Diamonds of the Night 04/06/19

The Criterion Collection

Director Jan Němec made his name during the Czech New Wave of the 1960s, and later saw his career cut short when the ruling party decided to classify one of his films as ‘banned forever.’ This first feature is a striking chase story about two young men escaped from a Nazi prison train. It experiments with filmic space, looking for psychological depth by mixing a subjective pursuit with the main characters’ memories and thought-dreams. The extras give us a close-up look at a director who paid a steep price for defying the state. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

Star Witness 04/06/19

The Warner Archive Collection

Veteran William Wellman directed this pre-Code thriller that puts an average New York family at odds with a pack of ruthless gangsters. It’s a 1931 tale of drive-by shootings, witness intimidation and child kidnapping — just one year later, movies about child kidnappings were banned, after the tragedy of the Lindbergh baby. Walter Huston is the rather ruthless District Attorney, and the ex-vaudeville funny man Chic Sale plays an old codger that shows his family what Good Americanism really means — the show could serve as a surly critique of what passes for law and order and good citizenship now. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.

The River’s Edge 04/06/19

Twilight Time

Is it a film noir?  This desert-set crime tale sees a rat (Ray Milland) escaping to Mexico with a bag of cash, forcing a hunting guide (Anthony Quinn) to show him the way and stealing his wife (Debra Paget) in the bargain. Remember what Godard said about only needing a girl and a gun to make a movie?  Veteran director Allan Dwan has already memorized that lesson, and pulls it off in color and CinemaScope on Mexican locations. Ms. Paget takes both a bath and a shower, only to be upstaged by a peach-colored T-Bird convertible. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

CineSavant Column

Saturday April 6, 2019


I’ve received a review copy of Joseph McBride’s new book and have begun reading — so far it’s quite promising. McBride wrote a book back in the early 1990’s about the famous director Frank Capra. Called Frank Capra, The Catastrophe of Success, it aimed to correct the myths presented as fact in Capra’s career- embellishing 1971 autobiography The Name Above the Title, that we all took as gospel back in Film School.

This new book Frankly: Unmasking Frank Capra is McBride’s personal account of the legal struggle that was required for The Catastrophe of Success to be published — archives and Capra’s family fought for years to keep it suppressed. McBride promises that Frankly will be illuminate truths about Hollywood but also our society’s unwillingness to publish the truth about any famous or powerful person. With the kind of power wielded by corporate publishing concerns, McBride thinks that in practical terms our First Amendment rights may be a myth.

On another front, CineSavant advisor Gary Teetzel is reading a book about 2001: A Space Odyssey, and hit us with the following report a couple of days ago:

“I’m reading the book Space Odyssey by Michael Benson, and learned some interesting facts about early casting possibilities. Keir Dullea was set as Dave Bowman from the start. For Dr. Heywood Floyd, the names bandied about at this stage included Joseph Cotton, Henry Fonda, Robert Montgomery, Robert Ryan and George C. Scott. It’s not easy to picture the bombastic Scott playing a low-key part like Dr. Floyd.

I was surprised to learn that some big names were considered for the part of Moonwatcher, the primordial man-ape who figures out tool/weapon use. Among those considered: Gary Lockwood, Albert Finney, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Kubrick’s favorite for the part, Robert Shaw. Kubrick actually wrote to Shaw about it:

“Without wanting to seem unappreciative of your rugged and handsome countenance, I must observe that there appears to be an incredible resemblance” (between Shaw and an illustration of a Neanderthal!)

Robert Shaw’s response is not known. Try to imagine Finney, Belmondo or Shaw as an apeman tossing a bone in the air triumphantly.

Kubrick had already been exposed to two actors that were eventually cast. At the start of the project Kubrick considered adapting a BBC Radio serial called Shadow on the Sun, about a strange meteor coming to Earth at the same time that the sun seems to be darkening. A virus is unleashed making humans able to stand the cold, and eliminating sexual inhibitions. One of the stars was William Sylvester. Clarke talked Kubrick out of his enthusiasm for this radio play. Sadly, I can’t find it online, if any tapes of it survive.

Also, Kubrick was impressed by the special effects of Universe, a Canadian film about space made for the World’s Fair. It was narrated by… Douglas Rain.

The biggest shock, though, is a section of the book where Kubrick’s production company sold the project to MGM. The contract lists potential directors, which, aside from Kubrick, also included Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean and Billy Wilder!   It’s pretty well impossible to imagine Billy Wilder’s 2001: A Space Odyssey!

Oh, is it?

Thanks to Charlie Largent for his graphic assist.

And thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday April 2, 2019

Ya know, I think that house might not have been full scale… CLICK on it.

Vampyres 04/02/19

Arrow Video

Dull vampire pix were once as ubiquitous as zombie pix are now, but when a good one came along we’d certainly take notice. The predatory Fran and Miriam are a wholly new twist on the ‘Wicked Lady’ highwayman theme — the picture transcends the softcore horror genre with class and style. Fringe director José Ramón Larraz found himself filming in England, and his output outclassed what were passing for Eurotrash horror epics across the channel. How did he do it? The answers become clear in Arrow’s special edition. Although only available in a boxed set, it’s reviewed here separately. Marianne Morris and Anulka are the freakiest sirens ever lead an unwary man to his doom. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

Becky Sharp 04/02/19

KL Studio Classics

Some show had to be the first — back in 1935, this was the first movie to be produced entirely in full 3 strip Technicolor. Just like any revolutionary filmic development, it came from outside the studio system, which says something about how Hollywood works — studios will spend millions of dollars to take advantage of a striking innovation, but let somebody else do the painful R&D. Pioneer Pictures’ project began filming started with one director but then restarted with Rouben Mamoulian, who a little earlier had already shown the town a thing or two about the possibilities of sound. A stage play of the classic novel becomes almost a pageant of color, led by the reliable Miriam Hopkins. Is the movie any good?  That’s debatable. But it needs to be seen, to fully appreciate the movie miracle created by chemists, not artists. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

CineSavant Column

Tuesday April 2, 2019


Let’s Party like it’s 1636!

Here’s a hot tip — back in the 1970s, the most talked-about un-produced screenplay was Walter Brown Newman’s frequently optioned Harrow Alley, an epic story about the Great Plague of London. The script is so well written, it takes one’s breath away. It is a little ghoulish at times, but it’s also funny, tragic, profound, romantic and even inspiring. The story has a dozen memorable, original characters. On the first page we meet Ratsey, a roughneck thief who thinks he has immunity to the sickness that’s killing everybody not rich enough to flee to the country. He eventually finds atonement and joy by becoming a baker. UCLA professor William Froug told us about Harrow Alley in his book The Screenwriter Looks at The Screenwriter; back in film school it circulated in smeary photocopies. Over the years we pictured various actors as Ratsey — Tim Roth, Bob Hoskins, others. We imagined that it needed to be directed by Roman Polanski.

Further confirmation of the wonders of Harrow Alley can be read in this 2013 article by Robert Elisberg. But the happy surprise is that a .pdf of the entire 178- page screenplay is online; you’ll soon recognize it as a masterpiece. “Ring Around the Rosy, Pocket Full of Poseys” will never sound the same again: “All Fall Down.”

I almost wish the screenplay were secret so that somebody would produce it. Maybe a smart producer (with a good entertainment attorney) can do the right thing and expand it into an eight-hour miniseries. It’s certainly viable now … just tell the producers there’s a zombie in there somewhere … and a big MeToo statement … and something pro-veteran. It already has a cute dog.

Just announced on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber is Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s Gone to Earth, combined with its David O. Selznick meddling producer’s recut The Wild Heart, which is a full 25 minutes shorter. The period picture gives Jennifer Jones a good role opposite David Farrar and has been unjustly ignored, compared to other films by The Archers. A Region 2 DVD was a prized possession twenty years ago, and I’m looking forward to the improvement!  The disc is due on June 25.

And since I’m probably not going to be reviewing it myself, here’s Nathaniel Thompson’s concise & fair Mondo Digital review of the new all-region Blu-ray of Ikarie XB-1.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday March 30, 2019

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Hope and Crosby – The Road Pictures 03/30/19

KL Studio Classics

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby run amuck in four far-flung locales, in four comedy features spread out over six years. And make sure to hook up your Sarong Speakers, because their perennial cohort Dorothy Lamour is along for the ride as well. The observant Charlie Largent takes up one of the crucial questions of our day: are Hope and Crosby funny? Well, the constant in-jokes, personal asides and quips about golf scores and bank accounts approximate humor! I read that the great Woody Allen adores Bob Hope’s style of wisecracking humor, a statement that can’t help but get me in trouble. The titles are Road to… Singapore, Morocco, Zanzibar, and Utopia. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Underground (1928) 03/30/19

Kino Lorber - BFI

It’s expressive silent filmmaking at its best — Anthony Asquith vies with Alfred Hitchcock for direction in silent-era England. Elissa Landi and Brian Aherne meet in the Tube but become entangled in the jealous scheme of the jealous Cyril McLaglen. Restored just a few years back after being unavailable for generations, this is a beauty: the BFI gives it a full orchestral orchestra score, plus a second avant-garde ‘contextual audio’ track. Also starring Norah Baring. On Blu-ray from Kino Lorber / BFI.

Impulso 03/30/19


One’s awareness of modern avant-garde flamenco will get a boost from this exciting, impressive documentary about the progressive Spanish bailarina Rocío Molina, a fireball of a dancer whose powerful improvisations get our hearts beating faster. All the earmarks of traditional flamenco are there — grace, style and a fierce independent attitude — in a woman who loves what she does, and is not trying to push an art form to its next level. It’s pretty inspiring, even for an amateur fan like myself. Dance experts note, this is a film review. On DVD from KimStim.

CineSavant Column

Saturday March 30, 2019


I’m not crazy about film lists, unless it’s a list of what I might be able to see in the next couple of years! The ‘Kino Insider’ has posted a huge list of Studio Canal titles that Kino Lorber plans to put out on Blu-Ray; some are already announced. Here’s my shortened list of the ones that immediately interest me (the important ones, of course). This should take us to 2022 … :

Accident – 1967 – Joseph Losey
Alphaville – 1965 – Jean-Luc Godard
And Hope To Die – 1972 – René Clément
The Bedroom Window – 1987 – Curtis Hanson
Billy Liar – 1963 – John Schlesinger
Bitter Moon – 1992 – Roman Polanski
Blackmail (Both Versions) – 1929 – Alfred Hitchcock
Bob Le Flambeur – 1956 – Jean-Pierre Melville
Brighton Rock – 1948 – John Boulting
Britannia Hospital – 1982 – Lindsay Anderson
Buffet Froid – 1980 – Bertrand Blier
Camille Claudel – 1988 – Bruno Nuytten
The Captive Heart – 1947 – Basil Dearden
Champagne – 1928 – Alfred Hitchcock
The Criminal – 1960 – Joseph Losey
Dead Of Night – 1945 – Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Dearden, Charles Crichton, Robert Hamer
The Deadly Trap (La Maison Sous Les Arbres) – 1971 – René Clément
Death In The Garden (La Mort En Ce Jardin) – 1956 – Luis Buñuel
Diabolically Yours (Diaboliquement Vôtre) – 1967 – Julien Duvivier
Le Doulos – 1962 – Jean-Pierre Melville
The Farmer’s Wife – 1928 – Alfred Hitchcock
The Hellbenders – 1967 – Sergio Corbucci
The Holly And The Ivy – 1952 – George More O’ferrall
An Inspector Calls – 1954 – Guy Hamilton
It Always Rains On Sunday – 1947 – Robert Hamer
The Lavender Hill Mob – 1951 – Charles Crichton
Leon Morin, Priest – 1961 – Jean-Pierre Melville
The Light At The Edge Of The World – 1971 – Kevin Billington
Link – 1986 – Richard Franklin
Lucky Luciano – 1974 – Francesco Rosi
The Man Between – 1953 – Carol Reed
The Man In The White Suit – 1951 – Alexander Mckendrick
A Man, A Woman And A Bank – 1979 – Noel Black
The Manxman – 1929 – Alfred Hitchcock
La Marseillaise (The Marseillaise) – 1938 – Jean Renoir
The Milky Way (La Voie Lactée) – 1969 – Luis Buñuel
Murder! – 1930 – Alfred Hitchcock
Number Seventeen – 1932 – Alfred Hitchcock
The Nun (La Religieuse) – 1965 – Jacques Rivette
Old Boyfriends – 1979 – Joan Tewkesbury
Outcast Of The Islands – 1952 – Carol Reed
Perfect Friday – 1971 – Peter Hall
Port Of Shadows (Le Quai Des Brumes) – 1938 – Marcel Carne
La Prisonnière (Woman In Chains) – 1968 – Henri-Georges Clouzot
The Professionale (Le Professionnel) – 1981 – George Lautner
Quai Des Orfèvres (Jenny Lamour) – 1947 – Henri-Georges Clouzot
The Queen Of Spades – 1949 – Thorold Dickinson
Rich And Strange – 1931 – Alfred Hitchcock
Rider On The Rain – 1970 – Rene Clement
The Ring – 1927 – Alfred Hitchcock
Robbery – 1967 – Peter Yates
Seven Days To Noon – 1950 – John Bolting
The Silent Partner – 1978 – Daryl Duke
The Skin Game – 1931 – Alfred Hitchcock
The Sound Barrier – 1952 – David Lean
A Sunday In The Country – 1984 – Bertrand Tavernier
The Third Lover (L’ Oeil Du Malin) – 1962 – Claude Chabrol
Touchez Pas Au Grisbi – 1954 – Jacques Becker
Un Coeur En Hiver – 1992 – Claude Sautet
Un Flic (Dirty Money) – 1972 – Jean-Pierre Melville
Woman Times Seven – 1967 – Vittorio De Sica

The 3-D Film Archive has announced its next 3-D release, The 3-D Nudie Cutie Collection. Adam and Six Eves is an hourlong peekaboo in the desert spectacle, involving binoculars. For a running commentary we’re given the thoughts of a donkey named Toby. The better-known The Bellboy and the Playgirls is another ‘now you see ’em’ spectacular that’s likely to involve key-hole peeping. It’s basically flat, but various 3-D sequences were added, filmed by a very young Francis Ford Coppola. And Love for Sale is an early ’50s short subject never seen in full polarized 3-D. The release date has been listed as an exacting, ‘Coming Soon!’

I had a fine time last night at the opening party for the 21st Noir City Hollywood Festival of Film Noir at the American Cinematheque. It continues through April 7. The theme is the 1950s, and the chosen features present a chronological progression through the decade. All the shows will be hosted by Eddie Muller and/or Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation and both gentlemen were there last night in fine form. The new 35mm restoration of Trapped looked fine (and is a very good movie), and Muller introduced the son of director Richard Fleischer for a post-screening talk. Margaritas were served in the Egyptian’s courtyard, and as you can see I had my picture taken with a policeman dressed in a vintage 1940s LAPD uniform.

But wait! there’s one more… David Cairns’ blog Shadowplay has offered up a link to a six-minute chunk of a restored High Treason, from 1929. It’s a klunky as all get-out, but it does have a futuristic (1940) massacre at a border crossing, and views of the London of the Future. It also offers a look see at High Treason’s idea of a car of the future, the one that David Cronenberg seemed to imitate for his movie Naked Lunch.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday March 26, 2019

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand 03/26/19

The Criterion Collection

Manhattan goes nuts as thousands of Beatles fans arrive to celebrate the arrival of the Mop Tops from Liverpool. Experts at wringing manic fun from crazy chaotic farces, Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s first film to hit the screen is still one of their best, due to its brilliant craft and a fresh-faced cast of relative newcomers that deliver old-fashioned enthusiasm and big-time laughs. Not since the Marx Brothers have hotel corridors and backstage shenanigans added up to so much mirth. The image of Beatlemania at full flower is dead-on accurate, and more nostalgic than a bag of Beatle wigs. It’s a cast of just-made-its and enthusiastic newcomers: Nancy Allen, Bobby Di Cicco, Wendie Jo Sperber, Eddie Deezen, Theresa Saldana, Marc McClure, Susan Kendall Newman, Dick Miller, Christian Juttner, Will Jordan and Vito Carenzo. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

The Quiller Memorandum 03/26/19

Twilight Time

Michael Anderson directs a classy slice of ’60s spy-dom. In West Berlin, George Segal’s Quiller struggles through a near- existential battle with neo-Nazi swine more soulless than his own cold-fish handlers. Harold Pinter supplies the circular dialogue, Alec Guinness the charming insincerity and Max von Sydow a devilish menace. Quiller is mesmerized by the seductive ambiguity of lovely Senta Berger. Does she love Quiller?  Or is love dead in this brave world of deceit and subterfuge?  Also featuring George Sanders, Robert Helpmann, Robert Flemyng and Peter Carsten; on Blu-ray from Twilight Time.

The Triple Echo 03/26/19

Powerhouse Indicator

This obscure 1972 thriller features excellent performances by Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed, and is the feature debut of the great director Michael Apted. The wartime homefront drama takes a surprisingly precocious and sensitive view of a bizarre incident that probably happened in real life: a reluctant soldier cross-dresses as a woman to escape his military service. Also starring Brian Deacon; PI’s interview extras this time around are especially entertaining. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.

CineSavant Column

Tuesday March 26, 2019


The Wayne Schmidt teaser last time was a lead-in to this announcement of a Blu-ray release of the 1980 Sci-fi meller The Day Time Ended, which Wayne co-wrote and co-produced for Charles Band in 1979. I’ve heard Wayne’s stories about the filming for thirty years now, without ever having seen a decent copy of the picture — the stories range from funny to painful. Wayne was down here doing a commentary with Paul Gentry last week, and I was able to race him around Los Angeles to enjoy a three-hour talk session with our old pal Steve Nielson.

The 1979 B&W photo above is courtesy of Paul Gentry; it jumps in size when opened in a new window. It shows (left to right) Wayne Schmidt, Lyle Conway, effects secretary Robin Ralston and David Allen regarding two of designer-sculptor Lyle Conway’s just-delivered stop motion figures. On the floor is Randall William Cook, who I believe is checking out and reacting to a certain non- G rated bit of anatomical detail Conway insisted on giving one of the extra-dimensional monsters. Wayne says that when filming, creative lighting was required to de-emphasize the, uh, erogenous monster zone in question.

A LOT of notable effects folk of the time contributed their talents to the show, many of them between bigger assignments in an effects community invigorated by Star Wars: David Allen, Randy Cook and Paul Gentry (dimensional animation), Jim Danforth (matte paintings), Greg Jein, Laine Liska (models), Peter Kuran (special animation effects), Tom St. Amand (stop-motion armatures), Dave Carson (effects art director), Steven Nielson (effects editor) and Joe Viscocil (pyrotechnics). Co-producer Steve Neill wrote the original story and initiated the project. When the Day Time Ended effects were in full swing, I visited Allen’s animation studio in an old theater building, which was on a block of Olive Avenue now obliterated by skyscrapers. I remember checking out the house miniature Greg had constructed, and seeing an animation setup for the ‘pixie on the bedpost’ scene. I also got one of several heated lectures from Dave Allen about know-nothing producers telling him what a good special effect was!

They’ve edited a new The Day Time Ended trailer to promote the Blu-ray release. As Mr. Gentry told me the other day, time has vindicated his and Wayne’s belief in stop-motion effects. Their argument is that everyone loves them: no feature with stop-motion monsters has ever been pushed aside and forgotten, not even the picture that brought a number of these people together, The Crater Lake Monster.

Here’s another graphic that needs to be enlarged (‘open in a new window’) to be read. Correspondent Rob Oliver (aka Robozol) have been trading emails since the beginning of DVD Savant, and back in 2011 he sent along a scan of a real collectable, the cover of the first issue of Frederick S. Clarke’s magazine Cinefantastique, when it was a mimeographed affair. I happened to catch the first regular issue #1 in 1970 and have a full set of the first 12 years or so, stopping around the time that Cinefantastique transformed into a publicity outlet for big movies like Conan. Before the Internet, information on and especially images from genre movies were not easy to come by.

There was nothing like Cinefantastique in the beginning, with reviews by Bill Warren and Tim Lucas. My favorite content were Steven Rubin’s great making-of articles on my favorite Sci-fi pictures. I remember that Clarke had some odd spelling quirks and an editorial bias that sometimes seemed immature, but no more than anybody else at the time. The magazine now reminds me of the limits of my own opinionizing on genre movies.

This page one must come from 1967: It’s all news about what’s in production. It announces Quatermass and the Pit before the American title change, and excitedly reports that Planet of the Apes is on its way. It’s fun to go back and look at an issue from 1973 or so, with ‘In Production’ articles that are packed with wishful-thinking titles that were never produced, plus working titles for pictures that did get made. And considering my own track record for typos, I really like the repeated name of the magazine at the bottom, misspelled, of course.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday March 23, 2019

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

The Body Snatcher 03/23/19

Scream Factory

This bona fide classic may be, as Greg Mank says, the best American horror picture of the 1940s. The teaming of Boris Karloff and Henry Daniell is sensational, as a grave-robbing cabman and a brilliant but unscrupulous surgeon in need of cadavers to teach anatomy. Producer Val Lewton gives the players career-best characterizations and dialogue, and director Robert Wise adds tension and chills. Bela Lugosi is in for a memorable supporting part. Icing on the chiller cake is a new 4K scan from the original negative — we can forget the dull and dark prints seen in the past. They showed this in high school as an educational film — we learned not to strangle people, but to ‘Burke’ them!  With Russell Wade and Edith Atwater. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.