Devil in a Blue Dress 4K 07/23/22

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

After bouncing about in a couple of good Blu-ray editions, Carl Franklin’s superior adaptation of the great Walter Mosley novel makes the jump to 4K. Denzel Washington’s star quality and acting prowess shine in the smart production, with Tak Fujimoto cinematography that put the color back into ’90s filmmaking. Everybody’s good and Don Cheadle’s loose-cannon henchman ‘Mouse’ is exceptionally so. There’s plenty to enjoy in this hard/soft-boiled tale, starting with its great music. It’s one of Washington’s best pictures, and should have initiated an entire franchise of Walter Mosley / Easy Rawlins detective adventures. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/23/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 23, 2022

 

Hello!

We cultural ingrates at CineSavant like to gripe about modern logos for film companies — for the last 30 years or so we’ve been bombarded with ‘special animation’ items that are either forgettable, or annoying. They also test our patience. If a show has three major producing entities, we have to sit through 30 seconds of self-congratulatory individual graphic treatments — and then see the same credits repeated in text, one after another, in the film’s main titles proper.

We’re told that logos allowed companies to assert their identity but also gave projectionists a chance to focus and adust audio — if the MGM lion doesn’t roar, check the amplifier switch, Mitch. We’ve really felt burned when movie changed hands, with various Paramount Hitchcocks going to Universal, switching logos, and enduring graphic mutilation. In at least one instance the ‘VistaVision’ swoop-up fanfare was heard stupidly behind a Uni globe graphic.

But it was also gratifying when RKO pictures on TV stopped having crude “C&C TV” distributor cards wiping out original logos, messing up title scenes and entire last shots, where the RKO logo belonged. It’ll be a happy day when The Big Sky is restored, and once more given its gentle graphic opening and closing.

And it’s great to see 1950s United Artists logos returned to some pictures. I once thought that UA movies just faded up out of nothing, with no logos at all. Now shows like Quatermass 2 once again open with that handsome logo.

Speaking of which, I really appreciate studio logos that have little or no animation, too.

This New Orion Logo is a twist on the original from the 1980s. A colleague thinks it has something of a ’70s disco look. I watched the old one a million times cutting ads for Orion, and never had an opinion about it one way or the other. The only thing that seems odd here is the black bar that animates left to right. It reminds me somehow of a black armband. Who died?

 


 

That Australian company Viavision just announced their [Imprint] Blu-ray Lineup for October, and it has several very desirable items.

We’re expecting to review the company’s On the Beach special edition soon, but [Imprint] October will continue the atom apocalypse theme with Lynne Littman’s Testament (1984), still the most personally affecting title in that particular subgenre.
Sean Connery and Richard Harris shine in Martin Ritt’s The Molly Maguires (1970), which is also famous for the cinematography of James Wong Howe. It’s the story of a 19th century terrorist organization in the coal mines.
Louis Malle and Polly Platt’s Pretty Baby was controversial in 1978 and probably still is; the story of a young girl in a New Orleans brothel stars the underage Brooke Shields. Susan Sarandon co-stars, and one of the upstairs women is none other than Barbara Steele.
Buzz Kulik’s Warning Shot (1967) is a favorite crime tale, a hardboiled narrative in which cop David Janssen is accused of shooting an unarmed doctor, and must dig through a bigger conspiracy to clear his name. The West L.A. locations look exactly like the town I remember when I first came here to UCLA.

Also on the [Imprint] docket for October is the Jack Lemmon weep-o-thon Save the Tiger (1973), Hal Wallis’s two ‘quality’ play adaptations Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) and The Rose Tattoo (1955), and the sports comedy North Dallas Forty (1979).

I hope they will have time to correct the grammatical typo on the handsome cover art for Warning Shot . . . !

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 19, 2022

1947 Mexico, with a genuine erupting volcano for a dramatic background.

Summertime 07/19/22

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

After twenty years honing his craft on ever-more precise filmic constructions, David Lean opened up his imagination for a story of loneliness and romance in Venice, Italy. A vacationing American woman searches for — she doesn’t know what. Katharine Hepburn reveals the vulnerable side of her personality, and the woman eventually overcomes her fear. Lean creates the most compelling ‘relaxed vacation’ ever, yet every shot is as keenly envisioned as in any of his films. It’s an amazing ‘on location’ show that initially ran into trouble with U.S. censors — some thought it was morally incompatible with the Production Code, and shouldn’t be released here at all. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/19/22

Film Noir the Dark Side of Cinema VIII 07/19/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Kino reaches into the Universal Vault for vintage Paramount and Universal thrillers. This ‘noir’ collection surprises us — it contains one terrific example of the noir style, newly-hatched and making itself known. The other two titles are in B&W (check), and revolve around murders (check). But if there were a TV quiz show called ‘Noir or Not Noir,’ they’d measure up as third-tier also-rans. The talent on view is impressive, especially the leading ladies: Claire Trevor, Louise Platt, Merle Oberon, Ella Raines, and Gale Sondergaard. Kino appoints Street of Chance, Enter Arsene Lupin, and Temptation with good commentators: Jason A. Ney, Anthony Slide, Kelly Robinson. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/19/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 19, 2022

 

Hello!

Watch if you dare!   Correspondent Michael McQuarrie advances a link to chill the blood. Do you remember the song Burning Bridges that received some radio play during the release of the 1970 Clint Eastwood movie Kelly’s Heroes?  Here’s a hip & happening, downright Mod bit of non-choreography with a dance troupe & the composer Mike Curb lip-synching. The color is good, which only makes it more cringe-worthy: The Mike Curb Congregation!


 Mike also sends along this fairly well-known blooper bit with actor Don Rickles giving Clint Eastwood the business for a publicity camera on the set of Kelly’s Heroes. This is the most fun footage I’ve ever seen of Eastwood. He cracks up in a completely human, non-cool, non-controlled way. Pretty cute!
Don Rickles roasts Clint Eastwood on the set of Kelly’s Heroes, 1968.

 


 

Interesting news from Criterion: they’re upping their handsome Blu-ray of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead to 4K Ultra HD for an October release!

The not-so fab news is that, after 30 years of flat, open-matte video presentations, Criterion persists in ignoring the film’s original widescreen aspect ratio. It’s still gonna be flat-only.  NOTLD was one of the first Midnite Movies to play for years on Friday and Saturday nights, and it’s true that many theaters had bootleg 16mm prints that were of course shown flat. But the three times I saw it screened in Los Angeles in 35mm it was at a very satisfactory 1:85, and all the more scary for it. It was big and sharp and all the gory close-ups overwhelmed us.

Criterion has their issues like any other label, but we can’t count how many times they’ve gone to extra lengths to make sure a release was complete and correct.  Advisor Gary Teetzel also reminds us that director George Romero was once quoted as saying he preferred it flat, so fine,  let George be contrary.  They could have done an On the Waterfront multi-format release, to pacify the Weavers & Wellses of the world (and more power to those guys).

Is it possible that the rights-holders of Night of the Living Dead just insist that it be shown flat from now on, even though home TVs went widescreen twenty years ago?  Whatever. But hey, an original OAR is important, and not following through on this one smacks of condescenscion: ‘oh, it’s just a campy horror movie.’

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 16, 2022

All bless Raquel’s sea turtle Archelon: Harryhausen let him live!

The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Vol. 2 07/16/22

Severin Films
Blu-ray

Collector’s box on the horizon: Severin assembles hours of video extras and text illumination for another group of films featuring favorite actor Christopher Lee. The roundup of titles bookends his career as a screen vampire, with one of Lee’s earliest vampire roles and also his last turn as Count Dracula. Looming large on the academic side of Severin’s research are experts and biographers Kat Ellinger, Barry Forshaw, Troy Howarth, Kim Newman, Nathaniel Thompson and Jonathan Rigby, who also contributes a hundred-page book. Uncle Was a Vampire, The Secret of the Red Orchid, Dark Places, Dracula and Son and Murder Story: six Blu-rays and one Audio CD from Severin Films.
07/16/22

Pink Flamingos 07/16/22

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

This one indeed could have come in a brown paper wrapper in 1972. John Waters’ frontal assault on good taste crawls back in a 4K digital restoration (from a 16mm original?) that enshrines Divine as ‘the filthiest person alive.’ Home video’s premiere label describes this fragrant gem as embracing “Incest, cannibalism, shrimping, and film history’s most legendary gross-out ending.” We’ll leave it to CineSavant’s Charlie Largent to uncover (scrape up?) the show’s lasting merit. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/16/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 16, 2022

 

Hello!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Correspondent “B” got busy in honor of Bastille Day, and located the entire Classics Illustrated Comic Book version of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. He found out that the Gilberton Company was dissatisfied with the first comic adaptation they’d done, from 1942. It didn’t replicate much of Dickens’ dialogue, and it invented scenes and deleted others. The 1956 re-write is much better, far more accurate.

“B” sent along this final panel    from the flawed 1942 edition. It’s easier to read when zoomed, or opened in a new window. Author Willam B. Jones, of Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History noted how the comic book script deprives poor Sidney Carton of his immortal last words — he’s interrupted and upstaged by the executioner. Not content with that butchery, the adaptors then give Lucie and her family a superfluous exit scene!  Jones called that post-execution panel ‘an invented moment of bathos.’ He also doubted the likelihood of a priest being in attendance by the guillotine during post-revolutionary France’s Reign of Terror. Personally, I’m impressed by the big drops of blood that somebody has added to the guillotine blade, as a crude afterthought. . .

Below is part of a comic panel from a Mad Magazine musical parody that turns a A Tale of Two Cities into a Rat Pack romp with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The bright & happy improved title is Lose Your Head. Written by Frank Jacobs and illustrated by Jack Rickard, it appeared in January of 1966. An earlier panel has Sinatra singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ but with the lyrics,

“Come on out to the Court-yard, Come on out with the crowd!
We’ll have the best rev-o-lution yet! We’ll kill the King and Marie Antoinette!”

“B” adds that A Tale of Two Cities actually did become a Broadway musical, in 2008. Happy ‘off with their heads’ day!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 12, 2022

In 1932 Clara Bow began a last push to return as a star of talkies ….

Marty 07/12/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Humble Marty Piletti finally gets to home video in its proper widescreen format. Paddy Chayefsky’s TV play-turned theatrical feature really shines in Kino’s new 4K remaster. The performances of Betsy Blair and especially Ernest Borgnine provide the gentle magic, as non-glamorous Bronx-ites learn that two lonely people can find romance. It’s a winning formula and a thoughtful meditation on social reality in the pursuit of happiness. With a new audio commentary by Bryan Reesman and Max Evry. On Blu-rayfrom KL Studio Classics.
07/12/22

A Night to Remember 07/12/22

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray

This meticulous docu-drama is still the best show about the Titanic, the awesome disaster that has never lost its grip on the imagination. Roy Ward Baker leads an enormous cast of Brit character actors through 2.5 hours of true-life terror in the icy Atlantic — Kenneth More, Honor Blackman, David McCallum, Laurence Naismith, Anthony Bushell. No stupid subplots and no insulting anachronisms, just an awful sinking death trap and 1600 passengers facing the freezing water. [Imprint] brings some new extras to the mix, too. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
07/12/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 12, 2022

 

Hello!

One announcement today — Paramount Home Video has confirmed that on September 27 they’ll be releasing a George Pal Sci-Fi Double Bill — not promoted as such — of Pal’s first two Technicolor spectaculars. The subject of fancy Viavision [Imprint] and Criterion Blu-ray releases in 2020, the 1953 The War of the Worlds will jump to 4K Ultra HD status, reflecting the involved remastering it underwent in 2017-2018. Are 4K remasters already becoming thought of as marketing double-dips?  I don’t think so, not quite yet. It will be very interesting to see how much detail is gained.

Slated as a double bill co-feature, Pal’s 1951 space epic When Worlds Collide will be in tow, but only on standard Blu-ray. Since a new remaster isn’t part of the disc description, we’re thinking this will likely be the same encoding seen on the recent Viavision [Imprint] release. But that’s just a guess.

It looks like Paramount has referenced advertising artwork from 1975 or thereabouts, when the studio reissued the movies as a theatrical double bill. The one friend who reported seeing it (was it Hoyt Yeatman?) said it was a disaster — projected in 1:85, with much of the original flat image cropped away. In the 1970s, we film students learned that most theaters could no longer project films flat in 1:37 — the screens had been swapped out and lenses discarded.

I’m 70 years late asking for an explanation of the giant The War of the Worlds marquee on the Times Square Mayfair theater, from 1953.    The text reads “On the giant panoramic screen with stereophonic sound. The 3-D Film Archive says that Paramount delayed the release of both WOTW and Shane for a few weeks, to “groove them for wide screen showings at a later date.” Even at 1:66, that Academy-ratio movie would have been compromised.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 9, 2022

Didn’t care for it new — now it seems one of the best of the later Hammers.

The She-Creature 07/09/22

Blu-ray

Part of a perfect 1956 matinee double bill, Alex Gordon’s supernatural thriller features an iconic monster, a piece of real horror art from monster-maker Paul Blaisdell. The production can best be described as ‘pedestrian’ but there’s no denying that the movie is an odd nostalgic favorite — a great poster helps. The cast mixes veterans (Chester Morris, Tom Conway, Frieda Inescort, Frank Jenks, El Brendel) with new blood (Lance Fuller, Ron Randell, Paul Dubov, William Hudson) — but the real reason to watch is starlet Marla English. This one should have been a classic. On Blu-ray.
07/09/22

Downton Abbey: A New Era 4K 07/09/22

Universal Home Entertainment
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray + Digital

It may be this year’s ‘comfort food’ film but Julian Fellowes’ second theatrical sequel to his revered long-running TV show is quality goods — and may be better than the first one. Almost every actor is back, seemingly pleased as plum puddings to repeat their roles as either landed nobility or downstairs staff. The storyline ties a final bow on some characters and plot lines, and in a far more pleasing way than we thought possible. Even casual fans of the franchise ought to be charmed. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
07/09/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 9, 2022

 

Hello!

The dependable, indestructible Gary Teetzel forwards an article he stumbled over in Daily Variety from not long after Forbidden Planet was released. It’s an unofficial Variety 1956 Monster Rally Role Call of Sci-fi and horror pix, which the writer notes are on an upswing.

We forget sometimes that many genre shows that mean a lot to us now were once regarded by theater owners as ‘grist for the mill,’ useful to fill theaters for Saturday matinees — but only if available at bargain rental rates. Variety lets know how ‘the trade’ regarded movies with sensational titles like The Mole People. The author notes that King Kong is so popular that it’s being given another release even after being shown on TV. Godzilla is a notable player on the box office radar as well.

 


 

Gary comes through a second time with a great new board game with universal appeal. Yes, how about a swell family activity about voyeurism, the violation of privacy and possible wife murder?  Funko presents Rear Window, The Home Game, by Prospero Hall.

The life-like illustrations show that Funko was able to license the likenesses of James Stewart and Grace Kelly, but substituted faces for Wendell Corey and Thelma Ritter. Who knew that that pair had such tough estate agents?  And the cover art, suggests Gary, appears to depict Jimmy Stewart spying on moving day at David O. Selznick’s place.

 


 

Kino Lorber’s disc announcements for August just arrived, with some highly desirable titles in tow. Among some Chuck Norris movies, we’re on the lookout for Frank Borzage’s elusive pre-Code Little Man, What Now with Margaret Sullavan, The Trials of Oscar Wilde with Peter Finch and James Mason, and Gordon Scott & Yoko Tani in Riccardo Freda’s Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World (Maciste all corte del Gran Khan).

The interesting releases continue with a 4K release of Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas’s Paths of Glory, the two volumes of The Outer Limits TV show (a reissue?), Curtis Harrington’s Mata Hari with Sylvia Kristel, and the under-seen dramaThe Tenth Man with Anthony Hopkins, Kristin Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 5, 2022

Still the best rooftop in Madrid.

The Flesh Eaters 07/05/22

Blu-ray

We still remember the scary AM radio ads from back in the 6th grade: THEY EAT HUMAN FLESH! Mainstream ‘nabe theaters that wouldn’t show movies by Herschell Gordon Lewis played this proto-gore horror show, an ingeniously crafted thriller that captures the style of action horror comics through clever, gruesome special effects. The flesh eaters are glittering bits of organic matter that can skeletonize a human in fifteen seconds!   Martin Kosleck’s mad doctor is happy to welcome tasty human morsels for his ravenous home-grown microbes. An alternate version slides into sleaze territory with a tasteless flashback to a Nazi ‘medical experiment.’ The best extra is a long-awaited audio commentary, recorded for an earlier disc that was never released. On Blu-ray.
07/05/22