CineSavant Column

Tuesday September 19, 2023



The Warner Archive Collection released its list of October Blu-rays on Monday. It initially had no Halloween-themed titles and only one vintage title, the MGM pre-Code Dance, Fools, Dance with Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. Other film listed are the Elvis programmer Double Trouble (1967), Richard Attenborough’s In Love and War (1996) with Sandra Bullock & Chris O’Donnell, Costa-Gavras’ Mad City (1997) with Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta, and Kevin Reynolds’ Rapa-Nui (1994).

A follow-up announcement added a desirable horror classic that’s very much Halloween-themed, Tod Browning’s 1936 fantasy item The Devil-Doll with Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O’Sullivan and the interesting Rafaela Ottiano.    It’s a weird mix of the macabre and the clunky, but as is typical with Browning, the twisted angles are oddly eerie, unnerving.

The WAC’s George Feltenstein appeared on The Extras podcast to assure collectors that more horror is on the way, but only the one title was ready for Halloween. The label has been offering ‘surprise extras’ lately. Very often the Blu-rays simply carry over whatever was on the DVD, but The Devil-Doll has a new commentary by the always-good Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr. The show ought to look superb in HD.



While snooping around the web looking for other items on The Train, we stumbled on a kind of ‘half-pilot’ John Frankenheimer directed in 1964, for a never-produced TV show to be called Selena.

It’s a strange mess — it stars the very likable Polly Bergen, with James Daly. Carroll O’Connor has a goofy role in drag, his voice overdubbed. Reggie Nalder is an Arab stereotype. The writer of note is one ‘Ben Madow,’ presumably the great screenwriter Ben Maddow, with two ‘d’s. The animated titles aren’t bad at all.

Selena is an undercover secret agent; the story is spy nonsense, halfway well shot. But either it’s a partial script, or the shooting was halted before finish — what’s there is fragmented, held together by voiceovers and a too-active star wardrobe. Next up for the great John Frankenheimer would be the paranoid classic Seconds.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson