Glenn Erickson's
Review Page and Column

Saturday December 4, 2021

An unusual, satisfying true story: German Jews survive the Holocaust — on a different continent.

All or Nothing 12/04/21

Severin Films
Blu-ray

U.K. director Mike Leigh makes films with a wide range of moods, but his working-class dramas are what made his name. All or Nothing is an emotionally punishing story of everyday life on a lower rung of a stagnant economy, where nobody has dreams and pessimism is the order of the day. The bitterness and anger are most evident in the abusive attitudes and verbal brutality from one generation to the next, even with the caring, sensitive Penny (Lesley Manville) and the inoffensive Phil (Timothy Spall). Leigh’s players craft heartbreaking characters whose individual miseries can’t be dismissed. We invest heavily in the hope of a positive outcome, even as everything we see says, ‘no.’  Yet the film’s honesty doesn’t want us to give up on these people. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
12/04/21

Mulholland Dr. 4K 12/04/21

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

This one delivers the 4K ‘experience’ — and David Lynch’s mesmerizing visuals and Angelo Badalamenti’s seductive music once again pull us into a different dimension. Four or five viewings down the line, the ‘storyline’ of this TV show-become-feature film is if anything less understandable. But it’s no less pleasantly weird — we can’t keep our eyes off of Naomi Watts and Laura Harring. My ‘quality’ section debates a question I’m getting more often: are 4K discs worth the upgrade?  On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
12/04/21

Unearthly Stranger 12/04/21

Network/BFI
Region B Blu-ray

CineSavant reaches back to a U.K. disc released in 2014, because the subject is (what else) a semi-obscure science fiction gem. Favorite John Neville stars as a scientist opposite newcomer Gabriella Licudi, a beauty who may be an invader from outer space. This is the one with the teardrops that burn; not having seen it since 1966 or so, evaluating a ‘new’ Blu was an imperative. The main takeaway — it’s awfully small-scale and the fantastic content is mostly confined to dialogue. But the performances are good, and actress Jean Marsh is terrific. On Region B Blu-ray from Network/BFI.
12/04/21

CineSavant Column

Saturday December 4, 2021

 

Whoa!

This grabs my attention: the hot item in my radar at this particular instant. Lovers of great screen horror will want to know about Arrow’s special edition of Giorgio Ferroni’s Mill of the Stone Women, which is my idea of a highly desirable possession.

I’ll be reviewing it right away but wanted to get this notice out today, just in case shipments from afar will take longer than usual this December. Scilla Gabel leads a great cast in a show that looks a genuine classic in this pristine, uncut presentation, in superb color, in several languages. Even the artwork is gorgeous — Nuff said!

 


 

For seventeen years I did a complicated ‘best of’ yearly article that more or less proved nothing … my top ten rounded off to a top twenty – plus. It was a week’s work, and it probably irked the vendors when my favorite for the year was some obscure item. So for the past few seasons I’ve been doing this instead.

Here’s my roundup of the top titles that stirred CineSavant’s inner juices this year, more or less in order of review. It’s just a hindsight shakedown of the discs I’d grab first if CineSavant headquarters were to be overrun by a zombie horde, or unwanted holiday visitors. Each ought to be a functioning link to the original review-essay.


































































































Thanks for reading!

Tuesday November 30, 2021

Mr. Stockwell was always better than good, in anything and everything. . .

Citizen Kane 4K 11/30/21

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

A thousand releases down the line, Criterion gives us a special edition of the most creatively brilliant & innovative movie in history, as the label debuts selected 4K releases. It’s a four-disc set, with three Blu-rays that hold a huge quantity of well-chosen and well-produced extras. What can be said about Kane that hasn’t been debated decades ago?  Our Declaration of Principles is to just try and tell the truth: we try a ‘civilian’ approach, sketching the film’s wonderments without assuming the reader is already a true believer in the Cinema God Orson Welles. Which Welles definitely is. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/30/21

The Little Rascals Volume 3 11/30/21

ClassicFlix
Blu-ray

The third disc in The ClassicFlix Restoration series takes us from 1932 into 1933, with 11 more comedy short subjects that introduce George ‘Spanky’ McFarland, one of the series’ most popular characters … before his fourth birthday. Parts of McFarland’s Hal Roach audition reel were incorporated into one of the shorts seen here. We’re looking forward to Charlie Largent’s take, as he knows vintage screen comedy inside and out: “Man, you don’t talk to Charlie, you listen to him.” On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
11/30/21

It’s a Wonderful Life 75th Anniversary 11/30/21

Paramount Viacom CBS
Blu-ray + Digital

 It’s the Gold Standard of Christmas movies and likely the oldest feature still broadcast on network TV during the holidays: Frank Capra’s sentimental favorite is his most human movie, the kind of show that convinced people that raising a family is a great idea. Although we’re now a full three generations removed from the world events that surround the story of George Bailey, his problems haven’t dated. Paramount’s anniversary disc gives us a new encoding from a 4K scan, a repressing of the older colorized version, a good making-of piece by Craig Barron and Ben Burtt, a reel of home movies from the film’s wrap picnic in the summer of ’46. . . and a set of ‘Bailey Family Recipe Cards.’ On Blu-ray from Paramount.
11/30/21

CineSavant Column

Tuesday November 30, 2021

 

Hello!

With his DVD Classics Corner on the Air podcast Dick Dinman tapped me for a second western discussion, this time about the great James Stewart / Anthony Mann western released on Blu by the Warner Archive in September, The Naked Spur.

We’re both enthusiastic about the cast, and I make the best case I can for this being the most psychologically twisted of Stewart’s run of ’50s classics. And of course we try to express our approval of the disc’s superb color and encoding — it looks a million times better than this weak image I found online.

 


 

And a heads up for TCM viewers: this Friday December 3rd at 8:00 pm (Eastern I think) will debut the Association of Moving Image Archivists’ Archival Screening Night Roadshow Edition 2, a collection of rarities of all kinds.

The AMIA’s text blurb is inviting: “What makes Archival Roadshow Edition special is that this members-only event is being made accessible to the public to see the incredible, strange, astonishing, hilarious, and curious treasures from the world’s moving image archives. This cinematic Cabinet of Wonders features films from Mexico, Thailand, and New Zealand, an appearance by Louis Jordan and the Tympany Five, a dancing Bobcat (it’s not what you expect!), Baltimore Breakdancing including the Chocolate Boogie, Jack Lemmon’s first screen appearance as a helpless soldier, and many more.” Here’s the official trailer, which will hook you for sure.

 


 

Generous correspondent Dan Mottola sent along a great link to a web resource for YouTube videos about miniatures, piercefilm productions. It’s a terrific vault of short-to-medium length videos, hosted by experts and illustrated with excellent, super-rare photos. I’ve looked at three already and each is fascinating; there seem to be so many advanced miniature specialists nowadays, so very talented and experienced.

Evan Jacobs give a fascinating talk about the TV series From the Earth to the Moon, and modelmaker Kim Smith hosts a talk about The Rocketeer that touches on half-a-dozen other interesting titles as well. Three other films with separate videos are True Lies (Leslie Ekker & Patrick McClung), Ed Wood (Evan Jacobs), and Deep Impact (Fon Davis).

At his home page Piercefilm owner Berton Pierce has a trailer up for viewing, for a documentary feature he’s made on miniature — Sense of Scale. My old boss is in it!

 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday November 27, 2021

A movie about ‘old guys’. . . but in ’62 McCrea and Scott were years younger than I am now!

Kino Noir Times Four 11/27/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray Separate Purchases

Let’s shout our approval for this foursome of vintage noirs, all of which have been scarce since Eddie Muller was old enough to rob candy stores. Three Paramounts and one Universal give us four notable directors and a gallery of attractive stars, including a swoon-worthy array of actresses: Marta Toren, Loretta Young, Susan Hayward, Gail Russell, Frances Farmer and Marina Berti. The selection includes one of the key ‘just prior to the official style’ titles, a thriller with supernatural overtones, a ‘woman in jeopardy’ story and a gangster tale reportedly inspired by Lucky Luciano: Among the Living, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, The Accused and Deported. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
11/27/21

Bloody Pit of Horror 11/27/21

Did these filmmakers have any idea how twisted a picture they were making?  It doesn’t matter because this Italo torture orgy has has remained a freakout favorite ever since. Mickey Hargitay likely asked, ‘do you really want me to act this nuts?’ and then fully complied with Massimo Pupillo’s request to burn, stab, choke and roast his mostly female victims in orgasmic glee. It’s all still more than a little disturbing — or screamingly funny depending on one’s orientation. Severin’s Blu-ray sources original printing elements, lending incredible video and audio quality to this artless yet stunning exercise in sex & death insanity. We also recall an interpretation given this gem by Brit film critics. Co-starring Walter Brandi & Luisa Barrato, plus eight willing special guest torture victims. On Blu-rayfrom Severin Films.
11/25/21

Party Girl 11/27/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

This colorful gangster tale was made by a studio in transition, in the middle of a crippling musician’s strike. Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse were MGM’s last contract stars; her costumes and dance numbers are wildly anachronistic for the period setting and she refused to take direction from Nicholas Ray, whose career was coming apart at the seams. Yet the maverick director must have done something right, as the show has remained a favorite of audiences and critics. The WAC’S remastered Blu-ray is a beauty. Co-starring Lee J. Cobb, John Ireland and Corey Allen. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
11/27/21

CineSavant Column

Saturday November 27, 2021

 

Hello!

Zoom, Crash, and Boom!   — This is still a fun reel of Howard and Theodore Lydecker special effects miniatures clips: an endless string of ‘Rocketman’ zip-flights, a few alien spacecraft, and then a string of explosions, some more realistic than others. Hey, the factory explosion that became stock footage for Earth vs. The Flying Saucers is here, too.

The YouTube video is called Lydecker Brothers : Special Effects. The first half of the reel is repetitive, but we’re still impressed by how well they hid those wires. A.D. Flowers used the same physical-gag ‘flying’ technique for 1941.

 


 

Thanks to David J. Schow for the link: the morbid YouTube empress Caitlin Doughty has a new ‘Ask a Mortician’ episode uploaded with the intriguing title America’s Forgotten Vampire Panic. Think New England in 1799, when mothers apparently bore a dozen children because fewer than half lived to be adults.

Doughty makes it funny and historically interesting, and the corny editing is fun too. I get the message that people were just as superstitious-nuts back then as they are now, but they just had a better excuse in the 19th century. Ms. Doughty also ought to be in movies, she’s charmer with a hundred amusing faces.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday November 23, 2021

Can General Black trust someone named Groteschele?  Can we trust Walter Matthau?

The Addams Family 4K 11/23/21

Paramount Viacom CBS
4K Ultra HD + Digital

Barry Sonnenfeld leaped from hot cinematographer status to A- list director with this sure-footed big screen adaptation of the TV show based on Charles Addams’ marvelously morbid New Yorker cartoons. The cast is ideal: Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia complement TV’s Carolyn Jones and John Astin without inviting comparisons. Winning an imaginary award for making sick jokes safe for PG-13, the script has true wit. The characters have depth as well, which is wonderful. Daring to be out of step with the times, the elaborate production, costumes and special effects are all on the same page: director Sonnenfeld and producer Scott Rudin see to it that the goofy premise never wears thin. The 4K encoding is a dazzler. On 4K Ultra-HD + Digital from Paramount Home Video.
11/23/21

Number Seventeen 11/23/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

One of Alfred Hitchcock’s so-called lesser films bounces back in an immaculate restoration. Say goodbye to blurry, indecipherable Public Domain versions — now we can fairly evaluate this amusing early talkie. An odd cross-section of underworld characters gathers amid the staircases and dark shadows of an abandoned house and proceeds to play games of identity and coercion. What happened to the body that was on the third floor landing?  Who is the mysterious mastermind whose note warns about a cop, and promises a diamond necklace?  Who is the mysterious woman who cannot hear or speak?  And is our hero a random passerby who followed his hat blown by the wind?  Kino’s deluxe disc features audio excerpts from Hitchcock and a longform French documentary about his early sound career. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
11/23/21

The Hills Have Eyes 4K 11/23/21

Arrow Video
4K Ultra HD

Wes Craven’s getting a 4K Ultra HD workout this year, what with his monster hit Scream arriving in 4K last month. This 1977 franchise-starter is a down & dirty slaughter-fest out in the desert, with bloody jeopardy its one and only reason for being. It can attest that it was quite a nail-biting experience in the theater, and we know this show has a legion of fans — think of the hundreds of films that imitate its concept. Starring Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve, John Steadman and Michael Berryman. On 4K Ultra HD (only) from Arrow Video.
11/23/21

CineSavant Column

Tuesday November 23, 2021

 

Hello!

Correspondent Alan Dezzani sends along this image posted to Facebook over the weekend — a new version of Diabolik, which will reportedly debut at the Turin Auto Museum on December 16. Gee, my premiere invite and comp plane ticket haven’t yet arrived, but I remain optimistic. I never saw or heard much about an earlier Italo TV show (?) and wonder if this one will have a bigger impact. Alan has also located a Trailer for the new Diabolik. It looks fairly nice, at first glance.

I note that the map in the background reads ‘Clerville,’ one of the few place names in the comic’s undisclosed European country — and other map names are in English, Italian and German. My latest review of the ’67 Bava/John Philip Law/Michel Piccoli/Marisa Mell Diabolik is here. The full poster on the left zooms for more detail.

 


 

Let’s go on a Trade Periodical clippings scavenger hunt!  This time Gary Teetzel sends us a selection of item regarding Michael Powell’s 1960 horror classic Peeping Tom. Going through the ‘Media History Digital Library’ he found no coverage of the controversy in England, so I guess what happened in London stayed in London. But he turned up some snippets about how the film was promoted on both sides of the Atlantic. (note that all these graphics enlarge.)

 

 

 

 

Gary’s find from the April 13, 1960 Motion Picture Exhibitor: a columnist sees no problem with the movie!

 

And this article finds an Atlanta exhibitor in hot water over Peeping Tom and It’s Hot in Paradise, not for the content of the films but because he violated a local moving ratings ordinance. Why didn’t he just sell paperbacks of The Tropic of Cancer, like everyone else?  Thanks, Gary !

 


 

And Shadowplay’s David Cairns alerted me to a Film International essay on Major Dundee by Tony Williams that puts a great deal of thought into the problem of The Lost Rough Cut. The article references my solo audio commentary for the movie, which is certainly flattering: The Peckinpah Masterpiece that Never Was: Major Dundee. That 2019 commentary is significant because I chart out all the material from Sam Peckinpah’s shooting screenplay that was deleted from the movie.

I’m glad the ideas in the commentary made such a strong impression. Here’s the CineSavant review of Explosive Media’s Major Dundee Blu-ray from 2019, where the audio commentary was first published. And here’s the CineSavant review of Arrow’s Major Dundee Blu-ray from last summer, which has the commentary plus a visual essay by David Cairns, the knockout with the sly Gidget Goes Hawaiian reference.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson