Review Page and Column
Perdita Durango 4K Ultra HD 04/10/21
What could sear your retinas as thoroughly as forbidden cult cinema in 4K Ultra HD? The unrestrained crime-shock transgressors Perdita and Romero cut a path of lust, cult ritual madness and amoral nastiness across the U.S./Mexico border. Kidnapping, murder and theft are among their printable crimes. Álex de Iglesia’s beautifully produced slice of post- Tarantino excess arrives in a completely uncut original version. With James Gandolfini, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Don Stroud and Alex Cox. On Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Severin Films.
Black Sunday 04/10/21
John Frankenheimer’s biggest production since Grand Prix turns the touchy subject of international terrorism into a frightening, outlandish story of a plot to kill thousands of spectators during one of America’s defining rituals, the Super Bowl. Black September operative Marthe Keller seduces disturbed Viet Vet Bruce Dern into perpetrating the crime; Israeli agent Robert Shaw races to stop them. The super-crime is both outrageous and credible — making the show seem very modern, even prophetic. True to form, Frankenheimer filmed much of the movie’s final 40-minute suspense sequence during a real Super Bowl game. With Fritz Weaver, Bekim Fehmiu, Steven Keats and Michael V. Gazzo. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Associate Allan Peach sends along a link to an illustrated lecture, from the Museum of Jurassic Technology: Dr. Olesya Turkina’s talk is called Kosmos, Russian Space Flights of the Imagination, from Tsiolkovsky to Klushantsev. The lecture uses documents, photos and sketches by the seminal space scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, plus film clips from several Soviet space films, including one I’ve reviewed, Kosmitcheskiy reys. Ms. Turkina’s accent requires some close listening, but it’s a rewarding talk. A film from 1965 gets very specific about conditions on the moon — being accurate in some ways and way off in others.
And CineSavant just secured a screener of Severin’s latest massive cult box set The Dungeon of Andy Milligan Collection. A review copy was not easy to come by, but now CineSavant’s intrepid reviewer Charlie Largent will be able to broaden his high art horizons with screenings of pristine, restored HD encodings of most of Milligan’s surviving cinematic oeuvre. With titles like this, who can resist?: Torture Dungeon, Bloodthirsty Butchers, The Curse of the Full Moon, Man with Two Heads, The Rats Are Coming! The Werewoves are Here!, Fleshpot on 42nd Street and Carnage! The long list of extras, swag and other cancer-causing content is at the Severin Films Shop.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Doctor X 04/06/21
It’s the disc everyone wants right now — vintage Hollywood horror fully restored to its amazing original Technicolor luster. A scientific investigation into some grisly Full Moon Murders culminates in a bizarre experiment in the fantastic lab of five potential mad doctors. Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill became horror stars, Lee Tracy provides the sidebar laughs, and then the unknown killer divulges his horrifying, Cronenberg-like secret: Synthetic Flesh! The Warner Archive scores with a follow up to last year’s The Mystery of the Wax Museum. With Preston Foster, who keeps a beating heart (not his own) in a glass jar. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Hercules and the Captive Women 04/06/21
This debut of muscleman favorite Reg Park is one of the better sword ‘n’ sandal epics; it has good action and a terrific villainess in Fay Spain. The okay story is Benoit’s L’Atlantide, re-shaped to fit the fad for all things Hercules. The Film Detective’s disc is the Woolner Bros.’ American release, trimmed by half a reel and given an entirely new audio mix. It’s still an impressive show. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
The new Godzilla-King Kong movie opened up a few days back, and I’ve been getting plenty of emails on the appeal of giant monsters and related subjects. We noticed this on-air blurb announcing a vintage Toho Kaiju romp on Spectrum cable’s program schedule… which misreads the storyline of Mosura tai Gojira but atones by giving concerned parents a badly-needed warning as to how this dangerous film can damage impressionable young minds. ↑ (Actually, Mothra vs. Godzilla is harmless, wholly suitable for any child not terrified by Disney’s The Three Little Pigs.)
We scratched our heads trying to think of what the ‘adult situations’ in this particular show might be … or is it just one ‘situation?’ The all-knowing Gary Teetzel says
“Shame on Spectrum, which failed to warn parents that the movie includes smoking! The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn here, is that Spectrum is in the pocket of Big Tobacco.”
Reader Mark Throop sends along a pair of great links to two separate performances of the same song, by the same artiste, but separated by fifty-three years. First up, French songstress Mireille Mathieu belts out the energetic, rousing call to battle “Paris en colère”. Written by Maurice Vidalin and Maurice Jarre, the tune is part of the Maurice Jarre music score for the 1966 René Clément epic Is Paris Burning? My personal opinion is that that much-disparaged movie needs some kind of big-scale revival — it’s an awesome recreation of the re-taking of Paris from its occupiers in 1944. This B&W piece is a simple pre-music video TV recording, perhaps lip-synched to playback.
In the second link Ms. Mathieu sings “Paris en colère” again in 2019, celebrating 130 Years of the Eiffel Tower. This second recording is live, on location, and spectacular. I’ve read a translation of the lyrics but I don’t know in what regard the song is held in France. Who cares? — to me it’s inspiring. We hope to see the city’s Notre Dame cathedral fully restored sooner than later.
And as we were assured would happen, The Warner Archive Collection confirmed yesterday on their Facebook page a series of upcoming remastered and restored Blu-ray titles. They don’t say when, but can we assume that the planned month is April? The list:
Drunken Master II, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, They Won’t Believe Me, The Yearling, and Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Secrets and Lies 04/03/21
Director Mike Leigh’s social-personal observations of life as it is lived in the U.K. always get to me — this one may simply be a more realistic soap opera, but it’s so good that one pays no attention to technical matters, who the actors are or when they are ‘acting.’ It just ‘is,’ and it’s so involving that one becomes anxious over the smallest thing. The actors grab our attention from the outset: Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Phyllis Logan, Claire Rushbrook. It’s Leigh’s most acclaimed feature and the perfect antidote for bloated event filmmaking. And unlike some of his pictures, you walk out with a smile on your face. Extras include new interviews with Mike Leigh and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Dynasty 3-D 04/03/21
3-D goes Kung-Fu in Super-Touch! The 3-D Film Archive restores a Far East oddity from the year of Star Wars, an all-action sword, fist and supernatural magic combat spectacle. The big battles play like choreographed dance numbers, but with sound effects and screams taking the place of music. The disc’s 3-D extras are of special interest — we take a tour of every display section of a 1955 department store in full dimensional images. Starring Tao-Liang Tan, Ying Bai, Kang Chin, David Wei Tang, and that irresistible charmer Bobby Ming. On 3-D Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
First up today from Dick Dinman is a new DVD Classics Corner On the Air discussion of the 3-D Wings of the Hawk with author Jeremy Arnold; they get into the film and the 3-D process as well as director Budd Boetticher and the star Julia Adams. CineSavant’s Blu-ray review from January 26 is here.
Fearless investigator Gary Teetzel steers us to some fun vintage film clips from the Archivio Luce newsreel library: Latarnia Forums poster Mike Mariano linked to a July 1963 news item filmed at Cinecittà called Donatori di sangue del cinema. Christopher Lee, in costume for The Whip and the Body, pauses to donate blood at an Italian bloodmobile. And who is the woman preceding il sadico Conte Kurt? Rossana Podestà, in costume for The Virgin of Nuremburg/Horror Castle. It’s a pretty cute clip, especially the dippy ‘lite’ music cue.
But wait, there’s more. From the same source, a link to a 43-second promo for La maschera del Demonio, from May of 1960. Mariano pointed out that it includes a close-up of Barbara Steele’s stand-in lying on the slab in the crypt. It fooled me for a second.
And this Archivo Luce link is a collection of stills showing the brutal working conditions on the set of the horror film The Vampire and the Ballerina. It’s 48 behind the scenes images from December of 1959 called Fondo Vedo / Momenti della lavorazione del film L’Amante del Vampiro. Wait, they’re all glamour photos of Heléne Remy, Ombretta Ostenda and Tina Gloriani. Who would have thought that an Italian movie promotion would concentrate on sexy actresses?
Finally, some hopeful guesses about what’s coming from The Warner Archive Collection. You may have noticed that the WB Shop is no longer up; that contract ended and the discs are now being sold through a new Warner Archive Store at Amazon. Although not officially announced, we think we have a list of upcoming product based on what’s being promoted at the Warner Archive Collection You Tube Channel. Actually, the WAC had its best year in 2020, profit-wise.
The suggested list, all of which are said to be scanned in 4K, is as follows: Jane Powell and the Mr. Universe winners in the musical Athena (1954); Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds in The Tender Trap (1955); the Bob Hope comedy Bachelor in Paradise (1961), Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman in The Yearling (1946), William Holden and Eleanor Parker in Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), the Bette Davis / Errol Flynn Technicolor classic The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939, with Vincent Price ↑ ), Cary Grant and Myrna Loy in Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House (1948), and the Jackie Chan Drunken Master II (1994) in Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
More welcome Warner Archive news for fans of film noir is a restored They Won’t Believe Me (1947) with Robert Young, Susan Hayward, Jane Greer and Rita Johnson. As hinted at earlier here at CineSavant, it’s the full 95-minute original cut — for reissue it was slashed by a full fifteen minutes, and most of us have never seen the full show.TCM’s Noir Alley showed They Won’t Believe Me a few months back, and it was the expected short version. The WAC earlier rescued the longer original cuts of both The Thing from Another World and Rachel and the Stranger, each time making big news.
Like I said, none of these have been officially announced; we’re expecting some news on that early next week. They seem to be fairly firm but none are up for order yet… and there are enough titles here to keep the schedule going for months.
Thanks for reading — Glenn Erickson
This one really needs a Region A release, with English subtitles! It’s largely unavailable, especially the original Japanese version. The third Ishiro Honda / Eiji Tsuburaya outer space action epic is probably the best Toho science fiction feature ever, an Astral Collision tale in which the drama and characters are as compelling as the special effects. Nothing can stop a colossal planetoid heading toward Earth, but science comes to the rescue with the biggest construction job ever undertaken by mankind. The fine screenplay generates thrills, suspense and human warmth. It also takes place in the far, far future: 1980. with Ryô Ikebe, Yumi Shirakawa, Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno, Akihiko Hirata, Kenji Sahara, Jun Tazaki, Ken Uehara and Takashi Shimura. Not on legit Disc.
Isle of the Dead 03/30/21
The WAC comes through with another Val Lewton classic, this one starring Boris Karloff as Greek General caught in an outbreak of the Plague, who quarantines some superstitious civilians on a lonely island — and then goes mad, believing one of them to be a vampire-like devil’s pawn. The shocks are low-key but even the critic James Agee said that the last reels were a series of major scares! It’s all based on the famous Arnold Böcklin painting — one of the spookiest paintings ever. With Ellen Drew, Marc Cramer, Ernst Deutsch, Katherine Emery and our favorite Skelton Knaggs. Reviewed by Charlie Largent! On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
The folks at VCI steered us to this article published by Gary D. Rhodes, about a phenomenon I witnessed but never contemplated or knew much about, direct-to-video movies. I’m pretty sure that one editor friend of mine, Steven Nielson cut a few. Another old friend Robert S. Birchard edited a Disney direct-to-video title, Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
This article is about the development of the Direct-to-Video productions that made big money. Mr. Rhodes lays out a chronology and a number of highlights that spelled monster profits for certain players like Jane Fonda: The Real Home Box Office or The Rise of Direct-to-Video Cinema.
And this item may be a little out of left field. Back a month or two ago when I reviewed Giant from the Unknown I commented that the four Astor/Cunha features had some of the worst one-sheet art we’d ever seen. I mean, we all know that some of the worst sci-fi features had marvelous poster art. One imagines poor lonely guys exiting lone-wolf outings to The Astounding She-Monster, staring at the poster, and giving forth with a sigh: nothing like that appears in the movie. Just the same, I don’t think the awful art for the four Astors (↑ ) was dishonest. Anybody who walked into a theater displaying that ad art deserved what they got. (I did at age seven for Missile to the Moon.; Imagine my surprise when my friend and co-editor Todd Stribich showed me his original poster collection a few years back. There it was in all its glory — and just as tacky.)
Gary Teetzel’s reaction was to go hunt down foreign posters for the four (↓ ) … is it true what they say, that the French and Italian posters are always better? It looks like some of them were done without having access to any images from the movie … maybe the distributor was too cheap to have anything sent across town to the artist. Not all are better than our domestic art, but some are certainly creative. Gary found one for Giant from the Unknown and She-Demons, two for Missile to the Moon and three for Frankenstein’s Daughter.
To see the images full-sized, ‘Zoom in’ or open them in a new window.
To me all are much more attractive excepting Giant from the Unknown. That doesn’t mean that any of them represent the films more faithfully. Google translate gives us the titles: Giant in French is “Giant Sower of Fear” and in Dutch is “The Giant from the Underworld.”The Italian Frankenstein’s Daughter title is literal; the German titles say “Frankenstein’s Daughter: The Scary One.” (Did Frankenstein have two daughters, then?)
For She Demons we have the French “Female Demons” and in Dutch “Daughters of the Devil.” The Italian for Missile to the Moon is “Missiles to the Moon,” plural. Look at the third poster — six missiles, all right.
The design of that third Missile to the Moon poster looks vaguely suspicious. ↓ Could it have been ‘inspired’ by an earlier Italian poster for Quatermass 2?
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Bad News Bears 03/27/21
A favorite irreverent comedy! Michael Ritchie followed his painfully honest Americana satire Smile with this beautifully rendered skewering of America’s idea of sportsmanship and fair play — featuring realistically, hilariously profane kids on a little league team for ‘losers,’ sponsored by a bail bond outfit. It’s also commercially brilliant, combining Walter Matthau with Tatum O’Neal and Jackie Earle Haley, and it generated a stack of sequels, a TV show, etc. Instead of ‘Garbo Laughs’ it was ‘Tatum swears!’ We’re hoping that Charlie Largent eases up on the profanity for his review, we’re getting letters about that. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Journeys Through French Cinema 03/27/21
Bertrand Tavernier breaks the barrier between fans of European movies and 101 classic French pictures that most of us never got a look at. It’s an eight-hour film clip excerpt round up, but the key is the hosting-curatorship of Tavernier — the fascinating miniseries has plenty to offer people that have never seen an old French movie, as well as fans that have seen some but want to know more about them. He’s a great storyteller, rounding up his favorite underrated / great directors, actors, composers, and relating them to major events in history (there was this 5-year occupation, see…). He’s also a genius at picking clips — all are riveting, none are spoilers, and you’ll come out learning fifty new French words. Highly, highly recommended. With Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin, Louis Jouvet, and 200 great personalities you didn’t know existed. On Blu-ray from Cohen Media Group.
This first item you may not believe … I’m contributing to yet another Blu-ray release, the third in three years, of Sam Peckinpah’s Major Dundee. This one is from the UK-based company Arrow Video, and they’ve rounded up everything they could find on the film. Yes, it looks as if ‘Dundee According to that Erickson Guy’ will be getting more play — they’ve licensed both Viavision’s commentary from last year with Alan K. Rode, and my first Explosive Media commentary from 2019. As you can see, some new artwork has been generated, from artist Tony Stella. Here’s what disc producer Neil Snowden tells me is on the list of contents:
Sony’s masters of both Extended (Preview) and Theatrical (U.S. 1965) versions.
Disc 1 4K EXTENDED CUT:
Both Christopher Caliendo and Daniele Amphiteathrof musical soundtrack versions
2005 audio commentary with Nick Redman, David Weddle, Garner Simmons and Paul Seydor
2019 audio commentary by Glenn Erickson
2020 audio commentary by Glenn Erickson & Alan K. Rode
Moby Dick on Horseback, a visual essay by David Cairns
Three Passion & Poetry docus by Mike Siegel
Still galleries and marketing galleries
2005 reissue trailer
Disc 2 2K THEATRICAL CUT
Riding for a Fall 1965 featurette
Extended/deleted scenes and silent outtakes
Select extended/deleted scenes and outtakes with commentary by Glenn Erickson
Original US, UK and German theatrical trailers
A 60-page illustrated booklet featuring new writing by Farran Nehme, Roderick Heath and Jeremy Carr.
For extra fun, we have this item forwarded by correspondent-reviewer “B”: delving into some compilation books, he found images documenting cross-promotional activity between DC comics and Paramount Pictures, which of course licensed Superman for a series of Technicolor cartoons in 1941. The first panel is a 100% advertising tie-in, from a 1942 comic book (Superman #19, Oct./Nov. ’42). In the same comic book is the feature story “Superman, Matinee Idol”, a so-called ‘imaginary’ Superman story. According to writer Jim Korkis it is Superman’s first non-canon Imaginary story.
The self-referential humor is pretty striking for 1942, as is is the amazing prediction of things to come: I always wondered who smashed my laboratory. ←
The tie-in angle is tub-thumped fairly strongly… ‘literature’ for children back then must have been shot through with merchandising come-ons, because later 1950s kids like me were strongly influenced by Mad Magazine, which called out such mercantile ploys. I still quietly resent paying money for something and then becoming a captive audience for an ad, as in movie theaters. In a Superman comic I’m sure I didn’t mind. Plugging the Blu-ray above? I’m innocent — you didn’t pay to read this.
Writer Jim Korkis says that when this story was later reprinted, DC removed all references to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who at that time were suing the company for creators’ rights. I also noted that there was no mention of the Fleischer Studios in the comic story. (If you can’t ‘zoom’ the images, they enlarge when opened in a new window.)
Jim Korkis’ fine 2019 article about this ‘lost cartoon’ is at Cartoon Research.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson