Cradle Will Rock 08/04/18
Writer-director Tim Robbins goes all out to recreate a politically potent chapter of Broadway legend, the true story of the rebel WPA production The Cradle Will Rock — with a dynamic sidebar about Diego Rivera’s provocative mural for the Rockefeller Center. An enormous cast works up the excitement of Depression-era revolutionary theater: Emily Watson, Bill Murray, Hank Azaria, Rubén Blades, John Turturro, Joan Cusack, John Cusack, Cherry Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, Susan Sarandon, Angus Macfadyen, Cary Elwes, Philip Baker Hall, Jamey Sheridan, Bob Balaban, Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Paul Giamatti, Barnard Hughes. On Blu-rayfrom KL Studio Classics.
Home from the Hill 08/04/18
He-bull womanizer Robert Mitchum spars with wife Eleanor Parker for the future of their son George Hamilton in Vincente Minnelli’s attractive, sprawling tale of cruel family unrest. The real winners in the picture are the fresh-faced new talent George Peppard and Luana Patten, whose small-town romance is more appealing than the main bout. With Everett Sloane, Constance Ford, Ray Teal, Denver Pyle, Stuart Randall, Dub Taylor, and Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
It’s a radio show dedicated to the work of makeup man Dick Smith, a discussion with makeup artists Craig Reardon, Steve Johnson and Kevin Haney, hosted by Scott Essman: The Godfather of Make-Up Effects. It starts with a sentimental audio clip from Smith himself, recorded in 2011. CineSavant correspondent Craig Reardon was one of Smith’s worshipful protégés, and has always had a lot to say about the genius of the man who invented the makeup for The Exorcist, Little Big Man, The Godfather films, Altered States and Scanners.
Second up is an actual Warners feature La classe Américaine 99%, the link forwarded by Joe Dante. First, here’s Joe’s description: “This weird 70 minute project started when Warner Bros. agreed to let the French TV channel Canal+ use its 4000-movie catalog free of charge for a month. Directors Michel Hazanavicius and Dominique Mézerette assembled a vaguely Citizen Kane-like plot out of reams of disparate footage and redubbed it all with many of the local voice actors associated with the various movie stars on hand.”
It’s weird all right — with a title that translates as American Class, the crude comedy may be intended as a slap at the gutter-level vulgarity of ‘populist’ film comedy from Hollywood these days. An ultimate comedy re-dub job a la What’s Up Tiger Lily?, Hazanavicius concocts a ‘story’ weaving together WB films just for the fun of making ’50s and ’60s movie stars talk as dirty as the characters in a Trey Parker / Matt Stone ‘‘comedy.’
Of course, it’s all dubbed into French, so we read the English subtitles. The gutter level insults definitely have a shock appeal. Everybody’s either gay or happily gay-bashing somebody — John Wayne, James Stewart, Henry Fonda — by cutting together clips from films like Rio Bravo, Harper, All the President’s Men, The Sea Chase, Freebie and the Bean, The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, even The Searchers. Have no idea where it was shown, but I haven’t seen anything like it so polished, and so begging for defamation lawsuits.
Hey, here’s something we all need in the house, a HAL 9000 Life-Size Replica! It has plenty of features, is stylish, comes in various models. Just don’t put it in charge of your Life Vital Signs .. the thing’s been known to lock doors, cut off the phones and wi-fi, and turn on the gas with the pilot off. Before you know it, ‘Life Functions Terminated!’
CineSavant advisor Gary Teetzel noted:
“You’re supposed to be able to run Alexa or Siri through it, but what good is that without Douglas Rain’s voice? Come on, he’s still alive! Sure, he’s ninety and probably doesn’t sound anything like he did fifty years ago, but still . . .
Then of course there’s another product, that seems the worst of what the future has to offer: Gatebox’s Cute Virtual Character. Wayne Schmidt thought it sounded like something from Blade Runner 2049. Gary predicted how one might relate to it:
It’s kinda creepy that it acts like a teenage girl. To make it more realistic, it should be periodically moody, and then, over time, act more bored, not message you as often, etc. Then, after a year, it should tell you it wants to explore seeing other people.”
And, as expected, UK’s Powerhouse Indicator did indeed announce an all-Region Blu-ray of Jacques Tourneur’s superlative Night/Curse of the Demon. The buzz at the moment is that they’re touting four distinct versions. We’ve covered the title here pretty well, with Wayne Schmidt’s chronicle of How the Long Version Was Saved, and we’re eager to find out what the other two versions are, exactly — they can’t just be the two different lengths, both with different main titles, can they?
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean 07/31/18
Need a laugh? Paul Newman shoots people, hangs others and runs a judiciary speed trap for unwary outlaw vagrants. John Huston’s picture is a slack, passably amusing interpretation of writer John Milius’s career- boosting screenplay. A slow-going exercise in ‘printing the legend, only funnier,’ it’s recommended just to take in Stacy Keach’s memorable albino menace, ‘Bad Bob.’ With a dynamite cast, mostly in glorified cameos: Tab Hunter, Ava Gardner, Anthony Perkins, Roddy McDowall, Victoria Principal, Jacqueline Bisset, Ned Beatty, John Huston. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Footsteps in the Fog 07/31/18
Could this be retitled “Dial ‘F’ for Fog?” Jean Simmon’s greedy maid blackmails her employer Stewart Granger with proof that he murdered his wife, kicking off a criminal ‘deadlock’ in a London household. The cold-fish schemer Granger ponders his next murderous move while Simmons enjoys playing the lady of the house — having dared to leapfrog two social classes, she hopes that her victim will respond with kindness, not homicide. This gothic domestic murder tale should be required reading for marriage counselors. With Belinda Lee and William Hartnell, in Technicolor. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
I think the word has been leaking out for weeks, but we’re told that Powerhouse Indicator will shortly be announcing a Region A compatible Blu-ray of Jacques Tourneur’s incomparable Night of / Curse of The Demon. We Region B- equipped viewers love the encoding on the French disc from a while back, but there’s always the carrot of PH’s thorough extras. Gary Teetzel sent along not one but two links to YouTube radio shows of M.R. James’ source story Casting the Runes: 1947 ESCAPE with John McIntire as Edward Dunning and William Conrad as Karswell, and Michael Hordern’s classic read.
Gary Teetzel’s rummaging in the pulp trades of the past uncovered this odd 1928 company ad for MGM, addressing exhibitors, Note that it actually declares that, with MGM movies playing in your theaters, you’ll be able to get good and drunk. Pretty impressive considering that prohibition was then the law of the land; I guess they weren’t lying when they said that nobody took that Constitutional Amendment seriously.
I’ve been getting lively responses on my review for The Stranglers of Bombay and my photo article about a special effect in Kronos; even some of my web colleagues sent along a few nice words about them.
Right now I’ve got my nose jammed in the mail slot waiting for a UK disc of Kevin Brownlow’s It Happened Here to show up. So it isn’t due for another week … we don’t let details like that dampen the enthusiasm.
Although we’re not doing anything spectacular this year, I’m really enjoying our Summer in Los Angeles — no stress, etc., and fun on the side with a couple of visits from relatives. My daughter and I share a ‘thing’ for the Kaiju monster Mothra, in that I took her to a screening when she was four, and drew her a comic book version as preparation for the outing. She lately found herself a ritzy Mothra toy, and just yesterday sent me an (I suspect) pricey Godzilla toy, just for the fun of it. There’s no way to put a bad face on that — maybe I can even make Big G expert Gary Teetzel envious!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 07/28/18
David O. Selznick’s Americana classic came together in the run-up period before Gone With the Wind, getting terrific results from early 3-strip Technicolor. They’re all here — Tom, Huck, Becky Thatcher, Aunt Polly, Muff Potter and Injun Joe — plus that prissy little SOB, Sid. The unforgettable cave sequence by William Cameron Menzies cinched the big GWTW gig for the world-class designer. Mark Twain’s tale is presented in two versions, the uncut original and a later reissue cut-down. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Revolt of Mamie Stover 07/28/18
Now it can be told! Or maybe, now it can’t be told? William Bradford Huie’s novel of creeping American ambition in Honolulu ends up as a tame vehicle for Jane Russell, who in one of her last big starring movies gives the Hawaiian scenery a run for its money. Raoul Walsh does well in the direction department, but the story has been cleaned up for Sunday School. Co-starring Richard Egan, Agnes Moorehead and Michael Pate, plus gorgeous Oahu locations in CinemaScope and Color by Deluxe. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Vintage ’30s comedy returns, with a beautiful blonde, a sassy brunette and elaborate location filming in a bygone Los Angeles. Producer Hal Roach found a good match for his ‘female Laurel & Hardy’ comedy team in gorgeous Thelma Todd and the smart-mouthed Patsy Kelly. The relatively expensive shorts were filmed all over Los Angeles. It’s hours of vintage comedy, plus several bonus shorts with Pert Kelton and Lyda Roberti, on the ‘Silver Series’ label. On DVDfrom ClassicFlix.
It’s another special effects-related CineSavant piece, like last year’s on Close Encounters. ‘Fifties effects mavericks Jack Rabin, Irving Block and Louis DeWitt cleverly repurposed CinemaScope scenes from a drama about Hawaii in 1941, for use in a 1957 Science Fiction film set in Mexico. Get set for explanations about mattes, reformatting and mystery aspect ratios. A CineSavant Article.
Continuing his deep-dive research activities into film arcana, the indomitable Gary Teetzel has turned up a winner, a publicity blurb for Flint, Michigan’s The Daily from 1958. Apparently the assistant manager of a theater showing the first-run engagement of Horror of Dracula took one of those pressbook publicity recommendations seriously: to tout the booking of Hammer’s Technicolor horror picture, he ran around downtown Flint dressed as Dracula. The theater got the desired publicity, maybe a little too much of it.
The scan of the clipping chopped off the right extreme, but CineSavant never shirks its journalistic responsibility. Here’s a transcript:
Backfires in Flint
Special to THE DAILY
FLINT, Mich., May 28. — A street publicity stunt for the opening of Universal’s “Horror of Dracula” at the Capitol Theatre cost the Butterfield circuit $100 when it backfired here.
At the police station Kern drew a suspended sentence — but not until Henry Capogna, advertising head of the circuit, had paid $100.
That’s a great story, sort of a real-life prequel to the ballyhoo celebrated in Joe Dante’s Matinee, which also features a slightly irresponsible assistant donning a monster suit to scare up business for a new horror attraction. Assistant manager Kern sounds like a typical millennial gore hound, one with a sick, sick morbid imagination — or an average young art student. There’s every possibility that the news story was partly or wholly invented by a friendly newspaperman helping out a buddy over at the Capitol Theatre… even the cops might look kindly on this kind of gag.
I was hoping that the overeager sidewalk Dracula hadn’t been identified — because then we could have spread the rumor that a teenaged Michael Moore was the maniac going all radical on the old ladies of Flint. Oh wait, Moore would only have been four years old…
The date on the news blurb is May 28. The IMDB gives the U.S. opening date for HOD as May 8, so that part checks out. I didn’t catch up with the vampire fun personally until the 1964 reissue of Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula — as an extremely impressionable twelve year-old, I was floored to be confronted by a super dose of so much Hammer blood & thunder. Back in ’58, Peter Cushing and Chris Lee’s clash between of good and evil must have been the biggest Springtime movie thrill of them all.
On the obsessive filmgoer front, correspondent Michael Bjortvedt has located a full YouTube encoding of the cult Indian movie Gumnaam from 1965. It’s the feature that contains the full “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” rock ‘n’ roll musical number featured in Raja Nawathe’s Ghost World, the one in which the dancers shake their heads so violently, we expect to see their brains fall out. The insane surf-guitar song comes immediately after the main titles.
I watched a little — it’s still pretty amazing. If Flash Mob groups of the kind that perform Thriller were to do “Jaan Pehechaan Ho”, they’d need to call ambulances to carry away the injured.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Stranglers of Bombay 07/24/18
“Kali bids us to Kill! KILL!” A full review of Indicator’s Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror collection will follow, but CineSavant jumps the gun to highlight Terence Fisher’s 1959 mass murder shocker. It adds up to more than exploitative and racist cheap thrills: it’s one of the key films to describe the roots of contemporary terrorism. David Zelag Goodman’s screenplay lets Hammer for once say something relevant about the Colonial past, even if it’s a case of mixed signals — and sex. With Guy Rolfe, George Pastell, Marne Maitland, Jan Holden and Marie Devereaux. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
Cinderella Liberty 07/24/18
A real peach of a ’70s New Hollywood picture, Mark Rydell and Darryl Ponicsan’s story of a sailor on extended leave is sentimental neorealism — a tough street story, but with the pessimism removed. Poolroom hustler Marsha Mason and sailor-adrift James Caan are a beautiful couple in the making — although the whole world seems against them. Co-Starring Eli Wallach and Kirk Calloway; photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Only two reviews today due to a family visitor over the weekend. We’re avoiding what is presently 92-degree heat outside, which feels like a hundred. It was a very strange weekend. Taking our houseguest down Hollywood Blvd., we ran into Quentin Tarantino’s street dressings turning the clock back to 1968 — with Larry Edmunds’ bookstore returned to the slot next to ‘The Supply Sergeant,’ and The Night They Raided Minsky’s up on the marquee at the Vogue, across the street.
We’re also reflecting on more unpleasant happenings. Last Saturday I was just thinking about the need to drop by the Trader Joes’ market on Hyperion, which is not the closest TJ’s to me but makes a nice loop when I drop by Albertsons and Gelsons. Up on TV pops the news of the tragic shootout, ‘not far from home’ as they say. It brought back memories from four years ago, learning online that my wife’s college was the site of another shooting. I leaped up and was halfway down the stairs before I realized that it was her day off, and she was home with me, quite safe. There’s really no room at all any more for complacent thoughts that such things won’t affect us.
No big news — I’m late with reviews as it is. I’ve only reviewed The Stranglers of Bombay from the new boxed set Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror collection, but Charlie Largent will be working on a full review presently.
Sci-fi fans might want to know that a restoration of an unnamed restored Paramount science fiction film is promised to screen at this year’s AMIA- ‘The Reel Thing’ presentation up on Vine Street. We’re hoping that it’s either 1953’s The War of the Worlds or 1951’s When Worlds Collide. I’ll report when I find out — perhaps a Blu-ray will be in the offing. We’re still waiting for a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Blu-ray, after seeing Disney’s spectacular restoration at The Reel Thing way back in 2012. The best When Worlds Collide presentation is still a laserdisc from 1995 or so.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Day After 07/21/18
Will the world end with a bang or a whimper? Back in ’83 a hundred million viewers tuned in to ABC to find out. Edward Hume and Nicholas Meyer’s daring docudrama reacquainted Americans with their status as hostages in a global game of nuclear roulette. Gruesome nuclear annihilation visuals complement fine performances led by Jason Robards. The tense, thoughtful show is presented in separate TV and theatrical versions. Co-stars under the fallout are JoBeth Williams, Steve Guttenberg, Jim Dahlberg, John Lithgow, Bibi Besch, Lori Lethin, Amy Madigan, Jeff East, Georgann Johnson, William Allen Young and Calvin Jung. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.