Review Page and Column
Bid welcome to five westerns guaranteed to make one fall in love with the genre all over again. Each stars the ultra-virtuous man of the West Randolph Scott, pitted against some of the most colorful antagonists on the range: Richard Boone, Lee Van Cleef, Claude Akins. Indicator’s extras constitute the best collection of research materials ever assembled on the underrated director Budd Boetticher. Also featuring Maureen O’Sullivan, Karen Steele, Nancy Gates, Craig Stevens, Pernell Roberts, James Coburn, Skip Homeier and Henry Silva. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Five Steps to Danger 05/22/18
It’s a road picture, a spy chase and an oddball romance all in one. A casual highway hitch-hike leads to intrigues with shady doctors, guided missile secrets and espionage intrigues. Possible escaped nutcase Ruth Roman enlists nice guy Sterling Hayden’s help, and before you can say Alfred Hitchcock they’re handcuffed together and on the run. It’s a B-picture gem from the mid-fifties, all the more amusing for its awkwardness. With Werner Klemperer, Richard Gaines and Jeanne Cooper. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
The Holy Mountain (1926) 05/22/18
Teutonic art writ large and loud: Arnolf Fanck’s first big ‘mountain’ classic wow’ed them back in 1926, with its massive vistas and death-defying feats of mountaineering, all sworn to be authentic. More importantly, Fanck and his diva Leni Riefenstahl invest their images with the sense of mythic, spiritual kitsch grandeur that became an aesthetic blueprint for the coming Nazi regime. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
In my review last week of Espionage Agent I vented my opinions about pre-war studio difficulties in making anti-Nazi movies, what with the isolationism and (I think) pro-German political climate then in the country. What I didn’t say, that several readers pointed out, is that some of the pro-isolation noise came from liberals and communists, at the time reacting to Hitler’s brief pact with Stalin. So thanks for keeping me straight there.
A reaction from Dick Dinman was to give me an early listen to his two new DVD Classics Corner On the Air show online talks with author Ben Urwand about his nonfiction book The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler, which, to quote the always dramatic Mr. Dinman, “chronicles the shocking depths to which all of the major studios sunk during the ’30s in order to maintain business with Hitler and his minions.” The second show includes praise for Ernst Lubitsch’s crazy comedy To Be Or Not To Be. The show comes in two halves, Part One and Part Two.
The following is an actual friends-of-Savant kidding & harassment email chain, with only the names redacted. Make of it what you will.
Friend #2: Obviously I’m not telling you guys something you don’t know, but I took the frame grab that was on Glenn’s page, imported it into Photoshop and hit “auto correct,” and didn’t do anything else to it. It could still use some finessing, but are the Italians really saying they think the top one is the way it should look? I don’t read the forums, what’s been the general reaction to it?
Friend #1: Reaction is mixed. The majority are saying things along the lines of “the Italians have screwed up again”, but there are people who are happy with it.
Glenn: That first yellow-green image was taken straight from the Italian restoration website. In my column from May 19 Stefan Andersson gave me a dozen links to various forum pages, restoration news with frame grabs, etc. There’s another European disc from 2007 that people seem to like.
Friend #1: There’s some nutcase on the Leone forums who thinks you should be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail for not knowing about the other Fistful of Dollars disc, the ‘Ripley’ version. How dare you not keep track of every international release of every title!
Glenn: Hah! You know how ill-informed I am, about most everything . . . Tell him I’ll put my eyes out to atone for my crime.
Friend #1: You were also guilty of daring to suggest that professionals sometimes know more than fanboys. Absurd! Don’t you know that obsessive geeks posting on the internet, with no experience handling film but lots of experience fiddling with Photoshop, are the true geniuses, and that all the studios should be consulting them on every restoration project???
Friend #2: Heeeeeey, wait a minute. I resemble that remark! I’m a professional AND I fiddle with Photoshop! Watch your step, sonny boy!
I burst on fire if I visit the forums so I won’t check out what they’re saying about Glenn. Are they referencing the 2007 2K restoration that’s out on Ripley Home Video? I forgot I had that, but ran it last night out of curiosity. It’s good, maybe a little too ‘smooth’, making it look like a more recent film. But the color timing is certainly more believable than the frame grabs from the new ‘restoration.’
Friend #1: Yes, they were referencing the Ripley disc. What is Glenn’s lame excuse for not buying that Ripley disc back in 2007? He should have known there would be a new U.S. disc with a different restoration in 2018. Frankly, I’m shocked that you still agree to have anything to do with Glenn!
Glenn: That’s it. I’ve been found out, and there’s no way I can face the angry mob now that it knows the extent of my crime. I’m too emotional to write a suicide note, so don’t bother going through my pockets when you find me under the bridge. “It’s too Yell-ooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww!”
Well, I still think my friends are funny. Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Bloodthirsty Trilogy 05/19/18
Trailers from Hell’s dauntless Charlie Largent takes on vintage ’70s Japanese horror, a trio of sanguinary delights. Director Michio Yamamoto brings the vampire legend up to date in a unique trio of thrillers mixing ancient folklore, bestial bloodsuckers and modern day Japan, circa 1970. The three films The Vampire Doll, Lake of Dracula, and Evil of Dracula have been given a splendid presentation, on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
Espionage Agent 05/19/18
Is this the filmic birth of both the wartime OSS and the SuperSpy genre? State department diplomat trainee Joel McCrea weds refugee Brenda Marshall, not realizing that she has gained her freedom by volunteering to become a Nazi spy. Released just as WW2 broke out but filmed and produced earlier, Warners’ production faced stiff political pressure from an isolationist Washington. Ever heard the phrase ‘premature anti-Nazi?’ Here there be patriots. With Jeffrey Lynn, George Bancroft and Hollywood’s first crop of actors specializing in loathsome Nazis: Martin Kosleck, Rudolph Anders and Hans Heinrich von Twardowski. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud 05/19/18
Yes, we’ve all lived before; when I come back I don’t care who I am as long as I get to be in the 1%. When Michael Sarrazin reaches into a previous life his big sacrifice is to abandon the gorgeous Cornelia Sharpe for the gorgeous Jennifer O’Neill, arousing the suspicions of his wife in his previous life, gorgeous Margot Kidder. The show looks great, Jerry Goldsmith’s music is beautiful, but it runs up against real trouble in the script and directing departments. With Debralee Scott as yet another woman who wants to make it with Peter. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Some fast notices and links today: Kino Lorber has laid out its release calendar for the rest of the year, and it’s got some great items. In addition to two versions of Nathan Juran’s Jack the Giant Killer on June 12, we’ll be getting Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (June 19), TV’s The Martian Chronicles on June 26, two cuts of Selznick’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (July 10), and the not-seen-for-a-long-time Douglas-Lancaster noir I Walk Alone (July 24).
At the other end of the summer Kino will continue with both the TV and theatrical versions of the apocalyptic The Day After (August 7), Sangaree in 3D (September 18), both cuts of Michael Powell’s Jennifer Jones picture Gone to Earth / The Wild Heart (September 25), and The Farmer’s Daughter, The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler and The Spiral Staircase all September 25. It doesn’t stop: October 16 brings us the cult TV movie Trilogy of Terror, November 6 the previously MIA Ray Milland thriller Lisbon, and November 13 the second season of the Sci-fi series The Outer Limits.
Bob Furmanek informally announced another 3D release from Kino, Jivaro, but it has no date as yet so I’m thinking it’s for 2019.
Meanwhile, The Warner Archive Collection just announced a Blu-ray of both versions of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the CinemaScope one we know, plus the 1:77 ‘insurance’ version that I have to say plays extremely well on home video, maybe better than the C’Scope. They looked good on DVD and ought to be a knockout on Blu — even in screwy Ansco color.
Gary Teetzel tips us off to a touted 4Kk restoration of the Brit ‘how I won the war’ epic The Dam Busters; the U.K article isn’t too swift but it comes with a pretty good copy of the trailer. Love the movie, even if that music gets old fast.
Joe Dante circulated this Vimeo link to a trailer mashup, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Max Fury Road. It says it’s three years old but I was impressed with the quality of the cutting.
Finally, for years I’ve been receiving informed tip-offs and research bulletins from a valued European contact, Stefan Andersson. With all the huzzarah circulating about the new Fistful of Dollars disc from Kino, I asked Stefan if I could just print his whole rundown on previous versions and the way the title is being discussed on other pages. You just need to know that Stefan uses ‘FOD’ for the film title, and ‘resto’ for restoration. A bunch of links connect to entries on the Home Theater Forum; other connections are a bit involved but I found them rewarding.
From May 16, 2018:
“Hi Glenn! I just read your review of the Kino Fistful of Dollars (FOD).
In a thread about the Kino FOD on Home Theater Forum I found a really interesting Italian docu about the 2007 FOD resto done by Ripley’s Home Video. It’s unsubtitled, but has no narration, only intertitles with technical descriptions (‘notte Americana’) and before/after restoration examples of audio and video: The Home Theater Forum.
Go to post 29 for the resto video, 17 mins. Posted on Vimeo originally: Ripley’s restoration featurette — use the full screen option. It’s a good link – see screen right for some interesting videos, by Jordan Krug, about differences between various prints of Leone films.
More on that HTF thread up above:
See post 23 for images of back cover, Blu case, for German and Italian (Ripley’s edition) Blus of FOD.
Post 33: two live links to texts in English and Italian — Ripleys and L’Immagine Ritrovata/Cineteca di Bologna explaining their restos. The second link, to the newspaper Corriere della Sera, is marked ‘not safe’ in my web browser, and the page looks odd. The text about FOD is fully readable.
Post 36 says the German Blu uses the Ripley resto.
Post 49: live link to an Italian-language video of outtakes from FOD, including what seems to be an alternate opening with The Man stealing the poncho by a riverside. This video is from the 2014 resto by L’Immagine Ritrovata/Cineteca di Bologna.
For the record, here is info about Torsten Kaiser’s 2005 resto of FOD, For a Few Dollars More and the two My Name Is Nobody films: TLE Films. See clickable links, page bottom. This is old info by now, but the technical details are interesting and educational.
Screencaps comparisons, FOD – MGM Blu, German Blu, Italian Blu
FOD on Italian Amazon (compare image of back cover with post 23 in the HTF thread)
FOD on German Amazon. This is the Blu with the restored FOD, I think (not sure).
For screenshots of front and back cover (compare post 23 in the HTF thread), go here (in German).
FOD seems also to be available in a two-film Blu set with For a Few Dollars More, though I’m not sure this edition contains the 2007 resto of FOD.
I haven’t personally seen any of these FOD discs, and so cannot vouch for quality or region compatibility. Nor am I certain that my research is 100% complete and accurate. But I wanted to keep you posted about the various options out there. Best, Stefan”
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Gun Crazy 05/15/18
The Warner Archive comes through with a film noir gem that still has the power to make one’s skin crawl, as a pair of circus sharpshooters go on the lam, using their skills to pull off cheap robberies. The clammy feeling of being cut off from society, having no place to go, is expressed in near-existential terms. Peggy Cummins’ cheap tease Annie Laurie Starr promises John Dall’s Bart Tare eternal love, but what good are promises from a psycho? With Berry Kroeger and Russ (Rusty) Tamblyn. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
A Fistful of Dollars 05/15/18
Sergio Leone’s breakthrough international sensation has returned, in a 4k restoration from Italy that’s bound to continue the controversy — every color’s good as long as it’s a sickly yellow-green. In every other aspect this umpteenth edition of the first murderous adventure of The Man With No Name is the best yet, with a clean image and good new extras. Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, and Gian Maria Volontè shine; the best new extra is a great interview with Ms. Koch. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The City of the Dead 05/15/18
2018 Limited Edition. The frights of Horror Hotel are back in an improved presentation in this 2018 Limited Edition. Set in New England but filmed in Old England, this creepy shocker is a favorite not just for the presence of Christopher Lee, but also the wonderfully mortiferous Patricia Jessel and the cadaverous Valentine Dyall. Also with Venetia Stevenson as a gullible student of witchcraft, and Betta St. John as a complacent bookseller in a town populated exclusively by ghouls. On Blu-ray from VCI Entertainment.
Potential good news about Scream Factory’s upcoming (May 22) Blu-ray of The Vampire and the Ballerina; we’ve been told that it at least has both English and Italian audio. I’ve been corrected in regard to the film’s running time — the original L’Amante del Vampiro is not seven minutes longer. My expert says that there were no picture differences between the language versions (besides the title sequence). He also reports that the film was apparently regarded as fairly hot stuff back in the day. Milwaukee’s motion picture commission deemed it ‘Mature Entertainment’ along with (among others) What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Mr. Arkadin. By contrast, Jules and Jim and Phaedra were ‘Adults Only.’ The Legion of Decency gave The Vampire and the Ballerina a ‘B’, ‘Objectionable in Part for All.’
Back at MGM in 1994, John Kirk loaned me a non-subtitled VHS tape made from UA’s foreign video master, which I had to watch with my linguist spouse, to learn what was being said in Italian. The chubby ‘ballet dancers’ were amusing, and she found the finale unintentionally hilarious, with the female vampire henpecking her ineffective spouse in Italian as they retreat to the roof with dawn approaching. I still think it’s an excellent idea for a vampire picture: a queen bee mama fiend sends her hubby out to bring back blood. Their appearances change radically depending on how sated they are. The ‘servant’ husband’s work is never done. Here’s hoping that Scream’s disc is a keeper.
Olive Films’ May 29 release of Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow should be a real treat as well, depending on the quality of the transfer and source materials. I saw it only once in 35mm and the B&W cinematography looked great. The prints shown on TV always had weak sound and the same splices in the same places. They also barely registered the film’s interesting shots using infrared film — which gives some scenes a particularly crisp, bleak appearance. I hope to be able to report good news with this one — besides Robert Ryan, Harry Belafonte and Ed Begley in fine form, it has great work from Shelley Winters and especially Gloria Grahame.
Gary Teetzel found this article crowing about some goofy local publicity for King Kong’s 1956 theatrical comeback, only four years after a 1952 release that made almost as much money as its first run in 1933.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
La belle noiseuse 05/12/18
The late Jacques Rivette knocks us silly with a breathtaking, demanding meditation on what it means to be an artist, and what art demands of those that believe in it. A woman roped into posing nude for a famed but insecure painter, undergoes several intense days of compliant collaboration. Rivette’s unforced style gives the impression of life as it is being lived; his commitment is matched by that of actors Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin and Emmanuelle Béart. On Blu-ray from The Cohen Group.
A Study in Terror 05/12/18
John Neville is the consulting detective from 221B Baker Street, this time on the trail of Jack the Ripper. Perhaps producer Herman Cohen’s best film, this overly familiar, slightly campy horror show has a top notch cast, some of whom have a high time with the straight-razor guignol-fest in Whitechapel: Donald Houston, Anthony Quayle, Adrienne Corri, Frank Finlay, Judi Dench (!), Barbara Windsor, Cecil Parker, Robert Morley, Barry Jones, John Fraser, Kay Walsh, John Cairney, Edina Ronay, Terry Downes. Trailers from Hell’s Charlie Largent provides the slash-by-slash reportage. On Blu-ray from Mill Creek.
Model Shop 05/12/18
Columbia sets Jacques Demy loose in Los Angeles in the pivotal year of 1968. Although it puts a coda on the French director’s bundle of romantic films, with his special philosophical approach to Love, this starring picture for Anouk Aimée and Gary Lockwood doesn’t quite catch fire in the same way. If our City of the Angels indeed defeated Demy’s unstoppable knack for romantic delirium, we owe him an apology. The rock group Spirit provides the music score, and makes a casual appearance. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Children, are you ready for Mother’s Day?
Gary Teetzel reports on a new docu about the revered Sci-fi illustrator Chesley Bonestell, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with The Future that just premiered at the Newport Film Festival. The commentators tell us that Bonestell began as an architect and contributed to the designs for New York’s Chrysler Building as well as the Golden Gate Bridge. The home page for the film is here, and a trailer is viewable here. And I even learned how to pronounce ‘Bonestell.’
When I caught this Italian poster for Godzilla Raids Again I first noted that it uses the ‘King of the Monsters’ title that found its way onto the Americanization of Honda’s original Godzilla. I suppose this Italo version could actually be a re-dub of the U.S. derivative Gigantis The Fire Monster because of the style of the two monsters in the artwork. I also like the hype tagline across the top: “All the World is At Arms Against the Diabolical Nuclear Monsters in the Very Brilliant Film of Science Fantasy.”
I asked Gary Teetzel what he made of the single anglicized name ‘Jack Wallace’ in the list of actors, not to mention ‘Fred’ Kasay and ‘Susy’ Setsuko. Actually, all of the names appear to have been made up or scrambled from the Japanese originals. And since when did a Japanese monster movie need to billboard a list of actors?
Gary doesn’t think that there was an Italian variant of the film, with additional actors added. His guess is that the Italian distributor was just pulling a fast one, trying to fool patrons into thinking it was a western-made film. He also reminded me that, for no understandable reason, the German distributors would put the word ‘Frankenstein’ in the titles of most Japanese monster movies.
Gary also reminded me that Bill Warren’s researches found that an abandoned project was for the short lived AB-PT film company to build a new English-language movie around the Godzilla Raids Again effects footage, called The Volcano Monsters. As reported by Bob Skotak, Ib Melchoir worked on a screenplay for it.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson