The Addams Family 4K 11/23/21

Paramount Viacom CBS
4K Ultra HD + Digital

Barry Sonnenfeld leaped from hot cinematographer status to A- list director with this sure-footed big screen adaptation of the TV show based on Charles Addams’ marvelously morbid New Yorker cartoons. The cast is ideal: Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia complement TV’s Carolyn Jones and John Astin without inviting comparisons. Winning an imaginary award for making sick jokes safe for PG-13, the script has true wit. The characters have depth as well, which is wonderful. Daring to be out of step with the times, the elaborate production, costumes and special effects are all on the same page: director Sonnenfeld and producer Scott Rudin see to it that the goofy premise never wears thin. The 4K encoding is a dazzler. On 4K Ultra-HD + Digital from Paramount Home Video.
11/23/21

Number Seventeen 11/23/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

One of Alfred Hitchcock’s so-called lesser films bounces back in an immaculate restoration. Say goodbye to blurry, indecipherable Public Domain versions — now we can fairly evaluate this amusing early talkie. An odd cross-section of underworld characters gathers amid the staircases and dark shadows of an abandoned house and proceeds to play games of identity and coercion. What happened to the body that was on the third floor landing?  Who is the mysterious mastermind whose note warns about a cop, and promises a diamond necklace?  Who is the mysterious woman who cannot hear or speak?  And is our hero a random passerby who followed his hat blown by the wind?  Kino’s deluxe disc features audio excerpts from Hitchcock and a longform French documentary about his early sound career. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
11/23/21

The Hills Have Eyes 4K 11/23/21

Arrow Video
4K Ultra HD

Wes Craven’s getting a 4K Ultra HD workout this year, what with his monster hit Scream arriving in 4K last month. This 1977 franchise-starter is a down & dirty slaughter-fest out in the desert, with bloody jeopardy its one and only reason for being. It can attest that it was quite a nail-biting experience in the theater, and we know this show has a legion of fans — think of the hundreds of films that imitate its concept. Starring Susan Lanier, Robert Houston, Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Russ Grieve, John Steadman and Michael Berryman. On 4K Ultra HD (only) from Arrow Video.
11/23/21

The Assassination Bureau 11/20/21

Viavision [Imprint] (Region-Free)
Blu-ray

Veterans Michael Relph and Basil Dearden try a hip ‘n’ flip costume comedy about an 1899 consortium that’s the equivalent of Murder Inc.: Killings for hire done with veddy proper civility and good taste. The charming Oliver Reed and Diana Rigg lead a notable cast — Telly Savalas, Curd Jürgens, Philippe Noiret, Beryl Reid, Clive Revill — through mayhem-filled chases in several European capitals. Tossed off in tongue-in-cheek style, it’s shallow but cute, and if you like the stars it can be a lark. Its saving grace is the spirited Ms. Rigg. On Region-Free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
11/20/21

Fury (1936) 11/20/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Fritz Lang’s first American picture is a searing social statement out of message-averse Hollywood. It’s also a cinematic landmark, packed with innovative visual concepts. Sylvia Sidney and Spencer Tracy have great appeal as lovers torn apart by vigilante violence, and Tracy’s very Langian hero pulls off a ‘return from the dead’ to serve as an avenging angel. It’s one of the talkies’ earliest direct attacks on America’s plague of lynching, a liberal assault that even the Production Code couldn’t stop — the show took the ‘social issue drama’ to new heights, even as Fritz Lang didn’t find favor with the Hollywood studio system. Also starring Walter Abel, Bruce Cabot and Walter Brennan. CineSavant presents the evidence of MGM tampering at the conclusion, that changes the film’s message and meaning. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
11/20/21

W.C. x Three 11/16/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Almost a ‘best of’ selection of W.C. Fields delights is this trio of truly hilarious films. The Old-Fashioned Way sees Fields as a carny performer with a juggling act that always elicited applause at screenings. It’s A Gift makes him a sweet and unassuming sap of a grocer who goes West in a real estate swindle. In The Bank Dick’s 70 minutes of hilarity Fields is a pompous security man who gets no respect from nobody. Charlie Largent weighs in on Mr. Fields’ gifts — these are the ones to see to understand his appeal. Separate Purchases on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
11/16/21

Frankenstein’s Daughter 11/16/21

The Film Detective
Blu-ray

Richard Cunha’s third of four horror item for Astor Pictures is perhaps the most marketable: in 1958 almost anything with the name Dracula or Frankenstein could get a big release. The Film Detective’s new disc (remastered from a 4K scan) shows the picture at its absolute best and confirms Cunha as a decent director. The monsters are dire but most of the acting is rather good: Sandra Knight, Donald Murphy, Wolfe Barzell and Sally Todd in particular. It’s core nostalgia for monster fans, and much gorier than we remembered. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
11/16/21

Argentine Noir 11/16/21

Flicker Alley
Blu-ray + DVD

From beneath the Southern Cross come a pair of genuine noirs that happen to have been made in Argentina, where film art flourished in a system almost totally divorced from the American awareness. The Beast Must Die is a hardboiled tale of tragedy and murder told in an upside-down way that would make Orson Welles applaud; its star was called the Vincent Price of Argentina. In the visually bizarre The Bitter Stems a generous crook makes plans to murder his cheating partner in fraud, only to fall into a whirlpool of guilt. Expert testimony from Guido Segal, Fernando Martín Peña and Daniel Viñoly introduce us to an exotic film world almost unknown in the U.S.. Hear Eddie Muller try out his Spanish language pronuciation skills!  Separate Purchases Blu-ray + DVD from Flicker Alley.
11/16/21

The Harry Palmer Collection 11/13/21

Viavision [Imprint] (compatible with Region A)

We loved James Bond but diehard ’60s spy fans hold a secret admiration for Len Deighton’s ‘thinking man’s secret agent’ Harry Palmer. Viavision pulls off a slick trick by assembling the three top Michael Caine Harry Palmer pictures, each from a different studio, in a single deluxe gift box. Harry fights the Brain Drain, encounters criss-crossing conspiracies at the Berlin Wall, and witnesses a privatized invasion of the U.S.S.R., in The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain,three great pictures by three very different directors. The presentations come with a glut of special edition extras. With Nigel Green, Sue Lloyd, Eva Renzi, Oscar Homolka, Karl Malden and Françoise Dorléac. On Region-free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
11/13/21

Some Came Running 11/13/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Vincente Minnelli’s best non-musical drama hits on a magic combination — a tough tale of small-town malaise, his patented hyper-expressive sense of visual design, and a triple-win in casting, including Frank Sinatra in his most committed performance this side of The Manchurian Candidate.Frankie may even have said Yes to a Take 2 now and then. The fireworks begin when ex-soldier, lapsed intellectual writer and self-styled gambling bum Dave Hirsh inadvertently returns to his hometown. This is also Dean Martin’s best picture, with a breakout role for Shirley MacLaine as the pathetic woman with the purse made from a stuffed toy. With Martha Hyer, Arthur Kennedy and the great Nancy Gates. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
11/13/21

Invasion of the Body Snatchers ’78 4K 11/13/21

KL Studio Classics
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

This first remake of the 1956 sci-fi classic retains many of the original’s story points, clears up the biological minutiae for literal-minded viewers and adds a fascinating social commentary about ’70s lifestyles that’s almost as depressing as the idea of being ‘replaced’ by an alien simulacrum. Philip Kaufman’s first big hit is a worthy picture that’s maintained its high reputation … and it’s even scarier in today’s socio-political climate. The cast is terrific: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Nimoy, Art Hindle and Lelia Goldoni. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
11/13/21

The Deceivers 11/09/21

Cohen Media / Kino
Blu-ray

Nicholas Meyer’s ‘other’ fantastic film project was ignored for all the wrong reasons; Pierce Brosnan fills a heroic leading role in a revisit of The Stranglers of Bombay, but filmed on location with great attention to authentic details. An officer of the East India Company detects an incredibly murderous cult of Kali-worshipping Thugs, a criminal underclass of thieves that practice ritual mass murder. The story has roots in history, snarled in colonial injustice and xenophobia. It’s a period picture unafraid to be controversial. Also starring Saeed Jaffrey and Helena Mitchell, on Blu-ray from The Cohen Group/Kino.
11/09/21

Midway 11/09/21

Powerhouse Indicator
Region B Blu-ray

Walter Mirisch’s slam-bang, eardrum-pounding Sensurround stock footage orgy for the Centennial Year gathers an impressive lineup of big stars to celebrate the U.S. Navy’s biggest aircraft carrier battle: Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Toshiro Mifune. Director Jack Smight manages the talky, exposition-laden account of a sprawling, complicated battle rather well, at least in terms of clarity. What is unwatchable pan-scanned on TV isn’t half bad for fans of big-scale war movies. PI gives us an approximation of Sensurround (I think), and also John Ford’s short subject The Battle of Midway from 1942. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
11/09/21

The Window 11/09/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

A genuine ‘sleeper’ hit, this ‘all in the family’ noir pits innocent childhood against cold blooded murderers. Little Bobby Driscoll witnesses Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman committing a murder, and can’t get Mom and Dad to believe him because of a habit of crying Wolf. But the killers believe him … and they live right upstairs. The beautifully made film evokes a rough, broken-down block in New York City in great detail. RKO’s new boss Howard Hughes did what he always did with a hot feature ready to release: he shelved it for almost two years. The WAC’s restoration is eye-opening. With Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy, on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
11/09/21

The Naked Spur 11/06/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

MGM sends James Stewart and Anthony Mann to Colorado high country locations for their third big-ticket western, a tight & tense psychological drama with a select cast: Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker and Millard Mitchell. Stewart’s anguished bounty hunter is a sick man on a mission he knows is self-destructive and just plain wrong; it’s the actor’s most fraught western performance. The landscape itself is psychological, with treacherous rocky outcroppings and a dangerous river. Even more impressive is the new restoration from Technicolor elements: this is one of the most beautiful westerns yet out on disc. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
11/06/21

La Strada 11/06/21

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

It’s a pleasant thing to revisit an old favorite and discover that it’s better than you remember. The tale of Zampanò and Gelsomina is Italo neo-realism 2.0: it’s got poverty, misfortune and misery but also a bankable American star or two. The visually revamped presentation of Federico Fellini’s international breakthrough picture is a wonder — no more distorted audio and images that look as if they were filmed yesterday. Several of the extras are new, but the main charm is still provided by Giulietta Masina, Anthony Quinn and the Nino Rota music. Co-starring Richard Basehart. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/06/21

An Angel for Satan 11/06/21

Severin Films
Blu-ray

Barbara Steele has one of her better performance showcases in Camillo Mastrocinque’s classy ghost story with a somewhat dispiriting twist. Steele’s fan-collectors won’t need extra encouragement, as she’s in most every scene and gets to play a variety of moods from delicate to seductive to outright poisonous. Quality performances flatter a flawed screenplay, and the fine direction and attentive cinematography clearly inspired Steele to give it everything she had. Severin’s quality HD transfer is everything we’d want, with dual language tracks and good extras including a Kat Ellinger commentary and a second track featuring stellar input from Ms. Steele herself. With Anthony Steffen, Claudio Gora, Mario Brega, Marina Berti, Ursula Davis, Vassili Karis, and Aldo Berti. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
11/06/21

Scream 4K 11/02/21

Paramount Viacom CBS
4K Ultra HD + Digital

Nobody did better with horror franchises than Wes Craven, who re-envigorated the genre in this relentlessly bloody thriller. Its self-referential gimmick should have been exploited decades before: what if the teenagers in movies were like real teenagers that watch horror movies. . . and that must rely on their movie knowledge when confronted with R-rated carnage? 25 years later the show holds up well, at least until the final revelations. Kevin Williamson’s screenplay and Mark Irwin’s camerawork make Drew Barrymore, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and Rose McGowan the most attractive and intelligent horror scream queens since Peggy Cummins tried to kick some sense into Dana Andrews. No Blu-ray included. On 4K Ultra HD + Digital from Paramount/Miramax.
11/02/21

Fritz the Cat + The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat 11/02/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-rays

Yes, we shameless college students saw these pictures when they were new. If I recall, Robert Crumb sued, rightly or wrongly; National Lampoon did a comic strip dissing the randy Fritz for selling out to the suits. Ralph Bakshi’s shot at adult animation (the first with an X-rating) is a rather dispiriting mess that doesn’t miss Crumb’s dirty-old-man anarchy. But the rough & ready animation and crude, semi-authentic dialogue were definitely something new. Charlie Largent gives the shows his perspective, animation art-wise; the two discs are being sold separately. On Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing / Kino.
11/02/21

Deep Red 4K 11/02/21

Arrow Video
4K Ultra HD

Dario Argento in 4K — that sounds like a good idea, especially for his more visually jolting giallos. Arrayed in garish reds and blacks, this blood-soaked mystery shocker emphasizes exotic murders — stabbings, scaldings, lacerations from broken glass. David Hemmings is again the investigator, digging into evidence sourced not in photographic details, but the hidden artwork of a disturbed child. Techniscope images by Luigi Kuveiller and music by Goblin, with abbondante gore orchestrated by Signor Argento at the top of his form. With Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril. No Blu-ray included. On 4K Ultra HD from Arrow Video.
11/02/21