CineSavant Column

Saturday January 19, 2019

Hello.

At this writing (Friday) I just learned that associate Nick Redman has passed away. I’ve been exchanging nice notes with Nick about disc products since his name began cropping up on DVDs in the late 1990s. The company he co-founded Twilight Time has earned a high roost in the business. Redman’s Variety obit covers his extensive work in documentaries and soundtrack production. His taste, judgment and commitment to quality always stood out, and his writings on film soundtracks were unmatched.

Nick did not make the fight for his health into a mystery. The last couple of years saw him in and out of treatment, noted on Facebook. When I first heard of his troubles I carefully wrote in, expressing concern; Nick wrote back with typical clarity of mind, telling me the score as he knew it without dramatics or self pity. I admire his courage, and know I’ll remember him.



Thoughtful correspondent Lee Kaplan sent along an article of interest, by Henry K. Miller at the BFI page. 1963 and all that: Raymond Durgnat and the birth of the Great British Phantasmagoria brings up my favorite film writer in the context of the evolution of film criticism in the 1960s. Raymond Durgnat was one of the first to champion ‘rejected’ pictures like Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom and Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. My first realization that Barbara Steele had become a horror legend was Durgnat’s obsessive writing about her morbid appeal: “Is she any the less desirable?” The article offers a mini-history of the publication of English and French film magazines. One reference explains the origin of the now-legendary French publication Midi-Minuit Fantastique.


With lightning speed, CineSavant advisor and fixer Gary Teetzel informs us whenever announcements or rumors of new genre Blu-rays appear on the horizon. This week it’s a new Blu from Scream Factory, The Mole People. Scream mentions a new making-of show and a Tom Weaver commentary, which is always a plus. I wonder, will Tom praise the minimalist mini-epic as beloved nostalgia, or will he be transparently critical of its shortcomings — you know, will it remind him too much of a Hammer film?

I answered Gary indignantly, protesting that the announced extras included no feature-length docu on the film’s amazing host and presenter, Dr. Frank C. Baxter. Gary wondered if it were not too late to include Dr. Baxter’s greatest acting triumph, Hemo the Magnificent. In a burst of critical insight worthy of Raymond Durgnat, Gary then reacted to Scream’s decision to include two full encodings of Mole People, one at 1:85 and the other at 2:1. Gary’s cinematic musing:

“The precedent for multiple aspect ratios was, of course, set by Criterion’s Blu-ray release of On the Waterfront. If you think about it, the two films are thematically linked: Kazan’s Waterfront reveals the corruption among those controlling labor on the docks, while Virgil Vogel’s The Mole People unflinchingly depicts the deplorable working conditions of the downtrodden Mole People, who don’t benefit from a union. And doesn’t the Mole Person design remind you of Marlon Brando?  Perhaps Budd Schulberg wrote Mole People under a pseudonym!  Guess we’ll have to wait for the commentary to find out.”

Have you ever really looked at the difference between a 1:85 and a 2:1 scan?  It’s a distinction for only the most serious film nerds devotees. Personally speaking, the only Mole People I know are the restaurant staff that whip up that terrific chocolate-y Mexican sauce, mole poblano.

Gary’s definitely on a roll… with two Mole People links from Tom Weaver. There exists a song, a peppy tune by the distinguished team of Livingston and Evans. For a minute, I thought it was something by the satirist Tom Lehrer, but no, it actually feels inspired by the movie, or perhaps a Times Square walk-by of the movie’s poster. Here are the composers singing Mole People!, and also a cover version by Michael Feinstein. If you ask me, Spielberg’s press info about remaking West Side Story must be a diversion from his actual secret super-project, “Mole!” The Musical.


On a (slightly) more serious note, Gary brings news that might motivate me to see a new Godzilla movie in a real theater. Lee Hyo-won’s Hollywood Reporter article Godzilla: King of the Monsters to Get ScreenX Format Release means that it might screen at a Korean neighborhood theater not far from CineSavant headquarters — and conveniently right next to the service station I favor to change the oil in my cars!  ScreenX sounds like a really bogus format, but it might be an excellent field trip opportunity for myself and pals Gary and Darren Gross.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday January 15, 2019

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Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 01/15/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Reviewer Charlie Largent proves that he yam what he yam Yis what he Yis with this look at the second generation of the sailor-boy’s adventures, without the brothers Fleischer. The first fourteen color 1940s Popeye cartoons make their Blu-ray debut, including a ‘banned’ color cartoon entitled Pop-Pie a la Mode. Interesting that the ‘Famous Players’ color cartoons would drop all the weird, great Fleischer characters, but add offensive ethnic stereotypes now and then … or is my memory faulty? The set is billed as sourced from 4K scans from the original negatives. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/15/19

The Last Command 01/15/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

The ‘other’ Hollywood studio version of the Alamo story is quite good, with strong production values, exciting stunt battle action and something Republic didn’t manage very often, a solid screenplay. Sterling Hayden is Jim Bowie, this version’s central hero, with great backup from Anna Maria Alberghetti, Ernest Borgnine, J. Carrol Naish, Ben Cooper, Jim Davis, Eduard Franz, Otto Kruger and Slim Pickens. But best of all is that old hay-shaker Arthur Hunnicutt, as the movies’ best and most natural Davy Crockett. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/15/19

Forty Guns 01/15/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Cult favorite Samuel Fuller explodes the mid-range Hollywood oater with elements we can all appreciate: a ritualistic fetishizing of the gunslinger ethos, and a reliance on kinky role reversals and provocative tease dialogue. It’s as radical as a western can be without becoming a satire. Playing it all perfectly crooked-straight is the still- formidable Barbara Stanwyck. Her black-clad ‘woman with a whip’ keeps a full forty gunmen to enforce her will on a one-lady town. Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Gene Barry, Eve Brent. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/15/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday January 15, 2019

Hello!

Dependable CineSavant correspondent ‘woggly’ has sent a link to a pretty impressive (and very lengthy) Historic L.A. Theaters in Movies website that documents the extensive, extravagant re-dressing of real Hollywood locations to recreate 1969 for the next Quentin Tarantino movie “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”. I reported briefly last summer on the bits of leftover art direction I personally saw on Hollywood Blvd. and at Paramount, but I didn’t know that they re-did the Cinerama Dome to ‘bring back’ Krakatoa East of Java, including a giant mural-like reproduction of its poster. I’m rather relieved that Tarantino’s story reportedly includes the historical Manson-Tate killings but is not solely about them… that’s always been the stuff of nightmares.


Charlie Largent found this encoding of the behind-the-scenes Home Movies from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. I think they’re the same ones on the fine 2011 Blu-ray, and the color, etc. is excellent. See Chaplin direct dozens of extras, including stars like Henry Daniell, and above, Reginald Gardiner.


Charlie contributes a Popeye review today, and if the schedule holds, he’ll follow with a review of Scream Factory’s Plague of the Zombies this coming Saturday. I’m doubling back to some prime discs from Twilight Time, Powerhouse Indicator and an impressive batch of discs from Kino Lorber. At least one is from the end of February … I wonder if reviewing it now is too early?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday January 12, 2019

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The Wasp Woman 01/12/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Roger and Gene Corman’s first ‘The Filmgroup’ production is a slick little programmer that belies its drive-in monster movie heritage: the trim tale is no minimalist effort, but a well-developed drama sourced in the twin drives to succeed and stay young. This deluxe edition contains both the Theatrical and TV versions, plus a Tom Weaver commentary that tells the incredible true-crime tale of Corman’s impressive leading lady Susan Cabot. The Corman-approved cast of favorites includes Barboura Morris, Michael Mark, Lynn Cartwright, Bruno VeSota, Roy Gordon and Frank Wolff. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
01/12/19

Bent 01/12/19

Film Movement Classics
Blu-ray

Too edgy for the mainstream movie audience, Martin Sherman’s influential play is nevertheless transformed into an admirable, well-crafted show. In Hitler’s Berlin of 1934, being gay means death, or a living death in a ‘protective custody’ camp. Clive Owen, Lothaire Bluteau and Brian Webber find themselves on the way to Dachau, a new Circle of Hell. Yet even in a forced labor camp, the human spirit prevails. The British-made picture features Ian McKellen, Mick Jagger, and several other notable stars in their salad days. On Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics.
01/12/19

The Prize 01/12/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Already eclipsed by James Bond and sexier European films, Paul Newman does his best to energize this derivative but lively spy-chase thriller set during Nobel season, in a Stockholm populated by the glamorous Elke Sommer, Diane Baker, Micheline Presle and Jacqueline Beer. Toss several Hitchcock pictures into a blender, and what comes out is reasonably engaging… and more than a little dated. With an enormous cast — Sergio Fantoni, Kevin McCarthy, Leo G. Carroll, Sacha Pitoëff, Virginia Christine, etc.. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
01/12/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday January 12, 2019

Hello!

Reviewer and all-round good sort Charlie Largent sends along this five-minute video clip called Flying Over Hollywood, filmed sometime in the 1960s. We see the first iteration of the Universal Studio Tour hilltop construction, the Hollywood Sign, various Beverly Hills mansions, etc. The helicopter flies over several studios.

I identify, at these timings, the following less- iconic places: I think the cameraman thought this was a studio, but I don’t think it is (1:03); Warner Bros in Burbank (I’m pretty sure, 1:08); An old Fox lot on Western just South of Sunset, which later became the Deluxe lab (1:25); Looking West down Hollywood Blvd from Gower (my Toyota dealership is in the foreground on the cut, 2:01); 20th Fox, moving from Pico Blvd North, showing the ‘Hello Dolly’ street set (3:50, and pictured above) — at (4:30) the view crosses Olympic Blvd going North to more studio property (including a movie airplane) on land that is now residential streets just West of Century City; MGM looking Northwest across Culver Blvd (5:04); The MGM back lot (I’m pretty sure, 5.18).


Correspondent and advisor Gary Teetzel turns my attention to something I should resist but might not be able to — the soundtrack to the science fiction film Ikarie XB 1. The Zdenek Liska score is coming out from a label called Finders Keepers Records. A price is listed but no release date, which at least gives me time to forget about it before I spend my money. A ‘Tracklist and Soundclips’ link takes us to a couple of samples, but none of the track names given suggest that the film’s memorable ‘space dance number’ is on the disc. It’s so distinctive, it might have been composed by somebody else.


I’ve been pretty good at avoiding direct political jabs lately, but this one was too good to pass up. Remember the 2012 Finnish sci-fi black comedy Iron Sky, the strident anti-Neocon tale about surviving Nazis re-invading Earth from a base on the dark side of the moon?   An even more politically caustic sequel is on the way, and to promote it the finicky Finnish filmmakers have put together a special trailer that’s so biased, it almost isn’t funny: Iron Sky The Coming Race trailer. How dare the Finns lampoon American politics, you say? As foreigners are the ones that keep having to bear the burden of our ‘interesting’ foreign policies, I think they should be able to protest as much as they want.


And Kino Lorber has detailed its February releases, which include the dippy psychedelic western Zacariah, Walter Matthau in the Jack Lemmon- directed Kotch, Cliff Robertson & Claire Bloom in an adaptation of Flowers for Algernon, Charly; Sidney Lumet’s sorority-of-vipers epic The Group, Burt Lancaster in The Midnight Man, Burt Lancaster in the Technicolor film noir Desert Fury (just above); John Farrow’s 1940 A Bill of Divorcement and Terence Young’s obscure but curious pirate picture with Anthony Quinn, The Rover.

Thanks for reading — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday January 8, 2019

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Willie Dynamite 01/08/19

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Here’s something I never expected to see: I ran to the blaxploitation attraction Willie Dynamite because I like actress Diana Sands, and it’s her last picture in a too-short career. But the main character on view, a gaudy fur-wearing pimp, is played by none other than Roscoe Orman, well known to a couple of generations of kids as none other than ‘Gordon’ in the long-running TV show Sesame Street. It’s like watching MisterRogers play Hannibal Lecter! With Thalmus Rasulala, Joyce Walker, Roger Robinson and Albert Hall. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
01/08/19

Foxfire 01/08/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Jane Russell heats up an Arizona mining town but she’s just trying to help her new husband with his ethnic identity issues, Jeff Chandler. Superb color cinematography (forget the B&W photos here) and beautiful desert locations help, but the real appeal is seeing Russell and gorgeous co-star Mara Corday in all their glory. With Dan Duryea, Barton MacLane, Frieda Inescort and Celia Lovsky. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/08/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday January 8, 2019

Hello!

I received a lot of reader thanks last time for the disc recall information for Universal’s Revenge of the Creature, but the trend doesn’t stop there. Long-time correspondent Wade Sowers responded with more disc replacement information that he received from Kino Lorber, for a disc on the The Outer Limits Season Two boxed set. Since the disc is popular with readers of CineSavant, I’ll repeat Kino’s announcement here:

The first disc with ‘Soldier’ has slightly distorted audio during ten minutes of the episode. We will be repressing this disc so that future pressings of The Outer Limits Season Two will have the corrected audio. If you have purchased a disc with the problematic audio and would like to receive a replacement, please do the following:

1.) Send an e-mail to kino@bellsouth.net

2.) Write ‘OUTER LIMITS Exchange’ in the Subject Line.

3.) In the body of the e-mail, provide your name and mailing address; and
indicate whether you purchased the DVD or Blu-ray edition.

It will likely be early 2019 when the replacement discs are mailed (due
to the manufacturing slow-down during the holiday season).

Thank you for your understanding and your continued support of Kino
Lorber Studio Classics.”

Sounds clear enough for me …


Upcoming disc news: Twilight Time has announced its four Blu-ray discs for March, and all of them are winners. On March 19 will debut John Ford’s hilarious Edward G. Robinson/Jean Arthur comedy The Whole Town’s Talking, Allan Dwan’s 1957 thriller The River’s Edge, Michael Anderson’s George Segal/Senta Berger spy tale The Quiller Memorandum and Jeremy Kagan’s The Big Fix. And don’t forget February’s special TT title, The Stanley Donen/Peter Cook & Dudley Moore comedy Bedazzled.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday January 5, 2019

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Panique 01/05/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

For directing skill and sensual sophistication this psychologically intense murder tale equals or betters the most sophisticated American noirs. Julien Duvivier gives us Michel Simon as Monsieur Hire, a strange man loathed by his neighbors. Entranced by the woman he spies through his bedroom window, Hire doesn’t realize that she’s helping to frame him for murder, and then set him out like bait for a vengeful mob. The restored French classic is a beauty in every respect; the extras include a highly educational, must-see discussion of movie subtitling, by Bruce Goldstein. With Viviane Romance and Paul Bernard. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/05/19

Symbiotic Earth 01/05/19

Bullfrog Films
DVD

Just when we thought the world was doomed by the rejection of scientific rationalism, this lecture docu about the theories and discoveries of researcher Lynn Margulis gives us hope again. Formerly denounced as a scientific radical, Margulis’ ideas supplant the established ‘Neo-Darwinism’ notion of natural selection through competition, with the idea of cooperation on the level of cells and bacteria. For those of us educated in the old ways it’s a real eye opener; John Feldman’s fine direction makes these important scientific concepts easy to understand. On Blu-ray from Bullfrog Films.
01/05/19

The Black Windmill 01/05/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Secret agent Michael Caine must take on both the kidnappers of his son and his own suspect Army Intelligence colleagues in Don Siegel’s efficiently filmed, curiously tame suspense thriller. Delphine Seyrig is enticing and Donald Pleasance an unlikeable security bureaucrat, while the capable Janet Suzman and John Vernon fill out a top-flight cast that performs well. But the thriller is surprisingly lacking in dramatic impact. Handsomely filmed in England and Paris. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/05/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday January 5, 2019

Hello!

First up — Kino Lorber has announced on its Facebook page that they’ve lined up the great Canadian crime thriller The Silent Partner for Blu-ray this year. Daryl Duke’s show features Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer and Susannah York, and also a young John Candy. It’s a terrific ‘Christmas’ movie; I used a picture of Plummer in a Santa Claus suit at my column link just two weeks ago, on December 22.


Next, I received a couple of notes last week from people that have had trouble obtaining their replacement discs for last year’s 3-D Revenge of the Creature release that had some problems. I asked the always- informed Gary Teetzel if he had the eMail info that we used, successfully, last Fall:

“Glenn, to request a replacement disc for Revenge of the Creature, your correspondent should send an e-mail to:

USHEConsumerRelations@visionmediamgmt.com

They will need to supply the following information:

Shipping address.
Daytime telephone number.
A copy of the sales receipt.
OR a photo of the disc and the outer packaging.

In my case, I sent a photo of the packaging & disc, plus a snip of the Amazon order since I had no physical receipt.”  I hope that helps, Gary.”


And correspondent Dave Horner, writing in on January 2, writes in to say he’s contacted Kino about the replacement disc for the The Outer Limits Season Two set. The disc in question is the first, because its episode Soldier, the one with Michael Ansara as a Terminator- like warrior from the future, has an audio flaw. Me. Horner reports that Kino said the replacement disc might not be ready for a few months. But regarding the Soldier episode he also adds:

“The disc set is missing an audio commentary for Soldier, which is listed in the booklet as having been recorded by Gary Gerani, but is not on the disc itself. It can be heard on Gary Gerani’s facebook page, dated Dec. 10th. Gerani has some interesting notes on the process of recording the commentary. Anyway, I was able to download the audio as an mp3 with my 4K Video downloader. I’ll load it onto my tablet and play it along with the Blu on a separate player. Best, Dave Horner”

I went to the Gary Gerani link, and saw that the missing commentary plays right from Facebook!   Perhaps when Kino remasters the flawed disc, they will be able to re-incorporate Gerani’s track back into the disc set.

And signing off, I’d just like to add that I’m really happy with the generous response to my 2018 Favored Disc Roundup .. promoting it on Facebook makes a big difference on who I reach. It was pointed out to me that not one ‘new’ movie made the list. It isn’t because I’m discriminating against new pictures — I just want to promote things I feel are special, and don’t want to use my biased soapbox to champion titles that already have enough attention. If I spread the awareness a little wider for an obscurity like Strange Victory or It Happened Here, then I’ll feel justified. Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson