Review Page and Column
Dance, Fools, Dance 11/28/23
In this racy MGM pre-Code, the stock market crash dumps society playgirl Joan Crawford into the working class. She toils at a newspaper but her brother consorts with bootleggers — and both of them are targeted by gangster Clark Gable. Sparks fly in Crawford & Gable’s first screen teaming, which has a bit of everything — a gangland rubout or two, glamorous Depression details, and Woo-Hoo naughtiness. Favorite Cliff Edwards co-stars. The restoration is excellent and the disc comes with a good TV show about MGM’s history. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Hustle (1975) 11/28/23
Robert Aldrich’s second hardboiled detective tale is filtered through Steve Shagan’s style of whining nostalgia. Cop Burt Reynolds wants to fix his problematic relationship with call girl Catherine Deneuve, but he’s caught up in an ugly case involving sex trafficking, corruption and a dead teen runaway. Eddie Albert and Ben Johnson provide different kinds of threats. It’s by turns glamorous, moody and violent — but it didn’t steer Reynolds’ career away from Good Ole Boy action pix. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
We’re back at full strength today! Correspondent Michael McQuarrie leads off with something interesting, an audio link from The Internet Archive.
It’s 1961, and the rush to build backyard bomb shelters is about to get a big boost from the Cuban Missile Crisis. But public information about the threat of nuclear war is still stuck in the Atomic Cafe era of misleading government propaganda, pundit-based hysteria, and a booming consumer culture looking to make a buck from almost anything.
From ’61 comes the Tops Records release If the Bomb Falls — a Recorded Guide to survival. It looks serious, it looks official — and according to researchers Mike Callahan, David Edwards, and Patrice Eyries (at this link) it was “a shameless attempt to cash in on that fear.”
Dave Pell, a busy producer at Tops, came up with the concept, which amounts to little more than two speeches about general nuclear preparedness. The Internet Archive’s encodings were uploaded earlier this month by Tony Angel.
Helpful correspondent Rutcherd Bong follows up with an entertaining graphics-oriented link to a Pinterest Page of Movie Ad Mats. This resource is common knowledge, but this link brought up a lot of interesting movie advertising material.
Rutcherd pointed out the top ad from the King Bros – Lawrence Tierney Dillinger, which shows that even in the late 1940s various municipalities were ignoring the Production Code and banning individual movies found offensive.
Scrolling down, the page carries at least a hundred ad mats just as they appeared in newspapers, naming the theaters, etc.. The selection includes obvious titles and real rarities, even an ad for an all-colored Oscar Micheaux booking. Big city bookings include live performances by radio stars, and other promotions.
The mat to the right proves that Philip Kaufman’s Goldstein got its share of arthouse screenings — I like the way they try to sell it as an ‘adult’ movie. And of course it caught my eye to see an ad mat for today’s review, Dance, Fools, Dance.
Saturday’s reviews are shaping up as a belated Halloween offering — with new horror reviews.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Days of Heaven 4K 11/25/23
Terrence Malick and Néstor Almendros rewrote the rule books for imagery and narrative on this story of quiet desperation in the agrarian America of a bygone age. We discovered Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard; Linda Manz joined the ranks of cult names. The new 4K remaster is dazzling. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
With the holidays afoot CineSavant is still going a bit lean on reviews, but I hope to regain the pace and once again project the illusion of a constant flow of new content. There is certainly no lack of good discs to review.
The subtle clue in the image above reveals where we were this week instead of behind the computer where we belong. ↑ This shot is from Friday the 24th, in chill but clear weather. We saw something I didn’t know could be seen, even though it has to be a common sight for locals: the actual Farallon Islands, 30 miles outside San Francisco Bay. The silhouette we saw is in the photo, on the ocean horizon just to the left of the right tower of the Golden Gate Bridge . . . the image enlarges.
Screenwriters take note — one reason the island, or islands, are off limits is that they’re a nuclear waste dump. What a story opportunity — what would happen if some escapees from Alcatraz, swept out of the bay, came in contact with the dump’s 47,500 steel drums of radioactive material, and . . . ?
Or what a good destination this could be for a ‘3 hour cruise’ in an alternate-universe retelling of Gilligan’s Island?
Enough nonsense, this posting is late enough already, and who knows what we will or won’t have up on Tuesday. Don’t worry about my mental state, as it couldn’t be better — we’ve had visions of holiday carrot cake dancing in our heads. ←
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Criminal Acts of Tod Slaughter 11/20/23
‘Eight Blood-and-Thunder Entertainments, 1935-1940.’ Charlie Largent dips his wicked fingers into the FIENDISH adventures of England’s most dapper, most DASTARDLY villain, heretofore just a footnote in American texts on film horror. Actually born with that last name, Slaughter wow’ed ’em on the stage before taking his murderous skills before the cameras. The boxed set contains eight killer-thrillers: Maria Marten of the Murder in the Red Barn, The Crimes of Stephen Hawke, It’s Never Too Late to Mend, The Ticket of the Leave Man, Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror, The Face at the Window, Crimes at the Dark House, and yes, the original Sweeney Tood, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. As Sweeney says, “Come to my tonsorial parlor, and I’ll polish you off!” On Region Free Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
We’re a few hours early with this post! The holidays are creeping up, and CineSavant is taking the liberty of (don’t tell anyone) a day off here and there. That’s the explanation for the presence of just one review today. Charlie Largent tells me it’s a winner, a set of vintage titles that are old yet will be brand new to most U.S. horror fans.
I’ve been happy returning emails lately, and not all of it is thanks for embarrassing corrections. Please be aware of the email posted up on the right, on a link under the photo of the CE3K flying saucer. I don’t collect addresses or data or make such same available to anyone without permission, so people with questions or gripes or comments are welcome to write in, as always.
↑ Some quickie news forwarded last week by the dependable Gary Teetzel — the Criterion Newsletter has let slip that there will be an upcoming Blu-ray of the studio’s major gangster epic The Roaring Twenties, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Gladys George. It’s an entertaining recap of the genre, perhaps using Mark Hellinger’s ‘historical’ framing theme of Prohibition to get past the Production Code. On the other hand, the bluenoses in the Breen office probably wanted as much as anybody to see Cagney do his tough-guy stuff again.
The Roaring Twenties was dropped from Warner Home Video’s first Gangster Blu-ray collection, and that was a full ten years ago. The movie’s popularity is such that, at the time, we couldn’t imagine a reason for holding it back. We now theorize that Criterion has had it in a license lay-away limbo for some time. Our guess is that’s the same reason why Criterion occasionally releases 20th-Fox titles, currently locked away by Disney . . . the licensing deals must have been made years in advance.
Until told otherwise, that’s our best uninformed theory, with no intention to deceive.
Wow, this gigantic house has only four bedrooms? They must be enormous live-in suites. Friend Malcolm Alcala sent in the link.
The glamour real estate article grabbed my attention because I always imagined James Whale living in Beverly Hills. They identify this as Los Feliz, and note that the main photo shows the Griffith Obserevatory in the background — Whale’s house is therefore just East of the Observatory, and would likely be visible in scenes in Nicholas Ray’s Rebel without a Cause.
It sometimes feels strange to have lived in Los Angeles for so long, and only realize now who and what was living around me, in various directions, for years. Obviously, James Whale’s tenure was before my time. One of the reasons I enjoy Michael Connelly’s Bosch books are the constant familiar locations — places in Hollywood, Los Feliz, and the valley that we frequent, including restaurants. I just finished a chapter in a Connelly Jack McEvoy book with a shootout scene. It happens on a spur street in Sherman Oaks, right where I worked at a producer’s house for fifteen years … fully described.
Anyway, here’s the super house being sold for a pittance, pocket change! The interiors are pretty incredible. Looking at my own property taxes, I’m going to hold off putting in a bid:
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Le combat dans L’île 11/18/23
‘The Fight on the Island’ Nine years before Bertolucci’s The Conformist, Jean-Louis Trintignant played another right-wing zealot dispatched on a murder mission. Filmed in Paris and Normandy, Alain Cavalier’s gem of a thriller daringly identifies the pro-Colonial OAS as nothing less than fascists — when the OAS was still active. The basis of the story is a different kind of love triangle, a credible portrait of a woman married to an upscale assassin. Romy Schneider takes an early ‘adult’ role, alongside Henri Serre of Jules and Jim. On Blu-ray from Radiance.
Barbarella 4K 11/18/23
It says so in the song: when Barbarella and I get together the planets all stand still! Arrow and Paramount bring Roger Vadim’s intergalactic bande-dessinée to 4K, for the enjoyment of Home Theaters equipped for the high-resolution format. Jane Fonda’s fille de l’espace spreads Free Love to the ends of the Galaxy, while thwarting Milo O’Shea’s attempt to conquer the perverse planet ruled by Anita Pallenberg’s leather freak. John Phillip Law is excellent as the blind angel Pygar, and a few more guest stars drift in and out in glorified bits. Arrow’s sumptuous extras focus a Positronic microscope on Vadim’s disrespected yet pretty-darn-influential slice of sexed-up space opera. On Blu-ray from 4K Ultra HD.
Reader John G. responded to the discussion about ‘ZIV TV’ back in the CineSavant review of World of Giants back on November 4.
What he sends is a link to a half-hour 2007 documentary by Stephen X. Sylvester, about famed production designer / art director Robert Kinoshita, the man behind Giant’s giant props but most excitingly, several endearing, enduring movie robots.
Kinoshita is a good interview, open and funny. The talk about ZIV Television arrives at 15:13. Kinoshita mainly says how cheap the company was!
On a page called Bright Wall / Dark Room, an article by Bryan Miller discusses Chicago’s Biograph Theater and its relationship to 80 years’ worth of movies about the outlaw bandit John Dillinger.
Miller pretty much covers them all, ending on the one he thinks is the most creative, the John Sayles-written, Lewis Teague-directed The Lady in Red. It’s a very good read, and a good look at a corner of film history.
The article is John Dillinger Keeps Dying At Chicago’s Biograph Theater.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Terms of Endearment 4K 11/14/23
Everybody likes this picture. James L. Brooks’ major hit movie, adapted from the novel by Larry McMurtry, charts the rocky relationship of a Texan mother and daughter. Audiences loved the clashing personalities and quirky interaction between stars Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger and especially Jack Nicholson as the discipline-problem ex- astronaut next door. Name an award, this show won it; the combination of warm comedy and serious drama took top honors everywhere. The movie’s positive aura persists — it and its writer-director were just covered in the L.A. Times Calendar. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Paramount Presents.
The Great Train Robbery 11/14/23
Adventuresome crime generates high thrills in Michael Crichton’s entertaining heist picture, adapted from his own novel set in 1855. Charming crook Sean Connery, light-fingered ‘screwsman’ Donald Sutherland and saucy Lesley-Anne Down pull off a slick caper in the age of gaslight and Victorian elegance. The lavish production puts Connery through some incredible real-life stunts atop a moving train; the elegant music score is by Jerry Goldsmith. We always loved this one and welcome the opportunity to review the reissue Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
We’ve taken a look at plenty of good Location Comparison photo series, but David J. Schow sends along a link to one of the most precise we’ve seen so far.
Gluecement’s YouTube video Psycho (1960) Filming Locations nails down camera angles exactly, in several cases finding the one element in a cityscape still standing after 63 years. A road has been reconfigured as a freeway, but Gluecement finds a detail in an old fence that shows he’s retracing Alfred Hitchcock’s exact steps.
By the time we get to the Universal Lot, everything is gone — the house was moved and key sound stages were torn down to make room for Universal Tour rides.
And we’re always ready to showcase anything promoting Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. This five-minute YouTube excerpt by ‘Nineteenth Century Videos’ is yet another colorization experiment. I like this one because it slows the frame rate in a pleasing way, and doesn’t go overboard with its colorization scheme.
‘Parufamet’ took over Metropolis and cut it to ribbons, and we are not surprised that one of the first things to go would be the full eroticism of the club dance by the False Maria. This clip uses the restored version of a key scene, which incorporates the full cut and continuity discovered (albeit in poor quality) in Argentina in 2008.
It’s an astonishing piece of Futuristic cinema: the ‘reality’ of Maria’s dance is warped by the sex fixation of the all-male audience. THAT is experienced as the hero’s telepathic hallucination during a stress breakdown, and his ravings are further embellished by an apocalyptic quasi-Biblical prophecy. All three ‘idea threads’ are intercut, fever-dream style.
Most of the world saw the Channing Pollock / Parufamet cutdown version, which reduced this scene to incoherent mush.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
It! The Terror from Beyond Space 11/11/23
Have you heard The Word, NASA? The other name for Mars is Death. The nifty screenplay by Sci-fi scribe Jerome Bixby lends the horror chills a basic logic, when Marshall Thompson & Shawn Smith battle a Martian stowaway on board a homebound spaceship. This Kino disc of the monsterrific ’50s favorite improves the transfer and loads on the extras. Three new commentaries feature Craig Beam, Gary Gerani and Tom Weaver. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.