The Brotherhood 06/25/22

Viavision [Imprint]
Region Free Blu-ray

Lewis John Carlino’s family-oriented Mafia tale was filmed four years before The Godfather: Kirk Douglas is a loose-cannon capo who bosses his own brother Alex Cord and won’t listen when his fellow kingpins talk about modernization. Irene Papas and Susan Strasberg are married to the mob, while veteran hoods Luther Adler and Eduardo Ciannelli provide the menacing atmosphere. Director Martin Ritt was supposedly not thrilled with the project yet it’s a polished, involving crime-time drama set both in New York City and Palermo, Sicily. On Region-free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
06/25/22

The Impossible 06/25/22

Summit Entertainment
Blu-ray

Easily one of the best movies of its kind, J.A. Bayona’s minute-by-minute tale of survival poses an immediate challenge to audiences: could I survive that?  The genuinely terrifying true story of one family lost in the middle of a devastating disaster is even more relevant now, with similar disasters seemingly happening daily. The near-flawless direction concentrates on the direct experience of a mother and son, who in just a couple of days learn the meaning of human concern and kindness. It’s a Spanish production (in English); Naomi Watts received an Oscar nomination and Ewan McGregor and young Tom Holland give strong performances. We reach back ten years for this review. On Blu-ray from Summit Entertainment.
06/25/22

Columbia Noir #5 Humphrey Bogart 06/21/22

Powerhouse Indicator
Region B Blu-ray

This grouping of Bogart’s Columbia output has one bona fide noir, a pair of exotic ‘romantic intrigue’ thrillers and three social issue pictures: Dead Reckoning, Knock on Any Door, Tokyo Joe, Sirocco, The Family Secret & The Harder They Fall. It’s a good set, with films directed by John Cromwell, Nicholas Ray and Mark Robson, and with leading ladies Lizabeth Scott, Florence Marley, Marta Toren, Jody Lawrance and Jan Sterling. And the Powerhouse Indicator extras are especially well curated. Watch out — it’s Region B only. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
06/21/22

Love Slaves of the Amazons 06/21/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

“Woman Warriors in Brutal Death Battle!”  This adventure thriller has no reputation to speak of, and is mainly notable as a strange chapter in the topsy-turvy life of Curt Siodmak, who as a producer-writer-director, filmed this and another equally absurd jungle romp on location in Brazil. How Siodmak got these pictures going is a mystery — each received a national release in Technicolor through Universal-International. CineSavant makes its best, wholly un-researched guesses, breaking all the rules of reputable film reportage. But honest, this is the jungle fantasy populated by Amazon warriors — all painted green. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
06/21/22

Shaft 4K 06/18/22

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

Richard Roundtree’s two-fisted detective tale burst on the scene announcing that a craze called Blaxploitation was on the way. No matter that the movie is somewhat slow and drab — John Shaft was the identification figure denied black audiences for 60 years, a hero who takes no guff from nobody and consistently tells The Man where to head in. Even bigger was the music theme by Isaac Hayes, which makes Shaft’s casual stroll through Times Square into an iconic image of the 1970s. Criterion’s presentation of Gordon Parks’ smash hit has the original feature in 4K UHD and in Blu-ray with the first sequel Shaft’s Big Score!in Blu-ray only. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
06/18/22

Pastor Hall 06/18/22

Powerhouse Indicator
Region Free Blu-ray

Kudos to Powerhouse Indicator for releasing this dramatic propaganda piece based on an actual German churchman imprisoned for refusing to kowtow to the Nazi authorities. The stars are Wilfrid Lawson and Marius Goring; it’s a primer on fascist power from early in the war, one of the first features by the Boulting Brothers. PI’s extras package enlarges our interest ten-fold: the pastor’s objection to the Nazis was grossly misrepresented and the politics of his incarceration were very different. An added bonus are other wartime short subjects by Roy Boulting, from the Imperial War Museum. On Region-Free Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
06/18/22

The Tales of Hoffman 06/14/22

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

The term ‘filmed opera’ in no way describes this phantasmagoria. Powell & Pressburger re-envisions the Offenbach work with dance sequences refracted through a cinematic prism. It’s high art made for the movies, without the condescenscion seen in Disney’s Fantasia. The stars are Moira Shearer and Robert Helpmann. Powell perfects techniques from Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes to fuse music, theater, dance and cinema; Martin Scorsese calls it a ‘composed film.’ This full restoration reinstates footage not seen since the first previews in 1951. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
06/14/22

True Romance 4K 06/14/22

Arrow Video
4K Ultra HD

The edgy screenplay for this flashy, rough-edged ‘lovers, drugs & guns’ saga served to jump-start Quentin Tarantino’s movie career; he’s identified it as his most autobiographical work. Tony Scott slicked up the visuals and ironed out the nonlinear narrative but it’s still a QT epic through and through. And that cast of suspects is phenomenal: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Bronson Pinchot, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Saul Rubinek, Conchata Ferrell & James Gandolfini. On 4K Ultra HD from Arrow Video.
06/14/22

Killer’s Kiss 4K 06/11/22

KL Studio Classics
4K Ultra HD

Ultra HD puts Stanley Kubrick’s second feature film in a new light — his B&W images of New York lend a ‘Weegee’ flavor to the tale of a prizefighter who comes to the rescue of a dance hall girl. Kubrick does better sticking to the urban streets he knows so well; the cast scores via his strong direction and art museum-quality images. The post-dubbed soundtrack is the weak link, and perhaps Kubrick’s somewhat awkward flashback gear changes. But for 1955 he’s definitely a talent on the way. Kino’s disc carries an analytical commentary by Imogen Sara Smith. On 4K Ultra HD from KL Studio Classics.
06/11/22

The Foreign Adventurism Western 06/11/22

CineSavant Essay
Revised from 1999

We update an essay from 1999, using five Hollywood features to see if critic Philip French’s movie-game theories about westerns and politics extend to features about armed Americans going South of the border for war and profit. With undisguised greed and shaky idealism front and center, never before was the notion of good guys vs. bad guys put to such a test. Yet audiences seeking spectacular violence and firepower never saw these shows as expressions of American foreign policy. The ‘Real Men’ formula is both celebrated and criticized in Vera Cruz, The Magnificent Seven, Major Dundee, The Professionals and The Wild Bunch.
06/11/22

Raiders of the Lost Ark 4K 06/07/22

Paramount Home Video
4K Ultra HD + Digital

4K discs are selling like hotcakes so it’s only natural for studios to give Home Theater fanatics the biggest vintage blockbusters. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s hyper-efficient, no-loitering juggernaut is a return to the joys of serial action thrills, one ‘did you see that?’ bravura sequence after another. Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones is pitted against Paul Freeman’s villainous Belloq, and the might of Jehovah combats the Nazis. Accept the proposition that Adolf Hitler was ‘nuts about the occult’ and everything else will make logical sense. The picture hasn’t dated at all — it overflows with Gee-Whiz excitement that makes Marvel exploits play like weak tea. On 4K Ultra HD + Digital from Paramount Home Video.
06/7/22

The Wicker Man 06/07/22

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray

In this ‘thinking man’s’ horror picture, Pagan theocracy is peachy!  Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer trespass on major taboos — their wholly credible ‘invented’ society reminds us of cults old and new that demand mortal commitment; it also makes us consider the oppressive power wielded by accepted, dominant religions. Scottish cop Edward Woodward gets the bad end of a genre hybrid between detective story, religious critique and transgressive horror. Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Eklund, Ingrid Pitt & Aubrey Morris etch unique characterizations in a fanciful, made-up agrarian culture, complete with rich (and vulgar) folk songs by Paul Giovanni. Our reviewer is Charlie Largent; Viavision [Imprint]’s deluxe Blu-ray box contains three versions and numerous extras.
06/7/22

The Guilty + High Tide 06/07/22

Flicker Alley
Blu-ray + DVD

The Film Noir Foundation puts across more impressive rescues in concert with the UCLA Film and Television Archive: a pair of independently-produced noirs released by Monogram in 1947, modest of budget but firmly rooted in the noir style. The Guilty is a Cornell Woolrich ‘ironic twist’ mini mystery involving troublemaking twins and a soldier suffering from PTSD. High Tide is a hardboiled corruption tale starring the king of smart-talking newsmen, Lee Tracy. Especially rewarding disc extras give us long-form visual essays on Cornell Woolrich, actor Tracy, producer Jack Wrather and the ‘international’ director John Reinhardt. On Blu-ray from Flicker Alley.
06/7/22

The Untouchables 4K 06/04/22

Paramount Home Video
4K Ultra HD + Digital

This big-screen big star crowd-pleaser is a whopping entertainment yet too disjointed to satisfy as a gangster movie. It can ignore history to make its points, but what is gained by killing off the only characters we really love?  Audiences didn’t feel shortchanged: Sean Connery and Robert De Niro deliver strong characterizations and Ennio Morricone’s music is ideal. Brian De Palma’s visual instincts are at full strength too; the show is marvelous to look at. It’s a real winner, at least when not running in knee-jerk Scarface overkill mode. Starring Kevin Costner, Charlie Martin Smith and Andy Garcia; on 4K Ultra HD + Digital from Paramount.
06/04/22

The Clock 06/04/22

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Vincente Minnelli took a break from musicals to feature Judy Garland in the first movie to show her dramatic acting range, a charming and thoughtful wartime tale in New York: a whirlwind romance goes from nothing to marriage in 48 hours. She’s a working woman and he’s a soldier shipping out for combat; the miracle is that the whole thing is believable, and resolutely unglamorized. The illusion of ‘ordinary life’ in NYC is remarkable for 1945; star Robert Walker leaves behind the gangling bumpkin character he’d been playing. The Warner Archive’s Blu-ray is a welcome addition to the Minnelli disc library. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
06/04/22