Saturday July 7, 2018

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A Matter of Life and Death 07/07/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Imagination and resourcefulness accomplishes miracles on a Stairway to Heaven, with visual effects never bettered in the pre-CGI era. The wonder movie of 1946 sees the Archers infusing the ‘Film Blanc’ fantasy with amazing images and powerful emotions. Michael Powell’s command of the screen overpowers a soon-obsoleted theme about U.S.- British relations. David Niven, Kim Hunter and Roger Livesey bring fine performances to bear on the fantastic material. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
7/7/18

Xtro 07/07/18

Second Sight Region B
Blu-ray

Nope, this isn’t ET, The Extraterrestrial, not by a long shot. Guest reviewer Lee Broughton offers an assessment of Harry Bromley Davenport’s British cult sci-fi shocker of modest means, a show that would be pure exploitation if not for some creditable performances. It’s nasty but has a basic competence and is not just more cynical grist for the mill. ‘Phone Home,’ my Aunt Fannie: sometimes the difference between a thriller like this and a higher-profile classic is just pretension. On Blu-ray from Second Sight (UK).
7/7/18

Under Capricorn 07/07/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

What could go wrong? Alfred Hitchcock directs Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten in a mysterious tale of marital intrigues and social bigotry in a land populated by ex-convicts. Bergman is the long-suffering wife and Jack Cardiff is behind the Technicolor camera, which swoops through several amazing unbroken moving camera master shots, one fully five minutes long. I respectfully repeat, what could go wrong?  Also starring Michael Wilding and Margaret Leighton. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
7/7/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 7, 2018

Hello!

–written Saturday– It’s burning up out here in the City of Angels … no fires, but I think everyone from Agoura to Thousand Oaks and West to Pasadena is hunkered down in the coolest place they can find, and posting thermostat readings on Facebook as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I have the good fortune to be South of the Santa Monica Mountains, where it’s always about ten degrees cooler on hot days — when we went outside at 2p.m. it was only 107°!   The hottest weather I’ve ever been in was a hostile 125° in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, around 1972. I had to walk only about fifty feet to my car and by the time I got there I felt faint and I could tell that my eyes were drying out — I had to use my shirt tail to open the car door, and then the car seat burned my back and the steering wheel my fingers — you get the idea. This is a good time to pray the power doesn’t fail, relax under air conditioning and watch something refreshing.

The picture above is a memory of a more pleasant climate — a week or so ago, my son was in Hawaii and was able to get on Hickam Air Force Base, where I lived from late 1958 to late 1961 — from age six to nine. It was heaven, a childhood in a fragrant fantasy land. I gave him my old address (which I still remember!) and he took a picture of the row of houses where we lived. As these residences just off the Hickam Parade Ground haven’t changed since before WW2, the photo is like a time machine for me. Here in Los Angeles almost every place I worked during my ‘career,’ from studios to storefront editing hide-outs, has changed so much that I can barely associate myself with the existing city. But I feel good knowing that Hickam will still be there. At the end of the parade ground is the water tower, which is actually right on the entrance channel to Pearl Harbor… it’s highly visible in the movies Tora! Tora! Tora! and Pearl Harbor. My son took new photos of the tower as well — and I can clearly see the chips out of the concrete. I remember my father pointing to the tower and other stone buildings on Hickam that still bore these scars of the December 7th attack — bomb shrapnel and random strafing from Japanese planes!


I have to say I’ve been pouring over new discs during the day and enjoying Netflix at night with the Missus, who makes good use of her vacations to catch up on everything she misses when working ungodly hours during the school year. Besides my review discs, people loan me things that catch my fancy … I should be reviewing the vintage Science Fiction films I’ve never seen before, just in case the time comes for a new review book. As it’s been six years there’s certainly enough new material for that.


I got a nice note from Mark Throop today, and took a peek at his Movies ala Mark vintage movie review page. I’m breaking a rule among web reviewers, genre fandom faux-celebs and various nabobs by plugging the other guy — I’ve read several of Mark’s reviews already and like both his writing style and his page’s clean layout. Very relaxing. And in these days of dueling opinions, it don’t hurt that Mark’s thoughts reinforce my personal prejudices and biases make such good sense!


That’s the one link today — I’m presently going over new Blus of Bull Durham, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, Village of the Damned, Maborosi, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Sex Lies & Videotape, My Gal Sal and The Maids. Anxiously awaited is a July 23 release from UK’s Indicator company, Hammer Volume 3: Blood and Terror with The Camp on Blood Island, The Terror of the Tongs and especially Yesterday’s Enemy and The Stranglers of Bombay. Indicator’s list of disc extras for those shockers is very exciting.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

CineSavant Column

Wednesday July 4, 2018



Yes, he’s here to right wrongs and fight injustice!
This mild-mannered immigrant from the backwaters of the Amazon, kidnapped and enslaved to entertain the masses, is now a champion for the oppressed, the misunderstood and evolution-challenged.
He once Walked Among Us:
He was a God in his world, but now he stoops to teach us lessons in simple humanity and understanding.
He once wanted Revenge, but those days are behind him.
For TRUTH, JUSTICE and THE AMERICAN WAY — plus an environment with cleaner water where every creature from a tadpole to a whale can seek out LIFE, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of JULIE ADAMS.
Happy Independence Day !

(with thanks to Charlie Largent.)

Tuesday July 3, 2018

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Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! 07/03/18

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Inflato-faced Jô Shishido is at it again, here in a typically precocious, spoofy crime adventure by Nippon’s nutcase-stylist Seijun Suzuki. If the eccentric color scheme doesn’t do the trick, the antic comic relief and wild musical numbers will. Shishido dances the Charleston, and the nightclub rocks with a terrific twist number. How cool it is to hear better rock music under Nikkatsu’s logo, than in a Hollywood picture?. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
7/03/18

Hitler’s Hollywood 07/03/18

Kino Lorber
DVD

What, another docu about Nazis? This one tells the entire story — with many rare clips and interesting actor and filmmaker profiles — of the hundreds of state-produced German films made during the Third Reich. Rüdiger Suchsland’s film is an excellent look at a suppressed era of film history. With Joseph Goebbels dictating the subject matter, personnel, and political spin on every movie made, what did Germans see? Mostly mindless escapism laced with totalitarian subtext. Udo Kier reads a first-class narration. With revelations about some surprising names, like Douglas Sirk and Ingrid Bergman. On DVD from Kino Lorber.
7/03/18

Beirut 07/03/18

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray

We’re still waiting for the role that will prove that Jon Hamm has a future after Mad Men. This middling hostage negotiation drama doesn’t insult our intelligence yet is still not that much more impressive than an average ‘let’s go to a war zone!’ episode of NCIS. Hamm delivers excellent work as the put-upon diplomat in a tight, tight spot. Co-starring Rosamund Pike and Mark Pellegrino, and filmed in Morocco. On Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment/Bleeker Street.
7/03/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 3, 2018


Hello!

Wow, post something about Batman and the number of reader responses shoots way up. Correspondent Dave Carnegie (a retired UK projectionist and a font of good info from the ’50s and ’60s) sends along this ‘Del Boy and Rodney’ Batman and Robin spoof from a TV show called Only Fools and Horses. Nice costumes!


Double Wow. I have to hand it to the gurus at Trailers from Hell as this trailer takes the cake. The most important, really really important, believe me it’s important trailer of the year gets a dynamite insightful commentary from Josh Olson. More absurd than any political satire in memory, it ought already to be more important than the Checkers Speech. Film history will never be the same, but more importantly it’s just another unbelievable chapter in a period of history that we can only pray we will someday be able to pretend never happened. The trailer is for the suppressed classic Triumph of the Swill.


And the patriotic joy continues! Matthew Dessem at Slate celebrates the Birthday of the PG-13 Rating, with clips from Gremlins, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Rhinestone, accompanied by a delightfully sarcastic attitude.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday June 30, 2018


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Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood 06/30/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Delirious silver-screen glamour never disappoints! Marlene Dietrich’s six Paramount pictures for Josef von Sternberg arrive in a beautifully annotated disc set: Morocco, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress and The Devil is a Woman. The most creative director-muse relationship of the 1930s created an all-conquering German siren-goddess, a screen icon vom kopf bis fuss. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
6/30/18

Take a Girl Like You 06/30/18

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

This noted adult role for Hayley Mills pairs her with a genuinely creepy Oliver Reed, trying his damnedest to affect natural charm. The Brit sex comedy addresses basic facts about boy-girl petting, and not much else. Reed’s aggressive girl-grabber glowers so much that we wonder if Mills’ virginal Northerner has a thing for werewolves. It’s another reason for #MeToo activists to get out the torches and pitchforks. With Noel Harrison, John Bird, Sheila Hancock and Ronald Lacey. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
6/30/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday June 30, 2018

Hello!

We close out June (sniff!) with seven reviews, if only two actual disc sets. The Criterion package transported me back to days in UCLA’s Melnitz Hall, when I was one of many film students to first encounter early Paramount and Fox pictures in near-flawless nitrate prints. Down the hill in Westwood we’d pay three whole dollars to see a new movie in a slimy Movielab release print, all grainy and green. We thus learned to respect the craftsmanship and beauty of older pictures. We haunted LACMA, The Vagabond, and the Encore, where we caught studio prints of silver-screen thrillers, and Technicolor musicals more colorful than reality.

I think I can attribute this interest in filmic wonders of the past, with steering me away from the guerilla filmmaker mindset that prevailed at UCLA. Technical quality was optional, but if a student could cobble together a 16mm feature with commercial appeal things might click, even for someone without Hollywood connections.


Speaking of rough ‘n’ ready film production, Scream Factory has announced a Blu-ray of The Wasp Woman, one of Roger Corman’s final out-of-pocket B&W productions before new rules forced him to start making movies outside the reach of the Hollywood guilds. A quality disc of this title raises hopes of better releases of other Corman ‘Filmgroup’ titles, like The Last Woman on Earth. Can we also wish that whoever controls good copies of the director’s Allied Artists pictures, comes forward with new scans? I’m thinking of Not of this Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters and War of the Satellites but other seldom-revived juvenile delinquent & crime Cormans are currently out of circulation as well. The entertaining Charles Bronson-Susan Cabot Machine Gun Kelly would seem to have a ready audience waiting.


Correspondent Gil Lamont responded to my June 16 column blurb about Rocky and Bullwinkle with a shot of his personalized license plate. I definitely approve.


Also circulating is a cute Batman Dance Party video, at This Isn’t happiness. It jumped out at me after a colleague of my wife commented about the cool dance by John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, but didn’t know its source from 1966. She’s in her thirties and therefore cannot be faulted for being out of touch with cultural goobers fifty years old. Then again, how can one be alive and not know the connection between The Batusi, a glass of milk and actress Jill St John? Those three minutes of glory are likely Ms. John’s best screen work.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday June 26, 2018

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The Addiction 06/26/18

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Watch out – a bloodsucking fiend is stalking the highways and by-ways of lower Manhattan… and she has a PhD!  Abel Ferrara’s vampire mini-epic puts Lili Taylor through an ordeal that’s harrowing, transformational and either profound or pretentious depending on how you roll with existential philosophy. We acknowledge that Ferrara is a good judge of actor-flesh: sharing in the theory-speak and blood-soaked grue are Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco, and Kathryn Erbe. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
6/26/18

Rocco and His Brothers 06/26/18

The Milestone Cinematheque
Blu-ray

Luchino Visconti’s national epic looks and plays better than ever. A Southern family relocates to Milan, and each of the sons reacts differently to life in the big city. It’s one of Italy’s most emotional film experiences. The impressive cast includes a young Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale, and the great Katina Paxinou; acting honors go to Annie Giradot and Renato Salvatori, as one of cinema’s most ill-fated couples. Presented in a 4K restoration at its original three-hour length. On Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.
6/26/18

My Sister Eileen (1955) 06/26/18

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Lively stars, good music and Bob Fosse-grade dancing favor Columbia’s forgotten-yet-rediscovered original musical remake, which turns the adventures of two sisters in Manhattan into an all-romantic gambol. Janet Leigh and Jack Lemmon are young and fresh, but MGM alumnus Betty Garrett steals the show. Director Richard Quine uses good sense on the musical numbers by Jule Styne and Leo Robin; also starring Tommy Rall, Dick York, Kurt Kaznar and Lucy Marlow. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
6/26/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday June 26, 2018

Hello!

A couple of announcements — Flicker Alley has made an early announcement for its September 11 release of a new restoration of The Man Who Cheated Himself, a long- MIA film noir thriller that Eddie Muller premiered last weekend on TCM. It’s Lee J. Cobb’s one starring romantic role, and a very different acting exercise for Jane Wyatt — the All-American housewife plays a scheming Black Widow. It’s another case of film elements semi-abandoned but saved from extinction by The Film Noir Foundation.

And Twilight Time has revealed its quartet of Blu-rays for September: John Ford’s The Last Hurrah with Spencer Tracy, the soapy The Other Side of Midnight with Marie-France Pisier, Henry King’s handsome Gregory Peck western The Bravados and John Boorman’s drama In My Country with Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche.

Upcoming CineSavant review candidates — discs in hand: Super Fly, Maborosi, Dietrich and Sternberg in Hollywood, Let’s Make Love, My Gal Sal, Take a Girl Like You, The Maids, Under Capricorn, Shockproof, Scandal Sheet, The Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly Comedy Collection (DVD), Crime and Punishment USA (DVD), A Distant Trumpet (DVD) and the sweetly titled Go to Hell Bastards!. I’ve got a couple of clear days to devote to viewing, so we should make some progress here. Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson