The Awful Truth 04/07/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

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.
4/07/18

Don’t Bother to Knock 04/07/18

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

“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.
4/07/18

Danger Signal 04/07/18

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

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.
4/07/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday April 7, 2018

Hello!

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

Tuesday April 3, 2018


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CineSavant’s new reviews today are:

The Age of Innocence 04/03/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

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.
4/03/18

Three Video Nasties 04/03/18

88 Films Slasher Classics Collection (UK)
Region B Blu-ray

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.
4/03/18

Red Planet Mars 04/03/18

Not on Home Video

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.
4/03/18

Savant Column

Tuesday April 3, 2018

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

Saturday March 31, 2018


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CineSavant’s new reviews today are:

While the City Sleeps & Beyond a Reasonable Doubt 03/31/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

The love for Fritz Lang doesn’t quit!  As Lang’s biographers point out, his American films consistently focus on moral and psychological questions in crime. Lang saw murder as more than a dramatic tool as he probed for weaknesses in the legal system. His final American pictures — two separate disc releases — make excellent use of good actors. Dana Andrews stars in both, backed by freelancing name stars: Joan Fontaine, Rhonda Fleming, Ida Lupino, George Sanders, Howard Duff, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Sally Forrest. Separate Blu-ray releases from The Warner Archive Collection.
3/31/18

Joan of Arc (1948) 03/31/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Does every great actress see Joan of Arc as the ultimate serious role? Ingrid Bergman ran into serious career trouble while this picture was still in release. Its cast and credits are packed with star talent — is it a misunderstood classic with a great central performance? Ms. Bergman was so enamored with the character that she played it twice. Co-starring José Ferrer, Francis L. Sullivan, J. Carrol Naish, Ward Bond and Shepperd Strudwick. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
3/31/18

Hotel Berlin 03/31/18

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

“Grand Hotel. Nazis come. Nazis go. Nothing ever happens.” That’s a paraphrase from 1932’s Grand Hotel, indicating that the hallowed halls once occupied by Greta Garbo are now overrun with Warner Bros. contract players. As defeat looms, German officers, crooks, fugitives and ordinary citizens fumble for a way to survive. Writer and fervent anti-fascist Alvah Bessie almost didn’t — he would later be politically scourged as a member of The Hollywood Ten. Get set for a soap opera with swastikas. Starring Faye Emerson, Andrea King, Helmut Dantine, Raymond Massey, George Coulouris and Peter Lorre. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
3/31/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday March 31, 2018

Hello!

A fun conversation about Invaders from Mars had an educational effect this week, thanks to input from some helpful experts whose expertise goes beyond the ‘film historian’ norm . . . I’d like to coin the phrase Film Archeologist. It started with a question from Gary Teetzel, whose post-production knowledge surpassed my own a number of years ago. Gary forwarded a Variety article he dug up from the deep past, when yours truly was a widdle infink just ten months of age:

Filmed in an improved Eastmancolor Kodak film stock? Gary asked if Variety’s article was a mistake — most dedicated fans know that Invaders is billed as being in ‘SuperCinecolor’, the full-color successor to the older cut-price 2-color Cinecolor process. Samples of the intriguing / weird original Cinecolor process can be seen in my review for Kino’s disc of the Randolph Scott movie Canadian Pacific). Invaders from Mars doesn’t look anything like that.

So what gives?

Invaders from Mars has always posed mysteries for us, from the lack of prime-quality video, to its variant versions, and to a lot of misinformation about how it was filmed and in what process. Back in 1970 the Australian-born critic John Baxter did his best to be accurate in his book Science Fiction in the Cinema. This was the first study dedicated to the genre that came into my hands as a UCLA freshman. If Mr. Baxter could see an older film at all back then, the only print accessible to him might be a censored English version. It’s understandable that he could receive bad info telling him that the Venusian monster in 20 Million Miles to Earth was a dinosaur, and that the Gill Man interrupts a Rock ‘n’ Roll performance in Revenge of the Creature. Baxter’s book calmly stated that Invaders was originally filmed in 3-D, a goof that’s been repeated and believed to this day. That error makes perfect sense, as the depth effect in William Cameron Menzies’s images is so pronounced, the flat movie has a better 3-D feel than most actual 3-D pix. (Note: in his book Keep Watching the Skies Bill Warren states without documentation that Invaders was planned to be in 3D.)

I thought I knew the answer to Gary’s question, but since I’m always wrong, I wrote film restoration specialist Bob Furmanek to get a real answer. Bob in turn pulled his cohort (and fellow 3-D Film Archive founder) Jack Theakston in on the case, for the reason that Jack was ‘the Cinecolor expert.’

Gary found an answer at Wikipedia, which as we know scores poorly on Tom Weaver’s scale of research reliability. But Mr. Theakston came back very quickly with a more authoritative response. I’ve added some notes to Jack’s remarks:

All SuperCineColor shows derive from monopack stocks. (i.e., it was a process for making cheaper prints from films shot on Ansco/Agfa, DuPont, Kodachrome, or Eastmancolor.) That’s essentially why the process sat shelved for several years after they created it in the early ’40s. (Kodak didn’t get Eastmancolor rolled out until 1950, providing the first real competition for the much more expensive, cumbersome Technicolor process.)

Invaders from Mars was filmed on Eastman’s 5247 stock with 35mm Mitchell BNCs. To produce SuperCinecolor prints, the Eastman negative was then A/B rolled into separations and printed using magenta-red and blue-cyan toning on the same duplitized stock that had been used for 2-color Cinecolor. The third yellow layer was dye-transferred on the blue side.

(Dye-transferred! Amazing! The projection prints had two color emulsions, one on each side of the acetate base, and then a Technicolor-like dye transfer pass added to one side to add the yellow information. This accounts for the sometimes weird color values that make Invaders look so amazing. It also doesn’t sound like it could be a cheap process at all. No wonder that Theakston reports it didn’t last very long:)

Cinecolor/Color Corporation of America kept this up until 1954 when they sold out to the company Houston Fearless, which kept the lab going as an Ansco processor. — Jack Theakston.

Bob Furmanek followed up Jack’s note with interesting curatorship information on the much-admired early Sci-fi picture. We’d previously been told that Invaders’ original elements were lost somewhere in England, a story that we’re happy to hear Bob contradict:

By the way, the Original Camera Negative survives and is in great shape with most of its color. The owner has the Red/Blue/Yellow separations as well. The film can be fully restored and look stunning. Check out these frames taken directly from a 35mm SuperCinecolor print. — Bob Furmanek

I agree — the actual frames look rich and dark, as I remember the one 35mm screening restorationist Michael Hyatt gave about ten years ago. Let’s hope that we see some fantastic UltraHD transfer of Invaders from Mars in our lifetime! Come on, deep-pocket disc companies — do right by “the Sci-fi classic that, at least in Savant’s opinion, should be showing in the Louvre.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday March 27, 2018


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CineSavant’s new reviews today are:

An Actor’s Revenge 03/27/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

It’s Yukinojo henge, something completely different in Japanese drama. When Yukitaro isn’t studying for his next part, the cross-dressing Kabuki star is hunting down the thugs responsible for the death of his parents. Charlie Largent takes a look at the new HD disc of Kon Ichikawa’s theatrical extravaganza, one of the most beautiful color films in the history of Japanese cinema. Starring Kazuo Hasegawa, Fujiko Yamamoto, Ayako Wakao and Shintaro Katsu. Filmed in DaieiScope; on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
3/27/18

The New Centurions 03/27/18

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Joseph Wambaugh’s breakthrough novel went through a blender to fit George C. Scott into the narrative, but it’s still a great cop show with terrific work from Stacy Keach and Scott Wilson, not to mention Jane Alexander and Rosalind Cash. The pro-cop agenda has a definite tone of personal experience, and the grim finish is anything but feel-good puffery. With Erik Estrada, Clifton James, James Sikking, Isabel Sanford, William Atherton, Ed Lauter, Dolph Sweet and Kitten Natividad. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
3/27/18

The Black Scorpion 03/27/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Wow! Prime stop-motion animation from the heyday of monstrous science fiction, in a new restoration that puts a brilliant shine on those creepy crawly critters. Richard Denning fights giant arachnids while Mara (swoon) Corday frets and wrings her hands, waiting for the next kissing scene. The new scan clears up a lot of flaws, and gives us a much better look at the Lost Art of stop-motion magic. With Carlos Rivas. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
3/27/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday March 27, 2018

Hello!  Gary Teetzel has relayed good news from WonderCon — upcoming Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray titles will include Jack Cardiff’s Dark of the Sun with Rod Taylor and Jim Brown, and Sergio Leone’s The Colossus of Rhodes with Rory Calhoun and Lea Massari. As Dr. Lector reminds us, all good things come to those who wait.

And Twilight Time will be on a romance kick in June, with what to some might be unfamiliar titles. My Sister Eileen (1955) is an underrated musical adaptation of the ’40s comedy, with Jack Lemmon, Janet Leigh, Betty Garrett and Bob Fosse. My Gal Sal (1942) is a musical biography with Rita Hayworth and Victor Mature. Let’s Make Love (1960) is the noted Marilyn Monroe picture, with Yves Montand. The curious title for me is Take a Girl Like You, an English picture from 1969 starring Hayley Mills, Oliver Reed and Noel Harrison, with various Hammer personnel like Imogen Hassall and Pippa Steel. I had, um, never heard of it, but the more reading I do, the more interesting it sounds.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday March 24, 2018


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CineSavant’s new reviews today are: