Merrily We Go to Hell 06/15/21

The Criterion Collection
B

Marriage, social pressure, professional disappointment — and if you want to be really unhappy, add alcohol to that mix. Fredric March and Sylvia Sidney are convincing sophisticates but also vulnerable people negotiating fragile lives. What can be done when one’s mate is dissolving in booze and drawn to the arms of another?  Dorothy Arzner’s best picture shows us a woman who won’t give up on her marriage, for the right reasons. It’s a serious and adult pre-Code drama, the kind that sounds more salacious than it is. Sylvia Sydney crafts a portrait of a fine woman under pressure, who maintains her dignity even in an attempt at an ‘open marriage.’ The unusual title is a light-hearted toast reflecting inner despair. The disc comes with excellent extras on director Dorothy Arzner. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
06/15/21

Larceny 06/15/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

It happens every time: all we want to do is cruelly betray somebody, but LOVE keeps getting in the way. When evil Dan Duryea sics con-man louse John Payne on the saintly war widow Joan Caulfield, three other women come tagging along as well, ’cause Payne is just too attractive. The swindle in George Sherman’s unsure noir gets uglier and then loses its way in the third act, with clunker dialogue and a climax that dissolves when it should resolve. Look out for super femme input from Shelley Winters, Dorothy Hart and Patricia Alphin. It’s an early featured role for Winters, and she doesn’t hold back. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
06/15/21

The Face Behind the Mask 06/12/21

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray (compatible with Region A)

Is this a horror classic?  I’d certainly says yes, just for the shrewd, sympathetic performance of Peter Lorre as an unlucky immigrant whose disfigurement in a fire turns him to life of crime and vengeance. An impossibly young Evelyn Keyes shines as a Chaplin-like blind girl, but the performances and Robert Florey’s good direction keep the tone from going soft. And the chilling ending is as bleak as they come. Whatever you may do, my recommendation is to NOT double-cross Peter Lorre. The disc producers give experts Alan K. Rode and Kim Newman the podium, and they respond with three full extras on this highly unusual, seldom-seen gem of a horror film. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
06/12/21

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 4K 06/12/21

KL Studio Classics
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

It’s still one of the most popular movies ever, and fans are proving that by shelling out for an umpteenth home video release, this time on the 4K Ultra HD format. Everybody knows exactly what to expect from Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, but what about the transfer quality and encoding — Sergio Leone’s film was originally shot in the half-frame Techniscope format, which is on the low-res side to scan in 4K. Kino adds a Blu-ray disc and a mountain of accumulated extras from earlier editions. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
06/12/21

Hammer Volume Six Night Shadows 06/08/21

Powerhouse Indicator
Region B Blu-ray

PI’s never-ending series of Hammer attractions now turns to the Universal-held part of the Hammer heritage, with The Shadow of the Cat (it has Barbara Shelley and is said to technically be a Hammer picture), Captain Clegg (known as ‘Night Creatures’ here, and it has Peter Cushing), The Phantom of the Opera (Terence Fisher’s romantic horror with Herbert Lom and Heather Sears), and the Jimmy Sangster/Freddie Francis psycho-thriller known as Nightmare. Expert input comes from a sinister crowd: Bolton, Botting, Haberman, Hallenbeck, Huckvale, Kinsey, Klemensen, Joyner, Nasr, Newman, Thompson — and the much-loved Barbara Shelley herself. Be careful of those people. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicat

The President’s Analyst 06/08/21

Viavision [Imprint] (compatible with Region A)
Blu-ray

Here’s a GREAT picture whose time has come — Theodore J. Flicker’s spy spoof is one of the smartest & funniest political satires ever, and probably James Coburn’s finest hour as an actor-producer. A high-class shrink knows too many Presidential secrets, making him an international espionage target in a giddy spy chase. Everything leads to an absurd-sounding Sci-fi conspiracy that’s quickly becoming a reality. Coburn’s hipster cred holds up well, abetted by terrific improv talent: Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden, Joan Delaney, Pat Harrington, Joan Darling, and Arte Johnson; also with great input from Barry McGuire, Jill Banner, Eduard Franz, Walter Burke, Will Geer and William Daniels. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
06/08/21

Explorers 06/05/21

Theatrical and Home Video Cut
Blu-ray

One of Joe Dante’s finest pictures speaks heart-to-heart to gee-whiz space fans — transporting us from our backyard to the far reaches of the galaxy. With a boost from aliens unknown, Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix and Jason Presson are the intrepid space cadets that construct a fantastic vehicle from mysterious dream-signals, no Interociter required. Their dreams hint at the secret desires in their adolescent imaginations, even without an it’s-all-a-dream sandpit. They dare fly where no man has flown before, a genuine escape from the petty pressures of Junior High. New and old input on the Blu-ray finally tells the full story of the making of an underrated wonder movie. On Blu-ray.
06/05/21

Scarface (1932) 06/05/21

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray

Still the fiercest and most cinematic of the first wave of gangster classics, Howards Hughes and Hawks’s pre-Code rule-breaker was the one that brought down the ban on ‘glamorous’ gangster movies. In this case classic hardly means dated: the cars and clothes are vintage but the sex and violence are sizzling hot. Paul Muni is the primitive killer who falls in love with submachine guns and George Raft is his loyal trigger man. Karen Morley and especially Ann Dvorak are indeed the hottest pre-Code seducers in film. Plus, Boris Karloff contributes a mobster snarl as a lightly-disguised Bugs Moran. It’s a bullet-ridden city, that’s for sure, and the filmmakers frequently use expressionist effects: like X Marks The Spot!  On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
06/05/21

The Yearling 06/01/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent tackles a childhood favorite: MGM went all-out with Technicolor to film Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ tale of subsistence farming on the edge of the Everglades, earning high praise for artistry all around. It still holds up rather well, with fine work from Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman and Claude Jarman Jr. Some grim details from the novel were retained, along with a heartbreaking look at the reality of trying to carve out a living in a harsh environment. The poetic ‘musical’ scenes hit hard as well — both youthful illusions and adult strength are fleeting. The color restoration is breathtaking. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
06/01/21

To New Shores & La Habanera 06/01/21

Kino Classics
Blu-ray

The Douglas Sirk Collection. Douglas Sirk proves his mettle as a consummate romantic storyteller in these part-musical melodramas from the peak of his career in Germany. They cemented stardom for Zarah Leander, a beauty who could have been an international success had the timing and politics been different. Both pictures send their heroines on far-flung adventures. In To New Shores Leander’s seductive music hall chanteuse is a victim of love, banished to a prison in Australia; in La Habanera she’s the wife of an all-powerful Caribbean landowner, who purposely downplays a plague because it will affect his business. Sirk’s order of the day is to put Leander into intolerable situations, just as he did Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Wyman and Lana Turner in his later Technicolor pictures at Universal. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
06/01/21