Quatermass and the Pit 10/22/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Don’t run away because we use the word ‘profound’ to describe this 1967 sci-fi classic — some call it the best of the Hammer Quatermass films, this time fully written by Nigel Kneale and acted by a terrific cast — Andrew Kier, James Donald, Barbara Shelley and Julian Glover. A subway excavation uncovers strange human skulls, and then a huge bluish craft that the Army dismisses as a secret German V-weapon… until it begins to emanate psychic storms and supernatural phenomena. Sci-fi fans wanting ‘more’ will be intrigued by author Kneale’s incredible ‘origin story’ for the human race as an intelligent, aggressive and literally haunted species. The disc is loaded with extras, information, history and great opinions from a half-dozen qualified film experts. Plus we can hear Nigel Kneale discuss it himself. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
10/22/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday October 22, 2019

Hello!

The Halloween decorations are just beginning to go up on Rimpau street — the other day the police had an entire block cordoned off to permit cranes to install who-knows-what on the mansion-lawn of somebody I assume is deeply associated with movie effects — as indicated by the ‘bare skeleton’ of decorations I saw earlier in the week ↑ . I also passed by a house with one of those large balloon creatures crawling on its roof … I suppose they’re not so rare or exotic. →


 

Short Cuts: Wow, it’s happening — Powerhouse Indicator is beginning to send out material on their upcoming Hammer Volume 4 Faces of Fear disc set, the one you’re not going to be able to shut me up about when it arrives!


 

Yes, the Quatermass and the Pit Blu-ray has already been out almost three months, but the fact that I want badly to cover something doesn’t always mean that a timely screener is forthcoming. I hope the review is worth the wait.   I kind of thought I HAD to review this particular title — when I began writing for Steve Tannehill’s DVD Resource Page back in 1998, it was the first DVD disc I reviewed.


Gary Teetzel sends along a Hollywood Reporter article for fans of Stanley Kubrick: Which Hollywood Studio Hid Its Priceless Papers in an Underground Salt Mine? by Stephen Galloway. A number of years ago Gary himself descended into the exact same mine for MGM/UA, and he didn’t even suffer from claustrophobia!   I just want to know if he saw any Dimetrodons down there, or heard any Bernard Herrmann music at ‘the magnetic center of the Earth.’


 

← And, I am now a lucky recipient of Universal’s Scarface The World Is Yours Limited Edition’ 4k Ultra HD box, the one that comes with this rather large ‘The World Is Yours’ statue.  Instead of Atlas or giant turtles, Terra Firma is supported by a trio of nude water carriers. It’s golden in color, it’s hefty and it’s a pretty good display doodad.

A review will follow, as soon as I find my official Al Pacino profanity-neutralizing headphones… I’m in particular looking forward to an extra feature, the promised restoration of the original 1932 Scarface, with Paul Muni, George Raft, Karen Morely and (sigh) Ann Dvorak … plus Boris Karloff!

As ever, some of these images display larger if you open them in a new window.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday October 19, 2019

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

The Devil Rides Out 10/19/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Hammer’s key Satanic Mass epic comes to Blu-ray in a terrific improved transfer. Christopher Lee’s pitched battle with Charles Gray’s necromancer Mocata has long been a favorite of fans of symbolist rituals with candles, magic circles, Christian icons, etc. We’re happy to report that after all the monstrous demons and human sacrifices, good prevails through the agency of an ordinary (well, filthy rich) housewife, who can sling a Latin incantation faster than you can say ‘The Goat of Mendes.’ This is yet another big-deal Hammer disc for 2019 — we also get a look at the earlier Blu-ray’s revised special effects. With Nike Arrighi, she of the magical name, although the film’s unheralded shining performance is from Sarah Lawson. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
10/19/19

The Jetsons: The Complete Original Series 10/19/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

It says the complete original series, which is really the 24 episodes of its one season back in 1962-63. This show stayed around so long in syndication that I can hardly believe it was all over before JFK went to Dallas. Hanna-Barbera’s space age answer to The Flintstones plays best as a radio show — the jazzy soundtrack is sensational, especially the sleek title sequence (which is mostly all I saw back in the day, anyway). Charlie Largent gives this ’60s milestone the full cultural perusal, in the context of the ‘flaky futurism’ that so distorted our baby boomer vision. With George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, Rosie, Astro and Cosmo Spacely, all in bright color. And a big cheer for voice talent Penny Singleton, and George O’Hanlon of ‘Joe McDoakes,’ Park Row and Kronos. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/19/19

Parasite 3-D 10/19/19

KL Studio Classics
3-D Blu-ray

Nope, this isn’t the new Bong Joon-ho movie, but a 3-D oldie from 1982. Although it’s by no means a great picture, fans equipped for Blu-ray 3-D will want to take a look — the depth effects fashioned with the over’n’under Sterevision system are some of the best yet. Stan Winston provides director Charles Band with the ‘Alien’ rip-off title critters, and added interest is provided via an early appearance by Demi Moore, who sleepwalks through her part but certainly looks good. A full complement of extras tell the making-of story; the feature is also encoded in 2-D, for really imaginative viewers. With Cherie Currie, Luca Bercovici, Tom Villard, Vivian Blaine (!), and Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
10/19/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday October 19, 2019

Hello!

First up, fun disc announcements. Promised from The Warner Archive Collection in November are several special titles Operation Crossbow is a WW2 movie that crosses the real story of aerial bomb V-weapons, with a James Bond-like fantasy pretending that the ICBM V-3 was ready to launch. The World, The Flesh and The Devil is an end of the world Sci-fi with Harry Belafonte and Inger Stevens, filmed on real New York locations; it ought to look sensational in HD. The Bad and the Beautiful continues the WAC’s Vincente Minnelli push on Blu.

↑The last and most unusual choice is Great Day in the Morning, an atypical RKO western from Jacques Tourneur that’s never been on video disc here before. The cast is pretty interesting, too: Robert Stack, Virginia Mayo, Ruth Roman, Alex Nicol, Raymond Burr and Leo Gordon. Plus Technicolor and Superscope.


I’m afraid that many readers weren’t too pleased with The Disney Movie Club last summer when they tried to order the new Blu of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Correspondent MDH tells me that the outfit is now selling a BD disc of Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. I know fans are crazy about the Patrick McGoohan TV show; I reviewed it back in 2008 when Disney infuriated customers by releasing a very limited steel box edition, which was immediately bought up by scalpers.


Criterion January has an almost perfect slate of gotta-review movies for January, starting with one of Pedro Almodóvar’s best, All About My Mother. Then there’s the Hepburn-Grant Holiday, a beloved show I never cared for; Godard’s Le petit soldat, Sidney Lumet’s not-so-hot The Fugitive Kind and his Fail-Safe, which is pretty darn intense, and the basis of a million arguments about national defense.


Shining among Kino Lorber’s November titles is Roger Vadim’s Les Liasons Dangereuses, which may be his best film. They sprung this on us in college and it took our heads off — with Jeanne Moreau, Gerard Philipe and Annette Vadim, plus the jazz music of Thelonious Monk. But that was on a giant screen, so I wonder how it will play now?


I’ve had input from a few cooperative experts — Bob Furmanek thought my reportage on the technical side of Parasite 3-D was accurate, a first for me. He says that his 3-D Film Archive is concentrating on finishing their upcoming releases of 3-D Rarities II and Douglas Sirk’s Rock Hudson/Barbara Rush starrer Taza, Son of Cochise., in 3-D, Technicolor and widescreen.


Randy Cook checked in to remind me of a famous actor I didn’t catch in The Lavender Hill MobRobert Shaw is one of the London cops seen weighing the import souvenir in the convention hall. Is that specific gravity? If so, it takes me right back to un-learned high school physics classes. It’s Robert Shaw’s first feature film. → Since it’s also one of Audrey Hepburn’s first films, the question is, did they every play in the same film again?


← And finally, the always- friendly Michael Schlesinger has refreshed my faulty memory on the subject of the 1932 WB horror film Doctor X, which was released in two versions. I’m pretty sure that I saw the now-scarce B&W version on TV in the far past, but it was forgotten in the wake of a Warners’ laserdisc and DVD releases of the 2-Color Technicolor version. I thought I’d heard that the B&W version was much different, but Michael sent along a helpful note:

“Just FYI, we screened the B&W version at the 1986 Cinecon. It’s actually pretty much the same movie, with some small but noteworthy differences: dissimilar line readings, some stray sound effects (like a body thudding extra loudly when it hits the floor), slightly different camera angles, etc. But yes, it would be ideal to do a Blu set of both Doctor X’s along with Mystery of the Wax Museum!

That’s a great idea — I watch the funny, creepy Mystery of the Wax Museum twice as often as I do the remake, and it’s in 3-D. Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 15, 2019

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

The Lavender Hill Mob 10/15/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

They’re ‘The Men Who Broke the Bank and Lost the Cargo!’ Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway shine in one of the funniest crime comedies ever, Ealing Studios’ tale of a pair of nobodies who take the Bank of England for millions. Guinness’s bank clerk follows his dreams into a big time bullion heist, and the joke is that his ad-hoc mob is the most loyal, ethical band of brothers in the history of crime. This being a caper picture, the suspense is steep as well — just what is going to trip up these brilliantly gifted amateurs?   With great acting support from Sidney James and Alfie Bass, and on this disc, an audio commentary by Jeremy Arnold. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
10/15/19

Time Without Pity 10/15/19

Powerhouse Indicator
Region Free Blu-ray

Joseph Losey’s fortunes as an expatriate director took an upswing with this efficient, nervous and somewhat overcooked thriller with a daunting ticking-bomb deadline story gimmick — alcoholic wreck Michael Redgrave has only twenty hours to save his son from execution for murder. Losey racks up the tension, but he doesn’t give a hoot for Ben Barzman’s whodunnit scripting. Just the same, it’s good to see the director finally gaining traction — from this point forward most every Losey picture received serious international attention. With a powerful supporting cast: Leo McKern, Ann Todd, Peter Cushing, Alec McCowen, Lois Maxwell, Richard Wordsworth, Joan Plowright. On Region Free Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
10/15/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday October 15, 2019

Hello!

Hooray for Joe Baltake!  His The Passionate Moviegoer blog is back with a piece on John Huston’s Annie, from 1982. Joe’s been offline for several months, and it’s great to see him back in the game. Encore !


I wouldn’t exactly call this entry ‘By Popular Demand,’ but in keeping with a Halloween theme, I did indeed retrieve ‘Pompey’s Head’ from the attic. It’s the thing in the cartoon from last Saturday… It’s pretty well battered about, but it still has family history around here. A bit of patch-up is all that’s required. And since I promised, here are a couple of views, which indeed magnify the dings and chips of the twenty-three years it’s been rotting in a box!

I don’t think I’d ever shown my son The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake… so I’m guessing he just made up the ‘lips sewn shut’ business. The good news is that his mother had a sense of proportion. She didn’t give the kids complexes because they liked the ‘weird’ films I might show them… that lecture was saved for me.


I couldn’t help myself … I touched up the first picture a bit. The noggin really in need of touch-up is my own. And thanks for this bit of self-indulgent fun!

Thanks for reading — Glenn Erickson

Saturday October 12, 2019

No link, explanation below in the CineSavant Column.

Hercules in the Haunted World 10/12/19

Kino Classics
Blu-ray

Mario Bava excelled with at least five super sword ‘n’ sandal pictures — shooting two Hercules classics and directing two viking sagas in addition to this eye-popping mix of mythology and horror. Forget warring armies and casts of thousands. Bava places Reg Park, Christopher Lee, and several beautiful Italo actresses within his weird visual world of and hallucinatory imagery: swirling mists, intensely physical actors and retina-burning color. Kino’s disc carries three discrete versions on two discs, and a gotta-hear commentary by Tim Lucas. On your next trip to The Underworld, remember NOT to trust what you see!  Trust instead, uh, trust your … oh, just use the Force! On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
10/12/19

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages 10/12/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Want to get serious about Halloween, like scary serious?  Charlie Largent wades into this mysterious relic, which comes from 1922 but is still up-to-date on the historical and even the psychological aspects of witchcraft. Part slide show and part drama, its depictions of historical witch hunts are accurate and its fantastic images of satanic visions is mind-blowing — uncensored, extreme stuff. Plus, of all things, a wicked Danish sense of humor from writer-director Christensen — who himself appears as Satan, a pot-bellied hairy horror constantly leering and waggling his obscene tongue. If you have any psychic connection with supernatural traditions, this show will be scarier than the 6 O’Clock news. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
10/12/19

Man of a Thousand Faces 10/12/19

Arrow Academy
Blu-ray

Now that we can read the real story of the great silent actor and makeup magician Lon Chaney, the inaccuracies are fairly glaring in this well-received biopic about his career heights and difficult personal life. But it remains a compelling James Cagney movie, allowing the actor to try on different acting styles (and even a dancing style). The dramatic conflicts may be invented, but they’re compelling just the same. The movie works even as it represents Chaney’s original fantastic makeup creations with a series of ever-worsening rubber masks. Excellent supporting performances from Dorothy Malone, Jane Greer and Celia Lovsky. This one carries a good Tim Lucas commentary as well!  On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
10/12/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday October 12, 2019

Hello!

First Up is the cartoon I promised from my daughter. It is one of dozens my daughter did during her time at Brown; ‘Techhouse’ is the name of a dorm that catered to engineering and especially computer students. The photo I promised of the actual item in question, a thing called ‘Pompey’s Head,’ will have to wait until I can crawl into the attic to get it. I believe it will become a family heirloom, eventually.

The distinctive cartooning style is something my daughter also used for illustrations for my first book of reviews. One of my facebook pages uses her cartoon celebrating the ‘wall of discs’ at Savant Central, around 2004 … which is now the ‘several rooms of discs’ that are utterly out of control. She also did a joke birthday card for me about Major Dundee that I should post sometime … maybe when I review that movie again.

(Note, some of these images are larger if opened in a new window.)


Second up: longtime correspondent Malcolm went with me ages ago to a Sony screening of The Big Gundown, before it was available on home video. He responds to my note about the amusing-creepy skull cake my daughter baked, with a more seriously creepy-creepy article by Leigh Chavez-Bush: The Macabre Art of Baking People Pot Pies.

I think I’d be more impressed if these things were edible… or would I want to eat something that looks like that, no matter how good it tasted?  The article is actually a little disturbing, like they’re deriving a bit too much ‘Buffalo Bill’ amusement with the idea.


The dependable Gary Teetzel forwarded a Classic Horror Film Board post on Facebook by the UCLA Film & Television Archive regarding a new restoration of that great, classic 1933 horror film Mystery of the Wax Museum. I wonder if somebody jumped the gun on an announcement: in the Facebook comments they say a Warner Archive Blu-ray will be coming at some point, and that they are trying to secure funding to do the same restoration job on Wax Museum’s sister film Doctor X. Here’s the text of the Facebook post:

“Here’s a peek at one of our current restoration projects: Michael Curtiz’s horror classic Mystery of the Wax Museum, one of Hollywood’s best two-strip Technicolor features, premiering early next year! Special thanks to our partners at Roundabout Entertainment, The Film Foundation and Warner Bros.”

This is of course great news; every year I get notes from readers that complain that the existing NTSC transfers of Wax Museum are all wrong, that the telecine colorists tried too hard to ‘improve the colors.’ I saw what I think was a re-premiere of the movie at the 1971 or 1972 FILMEX, with Randy Cook … at my discussion of the film I tell the story of the two of us approaching the special guest audience member, Fay Wray (!) before the screening.

We also get excited with the prospect of a restoration of Doctor X. The last we heard we thought one or both of those films were thought to be lost, until a print turned up in Jack Warner’s personal collection, discovered after he passed away. Speaking for myself, I’d like to see a simo restoration of the B&W Doctor X, which is said to be an entirely different movie, with a somewhat different tone — either more or less serious, I forget which. Long live the synthetic flesh!


This is the weekend that Mr. Muller Goes to Washington, film noir fans. The Noir City: DC publicity says, I’ll paraphrase, that the film series returns to the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center October 11-24. This year’s featured screenings include the Film Noir Foundation’s most recent restoration project, Richard Fleischer’s Trapped, and a free screening of Norman Foster’s great Woman on the Run, with Imogen Sara Smith joining Eddie Muller for a post-film onstage discussion.

They’re also touting 75th anniversary screenings of five landmark noirs from 1944: The Woman in the Window, Laura, Phantom Lady, Double Indemnity, and Murder, My Sweet. And a ‘rarities’ selection during the two-week run will include City That Never Sleeps, Murder by Contract, Private Hell 36, and The Scarlet Hour. Initial weekend hosting duties will be performed by the celebrated film historian Foster Hirsch will introduce screenings during the first weekend. Passes, tickets, and the full line-up are available on the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center’s website.


Contributing correspondent Craig Reardon forwards this Youtube home movie feature that’s self- explanatory: Laurel and Hardy — in Color, in 1956. Craig’s note said, and you’ll quickly agree, that the unexpected element is that Oliver Hardy had by that time lost so much weight — Laurel had gained enough — that they’re almost equal to one another in heft. Craig was also pleased to see the classic film comedians both looking so relaxed and evidently fond of one another, especially due to the indicated friction in that recent biographical film about them.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 8, 2019

An image that chilled my brain back at age 13. CLICK on it.

The Fearless Vampire Killers 10/08/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Some movies just don’t get the respect they deserve, which cues pushy reviewers to sing their praises. Forget everything you’ve read and give this Roman Polanski picture a chance — it’s the classiest Halloween treat ever, a lavish blend of Hammer horror, slapstick comedy and wistful romance — plus a vampire horde more balefully scary than a carload of zombies. It’s the beloved Sharon Tate’s best picture, and its vampire king is an original apart from Bela Lugosi and Chris Lee’s Draculas — an aristocratic one-percenter on a satanic mission to put all of humanity in a graveyard of the undead. Warners’ Panavision-Metrocolor restoration is drop-dead beautiful. And they’ve even revived Frank Frazetta’s original ‘jolly chase’ poster art. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
10/08/19

Ida Lupino Filmmaker Collection 10/08/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

More than a movie star: America’s one female Hollywood director working in the 1950s receives a four-title boxed set well worth the investment — one noir mini-masterpiece is accompanied by a pair of independent social issue movies better than what the studios were turning out. It’s all thanks to Lupino’s fine dramatic direction. She emphasizes basic human values: cooperation over competition, and interior conflict. Her company ‘The Filmmakers’ lasted only about six years, but as an independent experiment it consistently turned out ‘special’ pictures anybody could be proud of. The four features included are the ‘social problem’ features Not Wanted and Never Fear with Sally Forrest, the excellent film noir thriller The Hitch-Hiker, and The Bigamist, in which Edmond O’Brien finds himself married to both Ida Lupino and Joan Fontaine. In his dreams!  On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
10/08/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday October 8, 2019

Hello!

My daughter is getting into the Halloween spirit with this newly-baked cake. She was proud and relieved that it came out of the mold in one piece. The crime is that she lives too far away for me to claim a slice. It’s a chocolate chip pumpkin cake … and she inherited the combined baking finesse of both her mother and grandmother. I think I became a ‘good little boy’ way back when, just to ensure an unbroken flow of my mother’s baking.

This prompts me to dig up (figure of speech) a thematically similar show-and-tell prop one of my sons made for a long-ago 6th Grade school project. It was about Roman History, but would have worked just as well for an episode of Tales from the Crypt. Then I need to solicit my daughter for her corresponding cartoon art-piece that covered the ‘item’s’ shuddery second life at a college dorm party. It’s classic.


And as long as there’s a Halloween theme to maintain, I see that DVDtalk is sending me a nice review copy of Scream Factory’s The Devil Rides Out, aka The Devil’s Bride, which enjoys a good reputation in late ’60s Hammer output. I haven’t been keeping up with all the Hammer discs, so I may have to consult Gary Teetzel to learn if this release will or will not include some special effects revisions that I remember being the source of controversy a few seasons back. The issue reminds me of the special effects ‘improvements’ created (in low-res video) to enhance a 2001 DVD release of Robert Wise’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture. They may have been fun to do, but subsequent releases have tried to pretend they never happened.

This also reminds me to find a slot for a review of Quatermass and the Pit before Halloween … it was the very first title I reviewed for Steve Tannehill’s DVD Resource, back in 1999. Gary Teetzel says that Scream Factory has also announced Hammer’s The Mummy’s Shroud and Demons of the Mind for January 14. Horror expert (ha) extraordinaire that I am, it behooves me to give them another chance. Gary did some serious shelf & list accounting, and says that Demons is the final Hammer title from the Studio Canal batch. So that presumably leaves Scream with these titles from Hammer/Exclusive … who last week announced a distribution deal for library product with Studio Canal).

According to Gary’s estimate, the Hammer/Exclusive titles that might be involved are The Four-Sided Triangle, X The Unknown, Hell is a City, Rasputin the Mad Monk, Prehistoric Women aka Slave Girls, The Viking Queen, A Challenge for Robin Hood, The Lost Continent and that timeless favorite Shatter.

As usual, Gary is the soul of optimism. Since Scream Factory has managed to license a few titles from Paramount, he’s crossing his fingers for two more very deserving titles, the 1974 double bill of Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell and Captain Kronos — Vampire Hunter.


And leave it to Gary to sniff out odd movie promotion gambits … here he finds a desperate theater owner trying to drum up customers for Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success. (If you open the photo in a separate window, you’ll be able to read the text.)

Working as a sandwich-man, or sandwich-woman, can’t have been easy, even if the message being hawked was the traditional ‘Eat at Joes’s.’ I imagine these women would encounter more than their share of unwanted remarks and advances. I wonder what the theater manager would ask his employees to do to promote Run Silent, Run Deep?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson