Glenn Erickson's
Review Page and Column

Tuesday February 7, 2023

There’s something honest about Sarno’s early adult films. They’re almost wholesome.

The Big Gundown 02/07/23

Powerhouse Indicator
Region B Blu-ray

Quentin Tarantino crowned Sergio Corbucci as the second-best director of Italian westerns, but our vote goes to Sergio Sollima — this is the most satisfying Spaghetti oater outside the Leone corral. In his first starring role, Lee Van Cleef is lawman Jonathan Corbett, who pursues Tomas Milian’s killer into Mexico for an American millionaire. Political screenwriter Franco Solinas helped cook up the story, which pitches frontier ethics against ‘establishment’ corruption. The two-disc special edition presents the show in 4 versions, if we count a clever English-Italian language hybrid. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
02/7/23

A Rage to Live 02/07/23

Viavision [Imprint]
Region Free Blu-ray

It’s a hot soap from ’65, when movies promised raging passion but delivered cheap teases and hypocritical judgments. It’s Suzanne Pleshette’s only starring role, but it doesn’t exploit her bright personality, her sense of humor. John O’Hara’s tale hasn’t much pity for a promiscuous young wife who breaks the rules. Does nymphomania make her a social menace, or is she victimized by a script determined to put the blame on Mame?  Costarring Ben Gazzara, Bradford Dillman and Peter Graves. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
02/07/23

CineSavant Column

Tuesday February 7, 2023

 

Hello!

Not a lot happening at CineSavant Central, which is GOOD news. But I bumped into a couple of fun links to share. At a place called Filmsite Tim Dirks has collected various groupings of title screens, fairly sharp and accurate (I note that When Worlds Collide is from a trailer).

The screen grabs are not very large but they line up well, arrayed by year, and alphabetically within a given year. That’s how I once organized DVDs, until the volume became untenable.

The page is called Movie Title Screens Sci-Fi Creature Features of the 1950s. Filmsite’s home page is here.

Are there other pages with elaborate Screen Cap title frame grabs of our favorite genre films?

 


 

It’s a link from the past, but I just encountered it again and am impressed by how perfectly it all fits together. It’s even better than another favorite, a somewhat older mix & match video joke that confects a 007-Ghidrah Mash-up.

Krishna Shenoi put this one together eight years ago . . . it’s a fantastic, happy Alternate Ending for Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. The funny thing is that little or no digital futzing was needed to make the joke work — the shots appear to be exactly what’s in each show.

CineSavant’s original review for Gravity is here. A follow-up disc in 3-D Blu-ray is still a favorite.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday February 4, 2023

Look out!  Nothing can stop it! — unless you break the fragile glass thingy in its head.

The Lady from Shanghai 02/04/23

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent is back, checking out a new release of Orson Welles’ screwy noir murder mystery, which was shredded by studio interference yet still came out a winner. Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth star and the director provides superb parts for Everett Sloane, Glenn Anders, Ted de Corsia and Erskine Sanford. Who else but Welles could get away with the finale’s crazy-house kaleidoscope mirror montage?  It leaves us speechless — and obliterates the full explanation of the twisted storyline. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/04/23

The Bride Wore Black 02/04/23

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

François Truffaut’s ode to Hitchcock and Cornell Woolrich is an ice-cold femme revenge tale. Jeanne Moreau exacts retribution from five men who made her a widow on her wedding day. Truffaut winds it as tightly as a mousetrap, leaving Ms. Moreau’s psychology a mystery — feminists can debate whether the film is misogynistic. Raoul Coutard’s color cinematography is deceptively warm and inviting; the film’s biggest boost comes from Bernard Herrmann’s powerful music score. Potential special guest victims include Michel Bouquet, Jean-Claude Brialy, Charles Denner, Claude Rich and Michael Lonsdale. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/04/23

CineSavant Column

Saturday February 4, 2023

 

Hello!

Gary Teetzel forwards this link to the official Syracuse University listing for The Forrest J. Ackerman Papers, which you will be happy to know is a collection that occupies 351 linear feet in the Syracuse Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center.

We of course read ‘4-E’ for years as kids. Plenty of us wrote him and it’s amusing to see names of friends and notables listed in his ‘You Axed for It’ columns. I’ve heard a few odd claims made about Ackerman but believed Bill Warren’s descriptions of him as an earnest enthusiast and self-promoter who could be generous at times. We were hoping that the contents of the Amazing Ackermansion would end up in some organized collection or museum, and weren’t all sure where all those valuable books, posters, props and keepsakes now reside.

This list of the official holdings at Syracuse give an idea of the different sides of Forrest Ackerman’s life as a career—fan, literary agent, and editor. The listings span the history of sci-fi fandom from the earliest days to the 21st century. Forry began by writing figures like Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft and ended up trading letters with Peter Jackson. The correspondence list reads like a Who’s Who of science fiction and horror authors.

The introductory notes clear up things a little bit — some of the Ackermansion’s treasures reportedly ended up in Seattle. It’s also amusing to learn that Forry’s own writings earned him the title of ‘honorary Lesbian’ — we didn’t hear that promoted in Famous Monsters of Filmland.

The guy was definitely a big force in fandom. If you’re ready to be bombarded with pro-Ackerman info and accolades, slip over to the Mr. Monster page, at efanzines.com.

 


 

Seattle is just a week or so away from its 2023 Noir City film estival, to be held at a venue called the SIFF Cinema Egyptian, from February 10-16.

Dapper Eddie Muller, host, raconteur and Noir authority will be there in person for the first three nights — he’s been the voice of the style going on twenty years now. If Seattle’s Noir City gatherings are anything like our Hollywood shows, it should be some guaranteed classy nights out on the town — appreciative audiences, fun distractions, and solid movie experiences of the communal kind. It’s not a ‘museum’ environment.

Eighteen films in seven days — one can parse the full list with other info at the Noir City Seattle page.

 


 

What’s this ugly image about?  Helpful correspondent John Charles read last Tuesday’s CineSavant Marco Polo review, and responded to the ‘mystery’ of a ‘missing’ shot in the movie. I explained in the review that when I saw the American-International release as a small boy, I was struck by a gory cutaway to a skewered corpse in the bottom of a treacherous torture pit. In the ‘Export Version’ on Kino Lorber’s disc, there is no cutaway.

John Charles obtained this screen grab, from some awful video from a faded surviving print. Tim Lucas apparently wasn’t kidding when he said the A.I.P. cut of Marco Polo was just not available, nowhere, no-how. Until the Kino disc, this may have been the best the movie looked.

It does look like a shot from the original shoot, with the same actor. In a decent color transfer I think the impression would be a LOT of blood.

But it’s good to know that I didn’t just imagine the cutaway. The lack of a cutaway in Kino’s Export Version plays a little strangely. We don’t know what Marco Polo (Rory Calhoun) sees when he looks into the hole in the floor. I’d assume the poor victim fell into a bottomless pit or something.

Perhaps the Italians provided sub-distributors with a ‘kit’ of extra editorial materials?  Nothing so violent or graphic happens anywhere else in the movie. We can imagine Nicholson saying to Arkoff: ‘Look, nobody complained too loudly at the gore in Black Sunday, and this relatively tame show needs something.‘ Maybe the optical folk that added VFX to Reptilicus painted in some extra gore . . . ?

Thank you, John Charles !


Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday January 31, 2023

It’s an actual subtitle from a DVD.  Wait, why is everybody looking at me like that?

Rancho Notorious 01/31/23

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

We love this Fritz Lang western even though it’s not particularly good; only in hindsight do we realize that the brilliant director’s intentions may have been compromised. High-key lighting does Marlene Dietrich no favors, but she scores good scenes performing with Arthur Kennedy (revenged crazed cowpoke) and Mel Ferrer (tranquilized gunslinger). Lang fans will be impressed by the gaudy, over-bright restored Technicolor, and we can always blame Howard Hughes. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/31/23

Marco Polo 01/31/23

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

You can’t argue with disc collectors eager to rediscover movies they loved at age 10, in terrific kiddie matinees. Cowboy star Rory Calhoun makes a perfectly fine Italian vagabond ladies’ man for this very un-serious ‘oriental’ adventure, and Yôko Tani is the requisite princess who needs kissing lessons. Tim Lucas’s welcome, info-packed commentary satisfies our curiosity about the long-unavailable title — it’s different than the A.I.P. release we (barely) remember. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/31/23

CineSavant Column

Tuesday January 31, 2023

 

Hello!

CineSavant contributor and artist Charlie Largent has been adding to his etsy store JestInTime with new pro digital illustrations. Charlie’s work is well known from Trailers from Hell and Video Watchdog, of course.

Charlie adds that he’s offering customized greetings on the cards as an option — just contact him here on Facebook. His overall business page is called Charlie Hill Illustration.

 


 

Dependable David J. Schow sends his greetings — he just circulated some fun ‘ant-‘ related links. This one is taken from an old DVD extra. We haven’t seen it in a long time, and it again inspired considerable thought.

The short video piece collects a few raw, uncut outtakes from the movie Them!, clearly sourced from the Warner Bros. stock film library. If you haven’t seen the Giant Ants Behind the Scenes it’s something of a revelation. We knew that the big ants were mechanical puppets, probably only one or two fully articulated creatures and a bunch of partial ants, like bobble heads. But only once or twice are we given a glimpse of an entire ant.

The uncut shots give us a really good look at them — the WB fabricators gave them moving heads, working pincers, excellent waving antennae, and legs that walk smoothly (but rather slowly). We wonder what color they might have been — Them! was at one point going to be filmed in color, and perhaps even in 3-D. In 1953 Variety reported dozens of movies as being planned for depth treatment; how many were seriously prepped is another story.

Here we can see details that might have looked sensational in color — the eyes had bubbly, sparkly liquid swooshing about inside, reportedly activated by washing machine agitators. In one close-up we can see the back of an ant’s head bulging as it tilts downward.

In the movie the cuts are really quick, and the outtakes tell us why — when seen any longer than a second or two, the ant-mannequins begin to resemble exactly what they are, puppets with limited movement. The brief cuts of ants always show them in motion, enhanced with camera trucks and tilts that disguise their limited mobility. I don’t think we ever see an ant foot ‘floating’ off the ground.

Whenever I see Them! I marvel at the skill behind the shooting and editing of the ant scenes. Executives looking at the dailies may have thought, jeez these are fake, this will never work.  Yet the editors find the right bits of action, and dynamic montage sells the monsters 100%. Can they really be talking about a Them! remake now?  To do better than the 1954 original they’ll have to do more than fill a screen with CGI cartoon critters.

 


 

And Gary Teetzel has contributed a link of interest, to Boris Karloff’s final dramatic performance. It’s a brief guest appearance on TV’s The Name of the Game, the episode The White Birch. It was filmed at Boris’s old stomping grounds, Universal Studios. His appearance starts about a half hour in.

The actor pictured with Karloff is Jean-Pierre Aumont. Gary adds:

“When Karloff arrived at the set in a wheelchair and accompanied by a nurse, director Lamont Johnson was alarmed by his frail appearance and his breathing, which was impaired due to his emphysema. Karloff shook his hand and said in a firm voice “What you see before you is not encouraging, I’m sure, but what is there is entirely at your service, sir.” The work and being among his fellow actors seemed to energize him.”

“Shortly after completing this role Karloff made a guest appearance on the Halloween episode of The Jonathan Winters Show. That was his last TV work and, I think, his last work period — although some of his final feature films had not yet been released.” — Gary


Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday January 28, 2023

Swedish homesteaders Max and Liv inspire us with their strength and tenacity.

Monsieur Hire 01/28/23

The Cohen Film Collection / Kino Lorber
Blu-ray

Highest honors go to this stylish, cinematically refined adaptation of a George Simenon thriller. Michel Blanc’s disliked and anti-social tailor becomes a person of interest for a murder investigation; Sandrine Bonnaire is the neighbor that he peeps at nightly, to stir his secret passion. Director Patrice Leconte directs with almost perfect control, turning the show into an emotional workout; it plays like a modern masterpiece. On Blu-ray from The Cohen Group.
01/28/23

Death Wish, 4K 01/28/23

KL Studio Classics
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

Locked and loaded with a decent screenplay, Michael Winner and Charles Bronson acquit themselves well in this brutal 1974 hit that launched a decade’s worth of nasty vigilante movies. The lynch-mob formula presents crimes so awful that the audience demands violent retribution. The shock is that this incitement to ‘fight back’ is not direct right-wing propaganda — vigilantism is glamorized but not endorsed. A fine supporting cast includes Vincent Gardenia, Steven Keats and unexpected treats like Olympia Dukakis and Jeff Goldblum. “Fill your hand!” On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/28/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday January 28, 2023

 

Hello!

Correspondent Louis Helman reminds me that the Warner Archive Collection will be dark for releases in February, but has announced a six-title Blu-ray slate for March ’23. The selection leans entirely on star-driven vintage films from MGM and Warner Brothers.

The lineup is impressive — I think I’ve reviewed all but one of these six titles on older DVDs. From MGM comes the classic Greta Garbo feature Camille, which ought to glow in HD — we once saw a nitrate studio print at UCLA. I’ll Cry Tomorrow is one of Susan Hayward’s tearful melodramas, based on the biography of ’30s star Lillian Roth. And Neptune’s Daughter is one of Esther Williams’ biggest hits, that ought to look terrific remastered in HD.

The Warners pictures are just as stellar. Confessions of a Nazi Spy is an excellent choice; the first studio picture to openly challenge Naziism has scary connections to our own current events. Flamingo Road is one of Joan Crawford’s over-the-top ‘sensational’ thrillers, the one where Joan’s cooch dancer from the wrong side of the tracks pointedly tells Sidney Greenstreet, ‘you just wouldn’t believe how much trouble it is to dispose of a dead elephant.’ And The Prince and the Showgirl gives us Marilyn Monroe opposite Laurence Olivier. A digital remaster should do wonders with that movie, too.

Career Home Video manager extraordinaire George Feltenstein is busy with big plans to exploit new restorations at The Warner Archive Collection, and promises that this year ‘the discs will flow.’

 


 

Last Saturday, sage CineSavant friend and advisor Craig Reardon attended a memorial service for his friend Brent Armstrong, a talented artist and sculptor who died late last year. Brent worked for the past 40-odd years in various makeup labs / effects shops, primarily as a utility sculptor; he was described as almost exclusively a behind-the-scenes artist.

In later days Brent started his own business creating collectibles such as these examples of fan favorites. Peter Jackson purchased Brent’s impressive portrayal of Karloff’s Im-Ho-Tep in his sarcophagus, Craig was told. Sarah Karloff admired his portrayals of her immortal dad and sent her eloquent condolences to the memorial.

Brent Armstrong lived and breathed horror, science fiction, and fantasy movie imagery, especially the monsters. On display at the memorial were several pieces he created to pay tribute to monster creators and their creations.

 One enormous piece commemorates King Kong’s last stand. The original included a big piece of the Empire State Building as well, at this oversized scale. These images all enlarge if zoomed or opened in a new window. In the first and third can be glimpsed Brent’s larger than life portrayal of Chaney Sr.’s enraged Phantom of the Opera. He’s rendered in monochrome, just like the B&W movie.

 The second example honors the work of famed ’50s monster maker Paul Blaisdell. It’s a medley of monster imagery, featuring the most memorable designs.    The third photo shows the backside of the piece. Brent didn’t neglect to include a likeness of Blaisdell’s fan, friend and assistant Bob Burns, portrayed later in life.

In Craig Reardon’s words:  “I don’t think Brent’s family would be other than pleased if you were to feature these pictures. They are all very proud of of him and his work. Brent was a good-hearted and faithful friend. He will be missed by all who knew him, me included.” — Craig

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday January 24, 2023

This one still generates chills . . . what an imaginative concept.

The Asphyx 01/24/23

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Awkwardly plotted but chilling just the same, this beautifully-filmed tale of Victorian experimentation with death has nightmarish qualites that won’t go away. Class actors Robert Stephens, Robert Powell & Jane Lapotaire bring believability to a deadly-serious idea that scores the ‘phantom-trapping’ concept years before Ghostbusters. The cinematographer was Freddie Young; both versions are included, along with a commentary by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/24/23

Pretty Baby 01/24/23

Brooke Shields became a star and attracted mild controversy in this show, director Louis Malle’s first American production. Co-writer & producer Polly Platt and cinematographer Sven Nykvist collaborated on Malle’s fascinating look at life in a New Orleans brothel early in the 20th century. Prostitute Susan Sarandon raises two children in the upscale bawdy house, and art photographer Keith Carradine becomes an artist in residence. It’s a non-moralizing portrait of a bygone lifestyle. The handsome remastered release co-stars Diana Scarwid and Barbara Steele — and comes with a new interview with Brooke Shields. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
01/24/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday January 24, 2023

 

Hello!

The title should be self-explanatory: The Man With The Golden Gun Milk Commercial. Why not?  By 1974, the 007 franchise was no longer trying for anything resembling serious thrills; the series lost me as a theatrical patron after Diamonds are Forever.

I have to say that I’ve never seen milk being drunk on a film set. Late at night in chilly February, the electricians and grips did seem to carry other more warming drinks, though. It was tough work, in the rafters of a sound stage or out in the elements.

 


 

And here’s a CineSavant mini-review — while aching over the delay of Invaders from Mars we try not to forget that, for every disc that’s released, somebody out there is jonesing for it. This Korean monster movie was previously so rare, it might have been only a rumor. It always got special mention on want-to-see lists.

Online web board Savant “Jameson” is an eclectic collector. He sometimes sends me keen mini-reviews of discs that I’m not likely to get for review. This time around he’s allowed me to print his amusing thoughts for a title that was made for gotta-have-it completists. And with that I hand the microphone to Jameson:

 

Well, I watched SPACE MONSTER WANGMAGWI, and can report that . . . uh . . . well . . . it is indeed a movie.

It starts as a fairly standard kaiju film. Aliens cast their envious eyes upon the Earth, and plot to conquer it using their monster Wangmagwi, which starts out human-sized — or at least the same size as the humanoid aliens — but grows to enormous proportions when exposed to Earth’s atmosphere. A Korean Air Force pilot is torn away from his bride-to-be on the eve of their wedding to deal with the monster attack.

So far, so average. Then the monster appears, and the movie introduces a series of comic relief characters and situations. A pair of cowardly gamblers place a series of bets related to the monster attack while bumbling about and/or cowering in fear. A man with an urgent need to defecate struggles to find a way to deal with his situation while in a crowded evacuation area (this subplot does not have a happy ending). A street kid named “Squirrel” ends up climbing onto and INTO Wangmagwi. He climbs onto the monster’s back, into his ear, up his nose . . . clinging to giant nose hairs. Meanwhile, the pilot’s bride has been carried off by Wangmagwi, giving the conflict a personal angle. Will she ever get to have her wedding?

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of all this. Was Space Monster Wangmagwi intended as a spoof of Japanese kaiju films?  Was it aimed at kids?  Some of the lowbrow humor, and the central role played by ‘Squirrel’ would suggest so, but some of the humor seems aimed more toward adults, especially when the gamblers add their wives to the gambling stakes. Was the lowbrow comic relief commonplace in Korean films of the period?  Was the film marketed as a comedy, a kid’s film, or a standard monster movie?  Having seen no Korean films from the period other than Yongary, I sure don’t know. It would be nice if the commentary had offered some context. I can’t say that it does. There are a few comments about the cast and a few useful general remarks about South Korea in the mid-’60s, and that’s about it for factual information. The rest of the talk track is jokes and stretches of silence.

It would also be interesting to know which Japanese kaiju/tokusatsu films were distributed in South Korea, when, and which ones were particularly popular. Could the Gamera films been big hits in Korea?  That might explain the prominent role of the ‘Squirrel’ character . . . except that by 1967 only the first three Gamera films had been made, and the monster was not yet firmly established as the ‘friend of children.’ Did War of the Gargantuas influence the choice to go with a vaguely humanoid monster?  Wangmagwi’s design is slightly reminiscent of a giant in Prince of Space, while the aliens vaguely recall those in Invasion of the Neptune Men. Is that just coincidence, or were those two series popular in Korea?

On the positive side, the photography is solidly professional and some of the miniature sets are quite good. The Blu-ray shows both off to good advantage. Audio sync is loose; did Korean films typically loop all the dialogue during this period?

Overall, I’d say this is a title for kaiju completists only. It’s offbeat and different, to be sure, but not necessarily in a good way. I’m afraid it is destined to be remembered in kaiju history as ‘the one with that guy who has to poop on a newspaper during the monster attack.’ Yongary may be dully formulaic, but I vote for it as the better of the two 1967 Korean kaiju films.
— Jameson

Hey, I did find Space Monster Wangmagwi for sale, at a site called SRS Cinemastore. These color images found online are bogus, as the rather good promo at the SRS page is in crisp B&W, and in 1.33:1. The promo seems to skip over the potty humor, though.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson