Review Page and Column
“The Complete Silent Films of German Cinema’s Supreme Stylist.” Kino Lorber shows its faith in the Blu-ray medium with an extravagant collection of its entire silent holdings of the Fritz Lang library of silent classics. Mythical heroes, sacrificing heroines, criminal madmen and uncontrolled super-science are his themes; it’s a paranoid’s view of the first half of the 20th Century, expressed in fantastic creative innovations that literally re-write the rules of cinema. Metropolis, Die Niebelungen, Mabuse, Spies, Destiny — they’re all here in handsomely appointed packaging. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
“What are you rebelling against, Marlon?” This time Brando has more to say than merely “Whaddaya got?” Back when interracial marriage was a shady topic (are those dark days coming back?) the U.S. military had some adjustment issues. Full integration of the ranks didn’t remove the anti- Japanese bigotry. James Michener’s novel has been transformed into a big-scale romance, with Marlon Brando coming to terms with a split in loyalty between the flag and his private life. The big shock is that the Paul Osborn’s screenplay doesn’t let the military off easy. With Miiko Taka, Patricia Owens, Miyoshi Umeki and Red Buttons. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Hello — It’s become Manson Week in the media!
Joe Dante sent along this YouTube link to a funny-creepy Manson Skit from The Ben Stiller Show in 1992, featuring Bob Odenkirk. Younger viewers may not know its context, from a specific 1950s TV show.
By the time you read this the most cherished denizen of Tin Can Alley may already on his way to some lucky owner: an original Robby the Robot will be sold at auction today. The article From ‘Forbidden Planet’ to the Auction Block give the details, but the best thing on view is Robby’s official auction photo — they polished that boy up nice and shiny. I only saw Robby once, but he gave me some excellent advice: “3-In-One.” Words of wisdom.
It’s Thanksgiving week and I have visitors showing up any hour now, so I have a perfectly good for any delay in today’s post. As for Saturday, we’ll have to see if I end up with any time to write . . . I have a couple of things half-done, but things get pretty wild at Savant Central during the holidays – we might even watch a movie newer than 1980!
Indicator Harryhausen on Saturday — thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Ulzana’s Raid 11/18/17
Keine Gnade für Ulzana. Many great Blu-rays unavailable in the U.S. can now be found in Europe. One of the best westerns of the ’70s is this jarringly realistic cavalry vs. Apaches drama from Robert Aldrich and Burt Lancaster, which used the ‘R’ rating to get serious about the savage details. In this case it works — the genuinely scary movie is also a profound meditation on violent America. With Bruce Davison & Richard Jaeckel; written by fave scribe Alan Sharp. A Dual-Format edition on All-Region Blu-ray and PAL DVD from Explosive Media (De).
The Madness of King George 11/18/17
It’s great when a fancy costume picture really has something to say — Alan Bennett’s crazy tale of a king’s episode of mental illness becomes a highly entertaining comedy of errors, but with serious personal and political ramifications. Nigel Hawthorne is exceptionally good as the sovereign whose brain has de-railed; Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Rupert Everett and Amanda Donohoe try to help him — or steal his crown. Director Nicholas Hytner does a fine job on this one. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
Attack of the Puppet People 11/18/17
All hail Bert I. Gordon, who singlehandedly carved out his own niche in ‘fifties monster folklore, and even won a battle or two against those sharpies at A.I.P.. His puppet people were originally just ‘Fantastic,’ but they had to be made into a menace with the “A” word usually reserved for icky poo Giant Leeches, Crab Monsters and 50-Foot Women. John Hoyt holds the movie up with his bare hands, like Atlas; John Agar and June Kenney look clueless and Laurie takes a bubble bath in a coffee can. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
I’m buried in discs but happy for it — and I tossed in a review from a company that’s not sending out screeners, because it was a fun picture to write about. I think I’m covering the bases fairly well here, especially with the help of Charlie Largent and Lee Broughton.
Release news: Twilight Time just announced their February offerings: Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery, Mark Rydell’s Harry and Walter Go To New York, Larry Peerce’s The Incident and Paul Newman’s The Effect of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds. Their November titles are all in house and reviews are on the way.
Meanwhile, Criterion in February will be getting a lot of attention, with new discs of Night of the Living Dead (in George Romero’s ‘preferred’ flat ratio, fudgesicles), Silence of the Lambs (I’ve always wanted to review it), Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones, An Actor’s Revenge, The Hero and Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Sissi Collection 11/14/17
Sissi / Sissi: The Young Empress / Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress How about “I Was a Teenage Empress?” The film trilogy tells an optimized version of the life of a 19th century Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. It’s fuzzy history designed to prop up German morale, but the film is graced with the incredible presence of a teenaged Romy Schneider, whose beauty and personality became a sensation in the European film world. Also starring Karlheinz Böhm. With two more added feature films. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
The Miracle Worker 11/14/17
Why is this incredible movie fading into obscurity? Anybody that appreciates good theater and good moviemaking will be in awe of Arthur Penn’s marvelous visualization of this tale of a determined woman achieving the impossible — teaching a child that can neither see nor hear. The knock down, drag ’em out scenes between Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke are unique, to say the least. With Victor Jory and Inga Swenson. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
The Last Laugh 11/14/17
The cream of German Expressionist filmmaking of the 1920s is increasingly accessible to modern audiences, the proof being this masterly restoration of F.W. Murnau’s expressionist masterpiece. It’s a beauty — we finally can experience the film in its full original form. Emil Jannings’ fine performance is matched by Karl Freund’s camerawork and Edgar G. Ulmer’s set designs. With exceptionally good (and educational) extras; on Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
Joe Baltake has some amusing reminiscences of actors Larry Keating and Fred Clark this week at The Passionate Moviegoer. Plus John McElwee does the same for a lesser-known Bulldog Drummond feature, over at his Greenbriar Picture Shows (11.13.17). And David Cairns relates a typically strange incident from a Ken Russell film, today at his criticism page Shadowplay.
I’ve got some German discs of American westerns on the way from Explosive Media, and I’m eager to see how they look in HD. I now have more foreign Blu-rays of Universal library titles than I do domestic releases. The three I’m most interested in are Anthony Mann’s Bend of the River, the almost- Anthony Mann Night Passage (both with James Stewart) and Robert Aldrich’s scorchingly violent Burt Lancaster western Ulzana’s Raid, which I can’t say I’ve ever seen in a really satisfactory presentation. And I’ll find out whether or not the discs are encoded all-region.
I’m waiting on Arrows, Twilight Times and more Kinos, plus a book or two to review. And it’s time to get a list going of possible ‘best of’ discs for this year.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me 11/11/17
Charlie Largent looks back at David Lynch’s controversial feature prequel to his well-loved but short-lived tv show. The 1992 film, far more transgressive than its network incarnation, upset the fans then and may still do so today. Consider it a strange rumination on the doomed Laura Palmer’s unpleasant final days. The special edition contains ninety minutes of outtakes arranged by David Lynch: more conspiracy fuel for the Lynch faithful to theorize additional meanings in the new series. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Cease Fire! – 3-D 11/11/17
Not a bad choice for Veteran’s Day . . . here’s an Army recruiting booster that got way out of hand: it’s a semi-docu using real soldiers and filmed in Korea near actual combat zones – and in full-dimension 3-D. The soldiers, the equipment, everything is real — and the ammunition used is live, not blanks. The 3-D Film Archive’s proud restoration is flawless, and comes complete with General Mark Clark’s prologue introduction. Even the 3-D Paramount mountain logo is arresting. On 3-D Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Le samouraï 11/11/17
Jean-Pierre Melville’s now-classic tale of an emotionless killer is distilled to a narrative minimum. Alain Delon stars as Jef Costello, an imperturbable, ultra- slick hit man who follows a strict personal code. When a contract goes bad, he’s caught between irreconcilable compulsions. Following this Zen-like assassin through the mean streets of Paris never seems to get old. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Willard and Ben — Region B 11/11/17
You want rats? We’ve got rats. And if you’re not happy about it, Bruce Davison will show up with a big box o’ vermin and shout the magic words, “Tear ’em up!” UK correspondent Lee Broughton reviews the killer rat saga and its sequel, available as separate purchases. With Ernest Borgnine, Sondra Locke & Elsa Lanchester, and Lee Montgomery, Joseph Campanella & Arthur O’Connell. Separate purchases, on Region B Blu-ray from Second Sight (UK).
If there’s a strange web clip to be found, count on Gary Teetzel or Ed Sullivan to tip me off with a link. Today Gary sends along this self-explanatory YouTube curiosity, GoPro Gets Melted by Lava and Survives.
Scary stuff, lava — one has to remember that it’s as hot as a blast furnace. Maybe my morbid imagination has kept me from getting in trouble doing crazy things like these intrepid GoPro enthusiasts: while they are setting their camera to capture a great video of a creeping blob of molten rock, how can they be sure that the cooled lava they’re standing on isn’t being undermined by an enormous unseen flow? Or that a vent won’t open up a few feet away and blast them with superheated gas? I still have strange dreams that recreate ridiculous dangerous pickles I got myself into when I was young and stupid adventurous. Do other people have ‘revisits’ of the same kinds of dreams?
More interesting news from Gary, about a film score release on what to me is an unfamiliar format:
“Dutton Vocalion, a label I’ve never heard of, has reissued the Charles Gerhardt RCA Classic Film Scores album dedicated to Dimitri Tiomkin on the SACD Hybrid format, meaning you can play it on regular CD players as well as SACD players. As a bonus, they’re including the lengthy Tiomkin suite from The Thing from Another World that was previously only available on the compilation album Spectacular World of Film Music. (Details Here.) An asterisk next to The Thing suite says that the music is for the “first time available in quadraphonic sound.” Apparently, the Tiomkin album was released in a quad version as well as stereo, but the Spectacular World of Film Music album was not.
No word on whether this music label will revisit any of the other Charles Gerhardt RCA recordings. On the first CD release of his Sea Hawk album, Gerhardt wrote that extra music had been recorded for all of the albums but was cut due to time restrictions on the LPs. He planned to include the never-released music on the CD versions, and indeed, The Sea Hawk did include a few minutes of hitherto unreleased Korngold. Then Gerhardt died, and RCA simply reissued the old albums on CD with no additional music, and some dubious 5.1 remixes. Weirdly, some unreleased music did later surface courtesy of the U.S. Post Office. When they released their stamps devoted to film composers, there was a companion CD of Gerhardt suites which included an extra cue in the suite for The Fountainhead.
So I’m crossing my fingers that maybe, just maybe, this label will unearth some of the unreleased Gerhardt recordings.
Incidentally, I read a rumor online that before RCA pulled the plug on the series, there were plans for albums devoted to Sir William Walton, Elmer Bernstein, Victor Young, westerns, horror, sci-fi movies and classic scores for great actresses. I want to slip into some alternate universe where those albums came to fruition. — Gary”
I thought this was of interest because those Gerhardt albums in the 1970s were what got me interested in old film music, of course after the Phase 4 Bernard Herrmann – Hitchcock records of late 1960’s.
And finally, Olive Films has announced, for its Olive Signature Series, new discs of Max Ophuls’ Letter from an Unknown Woman and Elaine May’s A New Leaf. The releases are scheduled for early December, which is excellent timing. It’s also good news for me, for not long after I got my standard disc of the Joan Fontaine movie, it had an unfortunate encounter with some scalding coffee. Not recommended.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson