CineSavant Column

Tuesday May 29, 2018

Hello!

A book review today, for a new Film Noir tome that I enjoyed very much: Film Noir Prototypes: Origins of the Movement. It’s yet another book on noir edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini, part of the group that put together the first influential English- language reference on noir in 1979, Film Noir The Encyclopedia. That earlier volume is still the place to start for serious noir study, but the refreshing concept of the new Prototypes book improves on many of the noir readers and essay collections that followed. The earliest French authors and Paul Schrader tried to nail down a firm definition of Noir, starting with the question of whether it’s a genre, a style or a movement with specific parameters. The new Prototypes book analyzes the actual sources credited with forming noir, comparing them to films in the noir mainstream and adding plenty of visuals to make the comparisons concrete.

If that sounds too academic, the book itself is not. The various new articles and reprints naturally start with the style’s acknowledged debt to German expressionism. In fact, the handsome cover illustration is not from a Hollywood noir, but G.W. Pabst’s 1929 Die büchse der Pandora. Skipping down the chapter list, the subjects dealt with as sources for noir make for compelling reading: Victorian fiction, American painting (Edward Hopper!), Universal horror pictures, British Gaumont thrillers, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Gangster classics, French films from the Occupation, Cornell Woolrich, Gothic thrillers, Social realism and tabloid journalism. The studies even rake the work of Cecil B. DeMille and John Ford for noir antecedents. The broad net pulls in a wealth of relevant trends, insights and proto-noir knowledge; a ‘familiar’ subject yields up some thoughtful new angles.

Besides Ursini and Silver, the compendium of articles includes work by Julie Grossman, Todd Erickson and the late and missed Robert G. Porfirio. His original essay on German Expressionism and noir starts the show.

The Prototypes book is printed on heavy glossy paper, and the quality illustrations are beautifully reproduced, film stills and artwork alike. I skipped around, looking first at the chapters of greatest interest. I read most of them within a week, and only then the wrap-around essays. I found the book a useful antidote for noir studies that rehash the same fifty pictures and fifteen directors — the good authors tapped by the anthology bring new ideas to this still-interesting topic.

The Applause Books paperback went on sale on May 15.


Now, to get really serious, here’s a link from Gary Teetzel about favorite subject #38 here at CineSavant Central. Toho Kingdom has Nicholas Driscoll’s in-depth book review of a Japanese Godzilla Manga from the 1950s. The elaborate graphic novel covers the adventures of two Godzillas, parent and child. And yes, it does appear to be for kids.

Of course, Gary always tops me . . . I thought this business sign for a local llanteria on Virgil St. in Los Angeles was kind of cute. When the shop is open, various stuffed Kaiju toys hang in the shop door!


And one more link has slipped in at the last minute — it’s a very good one — Joe Dante is circulating a Paleofuture article by Matt Novak about the criminalization of film collectors, How 1960s Film Pirates Sold Movies Before the FBI Came Knocking. This Mr. Woody Wise must be the fellow I bought my 16mm print of It’s a Wonderful Life from in 1978. That was a real Christmas treat for several years. . . thanks, Woody!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday May 26, 2018


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Midnight Cowboy 05/26/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Pictures like Midnight Cowboy pulled everyone my age into the movies, while the entire older generation likely stopped going to movies altogether. John Schlesinger’s masterpiece can boast a number of firsts, and deserves the high praise it receives from every angle — this was the epitome of progressive filmmaking circa 1969. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vaccaro, Barnard Hughes, Ruth White, Jennifer Salt and Bob Balaban. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
5/26/18

Death in the Garden 05/26/18

Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Blu-ray + DVD

Luis Buñuel’s filmic obsessions steered toward the anarchistic, the anti-clerical and anti-bourgeois, with a surreal spin. All of his films are political, but three features in the 1950s cast a harsh eye on the subject of revolution itself, with surprising results. This beautiful color show is a worthy jungle adventure tale shot through with Buñuel’s signature negativity — it could be titled “The Bad, The Greedy and the Faithless.” Starring Simone Signoret, Georges Marchal, Charles Vanel, Michel Piccoli, and Michèle Girardon. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Eureka / Masters of Cinema.
5/26/18

The Vampire and the Ballerina 05/26/18

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Renato Polselli’s Italian vampire rally ups the on-screen babe count first and provides horror thrills second, yet the screenplay by Ernesto Gastaldi introduces a number of interesting wrinkles to the bloodsucking genre. This new bilingual release is a good presentation of what for American chiller fans has been a long-absent title. Starring Walter Brandi, Hélène Rémy, Tina Gloriani and María Luisa Rolando. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
5/26/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday May 26, 2018

Hello!

“Vienna” of Vienna’s Classic Hollywood wrote the other day to praise my recent Randolph Scott review and I took a look at her blog, which is going on my permanent check-in-and-see-what’s-doing list. Her photos and graphics are great, and unlike me, she doesn’t write phone books about the movies she examines. She must have some interesting video access where she lives, because the things she profiles aren’t always readily available here.


The Warner Archives Collection’s Blu-ray of The Colossus of Rhodes not only has a date, it’s only a month away, on June 26. I think that, with this release all of the Sergio Leone- directed features will be on Blu-ray. Sir Christopher Frayling’s commentary (from 2007) connects Rory Calhoun’s happy-go-lucky Athenian vacationer-turned revolutionary to The Man With No Name, who wouldn’t ride in for three more years.


Wide-ranging CineSavant operative extraordinare Gary Teetzel has been at it again, making with the deep web research, this time hunting down mid- 1920s references to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, a favorite subject here at CineSavant. Gary turned up a number of terrific links, with different axes to grind regarding the movie.

An article in Amateur Movie Maker (December 1926) gives home filmmakers some ideas about how to duplicated Lang’s amazing visuals, as if that were remotely possible — “go to the shop in your local school to see about making miniatures!”

Motion Picture News (August 1926) has a more in-depth article, translated from German, looking forward to an incredible picture. The author’s interview with Lang show that even before the picture was finished, Lang was crediting his visit to New York City as a key inspiration.

This Motion Picture News (September 1926) article has more discussion of the film and the differences in big-picture advertising between Berlin and New York. Among the things brought up is a possible film assignment for Fritz Lang in Russia, on a show called ‘The Panther’s Fur.’

Yet another article says that, apparently in response to Warners’ Noah’s Ark, Lang will make an Ufa picture called ‘Deluge’ — no details.

A Picture Play (Sept. ’26) ad shows how Metropolis is being touted by Paramount for America. It gets special mention in a sidebar with an image. Other ads or reviews are not always particularly insightful, or treat the show as just another release: Exhibitor’s Herald, Film Spectator, Film Daily.

Finally a Variety article from October 1927 zeroes in on an historically acute controversy about Metropolis, a critical fracas in London over the versions. If you recall, the premiere version Metropolis was exclusively screened in Berlin in a very long version, between 2.5 and three hours. Then it was withdrawn and cut down in America by Channing Pollock, to a far shorter version that dropped major episodes and radically reshaped the storyline. The importer of the film, Wardour Pictures, complained that U.K. critic J. E. Atkinson gave the film a ‘very favorable notice’ and then reversed himself with a slam just the next day. Atkinson had reviewed the picture from his memory of the first version, and was shocked to see how it had been changed.

Atkinson raged in print that the new version had been ‘Filleted and Predigested,’ pointing his bitter attack directly at the hack job done by Pollock, and complaining that Paramount, which distributed the film world-wide, had done a bait-and-switch. Atkinson also says that Fritz Lang repudiates the short version, as edited by Pollock: “… the version made for American hick consumption is being forced on the British public.”

Wardour shot back an interestingly modern marketing rebuttal, declaring that the newer, shorter Channing Pollock version is ‘approved,’ and that the critic should apologize. It sounds like the kind of anti-critic bite-back we occasionally heard from George Lucas and James Cameron. The distributor probably wanted publicity but not this kind — its meek defense is that Pollock’s edition is the only one generally shown in Germany.

The official Variety review from March 16 gives a running time of 107 minutes, which means that Atkinson must have seen the movie somewhere else, perhaps in Berlin. Atkinson apparently skipped the preview, and complains that other critics also praised the film to the heavens based on a viewing of the uncut version. Assuming that Atkinson saw a longer cut earlier, it is tantalizing to think that more prints of the long version may have been circulated.

Atkinson is definitely a critic after my own heart. Ufa took reasonable care of most of its films until the American ‘ParUfaMet’ deal put the studio under American control. First order of business: massacre Fritz Lang’s film and throw away the trims. We can’t let some crazy German stay in control . . . we can handle him the same way we pulled the plug on Erich von Stroheim.

Thanks for the research, Gary. And thanks for reading. — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday May 22, 2018


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CineSavant’s new reviews today are:

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960 05/22/18

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Bid welcome to five westerns guaranteed to make one fall in love with the genre all over again. Each stars the ultra-virtuous man of the West Randolph Scott, pitted against some of the most colorful antagonists on the range: Richard Boone, Lee Van Cleef, Claude Akins. Indicator’s extras constitute the best collection of research materials ever assembled on the underrated director Budd Boetticher. Also featuring Maureen O’Sullivan, Karen Steele, Nancy Gates, Craig Stevens, Pernell Roberts, James Coburn, Skip Homeier and Henry Silva. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
5/22/18

Five Steps to Danger 05/22/18

ClassicFlix
Blu-ray

It’s a road picture, a spy chase and an oddball romance all in one. A casual highway hitch-hike leads to intrigues with shady doctors, guided missile secrets and espionage intrigues. Possible escaped nutcase Ruth Roman enlists nice guy Sterling Hayden’s help, and before you can say Alfred Hitchcock they’re handcuffed together and on the run. It’s a B-picture gem from the mid-fifties, all the more amusing for its awkwardness. With Werner Klemperer, Richard Gaines and Jeanne Cooper. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
5/22/18

The Holy Mountain (1926) 05/22/18

Kino Classics
Blu-ray

Teutonic art writ large and loud: Arnolf Fanck’s first big ‘mountain’ classic wow’ed them back in 1926, with its massive vistas and death-defying feats of mountaineering, all sworn to be authentic. More importantly, Fanck and his diva Leni Riefenstahl invest their images with the sense of mythic, spiritual kitsch grandeur that became an aesthetic blueprint for the coming Nazi regime. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
5/22/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday May 22, 2018

Hello!

In my review last week of Espionage Agent I vented my opinions about pre-war studio difficulties in making anti-Nazi movies, what with the isolationism and (I think) pro-German political climate then in the country. What I didn’t say, that several readers pointed out, is that some of the pro-isolation noise came from liberals and communists, at the time reacting to Hitler’s brief pact with Stalin. So thanks for keeping me straight there.

A reaction from Dick Dinman was to give me an early listen to his two new DVD Classics Corner On the Air show online talks with author Ben Urwand about his nonfiction book The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler, which, to quote the always dramatic Mr. Dinman, “chronicles the shocking depths to which all of the major studios sunk during the ’30s in order to maintain business with Hitler and his minions.” The second show includes praise for Ernst Lubitsch’s crazy comedy To Be Or Not To Be. The show comes in two halves, Part One and Part Two.


The following is an actual friends-of-Savant kidding & harassment email chain, with only the names redacted. Make of it what you will.

Friend #2: Obviously I’m not telling you guys something you don’t know, but I took the frame grab that was on Glenn’s page, imported it into Photoshop and hit “auto correct,” and didn’t do anything else to it. It could still use some finessing, but are the Italians really saying they think the top one is the way it should look? I don’t read the forums, what’s been the general reaction to it?

Friend #1: Reaction is mixed. The majority are saying things along the lines of “the Italians have screwed up again”, but there are people who are happy with it.

Glenn: That first yellow-green image was taken straight from the Italian restoration website. In my column from May 19 Stefan Andersson gave me a dozen links to various forum pages, restoration news with frame grabs, etc. There’s another European disc from 2007 that people seem to like.

Friend #1: There’s some nutcase on the Leone forums who thinks you should be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail for not knowing about the other Fistful of Dollars disc, the ‘Ripley’ version. How dare you not keep track of every international release of every title!

Glenn: Hah! You know how ill-informed I am, about most everything . . . Tell him I’ll put my eyes out to atone for my crime.

Friend #1: You were also guilty of daring to suggest that professionals sometimes know more than fanboys. Absurd! Don’t you know that obsessive geeks posting on the internet, with no experience handling film but lots of experience fiddling with Photoshop, are the true geniuses, and that all the studios should be consulting them on every restoration project???

Friend #2: Heeeeeey, wait a minute. I resemble that remark! I’m a professional AND I fiddle with Photoshop! Watch your step, sonny boy!

I burst on fire if I visit the forums so I won’t check out what they’re saying about Glenn. Are they referencing the 2007 2K restoration that’s out on Ripley Home Video? I forgot I had that, but ran it last night out of curiosity. It’s good, maybe a little too ‘smooth’, making it look like a more recent film. But the color timing is certainly more believable than the frame grabs from the new ‘restoration.’

Friend #1: Yes, they were referencing the Ripley disc. What is Glenn’s lame excuse for not buying that Ripley disc back in 2007? He should have known there would be a new U.S. disc with a different restoration in 2018. Frankly, I’m shocked that you still agree to have anything to do with Glenn!

Glenn: That’s it. I’ve been found out, and there’s no way I can face the angry mob now that it knows the extent of my crime. I’m too emotional to write a suicide note, so don’t bother going through my pockets when you find me under the bridge. “It’s too Yell-ooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww!”

Well, I still think my friends are funny. Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday May 19, 2018


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CineSavant’s new reviews today are:

The Bloodthirsty Trilogy 05/19/18

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Trailers from Hell’s dauntless Charlie Largent takes on vintage ’70s Japanese horror, a trio of sanguinary delights. Director Michio Yamamoto brings the vampire legend up to date in a unique trio of thrillers mixing ancient folklore, bestial bloodsuckers and modern day Japan, circa 1970. The three films The Vampire Doll, Lake of Dracula, and Evil of Dracula have been given a splendid presentation, on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
5/19/18

Espionage Agent 05/19/18

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

Is this the filmic birth of both the wartime OSS and the SuperSpy genre? State department diplomat trainee Joel McCrea weds refugee Brenda Marshall, not realizing that she has gained her freedom by volunteering to become a Nazi spy. Released just as WW2 broke out but filmed and produced earlier, Warners’ production faced stiff political pressure from an isolationist Washington. Ever heard the phrase ‘premature anti-Nazi?’ Here there be patriots. With Jeffrey Lynn, George Bancroft and Hollywood’s first crop of actors specializing in loathsome Nazis: Martin Kosleck, Rudolph Anders and Hans Heinrich von Twardowski. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/19/18

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud 05/19/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Yes, we’ve all lived before; when I come back I don’t care who I am as long as I get to be in the 1%. When Michael Sarrazin reaches into a previous life his big sacrifice is to abandon the gorgeous Cornelia Sharpe for the gorgeous Jennifer O’Neill, arousing the suspicions of his wife in his previous life, gorgeous Margot Kidder. The show looks great, Jerry Goldsmith’s music is beautiful, but it runs up against real trouble in the script and directing departments. With Debralee Scott as yet another woman who wants to make it with Peter. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
5/19/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday May 19, 2018

Hello!

Some fast notices and links today: Kino Lorber has laid out its release calendar for the rest of the year, and it’s got some great items. In addition to two versions of Nathan Juran’s Jack the Giant Killer on June 12, we’ll be getting Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (June 19), TV’s The Martian Chronicles on June 26, two cuts of Selznick’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (July 10), and the not-seen-for-a-long-time Douglas-Lancaster noir I Walk Alone (July 24).

At the other end of the summer Kino will continue with both the TV and theatrical versions of the apocalyptic The Day After (August 7), Sangaree in 3D (September 18), both cuts of Michael Powell’s Jennifer Jones picture Gone to Earth / The Wild Heart (September 25), and The Farmer’s Daughter, The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler and The Spiral Staircase all September 25. It doesn’t stop: October 16 brings us the cult TV movie Trilogy of Terror, November 6 the previously MIA Ray Milland thriller Lisbon, and November 13 the second season of the Sci-fi series The Outer Limits.

Bob Furmanek informally announced another 3D release from Kino, Jivaro, but it has no date as yet so I’m thinking it’s for 2019.


Meanwhile, The Warner Archive Collection just announced a Blu-ray of both versions of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the CinemaScope one we know, plus the 1:77 ‘insurance’ version that I have to say plays extremely well on home video, maybe better than the C’Scope. They looked good on DVD and ought to be a knockout on Blu — even in screwy Ansco color.


Gary Teetzel tips us off to a touted 4Kk restoration of the Brit ‘how I won the war’ epic The Dam Busters; the U.K article isn’t too swift but it comes with a pretty good copy of the trailer. Love the movie, even if that music gets old fast.


Joe Dante circulated this Vimeo link to a trailer mashup, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Max Fury Road. It says it’s three years old but I was impressed with the quality of the cutting.


Finally, for years I’ve been receiving informed tip-offs and research bulletins from a valued European contact, Stefan Andersson. With all the huzzarah circulating about the new Fistful of Dollars disc from Kino, I asked Stefan if I could just print his whole rundown on previous versions and the way the title is being discussed on other pages. You just need to know that Stefan uses ‘FOD’ for the film title, and ‘resto’ for restoration. A bunch of links connect to entries on the Home Theater Forum; other connections are a bit involved but I found them rewarding.

From May 16, 2018:

“Hi Glenn!  I just read your review of the Kino Fistful of Dollars (FOD).

In a thread about the Kino FOD on Home Theater Forum I found a really interesting Italian docu about the 2007 FOD resto done by Ripley’s Home Video. It’s unsubtitled, but has no narration, only intertitles with technical descriptions (‘notte Americana’) and before/after restoration examples of audio and video: The Home Theater Forum.

Go to post 29 for the resto video, 17 mins. Posted on Vimeo originally: Ripley’s restoration featurette — use the full screen option. It’s a good link – see screen right for some interesting videos, by Jordan Krug, about differences between various prints of Leone films.

More on that HTF thread up above:

See post 23 for images of back cover, Blu case, for German and Italian (Ripley’s edition) Blus of FOD.

Post 33: two live links to texts in English and Italian — Ripleys and L’Immagine Ritrovata/Cineteca di Bologna explaining their restos. The second link, to the newspaper Corriere della Sera, is marked ‘not safe’ in my web browser, and the page looks odd. The text about FOD is fully readable.

Post 36 says the German Blu uses the Ripley resto.

Post 49: live link to an Italian-language video of outtakes from FOD, including what seems to be an alternate opening with The Man stealing the poncho by a riverside. This video is from the 2014 resto by L’Immagine Ritrovata/Cineteca di Bologna.

For the record, here is info about Torsten Kaiser’s 2005 resto of FOD, For a Few Dollars More and the two My Name Is Nobody films: TLE Films. See clickable links, page bottom. This is old info by now, but the technical details are interesting and educational.

Screencaps comparisons, FOD – MGM Blu, German Blu, Italian Blu

Screencaps from the Kino FOD.

FOD on Italian Amazon (compare image of back cover with post 23 in the HTF thread)

FOD on German Amazon. This is the Blu with the restored FOD, I think (not sure).

For screenshots of front and back cover (compare post 23 in the HTF thread), go here (in German).

FOD seems also to be available in a two-film Blu set with For a Few Dollars More, though I’m not sure this edition contains the 2007 resto of FOD.

I haven’t personally seen any of these FOD discs, and so cannot vouch for quality or region compatibility. Nor am I certain that my research is 100% complete and accurate. But I wanted to keep you posted about the various options out there. Best, Stefan”

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday May 15, 2018


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CineSavant’s new reviews today are:

Gun Crazy 05/15/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

The Warner Archive comes through with a film noir gem that still has the power to make one’s skin crawl, as a pair of circus sharpshooters go on the lam, using their skills to pull off cheap robberies. The clammy feeling of being cut off from society, having no place to go, is expressed in near-existential terms. Peggy Cummins’ cheap tease Annie Laurie Starr promises John Dall’s Bart Tare eternal love, but what good are promises from a psycho? With Berry Kroeger and Russ (Rusty) Tamblyn. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/15/18

A Fistful of Dollars 05/15/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Sergio Leone’s breakthrough international sensation has returned, in a 4k restoration from Italy that’s bound to continue the controversy — every color’s good as long as it’s a sickly yellow-green. In every other aspect this umpteenth edition of the first murderous adventure of The Man With No Name is the best yet, with a clean image and good new extras. Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, and Gian Maria Volontè shine; the best new extra is a great interview with Ms. Koch. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
5/15/18

The City of the Dead 05/15/18

VCI Entertainment
Blu-ray

2018 Limited Edition. The frights of Horror Hotel are back in an improved presentation in this 2018 Limited Edition. Set in New England but filmed in Old England, this creepy shocker is a favorite not just for the presence of Christopher Lee, but also the wonderfully mortiferous Patricia Jessel and the cadaverous Valentine Dyall. Also with Venetia Stevenson as a gullible student of witchcraft, and Betta St. John as a complacent bookseller in a town populated exclusively by ghouls. On Blu-ray from VCI Entertainment.
5/15/18