The year 1979 was a good one for vampires, cinematically speaking. John Badham's version of "Dracula" premiered starring Frank Langella in the film version of his Broadway hit, George Hamilton had a surprise success with the spoof "Love At First Bite" and German director Werner Herzog unveiled his remake of the classic German silent horror movie "Nosferatu: The Vampyre". The original version by director F.W. Murnau is still regarded by many as the greatest horror movie ever made. Indeed, the mere sight of the film's star Max Schreck (who was as eerie in real life as he was on screen) is enough to give you nightmares. Herzog's version was not only the best of the vampire films released in 1979, it is a fitting homage to the Murnau classic. Working with a relatively extravagant budget, Herzog produced a film that is eerie and unsettling. He refrains from going for quick shocks, relying instead on the overall unnerving atmosphere that resonates throughout the production. Perhaps the most iconic aspect of the film is Klaus Kinski's remarkable resemblance to the character played in the original by Schreck, who embodied what is perhaps the most unnerving movie monster of all time. Kinski's appearance mirrors that of Schreck but the actor brings his own persona to the role.
The film, based on Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, opens with Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) leading an idyllic life with his beautiful young wife Lucy (Isabelle Adjani). His boss, Renfield (Roland Topor), induces him to make an arduous journey to Transylvania to visit the eccentric but rich Count Dracula, who has expressed interest in buying a house in Harker's town. Harker is enthused about the mission because of the financial rewards but Lucy has a premonition that the journey will have disastrous consequences. She pleads with him not to go but to no avail. Harker sets off over mountain roads that lead through deep forests. The nearer he gets to the Count's castle the more unnerved the local peasants are. They blatantly warn him to turn back, citing eerie disappearances and deaths associated with Dracula. Harker dismisses their concerns as the superstitions of unsophisticated people. However, upon arrival at Dracula's castle he immediately has second thoughts. The Count is a corpse-like, sinewy figure with almost impossibly long fingernails who talks in a whispery voice that is more menacing than comforting. In the cold dank castle, Dracula serves Harker a meal then becomes obsessed with sucking the blood from a small cut Harker has suffered from a kitchen knife. The Count assures him that's all just a homespun way of treating the wound. Harker, increasingly unnerved, realizes he has made a mistake in visiting the castle but it's too late to escape. Dracula notices a locket with Lucy's photograph in it and makes inquiries about her, much to Harker's distress. In the morning, Harker awakens to find he has been imprisoned in the castle- and worse, he has been the victim of a vampire. Having arranged the sale of the house to Dracula, he realizes he is in a race against time to return to his village before the Count arrives there. He is desperately ill, however, and fails in his quest. Meanwhile, Dracula has stowed away inside a coffin on board a cargo ship headed towards the town of his destination. Along the way, crew members begin to die mysteriously. By the time the vessel arrives in port, it is a ghost ship, devoid of any human life with only the captain's log hinting at the horror he has witnessed. Accompanying Dracula on board the ship were thousands of rats who now run amok in the town, spreading the plague. Harker is returned to Lucy by some kindly peasants, but he is very ill and in a zombie-like condition. Lucy is then threatened by the appearance of Dracula in her own bedroom and she realizes that the town is being victimized by a vampire, though no one believes her. As the plague takes its toll on the citizenry, the town falls into chaos- and Lucy becomes determined to kill Dracula even if she must do so by herself.
Herzog, who also wrote the screenplay, has fashioned a film that oozes menace to the extent that even before the appearance of Dracula, the movie has a sense of foreboding. It is a rather cold and emotionless film, more visually interesting than moving. Herzog seems to intentionally present his protagonists in a dispassionate manner. He provides cursory details of their lives but seems to be far more interested in making almost every frame a work of art. To a great degree he succeeded. There are images in Nosferatu that will haunt the viewer, but there's no getting around the fact that there isn't anyone the audience can truly relate to. Neither Harker or Lucy are ever seen as anything more than one dimensional characters. The silly eccentric Renfield is largely wasted in the latter part of the story. He does become a servant of Dracula but this plot device is disposed of rather quickly. Prof. Van Helsing (Walter Ladengast), who is generally presented as the hero in Dracula films, is shown here to be a half-senile old fool who realizes too late that a vampire may be running amok. Herzog provides plenty of memorable moments, among which are scenes of the town's rapid decay into death and disaster because of the plague. As Lucy walks through the town square, she witnesses doomed people acting out their final fantasies, whether it is indulging in a last sumptuous feast, dancing wildly or illogically stealing furniture from vacant stores. Composer Popul Vuh provides an appropriately eerie score throughout.
Herzog's Nosferatu is a poetic experience in many ways. It's leisurely pace and low-key tone make it one of the more unusual horror films you'll ever see. However, it can be deemed a success by virtue of the fact that he and Kinski brought relevancy to this remake of what many people believe is the greatest German film ever made.
The excellent Shout! Factory Blu-ray features both the German and English language versions of the film and a commentary track by Herzog, whose soothing, rather monotonous tone becomes somewhat mesmerizing. He provides interesting insights into the making of the film and this is complimented by the inclusion of a vintage "making of" production short that shows fascinating footage of Herzog and Kinski during production, including Kinski's rather arduous daily makeup sessions. Also included is a photo gallery showing great behind the scenes shots of Herzog at work. There are also a selection of superbly designed original trailers that truly convey the menace of the titular character.
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The latest issue of Cinema Retro (#29) features my exclusive interview with Oscar-winning director William Friedkin in relation to the recent restoration of his 1977 epic adventure film Sorcerer. Regular readers of our magazine and web site know that we have been championing this great movie for years. It was a commercial and critical failure at the time of its release but its stature has grown over the decades and Friedkin told me he considers this his best film. That's quite a statement coming from the man who directed The French Connection and The Exorcist. In the interview, Friedkin discusses his painstaking efforts to finally get a proper video release of the film. An initial DVD release from Universal back in the 1990s was sub-par, to say the least. The print was less-than-stellar and Friedkin was annoyed by the fact that the movie was presented in the wrong aspect ratio. Through a long, convoluted process to determine who even owned the rights (it was co-financed by Paramount and Universal), Friedkin ended up having to sue both studios. The result was a clarification of ownership and Warner Home Video stepped forward to champion financing a restoration of the film. For Friedkin, this was the payoff in terms of finally having the film presented the way he envisioned it being seen. He personally oversaw the restoration and told Cinema Retro last month that he was thrilled with the result. He spoke very highly of Warner Home Video for their efforts in supporting this underrated classic.
Cut to: the recent release of both the Blu-ray and DVD editions of the restored version. It seems that, although the Blu-ray is right up to expectations (Friedkin told me that it looked as good as what he saw through the camera when the movie was being filmed), someone at Warners botched the DVD release and presented it in the wrong aspect ratio- a truly ironic occurrence, given Warner's reputation for accuracy in its high profile restorations.
In response to our inquiries about the issue, Friedkin E mailed us from New Zealand to say that he will personally supervise a new DVD release of the film during the first week of May and advise everyone when it is ready. He also suggests that consumers who bought the DVD demand a refund. In the E mail, Friedkin also addressed misconceptions that the movie was shot in a widescreen format as well as unauthorized DVD versions that were released internationally. Here is his response:
"There never was a wide screen version of Sorcerer. The film was shot in 35 mm in the standard 1.85 ratio. I know of no authorized wide-screen version. Possibly, someone bootlegged such a monstrosity, but I'm not aware of it. The Blu-ray is the ONLY authorized version of the film. Not a frame has been cut or changed in any way. The picture and sound, both made from the 35mm master, have of course utilized digital restoration, bringing out all the colors and nuances on the soundtrack.
There has never been a better version of Sorcerer than the Blu- ray. The DVD, old and ugly and constantly in release from Film Properties was never authorized by me and is terrible."
The interview with Friedkin includes his comments regarding the unauthorized re-editing of the film that took place in markets outside of America, something that frustrates him to this day.
(Cinema Retro #29 is currently shipping in the UK and Europe and will be sent out to subscribers in America other territories in May.)
William Castle, the legendary gentle giant of horror film producers, had become obsessed with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? when the the film was released in 1962. Starring two aging "has-beens" - Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who Jack Warner said he wouldn't give a "plugged nickel" for- the film became an unexpected hit with both critics and audiences and revived both women's careers. Crawford, who remained very much the diva even during the lowest points of her career, was delighted with the renewed attention. As she was nearing sixty years old, he found herself in the unlikely situation of appealing to both her traditional fans and also a younger generation. In order to achieve the latter goal, however, she realized she had to change with the times and appear in films that had broad appeal to teenagers. So the former Mildred Pearce was quite enthused when Castle approached her with his own spin on the Baby Jane bandwagon. With horror films all the rage, Castle had carved a sizable niche in the marketplace by producing "B" movies and backing them with "A" marketing campaigns that usually found him front and center in promoting the fare. Castle's dream project, however, was to finally make a film that would be seen as a legitimate horror classic. He enlisted writer Robert Bloch, then red hot as the author of the novel Psycho, to develop a script based on the premise of an aging sexpot who had turned into an ax murderess. He originally envisioned Joan Blondell for the role but an accident left the veteran actress unavailable. Castle then approached Joan Crawford, despite the fact that she was known to be virtually impossible to work with due to her endless list of demands. Nevertheless, Crawford was eager to build on her revived fame and accepted Castle's pitch to star in a film titled Strait- Jacket. The movie got off to a rocky start when the actress playing Crawford's daughter didn't live up to her expectations. Crawford had her fired and Diane Baker, who Crawford liked and had worked with previously, was hired on a minute's notice to step in. Baker had only 24 hours to study the script but was eager to reunite with Crawford.
Strait-Jacket presents Crawford as Lucy Harbin, who we see as a woman in her twenties (yes, the notion of Crawford playing a character that age is as absurd as it sounds.) Lucy is a small town girl with a checkered past. She dresses and acts like a vamp but has finally settled down and has found happiness with her younger husband, Frank (Lee Majors, uncredited, in his first feature film). Returning home from a trip a day early, however, Lucy spies Frank in their bed with an ex-girlfriend, sound asleep. Worse, Lucy and Frank's young daughter is in the next room. Outraged, she creeps into the bedroom wielding a handy ax from the woodpile and proceeds to decapitate them- all in full view of their daughter Carol. The film then jumps twenty years ahead to the present day (1964) and Carol (Diane Baker) is now an attractive, responsible young woman who is living with her aunt and uncle (Rochelle Hudson, Leif Erickson), Lucy's brother and his kind, sympathetic wife. They have raised Carol to adulthood after Lucy was sent to a mental asylum. Now they are nervously awaiting her arrival at their farmhouse. Carol is determined to make her mother feel welcome again and never bring up the past. Lucy's arrival is anything but joyous. There are some awkward sentiments displayed but it is clear that Lucy is frightened to death and consumed by guilt over the pain she has caused her loved ones. Every innocent aspect of the farm seems to bring back terrible memories, from the slaughter of chickens and hogs to everyday implements laying around that remind her of murder weapons. Not helping matters is the presence of a slovenly farmhand (a virtually unrecognizable George Kennedy), who has the demeanor of a serial killer. Nonetheless, Carol and her aunt and uncle try to ease Lucy back to a normal life, showing great patience and compassion. However, things start to go awry, as one would imagine in any William Castle movie of this nature. At Carol's urging, Lucy tries to recapture happier times by donning a wig and the same type of clothing she wore as a much younger woman. The desired effect doesn't occur, however. Instead, Lucy's personality changes to that of the sex-crazed vamp she once was and, in one of the film's most unintentionally hilarious sequences, she attempts to seduce Carol's finance, Michael (John Anthony Hayes) directly in front of the horrified Carol. More weird occurrences begin to happen, culminating in some gruesome ax murders. Lucy is the only logical suspect, but there are some neat twists to the tale that would be inexcusable to reveal here.
Strait-Jacket is an enormously entertaining flick that was a substantial hit at the boxoffice, thus consigning Ms. Crawford to more films in the shock/horror genre. Sony's burn-to-order DVD is yet another example of the company failing to capitalize on excellentspecial features that are included in this edition (or we should say, "reissued", as this content had been available on a previous DVD release.) There is an amusing promotional short that shows Crawford, William Castle and Robert Bloch in a campy promotion of the film (Bloch totes an ax!); an informative documentary, Battle Axe, about the making of the film with interesting insights from movie historians; Joan Crawford silent wardrobe tests and fascinating silent footage of Crawford's rehearsals for gruesome ax murder scenes and, rounding out the bonus items is a short TV spot. None of these features are even mentioned on the DVD sleeve. In all, highly recommended.
(In the next issue of Cinema Retro (#29), writer Don L. Stradley provides an in-depth examination of how horror movies saved the careers of aging leading ladies, including Joan Crawford, who went on to have several hit films in the genre including Strait-Jacket.)
Impulse Pictures continues their onslaught of releases of the retro erotic series Schoolgirl Report. The German films were all the rage in European cinemas back in the 1970s and this latest DVD edition (#12, "If Mom Only Knew...", for those who are counting) follows the standard formula. The 1978 film consists of numerous short stories linked by a thin plot device. In this case, the staff of a high school newspaper review letters written to them by fellow students outlining their sexual experiences. As each letter is read, the movie cuts to an enactment of the scenario. In the first episode, a young virgin is raised by her older brother, an airline pilot, after their parents pass away. She can barely control her sexual urges but, without a boyfriend, has no outlet for her passions. She develops an unhealthy crush on her brother, which he initially resists. ("Initially" is a key phrase in these types of movies.) Before long, she's casually walking around the house starkers and one night the unthinkable happens. The girl deludes herself into thinking she can actually establish a normal lifestyle with her brother as her lover...but she is in for a rude and tragic awakening. Another episode is a comedic one that follows the antics of a group of high school kids on a field trip to the forest with their stuffy teachers. After discovering a couple in the woods doin' what comes natural in the woods, the kids become uniformly aroused and run off to various remote locations to re-enact what they have just witnessed. As is usual in these flicks, the teachers are the victims of slapstick comedy. A grittier episode concerns a young girl who comes from a tragic background. Her brother died, her father committed suicide and her mother thinks nothing of having sex with strange men in her presence. She becomes sexually obsessed herself and is chronically pleasuring herself before moving on to becoming a drug addict and prostitute. The remaining two segments revert back to comedy. In one, a mother brings her young daughter to the family doctor for a checkup without realizing she has mixed up the dates. The doctor is out but a plumber who is doing work in the office pretends to be the physician and gives the young woman the kind of exam mom never dreamed possible. More slapstick occurs when the actual doctor returns to the office. In the final chapter, a German family agrees to take an exchange student into their home. They think it will be a girl who can act as a companion to their teenage daughter but it turns out to be a hunky male student from France...and we all know what hunky male French students like to do. In short order, despite dad's fevered attempts to keep them separated, not only is their daughter screaming "C'est magnifique!" but her friends end up sharing in the pleasure, as well.
As sordid as these scenarios sound, the Schoolgirl Report series is fairly tame by today's standards. The segments are all soft core but there is an abundance of full frontal nudity, both male and female. The films are impressive in one respect: some of the scenarios are well done and evoke some genuinely erotic images. Others, such as the comedic segments, tend to fall into the "guilty pleasure" category. The Impulse DVD features the film in original German language with optional English sub-titles, though it should be pointed out that they are entirely superfluous because the plots aren't very difficult to follow even if restricted to just the visuals. The transfers show a good degree of snap, crackle and pop from the master film source, but that only adds to the retro-based naughty fun. Click below to order:
We recently reviewed the popular 1972 TV movie The Dephi Bureau, which is the pilot for the short-lived espionage TV series starring Laurence Luckinbill. Some of our readers made us aware of the fact that the Warner Archive DVD release is actually an edited version of the broadcast version. We wrote to the Archive and received this prompt response from Matthew Patterson:
"Thanks for the heads up. It's actually good to know that this TV movie still has such fans. Unfortunately, this was a known issue going into the production process. All of the 35mm original negative and intermediate elements were all cut to the current (shorter) length. This was a very unusual case, and the only longer version we could track down that survived was in faded 16mm reference prints. Of course all this was done 40 yrs ago, and no one back then anticipated future distribution such as home video, so it was decided to go with the higher quality shorter cut for the DVD release. We're slowly trying to get the word out there as to why this was done. And as you know, we try and deliver the best possible elements for even the most obscure releases. So it is actually quite unfortunate that we were unable to track anything better down."
The cataclysmic prison riot near the end of The
Big House (1930) reaches such a fevered pitch that army tanks are called in to
combat the inmates. The tanks roll into the prison yard like armor-plated
creatures, and then, unexpectedly, start rolling towards
the screen, towards the viewer. What did movie audiences think in 1930 as these
shiny, black, menacing machines moved towards them? By the riot's end, a
single tank crashes through a wall, its main gun slowly swiveling, as sinister anything
in H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds.It’s
impressive even now, watching on an Acer laptop in 2014. What was it like in
one of the vaunted movie palaces of yesteryear? Did audiences cheer
because the army was going to save the day? Or was there some fear, too, fear
that the machines were coming not just for criminals, but for everybody…
The Big House, now available on DVD as part of the Warner Bros Archive
Collection, was a spectacular success for MGM, and ushered in the prison movie
as a viable genre. Films had been set in prisons before,
but it was The Big House that established the characters and themes that would
mark the genre forever (ie. the scared new guy, the crusty lifers, the
conniving weasel, the kindly old guard, the dour but ineffectual warden, the inevitable
jail break, etc.). The film was also a marked contrast to the slick
films made by MGM at the time, causing Chester B. Bahn of the Syracuse Herald
to write that this "stark tragedy" was "so horrible, so
devastating, that you don't want to think about it, don't want to talk about
Although prison movies weren't churned out the way westerns and horror movies
were during the 1930s, the subject undoubtedly had legs. We still see
prison movies today, as well as TV shows (of both the scripted and “non-scripted”
variety). But every prison movie or show we see now has something of The Big
House in its DNA. The Big House did it first, and I’m not sure if any
modern prison movies have done it any better. More explicit, perhaps, but
For one thing, The Big House was unabashedly artsy. Directed by George Hill
with photography by Harold Wenstrom, the film is framed by rich, deep blacks
that gave the atmosphere a harder edge than most black and white films of the
day. A more accurate description of the film would be “black & grey,” for
there isn’t much white in it. Grey is the color of the prison uniform,
and grey is the color of the detainees’ pasty complexions. The prison is a
murky place, and when a con is being marched into the “dungeon” to serve some
time in solitary, it’s as if he’s being marched into the very wings of
The opening scene follows a truck filled with new prisoners as it approaches
the monolithic, unnamed building. There’s something about the scene that
looks like an illustration come to life, especially when the prisoners step out
of the truck and appear incredibly tiny as they march into the prison. Kent
(Robert Montgomery) is a newbie, sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter after
killing a man in a car accident. He’s thrown into a cramped cell with two
legitimately bad men, Butch (Wallace Beery) and Morgan (Chester Morris).
One of the warden’s aids laments that a young kid doesn’t stand a chance in a
cell with such hard cases, to which the warden agrees that overcrowding and
idleness are the banes of the prison system. Kent’s journey through
prison life, though, is only part of the story. The film's
greatness comes from the interplay between Butch and Morgan, for they are
two hardened criminals who lean on each other to get through their dreary days.
Butch is downright sadistic, the sort of brute who harasses people only to back
off and say, “I was only kidding.” He’s allegedly murdered several people,
including a few of his past girlfriends, but one never knows if he’s serious or
not. He also lets his temperament get the best of him, even turning on his
buddy Morgan more than once during the film. Morgan, meanwhile, falls for
Kent’s sister (Leila Hyams) when he spots her during visiting hours.
Since its initial release fifty years ago, director Cy Endfield's British war epic Zulu has grown in stature. The film was understandably a hit in England but was deemed a boxoffice disappointment in the United States perhaps due to the fact that, like Khartoum (1966), the story relates to a historic battle that is well known by Brits by is virtually unknown to American audiences. What no one can dispute is that the film represents masterful movie making. Again, like Khartoum, it is a thinking man's war epic. The film relates the story of the Battle of Rorke's Drift, a tiny British outpost in southern Africa directly in the heart of the Zulu kingdom. A haunting pre-titles sequence shows the bloody aftermath of the Battle of Isandlwana, in which a British expeditionary force was massacred by Zulus in a sophisticated attack that stunned the government in London. Rorke's Drift is lightly defended by a relatively small group of British soldiers who know the Zulus are moving toward them. The officer is charge, Lt. John Chard (superbly played by Stanley Baker) is an engineer with no combat experience. His second in command is Lt. Bromhead (Michael Caine in a star-making performance) who doesn't inspire much confidence, either. He's a snobby dilettante who resents the fact that a sliver of military protocol has made Chard his superior officer. With the Zulu attack inevitable, Chard rises to the occasion and rallies his men by constructing crude fortifications and developing battle strategies. In the meantime, he must deal with a religious fanatic and his daughter (Jack Hawkins and Ula Jacobsson) who he must protect and a largely pessimistic company of soldiers who second-guess his ability to prevent them all from being slaughtered. The arrival of the Zulus is genuinely terrifying especially when Chard and his men realize how overwhelmingly they are outnumbered. Additionally, the Zulus have another unexpected edge: they have all the rifles and ammunition taken from the British soldiers they had defeated. Nevertheless, Chard manages to inspire his men and even Bromhead with his logic and courage. As with most war movies, the historical facts are considerably smudged in the interest of artistic license by that doesn't dilute the overall impact of the movie, which is thrilling.
Zulu deservedly ranks among the best British films of its era and it has lost none of its impact over the years. The battle sequences are impressively staged and, while the literate screenplay doesn't delve into the political reasons for the Zulu uprising (it was largely prompted by an arrogant English diplomat who broke treaties with the tribe), the film refreshingly doesn't present the natives as another case of "white man's burden". Instead, the Zulus and their chief are seen as noble figures who develop a mutual respect for the British, even as they are trying to kill them. The film features any number of wonderful supporting performances including Hawkins, Jacobbsson, Patrick Magee and Nigel Green and James Booth particularly impressive. Richard Burton provides the moving narration in the film's opening and closing sequences and John Barry provides what is undoubtedly one of his greatest film scores. As director, Endfield does a superb job, though he never got the acclaim he deserved. His long-delayed bu little-seen 1978 prequel to the film, Zulu Dawn, goes into much greater detail about the origins of the Zulu conflict and depicts the British defeat at Isandlwana, which rocked the entire British government.
The Twilight Time presentation is the best I've ever seen of this classic film and does full justice to the magnificent cinematography. An original trailer is included, an informative collector's booklet with notes by Julie Kirgo, an isolated track for John Barry's score and a very entertaining (and informative) commentary track by film historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman. There is still room for another deluxe collector's edition of Zulu (Cinema Retro's own Matthew Field produced an excellent documentary for the British release some years ago that one wishes was included on here), but for the moment, the Twilight Time Zulu is the edition of record.
The Blu-ray is region free and is limited to only 3,000 copies. We suggest you get a copy quickly as this is destined to be one of those titles you'll ultimately see on eBay selling for a small fortune.
The Warner Archive has released the TV pilot film The Delphi Bureau: The Merchant of Death Assignment as a burn to order title. The 1972 film stars Laurence Luckinbill as Glenn Garth Gregory, a mild-mannered, bookish intellectual with a photographic memory who works for a mysterious organization known as The Delphi Bureau that secretly advises the President of the United States on matters of national security. Even Gregory doesn't know anything about the Bureau and says he doesn't know whether there are thousands of other operatives or if he is the sole agent. His only contact is his superior, Sybil Van Loween (Celeste Holm) , a perpetually chirpy Washington D.C. socialite who gives him his assignments but refuses to come to assistance whenever he gets in trouble. As an agent, Gregory is completely on his own. He is unarmed and must rely on his own wits to extract himself from deadly situations, which leads one to believe that the character of MacGyver might have been somewhat influenced by this scenario. In this pilot film, Gregory is assigned to investigate the wholesale theft of surplus military equipment including fighter jets. The trail leads to a gigantic farming complex in Kansas, headed by Matthew Keller (Dean Jagger), a respected elderly philanthropist who is using his resources for experimental of growing food in order to stamp out world hunger. Gregory finds that the complex is actually a cover for the arms smuggling operation and is being run by Stokely, Keller's right hand man. As played by Cameron Mitchell, Stokely drips with phony charm and friendliness that hides the fact that he is a cold-blooded killer intent on preventing Gregory from revealing his findings. The script makes it obvious that in the pre-cell phone era, it was much easier to present scenarios in which the protagonists are completely isolated simply by the fact that they can't get to a public pay phone.
This pilot film spawned a short-lived TV series and it was created by the estimable talents of Sam Rolfe, who had also developed The Man From U.N.C.L.E. a decade previously. There are some similarities to the classic Alexander the Greater Affair two-part episodes of that series especially in a scene in which Gregory is attacked on a farm by a villain driving a tractor- a fate that befell U.N.C.L.E's Illya Kuryakin. Also, actor David Sheiner, who played a bad guy in the episodes, also turns up in the Delphi Bureau pilot flick. There is a tendency to believe that Hollywood's obsession with conspiracy movies went into high gear in the aftermath of Watergate. In fact, there were such films years prior to the 1972 break-in that brought down the Nixon administration. For example, The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May, both classic political thrillers, were produced in the early 1960s. The Delphi Bureau was in production before Watergate but aired during the same year, thus making its premise of untrustworthy government officials quite timely. The movie also bares a coincidental resemblance to director Michael Ritchie's feature film Prime Cut, also released in 1972, in that it presents a rather cynical view of the American heartland with friendly, small town characters being revealed as sadistic murderers. (A chase through a corn field appears both in The Dephi Bureau and Prime Cut).
I very much enjoyed The Dephi Bureau on many levels. The production values are quite opulent and Luckinbill is refreshing as a hero, playing an everyday guy who is rather out of his element in going up against professional killers. Not much is made out of his photographic memory angle but he does have to rely on his wits rather than gadgetry to avoid numerous death traps. The film boasts an impressive cast with Holm particularly amusing as the unlikely head of the Bureau and other deft turns provided by Bob Crane, Joanna Pettet, Bradford Dillman, Dub Taylor and Frank Marth. Given the qualities of the pilot episode, its surprising that the offspring TV series wasn't a hit. However, fans of spy movies of the era will find the DVD well worth adding to their collections.
Amazon is temporarily offering a special sale on the Universal Monsters Essential Collection Blu-ray boxed set that includes Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Phantom of the Opera, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein and Creature From the Black Lagoon. The set is loaded with 12 hours of bonus materials and includes a collector's book. Click below to order.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Sony:
For Immediate Release
“…one of the great shows of
television's Golden Age…”
-- The Huffington Post, Maureen Ryan
The Addictive, Emmy Award®-Winning TV Drama Starring Emmy Award®
Winners Bryan Cranston & Aaron Paul
THE COMPLETE SERIES
Newly Created 16-Disc Blu-ray™ Box Set Available June 3
Featuring Hours of Bonus Content, Including the Two-Hour Documentary “No Half Measures: Creating the Final Season of Breaking Bad”
Also Available for the First Time Ever as
a 21-Disc Complete Series DVD Set
CULVER CITY, CALIF. (April 7, 2014) – The chemistry continues on June 3 when Sony Pictures Home
Entertainment releases one of the most critically acclaimed and award-winning
shows of all time, BREAKING BAD: THE
COMPLETE SERIES, available on Blu-ray™ with newly created packaging, and, for the first time ever, as a complete series set on DVD. Just in time for Father’s Day and graduation
gift giving, the explosive saga of high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth
kingpin Walter White is available in its entirety, including all 62
uncut, uncensored episodes. The 16-disc
Blu-ray set features more than 55 hours of bonus content, including the Blu-ray
exclusive “No Half Measures: Creating the Final Season of Breaking Bad”
documentary, chronicling the
of the final season, from filming the first table read to the very last day on
set and everything in between. The 21-disc DVD set features more than 50 hours
of bonus content.
Starring three-time Emmy® winner
Bryan Cranston (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series) alongside two-time
Emmy winner Aaron Paul (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series), Sony
Pictures Television’s groundbreaking series achieved record-breaking viewership
with more than 10 million viewers in its final season. BREAKING BAD was created
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series boasts an exceptional ensemble cast, including
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Synopsis: The incredible saga of high school
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62 uncut, uncensored episodes! Emmy® winner Bryan Cranston portrays Walter
White, a family man who turns to crime after a lung cancer diagnosis unravels
his bland but simple life. Recruiting former student and small-time drug dealer
Jesse Pinkman (Emmy® winner Aaron Paul) to be his partner in crime, Walt rises
to the top of the meth trade, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. But he
can’t keep his dogged DEA agent brother-in-law
Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) off his trail forever. Will Walt get away with it
all, or die trying? Re-live every moment of this groundbreaking original series
with riveting performances by Emmy® winner Anna Gunn, Giancarlo Esposito,
Jonathan Banks, Bob Odenkirk, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte and more. Breaking Bad was
executive produced by Vince Gilligan, Mark Johnson and Michelle MacLaren. The
complete box set is loaded with special features.
Blu-ray Exclusive Bonus
More than 55 hours of special features,
· “No Half Measures:
Creating the Final Season of Breaking Bad,” an exclusive two-hour documentary that chronicles the filming of the
final eight episodes.
· Bad Memories – Bryan
Cranston and Aaron Paul talk about the show ending and some of their favorite
· Bryan Cranston: Director – Go
on set with Bryan Cranston as he directs the first episode of The Final Season,
entitled "Blood Money."
· Scene Envy – The cast
tell us which scene they wish they could have been in.
· Shocking Moments - The
stars reveal the moments that shocked them most.
· A Look Ahead to the Final Season – The cast gives their thoughts on what an amazing final season this
is going to be!
· From Walt to Heisenberg – From
high school teacher to deadly meth dealer, watch as Walter White quickly
transforms into Heisenberg.
· How Will It End? – At
the beginning of Season 5, the cast gives their thoughts on how they think the
show will end.
· Avenging Agent: Dean Norris as Hank Schrader – A look at the character Hank Schrader and the man who played him,
· Scene Stealer: Betsy Brandt as Marie Schrader – A look at the character Marie Schrader and the woman who played
her, Betsy Brandt.
· A Criminal Attorney: Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman – A look at the character Saul Goodman and the man who played
him, Bob Odenkirk.
· Jesse’s Journey: Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman – A look at the character Jesse Pinkman and the man who played
him, Aaron Paul.
· Skyler Breaks Bad: Anna Gunn on Season Four – Actress Anna Gunn and series creator Vince Gilligan explore
Skyler’s character evolution through the fourth season.
· Growing Up in the White House: RJ Mitte on Walter, Jr. – RJ Mitte, Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston and series creator Vince
Gilligan discuss the extraordinary dynamics of the White family, and Walter,
Jr.’s unique role.
· The Ultimate Chess Match – Members
of the cast and crew discuss Walter White and Gus Fring’s extraordinary and
complicated battle of wits and their struggle for Jesse’s allegiance.
· Looking Back: A Season Four Retrospective - Season Four’s most surprising and memorable moments.
· Ted's Wipeout – In
Episode 411, “Crawl Space,” Ted Beneke suffers a head injury while trying to
escape from Saul’s goons. In this
featurette, Christopher Cousins (Ted) explains how this shocking stunt was
· The Truck Attack Storyboard Comparison – A side-by-side comparison of the Los Pollos Hermanos truck attack
and the brilliant shot-by-shot storyboards that were created for the episode
· Walt and the Challenger Storyboard Comparison – A side-by-side comparison of Walt’s joy ride in Walt Jr.’s new
Dodge Challenger and the storyboards that were developed for that sequence by
the writer and director, Peter Gould.
DVD Special Features:
More than 50 hours from Season 1
through the Final Season
James Glickenhaus's Vigilante Classic Survives
its Dark and Controversial Past
commitment to releasing finely polished versions of cult greats appears to be
beyond question. I recently viewed their deluxe Blu-ray release of the 1980
grindhouse favourite The Exterminator. I
have some vivid memories of The Exterminator, a film that practically sucked me
from the high street and into the lobby of my local cinema some 34 years ago.
What a poster: an unidentifiable urban soldier wearing a black biker helmet and
using a flame thrower as his weapon of choice! Yep, it was an image that was always
going to get me to the box office for my ticket and of course, the latest copy
of Film Review magazine. The Exterminator was quite an extraordinary film; lame
of course by today’s standards – perhaps, but in 1980 is was really something
James Glickenhaus wastes little time in his narrative style, a huge hilltop
explosion sees a soldier flying through the air. We are undoubtedly in the
middle of a war zone – the Vietnam War. The next cut reveals we are in an enemy
camp, and an interrogation of 3 bound U.S. soldiers. Two of the captive
soldiers, John Eastland (Robert Ginty) and Michael Jefferson (Steve James)
witness the slow decapitation of their fellow marine. Both Eastland and Jefferson
manage to escape before they are killed. They manage to reach a helicopter and
escape. We dissolve into a night
helicopter shot of New York – and the opening credits roll. It’s an amazing
pre-credit sequence that manages to pull you straight into the action and
you’re hooked. It is soon established that both men have simply escaped one
hell hole to arrive back home to another. Working together in the gritty city
of New York, Eastland learns that his buddy Jefferson has been the victim of a
gang attack which has left him paralysed. Unhappy with the police and the slow
progress in apprehending the attackers, Eastland sets out to avenge his friend
and track down the gang in a one-man revenge vendetta.
Exterminator turned up the heat considerably and set the bar for an altogether
new standard of ‘Death Wish’ -type vigilante thriller. Glickenhaus presented us
with a genuine urban ugliness – the likes of which we had never witnessed
before. While it was not considered a ‘big budget’ movie – in the general sense
of the words, you can certainly see where the money shots are. The incredibly
real throat cutting and decapitation sequence still stands out, even by today’s
standards – it remains a brilliantly created special effect by the legendary
Stan Winston. Yet there is nothing overly stylised here – the action, the
atmosphere and above all, the revenge killings – arguably border on bad taste.
However, Ginty’s portrayal of a troubled survivor – an anti-hero of
circumstance rather than choice, never fails to keep the audience firmly on his
side. Whilst the moralistic side of your conscience will no doubt be screaming
out legitimate concerns, Ginty’s ‘everyman’ appeal will most certainly still
have you rooting for him by the time of the final reel.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Warner Home Video.
Burbank, Calif., March 25, 2014 – The Harry
Potter™ Wizard’s Collection, released in 2012, sold more than 30,000
sets at $499.99 SRP and is now completely sold out. To continue offering fans
access to the most successful film franchise in history, a new collection will
be available April 29 -- the Harry Potter™ Hogwarts Collection.
The collectible box set is sure to please fans who want the world of Harry
Potter™ conveniently available in one place. Included in this set areall
eight Harry Potter™ films, plus a whopping 45+ hours of previously
released bonus material that contains the complete eight-part documentary
series, ”Creating the World of Harry Potter.”
The Harry Potter™ Hogwarts Collection will be offered at
the new lower price of $249.99 SRP.
Films Included in this Collection – All on Blu-ray,
DVD and Digital HD with UltraViolet*
·Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ Theatrical Version on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD with UltraViolet and
Extended Cut on Blu-ray
·Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets™ Theatrical Version on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD with UltraViolet and
Extended Cut on Blu-ray
·Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD with UltraViolet
·Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix™ on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD with UltraViolet
·Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince™ on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD with UltraViolet
·Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows™ – Part 1 2D on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD with UltraViolet and 3D Version on
·Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows™ – Part 2 2D on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD with UltraViolet and 3D Versions on
Special Features for Hours of Entertainment – everything
previously released including the eight-part documentary “Creating the World of
Harry Potter” on Blu-ray:
Creating the World of Harry Potter - Part 1:
The Magic Begins
begins. The choices, the breakthroughs, the early decisions that impacted all
the films are explored here via rare footage, cast and crew reminiscences and
more. Learn about the extensive search by producer David Heyman and director
Chris Columbus for the perfect actors to portray Harry, Ron and Hermione and
see the earliest meeting of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
Be on the
scene as imagination and know-how combine to create a look that's distinctly
wizardly. From details tiny (what about Hermione's buckteeth?) to huge
(Quidditch, anyone?), this is the fun and fascinating opening of a whole new
portal into Harry's world. Begin the magic.
Creating the World of Harry Potter - Part 2:
really do look at the story and characters first," producer David Heyman
says. "That's the heart and that's the soul of the film." And that's
the heart and soul of this incisive, decade-spanning exploration of how the
series' actors bring the beloved Harry Potter characters to life.
Discover which parts of the J.K. Rowling books helped Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert
Grint, Emma Watson and more stars make their roles leap from page to screen.
screen tests, including Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Jessie Cave (Lavender
Brown) working with the established stars. Learn why so many of Britain's
acting greats wanted to be part of Harry
Potter's world...and which ones became mentors to the young stars. Share
each director's vision as you watch Daniel, Rupert and Emma grow up with Harry,
Ron and Hermione. Your journey into Harry's world continues.
Creating the World of Harry Potter - Part 3:
the back of Buckbeak. Battle a Hungarian Horntail. Trace Voldemort's terrifying
transformation from grotesque infant-like creature to Dark Lord. Fascinating
footage lets you experience the Harry Potter world of creatures through
new eyes with this revealing look at a new group of wizards: the artists who
create the monsters and marvels. Roam the Harry
Potter Creature Effects workshop, where actors with a little FX magic are
turned into beasts and sketches turn into animatronic wonders. Join Daniel
Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as they share stories about acting
opposite everything from tiny computer-generated pixies to a four-ton
mechanical spider (guess which young star is really afraid of spiders).
New discoveries and new revelations all make your journeys into Harry's world
even more thrilling!
Creating the World of Harry Potter - Part 4:
Sound & Music
imagine the Yule Ball without the Potter Waltz? Quidditch without the whoooosh
of flying? Or any Harry Potter film without the iconic Hedwig's Theme?
Now, absorbing interviews and behind-the-scenes glimpses let you share the
vision of composers, sound experts and others who make the Harry Potter films
enchantment for the ears as well as the eyes. Experience sound and music that
magnify triumph and fear, joy and suspense while transporting viewers on an
emotional journey alongside the on-screen characters. Learn how specially
created musical motifs identify individual characters and places. Watch as
Foley artists use unusual techniques to replicate everyday sounds. Discover a
whole new way to look at – and listen to – Harry's world.
Creating the World of Harry Potter - Part 5:
Bolder. Darker. As the eight Harry Potter films trace Harry's journey
from innocent schoolboy to selfless hero, the series undergoes a
transformation. Evolution – packed with exclusive content – takes you
along for every exciting step of the 10-year filmmaking odyssey. Join the four
directors and key members of the crew and cast, including Daniel Radcliffe,
Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, as they explore how the creative vision for the
films evolved to maintain the integrity and increasing intensity of J.K.
Rowling's expansive literary series. From the ever-changing architecture of
Hogwarts castle and growing landscape of the wizarding world, to the darkening
palette of each successive film, to the young actors maturing along with their
characters, it is a wondrous and spectacular adventure to experience.
Creating the World of Harry Potter - Part 6:
Potter's world, portraits come to life, potions transform, time reverses,
Quidditch players soar, dragons attack and magic is everywhere. Explore the
moviemaking magic that created the wizardry and wonder of the Harry Potter
film series. Now, fascinating insights, interviews and watch-it-happen footage
let you experience the triumphs of the technical wizards who conjured up an
awe-inspiring alternate reality. Share the fun as Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert
Grint and Emma Watson negotiate the moving stairs. Marvel as an oversized water
tank transforms into the depths of the black lake for the Triwizard Tournament.
Discover which amazing sequence was filmed entirely using computer-generated
imagery. Watch as blue- and green-screen backgrounds transform into towering
structures and endless landscapes. You don't know the magic until you've seen Magical
Creating the World of Harry Potter - Part 7:
Over the course of ten years, screenwriter Steve Kloves worked
tirelessly with author J.K. Rowling to develop her seven magical books into
eight magical films. From the beginning, Kloves had to decide what to keep,
what to change and what to cut while staying true to Rowling's vision,
initially without even knowing how the series ended! Learn the story behind the
stories and see how the two collaborated and developed a friendship based on
mutual trust and respect, as they sit down together for an intimate,
free-flowing conversation. Gain new insight into J.K. Rowling's own conceptions
of her beloved characters, and hear how Kloves was able to adapt them
faithfully for the screen while maintaining the fine balance between heart,
humor and heroism that exemplifies the series.
Creating the World of Harry Potter - Part 8:
up with the world watching them. By the time the final film wrapped, the young
stars of Harry Potter had spent nearly half their lives on set. In Growing
Up, new and vintage interviews featuring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint,
Emma Watson and other cast and crew show how the actors have grown over the
course of the series, while behind-the-scenes footage gives an exclusive look
at their lives as actors and as children who've grown into young adults. From
early interviews shortly after being cast, to the poignant final day of filming,
watch how their ideas of acting, fame, their characters and themselves have
changed through four directors, eight films and ten years. Learn how the more
experienced actors took the younger ones under their wings and see the
friendships that only years of collaboration could create. Finally, say
farewell to the series with Daniel Radcliffe as he delivers an emotionally
charged speech to the cast and crew as the final film wraps.
·Harry Potter™ Hogwarts Collection Blu-ray Bonus Disc
More than 3 hours of features including:
§“The Harry Potters You Never Met” - Meet the stunt doubles for Daniel
Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as they demonstrate how they balanced
major stunt work while seamlessly mimicking the actors they represented.
“Designing the World of Harry Potter” - Explore how production
designer Stuart Craig and his creative team brought J.K. Rowling's
imagination to life on the screen.
Harry Left Hogwarts” (Extended Version) - Hear candid and emotional
stories about the final days on set in this extended behind-the-scenes
§ “50 Greatest Harry Potter
Moments” (Definitive Version) - Take a look back with cast members who share
their on and off-screen memories.
§ “Secrets Revealed! Quidditch” –
At last, the secrets behind the special effects required for the breathtaking
Quidditch scenes are revealed.
§ “Secrets Revealed! Hagrid”- See
the camera tricks, towering stand-in and voluminous body suits behind the
beloved Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release from Sony
CULVER CITY, CALIF. (March 31, 2014) –
George Clooney’s action thriller THE MONUMENTS MEN marches its way
onto Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and
Digital* May 20 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Based on the
non-fiction book of the same name by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter, the film
pays tribute to the real men and women who risked their lives to recover and
return thousands of cultural treasures stolen by the Nazis during World War II.
Blu-ray™ Combo Pack
is loaded with bonus materials, including two all-new featurettes that
highlight the making of the film. The first, “George Clooney’s Mission,”
features interviews with Clooney, as well as the rest of the cast, on the elements that went into completing THE MONUMENTS MEN. The second featurette, “Marshaling the Cast,”
features a cast discussion on the real men and women they brought to life on
screen. Exclusively available on the Blu-ray are two additional exclusive
featurettes. “In Their Own Words” is a unique piece that offers the most
comprehensive and direct insight into the hearts and minds of these heroes,
featuring an interview with Harry Ettlinger, one of the last surviving members
of the Monuments Men. “A Woman Amongst
the Monuments Men” features a discussion with
Cate Blanchett on the historic, wartime female character she plays in the film
A Smokehouse production, THE
MONUMENTS MEN is
directed by Clooney, and written by Clooney and Grant Heslov. Starring in the film is an
exceptional ensemble cast, including two-time Academy Award® winner
Clooney (Argo, Best Motion Picture of
the Year, 2012), Academy Award® winner Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, Best Writing,
Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, 1997), Bill Murray (The Grand Budapest Hotel), John Goodman
Award® winner Jean Dujardin (The
Artist, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, 2011), Bob Balaban (The Grand Budapest Hotel),
Hugh Bonneville (TV’s “Downton Abbey”) and Academy Award® winner
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Best
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, 2013).
on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, THE
MONUMENTS MEN focuses on an unlikely
World War II platoon, whose job it was to rescue artistic masterpieces from
Nazi thieves so they could be returned to their rightful owners. In a
seemingly impossible mission, the Monuments Men, as they were called, find
themselves risking their lives in a race against time to avoid the destruction
of 1,000 years of culture.
About the Real
had decreed that if he died and the war was lost, nearly 5 million pieces of
stolen art were to be destroyed. In an effort to thwart the Nazis’ intent, President Roosevelt, with the support
of General Eisenhower, created the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives)
unit in 1943, and tasked them with the job of rescuing and protecting Europe’s
art masterpieces. Ultimately, more than 300 men and women worked in the MFAA
between 1943 and 1951, returning thousands of cultural items that had been looted or displaced during
NOTE: This review pertains to the Region 2 UK release.
By Mark Mawston
are some films that stick with you- films that made a real impact but were
impossible to track down after that one fleeting TV screening in pre-DVD and
streaming days. Could they be as good as you remember or were they obscure for
a reason? This was my worry when I was given my review disc of Brian De Palma’sPhantom of The Paradise,a film I’d been wanting to revisit
remember watching this in my room after college one late Monday night and
thinking it was the epitome of the term “cult movie”. I simply loved it.
I was fully aware of the huge followingThe
Rocky Horror Picture Showhad
and was shocked that this film wasn’t as famous. For years I’d asked anyone who
mentioned Richard O’Brien’s cult classic if they felt the same aboutPhantom of The Paradiseand most of the time I was met
with “Phantom Of The What?” I thought I was in a minority who loved this film
but on watching Arrow’s superb transfer of the film and its stunning extras, I
see that the film has a healthy following amongst the great and the good of
movie cultdom, including Edgar Wright, Quentin Tarantino and especially
Guillermo del Toro.
of The Paradiseis
now available from the Arrow Video label. The feature-packed disc is released
as both a Limited Edition Steel Book and deluxe Blu-ray featuring original and
newly commissioned artwork by The Red Dress. This exciting Blu-ray release also
includes an exclusive collector’s booklet featuring new writing about the film
by festival programmer Michael Blyth and an exploration of the film’s troubled
marketing history by Ari Kahan, curator of SwanArchives.org, illustrated with
original stills and promotional material.
Although Hammer Films is best known for its lineup of horror movies, the British studio routinely produced a diverse line of product ranging from adventure movies to crime melodramas. As the popularity of the horror flicks soared in the mid-1960s, Hammer began to concentrate almost exclusively on that genre. One of the better non-horror films was The Scarlet Blade, produced in 1964. The film was inexplicably retitled as The Crimson Blade for U.S. audiences, thus rendering meaningless the tie-in to the titular character, a swashbuckling do-gooder who rallies country folk in support of the king during the English Civil War of the 17th century. The film opens with King Charles I (Robert Rietty) on the run from the forces of Cromwell, who want to arrest him and execute him after a show trial. The king is being protected by a small band of royalists but is nevertheless captured. With the countryside terrorized by the arrival of Cromwell's local governor, Col. Judd (Lionel Jeffries), a plot is nonetheless is hatched by a group of rebels to rescue the king when he is being transported to the Tower of London. The man who is orchestrating this is Edward Beverly (Jack Hedley), who is has the secret alter ego of The Scarlet Blade. In that role, he is a constant thorn in the side of Judd. The Scarlet Blade and his small group of derring-doers raid Judd's compounds, attack his forces and inspire the locals to resist Cromwell's reign. Thus, Judd becomes obsessed with his capture and execution. Unbeknownst to Judd, his own daughter Clair (June Thorburn) is secretly assisting the rebels. Judd can barely stand the the fact that she has openly loyalist sentiments but doesn't suspect she is actually in collusion with The Scarlet Blade. Clair is being wooed by Judd's right hand man, Capt. Tom Sylvester (Oliver Reed), an arrogant egotist who learns that she is in league with the rebels. He offers to keep her secret and quietly assist her activities but only if she pledges her love for him. Clair is initially resistant to Tom's boorish personality but agrees to his offer. Tom is as good as his word and meets with the Scarlet Blade and his men and offers genuine assistance. However, when Clair tells him she actually has fallen in love with Edward Beverly, Tom's loyalties change once more.
The Crimson Blade is a fun, rousing and intelligently scripted story that has the hallmarks of Hammer productions of the period (i.e modest budget but rich production values, crisp color cinematography and a first-rate cast). It's a pleasure to see Lionel Jeffries playing an outright villain instead of a lovable old eccentric and he delivers an excellent performance in a role that seemed to have been envisioned for Christopher Lee. Oliver Reed is equally impressive in this early career role and June Thorburn is fetching as the requisite damsel in distress. The action sequences are frequent and very well-staged and as the Scarlet Blade, Jack Hedley has plenty of swash in his buckle and makes a fine action hero.
The film boasts an excellent transfer and is now available as a Sony burn-to-order title. There are no bonus extras.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST ARTICLES FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Last year, the Harris Poll reported that John Wayne ranked among America's top ten favorite actors. This may seem like an incredible feat for a man who's been six-feet under since 1979, but the Duke's popularity continues to grow as evidenced by the tidal wave of DVD titles and tributes afforded him this year on what would have been his 100th birthday. Unlike many actors of the past, Wayne is not being rediscovered by a new generation. In fact, he's never been out of style. While younger generations have to be educated about the work of legends such as Bogart and Cagney, it seems people become acquainted with Wayne's image while still in the womb. Warner Brothers and Paramount have teamed up for a major Wayne DVD promotion that will put a dent in any collector's wallet if they hope to acquire all the latest releases and it's bound to evoke mixed emotions in many fans. (Henny Youngman once defined "mixed emotions" as having your mother-in-law drive off a cliff in your new Mercedes.) On the one hand, all of the new releases are "must-haves" for serious collectors. On the other hand, there are so many titles being released simultaneously that not only your eyeballs but your wallet will be overtaxed if you try to absorb them all at once. Tops on the list is WB's "Ultimate Collector's Edition" of Howard Hawks' 1959 classic Rio Bravo. The film is available in several different scaled-down versions, but we'll pretend those don't exist. If you like the movie, there is only one choice and it's the Ultimate Edition.
Nicholas Ray’s Knock on Any Door was released on DVD
last summer as part of Sony Pictures’ Choice Collection. The 1949 film starred
Humphrey Bogart and a very young John Derek as a defense attorney and his
street punk of a client.It's not high
on the list of Bogart classics, and it's not even one of Ray's best (It was his
second film, made after the far superior They
Live By Night). Ray never particularly praised it, saying only that he
wished it could've been grimmer. Ray once pointed to Luis Bunuel’s LosOlvidados,
a film about Mexican slum kids that came out in 1950, as an example of the sort
of film KnockOn Any Door could've been.If Bunuel's film had come out first, Ray said, the inspiration would've
been there to make a more penetrating, realistic work. "I would have made
a hell of a lot better movie," Ray said.
On Any Door is usually labeled as
film noir, but nothing in the story has the subversive taint found in the best
noir films, and there’s none of the sleek, European ex-pat styling, unless one
counts the expressionistic lighting that cuts across the prison floor in a
scene where a convicted killer makes his long walk to the death house. KnockOn Any Door is more in line with the crime dramas turned out by
Warner Bros during the 1930s, which makes sense when one considers Bogart got
his start in those Warner Bros crime flicks, and it was Bogart’s film company,
Santana Productions, that produced Knock
On Any Door for Columbia Pictures.
While it wasn’t a
blockbuster, it performed well enough at the box office to establish Bogart’s
group as a serious production unit. It also gave us the quote, “Live fast, die
young, and have a good looking corpse,” a quote so nice it’s given to us twice
by the angry Nick Romano, played by Derek with all the seething anger he could
muster beneath his impossibly long eyelashes. According to Bogart biographer
Stefan Kanfer, Bogie tried to boost Derek's performance by pointing out that
most of the day's top actors, from James Cagney, to Edward G. Robinson, to
Bogart himself, had started out in crime movies, and that a good performance as
a heel is always eye catching. Not surprisingly, Derek goes for broke in the
film, to the point where he appears to be auditioning for a role in ReeferMadness. Lookat me! he seems to say in every scene, Look at my perfect profile, my quivering
lips; look at how twitchy I am when I play angry! I'm a real actor, damn it!
Derek was just a young,
inexperienced actor fresh out of the paratroopers when he was cast as
"Pretty Boy" Nick Romano, "the Skid Row Romeo.”Romano, like so many Hollywood hoodlums, is a
good boy shoved down the wrong path in life after losing his father at a young
age, and then growing up in poverty. Attorney Andrew Morgan (Bogart) has known
Romano for years and has watched him struggle. When Romano is accused of
killing a cop, Morgan hesitates to help. For one thing, the partners at his law
firm don't want the negative attention such a trial could bring. Morgan also
isn't sure if he believes Romano is innocent.
On Any Door is actually two films woven together. We
see Romano's tale in flashback, as he goes from being a mama’s boy, to a
typical slum rat and petty thief, to a beleaguered family man who drinks too
much and can't hold down a job. We also see Morgan's crisis of conscious as he
works up the enthusiasm to help him. Morgan, a former slum kid himself,
believes people should help themselves. Gradually, though, he sees Romano as a
kid worth saving. By the film's end, Morgan vows to spend the rest of his life
helping kids like Nick Romano.
The Nick Romano character
was a bit ahead of the times. He looks and carries himself like a character
from a mid-50s juvenile delinquent movie, perhaps The Wild One, or Blackboard
Jungle, or even Ray's own RebelWithout A Cause. There were even rumors,
possibly apocryphal, that Marlon Brando was interested in the Romano role. Hot
off his stage success in A Streetcar
Named Desire, Brando would've been an interesting Romano, and with his
realistic acting, might have booted this movie into something close to a
classic. According to different sources, Bogart was originally planning to make
the film under the direction of Mark Hellinger, with Brando as Romano. When
Hellinger died in Dec. 1947, the project was temporarily put aside until Bogart
started Santana Productions. Brando, who had wanted to work with Hellinger,
allegedly turned down Bogie’s offers, paving the way for Derek. (I find it a
little hard to believe that Bogart was, as some biographers claim, pursuing
Brando to any great degree, considering Bogart was notoriously disdainful of
the self-indulgent method actor types emerging out of New York. The thought of
Brando and Bogart together is fascinating, but just the fact that Bogart
eventually chose Derek, who was light years away from the brooding Brando,
makes me think the whole Brando rumor was nothing but a PR flack's pipe dream.)
Derek, with his greasy mop
of thick black hair, looks the part of a dashing street hood, but his acting is
too melodramatic and hasn't aged well. At the time, though, Derek made quite a
splash, inspiring Hollywood gossip columnist Luella Parsons to write, "I
predict John Derek will be one of the big screen stars of 1949."Stardom didn't quite find Derek, although he
acted regularly for many years, appearing in everything from westerns to bible
epics.He's probably best known to baby
boomers as the husband/mentor and sometime director of Bo Derek.Even when Derek died in 1998, most of the obits
focused on the couple's May/December romance, which was fodder for gossip rags
during Bo's brief run at movie stardom.
Bogart is Bogart, and not
much more needs to be said. There's an excellent scene where, suspecting Romano
has stolen 100-dollars from him, Bogart as Morgan lures Romano into an alley
and wrestles him to the ground, pinning him in the dirt with some sort of
commando hold and then rifling through Romano's pocket to get back his money.
"You're a two-bit punk, and that's all you'll ever be,” Bogart snarls,
spraying saliva everywhere.Always a
sprayer and a drooler, Bogart’s lips and chin practically shine with spittle in
this movie, especially during the courtroom scenes where he has long speeches
and no one around to wipe his mouth. Bogart’s forehead also perspires like crazy in
the court scenes, until he looks like he's performing on the bow of a ship
during a storm. He's great, though, and his closing speech to the jury is among
the better scenes of his late '40s period.Heavy-handed? Sure, but Bogart could always make these scenes
compelling, whereas if another actor tried it, the bit would come off as
"Knock OnAny Door is a
picture I'm kind of proud of, and I'll tell you why," Bogart the producer
said in a press release trumpeting the film. "It's a very challenging
story; different; off the beaten path. The novel (by Willard Motley) was
brutally honest. We've tried to be just as direct, just as forceful, in the
picture. I think you'll like it better that way. "
proclaimed Knock On Any Door "a
hard-hitting, tight melodrama," the film's Feb. 1949 release was greeted
by mixed reviews. The notion that criminals were not always responsible for
their actions was a relatively new and unpopular concept. The film was
occasionally praised for its direct look at life in the slums, but Bosley Crowther
of ‘The New York Times’ wasn't impressed. "Not only,” wrote Crowther, “are
the justifications for the boy's delinquencies inept and superficial...but the
nature and aspect of the hoodlum are outrageously heroized." Crowther, who
may have invented the word ‘heroized,’ added that the film was riddled with
"inconsistencies and flip-flops," and that "The whole thing
appears to be fashioned for sheer romantic effect, which its gets from its
'pretty-boy' killer, victim of society and blazing guns."
Actually, the film
could've used some more blazing guns. The opening sequence is a stunner, with a
cop being gunned down on a dark street, and a sudden swarming of the
neighborhood by cops rousting every local man with a criminal record. The scene
is a mere tease, though, for the film settles down into a talky courtroom drama
and doesn't quite live up to its opening blast. But give Bogie and his Santana
crew credit for choosing this project as their debut voyage. They jumped on the
juvenile delinquent bandwagon before it had really taken off, predating the
screwed-up teenager craze by five or six years. In a way, Derek’s Nick Romano was
a forerunner of James Dean, Elvis, Sal Mineo, and every other greasy hoodlum
with puppy dog eyes that would populate the movie screens of the 1950s.
The Choice Collection DVD offers no extra
features, but the transfer is crisp and clear, all the better to see Bogart
The Warner Archive has reissued Paramount's out-of-print DVD of director Anthony Mann's 1957 Western The Tin Star. Henry Fonda stars as Morg Hickman, a ex-lawman-turned-bounty hunter who delivers the body of a wanted man to a small town's sheriff's office. He gets a hostile reaction from the local population because of his unsavory profession. Nevertheless, Morg has to stay around a few days in order to collect the $500 reward money from Sheriff Ben Owens (Anthony Perkins), a young greenhorn who has reluctantly accepted the position of lawman after his predecessor was murdered. Morg perceives the likable young man as nervous and easily manipulated by some of the more obnoxious men in town. Morg ends up boarding with a young widow, Nona Mayfield (Betsy Palmer), who is a bit of a social outcast because her son Kip (Michael Ray) is half Indian. Before long, Morg and Nona form a chaste but loving relationship and he finds himself not only acting as surrogate father to Kip but also a mentor to Ben Owens. When a beloved local citizen is murdered by two brothers (Lee Van Cleef, Peter Baldwin), a local firebrand, Bart Bogardus (Neville Brand), goes against the sheriff's wishes and organizes a posse that is out for blood. Determined to take the men alive and ensure they get a fair trial, Ben enlists Morg's assistance. Under Morg's guidance, the pair bring the brothers back to jail- only to find that Bogardus intends to lead a lynch party to the jail that night. Ben knows that this is the ultimate test of his ability to finally earn respect from the citizens of the town. But in order to gain that respect, he'll have to face down a heavily armed, drunken mob.
The Tin Star is a superior Western, filmed in B&W in VistaVision and bearing the hallmarks of any Anthony Mann film: intelligent script (by legendary Dudley Nichols) and fine, realistic performances from an excellent cast that also includes a wonderful turn by veteran supporting actor John McIntire. Like The Ox Bow Incident, which also starred Fonda, the movie goes beneath the standard action sequences found in horse operas of this period and delves in to the issues of racism, justice and the price that must often be paid for displaying personal courage.
The DVD boasts a crystal clear transfer but does not contain any extras.
Timeless Media have released the epic 1976 adventure film Shout at the Devil as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The movie, produced by Michael Klinger and directed by Peter Hunt, is an big budget affair very much in the style of John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King, which was released the previous year. Both films follow the antics of a couple of charismatic rogues in exotic settings. The film is based on the novel by author Wilbur Smith, who also co-wrote the screenplay. The movie was shot in between Roger Moore's second and third James Bond films, The Man With the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me and boasts a "who's who" of Eon Productions talent. Peter Hunt had edited the early Bond films and directed On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Ironically, Moore and Hunt never worked on a 007 film together but in 1974 Moore starred in Hunt's excellent adventure film Gold, which was also a Michael Klinger production. Among the Bond veterans moonlighting on Shout at the Devil were main titles designer Maurice Binder, cinematographer Michael Reed and camera operators Alec Mills and Alan Hume, special effects wizard Derek Meddings, production designer Syd Cain, future Bond director John Glen, assistant director Frank Ernst, stills photographer George Whitear and publicist Geoff Freeman. All that was missing was Cubby Broccoli's name above the title. With so many old pros working on the movie, it's no surprise that Shout at the Devil is an opulent production, impressive in many ways.
The story is set in East Africa in 1913 in the days leading up to WWI. Flynn O'Flynn (Lee Marvin) is an American of Irish descent who is living the good life on the African continent. A poacher of ivory and a shameless con man, Flynn and his mute right hand man Mohammed (Ian Holm) routinely line up gullible victims for exploitation. Among them is a British dandy named Sebastian Oldsmith (Roger Moore), a man who is en route to Australia when he makes the fatal decision to spend a few days in a port city. He is befriended by Flynn, who robs him of every cent then gains his gratitude by pretending to lend him money-- which in fact came from his own wallet. O'Flynn coerces Sebastian to become a partner in the ivy poaching trade and brings him back to his comfortable lodge located in the African bush. Here, Sebastian meets and falls in love with O'Flynn's daughter Rosa (Barbara Parkins). The two marry and have a baby much to the bemusement of O'Flynn, who, more often than not, is drunk. O'Flynn and Sebastian's poaching ventures are occasionally thwarted by their arch nemesis, a German military bureaucrat named Fleischer (Rene Kolldehoff), who is the local government administrator and who is known for his heartless exploitation of natives and his ruthless methods of enforcing German law in the region. O'Flynn and Sebastian delight in playing cat-and-mouse games with Fleischer and wreaking havoc on his activities. However, when Germany and England go to war, Fleischer is allowed unlimited local power and he extracts a terrible revenge. O'Flynn and Sebastian are later coerced into volunteering to serve on a mission for the British navy. They must locate, infiltrate and blow up a German war ship that is deemed an imminent danger to Allied shipping interests in the region. The deadly mission allows O'Flynn and Sebastian the opportunity to finally settle their scores with Fleischer.
The film's leisurely running time of 150 minutes actually passes very quickly thanks to the brisk pace afforded by director Hunt, who once told this writer that the film was originally shot as an even longer roadshow presentation and that he had the only remaining uncut print of it in his garage (!) (One can only wonder what became of it after Hunt's death in 2002). This version at least restores a half hour of footage that was not seen in the American theatrical release. The movie also benefits from Michael Reed's widescreen cinematography, Maurice Jarre's rousing score and the excellent special effects work of future F/X legend Derek Meddings. There is also the delightful aspect of enjoying the genuine on-screen chemistry between Roger Moore and Lee Marvin. Moore plays straight man to Marvin's scenery-chewing character. This isn't the cool, understated Marvin of Point Blank and The Killers, but the eyeball-rolling, over-the-top Marvin of Paint Your Wagon and The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday. At times his facial expressions would seem to be more fitting in a cartoon. Nevertheless, he's never dull to watch and his lovable rogue schtick never wears thin with this viewer. (Moore and Marvin also have the kind of extended, knock-down, drag 'em out fist fight that permeated John Ford's films.) Midway through this largely comedic storyline, the script takes a sharp turn due to an act of unspeakable savagery that effects the lives of the three main characters and fills them with an obsession for getting even with Fleischer, who- until this point in the story- has been portrayed as a rather buffoonish, Sgt. Schultz-like character. The jarring disparity in tone may be off-putting to some viewers but the storyline that encompasses the mission to infiltrate and blow up the German war ship quickly dominates the action and leads to a compelling and action-packed conclusion.
Shout at the Devil was a hit with international audiences but a rather bungled release in America led to the movie being very under-exposed here over the decades. The Timeless Blu-ray/DVD combo boasts an excellent transfer but unfortunately the only extras are a selection of still photos, some of which look suspiciously like screen grabs. Nevertheless, this is an outstanding, old-fashioned adventure that retro movie lovers will definitely want to embrace.