In the Heat of the Night 01/29/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Stirling Silliphant and Norman Jewison give Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger two of the best roles of their careers within a — shhh, better whisper — a powerful social statement. Down home racism meets its match in a murder mystery that helped calm the country in an explosive year. Warren Oates, Lee Grant and Larry Gates fellow-travel for this gem as well, and don’t forget the barrier-crossing song by Quincy Jones and Marilyn & Alan Bergman, sung by Ray Charles. Reviewed by Charlie Largent, on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/29/19

Gardens of Stone 01/29/19

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Francis Ford Coppola’s get-out-of-debt directorial assignments of the ‘eighties may not be his most personal movies, but this one is satisfying just the same, with its marvelous, mellow ensemble cast: James Caan, Anjelica Huston, James Earl Jones, D.B. Sweeney, Dean Stockwell, Mary Stuart Masterson, Dick Anthony Williams, Lonette McKee, Sam Bottoms, Elias Koteas, Laurence Fishburne and Casey Siemaszko. It’s a movie to admire, as it’s not easy to attract an audience to a show about the Army’s burial detail. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator UK.
01/29/19

Posse from Hell 01/29/19

Explosive Media GmbH
Region A+B Blu-ray

Wow — a good Audie Murphy movie! The most decorated infantryman of WW2 might not emote professionally, but he did nail down a winning screen persona, and this show gives Audie a solid character to play. Clair Huffaker’s screenplay should take credit, as well as the workmanlike direction of former Wilder and Hitchcock assistant Herbert Coleman. Even John Saxon comes off well, plus the film can boast good work from favorites Zohra Lampert and Vic Morrow, and fine support from Rodolfo Acosta, Royal Dano and Lee Van Cleef. The import disc plays on domestic Blu-ray players. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
01/29/19

Shame (Skammen) 01/26/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

War no longer recognizes ‘innocent bystanders’: a married couple seeks to sidestep ‘civil disturbances’ by relocating to a rural island, only for the war to descend on them from all sides. Forget escapist post-apocalyptic fantasies: Ingmar Bergman demonstrates how the terror of war obliterates human values at the personal level. Human trust and morals fall fast under pressure — atom bombs aren’t needed to return us to the stone age of dog-eat-dog. Bergman stages impressive large-scale ‘action’ scenes, yet always relates the terror without, to psychological traumas within. It’s one of the director’s most affecting films. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/26/19

The Giant Behemoth 01/26/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

“Brace Yourself For A SHOCK!…200 Feet of Living Burning Horror!”  Eugène Lourié’s second feature about an irate sea monster wrecking a city features sober eco-preaching, good performances by Gene Evans and André Morell, and several minutes of exciting stop-motion animation nirvana. One just needs to overlook a few lunkhead effects scenes and concentrate on the key Willis O’Brien / Pete Peterson material. It’s a SHOCK all right — do you prefer to be stepped on like a bug, or fried by a zillion volts of ‘projected radiation?’  On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/26/19

Desert Fury 01/22/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

The murky crimes of sordid characters come to the fore in the wide-open Nevada spaces… producer Hal Wallis’ Technicolor noir concentrates on the possessive and perverse competition for Lizabeth Scott’s luscious blonde — the mother that wants to corral her, the gangster who thinks she’s an escape and the local hunk who wears a badge. Robert Rossen’s edgy screenplay depicts its violent action on a psychological level. Burt Lancaster, Mary Astor, John Hodiak and Wendell Corey co-star in what Eddie Muller calls the gayest noir of them all. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/22/19

The Plague of the Zombies 01/22/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

A budget Hammer programmer becomes one of the studio’s most pleasing horror romps, thanks to Peter Bryan’s crackerjack screenplay, John Gilling’s creative direction and a fine cast — André, Jacqueline Pearce, Michael Ripper — breaking free of a number of Hammer clichés. The pre-Romero premise features an eerie dream sequence, while turning the Zombie theme into a management-labor conflict: those one percenters will stay on top if they have to use black magic. Charlie Largent views this ’60s gem through nostalgia-colored glasses. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
01/22/19

Beat the Devil 01/22/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

The star lineup sparkles in this witty, lighthearted tale of a gang of international schemers and cutthroats trying to — well, what they’re trying to do is all but irrelevant. John Huston throws his picture together like a party, for a droll ‘thriller’ that yields off-kilter comic riches. It’s Bogart, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre and Gina Lollobrigida, plus Jennifer Jones as we’ve not seen her before or since. Truman Capote’s sly, unbeatably hip dialogue — reportedly written on the fly — celebrates the underhanded ambitions of greedy fools everywhere. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/22/19

Satan Never Sleeps 01/19/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Pearl S. Buck and Leo McCarey give it to ya straight: Red China is BAD. This strange mix of Cold War truth-telling and mawkish, ethics-challenged church sentiment may have meant well, but it overstates everything. A top-flight cast works hard to make it compelling: William Holden, France Nuyen and in his last film, Clifton Webb. Wales stands in for Southwest China, with shaky traveling mattes doing the hard work. Also with Martin Benson and Athene Seyler. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/19/19

Screamers 01/19/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Screaming, flying ‘Autonomous Mobile Swords’ have decimated the enemy in a war on a far-off planet, but now the pesky smart weapons are self-evolving into ever more cruel & deadly new iterations. Peter Weller and Jennifer Rubin head a cast of desperate soldiers in this adaptation of an early story by Philip K. Dick — that perhaps addresses an aspect of the arms race? The show remains a cult favorite of fans of violent sci-fi adventures. Disc extras interview the filmmakers on Screamers’ decade-long path to the screen. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
01/19/19

Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 01/15/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Reviewer Charlie Largent proves that he yam what he yam Yis what he Yis with this look at the second generation of the sailor-boy’s adventures, without the brothers Fleischer. The first fourteen color 1940s Popeye cartoons make their Blu-ray debut, including a ‘banned’ color cartoon entitled Pop-Pie a la Mode. Interesting that the ‘Famous Players’ color cartoons would drop all the weird, great Fleischer characters, but add offensive ethnic stereotypes now and then … or is my memory faulty? The set is billed as sourced from 4K scans from the original negatives. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/15/19

The Last Command 01/15/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

The ‘other’ Hollywood studio version of the Alamo story is quite good, with strong production values, exciting stunt battle action and something Republic didn’t manage very often, a solid screenplay. Sterling Hayden is Jim Bowie, this version’s central hero, with great backup from Anna Maria Alberghetti, Ernest Borgnine, J. Carrol Naish, Ben Cooper, Jim Davis, Eduard Franz, Otto Kruger and Slim Pickens. But best of all is that old hay-shaker Arthur Hunnicutt, as the movies’ best and most natural Davy Crockett. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/15/19

Forty Guns 01/15/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Cult favorite Samuel Fuller explodes the mid-range Hollywood oater with elements we can all appreciate: a ritualistic fetishizing of the gunslinger ethos, and a reliance on kinky role reversals and provocative tease dialogue. It’s as radical as a western can be without becoming a satire. Playing it all perfectly crooked-straight is the still- formidable Barbara Stanwyck. Her black-clad ‘woman with a whip’ keeps a full forty gunmen to enforce her will on a one-lady town. Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Gene Barry, Eve Brent. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/15/19

The Wasp Woman 01/12/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Roger and Gene Corman’s first ‘The Filmgroup’ production is a slick little programmer that belies its drive-in monster movie heritage: the trim tale is no minimalist effort, but a well-developed drama sourced in the twin drives to succeed and stay young. This deluxe edition contains both the Theatrical and TV versions, plus a Tom Weaver commentary that tells the incredible true-crime tale of Corman’s impressive leading lady Susan Cabot. The Corman-approved cast of favorites includes Barboura Morris, Michael Mark, Lynn Cartwright, Bruno VeSota, Roy Gordon and Frank Wolff. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
01/12/19

Bent 01/12/19

Film Movement Classics
Blu-ray

Too edgy for the mainstream movie audience, Martin Sherman’s influential play is nevertheless transformed into an admirable, well-crafted show. In Hitler’s Berlin of 1934, being gay means death, or a living death in a ‘protective custody’ camp. Clive Owen, Lothaire Bluteau and Brian Webber find themselves on the way to Dachau, a new Circle of Hell. Yet even in a forced labor camp, the human spirit prevails. The British-made picture features Ian McKellen, Mick Jagger, and several other notable stars in their salad days. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
01/12/19

The Prize 01/12/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Already eclipsed by James Bond and sexier European films, Paul Newman does his best to energize this derivative but lively spy-chase thriller set during Nobel season, in a Stockholm populated by the glamorous Elke Sommer, Diane Baker, Micheline Presle and Jacqueline Beer. Toss several Hitchcock pictures into a blender, and what comes out is reasonably engaging… and more than a little dated. With an enormous cast — Sergio Fantoni, Kevin McCarthy, Leo G. Carroll, Sacha Pitoëff, Virginia Christine, etc.. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/12/19

Willie Dynamite 01/08/19

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Here’s something I never expected to see: I ran to the blaxploitation attraction Willie Dynamite because I like actress Diana Sands, and it’s her last picture in a too-short career. But the main character on view, a gaudy fur-wearing pimp, is played by none other than Roscoe Orman, well known to a couple of generations of kids as none other than ‘Gordon’ in the long-running TV show Sesame Street. It’s like watching MisterRogers play Hannibal Lecter! With Thalmus Rasulala, Joyce Walker, Roger Robinson and Albert Hall. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
01/08/19

Foxfire 01/08/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Jane Russell heats up an Arizona mining town but she’s just trying to help her new husband with his ethnic identity issues, Jeff Chandler. Superb color cinematography (forget the B&W photos here) and beautiful desert locations help, but the real appeal is seeing Russell and gorgeous co-star Mara Corday in all their glory. With Dan Duryea, Barton MacLane, Frieda Inescort and Celia Lovsky. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/08/19

Panique 01/05/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

For directing skill and sensual sophistication this psychologically intense murder tale equals or betters the most sophisticated American noirs. Julien Duvivier gives us Michel Simon as Monsieur Hire, a strange man loathed by his neighbors. Entranced by the woman he spies through his bedroom window, Hire doesn’t realize that she’s helping to frame him for murder, and then set him out like bait for a vengeful mob. The restored French classic is a beauty in every respect; the extras include a highly educational, must-see discussion of movie subtitling, by Bruce Goldstein. With Viviane Romance and Paul Bernard. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/05/19

Symbiotic Earth 01/05/19

Bullfrog Films
DVD

Just when we thought the world was doomed by the rejection of scientific rationalism, this lecture docu about the theories and discoveries of researcher Lynn Margulis gives us hope again. Formerly denounced as a scientific radical, Margulis’ ideas supplant the established ‘Neo-Darwinism’ notion of natural selection through competition, with the idea of cooperation on the level of cells and bacteria. For those of us educated in the old ways it’s a real eye opener; John Feldman’s fine direction makes these important scientific concepts easy to understand. On Blu-ray from Bullfrog Films.
01/05/19

The Black Windmill 01/05/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Secret agent Michael Caine must take on both the kidnappers of his son and his own suspect Army Intelligence colleagues in Don Siegel’s efficiently filmed, curiously tame suspense thriller. Delphine Seyrig is enticing and Donald Pleasance an unlikeable security bureaucrat, while the capable Janet Suzman and John Vernon fill out a top-flight cast that performs well. But the thriller is surprisingly lacking in dramatic impact. Handsomely filmed in England and Paris. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/05/19

CineSavant’s 2018 Favored Disc Roundup 01/01/19

Direct from CineSavant Central
21 picks +

Savant picks The Most Impressive Blu-rays and DVDs of 2018. Yes, pilgrims, yes: it’s the 21 pictures that most ensnared my attention this year, plus a long list of pix that measured up as well. Yes, I’m still swayed by unusual and contrary films, and genre favorites that come back in ever-better presentations. Here’s hoping for a terrific 2019 for one and all. Plus, a selection of personal pictures. Okay, I confess, it’s fun to post the personal pictures.
1/01/19