Review Page and Column
Miller’s Crossing 07/02/22
Feature number three for the Coen Brothers is an eccentric gangster saga with a wonderful slate of mugs — Gabriel Byrne, John Turturro, Albert Finney, Jon Polito, J.E. Freeman, Steve Buscemi — slinging highly entertaining hardboiled dialogue. The witty, insightful story is at heart not a comedy, and the direction impresses in the formal sense — no superfluous camera acrobatics this time. Barry Sonnenfeld’s visual stick in the mind — the Byrne-Turturro execution scene in the woods is one of the highlights of 1990s filmmaking. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
In the Heat of the Night 4K 07/02/22
Walter Mirisch earned his Oscar for this Sidney Poitier hit directed by Norman Jewison. The tense mystery thriller is also a big cultural step in the advancement of Civil Rights, Hollywood-style: Poitier’s Virgil Tibbs claims the right to not turn the other cheek. Stars Rod Steiger, Lee Grant, Warren Oates and Larry Gates are in top form. Kino’s new 4K release maximizes the impact of Haskell Wexler’s steamy cinematography and Quincy Jones’ rich music, and includes bonus Blu-ray encodings of the two sequels made a few years later. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
An absolutely essential link has come in from correspondent Edward Bolman: a YouTube encoding of a 1962 45rpm single by the actor who played the ‘Thing in the Closet’ in the all-time psychotronic horror classic The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. Yes, we know you’ve been checking the CineSavant Column twice a day for weeks, hoping this would show up.
Rest assured we’ll never let you down. It’s Eddie Carmel sings The Happy Giant. We’re taking volunteers to transcribe the lyrics. Imagining Eddie singing in full makeup is not recommended. Actually, in the photos Eddie looks like a nice guy.
And while I’m here, a few years ago the CineSavant Column collected dozens of arcane, odd movie tie-in songs that could be heard through online links — from obvious stuff like the song for The Blob, to, what else, The Web from The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. The longest list of song links is here at the CineSavant Column for February 16, 2019. Hopefully some of the links are still active.
Getting even more weird, correspondent & researcher Gary Teetzel has uncovered a secret media file that uncovers the dreaded secret of a 1950s breakfast cereal — Sugar Jets! Gary explains:
We begin with a link to a short item in a 1957 issue of Broadcasting Telecasting magazine that mentions a new series of commercials for SUGAR JETS cereal that will air during The Mickey Mouse Club show. They claim to present “authentic facts” about space travel. Willy Ley is a technical advisor, and none other than Chesley Bonestell is listed as ‘artist’ for the series of ads.
A little research turned up some samples of the ads themselves. Ignore the claim that a couple of them are from 1965 — they are clearly from the ’50s. You’ll immediately notice the Conquest of Space– style space station — which the narration assures us is based upon ‘United States Air Force information.’ I suspect that eating the plastic model kit of the space station would provide about the same amount of nutrition as eating a bowl of Sugar Jets.
Sugar Jets’ prediction of what futuristic phones would look like is positively uncanny. Looks just like the one I have in my pocket right now. →
SUGAR JETS Your Breakfast for Tomorrow Spot 2 (low quality)
While searching I also came across this third ad for SUGAR JETS that revolves around a pair of animated characters watching a woman (torso only) shopping in the supermarket. The cartoon boy starts out by saying “Ladies and Gentlemen!” but the girl character corrects him, saying it should be “Ladies and mothers.” Obviously, the idea that a man might handle some of the grocery shopping is considered to be more outlandishly fantastical than space stations or rockets to Mars.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Brain from Planet Arous 06/28/22
A bulbous brain with glowing eyes takes over scientist John Agar and uses him to blackmail Earth in Nathan Juran’s nifty, nutty sci-fi thriller. The alien noggin’ is also hot to experience human sexuality, which makes things difficult for Agar’s extremely understanding girlfriend, Joyce Meadows. This drive-in favorite uses clever images to sell its alien possession theme, and poor Mr. Agar wears bug-eyed lenses that must have felt like torture — my eyes water thinking about it. Want to prevent an invasion from space? Get out your anatomy book and find the Fissure of Rolando. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
Touch of Evil 4K 06/28/22
One of Orson Welles’ best has arrived in 4K! Kino Lorber has revived Universal’s 3-version study of the bordertown crime & corruption drama, that knocks us out with Welles’ colorful, weird characters, intricate scene blocking and infinitely creative camera work. Almost all of the extras from the earlier DVD and Blu-ray editions are here, with added expert commentary (the tally of tracks is now five). The performances are superb — Welles won’t lay off the candy bars, Janet Leigh wisely avoids the motel shower and Charlton Heston is actually fine as a ‘pretty unlikely’ Mexican. We’ve seen this show ten times — it’s so dense that each viewing brings new revelations. On 4K Ultra HD from KL Studio Classics.
With July 1st only a few days away, 2022 is now half-done. Time seems to have accelerated in a way that makes me wonder if the remainder of my taking-up-space in this dimension will pass in an instant, like a sudden breeze through the door. The positive cure for that attitude is to see where we’ve come, review wise, in the past six months. . . we have been busy here.
Thus we proffer this agglomeration of disc box tops — of 2022’s releases January through June that I’d jump back and re-see any time. Through the magic of mouse-clicking, each image will transport you to the actual review. How do they do that?
Now you will understand how pointless is the picking of ‘best of’ winners. It’s quite a lot of riches for just the first half of the year.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Brotherhood 06/25/22
Lewis John Carlino’s family-oriented Mafia tale was filmed four years before The Godfather: Kirk Douglas is a loose-cannon capo who bosses his own brother Alex Cord and won’t listen when his fellow kingpins talk about modernization. Irene Papas and Susan Strasberg are married to the mob, while veteran hoods Luther Adler and Eduardo Ciannelli provide the menacing atmosphere. Director Martin Ritt was supposedly not thrilled with the project yet it’s a polished, involving crime-time drama set both in New York City and Palermo, Sicily. On Region-free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
The Impossible 06/25/22
Easily one of the best movies of its kind, J.A. Bayona’s minute-by-minute tale of survival poses an immediate challenge to audiences: could I survive that? The genuinely terrifying true story of one family lost in the middle of a devastating disaster is even more relevant now, with similar disasters seemingly happening daily. The near-flawless direction concentrates on the direct experience of a mother and son, who in just a couple of days learn the meaning of human concern and kindness. It’s a Spanish production (in English); Naomi Watts received an Oscar nomination and Ewan McGregor and young Tom Holland give strong performances. We reach back ten years for this review. On Blu-ray from Summit Entertainment.
Hopefully before you read this the reviews posted at Trailers from Hell will be un-scrambled. Opening a review gives one a messy screen. All that’s needed is to scroll up a ways, but it’ll be good when it’s fixed. (8am 06.25.22)
First up: friend Wayne Schmidt sends this one in … it’s on its way to a million views in just a week, which impresses me. There’s a reason for the popularity — the group is so good, we’re convinced we’re hearing musical instruments, not human voices.
From ‘Maytree’ on YouTube, Looney Tunes: Acapella.
I really should have figured out this goof on my own. My link last Tuesday to a Flash Mob of Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” assumed it was a real flash mob event, even though I wrote that “It seems more than a bit staged to me.”
It didn’t take long for the helpful correspondent Maarten Lemmens in the Netherlands to disabuse me of my folly. The highly polished video item is an Ad for a Bank, and a second look shows that it in no way could have been captured by random cameras on the fly. I guess I was in too big of a rush on that one. On the other hand, I learned that CineSavant has a reader in The Netherlands!
More from DVD Classics Corner on the Air: Dick Dinman and his guest, critic and author Joseph McBride debate the merits of Two John Wayne / John Ford Classics, newly re-issued on disc.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Columbia Noir #5 Humphrey Bogart 06/21/22
This grouping of Bogart’s Columbia output has one bona fide noir, a pair of exotic ‘romantic intrigue’ thrillers and three social issue pictures: Dead Reckoning, Knock on Any Door, Tokyo Joe, Sirocco, The Family Secret & The Harder They Fall. It’s a good set, with films directed by John Cromwell, Nicholas Ray and Mark Robson, and with leading ladies Lizabeth Scott, Florence Marley, Marta Toren, Jody Lawrance and Jan Sterling. And the Powerhouse Indicator extras are especially well curated. Watch out — it’s Region B only. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Love Slaves of the Amazons 06/21/22
“Woman Warriors in Brutal Death Battle!” This adventure thriller has no reputation to speak of, and is mainly notable as a strange chapter in the topsy-turvy life of Curt Siodmak, who as a producer-writer-director, filmed this and another equally absurd jungle romp on location in Brazil. How Siodmak got these pictures going is a mystery — each received a national release in Technicolor through Universal-International. CineSavant makes its best, wholly un-researched guesses, breaking all the rules of reputable film reportage. But honest, this is the jungle fantasy populated by Amazon warriors — all painted green. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Here’s something great (and positive!) sent by correspondent David J. Schow: the link takes you to a short YouTube piece entitled Onze helden zijn terug! I haven’t Google translated that yet, but the unofficial title is A Dutch flash mob recreates Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” live at a mall in the Netherlands.
It seems more than a bit staged to me, but it’s still fun. And it’s all of a minute and a half in duration. Enjoy!
This YouTube link is from correspondent Gary Teetzel, listed as by ‘AnimaMundiMagazine’ and called Curt Siodmak – The Lost Video. It seemed appropriate, what with today’s Curt Siodmak review.
I’m not sure of what Curt’s getting at, but he starts out with a bitter remark, complaining that movie writers aren’t given the credit they deserve. I’m curious as to the location of the shoot — the bric-a-brac is impressive. It’s clearly some kind of museum exhibit, what with the marble walls, etc.. Video of Curt Siodmak talking isn’t something you see every day, that’s for sure.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Shaft 4K 06/18/22
Richard Roundtree’s two-fisted detective tale burst on the scene announcing that a craze called Blaxploitation was on the way. No matter that the movie is somewhat slow and drab — John Shaft was the identification figure denied black audiences for 60 years, a hero who takes no guff from nobody and consistently tells The Man where to head in. Even bigger was the music theme by Isaac Hayes, which makes Shaft’s casual stroll through Times Square into an iconic image of the 1970s. Criterion’s presentation of Gordon Parks’ smash hit has the original feature in 4K UHD and in Blu-ray with the first sequel Shaft’s Big Score!in Blu-ray only. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Pastor Hall 06/18/22
Kudos to Powerhouse Indicator for releasing this dramatic propaganda piece based on an actual German churchman imprisoned for refusing to kowtow to the Nazi authorities. The stars are Wilfrid Lawson and Marius Goring; it’s a primer on fascist power from early in the war, one of the first features by the Boulting Brothers. PI’s extras package enlarges our interest ten-fold: the pastor’s objection to the Nazis was grossly misrepresented and the politics of his incarceration were very different. An added bonus are other wartime short subjects by Roy Boulting, from the Imperial War Museum. On Region-Free Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
CineSavant’s redoubtable (I had to look up that word) Charlie Largent now has possession of the new The Film Detective disc of The Brain from Planet Arous and is presumably drafting a Pulitzer-quality review even as we read these words.
The 1957 sci-fi ‘shocker’ has always been a favorite. Charlie will have to be on his toes to best the incisive reporting of my old DVD review, from 21 years ago:
“Other movies of this ilk occasionally depicted teenagers necking. Brain takes the cake, with a possessed John Agar so hot for poor Joyce Meadows he’s tearing her clothes. This no doubt hastened a lot of happy copycat behavior in drive-in back seats. Lots of monster movies talk about space aliens planning to mate with Earth women, but Arous dares to show us the real thing!”
And an impressively high portion of my review is correctly spelled, too.
CineSavant correspondent (and silent movie fan) Jonathan Gluckman sent over a hot link that couold easily interfere with my work. The page Never Was is divided into a blog, a magazine and a busy discussion board called ‘Lounge.’
The link is to the Magazine, which I have to say really held my attention — acres of beautiful art, discussion and articles around the related topics of Alternate Histories, Steampunk, Dieselpunk, and odd categories with names like ‘Unbuilt Cities’ and ‘Genre Tropes.’ The illustrations are marvelous, with work sorted by artist, and segregated into pulp magazine covers, cartoons and comics, etc. I recommend setting an alarm to limit reading, if you don’t want to be locked into this page for three hours straight. The only possible caveat is that some of the alternate histories involve Nazi themes (not pro-Nazi) with associated visuals.
Formerly The Gatehouse, the beautifully organized Never Was page is, in its own words, ‘an online, non-commercial alternate-history magazine, edited by Nick Ottens.’ I’ll be taking a deeper look very soon.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson