Wagon Master 08/31/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

John Ford’s favorite western of his own work is a curiously gentle, endearingly simple hark-back to the verities of silent filmmaking. Mormons crossing the desert are encumbered by show people and beset by a nasty outlaw family — but don’t worry ’cause the Sons of the Pioneers will still be singing backup for ‘The Chuckawalla Swing.’ Ford rodeo discovery Ben Johnson returns with Harry Carey Jr. and every other Ford stock player not nailed down, and the marvelously direct cinematography is keyed to Ford’s idealized vision of life on the frontier. Joanne Dru, Ward Bond and Charles Kemper round out the ‘refugee caravan.’ On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
08/31/19

A High Wind in Jamaica 08/31/19

Explosive Media GmbH
Region B Blu-ray

Alexander Mackendrick’s exhilarating pirate adventure mixes accurate history with a fine story of innocence corrupting the corrupt: Anthony Quinn’s pirate goes soft for a 12 year-old girl, and jeopardizes his highly insecure professional standing. James Coburn is superb as the first mate trying to keep the skullduggery on course with a passel of interfering kids on board. And young Deborah Baxter offers an un-sentimentalized portrait of the ordinary magic of childhood. No Summer Magic this! A Region-Free German disc, with Lila Kedrova, Nigel Davenport and Gert Fröbe. On Region B Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
08/31/19

The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice 08/27/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

There’s nothing like the term ‘Transcendental Style’ to intimidate a filmgoer, but have no fear: Yasujiro Ozu’s tale of a domestic trial is as accessible as I Love Lucy… only more substantial. The transcendental effect is being drawn into Ozu’s minimalist, precisely simplified and mysteriously profound directing style. Ten minutes in you wonder what the big deal is, but not much later one is hanging onto every cut, absorbed by tiny gestures and facial expressions. And yet it all seems natural. The Ozu ‘stasis’ some people mention is not at all static, but an X-Ray into everyday dramatic realities. With an entire second feature by Ozu, What Did the Lady Forget? On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
08/27/19

Man Without a Star 08/27/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Rip-snortin’ Kirk Douglas has this THING about barbed wire, I tell ya … and he’s willing to shoot it out with anyone who’s on the side of the nasty stuff. But there’s plenty of violence to be dished out in King Vidor’s excellent, colorful western adventure, with an exemplary cast: Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor, Richard Boone, William Campbell, and even (sigh) Mara Corday. First time on U.S. Blu; commentary by Toby Roan. Reviewed by rootin’ tootin’ buckaroo Charlie Largent. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
08/27/19

The Witches 08/24/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

(1990).  Roald Dahl’s marvelous horror thriller for children (the ones ready for it) knows exactly what it is and doesn’t soft-pedal the scary stuff. Horrible (but sexy) witches plot the wholesale destruction of Hansels and Gretels everywhere, and the only kid that can stop them has been changed into a mouse. Nicolas Roeg runs wild with Dahl’s imaginative, refreshingly un-PC book; the usual softening touches are skipped in favor of unadulterated scarifying FUN. It couldn’t be better directed; it’s a fine fit among Roeg’s other outrageous fantasies. Star Anjelica Huston is an amazing Grand High Witch, with Mai Zetterling, Anne Lambton and Jane Horrocks providing able witchy support. Recommended! On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
08/24/19

The Man in the White Suit 08/24/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

File this great comedy under social science fiction, subheading ‘H’ for hilarious. Alec Guinness’s comic boffin hero is both a bringer of miracles and one of the most dangerous men alive. The story of Sidney Stratton, brilliant chemist and inadvertent industrial terrorist, is a consistent laugh riot. Call the jokes droll, understated, dry, and reserved, but they certainly aren’t stupid — Ealing’s high-class comedy is slapstick heaven, yet hides a lesson about modern economics that most people still haven’t learned. Alec Guinness receives top marks as the Quixotic ‘boffin’ whose miraculous textile advance threatens civilization, by interrupting the process of supply and demand. Purr-fect- voiced Joan Greenwood is the Dulcinea that believes in his world-shaking genius. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
08/24/19

Day of the Outlaw 08/20/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

How does Hollywood sell a gritty, realistic western?  With a sexy shot of star Tina Louise!  Viewers will be surprised: this fine western is a showcase for the elemental ruthlessness we associate with director André de Toth — its convincing snowbound setting is so intense, we can almost feel the cold. Slick writer Philip Yordan sets up an impossible conflict as a blizzard moves in on a tiny town… Robert Ryan must sort out his feelings for the town beauty Tina Louise, as he negotiates with the he-boss of the killer crooks, Burl Ives. It looks as if Ryan has no choice but to volunteer for a suicide journey — but nature has the last word. Also featuring Venetia Stevenson, David Nelson, Nehemiah Persoff, Jack Lambert, and Lance Fuller, everyone’s favorite Metalunan, Brack. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
08/20/19

Wild in the Country 08/20/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Elvis fans laud this high-end drama, and attempt by the superstar to lock into a mainstream acting career. Presley has fine dramatic support, especially from his three leading ladies, but the requirement that an Elvis movie be all things to all people — especially marketers — really takes its toll. It’s a soap where almost nothing is believable, except to true believers for whom Presley can do no wrong. With Rafer Johnson, John Ireland, and Gary Lockwood. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
08/20/19

Seven Chances & Battling Butler 08/20/19

Cohen Film Group
Blu-ray

 The Buster Keaton Collection Vol. 3.   In his day Buster Keaton’s popularity trailed that of Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, but now those reputations have switched around. These two ‘lesser’ Keaton features generate more sheer fun than anything going. In Seven Chances Buster is pursued by a thousand brides, and in Battling Butler he’s a rich fool who enters the ring out of pride and love. They’re great on remastered Blu-ray — better materials, no missing frames — but do yourself a favor and find a way to see a Keaton picture with a big audience! On Blu-ray from The Cohen Group.
08/20/19

Jonny Quest: The Complete Original Series 08/17/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

1964 brought to a legion of young adventure fans one of Hanna-Barbera’s most memorable cartoon series. It was short-lived but cast a long shadow, and was the closet thing to ‘real’ as TV animation got at that point in time. Jonny tags along on the fantastic government assignments of his father Dr. Benton Quest, aided by the dauntless action man ‘Race’ Bannon, Johnny’s Indian pal Hadji, and the family’s bulldog Bandit, who was in for Ivan Tors-like sidebar humor. All twenty-six action-packed episodes receive star treatment with this splendiferous new release, reviewed by Trailers from Hell’s Charlie Largent. Now maybe I can finally see the episode with the spider-walking eyeball. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
08/17/19

An Angel at My Table 08/17/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Here’s the story of a woman who overcame adversity — not the dramatic, historical kind, but the sort of mundane discriminatory issues that come along with being ‘different.’ Director Jane Campion’s biographical drama about the unsteady life and amusing triumphs of New Zealand author Janet Frame was adapted from a TV miniseries. Poor, isolated and socially excluded, Frame jumps from one unfortunate problem to the next, but is repeatedly rescued by her own talent… at one point a writing award saves her from being lobotomized. Criterion’s extras include a candid audio interview with the author herself. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
08/17/19

Moonfleet 08/17/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

It’s Fritz Lang versus CinemaScope, for the first and last time. The format suited to snakes and funerals effectively hamstrings the great filmmaker’s expressive camera direction, yet the movie is one of the best of MGM’s last-gasp ’50s costume dramas. Corrupt smuggler Stewart Granger is redeemed by the faith of a young boy who believes in him; in this story the words “He’s my friend” take on a big significance. Come see director Lang struggle to adapt the wide-wide screen to accommodate his brand of real cinema. With Jon Whiteley, Joan Greenwood, George Sanders, and Viveca Lindfors. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
08/17/19

4D Man 08/13/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

An old monster formula props up this fantastic film, but at its heart is a brilliant central idea that excites the imagination. Jack H. Harris’s sophomore picture after The Blob is on the awkward side, but the good stuff is much better than we expect it to be. Ambitious performances by Robert Lansing, Lee Meriwether and James Congdon come through with something unique, with graces we just don’t find in independent Sci-Fi from the late 1950s. And the new Blu-ray rejuvenates the film’s special effects — all it took was a good 4K restoration. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
08/13/19

Alice, Sweet Alice 08/13/19

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

This unique proto-slasher is not a rip-off of The Exorcist and for my taste is more meaningful, despite associating innocent children with horrible killings and religious repression. Director Alfred Sole uses these edgy elements to whip up an involving mystery, and a committed cast lifts it high above the exploitation gutter: Linda Miller, Paula Sheppard, Mildred Clinton, Niles McMaster, Brooke Shields. Great extras, especially a commentary by Richard Harland Smith.. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
08/13/19

A Foreign Affair 08/10/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

If you like Billy Wilder but haven’t seen everything he’s done, this is the film for you, a sparkling but typically sharp-tongued comedy-drama set in the last place expected in 1948 — bombed-out Berlin, rumored to be awash in corruption. Jean Arthur is the Iowa congresswoman out to clean up the town, and Marlene Dietrich a war survivor with a highly suspect past. Underrated John Lund is the Romeo with Captain’s stripes, brushing up on his (click) umlaut. And Millard Mitchell, of all people, steals the movie. Great cabaret songs by Friedrich Hollander, and an A-class commentary by Joseph McBride. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
08/10/19

The Last American Hero 08/10/19

Explosive Media GmbH
Region B Blu-ray

All-American race car mania is alive and well in this excellent Jeff Bridges movie, a true biographical story researched by Tom Wolfe. Junior Johnson needs a future beyond running moonshine for his father, and finds it climbing the rungs of success in the stock car racing game. This may be the most satisfying saga of its kind, and it helped prove that Bridges was a genuine star. Co-starring Valerie Perrine, Geraldine Fitzgerald, & Gary Busey; from articles written by Tom Wolfe. On Region B Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
08/10/1

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula 08/10/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent takes on one of the last films of William Beaudine, a director that cranked ’em out in the good old days — this western-horror pastiche was likely filmed on the kind of movie ranch that the Manson clan would inhabit a year or two later. John Carradine called this his worst movie, but a couple of later efforts he hadn’t yet made might better fit the bill. Charlie’s coverage is a wonder — he stretches to find good things to say about B the K vs D, but the best he can do is to compliment the outstanding transfer. Special guest actress apparently present just for the Hell of it: lovely, much-missed Virginia Christine. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
08/10/19

Quatermass 2 08/06/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

What ought to be appreciated as one of the most prescient of 1950s suspense films holds a place among the best science fiction movies ever — and it formed a style template for a thousand paranoid spy thrillers to follow. Val Guest pares Nigel Kneale’s fantastic storyline down to its essentials, making his scientist-hero the perfect secret agent to confront a sinister techno-political conspiracy… from outer space. Brian Donlevy bulldozes and Hammershis way through red tape and confronts the aliens in their foothold base, aided by John Longdon, Sidney James, Bryan Forbes, William Franklyn, Vera Day, Charles Lloyd Pack, Tom Chatto, John Van Eyssen, Percy Herbert and Michael Ripper. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
08/06/19

Behold a Pale Horse 08/06/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Here’s a suspenseful, quality thriller with fine characterizations, set in a grim but meaningful place — Fascist Spain in the late 1950s, when Franco’s police still hold the country in a tight grip. The very modern story (by Emeric Pressburger) is also timeless: the old lost-cause warrior takes on one last mission into enemy territory. Gregory Peck (he’s good) is the legendary raider on a mission to kill an old enemy, Anthony Quinn. A beautiful B&W production, co-starring Omar Sharif, Raymond Pellegrin, Paolo Stoppa, Mildred Dunnock, Daniela Rocca and Christian Marquand. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
08/06/19

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne 08/03/19

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Someone save Judith Hearne, for she can’t save herself. Jack Clayton’s film of Brian Moore’s novel has stunning performances by Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins — but whew, for many of us its social cruelties will feel like traumatic emotional abuse. Not enough nasty people and clueless victims in your life? … this show will give you your fill. It all feels true to life, however. With Wendy Hiller, Marie Kean, Ian McNeice and Prunella Scales; filmed in Dublin. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
08/03/19

Lust for a Vampire 08/03/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Courageous disc boutique Scream Factory takes on one of Hammer’s biggest embarrassments, that almost everyone connected to it would like to disown. I bailed from my first viewing around 1990 … yet this time around found it somewhat better than I expected. The girlie-show nudity is treated as a special effect, and the story at least hangs together. And like every Hammer horror, there’s a sizable, vocal cheering section out there that sings its praises. Yutte Stensgaard is the mortiferous Mircalla, with Suzanna Leigh, Barbara Jefford, Ralph Bates, Michael Johnson, Mike Raven and Pippa Steel in support. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
08/03/19