Master of the World 07/24/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

One of Jules Verne’s most fantastic sci-fi fantasies got the big screen treatment from American-International, which hopped on the Verne bandwagon that raked in big $$ for Disney and others. A production challenge given a minimum of resources, the colorful show is still admired for the performance of Vincent Price as Robur the Conqueror, a mad terrorist. Charles Bronson also gets high marks as the proto- G-Man dispatched to put an end to Robur’s Albatross, an aerial ‘weapon of mass destruction.’ We also fell in love with art director Daniel Haller’s magnificent design for the airship — even if the special visual effects no longer seem as special as they should be. Also with Henry Hull, Mary Webster, David Frankham, Vito Scotti, Wally Campo, and Richard Harrison. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/24/21

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage 4K 07/24/21

Arrow Video
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

The newest addition to the stable of horror and sci-fi on Ultra HD is Dario Argento’s debut feature, the game-changer that launched the full-blown giallo thriller. Argento takes a few twists from the Hitchcock playbook but otherwise shapes his whodunnit with a new, slick style of his own. Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and design by Dario Micheli emphasize visual texture and tactility — we contemplate soft skin, slippery plastic and sharp straight razors. The horrors embrace architecture and high fashion, exchanging visual fetishes for psychological depth. And don’t forget a typically eccentric Ennio Morricone music score. As always, Arrow includes a full menu of extra delights. Starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi and Mario Adorf. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
07/24/21

La piscine 07/20/21

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

It’s French!  It’s hot!  Jacques Deray’s most unusual film is an intimate, minimalist murder story that digs deep into the affairs of four very superficial people. Among the wealthy set are four pleasure seekers with a laissez faire take on relationships, that think they’re above basic drives — jealousy, possessiveness, resentment. The movie also makes book on the fame & notoriety of the off-on show biz couple Romy Schneider and Alain Delon — the film’s opening seems to celebrate their bigger-than-life glamour and beauty. A notable extra is a 2019 documentary with Delon and his co-star Jane Birkin, plus the film’s famous writers. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/20/21

Ziegfeld Follies 07/20/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Years in the making!  The glory of MGM on parade!  Enough studio resources to film twenty pictures were expended on this paean to showman Florenz Ziegfeld. It’s really Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s Technicolor valentine to itself, showing off the studio’s enormous stable of musical talent, along with various of its comic performers. Arthur Freed and Louis B. Mayer’s notion of ‘something for everyone’ results in weird stack of grandiose musical numbers and mostly weak comedy. The biggest draw is the incredible color cinematography that peeks through in three or four jaw-droppingly elaborate musical spectacles. The picture is a workout to find the artistic limits of the Technicolor system. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
07/20/21

Flight to Mars 07/17/21

The Film Detective
Blu-ray

The Wade Williams Collection yields another ’50s sci-fi notable, Monogram Pictures’ ambitious space travel movie filmed in glorious green-challenged Cinecolor. Cameron Mitchell and Arthur Franz sign up for a semi-suicidal space expedition, but instead of murderous Bat-Rat-Spider-Crabs, waiting for them on Mars is the glamorous, mini-skirted Marguerite Chapman. It’s core sci-fi fun from early in the Golden Era. The Film Detective adds a commentary, two new featurettes and an insert booklet; the film itself is lovingly restored to its original Cinecolor brilliance. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
07/17/21

What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? 07/17/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

George Seaton’s literal feel-good comedy is the flipside of pandemic films like Contagion: a powerful virus ‘cures’ grumpiness and bad vibes, encouraging a kind of Urban Utopia. The picture has nothing more to say than ‘have a nice day,’ yet it’s difficult to argue with any positive sentiment. George Peppard and Mary Tyler Moore battle nobly with the material, which varies from good parody (Dom DeLuise) to awful vaudeville schtick to wafer-thin satire to terrible musical interludes. A Toucan bird from South America steals the show — his trainer Ray Berwick should have won an Oscar. Featuring Susan Saint James, Don Stroud, Dom DeLuise, John McMartin, Charles Lane, Nathaniel Frey, George Furth and AMIGO the TOUCAN. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/17/21

I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes 07/13/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Producer Walter Mirisch’s second film is another satisfying mystery drama from author Cornell Woolrich. Dancers Don Castle and Elyse Knox find some money, and suddenly he’s arrested, tried and convicted for a murder, all on circumstantial evidence; detective Regis Toomey tries to find the real killer to please Mrs. Knox. The Monogram noir lacks fancy trimmings and was perhaps a bit rushed, but the story is good and the performances are sincere. We’re told that this one was at one point thought to be completely lost, but it sure plays well now — it looks untouched. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
07/13/21

O.S.S. 07/13/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Hollywood acknowledges the existence of America’s proto- C.I.A. intelligence agency with this espionage tale of Yanks working with the resistance in occupied France. It’s basic cloak ‘n’ dagger action, with intrepid Alan Ladd and the daring Geraldine Fitzgerald risking life and limb to plant plastic explosive bombs. The details are fairly interesting: Ladd outwits the Gestapo by working with a turncoat inside their ranks. The outcome is grimly realistic, even if that old Paramount glamour is part of the package. The writer-producer is Richard Maibaum, who would later write almost thirty years’ worth of James Bond’s adventures: why, what 007 collector can be without this?  With Patric Knowles, John Hoyt, Gloria Saunders, Richard Webb, and Richard Benedict. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/13/21

The Eurocrypt Of Christopher Lee 07/10/21

Severin Films
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent takes on Severin’s most prestigious ‘big box’ compilation collection to date, a grouping of several of Christopher Lee’s on the Continent features in mostly excellent, uncut editions. For instance, we’ve seen The Torture Garden of Dr. Sadism many times in feeble quality, cut and dubbed and re-titled; this set practically re-premieres it as Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel, full-length, in gorgeous color and in two languages. The Eight-disc set contains five features, including Lee’s impressive Castle of the Living Dead, plus a TV anthology series, endless expert extras and a full 88-page book by Jonathan Rigby. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
07/10/21

In Harm’s Way 07/10/21

Paramount Viacom CBS
Blu-ray

Hollywood’s last big all-star war epic in Black & White?  Otto Preminger took a happy film company to Hawaii for this enormous saga about the Naval push in the Pacific Theater of WW2, with none other than John Wayne as the competent commander leading the charge. Soap-opera scenes aside, it’s a thrilling epic directed with Preminger’s well-known reserve. The star-gazing isn’t bad either — Kirk Douglas! Patricia Neal! Henry Fonda! Paula Prentiss! The finish is a huge naval battle with impressive live-action special effects, and given a moody music score by Jerry Goldsmith. On Blu-ray from Paramount Viacom CBS.
07/10/21

One Armed Boxer 07/06/21

Eureka Entertainment
Region B Blu-ray

High-quality chopsocky mayhem!  Guest reviewer Lee Broughton returns with an assessment of Jimmy Wang Yu’s action-packed martial arts flick. The combat comes thick and fast when a team of deadly mercenaries are employed to wipe out the honourable pupils of the Zhengde School. Writer-director Jimmy Wang Yu is placed front and centre in most of these fights. Excellent fight choreography, commendable cinematography and a well-realised vengeance narrative make this fast-paced show a winner. On Region B Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment.
07/06/21

The Web 07/06/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

It’s smooth noir sailing with this polished noir from Universal-International and its choice cast of pros — Edmond O’Brien, Ella Raines and William Bendix, plus Vincent Price doing an excellent turn as a Machiavellian businessman, a ‘frame’ expert with a side specialty in double-dealing. Director Michael Gordon earns an early credit for Universal-International with a nice look: almost all exteriors are richly photographed nighttime scenes. Ella Raines is particularly good — despite the cover illustration, she’s not a femme fatale, just a cautious independent woman. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/06/21

Pickup on South Street 07/03/21

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Sam Fuller turns from combat in Korea to cat ‘n mouse games in New York City, with America’s stand-up defenders being exactly one low-life pickpocket and one saucy woman of the sidewalks. Richard Widmark is a charming chiseler with a wicked grin, Jean Peters is the hot number who takes a knockdown as a love pat, and Thelma Ritter steals the show as a wholly endearing snitch trying to earn money for a nice burial plot. But Fuller’s directorial powers are going full tilt, with scenes of cinematic power to match any ‘auteur’ — you’ll be mesmerized by a sordid subway encounter that could be rated X for basic erotic chemistry. In an unusually good 4K scan, on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/03/21

Major Dundee 07/03/21

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

It’s a new deluxe Limited Edition of Sam Peckinpah’s mangled masterpiece, the third fancy boxed set in as many years. Arrow’s presentation has certainly got the edge in graphic elegance. They’ve also strived to include as many earlier extras as possible, plus new analytical-critical takes on the picture, and an excellent (and wickedly funny) visual essay from David Cairns. The disc has both of my commentaries, including the comprehensive one that details the missing scenes with information taken directly from Sam Peckinpah and Oscar Saul’s screenplay. And hey, you never know: this could be the year that Mitch Miller’s Singalong Gang makes an incredible comeback, and we can ALL fall in behind the Major. Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, Senta Berger, James Coburn, Jim Hutton star. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
07/03/21