Review Page and Column
Stanley Kubrick had a dedicated assistant, and not one who simply held the master’s cinematic paintbrushes, he staffed research, production, post-production and marketing departments all on his own. Tony Zierra’s brisk documentary teaches us much about a genius director, and the assistant that devoted himself entirely to the director’s mission, and the nature of work and ambition. With interview input from Ryan O’Neal, Matthew Modine, and R. Lee Ermey. On DVD from Kino Lorber.
The Shape of Water 08/21/18
Miracle of miracles! Oscar’s Best Picture for last year is a genuine monster movie. Guillermo del Toro’s overachieving Gill Man spectacle features a gratifyingly anti-authoritarian attitude. The emotional love story is as pure as a silent movie — and has the sentimental commitment to pull an audience into its dreamy Fairy Tale horror fantasy. Starring Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg. On UltraHD + Blu-ray from 20th-Fox Home Entertainment.
I’ve found that some readers don’t realize that CineSavant and DVD Savant reviews at Trailers from Hell and elsewhere are loaded with pertinent links, in red. The links go not just to other CineSavant reviews but to all kinds of relevant material. So I reluctantly add this note. It’s part of my effort that I think is most useful.
That having been said, Dick Dinman wrote in to correct/ clarify my review of The Last Hunt. He’ll be doing one of his audio shows on The Last Hunt and Home from the Hill soon, and when it’s ready I’ll link to it. The topic Dick addressed was actress Anne Bancroft’s abrupt exit from the movie, which caused her to be replaced by Debra Paget:
Hi Glenn, Stewart Granger told me all about the Bancroft accident on the The Last Hunt location and half-kiddingly framed it as ‘the biggest break that she ever had.’ Granger was supposed to pick her up from a galloping horse but dropped her. The accident caused Bancroft to be laid up for some time but also enabled her to audition for the stage play of The Miracle Worker which established her Broadway (and eventually film) career. Did you notice that Bancroft could clearly be seen by freeze-framing two shots?
So glad that you finally acknowledge Robert Taylor for the talent he was whenever he had an interesting and offbeat role.
Unfortunately the massive failure of The Last Hunt was the final nail in Taylor’s career. It followed the equally poor reception of Quentin Durward, for a combined loss of more than $4 million. With the exception of a loan-out to Fox for D-Day the Sixth of June — also a flop — never again would Taylor be offered a major film.
Well, now I have to see The Last Hunt again, to find the mystery shots with Anne Bancroft! The image above is actually from Walk the Proud Land, an Audie Murphy western.
UK correspondent Dave Carnegie sends along a YouTube link to the early color film The Open Road, a 1926 travelogue of London. The ten-minute show was filmed by one of the initial creators of motion pictures, Claude Friese-Greene. We have read accounts of his later attempts to create the alternate-frame ‘Friese-Greene Color Process,’ some of which claimed that it never worked. This restoration would seem to prove that it did. The restoration is by the BFI. Thanks Mr. Carnegie!
Also from YouTube, Gary Teetzel sends along, by way of the Classic Horror Film Board, an original audio promo for William Castle’s The Tingler, from way back in 1959. The hokey jingle is augmented with good sound effects and some terrific recitation bites from star Vincent Price, in the same inimitable voice he later brought to Tim Burton’s short subject Vincent and John Landis’ music video Thriller. The promo uses the deeper-than-deep voice of Thurl Ravenscroft. A ‘straight’ version of the song without Price is also online — credited to “The Tinglers.”
Meant to be played endlessly in theater lobbies to hype the coming attraction, the song likely drove more than a few theater ushers totally insane. I almost went nuts back in 1973, listening to an endless loop of the Burt Bacharach soundtrack for the remake of Lost Horizon. I can now recall every gloppy line of lyrics.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Last Hunt 08/18/18
Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger shine in Richard Brooks’ engaging drama about the grim slaughter of the Buffalo — a fairly appalling historical episode. A disclaimer is required to explain why we’re seeing real animals killed on screen… which in this case would seem justified by the film’s ecological theme. Co-starring Lloyd Nolan, Russ Tamblyn, and Debra Paget as, what else, an ‘Indian Girl.’ It’s good just the same. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Top stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lolobrigida earn their keep in Carol Reed’s powerful tale of ambition and excellence performing forty above a circus arena. The best circus movie ever is also among Reed’s most exciting, best directed movies, a solid show all around. Also with Katy Jurado, Thomas Gomez, Sidney James, beautiful Paris locations and the creative cinematography of Robert Krasker. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Criterion’s Blu-ray lineup for November is a winner: Mizoguchi’s tragedy A Story from Chikamatsu, a new 4K transfer of Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot. David Byrne’s terrific True Stories and the long-awaited Blu-ray of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons.
Some Like it Hot will be in its correct 1:85 aspect ratio, which is a good thing. Various online voices would like to impose personal preferences on aspect ratios (even me, sometimes) and it’s good when the documented specifications are followed. Criterion once caved to scattershot aspect ratio demands for its release of Kazan’s On the Waterfront, unnecessarily releasing it in three separate ARs. I’m glad they’re not continuing that practice.
Consumers will be happy to hear that today’s standard for full-coverage film mastering on video is to produce a Full Aperture Transfer (‘FAT’) digital file that records everything on the film, from perf to perf and frame line to frame line. Any desired aspect ratio can be down-converted from that file, and endlessly adjusted if necessary. Even in 1:85, care must be taken to see if the scan is dead center, or if the cameraman raised the top cutoff point higher, to make it easier to hide lights on the set.
Gary Teetzel can’t be stopped: he’s found vintage American Cinematographer articles on favorite fantasy pictures, readable online. From 1960 comes a piece on George Pal’s The Time Machine. The same issue has a profile of Eiji Tsuburaya. Weirdly, the article claims that the Toho monster films start when Tsuburaya dreams up a new creature, hammers out a rough plot, and assigns it to a screenwriter; I wonder if Tomiyuki Tanaka ever read this? From a year later comes a short, not terribly informative article on Gorgo, and Roger Corman is interviewed for his Vincent Price thriller Pit and the Pendulum. They consistently refer to Daniel Haller as ‘Heller.’
Correspondent and friend Marshall Crawford was faster on the scene than I last week, and caught this view of a ‘set’ for Quentin Tarantino’s new movie. It’s a fake copy of the old East wall of Grauman’s Chinese, which was much different in 1969. A door on the forecourt indeed led to a dedicated parking lot — there was no Kodak Theater, and a street (now erased) led North to Franklin Avenue. The parking lot indeed had signage like we see here — maybe that elaborate ‘pagoda’ sign was taken out of storage? The picture cars for the shoot appear to still be in place.
This is course is some other building standing in for Grauman’s, which looked more or less just like this from that angle. Note the price for parking (which I can’t believe was ever that cheap). Just inside the real doors, on a morning in 1972, I filmed Super 8 movies of Ali MacGraw getting her footprints set in concrete, when The Getaway was a hot release. They were good movies, too.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror 08/14/18
This third collection sees Hammer bleeding its brand of filmic horror into the War and the Colonial Adventure genres: The Camp on Blood Island is a lurid exposé of Japanese atrocities, the difficult-to-watch Yesterday’s Enemy peels away the last illusions of honor in combat, The Stranglers of Bombay sensationalizes horrid crimes in India in the 1820s, and The Terror of the Tongs is a grotesque expression of classic Colonial racism. The enticing extras give us the production backstories and fill in the historical context. Starring André Morell, Stanley Baker, Leo McKern, Guy Rolfe, George Pastell, Christopher Lee and Yvette Monlaur. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Memories of Underdevelopment 08/14/18
Memorias de subdesarrollo — Perhaps the top cinematic output of Cuban filmmaking is this investigation of a man that doesn’t embrace the revolution. Wishing to remain apolitical, the handsome Sergio prefers to pursue attractive women, as well as illusions of his own superiority. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s account of life with Castro doesn’t shirk from an honest view of conditions in the embargoed island, between The Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Starring Sergio Corrieri, Daisy Granados and Eslinda Núñez. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Gary Teetzel has unearthed a pair of informative American Cinematographer articles on the making of MGM’s Forbidden Planet, from 1955. According to Teetzel,
“…the weird thing is cameraman George Folsey’s descriptions of the scenes with the Id Monster, where he talks about visualizing the monster’s presences with strange lighting effects. But no strange lighting effects are apparent in the scene where ‘the blasted thing’ sneaks aboard the spaceship. There is, of course, red lighting when we see the Id Monster outlined by the force field and laserfire, but not as the monster approaches as Folsey remembers. He makes no mention of animation being added to the scene, either. Did they perhaps experiment with different lighting effects, and ultimately rejected them? Or is it possible that they made an attempt to never show the monster at all?”
The article is of course interesting, but Folsey should have checked his dictionary. I’m not sure he knew the definition of the word ‘pretentious.’ Part two of the Forbidden Planet article is here. Folsey also says that in 1922 he filmed a movie for Biograph called The Man from Mars, that had Martians with ‘huge heads and gleaming talons.’ Somebody tell Bob Furmanek: it was in 3-D.
The ever-vigilant Gary also tipped CineSavant off to an announced Sony Blu-ray MOD disc release of Ishiro Honda’s Toho Sci-Fi attraction Battle in Outer Space on September 25. All the info I have is that a commentary will be included, perhaps the same one from the DVD release. That leaves us asking, will both the Japanese and American cuts be included? If we’re given the longer Japanese version, will accurate subtitles be provided this time around? It’s mostly rumors we hear so far — someone online has claimed that it will be a pressed disc, not a burned MOD. The link is to the older DVD Savant DVD review.
Blu-rays of colorful Toho science fiction fantasies sound like a good idea to me — expensive Japanese releases normally omit English subtitles. But will we ever see a quality release of their third early outer space film, Gorath? We want the giant walrus, for crying out loud.
I almost missed an occurrence over at Paramount Studios last weekend — apparently Quentin Tarantino turned the outside of what was originally the old RKO building at the corner of Gower and Melrose into a filmic exterior of Columbia Studios, circa 1969, for his new movie about the Manson Killings. My tip came late and I got there just in time before the two posters came down — crews had already removed several others. When the show comes out, I’ll have to see how they cover up other Paramount signage visible in these photos. Those poster panels are BIG — it was pretty impressive.
Various photos have been showing up online from a couple of weeks earlier showing how Tarantino’s art directors redressed of parts of Hollywood Blvd. as well. It’s likely that the Paramount corporate lizards preferred that the ads for a rival studio be removed without delay.
Just arrived in-house are the new Warner Archive discs of The Last Hunt with Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Russ Tamblyn and Debra Paget, and Raoul Walsh’s The Naked and the Dead with Cliff Robertson, Aldo Ray and Raymond Massey. Plus I have a review lined up for Severin’s The Changeling.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Deep Rising 08/10/18
Let’s hear it for ‘undiscriminating’ audiences, the kind that want nothing more in a movie than a hundred minutes of combat action, suspense, scary monsters and gross-out gore. They’ll get their fill in Stephen Sommers’ Cuisinart blending of Titanic, Aliens and Die Hard.It’s quality fast food exploitation; just keep your medicine handy if you’re allergic to brainless cornball dialogue. The cast is certainly good: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O’Connor, Wes Studi and Djimon Hounsou. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Cat O’ Nine Tails 08/10/18
Dario Argento’s second murder whodunnit is less stylized but almost as enjoyable as his first, Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Reporter James Franciscus and blind ex-detective Karl Malden investigate killings at a fancy genetics institute, but everyone they interview turns up dead. Catherine Spaak is among the suspects in a crime spree with nine clues but no easy solution. Turin locations, a glossy widescreen image and Argento’s polished direction are the draw, along with some fine music cues by Ennio Morricone — who in 1971 scored 24 separate features! Also with Horst Frank and Rada Rassimov. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
Friend Phil Hall has a good site up called The Bootleg Files, which reviews hard-to-see or graymarket items, the kind that fall between the cracks. This week he covers a film that was in production when I was at ‘The Cannon Group,’ Menahem Golan’s Mack the Knife. I never got to see a good copy of it either, although in 1989 I hadn’t seen any version of The Threepenny Opera.
Helpful correspondent Rob Gaczol found this odd cue Mothra Metal, that samples the original Yumi & Emi Ito, aka ‘The Peanuts’ from the 1961 film Mothra. The original Yuji Koseki song has been reinterpreted by Isao Bito, with new lyrics. The title is, I guess, ‘Mothra Song the Best.’
On my review of the new Bfi disc of It Happened Here, one listed extra is a book introduction by critic David Robinson. Correspondent Bee Hall couldn’t access it. She wrote the Bfi and found out that it had been left off the disk… but the Bfi responded by putting it online at a custom Special Bfi ‘It Happened Here’ Page. Careful, it’s loaded with spoilers. but Robinson does give an excellent account of the the controversy about Kevin Brownlow’s so-called ‘Nazi picture.’ Many thanks to Ms. Hall.
And contributor-advisor Gary Teetzel once again finds something fun with a 1935 Picture Play magazine article by Helen Louise Walker, Three Live Ghosts. It’s a fluffy tinsel-town overview of the three top actors associated with horror, albeit at a time when the Production Code had curbed most of the desired excesses of the pre-Code horror wave.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
It Happened Here 08/07/18
Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo were teenagers when filming began on this superlative wartime thriller. Taking over eight years to complete, it imagines life in an England occupied by Nazi Germany and run by home-grown English collaborators. The film’s realism outdoes any big-studio picture — the period detail and military hardware are uncannily authentic. It also pushes the limit of the documentary form by using the ugly testimony of real English fascists in a fictional context. Mr. Brownlow opens up his behind-the-scenes film archive for this dual-format release. With Pauline Murray and Sebastian Shaw. On Region A+B Blu-ray from Bfi (UK).
Heaven Can Wait 08/07/18
This may be the year for new cinephile converts to the cult of appreciation for the great Ernst Lubitsch. One of his last pictures but his first in color is this Production Code- defying tale of a serial philanderer and his relationship with the woman of his dreams, his wife. It’s a prime film blanc stylized as a series of birthdays; our hero is judged not by St. Peter but at the gates of Hades, by the Devil himself. The stars are Don Ameche, Gene Tierney, Laird Cregar and Charles Coburn. On Blu-rayfrom The Criterion Collection.
Not a lot of news or fabulous links today. For devotees of Region B releases, the good news from correspondent Louis Irwin today is that a new German Koch Media disc of Gillo Pontecorvo’s Burn! aka ¡Queimada!: Insel Des Shreckens sounds like a good buy. Louis gave me a mini-review:
“This version is 129 minutes and thus 17 minutes longer than the U.S. release (112 minutes), but 3 minutes shorter than the alleged complete version of 132 minutes. It is Region B only. Audio is in Italian (or German if you want), and English subtitles are available. Visually it is pretty good (bitrates over 30Mbps) and is miles ahead of the U.S. DVD. I had the feeling that colors could be improved if they were a bit more saturated.
The extra material I noticed were a series of incidents with José Dolores (Evaristo Márquez) that Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando) takes note of prior to Walker’s brutal incitement of José to provoke him to rebel. In the shorter version, Walker sees José pick up a rock as if he is going to use it to attack a soldier who just kicked him, then there is an immediate cut to Walker’s incitement. The shorter version eliminates all those prior scenes. The first time I saw the film was in Germany, and it was the longer cut, but the way I remembered it there were more scenes after José’s grabbing the rock and Walker’s incitement. I seem to recall that Walker approached José after the rock scene and offered him employment and developed an initial bond prior to his provocation. My memory may be incorrect, but it would perhaps account for those additional 3 minutse. In any case, the additional senes in the Koch version provide a certain buildup that is lacking in the shorter version. All the best to you — Louis Irwin”
I thought the domestic DVD of Burn! looked pretty drab, like a low-grade spaghetti western. As I know the picture has plenty of fans, I thought I’d pass this on. Also, from correspondent Edward Sullivan, this Adam Lippe article on the movie explains a lot of background I didn’t know.
The scary news is a report from correspondent Simon Wells, about the much- touted Christopher Nolan restoration of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’d like to know if other readers have seen the show, and if their prints were different, or better. Here’s Simon’s note — actually, two notes I’ve shuffled together:
“Hi Glenn, Just wondering if you happened to see the recent Nolan de-restoration of 2001 in 70mm in recent months?
I did and was utterly horrified by the general murkiness, blown out white and general sludginess. The colour grade was horrible, the detail pitiful. The scenes inside the space wheel where Floyd talks to Rossiter and the Russians were blown out and looked abysmal. Worse still was the new teal and amber color grade which I am assuming is how the upcoming 4k release will be presented. I dont think I have ever seen it look so bad.
Getting films you never thought you’d see on Blu-ray is great but this kind of vandalism just depresses me no end. I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts. — Simon Wells”
Am I stirring up a non-issue, taking a reader’s evaluation on something I haven’t seen myself? The last time I saw 2001 on a big screen was at the 2012 TCMfest, and the 70mm print looked just fine to me; I’ve never seen a bad print, even in 35mm. I can say that the WB film management and restoration experts are some of the finest in the world, and that their 2003 remastering of Ryan’s Daughter was the most perfect film presentation I’ve ever seen. I’m all for celebrity filmmakers helping promote film restoration, but I’d hardly think that 2001 was being neglected.
I am curious to get more feedback on the 70mm reissue, which I am told is a different animal than the special IMAX reissue coming up shortly. So if you saw 2001 in ‘Nolanvision’ please let me know!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson