Supernatural 03/17/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Wow! That glorious original poster jumped out at us, making us ask why we couldn’t see this classic-era Paramount horror picture starring the brilliant and glamorous Carole Lombard and directed by the maker of White Zombie.  Well, it’s finally shown up to answer that question on Blu-ray. This fairly insubstantial spiritualist vs. scientist spook show about a lady strangler returned from the dead is no classic but will of course be a major curiosity for horror buffs. It’s short on real scares, but it does have a young Randolph Scott to race to the rescue at the finish. Also featuring Vivienne Osborne, Alan Dinehart, H.B. Warner, and Beryl Mercer. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/17/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday March 17, 2020

Hello!

Yep, good old Dennis Price has arrived, with two friends in hazmat suits. Luckily, I’m not alone here at CineSavant headquarters, and won’t be going batty like Dennis. But plenty of people are soon going to feel very isolated. In a few days we’re going to be really grateful for our web connection to our friends and family.

I don’t have a virus filter for my Modem (that was in the health guidelines, wasn’t it?)  In the interest of Public Safety I considered taking CineSavant offline … but I figure that the public needs to be informed about the searing controversies that surface in these pages: Aspect ratios! Transfer speeds! Original versions! Just doing my bit.


Contributor/advisor/conscience Gary Teetzel knows how to use humor to defuse tension. After an exchange about COVID 19, he sent a picture from The Andromeda Strain of the scientist having a tiny layer of skin burned off as a sterilization ploy. Gary plans to do that before he goes out. Just to be extra safe, he says he’s going to do what the old man in the movie did to stay safe — start drinking Sterno!

The photo above is from a Universal horror-western (?) movie called Curse of the Undead, which Kino Lorber has announced for Blu-ray. I haven’t seen it, but I told Gary it must be a classic because Michael Pate is in it, and Michael Pate plays the marauding Apache Sierra Charriba in my personal obsession Major Dundee. Gary’s answer is typical:

“Yes Glenn, Sierra Charriba is a vampire in Curse of the Undead. Charlton Heston plays Major Van Helsing, who obsessively pursues him across the Old West.”

Sounds okay to me.


After I linked last time to an online encoding of The Beatles’ docu feature Let it Be, correspondent Mike Hasch told me that Peter Jackson has made a documentary about the final year of the group before their breakup. He sent along links to two announcement articles online: in Rolling Stone and in Variety.


Wait, don’t go away yet. Correspondent ‘Chuck’ has contributed a link to a Japanese-for-American-Viewers video piece about Japan’s top Inventions. The ‘invention’ in this particular episode is our old friend Godzilla, the monster with the radioactive personality. Gotta include a Godzilla link, it’s the law.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday March 14, 2020

Just saw this worst-case-scenario thriller again… it’s not hysterical, it’s empowering. CLICK on it.

Leave Her to Heaven 03/14/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Gorgeous Gene Tierney has a perplexing problem in this bizarre domestic noir — she just *sigh* has to connive and murder to get her way. Her dream wife Ellen Berent is rich, cultured, and drop-dead beautiful, but hubby Cornell Wilde should have read the small print about her manic possessiveness. Beautiful people, beautiful scenery and Technicolor so bright that even Alfred Newman’s music score seems to be in color; John M. Stahl’s thriller stretches the definition of Film Noir. With Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Mary Philips, Ray Collins, Darryl (help me!) Hickman. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
03/14/20

Trail of the Screaming Forehead + The Lost Skeleton Returns Again 03/14/20

Bantam Street (separate releases)
Blu-ray

Cult nonsense filmmaking finds its Ultimate in Larry Blamire’s pair of monster-rally comedies, that parody classic cheapo sci-fi thrillers. The spot-on spoofery nails the genre’s hyper-earnest characterizations and affectionately stilted acting. The only disconnect are the high production values lavished on these personal films: remastered for reissue, they look and sound almost too good for authenticity’s sake. Separate purchases, each with bounteous extras, including Larry Blamire’s weird ‘reanimated movie classics.’ On Blu-ray from Bantam Street.
03/14/20

CineSavant Column

Saturday March 14, 2020

 

Hello! I can imagine readers have plenty of important things to do today … but we’re still in a position to review discs here. Yesterday morning I had one Column item, and now I have too many.   I know I will miss at least one interesting disc announcement that will have to wait ’til Tuesday…

Film Movement has been giving us good Blu-rays of top British comedies; now they’ve put together a five-title compilation of top Brit pix about WW2, due on March 31. It’s just plain good stuff, with good extras. The set gives us remastered presentation of Cavalcanti’s Went the Day Well?, Eric Ambler’s wild what-if tale of a stealth invasion; Guy Hamilton’s The Colditz Story, a pre- Great Escape true story of an Allied POW break from a fortified castle; Michael Anderson’s The Dam Busters, about the spectacular ‘bouncing bomb’ raid on the Ruhr dams ( ↑ ), Leslie Norman’s Dunkirk, an earlier epic take on the mass evacuation, made the subject of a Brian Trenchard-Smith TFH Commentary, and J. Lee Thompson’s Ice Cold In Alex, a tense, under-seen movie about the North African campaign.

Film Movement has put together a corny but exiting YouTube promo for Their Finest Hour: 5 British WWII Classics, showing the quality of the restorations.


The Warner Archive Collection has announced something unusual for April: John Huston’s psychosexual potboiler Reflections in a Golden Eye, with Brando, Liz Taylor, Brian Keith and Robert Forster in an early role. This will be a curious item for Blu-ray, for the show is yet another of Huston’s ‘color experiment’ movies, the others being Moulin Rouge and Moby Dick. Warners is presenting the movie both in optimized ‘normal’ color, and also with the stylized ‘golden eye’ color treatment. I didn’t see the film new, but I was told that original Technicolor prints were not simply given an amber tone … they were described as genuinely golden in appearance, as if something really special had been done. Why?  You tell me.


Gary Teetzel has forwarded a mind-boggling 20-minute piece called What happens when an architect sees the movie Parasite?   What is shown must be the most exacting, detailed overkill miniature ever — magic hands seem to be at work. I’ve seen some pretty fancy model-makin’, but this is something else. The beautifully filmed and directed piece is apparently one of several. What Gary said is right, we wish it carried a modelmaker commentary.


And today is a good day for more podcast / web radio from Dick Dinman: in this show he and Alan Rode discuss three separate Blu-ray releases. In Dick’s own words, they “marvel at the erotic exoticism of Robert Siodmak’s Cobra Woman, Ernest Schoedsack’s Doctor Cyclops (both now on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber) and Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic (just released in mind-blowingly lustrous fashion courtesy of Film Movement Classics).” The show has been given the compact, abbreviated title Dick Dinman & Alan K. Rode Salute The Exotic Fever Dream Fantasies of Siodmak, Lang & Shoedsack. That’s pretty raw stuff there. Personally speaking, I try to keep my exotic fever dream fantasies to myself.

The insanely busy and productive Alan Rode just saw a certain health crisis shut down his great Hollywood Noir City film festival, the last group activity I voluntarily attended: we’re all feeling the slowdown on the social and personal level.


More great news from Warner Home Video’s George Feltenstein, who confirms that the just-announced Blu-ray of the 1948 film Rachel and the Stranger will be a major restoration. The show stars Loretta Young, William Holden and Robert Mitchum; I learned from George a few years ago that Howard Hughes cut it by a full fourteen minutes, and that’s what we’ve been watching for generations. In George’s words, so I don’t get it wrong:

“Hi Glenn, IT IS the lost long version!  Complete and quite gorgeous. It is a combination of a 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative (which was cut, and had the main titles re-filmed to remove writer Waldo Salt’s credit and contributions) and a 4K scan of an uncut British nitrate negative (which has the original full titles, and the fourteen minutes of missing footage).

I knew that the film had been cut severely, but I had never seen the original version, and I was unaware of Salt’s contribution beyond the screenwriting credit that had been removed — he also wrote the lyrics to the songs. We had never released a DVD because of the edits; there will be a DVD later down the line.

There is SO much great stuff on the way, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised… and often.  All my best, George”

When George says ‘great stuff is on the way,’ he’s usually not kidding. Since his note, the Robert Wise ‘noir’ western Blood on the Moon and Richard Brooks’ Tennessee Williams adaptation Sweet Bird of Youth have been announced for Blu-ray as well. I’ve always liked Rachel and the Stranger — maybe Robert Mitchum does some more singing?   The other RKO pix I’m aware of that are in dire need of work to restore cuts made in reissue are Howard Hawks’ The Big Sky (140 minutes reduced to 122) and another title that few folk seem to know was ever cut, the fine film noir They Won’t Believe Me (95 minutes reduced to 80). It was directed by Irving Pichel and stars Robert Young, Susan Hayward, and (sigh) Jane Greer.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday March 10, 2020

The Order of Flesh and Blood asks why this picture is here. CLICK on it.

Manon 03/10/20

Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

We can depend on H.G. Clouzot to find people at their most desperate, at their worst. His updated adaptation of Manon Lescaut dissects the trauma of amour fou AND the hypocrisy, opportunism and political horror of postwar France. Resistance fighter Michel Auclair and provincial tart Cécile Aubrey are lovers caught in a web of vice and treachery, much of it of their own making. Their desperate escape takes them to an inhuman landscape devoid of mercy. Clouzot may pity these characters, but he sure doesn’t give them a break. co-starring Serge Reggiani. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
03/10/20

Whisky Galore! + The Maggie 03/10/20

Film Movement Classics
Blu-ray

All hail Alexander Mackendrick! TFH’s Charlie Largent evaluates a terrific Ealing Scottish double bill of hilarious comedies. Mackendrick’s first feature is about an island’s valiant call to arms — to recover a cargo of booze run around on the rocks. Basil Radford and Joan Greenwood star. Second up is the director’s personal favorite, a droll farce about a struggle between an American millionaire (Paul Douglas) and the clever, slippery captain of a barely-seaworthy cargo launch (Alex Mackenzie). It’s sort of a proto- Local Hero battle of wills. CineSavant’s Charlie Largent evaluates the disc. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
03/10/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday March 10, 2020

Hello!

After that marathon of links last Saturday, I’ve run fairly dry today. But fellow conspirator-in-reviewing Charlie Largent zapped over a rather exciting link that promises no end of discovery, at least for those with time to dig through it. It’s called the Internet Archive VHS Vault, and it consists of a bunch of random digitizations of things that are presumably in the Public Domain. The shockeroo right on the first page is a rather good copy of the Beatles’ Let it Be, which I saw once when it was new and never again. Yup, there’s Yoko, all right, just a few seconds in. Her face prompted a few ‘boos’ at my screening, way back when — deserved or undeserved, she took the rap for breaking up the band.

Other offerings on the site do look a little dicey — I mean, I see what looks like Disney content. But also an okay Invaders from Mars, in case you’re tired of holding your breath for a remastered Blu-ray.


← And leave it to Gary Teetzel to find more odd stuff in his web searches. He provides the answer to that question I know must be bugging everyone out there: What Frightens Boris Karloff?

Well, we now have photographic proof that what most terrifies old Boris is Gale Storm and Zasu Pitts!  I don’t recall ever seeing this photo before, either; it’s publicity foolishness to promote the 1950s TV comedy The Gale Storm Show. Judging by Zasu’s character name in the show, maybe Boris is worried that she’s going to rub her knuckles into his scalp. The text can be read by opening the graphic in a new window … it’s larger.


Thanks for reading, and thanks to correspondents writing in to tell me about the region coding on their German Explosive Media GmbH discs. Much appreciated!   Our three ‘Clicker’ friends with the ball-bearing eyes in the photo up top appreciate the help as well. They’re the stars of what is still the most perceptive Sci-fi movie about the robotic future — Glenn Erickson

Saturday March 7, 2020

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

The Cranes Are Flying 03/07/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Some classic Russian films are impressive, others are interesting — and this one takes our heads off, as if we were seeing great moviemaking for the first time. Soviet filmmaking under Stalin was locked in the grip of stifling bureaucratic sameness; Mikhail Kalatazov waited until the passing of Joe Stalin to direct with a degree of freedom. This show about lovers separated by war won prizes around the world, giving Soviet films new life internationally — its bravura montages and fluid camera set pieces still astound. The stars are Sergey Batalov, and the world-class actress and beauty Tatyana Samojlova. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
0307/20

Beau Brummell 03/07/20

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

This remake of Warners’ 1924 John Barrymore feature gives us Elizabeth Taylor in the Mary Astor role, Stewart Granger as the fashion dandy of the Restoration Period, and a scene-stealing Peter Ustinov as a lonely, needy Prince of Wales. The historical details are bogus, but it at least doesn’t turn Brummell into a typical swashbuckler. Compensating are English actors that can get any script up on its feet, and Liz Taylor’s blue-violet eyes. And the Oswald Morris cinematography improves greatly on the MGM house style. Also starring Robert Morley, James Donald, James Hayter, Rosemary Harris, Paul Rogers, and Noel Willman. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
03/07/20

CineSavant Column

Saturday March 7, 2020

 

Hello, plenty of CineSavant column link fun today.

I very much enjoyed the Argentinian noir The Beast Must Die last night at Noir City in Hollywood; the series continues all week long. Eddie Muller made the introductions in fine form, and since it was the opening night, there were a lot of people in costumes, plus the LAPD contingent with their 1950s uniforms and squad cars.

TCM has released a tentative schedule for Muller’s Noir Alley show, which I’m taking the time to lay out here. They’re all great entertainment, of course. I’ve not seen only one of them, Bodyguard. All but three are available on video disc, and ten out of 21 are on Blu-ray.

MARCH
07   Ride the Pink Horse   (**link to review)
14   I Wake Up Screaming   (**)
21   Elevator to the Gallows   (**)
28   Crime Wave above →   (**)

APRIL
04   Address Unknown   (**)
11   Beyond a Reasonable Doubt   (**)
18   Witness to Murder   (**)
25   Wicked Woman
MAY
02   Fallen Angel   (**)
09   Mildred Pierce   (**)
16   The Crimson Kimono   (**)
23   Cornered   (**)
30   A Kiss Before Dying   (**)
JUNE
06   The Underworld Story below →   (**)
13   Murder By Contract top ↑   (**)
20   Underworld U.S.A.   (**)
27   The Lady From Shanghai   (**)

JULY
04   The Sign of the Ram
11   Bodyguard
18   Three Strangers   (**)
25   The Breaking Point   (**)

CineSavant favorites at the moment are Crime Wave (André De Toth’s direction, plus a look at ‘Bob’s Big Boy’ in Toluca Lake in 1952), Address Unknown (extreme designs by director Cameron Menzies), Wicked Woman (wonderful Beverly Michaels sleaze), The Underworld Story (prime Cy Endfield subversion) and Murder by Contract (minimalist existentialism at least a decade before its time). Half of the rest are stone classics, so just be safe and watch them all. Even if I don’t watch the shows, I DVR and then watch Eddie Muller’s bookended on screen comments… it’s an education.

 


 

Old friend and contributor Wayne Schmidt passes on a link to an important work of cultural art, reminding us that some of our favorite entertainers have passed on to that great cel-washing animation stand in the sky. None of these ‘toons’ have gravestones, the acetone saw to that: Grace Ebert on Filip Hodas’s Skulls of Endearing Cartoon Characters.

 


 

Correspondent Chuck, who earlier let us know about Peplum TV, now steers us to the event of the year in Phoenixville, PA: the Blobfest, run by the Colonial Theater. There are plenty of activities … I’d go just to see what they’re screening for what they are advertising as First Spaceship on Venus.

 


 

Last week the CineSavant screening confab spun Kino’s new disc of William Wyler’s The Good Fairy, which I really have to review soon — it’s an utterly charming pre-screwball comedy that showcases and adorable Margaret Sullavan, gives Herbert Marshall a fine comedic role, and even lets Frank Morgan try out his full ‘wizard’ schtick: “Marvelous!” And it’s written by Preston Sturges, who dialed down the slapstick and dialed up the sweetness.

Anyway, that prompted advisor and contributor Gary Teetzel to go snooping online, to see what they gab was re: Good Fairy back in 1935. He found three related ‘Universal Weekly’ publicity articles, etc;, on the show:

Carl Laemmle — or rather, whatever publicity flack penned this — seems oddly hung up on Margaret Sullavan’s character name Ginglebusher in this two-page spread that appeared in Universal Weekly. The whole issue is devoted to The Good Fairy, so ‘turn the pages’ of the digital copy to see how Universal hyped the film:

Universal Weekly January 26, 1935

Another piece on the film supposedly written by Carl Laemmle.

Universal Weekly March 23, 1935

To explain why Cesar Romero got such good billing for his small role in The Good Fairy, the answer is probably from this issue back in 1934, when the film is just going into production. The article describes him as a protege of Junior Laemmle:

Universal Weekly August 25, 1934

The article also says he’s about to play the lead opposite Fay Wray in Cheating Cheaters. Romero consistently played memorable, important parts, but not so frequently the top role.

 



Finally, a question for my reliable correspondents. Have any of you purchased the German imports from Explosive Media GmBh of the Gregory Peck Western The Gunfighter “Der Barbar und die Geisha” or the John Huston/John Wayne drama The Barbarian and the Geisha “Der Scharfschütze” ? I have beautiful check discs and want to review them, but since they aren’t final product, I can’t tell my readers with 100% certainty what region coding the discs carry.

Any info on that would help, as well as Explosive’s discs of Waterloo, Soldier of Fortune (“Treffpunkt Hongkong”), The Last American Hero (“Der letze Held Amerikas”), Jesse James (“Mann ohne gesetz”), and A High Wind to Jamaica (“Sturm über Jamaika”).

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday March 3, 2020

Why is this picture here? Undying passion! CLICK on it.

Inside Moves 03/03/20

Scorpion Releasing
Blu-ray

Are friends the best therapy?  Richard Donner’s first feature post- Superman is a complete switcheroo — a small-scale character piece that delivers an impressive lineup of engaging actors. John Savage leads a ‘different’ ensemble of the walking wounded, that congregates at a neighborhood bar. The movie has a positive sports theme, and the way its characters overcome physical limits and psychological damage feels uplifting, never phony. Diana Scarwid earned an Oscar nomination, and the unappreciated Amy Wright is a heartbreaker in a strong, uncompromised role. Also co-starring David Morse, Harold Sylvester, Bill Henderson, Bert Remsen, Harold Russell, and Tony Burton. On Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing.
03/03/20

My Gun Is Quick 03/03/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

I wouldn’t brag about that if I were you. United Artists’ third go-round with Mickey Spillane’s famed private eye doesn’t do the franchise justice — there’s little to connect the inexpressive nice guy Robert Bray with the super-popular, super-violent avenger of the books. Spillane’s original is abandoned in favor of a tame ‘who’s got the diamonds?’ storyline, with some compensation in a string of exciting ‘Hammer dames.’ I checked twice — Mike doesn’t shoot ANY of them in the stomach. The ‘who’s that?’ cast list includes Whitney Blake, Patricia Donahue, Jan Chaney, Genie Coree — and Pamela Duncan and Richard Garland, who we do fondly remember. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
03/03/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday March 3, 2020

Hello!

I’d say the movie of the hour is a thriller that some thought too grim and too far-fetched back in 2011. I reviewed Steven Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns’ Contagion exactly four years ago to this day, wondering myself if such a pandemic could possibly happen. The parallels with our present ‘maybe situation’ are really on the money — instead of pigs + bats incubating a deadly new virus, the odd source of our contagion is theorized to be the Pangolin, an inoffensive armored aardvark creature with a fairy tale name. Soderbergh’s virus was ridiculously deadly but it showed itself almost within hours of human contact, which would seem to make it easier to contain — well, if you could isolate everybody in the world for just 36 hours.

Do ‘this could happen’ thrillers like Contagion do good, or do they just spread fear and panic?   I would unfortunately imagine that many terrorized, paranoid Americans seeing the show would take away only the selfish, negative lesson to hunker down, pull up the drawbridge and shoot thy neighbor. That’s the abhorrent Panic in Year Zero! reaction. But I do have faith in modern medicine, and I believe in the notion of The Common Welfare and am willing to make sacrifices for it. We’re seeing a lot of that now among dedicated health services people, bless them. Let’s have calm, good thoughts for those affected by the outbreak, and concentrate on human values, not just the stock market. And let’s re-fund our emergency health infrastructure, immediately. I know some wall construction funds that can be diverted right away, today. (Unabashedly biased.)


On a more positive note is the arrival in Los Angeles next Friday of Noir City Hollywood, presented by the American Cinematheque and Film Noir Foundation. The 22nd go-round for this annual dark thriller bash runs from March 6 to March 15 at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood with individual nights at the Aero in Santa Monica and at American Legion Hollywood Post 43.

The organizing principle this year goes international, showcasing terrific, unfamiliar thrillers from Latin America, the Far East and Sweden paired up with pointedly chosen Hollywood fare. For instance, the opening night duo is the Argentinian The Beast Must Die followed by Rita Hayworth in the audience-pleasing Gilda. Fans of ‘Parasite’ might want to see the South Korean classic The Housemaid, a diabolical domestic noir that’s paired with the related paranoid classic My Name Is Julia Ross. Our out-there crime classic favorite Gun Crazy plays with the Japanese Yakuza tale Pale Flower. And the series gives us a chance to see the rapturous Portrait of Jennie on a big screen (the Blu-ray is no gem), with a promising Swedish ‘mystery portrait’ picture, Girl With Hyacinths. Authors, personalities and Film Noir Foundation gurus Eddie Muller and/or Alan K. Rode will introduce the shows. This year I’m going to grab the opportunity to catch up on my Spanish language Buenos Aires Noir.


I was all wrapped up in my minor location discovery last time around, but this new YouTube film restoration piece by Denis Shiryaev called A Trip Through New York City in 1911 takes us on a pretty amazing eight-minute time machine jaunt to Manhattan in the year of the first Indianapolis 500, the rediscovery of Machu Picchu, and the sinking of the Lusitania. We take in the metropolis with its tall buildings, massive bridges, horse wagons and ‘period’ costumes and hats — bowlers, skimmers. A well-to-do family, complete with a bored tot in the front seat, goes for an automobile ride complete with hired chauffeur. The horseless carriage must dodge parked wagons and streetcars (ding ding!).

I’ve spent exactly three short days in New York, and loved the place as only a gaga-eyed tourist can; even the subway fascinated me. I wonder if New Yorkers would be as enamored by these images. The restoration and part-colorization on view are very handsome.

A second city-renovation video is now up, from the same folks: A Trip Through Paris in the Late 1890s

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday February 29, 2020

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Quai des Orfèvres 02/29/20

Another big title from Henri-Georges Clouzot touches down in Region A. The great director’s first postwar feature dials back the misanthropy — but only a little. It’s a detective tale set in an impressively recreated theatrical milieu, about the tangle of illicit desire that people get caught up in. Ambition, sacrifice, and jealousy figure in a tightly-knit murder scenario — Louis Jouvet’s detective must sort them out, to determine if the vain variety singer Jenny Lamour is really guilty of a heinous crime. Starring Louis Jouvet, Suzy Delair, Bernard Blier, Simone Renant, all great actors worth checking out. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
02/29/20