Alice, Sweet Alice 08/13/19

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

This unique proto-slasher is not a rip-off of The Exorcist and for my taste is more meaningful, despite associating innocent children with horrible killings and religious repression. Director Alfred Sole uses these edgy elements to whip up an involving mystery, and a committed cast lifts it high above the exploitation gutter: Linda Miller, Paula Sheppard, Mildred Clinton, Niles McMaster, Brooke Shields. Great extras, especially a commentary by Richard Harland Smith.. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
08/13/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday August 13, 2019

Hello!

An attempt at a different kind of feature today… looking for odd anomalies in the margins of movies. If you’re anything like me, your family has remarked that they don’t understand how I can pick details out of the clutter of movie shots, finding mike booms and cable shadows in shots, etc. The answer is of course that they would too, if they concentrated on such irrelevancies. My colleagues and friends aren’t so impressed, and instead remark that I don’t seem capable of operating most simple video remote.

I first thought of this when reader Mike Siegel wrote to ask why I didn’t notice the entire film crew exposed in a shot from last week’s Lust for Vampire, but we’ll overlook that. Watching the new transfer of Quatermass 2 allows us to see more detail, and what a reader picked up on inspired me to do this little exercise, taking crude frame-grabs from several pictures that came to mind. The first little anomaly was pointed out to me by Craig Reardon, and the other three I found myself. I’m sure that plenty of sharp-eyed viewers have noted these many times before, but they certainly surprised me. My low-res images do enlarge quite a bit, if you open them in new windows.


1.

Craig Reardon showed me this one several years ago. It got past me even after at least seven or eight big-screen VistaVision viewings of this western classic by John Ford. My eyes always gravitated to the horses rushing through the freezing water — we all think, how’d they ever get horses to do that?  But up in the high background is something almost ridiculously anachronistic, in full view. Apparently there’s a highway up there, and we can see a truck traveling left to right, stopping during the shot. It’s the little white spot, to the left of the building with the chimney smoke, right in the gap between two clusters of trees. The white spot is actually the side of the truck. (remember to enlarge.)

Amazing!  With just one ‘woke’ viewing, your awareness of interstate truck traffic circa 1868 will be forevermore enhanced.



2.

This second example is from another western classic, this one by Sam Peckinpah. I can’t account for why I only noticed it after thirty years and at least forty viewings. Maybe my excuse is that many of the theatrical screenings I saw were likely on screens that routinely shaved off the left and right extremes of the Panavision frame. I had to watch this scene at 1/8th speed to finally see the anomaly in question.

We’re watching more exciting, non-ASPCA-approved horse action again — an escaping bandit has already been shot off his horse, and now the horse is shot too. But in plain view at the extreme right of the frame, a cowboy-wrangler with a long rope is helping with the stunt. His heels dig into the dirt as he pulls that horse’s head into a pretzel configuration. I think the rope gag was used because the horse is riderless, and stunt horses normally require riders to cue their trick-falls. These days, the CGI pixel police would simply erase the wrangler with a digital clean-up. Back when movies were movies, a director could rely on strong compositions to direct our attention within the frame.



3.

This isn’t a goof like in a particular Harryhausen movie, where I was shown a crew member in plain sight on Sinbad’s boat deck. The crew person on view here is in full costume and so blends into the scene. But he isn’t actually part of the scene. The figure on the left of this shot from a fairy-tale horror movie is the dance choreographer Tutte Lemkow, beating out dance time with a stick. It is the finale of a vampires’ ball, when the assembled vampire dancers promenade toward the tell-tale mirror that allows the three principals (including Sharon Tate) to discover that they are the only dancers that cast a reflection.

Note that there must be an entire second ballroom set on the other side of the mirror, with a trio of doubles. Tutte Lemkow is easy to spot because we already know his face: he took frequent supporting bit parts in many pictures, including Anastasia, Bonjour Tristesse and The Guns of Navarone, often in a dancing context. A behind-the-scenes still from this sequence exists showing Lemkow sitting with the frustrated, exhausted director-actor Roman Polanski.



4.


And finally, here’s the ‘maybe’ discovery from the new Quatermass disc. The scene is the riot that breaks out at the gate of the top-secret Winnderden Plant. The web gives us several behind-the-scenes shots of director Val Guest setting the scene and talking to actor Brian Donlevy, which a reader has studied carefully — he thinks that a figure in the back of the mob is Guest, egging on his extras. Maybe-Guest even waves a stick, but not at all like a hooligan.

I’m not sure that it’s really the director… the hairline is similar but he looks a little too tall for me. In a cut just previous, the maybe-Guest can be seen closer to the fence, perhaps speaking into a walkie-talkie. Is the ‘stick’ actually the antenna of the walkie-talkie?  Could he be one of the assistant directors?

However, the man at the bottom of the inset frame, wearing a pair of very non-Winnerden Flats sunglasses, looks to me a lot like Michael Carreras, doing his bit to fill out the crowd. Any chance either of these ‘extras’ are really above-the-line participants?

Gary Teetzel has already weighed in on this pressing mystery… he thinks that, quote:

“Sunglasses guy in Q2 does look like Michael Carreras, but as he looked in the 1970s. Back in the ’50s, he looked more like this.” ( ← picture, left.) “So the answer is obvious: Michael Carreras built a time machine in the 1970s and went back in time to warn himself not to make Prehistoric Women. But he got the decade wrong and ended up at the Q2 location.” — Gary

Anybody have additional suggestions for crazy things showing up in the margins of movies?  Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday August 10, 2019

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A Foreign Affair 08/10/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

If you like Billy Wilder but haven’t seen everything he’s done, this is the film for you, a sparkling but typically sharp-tongued comedy-drama set in the last place expected in 1948 — bombed-out Berlin, rumored to be awash in corruption. Jean Arthur is the Iowa congresswoman out to clean up the town, and Marlene Dietrich a war survivor with a highly suspect past. Underrated John Lund is the Romeo with Captain’s stripes, brushing up on his (click) umlaut. And Millard Mitchell, of all people, steals the movie. Great cabaret songs by Friedrich Hollander, and an A-class commentary by Joseph McBride. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
08/10/19

The Last American Hero 08/10/19

Explosive Media GmbH
Blu-ray

All-American race car mania is alive and well in this excellent Jeff Bridges movie, a true biographical story researched by Tom Wolfe. Junior Johnson needs a future beyond running moonshine for his father, and finds it climbing the rungs of success in the stock car racing game. This may be the most satisfying saga of its kind, and it helped prove that Bridges was a genuine star. Co-starring Valerie Perrine, Geraldine Fitzgerald, & Gary Busey; from articles written by Tom Wolfe. On Region A+B Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
08/10/1

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula 08/10/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent takes on one of the last films of William Beaudine, a director that cranked ’em out in the good old days — this western-horror pastiche was likely filmed on the kind of movie ranch that the Manson clan would inhabit a year or two later. John Carradine called this his worst movie, but a couple of later efforts he hadn’t yet made might better fit the bill. Charlie’s coverage is a wonder — he stretches to find good things to say about B the K vs D, but the best he can do is to compliment the outstanding transfer. Special guest actress apparently present just for the Hell of it: lovely, much-missed Virginia Christine. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
08/10/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday August 10, 2019

Hello!

I’m just coming off Holiday, and have returned to a nice note from Gary Teetzel about Quatermass 2. For twenty years the talk has been that the 1957 film is on the endangered movies list, that the only existing copy is one surviving print, etc. Apparently, author and series originator Nigel Kneale took a page from the Orwell estate, and had it written into his contract that rights to the second Quatermass show would revert to him over time. I’m guessing that that happened around 1970, because that’s when the movie disappeared from view — Kneale just didn’t like it and saw to it that it was withdrawn from exhibition. The movie didn’t resurface until at least 1987 or so. Although I became re-enthused about it back at Cannon, when the first VHS tapes came out, by that time Q2 was virtually forgotten by all but diehard Sci-fi fans.

Gary’s welcome note was forwarded from a post by Robert Harris, probably at the Home Theater Forum. He published a list of film elements for Q2 presently held by the British Film Institute. They appear to include everything one would need for remastering — dupe negatives & dupe positives for both the feature and the trailer. But they’re all labeled ‘Master – Restricted access to preserved film.’ It’s likely that Shout Factory simply couldn’t access the restricted feature materials for any number of reasons, and certainly not right away. I remember this same thing happening 25 years ago at MGM Home Video. When George Feltenstein heard that The Quatermass Xperiment was a little longer than the beat-up ‘The Creeping Unknown’ copy held in the United Artist vaults, he went to the trouble of petitioning for access to the restricted materials preserved by the BFI. That began a slow and frustrating process, but the result was a breakthrough for Sci-fi fans.

So, it’s great to know that Q2 is not teetering on the edge of extinction, that a whole set of Tinkertoys for a terrific resto are being safeguarded. The new disc looks quite good to me, showing detail I’d never seen before. And some day a fantastic hi-resolution remaster might come along. Just tell everybody that the diabolical alien conspiracy in Quatermass 2 is really about Brexit … that’ll get deluxe attention for the film.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday August 6, 2019

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Quatermass 2 08/06/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

What ought to be appreciated as one of the most prescient of 1950s suspense films holds a place among the best science fiction movies ever — and it formed a style template for a thousand paranoid spy thrillers to follow. Val Guest pares Nigel Kneale’s fantastic storyline down to its essentials, making his scientist-hero the perfect secret agent to confront a sinister techno-political conspiracy… from outer space. Brian Donlevy bulldozes and Hammershis way through red tape and confronts the aliens in their foothold base, aided by John Longdon, Sidney James, Bryan Forbes, William Franklyn, Vera Day, Charles Lloyd Pack, Tom Chatto, John Van Eyssen, Percy Herbert and Michael Ripper. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
08/06/19

Behold a Pale Horse 08/06/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Here’s a suspenseful, quality thriller with fine characterizations, set in a grim but meaningful place — Fascist Spain in the late 1950s, when Franco’s police still hold the country in a tight grip. The very modern story (by Emeric Pressburger) is also timeless: the old lost-cause warrior takes on one last mission into enemy territory. Gregory Peck (he’s good) is the legendary raider on a mission to kill an old enemy, Anthony Quinn. A beautiful B&W production, co-starring Omar Sharif, Raymond Pellegrin, Paolo Stoppa, Mildred Dunnock, Daniela Rocca and Christian Marquand. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
08/06/19

CineSavant Column-lite

Tuesday August 6, 2019

Hello!

It’s holiday time. The palm trees on my street have given me permission to hang with friends and family… yet the reviews will continue. See you Saturday —

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday August 3, 2019

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The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne 08/03/19

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Someone save Judith Hearne, for she can’t save herself. Jack Clayton’s film of Brian Moore’s novel has stunning performances by Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins — but whew, for many of us its social cruelties will feel like traumatic emotional abuse. Not enough nasty people and clueless victims in your life? … this show will give you your fill. It all feels true to life, however. With Wendy Hiller, Marie Kean, Ian McNeice and Prunella Scales; filmed in Dublin. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
08/03/19

Lust for a Vampire 08/03/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Courageous disc boutique Scream Factory takes on one of Hammer’s biggest embarrassments, that almost everyone connected to it would like to disown. I bailed from my first viewing around 1990 … yet this time around found it somewhat better than I expected. The girlie-show nudity is treated as a special effect, and the story at least hangs together. And like every Hammer horror, there’s a sizable, vocal cheering section out there that sings its praises. Yutte Stensgaard is the mortiferous Mircalla, with Suzanna Leigh, Barbara Jefford, Ralph Bates, Michael Johnson, Mike Raven and Pippa Steel in support. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
08/03/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday August 3, 2019

Hello!

Thanks for all the reactions to my non-spoiler thoughts about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood last Tuesday — it’s nices to share an experience with so many fellow fans at the same time. It’s sort of the same vibe as I felt in 1974 with Chinatown or 1976 with Taxi Driver or 1980 with Raging Bull or 1995 with Pulp Fiction … the decision to see it was automatic, as if we were sharks smelling blood in the water from five miles away. I sometimes feel awkward recommending movies, especially the odd titles I dote on at CineSavant — not everybody has my taste, so some of those that take my suggestions must think, what a maroon. So far no complaints on OUATIH.


Correspondent, commentator and friend Toby Roan has a new book just out, like, two days ago: A Million Feet Of Film: The Making Of One-Eyed Jacks. The title is self-explanatory, but Roan has a big story to tell, of a complicated development (Rod Serling, Stanley Kubrick and Sam Peckinpah were involved) and a shoot that tested Paramount’s patience and pocketbook. The budget tripled, the studio took over and took it away from Brando in post-production. They call the finished film a compromise, which makes me more eager to read the book — the movie I know plays like a masterpiece just the way it is.


CineSavant is all but drowning in desirable review titles right now. The idea is to give each its due, so they might be trickling out for a while. We’re in the middle of a summer of terrific vintage Sci-fi, horror and fantasy on Blu-ray; thanks to the able co-reviewing of Charlie Largent we’ve covered a lot of great stuff already. Working backwards: Piranha, The Reptile, Weird Science, Alphaville, This Island Earth, Mothra, Dead of Night, These Are the Damned, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Universal Horror Collection 1, The Day Time Ended, The Andromeda Strain, Fantomas Three Film Collection and The Mysterious Island.

Pictures in hand or expected that I will jump at reviewing are Val Guest’s Quatermass 2, Jack H. Harris’ 4D Man and Dinosaurus!, Mario Bava’s Hercules in the Haunted World, David Duncan’s The Leech Woman, Joe Dante’s Gremlins (UHD), the big Criterion Showa Godzilla Box, the deliriously Sadeian Circus of Horrors and probably a few I’ve forgotten. Hinted at and rumored as ‘out there’ from Arrow Academy is G.W. Pabst’s hotly desired L’Atlantide. Come December, putting together this year’s ‘best of’ CineSavant article is going to be impossible.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 30, 2019

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Piranha 07/30/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray Steelbook

Steelbook Limited Edition  Charlie Largent takes a dip in waters ripe with fast chompin’ toe munchin’ fishy-fishies that you don’t want to tangle with. It’s a joyful all-star Jaws rip-off: Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Belinda Balaski, Barry Brown, Paul Bartel and Richard Deacon. Also John Sayles, who wrote the darn thing. Half the fun with a Joe Dante disc is the commentary and other add-ons. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
07/30/19

Death in the Garden 07/30/19

Kino Classics
Blu-ray

La mort en ce jardin  Finally out on Blu-ray in Region A, Luis Buñuel’s beautiful color adventure is a worthy jungle tale shot through with his signature negativity — it could be titled “The Bad, The Greedy and the Faithless.” The Spanish surrealist’s filmic obsessions steered toward the anarchistic, the anti-clerical and anti-bourgeois; all of his films are political, but this is one of the few that envisions an actual revolt against authority. With the presence of movie stars Simone Signoret, Georges Marchal, Charles Vanel and Michel Piccoli, this may also be the director’s most commercial feature. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
07/30/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 30, 2019

Hello!

Zero Spoilers!

I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino’s newest. I’d talk about it in more detail, but most everything plot-wise or style-wise would be a spoiler, and that’s just bad form. This is the first picture since The Shape of Water that I felt compelled to see on its first weekend. I’m glad that I knew nothing about what would happen — avoiding the trailer and publicity paid off handsomely. The 1969 Los Angeles setting feels very familiar, even though I came to town in late 1970 and didn’t get out of the UCLA dorms much until ’71. I think the hippie population of Hollywood Blvd. had thinned out somewhat, but I do remember a classmate being nailed for ignorantly, innocently smoking a joint as he walked by Grauman’s Chinese, and being put through hell for it. What could he say — he was from Oxnard, and L.A. just seemed like a place where one could do anything.

I barely watched the news at that time yet was acutely aware of the Manson murders. Our first dorm outing in Fall ’70 was to go explore Stony Point out by the Santa Susana Pass. We saw bikers threatening people at the big park out there, the one with the railroad tunnel from White Heat. Only years later did my toes curl when I read Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter and realized that the remnants of the Manson clan were still at large — bikers, cowboys and hippies — roaming in the same environs.

The show struck me like a perpetual motion dream of driving around town ‘in the day.’ When the stuntman character Cliff drives on the 101, we immediately notice the sound wall barriers, that didn’t exist in 1970. To get to the Spahn Ranch, he’d have to go to the end of the Freeway and continue on surface streets for several miles. I laughed when Cliff’s trailer is parked behind the Van Nuys drive-in theater. When somebody mentioned ‘Panorama City,’ I realized that I’m not sure where Panorama City is exactly, and I’ve lived here almost fifty years now.

Bob Birchard and Randy Cook drove me to the Larry Edmunds Bookstore several times; it was very close to the ‘Supply Sergeant’ across from the Vogue Theater, where I remember seeing The Wind and the Lion in 70mm in 1975. Westwood in the movie is a vision; as an usher and assistant manager in the chain that owned The National and The Village and The Bruin, these were my stomping grounds in film school. I once recognized Alan Alda in the ticket line and invited him in to see the show without paying. Back at the Norton Air Force Base I had winced through the whole smarmy mess that is The Wrecking Crew. Somewhere between Murderer’s Row and The Ambushers, Matt Helm became terminally uncool… or I stopped being quite so immature.

Once Upon a Time gets that intersection with The Village and The Bruin correct, except that the great Italian restaurant Mario’s is no longer katty-korner from The Bruin. Anyway, when I worked a parking lot in Westwood in ’72, I’d stop off in the morning at the little snack stand we see opposite The Bruin, where Sharon Tate crosses the street. A Westwood movie cost $3 at that time, and through most of the ’70s. But since I made about $20 a week, going to see shows was out of the question. Becoming an usher solved that problem, with free passes.

Tarantino’s latest is still a mix of his peculiar notions, but he’s in such a reverent mode that he leaves many of his more aggressive moves behind. He doesn’t have to play sassy genre games as his story is already immersed in film culture — the context of show biz, TV, features, commercials, Spaghetti westerns keeps the movie references lively. His mix of pop music and AM radio cacophony creates a fairly accurate picture of the times, even if a starving student like myself never got nearer to the glitz than the fancy hipsters that parked in my Westwood parking lot. Any fans of Paul Revere and the Raiders in the house?  The Child of Wonder known as Sharon Tate comes off as a life-loving fan of everything.

The characterizations are marvelous, and the way Tarantino intersects with creepy-crawly Manson lore is inspired. We sit in dread through most of the picture, trying to remember dates — shouldn’t Sharon Tate be pregnant now?  Is the particular song on her car radio commenting on that?   The same goes for the song Twelve Thirty, with the lyric ‘Young Girls are Coming to the Canyon,’ which in this context chills the blood. The bits of murderous Charlie M. philosophy offered by his ‘witchy’ operatives seem right-on accurate. It’s no longer prominent on Manson’s rap sheet, but the Bugliosi book established Charlie as a core White Supremacist. His psycho fantasy-excuse was to foment a black bloodbath, and then prevail because ‘blackie’ is stupid and needs to be led by somebody. Hey, MAGA. (actually, author Tom O’Neill recently presented new theories conflicting with those of Vincent Bugliosi.)

The finish for me was almost magical, with the ‘Once Upon a Time…’ title eliciting a sentimental reaction. Even though it deals with Hollywood’s most traumatic crime, Tarantino’s picture might be his least violent (well, overall). Only once or twice does he go Over the Top with violent hyperbole. I laughed out loud at the audacity of one scene, which becomes a bizarre re-cap of an equally outrageous scene in, of all things, a Mexican horror import.

Now I have to dig through 10,000 disorganized discs in search of the old TV movie Helter Skelter with Steve Railsback. Why it wasn’t remastered to coincide with the release of Tarantino’s picture, is a mystery. Rather than dump a pile of spoilers here, I might review Once Upon at Time In Hollywood later when it hits disc… you know, long after anything original I might have to say has been raked over fifty times in other reviews.

In this show, QT doesn’t toss ‘cool’ music around just because he can. Randy Cook pointed out on FB a sentimental jolt he received from Tarantino’s choice for a concluding music cue, which took me a minute to figure out. It’s Maurice Jarre, not Ennio Morricone… and both the song and the source movie are odes to a beloved actress lost to time. I’d rate Once Upon a Time… up at the top of Tarantino’s output, neck and neck with Jackie Brown.

If you’re going to see it, do it quick. Hey, I can even recommend it to my daughter — it has a heroic dog!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 27, 2019

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