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August 30, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Fixed Bayonets!
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 Samuel Fuller's first picture under his Fox contract is a fine Korean War 'suicide squad' tale, filmed on a sound stage but looking quite authentic. Fuller brings his experience as an infantryman to the fore, while Richard Basehart and Gene Evans lead a fine cast -- Michael O'Shea, Skip Homeier ... it's one of Fuller's better-acted movies. Lots of cigars get chomped, and Gene Evans is actually named Sgt. Rock. A BIG plus is an excellent commentary with Michael Schlesinger hosting Christa Lang Fuller and Samantha Fuller, the director's wife and daughter. Between the three of them we get an in-depth look at this picture, and a lot more. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/30/16



Tony Rome / Lady in Cement
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 It's ring-a-ding time, with producer-star Frank Sinatra and his cooperative director Gordon Douglas doing a variation on the hipster detective saga. The two Tony Rome pictures are lively and fun and chock-ful of borderline offensive content. The misogyny is rough enough, with the main running gag being smash-zooms into women's rear ends. And don't forget the scenes expressing contempt for gays. Yet even with the wince-inducing attitudes, Sinatra is quite good and has fine support across the two pictures: Richard Conte, Gena Rowlands, Simon Oakland in one, and Raquel Welch, Martin Gabel, Lanie Kazan and Dan Blocker in the other. Plus Jill St. John and Sue Lyon, who aren't so hot.. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
8//16



and

American Ninja 3 Blood Hunt
Olive Films
Blu-ray

 At the bitter end of a ten-year slide into ever- cheaper productions, The Cannon Group sends stars David Bradley (a nice guy), Steve James (everyone's favorite) and Marjoe Gortner (a stiff) to South Africa at the height of the Apartheid boycott, to film an anemic entry in the profitable series. The producer? Why Harry Allan Towers, of course. Cannon is considered a 'fun' subject this year because of those funny documentaries that came out. Savant cut the trailer for this particular picture, so takes the opportunity to talk about the wild life and times in the Cannon trailer department. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/30/16




Hello!

Along with everyone else I'm sorry to see favorite Gene Wilder go. Back in 1972, when I was an usher at the now-gone National Theater in Westwood, we saw a continuous string of actors -- Alan Alda, Claude Akins, etc.. When I offered Jane Fonda the assistant manager's office to change her baby's diaper, she gave me a really frosty, off-putting "Go away." Hmmph. The same summer the management installed one of the first 'Pong' games, a tall, futuristic-shaped thing with a B&W monitor that played the game up top, and a slot to put a quarter in. I guess Gene Wilder had no patience for the movie he was watching, for he came out and started playing Pong. He got $5.00 worth of quarters and went at it, with a little smile on his face. About ten minutes later, I think I said, 'So I guess you like that.' He gave me the friendliest sideways smile you could imagine, and said, 'Where did this come from? I really could get hooked on this.' He played like that for at least forty minutes, and nobody bothered him. He seemed utterly self-possessed and serene, not neurotic in the least. So that's my story for the day.

Not a lot of additional news today, just stuff I don't expect readers to care that much about, like my last-ditch effort to tame my disc collection. First step: buy some file boxes at Office Depot. We're going to make room in this house, if every 10th disc has to be up in the attic, gathering dust.

Just got in Criterion's disc of Jacques Tourneur's Cat People and will be checking it out tonight. It only looks so-so on DVD and the prints I saw back in the 1970s were incredibly subtle, just beautiful. So I hope the restoration will pop.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 26, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Chimes at Midnight
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 aka Falstaff. Fans that lament Orson Welles' many career frustrations will flip over this Spanish-filmed masterpiece. Not well distributed when new and MIA for decades, it had serious audio problems when I saw it in the late '70s... but I could see what an accomplishment it was, even if I couldn't hear most of the dialogue. It's great -- right up there with Kane and Touch of Evil, and it features what is probably Welles' best acting. He is beyond perfect for this role. With John Gielgud, Keith Baxter, Jeanne Moreau and Margaret Rutherford. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/27/16



Tab Hunter Confidential
FilmRise
Blu-ray

 What's the right thing to say about a closeted movie career in an industry that feeds on gossip? There's plenty to say, if you're Tab Hunter. The 'fifties heartthrob breaks his silence with a remarkably candid and positive account of his astonishing, unique Hollywood experience. He comes off as charming as he does in his movies. The inside story on Hunter's personal life clears up a lot of cobwebs without trashing anybody. I guess this qualifies as an LGBT docu, but I related to it as a picture about a Hollywood 'pretty boy' with integrity, who found a way to sidestep the bigotry. Highly entertaining, funny and uplifting stuff here. On Blu-ray from FilmRise.
8/27/16



and

The Pride and the Passion
Olive Films
Blu-ray

 Round up three international stars, surround them with several thousand extras in Franco's Spain and you've got yourself an instant historical adventure epic. Unfunny Cary Grant has a BIG GUN, Spanish peasant guerilla Frank Sinatra looks totally lost, and Sophia Loren conquers Hollywood by making with the sultry eyes and body moves. It's Stanley Kramer's first shot at an epic, with insufficient directing experience; the best qualifier we can give it is 'mixed results.' Fans of the stars will love it, otherwise it's a total hoot. Originally presented in VistaVision and Technicolor, with music by George Antheil. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/27/16




Hello!

I got a request this week from a loyal correspondent asking if the Region coding posted for a German disc of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was accurate. The reliable answer for that particular title was available at Blu-ray.com, so that problem went away. But I sometimes become confused myself, and one doesn't want to order an expensive foreign disc, only to find that it can't be played here. If you want to help out your fellow collectors, and discover that the Region coding for a foreign disc is different than what's on Amazon UK, Amazon DE or wherever, write in and I'll post it here.

Semi- not good news -- A while back we were disappointed that a German disc of favorite This Island Earth was such a dog. Our hopes were raised again when a French disc of the same title was announced. Unfortunately, it's been reported to me that DVD Beaver has checked out the French product and found it the same transfer, just given a better bit rate. I guess it's important to be wary of foreign discs of titles owned by domestic studios: Japanese discs of RKOs have been made from secondary, inferior elements, and so have some European Universals.

And other on-site news that promises top review picks at DVD Savant: Olive has confirmed that their upcoming Monster of Piedras Blancas, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock and Commando Cody, Sky Marshall discs will be available for review, along with the promising Cecil B. DeMille silent, The Captive. I've been notified that a Legend of Tarzan 3-D from Warners is forthcoming; and assured that I'll be able to review the new Cinelicious disc of Leslie Stevens' once unavailable Private Property. I'm also positioned to review a big favorite, Rod Serling's 'organization man' drama Patterns, from The Film Detective/Allied. The new bounty of Twilight Times riches has just arrived, and I'm getting right into Arnold Laven's The Glory Guys and Paul Schrader's Hardcore, both of which I'll have a bit of inside info to talk about. The same goes for Kino's American Ninja 3 - Blood Hunt. I don't review too many Cannon pix but I cut the trailer for this Michael Dudikoff title back in 1988, so can't resist. The plan is to use part of the review to talk about the wild and unruly Cannon trailer department, back in its 'Mo & Yo' heyday.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 22, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Ox-Bow Incident
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 Leave it to director William Wellman to direct the most compelling social justice movie of the 1940s. Taken from a bestselling novel, it's a wrenching examination of the workings of a natural American phenomenon, the Lynch Mob. It's painful to watch, but you don't want to look away. With great acting from Dana Andrews, Henry Fonda, Harry Morgan, Anthony Quinn and many more. It's Hollywood's most convincing lesson about Law and Order, and every kid with a punk attitude about vigilante violence needs to see it. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/23/16



Wild in the Streets
Olive Films
Blu-ray

 Shelley Winters, Christopher Jones and Diane Varsi star in American-International's most successful 'youth rebellion' epic -- a political sci-fi satire about a rock star who starts a political movement, overthrows the government and puts everyone over 35 into concentration camps... to be force-fed LSD. Also with Hal Holbrook, Millie Perkins, Ed Begley and Richard Pryor. Listen to Max Frost and the Troopers" 'Let the old world make believe we're blind and deaf and dumb, but nothing can change the shape of things to come.' On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/23/16



and

The Immortal Story
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Orson Welles' French TV show with Jeanne Moreau is a near-masterpiece, directed with assurance and style. A rich misanthrope in Macao wants to pay two people to fulfill a ribald sailor's legend... so as to extend his control over people. Beautifully filmed in France and Spain, and restored to top quality in two language versions. It's the filmmaker's first color feature, and his last completed fictional feature. With some excellent interviews, as well as an illuminating French docu on Welles with a lot of candid footage. On Blu-ray from Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/23/16




Hello!

LOTS of positive feedback from Saturday's column reporting from AMIA's The Reel Thing from Hollywood. I have even more input in this follow-up report from our intrepid correspondent Gary Teetzel:

"Some interesting presentations today at the first day of AMIA's annual The Reel Thing conference. The highlights for me:

First up was a presentation on the restoration of the American cut of the 1931 version of The Front Page, directed by Lewis Milestone. There is a video about this on the 'net, so this may be old news to all of you. If not, the basic story is: Recently a print of The Front Page from the Howard Hughes estate was studied and, since it was in pretty good shape, was going to be used as the basis for a new restoration. One shot was problematic, so they borrowed the Library of Congress print -- the source of all those Public Domain versions over the decades -- thinking they could use it to fix the one bad shot. Upon closer examination, though, it was discovered that the two prints were totally different. Research revealed that three negatives had been prepared for the film: A U.S. version (which used the best takes and was generally more polished), an English version (now lost) and a General European version assembled from other takes and sometimes eliminating American references in the dialogue. The General European version also has a couple things that could not get by the U.S. censors, like a character giving someone the finger. The Library of Congress print was the European version, having originally been obtained from Europe. The Hughes print was the long-lost American version, unseen for decades. To restore the audio they used original metal stampers that were used to generate sound discs for theaters showing it in the sound-on-disc format. They discovered alternate stampers for Pennsylvania and Ohio, with alterations to comply with local censorship codes.

The Hughes collection has also yielded rare prints of some Lewis Milestone silent films; these are currently being restored.

Here is a video about the two versions of The Front Page. Joe Dante had this on his Facebook page a little while ago, which is where I first saw it.


Later came a presentation by Criterion's Lee Kline on the remastering of Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller. They had been hoping to work on this with Vilmos Zsigmond, who had been dissatisfied with the way most prints looked and was eager to work with them on it. But Zsigmond passed away shortly after they had completed scanning the film. They started looking at prints for reference, but no two seemed to match, with several having downright odd color choices. With the ninth print, though, they hit pay dirt -- it was a print that Zsigmond had timed himself for a Polish film festival. That became their guide for the color.

Another Criterion rep discussed the audio restoration for Don't Look Back, Quadrophenia and A Hard Day's Night.

Most of the other presentations were of a more technical nature: a primer on UHD and HDR; a discussion about scanning optical soundtrack negs; a look at a new wetgate scanner; and some highly technical stuff that was beyond my understanding.


The evening screening was a new restoration of John Huston's Beat the Devil done by Sony. Grover Crisp said they had put off the restoration for years, trying to locate better-quality materials, especially the original neg. Finally deciding to work with what they had, they began evaluating their elements and discovered that what they thought was a dupe negative contained about 60% of the original neg. They also borrowed a fine grain from Romulus in England, hoping that they might be able to use it for some sections where they did not have the original neg. It turned out to be in excellent condition -- and was an alternate, uncensored version of the film! All the Public Domain versions of Beat the Devil that have been circulating have been of a shorter, re-cut/censored version. Interesting point: Grover insists the film is NOT in the Public Domain.

The differences between the two versions of Beat the Devil:

1. The uncut version is told chronologically. The re-cut version uses a flashback structure and adds some Bogart narration.

2. The uncut version opens with a new scene of Jennifer Jones and Edward Underdown walking through the streets of the small Italian port town. The dialogue sets up some of Jones' flakiness.

3. About 18 minutes into the film there is a scene of Jones and Bogart talking outside, and Jones playfully accuses Bogart of making a pass at her. We then dissolve to a short scene of Gina Lollobrigida bringing the ailing Edward Underdown some tea, which ends abruptly as we dissolve back to Bogart and Jones. In the uncut version, the first scene between Bogart and Jones goes on slightly longer. We see them walking off and then reveal Peter Lorre shadowing them. We then cut to the Lollobrigida tea scene, which is now a little longer. We see her lean in to give Underdown the tea tray, her bosom coming very close to his face as he turns away awkwardly. We then cut back to Bogie and Jones.

4. The re-cut version takes a shot of the ship's captain yelling angrily from later in the film, flops it and inserts it into the scene of the characters boarding the ship.

5. In the scene where Bogart cons the Rita Hayworth-loving Arab policeman with the claims that he knows the actress personally, we see in the uncut version a pin-up of Hayworth in a racy swimsuit. A casual viewer might think she's nude. The re-cut version darkens the whole upper right corner of the screen, creating the effect of a shadow that conceals the pin-up.

There may be a couple other small differences, but those are the major ones. The restoration looked and sounded great; it would be nice if we could get a Criterion or Twilight Time release. -- Gary"

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 19, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Tale of Tales
Shout! Factory
Blu-ray

 It's strange, it's different, and I can see why it wasn't a theatrical hit... but Matteo Garrone's superb telling of three very adult, very extreme 17th century folk tales is a special item, beautifully directed and visually splendid. Yes, it has giant monsters, magic spells, a sex-obsessed monarch and a pair of crones that want to be young again... yet nothing is pat or obvious, let alone predictable. The biggest stars in the cast are John C. Reilly and Salma Hayek, but young Bebe Cave takes the prize as a princess forced into a hell-on-earth marriage. Italian made; great images and music. On Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
8/20/16



Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon
Olive Films
Blu-ray

 Troubling fact: the great director Otto Preminger's worst film is not Skidoo. Three physical misfits form an alternative family as a defense against the world. It's a good idea for a movie, but the writer and director do just about everything wrong that a writer and director can do. Liza Minnelli takes a risk playing a young woman scarred by acid; she pairs up with a gay paraplegic (Robert Moore) and a young man stricken with undiagnosed seizures (Ken Howard, in his first movie). There are positive elements in Junie Moon, namely a hauntingly warm song by Pete Seeger. But that's not enough to put up a defense. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/20/16



and

Love Me or Leave Me
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

 It's a powerhouse musical bio about the personality clash between an ambitious singer and the powerful enabler who wants her in his bed. Doris Day and James Cagney are at their best in a surprisingly uncompromised treatment of the real-life showbiz relationship of 'twenties star Ruth Etting and the domineering mobster Martin Snyder. Determined to have a singing career, Etting accepts Snyder's help in crashing show biz -- but Snyder isn't happy when she fails to come across with the old Quid Pro Quo. It's early CinemaScope from MGM, and it looks great on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/20/16




Hello!

Some fun announcements today. First up, it appears that a 3-D Blu of the '50s Sci-fi classic It Came from Outer Space will be available on October 4, and can be pre-ordered now as a Best Buy exclusive. The good news? It's listed at really cheap price point. Universal did a full-on restoration of The Creature from the Black Lagoon of several seasons ago; this disc was restored by the 3-D Film Archive. I hope it's as good as the Archive's other great 3-D disc releases.

And Criterion has announced a November release for a Blu of Marlon Brando's One-Eyed Jacks, which I remember as one of the most stunning Technicolor-VistaVision presentations I've ever seen. A friend saw the film restoration at AMIA's The Reel Thing just last night. He reports that

"The results look great--sharp, detailed with excellent color. Sourced from a DME mag [dialogue, music effects], the audio was also superb. A Universal exec said the original negative suffered from fading in the blue layer, so one of the separations on file was used to help recover the color. They had three vintage prints to look at for reference. Scorsese and Spielberg were active participants, providing a lot of feedback as the restoration progressed. At one point Spielberg showed Scorsese images from the film on his iPhone by long distance, as it screened. Scorsese appears in a video introduction before the film, mostly discussing its production and history. The intro will presumably be on the Criterion disc. Those of you who like the film should be very pleased."

I got in contact today with the Foreign Exchange Blu-ray Imports store in Culver City, which imports Region B Blu-rays for greedy all-Region collectors like myself. The company now has a new web sales site up, which the happy owner tells me is doing a great business!

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 15, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

A Taste of Honey
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

  Rita Tushingham captures one's heart in Tony Richardson's adaptation of the near-revolutionary play by Shelagh Delaney, a realistic tale of an option-challenged working-class misfit in industrial Manchester. Dora Bryan is magnificent as her mother, who likewise is trying to get on and have a good time; but Murray Melvin steals the show as a new (and by British law, illegal) character who befriends Rita's character, and tries to help her through her problems. The extras have new interviews with both Tushingham and Melvin, and an illuminating docu on Joan Littlewood's rebel theater movement, hosted by expert Kate Dorney. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/16/16



and

Road House
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 The character setup in this classy noir potboiler couldn't be better, with Ida Lupino a sensation as the mountain lodge chanteuse who knows her way around men. Cornel Wilde is the man who falls in love with the woman with the deep voice, unaware how murderously unreasonable his boss RIchard Widmark will become when he learns of his treachery. It just misses first-rank noir status.. for its first two acts the show is all but perfect, delineating crisp noir characterizations before the story gimmicks kick in. An extra treat is a repeat of a dandy commentary with Eddie Muller and Kim Morgan. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/16/16




Hello!

It's a Brit New Wave and Fox Noir day today ... with things in a rush due to a TCM deadline and family events --- it's been a different kind of summer, that's for sure. I'm eager to get to Chimes at Midnight and interesting titles from Twilight Time, Kino, Shout! Factory and Olive Films. One Olive disc of a Cannon ninja film will give me the excuse of writing more about my time in that company as a promo and trailer editor.

And one nice new discovery is Tale of Tales, a wonderful European fairy tale fantasy for adults, that I believe received a short and unheralded release here last year. An engaging, dead-serious literal reading of fairy tale fantasies by a 17th century folklorist, it's been made in the tradition of Brotherhood of the Wolf and perhaps The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec . Its weird charm probably couldn't compete with Marvel comics and other marketing juggernauts at the big studios that have the theaters all tied up. Yet I found that its surprises really grabbed me.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 12, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Microwave Massacre
Arrow Video
Blu-ray + DVD

 'Worst Movie Ever?'   No way. But neither is Wayne Berwick and comic Jackie Vernon's tacky cannibalism tale a piece of art. When I say it's interesting, it's more as a study item than entertainment. The smutty tale follows a schlubb who packs the remains of his battleaxe wife in the fridge, to be doled out as lunchtime snacks. The sub-burlesque jokes, verbal and visual, are painfully dire, making this a Black Comedy that's weird, but not funny, sexy or particularly gory. Something for everyone and no point in sight. It's a Bad movie -- but the disc is a terrific restoration. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Video.
8/13/16



The Spiders
Kino Classics
Blu-ray

 When Fritz Lang began in film he was a better writer than director. This lavish two-part thriller sees him concocting a multi-genre mash-up, shoehorning cowboy action thrills and an exotic lost Incan civilization into dagger-and-poison serial skullduggery. Part one 'feels' like Raiders of the Lost Ark, while the second feature-length adventure contains aspects of Big Trouble in Little China. Carl de Vogt is the cowboy-like treasure hunter and Lil Dagover the Incan sun priestess with whom he falls in love, between gun battles. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
8/13/16



and

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Hollywood's most elegantly natural, defiantly independent movie star comes alive in a film biography about her personal life, using inside family testimony, rare film and her diaries. Sweden's Ingrid seems more radiant than ever. The show concentrates on the actress's personal life, not the details of her film career. Pia Lindström and Isabella, Ingrid and Roberto Rossellini provide their memories and Alicia Vikander impersonates Bergman perfectly in reading from her diaries. Bergman seemingly filmed everything, and one is hard pressed to find a single unattractive photo or movie image of her.. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/13/16




Hello!

Are you an Orson Welles fan hurting because you have to wait for Criterion's Chimes at Midnight? Gary Teetzel points us to a YouTube link to a rare 1953 Italian comedy starring Toto', with our own Orson: L'Uomo, La Bestia e La Virtù. Yep, he's dubbed into Italian. Gary also tells me that the Cohen Film Collection has announced a Douglas Sirk double feature on September 27. I've never seen the recommended A Scandal in Paris, while Lured is a pretty good thriller that stars Lucille Ball and Boris Karloff.

Correspondent Lee Broughton has been writing on westerns here at Savant for almost sixteen years. He now has a new book on European Westerns - The Euro-Western: Reframing Gender, Race and the "Other" in Film. The book analyzes and compares individual films to argue that West German, Italian and British Westerns consistently featured progressive representations of the Wild West's "Others" (Native Americans, African-Americans and strong women) years ahead of Hollywood's output. The Euro-Western can has been given a pre-release price break when purchasers use the promo code BUFFY at the publisher's sales website.

Finally, a TCM movie alert -- if you get this in time: On Saturday morning TCM is screening Carol Reed's rarely shown Outcast of the Islands, with Trevor Howard, Ralph Richardson, Robert Morley and Wendy Hiller. It's a very good, very strange Joseph Conrad story structurally similar to other Conrad tales about white men who find themselves way up a river, banished from civilization, with nowhere to turn. Trevor Howard is better as an utter heel than he ever was as an upstanding citizen. I realize that not everyone has TCM but if a couple of readers catch it, my conscience will be clear. I should have blabbed about this last week.

And before I forget: producer Michael Schlesinger will be the newest 'guru' at Trailers from Hell. It's an inspired choice. Michael gave the most entertaining, hilarious and informative intros to the TCMfests I reported from several years back, earning cheers at screenings of One, Two, Three and Johnny Guitar. And every time my mind wanders while watching the Criterion disc of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, listening to his (shared) commentary is a major pick-me-up. I'm sure he'll be one of my TFH favorites.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 09, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Chandu the Magician
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 Hissable villain Bela Lugosi is in denial --- no, it's actually star Edmund Lowe who is in the Nile, tied up in a sunken sarcophagus. Lugosi's up top trying to get his art deco death ray in running order -- opposed only by some nubile babes and a Great White Hypnotist from the Swami school of mind control. Extra excitement comes courtesy of the stellar designer and co-director William Cameron Menzies -- this serial Egyptian adventure is packed with exciting settings, furious action and eye-opening special effects. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/10/16



These Three
The Warner Archives Collection
DVD

 Radical changes were required to adapt Lillian Hellman's Broadway play for post-Code Hollywood, to eradicate a theme that in 1934 was entirely taboo. But were audiences really unaware of the subject matter switch? William Wyler excels with this bowdlerized, yet curiously near-perfect, story about the power of scandal. Starring Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon and Joel McCrea. Wyler himself remade it 25 years later, without improving on it. On DVD from The Warner Archives Collection.
8/10/16



and

Woman in the Dunes
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 Japanese art filmmaking writ large by director Hiroshi Teshigahara: a strange allegorical fantasy about a man imprisoned in a sand pit, and compelled to make a primitive living with the woman who lives there. Plenty of harsh nature, raw sex, and impressive B&W images of a world ruled by sand: in dunes, filtering through the roof, caked on one's body, one's food... it's, like, sandy, get it? Stars Eiji Okada and Kyoko Kisida are odd couple in a sand trap without a golf course. With impressive extras including four earlier Teshigahara short subjects. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/10/16




Hello!

A tip of the hat to Savant associate Sergio Mims, whose own review of Kino Classics' Pioneers of African-American Cinema is viewable over at Roger Ebert.com. This is no favor between pals; Sergio has a unique perspective and is highly knowledgeable on the subject.

Hey, the Savant blurbs work! I received two notes from New York readers that read my announcement about the Joe Dante film fest at BAM in time to catch the screening of The Movie Orgy. So my great work hasn't been entirely in vain for nothing.

And next week should be fun, I hope. Arrow Video has sent me a review disc of the triple-Z horror feature Microwave Massacre, a movie that I've never seen, but that I helped out for a few minutes on the set, way back in 1978. My college friend Steve Nielson edited Microwave Massacre, and my plan is to share his thoughts on the film and its filmmakers. The director is on record as saying he had a big input into the cutting... so maybe I'll get some interesting answers.

Also, more Criterion discs have arrived including Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, which I haven't seen since 1974. I can't say that I've ever really heard it -- the soundtrack on the print I saw was unintelligible. The disc has subtitles, so maybe this time I'll understand what's going on. Even without hearing the soundtrack properly, I thought the movie was one of Welles' very best.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 05, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Destiny
Kino Classics
Blu-ray

 Death doesn't take a holiday in this, the granddaddy of movies about the woeful duties of the Grim Reaper. Fritz Lang's heavy-duty Expressionist fable is as German as they get -- a morbid folk tale with an emotionally powerful finish. To retrieve her man from the great beyond, Lil Dagover must play out three fated scenarios, in different times. This is the classic with the room filled with candles, each representing a human soul. It's billed as a new restoration, by the Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
8/06/16



Pioneers of African-American Cinema
Kino Classics
Blu-ray or DVD

 It's arrived -- thanks in part to a successful Kickstarter campaign, this nearly comprehensive compendium of American 'Race Films' is here in a deluxe five-disc Blu-ray presentation. The gargantuan playlist spans thirty years of entertainment made specifically for black audiences, and ran on a special Negro Theater Circuit. Highlights include an all-colored western, a great film with Paul Robeson as a lecherous fake minister, and even a hilarious short subject about a mix-up with an Egyptian mummy. Annotated with extra film clips, explanatory featurettes and an 80-page book. On Blu-ray or DVD from Kino Classics.
8/06/16



and

Betrayed
Olive Films
Blu-ray

 Costa-Gavras sets his focus on right-wing political terror in the American heartland, where FBI agent Debra Winger finds farmer Tom Berenger at the head of a clan of murderous white supremacists. Our friends and neighbors! It's a strange picture that perhaps shows the limits of Hollywood filmmaking -- when working with big stars on a big scale production, one false move makes the whole thing seem phony, even if it's not. One scene, a racist hunting game with human prey, is just too strong for anything but a sober docu. Blame screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, but also credit him with seeing the coming wave of domestic terror. Winger and Berenger are excellent. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
8/06/16




Hello!

You! You out there! Do you still believe that GORE cinema began with Herschel Gordon Lewis or those Mexican medical horror pix? Tim Lucas has alerted us to this stunning YouTube iteration of what's described as a silent Italian student film from ... wait for it ... 1936. Il caso Valdemar is a take on the Edgar Allan Poe story in a heavy expressionist mode -- if you have problems with vertigo, beware the plethora of canted, Dutch angles in this thing. It's quite well done, in an agreeably mannered style that reminds me of Gustav Machatý, except with a rotting corpse in place of nudes. I'm curious to hear what Craig Reardon thinks of this ... it's pretty powerful.

In other essential news, New York is being blessed with a full-on Joe Dante movie festival starting this weekend at BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music). Director Dante will be presenting his own films plus a selection of titles that most influenced him. The totally off-the-wall stunner event, that I recommend every fan of eccentric film humor see at least once before they die, is Dante's The Movie Orgy, a four- or five-hour marathon of crazy clips, ads, and feature excerpts from his and John Davison's teenage film collections. It presents more strange, sick, culturally unthinkable laughs than are good for one's health. The Andy Devine kiddie show excerpt is the most un-intendedly wicked thing I've ever seen. I guarantee that you'll walk out brain-damaged, repeating the immortal words, "And don't crowd me." I withstood saw the Orgy in Los Angeles in 2008 and reported on it here at Savant. Try as I did, I couldn't quite express how bizarre the thing is. I've never been in a theater shaken by such a volume of laughter.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson



August 02, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

A Touch of Zen
The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

 A Taiwanese wuxia masterpiece from director King Hu: three hours of suspense and visual beauty punctuated by amazing action scenes. A reclusive mystery woman captivates an artist/scholar -- who happily becomes the strategist in a battle to hold off an army... partly with ghost illusions. The exotic far-east genre holds special thrills for newcomers -- King Hu is a brilliant storyteller, and his exciting characters keep us in his thrall. The film's stars Hsu Feng and Shih Chun relate the production story in fascinating interview featurettes. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/02/16



Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

 Liz Taylor scorches the screen (as least as much as it could be scorched in 1958) in a watered-down yet still potent Tennessee Williams adaptation. Paul Newman gets his Brando act together, and the rest of the show is stolen by 'Big Daddy' Burl Ives. With Judith Anderson, Jack Carson, Madeline Sherwood, and a mess of no-neck monsters. It's a knock down drag 'em out family conflict drama, and nobody spares the mendacity. An old favorite looks stunning on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/02/16



and

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
Shout Selects
Blu-ray + DVD

 A new disc specialty label has chosen Buckaroo for extra-special edition treatment, with a long making-of docu just like the ones from the heyday of DVD. That's good, because sci-fi picture has an odd backstory worth documenting. Peter Weller leads his comrades the Hong Kong Cavaliers into battle against the nefarious Red Lectroids and their madman-catspaw John Lithgow. It's rubber monsters versus nerd hipdom, with a breakneck pace and a long cast of favorites: Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Rosalind Cash, Matt Clark, Clancy Brown, Carl Lumbly, Vincent Schiavelli, Dan Hedaya. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout! Factory's new special branded line, Shout Selects.
8/02/16




Hello!

To my UK readers, another announcement regarding Savant correspondent and reviewer Lee Broughton's cult film season at Screen Seven in Leeds: it continues this month with three likely titles, only one of which I've seen. Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) screens on the 6th of August, Barney Platts-Mills' Bronco Bullfrog (1969) gets the nod on the 18th August and Wisit Sasanatieng's Tears of the Black Tiger (2000) arrives on 24 August. I can't doubt that the second two films qualify as cult, for I've never heard of them!  Further information can be found at this 'Seven Leeds' link.

And going a bit farther east, mein deutscher Freund Ulrich Bruckner of Explosive Media will be visiting Los Angeles soon. I met him way back fifteen years or so, when rounding up Sergio Leone experts. Now his disc company licenses plenty of westerns for German release, often with Region-Free encodings. I'm looking forward to reviewing his discs of Budd Boetticher's Comanche Station ("Einer Gibt Nicht Auf") and Robert Parrish's The Wonderful Country ("Heise Grenze"). Ulrich's organized website is very welcome; now I can tell exactly what titles he covers. It has its own Spaghetti western-related blog pages.

And finally, Bob Furmanek just told me that the Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the restoration of the 1960 3-D movie September Storm has reached its initial $25,000 goal. An update is expected soon at the 3-D Film Archive

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


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

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