CineSavant Column

Saturday December 30, 2023



Yes, it’s a full-on Viavision [Imprint] review day today — the disc rotation just came out that way. We’ll be turning almost immediately to titles from Radiance, Severin, Criterion, Fun City, Universal, and the Warner Archive Collection, to start the new year.

We’re still waiting on the WAC December titles, which include the ripe-for-rediscovery Tarzan, the Ape Man.

Kino Lorber’s pkg also just arrived, with a new edition of Odds Against Tomorrow, the Brigitte Bardot comedy Please, Not Now!, Douglas Sirk’s Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, and the Brit war pix double bill The Sea Shall Not Have Them + Albert R.N..

Film Masters strikes again with a third ‘Filmgroup’ double bill; this time the duo are The Devil’s Partner and Roger Corman’s Creature from the Haunted Sea.

Powerhouse Indicator’s new UK releases include extras-adorned editions of the ’30s classics Love Me Tonight, Desire and the original An American Tragedy.

Deaf Crocodile brings us a bizzare Czech comedy-fantasy, The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians.

Radiance offers fancy editions of the unusual Japanese thriller Elegant Beast and Pietro Germi’s mysterious The Facts of Murder.

… and we just saw the new 4k of Oppenheimer, and want to add our two cents of opinionizing, 8 months after the fact …



The amazing friend and advisor “B” doesn’t know it, but he gave me an appropriate New Year’s idea for CineSavant. People choose special Holiday Films for occasions like New Year’s, and I realize that we do (or did) as well. Since it’s now available this year in a quality release, a likely new candidate is the Thornton Wilder, Wood/Menzies Our Town. It’s a bit on the chilling side — philosophically it’s not a happy story — but there’s something of an eternal feel behind it. Just as affecting on DVD is the 2003 TV production starring Paul Newman.


What’s your idea of a good movie to ring in The New Year?  Are there any modern-era films that qualify?  I’m mostly aware of some old standbys. Sci-fi fans vote for the George Pal The Time Machine, which revolves around the turn of the century 123 years ago, and it certainly has a ‘think about changing times’ attitude.

Back when I was a kid, with no home video, we were stuck with whatever the 5 or 6 TV stations decided to play around the holidays. It was usually another Christmas film or something heavily sentimental, like Lassie Come Home. In High School, it seemed, we were bombarded by sentimental ‘weepies,’ movies semingly designed to make one feel miserable-happy. My high school sweetheart, who I almost married two years later, came over two years in a row to watch pictures with my family. I remember one year was the first time I saw the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Not exactly holiday fare, but it was an enormous revelation, even with ten commercial breaks.


The big New Year’s memory with that girlfriend was the MGM tearjerker On Borrowed Time, with Lionel Barrymore et. al..  “Lachrymose” would have been a better title. The playright’s idea of a ‘touching’ film blanc is a grim tale about Death claiming 90% of the cast list, including a kid, just to keep a character from interfering with the mechanism of soul-taking. People are constantly crying. When Death came to collect sweet old grandma Beulah Bondi, the movie struck a raw nerve with the girlfriend.

My then- girlfriend would never have been described as a ninny. But the film found her vulnerable on the subject of mortality, the big ‘everybody you know and love is going to leave you’ question, and she broke down into tears that I never saw anybody cry before. I have a strong memory of that even though it’s literally ancient history, as if it happened in a past life. So yeah, On Borrowed Time is my idea of a creepy New Years’ movie, and I tend to be a little suspicious of militant tearjerkers.


Families now probably opt for favorite comedies, or maybe a repeat of winner like Die Hard. Only a couple of movies became repeat New Years’ choices for us. The Wells / Menzies Things to Come was a big title for a few years, when I had access to a 16mm print that didn’t look too terrible. Wells’ faulty prophecy of the future has the right ‘what if?’ speculative attitude. In three years we’ll reach the Centennial of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, which projected its Sci-fi fantasy exactly 100 years in the future. I wonder if there will be any general observation of that anniversary. Things to Come’s date of 2036 will certainly feel like a milestone for me, should I be fortunate enough to still be around twelve years from now.


The other New Year’s ‘repeater’ is probably shared by a lot of people my age and older. A very early date movie for us was Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, which of course has the ultimate New Year’s Eve finale. Wilder’s tainted fairy tale always came first in lists of ‘movies that make us feel good about people,’ especially because it insists on sweetness even when corruption reigns. Like all ‘special’ movies we’ve had to give it break — you don’t want to watch a favorite that often, for fear of breaking its spell.

I found out that a friend plans to make a big New Years’ event this year out of Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World , which sounds great too. It has the same timeless quality, even though its future 0f 1999, concocted in 1991, was obsolete by 1995. That’s not the point — the sentiment is the point. When all is said and done, Wenders’ sci-fi thriller generates Good Feelings About People as well.


Seeing how this year is winding up, perhaps a beloved comedy is what’s needed . . . OR, as we more often do now, we’ll observe New Year’s Eve by taking a break from movie entertainment, period.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson