Highway Dragnet 03/03/18
Here’s something odd: the formative feature in Roger Corman’s proto- career. Roger gets credits for Story and Associate Producer, and learned what he needed to learn to produce two movies of his own in the same year. The modest crime thriller sees Richard Conte involved with three women during a chase on dusty desert roads: noir star Joan Bennett and young Wanda Hendrix are a suspicious pair, but special guest Hot Number Mary Beth Hughes all but steals the show. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
Colossus: The Forbin Project 03/03/18
This nearly forgotten Sci-fi masterpiece should have been a monster hit. For some reason Universal didn’t think that a computer menace was commercial — the year after 2001. The superior drama sells a tough concept: the government activates a defense computer programmed to keep the peace. It does exactly that, but by holding the world hostage while it makes itself a God above mankind. Starring Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent, William Schallert and Georg Stanford Brown. On Blu-ray from Medium Rare.
Elevator to the Gallows 03/03/18
Louis Malle’s French thriller is cooler than cool — his first dramatic film is a slick suspense item with wicked twists of fate and images to die for: 1) Jeanne Moreau at the height of her beauty 2) walking through beautifully lit Parisian back streets 3) accompanied by a fantastic Miles Davis soundtrack. Murder in Paris doesn’t get any better. Photographed by Henri Decaë; with Maurice Ronet, Lino Ventura and Charles Denner. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
The Hallelulah Trail 03/03/18
Blown up to Road Show spectacular dimensions, a fairly modest idea for a comedy western became something of a career Waterloo for director John Sturges. But it’s still a favorite of fans thrilled by fancy 70mm-style presentations. A huge cast led by Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick, Jim Hutton and Pamela Tiffin leads the charge on a whisky-soaked madcap chase. It’s all in a fine spirit of fun. . . so where are the big laughs? With Donald Pleasence, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, John Anderson and Robert J. Wilke; on Blu-ray from Olive Films.
Four reviews up today, including a Region B item I didn’t want to get away from me. I’m happy to report that the Blu-ray companies show no sign of slowing down the flow of desirable titles. The busy review schedule this week, plus my main web-scouring correspondent being out of the state, has left me with little news this Saturday except the rain outside.
Powerhouse Indicator did contact me about some interesting upcoming UK releases: Dick Clement’s Otley with Tom Courtenay and (swoon) Romy Schneider, John Guillermin’s Town on Trial with John Mills, and Stephen Frears’ Gumshoe with Albert Finney, Billie Whitelaw and Janice Rule. I haven’t seen more than a few minutes of any of them; they should be interesting.
Good news on KL Studio Classics’ Duck You Sucker, which I’ll be happily re-reviewing presently. Kino has properly encoded my old NTSC featurettes for this release, so they’re actually watchable — Sir Christopher Frayling’s historical analysis of the picture is quite good. I’ll try to roll out a new idea or two about Sergio Leone’s controversial picture, and recount my personal subterfuge getting MGM to revert to its original title in their books.
I’m not much of an Oscars person — I avoid articles about the ‘hot’ movies to avoid spoilers. On Oscar night I generally listen to the broadcast from above, bopping down every once in a while to back up and see something I want to see, like the always-good-for-a-gripe Obituary montage. The awards are this weekend, and I’m not fully aware of what is nominated and what isn’t. I was knocked out by one thing — is it true that The Shape of Water’s special makeup wasn’t even nominated? Does that make sense, or was the film’s ‘special asset’ creature completely accomplished through digital means? I’ve not read up on the film’s production, even though it’s my favorite picture of the year. When I really like a movie’s effects, it takes a long time for me to even want to find out how they were made. The magic lasts longer that way; the real fun in movies is when one can be an ordinary fan again.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice 02/27/18
What’s it all about, Ma-zur-sky? Is this an honest look at the free love movement of the late sixties, or a shallow investigation of affluent, bored pre-Yuppies infatuated by the new permissiveness regarding sex? It generated a new buzz about a micro-trend that re-branded what was once called wife-swapping. Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon are hip & happening, after being inspired to welcome ‘full honesty and emotional openness into their lives.’ It certainly sold tickets. By Charlie Largent. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
The Outlaw 02/27/18
Louise Brooks once said that the movies were invented to give rich men access to desirable women. The Outlaw is the stuff of legend less for itself than for Howard Hughes’ creation of the sex star Jane Russell, and his battle with the censors and Hollywood itself. We’ve always gotten the impression that nobody has told the full story behind Hughes, Russell and this ultra-hyped notorious western. Starring Walter Huston, Thomas Mitchell, Jack Buetel and various and sundry anatomical attractions. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Incident 02/27/18
New Yorkers of two centuries ago surely complained loudly about rampant street crime, but in the 1960s the media really ramped up the reportage paranoia. Had a new age of senseless violence begun? A New York play about terror on the subway is the source for this nail-biter with a powerful cast, featuring an ensemble of sharp new faces and undervalued veterans: Tony Musante, Martin Sheen, Beau Bridges, Jack Gilford, Thelma Ritter, Brock Peters, Ruby Dee, Ed McMahon, Diana Van der Vlis, Mike Kellin, Jan Sterling, Gary Merrill, Robert Fields, Donna Mills. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Gee, is it time to cash in one’s chips, drink the Kool-Aid, and join the cat in the bag in the river?
We all know that ageism doesn’t exist here in America, right? A friend just had this interaction with Warner Home Video’s marketing department, which does some pretty strange things now and then. They sent him a (random?) invitation to take a survey. Writes my friend: “I thought, hey, great; a chance to support some of WB’s better efforts.” I clicked on it. The first question was gender. The next was, they wanted to know my age. I typed in 65. The next thing that came up was a short paragraph saying, Thanks for your contribution. Unfortunately you do not qualify for this survey.”
I guess it’s to be expected, but this seems a particularly harsh way to tell interested customers to go jump in a lake, and to take one’s geezer friends with one. The actual WB Home Video people are very receptive to customers, of all ages. At least in terms of the studio’s historical library, who the *&$#& do these survey people think are the fans of those pictures?
That’s it for my rant; I need to go oil my walker.
Twilight Time announced their May Blu-ray titles last Saturday: Walter Hill and John Milius’s Geronimo: An American Legend with Jason Patric; Paul Mazursky’s Next Stop, Greenwich Village, Jean Simmons in Philip Dunne’s Hilda Crane, and very interestingly, Kevin Brownlow’s recent Photoplay restoration of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation.
Kino Lorber issued a long memo with a schedule of their releases through June. Just a few of the notable titles that grabbed me are, March 6 A Fistful of Dynamite, March 13 A Lion in Winter, March 20 Highway Dragnet, March 27 The Outer Limits season 1, April 24 The Maze in 3-D, and Trapeze, May 15 The Sacrifice and May 22 A Fistful of Dollars, hopefully the new restoration.
And I’m happy to see that Trailers From Hell are promoting CineSavant even more strongly on social media, especially Twitter. Being hosted was the only solution for me, as after twenty years I still know very little about website management. The pub specialist is even finding better images than the ones I come up with, too:
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
Of all the ‘depressed relationship’ dramas of the early ’70s, this may be the most rewarding. It also sports one of the longest titles on record. Paul Zindel’s award-winning play gets a marvelous adaptation for the screen, thanks to Alvin Sargent, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. There’s also the stealth input of the star couple’s daughter Nell Potts, whose restrained performance is the happy opposite of mawkish and maudlin. With Roberta Wallach, Judith Lowry and David Spielberg. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
Some movies attempted to change social attitudes from the very beginning, and director Lois Weber made that goal her specialty, with a great many enormously popular films of the ‘teens and ‘twenties. Milestone’s disc of a Dutch restoration of this 1916 gem is a major find in terms of film culture: it helps write women filmmakers back into the historical record. With silent star Mary MacLaren and appointed with numerous extras. On Blu-ray from The Milestone Cinematheque.
No Orchids for Miss Blandish 02/24/18
Devotees of crime and film noir will get a kick out of this Brit attempt to capture the American style, that now comes off as screamingly funny. It was both a huge hit and a big scandal in London, 1948, where the censors came down hard on the film’s flagrant immorality and over-the-top violence. Former pre-Code second-banana thug Jack La Rue tries hard to be Humphrey Bogart. Leading lady Linden Travers’ role is as non-PC now as it was then: an heiress falls in love with the gangster, who has raped her, because she likes it. But the film’s maladroit hardboiled dialogue is hilarious fun. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
The Warner Archives Collection has been announcing new HD remasters of popular titles: Fritz Lang’s final American pictures Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and While the City Sleeps, both in theatrical SuperScope proportions. Bob Furmanek followed up the announcement with the news that the aspect ratios may be slightly off — Sleeps was adapted for Superscope only for foreign use. Misinformation has been around since the laserdisc days, and I remember preferring Superscope only because I hated these pictures in flat full-frame, with what seemed like acres of empty composition above and below the relevant action.
The WAC news also includes a new widescreen scan of Warners’ 1957 The Black Scorpion, with the same extras as earlier editions. I think that will leave 1959’s The Giant Behemoth as the only Willis O’Brien feature monster movie not on Blu-ray.
We’re also reminded that a new Blu of Nathan Juran’s Jack the Giant Killer is on the way from Kino. There’s no date yet but Tim Lucas has tipped us to the fact that he’ll be providing a commentary. I’ve kept mum for years on inside information that MGM has had the elements for both the standard and ‘musical’ versions safely vaulted away. Now we’re going to get a good comparison of the two. Stephen Sondheim may have to take a back seat to ‘musical’ Jack’s superior lyrics: “Jack! Jack! Climb up the monster’s back!”
I hope that Kino does something to improve the presentation over the old DVD. Effects wiz Jim Danforth has explained the problem several times over the years. The negative for Jack was left in a non-standard condition after initial release. It was assembled for Technicolor printing, and inter-cut footage in two completely different formats. To get maximum negative area for Project Unlimited’s visuals, the effects shots were all done with a ‘silent ap’ camera setup, using the full 35mmm frame area. When making their separation matrices, the Technicolor people adjusted their equipment to shift between the two differently-sized images, the standard photography and the animation work.
Unfortunately, TV prints and the previous MGM DVD just printed the negative straight without adjustment for the non-standard effects shots. That’s why the effects have looked cramped and cropped. As much of the ‘extra’ image gained was the soundtrack, the left side of the frame was hacked off — just like a silent movie that’s been reprinted for sound, severely cropping the image all around.
It’s difficult enough just to explain the problem. A fix on video is not likely to be cheap, so I don’t know how reasonable it is to make a fuss about this. I’m just hoping that somebody on working the video prep will go to the trouble of straightening it all out.
Yes, we saw Severin’s two-disc Jack the Ripper disc last Tuesday, the instantly-OOP limited edition with English, American and uncensored French versions. I think I’ll wait to review it until it’s reissued (I think that may be happening eventually). The Baker/Berman Ripper has been a wanna-see title for most of my life, so it shapes up as a major cross-it-off-our-list picture. Our reaction was mixed — for a semi-authentic Ripper romp, the Michael Caine TV Movie Version is still my favorite.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson
A cinematic puzzle and a filmic detective piece, Serge Bromberg’s examination of a world-class filmmaker’s catastrophic, never-finished production fascinates and dazzles. If the particulars of H.G. Clouzot’s experimental epic of internal torment remain clouded, the astonishing visuals he created are a total knockout. Working with hours of uncut dailies and precise collaborator memories, Bromberg gives us the most interesting filmic autopsy on record. Incredible stuff! Starring Romy Schneider, Serge Reggiani, and Dany Carrel. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy.
Tom Jones 02/20/18
Tony Richardson’s New Wave-inspired romp features Albert Finney in an 18th century pastoral with the lovely Susannah York as the apple of his eye and David Warner as the worm in that apple. With a brilliantly animated cast including Hugh Griffith, Joan Greenwood and Dame Edith Evans, the movie comes to us in a splendid edition sporting a gorgeous transfer. With Joyce Redman, Jack MacGowran, Diane Cilento, Peter Bull, Freda Jackson, Lynn Redgrave, & David Tomlinson. Trailers from Hell’s Charlie Largent is the reviewer. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
Night of the Living Dead 02/20/18
Talk about Zombies We’ve Known and Loved — this famed shocker is now worshipped as the father of the modern horror film. It’s no museum piece but a taut thriller that hasn’t diminished one wit — it still pays off in real chills. George Romero was a genuine original when it came to inspired independent filmmaking: if you haven’t seen this in a while, you’ll be impressed with the quality of his direction. With Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, this the best movie ever to come out of Pittsburgh P.A. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.