CineSavant Column

Tuesday June 11, 2024

 

Hello!

These are fascinating!  Michael McQuarrie finds another winner at The Internet Archive.

The hard-sell approach in American-International’s Radio Spots is hard to believe now … but we occasionally heard advertising announcements like this back in San Bernardino, on ‘KMEN 129.’

Double Bill Radio Spots features the marvelous Paul Frees at his diabolical best, doing voiceovers for a combo of  Blood Bath and  Queen of Blood, with the ‘dare you see it?’  carny pitch.

Then Quadruple Bill Radio Spots is an amalgam of quickie spots for A.I.P. four-feature all-night Drive-In attractions … for blaxploitation pix, horror, action exploitation and giant Japanese monsters.

McQuarrie’s radio picks finish by jumping to Warner Bros., for a not-bad comedy sell for Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles.

 


 

And also from the estimable Mr. McQuarrie, is tahis link to an expensive genuine pro- Big Oil propaganda from the U.S. of the 1950s. It’s a 14-minute animated cartoon in Technicolor from John Sutherland productions, produced by  The American Petroleum Institute and directed by Carl Urbano, a career animation pro with a massive TV filmography. Urbano made several other Technicolor Sutherland shorts sponsored by big corporations, to promote American values and counter Soviet propaganda … with pro-Capitalist propaganda.

Other Urbano / Sutherland / Corporate ‘message’ animated films are  It’s Everybody’s Business  (DuPont — “Capitalism guarantees America’s freedoms”),  Man-Made Miracles  (B.F. Goodrich),  The Story of Creative Capital &  Fill ‘Er Up  (DuPont) and  Rhapsody of Steel  (U.S. Steel).

It’s pretty obvious, patronizing stuff … but nicely produced. The link has its own rather liberal analysis, which relieves me of the responsibility of being annoying. But I did like the detail of the pompous Dictator of Mars faking enthusiastic crowds of followers: “Thank you for this spontaneous outburst of support!”  Here’s the link:

Destination Earth
 

Special bonus paranoia:
The weirdest Urbano / Sutherland animation reminds us of the sinister ‘infotainment’ lampooned in the sci-fi satire  The President’s Analyst. Produced by Bell Telephone,  A Missile Named Mac has to be seen to believed … it tells the happy-go-lucky story, simplified so a gerbil could undertand, of how wonderful new technology guarantees that Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles can be relied on to hit their targets. Just so you don’t get lost, the lecture starts with a funny caveman throwing rocks, and a funny Injun shooting arrows. Nowhere are nuclear weapons mentioned – the dissussion instead moves on to the impressive early 1960s satellites:

A Missile Named Mac
 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday June 8, 2024

Hayward’s back and Dekker’s Got Her!  — or,  What am I doing, playing opposite Doctor Cyclops?!

Republic Pictures Horror Collection 06/08/24

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

What a round-up!  Republic is mainly known for westerns, but also tried their hand at horror now and then. Charlie Largent tries ’em on for size, as new remasters make ’em look like they never looked before, Pardner — I mean, “Ygor.” It’s a wide range of attractions: The Phantom Speaks, The Catman of Paris, Valley of the Zombies — and The Lady and the Monster, the first film version of Curt Siodmak’s ‘Donovan’s Brain.’ It’s a real keeper, with Erich von Stroheim as the mad doctor who speaks the immortal words, “Bring me the Giggly Saw!” On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
06/08/24

City of Hope 06/08/24

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray

A previously scarce John Sayles films surfaces in a beautiful widescreen edition. Cynicism and frustration pits Hudson City against itself, in a story of civic trouble that echoes Bruce Springsteen’s laments for America’s crumbling towns and cities. Builder Tony Lo Bianco is in hock to the Mob, and can’t pretend he’s not part of the fix; activist councilman Joe Morton is marginalized by the politicos, while his constituency accuses him of selling out. Disaffected yout Vincent Spano turns to petty crime. John Sayles’ sprawling but smartly-told story gathers his regular actors in an ensemble with at least 30 speaking roles that flesh out a portrait of a city ‘divided against itself.’ On Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
06/08/24

CineSavant Column

Saturday June 8, 2024

 

Hello!

I never would have thought this subgenre existed … innumerable Chinese chopsocky pictures feeding off the aura of star Bruce Lee. I remember seeing Enter the Dragon when it played 24-7 at Grauman’s Chinese, and learning that the action pix dervish had died just as international superstardom hit.

Meet Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Dragon Lee, Bruce Liang, and others … Severin has somehow collected 14 ‘Brucesploitation’ epics on seven discs, packaged with a full documentary Enter the Clones and a fat book. Severin must have a busy ‘ideas’ department, charged with thinking up original collector’s gift boxes.

The Game of Clones: Brucesploitation Collection Vol. 1
Among the interviews and featurettes is one that will intrigue armchair preservationists, The Lost World Of Kung Fu Film Negatives. I’m not even much of a fan of Hong Kong Martial Arts pictures, but this sounds like fun. It’s expected on June 25.

 


 

The indomitable Michael McQuarrie comes up with another winner: effects legend Ray Harryhausen once sued Big Tobacco and an advertising agency, claiming that his creative ideas for animated cigarettes dancing to music, had been misappropriated (polite-speak for stolen).

The Internet Archive has Harryhausen’s entire 250-page deposition online. For us fans, the fun is hearing Ray in his own words describe his full employment history in the 1940s and ’50s.

Ever been deposed?  You are like a piece of wood, with somebody whittling away at you, circling around the subject at hand in an effort to keep you confused, poking any prying to find some massive disconnect. Harryhausen does very well, at least in the first 70 pages I read… not the excitable type!

Harryhausen vs. American Tobacco Co.
Deposition of Ray Harryhausen, April 12, 1957
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday June 4, 2024

Charles Laughton expands on Victor Hugo, transforming Monsieur Q of Our Lady into a tragic movie monster.

The Nun’s Story 06/04/24

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

It’s the kind of movie we get dragged to see … which then becomes a respected favorite. Robert Anderson, Fred Zinnemann and Audrey Hepburn’s interpretation of Kathryn C. Hulme’s book is a stunningly mature woman’s odyssey, about a young nun’s attempt to find fulfillment in a a demanding social-spiritual vocation, that seeks to reconstruct its postulants. Young Sister Luke has a difficult time conforming, in school, in an asylum, in the Congo, and finally back home during the WW2 Occupation of Brussels. We can’t think of another film with as many memorable roles for so many great supporting actresses, topped by Edith Evans, Peggy Ashcroft and Mildred Dunnock. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
06/04/24

Fear and Desire – 4K 06/04/24

Kino Classics
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

Stanley Kubrick’s early work tells us a lot about the artist, like a collection of Da Vinci or Renoir sketch books. Kubrick’s tentative first feature has big problems — a ponderous script and war-movie ambitions it can’t deliver — but it qualifies as a noble first effort. The exacting B&W cinematography is arresting, especially in this 4K restoration. The new disc adds 9 minutes to the film’s running time, and includes all three of Kubrick’s short films, in excellent new remasters. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
06/04/24

CineSavant Column

Tuesday June 4, 2024

 

Hello!

Over on Criterion’s page is a very nice historical article by Imogen Sara Smith on Columbia Pictures, in particular a decade that showed the studio finding success in prestige adaptations from books and plays.

From May 6,  Great Adaptations: Columbia in the 1950s puts a lot of thought into its discussion of 4 or 5 big hits, and in doing so gives a mini-analysis of What Made Columbia Tick, from  Born Yesterday to  The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday June 1, 2024

It’s the corporate future in 1955: Conformity!

You’re a Big Boy Now 06/01/24

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Come back to the middle 1960s, when America’s hottest film student Francis Ford Coppola started on his path to directorial glory by parlaying his UCLA film school thesis film into a full-on studio production. A canny synthesis of youth trends and Coppola’s own weird sense of humor, the free-form comedy announces ‘I’ve arrived.’ The music is by The Lovin’ Spoonful and the cast is stellar: Peter Kastner, Elizabeth Hartman, Geraldine Page, Rip Torn, Julie Harris, Michael Dunn, Tony Bill, Dolph Sweet — and introducing a delightful Karen Black. Plus a close-up look at Times Square in ’66!  On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
06/01/24

Sci-Fi Chillers Collection 06/01/24

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Good news for Sci-fi fans; Kino’s newly remastered trio of monsterrific thrillers looks great. The favorite Paramount semi-classic The Colossus of New York still impresses with its its haunting piano score and solemn direction by Eugène Lourié. The gooey fungus freakout The Unknown Terror is available domestically for the first time in its full ‘Regalscope’ glory. And the latter-day Destination Inner Space is… is… an underwater thriller with an appeal that’s, uh, difficult to put into words. We’ll be polite. Kino’s audio commentators certainly were polite — Steven Bissette, Tim Lucas and Tom Weaver among them. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
06/01/24

CineSavant Column

Saturday June 1, 2024

 

Hello!

This link might work for you or it might not … It did for me and I’m not sure why. The New York Times yesterday saw fit to give a special article to a Charles Band production … one that’s been in production for either 31, 49, or 56 years depending on when we believe it was begun. Live action was filmed for David Allen’s The Primevals back in 1994, but the creation of its miniatures and stop-motion models was underway in 1978. I personally watched Randall William Cook sketch a key scene illustration for the show in 1975, and it’s been established that Allen and Dennis Muren filmed footage for their ‘Raiders of the Stone Ring’ project back in 1968.

David Allen and animator Chris Endicott were able to animate quite a lot of footage before Allen’s death from cancer in 1999, but even then they knew that Charles Band’s funding had fallen through; the shoot in Romania had reportedly suffered from budget compromises as well. Through a Herculean effort, Mr. Endicott kept the project alive and organized the completion of the special effects, at least enough to put the movie in reasonable shape for release. I interviewed Endicott around 2009, when he was animating new scenes for Primevals on his downtime from his busy day job as an an-demand digital effects animator.

An impressive promo was put out a while back, and The Primevals finally made the rounds of some convention screenings. According to the article, written by Christopher Kuo, a Blu-ray is coming out presently. It’s also available to stream.

I hope this opens for you:

How Stop-Motion Yetis Emerged From Film Hibernation.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday May 28, 2024

When Dana Andrews’ detective dreamed of Laura, is this how he saw her?

Peeping Tom – 4K 05/28/24

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

Michael Powell and Leo Marks encode their tale of a sick serial killer with 1001 wicked observations, insights and unflattering jokes about everything cinematic, emphasizing voyeuristic excess and obsession. Carl Boehm’s protagonist is a ‘very British Psycho’ who conducts his murderous crusade like an explorer in taboo territory, and fetishizes his cameras as sexual objects. Enraged Brit film critics demolished the film’s release, ending Powell’s stellar career; 20 years later, Martin Scorsese led the charge to rescue the director’s reputation. The extras extend the film’s meaning and context in several fascinating directions. An outstanding disc, in 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
05/28/24

Philo Vance Collection 05/28/24

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

S.S. Van Dine’s artistocratic detective was featured in 12 murder mystery novels that inspired at least 15 films. The first actor to play him was the urbane William Powell, in three Paramount productions: The Canary Murder Case, The Greene Murder Case and The Benson Murder Case. Powell sorts out the suspects and the victims, playing opposite Jean Arthur, Louise Brooks, Florence Eldredge, Paul Lukas, William Boyd and Natalie Moorhead. Raymond Chandler once wrote that the Philo Vance was ‘the most asinine character in detective fiction’ but reviewer Charlie Largent reports that he’s very entertaining on film, as embodied by Powell, pre- The Thin Man. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
05/28/24

CineSavant Column

Tuesday May 28, 2024

 

Hello!

Leave it to Joe Dante to point us to the best links — in this case it’s a ‘Cartoon Brew’ article analyzing some great classic animation for feature films.  Author Vincent Alexander examines some good examples, with several by Saul Bass, and proves himself a fount of information.

A Closer Look At Great Animated Title Sequences
 

I didn’t know that Dave Fleischer directed the animated main titles for  Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, or that Saul Bass delegated some directing chores, or that Art Clokey of fame clay-animated some main titles for American-International.

The selection soon becomes eclectic, including the sequence for Run Lola Run. A favorite in this bunch is the mix of music and mayhem in A Shot in the Dark.

 


 

So much fun mail about our review of the new 4K of Once Upon a Time in the West … and most of it positive. Generous correspondent Benoit Roux followed up with a nice note discussing Paramount’s somewhat scrambled ‘final’ version. We like his concise explanation for why the ‘Harmonica stands up at Cattle Corner’ film snippet wasn’t necessary now that the big stopover at Lionel Stander’s cantina is back in the film. The little tag on the end of the first gun-down in fact gets in the way of things, spoiling the surprise of Harmonica’s ‘phantom-like’ survival.

We certainly share Benoit’s love for the movie and its Ennio Morricone music. He sent along an interesting video he made of a visit to the Monument Valley location, finding the remains of the ‘arch’ used in the movie’s flashback,    and lining up a few other shots. His composite comparisons are quite nice.

As Tom Betts and Bill Shaffer will tell you, European fans of Sergio Leone seem honor-bound to trek out to the vast ‘four corners’ location of Monument Valley. I did that just once, but just an afternoon pass through on the way home from Colorado. For me the desert is still a place to Get the Hell Out Of … what if the damn car were to break down?  

Benoit’s video piece is about about a year old … the ‘docu’ section begins at around the 3:20 mark:

Once Upon a Time in the West (of Utah)
 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday May 25, 2024

Absurdly irresistible, unexplainable film art.

Friendly Persuasion 05/25/24

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Jessamyn West’s bright vision of America’s agrarian dream has plenty to say about anxious times: a family of Quakers try to maintain their values against secular temptation, and the threat of Civil War. Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire star, with Anthony Perkins, Phyllis Love and Richard Eyer. Sentimental, insightful and very funny, it earns its ‘family values’ honors, blowing away similar efforts by Disney and Spielberg. The colorful HD remaster reverses a previous credits revision. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
05/25/24

Dellamorte Dellamore – Cemetery Man 05/25/24

Severin Films
Blu-ray

The jobs some people take!  Intense graveyard watchman Francesco Dellamorte is serious about his duties, which include slaying interred corpses that insist on coming back to life. Will True Love interfere with his quirky necrophiliac lifestyle?  Charlie Largent dives into the most original horror pic of the 1990s. Rupert Everett & Anna Falchi star in director Michele Soavi’s ghoulishly erotic tale, an oozing comic orgy with a metaphysical/existential finale. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
05/25/24