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Saturday June 25, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

The Panic in Needle Park
Twilight Time

 Drug addicts! Who in 1970 really knew what life was like for them? Jerry Schatzberg, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne's story of hell on the streets of NYC provided a stunning debut for Al Pacino -- and should have done the same for Kitty Winn. It sounds too tough to watch, but it's riveting. It's an excellent example of talent-driven semi-independent early '70s cinema. With Richard Bright. From Twilight Time.

The Ninth Configuration
Second Sight UK
Region BBlu-ray

 Savant UK correspondent Lee Broughton analyzes one of his favorite pictures starring Stacy Keach, who seemed to make only cult items in the '70s and '80s. William Peter Blatty dishes out a thick mix of comedy and dark soul-searching about the human condition in a Caligari-like insane asylum, but with new twists. In the first two reels, you'd think you're in a fairly ordinary service comedy-drama. But then... Also starring Scott Wilson, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Neville Brand, George DiCenzo, Moses Gunn, Robert Loggia, Joe Spinell. That's a heck of a cast! From Second Sight UK.


Forbidden Hollywood Volume 10
The Warner Archive Collection

 Woo hoo! Ten years brings a wrap-up to one of the most entertaining and illuminating DVD branded lines. The pre-Code marvels return for one last go-round -- tales of sin and moral turpentine turpitude but also serious pictures about social issues that the Production Code effectively swept from Hollywood screens -- financial crimes and ethnic bigotry. Featuring hot 'n' controversial work by stars Barbara Stanwyck, Lionel Barrymore, Kay Francis, and the reigning King of pre-Code, Warren William: Guilty Hands, The Mouthpiece, Secrets of the French Police, The Match King and Ever in My Heart. From The Warner Archive Collection.


A wild week -- thanks to Savant's longtime UK correspondent-reviewer, I have three reviews up tonight, barely making my self-imposed deadline... hey, if it's self imposed, why do I sweat it? The answer must be giri.

A couple of links courtesy of Gary Teetzel: some original Gorgo concept artwork was up for option last week, at a steep price. A couple of the pictures bear out research by Tom Weaver -- they originally toyed with the idea of having Gorgo's mama trash Paris, not London. I hope the link still works.

And Joe Dante has passed along a Washington Post article by Jeff Guo that discusses one viewer's way to watch TV, to keep up with all those 'essential' shows and still have a life: I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything. I'm afraid I flunk this test -- I don't try to keep up with the cultural mainstream, and I'm known to watch my favorites repeatedly, like comfort food. Watching programs Jeff Guo's way? Paraphrasing what Joe remarked, 'Why do filmmakers bother to make this stuff at all?'

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

June 21, 2016

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Savant's new reviews today are:

Appointment with Crime
Olive Films

 Most British crime films of the '40s and '50s have been slow crossing the pond, but Olive Films has a winner here, a gloss on Yank gangster pix from an earlier era. Just clear of prison, a tough criminal vows to punish the gang that abandoned him, and carries out a ruthless revenge. But I think it was a mistake for him to involve that dance hall girl.... William Hartnell, Herbert Lom and Robert Beatty co-star; Hartnell appears to base his performance on James Cagney, but without Cagney's charm or sense of humor. On Blu-ray from Olive Films.


Night Will Fall
The Warner Archive Collection

 The Holocaust needs to be retold forever, but it's a tough topic to address without distortion or trivialization. André SInger's docu is about the Allied film record of the liberation of the camps -- horrific footage that was used in the war crimes trials and cut into documentaries -- that were then suppressed and locked away. In 2008, an abandoned film supervised by Alfred Hitchcock was finally finished. The presentation contains two Holocaust docus made at the same time, by the Russians and by Billy Wilder. And an included lecture-interview extra on the subject is excellent. On DVD from The Warner Archive Collection.


Savant correspondent and advisor Gary Teetzel attended several nights of screenings of newly restored Universal Marx Bros Movies and sent little reports over on what he saw. I've put them together here. I don't remember the history of the problems with the movies; I just know that when Universal took possession of the pre-1948 Paramount library, they received a very limited selection of printing materials. And the studio print of my favorite Marx movie Horse Feathers had a number of jump cuts in a scene with Thelma Todd. I thought they were simply unrepaired breaks, but it appears that they were the result of Production Code censorship. Here are Gary's observations:

June 18:

Went to the first night of the new Universal 4K restorations of the Marx Brothers Paramount films being shown at the Aero Theater. First up was Duck Soup. The film looked basically decent on DVD, so the improvement here was, as expected, mostly in eliminating dirt, scratches, flicker, etc. Seen projected on a big screen, the film is slightly soft and a bit grainy, but not enough to impair one's enjoyment. Audio was a little disappointing; there seemed to be a little distortion in spots, especially in the first reel.

Next up was The Cocoanuts, the film that has always looked worst on home video, having been cobbled together from a mix of 35mm and 16mm materials. The good news is that the 35mm materials look great, a dramatic improvement over the DVD, which has constant flicker and scratches. All of that has been eliminated, yielding an image that, at its best, looks better than Duck Soup. This material does not looked overly processed; it still looks natural and film-like.

The bad sections of the film, alas, still look awful, and now stick out even more against the restored 35mm. They worked to reduce scratches and dirt, and tried to pull out a little more detail, but it's still pretty ugly.

Second night:

Tonight the Marx Brothers restorations were Animal Crackers and Monkey Business. They were introduced by Universal's Peter Schade, who reported discovering the additional footage in Animal Crackers in a British dupe neg. When the film started and we got to "Hooray for Captain Spaulding," the audience burst into applause when Groucho's long-censored line ("I think I'll try to make her,") following Margaret Dumont's "He is the only white man / To cover every acre") was heard for the first time in decades. Other restored bits:

When Lillian Roth comes up to Chico saying she's been looking for him, Chico has a restored line about how she should have come looking for him last night.

During the letter-dictating scene, there's a bit where Groucho is dictating and says "Elise--no, scratch that" and Zeppo replies "You want me to scratch Elise?" Groucho has a reply, but I've already forgotten it. Later in the scene, Zeppo is reading back the letter and reads out "Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga and McCormack. Scratch Elise." Groucho snaps, "Now you've got McCormack scratching Elise!" and there's a little more back and forth.

In the scene where Margaret Irving tries to get the painting back from Harpo and he keeps handing her newspapers, there's a restored bit where she says to him "You know what I want!" and Harpo gives a naughty smile. When they start chasing each other around shortly thereafter, he smacks her on the behind with one of the papers.

Image quality is once again a massive improvement over what was released on DVD, with the almost non-stop scratches and dirt gone. It looks great.

The improvement with the next film Monkey Business was not as dramatic, but it also looks very handsome, definitely superior to what we've seen before.

Third night:

Not much to say about the last of the 4K Marx Brothers restorations, Horse Feathers. Sadly, the scene where the boys visit Thelma Todd is still peppered with censor cuts. It's another good-looking job overall. There are a handful of scenes where there is some bad jitter in the source element that has not been quite eliminated. Barring a better source element turning up, it's hard to imagine the film looking much better than this. -- Gary

Thanks for reading! --- Glenn Erickson

The Hound of the Baskervilles
 Hammer hits one out of the park with this 'ripping good' Sherlock Holmes tale, tilted heavily toward gothic mystery and horror. Peter Cushing and André Morell excel in heroic roles, while Christopher Lee doesn't have to play a monster, just a coward. Terence Fisher's directing skill is at its height, and Jack Asher's impressive cinematography looks just like other early Technicolor Hammers. Plus two audio commentaries. They say this wasn't a hit, but it seemed to play forever in my neck of the woods -- I must have seen it in the theater twice, years after its release. On Blu-ray from Twiilight Time.

Fantastic Planet
 René Laloux's marvelous animated Sci-fi tale is still in a class of its own, due to its high level of imagination and creativity. On a distant planet, a race of humans must fight to survive against the dominant alien culture: 40-foot talk blue humanoid creatures. Who would have thought that limited animation could look this good? The designs are by the impressive artist Roland Topor. The extras contain two more excellent René Laloux animated shorts. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

 A mad extortionist is blowing up rollercoaster rides. Safety inspector George Segal must stop him because the beaches theme parks must stay open! Producer Jennings Lang's by-the-numbers suspense thriller is light on suspense and thrills, but the cast is good and the screenplay at least partly intelligent. And hey -- it's got a teenage Helen Hunt! Also with Richard Widmark, Susan Strasberg, Timothy Bottoms, Henry Fonda and Harry Guardino in competent cameos. On Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.

La Chienne
 It's the time-honored tale of the cuckolded lover, his heartless woman and 'the other guy,' told in terms that Émile Zola would endorse. Jean Renoir's first full-length talkie is a little masterpiece of social observation and humorous indifference to sentimental niceties; Michel Simon is terrific as the clerk who falls into the trap of a tramp and her pimp. The presentation includes a second, short Renoir feature as well, and both are in perfect condition. On Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

 The Nazis can't even keep their National Socialist propaganda out of a simple science fiction fable. Hans Albers is the Aryan King Midas as a scientist, and gorgeous Brigitte Helm the Englishwoman who thinks he's peachy keen. The climax is pure Sci-Fi heaven, set in an unstable 'Atomic Fracturing' installation wa-ay deep down in a mineshaft under the ocean. It's alleged that the allies tried to destroy the film after the fall of Berlin -- as director Karl Hartl's massive Alchemy machine seemed too much like something built to make Atom bombs. On Blu-ray from Kino Classics.

The Magnetic Monster
 Ivan Tors and Curt Siodmak 'borrow' nine minutes of dynamite special effects from an obscure-because-suppressed German sci-fi picture, write a new script, and come up with an eccentric thriller where atom scientists behave like G-Men crossed with Albert Einstein. The challenge? How to make a faceless unstable atomic isotope into a worthy science fiction 'monster.' Richard Carlson and King Donovan are the intrepid 'A-Men,' who must don odd costumes to match footage from a German movie made twenty years earlier. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

Shield for Murder
 Dirty cops were a movie vogue in 1954, and Edmond O'Brien scores as a real dastard in this overachieving United Artists thriller. Dreamboat starlet Marla English is the reason O'Brien's detective kills for cash, and then keeps killing to stay ahead of his colleagues. And all to buy a crummy house in the suburbs -- this man needs career counseling. John Agar and Emile Meyer costar; the film got noticed for Meyer's performance and some fairly brutal scenes. Directed by Howard W. Koch and Edmond O'Brien. On Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics.

They Were Expendable
 John Ford's best war movie does a flip-flop on the propaganda norm. It's about men that must hold the line in defeat and retreat, that are ordered to lay down a sacrifice play while someone else gets to hit the home runs. As the Philippines fall to the Japanese, the U.S. forces try to hold out as long as they can, without relief. Robert Montgomery, John Wayne and Donna Reed are excellent, as is the recreation of the Navy's daring sideshow tactic in the Pacific Theater, the 'speeding coffin' Patrol Torpedo boats. On Blu-ray from The Warner Archive Collection.

June 2016
 Doctor Strangelove  Blu-ray  The Wave  Blu-ray  Hello, My Name is Doris  Blu-ray  Here Comes Mr. Jordan  Blu-ray  Le Amiche  Blu-ray  She Wore a Yellow Ribbon  Blu-ray  Antonia's Line  Blu-ray  The Whip Hand  DVD
May 2016
 The Angry Hills  Blu-ray  City of Women  Blu-ray  The Player  Blu-ray  Cat Ballou  Blu-ray  Hail, Caesar!  Blu-ray + DVD  Dark Passage  Blu-ray  Journey to Space  4K Ultra-HD, Blu-ray + 3-D Blu-ray  Blood Bath  Blu-ray  Woman on the Run  Blu-ray + DVD  The King and Four Queens  Blu-ray  Too Late for Tears  Blu-ray + DVD  La fièvre monte à El Pao  Blu-ray + DVD  Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923  Blu-ray  Eureka  Blu-ray  The VVitch: A New-England Folktale  Blu-ray  Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy : Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move, Kings of the Road  Blu-ray  Edge of Doom  DVD  The Private Affairs of Bel Ami  Blu-ray  Garden of Evil  Blu-ray  That's Sexploitation!  Blu-ray  The Naked Island  Blu-ray  A Married Woman  Blu-ray  Cinema's Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood  DVD  The Chase (1946)  Blu-ray  Mustang  Blu-ray  Roman Polanski's What?  Blu-ray  A Kiss Before Dying  Blu-ray  Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Blu-ray  Phoenix  Blu-ray  Candy  Blu-ray
April 2016
 In a Lonely Place  Blu-ray  Janis: Little Girl Blue  DVD  Where to Invade Next  Blu-ray  Julia  Blu-ray   Theory of Obscurity: A Film About the Residents  Blu-ray  Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street  Blu-ray  When You're Older Dear Adam  DVD  Berlin Around the Corner  DVD  In the French Style  Blu-ray  Three Brothers  Region B Blu-ray + DVD  The Second Civil War  DVD  Father of the Bride  Blu-ray  Cutter's Way  Blu-ray  Dillinger  Blu-ray  Try and Get Me!  Blu-ray   The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates  Blu-ray  The Gallant Hours  Blu-ray  Exodus  Blu-ray  The City of the Dead  Blu-ray  Suspicion  Blu-ray  Blue Denim  DVD  Panic in Year Zero!  Blu-ray  The Stuff  Blu-ray  Alexander the Great  Blu-ray  Journey to the Seventh Planet  Blu-ray  "Manos" The Hands of Fate  Blu-ray
March 2016
 The Purple Plain  Blu-ray  Anastasia  Blu-ray  Brooklyn  Blu-ray  Susan Slept Here  Blu-ray  Dreams Rewired  DVD  The Hateful Eight  Blu-ray + DVD  A Brighter Summer Day  Blu-ray  Kill Me Again  Blu-ray  Vessel  DVD  The Manchurian Candidate  Blu-ray  Losing Ground  Blu-ray  Spies (Spione)  Blu-ray  Michael Collins  Blu-ray  Paris Belongs to Us  Blu-ray  Her Majesty, Love  DVD  I Knew Her Well  Blu-ray  The Trip  Blu-ray  Psych-Out  Blu-ray  Spring Takes Time  DVD  The Strangler  DVD  When Eight Bells Toll  Blu-ray  Murders in the Rue Morgue &  The Dunwich Horror  Blu-ray  The Big Heat  Blu-ray  Bad Boy  DVD  The Decline of Western Civilization + Part II The Metal Years  Blu-ray  Contagion  Blu-ray  Donovan's Brain  Blu-ray  The Hawaiians  Blu-ray  Revolt of the Slaves  DVD
February 2016
 The Vincent Price Collection III :
Master of the World, Tower of London, Diary of a Madman, Cry of the Banshee  Blu-ray  Cowboy  Blu-ray  The Graduate  Blu-ray  Key Largo  Blu-ray  Childhood's End  Blu-ray  The Black Sleep  Blu-ray  5 Dolls for an August Moon  Region B Blu-ray + DVD  Oh! What a Lovely War  DVD  L'Inhumaine  Blu-ray  Spotlight   Blu-ray + DVD  Where the Sidewalk Ends  Blu-ray  Millennium + R.O.T.O.R  Blu-ray  The Vikings  Blu-ray  Inside Llewyn Davis  Blu-ray  All Things Must Pass, The Rise and Fall of Tower Records  DVD  The Big Sleep  Blu-ray  The Emigrants & The New Land  Blu-ray  The Happy Ending  Blu-ray  GOG 3-D  3-D Blu-ray  Woman in the Moon  Blu-ray  Deep Red  Blu-ray  Station West  DVD  Harlock: Space Pirate 3-D  3-D Blu-ray  Crimson Peak   Blu-ray + DVD  Bridge of Spies   Blu-ray + DVD  Death By Hanging  Blu-ray
January 2016
 Gilda  Blu-ray  The Last Detail  Blu-ray  The Wrong Man  Blu-ray  Hawaii  Blu-ray  Beyond the Valley of the Dolls  Region B Blu-ray  The Southerner  Blu-ray  Curse of the Faceless Man  Blu-ray  I Confess  Blu-ray  The Undesirable  Blu-ray  Ex Machina  Blu-ray  Let There Be Light: John Huston's Wartime Documentaries  Blu-ray  Wind Across the Everglades  DVD  From the Terrace  Blu-ray  Figures in a Landscape  Blu-ray  Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things  Blu-ray  Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)  Blu-ray  The American Friend  Blu-ray  Bitter Rice  Blu-ray  Hitler's Children  DVD  Everest 3-D  3-D Blu-ray + Digital HD  The Look of Silence  Blu-ray  The Complete Lady Snowblood  Blu-ray  Four Men and a Prayer  DVD  The Captive City  Blu-ray  The Beginning or The End  DVD  Mysterious Island Encore Edition  Blu-ray  Nightmares  Blu-ray  Born Free  Blu-ray  Faust (1926)  Blu-ray  The Girl Most Likely  DVD

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