Young Mr. Lincoln 01/06/18

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Viewers looking (desperately) for American leaders to admire can’t do better than to reflect on John Ford’s folksy, at least partly authentic honorarium to one of the greats. Henry Fonda is 100% dead-on as a vision of Abe Lincoln to bring tears to our eyes. Imagine . . . there’s such a thing as political integrity, or simply a person that puts the public good ahead of personal advantage. Criterion’s older extras are augmented with a fine new feature commentary by John Ford authority Joseph McBride. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
1/06/18

Legend of the Lost 01/06/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

America’s top box office star John Wayne sneaks away to a remote corner of the Sahara Desert with the top Italian sex symbol Sophia Loren … and foolishly brings an entire camera crew with him. Henry Hathaway’s impressive desert adventure boasts a fairly amazing, bona fide Lost City, made even more impressive through the Technirama cinematography of the legendary Jack Cardiff. Rossano Brazzi co-stars as a treasure hunter, who can’t handle the truth about his explorer-father. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
1/06/18

Savant Column

Saturday January 6, 2018

Hello!

We offer hearty congrats to Alan K. Rode, whose new book Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film is featured prominently in Kenneth Turan’s L.A. Times article ‘Casablanca’ director Michael Curtiz is finally getting the recognition he deserves.


And I’d like to direct your attention to Milestone Films, which has put out an elaborate web newsletter for January that’s quite informative, with news about screenings, new Milestone Cinematheque discs on the way, and a nice link to the Library of Congress online streaming site.


I’m not exactly a front rank Three Stooges fan, but correspondent Gary Teetzel has done some web research and come up with some clippings and a couple of links that are pretty interesting. Accounts of the making of the 1960 Sci-fi picture The Angry Red Planet tell us that producer and inventor Norman Maurer also tried out his ‘Cinemagic’ effect on the 1962 comedy The Three Stooges in Orbit. The Cinemagic process processed hi-con live action film in such a way as (Maurer’s description) to make them look like animation art; in the space movie it is used to create a Martian landscape with an eerie alien appearance — as if a negative image were partly printed back onto a positive. (Come to think of it, it also looks a little bit like night vision images, only in broad Martian daylight. Gary has found two shaky Three Stooges in Orbit YouTube clips to contemplate. In the movie, a wacky professor supposedly uses an electronic process to turn the Stooges into animated cartoons. He’s essentially doing what Norman Maurer claimed to have done already, for a ‘revolutionary’ process that never took off.

The first In Orbit clip shows the Stooges dancing, wearing the extreme pancake makeup needed for the Cinemagic process. The second clip shows the result. From what I can see, the shot in the final film is just an ordinary sub-par animated cartoon, with figures rotoscoped from the test shot. Gary thinks that perhaps the Cinemagic effect was rejected, a guess that sounds good to me, except that Norman Maurer was the film’s producer as well. If ‘Cinemagic’ was indeed used at all, the effect probably made the entire image look strange, not just the Stooges — and not strange in a funny way. Cinemagic never looked like cartoon animation to me.

But somebody thought it did, as reported in trade paper blurbs unearthed by Gary. As reported in Business Screen Magazine in 1957, Maurer demonstrated a process called ‘Artiscope,’ touting it as a fast and cheap way to create animated cartoons without animating anything! It’s essentially automatic rotoscoping created by washing out character detail, leaving only outlines. They don’t explain how they’d add colors, without resorting to equally expensive animation; the article partly infers that the process can be best used for ‘cartoons’ for monochromatic TV use.

In his book Keep Watching the Skies! the late Bill Warren took this subject in an unexpected direction, faulting Cinemagic as an artistically bankrupt conspiracy to destroy the art of conventional animation. What dastards could possibly consider committing such a terrible cultural crime? . . . sayeth the motion-capture CGI engineers that would arrive several decades later.

In 1959 Sid Pink joined Norman Maurer and re-dubbed the process ‘Cinemagic.’ In Motion Picture Daily Pink said that Cinemagic ‘was being reviewed by the U.S. Patent Office,’ and that his film “Invasion of Mars” was going to roll in September. Back in 1952, Pink had garnered considerable industry credibility as Arch Oboler’s partner in the movie Bwana Devil, which launched the 3-D craze. Gary found articles from 1961 in which Maurer refers to the process with a third name, ‘Dynatoon.’ But Artiscope emerges again, possibly because (according to Maurer) his 1956 Artiscope patent application had finally been granted.

I suspect that all these announcements were efforts to interest potential investors; when Variety reviewed The Angry Red Planet back in late 1959, they surely took the wind out of Cinemagic’s sails with one disparaging sentence: “While it may take considerable ingenuity to produce this effect, the result really isn’t worth it.”

Pooh to that. I’ve watched all of Angry Red Planet maybe four times, but I’ve returned to the film’s impressive Cinemagic sequences more times than I can count. We didn’t see anything like it again until solarized images become popular in the pop art era, especially when used in movie title sequences.

Yes, never forget that, with all the pressing problems in today’s world, CineSavant knows what’s most important to write about.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday January 2, 2018

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CineSavant’s new reviews today are:

The Hospital 01/02/18

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

A story of murders in the ER becomes, courtesy of writer Paddy Chayefsky, either a preview of social breakdown or an impassioned examination of why we invest our lives and souls in imperfect institutions. George C. Scott is the doctor coming apart at the seams, who meets his match in a New Age hippie from a New Mexico commune. My instinct is that such a person would not look like Diana Rigg, but everybody needs a dream girl. With Barnard Hughes and Richard Dysart. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/02/18

Matinee 01/02/18

Shout Select
Blu-ray

A scary monster movie comes to Key West just as a nuclear crisis breaks out! Joe Dante’s incomparable paean to monster kid culture has finally arrived on Region A Blu-ray, with the great extras we expect from every Dante-involved home video offering. The picture only gets more charming and funny with time, with its great cast of teens to the perfect pitch of John Goodman and Cathy Moriarty’s bigger-than-life characters. On Blu-ray from Shout Select.
01/02/18

Cadillac Man 01/02/18

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

The irrepressible Robin Williams is Joey, a trash-talking Cadillac salesman with three women on the line, who becomes an involuntary hero when Tim Robbins smashes his motorcycle into the car showroom and threatens to kill everybody. Roger Donaldson’s crisis-farce black comedy is still funny — and my favorite Robin Williams feature. With Pamela Reed, Fran Drescher, Lori Petty and Lauren Tom as the abrasively funny Helen. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/02/18

Savant Column

Tuesday January 2, 2018

Hello!

It was a good holiday . . . no calamities in the house, nobody sick, complete Peace in the Valley. I even liked most of the new movies we saw this holiday season, the ones bucking for awards. That’s very optimistic. Now if we can just get the rest of the world back into reasonable shape.

All I have today are some personal notes. For CineSavant 2018 arrives as a busy time reviewing and happily answering reader mail. I still feel awkward posting on Facebook, and marvel at the dexterity of some of my fellow writers on that forum. I prefer old-fashioned emails for conversing with new friends as it leaves a record of what’s been said so I won’t get lost. Being able to search through archived mail has been a blessing. When I think, ‘who wrote me about that movie way back when,’ most of the time I can find the email from as far back as 2000, and reconnect.

I’m getting lots of suggestions about what the CineSavant page needs, and I agree with all of them. I barely know how to make WordPress function, and haven’t yet mastered simple footnotes that work in the new text. I’ve got a functioning Review Archive happening now, although some of its interior links don’t work. I’m not ready to invest the effort in a newsletter of my own, although some readers liked that as a reminder, and keep asking me where it went. The best I’m doing at the moment are bi-weekly Facebook blurbs, which I hope aren’t too annoying. To cover social media decently is a full time job, yes?

But I do have a plan or two. The next step is to put together a secondary menu page that links to new versions of older Savant pages — lists of reviews by year, archives, the old non-review articles. Etc. I consider that a New Year’s resolution, because finding the time isn’t going to be easy.

That said, I’m having more fun than ever writing here, and plan to keep doing so for the foreseeable future. The circulation boost from Trailers from Hell has made things a lot easier, as have the experts that help check my facts (and help curb my opinions), and reader correspondents that help me get the word out — and keep me current on what’s happening out there on the disc-collecting grapevine.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Experts agree … the future doesn’t have to be like this.

Sunday December 31, 2017

Saturday December 30, 2017

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Savant’s new reviews today are:

The Apartment 12/30/17

Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

Savant’s vote for the best romantic comedy ever goes to a sordid fable about problems in the big city Rat Race: keeping both a job and one’s self-respect. Picking up where 1930s pre-Code movies left off, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s ‘how to succeed’ thesis divides people into two groups, Takers and those that Get Took. And yet the message it delivers is life & love- affirming. Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray top an impeccable cast. With an excellent selection of extras, old and new — I learned new things about the picture. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
12/30/17

Forever Amber 12/30/17

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Meet the lusty Amber St. Clare, an ambitious 17th century social climber determined to sleep her way to respectability. Gorgeous Linda Darnell gets her biggest role in a lavishly appointed period epic; Otto Preminger hated the assignment but his direction and Darryl Zanuck’s production are excellent. George Sanders, Cornel Wilde, Jessica Tandy, Richard Haydn . . . and it has an all-time great David Raksin movie score, Isolated on its own track. On Blu-rayfrom Twilight Time.
12/30/17

The Whales of August 12/30/17

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

This look at the ‘adjustments’ of old age and the pain of nostalgia is a prime opportunity to admire a pair of legendary actresses. David Barry’s play observes the intersection of several interesting personalities on one glorious late-summer day. Bette Davis and Lillian Gish earn our full attention, backed by memorable turns from Ann Sothern and Vincent Price, directed by Lindsay Anderson. Packed with interview extras, on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
12/30/17

CineSavant Column

Saturday December 30, 2017

Hello!

I was wrapping up my review for Arrow’s revisit of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment when emails began pouring in that Amazon wasn’t accepting new orders, and had even cancelled some pre-orders. The thought is that the limited edition’s 3,000 unit run had sold out, with third party sellers already cashing in. Well, if that’s true all-region capable customers still have the UK edition. I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a glitch in the system — when Arrow comes back after New Year’s it might have some good news on the subject. Note for those buying the UK copy — the extras appear to be a little different.

On the subject of the recently reviewed Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Gary Teetzel forwarded a link to a Movie Censorship page explaining the digital tweaks James Cameron performed on his show en route to the latest remastering job. They all got by me, even the ‘fixing’ of Schwarzenegger’s face in some effects/stunt shots.

I’ve received VCI’s replacement disc for the great caveman vs. dinosaurs romp One Million B.C.; early review discs and some sales copies had a slight visual flaw — odd artefacting in minute detail texture — that I didn’t even detect on a first viewing. The replacement discs are perfect.

And the masters of horror at Severin say that they’re sending an Amicus Horror Boxed Set. I’m looking forward to a review, perhaps from Charlie Largent.

Thanks for reading. Let’s all hope for the best for 2018 . . . 2017 appears to have been the worst year on record for just about everything. Good luck and good wishes for all — Glenn Erickson

Saturday December 23, 2017

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Savant’s new reviews today are:

The Garden of Allah 12/23/17

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

One of the first full Technicolor features is a romantic fantasy about an innocent beauty’s encounter with an equally innocent fugitive monk … all surrounded by sensuous, confected Hollywood exotica, courtesy of producer David O. Selznick. Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer steam up the screen, but dancer Tilly Losch steals the show with just one scene. With Basil Rathbone, Joseph Schildkraut & John Carradine. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
12/23/17

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 12/23/17

Lionsgate
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital HD

Still looking sharp 26 years since its premiere, James Cameron’s picture completely masters the mass audience thriller while pushing the effects envelope far beyond the industry’s horizon. Technically slick, conceptually brutal, Cameron’s style is what still prevails in action-based Sci-Fi. All this, and Ah-nold too. With Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton and Jenette Goldstein. On Ultra HD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate.
12/23/17

Ruby 12/23/17

VCI
Blu-ray

A major horror hit from ’77, Ruby surprised all that made it including its director Curtis Harrington, who struggled with an interfering producer for control of the set. Despite everything, star Piper Laurie still shines, and there’s some good atmosphere — for an Exorcist rip-off, it’s not bad. With Stuart Whitman, Roger Davis and Janit Baldwin. On Blu-ray from VCI.
12/23/17

Savant Column

Saturday December 23, 2017

Hello!

I got this just-before-Christmas set of reviews out somehow, but the next will likely be a bit late — too much holiday stuff going on around the Erickson Burrow (Obscure ‘Far Side’ reference). CineSavant normally runs ‘lite’ through the holidays, which is fine because most of us have plenty of distractions taking up our time. But I’m really enjoying the notes from readers, not only the usual welcome corrections and comments, but nice unsolicited hellos too, and holiday greetings. I get to correspond frequently with some nice people here, that I wish were my neighbors.

Disc producers are sending me more Ultra-HD shows to review. I’ve been looking at more Ultra-HD and marveling at the virtuosity of most of the transfersn. I certainly appreciate the Ultra-HD quality, while wondering how quickly I will get used to that standard. Remember way back when, when laserdisc quality seemed so good? Blu-rays didn’t supplant DVD, they just made mediocre DVDs less acceptable. I don’t know if UHD is going to become an ‘essential’ item for me, except for a very few special shows. It’s unlikely that my crazy favorites will appear in the format, but stranger things have happened.

My thoughts always seem directed at the desirable titles announced for the near future. What am I really looking forward to, as I stare at my mailbox, hoping for a USPS, FedEx or UPS truck to amble to my door? Just about everybody has great stuff coming. I’ll go alphabetically . . .

Arrow:
Cat O’ Nine Tails, The Witches (Le streghe) Jan.9, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno February 6.

ClassicFlix:
Raw Deal (1948) Jan. 16.

Criterion:
Young Mr Lincoln Jan.9, Eclipse 45: Claude Autant-Lara Jan. 23;
Kameradschaft Jan. 30, Night of the Living Dead, The Silence of the Lambs Feb. 13.

Indicator:
Charley Varrick, Blue Collar Jan 22, Hammer Volume 2 – Criminal Intent Feb. 19.

Kino:
Cadillac Man, The Executioner’s Song Jan. 2, Not as a Stranger Jan. 9, The
Thomas Crown Affair
Feb. 13.

Severin:
Threads Jan. 30.

Shout Factory:
Matinee Jan. 16, The Projected Man Jan 30, The Night Walker February 20.

Twilight Time:
The Hospital, Forever Amber, The L-Shaped Room, Alice December 19, Dragonwyck, My Cousin Rachel Jan. 23.

Warner Archive Collection:
The Hanging Tree Jan. 23.

Warner Home Video:
Blade Runner 2049 Jan 16.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday December 19, 2017

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Savant’s new reviews today are: