Review Page and Column
Princess Mononoke 05/18/19
The revered Japanese anime fantasy from Hayao Miyazaki and Ghibli Studios returns in an impressive gift box with a hefty book packed with attractive artwork. The fantastic animated tale posits supernatural forest spirits against the depredations of human civilization; demons attack villages, a heroine lives in the forest with a wolf, and it’s not for little kids. The show itself is viewable in its original Japanese with subtitles, or dubbed into English by an all-star voice cast: Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver. On Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
Stagecoach ’66 05/18/19
Twilight Time goes for a Blu-ray upgrade of the western remake with the all-star cast. Forget that there was ever a John Ford or a John Wayne and it’s a perfectly presentable wild west story, but the mileage may vary for classic western fans inclined to make comparisons to the 1939 classic. Top billing goes to an enthusiastic Ann-Margret… but we’re sorry to report that her hip-swinging rock number, ‘Viva Geronimo!’ was cut at the last minute. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
By this time most of the announcements for summer disc releases are out, and close associates are snooping about for news of potentially desirable genre product — yes, horror and sci-fi as well as crime and noir — scheduled for later in the year. In the average year the usual thing is for only a few Gottahavethedamnthing titles to be on the radar, with dim hopes for exciting Halloween- themed releases. This year is more than just unusual — the flow of hot announcements began a couple of months ago, and it seems it will peak in July. Most of the items are Blu-ray improvements on favorites, but there have already been some notable debuts, like the French Fantomas trilogy from the 1960s, which CineSavant’s Charlie Largent should be reviewing within the week.
Looking at the list of goodies, I see that Kino Lorber’s new release compact with Studio Canal is a major source of new product. Scream Factory has been putting out attractive ’50s Universal thrillers for months now, and still has some major items to spring on us. Also represented here are Criterion, Flicker Alley, Arrow Academy and Mill Creek/Kit Parker:
May 28: The Alligator People, Blue Velvet
June 4: The Last Warning, The Man Who Laughs, Arabesque
June 11: Frankenstein Created Woman, The Entity, Piranha
June 18: The Silent Partner, The Running Man, The Monolith Monsters, The Universal Horror Collection (The Black Cat, The Raven, The Invisible Ray, Black Friday)
June 25: Monster on the Campus, Lost Highway, Gone to Earth/The Wild Heart
July 2: Bob le Flambeur, Le Doulos
July 9: This Island Earth, The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, Mothra, Alphaville, Dead of Night
July 16: Noir Archive 9-Film Collection Volume 2, The Leopard Man, Attack of the Robots
July 23: Criss Cross, Death Takes a Holiday, Death in the Garden
July 30: The Reptile, Quatermass and the Pit, Quatermass 2
August 6: A Foreign Affair
August 13: Early Hitchcock (Kino box)
August 20: Isle of the Dead, 4D Man, Dinosaurus!, Hercules in the Haunted World
August 27: The Leech Woman
It’s quite a list; July is in particular a real killer month. I may not be able to review quite a few of them, but I’ll do my best.
CineSavant may be a little lean in the next week, as I’m concentrating on an outside project. But Tuesday will see a review of a fairly hot title, and I’ll keep the CineSavant Column news coming!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Men Must Fight 05/14/19
CineSavant obsesses over yet another obscure bit of cinematic sociology: a glossy pre-Code MGM melodrama about mothers and war, which half-debates issues like pacifism, the losses of world war one, military vigilance, cowardice, chemical WMDs and foolish idealism! But don’t worry, the title statement is the ultimate answer to everything. Oh, it’s also political sci-fi: it takes place in the future year of 1940, when New York City comes under aerial attack, with skyscrapers bombed to bits and poison gas dropped in the streets. No, this is not new, it was released in 1933. Starring Diana Wynyard, Lewis Stone, Robert Young, Phillips Holmes, May Robson and some outrageously good special effects. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
Von Richthofen and Brown 05/14/19
Freshly divorced from American-International Pictures, Roger Corman leaps into the filmic mainstream with a fairly large-scale World War One aviation picture. He competes with the big studios but retains his nonconformist atitude: his retelling of the story of the Red Baron fixates on the theme of the death of chivalry in combat. For his star players Corman picks Don Stroud, and John Philip Law, whose on-screen persona is a good fit for one of the first warrior aces of the sky. With Barry Primus, Corin Redgrave, Stephen McHattie, Hurd Hatfield, Ferdy Mayne and Peter Masterson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Well, I wasn’t thinking this week — I try to get a LITTLE variety into my review choices but both films I’ve reviewed are about aviation in WW1 and a couple of decades thereafter. I of course forgive myself — and I even caught myself and spelled ‘Richthofen’ correctly.
For Mother’s Day I sent out this drawing my daughter made twenty years ago for my first review book … it’s about Gorgo, of course, and the big monster’s the mother of the little monster … honest, it seemed a good Mother’s Day gag yesterday. If anybody should want to swipe it for online use (like I never swipe online images) please contact me so the artist can be properly attributed.
My kids certainly know Gorgo as a Mother’s Day movie. The same goes for the eco-positive John Huston epic The Roots of Heaven. In one scene an elephant breaks into a pen to free its baby. The situation aligns neatly with the finale of Gorgo and also takes us back to the harmonious relationship between Dumbo and his Ma, Mrs. Jumbo. If you really want to make some pachydermical connections, take a look at an early scene in Elephant Boy where a baby elephant, playing in the water with its mother, runs through her legs like a puppy, splashing water around and having the time of its life. The Dumbo animators must have used it as a reference, as the action is almost identical.
This boxed set landed on my doorstep a week ago. It’s so heavy, at first I thought it was another book to review. A Blu-ray review is on the way, but it won’t make tomorrow’s street date, so in the absence of bigger disc news I’m reporting it here. It’s the Studio Ghibli modern classic, Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime). In this case the oversized box is a plus, providing a larger canvas for the artwork in the forty-page book. A soundtrack CD is included as well. I remember being proud back in 1998 when my kids opted to go to the one theater playing it in Japanese language with subs, instead of dubbed into English with all the star talent. Princess Mononoke Collector’s Edition, from Shout! Factory.
And finally, I’m wondering if the review page DVDtalk has breathed its last. It hasn’t posted a new review for a couple of weeks, and its submission website is down, the place I’ve gone for 20 years to look for discs to review. That’s too bad for me, for the page was my only source for Scream Factory discs. But the only other reviewer I’ve heard from on the subject is my wise colleague Stuart Galbraith IV. If someone out there knows what’s happening, I’d like to know too.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Landlord 05/11/19
It’s the brightest debut feature of 1970, and perhaps the warmest movie ever about the American race divide. Hal Ashby and Bill Gunn’s work is inspired: rich boy Beau Bridges buys a slum tenement and launches a wonderful ensemble comedy-drama in confrontation with the fantastic quartet of actresses — Lee Grant, Diana Sands, Pearl Bailey and Marki Bey. The humanist picture doesn’t cheat on its subject matter. The cast list contains fresh debuts and and more best-of-career showings: Louis Gossett Jr., Melvin Stewart, Susan Anspach, Robert Klein. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Big Clock 05/11/19
Clever plotting goes into overdrive for this light-comedy proto-paranoid film noir about a magazine publishing empire so organized that it seems a sci-fi invention from the future. Ray Milland’s charismatic fall guy finds himself embroiled in a murder plot filled with false identities, and a manhunt that he must supervise… to catch himself. Maybe Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale watched this from their cribs, and applied its chaotic symmetry to their pretzel-plotted comedies! Charles Laughton’s performance is priceless, as are the contributions of Maureen O’Sullivan, George Macready, Rita Johnson and the hilarious Elsa Lanchester. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
The House of the Seven Gables 05/11/19
MGM’s biopic about Clark Gable’s raucous childhood went through several title changes including The Seven Little Gables and Snow White and the Seven Gables before settling on The House of the Seven Gables. Wisely, MGM deep-sixed the production altogether when Universal released their adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th century potboiler. It stars a young Vincent Price and George Sanders, but in this outing lovely Margaret Lindsay easily outclasses her cast-mates. PLUS, a link to a TV version of the story with a cast that impressed reviewer Charlie Largent as ‘psychotronic’: Shirley Temple and Jonathan Harris? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
I’m sure that by now all green-blooded Godzilla fans have seen this photographic evidence, but here’s a snapshot of the Cinerama Dome taken on Thursday last — they seem to be preparing a massive visual aid to tout the upcoming premiere of a certain monster movie. I’ll have to arrange a drive-by tomorrow… maybe I’ll stop off at Amoeba Records and pop out the front door with my camera — it’s right next door on Sunset Blvd. I’d guess this giant ‘sculpture’ can’t be a balloon, because if so why would they need a crane to install it? I’ve told Gary Teetzel that I’m willing to go see the Big G monster-thon fresh and new, just for a fun outing … let’s see if it happens.
I have proof that the German Explosive Media Blu-ray of These Are the Damned is indeed on its way, scheduled for May 23 and available from Amazon.de as Sie sind Verdammt. It’s the first HD release of Joseph Losey’s powerful sci-fi classic, and it ought to look sensational. I’m excited about the release because I provided an essay for a seven-page insert pamphlet. I’ve had an article published before in translated German, but it’s pretty neat seeing my words reconfigured this way: “Helft uns! Bitte, HELFT UNS!”
And I’m flattered that Craig Reardon has been helping me by lending his exacting eye and photoshop skills to my collection of original 2¼ transparencies from fave film Major Dundee. They never looked better — and I happily take the opportunity to show off a couple of cropped samples.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Why do crime caper films have so much appeal? Are we all closet criminals, eager to watch less timid souls risk life and limb to get the big payout and live happily ever after? Peter Yates’ stylish re-telling of England’s Great Train Robbery makes for an excitingly detailed, nonsense-free heist straight from real life, with a just-the-facts clarity. The show begins with an influential car chase — straight through the heart of London. Starring Stanley Baker, Joanna Pettet, James Booth, Frank Finlay and Barry Foster. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Ghost Lovers 05/07/19
Guest reviewer Lee Broughton returns with an assessment of an obscure period chiller expertly assembled by Shen Hsiang Yu. One of the Shaw Brothers’ early attempts at screen horror, this superior gothic romance with a supernatural twist failed to find an audience upon its initial domestic release — a circumstance that led to the studio changing tack and pursuing a more exploitative line of genre flick. However, 45 years on it plays like the kind of film that jaded and/or discerning genre fans might well take great delight in discovering. On Region B Blu-ray from 88 Films.
No Orchids for Miss Blandish 05/07/19
“You crazy rat you croaked him!” Yes, you’ve probably heard better hardboiled dialogue, but this British imitation of American gangster pictures takes the cake for screwy line deliveries. It’s derived from a book and play that’s already derived from a salacious William Faulkner story. Jack La Rue and Linden Travers try to make a kidnapper-rapist into a sympathetic, romantic figure, with marvelously awkward results. This Brit import comes with significant extras. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Hammer fans may know all about this piece, and it is rather brief, but I like it — Farran Smith Nehme’s 2016 Film Comment article on Bernard Robinson, Hammer Horror Designer. I’m finding it refreshing to read horror critiques from folk other than the same ten or so genre experts.
I’ve had a really good response to the review for Joseph McBride’s book Frankly: Unmasking Frank Capra. Next week’s book review selection isn’t quite as lofty — I’ll be looking at another installment in the Scripts from the Crypt collection — on Son of Dracula.
And with no really hot links to share (and lots of work to do) let me just peruse upcoming titles that I can’t wait to get my mitts on: Flicker Alley’s The Man Who Laughs and The Last Warning, Twilight Time’s Warlock, Scream’s The Alligator People and Universal Horror Collection, Kino’s The Silent Partner, Cohen Media’s The Bostonians, Arrow’s Nightfall and Criterion’s One Sings, the Other Doesn’t and Blue Velvet. Peeking into June and July, we’ve got War and Peace (Criterion), Alphaville (Kino) and Quatermass 2 (Scream). Unless they’re all purple and upside down, these titles are enough for a ‘best of 2019’ list right there…
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Mysterious Island 05/04/19
1929. MGM’s gigantic silent sci-fi extravaganza took three years to make, by which time the talkies arrived and everything went to pieces. Lionel Barrymore emotes (EMOTES!) in his early sound footage, and terrific effects take us to the bottom of the ocean where monsters and a race of Donald Duck creatures menace our heroic adventurers. And don’t forget a few sundry other elements: a Russian revolution, torture scenes, and cool steampunk nautical hardware. All this Life Aquatic lacks is Steve Zissou! On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.