Review Page and Column
Yes, it’s true, we have no new disc reviews today. For the entire month of May CineSavant has had but one review per posting. This is because we’ve been far from home. As you can see just above, I haven’t been suffering for scenery. Southern California is terrific in many ways but it is also a desert, and after various droughts our trees are in pretty sad shape, even many of the most resilient. At our destination — can anybody guess where — I had a solid month of staring at the greenest, healthiest-looking trees I’ve seen in years.
CineSavant was supposed to be 100% back in action last Tuesday, but we had to overstay our trip a full week — so the fallback plan is to be fully functional this next Tuesday, May 30, the day after Memorial Day. The house sitters have been piling up all the mail, including discs to be reviewed. Charlie Largent and I will be attacking that stack of movies as soon as we can get our mitts on them.
Until then, I asked Charlie and our co-reviewer Lee Broughton to pick some CineSavant reviews of which they were most proud, that they thought turned out well. I’ve added a few more. Maybe you don’t remember some of these. In any event, here’s a list of OLDER REVIEWS WORTHY OF A LOOK-SEE. That’s in addition to the old autobiographical DVD Savant article linked from the featured image at the top of the day’s post. Thanks!
And Gary Teetzel sends along two more links he’s gathered up for us. The company SRS Cinema has announced that it is going to release a Blu-ray of a little-known Japanese film with elaborate practical and miniature effects, the 1962 thriller The Whale God. It’s not a Kaiju per se but more like a variation on Moby Dick, about the vengeful pursuit of an unusually large whale that has a habit of killing off the members of a particular family.
It was produced by Daiei; the key interest for Kaiju fans is the presence of actor Takashi Shimura, and also the music score by Akira Ifukube. Full details and a Japanese trailer are posted at the Sci-Fi Japan page: SRS Catches the Daiei Thriller The Whale God.
And as a parting shot, Gary also forwards this link to a highly unusual trailer — one of the weirdest ever. Is it actually a trailer, or a piece of film to be grafted on to prints of the movie it is advertising, to extend the running time by two minutes? It explains itself clearly enough. We wonder if it might have been inspired by the screwball trailer Alfred Hitchcock made for the same year’s Psycho. Here you have it:
An important warning from The Information Service.
Gary Teetzel says we should be grateful that the ever-vigilant Information Service is on the job, 24-7. Thanks for reading! Glenn Erickson
Essential Film Noir Collection 4 05/23/23
Viavision Imprint’s 4th Noir collection is here, with two core examples of the classic style, one solid gangster film, an adventure-intrigue tale set in South Africa and two psychological ‘woman in peril’ thrillers. The male leads Burt Lancaster, Alan Ladd, Humphrey Bogart and Robert Ryan must contend with heroines Corrine Calvet, Jan Sterling, Phyllis Calvert and the great Ida Lupino. On Blu-ray from Viavision Imprint.
I got carried away with little music video clips, after last Saturday’s rediscovery of the Kessler Twins’ ’Scopitone’ in a better transfer. I looked up two other Italian items from European star Silvana Mangano, who made her big splash as a sex symbol in 1947’s Bitter Rice. It looks like she trimmed down her weight a bit for a hit 1950 Italo show called Anna, where she sang and danced to a monster Euro hit song El negro zumbón. Directorially speaking the little musical number is a mess — it cuts two takes together that don’t even begin to match. But Mangano‘s performance is minimalist-brilliant, ten years ahead of its time — all small delicate moves that are less dancing than bopping to the music — in her simple little beach outfit, Silvana seems VERY modern and ultra-stylish.
And that of course leads me to another Silvana Mangano music clip, from about 16 years later. She plays a movie star goaded into a little performance at an exclusive party, in the Luchino Visconti episode of the omnibus movie The Witches. This clip is also in a much-improved transfer.
The music is by Piero Piccioni, not Ennio Morricone, as I once thought. Visconti concentrates on Silvana’s dance moves. Much of the rest of The Witches is not as good, even an episode with Clint Eastwood. But here Ms. Mangano once again wins out with sheer stylishness: The Chalet dance in The Witches.
A new release from Flicker Alley merits our attention. 1927 was when the great Laurel & Hardy became a comedy duo, and the fact that copyrights have expired on most films from that year would seem to have prompted this two-disc collection of the first year of their official collaboration. That insight was gleaned from John McElwee’s Greenbriar Picture Shows article from May 15.
Flicker Alley’s notice describes the collected films as restored from copies found in multiple archives. Blackhawk Films and France’s Lobster Films partnered in the project, officially listed as Laurel & Hardy: Year One, The Newly Restored 1927 Silents. The tally is 13 short subjects and two earlier collaborations: Lucky Dog (1921), 45 Minutes from Hollywood (1926), Duck Soup (1927), Slipping Wives (1927), Love ‘em and Weep (1927), Why Girls Love Sailors (1927), With Love and Hisses (1927), Sugar Daddies (1927), Sailors, Beware! (1927), The Second 100 Years (1927), Call of the Cuckoo (1927), Do Detectives Think? (1927), Putting Pants on Phillip (1927), The Battle of the Century (1927), and Flying Elephants (1928).
I’ve only seen (and loved) Laurel & Hardy piecemeal, so this organized re-introduction to the duo will be a special treat. They are all silents, of course. Each has been given a musical accompaniment, from Neil Brand, Antonio Coppola, Eric le Guen, and Donald Sosin. The extras are extensive, including a commentary track for each picture. The street date is listed as July 25.
Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson
Serpico 4K 05/20/23
Now in 4K: One of the hottest true-story exposés of its time, the traumatic tale of an ethical cop’s clash with NYC corruption cemented the star status of Al Pacino. It also became one of director Sidney Lumet’s biggest hits — even with such a grim story, it is strangely uplifting. It garnered two Oscar nominations, one for Pacino and one for co-screenwriter Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler. Director Lumet contributes to the disc extras; our own Charlie Largent is the honest, incorruptible and morally uplifting reviewer. In 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Once again Gary Teetzel finds a good one … a typically erudite BBC literary piece. The video program “John Wyndham Interview 1960” covers a number of his books, with little readings. Wyndham is a fascinating writer — I’ve re-read his The Day of the Triffids many times. The 1981 BBC MiniSeries is a very good visualization, but the story needs a definitive epic remake.
The interview show may have been prompted by the release of the first film adaptation of a Wyndham novel, 1960’s Village of the Damned, from his The Midwich Cuckoos. The film clips that BBC interpolated have been edited out here for rights considerations.
BBC ‘culture’ interviews from this period are sometimes lampooned as pompous, but they’ve left us with a good record of some special personalities. At one point Wyndham differentiates between British and American Sci-fi readers — he says that the Brits don’t want space ships but Americans love them.
Item two is something we stumbled into that I can’t resist. We Mario Bava fans know the European entertainers The Kessler Twins Alice and Ellen mainly from their roles in the colorful Viking thriller Erik the Conqueror; we were disappointed that most of their contribution seemed to be cut out of Robert Aldrich’s Biblical epic Sodom and Gomorrah.
A lo-ong time ago Tim Lucas delighted us with a YouTube link to the Kesslers’ “Scopitone” for the Italian pop song ’Cuando Cuando Cuando’, filmed around the time of their two feature appearances. It’s an elaborate music video with multiple costume changes for the glamorous duo. The twins are German by origin, so it’s cute when they switch languages from Italiano to Deutsch for one stanza of the song.
I have to say I think Alice and Ellen are pretty classy in all respects — the retro ‘showgirl gala’ piece is enhanced by a better transfer than we saw 20 years ago, which is why I was tempted to post it now.
Film format expert and rumor-debunking technical-historical film authority Jack Theakston saw CineSavant’s Tuesday disc review of The Big Trail, the 1930 western epic filmed in experimental 70mm, and responded with some important information and a rare image. We assumed (as irresponsible reviewers do) that Fox had sourced old 65 or 70mm film elements to restore a screenable version of the Raoul Walsh movie. Jack says otherwise:
Glenn, In addendum to your well-done review of The Big Trail — the current source material (unless something has changed lately) is a 35mm reduction anamorphic fine grain made by Karl Malkames in the 1970s for The Museum of Modern Art. The original large-format negative was disposed of, presumably because it was succumbing to nitrate decomposition. Before it was destroyed, Karl managed to snag a few frames for his own collection, like the one above. Best, Jack.
We’re still knocked out by The Big Trail. We love the way Raoul Walsh and his cameramen embraced the big format as an opportunity to compose painterly images on such a huge canvas. Hollywood filmmakers wanted to be artists, and the most impressive ‘epic’ shots in Trail weren’t bettered until the 65mm Road Show attractions of the 1950s. We admire all that modern widescreen real estate, and then note the old-fashioned rounded corners on the 70mm frame. It’s as if it had been filmed in 1868, with a camera sent back in a Time Machine.
Meanwhile, Jack Theakston and his associates are working on what he says will be the 3-D Film Archive’s best-looking 3D release to date: the Dean Martin – Jerry Lewis comedy Money from Home. Paramount is presently scanning the three-strip camera negs for both eyes in 4K: six strips in all (!). The 3-D Archive’s current video about the project is Here. Jack will try to get us some frames of restoration work as it happens.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Big Trail 70mm 05/16/23
CineSavant takes a break to catch up with a ‘Wonder Movie of the Ages’ — from 93 years ago. Raoul Walsh led an enormous company all over the West to film an immense wagon train epic — in a short-lived 70mm film process called Grandeur. The vistas of pioneer action are staggering, and so is the film’s lead player . . . for this is the starring feature debut of none other than John Wayne, and he’s not at all bad. Fans of big format road show epics will be impressed: Fox also shot it in flat 35mm, and both versions are present on this Blu-ray from 2012. On Blu-ray from 20th Fox Home Video.
Wow, let’s review some of the impressive Blu-ray announcements in the past ten days or so. The Warner Archive Collection has a great string of items scheduled for June. As predicted by Gary Teetzel, Howard Hawks’ epic Land of the Pharaohs with Jack Hawkins and Joan Collins; Otto Preminger’s top noir Angel Face with Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum; John Sturges’ The Old Man and The Sea with Spencer Tracy; the Esther Williams musical Dangerous when Wet; the Eleanor Parker WIP noir classic Caged; and the very good Joan Crawford gangland tale The Damned Don’t Cry.
Kino’s KL Studio Classics line also has an exciting June on its calendar. They begin with straight Blu-ray releases of the Sergio Leone Dollars Trilogy, that came out on 4K last year. Added Blu-ray attractions include Richard Lester’s Juggernaut with Richard Harris and Anthony Hopkins; Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery with Sean Connery, Lesley-Anne Down & Donald Sutherland;
Andrew Davis‘s The Package with Gene Hackman & Tommy Lee Jones; Michael Apted’s Gorky Park with William Hurt and Lee Marvin; Mark Robson‘s The Bridges at Tokyo-Ri with William Holden & Grace Kelly; and Tom Gries’ Will Penny with Charlton Heston, Joan Hackett & Donald Pleasance. It would be nice if Toko-Ri were widescreen, sayeth the ungrateful Savant.
For special audiences, KL has a Boris Karloff Mr. Wong Collection with five full Monogram features . . . and for 3-D enthusiasts, a 3D Blu-ray release of the soft-core Prison Girls.
Kino’s 4K Ultra HD offerings are just as tempting: two John Frankenheimer thrillers, the classic The Manchurian Candidate with Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury & Janet Leigh, plus Ronin with Robert De Niro & Sean Bean.
Last year Paramount Home Video debuted its 4K Ultra HD disc of the Lucas-Spielberg Raiders of the Lost Ark. In June we’ll be also be seeing seeing 4Ks of the other three Indiana Jones adventures Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade and Crystal Skull. Screeners aren’t going out but I may invest in Temple of Doom as it’s a favorite and I’ve not written about it before.
Plus, a new company called Film Masters is promising a double bill disc of a restored
The Giant Gila Monster and The Killer Shrews, the two Texas monster romps directed by Ray Kellogg. It will reportedly have both flat and widescreen formats on each picture. I’ll be interested in seeing what the quality is on this new disc . . . Shrews is a well-done siege shocker … even the doggies in Shrew costumes can’t sink it.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
If I Had A Million 05/13/23
Paramount’s nutty omnibus movie has seven directors and a fistful of top stars: Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields, Charles Laughton, Wynne Gibson, Charlie Ruggles, George Raft, Jack Oakie and Frances Dee. A dying millionaire divides up his fortune between eight strangers, each of whom mishandles their windfall inheritance. Joe Mankiewicz wrote four episodes. Ernst Lubitsch directed the Laughton sequence, a nicely sustained item with a one-joke payoff. Fields and Alison Skipworth use their fortune to lay a trap for eight road-hog bad drivers. Allan Arkush joins Daniel Kramer on Kino’s commentary. It’s pre-Code mirth, reviewed by Charlie Largent on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Many thanks to correspondent Chuck Shillingford for this fun link . . . the Internet marketplace sometimes reminds me of the incredible toy shop windows when I was a kid, when it seemed like every store was a treasure trove of goodies.
Whattaya know, it’s pair of Mysterians, technically speaking a ‘Mysterian action figure’ and a ‘Mysterian Chief Commander,’ each six inches tall. The prices are steep enough for me to remain a window shopper, but they do look cute. When kids were little I got to take them to see the movie in a theater . . . My ten-year-old daughter took one look at the Mysterian space pirates and said the title should have been Attack of the Parakeet People. I mean, what other reason do people need for having kids?
These pictures belong to a site called Amoktime which sells a variety of products. What amused us mostly is a page of Toho and Daiei- licensed items by BanDai:
I note the page is actually an eclectic mess of items, some of which have access issues. The scroll continues quite a ways . . . A $60.00 Varan the Indigestible caught my eye, but of course when you read the small print, the desirable items say ‘not available in the U.S.’ Some listings also shy away from giving exact dimensions, or any clue at all as to scale. That is how I once ended up with a 4.5-inch model of Atragon, that could have been a prize in a box of corn flakes.
Actually, the Paul Blaisdell monster at the top of this CineSavant post is there too, if you peek at the Amoktime Sci-fi entry : It! The Terror from Beyond Space. The little toy even has Ray Corrigan’s big pink chin.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Notre-Dame de Paris 05/09/23
Another CineSavant Revival Screening Review, or in other words, it’s not yet officially available for English-language viewers. This French The Hunchback of Notre Dame may not be the cinematic masterpiece that is RKO’s 1939 version, but it has a literate script, good production values, color and CinemaScope — and it doesn’t mar the Victor Hugo original with a false feel-good ending. Anthony Quinn’s Quasimodo is a legit interpretation, and the late Gina Lollobrigida is excellent as Esmerelda. We need this in Region A, with English subtitles. NOT on Region A Blu-ray.
More digressions into strange movie lore from advisor Gary Teetzel:
Herman Cohen’s 1961 Konga has everything: the subtle, nuanced thespian stylings of Michael Gough; memorable dialogue; the miracle of Spectamation; a giant ape; killer flora. Only one thing is missing: a song! Musical sidebar padding often popped up in American-International Pictures of the era. More than a few horror movies just stopped cold to allow some ‘teenager’ to warble a forgettable ditty to be sold on 45’s at your local record store. Who could forget the toe-tapping “You Gotta Have Ooo-Eee” from How to Make a Monster, or the soulful “Eeny Meeny Miney Moe” from I Was a Teenage Werewolf?
Konga originally had just such a number, to be sung by the Jess Conrad character Bob Kenton. It’s a loving ode to Bob’s favorite sweater, and its tender lyrics enumerate the reasons why he wears it constantly in the movie. It’s colored baby blue, you know, like Bob’s eyes. Some people that have closely examined the photo above have been able to pick Bob out of the crowd. It’s because he projects that dynamic ‘James Dean’ quality.
Thanks, Gary. Although cut from the film, the song was released on record. Listen if you dare:
Not enough punishment for you? Here are American-International’s dire rock’n’roll tie-in singles for
Horrors of the Black Museum and The Headless Ghost. Dozens of film tie-in songs — some are pretty good — are linked back at an old CineSavant Column from February 16, 2019.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Never Say Die 05/06/23
Sounds like a James Bond title, doesn’t it? Never heard of this one before, but it’s hilarious. Preston Sturges is one of the writers behind a romantic comedy adapted from a play — Bob Hope is a guy with only a month to live, who runs out on his engagement and gets involved with Martha Raye, a crazy Texas heiress. Screwball complications ensue, with a dream cast of clowns: Andy Devine, Alan Mowbray, Gale Sondergaard, Sig Ruman, Monty Wooley, Hans Conreid. And don’t forget the original word puzzle: “There’s a cross on the muzzle of the pistol with the bullet and a nick on the handle of the pistol with the blank.” Reviewed by Charlie Largent, on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Hello . . .
Well, we’ve got welcome news. Scott MacQueen informs me that the Ignite disc release of Invaders from Mars has won big in the Rondo Awards, reaping both the BEST DISC and BEST RESTORATION prizes, and coming in second for BEST EXTRAS.
The competition was strong and worthy but we like the way this turned out … Invaders from Mars was a difficult and costly restoration job, and Ignite’s Jan Willem Jansen gave it the full push instead of settling for a compromise in quality. It was a case of personal commitment, and we hope that Mr. Jansen, Mr. MacQueen and all of their associates know we realize that. We’re the beneficiaries.
Next . . . more from the “Oh, There’s a Cryin’ Need for That!” Department.
Yes, more silliness from the feverish mind of consultant, advisor and dependable alibi-for-cash friend Gary Teetzel:
At last, the Godzilla collectible we’ve all been waiting for! Just when you thought they couldn’t come up with anything new to slap a Godzilla sticker on, I present to you . . . . the official, licensed Godzilla hockey puck!
‘The Original G’ Limited Edition Hockey Puck.
This limited edition, official collaboration puck is a perfect addition to your growing Godzilla collection. An exclusive collectible made in limited numbers, each puck comes with its own protective case to keep it in perfect condition. Better order today, as it’s a limited edition. They make excellent furniture coasters, just buy four (no discount).
This is part of a ‘puckhcky’ line of Godzilla-themed hockey merchandise, because when you think of Godzilla you naturally think of winter sports. (Personally, I am eagerly awaiting an official Godzilla curling stone.) The full line of hockey streetwear featuring hockey jerseys, t-shirts, flannels, hoodies, hockey pucks, and more:
The Godzilla ‘Puck Hcky’ Collection.
Frankly, I think the hockey jersey looks good, just don’t know where I’d wear it. It’s too expensive to wear casually.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson