Review Page and Column
Marlon Brando had few if any hits in the 1960s but this wartime spy picture is a not-bad thriller with some tense moments. Both Brando and Yul Brynner have been blackmailed into a risky mission as spy and sea captain; they’re more than a little disillusioned to find themselves transporting a boatload of Nazis and political prisoners headed back to Germany. Persecuted victim Janet Margolin is beyond caring — she’s a victim on a voyage of the damned. A fine cast is an added asset: Trevor Howard, Martin Benrath, Wally Cox, William Redfield and especially Hans Christian Blech. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
The Golden Arrow 06/25/19
It’s Tab Hunter as you’ve never seen him before. Antonio Margheriti’s limp but colorful Arabian Nights adventure romance is a real head-scratcher — it’s an entirely generic kiddie show, filmed on nice locations, and devoid of style or flash. Some of the sub-Bava effects are clever, but the only ‘magic’ element is the decision to dub the star Hunter with an off-the-shelf voice artist… it’s as if Tab has been sucked into a ‘scimitar & sandal’ episode of The Twilight Zone. Second viewing pleasure opportunity is the gorgeous Ms. Rossana Podestá. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
No sun over Los Angeles today … and CineSavant will be taking a brief break!
I have no disc-related links in the hopper … but my magnificent significant spousal other came across something I didn’t know existed, a YouTube encoding of a 1982 animated Mafalda movie. Mafalda is a favorite, an Argentinian answer to Peanuts, perhaps, but not comparable for personalities. Malfalda and her friends have normal parents, a range of attitudes and the comic strips were often political. She has a fine personality and only acts up when things go bad or she feels cheated.
Oh … sorry, it’s in Spanish language only. The comics tripped me up because of the ‘vos’ that I can never keep straight. There’s a TV show, but this short feature looks as if it follows the comic strip in most essentials.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Universal Horror Collection Vol. 1 06/22/19
Universal has done pretty well with their classic monsters (except for hanging The Creature out to dry), but this first Blu-ray foray away from the franchise winners has been farmed out, with excellent results. Lavish, well-researched and illustrated extras accompany exemplary restorations of The Black Cat (’34), The Raven (’35), The Invisible Ray and Black Friday; all star Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Monstrous Charlie Largent does the honors review-wise this time, with his expected insights and humorous side-angles. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
War and Peace 06/22/19
Amazing! Colossal! And it’s good, too. “Gone With the Wind” is a tempest in a teacup compared to this jaw-dropping adaptation of the Tolstoy classic: seven hours of artful splendor, passionate characters, map-altering politics and the biggest, most spectacular battle scenes ever filmed. Sergei Bondarchuck has it all under control; the new restoration gives Soviet show color and clarity we’ve never seen before. Four parts, two discs, no waiting. Cover charge may apply. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
The summer’s bounty of sci-fi and fantasy discs are beginning to arrive — 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has reportedly shipped, which is good news. I tapped a Disney Club Member for a favor, but I realize not everyone has that option. It doesn’t look like I’ll be writing up The Monolith Monsters, but I saw some of it last Tuesday to see what the 2.0 scan looked like … everything framed up quite well, even if a few spiky monolith tops were trimmed here and there. There’s a 1:85 (not much taller) but no open-matte 1:37 that some fans (including vocal correspondent Tom Weaver) prefer.
I definitely ordered a couple titles I don’t expect to be receiving as screeners, but with an exception or two I need to concentrate on what I’m sent — I wish I could cover more of everything, and take time for reviews of things currently not on disc as well.
Readers right now are excited about 20,000 Leagues, The Universal Horror Collection, This Island Earth and the Quatermass movies 2 & …and the Pit; we’ll try to review as many of those as we can! And Charlie Largent might hit a couple that I miss.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Silent Partner 06/18/19
This, bar none, is one of the most satisfying, well written and acted thrillers since the heyday of Billy Wilder. Elliott Gould and Christopher Plummer play against type as a conniving bank teller and a brutal, psychopathic holdup man; the curious Susannah York and seductive Céline Lomez are the women between them who may have agendas of their own. As directed by Daryl Duke, Curtis Hanson’s screenplay adaptation may be the most tightly constructed (plus intimate and convincing) movie of its kind. Can’t recommend this one highly enough … it’s a sure bet for a great discovery. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Swing Time 06/18/19
George Stevens brings the comedy chops he learned with Laurel & Hardy to the world of Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers. It’s the fifth teaming of the peerless song, dance & comedy duo, and with RKO backing them up with even more lavish production values, the formula shows no sign of aging. Charlie Largent delves into the soft-shoe, tap, and ballroom of this Astaire-Rogers classic, the first to be remastered for HD. It’s about time. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
The thing about working a full week (Work!) is that I have to play catch-up on more than one desired title. I’m only just finding out that the Warner Archive’s Blu of the Jonny Quest TV series appears to have already been released as a big box store exclusive, so I’ll have to do some tracking down to get a screener, it appears. Will do my best… that animated series has a LOT of fans.
It’s also a favorite of reviewer/writer/artiste extraordinaire Charlie Largent, so I especially want to find out what he has to say about it. Personally, I think I left Hanna-Barbera behind after a couple of years of Huckleberry Hound… I defected to Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Still looking to score a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Blu-ray from Disney Club — it wasn’t on the Club’s website for ordering before, but I’m informed that it will pop up today, day and date, for sale.
I like the tagline on this poster art… it breaks the rule of ‘ascendency’ in hype words. “Mighty, Magnificent… Memorable?” I figured that one out suggesting trailer copy for Superman IV, where the writer had something like, “Threatens the Peace! Threatens the World! Threatens the survival of the Daily Planet!” To explain, I offered a silly example: “Danger! Annihilation! Inconvenience!” The hype needs to ascend, not descend.
Twilight Time’s Michael Finnegan announced their titles for August 20th, only three this time instead of the usual four: Raoul Walsh’s The Tall Men, Otto Preminger’s Whirlpool and Philip Dunne, Clifford Odets & J. R. Salamanca’s (!) Elvis Presley movie, Wild in the Country (pictured). I think I’ve been confusing that Presley title with Follow That Dream for at least fifty years. I guess it isn’t a prequel to this movie, either. I’m still hoping that TT gets around to a Blu-ray upgrade for its first release, the DVD-only disc of John Huston’s The Kremlin Letter. That ultra-cynical movie is getting better with each passing year.
And finally, more new announcements. The Warner Archive’s July Blu-rays, are all winners: The James Cagney / Busby Berkeley pre-Code winner Footlight Parade, the original The Thin Man, Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy and Samuel Fuller’s Merrill’s Marauders.
The Criterion Collection will give us Ernst Lubitsch’s Cluny Brown, John Waters’ Polyester, Ritwik Ghatak’s The Cloud-Capped Star, Marco Bellocchio’s Fists in the Pocket, Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus, and, and… Bill Forsyth’s marvelous Local Hero (pictured).
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini 06/15/19
It’s the umpteenth film in the Beach Party series, which for a few years in the 1960s ran neck and neck with E.A. Poe over at A.I.P.. Buster Keaton is the deadpan highlight, while the pregnant Annette, an absent Frankie, Dobie Gillis, Andy Hardy and Professor Quatermass join forces to keep Eric von Zipper in line. Charlie Largent puts the A.I.P. picture to the Cowabunga test. Winner of seven Academy Awards, and given special honors by the Nobel Committee, who were Annette Funicello fans from way back. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
After five years of combining animated short subjects, and a combo live-action/animation feature, Disney dove into full feature animation fantasy again with the most basic of Fairy Tales. Just because he learned to create animation for a price doesn’t mean that the quality slacked off — the wondrous design and animation is augmented by terrific songs. Yes, half the picture is about cute mice and birds and other critters … which are done so well, the show is worth seeing multiple times. This handsome Signature Collection release follows earlier Diamond and Platinum releases … and don’t ask me to decode that classification system. On Blu-ray from Disney.
The ever-dependable Gary Teetzel forwards yet another scoop from the world of archaic fantasy — A Pulpfest article on a legendary never-shown TV pilot for a Fu Manchu show, starring John Carradine and Cedrick Hardwicke, directed by William Cameron Menzies. The article by William Patrick begins mysteriously enough, stating that the show wasn’t broadcast, that no stills ever surfaced from … it’s the kind of thing that existed only as a rumor. (Yes, this is a picture of Boris Karloff!)
← Gary also saw this photo of a Bangkok theater display for George Pal’s When Worlds Collide on Facebook, so I’m passing it on … sorry, I don’t know who found the photo or originally posted it, but someone in Thailand must have been a BIG sci-fi fan.
If you open it in a new window, you’ll see the photo much bigger .. and you can see a normal large poster for the movie on the left side of the building. That mock-up rocket is many times larger than anything used to make the movie!
What’s happening with reviews? I’m quite a ways through Criterion’s War and Peace and can happily say it’s magnificent — far better than anything I’ve seen. Charlie Largent is hammering (Universaling?) out a full rundown on the Universal Horror Collection Volume 1 (Irene Ware from The Raven pictured). I’ve got The Silent Partner coming up next, and beaucoup discs from KL Studio Classics, Cohen Collection, Olive Films, Criterion, and others. I’ve got some heavy day-job action going at the moment so I’m grateful for the help of CineSavant’s unofficial staff (victims?) … see you Tuesday!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
They’re ready, but we’re out of time —
Got an early work call today — 2 new reviews coming, possibly this afternoon.
Meanwhile, check out this TFH trailer from yesterday for The Last Judgment, hosted by Joe Dante.
The Running Man 06/11/19
Sir Carol Reed takes on a movie about insurance fraud in sunny Spain — with a great trio of actors for 1963. Laurence Harvey scams an insurance company and looks forward to continuing to beat the system in a happy life of chicanery; Lee Remick finds her affections turning to Alan Bates, an insurance man who might also be on vacation, or might have come to uncover Harvy’s crime. How does Harvey hide out while waiting for the big payoff in Málaga? He buys a huge white convertible too big to fit through the streets! On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
The Bostonians 06/11/19
Henry James novels have made terrific movies; this precise, strongly-felt adaptation expresses interior feelings that James — the master of ambiguity — may not have intended, yet seem essential to the story. A dynamic young female public speaker transfixes all around her, and is taken in and mentored by an activist for the women’s movement. But will a conventional, confining, repressive romance undo a perfect political relationship? The Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala combination does a powerful book full justice; Vanessa Redgrave got the awards attention but it’s also one of the best films by Christopher Reeve.. On Blu-ray from The Cohen Group.