CineSavant Column

Tuesday June 5, 2018

Hello!

Can’t get enough of stories about Budd Boetticher’s classic westerns? In his latest interview show Dick Dinman Salutes the Scott/Boetticher Blu-ray Collection, Dick welcomes two guests. Actor Michael Dante (pictured right) had a role in the Boetticher-directed Westbound. Sony’s restoration chief Grover Crisp is the executive responsible for putting the 60-year-old Columbia pictures in shape for HD disc.


What do you watch on TV, Savant?  Mostly things my wife requests, but I sometimes scour the Turner Classic Movies schedule looking for goodies. When I’m smart I look ahead to see what’s on . . . and here’s what I found this month:

June 8: Edward Dmytryk’s Obsession (The Hidden Room) (1949), a promising English movie made on the run from the blacklist.


June 15: The Man Who Found Himself (1937), to see John Beal twenty years before The Vampire.

June 18: The Wasp Woman (1960), reportedly Roger Corman’s first Filmgroup picture, to see Barboura Morris and Lynn Cartwright (pictured left).

June 23: The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950), to see if John Dall can do something different.

June 29: She (1965), to see if it’s been remastered (great choice for a WAC Blu, this).

June 30: The Arrangement (1969), the one Elia Kazan picture I’ve never seen.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday June 2, 2018


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Jack the Giant Killer 06/02/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

“From the land beyond beyond…”  — oops, wrong movie. Kerwin Mathews battles Torin Thatcher once again, with Judi Meredith in a stunning double role as both a delicate heroine and her evil counterpart in a magician’s mirror. Plus more stop-motion monsters than one can throw a ten-league boot at! Boy, we’re coining phrases left and right here. With Walter Burke, Anna Lee, Don Beddoe, Barry Kelley, Cormoran, Griffin, a two headed ogre and a trippy snake-octopus critter that’s like all green, ya know? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
6/02/18

Suspiria 06/02/18

Synapse
Blu-ray

In the Black Forest is a Dance Academy staffed by witches! Dario Argento’s virtually plotless but extravagantly beautiful shocker has been thrilling audiences or sending them to the exits for over forty years; reviewer Charlie Largent gives it a looksee. Yes, come and get warm & fuzzy with the first of Argento’s Three Mothers: Mother Suspiriorum, aka Helena Markos aka The Black Queen, whose coven warps reality into a web of horror (and eerie music by Goblin). Starring Jessica Harper, Alida Valli and Joan Bennett; this disc is getting rave reviews from Argento fans. On Blu-ray from Synapse.
6/02/18

A Bucket of Blood 06/02/18

Olive Films
DVD

Roger Corman’s crew of associates must have had some pretty wild times, scraping around Hollywood and Venice Beach in the 1950’s trying to bust into the film business. Did these semi-bohemians stimulate writer Charles Griffith’s cynical humor gland? The first modern black comedy feature in a horror vein is an amazing low budget ‘sick’ accomplishment for the uniquely creative Corman. With Antony Carbone, Bruno Ve Sota, Ed Nelson and Bert Convy. On DVD from Olive Films.
6/02/18

Savant Column

Saturday June 2, 2018

Hello!

As circulated by Joe Dante, Laura Jacobs has written a fine essay for Vanity Fair that revisits a fine, fine movie by that guy tossed out of the Academy — what’s his name? It’s The Devil Inside: Watching Rosemary’s Baby in the Age of #MeToo.

What’s coming up on the CineSavant threat board? We’re looking at reviews of Paul Mazursky’s Next Stop Greenwich Village, Norman Lear’s Cold Turkey, William Wyler’s The Big Country, Vincente Minnelli’s Designing Women and Two Weeks in Another Town, Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, Michael Schlesinger’s The Misadventures of Biffle and Shooster and probably a lot more. Summer is here but we’ll try to keep up the pace. And I hope to sneak in a few retro titles, and things that I missed.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday May 29, 2018


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Odds Against Tomorrow 05/29/18

Olive Films
Blu-ray

“Racial Tolerance: It’s Good for America AND good for Criminals!”  Harry Belafonte’s second production is a noir keeper, thanks to a top-flight cast and sharp direction by Robert Wise. The big heist is on, but Robert Ryan’s anger management problem all but assures doom and disaster. It’s Wise’s last gritty action picture before moving up to big-scale audience pleasers; he pulls off some slick images with film sensitive to infra-red light. Co-starring Shelley Winters, Ed Begley, Gloria Grahame, Richard Bright, Wayne Rogers and Zohra Lampert. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
5/29/18

Hilda Crane 05/29/18

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Call him strange, but CineSavant is fascinated by ‘women’s films’ that advance a consensus role template for American women. Then they ask questions like, “Is Hilda Crane a . . . TRAMP?”  Ladies attending these films may have sought to stir up fantasies with a racy romantic adventure — but not too racy. What a tough nut to crack within the Production Code: ace screenwriter Philip Dunne chose this as his third writing-directing assignment. Jean Simmons gives it her best shot, but the screen is stolen by everybody’s favorite harpy, Evelyn Varden. Also starring Guy Madison, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Judith Evelyn. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
5/29/18

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 05/29/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

The Little Song ‘n’ Dance Show that Could, this over-achieving Jack Cummings production is a bright exception to the dull waning days of the MGM musical, due to many factors but especially Michael Kidd’s athletic choreography. And it’s been restored in both of its simultaneously-filmed versions, flat-widescreen and CinemaScope. Starring Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall and Julie Newmar. A Two-disc Blu-ray Special Edition from The Warner Archive Collection.
5/29/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday May 29, 2018

Hello!

A book review today, for a new Film Noir tome that I enjoyed very much: Film Noir Prototypes: Origins of the Movement. It’s yet another book on noir edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini, part of the group that put together the first influential English- language reference on noir in 1979, Film Noir The Encyclopedia. That earlier volume is still the place to start for serious noir study, but the refreshing concept of the new Prototypes book improves on many of the noir readers and essay collections that followed. The earliest French authors and Paul Schrader tried to nail down a firm definition of Noir, starting with the question of whether it’s a genre, a style or a movement with specific parameters. The new Prototypes book analyzes the actual sources credited with forming noir, comparing them to films in the noir mainstream and adding plenty of visuals to make the comparisons concrete.

If that sounds too academic, the book itself is not. The various new articles and reprints naturally start with the style’s acknowledged debt to German expressionism. In fact, the handsome cover illustration is not from a Hollywood noir, but G.W. Pabst’s 1929 Die büchse der Pandora. Skipping down the chapter list, the subjects dealt with as sources for noir make for compelling reading: Victorian fiction, American painting (Edward Hopper!), Universal horror pictures, British Gaumont thrillers, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Gangster classics, French films from the Occupation, Cornell Woolrich, Gothic thrillers, Social realism and tabloid journalism. The studies even rake the work of Cecil B. DeMille and John Ford for noir antecedents. The broad net pulls in a wealth of relevant trends, insights and proto-noir knowledge; a ‘familiar’ subject yields up some thoughtful new angles.

Besides Ursini and Silver, the compendium of articles includes work by Julie Grossman, Todd Erickson and the late and missed Robert G. Porfirio. His original essay on German Expressionism and noir starts the show.

The Prototypes book is printed on heavy glossy paper, and the quality illustrations are beautifully reproduced, film stills and artwork alike. I skipped around, looking first at the chapters of greatest interest. I read most of them within a week, and only then the wrap-around essays. I found the book a useful antidote for noir studies that rehash the same fifty pictures and fifteen directors — the good authors tapped by the anthology bring new ideas to this still-interesting topic.

The Applause Books paperback went on sale on May 15.


Now, to get really serious, here’s a link from Gary Teetzel about favorite subject #38 here at CineSavant Central. Toho Kingdom has Nicholas Driscoll’s in-depth book review of a Japanese Godzilla Manga from the 1950s. The elaborate graphic novel covers the adventures of two Godzillas, parent and child. And yes, it does appear to be for kids.

Of course, Gary always tops me . . . I thought this business sign for a local llanteria on Virgil St. in Los Angeles was kind of cute. When the shop is open, various stuffed Kaiju toys hang in the shop door!


And one more link has slipped in at the last minute — it’s a very good one — Joe Dante is circulating a Paleofuture article by Matt Novak about the criminalization of film collectors, How 1960s Film Pirates Sold Movies Before the FBI Came Knocking. This Mr. Woody Wise must be the fellow I bought my 16mm print of It’s a Wonderful Life from in 1978. That was a real Christmas treat for several years. . . thanks, Woody!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday May 26, 2018


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Midnight Cowboy 05/26/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Pictures like Midnight Cowboy pulled everyone my age into the movies, while the entire older generation likely stopped going to movies altogether. John Schlesinger’s masterpiece can boast a number of firsts, and deserves the high praise it receives from every angle — this was the epitome of progressive filmmaking circa 1969. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vaccaro, Barnard Hughes, Ruth White, Jennifer Salt and Bob Balaban. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
5/26/18

Death in the Garden 05/26/18

Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Blu-ray + DVD

Luis Buñuel’s filmic obsessions steered toward the anarchistic, the anti-clerical and anti-bourgeois, with a surreal spin. All of his films are political, but three features in the 1950s cast a harsh eye on the subject of revolution itself, with surprising results. This beautiful color show is a worthy jungle adventure tale shot through with Buñuel’s signature negativity — it could be titled “The Bad, The Greedy and the Faithless.” Starring Simone Signoret, Georges Marchal, Charles Vanel, Michel Piccoli, and Michèle Girardon. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Eureka / Masters of Cinema.
5/26/18

The Vampire and the Ballerina 05/26/18

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Renato Polselli’s Italian vampire rally ups the on-screen babe count first and provides horror thrills second, yet the screenplay by Ernesto Gastaldi introduces a number of interesting wrinkles to the bloodsucking genre. This new bilingual release is a good presentation of what for American chiller fans has been a long-absent title. Starring Walter Brandi, Hélène Rémy, Tina Gloriani and María Luisa Rolando. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
5/26/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday May 26, 2018

Hello!

“Vienna” of Vienna’s Classic Hollywood wrote the other day to praise my recent Randolph Scott review and I took a look at her blog, which is going on my permanent check-in-and-see-what’s-doing list. Her photos and graphics are great, and unlike me, she doesn’t write phone books about the movies she examines. She must have some interesting video access where she lives, because the things she profiles aren’t always readily available here.


The Warner Archives Collection’s Blu-ray of The Colossus of Rhodes not only has a date, it’s only a month away, on June 26. I think that, with this release all of the Sergio Leone- directed features will be on Blu-ray. Sir Christopher Frayling’s commentary (from 2007) connects Rory Calhoun’s happy-go-lucky Athenian vacationer-turned revolutionary to The Man With No Name, who wouldn’t ride in for three more years.


Wide-ranging CineSavant operative extraordinare Gary Teetzel has been at it again, making with the deep web research, this time hunting down mid- 1920s references to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, a favorite subject here at CineSavant. Gary turned up a number of terrific links, with different axes to grind regarding the movie.

An article in Amateur Movie Maker (December 1926) gives home filmmakers some ideas about how to duplicated Lang’s amazing visuals, as if that were remotely possible — “go to the shop in your local school to see about making miniatures!”

Motion Picture News (August 1926) has a more in-depth article, translated from German, looking forward to an incredible picture. The author’s interview with Lang show that even before the picture was finished, Lang was crediting his visit to New York City as a key inspiration.

This Motion Picture News (September 1926) article has more discussion of the film and the differences in big-picture advertising between Berlin and New York. Among the things brought up is a possible film assignment for Fritz Lang in Russia, on a show called ‘The Panther’s Fur.’

Yet another article says that, apparently in response to Warners’ Noah’s Ark, Lang will make an Ufa picture called ‘Deluge’ — no details.

A Picture Play (Sept. ’26) ad shows how Metropolis is being touted by Paramount for America. It gets special mention in a sidebar with an image. Other ads or reviews are not always particularly insightful, or treat the show as just another release: Exhibitor’s Herald, Film Spectator, Film Daily.

Finally a Variety article from October 1927 zeroes in on an historically acute controversy about Metropolis, a critical fracas in London over the versions. If you recall, the premiere version Metropolis was exclusively screened in Berlin in a very long version, between 2.5 and three hours. Then it was withdrawn and cut down in America by Channing Pollock, to a far shorter version that dropped major episodes and radically reshaped the storyline. The importer of the film, Wardour Pictures, complained that U.K. critic J. E. Atkinson gave the film a ‘very favorable notice’ and then reversed himself with a slam just the next day. Atkinson had reviewed the picture from his memory of the first version, and was shocked to see how it had been changed.

Atkinson raged in print that the new version had been ‘Filleted and Predigested,’ pointing his bitter attack directly at the hack job done by Pollock, and complaining that Paramount, which distributed the film world-wide, had done a bait-and-switch. Atkinson also says that Fritz Lang repudiates the short version, as edited by Pollock: “… the version made for American hick consumption is being forced on the British public.”

Wardour shot back an interestingly modern marketing rebuttal, declaring that the newer, shorter Channing Pollock version is ‘approved,’ and that the critic should apologize. It sounds like the kind of anti-critic bite-back we occasionally heard from George Lucas and James Cameron. The distributor probably wanted publicity but not this kind — its meek defense is that Pollock’s edition is the only one generally shown in Germany.

The official Variety review from March 16 gives a running time of 107 minutes, which means that Atkinson must have seen the movie somewhere else, perhaps in Berlin. Atkinson apparently skipped the preview, and complains that other critics also praised the film to the heavens based on a viewing of the uncut version. Assuming that Atkinson saw a longer cut earlier, it is tantalizing to think that more prints of the long version may have been circulated.

Atkinson is definitely a critic after my own heart. Ufa took reasonable care of most of its films until the American ‘ParUfaMet’ deal put the studio under American control. First order of business: massacre Fritz Lang’s film and throw away the trims. We can’t let some crazy German stay in control . . . we can handle him the same way we pulled the plug on Erich von Stroheim.

Thanks for the research, Gary. And thanks for reading. — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday May 22, 2018


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CineSavant’s new reviews today are:

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960 05/22/18

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Bid welcome to five westerns guaranteed to make one fall in love with the genre all over again. Each stars the ultra-virtuous man of the West Randolph Scott, pitted against some of the most colorful antagonists on the range: Richard Boone, Lee Van Cleef, Claude Akins. Indicator’s extras constitute the best collection of research materials ever assembled on the underrated director Budd Boetticher. Also featuring Maureen O’Sullivan, Karen Steele, Nancy Gates, Craig Stevens, Pernell Roberts, James Coburn, Skip Homeier and Henry Silva. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
5/22/18

Five Steps to Danger 05/22/18

ClassicFlix
Blu-ray

It’s a road picture, a spy chase and an oddball romance all in one. A casual highway hitch-hike leads to intrigues with shady doctors, guided missile secrets and espionage intrigues. Possible escaped nutcase Ruth Roman enlists nice guy Sterling Hayden’s help, and before you can say Alfred Hitchcock they’re handcuffed together and on the run. It’s a B-picture gem from the mid-fifties, all the more amusing for its awkwardness. With Werner Klemperer, Richard Gaines and Jeanne Cooper. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
5/22/18

The Holy Mountain (1926) 05/22/18

Kino Classics
Blu-ray

Teutonic art writ large and loud: Arnolf Fanck’s first big ‘mountain’ classic wow’ed them back in 1926, with its massive vistas and death-defying feats of mountaineering, all sworn to be authentic. More importantly, Fanck and his diva Leni Riefenstahl invest their images with the sense of mythic, spiritual kitsch grandeur that became an aesthetic blueprint for the coming Nazi regime. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
5/22/18