The Great Moment 01/18/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Every once in a while a movie studio would ruin what might have been a masterpiece — and Preston Sturges’ last-released Paramount comedy suffered exactly that. “Triumph Over Pain” was supposed to be something new, a daring blend of comedy and tragedy. Studio politics intervened and tried to turn it into a straight comedy. Disc producer Constantine Nasr oversees two extras that explain what happened in full detail; it’s a fascinating story of a brillant and successful writer-director at odds with his studio bosses. Joel McCrea, Betty Field and William Demarest star — and the show is still entertaining despite its problems. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

01/18/22

A Hard Day’s Night 4K 01/18/22

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

The Fab Four’s first and biggest movie hit comes to 4K Ultra HD!    The Beatles brought something new and exciting to 1964 and the world embraced it. This United Artists release was a major event in the first wave of Beatlemania, setting the standard for Swinging London cool; thanks to Richard Lester’s flip approach and the Beatles’ positive energy little in the movie has dated. George Martin’s input for the musical end of things didn’t hurt either. The movie itself never gets old: new generations still respond with enthusiasm. It always looked super on home video, so what does the format boost add to the mix?  On 4K Ultra-HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/18/22

The Blockhouse 01/18/22

Powerhouse Indicator
All-region Blu-ray

For this perplexing British production Peter Sellers fronts a solid cast (Charles Aznavour, Jeremy Kemp, Per Oscarsson and Peter Vaughn)  in a numbingly literal tale of seven men buried alive in a wartime warehouse of supplies and foodstuffs — and who are forced to stay there for years, praying for rescue. Stories of this kind usually come with a heavy moral or dramatic pyrotechnics, but after the opening barrage that drives the men underground, the balance of the film is a slow march toward the inevitable. The supply of candles lasts for an entire two years . . . and then runs out. Excellent extras cover the production in detail, and a 1945 documentary about the Channel Islands is an unexpected delight. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
01/18/22

Straight Time 01/15/22

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Small thief and parolee Max Dembo is pinned in a parole system that all but guarantees he’ll go back to robbing banks and jewelry stores. Dustin Hoffman has one of his best and most unusual roles, taken from the story of a real bank robber. Directed by Ulu Grosbard, the docu-drama look at the seedy side of Los Angeles is graced with a perfect cast: Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Stanton, M. Emmet Walsh, and Kathy Bates. Sure, the rotten parole officer drives Dembo back to crime, but pulling jobs is in his blood. It’s one of the best portraits of a criminal ever. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/15/22

Breaking In 01/15/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Favorite director Bill Forsyth lends his knack for droll understatement to a screenplay by John Sayles, a crime tale that opts for keen character study and doesn’t stretch credibility. Burt Reynolds has a gem of a role as a career burglar doing his bit for the next generation, showing a ‘new guy’ the ins and outs of thievery; Casey Siemaszko is his thick-headed but resolutely faithful assistant on several outrageous heists. The criminal life almost doesn’t seem too terrible — except for the going-to-prison part. The disc commentary with Forsyth and Sayles is a great listen. The disc commentary with Forsyth and Sayles is a great listen. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/15/22

Dancing with Crime + The Green Cockatoo 01/11/22

Cohen Media / Kino
Blu-ray

Lovers of vintage English crime thrillers will have a lot to chew over with this pair of escapist gangster pix, one pre-war and one post-. In each an innocent young couple suffers a run-in with a criminal gang. John Mills and Richard Attenborough are the ‘fresh’ new talent on display. The leading lady of Dancing with Crime is Sheila Sim, playing opposite her husband Attenborough. The co-feature The Green Cockatoo sports credits for William Cameron Menzies and Miklós Rózsa. On Blu-ray from Cohen Media / Kino Lorber.
01/11/22

The Mighty Peking Man 01/11/22

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Included in the Shawscope: Volume One 8-Disc Limited Edition. A monster ape-man smashes Hong Kong accompanied by his adopted daughter, a sexy blonde in a daringly abbreviated bikini. The lavishly produced King Kong rip-off was released here under the title Goliathon; Quentin Tarantino raised its profile with a 1999 ‘Rolling Thunder’ reissue. Beyond absurd, all the way to insane, the Shaw Bros.’ crazy kaiju hybrid is the lone non-martial arts title in Arrow’s multi-disc Shawscope: Volume One mega-box. With 12 features on eight discs, it’s a gift from heaven for the average fan of Hong Kong action movies. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
01/11/22

Red Angel 01/08/22

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Yasuzo Masumura’s searing outrage didn’t abate in the 1960s; this unflinching view of the WW2 Japanese counterpart of a ‘M.A.S.H.’ unit cuts straight to the ugly truth of war, as the unending destruction of human bodies and minds. The horrors of ad hoc amputations match the behaviors of the demoralized patients. Masumura’s top muse Ayako Wakao is the traumatized battlefield nurse who becomes intimate with a surgeon who can only cope with his work by becoming a morphine addict. Excellent analysis by Rony Rayns and David Desser brings us closer to the director’s obsession with disturbing truths. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
01/08/22

The Brass Bottle 01/08/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Before I Dream of Jeannie Barbara Eden played ‘the girlfriend’ in this Magic Lamp comedy starring Tony Randall and Burl Ives. Although a light family diversion from the Universal cookie cutter, the tale of architect Harold and Genie Fakrash Al-Amash is both clever and witty. Fakrash upsets Harold’s romance by giving him a belly-dancing ‘houri’: technically, a virgin companion promised the faithful in Paradise!  Miracles conjure a herd of elephants; Burl Ives’ genial charm gives the show an unexpected appeal. With Kamala Devi, Edward Andrews, Richard Erdman and, among the ‘slave girls,’ Edy Williams. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/08/22

A Reflection of Fear 01/08/22

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

‘Teach your children well’ they say, but Sondra Locke’s young girl in this show is the victim of parenting so bad it verges on criminal … John Lewis Carlino’s adult murder mystery has excellent imagery courtesy of director William A. Fraker and cameraman László Kovács. But the studio ‘made changes,’ removing explicit adult content and selling the show as horror even though it’s PG and has little to shock an audience. That leaves us with a carefully underplayed drama courtesy of Robert Shaw, Mary Ure, Sally Kellerman and Signe Hasso — and a twisted sex mystery that seems obvious from the get-go. The HD transfer restores Fraker’s elaborate imagery, making us wonder what his intended version might have been. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
01/08/22

Day the World Ended 01/04/22

Blu-ray

More key ’50s sci-fi makes it to Blu-ray in an admirable encoding. Roger Corman’s end-of-the-world survivalist struggle against radioative mist and three-eyed mutants shines in all of its Superscope glory: Richard Denning and cute Lori Nelson must contend with a human monster in Touch Connors’ gangster. Adele Jergens spices things up, while Paul Birch delivers downer sermons about doomsday. It’s a truly marvelous atom fable, full of fanciful silly-science that makes for good storytelling. With a commentary by Tom Weaver. On Blu-ray.
01/04/22

A Walk in the Sun 01/04/22

Kit Parker / MVD
Blu-ray

Lewis Milestone directed this poetic, optimistic ode to the American infantryman, a ‘lone patrol’ saga that emphasizes its soldiers’ hopes and fears. The lineup of fresh, eager acting talent is remarkable: Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, George Tyne, John Ireland, Lloyd Bridges, Sterling Holloway, Norman Lloyd, Herbert Rudley, Richard Benedict, Huntz Hall, James Cardwell, Steve Brodie. Voiceovers and ‘ballads’ give a six-mile beachhead incursion the tone of a spiritual rumination. A beautiful full film restoration brings the image back to prime quality. The controversial filmmakers and the unusual production circumstances are covered in Alan K. Rode’s commentary. On Blu-ray + DVD from Kit Parker / MVD.
01/04/22

Sodom and Gomorrah 01/01/22

Explosive Media
Region Free Blu-ray

Maverick director Robert Aldrich’s one foray into grand-scale epic filmmaking is returned to crystal clarity in this fine import disc, a restoration from original Italian film elements. Stewart Granger’s Lot allies his Hebrew tribe with the notorious cities of evil, and almost loses his soul to Anouk Aimée’s wicked Queen Bera. Pier Angeli is the slave who becomes Lot’s wife, and Rossana Podestà is the daughter taken by Stanley Baker’s rapacious prince. Second unit director Sergio Leone whips up a terrific battle scene, Ken Adam provides the spectacular sets and Miklós Rózsa the powerful music score. And yes, the explosive finish involves hellfire, brimstone and the Biblical Pillar of Salt. On Region Free Blu-ray from Explosive Media.
01/01/22

The 7th Dawn 01/01/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

It’s a Cold War thriller in the steamy tropics! The Reds are making their move in Malaya and four vibrant people are caught in the crosshairs: rich rubber planter William Holden, revolutionary strategist Tetsuro Tanba, peaceful teacher and activist Capucine, and adventurous Governor’s daughter Susannah York. Director Lewis Gilbert keeps a rickety script on its feet drama-wise and superb cinematography (Freddie Young) and impressive music (Riz Ortolani) do the rest. The show ended up being most noted for a nude swimming scene scooped in the pages of Playboy. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/01/22