Hercules in the Haunted World 10/12/19

Kino Classics
Blu-ray

Mario Bava excelled with at least five super sword ‘n’ sandal pictures — shooting two Hercules classics and directing two viking sagas in addition to this eye-popping mix of mythology and horror. Forget warring armies and casts of thousands. Bava places Reg Park, Christopher Lee, and several beautiful Italo actresses within his weird visual world of and hallucinatory imagery: swirling mists, intensely physical actors and retina-burning color. Kino’s disc carries three discrete versions on two discs, and a gotta-hear commentary by Tim Lucas. On your next trip to The Underworld, remember NOT to trust what you see!  Trust instead, uh, trust your … oh, just use the Force! On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
10/12/19

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages 10/12/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Want to get serious about Halloween, like scary serious?  Charlie Largent wades into this mysterious relic, which comes from 1922 but is still up-to-date on the historical and even the psychological aspects of witchcraft. Part slide show and part drama, its depictions of historical witch hunts are accurate and its fantastic images of satanic visions is mind-blowing — uncensored, extreme stuff. Plus, of all things, a wicked Danish sense of humor from writer-director Christensen — who himself appears as Satan, a pot-bellied hairy horror constantly leering and waggling his obscene tongue. If you have any psychic connection with supernatural traditions, this show will be scarier than the 6 O’Clock news. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
10/12/19

Man of a Thousand Faces 10/12/19

Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

Now that we can read the real story of the great silent actor and makeup magician Lon Chaney, the inaccuracies are fairly glaring in this well-received biopic about his career heights and difficult personal life. But it remains a compelling James Cagney movie, allowing the actor to try on different acting styles (and even a dancing style). The dramatic conflicts may be invented, but they’re compelling just the same. The movie works even as it represents Chaney’s original fantastic makeup creations with a series of ever-worsening rubber masks. Excellent supporting performances from Dorothy Malone, Jane Greer and Celia Lovsky. This one carries a good Tim Lucas commentary as well!  On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
10/12/19

The Fearless Vampire Killers 10/08/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Some movies just don’t get the respect they deserve, which cues pushy reviewers to sing their praises. Forget everything you’ve read and give this Roman Polanski picture a chance — it’s the classiest Halloween treat ever, a lavish blend of Hammer horror, slapstick comedy and wistful romance — plus a vampire horde more balefully scary than a carload of zombies. It’s the beloved Sharon Tate’s best picture, and its vampire king is an original apart from Bela Lugosi and Chris Lee’s Draculas — an aristocratic one-percenter on a satanic mission to put all of humanity in a graveyard of the undead. Warners’ Panavision-Metrocolor restoration is drop-dead beautiful. And they’ve even revived Frank Frazetta’s original ‘jolly chase’ poster art. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/08/19

Ida Lupino Filmmaker Collection 10/08/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

More than a movie star: America’s one female Hollywood director working in the 1950s receives a four-title boxed set well worth the investment — one noir mini-masterpiece is accompanied by a pair of independent social issue movies better than what the studios were turning out. It’s all thanks to Lupino’s fine dramatic direction. She emphasizes basic human values: cooperation over competition, and interior conflict. Her company ‘The Filmmakers’ lasted only about six years, but as an independent experiment it consistently turned out ‘special’ pictures anybody could be proud of. The four features included are the ‘social problem’ features Not Wanted and Never Fear with Sally Forrest, the excellent film noir thriller The Hitch-Hiker, and The Bigamist, in which Edmond O’Brien finds himself married to both Ida Lupino and Joan Fontaine. In his dreams!  On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
10/08/19

Holocaust 10/05/19

CBS Television Studio / Paramount
Blu-ray

This four part, eight hour miniseries turns the fate of a family of German Jews into a sprawling drama that covers all the bases of the holocaust horror. It was strong stuff and a big Emmy winner, boosting the careers of James Woods and Michael Moriarty. His warped charisma as a psychotic Nazi is so good that he’s consistently more interesting than the courageous victims. As for Meryl Streep, she became an instant star — everybody remembered her from this. Although it’s been called ‘The Holocaust for Dummies,’ it’s a quality show. Looking from today’s perspective, after forty years of Political Correctness adjustments, I’m not sure any two viewers will react in quite the same way.. On Blu-ray from CBS Television Studio / Paramount.
10/05/19

The Letter 10/05/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

It’s the formidable Bette Davis once again, in yet another superior William Wyler picture. The Somerset Maugham play is a classy vehicle for a star performance — the nagging legal ‘difficulty’ of plantation wife Leslie Crosbie is intertwined with colonial politics but remains entirely personal. Leslie isn’t exactly a poster girl for the feminist movement. Is she the victim of social pressures or just a petty, selfish monster? Screenwriter Howard Koch had to invent a twisted new ‘yellow peril’ finish to appease the Production Code … you know, the Code that some people say made Hollywood movies better.. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/05/19

Sesame Street Fifty Years and Counting 10/01/19

Shout! Factory
DVD

An American institution turns fifty, and the disc release to mark the event is a very long (almost six hours) compendium of uncut historical segments from the show, without overdubs — Disc one features musical highlights and disc two dramatic and comedic highlights. It’s terrific background material, especially the music disc with the favorite characters both human and muppet. Plus some of my nostalgic favorites — it helps if you once had a baby or toddler in your lap, clapping along with you for these things. I can’t think of a better way to honor the show, and am ready for a followup, with more favorite segments. On DVD from Shout! Factory.

My Favorite Year 10/01/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Comedy expert Charlie Largent waxes enthusiastic over this 1980s paean to 1950s live television, and the swashbuckling memory of a certain movie star. Peter O’Toole is the drunken movie actor who has never performed live in front of an audience; Mark Linn-Baker is a writer who reminds us of Mel Brooks and Jessica Harper a production assistant with a big heart. Plus terrific comedy input from Joseph Bologna, Lanie Kazan and Lou Jacobi. Imagine! Excellent, witty quotable movie dialogue from an ’80s comedy. It’s director Richard Benjamin’s finest hour. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/01/19

Whirlpool (1950) 10/01/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

(1950)  Otto Preminger and Gene Tierney’s return to the noir fold plays better now than it once did — the performances are impressive and the villain’s diabolical murder scheme is as good as anything that Fantomas or Moriarty ever came up with. Tierney’s pampered wife is the perfect patsy for a con-man with hypnosis skills — a fraud who decides to cover up an earlier crime by mesmerizing a new victim to frame herself for murder. The focus is on third-billed José Ferrer… who puts an oily menace into his character that few actors could provide. Co-starring Richard Conte and Charles Bickford. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
10/01/19