Review Page and Column
Blow Out 4K 10/04/22
CineSavant’s Charlie Largent takes on Brian De Palma’s paranoid conspiracy re-think of an Antonioni picture with an almost identical title, adding creepy touches from similar Alan Pakula and Francis Coppola chillers. Hipster sound recordist and editor John Travolta gets into the middle of a nefarious scheme mixing elements of both JFK and Teddy Kennedy; Nancy Allen is the woman who tries to help him save both their lives. Plenty of visual pyrotechnics; in 4K some of Vilmos Zsigmond’s ultra-sharp Panavision images almost look like 3-D. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Richard Fleischer’s Biblical epic is a class act all the way, one of producer Dino De Laurentiis’s greatest accomplishments. Anthony Quinn’s guilty, perplexed bandit survives and subsists but never understands the import of the man crucified in his place; the view of early Christianity is respectful but free of pious clichés. It’s an excellent image of the ancient world, with gladiator scenes that are possibly the best ever. Fleisher does exceedingly well with the enormous sets and a well-chosen international cast: Ernest Borgnine, Valentina Cortese, Vittorio Gassman, Katy Jurado, Arthur Kennedy, Silvana Mangano, Jack Palance. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
No joke! No fakery. Good old correspondent and contributor Charlie Largent found this bit of prophetic wisdom hiding in the high-flying Kaiju Rodan, the Japanese version of course. We don’t NORMALLY look to Toho sci-fi for scientific accuracy, as pointed up by the admonition in Battle in Outer Space that the force of gravity cancels out under really low temperatures. In this case, we applaud the forward thinking of Toho’s screenwriters Takeshi Kimura and Takeo Murata.
The eco theme keys in with a related link steered my way by other sources. It’s NSFW (beware) but I have to say I endorse the anti- corporate sentiment. Somebody’s gotta say it, even if it’s just a canary squawk in a coal mine. It’s on YouTube, and carries the neutral title Chevron Ad. It plays like something that might not be around for long.
This one comes from the dependable CineSavant associate ‘B’.
In last Saturday’s review of Murder at the Vanities I invoked the Sam Coslow/Arthur Johnston song Cocktails for Two, specifically the famed Spike Jones novelty version, which was a favorite on the old Dr. Demento Radio Show.
We now follow up with an additional link: here is ‘B’s favorite rendition of the song as performed by Billy May, his orchestra and The Rhythmaires on Stan Freberg’s CBS radio show in 1957.
Now that’s novelty deconstruction! More proof that Stan Freburg was decades ahead of the times.
Readers unfamiliar with the legendary cryptographer, spymaster and author Leo Marks or his relationship to the movies Cloudburst, Carve Her Name with Pride and Peeping Tom will want to check out this new CrimeReads article by Scott Adlerberg — Marks’ crazy life story figures deeply in all three of those powerful pictures.
The article is The Complicated Life of Leo Marks, and the link steer comes via Joe Dante.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
In Bruges 4K 10/01/22
Martin McDonagh’s cult hit man feature comes to 4K looking extremely good: fans of low-key black humor and droll sentimentality, kinda-like-the-Coens, kinda-like-Tarantino, love this picture. Cute characterizations from Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson & Ralph Fiennes bring light to a ‘killers with a heart’ story. It keeps us watching to see what happens next, that’s for sure. And when’s the last time that 13th century European art and architecture figured so heavily in a mob saga?
Murder at the Vanities 10/01/22
Saucy pre-Code entertainment routinely served up risqué dialogue and edgy content like promiscuity and drug use, but Mitchell Leisen’s murder mystery goes straight for a supposed family-industry no-no: Broadway-revue near-nudity featuring Earl Carroll’s ‘Most Beautiful Girls In The World’. Victor McLaglen is an inept detective and Jack Oakie a wise-cracking impresario. Gertrude Michael and Kitty Carlisle carry the musical numbers, the most famous being an ode to the still-legal Sweet Marijuana. Showgirls like Lucille Ball possess the daring to don the skimpy costumes, even if they hadn’t yet learned what Marijuana was. Duke Ellington and his orchestra sit in for Ebony Rhapsody, a mixed-race musical number with room for ‘guest dancers from Harlem.’ On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
December must be Women’s Empowerment Month at The Warner Archive Collection. I’m informed that the month will have just two releases, but we readily admit they make a pretty incredible double bill.
Yes, both John Huston’s The Night of the Iguana and Nathan Herz Juran’s Attack of the 50-Foot Woman will hit Blu-ray simultaneously, hopefully in time for the holiday. The two stories do have similarities — some of the women in the Tennessee Williams story want to tear up the town, and then tear up Richard Burton.
I wish the WAC had more leeway to include creative collector extras: It would be fun to see samples from the syndicated TV version. Allied Artists padded Attack to make it better fit TV movie slots. Meaningless, generic text scrolls were added, a ‘prologue’ was created by previewing a scene from later in the film, and a sequence or two were step-printed to slow down the action. Not only was this irritating, it frustrated film collectors like Joe Dante. The 16mm prints that fell into collector hands were always the bogus futzed versions.
This link offering from correspondent Christopher Rywalt came in at just the right time: last week some friends were asking each other (over Zoom) if we traded bubble gum cards when we were kids. Associate and fellow editor Todd Stribich talked about his fab Baseball Card collection, and then actually showed us his perfectly preserved collection of original Mars Attacks! cards . . . he even has a pristine ‘check them off’ card, unsullied by little kid ink marks.
Anyway, Christopher sent along this link to a Dangerous Minds post showing a set of Hammer Horror Trading Cards from 1976. Actually, they seem to be a “Shock Theater Picture Cards + Bubble Gum” set.
I never saw this particular set but the humor is as awful as I remember. A picture of Chris Lee with blood on his lips bore the caption “It sure doesn’t taste like tomato juice!” I will pause for laughter.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Secret of the Incas 09/27/22
Behold — it’s Indiana Jones in embryonic form. Paramount’s South American adventure exploits Peruvian scenery and the ’50s exotica phenomenon that was the unique songstress Yma Sumac. The production receives hearty input from Charlton Heston, Nicole Maurey and Thomas Mitchell, but it’s mostly a relic today. Not because the Raiders films have stolen its thunder . . . because it’s plenty hokey, even for 1954. The filmmakers did send a camera crew to the remote Andes, to film in the ‘lost city’ of Machu Picchu. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Married to the Mob 09/27/22
Jonathan Demme’s mix of high spirits and murder is the best gangland satire ever. The comic tale of Mafia spouse Angela de Marco comes with an edge of economic reality: how does one newly-impoverished New Yawk widow make a living for her orphaned son, while avoiding the ‘interest’ of the slimy Big Boss who had her husband iced? Michelle Pfeiffer came into her own, Dean Stockwell has his best adult role and Matthew Modine is uniquely charming as a clean-cut FBI agent. The supporting performances go every which way: Mercedes Ruehl, Alec Baldwin, Oliver Platt and a slew of Demme regulars. Plus a music score by David Byrne. The disc features three new video interviews. On Blu-ray from Fun City Editions.
DVD Classics Corner on the Air’s Dick Dinman has a new podcast show out. Author & film noir authority Alan K. Rode joins Dick to discuss Kino’s twin 4K Ultra-HD releases of Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing & Paths of Glory.
The pair also take a peek at recent releases of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and The Turning Point.
When deadlines loom and the CineSavant Column is empty, we can always count on advisor Gary Teetzel … he’ll come up with something good no matter how insubstantial.
This is by no means a recommendation but I’m amused just knowing that a book exists for Joseph Green’s genuine cult film . . . as part of an ‘It Came from Hollywood’ book series, Robert Freese has penned a novelization of The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, with the sub-heading ’60th Anniversary Novelization.’
Gary warns us not to ask why. There are some things man was not meant to know:
“Like all things, literature has its ultimate, and this is it.”
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
George Pal Sci-fi Double Feature 09/24/22
It’s one of the year’s most awaited discs: the recent restored and remastered The War of the Worlds ’53 in a glorious 4K Ultra HD edition. A second Blu-ray disc of When Worlds Collide ’51 is too good to be called a bonus extra: this edition looks better than anything seen since original Technicolor prints. In one show we endure scurvy invaders from The Red Planet; in the other a rogue Astral Body threatens Earth with obliteration, necessitating escape on a space ship. Don’t bother checking online for tickets, the flight is sold out. CineSavant has the lowdown for collectors: how good does the new release look? On 4K Ultra-HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Paramount Presents.
Twice-Told Tales 09/24/22
United Artists substitutes Nathaniel Hawthorne for Edgar Allan Poe, but even with Vincent Price on board Sidney Salkow is no Roger Corman. Three famous tales play out: Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, The House of the Seven Gables and the best, Rappaccini’s Daughter. Reviewer Charlie Largent sorts it all out: we like the cast, some of whom are survivors of earlier exploitation pix: Mari Blanchard, Sebastian Cabot, Richard Denning, Jacqueline deWit, Beverly Garland, Brett Halsey, Abraham Sofaer, Joyce Taylor. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
This YouTube clip probably isn’t new, but associate Michael Arick sent it along knowing full well that we’d like it. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is graphically so arresting that almost any colorization effort could be impressive. The music selection heard here helps as well.
The link is to Metropolis Dance, Colorized. All those dazzling original B&W images were done with a camera, as they say. The clip incorporates the low-quality, high-impact uncut material found in Argentina in 2008.
Are there other fan cuts of Metropolis out there that I need to know about? My grown kids should see the restored, ‘complete’ version, but they’re hooked on the Giorgio Moroder Disco Metropolis. That’s how it goes — you try to brainwash them for 20 years, and they develop their own tastes and opinions anyway.
Farewell, MGM HD cable channel: A Facebook post appeared and then disappeared on Thursday, announcing that the MGM Cable Channel would be discontinued as of October 31, 2022.
The channel has been around since 1999; I’m not sure when it made the jump to HD. It was an excellent resource to see MGM – owned features in high quality: Orion, American-International, etc.. It was especially good for checking out the A.I.P. rarities as they were restored, in HD before Blu-rays were issued. That’s where we first saw the ‘corrected’ no-freeze-frame The Trip, for instance. And MGM HD showed the uncut Heaven’s Gate once or twice as well, I think.
The pain came with our cable companies. Every year I’d review Comcast or Spectrum or whatever, and find that they’d shuffled the HD no-commercials movie channels around. TCM was almost always in a tier of its own. When I signed up for a special HD package with 5 or six channels, just a few months later they’d all be withdrawn or spread out over other, more expensive tiers. Around 2017 I gave up on MGM HD … by then it was showing the same 200 titles in rotation. They showed some interesting items, but also did cute things like run The Red Shoes cropped to 1:78 widescreen. Who needs to see feet in a ballet movie?
Perhaps this is fallout from Amazon’s acquisition of MGM? It reminds me of the way Disney has put almost all of the 20th-Fox library out of bounds . . . although occasional fresh Fox titles do show up here and there.
This doesn’t happen all too often — we open a box of new discs and one grabs us with really, really attractive artwork. I hadn’t heard of Arrow Video USA’s new disc set Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror but the cover art got our attention. The artist is Colin Murdoch.
I’m becoming more appreciative of good disc art. Sometimes it’s just fine to recycle original poster graphics, assuming any good material exists. It’s great when disc companies commission new art, although we long ago grew weary of quickie ‘paint-izations’ of familiar pub photos. This set of four faces may be from photos as well, but Murdoch adds atmosphere and emotion. I find it dramatic, curiosity-inducing.
The four titles in the set are Lady Morgan’s Vengeance, The Blancheville Monster, The Third Eye and The Witch. In Italian, that last generic-sounding title is called La strega in amore. It’s said to be from a novel by Carlos Fuentes, which for us makes it a must-see. Charlie Largent may be writing the review. The street date is a Halloween-friendly October 18.
The box graphic zooms or re-opens much larger ‘in a new window.’
And finally, Kino Lorber just reissued their two sets of Outer Limits TV seasons, on September 20. The initial release was four years ago, split between March and November of 2018. Those boxes held fold-out ‘digiPack’ card & plastic disc holders, six discs for season one and four for season two.
The new releases are still divided between seasons, but deliver the shows in multi-disc keep cases. All of the video extras are present, but not repeated from the 2018 editions are the insert booklets, with the lengthy notes and essays.
This time out each disc case gives us a simple index — finding individual episodes took some effort with the old set. I think it’s high time that David J. Schow’s publishers be encouraged to enlarge and revise his old Outer Limits Companion reference book. He’s written two OL books, and both are long out of print.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Scarlet Hour 09/20/22
Producer-director Michael Curtiz’s femme fatale noir has a lot going for it — high production values, VistaVision, and new film talent in Tom Tryon, Carol Ohmart, Elaine Stritch & Jody Lawrance. Excellent location shooting and a Nat King Cole song provide authentic Los Angeles atmosphere. But the storyline is ten years out of date. The advertising promoted Ms. Ohmart as a new ’50s sex symbol. She may have caught fire, but the show didn’t. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Rain (1932) 09/20/22
The effort to restore neglected films doesn’t get more rewarding than this 4K rebirth of Lewis Milestone’s version of the acclaimed Somerset Maugham story. Loaned from MGM, Joan Crawford tries on the role of Sadie Thompson and holds her own opposite Walter Huston’s fire & brimstone preacher. It’s still a major achievement of the pre-Code era, an adult story that doesn’t water down its ‘dangerous’ themes: it’s exactly the kind of show that the censors didn’t want made. On Blu-ray from Mary Pickford Foundation / VCI.
Are you a fan of John Parker’s 1953 avant-garde horror pic Dementia? A singer-songwriter by the name of K. Edward Smith has put together a new score for the show, and is offering it online with the movie or as a separate soundtrack recording.
We’ve only heard a few sample cues from the new music tracks. The info on Smith and his re-scoring of the classic movie is at this Right Brain link; I’ve also been given a link to a page for the score sans video: Dementia: The Complete Film Score.
Interesting ambition, that. I’d say that the original George Antheil score isn’t begging for replacement, but an experiment is an experiment. You know, like Philip Glass and his buzz-hum music score revision for the original Dracula.
The ever-observant Joe Dante has been circulating this YouTube link, a curious bit of cultural appropriation entitled The Exquisite Gucci Campaign. The budget for this must have been astronomical, the imagination required not quite as impressive.
Yes, this was no ordinary fashion video shoot. The underlying message seems to be ‘we’re Gucci trendsetters and you’re not; we can do any frivolous thing our hearts desire and call it culturally significant.” That negative evaluation is probably uncalled for. The images are indeed arresting.
Ever had the thought of recreating an environment from a movie? There was a marvelous effects man by the name Tom Scherman, who with his brother completely transformed his apartment so that it evoked the iron + rivets interior of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus from the Disney film. On a less extreme level, my son recently told me about a friend who decorated his basement rec room to resemble the David Lynch Doom Room in ‘The Lodge,’ complete with scarlet drapes, zigzag carpeting and an odd statue or two. More power to the guy.
Is the detailed recreation of movie memories going to be a ‘thing’ as the movies themselves fade into some passé netherworld? I confess to having similar daydreams — were I a Sultan with unlimited discretionary fun money, I’d eagerly commission a landscaped property where the backyard view would be a full-scale recreation of The Sand Pit Hill from Invaders from Mars. It would face the rising sun, of course, with trees painted black and grass painted yellow. You know, just to unnerve houseguests.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson