Young Winston 01/11/20

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Epics — everybody wants to make them but the studios are naturally wary. Richard Attenborough’s ode to the youthful ambitions of Sir Winston Churchill was a big hit in England but didn’t make a dent here. Although a dead ringer for the young Winston, Simon Ward didn’t take off as a star either, leaving Anne Bancroft and Robert Shaw in a sidebar drama that will mostly be remembered for an STD. Correspondent-soldier Churchill sees action in India, The Sudan and South Africa, thanks to the intervention of his socially adept mother. It’s a beautiful, ‘safe’ production with plenty of national pride. Its American premiere served as the Grand opening screening for the second FILMEX film festival. No shortage of Brit movie stars on view: Jack Hawkins, Patrick Magee, Edward Woodward, John Mills, Pat Heywood, Laurence Naismith, Colin Blakely, Ian Holm, Robert Flemyng, Jane Seymour, Anthony Hopkins, Pippa Steel. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
01/11/20

CineSavant Column

Saturday January 11, 2020

Hello!

CineSavant correspondent Gary Teetzel tells me that the word’s going around that the alternate ending for Saul Bass’s weird eco-apocalyptic science fiction thriller Phase IV may now be viewable, perhaps even remastered. I remember the Cinefamily theater sneaking a viewing Saul Bass’s long-lost alternate ending back in 2012. My 2015 review of an Olive Films disc lamented the fact that the alternate ending hadn’t been included, but there is word that the film is now being shown on Apple TV with it restored. The runtime listed is indeed 86 minutes and not 84, but nothing says ‘Director’s Cut’ or ballyhoos a restoration.

Meanwhile, Carlotta Films in France has listed a new Blu-ray as coming out in April. One website claimed it was an 87 minute version — which would suggest it has the lost alternate ending — but Amazon lists the theatrical 84-minute runtime; it does, however list the original ending as an extra. It also has a documentary, and a limited edition release also includes a 200-page book called Phase IV: Eclipse of Humanity by Frank Lafond.

If Olive Films isn’t out of business, dare we hope for a Signature Edition here in the States?

Meanwhile, correspondent David Arscot sends along a web article with more discussion: An Original Ending for Phase IV?  On it you’ll find scans of both endings, too.


Newly posted on YouTube is a Reconstituted Trailer for How the West Was Won — a longform original trailer for the 1962 movie has been overlaid with the ‘Smilebox’ processed video from Warners’ 2008 Blu-Ray, to good effect. I think I see only one shot that looks a little ragged, so perhaps it wasn’t used in the feature, and therefore couldn’t be matched-in. Very high quality images, no argument there.


Most of Kino’s January titles have arrived in-house, but the list of upcoming Blu-rays for February just hit. The titles that catch my eye include Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues, Summer of Sam, Jungle Fever, Crooklyn and Clockers; the camp jaw-dropper The Oscar, H.G. Clouzot’s Quai de Orfèvres, Allan Arkush’s Heartbeeps, Joseph Losey’s The Criminal (The Concrete Jungle) and Accident, Mike Nichols’ The Day of the Dolphin, Claude Chabrol’s The Third Lover & Line of Demarcation, Peter Hall’s Perfect Friday, René Clément’s The Deadly Trap and the Jules Verne / Kirk Douglas pirate film The Light at the Edge of the World.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday January 7, 2020

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Cimarron 01/07/20

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Once upon a time, MGM launched a big spectacle Western remake with the top star Glenn Ford and the bright import Maria Schell — and then second-guessed the whole production, cutting back on everything so severely that director Anthony Mann ankled the set for Spain and El Cid. The storytelling is a mess — after starting big, the show soon falls into pieces. But many of individual scenes and set pieces are exemplary, especially Mann’s re-run of the Oklahoma Land Rush, staged in Arizona and augmented by classy special effects. The large cast rounds up some big talent — Mercedes McCambridge, Russ Tamblyn — to tell Edna Ferber’s multi-generational story about ambition, intolerance and dreams of glory on the frontier. With Anne Baxter, Arthur O’Connell, Russ Tamblyn, Mercedes McCambridge, Vic Morrow, Charles McGraw, Harry Morgan, David Opatoshu, Aline MacMahon, and a whole lotta horses. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/07/20

Viy 01/07/20

Severin Films
Blu-ray

Could the Soviets do a horror film?  The answer is a big yes, with an adaptation of the same Nikolai Gogol fable credited with inspiring Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. The bucolic period setting and comic undertones do not prepare the viewer for the maelstrom of supernatural events, aptly described by the disc notes as ‘demonic mayhem.’ It’s too terrifying for one Russian director, so Konstantin Ershov, Georgiy Kropachyov collaborated. The equally frightening CineSavant scribe Charlie Largent pens the review, doing some research to better place it in a cinematic context. Does a movie like this fit into the horror tradition of western Europe, or does it exist in isolation? Some of the creepy-crawly monster things in this show defy description.  On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
01/07/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday January 7, 2020

Hello!

Now that I can link to older CineSavant Columns, let me direct your attention to the Column of December 10, 2019 where I was excited to report that Scream Factory would be releasing a Blu-ray of Roger Corman’s Day the World Ended on March 10. The very next day, Scream said, yes, the disc was coming, but not in March. Now Gary Teetzel passes on a another semi-substantiated rumor that Day will now be coming out in May, likely with another A.I.P. horror item, How to Make a Monster. Both titles are from the group of A.I.P. features now held by the Sam Arkoff contingent. That’ll be good news, if the films are remastered for HD. We welcome any development that helps break the logjam that prevents more MIA favorites from reaching the fans that so strongly covet them.


New discs in the review hopper are Jack Clayton’s Room at the Top (Kino), George Cukor’s Holiday (Criterion), Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide (Powerhouse Indicator) and Charles Crichton’s The Titfield Thunderbolt (Film Movement Classics). I’m keeping the mailbox monitored for some hot titles expected soon: Arthur Hiller’s Penelope, John Sturges’ Underwater! ( ↑ ) and William Conrad’s Two on a Guillotine; Preston Sturges’ The Great McGinty, William Wyler’s The Good Fairy, Michael Ritchie’s Semi-Tough, Robert Aldrich’s Ulzana’s Raid and Franklin J. Schaffner’s The War Lord. Criterion has Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe on the way, along with Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema, and way at the end of February, Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman. Kino just announced a long list of desirable and rare titles for February; I’ll talk about those on Saturday.


And we’ve got a really good reason to visit Trailers From Hell’s podcast The Movies That Made Me this week — to launch the third year of the podcast feature, Josh Olson and Joe Dante welcome producers Julie and Roger Corman for a long discussion of everything cinema. And I wish to express my appreciation and thanks to Trailers from Hell as well: CineSavant is well into its fourth year being hosted at TFH, which in my estimation is the classiest movie-mad showcase on the web.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday January 4, 2020

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

The Leech Woman 01/04/20

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Why do we like horror and monster movies that routinely get labeled as ‘bad?’  Because many of them have great story ideas and look at the world from odd, warped viewpoints. Back when ‘warped’ wasn’t a prerequisite for ALL filmed entertainment (my exaggeration) this murderous rejuvenation tale could be appreciated as something unusual, even quirky. Jeez, the characters are even nastier than the people I know!  Lovely Coleen Gray takes a chance on a downmarket Universal programmer and proves how well she can carry a movie, even through several dubious horror make-ups. With Grant Williams, Estelle Hemsley, Gloria Talbott, Phillip Terry, Kim Hamilton, and John Van Dreelen. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
01/04/20

The Slasher – ‘Cosh Boy’ 01/04/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

He’s mean, he’s nasty, he carries a razor and he’s dating your sister!  Cosh Boy was front & center in 1953 debates about ‘what’s wrong with the British cinema.’ It holds up well, if not as PC social comment, then as solid exploitation fare, with our verminous hero putting the moves on tough-but-vulnerable local girl Joan Collins. The entire cast will want to stand in line to get revenge against Roy Walsh, the punk who steals from his own mum and lets his criminal gang do the dirty work. Take it from me, he’s a dirty rat. Directed by Lewis Gilbert; co-starring Hermoine Baddeley and Hermione Gingold, and with a lot of Hammer personnel in the credits. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/04/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday January 4, 2020

Hello!

An upcoming American Cinematheque screening of The Incredible Shrinking Man at the Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian is being ballyhooed as a new 4K restoration. Could that be why Shrinking Man was the last of Uni’s major 1950’s sci-fi classics to hit Blu-ray in the States — was a release being held off until this restoration was completed?


After explaining that I was too confused or too lazy to choose a list of top discs of 2019, of any description, I got several letters saying, sure & thanks, but when are you going to give us your top ten?  For the last ten years I think I’ve been hovering around a top twenty, which only listed movies that appealed directly to me — and what relevance did that have for anyone else?  To put the matter to rest, I went through my list of reviews for the year and simply tapped the top 20 (arbitrary, no?) that I’d grab if the boat was sinking. So here — alphabetically — are the illuminating, embarrassing twenty for 2019:

 




















 

 

Sorry to the one reader who THANKED me for not making a list!   Until next time, thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday December 31, 2019

Could this masterpiece really be fifty years old? CLICK on it.

Cobra Woman 12/31/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent approaches this High Kitsch classic with an open mind and an appreciative eye: the remastering of this wartime Technicolor hit is dazzling. Talent-challenged but curvaceous Maria Montez, a genuine cult figure, can’t act and certainly can’t dance — but she has what the GIs overseas wanted to see, and the censors let her show it. Jon Hall and Sabu aid and abet Robert Siodmak’s arrow-straight direction. The script is dreamlike, the dialogue ultra-campy; add an excellent music score and the film’s effect is actually quite pleasing. Membership in the Maria Montez cult fan club helps; I hope Charlie tells his story about when a festival screened five Montez trailers in a row. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
12/31/19

Passport to Pimlico 12/31/19

Film Movement Classics
Blu-ray

Much of Ealing Studios’ core appeal begins right here, with T.E.B. Clarke’s astute look at the character of pragmatic, energetic Londoners, who in this fantasy face an outrageous situation with spirit, pluck, and a determination not to be cheated. What happens when a few square blocks of London discover that they’re no longer even part of the British Empire?  A classic of wartime ‘adjustments,’ the ensemble comedy even begins with a Tex Avery- like ode to rationing. With Stanley Holloway, Hermione Baddeley, Margaret Rutherford, Sydney Tafler and Betty Warren. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
12/31/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday December 31, 2019

Happy New Year —

I’m skipping a ‘best of’ list this year, only because my lists of favorites were becoming relevant only to me. It was an impossible list to compile anyway, because the literal explosion of desirable titles made it impossible to rank the favorites — I counted over a hundred worthy favorites among just the genre releases. I’ve discriminated by quality (what looks the best) and by rarity (what I never thought this would look this good) and got nowhere. These days, even the most minor releases routinely sport excellent transfers.

The explosion I talk about comes from a handful of non-studio disc companies. We’re by now well aware that the big studios release few older library/vault titles, and prefer to license them to small Blu-ray companies. Shout! Factory, Powerhouse Indicator, Kino, Arrow and a few others have joined Criterion in soaking us with the riches of studio libraries, giving us beautiful HD masters of genre titles that the studios can’t be bothered with. Twilight Time has ceased activity, and Olive Films has also hit the pause button, but we don’t know yet if both are out for the count. Yet 2019 has seen an avalanche of genre favorites, most beautifully remastered. Scream Factory has all but cleaned out the Universal vault of horror and sci-fi films, and other companies have pretty much covered most of the desirable Hammer films, at least the ones not tied up by Warners. Kino Lorber’s deal with Studio Canal has opened a floodgate to a potentially endless stream of exotic / forgotten foreign products. Many of which were seldom screened here, at least not in complete editions, in their original languages.

 

For the last twenty years we’ve been reading editorials claiming that DVDs and Blu-rays are on the way out, nearing extinction. This is the first year in which mainstream voices are finally echoing what we’ve been whining/preaching/arguing about for years: hard-media home video is the only guarantee of access to one’s favorite movies. Even if you’ve bought a digital version, anything in the cloud can be revoked at any time. Those old DVD collections may suddenly become valuable again, if studios remove their libraries from circulation, except for streaming services under their control. Remember, they OWN the films as intellectual property. Nobody can force them to make individual titles available.

How many streaming services do you subscribe to, in addition to all the new subscriptions one must maintain to do things like run a home computer?  Studios that are pushing streaming in a big way seem to be aligning their distribution model to ‘disrupt’ theatrical distribution. With Disney acquiring 20th-Fox, repertory theaters have been told they won’t be supplied with Fox product, and the foreign disc companies I know have been told that Fox product will no longer be licensed to them.

Nobody knows the future of theatrical distribution for new pictures, but learning about older movies now seems even more of a splinter activity for cinephiles, film students and TCM fans. Cultural Consensus moviegoing, where many of us see the same things, only happens with a few exceptional mega-hits. The ‘average’ folk I know don’t have time to become cinema fans. If they have leisure money they’re into other new pursuits. You could pretty much guarantee that somebody in the 1990s had access to a VHS player, and until 2015 or so most homes I visited could play a DVD. But just because my personal friends have a Blu-ray hooked up, doesn’t mean that most people do. When I say that I have a set that will play 3-D, it’s often assumed that I’m rich (hahahaha) or ‘one of those people’ with a central obsession better avoided in conversation.

 

But folk that frequent places like CineSavant of course tend to be fellow confirmed movie addicts, many with professional contacts or actually working in the biz in one way or another. That’s where you’ll find serious collectors. Not many consumers buy discs all the time, but I hear from plenty of people who somehow purchase MANY. I think the generation of college students that went crazy for DVDs around 1998 matured out of the habit, as they got deeper into their adult responsibilities… in other words, they became normal consumers, mostly buying Disney discs when their kids demanded them. And plenty of college-age disc fans got out of the habit after a couple of apartment moves, when they realized how bulky discs can be. After not being able to accumulate anything in the first half of my life, I think I’ve kept EVERYTHING from the second half. I still haven’t figured out a reasonable storage/library system for my discs, that’s for sure. I’d ask my sane friends how they got the courage & willpower to divest themselves of so many possessions / collections… but I know I won’t change.

Will people still continue to care about old movies, outside of a small group branded as elitists?   It’s scary when Martin Scorsese ventures an opinion that clashes with popular taste, and all of a sudden finds himself being harassed like a target of a political slur on Twitter. I’ve been through the 2019 releases I wanted to see and found several really fine pictures, but only a couple that I know I’ll want to see again. But right now there must be 500 old pictures that I’m ready to screen at a moment’s notice — I love showing guests things they haven’t seen.

Those are my random end-of-year thoughts about this strange activity / hobby / reason to live that I’ve gotten myself into. Thanks to my fellow reviewers Lee Broughton and Charlie Largent. Here’s a mass link farm that gathers together the cult / horror / sci-fi / western / noir / political / mainstream titles I was most thrilled to see reviewed this year:

 



































































































Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

The personal pix included above:
#1) A goodie given out with Universal’s Scarface ’83 disc. Tony Camonte’s personal motto doesn’t necessarily have to be selfish.
#2) Me and an old sculpture by my son called “Pompey’s Head.” I’m vain enough to sneak this into the lineup.
#3) This is the photo I put up that prompted the most reader mail this year. Two readers wanted to know if it was a from a cut scene (I wish). It grafts together Janet Leigh and The Metaluna Mutant.
#4) Two of my best friends preparing to be ushers for my wedding, back in — don’t ask. On the left is the late author and film historian Robert S. Birchard. On the right is the film editor, Steven Nielson.

Saturday December 28, 2019

This show has plenty to say about 1917, and also ’14, ’15, ’16 and ’18. CLICK on it.

Dr. Cyclops 12/28/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

It may be a little creaky, but Dr. Cyclops is a genuine classic of the imagination, from a time long before pulp fantasy dominated Hollywood filmmaking. For 1940 audiences this must have felt like a strange dream. Five humans are miniaturized and terrorized by Albert Dekker’s Dr. Thorkel, a card-carrying mad scientist. Held firm by a giant rubber hand, ‘Mr. Crabby’ Charles Halton keeps an unfortunate appointment with a horrifying fate. Who will survive, and how big will they be?  Did Thorkel change his name to Soberin, move to California, and steal The Great Whatzit? Kino’s new HD transfer of this oddball gem is a wonderment — the Technicolor is outstanding, better than Paramount’s old nitrate studio print.. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
12/28/19

The Fugitive Kind 12/28/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Marlon Brando is back in an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play Orpheus Descending. The cameraman is Boris Kaufman and the director is Sidney Lumet; Marlon’s a classic tomcat drifter in a dangerous parish, who attracts two women. Acting styles mesh, or mix without blending — Anna Magnani and Joanne Woodward each get opportunities to shine. It’s all poetics and symbolism — dig the snakeskin jacket! — in a fairly realistic setting. The extras include three Williams one-act plays. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
12/28/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday December 28, 2019

Hello!

I have had a fine holiday so far, and some family hasn’t quite arrived for New Years’ yet. In case you’re wondering about the secret to a happy life, it often arrives for Christmas in the form of homemade CARROT CAKE. Raising children has its sterling benefits — it may be a lot of time and effort, but when you’re done you have another person in the family capable of baking such heavenly treats. That’s my totally unselfish thought of the day.


This is the kind of mystery nobody minds. An unexpected disc arrived, from a company that hasn’t been sending me fantastic/sci-fi product for half a year or so. There’s no paperwork and the unfamiliar address on the envelope gives no clue. Is this a mystery gift from a reader, or a stealth bit of generosity from the disc company?  I really want to know, just to give thanks — I very much wanted to review it, and now I have my chance.


Film students from the ’70s were saddened by the passing this week of the fine film critic and author Peter Wollen. Most of us knew him through his book Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, a brilliant but sometimes frustrating serious look at movie analysis. Wollen could be to movies what Noam Chomsky is to linguistics — a brilliant writer whose full analysis I can’t pretend I fully understood. But what a great book series that was. Andrew Tudor’s Theories of Film from the same imprint, was a little more accessible. So if you were in critical studies in the 1970s, consider this a bumper sticker saying ‘honk if you struggle with Wollen!’


And let me sign off with thanks to Bradley Powell with enthusiastic hopes for more Olive Films releases. Guess what made a fine festive shirt for Christmas Day?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday December 24, 2019

Let’s take a walk… I have a Christmas present for you, up in the Sand Pit !   CLICK on this.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 12/24/19

Sony/Columbia
4K UltraHD, Blu-ray + Digital

Two givens for Los Angeles living in 1969: perpetual driving around listening to the radio, and stereo cartridge needles dropping onto record grooves. Those things were the basics of our existence! CineSavant closes out his pre-Christmas cheer with his favorite picture of ’19. It’s possibly Quentin Tarantino’s best. Yes, yes I know it has that crazy finale, but overall it has much less violence than most anything else he’s done. Plus it has scenes that can be described as heartwarming, and quietly sentimental… practically new territory for this director. The respect shown for Sharon Tate is gratifying. Bring us more great stories that inspire you this way, Mr. T. ! On 4K UltraHD, Blu-ray + Digital from Sony/Columbia.
12/24/19