Two from Jean Rollin 05/04/24

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent takes on two colorful, uncut, un-draped Jean Rollin Gallic horror romps. Les démoniaques is a cruel story of pirate murder and sex crimes. The Nude Vampire is listed as one of Rollin’s better works, its three-word title pretty much expresses the full Rollin cinema philosophy. The popuar pictures — separate releases — are given lavish special edition attention. Also available are 4K Ultra HD editions. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
05/04/24

Gravity 05/04/24

Warner Bros. Entertainment
Blu-ray

This one played like gangbusters in the theater. The only negative flak I heard came from a) people that didn’t like Sandra Bullock no matter what she was in, and b) people that violently denied the premise that space garbage posed a potential threat. The thrills in this presumed 99 & 44/100% CGI space thriller just don’t stop happening: ace filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón adds elements that up the storytelling quotient to a really memorable level. This reissue is a two disc set, retaining the hours of original extras — all subtitled in over a dozen languages. On Blu-rayfrom Warner Bros. Entertainment.
05/04/24

CineSavant Column

Saturday May 4, 2024

 

Hello!  More Metropolis madness!

It’s a wave of Metropolis items today, cued when correspondent Ian Whittle sent along an image of the cover graphic for an old Australian VHS release — where somebody made a rather creative photo choice.    It goes into the hopper labeled ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’

The source is an older blog called  The Buffalo Report. The blog is an interesting catch-all, and its writer (R.J. Buffalo?) doesn’t date things consistently. At first glance, we wonder if his intention is to slam the famed Fritz Lang movie. His initial quote is  “Metropolis is an embarrassingly dreadful movie that is strangely addictive.”  But he then goes on to prove his obsession with the film.

His initial blog appears to be  When Metropolis Was on PBS. We saw it here in Los Angeles on our local PBS station late in 1978, touted as a UK restoration.  But Buffalo then continues with a long string of pages devoted to the Fritz Lang movie — 48 lengthy blog entries on the subject. They’re loaded with interesting observations and images, and scans of vintage newspaper articles. Metropolis received heavy editorial coverage wherever it played.

The first numbered entry is titled  Where It All Started. Included in the second posting are numerous newspaper articles reporting on and debating the merit of Channing Pollock’s notorious cut-down re-edit, that became the film’s (incoherent) international release version — and that was still deemed a masterpiece. But none of the 1927 editorials ask if Fritz Lang’s original is being retained.

Buffalo also links to the heavily researched and annotated posts of Michael Organ, an Australian. I see one string of his Metropolis- themed blogs beginning at  this link — it seems to be fairly recent. An example is a page from 2022 entitled  ‘Film Censor Cards and Lengths … which has an entire glossary of the film’s original German intertitles, with English translations. It’s claimed to be complete.

We see cards that correspond to scenes only in the  ‘Complete’ version … which is very interesting. Will this intertitle resource include titles from pieces of scenes still missing, and perhaps clear up some of the film’s remaining mysteries?  Even the Complete Version feels abridged, continuity-wise.

 

We’re still floored by Aitam Bar-Sagi’s post for his The Film Music Museum page, entitled  Metropolis Around the World. He updates the page as new information arrives. The long article gathers hard data, all documented, on where the film was shown and its exact length in different releases. Most are accompanied by original ads. It appears that Argentina received an uncut Metropolis premiere print because an exhibitor there made an early deal with UfA. His copy was struck and shipped to Buenos Aires before the Americans hired Channing Pollock to cut the movie down by half.

Aitam was a DVD Savant / CineSavant correspondent for quite a while back when the first pre-Argentina Murnau Stiftung restoration was done. Our screening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater (since demolished) was a big deal, right after 9/11. The beautiful print was screened at 20 fps and Robert Israel provided a full music accompaniment. Mr. Bar-Sagi became a noted research contributor on subsequent restoration work.

I’m saving these links for further study … all this key source information is really fascinating. We plan to use one of the censor intertitle logs to read along with the video’s German inter-titles, and hopefully discover some new ones not in the ‘Complete’ video version.

(Note: all of the graphics enlarge.)

 


 

 

Plus, a couple of extra announcements: the esteemed Alan K. Rode wants to spread the word that his Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival is having its 25th annual meet in May, out in the desert of Palm Springs, California. 

The screenings run from May 9-12 … they’re showing  Body and Soul,  No Man of Her Own, Across the Bridge and others; several screenings have special guests. The full info is at

Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival
 

 

 

 

 And Tom Weaver is spreading the word that the Ed Wood-written monster opus The Bride and the Beast, with Tom’s fun audio commentary, can now be watched on Youtube.

The movie is funny by itself, but Tom’s commentary (from 2005?) enlists the film’s star Charlotte Austin, actor Slick Slavin and movie gorilla expert (and a lot more) Bob Burns.

CineSavant was tickled to learn that Ms. Austin interrupts the commentary because she wanted to read a funny excerpt from a review she found online … and it’s the old DVD Savant review. The comment begins at 50:40.

The Bride and the Beast Commentary Version

 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday April 30, 2024

“Don’t get attached to items you might find during your trip;
think of how awkward and inconvenient they may become later on.”

The Borderlands 04/30/24

Second Sight Films
Blu-ray

UK correspondent Lee Broughton returns with a recommendation for an original and engaging British folk horror film. Director Elliot Goldner’s found-footage show was released to little fanfare in 2013 but those curious film fans who subsequently picked it up as a speculative cheap buy on DVD or caught it on TV came away pleasantly surprised. It’s a low-budget but highly effective genre film that stands out from the crowd. On Region-Free Blu-ray from Second Sight Films.
04/30/24

I Am Cuba – 4K 04/30/24

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

Milestone and Criterion team together for this 1964 epic, a a joint Cuban-Soviet super-travelogue celebration of the revolutionary spirit. Four vignettes from the pre-Castro years spell out the glory of anti-imperialism, using fancy visuals and gravity-defying camerawork. The cultural experiment was judged a failure and shelved for decades, until it was rediscovered in the 1990s and given a major film festival revival. The impressive B&W cinematography gets the full 4K ULTRA HD treatment. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
04/30/24

CineSavant Column

Tuesday April 30, 2024

 

Hello!

Michael McQuarrie sends us another Hollywood-themed movie reel from ‘Periscope’ … the kind of vintage reel that offers glimpses into a past that fascinates us at CineSavant. Two-thirds of this half-hour is spent bopping around typical Hollywood views, starting with Grauman’s Chinese, festooned with a big sign proclaiming in CinemaScope, There’s No Business Like Show Business.

In addition to the usual sights — hey, it’s our Fairfax Farmer’s Market, you know from the Bosch books — we get a nice peek at one of the RKO back lots with ruined fake buildings, etc., and lots of neon on Hollywood Blvd. The last third drifts away to the original Knotts Berry Farm, and then to San Francisco and San Diego, ending at San Juan Capistrano. The link is at

1954 Visit to Hollywood and More
 


 

The new issue of the Noir City magazine is out, and once again it is a winner — editor Imogen Sara Smith and the contributing authors tap interesting angles about noir films and related hardboiled topic in literature and the (mostly) Los Angeles night world made famous in pulp fiction and pulpier movies. This issue has articles on first rank film locations (Mary Mallory), and more obscure filming destinations (Eddie Muller):

Noir City.
Nicholas Laskin digs deep into the ‘street realism’ film Crime Wave, and Imogen Sara Smith seeks out insights on the ‘street rejects’ seen in the semi-docus The Savage Eye and The Exiles. There’s more coverage of neo-noir (Brian Raftery), Hardcore, The Limey and Mulholland Drive (Danilo Castro), and a debate as to whether the horror film Night Tide can be pigeonholed as noir — which also offers a telling history of the Venice Beach area.

The magazine again has more hard content (and nicer photos) than many a noir book on the market. It can be ordered at the  Film Noir Foundation News Page.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday April 27, 2024

Spectacle on a vast scale, plus world-class fantasy visuals.

Deep in the Heart aka Handgun 04/27/24

Fun City Editions
Blu-ray

Ignore the exploitative original posters … this thriller from 1983 is a clear-eyed view of America’s gun problem, expressed, wouldn’t you know it, by an Englishman. Filmmaker Tony Garnett formats his show like a vigilante shocker, but the real subject is a culture gone awry. Karen Young makes a star-caliber debut as a Boston schoolteacher targeted for point-blank sexual terrorism . . . and who discovers that she’s one woman alone against a society that blames the victim. It’s yet another unexpected rediscovery from Fun City Editions. It’s yet another unexpected rediscovery on Blu-ray from Fun City Editions.
04/27/24

The Tin Star 04/27/24

Arrow Video USA
Blu-ray

Anthony Mann’s high-quality conventional western has top stars Henry Fonda and Anthony Perkins, plus good input from Neville Brand, John McIntire and especially Betsy Palmer. Perkins takes lessons in how to be Marshall Dillon, while the womenfolk fuss and slimy Lee Van Cleef shoots nice people in the back. We get a Cold War lesson about Law & Order — that looks sensational in B&W VistaVision. Extras include critical input from Toby Roan, Neil Sinyard and Barry Forshaw. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
04/27/24

CineSavant Column

Saturday April 27, 2024

 

Hello!

After Michael McQuarrie cued us to those Li’L Abner wrap party home movies the other day, the ones with Julie Newmar on the sailboat, we sent out a request in case any readers could identify any of the other party guests. Correspondent Walt House came back with one we should have caught, the famed songwriter Johnny Mercer.

That’s the only new I.D. so far, but friend and correspondent Rick Crawford sent along another YouTube link we enjoyed, by Cool Classics. It’s a long-form video show on the full career of Julie Newmar, extremely well documented with rare images and well-chosen film clips. She’s really a talent to admire … the link:

The Unknown Life of Julie Newmar
 


 

The relatively new branded line Janus Contemporaries works on a Criterion level with new titles — we reviewed their Christian Petzold film Afire back in February.

They’ve just announced, for July 23, the release of Wim Wenders’ 2023 film Anselm, a documentary portrait of the painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer. The interesting thing is that the disc will be released in a 3-D Blu-ray + 2-D Blu-ray combo.

It ought to be a very special disc for 3-D fans — Criterion’s disc of Wim Wenders’ 2011 dance film Pina is one of the best 3-D demo discs on our ‘depth’ shelf. A Janus page describing the film (for theatrical bookings) is here.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday April 23, 2024

“Whe-e-e-ere Ih-hihss-sss Dahawhkkk-terrr Marrarrv-vinnn-nuh?”

Household Saints 04/23/24

The Milestone Cinematheque
Blu-ray

Nancy Savoca belongs in the top rank of creative filmmakers of the 1990s. This unorthodox telling of a ‘neighborhood miracle’ may be her most ambitious and original work. TV comedienne Tracey Ullman surprised everyone with her unusual characterization, but Lili Taylor stole the show with the most compelling depiction ever of someone enraptured by faith — a special effect halo would be superfluous. Vincent D’Onofrio and Ullman age convincingly; the two-generation ethnic mini-epic about ‘ordinary miracles’ is difficult to synopsize. Also outstanding are actors Judith Malina and Michael Rispoli. The disc contains two early Savoca student films, and an excellent new making-of documentary. On Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.
04/23/24

Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker 4K 04/23/24

Severin Films
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

American insanity runs wild in the last movie we’d ever expect to see from the director of TV’s Bewitched and A.I.P.’s Beach Party. William Asher’s horror show has some solid casting choices — Jimmy McNichol is the confused kid, Bo Svenson is the psychotic cop, and in yet another indescribably intense performance, Susan Tyrrell is the caring aunt whose possessive attentions get wa-a-y out of hand. Severin must employ squads of experts rounding up interviews and doing research — this disc has hours of material. CineSavant’s Charlie Largent will decide if this is good berserk Susan Tyrrell, or superlative berserk Susan Tyrrell. It’s one or the other. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Severin Films.
04/23/24

CineSavant Column

Tuesday April 23, 2024

 

Hello!

A very nice Hollywood Reporter article by Thomas Doherty begins by reporting on Francis Coppola’s latest exploits with Megalopolis. It then offers a nice look-back at his saga from the ’70s, when he risked all in the quest to make Apocalypse Now.

Only a world-class filmmaker with a firm cinematic ‘mission’ could have done what Coppola did. We remember well all the snarky press coverage during the four-year lead-up to the release of Apocalypse — and then were blown away by the result. The Doherty article calls the Cinerama Dome premiere engagement booklet a collector’s item; I saved my copy with my ticket attached as seen above on the right. The article:

Francis Ford Coppola’s Go For Broke Movie

An appendum to the article gives us a couple of nice paragraphs of sound designer Walter Murch explaining Dolby 5.1 sound, aka ‘six track with split surrounds.’ What fun that format was. In 1989 I cut a 20-minute exhibitor’s promo for The Abyss which was printed in 70mm and and given full 6-track audio. We had no final music score for the promo — so we cut in music from Die Hard!

The CineSavant review of the Apocalypse Now 4K disc tries to express the impression it made on us back in ’79. Good, bad, or indifferent, it was really something — very few movies kept us up talking until 3 in the morning.

 


 

The ever-resourceful Michael McQuarrie has come up with a particularly maddening piece of archival film, misidentified by the archivists themselves. They describe it as shot by an ‘unknown amateur filmmaker.’ It’s 19 minutes of Hollywood home movies that alternate between images on a golf course, at various parties, and even some footage in Gibraltar and Spain. Nobody’s going to confuse them with my home movies. The important footage is about 9 minutes of film taken at a Hollywood pool party, and on a sailboat.

It’s pretty good amateur work, in focus with good color. A viewfinder parallax problem is present — many shots are framed way high.

The ‘Periscope Film’ people don’t know what they’ve got.

Periscope Film’s text identifies Julie Newmar,  Jamie Farr  (incorrectly) and  Henry Silva, and that’s about it. I did better, spotting Howard St. John,  Saul Chaplin and  Hope Holliday. The many young women at the pool party threw us … are they real starlets, or just the party host’s very attractive relatives?

The piece everybody wants to see is the sailboat excursion. Comedian  Robert Strauss burlesque-clowns at 10:16 and is soon making a nuisance of himself with  Julie Newmar, who is wearing a leopard print bikini. On the deck of a sailboat, she can’t just walk away. At 11:17, Strauss really starts asking for a punch in the nose — although Newmar takes the molestation in stride. The rights owner has no idea who Robert Strauss is — they only identify him as ‘uncouth fellow seafarer.’

Then Michael McQuarrie made the key ID of  Peter Palmer, the clue that made it all come together: this is the cast of Paramount’s 1959  Li’l Abner.  That means that the footage is from 1958 or 1959. The page says ‘the 1960s,’ but clothing in general and especially the kid’s clothing at a party look very ’50s to me.

So, after taking far too much time trying to identify people in the video, here’s what we’ve come up with:

Peter Palmer (Li’l Abner) at 01:45
Carmen Alvarez Block (Moonbeam McSwine) with Palmer at 01:45
Hope Holliday at 01:52 and 02:45 (flashing midriff)
Saul Chaplin at 02:02
Howard St. John at 02:09
Joe E. Marks (Pappy Yocum) at 02:12;
Al Nesor (Evil Eye Fleagel — not Jamie Farr) at 04.26
Norman Panama (producer, co-screenwriter) at 05:09
Melvin Frank (director, co-screenwriter) at 05:09, 11:09
Henry Silva at 05:23

Henry Silva appears to be a guest with no direct connection to Li’l Abner. Songwriter, arranger and music supervisor Saul Chaplin may have been an unbilled consultant on the movie. Assuming I’ve identified Norman Panama and Melvin Frank correctly, it looks like Frank is the ‘host’ of these home movies. I wonder how many of my I.D.s will prove to be incorrect?

So can anybody I.D. more of these faces?

I know I’m missing people I shouldn’t miss, like the man on the boat at 10:53 … ?  Others look equally familiar. Many pose as if they expect to be recognized. I see one guy who looks a bit like Al Capp, but not enough. Identifying the pretty actresses is very difficult. We didn’t spot Stella Stevens or Leslie Parrish, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t fooled.

Any help with any of these names?  I know I should recognize some of these … Babbette Bain, Lesley-Marie Colburn, Carole Conn, Donna Douglas, Bonnie Evans, Marianne Gaba, Valerie Harper, Maureen Hopkins, Fran McHale, Mabel Rea, Dolores Starr … ?

CineSavant has readers much more informed than I … we’ll update this column if more Identifications are made.

[ First Find, 04 23 24: Correspondent Walt House named the man on the boat at 10:53, and it is someone I should have recognized: the noted songwriter Johnny Mercer. He’s easily the most famous & talented person on the boat, and the lyricist for all of Gene de Paul’s songs for the musical Li’l Abner. ]

Here’s the link to the Internet Archive page with the home movies:

Periscope Film Hollywood Home Movies.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday April 20, 2024

It gets better with each viewing . . .

*batteries not included 04/20/24

Viavision [Imprint]
Blu-ray

Family-friendly Steven Spielberg once again seeks out the sentimental corner of sci-fi, with memorable roles for his lovable cast and a technical workout for his visual effects experts. Cute flying saucers behave like storybook elves, to make magic for elderly evictees (Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy). The writers in this warm-hearted show would later specialize in fantasy, even horror — Mick Garris, Brent Maddock, S.S. Wilson, Brad Bird; they and writer-director Matthew Robbins deliver Spielberg’s positive message. Does sweetness and light still have a chance?  We can vouch for the film’s effect on little kids — it was a memorable matinee experience for my family. On Blu-ray from Viavision [Imprint].
04/20/24

Bombs over Burma 04/20/24

Film Masters
DVD

This Poverty Row PRC opus was thrown together in just a few weeks, in the first months of World War II. Cult actress Anna May Wong gets top billing in a pro-China thriller about keeping the Burma Road open, an issue that would later become a real wartime strategy. We’re also drawn to anything by the creative director Joseph H. Lewis. At this time still known as ‘Wagon Wheel Joe,’ Lewis distinguishes himself with almost no production resources. Both Dan Seymour and future Oscar winner Nedrick Young make their screen debuts. On DVD from Film Masters.
04/20/24

CineSavant Column

Saturday April 20, 2024

 

Hello!

Three random disc and screening announcements today. Matthew Rovner, our resident Arch Oboler expert, reminds us that a Blu-ray of Oboler’s movie Bwana Devil is on the way. The 3-D Film Archives’ restoration comes from the original ‘Ansco Color’ camera negatives.

The announcement here is for New Yorkers with an itch to see the movie that ignited the 1950s 3-D craze — on the screen with an audience. It’s at the Film Forum on the evening of May 13 — the premiere of a 4K digital restoration of the show in full 3-D.

Robert Furmanek will handle the presentation; it has a Film Forum info page:

Bwana Devil in 3-D!

One of the earliest ‘MGM Video Savant’ attempts at an article is still up, now dated 1998 instead of ’97.” It was my attempt to sum up what we knew of classic 3-D, based on the sparse Los Angeles screening opportunities up to that time. We had no idea that the 3-D Film Archive people were already busy working to revive the 3-D movie movement. Here’s the link: 3-D: Hollywood’s Most Misunderstood Miracle.

 


 

This new disc announcement is of the ‘exotic’ variety, bound to appeal to collectors of the strange. In conjunction with the Something Weird people, the Film Masters disc boutique has packaged what we at one time would call a ‘Hillbilly’ double bill, a Backwoods Double Feature of Common Law Wife (1963) and  Jennie, Wife/Child (1968). The release date is given as June 25.

The announcement text fills in the details. Not long ago we would offhandedly refer to these movies as Hillbilly Exploitation, but it’s good to think a bit now before applying that word.

A year ago I wrote up a French movie that referred to Gypsies, and found that it’s in the same category. Not sure how to handle that when talking about old movies, that come from a different time. One person reminded me of the word Romani, which is surely better, but I still felt as if I had been ticketed by the Vocabulary Police. As for Hillbillies — does that mean one can no longer write about Li’l Abner?

 


A much more obscure film  is the subject of a New York screening announcement from the company Arbelos. This one qualifies as genuine vintage experimental American film art. It’s the seldom-screened 1961 drama Time of the Heathen, by Peter Kass.

The movie is called a ‘post- A-bomb Thriller’ and ‘a lost marvel of independent filmmaking.’  Director Kass is said to have been primarily known as an acting teacher. The main player John Heffernan has a very familiar face to go with an eclectic variety of credits in little parts. Two films in his IMDB list are The Sting and  God Told Me To.

This little promotional clip makes Time of the Heathen look as if it were shot without sound. The clips of a color sequence with strange superimpositions reminds us that the cameraman is the well-known experimentalist Ed Emshwiller.

The partial synopsis says that the post-apocalyptic context has something to do with ‘the shifting racial politics of the 1960s.’  We are also told that Time of the Heathen “culminates in one of cinema’s most memorable, psychedelic, and unclassifiable endings.”

Yes, we know we are easy prey for exotic movie fare. Jonas Mekas sort-of reviewed Time of the Heathen for The Village Voice, but managed to communicate nothing about it except “you dig it or you don’t dig it.”  Why can’t I put together useful review advice like that?  We’ll be looking to see if Arbelos offers a Blu-ray.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday April 16, 2024

This text card feels autobiographical … I was an Occupation Baby, born in that country, in that year, in that war.