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September 29, 2015

Hello --

I have only one link today, to a page called Cinematically Insane which reports on 20th Century Fox's announcement made a couple of days ago at the New York Film Festival, by Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos. They're starting a high definitiion digital buy or rent program called Century of Cinema. It essentially signals an abandonment of hard media, which Fox has more or less already done despite having its own Burn on Demand DVD program -- a majority of those discs are old transfers, often pan-scanned. I don't find that many I can recommend, so I don't review very many. Here's the article.

Collectors won't be happy, as having access to 'owned' digital media on the cloud means nothing when rights can go away at any time. It is convenient, that's for sure. The announcement contains a list of many interesting titles, including some already represented by klunker pan-scan MOD discs -- Teenage Rebel, for one. If a digital download is involved, that's somewhat better -- but it requires one to maintain a lot of stored data. Can you account for everything you've downloaded? I can't.

The corporation will apparently put together the perfect 'intellectual property' system, one that improves on what so excited the pioneers who opened Nickleodeons over a hundred years ago. Those tough businessmen saw stars when they realized that they could make money just by letting the customers see the product. When the show was over, the audience walked away with nothing. All they needed was a storefront and signs to bring in the unwashed masses. Now the dream is fulfilled -- the corporation sells access to a movie 'product,' but doesn't have to provide or maintain theaters. The customer does that on his own dime.

Millennials are already accustomed to renting their possessions, and are being forced to subscribe to all kinds of services. Maybe this is a the right system for a world where most people will have to live in homes not big enough for possessions, for 'collections' of anything. They accumulate books, music and movies in digital form, and many of them have found a way to satisfy their needs for free. Maybe I'll be considered a 'hoarder' of worthless junk -- I'd object but I have 400 laserdiscs in my attic to testify against me. Perhaps when I hit a certain age, I'll want to minimize my possessions too, but I'm still set in my ways.

Are my readers only collectors? Does Fox's announcement sound attractive? Because of what I do, I'm out of the mainstream of opinion.

More reviews on Tuesday -- Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson


Tuesday September 29

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Honeymoon Killers
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

  The advertising made this 1970 show seem the epitome of sleaze -- but it's actually a superior thriller about a real-life, low-rent queasy crime wave. Tony Lo Bianco and the great Shirley Stoler are Ray and Martha, mixed-up lovers running a Merry Widow racket through the personals ads in romance magazines. Leonard Kastle's direction seems derived from John Cassavetes, with a more visually artistic bent. The sensational extras include an exposé docu on the true crime story, which is far, far, sleazier. Also with extras new to this release. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
9/29/15


Emperor of the North
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 It sounds like the perfect project for tough-guy director Robert Aldrich, and it still commands a high reputation with some. Ambitious career hobo Lee Marvin squares off against a nearly demonic Ernest Borgnine, a railroad conductor who routinely murders bums that dare to hitch rides through backwoods Oregon. The ongoing violence culminates in a no holds barred, log chain vs. fire ax battle on a moving flat car. Much high-toned Eugene O'Neil-like dialogue and an air of allegorical pretension get in the way. With Keith Carradine and a large supporting cast. Plus terrific scenery by Joseph Biroc, in a gleaming Blu-ray encoding from Twilight Time.
9/29/15


Arts in Exile
DEFA Film Library
DVD

 "Nine East German Shorts on Artists Forced to Flee the Nazis." Take a trip into political art history with nine films produced by the state-run East German film company DEFA, all using the experiences of Communist artists to promote the party line and educate young people on the sacrifices of the past. Some of the personal stories are incredible, and the art they generated is indeed very impressive -- writers, illustrators, a cartoonist, a film director, an actor, a journalist. It's interesting to see what the films emphasize (antifascist zeal) and what they choose to ignore (anti-Semitism). But by the 1980s, one or two films dare to air views that are openly critical of the GDR. A two-disc set, on DVD from the DEFA Film Library.
9/29/15


The Phantom of the Opera
Kino Classics
Blu-ray

  Add another release of this silent classic to the stack, except this one is in HD. Lon Chaney's most famous starring vehicle has issues -- silent opera performances? -- but his scenes are so incredibly good that nothing else matters. This is one of the two or three greatest fantasy makeup performances of all time. The silent movie was re-issued with editorial changes, and again reworked as a part-talkie, making sorting out the versions more difficult. The 1929 silent cut in HD is dazzling, with luminous tints and a good-looking Technicolor sequence; the longer 1925 original is from a softer 16mm source -- which is apparently all that now exists. Plus some interesting extras, including audio bits from the lost part-sound reissue. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
9/29/15

and

The Oblong Box
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  Gordon Hessler's first horror tale for A.I.P. gets favorites Vincent Price and Christopher Lee tangled up in an African curse, grave robbing, a premature burial and a clutch of throat-slashings. Yet the two stars have no scenes together. The main horror figure is a 'deranged, mutilated' hooded character who is neither a madman nor really all that badly scarred. The colorful transfer presents John Coquillon's cinematography at its best. The draw for Savant is Steve Haberman's well-researched and insightful commentary. With Hillary Dwyer, Rupert Davies and Peter Arne. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
9/29/15




Hello!

Links, links ... I have them here somewhere. Ah, Gary Teetzel found this YouTube recording of a 2005 Wonderfest panel, a Tribute to Wah Chang, the artist and designer often linked back in the '50s and '60s to movie work by the prolific Project Unlimited special effects house. Chang is responsible for a lot of great fantasy creations, some credited and some not. Mark Berry hosts along with Bob Burns, who offers the panel presentation some vintage BTS movie footage of monster and effects production.

Gary also forwards this charming Vincent Price interview on The Tonight Show... the host for the night is Kermit the Frog, presumably puppetted (puppeteered?, pupped?) by the great Jim Henson.

I missed reviewing Twilight Time's disc of Michael Ritchie's The Fantasticks, and I should double back and pick it up. But here's a to-the-point Fantasticks review by Joe Baltake over at The Passionate Moviegoer. Joe has inside information that I don't, and assures readers that the never-before-seen Ritchie version (before Francis Coppola cut it down) is quite good.

Correspondent Ed Sullivan points to this page of cartoon caricatures by MAD magazine artist Tom Richmond... many of which I think are really good. I especially like his President Obama.

Since I haven't yet been footnoting reviews in Trailers from Hell's blog template, here's a note from a favorite correspondent equally intrigued by a miniseries I reviewed a couple of weeks back, Deutschland 83. I still highly recommend it:

"Hi Glenn, I'm so glad you mentioned this DVD. I watched the entire series on Sundance and loved it. Part of the reason, I'm sure, was that it is in German with subtitles -- which I much prefer to dubbing -- but most of all because my ex and I were in Germany from '83 through '85 when he was with the army, so it brings back a lot of memories. We even saw Udo Lindenberg in concert, and I have a bunch of his albums. I remember the Maharishi with the pink Cadillacs, who had excellent vegetarian restaurants all over Germany. His followers/waiters wore pink or red, just like the commune that the General's daughter joined. I wrote to the Sundance channel to encourage more programs of this type. I hope, if there's a continuation, they will broadcast it. I seemed to be the only person in the world who knew about Deutschland 83, however, and I posted in Facebook in an army group to encourage others to watch it. Needless to say, I already have the DVD on order. Thanks for bringing it to the attention of others. Sincerely, Janice Pryhoda."

Finally, on Oct. 6 Warners is reissuing two Jackie Chan features, his crossover hits when he entered the U.S. market in a big way, back in the middle 1990s. An editor at MGM turned me on to Chan's earlier Hong Kong action films, which were beyond anything I'd seen before; I thrilled my kids a stack of borrowed VHS tapes. I remember their delight with an action scene that ended with somebody asking what crazy kind of fighting Jackie was doing. The shouted answer: "That Chinese Kung-Fu!" These two titles may be worthy of rediscovery for younger action fans that might be interested in seeing what a real martial arts dervish / stuntman can do, without CGI or editing tricks. The two pictures are Jackie Chan's First Strike and Rumble in the Bronx.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



September 22, 2015


Hello!

More reviews coming up on Tuesday -- maybe one or two less violent titles this time. I thought I'd use today's column space to do a quick rundown on what's cooking for Halloween discs this go-round. Contributor and advisor Gary Teetzel has remarked every Fall for at least the last ten years, 'When is Criterion going to remaster and reissue Kwaidan in Blu-ray, uncut?"  Since that blessed event has finally come to pass, I thought to highlight some of the other horror, fantasy and otherwise Hallowween-related releases from this year that some readers may not be aware of.

Released since last January and already reviewed here at Savant are Blu-rays of:  The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension,  The Andromeda Strain,  The Babadook,  The Beyond,  Black Sabbath,  Black Sunday,  Blood and Black Lace,  Burn, Witch, Burn,  CavemanThe End of Violence,  First Men in the Moon,  A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night ,  The Girl Who Knew Too Much,  God Told Me To,  The Hound of the Baskervilles,  The Hunchback of Notre Dame,  The Hunger,  I, Madman,  The Incredible Shrinking Man  (Region B),  Innerspace,  Invaders from Mars (1986),  The Island of Dr. Moreau,  It Follows,  It! The Terror from Beyond Space,  Journey to the Center of the Earth,  Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau,  Miracle Mile,  The Monster that Challenged the World,  Nightmare Castle,  The Premature Burial,  Rabid  (Region B),  Reptilicus,  The Satan Bug,  Tarantula  (Region B),  The Thing with Two Heads,  Videodrome,  Wolfen,  "X" - the Man with the X-Ray Eyes and  Zardoz.

Some worthy DVD titles from last year that I've spotted are:  The Black Scorpion (widescreen),  The Day Mars Invaded Earth,  Face of Fire,  Fearless Frank (Frank's Greatest Adventure),  Hand of Death,  Our Mother's House and the documentary  That Guy Dick Miller.

As for titles due in the next two or three weeks, I may not be able to get to some of them before Halloween is upon us. So consider this a snoop-buying guide.

Likely to be very much coveted are two multi-disc offerings from Warners. A new Horror Classics Blu-ray set features four Hammers: the classic 1959 The Mummy, the excellent Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and two later Christopher Lee pictures, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave and Taste the Blood of Dracula. That's up for grabs in just a couple of weeks, but delayed until a bit later in October is the second four-title WB Blu set, Special Effects. It's going to contain the once-again-fully-appreciated Them! in widescreen, plus three stop-motion favorites, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Mighty Joe Young and Son of Kong.

Synapse has a picture I've never seen, but have read much about: Manos, the Hand of Fate. It's supposed to be terrible yet everybody wants to talk about it. The Oct 13 disc is reportedly a painstaking restoration, accompanied with a lot of extras.

Twilight Time has chosen to go horror this Halloween. Some of their fastest sell-outs, like their Fright Night, have been fantasy titles. They've posted carefully restored limited edition releases of John Carpenter's Vampires, Count Yorga Vampire (neither of which I've seen), Strange Invaders and Gordon Hessler's Scream and Scream Again with Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. That last title has always been a frustration for me, so it'll be interested if the new audio commentary will alter my thinking.

Olive has some promising offerings, starting with two full Republic serials in Blu-ray, The Invisible Monster and Flying Disc Man from Mars. Are Commander Cody and Purple Monsters from the Moon about to come back into fashion? The details are not to be believed. One character's name is 'Mota,' which we are told is 'Atom' spelled backwards. Fascinating. Olive is also releasing Blus of Amicus Films' The Deadly Bees and a standard cut of Saul Bass's Phase IV, plus the much desired 1964 picture that kicked off a renewed horror omnibus craze, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors. Fans have been waiting a long time for a decent copy of that one. I remember loving it at age 12.

From Kino comes a classics with three more modern titles. I'm at present checking out a very handsome multi-disc set of the 1925 The Phantom of the Opera. Also listed are Burnt Offerings with Karen Black and Oliver Reed, and Scissors with Sharon Stone. Finally, Gordon Hessler's The Oblong Box with Vincent Price and Christopher Lee will arrive late in the month.

Next comes Criterion, with three definite winners: Leonard Kastle's The Honeymoon Killers with Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco, David Cronenberg's The Brood with Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed, and the aforementioned Japanese masterpiece Kwaidan by Masaki Kobayashi. We're looking forward to the better transfer. It will also be complete, with an additional 22 minutes of footage.

Beyond Halloween and technically off the radar are two more desirables. A German (Region B) Blu is on the way for the Universal sci-fi classic This Island Earth (October 30), while on November 24 Kino and the 3-D Archive have scheduled a 3-D release of the well remembered The Mask, the Canadian horror movie from 1961. I'll be reporting on a Los Angeles screening of this planned for October 10, at CineFamily.

And for a final note, Wim Wenders' long cut of his sci-fi saga Until the End of the World, the three-film version, is going to screen at the end of October at the Nuart, in Wenders' new traveling exhibition of his films. The news from the forums is that a Blu-ray release from Criterion is in the works, at long last. Even if that's a couple of years away, it qualifies as another dream coming true. I started waxing enthusiastic about that favorite movie back in 1998...

Thanks for reading -- ! Glenn Erickson



Tuesday September 22, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Satan Bug
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  Techno-thriller fans have been waiting a long time for a good disc of this '60s sci-fi espionage suspenser, and Kino's transfer is a winner. George Maharis, Richard Basehart, Anne Francis and Dana Andrews have to stop a madman who has snatched a full case of flasks of deadly bio-warfare viruses from a super-secret government lab. Each flask can wipe out an entire city, and one of them will kill every living thing on the planet. Action ace John Sturges turns Alistair MacLean's annihilating end-of-the-world tale into a memorable nail-biting experience. With a commentary and the original trailer. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
9/22/15


Fat City
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

  The legendary John Huston sets the bar for director-driven quality filmmaking of the early 1970s, adapting Leonard Gardner's novel of the travails of a boxing bum who scrapes by picking crops in the San Joaquin Valley. The cast is equally legendary: punchy loser Stacy Keach teams up with the ambitious newcomer Jeff Bridges, risking terrible punishment in bouts to win feeble purses. The glowing discovery is the amazing Susan Tyrell, film history's most convincingly caustic floozy-alcoholic, bar none. Her voice can peel paint, but we love her dearly. Newly remastered; looks great on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
9/22/15


Turkey Shoot
Severin Films
Blu-ray

 Brian Trenchard-Smith's outrageous futuristic gore-fest imagines an Australian government concentration-extermination camp, run by the sadistic Michael Craig and Roger Ward, where jaded rich folk come to (unofficially) hunt human prey, as in The Most Dangerous Game. The leading targets for this week's jaunt are Steve Railsback and Olivia Hussey. The music is by the Mad Max veteran Brian May. Severin's generous extras give us the entire production history -- a wilder tale never was -- from the great raconteur Trenchard-Smith. It is snarky or subversive? An alternate title was Blood Camp Thatcher! On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
9/22/15


Man With the Gun
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  It may sound like a ho-hum generic B&W 50s western, but this one is different. Robert Mitchum is on-task as a town tamer having believable problems, both in exterminating gunslingers Claude Akins and Leo Gordon, and with making peace with his estranged wife, Jan Sterling. First-time director Richard Wilson shows some good moves, and his co-screenplay gives Mitchum two more tangential relationships to sort out, with the local pacifist Karen Sharpe, and a ditzy showgirl, Barbara Lawrence. And in for extra window dressing, is an incredibly young Angie Dickinson. Woof woof ! On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
9/22/15

and

The Old Gun
MGM Limited Edition Collection
DVD-R

  Robert Enrico's literally searing terror tale from the French occupation is a revenge saga with a dark conscience, and a thriller not for the faint of heart. Fearing reprisals, surgeon Philippe Noiret sends his wife Romy Schneider out of harm's way of the retreating, unpredictable Germans -- but things go horribly wrong. What follows is almost like Straw Dogs but with more sympathetic heroes, far more heinous villains and a medieval castle as the arena for a violent confrontation. A must for fans of Noiret and Schneider; also with Joachim Hansen, Karl Michael Vogler and Antoine St. John. And it's a great transfer too. On DVD-R from MGM Limited Edition Collection.
9/22/15




Hello!

This turned out to be a week stacked with really violent pictures, even after I pushed back Robert Aldrich's Emperor of the North, a slugfest aboard an Oregon freight train, for next week. The bruise & blast ordeals range from an escapist, 'fun' gore picture to one that personally makes my skin crawl, even as I admire it as a fine film in every other respect. Plus I get to flaunt review a disc with my own commentary. I review the disc but simply describe the commentary, thankyouverymuch.

Getting ready to SCREAM for Halloween? My plan for next week's column includes a rundown of new horror-fantasy disc offerings, plus some recommendations of recent genre gems worth checking out. If you want to enjoy some top-quality screaming NOW, Daniel Erickson and Wayne Schmidt offer two worthy links. Facebook's ear-blasting Screaming Marmot is reportedly a dub job. I assume that's what remix means in the post-rap world. The shouts, screams and yelling in YouTube's "Non-Silence of the Lambs" The Screaming Sheep and Goats Yelling like Humans are said to be authentic. Sweet Dreams!

Oh -- and a DVD Savant Newsletter should be going out this week -- Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



September 15, 2015

Hello! It's a beautiful Saturday here... I'm working on Tuesday's reviews, which this week seem to be a list of really violent movies. It just worked out that way.

A couple of links !

At the nerdist site, Eric Diaz is saying that Bryan Singer is on the track to remake Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That sounds okay, but my mind immediately wanders to the hope that a remake will spur a video release of Disney's 1954 version. Readers are always asking why a Blu-ray for that classic hasn't yet come out. And Disney should have it ready to go -- it's been at least three years since we saw a beautiful restored 4k presentation at the AMIA's The Reel Thing. The restoration experts even used the little bit of extra image behind the soundtrack, to squeeze some shots and remedy the 'CinemaScope Mumps' on a few close-ups.

Gary Teetzel passes on the info that Shout Factory TV is offering free online streaming for a bunch of episodes of The Dick Cavett Show: Hollywood Greats. You just have to put up with some commercials. The first celebs on their free screening list are Groucho Marx, Fred Astaire, Orson Welles and Bette Davis.

And I'm happy to say that DVD Drive-In has given Kino's new Blu of The Satan Bug high marks, in a review that expends a big paragraph on praise for my commentary. So there are no long faces around here today, I kid you not. If I have enough time, I'll try to review the Kino disc next on the list.     What? Conflict of interest? You'll have to explain that to me one more time.

Thanks for reading -- ! Glenn Erickson



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

Deutschland 83
Season One
Kino Lorber/Sundance

DVD

 How did this sneak by? It's a combo escapist spy story, engrossing soap opera, and historically accurate Cold War flashback to the time of Duran Duran and Blondie, produced in Germany with a great cast of young and/or unfamiliar actors. Sure, the expected unlikelihoods are there, but so is an essential authenticity. Great fun! The 'hero' is an East German agent, but every player on either side is either corrupt, naive, or dangerously reckless. It's an eight-episode miniseries, which is planned to continue?   Highly recommended. On DVD from Kino Lorber.
9/15/15



Breaker Morant
Criterion
Blu-ray

  Bruce Beresford says that by 1980 most Australians had forgotten that their countrymen had fought in the Boer War. This scathing condemnation of England's scapegoating of commonwealth volunteers had a big impact. Stars Edward Woodward, Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown front a protest from the past, in one of the most respected features of the Aussie Renaissance of the late '70s. It's still a class act, and not sullied by later assertions that the Aussies were guilty as charged. It's a war, who wasn't? -- and their superiors both condoned and ordered guerilla ruthlessness. On Blu-ray from Criterion.
9/15/15


Eaten Alive
Arrow (U.S.)
Blu-ray + DVD

 Neville Brand is Judd, a born-on-the-bayou shaggy maniac. He runs the spacious, inviting Starlite Motel. He lives by a higher morality and therefore just can't resist feeding random visitors to his gargantuan crocodile. If walk-in customers like Mel Ferrer, Marilyn Burns and Robert Englund don't like that idea, Brand keeps a giant scythe handy, as a persuader. Tobe Hooper's sopho-gore feature boasts name stars -- Stuart Whitman, Carolyn Jones. Plus, in this new edition, a brightly colored picture-perfect transfer. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow (U.S.).
9/15/15


The Reivers
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 Steve McQueen spent most of the 1960s avoiding lightweight movie roles -- only to score with his winning comedy-drama performance in William Faulkner's most cheerful tale of old Mississippi. Get set for music by John Williams and an exciting climactic horse race. In storytelling terms this show would seem to have given Steven Spielberg more a few ideas. With Rupert Crosse, Sharon Farrell, Will Gere and Mitch Vogel, and a 1905 Winton Flyer, painted bright yellow, that never gets a flat tire. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
9/15/15

and

The Black Stallion
Criterion
Blu-ray

 It was a winner right out of the starting gate, an instant classic that's still a pleasure for the eyes and ears. Carroll Ballard and Caleb Deschanel's marvel of a storybook movie has yet to be surpassed, with a boy-horse relationship that seems to be taking place in The Garden of Eden. Boy meets wonder horse on an Arabian beach, and their shared destiny is found on a race track back in the USA. With a big supporting performance by Mickey Rooney; also featuring Kelly Reno, Teri Garr and Clarence Muse. On Blu-ray from Criterion.
9/15/15




Hello!

We suddenly have rain in Southern California, quite a bit of it. If we got something like this every other week, things would be fine. Meanwhile, the northern half of the state is seriously on fire. I guess we're way overdue for a big earthquake too, so there's always something to look forward to here. It beats those scary Midwestern tornadoes, though. Meanwhile, I'm getting really lucky here at DVD Savant ... I'm the 10,000th visitor yet again!



A Grizzly Dissident


Correspondent Hank Graham has written in with a note that somewhat deflates my feeling that Jean-Jacques Annaud's movie The Bear is a realistic account of life in the Great North with all them there wild animals. He's rather kind in the way he puts his corrections:

Dear Glenn, I had to write on this one, as anyone who's from the American west and knows about real Grizzly bears and the wild will tell you that Jean-Jacques Annaud's film is so false and silly as to be complete nonsense.

To start with, if an adult male Grizzly finds a cub in his territory--as happens in the film--he kills and eats it. Without exception that I, or anyone I know, knows of. No one who knows Grizzly bears will tell you any different. So the film kinda lost me at that point, although there was worse to come.

The bit where the black powder round, having a cross put into the front of the bullet by a hunting knife, splits apart a stump as if it were an explosive round? One of the friends I saw this movie with, a professional hunting guide from Alaska, almost died laughing from that.

The bit near the end, where the attacked adult Grizzly spares the hunter who's been chasing him? No, I don't think so. There's a famous western story, told about Jim Bridger, that he once met a man who claimed that a Grizzly had gotten the better of him but had spared him when he'd fallen to the ground, utterly submissive. "Well, then," Bridger said, "That was obviously not a Grizzly."

I saw this film with a bunch of friends who were all from Montana and the Rockies, all of whom knew enough to start laughing at the film after a few minutes of it. It's as accurate a portrayal of the lives of Grizzly bears as "The Green Berets" is of the Vietnam war.

I'm aware a lot of folks who don't know anything on the subject were charmed by the film. But I think you should note that the film is a fantasy of a Frenchman who is romanticizing wild life he knows absolutely nothing about.

See also, "James Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." Best, Hank Graham.

City boy Savant learns all kinds of new things, mostly by being corrected.
Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



September 08, 2015

Hello! (September 12 update)

Just a quick Saturday note, to remind readers that once again new reviews (five) will be arriving on Tuesday, through the 'guest privilege' afforded Savant by the Trailers from Hell page. I'm trying to shoehorn my reviews into that format, so I hope they are coming out correctly. Are readers following me to TFH -- is it readable there for you?

I do have a couple of links today. Three long-time Savant associates, people I admire, have audio commentaries coming out soon, on discs by KL Studio Classics, aka, Kino. Old friend Perry Martin and fellow TCM writer Richard Harland Smith are said to be co-hosting an audio track on the Nathaniel Hawthorne horror compendium Twice-Told Tales. It's an interesting situation -- maybe David Del Valle's done so many Vincent Price commentaries lately that he's sitting this one out. Coming much sooner is the Michael Winner horror opus The Sentinel, the show that's basically Ghostbusters, with the portal of hell in a rent-controlled NYC apartment, but without the jokes. I've been exchanging emails with Shaun K. Chang for at least ten years now, and the disc carries his interview-commentary with the star Christina Raines. Shaun is good when covering actresses' careers; he once introduced me to Barbara Luna, which was great fun. I'm looking forward to hearing the track.

If you're a Spaghetti western fan, or read Lee Broughton's many Italo Western reviews here at Savant, you might want to sign up for the newsletter at Ulrich Bruckner's new page for his company Explosive Media. The outfit has released interesting German-produced Blu-rays, some all-region, of favorites like Lee Van Cleef in The Big Gundown and Kirk Douglas in Man without a Star. The page isn't active yet, but Ulrich promises some interesting new releases soon.

Finally, this frame grab -- and massive enlargement -- from Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window shows us two women staying a little late at the party given by the 'Songwriter' (Ross Bagdasarian/David Seville). The brunette on the left, "Girl at Songwriter's Party," is definitely the uncredited Kathryn Grant, our favorite from 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Anatomy of a Murder. But the other one? Help me out here. The IMDB never makes mistakes (cough, cough) and they list only two more "women at Songwriter's Party." Bess Flowers was sixty-four years old, so I guess that rules her out. The other candidate offered by the IMDB is the legendary Marla English, of Shield for Murder and The She-Creature. Does anybody think that the dark-haired party guest in the frame grab could be Ms. English? To me, the hair at least looks right.

Note: an immediate response from correspondent Don Swenson, 9.12.15:

"Glenn, here is a link to a photo of Jimmy Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock and Marla English at the premiere of Rear Window, so pretty sure that is her. Thanks for the great column, always an interesting read. Regards, Don Swenson"

And thanks for reading-- ! Glenn Erickson


September 8, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Little House
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

  An excellent new Japanese film. Yoji Yamada comes through with a domestic family epic that follows the fortunes of a maid (Haru Kuroki) who helps a Tokyo family cope through the years 1935-1945. The 'little red house on the hill' deals with sickness, the war, and marital infidelity -- the husband's new co-worker, unfit for the draft, proves to be the wrong woman's dreamboat lover. Yamada tells the story through the filter of grandchildren solving family mysteries; new star Haru Kuroki is a sentimental find. A very classy traditional drama, this is a special import, on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
9/08/15


The Bear
Shout! Factory
Blu-ray

  Jean-Jacques Annaud gives us a view of nature unlike Old Hollywood's or the nonsense of latter-day children's epics. An orphaned bear cub lucks out by forming a relationship with an enormous rogue male bear. The adorable cub needs all the protection it can get -- from a trio of hunters and their mountain hunting dogs, and a lean mountain lion in dire need of a square meal. Teach your kids what bears really do in the woods -- this non-Disney-fied, de-sentimentalized tale lets us appreciate nature without getting sappy. Probably too much blood for tiny small fry, but essential viewing for kids forming notions of how the world functions outside the living room. With a 50-minute making-of docu. On Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
9/08/15


Kings of the Sun
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  J. Lee Thompson made some great movies, a few later hack jobs, and also some impressively strange shows like this UA epic about pre-Columbian days, with Mayan refugees clashing with Mississippi Native Americans. George Chakiris and Richard Basehart cut fine figures wearing some of the weirdest hairstyle and headgear ever devised; former dancer Chakiris moves darn good in the fight scenes, hefting a teakwood sword. But nobody can top the buff, copper-toned Yul Brynner, who looks and moves like the most- fit man ever to walk the earth. Plus, a selection of pyramids, toughs like Leo Gordon and Brad Dexter holding their stomachs in, and gorgeous Shirley Anne Field as Ixchel, the Mayan princess with a cultured London accent. Great second unit fight work. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
9/08/15


The Wonderful Country
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

  Producer-star Robert Mitchum, writers Tom Lea and Robert Ardrey, director Robert Parrish, and composer Alex North are responsible for this rich, soulful tale about a gunslinger in trouble on both sides of the border. Employed as a hired killer for Mexican politico Pedro Armendariz, Mitchum's Martin Brady is caught in a power struggle, and must hide his wanted status from U.S. Army major Gary Merrill and Texas Ranger captain Albert Dekker. He has a chance to redeem his life, but an illicit romance stands in the way -- with Julie London, the Major's wife. Floyd Crosby and Alex Philips on-location images are gorgeous -- this was one of the best-looking Technicolor westerns Savant's ever seen. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
9/08/15

and

Alraune
(1952)
Arthaus

Region 2 DVD

  Savant couldn't resist, even though the only good commercial disc for this title is from Germany, and has no English subtitles or audio. Gorgeous Hildegarde Knef is an, 'unholy, unnatural' young woman 'created' by a cynical, unscrupulous doctor, played to the hilt by Erich von Stroheim. As a thing without a soul, she's naturally Evil, and bad news for any and all men and women that come under her influence, including handsome Karheinz Böm, Savant digs into the history of this sick concept. What is the 'Mandragore' that is Alraune's spiritual talisman? And what's with that hairy ape-man von Stroheim keeps caged in his laboratory? On Region 2 (German) DVD from Arthaus.
9/08/15




Hello!

Today's post might be a good time to plug Turner Classic Movies, or at least to tip readers off to some great stuff being shown there this month. August is TCM's all-star showcase, where every day is set aside to do daily line-ups of a single star's movies, the usual mainstream hits. So when when September rolls in, things get interesting again. Here's what I recommend over at the House of Oborne and Mankiewicz for September:

Sept. 7, late: China 9, Liberty 37 by Monte Hellman. I haven't seen it and this is my big opportunity. Can Sam Peckinpah act? Hmm… you're too late for that one. Sept, 10, also the middle of the night: Mademoiselle Fifi by Robert Wise and Val Lewton. Simone Simon hefts a mean steak knife against Kurt Kruger. Can't be missed. Sept. 11, late again: Went the Day Well? by Alberto Cavalcanti. Savant can't praise this enough -- it's a propaganda fantasy by Graham Greene, about rural Brits resisting Nazi invaders. Sept. 12: It's Alive by Larry Cohen, with a terrific performance by John P. Ryan. Sept 16: Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution. The TCM booklet says letterboxed, so I'm hoping this is a new transfer and an early hint that a new disc release is on the way. Sept. 22: Rafael Portillo's The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy. Often disparaged, this is actually another high point of the French New Wave. Isn't it obvious? Also Sept. 22, John Sturges and William Wyler's Thunderbolt, a refreshingly bloodthirsty (read: honest) account of USAAC fighter-bombers ripping the &%[email protected]# out of every available target in Northern Italy, whether military or civilian. Sept. 29: Sweet Adeline, Mervyn Leroy's adaptation of the Kern-Hammerstein musical, with Irene Dunne. Four fantastic songs awash in some shaky storytelling, but they're worth waiting for. Someday this will be restored properly. And finally Sept. 30 and Michael Powell's masterful Contraband, a marvelous war morale booster about a Danish sea captain (Conrad Veidt) chasing spies in a blacked-out London.

Coming later in September, a checklist of upcoming Halloween disc premieres, plus exotic 'old stuff' in the spook-show vein that horror lovers might want to check out. The guest-reviewing arrangement at Trailers from Hell continues…

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



September 01, 2015

Hello! (September 5 update)

Great links today, and more reviews coming on Tuesday !



European contact Stefan Andersson has a couple of links to pages of great interest to western fans. Over at Cinephilia and Beyond is an article about Marlon Brando's relationship with Stanley Kubrick on One Eyed Jacks, with a link to Sam Peckinpah's original screenplay.


If that's not enough, Stefan includes a link to 'Demon's' Movie666 article Kubrick's Imaginary Western: One-Eyed Jacks where we can read Stanley K.'s notes on his 'vision' for the movie, the western he never made.




Yesterday I received an email from a correspondent who bought a Spanish Blu-ray of Gun Crazy and noticed that it appeared to be some kind of burned disc. He wanted to know why Warners was making BD-Rs. My information about such questions being a couple of years out of date, I asked WB Home Video VP George Feltenstein if anything had changed. George's prompt answer carries good info. He includes a link to what to an up-to-date article about the current state of video piracy.

"Hi Glenn, I hope you are well. Indeed, all Warner Archive Blu-rays are pressed discs manufactured at the same facility as retail WHV Blu-rays. There are no BD-Rs in use, nor do I see the likelihood of this ever happening, unless there are changes in the technology. BD-Rs have serious compatibility issues. Many players won't play them. They are more easily damaged than other media, etc.

It has always been a concern that when people see Warner Archive they think 'sub-standard' because of the unjustified bum rap given DVD-Rs on the Internet. The DVD-Rs that we use cost more to make than "pressed" discs, but pay off in the long run because we have better control of our inventory. For some multi-disc sets (TV series or collections like Forbidden Hollywood), we have manufactured pressed copies rather than used DVD-R, because we knew the demand will justify doing so. We have also done this with certain single disc releases that we knew would sell well. Show Boat '36 and The Lusty Men are examples.

You should warn the person who wrote you that the 'Gun Crazy' Blu from Spain is most definitely pirated. You may want to point out this Brenton Film article to the person who wrote to you as well as share it with Savant readers as it is a big problem: Beware of Pirates! How to Avoid Bootleg Blu-rays and DVDs. Have a great weekend, George"

Some of what's said in that article was news to me. I can add to what George says the fact that in all the Warner Archive Collection DVD-Rs I've reviewed -- hundreds -- I've encountered only one bum disc. I have also never played an old WAC BD-R and found that it had gone bad over time.


In even more self-serving news, DVD Beaver has given what amounts to a rave review for my commentary for Kino's upcoming Blu-ray of John Sturges' sci-fi thriller The Satan Bug. Since what I worked with looked great, I can heartily confirm that, on the new disc of my favorite film about innocent people being massacred by obscene bio-terror weapons, the image quality is excellent!

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


September 1, 2015

Savant's new reviews today are:

I, Madman
Scream Factory
Blu-ray

  Pulp fiction nightmares run amuck as the dreaded maniac author Malcolm Brand emerges from his own horror novel to terrorize beautiful Jenny Wright. The lady doesn't know if she's reading Brand's book, or living it. To please her, he's carving away pieces of his face and replacing them with facial features straight- razored from various unhappy victims. Tell that to Vincent Van Gogh. Oh, and there's also a demon-monster called 'Jackal Boy' hidden in the steamer trunk. Director Tibor Takács does some clever time-shifting between 1989 and 1959, while Randall William Cook wears multiple hats -- as the designer of the gory makeup effects, creator of the stop-motion special effects sequences -- while also playing the lead role of the murderous Malcolm Brand. It's an overachieving little shocker that earns extra points for originality. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
9/01/15


Daniel
Olive Films
Blu-ray

  Author-screenwriter E.L. Doctorow and director Sidney Lumet dig deep into Cold War controversy with this fictionalized drama about the Rosenbergs, who were executed for conspiring to give atom secrets to the Soviet Union. Timothy Hutton and Amanda Plummer are Daniel and Susan, the son and daughter of the 'Isaacsons,' who were just children when their Communist parents were arrested. Fifteen years later, Susan is crumbling into mental illness over the trauma, while the resentful Daniel seeks the truth about murky past events -- the government never proved anything, and nobody knows what really happened. Lindsay Crouse, Mandy Patinkin and Edward Asner co-star in this absorbing film, one of Sidney Lumet's most personal. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
9/01/15

Innerspace
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray

  Joe Dante's sci-fi comedy is one of the most entertaining fantasies of the 1980s. Dennis Quaid and his submarine pod are miniaturized a la Fantastic Voyage to be injected into the bloodstream of a rabbit. But he ends up inside wimpy grocery clerk Martin Short, who must adjust to the strange sensation of a voice in his head advising that killer spies are after him. It's like the ultimate Martin & Lewis film, and a marvelous comedy showcase for Martin Short. With a big early role for cute Meg Ryan, plus major fun from Kevin McCarthy, Fiona Lewis, Robert Picardo and a huge cast of Dante regulars. With a world-class commentary, too. The Oscar-winning ILM effects look great on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
9/01/15


The Robin Hood of El Dorado
The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

  MGM must have thought they were making a carefree 'Cisco Kid' type of movie, but instead came up with a serious historical tragedy about prejudice, injustice and lawless killing in California during Gold Rush days. Warner Baxter is Joaquin Murrieta, a vengeance-taking peasant who becomes thief and killer. Everybody's wrong in this Karmic downer, from murderous Yankees to 'brainless' Mexicans, to J. Carrol Naish's bloodthirsty three-fingered bandit. Baxter's child-like Murrieta makes no sense whatsoever... but class-conscious MGM ensures that the wealthy Mexican landed gentry remain both noble and blame-free. It's a lesson on how to twist history into a political pretzel. With Margo and Bruce Cabot; beautifully remastered on DVD-R from The Warner Archive Collection.
9/01/15

and

Murder, My Sweet
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

  Philip Marlowe rides again, in this touchstone film noir that set the standard for depictions of Raymond Chandler's ethical-cynical private detective. Dick Powell pulled off the biggest star persona makeover of the decade, dishing out the hardboiled Chandler patter like he been talking that way since Kindergarten. Claire Trevor and Mike Mazurki get terrific star turns, while Anne Shirley is the good girl who nevertheless tries to manipulate Marlowe as well. I didn't mean 'manipulate' that way. With fine direction by Edward Dmytryk and some of the best expressionistic imagery in film noir. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
9/01/15




Hello!

Savant is now posting once a week, but with more reviews.

Things are humming at DVD Savant and it's good to be here, despite the 100-degree temperatures outside. Vacation time this year was a major, welcome break... here's me back in July hobnobbing with my favorite pal, the great guy who gave me Lincoln Logs for Christmas when I was four. Most monuments are not my favorite things, but so far the Statue of Liberty and this one in Dee Cee have really felt inspirational.

Nobody's complained about the personal pictures yet. I will try to make them more movie-related, and less of 'me.'

Gary Teetzel is always in there pitching fun links. I find this Nerdist animation from "Dorkly", The Death Star Engineer Makes Some Good Points pretty hilarious. It makes perfect sense to me. But who speaks up for the poor Womp Rats?

Respected colleague Marshall Crawford sends this link to N.Z. Pete's brand new page devoted to The Special Effects of "1941". I like his description of the movie: "Somewhat maligned, though undeniably spectacular." I took a number of BTS photos displayed. One shows the legendary physical effects man Logan Frazee, with the wire rig holding a test P-40 half the size of the models used in the film. Pete gets a few things wrong but nothing major -- if anybody knows him, I'd be happy to identify five or six of the modelmakers and effects folk seen in his other photos.

And this link to Todd Rigney's Dread Central announcement for a (pretty dubious-sounding) proposed show, OldZilla Takes an Animated Look at an Elderly Kaiju elicited a good response from Gary: "Chinese animation company announces plans to make a feature about an elderly kaiju called OldZilla. Cue the Toho lawyers in Three . . Two . . . One . . . "

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


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

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