The Reptile 07/27/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

Hammer’s attempt at a budget monster film for 1966 isn’t quite as good as its sister film Plague of the Zombies, but it has fine atmosphere and a couple of worthy grace notes, namely its fine actresses Jennifer Daniel and Jacqueline Pearce. Although the title monster bites some fans the wrong way, it works for this reviewer — it’s every appearance is a surprise, and for me it’s convincingly… reptilian. Also starring Noel Willman, Michael Ripper and Marne Maitland. Encoded in two aspect ratios, and including a full commentary and making-of discussion. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
07/27/19

Merrill’s Marauders 07/27/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Is this Samuel Fuller’s biggest production? He tries to convey the harrowing reality of a military campaign that tested the limits of endurance and punishment that troops could absorb. In his last movie, Jeff Chandler is the famed commander who must ask his special forces to march hundreds of miles in the unforgiving jungle, and then fight a pitched battle. Although Warners interfered with the final cut, it’s still a fine picture.. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
07/27/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 27, 2019

Hello!

For its 1000’th spine number, Criterion has announced an enormous, budget busting boxed set of, whoo’da-guessed it, Godzilla Pictures from the Showa Era, roughly the ’50s through part of the ’70s. I remember looking over a proposed Criterion laserdisc set of these films back around 1996 or so, that fell through almost immediately after being promoted through some expensive Criterion handouts … and it seemingly has taken 20-plus years for Toho to strike a deal. I pretty much check out of having interest in the series somewhere in the late ’60s. Taking my terrific little brother to Destroy All Monsters I realized that the thrill just wasn’t there, as it had been for me when staring up at a giant-screen monster battle in 1959’s Gigantis, The Fire Monster. THAT was a first-run delight for a seven year-old.

The big treat this time around, if announcements are correct, will be a quality encoding of the Japanese version of King Kong vs. Godzilla, which so far has only been released here in its Universal dumbed-down cutdown version. Criterion has a hit-and-miss record when it comes to pop pulp lowbrow/high style genre exotica, so we’ll be happy if they continue in the vein of their excellent 2011 Godzilla/Godzilla King of the Monsters! disc set — I wish they could publish and sell a poster of that release’s cover art by Bill Sienkiewicz!  I asked Gary about what he liked in Godzilla art, and he directed me to the page of artist Bob Eggleton to check out some creative ‘Big G’ paintings.


And I have a brief Book Review to offer here. It’s the tenth tome in the ‘Scripts from the Crypt’ series, this one entitled The Brute Man. In comparison to some other titles in the series, the final film of horror star Rondo Hatton isn’t much to shout about, but this SFTC entry is one of the most satisfying I’ve read so far. The series takes something of a scrapbook approach built around the film’s screenplay and a substantive essay or two, with editor Tom Weaver holding it all together with sidebar articles and incidental items.

I saw The Brute Man a long time ago and was not impressed — the mostly lifeless movie can’t hold a candle to Rondo’s best show (IMHO) House of Horrors. But the unique story of the ‘horror actor who didn’t need makeup’ makes for good reading. Scott Gallinghouse contributes the longest segment, a thorough and rumor-busting essay about Rondo’s life, from his sports triumphs to his exploits in France during WW1, through his career as a mainstream journalist while dabbling in, and finally committing to, movie work.

Rondo’s illness eventually ended his life; the acromegaly not only distorted his formerly handsome features, but also damaged his inner tissues, weakening his heart. Gallinghouse’s detailed account succeeds in showing us what an intelligent and thoughtful ‘good guy’ Rondo was, through incidents of generosity and fan interaction that show class and humility. The symptoms were becoming acute just as Universal had decided to feature Rondo as an unique horror character, The Creeper. But by the time of The Brute Man his ability to remember dialogue lines became impaired.

That’s followed by Tom Weaver’s production history, and an as-finished Continuity Script for The Brute Man. Dr. Robert J. Kiss’s ultra-detailed distribution article again furnishes a picture of show-biz practicalities in the year that that Hollywood suddenly began to lose its audience.

There’s more than enough respect reserved for Rondo, even though this entry retains its sense of humor. A special feature article I really enjoyed is a thirteen page, thoroughly annotated and illustrated glossary of actors Hollywood and international that made their living because of their ‘unusual’ looks. The rogue’s gallery begins with acromegalians like Rondo Hatton, but moves on to include giants, wrestlers, tall guys, boxers, ‘awesome brutes,’ just-plain ugly mugs — plus some actors that played acromegaly victims in makeup. It’s like a Hollywood Actors Directory for big brute guys, and it’s fascinating. At some point or another each must have hummed the lyrics of ‘Hooray for Hollywood:’ “I’ll try my luck / I could be Donald Duck!”

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 23, 2019

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Weird Science 07/23/19

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Woo Hoo! We’re girl-starved teen nerds, and we’re cooking up our own living sex toy with our home computers!   John Hughes turns an infantile idea into one of his not-bad teen angst comedies, as Kelly LeBrock materializes to fulfill their wildest dreams. The idea is of course transformed into a basically benign coming-of age story … with the underlying message that we’d not all mind having Ms. LeBrock reformat our hard drive. It all begins as a bad arrested-development joke, but Hughes’ audaciousness and fine production values make this a nostalgic favorite for folk that miss their (ugh) 1980s memories. Anthony Michael Hall and Bill Paxton are standouts. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
07/23/19

Pin Up Girl 07/23/19

Twilight Time
Blu-ray

Most of us know Betty Grable from the famous pin-up copied by the cover artwork for this release; by 1944 Ms. Grable was Fox’s biggest earner, and the Armed Force’s most popular daydream babe both back home and at the front. This movie pulled in the multitudes, even though Betty doesn’t even play a model suitable for pin-up duty!  But just imagine: in almost any town during wartime with a war industry somewhere nearby, movie theaters played around the clock, with sold-out audiences, to accommodate swing shift defense workers. With Martha Raye and Joe E. Brown. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
07/23/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 23, 2019

Hello!

From Comic-Con, Scream Factory has reported a list of new horror/fantasy/sci-fi pictures coming up on their slate. They’re all but finished with the run of available Universal hits of the 1950s, assuming they don’t spring for the barrel-bottom likes of Curucu, Beast of the Amazon. The one item that jumps out is Val Guest & Nigel Kneale’s superior Hammer film The Abominable Snowman. Trailers from Hell was just celebrating Val Guest, with Joe Dante commenting on Abominable. I’m directing anybody in charge of the project to remember that one existing Blu-ray for the movie is missing part of a scene — as described in the 2015 CineSavant article CineSavant’s Guide To The New Wave Of Classic Hammer Blu-Rays. You’d be surprised by the kinds of slip-ups that occur, and not just because somebody calls out the wrong vault master to be authored for disc. An important release of this summer could have used some more timely film-source information.

And Gary Teetzel tells me that VCI is promising, for November, a Blu-ray of the 1939 Universal serial The Phantom Creeps, starring Bela Lugosi. We’re hoping for high image quality, because the the word is that previous Public Domain copies looked pretty sad. VCI’s scan is said to come from a 35mm fine grain duping element. I’ve only seen still of the odd-looking monster (a robot?) in old issues of Famous Monsters; to me it always looked like a parody of a Witch Doctor mask. Maybe it will look better in motion.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 20, 2019

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Alphaville 07/20/19

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Jean-Luc Godard’s most accessible film retains a strong genre framework on which to hang his cinematic/poetic notions. Eddie Constantine’s intergalactic secret agent Lemmy Caution comes to ‘the capital of pain’ to find a defector, and stays to rescue lost soul Anna Karina. Is it sci-fi noir, or just an expression of pulp thriller coolness? Raoul Coutard shot it on tricky Ilford film, and Paul Misraki’s superb thriller music provides the offbeat sentimentality. “Men roam the city…” On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/20/19

Klute 07/20/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Jane Fonda reaches acting respectability and takes home an Oscar, co-starring with F.T.A. cohort Donald Sutherland in a stylish, edgy murder mystery in a new realm for film — the intimate life of a high class call girl. Fonda gets a full interview and director Pakula receives a full tribute. Charlie Largent reviews the show, and I hope we find out why it got called ‘Klute’ instead of ‘Bree.’ On Blu-rayfrom The Criterion Collection.
07/20/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 20, 2019

Hello!

Fearless collaborator and advisor Gary Teetzel is off at Comic-Con, con-fabbing and hob-nobbing with his fellow wizards. This explains why he is not feeding CineSavant multiple ‘items’ of interest this week, a la Sidney Falco. I do have news from Tom Weaver that a new book is on the way, a ‘Script from the Crypt’ all about the Universal/PRC film maudit The Brute Man. That’s the jaw-dropping no-budget favorite starring the inimitable Rondo Hatton.

We’re link-challenged today, but the place is hoppin’ with welcome disc announcements. First up is Criterion, whose October offerings are cherce — they’ve upgraded the Silent Sternbergs (Underworld, The Last Command and The Docks of New York) to Blu, alongside a restored disc of Benjamin Christiansen’s witchcraft epic Häxan, the Muhammed Ali docu When We Were Kings and … and … at long last, John Sayles’ superb, simply unavailable Matewan (image left). All I’ve seen of Matewan were weak ‘Z’ Channel cablecasts and an ugly laserdisc; the one time I saw it in a theater was one of the few times I’ve heard real cheering for a movie.

Not to be overshadowed, The Warner Archive Collection is stepping up its game in August, with a tight list of unexpected delights. They’ve got John Ford’s Wagon Master with Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr., (pictured, really good-looking in B&W), Fritz Lang’s 2nd and last MGM picture Moonfleet with Stewart Granger and Viveca Lindfors, Nicholas Roeg’s wonderful The Witches, and a new Blu of the William Wyler/Bette Davis classic Jezebel, all super library titles.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 16, 2019

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This Island Earth 07/16/19

Scream Factory
Blu-ray

“The supreme excitement of our time! Challenging the unearthly furies of an outlaw planet!” Big-budget space opera finally came to movie screens, in Technicolor and widescreen, in this irresistible kid magnet of a sci-fi extravaganza. Viewers are split on its worth, as the screenplay caroms between mind-expanding visions and puerile dialogue. But it’s the first show to capture the thrills on those pulp sci-fi pocketbook covers, and its visual poetry plays out like an intergalactic fairy tale. Two aspect ratios! No Waiting! Plus ’50s sci-fi expert Robert Skotak is on the commentary. On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
07/16/19

Jet Pilot 07/16/19

Explosive Media GmbH
Blu-ray

John Wayne! Janet Leigh! Nifty jet-age flying sequences! Goofy, bad-taste sex jokes! Hans Conreid as a chortling Russian army officer!   Howard Hughes’ personal fun project took seven years to make while he played games with the aerial footage. Its a highly-polished, absurd joke, but it’s certainly entertaining. See Hughes try to do for Janet Leigh what he did for Jane Russell — I assume Ms. Leigh was too shrewd to sign any long-term contracts! This German disc has excellent widescreen image and audio. On Blu-ray from Explosive Media GmbH.
07/16/19

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 16, 2019

Hello!

Great news… here in the midst of 2019’s Blu-ray ‘Summer of Sci-Fi,’ Gary Teetzel sends along news that another must-see Sci-fi classic is on the way, albeit for 2020. That’s Arthur Christiansen up above, a real newspaperman playing a newspaperman for Val Guest. His advice from 1962 really fits the state of journalism today. The movie of course is the great The Day the Earth Caught Fire. I reviewed it a couple of years back on an English disc that’s unfortunately region-locked for Region B. Kino has announced a new 4K restoration is coming here, to Region A, for the election year. I think that’s great timing. What with all the extreme weather and climate change going on, what happens in Caught Fire no longer needs a sci-fi story with nuclear bombs. Weather calamities are now top network news every day.


Gary also directs us to a Wellesnet article that holds out hope for the eventual recovery of the lost Orson Welles cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. It’s basically just a report on search progress, but that’s a darn sight better than nothing. The optimism factor of course increased with the 2008 recovery of a mostly intact 16mm print-down of Metropolis in Argentina. ‘Fairy tales / can come true / it can happen to you…’


And for folks that can get to Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome in September and October, Dave Strohmaier has passed along this fairly exciting screening news — the Dome (the Arclight, actually) is going to be hosting some big-scale presentations. Here’s what Strohmaier says:

“This September and October Arclight Cinemas and the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood will present eight spectacular epic screenings featuring all roadshow classics of yesteryear. The entire Cinerama Dome’s 89 foot curved screen will light up once again with Grand Prix (1966), How The West Was Won (1962), Battle of the Bulge (1965), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Two classic 1950s travelogues will also be shown, Seven Wonders of the World (1956), and Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958). So relive the fabulous roadshow era complete with original overtures, intermissions and programs. Check Arclight Hollywood’s website in the coming weeks for further anouncements, under the “Arclight Presents” tab.

Sounds exciting — I’ll be eager to find out which shows are going to be in what format!

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 13, 2019

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The BRD Trilogy 07/13/19

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s national epic tells the story of Germany’s ‘economic miracle’ recovery through the experiences of three strong women, each resilient in a different way. The Marriage of Maria Braun takes us from the bombings to a postwar struggle for survival. Veronika Voss hangs on to her illusions of a glorious stardom that died with the Reich; she’s now the victim of opportunists. And Lola isn’t the only person corrupting an idealist come to bring fairness to the rebuilding of Coburg: even without a conspiracy, the legitimate town leaders are up to their necks in double-dealing. These are the top titles of the prolific writer-director Fassbinder, beautifully restored. Starring Hanna Schygulla, Rosel Zech & Barbara Sukowa; on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/13/19

Footlight Parade 07/13/19

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

This amazing Busby Berkeley extravaganza is the best choice to impress newbies to pre-Code musical madness: it is absolutely irresistible. James Cagney’s nervy, terminally excitable stage producer makes the tale of Chester Kent accessible to viewers otherwise allergic to musicals — he’s as electric here as he is in his gangster movies. Remastered in HD, the fantastic, kaleidoscopic visuals will wow anybody — we really expect Porky Pig to pop up and say, “No CGI, Folks!”  Co-Starring Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Frank McHugh & Ruth Donnelly; on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
07/13/19

Mothra 07/13/19

Mill Creek Entertainment
Blu-ray

Toho’s fabulous, kid-safe Kaiju spectacle about the super-moth from Infant Island might be a stealth Cold War fairy tale. Kids respond to the fanciful Shobijin fairy princesses, while adults (watching the Japanese version) might catch the authors’ message about national belligerence and the abuse of Third Worlders. Greedy ‘Rolisican’ opportunists pay the price of an ancient curse. For its expression of Nature’s justice, vigilante-style, Ishiro Honda’s music-filled show stands right up there with Gorgo — and the giant Moth is also the only Japanese Kaiju monster identified as female. On Steelbook Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment.
07/13/19

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 13, 2019

Hello!

An amusing, impressively professional Spaghetti Western effort comes from Ulrich Angersbach, who started corresponding with me twenty years ago when I was still ‘MGM Video Savant.’ Ulrich then later helped me from making too many egregious errors on MGM’s special editions of the Sergio Leone films; he was one of several Leone super-fans (unfair word) that provided research and graphics. Herr Angersbach also appears to be a major component of the Europe-based fan group that made regular pilgrimages to Almeria, Spain, to document locations for the Dollars films and even shoot their own elaborate productions. This one’s the most adept I’ve seen so far: Un Hombre, Una Ciudad y Un Ave Maria. The aim seems to be to imitate the Italo style, and on that count it succeeds quite well — to me the ‘look’ is correct.


Gary Teetzel tells me that Arrow Academy will be releasing the Joe Pevney – James Cagney Man of a Thousand Faces in October, with a Tim Lucas commentary and a video piece from Kim Newman.

We at first thought it would be only Region B, but Gary confirmed that it would also be a stateside release.

The experts I know don’t think much of the makeup, mostly masks, used to recreate Cagney’s Lon Chaney characterizations, and the movie has many inaccuracies. But I’ve always liked it — it respects the horror star, and there was precious little of that around in 1957. Plus, it has Jane Greer (swoon), and who can say No to her?

The thumbnail on the left can be opened in a new window, to see Arrow’s full artwork more clearly.


A review for the new This Island Earth disc is on the way — thanks for all the ‘where is it?’ notes asking when I was getting to it. It would have been done today except that, for the copy I was going to review from, Scream Factory somehow shipped the wrong title, something called Silent Hill. The review is half written already, but the replacement better come in time!


Yet another wallet-emptying steer from Gary Teetzel: far be it from me to tout for specific products — ha ha ha ha what else do I end up doing here? — but I’m sorely tempted to nab yet another soundtrack CD from Kritzerland. I’ve previously sprung for Morricone soundtracks and the cues for Crack in the World, and this new offering is giving me a serious itch in my pocketbook. It’s the original George Antheil – Ernest Gold – Marni Nixon soundtrack for the wholly psychotronic Dementia aka Daughter of Horror.

I’m still proud of my review of the old OOP DVD, with Bret Wood’s excellent documentary slide show. What better way to go insane than by listening to this in good quality? Yes, I’ve been seduced by everything about Dementia ever since my midnight trip to the graveyard:

You – you out there. Do you know what HORROR is?
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson