Saturday June 23, 2018

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Female Trouble 06/23/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Reviewer Charlie Largent ambles down Baltimore way to peruse John Waters’ scorching social satire about celebrity envy in all its monstrous forms. The depraved comedy charts the journey of suburban hell-raiser Dawn Davenport, a social climber for the ages. Starring the unforgettable Divine and Waters’ usual gang of Maryland Misfits, this 16mm epic from 1974 has been given a grand new Blu ray release that’s DeLuxe, DiVine and DeRanged. Co-starring Edith Massey and Mink Stole. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
6/23/18

The China Syndrome 06/23/18

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

All but inventing the ‘new liberal exposé’ film format, James Bridges’ smart and effective thriller began as a star showcase with a political message. Its fictional nuclear accident hit screens just before almost the exact same thing happened in real life, at Three Mile Island. Historical synchronicity? Box office serendipity? One thing is certain — the show strongly affected the way we view the ‘miracle’ of nuclear-generated power. Starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas and Wilford Brimley. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
6/23/18

She Had to Say Yes 06/23/18

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

Wow … pre-Code pictures frequently offended conservative values, but this saucy, sinful big business exposé is guaranteed to bring #MeToo advocates to their feet as well, demanding that the negative be burned. Loretta Young stars as a rather inconsistent modern maid, trapped between three less-than-scrupulous men. No, make that three total pigs. Co-starring Winnie Lightner, Lyle Talbot, Regis Toomey and Hugh Herbert. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
6/23/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday June 23, 2018

Hello!

New Warners titles … we’re still expecting Dark of the Sun, but also announced are Blu-rays of John Huston’s The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Peter Ustinov’s superb Billy Budd, and Wolf Rilla’s film of John Wyndham’s Village of the Damned. Beware the Eyes that Hypnotize!

Remember how Warners put standard-definition copies of The Invisible Boy and Mystery of the Wax Museum on Blu-rays of Forbidden Planet and House of Wax? We’re grateful that they aren’t putting an SD copy of Children of the Damned as an extra on Village.

That’s a good reminder. With all the attention on director Michael Curtiz this year, it would be great to see a fancy restoration of the 2-color Technicolor Mystery of the Wax Museum. It’s a sensational picture, and not a year goes by without somebody writing me to say that the old standard-def transfer has ‘issues,’ namely that the colorists tried to ‘fix’ the hues in the transfer rather than replicate the original’s weird color values.


Hey, I get to name drop!   One-time boss Richard Yuricich drew my attention to a semi-anonymous tumblr site called MOVIEBARCODE, which turns a movie into a pictograph, reducing selected frames to one vertical line and placing them side by side. Like a colorful spectrogram, the result spreads the ‘look’ of a movie out in a horizontal timeline that spans the length of the picture. All of the moviebarcodes are the same size, so I guess the sample frames pulled are taken proportionally, not at regular intervals.

A movie that plays out at night in the first half, and in the daytime in the second, would therefore be dark on the left and light on the right. (There’s no exact explanation, so I hope I’ve interpreted this correctly.) Some are just dull but others tell a story. I see that the Close Encounters moviebarcode starts with the sandstorm, moves to the ‘first night observation’ section and has the extended ending that’s very dark with bright colors popping up. The Complete Austin Powers (pictured) looks like a candy cane. For 55 Days at Peking it’s easy to spot the watercolor sequences for the main titles and end credits.

The page sells prints. I guess the idea is that you can have an abstraction of your favorite film hanging on the wall, to be admired the way botanists and lumberjacks count the rings in a tree (which represent time as well). As a kid I remember looking at my first vinyl lp of the ‘Our Man Flint’ soundtrack, and realizing that the grooves for loud music were different than the grooves for soft music. I looked to see if Moviebarcode had a sampler for The Shape of Water, as I would expect a near-solid shaft of green, teal and aqua. Although the site’s list of titles is long, I didn’t find that one.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday June 19, 2018


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Guilty By Suspicion 06/19/18

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

Movies about the blacklist aren’t common, probably because as Robert Vaughn wrote, the period produced no happy stories, ‘Only Victims.’ Few of us would like to be publicly branded an Enemy of the People, but doing so seems to be America’s number one spectator sport. Robert de Niro, Annette Bening and George Wendt give a bite of immediacy to the way the blacklist upset careers and blighted lives. Trying to keep the names and dates straight is daunting: De Niro is supposed to be John Berry and Martin Scorsese’s character is meant to be Joseph Losey, and Darryl Zanuck is named by name. But some events and relationships have been changed to protect the . . . to protect who?  On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
6/19/18

One-Armed Swordsman & Legend of the Mountain 06/19/18

88 Films/Eureka Entertainment
Blu-ray

Guest reviewer Lee Broughton returns with coverage of two well-regarded wuxia films (period martial arts movies set in ancient China). One is an intense action flick from the Shaw Brothers Studio that places a heavy emphasis on bloody and gory depictions of swordplay. The second is a wuxia with a difference: rather than attacking each other with fancy sword moves or flamboyant punching techniques, the mystical fighters employ incantations and magical musical instruments. Starring Yu Wang, Chiao Chiao and Ti Tang; and Feng Hsu, Chun Shi and Sylvia Chang. Separate Blu-rays from 88 Films / Eureka Entertainment.
6/19/18

The Last House on the Left 06/19/18

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Near the top of the list of movies we do not recommend as a date picture, no way no how, Wes Craven’s gut-wrencher presented a real problem for critics. Whose movie exactly is this? The producer wanted a commercially daring pornographic gore shocker. The writer-director envisioned a political scream of rage against America he considered Evil. Is the film an abomination, or an honest reflection of society in chaos?  Twenty years of revisions and extras are crammed into this three-disc limited edition of a legendary horror that, one upon a grimy time, revulsed drive-in audiences everywhere. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
6/19/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday June 19, 2018

Hello!

I found an article with input from CineSavant friend and advisor Craig Reardon over at the BloodyGoodHorror page, a quick interview with the site’s ‘Colin.’ This one struck me because it always seemed ugly the horror movie publicists exploited real tragedy. Way back on Rosemary’s Baby the press was quick to connect Roman Polanski with the Tate/LaBianca killings, under the assumption that Polanski was a satanist, etc. You expect this from tabloid trash, but five years later I heard a Warners publicist taking credit for similar nonsense on The Exorcist. The publicist came to the National Theater in Westwood for months, running poster and trailer ideas past the theater’s manager. One idea was to get ‘true’ ballyhoo ideas into the press. When covering the film’s long ticket lines, the TV news even showed my manager/boss on camera, peeking through a theater door and saying, “Gee, maybe there really is a Devil in there.” Then, early in the movie’s record-breaking run, newspaper articles appeared suggesting that actor Jack MacGowran, who plays a movie director in Exorcist, died as the result of an evil connection with William Friedkin’s movie. A famous Irish actor who should have been properly eulogized, was instead used as a prop in a cheap promotional gimmick.

Later on, I asked Steven Spielberg if the sudden rash of shark attacks around the time of the release of Jaws were legit, and didn’t get a good answer. they probably were. The near-explosion of flying saucer sightings that coincided with the opening of Close Encounters made me think that maybe publicists weren’t involved, that the public was sufficiently crazy about upcoming movies to generate their own saucer hysteria. Then again, President Carter owed up to having seen a flying saucer as well, with what seemed perfect timing to promote the movie.

Just by using the name ‘the Poltergeist curse’ in its title, the BGH article perpetuates the myth, mixing movies with reality and fact with fiction. With all of our information sources turning into Reality Programming it’s no wonder that we don’t know what to believe. The article: BGH Investigates the Poltergeist Curse with Craig Reardon.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday June 16, 2018


1955: A Space Odyssey? CLICK on it.

The Virgin Spring 06/16/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Ingmar Bergman’s tale of murder, retribution and God’s forgiveness may be the perfect entry point for art-film appreciation — it’s immediately accessible yet genuinely profound. It’s also a compelling miracle story. Max Von Sydow is the proud father who fills himself with a spirit of vengeance that contradicts his newly-adopted Christianity; Birgitta Pettersson is the happy child who picks the wrong day to carry candles to the church. The excellent extras include incisive interviews with two of the actresses, and forty minutes of articulate Ingmar advice to AFI students. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
6/16/18

The Colossus of Rhodes 06/16/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Reviewer Charlie Largent goes Mediterranean! Before he forever rewrote the rules of the western, Sergio Leone broke into directing with this lavish sword ‘n’ sandal epic. Always smiling, Greek playboy Rory Calhoun comes to Rhodes to check out the babes, the same way Cary Grant might crash a garden party. But he wasn’t expecting a revolution! Smart filmmaking creates outsized effects around the enormous 6th Wonder of the World, the statue that was felled by an earthquake two centuries B.C.. Here it’s sci-fi weapon of mass destruction with a clockwork interior and secret trap doors fit for a bronze-age Transformer. The class-A cast for Leone’s peplum includes Georges Marchal, Ángel Aranda, and Lea Massari of L’Avventura; Warner’s export edition is reportedly a reel short of the Italian original. The music score is by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
6/16/18

The Woman in the Window 06/16/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Fritz Lang and Nunnally Johnson take a deep dive into Aberrant Psych 101 and come up with a winner: a milquetoast-meets-murderous-femme tale that pays off marvelously, even with its trick ending. Entranced more by his own gentle dreams than the allure of Joan Bennett, Edward G. Robinson imagines a perfect dalliance, and follows it up with a self-imposed punishment. Slimy Dan Duryea gives the breakthrough performance; if you already have an earlier edition Imogen Sara Smith’s commentary is reason enough for a re-purchase. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
6/16/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday June 16, 2018

Hello!

Over at The Passionate Movegoer for June 13 Joe Baltake has a pretty thorough article about actors replacing actors in movies, for a dizzying variety of reasons. I thought he was going to stick with a few examples, starting with Madeline Kahn on the Lucille Ball Mame. But Baltake’s account outlines a great many instances of radical actor replacments, familiar and un-. Some movies affected were All That Jazz, The Goodbye Girl, The Untouchables, Romeo + Juliet, The King & I, Love Story, Claudine, A League of Their Own and The Apartment. Recommended.


New disc news! Criterion just hit us with some nice upcoming titles for September: Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, Assayas’ Cold Water, Sidney Poitier and the late Ruby Dee in A Raisin in the Sun, Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage and Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey. That last comedy with Carole Lombard has to be one of the funniest movies ever; it’s also high time that I took on the Bergman movie. I think my marriage can stand it.


And our joy know no bounds, as they say, for this last blurb. We’re happy to learn, through a Brad Norman Twitter Link forwarded by Joe Dante, that the city of West Hollywood is going to restore the giant statue of Jay Ward’s Rocky and Bullwinkle and put it up on public display again (not sure where exactly). I’d volunteer my front yard, but the neighbors would complain and I’m not in West Hollywood in the first place.

Friend Allan Peach immediately recalled that in 1970, a billboard for the movie Myra Breckinridge went up across the street from the statue on Sunset Blvd., with Raquel Welch holding a pose similar to Bullwinkle’s. Jay Ward’s inspired response was to outfit Bullwinkle with a matching American-flag get-up. My preference for Bullwinkle’s attire is his classic no-sleeves collegiate ‘Wotsamatta U.’ sweatshirt.

And Gary Teetzel intercepted this message, reportedly from some Trump advisors with thick accents:

“Eez much vorse than Confederate monuments!  Must not honor Moose and Squirrel!  Make Pottsylvania Great Again!”

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday June 12, 2018


Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Au hasard Balthazar 06/12/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Reviewer Charlie Largent plumbs the cinematic depths of Robert Bresson’s emotionally devastating masterpiece, in which an inoffensive beast of burden carries the sins of humanity. With non-professional actors and simple camerawork, Bresson expresses the mystery of life in a world devoid of moral justice. It’s a religious movie without a single sermon. Does a simple animal share in God’s grace? With Anne Wiazemsky. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
06/12/18

The Man Who Watched Trains Go By 06/12/18

ClassicFlix
Blu-ray

This strange blend of French série noire and English Brit noir was filmed in glowing Technicolor on location in Holland and Paris. Runaway bookkeeper Claude Rains teams up with the highly fatale Märta Torén, evading the law in pursuit of the good life promised by a valise packed with money. Georges Simenon’s crime tale has an undertaste of Poetic Realist rebelliousness. Co-Starring Marius Goring, Herbert Lom and a very young Anouk Aimée, and with Felix Aylmer and Ferdy Mayne. On Blu-rayfrom ClassicFlix.
06/12/18

2 Weeks in Another Town 06/12/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

A quick Jet-set ride takes us to Rome of 1962, which for a couple of years was the movie capital of the world. Washed-up actor Kirk Douglas reinvents himself amid the vipers of his past — an abusive director (Edward G. Robinson), a medusa-like ex-wife (Cyd Charisse) and a parade of show-biz creeps that want him to fail and grovel. But wait — redemption springs eternal through the love of a simple innocent unspoiled Italiana with no agenda of her own (Daliah Lavi). Will Douglas be reborn? Director Vincente Minnelli tries his hardest to get MGM in on the Italian art-movie gold rush. Co-Starring George Hamilton, Claire Trevor and Rosanna Schiaffino. On Blu-rayfrom The Warner Archive Collection.
06/12/18

Savant Column

Tuesday June 12, 2018

Hello!

Over at his page “Q Branch Mirror” fellow reviewer and fantasy film enthusiast Kyu Hyun Kim has shown elevated levels of interest in William Friedkin lately, and offered me a couple of links that I found to be good reading. In the first, he reviews the 1977 Sorcerer and in the second he interviews Professor Steve Choe of San Francisco State University, who has been conducting intense interviews with the director.


I think I’m going to get to review the new Joseph McBride book on Ernst Lubitsch, How Did Lubitsch Do It? The title would seem to be derived from the quote ‘How would Lubitsch do it?” which will be familiar to anybody who ever read anything about Lubitsch’s biggest fan, Billy Wilder. I’m awaiting my copy in the mail. It’ll be good timing because I’ve just finished Case History of a Movie, Dore Schary’s old book about the filming of the 1950 The Next Voice You Hear.


And I’m thinking of reviewing a picture that’s been out for a couple of years on Blu-ray, Code 46 from Olive Films. I started to watch it back then but gave up out of frustration — I wasn’t understanding enough of the dialogue, and there were no subtitles. But I watched it last week with the aid of a continuity script, and found it an interesting future-world romance along the lines of Gattaca and THX 1138. Would anyone sit still for a review of a Michael Winterbottom science fiction drama from 2003?


We have confirmation from Universal about the Creature Legacy Collection coming up in August. Gary Teetzel sends along this package mock-up that definitely says that the original film and Revenge of the Creature will both be in 3-D. And pessimist me actually doubted the word of the 3-D Film Archive, so must do penance. There are so few things in today’s world to really worry about, so we need to pick and choose.



And Gary Teetzel forwards an amusing Youtube ‘Look Mum No Computer’ video in which an engagingly demented fellow with a Brit accent named Sam explains how to turn a toy light saber into a musical instrument — LightSaber Theremin: Star Wars Musical Machine. This definitely reminds me of Mick Jagger back in Performance, playing with a neon light. The old technology just let Mick down.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson