Gas, Food Lodging 11/13/18

Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

Welcome to the West, long after the frontier has closed. Allison Anders’ marvelous drama of a three-girl family is a big step for indie cinema, a highly entertaining examination of women’s aspirations and frustrations out on the non-glamorous working class fringe. Writer-director Anders wastes no time with a terrific cast — Brooke Adams, Ione Skye and Fairuza Balk’s family lacks a father, and ‘men who walk’ becomes the central issue in their lives. Filmed in a gloriously believable New Mexico desert. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
11/13/18

Sword of Sherwood Forest 11/13/18

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Hammer takes time off from horror to ‘Speak Treason — Fluently!’  TV’s Robin Hood Richard Greene goes Eastmancolor and MegaScope to oppose the Sheriff of Nottingham on the big screen. The cast is certainly attractive: Peter Cushing, Niall MacGinnis, Richard Pasco, Jack Gwillim, Sarah Branch, Nigel Green, Vanda Godsell, Desmond Llewelyn and Oliver Reed. Reviewer Charlie Largent sorts things out — and adds a fascinating mini-history of the ‘lefty’ TV show we all watched as kids. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
11/13/18

Blondie The Complete 1957 Television Series 11/13/18

ClassicFlix
DVD

‘Hey Blondie!’ Dagwood, Blondie, Mr. Dithers and a victimized postman return for a stab at a TV revival of the 1940s series from Chic Young’s never-ending comic strip. It’s not bad, with Arthur Lake clowning up a storm and Pamela Britton a charming new embodiment of a character who began as ‘Blondie Boopadoop.’ It’s the entire one-season series. Guest stars include Barbara Nichols and Pamela Duncan. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
11/13/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday November 13, 2018

Hello!

(Written Monday:) Parts of Malibu continue to burn. It’s no relief for many, many others, but my two close contacts in the major fire zone to the West of Los Angeles report that they’ve come out unscathed, at least so far. Returned to his house, a close friend says he found that neighbors that stayed behind had rearranged the water hoses around his house, to better react if spot-fires popped up in the gulley behind. It’s been reported by Guillermo Del Toro that his home-museum of incredible fantasy horror and sci-fi memorabilia, the palace of delights seen in several choice video extras, has survived. Del Toro was evacuated for a time as well. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if that happened to me.


Don’t know why The New Yorker should care about the blessed streets of The City of The Angels, but Joe Dante steers us to this YouTube comparison video entitled Seventy Years of Los Angeles, Then and Now . The cars in the 1940s and today appear to be cruising right around central downtown, on Bunker hill and the streets just East of the Harbor Freeway. The alignment is pretty interesting — only occasionally do we see a building with an unchanged facade. A time-traveling Philip Marlowe wouldn’t know his own stomping grounds. Here’s another much longer still comparison called New York Then and Now, bridging today and 1890-1900 or so.


I received yet another nice note from correspondent “Mark” and followed his link to his page Movies ala Mark. He’s got a review site going with plenty of fun content, and none of it as long-winded as CineSavant ‘essays.’ Good pix too. See, it’s the right thing for reviewers to plug each others work — life isn’t only about dogged self-promotion, ya know.


That doesn’t make me averse to a little name-dropping now and then. Producer Mike Finnell wrote to tell me that the image I posted of a matte painting shot from Gremlins was indeed painted by my old cohort Rocco Gioffre. I have a long-ago memory of standing watching Rocco paint that exact masonite ‘canvas,’ but trusting memories is risky. The uplifting thought is knowing that someone like Mr. Finnell might peek in at CineSavant now and then.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday November 10, 2018

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

The Last Movie 11/10/18

Arbelos
Blu-ray

Dennis Hopper’s legendary follow-up to Easy Rider ended his Hollywood directing career for at least fifteen years. Barely seen again after brief premiere bookings, it hasn’t built up a reputation as a suppressed masterpiece. So what is it exactly? A new spotless restoration gives a dazzling rebirth to Hopper’s Perú- filmed deconstruction of Hollywood. The astonishing number of notables in the cast list may in itself demand a viewing: Julie Adams, Tomas Milian, Don Gordon, Donna Baccala, Sylvia Miles, Rod Cameron, Severn Darden, Sam Fuller, Peter Fonda, Henry Jaglom, Michelle Phillips, Kris Kristofferson, Dean Stockwell, Russ Tamblyn, John Phillip Law, Richard Rust, Toni Basil, Michael Anderson Jr.. On Blu-ray from Arbelos.
11/10/18

Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure 11/10/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Tarzan got a new lease on life when a film company finally went to Africa to pit Gordon Scott’s excellent ‘Lord of the Jungle’ against a formidable phalanx of villains. Anthony Quayle, Sean Connery and Niall MacGinnis are perfect Dastards of the Darkest Continent. Also top-flight are the women in this jungle combat, wicked Scilla Gabel and naughty Sara Shane. Fun for adult kids of all ages! Poor Al Mulock gets no respect, but he’s in there slugging as well. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
11/10/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday November 10, 2018

Hello, I hope…

Well, it’s been a rough weekend here in Los Angeles — looking West towards Malibu yesterday, the ash and smoke cloud in the sky looked like a nuclear mushroom cloud. A quarter of a million were evacuated — all of Malibu and a half-dozen other communities. Three friends contacted me to say they had already left, or were awaiting evacuation instructions. I watched local TV coverage most of yesterday and could see that places very close to their homes were burning. I was impressed that the residents clogging Pacific Coast Highway weren’t panicking, but that everyone is taking the fire seriously. Movies give one the idea that survival is easy, when it’s possible to be killed just standing in the street. When so much is burning, the radiant heat can knock a person out.

The crazy part is that the chaos and horror is all ‘up the road’ a few miles away. The city around me continues as usual, with its heavy traffic and workaday normalities. I’m posting a couple of pictures here from friends. The first was taken around 11am on Friday from where a friend had retreated, looking toward his home in Agoura Hills ten or twelve miles away in Woodland Hills. The second was taken last night by close associate Allan Peach from the Santa Monica Pier, in the direction of the firestorm in Malibu. From the fun-fair the blaze on the horizon is a ‘memorable sight,’ but it’s awful to contemplate the lives that are being turned upside down out there.

The air has been relatively calm here in Los Angeles proper, but fierce Eastern winds in the fire areas were so strong that no attempt to contain the fires was even practical — access to the terrain is difficult and many places have no water mains. Firefighting is fire management under these conditions, and there’s nothing anyone can do but get out of the way and try to save individual structures where possible. The assertion that ‘poor water management’ is responsible, is preposterous.

Before 2000 or so, it seemed that these fires were less frequent and more limited. I’ve never heard of so much Los Angeles territory being evacuated before. I’ve watched the news of terrible storms and flooding from back East and thought, ‘well all we need to worry about out here is earthquakes,’ and I’ve never been afraid of them. From what’s happened in Northern California, we can see that anyplace is vulnerable.

Sorry to hijack the column for ‘unrelated’ thoughts, but I won’t calm down until I hear good news from Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills and Malibu. More fun disc news on Tuesday — thanks for reading. — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday November 6, 2018

I’m pretty sure the great Rocco Gioffre painted this. CLICK on it.

Mr. Capra Goes to War: Frank Capra’s World War II Documentaries 11/06/18

Olive Films
Blu-ray

These wartime docu-propaganda films are fascinating, but critic Joseph McBride’s critical accompaniment is even better, nailing the meaning of five groundbreaking works of ‘indoctrination’ and giving us a refreshing revisionist take on one of America’s more revered film directors. The films are Prelude to War, The Battle of Russia (1&2), The Negro Soldier, Tunisian Victory and Your Job in Germany; get ready to hear plenty of ‘why we fight’ rhetoric and see all those dramatic animated maps, with swastika daggers making entire countries bleed. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
11/06/18

Andrei Rublev 11/06/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Want to get serious about Russian cinema? Andrei Tarkovsky’s 15th-century epic portrays the travails of an artist at odds with his world — a medieval nightmare far more cruel than the Cold War indifference and suspicion that Tarkovsky experienced in his own industry. It’s perhaps his masterpiece, a ‘safe’ historical story that nevertheless was too personal and religious to escape Soviet censorship. Both versions are here, the 3-hour director’s cut and the longer The Passion According to Andre. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/06/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday November 6, 2018

Hello!

I listened to a full podcast this morning. Sergio Mims, a writer and film programmer that I correspond & gossip with, is the subject of Bill Ackerman’s Supporting Characters podcast show, where he talks about his experience reviewing in Chicago, running film festivals and working on films. For me it was a good chance to hear how Sergio talks and learn about his background. Sergio attracted attention with his review here at CineSavant last summer for D.W. Griffith’s silent The Birth of a Nation; he has a commentary on an Arrow Blu-ray disc coming out in January: Willie Dynamite.


Brian Jamieson of Twilight Time just contacted me about two subjects. On November 20 his Redwind disc banner is releasing a highly praised but not-much-seen TV movie from 1973, Sunshine starring Cristina Raines, Cliff De Young and Meg Foster.

Featuring a battery of songs by John Denver, the show’s director is the esteemed Joseph Sargent (Colossus, the Forbin Project, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three); it was the most-watched TV movie of its time. CineSavant has mentioned the problem of TV movies from the ’70s and ’80s going missing, even huge successes, so I look forward to seeing if Sunshine merits its very high ratings. I’ll bet that actress Cristina Raines will be pleased to see it come back as well.


Plus, I asked Brian about the title sequence on Twilight Time’s new Blu of The Adventures of Haji Baba, which is missing an opening logo — more than one reader asked if the disc needed to be re-printed to restore a 20th-Fox CinemaScope logo. Produced by Walter Wanger, the show apparently was originally finished with Allied Artists logos in place. Fox distributed in America, and standard studio policy in most cases is to remove logos from acquisitions. Perhaps Fox only had good elements (the disc is picture-perfect) of titles with the AA opening. I suppose Fox could have slapped on their proprietary ‘Scope logo and fanfare, but this is the master with which TT was provided.

Alfred Hitchcock’s personally-owned Paramount films lost their original logos for a number of years when Universal re-issued them in 1983, after his death. That made a mess of things when the Paramount mountain graphic had been a seamless part of a title sequence. It was also disconcerting to hear a VistaVision musical fanfare behind an ordinary Uni globe. I think the original logos on most of those pictures have been restored. Psycho was also much improved when its original B&W Paramount logo, with its stylized horizontal lines, was put back in place.

But outrages still happen. Criterion’s otherwise excellent disc of One-Eyed Jacks, sourced from the film’s new owner Universal, does an identical opening logo-swap up front. It also ruins Marlon Brando’s evocative final shot by eliminating the final dissolve to a Paramount logo. Just when we want to contemplate the fate of the film’s separated lovers, the revised ending instead throws a stack of restoration credits at us.


For Los Angeles folk, associate Christopher Lemaire tells me that this Saturday (November 10), the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica will be screening the new Spanish documentary Sad Hill Unearthed about the restoration of the graveyard set, the famous location at the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It’s an interesting study of the fan culture around Sergio Leone, which I can attest is quite extensive. Christopher will be hosting a talk with director Guillermo de Oliveira, and Joe Dante will be providing an introduction. The info is at this American Cinematheque page.


And finally, a last-minute addition from the dependable Gary Teetzel:

“Well, we may not be able to purchase This Island Earth or The Incredible Shrinking Man yet on U.S. Blu-ray, but by golly it’s been announced that we’ll be getting Virgil Vogel’s The Mole People with John Agar and Cynthia Patrick. Shout! Factory has not yet specified any extras … although Tom Weaver has hinted on the Classic Horror Film Board that he may be doing commentaries for both Mole People and Kino’s The Land Unknown — Gary

I know it’s easy to mix up similarly-titled movies, but don’t confuse this Universal monster opus with the classic, non-existent Spanish-language film La gente de mole poblano, which I am assured is a perfectly crumulent movie. It has no monsters but tastes much better.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday November 3, 2018

Why isn’t this picture on Blu-ray? CLICK on it.

Lisbon 11/03/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Ray Milland produces, directs and stars in this odd, forgotten travelogue / adventure / romance /crime tale filmed in Portugal’s beautiful capital. Claude Rains is magnificent, Maureen O’Hara is okay and relative newcomer Yvonne Furneaux is a knockout. Most remembered is Nelson Riddle’s adaptation of the film’s title theme, one of the most admired pop instrumentals of the 1950s. Filmed in Republic’s ‘Naturama’ and ‘Trucolor,’ both of which prompt plenty of fuzzy man Savant-‘splaining. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
11/03/18

Black Widow 11/03/18

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

(1954) Fox touted Black Widow as the first murder mystery in CinemaScope. Ace writer / tyro director Nunnally Johnson tries an ‘All About Eve’ dissection of Broadway swells but in a mystery context, with beaucoup flashbacks. The result is something akin to Rope, with scenes all taking place in apartments with views of Central Park. Nobody complained about the big marquee names Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney and George Raft, but I re-watch to marvel over the dreamy, interesting Virginia Leith. Raymond Durgnat encouraged us to indulge our screen fantasies! On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
11/03/18

CineSavant Column

Saturday November 3, 2018

Hello!

Credit fellow Scandinavian Gary Teetzel for steering us to this — an HD promo for a UK new recording of Mario Nascimbene’s music score to The Vikings, at this The Vikings Youtube URL. The images of the Prague recording session look and sound great … I especially enjoy the choral effects. My kids loved this show, but I had to explain to them that the Vikings were mostly Danes and Norwegians. my Swedish ancestors probably spent their time milking cows … very clean, high quality cows, mind you.


And Kino has let slip their future release forecast, which has quite a few desirable titles. I have to be careful because the dates sometimes change, which confuses my review scheduling. Here are the films that grabbed my attention off the top: December 4: The Puppet Masters, The Black Windmill, The Revolt of the Slaves; December 11: Female on the Beach, Foxfire, The Last Command; January 2: The Appaloosa, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, The Bounty, The Scarlet Letter, Washington Square; January 8: What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?; February 5: Charly, Kotch, Zachariah, February 12: The Midnight Man, Desert Fury, Naked Alibi, A Bill of Divorcement; March 5: For a Few Dollars More, Bend of the River, Thunder Bay; March 12: Far From Heaven, The Tarnished Angels; March 19: Jivaro 3-D, Road to Singapore, Road to Zanzibar, Road to Morocco, Road to Utopia; April 2 Becky Sharp, The Bigamist, The Hitch-Hiker, Not Wanted, The Landlord; April 9: The Land Unknown.


And the photos just above hail from Tokeka, Kansas, where correspondent and good friend Bill Shaffer helps run a number of film series and special screenings year ’round. The poster is last week’s gala screening of the 1925 The Lost World in their Silents at the Cathedral series. Bill tells me that Willis O’Brien’s silent masterpiece played to a packed audience. The nice lady in the dinosaur costume greeted the attendees and directed traffic in the parking lot. I think her costume compares fairly well to the anemic ‘Tyrannosaurus’ in 1957’s The Land Unknown.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 30, 2018

Saturday was Day of the Dead at Hollywood Forever Ceremony, and I thought this holiday reminder was cute. Let’s get our picture taken with Santa!

Sisters 10/30/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Brian De Palma unleashes 101 ferocious Hitchcock references for this great horror opus, all bolstered by Bernard Herrmann’s nerve-jangling music score. Plus a very young Margot Kidder and the impressive Jennifer Salt, plus appearances by the equally youthful Charles Durning, William Finley and Dolph Sweet. It’s a fine revisit of an early Criterion disc, with some highly amusing extras — such as a surprising 1970 talk-show excerpt with Margo Kidder, Janis Joplin and Gloria Swanson. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
10/30/18

The Satanic Rites of Dracula 10/30/18

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Hammer’s Dracula goes out with a whimper in this final Chris Lee-Peter Cushing vampire opus, which posits the Prince of Darkness as a super-mogul super-villain (with insufficient infrastructure). He’s battling Scotland Yard, MI5 and his old nemesis Van Helsing, while still arranging ritual sacrifices. And don’t forget the quartet of vampire babes he keeps in the cellar. Also starring William Franklyn, Freddie Jones and Joanna Lumley; on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/30/18

CineSavant Column

Tuesday October 30, 2018

Hello!

We got in Charlie Largent’s slick William Castle Review last Saturday and Criterion saved the day by providing Sisters just in time, so Halloween worked out after all. The top picture above was taken at the Day of the Dead all-day Fiesta-celebration at Hollywood Forever mortuary last Saturday; my better half helps out with an altar for a beloved fellow language instructor who passed away two years ago. The Mexican Día de los muertos customs are interesting, and some of the altars were hosted by very gracious and informative people.

The picture up top is sort of a joke about the too-long holiday season. Kids could pose with ‘Dead Santa.’ I particularly like Santa’s coloration — red, green and white. The link is to the Roberto Gavaldón film Macario, which I recommend all horror aficionados track down if they can — originally written by B. Traven of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, it’s a folksy elaboration of Fritz Lang’s Destiny, suffused with ‘Day of the Dead’ imagery and mysticism.


Gary Teetzel’s links to interesting pages in old issues of American Cinematographer prompted me to find one of my own, an article about a kooky minimal-animation cartoon series from the dank depths of childhood, Clutch Cargo. Those creepy images of live-action lips talking in the middle of cartoon faces freaked me out. The article explains how (and why) the weird shows were produced — the makers considered Clutch Cargo a moving comic strip, not an animated cartoon series. The scans of this and many other older magazines are produced by an entity called The Media History Project.

David Pierce is one of the founders of the Media History Digital Library. He asked me to print this acknowledgement link — the MHP is always looking to expand public awareness and raise funds. I found out that David was also an old associate of the late and greatly missed Robert S. Birchard, and we exchanged some of our memories.


I did receive more information about the pricey German Blu-ray of The Horrible Dr. Hichcock. ‘Ulli from Basel’ has the disc and loves it, but confirmed some potential deal-breakers for viewers thinking of buying for import. Ulli doesn’t say if it’s Region B locked, but he tells us that it looks and sounds great:

“The colours are amazing and I guess there is no better home theatre version out there. It is lovingly presented, although the (very good) extras — an audio commentary, a featurette — are only in German. There is, of course, the great soundtrack on CD and also a nice image gallery and Italian and French trailers. They put a lot of work in a new German retro-synchronization, that tries and mostly succeeds, to sound like it was done in the sixties. It does feature the original Italian soundtrack, but for legal reasons the German subtitles unfortunately cannot be removed. It is the complete uncut version and limited to 1000 copies, so it could probably go out of print soon.
What a truly amazing movie. Now I hope that Riccardo Freda’s other gothic masterpiece with Barbara Steele,
Lo Spettro, will get a comparable Blu-ray release. I hope I was of help with this info. Thank you by the way for your highly enjoyable reviews. They are really one of the highlights of current movie criticism. Keep up the good work. Greetings from Basel, Ulli.”

Well, I can’t argue with that (or the praise). Is $40 too much for a much-desired CD soundtrack of the Roman Vlad music score? That’s the exact amount that I paid for a B&W 16mm print of the movie in 1975 — from, of all people, the aforementioned Robert S. Birchard. Any more coincidences like this and it’ll be time to try a seance.

I’ll need to mull this over some more. I’m not sure that I want to see the show in a modern German re-dub. I know the enforced subs can be removed if they’re not burned in, but doing so is not part of my skill set. I still remember the generous collector friend Robert Seletsky, who enabled me to see a good DVD of Hichcock with excellent English fan subs. He convinced me that the original Italo track was the way to go — the movie comes off as more intelligent in every respect.


Also seen while exiting the cemetery last Saturday… it’s walking distance from CineSavant headquarters (or, home). Most of the headstones have unfamiliar names but Hollywood Forever is the final resting place for hundreds of industry professionals and stars. Last year I took a picture of Mel Blanc’s tombstone, but his is right on a main walkway, and is hard to miss. This name caught my eye as I went by, enough to motivate me to take a picture — I doubt that I’d be able to find it again without a map.

Sure enough, I was right. The familiar-sounding Abem Finkel turned out to be a noted screenwriter, who worked on pictures like Sergeant York and Jezebel. The Day of the Dead celebration is fun, what with the costumes and music, but I paused for minute over this stone and thought, “Seventy years have come and gone. How long has it been since a fan dropped by? I’m going to look you up as soon as I get home, Mr. Finkel.”

What do I watch every Halloween? Depending on my mood, it’s The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, Macario, Dementia/Daughter of Horror, Vampyr, or The Fearless Vampire Killers. It also depends upon who I can entice into Dr. CineSavant’s Screening Room of Doom, Moo-ahh hah-hah!

Happy Halloween! — Glenn Erickson