The Day Time Ended 05/28/19

Full Moon Features
Blu-ray

Long AWOL from Home Video — the last time I peeked it was an unwatchable pan-scanned laserdisc — this early Charles Band opus came at a time when the purveyor of third-class horror thrills could command a budget. A rather phenomenal list of ’70s special effects hopefuls collaborated to give the show lasting appeal, mainly by including some stop motion monsters from a parallel dimension. An average American family spends a chaotic night battling bizarre phemoneema… phelomea… stuff that’s leaked into our reality through that nuisance Sci-fi catch-all, a Time-Space Warp. A pair of big name stars twenty years past their sell-by date endure all manner of rubber critters, zipping flying saucers and green-glowing supernatural artifacts! On Blu-ray from Full Moon Features.
05/28/19

Shaft’s Big Score! + Shaft in Africa 05/28/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Separate Blu-ray releases

The two sequels to the monster hit Shaft see the light of Blu-ray, in separate WACreleases. Richard Roundtree is once again a key figure in Blaxploitation action filmmaking. In Shaft’s Big Score! he carries his righteous war against crime directly to the man; in Shaft in AfricaJohn puts paid to a new kind of slavery racket back in the Old Country. CineSavant’s zero-jive disc review is by Trailers From Hell’s main man Charlie Largent, who is indeed rumored to be a sex machine to all the chicks!  Aiding and abetting John Shaft’s mayhem are Moses Gunn, Kathy Imrie, Julius Harris, Rosalind Miles and Joe Santos, plus Frank Finlay, Vonetta McGee, Marne Maitland and Frank McRae. Separate Blu-ray purchases from The Warner Archive Collection.
05/28/19

The Andromeda Strain 05/28/19

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Jumpin’ gingivitis!  Vicious microbes from space threaten the world, and our only hope is a team of straight-arrow scientists in an underground lab in Nevada. But the sneaky germ from the cosmos is a-mutatin’ faster than a jackrabbit, to a form that doesn’t just kill people, but totally consumes our flesh! No, it’s not David Cronenberg or Nigel Kneale, but the ultra-literal director Robert Wise that put this slick, expensive Sci-fi thriller on the screen, from the best-seller by the commercially savvy Michael Crichton. Starring Arthur Hill, David Wayne, James Olson, Kate Reid and Paula Kelly. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
05/28/19

Police Story / Police Story 2 05/25/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

All the world loves Jackie Chan, whose cinematic action pictures bridge the gap between silent-era virtuosity and slick modernity. As light comedy entertainment these first two Police Story smash ‘n’ bash epics of eye-popping jeopardy are suitable as ‘family entertainment’ as well. Jackie is a marvelous hero, while Maggie Cheung is an old fashioned girl who doesn’t mind being threatened, kidnapped and occasionally having her scalp split open. You will believe that men can tumble from high roosts onto concrete, and smash through acres of glass countertops without receiving a scratch necessarily going straight to emergency surgery. Criterion has created beautiful new masters, with original soundtracks and extras to make every foolish Jackie Chan fan try some ridiculously dangerous stunt for themselves! On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
05/25/19

Ring of Bright Water 05/25/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

This favorite animal film takes a half-step sideways out of the cute animal subgenre: the delightful Mij is no super-otter, just an ordinary playful garden-variety otter, as an Otter oughta be. (cough) Champion mellow English couple Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers have put together a film guaranteed to lower your blood pressure. But see it first before deciding it’s for your kids, as reality is not sugarcoated in its uplifting, but certainly not sentimentalized, view of our place in a world that still has some animals left alive. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/25/19

Fantomas Three Film Collection 05/21/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray Collector's Edition

Kino’s Studio Canal deal continues with more rare gems: Charlie Largent reviews a trio of fantastic pulp crime thrillers from the 1960s, that updates Louis Feuillade’s silent classic to the super-spy 1960s. Half- comedy and half- pop madness, these flashy ‘scope and color comic book adventures are graced with the iconic presence of Cocteau’s Jean Marais as the unstoppable criminal genius Fantômas. The pictures are Fantomas, Fantomas Unleashed and Fantomas vs. Scotland Yard; also starring Luis de Funès as Inspector Juve, with Mylène Demongeot and Robert Dalban. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/21/19

Princess Mononoke 05/18/19

Shout Factory
Blu-ray Collector's Edition

The revered Japanese anime fantasy from Hayao Miyazaki and Ghibli Studios returns in an impressive gift box with a hefty book packed with attractive artwork. The fantastic animated tale posits supernatural forest spirits against the depredations of human civilization; demons attack villages, a heroine lives in the forest with a wolf, and it’s not for little kids. The show itself is viewable in its original Japanese with subtitles, or dubbed into English by an all-star voice cast: Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver. On Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.
05/18/19

Stagecoach ’66 05/18/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Twilight Time goes for a Blu-ray upgrade of the western remake with the all-star cast. Forget that there was ever a John Ford or a John Wayne and it’s a perfectly presentable wild west story, but the mileage may vary for classic western fans inclined to make comparisons to the 1939 classic. Top billing goes to an enthusiastic Ann-Margret… but we’re sorry to report that her hip-swinging rock number, ‘Viva Geronimo!’ was cut at the last minute. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
05/18/19

Men Must Fight 05/14/19

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

CineSavant obsesses over yet another obscure bit of cinematic sociology: a glossy pre-Code MGM melodrama about mothers and war, which half-debates issues like pacifism, the losses of world war one, military vigilance, cowardice, chemical WMDs and foolish idealism! But don’t worry, the title statement is the ultimate answer to everything. Oh, it’s also political sci-fi: it takes place in the future year of 1940, when New York City comes under aerial attack, with skyscrapers bombed to bits and poison gas dropped in the streets. No, this is not new, it was released in 1933. Starring Diana Wynyard, Lewis Stone, Robert Young, Phillips Holmes, May Robson and some outrageously good special effects. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
05/14/19

Von Richthofen and Brown 05/14/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Freshly divorced from American-International Pictures, Roger Corman leaps into the filmic mainstream with a fairly large-scale World War One aviation picture. He competes with the big studios but retains his nonconformist atitude: his retelling of the story of the Red Baron fixates on the theme of the death of chivalry in combat. For his star players Corman picks Don Stroud, and John Philip Law, whose on-screen persona is a good fit for one of the first warrior aces of the sky. With Barry Primus, Corin Redgrave, Stephen McHattie, Hurd Hatfield, Ferdy Mayne and Peter Masterson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/14/19

The Landlord 05/11/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

It’s the brightest debut feature of 1970, and perhaps the warmest movie ever about the American race divide. Hal Ashby and Bill Gunn’s work is inspired: rich boy Beau Bridges buys a slum tenement and launches a wonderful ensemble comedy-drama in confrontation with the fantastic quartet of actresses — Lee Grant, Diana Sands, Pearl Bailey and Marki Bey. The humanist picture doesn’t cheat on its subject matter. The cast list contains fresh debuts and and more best-of-career showings: Louis Gossett Jr., Melvin Stewart, Susan Anspach, Robert Klein. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/11/19

The Big Clock 05/11/19

Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

Clever plotting goes into overdrive for this light-comedy proto-paranoid film noir about a magazine publishing empire so organized that it seems a sci-fi invention from the future. Ray Milland’s charismatic fall guy finds himself embroiled in a murder plot filled with false identities, and a manhunt that he must supervise… to catch himself. Maybe Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale watched this from their cribs, and applied its chaotic symmetry to their pretzel-plotted comedies!  Charles Laughton’s performance is priceless, as are the contributions of Maureen O’Sullivan, George Macready, Rita Johnson and the hilarious Elsa Lanchester. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
05/11/19

The House of the Seven Gables 05/11/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

MGM’s biopic about Clark Gable’s raucous childhood went through several title changes including The Seven Little Gables and Snow White and the Seven Gables before settling on The House of the Seven Gables. Wisely, MGM deep-sixed the production altogether when Universal released their adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th century potboiler. It stars a young Vincent Price and George Sanders, but in this outing lovely Margaret Lindsay easily outclasses her cast-mates. PLUS, a link to a TV version of the story with a cast that impressed reviewer Charlie Largent as ‘psychotronic’: Shirley Temple and Jonathan Harris? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/11/19

Robbery 05/07/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Why do crime caper films have so much appeal?  Are we all closet criminals, eager to watch less timid souls risk life and limb to get the big payout and live happily ever after?   Peter Yates’ stylish re-telling of England’s Great Train Robbery makes for an excitingly detailed, nonsense-free heist straight from real life, with a just-the-facts clarity. The show begins with an influential car chase — straight through the heart of London. Starring Stanley Baker, Joanna Pettet, James Booth, Frank Finlay and Barry Foster. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/07/19

The Ghost Lovers 05/07/19

88 Films
Region B Blu-ray

Guest reviewer Lee Broughton returns with an assessment of an obscure period chiller expertly assembled by Shen Hsiang Yu. One of the Shaw Brothers’ early attempts at screen horror, this superior gothic romance with a supernatural twist failed to find an audience upon its initial domestic release — a circumstance that led to the studio changing tack and pursuing a more exploitative line of genre flick. However, 45 years on it plays like the kind of film that jaded and/or discerning genre fans might well take great delight in discovering. On Region B Blu-ray from 88 Films.
05/07/19

No Orchids for Miss Blandish 05/07/19

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

“You crazy rat you croaked him!”  Yes, you’ve probably heard better hardboiled dialogue, but this British imitation of American gangster pictures takes the cake for screwy line deliveries. It’s derived from a book and play that’s already derived from a salacious William Faulkner story. Jack La Rue and Linden Travers try to make a kidnapper-rapist into a sympathetic, romantic figure, with marvelously awkward results. This Brit import comes with significant extras. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
05/07/19

The Mysterious Island 05/04/19

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

1929.  MGM’s gigantic silent sci-fi extravaganza took three years to make, by which time the talkies arrived and everything went to pieces. Lionel Barrymore emotes (EMOTES!) in his early sound footage, and terrific effects take us to the bottom of the ocean where monsters and a race of Donald Duck creatures menace our heroic adventurers. And don’t forget a few sundry other elements: a Russian revolution, torture scenes, and cool steampunk nautical hardware. All this Life Aquatic lacks is Steve Zissou!  On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
05/04/19

The Nightcomers 05/04/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Did you enjoy watching Marlon Brando molest an actress in Last Tango in Paris? Well, he’s up to similar tricks in Michael Winner’s tacky prequel to the classic The Innocents. Don’t expect another masterpiece of subtle, literate horror, as when Brando isn’t using wrestling holds on the helpless Stephanie Beacham, he’s happily clowning and mugging for the camera. Four out of five critics agree that director Winner takes the prize for inappropriate camera placement: he has a knack for finding the worst angle in any given scene!  On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/04/19

Summer Stock 05/04/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

I don’t know if Garland fans still go around chanting ‘Judy Judy Judy’ at her every appearance, but they do have a timeless song ‘n’ dance number to celebrate here. Her last MGM movie is only a so-so vehicle but Gene Kelly and the studio’s top music & dance talent work hard to put it over the top. Garland’s lack of stability is still an issue. For much of the movie she looks visibly overweight, yet in the showstopper ‘Get Happy’ she suddenly slims down to the best — maybe not the healthiest — look of her career. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
05/04/19