Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Acorn Media.
season of the smash hit U.K. dramedy, plus over 1.5 hours of bonus content;
Martin Clunes (Arthur & George) and Caroline Quentin (Men Behaving Badly)
stars Sigourney Weaver (Aliens, Avatar), Art Malik (True Lies, Homeland),
Blu-ray Debut from Acorn on December 12, 2017
gentle comedy with loads of wit and zest” —The Globe and Mail
stirring, and completely addictive” —Slate
quirky” —Los Angeles Times
bloody hilarious” —London Evening Standard
considered one of the most successful British series in the U.S., U.K. and
worldwide, DOC MARTIN, Series 8 makes its DVD/Blu-ray debut on December 12,
2017 from Acorn TV, an RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) brand. Martin
Clunes (Men Behaving Badly) returns as Dr. Martin Ellingham in the eighth
series of this smash-hit British comedy. In these all-new episodes, the doctor
continues his practice in the picturesque seaside town of Portwenn, while
raising his son with wife Louisa. The DVD and Blu-ray 3-Disc Sets feature 8
episodes, plus a bonus disc with behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews
their ups and downs as a couple, Dr. Martin Ellingham and his wife, Louisa (Caroline
Catz, Murder in Suburbia), are finally living together with their son, James
Henry, but their problems are far from over. With Louisa’s encouragement, James
Henry has grown attached to Buddy the dog, but Martin is disgusted by the
four-legged friend. In need of a new nanny, Louisa finds herself juggling too
many responsibilities and considers switching careers, causing a rift with Martin.
Portwenn is abuzz as the residents prepare for a wedding. The Larges hope to
profit from the festivities, but when Martin’s aunt Ruth (Emmy® winner Eileen
Atkins, Cranford) considers selling the family farm, her decision causes
trouble for their business endeavors. As some relationships bloom and others
falter, can Martin cope with all the changes—or will he risk the fragile accord
he’s forged with his family? Guest stars in Series 8 include the return of Caroline
Quentin (Dickensian) and Sigourney Weaver (Avatar) as a forthright American
tourist anxious for the Doc’s time.
BONUS DISC: Behind-the-scenes
featurettes on the production process (70 min.) and interviews with the cast
and guest stars (41 min.), including Martin Clunes, Caroline Catz, Ian McNeice,
Joe Absolom, Eileen Atkins, Selina Cadell, and Caroline Quentin.
December 12, 2017 SRP: $39.99 each
Set: 8 episodes – Approx. 413 min., plus bonus – SDH Subtitles – UPC
3-Disc Set: 8 episodes – Approx. 413 min., plus bonus – SDH Subtitles – UPC
Kudos to the Warner Archive for its release of the 1955 crime thriller "Hell on Frisco Bay" in the Blu-ray format. The movie had been only seen in scratchy, pan-and-scan versions over the decades and it was presumed that the original camera negative had been lost. However, that was remedied when the camera negative was eventually located and subjected to a painstaking restoration. Since the movie doesn't have the resonance of more famous crime titles, the Warner Archive deserves praise from retro movie fans for putting the effort and expense into restoring this title. Complicating matters were some messy rights issues that also had to be dealt with.
The movie opens with Steve Rollins (Alan Ladd) being released from a San Francisco prison after serving time for a murder of a gangster that he was framed for. He's greeted by his wife Marcia (Joanne Dru), but he cruelly rebuffs her. Seems that while in stir, Rollins completely ignored her and refused to allow her to visit him or communicate with him in any way. His only advice to her was to get on with creating a life without him. Several years into his incarceration, she did just that. However, when Rollins learns that Marcia had a brief fling with another man, his male ego is damaged and the grudge extends to him simply wanting to collect his clothes from their home and move into a boarding house, which he does. He later explains to his former police colleague Dan Bianco (William Demarest) that there is an alternate reason for his harsh rejection of his wife: he wants to immediately set out to track down the killer who framed him and he doesn't want her to become a target of the mob. (Although it's never explained why he simply doesn't advise Marcia of this concern.) Rollins knows the murder he was framed for took place under orders from local crime kingpin Victor Amato (Edward G. Robinson, strangely billed on the movie posters as "Edw. G. Robinson"), who has a lock on business done on the local docks. He's a true sociopath without the slightest sentiment for even his most loyal colleagues. When Rollins confronts him, the situation becomes a cat-and-mouse game of who can eliminate who before the truth behind the murder is known. A compelling subplot has Rollins and Marica slowly becoming more civil to each other, as Marcia carries on with her career as a popular torch singer in a local nightclub. The script also centers on another interesting relationship concerning Joe Lye (Paul Stewart) and his girlfriend Kay Stanley (Fay Wray), a once-popular movie star who has fallen into obscurity. Joe was on death row when Amato used bribes and influence to get him released from prison. Amato reminds him of this every day and make is clear that he can put Joe back on death row if he doesn't slavishly carry out all of his orders. Things get sticky when Amato's penchant for humiliating Joe extends to trying to seduce Kay. As the action unfolds, Rollins interacts with this strange group of characters along with other mob underlings as he obsessively tries to clear his name. The film ends with him going mano a mano with Amato in an action-packed sequence set in a speedboat in San Francisco bay.
The movie, based on a novel, was produced for Alan Ladds production company and he hired director Frank Tuttle to helm the film. The two had previously collaborated on Ladd's breakthrough hit "This Gun for Hire". Despite the impressive Cinemascope and short-lived Warnercolor values, "Hell on Frisco Bay" still resembles an old-fashioned black-and-white film noir. It boasts an intelligent script, interesting characters and very impressive performances. Ladd is in his typical "quiet tough guy" mode and he allows the supporting characters to get the lion's share of the memorable screen moments. Top of the list is Edward G. Robinson, who is in great form, dispensing insults and cruel witticisms against everyone in his orbit. Paul Stewart gives one of his finest performances as the reluctant mobster who has sacrificed his self-respect for his freedom. The two female leads are also excellent in strongly-written roles, with Fay Wray particularly impressive in what was deemed to be a comeback role. The film zips along at a brisk pace under Tuttle's inspired direction until the exciting conclusion. It's all set to a typically impressive Max Steiner score.
The most impressive aspect of this release is the transfer the Warner Archive put so much effort into. It's truly superb on every level. The colors practically leap from the screen and the sheer brilliance of the picture is reason enough to add this one to your collection. The Blu-ray contains the original trailer.
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Kino Lorber continues to produce special edition Blu-rays of obscure titles that are under most movie fans' radar screens. Case in point: "Nightkill", a little-remembered thriller made in 1980 for theatrical release but which ultimately "premiered" on television, much to the consternation of all involved. Ironically, the movie has the look and feel of a TV production with the notable difference of some disturbing images that were probably edited down for broadcast standards. Thus, the Kino Lorber edition is probably the first opportunity to see the original cut of the film, as it apparently was not released to theaters. The plot is "Diabolique" by way of Alfred Hitchcock. Jaclyn Smith, then riding high from her long-running role as one of Charlie's Angels, is cast as Katherine Atwell, a socialite living in Phoenix and living what appears to be a charmed life. She resides in a hilltop mansion and is the toast of the town because of a charitable foundation she has founded. There is one major caveat: her husband Wendell (Mike Connors) is a boorish rich snob with a violent temper who enjoys demeaning everyone in his circle of influence. He is particularly tough on his long-suffering corporate major domo Steve Fulton (James Franciscus), who must endure Wendell's cynical comments and outbursts. Katherine has come to hate her husband. Their marriage is a loveless one based on mutual convenience: he gets a trophy wife he can parade around as arm candy and she gets a lavish lifestyle and funding for her charity. However, she is frustrated by her loveless, sexless marriage and has taken up a secret torrid affair with Steve Fulton. One sunny afternoon, Katherine, Steve and Wendell are gathered in the Atwell's living room. Steve makes a drink for his boss, who promptly keels over and dies a painful death. Without having given Katherine any advance warning, Steve had poisoned Wendell. He tells the understandably panicky Katherine of his game plan: they will secrete Wendell's body in a large freezer inside the house, then collect a briefcase containing a million dollars that is being stored at an airport locker and fly off to another country so they can live the high life together. Katherine is tempted to alert the authorities, but ultimately decides to go along with Steve's plan. She soon regrets it. When Steve doesn't show up for their planned getaway, Katherine begins to worry. She goes through the arduous task of disposing of her husband's body in an abandoned mine shaft but later believes she sees him alive in various places. In the film's only absurd scene, a car that appears to be driven by her dead husband pursues her in a dangerous chase that she narrowly escapes from. It gets worse. When she opens the freezer that once held her husband's body, she gets another shocking surprise that I won't reveal here. Adding to the pressure is a bothersome detective (Robert Mitchum) who shows up at awkward times and asks increasingly awkward questions about her husband's whereabouts.
"Nightkill" was directed by Ted Post, a seasoned pro when it came to helming undistinguished-but-entertaining fare both on television and in feature films. (His best theatrical films were "Hang 'Em High", "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" and "Magnum Force".) Post was primarily at home in the television medium and perhaps that's why the movie has the look and feel of a TV production. Post didn't believe in artsy camera shots or other gimmicks. He shot in a basic style that didn't allow for distractions from the action on screen. He milks some suspense out of a sometimes cliched script that borrows too much from other sources. "Nightkill" may be middling in some aspects but it does take some unexpected turns concerning the motivations of the main characters. Jaclyn Smith gives an outstanding performance as the harried and distressed protagonist. The film is sprinkled with other interesting actors and performances. Mike Connors excels at playing against his good guy image as a rotten lout, Fritz Weaver has an unusually flamboyant character to play as a snobby lawyer who has the hots for Katherine, even though he is married to her best friend (Sybil Danning in a role that refreshingly doesn't require her to doff her clothes). Mitchum is his usual cool-as-a-cucumber self as the detective who may or may not be who he claims to be. The Arizona locations are a refreshing change of pace and the film keeps a zesty pace under Post's direction, right up until the rather surprising ending which some viewers may find unsatisfying. The most memorable scene involves yet another "woman in the shower in jeopardy" scene but with a disturbing twist that doesn't involve anyone attacking her.
Universal has released a highly impressive Blu-ray set, "The Alfred Hitchcock Collection", on Blu-ray. The set contains fifteen special editions of the Master's top films as well as ten original episodes of "The Alfred Hitchcock Presents" television series. The set is packed with 15 hours of bonus extras and includes an illustrated, 58-page collector's booklet with extremely rare international poster art and film stills. Films included in the set are:
North by Northwest
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 version)
Shadow of a Doubt
The Trouble with Harry
Holiday gifts like this don't get any more impressive (or sinister) for the movie lover in your life.
I have a confession to make. In the unlikely event I’m put in a time
machine, sent back to the late spring/early summer of 1969 and given a free
pass to only one of two films presently showing at the local twinplex – the
choices being Stanley Kubricks’s 2001: a
Space Odyssey or Kinji Fukasaku’s The
Green Slime… Well, I admit with some degree of shame and embarrassment that
I would choose The Green Slime. I do not doubt for a moment the superiority,
intellectualism or visual majesty of the former over the latter. But I was eight and a half years old in the
summer of 1969 when my parents took me to 2001:
A Space Odyssey and I confess I was pretty much bored to tears. Arthur Clarke’s scenario was too obtuse for
my grade-school comprehension; the pacing of the film was funeral, the opening
bit with the apes and the obelisk bewildering. The outer space stuff, I admit, was pretty cool.
In any case, it was The
Green Slime and not 2001 that was
the talk of the school back in 1969. It
must be said that MGM marketed the film pretty aggressively. The campaign book for The Green Slime suggested theater-owners invest in the ballyhoo package
they had masterfully assembled, an over-the-top promotional “Go-Get ‘em Fright
Kit.” These kits included “1000 Galling Green Bumper Stickers, 2 Eye Catching,
Teeth-Gnashing Stencils, 2000 Greasy, Goggling, High-Camp Pop-Art Buttons in
Basic Gripping Green, and 250 Ghastly, Ghoulish, Gelatinous Green Slimes in Guaranteed to Nauseate
the Nefarious.” MGM also issued a 45rpm
record of the gnarly rock and roll song celebrating The Green Slime, causing all - of a certain age, at least - to
twist the volume knob to high on our AM radios.
If that wasn’t enough to piqué interest (and it was), the
film campaign also featured one of the greatest one-sheet movie posters I had
ever seen – perhaps, still one of the greatest. The closest I got to own a copy was when I skipped down to the local
tobacco and stationary store and picked up the September 1969 issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland. There in the racks was that month’s cover
girl in all of her 1960’s pop-art movie poster glory: a frightened Luciana
Paluzzi in a clear fishbowl space helmet struggling against the tentacle of a
giant, feral one-eyed space monster. True,
the poster would bear no relation to anything that actually would happen in the film, but that’s beside
the point. The fact is if you were a
dedicated, erudite reader of Film Comment
or American Cinematographer then 2001: A Space Odyssey was indisputably
the science-fiction film of the year. If
you were between the ages of 8-21 and a faithful reader of comic books and
monster magazines, The Green Slime
was the bomb… a “bomb” in the good way, of course.
In June of 1969, every American kid was already talking
about outer space. Though shot in 1968
at Toei Studios, Tokyo, Japan, The Green
Slime opened mid-week near my home just across the Hudson River from
Manhattan, on May 21, 1969. In less than
two month’s time, two of the three astronauts on NASA’s Apollo 11 mission would
walk on the surface of the moon for the first time in recorded history. The promotional department at MGM took every
advantage of public interest in the space-craze. Weeks following the film’s initial release - and
a mere month prior to the much anticipated NASA moon walk - the black and white
newspaper slicks for The Green Slime would
feature a new banner draped across the top of the ad copy: “Lunar Contamination Worries Washington: Will future moon landings expose our
astronauts to strange germs that could grow… AND GROW… into THE GREEN SLIME?”
In The Green Slime
actor Robert Horton plays Commander Jack Rankin, a neither particularly warm
nor likable character, but a guy with a reputation for getting things
done. He’s brought out of retirement by
an officer at the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) who pleads for his
cooperation in a time-sensitive demolition job. It seems as though there’s a six million ton asteroid, nickname Flora, hurtling directly in a trajectory
toward planet Earth. At its present rate
of speed, the asteroid will collide with the planet in approximately ten hours
time, so it’s pretty imperative that Commander Rankin get to work
The crusty astronaut is rocketed to the circular and
tubular Gamma 3 space station where
he and a small team will board yet another spacecraft and shuttle over to the
surface of the asteroid. They intend
blow the asteroid from its current trajectory through the use of a few
relatively small explosives. This
mission is accomplished, pretty handily I might add, but the real trouble starts
to brew when a small specimen of the asteroid’s green slime attaches itself to
the pants leg of one astronaut and is inadvertently transported back to C Block
of Gamma 3. The green slime soon begins to reproduce and
morph from the primordial ooze of its original state to a shuffling, green
fire-hydrant shaped creature with deep-recessed red eyes. Their long and groping tentacles electrocute any
hapless victim who happens to stumble across their whereabouts.
There are also some inter-personal fireworks aboard Gamma 3 when we learn that Rankin and the
ship’s Commander Vince Elliott (Richard Jaeckel) don’t particularly care for
one another. For starters, Elliott is
poised to marry the voluptuous Dr. Lisa Benson (Luciana Paluzzi), a beauty who
walks about the starship in a stylish silver lamè suit and was, apparently, a
jilted paramour of Commander Rankin. It’s difficult to determine why Paluzzi would have – now or at any other
time - any romantic interest in Rankin. While husband-to-be Vince Elliott might have his own testosterone-fueled
problems to work through, he comes off as someone you might enjoy having a beer
with. Conversely, and despite his
sun-tanned skin, chiseled profile, and sculptured brush of spray matted hair, Horton’s
Rankin is positively humorless and uncharismatic. He appears in the personage of a terminally
dour game show host.
Although it picked up significant honors at European film festivals, director Giuseppe Tornatore's 2013 indie drama/mystery "The Best Offer" only received limited release in art houses in North American and UK theaters and thus remains virtually unknown by most movie fans. It's a pity because Tornatore, the director of the much-revered "Cinema Paradiso", has fashioned a brilliant and mesmerizing film that achieves something rare in the modern movie industry: a highly original and offbeat concept. It's a movie packed with plots and subplots, eccentric characters and an increasingly fascinating mystery. In fact, the movie's many surprises also precludes me from providing all but bare bones details because to do otherwise would inevitably spoil some key plot points. Geoffrey Rush plays Virgil Oldman, a revered and highly celebrated figure in the upscale international art auction market. When Virgil presides over a sale of rare paintings, the art community pays special attention. His success has afforded him an opulent lifestyle. He lives in a plush apartment, dines at the best restaurants and seems to have a sizable bank account. However, Virgil is also a miserable, solitary figure who finds that his sense of narcissism has left him alienated and without any significant others in his life. He has only one person who can be regarded as somewhat of a friend: Billy Whistler, (Donald Sutherland), a failed artist but fellow lover of fine art, who conspires with Virgil in an audacious series of schemes. When obscure but potentially very valuable works come up in the auctions that Virgil orchestrates, he downplays their worth and has Billy act as a shill bidder. When the work is acquired for a relatively cheap price, Virgil takes possession and gives Billy a sizable fee for his part in the scheme. The only true joy Virgil derives from life takes place in an opulent hidden room in his spacious apartment (exactly where the film is set remains vague...at some points it appears to be London, at others times it might be Italy). Here, Virgil sits for hours sipping fine wine and silently admires the massive number of paintings he has acquired over the years. These inanimate objects act as his friends, family and lovers.
One day a seemingly routine phone call alters Virgil's in a dramatic way. A young woman, Claire (Sylvia Hoekes), calls him to say that she has recently inherited a house from her deceased parents and that it is filled with various works of art, some of which she suspects might be worth substantial sums. She asks if he will visit the house and evaluate them for potential auction pieces. When Virgil gets to the house, he finds it a shambles. Not only that, but the young woman isn't there to greet him. He recognizes some intriguing pieces among the rubbish but repeated attempts to meet with the woman fail, much to his frustration. The handyman employed at the house informs Virgil that he has worked there for years and has never seen her. She stays in touch with him by phone but eventually explains that he will never see her in the flesh because she suffers from a phobia that precludes her from leaving the solitude of her room if anyone else is in the house. Virgil becomes fascinated by the scenario and continues to make visits to the house, ostensibly to evaluate artwork but in reality, he is also accumulating pieces of a mysterious object that he hopes to have constructed in the expectation it might be quite valuable. He sneaks pieces out as he finds them and brings them to a young man, Robert (Jim Sturgess) who is undertaking the arduous task of trying to match up the odd pieces to make a coherent whole. Meanwhile, Virgil becomes increasingly obsessed by the elusive young woman who continues to avoid meeting with him even when they are both in the house at the same time. When they do ultimately meet, Virgil finds the obscure object of his desire is a beautiful young woman who is suffering from a severe form of agoraphobia. This is when the story kicks into high gear as Virgil becomes a combination father figure and would-be lover- all the while unable to control his obsession with her.
I will not reveal more about this strange, highly complex story line except to say that it consistently veers in directions you never expect, introducing plot elements that are thoroughly engrossing and which are matched only by the central characters, who are richly drawn by by director Tornatore, who also wrote the compelling screenplay. As the film progresses, it builds in suspense and will make you play a guessing game in your mind regarding what everyone's motives may be. The performances are uniformly superb with Geoffrey Rush nothing less than brilliant as the unlikable, yet somewhat sympathetic protagonist. Had the film received wider distribution, he undoubtedly would have received an Oscar nomination. Donald Sutherland in a key supporting role is also marvelous as is the cast of talented young actors. Kudos also to cinematographer Fabio Zamarion and production designer Maurizio Sabatini for their outstanding achievements on this production.
"The Best Offer" leads to a shattering conclusion that you may not see coming. It's a terrific movie and one of the best indie films I've seen in years. The DVD boasts a fine transfer but unfortunately is not a special edition. The only bonus feature is the trailer.
The Warner Archive has released the 1965 comedy "The Rounders" on Blu-ray. The film is primarily notable for the teaming of Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda, two estimable Hollywood stars who could be relied upon to play convincingly in both dark, somber dramas and frolicking comedies. "The Rounders" was directed and written by Burt Kennedy, who adapted a novel from by Max Evans. Kennedy was a veteran of big studio productions who worked his way from screenwriter to director. If he never made any indisputable classics, it can be said that he made a good many films that were top-notch entertainment. Among them: "Support Your Local Sheriff", "The War Wagon", "Hannie Caulder" and "The Train Robbers". While Westerns were Kennedy's specialty, he did have a prestigious achievement with his screenplay for Clint Eastwood's woefully underseen and under-praised 1990 film "White Hunter, Black Heart". It's not an insult to state that most of Kennedy's directorial efforts could be considered lightweight. They were not concerned with social issues and generally had a Hawksian emphasis on heroes who engaged in good-natured bantering ("The War Wagon" is the best example of this.) Those elements are in full display in "The Rounders" but the film never rises above the status of resembling an extended episode of a TV sitcom from the era. That isn't meant as a knock, considering how many good TV sitcoms were on the airwaves in 1965, but there is a rather lazy element to the production and one would be suspects that an old pro like Kennedy probably knocked off the script over a long lunch.
The film, set in contemporary Arizona, finds Ford and Fonda playing Ben Jones and "Howdy" Lewis (his real name is Marion, but he's too ashamed to admit it, which is a nice inside joke aimed at Fonda's old pal John Wayne, whose real name was Marion Morrison.) The two are middle-aged wranglers who make ends meet by "breaking" and taming wild horses. It's a rough-and-tumble profession that inevitably results in them being tossed around like rag dolls as they ride atop bucking broncos. However, Ben and "Howdy" are still the best in their profession, although their meager wages have left them with no tangible assets beyond a beaten-up pickup truck. Local land baron Jim Ed Love (Chill Wills) hires them to spend the winter in a dilapidated cabin in the mountains in order to round up stray horses and keep them safe until spring. The assignment means enduring harsh weather and complete isolation, but the pair need the money so they accept. Since Fonda and Ford are the stars, there's no chance of this evolving into a "Brokeback Mountain" scenario and the two spend time gazing at a poster that depicts a ridiculously sanitized hula girl, a symbol of Ben's long-time dream of moving to a tropical island. Much of the script centers on their trials and tribulations in attempting to break a particularly rebellious roan horse that defies conforming to their commands. It gets personal with Ben, who decides that at the end of winter, he will buy the horse from Love for the simple pleasure of taking him to a soap factory. The two men survive the winter and head off (with roan horse in tow) to the big rodeo, a stop they make every year in order to supplement their income by winning bucking bronco riding contests. Along they way they have a chance encounter with two sisters who happen to be exotic dancers (Sue Ane Langdon and Hope Holiday). They are amiable bubbleheads but after the men have been in the mountains sans female companionship for many months, they can't resist attempting to woo them. The family-friendly screenplay is quite timid when it comes to depicting adult sexual behavior. Ben and "Howdy" are understandably enticed by the vivacious sisters but they seem satiated by inducing them to join them in a moonlight skinny-dipping session, which is interrupted by a police raid. The climax finds the two partners attempting to use the unbreakable roan horse as a gimmick to lure local wranglers and riders to bet money they can best him. There's a bit of a con in their scheme, but as one might suspect, their plans go awry and they don't benefit from any ill-gotten gains. As you might also suspect, the roan horse earns Ben's respect and never makes it to that dreaded soap factory.
That's pretty much the entire plot of "The Rounders", which is lightweight enough to resemble a celluloid wisp of smoke. If it's never boring, it's also never very engaging, as we keep expecting the script to provide some kind of creative or engaging plot device that never arrives. Still, it has its pleasures and Fonda and Ford exude real chemistry that elevates the proceedings substantially. There is also the wonder of the magnificent Arizona locations, a jaunty musical score by Jeff Alexander and a marvelous cast of reliable and familiar character actors that, in addition to the incomparible Chill Wills, includes Edgar Buchanan, Kathleen Freeman, Barton MacLane, Doodles Weaver and Denver Pyle.
When the film was released, even MGM felt the production was rather lacking in commercial appeal. Village Voice critic Andrew Sarris, who gave the film some faint praise, justifiably took issue with the fact that the studio had buried "The Rounders" by placing it at the bottom of a double-feature with a forgettable teeny bopper musical, "Get Yourself a College Girl". He said it must have been depressing for all involved to have a film headlining Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda play second fiddle to a movie that starred Mary Ann Mobley and Nancy Sinatra. He also praised Burt Kennedy, acknowledging that his often estimable contributions to the film business were generally overlooked. Unexpectedly, however, "The Rounders" proved to be a hit in its own right. It drew devoted fans in rural areas and on the drive-in circuit and ended up overshadowing the top-of-the-bill feature. It would even later be made into a television series starring Patrick Wayne, Ron Hayes and Chill Wills, reprising his role from the film.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray does justice to Paul Vogel's impressive cinematography by providing a truly impressive and all-around gorgeous Blu-ray transfer. The release also includes the original trailer.
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for Cordoba,” a 1970 film produced by Vincent M. Fennelly for the Mirisch
Corporation, written by Stephen Kandel, directed by Paul Wendkos, and
distributed by United Artists, has been released by Kino Lorber Studio Classics
in an attractive new Blu-ray edition.In
the movie, U.S. Army Captain Rod Douglas (George Peppard) leads a three-man
team across the Mexican Border in 1916.Douglas has been assigned to gather intelligence on a predatory rebel
general, Cordoba (Raf Vallone), who has confiscated American-owned property in
Mexico.Wealthy U.S. ranchers and
politicians are demanding that the Army secure the border with troops (an
outcry for a $70 billion wall would have to wait another hundred years).After Douglas’ team enters Mexico, one of the
trio, Adam, is captured and tortured to death by Cordoba’s troops.Douglas and the third ranger, Jackson (Don
Gordon), escape to warn Gen. Pershing (John Russell) that Cordoba plans a raid
into Texas to steal six cannon that the Army has transported to the
border.Pershing and his advisors
believe they have the guns safely guarded, but Cordoba and his followers
infiltrate the town and steal the artillery.Pershing directs Douglas to capture Cordoba and disable the cannon.
captain recruits Jackson from the earlier mission and brings in two
trouble-prone but dependable subordinates from the brig. Andy (Pete Duel) has long hair, Woodstock-era
sideburns, a friendly smile, and a guitar slung across his back. Peter (Nico Minardos) wears wire-rimmed
glasses and a studious mien. In Mexico,
the Americans join up with two locals who promise to help them carry out their
mission: Antonio, a Mexican cavalry officer (Gabriele Tinti), and his friend
Leonora (Giovanna Ralli). Leonora had
been raped by Cordoba when the rebel murdered her father and confiscated the
family estate. Now she wants retribution
by helping the Americans nab the ruthless general. Douglas has to contend not only with the
challenge of getting into Cordoba’s mountain-top stronghold in the sierras, but
also with internal strife on his team. Jackson holds a grudge against Douglas for having let Adam -- Jackson’s
brother -- suffer an agonizing death during the previous reconnaissance without
trying to save him. Jackson swears that
he’ll kill Douglas when the current mission is completed. The viewer is periodically reminded of his
oath as, throughout the picture, in Sergio Leone fashion, the embittered
soldier flashes back to Adam being burned alive by Cordoba’s men over an open
for Cordoba” passed briefly through theaters in 1970 with a “GP” rating, the
reverse-lettered precursor to PG. I
vaguely remember seeing the poster at the time. Later, I tended to confuse it with another Peppard Western from the
early ‘70s, “One More Train to Rob,” when the two ran occasionally on local
weekend TV in the 1980s. Cinema Retro’s Lee
Pfeiffer reviewed a 2011 manufactured-on-demand DVD edition HERE. Clearly, “Cannon for Cordoba” was designed to
lure audiences who had turned out in numbers for earlier films about Gringo
adventurers on perilous missions south of the Border, such as “The Magnificent
Seven,” “The Professionals,” and “The Wild Bunch.” Film enthusiasts Howard S. Berger and
Nathaniel Thompson make that point early on, in their lively audio commentary
track on the new Kino Lorber BRD. And
Elmer Bernstein’s score strikes familiar chords from his classic “Magnificent
Seven” theme, for any viewers then or now who might be slow on the uptake. UA gave the release minimal publicity, and at
least four other pictures with similar storylines had already opened in 1970. Even the most dedicated fans of six-guns and
sombreros may already have cried “enough” by the time “Cannon for Cordoba”
appeared on marquees. Had it been
green-lighted a year or two later, it would probably have ended up on a slimmer
budget as a made-for-TV “ABC Movie of the Week,” or with nudity and an R rating
for the drive-in market. The DVD and the
new BRD editions are labeled PG-13.
Paramount Home Media is making retro movie lovers an offer they can't refuse: a special, limited edition deluxe Blu-ray set of the three "Godfather" films complete with some creative extras. "The Godfather Trilogy: Omerta Edition" is limited to only 45,000 sets so make sure you order yours now- or be prepared to sleep with the fishes.
Here is the official description from Paramount:
Celebrating its 45th anniversary, director Francis Ford
Coppola’s THE GODFATHER is widely considered one of the most influential films
in cinematic history. Now the entire epic trilogy will be available on
Blu-ray™ in a spectacular 4-disc Omertà Edition, which includes the
Coppola Restoration of THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER, PART II, as well as the
remastered version of THE GODFATHER, PART III.
A stunning gift for any fan, only 45,000 of these limited
edition, numbered sets will be made available beginning November 7, 2017.
THE GODFATHER TRILOGY: OMERTÀ EDITION includes commentary by Coppola on all
three films, a full disc of previously released in-depth special features, as
well as exclusive new collectible Trivia Cards, Magnetic Poetry, an Anatomy of
a Scene fold out and Quote Cards.
When it was released in 1971, director Michael Winner's "Lawman" was regarded as just another western. It did well enough, if unremarkably, at the boxoffice thanks to the drawing power of star Burt Lancaster, but in the end, "Lawman" came and went rather quickly in an era in which the genre was starting to wane a bit. The film represented a new direction for Winner, who had gained attention in the mid-1960s with several quirky comedies that captured the mood of London's emerging "mod" scene. In 1969 Winner landed his first production for a major Hollywood studio with the offbeat WWII comedy/adventure "Hannibal Brooks". He was now mainstream and wanted to try his hands at a diverse subject matters. He proved surprisingly adept at directing at a western, as evidenced by his achievement with "Lawman", which has been released as a Twilight Time Blu-ray limited edition (3,000 units). Winner would seem an unlikely choice for the task. He was of the "To the manor born" crowd, an elitist who inherited enormous wealth and who hobnobbed with London's "A" list crowd. Yet, Winner had a reverence for the American west and captured as well as any other director the look, feel and sensibility of the types of characters who inhabited it.
"Lawman" begins with a group of rowdy cowboys in the employ of uber-rich cattle baron Vincent Bronson (Lee J. Cobb), returning from a grueling cattle drive and letting off some steam by raising hell in a small town they are passing through. Drunk and out-of-control, they supplement their horseplay by randomly firing their pistols, causing some damage to local buildings before returning to Bronson's massive cattle ranch empire. Bronson assumes his men did little more than disturb the peace and shoot out some windows. Neither he or his men are aware that in the confusion, a stray bullet mortally wounded an elderly bystander. They learn this with the arrival in town of Marshal Jarod Maddox (Burt Lancaster), a soft-spoken but fearless lawman empowered by the state to find and arrest the culprits and bring them back to stand trial. Bronson is genuinely disturbed to learn his men had inadvertently caused a death and his first inclination is to take responsibility for it. He is a local kingmaker and is used to writing his own code of justice since he virtually owns all the local townspeople and public officials, who he has appointed to office. He instructs his short-tempered business partner Harvey Stenbaugh (Albert Salmi) to meet with Maddox and offer to pay for all physical damages done as well as offer generous compensation to the victim's family. Harvey is also instructed to blatantly bribe Maddox, who refuses the offer and makes clear he intends to arrest four men he has warrants for. Harvey is one of them and he draws on Maddox but dies in the ensuing gunplay. This sets in motion a war of wills between Maddox and Bronson who makes it clear no one will be standing trial for what he considers to be an innocent mistake. Maddox is determined, however, and begins to track down each of the four men, one of whom is Bronson's brother. Along the way, he reunites with Laura Shelby (Sheree North), a former lover who is now living with one of the wanted men, a coward named Hurd Price (J.D. Cannon), who takes flight upon Maddox's arrival. Laura tries unsuccessfully to persuade Maddox to spare Price and even beds him in an attempt to dissuade him, but Maddox fearlessly and relentlessly pursues his prey.
The most striking aspect of "Lawman", which bore a bland title and uninspired advertising campaign, is the intelligent script by Gerald Wilson. He presents fully-fleshed characters who could easily have been made into caricatures of western movie villains. The unique aspect of the script is that there aren't any traditional villains. The men who committed the crimes are honest, hard-working cow hands who are ashamed and appalled that they have killed a man. Even though Maddox assures them they will probably get a light sentence, they can't spare the time to be away from their ranches because it would cause them financial ruin. As for Cobb's Vincent Bronson, he is not the typical mustache-twirling western bad guy. He's a dictator who buys people's allegiance, but he is a benevolent dictator who has provided good wages and ample respect to the locals and people in his employ. Maddox meets the local sheriff, Cotton Ryan (Robert Ryan), a once-esteemed lawman who has fallen into disgrace and now shamefully acts as a flunky for Bronson. He attempts to persuade Maddox that pursuing his goal of arresting men at the risk of his life will be a fool's errand. Even if he succeeds in bringing them to court, Bronson will bribe the judge and jury. Maddox is about to be won over by this cynical view of life when an unexpected development leads to a violent showdown.
"Lawman" boasts an outstanding cast that includes Robert Duvall, John McGiver, Richard Jordan and Ralph Waite, to name but a few. The performances are all outstanding, as is Winner's direction. The three leads- Lancaster, Cobb and Ryan (reunited with Lancaster after "The Professionals") - are superb. Cinematographer Robert Paynter, a longtime collaborator of Winner's, captures the dust and dry prairies with such skill that you'll feel like having a tall, cold drink mid-way through the movie. (One gripe, though: Paynter has an amateurish fixation on playing with the zoom lens.) The movie also has a typically fine score by Jerry Fielding. The Twilight Time Blu-ray is sans any special features except the trailer, an isolated music score track and the usual excellent collector's booklet with informative notes by Julie Kirgo. The transfer is on par with the usual high quality standards associated with Twilight Time.
"Lawman" may not rank with the great westerns of Ford, Hawks and Sturges but it resonates today as an excellent film in all respects. Highly recommended.
Back in the mid-1970s when the U.S. government established the national speed limit at 55 MPH there was predictable outrage among "The Sky is Falling!" crowd who warned that traffic would slow to a crawl and that the rule was an infringement on individual rights. The fact is that since the day the 55 MPH speed limit was established, virtually everyone has ignored it and law enforcement officials seemed to unofficially tack on another 10 MPH before they got serious about ticketing anyone, the exception being small towns that did nitpick about speed limits and saw their coffers filled regularly. The fear among some Americans that they might have to actually slow the pace of their lives in some manner resulted in the birth of the road race movie. Call it "Revenge of the Lead-Foot Crowd". If would-be speeders couldn't fulfill their fantasies on the highways and byways of America, then, by golly, they would do it on the silver screen. Lost in the debate, however, was the original reason for the 55 MPH, which had less to do with safety and everything to do with conserving gasoline following the gas crisis of 1973 when drivers had to wait for hours to get their cars partially filled. President Richard M. Nixon proposed setting the new speed limit at 50 MPH for passenger cars but compromised at 55 MPH. The plan was a flop, saving far less gasoline than Nixon had envisioned- but the law was kept intact for reasons of safety. Hollywood, however, was not interested in nuances and delved straight into exploiting the situation. Suddenly, seemingly every other movie produced had elaborate car chases. A peculiar sub-genre formed that was dedicated to movies that would not even have existed without car chases. The 1976 release "Cannonball" was a sobering take on the premise with participants suffering gruesome deaths in a coast-to-coast high speed auto race. The very same year saw the release of "The Gumball Rally", a lighthearted spin on the exact same premise that caused critic Roger Ebert to note the similarities between the two films thusly: "Both movies have all the standard ingredients, however:
Two laconic leading men, two all-girl teams, one ethnic driver, one dumb law
enforcement officer, several exploding gas tanks, no end of incompetent highway
patrolmen, a helicopter and a car that breaks in half. The movies are so
similar in content, in fact, that the differences between them are instructive:
"The Gumball Rally" is an easily forgettable entertainment, but at
least it has a certain amount of class. "Cannonball" was straight
exploitation." Ebert also noted that two other similarly-themed films were also released that year: Ron Howard's "Eat My Dust" and Roger Corman's "Death Race 2000".
The Warner Archive has released "The Gumball Rally" on Blu-ray. The film is an amiable but completely predictable action comedy that acknowledges in its trailer that it was inspired by the granddaddy (and still the best) of all road race movies, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". (Even the poster art seems an homage to Jack Davis's iconic ad campaign for "Mad World".) The movie opens in New York City where we see bored rich executive Michael Bannon (Michael Sarrazin) issue the code word "Gum Ball" to an eclectic group of eccentrics who immediately converge on a meeting he is holding to announce it's time to launch "The Gum Ball Rally" (spelled differently than the actual title of the film, "The Gumball Rally"). Turns out that this is annual race from New York to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. There are no rules for the race except that the winner will be awarded a fully-loaded gumball machine and have the bragging rights. Before long, teams driving an exotic fleet of autos ranging from Corvettes to Jaguars and a Rolls Royce are screeching through Manhattan and New Jersey in a madcap race to the finish line. The film was directed by Chuck Ball, a long-time stuntman and stunt coordinator as well as actor and sometimes director. Thus, it isn't surprising that the bulk of the movie is spent concentrating on spectacular chase scenes and comical crashes, with the characters left largely undeveloped. The most impressive scenes are early in the film in which Ball somehow managed to shoot cars speeding through Times Square during the daytime, amid theaters boasting marquees ranging from "Jaws" to the latest porno flicks. He also got the Lincoln Tunnel closed down for a key scene, as well as the New Jersey Turnpike (try doing that today!). It's all set to a jaunty, sitcom-like 1970s score by Dominic Frontiere.
"The Gumball Rally" was aimed squarely at the drive-in market where it undoubtedly did well. The film's production budget went almost entirely on the expensive chase and crash scenes, some of which feature some creative and amusing aspects amid the cliches. Consequently, there wasn't any money left for star power. Michael Sarrazin, a good and underrated actor who never made it as big as he deserved to, is the most familiar face and young Raul Julia has a flashy role as a perpetually horny racer whose sex drive interferes with his commitment to get to the finish line first. Gary Busey, a couple of years away from his star-making turn in "The Buddy Holly Story", is on board as a goofball and Normann Burton has a good role as the Javert-like policeman who relentlessly pursues the racers every year only to wind up humiliated. Old timers J. Pat O'Malley and Vaughn Taylor are aging sophisticates who are among the contestants. The film is innocent, undemanding fun, even if it's completely predictable. The road race genre continued for a number of years, thanks in large part to Burt Reynolds' massive "Smokey and the Bandit" and "The Cannonball Run", the latter being an exact remake of "The Gumball Rally" which was a remake of "Cannonball". The Warner Archive release has a top-notch transfer and includes the original trailer, which doesn't mention a single cast member by name.
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Sidney Sheldon (1917-2007), the playwright, television
mogul, and novelist, reportedly sold well over 300 million books in his
lifetime. This is a pretty impressive number
for a man who only turned to churning out books in his early fifties. If I hedged on the word “writing” when
describing the mogul’s working methods, I’m not being coy and
disrespectful. Perhaps taking a page
from fellow television writer-creator-workaholic Rod Serling’s own playbook, Sheldon
would dictate his stories into a tape recorder and later have secretaries type
out his ramblings. With words committed
to paper, Sheldon would then skillfully revise and edit and buffer the
manuscript until satisfied he had a full-fledged novel on hand. Though a number of literary critics - and resentful
thriller-writing contemporaries - would excoriate the creator/writer of The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie for his work method
and hackneyed storylines, readers worldwide made Sheldon one of the most
successful popular-market paperback novelists of all time.
One fan of Sheldon’s books was Roger Moore, also in the
midst of enjoying a great run of wealth and fame as James Bond. The actor would recall in his memoir My Word is My Bond, “Since first reading
Sidney Sheldon’s book The Naked Face
I had felt it would lend itself to a very good film.” Moore was interested in exploring new
projects; he was certain his sixth and most recent outing as Bond, Octopussy (1983), was likely his last. He was, after all, now fifty-seven years old. He could be forgiven for believing his
successful turn as British secret agent 007 had come to its natural end.
Several years prior to the cinema version of “The Naked
Face,” Moore was cast in “Sunday Lovers” (1980), a dismal romantic-comedy of four
vignettes tethered together as a feature-length film. The Franco-Italian production would be
released in the U.S. in the early winter of 1981. Though the film performed poorly at the
box-office on both sides of the Atlantic, critics agreed the movie’s first
tale, a distinctly British farce titled “An Englishman’s Home,” was clearly the
best of an otherwise bad bunch. The screenplay for this segment had been written
by the British playwright and lyricist Leslie Bricusse, and featured a talented
ensemble: Moore, Denholm Elliot, Lynn
Redgrave, and Priscilla Barnes. The
vignette was helmed with modest flourish by Bryan Forbes, a formidable figure
in the British film industry who had only recently stepped down as managing
director of EMI films. Moore enjoyed
working with the director on “Sunday Lovers” as Forbes, a true Renaissance man,
had been an old colleague. The two had been
friends since their earliest training together at the Royal Academy of Dramatic
Around this same time a pair of Israeli nationals,
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, became primary shareholders of Cannon Films, a floundering
company teetering on bankruptcy and desperate for well-heeled investors. The savvy cousins would quickly reinvigorate
the company’s fortunes in the 1980s with a profitable string of teen-horrors
and testosterone-fueled low-budget action B-films starring Charles Bronson and
Chuck Norris. In the interim of such
box-office successes as “Death Wish II” and the first of the “Missing in Action”
films, the producers actively courted Moore for a possible collaboration. The interests of both parties converged when a
window of opportunity opened following the actor’s wrap of Octopussy. Moore’s suggestion
of Sidney Sheldon’s 1970 best-selling novel “The Naked Face” as a possible
project for Cannon was met with enthusiasm. The deal was sealed when the filmmakers agreed to green-light Moore’s
friend Bryan Forbes as director for the project. Golan and Globus announced production of “The
Naked Face” with customary Cannon ballyhoo at the Cannes International Film
The premise of both the novel and film was classic
Hitchcock. A contemplative Chicago
psychiatrist, Dr. Judd Stevens (Roger Moore), becomes entangled as primary
suspect for a series of murders of which he is innocent and seems to have no
connection. As “The Naked Face” was clearly
targeted as entertainment for a sophisticated adult demographic, the producers
cast an impressive roster of middle-to-late-age talent. These were faces familiar to seasoned moviegoers: Rod Steiger, Anne Archer, Elliott Gould, and
Art Carney among them. The casting,
sadly, was not terribly profound. The
producers would cast veteran actor Rod Steiger as Moore’s foil, the
frothing-at-the-mouth, bulldog detective Lt. McGreavy. Steiger’s performance was certainly memorable. Unfortunately, it is memorable for all of the
wrong reasons. The most obvious problem with the actor’s
performance was, as Moore would later lament, Steiger did little to mitigate
his well-deserved reputation amongst his peers as a “scene chewer.” There’s plenty of that charge in evidence
here. The actor’s one-note portrayal is,
in turn, amusing and wearying. McGreavy comes off as a highly-caffeinated
Sgt. Joe Friday, ready to assign even the sketchiest shred of circumstantial
evidence as proof of Moore’s culpability in the murders. The detective’s dogged single-mindedness to
implicate the doctor is explained away as a result of the psychiatrist’s
testimony on behalf of a mentally unstable man who murdered his former police-partner
some years earlier. Elliott Gould is
cast as Angeli, McGreavy’s calmer and more reasonable contemporary partner. He is, seemingly, the better angel of this
traditional “good cop/bad cop” pairing. But
Gould is surprisingly unremarkable here, turning in a curiously flat and remote
performance. Art Carney plays Morgens, an
elderly, eccentric private investigator and collector of vintage clocks, who
briefly allies with Moore. Incredibly,
we’re expected to believe that the contemplative Dr. Stevens would engage this
low-rent private investigator through a listing in the Chicago Yellow Pages.
Promoted for its psychedelic aspects (as seemingly all youth-driven films of the late 1960s were), the crime thriller "Cop-Out" also bears a completely meaningless title that was designed to bring the mod crowd into theaters. (Please do not confuse this "Cop-Out" with director Kevin Smith horrendous 2010 sleaze fest "Cop Out".) Yet, despite the emphasis on exploitation, the film is actually a tightly-scripted, highly intelligent drama that boasts an especially impressive performance by the generally impressive James Mason. He plays John Sawyer, a once-esteemed lawyer who has fallen on hard times. His vivacious wife has left him because of his sexual inattention to her, as well as his love affair with booze. With her departure, Sawyer putters around a decaying mansion that, like himself, was once quite impressive. Sawyer's house is also a home to his daughter Angela (Geraldine Chaplin), but the two are barely on speaking terms. She resents his disinterest in her well-being and he resents what he believes is her misspent youth. Angela hangs out with a group of upper crust, spoiled rotten modders who spend their time drinking, smoking and screwing with shameless abandon. The odd man out in the group is Jo (Paul Bertoya), a struggling Greek immigrant who is tolerated in the group of snobs primarily because Angela is his girlfriend. The restless modders end up surreptitiously boarding a docked freighter and wreaking havoc before they are caught out by a crew member, Barney Teale (Bobby Darrin), a fast-talking American hipster who befriends the group and sets about manipulating them. He moves into their motley secret hideaway in an abandoned local theater and begins to make use of the premises to indulge in doing drugs and entertaining strippers and prostitutes. He's got a Jekyll and Hyde-like personality: one minute he's charming and funny, the next he's cruel and violent. When Barney suffers injuries due to an accident, Angela allows him to recuperate in her room, safe in the assumption that her disengaged father would never find out about his presence. However, during the night, a gunshot rings out and Barney turns up dead in Angela's bed. The prime suspect is Jo, who is accused of being jealous of Angela's proximity to the sex-crazed Barney. However, Angela insists he's being framed. The question is: by who? She imposes upon her father to return to his profession and take up Jo's defense. He agrees to do so but his appearance before the court is a disaster, leading to Angela to believe that Jo will inevitably be convicted. However, her father rallies, lays off the bottle and begins to play detective. In Agatha Christie fashion, he confronts the man he suspects of being the real murderer at a posh dinner party where the suspect is being honored on his birthday.
"Cop-Out" is rather striking for its blunt depiction of the open sexuality that was inherent in the youth revolution of the Sixties. There are few noble characters among the sleazebags but Sawyer's rise from the ash heap of humanity serves as a precursor for Paul Newman's character in "The Verdict" in that both men regain meaning in the lives by combating what they feel is a social injustice. The film was directed by Pierre Rouve, and it marks his only turn helming a film. (He major credits were as producer, including Antonioni's "Blow-Up".) Rouve is quite impressive, too, and doesn't allow the sexual and violent aspects of the film to overshadow the intelligent screenplay, which is based on the novel "Strangers in the House" by Georges Simenon. There's a very able supporting cast, with young Ian Ogilvy in what turns out to be a key role. The script deftly makes some biting observations about British class structure and delves into other areas such as sexual harassment, impotence and homosexuality (which was still an imprisonable offence at the time in England!). Chaplin performs well, as does the supporting cast, with Bobby Darin somewhat mesmerizing in an off-the-wall performance. The main recommendation for seeing the movie, however, is Mason's outstanding performance as the world-weary, worn-out shadow of a man who still has the ability to slay his social adversaries with his rapier wit. There's also some good location scenery (it was filmed in Southampton) and retro movie lovers will enjoy Mason glimpsing at some skin magazines including one promoting Molly Peters in "Thunderball". As an added treat, there are occasional vocals by Eric Burden and the Animals.
Kino Lorber has rescued yet another obscure gem of a film and given it a fine presentation on Blu-ray. The original trailer is included as are trailers from other KL releases including "Coming Home", "The Crucible" and others.
In MGM’s 1958 Western “The Law and Jake Wade,” Robert
Taylor rides down from the Sierra Nevada mountains early one morning into a small
town and busts his old partner-in-crime, Clint Hollister (Richard Widmark), out
of the hoosegow. Hollister is a nasty guy. Not satisfied with escaping a
hanging, to Jake’s dismay, he clubs the sheriff and shoots a couple of people
out in the street while he and Jake make their getaway. Jake has to take his
rifle away from him to keep from killing more people.
Back up in the mountains Clint wants to ride on with Jake
but Jake says no. He busted Clint out of jail because he figured he owed him
for doing the same thing for him once. Now they’re even. Clint doesn’t agree.
There’s that matter of the $20,000 they stole on their last job together. He
wants his share. Jake tells him he buried the money and never touched it and
advises Clint to forget about it. “Don’t try to follow me,” he tells him. “I’m
still pretty good with this,” he says, patting his holstered gun. They go their
separate ways and Jake rides down on the other side of the mountain into
another town where he pulls up in front of a marshal’s office. Two men inside
welcome him back. He takes his coat off and surprise! There’s a tin star pinned
to his shirt.
It’s a shocker. He’s a law man, and he just broke a convicted
killer out of jail. It seems while Clint continued his career as an outlaw,
Jake reformed and became a town marshal. He’s an upstanding citizen now and
even has a lovely fiancé named Peggy (Patricia Owens) he’s going to settle down
with. Now you might ask yourself why a guy in Jake’s position would risk
everything to save his old partner from a noose. It would be somewhat
unbelievable if veteran screenwriter William Bowers (The Gunfighter), adapting
a novel by Marvin H. Alpert, didn’t provide some background indicating that Jake
is not only a guy with a conscience, Clint has some psychological hold over him
that he uses to his own advantage.
It helps that “The Law and Jake Wade” is directed by John
Sturges (Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Magnificent Seven). Sturges sets a
steady, understated, no-nonsense tone to the proceedings that makes everything
credible and authentic. His directorial skill is nowhere more evident than in
the way he handles a cast made up in part by some familiar Hollywood bad asses.
After Jake gets home Clint shows up with some mutual friends—members of the old
gang. The first is Rennie, a young psychopath played by Henry Silva (Manchurian
Candidate). Silva affects a weird way of talking and looking like he’s about to
draw on anyone who looks at him crossways. Next up, Robert Middleton as Ortero,
a hulking, cold-blooded gunman with a big belly and a nasty disposition. And
last but not least, a pre-Star Trek DeForest Kelly as Wexler, who would almost
rather kill Jake than try to find the money. (I know it’s hard to think of Dr.
McCoy as a bad ass but actually he played that role in several westerns back in
the fifties). Sturges provides each of the heavies enough screen time and
action to establish their bonafides.
The story heats up when Clint and his Merry Men kidnap
Jake’s fiancé and force him to take them to the hidden loot. Sturges was not
only good at getting great performances from his cast, he was also one of the
best at filming in rugged locations. A lot of “The Law And Jake Wade” was shot
in the Sierra Nevada mountains around Lone Pine and down in Death Valley, an
area of the American landscape so often used in westerns that it has long since
become part of our national dreamscape. Even movie goers who are not
particularly fans of westerns can immediately recognize the mountains and
deserts of this stretch of ruggedly beautiful country. Budd Boetticher was
perhaps the director to make the best use of this scenery in the films he made
with Randolph Scott, but Sturges and his cinematographer Robert Surtees almost
surpass him in this film. The movie not only provides compelling drama, it’s
also gorgeous to look at.
On top of all this, Taylor and Widmark are at the top of
their game. Taylor was 58 at the time he played Marshal Wade, a little long in
the tooth, perhaps, to be paired with the 33-year old Owens, but he was still
in shape, and age had only added a bit of gravitas to his classic good looks.
He spends a lot of time in the film riding along the high passes of the Sierras
with his hands tied behind his back, which must have been difficult. One of the
biggest marvels in the movie is the way his hat stayed on while they rode over
one of those passes where the wind was blowing so hard Widmark and the others
all had to hold on to their lids to keep from losing them. But not Bob Taylor.
When you’re a star, baby, the hat stays on, even if you have to glue it on.
Widmark has one of his best sadistic psycho-killer roles
as Clint Hollister. It’s as though his notorious Tommy Udo from “Kiss of Death”
had donned gun belt and spurs and headed
west. Henry Silva was plenty creepy as Rennie, but one twitch of Widmark’s
snarling upper lip quickly resolved any doubt about who was deadlier or meaner.
The Warner Archive Collection has released “The Law and
Jake Wade” on a decent, if somewhat unspectacular, Blu-ray with no bonus
features other than the original theatrical trailer. The film lacks an original soundtrack score because it was made during a musicians’
union strike. Thus, the music heard in the movie was lifted from previous features.
Despite the lack of special features, this
is a solidly entertaining film and this Blu-Ray disc is highly recommended.
John M. Whalen is the author of "This Ray Gun for Hire...and Other Tales." Click here to order from Amazon.
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Not all hit plays and musicals translate into hit films, as evidenced by the 1992 screen adaptation of playwright Michael Frayn's comedy stage hit "Noises Off" which became a sensation on Broadway, the West End and in countless road productions. The premise of the production remains the same in Marty Kaplan's screenplay: a touring production of a British sex farce called "Nothing On" is frantically rehearsing amidst a string of disasters for a pivotal performance in Des Moines on the long road for a hoped-for eventual opening on Broadway. The film version tells the story in flashbacks with the play's director, Lloyd Fellowes (Michael Caine), a basket case of nerves as he paces about the Broadway theater where the premiere performance is underway. This plot gimmick poses a problem from the outset: the premise of the script is that, as the production lurches from disastrous road engagement to disastrous road engagement, it seems virtually impossible that the cast and crew will ever get their act together sufficiently to merit an opening on Broadway...but since the prologue shows us the play has opened on Broadway, it robs the script of any surprise because we know these inept players will indeed overcome the tidal wave of mishaps. This is yet another British property that has been Americanized, with only old pros Caine and Denholm Elliott representing the Brits. The other key roles are filled by talented American actors, among them Carol Burnett, John Ritter, Julie Hagerty, Marilu Henner, Christopher Reeve and Mark Linn-Baker. They all perform very well but why have people who have pretend British accents when you can have British actors to begin with? The answer is" boxoffice. The studio obviously felt that there weren't sufficient big names available in the UK film industry to certify the film would be a hit. They missed the boat completely. "Noises Off" was a big flop, though it has developed something of a cult following in the ensuing years.
The film was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, once Hollywood's golden boy. He hadn't had a hit since "Paper Moon" in 1973 and his association on "Noises Off" as a work-for-hire director seems to signify he was more in search of a paycheck than in presenting a film he had a great passion for. Things start off brightly as we see the rehearsal for "Nothing On" fall apart at the seams as director Fellowes reaches for his Valium. Things don't go well on opening night and, indeed, the situation deteriorates to a disastrous level on the road. Part of the problem is the complexity of the farce, which requires actors to bound all over the stage, entering and exiting with precision timing. Critics and audiences loved the theatrical version of "Noises Off" because of these logistical challenges that inevitably face the cast and director. On film, however, we're all too aware that numerous takes and deliberate editing can salvage a scene in a way that a live production can't benefit from. Bogdanovich does a good job of directing the hectic traffic but he's hampered by the fact that we see the same scenes played out under different circumstances until they get to be predictable and boring. By the time the show's most accident-prone performance is depicted, the entire affair has become monotonous, even if the cast members exert themselves admirably and deliver deft comedic performances. Some of the more amusing aspects of the film revolve around the off-stage shenanigans that find secret affairs, jealous lovers and drunken temper tantrums combining to drive the director to the point of insanity. Caine gives the film's most amusing performance and he's in top form. Because of the many cast members, most don't get adequate opportunity to stand out, though Nicollette Sheriden deserves special credit for being able to suffer through the antics while cast in bra and panties. One continuing joke that does work well is Bogdanovich's clever use of a bottle of booze and a bouquet of flowers that ended up being frantically and accidentally passed around backstage and being cleverly used and misused by those who come into possession of them.
The film's epilogue wraps things up with a too abrupt ending that seems overly cheerful considering the mishaps that we have witnessed.
"Noises Off" isn't a bad film but it never rises to the level of classic farce that many feel the stage production succeeded in doing. If you have any background in theater, you will probably find the movie more enjoyable than the average viewer.
The Warner Archive has released a Blu-ray edition of director Richard Rush's 1974 action comedy "Freebie and the Bean". The movie clearly rode the wave of enthusiasm during this period for maverick cop movies, largely because in those bad old days America was awash in crime. Consequently, Hollywood provided us with tough guy lawmen- Harry Callahan, Popeye Doyle, Lon McQ- to name but a few, who decided to toss away the rule book and bring about their own brand of common sense justice. The fact that, in doing so, these protectors of the peace often endangered far more innocent bystanders than the criminals did, was a common theme of these pro-vigilante cop flicks. "Freebie and the Bean" takes this element of rogue lawmen movies to an extreme, perhaps intentionally as a satirical device, or perhaps just to satiate the whims of the audience who, back in the day, would howl with delight every time a constitutional right was violated in order to mete out justice to a villain. The wafer-thin plot presents us with two San Francisco detectives - Freebie (James Caan) and his partner Bean (Alan Arkin)- as wise-cracking nonconformists who are borderline psychopaths. They routinely beat up suspects, deprive them of civil rights and in one "amusing" scene actually murder someone while he is sitting on a public toilet. In between, they terrorize half the population of the city by engaging in high speed chases that cause enormous damage. The only thing that separates them from the criminals they hunt is the fact that they are sanctioned by wearing badges. Freebie and Bean are assigned to protect an organized crime figure (Jack Kruschen), who the D.A. needs to appear as a witness as a high-profile trial. However, there is a contract out on him and the two cops must keep him safe until the trial begins.
Most of the film consists of endless chases on foot and by car, as the vulgarians in badges exchange insults and Bean is inevitably the victim of Freebie's cruel practical jokes. Arkin does his usual slow-burn shtick while Caan goes for his typical wise-ass approach. About the only cliche left out of this cop/buddy scenario is the "one guy is black and the other guy is white" standard. The script by Robert Kaufman is a crude, patchwork affair that resembles something some drunken college students could have churned out during a dorm party. Arkin and Caan do display a good deal of on-screen chemistry but director Richard Rush, who would go on to make the more estimable "The Stunt Man", places most of the emphasis on staging spectacular car chases. It must be said that the stunt work and action scenes are truly impressive and give the film its most redeeming qualities. However, the characters are all cringe-inducing sleazebags- including the good guys. The impressive supporting cast includes Loretta Swit, Alex Rocco, Mike Kellin and Paul Koslo- but their characters are woefully underdeveloped. Only Valerie Harper injects a note of grace and dignity as Bean's long-suffering wife who he accuses, in howling Ralph Kramden style, of having an affair with a gardner. The scene offers some humanity and poignancy but even that slips into vulgarity with a tasteless caveat about feminine hygiene. The movie has one other opportunity to veer into some genuinely emotional territory when, in the climax , one of the key characters is shot point blank and apparently mortally wounded. For a few brief minutes the film develops a sense of human compassion before plunging into the absurd final act when the severely wounded character inexplicably leaps from a hospital gurney to engage in a wrestling match.
Upon its release, "Freebie and the Bean" was greeted with largely awful reviews. Vincent Canby of the New York Times noted the sheer inhumanity of the characters, writing: "It's as sensitive as a doorknob and as witty as a bumper sticker" and also observed that there were so many automobile chases that he suspected the film was actually directed by a car. Alan Arkin dismissed the film as "absolute garbage"- but audiences loved it. The movie became a surprise hit and went on to develop a cult following that thrives even today. Fans of the film will welcome its Blu-ray release. The transfer is up to Warner Archives standards but the only bonus extra is the theatrical trailer. That's good news for "Bean" freaks but scant compensation for those of us who decry the sheer waste of talent in the film.
was released by American International in 1976, just as the blaxploitation
sub-genre was pretty much tailing off and indeed when A.I.’s most prolific
years lay behind them. It was directed by Arthur Marks, best known to me for his
year earlier blaxploitation entry, Friday
Foster (headlining Pam Grier and Yaphet Kotto), but also notable as
writer/director on early 70s drive-in fodder such as Bonnie’s Kids and The
opens with a fast-paced prologue set in 1942 New Orleans, during which a heated
argument in a meat-processing plant between Betty Jo Walker (Alice Jubert) and
Theotis Bliss (Fred Pinkard) culminates with him slitting her throat. The body
is discovered by her brother, scar-faced black-marketeer J.D. (David McKnight),
who’s mistaken for the killer by her boyfriend, Theotis’ brother Elija (Louis
Gossett), who promptly shoots J.D. dead. (Keeping up? This is the framework for
everything that follows.) We slingshot forward 34 years to present day and meet
Isaac ‘Ike’ Hendrix (Glynn Turman), cab driver by day, law student by night.
Out at a club with his girlfriend Christella (Joan Pringle) and some friends,
Ike gets up on stage to participate in a hypnosis act, but whilst he’s in a
trance his mind is infiltrated by the vengeful spirit of J.D. With increasing
frequency, the unhinged gangster intermittently seizes control of Ike, using
him as a tool to exact revenge upon Elija and Theotis, who’ve now moved up in
the world and – along with the former’s daughter Roberta (Jubert again) – are shamelessly
using a religious set-up as front for their criminal activities.
by Jaison Starks, J.D.’s Revenge is a
gritty serving of schlock with a supernatural slant, serving up a banquet of
graphic bovine slaughter, un-PC dialogue, scathingly sexist attitude and more
than a splash of Dulux-variety bloodshed. Yet although it’s staged competently
enough, it falls shy of joining the ranks of the more thrilling blaxploitationers,
in fact on a couple of occasions it almost crosses the line into parody; it’s
hard not to smirk when Ike takes to strutting around togged up in unflattering,
ill-fitting 1940s regalia, whilst his frenetic cavorting during the climactic
face-off is truly bizarre. The only thing that rescues it from descending into
silliness is the omnipresent streak of nastiness against which the unfolding
events are juxtaposed. Nowhere is this more prevalent than a scene in which Ike
drastically changes his hairstyle; he looks utterly ridiculous and Christella
tells him so, but any urge on the viewer’s part to laugh is swiftly quelled as
Ike brutally strikes her down and rapes her. It’s one of a handful of unforgivably
misogynistic scenes that hamper producer-director Marks’s movie. To play fair, hard
as it may be for a young 21st century audience to comprehend, in
1976 such material was perfectly acceptable and the makers would simply have been
feeding demand; viewed 40 years on, however, there’s no disputing that it’s archaic
and makes for uncomfortable viewing.
root, of course, Sparkes’s script is riffing on the hackneyed – though seldom
less than fun – Jekyll/Hyde formula, and
Turman does an excellent job of vacillating between the two diverse personas of
Ike and J.D. Nuances such as Ike absentmindedly running a finger across his
cheek where J.D. was scarred subtly add veracity to the notion he’s possessed.
Gossett meanwhile brings bags of energy to the table, particularly in the
scenes when he’s vigorously preaching to his flock, and both Pringle and Jubert
deliver admirable work. As an additional note on the cast, J.D.’s Revengefeatures what
was the second (and final) screen appearance of Ruth Kempf, who’d achieved
global recognition in her fleeting but memorable debut as novice pilot Mrs Bell
in Bond film Live and Let Die; it’s
fair to say, however, she’s left in far worse shape having crossed paths with
the possessed Ike than she was in the wake of her comparatively lightweight
encounter with 007!
The FX work,
when it isn’t bluntly quease-inducing, is nicely effective. Particularly striking
is an optical when Ike is stands before a shattered mirror and sees the
glowering visage of J.D. staring back at him.