Saturday July 1, 2017

 

 

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Savant’s new reviews today are:

The Bridge at Remagen 07/01/17

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

What’s the best true-story WW2 combat film for pure-grit, no-nonsense tanks ‘n’ bombs ‘n’ crazy mayhem action on a giant scale? This non-stop battle epic gets my vote. George Segal and Ben Gazzara’s GI infantry dogs are suitably tough, cynical and desperate, especially when they’re repeatedly sent into danger. The history is fairly accurate — there was indeed a race to seize the last bridge across the River Rhine. With Robert Vaughn, Bradford Dillman, E.G. Marshall, Peter Van Eyck, Hans Christian Blech & Bo Hopkins. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
07/01/17

Ugetsu Monogatari 07/01/17

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Trailers From Hell’s Charlie Largent takes a Westernized look at the great Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi and his preeminent masterpiece Ugetsu, brought to us in a stellar new release from the wizards at Criterion.. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/01/17

L’argent 07/01/17

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Welcome to the final film of the aesthetically precise, rigorously austere Robert Bresson, an adaptation of a fateful tale by Leo Tolstoy visualized in Bresson’s frequently maddening personal style. An extreme artist makes a fascinatingly unyielding show: as with the classic paintings that Bresson admires, appreciation requires special knowledge. With an excellent vintage interview with Michel Ciment to clarify Bresson’s theory of cinema: I’m still only part-way there. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/01/17

Savant Column

Saturday July 1, 2017

Hello!

We start with Gary Teezel forwarding us what Classic Flix is touting as their YouTube restoration demonstration for their Blu-ray of the Public Domain (I think) proto-noir from Fritz Lang, You Only Live Once. It certainly looks better than the eyesores we had to watch. Speaking of that, I did review an old Image disc fourteen years ago, and it was no beauty. It’ll be great if Sylvia Sydney looks good again … she was the queen of the Depression-era social injustice pictures. And one reason that the film is so special now is that Lang fills it with expressionist touches that could have come from one of his German silents: the love bond between Sylvia Sydney and Henry Fonda is mirrored by a pair of frogs in a pond; the heavens literally open up to admit pure souls.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon. And it’s only $325.00! Gary suggested that I talk my wife into replacing our wedding bands, but I don’t think she’ll go for it.

And speaking of Comic-Con, maybe this time I can get Gary to let me post his web reports on his adventure in San Diego in the Savant column. He says he spends too much of the convention trying unsuccessfully to get into crowded auditoriums. I say fans that might want to go deserve to know what the experience is like, even for a veteran like Gary. And I like the way he tells stories.

Although the link is a couple of years old, Joe Dante has circulated it again and I find it fascinating enough to re-recommend: ‘NZ Pete’s’ exhaustive article at his Matte Shot – a Tribute to Golden Era Special FX page, about Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: One Man’s Incredible Odyssey. It’s still unsurpassed, methinks.

And finally, out of the blue we seem to be soon to enjoy a new, improved HD scan of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. The frame grab scans being shown online are remarkable. And they’ve recovered the proper color for the fluffy pinfeather fuzz of the Roc’s Chick, as we all remember it from back in the day. We can happily report that THE CHICK IS PINK.

Next time up, I should have a major book review for the column. . .

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday June 27, 2017

Wednesday June 28, 2017


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Savant’s new reviews today are:

The Savage Innocents 06/28/17

Olive Films
Blu-ray

The original Quinn the Eskimo (no kidding) is another life-loving rough portrait from Anthony Quinn, in Nicholas Ray’s rather successful final spin as a writer-director. Despite some technical awkwardness, Ray’s sensitivity to outsider souls finds full expression. Humans don’t get any more ‘outside’ than Inuk, a primitive unequipped to deal with the modern world. With Yoko Tani as Inuk’s wife and partner for ‘laughing’; this also has one of Peter O’Toole’s first film appearances. Filmed in Technirama. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
06/27/17

Hell and High Water 06/28/17

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

That wild man Samuel Fuller sure knows how to turn up the geopolitical tension, especially in a rip-roaring action picture. This provocative atom threat adventure movie might have caused problems, if anybody cared what movies said back when the Cold War was hot. Richard Widmark skippers a leaky sub to the arctic and discovers that the Chinese communists are going to start WW3 — and blame it on Uncle Sam. No, Quinn the Eskimo is not involved. It’s an insane comic-book adventure about very serious issues — and we love it. With Bella Darvi, Victor Francen, Cameron Mitchell and the absolutely essential gritty sub crewman, Gene Evans. Great atom-age special effects! On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
06/27/17

Hell in the Pacific 06/28/17

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Class-act director John Boorman continues to mix genre grit with European-flavored art cinema, and the result is another winner. Toshiro Mifune and Lee Marvin fight a miniature two-man war when they’re marooned together on the same tiny island. Boorman’s strong direction and Conrad Hall’s knockout cinematography insure a maximum visual impact; it’s great filmmaking all around. KL gives us terrific extras, including a John Boorman talk that’s even more fascinating than usual. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
06/27/17

Savant Column June 27, 2017

Wednesday June 28, 2017

Hello!

Deadlines loom and there’s too much to do, so just one announcement today. Kino Lorber doesn’t have a date yet, but they did announce that they’re releasing Billy Wilder’s Avanti! on Blu-ray. The charming comedy with Jack Lemmon, Juliet Mills and Clive Revill bombed in 1972 yet has a acquired a solid fan base. When this one hits Blu, the only remaining Wilder film controlled by MGM and not yet released on Blu will be 1963’s Irma La Douce. Interestingly, the Wilder film being saved for last was the writer-director’s biggest theatrical hit, surpassing even Some Like it Hot and The Apartment.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday June 24, 2017

Friday June 23, 2017

 

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Savant’s new reviews today are:

They Live by Night 06/23/17

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Don’t look to this noir for hardboiled cynicism – for his first feature Nicholas Ray instead gives us a dose of fatalist romance. Transposed from the previous decade, a pair of fugitives takes what happiness they can find, always aware that a grim fate waits ahead. The show is a career-making triumph and a real classic from RKO — which shelved it for more than a year. Starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell, with a major assist by the great Howard Da Silva, and Marie Bryant singing Your Red Wagon. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
06/24/17

Running on Empty 06/23/17

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

These fugitives on the run aren’t innocent young lovers. Still wanted for anti-war violence from years before, an ex-radical couple struggles to remain free just as their children become old enough to think for themselves. Screenwriter Naomi Foner and director Sidney Lumet’s fascinating movie is a sympathetic look at an untenable lifestyle. Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch star, with major portrayals from River Phoenix and Martha Plimpton. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
06/24/17

Comfort and Joy 06/23/17

Studiocanal / BfI
Region B Blu-ray

You never heard of the Great Glasgow Ice Cream Wars? They weren’t exactly Armageddon, and the gentle director Bill Forsyth makes a radio personality’s involvement with two competing ice cream companies more of a plunge into amiable drollery. If you like Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero you’ll understand the odd, unhurried attitude of this oddball show from 1984. Likable Bill Paterson is a radio personality trapped in a rigid role, as ‘Dickie Bird,’ the morning wake-up guy. On Region B Blu-ray from Studiocanal / BfI.
06/24/17

Savant Column June 24, 2017

Friday June 23, 2017

Hello!

Some screwy links to keep you thinking today. Gary Teetzel forwards us a URL to a 1936 Japanese propaganda cartoon given the makeshift English title Evil Mickey Attacks Japan. That’s exactly what it is. Happy Japanese — people, animal people and quasi- Yokai characters frolic and dance on a tropical island (obviously not Japan) until American monsters bring war — evil machine-gun snakes, crocodile ships and Mickey M. himself riding a bomber bat with mouse ears. Traditional Japanese characters retaliate. What can we say? We could really use a Japanese culture expert (hey Stuart!) for some insight on all the visual references. From Gary: “The actual title is “Toybox Series 3: Picture Book 1936.” Why that particular year? One website speculates that it has to do with the looming 1936 expiration of a Naval Treaty; alarmist Japanese politicos predicted that the U.S. would attack right after it expired. Some speculate that the short thus shows traditional Japanese culture pushing back against the pervasive inroads of western (American) pop culture.”

These things are addictive. The vintage Japanese animation led me directly to some good old-fashioned Soviet propaganda, a color cartoon translated as Valuable Kopeck. Happy Soviet currency makes friends and dances with (stereotyped) coins from around the world, while the evil, capitalist American penny only brings guns and war. A cute, feminine Kopeck undergoes some kind of currency change. Animated Soviet propaganda can be really scary. This one isn’t as dark as Stalin-era pieces but has a pretty steep creep factor. The person who posted the cartoon on YouTube gives it a 1949 date, but judging from the appearance of some passenger jets we see, it must really be from the 1960s.

The Warner Archive Collection has announced its July Blu-ray lineup. I’m told that the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is quite good. Skipper John Wayne is a good German in The Sea Chase and a Commie hater in Blood Alley. And a welcome guilty pleasure is Where the Boys Are with Paula Prentiss, Connie Francis, Dolores Hart, Jim Hutton and Yvette Mimieux. For this kid WTBA is pure nostalgia: at age 8 in 1960 I thought this is what being a swinging student would be like if I went to college. Boy, were things different in 1970.

And the biggest announcement this week is that Kino Lorber will indeed be putting out a 3-D Archive– engineered Blu-ray 3-D disc of William Cameron Menzies’ The Maze. The Walter Mirisch production from 1953 uses the depth format well, for an appropriately spooky haunted castle story with a wholly unexpected monster. I got to see this at the Egyptian a few years back, with Walter Mirisch in attendance (and his son, my college friend Larry). 3-D fans will rejoice. It’s expected in the Fall.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday June 20, 2017

Tuesday June 20, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it. (Behold the mighty Mishka)

Savant’s new reviews today are:

Brother Can You Spare a Dime 06/20/17

The Sprocket Vault
DVD

It’s 1930s America as seen in the movies, through music, and the evasions of newsreels. Franklin Delano Roosevelt preaches prosperity while James Cagney slugs out the decade as a smart-tongued everyman — in a dozen different roles. Director Philippe Mora investigates what was then a new kind of revisionist info-tainment formula: applying old film footage to new purposes. The presentation includes a full hour of non-depressing Depression-era newsreels. On DVD from The Sprocket Vault.
06/20/17

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage 06/20/17

Arrow Video
Blu-ray + DVD

This time they may have gotten it right! If a knife or a straight razor won’t do, how about killing a victim with 500-pound metal artwork studded with spikes? Dario Argento distilled a new kind of slick, visually fetishistic horror who-dunnit thriller subgenre with this shocker, aided by the dreamy cinematography of Vittorio Storaro. With Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi and Umberto Raho. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-rayand DVD from Arrow Video.
06/20/17

Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy 06/20/17

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Rome Open City, Paisan, Germany Year Zero: Filmed mostly on the streets in newly-liberated territory, Roberto Rossellini’s gripping war-related shows are blessed with new restorations but still reflect their rough origins. The second picture, the greater masterpiece, looks as if it were improvised out of sheer artistic will. The disc set comes with more key-source extras than you can shake a grissinoat. From The Criterion Collection.
06/20/17

Savant Column June 20, 2017

Tuesday June 20, 2017

Hello! Hey, they turned up the heat for summer out here.

Twilight Time just announced their September releases, and they’re all good for disc fans. All six titles appear on the 19th: September (1987) is a serious Woody Allen drama set in a confined space, and is a good place to see the late, great Elaine Stritch. The unheralded Hour of the Gun is one of John Sturges’ very best westerns, with James Garner and Jason Robards. Lawman with Burt Lancaster is a Michael Winner film that’s actually not annoying. The CinemaScope, color and stereophonic sound Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef is from a script by A.I. ‘Buzz’ Bezzerides, with a great music score by Bernard Herrmann. And Gun Fury 3D is a Raoul Walsh western I’ve never seen, featuring Rock Hudson and Donna Reed in 3 Dimensions!

Criterion goes all ‘artful’ on us in September. Hitchcock’s Rebecca (9.05) is the main vintage title, accompanied by Murray Lerner’s music documentary Festival (9.12). Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (9.26) with Isabelle Huppert, Kelly Reichart’s well-received Certain Women (9.19) with Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart; and the new docu David Lynch, The Art Life (9.26).

As for the side-by-side pictures at the top of the frame, my excuse is that my daughter’s dog inspired me. And ya can’t frustrate inspiration.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson