Glenn Erickson's
Review Page and Column

Tuesday September 27, 2022

You’re telling me those are just cloth costumes?  Aw, Sci-fi fans ruin everything.

Secret of the Incas 09/27/22

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray

Behold — it’s Indiana Jones in embryonic form. Paramount’s South American adventure exploits Peruvian scenery and the ’50s exotica phenomenon that was the unique songstress Yma Sumac. The production receives hearty input from Charlton Heston, Nicole Maurey and Thomas Mitchell, but it’s mostly a relic today. Not because the Raiders films have stolen its thunder . . . because it’s plenty hokey, even for 1954. The filmmakers did send a camera crew to the remote Andes, to film in the ‘lost city’ of Machu Picchu. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
09/27/22

Married to the Mob 09/27/22

Fun City Editions
Blu-ray

Jonathan Demme’s mix of high spirits and murder is the best gangland satire ever. The comic tale of Mafia spouse Angela de Marco comes with an edge of economic reality: how does one newly-impoverished New Yawk widow make a living for her orphaned son, while avoiding the ‘interest’ of the slimy Big Boss who had her husband iced?  Michelle Pfeiffer came into her own, Dean Stockwell has his best adult role and Matthew Modine is uniquely charming as a clean-cut FBI agent. The supporting performances go every which way: Mercedes Ruehl, Alec Baldwin, Oliver Platt and a slew of Demme regulars. Plus a music score by David Byrne. The disc features three new video interviews. On Blu-ray from Fun City Editions.
09/27/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday September 27, 2022

 

Hello!

DVD Classics Corner on the Air’s Dick Dinman has a new podcast show out. Author & film noir authority Alan K. Rode joins Dick to discuss Kino’s twin 4K Ultra-HD releases of Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing & Paths of Glory.

The pair also take a peek at recent releases of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and The Turning Point.

 


 

When deadlines loom and the CineSavant Column is empty, we can always count on advisor Gary Teetzel … he’ll come up with something good no matter how insubstantial.

This is by no means a recommendation but I’m amused just knowing that a book exists for Joseph Green’s genuine cult film . . . as part of an ‘It Came from Hollywood’ book series, Robert Freese has penned a novelization of The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, with the sub-heading ’60th Anniversary Novelization.’

Gary warns us not to ask why. There are some things man was not meant to know:

“Like all things, literature has its ultimate, and this is it.”

 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday September 24, 2022

It’s the Thinking Man’s missing link movie, not to be missed.

George Pal Sci-fi Double Feature 09/24/22

Paramount Presents
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray + Digital

It’s one of the year’s most awaited discs: the recent restored and remastered The War of the Worlds ’53 in a glorious 4K Ultra HD edition. A second Blu-ray disc of When Worlds Collide ’51 is too good to be called a bonus extra: this edition looks better than anything seen since original Technicolor prints. In one show we endure scurvy invaders from The Red Planet; in the other a rogue Astral Body threatens Earth with obliteration, necessitating escape on a space ship. Don’t bother checking online for tickets, the flight is sold out. CineSavant has the lowdown for collectors: how good does the new release look?  On 4K Ultra-HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Paramount Presents.
09/24/22

Twice-Told Tales 09/24/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

United Artists substitutes Nathaniel Hawthorne for Edgar Allan Poe, but even with Vincent Price on board Sidney Salkow is no Roger Corman. Three famous tales play out: Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, The House of the Seven Gables and the best, Rappaccini’s Daughter. Reviewer Charlie Largent sorts it all out: we like the cast, some of whom are survivors of earlier exploitation pix: Mari Blanchard, Sebastian Cabot, Richard Denning, Jacqueline deWit, Beverly Garland, Brett Halsey, Abraham Sofaer, Joyce Taylor. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
09/24/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday September 24, 2022

 

Hello!

This YouTube clip probably isn’t new, but associate Michael Arick sent it along knowing full well that we’d like it. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is graphically so arresting that almost any colorization effort could be impressive. The music selection heard here helps as well.

The link is to Metropolis Dance, Colorized. All those dazzling original B&W images were done with a camera, as they say. The clip incorporates the low-quality, high-impact uncut material found in Argentina in 2008.

Are there other fan cuts of Metropolis out there that I need to know about?  My grown kids should see the restored, ‘complete’ version, but they’re hooked on the Giorgio Moroder Disco Metropolis.  That’s how it goes — you try to brainwash them for 20 years, and they develop their own tastes and opinions anyway.

 


 

Farewell, MGM HD cable channel: A Facebook post appeared and then disappeared on Thursday, announcing that the MGM Cable Channel would be discontinued as of October 31, 2022.

The channel has been around since 1999; I’m not sure when it made the jump to HD. It was an excellent resource to see MGM – owned features in high quality: Orion, American-International, etc.. It was especially good for checking out the A.I.P. rarities as they were restored, in HD before Blu-rays were issued. That’s where we first saw the ‘corrected’ no-freeze-frame The Trip, for instance. And MGM HD showed the uncut Heaven’s Gate once or twice as well, I think.

The pain came with our cable companies. Every year I’d review Comcast or Spectrum or whatever, and find that they’d shuffled the HD no-commercials movie channels around. TCM was almost always in a tier of its own. When I signed up for a special HD package with 5 or six channels, just a few months later they’d all be withdrawn or spread out over other, more expensive tiers. Around 2017 I gave up on MGM HD … by then it was showing the same 200 titles in rotation. They showed some interesting items, but also did cute things like run The Red Shoes cropped to 1:78 widescreen. Who needs to see feet in a ballet movie?

Perhaps this is fallout from Amazon’s acquisition of MGM?  It reminds me of the way Disney has put almost all of the 20th-Fox library out of bounds . . . although occasional fresh Fox titles do show up here and there.

 


 

This doesn’t happen all too often — we open a box of new discs and one grabs us with really, really attractive artwork. I hadn’t heard of Arrow Video USA’s new disc set Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror but the cover art got our attention. The artist is Colin Murdoch.

I’m becoming more appreciative of good disc art. Sometimes it’s just fine to recycle original poster graphics, assuming any good material exists. It’s great when disc companies commission new art, although we long ago grew weary of quickie ‘paint-izations’ of familiar pub photos. This set of four faces may be from photos as well, but Murdoch adds atmosphere and emotion. I find it dramatic, curiosity-inducing.

The four titles in the set are Lady Morgan’s Vengeance, The Blancheville Monster, The Third Eye and The Witch. In Italian, that last generic-sounding title is called La strega in amore. It’s said to be from a novel by Carlos Fuentes, which for us makes it a must-see. Charlie Largent may be writing the review. The street date is a Halloween-friendly October 18.

The box graphic zooms or re-opens much larger ‘in a new window.’

 


 

And finally, Kino Lorber just reissued their two sets of Outer Limits TV seasons, on September 20. The initial release was four years ago, split between March and November of 2018. Those boxes held fold-out ‘digiPack’ card & plastic disc holders, six discs for season one and four for season two.

The new releases are still divided between seasons, but deliver the shows in multi-disc keep cases. All of the video extras are present, but not repeated from the 2018 editions are the insert booklets, with the lengthy notes and essays.

This time out each disc case gives us a simple index — finding individual episodes took some effort with the old set. I think it’s high time that David J. Schow’s publishers be encouraged to enlarge and revise his old Outer Limits Companion reference book. He’s written two OL books, and both are long out of print.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday September 20, 2022

Nuke the whales, sure, but somebody please save Magma!

The Scarlet Hour 09/20/22

Viavision [Imprint]
Region Free Blu-ray

Producer-director Michael Curtiz’s femme fatale noir has a lot going for it — high production values, VistaVision, and new film talent in Tom Tryon, Carol Ohmart, Elaine Stritch & Jody Lawrance. Excellent location shooting and a Nat King Cole song provide authentic Los Angeles atmosphere. But the storyline is ten years out of date. The advertising promoted Ms. Ohmart as a new ’50s sex symbol. She may have caught fire, but the show didn’t. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
09/20/22

Rain (1932) 09/20/22

Mary Pickford / VCI
Blu-ray

The effort to restore neglected films doesn’t get more rewarding than this 4K rebirth of Lewis Milestone’s version of the acclaimed Somerset Maugham story. Loaned from MGM, Joan Crawford tries on the role of Sadie Thompson and holds her own opposite Walter Huston’s fire & brimstone preacher. It’s still a major achievement of the pre-Code era, an adult story that doesn’t water down its ‘dangerous’ themes: it’s exactly the kind of show that the censors didn’t want made. On Blu-ray from Mary Pickford Foundation / VCI.
09/20/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday September 20, 2022

 

Hello!

Are you a fan of John Parker’s 1953 avant-garde horror pic Dementia? A singer-songwriter by the name of K. Edward Smith has put together a new score for the show, and is offering it online with the movie or as a separate soundtrack recording.

We’ve only heard a few sample cues from the new music tracks. The info on Smith and his re-scoring of the classic movie is at this Right Brain link; I’ve also been given a link to a page for the score sans video: Dementia: The Complete Film Score.

Interesting ambition, that. I’d say that the original George Antheil score isn’t begging for replacement, but an experiment is an experiment. You know, like Philip Glass and his buzz-hum music score revision for the original Dracula.

 


 

The ever-observant Joe Dante has been circulating this YouTube link, a curious bit of cultural appropriation entitled The Exquisite Gucci Campaign. The budget for this must have been astronomical, the imagination required not quite as impressive.

Yes, this was no ordinary fashion video shoot. The underlying message seems to be ‘we’re Gucci trendsetters and you’re not; we can do any frivolous thing our hearts desire and call it culturally significant.”  That negative evaluation is probably uncalled for. The images are indeed arresting.

Ever had the thought of recreating an environment from a movie?  There was a marvelous effects man by the name Tom Scherman, who with his brother completely transformed his apartment so that it evoked the iron + rivets interior of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus from the Disney film. On a less extreme level, my son recently told me about a friend who decorated his basement rec room to resemble the David Lynch Doom Room in ‘The Lodge,’ complete with scarlet drapes, zigzag carpeting and an odd statue or two. More power to the guy.

Is the detailed recreation of movie memories going to be a ‘thing’ as the movies themselves fade into some passé netherworld?  I confess to having similar daydreams — were I a Sultan with unlimited discretionary fun money, I’d eagerly commission a landscaped property where the backyard view would be a full-scale recreation of The Sand Pit Hill from Invaders from Mars. It would face the rising sun, of course, with trees painted black and grass painted yellow. You know, just to unnerve houseguests.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday September 17, 2022

Big, big imagination in a fondly-remembered family destination picture.

Elvis 4K 09/17/22

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray + Digital

CineSavant reviewer Charlie Largent is back in action, swingin’ and a shakin’ & rockin’ and a rollin’. The subject is Baz Luhrmann’s gaudy, circus-like Elvis Presley biopic, which stars Austin Butler as the pelvic title idol but gives equal emphasis to Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Tom Parker, the Machiavellian manager who spelled ‘Elvis’ as A-T-M. The deluxe 4K presentation reveals a carefully orchestrated riot of moods and colors — Lurid Luhrmann may be creatively scattered but this is a good-looking show. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
09/17/22

Orders to Kill 09/17/22

Powerhouse Indicator
Region Free Blu-ray

Anthony Asquith’s unusual look at wartime espionage garnered good notices in 1958, perhaps from reviewers rebelling against the trend toward ruthless screen violence. Star Paul Massie is fine as an emotionally-stricken Allied assassin who balks at carrying out his mission; the acting support from Irene Worth and Leslie French is superb. Screenwriter Paul Dehn was an ace at sharp, no-nonsense thrillers, but this story is soft around the edges — it seems to be explaining non-chivalric warfare to your sweet old grandmother. Which reminds us, Lillian Gish has a small role, too. On Region-Free Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
09/17/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday September 17, 2022

 

Hello!

Here are the facts for what’s shaping up as a major 3-D November, with two major 3-D Blu-ray releases in just two weeks’ time.

First up, on November 8 comes the hard-to-see 1953 I, The Jury, the first Mike Hammer thriller. It stars Biff Elliot and Peggie Castle and was photographed in original organic 3-D by the legendary John Alton.

ClassicFlix is the diskery of note for the release; it’s a 4K Ultra HD / Polarized 3-D Blu-ray / flat 2-D Blu-ray combo, the first I’ve run into. The restoration was performed by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

As reported by ClassicFlix, the extras include a commentary by Mike Hammer continuation author Max Allan Collins, a second commentary and video interview by star Biff Elliot, a making-of featurette and several vintage TV shows.

Then, one week later on November 15 comes the 1954 English film The Diamond Wizard, a ‘T-Men’-like international heist yarn starring Dennis O’Keefe and Margaret Sheridan.

The company behind this release is KL Studio Classics; it will be viewable in Polarized 3-D Blu-ray / flat 2-D Blu-ray / and in Anaglyphic 3-D. A a pair of red/cyan 3-D glasses come in the disc case.

Restored for 3-D by the 3-D Film Archive, The Diamond Wizard is the Archive’s third ‘3-D Premiere’ — as with Dragonfly Squadron and Jivaro, this English show was produced in 3-D but only released in flat 2-D.

Mike Ballew will provide an audio commentary and a 3-D slideshow.

I’ve often seen The Diamond Wizard listed as a Science Fiction film, but have been told that its only fantastic element is the notion of artificial diamonds. We haven’t seen either feature, unlike associate Gary Teetzel, who knows them well. We’re eager to see what the noir ace cameraman John Alton does with the 3-D depth-space.

 


 

A few weeks back we reviewed Severin Films’ Blu-ray collection The Incredibly Strange Films of Ray Dennis Steckler, actually covering only one disc in the set. At that time weren’t aware that deliveries of the boxed set weren’t yet happening. Yesterday Severin reported that the boxes have, quote, “finally arrived in finished form. We will now begin shipping them out and expect the process to take a couple weeks.”

Curious?  It is possible to get a good preview of the lineup of Steckler magic, in this Severin Ray Dennis Steckler Collection trailer.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday September 13, 2022

When ‘D.R.M.’ really cared about a role, nobody could fault his acting.

The Cop (Un condé) 09/13/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

The tough guys in Yves Boisset’s crime drama answer revenge with revenge, with Michel Bouquet’s rogue cop committing outrageous acts of lawlessness to nail his partner’s killer. The French censors were up at arms over Boisset’s slight to police honor, yet the subject isn’t corruption — everything is ‘honor and decency.’ A fine gallery of Gallic thugs fills out the cast; both they and the attitude toward law and order are a step beyond Jean-Pierre Melville, but not an improvement. With standout work from Michel Constantin, Théo Sarapo, Henri Garcin and Bernard Fresson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
09/13/22

Le Corbeau 09/13/22

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

As an artist Henri-Georges Clouzot was fearless: in the darkness of the German occupation he made a movie about the social crime of informing. Poison Pen accusations destroy trust, bringing out the worst in the people of a small French town. Who is The Crow and how many will suffer before the letters stop?  It’s a study in vitriolic misanthropy — the kind of cold observation that Clouzot does so well. At the war’s finish director Clouzot was accused of collaboration, and for a time was censured. Later on, some English critics classified the show as a horror film. It’s certainly creepy enough. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
09/13/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday September 13, 2022

It’s the Battle of the 4K Martians!

 

Hello!

We at CineSavant love strange coincidences, alignments, cosmic serendipities … but only when they fit our preconceived notions, of course.

Way back in 1953 two competing movies about invasions from outer space were released, Paramount’s relatively lavish The War of the Worlds in Technicolor, and an exotic independent released through 20th Fox, Invaders from Mars, with original prints struck in the strange SuperCineColor process.

The most exciting Sci-Fi news of Fall 2022 is that 4K Ultra HD discs of both of these very different imagination spectaculars are going to be released on the very same day, September 27. That’s — gulp — two weeks from today. If this paragraph is weak on syntax, maybe it’s because I’m running down to the mailbox every twenty minutes to, you know, just check. No, I’m not doing that, but the 9-year old inside me is beginning to think that way.

The films really don’t compete with each other. Both were unique efforts in the first wave of the ’50s Sci-fi boom. George Pal’s big-scale interplanetary onslaught featured special effects that weren’t bettered for twenty years, and alien designs that still amaze, even if my young daughter kidded me about the ‘desk lamp’ Martian fighting machines. William Cameron Menzies’ visual wonderment was the focus of a million weird dreams for kids just a couple of years older than myself. The bizarre visual imagination on view burrows deep into the adult psyche as well.

We’re looking forward to both disc releases and formulating a strategy to review them with amazing new insights never read before good and fair coverage with a fresh angle or two. War of the Worlds 4K is being packaged with George Pal’s 1951 When Worlds Collide, in its first U.S. Blu-ray release. I’ll need to close my windows in consideration of the neighbors — Martian invasions work best when played LOUD.

I’ve been corrected: Invaders from Mars 4K, Blu-ray and DVD hits on September 26, not 27. So technically speaking, it will beat The War of the Worlds by one day. I believe it hit theaters first as well, back in 1953.

 


 

And here’s an unknown quantity that I’ll be checking out very soon: U.K.’s Powerhouse Indicator sent along their September 20 release
Orders to Kill. The 1958 thriller is directed by Anthony Asquith and stars Eddie Albert, Paul Massie and Lillian Gish. The credits list the notable Paul Dehn, the writer strongly associated with Seven Days to Noon and Goldfinger.

It’s described as a wartime espionage story, which is a Dehn specialty. Let’s hope it’s something special. I haven’t seen it but I did put the disc in a domestic player — and it’s Region-Free.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson