Glenn Erickson's
Review Page and Column

Saturday August 18, 2018


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The Last Hunt 08/18/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger shine in Richard Brooks’ engaging drama about the grim slaughter of the Buffalo — a fairly appalling historical episode. A disclaimer is required to explain why we’re seeing real animals killed on screen… which in this case would seem justified by the film’s ecological theme. Co-starring Lloyd Nolan, Russ Tamblyn, and Debra Paget as, what else, an ‘Indian Girl.’ It’s good just the same. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/18/18

Trapeze 08/18/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Top stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lolobrigida earn their keep in Carol Reed’s powerful tale of ambition and excellence performing forty above a circus arena. The best circus movie ever is also among Reed’s most exciting, best directed movies, a solid show all around. Also with Katy Jurado, Thomas Gomez, Sidney James, beautiful Paris locations and the creative cinematography of Robert Krasker. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/18/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday August 18, 2018

Hello!

Criterion’s Blu-ray lineup for November is a winner: Mizoguchi’s tragedy A Story from Chikamatsu, a new 4K transfer of Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot. David Byrne’s terrific True Stories and the long-awaited Blu-ray of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons.

Some Like it Hot will be in its correct 1:85 aspect ratio, which is a good thing. Various online voices would like to impose personal preferences on aspect ratios (even me, sometimes) and it’s good when the documented specifications are followed. Criterion once caved to scattershot aspect ratio demands for its release of Kazan’s On the Waterfront, unnecessarily releasing it in three separate ARs. I’m glad they’re not continuing that practice.

Consumers will be happy to hear that today’s standard for full-coverage film mastering on video is to produce a Full Aperture Transfer (‘FAT’) digital file that records everything on the film, from perf to perf and frame line to frame line. Any desired aspect ratio can be down-converted from that file, and endlessly adjusted if necessary. Even in 1:85, care must be taken to see if the scan is dead center, or if the cameraman raised the top cutoff point higher, to make it easier to hide lights on the set.


Gary Teetzel can’t be stopped: he’s found vintage American Cinematographer articles on favorite fantasy pictures, readable online. From 1960 comes a piece on George Pal’s The Time Machine. The same issue has a profile of Eiji Tsuburaya. Weirdly, the article claims that the Toho monster films start when Tsuburaya dreams up a new creature, hammers out a rough plot, and assigns it to a screenwriter; I wonder if Tomiyuki Tanaka ever read this? From a year later comes a short, not terribly informative article on Gorgo, and Roger Corman is interviewed for his Vincent Price thriller Pit and the Pendulum. They consistently refer to Daniel Haller as ‘Heller.’


Correspondent and friend Marshall Crawford was faster on the scene than I last week, and caught this view of a ‘set’ for Quentin Tarantino’s new movie. It’s a fake copy of the old East wall of Grauman’s Chinese, which was much different in 1969. A door on the forecourt indeed led to a dedicated parking lot — there was no Kodak Theater, and a street (now erased) led North to Franklin Avenue. The parking lot indeed had signage like we see here — maybe that elaborate ‘pagoda’ sign was taken out of storage? The picture cars for the shoot appear to still be in place.

This is course is some other building standing in for Grauman’s, which looked more or less just like this from that angle. Note the price for parking (which I can’t believe was ever that cheap). Just inside the real doors, on a morning in 1972, I filmed Super 8 movies of Ali MacGraw getting her footprints set in concrete, when The Getaway was a hot release. They were good movies, too.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday August 14, 2018

No link today — I explain this a little lower below in the CineSavant Column.

Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror 08/14/18

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

This third collection sees Hammer bleeding its brand of filmic horror into the War and the Colonial Adventure genres: The Camp on Blood Island is a lurid exposé of Japanese atrocities, the difficult-to-watch Yesterday’s Enemy peels away the last illusions of honor in combat, The Stranglers of Bombay sensationalizes horrid crimes in India in the 1820s, and The Terror of the Tongs is a grotesque expression of classic Colonial racism. The enticing extras give us the production backstories and fill in the historical context. Starring André Morell, Stanley Baker, Leo McKern, Guy Rolfe, George Pastell, Christopher Lee and Yvette Monlaur. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
8/14/18

Memories of Underdevelopment 08/14/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Memorias de subdesarrollo — Perhaps the top cinematic output of Cuban filmmaking is this investigation of a man that doesn’t embrace the revolution. Wishing to remain apolitical, the handsome Sergio prefers to pursue attractive women, as well as illusions of his own superiority. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s account of life with Castro doesn’t shirk from an honest view of conditions in the embargoed island, between The Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Starring Sergio Corrieri, Daisy Granados and Eslinda Núñez. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
8/14/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday August 14, 2018

Hello!

Gary Teetzel has unearthed a pair of informative American Cinematographer articles on the making of MGM’s Forbidden Planet, from 1955. According to Teetzel,

“…the weird thing is cameraman George Folsey’s descriptions of the scenes with the Id Monster, where he talks about visualizing the monster’s presences with strange lighting effects. But no strange lighting effects are apparent in the scene where ‘the blasted thing’ sneaks aboard the spaceship. There is, of course, red lighting when we see the Id Monster outlined by the force field and laserfire, but not as the monster approaches as Folsey remembers. He makes no mention of animation being added to the scene, either. Did they perhaps experiment with different lighting effects, and ultimately rejected them? Or is it possible that they made an attempt to never show the monster at all?”

The article is of course interesting, but Folsey should have checked his dictionary. I’m not sure he knew the definition of the word ‘pretentious.’ Part two of the Forbidden Planet article is here. Folsey also says that in 1922 he filmed a movie for Biograph called The Man from Mars, that had Martians with ‘huge heads and gleaming talons.’ Somebody tell Bob Furmanek: it was in 3-D.


The ever-vigilant Gary also tipped CineSavant off to an announced Sony Blu-ray MOD disc release of Ishiro Honda’s Toho Sci-Fi attraction Battle in Outer Space on September 25. All the info I have is that a commentary will be included, perhaps the same one from the DVD release. That leaves us asking, will both the Japanese and American cuts be included? If we’re given the longer Japanese version, will accurate subtitles be provided this time around? It’s mostly rumors we hear so far — someone online has claimed that it will be a pressed disc, not a burned MOD. The link is to the older DVD Savant DVD review.

Blu-rays of colorful Toho science fiction fantasies sound like a good idea to me — expensive Japanese releases normally omit English subtitles. But will we ever see a quality release of their third early outer space film, Gorath? We want the giant walrus, for crying out loud.


I almost missed an occurrence over at Paramount Studios last weekend — apparently Quentin Tarantino turned the outside of what was originally the old RKO building at the corner of Gower and Melrose into a filmic exterior of Columbia Studios, circa 1969, for his new movie about the Manson Killings. My tip came late and I got there just in time before the two posters came down — crews had already removed several others. When the show comes out, I’ll have to see how they cover up other Paramount signage visible in these photos. Those poster panels are BIG — it was pretty impressive.

Various photos have been showing up online from a couple of weeks earlier showing how Tarantino’s art directors redressed of parts of Hollywood Blvd. as well. It’s likely that the Paramount corporate lizards preferred that the ads for a rival studio be removed without delay.


Just arrived in-house are the new Warner Archive discs of The Last Hunt with Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Russ Tamblyn and Debra Paget, and Raoul Walsh’s The Naked and the Dead with Cliff Robertson, Aldo Ray and Raymond Massey. Plus I have a review lined up for Severin’s The Changeling.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Friday August 10, 2018

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Deep Rising 08/10/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Let’s hear it for ‘undiscriminating’ audiences, the kind that want nothing more in a movie than a hundred minutes of combat action, suspense, scary monsters and gross-out gore. They’ll get their fill in Stephen Sommers’ Cuisinart blending of Titanic, Aliens and Die Hard.It’s quality fast food exploitation; just keep your medicine handy if you’re allergic to brainless cornball dialogue. The cast is certainly good: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O’Connor, Wes Studi and Djimon Hounsou. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
8/11/18

The Cat O’ Nine Tails 08/10/18

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Dario Argento’s second murder whodunnit is less stylized but almost as enjoyable as his first, Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Reporter James Franciscus and blind ex-detective Karl Malden investigate killings at a fancy genetics institute, but everyone they interview turns up dead. Catherine Spaak is among the suspects in a crime spree with nine clues but no easy solution. Turin locations, a glossy widescreen image and Argento’s polished direction are the draw, along with some fine music cues by Ennio Morricone — who in 1971 scored 24 separate features! Also with Horst Frank and Rada Rassimov. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
8/11/18

Savant Column

Friday August 10, 2018

Hello!

Friend Phil Hall has a good site up called The Bootleg Files, which reviews hard-to-see or graymarket items, the kind that fall between the cracks. This week he covers a film that was in production when I was at ‘The Cannon Group,’ Menahem Golan’s Mack the Knife. I never got to see a good copy of it either, although in 1989 I hadn’t seen any version of The Threepenny Opera.


Helpful correspondent Rob Gaczol found this odd cue Mothra Metal, that samples the original Yumi & Emi Ito, aka ‘The Peanuts’ from the 1961 film Mothra. The original Yuji Koseki song has been reinterpreted by Isao Bito, with new lyrics. The title is, I guess, ‘Mothra Song the Best.’


On my review of the new Bfi disc of It Happened Here, one listed extra is a book introduction by critic David Robinson. Correspondent Bee Hall couldn’t access it. She wrote the Bfi and found out that it had been left off the disk… but the Bfi responded by putting it online at a custom Special Bfi ‘It Happened Here’ Page. Careful, it’s loaded with spoilers. but Robinson does give an excellent account of the the controversy about Kevin Brownlow’s so-called ‘Nazi picture.’ Many thanks to Ms. Hall.


And contributor-advisor Gary Teetzel once again finds something fun with a 1935 Picture Play magazine article by Helen Louise Walker, Three Live Ghosts. It’s a fluffy tinsel-town overview of the three top actors associated with horror, albeit at a time when the Production Code had curbed most of the desired excesses of the pre-Code horror wave.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday August 7, 2018


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It Happened Here 08/07/18

Bfi (UK)
Region A+B Blu-ray + PAL DVD

Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo were teenagers when filming began on this superlative wartime thriller. Taking over eight years to complete, it imagines life in an England occupied by Nazi Germany and run by home-grown English collaborators. The film’s realism outdoes any big-studio picture — the period detail and military hardware are uncannily authentic. It also pushes the limit of the documentary form by using the ugly testimony of real English fascists in a fictional context. Mr. Brownlow opens up his behind-the-scenes film archive for this dual-format release. With Pauline Murray and Sebastian Shaw. On Region A+B Blu-ray from Bfi (UK).
8/07/18

Heaven Can Wait 08/07/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

This may be the year for new cinephile converts to the cult of appreciation for the great Ernst Lubitsch. One of his last pictures but his first in color is this Production Code- defying tale of a serial philanderer and his relationship with the woman of his dreams, his wife. It’s a prime film blanc stylized as a series of birthdays; our hero is judged not by St. Peter but at the gates of Hades, by the Devil himself. The stars are Don Ameche, Gene Tierney, Laird Cregar and Charles Coburn. On Blu-rayfrom The Criterion Collection.
8/07/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday August 7, 2018

Hello!

Not a lot of news or fabulous links today. For devotees of Region B releases, the good news from correspondent Louis Irwin today is that a new German Koch Media disc of Gillo Pontecorvo’s Burn! aka ¡Queimada!: Insel Des Shreckens sounds like a good buy. Louis gave me a mini-review:

“This version is 129 minutes and thus 17 minutes longer than the U.S. release (112 minutes), but 3 minutes shorter than the alleged complete version of 132 minutes. It is Region B only. Audio is in Italian (or German if you want), and English subtitles are available. Visually it is pretty good (bitrates over 30Mbps) and is miles ahead of the U.S. DVD. I had the feeling that colors could be improved if they were a bit more saturated.

The extra material I noticed were a series of incidents with José Dolores (Evaristo Márquez) that Sir William Walker (Marlon Brando) takes note of prior to Walker’s brutal incitement of José to provoke him to rebel. In the shorter version, Walker sees José pick up a rock as if he is going to use it to attack a soldier who just kicked him, then there is an immediate cut to Walker’s incitement. The shorter version eliminates all those prior scenes. The first time I saw the film was in Germany, and it was the longer cut, but the way I remembered it there were more scenes after José’s grabbing the rock and Walker’s incitement. I seem to recall that Walker approached José after the rock scene and offered him employment and developed an initial bond prior to his provocation. My memory may be incorrect, but it would perhaps account for those additional 3 minutse. In any case, the additional senes in the Koch version provide a certain buildup that is lacking in the shorter version. All the best to you — Louis Irwin”

I thought the domestic DVD of Burn! looked pretty drab, like a low-grade spaghetti western. As I know the picture has plenty of fans, I thought I’d pass this on. Also, from correspondent Edward Sullivan, this Adam Lippe article on the movie explains a lot of background I didn’t know.


The scary news is a report from correspondent Simon Wells, about the much- touted Christopher Nolan restoration of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’d like to know if other readers have seen the show, and if their prints were different, or better. Here’s Simon’s note — actually, two notes I’ve shuffled together:

“Hi Glenn, Just wondering if you happened to see the recent Nolan de-restoration of 2001 in 70mm in recent months?

I did and was utterly horrified by the general murkiness, blown out white and general sludginess. The colour grade was horrible, the detail pitiful. The scenes inside the space wheel where Floyd talks to Rossiter and the Russians were blown out and looked abysmal. Worse still was the new teal and amber color grade which I am assuming is how the upcoming 4k release will be presented. I dont think I have ever seen it look so bad.

Getting films you never thought you’d see on Blu-ray is great but this kind of vandalism just depresses me no end. I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts. — Simon Wells”

Am I stirring up a non-issue, taking a reader’s evaluation on something I haven’t seen myself? The last time I saw 2001 on a big screen was at the 2012 TCMfest, and the 70mm print looked just fine to me; I’ve never seen a bad print, even in 35mm. I can say that the WB film management and restoration experts are some of the finest in the world, and that their 2003 remastering of Ryan’s Daughter was the most perfect film presentation I’ve ever seen. I’m all for celebrity filmmakers helping promote film restoration, but I’d hardly think that 2001 was being neglected.

I am curious to get more feedback on the 70mm reissue, which I am told is a different animal than the special IMAX reissue coming up shortly. So if you saw 2001 in ‘Nolanvision’ please let me know!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday August 4, 2018

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Cradle Will Rock 08/04/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Writer-director Tim Robbins goes all out to recreate a politically potent chapter of Broadway legend, the true story of the rebel WPA production The Cradle Will Rock — with a dynamic sidebar about Diego Rivera’s provocative mural for the Rockefeller Center. An enormous cast works up the excitement of Depression-era revolutionary theater: Emily Watson, Bill Murray, Hank Azaria, Rubén Blades, John Turturro, Joan Cusack, John Cusack, Cherry Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, Susan Sarandon, Angus Macfadyen, Cary Elwes, Philip Baker Hall, Jamey Sheridan, Bob Balaban, Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Paul Giamatti, Barnard Hughes. On Blu-rayfrom KL Studio Classics.
8/04/18

Home from the Hill 08/04/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

He-bull womanizer Robert Mitchum spars with wife Eleanor Parker for the future of their son George Hamilton in Vincente Minnelli’s attractive, sprawling tale of cruel family unrest. The real winners in the picture are the fresh-faced new talent George Peppard and Luana Patten, whose small-town romance is more appealing than the main bout. With Everett Sloane, Constance Ford, Ray Teal, Denver Pyle, Stuart Randall, Dub Taylor, and Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
8/04/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday August 4, 2018

Hello!

It’s a radio show dedicated to the work of makeup man Dick Smith, a discussion with makeup artists Craig Reardon, Steve Johnson and Kevin Haney, hosted by Scott Essman: The Godfather of Make-Up Effects. It starts with a sentimental audio clip from Smith himself, recorded in 2011. CineSavant correspondent Craig Reardon was one of Smith’s worshipful protégés, and has always had a lot to say about the genius of the man who invented the makeup for The Exorcist, Little Big Man, The Godfather films, Altered States and Scanners.


Second up is an actual Warners feature La classe Américaine 99%, the link forwarded by Joe Dante. First, here’s Joe’s description: “This weird 70 minute project started when Warner Bros. agreed to let the French TV channel Canal+ use its 4000-movie catalog free of charge for a month. Directors Michel Hazanavicius and Dominique Mézerette assembled a vaguely Citizen Kane-like plot out of reams of disparate footage and redubbed it all with many of the local voice actors associated with the various movie stars on hand.”

It’s weird all right — with a title that translates as American Class, the crude comedy may be intended as a slap at the gutter-level vulgarity of ‘populist’ film comedy from Hollywood these days. An ultimate comedy re-dub job a la What’s Up Tiger Lily?, Hazanavicius concocts a ‘story’ weaving together WB films just for the fun of making ’50s and ’60s movie stars talk as dirty as the characters in a Trey Parker / Matt Stone ‘‘comedy.’

Of course, it’s all dubbed into French, so we read the English subtitles. The gutter level insults definitely have a shock appeal. Everybody’s either gay or happily gay-bashing somebody — John Wayne, James Stewart, Henry Fonda — by cutting together clips from films like Rio Bravo, Harper, All the President’s Men, The Sea Chase, Freebie and the Bean, The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, even The Searchers. Have no idea where it was shown, but I haven’t seen anything like it so polished, and so begging for defamation lawsuits.


Hey, here’s something we all need in the house, a HAL 9000 Life-Size Replica! It has plenty of features, is stylish, comes in various models. Just don’t put it in charge of your Life Vital Signs .. the thing’s been known to lock doors, cut off the phones and wi-fi, and turn on the gas with the pilot off. Before you know it, ‘Life Functions Terminated!’

CineSavant advisor Gary Teetzel noted:

“You’re supposed to be able to run Alexa or Siri through it, but what good is that without Douglas Rain’s voice? Come on, he’s still alive! Sure, he’s ninety and probably doesn’t sound anything like he did fifty years ago, but still . . .

Then of course there’s another product, that seems the worst of what the future has to offer: Gatebox’s Cute Virtual Character. Wayne Schmidt thought it sounded like something from Blade Runner 2049. Gary predicted how one might relate to it:

It’s kinda creepy that it acts like a teenage girl. To make it more realistic, it should be periodically moody, and then, over time, act more bored, not message you as often, etc. Then, after a year, it should tell you it wants to explore seeing other people.”


And, as expected, UK’s Powerhouse Indicator did indeed announce an all-Region Blu-ray of Jacques Tourneur’s superlative Night/Curse of the Demon. The buzz at the moment is that they’re touting four distinct versions. We’ve covered the title here pretty well, with Wayne Schmidt’s chronicle of How the Long Version Was Saved, and we’re eager to find out what the other two versions are, exactly — they can’t just be the two different lengths, both with different main titles, can they?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson