Review Page and Column
Local Hero 09/21/19
Charlie Largent is just the latest to extol Bill Forsyth’s timeless tale of a transplanted Texan befriended by a smorgasbord of Scottish eccentrics (the innkeeper’s wife might be on the menu too). Animal House’s Peter Riegert is the lonely executive who finds love in a storybook fishing village and Burt Lancaster is his comet-crazy boss. Forsyth offers up a beautiful mermaid in the bargain. With Peter Capaldi, Denis Lawson and Jenny Seagrove as the might-be mermaid. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Touchez pas au Grisbi 09/21/19
‘Hands off the Loot!’ Jacques Becker’s crackling Paris crime tale is a time machine to an age of Parisian tough guys in double breasted suits, who never show their cards, and mistreat women in ways the Hollywood production code would never allow. Old thief Jean Gabin’s ill-gotten wealth is threatened by the newcomer creep Lino Ventura, thanks to the treachery of a very young Jeanne Moreau; the struggle revives weapons and tactics not used since the Occupation. One of the GREAT Euro crime classics is now looking terrific in Kino/Studio Canal’s restoration. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Which Bette Davis movies qualify for greatness? Her flawed character doesn’t conquer all in this costume picture, and it’s historically more sensitive than Gone With the Wind. It’s also William Wyler at the top of his form, creating in just 104 minutes a rich image of a long-gone world. Southern Belle Julie Marsden is a contrary troublemaker, a flip coquette who shoots her whole life to hell with just a couple of social gaffes. The story is ‘bigger than Bette’ – the apocalyptic finale is just a side event in a fable about the nature of chivalry and honor in a flawed social structure. With Henry Fonda, George Brent, Margaret Lindsay & Fay Bainter. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Whoa, this is simply THE year for fulfilling my wish list of desirable Blu-rays. I think the tables have turned, finally — the grouping of Blus I’m anxious to possess has finally been superseded by those that have been released. The Warner Archive Collection puts a big dent in the GHML (Gotta Havit Movie List) with the marvelous, not always funny, but frequently plenty creepy horror quasi-comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers. It’s Roman Polanski’s ode to Hammer Films, Euro- art & folklore fairy tale roots, and of course Sharon Tate. I’ve saved up my story of seeing it for the first time for this release — we self-centered, nostalgic movie fans like to think we have a special relationship with pictures like this, which once upon a time were rare items.
I don’t know how I’m going to organize an end-of-year article in December… it might just be a list of all the genre favorites we’ve been given this go-round.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Cluny Brown 09/17/19
Reviewer Charlie Largent is quite taken with the uncommon graces of Ernst Lubitsch’s gentle comedy of romance and women’s roles. Lowly plumber’s daughter Jennifer Jones fixes the pipes in a big mansion and becomes an important person in everyone’s life, especially European refugee Charles Boyer. This is the movie with the cosmically daffy dialogue line about ‘nuts to the squirrels,’ or ‘squirrels to the nuts’ or something. What an endearing, excellent choice for a Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Soldier of Fortune 09/17/19
(Treffpunkt Hongkong) Two-fisted Crown Colony racketeer Clark Gable goes out on a limb to recover Susan Hayward’s husband, held prisoner in Red China. In a literal pirate vessel armed with a stolen cannon, Gable literally goes to war, risking his smuggling empire by half-kidnapping Michael Rennie’s Hong Kong cop. This lush CinemaScope action-travelogue-romance now comes off as comfort food movie viewing: familiar stars doing what they do best. It’s a German import from a Hollywood Studio whose library titles may soon no longer be licensed to hard media home video. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
A Bucket of Blood 09/17/19
Roger Corman’s ‘sick sick sick!’ horror comedy is still a delight, and Olive’s Signature edition accompanies it with some excellent Elijah Drenner extras, including a video interview with the beloved star Dick Miller. Walter Paisley is the patron saint of underachieving artists everywhere, and this special edition has director Corman and writer Charles B. Griffith on tap to sing his praises. It is by will alone that I set my mind in motion: “Be a nose!” On Blu-ray from Olive Signature.
Just a quick blurb today for upcoming discs — Criterion’s December titles include a title that’s legend around my household. I got to see Wim Wenders’ three-movie, 4.5 hour recut of Until the End of the World back in 1996, in a special screening. It’s his ultimate Road Movie, ‘dance around the world.’ Warners distributed the hacked-down original 2.5 hour U.S. release and wouldn’t cooperate, Wenders only exhibited his marathon triple-bill expanded version here and there, now and then… in 2001 I caught it with my family at the Cinematheque, and talked as many friends as I could into seeing it with me.
My old article on the movie was one of the more popular DVD Savant pages back in the beginning, in 1998… the piece ended up as a big concept comparison between UTEOTW and Bertrand Tavernier’s La mort en direct.
The wise Wim Wenders never let go of the films he made. When UTEOTW has reverted to his control again, Wenders did a full remaster job. It screened once on TCM, but edited in one piece, without being serialized as three separate features. I have a feeling that that’s how it might be from now on, even though the intermission breaks made us feel like we were experiencing a new kind of New Wave Roadshow. This will be a special holiday — I even like Criterion’s cover art.
Also up from Criterion in December — the amazing pre-Code shocker The Story of Temple Drake, Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy and Ronald Neame’s Tunes of Glory.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Circus of Horrors 09/14/19
Four out of five psychologists agree that something rotten is alive and well between the sawdust and the high wire in the delirious Circus of Horrors. Lame big-top horror pix are common enough, but this fiendishly entertaining delight would inspire the voyeur-sadist in MisterRogers. Anton Diffring is the steely-eyed medical maniac with a mission to populate an insane circus exclusively with cosmetically-enhanced prostitutes and criminals. And I won’t turn that into a White House joke. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
90° in the Shade 09/14/19
Sordid Noir in Czechoslovakia: a one-of-a-kind Czech/Brit coproduction teams fine British actors (Anne Heywood, James Booth, Sir Donald Wolfit) with the home-grown star Rudolf HruSinsky, and the result is neither murder nor mayhem, but a real everyday tragedy that might happen anywhere. The bright B&W images chart an unhappy illicit romance, and a petty crime with awful consequences.. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Let me drum for a fine film resource that I go to when I’ve had my fill of grim, realistic movies. It had to be back in 2003 or 2004 when Bill Shepard wrote me about the subject of Film Blanc, a term I picked up at UCLA ages before and had begun to use in various reviews. Bill started his own web page, Film Blanc – The Cinema of Feel-Good Fantasies and has been tending it ever since. He’s discovered more benign fantasies about weird afterlifes, etc., than I’ve ever heard of. He’s devised a way to isolate discussions that would be spoilers, making his page user-friendly for the curious who don’t want to have plotlines revealed… you know, my core modus operandi.
The image above is from Henry Hathaway’s surreal 1934 film blanc Peter Ibbetson, and Bill’s entry for that title is here.
Then we have some news from advisor / authority Gordon Thomas, whose fine academically-oriented articles I’ve linked to in the past. Gary Morris of Bright Lights has just published Gordon’s revised and expanded article on the Soviet epic War and Peace, “Tolstoy and Only Tolstoy. Nothing Comes from Us”: Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace (1966-67) — Criterion Update.
Here’s my review from a few months back, but Gordon’s is the one to read.
And finally, I’m happy to report, even though the ‘report’ must be cryptic, that my blurb last week about a possible special extra for a Powerhouse Indicator release has yielded a good result. The gist is that my note sparked an inquiry that put said special extra back on track again. PI head of production Anthony Nield courteously wrote that they will indeed be able to include it, that it made the deadline.
Include what? What’s the movie? Who you kidding, Savant? ‘Restraints of confidentiality’ are in place, at the moment. But I have located my old writings about the ‘extra’ and will surely find a way to crow more about it closer to street date. Waxing enthusiastic about arcane video news is what we do here…
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Mill Creek and Kit Parker have raided the Columbia vault once again in search of Noir Gold from the ‘fifties. Their selection this time around has a couple of prime gems, several straight crime thrillers and domestic jeopardy tales, and also a couple of interesting Brit imports. They aren’t really ‘Noir’ either, but they’re still unexpected and different. The top title is Don Siegel’s incomparable The Lineup, but also on board is a snappy anti-commie epic by André De Toth. Get set for a lineup of impressive leading ladies: Diana Dors, Arlene Dahl, Anita Ekberg — and the great Colleen Dewhurst as a card-carrying Red! On Blu-ray from Mill Creek / Kit Parker.
Who Saw Her Die? 09/10/19
Giallos run hot and cold, but this one has plenty to recommend it — a serious outlook, a focus on elements other than gore, beautiful cinematography on terrific locations in Venice, and committed performances from Anita Strindberg, Adolfo Celi and an unusual choice, ex- 007 George Lazenby. Director Aldo Lado takes this one in a different direction than Giallo maestro Dario Argento — with a humanistic bent and a compelling performance by child actress Nicoletta Elmi. Plus a piercing music score by Ennio Morricone, sung by a children’s choir. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
I must admit that I was pleased when my discussion of the missing American-International movies (CineSavant Column 8/24/19) got some good things going, primarily two terrific Greenbriar Movie Shows articles, on September 2 (“American-International This Week – Exploitation Brought To a 50’s Boil – Part One”) and September 5 (“Round Two for Jim-Sam: AIP Time For Whatever Turned a Dime”).
The whole shebang was begun by a web board hint that some of the Sam Arkoff-owned A.I.P. titles might be on their way to Blu-ray. Well, correspondent ‘woggly’ aka ‘B’ found a legit announcement about Shout! Factory TV that lists a few Arkoff titles soon to be on that service. (So I haven’t betrayed any confidences.) ‘B’ saw the following Roger Corman-directed titles mentioned: Day The World Ended, Machine Gun Kelly, Rock All Night, Sorority Girl and The Undead.
It’s a helluva list. One genuine Sci-fi classic (Lori Nelson, Touch Connors!), one classic gangster romp (Charles Bronson, Susan Cabot, Barboura Morris!), one kooky horror oddity (Pamela Duncan, Allison Hayes!), one jukebox crime opus (Dick Miller, Abby Dalton!) and one psycho sorority meller (Susan Cabot, Dick Miller, Barboura Morris!).
The upshot of this is this … is it irresponsible to surmise that some or all of those particular Arkoff AIP’s might be among the titles hinted to possibly be coming out on Blu-ray? CineSavant doesn’t mind stirring up rumors like this, if my guesses are based on legit information available to others. Shout! Factory can always clip my wings if I’m wrong, and they shouldn’t mind the publicity.
I went to that Shout! Factory TV link, and saw a ‘Roger Corman Classics’ festival mentioned… and with a little poking around, stumbled onto a free live stream of Day the World Ended. It looks to be be in widescreen, if not full SuperScope.
That 1955 sci-fi title seems doubly relevant right now, ’cause the demolition boys have just finished leveling the old Sportsmen’s Lodge out on Ventura Boulevard in the Valley, prime Raymond Chandler country. I was tipped off long ago that some shots for the pond scenes in Day the World Ended were filmed in the Lodge’s restaurant pool — during the quiet time in the afternoon! If that’s true, late lunchers and busboys may have witnessed Lori Nelson menaced by Paul Blaisdell’s monster.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Fists in the Pocket 09/07/19
You think YOU’VE got mentally unstable relatives? Marco Bellocchio’s debut film made a big splash in ’65 with its tale of a family packed with serious problems, where the relationships have an air of sickness about them. Lou Castel’s brilliant but twisted brother likes to float preposterous ideas, but his latest creepy brainstorm is to start murdering his siblings. This one feels like it should be an allegory for something … but what? Reviewer Charlie Largent knows sick drama when he sees it, and gives us the Euro-thriller low-down. Music by Ennio Morricone! On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.