Happy Day After Labor Day . . .

Tuesday September 5, 2023


. . . and owing to a review-writing block and a number of things that had to be done around the house over the Labor Day weekend, we’re calling today a Forbidden No-Review Tuesday.

Instead, noting that we’re two-third’s of the way through 2023, I decided for an easy fix for today’s post … and have grabbed two reviews from each month in the first half of this year, that I either thought turned out well, or were personal favorites, or whatever. Total subjective back-tracking. Several turned out to be the handiwork of CineSavant contributor Charlie Largent.

But it isn’t all a no-work day — there is a new CineSavant Column below.



Robot Monster 3-D

 “All Hu-mans there is no escape!”  Ro-man is now on the loose in Blu-ray 3-D, anaglyphic 3-D and plain old 2-D if so desired. A years-long effort culminates in an extras-rich disc release of one of the most entertaining ‘bad movies’ ever, a tale of intergalactic warfare and sacrifical heroism … all played in Bronson Canyon by 6 quiet actors and a man in a gorilla costume, corrections, parts of a gorilla costume. The dialogue and acting must be seen to be believed, plus the weird faux-3-D special visual effects that Will Make You Believe you’ve fallen into an alternate reality of creaky stock footage. “You only think you CANNOT see this epic, but you MUST!”  Where on the graph of film history does this crazy movie belong?  On 3-D Blu-ray from Bayview Entertainment.


Mexico Macabre: Four Sinister Tales from the Alameda Films Vault 1959-1963

 Lethal Charlie Largent takes a sangriento plunge into the classic Alameda Mexi-horrors, which range from the bizarre to the truly creepy. Read If You Dare about the shocking Truth of The Black Pit of Dr. M, The Witch’s Mirror, The Curse of the Crying Woman and The Brainiac. PI’s well-researched extras give these chillers the respect they deserve . . . ¡Qué miedo! On Region Free Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.


The Tale of Tsar Saltan

 A stunning movie that conveys the pure spirit of a vintage fairy tale, Aleksandr Ptushko’s story of royal intrigue is charming to the Nth degree, with pure-hearted characters and as many ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ moments as a classic Disney picture. It’s suffused in wonderful magic, not the show-off kind, but the deep-spirit visual magic found in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. The Russian sense of humor can be puzzling, but not their love of beauty and spiritual loyalty. The key extra is an hour-long video conversation with Russian fantasy authority Robert Skotak. On Blu-ray from Deaf Crocodile Films.


Notre-Dame de Paris

 Another CineSavant Revival Screening Review, or in other words, it’s not yet officially available for English-language viewers. This French The Hunchback of Notre Dame may not be the cinematic masterpiece that is RKO’s 1939 version, but it has a literate script, good production values, color and CinemaScope — and doesn’t mar the Victor Hugo original with a false feel-good ending. Anthony Quinn’s Quasimodo is a legit interpretation, and the late Gina Lollobrigida is excellent as Esmerelda. We need this in Region A, with English subtitles. NOT on Region A Blu-ray.


Deep Impact 4K

 🎶  “Have you heard . . . about the stars? . . . Ju-pi-ter could collide with Mars . . .”  🎶  A comet is on a collision course with Earth, a saga seen through a TV Network, the teenager who first discovered the astral threat, and the team of astronauts dispatched on a deep space mission to destroy it. The ‘humanist’ epic is really about man’s ability to adapt to new problems, even when the worst can’t be avoided. Steven Spielberg producers Zanuck & Brown and director Mimi Leder, plus a fine cast: Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Morgan Freeman, Maximilian Schell, Mary McCormack, Kurtwood Smith, James Cromwell, Jon Favreau and Leelee Sobieski. And its a knockout in a killer 4K encoding. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Paramount Home Video.


Hell is for Heroes

 A gritty combat drama with Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Harry Guardino?  Why wasn’t this on Blu ten years ago?  Don Siegel directs an entertaining ‘infantry squad in trouble’ thriller with his expected hard-edged, unsentimental attitude. Bob Newhart excels via an audience-pleasing comic bit but Bobby Darin’s co-starring position is diminished by the aggressive McQueen. His anti-social private uses good judgment in a bold counter-attack — which doesn’t go well at all. Other members of this Unlucky Bunch of ditch dogs are Fess Parker, Nick Adams and Mike Kellin. On Blu-ray from Paramount Home Video.



 One of the last of the classic Weimar silents, Joe May’s melodrama is only partly expressionist; Günther Rittau’s terrific camerawork tells a ‘street’ story of crime and sex with minimal dialogue. Gustav Fröhlich is the green Berlin street cop and Betty Amman the vamp who sullies his badge; the story takes place in 24 hours and includes a slick bank heist in Paris. Producer Erich Pommer made sure nobody would forget this one soon: its legendary talking point is an enormous exterior street set, built inside a vast Zeppelin hangar. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.



 Daniel Petrie and Ellen Burstyn’s excellent film elevates a genre we normally disdain — the Ethereal Cereal do-you-believe Spiritual Awakening picture. Call this one intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, respectful and emotionally extra-effective. It pushes all the right buttons and finds a conclusion that doesn’t make us roll our eyes. Burstyn’s commitment, Petrie’s direction and the input of great actors takes us all the way: Sam Shepard, Eva Le Gallienne, Richard Farnsworth, Lois Smith, Roberts Blossom. The minimal visual effects are a class act, too. On Region Free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].


Third Man on the Mountain

 CineSavant Revival Screening Review.  An old DVD of this Disney favorite exists, but it’s pretty bad; Charlie Largent got access to a nice new remaster, bu it isn’t yet available on disc. James MacArthur dodges dirty dishes and saccharine dish Janet Munro, and dares to follow in his family footsteps as a mountain climber. Michael Rennie encourages his quest with help and obstruction from a gallery of English actors we know from fantasy films: Herbert Lom, James Donald, Laurence Naismith, Lee Patterson, Ferdy Mayne, Roger Delgado. Don’t jump on Amazon or contact the Disney Video Club, because it’s Not on Home Video.


Sci-fi from the Vault: 4 Films

 Mill Creek’s latest disc collection gathers three Columbia Sci-fi faves and throws in a Blu-ray debut for a fourth. It’s a good selection: two giant Ray Harryhausen monsters, one marginal bad-taste Sam Katzman zombie epic, and a quirky Lou Costello comedy with Dorothy Provine doing a wholesome take on Allison Hayes’ biggest role. Do these encodings measure up to fancier editions?  We give them a spin: Creature with the Atom Brain, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth and The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock. On Blu-ray from Mill Creek.


The Avengers: The Emma Peel Collection (1965-1967)

 Imprint’s third Television release is a killer, duly commemorated in Charlie Largent’s CineSavant review coverage: a 16-disc collector’s boxed set of the entire run of The Avengers TV episodes starring Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, both the B&W and color seasons. Emma and Patrick Macnee’s John Steed still cut fashionable figures, in spy adventures directed with wit and panache — all clever camera angles and knowing looks. The lavish release promises all-restored transfers and a tall stack of extras. On Blu-ray from [Imprint] Television.


Last Night in Soho 4K

 Have a yen for the music, style and glamour of ’60s Swinging London?  Edgar Wright’s hybrid time capsule / music extravaganza / horror thriller is an audiovisual delight from one end to the other. Young women from different decades seek to conquer London by different means — they meet as soul twins in a ghost world, where bloodsoaked murders haunt their dreams. Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are the psychic twins; stars Rita Tushingham, Terence Stamp and the late Diana Rigg make it all authentic. Soho can boast the most creatively ‘alive’ visuals of 2021. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital from Universal Home Entertainment.