Raggedy Man 07/28/20
Here’s a story about a different kind of ‘lockdown.’ This near-perfect drama might be the real pinnacle of Sissy Spacek’s wonderful career. The no-baloney tale of rural life on the Texas coastline during WW2 is packed with strong emotions and solid sentiment. Wartime hardships and catch-as-catch-can romance strikes an uneasy balance with more threatening material, including a highly suspenseful finish. First-time director Jack Fisk hits this one out of the park, with help from Eric Roberts, William Sanderson, Tracey Walter, R.G. Armstrong, Sam Shepard and little Henry Thomas. This is one of those special pictures that creates a warm feeling about people. The ‘Rum and Coca Cola’ scene is perfection of a special kind. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Severin’s extravagant four-film six-disc Umberto Lenzi / Carroll Baker Giallo Collection is a luxurious trip into sexy, violent Italo thrill territory. CineSavant concentrates on the first Lenzi-Baker collaboration, a truly nasty bit of misanthropy that bridges the gap between standard ‘Lady In Peril’ fare and the full-bore giallos that would soon become the norm. It’s presented under its admittedly attention-getting original title, that sounds more appropriate for a porn movie. In the U.S. the given title was Paranoia — not to be confused with Hammer’s Paranoiac or Lenzi’s follow-up A Quiet Place to Kill, which was also titled Paranoia. With Lou Castel, Colette Descombes and Tino Carraro. On Blu-ray from Severin Films.
While the world continues to crumble without, we at CineSavant continue with the essential job of (cough) reviewing home video discs. Is another distraction from the global catastrophe a good thing right now? I hope so. I’m still happy when propagandizing for the world of quality home video.
Whatever else is happening out there, the discs continue to flow. Kino Lorber is still inundating us with the sheer volume of its output. I have Charlie Largent interested in reviewing a set of Audie Murphy westerns (The Duel at Silver Creek, Ride a Crooked Trail, No Name on the Bullet) while I’m finishing up notices on three Tony Curtis comedies (The Perfect Furlough, The Great Imposter, Forty Pounds of Trouble). From Left to right in the image from The Perfect Furlough (just above ↑ ) are Janet Leigh, Linda Cristal, Elaine Stritch and Tony Curtis.
I’m also keen to catch up with Kino’s Old Boyfriends, in which Talia Shire re-contacts old beaus Keith Carradine, John Belushi, and Richard Jordan. It’s one of those shows like today’s Raggedy Man that most of us remember from cable television. Criterion offers the deep-dish divorce ordeal Marriage Story while Paramount has dished up a new edition of the crazy comedy Airplane! Charlie is at present tackling the gonzo jungle epic Slave of the Cannibal God (with Ursula Andress & Stacy Keach ↓ ) The tireless Mr. Largent will hopefully take on the perilous job of reviewing Universal’s Technicolor wartime fantasies Arabian Nights and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Jon Hall, anyone?
Thanks for reading. — Glenn Erickson
The Lady Eve 07/25/20
On his stellar directing roll at Paramount Preston Sturges graduates to a top-notch cast and a grade-A production budget, neither of which cramp his style one iota. This enlarged pun on the Garden of Eden myth touts that ‘Barbara Stanwyck has Henry Fonda bewitched and bewildered!’ Charles Coburn, Eugene Palette and William Demarest have socko comedy material to chew on, and the chemistry between Stanwyck and Fonda (“Snakes are my life!”) is genuinely hot & bothered steamy. We’re especially excited by this upgrade of a 2001 DVD; apparently the rumors that no good elements were available were unfounded. Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark 07/25/20
We love Cassandra Peterson, a smart woman who made a go of horror host work in the tough Los Angeles TV market, long after the short-lived Vampira and just a few years after the passing of Sinister Seymour. After Elvira’s Movie Macabre she got to make this lively comedy feature, and thus planted her stake in the cinema firmament while at the top of her game. I’d give it an A+ for nostalgic sentiment, a B for quality, a B+ for wit, even if the adult humor does skew a bit infantile. Well, that was part of the Elvira personality too! With Edie McClurg and William Morgan Sheppard. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
First up, horrible wonder wonderful horror news:
This big surprise announcement makes my day, and might make for a great Halloween too: according to Blu-ray.com the BFI will be releasing John Parker’s genuine cult marvel Dementia aka Daughter of Horror on October 12. They’ve affixed a price to the release but no additional info, although it’s likely to be restricted to Region B. If someone has performed a digital restoration on the original 1955 film and its slight-revision version Daughter of Horror with the amazing voice of Ed McMahon, this will be a highly special item. The old Kino disc was miraculous enough, thanks to an excellent research extra by Bret Wood. But to see the show in better video quality would be just … dementedly good. Do you still enjoy old-fashioned spooky-wooky haunted house thrills? This weird near-silent thriller delivers. You’ll never believe how far beyond haunted-house creepy Ed McMahon’s voice sounds:
“Yes, I am here. The DEMON that possesses your soul. Wait a bit. I have so much to SHOW you. So much that you are afraid to see… For this is a place where there is NO love, NO hope in the pulsing, throbbing, world of the INSANE MIND where only nightmares are real.”
Also just in the door here at CineSavant headquarters and drawing my attention is a simply beautifully-designed collector’s box for Severin Films’ The Complete Umberto Lenzi Carroll Baker Giallo Collection. Severin has been getting a lot of attention for massive, pricey and highly ‘collectable’ collections of maudit filmmakers lately, with one particular producer-director in mind.
All the features star Carroll Baker, seemingly took a three year vacation in Italo horror — did she think the movies would never reach the U.S.? The mysterious contents beckon: So Sweet… So Perverse (Cosí dolce… cosí perversa), A Quiet Place to Kill (Paranoia), Knife of Ice (Il coltello di ghiaccio). I remember the fourth title Orgasmo attracting my attention in a movie listing somewhere long, long ago… now I’ll find out what it’s all about. I don’t want to read too much about Orgasmo before seeing it. All I know is that it was also titled Paranoia in some places and that it’s a proto-giallo, or perhaps more accurately an ‘erotic thriller,’ co-starring Lou Castel.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Public Eye 07/21/20
Howard Franklin’s atmospheric, non hysterical tale of the New York underworld is told from a great viewpoint, that of a night-prowling shutterbug who documents life on the streets, from the swanky nightclubs to gangland killings on the cold sidewalks. Joe Pesci has his most endearing role in a part suggested by the famous photographer Weegee, a small man with ambitions for his ‘found photos’ of party revelers and bloody corpses to be viewed as art. Is Barbara Hershey’s club owner using him for selfish purposes? What happens if the hoods suddenly regard him as a hindrance, instead of a boost to their egos? The colorful production elicits a marvelously atmospheric image of New York in wartime. The biggest surprise: Pesci’s dialogue is all PG-rated! (The movie itself is an ‘R’.) With Jared Harris, Stanley Tucci and Jerry Adler. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Romance on the High Seas 07/21/20
A bigger and brighter film debut couldn’t be imagined … Doris Day became America’s sweetheart in Michael Curtiz’s peppy production, graced with a witty script and several catchy, radio-ready song hits. And the color is better than new in this impressive Blu-ray remastering job — Woody Bredell’s Technicolor hues are literally eye-popping. It’s great fun seeing Ms. Day invent her natural, fresh-faced screen persona right before our eyes. With the always-terrific Janis Paige, and Jack Carson, Don DeFore, Oscar Levant and S.Z. Sakall. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 07/21/20
A near-spotless restoration on the 104 year-old adaptation of the Jules Verne classic finally presents it in a form where we can judge its merits. The screenplay is an erratic jumble, imposing serial thrill elements onto an undigested amalgam of Vingt mille lieues sous les mers with its sequel L’Ile mystérieuse. But the physical production is state of the art for 1916, with an impressive live action submarine mockup and even more impressive scenes filmed underwater, reportedly a feature film first. Even better than the vivid restoration is a fact-filled expert commentary by film expert Anthony Slide. It’s no casual conversational chat track, but a wealth of good information about every aspect of the film, all delivered in good humor.. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.
Frivolous things first … Gary Teetzel forwards this YouTube link to a French variety show with a Star Wars French Disco Ballet, clearly from 1977 when every miserable TV show on the planet was looking for a Star Wars tie-in gimmick. The non-choreography looks like something a harried troupe threw together in an afternoon, and gave to the video editors to composite. I’d laugh, except that it’s halfway interesting compared to much of the variety show dreck from that decade… I had to sit through a Brady Bunch musical special or two.
Bob Furmanek forwards this video pitch for the 3-D Film Archive’s latest 3-D restoration. Their Kickstarter campaigns have resulted in some great work, such as the recent (flat) Africa Screams disc. Now Bob makes a good case, on-camera, for a new project: Help Restore the 1977 Martial-Arts Classic DYNASTY in 3-D!
These last two items involve things I worked on. Thirty years later, I’ve been contacted by Randal Viscovich, the writer of the 1989 horror film Night Visitor, which I edited for producer Alain Silver on the Culver Studios lot back in (cough) 1988. He tells me that the new Blu-ray is out now from Scorpion Films, so I’ll have to go check it out. Last December I was taped talking about the film for some of the extras; Randal’s already corrected one piece of my faulty memory. I may even get a chance to review the disc. Sitting above so cozy is the teenager-hating devil worshipper Allen Garfield, with his demonology-challenged brother Michael J. Pollard.
And Alan K. Rode’s Facebook announcement is true; last week we braved the raging Coronavirus in Cahuenga Pass to record a full commentary for a movie that gets altogether too much attention around here, Major Dundee. Unlike my solo commentary last year for Explosive Media out of Germany, this commentary is a free-ranging conversation-discussion. The pairing seemed to go well — Alan added historical details of the Old West that placed some of the film’s action in a greater context.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
America as Seen by a Frenchman 07/18/20
This marvelous proto-documentary is a cultural travelogue, before such films became a conduit to express social outrage or moral condemnation. To the French filmmakers America in 1960 is still a land of wonders, a bigger-than-life fantasyland, where you can visit a places called Fantasyland and Frontierland and see your culture’s past play out as entertainment. It’s like Mondo Cane only in that it’s free-form, taking in whatever the director François Reichenbach encountered in 18 months spent wandering through the country with a Techniscope camera in tow. Helping in the journey are Michel Legrand and Chris Marker, with an assist from Frederic Rossif and Jean Cocteau … it’s class goods, a time machine to a lost Golden Age of consumerist, conformist harmony. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
A Bullet for the President 07/18/20
Guest reviewer Lee Broughton tackles Tonino Valerii’s Spaghetti Western-cum-political conspiracy thriller. By brazenly transposing key aspects of John F. Kennedy’s assassination onto the assassination of James A. Garfield in 1881, Valerii gives both western and conspiracy film fans much food for thought. A career best performance by Giuliano Gemma, repurposed sets from Once Upon a Time in the West and great turns by a plethora of Sergio Leone’s regular supporting actors bring a sense of gravitas to this intriguing show. With Warren Vanders, Van Johnson, Maria Cuadra, Ray Saunders, Fernando Rey, and Benito Stefanelli. On Blu-ray from Wild East.
Pride and Prejudice 07/18/20
MGM in 1940 was just the movie factory to turn out a smart, compact version of the Jane Austen novel, with Greer Garson in fine form and Laurence Olivier possibly slumming but also contributing a flawless performance. Robert Z. Leonard’s direction is invisible but does no harm; adaptors Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin telescope events and concoct an even happier ending, all with great skill. Sorry, despite persistent rumors, the story hasn’t a single zombie. With Mary Boland, Edna May Oliver, Maureen O’Sullivan, Edmund Gwenn, Ann Rutherford, Marsha Hunt, Frieda Inescort and Heather Angel; on Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
Congrats to Savant reviewer Lee Broughton, whose review for the Spaghetti Western The Specialists has persisted on the Trailers from Hell Top Six Popular Articles list for several weeks. An invaluable asset to CineSavant, Lee has been writing for us for more than twenty years… amassing a considerable volume of reviews. I hereby offer this link to Lee’s own page, Current Thinking on the Western.
Today’s fun continues with a musical link from trusted cohort Craig Reardon, a cue from the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, doing a spot-on in-concert rendition of the main theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Boy, the record of this soundtrack album was a real thrill back at Christmas of 1969…
And Gary Teetzel reports that Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentations of the old A.I.P. thrillers How to Make a Monster and War of the Colossal Beast have been delayed again, this time to November. This is the third or fourth push-back, we think for How to Make a Monster. I guess we have to admit that we were looking forward to those vintage Sam Arkoff titles. Are these two turning into the ‘Flying Dutchmen’ of Blu-ray releases, doomed to forever wander the calendar in search of a release date?
Being Blu-ray fans, our impatience knows no bounds. With these booted from Scream Factory’s October schedule, Warner Archives darn well better come up with something good for Halloween…
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
The Flesh and the Fiends 07/14/20
John Gilling’s chilling-est horror item is an historically accurate tale of bodysnatching in Edinburgh. When Peter Cushing’s Dr. Knox needs cadavers for his controversial anatomy studies, the enterprising Burke and Hare (George Rose & Donald Pleasence) procure them — creating corpses when the graveyards are guarded. It’s a straight demonstration of how idealistic scientists get the axe every time. The production is handsome and the cast ideal: June Laverick, Billie Whitelaw, John Cairney, Renee Houston, Dermot Walsh, Andrew Faulds. The incomparable Peter Cushing gives his all to the misguided surgeon with the paralyzed eyelid yet Donald Pleasence’s looney ghoul all but steals the show. Reviewer Charlie Largent shows us how to ‘Burke them,’ with style. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.