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May 30, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Angry Hills
The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

 Robert Mitchum all but snoozes through this promising war-espionage thriller that pits a lazy Gestapo against particularly clueless partisans in occupied Greece. It's got great locations and a good cast, but director Robert Aldrich seems off his feed -- there's not a lot of excitement to be had. Elisabeth Mueller, Gia Scala and Stanley Baker wrestle with murky characters and a lack of meaningful action. The good news? The WAC's new transfer is an uncensored European cut, it seems. With Sebastian Cabot, Donald Wolfit, Marius Goring, Theodore Bikel and an impressively uninhibited cabaret dancer. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/31/16



City of Women
The Cohen Media Group
Blu-ray

 That naughty boy Federico Fellini goes all out with this essay-hallucination about women, a surreal odyssey that hurls Marcello Mastroianni into a world in which women are no longer putting up with male nonsense. It's an honest (if still somewhat sexist) effort by an artist unwilling to give up illusions and pleasures that he acknowledges as infantile. All he wants to do is play, but he's chased, teased, lectured and threatened. With Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers, Donatella Damiani and an army of women -- whether aggressive or oversexed, Fellini just doesn't understand them. A beautiful new restoration, on Blu-ray from The Cohen Media Group.
5/31/16



and

The Player
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Production exec Tim Robbins murders to keep his grip on his coveted high studio roost. Robert Altman's murder tale reeks of insider access and Beverly Hills hipster BS; its main claim to greatness is its 50+ star cameos, that include every hungry name in 1992 Hollywood. The show reeks of smugness; it was made by the insiders it lampoons. But they don't make Hollywood pix any slicker than this. With Gretta Schacchi, Whoopi Goldberg, Fred Ward and the oiliest Hollywood hipster of them all, Peter Gallagher. But hey, it re-energized Altman's career. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
5/31/16




Hello!

As General Turgidson says, let's see what's cookin' on the threat board!

In hand, I have DVDs of The Woman in White, The Whip Hand, These Three, Night Will Fall and Forbidden Hollywood Volume X (Warner Archive), plus the East German Kathe Kollwitz (DEFA). Hot on the review list for Blu-ray are Lilies of the Field, I Could Go On Singing and Appassionata (Twilight Time); Antonia's Line (Film Movement); After the Fox, The Magnetic Monster, Gold, Hidden Fear, Shield for Murder and 99 River Street (Kino); Brief Encounter, Only Angels Have Wings, Le Amiche, La Chienne, and Here Comes Mr. Jordan; She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and Victor/Victoria (Warner Archive).

June ought to be a killer month. Twilight Time's upcoming roster is mostly winners: Romeo is Bleeding, Inserts, The Hound of the Baskervilles ('59), The Member of the Wedding, The Panic in Needle Park and Rollerball (the first one). Criterion has listed Fantastic Planet, The In-Laws and a new special edition ofDr. Strangelove. Kino promises a special edition of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, a movie you need to see if you haven't. And Arrow will be coming out with a Blu of Ray Harryhausen Special Effects Titan, about which I hope to offer a special report.

Some things I've asked for but am not sure I'll be able to review are 45 Years, Hello My Name Is Doris, The Martian Extended Edtiion, The Wave, Apocalypse Now Triple Feature and Zootopia 3-D.

What in the future interests me? Well, Olive's Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon, The Pride and the Passion, Wild in the Streets and Saved; Kino's Modesty Blaise, Chandu the Magician, 3 Bad Men, Invisible Invaders, Deadline USA and a restored Fritz Lang The Spiders; Mondo Macabro's special edition of Possession, Criterion's Carnival of Souls, Muriel, Night and Fog and McCabe and Mrs. Miller and, believe it or not, Arrow's upcoming disc of Microwave Massacre. You may think you are a well-connected cult film wizard, but (toss head proudly back) I was on the set of Microwave Massacre. Yes, personally. I'll have some stories from the film's editor, who, forty years later, is still a close friend... even though he edited Microwave Massacre. I've never seen the movie, but it won a spot in the Hardy Encyclopedia of Horror, so we all know it must be a classic. Arrow made The Incredible Melting Man watchable, so I have high hopes.


And finally, I need to mention the passing of Robert S. Birchard, a well known film expert and historian (the real kind), author and raconteur, sound editor, picture editor and writer. If you attended special screenings here in Los Angeles, chances are you know about Bob. He helped run or ran the Cinecon show for decades and the last I heard was working for the Academy. He met and dealt with a great many people in the business and in the serious side of film collecting. I met him in 1971 at UCLA, where he'd show prints he'd collected of Tom Mix silent westerns, and rare early musicals. In college he was writing for film journals and contributing photos to Kevin Brownlow -- he was already an expert on silent movie westerns. We projected features for Lawrence Turman, and Binnie Barnes and Mike Frankovich. He also got me in cutting a low budget feature with him at the old Echo Films, a time that is full of great stories. He had the connection at BBS on La Brea Avenue, and we'd watch Bob Rafelson run dailies from the projection room. Bob was a member of my wedding party and a frequent dinner guest in our home. In college and afterwards, Steve Nielson, Randy Cook and I would go to screenings with Bob at the old Vagabond, the Encore, the Fox Venice and the Museum; and poke around at Larry Edmunds' bookstore at its old location. The most legendary story about Bob? He somehow got ahold of John Ford's address in Bel-Air in 1973. Knowing that the director was not well, he and Randy Cook just dropped in to say hello, as admiring film students. They got to see him for a few minutes!

Bob Birchard loved to argue (a lot) and loved to talk politics. He had a great laugh and his personality made a big impact. Search his name at DVD Savant and you'll see that I've often mentioned his practical jokes and quoted his remarks -- he always had a sharp opinion to offer. He'll be greatly missed.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


May 27, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Cat Ballou
Twilight Time
Blu-ray


 This breakout hit comedy western gave a lift to star Jane Fonda and especially to Lee Marvin, in an unexpected comedy role that won him a Best Acting Oscar. Lee characteristically said that he owed half of the award to 'some horse out in the valley somewhere.' The spoofy comedy and action hold up quite well, and we still love the ballads sung by Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole. With Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman, Tom Nardini, John Marley, and a horse that can cross its legs to look drunk. On Blu-ray from Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
5/28/16



Hail, Caesar!
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray + DVD


 Not funny enough, or too hip for the house? It's 24 hours of madness in a movie factory, circa 1951. I found the Coen Bros.' send-up of old-fashioned movie studio madness good fun, with a couple of good new actors mixed in with the usual roster of Coen regulars. If you like droll comedy combined with spot-on recreations of old movie genres, this show can't lose. And there has to be somebody out there who wants to see George Clooney in a skirt. The great cast includes Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Channing Tatum. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
5/28/16



Dark Passage
The Warner Arichives Collection
Blu-ray


 Bogie's back and Bacall's got him. Or, at least she's got his voice, and a bundle of bandages! A David Goodis hardboiled crime tale with excellent San Francisco locations becomes an absurd pile of coincidences and accidental relationships, all wrapped up (literally) in a giant plastic surgery gimmick picture. Humphrey Bogart and his new bride Lauren Bacall are charming as they do their best to put their real-life romance on the screen. But the show is stolen by Agnes Moorehead, who plays the most entertainingly horrible harpy in film history. Great camerawork and an impressively pristine transfer, on Blu-ray from The Warner Archives Collection.
5/28/16



and

Journey to Space
Shout! Factory
4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray and 3-D Blu-ray


 3-D IMAX goes back to outer space for a repeat of some space shuttle material, and an extended CGI look at how a Martian landing might be accomplished. We also see a lot of fantastic prototype space hardware being tested in the desert and in an underwater lab. It's a grab bag of film sources, and only about half of it is real 3-D material. It's in both 4K Ultra-HD and Blu-ray formats, plus Blu-ray 3-D. But so far the 4K disc format hasn't a 3-D option. A multi-format edition on 4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray and 3-D Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
5/28/16




Hello!

Hi! Gary Teetzel sends along this 'Universe Geekdom' link to Rihito Ue's stop motion animation of 'Moguera', Toho's titanic robot monster from the vintage alien invasion classic The Mysterians. It's very clever stuff -- I wish this software were around when I was a kid. Make sure you check out the making-of extra. And tell Mr. Ue that I was one happy kid in 1959, sitting by myself in a USAF theater watching Moguera come rumbling his way out of a mountain.

Kino sent me its promo material for a pair of science fiction Blu-ray releases, for pictures made twenty years apart. Made in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the super-production Gold carries on the Metropolis tradition. The fantastic technical special effects are in some ways far in advance of Hollywood. After the war, the film's enormous alchemy-metal transmuting machine was lifted as stock footage and used for Ivan Tors' first OSI sci-fi film, The Magnetic Monster. Both discs arrive on June 14 -- It'll be great to compare the two. I've never seen Gold, which also happens to star Brigitte Helm. June is going to be a good month!

That's Ann Sheridan just above, who says 'Happy Memorial Day,' even though it's not a day for celebration. Ann is holding comedian Ben Blue in her arms, for a USO skit. Back in 1944 in Burma, my father was a flyer taking cargo 'over the hump' into China to support the Kuomintang; and he took a roll of snapshots at a USO tent show. I should make them into a little article; he's got several more with Ben Blue and one nice shot showing Melvyn Douglas, looking none too happy. On the right is my father, probably in 1943 in North Africa. That would make him 22 or 23 years old. I thought of the snapshots while watching Ann Sheridan's Woman on the Run last week. I've never read a word about Ms. Sheridan to suggest that she was anything but a great lady, and here she is a patriot as well.

And one more last-minute link from Gary: an accessory required for every Alfred Hitchcock fan.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 23, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Blood Bath
Arrow USA
Blu-ray

 This four-feature set is the weirdest cinematic treasure box of the year, a sort of anti-matter film school. Three of the films are derived (very loosely) from a single Yugoslavian picture with Wiliam Campbell and Patrick Magee that wasn't commercial enough to suit Roger Corman. His acolytes Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman proceeded to add serial killings, supernatural hauntings, a full-on vampire, and an ending that could be called 'Zombies In The Wax Museum.' Tim Lucas tells the whole story in a fascinating extra docu... that's longer than any of the individual feature films it references. Obscure, yes, but I'm really glad I saw this. On Blu-ray from Arrow USA.
5/24/16



Woman on the Run
Flicker Alley / The Film Noir Foundation
Blu-ray + DVD

 What in the world -- an A + top-rank film noir gem hiding under the radar, and rescued (most literally) by the Film Noir Foundation. Ann Sheridan and Dennis O'Keefe trade dialogue as good as any in a film from 1950; the relationships are far more mature than is usual for a noir thriller. It works on several levels at once -- it has a cynical worldview yet a positive personal outlook. With Robert Keith, a cute dog and San Francisco as a terrific backdrop for the drama. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Flicker Alley / The Film Noir Foundation.
5/24/16



and

The King and Four Queens
Olive FIlms
Blu-ray

 Clark Gable is nearing the end but is still more than frisky enough to attract four well-chosen frontier women -- who in this case happen to be a quartet of robbers' wives, sitting on a rumored mountain of ill-gotten gains. Director Raoul Walsh abets the comedy-drama, as Gable's fox-in-a-henhouse tries to determine which hen can lead him to the promised golden eggs: Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Jo Van Fleet, Barbara Nichols, or Sara Shane. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
5/24/16




Hello!

I enjoyed reading a new article at Greenbriar Picture Shows today (listed as Monday May 23). It's about the Universal horror opus House of Dracula (1945) but brought up a lot of great discussion about our lifetime involvement with all of the Uni horrors, for better or worse. I particularly like author John McElwee's concern for the Larry Talbot character finding a happy rest in HOD, only to be brought back to life and into the same demonic predicament three years later in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. And hey, it feels good to contemplate a fantasy horror cycle where Larry Talbot and Dracula are 'cured', the Frankenstein Monster lives to a ripe old age and The Mummy and his reincarnated love live happily ever after. I mean, what we really have is a sentimental relationship with these monsters, after all these years.

Reader Michael Bjortvedt has been trying to track down more images of cut scenes, etc, from Roger Vadim's ...et Mourir de plaisir (Blood and Roses). No monster blobs to report so far, but he does have this choice image of Annette Stroyberg being rigged with a special effect blood tube. She's pictured with co-star Mel Ferrer. Here's hoping for more goodies on this subject.

Takashi Shimura -- musical star? Gary Teetzel forwards this link to a young Shimura singing in a musical comedy from early in his career: "Mandarin Duck." You can check out his dulcet tones at 38:30 and 43:00. It's rather different from his singing at the end of Ikiru. Heck of a swingin' main title theme, too! Thanks, Gary.

And thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 20, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Too Late for Tears
Flicker Alley / The Film Noir Foundation
Blu-ray + DVD


 Noir if I can help it! Sultry Lizabeth Scott out-'fatals' every femme we know in this wickedly ruthless tale of unadulterated female venality. Rough creep Dan Duryea meets his match, as do other unfortunate males that get between Liz and a plump bag of blackmail loot. The Film Noir Foundation's restoration is a valiant rescue job, for a worthy 'annihilating melodrama.' A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Flicker Alley / The Film Noir Foundation.
5/21/16



La fièvre monte à El Pao
Pathé
Region A+B Blu-ray + PAL DVD

 "Fever Mounts at El Pao"  Luis Buñuel's most direct film about revolutionary politics brandishes few if any surreal touches. It's a heady tale of personal intrigues, pitting French star Gérard Philipe against the Mexican legend María Félix. As in the opera Tosca, Jean Servais' sadisic governor blackmails the heroine into surrendering her virtue to save her lover. Yet it's an intelligent study of how not to effect change in a corrupt political regime. Produced in France and filmed in Mexico. A Dual-Format French edition on Region A+B Blu-ray and PAL DVD from Pathé.
5/21/16



Buster Keaton
The Shorts Collection 1917-1923

Kino Classics
Blu-ray

 All hail Buster Keaton! The Great Stone Face's pre-feature output is a comedic treasure trove that allows us to watch a performing genius perfect his filmic persona. Lobster's all-new restorations (newly scanned in 2K and 4K) debut some alternate scenes and fix a number of broken jump cuts. Plus an entire recently discovered original cut of The Blacksmith. It's the whole shebang - all of the earlier Fatty Arbuckle shorts and Buster's later solo efforts, in a five disc set. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
5/21/16



and

Eureka
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 Nicolas Roeg's bizarre blend of high drama, searing sex and over-the-top brutality waited a year, only to be given a tiny American release. It then dropped out of sight. We're now in a better position to appreciate the show's great actors - especially Theresa Russell, the boldest and bravest actress of the 1980s. Gene Hackman finds the mother lode; from that point forward it's all domestic fireworks, Voodoo orgies and a particularly gruesome murder. With Rutger Hauer, Jane Lapotaire, Mickey Rourke and Joe Pesci. In an extra, writer Paul Mayersberg compares the film to the real events it is based on. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
5/21/16




Hello!

Some interesting links, the first couple of which are courtesy of correspondent Stefan Andersson and involve Savant movie favorites.

Talk about straightening out a film question of personal interest -- Tim Lucas's Video Watchblog entry for May 17, 2016 features a great little article, The Blood and Roses Mystery Explained. I've been trying for years to figure out the meaning of some images from Roger Vadim's ...et Mourir de plaisir (Blood and Roses), and Tim's discovery goes a long way toward solving the mystery. He obtained a hitherto-undetected pocketbook novelization of Vadim's film that just happens to describe the infamous 'mystery blob monster' from what we assume was a cut scene. So far it's been seen only in a couple of stills Tim's account is a great read, particularly if you're familiar with the source book for Blood and Roses, Le Fanu's Carmilla.

The excerpt from the book is fairly explicit about where the blob appears - it comes between the optical of blood spreading across Millarca's torso, and the first 'Cocteau' image of the girl 'swimming' outside the fancy French doors. According to the novelization, the blob-thing, described a very similar to what we see in the stills, creeps onto the foot of Elsa Martinelli's bed and begins to cover her feet, which she can no longer feel. It's even described as being a slimy dark green in color. In other words, the novelization doesn't appear to be 'inventing' things, but following descriptions that may have been in the shooting script, or other actual production document.

Yet the evidence of the stills and the existing cuts suggest other possibilities. Wishful thinking?...

Looking at the video version on the German DVD, I still think that the blob must have been seen twice, here at the beginning of the 'Cocteau Dream' (which Tim defines as not actually a dream) and at the end. The German video has a slightly bumpy splice in both places, which is where I think the images once belonged. The fat splices tell us that the monster may have been pulled at the last minute. One reason I think that the blob was intended to be seen a second time, is because the two photos show it covering Martinellis's chest -- it's perhaps transplanting the 'blood motif' to her breast. That, and in the photos we can see that Martinelli is holding her hands up, as if to get them out of the way of the creeping blob. The first post-dream cut-back to Martinelli screaming, shows her hands in the same position.

That said, as Tim demonstrates, the novelization is very specific about the images in the dream sequence. In print, the blob doesn't return at the finish.

Amazing! Tim Lucas comes through with another revelation. Come on, French film authorities -- put ...et Mourir de plaisir back together, in large format Technirama.


Stefan also sends us a link to a spiffy Cannes promo for the new restoration of the marvelous classic Czech space odyssey Ikarie XB 1, which looks more amazing than ever. The imaginatively cut promo is very cool -- it even makes use of a quote from Joe Dante!

I need to add a personal message to Stefan Andersson: when I try to reply to your emails, they all bounce back immediately -- I've discovered that it's happened several times in the last month. I certainly receive your emails. Any suggestions for me?


And speaking of Joe Dante, on Wednesday Trailers from Hell hosted his cheerful trailer commentary for an old favorite of his, Roger Corman's The Wasp Woman, with the lovely Susan Cabot and Barboura Morris. We can tell when Joe reports on a personal favorite. The movie's not bad, either... TCM screens a good theatrical version from time to time.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 16, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The VVitch:
A New-England Folktale

Lionsgate
Blu-ray + Digital HD

 This is not your garden-variety horror picture -- its scares stem from primal guilt and fear of supernatural demons and devils that we can't entirely dismiss because people still believe in them enough to do terrible things. New faces -- Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw -- are excellent as 17th-century Puritans too pure to withstand the tricks of the Devil. Robert Eggers' first film is the best-reviewed horror picture of its year, and quite an achievement. On Blu-ray + Digital HD from Lionsgate.
5/17/16



Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 A major talent of the New German Cinema finds his footing out on the open highway, in a trio of intensely creative pictures that capture the pace and feel of living off the beaten path. All star Rüdiger Vogler, an actor who could be director Wim Wenders' alter ego. The three pictures are Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move and Kings of the Road; some of the other actors are Lisa Kreuzer, Hannah Schygulla, Nasstassja Kinski, Hans Christian Blech, Ivan Desny and Robert Zischler. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
5/17/16



and

Edge of Doom
The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

 Remember Charlie Chaplin's 'The Killer with a Heart?' You too will be frustrated by this well-produced story of a slum kid who commits an unpardonable crime, and the do-gooder priest that wants to pardon him. Dana Andrews and Farley Granger star but the smaller roles are best in this urban tragedy: Paul Stewart and Robert Keith, and an early appearance by Mala Powers. The unlikely producer of Mark Robson's No Joy In Mudville epic is Sam Goldwyn. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/17/16




Hello!

Today's the day to happily wade into Buster Keaton territory again ... on Kino's big new five-disc Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923. The Blu-ray set combines Buster's pre-feature solo work with his apprenticeship shorts with Fatty Arbuckle, a comedian who's almost as versatile. This time I promise to watch more than just my favorites. And I'll need to be looking to see how much the restoration has improved the pictures.

Any Luis Buñuel fans out there, or do my infrequent reviews of his movies play to an empty house? Thanks to Foreign Exchange Blu-ray Imports I just got a disc of a Buñuel mini-epic I'd never seen, the elusive La Fièvre monte à El Pao, with Gérard Philipe, Maria Félix and Jean Servais. Buñuel's biographers diss it but it's quite good, I thought. Can I take a break from domestic discs and review it? It's not likely ever to be released here. It's a French disc of a French/Mexican co-production, and only in the French language.

I've also been promised a 4K Ultra HD disc of the IMAX film Journey into Space. If I get it I'll review the Blu-ray-3-D disc in the package, and take the 4K disc to a friend's house to sample. I'm not sure I want to jump into that format quite yet, but maybe what I see will convince me. Do any early adopters have any big opinions on this?

And Gary Teetzel just informs me that Kevin Smith is angling to produce a Buckaroo Banzai TV show for MGM. All the news that's fit to print is up now at Uproxx.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 13, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami
Olive Films
Blu-ray

 Cad, bounder, dastard... look up those words in an old casting directory and you'll probably find a picture of George Sanders. Albert Lewin's best movie is a class-act period piece with terrific acting from Sanders, Angela Lansbury, Ann Dvorak, John Carradine, Warren William and many more. The source is the second novel by Guy de Maupassant. It's a powerful '40s picture that few have discovered, now handsomely restored. And don't forget the requisite Albert Lewin Technicolor insert shot of a painting. A really worthy restoration - revival... now if people can just find out about it. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
5/14/16



Garden of Evil
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 Bernard Herrmann music, plus weird landscapes, equals film-going Nirvana. Gary Cooper, Susan Hayward, Richard Widmark and Cameron Mitchell star in this extravagant early CinemaScope western tale, graced with an unbreakable story but lumbered with terrible dialogue and weak characters. Yet for fans of adventure filmmaking it's a legend, thanks to a thunderous Bernard Herrmann music score that transforms dozens of uncanny, real Mexican locations into something otherworldly. With an isolated music score track AND a commentary track about all things Herrmann features Nick Redman, Steven Smith, John Morgan and William Stromberg. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
5/14/16



and

That's Sexploitation!
Severin Films
Blu-ray

 Aside from the obvious appeal of this smörgásbord of dirty movie delights, cult director Frank Henenlotter hosts a good history of soft-core, low-impact, cholesterol-free film smut in all its forms: '30s films about drugs, the 'mom & pop' fake hygiene films, nudist romps, 'nudie cuties', 'roughies' and sundry other weirdnesses collected by the late Mike Vraney of Something Weird. Includes excellent clips and input from one of the 'greats' in this field, David F. Friedman. Plus three hours of mind warping 'naughty' short subjects. Remember, it's for educational purposes only. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
5/14/16




Hello!

Had a fun visit a couple of days ago to Foreign Exchange Blu-ray Imports down on Venice Blvd. in Culver City. It felt a little bit like sneaking into the old, old Dave's the Laser Place way in his first tiny haunt on the North side of Ventura Blvd. Foreign Exchange is a tiny shop that does only one thing, and that's import Region B Blu-rays, the kind that need all-region players. The prices are better than one finds online, there's of course no shipping and the happy proprietor will let you sample any disk -- he has a reference copy of everything he sells. He's also up on what language tracks are on the discs, and which have burned-in subtitles. He knows which discs are covertly all-region, as well - he reports that his most frequent customers don't have all-region equipment. Imagine that, real customer service -- I've written about my frustration with places like Best Buy, when I was so foolish as to ask a sales rep for help.

Foreign Exchange opened last Christmas but this is my first time there. I think I heard about it through Nathaniel Thompson, who was surely on the spot twenty minutes after the word first went out. The wares are in one little rack. About two hundred items are on display and he's willing to take requests. What a novel idea, a brick & mortar retail place... you pay your money and walk away with the product, right in your hand. The shop is in a little food court called The Brazilian Mall. You expect to see Sidney Greenstreet seated on your left or right. It's well worth a visit!


Oh, another link: the dauntless Gary Teetzel steers us to a welles.net report about a newly discovered Orson Welles audiotape, written by Ray Kelly: Rare recording of 'Caesar' radio show with Orson Welles found, from September 11, 1938.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 09, 2016

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[ Sad day. Savant tries not to be maudlin and resists becoming a bad news resource for famous people that pass away. But I found myself moved by the death today of actor William Schallert. He was special and somehow closer than many actors, and he was great in 1,001 small parts as well as his more substantial roles. I loved it during a speaking engagement when he pulled out a little diary book, and shared with his audience a list of all the one- and two- day jobs he took in one year early in his career. I'm not claiming any special connection or even special knowledge -- if my image of him is idealized or he was bad in any way, I don't want to know about it. Thanks and Godspeed Mr. Schallert. ]


Savant's new reviews today are:

The Naked Island
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Don't let your boss see this movie. Writer-director Kaneto Shindo reduces the human condition to its raw basics, as an isolated family endures a backbreaking existence of dawn 'til dusk toil to eke out a living. It's a beautiful but humbling ode to adaptability and human resolve; the show has no conventional dialogue. With excellent extras, including a video piece with Benecio Del Toro. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
5/10/16





A Married Woman
Entertainment One / The Cohen Collection
Blu-ray

 Here's something special, a Godard movie that's about people as much as it is about concepts. The dialogue doesn't sound as if it belongs in cartoon bubbles. His heroine is married but keeps a man on the side, in the French style. Jean-Luc Godard turns his intellect to the subject of relationships and reveals a lot about himself. It's a beautiful show too -- with the incredible Macha Méril visually cut up for study piece by piece. Co-starring Bernard Noël and Philippe Leroy. Extras include an excellent video talk with Macha Méril. On Blu-ray from Entertainment One / The Cohen Collection.
5/10/16



and

Cinema's Exiles:
From Hitler to Hollywood

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

 Banished by Josef Goebbels and threatened by the Reich, the creative core of the German film industry found itself in sunny Los Angeles, many not speaking English but determined to carry on as writers, directors and actors. More than simply surviving, they made a profound impact on Hollywood moviemaking. Karen Thomas's documentary is about the movies and the history, but mostly about the people -- from Fritz Lang to Billy Wilder, from Marlene Dietrich to Peter Lorre. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/10/16




Hello!

"May 10th. Thank God for the rain which has helped wash away the garbage and trash off the sidewalks... Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets."

For some reason every time May 10 rolls around I think of that quote. And then I remind myself not to spend my life in morbid self-attention. Now is that positive thinking, or what?

A lot of oversexed movies to review lately; I even felt self conscious putting up the title "The Naked Island," in which the only thing that's naked is the island itself. Besides Candy and What?, I've got in the hopper Fellini's City of Women and Severin's ode to smut from the Something Weird library, That's Sexploitation!   So I'm trying to parcel them out.

What else? Kino has sent along that big box of Buster Keaton Shorts, 738 minutes' worth. I have a new batch of Warner Archive titles that include a noir I'd never seen, Mark Robson's Edge of Doom. Also new is a Robert Aldrich holdout, The Angry Hills. It must be a Continental version, as it has a very long topless dance scene (pictured) that could never have been shown here in 1959. See? This stuff is getting hard to avoid.

The generous folk at DVD Talk have sent me the recent horror film The Witch to review. I've just started wading into Criterion's boxed set of Wim Wenders Road Pictures, which to me play like "Until the End of the World, The Prequel." Not really, but it's fun to see the same actors behaving in a similarly casual mode: 'We're adrift in foreign lands.' And I have to admit that I've got my nose pressed against my front window waiting for this week's batch of Twilight Time pictures... and my guilty-as-charged personal favorite Garden of Evil. For film collectors, the disc biz seems better than ever.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


May 06, 2016

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

The Chase
(1946)
Kino Classics

Blu-ray

 You want delirium, you got it -- the secret noir words for today are "Obsessive" and "Perverse." An exercise in dizzy disorientation, this Cornell Woolrich crazy-house noir pulls the rug out from under us at least three times. Innocent Robert Cummings is no match for sicko psychos Peter Lorre and Steve Cochran; Michèle Morgan is the dream-girl bait with whom Cummings runs away to Cuba. It's a genuinely bizarre noir, that hasn't been seen in a decent print since the 1970s. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
5/07/16



Mustang
Cohen / Entertainment One
Blu-ray + DVD

 This one will get to you. New director Deniz Gamze Ergüven takes on a difficult subject -- in a Turkish village, five teenaged sisters are imprisoned in their own home and forced to marry against their will, by relatives enforcing 'traditional' prerogatives. Sidestepping issues of religion, the show makes a powerful case for the rights of women, with the help of five marvelous young actresses; her show is funny, scary and thoroughly compelling. This one's on quite a few 'best of 2015' lists. On Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen / Entertainment One.
5/07/16



What?
Severin Films
Blu-ray

 What (?) is this -- a naughty sex odyssey as absurdist art? Or a non-PC slice of sleazy art film exploitation? Either way it's a (minor) Polanski masterpiece of direction, influenced by the Italian setting. Is what turns Polanski on? The entire excercise is a Kafka comedy of erotic discomfort. The stars are Marcello Mastroianni and Sydne Rome; she must be the trouper of all time, being naked through more than half of the film and retaining her dignity at all times. The seaside villa in this picture is alone worth the price of admission. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
5/07/16



and

A Kiss Before Dying
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 Robert Wagner as a social climbing psycho killer? I knew it! 'Mr. CinemaScope Smile of the 1950s' grins just once or twice in this movie, and then only to fool unsuspecting females. A great cast brings tension to Ira Levin's outrageous tale of murder. Joanne Woodward has a powerful role, but my heartthrob this time out is lovely Virginia Leith. Director Gerd Oswald's work looks great, with Lucien Ballard behind the camera on his color & 'Scope dazzler. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
5/07/16




Hello!

Good stuff today at Trailers from Hell -- the late Ib Melchoir provides a commentary for his science fiction oddity The Time Travelers. You can tell he's a great guy, as the first thing he does is assign credit to David Hewitt for all the film's on-camera trick effects. Ib seems carried away by his own fantasies, as he's convinced that his imagined time travel idea was too close to the truth and had to be censored from the movie. He seems like a really great guy. I couldn't see The Time Travelers new, and had to content myself with staring at the poster artwork in the newspaper. I don't know whether I heard rumors on this one or not, but a Blu-ray might be in the works... it would be nice to see it in widescreen.

Some Facebook messaging between Joseph McBride and Jonathan Rosenbaum indicates that Olive Films is working on a special edition of Orson Welles' Macbeth, in a deluxe set that will include both versions. One is supposed to be 89 minutes in duration, and the other uncut version 107. Olive already put the long version out in 2012; the short version redubs many lines, cuts many speeches and reportedly adds a pro-Christian audio prologue. Bless you, Production Code, the country is safe again, thanks to you. The really desirable content of the new release may be the promised McBride commentary and Rosenbaum essay. McBride contributed an excellent commentary to last year's Kino disc of John Ford's The Hurricane.

And for those of us hotly awaiting Twilight Time's just-released Garden of Evil, more Bernard Herrmann film music beckons. 1955's The Prince of Players with Richard Burton and Maggie McNamara has been announced for M.O.D. release by Fox. No word yet as to whether it will be enhanced widescreen or pan-scanned. Gary Teetzel says that it's an uneven (at best) film with one of the most peculiar final scenes ever, but that Herrmann's score is a winner.

Finally, here's what might be an important heads-up. On May 22, TCM is scheduled to show Of Stars and Men, a 53-minute animated movie I've been wondering about since about 1986, when I saw the archived notice for it in Donald Willis' Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews. The description there made it sound like a science lecture, with a sense of wonder appended via the famed animators John and Faith Hubley. I saw almost no mention of it anywhere else. Then in the 1990s I read more about the Hubleys, and their problems with the blacklist. Finally, I ordered the 1957 book it was based on, written by the pioneering astronomer Harlow Shapley. I have a feeling that the animated movie probably follows only the main part of the book, which is a cosmic primer about the size and shape of the universe and the wonders it contains, proto-Carl Sagan stuff.

Descriptions of the movie basically say that it's a (mostly?) wordless depiction of Man's search for his place in the universe, seen through the eyes of a child. If the movie gives out hard info, by now at least some of it is bound to be outdated.

But I'm mostly curious to see the film to find out if it even alludes to Shapley's final chapters, which were challenging in 1957 and today would probably be taken as heresy by a vocal minority. The bulk of the book clearly and gently explains that man and Earth are not the center of the universe. The last chapter states just as clearly Shapley's ultimate philosophy: that it is time for mankind to leave childhood, in the Arthur C. Clarke sense, and shake off religious faith as just more superstition. This is very disturbing personally, an extension of the blunt opinions that got the astronomers of an earlier time into hot water with the political powers that be. Shapley just says what he thinks: 'Some piously record "In the beginning God", but I say "In the beginning hydrogen."

I guess I'll have to wait to find out exactly what the movie proposes as our place in the universe.

Here's a Cartoon Brew article about a 2013 restoration screening of the Hubleys' film. It was also shown at a 2014 Cinefamily screening in Los Angeles, that got past me.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



May 02, 2016

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

 Stand back, watch the fur fly and don't forget to duck -- this is surely the smartest, most wicked and most psychologically toxic adapted play ever to hit film. The legends Liz and Dick don't disappoint, and Mike Nichols conquers the screen in his first job of direction -- the vicious dynamics in Edward Albee's play feel like situations we've encountered in real life, only pushed to an extreme that makes one's skin crawl. The WAC Blu-ray can boast a must-listen commentary with the late Mike Nichols, prompted by director Steven Soderbergh. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/03/16



Phoenix
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 What's contemporary Europe got that we ain't got? Powerful, serious filmmaking like this dark melodrama by Deutsche director Christian Petzold, starring the impressive Nina Hoss of Barbara. Their sixth collaboration is a loaded narrative that takes some pretty wild narrative themes -- plastic surgery, hidden identities -- and spins them in a suspenseful new direction. Think Eyes without a Face plus elements of Vertigo and Berlin Year Zero... yet it's not a gimmick film. This was in a lot of top ten lists last year. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
5/03/16



and

Candy
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 The dirty book of the '60s becomes an all-star dirty movie with Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Ringo Starr, James Coburn, Walter Matthau, John Astin, Charles Aznavour and John Huston all wanting a taste of the Swedish nymphet Ewa Aulin. Camerawork by Rotunno, designs by Dean Tavoularis, effects by Doug Trumbull, music by The Byrds & Steppenwolf -- and the best material is Brando making goofy faces as a sub-Sellers Indian guru. BUT: also included is an excellent interview piece by screenwriter Buck Henry. He can't explain what went wrong, but he sure convinces us that he had fun making the show. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
5/03/16




Hello!

Correspondent Bill Treadway sends a heads-up to fans of Michael Cimino: a free over-the-air digital channel called This TV, which this month happens to be showing the short version of Heaven's Gate, the version prepared in a panic by Cimino in the wake of the United Artists meltdown. All I know about it is that the opening sequence is now five minutes instead of twenty, and the transfer is a pan-scan job. The curious can now see for themselves what was done to the four-hour-plus movie. My disc review from 2012 is here.




Over at Joe Baltake's The Passionate Moviegoer, Joe compares two movies written by Thomas McGuane, and sees that they have an interesting number of parallel events -- The Missouri Breaks and Rancho Deluxe. Baltake uses the same comparison technique I used when comparing Get Shorty & Be Cool, and Death Watch & Until the End of the World. On my part, this is a definite case of, "Isn't he clever? He thinks just like I do."




And Dick Dinman announces my guesting on one of his DVD Classics Corner broadcasts, Dick Dinman and Glenn Erickson Salute the Noir Chiller Try and Get Me! which is of course recently out on Blu from Olive. Dick discusses other subjects, and then we work our way through Cy Endfield's sublimely traumatic story of sordid crime and disproportionate injustice. My disc review from last month is here.


Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


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

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