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August 30, 2013

Savant's new reviews today are:

Lifeguard

A time capsule back to the So-Cal beach scene of 1975, this sleeper hit captures the laid-back vibe of the times. Sam Elliot is perfect as the aging lifeguard who may have been on the beach too long; dream girls Anne Archer and Kathleen Quinlan are the women in his life. It presents a surprising picture of '70s attitudes toward sex: how Sam handles various offenders on the beach, and especially his love affair with an underage girl. Yet the movie stays true to its time. Also with Parker Stevenson. From The Warner Archive Collection / Paramount.
8/31/13

The Devil Bat
Blu-ray Remastered Edition

Researcher Bela Lugosi works out his personal pet peeves by sending a monstrous, aftershave-guided bat to kill members of two rich families. Long viewable only in pitiful PD copies, this HD Remastered Edition benefits from an original film element carefully preserved by Bob Furmanek. The special edition comes with a commentary by Richard Harland Smith. In Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
8/31/13

and

Q: The Winged Serpent
Blu-ray

Our second flying killer for the day is Larry Cohen's crazy tale of an Aztec God-lizard on the loose for a madcap Manhattan weekend. Michael Moriarty gives a marvelous performance as a drugged-out thief holding the city up for a million, before he reveals the hideout of a beast that leaves decapitated bodies scattered on rooftops and sidewalks. David Carradine, Richard Roundtree and Candy Clark round out the acting honors, and the clever monster makes some surprising "boo!" entrances. In Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
8/31/13




Hello!

It's labor day weekend, and you can bet that I put today's column for DVD Savant together yesterday -- if I watch a movie today, it'll be some feature I already love and don't have to think about for a review.

A fun science article is circulating among Sci-Fi fans. I wouldn't start tracing your family tree back to Mars quite yet, but senior SPACE.COM editor Mike Wall writes in this article that Earth Life Likely Came from Mars, Study Suggests. It's a serious news piece, that actually begins with the words, "We may all be Martians".

Reading down the brief notice doesn't reveal any smoking Martian heat rays, but it's certainly enough to raise an eyebrow, and maybe even elicit the ire of religious fundamentalists and scoffing TV commentators. Remember that the nutcase 1952 anti-communist movie Red Planet Mars tells us that God lives on Mars. When I received the forward of the article, the subject line on the Email was, "Quatermass Was Right!" Image left: the Martians create a devil in their own image in 1967's Quatermass and the Pit.

The HTV announced a blurb from Olive Films a few days back, outlining the company's lineup of titles between now and the end of 2014. The truly impressive list cancels all doubt but that Olive is the filmic equivalent of the legendary Lost Elephant Graveyard, where all "lost" movies go to die. If a title got uprooted from a studio, left behind in an acquisition or was sold by the heirs of its original producer, it looks as if somebody (at Republic? Viacom?) snapped up the rights and just socked the precious film elements away in a vault. Some of these titles have seen release on VHS or laserdisc, but others have been M.I.A. for decades. Here's the rundown:

more Betty Boop Cartoon Collections, The Pawnbroker, The Bells of St. Mary, Stranger on the Prowl, Sleep My Love, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, That's My Man, I've Always Loved You, Magnificent Doll, Forever Female, Up the Junction, Home of the Brave, Johnny Come Lately, Flying Tigers, The North Star / Armored Attack, Operation Petticoat, Distant Drums, Good Sam, High School Confidential, Love Happy, Sands of Iwo Jima, South of St. Louis, Try and Get Me (aka The Sound of Fury), So This is New York, Arch of Triumph, Caught, The Lost Moment, Men in War, The Other Love, Cauldron of Blood, Beware, My Lovely, Outrage, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Man on the Roof, The Adalen Riots, Elvira Madigan, Raven's End, Fedora, The Stationmaster's Wife (Uncut Version), Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (uncut never-before-seen version), J'Accuse (1938), Ophelia (Chabrol), The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers, Guilty of Romance, Himizu.

There are elusive horror pictures in there, several Bo Widerberg pictures, a Sam Fuller neo-noir, a couple of rare classic films noir, a Joseph Losey picture made in exile, a Cy Endfield picture that got him exiled, beloved Cary Grant pictures, a classic mermaid comedy, a couple of Leo McCareys, several by Frank Borzage, a Max Ophuls, an Anthony Mann war picture, two John Wayne war pictures, a Sidney Lumet art film, two by Douglas Sirk, an Al Zugsmith, an Ida Lupino, a Lewis Milestone, an Abel Gance pacifist horror classic ... and perhaps the last Billy Wilder film to make it to disc. The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers is an omnibus movie with segments by Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and Roman Polanski.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



August 27, 2013

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Devil's Backbone
Blu-ray

Guillermo del Toro's second Spanish-language horror epic weaves a classic ghost story into the already accursed situation of the Spanish Civil War. A lonely orphanage hides a vengeful spirit among its secrets, while a ticking bomb in its courtyard reminds the teachers that a Royalist massacre may be just days or hours away. With Marisa Paredes and Federico Luppi, and one of those phantom children viewers never forget. With excellent extras including a video piece examining the linkage to Fascism and revenge in the Spanish Civil War. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/27/13

Three Faces East

The irrepressably perverse Erich von Stroheim is the whole show in this early talkie about a German deep cover agent working in the house of a British Sea Lord. Constance Bennett helps him intercept official naval orders and Anthony Bushell is the officer who knows she's a fake but stays silent. But von Stroheim steals the spotlight as the cultured butler, who expresses his infatuation with Bennett by fondling her silk underwear! The twist? Somebody is playing double (or is it triple?) agent. Directed by Roy Del Ruth. From The Warner Archive Collection.
8/27/13

Boy
Blu-ray

New Zealand's Taika Waititi demonstrates his unerring talent for directing children in this beautiful, interesting tale of a modern Maori kid visited by his father, an immature and reckless jailbird. His adventures capture the spirit of youthful exuberance peeking out of a less-than-optimum childhood. Relaxed and stylish, yet true to the young-teen experience, where "Boy's" idea of a date is to invite the girl of his dreams to just sit in dad's car. Includes Waititi's Oscar-nominated short subject Two Cars, One Night. In Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
8/27/13

and

Sexy Beast
Blu-ray

Ray Winstone is an overweight retired hood who wants nothing more to do with the London mob, and Ben Kingsley is the ferocious kingpin sent to force him to participate in a risky, technically complicated heist. It's a tense, stylized crime pic as only the Brits can make them. It's amazing how frighteningly formidable the rather slight Kingsley can make himself appear. He garnered an Oscar nomination as the terrifying man who won't take no for an answer. With Ian McShane as a crime boss and James Fox a dissolute toff aiding the robbery from the inside. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
8/27/13




Hello!

The people I've met reviewing for DVD Savant! This week I'm knocked out by a piece of writing by Gordon A. Thomas, with whom I've been corresponding since at least 2006. I covered Kino's restored Blu-ray of Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen last December, at which time Gordon told me he'd be undertaking an in-depth essay on the film. Well, it's finished and is now readable at the Bright Lights page. The 'essay' could easily be a short book unto itself. Gordon digs into the story of Siegfried and Kriemhild, contrasting Lang and Thea von Harbou's adaptation with various legends, the old spoken tale, and other modern interpretations like the Wagner opera. In other words, it's an education for simple folk such as I, that watch Die Nibelungen and ask, "so where are the Valkryies? Isn't Brunhilde supposed to be sort of a goddess, or second cousin to a god?

Even more fascinating is Thomas' analysis of the royal politics in the film. He argues that the dastard Hagen is actually a loyal vassal faithfully protecting his king. It's the leading characters that are weak, blind, or just plain can't keep their royal mouths shut. As a National Epic the movie slams the Burgundian proto-Germans as incompetents locked into rigid codes of conduct. The gloriously bleak Twilight of the Gods is really one big death wish. Gordon also questions the story's supposed affinity with the Nazi ethos, pointing up the non-alignmen of the world of the Burgundians and that of Hitler's National Socialists.

Gordon's essay-monograph expanded my thinking about a movie / cultural puzzle, making it a little less alien to my experience. I think I'll read it again when the opportunity arises. Should anybody wish to contact Mr. Thomas, I'd be happy to pass along messages.

What else is happening? I'm curious to hear more about the restoration job (it sounds pretty difficult) being performed by Severin Films on a horror picture called The House on Straw Hill. The disc is likely a long way off but Severin honcho David Gregory is deep into the project. I've also seen Kino's new Blu-rays of Mario Bava's Five Dolls for an August Moon and the beloved Bela Lugosi PRC turnip The Devil Bat, and hope to have reviews up shortly. Also expect coverage of Budd Boetticher's Bullfighter and the Lady (a personal favorite), Larry Cohen's fun Cue the Winged Serpent Q: The Winged Serpent, and James Cagney's violent gangster romp Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.

I also hope (am not entirely sure) that after Wednesday I'll have a Region B Blu-ray review of House of Usher coming. A little further out (September 24) is Lost and Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive. The release contains the cream of the silent features (and fragments thereof) uncovered several years ago in New Zealand, including John Ford's silent picture about actors, Upstream.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



August 23, 2013

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Extraordinary Adventures
of Adèle Blanc-Sec

Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy

The ills that ail the movie industry will not be resolved until great shows like this one stop getting ignored. Luc Besson brings to life the classic French graphic novel series about a French beauty who's an author, archeologist and adventuress in a slightly fantastic Paris of 1911. This marvelously witty and spirited action-comedy combines two Adèle stories: a newly hatched, ptelepathic pterodactyl pterorrizes the City of Light, while Mlle. Blanc-Sec revives a genteel Egyptian mummy named Patmosis to cure her paralyzed sister. Louise Bourgoin and an unrecognizably made-up Mathieu Amalric star. In Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy from Shout! Factory.
8/24/13

Fire Maidens of Outer Space
Blu-ray

Wonder of wonders -- one of the bottom-barrel creature features of childhood TV weekends surfaces in an incredible perfect HD transfer, in all its uncut, uncouth glory. Five astronauts travel to the 13th moon of Jupiter to find a race of ex-Atlantean dancing babes that live to cavort in a walled garden palace. Outside skulks "the creature", a black-clad bogeyman; he misses out on the Pagan choreography, all danced to needle-drop cues from composer Borodin. Despite these 200 words, the movie defies description -- to be understood it must be endured. Step aside Citizen Kane and Vertigo: when word of this classic gets around, there'll be a new #1 on the Best Movie lists. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/24/13

Tarzan and the Slave Girl

Lean & cool Lex Barker cuts a fine jungle figure in his second RKO romp as the Lord of the Apes. The eventful story includes a lost city, a strange disease, kidnapped beauties (from Howard Hughes' personal stable, no doubt) and a one-shot Jane, played by Vanessa Brown. But the big surprise is the saucy French actress Denise Darcel, who lusts after Lex almost as violently as she fends off the unwanted advances of slimy Anthony Carbone. They could have used Denise in San Diego lately. Plenty of jungle violence and skullduggery when our heroes are sealed in stone tomb! With Hurd Hatfield and Arthur Shields; from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/24/13

and

Only The Valiant
Blu-ray

Dry, by-the-book cavalry officer Gregory Peck has the perfect solution for unpopularity at his Apache-besieged Arizona fort -- select the troopers and officers that hate him the most, and take the bunch of 'em on a suicide mission! Beaucoup treachery, backbiting, disloyalty and Irish drinking ensue before those pesky, PC-challenged Red Men attack. A great cast really helps: Ward Bond, Neville Brand, Steve Brodie, Gig Young, and Lon Chaney Jr. as a muslim trooper intent on killing Captain Peck. Also starring the ill-fated Barbara Peyton, when she was still a rising starlet getting good parts. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/24/13




Hello -- Four reviews today !

For today's column I have a review of a new book. It's for students of film and those interested in the cultural image of Ireland as presented in movies. Scholar Joseph Paul Moser's oddly titled analytical film study Irish Masculinity on Screen: The Pugilists and Peacemakers of John Ford, Jim Sheridan and Paul Greengrass examines directors with similar themes to get a handle on the issue of Irish liberation. It begins as a conventional breakdown of John Ford's screen characters and quickly moves to a deeper investigation of Ford's major political shift after WW2. Along the way we're offered (finally) a strong argument that John Wayne's image as a patriot is a cultural fraud. Moser argues that the mythical image of Ireland put forward in Ford films like The Quiet Man expresses a patriarchal tyranny common to many dramatic depictions of Irish culture. The author disassembles Ford's liberal pictures with Henry Fonda and then examines the director's conservative films during his John Wayne years -- his persuasive take on The Searchers' Ethan Edwards is one I never considered.

Ford's conservative vision is contrasted with a newer group of films by Jim Sheridan and Paul Greengrass, that make the controversial issue of Irish political violence their central concern. The struggle to stop the cycles of terror & retribution in Northern Ireland is seen as a problem of overcoming this patriarchal mindset that cannot think beyond crude notions of vengeance. With Sheridan's films Moser deals with the problem of Irish stereotypes -- he charts them out -- and moves on to the gritty honesty of Paul Greengrass. FYI, Neil Jordan's Michael Collins is described as superficial; Moser gives his endorsement to Ken Loach's The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Perhaps the best thing about Moser's book is that, unlike most film writing acknowledging the existence of political reality, it has a positive, constructive attitude.

The well-written Pugiists and Peacemakers is an entertaining academic discourse that will engage readers interested in a study that integrates film and political struggle. Moser's lengthy footnotes extend his thesis, presenting additional information, quotes and references to back up his arguments.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



August 19, 2013

Savant's new reviews today are:

Greystoke:
The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

Blu-ray

Hugh Hudson's enormous 1984 epic provides an engrossing origins story with no escapist jungle adventure and no fantasy elements. Lord Greystoke instead returns to Scotland, to struggle in his role as an ill-equipped heir for a huge family estate. Ralph Richardson and James Fox take top billing while Christopher Lambert is a new kind of Tarzan. In her first film the lovely Andie MacDowell is cruelly robbed -- they redubbed her entire role. Marvelous makeup effects by Rick Baker, in an equally marvelous jungle setting. In Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/20/13

From Up on Poppy Hill
Blu-ray + DVD

The Ghibli studio presents the charming, intimate story of a delicate high school girl in love with a fellow student while still trying to overcome the loss of her father when she was a small child. Goro Miyazaki directs from his father's script; the movie's stunningly beautiful images convey a calm and peaceful nostalgia for daily life in Yokohama circa 1963. Presented in both its original Japanese language, and dubbed into English by Hollywood celebrities. In Blu-ray + DVD from Cinedigm / Ghibli Studios.
8/20/13

and

Walk Softly, Stranger

Joseph Cotten is a gambler crook who drifts into a small town and talks his way into a friendship with the richest girl in town, who happens to be confined to a wheelchair. It's all a cover for a planned crime, but the crook doesn't expect to fall in love, or for the heiress (Alida Valli) to make him so happy. Problem is, rival hoods have tracked him down to his quiet hideaway. The gorgeous Valli appears with the gentlemanly Cotten in an RKO feature filmed before but released almost a year after their famous The Third Man. Also with John McIntire, Paul Stewart and ... Jack Paar and directed by Robert Stevenson. From The Warner Archive Collection.
8/20/13





Hello!

Lots of nice feedback on my Shane review, I'm happy to say, and only a couple of text corrections this week (although they were pretty embarrasing). Readers flipped out over the bizarro Egyptian TV Spots as well.


Correspondent Robozol fowards a YouTube audio interview with Gloria Grahame from 1979 that I'm listening to; it's very interesting so far. And with that I'm off to search out another solution to my Region Free player problem, so as to make good on my promise to review the Arrow House of Usher Region B Blu-ray. Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



August 16, 2013

Savant's new reviews today are:

Shane
Blu-ray

George Stevens' classic finally surfaces in the restored Blu-ray it deserves, and in the right aspect ratio as well. Alan Ladd is the ultimate man of mystery, a gunman-cavalier who saves the day for the sodbusters, thus insuring that America grows strong and free. It's a good legend, anyway -- the scenery and technical details are breathtaking, the editing flawless and the audience appeal never bettered. With Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, Brandon DeWilde and Jack Palance as the nastiest villain in black since the Wicked Witch of the West. In Blu-ray from Warners/Paramount.
8/17/13

The Disappearance
Blu-ray

Donald Sutherland is an complacently competent killer for hire until his wife leaves him, and his next "hit" suddenly begins to look like a trap. Stuart Cooper's sophisticated, insightful story of infidelity and double crosses is a great guessing game, co-starring David Hemmings, David Warner, John Hurt and Christopher Plummer. This icy thriller has been rescued from obscurity and a distributor that recut it into incoherence. Restored and director approved, with interesting extras, in Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
8/17/13

The House of Seven Corpses
Blu-ray

A old fashioned, reasonably creepy horror offering filmed in Salt Lake City, this stars John Ireland, Faith Domergue and John Carradine. A film crew shooting a horror picture in an old mansion is threatened by the same occult forces that killed seven people there many years before. A great new transfer of this old TV favorite, with an excellent video interview with John Carradine. In Blu-ray from .
8/17/13

and

Betty Boop:
The Essential Collection Volume 1

Blu-ray

Boop-Boop-a-Doop! Max Fleischer's Betty Boop makes an HD debut in twelve classic cartoons, eleven of them from the Pre-code era. She's pert, saucy and downright adult-rated, and the bop-to-the-jazz-beat "Toontown" animation style is bizarre, hypnotic. Half these cartoons have no plot, just a series of surreal, oversexed gags. Volume One is the first of four proposed Betty Boop cartoon collections -- great, rare stuff indeed. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/17/13




Hello!

Well hey, I'm having to regroup with my All-region BD player. I think if I do get it going, I'll just leave it on region B and use another player for domestic discs. That means a serious delay on Arrow's fancy BD of House of Usher. I'll direct disappointed readers to Nathaniel Thompson's coverage, which will probably be up before the weekend is over. Sorry about that.

Helpful friend (and legendary makeup artist) Craig Reardon turns our attention to more pressing matters -- he's located the "famous" 1975 British TV Interview with Helen Mirren on YouTube. She lives up to her press reputation -- the interviewer introduces her as if she were X-rated goods. A great lady indeed.

I've waited a few days but can't hold off any longer... Joe Dante has circulated some bizarre Egyptian TV Spots that will either get you to buy Panda Cheese, or give you permanent nightmares. These seven spots get an A+ in my book -- the makers have a sure instinct for weird humor. Question: will any measure of a pop song, repeated like the one in these spots, suddenly sound sinister?

That's it -- four reviews today and hopefully as many coming on Tuesday. Thanks for reading -- Glenn Erickson



August 12, 2013

Savant's new reviews today are:

To the Wonder
Blu-ray

Terrence Malick revisits the same elegant, terrific-looking bag of cinematic tricks for this rumination on romance, love and the search for higher values (maybe). It resists conventional storytelling, hits any number of emotional notes square and strong, but forgets to make us care about the people involved. Is Malick not connecting the dots, or are we too thick to perceive his wondrous insights? With Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem. In Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment.
8/13/13

Down the 'Gate

UK correspondent Lee Broughton makes a welcome return with this six-episode collection of a Brit TV series starring Reg Varney, from 1976. It's the randy adventures of a bunch of co-workers at a large fish market. Fish porter Varney (I think it means he hauls them around on a dolly) foolishly tries to best his competing porters, and is a victim of his own get-rich schemes. With Reg Lye and Percy Herbert. A PAL Region 2 DVD from Network Distributing.
8/13/13

and

The Earrings of Madame de...
Blu-ray

Max Ophuls' civilized masterpiece returns in HD looking more elegant than ever. The tenuous society marriage of Danielle Darrieux and Charles Boyer is based upon his patient indulgence of her reckless affairs; but a liaison with Italian diplomat Vittorio De Sica is one affair too many. How many ways can one say "exquisite?" -- the picture is devastatingly insightful and eventually tragic. With a great many impressive extras, including interviews with key Ophuls collaborators and the entire source novel. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/13/13




Hello!

A couple of fun links:

Gary Teetzel forwards this link to Mental Floss, listing 11 Things We No Longer See in Movie Theaters. Some of them are a bit much, but the first was so important to my memories of moviegoing that I really miss it .... I remember the beginning of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea trailer playing as the curtains opened, with the lights of the Nautilus screaming forward at a thousand cheering kids. Sink that ship, Nemo!

Max Fraley sends along this fifty-actress morph-a-rama YouTube item, Different Dreams, from Greta Garbo to Natalie Portman. I'm sure it's been up forever, but it's still interesting. I wish there were a textless version to serve as a quiz. It's interesting that the modern women are just as beautiful, but not all of them are as distinctive, as the classic dames of the screen.

The Arrow House of Usher Region B Blu-ray arrived, and I'm so far unable to get my all-region player to behave, and switch over. And I'd like to review all those exclusive extras right away, dang-nab it! We'll see how far I get by Saturday.

Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson



August 09, 2013

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Driver
Blu-ray

Walter Hill's existential car chase film pits "The Driver" Ryan O'Neal against "The Detective" Bruce Dern on the mean street of Los Angeles, with "The Gambler" Isabelle Adjani providing attractive scenery. Good minimalist action stylization, as cops and crooks convert the city streets into a demolition derby arena. But there are some serious charisma issues with the leading man. With an Isolated Music Score Track. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
8/10/13

The Damned (Les maudits)
Blu-ray

An incredibly welcome find that only the most informed aficionados of French film will know about -- an ultra-realistic WW2 submarine picture. It's not about combat, but a motley group of Nazis and their hangers-on attempting to escape to South America. With a great cast of performers including Marcel Dalio, Henri Vidal, Florence Marly, Paul Bernard, and Michel Auclair. Decades before Das boot, we see scenes shot in the cramped interior of a U-boat. The director is René Clément, and an hour-long documentary on his career is one of the most interesting I've seen -- he was a favorite director of Alfred Hitchcock. In Blu-ray from The Cohen Film Collection.
8/10/13

and

The Hot Spot / Killing Me Softly
Blu-ray Double Bill

MGM licenses a pair of erotic crime dramas that feature plenty of star-caliber skin, for guys who like that kind of thing (who, me?). Dennis Hopper guides dream girls Jennifer Connelly and Virginia Madsen as they drive crook Don Johnson sex-crazy. And Heather Graham and Joe Fiennes heat up several sex scenes, occasionally coming up for air to establish a murky murder plot. Good encodings, good price, no cover, no minimum, look but don't touch. A Blu-ray Double Bill from Shout! Factory.
8/10/13




Hello! The weekend looms ahead and I'm eager to get going, so this will be a short notice.

Readers are revved up to read about Shane but my review for that one will be posting first at TCM... I'm not sure if it's up yet.

It looks like I have Arrow's Region B Blu-ray of House of Usher on the way. I couldn't resist the fat list of extras, which include the participation of Joe Dante.

Next, by now most of us have heard about Orson Welles' rediscovered film Too Much Johnson -- I received the news from about 8 sources at once but this is a link given by the helpful Stefan Andersson.

More news from the upcoming big Hollywood 3-D Festival at the Egyptian theater: Bob Furmanek wrote to tell me that the premiere of his 3-D restoration of the movie Dragonfly Squadron will be showing in the festival, on September 14. According to Furmanek, Allied Artists never distributed the movie in 3-D, so this will be something of a real public premiere. Here's a trailer.

Just in from Olive Films is a Blu-ray of Betty Boop cartoons, Betty Boop The Essential Collection Volume 1. I'll be reviewing these right away -- one 1932 cartoon ends with a character morphing into a very disturbing caricature of Fredric March in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I've also watched Terrence Malick's new picture To the Wonder and am grinding up the experience in my head before venturing an opinion ... it's not an easy picture to write about.

I'm sure I've forgotten something but that's it for now ... see you back on Tuesday (or Monday, really!) -- Glenn Erickson



August 06, 2013

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Autobiography of
Nicolae Ceauşescu

This 3-hour Romanian documentary assembles uncut propaganda/publicity newsreels generated by the Ceauşescu regime from the 1950s to the day in 1989 when he was overthrown and summarily executed, along with his First Lady. It's a chance to see how a totalitarian dictatorship used film and TV to perpetuate a 'Cult of Personality'. Includes some staggeringly spectacular footage from Ceauşescu's state welcome gala in North Korea. See him hobnob with everyone from De Gaulle to Nixon to Carter. Great history, undiluted and unmediated from Kino Lorber.
8/06/13

The Awful Dr. Orlof
Blu-ray

The late Jess Franco's first horror film is an eventful gothic chiller with plenty of screaming victims, a crazed mad doctor and the ultimate henchman, a mute, blind, bug-eyed quasi-zombie who likes to molest women and answers to the name "Morpho". Howard Vernon stars as the madman stealing faces to graft onto his disfigured daughter. With good new extras, including a Tim Lucas commentary and a new David Gregory interview with Franco himself. In Blu-ray from Kino Lorber / Redemption.
8/06/13

and

Cry Vengeance
Blu-ray

Scarred ex-con Mark Stevens has but one thought after his release from prison: track down and kill the mobster responsible for the death of his wife and child. He finds his target - and the target's daughter - in an Alaskan fishing village and prepares to kill them both. But the true guilty party is actually another hit man. Stevens directs as well, getting good performances from Martha Hyer, Douglas Kennedy, Mort Mills and Skip Homeier. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/06/13




Hello!

An odd bit of fun to report... a short article I wrote has been translated into German. I was invited to write an introduction to an extensive, sixty-title retrospective of film noir movies called Ikonen der Schwarzen Serie for the Munich Filmmuseum, Which starts this September 6. I've written program notes before but these are published in a glossy Film Festival catalog, the kind I once saved when I attended old Filmex festivals here in Los Angeles. The shows, all projected on film, are organized around writers, directors and actors, and add up to an excellent cross-section of the first '40s noir wave of expressionistic, romantic thrillers. I was shocked to see the Deutsche translation come back almost instantaneously. By the quality of his email notes, editor and festival organizer Christophe Michel's English skills are better than my own. I have no doubt that he liberally adapted my style to work for a German reader -- even though I avoided pseudo-clever asides and idioms as much as I could.

Anyway, it was a challenge and a privilege -- I can now say that DVD Savant has been translated into foreign languages all over the world! Sort of.

Perhaps you've heard of Time Warner's feud with CBS. In Los Angeles Time Warner cable has dropped the CBS affiliate altogether in a sort of war being waged with propaganda directed at us lowly consumers. Each side makes it sound like they're the innocent party, while the other is a greedy monster trying to rip off the customer. It'll soon boil down to slogans, like Chairman Mao vs. Chang Kai Shek. I'm waiting for Time-Warner to broadcast "Five Minute Hate" PSAs against that evil conglomerate CBS.

As I rely on NBC for my National News and can survive for a while without Letterman, I think I'll be okay. But on Sunday Time-Warner dropped our Internet access as well. If Tuesday's Savant is delayed, that is why... no web access, no upload. To paraphrase Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three I'd hoped to get Tuesday's post uploaded on Monday, because DVDtalk likes the Newsletter to be submitted promptly on Sunday night.

Thanks for reading! -- Glenn Erickson



August 02, 2013

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Court-Martial
of Billy Mitchell

Blu-ray

Otto Preminger takes on the military establishment in this true story of a general who refused to stay silent about Army mismanagement - but the resulting picture stumps for bigger arms spending just as did every other Hollywood military picture of the 1950s. Gary Cooper is unusually tame as the Father of the Air Force, a firebrand for modernization who turned the War Department on its ear. With Rod Steiger, Jack Lord and Elizabeth Montgomery. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/03/13

WUSA
Blu-ray

Paul Newman produced and stars in this prophetic thriller about a radio DJ who hires on to help a New Orleans politico turn public opinion against the so-called Welfare State. Everything clicks but the movie forgets to let us hear just what kind of racist propaganda the radio station WUSA is supposedly broadcasting. Blessed with a powerhouse cast -- Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Laurence Harvey, Pat Hingle and Cloris Leachman. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/03/13

and

Terror on a Train

Glenn Ford and Anne Vernon star in this scaled down suspense thriller shot on location in Birmingham, England. Rushed out to defuse a shipment of naval mines, industrial engineer Ford must somehow check out eleven freight cars stacked with the buggers, any one of which might have been tampered with. And he has only seven hours to get the job done. And this is the night when Ford's wife has decided to walk out on him! It's an early example of the modern, stripped-down suspense drama, where we barely know the people but are immersed in the high-strung jeopardy. From The Warner Archive Collection.
8/03/13




Hello!

Joe Dante has sent along a link to a great documentary viewable online -- Kubrick and the Illuminati: Don't You Want To Go Where The Rainbow Ends? It's a video essay by Michel Ciment about Eyes Wide Shut that gets really, really interesting, much moreso than other shows that strain our patience to 'reveal' weird ideas in Kubrick movies. Ciment makes a great case ... I like this just for its own sense of discovery.

As a big-time fan of Science Fiction movies, the list of classic-era films I haven't seen is beginning to dwindle. Some are foreign productions from the '30s onward, and others are domestic pictures that have somehow evaded me. When I worked at MGM back in the '90s they never kept a viewable copy around of the least of the Gardner-Levy horror & sci-fi pictures done for United Artists, The Flame Barrier. I think I saw about twenty seconds of it on TV back in around 1962, when our reception for channel 11's Chiller Theater was so poor I couldn't see what I was looking at. Over the years I've read that the movie was a dud, and I've been told flat out that it is bad by wise folk like Bill Warren. I finally got hold of a screen-able copy for movie night here at Savant Headquarters. How bad could it be? It has Arthur Franz and a deadly satellite from space. Why does Savant do this? It's like Sir Hilary and those mountains in Nepal. They're there!

Well, the movie is 55 minutes of nondescript jungle trek footage, with mostly irrelevant action and drama, followed by maybe fifteen minutes that are science-fiction-y. We're told that the dreaded rainy season is expected, but the most our explorers must put up with are some mud puddles. I think we see them driving through the same puddle three times, in an attempt to stretch the idea out. It's supposed to be Mexico, but a stock shot cutaway shows us an African hyena.

When we finally get to the downed satellite, nothing adds up. The 'flame barrier' is described early in the show as an invisible force field in space, against which rockets burst into flame. But there's a smaller barrier around the downed satellite too. A supposed gooey outer space monster has spilled from the inside of the space probe; it just sits and glows and looks like a big pile of Saran Wrap. We've seen natives that were burned by being near it, and one of them disintegrates to nothingness. But the original guy who opened the satellite and put it in the cave (why?) is caught in the Saran Wrap, and is intact. Anything that gets too close to the 'flame barrier' force-field zone around the satellite bursts into flame or disintegrates. Yet the corpse is inside the perimeter and is intact. The Barrier doubles in size every two hours, which makes it essential that our heroes neutralize it in just fifteen minutes, before it gets too big to allow anyone to approach. This last suspense bit seems lifted from time traps in the movies The Magnetic Monster and The Monolith Monsters. The problem is resolved almost as soon as it's discovered, and the movie ends with a big thud.

Oh yes, a chimpanzee-astronaut comes back in the satellite. Just when we're wondering how it survived crashing in the jungle, and not being disintegrated by the Thing from Space, the ape casually walks into the flame barrier and is wiped out.

So, another title gets crossed off the list. The Flame Barrier is not the worst 'discovery' I've made but it's a real non-starter. I can imagine it being a drag as a second feature back in the day. I wonder if UA gave 'Gramercy Pictures' a fixed amount to make The Monster that Challenged the World, The Vampire, The Return of Dracula and this one, and The Flame Barrier got short-changed because the money had all run out?

The other similar '50s picture I saw this week was Olive Films' new Blu-ray of Fire Maidens of Outer Space, a real "Z" effort from England that I never seemed able to finish when it showed on TV back in the day. FMOOS makes Flame Barrier look like a classy studio film, but it is even more fun to watch. You know, because that's what we monster fans do. I can't wait to review it.

Thanks for reading!

Glenn Erickson


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

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