of a Murder” is a movie filled to the brim with great moments starting with the
Saul Bass opening credits and the score by Duke Ellington to the beautiful
black and white widescreen photography as well as the top notch performances by
every member of the cast and the masterful direction by Otto Preminger. There’s
so much to like about this 1959 drama which is set primarily in a courtroom, bar,
jail and an attorney’s office. The
opening shot with James Stewart driving to Iron City on his return from a
fishing trip is terrific and the great moments continue through to the final
scene as the sound of a trumpet squeals in delight after 160 minutes of
cinematic joy. The movie can arguably be summed up as a masterpiece and it is the
very definition of a classic.
tells the story of a small town lawyer defending a man who murders his wife’s
alleged rapist. James Stewart is Paul Biegler, a lawyer one can only imagine
being portrayed by James Stewart. Ben Gazzara plays hot tempered Army Lt.
Frederick Manion who is married to the beautiful Laura. Lee Remick is perfect
as the sexy wife seeking the attention of men knowing full well it drives her
movie is filled with outstanding supporting performances by many of the great
character actors of the period. Arthur O’Connell is perfect as Stewart’s
alcoholic colleague Parnell and Eve Arden is his loyal secretary Maida. Orson
Bean, Murray Hamilton, Howard McNear and Kathryn Grant fill out the outstanding
supporting cast. George C. Scott arrives about a half hour into the action as
Asst. State Atty. Gen. Claude Dancer who is on hand to assist the prosecution
and exchange barbs and insults with Stewart. Special mention should also be
made of Joseph N. Welch, a real life lawyer who was cast as Judge Weaver.
(Welch was famously an adversary of Sen. Joseph McCarthy).
plays the sultry young wife and rape victim who tries to seduce almost every
man she encounters including Stewart, who rejects her advances more than once. The
movie was controversial at the time of release for its frank discussions of sex
and the use of the words “bitch,” “contraceptive,” “panties,” “penetration,” “rape,”
“slut” and “sperm.” There’s a great scene during the trial where the judge
discusses the appropriateness of using the word “panties” during the trial.
It’s hard to believe today where language far harsher than this is common on TV
and few words have shock value.
movie has received several releases on home video over several decades on VHS,
laserdisc, DVD and Blu Ray. Columbia originally released the movie on DVD in
2000 and that release included trailers and a photo montage. The movie looked
pretty good on that DVD release and it looks even better on this made-to-order DVD
released via the Sony Pictures Choice Collection. The Criterion Collection
released a special edition on DVD and Blu Ray in 2012 which is loaded with
extras. This Sony release is bare bones and doesn’t even have a menu with the
movie starting up soon after loading. The picture quality on this release is outstanding
and may be based on the same transfer used in the Criterion edition. For those
in search of a movie only edition, this burn to order release may be the way to
criminal Jerry Barker (Ralph Meeker) demands $200,000 in ransom from the
wealthy father of a missing 10-year-old boy, whom Barker has hidden away in an
abandoned fire tower in Royal Gorge National Park, Colorado. Jerry successfully collects the ransom, but
the boy accidentally dies trying to get out of the tower, and after Jerry coldly
disposes of the body, he’s caught in a police cordon before he can get
away. Jim Madden, the FBI agent on the
case (Reed Hadley), doesn’t have the evidence needed to bring a kidnapping
charge, since the boy’s body hasn’t been found, and Barker refuses to
talk. So Barker, nicknamed “Iceman” by
the press because of his recalcitrance, is sent to prison on extortion. The authorities hope he’ll eventually break
down and confess to the more serious crime. Meanwhile, Madden doggedly continues to pursue clues.
bars, Jerry is ostracized by other inmates, even his hardened cellmates Mason
(William Talman), Smith (Lon Chaney), and Kelly (Charles Bronson). The other cons have heard about the crime and
figure that Jerry not only abducted the missing boy, he also murdered him. (“Kid killer . . . that’s really scrapin’ the
bottom of the barrel!” Kelly sneers over the top of a bodybuilder
magazine.) But the fourth cellmate,
Rollo (Broderick Crawford), has a better idea. The ransom money hasn’t been found either. Rollo convinces the others to take Barker
with them when they execute an already-planned escape, so that he’ll lead them
to the missing money.
House, U.S.A.,” a modest 1955 Bel-Air/United Artists release, is a relatively
obscure slice of ‘50s crime cinema, despite the presence of stellar plug-uglies
Meeker, Crawford, Bronson, Chaney, and Talman in the main cast. Maybe it’s gotten lost in the myriad of other
crime and noir movies from the decade that have “Big” in the title. Or maybe the students of auteur cinema, who
are usually the first to unearth gems in the trash heap of low-budget films,
have overlooked it because it wasn’t directed by Don Siegel, Phil Karlson, or
Sam Fuller (the director was the prolific but relatively unheralded Howard W.
Koch). Too, the title may be a turnoff
for crime-film buffs and critics who don’t particularly care for prison
stories. It’s actually a misnomer
because the prison scenes (filmed inside McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary)
comprise less than a third of the movie.
truth, the script is all over the B-movie landscape, in a good way, from the
methodical scenes about the kidnapping (particularly creepy these days, when
stories about child predators are all over the news), to the procedural scenes
of the FBI agent questioning witnesses, with voiceover by Hadley, to the
inevitable double-crosses among the escaped cons. In addition to the gritty, sweaty scenes at
McNeil’s Island, the movie also features on-location shooting in Royal Gorge
and nearby Canon City, all in no-nonsense black-and-white, heightening the
sense of documentarian realism. Some of
the script doesn’t quite hang together -- for example, it doesn’t seem likely
that the combined forces of the FBI, the park service, and state and local law
enforcement couldn’t find the missing son of a millionaire, alive or dead, even
in a sprawling wilderness park. But film
buffs likely will be too busy spotting familiar ‘50s faces in the supporting
cast to care. Those faces include
Felicia Farr (here billed in an early role as Randy Farr), Roy Roberts, Robert
Bray, Jan Merlin, John Ford stalwart Willis Bouchey, and Jack Webb regular Bill
new Kino Lorber release, in 1920x1080p hi-def, continues the label’s rescue of
neglected but interesting movies that deserve new exposure. The visual quality is somewhat grainy, as
you’d expected from an older film, but that isn’t necessarily a drawback for a
hardboiled crime drama. The only extras
are trailers for three other Kino Lorber releases.
an artist as prolific as Woody Allen, someone who’s essentially made nearly a
film once a year since 1969 (forty-four and counting), there’s bound to be some
misses along with the hits. The thing is, with Allen the misses can be
rewarding in their own right. Ever since the writer/director stopped making the
“early, funny” zany comedies and jumped light years in maturity with Annie Hall in 1977, Woody Allen became a
“European filmmaker.” In other words, his films began to resemble the art-house
foreign works of say, Francois Truffaut—small, intimate, slice-of-life comedies
(or dramas) about people and their
lives. Yes, there were the Ingmar Bergman influences, and sometimes inspiration
from Federico Fellini. Mostly, though, Allen developed his own voice, style,
and thematic material that has been appreciated by an intellectual,
Woody Allen movie is a little “gem” that seems to reside in one of three tiers.
Tier One is, of course, the masterpieces—the ones that prove that Allen is a
brilliant writer and director (and sometimes actor)—of which there are maybe
around twelve to fifteen. Then there’s Tier Two—pictures that are not complete
successes, but they have a lot going for them and are enjoyed by his fans.
These might include experimental works where Allen tried something different.
The bulk of his work is here. Tier Three contains the complete misses, of which
there are a few, to be sure, but even these might have moments that shine—these
are strictly for Allen completists.
Shadows and Fog, from 1991,
belongs near the bottom of Tier Two, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting
and worthwhile experience at the movies. It helps if you know your Bertolt
Brecht and Kurt Weill, German Expressionism, and Franz Kafka. Filmed in black
and white with lots of contrasting light and shadows by Carlo di Palma, the
style of the picture evokes the works of F. W. Murnau, G. W. Pabst, Fritz Lang,
and other practitioners of German silent cinema of the 1920s. The references
are boundless, and the more you know about this stuff, the more you will enjoy
story takes place in some sort of fantasyland of a German Expressionistic
village in a period that resembles the ‘20s or ‘30s. A serial killer is on the
loose, and bands of vigilantes are roaming the town looking for him. Kleinman
(Allen) is a nervous clerk who is drafted into the gang, but he is quickly lost
in the labyrinth of the winding cobblestone streets. On the outskirts of town
is a traveling circus. There, the sword swallower (!) Irmy (played by Mia
Farrow) is in a relationship with a clown (John Malkovich), but the clown is unfaithful
to her—he has intentions with the tightrope artist (Madonna). When Irmy runs
away from him and the circus, she meets a bevy of prostitutes at a brothel
(played by Lily Tomlin, Jodie Foster, and Kathy Bates!), a rich student customer
(John Cusack), and eventually Kleinman. As with any Woody Allen film, there is
much existential discussion, meditations on the meaning of life, and a few
funny lines, too. In the end, it takes a village (literally) to get rid of the
Shadows and Fog is one of Allen’s
experiments. It doesn’t totally work, but the picture is still fascinating a)
if you’re familiar with the Expressionistic references and b) for the game of
“spot the player” with the amazing cast that Allen assembled. It’s an all star
vehicle with familiar faces popping up throughout, mostly in cameos. Besides
the aforementioned actors, you’ll see Donald Pleasence, Kenneth Mars, Philip
Bosco, Fred Gwynne, Robert Joy, Julie Kavner, William H. Macy, Kate Nelligan,
James Rebhorn, John C. Reilly, Wallace Shawn, Kurtwood Smith, Josef Summer,
David Ogden Stiers, Charles Cragin, Fred Melamed, Eszter Balint, Richard
Riehle, Peter McRobbie, Victor Argo, and Daniel von Bargen. Apprently even
Peter Dinklage appears uncredited as a circus dwarf.
music—always a treat in an Allen film—is mostly by Kurt Weill. You’ll hear
selections from The Threepenny Opera,
Seven Deadly Sins, “Alabama Song,”
Time’s new Blu-ray release doesn’t really clean up the blemishes and artifacts
in the image, but the black and white cinematography is sharp and good-looking.
The grain is welcome for the style with which the film was made. There are no
supplements other than the trailer, a collector's booklet with extensive liner notes and an isolated score track. As with all of
Twilight Time’s releases, Shadows and Fog
is a limited edition of 3000 units, so get it while they last!
bet many of you cinephiles out there have heard
of Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s acclaimed trilogy of films from the
1950s (Pather Panchali,aka
Song of the Little Road, 1955; Aparajito,aka The
Unvanquished, 1956; and Apur Sansar,aka The
World of Apu,1959), but have
never actually seen them. Here is your chance to rectify that egregious error.
Quite simply put, anyone interested in film history needs to have this trio of
motion pictures under the belt.
Ray, who received an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1992, began his
career as an illustrator of books. One of these was Pather Panchali, a classic of Bengali literature (1928) written by
Bibhutibushan Bandyopadhyay, and its sequel, Aparajito (1932). They comprise the story of the growth of a boy
from infancy to adulthood over the course of twenty-five years or so (from the
1910s to the 1930s), and how he rises from the extreme rural poverty of his
humble beginnings to becoming a writer and husband-then-father in the big city
of Calcutta (now called Kolkata).
two novels eventually became the basis for the trilogy of films Ray would make
between 1952 and 1959, when he kick-started his work in cinema. A lover of movies—especially
the Italian neo-realist works such as De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (aka The
Bicycle Thief)—Ray founded a film society in Calcutta in 1947 and became an
assistant to Jean Renoir in 1949 when the French filmmaker was in India making
his seminal The River (1951). With
Renoir’s encouragement and inspiration, Ray set out to begin making his own
films. He chose Pather Panchali to be
of continual problems with funding, the picture took nearly four years to make,
and with an inexperienced crew to boot. Released to overwhelming critical praise
and numerous prizes, including the “Best Human Document” award at the Cannes Film
Festival, Song of the Little Road stands
as one of the greatest debuts of any filmmaker.
the most striking of the three pictures, Song
presents in neo-realist style what it was really like to live in the rural jungle
of Bengal in the 1910s. Apu Roy is born the second child to very poor parents
who live in a crumbling ancestral home. Harihar, the father (Kanu Banerjee), is
something of a priest and writer, but he is always traveling, gone for months
at a time, and never brings home enough money. While he seems to be a nice man,
he is ineffectual as a husband and father. On the other hand, Apu’s mother,
Sarbajaya (brilliantly played by Karuna Banerjee, no relation to Kanu), is the
long-suffering, anxious, and stoic parent who provides for the children and
fends off criticism from neighbors. It could be said that Apu’s older sister, Durga
(played first as a younger child by Shampa “Runki” Banerjee, the real-life
daughter of Karuna Banerjee, and portrayed later as a young teen by the
wonderful Uma Das Gupta), is really the protagonist of the first film, and Ms.
Gupta is especially good in the role. And then there is “Auntie” (amazingly characterized
by 85-year-old Chunibala Devi, a veteran of Indian stage and silent films). The
woman is half-disabled, wrinkled, toothless, and cross-eyed—and despite being
addicted to opium during the shoot, her performance is quite remarkable. Apu
(Subir Banerjee, no relation to the others) is around 5 or 6 years old in this
picture and is mostly an observer of the hardships and tragedies that fall upon
picture is poetic, tender, and honest. Filmed by first-time cinematographer
Subrata Mitra, who went on to become Ray’s go-to DP, and scored by a young Ravi
Shankar (the sitar and bamboo flute music is fabulous!), Song of the
Little Road is a one-of-a-kind film that will move you in
the picture became a hit, Ray was encouraged to continue the story from the
novels and made The Unvanquished, in
which a slightly older Apu and his parents move out of the jungle to the holy
city of Benares (also known as Varanasi) on the Ganges. There, Harihar works as
a priest and Sarbajaya is still the strong one in the family—until tragedy
strikes again. Apu and his mother move back to the country, and there Apu
decides he wants to go to school and not be a priest like his father. It takes
money to attend school, so his mother does what she can to make it happen. An
older, teenage Apu then goes to Calcutta to attend college. Karuna Banerjee is
the focal point of this middle entry in the trilogy, and her performance is powerful
and heartbreaking. Apu is played by two different actors throughout the course
of the picture.
Finally, The World of Apu was made
after Ray took a break from the trilogy and made a couple of other films
in-between (e.g., the acclaimed The Music
Room,1958). In the third
chapter, Apu (played by longtime Indian star Soumitra Chatterjee) is now in his
twenties and living alone in Calcutta. He is a loner, a dreamer, and an artist.
He is writing a novel in which he has little faith, he isn’t interested in
working, and he has no money. And yet he is somewhat happy with his “freedom.”
Then, by happenstance, he is talked into an arranged marriage to a young girl,
Aparna (played by the beautiful Sharmila Tagore in her first film role—she went
on to become a star in Indian cinema), and Apu’s life is changed once again. The World of Apu is primarily a love
story, but it’s also about the assuming of responsibility for one’s actions.
too bad that there was never a fourth chapter in the story. It would have been
interesting to see what happened to Apu when he was in his forties or fifties.
Like Truffaut’s Adventures of Antoine
Doinel, which covers the life of a young man over the course of five films, The Apu Trilogy is a monumental epic—but an extremely personal and intimate one—that covers universal truths, emotions, and values recognizable
in any culture and language. It stands as one of the most heartfelt statements
on humanity ever put on celluloid.
Criterion Collection’s new boxed-set contains all three films, gorgeously and
meticulously restored in 4K digital, undertaken in collaboration with the
Academy Film Archive at the AMPAS and L’Immagine Ritrovata from existing prints
(the negatives were long ago destroyed in a fire). There are many supplements
on each of the three discs that include new interviews with Soumitra Chatterjee,
Sharmila Tagore, and Shampa Banerjee (now Shampa Srivastava), as well as with film
historian Gideon Bachmann, camera assistant Soumendu Roy, film writer Ujjal
Chakraborty, Ray biographer Andrew Robinson, and film historian Mamoun Hassan.
Vintage interviews include several with Ray, Ravi Shankar, members of the crew
and cast, and more. A handful of vintage documentaries are included, along with
footage from the 1992 Oscar ceremony, in which Ray received his honorary award
in a bed in a Calcutta hospital. The booklet features a selection of Ray’s
storyboards for Song of the Little Road,
as well as essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Girish Shambu.
The Apu Trilogy on Blu-ray is a
landmark release from the Criterion Collection of milestones not only of
Bengali cinema, but of motion picture history. Check it out—you will find it a
profoundly rewarding experience.
If there is one scene that sums up the
tone of Sergio Martino's Craving Desire, it is the climax. After her true nature is revealed, a deranged
Sonia (Vittoria Belvedere) begins to sensually strip down to nothing but her garter
and panties. While doing so, she uses the
heel of her stiletto to brutally attack Luigi (Ron Nummi), who is helpless
against the assault. Belvedere’s
performance here is many things: disturbing, terrifying, deranged; yet also
mildly erotic. Such are words that not only perfectly sum up the movie, but many
of the films produced in the giallo style of horror.
Filmed by legendary Italian low budget
director Sergio Martino, Craving Desire
was made in the 1990s, long past the golden age of the genre. Although more of an erotic horror/drama
hybrid than a pure giallo, it still contains enough hallmarks to somewhat
qualify as one. Overall, it is a truly
dark film that leaves viewers with a distinct sense of unease. For horror fans, this undercurrent of dread has
the potential to hook you up until the very final seconds.
The story of the film follows Luigi, a
man who seemingly has everything. He
lives in a beautiful apartment, has a gorgeous fiancée (even if she is a total
witch), and seems to have a fairly decent job. Yet it is clear that Luigi is simply unhappy in life. This all rapidly changes one day after a
funeral, when the beautiful Sonia shows up on his door step. They quickly jump
into bed and overnight Luigi’s existence becomes full of the excitement that he
so desperately craves. Yet as he
continues to spiral deeper and deeper into debauchery, his life begins to fray
before completely falling apart. Finally
hitting rock bottom, he tries to end things with Sonia, only to realize what a
true monster his lover is. He becomes
trapped in mortal peril, with no possible escape in sight. Thus, Luigi learns
the hard way an age old lesson: man should always be careful about what he
To start, credit must go where its due. Ron Nummi does his best with what’s given to
him, trying to make us like his character. Yet the truth is that Luigi comes across as a very flat, one dimensional
guy who has a knack for poor decision making. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that he simply is an idiot who
falls into a trap of his own construction. To sum up, he is too much of a dirty minded moron to really feel pity
As that stands, the real focus of the
film goes to Nummi’s lovely costar Vittoria Belvedere, and understandably so. Her character is not developed any better than
Luigi, yet she still does quite the exceptional job regardless. Belvedere portrays Sonia as some type of succubus;
although there is something clearly off about her, she radiates a sexuality
that is both mystifying and alluring. She is like a praying mantis whose entire
existence consists of feeding off a victim’s lust. The thing is, no lover can ever satisfy her
completely, even after they torpedo their entire life for her: a disappointed
Sonia is unfortunately also a very deadly
Sonia. Belvedere, who was only in her
twenty’s at the time, proves that she has some real acting potential. Sadly, she is the only real bright spot in a
film that screams “mediocre” right from the get-go.
From a creative and technical
standpoint, Craving Desire isn’t a
very good film. At times, it struggles just to be watchable,
let alone enjoyable. For one thing, the production value leaves a lot to be
desired, with abrupt transitions between scenes and a music score so bad it
makes the soundtrack’s of adult films seem like platinum sellers. (One scene
sums all this up perfectly: early in the film a boom mike can clearly be said hovering
directly above an actor’s head. It’s
pretty difficult for any movie to recover from a start like that). While other films can rely on a decent plot
to cover up such shortcomings, Craving
Desire sadly has no such luck. Evidently,
Martino and his producers realized all this and decided to follow an age old tradition
that has helped visual media thrive for generations. Vis-a-vis: sex and nudity. Lots of it.
Ms. Belvedere’s figure (“assets” is a
more accurate term) is often used in an attempt to distract viewers from the film’s
numerous flaws. (One memorable scene involves Belvedere and a female club goer
involved in a very “breezy” sequence that probably melted some of the cameras
on set). Although it’s unlikely that
many (male) viewers complained about such obvious gimmickry, it sadly makes the
movie devolve into pure T&A at times. In fact, it’s not really unfair to claim that most of the movie simply lurches
from one T&A moment to the next before it ultimately culminates in a rather
gruesome fashion. Hence, the results are
anything but impressive.
To further add to the list of negatives,
much of the content in Craving Desire
will shock and/or upset many viewers. Foremost on the list is that the fact that Sonia and Luigi, the film’s
lustful lovers, are cousins, or at least have been raised as such. Such gross revelations aside (there’s an even
worse one at the end), the violence can get shockingly brutal. The aforementioned heel scene is a prime
example of this, becoming very uncomfortable to sit through. As such, it’s strongly recommended that one check
out the movie’s content beforehand if they plan to watch it.
Desire was released by Mya Communication, the
notorious label that quickly squandered away its promise by releasing horrible
quality films ripped straight from old VHS. Thankfully, Craving Desire is
not such a feature. The audio is respectable
while the video quality, while not Blu-Ray, is still quite crisp. The special features are, well,
nonexistent. The DVD simply comes with a
language selection (English/Italian) and chapter viewer (which at only six, seems
a bit insufficient). There are no
subtitles, so whichever language one chooses (Nummi speaks English while
Belvedere only talks in Italian) some characters are going to get dubbed. Thankfully, the dubbing is, for the most part,
fairly well done and not too noticeable.
All in all, the film was not this
reviewer’s cup of tea. So why the
recommendation? Although falling short,
the movie does represent something that makes it special. It’s bad but different; a qualityoften
lacking these days. After all, horror (like
many Hollywood genres) has been recycling content for some time now, making the
genre grow somewhat stale of late. In today’s film market, originality is a
characteristic that is getting harder and harder to come by. Even when something novel does come along, it
is often rehashed so rapidly that within a year we have an entire trilogy, if
not franchise, of diminishing returns. All in all, it is not a pretty picture.
In a nutshell, Craving Desire is a movie that hints at a better place for horror
fans, pointing to a sub-genre that was sadly never really noticed in the United
States. Although giallos are the
forbearers of the American slasher film, they are also so much more. With a focus on eroticism and paranoia, they
are films that truly focus on the psychological aspect of fear. While it is true that their heyday has long
past, occasional films continue to be made today, often with respectable
At the very least, Craving Desire can be viewed as a kinky date movie for Halloween. But
even more so, the film can be regarded as the doorman to the giallo genre. If one can sit through the movie, and
actually enjoy it, then they might want to consider giving other (and better
made) giallos a chance. Odds are they
are the missing link that your horror collection has been waiting for.
you’re above a certain age, Sylvester Stallone is more than an icon, he is an
inspiration. The real-life backstory of Rocky is just as mesmerizing as the
film itself, as a struggling actor refused to sell his script unless he was
able to star as The Italian Stallion. The rest of his history is also ours.
through the private preview in Manhattan was a tour through my own
recollections, as well as Stallone’s filmography. Over 750 props, costumes and personal items
will be offered. Boxing gloves, trunks,
robes, and the original handwritten script are up for sale, as well as the ball
Rocky plays with as he walked through the streets of Philadelphia.
field jacket, machete and Bowie knife, as well as a set of costumes, prop
armour and gun from Judge Dredd are on the block. You
can also buy pieces ranging from Freddy Heflin’s bloodstained peace officer
uniform from Copland, to Stanley Rosiello’s gang jacket from The Lords of
Flatbush, to Angelo “Snaps” Provolone’s three piece suit from Oscar.
up is Deke DaSilva’s flight suit from one of my all-time favorites, 1981’s
Nighthawks, where Stallone and Billy Dee Williams play undercover New York City
Detectives tasked to the Federal government to fight terrorist Wulfgar (Rutger
Hauer in his first American starring role) long before 9/11, with a great tense
climactic scene atop New York’s Roosevelt Island Tramway.
auction will be held in Los Angeles on December 18-20. Visit HA.com/Stallone, or call 866-825-3243866-825-3243 FREE
for more information.
Kenneth Branagh will direct a remake of Agatha Christie's classic thriller "Murder on the Orient Express" (originally published under the title "Murder in the Calais Coach"). Branagh will also star in the feature film as detective Hercule Poirot. The film was last brought to the big screen in 1974 by director Sidney Lumet in an Oscar-winning production that featured a cast of legendary actors including Albert Finney (in an Oscar-nominated role as Poirot); Ingrid Bergman (who did win an Oscar for her performance), Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Richard Widmark, Anthony Perkins, Michael York and many other greats from the era. No word on who will co-star with Branagh. For more click here.
witty, spooky and fabulously atmospheric comedy-thriller, The Phantom Light was
an early feature from British film legend Michael Powell. With leading roles
for the multi-talented Binnie Hale and endlessly popular character player
Gordon Harker, this classic Gainsborough feature remains a wonderful piece of
from Evadne Price and Joan Roy Byford's play, The Haunted light, this
delightful British thriller wastes little time and begins with the strange
murder of a lighthouse keeper. Since his death, the area (an unspecified Welsh
coast), has suffered a number of shipwrecks due to a phantom light or indeed a
failing light from the North Stack Lighthouse. A female detective in the
shapely form of Alice Bright (Binnie Hale) unites with new lighthouse keeper Sam
Higgins (Gordon Harker) and a navy officer Jim Pearce (Ian Hunter) in order to
solve the mystery. Directed with flare and confidence by Michael Powell, The
Phantom Light is a superior entry among the quota-quickie melodramas that were
saturating the British film market at the time.
Phantom Light was one of seven films released by Michael Powell in 1935 and was
essentially a star vehicle for the Cockney comedian Gordon Harker. The film
retains a great atmosphere with plenty of storm-tossed coastal action provided
by a combination of stock footage, fine model work and superb studio sets. For Michael Powell, it is an early exercise
into a pre-modern Britain that still continues on its isles and rocky locales
and would become a feature of his later films.
cleverly uses his low budget and without straying too far from the London studios
of Gainsborough Pictures. He successfully sells us his imaginary Wales from one
railway station, a pub set and a couple of process shots. A fun script,
enjoyable performances, and its sheer entertainment value bring all elements
together rather nicely throughout its 73 minutes.
DVD works very well, with film elements both clean and vibrant. Yes, there are
a few minor scratches here and there, but for the best part it does little to
disappoint or become an overwhelming hindrance. It has to be remembered, this
charming low budget film is now eighty years old. Audio is clear and crisp and
the film is presented correctly in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The DVD
also features a nice stills gallery (approx. 40 images) containing photos,
press book ads and even a cigarette card featuring the film, another lost
treasure of cinema’s past.
The cult '60s sci-fi series "Lost in Space" will be remade as an original show for Netflix. The original series, produced by Irwin Allen, was only modestly successful when aired on CBS for three seasons beginning in 1965. The show was a clever space aged remake of "Swiss Family Robinson", with a family of the future finding itself stranded in outer space. Along the way they meet numerous alien species and share exotic adventures. The series has developed a strong cult following over the decades with many fans nostalgic for the series' infamous use of threadbare, cheesy sets and the emphasis on overt humor. Attempts to revive the series have not been successful to date. A 1998 big screen version was loathed by fans of the original show. Plans to bring the show back as a series stalled once before, never moving beyond the pilot stage. Netflix hopes the third time will be the charm. For more click here.
Lucas put on a happy face when he sold his rights to "Star Wars" to Disney in 2012. Since then, he's made his frustrations public about not being able to further the original story lines he had envisioned for the series, which he describes as a "soap opera".
BY LEE PFEIFFER
Don't invite George Lucas and Mickey Mouse to the same cocktail party. The "Star Wars" creator was not at all happy with negative feedback from fans in relation to the last trilogy of films in the series that he had creative control over. Lucas, in an interview with CBS News, states that he was frustrated by the perception that the series should be about "space ships" instead of human relationships. Thus, Lucas threw in the towel, sold his rights to Disney, took his billions in profits and went home. He's basically washed his hands of "Star Wars" and realizes that the Disney vision will be about fan perceptions of the series, not his original story lines. Lucas says he still wants to direct, but prefers to work on the kinds of experimental movies that "will not be shown anywhere". In essence, Lucas is about to embark on creating prestigious home movies ever made. Lucas isn't alone in his disdain for the modern film industry. His colleague Francis Ford Coppola hasn't made a major studio film since "The Rainmaker" in 1997 and spends much of his time either tending to his successful wine business while occasionally directing films that give him personal satisfaction even though they have very limited commercial appeal. Today's film industry is about developing "tent pole" series that can spawn numerous sequels. Seemingly every other movie in release features a spy or a guy in tights. Still, every year finds a crop of worthy art house movies that often find their intended audiences and win awards. One would hope that Lucas and Coppola might some day find a happy medium and direct films that have at least some commercial appeal. The caveat, of course, is that both men are used to having complete creative control over the projects, a demand that would generally fall on deaf ears today. For more click here.
In a relatively infamous review, a film critic from the
Atlanta Journal dismissively sniffed
that Dont Look Back (that’s not a typo, there is, mysteriously, no apostrophe
in the title) was little more than “the neighborhood’s biggest brat blowing his
nose for ninety minutes.” This harsh
sentiment was echoed by a critic from the Cleveland
Plains Dealer who added the film was “certainly not for moviegoers who
bathe and/or shave.” Time, of course,
has proven such histrionic appraisals of this very significant film to be entirely
wide of the mark. Most film scholars now
regard Donn Allen (D.A.) Pennebaker’s gritty and grainy opus as the first true masterwork
of rock music documentary filmmaking.
Though some of the earliest reviews were clearly nonplussed
with Pennebaker’s maverick “direct cinema” style of filmmaking, most of the critical
scorn was reserved for the movie’s principal figure, Bob Dylan. Even such early believers as Israel G. “Izzy”
Young, a folk-music enthusiast who took a chance in November of 1961 and chose
to produce Dylan’s first New York City concert, thought Dont Look Back, “A sad
event. Dylan surrounded by machinations,
appearing wherever he is told to, and resenting it. He is abusive to interviewers. Why? He didn’t have to agree to it.”
In defense of his detractors, both friendly and
antagonistic, it is true that few of Dylan’s Dont Look Back challengers are
spared the artist’s stony silence or mocking ridicule. In the course of the film the strikingly
young but already revered folksinger appears, at any given time, to be aloof,
condescending, or downright rude to those who might dare touch the hem. The devoted pilgrims, uncomprehending
journalists, and dullards who crowd and distract the musician in dressing rooms,
hotel suites, press conferences or out on the street are ceremoniously – and
sometimes painfully – put-on or put-off by this enfant terrible. Pennebaker’s
shoulder-held 16mm newsreel camera is seemingly always at the ready to capture every
glorious – and cringe-worthy - moment for posterity, all in a dispassionate and
non-judgmental manner. Since his two-camera
team rolled nearly continuously, Dylan himself opines on a supplement from this
magnificent new Blu-ray issue from Criterion, “After awhile you didn’t notice [the
What Dylan’s harshest critics totally miss is that the
singer’s perceived boorishness is reflexively defensive; it’s his dilettantish
but not too un-understandable coping mechanism to navigate the maelstrom encircling
him. Throughout Dont Look Back, the camera
establishes - in stark black and white imagery- that by 1965 Dylan was already caught
uncomfortably in the cross-hairs of the emerging culture-war. Dylan’s gift at word-play and his brilliant,
thoughtful songs brought him deserved attention; but they also managed, perhaps
accidentally, to tap into the zeitgeist of the brimming ‘60’s revolution. The singer’s mysterious persona, his wounded
singing-style, his elemental guitar-playing, and his haunting word-images were not
simply embraced. They were soon imbedded into the psyches of those most
deeply moved: academics, politicos, folk-music aficionados, devoted followers
and gossipy news gatherers. Viewing this
phenomenon through the prism of today’s prevalent cynicism is difficult; it’s not
easily explainable why Dylan’s most ardent admirers expected that this skinny, twenty-four
year old youngster – one with less than optimal social skills no less– had the
ability to impart wisdom befitting that of an ancient, wizened sage. Throughout the film the singer is pressed to share
the secrets of the universe that everyone presumes he’s holding close to his
chest. Though Dylan makes several
sincere attempts to explain, “I’m just a guitar player. That’s all…,” his protestations go unheeded.
There is one archival flashback near the film’s
beginning that provides a window of context for such deification. Upon a BBC journalist’s query “How did it all
begin for you, Bob?,” Pennebaker flashes to a civil rights rally where – in a
strikingly invasive full screen and spit-flicking close-up – Dylan brays out
the verses to one of his best “finger-pointing” songs, “Only a Pawn in their
Game.” The song, which would see issue
a half-year later on his seminal The
Times They Are A-Changin’ album, brashly charges not only the genuine
assassin of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, but a morally corrupt police
force, government officials, and court justices as malleable co-conspirators to
the murder. To the best of my knowledge,
this is the only footage in Dont Look Back that is not the product of
Pennebaker’s own set of voyeuristic cameras.
The rally footage came courtesy of Edmund Emshwiller, a
celebrated visual artist and illustrator who would dabble in experimental
filmmaking in the early 1960s. Carrying
along a single 16mm wind-up Bolex camera, Emshwiller followed a troupe of
Greenwich Village folk-singing activists (Dylan, Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel,
and the Freedom Singers) in July of 1963 to a Voter Registration Rally on the
farm of Silas Magee in Greenwood, Mississippi. Emshwiller’s resulting short film, Streets of Greenwood, a reference to
the small town that was, at the time, a hotbed of racial discrimination and
KKK-vigilante violence, would, sadly, not see wide release. Pete Seeger would later suggest it was likely
Dylan’s inclusion in the finished experimental-film that doomed Streets of
Greenwood to near-oblivion. He was
An extremely limited release of this obscure agit-prop short
film had, reportedly, been blocked by Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman. Grossman was a major figure in the early
1960s folk-music revival, a tough and calculating business manager by
reputation; his table stable of clients would eventually include Peter, Paul,
and Mary, Janis Joplin, Odetta, Ian and Sylvia, Phil Ochs, and Richie Havens
amongst others. In 1962, Dylan signed a
ten-year exclusive contract with Grossman, an opportunistic move that in three
years time would swiftly transform the scruffy singer from little-known folksinger
to pop-music icon. It was also a
temporary alliance of strong personalities predestined to end acrimoniously.
Syndrome comes through again with this Blu-Ray double feature release that combines
a 1970s Euro-Trash vampire movie and a really obscure 1970s British-made stab
at a creepy plantation gothic. I wish more video companies would follow this
template for films of this type and vintage, thus giving a new audience a
chance to see these often overlooked bits of genre history.
behind the title Crypt of the Living Dead is the public domain video standard
Hannah, Queen of the Vampires. Until now I had managed to never see this feature
because every time I tried, the print available was nearly unwatchable. Luckily
VS seems to have improved wonderfully on past transfers. Mechanical engineer
Chris Bolton (genre regular Andrew Prine) travels to a Turkish locale know to
its inhabitants as "Vampire Island" in response to his archaeologist
father's death. When he arrives to take care of his father's remains, he is
taken to the body which is still lying crushed under the heavy stone coffin
that supposedly killed him in an - accident! Of course, we know his death was
no accident because the film showed us in a prologue that it was actually Mark
Damon's character Peter that strangled the man and then deliberately crushed
his body to hide the crime. It appears that Peter has completely bought into
the island legend and mythical history about the tomb being that of Hannah, the
wife of the 13th-century French King Louis VII. The tale insists that the tomb
that 'fell' onto the archeologist actually belongs to this Queen and that she
was a vampire. The legend states that Louis was too captivated by the vampire
monster's beauty to have her killed so he had her sealed alive in a stone tomb
- possibly this one. Chris dismisses this silly superstition and sets about building
a contraption to raise the coffin off of his dead father. Peter helps the grief-stricken
man in his efforts, enlisting some locals for muscle but these islanders baulk
when it becomes clear that this thing might be the legendary tomb of the
vampire queen. Things get worse when they remove the lid to make the task
easier and discover a perfectly preserved woman inside! Oh, my. Of course, this
is Hannah played by the lovely Spanish actress Teresa Gimpera, and she soon wakes
from her several hundred years long snooze to wreak havoc on the islander with
the help of a hideous, beastly 'wild man' servant (Ihshan Gedik) who gets his
kicks playing around with decapitated heads. This section of the film is done
with some nice style and a good handle on how to use a low budget wisely. We
see Hannah transforming into a green mist, floating out of her coffin and
changing into a wolf as part of her horrific attacks. Adding to the
complications Chris gets romantically involved with Peter's sister Mary (the
wonderful Patty Shepard) who teaches school on the island. By this time Peter
is completely under Hannah's influence, helping her in her activities and Chris
wants to get his lady love off the island and away from her increasingly crazed
brother. The story then becomes a contest between the engineer and Peter for
the life of Mary leading to a dark finale.
Queen of the Vampires is often derided as a cut-rate vampire film but now that
I've finally seen it I have to slightly disagree. While it is not a great genre
film, it has several points in its favor as a better than 'bad' effort. First,
its island locations (shot in Turkey) are very nice adding immeasurably to the
atmosphere and creep factor. Also, the actors take the proceedings seriously,
giving the often sub-par dialog more gravitas than it should have. Another good
point is that the film's score is unexpectedly quite good,adding a lot to the
dark proceedings and never feeling out of place. The vampiric sequences are
well done and memorable, making the supernatural horror elements feel more
effective than I expected them to be with Hannah herself posing a striking figure
as the silent vampire Queen preying on poor islanders. The film has some
missteps with the most serious being that Peter's evil nature should not have
been revealed at the beginning of the movie so that more suspense could be
generated as things ramp up.
Syndrome's Blu-ray presents the U.S. theatrical version of the film restored in
2k from a newly-discovered 35mm negative and it looks very good for such a
neglected title. The film looks its age but the colors are vivid with good
detail even in darker scenes. The soundtrack is the mono English version fans
are familiar with but probably sounding much better than past releases. I doubt
this film has ever looked or sounded better on video and this is the best way
to evaluate it or reevaluate it if your impressions of it were colored by bad
transfers from the past.
South African made 1973 film House of the Living Dead (AKA Curse of the Dead) is on this Blu-ray more
as an extra than a full blooded second feature. The story takes place in the
late 1800's in the Cape Colony of South Africa where an aristocratic English family
own and run a large plantation farm. The family matriarch Lady Brattling
(Margaret Inglis) is unhappy to learn that her son Michael’s lovely fiancée
Mary (Shirley Anne Field) is about to arrive with her chaperone Dr. Collinson
(David Oxley). Lady Brattling has advised against bringing outsiders to the
plantation because of the unfortunate presence of her other son Breck (Mark
Burns, playing both brothers) who seems to be deformed although we can't really
tell since he covers his face in public. Breck hides away in his laboratory
room conducting strange experiments based on a theory about capturing living
souls through blood transfusion - paging Dr. Moreau! We see his tortuous
experiments on a baboon he has captured in the jungle and it's clear his work
is pretty unhinged. Lady Brattling tries to stop the young girl from arriving,
believing that her family has a history of inescapable madness and that any
outsiders will be in mortal danger. Of course, soon after Mary settles in to
the big house Breck starts taking in unwilling humans for his experiments and
things escalate out of control even as some of the deaths are attributed to
voodoo curses, which just adds to the confusion. The movie has a nice twist at
the end but by the time you get there it is more of a curious moment than a
surprise that makes the story resonate.
in 1973, House of the Living Dead didn’t play in the states until years later
and then only on the drive-in circuit so chances are good that this movie has
been under the radar of most genre fans until now. I know I had never heard of
it until I explored this release and after enjoying Hannah I was hoping for
another little gem. Sadly, although the film’s production values are pretty
high and the cast does a solid job overall, the film is fairly dull. It starts
well leading with plantation mystery and the ending is lively enough but the
middle is a dead weight. This section of the movie just plods along with little
energy often seeming to meander around to the point where I began to forget
what was going on earlier. If I had to guess I suspect that the producers were
trying to give this the look of the Hammer Studio gothics of the 1960's. I will
admit that I enjoyed watching the beautiful Shirley Anne Field work her way
through the mystery hidden in the large house but she is really just required
to scream a lot and then look pensive before screaming some more. If the film
weren't so plodding it might be worth seeking out but that slow middle hour is
deadly. This one is at best a one time watch for the Gothicly curious but bring
some caffeine for the ride.
Syndrome's Blu-ray presents the film sourced from a slightly scuffed up 35mm
print and in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio - it looks pretty muddy in the
darker scenes. Colors are soft with little detail except in bright sequences
and a sometimes distracting amount of grain throughout. The soundtrack is fine
with more detail in the design of the creaks of the old house than I expected. Vinegar
Syndrome has included a DVD of both films in the package using the same masters
found on the Blu-ray and they even put Crypt of the Living Dead extras
(trailer; alternate title sequence) on it as well.
Chain of Events 1958 Region 2 DVD Review:
Directed by Gerald Thomas, Starring
Kenneth Griffith, Susan Shaw, Dermot Walsh, Freddie Mills and Joan Hickson.
Released November 2nd 2015
taut 1958 crime melodrama, Chain of Events features noted actor and film-maker
Kenneth Griffith as a bank clerk whose attempt to dodge a fare has devastating
consequences; a powerful cast includes Rank "Charm School" starlet
Susan Shaw and future Richard the Lionheart lead Dermot Walsh. Chain of Events is
also directed in sharp, pacey style by the ‘Carry On’ legend Gerald Thomas.
curiously, Chain of Events was adapted from a radio play written by the late Australian
character actor Leo McKern. John Clarke (Kenneth Griffith), an uninspiring sort
of gentleman, one day boards a bus on his way home from work and foolishly
“forgets” to pay his fare. He is caught by an inspector, but instead of owning
up to it, gives the name and address of one of the bank's clients and thereby
setting in motion a violent chain of events involving blackmail, robbery and
Chain of Events was very much a B movie feature, the film stands firmly, and
really works exceptionally well on its own merits. Both Dermot Walsh as
newspaper reporter Quinn and the beautiful Susan Shaw as his girlfriend Jill
light up the screen. The narrative twists and turns rather intelligently, and by
the end of its 60 minute duration you are left somewhat confused, not by the
plot, but how everything was condensed into such a short running time. Of
course, as a result the film moves at a frantic pace, which is good, as it
never allows time for it to run into tedium or endless meters of tiresome
Region 2 DVD delivers a beautiful, brand-new transfer from the original film
elements and presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Detail is sharp throughout
with nice deep blacks and minimal signs of dirt or damage. Audio comes in the
way of a nice clear mono track. Special features pinclude an image gallery and original
Pressbook material. Overall, a nice smooth way to kick back and take an hour
from your life…
Last May, in anticipation of the 30th anniversary of Roger Moore's final James Bond film, "A View to a Kill", writer Michael Coate of The Digital Bits web site solicited extensive comments and reflections on the film from a number of 007 scholars including Cinema Retro Editor-in-Chief Lee Pfeiffer. Whether you love or loathe the film, every Bond fan seems to be very opinionated about it. Click here to read the article.
of the more controversial motion pictures to emerge out of what film historians
call “New Hollywood” was In Cold Blood,
which was released to theaters “for mature audiences only.” The New Hollywood
movement began around 1966, when the Production Code finally started to
collapse (and before the movie ratings were instituted) and studios commenced
allowing auteur filmmakers to do
whatever the hell they wanted. The year 1967 was especially a groundbreaking
one with the release of such “adult” fare as Bonnie and Clyde, The
Graduate, In the Heat of the Night,
and In Cold Blood.
In Cold Blood is based on the
“non-fiction novel” by Truman Capote about the true crime of 1959 in which an
innocent family of four in Kansas were murdered by two ex-cons who believed
there was $10,000 hidden in a safe in the house (there wasn’t). Capote spent
several years writing the book, interviewing law enforcement men involved in
the case, as well as the two killers themselves—Perry Smith and Dick Hickock.
The accused were eventually executed in 1965. In Cold Blood turned out to be, along with Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter, one of the two most
successful true crime books ever published.
Brooks was a Hollywood veteran who had been working in the industry since
before World War II. In the 1950s, he made a name for himself as a
writer/director, especially as an adapter of previously existing material. He
had won an Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Elmer
Gantry (1960) and had brought to the screen other acclaimed pictures such
as Blackboard Jungle (1955), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and The Professionals (1966). Brooks
received Oscar nominations for both Director and Adapted Screenplay for In Cold Blood.
filmed in black and white at a time when most movies were in color, the picture
is a stark, dark, and ultra-realistic depiction of two psychologically-damaged
men, brilliantly portrayed by Robert Blake as Smith and Scott Wilson as
Hickock. Brooks’ reasoning to film in black and white was that “documentaries
were usually in black and white” and he wanted that true-to-life feel. Conrad
Hall, the director of photography, used a palette of extreme blacks and harsh
whites to achieve a higher than usual contrast (Hall was also nominated for an
Oscar). This served to emphasize the darkness that resided in these two men’s
In Cold Blood is a tough picture
to watch. It’s very disturbing, even today. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have
its rewards. As a study of darkness, and a display of virtuoso filmmaking, it’s
easily one of the better motion pictures of that decade. Brooks considered it
to be the best film he ever made, and he’s probably right.
movie is very faithful to the book with a few minor exceptions, such as the
addition of a reporter character who provides some voice-over narration, and
the complete elimination of the trial. The only scene from the trial in the film
is the prosecutor’s closing argument for the death penalty. Oddly, one figure
is totally absent from the movie, and that is Truman Capote himself. As shown
in the recent pictures, Capote (2005)
and Infamous (2006), the author
inserted himself into the convicted men’s incarcerated lives on an intimate
level. (It is highly recommended that after viewing In Cold Blood, one might want to take a look at Douglas McGrath’s Infamous, an often overlooked and
underrated biopic on Capote that deals closely with the author’s relationship
with Perry Smith, who in this case is played by none other than Daniel Craig!).
have said that In Cold Blood is a
statement against the death penalty, but in many ways, it’s also the opposite.
While Brooks does a great job in evoking some sympathy for the killers by
portraying the hard life Perry had as a child and other circumstances that
brought the two killers to commit murder, it’s also difficult not to side with
the jury. The Clutter family—the victims—are presented in such a compassionate
light that, in the end—at least for this viewer—the verdict makes complete
Criterion Collection disc presents a new 4K digital restoration with 5.1
surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack (and the jazz score is by Quincy
Jones—also nominated for an Oscar!). Visually, the Blu-ray could not be more
striking. The abundance of supplements is also impressive. There are new
interviews with: a) Author Daniel K. Daniel on director Brooks, and this is
very enlightening; b) Cinematographer John Bailey about DP Conrad Hall and his
work; c) Film historian Bobbie O’Steen on the film’s editing; and d) Film
historian and jazz critic Gary Giddins about Jones’ score. Vintage interviews
include one with Brooks from 1988; one with Capote from 1966 during a visit to
the crime scene; and one with Capote from 1967 conducted by Barbara Walters.
There is also a short 1966 documentary on Capote directed by Albert and David
Maysles. The film’s trailer and an essay by critic Chris Fujiwara in the
enclosed booklet rounds out this excellent package.
In Cold Blood is not for the
faint-hearted, but it is also hard-hitting, arresting, and brilliantly made.
It’s a must for fans of crime drama and those who appreciate a little art with
Referring to the 1955 film "Man With the Gun" as a routine Western might not sound like an enthusiastic recommendation. However, because the 1950s was such a fertile time for fine movies representing this genre, "routine" can be taken as praise. The film follows many of the standard story elements that were popular in horse operas of this era: a stalwart, mysterious loner with a shady past who takes on the forces of evil; a good-hearted "bad girl"; a larger-than-life villain and a town with a population of timid, helpless men who must rely on the stranger to save them from being exploited and cheated. Robert Mitchum, then an up-and-coming star, plays Clint Tollinger, a drifter with a reputation for taming wild towns. The town he rides into has a trouble with a capital "T". Seems one Dade Holman (Joe Barry) is the standard villain in a Western piece: he's been flexing his considerable financial resources by buying up all the surrounding land and using paid gun hands to terrorize or kill anyone who won't cede their property rights to him. Tollinger drifts into town to find that his reputation precedes him. He is hired by the local council to thwart Holman's thugs, who have also been disrupting the peace. Tollinger agrees as long as he has complete control over the methods he employs and that he is temporarily deputized, as well. He finds the local sheriff to be an aged, fragile man Lee Simms (Henry Hull), who is more of a figurehead than a respected lawman. Tollinger quickly reverses roles and becomes the central law officer in town, with Simms taking on the role of his deputy. It doesn't take long for Holman's gunmen to test his mettle. Tollinger proves to be adept at protecting himself, consisting outdrawing his adversaries and killing them even when they outnumber him. He also enforces a "no guns in town" rule and a curfew as well. Before long, the businessmen are complaining that now things are too peaceful and their businesses are suffering. Tollinger also interacts with a young couple who are engaged to marry: lovely Stella Atkins (Karen Sharpe) and her headstrong fiancee Jeff Castle (John Lupton) who continues to defy Holman's men and who has been seriously wounded for his refusal to cede a parcel of land Holman wants. Tollinger takes a liking to the couple, though rumors begin to swirl that Stella is more in love with him than she is with Jeff. Tollinger also encounters his estranged wife Nelly (Jan Sterling), who is running the local bordello/dance hall. The two are not happy to see each other and when Nelly reveals a shocking secret about their daughter, the enraged Tollinger goes on a rampage that terrorizes the town.
"Man With the Gun" suffers from a bland, uninspired title but the film itself is quite engaging. Mitchum looks terrific in the part, strutting about town ramrod straight and looking handsome even when embroiled in shoot-outs. Even this early in his career there was evidence of a superstar in the making. The supporting cast is also very good, especially some wonderful character actors such as Henry Hull, Emile Meyer, James Westerfield and other familiar faces of the era (including a young Claude Akins). The film, ably directed by Richard Wilson, is certainly no classic but on the other hand, it is consistently engrossing and highly entertaining. Despite the considerable talent involved, it's Mitchum's show throughout- and he delivers the goods.
The Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber does justice to the crisp B&W cinematography. The edition features the original trailer and bonus trailers for other Mitchum Westerns from the company, The Wonderful Country and Young Billy Young.
Explosive Media is a German-based video label that releases superb special Blu-ray editions of films that retro movie lovers will salivate over. The only problem is that, due to licensing issues, their products are primarily available through Amazon Germany, although some imports of the titles can occasionally be found on eBay and other Amazon sites. Among their latest releases is Roger Corman's 1960 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher". (Bizarrely, the film was marketed under this title in some territories and simply "House of Usher" in others. Go figure.) The film was a milestone in Corman's career. It not only marked his first color, Cinemascope production but also allowed him to finally graduate from making ultra-cheap, B&W exploitation flicks. More importantly, the film marked his first collaboration with Vincent Price, with whom he would team for numerous other Poe adaptations. "House of Usher" also proved important for Corman because henceforth, he would be working with American International Pictures for many years to come. AIP was supportive of his creative ideas and gave him virtually complete artistic control over his productions. The end result was that Price gained iconic stature in the horror genre, AIP became a highly profitable studio and Corman gained acclaim and respect as a producer and director who worked incredibly fast and efficiently without sacrificing the quality of the films. ("Usher" was shot in only 15 days!) Along with way, the ties to Poe's original stories became quite flimsy, to say the least, but Corman always insisted on keeping them as period pieces and hired talented behind the scenes craftsmen to provide lush production values that masked to some degree the low budgets of the films.
"House of Usher" opens with a solitary man riding his horse through a barren, ominous landscape. (Corman actually utilized an area of the Hollywood hills where a devastating fire had recently swept the area.) He arrives at a mansion house shrouded in fog and mist (another ploy of Corman's that he would frequently use to disguise the fact that he was shooting on a rather small studio set.) The man is Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon), who has traveled a long distance to reunite with his fiancee, Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey). His arrival at the mansion is the stuff of horror movie cliches: a creepy butler refuses to let him in but Winthrop will have none of it. He insists on being announced to the mansion's reclusive owner, Roderick Usher (Vincent Price). Roderick is clearly annoyed by the presence of the interloper. He informs Winthrop that he is Madeline's older brother and has taken on the duties of being her caregiver because she is allegedly gravely ill and confined to her bed. Winthrop insists on seeing her. The tension between the two men is broken by Madeline's unexpected entrance into the room. She seems in desperate straits emotionally but does not appear to be physically ill. Winthrop soon finds that Roderick has been keeping her a virtual prisoner in the isolated Usher mansion. Alone and forgotten, Madeline seems eager to accept Winthrop's offer to take her from the premises back to Boston where he originally met her. Before he can do so, a series of eerie events intervenes and results in Madeline's apparent death by heart attack. Roderick, a distraught Winthrop and the butler, Bristol (Harry Ellerbe) preside over a short funeral service before Madeline's casket in entombed in the cellar along with those of previously-deceased members of the Usher family. Prior to departing, however, the heartbroken Winthrop learns that Madeline suffered from a rare disorder that put her in a trance-like sleep. He frantically runs to her tomb to find out that she had been buried alive. He rescues her and confronts Roderick who admits his despicable deed but justifies it by telling Winthrop that the Usher family has been cursed because of the inhumane acts the family members committed over generations. Even as the mansion house crumbles around them during a storm, Roderick says the best thing he and his sister can do is simply die so that they will not bring any more suffering into the world in the manner that their ancestors did. As the storm intensifies, the mansion literally begins to fall apart...and Winthrop finds himself in a race against time to rescue the woman he loves, even as a raging fire begins to engulf the house.
The Explosive Media Blu-ray edition boasts an outstanding transfer of this fine film, which features Price in top form and an impressive performance by Mark Damon in his first important role as a leading man. The production values are impressive, even though one cannot escape the obvious budget constraints. (The "mansion" is depicted through obvious matte paintings and miniatures.). There is also a good deal of legitimate suspense and fine supporting performances by both Myrna Fahey and Harry Ellerbe. Cinematographer Floyd Crosby makes the most of the widescreen, color format and Les Baxter, who would also collaborate with Corman on future productions, provides a fine score. Bonus extras include an extensive new video interview with Mark Damon, who won a Golden Globe as "Most Promising Newcomer" for his performance in the film. Damon looks back on the film with pride and delight. He also discusses his eventual retirement from acting and his new career as a top producer, a status he still enjoys today. Damon speaks very fondly of Vincent Price but drops a bit of bombshell by stating that Price, who had married three times and fathered children, was actually gay and, in fact, hit on him during the making of the film. Damon says that he politely rejected the overture and in the aggregate enjoyed working with and socializing with Price. (Price's daughter Victoria, recently confirmed her belief that her father was bi-sexual. Click here to read.) Other bonus extras include the original trailer, a wonderful gallery of stills and marketing materials and a German language collector's booklet. There is also a selection of trailers for other Explosive Media releases. Their titles are not easy to find in English language markets, but they are worth the effort to search them out.
A quartet of ageing gentlemen friends (Fred Astaire, John
Houseman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Melvyn Douglas) meet up on a weekly basis in
the snow sprinkled town of Milburn, New England in order to exchange scary
stories. Self-dubbed ‘The Chowder Society’, they challenge one another to come
up with something truly unsettling. Good natured entertainment takes a sinister
turn when a dastardly secret that has lain dormant for more than 50 years rears
its terrifying head. Drawn helplessly from sweat-sodden nightmares into a living nightmare more frightening and deadly
than anything conjured up in their yarning sessions, the comrades’ collective
fate falls to the hands of a seemingly unstoppable entity hell bent on revenge.
But revenge for what? What could the
friends have possibly done all those years ago that was so terrible?
Now wait just a moment... Fred Astaire made a horror movie?! Indeed
he did. And a pretty decent one it is at that. As he had done for a number of
then-recent non-musical roles (among them The
Towering Inferno and A Purple Taxi),
the legendary song and dance performer shelved his top hat and tails and signed
up for this effective little terror tale of retribution from beyond the
In a review I pencilled some time ago I perhaps unfairly labelled
1981’s Ghost Story as
"average". However the passing of time has been very generous to the
film – either that or I'm going soft – for a handful of viewings in the
intervening years have gradually elevated it in my opinion. Though by no means
a top-ranking classic of horror cinema, I now readily acknowledge it as an efficient
little chiller that benefits hugely from the gravitas afforded it by its combined
star power. The four leads may not seem the likeliest of go-to names for a
director mounting a horror movie, but their united seasoned talent forges a
level of dramatic credibility that (almost) makes the fantastical elements of
the story feel plausible. A modern audience needs to be aware that these guys
were pretty big Hollywood players in their day; imagine the likes of Clooney,
Pitt, Cruise and Cage getting together for a spook show in 30 years’ time and
you'll get the measure of the men. Furthermore, and most pleasingly, what could
have been a wince-inducing exercise in cashing in on past glories is actually anything
but. For all except Houseman Ghost
Story would also be their final big screen appearance. A very worthy
epitaph it proved to be.
Clocking in at just shy of 111-minutes in length, the story does feel
a shade drawn out. But if its screenplay – fashioned by Lawrence D Cohen
(scripter on Brian DePalma's 1976 classic Carrie
and the respectable 2013 Kimberly Peirce remake) from a 1979 bestselling novel
by Peter Straub – is occasionally a tad ponderous, it at least never strays
from narrative relevance; it's certainly testament to the time invested in
establishing the diverse individual personalities of the characters portrayed
by Astaire, Houseman, Fairbanks Jr and Douglas that they are immediately identifiable
in their younger "flashback" incarnations (Tim Choate, Ken Olin, Kurt
Johnson and Mark Chamberlin, respectively). Meanwhile Craig Wasson gets to toy
with dual roles as Fairbanks Jr’s twin sons (and delivers a moment of frontal
nudity, something possibly less taboo – albeit still uncommon – today, but
extremely scarce in mainstream cinema back in 1981) and, also playing two
characters, Alice Krige brings to the show a performance that is excitingly
provocative and icily malevolent in equal measure.
Director John Irvine (The
Dogs of War) moulds some potently emotive imagery, abetted immensely by some
marvellously gruesome (and suitably squishy!) special effects and the lush – if
occasionally a tad overwrought – orchestral compositions of Philippe Sarde.
There's something curiously enticing about spectral fiction set
against crisp wintry snowscapes, intrinsically suggestive of the perfect winter
evening movie fare, inviting you to settle comfortably in front of the fire
with the lights out and a glass or three of port to hand; if that sounds like
an appealingly cosy scenario then you need look no further than Ghost Story for your viewing of choice.
USA release from Scream Factory.
The film arrives on both Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-Ray (for
the first time in the UK) from Second Sight. In North America, the Blu-ray is available with the same supplements on Region A Blu-ray through Scream Factory. The Blu-Ray delivers a very nice transfer of the 34-year-old film showing only negligible
traces of print damage – the odd blemish here, occasional vertical scratches
there – with the sometimes soft image being a faithful representation of the intended
aesthetic of the film. Supplements are exceedingly generous. Director John
Irvine provides an informative commentary to accompany the feature. There’s a
40-minute piece in which author Peter Straub talks at length about his writing
style and the novel on which the film is based. A trio of half-hour featurettes
comprise interviews with Alice Krige, scriptwriter Lawrence D Cohen, producer
Burt Weissbourd and matte photographer Bill Taylor (who discusses late
colleague Albert Whitlock’s impressive visual effects on the film). Rounding
all this off is an original release trailer, a TV and radio spot, plus a
slideshow (comprising an expansive collection of production stills that depict imagery
from in front of and behind the cameras, lobby cards, and artwork), which runs in
the company of selections from Philippe Sarde’s score.
Turner Classic Movies has released a major DVD boxed set that is comprised of the most complete collection ever assembled of James Dean's television appearances. Here is a list of the contents:
Before East Of Eden (1955), Rebel Without A Cause (1955) and Giant (1956) turned James Dean into an international icon, he honed his craft on television, appearing on such shows as Studio One, Lux Video Theater and Hallmark Hall of Fame—many broadcast live and thought to be lost. This is the most complete collection to date of Dean’s television legacy featuring 19 full episodes, 2 original commercials and 2 clips featuring Dean, all meticulously re-mastered for picture and sound quality from the best available sources.
This box set also includes a commemorative booklet featuring a comprehensive essay focusing on the actor’s personal life and television career, and featuring rare stills, episode credits and descriptions.
Bonus Material - The documentary Fairmount Today, exploring Dean’s hometown in Indiana - Episode introductions by James Dean’s cousin, Marcus Winslow, Jr., head of the Dean Estate - 3 photo galleries from world famous photographers Roy Schatt, Frank Worth and Sanford Roth - A video demonstration illustrating the restoration and preservation process
Episodes Family Theater: Hill Number One (1951) Trouble With Father: Jackie Knows All (1952) Westinghouse Studio One: 10,000 Horses Singing (1952) Lux Video Theater: The Foggy, Foggy Dew (1952) Westinghouse Studio One: John Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln (1952) Hallmark Hall Of Fame: Forgotten Children: A Historical Biography (1952) The Kate Smith Hour: The Hound Of Heaven (1953) Campbell Sound Stage: Something For An Empty Briefcase (1953) Westinghouse Studio One Summer Theater: Sentence Of Death (1953) Danger: Death Is My Neighbor (1953) The Big Story: Rex Newman (1953) Kraft Television Theatre: Keep Our Honor Bright (1953) Campbell Sound Stage: Life Sentence (1953) Kraft Television Theatre: A Long Time Till Dawn (1953) Armstrong’s Circle Theater: The Bells Of Cockaigne (1953) Robert Montgomery Presents: Harvest (1953) Philco Television Playhouse: Run Like A Thief (1954) Danger: Padlocks (1954) General Electric Theater: Sherwood Anderson’s I'm A Fool (1954) General Electric Theater: The Dark, Dark Hour (1954)
The documentary "Back in Time", which celebrates the legacy of the "Back to the Future" films is now on Blu-ray. Here is the description:
"The documentary film Back in Time is, at its heart, a
look at the very real impact the Back to the Future movies have had on our
culture. What was once a little idea that spawned a tightly-focused documentary
has grown into something truly amazing over two years of filming. Back in Time
is a cinematic monument to the vastness of the trilogy’s fandom. In addition to
the footage and interviews revolving around the time machine itself, the crew
found that simply by delving into the impact of the trilogy an epic journey
began to unfold before them. The crew captured countless hours of footage
during filming. From Steven Spielberg to Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, to the
Sheas and Hollers, and from James Tolkan and Lea Thompson to Christopher Lloyd
and Michael J. Fox, Back in Time features interview after interview that simply
must be seen."
It's hard to believe that even in the contentious late 1960s, politics were probably more civil than they are today. If you want proof, check out this 1967 sit-down from TV in which uber-liberal Woody Allen chats with William F. Buckley Jr. , the father of the modern conservative movement in America. It's interesting to hear the names of prominent people who were grist for the mill of satire during this period: President Johnson, presidential aspirant Bobby Kennedy, President Charles De Gaulle all come in for some pointed barbs. Allen, who had not yet entered a period in his life in which he all but withdrew from public appearances, is extremely witty but Buckley holds his own against the comedy legend-in-the-making. The segment recalls a time in which people could disagree without being disagreeable. If only our politicians could make the same claim today.
moves at warp speed these days. Almost overnight, cutting-edge in arts
and technology becomes old-school.
seems like only yesterday that the Hong Kong movies of Jackie Chan and John Woo
were the big new flavor in action cinema, and laser disc was the medium of
choice for upscale home theater. In reality, it’s more like yesteryear,
and at that, nearly two decades of yesteryears.
many of today’s kids under 20 would you have to ask before you found one who’s
seen a Jackie Chan film? How many have even heard of laser disc, let
alone loaded one of those unwieldy LP-sized platters into an equally clunky
nostalgic if chilling thoughts occurred to me when, recently, I browsed through
an old issue of “Mystery Scene” magazine and came across a review I’d written
back in the day. The topic was Jackie Chan, and more specifically, the
availability of Jackie’s Hong Kong-made, martial-arts police movies on U.S.
digital home video. At the time I wrote the review in late 1998, laser
disc was already in defensive posture against the rapid growth of the more
affordable, more physically convenient DVD format. By the time it
appeared in print in 2000, DVD had taken over the digital market.
Shortly, it would supplant VHS as the dominant home-video product.
the review, I sorted out the Chan titles then on American DVD from those that
remained available domestically only on laser. Most of it is badly
outdated now. However, I believe that one observation remains true: on
authorized American VHS and DVD editions (and more recently, Blu-ray), you can
only find Jackie’s arguably best HK police caper, “Police Story 3,” directed by
Stanley Tong, in the dubbed, edited version released to U.S. theaters by
Miramax’s Dimension Films in 1996 as “Supercop.”
U.S. moviegoers, Dimension deleted some 10 minutes of the original HK version,
inserted spastic opening credits, replaced the original Cantonese voice track
with an English dub, and added new music tracks, including hip-hop in some
scenes and “Kung Fu Fighting” over the end blooper reel. “Kung Fu
Fighting” was an OK Tom Jones remake, not the vastly superior, wonderfully
cheesy 1974 Carl Douglas original.
few months after the theatrical release, “Supercop” moved to American VHS and
DVD on Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and to laser disc from the prestigious
Criterion Collection. Of them all, the only American edition that
included the original Cantonese soundtrack as an audio option, and the only one
that included the five scenes excised by Dimension, was the 1997 laser disc.
I noted in the “Mystery Scene” review, Jackie’s character in the movie was
Officer Kevin Chan of the Hong Kong Police Department (in the HK original, Chan
Ka-Kui), continued over from the first two “Police Story” films. Kevin is
teamed with a Mainland Chinese officer, Inspector Hannah (in the original
Cantonese track, Inspector Wah), to infiltrate an international drug
cartel led by kingpin Chaibat (Ken Tsang). To do so, they have to bust
Chaibat’s brother, Panther (Wah Yuen), out of a Chinese labor camp. Then,
accepted into the gang, they accompany the gangsters to Cambodia, where Chaibat
closes a heroin deal, and after that to Malaysia. In Kuala Lampur, the
kingpin intends to break his wife out of jail before the authorities can force
her to reveal the code to Chaibat’s offshore bank account.
is well matched with Michelle Yeoh (then billed as Michelle Khan) playing
Hannah, and Maggie Cheung as Kevin’s sweetheart May. Cheung’s character
was also carried over from the two prior movies. There’s a rather simplistic
but funny complication when May catches Kevin in Hannah’s company at a vacation
resort in Kuala Lampur. Not knowing that her boyfriend is on an
undercover assignment, she assumes he’s cheating on her. It’s the kind of
contrivance that dates back at least as far as silent movies, if not to
Shakespeare. But Cheung is cute, the physical comedy is well timed by
Tong, and the set-up isn’t much more primitive than the twists you’d see in a
2015 chick flick.
a truly awesome beauty, has wonderful comedy timing of her own, great rapport
with Jackie, fluid grace in the martial arts fights, and remarkable gumption in
doing many of her own stunts. In one wince-inducing outtake in the
blooper reel, Yeoh misses her grip as she drops onto a moving sports car,
tumbling backward onto the street as car and camera speed away. All of
the action in the movie has this visceral immediacy, which movies largely have
lost in the past decade with CGI effects and ADHD editing.
easy to guess why one scene from “Police Story 3” was removed in the editing as
potentially offensive for American audiences. A snickering Chinese punk
helps a couple of Caucasian teeny-boppers shoot up with heroin. One of
the girls dies -- offscreen -- from an overdose. Chaibat suggests that
the corpse be used to smuggle a cache of smack past customs. “Waste
utilization,” he cackles. Even without this callous bit, the American cut
retains enough gun mayhem and blood squibs to earn an “R” rating, a rarity in
the Chan movies tooled for the U.S. market, which typically earned the family
the Criterion laser disc, the five deleted scenes were added at the end of the
disc as a supplemental chapter, not re-integrated into the “Supercop”
cut. The laser disc also benefitted from appreciative back-sleeve notes
by film critic Dave Kehr. A 2009 DVD reissue under the Weinstein Brothers’
Dragon Dynasty label restored the Cantonese voice track as an audio option,
along with supplemental interviews, “making of” shorts, and an audio commentary
by a kung fu movie expert, but the deleted scenes remained MIA. Reviews
suggest that a more recent Blu-ray edition from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
lacks any supplements, not even a Cantonese voice track.
for a full package, the obsessive collector may want to get the 2009 DVD and
the Criterion Collection laser disc (available cheap from online dealers),
assuming he has one of the antique players lying around. Another option
-- ordering the original “Police Story 3” on Blu-ray or DVD from import
dealers. Online marketing has made it tremendously easier for U.S.
collectors to obtain overseas videos today than 20 years ago.
If you're looking for the perfect holiday or birthday gift, Cinema Retro can tell you to get "Lost"-- as in "Space", that is. Check out this fantastic Blu-ray boxed set that contains every episode of the beloved Irwin Allen TV series and over 8 hours of bonus materials.
Here is the official product description from Fox:
Bring home the timeless journey of Irwin Allen’s LOST IN
SPACE! Follow the heart-racing, cliff-hanging adventures of John Robinson and
his family aboard the Jupiter 2, along with Robot B-9 and the delightfully
devious Dr. Zachary Smith. This massive 18-disc set contains all 83 episodes
remastered in high definition, and loads of exciting extras with recently
discovered content you won’t find anywhere else in the galaxy. It’s
out-of-this-world fun for everyone!
OVER 8 HOURS OF RARELY SEEN AND NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN EXTRAS
50th Anniversary Interviews with Original Series Cast
Original Cast Reunion Performance of Bill Mumy’s 1980
Unproduced Script, LOST IN SPACE: THE EPILOGUE
Vintage Versions of 4 Original Network Episodes (AS SEEN ON
AIR in the 1960s with Original TV Commercials and Bumpers)
1973 Animated Special
20th Anniversary Audio Interview with Lost in Space Series
Creator Irwin Allen
2 Full-Length Lost in Space Documentaries
Original Animated Series Concept Pitch Video
Unaired Series Pilot Episode: “No Place to Hide”
Original Network Commercials, Vintage Cast Interviews AND
MUCH, MUCH MORE!
Twilight Time has released Fox's 1970 box-office disaster The Only Game in Town as a Blu-ray limited edition (3,000 units). The film is primarily remembered for reasons its creators would never have desired. It was the last movie of legendary director George Stevens and represented his re-teaming with Elizabeth Taylor, with whom he had made two genuine classics: Giant and A Place in the Sun, both which featured two of her most acclaimed performances. In fact, by the time this movie went into production in 1970, Stevens' clout in Hollywood had been somewhat diminished by his obsessive quest to bring his dream project, The Greatest Story Ever Told to the screen. He finally succeeded in doing so in 1965, only to have the film become a politely-acclaimed epic that ended up losing United Artists a fortune. Nevertheless, in those days past reputations still helped keep older filmmakers in high regard, so Fox executives saw plenty of potential in the third teaming of Stevens and Elizabeth Taylor. To add additional boxoffice clout, the studio signed Warren Beatty as the male lead. Beatty had been kicking around the industry for a decade but had only recently become red-hot due to the success of Bonnie and Clyde. Beatty was so eager to work with Stevens that he passed on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, another Fox property that would have a considerably more positive fate.
The Only Game in Town was written as play by Frank D. Gilroy, who was riding a wave of acclaim for The Subject Was Roses. Fox was so eager to land the rights to the story that they paid a (then) astronomical $500,000 to Gilroy, even though the play had not yet been performed. Fox was in for a rude awakening. When the play opened on Broadway, it had a very abbreviated run and closed shortly thereafter, having been deemed a major flop. Left with a costly investment, Fox felt the same fate might not befall the screen version, given the involvement of Stevens, Taylor and Beatty. However, as with any project involving La Liz, the studio found itself being held hostage to her costly demands. Although the story is set entirely in Las Vegas, Taylor insisted that it be shot in France (!) where hubby Richard Burton was filming Staircase, a movie that was set in London. Go figure. It appears the Burtons had a fetish for demanding that movies be shot in places other than their actual locations. Thus, what should have been a modestly-budgeted romance with only two major characters (there are only four actors credited for the entire movie) ballooned into an $11 million production, with much of the cost going into costly production design in order to recreate "Vegas" in France. This was achieved in a fairly unconvincing manner. Remember those old B&W movies in which someone's arrival in Paris is indicated by the fact that the Eiffel Tower (usually a matte painting) is directly visible from the window or balcony? Well, the same principal applies here. Liz lives in an apartment on the outskirts of the Strip but the casinos are glaringly visible over the sand dunes from her window. However, the effect is not even remotely convincing. The garish still life suggests anything other than a bustling tourist center. For understandable reasons (Liz was a few thousand miles away from the real Vegas), no traffic or people can be seen on "The Strip". Thus, the backdrop takes on an eerie air as though it is an effect from a long lost episode of The Twilight Zone.
The story opens with Fran Walker (Taylor), a chorus girl in a big casino stage extravaganza calling it quits for the night. (Critics cruelly noted at the time how unsuitably cast Taylor was for the role of a chorus dancer. Although she was only 37 years old at the time, she seemed far older. Director Stevens tries to deal with this challenge by confining scenes of Fran at work to one "blink-and-you-miss" intense closeup of Liz bopping up and down a bit, all too apparently not in the presence of any of the "real" dancers shown in the establishing shot.) Seemingly bored and despondent, Fran stops into a local gin mill near the Strip to have nightcap. The joint features a tuxedo-clad pianist who warbles for the sparse crowd in between making cynical jokes and comments. He's Joe Grady (Beatty), a handsome hunk who immediately meets cute with Fran. Before you can say "Dickie Burton", the two of them are canoodling under the covers at Fran's apartment (with sleep being impossible, given the blinding lights from the garish phony Vegas set outside her window.) The script goes nowhere fast with Fran and Joe bickering, making up, bickering again... Fran confesses she is the mistress of a wealthy business executive who assures her he is leaving his wife to marry her. Joe cautions her that she has fallen for the oldest con game practiced by cheating husbands and her assurances that she believes in the man's integrity seem increasingly shaky. However, just when Fran and Joe are about to set up house together, Fran's lover, Lockwood (Broadway actor Charles Braswell) turns up unexpectedly and -dammit all- he turns out to have been a man of his word. He wants to marry Fran immediately and take her away from Vegas for a globe-trotting life of luxury. Trouble is, Fran is now smitten by Joe. Who will she choose? The uber-successful businessman or the down-and-out lounge singer? Joe has other problems beyond his finances. He's a compulsive gambler who squanders away his savings every time he manages to put a little aside. In fact, the sequences with Beatty sans Liz (some of which were actually shot in Vegas) are the best in the film, as we see Joe constantly weaken in his vow to stay away from the craps tables. The scenes of him blowing his hard earned money on rolls of the dice are emotionally effective and, at times, cringe-inducing. What doesn't add up is why the charismatic Joe would be so smitten by Fran. Granted, she looks like Elizabeth Taylor, but she's a moody, whining, generally unhappy person who spends most of her time kvetching about every aspect of her life. Although essentially miscast, Taylor plays the role as effectively as one could hope. However, the generally glamorous Liz is attired in array of bland costumes that makes her look uncharacteristically dowdy. It's Beatty who surprises. He's long been one of the least interesting screen presences among iconic leading men and- with a few notable exceptions- he generally delivers performances that are so low-key they border on being boring. However, as Joe Grady, he's more lively than usual and he displays the charisma that would attract any sane, heterosexual woman. (There is one scene, however, that is a bit too cute: love-struck Joe warbling Some Enchanted Evening in the corridor outside of Fran's apartment.)
The Only Game in Town is a bizarre film and is compromised by the fact that the two lead characters have a relationship that never rings true to the viewer. In her Oscar winning performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Taylor was able to actually play an every day person in a believable manner. Martha, the protagonist of that film, may have been a human spitfire, constantly insulting and berating her long-suffering husband George, but she had charisma and was a sexual dynamo. In George Stevens' film, we are too aware of the fact that we are watching a movie star trying desperately to play an ordinary woman. The ploy simply doesn't work. The fact that the movie lacks any interesting supporting characters (even Braswell is bland and boring) gives the entire production a claustrophobic feeling. The score by Maurice Jarre, certainly one of the great composers, also feels out of place here with inappropriate cues coming at inappropriate times. In the wake of the film's poor box-office performance, Beatty emerged unscathed and went on to become an Oscar-winning director. Taylor, however, lumbered through a number of other major studio productions, all of which flopped. It was the end of her reign as a boxoffice draw.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray features a very nice transfer (though some artifacts are noticeable here and there), an isolated score track and the original trailer. It is region-free and can play on any international system. Julie Kirgo provides the usual insightful background notes in an illustrated collector's booklet. The movie is not quite as bad as critics indicated at the time of its initial release but it falls far short of its potential, given the talent involved. Its sad legacy is, ironically, the prime reason we can recommend retro movie lovers to check it out and form their own conclusions.
general consensus among critics and fans alike is that Jamaica Inn, the last British film Alfred Hitchcock made before
moving to America to work in Hollywood, is not one of the director’s best. It
isn’t. It definitely belongs in the lower echelon of his canon. However, there
is still much to savor in the picture, and the new Blu-ray restoration by the
Cohen Film Collection is a worthwhile medium with which to revisit this odd
on a novel by Daphne du Maurier (the first of three works by the author that
Hitchcock adapted), Jamaica Inn is a story
of pirates operating out of an English coastal village in the early 1800s, thus
making it one of Hitch’s few period dramas. Charles Laughton was a co-producer
on the film as well as the star, and accounts of the production reveal that
much rivalry existed between Laughton and his director. For example, Laughton
insisted on playing the character of Sir Humphrey Pengallan, a wealthy squire
and justice of the peace, as something of a mixture between Henry VIII (a role
for which Laughton won the Academy Award for Best Actor) and a foppish dandy.
The result is a performance that is certainly over the top, and much too
comical for him to be taken seriously as a villain.
notable is the fact that Jamaica Inn
served as the debut starring role for the late Maureen O’Hara (she had previously
made a couple of pictures with smaller roles). O’Hara—even in a black and white
movie—is radiant, and this is a strong reason to give the film a chance. Also
in the cast as another villain is old Leslie Banks (who starred as the good
father in Hitch’s 1934 version of The Man
Who Knew Too Much), and, the hero is surprisingly played by Robert
Newton—who made a career playing villains!
story is straightforward—Pengallan is the mastermind behind a gang of pirates
led by Joss (Banks), who runs the inn. Mary (O’Hara) is the orphaned niece of
Joss’s wife—she comes to town to live with her aunt and uncle. James (Newton)
is an undercover law officer in the gang, and he and Mary eventually work
together to take down Pengallan and the pirates. There are twists and turns, to
be sure, but Hitchcock was apparently forced to reveal Pengallan as the main
villain too early in the film, which does dampen the suspense. Still, the guy
is fun to watch. A famous—and laughable—climax involves Laughton falling from
the mast of a ship, yelling, “Make way for Pengallan!”
O’Hara’s sincere performance and Laughton’s cabaret turn, the action-adventure
elements of the movie are quite good. The shipwreck sequence at the beginning
and subsequent scenes “at sea” were all done in the studio—and they’re very
convincing. Despite having to deal with an unruly actor and co-producer,
Hitchcock manages to keep the action appear credible and the pacing brisk. In
the end, one can admit that Jamaica Inn is
not all that bad, and that in fact it is a fairly entertaining 98 minutes of
Cohen restored Blu-ray contains the full U.K. cut. Many sub-par (and public
domain) DVDs released in America and elsewhere are missing at least eight
minutes of the film. An older Kino Video restored these eight minutes, but now
we have the full picture on Blu-ray, and it looks very good. (Another curiosity
is that most accounts on the Internet claim the U.K. version was 108 minutes,
but this could be a mistake—the 98 minute version is the full film, while the
old inferior American releases were 90 minutes; perhaps this is where the
and film historian Jeremy Arnold provides an intelligent and informed audio
commentary. His knowledge of the production—for such a minor Hitchcock movie—is
exemplary. Extras include the trailer and a short piece on the film featuring
Hitchcock biographer and expert Donald Spoto.
Jamaica Inn is not essential
Hitchcock, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless—even with Charles Laughton chewing
“Vodka Martini, shaken, not stirred.” As soon
as James Bond uttered that iconic phrase, the vodka martini became as much a
part of the character as his Aston Martin or Walther PPK. While previous films have seen 007 quaff a
certain Dutch beer and we know he likes Sake (as long as it’s served at the
correct temperature), in SPECTRE, Bond is back to his beverage of choice – and
that choice is Belvedere.
President Charles Gibb told Cinema Retro that, “We are absolutely thrilled that Belvedere
is associated with James Bond and SPECTRE. Everybody knows that Bond is a man of distinction and that his drink of
choice is a Belvedere martini.” The
partnership is Belvedere’s biggest to date and to drive home the 00
association, the brand has pulled out all the stops, creating two limited
edition Bottles (one of which has its own lighted base) as well as a Martini
Set complete with elegant 007-etched glasses.
London, Belvedere further tied into SPECTRE by staging an invitation only
screening and vodka bash at Loulou’s, a very trendy private club in upscale
Mayfair. They picked up the film’s Day
of the Dead vibe with costumed dancers and waitstaff; and the barmen created a number of beverages,
chief among them the Belvedere Vodka Martini. The drinks were happily consumed by the hip, young crowd that descended
from the nearby screening. I felt it my
duty to try one… maybe two and they were delicious – crisp with a splash of
olive juice. Mmmmm. Everyone was in a
buoyant mood – there was praise for the film and, of course, the free-flowing
Belvedere put everyone in the holiday spirit.
film left this scribe mightily impressed, easily the best of Daniel Craig’s
Bonds. Go see it – then toast 007 with amartini! (Belvedere, of course.)
all the talented filmmakers who have made a mark in the history of cinema,
there is that handful who belong in a
special category. Granted, many directors are auteurs, in that they have a recognizable style and thematic
consistency to their work—a “signature” that identifies them as the “authors”
of their pictures. But there is a rare sub-set of auteurs who are so strikingly original and iconoclastic that their
work is singularly their own and unlike that of any other filmmaker. David
Lynch is one of these. No one makes the kind of movies he does.
Mulholland Drive is easily one of
Lynch’s best pictures (and he’s not very prolific, either—only ten feature
films to date, not counting television productions). It was released in 2001 to
massive critical acclaim (Lynch shared Best Director at Cannes with Joel Coen,
and he was nominated for a Best Director Oscar), as well as a great deal of
bafflement and mutterings from exiting audiences such as, “Well, that was weird.”
it’s a strange film—after all, it’s a David Lynch picture, and he is, perhaps,
the foremost proponent of surrealism in cinema since the advent of Luis Buñuel.
But Lynch is also a romanticist, and his blending of these two somewhat
conflicting artistic movements result in a distinctly different kind of animal,
something that has been coined “Lynchian.” There is a beauty to Mulholland Drive that is mesmerizing.
The mystery and ambiguity of its narrative is almost secondary to the emotional
punch the director delivers to the audience.
has been written about the movie in an attempt to analyze it and make sense of
the non-linear plot, and it is, like all great art, open to interpretation. It
takes more than one viewing to “get” it, although I don’t think anyone can fully get it. If this is your first
encounter with Mulholland Drive—and
the new Criterion Collection Blu-ray edition is an excellent medium with which to approach the film—it is highly
suggested you watch the film in its entirety, and then view it again the
following day after thinking about it.
the film is the sad, tragic story of a severely depressed and failed Hollywood
actress named Diane (played by Naomi Watts, in a brilliant, breakout
performance that shot her to “A” list status) who has been jilted by her
lesbian lover, Camilla (Laura Elena Harring) for a film director (Justin Theroux).
Diane hires a hit man to murder Camilla, and then kills herself out of remorse
and guilt. Doesn’t sound too savory, does it? Never mind—Lynch tells this story
in the form of a compelling quasi-neo-noir mystery, and in the process he creates
a puzzle for the audience to solve in order to connect the dots. Out of the
146-minutes of running time, nearly the first two hours of it consist of a
dream Diane is having which casts her as a wholesome, talented, optimistic and
aspiring actress named Betty. She meets an amnesiac victim who adopts the name
Rita (also Harring), and they set about attempting to find out how Rita came to
be in her situation. At around the 1:57:00 mark in the picture, Diane wakes
from her dream to her reality. What follows then are several non-linear flashbacks
to events that happened prior to Diane having her dream.
logic is usually nonsensical when analyzed upon waking, but during the actual
dream, everything makes sense, right? When watching the first two hours, you’ll
see several characters and objects that appear in relation to the “plot” of the
dream... but later, in the wakeful reality, the actors who played the earlier characters
and the same objects appear in different contexts—with a little thought you can
decipher how the dream connects these elements with the real circumstances. The
clues are all there on screen.
interesting aspect of Mulholland Drive is
that it was originally a pilot for a possible television series a la Twin Peaks. Lynch had filmed the “dream”
section of the picture, but the network rejected it. The director got financing
elsewhere, re-tooled the existing footage, wrote the rest of the story, and
brought the principles back for more shooting. This is why the detectives,
played by Robert Forster and Brent Briscoe, simply disappear from the movie
after the first half hour—they were originally intended to be regular
characters in the TV series. One can’t help but wonder what if.
fascinating film comes with a gorgeous new, restored 4K digital transfer,
supervised by Lynch and director of photography Peter Deming, with a 5.1
surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Like most DVDs and
Blu-rays that Lynch approves, there are no chapter stops. Supplements include
some terrific new interviews with Lynch and Naomi Watts together (very funny
and revealing); Theroux, Harring, and Deming; composer Angelo Badalamenti (wait
until you hear how he got started writing film scores!); production designer
Jack Fisk; and casting director Johanna Ray. There’s a deleted scene, the
trailer, and a wonderful treat—on-set footage of Lynch directing several scenes
from the film. The booklet contains a 2005 interview with Lynch from Chris
Rodley’s book, Lynch on Lynch.
Mulholland Drive is a masterpiece in
David Lynch’s canon and the new Criterion release certainly does it justice. This
is a film that is haunting, beautiful, and full of secrets and surprises. It
really is the stuff that dreams are made of.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
November 3rd 2015) MI6
Confidential, the full-colour magazine celebrating theworld of James Bond 007, returns with its
predecessor. Director Sam Mendes attracted talent in the form of leading actors
Christoph Waltz and Léa Seydoux, he brought on up and coming cinematographer
Hoyte van Hoytema and took Bondonaneightmonthwhirlwindtourthatincludedlocationworkonthreecontinents.Thisissue celebrates
the bombastic SPECTRE with a
full account of the location work, as well as catching up with Daniel Craig,
his co-stars, and Bond producers Broccoli and Wilson with interviews conducted
just days before the film enjoyed its worldpremiere.
Featured in thisissue:
·No Small Part - Daniel Craig on his
commitment to the 007role
·Around The World With SPECTRE - The globetrotting location
shoot for Bond24
At some point in the career of seemingly every porn movie director there comes the desire to aspire to something more meaningful. The problem is that most such directors don't possess the know-how or have the opportunities to become auteurs. Thus, they work within the parameters of their own genre in an attempt to elevate it to something more than just mindless rolls between the sheets. One of the more ambitious directors of 70s and 80s adult fillms was Chris Warfield, a former actor whose 1980 production of "Champagne for Breakfast" has been released on DVD by Vinegar Syndrome. It's easy to dismiss any porn flick from any era but we at Cinema Retro try to objectively evaluate even these lesser contributions to the film industry because, as with mainstream cinema, there are vast differences in the quality of productions- and retro porn represents an important aspect of pop culture, even if you are among those who loathe such films on a moral basis. "Champagne for Breakfast"- a title I never heard of prior to reviewing it on DVD- apparently made a splash back in the day for being one of the first such films made to appeal to couples instead of the usual audience, which consisted of creepy guys sitting in fleapit theaters. It's hard to recall an era when porn movies had to be enjoyed publicly but in those pre-home video days, that was largely the case. The only option was to get 8mm "loops" that could be purchased for home viewing. The quality of these was about as erotic as taking a bath in a tub of ice water. For women who wanted to enjoy cinematic erotica, going to an X rated theater alone was virtually out of the question. Even escorted by a male companion, it had to be an uncomfortable experience not only because of onerous atmosphere inside of such theaters but also the social stigma that came with being seen entering or leaving one. Thus, it was rare for a production company to produce films that might appeal to female viewers. In that sense, "Champagne for Breakfast" was somewhat groundbreaking because there is an attempt to tell a relatively engaging story in a humorous manner from a young woman's point-of-view.
Champagne fulfills one of her fantasies: erotic role playing.
The film opens in the board room of a major cosmetic company in San Francisco. Champagne (Leslie Bovee) has impressed the president of the company with her business know-how and he announces that he has promoted her to VP position in marketing. Champagne is delighted but as soon as the room clears out, the boss's daughter, Peggy (Bonnie Holiday) who is also an executive at the company, has a shocking life lesson for her. She tells Champagne that now that she is in management, she has an obligation to use her power to sexually manipulate men in the manner women have been manipulated for centuries. She proves her point by calling in a waiting sales rep who very much wants to sign a big contract with the cosmetics firm. In front of Champagne, she informs the shocked salesman that the only way he'll get the contract is to service her right there on the boardroom desk. He willingly complies but Champagne is disgusted and leaves the room. Before long, her star rises in the company but she realizes that she is a workaholic with little free time and no significant other in her life. Frustrated, she makes a bold decision to take two weeks off and indulge in hedonistic fantasies. To enable her to do so, she calls an employment agency and requests a body guard to accompany her on her potentially dangerous journey. Answering the call is Harry (John Leslie), a charismatic young man with a chip on his shoulder. He's living on poverty row but every time he takes even a low end job, his good looks result in female bosses wanting to sexually harass him. Sensing that Champagne might be intimidated by a hunky young guy as a bodyguard, he adopts Warren Beatty's character's strategy from "Shampoo" and pretends he is gay. His flamboyant mannerisms ensure he gets the job but frustration soon encroaches when he is forced to drop Champagne off for various sexual liaisons, including a male bordello. Knowing his new boss is sex-crazed but having to act disinterested drives Harry to the breaking point. Things only worsen when Champagne asks him to start giving her daily nude massages. Harry's cover is almost blown when he has to interrupt a fling Champagne is having with a beefy construction worker who begins to abuse her. Harry rides to the rescue and beats the man to a pulp, which doesn't enhance his attempts to play a meek, mild guy. At least Harry doesn't have to suffer the frustration of observing his boss's most daring and promiscuous encounter: an orgy with three male prostitutes. There is also the obligatory lesbian sequence, with Champagne being seduced by an aggressive young woman. The film suffers a bit from some unrealistic aspects of Harry's character. When he is seduced by the female manager of a strip club he has applied for a job as a bouncer in, he becomes outraged when another woman wants to join in the action. He storms out of the bedroom when the two women start entertaining each other, claiming that lesbianism is a perversion. Yeah, right. On the more realistic side, the film's feminine viewpoint results in some role reversal situations. Woman wield most of the power in this film, whether its in the boardroom or the bedroom, though the film does take a sympathetic twist on what males often go through in trying to pick up members of the opposite sex. When the sexually frustrated Champagne enters an upscale bar and tries to seduce an older man, she is shocked that he rebuffs her.
"Champagne for Breakfast" benefits from relatively expensive production values (they even had use of a Rolls Royce!) and a director who can ensure that the cinematography isn't the jittery mess found in other erotic movies of the era. There is even an attempt to provide a romantic love song over the opening credits, even though it sounds more like one of those Sinatra parodies Mel Brooks sings in "High Anxiety". The performances are relatively accomplished and both Leslies- Bovee and John- have real on screen chemistry together. The somewhat amusing plot goes off the deep end in the final act with Harry discovering he has millions of dollars in stocks but they are in the name of a former brother-in-law who has power-of-attorney and won't relegate them back to him. This situation is resolved predictably and abruptly but the entire plot device of a pauper having access to millions in stocks is weak even by porn movie standards when it comes to credibility. Still, the sex scenes do sizzle and there are some genuine laughs. "Champagne for Breakfast" is indeed a cut above most films of this genre.
Vinegar Syndrome's DVD boasts a great transfer, the original trailer (which has tag-on reviews from erotic magazines that tout the film as being virtually the "Citizen Kane" of the porn genre) , a trailer for a softcore version and some deleted scenes. I presume the bizarre box art is taken from the original film poster. For some reason, the main focus is not gorgeous Leslie Bovee but a cartoon of some dork who doesn't even appear in the film, which provides proof that, despite appearances to the contrary, not all lousy film posters are contemporary. Still, you can't judge a porn film by its DVD sleeve and this one is considerably better than the promotional art would have you believe.
Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous and incomprehensible, the final words of legendary actors and actresses provide some fascinating and thought-provoking moments. Among those cited here: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Laurence Olivier, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Rock Hudson, Marilyn Monroe and Groucho Marx. Click here to read.
Japanese original release 45 RPM for "Goldfinger".
Writing on the Digital Spy web site, Simon Reynolds and Hugh Armitage provide another of those meaningless but irresistible "Best/Worst of..." lists. This time, it pertains to ranking the James Bond title songs from worst to best. You'll undoubtedly take issue with some of their opinions, but at least they had the good taste to rank the song from "Quantum Of Solace" at rock bottom with the dud title tracks from "Die Another Day" and "The Man With the Golden Gun" breathing down its neck. They also generously provide ample film clips to remind those less familiar with the world of Bond music of the vast difference in the style of the songs over the decades. Click here to read. - Lee Pfeiffer
When Walt Disney plucked a lanky, charismatic actor named Fess Parker from relative obscurity to star as Davy Crockett in the 1950s, little did either man realize that an international phenomenon was about to be launched. So great was the impact with young viewers that Disney wasn't about to let the fact that Crockett died at the Alamo in the final episode stand in the way of meeting the public demand. Thus, he had to commission some "prequel" episodes to satiate the audience. The Crockett craze resulted in the biggest merchandising boom seen in America since the Shirley Temple phenomenon of the 1930s. Kids everywhere were indulged with Crockett toys and frontiersman garb. Disney even re-edited episodes and released them as a feature film. As the initial audience grew older, Disney simply telecast the color episodes again and younger kids got into the craze, with boys wearing their older brother's Crockett costumes and toting about their toy muskets. In 1964 Parker had an inspired idea of his own: put on the old buckskins again and a coonskin cap and recreate his earlier success by playing Daniel Boone. For all intents and purposes, the characters were virtually indistinguishable. There was even a catchy theme song much in the style of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" from the Disney shows. The difference was that the Crockett episodes for Disney were few and far between while the adventures of Daniel Boone would be a weekly TV series on NBC, totally independent of Disney's tight knit control. Whatever Walt thought about this rather obvious theft of his concept isn't known, but Parker found that lightning would indeed strike twice. While the Boone program never set off a merchandising craze, it was sufficiently popular to last a full six seasons, a rather remarkable achievement for that era. Over the decades, the show has retained many fans who recall the program with fondness. To their frustration, the show was not available on DVD and illegal bootlegs of episodes commanded high prices. In 2007, the series was finally released on DVD as individual seasons commanding exceptionally high prices, much to the disdain of collectors. In 2014, however, Fox released the entire series in one boxed set ON 36 DVDs that can be had through Amazon for less than the price of two seasons from the previous release. (Note: the first season of the show was presented in B&W and all subsequent seasons were telecast in color). The quality is excellent and this release is sure to bring back many fond memories for Baby Boomers.
They were Hollywood's seemingly least compatible power couple. Charles Bronson was noted for avoiding interviews and publicity while Jill Ireland relished the opportunities to promote her films. The couple had a rather convoluted start to their relationship. Ireland was married to David McCallum when the up-and-coming British/Scottish couple moved to Hollywood to further their ambitions. It worked. McCallum would become a major star within a few years and his career helped give his wife exposure as well. However, behind the scenes the marriage was becoming strained. McCallum and Ireland had formed a close friendship with Charles Bronson when they filmed "The Great Escape" together. When the McCallums moved to Hollywood, Bronson did a lot of socializing with them. But behind the scenes, Bronson and Jill began a tempestuous affair that led to her divorce from McCallum, who went on to marry model Katherine Carpenter (they are still together today). Bronson and Jill married as well and began a long time collaboration of appearing in films together. Initially, Jill had minor roles but as Bronson's star power increased he used his influence to get his wife co-starring roles. In all, they would appear in over a dozen films together before her untimely death from cancer in 1990.
Calling all Charlie Chan fans! If you are not aware of it, Warner Home Video released a 4 DVD set of Chan rarities in 2013. Here is the information from the original press release.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment brings back the legendary
master of crime in the Charlie Chan Collection -- four beloved
films making their DVD debut, and now available for the first time, newly
remastered, as a single collection. Included are Shadows Over Chinatown, starring
Sidney Toler in one of his last Chan films, plus Docks of New Orleans,
Shanghai Chest, and The Golden Eye starring Roland Winters, the
last actor to play the detective on film.
Writer Earl Derr Biggers created Charlie Chan, a fictional
Chinese-American sleuth, in a series of printed tales beginning in 1923. As
early as 1926, the first of more than 48 Charlie Chan films was put on the
silver screen. Actor Warner Oland, born in Sweden, began a popular run for Fox
in 1931 in Charlie Chan Carries On. After its success, Fox would
produce 15 more Chan films starring Oland. Not surprisingly, the films became
the most popular in 1930s China.
After Oland died, Sidney Toler, an American actor with
Scottish roots, took on the Chan role. Toler starred in 22 Chan films, first
for Fox and later for Monogram Studios. After Toler's death, Roland Winters
became Chan in six more films. The character has also been featured frequently
on radio, television and in the comics.
ABOUT THE FILMS
Shadows Over Chinatown
Charlie Chan heads to San Francisco on a murder case when he
encounters a mother trying to find her daughter who’s gone missing. Chan also
meets a young man, searching for his missing girlfriend. Charlie determines
they’re both looking for the same person and soon uncovers a murder gang, which
has been illegally benefiting from life insurance of the dead.
Docks of New Orleans
Charlie is asked to investigate after the mysterious demise
of a New Orleans chemical company magnate, because even though the police
believe the death was caused by a heart attack, a series of unexplainable
deaths follow. Only Charlie Chan can solve the mystery!
Three people are murdered in San Francisco – a judge,
District Attorney and a juror. The fingerprints of a deceased man are found at
all three murder sites, but could it really be possible for a dead man to be a
serial killer? Again, leave it to Charlie Chan..!
The Golden Eye
An Arizona gold mine is suddenly making a ton of money. The
mine’s owner, instead of delighting in his newfound wealth, confides to Charlie
that something is wrong and he fears for his life. Charlie and “friends” go to
the mine, pretending to be just visitors. They soon discover that the mine is
being used as a cover up for some major crimes and that, indeed, somebody will
soon be murdered.
(Although not mentioned in the press release, the set also includes an abundance of special features.)
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FEATURES FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
Don't you miss those wonderful old comic book tie-ins to major motion pictures? We unearthed this one in the seemingly bottomless vaults of the Cinema Retro archive. It was a tie in from Dell Comics for director John Sturges' 1965, big budget misfire The Hallelujah Trail that managed to squander the talents of Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick, Jim Hutton and many other popular actors. However, we still have a soft spot for the comic book, which is far more entertaining than the padded, seemingly endless film upon which it is based!
First Run Features specializes in releasing often obscure, but fascinating documentaries, with many titles relating to WWII history. The company has just made available Dear Uncle Adolf: The Germans and Their Fuhrer, a 2010 documentary by filmmaker Michael Kloft. It's pretty hard to bring a new angle to the study of WWII, as virtually every conceivable aspect would seem to have been covered countless times. However, Kloft examines a genuinely unique aspect of Nazi culture: the countless "fan letters" written to Adolf Hitler during his ascent to power and his reign as Fuhrer. It seems that after the Soviets took Berlin in the waning days of the war, they uncovered a massive archive of personal letters written to Hitler by German citizens. These were studied, cataloged and stored because Hitler felt they were a good measurement of how his people felt about his policies. The Soviets kept a lid on the archive but in the post-Cold War period, they were opened up, though it's unclear how many historians took advantage of this obscure but important find. The cameras pan down endless rows of neatly cataloged storage boxes all filled with the letters. A narrator reads some of them, along with official communiques from Nazi officials. All of this is blended with mesmerizing footage of Hitler and his cronies, much of it new to me.
The film presents a stark and timeless lesson about how cultured, educated and rational people can willingly suspend their common sense- as well as their civil liberties- in hopes of appeasing a charismatic leader. While it is true the German people had suffered terribly in the aftermath of WWI and the oppressive conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, the desperate population willingly adopted Nazi policies that a decade were deemed uncivilized. When Hitler tried to take power at the point of a gun, he failed. He succeeded only when he went the legal route, understanding fully that frightened people will pay any price to have a benevolent strongman solve their problems. If the price of this pact with the devil is that countless numbers of their fellow citizens be deemed undesirables and marked for death, well, that was just too bad. The letters written to Hitler and documented in this film run the gamut from those sent by academics to literal nutcases. (Yes, even the Fuhrer wasn't immune from attracting crazed eccentrics such as the barber who pleaded with Hitler to allow him to meet him in Berlin so he could fulfill his dream of giving him a haircut!) Countless women wrote to Hitler, with the type of adoration that American bobbysoxers were reserving for the likes of young Frank Sinatra. Their flowery prose barely hide their all-too-apparent desire to offer him sexual favors. One woman blatantly invites Hitler to father a child with her so that his legacy can live on. However, there are also heartbreaking letters from the early days of Hitler's regime. These come from wives and children who profess their devotion to him and the cause of National Socialism even as they plead with him to intervene and release their husband/father who has been jailed for unspecified reasons. One woman writes incredulously that her husband has not even been formally charged with a crime despite being in jail for months, as though the niceties of the Weimar Republic were still prevalent in the courts. In one particularly disturbing missive to the Fuhrer, a terrified woman reaffirms her Germanic heritage and spells out the reasons why a trace of mixed blood should not result in her being branded a Jew. She pleads with Hitler to deliver her from the "curse" of being Jewish. In contrast, one child writes to Hitler to beg him to annex his native Austria into the Reich because the Jews are using Christian German children as human sacrifices. Such tall tales were widely believed and helped justify Hitler's amicable takeover of a once sovereign nation. The letters and communiques in the film also show how well Hitler understood the importance of not trivializing his super-human image, as a baker is chastised for naming a cake in his honor. The man writes a sniveling and apologetic reply explaining he was only conforming to the popular demand for such a delicacy from local party officials.
The film must have seemed to have the makings of a classic. Director Vincente Minnelli reuniting with Kirk Douglas for the first time since their triumphant The Bad and the Beautiful a decade earlier. Edward G. Robinson co-starring and a supporting cast that included Cyd Charrise, Claire Trevor, James Gregory, George MacReady, George Hamilton and lovely up-and-coming actresses Rosanna Schiaffino and Daliah Lavi. Add to this exotic Rome locations during the era when La Dolce Vita was all the rage plus a source novel by Irwin Shaw -- this had to be a project that couldn't miss. Alas, it did indeed go off-target, but the fact that the 1962 screen version of 2 Weeks in Another Town falls short of its potential doesn't mean it isn't a gloriously trashy spectacle to behold.