Review Page and Column
Tremors 4K 01/19/21
4K Graboids! This 1990 monster romp still feels smart & fresh, mixing light comedy and old-fashioned scares. It’s practically one long battle against the smelly burrowing worm-beasts. Desert handymen Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward scramble to avoid taking their place in the Graboid Food Chain. Ambitious it ain’t, but it delivers exactly what monster fans want — gross-out thrills, excellent effects and solid laughs. Also with Finn Carter, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. Arrow’s 4K Ultra HD disc is as sharp as a tack, and a second Blu-ray disc contains an unprecedented volume of featurettes, interviews and production documentation. On 4K Ultra HD from Arrow Video.
The Galbraith Puppetoon Interview 01/19/21
It’s a guest article by author and long-time associate Stuart Galbraith IV, who interviews Arnold Leibovit, the man behind an impressive, on-going restoration of the animation legacy of George Pal. The beloved producer-director persists as a fan favorite. All know his famous sci-fi pictures but the revival of interest in his fantasy replacement-animation ‘Puppetoons’ is well underway. Thanks Stuart!
Hello! Just a happy and optimistic note on this Inauguration Day Eve, 2021 … with hopes for better days ahead. This photo was from Inauguration Day 2009 — I’ll look forward to proudly putting the flag out again on appropriate holidays.
And Gary Teetzel happily forwards a link to the Classic Horror Film Board, to a page with news about the upcoming restoration of the terrific pre-Code horror shocker Doctor X. They’ve been busy during the pandemic restoring the show to its original Two-color Technicolor hues, just as was done last year for the highly entertaining Mystery of the Wax Museum. The CHFB has posted some sample frames, and the page link also has a viewable restoration demo, posted by ‘Rakshasa.’
We’ll be waiting for a The Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray in the Spring, you know, when the birdies chirp and we all start getting our (Ow!) lifesaving shots. The CHFB Post #30 from Ray Faiola tells us that the B&W version of Doctor X will also be on the new disc. The parallel B&W version was filmed with a standard camera, and is made of entirely different takes. Doctor X also stars Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill, and features wisecracking Lee Tracy as an intrepid reporter. The horror fantasy is part cornball fun and part hardcore scary-time thrills — with some fairly incredible makeup effects.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Pajama Game 01/16/21
New superlatives are needed to express just how good is this wonderful Americana musical from the 1950s boom years. The Broadway creator tapped Hollywood’s most qualified (and creative) director of musicals for the stage to screen conversion, retaining much of the original New York talent. Doris Day is just sensational as Babe Williams, whose romantic and labor problems play out at a sleepwear factory. The color design is a delight, every song is a keeper, and the talent on view makes one want to clap, sixty-five years later: Carol Haney, John Raitt, Eddie Foy Jr., Reta Shaw, Barbara Nichols. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Essential Film Noir Collection 1 01/16/21
Viavision’s first deluxe Film Noir boxed set gives us four titles that emphasize star power — Glenn Ford, Ray Milland, Kirk Douglas and Lee J. Cobb. The Australian release includes three Columbia titles and the home video premiere of a rare Paramount picture. Which ones are core Noir and which are merely ‘noir adjacent?:’ Framed, The Garment Jungle, Detective Story and Alias Nick Beal. The special extras invest in a quartet of audio commentaries from the top experts and Film Noir Foundation creators Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
This will be a quick one — doing justice to The Pajama Game took extra time, even with the help of correspondent ‘B’. The musical is well worth it. CineSavant Central is holding together here in what is sunny California again, at least for a few days — the temperature is in the 80s. Now to just get vaccinated…
↑ Advisor Gary Teetzel sends along the new, improved, 21st Century logo for the new American-International Pictures, at least as it appears on a current trailer. We’re told that the last official A.I.P. release was 1980’s How to Beat the High Cost of Living. Sorry, the latest word is that this newly-revived division of MGM won’t be emulating the filmic output of the old company we know and love.
And TFH and CineSavant reviewer Charlie Largent sends along an item that might appeal to certain tech-oriented fans — a 20th Century Fox CinemaScope Manual from 1954. If I were a theater owner this booklet would scare me to death .. making C’Scope work looks more difficult than assembling an Interociter.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
And Hope to Die 01/12/21
Director René Clément brings an entertainingly eccentric David Goodis crime story to the screen in high style. A big score is being prepped by an odd gang, played by a terrific lineup of talent: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray, Lea Massari and the elusive Tisa Farrow. Only partly an action thriller, this one is weird but good — lovers of hardboiled crime stories can’t go wrong. Studiocanal has restored the original version, a full forty minutes longer than what was briefly shown here. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Cinema Paradiso 4K 01/12/21
Giuseppe Tornatore’s romantic ode to the movies charmed America, convincing theater-goers that little Italian kids are the cutest in the world. Little Salvatore Cascio grows up in a projection booth under the life-tutelage of kindly Philippe Noiret. Arrow presents the theatrical version of this Best Foreign Picture Oscar winner in 4K Ultra HD. The (greatly) extended version is on a second Blu-ray — it plays like a different movie entirely. Also starring Jacques Perrin, Brigitte Fossey and Leopoldo Trieste. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
Trailers from Hell’s trailer + commentary offering for Monday is a real keeper — a fine presentation by TFH ‘guru’ Allan Arkush. He fully explains his 1976 film Blast!, which he cobbled together from an earlier unreleased blaxploitation picture to capitalize on the new stardom of Billy Dee Williams. But the amiable Arkush does much more — in the span of about 13 minutes we get an unique insider view of life working for Roger Corman — with visual aids — that’s better than film school. Arkush even tells us what Roger said to do when the sun is setting and you still have those two important close-ups to get of the leading characters!
It’s funny, entertaining and educational — and helps me understand why the tyro directors at New World loved the man that worked them to death … earning a salary that worked out to $2.50 an hour!
Sometimes it seems that CineSavant’s to in life is provide sales help for Blu-rays … I’m definitely interested in promoting hard-media home video yet I resist being a free advertising wing for any particular company. But all weekend long, friends have been writing me to say that right now there are big bargains online for discs, even 4K HD discs — like in one case, a $100 recent release now being sold for $19. So if you’re looking for bargains now might be the time. When I see a title being sold for next to nothing, it always seems to be a disc I already have… but your luck should be better. Note: the illustration above is a random selection, not discs for sale.
And The Warner Archive Collection just announced its February titles … a little bit of this, a little bit of that: three MGMs (Selznick’s A Tale of Two Cities, The disaster musical San Francisco and the Technicolor remake of Showboat); one Warners Technicolor musical (Doris Day in My Dream is Yours); one Warners/independent (Elia Kazan’s Baby Doll with Carroll Baker) and a New Line (Pump up the Volume with Christian Slater); plus Six by Sondheim, an HBO docu from 2013.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Three Films by Luis Buñuel 01/09/21
All hail the cinematic delights of Luis Buñuel, a world-class directing genius whose work ranges from insightfully impish to point-blank outrageous. Driven from Spain by Fascists and from New York by commie hunters, he found a cinematic haven in Mexico, adapting his surreal mindset to popular film forms. His final three French features show him bending the ‘popular film form’ back in the direction of his surreal roots, where a coherent narrative is optional. Buñuel’s pictures are the real deal: high art that overturns our ‘rational’ world and that shocks simply because it’s so honest. With Fernando Rey, Adriana Asti, Ángela Molina, Stéphane Audran, Carole Bouquet, Delphine Seyrig, Jean-Claude Brialy, Bulle Ogier, Adolfo Celi, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Michael Lonsdale, Michel Piccoli, Jean Rochefort, and Monica Vitti. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Beach Red 01/09/21
Cornel Wilde’s directorial follow-up to his superb The Naked Prey was hot stuff in its day, a war movie with an unexpected emphasis on brutality and gore. Rip Torn bears down too hard on his stock character, while Wilde’s attempts to pull off associative thought memory montages come off as amateurish. But the movie has a firm fan base among lovers of movie combat, and the new transfer bests all previous video encodings. With Jaime Sánchez, Dale Ishimoto, Jean Wallace, Burr DeBenning, and Patrick Wolfe. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Happy Saturday! Today’s top CineSavant Column photo from the John Milius epic harks back to the sarcastic texted images I was putting up for a few months back in early 2017. China and Russia have called us out for being an ‘unstable’ democracy, I immediately thought of a W.C. Fields joke, from It’s a Gift. A businessman tries to shame Fields’ ‘Harold Bissonette’ for being drunk. Bissonette responds,
“And you’re crazy. But I’ll be sober tomorrow and you’ll be crazy for the rest of your life.”
I think the exchange fits. Yep, today we’re an embarrassing mess. But China and Russia are not likely to stop being miserable dictatorships any time soon, and on January 20 we’ll be a functioning Democracy again. So there.
Now, for innocuous fun stuff that lowers the blood pressure.
This link I swiped from David J. Schow: I wish it were longer, but I’m still impressed by A Walk Through the Ennis House, which is of course the great Frank Lloyd Wright creation seen in the classics Blade Runner and House on Haunted Hill. Love those designer bricks … and wonder why the windows were designed like castle lookouts, rather than to offer scenic views of the city. Try to see the pre-Code sizzler Female — Warners’ art directors imagined and built a fantasy soundstage interior for the Ennis House, and a fantasy back yard with a giant swimming pool in the same style.
The view shown just above is how the Ennis House looks when I drive to Los Feliz for groceries, now just once a week. If you visit I do not recommend threading one’s way into the hills to get a close look — the neighborhood doesn’t encourage it.
And I’m remiss in not calling out long time correspondent Kyu Hyun Kim’s teaching-oriented page Q Branch Mirror Site. The learned ‘Dr. Q’ is particularly keen on Asian film, especially when relevant to world affairs. On 12.10.20 he uploaded a fine look at the newly-revived 1953 Japanese drama Hiroshima, which I also reviewed back on August 22.
Dr. Q calls the Hiroshima disc a major aid for teachers of modern Japanese history — eight years later, it fills in the ‘dark area of the map’ in the artistic response to the bombing.
The next article on the Q Branch front page smacks down the revisionism of the new Godzilla franchise, the “crude and thoughtless way in which Godzilla was decoupled from its original historical context.” If Asian film is of interest, you might enjoy poking more around the Mirror Site.
Gary Teetzel forwards a link to a YouTube page called Defunctland VR: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It’s a re-created walk-though of the old 20,000 Leagues Disney World ride, so like the original ride runs a full 14 minutes. The page reportedly includes both a VR version and one for un-plugged people like myself. I think what we hear is an imitation of of the voice of James Mason. Gary:
“If you don’t have a set of VR goggles handy, you can at least use your mouse to change your p.o.v. within the VR space — looking right, left, up, down. Watching it this way, for me at least the picture fell behind the audio, so Captain Nemo was describing things several seconds before they appeared.”
I definitely remember the ride in the Anaheim Disneyland, especially its use of bubbles outside the sub windows to mask transitions to new locations. I don’t remember all the exciting sea monsters, but I do remember the hour-long wait to get on, circa 1963 or so.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Captain Newman, M.D. 01/05/21
This show has everything going for it, in fact, it has TOO much going for it: tragic drama, silly comedy, bland heart-tugs and saucy romance. Everybody’s working across purposes, with ‘stunt’ guest star Bobby Darin preening for awards attention. Angie Dickinson, Tony Curtis and Eddie Albert are terrific but are acting in different movies; and Gregory Peck seems out of his depth altogether. Does it keep our attention? You bet. Does it work? I’m not so sure. With Robert Duvall, Bethel Leslie, Dick Sargent, James Gregory, Larry Storch, and Jane Withers; on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Valdez Horses 01/05/21
What we know as Chino is a Charles Bronson star vehicle all the way, and less interesting as a western than for explaining the state of the film business in the early 1970s. A good coming of age story is reshaped to appeal to Bronson fans, while the formerly front rank director John Sturges is frustrated by star demands and producer re-shoots. The extras on PI’s disc show what a free-for all the set must have been — even the writer sees fit to boast about how he told Sturges where to head in. With Jill Ireland, Vincent Van Patten and Marcel Bozzuffi. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
↑ For those interested in a short primer on old-school film lab facts, Gary Teetzel offers this September 1954 issue of Technicolor News & Views, which dishes out a lot of information in a confined space. Take a look at the whole short magazine … it’s pretty interesting. They talk up the company’s new work in VistaVision, but also explain the 3-Strip camera process, which by late ’54 was not seeing much use. The graphics show, to scale, the relative sizes and aspect ratios of several formats — Academy, CinemaScope, VistaVision and Cinerama. Rhonda Fleming is their pin-up girl.
← We’re getting plenty of positive feedback on the Where Were You in ’62, A.I.P.? article from last Saturday. Correspondent John Black wrote in to say that we left out another A.I.P. muscleman opus that changed character names: Released here in 1964, Sergio Corbucci’s Goliath and the Vampires with Gordon Scott is said to have also been distributed as Samson vs. the Vampires. It was released back in Italy in 1961 as a Maciste movie, Maciste contro il vampiro. John says that Studiocanal is working on a remaster.
↓ Collector-historian Bill Shaffer sent along a few more double pages from that 1962 American-International promotional book, touting movies that weren’t made or that underwent title changes. Here’s the most interesting, thrown together by me so they don’t align all too well. Again, the graphic is bigger if you open it in a new window.
The item on top is the Julian Wintle/Leslie Parkyn project that shared two provisional titles with what became Panic in Year Zero!, ‘Survival’ and ‘End of the World,’ and then mysteriously dropped from the A.I.P. schedule. The tag line ‘The Most Astounding Motion Picture Ever Made in Colorscope’ reminds me of the famous Hitchcock dialogue line “You’re the most exciting woman I ever met… on the train.”
If the other proposed film When the Sleeper Wakes was really meant to be an adaptation of H.G. Wells, it would have required the creation of an entire world of the future, an undertaking we wouldn’t expect A.I.P. to consider. The studio had the project in development for years, with Vincent Price announced to star, and at one point with Martha Hyer as a female lead.
The 1899 Wells book When the Sleeper Wakes is about a man who takes something for insomnia in 1897 and wakes up 200+ years in the future, in 2100. He discovers a rigidly classed world much like that in Metropolis, with various worker uprisings, etc. We note that A.I.P.’s commercial artist again reached into poster art for This Island Earth — those building towers come right from the TIE one-sheet. Thanks Bill …
Correspondent and collaborator Marc Edward Heuck has maintained the film-oriented blog The Projector Has Been Drinking since around 2009. Marc also writes for Tarantino’s local retro palace The New Beverly Theater, which we’re waiting (I wonder what for) to see re-open this year. On New Year’s Eve he posted his list of the Best Movies of the Decade 2011-2020, which will provide a good sampling of the quality of Marc’s writing. It’s high time that I linked to his work.
And the news is out — Ib Melchior’s loopy time portal epic The Time Travellers has been assigned a street date of April 27 from Kino Lorber. The one extra is a trailer; I’ll be eager to see how the show shapes up with a widescreen transfer.
When will a disc boutique spring to remaster the various versions of Edgar G. Ulmer’s Beyond the Time Barrier?
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson