CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 21, 2020

Hello!

Frivolous things first … Gary Teetzel forwards this YouTube link to a French variety show with a Star Wars French Disco Ballet, clearly from 1977 when every miserable TV show on the planet was looking for a Star Wars tie-in gimmick. The non-choreography looks like something a harried troupe threw together in an afternoon, and gave to the video editors to composite. I’d laugh, except that it’s halfway interesting compared to much of the variety show dreck from that decade… I had to sit through a Brady Bunch musical special or two.


Bob Furmanek forwards this video pitch for the 3-D Film Archive’s latest 3-D restoration. Their Kickstarter campaigns have resulted in some great work, such as the recent (flat) Africa Screams disc. Now Bob makes a good case, on-camera, for a new project: Help Restore the 1977 Martial-Arts Classic DYNASTY in 3-D!




These last two items involve things I worked on. Thirty years later, I’ve been contacted by Randal Viscovich, the writer of the 1989 horror film Night Visitor, which I edited for producer Alain Silver on the Culver Studios lot back in (cough) 1988. He tells me that the new Blu-ray is out now from Scorpion Films, so I’ll have to go check it out. Last December I was taped talking about the film for some of the extras; Randal’s already corrected one piece of my faulty memory. I may even get a chance to review the disc. Sitting above so cozy is the teenager-hating devil worshipper Allen Garfield, with his demonology-challenged brother Michael J. Pollard.


And Alan K. Rode’s Facebook announcement is true; last week we braved the raging Coronavirus in Cahuenga Pass to record a full commentary for a movie that gets altogether too much attention around here, Major Dundee. Unlike my solo commentary last year for Explosive Media out of Germany, this commentary is a free-ranging conversation-discussion. The pairing seemed to go well — Alan added historical details of the Old West that placed some of the film’s action in a greater context.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 18, 2020

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

America as Seen by a Frenchman 07/18/20

Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

This marvelous proto-documentary is a cultural travelogue, before such films became a conduit to express social outrage or moral condemnation. To the French filmmakers America in 1960 is still a land of wonders, a bigger-than-life fantasyland, where you can visit a places called Fantasyland and Frontierland and see your culture’s past play out as entertainment. It’s like Mondo Cane only in that it’s free-form, taking in whatever the director François Reichenbach encountered in 18 months spent wandering through the country with a Techniscope camera in tow. Helping in the journey are Michel Legrand and Chris Marker, with an assist from Frederic Rossif and Jean Cocteau … it’s class goods, a time machine to a lost Golden Age of consumerist, conformist harmony. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
07/18/20

A Bullet for the President 07/18/20

Wild East
Blu-ray

Guest reviewer Lee Broughton tackles Tonino Valerii’s Spaghetti Western-cum-political conspiracy thriller. By brazenly transposing key aspects of John F. Kennedy’s assassination onto the assassination of James A. Garfield in 1881, Valerii gives both western and conspiracy film fans much food for thought. A career best performance by Giuliano Gemma, repurposed sets from Once Upon a Time in the West and great turns by a plethora of Sergio Leone’s regular supporting actors bring a sense of gravitas to this intriguing show. With Warren Vanders, Van Johnson, Maria Cuadra, Ray Saunders, Fernando Rey, and Benito Stefanelli. On Blu-ray from Wild East.
07/18/20

Pride and Prejudice 07/18/20

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

MGM in 1940 was just the movie factory to turn out a smart, compact version of the Jane Austen novel, with Greer Garson in fine form and Laurence Olivier possibly slumming but also contributing a flawless performance. Robert Z. Leonard’s direction is invisible but does no harm; adaptors Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin telescope events and concoct an even happier ending, all with great skill. Sorry, despite persistent rumors, the story hasn’t a single zombie. With Mary Boland, Edna May Oliver, Maureen O’Sullivan, Edmund Gwenn, Ann Rutherford, Marsha Hunt, Frieda Inescort and Heather Angel; on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
07/18/20

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 18, 2020

Hello!

Congrats to Savant reviewer Lee Broughton, whose review for the Spaghetti Western The Specialists has persisted on the Trailers from Hell Top Six Popular Articles list for several weeks. An invaluable asset to CineSavant, Lee has been writing for us for more than twenty years… amassing a considerable volume of reviews. I hereby offer this link to Lee’s own page, Current Thinking on the Western.


Today’s fun continues with a musical link from trusted cohort Craig Reardon, a cue from the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, doing a spot-on in-concert rendition of the main theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Boy, the record of this soundtrack album was a real thrill back at Christmas of 1969…

And Gary Teetzel reports that Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentations of the old A.I.P. thrillers How to Make a Monster and War of the Colossal Beast have been delayed again, this time to November. This is the third or fourth push-back, we think for How to Make a Monster. I guess we have to admit that we were looking forward to those vintage Sam Arkoff titles. Are these two turning into the ‘Flying Dutchmen’ of Blu-ray releases, doomed to forever wander the calendar in search of a release date?

Being Blu-ray fans, our impatience knows no bounds. With these booted from Scream Factory’s October schedule, Warner Archives darn well better come up with something good for Halloween…

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 14, 2020

Not Timothy Carey! … anyone but Timothy Carey! CLICK on it.

The Flesh and the Fiends 07/14/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

John Gilling’s chilling-est horror item is an historically accurate tale of bodysnatching in Edinburgh. When Peter Cushing’s Dr. Knox needs cadavers for his controversial anatomy studies, the enterprising Burke and Hare (George Rose & Donald Pleasence) procure them — creating corpses when the graveyards are guarded. It’s a straight demonstration of how idealistic scientists get the axe every time. The production is handsome and the cast ideal: June Laverick, Billie Whitelaw, John Cairney, Renee Houston, Dermot Walsh, Andrew Faulds. The incomparable Peter Cushing gives his all to the misguided surgeon with the paralyzed eyelid yet Donald Pleasence’s looney ghoul all but steals the show. Reviewer Charlie Largent shows us how to ‘Burke them,’ with style. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/14/20

The War of the Worlds 07/14/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

“It neutralizes mesons somehow. They’re the atomic glue holding matter together!”  For most of the 1950s George Pal’s Martian invasion spectacle reigned as the top Sci-fi spectacle about an alien invasion. All the money went into the visuals, beautifully turned out by Byron Haskin and Gordon Jennings. Paramount’s much-awaited full restoration job does the picture justice, even if fussy fans will continue to argue the ‘what about the wires?’ battle. Even more impressive than the visuals is the film’s superb sound design, which still blows audiences away whether in mono or a new 5.1 remix. Criterion’s extras don’t critique the film as much as they tout the high-class restoration (and minor revisions). On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/14/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 14, 2020

 

Hello! This is a special fun day, both for reviews and CineSavant Column links!

 

Sharp-eyed correspondent Mark Forer has spotted and documented something very interesting on the Turner Classic Movies cable channel… a little PC polishing of the corporate image. One of TCM’s beautifully crafted feature intro videos is a ‘Pop-Up Book’ in which various movie still photos fold up and out as in a children’s book. TCM’s graphic design and editiorial is so sophisticated, I can’t tell if someone actually created a book, or if it’s all a digital effect.

The four images above get bigger when opened in a new window. The top two snapshots were taken on April 8 — lots of us have old TCM cablecasts languishing on our cable DVRs or Tivos. It’s a scene still from John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, that I think represents the funeral of a cavalry officer who had fought for the South in the Civil War. ( ) John Wayne of course presides, and Trooper Tyreen (Ben Johnson) holds a confederate battle flag, in honor of the officer’s failed cause.

Ah, but the cold hand of the Ministry of Truth at TCM has deemed the confederate flag to be a hot potato. The bottom two images show that the flag has been erased, as undesirable.

Very interesting… cancel culture and overzealous PC policing is dangerous, as it can make us liberals look like Commissars enforcing a conformist viewpoint. As Mark pointed out, almost all the older movies on TCM are going to have issues with Political Correctness. He asks, what will be the next movie or image to be run through a political filter and found wanting?

Note that my review of Gone With the Wind, like almost all readings of the film for the last thirty years, makes note of its essential rancid racism. I don’t know if the show is presently on furlough from TCM screenings. But I don’t for minute think that TCM will start vetting old movies and performing censor cuts. That would wipe out most of the Turner library!  Remember the companies that offered to cleanse movies to make them palatable for conservative families, editing out bad language and inconvenient progressive ideas?

TCM likely views those interstitial videos as a display of their corporate identity, and thus the rebel flag had to go. By the way, we still love the old TCM intros. My favorite is still Look for the Silver Lining.” Bring that back in some form or another. Put any flag in it you like.


 

Forgive me, for both of today’s blurbs for upcoming discs are illustrated with completely unnecessary salacious & sordid images, which I know I haven’t included enough of lately!

Universal’s newly-promoted The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray promises marvelous new encodings of four great Hitch Pix that I’d love to revisit in 4K: Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho and The Birds. But the extra-special good news is that Universal has remastered Psycho with a longer cut (for standalone Blu-ray as well). The announced release date is September 8.

Wa-ay back in 1998 I wrote a short article for the old DVD Savant that reported something that friend Douglas Haise had found hiding in plain sight. The famous Hitchock-Truffaut interview book documented the famous Janet Leigh Shower Scene shot by shot — and one frame grab showed a more revealing view that didn’t appear in the prints we saw (over and over and over…). My old article is still up — it’s called An Interesting Bit Of Info On The Censored PSYCHO Shower Scene.

A number of years ago we learned that foreign copies of Psycho had retained the shot, but I didn’t know that other short bits and scene extensions had been censored as well. The full set is documented in an excellent entry of the Movie-Censorship.com site. The text is amusing: of course Janet Leigh was never naked during the filming — her body double was!

Now, will the new version include just the extra shot or two from the pre-shower scene, or everything mentioned at the Movie-Censorship page?  I really need to see more seconds of Anthony Perkins with blood on his hands!


For the second announcement we step back thirty years or so to the marvelous days of pre-Code permissiveness. On July 29) the disc company The Film Detective will release a new Blu-ray of 1933’s The Sin of Nora Moran. A convicted murderer (Zita Johann) relates her story from the Death House. The show ‘utilizes flashbacks, dreams and hallucinations to tell her tale of fateful doom,’ all of which sounds peachy-keen to devotees of similar pre-Code sizzlers like Baby Face, The Story of Temple Drake and Safe In Hell. Zita Johann was the star of Karloff’s The Mummy and played opposite Edward G. Robinson in Howard Hawks’ Tiger Shark.

Most of us only know this ‘Majestic Pictures’ release from its racy original poster (pictured) which was painted by the famed Alberto Vargas. The Film Detective is holding a contest for a giveaway of a quality framed reproduction of the poster.

Another curious note — the disc will be released in collaboration with the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and also Sam Sherman and Independent-International Pictures. Does that mean that The Sin of Nora Moran shared vault shelf space with Al Adamson’s Blood of Ghastly Horror?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 11, 2020

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire 07/11/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

What’s the best Ecological Thriller of all time?  Finally available in a good Region A disc is Val Guest and Wolf Mankowitz’s thrilling, realistic account of our world turned topsy-turvy, and perhaps plunging into a fiery oblivion. The violent shifts of climate and weather patterns echo today’s global warming chaos. Newspapermen Edward Judd and Leo McKern track down a frightening government secret; Janet Munro is the confidential clerk that leaks the truth. One of the top all-time British Science Fiction films is also a great newspaper story about the importance of a free press. The new extra is a Richard Harland Smith commentary. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/11/20

The Thief of Baghdad (1961) 07/11/20

Colosseo Film (Import)
Region-free Blu-ray

It took us forever to get this to review!  Many fans of Steve Reeves consider this breezy Arabian nights adventure his best. Lavish and colorful, it gives Reeves a chance to be playful and clever — whether he takes advantage of that opportunity is open to debate. A trio of Italian writers drummed up the story, giving Reeves an object of affection in Princess Amina, played by the beautiful, fresh-faced Georgia Moll. Clever special effects abound as Karim goes on a quest that’s almost like a video game — encountering trees that walk, a cloak of invisibility and of course a flying horse. Reeves’s version joins those of Sabu (’40) and Douglas Fairbanks (’24), and all three are good. After a long wait on a shipment from Germany, we finally got our hands on the disc which Charlie Largent reviews. With Arturo Dominici. On Region Free Blu-ray from Colosseo Film.
07/11/20

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 11, 2020

Hello!

I’d like to take a few moments to remember a real character who passed away a few days ago, a genuine ‘monster kid’ who made his mark in Horror and Sci-fi fandom. We knew that Ted Newsom wasn’t in the best of health, as he had part of a lung removed several years ago. But I wasn’t aware of his failing condition, especially because his disc commentaries have kept coming, one after another. I knew Ted through both Stuart Galbraith IV and Wayne Schmidt, and would see him from time to time. He’s the kind of guy that odd stories collected around; he seemed to encourage them. Quite a while ago, Ted produced a Hammer Horror video documentary with some good interviews. He reunited Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in an interview session; it was all covered in loving detail in Video Watchdog. His series of horror docs continued, along with a video docu about Ed Wood. He contributed to the magazine Little Shoppe of Horrors and made his own sci-fi comedy, The Naked Monster.

I first met Ted twenty years ago, at a 35mm screening of some Revenge of Frankenstein outtakes that had surfaced. He amazed me by lip-synching most of the dialogue in the silent outtakes, on first sight — he had apparently internalized the dialogue of his favorite Hammer films. Of course, he wanted the little outtakes reel for a re-cut of his Hammer documentary, and wasn’t happy when it simply couldn’t be ‘slipped under the counter’ to him.

When Stuart Galbraith moved Ted Newsom spent a day trying to sell parts of a collection Stuart had left behind. That was when I talked with Ted the longest, and learned about his Spider-Man lawsuit, and his time in the Army. I also found out that he was a heavy smoker. In one-on-one talk Ted was quite friendly and fun — and unpredictable. For a while he had a job with Hustler magazine. That was weird enough, but on one Christmas he sent his friends some R-rated photos from the office party!

There were also times when Ted could be a handful. When the Hammer film Cloudburst was released on DVD in 2011, none of us had seen it or knew much about it, not even Ted. I invited him over to watch it with some friends and give us the benefit of his Hammer wisdom. That’s when I found out how argumentative Ted could be when he thought his opinion should prevail — usually on some tiny detail.

But Ted was always sociable, always working some angle and always enthusiastic. His wild sense of humor surfaced frequently on web boards and Facebook (along with some equally wild opinions). I have good memories of the Hammer audio commentaries he recorded for Anchor Bay DVDs back in the day. One of today’s CineSavant reviews features a vintage Ted Newsom commentary, with director Val Guest.

If you can tap into Stuart Galbraith IV’s Facebook page, he has up a candid but fair assessment of Ted — one of those ‘creative & complicated’ people full of unexpected surprises. Ted was always busy — performing a well-done colorization job on a classic monster photo, or Photoshopping a clever movie-related joke like the one pictured here. Some of them were Safe For Work!


 

Congratulations to Dennis Doros, film producer, co-owner of Milestone Film and the President of the AMIA, The Association of Moving Image Archivists. On July 21 the Turner Classic Movies cable channel will broadcast an AMIA show called Archival Screening Night. The collection of ‘incredible, strange, astonishing, hilarious and curious treasures from the world’s moving image archives’ will screen along with three other features as a tribute to Milestone films. So check your TCM logs. Full information is here. Mr. Doros was exceedingly kind to me ten years ago, when he invited me to see some of the archival screenings at AMIA’s ‘The Reel Thing’ festivals.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 7, 2020

An appropriate Morricone tune…CLICK on it.

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break 07/07/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

It’s appropriate that collaborator Charlie Largent would want to review this outlandish W.C Fields romp, as it’s the closest thing to Alice Through the Looking Glass Hollywood ever did. Fields’ crazy story begins with scenes in a movie studio, but the weirdness accumulates until people are making impossible jumps from airplanes, to a mountaintop aerie where dwells the amorous Margaret Dumont as ‘Mrs. Hemoglobin’ … and, sigh, Leon Errol. The whole thing is a visualization of Fields’s absurd movie pitch to ‘Esoteric Pictures’… W.C.’s last feature starring vehicle goes out with a bang. The disc’s audio commentary is by Eddy Von Mueller. On Blu-rayfrom KL Studio Classics.
07/07/20

Britannia Hospital 07/07/20

Powerhouse Indicator
Region B Blu-ray

Lindsay Anderson got the opportunity to film a third ‘Mick Travis’ picture starring Malcolm McDowall, and with writer David Sherwin fashioned a wholly irreverent, savagely funny takedown of Great Britain… the whole country. The equivalent of hitting Big Ben with a custard pie, the satirical barbs are aimed at labor union obstructionism, Royal hauteur, class privilege, raucous demonstrators and devious journalistic snoops. Behind the island nation’s dysfunctional health system lurks a genuine mad scientist, who has diverted the funds of The National Health into a pair of sinister, abominable — but very ‘forward thinking’ experiments. Dr. Frankenstein would be proud. The great, funny cast features plenty of favorites: Leonard Rossiter, Graham Crowden, Malcolm McDowell, Vivian Pickles, Jill Bennett, Marsha A. Hunt, Joan Plowright, Mark Hamill, Peter Jeffrey, Robin Asquith, Robbie Coltrane and Arthur Lowe. On Region B Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
07/07/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 7, 2020

Hello!

On the 4th of July, just last Saturday night, Los Angeles had a ‘no fireworks’ rule going. Private fireworks have been illegal here in the city since at least the 1970s, but on holidays they get shot off anyway. We just wait for the news to come in of injuries and fires. This year’s stricter rule banned all organized displays to discourage large gatherings during this very serious pandemic. With every trip out of the house, I imagine hearing a Looney Tunes character sneering at me: “You’ll be SORR-RY!”

But since our citizens don’t observe the good sense and civic goodwill to use masks against COVID, we knew darn well that every idiot with an illegal skyrocket and a cigarette lighter would be out, eager to burn up a palm tree or burn down an apartment building. Hey, does some kid want his fingers blown off, or his eyesight extinguished?  Come to Hollywood!

We weren’t disappointed. By nightfall the illegal fireworks reverberated through the house, from all over. In Los Angeles sound is weird as it bounces around; you can’t tell if an individual BANG is just down the block or a half-mile away. By 9pm the constant barrage continued unbroken until after I fell asleep at 1am. To us it sounded like Da Nang under bombardment by the VC.

Patrick Gomez edited two or three long aerial takes over The City of the Angels, likely from a news ‘copter staying at a prudent altitude. His memorable video recalls a popular science fiction picture: Man turns Los Angeles into Blade Runner after hypnotic aerial footage of illegal fireworks goes viral.  You will think that L.A. was under attack by Wild Bill Kelso or maybe Zahgon Bombers, trying to knock out our ionization shields. Mr. Gomez’s short video is definitely making the rounds; several friends sent it to me independently.

In the morning when I got my paper (yep, like Fred MacMurray in The Shaggy Dog), there was a mist in the air and the faintest smell of gunpowder… or did I imagine it?

And that’s the fireworks news from Dystopia of the Angels, where all scofflaws and death-wishers are Above Average.


Sad news about Ennio Morricone  yesterday… so much great music. We’re sad that we never saw him in concert… but happily he was a legend in his own time, and greatly appreciated world-wide. His music makes any movie repeat-viewable ad infinitum.

The link above to Chi Mai is my wife’s favorite Morricone cue. She pointed out to me his habit of using instruments as pure emotion. Chi Mai feels deeply emotional; in the movie it comes from it represents the pain inflicted on African colonies. The beautiful Morricone music that I think of for a funeral comes from this Leone classic.

Monday morning KPCC FM radio played Morricone music, lightly, behind their morning newscasts — which tells us how everyone feels about Il Maestro’s passing.


CineSavant and Trailers from Hell’s esteemed creative dynamo Charlie Largent asked to jump into the CineSavant column to promote a new film he’s enthused about. So we’ll finish up today with what I think is going to be a sincere ‘stream it’ pitch:

I want to thank Glenn for letting me call attention to a unique project that showed up on my radar. At a time when it’s harder than ever to make a movie, some enterprising folks show us that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Or a rock star. – Charlie Largent

Elvis Presley was an otherworldly talent but what if he really was from another planet? A new film from Joba entertainment, LLC examines just that premise. In Elvis from Outer Space, Graceland’s favorite son is revealed to be a bona fide alien and subject to all the indignities our government would place on any suspected alien interloper. Though low budget the movie has the glossy sheen of many big budget productions and the story behind the film makes it really special. Roger Corman would be proud.

Like a few of Corman’s more infamous productions, the movie started out as one thing and ended up quite another. Elvis started life as a feature length film written and directed by Marv Z. Silverman, then was whittled down to a short film and then expanded into a bona fide feature length movie. In a sleight of hand that would make Corman proud, director Tracy Wuischpard, along with Wuischpard’s husband, musician and animator Bruce Tovsky, performed several feats of cinematic prestidigitation and voilà, a film fit for the cineplex. That the new storyline is so fluid is a testament to the filmmakers who made the new scenes blend seamlessly with the old.

As with many of Corman’s films, the making of Elvis from Outer Space is as interesting as the movie. Due to an accident Wuischpard couldn’t travel but still needed to direct the new scenes so they devised a way to do remote shoots using an iPad and FaceTime. A production assistant would carry the computer around with Wuischpard’s face along for the ride – she was able to observe the takes and coach each actor individually – in her words, “It was crazy, but it worked.”

Tovsky took on the special effects using 3-D animation to create the aliens, space ships, transporter beams, and super-power effects. One of the original actors from the short, George Thomas, was inserted into the new sequences 7 years after the original shoot and digitally de-aged.

Examining the final cut, Wuischpard declared it “My ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’” and “… hoped there would be an audience that would enjoy the wackiness.” Elvis from Outer Space may not achieve such a hallowed cult following but it’s definitely wacky and the skills the filmmakers bring put it over the finish line.

The new show is available on Apple TV and Amazon Prime beginning today. You can hear Tracy discuss all the details here on the UFO Buster Podcast.


Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 4, 2020

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Come and See 07/04/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

The director of this unblinking account of the genocide in Belarus in 1942 and 1943 said that “people in America can’t watch my film. They have thrillers but this is something different.” He certainly got that right. A young farm boy is a witness to and victim of horrendous barbarism inflicted on a civilian population… now the most common kind of terror. The Politburo wanted a film to commemorate Victory Day, and director Elem Klimov gave them something nobody would forget. Although cinema gut-wrenchers have gone much further in the last 25 years, Kilmov’s unforgettable horrorshow rivets us through the haunted, paralyzed face of young actor Aleksei Kravchenko, who can scarcely process what he sees. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/04/20