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August 30, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

The Complete Collection

Boris Karloff invites us into two entire seasons of TV's best-remembered horror anthology series. Over 50 hours of murder, macabre and the supernatural, featuring stars of the future and dozens of name TV actors, written by the likes of Robert Bloch and with many original scores by Jerry Goldsmith. A big gift-sized box from Image Entertainment.

9th Company

A Russian epic about one of the final battles in their Afghanistan war of the 1980s, this 2005 spectacle features production values not seen in Western war films for years. A group of spirited recruits trains to go up against the Mujahideen resistance. Rough, patriotic stuff with a decidedly red-blooded view of combat. Blu-ray and DVD from Well Go USA Entertainment.


Legends of the Canyon

A modest Rock 'n' Roll docu with some excellent exclusive photos and movies filmed by Henry Diltz, photographer to the stars. Charts the rise and times of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon hideaways, with great interviews by many prinicpals; also covers The Mamas & The Papas, Joni Mitchell and others. From Image Entertainment.


Just a couple of items today. From halfway around the world, my friend Guido Bibra has been corresponding with this column for at least nine or ten years and offering plenty of advice and help with European discs. Guido has a website called DVDLog.de, and this week he steered me to a comparison piece he did on a recent broadcast of some 3D Movies on the French/German arte cable channel, the outlet that premiered the restored Metropolis back in February. I'd gotten interested because I'd heard at the AMIA conference that certain Universal 3D movies were being remastered for new-generation 3D systems. Guido's shows that the foreign broadcasts were, unfortunately, pretty ragged, with comparisons on the titles Dial M for Murder and Creature from the Black Lagoon. I know that a fabulous reconfigured 3D presentation of Hondo made the studio rounds here a couple of years back. Friends who saw it were very positively impressed. It only makes sense that the worthy John Wayne picture and Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M, both in WarnerColor, would draw theatrical audiences today if given really good 3D presentations.

Oh, and Guido's website is bilingual, so you shouldn't have trouble finding your way around ... and don't forget to 'mouseover' those mushy arte frame grabs!

The shape of reviews to come --- I'm about to revisit my ten-year-old review of Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die!. Not long ago I was loaned a now reportedly out-of-print European PAL DVD, thanks to another thoughtful correspondent, Alexandre Roy. The available U.S. copies of Lang's 1943 anti-Nazi picture have really rough audio, bad contrast, and, like all copies I've ever seen, are missing an entire penultimate scene that shows what happens to several of the main characters.

I turned my former frustration into a 2000 Savant article, Jump Cut 7: Hangmen Also Die! ... but now I've finally seen this rare footage and can give a full report. Everything about Fritz Lang fascinates me, and this discovery (first communicated to me in 2006 by Cristoph Michel) is a big event around here. "No surrender!"

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson

August 27, 2010
Saturday August 28, 2010

Hello! Savant's new reviews today are


One of last year's Best Foreign Film nominees, this controversial Israeli film portrays the tensions, mindless persecution and catch-22 hopelessness in a Arab ghetto of Jaffa stricken with all the evils of the drug traffic. Brilliantly directed; stars a cast of well-prepared non-professional actors. Recommended. On Blu-ray from Kino International.

The Grasshopper

Lovely Jacqueline Bisset offers an excellent performance as a shallow girl overwhelmed by good times and easy living in Las Vegas ... and who suffers for her bad judgment and bad luck. Jim Brown co-stars in this early test of the Ratings system, sort of Showgirls twenty-five years earlier with a modicum of sensitivity. From the Warner Archive Collection.


Time Bandits

Terry Gilliam's first fanciful epic comedy hits Blu-ray with all six of its diminutive Time Bandits intact, along with Sean Connery, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson and David Warner. More imagination and cinematic creativity here than in ten CGI sagas .... From Image Entertainment.

Greetings! Cinerama expert Dave Strohmaier wants to announce a special screening: "Thought you would like to know that the digital remastering of the complete 1958 roadshow production Windjammer, the Voyage of the Christian Radich will screen at the Cinerama Dome on Sunday September 5th at 11:30 AM. This film was remastered in digital for eventual release on DVD sometime in 2011.

Due to the original negatives being incomplete the digital remastering was done from a rare composite 35mm anamorphic print located at the Swedish film institute -- the presentation will be in CinemaScope. As the print had considerable fading and grain problems the image had to be digitally enhanced to bring back the color.

Please pass this note along to any widescreen or Cinerama fan you know. Hope to see you there for this nostalgic Cinemiracle voyage!"

Dave has included links to the Windjammer Trailer, his Windjammer Press Page and a third page about the fascinating restoration of Windjammer. Dave also sends along the ticket info page.

Radio Host and all-round solid citizen Dick Dinman's latest DVD Classics Corner on the Air radio show is actually three shows, because he needed that much time to properly present his latest, 72-minute interview with none other than Kim Novak, the subject of The Kim Novak Film Collection from a few weeks back. The show is called An Exclusive Visit with Kim Novak; I've heard the first part and wil be cranking up second shortly. In Part One Kim and Dick discuss the new collection, her instant stardom and her feelings about the advantages and disadvantages about this jarringly sudden fame. In Part Two Ms. Novak moves on to discuss working with Otto Preminger and her varied experiences with Tyrone Power, William Holden, Rita Hayworth, and Frank Sinatra. And Part Three offers Novak's remembrances of heavy hitters Harry Cohn, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Frederic March, and Fred Astaire.

To finish up, correspondent Gary Teetzel sent along this comedy link, which is amusing if you've never been an editor, and painfully accurate if you have. it's called Last Minute Change to the Episode, and is on the xtranormal page. If you'll like it, they've got several others there to watch ... and I have a million of 'em in the special migraine room in my head. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

August 23, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Machine Gun McCain

John Cassavetes cuts up the competition in this Italian gangster epic filmed in Las Vegas and California. Superior thrills and great acting, thanks to Peter Falk, Gabrielle Ferzetti, Florinda Bolkan and special guest Gena Rowlands. A beautful restored Blu-ray, from Blue Underground.

The First Films of
Akira Kurosawa

The genius Japanese film director began his career with two martial arts dramas, a war morale booster and his first period costume piece from the era of the Shoguns: Sanshiro Sugata, The Most Beautiful, Sanshiro Sugata Part Two and Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail. Eclipse Series 23.

The McConnell Story

A straight-shooting Cold War enlistment tale filmed in honor of Capt. Joe McConnell Jr., a Korean war Sabre Jet air ace. Alan Ladd makes him into a flawless hero, while June Allyson once again assays the loyal, pixie-eyed military wife ... nicknamed "Butch". It begins with a stern general chastizing us miserable civilians for taking our freedoms for granted. Amazing propaganda entertainment. Warner Archive Collection.


What's Up, Doc?

Peter Bogdanovich does Howard Hawks and Bringing Up Baby. Barbra Streisand turns on the cutes to good effect, but Ryan O'Neal is no Cary Grant, not by a long shot. Amusing supporting contributions from Madeleine Kahn and Austin Pendleton. With a partial Streisand commentary. Blu-ray, from Warner Home Video.


Not much news this week -- we're all in denial about the approaching Fall school semester. So I'll just bring up a few bits of news happening around here. Gary Teetzel tells me that Stanley Kubrick's first film Fear and Desire is scheduled to be shown at the Egyptian Theater on September 12. If this is real, it's an interesting development sure to be discussed at length in the entertainment media. My understanding is that the Eastman House in Rochester has the only existing copies, and until now Kubrick and his estate would only allow it to be shown to single researchers under strict conditions. The low-budget war film was shot in Southern California, and features future director Paul Masursky and actress Virginia Leith.

Discs I saw and liked, coming soon to DVD Savant: I'm racking up episodes of Image's Thriller: The Complete Series, a slow process, and I like what I see ... they've included commentaries on most of the episodes, which are of a consistently high quality. Well Go USA's Blu-ray of 9th Company is a powerful movie about the other Afghan War, made by the Russians; the production values are higher than anything I've seen in years and the Russian cast is excellent. Kino Entertainment's Ajami is an absorbing multi-character saga of crime, injustice and desperation in Israel's Palestinian ghettos. It somehow avoids being a complete downer, but is still an emotional workout. I'm also happily absorbing the several hours of the original 1913 French serial Fantomas, in Kino's new The Complete Saga set coming out later in September. Other reviews coming up are Louie Bluie (Criterion), Legends of the Canyon (Image) and The Grasshopper, Al Capone and Tiger Shark (Warner Archive Collection).

Not in my fat hands yet but devoutly to be desired are Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg and Blu-rays of Time Bandits, Forbidden Planet, THX 1138 and Mars Attacks!  Summer traditionally slows down for hot library titles, but this year I can't complain. I'll just keep the reviews honest. Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson

August 21, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

3 Silent Classics by
Josef von Sternberg

A trio of superlative, atmospheric, groundbreaking works of silent art! Underworld, The Last Command and The Docks of New York were all made just as the talkies were killing off a unique art form. Von Sternberg's talents are fully developed, before Marlene Dietrich and The Blue Angel. The Criterion Collection.

Or the Berkeley-to-Boston
Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues

This odd hipster drama about a college slacker sinking neck-deep into the drug game benefits from good performances, especially from Barbara Hershey and first-timer John Lithgow. A stupid fumble gets Robert F. Lyons' new girlfriend busted, forcing a game of wits with a corrupt narcotics cop and the Mafia. Warner Archive Collection.


The Long Good Friday

Image Entertainment brings us a Blu-ray of this modern gangster classic, starring a ferocious Bob Hoskins in a star-making turn as a Cockney ganglord. Also with the great Helen Mirren. Very classy Brit Crime Time -- don't lose your "bottle".


Former DVD producer Perry Martin is back producing and directing a new show called Post Mortem with Mick Garris. It's an interview show that concentrates on the horror genre: director Garris interviews luminaries like Roger Corman and Wes Craven in a cozy sit down environment with the aim of eliciting deep detail instead of the same old sound bites.

The show is viewable in two ways. 30-minute episodes screen on FEARnet's Video On Demand channel (available to Comcast Cable subscribers); and five 5-minute webisodes are viewable at FEARnet.com . Shows already aired are archived at the Post Mortem Index. Now available for viewing are interviews with Corman, Craven, Robert Englund and Rick Baker; and Perry has lined up directors William Friedkin, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and others for future shows. I checked out the site, and the graphics and other production aspects are first-rate.

Elsewhere on the web, the Bright Lights Film Journal has an interview with friend and author Bill Warren, written by none other than my journalist friend Steve Ryfle. It's a good introduction to Warren's magnum opus of facts and criticism on science fiction films, Keep Watching the Skies! The 21st Century Edition.

Another writing associate whose talent I admire, Mark Bourne, adds a flight of fancy on the subject of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds to his blog Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal. Mark starts with the fact that earlier filmscripts for Wells' novel were written in the early 1930s with Cecil B. DeMille and Alfred Hitchcock in mind, and proceeds into a cinematic flight of fancy -- an Alternate Universe imagining of movies never filmed. Take a peek!

And finally, to finish this column off, Craig Reardon points us to a montage of uses of the famous "Wilhelm Scream", including its first appearance in The Charge at Feather River. Once you hear dear Wilhelm, you'll be hearing him forever, in every action movie you see. The montage has been up for four years and has amassed millions of hits, but I never saw it before and am therefore pretending that it's brand-new.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson

August 17, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

TCM Spotlight
Errol Flynn Adventures

Errol Flynn's military-themed WW2 adventure films are an interesting mix of light comedies and serious dramas -- all made when Flynn's career was threatened by outrageous courtroom controversy. The titles are Desperate Journey, Edge of Darkness, Northern Pursuit, Uncertain Glory and Objective Burma! Terrific remastered transfers and abundant war-themed "Warner Night at the Movies" extras abount -- including a new transfer of the fantastic WB cartoon about "Gremlins from the Kremlin". Warner Home Entertainment.

Black Orpheus

A dazzling Blu-ray of the 1959 French art-house hit knocks us out with singing, dancing, and great color, all in HD. Death stalks a young girl amid the gaiety of Rio de Janeiro's Mardi Gras carnaval. With extensive extras on the revolutionary Brazilian Bossa Nova "sound" that took America and Europe by storm. With Breno Mello and Marpessa Dawn. Criterion.

Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Kino International brings us a second hilarious Buster Keaton classic in Blu-ray. This is the comedy with the typhoon that wrecks a Mississippi steamboat port. Interesting, well-researched extras, plus an entire second version of the film featuring different takes and different camera angles.


Shogun Assassin

Samurai mayhem in a Blu-ray 30th Anniversary Edition. Itto Ogami and Daigoro are back to slice and dice their way through armies of opposing samurai warriors. A dubbed American re-think of the first two chapters in the "Sword of Vengeance" series, this great AnimEigo disc uses original Toho masters for its video source.


Another DVD Classics Corner on the Air radio show is up and running, to accompany my review of Warners' TCM Spotlight Errol Flynn Adventures disc set. In DVD Classics Corner is In Like Flynn (Again)!, host Dick Dinman interviews Warners VP George Feltenstein, Errol Flynn's daughter Rory Flynn and fellow swashbuckler Stewart Granger to discuss Flynn's legacy as both a great movie star and a great actor.

Criterion in November will release Charles Laughton's eerie Night of the Hunter in an edition that will include the legendary 2.5 hours of outtakes that the UCLA Archive has been showing for the last eight years or so! And a box set of BBS Films originally planned by Sony will see daylight as a deluxe Criterion box as well ... with Head, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Drive He Said, The Last Picture Show, A Safe Place and The King of Marvin Gardens.

Day Three

I arrived back at the Academy Pickford Center Saturday morning in time to hear about the previous night's screening of a new restoration of Fantasia, presumably the one promised soon on Blu-ray from Disney. The buzz wasn't about the visual quality (judged excellent) but about a crazy revision. As has been heard before, the original Deems Taylor introductions have all been re-voiced by somebody else. They located picture but not audio for some additions to the various introductions throughout the movie, and rather than not have them match, dropped Deems Taylor's distinctive voice altogether. I didn't hear it for myself, but this seems like a shockingly poor decision -- doesn't it seem like a better idear to allow the extended introductions to live as an extra on a disc release?

Saturday's presentations began with Thomas Bakels' highly informative report on the digital restoration of Metropolis undertaken by his company Alpha-Omega digital GmbH. Alpha-Omega performed the 2001 restoration of the film as well, and won the contract to rejuvenate the heavily damaged Argentine footage through a demonstration of a proprietary software tool that softened the constant oil stains on the duped 16mm Spanish language print. Bakels had a lot of explaining to do -- much of his mission involved developing software to minimize scratches, counteract printed-in instability, and heal instances where the film lifted halfway out of the printing gate. Alpha Omega managed to cut down the constant storm of scratches, greatly enhancing the appearance of the rescued scenes. It was to some extent a thankless job, in that the scenes could only be made to look so good. Bakels also went over other changes he had to oversee, such as having a company re-shoot inserts of business cards in German. All such inserts in the Argentine print had been filmed in Spanish. They include a glowing warning sign built into one of the power station machines, that reads "PELIGRO" (danger), that had to be returned to the German "GEFAHR". These foreign language inserts must have been filmed as part of the original photography in Germany. We got to see samples of the organizing software used to reconstruct the film -- the 2001 effort was so exacting that Bakels was able to plug new scenes right into the same continuity, replacing text titles that explained what (in 2001) was missing and presumed lost forever. Apparently the music score provided key guidelines for figuring out what exactly went where; Bakels emphasized the input of a music expert.

Thomas Bakels also showed us some before & after samples from a rescue job he did on a film about his hometown Munich, shot directly after the Allied bombing of WW2. The footage had been ruined by a problem in the camera gate that made the image jump erratically. Alpha-Omega's first software application straightened out the action, and a second program nullified motion artifacts left over from the process. The finished film looked quite good.

To my delight, Mr. Bakels remembered me from our correspondence back in 2001, when he had generously answered questions about the original restoration. He still looks in on DVD Savant, which pleases me to no end.

The second speaker was Brian Walker of Applied Pictures, who talked briefly about a system his company is developing to read the magnetic content of old video tape -- 2" Quad tapes, to be exact -- without running irreplaceable tapes over a mechanical tape head. Walker's Non-Contact Recovery technique isn't perfected but he hopes to be rolling later this year. Audience response was limited because all the questions from engineers involved proprietary secrets!

Restoration manager Rita Belda of Sony then gave a presentation about silent-to-talkie transition features in the Columbia library. In 1928 and 1929, some movies would be filmed twice -- as silents with synchronized music and effects, and full-on talkies. We saw samples of corresponding scenes from a circus movie that were completely different in the two versions. Sony's Grover Crisp then screened one of Frank Capra's earliest Columbia silents, So This is Love, a comedy about an artist who becomes a boxer to win the girl of his dreams. Capra's experience in knockabout comedy was very much in evidence, through the film's many well-staged slapstick gags. This AMIA crowd is pretty wild -- they handed out party-favor noisemakers, so we could all "razz along" with a character in the film that responds to every event with big (silent) raspberry. The silent film was accompanied on the organ by a fine musician, who happens to be a film restorer and AMIA member!

The afternoon sessions began with three project managers from Paramount Pictures who gave a speech about a data-gathering project in the Paramount vaults to assess the state of digital assets, how they can be preserved, etc.. This issue is of definite importance to restorers because movies finished or archived digitally are at the present time more at risk than those on film.

Then came the lively Ross Lipman from the UCLA Archive to do a show 'n' tell on the restoration of Barbara Loden's Wanda, a highly regarded New American Independent film from 1970. Lipman specializes in experimental and avant-garde restorations, and showed examples of his attempts to get good prints from the film, which was shot on 16mm reversal stock. He also discussed his attempt to ascertain the film's correct aspect ratio, and discussed what should be a foremost concern in film restoration, whether correcting what might be flaws in this picture's audio mix was a good idea, or a slippery slope towards ignorant revisionism. In this case the presentation was long but very substantial.

The afternoon ended for me with a presentation by Andrew Oran of the Fotokem Lab's work on The Sound of Music, all performed in the tricky, nearly extinct 65mm format. Andrew showed samples of restorations done on the Robert Wise film in the last twenty years, using Julie Andrews' arrival at Christopher Plummer's giant house as a focus point. The color and sharpness of the attempts varied widely. He even managed a split-screen demo between projected 65mm and a projected (4K?) video scan. The new restoration was incredibly sharp and clean, and the audience suitably impressed.

I had to leave early and missed two more presentations. I found out later that The Reel Thing's "surprise" closing screening was a new restoration of a totally unexpected Fox title, 1958's CinemaScope, 4-track stereo version of Kurt Neumann's original The Fly. I understand that the matching across short-cut optical inserts was almost imperceptible, and that the stereophonic sound was particularly good. I've seen the film on a big screen several times, and when all the machines in David Hedison's mad lab get going, the movie puts out quite a racket!

I'd again like to thank Dennis Doros of Milestone Films for offering his generous guest pass to this invitation-only event; I think I may have been one of the few non-members in attendance. Attendees weren't allowed to bring friends or even family members. The courtesy of the AMIA people and the Academy hosts was also something to remember. Attending studio functions or special screenings in this town as an outsider can frequently be a dog-in-the-manger experience, and this fun Hollywood weekend was anything but.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson

August 14, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are


Terry Zwigoff's docu examines artist and underground comix legend Robert Crumb through his work, his interests, and his unusual (to say the least) family background. Definitely for adults; one of the best documentaries of recent years. Blu-ray and standard DVD editions. Criterion.


Jodie Foster runs away to join the carnival, but this is no Toby Tyler story: Gary Busey and Robbie Robertson run a freewheeling traveling fun fair, with all the traditional venal and carnal attractions intact. A great supporting cast, including Meg Foster, Kenneth McMillan and Elisha Cook Jr. From the Warner Archive Collection.

The Corridor People

UK correspondent Lee Broughton examines a new release of a cult TV show from the 1960s, a "highly original and quirky espionage series that has been compared favorably to The Avengers". A PAL Region 2 release, from Network.


Volker Schlöndorff's adaptation of Max Frisch's novel is a tale of ill-fated romance involving a globe-hopping engineer, a plane crash, strange coincidences, true love on an ocean voyage and a car trip to Italy. Sam Shepard is the unemotional man and Barbara Sukowa the woman who rejected him twenty years before ... and the radiant Julie Delpy is the young spirit who brings him to life again. Hers is a captivating performance in an unusual story. Scorpion Releasing.


Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

Albert Lewin's delirious amour fou fantasy borders on culture-kitsch, redeemed by Jack Cardiff's Technicolor images of the great romantic pair Ava Gardner and James Mason. Filmed on location in Catalonia. Blu-ray and standard DVD editions. Kino International.


Hello! I have five reviews ready for you tonight. Most of these should have come out two weeks ago, which is why the situation here at DVD Savant is critical. The website has been inactive or sputtering along for a full month now, and most "news" I want to print is rendered out of date. Already a summer mostly ruined, as far as my personal morale is concerned.

But, happily, I have some reporting to do that will make for much better Savant reading.

Day One and Day Two

I can't illustrate this report (or correct errors anywhere in my pages) because of my uploading problem, so I'll therefore just repeat the logo for the Association of Moving Image Archivists) 20th Anniversary yearly get-together, The Reel Thing over on the right. Many apologies.

I just finished up my first day's attendance of The Reel Thing, a classy get-together for technicians and restoration managers from film studios and film archives at the Academy's Linwood Dunn Theater. The only event on Thursday night was a digital screening of a new 4k restoration of Doctor Zhivago which I'm told was immaculate. I sat in for six presentations today.

3D and film historical expert Jack Theakston led off with a smart presentation of The Evolution of Film Formats and Aspect Ratios, clearing up a lot of details about the messy AR changeovers in the 1950s between flat Academy 1:37 to 1:66 and 1:85 ... I wish I had Theakston at my side, Marshall McLuhan-style, when somebody insists that a 1958 studio film like Touch of Evil should be 1:33 because that's how the person remembers seeing it on television. Theakston's presentation of an exact timetable and cause & effect patterns of studios adopting and/or dropping 3D and CinemaScope, etc. was just the kind of information I like.

Second up was a spirited presentation by Bob Schumacher about the archiving/digitizing job done on thirty years' worth of Johnny Carson Tonight Show episodes, which are now completely accessible online (to qualified commercial viewers) and searchable by subject or by anything discussed on the show. We saw clips show up when the words "Macy's" and "Mel Blanc" were entered in the site's search function. Thus, someone wanting to use content from the Tonight Show that might take months to research the normal way would need to spend only a few minutes at a home computer.

Chace founder Robert Heiber and audio engineer Ralph Sargent (of Film Technology Company) offered a highly technical, detailed presentation on old Optical Sound Tracks, which present serious problems for film restorers. Some of this leaned toward the dry side but the AMIA membership includes many engineers keenly interested in this information. Mr. Sargent is a gracious presenter and obvious fount of wisdom and knowledge on the subject, and I learned a lot.

Seth Berkowitz of Cineric gave a restoration lecture and demonstration on the digital rescue of the Marilyn Monroe film Bus Stop, showing the disastrous state of the negative elements and his company's strategies to compensate. Seth showed Cineric's mix-and-match process of trying to combine various color separations to get around terrible scratches (which in this case affected only one color layer of the negative) and weird vertical red stains. The funny (or not so funny) aspect of Cineric's before-and-after demonstration is that I really could not perceive differences in some of the comparison samples that Seth said were quite different. Perhaps it was the projection, but it's much more likely that I'm just not as sensitive as these experts.

Next up were three or four personable Disney project managers to talk about restorations of Disney Live Action Films. This was a quick technical description and a show 'n' tell session, and was thus mostly a PR piece for the studio's impressive asset management wing. The clips were projected in a video format that really didn't allow the audience to judge the restorations, although it was obvious that at least some of the bigger Disney films were getting the royal treatment. We saw clips and before-and-after samples from Tron, Swiss Family Robinson, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Treasure Island. For 20,000 Leagues we were shown a demonstration of how Disney was correcting the "CinemaScope Mumps" issues common to early 'Scope films that used Bausch & Lomb lenses. A slightly squashed-out close-up of James Mason was given a tiny squeeze by utilizing a bit of unused image "real estate" normally hidden behind CinemaScope's magnetic tracks. This seemed like a nice thing to do, as I've often recoiled from shots of Mason in this film and Doris Day in Love Me or Leave Me, looking like somebody ran over their faces with a rolling pin. The Disney asset manager then added that the studio was working on erasing the visible wires in the Squid Sequence, which brings up the issue of revisionism, a serious matter that needs to be debated.

The last presentation I saw today was by Sean McKee of IVC / Point 360, who outlined his company's in-development process to Archive Color Motion Pictures to Single-Strip 35mm B&W film. Although I can't say I understood exactly what was happening (Bayer Arrays, anyone?) the possibilities of the IVC process were very interesting. What it looked like to me (technical engineers are permitted to laugh here) is that the process recorded color separations at the pixel level, instead of the entire image, rendering a single B&W image with all the information needed to recomposite a color image. Unlike present-day 3-strip separations, the problems of shrinkage, warping, uneven fading, etc, would be almost eliminated. I think we'll hear more about this.

I'm not staying to see Fantasia tonight; 20 or 30 viewings of that show is enough for now! Tomorrow I'll put in a full day though, as the schedule includes presentations on Metropolis (lucky me, huh?), Barbara Loden's Wanda, a piece on 65mm and a Sony screening of Frank Capra's silent So This is Love, with a live musical accompaniment.

By the way, hosting the event today was Sony's Grover Crisp, who did a terrific job introducing speakers. Grover presented a pleasant 'wake-up' clip, in restored 4k, from David Lean's Bridge on the River Kwai. He also fronted a courteous, diplomatic defense of restoration specialists, when one questioner called them to task for not making Bus Stop look exactly like what it looked when it premiered -- 54 years ago!

Helpful pal and radio personality Richard Dinman has two new radio shows up about the lavish Warner Bros. and Sony Film Noir Disc Sets that came out earlier this summer, entitled Descending into the Depths of Film Noir (Noir Icon Charles McGraw , to your right, takes this subject very seriously!). Warner's Film Noir Collection Volume Five is the subject of Part One, in which Richard interviews actress Kathryn Grant Crosby (star of The Phenix City Story) and Warner Vice President George Feltenstein. Part Two covers Sony's Columbia Film Noir Classics Volume Two with a Dinman interview with Sony film restoration technical specialist Rita Belda. She explains why the particular titles in this new collection got the nod for inclusion. Richard also includes this link to a WMPG Online Archive of all of his "Classics Corner on the Air" productions.

Until Mañana, Glenn Erickson

August 09, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

The Ghost Writer

Roman Polanski hasn't lost an iota of his directorial skill, as proved by this superior mystery thriller keyed to present day US-UK relations. Ewan MacGregor is supposed to be rewriting former Prime Minister Pierce Brosnan's memoirs, but is distracted by political intrigues -- and a possible murder. Blu-ray. From Summit Entertainment.

No Orchids for Miss Blandish

This bizarre 1948 English attempt at an oversexed film noir is packed with unintentional laughs and incompatible elements -- brutal violence, unexpectedly raw sexuality, musical numbers? A kidnapped heiress falls for the hoodlum who holds her prisoner in his slick nightclub. This one-of-a-kind insane masterpiece is packed with English actors trying to sound like Yankees: "Ya crazy rat, ya croaked him!" A fine restored presentation from VCI.


Sam Fuller's "cinema fist" tabloid editorial style is all over this ambitious lecture-film about the Neo-Nazi threat in postwar Germany. James Best's infantryman-turned-occupation worker tries to root out the "werewolves", die-hard Nazi terrorists sabotaging the peacetime recovery. With Susan Cummings as Best's German bride. A gift to Sam Fuller fans from the Warner Archive Collection.

Union Station

Paramount re-teamed William Holden and Nancy Olson from Sunset Blvd. in this suspenseful kidnapping tale co-starring Barry Fitzgerald, Jan Sterling and Lyle Bettger. Snappy police-vs-crooks action directed in Los Angeles' Union Station by Rudolph Maté. From Olive Films.


All I can say is that, for film-related activities Savant's luck is holding strong this year. Not long after perusing with envy the schedule for next week's AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists) 20th Anniversary yearly get-together, The Reel Thing, Dennis Doros of Milestone Films invited me to attend on a guest pass. That will allow me to report on the conference first-hand in this column. Archivists and studio restoration specialists come together every year for this 3-day event, so I'll be able to see in person some of the professionals that I write about. This is one film "convention" where the main point of interest will be the special presentations -- if I attend any of the screenings, they'll be icing on the cake.

I'm stepping up the pace on reviews today in an effort to get out timely coverage of worthy films -- which is my prime responsibility here. Discs that will be covered in the next column date should be Volker Schlöndorff's Voyager, the weird Carny, Terry Zwigoff's Crumb (Blu-ray), UK correspondent Lee Broughton's review of The Corridor People and Kino's Blu-ray of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.

Finally, a must-see link from a friendly Savant reader who keeps circulating the best of what pops up on the web. This time it's an especially impressive TV commercial, Snowball. It reminds me a bit of a film I did in High School about a bowling ball that gets loose and takes on a mind of its own. Only (cough!) funnier and more coherent. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

August 06, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Kim Novak Film Collection

Sony presents five new / or remastered Kim Novak films from the 1950s, her best work for Columbia: Picnic, Pal Joey, Jeanne Eagels, Bell, Book and Candle, Middle of the Night. The set includes the unexpected participation of the interview & publicity-shy Novak herself, in commentaries and featurettes that reveal the star as exceptionally intelligent and self-aware. Highly recommended.

Brewster McCloud

Robert Altman's first "personal" film after M*A*S*H is a collage of half-dreamed ideas, interesting images and quirky performances ... some of which are funny and some of which are merely weird. Starring the instant Altman stock company (Sally Kellerman, John Shuck, Rene Auberjonois) and introducing the delightful Shelley Duvall. Warner Archive Collection .

Dark City

Charlton Heston makes his movie debut in a starring role, in Hal Wallis' odd film noir about a disillusioned gambler hunted by a homicidal maniac. With Lizabeth Scott, Jack Webb and Viveca Lindfors, this picture has a strange moral tone. Olive Films.


I've just received a screener of the new Blue Underground Blu-ray of Machine Gun McCain, the unusual Italian-but-filmed-in-America gangster saga with John Cassavetes and a great cast. I've got a big backlog of titles to get out, and the disc doesn't street for three weeks, but I'll get a review going right away.

VCI just announced a second volume in its branded line Positively No Refunds Double Feature, Vol. 2, due out in October: Errol Flynn's final opus Cuban Rebel Girls and the logic-defying Untamed Women, a movie about babes & stock footage dinosaurs on a South Seas Island. VCI usually has incredibly good elements for these things, as seen in their earlier release of the, ah, unique sci fi thriller King Dinosaur.

Joe Dante of Trailers from Hell is circulating a great The Nation article on Harry Truman's personal "supervision" of the editing of the Hollywood movie The Beginning or the End. That movie purports to be the true story of the development and dropping of the bomb, but is a pack of lies -- as is its trailer, which is viewable in the article.

I'm having a mini-argument with friends over the merits of what is considered one of the worst, if not the worst, Z-grade monster movie of the 1960s, The Creeping Terror. Now somebody's gone and made a documentary about it, which I'd kind of like to see! The webpage for Creep! is viewable here.

The AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists) is holding their 20th Anniversary yearly get-together, The Reel Thing, next week in Hollywood. I'm interested in the schedule as they're showing new restorations of Doctor Zhivago and Fantasia and Frank Capra's silent So This Is Love, along with restoration demo-lectures on Bus Stop, Poto & Cabengo, Metropolis and Wanda. A surprise screening is scheduled for the final night. Luckily, I have a couple of film archivist friends who may (if they like me that week) fill me in on the details. If DVD Savant is fully up and running by then, I'll forward any interesting news to this column.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson

August 04, 2010

Savant's new reviews today are

Black Narcissus

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's Technicolor tale follows the adventure of nuns disturbed by the exotic locale of their new convent. One of the top British films of all time, now in an amazingly briliant Blu-ray edition. With Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron and David Farrar, with Flora Robson, Sabu, and a teenaged Jean Simmons. From Criterion.

Five Star Final

Edward G. Robinson's newspaper editor plays along with a policy of ruining the lives of reformed citizens with sensational news exposés, all for the glory of increasing circulation. The persecution of an acquitted murderer leads to tragedy. A vintage early talkie social reform movie from Mervyn LeRoy, also starring Ona Munson and Boris Karloff. From the Warner Archive Collection.

Trouble in the Sky
(a.k.a. Cone of Silence)

An absorbing and realistic aviation drama based on real events in England. An excellent pilot flies by the book, yet flawed takeoff procedures and company policy saddle him with the black mark of "pilot error". With Bernard Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Craig, George Sanders and Gordon Jackson. From VCI.


No, the big uploading fix for Savant isn't fixed yet, but somebody at the host company took mercy on me and uploaded some files manually, so I have a couple of reviews up. Hopefully I can do the same thing every couple of days until I catch up. After that, if I can just get this situation fixed for real ...

Joe Dante has directed a new serialized horror thriller called Splatter, now viewable on Hulu. Starring Corey Feldman, it's an interactive show that gives the viewer a choice of directions to take at the end of each episode. According to the synopsis, "Death Metal lead singer Johnny Splatter commits suicide after uttering a voodoo curse", which cues an orgy of back-from-the-dead killings.

Thanks to Kino I just got in a screener of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, so that odd amour fou title will be added to the Savant queue. Other new arrivals are Black Orpheus and Shogun Assassin, both in glorious Blu-ray; and just tonight I saw The Ghost Writer for the first time, and it's really good. Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson.

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

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