CineSavant Column

Saturday February 23, 2019


I wasn’t going to continue with the ‘Movie Tie-In Novelty Songs’ thread I had going, but frequent collaborator ‘Bee’ located a particularly elusive item: Livingston & Evans’ “Vertigo” tune, recorded by Billy Eckstine.

It’s … awful. So awful, somebody ought to slug it in over the main titles in place of the Bernard Herrmann music, just to find out how low film vandalism can sink. Here’s one of the better lyric lines:

“Oh, this Vertigo that has me spinning like a top — where will it stop?”

My associates seem pretty excited about the Scream Factory announcement for a new Blu-ray of the Val Lewton The Body Snatcher. The undisputed classic with Boris Karloff, Henry Daniell and Bela Lugos is probably Daniell’s best picture and is easily among Karloff’s top five. Although we’re glad that Scream is continuing with its Lewton releases, this one seems especially important: it’s said to be a 4K scan from the original negative.

The Body Snatcher was very popular and in demand for screenings way after its initial release. It was re-issued theatrically more than once, even into the 1950s. Once the older prints wore out, it stopped looking particularly good; when RKO put on a huge RKO retrospective at the County Museum in 1977, all they could come up with on the title was a crummy 16mm copy, full of splices. The 2003 DVD was no great shakes either, so we assumed that it was one of those unfortunate movies that had simply been printed to death. Amazon says that the disc is due on March 26, so we won’t have long to wait… and then, if we’re lucky (try your best Karloff accent) we’ll never be rid of Toddy. Hope not!


Gary Teetzel also sends forward a link to the Warner Archive Collection’s upcoming DVD of the strange, part-talkie MGM version of Mysterious Island from 1929. We’re hoping this will someday be restored — it was originally (partly?) in 2-strip Technicolor. Stills have always looked incredible, especially the steampunk alien civilization at the bottom of the sea, populated by fanciful duck-like creatures. The first one on the left is NOT named Huie, Dewey, Louie, or Howard.  I’ll be asking to review this show for sure. Full details are at the WB Shop.


And finally, a shout-out to pal Craig Reardon for his birthday gift of the terrific art book Reynold Brown: A Life in Pictures. I never knew much about poster illustrators before a Cinefantastique article back in the late 1980s … but once you get a look at Brown’s work, it seems to be everywhere. His character and action paintings are unequalled; I was surprised to see that some ’60s posters that I assumed were knock-offs are indeed Reynold Brown originals: Reptilicus, Planet of the Vampires, The Day of the Triffids, etc. The bright yellow backgrounds are the first clue!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson