech was a nicely paced and funny overview of the movie, in which a mostly English cast all play cornball New York mobsters. Then actor Tim Roth took the microphone and delivered his own humor-filled introduction, apologizing for the fact that the English didn't get noir right but assuring the audience that Brits love Yank crime pix. Roth described a gruesome scene that was missing from the archival 35mm print we saw. It must have been censored, as a character shows up at one point, apparently with his eye gouged out! Since Tim Roth mentioned the missing violent scene, it'll probably show up on the expected VCI DVD. No Orchids was a scandal in England because of what in 1947 was racy and violent content. To us it played as an over-the-top, hammy sleaze fest. The tin-ear stab at hardboiled dialogue is also a scream.

The Day of the Triffids midnight show also played to a large and appreciative audience. Restorer Michael Hyatt constructed an exhibit of international posters for the film in the lobby and then talked at length about the restoration, his work, the movie, and numerous other subjects! This being my 19th hour on my feet, I bowed out after the show got going, but everybody seemed to be enjoying the pristine & colorful print, made directly from the rejuvenated original negative. I'd seen it twice back in October when the restoration was done, but last night was the Triffids' official premiere with a general audience.

I'm going back tonight for The Story of Temple Drake, some Forbidden Cartoons, and, if I can hold out, at least the beginning of the midnight show, The Bride of Frankenstein. Temple Drake always gets mentioned as one of the most extreme of the Pre-Code pictures. I saw it back at UCLA ages ago but don't remember it well at all.

I have to be fresh to fight the mob tomorrow night and squeeze in to see the new Metropolis restoration -- that's going to be one big finale. They expect to fill the 1100-seat Grauman's Chinese. Many of the TCM people have been told they won't be guaranteed entry, as they're putting the paying attendees first. If you've been to film festivals, you'll know that not always the rule -- there always seem to be several rows of seats set aside for VIP's mothers, kids, and friends, who inevitably cruise in with an air of entitlement. So far, I haven't seen that here!

Cheers! Glenn Erickson

Savant's new reviews today are


Two Seconds
Warner Archive Collection

Doctor Zhivago
Warner Home Video

Hello -- some big news today:

This year's gala Godzilla and Friends 5, a two-day film festival at Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas will kick in on the weekend of the 7th of May. All the details are at the Godzilla & Friends Org website. Big G experts Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle will be on hand to introduce films and present lectures. But I do need to report that the festival's judgment has slipped this year -- I've been asked to go to Topeka to give a slide show and lecture on the miniature and full-scale special effects for the movie 1941, which uses traditional filming techniques similar to those employed by Toho in the classic Kaiju Eiga movies. And if they want Godzilla in there, I'll sneak in a hand puppet or something! I've never been to the Midwest. If you ever wanted to "wish DVD Savant into the cornfield", now's the time to try.

More eventful news -- as an official blogger/reviewer for the TCM Classic Film Festival, I'll soon be strolling between Grauman's Chinese and the Egyptian on Hollywood Blvd., dropping in on screenings and hobnobbing with the festival's fans until they throw me out. I'm officially attending to report on the screening of 2001 hosted by Doug Trumbull and the big closing-night North American Premiere of Metropolis. That bona fide big deal screening is expected to be a sellout. I also hope to see a couple more favorites along the way. I'll be posting for my Savant readers here, blog-style, once or twice during the weekend and on Monday. If they don't take my camera away, I'll try to get some photo coverage too, you know, like Jimmy Olson. A couple of readers have asked me to check out the new restoration of The Bride of Frankenstein, and if I'm not too wiped out to attend the midnight show I'll do just that. If any Savant reader happens to be there and wants to keep an eye out for me, I'll be wearing my old Filmex button -- I was an usher at that older film festival that made its home at Grauman's Chinese 39 years ago.

This is turning out to be an even bigger news day at DVD Savant: The word from London is that Sony's new Blu-ray of Jason and the Argonauts (expected July 6) will have two special commentaries. A couple of days ago Peter Jackson and Randall William Cook recorded one track, commenting on all things Harryhausen. By the time this announcement comes out, Ray Harryhausen and Tony Dalton should have finished a second commentary in London. I'm told that the new Hi-Def transfer for Jason has been laid down at an appropriate 1:66 AR, which should make some highly vocal associates happy!

But wait, there's still more news -- after their announcement earlier this year, the new DVD outfit Olive Films has four Paramount titles coming out on July 13, the worthy film noirs Dark City, Union Station, Appointment with Danger and -- and -- the highly anticipated science fiction doomsday thriller Crack in the World. How 'bout that -- maybe someone was listening to my enthusiastic coverage back in January! What with the high earthquake and volcano activity lately, Crack in the World has once again become a timely tale. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson.

April 19, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Ride with the Devil
Blu-ray + DVD

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes
Warner Archive Collection


Greetings! Not much to say for myself today .. just gearing up for the TCM Fest to be held over the next weekend, and trying not to skimp on reviews.

The one link for today is for Kino's The Complete Metropolis website, where one can examine the new restoration and even read a complete description of the new scenes found in Buenos Aires two years ago. If everything works out, I'll be seeing the restored Fritz Lang silent Sci-fi epic next Sunday night on the giant Grauman's Chinese Theater screen -- that's a big treat for this particular film fan. Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson.

April 16, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Theatrical Cut

An American Dream
Warner Archive Collection

Cary Grant: The Early Years
Devil and the Deep,
The Eagle and the Hawk, The Last Outpost
TCM Vault Collection

Greetings! Some upcoming disc announcements... in July, Criterion is releasing new DVDs and Blu-rays of both Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes ... the latter film having undergone a highly-praised Technicolor restoration last year. Joining the two Powell-Pressburger classics is The Secret of the Grain, a 2007 film from France, and an Eclipse collection of heard-about but never-seen French movies by Sacha Guitry.

Warners will return to its extras-generous "Warner Night at the Movies" format on July 27th with a new collection of Errol Flynn wartime action films: Desperate Journey, Objective, Burma! (remastered), Northern Pursuit, Uncertain Glory and Edge of Darkness, Lewis Milestone's violent drama about the Norwegian occupation, with a very interesting cast: Flynn, Ann Sheridan, Walter Huston, Nancy Coleman, Helmut Dantine, Judith Anderson and Ruth Gordon. With all of the "Warner Night" extras, it'll be like the economic downturn never happened.

Around the same time (I don't have an exact date) Severin is releasing new DVD and Blu-Ray editions of the early 70s horror semi-classics The House that Dripped Blood and Horror Express (pictured). Producer David Gregory assures me that these are new transfers from prime film elements, and will be accompanied by interesting interviews and other extras, so I'm looking forward to them. Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas, Horror Express played well even in the beat-up print I saw back in 1975.

Finally, Gary Teetzel alerts us to a must-have hygiene product, for fans of George Lucas and Harrison Ford: Han Solo in Carbonite Soap. It's real! Thanks for reading, Glenn.

April 11, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Pirate Radio

A Nightmare on Elm Street
New Line Cinema

Restored and Remastered Edition
Warners Archive Collection

The Abbott and Costello Show
The Complete Series -- Collector's Edition
E! Entertainment
reviewed by Gary Teetzel

Greetings! Some great discs have come in, including Criterion Blu-rays of Godard's Vivre sa vie and Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil, a really good movie that completely eluded me ten years ago. Already here from other directions are Blu-rays of Universal's David Lynch epic Dune and Sony's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, by Terry Gilliam.

On hand in standard Def are Criterion's The Fugitive Kind, Universal's Cary Grant: The Early Years with Devil and the Deep, The Eagle and the Hawk and The Last Outpost; and a pair of short films protesting the dictatorship in Belarus, Long Knives Night and Reporting from a Rabbit Hutch by Victor Dashuk. Review variety for the next two weeks is insured.

By the way, I've seen pieces of the new Blu-ray of The African Queen and it looks great to me. What were previously washed out scenes -- even in old theatrical prints -- now look quite good, and the green fringing in the traveling mattes is either gone (neutralized to white) or minimized. A few rapid movements are still followed by faint smears of color. But the picture is shocking good-looking, 200% better than I've ever seen it. The sharpness is so good, the disc's owner pointed out effects I've never seen before. The German fort they pass on the river is actually a miniature, seen by itself and together with foreground actors. The illusion is excellent. The disc has a very informative longform docu as well, with many interviews. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

April 10, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

The Baader Meinhof Complex

An American Romance
Warner Archive Collection

Image Entertainment

Hello -- I'm rushing today's reviews out the door, but let's take a look at the news bin ...

The Warner Archive Collection has released, among other titles, a 5 disc, 9-title Torchy Blane collection; I might try those out as I've only seen snippets of one or two on TV. They've also got The McConnell Story, one of the most jingoistic of the Armed Services recruitment aids of the 1950s. The story of an air ace is turned into a June Allyson-friendly romance: "My husband just loves to shoot down Commies!"

Reader Christopher Koenig responded to my review of The Snorkel by tracking down the truth about the authorship of the movie, which many credit to Italian director Antonio Margheriti. The answer is in a new footnote to the review.

And finally, Dick Dinman has another radio show I'd like to plug. It's called Saluting Edward G. Robinson and focuses on a stack of new Warners' Archive Releases by the famed actor. Dick's interview guests include Margaret O'Brien, Kathleen Hughes and Gena Rowlands. Thanks for reading --- Glenn

April 04, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Apollo 13
15th Anniversary Edition


The Beggar's Opera
Warner Archive Collection

The Italian Straw Hat
Flicker Alley


We've passed a pleasant Easter Sunday with the fambly at Savant Central ... and looking forward to new reviews.

Congratulations to UK writer and reviewer Kim Newman, who wins this year's Rondo award for Best DVD Reviewer ... the little gem yours truly was thrilled to be awarded last year. Mr. Newman has been in this game (and a great many others) from before he could grow whiskers, and does fine, fine work.

Interesting news from Warner Home Video -- an announcement of their 2010 The Film Noir Classic Collection Volume 5, a set of four double features: Cornered / Desperate; The Phenix City Story / Dial 1119; Armored Car Robbery / Crime in the Streets and Deadline at Dawn / Backfire. It's a good selection, with a couple of RKO crimers, Don Siegel's juvenile delinquency picture Crime in the Streets with John Cassavetes, Clifford Odet's Deadline at Dawn with its almost abstract dialogue, and the fierce social protest - exposé Phil Karlson picture The Phenix City Story. Extras are minimal, just a couple of trailers, which tells us about the current state of classic film on DVD, but the shows themselves are reward enough -- the subject matter runs the gamut from a psycho on the run to Nazi holdouts in South America. They're all coming July 13.

A hot tip -- I'm just sitting down to write up MPI's Blu-ray of The Baader Meinhof Complex, and it isn't going to be easy. It's a scorcher, a fascinating account of the most violent and out-of-control of the militant radical organizations to come out of the 1960s ... The Red Army Faction. I hope I can do this excellent German thriller justice -- it's a great show about an important, badly-reported state of terror from the too-recent past.

It's clearly a digital composite (in my estimation), but the amazing Rube Goldberg devices in this OK Go music video appear to do what they seem to do, if not all the same time, with perfect camera coverage and with band members singing along in perfect harmony. It's a heck of a lot of fun just the same! Ten million visitors have seen this before me, but better late than never. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

April 01, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

The Icons of Suspense Collection: Hammer Films
The Snorkel, Stop Me Before I Kill!,
Never Take Candy from a Stranger,
Cash on Demand, Maniac,
These are the Damned

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy:
The Fellowship of the Ring,
The Two Towers, The Return of the King
New Line Cinema

Tribute to a Bad Man
Warner Archive Collection

Yojimbo / Sanjuro

Greetings! The L.A. movie news today (besides MGM being granted a few weeks' reprieve by its creditors) is that Westwood's Village and Bruin Theaters are going to continue in business. Forty years ago Westwood was the movie-going hub of Los Angeles, with at least six theaters playing first-run exclusives. They razed my old theater The National a couple of years back; that's where The Exorcist made its L.A. debut. I myself haven't seen a picture in Westwood for ages, and expecting a place to remain unchanged isn't realistic. Just the same, Westwood was once the destination for both wealthy West-Siders and us U.C.L.A. students ... it was a real campus stomping ground once, with affordable food and entertainment; it wasn't unusual to see movie stars getting jaywalking tickets right along with everyone else. It's pretty dead, now.

VCI is releasing a Film Noir special edition of 1955's New York Confidential, a not-bad organized crime show with Broderick Crawford, Richard Conte, Marilyn Maxwell and Anne Bancroft. The extras appear to be the work of the Film Noir Foundation, with a commentary by Alan Rode. The recently restored film is coming out on June 29.

E! Entertainment's Abbott and Costello, the Complete TV Series just came in, and I've got A&C enthusiast Gary Teetzel pegged to review it. All I know about the comic duo is that they're funny, but we can expect a meaningful report from Gary. It's a big, expensive package, and the shows sound pretty interesting -- gorgeous Hillary Brooke is a regular.

Who'd a thunk it, but apparently movie money men still see moolah in the big green stomper from Tokyo. Yes, they're talking about yet another remake, this time in 3-D, of G-G-G-G guess who? A comingsoon.net report is here. Wait'll you read the corporate-speak promo copy attached to the news release. You'd think that G-G-G-G was Abraham Lincoln.

Today's review of These Are the Damned in the The Icons of Suspense Collection: Hammer Films is a big deal for Savant. I remember showing Columbia's shortened 1965 cut at UCLA in the middle 1970s when hardly anybody knew it existed. I then couldn't see it again for at least ten years. Imagine my surprise when, about thirteen years ago, a close friend became the restorer charged with remastered the long original 1961 cut. The movie is at least ten minutes longer now, and every restored moment counts. A friendly reader sent me an English VHS of the even shorter original 1963 UK cut, which is just pathetic -- the Brits cut out so much more material, what's left barely makes sense. These Are the Damned is a recommended rental if you don't want to buy ... the creepy apocalyptic Sci-Fi picture was one of the last holdouts on the Short List of Movies Savant Wants on Disc.

Thanks for reading -- next time around I'll have Apollo 13 on Blu-ray, Laurence Olivier in The Beggar's Opera and René Clair's The Italian Straw Hat. -- Glenn Erickson

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

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