Wicked William Castle, bloody Robert Bloch and Axe Lady Joan Crawford make slay-time in a camp-fest too crazy for words. Exaggerated make-up! Dresses with huge flowered prints! She’s not a lumberjack, and neither is she okay — why doesn’t Joan just go back and kill the source of her psychosis, Ann Blythe? SEE! Grown men pretend to be attracted to a crazoid woman! SEE! Diane Baker’s big acting finale stolen, and made a Miss Joan showcase instead! With Leif Erickson, Howard St. John and George Kennedy; on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
The Hot Rock 08/28/18
Donald Westlake’s lovably luckless crook John Dortmunder is brought to life by Robert Redford, in a lightweight crime caper engineered by top talent: screenwriter William Goldman and Brit director Peter Yates. Redford’s partner is a worrisome, talkative George Segal; Moses Gunn is the unhappy client, Ron Liebman a jolly master of all things technical and Zero Mostel a major obstacle in the obtaining of a priceless diamond. A new commentary, too. With Paul Sand, William Redfield, Lynne Gordon and Robert Weil. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Ministry of Fear 08/28/18
Fritz Lang’s third wartime anti-Nazi film is an Alfred Hitchcock- type spy chase taken from a psychological novel by Graham Greene, with the psychology angle transferred mostly to physical threats — ticking clocks, a mystery cake, and German bombs in the Blitz. Ray Milland is cool and collected for a man just released from a mental asylum, and proves up to the task of defeating a Nazi conspiracy. With Marjorie Reynolds, Carl Esmond, Hillary Brooke, Dan Duryea, Alan Napier and Erskine Sanford. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Following up on Saturday’s CineSavant Column announcement of a new restoration of George Pal’s 1953 The War of the Worlds, I prevailed upon The Reel Thing attendee and sometime- Savant correspondent Michael Schlesinger to shoot me a report on the screening. And just like the gent Mike is, he did just that. Here’s what the producer of The Misadventures of Biffle and Shooster sent back, by secret messenger:
Glenn: The restoration of The War of the Worlds looks and sounds terrific, with vivid color and brisk sound. They did remove wires, on the belief that George Pal & Co. would not have wanted them to be seen.
(One thing they did overlook in their presentation is that back then, projectors used carbon arcs, which emit a pure white light, so the lighting was calibrated for that. Modern projectors use quartz or halogen bulbs–and lasers now–which have less than white light, rendering the wires visible. This is why, in the old days, when a B&W film was shown, the image might go from greenish to brownish at the reel changes, because the bulbs were different from each other.)
The telephone wires at the crashes have been left in, however, for obvious reasons. Some matte lines are still visible and couldn’t be fixed, but that’s not a reason to quibble. The sound remains mostly mono, but sound effects are frequently panned to the side speakers with impressive results. And it was shown at the correct 1.37 aspect ratio. All in all, a profound success.
By the way, the opening night The Reel Thing film was the new 4K restoration of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, which meant that there were TWO Jack Kruschen movies shown at the Academy Vine Street this weekend! — Mike
All that sounds okay to me — I certainly won’t miss the wires. I’ve heard multiple reasons why they’ve seemed so visible in video presentations, the most amusing being that the original Technicolor process ‘softened’ the image so that little things like wires weren’t as visible. Well, we always saw the wires and really didn’t care — at age 12 in a 1964 reissue I was so keyed-up and on the edge of my seat that it didn’t matter.
I’ve been told that when Ray Harryhausen was informed that the aerial brace wires holding up the Harpies in Jason and the Argonauts suddenly became visible on an HD scan, he immediately agreed that the wires should be removed if possible. We’ve heard no outcry after WB cleaned up various wires supporting flying monkeys, etc. in The Wizard of Oz. On the other hand, fans have roundly condemned a special effects re-do job on Hammer’s The Devil Rides Out; and a now- roundly condemned CGI revision on a DVD of Robert Wise’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture will likely never be seen again.
I’m as guilty as anyone about performing ‘dream revisions.’ Were the studio vaults my personal toy box, I’d probably be lobbying for a version of The Incredible Shrinking Man that gives Robert Scott Carey little shadows when he’s matted into shots. I’d re-run every effect in Gorgo to fix mattes, replace awful paintings and to paint-in extra explosion effects. I’m excited about the new 3-D release of Revenge of the Creature, and keep wishing that Blu-ray 3-D had not been suppressed in the U.S.. I wish it became so popular that Universal would send out the final, flat Creature movie, The Creature Walks Among Us, for a 3-D conversion. With the boom gone bust (only because they dropped the 3-D feature from domestic monitors) there must be more than one company out there willing to do the work at bargain rates. Ah well, when Walks Among Us plays, I’ll just close one eye and pretend. That trick works perfectly with Invaders from Mars, a flat picture that looks more 3-D than most real 3-D movies.
It’s great that Paramount has restored The War of the Worlds, which should be considered one of that studio’s historic milestone pictures. They’re apparently going to take it along to a few screening series — helpful correspondent Marshall Crawford informed me about this one. We can only hope that it also is given a new Blu-ray release. Their fancy restorations of White Christmas and especially The Ten Commandments make those films highly re-watchable. The process by which they remastered the DeMille movie ‘fixed’ plenty of annoying matte lines — if they couldn’t remove them they made them a less-annoying black, instead of blue. I’m hoping the same thing can happen with War. I also hope that they continue with a restoration of When Worlds Collide — which also won for best Special Effects, plus was nominated for Best Cinematography.
As if vintage ’50s sci-fi wasn’t enough, we’ve been tipped off by Tim Lucas that a German Blu-ray disc of Mario Bava’s dazzling mythical epic Hercules in the Haunted World is on its way, sooner than later. I haven’t details on Regions, but Tim vouchsafes that it will at least carry English-friendly subtitle choices. Plus Tim is involved with the extras. This is the one Bava-directed film I saw as a kid in a theater; it’ll be great if the color reproduces the experience. Great stuff!
But wait, there’s more. We also have a bit of additional information about the upcoming Olive Signature edition of Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers — the release date is October 16. We have no word yet about extras, which at the moment prompts some residual conjecture — some desirable items were produced for earlier unreleased discs, and have yet been seen.
There’s a never-released Kevin McCarthy-Dana Wynter-Joe Dante commentary, and also a now-legendary in-depth docu produced for the title upwards of 14 years ago, but also not seen. A third possible item is a couple of minutes of beautiful color home movies of the shoot on the streets of Sierra Madre in 1955; I remember a very clear shot of a prop man carrying a green seed pod across a street. Those were on YouTube for a few weeks, way back when.
Olive’s Signature extras so far have mostly been interview lectures from film academics. When the possibility of a special edition came up last year, I was only one of several people who contacted Olive, so the effort was certainly made. We’ll have to see what they come up with.
A note on goofy subtitles
This isn’t as serious. It once was that the most entertaining, if perplexing, subtitles were on discs mastered in Southeast Asia — just trying to decipher them was an exercise in twisted language logic. An old DVD of Von Trier’s The Kingdom made movie viewing a fun code-breaking exercise.
Just as I’m willing to bet that some Home Video companies sometimes farm out the writing of disc box text to whatever illiterate office assistant isn’t working a 70-hour week, many of today’s subtitle transcriptions make us scratch our heads as well. This happens especially when older films reference well-known names, places and concepts unknown to today’s 20-somethings. Gary Teetzel and I trade such observances, but don’t write them down as often as we should. Gary just sent me his first thoughts on a horror picture I haven’t seen that’s just out on Blu-ray, 1969’s Eye of the Cat:
Glenn: There’s a scene in the film where Michael Sarrazin and Gayle Hunnicutt go to a party with a bunch of hippies–or rather, Hollywood’s idea of what hippies were like. As the camera surveys the scene, we overhear lame one-liners from the party goers. One woman says “FRENCH FILM ACTORS HAVE GONE FROM MARIENBAD TO WORSE!” The subtitles turn this into “FRENCH FILM ACTORS HAVE GONE FROM MERRY AND BAD TO WORSE.” I guess no one at the company is a Resnais fan; we better send (an Alain Resnais fan we know) over there to straighten them out. — Gary
Perhaps we should be compiling more of these subtitle anomalies…
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
“Come on, come on, I’d love it — don’t hang back!” dares Gloria Swenson, brandishing a gun at three mobsters that know she means business. Gena Rowlands is electric as a tough New York ex- gangland moll who finds that her maternal instincts make her deadlier than the male: “I’ll kill anybody that’s trying to kill me.” John Cassavetes’ commercial crowd-pleaser is also a smart, sassy gangland mini-classic; this presentation gives us Bill Conti’s music score on an isolated track. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
The Horror of Party Beach 08/25/18
Favorite camp hilarity — a drive-in kick when new, Del Tenney’s gloppy monsters ‘n’ bikinis epic has persevered as a nutty exemplar of ‘sixties escapist fun. Mutated aquatic zombies with goo-goo-googly eyes ravage teen girls for their blood — in between sets by the swingin’ Del-Aires. Beach bunnies! Bikers! Slimy monsters and Bosco for bloody gore! And don’t forget the soulful housemaid, Eulabelle. The extras include a good Daniel Griffith featurette narrated by Tom Weaver. On Blu-ray from Severin.
The AMIA’s The Reel Thing conference is happening up on Vine Street as I write, and last night the AMIA itself spilled the beans as to what mystery sci-fi title restoration would be shown in its surprise screening. Unless this graphic is a fake, they’ve indeed restored George Pal’s 1953 The War of the Worlds. That’s great news, as the picture was in dire need of work. The old DVD is just okay, and a full restoration might be able to give us back the film’s original stereophonic audio track. The film’s audio is so dynamic, that even the monaural track sounded like stereo in a good theater, but I hope the experts surprise us.
We also hope that Paramount does something with the transfer: six or seven years ago Disney premiered an incredibly good extra-wide widescreen restoration of its 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the only place I know that it has surfaced is a single TCM cablecast.
Of course, the big question for The War of the Worlds will be, ‘what about the wires?’ Should they leave them in, or take them out? A few years back the issue of wire removal during restorations came up at The Reel Thing. Grover Crisp commented that he had never spoken to a director who didn’t want wires removed when asked.
The Kino company has announced its release schedule for the rest of the year, on its various sub-labels. Titles that jumped out at me are Filmworker (9.18), Brazilian Cinema Novo director Joaquim Pedro de Andrade: The Complete Films (9.25), the silent epic Old Ironsides & Jonas Mekas’ avant-garde feature Hallelujah the Hills (10.30), Bill Moyers’ interview series Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth and a collection Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers (11.20), the famed French director H.G. Cluzot: Early Works (11.27), a remastering of the influential documentary-satire The Atomic Café (12.04), Mario Bava’s viking tale Knives of the Avenger (1.15).
Meanwhile, The Warner Archive Collection has hard dates for a string of new Blu-ray announcements: John Milius’ surfer epic Big Wednesday (9.11), Michael Crichton’s odd sci-fi thriller Looker (9.18) and the unfathomable Zsa Zsa Gabor space opera Queen of Outer Space (9.25).
And everybody’s happy on board this Piper Cub, heading into that remote, radioactive Mexican valley! Reported by the Warner Archive for September 25 is the much-appreciated Bert I. Gordon monster mash The Cyclops, one of my most favored ‘fifties Z-pix. Also tagged but date-less are an extended edition of Irwin Allen’s The Swarm and a re-issue of Franklin Schaffner’s Papillon. Last summer we were told that Jack Cardiff’s Dark of the Sun was on its way, but it appears either to be put back aways or lost in the shuffle. Readers of the WAC’s facebook page may know more about that.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Stanley Kubrick had a dedicated assistant, and not one who simply held the master’s cinematic paintbrushes. He staffed research, production, post-production and marketing departments all on his own. Tony Zierra’s brisk documentary teaches us much about a genius director, the assistant that devoted himself entirely to the director’s mission, and the nature of work and ambition. With interview input from Ryan O’Neal, Matthew Modine, and R. Lee Ermey. On DVD from Kino Lorber.
The Shape of Water 08/21/18
Miracle of miracles! Oscar’s Best Picture for last year is a genuine monster movie. Guillermo del Toro’s overachieving Gill Man spectacle features a gratifyingly anti-authoritarian attitude. The emotional love story is as pure as a silent movie — and has the sentimental commitment to pull an audience into its dreamy Fairy Tale horror fantasy. Starring Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg. On UltraHD + Blu-ray from 20th-Fox Home Entertainment.
I’ve found that some readers don’t realize that CineSavant and DVD Savant reviews at Trailers from Hell and elsewhere are loaded with pertinent links, in red. The links go not just to other CineSavant reviews but to all kinds of relevant material. So I reluctantly add this note. It’s part of my effort that I think is most useful.
That having been said, Dick Dinman wrote in to correct/ clarify my review of The Last Hunt. He’ll be doing one of his audio shows on The Last Hunt and Home from the Hill soon, and when it’s ready I’ll link to it. The topic Dick addressed was actress Anne Bancroft’s abrupt exit from the movie, which caused her to be replaced by Debra Paget:
Hi Glenn, Stewart Granger told me all about the Bancroft accident on the The Last Hunt location and half-kiddingly framed it as ‘the biggest break that she ever had.’ Granger was supposed to pick her up from a galloping horse but dropped her. The accident caused Bancroft to be laid up for some time but also enabled her to audition for the stage play of The Miracle Worker which established her Broadway (and eventually film) career. Did you notice that Bancroft could clearly be seen by freeze-framing two shots?
So glad that you finally acknowledge Robert Taylor for the talent he was whenever he had an interesting and offbeat role.
Unfortunately the massive failure of The Last Hunt was the final nail in Taylor’s career. It followed the equally poor reception of Quentin Durward, for a combined loss of more than $4 million. With the exception of a loan-out to Fox for D-Day the Sixth of June — also a flop — never again would Taylor be offered a major film.
Well, now I have to see The Last Hunt again, to find the mystery shots with Anne Bancroft! The image above is actually from Walk the Proud Land, an Audie Murphy western.
UK correspondent Dave Carnegie sends along a YouTube link to the early color film The Open Road, a 1926 travelogue of London. The ten-minute show was filmed by one of the initial creators of motion pictures, Claude Friese-Greene. We have read accounts of his later attempts to create the alternate-frame ‘Friese-Greene Color Process,’ some of which claimed that it never worked. This restoration would seem to prove that it did. The restoration is by the BFI. Thanks Mr. Carnegie!
Also from YouTube, Gary Teetzel sends along, by way of the Classic Horror Film Board, an original audio promo for William Castle’s The Tingler, from way back in 1959. The hokey jingle is augmented with good sound effects and some terrific recitation bites from star Vincent Price, in the same inimitable voice he later brought to Tim Burton’s short subject Vincent and John Landis’ music video Thriller. The promo uses the deeper-than-deep voice of Thurl Ravenscroft. A ‘straight’ version of the song without Price is also online — credited to “The Tinglers.”
Meant to be played endlessly in theater lobbies to hype the coming attraction, the song likely drove more than a few theater ushers totally insane. I almost went nuts back in 1973, listening to an endless loop of the Burt Bacharach soundtrack for the remake of Lost Horizon. I can now recall every gloppy line of lyrics.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Last Hunt 08/18/18
Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger shine in Richard Brooks’ engaging drama about the grim slaughter of the Buffalo — a fairly appalling historical episode. A disclaimer is required to explain why we’re seeing real animals killed on screen… which in this case would seem justified by the film’s ecological theme. Co-starring Lloyd Nolan, Russ Tamblyn, and Debra Paget as, what else, an ‘Indian Girl.’ It’s good just the same. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Top stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lolobrigida earn their keep in Carol Reed’s powerful tale of ambition and excellence performing forty above a circus arena. The best circus movie ever is also among Reed’s most exciting, best directed movies, a solid show all around. Also with Katy Jurado, Thomas Gomez, Sidney James, beautiful Paris locations and the creative cinematography of Robert Krasker. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Criterion’s Blu-ray lineup for November is a winner: Mizoguchi’s tragedy A Story from Chikamatsu, a new 4K transfer of Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot. David Byrne’s terrific True Stories and the long-awaited Blu-ray of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons.
Some Like it Hot will be in its correct 1:85 aspect ratio, which is a good thing. Various online voices would like to impose personal preferences on aspect ratios (even me, sometimes) and it’s good when the documented specifications are followed. Criterion once caved to scattershot aspect ratio demands for its release of Kazan’s On the Waterfront, unnecessarily releasing it in three separate ARs. I’m glad they’re not continuing that practice.
Consumers will be happy to hear that today’s standard for full-coverage film mastering on video is to produce a Full Aperture Transfer (‘FAT’) digital file that records everything on the film, from perf to perf and frame line to frame line. Any desired aspect ratio can be down-converted from that file, and endlessly adjusted if necessary. Even in 1:85, care must be taken to see if the scan is dead center, or if the cameraman raised the top cutoff point higher, to make it easier to hide lights on the set.
Gary Teetzel can’t be stopped: he’s found vintage American Cinematographer articles on favorite fantasy pictures, readable online. From 1960 comes a piece on George Pal’s The Time Machine. The same issue has a profile of Eiji Tsuburaya. Weirdly, the article claims that the Toho monster films start when Tsuburaya dreams up a new creature, hammers out a rough plot, and assigns it to a screenwriter; I wonder if Tomiyuki Tanaka ever read this? From a year later comes a short, not terribly informative article on Gorgo, and Roger Corman is interviewed for his Vincent Price thriller Pit and the Pendulum. They consistently refer to Daniel Haller as ‘Heller.’
Correspondent and friend Marshall Crawford was faster on the scene than I last week, and caught this view of a ‘set’ for Quentin Tarantino’s new movie. It’s a fake copy of the old East wall of Grauman’s Chinese, which was much different in 1969. A door on the forecourt indeed led to a dedicated parking lot — there was no Kodak Theater, and a street (now erased) led North to Franklin Avenue. The parking lot indeed had signage like we see here — maybe that elaborate ‘pagoda’ sign was taken out of storage? The picture cars for the shoot appear to still be in place.
This is course is some other building standing in for Grauman’s, which looked more or less just like this from that angle. Note the price for parking (which I can’t believe was ever that cheap). Just inside the real doors, on a morning in 1972, I filmed Super 8 movies of Ali MacGraw getting her footprints set in concrete, when The Getaway was a hot release. They were good movies, too.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror 08/14/18
This third collection sees Hammer bleeding its brand of filmic horror into the War and the Colonial Adventure genres: The Camp on Blood Island is a lurid exposé of Japanese atrocities, the difficult-to-watch Yesterday’s Enemy peels away the last illusions of honor in combat, The Stranglers of Bombay sensationalizes horrid crimes in India in the 1820s, and The Terror of the Tongs is a grotesque expression of classic Colonial racism. The enticing extras give us the production backstories and fill in the historical context. Starring André Morell, Stanley Baker, Leo McKern, Guy Rolfe, George Pastell, Christopher Lee and Yvette Monlaur. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Memories of Underdevelopment 08/14/18
Memorias de subdesarrollo — Perhaps the top cinematic output of Cuban filmmaking is this investigation of a man that doesn’t embrace the revolution. Wishing to remain apolitical, the handsome Sergio prefers to pursue attractive women, as well as illusions of his own superiority. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s account of life with Castro doesn’t shirk from an honest view of conditions in the embargoed island, between The Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Starring Sergio Corrieri, Daisy Granados and Eslinda Núñez. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.