Alastair Sim’s School for Laughter: 4 Classic Comedies 04/25/20

Film Movement Classics
Blu-ray

Step aside Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers — the king of droll Brit comedy comes through with four, count ’em 4, on target laugh-getters. Alastair Sim cornered the business for sneaky crime, dirty tricks and nasty con-games, when he isn’t being flummoxed by the worst thing Britain ever loosed upon the world — boarding school girls. Read ’em and shudder: The Belles Of St. Trinian’s, School For Scoundrels, Laughter In Paradise, and the first ‘official’ Ealing comedy Hue And Cry. Reviewer Charlie Largent recommends these highly. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
04/25/20

Europa Europa 04/25/20

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Director Agnieszka Holland pulls off a difficult task — her true-life Holocaust tale neither trivializes the horror nor glamorizes individualized victims at the expense of the big picture. Marco Hofschneider is the inexperienced German teenager who by strange quirks of fate becomes a staunch Stalinist in a Communist school, then a Nazi war hero and candidate for Hitler Youth honors and adoption by a Nazi officer… if he can avoid being uncovered as a Jew in hiding. It sounds tasteless but it’s not — the true story of Solomon Perel reveals the ‘fluidity’ of ideology when survival is on the line. Our young hero must keep ‘becoming’ what he pretends to be. With André Wilms, René Hofschneider and Julie Delpy as a rabid Hitlerite. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
04/25/20

Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life and Ghastly Death of Al Adamson 04/25/20

Severin Films
Blu-ray

Exploitation films have their mavericks, their patron saints and their bad boys: this well-researched and lovingly assembled shock-bio introduces us to a particularly talented persistent filmmaker whose sexed-up horror & action grindhouse non-epics proved commercially viable even into the video age. Then comes the Ghastly Death part, a cruelly undeserved finish for a movie guy liked and admired by his collaborators. David Gregory’s docu tells the tale … all the way to the true-life grisly finale. Plus a second entire Al Adamson feature, The Female Bunch. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
04/25/20

CineSavant Column

Saturday April 25, 2020

Hello!

CineSavant launches new reviews early on Tuesdays, the same day that future releases of new discs are often first announced. That means that my happy ‘news’ of desired discs is usually three or four days old … which doesn’t bother me at all.


→ Due out on May 12 is The Warner Archive Collection’s remastered Blu-ray of the classic 1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum. This will be a big treat because the new transfer reportedly recreates the original limited-hue look of 2-Strip Technicolor, as described in this UCLA article. The old 1990s laserdisc transfer was made from Jack Warner’s surviving print, but the colorists did everything they could to ‘improve’ the color. The resulting copy, seen many times on TCM, has always raised the ire of specialists that knew it wasn’t accurate. As the article explains, a second partial copy found in France was used to fill in missing frames, etc.. The restoration demo offered is pretty impressive, especially around those reel changes.  Just admiring the two-tone color design is fun.

The exciting, funny movie is better than its remake House of Wax. It has some genuine chills and classic scream queen moments from Fay Wray. One of her glass-shatterers may be the best horror film scream of all time: “You FIEND!” I’m partial to Glenda Farrell’s comic reporter, too.


← Next up is Kino’s finally-in-Region A release The Day the Earth Caught Fire, an incredibly timely sci-fi movie that we can readily relate to. Its topsy-turvy planet disaster applies to most every scenario that disrupts the social status quo. Even though it’s about a bizarre consequence of nuclear testing, the show’s weird weather aspect definitely applies to our Global Warming debacle. Although Kino’s disc doesn’t have the superb extras of the 2014 BFI Blu-ray, it does have an older Val Guest commentary. If it’s the one from the old (2000) Anchor Bay DVD, Guest will be hosted by our friend Ted Newsom. The one new extra will be a commentary by Richard Harland Smith, who Kino has tapped for a number of quality Sci-Fi discs in the last few years. The release will arrive on July 7 … you know, long after our present calamity is over (cough, cough).

Most Americans are still  unfamiliar with the picture, which won its share of English awards. The Wolf Mankowicz screenplay is terrific, the production lavish, and it benefits from great performances from Edward Judd, Janet Munro, Leo McKern, and Arthur Christiansen. The (new?) disc artwork pictured above is pretty good, even if it looks like a morning-after vista from the previous year’s Gorgo.


→ And finally there’s the equally anticipated Blu-ray of John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends, a two disc set with an alternate cut called The Fiendish Ghouls aka Mania. The long-ago Image DVD (2001, just before 9/11) encoded both the standard UK cut and an uncensored Continental version. The advance specs don’t mention that, but Tim Lucas, who has done a commentary for the release, says he read it to the Continental cut, so I guess fans of vintage horror skin won’t be disappointed. Frankly, seeing the tawdry ‘naughty bits’ alternate scenes for the Baker/Berman Jack the Ripper was depressing. My memory is that the replacement footage for FATF was directed and produced as quality goods.

For those you that care about your horror fare, Flesh and the Fiends is a truly important picture, firmly planted in historical fact. Peter Cushing’s sympathetic Doctor Knox is an original, nothing like his take on Baron Frankenstein. The supporting cast is superb — Donald Pleasance, Renee Houston, Billie Whitelaw and John Cairney.


 

And a bit of fun thanks to a tip from correspondent Craig Reardon. The spoiler title is ‘What’s My Line?’ — A Spooky Surprise from Vincent Price. Craig says that the Prince of Horror shows up around eighteen minutes in. With that voice and reactions, the panel must have guessed his identity the moment he opened his mouth.


A late addition:  A couple of nights ago my friends saw Jimmy Kimmel’s visit with Trump’s new medical advisor, the big joke being that he turned out to be Planet of the Apes’  Dr. Zaius, an orangutan with a medical degree.

That’s when Wayne Schmidt recalled that he had once been made up as ‘General Ursus’ for an ancient fan convention. The job was done by his friend Steve Neill, a multi-talent who went on to a varied career: makeup artist, filmmaker, puppeteer, model maker and visual effects artist. Here’s what Wayne wrote:

Planet of the Apes’ was for me like Star Trek was for the other sci-fi dweebs of my generation. I think I saw the original film twenty times or something. Collected tons of stuff on it back then. I met Steve Neill because he showed up at a costume party made up as Cornelius. I was of course curious how he’d done it and told him I would love to be made up in a gorilla make-up. He said sure, and after the fun and games of life masks and spirit gum I emerged as General Ursus from the second film. This was for Equicon, one of the granddaddies of fan conventions. The outfit is actually the one James Gregory wore in the film. I rented it from Western Costume at the time. I was honored that that the convention used that picture for their NO SMOKING . . . OR ELSE!” signs around the hotel.

Steve put me in makeup two more times. I know one was for an L.A. Zoo benefit and I don’t remember the reason for the other. But by that time I had grown a beard and didn’t want to shave it off, so he put the spirit gum on it and the appliance over that. It held fine, but taking it off . . . . let’s just say Torquemada would have been inspired to include the procedure in his repertoire. That was my last foray into ape drag.”

I hereby include two photos of Wayne ‘in ape drag,’ makeup by Steve Neill, many moons ago. Frankly this doesn’t look like ‘fan’ work to me, so it’s no wonder that these guys became professionals. Now I feel like seeing the movie again. The photos enlarge when opened in a new window.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday April 21, 2020

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Rachel and the Stranger 04/21/20

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Here’s a pleasant surprise: one of RKO’s most popular releases of 1948 has suddenly emerged in an uncut version that’s a full twelve minutes longer than anything most of us have seen. The gentle, family-oriented frontier tale has an attractive trio of star performers, excellent location work and a thoughtful, teasing script. I must have seen the truncated version five times, and yes, it did seem a tad abbreviated here and there. Loretta Young is the bondservant/un-kissed bride with a roving eye. William Holden is the initially unimaginative husband, while good old, Robert Mitchum is perfectly cast as a potential sexual fox-in-the-henhouse. With Gary Gray. On Blu-rayfrom The Warner Archive Collection.
04/21/20

Billy Liar 04/21/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Do you ever lapse into daydream fantasies to escape from everyday life? Tom Courtenay and John Schlesinger changed their destinies and that of Julie Christie with this brilliant (black?) comedy about what ought to be a tragic situation. The frustrated Billy rebels against his dull routine with outrageous lies and chicanery, but hasn’t the courage to strike forth on his own — even when invited to do so by the girl of his dreams. Schlesinger’s delightful directorial style applies brash New Wave editing to Billy’s grandiose ‘Walter Mitty’ fantasies. With Wilfred Pickles, Mona Washbourne and Ethel Griffies. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
04/21/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday April 21, 2020

Hello!

Today’s announcements feel somewhat, uh, nonessential. So I must be on the right track.

Correspondent Marilyn Moss posted an older YouTube item I hadn’t seen, a vintage half-hour NBC presentation in which President Dwight Eisenhower becomes the first chief executive to be recorded on color videotape: Oldest color videotape recording WRC-TV dedication May 22, 1958.

NBC’s Robert W. Sarnoff does the introduction and shows a piece of 2″ videotape … which was still in use when I got into TV commercials in 1980. Then David Sarnoff of RCA follows the President. The show starts in B&W, and then fifteen minutes in, changes to COLOR when Robert Sarnoff pushes a button. I wonder how many MGM and RCA engineers were sweating it out, hoping that the cue would go off as planned. It’s pretty good, with not even a glitch visible. Of course, most of the people watching didn’t have color TV, not in 1958. Did they think that the TV show was going to make their B&W TVs switch to color?

It’s also nice to see a President who comes off as intelligent, polite and ‘presidential.’ Eisenhower is the only President I’ve seen in person, on an airport runway at Hickam AFB in early 1961. He’s in no way a polished TeeVee Personality — which makes him seem all the more trustworthy.


I caught this text on my local Spectrum Program Guide and couldn’t resist snapping a picture. I can’t decide if the author is for or against information about Global Warming. My contribution to significant public discourse, essential or not.


Reviews in preparation: we think we’ll be getting to these titles next, or almost next: Alastair Sim’s School for Laughter with The Bells of St. Trinian’s, School for Scoundrels, Laughter in Paradise and the first classic Ealing Comedy, Hue and Cry; Cattle Annie & Little Britches, Europa, Europa, Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life and Ghastly Death of Al Adamson and Sweet Bird of Youth ( ↑ ). And if it arrives quickly enough, the restoration of the 1920 The Golem.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday April 18, 2020

Tell me again, Olga darling. Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

The Head 04/18/20

Delta Music & Entert. GmbH & Co. KG.
DVD

A horror goulash without equal! Creepy Charlie Largent reaches for an older German DVD of one of the weirder, sleazier medical atrocity Eurohorrors. This somewhat suspicious import item is the uncut ‘Die Nackte und der Satan,’ confusingly given a re-title that translates as ‘Satan’s Naked Slave Girl.’ Horst Frank’s slimy Dr. Ood keeps the severed noggin’ of Michel Simon (yes, the acting legend) alive in a dish of ‘Serum X.’ He also grafts the head of a hunchbacked nurse onto the body of a stripper from the Tam Tam club — just your average oversexed mad lab horseplay. That mad lab is actually the star of the show — it’s a gleaming Bauhaus concoction by the designer of the original Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Co-starring Christiane Maybach and Barbara Valentin, with audio in English & original German with subs, on PAL Region 2 DVD from Delta Music & Entert. GmbH & Co. KG.
04/18/20

Outcast of the Islands 04/18/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Lust-filled treachery in the steaming tropics!  He dared to love a cannibal empress! Taglines like that suggest that it wasn’t easy to sell Carol Reed’s phenomenally good adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s classic, a tale of human self-degradation and malevolence in the tropics. Long difficult to see, it’s finally here to dazzle a generation that might appreciate its superb performances. Forget Lord Jim and Colonel Kurtz. Trevor Howard’s back-stabbing Peter Willems shows us the price of total betrayal: permanent banishment from humanity. Co-starring Ralph Richardson, Kerima, Robert Morley and Wendy Hiller. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
04/18/20

CineSavant Column

Saturday April 18, 2020

Hello!  ….  The Czech frame grab above? Olga Schoberová (aka Olinka Berova) is saying, “I don’t bite, doctor.”


I happily made a fuss on FB the other morning when Criterion announced their July 7 disc of Pal’s The War of the Worlds, which fully deserved the digital restoration it received two years ago. The new spiffed-up edition has been cablecast once on TCM, and even with that compression looked sensational. I have received a complaint or two that the actors looked too waxy, as if the image had been given too much digital buffing. I don’t know, as the original Technicolor copies had that squeaky-clean perfect color and makeup associated with 3-Stripe color back in the day. One change I noticed, was that all the stock shots (the Flying Wing, etc.) had been cleaned up — no more big hairs in the gate.

The old ‘wires’ issue is coming back, I’m afraid, the talk that the suspension wires on the Martian fighting machines (and lots of other stuff) weren’t visible on original Tech prints, so therefore it’s proper to digitally erase them. Don’t believe it. They were always there, barely perceptible most of the time but plain as day in maybe three or four individual shots. They can’t have been appreciably more visible on the Eastmancolor prints circulated for a 1970s reissue — I think it’s more likely that we all started to pay more attention to the wires after multiple viewings.

They’re pretty much gone now. It’s revisionism, all right, but in this case I have to say I’m not offended. I will definitely be looking forward to hearing the newly created stereophonic track… the overall sound design of TWOTW is so dynamic, the old mono tracks sound like stereo.

This is one show that many of us have seen many times. In my case I can’t really watch the whole thing alone anymore … one great joy of raising children was being able to re-experience favorites like this through their eyes. A couple of months back TCM also cablecast a beautifully remastered copy of another Pal movie we dearly love, When Worlds Collide. Maybe Paramount will let some disc boutique license that core sci-fi picture as well.


Movie host Dick Dinman has a new audio discussion piece up, this time with the great Gena Rowlands. Their talk is mainly about Lonely Are the Brave, ‘saluting’ the late Kirk Douglas. Ms. Rowlands was short-changed for great film acting opportunities early in her career, but every last show she appears in is a winner. Kino has a Blu-ray of the movie due out in a month … I really enjoy Jerry Goldsmith’s music score.


And Greenbriar Picture Shows has a great in-depth article from Thursday, April 16 — John McElwee looks at Sam Fuller’s The Baron of Arizona with Vincent Price and Ellen Drew, the near-perfect melodrama about the historical swindler who almost got away with proving that he was the rightful owner of an entire territory out West. Who would have guessed that this was a favorite role for Price? Once again John shows me things I didn’t know about a movie I thought I’d fully absorbed.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday April 14, 2020

The Sound Barrier 04/14/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Why is David Lean’s stirring ode to British aviation so historically and technically bogus?  Because at heart it’s a science fiction film!  Ralph Richardson drives his test pilots and his own son to die on the altar of aviation R&D, in a tale focused firmly on futurism and the push to the stars. Nigel Patrick and Denholm Elliott struggle to measure up, while Ann Todd hugs her baby and resists. Watching this terrific production, you’d think the Queen had a monopoly on supersonic aviation. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
04/14/20

The Great Gildersleeve Movie Collection 04/14/20

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

Reviewer Charlie Largent harks back to the days when radio actors could graduate to movie fame. Actor Harold Peary of Fibber McGee and Molly starred in four features framed around his ‘Gildersleeve’ character, a guy described as a ‘befuddled blowhard.’ The shows The Great Gildersleeve, Gildersleeve’s Bad Day, Gildersleeve on Broadway, and Gildersleeve’s Ghost are accompanied by Peary’s guest-shot contribution to the Victor Mature/Lucille Ball comedy Seven Days’ Leave. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
04/14/20

Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman 04/14/20

Lionsgate UK
Region B Blu-ray

Timothy Spall stars in a fascinating, surprisingly non-morbid look into the life of Albert Pierrepoint, England’s reluctant celebrity hangman who dispatched hundreds of convicted killers, including Ruth Ellis and John Christie, not to mention 47 Nazi war criminals, in a literal marathon of the gallows. The artist of the noose kept up a double life to separate his execution duties from his domestic marriage … until General Montgomery blew his cover of anonymity. Eddie Marsan and Juliet Stevenson provide terrific acting support in this undeservedly obscure gem from director Adrian Shergold. On Region B Blu-ray from Lionsgate UK.
04/14/20

CineSavant Column

Tuesday April 14, 2020

Hello!

Welcome to the first ‘shelter in place’ edition of CineSavant: I guess that our Brave New World of social isolation is finally sinking in, four weeks after the fact. Just pretend that you’re 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and don’t want to go outside at all because of the ravenous Polar Bears waiting to jump you. See, CineSavant has no shortage of comforting thoughts.

Associate Gary Teetzel pushes some links my way from the Facebook feed of film expert Jack Theakston. For anyone who missed out, it’s a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of several color television shows from 1954: A Visit to CBS Color Television, restored by Jeff Josephs and SabuCat. It is said to have been produced for affiliates and sponsors, but never aired. Note that we aren’t seeing color broadcast material, but excellent 35mm film. Gary did some detective work on some of the clips seen in the vintage featurette:

“I found that the Ed Sullivan Toast of the Town show with Eartha Kitt and Janis Paige aired August 22; the Danger episode was titled “A Shadow on the Sand” and aired August 31 (we see Murray Matheson and Arnold Moss rehearsing); and “The Royal Family” aired September 15. According to Wikipedia, 1954 was the first year RCA and Westinghouse started offering color TV sets, with the first color broadcast being the Rose Parade. In the spring of that year RCA placed color TV in public places like hotel lobbies to show off the technology to a wider segment of the public. An RCA color set with a 15″ screen cost $1,000; a Westinghouse model was $1,295. In November RCA started offering a color model with a 21″ screen for $895. I didn’t see any numbers on how many sets sold at those prices, but in ’54 it couldn’t have been very many.” — Gary

Why would a neat show like this not be aired? … it’s possible that CBS’s legal department discovered that they couldn’t broadcast images of the talent we see without everyone being paid. My first guess in situations like this is always a ‘money’ guess.


Next Up:

Correspondent John Locke writes an impressive collectors’ page devoted to vintage pulp magazines called Off-Trail Publications. John sent me a couple of other links as well. He contributes to a page by Don Herron called Up and Down These Mean Streets. (Herron has been leading ‘The Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour’ in San Francisco since 1977.) John has been contributing little photo essays to Herron’s page, called Pulps in the Movies. He claims his subject matter is ‘obscure,’ but we at CineSavant never saw an obscurity we didn’t want to write about.

Each Wednesday, John Locke documents the appearance of a pulp publication in a vintage movie, with a screen capture of the magazine either on a newsstand or in a reader’s hands. He also says he references instances of a character discussing a magazine in dialogue. Locke’s text attempts to interpret the presence of the magazine in relation to the plot, the production, contemporaneous views of the popular culture, etc.. This has possibilities — the only instance of this that comes to mind at the moment is ‘C.W. Moss’ poring over movie magazines in Bonnie and Clyde, and that might not count because it’s a period picture and the old magazines are intentional set dressing. But I guess the magazines seen in older 1930s movies would be determined by the art directors as well.

Locke’s newest post is called Sinister Cinema: That Old Navy Blues. He’s up to about a dozen posts now, which can be perused at the cumulative page Pulps in the Movies. Whattaya know, the museum guard in The Mummy’s Ghost is reading Detective Tales … which Locke identifies as being the 1942 issue. Observations like this can prove when a movie was filmed, at least, letting us know that it couldn’t have been filmed before the magazine’s release.


 

And news from The Criterion Collection,

which has just announced a boxed set of Kung Fu Fighting classics, called
Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits. I guess I’d seen Lee’s movie Marlowe, and of course we all knew TV’s The Green Hornet, but by the time that Enter the Dragon was selling out Grauman’s Chinese Theater for shows 24 hours a day, Bruce Lee was already gone.

Lee returned to Hong Kong from Hollywood and made four films between 1971 and 1973; the last film from 1978 was made from an unfinished feature.
More or less fifty years later, Criterion’s package puts Enter the Dragon in line with The Big Boss, Fist of Fury (with a bit by Jackie Chan), The Way of the Dragon (with Chuck Norris) and Game of Death. I know Kung Fu fans that might be interested in this, depending on what they look like, what languages are on board, etc.


 

And just to show you how precious time is spent at CineSavant, I noted yesterday that someone on FB linked to a YouTube cover version of Jerry Goldsmith’s great music for Our Man Flint. I think that was the second LP album I ever bought with my own money, I had loved the music so much in the theater. Anyway, I started sampling various cover versions online to recapture the super-duper super-spy mood of that time. Some of the cuts I found are straight, some sour, and a couple treat the song as if were a surfing anthem. If you’re not afraid of getting Goldsmith’s nine-note theme burned into your head, here is the

original Jerry Goldsmith album cut , followed by cover tracks by
Hugo Montenegro,
the John Blackinsell Orchestra,
Billy Strange,
The Charades,
Herbie Mann,
the Gli Fuller Orchestra,
The Artwoods,
The Challengers,
Elliott Fisher,
James Moody,
The Tarantinos,
The Blue Hawaiians, and
Roland Shaw.

Yes, we were crazy about our ‘sophisticated’ spy music back in the day. I think I went into this subject a couple of weeks ago, happily remembering Ennio Morricone’s amiably dippy ‘O.K. Connery’ music theme for Operation Kid Brother.

But the super-spy semi-parody cue that really sticks in my head is Lalo Schifrin’s ‘go-go martial discotheque’ main title theme from the second-rate Matt Helm opus Murderer’s Row ( → ). It’s a shame that Sharon Tate wasn’t in that bad Matt Helm movie, so this cue could have ended up in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  And here’s a slightly different version of the same theme, called Iron Head. But remember — you have to think of this music as something that excited a 13-year old with a pathetic notion of what was truly cool. At the time, who understood why one’s hip friends listened to Bob Dylan?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday April 11, 2020

So long to ‘Zachary Willard’ — a really interesting guy, Mr. Garfield was. CLICK on it.

Night Passage 04/11/20

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

James Stewart’s final western of the 1950s is a high-gloss family show with more than its share of spirited desperados and adventuresome women. But it’s really the split-up project that ended the productive Stewart-Anthony Mann filmmaking combo. The ‘folksy’ touches could only have come from Stewart himself, who hopefully didn’t show up to parties with his accordion in tow. Opposite Stewart as a ‘good bad guy’ is Audie Murphy, who rises to the standard set by his high-class co-star. If old-time railroads have appeal, this is the show for you: an un-billed co-star is the spectacular Denver and Rio Grande. With Dianne Foster, Elaine Stewart, Brandon De Wilde, Jay C. Flippen, Robert J. Wilke, Hugh Beaumont, Jack Elam, Olive Carey, Ellen Corby and a horse called Pie. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
04/11/20

Our Hospitality 04/11/20

Kino Classics
Blu-ray

Buster Keaton’s first full feature is a real accomplishment, a little masterpiece that deftly balances comedy and drama. Buster’s star appeal is on full display as an 1830 lad who returns to the hill country to resettle the old homestead and lands in the middle of a murderous feud — with the girl he loves on the other side. It’s an historically sensitive, hilarious comedy, with a hair-raising waterfall stunt set-piece for a finale. Extras include docus and two later short subjects. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
04/11/20