Review Page and Column
This Island Earth 07/16/19
“The supreme excitement of our time! Challenging the unearthly furies of an outlaw planet!” Big-budget space opera finally came to movie screens, in Technicolor and widescreen, in this irresistible kid magnet of a sci-fi extravaganza. Viewers are split on its worth, as the screenplay caroms between mind-expanding visions and puerile dialogue. But it’s the first show to capture the thrills on those pulp sci-fi pocketbook covers, and its visual poetry plays out like an intergalactic fairy tale. Two aspect ratios! No Waiting! Plus ’50s sci-fi expert Robert Skotak is on the commentary. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
Jet Pilot 07/16/19
John Wayne! Janet Leigh! Nifty jet-age flying sequences! Goofy, bad-taste sex jokes! Hans Conreid as a chortling Russian army officer! Howard Hughes’ personal fun project took seven years to make while he played games with the aerial footage. Its a highly-polished, absurd joke, but it’s certainly entertaining. See Hughes try to do for Janet Leigh what he did for Jane Russell — I assume Ms. Leigh was too shrewd to sign any long-term contracts! This German disc has excellent widescreen image and audio. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
Great news… here in the midst of 2019’s Blu-ray ‘Summer of Sci-Fi,’ Gary Teetzel sends along news that another must-see Sci-fi classic is on the way, albeit for 2020. That’s Arthur Christiansen up above, a real newspaperman playing a newspaperman for Val Guest. His advice from 1962 really fits the state of journalism today. The movie of course is the great The Day the Earth Caught Fire. I reviewed it a couple of years back on an English disc that’s unfortunately region-locked for Region B. Kino has announced a new 4K restoration is coming here, to Region A, for the election year. I think that’s great timing. What with all the extreme weather and climate change going on, what happens in Caught Fire no longer needs a sci-fi story with nuclear bombs. Weather calamities are now top network news every day.
Gary also directs us to a Wellesnet article that holds out hope for the eventual recovery of the lost Orson Welles cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. It’s basically just a report on search progress, but that’s a darn sight better than nothing. The optimism factor of course increased with the 2008 recovery of a mostly intact 16mm print-down of Metropolis in Argentina. ‘Fairy tales / can come true / it can happen to you…’
And for folks that can get to Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome in September and October, Dave Strohmaier has passed along this fairly exciting screening news — the Dome (the Arclight, actually) is going to be hosting some big-scale presentations. Here’s what Strohmaier says:
“This September and October Arclight Cinemas and the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood will present eight spectacular epic screenings featuring all roadshow classics of yesteryear. The entire Cinerama Dome’s 89 foot curved screen will light up once again with Grand Prix (1966), How The West Was Won (1962), Battle of the Bulge (1965), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Two classic 1950s travelogues will also be shown, Seven Wonders of the World (1956), and Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958). So relive the fabulous roadshow era complete with original overtures, intermissions and programs. Check Arclight Hollywood’s website in the coming weeks for further anouncements, under the “Arclight Presents” tab.
Sounds exciting — I’ll be eager to find out which shows are going to be in what format!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The BRD Trilogy 07/13/19
Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s national epic tells the story of Germany’s ‘economic miracle’ recovery through the experiences of three strong women, each resilient in a different way. The Marriage of Maria Braun takes us from the bombings to a postwar struggle for survival. Veronika Voss hangs on to her illusions of a glorious stardom that died with the Reich; she’s now the victim of opportunists. And Lola isn’t the only person corrupting an idealist come to bring fairness to the rebuilding of Coburg: even without a conspiracy, the legitimate town leaders are up to their necks in double-dealing. These are the top titles of the prolific writer-director Fassbinder, beautifully restored. Starring Hanna Schygulla, Rosel Zech & Barbara Sukowa; on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Footlight Parade 07/13/19
This amazing Busby Berkeley extravaganza is the best choice to impress newbies to pre-Code musical madness: it is absolutely irresistible. James Cagney’s nervy, terminally excitable stage producer makes the tale of Chester Kent accessible to viewers otherwise allergic to musicals — he’s as electric here as he is in his gangster movies. Remastered in HD, the fantastic, kaleidoscopic visuals will wow anybody — we really expect Porky Pig to pop up and say, “No CGI, Folks!” Co-Starring Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Frank McHugh & Ruth Donnelly; on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Toho’s fabulous, kid-safe Kaiju spectacle about the super-moth from Infant Island might be a stealth Cold War fairy tale. Kids respond to the fanciful Shobijin fairy princesses, while adults (watching the Japanese version) might catch the authors’ message about national belligerence and the abuse of Third Worlders. Greedy ‘Rolisican’ opportunists pay the price of an ancient curse. For its expression of Nature’s justice, vigilante-style, Ishiro Honda’s music-filled show stands right up there with Gorgo — and the giant Moth is also the only Japanese Kaiju monster identified as female. On Steelbook Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment.
An amusing, impressively professional Spaghetti Western effort comes from Ulrich Angersbach, who started corresponding with me twenty years ago when I was still ‘MGM Video Savant.’ Ulrich then later helped me from making too many egregious errors on MGM’s special editions of the Sergio Leone films; he was one of several Leone super-fans (unfair word) that provided research and graphics. Herr Angersbach also appears to be a major component of the Europe-based fan group that made regular pilgrimages to Almeria, Spain, to document locations for the Dollars films and even shoot their own elaborate productions. This one’s the most adept I’ve seen so far: Un Hombre, Una Ciudad y Un Ave Maria. The aim seems to be to imitate the Italo style, and on that count it succeeds quite well — to me the ‘look’ is correct.
Gary Teetzel tells me that Arrow Academy will be releasing the Joe Pevney – James Cagney Man of a Thousand Faces in October, with a Tim Lucas commentary and a video piece from Kim Newman.
We at first thought it would be only Region B, but Gary confirmed that it would also be a stateside release.
The experts I know don’t think much of the makeup, mostly masks, used to recreate Cagney’s Lon Chaney characterizations, and the movie has many inaccuracies. But I’ve always liked it — it respects the horror star, and there was precious little of that around in 1957. Plus, it has Jane Greer (swoon), and who can say No to her?
The thumbnail on the left can be opened in a new window, to see Arrow’s full artwork more clearly.
A review for the new This Island Earth disc is on the way — thanks for all the ‘where is it?’ notes asking when I was getting to it. It would have been done today except that, for the copy I was going to review from, Scream Factory somehow shipped the wrong title, something called Silent Hill. The review is half written already, but the replacement better come in time!
Yet another wallet-emptying steer from Gary Teetzel: far be it from me to tout for specific products — ha ha ha ha what else do I end up doing here? — but I’m sorely tempted to nab yet another soundtrack CD from Kritzerland. I’ve previously sprung for Morricone soundtracks and the cues for Crack in the World, and this new offering is giving me a serious itch in my pocketbook. It’s the original George Antheil – Ernest Gold – Marni Nixon soundtrack for the wholly psychotronic Dementia aka Daughter of Horror.
I’m still proud of my review of the old OOP DVD, with Bret Wood’s excellent documentary slide show. What better way to go insane than by listening to this in good quality? Yes, I’ve been seduced by everything about Dementia ever since my midnight trip to the graveyard:
Dead of Night 07/09/19
This is the big one, the original, and if you watch it under the right conditions, it’s still scary. Four directors (Crichton, Dearden, Hamer, Cavalcanti) take turns telling horror tales, all bundled together by a diabolically wicked framing story. The best ‘haunted mirror’ tale ever is here, along with what must be the original source for the entire concept in detail of Hitchcock’s Psycho. Even the music is scary. Chiller-diller Charlie Largent gives us the review run-down on the Ealing Studio’s unique contribution to world horror. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Gone to Earth / The Wild Heart 07/09/19
Classic cinematics from first-rank filmmakers. No ballet or heroism, so not a crowd pleaser, but Michael Powell’s original version Gone to Earth is another unique Archers creation. Jennifer Jones finally gets to chew on a character role with grit, as a natural virgin/vixen misunderstood by contrasting suitors. David O. Selznick’s revision The Wild Heart is a classic too — of unnecessary meddling. Co-Starring David Farrar and Cyril Cusack; both the Archers’ original and Selznick’s recut are included, each with a commentary. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Some marvelous graphics sent in this week! Open them in a new window to see full size, and to read the text.
In response to my comments about ‘Dalt Wizzy’ jokes in an old Mad magazine, faithful correspondent ‘B’ dug up the entire cartoon article I was (mis-) remembering. In ‘B’s’ own words:
“Glenn: Fer the record, here’s the article from Mad #30 about Unca Walt’s television show. Note that Wallace Wood and company do not refer to Unca Walt as “Dalt Wizzy,” but I do like your nickname. As for funny alternatives to ‘Walt Disney,’ A “Li’l Bad Wolf” story in a ’50s issue of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories involved The Big Bad Wolf posing as a movie producer named “Dalt Wisney.” While no writer is credited on the Dizzyland article, it is possible that the piece was originally planned and outlined by Harvey Kurtzman before he left Mad; at any rate, sources tend to suggest that Al Feldstein wrote the text. Then again, Wood was so talented, it’s also possible that he wrote and illustrated this on his own. Best, Always — B.”
Then, the reliable Gary Teetzel has found yet another notification in an old review, indicating a connection between two far-flung exponents of film fantasy:
“Glenn — This is the Variety review of the 1941 radio serial Latitude Zero, written by future Them! scribe Ted Sherdeman and adapted as a feature 28 years later by Japan’s Toho Studios. The review mentions among its cast members a familiar name: Jack Arnold! The Jack Arnold who became a movie director? It’s very possibly the one-and-the-same man. Arnold was acting in New York at the time, and did appear on some radio programs. So there you have it: a wildly indirect, oddball link between the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Godzilla. Or at least the flyin’ lion from Latitude Zero. Apologies if this is old news; I just don’t recall seeing Arnold’s name being mentioned in connection to the radio serial before.”
Neat! — there are so many uncollated facts out there, and so many horror & fantasy boards we can’t keep up with, that maybe somebody will say we’re re-canvassing old territory. A Time review, for example, says that the radio show originated from NBC Hollywood, not New York. I just wish that a female cast member was mentioned, so we could find out if Mr. Arnold behaved himself at the microphone.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
These Are the Damned 07/06/19
“Kinder der Eisigen Dunkelheit!” If those words don’t give you a chill, you may be one of ‘The Damned.’ Joseph Losey’s fascinatingly morbid reflection on atomic terror was too much for England in 1961, wasn’t released in the U.S. for four full years, and then only after being shorn of nine minutes of footage. An ‘impossible’ Cold War scenario puts military authority on the same moral plane as delinquent street thugs. Losey transplants his subversive sensibility to England, and the result is one of the top political sci-fi tales of all time. The German release (“Sie Sind Verdammt”) is fully Region-A compatible. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
Hold Back the Dawn 07/06/19
All hail Olivia de Havilland, America’s longest living movie star. The more de Havilland pictures we see, the more we admire her taste and judgment in roles… or is that better expressed as, the more we admire her ability to guide a near-perfect career, going so far as to defy the studios in court. This 1941 drama has director Mitchell Leisen in fine form, a smart script by Brackett & Wilder, and a central topic that’s currently quite hot: illegal immigration. Co-starring Charles Boyer and Paulette Goddard. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
Well, I’ve been inundated (submerged?) by inquiries about how I got the new Blu-ray of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea without joining a subscription club. Copies of Leagues are being sold on Ebay for big $, I am told. First, I have to assure the reader that I tout movies in general, and besides waving a link to certain outlets, I don’t do what every other page has done since the dawn of DVD, collect $ for referral links and hits. I’ve never had any contact with The Disney Movie Club and I have no beef with it. My jokes about Dalt Wizzy date back to an old Mad magazine comic that lampooned the amazing Walt Disney as an extraordinary money magnet.
I got my copy by leaning on a friend (begging, whining) to order one for me, which ended up being a considerable inconvenience on his part, so I’m not asking for any more favors. My advice is to get lucky and find a pal with kids that are big on Disney and might have sprung for the club membership.
I know that’s not very helpful. I don’t know if this means anything, but everyone I’ve talked to that glommed a copy of the new Blu-ray, expressed elation at its quality — and then complained about its complete lack of extras. I have so far received five notes asking if I think the show will be available in a ‘normal’ disc release. I haven’t a clue — that’s not Disney’s present battle plan. I was told that a digital version can be purchased online, if you don’t mind it being withdrawn someday. Cheerful, huh?
Hey, there’s more Blu-ray 3-D coming to get excited about, and this time the feature was directed by one of them there high-toned name directors, Douglas Sirk. Filmed all over Utah, Taza, Son of Cochise has a fine cast led by Rock Hudson and Barbara Rush and was released in full Technicolor 3-D.
The restoration was performed by the 3-D Film Archive, and hopefully the encoding will be good. Most of the Archives work looks sensational on Blu-ray 3-D, which has been partly discontinued in the U.S. but is still going strong in other regions. What a shame — competition doesn’t always make the product better or the market more inclusive. Anyway, this title has good chances of being a winner. Douglas Sirk is a fine action director, so I’m looking forward to it.
Last minute nooz: Gary Teetzel reports that Kino Lorber is going to release Frank and Eleanor Perry’s Ladybug Ladybug, the 1963 atom drama about the tragedy that ensues when a nuclear alert is received at a rural public school. It’s long been a favorite, ignored by MGM and UA, and only available in a feeble 16mm copy; I was traumatized by it at age 13 when it hit television. You can’t call it fully successful but it is unforgettable — a liberal picture overflowing with humanist angst and cruel irony. Perry doesn’t do well with some of the kids, but the adult cast is terrific — William Daniels, Jane Connell, Richard Hamilton, Kathryn Hays, Judith Lowry, Estelle Parsons and Nancy Marchand.
The joke with Ladybug Ladybug is, I’m afraid, that for the past 30 years I’ve been asking Gary when it’s coming out on DVD and later Blu-ray, knowing that the only MGM pix less likely to receive special attention are Operation Kid Brother (OK Connery) and Fearless Frank (Frank’s Greatest Adventure). Now I’m bullish on Fearless Frank! How about a special edition with a commentary by Philip Kaufman, Jon Voight and Joan Darling? I’ve got an original poster (and boy is it ugly)! In any case, It’s going to be something special to see the nearly forgotten Ladybug Ladybug in HD Blu-ray.
And I’m personally happy because I’ve finished a big photo exchange with collector Mike Siegel — in regard to my still-favorite film Major Dundee. I’ve nabbed one more image from a deleted scene, I think. Later this summer, should things work out, I’ll have a minor, ‘Major’ announcement regarding that favored show…
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 07/02/19
Hidden behind the membership-only barrier of The Disney Movie Club is a long-delayed, long-missed key feature from The Mouse, Walt’s masterful super-production of the timeless Jules Verne classic. Despite the funny songs and an annoyingly ‘ork-ork’-ing sea lion, the lavishly filmed show embraces the dark side of Verne’s vision — Captain Nemo is nothing less than an anti-Colonial terrorist, waging a one-submarine war against international warmongers. With the commanding James Mason in the role, the film’s furious politics are as impressive as the to-die-for art direction: this Disney family attraction has us rooting for the terrorist and against the Imperialist European powers.. On Blu-ray from The Disney Movie Club.
Le Doulos 07/02/19
Auteurist film books of the early ’70s touted the crime pictures of Jean-Pierre Melville, a Yankeephile Frenchman who chose a new name for himself and embraced crime pix because he loved John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle. This tale of utter ruthlessness among thieves is one of Melville’s best. The great Jean-Paul Belmondo and Serge Reggiani leading a superior cast of underworld losers: Fabienne Dali, Michel Piccoli, Jean Desailly and Monique Hennessy. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.