CineSavant Column

Saturday October 3, 2020

 

Hello!

Roving researcher Gary Teetzel saw that ‘HBO Max’ is showing the Hammer- Terence Fisher The Curse of Frankenstein, took a look, and found that the eyeball close-up, missing on the Warner DVD, is has been restored. ( ) We do note that a ‘newly remastered’ movie that was on HBO Max last month (Sunrise at Campobello) is suddenly on the WAC release schedule. Does that maybe mean that… ?   I haven’t heard about work being done on the Cushing/Lee classic, but it’s well known that we at CineSavant are quick to leapfrog to conclusions, especially optimistic ones. I’m not pretending I don’t know something either: if I had secret info I wouldn’t risk the connection by speculating like this.

I can think of five unpleasant things this bit of viscera might really be, but I’d never guess a human eyeball.

 


Yes, we admit it, it’s a slow news day … so I dug up some old Boxoffice reviews that I collected a number of years ago — I’ll spread them out over two or three columns. Nothing can be more head-scratching than seeing an original ‘capsule’ review for American exhibitors. As always we like unusual movies the most, but reviewers have trouble handing ‘different’ when communicating to theater owners. Then again, if they don’t like something, they make their opinions known loud and clear.

Two notes: You may need to open these in new windows to read them. I’m pretty sure that the letters ‘A’ and ‘F’ designate American or Foreign in origin.

Let me start with the movie just discussed, The Curse of Frankenstein. The reviewer fixates on all the severed body parts, as if he can’t believe that movies have sunk so low. But even he communicates the buzz that this would be an audience pleaser.

 

Much earlier, this reviewer seems to have thought Val Lewton’s Cat People was sick psychology and little else. Yet he seems to admit that it works.

 

But some smart cookie responded well to Edgar G.’s Detour. Was this reviewer extra-hip to the movie’s fatalistic on-the-road vibe, or did somebody at P.R.C. just pay him off?

 

Here’s something they clobbered, and took a couple of extra paragraphs to do the job right: The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues. “Hodgepodge, perfunctory, inconsequential” — I don’t think those are compliments.

 

And finally for this first batch, a surprising review that goes against the grain. Daily Variety dismissed Enemy From Space aka Quatermass 2 as an incoherent waste of energy. But Boxoffice clearly digs it, big-time: “One of the best.” And they mention Bryan Forbes, ‘a likable youngster!’

 

I clipped out enough of these things to keep it up for a bit, so let me know if seeing more is a good idea ..Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday September 29, 2020

Still on the list of dream restorations. CLICK on it.

Warning From Space 09/29/20

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Sci-fi alert!  Fans that have seen all the ‘fifties classics won’t want to miss this first-ever subtitled presentation of the original Japanese version of a film known only as ‘that one with the silly starfish people.’ It’s actually a real winner… Uchûjin Tôkyô ni arawaru is beautifully produced and directed, with a humanistic approach unlike other Eisenhower-era thrillers about alien contact and global disaster. From Daiei, it’s also Japan’s first science fiction movie in color. Noble Pairans arrive to help save us from a planetary collision, but encounter communications issues. The approach of ‘Planet R’ is depicted with far more finesse than seen in the epics of George Pal or the later Toho space operas. Nicely restored with rich, warm colors; accompanied by an audio commentary from Stuart Galbraith IV. I rate this a major recovery-discovery… let’s watch it again!  On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
09/29/20

The Phantom of the Opera 09/29/20

Blu-ray

Hammer Films and Terence Fisher cut loose with a classic remake that’s as much a romance as it is a horror shocker. Killings proliferate at the Paris Opera house. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but could the perpetrator be the fabled ghost that lurks in the catacombs far below?  Does the fat lady sing?  Herbert Lom gets his shot at front-rank horror immortality in this brightly colored thriller, co-starring Heather Sears and Michael Gough. Trailers from Hell’s Charlie Largent reviews the show that might mark the finish of Hammer’s first wave of world-shaking fright classics. On Blu-ray.
09/29/20

Curse of the Undead 09/29/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Nearing the end of the trail for Universal-International’s horror series, this western-horror hybrid carries a vibe of underfunded desperation. Michael Pate is fine as the undead gunslinger who drains virgins and can’t be stopped by a Colt .45; Kathleen Crowley works up some good moments as a ranch owner who doesn’t realize what kind of killer she’s hired. Everyone tries hard but the script is tepid and the vampire logic thin … this ghoul sleeps in a coffin but can walk around in broad daylight. The video transfer is immaculate, and present to give Ed Dein’s opus every benefit of the doubt is the reliable audio commentator Tom Weaver. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
09/29/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday September 29, 2020

Hello!

We enjoyed Eddie Muller’s Noir Alley presentation this weekend, as we always do — even if I don’t watch the movie I tune in to Eddie’s opening and closing pieces as if I were attending Remedial Noir 101. Eddie’s facts and thoughts on Irving Pichel’s 1947 noir winner They Won’t Believe Me were no disappointment, and even in the isolation of the pandemic, his interview with Joan Harrison biographer Christina Lane was successful. Of all of TCM’s hosts promoted as celebrities, Eddie Muller most merits the honor.

They Won’t Believe Me is a very good RKO thriller starring Robert Young, Susan Hayward, Jane (swoon) Greer and Rita Johnson. TCM’s transfer was ancient, and bore an ‘RKO Video’ logo that I associate with a group of VHS tapes released in the 1980s. The first thing I did was to measure the running time, because of a discussion I had a couple of years ago with The Warner Archive Collection’s esteemed George Feltenstein. The subject was RKO films that had been hacked down for reissue in the 1950s, and that had proved difficult for Turner/WB to restore to their original running times. WB did a pretty good job on The Thing from Another World, which came out on Blu-ray in December of 2018. Just this year the Archive surprised us with a beautiful full restoration of the Robert Mitchum/Loretta Young/William Holden pioneer story Rachel and the Stranger, which is now a full 11 minutes longer than anything seen since the middle 1950s.

I was bugging George with my usual question about a favorite — can Howard Hawks’ full length epic The Big Sky be restored?  It was trimmed for reissue by either 15 or 20 minutes, depending on which source one reads. TCM plays it in a compromised presentation that extends the two-hour reissue cut with lesser-quality scenes from a 16mm print. As are many library titles waiting in line for possible restoration, The Big Sky is ‘in the works.’ I have no idea whether Turner/WB has it sitting on a back burner, or if no better source has been located, or if a restoration is just not in the cards at the present time. That’s all proprietary information. (Come on, folks, do it to honor Kirk Douglas…)

But George enlightened me about another needed restoration, of which I was not at all aware — They Won’t Believe Me. The RKO noir seems to be in the same boat as the Howard Hawks western. What Eddie Muller showed Saturday night was +/- 80 minutes in duration, and the original 1947 release is listed as a full fifteen minutes longer. I forget what George said exactly — I’m not certain if restoring They Won’t Believe Me is held up because the necessary film just isn’t there, or because the restoration program simply hasn’t gotten to it yet.

A full fifteen minutes missing!  RKO’s editors must have made some very careful revisions, because no obvious cuts are visible. But every time I see the movie I get the feeling that I missed something, and ought to pay more attention next time. They Won’t Believe Me is one of those pictures ‘with issues’ that I try to DVR every time it shows up on TCM — just in case some miraculous restoration appears. That’s happened more than once.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday September 26, 2020

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Eve 09/26/20

Powerhouse Indicator
Region B Blu-ray

Is Joseph Losey’s elusive, maudit masterpiece really a masterpiece?  Stanley Baker’s foolish lout of a writer ruins his life pursuing the wanton Jeanne Moreau, and it’s hard to tell if she’s punishing him or he’s punishing himself. Losey’s directing skills are in top form on location in Venice and Rome for this absorbing art film. PI’s overdue and very welcome disc sorts out the multiple release versions (Eve, Eva, The Devil’s Woman) for the first time, and in so doing makes the show fully accessible for the first time. Co-starring (swoon) Virna Lisi and James Villiers. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
09/26/20

The Elephant Man 09/26/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Why is it that, when a horror film really achieves something special, both the critics and the public tend to elevate it above and beyond the ‘lowly’ horror genre?  David Lynch’s most humane and sympathetic film still makes our heads spin, and this new 4K remaster renders Freddie Francis’s great cinematography at its best. Lynch extends and develops the visual nightmares of his experimental Eraserhead for this true-life classic. Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller and Freddie Jones all give indelible, emotionally-moving performances. How many horror pictures hold up hope for social decency and personal dignity?  On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
09/26/20

Universal Horror Collection Volume 5 09/26/20

Blu-ray

Why stop at the acknowledged classics of the Universal horror tradition when the fringes are so … eccentric?  Charlie Largent reflects on the equally magical margins, examining such unforgettable gems as Captive Wild Woman, Jungle Woman, and the mysteriously redundant The Jungle Captive. The question is, which jungle siren floats YOUR Congo canoe, Aquanetta or Vicky Lane?  The silver lining amid the stock footage (and John Carradine) is the Paramount acquisition The Monster and the Girl, a genuinely different genre head-scratcher beautifully filmed and directed. The hybrid gangster-mad doctor tale features a crazy brain-transplant that tests the limits of hetero romance, as well as the love of a puppy dog!  Hear it first at CineSavant, direct from Charlie Gemora’s superior ape monster. On Blu-ray.
09/26/20

CineSavant Column

Saturday September 26, 2020

 

Hello!

A friendly neighbor reported that his creative team — I think he works in advertising or trailers of some kind or another — just got an Emmy for this humorous promotional piece. It’s months old but I hadn’t seen it and thought it quite good — especially the image quality: So Good You’ll Scream! And I promise CineSavant will never link to videos of cute puppies and kittens.

 


 

CineSavant has got a stack of horror, fantasy & sci-fi winners that it hopes to cover in the next few posts, beyond today’s Universal Volume 5 and the great The Elephant Man. A couple of these are real discoveries. Coming up from Kino is the oddball Universal horror entry from Edward Dein, starring Sierra Charriba Michael Pate, Curse of the Undead. It features a Tom Weaver commentary. A big surprise is The Face at the Window, my first Tod Slaughter film, also from Kino. You have to see it to believe it — it’s an incredibly old fashioned stage drama from the Victorian period, with utterly earnest performances. The writing is stylized, almost like a Monty Python sketch, and Tod Slaughter works up a terrific sneering villain performance as the dastardly bad guy. It’s really different, with a charm similar to Feuillade’s silent Fantomas serials.

Then, I was knocked over by Arrow Video’s Warning from Space, which nobody seems to appreciate enough, not even friend Stuart Galbraith IV in his commentary. The first Japanese Sci-fi film in color may seem to imitate American models, but its attitude and approach are refreshingly different. The color is really something. I may be trying to review this first. There’s also the Amicus film I, Monster to consider — it’s one of the last Peter Cushing / Christopher Lee films that I haven’t seen.


On Charlie Largent’s review plate are the new restoration and remastering of Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death plus one of his Hammer favorites, the 1962 Herbert Lom The Phantom of the Opera. It looks like we’re being shortchanged for good Halloween disc offerings this year, but these Blu-ray offerings more than make up for it.

Oh, and in the coming weeks most of the best of what’s out there will be coming our way … including more Viavision, Criterion and Powerhouse Indicator.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday September 22, 2020

Photo © copyright Glenn Erickson 2010. It’s the actual puppet.

Christ Stopped at Eboli 09/22/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

It’s a perfect movie for a dark time: Carlo Levi’s famed novel about a political undesirable became a major Italian miniseries by the great Francesco Rosi, starring the now-legendary Gian Maria Volonté. In Mussolini’s most popular years of make-Italy-great-again Fascism, a dissident is given an indefinite ‘time out,’ an exile to a small town in a corner of the country so remote and primitive that not even Christianity could fully change it. He expects nothing but receives revelations about his country, his life and one’s place in society. It’s meditative, it’s illuminating, it’s like a book one can’t put down. It’s also uncut, as opposed to the theatrical version that made a splash here in 1979. With Lea Massari, Irene Papas and Paolo Bonacelli. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
09/22/20

Lord Love a Duck 09/22/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

This mid-‘sixties black comedy from the mischievous George Axelrod defines and dissects ‘crazy California culture’ just as West Coasters were being slandered as godless weird-oh hedonists. It’s partly a sarcastic put-down, citing anecdotal extremes like drive-in churches (how 2020 can you get?), perverse youth encounter groups and mindless beach party movies. But Axelrod’s paints indelible images of maladjusted women of three age groups: Tuesday Weld, Lola Albright and Ruth Gordon. Where Roddy McDowall fits in is anybody’s guess — he’s meant to glue the satire together and instead turns it into a big Question Mark. With Martin West, Harvey Korman, Sarah Marshall, Max Showalter, Jo Collins and Martin Gabel. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
09/22/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday September 22, 2020

Hello!

It’s been up for a while but I still strongly recommend Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Trailers from Hell trailer commentary for 55 Days at Peking. Trenchard-Smith times his words artfully, hits all the important points of Nicholas Ray’s film pro and con, has the historical context down pat, and even talks against a terrific-quality scan of the trailer.

I particularly like the show & tell Trenchard-Smith does with a clip from his first feature film, explaining how his personal awareness of the historical Boxer Rebellion underwent an on-the-set ‘adjustment’ via sensitivity training from his Hong Kong star Jimmy Wang Yu.  I don’t like one shot in the movie that’s also in the trailer: the child actress carries a tot out of a room as explosions are set off behind her… It doesn’t look like a good idea, no matter who said it was safe. Then, cough, cough, there’s always my homegrown 55 Days disc review to foist on innocent readers.

Oh, Brian knocked another review commentary out of the park just yesterday, for our favorite Zulu Dawn. What, you want to read CineSavant’s coverage of that movie, too?

 


Next up, longtime correspondent and advisor Darren Gross offers a good link to a pair of new web encodings of a short-lived 1945 radio show called Stay Tuned for Terror. Darren says that the show featured adaptations of stories written for Weird Tales magazine by none other than horrormeister Robert Bloch. No episodes were believed to exist until recently, when two turned up (courtesy of a certain David Lennick) and have been uploaded for your enjoyment. The Boogey Man Will Get You and Lizzie Borden Took an Axe are each fifteen minutes in duration. I like the organ accompaniment: Swan Lake! … also fun is watching the moving audio graph that helps one anticipate the loud music stings.

 


And let me finish up by promoting two eagerly anticipated disc releases due out about a month from now. Arrow video has the elusive Japanese science-fiction show Warning from Space aka Uchûjin Tôkyô ni arawaru (‘Unknown Satellite Over Tokyo,’ October 13), which ought to be something special … it appears that with this show the Daiei company got the jump on Toho for outer space- related thrillers. I was reminded of it yesterday because filmmaker and scholar David Cairns informs us that he’s done a featurette for the disc about the various dubbing and re-dubbing versions of the film, presumably in different foreign territories. It will carry a full commentary by a second old friend, Stuart Galbraith IV, who is definitely the right man for the job.

Warning from Space is easy to order here in the states, but I’m split on how to best obtain a reasonably on-time copy of the BFI’s Dementia aka Daughter of Horror (October 19). Amazon.uk says it won’t deliver to the United States, so I guess my next option is our importer Diabolik DVD, which doesn’t gouge with its prices and did well by me with last Spring’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse. However, their page only says that the import Dementia Blu-ray is ‘coming soon.’ What’s an impatient and unreasonable Yank reviewer to do in this situation?  Concerns like this are healthy for my blood pressure, as they keep my mind off the Supreme Court.

 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday September 19, 2020

The Space Force is on its way to Mars!

The Cat and the Canary + The Ghost Breakers 09/19/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Directors Elliott Nugent and George Marshall took turns guiding Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard through remakes of haunted house horror pix, making the template for the modern horror comedy. It’s a bayou mansion in one show and a Caribbean castle in the second, with plenty of unsavory characters around to keep us guessing: are phantom killers on the loose, or does somebody just want clean title to the inheritance, as in Knives Out? Willie Best provides the best laughs, George Zucco (creepy), Anthony Quinn (ethnic) and Noble Johnson (a zombie) are on hand to heighten the semi-supernatural thrills. Hope even gets in some ant-Democrat slurs — but funny ones. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
09/19/20

The Carpetbaggers 09/19/20

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray

It’s lurid, it’s soapy, it’s forbidden: Where do I sign?  Joseph E. Levine made hay from Harold Robbins’ best seller, with prose that The New York Times said belonged more properly “on the walls of a public lavatory.” So why is the picture so much fun?  When the performances are good they’re very good, and when they’re bad they’re almost better. Plus there’s a who’s who game to be played: If George Peppard is Howard Hughes and Carroll Baker is Jean Harlow, who exactly is Robert Cummings?  I think this is the first time on Blu for this title, and playback-wise it’s A-OK for Region A. With Alan Ladd and Robert Cummings; on Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
09/19/20

Love Me Tonight 09/19/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

A 4K scan and remastered audio bring out the best in Rouben Mamoulian’s 1932 pre-Code marvel, the best musical romance of all. Does a musical have to have big dance numbers, glorious cinematography and stereophonic sound?  Maurice Chevalier may be ‘nothing but a tailor’ yet he steals the heart of Jeanette MacDonald’s princess and shocks her titled, discriminating family. Forget MGM operetta saccharine and say hello to a sexed-up fling annotated with suggestive pre-Code dialogue and song lyrics. Some of the better naughty content is delivered by Myrna Loy, who was never as gloriously slinky-seductive. Isn’t it romantic?  On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
09/19/20

CineSavant Column

Saturday September 19, 2020

Hello… national events just keep getting more incredible…

Dependable correspondent-advisor Gary Teetzel has been scouring the web lately…

… first up is a link to conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen guiding the Los Angeles Philharmonic through the furious music cue for Bernard Herrmann’s Death Hunt, from the score for the great noir pic On Dangerous Ground. The editing is nicely done. Is it just me, or does the orchestra seem a bit off-balance, as if not everybody is keeping up the tempo?  The Herrmann- conducted versions just seem twice as sharp, more focused. I’m really overstepping my range of competence with that thought.

 


Gary also forwards a FB link by the helpful Jack Theakston, to 3.5 minutes of beautiful Two-Color Technicolor excerpts from the 1925 The Phantom of the Opera held by Holland’s Eye Filmmuseum. I’ve never seen those scenes look this good. Those 2-Color ballet sequences, we are told, haven’t been seen for 95 years. For a few seconds the Artist’s Bal-Masque becomes the Masque of the Red Death, it seems. Lon Chaney strikes some terrific poses — it’s too bad that director Rupert Julian so rarely puts the camera in a good position in this classic. I readily believe that Chaney himself dictated the camera angles and cutting in the big face reveal scene, the one at the pipe organ deep in the underground catacombs. The magical moment plays as if it’s from a different movie.

 


Then there’s Andreas Feix’s 2015 German short subject ‘Citipati’, which ruminates on the end-of-days theme of When Worlds Collide from a metaphysical viewpoint. A chicken-like prehistoric dinosaur seems to comprehend the cyclic nature of worlds in collision, of a continuous cycle of creation and destruction. Plus, the computer animation is spectacular. The IMDB says that the original is in 3-D. When you see the so-so image of worlds crashing together in the Pal film, just mentally substitute some of the imagery in this movie, which compares an apocalypse to pebbles colliding in a swift-flowing brook.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson