Universal Noir #1 Collection 11/05/22

Powerhouse Indicator
Blu-ray

Powerhouse Indicator’s first foray into the Universal library yields six noir thrillers, all crime-related and all different: the list introduces us to scheming businessmen, venal confidence crooks, black-market racketeers, a femme fatale, a gangster deportee and baby stealers. The B&W features are enriched with some of the best actors of the postwar years, and the titles themselves are a litany of vice and sin: The Web, Larceny, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, Abandoned, Deported and Naked Alibi. On Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator.
11/05/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday November 5, 2022

 

Hello!

The irreplaceable David J. Schow does it again. What a great link — so much of this entertaining YouTube item was news:

Height Comparison | Classic Hollywood Actresses. The presentation — putting our fave actresses in an unending suspect lineup — is brilliant.

The shocks are all at the extremes … cameras make some absolutely TINY women look like Amazons on the screen. Gloria Swanson and Veronica Lake under 5 feet tall?  Debra Paget under 5’3″?  Say it ain’t so.

The selection is almost exclusively classic-era actresses … does the average height run much taller today?  It isn’t difficult to guess who will be tallest — and she’s only 5’11.”

 


 

Advisor and collaborator “B” keeps coming up with interesting collectors’ items with special relevance. The theme for the last week or so has been movie tie-in comics, as seen in last Tuesday’s tease of an old comic for The Man for Planet X.

This week ‘Bee’ showed me how a comic book adaptation for the 1952 MGM film Ivanhoe points up the ruinous effect of the postwar blacklist, that did terrible damage to careers across the country, not just in Hollywood. Screenwriter Marguerite Roberts was on a roll writing scripts when the informer Martin Berkeley included her on a long list of names he identified as communists. Ms. Roberts refused to cooperate with HUAC. Her MGM contract was settled and her credit were stripped from her last three films.

Apparently Ivanhoe did bear Marguerite Roberts’ screenplay credit in the U.K., but in the U.S. only writer Noel Langley’s name appears. She said that being ousted from MGM ‘was like having your father throw you out onto the street.’ When Roberts’ career eventually got back into gear she again became an in-demand talent, writing or contributing to Diamond Head, Love Has Many Faces, 5 Card Stud and the John Wayne classic True Grit. But it left a ten-year gap in her work.

What do comic books have to do with this?   When the Hollywood thought police scrubbed Marguerite Roberts’ name from the film history books, the Fawcett Comic tie-in for Ivanhoe was apparently overlooked. Most of us never knew who the true authors were for some prominent Hollywood features. “B” learned about Roberts’ involvement in Ivanhoe long before the WGA amended official credits in the 1990s. To prove it he sent along three scans — the cover of the Fawcett comic book, the title page, and an MGM lobby card with the ‘revised’ screenplay credit. The scans are much larger when zoomed, for reading.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday November 1, 2022

Still a musical that MOVES.

Arsenic and Old Lace 11/01/22

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

Charlie Largent wades into Frank Capra’s atypical comedy farce about the mass murder spree perpetrated by Cary Grant’s cute little old aunts, with Peter Lorre and Raymond Massey along as baleful creeps worthy of a Halloween show. It’s packed with the director’s favorite character actors, led by cute poisoners Josephine Hull and Jean Adair. And don’t forget Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill. We’re told that Capra filmed it at Warners in the Fall of 1941, but it sat for three years due to a contractual hold — the play continued to run on Broadway. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
11/01/22

The Diamond Wizard 3-D 11/01/22

KL Studio Classics
3-D Blu-ray + 2-D Blu-ray + anaglyphic 3-D Blu-ray

Yet another 3-D Blu-ray treat — the 3-D Film Archive restores a rare English production, an international crime tale in 3-D. Dennis O’Keefe’s T-Man helps Scotland Yard track down a gang of smugglers that kidnaps and murders to force an Atom scientist to perfect his manufacturing formula for synthetic diamonds. You know, just like the silicon chip business. The widescreen 3-D is excellent, especially in two action set pieces. Margaret Sheridan co-stars. It’s almost a premiere, as the movie was never publicly exhibited in 3-D. Kino also provides an anaglyphic encoding with a pair of red-cyan glasses as an alternate 3-D option. Plus good extras about the 3-D process. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
11/01/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday November 1, 2022

 

Hello!

Last weekend correspondent and advisor Gary Teetzel attended an event opening the Jack Kevan Collection at the Valley Relics Museum here in the L.A. area. Kevan is the celebrated monster-maker & special makeup expert most famously known for fabricating and part-designing Universal’s superb Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Speeches and presentations were offered by C. Courtney Joyner, Jack Kevan’s daughter Pamela and others. Gary sent along photos of the exhibits. Displays of items from Kevan’s family were supplemented with exhibits of monster memorabilia, showing the impact that Universal’s creations had on popular culture.

The selection of genuine Kevan items saved by Pamela Kevan included several pieces of The Monster of Piedras Blancas, Kevan’s own post-Universal creation — the infamous severed head, and the monster’s hands and feet. There were also a pair of surviving Mole People hands.

 Gary saw a shelf with a couple of unidentified items, including the monster head pictured above — is it actually a mask?  At first I thought it was the Piedras Blancas beastie or something from Star Trek . . . who knows?  Its identity eludes me, but maybe a correspondent can nail it down for us . . .

 


 

Italo film expert and frequent disc commentator Troy Howarth has been touting an upcoming U.K. Blu-ray from the disc company 88 Films, of Mario Bava’s Gothic horror classic The Whip and the Body, or in its original Italian, La frustra e il corpo. The street date at Amazon UK is listed as March 27, 2023.

This is of course the sado-masochistic mini-masterpiece in which Daliah Lavi takes the ‘traditional’ Barbara Steele role, excelling as a woman haunted by the ghost of an abusive lover . . . Christopher Lee, naturally. It’s as close as Lee ever came to playing a dark romantic ‘Heathcliff’- type leading man. Except that this character is a complete rat, a sadist through and through.

The upcoming disc is hopeful news to Mario Bava fans because almost all previous videos of Whip have been of disappointing quality, far too dark and with Bava’s hallucinatory colors dimmed. The last time we saw it looking good was at a 1993 American Cinematheque screening — I think. The memory for that screening dims, for some reason. It was the night that Joe Dante introduced us to two guests: the ‘new’ horror authority Tim Lucas, and to the adventurous actress Harriet White Medin, of numerous quality Eurohorrors plus Rossellini’s classic Paisan.

We hope Troy’s praise for the image quality turns out to be accurate, as Whip is a nearly perfect corridor-wandering, flowing-nightgown haunted castle epic. A potential downside for some collectors?  88 Films’ disc will most likely be Region B.

 


 

And as a final post- Halloween treat, secret CineSavant agent ‘B’ circulated some pages from the original Fawcett comic book adaptation of Edgar G. Ulmer’s mini- sci-fi classic The Man From Planet X. He determined that the comic book hit newsstands in December of 1951. Wait a minute — I was born in February of ’52, and my parents didn’t buy me a copy. They could have read me to sleep with it, or something.

Here are a couple of sample panels. It’s a quality comic; Charlie Largent says that it was drawn by his favorite Superman/Lois Lane artist. The film’s dastardly scientific villain Dr. Mears was played by none other than favorite William Schallert, near the very beginning of his film career. I think his likeness in the comic is pretty amazing. We wonder if Schallert was aware of this ‘ancillary’ comic book stardom. Or with his busy day-player acting schedule, did he even have a chance to pass by newsstands?

Happy post-Halloween!

 

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday October 29, 2022

Something in today’s post needs to be Halloween – friendly!

I, the Jury (1953) 4K + 3-D 10/29/22

ClassicFlix
4K Ultra HD + Blu Ray + 3-D

Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer hit the big screen early in the 3-D craze, in a much tamed-down adaptation. The camera legend John Alton handled the lighting and likely called the shots on the camera setups as well. As a detective noir it’s definitely flat-footed, with a bum script, weak direction and a miscast Biff Elliot as the vengeful tough-guy hero. But compensating are the seductive Dran Hamilton, Margaret Sheridan and especially Peggie Castle — the key ‘dame’ in the pulp fiction finale. The United Artists release has been mostly MIA for decades, and this release presents it three ways: flat in both 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray, plus a beautiful restored 3-D Blu-ray encoding. From ClassicFlix.
10/29/22

Lonelyhearts 10/29/22

KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

Dore Schary’s post-MGM personal production is a class act in every respect — Montgomery Clift, Robert Ryan and Myrna Loy are well cast in a story of intimate emotional cruelty. It’s from a play derived from Nathanael West’s soul-crushing novella, and despite the talent involved, it can’t shake the feeling of an overheated TV drama. The acting and characterizations are riveting. Young Dolores Hart is a beacon of light amid the gloom and misery, and in her first movie, Maureen Stapleton’s’ fireball of anxiety and malice all but steals the show. The fine cinematography is again by the great John Alton. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
10/29/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday October 29, 2022

 

Hello! Halloween is upon us with a couple of 3-D attractions for CineSavant fanatics still capable of screening the format — today’s Mickey Spillane adaptation, and perhaps next Tuesday, an English-produced 3-D spy caper. It’s The Diamond Wizard, at this point pretty much an unknown quantity.

 Fans as desperate as I to get our mitts on the new restored Invaders from Mars disc got the word last week that, yes, delivery has been delayed — the late-September launch date now didn’t even make the Halloween cutoff. My take on this is that a new disc label trying to navigate fulfillment in the middle of all these supply-side woes might indeed have these kinds of problems. Speaking for myself, the best thing is for the discs to get here when they get here, without any technical compromises.  We’re hoping that it’s the disc of the year.

 


 

The Column items!   Dick Dinman has uploaded a new DVD Classics Corner on the Air podcast. This time his guest is Paramount’s front person overseeing their archives and special projects, VP Andreas Kalas. The subject is the earlier potential ‘disc of the year,’ the 4K + Blu-ray The War of the Worlds / When Worlds Collide combo that we reviewed back in September.

Dick actually saw The War of the Worlds as a child, in its first NYC engagement at the Mayfair in Times Square. That memory prompts a discussion with Ms. Kalas about the film’s original sort-of Stereophonic soundtrack.

 


 

And Joe Dante has been circulating this link to a film clip that features writer-director Preston Sturges’ only sustained movie scene as an actor, in the Bob Hope-Fernandel feature Paris Holiday.

Sturges’ acting is just fine . . . but if you ask me, his dubbed voice flattens the performance. It is dubbed, is it not?  The clip looks flat, but the original movie was in Technicolor and widescreen Technirama, so imagine big open spaces left and right. The movie itself doesn’t look like a winner. I wonder if it’s worse than Bob Hope’s awful The Iron Petticoat with Katharine Hepburn — a ‘comedy’ that plays like slow torture.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 25, 2022

Yes, it’s true — a 1958 sci-fi opus foretold exactly the state of our world today in 2022. I think Criswell consulted.

Die Nackte und der Satan (The Head) 10/25/22

Anolis Entertainment
Blu-ray

Another classic-era Eurohorror title has surfaced on Blu-ray. This crisp remastering of an elusive mad surgery opus is straight from the exploitation trenches of postwar Germany, and jangles plenty of nerves with its tale of crazy transplants. Partly a girlie show — most every scene involves some form of disrobing — it’s nevertheless an intriguing horror cocktail with top production values. The capable cast is really into the melodramatic shocks — it may not be Georges Franju but it’s several cuts above other ‘severed head’ epics — an insane carnival of flesh confusion that’s technically tame but truly adults-only by 1959 standards. On Blu-ray from Anolis Entertainment.
10/25/22

Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror 10/25/22

Arrow Video
Blu-ray

Arrow’s latest horror collection is a classy foursome of Italo chillers, in a beautifully designed gift box . . . presented with the company’s full line of extras and commentaries, we get new remasters of Lady Morgan’s Vengeance, The Blancheville Monster, The Third Eye, and The Witch, six hours of supernatural thrillers with an adult viewpoint. The stars include Gordon Mitchell, Erika Blanc, Gélrard Tichy, Franco Nero, Richard Johnson and Rosanna Schiaffino; one of the films is an adaptation of a story by Carlos Fuentes. Charlie Largent reviews; Arrow’s copy describes the films as containing madness, obsession and messed-up families! On Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
10/25/22

CineSavant Column

Tuesday October 25, 2022

 

Hello!

This first link was circulated by Jeff Joseph of Sabucat fame, the master film collector who co-wrote the book A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies. It’s a short film from 1935 . . . I think someone will have to explain it to me.

The 2.5 minute short subject appears to be a teaser-trailer for — I’m not sure what it’s for — starring Buster Crabbe and the Walter Lantz cartoonists identified as ‘Ben and Jerry.’ The official title as given is Oswald Rabbit Meets Flash Gordon.

Is it a stab at a promo for the Flash Gordon serial, or some kid of tie-in for Walter Lantz’s animation department?  Forgive me if the answer is self-evident and I missed it.

 


 

We received a lot of positive feedback in answer to an item in the last CineSavant Column, about Lon Chaney’s silent classic The Unknown being re-premiered in Italy at a longer, reportedly uncut duration.

We have some follow-up information thanks to the kindness of correspondent Lee Tsiantis, who wrote:

Hi Glenn —
I attended the Pordenone Silent Film Festival that ended on October 8. On the festival’s opening night I saw the longer print of The Unknown. This program note, by Peter Bagrov & Anthony L’Abbate of the George Eastman Museum, sheds some light on the additional material in the film:

THE UNKNOWN (Lo sconosciuto)

The missing material is apparently not entire sequences, but a myriad of shots deemed ‘redundant’: “… all the recurrent close-ups, all the little gestures of no particular expedience, all the reaction shots that seemingly distract from the main storyline…” Bagrov and L’Abbate describe the new cut as a psychological study in the guise of a horror film.

Also, at the latest Nitrateville podcast moderated by Michael Gebert, the Museum staffers discuss the interesting provenance of the longer print — as well as what’s different about it:

Ep. 91: Pordenone 2022 Festival Report – Restoring the Unknown

Our thanks to Lee . . . again, the chance of this restored The Unknown becoming a future disc release is at the moment only theoretical.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Saturday October 22, 2022

Let’s see, should I apply for Social Security early, or wait and let the monthly payout be a bit higher . . . ?

La Llorona (2019) 10/22/22

the Criterion Collection
Blu-ray

With human justice absent in the awful political bloodshed in Central America, Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamente finds payback in cinematic fantasy. A crooked government exonerates a genocidal general, but his estate is besieged around the clock by Mayan-Ixil Indio protesters. Into the house comes a new maid — a tiny young woman who may nevertheless wield supernatural powers. The moody art-horror show is as delicate as The Innocents or a Val Lewton chiller — horror once again becomes an excellent means to address political evil. Slow and deliberate, it reverberates with horror history without copying the classics. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
10/22/22

The Bat (1959) 10/22/22

The Film Detective
Blu-ray

This old-fashioned haunted house thriller was a moderate 1959 hit in writer-director Crane Wilbur’s creepy re-imagining. Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead headline a time-honored tale of buried treasure and the bloodthirsty fiend who’ll stop at nothing to get his claws on it. “Predictable but light-hearted entertainment that remains ghoulish fun for the whole family.” And who can go wrong with Vinnie?  His doctor has a delicious scene with a shotgun. Charlie Largent’s review is of a new release, with new extras. On Blu-ray from The Film Detective.
10/22/22

CineSavant Column

Saturday October 22, 2022

 

Hello!

Back in last Tuesday’s review for Deaf Crocodile’s Zerograd  I tried to explain the film’s exaggerated way of satirizing the paranoia of Soviet citizens under tyrants like Stalin, where terrible penalties could come from making a small error, being perceived as not doing one’s job well, or simply being denounced with no way of defending one’s self.

I tried to illustrate the idea with a memory of a comedy piece in the old National Lampoon magazine. Correspondent and advisor “B” surprised me by finding the exact magazine entry. Its text is merciless — 2.5 nasty jokes in each sentence.

Wow, this item is nearly 50 years old now. It explains itself . . . to read it, zoom the graphic or open it larger in a new window.

 


 

From Gary Teetzel, this is a silent movie rarity I’ve known of only in random stills — a 13-second clip from the ‘lost’ silent picture Go and Get It, featuring professional wrestler Bull Montana as a murderous ape-man.

Go and Get It was once thought lost, but news from Europe is that the Cineteca Nazionale Italiana now has a complete copy of the 1920 movie. The restoration was by Cineteca Milano. Directed by Marshall Neilan & Henry Roberts Symonds and co-written by Frances Marion, the wild tale reportedly includes a lot of serial action thrills. A newspaper reporter tracks down a killer ape, into whose skull a human criminal’s brain has been transplanted. Mad scientists suffer a public relations fiasco.

This bulletin board thread at Nitrateville confirms that the Italian print of Go and Get It was shown at the Festival Lumiere a very short time ago, and in Italy last year. I have to say, in 1920 that image of a snarling Bull Montana would have been sure-fire nightmare material.

 


 

Wow, Go and Get It is a big deal, but I’ve also just been reminded by Gary Teetzel that an Italian festival also recently screened a restored print of the Lon Chaney – Tod Browning silent masterpiece The Unknown. The source of the restoration is a print found in Czechoslovakia. Perhaps the most openly perverse of the Chaney horrors, The Unknown stars Chaney as a circus performer, ‘Alonzo, the Armless Wonder.’ A young Joan Crawford is the object of his romantic obsessions. If it were to be adapted as a musical, the title could be ‘Mutilation!’

The exciting news is that the restoration is said to be 10 minutes longer in duration. That’s a whole reel longer, long enough for an elaborate subplot, a major flashback — almost anything. Could it just be a selection of scattered little scenes?  Hopefully the new material won’t be unrelated circus performances. The Unknown will now be at its original 1927 length — and since it stars both Chaney and Crawford, maybe it will eventually become an candidate for disc release.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson

Tuesday October 18, 2022

Well, at least the poster is Astounding . . !

Zerograd 10/18/22

Deaf Crocodile Films / Vinegar Syndrome
Blu-ray

A truly fascinating rarity from the U.S.S.R., Karen Shahknazarov’s wickedly droll satire proves that the country Reagan called an ‘Evil Empire’ was radically changing in the late 1980s. Half Kafka paranoia and partly a Valentine to American freedoms, it takes the psychological temperature of a society that just plain no longer functions. Leonid Filatov’s unflappable engineer arrives in a rural Russian town and might as well be a Soviet Alice dropped down a rabbit hole — things get crazier and crazier, and nobody wants to let him in on the cosmic joke. The weird tale’s strength is its impressive visual creativity, but it also generates an unexpected affection for its characters, nice people caught in a frustrating system. On Blu-ray from Deaf Crocodile.
10/18/22