Jack the Ripper 02/02/19

Severin Films
Blu-ray

“Is your name Mary Clark?”  The notorious English Baker-Berman team take on Whitechapel’s most notorious fiend, proposing that a mad doctor is responsible for slaughtering a score of streetwalkers in dark alleys, and throwing the city into a state of mortal terror. Writer Jimmy Sangster doesn’t do much with the parade of killings — — but he does think up a nasty fantasy finish for London’s most famous gut-ripper. More than a rescue than a restoration, Severin’s deluxe Blu-ray slipped out with just a few copies a couple of years ago, and now it’s getting a full release. The disc includes one version from a battered film print and another that looks like it’s been rescued from video. The extras include the ‘naughty bits’ alternate Continental scenes. I hope reviewer Charlie Largent gives us a full report on that. “Is your name Mary Clark?”  On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
02/02/19

Television’s Lost Classics Volume One: John Casssavetes 02/02/19

VCI
Blu-ray

John Cassavetes springs forth as a major 1950s talent in these two ‘Primetime Special’ dramatic plays broadcast live on ABC and CBS. Crime in the Streets is the Reginald Rose classic directed by Sidney Lumet; No Right to Kill is a ‘culture for the masses’ adaptation of Crime and Punishment. Cassavetes’ co-stars are Robert Preston, Glenda Farrell, Terry Moore and Robert H. Harris. The restoration of original Kinescopes is quite good in HD, and the producers Sabucat includes a racy ten-minute blooper reel from The Defenders and The Nurses. On Blu-ray from VCI.
02/02/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday February 2, 2019

Hello!

Orson Welles trackers take note: Gary Teetzel informs us of an upcoming Region 2 disc: Network in the U.K. will be releasing the 1973-74 TV series Orson Welles’ Great Mysteries on DVD, for those of you with region-free players. Of course, this was just a chance for some quick bucks for Orson; it’s of greater interest to us because the guest stars include a number of old favorites: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasance, Patrick Magee, etc. Plus theme music by John Barry! They’ve posted a Trailer.


I posted a photo from Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone; now correspondent Jonathan Gluckman emails in a link to a jazz-age song from the movie, “The Yiddishe Charleston”. I thought it was an invention for the film but it’s not — The Yiddishe Charleston hails from 1927.

I do worry that the song’s origin might be anti-Semitic, and someone please correct me if the song is a known offender, as opposed to simply un-PC fun. As Johnathan points out, one of the lyrics takes a potshot at the anti-Semite Henry Ford. Perhaps more information is in order? It’s a very good recording.


“For your protection all cars sprayed with insecticide as they enter!”  Also from Gary Teetzel comes a link to a page from a 1962 issue of the trade publication Box Office, reporting on yet another clever exhibitor scheme to lure carloads of snack-munching young-uns into a monster movie show, to see Them!, The Deadly Mantis, and The Angry Red Planet.

Way to go, Tri-State Drive-in at Joplin, Missouri: The ‘Bug-O-thon’ concept proved a lucrative way to repackage films already between two and eight years old. The ad appeal even had a tie-in with a local exterminator… just bring in the biggest BUG to win a contest. The whole idea was to get warm bodies in proximity to the snack bar, it seems, where a theater or drive-in reportedly made its real money. This seems like a page out of Joe Dante’s Matinee, although that was the Saturday afternoon show for the kiddies, not the weekend night passion-pit audience. But the year is exactly right.


And finally, some really happy news from Scream Factory, mainly that on May 14 it’s going to release the second and third Hammer Quatermass thrillers to Blu-ray: the B&W Quatermass 2 (1957) and the color Quatermass and the Pit (1967). The third film already looks very good on a Region B disc, so Scream’s iteration has every hope of being outstanding. I remember showing it to my teenaged kids around 1998, and they decided it was the best “X Files” episode ever made.

Quatermass 2 is one of my very favorite favorites, one of the best thrillers of its day and a major sci-fi influence on the James Bond universe. The much older DVD was reportedly taken from a rare surviving print, and could be greatly improved- on; I’m hoping that Scream’s master comes from some fabulous pristine source. My original review from 2000 is spoiler-free, but I’m looking forward to revisiting Val Guest’s amazing movie, and investigating it more thoroughly.


And lastly, Trailers from Hell gets an approving nod from the blog John V’s Eclectic Avenue. I will now go around identifying myself as ‘indispensible.’

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday January 29, 2019

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In the Heat of the Night 01/29/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Stirling Silliphant and Norman Jewison give Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger two of the best roles of their careers within a — shhh, better whisper — a powerful social statement. Down home racism meets its match in a murder mystery that helped calm the country in an explosive year. Warren Oates, Lee Grant and Larry Gates fellow-travel for this gem as well, and don’t forget the barrier-crossing song by Quincy Jones and Marilyn & Alan Bergman, sung by Ray Charles. Reviewed by Charlie Largent, on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/29/19

Gardens of Stone 01/29/19

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Francis Ford Coppola’s get-out-of-debt directorial assignments of the ‘eighties may not be his most personal movies, but this one is satisfying just the same, with its marvelous, mellow ensemble cast: James Caan, Anjelica Huston, James Earl Jones, D.B. Sweeney, Dean Stockwell, Mary Stuart Masterson, Dick Anthony Williams, Lonette McKee, Sam Bottoms, Elias Koteas, Laurence Fishburne and Casey Siemaszko. It’s a movie to admire, as it’s not easy to attract an audience to a show about the Army’s burial detail. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator UK.
01/29/19

Posse from Hell 01/29/19

Explosive Media GmbH
Region A+B Blu-ray

Wow — a good Audie Murphy movie! The most decorated infantryman of WW2 might not emote professionally, but he did nail down a winning screen persona, and this show gives Audie a solid character to play. Clair Huffaker’s screenplay should take credit, as well as the workmanlike direction of former Wilder and Hitchcock assistant Herbert Coleman. Even John Saxon comes off well, plus the film can boast good work from favorites Zohra Lampert and Vic Morrow, and fine support from Rodolfo Acosta, Royal Dano and Lee Van Cleef. The import disc plays on domestic Blu-ray players. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
01/29/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday January 29, 2019

Hello!

We’re short of links and scoops around CineSavant this Tuesday, so I’ll try to squeak by with a nod to discs in the review hopper, and those expected soon.

Currently being frisbee’d around for review are Kino Lorber’s Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? with Ruth Gordon and Geraldine Page; Charly with Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom, El Paso with John Payne and Gail Russell; and The Group with (gasp) Candice Bergen, Joan Hackett, Elizabeth Hartman, Shirley Knight, Joanna Pettet, Jessica Walter& Kathleen Widdoes; Powerhouse Indicator’s The Wrong Box with Michael Caine, John Mills, Ralph Richardson, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore and R.P.M. with Anthony Quinn; Severin’s Jack the Ripper (1959) with continental inserts and the color finale.

Continuing on, we have Twilight Time’s The Return of Frank James by Fritz Lang, Untamed with Susan Hayward and Yanks by John Schlesinger; The Warner Archive Collection’s Jock Mahoney action pix Tarzan’s Three Challenges and Tarzan Goes to India; Arrow Video’s Audition, Joseph H. Lewis’s My Name is Julia Ross & So Dark the Night and Chris Lee and Peter Cushing in Horror Express; and finally The Criterion’s Collection’s La Verité with Brigitte Bardot, directed by H.G. Clouzot.

Due in between now and March 1 are Der Hund von Baskerville (Flicker Alley), Berlin Alexanderplatz, To Sleep With Anger and Death in Venice (Criterion), Scream and Scream Again, Mad Dog and Glory and The Midnight Man, and from Twilight Time, the hard to beat poker hand of The Admirable Crichton, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, Talk Radio and Bedazzled.

But wait — we do have one very good link from John McElwee’s Greenbriar Picture Shows for January 27, 2019… John spells out, with pictorial evidence, the nature of the Darryl Zanuck / J. Edgar Hoover spat regarding Samuel Fuller’s unsustainable affront to the image of G-Men in Fox’s sensational 1953 thriller Pickup on South Street. Good reading, and in John’s marvelous ‘Hollywoodese’ writing style, too. After so many years, I wonder if John THINKS in that syntax as well!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday January 26, 2019

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Shame (Skammen) 01/26/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

War no longer recognizes ‘innocent bystanders’: a married couple seeks to sidestep ‘civil disturbances’ by relocating to a rural island, only for the war to descend on them from all sides. Forget escapist post-apocalyptic fantasies: Ingmar Bergman demonstrates how the terror of war obliterates human values at the personal level. Human trust and morals fall fast under pressure — atom bombs aren’t needed to return us to the stone age of dog-eat-dog. Bergman stages impressive large-scale ‘action’ scenes, yet always relates the terror without, to psychological traumas within. It’s one of the director’s most affecting films. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/26/19

The Giant Behemoth 01/26/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

“Brace Yourself For A SHOCK!…200 Feet of Living Burning Horror!”  Eugène Lourié’s second feature about an irate sea monster wrecking a city features sober eco-preaching, good performances by Gene Evans and André Morell, and several minutes of exciting stop-motion animation nirvana. One just needs to overlook a few lunkhead effects scenes and concentrate on the key Willis O’Brien / Pete Peterson material. It’s a SHOCK all right — do you prefer to be stepped on like a bug, or fried by a zillion volts of ‘projected radiation?’  On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/26/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday January 26, 2019

Hello!

A quick discussion of the poster for The Giant Behemoth led me to websites about graphic poster artist Reynold Brown, and finally to this fun documentary on his life: The Man Who Drew Bug Eyed Monsters. I may have linked to it in the past. I admit that I skipped the ‘early years’ section, as well as the ‘anxious 1950s’ section, but the discussions of Brown’s work are very good. Great still photos show Brown and his wife taking action poses to be copied for his artwork. Plus, the director found great shots of American main streets with movie marquees. It’s fun looking at a shot like that and thinking, ‘that had to be 1955.’ They say that the reproduction of the posters wasn’t as good as it might be, but the two or three Reynold one-sheets I have look awfully good considering that the original artwork was so small. BTW, despite similarities, we think that the posters for Behemoth and The Day of the Triffids were painted by other artists. And it’s true, the coloration is similar but the samples of Reynold Brown’s work in the docu have more dynamism, and more of a 3-D effect.


Flicker Alley has something special coming up on February 5, a Blu-ray with a rare Sherlock Holmes adaptation, the 1929 German Der Hund von Baskerville. Directed by Richard Oswald (The father of Gerd Oswald), the show is one of the last silent German movies. The 1985 Horror Film Encyclopedia described the show as action- oriented, yet also visually moody. We never thought we’d get the chance to see it.

Carlyle Blackwell, the film’s Sherlock Holmes, was an American known for playing the two-fisted adventurer Bulldog Drummond. The villain Stapleton is played by a Fritz Lang favorite, Fritz Rasp. Flicker Alley’s disc comes with an ensemble music score and inter-titles in both German and English. Among other extras is (on the Blu-ray only) an earlier (1914) version directed by Rudolph Meinert and written by Richard Oswald. Oswald’s screenplay for this earlier version appears to have gone serial-sci-fi crazy, with the evil Stapleton using “a ‘submersible house’ to imprison Sir Henry Baskerville at the bottom of a lake.”


Well, Whattaya Know Department: snooping around for vintage trade mentions about various favorite genre pictures, intrepid advisor Gary Teetzel discovered a news blurb relating to the 1959 Fox classic Journey to the Center of the Earth. It’s self-explanatory, but in case the scan graphic doesn’t come through, the clipping (from perhaps 1956) announces pre-production on the film at RKO, to be produced by Stanley Rubin and directed by Eugène Lourié.

By 1956 RKO was already all but shuttered, so the pre-prod news was either a wishful-thinking Hail Mary gesture in case the studio’s fortunes turned around, or poor producer Rubin spun his wheels for nothing. Had I an inkling about the once-proposed Center of the Earth picture, I would have raced to ask him about it when I interviewed him in 2007. Rubin had produced at Fox and Universal but indeed was with RKO at this time — his film The Girl Most Likely (1958) was RKO’s final production, and actually released by Universal-International.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday January 22, 2019

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Desert Fury 01/22/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

The murky crimes of sordid characters come to the fore in the wide-open Nevada spaces… producer Hal Wallis’ Technicolor noir concentrates on the possessive and perverse competition for Lizabeth Scott’s luscious blonde — the mother that wants to corral her, the gangster who thinks she’s an escape and the local hunk who wears a badge. Robert Rossen’s edgy screenplay depicts its violent action on a psychological level. Burt Lancaster, Mary Astor, John Hodiak and Wendell Corey co-star in what Eddie Muller calls the gayest noir of them all. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/22/19

The Plague of the Zombies 01/22/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

A budget Hammer programmer becomes one of the studio’s most pleasing horror romps, thanks to Peter Bryan’s crackerjack screenplay, John Gilling’s creative direction and a fine cast — André, Jacqueline Pearce, Michael Ripper — breaking free of a number of Hammer clichés. The pre-Romero premise features an eerie dream sequence, while turning the Zombie theme into a management-labor conflict: those one percenters will stay on top if they have to use black magic. Charlie Largent views this ’60s gem through nostalgia-colored glasses. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
01/22/19

Beat the Devil 01/22/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

The star lineup sparkles in this witty, lighthearted tale of a gang of international schemers and cutthroats trying to — well, what they’re trying to do is all but irrelevant. John Huston throws his picture together like a party, for a droll ‘thriller’ that yields off-kilter comic riches. It’s Bogart, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre and Gina Lollobrigida, plus Jennifer Jones as we’ve not seen her before or since. Truman Capote’s sly, unbeatably hip dialogue — reportedly written on the fly — celebrates the underhanded ambitions of greedy fools everywhere. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/22/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday January 22, 2019

Hello!

The Noir City Film Festival is cranking up to start unspooling classic noir gold this year; the festival kicks off in San Francisco on January 25 with the Film Noir Foundation’s rescue’n’restoration of Richard Fleischer’s Trapped starring Lloyd Bridges and Barbara Payton. A killer double bill three days into February pairs two pictures that are entirely different experiences on a big screen, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Hey, I want a Festival poster, which this year riffs on an iconic image from Kiss Me Deadly.


This Friday at Trailers from Hell, producer Jon Davison will be commenting on the trailer of Joe Dante’s Piranha, the wildly overachieving ‘Jaws’ ripoff that got his career into gear. I just saw it again for the first time a few weeks ago and was duly impressed, so will be interested in hearing what Mr. Davison has to say at this remove. Up today to represent TFH’s ‘Monsters from the Ocean Floor’ trailer theme is a trailer for Deep Rising; Wednesday’s coming attraction will be for the deliriously exploitative Humanoids from the Deep.


And a shout out to my Topeka, Kansas based alter ego and co-conspirator in Sergio Leone research, Bill Shaffer. Bill runs film festivals for kids (I attended a Godzilla festival in 2010) and for serious silent movie fans, which is where I think he began a long friendship with the recently-passed actor James Karen.

Just last week Bill came West for the first time to attend Mr. Karen’s memorial gathering; I happily jumped up to give him the six-bit tour of Hollywood and environs, which included a stop at the early Buster Keaton studio, still standing on Eleanor Street. They put up some plaques and a sign commemorating the spot, albeit on the wrong building, but we took advantage for a photo. I hope Bill (Kansas) can return soon.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday January 19, 2019

Farewell to Nick Redman, who will be greatly missed.

Satan Never Sleeps 01/19/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Pearl S. Buck and Leo McCarey give it to ya straight: Red China is BAD. This strange mix of Cold War truth-telling and mawkish, ethics-challenged church sentiment may have meant well, but it overstates everything. A top-flight cast works hard to make it compelling: William Holden, France Nuyen and in his last film, Clifton Webb. Wales stands in for Southwest China, with shaky traveling mattes doing the hard work. Also with Martin Benson and Athene Seyler. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/19/19

Screamers 01/19/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Screaming, flying ‘Autonomous Mobile Swords’ have decimated the enemy in a war on a far-off planet, but now the pesky smart weapons are self-evolving into ever more cruel & deadly new iterations. Peter Weller and Jennifer Rubin head a cast of desperate soldiers in this adaptation of an early story by Philip K. Dick — that perhaps addresses an aspect of the arms race? The show remains a cult favorite of fans of violent sci-fi adventures. Disc extras interview the filmmakers on Screamers’ decade-long path to the screen. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
01/19/19