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

Saturday June 17, 2017

Tuesday June 20, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant’s new reviews today are:

The Man from Planet X 06/20/17

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

The first visitor from outer space in the ’50s sci-fi boom is one very curious guy, dropping to Earth in a ship like a diving bell and scaring the bejesus out of Sally Field’s mother. Micro-budgeted space invasion fantasy gets off to a great start, thanks to the filmmaking genius of our old pal Edgar G. Ulmer. With Robert Clarke and the great William Schallert — and given a fine audio commentary by Tom Weaver and friends. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
06/17/17

Marcel Pagnol: The Marseille Trilogy 06/20/17

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Marius * Fanny * César No longer out of reach, Marcel Pagnol’s stunning 3-feature saga of love and honor in a French seaport is one of the great movie experiences — and the most emotional workout this viewer has seen in years. The tradition of greatness in the French sound cinema began with gems like these, starring legendary actors that were sometimes billed only with their last names: Raimu, Charpin. Those two, Pierre Fresnay and Orane Demazis are simply unforgettable — it’s 6.5 hours of dramatic wonderment. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
06/17/17

8 Million Ways to Die 06/20/17

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray + DVD

Tonight on ‘movies we really want to like’ we have Hal Ashby’s final feature, an L.A.- based crime saga with a great cast and spirited direction and . . . and not much else. It isn’t the train wreck described in Kino’s candid actor interviews, but we can see only too well why it wasn’t a big winner when new. Any day that a Jeff Bridges picture doesn’t shine, is a dark day in my book. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
06/17/17

Savant Column June 17, 2017

Tuesday June 20, 2017

Hello!

After my admittedly enthusiastic review for Blue Underground’s Death Line last time, it wasn’t long before this email arrived — from the film’s director, Gary Sherman:

Glenn. . .

Thank you for that great review. It is very gratifying to have one’s work so completely understood. Again Thank You. Would like to correct one misconception. The tracking shot was originally done in one piece. Unfortunately, the negative of the one perfect take was damaged. This was long before we had CGI to fix things like that. So I had to work a little analog magic to remove the damaged frames. It didn’t really change the flow or content of the shot, just eliminated passing through one archway. You are the first to notice and the first to get an explanation. Bravo! — Gary (Sherman), June 15.


I’m pretty sure that it’s Gary Teetzel that tipped me off to this 45-second
‘Horror Pictures Collection’ film clip from 1934: taking a break from the set of The Black Cat, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are in costume as they review children parading past with their pet cats, some of them black, for a Universal Newsreel. The kids look none too happy, but we can’t tell if the black-clad actors make them nervous, or the if the kitties are scratching them to ribbons. Or maybe the publicity gag is being filmed at that grim WW1 cemetery from the movie.

And an even briefer glimpse of Bela Lugosi is offered in the newsreel clip from the
California Pacific International Exposition from San Francisco. Bela appears at the 48-second mark, doing some hand-kissing with Marie Wilson, while Lee Tracy watches. I think my IDs are correct, so here’s your chance to show me up. (It figures… so far both Joe Dante and Craig Reardon identify the woman as Anita Louise not Marie Wilson. Time to go stare at some faces some more.)

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday June 13, 2017

Tuesday June 20, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant’s two new reviews today are:

Death Line 06/20/17

Blue Underground
Blu-ray + DVD

Aka Raw Meat. This early gore-horror picture has a remarkable emphasis on human values, believe it or not, with a ‘monster’ that nevertheless is a paragon of loving gentleness. Add Donald Pleasance as a surly, posh-hating police inspector, and the shock value makes the Hammer films of the early ’70s taste like weak tea. With David Ladd, Norman Rossington, Sharon Gurney, Hugh Armstrong. From Blue Underground.
06/13/17

The Lodger (1927) 06/20/17

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Hitchcock’s first self-professed ‘Hitch’ picture is still a silent-screen winner. Many of his recurring themes are present, and some of his visual fluidity – in this finely tuned commercial ‘shock’ movie with witty visual tricks from Hitchcock’s own background as an art director. And hey, he secured a real box office name to star as the mysterious maybe-slayer ‘The Avenger,’ Ivor Novello. As an extra we also get Hitchcock’s 1927 silent Downhill. From The Criterion Collection.
06/13/17

Savant Column June 13, 2017

Tuesday June 20, 2017

Hello! Some fun links today.

Correspondent Stefan Andersson turns our attention to the web magazine The Edit Room Floor, where the April 15 issue has a three-part article on the Italian restoration of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Stefan reports that they´ve even found the Italian censorship notes and translated them into English. Thanks Stefan — !

Ever wonder what the great screenwriter Samuel Taylor looks or sounds like? Like a great gentleman, that’s what. The writer of Vertigo speaks for seven full minutes about Alfred Hitchcock, in this Eyes on Cinema YouTube clip forwarded by correspondent Craig Reardon. And Taylor expresses his own opinion of the absurdity of the storyline of Vertigo.

And about my review last week of Blast-Off, advisor Gary Teetzel reminded me that producer Harry Alan Towers did indeed work with Orson Welles in two radio shows, The Adventures of Harry Lime and The Black Museum.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

June 10, 2017

Tuesday June 20, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant’s new reviews today are:

Good Morning (ohayo) 06/20/17

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

It’s Yasujiro Ozu in light mode, except that his insights into the human social mechanism make this cheerful neighborhood comedy as meaningful as his dramas. Two boys go on a ‘talk strike’ because they want a television set, a choice that has an effect on everyone around them. And what can you say about a movie with running jokes about flatulence . . . and is still a world-class classic?  On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
06/10/17

The Man in the Moon 06/20/17

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Robert Mulligan’s late career gem is a beautiful, fad-free tale of teenage romance with universal appeal, famed for introducing Reese Witherspoon to the screen. She’s truly a sensation, as is the actress Emily Warfield as the older sister who ‘steals’ Reese’s beau. Photographed by Freddie Francis, this tops even Mulligan’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
06/10/17

Blast-Off 06/20/17

Olive Films
Blu-ray

An admiring nod to ’60s dream siren Daliah Lavi! American-International leaps into an epic Jules Verne comedy about a trip to the moon, a good-looking but slow and unfunny farce that must squeak by on the goodwill of its cast of comedians. Burl Ives is excellent casting as P.T. Barnum, organizing a Greatest Show OFF the Earth. Aka Those Fantastic Flying Fools and Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon; also starring Terry-Thomas, Gert Fröbe, Lionel Jeffries, Troy Donahue, Dennis Price, Hermione Gingold. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.