Review Page and Column
Porky Pig 101 10/17/17
Reviewer ‘B’ makes his CineSavant debut with an in-depth report on everyone’s favorite Looney Tunes swine, P-p-p-porky P-p-p-pig. The multi-disc, voluminous saga of porcine fun and folly starts with a stuttering walk-on and rises to Warner Bros. fame and glory, waving the flag, surviving Daffy Duck, the works. ‘B’ handles Porky’s story like a detective case, sizing up the suspects animation directors that took this choice ham off the supermarket shelf and made him a household word. Not ‘bacon.’ On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
Orson Welles’ Othello 10/17/17
Charlie Largent charts the chaos surrounding Orson Welles’s years-in-the-making 1952 production of Othello, which nevertheless survives as a visionary work of art and one of the great director’s finest films. Filmed in and around Morocco, Venice and Rome; with Suzanne Cloutier and Micheál MacLiammóir as the unknowable Iago, whose race-baiting demagogue feels unnervingly contemporary. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
They’re non-corporeal cut-ups, rich folks on the town with nothing better to do than spice up the love life of Roland Young’s harried, henpecked bank president. Hal Roach’s screwball hit did good things for everybody concerned, especially star Cary Grant and bit player Arthur Lake. But the nostalgic heart of the show is Billie Burke, with the tinkle-y-glass voice. Also starring platinum blonde Constance Bennett, Alan Mowbray and Eugene Pallette. On Blu-rayfrom VCI.
Junior Bonner 10/17/17
Sam Peckinpah was a fine director of actors when the material was right, and his first collaboration with Steve McQueen is an involved character study about a rodeo family dealing with changing times. Prescott, Arizona is the backdrop for a 4th of July, and McQueen is the aging star that wants to ride the roughest bull in the bullpen. Joe Don Baker and Ben Johnson shine, but the movie belongs to Ida Lupino and Robert Preston. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
It’s a day for vintage monster lore, with a fun ’50s monster link resource.
Talk about going back to one’s roots. Correspondent Michael Brunas just sent me the following note and link:
“I’m sure many of your readers remember these two 50-foot regular 8mm reels that were sold on the pages of Fantastic Monsters of the Films magazine in the early 1960s. I used to own both and have been seeking them out for years before a collector recently put them up on YouTube.”
“They’re very interesting souvenirs of the Paul Blaisell – Bob Burns collaboration. At the time many of us Monster Kids thought that the “Cliff Monster” model was actually a modified version of the classic, battery-driven Great Garloo toy that was popular in those days. I suspect that’s exactly the case. Best regards, Michael Brunas”
Do I remember? At age ten, I very strongly remember staring for minutes at a time at the full-page photo of The Cliff Monster in Fantastic Monsters. The pages devoted to ‘The Cliff Monster’ were a sales promotion; I mis-remembered ‘Golden Eagle Films’ as the defunct studio Eagle-Lion. Fantastic Monsters sold all kinds of ephemera from Paul Blaisdell, the maker of monsters and monster masks for American-International pictures. I most wanted to order slide sets of Blaisdell’s critters from It Conquered the World and The She-Creature.
The YouTube resurrection of the B&W 8mm films looks pretty good; they were uploaded by Donald Deveau just a couple of weeks ago. The home movie The Cliff Monster has some in-camera mattes, while Filmland Monsters intercuts trailer clips with home movie close-ups of Blaisdell’s monsters from the aforementioned movies, along with the bug-eyed critter from Invasion of the Saucermen.
At age 11 or so I managed to nab only two issues of Fantastic Monsters of the Films. There were apparently seven in all. I had to be both at the right magazine stand and also have 50 cents in my pocket, which back then was a tough combination. Actually, the biggest thrill here is finding the entire run of the magazine archived at Archive.org and instantly accessible. I can now read all the copies, even the issues I never saw. Besides enjoying Blaisdell and Burns’ exclusive photos and articles about the monsters they created, I can see who’s contributing, how they shamelessly promote themselves, and what fans are writing in — Ronnie Borst, Donnie Glut, Donald Shay!
Paul Blaisdell got his start in movie work as a client of agent Forrest Ackerman, so I assume the relationship was finished before this competing magazine was begun. Blaisdell was likely fed up with A.I.P., after being paid peanuts to create some of the studio’s most memorable monsters. By coincidence, esteemed TCM colleague John Miller today posted on Facebook about a Heritage auction of Albert Kallis’ original poster artwork for A.I.P.’s Invasion of the Saucermen, presumably with Blaisdell’s monster designs. He was paid a couple of hundred bucks back in 1957, whereas who knows how much this poster will go for?
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Old Dark House 10/14/17
It’s a genuine Universal horror classic that to my knowledge has never been available in a decent presentation — but The Cohen Group has come through with a nigh-perfect Blu-ray, both image and sound. Karloff is creepy, Gloria Stuart lovely, and Charles Laughton amusing, with Ernest Thesiger at his most delightfully fruity. Can I say ‘fruity?’ The potato lobby should be pleased, too. On Blu-ray from The Cohen Group.
The Sea Wolf 10/14/17
Now restored to perfection, this genuine classic hasn’t been seen intact for way over sixty years. Michael Curtiz and Robert Rossen adapt Jack London’s suspenseful allegory in high style, with a superb quartet of actors doing some of their best work: Robinson, Garfield, Lupino and newcomer Alexander Knox. An amazing 100% restoration, too. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
T-Men — Special Edition 10/14/17
Found: a must-see Film noir in all its brutal glory, restored to a level of quality not seen in years. Anthony Mann and John Alton made their reputations with ninety minutes of chiaroscuro heaven — it’s one of the best-looking noirs ever. With extras produced by Alan K. Rode. With Dennis O’Keefe Alfred Ryder, Wallace Ford and Charles McGraw. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
It’s a full links weekend, to accompany a full house of hotly desired restorations. Over at The Passionate Moviegoer, Joe Baltake comes up with a relevant film clip to prove that zealots altered the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag in 1954, tweaking our vanishing separation of Church and State. Baltake’s article is called Harold and Maude, Donald & Cary.
Meanwhile, correspondent Stefan Anderssen sends a link to something that’s been around for a while but might have slipped one’s attention: a split-screen comparison of the Horror of Dracula reel found in Japan, versus the U.K. 2012 restoration: Hammer Dracula side by side comparison. The new bit with the disturbing ‘Dracula Cries’ shot commences at about 2:44. I’d like to see a comparison between Warner Home Video’s excellent color and the U.K.’s sharper but frustrating bluey-bluey tweaked transfer. Stefan reports that the German company Anolis is doing a new Blu-ray version of the Fisher Dracula. They might not be able to incorporate the recovered disintegration footage, but if they restore the film’s authentic Technicolor palette, I’ll be a vocal booster.
Savant correspondent Lee Broughton will be contributing another review soon. His new page Current Thinking on the Western just put up a short article by John Nudge recounting The History of the Spaghetti Western Web Board. The board has been the go-to destination for Italo western research since 1998 or so.
Gary Teetzel has been scouring vintage magazines and keeps coming up with gems, like Boris Karloff’s acting ads from the early 1920s. One even lists Mr. K’s Hollywood street address. Yesterday Gary came up with this Forrest Ackerman fan letter from a 1931 issue of New Movies magazine. It should be fairly self-explanatory. That’s Forry for you — leading with an emotional opinion, and already boasting of his collecting habit: “among the many that I possess.” Ray Bradbury famously wrote about, when he was a kid, soliciting Dietrich’s autograph on the sidewalk outside CBS on Sunset. I wonder if Ackerman was envious?
Gary also found something that’s been on the Web awhile that I missed, a collection of home movies from the Original ILM special effects facility out at 6846 Valjean Ave. in Van Nuys. I visited three times but only once in the daytime when the whole staff was there. At night we saw Richard Edlund and other happy cameramen taking a break while filming motion control spaceships. A poster over the front desk, originally printed to announce ‘The Star Wars, Coming Summer 1976′ had been altered to ‘Coming Summer 1977’, and that alteration updated to ‘Maybe in 1978?’
And finally, just announced by Twilight Time’s Nick Redman, their Blu-ray releases for January, all with a ship date of January 23: Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives with Mia Farrow (1992), Paul Mazurzky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice with Natalie Wood & Robert Culp (1969), Henry Koster’s My Cousin Rachel with Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton (1952) and Joseph Mankiewicz’s Dragonwyck with Gene Tierney and Vincent Price (1946).
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Lost Horizon (1937) 10/10/17
It’s a wonder movie from the 1930s, a political fantasy that imagines a Utopia of peace and kindness hidden away in a distant mountain range — or in our daydreams. Sony’s new restoration is indeed impressive. Ronald Colman is seduced by a vision of a non-sectarian Heaven on Earth, while Savant indulges his anti-Frank Capra grumblings in his admiring but hesitant review essay.. On Blu-ray from Sony / Columbia Pictures.
I guess there are plenty of adults now too young to remember when Christopher Reeve made his debut as The Man of Steel. It was a massive hit across the full spectrum of moviegoers. Warners is taking good care of everyone’s favorite undocumented visitor from Planet Krypton, and has assembled two separate cuts of his big-screen premiere. On Blu-ray from Warner Home Video.
The Hidden 10/10/17
Reviewer Charlie Largent takes on Jack Sholder’s freewheeling alien police pursuit, in which a creature from another world possesses a fast string of hosts to help him make a getaway on terra firma. Starring Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri. Why does this movie seem like a dream that Agent Dale Cooper would be having in Twin Peaks? On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Portrait of Jennie 10/10/17
David O. Selznick’s marvelous romantic fantasy ode to Jennifer Jones was almost wholly unappreciated back in 1948. It’s one of those peculiar pictures that either melts one’s heart or doesn’t. Backed by a music score adapted from Debussy, just one breathy “Oh Eben . . . “ will turn average romantics into mush. With Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Ethel Barrymore and Cecil Kellaway. On Blu-rayfrom KL Studio Classics.
Reviews were rough this time — a lot to think about and get right. I’m up against the deadline (other work, actually), and thanks to Charlie Largent have an extra title to tout today.
So I’m cheating on the links today … let me just add this nice Youtube video link sent in by Edward Sullivan, of a late- 1950s performance by a Savant favorite, who is quite a dancer: Miss Debra Paget: Live in Las Vegas! I’ve been advised that this particular video has been pulled before, so I hope it will be around more than a day.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Personal Shopper 10/07/17
Reviewer Charlie Largent takes on Olivier Assayas’s metaphysical thriller from 2016, a haunting mix of existential mind games and Hitchcockian horror with a riveting performance from Kristen Stewart. Can a pact to communicate after death be kept through text messages? Is this high-fashion slice of melancholia a ghost story, or a study in delusion? It certainly divided critical opinions. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Need a break from violence, misery, and injustice? Or maybe just the network TV news? Billy Wilder’s last great comic romance is an Italian vacation soaked in music, food, scenery and sunshine. It’s the best movie ever about Love and Funerals. Jack Lemmon is the ugly American who learns to mellow out; Juliet Mills the London manicurist that shows him how, and Clive Revill as the best comedy support since Edward Everett Horton went on to his heavenly reward. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.