Captain from Castile 10/28/17

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

One of the best Hollywood historical epics takes Technicolor to Mexico for a Production Code version of La conquista: the Inquisition is bad, but the Church is removed from the equation. Likewise with the invasion — Cesar Romero embodies a marvelous Hernán Cortés, substantially less murderous than the one that appears in accurate history books. Tyrone Power is the heartthrob hero, and newcomer Jean Peters the lowborn girl who loves him. The magnificent scenery is matched by the music score of Alfred Newman. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
10/28/17

Savant Column: Boo!

Saturday October 28, 2017

Hello! — and Happy Halloween. Welcome to the CineSavant Cauldron of Horror!

It’s a bit busy around here. I’ll be avoiding the Larchmont Halloween fair on Sunday, which is a mob scene just a block away. Today I may be doing some driving and hauling to help set up an altar at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Day of the Dead celebration. That’s going to snarl up traffic both days — !

Yesterday I was more or less captive in my house for several hours while NCIS: L.A. filmed a car-motorcycle chase and gun shootout a couple of doors down the street, and racing up and down the block — you know, some neighbors get hefty fees for the rental of their front yards, and I just get told to stay off the street and out of sight. The people on the motorcycle wore furry animal masks, and the production company put Christmas decorations on various lawns, so I’m guessing that if I tune in this December I’ll have a good chance of seeing my house buzz by — for probably a half-second. Hollywood, it’s so glamorous. A cheerful A.D. let me stand in my own driveway to grab this blurry shot. The camera tricycle is on the left, filming backwards at the presumed stunt folk on the bike. They did this about thirty times, each time with a volley of five gunshots. Later in the day came a car crash, a little bit down the block.

Joe Dante has circulated a neat link to a The Public Domain Review, the newest (Volume 7, #20) issue of which has a nifty Halloween Special Section with ten neat articles about the holiday, highly recommended. One P.D. Review link is to an original color Georges Méliès movie, The Infernal Cauldron (1903)

Let me call out a new installment of The Friends of Marty Melville, a resuscitated Trailers from Hell feature that inspired today’s Halloween Horror Triple Bill features. We love those vintage newspaper movie pages, that promised all manner of strange fare, especially at drive-in theaters. The four-movie bill for the ‘Bel Air’ seen on the right was a typical item. This one may have been a package offered by United Artists, or perhaps a local distributor grouped them, or maybe the owner of the Bel-Air himself picked the titles out of a budget line-up. Diary of a Madman, the only show in color, is fairly new for 1963, but the other three are a couple of years old — ‘The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus’ is of course the dubbed and slightly cut Eyes Without a Face. The only title of the four not yet on Blu-ray is ‘The Vampire and the Ballerina,’ which is a dubbed cut of Renato Polselli’s L’amante del vampiro from three years before. I think MGM has elements for the original Italian item too, which is a real oddity. If some disc boutique snaps this one up, I hope they give us both versions.

And finally, correspondent Edward Sullivan directs us to the Film Board of Canada, which has a special selection of NFB Halloween Spook Shows all ready to go. They look good.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 24, 2017

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Savant’s new reviews today are:

In this Corner of the World 10/24/17

Shout! Factory
Blu-ray + DVD

Away from Hollywood’s stifling commercial limits, Sunao Katabuchi’s historical drama makes stunning use of animation. Fumiyo Kouno’s manga about a young bride in wartime Japan has no illusions regarding the human price of war. Young Suzu takes in a new family, endures the hardships of a militarized country and wartime privations, but nobody is ready for what’s coming. This show’s delicate art and brilliant storytelling stick with one, days later. It’s not for small children. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout Factory.
10/24/17

Blood Feast 10/24/17

Arrow Video
Blu-ray + DVD

Charlie Largent takes a look at Herschell Gordon Lewis’s influential atrocity of 1963 and finds that, as far as the State of the Union goes, the times they are definitely not a’ changing. Starring the bug-eyed Mal Arnold and Playboy’s dizziest Playmate, Connie Mason; filmed in Florida in glorious color, mostly red. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
10/24/17

The Killer is Loose 10/24/17

ClassicFlix
Blu-ray

Psycho killers long ago lost their novelty, but in 1956 Budd Boetticher and Wendell Corey gave us Leon ‘Foggy’ Poole, a screen original with limitless appeal. Imagine a time when ‘normalcy’ was so taken for granted that any weird behavior was enough to give us the chills? Foggy carries this crime potboiler with a refreshing new idea: his dangerous maniac looks more normal than normal people. Joseph Cotten and Rhonda Fleming get top billing but this is actor Wendell Corey’s finest hour. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
10/24/17

Play Dirty 10/24/17

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

In a war film, what’s the difference between nasty exploitation and just plain honest reportage? André De Toth made tough-minded action films with the best of them — this nail-biting commando mission with Michael Caine and Nigel Davenport is simply superb, one of those great action pictures that’s not widely screened. To its credit it’s not ‘feel good’ enough to be suitable for Memorial Day TV marathons. With Nigel Green and Harry Andrews as a dastardly pair of corrupt commanders. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
10/24/17

Savant Column

Tuesday October 24, 2017

Hello!

Correspondent and now reviewer “B” sent along this note, plus a fascinating link about Seven Days in May that’s a nice follow-up to valued correspondent Michael Schlesinger’s note back on August 21 putting to rest a nagging controversy about the movie. The notes and correspondence on the other end of B’s link merit a close read:

Dear Glenn: While looking up something entirely other, I ran across this U. of Wisconsin webpage about Seven Days in May. Kirk Douglas long ago donated his papers to U. Wis. — UA and Warners also have a lot of papers in the college’s archives — and this online compilation and overview of some documents relating to the picture’s production is very interesting. Like The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days would probably have never been made by anyone if JFK hadn’t given both his tacit approval and encouragement to the project.

I was amazed to learn that as late as early 1963, Douglas and his Joel Productions were seriously considering making this entirely independently and releasing through Walter Reade-Continental. The papers here don’t reveal just how Seven Arts eventually became involved with the movie, but it’s evident that given the explosive nature of the material, Douglas and company greatly preferred that this one be made independently in order to retain creative control. [Seven Arts ultimately backed the picture and Paramount distributed it worldwide; rights eventually reverted to Seven Arts, hence the film’s current ownership by Warners.]

The apparently unsolicited letter from Stanley Kubrick to Douglas regarding his opinion of and ideas about the Bailey/Knebel novel is downright fascinating. All accounts suggest that Kubrick and Douglas had a bitter professional parting a few years earlier; this thoughtful, intelligent note, and Douglas’ friendly response, makes clear that the two maintained at least some sort of cordial relationship. A detailed post-production memo from Douglas to his producer-partner Edward Lewis discusses certain reservations regarding the minor character of General Barney Rutkowski (played in the movie by editor Ferris Webster!). Kirk suggests the character simply be deleted; he’s still in the movie but the role may have been trimmed. The memo also gives a provocative description of the film’s original car-crash ending while making a good case that it needed to be re-thought and re-shot. [It was, of course, entirely re-worked and re-shot; it was lucky that Burt and Frankenheimer were then working on The Train and could figure out how to make Paris sub for Washington, D.C.]

I learned enough here to make me interested to know more, but it’s worth a look. — Best, Always. — B.”

Thanks, “B.” That link again: Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. Be sure to follow the interior links to scans of original documentation, even the original letter from Stanley Kubrick.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday October 21, 2017

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Savant’s new reviews today are:

City of Industry 10/21/17

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Harvey Keitel takes center stage as a double-crossed crook goes for blood after a major jewel heist turns sour — and bloody. Timothy Hutton and Stephen Dorff are in on the split for one late- ’90s crime caper that’s not a stylistic hijack of Quentin Tarantino. With Famke Janssen, Wade Dominguez and Elliott Gould; filmed in Palm Springs and various grungy locations around Los Angeles. Directed by John Irvin. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
10/21/17

Nest of Vipers & Tails, You Lose… 10/21/17

Wild East
DVD

UK Guest Reviewer Lee Broughton is back, with another Italo Western double bill DVD review of two obscure and wholly idiosyncratic genre entries from 1969. One is a decent entry starring a surprising choice, Luke Askew, with Luigi Pistilli, Magda Konopka and Chelo Alonso. The other is an eroticized gunslinger saga with John Ericson and Edwige Fenech. On DVD from Wild East.
10/21/17

Hell on Frisco Bay 10/21/17

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

I tell you it’s rough out there on Frisco Bay, especially when you say the word ‘Frisco’ within earshot of a proud San Francisco native. The cast is the draw — this Alan Ladd racketeering tale also stars Edward G. Robinson, with Joanne Dru, William Demarest, Paul Stewart, Perry Lopez, Fay Wray, Rod(ney) Taylor, and Jayne Mansfield. In Warner Color and CinemaScope. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/21/17

Savant Column

Saturday October 21, 2017

Hello!

More Twilight Time, Kino Lorber and ClassicFlix titles just in — expected reviews soon could be TT’s The Captain from Castile with Tyrone Power and The Pirates of Blood River with a black-clad Christopher Lee, looking as mean as a snake. Plus Twilight has Michael Caine in the superb Play Dirty, and I’m already eyeing The Selznick Since You Went Away, and the Jim Thompson adaptation This World, Then the Fireworks from Kino. ClassicFlix has new noirs on the way, but I’ve doubled back on their restored special editions for the ‘Foggy Poole’ epic The Killer is Loose and a Bette Davis picture, Another Man’s Poison. Plus from Lionsgate, I’m eager to spin the Manga-derived Anime In This Corner of the World.

I have notes wanting to hear about the Warner Archive’s The Green Slime and Severin’s The Devil’s Rain. Plus readers aren’t letting me get away with hinting at a review for a Region B disc of Colossus: The Forbin Project. I think it behooves me to make good on my promise for that one.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend — — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 17, 2017

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Savant’s new reviews today are:

Porky Pig 101 10/17/17

The Warner Archive Collection
DVD

Reviewer ‘B’ makes his CineSavant debut with an in-depth report on everyone’s favorite Looney Tunes swine, P-p-p-porky P-p-p-pig. The multi-disc, voluminous saga of porcine fun and folly starts with a stuttering walk-on and rises to Warner Bros. fame and glory, waving the flag, surviving Daffy Duck, the works. ‘B’ handles Porky’s story like a detective case, sizing up the suspects animation directors that took this choice ham off the supermarket shelf and made him a household word. Not ‘bacon.’ On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/17/17

Orson Welles’ Othello 10/17/17

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent charts the chaos surrounding Orson Welles’s years-in-the-making 1952 production of Othello, which nevertheless survives as a visionary work of art and one of the great director’s finest films. Filmed in and around Morocco, Venice and Rome; with Suzanne Cloutier and Micheál MacLiammóir as the unknowable Iago, whose race-baiting demagogue feels unnervingly contemporary. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
10/17/17

Topper 10/17/17

VCI
Blu-ray

They’re non-corporeal cut-ups, rich folks on the town with nothing better to do than spice up the love life of Roland Young’s harried, henpecked bank president. Hal Roach’s screwball hit did good things for everybody concerned, especially star Cary Grant and bit player Arthur Lake. But the nostalgic heart of the show is Billie Burke, with the tinkle-y-glass voice. Also starring platinum blonde Constance Bennett, Alan Mowbray and Eugene Pallette. On Blu-rayfrom VCI.
10/17/17

Junior Bonner 10/17/17

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Sam Peckinpah was a fine director of actors when the material was right, and his first collaboration with Steve McQueen is an involved character study about a rodeo family dealing with changing times. Prescott, Arizona is the backdrop for a 4th of July, and McQueen is the aging star that wants to ride the roughest bull in the bullpen. Joe Don Baker and Ben Johnson shine, but the movie belongs to Ida Lupino and Robert Preston. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
10/17/17

Savant Column

Tuesday October 17, 2017

Hello!
 It’s a day for vintage monster lore, with a fun ’50s monster link resource.

Talk about going back to one’s roots. Correspondent Michael Brunas just sent me the following note and link:

“I’m sure many of your readers remember these two 50-foot regular 8mm reels that were sold on the pages of Fantastic Monsters of the Films magazine in the early 1960s. I used to own both and have been seeking them out for years before a collector recently put them up on YouTube.”

“They’re very interesting souvenirs of the Paul Blaisell – Bob Burns collaboration. At the time many of us Monster Kids thought that the “Cliff Monster” model was actually a modified version of the classic, battery-driven Great Garloo toy that was popular in those days. I suspect that’s exactly the case. Best regards, Michael Brunas”

Do I remember? At age ten, I very strongly remember staring for minutes at a time at the full-page photo of The Cliff Monster in Fantastic Monsters. The pages devoted to ‘The Cliff Monster’ were a sales promotion; I mis-remembered ‘Golden Eagle Films’ as the defunct studio Eagle-Lion. Fantastic Monsters sold all kinds of ephemera from Paul Blaisdell, the maker of monsters and monster masks for American-International pictures. I most wanted to order slide sets of Blaisdell’s critters from It Conquered the World and The She-Creature.

The YouTube resurrection of the B&W 8mm films looks pretty good; they were uploaded by Donald Deveau just a couple of weeks ago. The home movie The Cliff Monster has some in-camera mattes, while Filmland Monsters intercuts trailer clips with home movie close-ups of Blaisdell’s monsters from the aforementioned movies, along with the bug-eyed critter from Invasion of the Saucermen.

At age 11 or so I managed to nab only two issues of Fantastic Monsters of the Films. There were apparently seven in all. I had to be both at the right magazine stand and also have 50 cents in my pocket, which back then was a tough combination. Actually, the biggest thrill here is finding the entire run of the magazine archived at Archive.org and instantly accessible. I can now read all the copies, even the issues I never saw. Besides enjoying Blaisdell and Burns’ exclusive photos and articles about the monsters they created, I can see who’s contributing, how they shamelessly promote themselves, and what fans are writing in — Ronnie Borst, Donnie Glut, Donald Shay!

Paul Blaisdell got his start in movie work as a client of agent Forrest Ackerman, so I assume the relationship was finished before this competing magazine was begun. Blaisdell was likely fed up with A.I.P., after being paid peanuts to create some of the studio’s most memorable monsters. By coincidence, esteemed TCM colleague John Miller today posted on Facebook about a Heritage auction of Albert Kallis’ original poster artwork for A.I.P.’s Invasion of the Saucermen, presumably with Blaisdell’s monster designs. He was paid a couple of hundred bucks back in 1957, whereas who knows how much this poster will go for?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday October 14, 2017

Did you survive Friday the 13th?

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Do we even deserve this bounty of riches? Savant’s new reviews today are a trio of restored masterpieces, each so good that I’ve listed them in alphabetical order: