CineSavant Column

Tuesday December 19, 2023

 

Hello, and happy approaching holidays.

I believe we linked to this same item a number of years ago, but I just watched the whole thing all over again. Michael McQuarrie sent in a similar piece showing the Sunset Strip but we like this one better.

It’s called California 1952, Hollywood to Sunset Strip . . . an 11-minute car drive from roughly Cahuenga or Wilcox, all the way into the beginning of the Sunset Strip.

Was the original shot intended for rear-projection use in a driving scene?  Even with the imposed colorization it qualifies as a filmic Time Machine — the cars knock our eyes out, and so do the random pedestrians — a lady doing her shopping is unknowing commemorated for all time. It’s near noon, by the looks of the shadows, and there’s either a little haze or some authentic Los Angeles smog in the air. Raymond Chandler described awful smog conditions in his stories around this time.

This stretch of Sunset is well known to locals; it’s about half a mile from CineSavant Central. The entire route is now expensive commercial property, with high rises at each end. A few taller buildings are present in ’52 but a big part of the route is still single-family dwellings. Most of the traffic signals are from the 1930s. The City of the Angels’ beautiful old-style street light standards are still maintained today in many places.

I marked down some places I recognized, with timings, all on the Left:
• at 0 minutes 48 seconds we pass The Hollywood Athletic Club. Without the awning, it features in a key scene in Kiss Me Deadly .
• at 2 minutes 1 second is the front of Cross Roads of the World. I’m not sure it has the final style makeover seen in L.A. Confidential.
• at 3 minutes 6 seconds is Hollywood High, with its row of giant palms. The motel on the very next block is where our Hollywood In-IN-Out Burger is now.
• at 5 minutes 45 seconds we pass the marquee of the Oriental Theater, a nabe house playing a sub-run of Singin’ in the Rain. The Oriental is featured in a 1958 film (a good one) called Unwed Mother — a young Robert Vaughn robs the box office.
• at the very end at 10 minutes 51 seconds is a glimpse of Ciro’s, the famed nightclub eatery. In 1972, it became The Comedy Store.

When the quality is good, these ‘follow cam’ visual records can be fun to peruse on a big TV. Other similar ‘locked off’ street prowls are viewable on the web. In some we think we see ‘chase cars’ following the camera car, to keep a distance space open so the rear-projection composite doesn’t show cars becoming too big. In one of them, two chase cars straddle lanes, effectively blocking traffic. If sound were being recorded maybe we would hear a lot of horn honking.

 


 

A couple of Blu-ray announcements courtesy of Gary Teetzel:

Not everybody knows it, but MGM Home Video is again running a quiet Blu-ray operation under its own label, shipping out a trickle of titles untapped by outside licenses, like Bikini Beach and Pajama Party. They generally have no extras. The surprise is that on January 16 they’ll be releasing a Blu-ray of the crazy Sci-fi movie Red Planet Mars, the one laden with the pro-Christian, anti-Communist message that God Is Alive and Well on the Red Planet. Love or hate the movie, everybody agrees that it is off its rocker. We wrote it all up on our Revival Screening Review in 2018. Too bad there are no extras, that might tell us what the original stage play was all about. If a screener materializes, I’ll dust the review off and work on some of the typos.

We also want to put in a deserved plug for The Criterion Collection for February and March. The good news includes John Sayles’ superlative Lone Star in 4K, Robert Altman’s  McCabe & Mrs. Miller in 4K, Michael Roemer’s  Nothing but a Man, Raoul Walsh’s  The Roaring Twenties, and William Dieterle’s  All That Money Can Buy, aka The Devil and Daniel Webster. Every one a winner.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday December 16, 2023

A meek De Niro . . . this one stays warm in the memory too.

The Last Picture Show 4K 12/16/23

The Criterion Collection
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

Peter Bogdanovich’s crowning achievement gets the 4K nod from Criterion, with additional Blu-ray extras plus the entire belated sequel Texasville — in its color theatrical version or a B&W director’s revision. The oil boom has passed, and Anarene, Texas is dying out. Its isolated, bored teenagers are eager to test the rules. Bogdanovich faithfully transfers Larry McMurtry’s small-town drama to the screen with a score of terrific characterizations. Newcomers Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen Burstyn and Randy Quaid shine, while deserving favorites Eileen Brennan, Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson get the best roles of their careers. On 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
12/16/23

The Quatermass Xperiment 12/16/23

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

It’s the one and only original Hammer Sci-fi thriller that changed the genre, inspiring good filmmakers and copycats alike. Val Guest adapts Nigel Kneale’s teleplay with Yankee Brian Donlevy as a belligerent Professor Quatermass, the rocket project director and red-tape bulldozer. The movie is prime sci-fi gold, and genuinely disturbing: Richard Wordsworth is the courageous first man into space who comes back infected by a gruesome, horrifying parasite. Thora Hird writes his epitaph: “Walking? It was kind of … crawling!” The enhanced reissue carries a new commentary. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
12/16/23

CineSavant Column

Saturday December 16, 2023

 

Hello!

Gary Teetel forwarded this announcement of a new restoration by the Library of Congress and the Film Foundation, to be premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on January 24. It’s the original theatrical release version of John Ford’s film of Arrowsmith, with Ronald Colman and Helen Hayes, from the book by Sinclair Lewis.

Arrowsmith is one of many pre-Code movies that were censored for reissue, and the original release version not retained. The most famous is King Kong, but its gruesome ‘extra bits’ were eventually reinstated from surviving foreign prints. Jump-cuts persist in the latest restorations of Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight, where some frisky dialogue was excised … the word virgin was eliminated.

It’s a much-anticipated event, but MoMA’s announcement is confusing. Arrowsmith’s new copy is said to be “restored from a nitrate print owned by the film’s star Ronald Colman, that’s 10 minutes longer than subsequent versions.” That sounds great until we read the new duration, 101 minutes. The existing Warner Archive Collection DVD of Arrowsmith from 2014 is 99 minutes. The DVD looks like one of WB’s worthy reconstruction jobs, incorporating footage here and there from a slightly inferior source. Is Ronald Colman’s copy only a little more complete than what Warners was able to reconstruct for DVD?

The AFI lists the original running time at 108 minutes. The original Variety review does as well. There are plenty of scenes in the film that could have been longer. Did producer Samuel Goldwyn perhaps use the censor cut to trim down rest of the movie?

The most-missed material in Arrowsmith is rumored to involve actress Myrna Loy. While fighting an outbreak of disease in the tropics, Ronald Colman’s doctor Martin Arrowsmith meets Loy’s character Joyce during a test of an anti-disease serum. Joyce is barely in the WAC’s 99-minute version, raising the suspicion that cuts were made to her scenes. The synopsis in the AFI Catalog says that “Joyce and Martin go to bed together,” but the WAC cut only shows him thinking about her from the next room.

We wouldn’t expect Ford to film anything resembling a real bedroom scene, so perhaps the original version simply shows Martin starting to walk in her direction. The ‘morning after’ has them sharing a knowing look. Was there another Martin & Joyce dialogue scene or two?  Perhaps some of the excised content showed them talking about their indiscretion, an equal Code no-no.

We’ll be curious to see these questions straightened out … a better copy of Arrowsmith will be reward enough.

 


 

Sh! Careful who you tell about this!

As forwarded by CineSavant associate “B”, Jean-Luc Godard’s much-admired pop Sci-fi classic Alphaville has just opened at the IFC Center in Manhattan. It’s described as ‘new’ but we’ve no word as to whether it’s been restored or remastered or whatever . . . no details are offered.

This alerts our radar for home video down the line, because the present Blu-ray from 2019 looks a little dull. We’re also not certain if it’s in the most appropriate aspect ratio. I guess we’re after Raoul Coutard’s precise ‘Ilford Film’ look on the 35mm prints we remember from when Alphaville received applause at midnight shows in Westwood.

The New York Times appears to be allowing this direct links to their December 14 article by J. Hoberman, ‘Alphaville’: A Film That Feels Brand-New. As is typical with Mr. Hoberman, he nails the unique appeal of Alphaville in fewer words than one would think possible.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday December 12, 2023

Vinnie invites you to lovely Arkham, where the sun never seems to rise . . .

Our Town (1940) 12/12/23

ClassicFlix
Blu-ray

A new video remaster makes us want to ring bells — ClassicFlix’s improvement over earlier eyesore discs is like night and day. We can finally see the discretion and artistry with which Thornton Wilder’s stage classic was adapted for the screen. Sam Wood elicits a score of great performances, led by the Oscar-nominated Martha Scott. William Cameron Menzies’ visual direction concludes with an unforgettable fantasy sequence set in an afterlife-limbo. With William Holden, Fay Bainter, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell and Guy Kibbee. The disc extras include Ray Faiola’s excellent audio commentary. On Blu-ray from ClassicFlix.
12/12/23

The Conformist 12/12/23

Rarovideo / Kino
Blu-ray

Bernardo Bertolucci re-introduced high style and intense period stylistics to the political thriller, in Alberto Moravia’s autopsy of the perversion that was Italian fascism. Jean-Louis Trintignant is the ambitious lickspittle who seizes the job of assassinating an inconvenient academic — all the while wooing his girlfriend Stefania Sandrelli. More complications come with the target professor’s beautiful young wife, Dominique Sanda. The icy cold masterpiece has one of the better thriller endings ever. Charlie Largent reviews. On Blu-ray from Raro Video / Kino Lorber.
12/12/23

CineSavant Column

Tuesday December 12, 2023

 

Great!

Here I am barely finishing my Our Town review and wondering what I’ll have for the Column, and Dick Dinman sends over a handy link to his new DVD Classics Corner on The Air show on the new Kino disc of The Carpetbaggers.

Joining Dick to dish the dirt over Harold Robbins’ vintage trash-tale of Hollywood — the opposite of The Last Tycoon, reviewed last Saturday, is David Del Valle.

Our own take on The Carpetbaggers was through a foreign release, covered here in 2020. Kino’s new disc has twin commentaries, one by Del Valle and his cohort David DeCoteau, and another by the capable Julie Kirgo.

 


 

We’ve been trying to keep track, in the last few weeks, of desirable Region B discs that only crazy committed disc collectors can play. The dependable Gary Teetzel drops a flag and blows his whistle whenever something interesting is released, and I jump every time …

… the joke being that, if we buy, it soon shows up in Region A in a deluxe, and often cheaper, disc set.

So we wonder about our own sense of dedication when we eye a new Region B offering from UK’s Cult Classics (Studiocanal): the campy Brit Science Fiction thriller/sitcom/turnip Devil Girl from Mars.

We reviewed it ages ago in a cheap Image/Wade Williams disc set, and even though we remember it with smiles, we haven’t been tempted to watch it again.

On the other hand, we go crazy for ALL crackpot Sci-fi pix in beautiful new remasters, which is what this promises to be. Who can resist slinky, imperious Patricia Laffan and her pet refrigerator imposing killer robot, Chani.

Questions remain: will this only play in Region B, or will it be Region-Free?  What will the aspect ratio be?  The word from the experts is that it was originally 1:75 or 1:66, or thereabouts. The image of the back cover online says 1.37 and Region B . . . but I’ll have to see for myself. Reader reports encouraged.

We have to admit that the original cover art is difficult to pass up — the leather-clad Devil Girl Nyah looks like Cruella De Vil from Outer Space.

 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday December 9, 2023

Still an incredibly good picture. Like many, it needs to seen without distractions.

The Exiles 12/09/23

The Milestone Cinematheque
Blu-ray

Take a trip to Los Angeles in the late 1950s . . . but to the low-rent district of Bunker Hill, where a transient Native American population pursues an aimless lifestyle on the nighttime streets. It’s a time machine to Angels Flight, the Grand Central Market and a ‘Bukowski-land’ of skid row bars. USC grad Kent McKenzie’s 35mm independent feature was never picked up for distribution. He died before it was rediscovered, restored and premiered to critical acclaim. The special edition contains more Mackenzie films and docus about Native American heritage. On Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.
12/09/23

The Last Tycoon 12/09/23

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Elia Kazan and Harold Pinter’s classy adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel looks and plays better than ever, with a fine script that refuses to ‘fix’ what Fitzgerald wrote. Robert De Niro’s excellent Monroe Stahr is surrounded by a powerhouse cast: Jack Nicholson, Robert Mitchum, Tony Curtis, Jeanne Moreau, Theresa Russell, Ingrid Boulting, Donald Pleasance, Ray Milland, Dana Andrews, Peter Strauss, John Carradine, Jeff Corey, Seymour Cassel and Anjelica Huston. It’s quality filmmaking, with some original surprises we don’t expect in a ‘Hollywood exposé.’ Kino offers a new commentary by Joseph McBride. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
12/09/23

CineSavant Column

Saturday December 9, 2023

 

Hello!

We’ve got a raft of interesting disc announcements — some are for January, which not long ago was a calm month for new product.

 First up is a pack of winners from KL Studio Classics, a list that begins with several classic noirs: Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow, Alfred Werker’s He Walked by Night and a 4K of Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street. We’ll be looking close to judge improvements on earlier releases, although the announced extras — commentaries with Imogen Sara Smith, David Kalat, Alan K. Rode might be motive enough to jump in. Kino also has a 16th iteration of its ‘Dark Side’ noir series, with The Mystery of Marie Roget, Chicago Deadline and Iron Man.

Kino continues with Douglas Sirk’s Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, Robert Wise’s Run Silent, Run Deep, the ‘Dirty Dozen’ clone The Devil’s Brigade, and Hal Ashby’s Coming Home. The dependably entertaining Michael Schlesinger adds commentaries to reissues of The Road to Hong Kong (with Stan Taffel) and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (with Mark Evanier).    Some of the discs appear to be Kino re-issues, adding commentaries, etc., to titles previously released without extras. Plus slip covers!

Jacques Deray’s unusual neo-noir The Outside Man    arrives in two separate language versions. Joseph Sargent’s The Hell with Heroes (Rod Taylor!) is billed as a new remaster. Ditto for a disc set of TV’s Monk, The Complete Third Season.

And two more Kino 4K releases — the unfamiliar 1981 horror The Boogens, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy Kindergarten Cop.

 


 

Meanwhile, Severin Films continues to release quality remasters of some of the weirdest fantastique of the film sanglant et érotique. We’re about to review their new box of Peter Cushing Curiosities — like, I’ve only seen one of its titles. Severin is also bouncing more releases up to the 4K format. Not a month goes by that something strange isn’t uncovered in a vault — almost always uncut and from original printing elements.

I’m interested in the recent releases of Michele Soavi’s Dellamorte, Dellamore (4K) and Barry Mahon’s The Dead One.  Just out the door are two shockers we didn’t expect to see in the top-end format, Jess Franco’s Count Dracula with Christopher Lee, and the extreme gore entry Zombie Holocaust, aka Dr. Butcher, M.D..    These are high-end releases, loaded with extras — gore fans can chow down.

Much stranger, and showing Severin’s embrace of a different cinematic extreme, is their Blu-ray double bill of avant-garde Pere Portabella features. Cuadecec, vampir (1971) is a strange experimental documentary, which is a way of saying we don’t know what it is. Filmed on the set of Franco’s Count Dracula, it’s a free-form montage printed on hi-con stock that makes everything look like a 4th generation copy of a silent picture. Christopher Lee is present near the end, reading from Bram Stoker. Some of the BTS filming is quite fun, even when filtered through the endistancing images. We enjoy Jonathan Rosenbaum’s critique of Caudecec, but we can’t say we come away understanding more about the picture or its supposed comment on classic screen horror.

On the same disc is Pere Portabella’s Umbracle (1972), an even more absurd avant-garde piece combining a protest against Spanish Fascism with a scattershot treatise on cinema, with episodes as variable as an entire clown act, and Christoper Lee walking through Barcelona.

 


 

And last but not least, tipped off by Gary Teetzel four days ago, Vinegar Syndrome floors us with an announcement of a 4K of Riccardo Freda’s The Horrible Dr. Hichcock. Ever since the early DVD days, we’ve been waiting for decent discs of the show. The nowhere-to-be-found title remained out of reach until just a few weeks ago, when the good people at Radiance came up with a sensational disc — only available in Region B.

Last Tuesday we reported that a Region A disc of The Whip and The Body had just been announced, not long after a Region B release had frustrated U.S. collectors. Just for fun I joked that I wished Hichcock was on the way in Region A. Not two hours later came the Vinegar Syndrome announcement of the 4K.

Gary T. marveled at my seeming ability to make dreams come true with just a frivolous CineSavant announcement. He immediately suggested that I continue with wish-fulfillment jokes — ‘Gee, I sure hope we get a Region A for London After Midnight, the uncut  The Magnificent Ambersons, an uncensored  Blood and Roses,’ etc’

Heck, we’re optimists.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday December 5, 2023

Courtesy of David Strohmaier, it smiles in the Cinematic Miracle of Smilebox™.

Messiah of Evil 12/05/23

Radiance
Blu-ray

How did two hot film students pass the time while waiting to become immortal as the writers of American Graffiti?  Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck wrote, produced and directed this minor horror classic, that along with its zombies and ghouls delivers intelligent art-movie cinematics. Marianna Hill, Royal Dano, Michael Greer, Joy Bang, Anitra Ford and Elisha Cook Jr. bring it all to life — and even its post-production woes couldn’t destroy its uniquely dreamlike charms. Have you ever bled from the eyes?  Been pursued by cannibals in a midnight supermarket?  You’ll be able to relate to the terror of the ill-defined ‘Blood Moon.’ On Blu-ray from Radiance.
12/05/23

Halloween at Aunt Ethel’s 12/05/23

High Fliers Films
DVD

This is the first DVD we’ve reviewed since — I’m not sure.  UK correspondent Lee Broughton returns with coverage of a low budget comedy-horror flick from Florida about a seemingly harmless old lady who displays psychopathic tendencies every Halloween. The humour is crude at times but the show’s knowing horror elements, spirited performances and decent production values result in a curiously engaging little film. Of course, with this cover, someone might confuse it with John Carpenter’s Halloween. On DVD from High Fliers Films.
12/05/23

CineSavant Column

Tuesday December 5, 2023

 

Hello! — Best Picture of the Year?

A major surprise is that the new release Godzilla Minus One is getting rave reviews across the board, attracting nothing but positive notices from audiences and the most demanding of genre critics.

I’m convinced that it has to be something special. CineSavant’s trusted advisor Gary Teetzel says,

“Delivers the most ferocious and aggressive iteration of Godzilla yet, and importantly, an engaging and emotional human story about guilt, loss and persevering”. . . “The devoted veteran fans cheered when the Toho logo appeared, when Godzilla first used his atomic ray, when the familiar Ifukube theme was first heard, etc.” . . . “Definitely make an effort to see it on the biggest, loudest screen you can.”

Trailers From Hell’s Joe Dante was equally impressed:

“Arguably the best Godzilla movie since the 1954 original” . . . “Dramatic, spectacular, with memorably rounded characters and pitched on a more emotional adult level than almost any kaiju movie.” . . . “When the classic Godzilla theme music kicked in during the exciting climax I was nearly moved to tears” . . . “If you’re a Monster Kid you won’t see a more satisfying movie this season.”

 


 

And advisor Gary Teetzel reminds us of two recent announcements from Kino Lorber: in the new year they’ll be releasing two very desirable horror items in Region A. Mario Bava’s Technicolor gothic The Whip and the Body stars Daliah Lavi, Christopher Lee, and Bava’s delirious cinematography. Edgar G. Ulmer’s overachieving B-picture Bluebeard with John Carradine and Jean Parker is a collector’s favorite, even if few of us have ever seen a decent presentation.

Bluebeard is said to be a new restoration, which is excellent news. Kino says the work was done by Paramount, which seems odd, as Bluebeard is from the Poverty Row studio Producer’s Releasing Corporation (PRC), and few of their titles are part of the holdings that include the post-’48 Paramount library. We haven’t yet heard about a street date, for what some say is John Carradine’s classiest horror picture.

The Whip and the Body was reviewed here just last July, in a Region B disc from UK’s 88 films; Kino has said that their release will use the same video master. We’re interested to know if the extras are the same or different. It’s announced for February 27.

All that U.S. collectors need now, is a Region A release of The Horrible Dr. Hichcock.

December 5, just after posting: Wait — Hold the presses . . . Vinegar Syndrome has just announced for January ’24 a 4K disc relese of The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, with their own exclusive restoration, and different extras, including interviews with assistant director Marcello Avallone and star Barbara Steele.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday December 2, 2023

Name these actors!  This one’s a witty delight, yet has seemingly dropped off the radar.

Horrors of the Black Museum 12/02/23

VCI
Blu-ray

Hey Gail!  Let me look through your new binoculars!”  The third entry in the ‘Anglo-Amalgamated’ horror trilogy is a truly sleazy Herman Cohen concoction with Michael Gough’s nastiest performance. A.I.P. imported it, slapped on a ‘Hypno-Vista’ prologue and let it loose to traumatize audiences. They showed it at matinees, Mandrake, children’s matinees! VCI gives us a handsome new Studiocanal remaster — Charlie Largent reports on its quality and completeness — will it be A.I.P.’s cut, the uncut original, or the censored version originally shown in the UK?  On Blu-ray from VCI.
12/02/23

The Terror + The Little Shop of Horrors 12/02/23

Film Masters
Blu-ray

“Feed Me!”  Female ghosts and man-eating plants!  It’s another good disc of Roger Corman favorites, especially for collectors hungry for an improved presentation of Corman’s comedy classic The Little Shop of Horrors, the hilarious off-the-wall original. Also looking good is his semi-pirated ‘add-on’ entry to the Poe cycle THE TERROR, starring Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson and Shirley Knight. As usual, our concentration is on producer-director Corman’s amazing ability to evade the industry’s Guild rules to produce under-the-radar fantasies of remarkable quality. It’s a double-disc presentation, on Blu-ray from Film Masters.
12/02/23