Review Page and Column
Mad Love 10/26/21
What a Halloween treat! Karl Freund stopped directing after this classic, which is a shame — it’s German expressionism’s most exciting foray into classic Hollywood horror of the ’30s. Peter Lorre is incredible as Dr. Gogol, making himself as creepy and repulsive as possible while retaining a giddy audience sympathy. It’s Grand Guignol all the way — macabre, funny and irresistible. The screenplay toys with uncomfortable Body Horror and psychological weirdness; Colin Clive must contend with becoming the recipient of murderous hands. Frances Drake is the beauty that drives Dr. Gogol mad, and comedian Edward Brophy is a highlight in a non-comedic scene. “I have conquered science. Why can I not conquer love?!” On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 10/26/21
Fresh from his TV movie triumphs battling the forces of darkness, Darren McGavin’s intrepid Carl Kolchak takes on assorted ghouls, demons and monsters threatening Chicago in this TV series, a full twenty episodes. Kino’s four-disc special edition is loaded with commentaries, interviews, TV spots, the works; we learn that series writer David Chase went on to create the cable series The Sopranos. The episodes are beautifully transferred, too, says CineSavant reviewer Charlie Largent. Guest monsters stars include Julie Adams, Carolyn Jones, Tom Bosley, William Smith, Tom Skerritt and Scatman Crothers. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
John Huston plays every narrative card in the deck for the difficult task of expressing the great doctor’s insights into psychoanalysis. His actors personalize the concepts of neurosis, etc., investing us in Sigmund’s search for answers in long-ago Vienna. The fascination has multiple levels: in investigating the nature of ‘hysteria’ Dr. Sigmund Freud finds that he shares to a degree the same mental aberrations, as does his mentor. Actor Montgomery Clift was fighting numerous personal demons at the time, and Huston’s directing methods were described by some as cruel. Superb production values and Jerry Goldsmith’s music score enhance the experience. The scan on view is Huston’s director’s cut, not Universal’s shorter original release version. Also starring Susannah York, Susan Kohner, Larry Parks and Eric Portman. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Is this a CineSavant ‘gift guide?’
Two months short of the holidays, it’s disc round-up time. I’m here to report on what’s on hand to review, and what’s expected in the mail hopper. I’m glad I have Charlie Largent’s capable input — he’s keen on horror and animation subjects that I’m not.
As I said last time we’re again current with The Warner Archive Collection, and happy that George Feltenstein is once again on the team over there in Burbank. Besides today’s review of the WAC’s Mad Love we’ve got the favorites Straight Time, The Ghost Ship + Bedlam, Children of the Damned, The Window, Santa Fe Trail in reach for review, as well as Eye of the Devil, Night Shift, Dinner at Eight and the really very good Mary Stevens, M.D.. Not yet here but said to be on its way is Tex Avery Volume 3.
Also in-house and looking for review openings are, from KL Studio Classics: Misery 4K, The Cheat, Devil and the Deep, Torch Singer, The Mad Doctor, Mystery of Edwin Drood and Secret of the Blue Room. Charlie has dibs on the W.C. Fields pix The Old Fashioned Way, It’s a Gift and The Bank Dick. Through Kino Charlie also has Scorpion Releasing’s Fritz the Cat and The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat on tap. Kino also distributes Code Red’s One More Train to Rob and the Cook + Moore Hound of the Baskervilles.
The Criterion Collection gives us Satyajit Ray’s fascinating Devi, and from Powerhouse Indicator we’re looking at Midway and Macarthur. Midway is one that I want to give another chance — I once saw a trailer for that thing in Sensurround, and it nearly deafened me. Also can’t leave out Arrow’s Legend and Deep Red 4K, and Viavision [Imprint] Television’s massive box of Space: 1999, The Complete Series Ultimate Edition.
That’s what’s presently in hand; here’s what’s expected momentarily, or soon, or who knows? If The Film Detective’s Frankenstein’s Daughter arrives it might get the last open review slot before Halloween; the same goes for Severin Films’ coveted An Angel for Satan with Barbara Steele. Expected from overseas are a brace of desirable Viavision [Imprint] September titles, which include two different films of The Browning Version; A Reflection of Fear, Ned Kelly, The Assassination Bureau (Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas!) and a gift box with all three Harry Palmer spy adventures: The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, and Billion Dollar Brain.
Flicker Alley has three interesting items: a quaduple bill of Call it Murder, Back Page, Woman in the Dark and The Crime of Dr. Crespi called ‘In the Shadow of Hollywood’, plus two Argentinian Noirs restored by The Film Noir Foundation, The Beast Must Die (La bestia debe morir) and The Bitter Stems (Los Tallos Amargos). A little later will come the release of Flicker Alley’s Cinema of Discovery: Julien Duvivier in the 1920s silent film collection. I’ll look to friend and scholar Allan Peach for help with that one.
Paramount has come through lately with screeners; should copies be freed up we’re on tap for some attractive 4K items: The Addams Family 4K, Scream 4K, and later on, It’s a Wonderful Life 4K and Reds 4K.
Criterion promises a new restoration of La Strada, Mulholland Dr. 4K, Once Upon a Time in China, Menace to Society and Citizen Kane 4K. And I have my eye on KL Studio Classics’ Invasion of the Body Snatchers ’78 4K and the noir classics The Accused, Among the Living, Deported and the poetic Night Has a Thousand Eyes. Through Kino, The Cohen Collection also has a CineSavant favorite coming up, The Deceivers with Pierce Brosnan.
That’s a lot of discs to sort out — we don’t necessarily receive all of them, so we’ll do our best to give proper coverage!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
High Sierra + Colorado Territory 10/23/21
An old favorite receives a quality restoration: Raoul Walsh, John Huston, W.R. Burnett and actress Ida Lupino launch Humphrey Bogart as an A-list star deemed strong enough to carry romantic leads. Bogart’s gangster Roy Earle is a classic anti-hero; audiences in 1941 surely thought the film’s play with wrongdoing and heroism was edgy material. Lupino’s loser-turned-lover is a dynamite asset for a man on the run, and the sentimental touches don’t mar the spectacular finale: this all-American bandit meets his end on a California peak, not a dirty urban gutter. A second disc carries the full feature Colorado Territory, a remake/transposition of the Bogie classic into an excellent western with Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Say Amen, Somebody 10/23/21
Talk about raising the roof with song — George Nierenberg’s documentary is still considered the best on gospel music. Made in the early 1980’s, the show caught the greats of decades past, now happy to describe the history and future of their work: Thomas A. Dorsey, Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith. The testimony of singers and groups just getting established is good as well, but of course it’s the spirit-raising performances — here caught as never before — that make the show unforgettable. Milestone includes outtakes, interviews and input from the director. On Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.
Gary Teetzel points the myriad fans of Dr. Frank Baxter to an episode of The Burns and Allen Show in which Baxter guest stars. We ’50s kids know Baxter from his Frank Capra Bell Science TV specials, and Sci-Fi fans have always wondered what possessed him to perform as a fake scientist in the crazy prologue for that (ulp) epic The Mole People.
The real-life USC professor Dr. Baxter had quite a roll going in 1956, in terms of TV exposure. He apparently inspired this episode of The Burns and Allen Show because of a TV show he made for CBS talking about Shakespeare. Gary explains:
“The episode aired in October of 1956, one month before the premiere of Our Mr. Sun, the first of the Frank Capra Bell Science TV specials with Baxter, and two months before The Mole People hit theaters and changed the landscape of American entertainment forever. Both Our Mr. Sun and The Burns and Allen Show aired on CBS, so I wonder if his appearance was a promotional tie-in for the Bell Science specials.”
“George and Gracie’s son needs to write a college paper on Shakespeare; Gracie interferes, meeting Dr. Baxter when she impersonates a fellow professor. Wackiness ensues.”
“BTW, there is a subplot in which announcer Harry Von Zell wants George to help him get an acting role through producer William Goetz. Goetz’s name turns up a lot on the show, so he must have been a real-life friend of Burns. — Gary“
Dr. Baxter is actually not bad playing opposite George and Gracie; his delivery fits the show’s near-surreal take on sitcom situations. Something tells me that Baxter’s jaw-dropping prologue for The Mole People changed his mind about pursuing more film roles, although his guest shots on TV (as himself) kept him busy for ten more years.
Well, the Warner Archive Collection has arrived in a big way — we will be reviewing most of these in the next few weeks. We’ll try to get a couple of horror items up before Halloween — especially the Val Lewton pictures and the Karl Freund/Peter Lorre classic. And the western The Naked Spur is a major favorite — I’ll be discussing it with Dick Dinman on his podcast, in a few weeks.
I remember Night Shift from when I was assisting on TV commercials in the early 1980s. It and the movie Splash! were the first time I saw a studio-produced ‘Electronic Press Kit’ (EPK) edited for a feature film — a tape for distribution to media outlets with the trailer, interviews, a featurette and maybe a music video, all fluffy hype for easy access for TV producers. Four years later at Cannon I was cutting them, and after that I did several for MGM and Orion, like Silence of the Lambs and The Addams Family.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
“Put on the MASK!” That line comes from a different horror movie, but its impact is a tight fit for Kaneto Shindo’s harrowing costume creepshow about mother & daughter feudal peasants that make a living by murdering lost soldiers that drift their way. Mix superstition with greed and murderous revenge and the result is some big shocks, combined with eerie, unforgettable imagery. Put on the mask, alright… but can you take it off? I’m looking forward to reviewer Charlie Largent’s take on this horror classic, in a new special edition, on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Audrey Hepburn 7 – Movie Collection 10/19/21
It’s been said that American women of the 1950s admired Marilyn Monroe, but they wanted to be Audrey Hepburn, who projected an entirely different appeal. Hepburn had talent, grace, a dazzling smile and the strength to overcome any obstacle. Paramount now rounds up their Audrey Hepburn holdings to release this seven-picture ode to the great actress, the sentimental favorite. Several are near-perfect entertainments, great films everybody should see. All are handsomely remastered in HD, in their proper aspect ratios: Roman Holiday, Sabrina, War and Peace ’56, Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Paris When It Sizzles and My Fair Lady. I’d consider this definite holiday gift-giving material. On Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment.
Ad Nauseam 10/19/21
Charlie Largent dares open the pages to the sleaziest of the sleazy — the movie ads that found 101 ways to dare us to take in the who-the-hell-knows-what? abominations playing at the drive-in, promising all manner of horrors and sometimes delivering them. Author Michael Gingold ushers us into the smeary newsprint realm of the ‘ad mat’ — which for aberrant horror meant come-on lines like, “If this movie doesn’t make your skin crawl. . . it’s on too tight!” and “To avoid fainting just keep repeating it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie. . . ” Charlie assures us that these 368 pages of pure guignol nostalgia also constitute good reportage — it’s amazing how many re-titlings some of these pictures incurred. Now In Print from 1984 Publishing.
For CineSavant film fans in the Palm Springs area — you know, anywhere West of the Mississippi — you’ve got instant weekend plans if you need another big-screen dose of Noir Nirvana. The 2021 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival is a go, and it starts in two days: Thursday October 21 through Sunday October 24. It’s a chance to mix, hobnob and maybe even double-cross the deans of noir Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller, plus special guest author Steven K. Smith. The schedule includes the rare, hard-to-see items we expect like Playgirl with Shelley Winters, and The Cruel Tower with Charles McGraw.
There’s a foreign double bill with an Argentinian noir, and H.G. Clouzot’s Quai des Orfèvres, and an interesting screening of the James Cagney gangster movie Angels with Dirty Faces, which hasn’t been on TV or in theaters for years. For crowd-pleasing cred, the sure winner is Saturday night’s Violent Saturday, an all-star heist picture given a violent climax with a Quaker farmer. Guest interviewees are the daughters of Victor Mature and Dana Andrews, and the son of Richard Fleischer. Check out the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival website.
Okay okay .. correspondent Gary Teetzel’s item last time about trade paper/exhibitor’s gimmicks was so popular, I’m reaching into his file of interesting finds for another, shorter item.
This article from the August 24, 1955 Motion Picture Exhibitor describes Promotional Efforts on behalf of the Sam Katzman double feature of It Came from Beneath the Sea and Creature with the Atom Brain. We can barely believe that the theater manager created a stop-and-stare display by filling an aquarium with muddy water and some plants, topped by a sign declaring that it contains an “invisible IT.” But he claimed that it worked, that it attracted gawkers.
These theater managers had a lot of nerve, asking lowly barely-paid ushers and candy concessionaires to ‘pledge’ to do promotional work on their own time.
The double feature was popular in Boston:
I remember a mob scene like that in downtown Honolulu when I got to see Gorgo double-billed with Caltiki The Immortal Monster.. It was a packed house, with people being let in all the time depending on what seats were empty. I guess the fire marshals just looked the other way — although theaters were staffed with enough ushers to handle almost any unruly behavior.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Corridor of Mirrors 10/16/21
Let loose some airy English film aesthetes with a big budget, a French film studio and a theme somewhere between Marcel Proust and Jean Cocteau, and back comes this strange, slightly off-balance but extremely impressive objet d’art. Eric Portman is really good, Edana Romney not so much. English actresses Barbara Mullen and Joan Maude compensate greatly — they’re haunting, actually. For his first job of direction Terence Young gives us a flash of Christopher Lee in his first film, along with pretty Lois Maxwell. Content-wise this has the screwiest construction … its style and obsessions are split between the two films presently rated the best ever made! Expect something different: the baroque style may prompt some viewers to reach for the ‘eject’ button. On Blu-rayfrom The Cohen Group.
Gray Lady Down 10/16/21
Military ensemble pictures work well when the excitement is all about the job and working under pressure: Charlton Heston, Stacy Keach, Ned Beatty and even David Carradine are excellent in this credible story about a near-impossible rescue of submariners trapped 1400 feet below. It’s a solid Navy disaster scenario, unusually authentic and realistic — until the dramatists require actor Ronny Cox to act like an emotional idiot. Those U.K. disc producers do it justice with some excellent extras, including a piece with a Navy specialist who worked with the rescue craft seen in the movie… and who later became a well-known film historian, author and film series organizer. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Today we have another welcome lesson in film marketing hucksterism from correspondent Gary Teetzel. This one concentrates on the big-time promotions for one of William Castle’s biggest hits, 1960’s 13 Ghosts, the movie with the gimmick ‘ghost viewers.’ To start out, I recommended reading an article in Motion Picture Exhibitor, about a Detroit movie theater manager’s plans to hype Castle’s kiddie-safe shocker: “How Would I Sell… 13 Ghosts?”
The author mentions a stunt involving stamping the back of a kid’s hand, and giving the kid a free admission if the stamp was still visible when they came to theater. But this would be done about a week before the movie opened. Great — kids will spend a week NOT WASHING THEIR HANDS in order to get into the film for free!
A photo from the “Ghost Convention”:
I hope these come out straight and readable — got a magnifying glass handy? There follows a lengthy collection of clippings charting the ups and downs of 13 Ghost exhibition promotions and gimmicks. I guess some theater managers just stayed sober and ripped tickets, while others had ambitions of becoming P.T. Barnum. They took their business very seriously: “Don’t forget to omit the 1300 series.”
I like the way this theater manager fibs about ‘ectoplasmic color,’ when the movie is B&W!
One disappointed theater manager ran the film for Halloween ’61, when promoting 13 Ghosts was probably not a first priority back at Columbia. Did he really think the studio would keep supplies of Ghost Viewers on tap very long?
And Gary includes one more article, a Motion Picture Exhibitor profile of William Castle, from May of 1961. Thank you, Gary!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man get the boost to 4K. Those Blu-ray sets nine years ago were pretty darn impressive; what’s the improvement here? The deluxe gift-ready package naturally comes with all of Universal’s many extras accumulated over the last twenty years. I haven’t seen Karloff for a while, and he’s more impressive than ever; plus this time we can appreciate how much performing Bela Lugosi does with just his hands. Also starring Claude Rains and Lon Chaney Jr., in their top Universal horror appearances. On 4K Ultra-HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.