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savant5
Newest Features
Article Index  Review Index
Favorite Discs of 2014

[Savant Links] [Year Five Report]
Write Savant (Glenn Erickson) at
dvdsavant@mindspring.com!
(dvdsavant@mindspring.com)

Saturday January 21, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

No Highway in the Sky
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 James Stewart is a dotty boffin caught up in an ironic dilemma -- he's a passenger on a new turbojet that he believes is about to break up in midair, because of metal fatigue. The expertly crafted suspense tale is packed with surprises, starting with excellent dramatics between co-stars Marlene Dietrich, Glynis Johns, Niall MacGuinnes, Jack Hawkins and young Jeanette Scott. A terrific HD transfer with a new commentary hosted by Jeremy Arnold, with guest Bob Koster, the son of the film's director. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/21/17



Seddok, l'erede di Satana
(Atom Age Vampire)
Terminal Video Italia SRL

Region 2 PAL DVD

  Euro-horror raises its sleazy, disfigured head in this derivative yet appealing potboiler about mad surgery, mutilated women and a monster tastelessly based on the appearance of Hiroshima victims. But don't worry, the pseudo-science in this one is clogged with contradictory nonsense, too. Susanne Loret is the stripper who wants her face back, and Alberto Lupo the crackpot medico that injects himself with a monsterizing formula to commit surgical murders. This six year-old Italian disc is the wrong region, format and language for the U.S. but it's uncut -- devotees of spicy 'continental versions' won't be able to resist. On Region 2 PAL DVD from Terminal Video Italia SRL.
01/21/17



and

Stanley and Iris
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 Martin Ritt's final film is low key, laid back and small-scale, a combo that flatters the good work of actors Jane Fonda and Robert De Niro. A widow in a dead end factory job has plenty of things to be cynical about, yet she takes on the job of teaching an illiterate co-worker to read and write. Some story points are a stretch but the screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. is a charmer, and so is director Ritt's avoidance of 'big effects' and phony dramatic crises. The show's soft colors are as pleasing as its message. With Swoosie Kurtz, Martha Plimpton, and Jamey Sheridan. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/21/17




Hello!

An interesting development this morning as I post this: a relative and her friends on the way to protest at Pershing Square downtown drove all the way to my house (about seven miles from downtown L.A.), to park here and take a Lyft the rest of the way. They did that because the subway was a mess -- too jammed with people on their way to the protest. I'm very proud of my state this year. I've seen people flying California flags outside their houses, in place of the Stars 'n' Stripes.

But back to the old VDG (video disc grind). I scour Amazon for bargains like anybody else. An older Euro-horror title drifted my way, and I took a break from newly promoted material to write it up. It's a fairly loopy commercial concoction that makes us wonder what the market forces were for a mid-level genre movie in Italy in 1960. The bit of nudity could have been cut for local use, as I understand the Italian censors were pretty unforgiving. But there's such an emphasis elsewhere on ogling the leading lady that it's easy to believe that your average Italo movie producer was in the business just to guarantee a supply of girlfriends. I find it fascinating. This Roman monster romp has its sixty seconds of genre greatness, but it can't hold a candle to the Riccardo Freda - Mario Bava Caltiki, promised from Arrow U.S. a little later in this year. It's definitely fun at my age to re-live the matinee excitement I experienced at age nine.

Also, sometime before spring I'll be writing up a modest 20th anniversary mini-article on the restoration of the original conclusion of Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly. Older articles were full of guesses, some rather feeble, on how the mutilation of the final reel was done. I did figure it out soon enough, and will spell out the obvious solution while discussing how perceptions of the film have changed in twenty years. Believe me, once upon a time Kiss Me Deadly was as obscure as an American studio picture could be.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


Tuesday January 17, 2017

Why is this picture here? CLICK on it.

Savant's new reviews today are:

Who?
KL Studio Classics
Blu-ray

 Pity the small scale sci-fi think piece movie in the modern world of action epics. Director Jack Gold successfully interprets Algis Budrys' philosophical musings on cybernetic identity, aided by stars Joe Bova and Elliott Gould. A top scientist returns from East Germany so completely transformed as a robo-man, that the C.I.A. spooks can't decide if he's still himself, or an impostor. The movie has a couple of car chases jammed into its running time but is otherwise a chamber piece about a melancholy metal man unable to claim his own human identity. Also starring Trevor Howard; it's recommended for adventurous Sci-Fi adepts. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/17/17



Two for the Road
Twilight Time
Blu-ray

 Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney define the upscale romantic comedy for the middle '60s, although this story of a marriage in trouble touches on serious issues better than most straight dramas. Audrey and Al meet cute as students on a French vacation, which is intercut with three later French car trips, as their relationship sours. With Eleanor Bron, William Daniels and in a sparkling bit, Jacqueline Bisset. The director is Stanley Donen, he of numerous mod directorial touches that miraculously haven't dated. Music by Henry Mancini. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/17/17



and

Gas-s-s-s
- Or - It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It

Olive Films
Blu-ray

 In the interest of completeness regarding everything Roger Corman, here's a best-attitude take on his final opus for A.I.P., a misbegotten post-apocalyptic hippie satire and road movie. Plenty of up 'n' coming talent on view -- Ben Vereen, Elaine Giftos, Cindy Williams, Bud Cort, Talia Shire and writer George Armitage -- but everything else in this show ran into bad luck or was stifled by a bad concept. A.I.P. did a censor hack job behind Roger's back, which prompted him to pull up stakes and take his circus elsewhere. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.
01/17/17




Hello!

Sidestepping non-Blu-ray-relevant current events today, let me proceed to a quick review for a book on Science Fiction films. We all know what book Savant prefers to recommend on the subject, but a new item just out is Escape Velocity: American Science Fiction Film, 1950 - 1982 by Bradley Schauer, a handsomely published (Wesleyan University Press) item available both hardcover or softbound. By its cover illustration it promises to offer a new take on the history of Sci-fi pictures. What it really is, is a history of the marketing and audience acceptance of Sci-fi, starting with its low-esteem roots in comic strips of the 1930s, continuing through the boom years of the 1950s and so forth. It's the first book I've read that makes good sense of the continuum of Sci-fi film culture beyond 2001: A Space Odyssey. Schauer tracks the trend through an astute read of the impact and significance of the Star Wars phenomenon, and doesn't let off until the middle 1980s, when we arrive at Sci-fi fantasy as the reigning genre in box office, and with Horror, practically the 'last genre standing.'

As I suspected from knowledgeable info from John McElwee, Bradley Schauer lets us know that few if any of the 1950s sci-fi / horror / monster movies were huge successes. I differ with some of his choices and categories -- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is reclassified not as mainstream A-picture Sci-fi -- but readily acknowledge that the color cheapies The Fly and The Blob were monetarily more successful than all the classics, including The War of the Worlds and Forbidden Planet. Schauer digs into trade records for his information, and is selective about which movies he describes in detail. Actually, there is more information here about general film business trends than the movies themselves. We get plenty of talk about vertical integration and the wresting of theater chains from studio ownership. The author makes his points as to how the genre was built on copycat trends, and flourished because of enterprising exploitation producers. These same producers would eventually burn out the genre with low-grade product. The one issue I'm sorry didn't figure into Schauer's thesis is the new Guild residual rules that kicked in on January 1, 1960; my own theory is that low-budget Hollywood filmmaking vanished or ran away when producers suddenly had to do proper accounting of individual productions.

Schauer's later chapters show an eagerness to define the way pictures like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars altered the filmic landscape in production, exhibition and audience tastes. The immense profits to be had with a winning blockbuster make the entire Sci-Fi output of the 1950s seem a nickel & dime game played for tiny stakes. (I can remember Steven Spielberg telling me that his point(s) on Star Wars, gifted by George Lucas 'for reciprocal fun,' were earning him $10,000 dollars an hour). Schauer goes into the market forces that made E.T. a huge phenomenon, while the same year's The Thing and Blade Runner became notable flops.

I caught a picayune fact or two that seemed like errors, but nothing serious. Schauer's academic-oriented book is a welcome study item for readers eager to learn how the general flow of their favorite movie genre really added up in business-historical terms.


Another good read for the day is correspondent Kyu Hyun Kim's thoughts this week on his blog page Q Branch Mirror Site -- they range from political nervousness, to the state of media discs versus streaming, and finish with his top twenty favorite Blu-rays of 2016. Kim is a consistently aware and insightful observer of the disc scene and has certainly helped me form opinions; I really enjoy reading his well-reasoned writing. He also comes from a fairly different perspective than my own, and it's always good to be shown that one's own viewpoint is never the only choice. It's a great list with good arguments -- and with some movies I was not even aware of.

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson


NEWEST FEATURE ARTICLES
The Mad Magician
 Vincent Price in 3-D, sawing off heads and stuffing victims into a portable cremation chamber? Count me in! Eva Gabor and Mary Murphy are on screaming duty as the Great Gallico takes his magician's revenge, avoiding arrest by impersonating his own victims. It's Patrick O'Neal's first feature as well. Director John Brahm sets up his shots beautifully, making the most of the depth illusion. The 3-D on this classic title is excellent, and TT tosses in a pair of Three Stooges comedy short subjects for good measure. On DVD Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/14/17

Revenge of the Blood Beast
 Enterprising (and apparently well-financed) tyro film director Michael Reeves linked up with producer Paul Maslansky to cobble together this ultra-quickie Euro-horror effort, tricking Barbara Steele into one very long workday. Babs gets herself possessed by the pug-ugliest witch in screen history, which compels her husband Ian Ogilvy to dodge thugs and the secret police to get her back. A great transfer brings the show back up to snuff -- directorially it's really quite accomplished. Also elbowing in on the no-budget filmmaking fun are actor-director Mel Welles and writer-director Charles B. Griffith. On Blu-ray from Rarovideo.
01/14/17

David and Bathsheba
 Before muscles, nubile nymphets and slippery sanctimony smiteth the Biblical epic, Henry King & Phillip Dunne surprised us with this intelligent examination of a key Old Testament power problem. Gregory Peck's Mighty King David commits adultery with sultry Bathsheba (Susan Hayward). To clear the playing field he sends her husband off to war... but needs to reconcile his sin with unforgiving elders and his own guilty conscience. David's youthful back story is a formative flashback: "Nothing's too good for the man that hath slayed Liberty Goliath." And we also get a first glimpse at a certain holy artifact that serves as a portable carrying case for the Wrath of God. Is David the first Raider of the Lost Ark? On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/14/17

Something Wild
  Jack Garfein's arty, emotionally searing urban nightmare is yet another Savant favorite that I feel compelled to personally defend. A young rape victim loses her grip on life, and finds herself incapable of dealing with the oppressive indifference and hostility of the big city. Then she becomes a prisoner of a lonely man who claims he only wants to help her. Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker deliver terrific acting in the style of The Method, creating a theatrical reality on the docu-real New York streets. Finally mastered in high quality, featuring the great cinematography of Eugen Schüfftan and the powerful music of Aaron Copland. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.
01/10/17

The Accountant
  Ben Affleck is a combo 'Rain Man' and 'Terminator' in this well written, excitingly filmed violent conspiracy-assassination thriller that stops just short of being a comic book fantasy. An accountant for the mob & big business makes millions laundering money, but must take extreme measures to keep from being killed by his employers. He's both a genius with numbers and an unstoppable killing machine, and the movie is so well made that the concept doesn't come off as ludicrous. With Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, John Lithgow and Jean Smart. A Dual-Format edition on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.
01//1017

The Keys of the Kingdom
 Back in the 1940s Fox made the best and most intelligent movies with spiritual themes. This A.J. Cronin story of a Scottish Priest doing good missionary works in China made a star out of young Gregory Peck, whose integrity and honesty comes across strongly in every scene. Peck's Father Chisolm wins converts on a personal basis, and even accepts an atheist as a friend. Vincent Price is a politically savvy church bureaucrat who provides the negative contrast. With Thomas Mitchell, Rose Stradner, Roddy McDowall and Edmund Gwenn; Peck was nominated for an acting Oscar. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/10/17

The Barefoot Contessa
  Joseph L. Mankiewicz goes the Hollywood route with a 'Citizen Kane'-like look at a glamorous, exotic movie star that nobody really knows. Ava Gardner is the cabaret dancer-turned screen siren who makes three films but remains an almost complete mystery; Humphrey Bogart is the director who gets close enough to share a friendship and perhaps understand her better. Complicit in this dissection of life for the 1% back in 1954 are Edmond O'Brien, Marius Goring, Valentina Cortese, Rossano Brazzi, Elizabeth Sellars and Warren Stevens. The glorious romantic music is by Mario Nascimbene, and the glowing glamour cinematography is the work of the great Jack Cardiff. On Blu-ray from Twilight Time.
01/07/17

The Internecine Project
  James Coburn is a corporate spook with a private dirty tricks/spy organization; he needs to erase his past to take a presidential post and so determines to have his four operatives kill each other -- none of them knowing that each is a target. Sounds topical right now, ya think? It's a tight little show rigged with a can't-fail suspense mechanism and loaded with a twist we can't predict. Aiding and abetting Coburn in murder and/or political crimes are Lee Grant, Harry Andrews, Ian Hendry, Michael Jayston, Christiane Krüger and Keenan Wynn. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.
01/07/17

January 2017
 Battleground  Blu-ray  The People vs. Fritz Bauer  Blu-ray  His Girl Friday &  The Front Page  Blu-ray  The Driller Killer  Blu-ray
December 2016
 Wait Until Dark  Blu-ray  'Pimpernel' Smith  Blu-ray  Loophole (1981)  Blu-ray  Deepwater Horizon  Blu-ray + DVD  50 Years with Peter Paul and Mary  DVD  Bad Day at Black Rock  Blu-ray  Sully  Blu-ray  The 3 Worlds of Gulliver  Blu-ray  Dreamscape  Blu-ray  Savant Picks the Most Impressive Discs of 2016  Fellini's Roma  Blu-ray  I Want to Live!  Blu-ray  100 Rifles  Blu-ray  Brazil  Blu-ray  The House on 92nd Street  Blu-ray  Short Cuts  Blu-ray  The Exterminating Angel  Blu-ray  Bad Girl  Blu-ray  Pretty Poison  Blu-ray  Sudden Fear  Blu-ray  Cry of the City  Blu-ray  Pete's Dragon  Blu-ray + DVD



  Reaching further back in time?  Chronological 2015 and 2016 can't be uploaded yet, but you can search back in the archives, immediately below. Available now is
A Chronological List of DVD Savant's Reviews for 2014
... and for 2013 ... 2012 ... and 2011
Use the search function at the top of the page for individual titles -- it's new and improved and works well.

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