CineSavant Column

Saturday September 5, 2020


Shades of Matinee — the photo above is a 1957 souvenir of a ‘big bug’ Terrorama Saturday at a ‘nabe theater in Florida, five years before that unforgettably cheesy chiller Mant! breezed through town and caused a scandal.  The adventurous Gary Teetzel was free-range web researching the other day and found this nifty news blurb image of kids excited about the scary-scary double bill down at the Coral Theater, wherever that was. This is the kind of ballyhoo nostalgia we expect to see from John McElwee or maybe Bill Shaffer. Did Not of This Earth get bigger billing because it was the more important picture, or because it had a shorter title?

I’ll bet that the monster car was a pre-existing gimmick-mobile to promote the exterminator business, but it seems to have done the trick. As we hunker down with doors locked against the nefarious COVID, we can still remember the thrill of a popcorn matinee crowed together with 200 exited, smelly, likely contagious kids getting ready to see something totally new and unknown. How many of those Florida brats darlings were traumatized by the creepy eyeball-guy in Not of This Earth?  Were they scared or did they laugh their heads off?  I was a bit too young to make this super-cool scene — 1957 was the first year I understood that years were numbered.

On the incoming disc front, CineSavant has some 4K reviews on the way. Arrow Video’s two-disc set of Flash Gordon with a million extras will over-stimulate your retinal sensors with color and deafen you with Queen’s soundtrack: “Go Flash Go!”

Universal’s highly anticipated Ultra-HD disc set of The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection has arrived as well, containing 4k and Blu-ray encodings of Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho and The Birds. The big surprise ought to be a new restoration of Psycho, reinstating a few short bits taken out by the censors at the last minute… a stab here, a peep-show moment there. That naughty Hitch would approve.

We haven’t seen any of those four titles around here in years, and they’re all incredibly good. I also haven’t written about them for a lot longer, so we’ll see if anything I have to say is older or wiser. Don’t worry, if I run out of legit, appropriate comment and criticism, I’ll fill in with refreshingly tiresome personal memories.

And finally, Kino Lorber has let loose a list of their October Blu-ray releases, which has some real gems that this collector will be eager to review — many will be new views for me.

We start with a clutch of George Peppard pictures, of which I’ve not seen P.J. and Newman’s Law. I’ve also not seen Universal’s horror western Curse of the Undead, even though it stars favorite actor Sierra Charriba Michael Pate. That’s followed by a couple of Michael J. Fox vehicles. For oddball horror we can look to the vintage Tod Slaughter barnstormer The Face at the Window, and the marginal Monogram ‘shocker’ The Ape, in which our kindly medical researcher Boris Karloff cuts corners ‘warp speed’ to find a vaccine for polio. Do you think anything will go wrong?  Did you read the title?

I know a couple of readers eager to get their mitts on a good transfer of Ronald Neame’s The Chalk Garden with Hayley Mills and Deborah Kerr… and fans of Clint Eastwood will get their fill with a trio of dusty cheroot-chewing post-Spaghetti oaters Two Mules for Sister Sara (Don Siegel), Joe Kidd (John Sturges) and High Plains Drifter (Clint himself). We’ll also find out if the Phil Karlson/Richard Widmark Cold War thriller The Secret Ways is a winner… it does co-star a young Teresa Santiago Geltner Senta Berger!

Other titles included for October are a Bert I. Gordon murder thriller, what look like a few TV movies and an undersea monster romp with a rude crustacean, Deep Star Six. One recommended item is S.O.S. Titanic. The all-star TV movie came out on DVD only in truncated form, as a feature cut-down. Kino’s new Blu will include that but also the original uncut 145-minute version that was shown in 1979. I remember liking it a lot — it’s not quite the classic that is  A Night to Remember, but it’s still better than the huge 1997 hit. If I get a review copy I’ll do a round-up of ‘Iceberg Dead Ahead’ retellings, including the notorious Nazi version.

I list the best last: a new Blu of the first Harry Palmer spy saga The Ipcress File. It ought to be considered a classic by now, especially with John Barry’s peerless music score. As with most of the KL Studio Classics offerings, the disc is loaded with extras. Now all three Michael Caine Harry Palmer films will be available to Region A fans.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson