Rancho Notorious 01/31/23

The Warner Archive Collection

We love this Fritz Lang western even though it’s not particularly good; only in hindsight do we realize that the brilliant director’s intentions may have been compromised. High-key lighting does Marlene Dietrich no favors, but she scores good scenes performing with Arthur Kennedy (revenged crazed cowpoke) and Mel Ferrer (tranquilized gunslinger). Lang fans will be impressed by the gaudy, over-bright restored Technicolor, and we can always blame Howard Hughes. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.

Marco Polo 01/31/23

KL Studio Classics

You can’t argue with disc collectors eager to rediscover movies they loved at age 10, in terrific kiddie matinees. Cowboy star Rory Calhoun makes a perfectly fine Italian vagabond ladies’ man for this very un-serious ‘oriental’ adventure, and Yôko Tani is the requisite princess who needs kissing lessons. Tim Lucas’s welcome, info-packed commentary satisfies our curiosity about the long-unavailable title — it’s different than the A.I.P. release we (barely) remember. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Monsieur Hire 01/28/23

The Cohen Film Collection / Kino Lorber

Highest honors go to this stylish, cinematically refined adaptation of a George Simenon thriller. Michel Blanc’s disliked and anti-social tailor becomes a person of interest for a murder investigation; Sandrine Bonnaire is the neighbor that he peeps at nightly, to stir his secret passion. Director Patrice Leconte directs with almost perfect control, turning the show into an emotional workout; it plays like a modern masterpiece. On Blu-ray from The Cohen Group.

Death Wish, 4K 01/28/23

KL Studio Classics
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

Locked and loaded with a decent screenplay, Michael Winner and Charles Bronson acquit themselves well in this brutal 1974 hit that launched a decade’s worth of nasty vigilante movies. The lynch-mob formula presents crimes so awful that the audience demands violent retribution. The shock is that this incitement to ‘fight back’ is not direct right-wing propaganda — vigilantism is glamorized but not endorsed. A fine supporting cast includes Vincent Gardenia, Steven Keats and unexpected treats like Olympia Dukakis and Jeff Goldblum. “Fill your hand!” On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

The Asphyx 01/24/23

KL Studio Classics

Awkwardly plotted but chilling just the same, this beautifully-filmed tale of Victorian experimentation with death has nightmarish qualites that won’t go away. Class actors Robert Stephens, Robert Powell & Jane Lapotaire bring believability to a deadly-serious idea that scores the ‘phantom-trapping’ concept years before Ghostbusters. The cinematographer was Freddie Young; both versions are included, along with a commentary by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Pretty Baby 01/24/23

Brooke Shields became a star and attracted mild controversy in this show, director Louis Malle’s first American production. Co-writer & producer Polly Platt and cinematographer Sven Nykvist collaborated on Malle’s fascinating look at life in a New Orleans brothel early in the 20th century. Prostitute Susan Sarandon raises two children in the upscale bawdy house, and art photographer Keith Carradine becomes an artist in residence. It’s a non-moralizing portrait of a bygone lifestyle. The handsome remastered release co-stars Diana Scarwid and Barbara Steele — and comes with a new interview with Brooke Shields. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].

The Italian Job 4K 01/21/23

KL Studio Classics
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

Michael Caine’s heist comedy has been rated one of the top UK movies ever. It’s a flip Swingin’ England slapstick thriller, lavishly produced and with an emphasis on fancy cars. Caine is a cockney crook with an insane scheme to steal millions in Red Chinese gold en route to a Turin bank. Slick stuntwork combines with ‘Team Brit’ humor for a wild escape in a rush hour traffic jam. The production goes for show-off spectacle — its real stars are a trio of undersized, underdog UK automobiles. With Noël Coward, Benny Hill, Raf Vallone, Tony Beckley and Rossano Brazzi; on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Big Time Gambling Boss 01/21/23

Region A + B Blu-ray

What a discovery . . . I’m glad this was recommended to me. Kôsaku Yamashita’s powerful 1968 yakuza drama belongs to the semi-chivalrous ‘honor and code’ tradition. Crime clan blood brothers Kôji Tsuruta and Tomisaburô Wakayama are good men caught between conflicting loyalties to family, friends, and the yakuza credo. Clashes of honor lead to unavoidable ‘knives out’ confrontations. It’s as intense as the Japanese classics. The extras offer a refresher in yakuza customs and protocol, with expert guidance from Chris D. and Mark Schilling. On Region A + B Blu-ray from Radiance.

Imitation of Life ’34 01/17/23

The Criterion Collection

John M. Stahl’s superior melodrama is a focus point for the study of African-Americans in Hollywood. Businesswoman Claudette Colbert and housekeeper Louise Beavers raise their daughters together for a story that expresses the racial divide in simple terms. Determined to pass for white, Beavers’ daughter Fredi Washington rejects her mother outright. The tale of motherly sacrifice is in some ways more honest than later ‘social justice’ films about race, yet it sticks closely to Hollywood’s segregationist rules. Costarring Ned Sparks, Warren William and Rochelle Hudson. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

Cloverfield 4K 01/17/23

Paramount Home Video
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray + Digital

15th Anniversary Steelbook.  We’re happy to report that this Goddard – Abrams – Reeves monster thriller holds up, when most everything else from the years of shaky-cam nausea and ‘found footage’ boredom disappoints. The clever ‘found’ recording of the end of NYC brings the panic for a you-are-there night of mayhem, chaos and destruction. The show was engineered to look like low-grade amateur video footage . . . so . . . why a 4K presentation?  Curious format-philes will want to know. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital Code from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment.

The Avengers: The Emma Peel Collection (1965-1967) 01/14/23

[Imprint} Television
Region Free Blu-ray

Imprint’s third Television release is a killer, duly commemorated in Charlie Largent’s CineSavant review coverage: a 16-disc collector’s boxed set of the entire run of The Avengers TV episodes starring Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, both the B&W and color seasons. Emma and Patrick Macnee’s John Steed still cut fashionable figures, in spy adventures directed with wit and panache — all clever camera angles and knowing looks. The lavish release promises all-restored transfers and a tall stack of extras. On Blu-ray from [Imprint] Television.

Pork Chop Hill 01/14/23

Viavision [Imprint]
Region Free Blu-ray

Hollywood finally decided to get serious about the Korean War debacle with a pro-Army, anti-politics battle epic that blames our own negotiators as much as the enemy. Director Lewis Milestone and star Gregory Peck lead a full company of favorite actors in a gritty story of ugly combat under absurd conditions: die taking territory today, give it back to the enemy later. With an incredible supporting cast: Harry Guardino, Rip Torn, George Peppard, James Edwards, Woody Strode, George Shibata, Norman Fell, Robert Blake, Biff Elliot, Charles Aidman, Martin Landau, & Gavin MacLeod. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].

Last Night in Soho 4K 01/10/23

Universal Home Entertainment
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray + Digital

Have a yen for the music, style and glamour of ’60s Swinging London?  Edgar Wright’s hybrid time capsule / music extravaganza / horror thriller is an audiovisual delight from one end to the other. Young women from different decades seek to conquer London by different means — they meet as soul twins in a ghost world, where bloodsoaked murders haunt their dreams. Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are the psychic twins; stars Rita Tushingham, Terence Stamp and the late Diana Rigg make it all authentic. Soho can boast the most creatively ‘alive’ visuals of 2021. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Universal Home Entertainment.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen 4K 01/10/23

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

Terry Gilliam’s grandest, most joyful fantasy is still a marvel, a fully adult adventure that will spark younger imaginations as well. Creative tricks and eye-popping Italo designs bring us a magical, satirical world of absurd wars, sultan’s hareems and a flight of fancy to the moon. John Neville’s ideal Baron is abetted by spunky Sarah Polley and a gallery of winning characterizations, from Eric Idle, Oliver Reed, Jonathan Pryce, Uma Thurman, Jack Purvis, Robin Williams, Valentina Cortese, Sting. So what if the Baron is history’s most notorious liar: we understand his complaint when performing a technically preposterous trip through outer space: “This is PRECISELY the sort of thing nobody EVER believes.” On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

The Working Class Goes to Heaven 01/07/23

Region B Blu-ray

A big welcome to the new disc company Radiance!  This first Radiance review at CineSavant is a knockout political drama from Italy’s Elio Petri, with one of the best performances ever by Gian-Maria Volontè. Model factory machinist Lulù Massa offends his peers on the assembly line with his individualistic egotism. An injury on the job makes him a focus for Unionists and student radicals. Petri’s warmly humanist picture is also blunt in its outlook — our imperfect hero is adrift in an unsatisfactory system, and the politicals’ agenda isn’t helpful either. It’s compelling filmmaking, co-starring Mariangela Melato and driven by an excellent Ennio Morricone music score. Aka La classe operaia va in paradiso. On Blu-ray from Radiance.

The Eagle Has Landed 01/07/23

Viavision [Imprint]
Region Free Blu-ray

Director John Sturges’ final feature is a handsome production that fumbles and stumbles in unexpected ways. Michael Caine and especially Donald Sutherland lead an impossible commando mission to kidnap Winston Churchill right from English soil. Tom Mankiewicz’s dialogue is witty but the tone is all over the place. We don’t know whether it’s the script, the direction or the editing that muffs so many potential bravura moments. On the other hand, every scene with Sutherland and Jenny Agutter is gold. [Imprint] gives us both a theatrical cut and a more satisfying extended cut. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].

The Dunwich Horror 01/03/23

Arrow Video

Arrow swings into 2023 with a disc of a horror thriller ‘with issues’ — but appointing it with intriguing extras. Sandra Dee gets her perky nose all tangled up in an inter-dimensional conspiracy run by sneaky occultist Dean Stockwell — and we know that it’s all going to lead to a sacrificial altar. Roger Corman designer Daniel Haller directed this cross between a Poe picture and a psychedelic epic, for good old American-International. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

All CineSavant Capsule Intros 2022 01/03/23

In Reverse Chronology
A New CineSavant page

I’m trying out something new here — the old DVD Savant had four or five different ways to look up old reviews, and so far CineSavant has only its Review Indexes. Readers say they liked to peruse by year and by disc cover box, which this Chronology for 2022 does. So here’s hoping more people find it useful. (I promise to get the bugs worked out of the normal Review Indexes this year) . . . Yet another dubious extra benefit from CineSavant.