Tuesday October 25, 2022

Yes, it’s true — a 1958 sci-fi opus foretold exactly the state of our world today in 2022. I think Criswell consulted.

Die Nackte und der Satan (The Head) 10/25/22

Anolis Entertainment
Blu-ray

Another classic-era Eurohorror title has surfaced on Blu-ray. This crisp remastering of an elusive mad surgery opus is straight from the exploitation trenches of postwar Germany, and jangles plenty of nerves with its tale of crazy transplants. Partly a girlie show — most every scene involves some form of disrobing — it’s nevertheless an intriguing horror cocktail with top production values. The capable cast is really into the melodramatic shocks — it may not be Georges Franju but it’s several cuts above other ‘severed head’ epics — an insane carnival of flesh confusion that’s technically tame but truly adults-only by 1959 standards. On Blu-ray from Anolis Entertainment.
10/25/22

Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror 10/25/22

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Arrow’s latest horror collection is a classy foursome of Italo chillers, in a beautifully designed gift box . . . presented with the company’s full line of extras and commentaries, we get new remasters of Lady Morgan’s Vengeance, The Blancheville Monster, The Third Eye, and The Witch, six hours of supernatural thrillers with an adult viewpoint. The stars include Gordon Mitchell, Erika Blanc, Gélrard Tichy, Franco Nero, Richard Johnson and Rosanna Schiaffino; one of the films is an adaptation of a story by Carlos Fuentes. Charlie Largent reviews; Arrow’s copy describes the films as containing madness, obsession and messed-up families! On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
10/25/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday October 25, 2022

 

Hello!

This first link was circulated by Jeff Joseph of Sabucat fame, the master film collector who co-wrote the book A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies. It’s a short film from 1935 . . . I think someone will have to explain it to me.

The 2.5 minute short subject appears to be a teaser-trailer for — I’m not sure what it’s for — starring Buster Crabbe and the Walter Lantz cartoonists identified as ‘Ben and Jerry.’ The official title as given is Oswald Rabbit Meets Flash Gordon.

Is it a stab at a promo for the Flash Gordon serial, or some kid of tie-in for Walter Lantz’s animation department?  Forgive me if the answer is self-evident and I missed it.

 


 

We received a lot of positive feedback in answer to an item in the last CineSavant Column, about Lon Chaney’s silent classic The Unknown being re-premiered in Italy at a longer, reportedly uncut duration.

We have some follow-up information thanks to the kindness of correspondent Lee Tsiantis, who wrote:

Hi Glenn —
I attended the Pordenone Silent Film Festival that ended on October 8. On the festival’s opening night I saw the longer print of The Unknown. This program note, by Peter Bagrov & Anthony L’Abbate of the George Eastman Museum, sheds some light on the additional material in the film:

THE UNKNOWN (Lo sconosciuto)

The missing material is apparently not entire sequences, but a myriad of shots deemed ‘redundant’: “… all the recurrent close-ups, all the little gestures of no particular expedience, all the reaction shots that seemingly distract from the main storyline…” Bagrov and L’Abbate describe the new cut as a psychological study in the guise of a horror film.

Also, at the latest Nitrateville podcast moderated by Michael Gebert, the Museum staffers discuss the interesting provenance of the longer print — as well as what’s different about it:

Ep. 91: Pordenone 2022 Festival Report – Restoring the Unknown

Our thanks to Lee . . . again, the chance of this restored The Unknown becoming a future disc release is at the moment only theoretical.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday October 22, 2022

Let’s see, should I apply for Social Security early, or wait and let the monthly payout be a bit higher . . . ?

La Llorona (2019) 10/22/22

the Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

With human justice absent in the awful political bloodshed in Central America, Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamente finds payback in cinematic fantasy. A crooked government exonerates a genocidal general, but his estate is besieged around the clock by Mayan-Ixil Indio protesters. Into the house comes a new maid — a tiny young woman who may nevertheless wield supernatural powers. The moody art-horror show is as delicate as The Innocents or a Val Lewton chiller — horror once again becomes an excellent means to address political evil. Slow and deliberate, it reverberates with horror history without copying the classics. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
10/22/22

The Bat (1959) 10/22/22

The Film Detective
Blu-ray

This old-fashioned haunted house thriller was a moderate 1959 hit in writer-director Crane Wilbur’s creepy re-imagining. Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead headline a time-honored tale of buried treasure and the bloodthirsty fiend who’ll stop at nothing to get his claws on it. “Predictable but light-hearted entertainment that remains ghoulish fun for the whole family.” And who can go wrong with Vinnie?  His doctor has a delicious scene with a shotgun. Charlie Largent’s review is of a new release, with new extras. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
10/22/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday October 22, 2022

 

Hello!

Back in last Tuesday’s review for Deaf Crocodile’s Zerograd  I tried to explain the film’s exaggerated way of satirizing the paranoia of Soviet citizens under tyrants like Stalin, where terrible penalties could come from making a small error, being perceived as not doing one’s job well, or simply being denounced with no way of defending one’s self.

I tried to illustrate the idea with a memory of a comedy piece in the old National Lampoon magazine. Correspondent and advisor “B” surprised me by finding the exact magazine entry. Its text is merciless — 2.5 nasty jokes in each sentence.

Wow, this item is nearly 50 years old now. It explains itself . . . to read it, zoom the graphic or open it larger in a new window.

 


 

From Gary Teetzel, this is a silent movie rarity I’ve known of only in random stills — a 13-second clip from the ‘lost’ silent picture Go and Get It, featuring professional wrestler Bull Montana as a murderous ape-man.

Go and Get It was once thought lost, but news from Europe is that the Cineteca Nazionale Italiana now has a complete copy of the 1920 movie. The restoration was by Cineteca Milano. Directed by Marshall Neilan & Henry Roberts Symonds and co-written by Frances Marion, the wild tale reportedly includes a lot of serial action thrills. A newspaper reporter tracks down a killer ape, into whose skull a human criminal’s brain has been transplanted. Mad scientists suffer a public relations fiasco.

This bulletin board thread at Nitrateville confirms that the Italian print of Go and Get It was shown at the Festival Lumiere a very short time ago, and in Italy last year. I have to say, in 1920 that image of a snarling Bull Montana would have been sure-fire nightmare material.

 


 

Wow, Go and Get It is a big deal, but I’ve also just been reminded by Gary Teetzel that an Italian festival also recently screened a restored print of the Lon Chaney – Tod Browning silent masterpiece The Unknown. The source of the restoration is a print found in Czechoslovakia. Perhaps the most openly perverse of the Chaney horrors, The Unknown stars Chaney as a circus performer, ‘Alonzo, the Armless Wonder.’ A young Joan Crawford is the object of his romantic obsessions. If it were to be adapted as a musical, the title could be ‘Mutilation!’

The exciting news is that the restoration is said to be 10 minutes longer in duration. That’s a whole reel longer, long enough for an elaborate subplot, a major flashback — almost anything. Could it just be a selection of scattered little scenes?  Hopefully the new material won’t be unrelated circus performances. The Unknown will now be at its original 1927 length — and since it stars both Chaney and Crawford, maybe it will eventually become an candidate for disc release.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 18, 2022

Well, at least the poster is Astounding . . !

Zerograd 10/18/22

Deaf Crocodile Films / Vinegar Syndrome
Blu-ray

A truly fascinating rarity from the U.S.S.R., Karen Shahknazarov’s wickedly droll satire proves that the country Reagan called an ‘Evil Empire’ was radically changing in the late 1980s. Half Kafka paranoia and partly a Valentine to American freedoms, it takes the psychological temperature of a society that just plain no longer functions. Leonid Filatov’s unflappable engineer arrives in a rural Russian town and might as well be a Soviet Alice dropped down a rabbit hole — things get crazier and crazier, and nobody wants to let him in on the cosmic joke. The weird tale’s strength is its impressive visual creativity, but it also generates an unexpected affection for its characters, nice people caught in a frustrating system. On Blu-ray from Deaf Crocodile.
10/18/22

Cutter’s Way 10/18/22

Fun City Editions
Blu-ray

Ivan Passer’s superb coda to the ’60s counterculture generation now enjoys a formidable reputation; this new Fun City Editions release packs it with terrific extras. It may have the best performances by top stars John Heard, Jeff Bridges and Lisa Eichhorn. Disaffected 30-somethings in Santa Barbara investigate a murder and then try to blackmail a corporate CEO.  Heard is the maimed, one-eyed veteran already judged unstable, Bridges the yacht bum who gets by on his good looks, and Eichhorn the most forlorn woman of the early ’80s, looking for a reason to give a damn about something. Jordan Cronenweth’s cinematography and Jack Nitzsche’s music track couldn’t be bettered; the movie deserves the place of honor granted to Easy Rider. On Blu-ray from Fun Cities Editions.

10/18/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday October 18, 2022

 

Hello!   Fall is finally here, and this underprivileged Californian has to wear socks and shoes again — where’s the justice?  Where’s The Endless Summer I was promised?

Onward to the links of the day. David J. Schow hits us a good one right off the top – – a YouTube link by ‘Cinema Massacre’ called Thinking 4th Dimensionally at Bronson Cave. The first thing to do is skip the first 2.5 minutes, much of which is an annoying ad.

From that point forward the 18-minute piece is gold. Filmed after Bronson Caverns was sealed off with stupid fences, the film includes scenes of the excavation that created the quarry. We then see what must be hundreds of film clips using the quarry and the caves. I’m still proud of CineSavant’s article on the Caverns, but this piece shows the location to be more ubiquitous than even we knew.

The show is one long special effect, showing exactly the angles used in dozens of movies. It’s good, and very accurate. Curiously, the host leaves out one of the East entrances to the caves. Has it been filled in?

 


 

And we definitely enjoyed running once again into Aaron W. Graham’s 2005 Senses of Cinema article Little Shop of Genres: An interview with Charles B. Griffith, about Roger Corman’s most creative, funniest screenwriter.

Griffith had the sense of humor that Corman loved but couldn’t self-generate; his early films are some of the hippest of the late 1950s. We hear about his background and mostly his work for Corman, but he did other things as well. The anecdotes are often telling, offering alternate perceptions of people like Bruno VeSota.

We believe Griffith’s testimony when he admits things like being punched out by Lawrence Tierney. He doesn’t say what provoked Tierney, or was any provocation really necessary?  Griffith finishes with a description of the screwy finale he wrote for Barbarella, that was discarded in editorial.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday October 15, 2022

Brian takes the defense of the nation very seriously.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) 10/15/22

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Still by far the best adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson story, Paramount’s glossy pre-Code is also one of the most prestigious horror shows on record. Fredric March won an acting Oscar and it’s one of Miriam Hopkins’ best performances. The film is sexually daring and technically astute — with the help of cameraman Karl Struss director Rouben Mamoulian makes use of every cinematic trick he can conjure. The horrible Mr. Hyde is conceived as a near-simian primitive man, equating unrestrained lust and desire as something ‘society’ must repress. The disc packaging says it’s two minutes longer than the 2004 Warner DVD . . . but it’s not. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/15/22

Night of the Living Dead 4K 10/15/22

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

Anticipating new interest in one of the most influential horror films of all time, Criterion gives George Romero’s zombie classic the boost to 4K. The most famous movie to be produced in Pittsburgh returns American horror to its down-home roots, with excellent docu-drama direction and enthusiastic performances. It’s like a Disney film: every seven years a new generation will arrive to debate whether the beseiged victims should have fought upstairs, or all retreated to the basement. It’s a 3-disc set, one 4K UHD and two Blu-rays. Where’s the Bill ‘Chilly Billy’ Cardille theme song? On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
10/15/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday October 15, 2022

 

Hello!

This negligent film noir fan should finally get an opportunity to see the elusive 1948 thriller
The Argyle Secrets, to be presented tonight on Turner Classic Movies’ Noir Alley show, hopefully with Eddie Muller dispensing Everything We Always Wanted To Know about the impressive director Cy Endfield.

The old Alain Silver-Elizabeth Ward Noir Encyclopedia from around 1979 introduced us to a galaxy of noir tales about vice, murder, and other human weaknesses peeking through the Production Code. It was years before we saw Cy Endfield’s devastating Try and Get Me!, a film with a lynch mob conclusion that explains the moral mindset of the January 6 insurrection. Much later, the return of Endfield’s The Underworld Story knocked us out — Henry Blankfort’s uncompromising screenplay is twice as blunt about American racism and greed as any film by Stanley Kramer.

The Argyle Secrets is adapted from Endfield’s own radio play. It was originally released by the lowly distributor Film Classics, and I’ve been warned not to expect a classic. But its abrasive subject matter fits right in with the way Endfield irritated the politcal status-quo of Hollywood filmmaking: it maintains that fugitive ex-Nazis were being shielded from exposure and prosecution. Even if the film stumbles here and there, we know that director Endfield will have some surprises for us.

Such a strong personality was Endfield, that even after being blacklisted and fleeing to England he put together an impressive career, forming a long-term collaboration with actor Stanley Baker.

The Argyle Secrets is the newest noir restoration by the Film Noir Foundation. Noir fans in the Washington D.C. area have the opportunity to see it tonight on the screen of the AFI Silver Theater, in the Noir City: DC film series series.

 


 

A week back CineSavant waded deep into the mysterious features in Severin’s House of Psychotic Women boxed set. We’re still working on our review for Arrow Video’s collection Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror: Lady Morgan’s Vengeance, The Blancheville Monster, The Witch and The Third Eye. They’re Italian, and they’re gothic, mostly pre-giallo.

The stars include Gordon Mitchell, Erika Blanc, Franco Nero, Richard Johnson and Rosanna Schiaffino. An 80-page book is included in the classy packaging, which alone made us want to review it.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 11, 2022

For Donna Lucas.

Mark of the Vampire 10/11/22

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

MGM’s remake of a Lon Chaney horror silent is a ‘class’ MGM production apparently designed to neutralize everything horrible in horror. You’ll understand when you see it: Bela Lugosi and Carroll Borland are genuinely chilling, and the show abounds in fantastic gothic imagery, much of it eerie and unexplainable . . . until they explain it. The actual star is the pompous Mr. Potter Lionel Barrymore. We do admit that — talky sections aside — there are as many classic vampire images here as in Lugosi’s original Dracula. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/11/22

House of Psychotic Women 10/11/22

Severin Films
Blu-ray

Severin’s October offerings include this investigation of Euro-weirdness curated with academic purpose and clarity by Kier-La Janisse, evoking the name of her book from 2012. The thesis is the representation of women in filmic horror — except that in these strange experiences, hysteria transforms into a liberating form of empowerment: Identikit, I Like Bats, Footsteps and The Other Side of the Underneath. Elizabeth Tayor and Florinda Bolkan are the top stars in the collection, two of which bear the cinematography of Vittorio Storaro. The final film is a totally different, experimental experience. Ms. Janisse’s introductions connect the dots for these filmworks that envigorate and disturb. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
10/11/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday October 11, 2022

 

Hello. The top picture above has no link, and is dedicated to Donna and Tim Lucas.

A worthy link goes with the image just above. It was actually posted a year ago: an uncut 4K restoration of Wladyslaw Starewicz’s incredible animation item The Devil’s Ball.

We’ve seen it often in partial remnants, in iffy quality; this digital restoration must have originated from a good source — the framing looks wider. In stop-motion parlance, I’m impressed by Starewicz’s go-motion blurs. . .

 


 

And, noted last week by Joe Dante, this is a Twitter link of a fancy five-minute Chicago Cubs Drone Shot.

It’s a ‘drone tour’ of Wrigley Field commissioned by the ball club, and yes, it is pretty incredible. The end effect is rather strange though. Impromptu ‘magic crane shots’ are now in almost every show we see, with the result that they’re no longer exhilarating. Just think how director Delmer Daves might have abused a swooping drone viewpoint . . .

Thanks for reading — Glenn Erickson