Along Came Jones 04/14/18
Big star Gary Cooper kids his screen image as an infallible hero in a western that almost plays as a screwball comedy, complete with the ultimate grouchy sidekick, William Demarest. Loretta Young’s attraction to Coop’s goofy ‘bronc stomper’ seem glowingly authentic. The jokes are funny, and the sentiment feels real, right up to the unexpectedly violent ending. . . for 1945, that is. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
Les Girls 04/14/18
Cole Porter’s Les Girls. The curtain is falling on the MGM musical, and Gene Kelly’s final song and dance at the studio is for a Paris-set show biz tale about a dancing star and his trio of showgirls. Actually, the comedy and the actresses get more attention than does Kelly. The gimmick is a Rashomon– like clash of conflicting testimony, but we prefer to concentrate on the sexy dancing and Kay Kendall’s hilarious drunk act. Who thought a boozy beauty wailing opera songs would be funny? Mitzi Gaynor, Taina Elg and Jacques Bergerac co-star; George Cukor directs. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Five on the Black Hand Side 04/14/18
This quirky family comedy conceived as an antidote to blaxploitation pictures was adapted from a play that claims no goal beyond feel-good entertainment — and a little preaching about black solidarity. Broad humor, simple characters and thin dramatic conflicts can’t blur the fact that this comedy has its heart in the right place. A game group of talented actors assures us that we’re gonna be glorified, unified and filled-with-pride! Starring Clarice Taylor, Leonard Jackson, Glynn Turman, D’Urville Martin, Richard Williams, Virginia Capers, Ja’net DuBois, Bonnie Banfield, Tchaka Almoravids and future director Carl Franklin. On Blu-rayfrom Olive Films.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics has announced Alfred Hitchcock’s Under Capricorn for June 19, reportedly a new 4k scan. The BFI did the video work, so there’s a chance for game-changing quality leap in this show. Not one of Hitchcock’s more popular pictures, Capricorn has Ingrid Bergman, Technicolor by Jack Cardiff, and long takes with camera moves that outshine those in Rope.
At the April 9 entry for Joe Baltake’s The Passionate Moviegoer features a nice look at the career of Richard Quine, with some thoughtful opinions. Quine’s musical remake of My Sister Eileen is coming soon from Twilight Time.
Now Scream Factory will be licensing horror titles from Columbia Films as well. They’ve already talked about releasing The Tingler and Strait-Jacket, so purchasers are wondering about a promised William Castle disc set from UK’s Powerhouse / Indicator company. Will the UK Columbia discs continue to be all-region? What if we want both licensors’ sets of extras?
As for The Tingler, I hope they interview Tim Lucas, for a more detailed run-down on his Video Watchdog theory about a script re-write and sequence-shuffle that radically altered the ending. The same goes for Lucas’s fascinating theory/revelation about the original scene order for Robert Florey’s Murders in the Rue Morgue.
And finally, Powerhouse indicator stealth-announced today that they’ll be releasing Joseph Losey’s Hammer sci-fi classic These Are the Damned later this year. That’s something to look forward to, ‘when the time comes.’
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Maze 04/10/18
It’s a promising project for Allied Artists: William Cameron Menzies does a spooky horror movie in 3-D! Something creepy’s going on in a mysterious Scottish castle, something to do with problems in the lineage to a Barony. It’s also a 3-C epic: Candles, Cobwebs and Corridors. Add a frightened, shivering heroine in a nightgown and the horror recipe is complete. It’s another restoration treat from the 3-D Film Archive. With Richard Carlson and Veronica Hurst. On 3-D Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
When is a private eye parody not a parody? Stephen Frears’ first feature strikes a delicate balance — its nearly absurd hardboiled lingo outdoes the spoofs, but the story and characters are pitched 100% straight. Albert Finney IS Eddie Ginley, surrounded by a pack of exciting, imaginatively cast actors: Billie Whitelaw, Frank Finlay, Janice Rule. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Sleeping Dogs 04/10/18
Director Roger Donaldson has enjoyed a rewarding Hollywood career, but he began in New Zealand where this fantasy mini-epic about resistance to a political takeover became the first Kiwi picture to win an international release and launch a national film industry. The film’s young star didn’t do too badly either — the ‘ordinary guy’ who becomes a rebel terrorist is played by none other than Sam Neill. Sold as an action thriller, the show is really a primer on how a democracy can be turned into a police state, with the public’s full approval. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy
I’m really late this Tuesday … Cinerama expert and CineSavant correspondent David Strohmeier asked me to say that his new restoration of the three-panel Cinerama presentation Windjammer will be showing at the Cinerama Dome on April 28. I believe that individual tickets can be purchased. It’s a great way to see real Cinerama exhibited in a venue created especially for the process (but originally only used for single-strip 70mm).
We got jolted by an earthquake last week in Los Angeles. It was a 5.5 but the epicenter was aways out in the ocean, so some of us felt it and others didn’t. I was sitting in a parked car trying to send a text, and suddenly the car began to sway on its suspension as if somebody was pushing it back and forth. People were walking their babies and dogs but didn’t realize a quake was happening, but I felt it strongly for at least ten seconds. That’s the way it is here — some building shake and shimmy and others absorb the tremor imperceptibly. But not when the quake is bigger, and closer. I’ve been through two major quakes already, have been exceedingly lucky, but they say a big one is overdue.
That’s about all I have at hand or still on my mind . . . I think readers would appreciate the reviews going up sooner than later. It’s a big month for 3-D fans!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Awful Truth 04/07/18
Charlie Largent of Trailers from Hell writes up what is possibly the best Screwball Comedy of them all, Leo McCarey’s hilarious take on a phffft marriage that just won’t die: the separated partners just can’t stop tease-flirting with each other. Cary Grant pulls awful tricks on the new man in Irene Dunne’s life, and she puts on an crazy impersonation to humiliate him, etc. Even the dog formerly known as Asta is funny. With the ever-suffering Ralph Bellamy, the most generous actor of his time. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Don’t Bother to Knock 04/07/18
“Wash your face, brush your teeth, and say your PRAYERS.” Marilyn Monroe’s first plunge into a dramatic starring role casts her as a dangerously unstable babysitter in a hotel-set suspense thriller co-starring Richard Widmark and Anne Bancroft. Ms. Monroe may not be Ethel Barrymore (thankfully) but the role suits her well — to play a woman unhinged by low self-esteem and melancholy romantic reveries, she may have tapped personal experience. With Elisha Cook Jr. and Lurene Tuttle. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Danger Signal 04/07/18
Ah romance! A handsome stranger takes a room in your house, lets you feed him and doesn’t pay the rent — of course he’s the perfect man of your dreams. Excellent WB players Faye Emerson and Zachary Scott enliven an odd mix of moods in a tale of a murderous Bluebeard- boyfriend. Director Robert Florey’s thriller is half stylish spook show, and half romantic sitcom. With Dick Erdman, Rosemary DeCamp and perky Mona Freeman as the little sister who needs to be told, ‘Don’t you do what your big sister done.’ On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
I received six notes all at once from people telling me that Red Planet Mars is indeed out on DVD, on a disc they say ‘looks like an old TV broadcast.’ My information is that the disc they point to is unauthorized, and in the hope of a proper release, I try my best to not promote gray-market product. MGM has original elements of the 1953 United Artists release in excellent condition.
On a lighter note, I just got in Kino’s upcoming report on what they’re releasing in May. The list heralds the brand-new The Misadventures of Biffle & Shooster!, the retro comedy duo from the 1930s lovingly
perpetrated recreated by Michael Schlesinger, starring Will Ryan and Nick Santa Maria. All the corny jokes are in place (believe me) in five separate short subjects, plus a generous selection of extras. A Trailer is up at YouHooTube.
Actually, the disc debut of the ‘wacky, cornball’ Biffle & Shooster short subjects reminds me of a true story, if you have the time.
Back in college around 1975, my friends were intrigued by a serial killer then prowling Los Angeles, the Skid Row Slasher. The newspapers gave him big coverage, playing up the full grisly details about victims found with their throats ‘slashed from ear to ear.’ No strangers to sick humor, we were all amused by the sleazy alarmist headlines — me, Robert S. Birchard, Randall William Cook, Steve Nielson and Douglas Haise. I can still remember Bob Birchard’s face, grinning at the day’s big newspaper headline, which was more suited to 1932 and The Front Page. Doug Haise proposed a student film, a takeoff on old comedy teams much like Biffle & Shooster. Only he decided that his pair of comics would be slap-happy Skid Row winos: one short, one skinny, both stupid. Doug’s proposed title was the snappy, ‘STINKY AND PETE MEET THE SLASHER.’ Since Randy Cook was always sketching on a big pad. He mocked up a great fake photo of an imagined Stinky and Pete lit from below, recoiling from some unseen terror. It got a big laugh.
One Saturday night at Haise’s in Santa Monica we all stayed so late that we just slept over, sleeping wherever. Randy rose early and saw the newspaper, which had another big Skid Row Slasher headline, plus a police artist’s drawing of the suspect: IS THIS THE SLASHER? Before anybody was up, Randy used his pencil to alter the drawing to look like Doug Haise. The effect was really good, at least at first glance. The Slasher was now a dead ringer for our host. When Doug woke up Randy put on a good act of casually handing him the front page. Doug’s sleepy double-take was unforgettable. He could just see himself being arrested as soon as he showed his face on the street.
Yes, I know that your super college memories took place in Paris with international celebrities, or at that total eclipse in Nova Scotia. But this one just made me smile. They were all great guys, and Birchard is much missed.
Thanks for reading. There are 8 million unnecessary personal episodes in The Naked CineSavant Journal; hope this one was worth it — Glenn Erickson
The Age of Innocence 04/03/18
Martin Scorsese commands the screen without a single profane word or gunshot to the head. His adaptation of Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel is a marvel for its year, a highly entertaining, dramatically involving epic that takes us to a world lost to time, the high-toned society of New York in the 1870s. For adult viewers, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder form a stunning romantic triangle. With excellent extras, including an exceptional interview with the director. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Three Video Nasties 04/03/18
Guest reviewer Lee Broughton covers a trio of video nasties. The Toolbox Murders, Blood Harvest and A Cat in the Brain each feature a pop culture icon in a leading role. Hollywood actor Cameron Mitchell, oddball 1960s crooner Tiny Tim and the Italo horror director and all-round enfant terrible Lucio Fulci find themselves caught up in their own gory and disturbing splatter show. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all three films fell foul of the British Board of Film Classification at the time of their original release in the UK. Separate releases, on Region B Blu-ray from 88 Films (UK) Slasher Classics Collection.
Red Planet Mars 04/03/18
It’s a review. No, it’s a rant. Stop, you’re both right. CineSavant’s overt mission is to demonstrate that old movies, especially old Science Fiction movies, are more relevant than ever. There is at present no authorized home video release of this amazing 1952 politico-religious pretzel of a movie. The surprise is that it accurately presages the media hysteria that underpins our present day Info Wars. Fake News comes from the sky, and a major world revolution results — for the better? Will religious fundamentalism rule all? This may be the most radical faith-based picture ever to get a major release. Starring Peter Graves and Andrea King. Not on Home Video.
Hello! Today’s column is a lesson in borrowed, or appropriated (?) movie monsters.
Gary Teetzel sends along a trailer to a 1973 Mexican comedy, Chabelo y Pepito contra los monstruos, which looks like a pale imitation of earlier monster and space invasion movies by Spanish-speaking comedy teams. The movie is horrendous, but the kick is seeing Churubusco Films blatantly rip off Universal Pictures’ wholly-owned franchises — most of the classic Uni horror characters appear, even a soggy Gill Man. Please note that I have refrained from turning this item into a lame joke about a border wall.
And don’t forget Sean Liang as Gojira! . . . Gary also forwards this stage announcement / playbill for a little-theater show running through April 28 in Hollywood: Akuma-shin. A more elaborate description is given, but the short version is that Akuma-shin is
“A new play that explores an alternate timeline – where a real Godzilla-type monster attacks Japan.” It is “set in 1976 in an American television talk show where guests grapple with the ‘seismic waves of fear, anger and ignorance’ that the attack has unleashed ‘through generations.'”
Characters appearing in the cast list are Dr. Martin Luther King, William F. Buckley, Jr., Dr Joyce Brothers, Mason Burr, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Curtis LeMay, Yukio Mishima, Lee Oswald, George Serizawa and Emiko Ogata. The program does state that
“Despite the presence of an otherworldly creature in the story, the play is not a campy comedy. The play’s alternate universe reconfigures historical figures in unfamiliar renderings: presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald becomes a decorated marine and congressman while Martin Luther King, Jr. is in jail.”
How ‘Godzilla-like’ can this be when the character is named ‘Gojira?’ I’ll be curious to learn what the Godzilla cognoscenti have to say.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson