Review Page and Column
It’s hard to know much exaggeration is used in movies about crazy Suth’un politics, when some of the serious movies resemble Julius Caesar with mint juleps. This true story is about an old-school populist Louisiana governor who falls for a nationally-known stripper, the famous Blaze Starr, and is told from the stripper’s POV. Paul Newman is at his late-career best, and Lolita Davidovich lights up the screen. The governor can get away with most anything except what he wants to do most — pass some color-blind laws about hiring and voting. With Jerry Hardin, Gailard Sartain, Richard Jenkins, Jeffrey DeMunn, Robert Wuhl, Garland Bunting, Brandon Smith. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre 04/21/18
Roger Corman’s ferocious gangster epic (more squibs!) bounces back in a UK Region B edition, noisier and bloodier than ever. Jason Robards, George Segal, Ralph Meeker and a couple of dozen top-notch hoods replay the ugly events that led up to the notorious 1929 gangland slaying. The actual crime now almost seems tame — where gun massacres are concerned, today ‘Every Day Is a Holiday.’ Starring Jason Robards, George Segal, Ralph Meeker, Jean Hale and a tall stack of Corman regulars and gangland favorites. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
A very interesting link reached me through Joe Dante, about one of the oldest Hollywood missing-film mysteries on the books — the legendary Giant Vampire Attack scene that was cut out of the 1936 Tarzan Escapes, almost at the last minute. Bill and Sue-On Hillman’s Edgar Rice Burroughs-zine has an excellently researched article with new information that makes it seem possible that the missing scene might someday be located in a foreign archive or film exchange. As this third MGM feature is the first Tarzan to be considered a ‘kid’s picture,’ the scary scene was cut after preview audiences thought it unsuitable for children.
BUT — the scene was reinstated for a 1954 release, before disappearing once again. The author of the full article saw the reissue as a kid, and his description makes it sound as extreme as the fantastic horrors in Tarzan and His Mate. Trailers from Hell’s Charlie Largent did a newspaper research snoop followup on the article’s claim, and did indeed come across the ad for the Dec. 22, 1954 double bill that Bill Hillman saw (above)!
Charlie noted that filming the flying bat creatures on wires, that swoop down and carry off helpless victims, likely gave MGM needed engineering experience for when it came time to film the flying monkeys of The Wizard of Oz, three or four years later.
Gary Teetzel has also been scouring old industry newspapers, this time for information about the 1932 horror classic Island of Lost Souls. He found a score of interesting blurbs about possible casting, and the talent search for a ‘Panther Girl’ for the movie. This first clipping has an odd list of stars attached to the project, though obviously not permanently: Nancy Carroll, Fay Wray, Irving Pichel, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Noah Beery. If you know the picture it’s not difficult to guess what the actors’ roles would be:
This second clipping is a good reminder why studios didn’t make more shocking, transgressive horror pictures. You can’t buy a review this negative, as they used to say. I think this particular blurb ends up being funny, due to its final two words:
And it’s another DVD Classics Corner On the Air show, this time about the new Kino 3-D release: Dick Dinman & Bob Furmanek Survive the Horror of the 3-D The Maze. I made sure I got the basic tech facts right in my CineSavant review last week, but Dinman’s interview with Bob Furmanek goes into more detail about “the challenges inherent in restoring not only 3D picture but 3 Channel Stereo Sound to this much requested creep-fest.” The disc arrives next Tuesday.
I always keep forgetting to say it, but Dick Dinman’s half-hour shows always cover more topics as well. A set of links to other DVD CCOA shows is at this address.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Virgin Suicides 04/17/18
Sofia Coppola’s first feature film is a head-swirling poetic essay about adolescent angst and terminal self-destruction in suburbia, where some families are unbalanced, others are dysfunctional and some are just plain toxic. Coppola sticks close to the source book, looking for visuals to express author Jeffrey Eugenides’ solution-challenged mystery, narrated by a composite group of teenaged boys. Kirsten Dunst, James Woods, Kathleen Turner and Josh Hartnett star. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Bombshell, The Hedy Lamarr Story 04/17/18
The pretty faces that give Hollywood its glamour eventually fade, but Alexandra Hall’s documentary reveals a remarkable woman who parlayed her beauty into an incredible life — from nude scenes in a notorious 1933 Austrian film, to eleven years in Hollywood as MGM’s ‘most beautiful girl in the world’, to a seemingly incompatible achievement: she invented a revolutionary communications technology for the WW2 war effort, and only belatedly received credit for it. A remarkable audio interview with the legendary lady brings a fabulous life into focus. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber / Zeitgeist.
The Vampire (1957) 04/17/18
CineSavant reaches back one year to pick up a notable low-key horror from the team of Levy-Gardner-Laven and good old United Artists. They have a respected actor, a workable concept and a horror screenplay from an unusual source for the 1950s . . . a (gasp) woman. More civilized monster movies just aren’t out there, although this one could have used a more creative title. With John Beal, Colleen Gray and Kenneth Tobey. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
It’s a buncha links day. Following the trail of a related Joe Dante link steer, I ran into a Rocky and Bullwinkle compilation reel on YouTube that has the initial,’origin’ episode of Peabody’s Improbable History where Mr. Peabody adopts the human boy Sherman and they go on their first adventure. The episode I’m talking about begins at just under eleven minutes in, with the ‘Roman parade.’
Gary Teetzel forwards a link and a note. The link goes to “Strange New World”, an episode of an old radio show called The Mysterious Traveler. Since he brings up a relevant observation, I’ll let Gary continue in his own words:
“The show involves a couple of fliers that crash in the Pacific and end up on a desert island near the Bikini Atoll. There, they come across giant crabs that, they conclude, are a byproduct of nuclear testing. The broadcast date was February 19, 1952. The big question is . . . does that date make this radio show possibly the first science fiction dramatic work featuring giant monsters that grew to enormous size due to atom bomb tests? I can’t think of any features using the theme that pre-date it, although I suppose another radio show may have beaten The Mysterious Traveler to the punch. Again, the link to listen on-line is “Strange New World.”
Plenty of disc announcements, that might be new news to somebody: Criterion’s Blu-ray roll call for July is phenomenal: Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham, the martial arts picture Dragon Inn, Steven Soderbergh’s sex, lies and videotape (videotape, what’s that?), a new 4K restoration of Powell & Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death — AND — a Dietrich and von Sternberg in Hollywood collection, with all six of their Paramount collaborations Morocco, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress and The Devil is a Woman. That’s quite a lineup.
The Warner Archive Collection is touting their upcoming Blus as well. We already know about Jack Cardiff’s Dark of the Sun and Sergio Leone’s The Colossus of Rhodes, but we’re also being told that coming down the line will be Vincente Minnelli’s Two Weeks in Another Town, and Joseph H. Lewis’s noir classic Gun Crazy. The last disc has a commentary by me, my first actually. The credit identifies me as an Author & Film Noir specialist. Well, a noir specialist in commentaries, maybe.
The Warner Archive’s standard DVD announcements are just out as well, and they include two titles that should interest special collectors. The gangster-musical production The Lights of New York (1928) is one of the very first all-talkies, the kind with Lina Lamont primitive microphones hidden in the scenery. It is also said to be the first time the phrase “Take him for a ride!” was heard in a movie. A Notorious Affair (1930) keeps popping up in reference to star Basil Rathbone — his fans wish he had more opportunities to play leading men. It’s also described as the breakthrough picture for actress Kay Francis.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Along Came Jones 04/14/18
Big star Gary Cooper kids his screen image as an infallible hero in a western that almost plays as a screwball comedy, complete with the ultimate grouchy sidekick, William Demarest. Loretta Young’s attraction to Coop’s goofy ‘bronc stomper’ seem glowingly authentic. The jokes are funny, and the sentiment feels real, right up to the unexpectedly violent ending. . . for 1945, that is. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
Les Girls 04/14/18
Cole Porter’s Les Girls. The curtain is falling on the MGM musical, and Gene Kelly’s final song and dance at the studio is for a Paris-set show biz tale about a dancing star and his trio of showgirls. Actually, the comedy and the actresses get more attention than does Kelly. The gimmick is a Rashomon– like clash of conflicting testimony, but we prefer to concentrate on the sexy dancing and Kay Kendall’s hilarious drunk act. Who thought a boozy beauty wailing opera songs would be funny? Mitzi Gaynor, Taina Elg and Jacques Bergerac co-star; George Cukor directs. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Five on the Black Hand Side 04/14/18
This quirky family comedy conceived as an antidote to blaxploitation pictures was adapted from a play that claims no goal beyond feel-good entertainment — and a little preaching about black solidarity. Broad humor, simple characters and thin dramatic conflicts can’t blur the fact that this comedy has its heart in the right place. A game group of talented actors assures us that we’re gonna be glorified, unified and filled-with-pride! Starring Clarice Taylor, Leonard Jackson, Glynn Turman, D’Urville Martin, Richard Williams, Virginia Capers, Ja’net DuBois, Bonnie Banfield, Tchaka Almoravids and future director Carl Franklin. On Blu-rayfrom Olive Films.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics has announced Alfred Hitchcock’s Under Capricorn for June 19, reportedly a new 4k scan. The BFI did the video work, so there’s a chance for game-changing quality leap in this show. Not one of Hitchcock’s more popular pictures, Capricorn has Ingrid Bergman, Technicolor by Jack Cardiff, and long takes with camera moves that outshine those in Rope.
At the April 9 entry for Joe Baltake’s The Passionate Moviegoer features a nice look at the career of Richard Quine, with some thoughtful opinions. Quine’s musical remake of My Sister Eileen is coming soon from Twilight Time.
Now Scream Factory will be licensing horror titles from Columbia Films as well. They’ve already talked about releasing The Tingler and Strait-Jacket, so purchasers are wondering about a promised William Castle disc set from UK’s Powerhouse / Indicator company. Will the UK Columbia discs continue to be all-region? What if we want both licensors’ sets of extras?
As for The Tingler, I hope they interview Tim Lucas, for a more detailed run-down on his Video Watchdog theory about a script re-write and sequence-shuffle that radically altered the ending. The same goes for Lucas’s fascinating theory/revelation about the original scene order for Robert Florey’s Murders in the Rue Morgue.
And finally, Powerhouse indicator stealth-announced today that they’ll be releasing Joseph Losey’s Hammer sci-fi classic These Are the Damned later this year. That’s something to look forward to, ‘when the time comes.’
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Maze 04/10/18
It’s a promising project for Allied Artists: William Cameron Menzies does a spooky horror movie in 3-D! Something creepy’s going on in a mysterious Scottish castle, something to do with problems in the lineage to a Barony. It’s also a 3-C epic: Candles, Cobwebs and Corridors. Add a frightened, shivering heroine in a nightgown and the horror recipe is complete. It’s another restoration treat from the 3-D Film Archive. With Richard Carlson and Veronica Hurst. On 3-D Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
When is a private eye parody not a parody? Stephen Frears’ first feature strikes a delicate balance — its nearly absurd hardboiled lingo outdoes the spoofs, but the story and characters are pitched 100% straight. Albert Finney IS Eddie Ginley, surrounded by a pack of exciting, imaginatively cast actors: Billie Whitelaw, Frank Finlay, Janice Rule. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Sleeping Dogs 04/10/18
Director Roger Donaldson has enjoyed a rewarding Hollywood career, but he began in New Zealand where this fantasy mini-epic about resistance to a political takeover became the first Kiwi picture to win an international release and launch a national film industry. The film’s young star didn’t do too badly either — the ‘ordinary guy’ who becomes a rebel terrorist is played by none other than Sam Neill. Sold as an action thriller, the show is really a primer on how a democracy can be turned into a police state, with the public’s full approval. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy
I’m really late this Tuesday … Cinerama expert and CineSavant correspondent David Strohmeier asked me to say that his new restoration of the three-panel Cinerama presentation Windjammer will be showing at the Cinerama Dome on April 28. I believe that individual tickets can be purchased. It’s a great way to see real Cinerama exhibited in a venue created especially for the process (but originally only used for single-strip 70mm).
We got jolted by an earthquake last week in Los Angeles. It was a 5.5 but the epicenter was aways out in the ocean, so some of us felt it and others didn’t. I was sitting in a parked car trying to send a text, and suddenly the car began to sway on its suspension as if somebody was pushing it back and forth. People were walking their babies and dogs but didn’t realize a quake was happening, but I felt it strongly for at least ten seconds. That’s the way it is here — some building shake and shimmy and others absorb the tremor imperceptibly. But not when the quake is bigger, and closer. I’ve been through two major quakes already, have been exceedingly lucky, but they say a big one is overdue.
That’s about all I have at hand or still on my mind . . . I think readers would appreciate the reviews going up sooner than later. It’s a big month for 3-D fans!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson