Review Page and Column
Cluny Brown 09/17/19
Reviewer Charlie Largent is quite taken with the uncommon graces of Ernst Lubitsch’s gentle comedy of romance and women’s roles. Lowly plumber’s daughter Jennifer Jones fixes the pipes in a big mansion and becomes an important person in everyone’s life, especially European refugee Charles Boyer. This is the movie with the cosmically daffy dialogue line about ‘nuts to the squirrels,’ or ‘squirrels to the nuts’ or something. What an endearing, excellent choice for a Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Soldier of Fortune 09/17/19
(Treffpunkt Hongkong) Two-fisted Crown Colony racketeer Clark Gable goes out on a limb to recover Susan Hayward’s husband, held prisoner in Red China. In a literal pirate vessel armed with a stolen cannon, Gable literally goes to war, risking his smuggling empire by half-kidnapping Michael Rennie’s Hong Kong cop. This lush CinemaScope action-travelogue-romance now comes off as comfort food movie viewing: familiar stars doing what they do best. It’s a German import from a Hollywood Studio whose library titles may soon no longer be licensed to hard media home video. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
A Bucket of Blood 09/17/19
Roger Corman’s ‘sick sick sick!’ horror comedy is still a delight, and Olive’s Signature edition accompanies it with some excellent Elijah Drenner extras, including a video interview with the beloved star Dick Miller. Walter Paisley is the patron saint of underachieving artists everywhere, and this special edition has director Corman and writer Charles B. Griffith on tap to sing his praises. It is by will alone that I set my mind in motion: “Be a nose!” On Blu-ray from Olive Signature.
Just a quick blurb today for upcoming discs — Criterion’s December titles include a title that’s legend around my household. I got to see Wim Wenders’ three-movie, 4.5 hour recut of Until the End of the World back in 1996, in a special screening. It’s his ultimate Road Movie, ‘dance around the world.’ Warners distributed the hacked-down original 2.5 hour U.S. release and wouldn’t cooperate, Wenders only exhibited his marathon triple-bill expanded version here and there, now and then… in 2001 I caught it with my family at the Cinematheque, and talked as many friends as I could into seeing it with me.
My old article on the movie was one of the more popular DVD Savant pages back in the beginning, in 1998… the piece ended up as a big concept comparison between UTEOTW and Bertrand Tavernier’s La mort en direct.
The wise Wim Wenders never let go of the films he made. When UTEOTW has reverted to his control again, Wenders did a full remaster job. It screened once on TCM, but edited in one piece, without being serialized as three separate features. I have a feeling that that’s how it might be from now on, even though the intermission breaks made us feel like we were experiencing a new kind of New Wave Roadshow. This will be a special holiday — I even like Criterion’s cover art.
Also up from Criterion in December — the amazing pre-Code shocker The Story of Temple Drake, Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy and Ronald Neame’s Tunes of Glory.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Circus of Horrors 09/14/19
Four out of five psychologists agree that something rotten is alive and well between the sawdust and the high wire in the delirious Circus of Horrors. Lame big-top horror pix are common enough, but this fiendishly entertaining delight would inspire the voyeur-sadist in MisterRogers. Anton Diffring is the steely-eyed medical maniac with a mission to populate an insane circus exclusively with cosmetically-enhanced prostitutes and criminals. And I won’t turn that into a White House joke. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
90° in the Shade 09/14/19
Sordid Noir in Czechoslovakia: a one-of-a-kind Czech/Brit coproduction teams fine British actors (Anne Heywood, James Booth, Sir Donald Wolfit) with the home-grown star Rudolf HruSinsky, and the result is neither murder nor mayhem, but a real everyday tragedy that might happen anywhere. The bright B&W images chart an unhappy illicit romance, and a petty crime with awful consequences.. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Let me drum for a fine film resource that I go to when I’ve had my fill of grim, realistic movies. It had to be back in 2003 or 2004 when Bill Shepard wrote me about the subject of Film Blanc, a term I picked up at UCLA ages before and had begun to use in various reviews. Bill started his own web page, Film Blanc – The Cinema of Feel-Good Fantasies and has been tending it ever since. He’s discovered more benign fantasies about weird afterlifes, etc., than I’ve ever heard of. He’s devised a way to isolate discussions that would be spoilers, making his page user-friendly for the curious who don’t want to have plotlines revealed… you know, my core modus operandi.
The image above is from Henry Hathaway’s surreal 1934 film blanc Peter Ibbetson, and Bill’s entry for that title is here.
Then we have some news from advisor / authority Gordon Thomas, whose fine academically-oriented articles I’ve linked to in the past. Gary Morris of Bright Lights has just published Gordon’s revised and expanded article on the Soviet epic War and Peace, “Tolstoy and Only Tolstoy. Nothing Comes from Us”: Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace (1966-67) — Criterion Update.
Here’s my review from a few months back, but Gordon’s is the one to read.
And finally, I’m happy to report, even though the ‘report’ must be cryptic, that my blurb last week about a possible special extra for a Powerhouse Indicator release has yielded a good result. The gist is that my note sparked an inquiry that put said special extra back on track again. PI head of production Anthony Nield courteously wrote that they will indeed be able to include it, that it made the deadline.
Include what? What’s the movie? Who you kidding, Savant? ‘Restraints of confidentiality’ are in place, at the moment. But I have located my old writings about the ‘extra’ and will surely find a way to crow more about it closer to street date. Waxing enthusiastic about arcane video news is what we do here…
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Mill Creek and Kit Parker have raided the Columbia vault once again in search of Noir Gold from the ‘fifties. Their selection this time around has a couple of prime gems, several straight crime thrillers and domestic jeopardy tales, and also a couple of interesting Brit imports. They aren’t really ‘Noir’ either, but they’re still unexpected and different. The top title is Don Siegel’s incomparable The Lineup, but also on board is a snappy anti-commie epic by André De Toth. Get set for a lineup of impressive leading ladies: Diana Dors, Arlene Dahl, Anita Ekberg — and the great Colleen Dewhurst as a card-carrying Red! On Blu-ray from Mill Creek / Kit Parker.
Who Saw Her Die? 09/10/19
Giallos run hot and cold, but this one has plenty to recommend it — a serious outlook, a focus on elements other than gore, beautiful cinematography on terrific locations in Venice, and committed performances from Anita Strindberg, Adolfo Celi and an unusual choice, ex- 007 George Lazenby. Director Aldo Lado takes this one in a different direction than Giallo maestro Dario Argento — with a humanistic bent and a compelling performance by child actress Nicoletta Elmi. Plus a piercing music score by Ennio Morricone, sung by a children’s choir. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
I must admit that I was pleased when my discussion of the missing American-International movies (CineSavant Column 8/24/19) got some good things going, primarily two terrific Greenbriar Movie Shows articles, on September 2 (“American-International This Week – Exploitation Brought To a 50’s Boil – Part One”) and September 5 (“Round Two for Jim-Sam: AIP Time For Whatever Turned a Dime”).
The whole shebang was begun by a web board hint that some of the Sam Arkoff-owned A.I.P. titles might be on their way to Blu-ray. Well, correspondent ‘woggly’ aka ‘B’ found a legit announcement about Shout! Factory TV that lists a few Arkoff titles soon to be on that service. (So I haven’t betrayed any confidences.) ‘B’ saw the following Roger Corman-directed titles mentioned: Day The World Ended, Machine Gun Kelly, Rock All Night, Sorority Girl and The Undead.
It’s a helluva list. One genuine Sci-fi classic (Lori Nelson, Touch Connors!), one classic gangster romp (Charles Bronson, Susan Cabot, Barboura Morris!), one kooky horror oddity (Pamela Duncan, Allison Hayes!), one jukebox crime opus (Dick Miller, Abby Dalton!) and one psycho sorority meller (Susan Cabot, Dick Miller, Barboura Morris!).
The upshot of this is this … is it irresponsible to surmise that some or all of those particular Arkoff AIP’s might be among the titles hinted to possibly be coming out on Blu-ray? CineSavant doesn’t mind stirring up rumors like this, if my guesses are based on legit information available to others. Shout! Factory can always clip my wings if I’m wrong, and they shouldn’t mind the publicity.
I went to that Shout! Factory TV link, and saw a ‘Roger Corman Classics’ festival mentioned… and with a little poking around, stumbled onto a free live stream of Day the World Ended. It looks to be be in widescreen, if not full SuperScope.
That 1955 sci-fi title seems doubly relevant right now, ’cause the demolition boys have just finished leveling the old Sportsmen’s Lodge out on Ventura Boulevard in the Valley, prime Raymond Chandler country. I was tipped off long ago that some shots for the pond scenes in Day the World Ended were filmed in the Lodge’s restaurant pool — during the quiet time in the afternoon! If that’s true, late lunchers and busboys may have witnessed Lori Nelson menaced by Paul Blaisdell’s monster.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Fists in the Pocket 09/07/19
You think YOU’VE got mentally unstable relatives? Marco Bellocchio’s debut film made a big splash in ’65 with its tale of a family packed with serious problems, where the relationships have an air of sickness about them. Lou Castel’s brilliant but twisted brother likes to float preposterous ideas, but his latest creepy brainstorm is to start murdering his siblings. This one feels like it should be an allegory for something … but what? Reviewer Charlie Largent knows sick drama when he sees it, and gives us the Euro-thriller low-down. Music by Ennio Morricone! On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Were movie folk blind in 1960? We kids were so dino- crazy, ANY movie about dinosaurs would have cleaned up at the box office. We’re told that Jack H. Harris didn’t do badly with his third turn at the wickets, despite thunder lizards with a complexion of Jurassic Pla-Doh. The Romper Room dramatics didn’t offend my eight-year-old sensibilities, either. The movie had a caveman for comic relief and a klutzy villain that all but eliminates himself, so kid-safe it is even if people are being devoured alive. And hardly any kissing scenes, Ma. With Ward Ramsey, Kristina Hanson, and Paul Lukather. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Hello! Fun links and announcements today — !
Twice in one week I’m steering you back to John McElwee’s Greenbriar Picture Shows. John has followed up his piece on American-International Pictures marketing strategies with more eye-opening good info about A.I.P. and the ‘colorful’ honchos James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff; the date for part 2 is September 5.
As is usual, McElwee’s distribution-centric insights are highly educational — he avers that 1959’s color & ‘scope Horrors of the Black Museum was the attraction that showed A.I.P. a path into the 1960s, with more expensive, more adult color horror pix to replace the cheapie B&W double bills that were beginning to fade. In other words, the profits from Herman Cohen’s London-based production inspired A.I.P. and Corman to roll the dice on the Poes. I like that theory, it’s a good theory, I’m behind that theory a hundred percent.
Valued pal and former fearless editorial leader Richard A. Smith sends along this cheery Guardian article that tells us that Carol Reed’s The Third Man is packed with insights on the Brexit debacle: Why The Third Man is an essential primer for no-deal Brexit.
Since Guardian seems to be celebrating all things Third Man at the moment, here’s another page with several fresh BTS images of serial thrills from “Harry Lime versus the Pure Penicillin League”: The Third Man: behind the scenes of the film noir masterpiece — in pictures. Thanks Richard!
And the Blu-ray shoe finally dropped yesterday with Indicator’s announcement of a fourth Hammer Horror set for November: Hammer Horror Four: Faces of Fear. They’ve saved some of the best for last: Terence Fisher’s The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll; Seth Holt’s Taste of Fear, which is surely Jimmy Sangster’s best Joe Stefano imitation; my favorite of the Hammer Frankensteins The Revenge of Frankenstein, directed by Fisher and starring Peter Cushing; and a deluxe presentation of Joseph Losey’s science fiction masterpiece (These Are) The Damned, with Viveca Lindfors and Oliver Reed.
We’ve been whining for a decent The Revenge of Frankenstein for years now, so hopefully Indicator’s new scan will be a beauty. And it may, just may, have an amazing extra I’ve been writing about for twenty years. And I can’t wait to see what extras are attached to (These Are) The Damned — the company’s disc for Stranglers of Bombay is a wonderment.
This has been a terrific summer for Brit sci-fi, with Quatermass 2 and Quatermass and the Pit finding good Region A releases, plus the earlier stand-alone German disc of These are the Damned. And Val Guest’s The Abominable Snowman is coming in November. I suppose we could beg for worthy exotica like The Trollenberg Terror in HD, but soon the only English sci-fi biggie not available in Region A will be Guest’s The Day the Earth Caught Fire.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Magnificent Obsession 09/03/19
One of the strangest ‘uplifting moral tales’ of the 1950s was a huge hit, and launched Rock Hudson as a major star. Criterion’s deluxe presentation puts it on a par with world cinema, mawkish Kitsch-O-Rama and all. Comes with a restored copy of the slightly less head-spinning 1935 version, too. Co-stars Jane Wyman, Barbara Rush, Agnes Moorehead, and Otto Kruger, whose moral guidance has something to do with ‘contacting one’s power source.’ On Blu-rayfrom The Criterion Collection.
Death Ship 09/03/19
From the golden age of Canadian tax shelters comes a horror movie about a fiendish, fearful freighter fraught with frills, I mean, chills. A notable cast — George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Sally Ann Howes, Kate Reid — shows up for paycheck duty, and must have gone through real torture getting this one in the can. It’s got a reputation, and if being ripoff-remade is a marker of success, then it’s earned its place on the horror map: SEE George Kennedy apparently really doused in awful oily bilge water! On Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing.