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March 31, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

Odd Man Out
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

  Carol Reed's classic never looked better. Wounded and abandoned on a raid, James Mason's Irish rebel is begins a feverish odyssey through Belfast, handed off from those who wish to help to those that want to profit from him. Kathleen Ryan commits her life to seeing Mason set free; Robert Newton is the deranged artist who wants to paint the look of death in his eyes. A hugely effective blend of realism and expressionist flourishes; great acting, great direction. Some prefer this to The Third Man. With extras sketching the film's relationship to 'the troubles', and a fine docu about star James Mason. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
3/31/15



Massacre Gun
Arrow Video (US)
Blu-ray + DVD

 Chipmunk-cheeked stone killer Jo Shishido is the center of the action in a Nikkatsu crime picture about a gang war that breaks out after a Yakuza chieftain orders his number two man to kill his own girlfriend. Soaked in violence but also ultra-cool lounge-jazz music, frequently played in after-hours night clubs. One brother is the requisite hothead and the other a coulda-been boxer with broken hands. It's retribution and violence all the way to the finale on an unfinished freeway in a windstorm. Director Yasuharu Hasebe is a disciple of Seijun Suzuki, and uses a similar visual style. In Blu-ray + DVD from Arrow Video (US).
3/31/15


and

U Turn
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

  Oliver Stone is on the loose again, churning out a colorful, well-acted and completely overcooked Southwestern noir annihilating melodrama. Hardboiled and oversexed pulp stereotypes come at us from all sides. Sean Penn's acting is so good that it almost glues the movie together, but the rest of the cast -- Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, Claire Danes, Joaquin Phoenix, Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Voight -- scream and threaten their way through dark double-cross schemes as if they'd been xeroxed from a bad graphic novel. It's blessed with a great Ennio Morricone score (on an Isolated Track) and an interesting commentary with the legendary Mike Medavoy, the über-producer uncredited but behind the scenes on many movies. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
3/31/15






Hello!

I see that the Warner Archive's website has been folded back into the WBShop website... I'd like to hear from readers if they perceive any change in how the company works. They seem to have stopped the almost-daily, highly creative email pub ads, but I still get a weekly update on new releases. Actually, today the WAC announced the Cameron Mitchell - James Whitmore Face of Fire that I wrote about last year in my June 20, 2014 Savant Column (you'll have to scroll down a bit). The new WAC DVD will be properly formatted for widescreen. I'll try to review it soon.



Other discs I am planning to review (which means I have them in hand) are Twilight Time's The Bounty & Solomon and Sheba; Kino's Hester Street; Criterion's Sullivan's Travels, and I might dig back for Olive's Psych-Out.

Not yet in for April but much anticipated are Twilight Time's Zardoz, Shout Factory's Thunder Road (right), The Cohen Group's That Man from Rio & Up to His Ears, Arrow's Blood and Black Lace; Criterion's The River, The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Silence de la mer. I normally don't go into discs I haven't nailed down promises for, but I'm still hoping to review Universal's Silent Running, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun and, if it ever really shows up, The Andromeda Strain.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 28, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

Hand of Death
20th Fox Cinema Archives
DVD

  John Agar is the jolly nerve-warfare scientist who gets a dose of his own joy juice. Before you can say Napalm Napalm Napalm he's been transformed into a mass of puffy black sponge rubber. Seen on this excellent remastered disc (surprise!), what was once a grade-Z graveyard shift '60s snoozer is now a good little monster movie. Yeah, yeah, it's an un-ambitious, plot-challenged mediocrity -- but rather well played (by Agar!) and somewhat creatively directed by ex-dancer Gene Nelson. With Paula Raymond, Butch Patrick and one of the more bizarre movie bogeymen of all time. Few realize that it was remade by Jean-Luc Godard as the recent Goodbye to Language. (am I alone up here?) In DVD from 20th Fox Cinema Archives.
3/28/15



Without A Clue
Olive Films
Blu-ray

  Critics sneered at this Sherlock Holmes comedy, that's actually a lot of fun thanks to amusing performances from Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. It's a concept re-think: Kingsley's Doctor Watson is the brilliant crime solver and 'Holmes' a literary invention, played for the public by a hired ham actor (Caine). Caine's schtick imitating a genius is pretty hilarious, even if some of the jokes run thin. Too broad and basic to compete with Billy Wilder, this 1988 movie is nevertheless a 7% solution of pure fun -- as are almost all affectionate spoofs of Sherlock Holmes. Kingsley is marvelous. Also with Jeffrey Jones, Lysette Anthony and Paul Freeman, with a sweet music score by Henry Mancini. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
3/28/15



The White Buffalo
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  As Wild Bill Hickok, Charles Bronson dons cool sunglasses to do battle with the legendary monster buffalo he sees in his nightmares. The entire bison population of North America is now a pile of bones next to the rail-head, making the huff 'n' puff, locomotive-like Super Buff seem like a ghost from Tatonka Hell. Helping Mr. Squint nail the Moby Dick of the Rockies is Will Sampson's formidable Crazy Horse, a limber Lakota with a Bronson-like "Death Wish" score to settle -- he's taking names and kicking buffalo burger. Carlo Rambaldi's Animatronic monster (Savant saw it in person) is a little wonky, but the movie is better than its reputation. In Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
3/28/15


and

The Day Mars Invaded Earth
20th Fox Cinema Archives
DVD

  What? It's the same &%[email protected]# review as Hand of Death up above. Savant's just padding his review list, cheating like everyone else -- including the downright sneaky Martians that blindside NASA chief Kent Taylor and Marie Windsor's family with an invasion of the doppelgänger people. Beverly Hills real estate agents take notice -- the prime historic property that this film uses as a location isn't just haunted, it's infiltrated and infested with serious Red Planet radicals. Rocket scientists shouldn't be needed to get to the bottom of this invasion, but this particular rocket scientist is definitely not up to the job. In DVD from 20th Fox Cinema Archives.
3/28/15






Hello!

Next week will welcome the Noir City Film Festival back to Hollywood's Egyptian Theater for a 17th go-round. I braved kidney stones last year to see a killer double bill of Hell Drivers and Try and Get Me! on the big screen, with an attentive audience blown away by every sordid revelation and appalling plot twist! Screenings are all introduced by the Czar of Noir Eddie Muller and/or the equally enlightened Duke of the Dark Alan K. Rode, both of the revered Film Noir Foundation. Check out the Full Schedule for this year's slate of gripping tales of murder, double dealing and duplicitous demoiselles.

Kicking things off on opening night April 3 is an Ann Sheridan double bill of a newly-restored Woman on the Run and the David Goodis- penned thriller The Unfaithful. Other hot nights give us British noirs, Argentine noirs and a Cornell Woolrich night pairing a rare 35mm restored print of The Chase with Jacques Tourneur's The Leopard Man (my personal recommendation, although I ought to see those Spanish-language rarities). Write me if you want more can't-lose suggestions. Take it from Savant, these screenings attract the right kind of revival moviegoers -- the attendees remind me of the UCLA movie crowd from the long-gone '70s.

"Duke of the Dark?"


Have a heap of discretionary cash that's giving you grief? Fear not, Savant's consumer advisor Gary Teetzel has located essential keepsakes for the sci-fi fan: Essential Purchase One and Essential Purchase Two. Gary notes that "both come with angry, pissed-off expressions, perfectly capturing the strong emotions we all remember from the movie!"

Yes, you too can have both these action figures for the low, low price of . . . Holy moley... "I'm afraid I can't do that Dave." Gary reports that he'll be holding out for the Mighty Monolith action figure, which should be a little cheaper since it won't have as many points of articulation.


DVD Savant correspondent Joe Baltake asked about an upcoming disc a few weeks ago, and I was able to find him some information. Joe now has an official announcement to back it up: Twilight Time's upcoming Blu-ray of Michael Ritchie's film adaption of the musical The Fantasticks will include an encoding of the original, longer edit, in Standard Def. Back at MGM I saw about twenty minutes of this rare cut before being tossed out of the screening room -- not sure by who. But I understand that it's pretty rare.


I've also been checking out Joe's own film-related blog The Passionate Moviegoer. So far I'm liking what I see - Joe calls Jake Gyllenhall the best actor from last year, and I agree. As yet no sign of the 'questionable' content he warned me about, but I'll keep my hopes up.

Thanks for reading, and putting up with my slightly giddy mood today --- Glenn Erickson



March 24, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Imitation Game
Anchor Bay / Weinstein
Blu-ray + Digital HD

  Last Oscar season's major contender is an impressive movie about a can't-lose double whammy Oscar-bait subject. Fine acting, commendable point of view, strong dramatics -- and then we're given some flat-footed storytelling, along with enough distorted history to make any umpire drop a penalty flag. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keiran Knightley construct a giant Tinkertoy computing device to break the toughest German code ever -- but our secret hero has a bigger secret that, shame on the nation, buries his contribution to the victory and the progress of computer science. But now we know. A Blu-ray + Digital HD Download from Anchor Bay / The Weinstein Company.
3/24/15



The Babadook
IFC /Shout! Factory / Scream Factory
Blu-ray

  It's grim, it's depressing, it seems to gather up all the miseries a single mother could possibly suffer -- and it's a great horror movie, always intelligent, never going for cheap shocks. The director is Jennifer Kent. A cursed children's book helps drag a disturbed boy and his emotionally exhausted mother down a horrible path of insane hallucinations. It's a rarity, a scary show where anything can happen, yet is not unduly cruel or exploitative -- just creepy as all hell. Did I enjoy it? Well, sort of. It has William Friedkin's endorsement, too. In Blu-ray from IFC /Shout! Factory / Scream Factory.
3/24/15


and

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Twilight Time
4K Blu-ray Restoration

 James Mason and Pat Boone -- in his one lasting star vehicle -- explore the interior of the earth and find monsters, mushrooms, massive oceans and the lost city of Atlantis. Writer-producer Charles Brackett broke fresh ground with this big-scale studio fantasy hit, a treasured memory of baby boomers. With a superb stereophonic music score by Bernard Herrmann, auditable on an Isolated Music Track. This new limited edition release is a quantum visual improvement, in a 4K Blu-ray Restoration from Twilight Time.
3/24/15




Hello!

It's time for my promised full report on the gala 're-premiere' of the extended, tweaked, re-mixed version of Steven Spielberg's 1941, last Sunday at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd. Organizer Mike Matessino promoted the screening as a culmination of his five-year effort reconstituting the film's music tracks for a soundtrack CD, and reconstructing the film's preview cut with all the music cues back in the correct scenes. The impressive event sold out quite a bit before show time. Gary Teetzel brought his camera to help me figure out how best to cover the event. We found quite a crowd gathering at the door, where commemorative posters were being sold. Little dog tag-like pendants got us into the VIP section, where, as usual, the real VIPs were vipping merrily away in a small group. Not the best place to seek out handshakes or photos or 'remember me?'s. Then I ran into my old boss, effects miniatures specialst Greg Jein  (above)  and had a good talk.

Gary had overheard that actress Dianne Kay  (right)  was on her way in, and suddenly there she was. She responded to my greeting like a delighted old friend, giving me a chance to renew introductions. Just a complete doll, as ever. We had talked back in 1979 for maybe ten minutes total, if that much; and then again at a laserdisc signing in 1995, but it felt like meeting a member of the family. Unless she wondered who that guy always hanging around the set was, it would be impossible for her to remember me… but who knows. Maybe because of the making-of book?

Matessino preceded the show with a half-hour prologue consisting of a slide show of photos of Hollywood Blvd, and headlines about the fear-generated 'air raid' panic from 1942. Appropriate music played, accompanied by vintage radio recordings of radio announcements from the false air raid. Then came a rare teaser with John Belushi and his P-40 fighter plane, narrated by Dan Aykroyd.

The feature screening was big and loud, and 1941 comes off best big and loud. Every time a big star or favorite player came on screen there was applause. Did Elisha Cook Jr. ever get applause in a screening? He did on Sunday. I have never seen the long version on a screen, which is why the Egyptian was packed with avid fans. When there are just one or two name guests at these things the atmosphere can get weird. Matessino had lined up over a dozen veterans of the production. Most of the guests were on the movie for six months, while Greg Jein's miniatures unit was busy for almost two years.

After the screening Matessino brought all the name celebs up front and the questions started. Most responded with humorous anecdotes. If each guest talked for just ten minutes we'd have been there for two additional hours. As it was the entire audience listened in rapt attention for seventy minutes or so. Verbal tributes were given to the late Wendie Jo Sperber, the powerhouse spirit of the movie. Matessino explained that executive producer John Milius couldn't make it. Writer Bob Gale  (left)  contributed several stories about Milius, most involving guns. He also recounted the terrific bit of timing that brought the 1941 screenplay to Milius' attention.

Both of 1941's romantic 'couples' made the screening and panel. Bobby Di Cicco  (above)  flew in for the show (I'm pretty sure), looking very different but sounding much the same. He praised the film's Jitterbug Dancers, two of whom were in attendance. Dianne Kay remembered the dance riot scene, when she was desperately hoping that she'd be able to hit a difficult action cue for Spielberg in one of the Rube Goldberg gags. Nancy Allen  (below)  described what it was like doing a sex scene in a cramped airplane cockpit, with only the drone-like Louma camera crane poking in her face and Spielberg's voice on a microphone saying, "No that looks terrible, do it the other way." Tim Matheson  (below)  recalled that he was forming a crush on Nancy by the second of what must have been a dozen days of make-out scenes. On the third day she came to work and breathlessly told him that Brian De Palma had just proposed to her.

Twice Oscar-nominated Greg Jein explained how his crew got a second take of the giant (twelve foot diameter) Ferris Wheel model rolling down the model pier and into the Pacific, with just a few hours' turnaround time to repair broken lights and re-plank the entire forty-foot pier. The Wheel rolled many times, but I believe off the end only twice, falling into MGM's giant Esther Williams water tank. 'Polar Bear' girl and former shark-bait swimming stunt artiste Susan Backlinie asked why Steven always waited 'til the dead of winter to send her into the water. Leslie Hoffman talked about stunt-doubling for Wendie Jo Sperber, but added that Wendie did all of her own stunt work in the USO dance riot scene. 'Macey Douglas' Jordan (Brian) Cohen said he still can't believe he got out of school for half a year to be in the film. Producer Buzz Feitshans  (below)  recalled John Belushi and some 'rock stars' destroying a motor home dressing room, while Second Assistant Director Chris Soldo provided accurate details about the kind of unpredictable script changes that occurred during filming. Bob Gale chimed in on that, explaining that the fairly thin script had so many day-to-day changes that they ran out of alternate colors for the replacement pages. (They didn't mention that Gale and his partner Bob Zemeckis also eliminated standard margins to cram more words on each page!)

When Spielberg suddenly decided that the Beach House should fall off a cliff, Bob remembers running to his typewriter and hammering out the entire last daytime scene in just one hour. I was there on set when Spielberg received the instant revision. He took two minutes to check it out, gave a big laugh, and it was officially part of the movie. Who knows how much the budget leapt upward?

I'm glad I was able to be there and pleased that Mike Matessino acknowledged everyone in the audience who worked on the movie in lesser capacities. That old book has given me a bigger association with 1941 than logic merits. The night's only disappointment was that Eddie Deezen came to the pre-film mixer but didn't stay for the screening or the panel. He would have enjoyed the hoots and applause for him when his character Herbie made his entrance: "Safety bar? We don't need no safety bar!"

I think I'm a bit burnt out on 1941 for a few weeks ... but I will try a longer review if a screener for the single-disc Blu-ray release shows up in April.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

(Photos by Gary Teetzel)



March 21, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

First Men in the Moon
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

  It's a new Harryhausen Blu-ray, always a good sign for the biz... and I have no doubt this title will sell out toot sweet if it hasn't already. Harryhausen and Schneer's solitary H.G. Wells venture is a solid entertainment thanks to a charming script by Quatermass scribe Nigel Kneale, who uses a clever flashback structure to make contemporary a story set sixty years in the past. Edward Judd is the raffish troublemaker, Lionel Jeffries the anti-gravity genius and Martha Hyer the woman along for the ride -- an amazing Victorian jaunt to visit the woman in the moon. Twilight Time has exclusive extras that include the participation of the late Harryhausen and one of his most dedicated fellow stop motion animators, Randall William Cook. Plus an Isolated Track for Laurie Johnson's impressive music score. In Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
3/20/15



The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
Olive Films
Blu-ray

  An important noir rediscovery but also an uncommonly sharp 1940s acting piece, about what happens when a romantic outsider intervenes in some twisted family relationships. George Sanders plays against type as a commercial artist dominated by two sisters -- one of them possessive to the point of incest -- who dares fall in love with a no-nonsense gal from the big city. It's a field day for Sanders, Ella Rains, Moyna MacGill and especially the underrated Geraldine Fitzgerald. The movie also bears a strong kinship with the entire Alfred Hitchcock legacy. A curious discussion is included, especially about the film's controversial final scene, which obliterated its chances for greatness. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
3/20/15



Miami Blues
Shout! Factory
Blu-ray

  In his first leading role, young and trim Alec Baldwin shines as Junior Frenger, a weird sociopath-thief who experiences an identity crisis -- he steals a detective's badge and gun and has so much success committing crimes with them that he forgets who he is. Star Fred Ward is Hoke Mosely, the crude, toothless homicide cop humiliated by Junior's murderous antics. But the show is stolen by the terrific Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose innocent, not-too-bright Susie only slowly realizes that she's married an outrageously reckless crook. An unsung classic from 1990, produced by Jonathan Demme and written and directed by George Armitage from he book by Charles Willeford. In Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
3/20/15


and

Day of Anger
Arrow Video (U.S. + UK)
Region A+B Blu-ray + DVD

  On a major career roll as the Italo western's second most popular spaghetti gunslinger, hawk-beaked Lee Van Cleef cuts 'em up and guns 'em down in Tonino Valerii and Ernesto Gastaldi's cynical tale of a revenge-seeking sharpshooter who enlists the town garbage man (Giuliano Gemma) to back him up in the rough stuff. We're shocked, shocked to discover that the town's upstanding citizens are corrupt thieves; better start digging graves. Lengthy interviews are included with the director and screenwriter -- those Italo filmmakers love to talk. With this title this U.K. disc company embraces the U.S. market - it's compatible with both Region A and B. In Region A+B Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Video (U.S. + UK).
3/20//15




Hello!

First up is a helpful announcement for fans of science fiction films. On Thursday Olive Films announced a May 19 date for their new Blu-ray of United Artists 1958 space epic IT! The Terror from Beyond Space, and posted an Aspect Ratio of 1.37:1 for it. Within minutes my mailbox had three hits about this issue -- there must be more Edward L. Cahn fans out there than I thought. Most all disc producers make an effort to release pictures in their original theatrical ARs whenever possible, so I inquired right away. My contact checked, and yes indeed, the blurb for IT! was in error: Olive was granted access to MGM's 1.85:1 HD master and that's what we'll see.

I remember IT! projected on a big screen, at some American Cinematheque Sci-fi August special six or seven years ago. Matted to 1:85 widescreen, with the excess empty acreage above and below the widescreen area cropped away, the drama is indeed much more intense. Now we'll all be able to a frame by frame comparison with Ridley Scott's Alien.


Now for something historically significant: correspondent John Bernhard sends along a link to the National Film Preservation Foundation, where can be found a complete high quality presentation of Orson Welles' Too Much Johnson. I'm told that this has been up for a while, but it's pretty important stuff: the legendary unfinished (naturally) film Welles made in the late 1930s, to be shown as an audiovisual adjunct to a stage play. The star is a pre-Hollywood Joseph Cotten. A lengthy essay with much (or all?) of the play is included to help explain things. Until now this filmic footnote has been a couple of blurry photos and two paragraphs of explanation in old Orson Welles bios ... and now it's suddenly here. The surprise is that it's not some crude home movie, but an impressively realized semi-experimental film - at least the part where Welles reportedly completed his editing.

John pointed out that TCM has scheduled a Too Much Johnson cablecast for May 1, but the time slot is much shorter -- the show at this site reportedly runs a full 66 minutes. I wish Welles and Cotten could have seen this.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 17, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Hobbit:
The Battle of the Five Armies

Warner Home Video
3-D + 2-D Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD

  Peter Jackson finishes out both the three-film Hobbit Saga and the six film Middle-earth Saga with a 2.5 hour picture that's at least 60% battle scenes. It begins with the dragon Smaug's aerial fricasee job on Lake-town and proceeds to a five-army, four-way battle for a mountain piled high with dwarves' gold (including a sizeable hardened lake of the stuff, by now). Saved by our great fondness for Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, and a violent wrapup in which (gasp) A-list characters actually bite the dust. For a while I thought those ugly-mug Orcs were going to end up as ineffectual as Imperial Storm Troopers. Plenty of grand action and sentiment, and it all looks very good in 3-D video. In 3-D + 2-D Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD from Warner Home Video.
3/17/15



Goodbye to Language
Kino Lorber
3-D + 2-D Blu-ray

  Jean=Luc Godard is back again with a theoretical treatise in the form of a near random assemblage of sort-of scenes that sort-of tell a story, but really add up to more academic questioning and intellectual position arguments, or fragments thereof. He tells us he thinks nothing of 3-D, which is why he produced the show in that format. But expect some surprises, even a 3-D effect that, even if it's a joke, can be said to extend the vocabulary of cinematic gimmicks grammar. See Savant struggle with every reviewer's dilemma: is the answer to simply admit that understanding is beyond my reach? A Dual-Format edition in 3-D and 2-D Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
3/17/15


and

Forbidden Hollywood Volume 8
The Warner Archive Collection
DVD-R

  The WAC offers four more worthy and surprising pre-Code thrillers to tease us with incipient immorality and questionable subject matter, not to mention risqué situations and suggestive dialogue. It's A-Team talent all the way: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Paul Muni, Ned Sparks, Edward G. Robinson and Glenda Farrell. The titles are Blonde Crazy, Strangers May Kiss, Hi Nellie! and Dark Hazard. In DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
3/17/15




Hello!

Had some fun reviewing this week, but also felt somewhat at a loss writing about Jean-Luc Godard's picture. I've gotten waves of negative mail at Savant only on two or three subjects. If you're writing on the web and don't like hate mail, I recommend not saying anything even slightly negative about Walt Disney, Stanley Kubrick or E.T.: the response will be a bombardment by folk accusing you of heresy. It's not everybody -- I have a good friend who periodically takes me to task about Kubrick, and I've always liked his arguments, even if something in me resents his logic and good sense. Godard is a provocateur who makes us question what movies are all about. Even as he fascinates me, I find most of what he's made post-1970 (maybe a nostalgia factor is what's working here) to be nigh unwatchable. A transcript of the interesting dialogue and text in Goodbye to Language would work better for me than the tedious film. It makes me feel like a fool in a circus tent, being sold a $1 Rolex watch. Most everything the obviously brilliant Godard writes about film is riveting. But I don't have The Right Stuff to accept his newer pictures. I've skipped writing about most out of sheer inability to get a handle on them. Disinterest has something to do with it too. Goodbye to Language of course has the 3-D angle to write about. As I could have guessed, Godard says he made the film in 3-D because he thinks the format is meaningless.

Among the June titles promised from Criterion is Bernhard Wicki's war-horror film The Bridge from 1959. I saw it once on Los Angeles's Channel 9 around 1962, and never again. It scared the heck out of me then, so I wonder how it will play now.

YouTube reverberations: responding to my earlier 'Morricone: ukelele' sampling, correspondent Ed Sullivan has bounced back with a Spaghetti Western Orchestra get-the-audience-involved concert. Moving forward, Gary Teetzel sends along a neat snippet that could be called 'Morricone: Theremin'. The Theremin artist is a beautiful Hungarian violin virtuoso named Katica Illényi, and she has impressive performances spread all over YouTube. Here's her on violin for John Williams' orchestration of a Carlos Gardel Tango, used in Schindler's List: Por Una Cabeza. And that leads us back to Carlos Gardel's original from back in 1935. Where have these amazing melodies gone?

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 14, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Soft Skin
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 François Truffaut goes Hitchcockian (a little) in this visually intense examination of an 'ordinary' episode of adultery. Literary notable Jean Desailly strays when he catches sight of stewardess Françoise Dorléac; wife Nelly Benedetti gets left up in the air, frustrated and angry. Here's where Truffaut ditches the 'New Wave' and embraces the same 'quality' movie values he once condemned in traditional French filmmaking. The extras make a good case for the Hitchcock influence angle -- and the best extra is a long docu on the making of the famous Truffaut/Hitchcock book. Great B&W camerawork by Raoul Coutard. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
3/14/15



The Falcon and the Snowman
Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  John Schlesinger and writer Steve Zaillian knock us out with this superb true-life story of two well-off guys in Los Angeles that take their grudge against the system way too far. Smug Daulton (Sean Penn) deals heroin from Mexico, while politically disillusioned Chris (Timothy Hutton) ends up in the worst job possible in a high-security TRW message center with access to a lot of dirty C.I.A. secrets. They did business with Russian agents in Mexico City, seemingly just for the hell of it. Things get a lot more hairy from there. Beautifully filmed in L.A. and South of the border, with great performances by Pat Hingle, David Suchet, Boris Leskin, Richard Dysart, Dorian Harewood, Lori Singer and Chris's pet falcon. In Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
3/14/15


and

Alice's Restaurant
Olive Films
Blu-ray

  Arthur Penn's ode to the dying end of home-grown protest movements, union activism, vagabond folk singers and hopeful alternative lifestyles was advertised as a wacky hippie pot party, which it's not. We instead get Arlo Guthrie playing himself. He reenacts the Thanksgiving Garbage Massacree for some good laughs but spends most of the movie observing Alice and Roy Brock (Patricia Quinn and James Broderick) trying to make their no-rules artistic hospitality lifestyle work... and visiting the bedside of his famous, dying father Woody. It's moody and downbeat but also a rare picture about the hippy dippy era that has not become an embarrassment. With Shelley Plimpton, Pete Seeger and the actual Stockbridge cop who found Arlo's name under that big pile of garbage. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
3/14/15




Hello! What do Peter Jackson and Jean-Luc Godard have in common?

3-D review discs came in for both Warners' The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Kino Lorber's Goodbye to Language.

The movie with the dwarves and elves has excellent depth effects, a big relief after seeing a couple of 3-D discs with 'fake' dimension added in post.

Various web pundits have been screaming about Godard's picture not being available in every municipality in the country (that'll be the day). But the praise it has attracted is so high I'm ready to bite. Like quite a few Godard fans, I find post-1974 Jean-Luc a tough row to hoe; my idea of nirvana is a restored HD Alphaville. This time out maybe Mister Contempt will wake me up again.

The other disc news worth jumping up and down about is from Arrow Video, who will soon be releasing what looks like an incredible HD restoration of Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace (Sei donne per l'assessino). The best I've seen this was a good 16mm Technicolor print provided by Joe Dante for a 1993 American Cinematheque screening, one of those evenings that drew everybody out of the woodwork, even me. The promise of seeing it uncut, In Italian and at this quality level is really something -- Bava's style really spins the subject matter into delrium. More classic-era Euro-horror, please... this is better than the flood of Bava and Argento DVDs that hit us fifteen years ago. More image samples are at the Arrow Video Deck page.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 10, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

Like Water for Chocolate
Arrow Films
Region B Blu-ray + PAL DVD

 Alfonso Arau's blockbuster arthouse item translates Laura Esquivel's Magic Realism novel into a semi-erotic fantasmagoria, an inside-out portrait of the Mexican cultural spirit. Cheated from love, a dutiful daughter uses her cooking skills to assert her identity, and perhaps win back the man taken from her. With Lumi Cavazos and Marco Leonardi, and glowing cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki and Steven Bernstein. This dual-Format edition contains a feature length commentary with the director and his two stars, recorded 23 years later. In Region B Blu-ray and PAL DVD from Arrow Films.
3/10/15


and

Musicals: 4-Movie Collection
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray

  Refusing to play the old double-dip shell game, Warners has given us the three new Blu-rays in this great boxed set with as separate releases as well. The Band Wagon and Calamity Jane are stunning new restorations, while Kiss Me Kate is for the first time in widescreen and 3-D. The only repeat item is Singin' in the Rain. Stars include Fred Astaire, Doris Day, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor. In Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
3/10/15




Hello!

Still sick here, feeling better but not a lot of sleep last night. So sorry, only two reviews this time out. As always, the photolink up top will take you to to an older review. I'm pleased that the B&W photo gives an accurate impression of how the inside of my head feels.

I heard more today about the March 22 Hollywood 'premiere' of Steven Spielberg's massive comedy epic 1941 at the American Cinematheque. Organizer Mike Matessino confirms producer Buzz Feitshans, writer Bob Gale, assistant director Chris Soldo and actors Tim Matheson, Nancy Allen and Lorraine Gary will partake in the post-screening panel, and some other special extras are promised as well. The L.A. Times has promised big coverage, so the film is sure to get a gala turnout. Fans of 1941 know how impressive it is on a big screen. And loud.

I wanted to squeak out three reviews for today, which is why I'm again rushing the column. So forgib me am I'll promiff to be gud an healfy by Saburday. Hachoo.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 07, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

Kiss Me Kate
Warner Home Video
3-D Blu-ray

  Is this MGM's only 3-D film? George Sidney does Cole Porter and Shakespeare justice in an adaptation of a successful Broadway play. Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayon are feuding exes trying to co-star in "Taming of the Shrew", and being none too civilized in their manners. Great songs, and some wonderful choreography by Hermes Pan. Bob Fosse shines through an impressive jazz dance number with Carol Haney. And Ann Miller's tap dance in a penthouse living room is probably the most impressive 3-D sequence of the 1950s. With Bobby Van, Tommy Rall, Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore, in glorious Ansco Color. In 3-D Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
3/07/15



The Liberator
Cohen Media Group
Blu-ray

 Édgar Ramírez plays the liberator of a huge part of South America, Simón Bolívar;, in an expansive epic that concentrates on the man and not details of history... get ready for a couple of sexy love scenes. In the early 1800s Bolívar; raises a massive army to expel Spain from Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. He forms Gran Colombia, a United States of South America that only lasts a decade before it is betrayed by powerful landowners. Filmed on a large scale in Venezuela and Spain. The director is Alberto Arvelo; the screenwriter also wrote Children of Men. In Blu-ray from Cohen Media Group.
3/07/15


and

Muscle Beach Party
Olive Films
Blu-ray

  Silly, dumb, embarrassing -- but the beach party movies were big news for a couple years in the early '60s. This second in the series of course teams Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in a torrid romance cheerfully sexless infatuation on the beach, surrounded by the usual surfing, dancing suspects: John Ashley, Candy Johnson, Jody McCrea, Donna Loren. Also expect Morey Amsterdam, Buddy Hackett, a troop of musclemen lead by Don Rickles; plus Italian Luciana Paluzzi as the spoiled jet-setter who threatens to take Frankie away. It's PC for '63: people wiggle in bikinis but nobody does any heavy kissing; and Frankie drinks only Dr. Pepper yet smokes cigarettes. In Blu-ray from Olive Films.
3/07/15




Hello!

It's a sick day for Savant ... not a day off, but a day trying to get the reviews out through watery eyes. It has to happen now and then, I guess --

So I'm not being picky with the links! Christopher Rywalt graciously sent in an amusing steer to an Ennio Morricone music selection, played on ukeleles (primarily).

The news today is unhappy. Earlier in the week I was informed by Stephen Lee and Marshall Crawford of the passing of Steven Tannehill. When MGM abandoned "MGM Video Savant" back in 1998 I was approached and welcomed by Texan Steve Tannehill, the proprietor of a very early, very popular DVD news and reviews page called The DVD Resource Page. Steve encouraged me to write reviews -- my work for MGM was mostly little articles -- and soon had be filling in for him too. This was just before the dot-com bust and for a couple of months the advertising income was quite good. Although I tried to talk Steve out of it, in late 2000 he decided to put an end to DVD Resource. It's important to acknowledge the breaks one gets, and Steve was a straight shooter in all respects. I understand that he kept his hand in as a contributor to the Home Theater Forum. Now that he's gone, we're hearing more about his health problems that he didn't normally share. I know I still have readers who found me back then, and I just wanted to give mention to one of the good guys. The strange thing about the Internet is that one can do business with associates for years, and never meet them face to face.

Here's a link to an old, archived DVD Resource page, with one of my 'Sidney Falco' fill-in columns. Pretty fuzzy writing, there.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



March 03, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

Ride the Pink Horse
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Robert Montgomery stars in and directs a noir tale about a tough guy's visit to New Mexico. He's a hero but also a blackmailer bent on a twisted revenge. The only help he's offered comes from Mexican-American locals, a carousel operator (Thomas Gomez) and a love-struck teenager (Wanda Hendrix). Superior in every normal way, the thriller is intelligent yet still problematic -- it's sensitive to the minority yet makes the old stereotypes seem more offensive than ever. A terrific new encoding, with a commentary by James Ursini and Alain Silver. In Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
3/03/15



The Manchurian Candidate
Arrow Academy
Blu-ray + DVD

  Laurence Harvey loves Ma Angela Lansbury, yet keeps finding himself doing weird things he can't control, like jumping into Lake Michigan. Pal Frank Sinatra lauds Harvey as "the finest man I ever knew" yet knows that not one word of it is true. Mysterious Janet Leigh reminds Sinatra that she was one of the Chinese laborers who laid the track for this line. This UK edition of John Frankenheimer's political paranoia classic repeats MGM's excellent domestic transfer, and adds two essays that will convince you that every nefarious political crime from 1963 forward was part of a heinous conspiracy using sinister mind control techniques. A Dual-Format edition in UK Region B Blu-ray and PAL DVD from Arrow Academy.
3/03/15


and

Dear Heart
The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

  A square romance that needs rediscovery: Glenn Ford and Geraldine Page are the most endearing couple of the 1960s -- ordinary decent people looking for the right mate in the confusion of big city relationships. She's a postmaster attending a convention and he's getting ready to marry Angela Lansbury, who somehow survived being shot in the head by Laurence Harvey expects far too much from him. Tad Mosel's funny screenplay takes time out to embrace the problems of a kind soul with an open heart but sensitive feelings. Page is terrific. Theme song by Henry Mancini. DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
3/03/15





Hello!

Gary Teetzel sends along a wickedly funny surprise for anybody who had to suffer through last year's mega-hit Frozen: it's the film's alternate ending directed by John Carpenter (in spirit) with a slightly different style of animation by Lee Hardcastle. Caution, it's NSFW and too gross for kids. Gary wondered, "Gee, this original ending was pretty dark for Disney."



Format historian and expert Bob Furmanek has confirmed that he's working on the restoration for Blu-ray of the 3-D version of "GOG", Ivan Tors' 1953 science fiction thriller about O.S.I.'s top-secret underground laboratory. This is the crazy color 3-D picture that everybody thought would never be screened that way again; the ability to show it emerged when experts matched up the studio's Right Eye print with a collector's Left Eye print, fifty years after they'd wandered away from each other. The full story is over at the 3-D Film Archive.




A few days ago on the Warner Archive Facebook page, someone asked if Blu-rays were on the way for the science fiction movies Them!,  The Thing (From Another World) or Time After Time. The WAC's prudently cryptic answer was, "One of the trio has just been remastered for Blu-ray release later this year. The others are very likely to follow." That's a lot better than, "Outlook hazy, try again tomorrow". But evidence popped up immediately that seems to give us a direct answer. The trusted fellow John McElwee of the great Greenbriar Picture Shows noticed that Monday's TCM cablecast of Them! was in native HD, and formatted for widescreen... it's always been flat and standard def before. So for Halloween this year, the smart money is on GIANT ANTS.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


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

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