Saturday November 12, 2022

Days of Future Passed: 1991’s 1999, in the rear-view mirror from 2022.

Storm Center 11/12/22

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray

The first movie to directly confront McCarthyism!  Or so said the editorials touting this ‘Long-Awaited Screen Event’ in which ‘Bette Davis Hits the Screen in a Cyclone of Dramatic Fury!’  The storm of the title was based on a real activist in Oklahoma who lost her job for promoting equal rights. Bette’s polite librarian is victimized by small-minded civic types; a subplot depicts the traumatic reaction of one of her patrons, a child expected to despise her as a traitor to the country. Daniel Taradash’s movie is an excellent starting point to discuss the thorny dramatic subgenre of liberal social issue movies. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
11/12/22

Going Places 11/12/22

The Cohen Film Collection / Kino Lorber
Blu-ray

Bertrand Blier’s edgy romp about a pair of ne’er-do-well petty-crooks will go too far for many viewers — they’re antisocially chauvinistic in some really outrageous ways. Are they jolly adventurers or just terminally obnoxious?  The twisted social comedy really needs its talented cast: Gérard Depardieu, Patrick Dewaere, Miou-Miou, Jeanne Moreau, Brigitte Fossey, and a very young Isabelle Huppert. The new presentation includes a commentary by Richard Peña. On Blu-ray from The Cohen Film Collection / Kino Lorber.
11/12/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday November 12, 2022

 

Hello!

All those nice FB posts about Veterans yesterday insprired me to dig back for these pictures for the Column. Well, that and today’s lack of good disc-related items. I used one of these pictures back in 2016, here are a few more.

That’s movie star Ann Sheridan just above, holding comedian Ben Blue in her arms, for a USO skit. Back in 1944 in Burma, my father was a flyer taking cargo ‘over the hump’ into China to support the Kuomintang; and he took a roll of snapshots at a USO tent show. The inset to the right is my father, probably in 1943 in North Africa. That would make him 21 or 22 years old. We remembered his snapshots while watching Ann Sheridan’s Woman on the Run again. I’ve never read a word about Ms. Sheridan to suggest that she was anything but a great lady, and here she is a patriot as well.

 

This USO tour venue appears to be out in the sticks somewhere. It looks like the company is just five or six entertainers: Sheridan, Ben Blue and two or three showgirls. Did the only music provided come from the smiling showgirl’s accordion?  In the same batch of pictures was this photo of movie star Melvyn Douglas, who is signing an autograph. He looks like he’s been roughing it also.   It’s the same building as in the other photos, maybe he was on stage at one point too . . . ?

There’s a lot to see here, like the Chinese flag and insignia. The pictures just make me smile. In some kind of base camp out who-knows-where, all these guys look like they’ve been working hard and roughing it. Then a little bit of Hollywood shows up, with just enough show-biz oomph to let the women do their hair and have a clean dress for Ann Sheridan to look good for the Air Corpsmen. That gives me a good feeling.

All Photos © Copyright 2022 Glenn Erickson

 

 

 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday November 8, 2022

Viewers still assume it’s Jane they see swimming 30 feet underwater.

Blue Hawaii 4K 11/08/22

Paramount Presents
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

Elvis Presley’s handlers found the formula that would keep his stardom solvent through the 1960s in this well-confected, calculatedly vacant vehicle that EVERYBODY liked and enjoyed in 1961. The coolest celeb in America ended up in some of the squarest, least-hip films of the era. Why do we like it so?  Cutting through the fog of nostalgia reveals the appeal. The Hawaiian scenery is a knockout, plus there’s good support from Joan Blackman and especially Angela Lansbury, who humbles herself to play an idiot mother caricature for Mister ‘Rock-a-Hula.’ On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Paramount Presents.
11/08/22

WALL•E 4K 11/08/22

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

Pixar’s save-the-world eco-epic actually begins with the world destroyed, before a pair of cute robots help put it back together again. Andrew Stanton’s animated comedy finds hope and cheer in a post-apocalyptic scenario, a tall order for any speculative science fiction tale. Meet WALL•E, the nuts ‘n’ bolts super-janitor, and EVE, the sleek next-generation seeker of terrestrial plant re-birth. Good satire and social criticism comes in the brightest package possible in this endearing charmer. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/08/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday November 8, 2022

 

Hello!

One may need an advanced degree in Kaiju Studies to get the full benefit of this video. Advisor-associate Gary Teetzel has sent along a YouTube link that might amuse. Gary:

It’s a half-hour documentary on the making of Ultraseven, Tsuburaya Productions’ 1967 followup to their hugely successful Ultraman TV series. The first fourteen minutes are composed of some odd content and film clips. Around 9:15 or so we see what appears to be a promotional event, with the public getting a glimpse of monster suits, molds for the suits, etc.

Things get more interesting around 14:20, when we get a lengthy and detailed home movie look of a monster suit being made, from the initial sculpt to a first-fitting with the stunt man/suit performer. They do the initial sculpt over a simple wire-frame torso/legs. If they only had one wire frame, did they always hire performers about the same size?  Don’t expect to see Eiji Tsuburaya, as at this point he was more of an executive/supervisor. While watching, remember that these poor guys had to crank out a new monster (sometimes two) every week for 50 or so episodes . . . and then start all over again with almost no break when the next Ultraman spin-off show started. — Gary

If you ask me, it looks like this sample monster is some kind of human – moth larva mashup. I like that the try-on is happening in a garden, with someone’s laundry put out to dry. These were hard-working monster makers.

The TV show on YouTube is The Making of Ultraseven 1967, from 2005. The show begins with some over-eager little girls — we find them to be a little scary.

 


 

Non-video ‘News from home:’  We’re actually getting some rain in Los Angeles, which is nice. If it continues today it will be the most concentrated (light) rainfall we’ve had in what — two years?  I can almost hear my parched front lawn saying, “What’s this Stuff?”  We’ve been rationing water since early Summer, while watching TV news of towns back East all but washing away due to too much rain and flooding.  So for the moment, our dark skies and ‘rain’ traffic noise is welcome.

Here’s hoping for a peaceful mid-term election and some good news for the country. I no longer think that politics ‘was always like this’ and that my mind was occupied elsewhere — serious threats are afoot that my parents never had to experience. However you’re inclined to vote, please vote!  A LOT is at stake.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday November 5, 2022

Her eyes always seemed to tell the truth.

Le Soldatesse 11/05/22

Rarovideo / Kino Lorber
Blu-ray

Rarovideo is back, with an excellent Italo war drama that finds humanist values in an appalling situation: a young Italian lieutenant is tasked with distributing 12 Athenian prostitutes to garrisons on the road back to Italy, to ‘service’ the troops. It’s a mixed group — a couple of the women have signed up to avoid starvation. The trek takes them directly into partisan conflict. Sympathetic director Valerio Zurlini assembles a terrific international cast: Mario Adorf, Anna Karina, Tomas Milian, Marie Laforêt, Lea Massari, Valeria Moriconi and Milena Dravic. On Blu-ray from Rarovideo / Kino Lorber.
11/05/22

Universal Noir #1 Collection 11/05/22

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Powerhouse Indicator’s first foray into the Universal library yields six noir thrillers, all crime-related and all different: the list introduces us to scheming businessmen, venal confidence crooks, black-market racketeers, a femme fatale, a gangster deportee and baby stealers. The B&W features are enriched with some of the best actors of the postwar years, and the titles themselves are a litany of vice and sin: The Web, Larceny, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, Abandoned, Deported and Naked Alibi. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
11/05/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday November 5, 2022

 

Hello!

The irreplaceable David J. Schow does it again. What a great link — so much of this entertaining YouTube item was news:

Height Comparison | Classic Hollywood Actresses. The presentation — putting our fave actresses in an unending suspect lineup — is brilliant.

The shocks are all at the extremes … cameras make some absolutely TINY women look like Amazons on the screen. Gloria Swanson and Veronica Lake under 5 feet tall?  Debra Paget under 5’3″?  Say it ain’t so.

The selection is almost exclusively classic-era actresses … does the average height run much taller today?  It isn’t difficult to guess who will be tallest — and she’s only 5’11.”

 


 

Advisor and collaborator “B” keeps coming up with interesting collectors’ items with special relevance. The theme for the last week or so has been movie tie-in comics, as seen in last Tuesday’s tease of an old comic for The Man for Planet X.

This week ‘Bee’ showed me how a comic book adaptation for the 1952 MGM film Ivanhoe points up the ruinous effect of the postwar blacklist, that did terrible damage to careers across the country, not just in Hollywood. Screenwriter Marguerite Roberts was on a roll writing scripts when the informer Martin Berkeley included her on a long list of names he identified as communists. Ms. Roberts refused to cooperate with HUAC. Her MGM contract was settled and her credit were stripped from her last three films.

Apparently Ivanhoe did bear Marguerite Roberts’ screenplay credit in the U.K., but in the U.S. only writer Noel Langley’s name appears. She said that being ousted from MGM ‘was like having your father throw you out onto the street.’ When Roberts’ career eventually got back into gear she again became an in-demand talent, writing or contributing to Diamond Head, Love Has Many Faces, 5 Card Stud and the John Wayne classic True Grit. But it left a ten-year gap in her work.

What do comic books have to do with this?   When the Hollywood thought police scrubbed Marguerite Roberts’ name from the film history books, the Fawcett Comic tie-in for Ivanhoe was apparently overlooked. Most of us never knew who the true authors were for some prominent Hollywood features. “B” learned about Roberts’ involvement in Ivanhoe long before the WGA amended official credits in the 1990s. To prove it he sent along three scans — the cover of the Fawcett comic book, the title page, and an MGM lobby card with the ‘revised’ screenplay credit. The scans are much larger when zoomed, for reading.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday November 1, 2022

Still a musical that MOVES.

Arsenic and Old Lace 11/01/22

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent wades into Frank Capra’s atypical comedy farce about the mass murder spree perpetrated by Cary Grant’s cute little old aunts, with Peter Lorre and Raymond Massey along as baleful creeps worthy of a Halloween show. It’s packed with the director’s favorite character actors, led by cute poisoners Josephine Hull and Jean Adair. And don’t forget Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill. We’re told that Capra filmed it at Warners in the Fall of 1941, but it sat for three years due to a contractual hold — the play continued to run on Broadway. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/01/22

The Diamond Wizard 3-D 11/01/22

KL Studio Classics
3-D Blu-ray + 2-D Blu-ray + anaglyphic 3-D Blu-ray

Yet another 3-D Blu-ray treat — the 3-D Film Archive restores a rare English production, an international crime tale in 3-D. Dennis O’Keefe’s T-Man helps Scotland Yard track down a gang of smugglers that kidnaps and murders to force an Atom scientist to perfect his manufacturing formula for synthetic diamonds. You know, just like the silicon chip business. The widescreen 3-D is excellent, especially in two action set pieces. Margaret Sheridan co-stars. It’s almost a premiere, as the movie was never publicly exhibited in 3-D. Kino also provides an anaglyphic encoding with a pair of red-cyan glasses as an alternate 3-D option. Plus good extras about the 3-D process. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
11/01/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday November 1, 2022

 

Hello!

Last weekend correspondent and advisor Gary Teetzel attended an event opening the Jack Kevan Collection at the Valley Relics Museum here in the L.A. area. Kevan is the celebrated monster-maker & special makeup expert most famously known for fabricating and part-designing Universal’s superb Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Speeches and presentations were offered by C. Courtney Joyner, Jack Kevan’s daughter Pamela and others. Gary sent along photos of the exhibits. Displays of items from Kevan’s family were supplemented with exhibits of monster memorabilia, showing the impact that Universal’s creations had on popular culture.

The selection of genuine Kevan items saved by Pamela Kevan included several pieces of The Monster of Piedras Blancas, Kevan’s own post-Universal creation — the infamous severed head, and the monster’s hands and feet. There were also a pair of surviving Mole People hands.

 Gary saw a shelf with a couple of unidentified items, including the monster head pictured above — is it actually a mask?  At first I thought it was the Piedras Blancas beastie or something from Star Trek . . . who knows?  Its identity eludes me, but maybe a correspondent can nail it down for us . . .

 


 

Italo film expert and frequent disc commentator Troy Howarth has been touting an upcoming U.K. Blu-ray from the disc company 88 Films, of Mario Bava’s Gothic horror classic The Whip and the Body, or in its original Italian, La frustra e il corpo. The street date at Amazon UK is listed as March 27, 2023.

This is of course the sado-masochistic mini-masterpiece in which Daliah Lavi takes the ‘traditional’ Barbara Steele role, excelling as a woman haunted by the ghost of an abusive lover . . . Christopher Lee, naturally. It’s as close as Lee ever came to playing a dark romantic ‘Heathcliff’- type leading man. Except that this character is a complete rat, a sadist through and through.

The upcoming disc is hopeful news to Mario Bava fans because almost all previous videos of Whip have been of disappointing quality, far too dark and with Bava’s hallucinatory colors dimmed. The last time we saw it looking good was at a 1993 American Cinematheque screening — I think. The memory for that screening dims, for some reason. It was the night that Joe Dante introduced us to two guests: the ‘new’ horror authority Tim Lucas, and to the adventurous actress Harriet White Medin, of numerous quality Eurohorrors plus Rossellini’s classic Paisan.

We hope Troy’s praise for the image quality turns out to be accurate, as Whip is a nearly perfect corridor-wandering, flowing-nightgown haunted castle epic. A potential downside for some collectors?  88 Films’ disc will most likely be Region B.

 


 

And as a final post- Halloween treat, secret CineSavant agent ‘B’ circulated some pages from the original Fawcett comic book adaptation of Edgar G. Ulmer’s mini- sci-fi classic The Man From Planet X. He determined that the comic book hit newsstands in December of 1951. Wait a minute — I was born in February of ’52, and my parents didn’t buy me a copy. They could have read me to sleep with it, or something.

Here are a couple of sample panels. It’s a quality comic; Charlie Largent says that it was drawn by his favorite Superman/Lois Lane artist. The film’s dastardly scientific villain Dr. Mears was played by none other than favorite William Schallert, near the very beginning of his film career. I think his likeness in the comic is pretty amazing. We wonder if Schallert was aware of this ‘ancillary’ comic book stardom. Or with his busy day-player acting schedule, did he even have a chance to pass by newsstands?

Happy post-Halloween!

 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday October 29, 2022

Something in today’s post needs to be Halloween – friendly!

I, the Jury (1953) 4K + 3-D 10/29/22

ClassicFlix
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray + 3-D

Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer hit the big screen early in the 3-D craze, in a much tamed-down adaptation. The camera legend John Alton handled the lighting and likely called the shots on the camera setups as well. As a detective noir it’s definitely flat-footed, with a bum script, weak direction and a miscast Biff Elliot as the vengeful tough-guy hero. But compensating are the seductive Dran Hamilton, Margaret Sheridan and especially Peggie Castle — the key ‘dame’ in the pulp fiction finale. The United Artists release has been mostly MIA for decades, and this release presents it three ways: flat in both 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray, plus a beautiful restored 3-D Blu-ray encoding. From ClassicFlix.
10/29/22

Lonelyhearts 10/29/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Dore Schary’s post-MGM personal production is a class act in every respect — Montgomery Clift, Robert Ryan and Myrna Loy are well cast in a story of intimate emotional cruelty. It’s from a play derived from Nathanael West’s soul-crushing novella, and despite the talent involved, it can’t shake the feeling of an overheated TV drama. The acting and characterizations are riveting. Young Dolores Hart is a beacon of light amid the gloom and misery, and in her first movie, Maureen Stapleton’s’ fireball of anxiety and malice all but steals the show. The fine cinematography is again by the great John Alton. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
10/29/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday October 29, 2022

 

Hello! Halloween is upon us with a couple of 3-D attractions for CineSavant fanatics still capable of screening the format — today’s Mickey Spillane adaptation, and perhaps next Tuesday, an English-produced 3-D spy caper. It’s The Diamond Wizard, at this point pretty much an unknown quantity.

 Fans as desperate as I to get our mitts on the new restored Invaders from Mars disc got the word last week that, yes, delivery has been delayed — the late-September launch date now didn’t even make the Halloween cutoff. My take on this is that a new disc label trying to navigate fulfillment in the middle of all these supply-side woes might indeed have these kinds of problems. Speaking for myself, the best thing is for the discs to get here when they get here, without any technical compromises.  We’re hoping that it’s the disc of the year.

 


 

The Column items!   Dick Dinman has uploaded a new DVD Classics Corner on the Air podcast. This time his guest is Paramount’s front person overseeing their archives and special projects, VP Andreas Kalas. The subject is the earlier potential ‘disc of the year,’ the 4K + Blu-ray The War of the Worlds / When Worlds Collide combo that we reviewed back in September.

Dick actually saw The War of the Worlds as a child, in its first NYC engagement at the Mayfair in Times Square. That memory prompts a discussion with Ms. Kalas about the film’s original sort-of Stereophonic soundtrack.

 


 

And Joe Dante has been circulating this link to a film clip that features writer-director Preston Sturges’ only sustained movie scene as an actor, in the Bob Hope-Fernandel feature Paris Holiday.

Sturges’ acting is just fine . . . but if you ask me, his dubbed voice flattens the performance. It is dubbed, is it not?  The clip looks flat, but the original movie was in Technicolor and widescreen Technirama, so imagine big open spaces left and right. The movie itself doesn’t look like a winner. I wonder if it’s worse than Bob Hope’s awful The Iron Petticoat with Katharine Hepburn — a ‘comedy’ that plays like slow torture.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson