The first post-nuclear science fiction thriller is a grim & gripping end-of-the-world tale with rough content for its year. Arch Oboler’s best movie watches as five motley survivors discover that their pre-apocalyptic prejudices have survived as well, precipitating a savage struggle in the shadow of doom. The filming was an artistic collaboration with established film theorists and their film-student disciples — call it ‘lyrical neorealism.’ Starring William Phipps, Susan Douglas, James Anderson and Charles Lampkin. A new transfer and new extras accompany the atomic classic’s world debut on All-Region Blu-ray, from Viavision [Imprint].
Arizona Colt 03/23/21
CineSavant reviewer Lee Broughton rides in with a review of Michele Lupo’s attractive Spaghetti Western, in which every gunslinger is ruthless and greedy, even star Giuliano Gemma’s anti-heroic bounty killer of the title. Gemma goes nose to nose with Fernando Sancho’s villainous Mexican bandit. It’s nearly two hours of gunsmoke and sadism, and the womenfolk take their share of the punishment as well. Collateral damage comes in the shapely form of fan favorite Rosalba Neri while Arizona’s highly reluctant love interest is played by none other than Corinne Marchand, of Agnès Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7. Also with Roberto Camardiel, Nello Pazzafini, Jose Manuel Martin and Andrea Bosic, on All-Region Blu-ray from Wild East.
↑ Congratulations to CineSavant reviewer Lee Broughton, whose review today of Arizona Colt is also his debut as a Blu-ray commentator. I must have connected with Lee more than twenty years ago, as his first DVD Savant Article went public sometime in 2000. With his academic background Lee also was one of several key advisors and experts that came to my aid when I organized extras for MGM’s first DVD special editions of the Sergio Leone movies. He’s been reviewing discs for DVD Savant and CineSavant ever since. One of his specialties is the Italo Spaghetti Western; the pandemic has inspired us to hold regular Zoom confabs in a ‘Leone group’ consisting of Lee and other long-time disc collecting friends Bill Shaffer and Ulrich Bruckner. It’s not easy finding a convenient time frame for participants spread out from California to Austria.
I’ve been collaborating during the pandemic with experts that I think ought to be recording commentaries — Matt Rovner, Marc Edward Heuck. Lee Broughton pitched his track for Arizona Colt completely on his own; I’ve just heard about it now. I’m suggesting that disc producers looking for a fresh and qualified spokesperson take a listen.
Powerhouse Indicator has figured out a way to assemble yet another Hammer Region B Blu-ray collection: Hammer Volume Six Night Shadows contains an unexpected mix of titles. Shadow of the Cat is a great opportunity to see Barbara Shelley; the extras will surely clear up its status as a stealth Hammer release (the company isn’t in the credits). Captain Clegg is a winner with Peter Cushing, Oliver Reed and Yvonne Romain; it was released here as Night Creatures. The Jimmy Sangster – Freddie Francis Nightmare is one of Hammers psychological shockers; I’ve reviewed it twice and can barely remember it, I’m afraid. Terence Fisher’s The Phantom of the Opera is considered a Hammer core classic.
Since these pictures were all released here on Universal-licensed discs, some fans are predicting that Indicator will follow up its Columbia Hammers with the full batch of Universal co-productions… which I suppose is possible. The online chatter on this subject can be pretty extravagant. I agree that it would be great to see all of the Quatermass films gathered in a fancy boxed set, but the rights are held by very separate entities. Anything’s possible … but not really.
You could bet that I wouldn’t pass this up — writer Craig Lindsey at Guardian has come out with a defense of a movie I’ve not known how to defend for 42 years. Hear Me Out: Why 1941 Isn’t a Bad Movie is as defensive as a title can get. I’m not sure the argument is fully convincing but it at least asserts that the picture is amusing, that it entertains people. Spielberg’s comedy epic is certainly spectacular, and I’m proud of that part. Mr. Lindsey, any questions you might have about the making of the show in which General Stilwell shouted “What a mess! What a goddamn mess!”, ask me … I might know.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Hollywood learns to imbed a social message into a crime thriller. John Paxton’s adaptation of Richard Brooks’ neat murder tale is solid noir because it sheds light on the malaise of returning soldiers. No parades and confetti here: Robert Ryan is the hateful bigot but the other characters live amid equally shadowy values — laid-back Robert Mitchum, unhappy bar girl Gloria Grahame. Edward Dmytryk puts a polish on a fine screenplay with a fresh viewpoint, that avoids thriller clichés. With Robert Young, Paul Kelly, Sam Levene, Jacqueline White, Steve Brodie & William Phipps; on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Nosferatu in Venice 03/20/21
This obscure Italian horror has Christopher Plummer, Donald Pleasance and atmospheric locations — and a making-of story that Severin tells in full unexpurgated detail. Never released in an English- language territory, Augusto Caminito’s brooding shocker had four directors. Its commercial chances were derailed by its deranged star, Klaus Kinski, who poses well, molests his female co-stars and sabotages what was supposed to be a high-end horror attraction. Maybe Werner Herzog could wring what he wanted out of Klaus, but the manic prima donna gave everyone else the shaft. On Blu-rayfrom Severin Films.
I’d forgot this existed… way back in prehistoric times Tom Terrific was a cartoon feature on the Captain Kangaroo TV show. I was told I watched it religiously, apparently before I formed permanent memories of what I did and didn’t watch on TV. But around 1956, on Edwards Air Force Base, our primitive B&W TV received only two or three Los Angeles stations. I was up early to see the station ID test pattern, the one with the Indian. Then came the Today Show (I think), and then definitely some channel that showed silent Farmer Alfalfa cartoons.
The B&W Tom Terrific must have been designed to be watchable with the worst reception possible. If not exactly funny it was certainly cheerful. Seeing it again was a big surprise: it’s so primitive yet I think the animation is pretty good and creative, and I love the voice of Tom’s dog, ‘Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog.’ Manfred isn’t malformed, it’s just an ‘in between’ frame, and he’s in the process of turning around.
Advisor, authority and pull-Glenn-back-from-the-edge-of-subjournalistic-disaster friend Gary Teetzel sends along a short Rapid TV News blurb about a film library changing hands. The headline reads Cinedigm acquires Films Around The World content library. The short article lacks details but says that ‘150 Feature Films’ are involved.
At first this might not appear all that significant to us disc collectors — most of film history is held by companies and corporations that distribute very few of them, fewer all the time. This news raises interest because one of the companies owned by Cinedigm is The Film Detective, a Blu-ray boutique that CineSavant watches very carefully … just last Tuesday I touted some of their future releases.
The Film Detective has confirmed on Facebook that, yes, there will be Blu-ray releases coming from the deal.
Among the horror & sci-fi titles that Films Around The World distributed are: The Brute Man, The Flying Serpent, Strangler of the Swamp, The Devil Bat’s Daughter, Two Lost Worlds, Night Caller from Outer Space and several Todd Slaughter features. They used to distribute 1948’s Unknown Island, but according to Tom Weaver, Wade Williams bought it from them.
Many of the titles appear to be from PRC (Producer’s Releasing Corporation); Films Around The World also distributed several Edgar G. Ulmer movies and a couple of early noirs from Anthony Mann — Railroaded, Strange Impersonation. Image Entertainment put out many FATW titles on DVD, but the quality ranged from decent to dupey public domain stuff. Do better quality film sources still exist?
Rumors from a long time ago, held that the early inheritors of the PRC library may have made dupe negatives for television distribution, and then junked the 35mm vault materials. It would be nice to be corrected on this point, and discover that some of these features could be fully restored. In the case of Edgar G. Ulmer, good news would be especially welcome, for Arrianne Ulmer Cipes’ sake!
We’ve also always wanted to see a good version of Frank Wisbar’s Strangler of the Swamp, even if that horror film didn’t suddenly transform into a timeless classic. ↑ I always thought that The Cannon’s Group’s film Shy People by Andrei Konchalovsky played as if it were inspired by the Wisbar film (and its German original).
Could there exist better printing elements for Cinedigm and The Film Detective can access? Crazier things have happened, and I’ll be eager to find out. We all need more reasons to stay alive.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Battle Hymn 03/16/21
This dubious mix of war combat and faith-based inspiration is as well directed as any of Douglas Sirk’s films, even if literally every scene seems to be saying the wrong thing. Combat pilot Col. Dean Hess helped found and publicize a major orphanage in South Korea, but as personified by a pious Rock Hudson, his story comes off as a public relations gambit. A fine cast empowers the grandstanding bid for sainthood, where ‘Killer Hess’ channels his guilt into good works. The aerial footage is outstanding — Sirk really loved his airplanes. With Dan Duryea, Anna Kashfi, James Edwards, Martha Hyer, Philip Ahn, James Hong, Don DeFore and Jock Mahoney; on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Twentieth Century 03/16/21
Often identified as the first screwball comedy, Howard Hawks’ film is too funny and too original to be pigeonholed. Ace writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s wickedly witty dialogue zingers bulldoze us with a constant flow of deadpan one-liners and arcane classical allusions. Viewers who relate John Barrymore only to Grand Hotel will be surprised to see his magnificently overplayed theatrical ham. As his emotionally spoiled star performer, the beautiful Carole Lombard is almost as manic. Immortal dialogue: “I close the iron door on you.” Co-starring Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Charles Lane & Etienne Girardot. Reviewed by Charlie Largent, on Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Yes, just for novelty’s sake, we have real disc announcements here at CineSavant today, some less than a hundred hours old!
This must be the day for The Film Detective. The disc boutique has been announcing and leaking upcoming disc news from the Wade Williams Collection, with the online film board help of Tom Weaver. We got a rather good Blu-ray of Giant from the Unknown back in December-January, with the hope that the other three Richard Cunha horror/sci-fi thrillers would follow.
But first, the word is that on June 20 TFD will release a Blu-of the 1951 Monogram thriller Flight To Mars, produced by Walter Mirisch and starring Cameron Mitchell and Marguerite Chapman. It’s the first of an unofficial trilogy, with Allied Artists’ later World Without End and Queen of Outer Space. All three share shots of the same swept-wing space rocket miniature.
The announcement touts a new 4K restoration made from the original 35mm Cinecolor separation negatives. That bodes well — as the show is from 1951 this ought to be the SuperCinecolor camera system and special process, which was also used on Invaders from Mars. Wade Williams’ DVD release looked pretty beat-up so we’re hoping for visual brilliance. The special edition will have video extras by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.
According to Tom Weaver, Williams / Film Detective Frankenstein’s Daughter Blu-ray has encountered Covid-related delays. It is now expected to be released around Halloween. Other Wade Williams titles are “already in the pipeline.”
Meanwhile, I’ve received direct word that more Film Detective fantastic disc-ery is on the horizon, coming even earlier.
The epic sword-and-sandal adventure Hercules and the Captive Women is due to arrive on Blu-Ray & DVD from the company on April 13th, ‘with a stunning 4K restoration and exclusive special features.’ The original Italo title of the 1961 Vittorio Cottafavi movie is Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide, (Hercules Conquers Atlantis) and it stars Reg Park (Hercules in the Haunted World) and Fay Spain (Teenage Doll). In addition to extras from Daniel Griffith and Ballyhoo, this one will have a commentary by Tim Lucas.
Not everything is perfect — the disc will contain the American version released in 1963, presumably dubbed and with no Italian-language audio track. The original was seven minutes longer. Filmed in Super Technirama 70, in Italy the show was released in 70mm. I’m hoping for an early review on this one.
And finally, this Japanese NHK TV show might have turned up on your Facebook feed as well: It’s 3/11 – The Tsunami: The First 3 Days. Edited from on-the-spot NHK video coverage, the nicely produced docu tells the story from a generalized public-concern POV. It keeps saying that disturbing video is coming up, but they avoid the more violent video that I watched firsthand in 2011, where we witnessed what looked like people being swallowed up by the onrushing waves — on foot, in cars.
What we see is plenty disturbing anyway, all of it you-are-there reaction on the ground before, during and in the two days after the earthquake and tsunami. The scenes of rescue work are very moving, even simple shots of the Japanese evacuees in shelters. After waiting for over a day for any kind of emergency food they politely express gratitude instead of outrage or threats of lawsuits. It’s a really good show, I wish it were available in better visual quality.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Bridges at Toko-Ri 03/13/21
The most glamorous movie about the Korean War experience lauds the bravery of Navy aviators while spelling out the downside of fighting an unpopular war. William Holden, Grace Kelly, Fredric March and Mickey Rooney turn in sharp performances, and Charles McGraw gets his best character part as a no-nonsense flight commander. Paramount’s special effects department outdid themselves on this one — the illusions are beautifully matched to the live-action filmmaking. Heaven help the good civilian soldier that finds himself asking how he ended up getting shot at in a ditch in some far-off foreign country. With Earl Holliman, on Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
The Criminal Code 03/13/21
Howard Hawks’ early sound picture is a worthy prison drama — with top performances from Walter Huston and Boris Karloff, both just as their film careers began to take off. Huston shows the screen how a stage actor can take command: his DA-turned warden character is corrupt yet retains his air of authority. Karloff’s convict seethes with raw menace, and Hawks uses him better than anyone except James Whale. That ‘other’ Code, the Production Code, found this show to be unbearably tense — even though all the brutality happens off-screen, violence is soaked into every scene. With Constance Cummings and Phillips Holmes. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
I know you’ve come here for the latest semi-recent news about new Blu-ray discs, restorations, old gossip, etc… but it’s desperation time I was inspired by my jaunt into the CineSavant Attic of Doom the other day, the one where I found the old Apocalypse Now program. I’ve been answering mail and having fun discussing that for more than two weeks now. So as a further demonstration of unrestrained self-interest look in at the world of not-so-impressive collecting, here’s a random assortment of goodies that I’ve kept for upwards 55 years. I’m too shy to splatter this stuff all over Facebook, so why do I post it here? Only my analyst knows.
Everything was found in one dusty box. Above, from left to right we start with some Swedish money. Being ignorant, I Google-discovered that Sweden is in the European Union but hasn’t adopted the Euro yet. So I could be rich! Next is my 1966 Mustang owner’s booklet, and it’s pretty grimy. My daughter has the car now; I’ll put it aside to give to her. Then in two pieces is my original Draft Card issued in 1971. I didn’t tear it apart, it fell apart in my wallet. Above and further right is one of those ‘Chick’ proselytizing comic books… being fascinated by propaganda, I tried to buy the whole set. I actually found my first on a bus stop bench… left there to spread the good word. The Castle Films Box, which once held two minutes of wretched quality 8mm footage of the first Mercury launch, was found by my sister and mailed to me a few years back. I’ve got five or six original Castle boxes of monster movies … they had colorful covers. And finally, one of my Editors’ Guild cards. Yes, I am an actual card carrying member of local 700.
Just above is a grouping of items that are at least tangentially movie-related. The black ‘You Are My Lucky Star’ Button was handed out in Westwood on the first day of the 1979 release of Alien. Fox must have already passed on that promotional tagline in favor of ‘In Space No One Can Hear You Scream,’ and were just getting rid of thousands of buttons that some (likely pink-slipped) publicity flack had ordered. Next just above is my MGM security entrance card, which I palmed instead of turned in when I left the company. Actual corporate employees were escorted out, the old cardboard box ritual. Since I was a Guild contractee, I was able to slip back in for several days to grab up all the personal stuff in my editing room, which I should never have allowed to pile up. Imagine my surprise when the damn card stopped working! They probably kept a security file with photos of me leaving with cart after cart of books, etc.
Moving to the right and just below is a News Clipping from 1970 or so; I got an award arranged by Ray Ussery at the Air Force Film and Photo installation at Norton AFB (chronicled here). I think the award was window dressing for the real award given to the great David L. Wolper. I have a photo of me being congratulated by Wolper but it’s so hideous it will remain under wraps. Most of the $2500 ended up being for film services I could never use, but the CFI Lab did indeed honor some promised credit there four years later. Next over, the two little buttons on top. The second is just a memento of Ecuador, but the first is a Promo Button for the brief reissue of The Wicker Man around 1978. They organized the ad campaign around the pagan sun god. Nice little item, but just as with the Alien button, nobody could tell what it refers to. The big green and red insignia shoulder patch was given to me by John Milius on 1941; he told us they were the Official Special Forces Patch designed for Apocalypse Now. Modelmaker Ken Swenson wore his but I didn’t have an appropriate jacket to put mine on. I never remember to look for the patch in the movie — maybe it was only something the movie crew wore.
The rubbish priceless mementos continue in the photo below. The Bullet is a dummy, one of many that came in a leather ‘bandido’ style bullet belt that a girlfriend bought at the MGM Auction. The hole drilled in it was apparently to let crew people know it wasn’t real. The colorful Rising Sun Patch is of course from the movie 1941: I don’t know if a Japanese person would have found it offensive, then or now. The Four Teeth were pulled all at once in 1972 by an Air Force doctor. As a starving student, I got onto Norton AFB with my expired parking pass and presented a note from my dentist spelling out the oral surgery I needed. The young military doctor noted I was 21 years old and no longer qualified for dependent military medical care. I stood up, but he said, ‘Can’t you take a joke? Sit down, kid.’ In about five minutes he yanked them all out like I never knew what hit me. God Bless the Air Force… The Last Button is of course from the Cannon film with Dolph Lundgren. And the Team Banzai Sticker is indeed from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. I think production personnel put them on their cars or something; I found a stack of them in editorial boxes of daily outs that I went through while working on the DVD release.
And finally I know you need to know everything about the famous Panama Hats, which are actually made in Ecuador. Relatives sent me two over time … the really fine and fancy high grade ones come unfinished and rolled up in balsa wood boxes like this. On 1941 costumer Ed Wynigear referred me to these two marvelous little men who worked way up in the loft in Western Costume on Melrose (long gone). They blocked it for me; in 1979 I couldn’t find anyone anywhere else who still knew how to block a hat. Very stylish! The box says ‘Sombreros Finos Montecristi.’
But Wait — a real CineSavant column item did come in, thanks to friend Craig Reardon. On last week’s review for The Flame Barrier I asserted that the famous effects makeup man Dick Smith is consistently credited for a number of films he didn’t work on, where special mold appliance work was actually done by another, older makeup specialist with the same name, Dick or Richard Smith. Craig found the proof in this page from a 1959 magazine. It looks like Famous Monsters to me.
The article even verifies that this 20th Fox-based Dick Smith worked for Ben Nye, on The Fly (1958) and The Alligator People (1959). Yes, CineSavant is the place for meaningful information we all need to better navigate our daily lives.
(All images on this page enlarge when opened in a new window.)
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Damn Yankees 03/09/21
A musical that charms even audiences that don’t like musicals, this adaptation of a big 1955 Broadway hit captures all of the original’s power and brilliance — more legendary stage performances should be filmed like this, immortalizing theater history that otherwise disappears into the ether. Gwen Verdon, Ray Walston, Russ Brown and star replacement Tab Hunter shine, yet ‘unknown’ Broadway talent Shannon Bolin and Robert Shafer earn just as much applause. The Verdon-Bob Fosse creative hookup is at its strongest here, complete with a show-stopper of a dance duo. Come to think of it, almost every song in this thing stops the show, like one of Joe Hardy’s home runs: Wow! It’s a real boost for morale. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
The Time Travelers 03/09/21
Ib Melchior’s best directed movie is a futuristic space opera with a time travel theme, all done at a production level suitable for a Halloween fun house. Yet its talented crew comes up with exciting visuals to match Melchior’s flaky-but-fun eclecticism: Androids, Mutants, ‘deviants,’ hydroponic gardens, force fields, time warps… and a sexist attitude or two to remind us that we’re seeing 2071 through the eyes of 1964. It’s one of the earliest Hollywood credits for cameramen Vilmos Zsigmond and Laszlo Kovacs. With Preston Foster, Merry Anders, Philip Carey, John Hoyt and Steve Franken, on Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing / Kino Lorber.
Exciting discs to review today — and a new batch of discs came in so I can predict even more enthusiastic reviews up for the next few weeks.
→ This go-round we’ve got the equivalent of a book review via Dick Dinman’s DVD Classics Corner on the Air: Dick interviews author Jeremy Arnold about his latest Turner Classic Movies book TCM The Essentials Volume 2 — 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter. No, they don’t run through the entire index but pick three movies each to discuss.
Colleague Jeremy Arnold just marked a COVID milestone on Facebook — last Friday March 6 was the one-year anniversary of ‘the night that everything shut down’ for him… and coincidentally me too. I also attended the first night of the NOIR CITY festival on March 6 2020, to see a pair of Argentinian noirs. The car radio on the way to the Egyptian Theater was already talking about the exploding infection rate, and simple habit kept us from turning back (our nights out are not frequent during the community college semester).
My wife and I hadn’t been in a big crowd in a while, and Noir City at the Egyptian is always a socially-fun mob scene. The psychological undertow that night was powerful: amid all those people, the theater suddenly felt like Germ City. When the break came we didn’t even stop for a drink, but instead went straight home…
… and like most everybody else that could, stayed home for this full year.
Just like Jeremy we haven’t been to a movie since, as is the case with most of the rest of the country. We’re fortunate in that for us relative isolation is practical — we both have work that can be done from home. Almost no in-person meetings for a full year. Last month I recorded a joint commentary remotely, with one participant in a studio and myself on a Zoom call. I most often ran into Jeremy at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick research library, which is now closed. No more commentaries for me until it reopens.
I once thought my parents had seen everything, that I’d never live through the world-altering disasters they had. Who would have predicted that I’d spend an entire year living like a gopher in the Erickson Burrow, watching these cascading health and political disasters unfold? Yep, let’s hope that this time next year we’ll be wearing masks out of courtesy instead of fear, and that we’ll be seeing our loved ones in person again.
Stop worrying, because MGM has a new animated logo. I’m sure you’ve been waiting for this day as impatiently as I have, and it’s now up on YouTube. I’m told that, yes indeed, the lion is not CGI generated, which doesn’t mean that Leo hasn’t been put through a digital Cuisinart twenty or thirty times. You’ll also be happy to know that MGM has finally made Leo logo-friendly for viewers not educated in the classics: the age old motto is now translated.
Back at The Cannon Group promo director Liz Beckman designed a great jacket logo for our fearless Cannon Trailer Department, a parody of the MGM Logo with a slightly different motto: “Ars Gratia Pecunae.” Look it up, Pilgrim!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson