In “Goldstone” (2016), a Lightyear Blu-ray release, Aaron
Pedersen returns as Aborigine detective Jay Swann, first seen in the 2013 crime
drama Mystery Road. Only this time out, Jay is in lousy shape. He’s suffering
emotional trauma over the loss of his daughter, and first appears on screen
driving drunk on a long, long stretch of road out on the vast, vast Australian Outback.
After driving past a sign announcing that he’s entering the town of Goldstone,
which consists of half a dozen trailers and shacks, he’s pulled over by young
local cop Josh Waters (Alex Russell). Josh tosses him into a cell in the back
of the double-wide that serves as police headquarters, where he’s allowed to
sleep it off.
Josh is about the only law enforcement officer in
Goldstone, which until now that has suited the purposes of the powers that be in
Goldstone just fine. The powers that be, in this case are Furnace Creek, the
giant mining company that is exploiting the area’s resources and aboriginal
people; the corrupt lady mayor Maureen (Jacki Weaver), who keeps the lid on
everything in town; Johnny (David Wenham), the head of security out at the mine; and Josh. Josh is young, easy to get along with and
hasn’t really bothered to pay much attention to the corruption going on all
But when Jay swerves into town and finally sobers up and starts
asking questions about a missing person’s case he’s been sent to investigate,
everybody gets a little tense. It isn’t long before some Aussie bikers wake him
up with their version of “Good Morning, Goldstone!” by riddling his trailer
with bullet holes, while he’s sleeping in it. The missing person investigation
leads to Swann uncovering a human trafficking operation run by an Asian woman
who flies girls in and out to work at another double-wide called The Ranch,
where horny miners spend their leisure time and money. The missing girl had
been one of the girls working at The Ranch.
“Goldstone,” is a slow burn. Indigenous Australian director/writer
Ivan Sen plays his cards very close to the vest, imparting little bits and
pieces of character and plot in small doses, letting the audience only
gradually grasp the bigger picture of what’s happening in the story and the
town, which of course is a metaphor for Australia as a country, and the world
as a whole. He keeps the tension low-key but constant, and throws a bit of
twist in the mix when we learn Swann came from this region originally. He meets
Jimmy (David Gulpilil), an aboriginal old-timer who has seen a little too much
of what’s going on in Goldstone. Jimmy knew his father and takes him upriver by
canoe to a canyon where aboriginal markings on the walls of a narrow passage
tell Swann something about his own spiritual heritage.
“Goldstone” is not only about Swann’s possible rehabilitation
by getting closer to his roots, it’s also about Josh, finally realizing what he
has let happen to his town. By looking away, and letting himself be
smooth-talked by the lady mayor, who bribes him with homemade apple pies, and
Johnny the mining operation security chief who offers him a stack of dough,
he’s let the place become a mini-Sodom and Gomorrah.
“Mystery Road” won a number of film awards in Australia
and “Goldstone” has received mostly praise from the critics. Sen not only
wrote, directed and photographed it, he also did the music score. His script
for “Goldstone” is a good blend of noir and social consciousness, highlighting
the theme of racial discrimination and a search for identity, wrapped up in a
murder mystery. My only quibble with the film is that it doesn’t go far enough
into the characters so that we really care what happens to any of them. Swann
is the only character with any real depth, the others are mostly clichés. But even
Swann’s inner turmoil is given only surface treatment. Still, it’s an
entertaining film that deals with serious themes, which is more than can be
said for most movies today.
Lightyear did a tremendous job transferring “Goldstone’s”
2.35: 1 image to Blu-ray. Sen’s cinematography of the long, level stretches of
arid land in the Queensland area of Australia is awe-inspiring. John Ford might
have shot it better, but not by much. The disc comes with five featurettes,
including “The Corruption of Goldstone,” “Detective Jay Swann,” “The Indigenous
People of Australia,”
Alex Russell as Josh Waters,” “Ivan Sen,” and “Jacki Weaver as the Mayor.” The
sound is 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Adventures of Hajji Baba,” a 1954 Walter Wanger production for Allied Artists
Pictures and 20th Century Fox, has been issued by Twilight Time in a Blu-ray
limited edition of 3,000 units.At the
time of its theatrical release, the film was a commercially successful entry in
the popular 1950s formula of swashbuckling romances about the legendary Middle
East of Sinbad, Ali Baba, and the Arabian Nights.In today’s post-9/11 world, when the American
public is more aware of the region’s grim reality, the Arabian Nights genre
survives, just barely, in rare efforts like “Disney’s Aladdin” and the “Prince
of Persia” video-game franchise.
the 1954 movie, Hajji Baba (John Derek), a young Persian barber, sets out to
make his fortune in the wider world.Meanwhile, across town in the Caliph’s palace, spoiled Princess Fawzia
(Elaine Stewart) wants to marry an ambitious neighboring prince, Nur-el-Din
(Paul Picerni).Her father objects,
having heard about Nur-el-Din’s cruel temper.“Think of all the wives he’s had, and how he’s treated them,” he warns.“No one can hold him.” Undeterred, the
headstrong Fawzia disguises herself as a boy and sneaks out to meet the
prince’s emissary at a nearby oasis.There, she encounters Hajji, whom she mistakes for the courier.She offers him a valuable emerald ring for
help in evading her father’s pursuit.
the two proceed together across the desert, they’re captured by a gang of lady
bandits led by the red-haired Banah (Amanda Blake), and eventually they realize
that they’ve fallen in love with each other.Escaping from Banah, the pair fall into the hands of Nur-el-Din, who
exercises his prior claim on Fawzia’s affections.Surrounded and outnumbered by the prince’s
armed retinue, and believing that it’s Fawzia’s preference anyway, Hajji
relinquishes the princess to Nur-el-Din in exchange for the ring that had been
promised to him earlier.Irked, Fawzia
rides off with the prince, who secretly orders two of his soldiers to ride
back, kill Hajji, and retrieve the ring . . .
of the time were inclined to dismiss Arabian Nights escapism of this sort, as
modern reviewers do every time a new Dwayne Johnson or Mark Wahlberg action
picture debuts.In his New York times
review, Bosley Crowther suggested that the movie needed “someone in it like Bob
Hope to kid and lampoon the ostentation of its lush Oriental gewgawry.”But most middle-class audiences were less
exacting, and looked only for “The Adventures of Hajji Baba” to provide a
couple of hours’ relaxation from the grind of work and school.The kids could enjoy the widescreen swordplay
and horseback chases, Mom might think tingly thoughts about John Derek, and Pop
could ogle Amanda Blake, Elaine Stewart, and the numerous other starlets in the
cast in their skimpy harem girl costumes.That was about as racy as Hollywood products got in those days.Compared with the boxy, black-and-white image
that moviegoers were used to watching at home on TV, the film’s sumptuous
CinemaScope, Color by De Luxe photography was sensational stuff.
2.55:1 widescreen aspect and rich color are beautifully transferred on the
Twilight Time Blu-ray, a welcome upgrade from the pan-and-scan print of the
film that airs now and then on cable’s Fox Movie Channel.Modern viewers may be put off that the Arab
and Farsi characters are played by actors whose accents are more Parsippany,
New Jersey than Persia, but that was standard practice for the day, and even
today’s Millennials will have to admit, if they’re honest, that the
old-fashioned romance between Hajji and the willful Fawzia isn’t much more
contrived than the plot of the average confection today on the Hallmark Movie
Channel, or for that matter the tortuous complications on “reality” TV’s “The
Bachelor.”Fans of ‘50s lounge music are
likely to be amused by the title tune that wends its way through the soundtrack
-- music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Ned Washington, arrangement by Nelson
Riddle, and vocal by Nat “King” Cole.The music and effects are isolated on an alternate audio track on the
Twilight Time disc.Other extras are the
original theatrical trailer, SDH subtitles, and an informative insert-booklet
by the reliable Julie Kirgo.The Blu-ray
is available HERE.
Last September, Time Life released the ultimate Robin Williams video set. Here is the official press release:
"You know that cartoon, that Tasmanian devil that comes
out and just spins --
he was that, but eloquent and hilarious."
-- Billy Crystal
"He was like something waiting to happen...a very
-- Steve Martin
"Everybody else prepared, Robin was just a natural...
and he worked on every level."
-- Jay Leno
THIS SEPTEMBER, JOIN TIME LIFE FOR THE
DEFINITIVE DVD COLLECTION CELEBRATING
THE COMEDY CAREER OF A BELOVED ICON
ROBIN WILLIAMS: COMIC
Across 22 DVDs and 50+ Hours, the Electrifying Comic Lights
Up the Room in This Ultimate, One-of-a-Kind Compendium Spanning 40 Years
on TV, Including All Five HBO Stand-Up Specials Together for the Very
First Time, Never-Before-Released Performances and Backstage Footage, Talk Show
and Late Night Appearances, Rare Archival Clips, Brand New Interviews Featuring
Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Martin Short, Pam Dawber, Lewis
Black, and Zak Williams, a Collectible Memory Book Featuring Archival
Photos, Robin's Tour Notes, and More!
FAIRFAX, VA (September 25, 2018) - Robin Williams was a
generational talent, graced with comedic brilliance, rapid-fire improvisation,
and a deep well of warmth and compassion that translated to every role he
inhabited. From his breakout role in ABC's Mork & Mindy to his Academy
Award®-winning performance in Good Will Hunting, the iconic actor displayed an
inimitable artistry that made him beloved by millions. This September, join
Time Life, in conjunction with the Trustees of the Robin Williams Trust, in
celebrating the incomparable career of the singularly innovative actor with ROBIN
WILLIAMS: COMIC GENIUS.
Available exclusively at RobinWilliams.com
beginning September 25th, this definitive collection of Williams' comedy
highlights arrives as interest in his life and career increases in the wake of
HBO's critically acclaimed documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
from Emmy® Award-winning director Marina Zenovich and Oscar-winning producer
Alex Gibney, and Dave Itzkoff's biography Robin, a New York Times best-seller.
Celebrating the actor's memorable 40-year career, from his uproarious turn as
loveable alien Mork and his legendary HBO stand-up specials to his numerous
appearances on late night, this handsome, 22-disc collection, housed in deluxe
All five HBO stand-up specials together for the very first
time, including Off the Wall (1978), An Evening with Robin Williams (1983), An
Evening at the MET (1986), Live on Broadway (2002) and Weapons of Self
Never-before-released concert specials, including Robin's
full MGM Grand Garden stand-up from 2007 and the Montreal stop on his last
tour, a conversation on stage between Williams and comedian David Steinberg
Memorable talk show and late night TV appearances on The
Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Oprah
Winfrey Show, The Graham Norton Show, Saturday Night Live and more
Rare, never-before-seen clips including early stand-up, raw
footage from HBO's promo shoots, a hilarious toast to Richard Pryor by Robin as
Mrs. Doubtfire, and more
Brand new interviews with close friends and family including
Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Eric Idle, David Steinberg, Lewis Black
and Zak Williams
11 hilarious episodes of Mork & Mindy, including the
James Lipton's Emmy® Award-nominated 90-minute interview with
Robin on Inside the Actors Studio, plus deleted scenes
A comprehensive collection of Robin's USO shows around the
Original and newly created bonus features including
behind-the-scenes footage, local highlights from tour stops, promos and more.
Featurettes include: The Early Years, San Francisco: Where It All Started, Comic
Genius, and TV's Best Guest
Critically acclaimed 2018 HBO documentary, Robin Williams:
Come Inside My Mind from Emmy® Award-winning director Marina Zenovich and
Oscar-winning producer Alex Gibney.
"Robin Williams: Uncensored", a collectible
24-page, full-color memory book featuring rare, archival photos from
award-winning photographer Arthur Grace, reminiscences from friends and
colleagues, Robin's personal tour notes and more.
Uncensored, electric, intense and unfailingly hilarious,
Williams made it his life's work to make people laugh--whether he was holding
forth on culture, politics, the human body or drugs--with razor-sharp wit and
insight. As his long-time friend Billy Crystal said, "In the 40 odd years
he was in front of us, especially on television, he never let you down. He was
always funny, he always did something new." And, in unforgettable ways,
ROBIN WILLIAMS: COMIC GENIUS reveals and celebrates the wide range of his incredible
talents like never before.
Adventures of Robin Hood,” which aired on CBS from 1955 to 1959, was an early
example of a television series produced in the U.K. and imported by an American
network into U.S. living rooms with great success -- a forerunner of numerous
hit shows to follow from across the Atlantic, including “The Avengers,” “Secret
Agent/ Danger Man”, too many “PBS Masterpiece Theater” favorites to list, and
more recently “Downton Abbey.”It was
also an early example, replicated as well by “Downton Abbey,” of a popular TV
series leveraged into a big-screen theatrical movie.The year after “The Adventures of Robin Hood”
ended its U.S. network run, its producer Sidney Cole and star Richard Greene
created a feature-film version, “Sword of Sherwood Forest,” in partnership with
Hammer Studios, for release here through Columbia Pictures.Although supporting roles were recast, Greene
returned as Robin, and some principals from the series’ production crew were
reunited as well.Director of
Photography Ken Hodges returned, the screenplay was provided by Alan Hackney,
who had scripted many of the episodes of the series, and the director was
Terence Fisher, already a Hammer veteran, who had directed several series
episodes.Media historians tend to
characterize the TV and theatrical movie industries in the 1950s and early ‘60s
as bitter rivals for viewership, but the two industries in fact often enjoyed a
friendlier synergy of mutual convenience.In the case of “Sword of Sherwood Forest,” the popularity of the earlier
series provided theaters with a built-in audience for the movie.In turn, the film reminded fans to watch for
the syndicated reruns of the TV show, which continued to be broadcast on local
stations well into the 1970s.
the movie, which has been released on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in a limited
edition of 3,000 units, a well-dressed, badly wounded man flees into Sherwood
Forest, escaping from a posse led by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter
Cushing).Through Maid Marian (Sarah
Branch), the sheriff approaches Robin Hood with the offer of a pardon if he’ll
turn over the wounded fugitive, but Robin refuses.He knows, even if Marian has yet to learn,
although she quickly does, that the offer of clemency from his old enemy the
sheriff “isn’t worth the breath he uses to make the promise.”The fugitive eventually dies from his wound,
but not before passing along a brooch stamped with a mysterious emblem, and
mentioning the name of a town, Bawtry.Leaving Little John (Nigel Green) to lead the Merry Men in his absence,
Robin investigates with the help of Marian and Friar Tuck (Niall McGinnis). Gradually,
they uncover a plot involving the charming but secretive Earl of Newark
(Richard Pasco), his henchman the sheriff, an attempted land grab, a visit by
the Archbishop of Canterbury, and plans to carry out a high-level assassination
if the land grab fails.
Kino Lober is releasing a number of value-priced Blu-ray double features with similarly-themed films. Among them is the combo of "Betsy's Wedding" and "Holy Matrimony". The first movie is a 1990 release starring and directed by Alan Alda, who had directed three previous feature films. Anyone who has been involved in planning a wedding knows that the old adage "The more the merrier!" rings hollow. In fact, the logistics of planning a wedding can become increasingly complicated and frustrating in direct correlation with the number of well-meaning people who decide to involve themselves. There's always the risk that the betrothed couple will be overwhelmed by logistics and that the wedding plans are catered to please everyone but them. Such is the case in "Betsy's Wedding". Alda is cast as Eddie Hopper, a successful real estate speculator who invests money in building homes that he hopes to sell for a quick profit. Lately, however, his instincts have been troublesome and his latest venture is proving to be a white elephant that is draining his savings. At the same time, his youngest daughter Betsy (Molly Ringwald) and her boyfriend Jake (Dylan Walsh) announce they intend to get married. Both are left-wing progressives who are also social activists who disdain blatant displays of wealth. They want a low-key civil ceremony with only a handful of guests. However, Eddie and his wife Lola (Madeline Kahn) argue that a much grander, traditional wedding is called for so as not to offend family members. Their resistance worn down, Betsy and Jake reluctant concede, which opens a Pandora's Box of bad luck for all involved. Eddie can't afford to put on the wedding he has lobbied for so he turns to his brother-in-law Oscar (Joe Pesci), a slimy business "tycoon" who, in reality, is also short of cash. Since he can't find the money to lend Eddie for the wedding, he introduces him to a local mob boss, Georgie (Burt Young), who puts up the funds but then integrates himself into Eddie's life and plans for the wedding. A parallel story line centers on Eddie and Lola's other daughter Connie (Ally Sheedy), a New York City police officer who is stuck in a perpetual mode of depression, shying away from people and bruised by the fact that her younger sister will marry before she does. She is elevated from the blues by Georgie's bodyguard Stevie Dee (Anthony Lapaglia), a slick mobster who sounds like Rocky Balboa on steroids but who curiously speaks to everyone with excessive politeness. Has is obsessed with Connie and slowly but surely succeeds in wooing her into coming out of her shell. As the wedding date nears, the pressure mounts on everyone. Eddie's business dealings with George almost get him assassinated in an attempted mob hit, Betsy and Jake are barely on speaking terms and on the wedding day and a torrential rain storm threatens to collapse the large tent structure the reception is being held in. Eddie receives solace from imaginary conversations with his dear, departed father (Joey Bishop).
"Besty's Wedding" was not well-received by critics or audiences back in the day and proved to be the final feature film to date directed by Alan Alda. Yet, I found it to be consistently funny and Alda excels as both actor and director, milking maximum laughs from an inspired cast. The scene-stealer is Lapaglia, one of the few cast members to receive kudos from reviewers. His sensitive tough guy routine is both amusing and endearing. The film isn't hilarious at any point but it's never less than entertaining, as you might imagine any movie that teams Joe Pesci and Burt Young would be.
"Holy Matrimony" was unceremoniously dumped by Disney into a handful of theaters in 1994 before being relegated to home video. It's total theatrical gross in North America was about $700,000. As with "Betsy's Wedding", it was directed by a popular actor, in this case Leonard Nimoy. Ironically, just as "Betsy's Wedding" represented Alda's last direction (to date) of a feature film, so too did "Holy Matrimony" mark Nimoy's last directorial effort on the big screen. The premise is hardly original, centering on a protagonist who seeks shelter in a religious community to evade pursuers. This plot device dates back to the 1940s with John Wayne in "Angel and the Badman" and its unacknowledged 1984 remake "Witness". Here we find Patricia Arquette as Havana, a sultry young woman from the other side of the tracks who is fed up with being exploited by performing provocative routines at a carnival tent located in a fairgrounds. She is paid a miserly wage by the owner who she comes to resent. She and her equally impoverished boyfriend Peter (Tate Donovan) rob the owner and flee in their car, but not before being identified. With the police searching for them, they cross into Canada and take refuge in an Amish-like religious colony where Peter was raised before leaving for the outside world. They pretend to want to immerse themselves in the rustic lifestyle but Havana's coarse nature and foul mouth make the elders suspicious of their motives. Peter hides the cache of stolen loot but before he can divulge its location to Havana, he is killed in an automobile accident. The colony elders view this as a way to get rid of Havana by informing her that customs dictate that she must marry Peter's brother, in this case twelve year-old Ezekiel (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). However, Havana- who needs to stay until she can locate the stash of hidden money- agrees to the arrangement, much to the shock of all involved- especially young Ezekiel who is appalled at having to be married at such a young age. The film deftly handles the possible distasteful elements of this reverse "Lolita" situation by making it clear that both husband and wife sleep in separate rooms. The one funny sex gag involves Ezekiel trying to impress his friends that he is satisfying his new wife only to have the scenario backfire much to his embarrassment when it is revealed he is actually in the bedroom alone.
Much of what follows is predictable. As with all movie plots in which the male and female protagonists start off hating each other, there is no doubt that Havana and Ezekiel will grow to respect and like each other, with Havana acting more like a big sister than a wife. Once the money is located, Havana is told to accompany Ezekiel back to the States to return the loot to its rightful owner. What follows is a road trip in which the two share plenty of personal thoughts and have to avoid a corrupt FBI agent (John Schuck), who is hot on their trail, determined to steal the money for himself. The story climaxes back at the state fair where Havana originally worked. She's now determined to return the stolen money, all the while trying to evade the police and the FBI guy who are hot on her trail. Director Nimoy capably blends both sentiment and comedy during the course of the film, though the movie's main attributes are the performances by Arquette and especially young Gordon-Levitt who shows star power even at this early stage of his career. There is also a very fine performance by Armin-Mueller Stahl as the elder of the religious community. Refreshingly, the film doesn't mock or humiliate the members of the religious colony. Rather, it is "fish-out-of-water" Havana who bears the brunt of most of the humor. While "Holy Matrimony" is nothing very special, it does seem to have suffered an undeserved fate by being released to only a small number of theaters. It is certainly on par with most mid-range comedies but apparently Disney felt it had very little boxoffice appeal.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray combo features very fine transfers of both films and includes their original trailers. Recommended.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST ARTICLES FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Sony has released the 1955 crime drama 5 Against the House as a burn-to-order DVD. The little-remembered film is interesting on a number of levels and boasts an impressive, eclectic cast. The low-budget flick depicts four young ex-G.I.s who fought in Korea who return to the States and enroll in college. Al (Guy Madison) is a straight-as-an-arrow type who is engaged to sultry nightclub singer Kay (Kim Novak). Ronnie (Kerwin Matthews) is a brainy upstart with delusions of grandeur and a superiority complex. Roy (Alvy Moore) is an affable joker who is very much a follower, not a leader. Brick (Brian Keith) is the most troubled of the group. He bares psychological problems from his combat experience and has a hair-trigger temper. The guys' only vices are taking an occasional trip to Reno, Nevada and engaging in some minor gambling and womanizing. However, Ronnie concocts an audacious plan to prove he can outwit the authorities and rob a casino. He suggest that the plan be put into operation with the intention of returning the money to the casino after the fact. Ronnie wants to build his ego, not his bank account. Roy and Brick sign on to the plan, but when Al balks, Brick's anger comes through. He threatens his friends with a gun and forces them to pull off the incredible scheme. The film, deftly directed by Phil Karlson, makes effective use of on location shooting in Reno at a place called Harold's Casino. The movie works best as a character study and the performances are all first-rate, with the exception of Madison, who is a bit of a stiff in the lead role. Novak is her usual sexy self and Keith, long-underrated for his dramatic capabilities, gives a powerful performance. The film is one of the earliest to take a sympathetic look at the emotional toll war takes on returning veterans. 5 Against the House is engaging throughout and although it is unremarkable in the long run, it represents the kind of overlooked gems that the burn-to-order DVD format is rescuing from complete obscurity.
An original trailer is included.
Click here to order from the Cinema Retro Movie Store.
If you’ve ever read one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan
novels, you know that there has always been a big difference between Tarzan as
he is in the movies versus Tarzan in the books. For some reason Hollywood has
never really been able to get the character exactly right. As much fun as the
Johnny Weissmuller and Lex Barker Tarzan movies are, for example, they really
didn’t get close to Burroughs’ concept of the ape man. The real Tarzan didn’t
speak Pidgin English for one thing. He actually spoke fluent English and French.
He was as at home in an English Tea Room as the son of a British Lord, as he
was in the prehistoric land of Pal-ul-don. While the movies showed Tarzan as
protector of the animals, and friends with cute chimpanzees, in the books
Burroughs present a world where death usually came on four feet, although man
was often the most treacherous enemy. It was a jungle out there, and it was
survival of the fittest, baby.
In 2016, Warner Bros. attempted to restart the Tarzan
series with the $180 million “The Legend of Tarzan.” The film made double its
budget at the box office worldwide, but it didn’t excite audiences or studio
heads enough to continue with a sequel. So it looks like Tarzan will be on
sabbatical for a while. Part of the reason for the film’s failure was the
script’s presentation of Tarzan. They got the outer dimensions of the character
right, but included too many politically correct ideas that weakened the
Burroughs concept. For one thing, Tarzan lost too many fights, with both humans
and apes. You don’t get to be King of the Jungle by losing fights. But I think
it was the total reliance on CGI to create Tarzan’s Africa that was the main
reason for the film’s failure. Except for the occasional aerial footage shot
over the jungles of Gabon, the entire film was shot on sound stages in England.
The movie lacked the reality that a fantasy like Tarzan needs to be believable.
Which brings me to the subject of this review. In the
opinion of most true Tarzan fans there has only ever been one Tarzan film that
really captures what Tarzan is all about. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably
the closest they’ll ever get. In 1959, producer Sy Weintraub took over the
Tarzan franchise from Sol Lesser after it was moved to Paramount Pictures.
Weintraub injected the series with new energy and new ideas. He wanted to make
an “adult” Tarzan flick and he wanted to shoot on location in Kikuyu, Kenya.
He hired a top flight cast of British actors to play the
villains in the piece. Anthony Quayle, whose acting experience ranged from
potboilers to Shakespeare, was cast as the main villain, Slade, an escaped con
and old enemy of Tarzan. Next up, none other than 007 himself, Sean Connery, in
an early role as O’Bannion, a tough Irish gunman, who, being too young for the
Irish Rebellion, decides there are no causes worth fighting for because “They
don’t pay well.” Next is Nial MacGiniss as Kruger, a German diamond expert who
doesn’t want to be reminded of the old days of the Third Reich. Al Muloch plays
Dino, captain of the boat the gang is riding up river, who has a strange
attachment to a locket he wears around his neck. And finally, Italian actress
Scilla Gabel as Toni, Slade’s girl. There’s plenty of internal conflict and
tension among these five on board a small jungle boat as it makes its way up
river to a diamond mine.
The film starts with the theft of explosives from a
compound run by a doctor friend of Tarzan’s. The gang needs the gelignite to
excavate a diamond mine located upriver, just north of Tarzan’s tree house. It’s
interesting to note that the script by Berne Giler is based on a story written
by Les Crutchfield, a veteran writer who wrote 81 Gunsmoke radio scripts, and
was himself an explosives expert and a mining engineer before he started
writing. Explosives figure prominently in the plot.
I have to admit that I hadn't a clue as to what Intruder in the Dust was about until I viewed the DVD released through the Warner Archive. The film is a powerful indictment of the horrors of racism, filmed by MGM during a period when the American Civil Rights Movement was just beginning to heat up. We have a tendency to accuse Hollywood studios of relegating African-American actors to being mere window dressing in films of this era, or worse, casting them as comic relief in often degrading ways. However, this 1949 achievement should be much higher on the radar of retro movie lovers. While most studio productions steered clear of the problem of racism in the American South during the period when segregation was still law, this excellent film addresses the issue head-on. There were some talented people who brought the story to the screen in 1949. Esteemed director Clarence Brown was behind the camera and the screenplay was written by the great Ben Maddow, based on a novel by William Faulkner.
The film was shot on location in Oxford, Mississippi and centers on
the murder of a local white businessman who was shot in the back. The
prime suspect is Lucas (Juano Hernandez), a middle-aged black farmer who
has incurred the wrath of local bigots because he is proud and
independent and fails to take on the subserviant persona of the "good
Negro". Causing more resentment is the fact that Lucas owns his own
farm, a prime piece of land that invokes jealousy from less successful
local whites. Lucas maintains his calm demeanor even when he is jailed
and is awaiting the inevitable murder at the hands of a mob. His one
white friend comes to his aid: a teenager named Chick Mallison (Claude
Jarman Jr.). Chick convinces his uncle, lawyer John Stevens (David
Brian) to defend him. Stevens agrees because he doesn't want a murder
committed, but even he believes Lucas is guilty. He tells the seemingly
doomed man that he can't get a fair trial, that he doesn't believe he is
innocent and that he should have shown proper deference to the bigots
at all times. This attitude is what passed for enlightened thinking
during this period. Ultimately, Stevens becomes convinced that his
client is being framed and the plot turns to to who-dunnit as an oddball
group of progressives fights against time to find the real murderer
before Lucas is lynched or burned alive. The only whites in town who
will assist Stevens and Chick are an elderly woman (Elizabeth Patterson)
and the local sheriff (Will Geer), who has a condescending attitude
towards blacks but is courageous enough to stand up to the worst
elements of the population.
In my review of Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release of the 1979 disaster film "Meteor", I observed that the disaster movie genre had peaked with the release of Irwin Allen's "The Towering Inferno" in 1974. Yet, that didn't stop studios from beating a dead horse in an attempt to squeeze some more juice out of the tried-and-true formula of gathering an all-star cast, then figuring out ways to drown, bury or incinerate the characters portrayed on screen. One of the more obscure attempts to keep the disaster film cycle relevant was "Avalanche", a movie produced by Roger Corman and directed and scripted by one of his proteges, Corey Allen, who would go on to establish a respectable career as a director of major television shows. When you approach a Corman production, you tend to give some special dispensation for certain cinematic sins that you wouldn't accord more mainstream productions. Corman, who happily embraces his legendary status as a man who made major profits from films with minor budgets, knew how to stretch the soup in the cinematic sense. Rarely armed with ample production funds, Corman cut corners whenever possible but still managed to retain a certain elegance to his productions. In 1978, he jumped on the fading disaster movie bandwagon with "Avalanche". He hired Rock Hudson as the leading man because Hudson, at this point in his career, realized that he was no longer a hot commodity as a boxoffice draw in feature films (although he did successfully transition to a popular presence on television.) Corman also cast Mia Farrow and respected supporting actor Robert Forster for additional name recognition. He secured permission to film at a major ski resort in Durango, Colorado and out-sourced the special effects work to a company called Excelsior!
The film follows the general formula of the disaster film genre in that the victims-to-be are gathered for a major social occasion, unaware that nature is working overtime to thwart their fun. Rock Hudson plays David Shelby, an arrogant developer who has invested his life savings to build a vacation paradise in the Rocky Mountains. He has disdain for local environmentalists who have warned him that his destruction of an an abundance of trees on his massive property has removed a natural barrier to the inevitable avalanches that will occur. Shelby is preoccupied with his grand opening festivities and is simultaneously trying to woo back his ex-wife Caroline (Mia Farrow), who is attending as his guest. He's also busy trying to entertain his sassy, wise-cracking mother, Florence (Jeanette Nolan), who is being shepherded around the resort by David's major domo Henry McDade (Steve Franken in a rare dramatic role.) Meanwhile, local environmental activist and nature photographer Nick Thorne (Robert Forster) becomes increasingly concerned about the massive buildup of snow on the mountain peaks that are directly in line with the resort. He attempts to alleviate some of the danger by strategically using a snow cannon to set off controlled mini avalanches. Intermingled with all of this are the expected subplots involving minor characters who are set up to be inevitable victims. Barry Primus is a TV sports announcer who is broadcasting from the grand opening and who must contend with the fact that his estranged wife Tina (Cathey Paine) is on premises and rubbing his nose in it by blatantly carrying on an affair with egotistical super star skier Bruce Scott (Rick Moses). Scott, in turn, is rubbing Tina's nose in it by blatantly sleeping with another woman, thus causing Tina to go ballistic and consider suicide. Meanwhile, David Shelby finds time to unwind by spending some quality time in a hot tub with with his naked secretary (thus allowing Roger Corman to slip in a bit of T&A). Although the story seems set up to have the disastrous avalanche occur during the opening night festivities, screenwriter Allen throws the audience a curve ball by avoiding that cliche and saving the action for the following afternoon when, amid a particularly vicious snow mobile race, a small plane piloted by one of Shelby's employees encounters bad weather and slams into a nearby mountain, thus triggering the avalanche. This is where the movie progresses beyond cliches and becomes unexpectedly enjoyable. All of the standard disaster movie shtick is present, as both lovable and loathsome characters meet predictable fates, but the film's limited production resources somehow work in its favor. We're well aware that we're watching a Corman production but somehow the inventiveness that is required to carry it all off is quite admirable. Certain plot points are introduced and inexplicably abandoned including an insinuation that Shelby has bribed local political officials to overlook his clear violation of environmental protection rules in order to build his resort. This was one of Rock Hudson's final films as an "above the title" leading man. He's grayer and a bit paunchier than we'd seen him during his heyday, but he still had star power to spare and made for a dashing leading man, whether its skinny dipping in the hot tub or personally leading rescue parties in acts of derring doo to extricate victims of the tragedy. The film's showpiece sequence is a climactic scene in which Shelby must rescue Caroline, who is dangling from wrecked bridge above a ravine. It's well-directed and genuinely suspenseful.
It' easy to pick apart a film like "Avalanche", as it squarely fits into the "guilty pleasure" category. However, the film does a lot with very little as opposed to other misfires in this genre that did very little with a lot (aka "The Swarm"). The Kino Lorber Blu-ray edition features the original trailer and a "making of" featurette in which Roger Corman extols the virtues of the film. He admits the effects were rather shoddy and recalls his outrage when he discovered the SFX company had added "red snow". Corman hit the roof and it was changed to a bluish substance that he admits still looks pretty phony. Robert Forster recalls that the "snow" was actually little pieces of plastic that were strewn by the hundreds of thousands over the scenic landscape. He remembers his dismay at the realization that none of these bits were biodegradable and many must still be contaminating the landscape of the Durango ski resort where the movie was filmed. Corman makes the claim that the film was actually a major financial success. He says his budget was only $1.7 million and that a TV sale for $2 million netted him an immediate $300,000 profit. The tale sounds a bit fanciful because it seems hard to believe that even in 1978 you could make a movie like this with three relatively big names for only $1.7 million. (Other sources give unsubstantiated estimates of the budget at around $6 million, which seems more plausible.) "Avalanche" is not near the top of the heap of disaster movies but it certainly doesn't rank at the bottom of the pack, either. The Kino Lorber release has an impressive transfer and the inclusion of those bonus extras make this title highly recommended for fans of this genre.
Samuel Fuller's 1959 crime thriller "The Crimson Kimono" has been released as a Twilight Time limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray. The film finds Fuller in full "triple threat" mode as director, producer and screenwriter. It's also fits comfortably into Fuller's oeuvre in that it's an off-beat story with quirky, well-defined characters and relationships. Set in Los Angeles, the movie opens with the shocking cold-blooded murder of a popular stripper by an unseen assassin. As with the works of Hitchcock, Fuller dismisses the notion that there is safety in numbers, as the victim is killed while fleeing her pursuer through crowded streets. The killer gets away and the story introduces us to the detectives assigned to the case. They are Det. Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) and his partner Det. Joe Kojaku (James Shigeta), two Korean War veterans who served together in combat and who are now chummy enough to share a fashionable bachelor pad. They discover that a local artist, Chris Downs (Victoria Shaw), had some interaction with the stripper and is aware of a suspicious man she associated with. When Chris's sketch of the suspect ends up on the front pages, she finds herself the target of a failed assassination attempt. Charlie and Joe suggest that she can be safely hidden away in their apartment. Naturally, sparks begin to fly considering the three principal characters are extremely attractive. Charlie finds himself falling hard for Chris, but she is unaware of his feelings. Meanwhile, she expresses her desires for Joe, who clearly wants to reciprocate but is hesitant to humiliate the love-struck Charlie. If all this sounds like a high school romance it must be said that under Fuller' assured direction, it is anything but. The scene in which Chris and Joe slowly and almost reluctantly admit to their mutual attraction is superbly written and enacted by Shaw and Shigeta and brims with sexual tension.
The murder mystery is clearly the MacGuffin here. It's mostly a catalyst to bring this love triangle to life. Fuller places most of the action in L.A.'s Little Tokyo community and the film concentrates on the character's interactions with the Japanese-American population. The most interesting character is Joe, who is Japanese-American. When we first see him he is confident, witty and charismatic, all traits that are shared by Charlie. The Butch and Sundance-like relationship goes into a nosedive after Joe confesses his love for Chris. Although clearly heartbroken, Charlie keeps his reaction restrained, only to have the guilt-ridden Joe accuse him of latent racism. He's wrong but can't be convinced otherwise. A lifetime of battling to be socially accepted in a predominantly white society has brought out his own paranoia and reverse racism. It all leads to a tension-packed conclusion that mingles the strained relationship between the three characters and a chase for the killer through an exotic parade celebrating Japanese culture that plays out in similar style to the Junkanoo sequence in "Thunderball".
There is much to commend about this film, which- like most Fuller productions- was shot on a modest budget in B&W with actual locations favored over studio sets. Perhaps Fuller didn't have the funds to rely heavily on sets and thus filmed on location. In any event, this tactic adds immeasurable grit and realism to his movies. Glenn Corbett is likable and fine in an understated performance, Victoria Shaw is excellent as the woman who innocently becomes the instrument that divides two good friends and James Shigeta, who along with Corbett made his screen debut with this film, shows the skills that would quickly elevate him to international stardom. Anna Lee is outstanding as "Mac", an aging artist with a gruff personality who swizzles hard liquor and smokes stogies while churning out comments like "A man is just a man, but a good cigar is a smoke!"
When Olive Films released its highly impressive new special Blu-ray edition of the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", the initial run sold out before we even got around to promoting it. Due to overwhelming demand, however, Olive has made the title available again. Here are the details from Olive Films:
“They’re already here! You’re next!” With these chilling words, Invasion of
the BodySnatchers sounded a clarion call to the dangers of
conformity, paranoia, and mass hysteria at the heart of 1950s American life.
Considered one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, Invasion of
the Body Snatchers stars Kevin McCarthy (Academy Award® nominee, Best
Supporting Actor, Death of A Salesman – 1952) as Miles Bennell, a doctor
in a small California town whose patients are becoming increasingly
overwrought, accusing their loved ones of being emotionless imposters. They’re
right! Plant-like aliens have invaded Earth, taking possession of humans as
they sleep and replicating them in giant seed pods. Convinced that a
catastrophic epidemic is imminent, Bennell, in a terrifying race for his life,
must warn the world of this deadly invasion of the pod people before it’s too
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by the accomplished Don Siegel
(Dirty Harry, The Shootist) and co-starring Dana Wynter (Airport),
Carolyn Jones (A Holein the Head), Larry Gates (The Sand
Pebbles) and King Donovan (The Enforcer), was photographed by
Academy Award nominee Ellsworth Fredericks (Best Cinematography, Sayonara
– 1958) with production design by Academy Award winner Ted Haworth (Best Art
Direction, Sayonara – 1958).
High-Definition digital restoration
Commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
Commentary by actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, and filmmaker Joe
Stranger in Your Lover's Eyes" – A two-part visual essay with actor
and son of director Don Siegel, Kristoffer Tabori, reading from his
father's book A Siegel Film
Fear is Real" – Filmmakers Larry Cohen and Joe Dante on the film's
No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger" – Film scholar
and author Matthew Bernstein discusses the life and career of the film's
No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited" –
Never-before-seen appreciation of the film featuring actors Kevin
McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with comments from film directors and
fans, John Landis, Mick Garris, and Stuart Gordon
Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon" –
Never-before-seen interviews with Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along
with film directors John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon, discussing
the making of the film, its place in history, and its meaning
archival interview with Kevin McCarthy hosted by Tom Hatten
to Santa Mira" – An exploration of the film's locations
In a Name?" – On the film's title
of rare documents detailing aspects of the film's production including the
never-produced opening narration to have been read by Orson Welles
by author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse
Years before Michael Cimino released his Socialist-themed Western Heaven's Gate, director Stanely Kramer took a less heavy-handed approach with his 1973 film Oklahoma Crude, which has been released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time. Unlike
Cimino's dark and message-laden epic, however, Kramer made the
political aspects of his film secondary to the lighthearted tone of the
story. Faye Dunaway, seen here in the least glamorous role of her
career, plays Lena Doyle, a bitter, man-hating independent woman who is
determined to make a success of her wildcat oil drilling venture on the
plains of Oklahoma during the early 1900s. Beset by the frustration of
consistently having her rig dig up dirt instead of oil, she also has to
contend with a bigger threat: a major oil company is determined to seize
her land by hook or by crook. When she turns down the offer of a buyout
from their cut throat representative (Jack Palance), the oil company
moves a virtual army on to Lena's land with the intention of taking her
rig by force. Although a crack shot, Lena concedes she can use help and
reluctantly hires a down-and-out drifter, 'Mase' Mason (George C. Scott)
to help her keep her the assailants at bay. The two have an abrasive
relationship, with Lena never smiling or showing an interest in anything
other than drawing oil from her rig. They are also assisted by Lena's
father Cleon Doyle (John Mills), a charismatic Englishman who is trying
to win Lena's love and respect after having deserted her many years ago.
Lena can barely stand the sight of him, but faced with the thugs are
her doorstep, she has to accept his help.The story mostly takes place on
the hillside where Lena's cabin is situated. 'Mase' proves to be a
courageous and innovative ally, acquiring U.S. Army hand grenades and
using them with devastating effect against the heavily armed gangs from
the oil company who try repeatedly to take Lena's hilltop rig and cabin
Oklahoma Crude was a late career project for Kramer (he would
only make two more films). Dismissed at the time as a routine Western
comedy, the film comes across as a sheer delight when viewing it today.
The thin story line isn't the main attraction. Rather, it's the combined
talents of four Oscar winners- Scott, Dunaway, Mills and Palance- that
add so much zest to what could have otherwise have been a routine
experience. They are all delightful to watch, with Scott at his best and
Mills in a scene-stealing, wonderful performance as a flawed but
charming tenderfoot who summons incredible courage when it is needed
most. Kramer hired the best of the best for his crew including
cinematographer Robert Surtees, who makes every other frame look like an
Andrew Wyeth painting. There is also a fine musical score by Henry
Mancini which perfectly fits the "never a dull moment" mood of the
The film is a sheer delight from beginning to its finale, which features a refreshing plot twist.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray release boasts the expected excellent transfer, an informative collector's booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo, an isolated score track and a commentary track by this writer and fellow film historian Paul Scrabo. This release is limited to 3,000 units.