The Oscar 01/25/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

What an honor it is to host a review of a genuine cinematic monument:  Charlie Largent dares to tell the truth about the movie that both Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick said they’d give anything to have directed. Screenwriter Harlan Ellison digs below Hollywood’s lust and venality to reveal a core of heartwarming humanism. This soaring achievement was the only film to be awarded both the Medal of Freedom and a Nobel Peace Prize. To make room in its storage vaults for priceless The Oscar outtakes, Embassy Pictures tossed worthless cans of negative for Greed and The Magnificent Ambersons into a furnace. And who would ever have guessed that Russell Rouse ghost-directed for the auteur Edward D. Wood, Jr.?  Career-best performances are committed to film by Stephen Boyd, Elke Sommer, Milton Berle, Eleanor Parker and the immortal thespian Jill St. John. The long wait is over — it’s finally available at popular prices. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/25/20

Penelope 01/25/20

The Warner Archive Collection

What can one say about a comedy that just limps along, even when an attractive cast does fine work every step of the way?  Even the bit parts are creatively cast in this odd romp infected with a really bad case of The Cutes. Natalie Wood is at her best, but in service of dumb gags: let’s blow bubble gum bubbles! The result so upset Natalie that she ditched her studio contract. The roster of engaging talent includes Peter Falk (in suave leading man mode!), Dick Shawn (less grating than usual), Lila Kedrova & Lou Jacobi (showing real style), Jonathan Winters (wasted) and, of all people, Ian Bannen as Natalie Wood’s uncomprehending husband. Bannen is so good, he drags a real laugh or two from the material. The show has been beautifully remastered — it’s part one of this week’s accidental tribute to director Arthur Hiller. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/25/20

Tobruk 01/25/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Rock Hudson’s big-explosion war movie applies decent production values and decent direction to a good idea, but substitutes some weak double-crosses for a real screen story. Hudson and his co-producer Gene Corman toss in a fine stack of quality actors… who don’t do much more than dodge tanks, flame throwers, and big explosions. Those explosions look familiar — I’ll bet they were recycled in more than a couple subsequent movies. Aiding and abetting handsome Hudson are George Peppard (manning a Tarantino-issue flamethrower), Nigel Green, and Guy Stockwell, who seems to be in EVERY Universal release around this time. Part two of CineSavant’s unplanned ode to director Arthur Hiller goes out with a bang and a boom. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/25/20

Gregory’s Girl 01/21/20

Film Movement Classics
Blu-ray

From the director of the beloved Local Hero: ‘Pure Simple Joy’ is an apt way to describe this deceptively meek, completely endearing Scottish film with a universal theme about adolescence and the reality of teen love. John Hughes’ teen pix do not hold a candle to the innocent charm found here. The gawky yet boundlessly optimistic Gregory falls head over heels for the teenaged wonder girl of his dreams… his only problem is that she’s light years ahead of him in terms of maturity. But the female social system takes on the problem in what must be the most gentle (make that Utopian) view of high school ever. Writer-director Bill Forsythe struck independent hit gold, through the great performances of Gordon John Sinclair, Dee Hepburn, and Clare Grogan. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
01/21/20

Night Tide 01/21/20

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Experimental filmmaker and writer Curtis Harrington took his first shot at a feature film with this intriguing horror blend of Val Lewton ambiguity and A.I.P. nightmare thrills. Dennis Hopper is the amiable sailor at the sideshow pier who gets literally tangled up with a mermaid performer — who has some secrets he’d rather not know. Linda Lawson and Luana Anders are the romantic alternatives, but we know that sailors never pick the right woman. This two disc special edition loads the show with extras, including an impressive set of restored Harrington short films. And you’ll never think of the Santa Monica Pier’s carousel the same way again. Reviewed by the reportedly experimental Charlie Largent. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
01/21/20

House by the River 01/21/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

One of Fritz Lang’s least-known thrillers has aspects that appealed to him, and he certainly applied his personal viewpoint and visual talent. It’s a period Gothic with women in corsets, about a deranged writer who lets his desires get out of hand. It may be actor Louis Hayward’s best work. Jane Wyatt is the suffering wife, but the real honors go to Dorothy Patrick, in an all-too brief appearance. It’s yet another Lang film about a sex-killer; commentator Alexandra Heller-Nicholas relates the attempted rape to the #metoo movement. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/21/20

Fail Safe 01/18/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

The world trembles on the brink, and liberals are in charge!  The nicest President you ever met gives the Soviet Premier an offer anybody could refuse, while technical glitches, not crazy people or radical politics, are blamed for starting WW3. Sidney Lumet’s taut, scary armageddon-outta-here thriller was weighed in the balance against a certain Stanley Kubrick film and found wanting, but unless you’re a stickler for technical details it really works up a buzz. The cast & crew list is a menu of committed liberal talent. Featuring Henry Fonda, Dan O’Herlihy, Walter Matthau, Frank Overton, Edward Binns, Fritz Weaver, Larry Hagman, Janet Ward and Dom DeLuise. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/18/20

Tunes of Glory 01/18/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Some critics wondered if Alec Guinness and John Mills should have swapped roles for this adaptation of James Kennaway’s incisive novel about popularity vs. discipline in the command structure of a Scots army brigade. Ronald Neame’s direction is exemplary, showcasing the powerhouse performances yet avoiding theatrical flourishes. And the movie introduces Susannah York as well. Criterion’s 4K remaster greatly improves on their older DVD release. Starring Dennis Price, Susannah York, Kay Walsh, John Fraser and Gordon Jackson. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/18/20

The War Lord 01/14/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

One of the more satisfying costume adventures of the ‘sixties is also one of its star’s best vehicles. Charlton Heston was born to play bigger-than-life historical types, and his Norman knight in this film has the benefit of an intelligent screenplay and a terrific supporting ensemble. This hero’s armor doesn’t shine — he’s more than willing to risk everything to possess a pagan woman with whom he’s become infatuated. Many would-be epics want us to think that the charms of unlikely damsels like Virginia Mayo and Claudette Colbert changed the course of history, but this show makes it seem more than possible. Plus, it features great action scenes and a terrific music score by Jerome Moross. With an impressive cast: Richard Boone, Rosemary Forsyth, Maurice Evans, Guy Stockwell, Niall MacGinnis, and James Farentino. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/14/20

Black Angel 01/14/20

Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

This unassuming noir classic can boast a strong creative pedigree and an unusual ending… which I’ll not spoil. Dan Duryea is the confused pianist helping June Vincent clear her husband of a murder charge, by infiltrating the nightclub of suspicious Peter Lorre. The outline sticks close to Cornell Woolrich’s story source, and Roy William Neill contributes a classy job of direction. Also starring Constance Dowling and Broderick Crawford; Alan K. Rode’s commentary is a winner. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
01/14/20

The Titfield Thunderbolt 01/11/20

Film Movement Classics
Blu-ray

Toot Toot!  The Little Engine that Could becomes a tale of the little town that could, when their tiny rail service is discontinued. A crackerjack cast of Ealing regulars — Stanley Holloway, Naunton Wayne, John Gregson — band together to take over the little spur line and keep it running. We get to see a vintage locomotive from the early 1800s in action, but the appeal isn’t limited to lovers of trains — Ealing’s knack for inspired, understated comedy is all over this show. Plus, it’s the company’s first feature in Technicolor, and is beautifully remastered. With George Relph, Godfrey Tearle, Hugh Griffith, Sidney James, and Jack MacGowran. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
01/11/20

Young Winston 01/11/20

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Epics — everybody wants to make them but the studios are naturally wary. Richard Attenborough’s ode to the youthful ambitions of Sir Winston Churchill was a big hit in England but didn’t make a dent here. Although a dead ringer for the young Winston, Simon Ward didn’t take off as a star either, leaving Anne Bancroft and Robert Shaw in a sidebar drama that will mostly be remembered for an STD. Correspondent-soldier Churchill sees action in India, The Sudan and South Africa, thanks to the intervention of his socially adept mother. It’s a beautiful, ‘safe’ production with plenty of national pride. Its American premiere served as the Grand opening screening for the second FILMEX film festival. No shortage of Brit movie stars on view: Jack Hawkins, Patrick Magee, Edward Woodward, John Mills, Pat Heywood, Laurence Naismith, Colin Blakely, Ian Holm, Robert Flemyng, Jane Seymour, Anthony Hopkins, Pippa Steel. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
01/11/20

Cimarron 01/07/20

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Once upon a time, MGM launched a big spectacle Western remake with the top star Glenn Ford and the bright import Maria Schell — and then second-guessed the whole production, cutting back on everything so severely that director Anthony Mann ankled the set for Spain and El Cid. The storytelling is a mess — after starting big, the show soon falls into pieces. But many of individual scenes and set pieces are exemplary, especially Mann’s re-run of the Oklahoma Land Rush, staged in Arizona and augmented by classy special effects. The large cast rounds up some big talent — Mercedes McCambridge, Russ Tamblyn — to tell Edna Ferber’s multi-generational story about ambition, intolerance and dreams of glory on the frontier. With Anne Baxter, Arthur O’Connell, Russ Tamblyn, Mercedes McCambridge, Vic Morrow, Charles McGraw, Harry Morgan, David Opatoshu, Aline MacMahon, and a whole lotta horses. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/07/20

Viy 01/07/20

Severin Films
Blu-ray

Could the Soviets do a horror film?  The answer is a big yes, with an adaptation of the same Nikolai Gogol fable credited with inspiring Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. The bucolic period setting and comic undertones do not prepare the viewer for the maelstrom of supernatural events, aptly described by the disc notes as ‘demonic mayhem.’ It’s too terrifying for one Russian director, so Konstantin Ershov, Georgiy Kropachyov collaborated. The equally frightening CineSavant scribe Charlie Largent pens the review, doing some research to better place it in a cinematic context. Does a movie like this fit into the horror tradition of western Europe, or does it exist in isolation? Some of the creepy-crawly monster things in this show defy description.  On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
01/07/20

The Leech Woman 01/04/20

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Why do we like horror and monster movies that routinely get labeled as ‘bad?’  Because many of them have great story ideas and look at the world from odd, warped viewpoints. Back when ‘warped’ wasn’t a prerequisite for ALL filmed entertainment (my exaggeration) this murderous rejuvenation tale could be appreciated as something unusual, even quirky. Jeez, the characters are even nastier than the people I know!  Lovely Coleen Gray takes a chance on a downmarket Universal programmer and proves how well she can carry a movie, even through several dubious horror make-ups. With Grant Williams, Estelle Hemsley, Gloria Talbott, Phillip Terry, Kim Hamilton, and John Van Dreelen. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
01/04/20

The Slasher – ‘Cosh Boy’ 01/04/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

He’s mean, he’s nasty, he carries a razor and he’s dating your sister!  Cosh Boy was front & center in 1953 debates about ‘what’s wrong with the British cinema.’ It holds up well, if not as PC social comment, then as solid exploitation fare, with our verminous hero putting the moves on tough-but-vulnerable local girl Joan Collins. The entire cast will want to stand in line to get revenge against Roy Walsh, the punk who steals from his own mum and lets his criminal gang do the dirty work. Take it from me, he’s a dirty rat. Directed by Lewis Gilbert; co-starring Hermoine Baddeley and Hermione Gingold, and with a lot of Hammer personnel in the credits. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/04/19