The Cotton Club Encore 12/24/19

Lionsgate
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital

They say you Can’t Go Home Again, but Francis Coppola has pulled a real magic trick — his 1984 gangland musical ended up heavily compromised by outright racism producers that didn’t like the half of the story that favored a black show-biz drama. All the gangster action has been retained in this impressive Encore recut, but with twenty new minutes of performances and backstage intrigues. Gregory and Maurice Hines’ tap dances are extended, and musical numbers have been restored, with the terrific Lonette McKee getting special emphasis. The show was always good, and now it’s much better. On Blu-ray + DVD + Digitalfrom Lionsgate.
12/24/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas Eve!

No CineSavant content — just pics. Christmas and the Holidays are for the things we love. Here’s the wonderful Jane Greer and the very Irish, very soggy Gorgo !

This was a Christmas card design done by Craig Reardon in 1985… wow, Craig should do a book of these.

If you care, these images super-size when opened in a new window.

I’ll be back Saturday, maybe… Happy Holidays! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday December 21, 2019

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The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh 12/21/19

The Disney Club
Blu-ray

Walt goes radical, or as radical as the Disney brand could go. In the 1760s, an HRPMS (hobgoblin rogue phantom marsh smuggler) called The Scarecrow gives His Majesty’s forces a run for their money. We kids loved the theme song, the spooky cinematography, and especially Patrick McGoohan’s terrific voice and scarecrow disguise — he’s sort of a Masked Superhero 200 years before Watchmen. This is a Disney Club offering, so good luck getting a copy if you’re not a member. It’s not the feature cut-down but all three shows beautifully remastered in widescreen and color, sayeth the review of CineSavant’s in-house HRPMS, Charlie Largent. On Blu-ray from The Disney Club.
12/21/19

Brother Can You Spare A Dime? 12/21/19

The Sprocket Vault / VCI
Blu-ray

Philippe Mora’s impressive documentary epic sees 1930s America through the movies, through music, and the evasions of official newsreels. Franklin Delano Roosevelt preaches prosperity while James Cagney slugs his way through the decade as a smart-tongued everyman — in a dozen different roles. This was a new kind of documentary info-tainment formula: applying old film footage to new purposes. On Blu-ray from The Sprocket Vault / VCI.
12/21/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday December 21, 2019

 

Hello!

Boy are we hoping that Warners will put out a nice disc of the UCLA Film Archives’ restoration of the 1933 Mystery of the Wax Museum. Gary Teetzel found these before-and-after frame grabs online, which look amazing to me — open it in a new window to see it full-sized. If a Blu-ray does come to pass I’ll be able to tell my meeting-Fay-Wray-story one more time, and we know there’s a crying need for that.


I’ll be reviewing it soon enough, but I sampled the new Kino Blu-ray of Dr. Cyclops and can report that it looks incredibly good — somebody did a full restoration of the Technicolor fantasy film. I remember very clearly the original nitrate IB Technicolor print in the Paramount collection at UCLA, and this looks better than my memory. It’s still the same ‘Dr. Cyclops’ and will likely appeal to core sci-fi fans and not a lot of other folk, but I can’t imagine it looking better than this.


Let’s see here … for fans of Steve Reeves’ 1961 The Thief of Bagdad waiting for word on a German disc announced here a month ago: a reader who received the German release gives a report I don’t know exactly how to interpret. He says it doesn’t look restored but it does look pretty good. Maybe we’ll have to wait for Tim Lucas to say yay or nay before knowing if it’s worth the import purchase. I am already hearing from purchasers of Major Dundee, who I assume they must have ordered the import disc long before my review … so far no complaints, grousing or death threats. That’s the true measure of acceptance!


I’m excited by my new disc of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and want to add my 3 cents to the discussion with a review … even if close friends don’t care for the movie. It’s true: in OUATIH, people drive around a lot!  We see many close-ups of stereo needles landing on record grooves!  Just with those details, it certainly tells the story of my twenties.

I’m also eager to take on Criterion’s The Fugitive Kind, Kino’s Cosh Boy aka The Slasher, and Severin’s new disc of the classic Russian Viy. I may double back for Charley Varrick to take in the new commentary. Just saw the new cut of Coppola’s The Cotton Club last night, and it’s exciting too.


And yesterday was the deadline to get in my OFCS ballot, and get to trimming a tree. I feel good because I just got interviewed for a new Scorpion release, and it went well. Hope you’re having a great ‘pre- Xmas’ weekend.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday December 17, 2019

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Trapped 12/17/19

Flicker Alley / Film Noir Foundation
Blu-ray

Noir Nirvana isn’t found amid literary swells and hoity-toity art connoisseurs — but in the trenches of humble Eagle Lion Films, where Richard Fleischer, Lloyd Bridges and a hotter-than-hot Barbara Payton steamed up the streets of Los Angeles circa 1949. The Film Noir Foundation experts give us an expertly curated slice of hardboiled crime — Eddie Muller dubs it ‘To Live and Die in L.A.,’ but in the year that the Reds took over mainland China, and the USSR exploded its first Atom bomb. Muller, Alan Rode, Julie Kirgo, Mark Fleischer and Donna Lethal assemble several authoritative extras. On Blu-ray from Flicker Alley / Film Noir Foundation.
12/17/19

The Pumpkin Eater 12/17/19

Shout Select
Blu-ray

Reviewer Charlie Largent wanted to write up the Indicator disc of this title several years ago. We missed that UK release, but Jack Clayton’s show is included on the The Anne Bancroft Collection, reviewed separately just below. Largent focuses on this show, in which Ms. Bancroft fleshes out Harold Pinter’s portrait of an unhappy housewife, who keeps having children in an unfulfilling marriage. Peter Finch, James Mason, Richard Johnson and Maggie Smith co-star! On Blu-ray from Shout Select.
12/17/19

The Anne Bancroft Collection 12/17/19

Shout Select
Blu-ray

I asked for this set so Mr. Largent could review The Pumpkin Eater, but I didn’t want the rest of the package slip by unremarked. The word is that Mel Brooks himself pulled strings to round out these titles, from companies that normally don’t collaborate: Fox, Criterion, Olive, MGM, Sony. The eclectic range of shows gives us Ms. Bancroft at her best: Pumpkin Eater,plus Don’t Bother to Knock, The Miracle Worker, The Graduate, Fatso, To Be or Not To Be and 84 Charing Cross Road. All are beautiful transfers, carrying over plenty of extras. On Blu-ray from Shout Select.
12/17/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday December 17, 2019

Hello!

I’m getting things straightened out for the holidays, and just starting to catch up some of the Oscar-bait pictures that are all hitting at once. I’m sure that the special contender The Irishman will make an impact, but I’m waiting until I can share it with family members. The same goes for other Netflix- accessible offerings like Marriage Story, and I want to see Laundromat even though nobody’s touting it. I did see 1917, Bombshell  and Knives Out over the weekend, but didn’t get to Parasite, another title that I am pre-warned will become a favorite.

Knives Out is clever and cute and fun, and kind of forgettable. It’s a perfectly good movie of a kind not made much anymore, the light comedy murder thriller with familiar faces. Daniel Craig doing an accent is entertaining in itself. Bombshell is excellent, both as a story about sexual harassment culture and Fox News as an unofficial branch of the U.S. government. The star actresses are really good, and John Lithgow’s fat suit had me worried that he’s really gained all that weight.

1917  did nothing for me, I’m afraid. There was nothing new in the experience it offered, and plenty of the old clichés. Our behind-the-lines troopers are almost hit by a crashing airplane, one of them shares ‘sensitive’ quality time with a lonely French woman, etc.. I don’t understand why critics are impressed by the ‘it’s one unbroken shot’ aspect — respect for a technical feat like that can only go so far, and the trick doesn’t make the film seem any more real or immediate, not to me anyway. What the camera does is more interesting than the story in front of it. I’m also thinking, what… was communication at the front that poor? They didn’t use planes to send important messages? (maybe they didn’t). Don’t mean to be a crab about this — maybe some friend will talk me into an appreciation of whatever it is about 1917 that I’m missing.

I guess I’m mostly reporting on what I haven’t seen — Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is so far still this year’s big positive movie memory for me. I’ll write about the other titles soon enough. Any screaming important recommendations?


I think I’ve given up on a standard ‘best of’ movie article this year. Not only has the notion of ‘best of’ lists become even less attractive, my own have simply been personal favorite lists for six years anyway, and not that meaningful to anybody but me and whatever company or disc producer gets the top slot. This year there were just too many personal favorites offered. No matter what artificial yardstick I applied to my choices, it was impossible to come up with a short list of ‘favorites.’

This is because 2019 saw an explosion of ‘Glenn Movies,’ pictures my friends could easily predict I’d go nuts over. You’d think someone tapped my brain — just in this one year there were at least ten gotta-mention favorite Sci-fi titles. How can I start arranging those in some kind of arbitrary order of best-ness?

I’m therefore just going to put forward a very long list of things I reviewed that I can STRONGLY recommend, in case somebody who cares missed something. I’ll say WHY a film is included, which will expose my faulty lapses in taste and judgment for all to see. And that’s always entertaining.


Speaking of Blu-ray releases seemingly zeroing in on movies special to this movie fan, I just got an announcement of Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases for January alone. It’s a treasure trove. In no order of preference, they’re giving us spaghetti westerns: Kill them All and Come Back Alone, The Specialists, The Hellbenders; and Brit Crime pix: The Interrupted Journey, Cosh Boy, Time is My Enemy, Time Lock, The Vicious Circle.

Also, pix by great directors: The Great McGinty (Preston Sturges), Room at the Top (Jack Clayton), The Good Fairy (William Wyler/Preston Sturges), House by the River (Fritz Lang), Ulzana’s Raid (Robert Aldrich), The War Lord (Franklin J. Schaffner), The Whisperers (Bryan Forbes); odd fantasies: Doctor Cyclops, Cobra Woman; a war movie: Tobruk; and a popular comedy: Semi-Tough.


And Criterion has announced its March releases: Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides, John M. Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven (I hope the audio is clearer this time), the Maysles Brothers’ Salesman, and best of all, Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes are Flying and James Whale’s 1936 Showboat!

Will the disc boutiques eventually run out of movies I care about?  Or is it like the French Resistance — you knock off one movie, and two rise to take its place?  Maybe it’s all a plot to make me retire.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday December 14, 2019

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Major Dundee 12/14/19

Explosive Media GmbH
Region-Free Blu-ray

Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Mangled Masterpiece’ gets a new lease on life with this Austrian import, which corrects all the things that bugged me about Twilight Time’s impressive Blu-ray back in 2013. This is the first time that the original uncut Preview-International version of Major Dundee has come to Blu-ray with the original soundtrack. The Two-Disc set includes a longform making-of docu from the prolific producer Mike Siegel, and the other extras make an extensive raid of our combined Dundee photo archives. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
12/14/19

Downton Abbey 12/14/19

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
Blu-ray

Ah yes, we have a winner for the best ‘Comfort Food Movie’ of them all. When a trailer for this show popped up at a screening of The Farewell back in August, I heard gasps of excitement from the (slightly older-skewing) audience, as if everyone’s favorite relatives were coming back to town. Loyal fans of the massively popular TV series will be delighted: if you enjoyed it week by week or streaming, you’re going to love this ‘one more time’ get together with the elegant Crawleys and their engaging domestic staff. On Blu-ray + DVD + Digital from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
12/14/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday December 14, 2019

Hello!

A trio of fun, or kinda fun, or, not entirely depressing special links today!

↑ First up, U.K. correspondent Dave Carnegie sends along this rather good encoding of a 1955 MGM cartoon, in CinemaScope no less, entitled Good Will to Men. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before; it’s a second go at a much earlier cartoon with the theme that war will make humans extinct, with only cute talking animals left behind to inherit the Earth. The old, isolationist-themed cartoon (Peace on Earth, 1939) ended with conventional warfare doing the trick; this 1955 remake does the job right, with a fully-animated Atomic Cafe– like nuclear exchange. Faux-pacifist stuff like this just feels defeatist, as our reaction is that the planet is lost anyway, so who cares?   I just feel like commiserating with Dave over there in G.B., in the middle of Brexit.


 

← Our other slightly more research-minded links arrive via advisor/unofficial column editor Gary Teetzel (who else?). Gary comes across with the vintage magazine finds that illuminate favorite ancient pictures. The first item up is from the December 14, 1931 issue of The Film Daily: Carl Laemmle takes out a full-page institutional advert to congratulate his salesmen (and himself) for the socko-boffo, pretty darn terrific performance of a certain horror classic starring a reanimated corpse. It’s called I Thank the Publicity and Advertising Men of the Theaters — open it in a new window to see it full-sized. The same works for the other two graphics below.

I like some of the phrasing here — I didn’t know that the term ‘cut loose,’ with the meaning ‘go for it without restraint,’ went as far back as far as 1931.


 

→ Then Gary sends us to a fancy magazine layout that makes us think that the term pre-Code applies to fan mags as well. Don’t worry, the title is a come-on, and the article is SFW. It’s a silly Photoplay piece with star Maureen O’Sullivan, or an imaginative studio publicty hack pretending to be Ms. O’Sullivan, talking about the star’s wardrobe, or lack thereof, in MGM’s Tarzan and His Mate. The come-on title is The Miseries of Nudism.


 

↓ Gary’s links seem to come in threes, like wise men, or parking tickets. He next advises us to check out a February 27, 1933 Hollywood Reporter story titled Writers’ War on Filth. It mentions the upcoming William Faulkner film adaption then- titled The Shame of Temple Drake. Now here’s a come-on line nobody could resist: “The story is so dirty, George Raft refused to play the lead!”  And more great copy: “If you want to get a job today in pictures at good money, all you have to do is write a dirty book.”  In the immortal words of Scott Glenn, ‘Sounds dangerous, count me in.’

The ‘perversion’ the article harps about is homosexuality, of which The Story of Temple Drake has none, if I recall. The piece waxes incensed about a Lesbian dance in Sign of the Cross, and a movie called Sailor’s Luck, with ‘pansies all through it.’ A ‘nance’ cook is mentioned in Hell’s Highway. Not that I’d know the real thing when I saw it, but the most eye-opening pre-Code swishy gay stuff I recall seeing is in the trashy Clara Bow talkie Call Her Savage. It records part of what looks like a real ‘pansy’ act, by two prancing, mincing waiters in a Greenwich Village club frequented by ‘artists and radicals.’

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday December 10, 2019

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Christmas in July 12/10/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

At least the title sounds Christmas-themed!  Preston Sturges’ sweet trifle is as simple as a sit-com mix-up, but the charm is in the lovable characters (the core of Sturges’ formidable stock company) and the sincerity of all concerned. Ellen Drew is the most deserving fianceé ever to pine for a wedding ring, and Dick Powell an oh-so-earnest Dagwood Bumstead type who banks his future on a goofball coffee slogan contest — just try and figure out the meaning of his winning slogan. In his second film Sturges confirmed himself as Hollywood’s newest comedy genius writer-director — although William Demarest’s perpetually flustered character is so well written and played, we’d think that the actor was simply living the part.. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
12/10/19

The Story of Temple Drake 12/10/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Hoo-haw! One of the most notorious pre-Code shockers comes to Criterion — and proves to be a superior drama with an entirely mature, sound outlook on the political issues around women’s sexuality and personal freedom. Taken from a raw novel by William Faulkner, this tale of rape and terror stars Miriam Hopkins in one of the bravest, best performances of its era. Truth-telling like this always comes at a price — Temple Drake was a prime target for the oppressive Production Code, with the result that Hopkins’ achievement was banned and unseen for over thirty-five years. Also starring Jack La Rue and William Gargan. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
12/10/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday December 10, 2019

Hello!

First, some photos of total arbitrary import, which is what we serve up best here at CineSavant. Digging around in some boxes of old Cinefantastiques and Video Watchdogs, I came up with this beauty with a Yuletide theme courtesy of Don Martin, from 1962. I thought it might lend a proper ersatz holiday flavor to the Column. Note the yellowed paper and even a coffee stain. No protective plastic envelopes for this irresponsible non-collector.

I was reading this particular issue when I was nine years old … how much of it did I fully understand?  Should I thank Mad magazine for honing my radar for commercial flim-flammery and ironic hypocrisy?  Or did it just make me a cynical little kid who only thought he was a non-conformist?


Then, for no good reason I snapped this picture of the corner of Melrose and Gower, a couple of blocks from my house — it’s the RKO globe, minus its tower but still standing proudly on what is now the corner of the Paramount Lot. I think Paramount, instead of tearing it down (they threaten to do so periodically) should restore the tower for nostalgia’s sake. BTW, when you’re looking at your new Blu-rays of Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the poster-boards seen in this photo are utilized to stand-in for the exterior of Columbia Pictures, which in 1969 was further up Gower Street, at Sunset.

I should be taking more pictures of the Ennis HouseThe House on Haunted Hill. I see it twice a week from my grocery store parking lot. When the weather gets free of its typical gray haze, the house often looks really dramatic. I’ll need to get a longer lens, though.


Spotted on Amazon by various clever individuals, including Gary Teetzel — an un-announced stealth pre-order for a Scream Factory Blu-ray of Roger Corman’s Day the World Ended, for March 10. I like that!   A good widescreen encoding of this fun film would be a real treat — I think we it’s the first movie in which Roger really gets his act together, in terms of full commercial credibility. Opening the package art image in a new window will give a full appreciation of American Relasing’s crude but catchy original poster artwork.

I found out who the audio commentator will be a month or two ago, but under threat of death I cannot divulge the name. Thus CineSavant remains forever scoop-challenged. Is that integrity, or what?  

UPDATE, 12.11.19:  Shout calls foul on the March 10 date:

“The Blu-ray isn’t coming in March. It will be coming though. Amazon jumped the gun.”


Let’s talk about scary movies.  I wind up today’s column with a good steer back into Trailers from Hell territory … Joe Dante’s commentary-enhanced trailer for Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter is a keeper. The trailer itself is pretty good, but Joe’s in especially fine form, describing his 1955 afternoon matinee packed with little kids scared out of their wits. As a movie director, Joe made me a bit nervous now and then the first time through Gremlins. I smile when I remind myself of how he made me jump with two or three terrific honest scares in The Howling.

It’s fun to hear Mr. Dante reminisce about his Night of the Hunter experience, even if only for a minute. That’s a good topic for a research paper: What Scares Joe Dante?

Do we really expect to be frightened at horror movies?  Grossed-out is not the same as frightened, which puts gore pictures and torture porn beyond my scope of interest. I can’t remember when I saw Curse of the Demon the first time. I still get a horror-thrill ‘kick’ from the movie, but I can’t say I was ever scared, even when it startled others in the audience.

We all got scared at some movie or another when we were kids, even if we weren’t taken by surprise like he was at the Robert Mitchum movie. I had experiences like Joe too, white-knuckling all of Caltiki – The Immortal Monster and being pretty much paralyzed with fear all the way through The Birds. And for some reason I was scared of being buried alive while watching an obscure movie called Terrified, that I’ve never seen again. But those were EXCITING, FUN sensations for a fairly sheltered kid… Night of the Hunter was jolting as an adult — it think it would have traumatized me as a kid, even as a teenager.

And I’m still puzzled by a few pictures that, seen as an adult, made me FEEL like a scared kid again: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus and even Jaws. It’s all very personal, I guess — these were all seen in a theater under optimum conditions, in my twenties.
I hope somebody brings out The Seventh Victim in a remastered Blu — that’ll be a fun experience to write about, too.

Today’s kids have seen stuff far, far stronger than anything I was exposed to — and we see live-action actual killings on TV news every day. But they still have to be scared once in a while. Anybody have any stories to tell about being TERRORIZED at the Bijou?  We’ve all been little kids, cringing behind the sofa while the older sister watched something fairly harmless on TV. But what big screen experiences made you too scared to see the same movie again, ever?

Cheery Christmas post, huh?  Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday December 7, 2019

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