Review Page and Column
Before TV movies were dissed with the put-down phrase ‘disease of the month,’ this 1973 film surprised and moved audiences with the realistic story of a young mother facing a fatal illness. It’s directed by the great Joseph Sargent and graced with the music of John Denver, but its impact rests upon the remarkable, affecting performance of actress Cristina Raines, then just twenty years old. With locations in the ‘country roads’ of British Columbia, and co-starring Cliff De Young, Meg Foster, Brenda Vaccaro, Bill Mumy and Corey Fischer. On Blu-ray from Redwind Productions.
Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection 12/08/18
Charlie Largent looks back at three crime-themed shows featuring the platinum blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren. In The Girl in Black Stockings she’s a possible target for a serial killer at a Utah resort. Guns Girls and Gangsters sees her involved with high-stakes armored car robbery. And in Vice Raid she’s a good-time-gal trying to protect her younger sister from nasty hoodlums. I guess there’s some noir in there somewhere! Plus an interview with Mamie herself — where she discusses bullet bras and reminds us that she once played opposite Clark Gable! 3 features on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Horror of Dracula 12/08/18
The best of all Hammer horror pictures finally comes to Region A Blu-ray, with a bright transfer made to look like original Technicolor prints. This is where Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing came into their own as international stars, as the undead Count Dracula and the no-nonsense vampire killer Van Helsing. It’s the bridge between old-school gothic horrors and the modern age of sex and gore, and it’s as exciting as a breakneck action serial. Also starring Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, Janina Faye and Michael Gough, whose performance is unfairly dissed. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
First off, don’t forget that I snuck in an EXTRA review this Thursday, for the Warner Archive Collection’s The Thing from Another World. The chance came to post it early, and several readers were asking after it.
While writing up a review for a new Brian De Palma disc set from Arrow Films, I learned that the director’s early feature Greetings just happens to have been the very first feature assigned an “X” Rating by the Motion Picture Code and Rating Administration. About twenty minutes later, in came a link circulated by Joe Dante, to an article by Jason Bailey for New York Vulture. “A Brief History of the X Rating” actually goes over a number of ratings issues, including a rating category that one of Joe’s films helped bring about. It seems that, if CARA had just thought to trademark the “X”, the history of de facto film censorship might have been very different.
Disc collectors have a lot to look forward to in February. Twilight Time lists some big titles for the 19th: Lewis Gilbert’s The Admirable Crichton, with the eclectic cast of Kenneth More, Diane Cilento, Sally Ann Howes, Martita Hunt and Peter Graves; Peter Cook and Dudley Moore plus Raquel Welch and Eleanor Bron in Stanley Donen’s original, hilarious Bedazzled, Frank Tashlin’s Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter with Tony Randall, Jayne Mansfield and Betsy Drake (just above), and Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio, with Eric Bogosian and Ellen Greene.
Powerhouse Indicator announced new-to-Blu-ray titles for February as well: Charles Crichton’s The Third Secret with Pamela Franklin, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins and Richard Attenborough; Alexander Singer’s Psyche 59 with Patricia Neal, Curt Jurgens and Samantha Eggar; and Dick Clement’s adaptation of Iris Murdoch’s controversial A Severed Head, with Ian Holm, Lee Remick, Claire Bloom and Richard Attenborough.
In addition to Tarantula and The Deadly Mantis for March 19, Scream Factory has announced for March 26 the Val Lewton-Robert Wise The Body Snatcher, with its terrific teaming of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Henry Daniell. When the popular horror classic was screened at an RKO festival in the 1970s we were told that it had been all but printed to death, so we’ll be eager to see the new disc for quality. The encouraging news is that Warners’ restoration program has become even more aggressive in the last few years… could WB/Turner have located a quality source element?
My review of the Warner Archive Collection’s impressive disc of the Michael Curtiz-Errol Flynn The Sea Hawk should come shortly. We checked, and yes, the ‘Panama’ sequence is indeed rendered in glorious Sepia Color! As I’m sure I’ll be gushing in a couple of days, the disc really showcases the terrific Erich Wolfgang Korngold music score.
Call Me Unreliable: A shaky rumor began circulating on Thursday that the Warner Archive had a disc in the works of Eugene Lourie’s stop-motion animated The Giant Behemoth. As with other critical national issues that affect us all, that assertion that has neither been confirmed nor denied. I know hat it’s pretty flaky to repeat such iffy ‘news’ here at the CineSavant Column, but hey, we can’t have ethics and integrity all the time. If it’s a hoax, the WAC may learn something about Behemoth’s sales potential. Alas, it has been determined for certain that Behemoth has no music score by Erich Wolfgang.
All of a sudden I’m wondering if I’ll be able to whip up a ‘best-of’ list this year… that task may have to wait until the space just before New Years. Meanwhile, Dick Dinman’s Holiday Show has his ‘best of’ for the year, as gift-giving advice. Plus, his interviewee is writer Jeremy Arnold, whose new Christmas in the Movies book for TCM is being heavily publicized. I have rudely stolen Dick’s attractive holly graphic — we’ll get some Christmas spirit going here if it kills us.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Thing from Another World 12/06/18
An EXTRA off-day special review! Intrepid soldiers and scientists battle a bloodsucking alien invader at the top of the world! The Warner Archive Collection releases Howard Hawks’ incomparable Science Fiction thriller, a long-desired favorite. Long handicapped by missing scenes, this RKO classic is intact again, complete with its nerve-rattling bombastic Dimitri Tiomkin music score. CineSavant lays on a full review essay. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
CineSavant EXTRA Review
CineSavant ‘publishes’ an EXTRA REVIEW EDITION to get my evaluation of the new The Thing from Another World disc out as soon as possible. It’ll make it easier to catch the incoming wave of desirable pre-holiday releases. This way I can have WB’s Horror of Dracula review out for Saturday, and, if they come in, the late Criterion discs. UK reviewer Lee Broughton has been helping out with the rush, and TFH reviewer Charlie Largent will be contributing as well.
So this stripped-down post won’t have any news … Los Angeles has been hit today with an atypical rainstorm lasting more than an hour. Since Angelenos don’t know how to drive in bad weather, I’m glad to be working from home. In the words of Robert Mitchum, “It felt good to be in there!” … and he was talking about a nice, dry bungalow in Acapulco.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Outer Limits Season Two 12/04/18
It’s here, the second half of the science fiction TV series from the 1960s, restored and remastered. It’s really only half a season and the creative team has been swapped out, but several gems are every bit as good as episodes from year one. Plus acting disc producer David J. Schow ladles on the extras like thick gravy … including promos and TV spots not seen since 1963 and ’64. This season includes the Harlan Ellison episodes Soldier and Demon with a Glass Hand, and the double episode The Inheritors. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Puppet Masters 12/04/18
Robert Heinlein’s frighteningly brilliant sci-fi horror novel was a conceptual original that spawned an entire generation of biological invasions from outer space. Director Stuart Orme’s faithful, authorized 1994 adaptation has a lot going for it, including sensationally good, gloppy special makeup effects, and a commanding performance from a dour, authoritative Donald Sutherland. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Guest reviewer Lee Broughton returns with more vintage Spaghetti Westerns. Prolific Italo western star Anthony Steffen shoots first in Alberto Cardone’s gothic vengeance drama Blood at Sundown, and plays the revenge game straight up in Mario Caiano’s A Coffin for the Sheriff. The double bill disc also features appearances by genre stalwarts Gianni Garko, Erika Blanc and Eduardo Fajardo. On DVD from Wild East Productions.
It’s time to get holiday issues in line. I have the familiar gauntlet of decorating problems to overcome, like finding the ‘special’ lights, but that’s my personal bear to cross, so I’ll stick to discs.
There’s the best-of list to compile, which in my case of CineSavant of course a list of special restorations and releases I think worthy of touting. It’s not difficult to make a choice but I do wonder to what degree readers still go for lists in any form. Think of it as a ‘happy’ list, not some fat opinion ranking artistic merit like scores in a ping pong playoff. I’ve been doing it for 18 years now!
And there’s also the glut of great discs I want to review, which would be easier if the industry’s ‘disc replicating pile-up’ hadn’t occurred in November. I’m still waiting on three or four titles that my readers want very badly to read about. Although I’m not a technical authority I pride myself on a fair evaluation of disc quality from a consumer standpoint. And when I reach my limit of expertise I do have some excellent tech advice from Mr. T and Mr. P..
Late Criterion discs that I want to review, no matter how late they become, are Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot, Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons and David Byrne’s True Stories — they were all expected more than a week ago. Ingmar Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel has arrived, but not Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns. Upcoming should be Julien Duvivier’s Panique, a highly recommended show I’ve never seen.
I’m told that the only Warner Archive Disc seriously affected is The Thing from Another World. It’s at present an accidental Amazon Exclusive, and the newest press release indicates that the official WAC release (with the WAC buyer guarantee I recommend) will be on December 18th. Due on the same day are two more titles that get an A++ for fan anticipation.
Note: 4PM 12.04: The Warner Archive has sent, in just one day, the equivalent of a reviewer rescue packet … Horror of Dracula, Dark of the Sun, The Thing, The Blue Knight and The Sea Hawk… so I’m in business again, bigtime.
The November Twilight Time discs have been delayed but I’ll be jumping on them as soon as they arrive: Oklahoma Crude, Antony & Cleopatra, The Iron Horse and The True Story of Jesse James. TT’s December discs are scheduled to debut in just ten days. I do have the related Redwing disc of the Cristina Raines feature Sunshine almost written up (it’s good).
The Kino Lorber group of labels has been putting out lots of product but I think they’ve been affected as well. With some discs I’m not sure if they’re out yet, even though the proof is whether or not they show up on Amazon. So I’ll simply offer a status report: Presently up for review are The Killing of Sister George, The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre, the Mamie Van Doren Films Collection and The Grissom Gang; expected soon are The Black Windmill, The Atomic Cafe, Charly, Female on the Beach, The Last Command and Foxfire. The first 3-strip Technicolor feature Becky Sharp has been moved back to April 2.
I don’t know if Shout Factory & Scream Factory are affected, but they have some hot titles due as well — Terence Fisher’s Dracula Prince of Darkness and John Carpenter’s Starman both arrive on December 18. By the way, for March 19 of next year, Scream Factory has just announced the classic Universal big bug movies Tarantula and The Deadly Mantis. Well, one classic and one … well known attraction!
And in regards to my yuletide photo above, I gotta push good old Gorgo, from VCI. The 2013 Blu-ray is being offered at a stocking-stuffer price on Amazon … buy two, so you can keep one in a safe deposit box.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Hallelujah the Hills 12/01/18
Adolfas Mekas made his mark in American independent filmmaking with this avant-garde comedy that shook up film festivals circa 1963. Although it is said to have inspired Andy Warhol, it’s its own animal entirely, eighty minutes of cinematic frivolity that’s too sincere to be a parody of the filmic conventions it so happily celebrates. With rare extras, including a 1963 TV discussion between Adolfas Mekas, Richard Roud, Amos Vogel and Joseph Losey. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
Gosford Park 12/01/18
At least twenty fine actors and stars make Robert Altman’s period piece about a party in a big English country house into a gala occasion. The show is also a fascinating entree into a classed world of masters and servants. The drama of manners could also be described as a mystery who-dunnit. Either way, we’re floored by excellent work from a stellar cast: Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins, Emily Watson, Clive Owen, Michael Gambon, Alan Bates, Derek Jacobi, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jeremy Northam, Bob Balaban, Kelly Macdonald. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
Twilight Time just announced their February titles, which should be a cause for excitement for Peter Cook and Dudley Moore fans: Bedazzled (above) is on the bill, along with Frank Tashlin’s Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio and Lewis Gilbert’s The Admirable Crichton, aka Paradise Lagoon.
And Kino announced that they have three vintage Ealing comedies with Alec Guinness on the docket for early next year: Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit, which is of course also a science fiction classic.
Over at Joe Baltake’s The Passionate Moviegoer today we’ve got an article with a good round-up of Lost TV Musicals over the last 60 years … I was aware of some of these and really wish they were viewable: Lee Remick in Damn Yankees, (right) Lesley Ann Warren in It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman!”, Anthony Perkins and Charmian Carr in Stephen Sondheim’s Evening Primrose, and more that I never heard of. It’s hard to believe that most of these weren’t preserved.
As I explained last Tuesday, the Blu-ray industry experienced a ‘replication capacity shortfall,’ which is short for ‘they couldn’t print the things fast enough.’ The effect is certainly being felt here, although I’m told that the crunch is over and the presses are rolling again (so to speak).
As for discs that were delayed, I just got in some of the hotter Kino Lorber titles but am still waiting on November titles from Twilight Time, Criterion and The Warner Archive. So I’ll have reviews forthwith for Kino’s The Outer Limits 2 set and The Puppet Masters. (below) I’ve been getting review requests for BIG titles already out — Some Like it Hot, The Thing from Another World, The Magnificent Ambersons, True Stories — and apologize for being tardy. Warners has Dark of the Sun for December 18, as well as a new collection of Popeye cartoons due out on December 11.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Age of Consent 11/27/18
A dreamy tropic idyll … or a dirty old man’s movie? Our verdict chooses the first option for Michael Powell’s retelling of the old tale of the artist’s innocent yet sensual creative adventure with his young model. Producer James Mason eases nicely into the part, but then- newcomer Helen Mirren takes the prize as the most fearless and liberated woman in filmdom circa 1969. With Jack MacGowran, the Great Barrier Reef when it was still Great, and a very talented dog, Lonsdale. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
A Man Alone 11/27/18
Ray Milland directs a fine western drama, strong on character and tension; it garnered enough praise to set him on a second, minor career behind the camera. Milland also stars as a gunman in the wrong place at the wrong time — framed for a mass murder in an unforgiving frontier town. Who ya gonna blame? That nasty sidewinder villain Raymond Burr, of course. Also starring Mary Murphy, Ward Bond, Raymond Burr and Lee Van Cleef. Now, of those actors, which do you think doesn’t live to see the ‘The End’ card? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.