Reverse Chronology December to January
aka Queimada. This Region-Free import gives us both versions of Gillo Pontecorvo’s fictional tale of colonial misdeeds that sums up old Europe’s attitude toward the New World. Marlon Brando’s agent provocateur and freebooting soldier of fortune foments revolution against the Portuguese and then hires out to reverse everything he’s done for English interests. The big scale production was filmed in several locations across the globe; it has a standout performance from Evaristo Márquez as a charismatic peasant eager to become a conqueror. On Region Free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Lee Marvin, Vera Miles and Bradford Dillman shine a military courtroom drama, a TV movie released as a theatrical feature five years later (pretty sneaky, Universal). It’s small-scale but effective, with strong performances and a reasonably credible storyline. Marvin’s Ryker is on trial for his life, with the entire U.S. Army convinced that he’s a traitor. Attorney Bradford Dillman stumbles in his defense — other officers catch him consorting with Ryker’s wife. It’s a treat for Lee Marvin fans, provided they don’t expect the action epic depicted on the posters. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The ex- movie star Mai Zetterling found more satisfaction in directing. In interviews she denied that she is an intellectual, but more intelligent films about male-female emotional politics are hard to come by. Unusually frank and intense, these dramas for the 1960s art film circuit pack a visceral impact — the extreme situations and content disturbed critics concerned with Good Taste. It’s a trilogy of respected works: Loving Couples, Night Games and The Girls. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
A superb thriller is now better than ever on 4K. We’ve always known why it rewards viewings: it’s both thrilling and funny. When Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam and Hector Elizondo hijack a subway train, Walter Matthau must scramble to collect a ransom while trying to figure out how they’ll make their escape. Peter Stone’s dialogue is delightful — the loud & mouthy ’70s New Yorkers are hilariously abrasive — and lovable. “Who wants to know?!!!” Includes a Blu-ray disc and a new commentary. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
John Huston has great fun with Tennessee Williams’ tale of a failed minister who tangles with romantic terrors in a pre-developed Puerto Vallarta. He gives his stellar cast full freedom to seize the screen: Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Grayson Hall and Sue Lyon. The fun ranges from ribald comedy to poetic glimpses of what lies beyond human desperation. Charlie Largent reviews; the hapless Burton doesn’t know what these women will do after the sun sets. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Directors looking for important, ambitious subject matter didn’t disappear with the rise of the Star Wars Generation. Roland Joffé’s first four features are all admirable efforts, with a couple of gems right up front: powerful pictures that tell truths that we ought not to forget. The star power is here as well — Robert De Niro, Paul Newman. The deluxe collector’s box caps a presentation with new extras for each title: The Killing Fields, The Mission, Fat Man and Little Boy and City of Joy. On Region Free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
The disc of the year has finally arrived and it’s 1000% worth the wait. William Cameron Menzies’ flight into schoolboy paranoia now really looks like it ought to hang in the Louvre; the entire show is inspired Modern Art. When Martians conduct a brain-snatching takeover of Middle America little David MacLean must save the day, with an assist from an astronomer buddy and a sexy city nurse. The review is mostly concerned with how the new Ignite release looks and sounds. The rejuvenation of this fantasy masterpiece will turn fans of the 1950s sci-fi boom back into delighted ‘Gee Whiz’ kids. On Blu-ray from Ignite Films.
Mitchell Leisen’s great Christmas-time tale has a brilliant screenplay by Preston Sturges and letter-perfect performances by Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, threading the needle between light cynicism and well-earned sentiment. Sturges’ celebration of ‘country values’ is sincere and heartfelt, as is his affection for the supporting cast. The presentation includes two radio broadcasts plus a star-studded Paramount short subject for war bonds. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
What a great way to encounter such an unusual masterpiece — Akira Kurosawa reenergized his creative career with this ambitious, uncompromised historical epic, filmed for Mosfilm on location in the wilds of far-East Siberia. A local woodsman becomes a guide for a Russian survey team, and a great friendship is formed. It’s like nothing Kurosawa made before or since — an adventure that stresses nature-friendly philosophy over action. The good extras are topped by Stuart Galbraith IV’s expert commentary, which includes three additional specialists to cover this film and its director in full fascinating detail. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Welcome to 1968, and a burst of creative direction from one of the greatest film artists of the 20th century, Jack Cardiff. An attempt to make pop star Marianne Faithful into cinematic sex symbol is an uphill struggle, even with Alain Delon playing opposite. Psychedelic effects are poured over a tale of desire that plays out in tony surroundings, but mainly out on the open road. Cardiff had a hand in the script, working for erotic effects. The American release recognized it as exploitation, and slapped on the more direct title ‘Naked Under Leather.’ On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
All those British crime films once deemed undesirable for the National Image are beginning to get the attention they deserve. This story of a single day in a working class section of London has plenty of criminal activity but blends it in with the everyday crimes of desperation and boredom. The Sandigate girls are flirting with trouble but Googie Withers’ Rose Sandigate has gone much further: she’s hiding an escaped fugitive who was once her lover in the vain hope of recapturing her lost youth. Director Robert Hamer examines a dozen distinctive characters on the edge of respectability, in one of the most original ‘Brit noirs’ we’ve seen to date. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
A 4K Steelbook! Haven’t seen this one lately, and discovered that it holds up remarkably well. Mr. QT’s sophomore outing made an indelible mark on American movies — the darling of hipster crime filmmaking dazzled viewers with show set-piece scenes, entertainingly profane dialogue and ultra-hip inside-out time-shuffling narrative tricks. Add to that genuine star turns, especially Uma Thurman and John Travolta’s iconic dance scene. It’s old-fashioned movie-going in an avant-garde pattern, with raw violence and even rougher language. The stars include Samuel L. Jackson, Harvy Keitel, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer and Bruce Willis. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital Code from Paramount Home Video.
Robert Benton and Paul Newman’s show-biz detective tale is one of the best-looking thrillers of 1998. With its star lineup of Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, Reese Witherspoon, Stockard Channing and James Garner, its the equivalent of a dog-eared comfy mystery paperback. The classic themes and stylistics are here, but in a new Hollywood where movie stars can get away with murder, and nobody seems to care. Everyone is excellent and the show quite enjoyable, even if it seems we’ve seen a lot of it before. A solid academic extra is the audio commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
It’s Labor vs. Capital, in basic terms! Sean Connery is the tough, embittered miner looking to strike back against the bosses, and Richard Harris the underdog who sees a way out by becoming an agent provocateur for the Pinkertons. An admirable true-life history lesson, Walter Bernstein & Martin Ritt’s downer of a drama didn’t grab the public’s imagination. But there’s no better vision of the time and place, thanks to James Wong Howe’s realistic, nearly monochromatic cinematography. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Only once in a generation do we behold a classic such as this! The ’embiggened’ adventures of Nancy Archer lack technical sophistication, but good direction and a very direct story — female revenge writ large — grab us every time. Let the absurdities pile up, because Allison Hayes cuts a mean fifty-foot figure in that white two-piece, and saucy Yvette Vickers can really warm up the clientele down at Tony’s place. It’s a terrific piece of late ’50s exploitation anti-art, and its fantastic Reynold Brown poster is a key expression of an entire monsterrific worldview. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
The horrible Dr. Mallinger is experimenting on his own daughter to create a species of blood-sucking super-moths, and the good police Inspector Quennell is determined to catch him, using his own daughter as bait. This head-scratcher about daughter abuse stars Robert Flemyng, Peter Cushing and some handsome period scenery; Tigon films takes a spin with Hammer-style gothic thrills, directed by Vernon Sewell. No, it’s not a prequel to Mothra, and the insectoid threat isn’t neutralized with moth balls. The moth monster is a first special effect credit for Roger Dicken. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
To the short list of ‘classics’ of nuclear horror on Blu-ray we now add the one that hits closest to home. Lynne Littman’s harrowing film stays small-scale and Big Emotion, enduring a slow extermination on the family level. A little California town loses contact with the rest of the world, as hope fades and the awful reality sinks in. Jane Alexander, Lukas Haas, and William Devane star in a TV movie so affecting, that Paramount gave it a theatrical release. The disc has two commentaries and a selection of 20th anniversary features. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
John Sturges’ Road Show comedy western has more in common with 1941 than The Magnificent Seven, but Kino has MGM’s new remaster and the visual result is spectacular. The Ultra Panavision 70 epic is still a favorite of fans of out-of-control Hollywood filmmaking. Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick, Jim Hutton, Pamela Tiffin and a huge cast lead the charge for for a convoy of frontier whisky. It’s all in a fine spirit of madcap fun. . . so where are the big laughs? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
David Lean’s near-perfect Charles Dickens adaptation was the movie that sold us on ‘everything English’ in films. As embodied by John Mills, Pip’s hopeful progress expanded the book as no movie had before, with characterizations that are weird (Francis L. Sullivan, Finlay Currie, Bernard Miles) amusing (Alec Guinness) and entrancing (Jean Simmons). And everything about Miss Havisham and her haunted rooms suggests a horror movie. Charlie Largent looks back at an older UK Blu-ray (probably OOP) of inspirational quality. What-sa-matter Criterion, is this stone classic insufficiently trendy to qualify for Blu-ray? On Region B Blu-ray from ITV (U.K.).
Quentin Tarantino’s first feature may not be to all tastes, but it is an admirable feat of commercial filmmaking — what other director has broken into the front rank with such panache? The fifth time through, the splintered, elliptical structure still impresses, and there’s always something new to see in the performances of Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Steve Buscemi. The (rather bargain-priced) 4K disc set has everything — two formats, a digital code and those deleted scenes to ponder. And a Pulp Fiction 4K is due in just a week or so. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Lionsgate.
The Black Vampire! The most impressive Spanish-language noir restoration yet, Román Viñoly Barreto’s superior serial murder thriller hails from 1953 Argentina. It re-interprets Fritz Lang’s “M” from a different, more emotionally engaging perspective: star Olga Zubarry’s nightclub singer hesitates to tell what she knows about a child-killer, because she might lose custody of her own young daughter. The expressionist noir owes little to Hollywood. Some find it more satisfying than Lang’s classic version. The Film Noir Foundation’s extras are excellent. On Blu-ray + DVD from Flicker Alley.
This mid-60s detective story has the right ingredients — a good mystery and interesting characters. David Jannsen gets to play a ‘Bosch’- style lone wolf investigator given a public thrashing for a ‘mistake’ that he knows was no mistake at all. Can a ‘bad cop’ redeem himself? The parade of mid-level guest stars — Stefanie Powers, Joan Collins, Lillian Gish, Steve Allen — may resemble a TV movie, but the tense show has a good feel for Los Angeles and the new swingin’ singles lifestyle. It might be Buzz Kulik’s best job of direction, and it has a great music score by Jerry Goldsmith. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Hungry for those wet Parisian streets, the city lights, and cadavres en lambeaux in the pale moonight? Enter three highly atmospheric, star-studded Crime Noirs, one of which is an stealth classic of Gallic Pulp. Stars Jean Gabin, Jeanne Moreau, Lino Ventura, Marcel Bozzuffi, Gérard Oury, Sandra Milo, and Annie Girardot bring the tales of à sang froid malice and mayhem to life. The films featured are Gilles Grangier’s Speaking of Murder (Le rouge est mis) and Édouard Molinaro’s Back to the Wall (Le dos au mur) and Witness in the City (Un Témoin dans la ville). Beware of French husbands when cucklolded — they show no pity. Bonne chance, victimes! On Blu-ray from Gaumont/Kino Lorber.
The New York Underground invaded the mainstream with Robert Downey Sr.’s completely irreverent Madison Avenue satire, in which a token black executive takes over an Ad agency, renames it ‘Truth and Soul’ and goes on a mad reign of creative terror. Arnold Johnson, Stan Gottlieb, Allen Garfield, and Antonio Fargas star in a farce that some critics found intolerably crude — but an independent distributor gave it a national release. 1969 was the year that the Production Code took a tumble — and Downey’s picture proved that freedom of expression was alive and well in the U.S. of A. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Newly remastered in 4K! Bruce Dern’s (literally) tree-hugging forest ranger Freeman Lowell commits space piracy to save the trees, dude, and becomes lost in space. But he’s got only Huey, Dewey and Louie for robotic companionship. The only soul back on Earth who seems to care is Joan Baez. Douglas Trumbull’s technically-accomplished first feature film does 2001 on a tiny budget, and creates something original, if a bit mushy — the bittersweet ending depresses more than it uplifts. On 4K Ultra HD from Arrow Video.
The Macready family — George, Michael & Erica — put together this traditional, energetic vampire romp. The arresting Robert Quarry is the Lugosi substitute, a European spiritualist with a sweet tooth for Type O. It’s the ‘new’ American-International this time out, in search of a PG for a show initially planned as X-rated. A sequel followed immediately, giving us Count Yorga, Vampire, & The Return of Count Yorga. CineSavant’s Charlie Largent takes a peek at the favorite bloodsucker of many a horror fan — is the main emphasis on violence, or sex? On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
The first movie to directly confront McCarthyism! Or so went the editorials touting this ‘Long-Awaited Screen Event’ in which ‘Bette Davis Hits the Screen in a Cyclone of Dramatic Fury!’ The storm of the title was based on a real activist in Oklahoma who lost her job for promoting equal rights. Bette’s polite librarian is victimized by small-minded civic types; a subplot depicts the traumatic reaction of one of her patrons, a child expected to despise her as a traitor to the country. Daniel Taradash’s movie is an excellent starting point to discuss the thorny dramatic subgenre of liberal social issue movies. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Bertrand Blier’s edgy romp about a pair of ne’er-do-well petty-crooks will go too far for many viewers — they’re antisocially chauvinistic in some really outrageous ways. Are they jolly adventurers or just terminally obnoxious? The twisted social comedy really needs its talented cast: Gérard Depardieu, Patrick Dewaere, Miou-Miou, Jeanne Moreau, Brigitte Fossey, and a very young Isabelle Huppert. The new presentation includes a commentary by Richard Peña. On Blu-ray from The Cohen Film Collection / Kino Lorber.
Elvis Presley’s handlers found the formula that would keep his stardom solvent through the 1960s in this well-confected, calculatedly vacant vehicle that EVERYBODY liked and enjoyed in 1961. The coolest celeb in America ended up in some of the squarest, least-hip films of the era. Why do we like it so? Cutting through the fog of nostalgia reveals the appeal. The Hawaiian scenery is a knockout, plus there’s good support from Joan Blackman and especially Angela Lansbury, who humbles herself to play an idiot mother caricature for Mister ‘Rock-a-Hula.’ On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Paramount Presents.
Pixar’s save-the-world eco-epic actually begins with the world destroyed, before a pair of cute robots help put it back together again. Andrew Stanton’s animated comedy finds hope and cheer in a post-apocalyptic scenario, a tall order for any speculative science fiction tale. Meet WALL•E, the nuts ‘n’ bolts super-janitor, and EVE, the sleek next-generation seeker of terrestrial plant re-birth. Good satire and social criticism comes in the brightest package possible in this endearing charmer. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Rarovideo is back, with an excellent Italo war drama that finds humanist values in an appalling situation: a young Italian lieutenant is tasked with distributing 12 Athenian prostitutes to garrisons on the road back to Italy, to ‘service’ the troops. It’s a mixed group — a couple of the women have signed up to avoid starvation. The trek takes them directly into partisan conflict. Sympathetic director Valerio Zurlini assembles a terrific international cast: Mario Adorf, Anna Karina, Tomas Milian, Marie Laforêt, Lea Massari, Valeria Moriconi and Milena Dravic. On Blu-ray from Rarovideo / Kino Lorber.
Powerhouse Indicator’s first foray into the Universal library yields six noir thrillers, all crime-related and all different: the list introduces us to scheming businessmen, venal confidence crooks, black-market racketeers, a femme fatale, a gangster deportee and baby stealers. The B&W features are enriched with some of the best actors of the postwar years, and the titles themselves are a litany of vice and sin: The Web, Larceny, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, Abandoned, Deported and Naked Alibi. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Charlie Largent wades into Frank Capra’s atypical comedy farce about the mass murder spree perpetrated by Cary Grant’s cute little old aunts, with Peter Lorre and Raymond Massey along as baleful creeps worthy of a Halloween show. It’s packed with the director’s favorite character actors, led by cute poisoners Josephine Hull and Jean Adair. And don’t forget Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill. We’re told that Capra filmed it at Warners in the Fall of 1941, but it sat for three years due to a contractual hold — the play continued to run on Broadway. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Yet another 3-D Blu-ray treat — the 3-D Film Archive restores a rare English production, an international crime tale in 3-D. Dennis O’Keefe’s T-Man helps Scotland Yard track down a gang of smugglers that kidnaps and murders to force an Atom scientist to perfect his manufacturing formula for synthetic diamonds. You know, just like the silicon chip business. The widescreen 3-D is excellent, especially in two action set pieces. Margaret Sheridan co-stars. It’s almost a premiere, as the movie was never publicly exhibited in 3-D. Kino also provides an anaglyphic encoding with a pair of red-cyan glasses as an alternate 3-D option. Plus good extras about the 3-D process. On 3-D Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer hit the big screen early in the 3-D craze, in a much tamed-down adaptation. The camera legend John Alton handled the lighting and likely called the shots on the camera setups as well. As a detective noir it’s definitely flat-footed, with a bum script, weak direction and a miscast Biff Elliot as the vengeful tough-guy hero. But compensating are the seductive Dran Hamilton, Margaret Sheridan and especially Peggie Castle — the key ‘dame’ in the pulp fiction finale. The United Artists release has been mostly MIA for decades,and this release presents it three ways: flat in both 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray, plus a beautiful restored 3-D Blu-ray encoding. From ClassicFlix.
Dore Schary’s post-MGM personal production is a class act in every respect — Montgomery Clift, Robert Ryan and Myrna Loy are well cast in a story of intimate emotional cruelty. It’s from a play derived from Nathanael West’s soul-crushing novella, and despite the talent involved, it can’t shake the feeling of an overheated TV drama. The acting and characterizations are riveting. Young Dolores Hart is a beacon of light amid the gloom and misery, and in her first movie, Maureen Stapleton’s’ fireball of anxiety and malice all but steals the show. The fine cinematography is again by the great John Alton. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Another classic-era Eurohorror title has surfaced on Blu-ray. This crisp remastering of an elusive mad surgery opus is straight from the exploitation trenches of postwar Germany, and jangles plenty of nerves with its tale of crazy transplants. Partly a girlie show — most every scene involves some form of disrobing — it’s nevertheless an intriguing horror cocktail with top production values. The capable cast is really into the melodramatic shocks — it may not be Georges Franju but it’s several cuts above other ‘severed head’ epics — an insane carnival of flesh confusion that’s technically tame but truly adults-only by 1959 standards. On Blu-ray from Anolis Entertainment.
Arrow’s latest horror collection is a classy foursome of Italo chillers, in a beautifully designed gift box . . . presented with the company’s full line of extras and commentaries, we get new remasters of Lady Morgan’s Vengeance, The Blancheville Monster, The Third Eye, and The Witch, six hours of supernatural thrillers with an adult viewpoint. The stars include Gordon Mitchell, Erika Blanc, Gélrard Tichy, Franco Nero, Richard Johnson and Rosanna Schiaffino; one of the films is an adaptation of a story by Carlos Fuentes. Charlie Largent reviews; Arrow’s copy describes the films as containing madness, obsession and messed-up families! On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
With human justice absent in the awful political bloodshed in Central America, Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamente finds payback in cinematic fantasy. A crooked government exonerates a genocidal general, but his estate is besieged around the clock by Mayan-Ixil Indio protesters. Into the house comes a new maid — a tiny young woman who may nevertheless wield supernatural powers. The moody art-horror show is as delicate as The Innocents or a Val Lewton chiller — horror once again becomes an excellent means to address political evil. Slow and deliberate, it reverberates with horror history without copying the classics. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
This old-fashioned haunted house thriller was a moderate 1959 hit in writer-director Crane Wilbur’s creepy re-imagining. Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead headline a time-honored tale of buried treasure and the bloodthirsty fiend who’ll stop at nothing to get his claws on it. “Predictable but light-hearted entertainment that remains ghoulish fun for the whole family.” And who can go wrong with Vinnie? His doctor has a delicious scene with a shotgun. Charlie Largent’s review is of a new release, with new extras. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
A truly fascinating rarity from the U.S.S.R., Karen Shahknazarov’s wickedly droll satire proves that the country Reagan called an ‘Evil Empire’ was radically changing in the late 1980s. Half Kafka paranoia and partly a Valentine to American freedoms, it takes the psychological temperature of a society that just plain no longer functions. Leonid Filatov’s unflappable engineer arrives in a rural Russian town and might as well be a Soviet Alice dropped down a rabbit hole — things get crazier and crazier, and nobody wants to let him in on the cosmic joke. The weird tale’s strength is its visual creativity, but it also generates an unexpected affection for its characters, nice people caught in a frustrating system. On Blu-ray from Deaf Crocodile.
Ivan Passer’s superb coda to the ’60s counterculture generation now enjoys a formidable reputation; this new Fun City Editions release packs it with terrific extras. It may have the best performances by top stars John Heard, Jeff Bridges and Lisa Eichhorn. Disaffected 30-somethings in Santa Barbara investigate a murder and then try to blackmail a corporate CEO. Heard is the maimed, one-eyed veteran already judged unstable, Bridges the yacht bum who gets by on his good looks, and Eichhorn the most forlorn woman of the early ’80s, looking for a reason to give a damn about something. Jordan Cronenweth’s cinematography and Jack Nitzsche’s music track couldn’t be bettered; the movie deserves the place of honor granted to Easy Rider. On Blu-ray from Fun Cities Editions.
Still by far the best adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson story, Paramount’s glossy pre-Code is also one of the most prestigious horror shows on record. Fredric March won an acting Oscar and it’s one of Miriam Hopkins’ best performances. The film is sexually daring and technically astute — with the help of cameraman Karl Struss director Rouben Mamoulian makes use of every cinematic trick he can conjure. The horrible Mr. Hyde is conceived as a near-simian primitive man, equating unrestrained lust and desire as something ‘society’ must repress. The disc packaging says it’s two minutes longer than the 2004 Warner DVD . . . but it’s not. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Anticipating new interest in one of the most influential horror films of all time, Criterion gives George Romero’s zombie classic the boost to 4K. The most famous movie to be produced in Pittsburgh returns American horror to its down-home roots, with excellent docu-drama direction and enthusiastic performances. It’s like a Disney film: every seven years a new generation will arrive to debate whether the beseiged victims should have fought upstairs, or all retreated to the basement. It’s a 3-disc set, one 4K UHD and two Blu-rays. Where’s the Bill ‘Chilly Billy’ Cardille theme song? On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
MGM’s remake of a Lon Chaney horror silent is a ‘class’ MGM production apparently designed to neutralize everything horrible in horror. You’ll understand when you see it: Bela Lugosi and Carroll Borland are genuinely chilling, and the show abounds in fantastic gothic imagery, much of it eerie and unexplainable . . . until they explain it. The actual star is the pompous Mr. Potter Lionel Barrymore. We do admit that — talky sections aside — there are as many classic vampire images here as in Lugosi’s original Dracula. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Severin’s October offerings include this investigation of Euro-weirdness curated with academic purpose and clarity by Kier-La Janisse, evoking the name of her book from 2012. The thesis is the representation of women in filmic horror — except that in these strange experiences, hysteria transforms into a liberating form of empowerment: Identikit, I Like Bats, Footsteps and The Other Side of the Underneath. Elizabeth Tayor and Florinda Bolkan are the top stars in the collection, two of which bear the cinematography of Vittorio Storaro. The final film is a totally different, experimental experience. Ms. Janisse’s introductions connect the dots for these filmworks that envigorate and disturb. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
This Civil War thriller has so much truth to say about War, Patriotism and combatant-vs.-civilian terror that we can hardly believe it was released in 1954. It’s based on a true event from 1864, a daring undercover mission that hit the Union far away from the conventional fighting. Van Heflin is the vengeance-seeking advance agent, Anne Bancroft a war widow, Richard Boone a maimed Union veteran and Lee Marvin a loose cannon with a hair trigger. The anti-war message is stronger than anything from the Vietnam years! The 20th-Fox release is not on home video, and is in great need of restoration. On Not on Home Video.
Yes, it’s Hammer’s grimy rags ‘n’ rock prehistoric saga, the notorious third caveman vs. dinosaurs spectacle that has no dinosaurs, leaving the ‘creatures’ of the title as a no-show. Director Don Chaffey does his best with a screenplay that Michael Carreras must have sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin. If you like rugged terrain and dusty dirty cavemen exposed to the elements — or you’re a Hammer completist — you’ve come to the right place. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
CineSavant’s Charlie Largent takes on Brian De Palma’s paranoid conspiracy re-think of an Antonioni picture with an almost identical title, adding creepy touches from similar Alan Pakula and Francis Coppola chillers. Hipster sound recordist and editor John Travolta gets into the middle of a nefarious scheme mixing elements of both JFK and Teddy Kennedy; Nancy Allen is the woman who tries to help him save both their lives. Plenty of visual pyrotechnics; in 4K some of Vilmos Zsigmond’s ultra-sharp Panavision images almost look like 3-D. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Richard Fleischer’s Biblical epic is a class act all the way, one of producer Dino De Laurentiis’s greatest accomplishments. Anthony Quinn’s guilty, perplexed bandit survives and subsists but never understands the import of the man crucified in his place; the view of early Christianity is respectful but free of pious clichés. It’s an excellent image of the ancient world, with gladiator scenes that are possibly the best ever. Fleisher does exceedingly well with the enormous sets and a well-chosen international cast: Ernest Borgnine, Valentina Cortese, Vittorio Gassman, Katy Jurado, Arthur Kennedy, Silvana Mangano, Jack Palance. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Martin McDonagh’s cult hitman feature comes to 4K looking extremely good: fans of droll, low-key black humor and vulgar sentimentality, kinda-like-the-Coens, kinda-like-Tarantino, love this picture. Cute performances and characterizations from Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson & Ralph Fiennes bring light to a ‘killers with a heart’ story. It keeps us watching to see what happens next, that’s for sure. And when’s the last time that 13th century European art and architecture figured so heavily in a mob saga? On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Saucy pre-Code entertainment routinely served up risqué dialogue and edgy content like promiscuity and drug use, but Mitchell Leisen’s murder mystery goes straight for a supposed family-industry no-no: Broadway-revue near-nudity featuring Earl Carroll’s ‘Most Beautiful Girls In The World’. Victor McLaglen is a beefy detective and Jack Oakie a wise-cracking impresario. Gertrude Michael and Kitty Carlisle carry the musical numbers, the most famous being an ode to the still-legal Sweet Marijuana. Showgirls like Lucille Ball possess the daring to don the skimpy costumes, even if they hadn’t yet learned what Marijuana was. Duke Ellington and his orchestra sit in for Ebony Rhapsody, a mixed-race musical number with room for ‘guest dancers from Harlem.’ On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Behold — it’s Indiana Jones in embryonic form. Paramount’s South American adventure exploits Peruvian scenery and the ’50s exotica phenomenon that was the unique songstress Yma Sumac. The production receives hearty input from Charlton Heston, Nicole Maurey and Thomas Mitchell, but it’s mostly a relic today. Not because the Raiders films have stolen its thunder . . . because it’s plenty hokey, even for 1954. The filmmakers did send a camera crew to the remote Andes, to film in the ‘lost city’ of Machu Picchu. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Jonathan Demme’s mix of high spirits and murder is the best gangland satire ever. The comic tale of Mafia spouse Angela de Marco comes with an edge of economic reality: how does one newly-impoverished New Yawk widow make a living for her orphaned son, while avoiding the ‘interest’ of the slimy Big Boss who had her husband iced? Michelle Pfeiffer came into her own, Dean Stockwell has his best adult role and Matthew Modine is uniquely charming as a clean-cut FBI agent. The supporting performances go every which way: Mercedes Ruehl, Alec Baldwin, Oliver Platt and a slew of Demme regulars. Plus a music score by David Byrne. The disc features three new video interviews. On Blu-ray from Fun City Editions.
It’s one of the year’s most awaited discs: the recent restored and remastered The War of the Worlds ’53 in a glorious 4K Ultra HD edition. A second Blu-ray disc of When Worlds Collide ’51 is too good to be called a bonus extra: this edition looks better than anything seen since original Technicolor prints. In one show we endure scurvy invaders from The Red Planet; in the other a rogue Astral Body threatens Earth with obliteration, necessitating escape on a space ship. Don’t bother checking online for tickets, the flight is sold out. CineSavant has the lowdown for collectors: how good does the new release look? On 4K Ultra-HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Paramount Presents.
United Artists substitutes Nathaniel Hawthorne for Edgar Allan Poe, but even with Vincent Price on board Sidney Salkow is no Roger Corman. Three famous tales play out: Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, The House of the Seven Gables and the best, Rappaccini’s Daughter. Reviewer Charlie Largent sorts it all out: we like the cast, some of whom are survivors of earlier exploitation pix: Mari Blanchard, Sebastian Cabot, Richard Denning, Jacqueline deWit, Beverly Garland, Brett Halsey, Abraham Sofaer, Joyce Taylor. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Producer-director Michael Curtiz’s femme fatale noir has a lot going for it — high production values, VistaVision, and new film talent in Tom Tryon, Carol Ohmart, Elaine Stritch & Jody Lawrance. Excellent location shooting and a Nat King Cole song provide authentic Los Angeles atmosphere. But the storyline is ten years out of date. The advertising promoted Ms. Ohmart as a new ’50s sex symbol. She may have caught fire, but the show didn’t. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
The effort to restore neglected films doesn’t get more rewarding than this 4K rebirth of Lewis Milestone’s version of the acclaimed Somerset Maugham story. Loaned from MGM, Joan Crawford tries on the role of Sadie Thompson and holds her own opposite Walter Huston’s fire & brimstone preacher. It’s still a major achievement of the pre-Code era, an adult story that doesn’t water down its ‘dangerous’ themes: it’s exactly the kind of show that the censors didn’t want made. On Blu-ray from Mary Pickford Foundation / VCI.
CineSavant reviewer Charlie Largent is back in action, swingin’ and a shakin’ & rockin’ and a rollin’. The subject is Baz Luhrmann’s gaudy, circus-like Elvis Presley biopic, which stars Austin Butler as the pelvic title idol but gives equal emphasis to Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Tom Parker, the Machiavellian manager who spelled ‘Elvis’ as A-T-M. The deluxe 4K presentation reveals a carefully orchestrated riot of moods and colors — Lurid Luhrmann may be creatively scattered but this is a good-looking show. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Anthony Asquith’s unusual look at wartime espionage garnered good notices in 1958, perhaps from reviewers rebelling against the trend toward ruthless screen violence. Star Paul Massie is fine as an emotionally-stricken Allied assassin who balks at carrying out his mission; the acting support from Irene Worth and Leslie French is superb. Screenwriter Paul Dehn was an ace at sharp, no-nonsense thrillers, but this story is soft around the edges — it seems to be explaining non-chivalric warfare to your sweet old grandmother. Which reminds us, Lillian Gish has a small role, too. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
The tough guys in Yves Boisset’s crime drama answer revenge with revenge, with Michel Bouquet’s rogue cop committing outrageous acts of lawlessness to nail his partner’s killer. The French censors were up at arms over Boisset’s slight to police honor, yet the subject isn’t corruption — everything is ‘honor and decency.’ A fine gallery of Gallic thugs fills out the cast; both they and the attitude toward law and order are a step beyond Jean-Pierre Melville, but not an improvement. With standout work from Michel Constantin, Théo Sarapo, Henri Garcin and Bernard Fresson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
As an artist Henri-Georges Clouzot was fearless: in the darkness of the German occupation he made a movie about the social crime of informing. Poison Pen accusations destroy trust, bringing out the worst in the people of a small French town. Who is The Crow and how many will suffer before the letters stop? It’s a study in vitriolic misanthropy — the kind of cold observation that Clouzot does so well. At the war’s finish director Clouzot was accused of collaboration, and for a time was censured. Later on, some English critics classified the show as a horror film. It’s certainly creepy enough. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
If a single WW2 Hollywood war epic can sum up the complexity of homefront morale-building, this one is it. Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake enlist as Army nurses and are plunged into the disastrous opening onslaught in the Philippines. Adroit screenwriting and direction use the clichés of Hollywood glamour to give mom & dad back home a dramatic idea of what it might be like for a company of nurses in a failing war zone. Great studio effects show the rough retreats and casualties, while George Reeves and Sonny Tufts serve as reassuring sentimental diversions. And a squad of ‘unglamorous’ actresses get to play strong, patriotic roles. It’s an entertaining winner. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The third ‘Essential’ noir collection is easily [Imprint]’s best, with two genuine classics of the style plus two excellent and equally entertaining thrillers. The directors are first-rank: Lewis Milestone, Mitchell Leisen, William Dieterle and William Wyler. Top stars are present too: Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lisabeth Scott, Kirk Douglas, William Holden, Alexis Smith, Edmond O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Fredric March. The high-quality suspense and jeopardy are uniquely noir: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, No Man Of Her Own, The Turning Point and The Desperate Hours. [Imprint] taps bona fide experts for the xtras. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Arrow Video floors us with yet another well-curated Japanese masterpiece. For practical purposes, this disc might represent the Western premiere of Tomu Uchida’s three-hour ‘crime and punishment’ saga. Unfolding like a novel and filmed with an unusually gritty visual scheme called ‘the Toei W106 method,’ the story’s timeline is split between 1947 and 1957. It has a strong postwar social statement to make, but the overriding theme is one of spiritual Karma, and the function of guilt in imperfect humans. Several of the actors are just unforgettable, especially Rentarô Mikuni, Junzaburô Ban, and Ken Takakura. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
End-of-the-world Sci-fi went mainstream with a heavy message about human extinction in John Paxton’s all-star adaptation of Nevil Shute’s best seller. Always controversial and often derided as ‘glamorous obliteration chic,’ Stanley Kramer’s film plays better than ever. The possibility of Nuke Doom could be ignored back then, but we’ve since gained a more apocalyptic outlook (gee, wonder why?) It’s got fine work from Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire, and only real Australians wince at the iffy accents. It’s also Kramer’s best-judged, best-directed movie overall. [Imprint’s] special edition includes an entire separate documentary feature, Fallout. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Talk about a Back-to-School disc promotion! CineSavant digs into Severin’s The Incredibly Strange films of Ray Dennis Steckler MegaBox — 10 discs, 20 films — just enough to sample this demented offering that some have nominated for the honor of worst film ever. It’s a glorified home movie by a guy with the movie-making bug — and a friend with some cash who wanted to be a producer. Steckler’s movie found real screenings in real theaters, and the Auteur from Lemon Grove Street embarked on one of the oddest careers ever. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
Plenty of actors have played Abraham Lincoln well, but the actor still most associated with the role is Raymond Massey, who starred in Robert E. Sherwood’s Pulitzer Prizewinning play. The film version was not a hit, as Sherwood’s aim is to capture the melancholy, even the foreboding, of a man who was a natural for politics. In this reading Lincoln tries to resist his ‘call to greatness’ knowing he’s letting himself in for an unhappy life. The Warner Archive’s restoration retrieves the film from old 16mm prints, restoring James Wong Howe’s handsome cinematography. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Now that’s dedication in marriage: Paul Newman’s first directed feature film is a drama showcase for his spouse Joanne Woodward, one likely to garner critical attention. A small-town teacher deals with boredom, isolation, repression, and dwindling hope; the carefully measured conflicts allow good input from actors Kate Harrington, Estelle Parsons, and James Olson as the lover with the right approach at just the right time. It’s a picture of sensitive emotions: is Rachel Cameron really becoming a spinster? Does she have any choice in the matter? Middle age does tend to sneak up on a person . . . On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Jules Dassin’s powerful picture was a hit in Europe but remained mostly obscure here, despite featuring the great Melina Mercouri and a score of Continental stars. Adapted by two blacklistees in exile it doesn’t try to hide its revolutionary aims — Nikos Kazantzakis’s uncompromised storyline places The Church as a main obstruction to social progress, justice, and life & liberty. It’s no wonder it wasn’t ‘movie of the week’ in 1957. It’s been beautifully remastered at its original CinemaScope width, uncut. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Director Robert Benton and Paul Newman come through with an extremely pleasing small town story. Snowy North Bath New York would seem a pit of failures big and small, until we begin to appreciate its social web of ‘support relationships’ that fill in for broken family connections. Newman’s injured laborer can’t get a fair shake, but he begins to realize the importance of his neighbors and his grandson. The comic conflicts are wholly believable, with Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Pruitt Taylor Vince and Philip Seymour Hoffman on board: this one is Mellow and Mature (and a little racy) without succumbing to Hallmark TV drama sentimentality. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
This lesser-known suspense thriller is an excellent adaptation of a novel by Graham Greene, and a fine showcase for actor Anthony Hopkins and the upcoming Kristin Scott Thomas, with an able assist from Derek Jacobi. A Paris lawyer is sentenced to die as a random hostage of the German occupiers, but swaps with another prisoner with a desperate, questionable death-cell contract. Three years later, he must pretend not to be himself when he returns to the house he traded for his life, to face a woman who has sworn to kill the man who allowed her brother to die. Fans of Hannibal Lecter will be impressed by Hopkins’ deep, absorbing performance — the show’s moral tension and strange twists of fate are quite moving. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Luis Buñuel’s Mexican masterpiece embraces truly edgy content: morbid comedy, anti-social satire and a strong streak of anarchist surrealism. His ‘adventurer into the unknown’ this time is no ordinary pervert, but a privileged delinquent in pursuit of a childhood sex fantasy: killing a beautiful woman just for the thrill. Naughty Archibaldo’s rehearsals are an unending source of frustration — and eventual enlightenment. Buñuel can’t resist subverting the social framework — wicked digs at the status quo abound. Remastered on Blu-ray from VCI.
Take a refreshing plunge into classic French poetic realism — pre-noir drama with softer edges and a touch of romantic fatalism. A low-rent hotel on a barge canal is the gathering point for a cross-section of quasi- undesirables. Scandals and crimes aside, they’re a touching, human bunch, as performed to perfection by Louis Jouvet, Annabella, Arletty, Jane Marken, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Paulette Dubost and Bernard Blier. Marcel Carné’s show is also a beautiful production, with Alexandre Trauner designs that recreate ‘reality’ on an enormous scale. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Pepla! Pepla! Rah Rah Rah! These two remastered Italo muscleman pix could be the start of something big. A pair of relatively early Maciste epics became Samson vehicles in American-International’s Hollywood-ized revisions. Mark Forest & ex-Tarzan Gordon Scott overthrow tyrants in Egypt and Cathay, while hurling boulders and kissing exotic damsels like Chelo Alonso, Yôko Tani and Hélène Chanel. Separate releases from Kino Lorber. Son of Samson and Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World (directed by Riccardo Freda) are separate purchases. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
It’s one of the best cop shows of the 1960s! Detective Madigan’s police .38 is stolen by a mad-dog killer, forcing him to take extra risks just as more problems personal and professional close in on him. Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Inger Stevens and Harry Guardino give sterling performances, and the assured direction of Don Siegel keeps us on edge throughout. Siegel’s editing is extra-kinetic, and for warped screen villainy, Steve Ihnat’s maniac has no equal. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Director Kevin Reynolds’ graphic, gritty desert combat movie is about a lost tank in the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Besides being 98% an unpleasant downer, it now reminds us that we got into the exact same fix just a decade after the Russkis threw in the towel. Cruel Russki soldiers commit atrocities against vengeful Moujahedin resistance, and there’s really nobody to root for. George Dzundza, Jason Patric, Steven Bauer and Stephen Baldwin endure a rough ordeal out in the dirt, hoping for the next war movie breakthrough hit. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Kino boosts the third United Artists Stanley Kubrick classic to 4K clarity, bringing out every nuance of the director’s fine B&W imagery. Kubrick’s major career achievement this time was forming a mutually positive relationship with a big star. Their show is an artful anti-militaristic shout that accuses the French officer corps of willful murder. Producer-star Kirk Douglas gets the best grandstanding soapbox of his career, while Kubrick proves he can shape a dozen fine performances into a mainstream movie masterpiece. On 4K Ultra HD from KL Studio Classics.
The words offbeat, personal and edgy used to be a draw for movie fare — we’d check out a new relationship picture based only on an actor or two that we liked. Bobby Roth’s semi-autobiographical buddy story takes a good stab at the early ’80s art + singles scene in Los Angeles, with a dash of macho clichés — pals Peter Coyote and Nick Mancuso fight in public, and somehow suffer while bedding fantastic women. But the overall vibe is one of honest sensitivity, aided by fine performances from Carole Laure, Kathryn Harrold and Carol Wayne. Plus music by Tangerine Dream. On Blu-ray from Fun City Editions.
Who are those eternal dream girls of summer? Now in 4K . . . Sofia Coppola’s first feature is a head-swirling poetic essay about adolescent angst and tragic self-annihilation. Some families are balanced, others are dysfunctional and some are just plain toxic. Ms. Coppola sticks close to the source book, looking for visuals to express author Jeffrey Eugenides’ solution-challenged mystery, narrated by a composite group of teenaged boys. Starring Kirsten Dunst, A. J. Cook, Hanna Hall, Leslie Hayman, Chelse Swain, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Josh Hartnett, Michael Paré, Scott Glenn, Danny DeVito, Giovanni Ribisi. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
From the intersection of big-star international dealmaking, the 70mm epic, and the humble sword ‘n’ shield actioner comes this comic book viking saga that stacks one absurd, borderline bad taste scene after another. It’s an irresistable mash-up of earlier successes, well directed visually by Jack Cardiff. Richard Widmark at forty must play the Viking action hero, Russ Tamblyn at thirty is still a physical dervish, and Sidney Poitier takes on the strangest casting of his career. Plus, low sexist comedy from a platoon of hearty Brit thesps! On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
The most popular Brazilian film for decades, this funny & steamy erotic ghost story took the world by storm and made a star of Sonia Braga. Bruno Barreto adapted a Jorge Amado ‘Bahía’ novel, one that celebrates the positive role that plain old-fashioned carnal lust can play in this world. The bereaved widow Dona Flor does Gene Tierney one better — her desire literally brings her love object back to life . . . but in bed. Rich music, earthy culture. . . Film Movement’s version is the uncut original, and has a new director commentary. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
Ah, Gee, I wish we had a Sampo! Fantastic imagery and folk tale poetry infuse Alexander Ptushko’s Finnish/Soviet retelling of the epic story Kalevala. An amazing source of wealth called a Sampo is stolen by a witch of the frosty North. When the bold hero Lemminkäinen journeys to retrieve it, she uses magic to blot out the sun as well. Even more mystical than Ptushko’s Ilya Muromets, it’s fully restored in anamorphic widescreen. A real work of art, it was long ago dubbed and mangled by American-International for U.S. release as The Day the Earth Froze. On Blu-ray from Deaf Crocodile Films/Vinegar Syndrome.
There’s no getting around it — Mario Bava’s one space opera is now confirmed as a classic. Barry Sullivan and Norma Bengell must oppose invisible aliens that possess the corpses of their fellow space men. Bava’s ‘gothic’ Haunted Planet recipe just adds more weird colored lights and swirling fog to his supernatural Gothic formula. The designs are excellent and the results unique, from the odd spacecraft to the kinky costumes. The show is also genuinely influential, as should be well known to every fan of more modern sci-fi / horror films. The new HD remaster is an improvement, too! On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Budd Boetticher’s excellent semi-autobiographical film may be Hollywood’s most uncondescending depiction of high-end Mexican culture. Robert Stack is the pushy Gringo who only slowly understands Latin society’s definitions of loyalty and machismo; his rocky relationship with Joy Page’s cultured señorita is as important as the bullfighting story with Gilbert Roland. It’s Boetticher’s best film, presented for the first time in two encodings, the 87-minute release version and the UCLA Film and TV Archive’s restoration of the full 124-minute seen South of the Border. The extra commentary and featurettes are welcome too. Also starring Katy Jurado. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
This picture looks as modern and radical as anything from Italy in the 1960s, yet it’s a tough-talking take on hardboiled crime caper fiction. In three pictures Stanley Kubrick went from amateur to contender: now he has a like-minded producer, a top-flight cast, and dialogue by the legendary pulp author Jim Thompson. Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr., Coleen Gray and Vince Edwards peg the cynical film noir style, and Kubrick maintains the source book’s splintered chronology for the tense racetrack heist. All Hollywood took notice — at least that part of the industry looking out for daring, progressive storytelling. Now in 4K, Kubrick’s superb B&W images look better than ever. On 4K Ultra HD from KL Studio Classics.
Antonio Margheriti made several space epics about ‘errant planets’ posing dangers to Earth; this one gets all the attention via star casting. Claude Rains’ bombastic but brilliant scientist advises space command to blow up the planetoid, and then chooses attack day to go see its interior for himself. Toy rockets, overripe dialogue and thunderous acting from Rains ensue, leading to a finale in an ‘alien brain cave’ made of colored plastic tubes. This critical ‘triumph of the imagination’ indeed makes something entertaining out of very, very little. The presentation includes a half-hour docu hosted by Tim Lucas, a graduate class listed as ‘Italo Space Intro 101.’ On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
Haven’t yet seen all the best old-school vintage naval combat epics? This color & ‘scope thriller has a terrific cast of Brit stars and up-n-comers, can boast excellent visuals and is historically accurate. Alec Guinness captains a ship during the Napoleonic Wars, and finds his duty complicated by a psychopathic top officer (Dirk Bogarde) who usurps authority and sees the crew as fresh meat for his sadistic ideas about discipline. All the tech and art credits are top-tier, plus we get nice supporting perfs from the likes of Anthony Quayle, Nigel Stock, Maurice Denham, Victor Maddern, Tom Bell, and Murray Melvin. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
It’s a case of cold-blooded, premeditated nostalgia: Abbott & Costello’s fantasy musical is a charmingly modest and sweetly-played folk tale rooted from the early ’50s days of kiddie entertainment — a vein perfectly suited to the comedy duo’s talents. Lou Costello make a fine fantasy hero, too. The feature restoration is quite an achievement for the 3-D Archive, as the arcane color process ‘SuperCineColor’ requires engineering archeology to understand. But the show’s slapstick comedy, clever songs and dippy dancing are finally back and looking great. The labor of love extends to the extras: excised scenes, background material, some words from the only surviving actor, a learned piece on the color process and a surprise guest appearance by the Creature from the Black Lagoon. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
After bouncing about in a couple of good Blu-ray editions, Carl Franklin’s superior adaptation of the great Walter Mosley novel makes the jump to 4K. Denzel Washington’s star quality and acting prowess shine in the smart production, with Tak Fujimoto cinematography that put the color back into ’90s filmmaking. Everybody’s good and Don Cheadle’s loose-cannon henchman ‘Mouse’ is exceptionally so. There’s plenty to enjoy in this hard/soft-boiled tale, starting with its great music. It’s one of Washington’s best pictures, and should have initiated an entire franchise of Walter Mosley / Easy Rawlins detective adventures. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
After twenty years honing his craft on ever-more precise filmic constructions, David Lean opened up his imagination for a story of loneliness and romance in Venice, Italy. A vacationing American woman searches for — she doesn’t know what. Katharine Hepburn reveals the vulnerable side of her personality, and eventually leaves her fears behind. Lean creates the most compelling ‘relaxed vacation’ ever, yet every shot is as keenly envisioned as in any of the ex-editor’s films. It’s an amazing ‘on location’ show that initially ran into trouble with U.S. censors — some thought it was morally incompatible with the Production Code, and wouldn’t be released here at all. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Kino reaches into the Universal Vault for vintage Paramount and Universal thrillers. This ‘noir’ collection surprises us — it contains one terrific example of the style, newly-hatched and making itself known. The other two titles are in B&W (check), and revolve around murders (check). But if there were a TV quiz show called ‘Noir or Not Noir,’ they’d be third-tier also-rans. The talent on view is impressive, especially the leading ladies: Claire Trevor, Louise Platt, Merle Oberon, Ella Raines, and Gale Sondergaard. Kino appoints Street of Chance, Enter Arsene Lupin, and Temptation with good commentators: Jason A. Ney, Anthony Slide, Kelly Robinson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Collector’s box on the horizon: Severin assembles hours of video extras and text illumination for another group of films featuring favorite actor Christopher Lee. The roundup of titles bookends Lee’s career as a screen vampire, with one of his earliest vampire roles and also his last turn as Count Dracula. Looming large on the academic side of Severin’s research are experts and biographers Kat Ellinger, Barry Forshaw, Troy Howarth, Kim Newman, Nathaniel Thompson and Jonathan Rigby, who also contributes a hundred-page book. Uncle Was a Vampire, The Secret of the Red Orchid, Dark Places, Dracula and Son and Murder Story: six Blu-rays and one Audio CD from Severin Films.
This one indeed could have come in a brown paper wrapper in 1972. John Waters’ frontal assault on good taste crawls back in a 4K digital restoration (from a 16mm original?) that enshrines Divine as ‘the filthiest person alive.’ Home video’s premiere label describes this fragrant gem as embracing “Incest, cannibalism, shrimping, and film history’s most legendary gross-out ending.” We’ll leave it to CineSavant’s Charlie Largent to uncover (scrape up?) the show’s lasting merit. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Humble Marty Piletti finally gets to home video in its proper widescreen format. Paddy Chayefsky’s TV play-turned theatrical feature really shines in Kino’s new 4K remaster. The performances of Betsy Blair and especially Ernest Borgnine provide the gentle magic, as non-glamorous Bronx-ites learn that two lonely people can find romance. It’s a winning formula and a thoughtful meditation on social reality in the pursuit of happiness. With a new audio commentary by Bryan Reesman and Max Evry. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
This meticulous docu-drama is still the best show about the Titanic, the awesome disaster that has never lost its grip on the imagination. Roy Ward Baker leads an enormous cast of Brit character actors through 2.5 hours of true-life terror in the icy Atlantic — Kenneth More, Honor Blackman, David McCallum, Laurence Naismith, Anthony Bushell. No stupid subplots and no insulting anachronisms, just an awful sinking death trap and 1600 passengers facing the freezing water. [Imprint] brings some new extras to the mix, too. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Part of a perfect 1956 matinee double bill, Alex Gordon’s supernatural thriller features an iconic monster, a piece of real horror art from monster-maker Paul Blaisdell. The production can best be described as ‘pedestrian’ but there’s no denying that the movie is an odd nostalgic favorite — a great poster helps. The cast mixes veterans (Chester Morris, Tom Conway, Frieda Inescort, Frank Jenks, El Brendel) with new blood (Lance Fuller, Ron Randell, Paul Dubov, William Hudson) — but the real reason to watch is starlet Marla English. This one should have been a classic. On Blu-ray.
It may be this year’s ‘comfort food’ film but Julian Fellowes’ second theatrical sequel to his revered long-running TV show is quality goods — and may be better than the first one. Almost every actor is back, seemingly pleased as plum puddings to repeat their roles as either landed nobility or downstairs staff. The storyline ties a final bow on some characters and plot lines, and in a far more pleasing way than we thought possible. Even casual fans of the franchise ought to be charmed. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
We still remember the scary AM radio ads from back in the 6th grade: THEY EAT HUMAN FLESH! Mainstream ‘nabe theaters that wouldn’t show movies by Herschell Gordon Lewis played this proto-gore horror show, an ingeniously crafted thriller that captures the style of action horror comics through clever, gruesome special effects. The flesh eaters are glittering bits of organic matter that can skeletonize a human in fifteen seconds! Martin Kosleck’s mad doctor is happy to welcome tasty human morsels for his ravenous home-grown microbes. An alternate version slides into sleaze territory with a tasteless flashback to a Nazi ‘medical experiment.’ The best extra is a long-awaited audio commentary, recorded for an earlier disc that was never released. On Blu-ray.
Director Sergio Sollima sets the template for twenty years of violent action cinema for Rough Tough Charles Bronson. Precise stunt scenes and clever direction are at the service of a script that can’t produce a convincing line of dialogue. It’s a mishmosh of sex, bullets and car chases. Bronson is betrayed by his love for Jill Ireland, and Telly Savalas is shoehorned in as a (surprise!) nasty gangster. Much of it does play like gangbusters — the opening and closing especially — and the dynamic title instrumental is one of maestro Ennio Morricone’s best. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Feature number three for the Coen Brothers is an eccentric gangster saga with a wonderful slate of mugs — Gabriel Byrne, John Turturro, Albert Finney, Jon Polito, J.E. Freeman, Steve Buscemi — slinging highly entertaining hardboiled dialogue. The witty, insightful story is at heart not a comedy, and the direction impresses in the formal sense — no superfluous camera acrobatics this time. Barry Sonnenfeld’s visual stick in the mind — the Byrne-Turturro execution scene in the woods is one of the highlights of 1990s filmmaking. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Walter Mirisch earned his Oscar for this Sidney Poitier hit directed by Norman Jewison. The tense mystery thriller is also a big cultural step in the advancement of Civil Rights, Hollywood-style: Poitier’s Virgil Tibbs claims the right to not turn the other cheek. Stars Rod Steiger, Lee Grant, Warren Oates and Larry Gates are in top form. Kino’s new 4K release maximizes the impact of Haskell Wexler’s steamy cinematography and Quincy Jones’ rich music, and includes bonus Blu-ray encodings of the two sequels made a few years later. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
A bulbous brain with glowing eyes takes over scientist John Agar and uses him to blackmail Earth in Nathan Juran’s nifty, nutty sci-fi thriller. The alien noggin’ is also hot to experience human sexuality, which makes things difficult for Agar’s extremely understanding girlfriend, Joyce Meadows. This drive-in favorite uses clever images to sell its alien possession theme, and poor Mr. Agar wears bug-eyed lenses that must have felt like torture — my eyes water thinking about it. Want to prevent an invasion from space? Get out your anatomy book and find the Fissure of Rolando. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
One of Orson Welles’ best has arrived in 4K! Kino Lorber has revived Universal’s 3-version study of the bordertown crime & corruption drama, that knocks us out with Welles’ colorful, weird characters, intricate scene blocking and infinitely creative camera work. Almost all of the extras from the earlier DVD and Blu-ray editions are here, with added expert commentary (the tally of tracks is now five). The performances are superb — Welles won’t lay off the candy bars, Janet Leigh wisely avoids the motel shower and Charlton Heston is actually fine as a ‘pretty unlikely’ Mexican. We’ve seen this show ten times — it’s so dense that each viewing brings new revelations. On 4K Ultra HD from KL Studio Classics.
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].
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.
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.
“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.
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 transforms 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Belloc, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a Disney Club exclusive, yet an event that merits reportage: reviewer Charlie Largent celebrates a favorite fantasy picture with qualities that still appeal: stars Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro and Sean Connery, plus some of the most elaborate and clever special effects ever. Leprechauns are nothing but trouble; I’ve personally never nabbed those Lucky Charms. Disney shocks us by including a selection of interesting extras, as well. On Blu-ray as a Disney Movie Club Exclusive. Okay mouse, it’s time to fork over The Light in the Forest and Third Man on the Mountain.
Kino’s Noir boxes offer interesting noir-adjacent crime and mystery pix. This seventh return to the well of darkness brings up the organized crime ‘meller’ Chicago Confidential with Brian Keith and the more ambitious The Boss, starring John Payne and written by Dalton Trumbo. The third show The Fearmakers is a real oddity. Starring Dana Andrews and directed by Jacques Tourneur, it’s a political conspiracy tale about manipulating opinions with fraudulent polls. It sounds a lot like the fractured state of modern America, 65 years later. With commentaries by Jason A. Ney and Alan K. Rode. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Despite its so-so reputation John Ford’s cavalry picture still plays as a superior Civil War drama, making excellent use of a real historical incident. The conflicts between John Wayne’s commander, William Holden’s doctor and Constance Ford’s unexpected prisoner play well — plus Ford manages scores of great images and a handful of classic scenes. Seeing it with the help of Joseph McBride’s commentary helps too — the story behind the movie is interesting in itself. And we’re told that Wayne never personally fires a shot in the film! On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Gritty inner city crime pix don’t get any rougher than this — I witnessed the walk-outs personally. Barry Shear and a crack crew filmed in Harlem for this downbeat crime pic that could be called ‘Every Thief For Himself.’ Paul Benjamin just wants to score some mob money and leave the mean streets behind — but a single slip-up brings the worst of the Mafia and the black mob down on his neck. It’s neither a ‘stick it to whitey’ saga nor a plea for justice — if there were 8 million stories in The Naked City, this would be number eight million and one. Stars Anthony Quinn, Anthony Franciosa and Yaphet Kotto provide more acting fireworks, with solid assistance from Gloria Henry, Antonio Fargas and Marlene Warfield. On Region-Free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Charlie Largent does justice to a choice pair of W.C. Fields comedies from his Paramount period. You’re Telling Me is a remake of a film called ‘So’s Your Old Man’ and contains a classic golf game; The Man on the Flying Trapeze is directed by Buster Keaton collaborator Clyde Bruckman and features a frustrated Fields committing four traffic violations in a row. In both pictures Fields appears to be tormented by good old Kathleen Howard, who we know was really nice in normal life. Separate purchases, on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Most noted for its troubled production background, this good hospital-set murder thriller turns a doctor into a detective: James Coburn’s medico undertakes an amateur investigation of a crime involving an illegal abortion, and the cover-up thereof. Although tangled up in the crazy James Aubrey-Kirk Kerkorian regime at MGM, Blake Edwards’ film can boast a strong supporting cast: Jennifer O’Neill, Pat Hingle, Elizabeth Allan, Dan O’Herlihy, James Hong, Michael Blodgett, Regis Toomey and John Hillerman. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Welcome to Ground Zero for ‘Committed Cinema’ Italian style. Director Giuiano Montaldo filmed his dream project on location in Ireland and a bit in Boston, with top stars Gian Maria Volontè and Riccardo Cucciolla. In one of the highest-profile American ‘media’ trials ever the famed immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti were tried for a crime but convicted by politics: even the judge asserted they were guilty by definition. Montaldo shows how wrongly justice can be served without whitewashing the defendants. UK actors Cyril Cusack and Milo O’Shea up the performance level, and the Ennio Morricone / Joan Baez songs have kept the film alive. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
UK correspondent Lee Broughton returns with coverage of a well-realised Spaghetti Western, Michele Lupo’s irony-laden semi-comedy Ben & Charlie. The film’s eponymous anti-heroes are played by fan favourites Giuliano Gemma and George Eastman and the duo receive great support from a number of familiar faces including Marisa Mell, Aldo Sambrell and Giacomo Rossi Stuart. Looking great on Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
Accept no substitutes! Aleksandr Ptushko’s fairy-tale folk hero saga is the real deal in medieval spectacle. When the nation calls, warriors rise from the steppes to defend against invaders, even if they have to defy royal authority. The first Soviet film in anamorphic scope and stereophonic sound, Ilya Muromets is an eye-opening series of fantastic characters and storybook episodes, loaded with Ptushko’s amazingly beautiful special effects and jaw-dropping scenes with entire armies filling the scene. The capper is one hell of a fierce dragon — the fire breathing, three-headed Zmey Gorynych! On Blu-ray from Deaf Crocodile Films.
George Seaton connected an ideal cast to this true-life WW2 story, an adult thriller that’s so good even a lazy script and slack direction can’t sink it. William Holden is the American-Swede who spies for the Allies, ruining his own reputation and schmoozing with Nazis that will kill him if he slips up. Wonderful Lilli Palmer is the patriot-agent who steals his heart. The locations are impressive but one inspired scene captures with perfection the utter depravity of fascist power. If ever a WW2 movie needed a remake, this one qualifies. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
It’s back and Criterion’s got it, so be prepared for sharp-talking insights on Billy Wilder’s nearly flawless, cinema-changing ode to cold-blooded murder, Los Angeles style. Edward G. Robinson wants Fred MacMurray but Barbara Stanwyck has him wrapped around her trigger finger. James M. Cain tapped into our city’s domestic malaise — who doesn’t know somebody they’d like to trade in for some extra cash? What about the extras? The Big C has Noah Isenberg, Imogen Sara Smith, Eddie Muller, Angelica Jade Bastién. Plus, we get the legendary Wilder interviews with Volker Schlöndorff, uncut and völlig ungeklärt. Revolver under the sofa cushion, anyone? On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
The good news is that Kino’s new 4K encodings of Sergio Leone’s first two Italo ‘Dollars’ oaters look terrific, with Fistful showing a lot of improvement: the basic restorations are from prime Italian film elements. And the package is collector / home theater enthusiast friendly — standard Blu-ray encodings are part of the deal. As the films are still licensed from MGM, they include the extras from 2007 of which we’re very proud. The end results may be the first Leone disc release that makes this viewer ‘The Man with No Complaints.’ Don’t forget, they’re separate purchases. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
7 Film Collection. Universal’s ongoing franchise used tricks to make a mule talk (with the voice of Chill Wills) providing Donald O’Connor with steady work but also shoehorning him into a role unworthy of his talent — as a high-stepping dancer he was the equal of Gene Kelly any day. Universal put everybody on the contract roster in these shows: actresses Julie Adams, Piper Laurie, Lori Nelson, and one show is the official credited debut of Clint Eastwood. The final entry is a real oddity, with Mickey Rooney taking over for Donald O’Connor and Paul Frees as the Mule’s voice. Will Francis sound like Toshiro Mifune? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
What a great title to revisit — John Ford’s ‘Kabuki’ western is less about action and more about form and tradition — especially the way the truth gets plowed under in ‘the West,’ which is of course just America reduced to a mythological keepsake. John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin are characters that seem to know they’re playing roles that never change. We might question the values, but there’s no denying that said values prevailed as the country’s consensus self-image. Paramount’s new 4K makes a great-looking movie look even better, Pilgrim — and we don’t tolerate no disloyal debates ’bout film grain North of the Picket Wire. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Paramount Presents.
In just her fourth American movie the Swedish import Ingrid Bergman proves herself the most sensual creature in Hollywood, running away with Spencer Tracy and Victor Fleming’s remake of Mamoulian’s pre-Code classic. The morals are cleaned up and the sex angle tamed down (except for Fröken Bergman) and the acting is less stylized — overall it’s a fine show. Ingrid learned quickly how things were done at MGM — she swiped the film’s plum role from Lana Turner. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Expatriate blacklistee Joseph Losey is the perfect director for this excellent, strange tale, a big award winner in France. The terrible Occupation-era victimization of the Jewish citizens of Paris is told tangentially from the viewpoint of a jackal-like opportunist who buys art and valuables cheaply from Jews desperate for cash. But Klein has a little ‘doppelgänger’ problem straight out of Franz Kafka . . . and finds himself in an existential nightmare that’s strangely . . . appropriate. This original, superior thriller also stars Jeanne Moreau, Francine Bergé, Michael Lonsdale, Juliet Berto and Suzanne Flon. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
This knockout comedy rates as one of Hollywood’s funniest ever — although it could be ‘cancelled’ any day now, so get ready to deny ever having laughed at it. Ultimate movie star glamour meets the apex of screenwriting hilarity: liberated by 101 cross-dressing jokes Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond jam sly sex innuendo into almost word spoken. We still don’t know how the censors passed one of of Marilyn Monroe’s costumes: Raymond Durgnat described the resulting visual effect as ‘The Hanging Gardens of Marilyn.’ Everybody’s tip top in this one: Jack Lemmon prances, Tony Curtis does his Cary Grant imitation, and Billy Wilder tosses in a score of his favorite 1920s tunes. On 4K Ultra HD from KL Studio Classics.
Peter Yates’ excellent war-movie follow-up to Bullitt landed in the wrong year: the beautifully produced and directed action thriller was barely seen in America. Royal Navy mechanic Peter O’Toole swears vengeance on the U-Boat commander who sunk his ship and murdered its entire crew. Locals in a Caribbean backwater help him to strike back: he must first teach himself to fly an airplane. With support from Horst Janson, Sian Phillips and the great Philippe Noiret, it’s a wartime suspense nail-biter with a little manic obsession thrown in as well. Indicator’s extras feature the great editor-director John Glen, who relates the exciting story of the filming on location in Venezuela. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Steve McQueen’s final film is an action-comedy compromise that will satisfy his fans even if it barely hangs together. The thrills are kinder & gentler, with plenty of hair-raising stunts but less gunplay and gore. McQueen’ eccentric bounty hunter collects toys and can barely drive a car, but he always gets his man. Kathryn Harrold is good; Eli Wallach, LeVar Burton, Ben Johnson, Richard Venture and Tracey Walter are along for the ride (and stay out of Steve’s spotlight). Steve’s in charge — he tailors everything to highlight his quirky star characterization, and the guiding principle is ‘low key.’ On Region Free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Here’s one that really benefits from its 4K upgrade — Terry Gilliam’s dense visuals look great with Roger Pratt’s exacting cinematography. Is this really a thinking man’s science fiction hit, or did audiences mainly want to get a look at Brad Pitt in a new mode, playing a weird motormouthed eccentric? Bruce Willis and Madeleine Stowe star in a time-puzzle thriller adaptation of Chris Marker’s La jetée. On 4K Ultra HD from Arrow Video.
Vincent Price’s strongest A.I.P. departure from the Poe mold, often praised for its ornate art direction, ‘The Abominable Dr. Phibes’ is a macabre murder fantasy in a 1920s period setting, one part Gaston Leroux and two parts Art Deco design accents, with some vintage music thrown in. The campy storyline sees Phibes organizing nine murders around the nine plagues of Egypt. The sequel ‘Dr. Phibes Rises Again’ goes in for even more homicidal artifice. With Joseph Cotten, Virginia North, Terry-Thomas; and Robert Quarry and Hugh Griffith. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Cohen Film Collection brings to Region A its beautifully remastered disc of American fringe filmmaking’s weirdest, most obsessively arty shock-fest — a loving return to silent expressionist horror. The New York censors scuttled its commercial chances, and it wound up as a movie-within-a-movie footnote for Steve McQueen. We never thought we’d see the show look this good — John Parker memorialized Venice, California five years before Orson Welles. But the overall package packs a big disappointment, as I’ll explain. On Region A Blu-ray from Cohen Media Group.
Yasuzo Masumura amazes us with yet another sensual stunner. This period way-of-all-flesh tale is almost a horror film, but the supernatural shivers are far outpaced by the daily Evil that Men Do. Japanese superstar Ayako Wakao blazes across the screen as a self-decreed avenger of the female sex, who allows men to destroy themselves and uses them to destroy each other. The bloody killings orbit around the desire to possess the irresistible Spider Woman, an in an ‘annihilating noir.’ The screenplay is by the equally famous Kaneto Shindo, from a Japanese ‘amor fou’ novel by Junichiro Tanizaki. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
Ivan Passer’s first American film and his first in the English language is a core life-with-a-junkie tale in a cold Manhattan winter. George Segal is the ‘habituated, not addicted’ (he says) user whose married life has already been destroyed. Can he escape with the help of his new girlfriend? Hector Elizondo’s pimp/pusher has no intention of letting that happen. What’s weird is Passer’s frequently light tone — Segal’s criminal antics verge on the absurd. It’s a great film to see Karen Black, a young Robert De Niro and even Paula Prentiss in action, and yet another snapshot of Times Square in its most degraded decade. On Blu-ray from Fun City Editions.
Surprise: these are quality movies on an important subject. Entry 13 in the ‘Golden Age of the Exploitation Picture’ gives us not sleaze but two well-produced vintage public education epics on the subject of (gasp) venereal disease. Although reissued by sensation hucksters as racy ‘forbidden’ fare, they had serious social aims — the screenplay for one was adapted by the famed author Upton Sinclair. The other was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Added extras are four short subjects directed by Edgar G., and two sex-ed lecture reels that alternate between funny and revolting. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
John Sturges’ orbital jeopardy thriller does everything right: the story is taken seriously, the actors seem committed and the special effects aren’t bad. Yet it’s more interesting for what doesn’t work than what does. As one of the first Sci-fi pictures in the wake of 2001 it wasn’t well received despite being technically astute. Did NASA’s race to the Moon put an end to fanciful space Sci-fi? Gregory Peck, Gene Hackman, Lee Grant and some ex- TV actors do their best, but producer Mike Frankovich’s space saga just sits there. It looks great in its first Blu-ray release: images of the actual Apollo 11 launch are breathtaking. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Val Guest’s cinema quest for his own semi-docu style pays off in this fine, intelligent police investigation into a gruesome dismemberment murder. U.K. favorite Jack Warner is the main detective, Guest’s actress wife Yolande Donlan is a ‘person of interest,’ and the illusion of reality is enhanced by real locations in Greenwich, Brighton, Lewes and points between. It’s an excellent legwork murder mystery, with good atmosphere and colorful characterizations — within the dry ‘serious business’ format, of course. On Blu-ray from Cohen Media Group / Kino Lorber.
All hail Frank Tashlin! The ex-cartoon director all but invented our fixation on extreme ’50s style, and in this musical comedy wrangles the top obsessions of the decade, rock ‘n’ roll and buxom Hollywood sex appeal as represented by Jayne Mansfield and her milk bottles. Tom Ewell and a hilarious Edmond O’Brien are the Old School representatitves of Show Biz and gangsterism, while the CinemaScope screen is assaulted by Little Richard, Fats Domino and Eddie Cochran, with some love left over for Julie (swoon) London. Reviewer Charlie Largent sees the truth through the blinding primary colors: is the fetishistic worship of Mansfield homogenized, or merely lactose indulgent? On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Sign up for WASP: the World Aquanaut Security Patrol! Troy Tempest flies the superduper rescue submarine Stingray. He likes both his boss’s daugher Atlanta and the delighful mermaid of the deep Marina, but he won’t marionette either of them. The full color restorations of these vintage Gerry and Sylvia Anderson puppet adventures are razor-sharp in HD, giving us a full appreciation of Derek Meddings’ superb special effects. The Deluxe Edition is packed with goodies including a comic book and a WASP pilot license and badge. Reviewer Charlie Largent recommends viewing the entire series through an aquarium, for added realism. On Blu-ray from Network.
This 2011 theatrical remake of John le Carré’s spy classic is a happy surprise — it’s every bit as distinctive and accomplished as the famed Alec Guinness TV miniseries. Swedish director Tomas Alfredson and the writers know how to tell a story — at just over two hours it’s neither bloated nor curtailed. Gary Oldman immediately makes the brilliant George Smiley his own — he’s younger but just as quiet and secretive. Oldman is surrounded by distinctive talent, an ensemble that serves the story: John Hurt, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy. It’s a delight for mystery-spy fans whether or not they’re familiar with the John le Carré-George Smiley universe. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Herein we break form, with a CineSavant- posted essay by contributor Matt Rovner. It’s not a review, but an essay about the development of the WW2 homefront propaganda movie Gangway for Tomorrow, that was largely written by the famed radio great Arch Oboler, Matt Rovner’s recurring object of study. Matt extensively researched the show’s progress from script to screen, observing how various episodes were changed or discarded at the urging of government advisors. The disc is available from The Warner Archive Collection but again, this is an academic essay, not a disc review.
Alex Cox attacks the Reagan years with a political tale sung in the key of the Italo Spaghetti Western: expect plenty of slow motion shots of stylish pistolero mercenaries fighting for the historical ‘filibuster’ William Walker. Look him up, he’s the patron saint of every neocon and would-be soldier of fortune. Everybody on this show goes the whole 9 yards in commitment, with Ed Harris in the lead — they filmed in Nicaragua. It may be director Cox’s finest show, packed with vivid images and surreal anachronisms — and a terrific music score by Joe Strummer. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
The messy politics of the Indo-China War didn’t confuse writer-director Samuel Fuller; as the machine gun- toting Nat King Cole snarls, hating Commies is an end unto itself! Fuller’s second outrageous Cold War combat fantasy pits a handful of French Legionnaires and mercenaries against the might of the International Communist Conspiracy, to stop the flow of Chinese and Russian weapons into Vietnam. Commander Gene Barry has an ally who could be straight from a Terry and the Pirates comic strip: Eurasian adventuress Lucky Legs. Young Angie Dickinson is the good-time-girl / wronged spouse / caring mother who also maintains cordial pillow-talk relations with the Red vermin. If those are the Good and the Bad, Lee Van Cleef’s Chinese General is the Ugly: his troops guard the China Gate, the key to Commie victory! On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Still believe in the goodness of people? Still hold out hope for the future? If so this is one picture you’ll want to catch up with sooner than later. ‘The Good Totò’ is literally found in a cabbage patch; the simple magic of kindness enables him to turn a shanty town into a little Utopia . . . for a few days. Vittorio De Sica and Cesare Zavattini fashion a story that insists that magic is as real as sunlight, music, and the words ‘Good Morning’ — and that man is imperfect and his institutions unjust. Francesco Golisano, Brunella Bovo and the heavenly Emma Gramatica are unforgettable. The warmth and understanding here bests that of Charlie Chaplin. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
W.C. Fields’ Larson E. Whipsnade, bogus Barnum imitator, is everything in this tale of fatherly malice love. Whipsnade dodges the lawmen and cheats everybody to benefit his Circus Giganticus; his college-girl daughter loves ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (or does she secretly dig Charlie McCarthy?). It’s carny nonsense all the way, dated race humor, brilliant insult jokes and all: “You can’t cheat an honest man; never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump.” Michael Schlesinger’s audio commentary wises up us chumps; CineSavant reviewer Charlie Largent is back in action, and cheats nobody! On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
George Pal’s ill-fated ‘future docu’ followup to Destination Moon still stirs the imagination, rendering in vivid Technicolor the visionary images that amazed us in Chesley Bonestell’s paintings about space travel. We still love the movie, even if we want to shove the script and whoever approved it out an airlock without a space helmet. It’s fun to pick the movie apart, but when Van Cleave’s trilling ‘spacey’ music plays we know we’re back in 1950s Sci-fi Nirvana, anticipating a techno-future of space marvels. [Imprint] gives the movie a classy Blu-ray showcase. On Region-free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Every breakout independent hit seems like a miracle. This delightful ‘little’ picture was fated to be ghetto-ized into ethnic theaters before its producers opted to distribute it themselves. Capturing a vibrant part of the immigrant experience, Joan Micklin Silver’s micro-production often has a big-picture look; it charmed audiences and became a sleeper success. Star Carol Kane was nominated for an acting Oscar as ‘Gitl,’ a woman with Old-Country values plus the grit and determination to win a better life. Also with fine performances from Steven Keats, Mel Howard, Dorrie Kavanaugh and Doris Roberts. On Blu-ray from Cohen / Kino Lorber.
Kino’s triple-threat Edgar Ulmer show has great commentaries plus HD debuts of his two ‘Texas’ movies, that likely have not been seen in their original widescreen aspect ratios since the 1960s. Ulmer’s first tale of a solo space invader The Man from Planet X has the pleasing look of a silent-era expressionist film. His take on a time travel paradox Beyond the Time Barrier uses Air Force cooperation to project pilot Robert Clarke from 1959 to the far far future date of 2024 (ulp!). And Ulmer’s cut-rate The Amazing Transparent Man is a master thief sprung from the pokey to help with a mad scheme to conquer the world — but the crook instead rushes to rob a bank! The excellent presentations will have special appeal for connoiseurs of exotic sci-fi thrillers. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
TCM premiered a welcome restoration of this honorable Louis de Rochemont drama last year, and now it’s on a pristine-quality Blu-ray. Almost an ‘anti- film noir,’ the story of a labor conflict in a tiny New England hamlet is a docu-drama about a civic problem that actually has a positive, if not Utopian, ending. Fine direction by Robert Siodmak breathes life into the thesis that Yankee ingenuity and ethical fair play can still save the day. A superb underdog cast — Lloyd Bridges, Carleton Carpenter, Murray Hamilton, James Westerfield, Lenore Lonergan, Russell Hardie, Helen Shields, Doro Merande, Diana Douglas, Anne Francis, Ernest Borgnine, Arthur O’Connell and even Dorothy Gish — bring this odd ‘Pepperidge Farms’ neo-realist tale to life. On Blu-ray from Flicker Fusion.
Writer-director Billy Wilder’s favorite and perhaps best movie takes the leap to 4K, revealing even more beauty in the images of Joseph LaShelle and the designs of Alexandre Trauner . . . we all feel like we’ve lived in C.C. Baxter’s New York flat. Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s ‘dirty fairy tale’ best expresses the difficulty of keeping both a job and one’s self-respect — fitting in a love life seems altogether too much to ask. It all comes down to Shirley MacLaine’s sweet smile and Jack Lemmon’s eagerness to be a ‘mensch’ — when he’s discovering that a moral compromise is like selling one’s soul. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
There may still be people unaware of the anarchic joy of Tex Avery, and we’re making it our business to enlighten them. This third Volume of Tex’s MGM cartoons has both variety and some top favorites plus his first, the intense Blitz Wolf and his last, the surreal Cellbound. Plus the insane King Size Canary, the most endearing Droopy cartoon and the minimalist wonder Billy Boy. You won’t believe they showed Avery the door, and let him lend his talents to TV commercials! The disc came out last October but it’s still worth crowing about now. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Michael Curtiz’s flashy and splashy wartime morale booster began as a pre-Pearl Harbor show of support of our Canadian friends’ contribution to the war effort. A vehicle for James Cagney, its script is a trifle about bush pilots competing for a woman and then showing The Right Stuff when it comes time to join the fight. Cagney’s ‘bad boy’ act is always good, but what slays us now are the stunning Technicolor images filmed in and over the vast Canadian forest country with its endless crystal clear lakes. The aerial work in 3-Strip Technicolor is breathtaking, especially in this full new digital restoration. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
The lasting horror of war is the blight it leaves on the lives of those left behind. Early sound pictures tried to deal with the guilt and pain of WW1, and the great Ernst Lubitsch took time out from romantic comedies and musicals for this very grim rumination on lies and responsibility. A French soldier decides to contact the family of German he killed in the trenches; with no clear purpose or plan, he’s apt to make things worse for everybody. Lionel Barrymore and Nancy Carroll are wonderful, but you’ll choke up in the scenes with the German mother, played by Louise Carter. The film is best known for its opening montage, in which Lubitsch openly attacks the hypocrisy of militarist patriotism. It’s an exceedingly effective, non-hysterical piece of anti-war filmmaking. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
This celebrated dysfunctional family story won four Oscars, the most deserved easily being Alvin Sargent’s superb adapted screenplay. The viewer buzz initially centered on the surprise of Mary Tyler Moore’s unexpected casting against-type, but even more alarming was author Judith Guest’s scary message that ‘perfect’ families are an illusion. We found the drama absorbing and bought the performances 100% — Sutherland, Hirsch, Hutton, McGovern. It’s clearly Robert Redford’s best job of direction. On Blu-ray from Paramount Presents.
Jean-Pierre Melville in 4K? That’s an inviting idea. All of Melville crime pictures are memorable, and this is one of his best-remembered, a traditional caper drama with a wordless heist scene that lasts almost half an hour. The color production stars three big French actors and one Italian. Alain Delon and Gian Maria Volonté are the career thieves, joined by the conflicted Yves Montand as an alcoholic ex-cop. Comedian Bourvil is enlisted in a surprise role as the completely serious and less-than-ethical police inspector on their trail. We have to admire producer-writer-director Melville’s skill — he achieves a high-budget sheen with a minimum of production resources. On 4K Ultra-HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
There’s always somebody new in the rat race trenches whose motto is ‘how to make friends and deceive people.’ Howard Duff’s photographer uses his camera to extort money from criminals while polishing his image as a grabber of Pulitzer-worthy news photos. But how long can he maintain his charade with mobsters Brian Donlevy and Lawrence Tierney, and how soon will his kissing partners Peggy Dow and Anne Vernon see through his lies? This efficient noir was the first feature directing job from the prolific Joe Pevney. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Arrow Video bumps yet another of its top special edition titles up to 4K Ultra HD, just for home theater enthusiasts after the best and brightest of big screen experiences. The movie looks better than ever, and although the unrated version still packs too much gore overkill for average viewers, we respect the Horror-Comic vibe it was meant to conjure. As sci-fi satire Robo still carries a big stick: Edward Newmeier’s anti-corporate, anti-privatization message comes through loud, clear, and profane. On 4K Ultra HD from Arrow Video.
The only woman director to work in Hollywood in the 1950s, Ida Lupino earned full marks as a creative innovator and a positive force in the industry. It was a restrictive time for the movies, politically, socially, every which way. But Lupino’s independent film about a rape victim passed through the censorship gauntlet — as long as the ‘R’ word was never spoken, of course. Mala Powers is the distraught victim who tries to run away from life in the powerful drama, which remains valid and topical. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Now up for grabs in Region A, it’s the Robert Aldrich movie that wins over all that see it. The epitome of Men In Peril adventures, the tale of 14 random oil men marooned in the Sahara is brutal yet optimistic about human cooperation — please, the world needs more of that right now. James Stewart is at his best, stretching his hard-bitten loner persona and tapping into his flying experience. Also with an English-language-best performance from Hardy Krüger. The male group dynamics are absorbing and the suspense powerful — especially when seen cold. No spoilers here! On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
They’ve hit us with three remakes of this one, one about another actress and two about music stars — maybe the next will be about a TikTok star. Thanks to an unexpected full digital restoration from original Technicolor elements, this 1937 original once again plays like a winner. Silent legend Janet Gaynor is Esther Blodgett, soon to become the famous Vicki Lester. Fredric March gives one of his best performances as a matinee idol running his career into the ground with drink. David O. Selznick’s classy production takes some cynical jabs at The Biz yet characterizes Adolph Menjou’s producer as an all-wise, all-forgiving saint. The WAC adds great extras in full HD — a swing musical short and a saracastic Merrie Melodie cartoon that spoofs the main feature. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
The most prestigious franchise in the Paramount corral hasn’t dimmed in esteem or popularity despite its somewhat lesser third installment. The whole trilogy was given an impressive restoration by Robert A. Harris, and this new remastered 4K set retains that very good work. Francis Coppola can’t be faulted for not wanting to revive the old expanded ‘Saga’ cut from network TV — and this release gives us sparkling 4K and digital presentations, including all three variants of Godfather II: theatrical, the 1991 recut and the recent director’s cut The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. On 4K Ultra HD + Digital from Paramount.
The big-scale Cinerama fantasy once thought lost is back — a terrific restoration brings us George Pal’s ode to fairy tales, filmed on Bavarian locations with an international cast. Laurence Harvey and Karl Boehm are the brothers that compiled the famed tales of princesses, witches, magic spells and fiery dragons. Their idealized biography is interspersed with three full fairy tale stories, about a magic cloak of invisibility, a cobbler’s helpful elves, and a pair of fearless dragon slayers. The show has dancing, beautiful locations, a sequence with Puppetoons and a terrific animated dragon. Featured stars are Claire Bloom, Walter Slezak, Barbara Eden, Oscar Homolka, Martita Hunt, Yvette Mimieux, Russ Tamblyn, Jim Backus, Terry-Thomas and Buddy Hackett; a long-form docu goes into fascinating detail explaining how Dave Strohmaier and Tom March accomplished the mind-boggling restoration. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Or is it in color at all? In the immortal words of Criswell, ‘now it can be told.’ CineSavant asked for expert advice to get to the bottom of a ’50s monster show mystery that, uh, nobody asked us to investigate. Let’s see, there’s the interesting color on the new disc from The Film Detective, the WTF color on a YouTube encoding — which has an added selective color trick in the dark cave sequence — and some original color samples from a completely unexpected source. But other questions need to answered too: how can Giant Wasps have confidence in their sex appeal when they don’t even know what color they’re supposed to be? If I had their problem, I’d give up and wait for a lava flow to wipe me out, too. Does anybody read these ravings? Not on Blu-ray, this is a CineSavant Article.
It’s the most impressive ‘new’ movie we’ve seen this year: Robert Siodmak’s 1957 political thriller fictionalizes a true mass murder case in 1943 Berlin — one that a high-ranking Nazi wants to serve to justify the extermination of ‘undesirables’ for the furtherance of Aryan white supremacy. The snapshot of home-front Berlin is fascinating, and also the depiction of a complacent public, going along with official lies nobody fully believes. Produced on a big scale, the unjustly obscure show stars Claus Holm, Mario Adorf, Hannes Messemer, Peter Carsten, Karl Lange, Werner Peters and Annemarie Düringer. The illuminating audio commentary is by Imogen Sara Smith. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
The ClassicFlix Restorations! The fourth volume of restored and remastered Hal Roach ‘Our Gang/Little Rascals’ short subjects sees the kids in bigger and funnier trouble than ever. Twelve full two-reelers range from 1932 to 1934, when little Scotty Beckett joins the mob, becoming comic wingman to George ‘Spanky’ McFarland. Plus the antics of Dickie Moore, Wally Albright, Bobby ‘Wheezer’ Hutchins, Dorothy DeBorba, Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard, Tommy Bond and Billie ‘Buckwheat’ Thomas. Almost four hours of entertainment . . . On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
Claude Chabrol was the most prolific of the New Wave directors. He didn’t only do murder thrillers; this fine selection of Chabrols from the ten year period 1985-1994 begins with a pair of detective tales but moves on to a masterful adaptation of a great book and two engrossing experiments, one of them picking up where an earlier French master left off. The players are terrific as well: Jean Poiret, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Claude Brialy, Bernadette Lafont, Isabelle Huppert, Jean-François Balmer, Christophe Malavoy, Jean Yanne, Marie Trintignant, Jean-François Garreaud, Emmanuelle Béart, François Cluzet. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
Remembered fondly as a permanent resident on all-night movie channels, this patchwork concoction has just enough ‘good stuff’ to qualify as a fun monster show. Jim Davis’s stock-footage safari arrives just in time to be irrelevant to the fate of the title monsters; some good actors are along for what amounts to a picnic in Griffith Park’s Bronson Caverns. There’s still not a full accounting of who did what, special effects-wise. But Hey! The picture has stop-motion animation, which always guarantees viewer interest. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
Showbiz in Soho is artificial, gaudy and vulgar, but Laurence Harvey’s slick promoter-con man thinks he can cheat at the pop music game. Cliff Richard is his new discovery, a teen crooner who digs the bongo drums. Wolf Mankowitz’s portrait of talent, glitz, and double-dealing in music and TV showbiz also stars Sylvia Syms as a Soho stripper and Yolande Donlan as a singing star trying to make a comeback. Finally in Region A — the disc contains director Val Guest’s uncut original version. On Blu-ray from Cohen Film Collection.
The smash hit monster-gore popcorn flick comes to 4K Ultra HD two years and four months after a deluxe Blu-ray, so we do a pointed comparison for purchase-crazy fans that want official sanction for their madness. Happily, you don’t need to be full-moon looney to go for the 4K: David Naughton and Griffin Dunne’s descent into a lycanthropic nightmare is as wrenching as ever. John Landis’s big & bloody hit comes with acres of extras. On 4K Ultra-HD from Arrow Films.
Fierce Irish rebels go head-to-head with Brit occupation forces, and James Cagney is first on the barricades. Michael Anderson’s thriller about terror violence in 1921 Dublin has suspense, beautiful cinematography in real Irish locations, and a standout cast: Don Murray, Glynis Johns, Dana Wynter, Michael Redgrave, Cyril Cusack and Sybil Thorndike — plus added-value players Richard Harris, Donal Donnelly and Niall MacGinness. Cagney’s surgeon-turned guerilla doesn’t yell “Top of the World!” but he’s as psychotic as Cody Jarrett: he wants to shoot both the leading ladies. Included is a good interview with Don Murray. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
It’s an animated outer space adventure from Romania, made in the Cold War era but minus political messages. Old-school cel animation techniques conjure colorful futuristic visions, thanks to beautiful background art and a spacey ’80s synth music score. The Bucharest artists bring a novel point of view, populating alien planets with weird flora and fauna, both carnivorous and amusingly amorous. For love of a slinky blue-green alien named Alma, a giant crystal computer goes rogue and runs amuck. Giant monsters, space battles and rampaging robots are also on the interstellar agenda. One extra is an additional pair of Delta Space Mission adventure short subjects. On Blu-ray from Deaf Crocodile Films.
“This picture is perfect, end of review.” That may not be 100% true, but Leo McCarey’s unabashed leap into romantic Nirvana really hasn’t been bettered, although his color & ‘scope remake is very good. Never was smart adult dialogue this winning — Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer’s cinematic courtship is a highlight of the Big Studio years. And Maria Ouspenskaya’s performance will send you out to pamper the nearest grandmother. The restoration for this one is a revelation, as the show has looked terrible for sixty years- plus. Serge Bromberg and Farran Smith Nehme make the extras especially valuable. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
It’s the final theatrical western of the legendary director Budd Boetticher, and he also wrote the screenplay! Ace cinematographer Lucien Ballard was behind the camera, and Audie Murphy produced and plays Jesse James! This disc release is a gift to die-hard western fans that want to see everything, but the film itself remains a mystery — oddly nihilistic and cruel, but also awkward, with amateurish acting, slack direction and a TV-movie appearance. The one gotta-see factor for completists is Victor Jory’s three scenes as Judge Roy Bean: he nails the sleazy, gross-out charm of the Texas threat to civilization, chewing the scenery like a pro. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
“I’m filthy — period!” With an ideal cast — Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone — director Douglas Sirk tells a tale with everything the ’50s wouldn’t allow — lust, nymphomania, impotence, the works. It’s perhaps Sirk’s most accomplished, self-contained masterpiece — a glamorous soap with absorbing characters caught in a cycle of unfulfilled desires. An oil dynasty comes tumbling down because the heir is “tortured by a secret that made him lash out at all he loved!” I keep expecting bathos, but this great show makes its world come alive. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Bert I. Gordon’s career groove of shrinking and bloating things bottoms out in this trashy drive-in groaner: it’s colorful but nigh-unwatchable. Its exploitation target is sci-fi and the teen musical, with incompatible helpings of pre-teen ‘cutes’ and girlie show jiggle for the raincoat crowd. The show apparently did well, but I mostly heard about resentful walkouts. Gordon’s most humble early films have far more charm; this one mostly shows contempt for his audience. For fans that think there’s Camp value here, the Blu-ray transfer is sensationally good, as is the reproduction of Jack Nitzsche’s rock music score. The only thing to call this movie is Poor, but how can that be when I found so much I wanted to say about it? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Who Shot Barney? Or should we ask, who is going to shoot Barney? Chalk up another excellent Noir Rescue by The Film Noir Foundation, the UCLA Film & Television Archive and Flicker Alley: Joan Leslie is a Broadway star in a group of ‘difficult’ actors, writers, lovers and cheats, trying to prevent a ‘repeat’ cycle of deception and murder. Richard Basehart makes a strong film debut as her confidante, a conflicted poet. The story twists tweak the noir format with supernatural content, almost like the ironic fantasies of The Twilight Zone. The choice extras double our interest in this very different noir. On Blu-ray from Flicker Alley.
La Llorona and El Fantasma del Convento: conceived as Mexican horror fables for Mexican audiences, these expressionist gems tap indigenous cultural riches and brooding Catholic guilt. The fable of ‘The Wailing Woman’ is told in a three-part story starting with la conquista; the spooky ‘Phantom of the Monastery’ is a moral tale cautioning against carnal sin, set in a haunted ruin. Ramón Peón, Fernando de Fuentes and Juan Bustillo Oro’s adult approach achieves a true sense of The Uncanny, mixed with powerful social statements. These are separate disc releases: one film is sourced from the only known existing print, and the other is a full-on 4K restoration from prime nitrate film elements. Indicator’s extras tap the best research available on the titles — with welcome expert input from Mexico City. Separate Region-free Blu-ray purchases from Powerhouse Indicator.
If discovering brilliant filmmakers appeals, it’s difficult to to better than this five-disc, nine-feature labor of recovery and restoration from Lobster films. Julien Duvivier is well known for a couple of pictures, one of which screened not so long ago on Eddie Muller’s TCM film noir show. But seeing his silent masterpieces may change your thinking about real cinematic art: theory meets narrative effectiveness through both technical innovation and delicate direction of actors. One silent in this set, about the economic power of a department store (!) is so effective, at the finish you’ll be convinced that a sync sound version couldn’t possibly be better. The set is appointed with expert introductions and analysis . . . this is the real French cinema that no ‘New Wave’ can invalidate. On Blu-ray from Flicker Alley / Lobster.
Righteous propaganda fuels the patriotic fire: Lewis Milestone and Robert Rossen’s blood-soaked ode to Norwegian resistance goes way over the top. These Norsemen and Norsewomen take up arms to fight their Nazi occupiers tooth and nail. Errol Flynn and Ann Sheridan star; some of Hollywood’s best partake of the rah-rah celebration of suicidal vengeance: Walter Huston, Nancy Coleman, Helmut Dantine, Judith Anderson, Ruth Gordon, John Beal, Morris Carnovsky, Charles Dingle, Roman Bohnen, Richard Fraser, Art Smith, and a very young Virginia Christine. We’re all anti-Fascist freedom fighters on this bus! On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
“Ooooh! Everything’s so creamy!” Showbiz dynamo Ann-Margret tries on ‘teenage hellion’ for size. She terrorizes the straight, impossibly patient John Forsythe, sending him on a weekend ordeal with razor-wielding hooligans. He can kiss both his marriage and his political ambitions goodbye: who will believe David when Jody claims he took advantage of her? Douglas Heyes’ sordid suspense thriller has a loser reputation but is big fun in the star-watching game: Ann-Margret has no choice but to go way over the top and chew scenery, and the direction doesn’t offer enough support. The technical remaster is excellent, and the disc extras generous.. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Devil worshippers are running amuck in Greece, haven’t you heard? This Greek-English horror show stars Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, so it can claim a built-in fan interest factor whether it’s good or bad. It’s fun to check out just to see what these stars got themselves into for a paycheck, back when Hammer was calling it quits and quality roles for U.K. pros were few and far between. Even Michael Powell’s name gets dropped in connection to this ‘shocker,’ which we saw here in the states under the title Land of the Minotaur. The pagan Minotaur god is no Bullwinkle J. Moose: he demands that all trespassers in his pagan temple die, and possessed kids are doing the killing.. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
It’s something completely different . . . a genuine obscurity, a Swiss spy fantasy from the 1960s with major appeal to fans keen on (not in this order) art cinema, Fritz Lang, superspy romps, surreal silent serials, Eurocult actors, and visuals with a New Wave-ish flair. Teams of assassins vie for an atom secret held by mad scientist Daniel Emilfork. The spies target his gorgeous, innocent daughter Marie-France Boyer, but she’s obsessed with a romantic memory from ‘last summer in Shandigor.’ Jean-Louis Roy’s unique, precision-crafted gem evokes the graphic-novel pulp appeal of Dr. Mabuse, Alphaville, Judex or Diabolik — yet it is unlike any of them. It’s comic nonsense, but also earnest and original. On Blu-ray from Deaf Crocodile Films.
Is this any way to treat Olivia de Havilland? James Caan and his low-life adult delinquent cronies trap her in an elevator and torment her for days — a sadistic exercise in exploitation motivated by the ’60s ‘hag horror’ cycle. The lady victimized by a homeless wino (Jeff Corey) a prostitute (Ann Sothern) and several ‘kids’ looking for kicks. Is it cheap thrills at the expense of Melanie Hamilton, or a stirring treatise on the shame of the ‘new, Godless permissiveness?’ Reviewer Charlie Largent searched his soul for the answers. We think Ms. de Havilland had the final laugh: ‘Hag Horror?’ — she’s only 48 here, and lived 56 years more. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
It’s a manhunt South of the Border — Niven Busch’s drama has violence and murder but is really a novelistic character study that goes against the typical rules of Hollywood. Lew Ayres tries to atone for mistakenly killing a man, by coming to the aid of the victim’s widow. But he doesn’t realize that Teresa Wright’s ranch wife has learned the truth about him. The independent production is a modern oil-field western set in Mexico, and unusual both in storytelling style and emphasis, with an atypical imperfect hero and a romance far removed from Hollywood clichés. John Sturges is the director of this interesting obscurity. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
They’re after you, and your wives and children! This Corman/VeSota/Ed Nelson shocker with the excellent poster is a Robert Heinlein knockoff that can’t quite sustain the paranoid pitch of other ‘parasitic possession’ sci-fi horror epics. One of the cheapest of the drive-in cheapies, it remains a must-see title just for the audacity of its ad campaign, and a random moment or two of spooky serendipity. Don’t get your hopes up if you’re coming to see Leonard Nimoy’s performance — unless his voice is enough to satisfy. On Blu-ray.
Orson Welles in fine form! This lavishly produced costume drama, beautifully cast and directed, was filmed on location in gorgeous Italian palazzos, churches and villas. Welles is cast to type as the literally mesmerizing mountebank Cagliostro, who aids Madame du Barry in a scheme to seize the throne of France. Welles almost certainly ‘helped’ the credited director; the highly theatrical goings-on look exactly like Orson’s style. Super performances from Nancy Guild, Akim Tamiroff, Valentina Cortese, Margot Grahame and Charles Goldner turn Alexandre Dumas’ tale into swashbuckling mind-control excitement; the disc tops it off with a sensationally good restoration. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
Perhaps James Cagney’s most popular gangster saga places one iconic scene after another and finishes with the actor’s most dramatic exit. The story has everything — Pat O’Brien’s pious priest, Ann Sheridan at her loveliest, Humphrey Bogart still snarling as a 2nd string creep — and ‘The Dead End Kids’ for a little bit of (screwy) worthy social comment. It looks incredible too, in a new restoration. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Alfred Hitchcock puts Jane Wyman in harm’s way, as she tries to rescue her unworthy boyfriend Richard Todd from a murder charge. Is Jane proving her love, or are both of them being manipulated by a scheming actress, Marlene Dietrich? This is the movie in which Hitch inflicts a ‘frump complex’ on Ms. Wyman — she looks demoralized whenever she shares the screen with Dietrich. It’s also the movie that ponders the cinematic concept of ‘The Lying Flashback,’ which made perfect sense to Hitchcock but frustrated his audience. Also starring Michael Wilding, Alastair Sim and a cherry-picked list of English acting royalty; on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
This creepy-crawly epic enjoyed a strong reputation on my grade-school playground! Does George Pal’s man-versus-the-elements saga hold up 68 years later? The ‘exotic’ special effects get the point across but the real appeal is the suppressed lust between Charlton Heston and his mail order bride Eleanor Parker — all heavy breathing and stern reproaches. I’m surprised nobody has fully exploited the original short story, which back in the ’60s showed up in numerous ‘best of’ collections. “Marabunta” is not a new fragrance line from Arpege. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Menace nears and spooky happenings threaten in a vintage Universal horror that we’re told EVERYONE can resist! Sinister Gale Sondergaard commands the creepiest of Creepers Rondo Hatton to take HUMAN BLOOD from Brenda Joyce for horrible purposes, some of which involve blood-drinking plants. It says so right here on the synopsis! Fearless Charlie Largent promises an honest review of an oddity that needs all the fan love it can get. The disc benefits from an enthusiastic commentary by Tom Weaver, leaving him wide open for remarks about his taste in classic horror. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Kino goes all out with extras for Rod Serling’s comeback TV series, which first aired in 1969. Sinister oil paintings cue stories of the occult and macabre, loaded with name actors like Joan Crawford, Diane Keaton, Ossie Davis, George Macready, Burgess Meredith, Joanna Pettet, Agnes Moorehead — the list goes on forever. The show also features some of Steven Spielberg’s earliest TV work. Included are an episode guide and numerous audio commentaries; everything’s remastered including the 2-hour pilot show and 6 Season One Episodes. Your docent-reviewer for the evening will be unctuous Charlie Largent. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
It’s the ‘other’ version of Dickens’ terrific novel, an English film that few Americans have seen. This Australian DVD is in the PAL format and from a rather outdated transfer, yet I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a favorite story enacted by a great batch of UK talent. Dirk Bogarde stars and the many character roles go to familiar faces: Cecil Parker, Athene Seyler, Ian Bannen, Alfie Bass, Rosalie Crutchley, Freda Jackson, Christopher Lee, Leo McKern, Donald Pleasence, Eric Pohlmann, Danny Green and the lovely Marie Versini. It’s a regular actor-spotting quiz. Ralph Thomas directed and much of the film was shot in France … with excellent English diction. On Region 2 PAL DVD from Viavision.
One of the best yet least seen of John Sturges’ westerns couples a fine screenplay with strong star perfs and superb direction: the straightforward story builds tension throughout. Kirk Douglas is a sheriff out for both justice and revenge and Anthony Quinn is the he-bull rancher who stands in his way: the guilty party is Quinn’s son. It looks sensational in VistaVision, with a fine music score by Dimitri Tiomkin — it’s a pleasure all the way through, with strong support from Carolyn (swoon) Jones, Earl Holliman, Brian Hutton and Brad Dexter. From a 6K scan, on Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Burt Lancaster and Edward G. Robinson are excellent in this adaptation of Arthur Miller’s award-winning Broadway play, about a family torn apart by the denial of dark secrets from the WW2 homefront. Mady Christians is the mother who refuses to accept her son’s death, and Louisa Horton and Howard Duff the brother and sister trying to understand how their father could be imprisoned for defective war materiel responsible for needless combat deaths. The show is powerful, even with some of its social messaging muted — and director Irving Reis gets it all on screen. With Louisa Horton, Howard Duff, Lloyd Gough, Arlene Francis, and Elisabeth Fraser. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 seek to please audience with their winning personalities. 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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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].
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.
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.
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.
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.