CineSavant Column

Tuesday August 3, 2021

 

A second photo link? He’s gone nuts.
Hello!

This is a lean week for Column Items and also a pressing one for free time — next week the whole site may go lean for a couple of days. I’ve been thinking about the CineSavant page, and want to mention some issues that are probably redundant, but that I get asked about in my mail.

1.  The large images that I put on top of the page twice a week are just my way of linking to older reviews that might be of interest. I no longer write ‘CLICK on it’ as a link prompt, but take my word for it, they’re links. I’ve put an extra image here, from The Night of the Hunter, just to give the column something visual. Also, my review text is usually packed with links, mostly for movie titles. They lead to other reviews and anything else I think might be interesting. On my browser the links just show up in red, and not underlined. They won’t take you to scammers or anything, honest. I know this sounds elemental, but I don’t want any of my readers to miss out — if the review you’re reading is no good, maybe the one at the link will be better.

2.  At the right side of the CineSavant front page is an invite to write me — the email is direct. It doesn’t put you on any kind of mailing list or anything. The most fun I derive from this page is corresponding with fellow movie fans, many of whom are better informed than I am.

3.  The reader comments below my reviews at Trailers from Hell are more complicated. I get great comments but also have some followers that enjoy the ability to anonymously give me grief. It comes with the territory. Responding would just make things ugly, and their remarks are a form of entertainment too. And it’s not like I don’t make errors — my advisers save me every week. I read my comments daily. Positive remarks really bolster the morale around CineSavant Central.

4.   I know my review index is a mess — they’re the three links in the right-hand column with the ‘flying saucer’ images from when I had more hair. The index is kept up to date, even if I’ve screwed up the WordPress formatting and the entries jump up and down in size. This is the place to search, here on CineSavant. The Search function at Trailers from Hell will only find reviews that were posted at Trailers from Hell. My 6500+ reviews go back to 1998 at three other pages. If you can’t find a review or an old article, feel free to write.

5.  Finally, I haven’t changed the format of my reviews for ages, and I realize that not all of it makes great sense. The ‘ratings’ at the bottom are definitely old-school and not particularly relevant, but readers want them. Since I pick and choose what I review most reviews get an Excellent or a Very Good anyway. Ranked judgments become silly when I give a Z-picture sci-fi groaner high marks, just because I find it entertaining.

6.  I welcome suggestions — especially ones that might make posting easier. I maintain several logs every week covering my posting work at CineSavant and Trailers from Hell, which I guess all comes under the heading of ‘keeping mischievous hands busy.’ Sorry I’ve no fun/silly links for you today … will run some down for next time, if I can.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Line of Demarcation 07/31/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Claude Chabrol’s ‘minor’ wartime drama is one of the best movies of its kind I’ve seen. A French town under German rule lies on a river straddling occupied and Vichy territories, and becomes a hotbed of intrigues. Yes, there’s resistance activity, but we also see that most people avoid involvement — and some find ways to profit from the desperation of refugees fleeing the Nazis. It’s a case of small town, everyday terror. The stellar cast is subordinated to the powerful, non-exploitative drama: Jean Seberg, Maurice Ronet, Daniel Gélin, Jacques Perrin & Stéphane Audran. Samm Deighan’s informative commentary is a big +Plus. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/31/21

Objective, Burma! 07/31/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Errol Flynn goes to war!  One of the last major direct-combat pictures to come out of Hollywood during the war, Raoul Walsh’s ode to the jungle fighters in Burma is a finely-crafted show that lets loose a powerful, almost frightening blast of anti-Japanese rage. Errol Flynn earned his pay slugging it out through the swamps, George Tobias provides the Brooklyn humor and Henry Hull the outrage over combat atrocities. And the English were none too happy either, claiming that the movie made it look as if America had done the heavy fighting in what was largely a Brit field of battle. With Mark Stevens, Richard Erdman, Anthony Caruso & Warner Anderson. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
07/31/21

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 31, 2021

 

Hello!

Always there to pitch in when CineSavant’s powers of detection go slack — which is always — advisor and moral conscience Gary Teetzel followed through on my interest in the unseen French film L’Inconnu de Shandigor and located a link to a fancy coming attraction promo, which may or may not be adapted from an original 1967 trailer. Deaf Crocodile Films and the cinematheque Suisse present a four-minute trailer for a new 4K release of Jean-Louis Roy’s The Unknown Man of Shandigor, described as a ‘surreal espionage thriller,’ and starring Daniel Emilfork, Serge Gainsbourg, Marie-France Boyer and Howard Vernon.

A press release states that Deaf Crocodile will partner with OCN Distribution / Vinegar Syndrome for the first-ever U.S. Blu-ray release of the film in January 2022.

It looks like it could be terrible or a lot of fun — it depends on whether it has a real sense of humor or is content to play visual games. The visuals could be in the same spirit of comic-book graphics taken to a delirious extreme in Mario Bava’s Diabolik… but the trailer’s artsy ‘semaphore’ style for intertitles also suggest games like Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville. I’ll have to find out for myself.

Gary warned me that I might be insulted by the trailer. An unspeakably cruel line of narration reads, “A pack of vampires, of reptiles, of centipedes … and we call them savants?

 


 

Also forwarded by Gary, an outfit called the Corridor Crew has re-edited and visually augmented some movie scenes to create a montage that basically asks what would happen If James Bond Weren’t So Lucky.

It’s a little confusing to me, what with various Bonds (Dalton, Lazenby) killing others (mostly Connery), and I’m not sure it has any point to make — but it is a fun laser-slice of CGI effects manipulation.

 


 

And finally, helpful correspondent George Fogel responded to Yannie Tan’s take on ‘Cat Concerto with another take on the same cartoon,
Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 (with ‘Cateen Cadenza’).

I did a picture search to figure out if ‘Cateen Cadenza’ is a joke on ‘Cat Concerto’ or not … what if the unnamed pianist called himself Cateen?  A picture search identifies him as the highly talented Hayato Sumino.

I know the composition has been used everywhere, often in parodies of classical music. The image that comes to my mind is Dolores Gray singing “Remember” in It’s Always Fair Weather. Now can I call myself cultured, or what?

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 27, 2021

A dream sequel-rethink of Ford’s The Informer.

Thunderbolt 07/27/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

This ‘dawn of sound’ classic from Josef Sternberg is an important early entry in the gangster genre, a romanticized tale of urban crime with little violence but a full measure of romantic revenge. Star George Bancroft is the title underworld kingpin, who risks everything to hold his girlfriend Fay Wray the way he holds onto power — with his fists and with his gun. The highly sentimental story has some odd ideas about prison rules on Death Row; although packed with ‘Sternbergian’ touches the visuals aren’t as overtly poetic as is his norm. It’s an interesting study from the first year of ‘all talkie’ pictures: the audio is highly creative but the dialogue delivery is slow — perfect for anyone learning English! On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/27/21

Step by Step 07/27/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

More or less ignored for 75 years, this curious ‘B’ program picture now finds its way directly to a Warner Archive Blu-ray release. Cult actor Lawrence Tierney has an atypical ‘swell guy’ role as a Marine veteran thrust into a murder mystery and made the fall guy for nefarious foreign spies. Anne Jeffreys becomes his co-fugitive when the villains frame him for murder. It’s like a fancy 1960s romantic thriller, except the scale is so small. Just the same, Phil Rosen’s movie crams a lot of incident into its brisk 62 minutes. Consider it a gift to Lawrence Tierney fans — they might like him in a role that Cary Grant could play. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
07/27/21

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 27, 2021

 

Hello!

I almost don’t know what to say — the 3-D Film Archive has announced an upcoming full 3-D restoration of the Holy Grail of 1950s schlock sci-fi, auteur Phil Tucker’s masterpiece Robot Monster. The Archive has launched a Kickstarter campaign to get the ball rolling.

It’s a worthy cause, for sure. “We cannot, but we must” admit that the movie’s ‘Tru-Stereo Three Dimension’ entitles the glorious intergalactic saga of Ro-Man to be a cultural ground zero event of its decade. Yes, 2022 promises to be The Year of the Automatic Billion Bubble Machine, from N.A. Fisher Chemical Products, Inc.. Now who is going to license a line of sensational Robot Monster toys?

 


 

Is it cartoon madness, or great art?  Correspondent Jonathan Gluckman has sent us a link to concert madness — pianist Yanni Tan aspires to ‘ivory synch’ the entire piano score to the Tom and Jerry cartoon The Cat Concerto.

The official title is Yannie Tan plays the Cat Concerto, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Liszt, but that’s far too lengthy to print here. The fun part is that Ms. Tan performs wearing cat ears, and with cat whiskers on her cheeks. Who says there’s no high kul-tyer at CineSavant?

 


 

And Dick Dinman’s cheerful podcast DVD Classics Corner on the Air turns its critical eye toward Criterion’s recent Blu-ray of what might be Samuel Fuller’s most accomplished movie in A salute to Criterion’s Pickup on South Street.

Listeners beware — Dick’s co-host is none other than this reviewer. Dick calls this the liveliest podcast we’ve yet had — talking about Richard Widmark, Jean Peters and the sheer fun of this upside-down Anti-Commie thriller.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 24, 2021

Much better than its reputation — and in VistaVision & Technicolor.

Master of the World 07/24/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

One of Jules Verne’s most fantastic sci-fi fantasies got the big screen treatment from American-International, which hopped on the Verne bandwagon that raked in big $$ for Disney and others. A production challenge given a minimum of resources, the colorful show is still admired for the performance of Vincent Price as Robur the Conqueror, a mad terrorist. Charles Bronson also gets high marks as the proto- G-Man dispatched to put an end to Robur’s Albatross, an aerial ‘weapon of mass destruction.’ We also fell in love with art director Daniel Haller’s magnificent design for the airship — even if the special visual effects no longer seem as special as they should be. Also with Henry Hull, Mary Webster, David Frankham, Vito Scotti, Wally Campo, and Richard Harrison. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/24/21

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage 4K 07/24/21

Arrow Video
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray

The newest addition to the stable of horror and sci-fi on Ultra HD is Dario Argento’s debut feature, the game-changer that launched the full-blown giallo thriller. Argento takes a few twists from the Hitchcock playbook but otherwise shapes his whodunnit with a new, slick style of his own. Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and design by Dario Micheli emphasize visual texture and tactility — we contemplate soft skin, slippery plastic and sharp straight razors. The horrors embrace architecture and high fashion, exchanging visual fetishes for psychological depth. And don’t forget a typically eccentric Ennio Morricone music score. As always, Arrow includes a full menu of extra delights. Starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi and Mario Adorf. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
07/24/21

CineSavant Column

Saturday July 24, 2021

 

Hello!

It looks like Arrow Films has performed a new restoration on Giorgio Ferroni’s Mill of the Stone Women, the 1960 CineSavant favorite that is said to be the first Eurohorror pic in color. Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses trailed it by just a few weeks, at least by the IMDB’s reckoning. The Fantasia Fest 25 website is displaying beautiful images of the new restoration. That’s the stunning Scilla Gabel in the image above as Elfi, a temptress who is also the victim of strange medical experiments.

Elsewhere on the Fantasia Fest page we learn that Synapse will be premiering a new restoration of Amando de Ossorio’s Tombs of the Blind Dead, aka La noche del terror ciego, the first entry in his ‘Blind Dead’ series. NOBODY expects Los Caballeros Templarios!

Even more enticing, another company is re-premiering Jean-Louis Roy’s 1967 The Unknown Man of Shandigor (L’inconnu de Shandigor), an espionage-sci fi picture we want badly to see. I have no idea if it’s any good, but what difference does that make?  The stills of scenes filmed on the rooftops of Antoni Gaudí buildings in Barcelona seal the deal.

These are only festival screenings — but we of course are hoping for follow-up announcements of Blu-ray disc releases.

 


And I’ve just learned that Paramount Home Entertainment has prepared an Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection with some very desirable contents — seven special edition discs of Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Funny Face, War and Peace, Paris When it Sizzles, My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s timed for the 60th anniversary of Breakfast, and will street on October 5.

Checking the IMDB, it looks like, yes the list encompasses almost the entire Audrey Hepburn filmography at Paramount… in this household it’s four stone classics, two very good movies and one that I don’t know all that well. Hepburn was always a given as class goods — her Billy Wilder picture will always be my favorite. I’m told that she dominated the ’50s as a sort of an anti-matter Marilyn Monroe, opposite in every way but just as feminine and just as magical.

Hepburn didn’t only play opposite male stars twenty years her senior. The recent biography only strengthens her image, relating her WW2 experience as a young teen in Belgium and Holland. Everything we’ve ever learned about this woman says ‘character,’ which makes our star-worship even easier.

I was impressed to learn that Hepburn’s War and Peace, despite not having the best reputation, was extremely popular in the Soviet Union. Russians thought Audrey Hepburn so epitomized the Natasha character, that when it came time to cast the Bondarchuk super-epic Hepburn’s image became the model, the benchmark.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday July 20, 2021

Is Mr. Guitar getting set for a paddling?  We know he’s a stranger there himself.

La piscine 07/20/21

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

It’s French!  It’s hot!  Jacques Deray’s most unusual film is an intimate, minimalist murder story that digs deep into the affairs of four very superficial people. Among the wealthy set are four pleasure seekers with a laissez faire take on relationships, that think they’re above basic drives — jealousy, possessiveness, resentment. The movie also makes book on the fame & notoriety of the off-on show biz couple Romy Schneider and Alain Delon — the film’s opening seems to celebrate their bigger-than-life glamour and beauty. A notable extra is a 2019 documentary with Delon and his co-star Jane Birkin, plus the film’s famous writers. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
07/20/21

Ziegfeld Follies 07/20/21

The Warner Archive Collection
Blu-ray

Years in the making!  The glory of MGM on parade!  Enough studio resources to film twenty pictures were expended on this paean to showman Florenz Ziegfeld. It’s really Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s Technicolor valentine to itself, showing off the studio’s enormous stable of musical talent, along with various of its comic performers. Arthur Freed and Louis B. Mayer’s notion of ‘something for everyone’ results in weird stack of grandiose musical numbers and mostly weak comedy. The biggest draw is the incredible color cinematography that peeks through in three or four jaw-droppingly elaborate musical spectacles. The picture is a workout to find the artistic limits of the Technicolor system. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.
07/20/21

CineSavant Column

Tuesday July 20, 2021

 

Hello!

Hide your significant other’s credit cards ! — For the Ray Harryhausen fan who has everything, a company called Star Ace is offering for sale detailed soft rubber Gwangi replicas — you remember, the snarly, chompy Mexican Allosaurus from a certain 1969 Charles H. Schneer movie. Tipster Gary Teetzel has given the online sales presentation for the Valley of Gwangi (Deluxe Version) doll some careful thought:

Mighty nice… but for $275 Gwangi should come with a minimum of extras: multiple cowboys on horseback with lariats; an evil dwarf figure that fits in his mouth; an elephant for Gwangi to fight; and a cathedral play set that comes pre-soaked in kerosene for easy burning. That non- flame-resistant cathedral feature is a one-time play opportunity.

 


 

Next, thanks to a tip from David J. Schow we have Jenny List’s Hackaday article End of an Era: NTSC finally goes dark in America. Already obsolete when finally adopted in 1954, The National Television System Committee’s analog color system is officially dead now, at least in the U.S.. I worked with it roughly for twenty years, and heard nothing but abuse from video engineers. It was of course mocked with the acronym Never Twice the Same Color.

My video scientist friend long ago convinced me that the system adopted was chosen because it fit the proprietary needs of large corporations — something that’s happened every step of the way when universally-applicable systems were introduced. One of the latest and most ignominious examples is HD TV … the system adopted wasn’t the best but was sponsored by a corporate giant. (Just the same, it looks pretty good to me.) Wikipedia’s article about NTSC and the conversion to digital formats is here.

 


 

Sorry, it’s not the photo above that’s fuzzy, CineSavant has made YOUR EYES go bad!  Tom Weaver noted this long-lost Kinescope of an interstitial horror-host segment from Shreveport, Lousiana late-nite movie show called  Terror!   Is it an incredible, fantastic keepsake from the old (NTSC) years of TV broadcasting?  (I ask because Tom was none too impressed.)

The host segment appears meant to fit between screenings of Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and The Mummy’s Tomb.  Lon apparently reads his tirade from a teleprompter, and finishes with a ‘Mummy Walk’ into the lens. When he rhapsodizes incoherently about ‘gators ‘n’ crocks,’ we wonder if whoever wrote Lon’s copy had in mind his character in the 1959 The Alligator People. That movie does take place in Louisiana, after all.

Maybe it’s just plain awful, but hey, it’s Lon, perhaps earning some money on a public appearance tour, for what we can’t say. The excerpt isn’t dated but the IMDB says that KSLA Channel 12 Shreveport ran the Terror! show between 1963 and 1965. Ruth Sprayberry was “Evilun;” her sidekick witch Malicea was played by Billie Jardine. The Youtube entry is called Evilun Hosts KSLA’s Terror! with Lon Chaney Jr..

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday July 17, 2021

Crash and burn? Or is there something of value here?

Flight to Mars 07/17/21

The Film Detective
Blu-ray

The Wade Williams Collection yields another ’50s sci-fi notable, Monogram Pictures’ ambitious space travel movie filmed in glorious green-challenged Cinecolor. Cameron Mitchell and Arthur Franz sign up for a semi-suicidal space expedition, but instead of murderous Bat-Rat-Spider-Crabs, waiting for them on Mars is the glamorous, mini-skirted Marguerite Chapman. It’s core sci-fi fun from early in the Golden Era. The Film Detective adds a commentary, two new featurettes and an insert booklet; the film itself is lovingly restored to its original Cinecolor brilliance. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
07/17/21

What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? 07/17/21

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

George Seaton’s literal feel-good comedy is the flipside of pandemic films like Contagion: a powerful virus ‘cures’ grumpiness and bad vibes, encouraging a kind of Urban Utopia. The picture has nothing more to say than ‘have a nice day,’ yet it’s difficult to argue with any positive sentiment. George Peppard and Mary Tyler Moore battle nobly with the material, which varies from good parody (Dom DeLuise) to awful vaudeville schtick to wafer-thin satire to terrible musical interludes. A Toucan bird from South America steals the show — his trainer Ray Berwick should have won an Oscar. Featuring Susan Saint James, Don Stroud, Dom DeLuise, John McMartin, Charles Lane, Nathaniel Frey, George Furth and AMIGO the TOUCAN. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
07/17/21