The Lady is My Wife 03/04/23
Wow, a ‘new’ Sam Peckinpah western! While we await the rumored Blu-ray of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid to surface (or was Alex Cox misinformed?), correspondent Darren Gross has come across a watchable web encoding of a Peckinpah TV drama that seems to be more or less ‘lost.’ Good star performances (Jean Simmons, Bradford Dillman, Alex Cord) and intense characterizations prove once again that Peckinpah could deliver superior dramatics. The home video companies should do some investigating — there’s a market out there for this one. Not on Home Video.
Thrillers from the Vault: 8 Films (part 2) 03/04/23
Charlie Largent finishes off his two-part review of the classic horror set — his second installment gives us a strange Karloff, an odd Lugosi (with a werewolf), a Karloff + Peter Lorre party, and a Sci-fi classic that doesn’t fit yet is welcome anyway. Take your pick of electric shocks, stakes through the heart and atomic radiation! The final four titles are The Devil Commands, The Return of the Vampire, The Boogie Man Will Get You and Arch Oboler’s FIVE. On Blu-ray from Mill Creek.
The wise and merciful Joe Dante circulated a terrific article this week, that cuts through the PC flak about David O. Selznick’s Gone With the Wind. Written by David Vincent Kimel for The Ankler, it’s Gone With the Wind: The Explosive Lost Scenes.
True, the show that for fifty years was considered the pinnacle of Hollywood filmmaking now has a lot to answer for. Instead of uninformed rhetoric, Kimel’s article presents documentation covering GWTW scenes and dialogue dropped both before and after filming. The actual memos are startling in their candor — some are between producer Selznick and his creative consultant Val Lewton. The text reveals ‘A never-revealed war over slavery’s depiction,’ and ‘Rhett Butler’s suicidal intentions.’
Advisor and sage Gary Teetzel sent along an item about a Kickstarter campaign for a monster-related graphic novel. It’s at the link Frankenstein and Dracula Double Bill by Legendary Comics. Gary explains in his own words:
A little while back Legendary Comics did a graphic novel adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, faithful to the book and using Bela Lugosi’s likeness, duly licensed. The same folks have now apparently done a faithful adaptation of Frankenstein using Boris Karloff’s inimitable likeness.
The interesting thing about the Frankenstein comic adaptation is that Universal’s classic 1931 movie is, of course, very different from Shelly’s novel, including the monster’s appearance. So artist Kerry Gammill had to draw Karloff’s face in what was essentially a new ‘monster makeup’ closer to Mary Shelley’s description.
Their Kickstarter page features an elaborate 80-second promotional video featuring sample artwork.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Thrillers from the Vault: 8 Films (part 1) 02/28/23
Charlie Largent tackles the first half of Mill Creek’s 8 title ‘Thriller’ set, which deals out 6 Karloffs, one Lugosi and a wild card Sci-Fi classic from the well-tended Columbia Pictures vault. For this ‘part 1’ review, we get the lowdown on four Karloff madman pix — a study in character diversification if there ever was one. Boris plays twins in The Black Room, and mad doctors that those unenlightened authorities keep trying to execute in The Man They Could Not Hang, The Man with Nine Lives, and Before I Hang. I hear the set has some good extras, too. Creeping your way on Blu-ray from Mill Creek.
The Mountain 02/28/23
The French Alps in VistaVision and Technicolor really sell this inspirational thriller. Spencer Tracy stars is the utterly ethical mountaineer, and young Robert Wagner his venal, verminous, just plain no damn good younger brother. Make that MUCH younger. Edward Dmytryk directs for big dimensions and strong emotions, and Paramount’s remaster makes the special effects of the mountain climb look good again. It’s a morality tale pitched at grade school level, and one of Tracy’s better late-career pictures. With Anna Kashfi as a plane crash victim deserving of rescue, and William Demarest as a French priest with a Preston Sturges accent. On Region Free Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
Dick Dinman of DVD Classics Corner On The Air has a new podcast out, promoting and celebrating two post-MGM films by star Esther Williams. To help discuss them, he’s rounded up publicist and disc commentator David Del Valle.
The movies in question are The Unguarded Moment and Raw Wind in Eden; in one Esther is menaced by John Saxon and in the other romanced by Jeff Chandler. Both original posters depicted on the disc jackets might suggest swimming scenes — in one she’s in a suit and in the other the background is green-blue, as if she’s kissing George Nader underwater. Dinman’s promo text assures us that ‘controversial aspects of Williams’ life and career’ are on the agenda.
And Paramount Home Entertainment says it’s bringing out a 4K Ultra HD disc of Mimi Leder’s 1998 ‘astral collision’ science fiction epic Deep Impact, starring Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Leelee Sobieski, Blair Underwood, Maximilian Schell, and Morgan Freeman.
This is doubly good news because I’ve never reviewed the picture and always wanted to — to date it’s the most successful adaptation/permutation/re-imagining of the classic When Worlds Collide. I’ve only seen the competing 1998 picture Armageddon once, which was enough for me. Writers Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin successfully orchestrate the human aspect of the story to balance out the pyrotechnics. The first-generation CGI effects are mostly good too — the inundation of Manhattan shows the World Trade Center to be in harm’s way.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Green Room 02/25/23
Part of a 4-title François Truffaut Collection. Writer-director Truffaut goes deep and morbid adapting a Henry James story about a man who chooses to ‘devote himself to his beloved dead.’ He builds an altar-shrine to a departed bride and comrades that didn’t survive the Great War. A sympathetic woman considers aiding him, but his obsession keeps choosing life-negating directions. It’s a weird, morbid but highly understandable tale from the edge of the fantastic. The cinematographer is Néstor Almendros. The other titles in the collection are The Wild Child, Small Change and The Man Who Loved Women. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Sci-fi from the Vault: 4 Films 02/25/23
Mill Creek’s latest disc collection gathers three Columbia Sci-fi faves and throws in a Blu-ray debut for a fourth. It’s a good selection: two giant Ray Harryhausen monsters, one marginal bad-taste Sam Katzman zombie epic, and a quirky Lou Costello comedy with Dorothy Provine doing a wholesome take on Allison Hayes’ biggest role. Do these encodings measure up to fancier editions? We give them a spin: Creature with the Atom Brain, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth and The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock. On Blu-ray from Mill Creek.
There was a regular announcement furor two days ago, with some fancy / pricey collectors’ boxes trumpeted online. I’ll just dig through the goodies without delay.
But first some news from Left Field: attention all Crawling Eyes! Those in the know will be pleased to hear that Anolis Entertainment of Heibach Germany says that a Blu-ray of the uncut The Trollenberg Terror is in the works. It’s of course the vintage alien invasion thriller from 1958, known here as The Crawling Eye. It stars Forrest Tucker and an excellent Janet Munro.
It’s under the German title Die Teufelswolke von Monteville or ‘The Devil’s Cloud of Monteville.’ Should we assume that ‘Monteville’ is the Alpine burg down the hill from the Trollenberg? No answers here, but we do have the ancient ‘DVD Savant’ The Crawling Eye DVD review, from 22 years ago.
The other announcements are for discs with hard release dates. Viavision [Imprint] has announced its offerings for May, a list with a couple of surprises: the old Republic The Catman of Paris, Jules Dassin’s Up Tight, the John Ford / John Wayne classic The Long Voyage Home, Ann-Margret in Bus Riley’s Back in Town, Robert Mulligan’s The Spiral Road . . .
. . . and the home video debut of the long-missing 1949 Paramount version of The Great Gatsby starring Alan Ladd and Betty Field. It was never lost, just tied up in a nagging rights issue or two. Imprint’s full info is Here.
Then, Severin Films continues to ride its wave of innovative video restorations with an announcement of a deluxe horror boxed set. Danza Macabra Vol. One: The Italian Gothic Collection boasts four vintage corridor-wandering creepshows that are definitely off the beaten path: The Monster of the Opera (Il mostro dell’opera, 1964), The Seventh Grave (La settima tomba, 1965), Scream of the Demon Lover (Il castello dalle porte di fuoco, 1971) and Lady Frankenstein (La figlia di Frankenstein, 1971).
They’re said to be all newly scanned, and augmented with hours of extras. As usual, Severin’s box art is arresting in itself.
The capper is from Powerhouse Indicator, which checks in with two boxed sets primed for May. The grabber is Mexico Macabre: Four Sinister Tales from the Alameda Films Vault, 1959-1963. Making their Blu-ray premieres will be Black Pit of Dr. M (Misterios de ultratumba), The Witch’s Mirror (El espejo de la bruja), The Brainiac (El Barón del terror) and The Curse of the Crying Woman (La maldición de la Llorona).
Besides PI’s usual extras abundantes, a 100-page book will be included. I think we’ll be getting a lot more information than what we saw in Forry Ackerman’s old ‘Mexi-monsters’ articles.
Powerhouse Indicator’s second boxed set is more arcane — From Hollywood to Heaven: The Lost and Saved Films of the Ormond Family. I can’t say it any more clearly than PI’s own copy: “charts the extraordinary filmmaking careers of June, Ron and Tim Ormond, a Nashville mother-father-son trio that started out making wild drive-in movies — including Lash LaRue westerns and the stripper-gore-musical outrage The Exotic Ones — but who, after a near-death experience, turned their backs on secular show business to produce a series of shocking, surreal religious pictures.”
It’s accompanied by a hundred-page book, too . . . whatever it is, it sounds wild.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The House that Screamed 02/21/23
La residencia. What makes Franco-era Spanish horror so horrible? The unnecessary cruelty and emphatic nastiness, a combination that’s led to more than a few essays about political repression. Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s shocker puts psycho headmistress Lilli Palmer in charge of a twisted girl’s boarding school. Get ready for ice-cold Women-In-Prison intrigues, with macabre carnage for a chaser. Arrow Video’s pristine new encoding is already being applauded — it far surpasses edited, color-challenged older releases, revealing a beautifully-produced thriller with fine lighting cinematography. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
Romeo and Juliet ’68 02/21/23
Franco Zeffirelli apprenticed to Luchino Visconti, stage directed operas and directed several movie hits, the biggest of which was this exuberant, attractive Shakespeare adaptation, filmed like an opera with sumptuous sets and sunswept Italian locations. The novelty for 1968 was casting the Bard’s star-crossed young lovers with actual teenagers. Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting are attractive kids directed to give spirited performances; the critics may have had mixed reactions but the public received the film well. If memory serves, Criterion’s new remaster looks better than Paramount’s original release prints. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Ah, but gentlemanly David J. Schow is the ideal source for link items to purloin … last weekend he hit us with a real winner, an established website of core interest. Written in 2007, The Reader’s Guide to The Day of the Triffids offers a concise overview of Mondo Triffidus. The book was our introduction to post-apocalyptic fiction.
Other pages offer flashier artwork and catalog the myriad pocketbook editions of John Wyndham’s triffidic terrific sci-fi thriller, but the unnamed author of this Guide clearly lays out basic info about the book and its various film and TV versions — the facts, just the facts.
The Guide’s big surprise is the news that the Day of the Triffids I’ve been re-reading for 60 years is an American abridged version! The original is 11,000 words longer. Now I must find a complete original copy. The Guide shows us the covers of copies known to be full length.
We of course still await a Blu-ray (why not a 4K?) of the famed 1962 film version. It has been completely restored, but is still withheld from home media distribution. Of course, the book really ought to be in print too, in hardcover, original length. In 1972, the first book I ever ordered from a bookstore was John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos. It had to be sent from England. It was a treasure that only lasted a year — a college roommate swiped it, along with my full collection of National Lampoon magazines. The swine.
Although it’s non-rare and easily accessed, I appreciate this link from associate advisor Gary Teetzel: a CBS Sunday Morning video item about some composers and performers gathering to do a special recording, as A Tribute to Composer Henry Mancini. We see and hear Arturo Sandoval, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and John Williams. Back in 1958, as ‘Johnny Williams,’ he played piano on the original recording of Mancini’s Peter Gunn Theme.
The news host is Tracy Smith. She interviews Mancini’s daughters and gets her facts straight about the composer’s career — which bloomed as soon as Universal laid him off. As for the prowling, insistent Peter Gunn Theme, editor Steve Nielson long ago admitted that it remains the greatest modern action hero theme ever — even the James Bond Theme is tame by comparison. It’s too bad that Blake Edwards’ 1967 feature film Gunn isn’t that great — its extra-hyped orchestrations of the original Mancini themes are great.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Carrie (1952) 02/18/23
This expensive production was dismissed as a flop, and literary critics scorned it for diluting the famed novel by Theodore Dreiser. But it plays well now: William Wyler gives star Laurence Olivier what may be his best film acting role ever. Jennifer Jones’ title part suffers from script changes that censor and sentimentalize Dreiser’s intentions, but the film remains a shattering tragedy. Eddie Albert co-stars in one of his first dramatic roles; this encoding includes a scene dropped from the original release. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
If I Were King 02/18/23
It’s a nearly perfect tale of identity swaps and royal intrigues: Ronald Colman’s voice is velvet smooth as poet-rogue François Villon, who uses his wits when dealing with Basil Rathbone’s (very strangely played) Louis XI. The real charm comes with lady-in-waiting Frances Dee (swoon) and the peasant firebrand Ellen Drew (double swoon). And don’t forget the sophisticated, semi-satirical screenplay by Preston Sturges. This refreshing discovery comes with a commentary by Julie Kirgo. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Two links purloined from Joe Dante today. This first is an animation comparison piece just long enough to make its point — it’s called Disney déjà view.
It’s a Twitter post by Marshall Julius, about recycled animation in Disney animated features. Much like a studio accessing stock shots to cut costs, conventional cel animators weren’t above re-referencing older animation work to shorten the long development process.
The minute or so of comparisons jumps between Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Book and a couple of others. At first glance one thinks, ‘how can this save time if the actual ink and paint animation is all new?’ but that’s not how it works.
I don’t think I would notice any of this borrowing on my own. The only re-used Disney animation I’ve spied is in Winnie the Pooh — as I remember, they reworked imagery from the Pink Elephants on Parade sequence in Dumbo.
Trailers from Hell chieftain Joe Dante also steers us to a podcast site that honors composer Jerry Goldsmith, The Goldsmith Odyssey. The subject for this new (February 14) production is Dante’s The ‘Burbs, and the lengthy track is loaded with rich soundtrack cues, from multiple Goldsmith scores. If you wish to turn yourself into a devotee of great film music, this is a good place to start.
Guests for the podcast are professionals involved with the record album, editor Marshall Harvey, recording engineer Bruce Botnick, album co-producer Neil S. Bulk, and album art designer Dan Goldwasser. Joe Dante is there as well. Some of the story of the making of The ‘Burbs is told as well.
Their main index has a lot of cool Goldsmith soundtracks under discussion — but I didn’t see Our Man Flint among them. The Twilight Time disc for that movie has an isolated music score — just look what it’s selling for on Amazon.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson