Hope and Crosby – The Road Pictures 03/30/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby run amuck in four far-flung locales, in four comedy features spread out over six years. And make sure to hook up your Sarong Speakers, because their perennial cohort Dorothy Lamour is along for the ride as well. The observant Charlie Largent takes up one of the crucial questions of our day: are Hope and Crosby funny? Well, the constant in-jokes, personal asides and quips about golf scores and bank accounts approximate humor! I read that the great Woody Allen adores Bob Hope’s style of wisecracking humor, a statement that can’t help but get me in trouble. The titles are Road to… Singapore, Morocco, Zanzibar, and Utopia. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/30/19

Underground (1928) 03/30/19

Kino Lorber - BFI
Blu-ray

It’s expressive silent filmmaking at its best — Anthony Asquith vies with Alfred Hitchcock for direction in silent-era England. Elissa Landi and Brian Aherne meet in the Tube but become entangled in the jealous scheme of the jealous Cyril McLaglen. Restored just a few years back after being unavailable for generations, this is a beauty: the BFI gives it a full orchestral orchestra score, plus a second avant-garde ‘contextual audio’ track. Also starring Norah Baring. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber / BFI.
03/30/19

Impulso 03/30/19

KimStim
DVD

One’s awareness of modern avant-garde flamenco will get a boost from this exciting, impressive documentary about the progressive Spanish bailarina Rocío Molina, a fireball of a dancer whose powerful improvisations get our hearts beating faster. All the earmarks of traditional flamenco are there — grace, style and a fierce independent attitude — in a woman who loves what she does, and is not trying to push an art form to its next level. It’s pretty inspiring, even for an amateur fan like myself. Dance experts note, this is a film review. On DVD from KimStim.
03/30/19

I Wanna Hold Your Hand 03/26/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Manhattan goes nuts as thousands of Beatles fans arrive to celebrate the arrival of the Mop Tops from Liverpool. Experts at wringing manic fun from crazy chaotic farces, Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s first film to hit the screen is still one of their best, due to its brilliant craft and a fresh-faced cast of relative newcomers that deliver old-fashioned enthusiasm and big-time laughs. Not since the Marx Brothers have hotel corridors and backstage shenanigans added up to so much mirth. The image of Beatlemania at full flower is dead-on accurate, and more nostalgic than a bag of Beatle wigs. It’s a cast of just-made-its and enthusiastic newcomers: Nancy Allen, Bobby Di Cicco, Wendie Jo Sperber, Eddie Deezen, Theresa Saldana, Marc McClure, Susan Kendall Newman, Dick Miller, Christian Juttner, Will Jordan and Vito Carenzo. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
03/26/19

The Quiller Memorandum 03/26/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Michael Anderson directs a classy slice of ’60s spy-dom. In West Berlin, George Segal’s Quiller struggles through a near- existential battle with neo-Nazi swine more soulless than his own cold-fish handlers. Harold Pinter supplies the circular dialogue, Alec Guinness the charming insincerity and Max von Sydow a devilish menace. Quiller is mesmerized by the seductive ambiguity of lovely Senta Berger. Does she love Quiller?  Or is love dead in this brave world of deceit and subterfuge?  Also featuring George Sanders, Robert Helpmann, Robert Flemyng and Peter Carsten; on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
03/26/19

The Triple Echo 03/26/19

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

This obscure 1972 thriller features excellent performances by Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed, and is the feature debut of the great director Michael Apted. The wartime homefront drama takes a surprisingly precocious and sensitive view of a bizarre incident that probably happened in real life: a reluctant soldier cross-dresses as a woman to escape his military service. Also starring Brian Deacon; PI’s interview extras this time around are especially entertaining. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
03/26/19

The Body Snatcher 03/23/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

This bona fide classic may be, as Greg Mank says, the best American horror picture of the 1940s. The teaming of Boris Karloff and Henry Daniell is sensational, as a grave-robbing cabman and a brilliant but unscrupulous surgeon in need of cadavers to teach anatomy. Producer Val Lewton gives the players career-best characterizations and dialogue, and director Robert Wise adds tension and chills. Bela Lugosi is in for a memorable supporting part. Icing on the chiller cake is a new 4K scan from the original negative — we can forget the dull and dark prints seen in the past. They showed this in high school as an educational film — we learned not to strangle people, but to ‘Burke’ them!  With Russell Wade and Edith Atwater. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
03/23/19

The Fiancée & The Invisibles 03/23/19

DEFA Film Library, Kino Lorber/Greenwich
DVD

Why do stories about resisting the Nazis seem so important right now?  Here are two discs from different labels, with one subject. Both stories are set in Germany during the war, but the approaches are quite different. A political prisoner struggles to subsist in The Fiancée an East German classic from the part-educational DEFA Film Library. Then the recent The Invisibles from the reunited Germany chronicles the true story of four Jewish Berliners, who went underground and hid right through the war. It’s two views of resistance, from different political perspectives. Separate releases on DVD from DEFA Film Library, Kino Lorber/Greenwich.
03/23/19

The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot 03/19/19

RLJE Films
Blu-ray

The man who did what and then what?  Robert D. Krzykowski’s first feature isn’t a throwaway joke, but an elegantly crafted and designed fantasy grounded in human values. Sam Elliott’s crusty sixty-something secret agent comes out of retirement to save the world again — will the slaying of another bizarre horror lay to rest disturbing memories of a secret WW2 mission?  This thing will be a pleasant discovery for those in pursuit of ‘something completely different.’ The intentionally awkward title is jarring, but it fits because I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. On Blu-ray from RLJE Films.
03/19/19

Cleopatra Jones 03/19/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

The devastatingly gorgeous Tamara Dobson is a highlight of the blaxploitation subgenre, although the emphasis in her starring debut shifts away from innercity vice to bigger-than-life comic book fantasy. Trailers from Hell’s Charlie Largent lays out all the reasons to celebrate this original, before she invaded The Casino of Gold. Co-stars are a gallery of favorites: Bernie Casey, Antonio Fargas, Bill McKinney, Esther Rolle and Shelley Winters enjoying herself mightily as the evil druglord, ‘Mommy.’ On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
03/19/19

The Glass Bottom Boat 03/19/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

It’s wacky, daffy and incredibly square, yet Frank Tashlin’s late career Doris Day romp has a certain gotta-watch interest factor: the male cast of clowns performs the sexist comedy well, and Ms. Day’s unbeatable screen personality brightens everything. Space-age executive lothario/sexist Rod Taylor hires Doris just for romantic purposes, while Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver, Dom DeLuise, Edward Andrews, Paul Lynde and Dick Martin execute dated slapstick amid ‘futuristic’ gadgets from the days of Buck Rogers. I suspect that Tashlin was prevented from employing his subversive brand of surreal excess — the gags are all quite literal. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
03/19/19

Wanda 03/16/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

The work of a great, original, natural filmmaker, Wanda continues to confound viewers that don’t recognize honest human reality when they see it. A woman dispossessed, uprooted and adrift no longer has a self-definition, just a basic drive to subsist and find someone who values her. Morals? It’s hard enough just to survive. Director-actress Barbara Loden isn’t Wanda, yet she is — her film erases the distinctions between movies, theater and reality, something John Cassavetes never quite accomplished. Co-starring Michael Higgins. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
03/16/19

The Deadly Mantis 03/16/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

It’s big, it buzzes, and it screams like a banshee. So why is the Mantis monster so ho-hum? Universal-International tries to squeak out another boffo big bug epic, but 1957 screens were already crowded with grasshoppers and scorpions — and the screenplay is derivative — and somebody allowed producer William Alland to throw in every stock shot that wasn’t nailed down. Craig Stevens, William Hopper and Alix Talton wait 78 minutes to finally get a photo op with the insectoid monster. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
03/16/19

Detour 03/12/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

This is a big one, the restoration we long thought would never come. CineSavant tries to explain what makes Edgar G. Ulmer’s masterpiece uniquely memorable, how it works its Loser Noir magic, and why this particular restoration bodes well for a certain class of picture mired in murky rights issues. Meet Al Roberts, a hard luck case happy to bend your ear for an hour, explaining how Fate has Done Him Wrong. This PRC gem transcends Noir pessimism, because a sensible read forces us to conclude that Al is his own worst enemy, a self-made misery man. This hitch-hiking epic carries an extra added jolt: Ann Savage delivers what has to be the boldest, most caustic hell-to-pay performance of ‘forties Hollywood. Plus a supporting cast that … well, there really isn’t a supporting cast. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
03/12/19

The Tarnished Angels 03/12/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Douglas Sirk took our heads off with this intense, thematically adult tale of love and obsession in a Depression-Era flying circus that’s the open air equivalent of the marathon dance craze — pilots die to thrill the crowd. The terrific-looking show provides career near-best roles for some deserving actors: Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Jack Carson and Robert Middleton … but the newly-minted star Rock Hudson seems miscast. Taken from a novel by William Faulkner, this impressive B&W + CinemaScope film is the one Douglas Sirk decided was his favorite. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/12/19

The 50 Foot Art Of Reynold Brown 03/12/19

The Illustrated Press
Full color Art Book

For two decades poster artist Reynold Brown defined the moviegoing experience as much as the movies themselves, creating One-Sheet masterpieces for Universal, American-International and special projects for other studios including Walt Disney. The Illustrated Press, an offshoot of Illustration Magazine, published Reynold Brown: A Life in Pictures in 2009 and followed up in 2017 with an expanded edition adding eighty new pages of art to an already voluminous project. Charlie Largent offers an illustrated look at both the book and its subject. A Book Review from Charlie Largent.
03/12/19

Jivaro 03/09/19

KL Studio Classics
3-D Blu-ray

Verily, Blu-ray 3-D is better than most theatrical 3-D!  Paramount’s fourth and last 3-D production went out to theaters only in 2-D, so for all practical terms this Kino/3D Archive restoration is a depth-format premiere. Expect a kissing scene or two: lusty Fernando (¿Quién es más macho?) Lamas and demure Rhonda Fleming succumb to the sweaty allure of the tropics. He pushes the sex appeal more than she does!  Together they take a 3-D trek to where the headhunters roam, into a jungle to secure a golden treasure. With Brian Keith, Lon Chaney Jr., Richard Denning, Rita Moreno, and Marvin Miller. On 3-D Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
02/09/19

Psyche 59 03/09/19

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Director Alexander Singer helped produce Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing and directed A Cold Wind in August; this show is a stab at artful psychodrama before Singer’s career turned to more conventional fare. The complex story examines blindness, infidelity, and the dark secret of a forbidden underage affair. It also hints at Greek Tragedy: the straying husband counts on his blind wife staying blind. The cast is All-Star: Curd Jürgens, Patricia Neal, Samantha Eggar, Ian Bannen. CineSavant’s reviewer is Charlie Largent. Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
02/09/19

The Return of the Vampire 03/09/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

CineSavant contributor and advisor Gary Teetzel revisits a film he reviewed for us seventeen years ago. Instead of continuing to play his greatest role for Universal, Bela Lugosi ‘returns’ as a generic vampire in a very Dracula-like tale for Columbia. He’s still the best fiend for the role. The show introduces a novel demise for Lugosi’s creature of the undead, plus a furry-faced werewolf to compete with Universal’s Wolf Man… a werewolf that talks. With Frieda Inescort, Nina Foch, and woofy Matt Willis. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
02/09/19

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? 03/09/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

With his exaggerated visuals, eye-popping color and frantic characterizations, Frank Tashlin has been promoted to a genuine ‘fifties icon. This freewheeling comedy hits on the Top Tashlin fetish subjects: Hollywood glitz, Madison Avenue neurosis, dynamic women, wimpy men and… and… bosoms, dammit. As the bubbly yet calculating sex symbol Rita Marlowe, Jayne Mansfield places career issues way ahead of anything to do with sex. Tony Randall receives his first leading film role as a Mad Man who’ll jump through hoops to keep an account. But the surprise is Betsy Drake, who more than anyone represents the conflicts facing the pre-feminist ’50s woman: she defines success her own way. With Joan Blondell, John Williams, and Henry Jones. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
02/09/19

Der Hund von Baskerville 03/05/19

Flicker Alley

Sherlock Holmes fans have another good version of a favorite Holmes tale to savor, a late German silent film in full expressionist mode, set in an impressively moody English moor. One can see the influence of silent action serials and then-recent haunted house horror hits. And it is said that this is the first picture that presents Holmes and Watson as a fraternal ‘buddy’ team. A major reconstruction of a film once thought lost; presented with informative extras and (on the Blu-ray) a second encoding of a much earlier film version. On Blu-ray from Flicker Alley.
02/05/19

The Doctor 03/05/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

William Hurt, Christine Lahti and Elizabeth Perkins do excellent work in this superior drama which delivers an important, unforced life lesson. An emotionless hotshot surgeon gets a dose of his own medicine when he’s hit by a cancerous tumor, and is put through the same wringer that so humiliates his patients. What might be a cynical critique becomes a curiously uplifting drama about the need to include some humanity in one’s profession. Asserting the importance of kindness and empathy to people in need, director Randa Haines’ show is more uplifting than a faith-based film. With Mandy Patinkin, Adam Arkin, and Wendy Crewson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
02/05/1

Phantom Lady 03/05/19

Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

Robert Siodmak’s first film noir is a visually expressive masterpiece in the lush romantic tradition that imposes a dreamlike mood on a nightmarish story. Ella Raines goes to extreme lengths to break the conspiracy that’s sending her boss to Death Row, aided by the Kafka-like indifference of modern Manhattanites. Franchot Tone is the man with the weird hands, but Woody Bredell’s chiaroscuro cinematography is what puts this proto-feminist tale in the top tier. Co-starring Alan Curtis, Thomas Gomez, Elisha Cook Jr., Aurora Miranda and Fay Helm. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
02/05//19

The Admirable Crichton 03/02/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

The oft-staged satire of class differences, sort of a genteel precursor to Joseph Losey’s The Servant, maroons a millionaire and his three daughters on a tropical island. Naturally the unfazed butler (Kenneth More) not only takes charge of their survival, but sets himself up as the new boss. The charming comedy features many beloved faces: Diane Cilento, Sally Ann Howes, Martita Hunt, Jack Watling, Cecil Parker, Miles Malleson and Eddie Byrne. Plus, it’s directed by Lewis Gilbert and shot by Wilkie Cooper, in Technicolor. And the CineSavant review is by Charlie Largent. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
03/02/19

The Mark of Zorro 03/02/19

Explosive Media GmbH
Region A+B Blu-ray

(Im Zeichen des Zorro)   Hollywood classics don’t have to be stuffy — this 1940 swashbuckling adventure has style, great action, laughs and one of the most attractive screen couples of their day, Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell. And that’s not mentioning a superb fencing match, a great, quaint Spanish dance, and a smart cast directed by Rouben Mamoulian at his best. This German import is fully compatible with U.S. players, and carries an extra colorized version. Co-starring Basil Rathbone, Gale Sondergaard, Eugene Pallette, J. Edward Bromberg, Montagu Love. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
03/02/19

The Third Secret 03/02/19

Powerhouse Indicator
Region B Blu-ray

This moody, unsettling whodunnit benefits from sensitive cinematography, fine direction and a perfectly-cast group of players. Stephen Boyd gets a worthwhile starring role, backed by some good names and a nice debut from Judi Dench. What I don’t understand is why Pamela Franklin, possibly the most talented and versatile young English player ever, didn’t become a major star. She’s more than half the picture here. Co-starring Diane Cilento, Richard Attenborough, Jack Hawkins, Freda Jackson, Nigel Davenport and, in her first film, Judi Dench. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
03/02/19