Glenn Erickson's
Review Page and Column

Tuesday April 9, 2024

As fresh a comic ensemble as could be found — and put to terrific use.

3 Godfathers ’48 + Three Godfathers ’36 04/09/24

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

John Ford’s outlaw trio rescues an orphaned baby, evoking the sentimental innocence of silent-era westerns. With John Wayne, Ward Bond and Pedro Armendáriz on board, and photographed in blazing Technicolor by Winton Hoch, little else is needed to wow Ford fans. Plus hymns, home cooking, genuine Death Valley locations and a Christmas miracle. It’s a double-bill disc: the 1936 Chester Morris – Walter Brennan version is here as well. It’s very different, and just as good. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
04/09/24

Snapshot 04/09/24

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Pegged as a slasher-type horror, Simon Wincer’s drama hews closer to the emerging ‘artful’ trend in Australian filmmaking — with some of the bigger names associated with fancier exploitation fare, too: Everett De Roche, Brian May. Chantal Contouri gets top billing but the film is carried away by the magnetic Sigrid Thornton, who would later receive plenty of U.S. cable play in the ‘Man from Snowy River’ movies. Also making a solid impression is Hugh Keays-Byrne, in a role much different than the ones he played for George Miller. The disc includes a longer director’s cut. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
04/09/24

CineSavant Column

Tuesday April 9, 2024

 

Hello!

We have some interesting follow-up from correspondent Malcolm Alcala on the unproduced 1967 Dick Tracy TV show — Malcolm has found ‘a’ pilot for the series online.

It doesn’t feature ‘Pruneface’ or ‘Flattop’ in the cast line-up, just Victor Buono as a ‘Batman’- like villain. The rather tepid pilot was produced by Batman’s producer William Dozier, and its main theme is by The Ventures:

Dick Tracy unsold TV pilot 1967.
 

 Meanwhile, correspondent “E.” shows us that the ‘Pruneface’ prosthetic piece for Lon Chaney Jr.’s character makeup job still exists. He found it on display at a Propstore Auction page from 2023, with nice photos:

Lon Chaney Jr. Head Cast with Pruneface Prosthetic.
 


 

And Christopher Rywalt sends along this amusing, educational look at Zinc Oxide and You — no, no, it’s a look at the famed ‘Sodium Vapor’ automatic matting process used by Walt Disney in the 1960s.

The UCLA film school had a demo reel of the process and others with clips from Mary Poppins and The Brass Bottle, but the 35mm print had faded, and I thought I saw all kinds of matte lines and imperfections. Or maybe I was just an obnoxious film student who liked to point out things like matte lines.

The new video by Corridor crew is a demo-recreation, an attempt to reproduce the matting system with the reputation of being able to work with any color in front of the camera. It’s very detailed, and quite entertaining:

This Invention Made Disney Millions, but Then They Lost It!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday April 6, 2024

Just terrific he was, take after take … yet another original characterization as bandleader / radio star Raoul Lipschitz!

They Drive By Night 04/06/24

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Warners star power triumphs in a patched-together screen classic about the hard life of truckers on the road — that turns into a murder ‘n’ madness melodrama. It’s a special picture in terms of career advancement for Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. The somewhat sexist dialogue feels edgy for 1940, and Ann Sheridan is at her most adorable. Does director Raoul Walsh deserve special credit for keeping this one on its feet?  Even George Raft comes across with a good performance. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
04/06/24

Suits: The Complete Series 04/06/24

Universal Home Video
Blu-ray

It was slick, glamorous, sexy — the cable series tickled TV viewers with fantasies of Wall Street wealth and power, adding extra fun with a gate-crashing imposter and his photographic memory. This is how the one percenters wished they lived: beautiful people in killer fashions, in a law firm that settles most disputes out of court — they’re too cool and too talented. When Netflix picked it up in mid-pandemic, there was no surprise that its ratings skyrocketed … a major role had been played by the future Duchess of Sussex, now one of the best-known women on the planet. On Blu-ray from Universal.
04/06/24

CineSavant Column

Saturday April 6, 2024

 

Hello!

We can depend on correspondent Michael McQuarrie to send along links of crucial interest:

It seems the Internet Archive has a pretty extensive selection of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines up, and rather well-scanned.

My teenaged collection began with Issue 28 — Bela Lugosi as a manimal, above — but it had to disappear when I went to college in 1970, along with 99% of my childhood possessions. Only a few times since have I sampled old copies of the magazine. Forrest J. Ackerman was no oracle of our times, but he did have fun with terrible puns. I’m advised to jump into early issues and start seeking out ‘reader write-in’ articles, where various fans, friends, superfans and the occasional future celebrity can be found.

The covers are certainly fantastic — for some reason I saved the incredible scarlet cover with Bernard Jukes, when everything else had to go. I recall digging into early issues I never saw, only to be confronted with material I had already read in paperback reprints. Yep, Forry and his publisher didn’t print anything just once, if 4 times would be tolerated.

Anyway, I’m going to refrain from dawdling too long in this archive … it doesn’t seem to be complete, or is it?

Internet Archive: Famous Monsters of Filmland
 


 

We once again shamelessly ‘adopt’ a link circulated by Joe Dante. This time out the prize is an hourlong TV docu about the legendary silent actress Louise Brooks, from the 1980s BBC arts series Arena.

The show takes excerpts from Brooks’ intense one-on-one 1975 ‘bathrobe’ interview piece with director Richard Leacock called A Conversation with Louise Brooks, that was later also folded into the documentary Lulu in Berlin. Also part of the mix is interview footage shot by Kevin Brownlow, for his solid-gold docu miniseries about silent movies, Hollywood.

Add to that numerous clips from Louise Brooks films and interview material with various spokespeople like critic Kenneth Tynan — he really seems to have been enthralled by the Brooks mystique. The actress was completely frank about sex. This particular docu begins with the oft-quoted bit from the Leacock interview, in which Ms. Brooks says that ‘Hollywood was invented by money men as a way of owning beautiful women.’

The documentary may change your mind about the sex appeal of silent movies:

Arena: Louise Brooks
 


 

This caught our attention as well. Long-time correspondent Malcom Alcala found these online photos online somewhere — they’re reportedly from an un-aired, possibly un-filmed Dick Tracy TV show sometime about 1967.

Friend Craig Reardon helped with some fantastic effects makeup jobs for the celebrated Warren Beatty film, but I didn’t know that an earlier production attempted to replicate the cartoonish appearance of Chester Gould’s menagerie of underworld villains.

All I can say is that the makeup man is identified as John Chambers … it’s reportedly Lon Chaney Jr. made up as “Pruneface,” and actor Leon Janney in full makeup as “Flattop.”  The Flattop still looks like it’s been touched up a little, maybe. Or maybe a lot. But it certainly matches the comic book look of Pruneface.

Is it just me, or does Pruneface look like a parody of Ronald Reagan?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

 

http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s471tracy.html

Tuesday April 2, 2024

It’s called using everything you’ve got that the marketplace will allow.

The Panther Women — The Bat Woman 04/02/24

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Lucha libre lives!  Mexican matinee madness goes daffy-surreal!  Already reeling from masked wrestlers, Aztec mummies and carboard robots, the screen reels from a pair of director René Cardona’s pop-thrillers featuring luchadoras enmascaradasthat battle monsters, gangsters, and mad doctors. The Bat Woman is a jaw-dropping provocation to DC copyrights, while The Panther Women pits two lovely luchadorasagainst a squad of female assassins. The well-researched extras offer substantial background information. Who else but Charlie Largent could interpret this wealth of cinematic treasure?  On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
04/02/24

The Dresser 04/02/24

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray

Directed by Peter Yates and performed with great finesse by Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, Ronald Harwood’s adaptation of his own play is great entertainment. Touring the provinces in wartime, an eccentric Shakespearian legend is falling apart in mind and body; only the star’s dedicated, put-upon dresser can get him into a mental shape allowing the show to go on. The approach isn’t satirical or ironic, but affecting and compassionate. The freqently hilarious show is also a worthwhile account of a long-gone slice of British theatrical history. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
04/02/24

CineSavant Column

Tuesday April 2, 2024

 

Hello!

Now this is nice to hear …. while we calmly wait for Paramount Presents’ upcoming 4K disc of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, an announcement arrives of an equally hot prospect … a June 18 release date for Roman Polanski’s 1974 masterpiece Chinatown on 4K Ultra HD.

For this one Paramount Presents adds new extras — a piece with the film’s assistant director, and two from Sam Wasson, author of the book that added much to the popularity of Polanski’s picture, The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years Of Hollywood.

An added Blu-ray will include the 1990 sequel, The Two Jakes. This one ought to be great in 4K — it’s up there with the best experiences we’ve had in a movie theater. I remember seeing it from the long-gone ‘Cathay Balcony’ of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

 


 

Among the web finds thoughtfully circulated by Joe Dante is this nice appreciation at Pocket Worthy of the late, great Tower Records company. Its superstore on the Sunset Strip was a must-stop destination with a lot of character — we had to approach from the East or the West ’cause my old car had trouble climbing the hill from West Hollywood.

The article by Ben Marks goes deeper than the history of the vast retail chain, describing what buying music was like in those old days. A vinyl album might cost less than $5 dollars, new. We’d see long-haired hipsters in leather carrying stacks of 30 albums to checkout, with their Jaguars and Rolls-Royces waiting outside …

Then there was me, pondering if I should spend eating money on an LP of the Les Baxter soundtrack to Master of the World. Hey, it was stereophonic!  I decided to eat instead.

The article makes mention of the documentary All Things Must Pass, which we reviewed at CineSavant early in 2016 … I still recommend it. The Pocket Worthy article is a click away:

If You’re Too Young to Remember the Magic of Tower Records, Here’s What You Missed
 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday March 30, 2024

A curious pro-militarist Japanese fantasy… a defiant Navy Captain never surrendered.

To Die For – 4K 03/30/24

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

Buck Henry’s screenplay slams monstrous celebrity careerism in the most entertaining way: because Nicole Kidman’s TV weather lady wants to climb the ladder of on-air celebrity, her inconveniently unglamorous first husband has to go. It’s the most blatant murder scheme ever, with a woman who considers herself to be perfection recruiting and seducing high schoolers to do the dark deed. Gus Van Sant’s satirical thriller gets high marks from our reviewer Charlie Largent; Kidman has a terrific backup cast in Joaquin Phoenix, Matt Dillon, Casey Affleck, Illeana Douglas and Dan Hedaya. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
03/30/24

Sayonara 03/30/24

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray

This import shows what’s uniquely terrific about a Home Video disc done well — the combined audio commentaries tell us much we didn’t know about a movie we thought we knew well. It’s one of Marlon Brando’s best and most committed performances … sidestepping some of the conventions of its time, what it does right far outweighs some outdated issues. James Garner, Patricia Owens and even Red Buttons are excellent — and Ricardo Montalban minimizes the damage of some genuine ‘what were they thinking?’ casting. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
03/30/24

CineSavant Column

Saturday March 30, 2024

 

Hello!

An interesting filmic discovery this week at Wellesnet. How this 9 minutes of film came about is a little complicated, but CineSavant advisor Gary Teetzel manages a conscise description:

“Here’s some color footage from a production of Twelfth Night that Orson Welles directed at age 17 at the Todd School for Boys. He doesn’t act in the play, but he directed it and designed the set and costumes. His voice is heard providing an introduction.”

The interesting article was written by Ray Kelly. Welles presumably did not direct any of this home movie-style footage. The transfer does everything it can to prevent piracy, including formatting the reel wide-screen, chopping off the top and bottom of every shot:

Orson Welles’ Twelfth Night
 


 

And Joe Dante circulated without comment a link to another short AI film made with Sora,: Sora AI Film Series 1.

Most of the viewer comments are very positive. My first thought is that I’d like to see the text prompts (?) or script (?) or whatever that this started with.

I’d hate to think a computer program could be told, ‘make a brilliant montage using copyrighted clips,’ and then be instructed to ‘alter the clips enough to obscure their source and avoid infringement lawsuits.’  Or is that the fundamental premise behind the development of these AI tools?

When CGI came in, I wrongly thought some movies might carry a proud text disclaimer, saying ‘no digital effects, just camera art.’ Visuals By Committee are bad enough, but Visuals By AI is too much. Is it Art Made By Nobody, but Stolen From Everybody?   The link:

Air Head for Shy Kids
 


 

And since CineSavant falls for most everything having to do with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, we were curious when our Facebook feed — which normally siphons peep show videos and links to articles behind firewalls — sent us to a Netflix presentation that ‘enhances and colorizes’ the classic sci-fi epic.

The colorization appears done more for mood than realism — it’s more like a tinting pass … a rather odd tinting pass. Colors shift and drift and little blasts of red pop in, while faces stay fairly consistent. I noted that some swift pans change the overall color bluish for a moment. With all the colorization fireworks, the recovered Argentinian footage is less distracting, I must say.

Enhancing accessibility to vintage films without completely mutilating them has to be seen as something positive… even Giorgio Moroder’s disco revision can be lauded for Keeping the Torch lit for Metropolis. Soon to be 100 years old, the movie still captures our imaginations. As Aitam Bar-Sagi might say, anything that promotes this Astounding picture is good. Next stop, 3-D conversion?

I suppose this video tranformation was created via AI and a couple of descriptive prompts?  I did not find this on my Netflix account, but the web link is:

Metropolis (1927) Enhanced and Colorized
 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday March 26, 2024

This very dry wartime thriller must have sold more theater beverages than Lawrence of Arabia.

Phase IV – 4K 03/26/24

Vinegar Syndrome
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

The celebrated filmic designer Saul Bass took on a tall cinematic challenge, directing a cerebral sci-fi thriller designed to rely heavily on his graphic communication techniques. He lost the faith of a studio along the way, and perhaps his own sense of ‘directorial imperative.’ What’s left of his unique, post-2001 mindblower barely holds together, even as we recognize the genius in its conception. The 4K Ultra HD encoding of Ken Middleham’s insect macrocinematography still amazes; a second, longer HD of Saul Bass’s Preview Version restores the legendary, lost end montage. With Michael Murphy, Nigel Davenport and Lynne Frederick. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome.
03/26/24

The President’s Analyst 03/26/24

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Now available in a domestic Blu-ray — if The Phone Company doesn’t suppress it — is one of the smartest, funniest political satires ever, and James Coburn’s finest hour as an actor & project-chooser. Writer-director Theodore J. Flicker’s movie transcends the spy-craze politics of 1967: the White House shrink knows too many Presidential secrets, making him a prime target in a giddy international spy chase. Everything leads to an absurd Sci-fi conspiracy that nevertheless is now quickly becoming our reality. Coburn’s hipster cred holds up well, abetted by a lineup of great talent led by improv pioneers Godfrey Cambridge and Severn Darden. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/26/24

CineSavant Column

Tuesday March 26, 2024

 

Hello!

Just last Saturday we reviewed one of the disc sets pictured above — now Dick Dinman offers his latest podcast on the same subject …

The newest DVD Classics Corner On the Air show reaches deep into Dick Dinman’s audio archives for conversations he had about Edward G. Robinson with stars Karl Malden, Kathleen Hughes, Gena Rowlands, and Margaret O’Brien, all of whom have worked with the famed actor. It’s a Kino Lorber tie-in, to accompany new releases of Robinson’s films Scarlet Street, Vice Squad, Black Tuesday and Nightmare.

The podcast, up for listening, is

4 Stars Salute Screen Legend Edward G. Robinson.
 


 

On the evening of April 22, producer Arnold Leibovit is presenting a smash George Pal double bill at a terrific venue: The historic Village Theater in Westwood. The Village Theater recently made big show-biz news, having been purchased by an élite group of Hollywood personalities. The landmark theater was one of the first big buildings in Westwood, back when one saw only empty fields between Wilshire Blvd. and the brand-new quad buildings at the brand-new UCLA.

Arnold has been restoring and promoting George Pal’s Puppetoons for decades. The April 22 event will premiere ten Technicolor Puppetoon restorations. They will be followed by a terrific opportunity to experience a giant state-of-the-art screening of the 4K restoration of Pal’s 1953 sci-fi masterpiece The War of the Worlds. At the Village Theater, that classic alien invasion thriller is going to be Big and Loud.

Scheduled for attendance are Liebovit, actress Ann Robinson and director Joe Dante. Full details are available at a Sci-fi Biz web page,

The War of the Worlds + George Pal Puppetoons.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson