Review Page and Column
Murder He Says 03/28/20
This freaky laugh classic has been hiding in plain sight for nearly forever. Fred MacMurray is a census taker caught on the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon Line in George Marshall’s singular black comedy. Marjorie Main plays the terrifying matriarch of the Fleagle clan, a murderous mob of hillbillies with nothing on their pea-brained noggins except getting their mitts on some buried treasure. A little-seen classic finally gets its due: Honors flysis, Income beezis – Onches nobis, Inob keesis! With Helen Walker and Porter Hall, and Peter Whitney as weird triple-inbred twins. Is this a natural for Charlie Largent, or what? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Day of the Dolphin 03/28/20
They swim, they play, and they talk. They love George C. Scott and call him ‘pa.’ Mike Nichols’ paranoid sci-fi classic combines Lassie Go Home and The Manchurian Candidate. It works up a good guys versus bad guys conspiracy storyline — until the message arrives that what the adorable dolphins Fa and Bee really need, along with the rest of the natural planet, is for us greedy, murderous humans to just Go Away. Buck Henry’s screenplay overcomes aquatic clichés and cutesy animal traditions to comes up with a crowd-pleasing winner. With Trish Van Devere, Paul Sorvino, Fritz Weaver, Jon Korkes, Edward Herrmann, John Dehner, Severn Darden, and Elizabeth Wilson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Hello to all, and God bless my
bunker hideout happy home. Back off mail carrier, that’s closer than six feet–
We still concentrate on the day-to-day essentials here at CineSavant. Eating, breathing, worrying about loved ones takes precedence on our scale of concern too. Please don’t think me callous if CineSavant continues with the decadent fantasy that disc collecting is serious business…
What with the general disruption, so many companies working from home and the mail slightly slowed down, I wonder if we’ll see delays in disc street dates? (Boy, this does read as frivolous. Onward, just the same.)
We still have April 19 listed for Scream Factory’s upcoming Danger: Diabolik disc. Gary Teetzel forwarded a list of extras and features announced for the disc. The stats don’t mention a new transfer… this may be the same very good transfer from the old DVD. I thought the old Paramount DVD got pretty much everything right on this difficult title, except that their composite mix dropped the relative volume of the music track. I’ve seen Diabolik projected multiple times, and Ennio Morricone’s cues slam in loud and stay loud throughout the show. We were hoping for an original Italian version as an extra, but we’ll of course be happy for what we get with this Mario Bava gem. The one new extra will be a commentary with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson.
Gary T. has become a regular Sidney Falco for the CineSavant Column, but with a nicer personality. This ‘item’ is indeed a treat, even if I’m not a fan of some of the songs that have been assigned new lyrics. The performer nail tunes from Les Miserables, The Lion King etc.. Pretty cute stuff — Zach Timson Broadway Virus Parodies is clever and funny in addition to being a great showcase for Timson’s talent.
And finally, Gary points me to a thoughtful, timely set of Public Service links: as explained at Deadline.Com the cast of Contagion have created several bold and solidarity-building PSA messages about the Health Crisis that’s transformed all our lives.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
3-D Rarities II 03/24/20
3-D Blu-ray isn’t going away, even as the equipment to show it becomes hard to find — and the 3-D Film Archive keeps reviving vintage features and getting them shown in special venues and on Blu-ray. This second Rarities disc gives us some interesting odd items, including a pleasing gallery of vintage 3-D ‘Realist’ stills — a whole section of which are from amateur-pro Harold Lloyd — and an entire feature starring Cesar Romero and Katy Jurado, the first película de tercera dimensión filmed in Mexico. On Blu-ray from Flicker Alley.
Beau Geste 03/24/20
Welcome to a classic from the Golden Year of 1939, directed in fine style by Wild Bill Wellman and well cast with Paramount stars Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, and Robert Preston, and with Brian Donlevy as one of the movies’ most hissable villains. The popular story has been remade and spoofed innumerable times, yet this remains the indelible best version. A commentary with William Wellman Jr. and Frank Thompson points out many things we didn’t notice before, including where some excised scenes belong, and what originally happened in them. With Susan Hayward, J. Carrol Naish, Albert Dekker, Broderick Crawford, and Donald O’Connor. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The reliable Gary Teetzel forwards the info that Kino Lorber is promising two English Sci-fi films for Blu-ray this year, one a classic and the other — uh — not. Region A folks will finally be able to get their eyeballs massaged by Val Guest’s essential-viewing The Day the Earth Caught Fire ( ↑ ), a 1962 movie that gets global warming right. Not the cause of the warming part, but the vision of a world turned upside down by violent altered weather patterns. That, and Janet Munro in a wet towel.
The second movie is They Came from Beyond Space, a turkey of turkeys of which I’ve never choked through more than four or five minutes on old TV broadcasts. There must have been ‘Bowling for Dollars’ or Roller Skating on another channel. But I’ll check it out — what if it’s a classic that I overlooked?
‘Black Moon Studios’ has done something that certainly interests me — he’s examined a bunch of shots from the 1971 movie Omega Man and points out several dozen continuity flaws showing moving traffic and pedestrians, rotating signs and working traffic lights that pop up in the supposedly ‘dead world.’ He’s very proud of his digital fixes.
A question: does anybody know if the 1977 ‘Poo’ records cover version of the Omega Man main theme is online anywhere? Susan Turner gave me a copy of a certain bootleg record album way back when. I was told it was produced by someone we know, and his name is (redacted).
The album contains a lot of UA horror and sci-fi music, plus the original Italo 45rpm sexy version of Diabolik sung by Maria Cristina Brancucci aka ‘Christy.’ “di stare più vicino a me!” … great stuff. I’ll go search for the album this coming weekend.
Stephen Bjork found it … YouTube has the ‘Disco Omega Man’ cover by Chuck Cirino. For me, its relation to the soundtrack tune is what Hugo Montenegro’s Good, Bad & Ugly radio hit is to Ennio Morricone’s original.
Another one from Gary Teetzel: AP has a news item by Ben Walker talking an old radio show making a comeback: Long-Lost Rod Serling Baseball Comedy on Deck. Serling, we are told, was an avid fan of the National Sport. The show is about baseball but also introduces a Cold War theme, with a Russian embassy worker who spends his afternoons watching the Dodgers at Ebbets Field. The article tells where Serling fans can hear a new performance, which I believe is coming tomorrow night, Wednesday.
Are we locked down or what? And, Why does this month look and feel like a Sci-Fi / Sontag Imagination of Disaster movie?
Los Angeles goes Quiet and so does The Rest of the World, two brief videos showing views of underpopulated public spaces, a potential Ghost World. Those aren’t the only two out there, as a whole stack of these videos are piling up online; maybe they’ll make people think a little. The weird thing is that we’re now seeing classic Sci-Fi ’empty world’ visions come to life on the TV news.
Don’t stop there, Glenn, name as many ’empty streets’ epics as you can: Seven Days to Noon, FIVE, Target Earth, The World The Flesh and The Devil, On The Beach, Last Woman On Earth, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, The Last Man On Earth ( ↑ ), The Omega Man, The Quiet Earth, and who cares about newer movies… Maybe we aren’t too badly shaken by these images because we’ve already seen ‘the coming attractions’ for them in old movies.
Here in Los Angeles there’s been an unexpected side benefit: standing outside on my porch, the air smells sweeter. Less auto traffic means better air, and less noise — I noticed tweeting birds more this morning and the horizon (the view to the Hollywood Sign) was clear all day. They say that in Paris under the Nazi occupation, the trees flowered more often and the air quality was better — nobody had gasoline for their cars. Of course, I’d rather have a our health security back.
Not that I consider myself Mister Public Service, but…
For decent information about what’s happening in the world, I recommend to U.S. viewers the nightly BBC America Broadcast. Sure, they’re slightly U.K.-centric, but they’re free of home-grown hysteria and don’t waste time on feel-good fluff. Most important, they actually care what’s happening elsewhere in the world and offer excellent coverage. Why are we so-called ‘exceptionals’ being asked to hunker down and self-isolate? A couple of minutes looking at a young Spanish doctor tearfully begging people to stay home ( ↑ ) answers that question: it can and perhaps WILL happen here. Doctor Virginia Oro is not selling anything, she’s merely reflecting the disaster that right now is killing hundreds in Madrid every day.
That some of our leaders minimize the threat is not good … even if this thing gets under control sooner than later, a lot of people are going to suffer, some of them unnecessarily. Tim Lucas reports that the famed actress Lucia Bosé, aged 89, has succumbed to the virus. We just watched her famous Spanish film Death of a Cyclist on TCM a couple of nights ago.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Show Boat (1936) 03/21/20
One of the best and most melodic of filmic transpositions from Broadway, James Whale’s beautifully directed movie showcases all-time great performances by Irene Dunne, Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan, Hattie McDaniel, and Charles Winninger. If you didn’t grow up with an awareness of this 1936 show, it’s because it was tossed in a vault and kept from view for more than forty years. Universal’s Laemmle dynasty did everything right on this one, backing Whale right down the line. Even though it was a big success, they lost the studio over cost overruns (well, for several reasons). Criterion’s new disc is a wonderful surprise that does the movie justice, with more and better extras than Warners would have sourced. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
V.I. Pudovkin showed the world how Soviet silent cinema excelled in the 1920s; this trio of revolutionary dramas were designed to instill collective, Red patriotic fervor in millions of Soviets speaking a multitude of languages. Radical editing springs forward from time to time but the real power of the shows comes from strong performances of the main characters. Those Bolsheviks knew how to co-opt the limitless power of Russian mother love: anybody would cheer for the valiant mother carrying the red flag into the Winter Palace. We said powerful, not subtle. The trilogy of silent classics — with lavish music and informed commentary — consists of Mother, The End of Saint Petersburg and the best of the three, Storm over Asia. On Blu-ray from Flicker Alley.
The Mad Magician 3-D 03/21/20
Yes, it’s back and still in Blu-ray 3-D, and the disc contains the 3-D Three Stooges shorts as well. Vincent Price took a second step toward his future as a horror icon in Columbia’s not-bad attempt to collect on the residual goodwill from the previous year’s House of Wax. Reviewer extraordinaire Charlie ‘saw the lady in half’ Largent gives his take on what holds up as a fun, hammy diversion of the horror kind. And hey, it’s another good appearance by the talented Eva Gabor. Patrick O’Neal is just starting out as a green detective. Gorgeous Mary Murphy aced the plum role opposite Marlon Brando in The Wild One — I’d say she could have used a better agent. With different extras than the OOP Twilight Time disc. On 3-D Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Hello! Three reviews today … the spice must flow! (Saying that makes me feel more important.)
My correspondent Rev. Paul F.M. Zahl regularly suggests faith-based films to readers of an Anglican website called The Living Church. Instead of modern product that calls itself faith-based he looks to older pictures, which we’ve discussed more than once. This week he has a little feature up called Hopeful Movies for Episcopalians in Self-Quarantine; I snooped into his back pages and found another one with a title I admit I wouldn’t have thought of, Seen Any Good Lent Movies Lately? Paul seems fond of movies about miracles, as with his choice of Rossellini’s Journey to Italy pictured just above, with Ingrid Bergman. I wonder if the devastating miracle movie Ordet is to Paul’s liking — it’s kind of severe.
We look forward to all of Criterion’s just-announced June titles… there’s Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman, Paul Mazursky’s An Unmarried Woman with Jill Clayburgh (I was just talking about that in Semi-Tough), the Russian war horrorshow Come and See, Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad, and this year’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire by Céline Sciamma.
I know, I know, I’m a pushover for the first ten years or so of Toho’s Kaiju and science fiction films … the price tag on this Mill Creek disc is so enticing that I’m going to have to spring for it, even if the encodings are not tip top super-neato (I was there in 1960 cheering for these things, so I can write like that). The double bill is due June 9 according to Amazon.
I’m all for prioritizing crucial and sensitive shipments at this time, so if deliveries are delayed or companies can’t ship for some reason, you won’t hear any whining here — by my measure, the ready availability of 150,000 classic movies, a mouse-click away, is an absolute miracle I’ve never forgotten. If any readers have anecdotal info on shipments delayed or (gulp) cancelled, please let me know.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Hammer Volume Five: Death & Deceit 03/17/20
Charlie Largent continues with yet another four-cylinder compendium of thrillers from the prolific Hammer Films. As every Hammer/Columbia co-production that resembles in the slightest a horror film has been covered in the four volumes already released, collection number five moves on to a string of ‘Adventure!’ thrillers. The Pirates of Blood River is a familiar enough item, but The Scarlet Blade and The Brigand of Kandahar are new to Blu-ray, as is the even more obscure Visa to Canton, which stars Richard Basehart and Lisa Gastoni. This sounds like a set for devoted Hammer fans, which these days are legion. Top-lining the other three pictures are Christopher Lee, Ronald Lewis and Jack Hedley. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
It’s ‘Marriage Story’ circa 1936. Talk about older shows that still pack a dramatic wallop… this Sinclair Lewis adaptation is William Wyler’s most celebrated ’30s film. The Production Code frowned on disrespecting the institution of marriage, but Wyler & writer Sidney Howard keep the divorce theme intact — their well-off couple learn more about each other and simply grow apart. Industrialist Walter Huston gets pushed a little too far. His social-climbing wife Ruth Chatterton doesn’t appreciate what she’s got, while luscious Mary Astor is the Depression equivalent of a Malibu Earth Mother. With Paul Lukas, Mary Astor, David Niven, Gregory Gaye and Maria Ouspenskaya. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Wow! That glorious original poster jumped out at us, making us ask why we couldn’t see this classic-era Paramount horror picture starring the brilliant and glamorous Carole Lombard and directed by the maker of White Zombie. Well, it’s finally shown up to answer that question on Blu-ray. This fairly insubstantial spiritualist vs. scientist spook show about a lady strangler returned from the dead is no classic but will of course be a major curiosity for horror buffs. It’s short on real scares, but it does have a young Randolph Scott to race to the rescue at the finish. Also featuring Vivienne Osborne, Alan Dinehart, H.B. Warner, and Beryl Mercer. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Yep, good old Dennis Price has arrived, with two friends in hazmat suits. Luckily, I’m not alone here at CineSavant headquarters, and won’t be going batty like Dennis. But plenty of people are soon going to feel very isolated. In a few days we’re going to be really grateful for our web connection to our friends and family.
I don’t have a virus filter for my Modem (that was in the health guidelines, wasn’t it?) In the interest of Public Safety I considered taking CineSavant offline … but I figure that the public needs to be informed about the searing controversies that surface in these pages: Aspect ratios! Transfer speeds! Original versions! Just doing my bit.
Contributor/advisor/conscience Gary Teetzel knows how to use humor to defuse tension. After an exchange about COVID 19, he sent a picture from The Andromeda Strain of the scientist having a tiny layer of skin burned off as a sterilization ploy. Gary plans to do that before he goes out. Just to be extra safe, he says he’s going to do what the old man in the movie did to stay safe — start drinking Sterno!
The photo above is from a Universal horror-western (?) movie called Curse of the Undead, which Kino Lorber has announced for Blu-ray. I haven’t seen it, but I told Gary it must be a classic because Michael Pate is in it, and Michael Pate plays the marauding Apache Sierra Charriba in my personal obsession Major Dundee. Gary’s answer is typical:
“Yes Glenn, Sierra Charriba is a vampire in Curse of the Undead. Charlton Heston plays Major Van Helsing, who obsessively pursues him across the Old West.”
Sounds okay to me.
After I linked last time to an online encoding of The Beatles’ docu feature Let it Be, correspondent Mike Hasch told me that Peter Jackson has made a documentary about the final year of the group before their breakup. He sent along links to two announcement articles online: in Rolling Stone and in Variety.
Wait, don’t go away yet. Correspondent ‘Chuck’ has contributed a link to a Japanese-for-American-Viewers video piece about Japan’s top Inventions. The ‘invention’ in this particular episode is our old friend Godzilla, the monster with the radioactive personality. Gotta include a Godzilla link, it’s the law.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Leave Her to Heaven 03/14/20
Gorgeous Gene Tierney has a perplexing problem in this bizarre domestic noir — she just *sigh* has to connive and murder to get her way. Her dream wife Ellen Berent is rich, cultured, and drop-dead beautiful, but hubby Cornell Wilde should have read the small print about her manic possessiveness. Beautiful people, beautiful scenery and Technicolor so bright that even Alfred Newman’s music score seems to be in color; John M. Stahl’s thriller stretches the definition of Film Noir. With Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Mary Philips, Ray Collins, Darryl (help me!) Hickman. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.