When it was announced that producer Elliott Kastner had succeeded in signing both Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson for the 1976 Western, The Missouri Breaks, the project was viewed as a "can't miss" at the international box-office. This would be Brando's first film since his back-to-back triumphs in The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris and Nicholson had just won the Best Actor Oscar for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". The two Hollywood icons were actually neighbors who lived next door to each other, but they had never previously teamed for a film project. Kastner, whose prowess as a street-wise guy who used unorthodox methods to get films off the ground, had used a clever tactic to sign up both superstars: he told each man that the other had already committed to the project, when, in fact, neither had. With Brando and Nicholson aboard, Kastner hired a respected director, Arthur Penn, who had worked with Brando ten years before on The Chase. He then chose an acclaimed novelist, Thomas McGuane, who had recently made his directorial debut with 92 in the Shade, to write the screenplay. What emerged from all these negotiations was a seemingly "can't miss" boxoffice blockbuster in the making. Alas, it was not to be. Upon its release, critics emphasized the "Miss" aspect of the The Missouri Breaks, with most reviewers citing the opinion that the film was a long, slow slog interrupted up a hammy, over-the-top comic performance from Brando, who Penn apparently exercised little control over when it came to the actor's penchant for improvisation.
The film opens with cattle baron David Braxton (John McLiam) "hosting" a lynching for a rapt audience of his ranch hands. Seems the intended victim has rustled some of his cattle and McLiam is determined to put an end to the thievery, which has reduced his overall business income by 7% per year- a statistic he never tires of griping about. McLiam's hardball tactics against the rustlers don't sit well with his otherwise adoring daughter Jane (Kathleen Lloyd), an independent-thinking young woman who has acted as her father's most trusted companion since her mother left him for another man years ago. The victim of the lynching was a member of a rustling gang headed by Tom Logan (Jack Nicholson), who befriends Braxton on the pretense that he wants to purchase a plot of land on his property to establish a small farm. In reality, he wants to utilize the land to temporarily house stolen horses which his gang has gone to Canada to obtain in a daring operation against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's stables. Meanwhile, Jane- who lives a life of relative isolation on her father's estate-is immediately smitten by the charismatic Tom Logan and when she insists that he become her first lover, he finds it impossible to resist. Thus, Logan is now in a romantic relationship with a girl who is the daughter of a man he is deceiving and stealing from. David Braxton goes all-out in his obsession with thwarting the rustlers. He hires Lee Clayton, a renowned "regulator", which is a polite term for bounty hunter. Clayton is an eccentric man with a bizarre personality who speaks in a heavy Irish brogue, but also at times utilizes other accents. He is at times charming and amusing and at other times fiery-tempered and unpredictable. Upon being introduced to Tom Logan by Braxton, Clayton immediately suspects he is not a farmer, but a rustler. The two men play a cat-and-mouse game, each one employing double-entendres in their conversations. When Logan's men return from Canada empty-handed after being thwarted by the Mounties, Clayton becomes an omnipresent figure, observing their every move from afar through binoculars. One by one, he systematically murders the members of the rustling gang, always preceding their horrendous deaths by chatting with the doomed men in disarmingly friendly tones. Clayton becomes so frightening a figure that even Braxton becomes intimidated by him and attempts to fire him, but Clayton says the money is irrelevant and that once he commits to a job, he sees it through. The stage is set for a mano-a-mano confrontation between Logan and Clayton that both men realize will see only one emerge alive.
Brando and Nicholson on the set in Montana.
It's easy to see why The Missouri Breaks didn't catch on with audiences. Much of the film moves at a glacial pace, but McGuane's script is intelligent and the dialogue often witty. Brando's outrageous antics easily overshadow anyone else in the film, even though his appearances are fleeting and the lion's share of the screen time is dominated by Nicholson. Brando seems to be having a field day and there seems to be no limit to his improvisations. (At one point he is dressed as a Chinese peasant and in another he is inexplicably attired as a woman, complete with apron and bonnet.) He also has a penchant for making some uncomfortably romantic overtures to his horse. Thus, the character of Clayton proves to be a distraction from the otherwise somber, realistic tone of the film. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Brando's appearances are both amusing and somewhat mesmerizing, even if out of place. The movie boasts a first rate supporting cast that includes Harry Dean Stanton, Frederic Forrest and a young and slim Randy Quaid. Kathleen Lloyd holds her own against the considerable star power of Brando and Nicholson, which could not have been an easy feat. Alas, stardom was not to follow for her, though she still occasionally appears as a guest star in popular TV series. Where the movie disappoints the most is in its climax. The audience has been led to expect a memorable confrontation between Logan and Clayton, but when one of them gets the upper hand on the other, it's done very abruptly and rather unimaginatively, leaving the viewer feeling cheated. The movie boasts a low-key but appropriately atmospheric score by John Williams and impressive cinematography by Michael Butler. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks sensational in the outdoor sequences but the dimly lit interiors have a degree of grain to them, which may have been intended by Butler. An original theatrical trailer has been included.
After The Missouri Breaks, Brando seemed uninspired and went on automatic pilot in terms of his film roles. He was paid a relative fortune for what amounted to extended cameos in Superman and Apocalypse Now, and while he was a significant physical presence in both films, no one made the case that he exerted himself dramatically. He would find occasional enthusiasm in certain roles (an Oscar-nominated turn in the little-seen A Dry White Season and a hilarious performance recreating his Don Corleone role for The Freshman), but his enthusiasm seemed to diminish in direct proportion to his increase in weight. Sadly, he would never totally recapture the mojo he once enjoyed as a screen icon. Yet, time has been kind to The Missouri Breaks. The film's literate script and direction are a reminder of an era in which such projects would be green-lit by major studios who appealed to the intellect of movie audiences. Today, the project would never have seen fruition no matter who starred in it.
When Paramount released the "White Christmas" Blu-ray Diamond Edition last fall, it sold out quickly. Happily, there are ample supplies back in stock at major retailers so, if you missed this essential last Christmas, you'll have plenty of time to get for the 2015 holidays.
Continue reading for a complete breakdown of the spectacular, 4-disc Blu-ray/DVD/ CD set.
One of our readers named Peter wrote to us regarding our frustration over the fact that there has been no DVD or Blu-ray edition issued in the USA or UK for director Nicholas Ray's 1963 epic "55 Days at Peking". Peter informed us that he has a French release special edition that is available on Amazon France through the Filmedia company:
"I have the French Blu-ray release. The following is a list of the extras. Note that most of the extras are in French with NO English subtitles. Original interviews with the cast are in English.
Interview with Olivier Assayas and Nicholas Ray (32 mins)
The Boxers in Cinema (6 min)
Boxer Rebellion (12 mins)
Portrait of Ava Gardner (19 mins)
Nicholas Ray documentary (47 mins)
Interviews with Charlton Heston, David Niven, John Moore and Mrs. Heston (30 mins)
The film's restoration (11 mins)
Trailer (French) (3 min)
Cinema Retro has not viewed this release but reviews on Amazon France indicate the quality is very good.
UPDATE! Several readers have notified us that there is a top-notch transfer of the film available in the UK through Anchor Bay....However, it is a "bare bones" release without the aforementioned extras on the French version.
the days before cable, video and on-line streaming, classic movie fans had to
work for their movie watching pleasure by hunting through local weekly
schedules based on what local broadcasters chose to schedule. Adventure movies,
comedies, war movies and westerns have always been at the top of my classic
movie viewing list. “The Password is Courage” is one of those movies discovered
years ago that remains a favorite of mine. Maybe because its a sort of big brother
to the Grand Poobah of all prisoner of war movies, “The Great Escape,” which
was released a year later in 1963.
movie, based on the true story of Sergeant Major Charlie Coward, is a
remarkable yet easy-going tale. One almost feels as though life was not all
that bad in a German POW camp during WWII. If the movie has a fault, it’s that
it treats the subject a little too cavalier at times. It’s a very minor
objection because the humor is always at the expense of the German captors and everything
else about this movie is pure movie watching joy.
Bogarde is perfectly cast as Charlie Coward, a man with an ironic name which
must have played a part in making him anything but a coward. The German
Luftwaffe ran POW camps through most of the war because most allied military
prisoners were aviators and air crew until the Normandy invasion in 1944. The
Germans also commonly segregated their camps by nationality and separated
officers and enlisted men into separate camps. Sergeant Major Charlie Coward
was among the senior enlisted members of one such camp, Stalag VIII-B Lamsdorf,
in what is now part of Poland.
movie is based on the popular book of the same name by Ronald Charles Payne and
John William Garrote writing as John Castle. Coward was transferred to
Auschwitz III-Monowitz, a labor camp which was near the infamous Auschwitz II-Birkenau
extermination camp which Coward allegedly infiltrated in a failed attempt to
liberate a Jewish doctor. According to the book, he also aided in the
liberation of hundreds of Jews, but Coward’s involvement in these activities is
Burbank, Calif. May 19, 2015 – On June 2, Warner
Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) will release The John Wayne Westerns Film
Collection – featuring five classic films on Blu-ray™ from the
larger-than-life American hero – just in time for Father’s Day. The Collection
features two new-to-Blu-ray titles, The Train Robbers and Cahill
U.S. Marshal plus fan favorites Fort Apache, The Searchers and a
long-awaited re-release of Rio Bravo. The pocketbook box set
will sell for $54.96 SRP; individual films $14.98 SRP.
Born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, John
Wayne first worked in the film business as a laborer on the Fox lot during
summer vacations from University of Southern California, which he attended on a
football scholarship. He met and was befriended by John Ford,
a young director who was beginning to make a name for himself in action films,
comedies and dramas. It was Ford who recommended Wayne to director Raoul Walsh
for the male lead in the 1930 epic Western, The Big Trail,
and, although it was a box-office failure, the movie showed Wayne's potential.
For the next nine years, Wayne worked in a
multitude of B-Westerns and serials in between bit parts in larger features. Wayne’s
big break came in 1939, when Ford cast him as Ringo Kid in the adventure Stagecoach. Wayne nearly stole the picture
from his more seasoned co-stars, and his career as a box-office superstar began.
During his 50-year film career, Wayne played the lead in 142 movies, an as yet
unsurpassed record, and was nominated for three Academy Awards®[i],
winning the Best Actor Oscar® in 1970 for his performance in True Grit.
Details of The
John Wayne Westerns Film Collection
The Train Robbers (1973)
NEW TO BLU-RAY!
The action never stops in this western starring
Wayne, Ann-Margret and Ricardo Montalban. Three Civil War veterans team up with
a train robber’s attractive widow to recover a cool half-million in hidden
gold. The widow (Ann-Margret) wants to clear her husband’s name and the three
friends (John Wayne, Rod Taylor, Ben Johnson) want to aid her and collect a
$50,000 reward. But the dead man’s ex-partners just want the gold…and will kill
to get it.
The Train Robbers is a rollicking
caper from writer/director Burt Kennedy, a specialist in Westerns with a comic
touch (The Rounders, Support Your Local
Sheriff). Here he sets a mood of amiable adventure among colorful
characters, not stinting on the two-fisted action that’s part of all the best
Special features include:
·Featurette: John Wayne: Working with a Western Legend
·Featurette: The Wayne Train
Cahill U.S. Marshal (1973)
NEW TO BLU-RAY!
Lawman J.D. Cahill can stand alone against a
bad-guy army. But as a widower father, he’s on insecure footing raising two
sons, particularly when he suspects his boys are involved in a bank robbery…
and two killings.
Filmed on location in the high desert of Durango,
New Mexico, this suspenseful saga offers a hearty helping of the stoic charisma
that made John Wayne a long-time box-office champion. Summer of ’42 discovery Gary Grimes – as Cahill’s rebellious older
son – joins a cast of tough-guy favorites (Neville Brand, Denver Pyle, Harry
Carey Jr. and George Kennedy) and such other Hollywood greats as Marie Windsor
and Jackie Coogan in a deft blend of trigger-fast action and heroic sentiment.
Special features include:
Commentary by Andrew V. McLaglen
Featurette: The Man Behind the Star
Fort Apache (1948)
The soldiers at Fort Apache may
disagree with the tactics of their glory-seeking new commander. But to a man,
they’re duty-bound to obey – even when it means almost certain disaster.
John Wayne, Henry Fonda and many
familiar supporting players from master director John Ford’s “stock company:
saddle up for the first film in the director’s famed cavalry trilogy (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande are the others). Roughhouse camaraderie,
sentimental vignettes of frontier life, massive action sequences staged in
Monument Valley – all are part of Fort
Apache. So is Ford’s explorationof the West’s darker side. Themes of justice,
heroism and honor that Ford would revisit in later Westerns are given rein in
this moving, thought-provoking film that, even as it salutes a legend, gives
reasons to question it.
released special features include:
·Commentary by F.X. Feeney
·Featurette: Monument Valley: John Ford
The Searchers (1956)
Working together for the 12th time,
John Wayne and director John Ford forged The Searchers into a landmark
Western offering an indelible image of the frontier and the men and women who
challenged it. Wayne plays an ex-Confederate soldier seeking his niece,
captured by Comanches who massacred his family. He won't surrender to hunger,
thirst, the elements or loneliness. And in his five-year
search, he encounters something unexpected: his own humanity. Beautifully shot by Winton
C. Hoch, thrillingly scored by Max Steiner and memorably acted by a wonderful
ensemble including Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Natalie Wood and Ward Bond, The
Searchers endures as "a great film of enormous scope and
breathtaking physical beauty" (Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic).
Previously released special features include:
The Searchers: An Appreciation - 2006 Documentary
A Turning of the Earth:John Ford, John Wayne andThe Searchers – 1998 documentary
narrated by John Milius
Introduction by John
Wayne’s son and The Searchers co-star Patrick Wayne
Commentary by director/John
Ford biographer Peter Bogdanovich
Vintage Behind the
cameras segments from the Warner Bros. Presents TV Series
Rio Bravo (1959)
On one side is an army of gunmen dead-set on
springing a murderous cohort from jail. On the other is Sheriff John T. Chance
(John Wayne) and two deputies: a recovering drunkard (Dean Martin) and a crippled
codger (Walter Brennan). Also in their ragtag ranks are a trigger-happy youth
(Ricky Nelson) and a woman with a past (Angie Dickinson) – and her eye on
Chance. Director Howard Hawks lifted the
Western to new heights with Red River. Capturing
the legendary West with a stellar cast in peak form, he does it again here.
Previously released special features include:
Commentary by John
Carpenter and Richard Schickel
Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo
Tucson: Where the Legends Walked
Also available on Digital HD June 2, 2015
-- the JOHN WAYNE 10 FILM COLLECTION.This digital bundle
of 10 titles will include the followingfilms:
Before video became the standard in the adult film industry, movie makers had to utilize conventional- and relatively expensive- methods of bringing their erotic tales to the big screen. That meant shooting on film. Many grindhouse porn flicks were shot on lower-grade 16mm but if there was a big enough "name" involved, investors would shoot the moon (pardon the pun) and go for a 35mm release. Generally, these films boasted production values that were far superior and often had the benefit of directors who were more adept at realizing their visions than the hacks who were simply obsessed with capturing the "money shots" on grainy film stock. One of the more intriguing names to emerge in the porn industry of the 1980s was an exotic beauty named Hyapatia Lee. Ironically, while mainstream Hollywood studios were still enforcing the glass ceiling that kept females from exerting much influence behind the camera, the adult movie industry was affording women the opportunity to take more creative control over the films in which they were involved. Lee was one such woman. She started out as a stripper and scored some name recognition by becoming a two-time winner of the Nude Miss Galaxy contest. She discovered that appearing in adult films paid far more lucratively than stripping for drunk truck drivers and banking executives, so she began to assert her potential as a screenwriter. She married her boyfriend, Bud Lee, and the new power couple began collaborating on porn flicks starring Hyapatia. She built an enthusiastic following back in the era when you could see erotica on the big screen in urban red light districts.
Vinegar Syndrome has released an especially impressive Hyapatia Lee double feature. The main production is "The Ribald Tales of Canterbury", a 1985 film that is slickly produced and features unusually ornate sets and costumes. Hyapatia herself "adapted" (very, very loosely) the Chaucer classic book of bawdy stories told by pilgrims en route to the city of Canterbury. The concept of turning this scenario into a porn film was hardly original, but "Ribald Tales" is a step above most porn productions of the period. Hyapatia appears as the "hostess" who bookends the tales and, of course, appears in them as well. The various short stories depicted herein exploit all the standard scenarios (threesomes, lesbianism, etc.) but with a comic overtone. The movie's direction was attributed to Bud Lee and hubby outdoes Hitchcock by appearing in his own film, albeit in a steamy sequence. The movie features numerous familiar faces from the adult film industry of that time period including Peter North, Mike Horner, Buffy Davis, Debra Lynn and Jesse Eastern. The film is impressive on a number of levels and the erotic sequences are truly erotic. Vinegar Syndrome has provided a terrific transfer from the 35mm original negative. There is also an unusual bonus feature for an adult film: an audio commentary with the director, Bud Lee, conducted by Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin. Lee proves to be an engaging personality. He recalls how he first met Hyapatia in a strip club and then went on to marry her. He's fairly self-deprecating when it comes to making his directorial debut with this film, saying bluntly that he was uncertain of what to do and had to rely on his crew members to do the bulk of the directing. The commentary track is not only fun, it also offers a rare insider's view of the adult film industry of the 1980s. Bud Lee, who is still working in the industry today, may not have been able to break through to mainstream feature films but one does admire the professionalism he displays in regard to his work.
The second feature is titled "Tasty" and was filmed back-to-back with "Ribald Tales", utilizing the same studio space. Hyapatia Lee top-lines again but this film is far more conventional and has a "knock off" aspect to it when compared to the ambitious previous movie. The entire action takes place in a failing California radio station. The ratings are in the basement and the over-stressed station owner (Jesse Eastern) finds that even indulging in endless sex sessions with his staffers can't lower his level of anxiety. The situation worsens when his key advertiser (Bud Lee, doubling again as actor and director) gives him one week to improve the ratings or he will pull all of his ads. The staff uses an innovative method to save the station. Ignoring FCC censorship rules, they turn the station into a porn haven, dispensing sex advice and engaging in sex acts while on the air. Predictably, the ratings soar, the advertiser stays on board and the owner is congratulated on a strategic coup that he had nothing to do with. The bare bones production basically offers a few different office sets and a control room where the DJs work and play (with emphasis on play). (t's somewhat amusing to see the use of vinyl records being spun on turntables, this being the 1980s.) Hayaptia Lee is the central character, Tasty Tastums (an "homage" to legendary America DJ Casey Kasem) and she gets to strut her stuff, singing and dancing in an erotic video titled "Hit Me With Your Wet Shot", this "homage" attributable to Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot". It seems petty to fault any performance in a porn film because the actors aren't graduates of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but even by this standard, the acting ability of Jesse Eastern defies description. In a filmed interview included as a bonus extra, Bud Lee can't help but admit he could not get a credible performance from Eastern, at least in the non-sex scenes. Eastern is so bad that his temperamental outbursts on screen threaten to eclipse the sex scenes in terms of entertainment value.
Both movies were produced for porn legend Bob Chinn's Caribbean Films. The special edition includes original trailers for both movies. If retro erotic films appeal to you, this double feature is another impressive winner from Vinegar Syndrome.
The decline and decay of American urban centers in the 1960s- along with the inevitable soaring crime rates- inspired Hollywood studios to reflect the general mood of society. It was clearly a tumultuous period, perhaps the most divisive era in American history since the Civil War a hundred years before. Race riots, Vietnam War protests, assassinations of high profile figures and soaring poverty rates combined to provide a perfect storm of social unrest. Always a barometer of where society was at at any particular point in time, the major studio releases begat a tidal wave of urban crime movies. Many of these centered on a single "lone wolf" protagonist...the "dirty cop", if you will, who generally had disdain for following constitutional rights in his quest to fight crime, often within the very police department he worked for. From the late 1960s through the 1970s, we saw such memorable cops as "Popeye" Doyle, "Dirty Harry" Callahan, Frank Bullitt and Virgil Tibbs taking on crime kingpins as well as top brass. The actions of these cops would be found to abhorrent today but at the time, the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach clearly had the backing of an American population that was losing faith in their criminal justice system. Sidney Lumet's 1973 film "Serpico" was perhaps the most compelling look at this problem, as it depicted a real life New York City police officer who dared to take on corruption in the highest levels of his own department and discovered that payoffs and back room deals between cops and crooks were systemic. By the mid-1970s, even John Wayne, the most stalwart symbol of political conservatism, had gone rogue by playing "stick-it-to-the-brass" detectives in "McQ" and "Brannigan". The explosion of urban crime dramas provided a great many opportunities for black actors. Sidney Poitier paved the way with his landmark performance in the 1967 film "In the Heat of the Night" and then revived the leading man from that film, Virgil Tibbs, in several sequels. The 1971 release of director Gordon Parks' "Shaft", portraying a slick, cynical black private eye, was a surprise success with mainstream audiences and led to the overnight tidal wave of so-called blaxploitation films, which were, with few exceptions, crudely made productions that merited "guilty pleasure" status with viewers. One of the many benefits of this trend was the emergence of so many fine African American actors who had been performing under the radar in terms of name recognition.
"Across 110th Street", released in 1972, is not a blaxploitation film but it is a hybrid between that genre and the more upscale big studio crime flicks of the era. It boasts an intelligent script by Luther Davis, based on the source novel by Walter Ferris. The film takes place during the period when Harlem was generally depicted on screen as an urban wasteland, characterized by burned out buildings, back lots strewn with garbage and a generation of young black man with no hopes or prospects and, thus, falling prey to the lure of the criminal life. The movie opens with a back room meeting between members of an odd alliance: Mafia guys getting together with their counterparts in the Harlem mob to split up weekly proceeds from shakedowns and other ill-gotten gains. Just as they are counting the loot, they are interrupted by two black police officers who turn out to be small time crooks in disguise. They attempt to steal the money but the plan goes awry leading to the machine gun massacre of all the mob guys. The four perpetrators of the crime against the crooks make a hair-raising getaway, gunning down two legitimate police officers in the process. The NYPD is determined to find the culprits. Ordinarily, it would fall to veteran police captain Matelli (Anthony Quinn) to head the investigation. However, he's ordered to play a subordinate role to Lt. Pope, a young up-and-coming black detective (Yaphet Kotto) who the top brass believe might have more resources within the Harlem community. The notion of taking orders from someone with a subordinate rank infuriates Matelli and he had Pope have a strained relationship at best. "Across 110th Street" is a unique crime movie from this period on a number of levels. For one, the two main police protagonists don't dominate the movie. Most of the screen time is dedicated to the plight of the four hapless thieves who inadvertently caused a massacre. They split up and hope to stay under the radar in the wake of the crime. However, not only are the cops looking for them but so is the Harlem mob as well as Mafia goons headed by their enforcer, Nick D'Salvio. Everyone wants the stolen money and the frightened men who have it are in imminent danger. In some harrowing sequences, D'Salvio and his men track down three of the four thieves and render torturous street justice to them. The last remaining holdout is Jim Harris (superbly played by Paul Benjamin), the smartest of the group who manages to stay hidden thanks to the help of his sexy girlfriend. However, in an intriguing plot twist, his asthma leads to complications that result in a terrifically exciting finale as cops, mob guys and the Harlem crooks all race to get to him first.
The film was directed with admirable style by Barry Shear, who was primarily a TV director of repute, though he did helm the low-budget cult movie "Wild in the Streets" in 1968. Shear presents a flair not only for ambitious action sequences but also for intense dramatic scenes between the main characters. Anthony Quinn gets top billing and gives a fine performance as a world-weary cop who considers himself honest even though he is on the payroll of a Harlem crime king. He also thinks nothing of beating suspects and depriving them of legal representation, tactics that appall the more modern and progressive methods of Lt. Pope. The two men clash constantly and the inevitable racial and generational barriers between them becomes points of contention. This was an important film for Yaphet Kotto. Although he had been a respected character actor for years, this time around he got "above the title" billing with Quinn. His quiet intensity has always allowed him to steal every scene he is in and this is no exception. Kotto always brings dignity to the roles he plays, even if the characters are not very dignified. Anthony Franciosa also has a meaty role as the outwardly charming D'Salvio, who is, in reality, a merry sadist. Although he travels with goons and bodyguards, he enjoys getting his hands dirty and administrating the beatings and tortures himself. There are a couple of other "up-and-comers" seen in supporting roles including Burt Young and Gloria Hendry, who would go on to star with Yaphet Kotto in the James Bond hit "Live and Let Die" the following year. The film captures the look and feel of New York City at the low point in its history. Today, the city has undergone a Renaissance, as has many of the great American urban centers. Gotham routinely posts annual crime figures that are the lowest since the early 1960s. The city is a far cry from the era in which this film is made but one aspect of the movie remains uncomfortably relevant: the relationship between police and the minority community, as evidenced by continuous high profile cases that seem to erupt in the news every other day. Although most of these incidents now seem to take place outside of major urban areas, they provide proof that America has still not completely turned the corner on one of the most divisive aspects of its culture: race relations.
The film has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The transfer has a graininess to it that I believe represents the way the film was originally shot. In any event, it only adds to the grindhouse nature of the subject matter. "Across 110th Street" is a top-notch crime thriller from an era that boasted many top-notch crime thrillers. Essential viewing, if you like films from this era. The only bonus is trailer, which is a work print version that is lacking any on-screen titles or credits. In all, another welcome release from Kino Lorber. (See below for original trailer with credits.)
Possessed,” (1961), a soap opera starring Lana Turner that was her attempt to
have another hit on the order of “Peyton Place,” has two distinguishing
features. First, two of the male leads, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and Jason
Robards, Jr., have Jr. after their names, (There may be other films with two
juniors in the top-ranked cast, but I can’t think of them, can you?) and,
second, it may be the worst film that the estimable John Sturges ever directed.
Other than that, there is absolutely nothing noteworthy about this film except
how bad it is.
First of all even
though Lana got star billing, the central character is really the lawyer played
by Zimbalist. He’s partners with Robards in a firm headed by Thomas Mitchell. Efrem is a
cold, unfeeling guy who believes in fulfilling the letter of the law, no matter
who it hurts. (Sounds perfect to play in a TV series about the FBI). To show
the kind of guy he is, Efrem discovers Thomas Mitchell has been screwing up the
law firm’s books. When he first suspects something’s wrong he tells Robards
they’ll have to put the old man on moth balls, because he’s becoming senile. He
plans to take away all his duties, and just keep him around as a lawn jockey.
Jason flinches, telling Efrem to carry out the deed because he couldn’t bring
himself to hurt him that way.
Zimbalist has a
wife (Barbara Bel Geddes) who’s in the hospital with a tennis injury
(presumably tennis elbow!) They have a son (George Hamilton) who hates his
life. It’s rough being wealthy and going to Harvard Law School. George, in
turn, has a girlfriend (Susan Kohner),
but he’s bored with her because she won’t sleep with him. After failing to have
a meaningful conversation about relationships with his father, George decides
to take up with the town tramp, Yvonne Craig.
wifey Bel Geddes in the hospital, and Robards away in New York, Efrem discovers
Lana has eyes for him. You see, Robards is impotent as the result of an
undefined accident. Efrem and Lana start
a little fling. In the meantime, Efrem’s son, George’s date with the easy girl Yvonne turns disastrous when he brushes her off
afterward, and she cries rape. Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Conner) shows up as the
police chief and arrests George. George gets out of jail and skips on his bail.
When girlfriend Kohner finds out about the tramp she kills herself by drinking
cleaning fluid. That’s right. Cleaning
By this time, I
felt like I wanted to take a swig of it myself. But as Everett Sloan as the family
doctor says, while playing gin with
Efrem, “Forces are put in motion that lead to an inevitable end, and sometimes
it’s a bitter inevitablility” or some jazz like that, that makes as much sense
as the rest of the movie. I won’t bore you with the rest of this tedious
nonsense, but suffice to say that, since it was only 1961 and the sexual
revolution was still to come later in the decade, the hypocritical ending lets
just about everyone off the hook, morally speaking.
biggest mystery surrounding this film is how in the world John Sturges came to
direct it. Sturges had already done “The Magnificent Seven” the year before,
and “Gunfight at the OK Corral” before that, and would go on to “The Great
Escape” and other solid action films. Perhaps Sturges’ venture into Douglas
Sirk territory best serves as a reminder that if you want a long career in
Hollywood, you’ve got to be flexible.
Possessed” was a Seven Arts Production with script by Charles Schnee (as John
Dennis) produced by Walter Mirisch, music score by Elmer Bernstein and cinematography
by Russell Metty. MGM’s Limited Edition Collection DVD is presented in 16x9 1.85:1
widescreen format. Picture is adequate, sound a bit flat and tinny. Recommended
for Lana Turner completists and those with a taste for cleaning fluid.
(John M. Whalen is the author of "Hunting Monsters is My Business: The Mordecai Slate Stories" . Click here to order the book from Amazon)
The incomparable filmography of raven-eyed Barbara Steele
attests to the iconic actresses’ reign as the uncontested Queen of Gothic
Horror cinema. Though a British
national, Steele’s earliest roles for England’s film industry were mostly
unexceptional; she was usually offered roles small and oft-times un-credited. Her most notable work would neatly coincide
with the turn of the calendar page from the prim 1950s to the more robust and
envelope-pushing 1960s. Steele’s finest
and most memorable films were, not without exception, neither productions of
English nor American origin. Though she would work alongside horror-master
Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s highly polished and well- regarded retelling of
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961), this big-screen splash was
something on an anomaly. Steele’s
reputation as horror-film goddess was largely advanced by several evocative roles
in a series of hauntingly memorable, modestly-budgeted, and singularly Italian
or Italian-European co-productions. She
worked with the best: several of her most remarkable films were helmed, under
the aegis of such celebrated directors as Mario Bava (“Black Sunday”) and Federico
Fellini (“8 ½”).
Though he would never, perhaps rightfully, be knighted with
the auteur status bestowed upon such contemporaries
as Bava and Fellini, Antonio Margheriti’s resume of film credits – particularly
fantastic film credits - is lengthier
than that of either director. There was
no denying he could deliver, on time and on budget, a marketable - if sometimes
pedestrian and occasionally incoherent - science-fiction or sword-and-sandal epic
to the studio. Conversely, Margheriti’s
sensitive and nuanced handling of the gothic-horror period films assigned to
him in the early 1960s was never less than completely stylish: such entries as “The
Virgin of Nuremberg” (aka “Horror Castle”) (1963), with Christopher Lee in a small
red-herring role, remains a memorable addition to the canon. The director’s immediate follow-up, “Danza
Macabra” (“Castle of Blood”) (1964) with Barbara Steele was, on the other hand,
so much more than the ordinary color-by-numbers ghost story. That black and white film is, in the opinion
of this reviewer, nothing short of brilliant, an atmospheric and haunting masterpiece
of gothic-horror cinema. Undeservedly,
as would be the case with many of his earliest films, this celluloid treasure
was unceremoniously relegated to U.S. markets as programming fodder for the drive-in
theater circuit. Thankfully, many of
Margheriti’s films – including, inevitably, many of his lesser works - would eventually
draw new breath. Many of his earliest films
were ultimately saved from obscurity when several titles became staples of
late-night broadcast TV.
Margheriti is described on Raro Video’s brilliant recent
Blu-Ray issue of “The Long Hair of Death” (1964) as having been totally
“fascinated” by Barbara Steele’s persona, and terribly eager to work with the
actress again on a follow-up project. As
“Castle of Blood” had proven to be a low-budget but world-wide success at the international
box office, Margheriti did his best to assemble the same troupe of actors and
film technicians for his next gothic horror outing. Many of the sets for “The Long Hair of Death”
would be familiar to fans of “Castle of Blood.” The cemetery vaults and imposing Italian castle located some forty miles
outside of Rome were re-visits to the gloomy settings of his previous
collaboration with Steele. He was
comfortable in this surrounding, and there were few gothic-horror tropes not
employed by Margheriti - with great effect – in both films. It’s all there to be found – very atmospherically
presented - on screen: the gloomy old
castle, cobwebs, candelabras, chains and steel gates, labyrinth catacombs, torches,
dark-robed shadowy figures, rats, crypts littered with skulls and bones, secret
passageways, and, of course, the elegant and expansive sitting room outfitted
with large hearths and ancient armaments that adorn the walls.
The plot of “The Long Hair of Death” is simple and
recognizable. Near the end of the 15th
century, a witch, Adele Karnstein, is condemned to die by fire for the murder
of Franz Humboldt, the brother of the reigning Count (Giuliano Raffaelli). In her final moment before succumbing to the
flames, Karnstein chooses to wickedly put a century’s end curse of pestilence on
the village – with a very special retribution to be meted out to the
descendants of those who accused her, wrongly, of the crime. Before dying, she cries out to her estranged daughters,
Lisabeth (Halina Zalewska) and Helen (Barbara Steele), to avenge her murder by
the village royals. In an attempt not to
give too much away, I believe it’s safe to say that the mother’s curse will
bode well for neither the reigning Count nor his scheming and loathsome son
Sidney Sheldon (1917-2007), the playwright, television
mogul, and novelist, reportedly sold well over 300 million books in his
lifetime. This is a pretty impressive number
for a man who only turned to churning out books in his early fifties. If I hedged on the word “writing” when
describing the mogul’s working methods, I’m not being coy and
disrespectful. Perhaps taking a page
from fellow television writer-creator-workaholic Rod Serling’s own playbook, Sheldon
would dictate his stories into a tape recorder and later have secretaries type
out his ramblings. With words committed
to paper, Sheldon would then skillfully revise and edit and buffer the
manuscript until satisfied he had a full-fledged novel on hand. Though a number of literary critics - and resentful
thriller-writing contemporaries - would excoriate the creator/writer of The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie for his work method
and hackneyed storylines, readers worldwide made Sheldon one of the most
successful popular-market paperback novelists of all time.
One fan of Sheldon’s books was Roger Moore, also in the
midst of enjoying a great run of wealth and fame as James Bond. The actor would recall in his memoir My Word is My Bond, “Since first reading
Sidney Sheldon’s book The Naked Face
I had felt it would lend itself to a very good film.” Moore was interested in exploring new
projects; he was certain his sixth and most recent outing as Bond, Octopussy (1983), was likely his last. He was, after all, now fifty-seven years old. He could be forgiven for believing his
successful turn as British secret agent 007 had come to its natural end.
Several years prior to the cinema version of “The Naked
Face,” Moore was cast in “Sunday Lovers” (1980), a dismal romantic-comedy of four
vignettes tethered together as a feature-length film. The Franco-Italian production would be
released in the U.S. in the early winter of 1981. Though the film performed poorly at the
box-office on both sides of the Atlantic, critics agreed the movie’s first
tale, a distinctly British farce titled “An Englishman’s Home,” was clearly the
best of an otherwise bad bunch. The screenplay for this segment had been written
by the British playwright and lyricist Leslie Bricusse, and featured a talented
ensemble: Moore, Denholm Elliot, Lynn
Redgrave, and Priscilla Barnes. The
vignette was helmed with modest flourish by Bryan Forbes, a formidable figure
in the British film industry who had only recently stepped down as managing
director of EMI films. Moore enjoyed
working with the director on “Sunday Lovers” as Forbes, a true Renaissance man,
had been an old colleague. The two had been
friends since their earliest training together at the Royal Academy of Dramatic
Around this same time a pair of Israeli nationals,
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, became primary shareholders of Cannon Films, a floundering
company teetering on bankruptcy and desperate for well-heeled investors. The savvy cousins would quickly reinvigorate
the company’s fortunes in the 1980s with a profitable string of teen-horrors
and testosterone-fueled low-budget action B-films starring Charles Bronson and
Chuck Norris. In the interim of such
box-office successes as “Death Wish II” and the first of the “Missing in Action”
films, the producers actively courted Moore for a possible collaboration. The interests of both parties converged when a
window of opportunity opened following the actor’s wrap of Octopussy. Moore’s suggestion
of Sidney Sheldon’s 1970 best-selling novel “The Naked Face” as a possible
project for Cannon was met with enthusiasm. The deal was sealed when the filmmakers agreed to green-light Moore’s
friend Bryan Forbes as director for the project. Golan and Globus announced production of “The
Naked Face” with customary Cannon ballyhoo at the Cannes International Film
The premise of both the novel and film was classic
Hitchcock. A contemplative Chicago
psychiatrist, Dr. Judd Stevens (Roger Moore), becomes entangled as primary
suspect for a series of murders of which he is innocent and seems to have no
connection. As “The Naked Face” was clearly
targeted as entertainment for a sophisticated adult demographic, the producers
cast an impressive roster of middle-to-late-age talent. These were faces familiar to seasoned moviegoers: Rod Steiger, Anne Archer, Elliott Gould, and
Art Carney among them. The casting,
sadly, was not terribly profound. The
producers would cast veteran actor Rod Steiger as Moore’s foil, the
frothing-at-the-mouth, bulldog detective Lt. McGreavy. Steiger’s performance was certainly memorable. Unfortunately, it is memorable for all of the
wrong reasons. The most obvious problem with the actor’s
performance was, as Moore would later lament, Steiger did little to mitigate
his well-deserved reputation amongst his peers as a “scene chewer.” There’s plenty of that charge in evidence
here. The actor’s one-note portrayal is,
in turn, amusing and wearying. McGreavy comes off as a highly-caffeinated
Sgt. Joe Friday, ready to assign even the sketchiest shred of circumstantial
evidence as proof of Moore’s culpability in the murders. The detective’s dogged single-mindedness to
implicate the doctor is explained away as a result of the psychiatrist’s
testimony on behalf of a mentally unstable man who murdered his former police-partner
some years earlier. Elliott Gould is
cast as Angeli, McGreavy’s calmer and more reasonable contemporary partner. He is, seemingly, the better angel of this
traditional “good cop/bad cop” pairing. But
Gould is surprisingly unremarkable here, turning in a curiously flat and remote
performance. Art Carney plays Morgens, an
elderly, eccentric private investigator and collector of vintage clocks, who
briefly allies with Moore. Incredibly,
we’re expected to believe that the contemplative Dr. Stevens would engage this
low-rent private investigator through a listing in the Chicago Yellow Pages.
1975 Stuart Young returned to New York City after graduating from Boston’s
Emerson College with a degree in Mass Communications to begin his career in
show business. Time Warner had just begun laying cable throughout Manhattan and
Young saw an opportunity to produce a show that would air weekly on Public
Access TV and address a growing population of new viewers. The program was
called Inside The Naked City and took a point of view look at nightclubs,
restaurants and social events that were taking place at the time. Through a
mutual friend he was introduced to Herb Graff, the man who would become his
mentor and ultimately change the path his career would take. Monday through
Friday from 9 to 5 Herb was head of sales for the Arrow Shirt Company but that
was just a way to pay for his fulltime passion and hobby…film collecting. In
partnership with critic Leonard Maltin and cinephile Gene Stavis he operated
Film Mavens, a stock footage company specializing in vintage motion pictures.
Additionally he lectured and created thematic evenings around his vast film
collection and invited Young and his crew to attend and shoot one of them. It
was a tribute to Myrna Loy at the Waldorf Astoria and Young, a longtime fan of
the actress and her work in the Thin Man series for MGM, jumped at the
opportunity. That evening would mark the beginning of a lifelong friendship
between the two men and a new direction for both of them.
was an expert in “public domain” footage which was a way of utilizing and
selling material which had either never been copyrighted or had become free and
clear due to either lack of renewal or disinterest by the original owners. His
collection and expertise spanned from the late 1800s to the early 1950s and
stayed locked in that period.
I was a baby boomer”, remembers Young, “I was interested in movies from the
fifties and sixties and asked Herb about adding them to the collection. He
laughed derisively and told me to go out and find my own, which I did, and thus
a business and a website was born.”
then began actively looking for his own special interest films. “The very first
16mm print I bought was from a young collector whom Herb put me in touch with.
I have always had a great fondness for Jayne Mansfield and he sold me a black
& white version of Too Hot to Handle, as it was originally called when
distributed in England. It would later be distributed in the United States with
the more salacious title Playgirl After Dark and was a great find for me at the
time and to this day as I am still selling it both online and in retail stores
via by distributor Allied Vaughn.”
he began researching more titles and hired someone to go directly to the
Library of Congress to determine copyright statuses, he found more and more
movies he considered “orphans” and doggedly searched for existing prints all
over the United States to add to his “orphanage.” Since there was generally no
afterlife for movies during the fifties and sixties in a world where home video,
cable and satellite TV were not yet commercial realities, once a film finished
its theatrical run that was the end of its life cycle. Producers and
distributors, especially those in foreign markets, chose not to waste money on
copyrighting and storing a print in the Library of Congress, and Young
literally found a pot of gold at the end of his personal rainbow.
Young, “I was an avid follower of the ongoing series which appeared in Playboy
Magazine, The History Of Sex In The Cinema written by Arthur Knight and Hollis
Alpert, and those men handed me a virtual map to the treasures I was looking
the original umbrella title package Sex Sirens Of Cinema, he put together a
catalogue of notable legendary ladies who had captured the erotic imaginations
of many an admirer such as himself during their heyday. Sophia Loren, Mamie Van
Doren, Brigitte Bardot, Ann-Margret, Raquel Welch, Elke Sommer, Claudia
Cardinale, and Gina Lollobrigida were among the original stars of the movies he
bought, transferred to video, and sold to a global market of enthusiastic
consumers who were either already familiar with these bombshells of the past or
curious as to who they were and why their appeal continues unabated.
made deals both in the emerging retail and broadcast markets”, continues Young,
“and then the world suddenly discovered the previously secretive world of the
internet known only to the military, and voila, a brand new place to display my
now abundantly endowed orphanage emerged.”
2000 he launched Cinemasirens.com as a free site where fans and consumers could
browse the photo galleries, movie memorabilia, and also purchase the rare,
unique and largely forgotten films which were of interest to a population still
desirous of reliving memories of the past but of no interest to the current
studios and entertainment conglomerates who sell their wares in the here and
Young, “When I first opened the site many people including my friends
questioned the decision to populate it mostly with Black & White relics
from the past. They wondered who in the world would buy such stuff! Well, I’ve
sold those relics to both the people who appeared in them, wrote them, produced
them, and couldn’t find them anyplace else and have been doing it for 15 years.
Next to greed, sex is the most powerful force there is when it comes to the
human condition. Add incredibly beautiful and timeless women to the mix and a
decent storyline, and you have the stuff of which dreams and long term
businesses are made of.”
In the humble opinion of this writer, Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas" is the best American movie of the 1990s; a virtually perfect witches brew of violence, betrayal, misguided loyalties and a so-called "code of honor" practiced by a select group of criminals who fancied themselves no worse than your average working stiff. The production, which grabs the viewer from that early, amazing tracking shot that goes inside the Copacabana, boasts some of the finest acting ever seen in any film, with yeomen work by Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino and, most notably, Joe Pesci in an Oscar-winning performance. Add to that some of the best casting ever seen in relation to supporting roles and you have a classic for the ages.
Appropriately, Warner Home Entertainment has released a special 25th anniversary commemorative Blu-ray edition of the film. As outlined below in the official press release, the Blu-ray carries over all previously-released material from other special editions and provides a new documentary produced by Brett Ratner that features most of the principals (and others unrelated to the film) extolling Scorsese's achievement. One cautionary note: despite being referenced in the press release, neither Jack Nicholson -who starred in Scorsese's "The Departed"- or Joe Pesci appear in the new documentary. Nevertheless, add this to your "must-have" list.
On May 5, Warner Bros. HomeEntertainment (WBHE) willreleaseGoodFellason2-DiscBlu-rayfeaturinganewdocumentarywith interviews from Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harvey
Keitel, Ray Liotta andmore, and a
36-page photo book exploring the film’s far-reaching influence. The bookalso includes a letter written by MartinScorsese.
The 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release of GoodFellas, cited by film critic Roger Ebertas “the best mob movie ever,” has been
remastered from a 4k scan of the originalcamera
negative, supervised by Martin Scorsese. The Blu-ray release also includes
DigitalHD with UltraViolet and will
be available for $34.99 SRP. Fans can also own GoodFellason Digital
HD via purchase from digitalretailers.
GoodFellas explores the criminal life like no other
movie. Following the rise and fall ofa
trio of gangsters over 30 years, it’s an electrifying, fact-inspired tale of
living – anddying. Based on the true-life
best seller “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi, the film earnedsix Academy Award® nominations, including Best
Picture and Best Director and wasnamed
1990’s ‘Best Film’ by the New York, Los Angeles and National Society of Film
Critics.In 2000, GoodFellas was selected for
preservation in the National Film Registry by theUS Library ofCongress.
Scorsese was awarded
the Silver Lion Award for Best Director in Venice. RobertDe
Niro received wide recognition for his performance as veteran criminal Jimmy
“TheGent” Conway, and Joe Pesci,
as the volatile Tommy DeVito, walked off with theBest Supporting Actor Oscar®. Academy Award® nominees Lorraine Bracco,
Ray Liottaand Paul Sorvino also
turned in electrifyingperformances.
include all previously released special features alongwith:
Documentary includes interview with the Director, cast andsome of your all-time favorite movie
gangsters! – Join some of MartinScorsese’s greatest gangsters – Robert De
Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harvey Keitel,Ray
Liotta, Jack Nicholson and Joe Pesci – to discover what it’s like to workfor perhaps the greatest gangster director
has released a three-disc Blu-ray set of Robert Rossellini’s celebrated ‘War
Trilogy’. The three films, Rome, Open
City (1945), Paisà (1946) and Germany Year Zero (1948) are among the
jewels in neorealism’s crown. Set in Italy during the German Occupation and its
aftermath, the first two films depict Italy wartorn and almost on the brink of
capitulation, while the third looks at a post-war Germany shattered by the
Rossellini had made three fascist propaganda
films during the war: The White Navy (1941
– detailing hospital ships), A Pilot
Returns (1942 – the air force) and Man
of the Cross (1943 – the Eastern Front). But in the immediate post-war
period his War Trilogy told a very different story of the conflict, often from
a civilian perspective. The Allies invaded Italy, first in Sicily in July 1943
and later the mainland in September of that year. As the liberators fought
their way northward, the Germans exacted terrible revenge on their one-time
Set in the winter of 1943-44, Rome, Open City depicts the hunt for
Giorgio Manfredi (Marcell Pagliero), a resistance leader in Rome. Another
member of the resistance, Francesco (Francesco Grandjacquet), is due to marry
widow Pina (Anna Magnani), but on their wedding day the Gestapo and Italian
fascists raid their apartment block. Later SS Major Bergmann (Harry Feist)
captures Manfredi and also orders the execution of a priest, Don Pietro
Pellegrini (Aldo Fabrizi), who has aided the resistance. Rome, Open City is a powerful film about the German occupation,
made on location and with a strong sense of authenticity. The ‘Open City’
epithet is a reference to Rome being declared an ‘open city’ on 14 August 1943,
meaning that the defenders had abandoned all efforts to protect the city. This
tactic was intended to safeguard the civilian population and the historical
landmarks from street fighting and aerial bombing (Paris had made the same declaration
in 1940, as did Brussels and Oslo). Rome,
Open City headlines Anna Magnani’s star-making role and established
Rossellini on the international stage as a leading light of the neorealist
movement. Mangani’s death scene, outside her house in Via Raimondo Montecuccoli
in Rome, is among the most famous moments in international cinema. The BFI’s
release is a newly-remastered presentation of the film. Also included on the
disc is Children of Open City (2005,
51 mins) a documentary about the making of the film with Vito Annicchiarico
(who played Pina’s son in the film), and an illustrated booklet by Jonathan
Rosenbaum and Paul Fairclough.
Paisà, my personal favourite of
the trilogy, is perhaps Rossellini’s greatest film. Here the grit and sorrow of
neorealism combines with newsreel combat footage to moving effect. The
six-episode film is set during the Allied campaign to liberate Italy. It begins
in Sicily in 1943 and concludes in the Po Delta in the winter of 1944. In the
first episode, Carmela (Carmela Sazio), a young Sicilian woman, acts as a guide
to a GI patrol on a nighttime patrol. When GI Joe (Robert Van Loon) attempts to
show her a photo of his sister, he strikes a light and a German sniper kills
him. Later the GI’s think Carmela is responsible for Joe’s death. Episode two
is set in Naples. Orphaned street urchin Pasquale (Alfonso Pasca) steals the
boots off drunken American military policeman Joe (Dots Johnson). Later the MP
meets Pasquale again and when he sees Pasquale’s squalid living conditions and
those of other Neapolitan civilians, he realises why the orphan needs to steal
boots. In Rome following the Anzio landings, Sherman tank crewman Fred (Gar
Moore) hitches up with a prostitute. He drunkenly remembers that six months
ago, on his first arrival in Rome, he met a wonderful Roman girl called
Francesca. He is too drunk to realise that the woman he is with is Francesca,
who has been compelled to become a ‘working girl’ to avoid starvation. The film
continues with an episode set during the German retreat north through Tuscan.
In Florence, British nurse Harriet (Harriet White) and Massimo (Enzo Tarascio)
attempt to cross the River Arno: she to contact her lover, Guido Lombardi who
is now heroic partisan leader Lupo (Wolf), he to see his wife and child whose
house is caught up in the fighting. Traversing rooftops and rubble, and
avoiding fascist snipers and patrols, they make contact with partisans in the
German occupied zone. In the next story, at the Gothic Line three US chaplains
– Captain Bill Martin (William Tubbs), Captain Feldman (Elmer Feldman) and
Captain Jones (Newell Jones) – seek shelter in a Franciscan monastery in the
Apennines. The chaplains give the monks Hershey bars and their supplies of
tinned food, but the monks’ attitudes change when they discover that two of the
chaplains are not of the ‘true faith’, but are Jewish and Protestant. In the
final episode, anti-fascist partisans and American OSS operatives fight the Germans
in the Po Delta, south of Venice. This episode is the most actionful and
climaxes with a battle between the partisans and German gunboats on the delta. Paisà depicts the stark reality of war
and its wider impact on society in a way that makes Hollywood and British war
films of the period look inauthentic in comparison. The BFI’s presentation of Paisà includes Into the Future (2009), a 30-minute visual essay on the War Trilogy
by film scholar Tag Gallagher, and an illustrated booklet written by
Germany Year Zero (1948) was set and filmed
in Berlin in the aftermath of Germany’s defeat. The film follows a German
family, the Köhlers. The father (Ernst Pittschau), a widower, is infirm: the
victim of a weak heart and poor diet. His daughter Eva (Ingetraud Hinze) works
at night as a prostitute and his eldest son Karl-Heinz, an ex-soldier, is in
hiding and fears being carted off to a prison camp. The film’s principal
protagonists, the Köhlers’ youngest son Edmund (Edmund Meschke), falls in with
gangs of petty thieves and street kid urchins, and hawks wares on the street
for his old schoolteacher, Mr Henning (Erich Gühne). Rossellini’s documentary-like
style and good performances ensure the degradation of post-war life in ruined Berlin
is palpable. Piles of real Berlin masonry, as photographed by Robert Juillard,
are the haunting backdrop to the story. The BFI edition is a restored print and
includes a booklet with writing on Rossellini by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith,
Jonathan Rosenbaum and Paul Fairclough. The disk also features Rossellini’s
1948 film, L’amore: Due storie d’amore,
a two-part film starring Anna Magnani, which runs 77 minutes. The first part, A Human Voice, is a screen adaptation of
Jean Cocteau’s La Voix humaine while
the second, The Miracle, was based on
a story by Federico Fellini, who was also the film’s assistant director and
appears in the film as a shepherd.
The three films are available on Blu-ray as a
limited edition numbered boxed set or as individual DVDs. The extras are
comprehensive and enlightening. These are superb presentations of three key
Italian films and as a set are essential purchases for anyone interested in
post-war world cinema.
£49.99 / Cat. no. BFIB1193 Certificate 12
in Italian, German and English language, with optional English subtitles/ 301
mins / BD50 x3 / 1080p / 24 fps / PCM mono audio (48k/24-bit) / Region B/2
Founded by producers James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff, American International Pictures (A.I.P.) hit upon a formula of financing and releasing low-budget exploitation films for non-discriminating audiences (translation: the youth market). Specializing in horror films and goofy comedies, A.I.P. occasionally strayed into other genres. In 1963, the company capitalized on the always-popular WWII genre with the release of "Operation Bikini". Ostensibly, the movie's title referred to the obscure atoll in the Pacific where atomic bomb tests were conducted during the Cold War era. However, in true A.I.P. style, the advertising campaign was designed to imply that the title might also refer to the fact that the bikini bathing suit was popularized here by a French designer who conducted a photo shoot on the atoll just days after an atomic blast. (Ignorant of the risks from radiation poison, he merrily pronounced that "like the bomb, the bikini is small and devastating!") Still, the sexploitation angle in "Operation Bikini" was saved for late in the film. What precedes its appearance is a fairly routine combat flick made somewhat more interesting by the obvious attempts of the filmmakers to disguise the movie's very limited budget.
Tab Hunter, one of the top heart throbs of the era, had by this point seen his popularity in decline. He nonetheless received top billing over charismatic crooner Frankie Avalon, whose career was ascending and who would find great popularity as the star of several A.I.P. beach movies over the next few years. Hunter plays Lt. Morgan Hayes, the leader of a secret commando team that has been ordered to rendezvous with a U.S. submarine that has been ordered to transport them on a secret mission. The team is supposed to locate and destroy the sunken wreckage of an American sub that was recently sunk off the coast of Bikini by the Japanese. Seems the wreckage contains a prototype of a top secret sonar device that the Allies can't afford to fall into enemy hands. From minute one, Hayes' small group of rough house land-lubbers rubs the Captain of the submarine, Emmett Carey (Scott Brady) and his crew the wrong way. Hayes' men resent being cooped up in a floating "tin can" and the naval crew resents the presence of these brash soldiers who seem to be perpetually eager to provoke a fight. Carey gives Hayes a dressing down about keeping the tension levels low and the two men ultimately gain mutual respect for one another. Upon arriving at Bikini, Hayes and his men must sneak ashore and traverse the dense jungle in search of the area where the sunken submarine is located. They are guided by local partisans who conveniently include a stunning beauty named Reiko, played by Eva Six, a recent winner of the "Miss Golden Globes" honor. (I will refrain from making any tasteless jokes.) Reiko takes a shine to Hayes and gets his mind temporarily off his troubles by seducing him. When Hayes and his men finally arrive at their destination, they are dismayed to see a virtual fleet of Japanese vessels guarding the coast line where the sub is already being salvaged by the enemy. Hayes realizes that they are now probably on a suicide mission. Nevertheless, they persevere courageously, dodging and sometimes engaging Japanese patrols before sending in Hayes and some fellow scuba divers to attach time bombs to the hull of the sunken sub. (The sequence is rather absurd because the team accomplishes this in the dead of night despite not being able to employ any lighting equipment whatsoever.) Detected by the Japanese, Hayes and his heroes take some casualties in their desperate attempt to make it back to Capt. Carey's submarine.
Although I have a weak spot for Italian westerns of the 1960s and 1970s, most can be appropriately evaluated by paraphrasing Longfellow: "When they were good, they were very, very good, and when they were bad, they were horrid." "Blindman" is a curiosity from 1971 that I have always had a desire to see, if only because of the interesting premise and leading actors. It fits rather comfortably into the latter part of Longfellow's famous nursery rhyme. Although the film has a devoted fan base, for this viewer, it's a pretty horrid experience and inexcusably amateurish in execution, given the well-seasoned people involved. As the title implies, it's about...well, a blind man. He's played by Tony Anthony, who did rather well for himself as a sort of Clint Eastwood Lite version, playing the character of The Stranger in two Euro westerns. (Any similarity to Eastwood's Man With No Name must have been purely coincidental). Anthony went on to star in any number of lucrative, low-budget action films, the most notable being "Comin' At Ya!, a 3-D flick that has also built a loyal cult following. His co-star in "Blindman" is Ringo Starr. More about him later. The film was based on a Japanese movie titled "Zatoichi" about a blind samurai hero. As with "The Magnificent Seven", which was based on Kurasawa's "Seven Samurai", the story has been transplanted to the American west. When we first see the Blindman (whose name is never mentioned), he rides into a one horse town and confronts his former partners. Seems they had a lucrative contract to deliver 50 mail order brides to some horny miners. However, a better offer was made from a Mexican bandito named Domingo (Lloyd Battista), who has exported them South 'O the Border to force them into prostitution. The Blindman apparently has a sense of honor in terms of fulfilling the original contract. He manages to kill his former partners and sets off to Mexico to rescue the women, presumably so they can sold into another form of prostitution. At first the premise of this film intrigued me. How, after all, can you logically present a story about a blind gunslinger? The answer is you apparently can't. You could get away with it if the film was a satire, but there is surprisingly little overt humor in "Blindman". Yes, in true Eastwood fashion, the hero sometimes makes some snarky quips before, during and after dispatching his adversaries, but for the most part, the film takes itself far too seriously.
How does the Blindman find his way around? Well, he has his own "wonder horse" who seems more like a companion than a beast of burden. The hoofed hero is always at his disposal and seems to be able to do everything but read a map for him. Speaking of maps, Blindman gets to various destinations by running his finger over maps that engraved in leather...sort of a braille system. Given the fact that he has to navigate the state of Texas, then Mexico, one would think he would require maps the size of rolls of kitchen linoleum, but someone he gets by with navigational tools that fit neatly into his pocket. When Blindman arrives in Mexico, he has numerous confrontations with the brutal Domingo and his army of thugs. He suffers the ritualistic beatings of any hero in the Italian western genre, but always manages to get the better hand by his deadly use of the rifle that he uses as a walking stick. Someone the Blindman can use instinct and an uncanny hearing ability to gun down his would-be assassins with uncanny precision, though occasionally he does impose on some allies for advice. He also confronts Candy (Ring Starr), Domingo's equally sadistic brother, who is keeping a captive woman as his mistress. What follows is a seemingly endless series of boring chases, confrontations and the obligatory imitation Morricone score, all of it under the pedestrian direction of Ferdinando Baldi, who has a revered reputation with some fans of the genre and does manage to set off some impressive explosions. (Amusingly, the concept of showing the "50" mail order brides must have taxed the limited budget so we only get to see them in small clusters.). There are only two sequences in the film that have any kind of excitement. One involves the surprise slaughter of a barroom filled with Mexican soldiers. The other has a bit of suspense as the Blindman is served a food bowl that he doesn't realize contains a deadly snake. The finale of the film finds Blindman wrestling with Domingo, who has been blinded by a cigar! (Don't ask...) It's supposed to be a tense confrontation, but the sight of the two blind guys rolling around in the dirt looks like an outtake from a Monty Python sketch. The most intriguing aspect of the film is what led Ringo Starr into appearing in it. He had considerable on-screen charisma that he parlayed into a successful acting career. Here, however, his role is colorless and bland. He doesn't even play the main villain, but rather a supporting character who disappears from the story before the movie even reaches the one-hour mark. Starr supposedly was looking to jump-start his film career and worked with Tony Anthony to develop this production. While Starr acquits himself credibly, he might have at least given his character some memorable lines or characteristics.
We usually cut a lot of slack when it comes to DVD releases from niche market labels with limited resources. However, Mutant Sorority Pictures' DVD of "Blindman" boasts that the film has been "DIGITALLY REMASTERED". If so, one can only ponder how awful the transfer looked before this "improvement". The DVD image is muddy and murky and resembles a VHS transfer. Also, the aspect ratio used seems off because the letters in the opening title credits almost disappear off the sides of the screen. The sleeve also states the movie was released in 1975 when, in fact, it played in most countries in 1971 and was released in America in January 1972. The packaging also says the film runs 95 minutes, but the official running time listed on the IMDB site is 105 minutes. In any event, the Mutant Sorority version clocks in at 83 minutes, indicating this is the standard English-language cut of the film. We appreciate any company releasing obscurities such as "Blindman", which is available on a number of labels that specialize in public domain titles, but c'mon guys, you can do better than this. There are no bonus extras but we've provided the English language trailer below.
Throughout history there have been men born to see the
future and to do what they can to make it happen.Without exception they are branded lunatics,
fanatics and most often end up on the wrong side of the law. Such a man was abolitionist
John Brown. In 1856, Kansas was about to enter the Union. The question was
whether it would join as a free or a slave state. At a time when the nation
could not make up its mind about slavery, Brown knew instinctively it was evil
and that the future would prove him right. Brown and his seven sons fought to
make Kansas free.
“Seven Angry Men” (1955) presents Raymond Massey’s
third portrayal of John Brown. He first played the role in “Santa Fe Trail”
(1940) and on Broadway in “John Brown’s Body” (1953). Brown’s seven sons are played by Jeffrey
Hunter (Owen), Larry Pennell (Oliver), Dennis Weaver (John, Jr.), John Smith (Frederick),
Guy Williams (Salmon), Tom Irish (Watson) and James Best (Jake).
Directed by Charles Marquis Warren from a script by
Daniel B. Ullman “Seven Angry Men” is an accurate and thoughtful screen
treatment of Brown’s story. It begins by showing the simmering conflict between
the two sides of the slavery issue. Leo Gordon plays Martin White, leader of
the pro-slavery faction in Lawrence. In the first standoff we see the terrible
costs the Brown family paid for the patriarch’s actions, when we witness John
Jr., (Weaver) starting to crumble emotionally. After White burns Lawrence to
the ground to cleanse it of abolitionists, Brown retaliates by killing several
of the perpetrators in a face-to-face fight with guns and knives. The brutality
of the killings causes John Jr. to lose
his mind. Jake quits the fight and rides off to surrender to the army to get
John, Jr. some medical attention. He is soon followed by Frederick. Left with
three sons, Brown continues the battle, saying they have “planted the seeds of
freedom that will flourish with God’s help.”
Jeffrey Hunter as Owen is the brother caught in the
middle between his loyalty to his father and his fear of where the old man’s
fanaticism will lead. Debra Paget is Hunter’s love interest. When she begs him
to get his father to stop what he’s doing, Brown calls his son a weak coward.
Nevertheless Owen stays with him even after Oliver and Salmon desert him. Brown
fights on regardless and the first half of the movie ends with Kansas’ entry
into the Union as a free state, with Brown claiming victory.
The second half follows Brown on a fund raising tour
that leads him to Boston where no lesser personages than Ralph Waldo Emerson
and Henry David Thoreau contribute $1,000 apiece to the cause. Brown invests
the money in rifles and ammo to be sent to Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Brown, now
reunited with three of his sons, and 15 other men seize the arsenal there,
planning to arm the slaves, who Brown believes will march to Harper’s Ferry
once they know he plans to free them. Of course, none of it worked, and one
wonders if Brown wasn’t truly mad to think it would.
He is arrested by Union officers Jeb Stuart and Col.
Robert E. Lee. At his trial for treason, an affidavit is presented claiming
mental illness ran in Brown’s family, but he rejected any attempt to get off on
an insanity plea. He tells the court that he acted on behalf of the poor and
the helpless and if he must give his life “so be it.” He was hanged in Harper’s
Ferry Dec 2, 1859.
Owen, the only son to survive, offers to gather men to
rescue him, saying there are abolitionist leaders all over the country in
support of him. But he refuses, saying he was glad to know there were many in
the nation who did not consider him insane or a murderer. But he believed he
was worth “inconceivably more to hang than any other purpose.”
Overall, “Seven Angry Men” shows us an interesting
slice of history and will probably tell you a few things about Brown and his
mission to free slaves that you didn’t know. It also shows how far a man will go
for what he believes in. In Brown’s case, he went all the way, taking quite a
few people with him. He was a man of passionate beliefs, but strangely the film
itself is very dispassionate. Massey’s portrayal keeps histrionics to a bare
minimum. The entire production, while taking great pains to tell the story in
detail and as accurately as possible, lacks the passion and fire you’d expect. Director
Charles Marquis Warren seemed to deliberately hold the emotional temperature
down with the emphasis more on historical facts. It’s a far cry from the way
today’s filmmakers work. One can easily imagine what Tarantino or Stone would
do with this material.
Warner Brothers Archive Collection presents “Seven
Angry Men” in a no-frills DVD with no extras. The black and white picture is
adequate in widescreen 16x9, and 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Worth viewing for its
cast and as a refresher course on the days leading up to the abolition of
slavery. History buffs will enjoy it the most.
We've often written about the shameful conceit of movie studios that used to cast caucasian actors in leading roles pertaining to ethnic minorities. Sure, it was fine to have actual minority actors playing supporting roles (often for comic effect) but the most important characters were generally always portrayed by white actors or actresses (remember Rex Harrison as The King of Siam???). Sadly, this blatant policy of racial prejudice often extended to films that were sympathetic to the very races they were portraying. Case in point: Geronimo, a 1962 Western that purports to tell the story of the legendary Apache leader who stood virtually alone against the U.S. government, even after most of his tribe was browbeaten into surrendering. The logic at United Artists at the time was that there was no actor more appropriate to play a famous Native American other than Chuck Connors, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed poster boy for the Aryan race. Connors was riding high at the time as the star of the popular TV series The Rifleman, and he certainly possessed an imposing physique as well as more-than-adequate acting abilities. However, even with contact lenses and a black Morticia Addams wig, there is no doubt he was completely miscast as Geronimo. This was also the case with fellow cast members Kamala Devi, a gorgeous flash-in-the-pan actress who worked on several projects with Connors before fading into oblivion and Ross Martin (!), the fine actor primarily known for playing Artemus Gordon in the Wild, Wild West TV series. Not only are all these folks woefully wrong for their roles, the characters talk in modern vernacular that makes you think they must be part of the obscure Apache tribe from Bayonne, New Jersey.
watched The Mississippi Gambler (1953) DVD from Universal while recovering from
a root canal, hoping a good rousing Tyrone Power flick and three fingers of
Kentucky bourbon, would cure my ills. Boy, was I wrong. Watching this slow,
soap opera-ish movie, with a cast of characters that belong in an old Carol
Burnett Show sketch, was like having a root canal all over again.
the Technicolor was good, and Julia Adams was great (which she always is) but
the script by Seton Miller was a complete turnoff with one of the worst endings
I’ve ever seen. The characters were mostly boring and despicable. The plot was
ham-fisted melodrama served with a mint julep. Direction by Rudolph Mate was
lethargic and unimaginative.
it’s one of those stories about four people all in love with the wrong person.
But Miller added some very weird touches to the familiar story line. Piper Laurie
plays Angelique Dureau, a snooty, neurotic iceberg who is way too close to her
brother Laurent (John Baer) for comfort. She uses him as a shield against intimacy
with any other man, as Tyrone Power, playing the titular gambler Mark Fallon,
explains to her. For no comprehensible reason at all, other than the plot
demands it, Fallon falls madly in love with her. Why, oh, why? She’s a pouty,
petulant, porcelain imitation of a woman.
Laurent is a miserable weasel, a man with no honor – and
thus a perfect foil for the upright and honorable Fallon, who is not only a
good man with a deck of cards, he’s also the son of one of New York’s finest
fencing masters. (Zorro rides again!). The three of them meet on a Mississippi riverboat
named The Sultana. Pardon a digression
while I note that this was the same paddle boat on which Yancy Derringer (Jock
Mahoney), a few years later, would ply his poker skills in the CBS television
goal is to run an honest gambling table and eventually open his own casino. He
teams up with Kansas John Polly (John McIntyre), a seasoned veteran of many a
three card Monty game. In a game of poker, Laurent loses his sister’s diamond
necklace to Fallon. Fallon tries to give it back to her later, but she pretends
she told her brother to wager it. In the next scene she confronts the weasel
and cries, “How could you do it without asking me?” This obviously gets the
“star-crossed” lovers off on the wrong foot.
wins big that night but he and Polly barely escape being killed by a gang of
crooked gamblers and have to jump off the boat when the captain gets near the
river bank. They walk to New Orleans, after losing all their winnings in the
river. But they have a good laugh about it.
about the second act mark, enter Julia Adams as Ann Conant. She’s the member of
another weird brother/sister duo. Her brother, Julian (Dennis Weaver, believe
it or not, with a sort of New York high society accent) sits down to play with
Fallon, saying he heard he played an honest game. He quickly loses every cent
he brought with him, then goes out on deck and shoots himself. The Captain and Fallon discover he has a
sister on board, and Fallon feels responsible and wants to help her. She says
he must have gambled away the money his company gave him to take to New
Orleans. Fallon, noble fellow that he is, lies and says no he gave that money
to the captain for safe keeping. He takes Ann to New Orleans where and sets her
up in a hotel. It complicates his plans to romance Angelique but what’s a story
If you love the Warner Archive's DVD and Blu-ray releases, you won't be able to resist their streaming service, which offers hundreds of retro movies and TV episodes. The Archive is offering one month free for new subscribers. Click on the banner above of Duke Wayne as "Chisum" to visit the site.
The Shout! Factory video company has launched an excellent new streaming site, www.shoutfactorytv.com that features dozens of classic TV episodes and cult movies every month. Best of all, you can view them for free! This month we recommend the 1970 Amicus horror flick "The House That Dripped Blood", a 1970 anthology of terror tales by Robert Bloch, author of "Psycho" and starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pitt and John Pertwee. Click here to view.
By 1963, Vincent Price was generally recognized as the heir apparent to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi as the undisputed king of the horror film genre. Somewhat lost in discussion's of Price's work is the fact that, until he starred in "House of Wax" in the mid-1950s, he had a long career as a popular and respected supporting actor in mainstream Hollywood productions. If there is a sad aspect to his international success as a horror star, it's that his talents were rarely used henceforth in films of other genres. Nonetheless, Price knew a good thing when he saw it. His collaborations with producer Roger Corman on cinematic versions of classic Edgar Allan Poe stories had proven to be wildly successful. Price wasn't overly selective about working with other producers who sought to capitalize on those films by making blatant imitations of Corman's productions. One such title is "Diary of a Madman", released in 1963 and based on a story by French writer Guy de Maupassant. In some ways, the film is a worthy rival to a Corman/Price collaboration in that it's intelligently scripted, well-cast and has a relatively creative production design that somewhat masks the movie's threadbare budget. As with the Corman flicks, Price is given a meaty role and he makes the most of it. He plays Simon Cordier, a respected French judge in the late 19th century. He has a reputation for fairness and an obsession with studying the criminal mind in the hope of understanding what motivates some men to commit horrendous crimes of violence. The film opens with Cordier receiving a request to meet with a prisoner who he has sentenced to die on the guillotine. The man is a serial killer and Cordier is interested in taking the opportunity to speak to the prisoner, whose behavior has left him baffled. The man was a pillar-of-the-community type with no criminal background a stable profession. Upon meeting the condemned prisoner in his cell, the doomed convict informs Cordier that he welcomes his imminent execution because he has been inexplicably possessed by an invisible being known as the Horla. He relates an incredible story about this creature periodically taking over control of his body and mind and forcing him to commit acts of murder. As the incredulous Cordier tries to absorb this fanciful tale, the man suddenly attacks him. In defending himself, Cordier hurls the prisoner against a wall, killing him instantly.
Back in his chambers, Cordier is haunted by the experience but doesn't think much more of it- until some strange occurrences leave him disturbed. Seems that Cordier's irresponsible behavior had somehow been responsible for the accidental death of his wife and young son years before. Cordier has tried to block the bad memories from his mind by locking away all mementos relating to them, including a large framed photograph that had been stored in his attic. He is shocked to find it hanging prominently on the wall of his study. His loyal butler (Ian Wolfe) denies having placed it there. Other strange occurrences lead Cordier to question his mental stability. A psychiatrist assures him that he is suffering from fatigue and urges him to delve back into his passion for sculpting, which he has ignored for years. Cordier follows his advice and begins to feel more relaxed. Things only get better when he has a chance encounter with a vivacious and flirtatious young woman named Odette (Nancy Kovack), who agrees to be a paid model for him. She begins a campaign to seduce Cordier, never telling him that she is actually married to a financially-strapped artist, Paul (Chris Warfield). When Paul objects to the amount of time that Odette is spending in Cordier's studio, she assures him she is only trying to earn money that they desperately need. In reality, she is a heartless gold digger who is weighing the option of leaving Paul for the older man. Oblivious to all this, Cordier is happy to have found love once again. His mood, however, is rudely disrupted when he realizes the cause of the strange things that have been going on in his house: it seems that the Horla has chosen to possess him in retribution for killing the prisoner whose body it once inhabited. Although Cordier can not see the Horla, he discovers it is a physical presence who can not only speak to him, but can also utilize a number of cruel witticisms that he uses to mock and humiliate the esteemed jurist. From this point on, Cordier's life is a living hell. In rational moments, he tries frantically to figure out how to rid himself of this ghoulish presence, but the Horla retains control of his mind and body at will. This leads to Cordier carrying out a particularly gruesome murder, leaving him desperate to find a way out of his tortured existence. He devises a last-ditch effort to lure the Horla into his study where he hopes to kill him through use of his one vulnerability: fire. The resulting consequences are dramatic but have tragic results even for Cordier.
"Diary of a Madman" is mid-range Price fare from this period. The entire enterprise rides on the actor shoulders, but they prove to be broad enough to carry it off. Price looks dashing and, as always, puts his best efforts into even a modest enterprise such as this. Nancy Kovack also gives a fine performance as a bad girl who, refreshingly, never learns to redeem herself as she cuckolds both of her lovers in turn. The film is not exceptional on any level, but it is consistently entertaining an reasonably engrossing.
The MGM made-on-demand DVD features a very impressive transfer and an original trailer is included in which Price (in character) breaks the "Fourth Wall" and addresses the viewer directly.
A film that became a legendary bomb, the 1977 Western The White Buffalo has been re-evaluated by movie fans in recent years and many consider it to be an underrated classic. Count me out of this assessment. The film is certainly unique: an ambitious attempt to blend the Western and horror film genres, but it falls short on most counts.The United Artists production stars Charles Bronson as Wild Bill Hickcok, who- for reasons never adequately explained- is haunted by terrifying nightmares involving him in a life-or-death confrontation with a giant white buffalo. I didn't know that buffalo come in colors, but I'll cede the point. (Given the dreadful styles of the 1970s, it's surprising the film wasn't titled The Plaid Buffalo.) Simultaneously, Chief Crazy Horse (Will Sampson) is having his own white buffalo problems. Seems the actual rampaging beast wreaked havoc on his village and killed his child. In order to restore his pride and stature among the tribe, he must hunt down and slaughter the animal- or be stuck with the monicker of "The Worm" henceforth. (This must be the Indian equivalent of "nerd".)
The two men are on obsessive journeys and are destined to meet up - but both feel they have the singular right to kill the buffalo. Hickcok meanders through some cow towns under an alias and hooks up with a mountain man geezer (Jack Warden channeling the ghost of Gabby Hayes) who decides to accompany him on his quest. When Hickcok and Crazy Horse do meet up, they end up saving each other's life in respective ambushes and declare themselves blood brothers. Despite this, each man is determined to be the one who slays the white buffalo.
The popular John Wayne flick "McLintock!" has had a long, tortured history in terms of its video releases. The film fell out of copyright for a while in the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in any number of cheapo VHS and DVD editions being sold in "dollar stores". Recently Olive Films released a Blu-ray edition of the film, sans any special features. Shortly thereafter, Paramount released a Blu-ray of a previously issued "Authentic Collector's Edition" DVD that is loaded with fascinating extras. The film represented the first time Wayne had been directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, son of his old John Ford stock company buddy Victor McLaglen. Both Wayne and Andrew's careers owed their very existence to Ford and they learned well from the master in terms of how to make comedy/action films that would have broad appeal. "McLintock!" is basically the best John Ford film that Ford never directed. It has all the elements of a traditional Ford production: a battle of the sexes between a strong-willed leading man and an equally strong-willed leading lady; eccentric characters played by eccentric character actors; a snappy musical score and at least one big brawl played out in a humorous manner (in this case, the famous group fight scene in a mud pit).
"McLintock!" reunited Wayne with his favorite leading lady Maureen O'Hara, who had co-starred with him in Ford's "The Quiet Man", "Rio Grande" and "The Wings of Eagles". (They teamed for the final time in 1971 for "Big Jake".) O'Hara was one of the few actresses who could stand up to Wayne in terms of screen presence. Here, they play the familiar roles of an estranged couple. Wayne is George Washington McLintock (known by one and all as "G.W."), a cattle baron so successful that the town he lives in bares his name. He is separated from his fiery-tempered wife Katherine (O'Hara), who returns to town unexpectedly to try to convince McLintock to allow their teenage daughter Becky (Stefanie Powers) to live with her in the big city. That's pretty much the entire plot. Before long, G.W. and Katherine are battling like boxers going the full fifteen rounds. The film is an obvious western-based adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew", which means that although Katherine is allowed to be seen initially as a strong, independent woman, in the end she is pacified by her husband and becomes a compliant Stepford-like wife. In a finale guaranteed to cause Hilary Clinton agitta, G.W. subjects Katherine to the humiliation of being spanked in public in front of a cheering crowd. Anyone who has progressed from a Neanderthal state will find this element of the film a bit cringe-inducing, but if viewed within the context of its era, it is undeniably amusing. In between the shouting and the spanking, G.W. and Katherine alternate between insulting each other like a frontier version of Ralph and Alice Kramden and making goo-goo eyes at each other. There's no doubt that the film will have a storybook ending and the corn quotient is fairly high. Nevertheless, "McLintock!" is such rollicking good fun that its charms are almost impossible to resist. Much of the film's charm comes from its sheer exuberance in portraying amusing people in amusing situations. There is no gravitas on display and the closest we get to some meaningful drama is when G.W.and Katherine stare longingly into each other's eyes after a period of estrangement, indicating that, despite their fiery tempers and constant arguments, these are two people who are not only madly in love but also quite lustful toward each other. Director McLaglen keeps the action flowing in true Fordian style and it's safe to say there isn't a dull moment. A lot of people get punched and some guns get fired, but no one really gets hurt. All of the shenanigans are set to composer Frank De Vol's lively and catchy score. The film was in theaters the same week that President Kennedy was assassinated. Perhaps the presence of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in a feel-good movie like this provided some solace to a grieving nation. In any event, "McLintock!" proved to be one of the Duke's biggest boxoffice hits. It also had a long, successful run on television in the pre-cable/home video era. Over the years, it was shown on prime time by all three major networks and enjoyed big ratings each time.
Original trade magazine ad.
The Paramount Blu-ray carries over the extras from the DVD release and is the definitive home video version of the film. Extras include:
Audio commentary that is jam-packed with vintage interviews with the film's producer, Michael Wayne; director Andrew V. McLaglen, film historians Leonard Maltin and Frank Thompson and cast members Michael Pate and Stefanie Powers.
A "making of" documentary is broken down into three sections. One provides some interesting insights into Michael Wayne's decision to devote the years after his father's death to raising money for the cancer foundation that bares the Duke's name. Another featurette spotlights Maureen O'Hara and Stefanie Powers and the third delves into shooting the famous mud pit fight.
Another featurette shows veteran stuntmen Tom Morga and Wayne Bauer demonstrating how to throw punches convincingly.
An odd but entertaining mini-documentary about the corsets women wore back in the 19th century. Today, we would call the procedure for getting into one of these contraptions "torture".
The quality of the transfer is simply terrific. "McLintock!" never looked so good.
“Sandy” Mackendrick had enjoyed a succession of triumphs in England. Working
out of Ealing studios, he directed such memorable comedies as The Man in the
White Suit, Whiskey Galore and the deliciously dark The Ladykillers. As the
Ealing factory system began to dry up, Mackendrick made an arguably unlikely
move to America. It was through a number of mishaps, unfulfilled projects and
(one could argue) a degree of ‘fate’ that Sweet smell of success eventually
fell into the lap of Mackendrick.
there was little doubt of Mackendrick’s immense ability as a director, there
was perhaps an element of doubt whether he could actually undertake a film such
as Sweet Smell of Success. After all, those subtle British films were about as
far removed as one could possibly imagine when compared to the media dynamics
and fuelled corruption of this screenplay. However, Mackendrick had a good eye;
a very good eye in fact. Given time to observe the city he knew how to capture
it at its best. Through the camera lens, Mackendrick presented Manhattan better
than any other contemporary film had done and as a result, undoubtedly
influenced esteemed future directors such as Woody Allen.
film’s ‘master and dog’ relationship between newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker
(Burt Lancaster, playing a thinly-disguised Walter Winchell) and the Machiavellian press publicist Sidney Falco (Tony
Curtis) is the only one of importance. Lancaster was never more imposing as
Hunsecker, whilst Curtis displays a slimy charm and a sickening depravity as
Falco. As the relationship unfolds, it becomes a battle of wits and power - Falco
believes himself to be in a symbiotic relationship with J.J. — he provides him with
the stories he needs - but, by the close, the power imbalance is made
depressingly obvious. Feeding off the crumbs left by Hunsecker, Sidney is always
destined to be consumed by J.J.’s domineering dictatorship. Whilst Sweet Smell
of Success remains a stunning piece of work, it is also not without its flaws -
specifically in the romantic relationship between Hunsecker’s sister Susan (Susan
Harrison) and Steve (Martin Milner) an aspiring young a jazz musician. Not that
there is anything wrong with this coiling plot- the story of Susan’s sinisterly
over-protective brother and his scheming through Falco to dishonour Steve’s
reputation provides the film’s central narrative. All of it works perfectly. However,
it is sadly the performances from the inexperienced Harrison and Milner that hamper
the film’s vibrant energy and pace – they are both limp and damp. In contrast,
such powerhouse performances from both Lancaster and Curtis, and the provision
of a razor sharp script by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets – still cements Sweet
Smell of Success as one of the greatest films of its kind. Combined with James
Wong Howe’s sumptuous deep-focus cinematography and Elmer Bernstein’s brassy musical
score and you are left with something damn near close to a perfect movie.
newly restored High Definition (1080p) presentation is a 4K digital transfer
from the original 35mm camera negative – and frankly it looks incredible. As Sweet
Smell of Success is such a personal favourite of mine, I have followed its
evolution on home video - through VHS, laserdisc, DVD and now Blu-ray. it’s
been an interesting journey but I feel confident that I have finally arrived at
my destination. The film has never looked so crisp and clean. It is spotless and
always deserved to look this good. There are a couple of location scenes that
look a little ‘too’ real for my liking. I’ve always considered there may be a few
lengths of stock footage involved here, but I can’t be sure. Regardless, these
random shots fall seamlessly in line with the general atmosphere and harsh
realism of the urban setting. Wong Howe’s photography is defined by deep dark
blacks, varying arrays of grey shade and subtle use of intelligent lighting. Pin-
striped suites and intense close ups are all solid and reveal sharply defined
detail. Lancaster’s face and glasses (permanently lit from above) creates a
near ‘skull like’ shadow upon his cold gaze, the results of which look rather
spectacular in this new Blu-ray edition.
continue to supply the audio in an original untampered and uncompressed PCM
mono 1.0, which is clean and free from any distortion. Extras consist of an appreciation
by critic and film historian Philip Kemp, author of Lethal Innocence: The
Cinema of Alexander Mackendrick. Kemp
appears in the top left of screen presenting a detailed analysis of the film
while several scenes are presented. He also provides a selected scene commentary,
taking several key and expanding on detail. It does nevertheless raise the question – why didn’t Kemp provide a full
commentary track? The man is obviously an expert on the movie and his knowledge
would have been very welcome (and valuable) throughout.
bonus highlight for me is Mackendrick: The Man Who Walked Away – Dermot
McQuarrie’s 1986 Scottish Television documentary which features extensive interviews
with Mackendrick, Burt Lancaster, producer James Hill, Gordon Jackson and many
others. It’s a great example of how documentaries of this kind use to be made –
rather than the quick, cross cutting MTV style of documentary making today.
It’s certainly one to take time over and enjoy fully.
film’s original theatrical trailer is also included.
has again spared no expense in terms of packaging. They have provided a
reversible sleeve featuring both an original poster and newly commissioned
artwork by Chris Walker. The collector’s booklet (40 pages) includes new
writing on the film by Michael Brooke and Mackendrick’s own analysis of various
script drafts. It is also illustrated throughout with original stills and
posters. It all makes for a wonderful package and one that should be savoured –
‘I love this dirty town!’
Cage is a workhorse and may be one of the busiest actors today. In an era where
big name actors might release a single movie per year, Cage typically comes out
with three, four or even five. At any given time he may have over a half dozen
movies in various stages of production. Cage is a good actor, often a very good
actor, and has made some very entertaining movies that stand up to repeat
viewings. I enjoy much of what he does from the over-the-top supernatural action-horror
movies “Ghost Rider” and “Drive Angry,” to the adventure-mystery “National
Treasure” franchise and his voice work for about a half-dozen animated movies.
His list of credits and genres is vast and, if his movie output is any
indication, he’s a very busy guy. This can be a good thing for Cage fans, but
may result in a mixed bag for movie fans when an actor has too much exposure.
Fortunately for Cage, he’s pretty good in just about everything he does.
“Outcast,” Cage plays Gallain and he’s teamed with Hayden Christensen as Jacob.
Gallain and Jacob are 12th century crusader knights who are becoming
increasingly weary of killing as they travel from the Middle East to the Far
East. We witness the ruthlessness of Jacob through the eyes of his mentor
Gallain as he kills the members of a defeated Moorish army that refuses to
surrender. Even women and children are not spared Jacob’s murderous wrath. When we meet Jacob again three years later, he’s an opium addict searching for
his former mentor as well as redemption for his past sins. He finds this
redemption as the protector of a princess and her younger brother who is the
rightful new king. Both are fleeing the terror of their older brother and
warrior, Prince Shing, played by Andy On, who was passed over in favor of his
younger brother for the throne and murdered his dying father, the king. Shing
is very similar to Jacob in his bloodlust and this is what his father wishes to
avoid in a new king.
relationship between Jacob and the young king is right out of the classic American
western genre playbook. While this movie is no “Shane,” it is an interesting
melding of American and Chinese action adventure and, fortunately, everyone
speaks perfect English. Jacob agrees to safely transport the princess Lian,
played by Chinese model/actress Liu Yifei, and her younger brother Zhao, played
by Bill Su Jiahang. The boy forms the expected bond and the princess falls in
love with their protector as they make their way to safety while fleeing the
older brother who has sent out an order to kill his younger siblings. The young
king begs to learn how to use a bow as expertly as Jacob and they pause for a time.
During this training we see a flashback of a young Jacob undergoing training by
his mentor, Gallain, who we have not seen since the opening scenes. Cage
eventually returns and he turns out to be the near mythical “white ghost” referred
to throughout the first part of the movie.
As with any major film star who dies young, Jean Seberg has become a cult of personality to some film fans, partly due to the fact that she died in Paris from an overdose of barbiturates at age 40 in 1979. Her death was ruled a suicide but conspiracy theories still abound because she was deemed a political radical by the FBI due to her association with far left wing causes and her support of the Black Panther party. On screen, however, Seberg's characters were generally not radical, although her breakthrough film did find her as the female lead in Godard's classic 1960 crime flick Breathless. Still, there were some hints of Seberg's liberated woman persona in her early career. One such film was In the French Style, a largely forgotten 1963 production based on Irwin Shaw's novel. Shaw wrote the screenplay and the film was directed by Robert Parrish, a respected veteran of the movie industry who never enjoyed a career-defining major hit. (The closest he came was directing segments of the bloated 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.) The movie opens in Paris with Seberg as Christina James, a 19 year old free spirited girl from Chicago who has come to the City of Light to hone her skills as a painter. In the process of trying to acclimate herself to the metropolitan lifestyle, she meets Guy ((Philippe Forquet), a headstrong, sometimes arrogant 21 year-old who is nonetheless charismatic and quite handsome. He woos Christina and before long, they are a couple swept up in a whirlwind romance. However, it isn't long before there are strains due in part to their impoverished lifestyle. Guy, being a typical guy, tries to get Christina into bed, but she says when it happens, it will be on her terms and conditions. When the big moment arises, Guy's romantic evening turns into a disaster because he only has enough money to rent a room at a flophouse hotel without heat. In the course of the strained evening, Guy confesses to Christina that he cannot perform sexually because he is too nervous. He makes a shocking confession: he is actually a 16 year old high school boy and a virgin at that. While this does bring the story into a completely unexpected direction, it's the one element of the film that strains credibility largely due to the fact that Forquet was actually 23 years old at the time and looks it. Nevertheless, this plot device takes us away from what was shaping up as a conventional "boy meets girl" romance and plunges the viewer into unknown waters.
The story then jumps ahead in time and we find Christina now in her early twenties and very much in step with the Parisian lifestyle. She is the toast of her neighborhood's social scene and the belle of the ball in terms of attracting male suitors. In a rather progressive depiction of a single woman for the year 1963, it is made abundantly clear that Christina has her pick of lovers and routinely engages in short-term sexual affairs. Every time she meets the "right man", it turns out that differences in their lifestyles prevent them from enjoying a traditional relationship. Her father (very well played by Addison Powell) visits her from Chicago and, again Shaw's script goes against the conventional depiction of father and daughter relationships generally seen in movies during this era. Instead of being a square old fuddy duddy, Dad is actually amused by his daughter's somewhat hedonistic lifestyle and he asks her how many lovers she has had. "A couple", she replies, but it becomes clear that both of them regard that as a drastic understatement. When her father asks to see the paintings she has been working on for years, he gently informs her that they are below the quality he had expected. He cautions her that her party-filled lifestyle may be compromising her potential. Christina objects and two part company under a strain, but it becomes clear that her father's words have resonated with her and that it might be time to develop plans for a more productive career path.
All of that changes when she has a chance encounter with Walter Beddoes (Stanley Baker), a hard-drinking international newspaper journalist. They enjoy a torrid affair and fall in love but, alas, fate rears its ugly head once again when Walter's requirements to travel extensively takes him away from Christina for months at a time. He confesses to her that, while abroad "I don't live like a monk". Christina says she accepts that he will have other lovers but makes it clear that she will, too. Such behavior from a young couple was rarely depicted so honestly on screen in 1963, an era in which sexually assertive women were generally painted as floozies. By the time Walter returns from a three month stint in Africa, he finds Christina has a new boyfriend, an American doctor from San Francisco (James Leo Herlihy), who she says she intends to marry. She has a civilized lunch with both men, as Walter tries to persuade her to resume her affair with him. She confesses that she has seen her share of former lovers ultimately drop her to marry the girl of her dreams, a status she somehow never attains in their eyes. This climactic sequence left me a bit disappointed because in the end, Christina- that most liberated of young women- decides to throw in the towel to become a doctor's wife and live in San Francisco. However, director Parrish does afford us the nagging possibility that she knows she is selling out by doing so.
In the French Style is a very worthwhile experience. The Parisian locations add immeasurably to its pleasures and the crisp B&W cinematography Michel Kelber is impressive, as is the Joseph Kosma's atmospheric score. Not much happens dramatically in the film. You keep waiting for some earth-shaking development to emerge but it never does. However, that's part of the movie's charm. It recalls an era in which studios routinely backed small films with fine actors (they are all wonderful here) and gave them intelligent dialogue and direction. Sony has released the movie as a burn to order DVD. The transfer is generally very good but the master print could use a bit of cleaning in places. There are no bonus extras, unfortunately.
eleven-year old Indian girl is sold by her father to a thirty-year-old man for
a cow and a rusty bicycle. Torn from her mother’s arms the child is taken home,
beaten, raped and turned into a slave, all the while being abused and taunted
by the local villagers because she is from a lower caste. She runs away and
tries to go home, but is looked upon as an outcast. In a society where women are considered lower
than cattle, she grows up enduring terrible punishment, including more
beatings, rapes and eventual homelessness. She is kidnapped by bandits falls in love with the bandit leader and becomes
a legend known throughout India as “Bandit Queen,” stealing from the rich and
giving to the poor. She kills the 21 men she accused of gang-raping her, and
surrenders to authorities before a crowd of 10,000 supporters. She serves 11 years
in prison and when freed, runs on her popularity as a champion of the poor, and
is elected to Parliament, only to be assassinated by a member of a higher caste
at age 37.
is the story of Phoolan Devi, played as an adult by Seema Biswas, and although
it sounds like something that happened hundreds of years ago in a dark age of
ignorance and cruelty her story took place in India, between 1963 and 2001. She
was 37 years old when she died. Some of the things that happen in Shekar
Kapur’s biographical film “Bandit Queen” (1994) were disputed by the Indian
government, which sought to have the film banned. Even Devi sued to block the
film’s release, claiming it made her look too much like a “sniveling woman.”
But if only half the incidents portrayed in the movie are true, it is not only an
unflinchingly realistic drama of a woman’s guts and determination to survive
and overcome unbelievable adversity, it is also a searing indictment of a
nation whose laws and culture create an environment where such things can
happen. One can only hope that the situation in the rural areas of India, where
this story occurred, have improved by now.
indictment starts at the top, by attacking the mindset and religious beliefs
that permit a social system that divides people into upper and lower castes.
The film begins with a quote from a sacred Hindu text that states: “Animals,
drunks, illiterates, low castes and woman are worthy of beating.” The
powerlessness of women is shown when the 11-year old girl’s mother can only
watch in sorrow as her daughter is taken away and again when the bridegroom’s
mother can only sit silently outside the room listening to Phoolan’s screams as
her son beats and rapes the child.
film is deliberately infuriating and at times difficult to watch. And if all
Kapur wanted to do was create a diatribe against India’s caste system, and
extol the virtues of its central character, it wouldn’t be much of a film. But
his theme is larger. As he explains in audio commentary provided on the disc,
the central vision that guided him through what he admits was a challenging and
difficult movie to make, can be summed up in two words: oppression and
survival. No matter how difficult Phoolan’s circumstances became, she never submitted
to it willingly. Through everything she maintained an inborn defiance, and a
spirit of rebellion that got her through it all, though at considerable cost.
the middle of the film she falls in love with her bandit gang co-leader, but by
now she cannot stand the touch of a man. At first all she can do to respond to
him is to hit him and let him hit her back. He understands her psychology and
eventually breaks through to her. But by
now her mind is saturated with revenge and blood lust because of all the
hardships she endured and the climax of the story comes when she orders the massacre
of the 21 higher-caste men in a village who raped her. Significantly, in almost
a Sam Peckinpah-ish touch, Kapur has a naked baby standing at a well crying in
the midst of the carnage. It’s a telling image.
Time has released a limited edition BluRay of “Bandit Queen.” The image is for
the most part sharp and clear though some night scenes had too much grain,
which are probably in the original film elements The only special features are
the director’s audio commentary and a separate track containing the score by
composer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. There is also a booklet containing an
informative essay by Julie Kirgo.
film has ever presented such a realistic, disturbing, and uncompromising
portrayal of oppression and survival than “Bandit Queen.”
Just in case you thought the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome only release version of vintage porn flicks, it may come as news that they are also providing another valuable social service: remastering long-forgotten grind house "classics". Case in point: "The Muthers", a 1976 gem that plays out like the ultimate Tarantino fantasy. It's a combination of several genres: Women in Prison ("W.I.P", for the initiated), chop socky, sexploitation and blaxploitation. It doesn't get any better than this if you were weaned on this glorious type of sleaze that played routinely on 42nd Street. Directed by cult "B" movie favorite Cirio Santiago, "The Muthers" is yet another low-budget flick from the era that was filmed in the Philippines. The movie opens with a memorable introduction to the titular characters. They are Kelly (Jeannie Bell) and her equally sexy sidekick Anggie (Rosanne Katon, Playboy's Miss September in 1978), who are female pirates with an all-male crew ("You go, girls!"). We see them aboard their high speed, armed vessel as they raid a tourist boat and grab the booty. (Since these are good pirates, no one gets hurt). We know the pirates go by the name of The Muthers because their vessel is adorned with a big sign that reads "The Muthers", in what must have been the first case of branding for high seas pirates. When they return to their Hole-in-the-Wall-like village, they are informed that Kelly's teenage sister has gone missing. They start trawling the waterfront bars and learn that she has been abducted by a human trafficking ring. Working with a government agent who wants to bring down the head of the ring, a notorious crime kingpin named Monteiro (Tony Carreon), Kelly and Anggie volunteer to be captured. They are brought to Monteiro's jungle prison camp, which is guarded by a virtual army of heavily-armed thugs. Here they find dozens of young women being kept in brutal conditions. They are forced to perform manual labor and are simultaneously being groomed for sale to a procurer of girls for international brothels. Kelly manages to get a fleeting glimpse of her sister before she learns the younger girl has made a desperate attempt to escape into the jungle- a strategy which goes tragically awry.
While in the camp, Kelly and Anggie meet Marcie (Trina Parks), another beauty who is regarded as a long-time veteran prisoner who knows all the ropes. Marcie introduces them to Serena (Jayne Kennedy), who is the privileged mistress of Monteiro (who also sleeps with his male guards). Anggie resents Serena for selling out in return for her soft lifestyle at the camp and derisively refers to her as a "house nigger". But Marcie informs her that Serena often provides what human compassion she can towards the prisoners. Ultimately, Kelly, Angie and Marcie enlist Serena in an audacious plan for them all to escape. They do so but Monteiro and his goons are in hot pursuit. As the women hide in the jungle, they face death from the elements, starvation and dangerous critters. In the film's best scenario, Marcie is bitten in the chest by a deadly snake. As Serena sucks the blood out, Marcie gets the movie's best line of dialogue: "Just like every other snake I've met-- won't leave my tits alone!" Although Parks, Kennedy and Katon frustrate male viewers keeping their clothes mostly intact, Bell delivers the goods with two (not one, but two!) gratuitous topless bathlng sequences. She also saunters around the tropical location clad in a long-sleeve turtleneck shirt, the absurdity of which is overshadowed by the fact that she is conspicuously bra-less. The film climaxes with double crosses, a big shootout between the "good" pirates and Monteiro's forces, with machine gun slinging chicks also going hand-to-hand with the villains. (Yes, everybody is kung-fu fighting.) At one point in the movie, Bell gets to swing vine-to-vine a la Tarzan. As low grade action films go, it doesn't get much lower or better than this- and it's all set to a typically funky '70s disco score.
Jeannie Bell displays why the questionable choice of wearing a long-sleeve turtleneck in the tropics has its good points.
The Vinegar Syndrome release has undergone a 2k restoration from the original 35mm negative, making it yet another one of their titles that probably looks infinitely better today than it did upon its initial release. An appropriately cheesy trailer is also included that doesn't even credit the actresses, though perhaps they consider that to be a positive.
Released in 1962, Boy's Night Out was considered to be a rather racy comedy that touched upon sexual infidelity in the era when June and Ward Cleaver represented the average American household. The story centers on four businessmen- James Garner, Tony Randall, Howard Duff and Howard Morris- who indulge in a weekly night out that consists of nothing more daring than having some drinks and discussing sex. In a moment of deviancy, they decide to chip in and rent a plush Manhattan apartment, with Garner- the only bachelor of the group- acting as the beard and putting the lease in his name. They then intend to hire a hot blonde to service them on different nights of the week. The plan seems to work swimmingly. The apartment is rented and the requisite blonde (Kim Novak) appears ready, willing and able to indulge. What they don't know is that Novak is actually a student working on a thesis about sexual habits of the typical suburban male. She concocts various ways to ensure that each of her paramours never consumates the relationship, yet all the while maintaining the persona of a woman of easy virtue.
The plot becomes as predictable as yesterday's news as each of the men tries to con his friends into thinking he's had sex with Novak, when, in fact, the relationships remain completely chaste. Complications occur when Garner falls head over heels for Novak, but believing she is a prostitute, can't bring himself to become seriously involved with her. Although the men are paper tigers in the lovemaking department, they are deceiving their wives and families about the boy's night out, which leads to feelings of guilt and remorse. What elevates this above standard sitcom fare of the era is the remarkable cast. Aside from the charismatic leads, the supporting players include Jim Backus, Fred Clark, Oscar Homolka, Jessie Royce Landis, William Bendix and Patti Page, whose warbling of the catchy title song became a major hit on the charts at the time. It's a fun romp, despite the cliches, and Howard Morris, in his big screen debut, is most amusing in the role of an everyday guy. Henceforth, he would primarily play complete eccentrics on TV and in film as well as earn a reputation as a top comedy director. Novak is stunningly beautiful, and the fashions she wears accentuates the fact that they don't make leading ladies like this any more.
The word of mouth on this 1947 Warner Brothers thriller is that it was a disappointment at best and an outright dog at worst. The powerhouse teaming of superstars Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck seemed to promise more than audiences and critics felt the film delivered. Consequently, it's generally put near the bottom rung of achievements in both star's careers. In viewing the Warner Archive DVD release, I had few expectations regarding its merits. However, I came away pleasantly surprised. This is a superior, moody and atmospheric film with both Stanwyck and Bogart at their best. Bogart had long played villains, but this is one of the most complex and fascinating characters he has ever brought to life. The movie is based on a hit stage play and its stage origins are quite apparent: it's quite a claustrophobic affair, with only a single sequence shot outside of the WB back lot. However, because most of the story takes place within the confines of a mansion, the lack of wide open spaces only enhances the atmosphere.
Bogart is cast against type as Geoffrey Carroll, a sophisticated and successful painter who has one weakness: he is an incurable womanizer. The film opens with Carroll and his girlfriend Sally (Barbara Stanwyck) enjoying a romantic trip to the mountains of Scotland. While there, she discovers he is actually married and breaks off the relationship. Shortly thereafter, Carroll's wife dies, leaving him in custody of their precocious young daughter Beatrice (a remarkable performance by Ann Carter). Now a widower, Carroll resumes his relationship with Sally, telling her that his wife was an invalid who died from health problems. The couple marry and enjoy a life of privilege in a manor house in the English countryside. Carroll's career is thriving and things seem to be going well- until another woman, Cecily Latham (Alexis Smith) enters their lives. Sally recognizes instantly that her husband has been smitten and correctly suspects the two are having an affair. Jealousy and heartbreak turn to fear when she also begins to suspect that Geoffrey had murdered his former wife and might be planning to do the same with her. Adding to the complexities is a local chemist who is blackmailing Geoffrey on the basis that he may have sold him the lethal mix that resulted in his first wife's death.
The Two Mrs. Carrolls has many similarities to Hitchcock's Suspicion including a key plot device involving a potentially fatal glass of milk served to the wife who may have been designated for murder. The film's primary strength is the genuine chemistry between Bogart and Stanwyck, who are terrific together. The suspense builds gradually to a chilling conclusion. Bogart is especially good in this film, which allows him to break some new ground as an outwardly charming, but narcissistic personality who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Alexis Smith smolders as the bad girl who pretends to be Sally's friend so she can enjoy the company of her husband. There is also a very competent cast of supporting actors including the always reliable Nigel Bruce, playing a bumbling doctor in a role that doesn't veer very far from his portrayal of Doctor Watson in the Sherlock Holmes films. Director Peter Godfrey keeps the action flowing at a brisk pace and the movie is enhanced by a typically impressive score by Franz Waxman.
This writer is one of the few who will defend this film, but my belief is that, while it is certainly not a classic for the ages, it stands up well as consistently good entertainment. By all means, you could do worse than spend a couple of hours with Mr. Bogart and Ms. Stanwyck.
The burn-to-order DVD contains the original trailer.
The Universal Vault series has released the 1964 comedy "The Brass Bottle" as a burn-to-order DVD title. The film was the inspiration for the hit TV series "I Dream of Jeannie" which starred Barbara Eden as the sultry title character. Eden appears as the female lead in the feature film, as well, but in a very down-to-earth role as Sylvia, the fiancee of aspiring-but-unsuccessful architect Harold Ventimore (Tony Randall). The premise of the plot is as old as the pyramids: Harold comes into possession of a large, ancient urn through which he unwittingly frees an ancient genie named Fakrash (Burl Ives), who had been imprisoned in there for 3,000 years after offending a nobleman who had magical powers. Fakrash is so delighted to be free that he uses all his efforts to make improvements in Harold's life starting with magically persuading a top real estate developer to hire the unknown architect to design an entire suburban housing development. Harold is initially delighted but soon discovers that every time Fakrash makes an improvement to his life, there is a corresponding disaster to offset it. This extends to his love life, as well. In an attempt to win over Sylvia's grumpy parents who disapprove of him, Harold plans a dinner party at his house. Thanks to Fakrash, however, when the fuddy-duddy parents and Sylvia arrive, the place has been transformed into a bachelor pad, complete with dancing harem girls and a group of Arabic musicians. Also on hand is a "gift" from Fakrash, a sexually aggressive, beautiful slave girl named Tezra (Kamala Devri). Appalled by the hedonistic atmosphere, Sylvia and her parents storm out. The remainder of the film involves Harold's desperate efforts to undo the "improvements" that Fakrash continues to enact on his behalf. Before long, Fakrash has turned his future father-in-law into a mule and also wreaked havoc on Harold's career.
"The Brass Bottle", directed with workmanlike efficiency by Harry Keller, is a modestly-budgeted affair that was shot primarily on the Universal back lot. The few exterior sequences include some very obvious rear screen projection, thus giving the feature film the look of a standard sitcom from the era. The primary attribute of the production is the inspired cast. Tony Randall, who by this point in his career had carved a niche as one of Hollywood's leading supporting players, gets a rare opportunity to get first billing. Barbara Eden is largely relegated to window dressing as his long-suffering fiancee. The film clearly belongs to Burl Ives, who is genuinely amusing as the genie who tries to accustom himself to life in the 20th century. He begins the film wearing traditional ancient garb and ends up in designer suits. Ives dominates every scene he is in as this marvelous character. The film also features two of the 1960's most popular on-screen grouches, the great Edward Andrews as Harold's would-be father-in-law and Parley Baer as Harold's prospective employer. Another reliable "grouch", Philip Ober appears as Harold's ill-tempered boss. (Harold has nothing but ill-tempered people surrounding him.)
The movie affords some mildly amusing moments and the "risque" elements are downright quaint by today's standards. (When presented with a live-in, gorgeous mistress who will do anything he commands, Harold can only think of how to get rid of her- a premise that is slightly less believable than that of a genie appearing from a brass bottle.) Randall is always a delight to watch and this rare showcase for him as a leading man is the primary reason to watch this otherwise pleasant but nondescript comedy.
Amazon is selling the Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection Blu-ray edition at a savings of $200.
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CLICK HERE TO ORDER AND TO VIEW PROMOTIONAL VIDEO FOR THE SET
Okay, that's as close as we can get to invoking the memory of one of the most famous TV themes songs of all time, from the long-running crime show "Dragnet". By the mid-1950s, the program was a national sensation. In 1954, the success of the series inspired star and producer Jack Webb to exploit the show's popularity by bringing it to the big screen. TV-to-cinema adaptations would become commonplace in the years to come with shows such as Walt Disney's Davy Crockett and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." converting episodes into feature films. However, in the case of the 1954 movie version of "Dragnet", Webb oversaw a completely new production shot in full color. In an era in which all TV programming was telecast in B&W, it was a real treat to see "Dragnet" in color on the big screen. Webb, who also directed the film, stuck to the basics and didn't stray far from the formula that had served him so well. The movie features the same trademark, clipped dialogue. Seemingly no one completes an entire sentence and virtually everyone smokes like a chimney. (Aside from Howard Hawks' "Hatari!", I have never seen so much smoking in one film.) Webb retains his bizarre mannerisms that made him a television icon: he speaks with machine gun fire-like rapidity and walks like he has a diving board under his suit jacket. Both his manner of movement and speech seem to emulate a robot, but you can't deny that the gimmick works: you can't take your eyes off him and he dominates every scene he is in (which is virtually all of them).
The movie opens with an effective sequence in which two hoods are walking through an empty field when a third hood comes out of nowhere and murders one of the men with a shotgun in a sequence that must have been considered rather brutal for the time. The murderer and the other man flee the scene and before you know it, Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday is on the scene with his Sancho Panza, Officer Frank Smith (Ben Alexander). They try to pick up leads but, frankly, within minutes I became rather confused about the relationship of three suspects they focus in on. Most of the labored script has Friday and Smith doggedly trying to build a case against the three hoods but the D.A. says the evidence is too circumstantial. They utilize a "hi tech" secret tape recorder in order to eavesdrop on the suspects. The scene is unintentionally amusing because the "micro recorder" is about the size of a lap top computer. They also enlist the assistance of a sexy police woman (Ann Robinson) who goes undercover to imply she'll go under the covers with one of the suspects. This notion of presenting a female police officer as brave, competent and equal to men is the one progressive factor in the dated screenplay. Friday's disdain for the niceties of the law is apparent. He doesn't consider the constitution to be a vital element of our society, but rather a necessary evil. Whenever he doesn't get his way, there is some eye-rolling, sighs and cynical comments. (In his review of the film, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther specifically noted Friday's obvious "distaste for the Fifth Amendment" and concluded he "is not a nice policeman to anticipate as a hero on the screen.") Most of the pedantic action consists of Friday and Smith tailing a suspect and harassing him day and night in a clear case of police brutality. But, hey, this was an era in which Sen. Joe McCarthy was considered a national hero for rooting out all the commies under all those beds, so Friday's tactics fit in well with the spirit of the day. The movie drags to a conclusion so limp and unsatisfying that I thought there was still another fifteen minutes of running time left. Nevertheless, taken as a museum piece, "Dragnet" is fun to watch, thanks to Webb's undeniable screen presence. The supporting cast includes Virginia Gregg as a dame from the other side of the tracks and Richard Boone as Webb's superior officer. (Young Dennis Weaver has a minor role, as well.) There is precious little humor in the film aside from some small talk between Webb and Alexander. Webb would considerably improve on this aspect of "Dragnet" when he brought the series back in 1967 with Harry Morgan well-cast as his humorous co-star.
The film has been released as part of Universal's burn-to-order program. The transfer is very good with exceptionally impressive color qualities. The movie would make a great double-feature with the 1987 comedy version of "Dragnet" featuring Dan Aykroyd's remarkable impersonation of Jack Webb.
Day of Anger is an enjoyable spaghetti western that top-lines a legend of the genre, Lee Van Cleef, as aging
gunfighter Frank Talby. In an attempt to regain his fearsom reputation, Talby shoots
and kills a local Sheriff. He then finds he must contend with his own young protégé, a street cleaner
Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma), who happened to be the sheriff's close friend. The
climactic showdown finds Talby in a classic face off with his former pupil,
with each man knowing the other's every move and thought.
lively, intelligent western, notable for the chemistry between its charismatic
leads, some memorable action set-pieces (including a rifle duel on horseback
that has to be seen to be believed) and a jazzy Riz Ortolani score, is
presented here in an exclusive high-definition restoration from the original
Techniscope negative. Day of Anger remains a superior and much-loved Italian
western and was directed Sergio Leone’s original assistant, Tonino Valerii.
dual format release comes in both a High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and
Standard Definition DVD presentation. The set also contains two versions of the
film, the original Italian theatrical release and the shortened version that
was screened internationally. Day of Anger boasts visuals that are both impressive and detailed,
especially in close-up shots of Van Cleef’s
chiselled facial features. As you would
expect from this particular genre of film, colours are bright and vivid with
true, tanned skin tones. Director Valerii makes excellent use of the 2.35:1
Techniscope frame, without ever feeling the need to use extreme close ups -
unlike his original influence, Sergio Leone. The film has a minimal amount of
grain. Audio is presented in the
form of a clear, uncompressed mono track, with English or Italian soundtracks
on the longer cut and an English soundtrack on the shorter version. There are
also newly translated English subtitles for Italian audio track. The film
really benefits from the brand new restoration struck from the original 35mm
Techniscope camera negative. It is both clean and free of any major defects.
disc's extras are also enjoyable. They include a deleted scene, which in honesty,
is nothing more than an extension of an existing scene. There is a selection of
trailers (all in varying quality) which serve their purpose well. Then we get
to the really good stuff. There is a brand new interview with screenwriter
Ernesto Gastaldi, who reveals many interesting stories. Gastaldi speaks in his
native tongue (enthusiastically) with his responses presented in the form of
English subtitles. There is a previously unreleased 2008 interview with director
Tonino Valerii – a little less enthusiastic then Gastaldi – but it is
interesting nevertheless. The interview which is arguably the most engrossing
is that of Tonino Valerii’s biographer Roberto Curti – which is conducted in
English. Curti provides a fascinating insight into the director and provides
detailed analysis on films, the genre and Sergio Leone –all of which proves
Arrow’s superb packaging
again includes a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned
artwork by Reinhard Kleist and a detailed booklet featuring new writing on the
film by Howard Hughes (author of Spaghetti Westerns) and illustrated with
original poster designs. Fans of the genre will love it.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE ARROW VIDEO WEB SITE (UK-BASED)
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
CELEBRATE FRANK SINATRA’S 100TH BIRTHDAYWITH
FRANK SINATRA: 5
MARCH 31 ON DIGITAL HD AND MAY 5 ONBLU-RAYTM FROM WARNER BROS. HOMEENTERTAINMENT
First time on Blu-ray and Digital HD for Anchors Aweigh, On theTown And Robin and the
BURBANK, CA, February 26, 2015 — The best is yet to come when three
Frank Sinatramovies come to Blu-ray
for the first time. Celebrate “The Chairman of the Board’s” Centennialwith Frank Sinatra: 5 Film Collection on May 5 from Warner Bros.
Home Entertainment.Featuring five
classic Sinatra movies on Blu-ray, this collection includes newly re-mastered
releasesof Anchors Aweigh, On the
Town and Robin and the 7 Hoods
for the first time on Blu-rayand
Digital HD along with favorites Ocean’s
11 and Guys andDolls.
Frank Sinatra: 5 Film Collection on Blu-ray also
includes a 32-page photo bookwhich documents
cinematic moments from some of Sinatra’s greatest works. The collection willbe available for $69.96 SRP. The Digital
HD retails for $39.99SRP.
NEWLYREMASTERED!GeneKelly’slive-actionfancyfootworkwithanimatedJerry(ofTom and Jerry™) remains a milestone of
movie fantasy. Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Graysonalso headline this wartime tale of two sailors on leave in
Hollywood. Sinatra’s performance of “IFall
in Love Too Easily,” the exuberant “We Hate to Leave” with Kelly, and other
Aweigh weigh in with an Academy Award®i for Best Music (Scoring of aMusical Picture), plus four more Oscar®
including Best Picture and Best Actor forKelly.
·Hanna & Barbera
on the Making of ‘The Worry Song’ from MGM “When the LionRoars”
·1945 MGM Short “Football Thrills of 1944” – New to
·1945 MGM Short “Jerky
Turkey” – New to HomeEntertainment
Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin have a 24-hour shore leave to seethe sights…and when those sights include
Ann Miller, Betty Garrett andVera-Ellen.
And when brilliant
location and studio production numbers are blended, it could be – as here– ebullient, up-and-at-’em perfection.
The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, but no one canbe down after going On theTown.
·1949 MGM Short “Mr.
Whitney Had a Notion” – New to HomeEntertainment
·1949 MGM Cartoon
“Doggone Tired” – New to HomeEntertainment
Robin and the SevenHoods
NEWLY REMASTERED! Robin and the 7 Hoods mirthfully gives
the Robin Hood legenda Depression-era,
mob town Chicago setting. There, North Side boss Robbo (FrankSinatra) hopes to get a leg up in his
power struggle with rival racketeer Guy Gisborne (PeterFalk).
Robbo sets himself up as a latter-day Robin
Hood with philanthropic fronts, enabling himto scam the rich, take his cut and then give to thepoor.
by Frank SinatraJr.
featurette What They Did to RobinHood
·1939 WB Cartoon “Robin Hood Makes Good” – New to
·1949 WB Cartoon
·1958 WB Cartoon
Danny Ocean with his 10 partners in crime
devise a scheme to knock out power to theVegas
strip and electronically rig five big casino vaults to raid them all in the
same instant. Thisoriginal version
of Ocean’s 11 is an entertaining
by Frank Sinatra Jr. and AngieDickinson
·Las Vegas Then and
singing Marlon Brando stars opposite Frank Sinatra in this classic musical.
WhenSky Masterson is challenged to
take a missionary to Havana, he finds himself falling in love. Butwill she return his love when she
realizes the trip was aploy?
·“A Broadway Fable: From Stage to Screen, Guys
& Dolls: The GoldwynTouch”
·“A Broadway Fable: From Stage to Screen, Guys
& Dolls: From Stage toScreen”
·“More Guys & DollsStories”
o“Guys & Dolls”
o“Luck Be aLady”
Also available on Digital HD on March 31,
2015 is the FRANK SINATRA: ULTIMATEFILM
COLLECTION. This digital
bundle of 15 titles will retail for $99.99 SRP and includesthe followingfilms:
1.It Happened in
4.Till The Clouds
5.Kissing Bandit, The
6.On the Town(1949)
7.Guys and Dolls
8.Tender Trap, The(1955)
9.The Man with The
11.Some Came Running(1958)
12.Never So Few (1959) – first time on DigitalHD 13. Ocean's 11(1960)
14.Robin and the 7
15.None But The Brave(1965)
CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BLU-RAY SET, TO BE RELEASED MAY 5
Nurse Coffy (Pam Grier) grieves over a sister ruined by
drugs and takes murderous revenge on the pimps and pushers who victimized her.
When her former policeman boyfriend is beaten for refusing to take bribes,
Coffy blasts her way up the corruption trail to drug kingpin Arturo Vitroni (Allan
Arbus) and the fabulous pimp master King George (Robert DoQui). But her
disillusion is complete when she discovers that her classy politician boyfriend
Howard Brunswick (Booker Bradshaw) is also part of the syndicate. Considering “Coffy
“was made on a shoestring budget, the film still works very well, which is
probably down to Jack Hill’s witty, jive talking script and fine direction. The
action is great, probably some of the best to ever emerge from the
Blaxploitation / Soul Cinema genre.
Arrow’s Blu-ray release boasts a lush transfer with
rich colour detail; the film’s opening pin sharp credits appear to almost leave
the screen. The film makes its world début on the Blu-ray format - with a fully
restored High Definition (1080p) presentation. Daytime scenes in particular
look fresh and revived – with my eyes drawn continuously towards the film’s
beautiful solid blue skies. Internal scenes such as the sordid night club
sequences retain a balanced warmth without ever losing fine detail. Night shots,
however, do vary to some degree with some milky greys appearing in place of
solid blacks, but this is no doubt due to the production values and original
lighting conditions. Actually, it provides a nice little reminder that the
viewer is watching a low budget, genuine grindhouse movie. “Coffy”’s near-perfect
re-mastering process more often than not leads us to believe we are watching a
much larger budgeted production.
The film’s audio is presented in its original
uncompressed mono, which is clear and very acceptable. The masterful soundtrack
(produced, composed, and arranged) by Roy Ayers is allowed to flow naturally.
Free from any forced tweaking, the film unfolds better for it - while also
keeping the purists among us completely satisfied.
Pam Grier as Coffy: the cover story for Cinema Retro issue #31.
The disc's extras are also very impressive.
Writer-director Jack Hill’s audio commentary is both enthusiastic and
informative. Hill doesn't pause for a second, continuously narrating each shot
with production stories, background information on cast and crew and an
incredibly interesting insight into the whole social scene including racism and
feminist issues – it is both a joy and a first-hand education. Other bonus
“A Taste of Coffy“– is a brand new interview with Jack
Hill, a few stories are repeated from the audio commentary, but there is also a
lot of additional material to digest.
“The Baddest Chick in Town!” – A brand new interview
with Pam Grier on Coffy and its follow up, Foxy Brown is a great little
featurette and full of fascinating stories.
The original theatrical trailer and an image gallery
are also included.
There is also a very good video essay, simply titled
‘Blaxploitation!’, presented by author Mikel J. Koven. I thought this would be the weakest link among
the extras, but I was pleasantly surprised – it’s actually a joy from start to
finish and had me hanging on to every word. The presentation is also packed
with stills and lots of beautifully produced film posters that were
representative of the genre.
Arrow have provided an
informative booklet and produced a very cool, reversible sleeve featuring
original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx – Overall, it’s all
just about perfect.
"COFFY" WILL BE RELEASED ON 6 APRIL. CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM AMAZON UK
The feature film version of the landmark WWII TV documentary series "Victory at Sea" has been remastered and released by Film Chest. The original NBC TV series consisted of 26 half-hour episodes that were broadcast between 1952-1953. The show was one of the most acclaimed from the early days of television and was honored with Emmy awards and a Peabody award. Given the abundance of videos and documentaries about WWII that have been released and telecast over the decades, you have to put yourself in the mindset of how revolutionary this show was in 1952. Until then, the men who fought WWII could only see periodic glimpses of the conflict in abbreviated newsreels that were shown prior to the main feature in movie houses. "Victory at Sea" represented the first time most Americans got to see the war in all of its ugliness. With the conflict over, the Pentagon was more liberal about showing the extent of Allied deaths and casualties, something that was initially deemed to be bad for public morale especially in the early days of the war when the tide was certainly against the Western democracies. Imperial Japan controlled huge areas of Asia and only England stood between Hitler's complete domination of Europe. America's entry in the war was unintended due to the attack on Pearl Harbor. While Americans sympathized with the British, the USA was primarily an isolationist country until December 7, 1941. The first six months of the nation's involvement in the war was anything but promising. Seemingly every day brought a major defeat to the Americans and British in the Pacific. With the Battle of Midway in 1942, however, the tide turned with a major defeat of the supposedly invincible Japanese fleet. Still, government censors continued to restrict images of dead and wounded soldiers, 'lest they serve enemy propaganda purposes. By the time "Victory at Sea" aired, the war was an unpleasant, if recent, memory. Now the truth could be told and shown. Make no mistake, the series was definitely propaganda. The half-hour running time of every episode didn't leave much time for in-depth examination of the war and the giant figures who dominated that era. Nuances were few and there were scant examinations of questionable military strategies of the Allies. Still, the show was unique in the sense that it presented the war from the standpoint of the average soldier and sailor, not the top brass. Because of this, the average veteran of the conflict could identify with the remarkable footage that was shown in every episode.
In 1954, a feature film condensation of footage from the episodes was released theatrically. The film is an achievement of impressive editing by Issac Kleinerman, who is also credited as director. Wading through seemingly endless miles of footage, Kleinerman managed to compile a reasonably representative depiction of the conflict. The film does not attempt to be a comprehensive examination of the causes of the war. One should keep in mind that the film was released only a decade after the conflict so no one needed to be schooled in primal reasons the world went to war for the second time in the century. The film includes sobering footage of casualties and heartbreaking scenes of maimed soldiers crying in agony. It remains very moving to view these scenes and realize the sacrifices that were made to save the world from tyranny. Most of the film accentuates the naval aspect of war but there are also scenes depicting the horrors of the concentration camps and the horrendous attempts to conduct warfare in the midst of jungles filled with enemy troops as well as insidious natural dangers. Although Victory At Sea accentuates the American experience, it pays homage to all the Allied troops and takes special pains to honor the sacrifice and courage of the British military and civilian population, both of which showed almost surrealistic courage throughout the ordeal. Some of the footage shown in the documentary is clearly based on re-enactments. There are some shots that are just too incredible to have been shot in real time. Others, such as U.S. sailors lounging around Pearl Harbor right before the attack seem to have been staged for dramatic intensity. Nevertheless, the vast majority of footage is real- and you will emerge from the experience with much respect for the cameramen who put their lives on the line to shoot it.
Actor Alexander Scourby's masterful narration adds immeasurably from the experience, as does the now classic musical score by Richard Rodgers (yes, that Richard Rodgers.) In fact, Rodgers' score, conducted by Robert Russell Bennett, proved to be so popular that it resulted in the release of several "Victory at Sea" soundtrack albums based on the TV series.
This release of "Victory at Sea" has plenty of artifacts and splotches on the film but this is due to the age of the raw materials it has been mastered from. Anyone interested in the study of WWII will want to add this to their collection.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release. We don't generally delve into the world of grunge horror flicks but it is interesting that there is a market that is nostalgic for new releases in the VHS format:
The moment gore hounds
have been waiting for is here. You can now visit CultMovieMania.com and snag pre-sale copies of our latest
VHS tapes - CANNIBAL FEROX and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST - two super sickies we've
teamed up to release with legendary Grindhouse Releasing.
There is one version of
Cannibal Ferox. And, there are 3 different artwork versions for Cannibal
Holocaust. Each tape comes with an 11" x 17" poster of the artwork. And
frankly, they are going to look awesome on your walls.
All of these tapes are
limited edition and expected to go fast.
Want all of them? Pay less when you purchase all 4 tapes
at once here.
The CANNIBAL FEROX tape
will include the ultra-nasty, completely uncut feature film along with
bonus video of the Cannibal Ferox Hollywood Premiere, an interview with
director Umberto Lenzi, and trailers. It will also feature exclusive new
artwork painted and designed by horror director Marcus Koch (100
Tears, ROT) and a poster only available with this edition of the movie.
The CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST
tapes will include the uncut feature film in its nauseating entirety, plus
the Cannibal Holocaust music video and trailers. The striking new special
edition artwork, featuring design by Chamuco ATX and illustration by Vader
Paz, will come in three different collectible color variants. Each tape also
comes with a matching poster exclusive to this release.
(*Please make sure you
select your preferred CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST color variant in the store.)
Both tapes feature
official pan-and-scan transfers from Grindhouse Releasing, to add extra slime
to the VHS violence.
These tapes are available
in our store for Pre-Sale now. They are expected to
start shipping April 20th.
(The following pertains to the UK Region B release)
more than a smidge of poetic licence, Countess
Dracula is the 1971 Peter Sasdy/Hammer offering that recounts the true-life
visceral misdemeanours of Hungarian murderess Countess Erzsébat Bathory. The
late Ingrid Pitt, who portrayed the titular harridan, was quite outspoken in
her disdain for the results, one of her key grievances being director Sasdy’s overly-restrained
approach to blood-letting. Given the subject matter’s potential for sanguinary
splatter, one has to concur that it’s a fairly coy production, more romantic
costume drama with an insidious undercurrent than your traditional Hammer
horror fare. Yet, that said, a cleaving aura of doom coupled with some efficient
injections of nastiness prevent the film from being a wholly anaemic affair.
in a fit of ire, the ageing Countess Elizabeth (Ingrid Pitt) lashes out at her
inept maid, she inadvertently discovers that the virginal girl’s blood harbours
properties able to restore her youthful beauty. Slaying the girl and bathing in
her blood, Elizabeth deigns to assume the identity of her own daughter, Ilona
(Lesley-Anne Down), who has not been seen at the castle since being shipped off
to boarding school as a child. But no sooner has Elisabeth met and fallen in
love with handsome soldier Imre Toth (Sandor Eles), than she realises that the
regenerative effects of the maid’s blood are far from permanent and she is only
able to sustain her façade by seeking fresh donors to fend off her true, haggard
appearance. Finding a willing accomplice in her faithful companion, Captain
Dobi (Nigel Green), the slaying begins.
shortcomings of Jeremy Paul’s slightly lethargic and excessively talky Countess Dracula script can be all but
forgiven due to a magnetic performance by Ingrid Pitt, who overcomes
questionable post-synch dubbing to be both sensuously provocative in her
younger incarnation and frighteningly sadistic (under the increasingly
unpleasant layers of Tom Smith’s crone make-up) in her foul, older guise. If there’s
less engaging input from Sandor Eles and Lesley Anne-Down, that too is
compensated for by excellent character work from Nigel Green (in his
penultimate big screen role) and Maurice Denham as a scholarly elder whose
discovery of Elisabeth’s secret pegs him for an early exit.
spite of a few failings – not least its outrageously misleading title, which
would certainly have had audiences anticipating some fanged action – Countess Dracula is a lush fairy-tale
accompanied by a silken Harry Robinson score which in summation, though not
perhaps as worthy of frequent revisit as some of the Hammer classics, is estimable
enough evidence of their Gothic cinema supremacy.
Countess Dracula is now
available in the UK as a Region B Blu-Ray release as a constituent of Network
Distributing’s “The British Film” collection. The hi-definiton transfer is
pleasing if not perfect, with occasional minor damage and a fair amount of
grain in evidence during darker scenes. It is, however, still a marked improvement
on Network’s earlier DVD release. The generous supplementary features are
carried over from said DVD, specifically comprising a commentary track
featuring Ingrid Pitt, Kim Newman and Stephen Jones, a TV interview with Pitt
and a news item on a Bray studios open day back in the late 90s, an episode of
the 1970 TV show Conceptions of Murder (starring
Nigel Green), an episode of the recently deceased Brian Clemens’ excellent TV series
Thriller (showcasing yet another fine
Pitt performance) and a number of stills galleries.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Revisit 1939, Hollywood’s
GreatestYear, with 4 New Blu-ray™Debuts
THE GOLDEN YEAR COLLECTION JUNE9
Features Newly Restored Blu-ray Debut ofThe Hunchback of Notre Dame, Starring
CharlesLaughton, and Blu-ray Debuts of – Bette Davis’ DarkVictory, Errol Flynn’s Dodge City and Greta Garbo’sNinotchka. Collection
also includes Gone With theWind.
Burbank, Calif. March 10, 2015 – On June 9,
Warner Bros. Home Entertainmentwill
celebrate one of the most prolific twelve months in Hollywood’s history with
the6-disc The Golden Year Collection. Leading the
five-film set will be the Blu-ray debutof
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in a new
restoration which will have its worldpremiere
at TCM’s Classic Film Festival beginning March 26 in Los Angeles. CharlesLaughton and Maureen O’Hara star in
Victor Hugo’s tragic tale which William Dieterledirected.
The other films featured in
the WBHE collection ($69.96 SRP) are new-to-Blu-rayreleases of Dark Victory,
starring Bette Davis, George Brent and Humphrey Bogart; DodgeCity, starring Errol Flynn,
Olivia de Havilland and Ann Sheridan; and Ninotchka starringGreta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas and Ina
Claire, and directed by Ernst Lubitsch. 1939’sOscar®1 winner Gone with the Wind will
also be included. (Further details on the filmsbelow)
The Collection also contains a sixth disc with the rerelease of thefascinating documentary, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Year, narrated by Kenneth Branagh and containing film clips andinsights about this unprecedented and
unequalled year infilms.
1939 was noteworthy in America and Europe
for many reasons. World War II hadbegun
with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. The Great Depression dwindled as PresidentRoosevelt and the United States prepared
to fight. NBC demonstrated the new mediumof
television at the World’s Fair. Batman, a new superhero, was born. Frank
Sinatramade his recording debut.
And nylon stockings went on sale for the firsttime.
significant for American culture that year was the sheer number of remarkablefilm releases. 365 films were released in
1939, many of which are considered themost
enduring classics in film history and three of the 10 Best Picture Oscar®
nominees2for the year, Gone with the Wind, Dark Victory and Ninotchka
are included inthis collection.
The Films in The Golden YearCollection
Hunchback of NotreDame
France, a gypsy girl is framed for murder by the infatuated ChiefJustice, and only the deformed bell ringer
of Notre Dame Cathedral can saveher.
With huge sets,
rousing action scenes and a versatile throng portraying a medievalParis of cutthroats, clergy, beggars and
Hunchback of Notre Dame remainsone of Hollywood’s all-time grandestspectacles.
Charles Laughton endured a daily
five-and-a-half hour makeup session tobecome
Quasimodo, Victor Hugo’s mocked and vilified anti-hero. The result was one of
hisbest performances -- outsized
yet nuanced, heartrending yet inspiring. Maureen O’Hara isthe gypsy Esmeralda, whose simple act of
pity frees the emotions within Quasimodo.When
she is wrongly condemned, he rescues her from hanging, sweeping all of Paris
intoa fight forjustice.
The Lone Stranger and Porky – Vintage 1939 WBCartoon
A young socialite is diagnosed with an
inoperable brain tumor and must decidewhether
she’ll meet her final days withdignity.
Davis’ bravura, moving but never morbid performance as Judith Traherne, adying heiress determined to find
happiness in her few remaining months, turns the film intoa three-hankie classic. But that success
would never have happened if Davishadn’t
pestered studio brass to buy Dark Victory’s story
rights. Jack Warner finally didso skeptically.
“Who wants to see a dame go blind?” he asked. Almost everyone wasthe answer: Dark Victory
Davis’ biggest box-office hit yet and garnered threeAcademy Award® nominations for 1939’s Best Picture, Best
Actress (Davis) and BestMusic, Original
by film historian James Ursini and CNN film critic PaulClinton
·“Warner Night at theMovies”
oNEW! Old Hickory - Vintage 1939 WBShort
oRobin Hood Makes
Vintage 1939 WBCartoon
Competition for Dark Victory -Featurette
Lux Radio Theater Broadcast (AudioOnly)
Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn), a Texas cattle
agent, witnesses firsthand thebrutal
lawlessness of Dodge City and takes the job of sheriff to clean the townup.
In his first of eight Westerns, Flynn is as
able with a six-shooter as he was witha
swashbuckler’s sword. He confronts lynch mobs, slams outlaws into jail andescapes (along with co-star Olivia de
Havilland) from a fiery, locked railroad car. Cheeredfor Flynn’s sagebrush debut, its vivid Technicolor look and
spectacular saloon brawlthat may
have employed every available Hollywood stunt person, Dodge City latergained another distinction when it
inspired Mel Brooks’ cowboy parody BlazingSaddles.
Special Features (PreviouslyReleased):
·“Warner Night at the
oSons of Liberty – Vintage WB
1939 Academy Award®-Winning4Short
oDangerous Dan McFoo
oDodge City: Go
West, Errol Flynn -Featurette
oThe Oklahoma KidTrailer
A stern Russian woman (Greta Garbo) sent to
Paris on official business findsherself
attracted to a man (Melvyn Douglas) who represents everything she is supposedto detest.
‘Garbo Talks!’ proclaimed ads when silent
star Greta Garbo debuted in talkies.Nine
years and 12 classic screen dramas later, the gifted movie legend was ready foranother change. Garbo Laughs! cheered the
publicity for her first comedy, a frothy tale of adour Russian envoy sublimating her womanhood for Soviet
brotherhood until she falls fora suave
Parisian man-about-town (MelvynDouglas).
Working from a cleverly barbed script
written in part by Billy Wilder, directorErnst
Lubitsch knew better than anyone how to marry refinement with sublime wit. “Atleast twice a day the most dignified
human being is ridiculous,” he explained abouthis acclaimed Lubitsch Touch, That’s how we see Garbo’s love struck
Ninotchka:serenely dignified yet
endearingly ridiculous. Garbo laughs. So willyou.
Ninotchka received four 1939 Academy Award®
nominations – Best Picture,Best Actress
in a Leading Role (Garbo), Best Writing- Original Story (Melchior Lengyel),and Best Writing-Screenplay (Charles
Brackett Walter Reisch, BillyWilder).
·NEW! Prophet Without Honor
– Vintage 1939 Academy
Award® nominated5MGM Short
The Blue Danube – Vintage
Gone with theWind
as one of the American cinema’s grandest, most ambitious andspectacular pieces of filmmaking, Gone with
the Wind, was helmed by Victor Fleming in 1939,the same year as the director’s The Wizard
Producer David O. Selznick’smammoth
achievement and still history’s all-time domestic box-office champion ($1.6billion6) captured ten 1939 Academy Awards® including:
Best Picture, Best Actress, andBest
Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, the first Oscar® awarded to anAfrican- American actor. Margaret
Mitchell’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel, on which the filmis based, has been translated into 16
languages, has sold hundreds of millions ofcopies worldwide, and even now continues to sell 50,000 copies ayear.
Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de
Havilland, Leslie Howard and Hattie McDanielstar in this classic epic of the
American South. On the eve of the Civil War, rich, beautifuland self-centered Scarlett O'Hara (Leigh)
has everything she could want -- exceptAshley
Wilkes (Leslie Howard). As the war devastates the South, Scarlett discovers thestrength within herself to protect her
family and rebuild her life. Through everything, she longsfor Ashley, unaware that she is already
married to the man she really loves (Gable) --and who truly loves her -- until she finally drives him away. Only then
does Scarlettrealize what she has
lost ... and tries to win himback.
Bros. Home Entertainment Presents1939: Hollywood’s GreatestYear Narrated by Kenneth Branagh this informative
documentary contains film clipsand
insights about this unprecedented and unequalled year infilms.
included on this disc (PreviouslyReleased):
·Breakdowns of 1939 – Vintage 1939 WBShort
·Sons of Liberty – Also on the Dodge Citydisc
·Drunk Driving – Also on the The Hunchback of Notre Damedisc
·Prophet Without Honor – Also on the Ninotchkadisc
In the wake of unexpected critical acclaim for director Richard Lester's A Hard Day's Night in 1964, studios scrambled to emulate the success of that first feature film starring The Beatles. Over a period of a few years, many bands found themselves top-lining major feature films. Most were mindless exploitation films, a few others more ambitious in their goals. Fitting snugly into the latter category was Having a Wild Weekend (released in the UK under the title Catch Us If You Can.) The film represents the only movie starring the Dave Clark Five, one of the more popular bands to emerge during that marvelous era in the 1960s when Great Britain shed its post WWII doldrums and came to dominate international pop culture. The band was one of many who rode the coattails of The Beatles to the top of the charts, but they had their own unique style of songs and music that resulted in some memorable hit songs that still hold up well today. At one point, the DC5 was so popular that they appeared on The Ed Sulllivan Show more than any other British band. Their feature film debut is impressive only in the sense that it afforded a young documentary maker named John Boorman the opportunity to make his feature film directorial debut. There is scant evidence that Boorman possessed the kind of unique vision that would result in Point Blank only two years later and Deliverance five years after that, but Weekend is different from most teen idol movies of the era both in terms of its visual content as well as its message. The script is also unique in that the DC5 don't appear as themselves, thus its the only film of its kind that doesn't showcase the band members playing music on screen. In fact, they don't even play musicians, but rather, stuntmen who are employed to appear in an expensive nationwide British ad campaign designed to encourage meat eating. This rather uncommercial message is prettied up by having the campaign center on a perky, sexy young blonde named Dinah (Barbara Ferris), who is an omnipresent force in London, appearing on billboards and TV ads to promote the meat industry in a fun way. The DC5 appear with her as window dressing, always in the background of the ads. During the shooting of a particularly frustrating TV commercial taping, Dinah and her boyfriend Steve (Dave Clark) engage in an abrupt act of rebellion by stealing a sports car they drive in the ad and absconding to an island that Dinah hopes to retire to. This sets in motion a massive search by the advertising agency executives that becomes a nationwide obsession. Rumors circulate that Steve has kidnapped Dinah, something that turns out to be an unexpected boon for the ad agency since it results in a great deal of free publicity for "The Meat Girl". Steve and Dinah's directionless meanderings around the island prove to be less joyful than expected. They encounter a colony of hippies but find they are as shallow as the Establishment types they are rebelling against. They also blunder into the middle of military war games in the film's zaniest and least credible sequence. Ultimately the other members of the DC5 join them but even they are being pursued by agents for the advertising agency as well as local police. Steve brings them to a farm run by a boyhood idol who he used to visit as a child only to find he has "sold out" too and is looking to use Dinah as a tourist attraction. Disillusioned, Steve and Dinah ultimately come face to face with their employers and Steve gets a downbeat life lesson on how shallow even Dinah's principals can be.
Having a Wild Weekend is a strangely humorless film with the DC5 songs rather awkwardly interwoven. Even a sequence (filmed in Bath) that depicts a massive, wild costume party doesn't deliver the amusement you might expect. However, it does offer the unique opportunity to see people dressed as Stan Laurel, the Marx Brothers and Frankenstein cavorting in the ancient Roman baths. Dave Clark has movie star looks and admirable screen presence. He should have pursued a career as an actor. However, the other band members have scant opportunity to present themselves as individuals. This includes lead singer Mike Smith, who sang most of the group's hit songs even though Clark would lip synch to them in live appearances to appear as though he sang them on the recordings. Plot angles appear promisingly but get dropped abruptly including a potentially promising sequence in which Steve and Dinah are invited home by a middle aged couple (excellently played by Robin Bailey and Yootha Joyce) who turn out to be setting them up for some sexual swinging. Director Boorman eschews studio sets for actual locations and this gives the movie a sense of vibrancy it might otherwise have lacked. Manny Wynn's black and white cinematography does justice to the British countryside and he presents the action through some interesting camera angles.
The downbeat storyline won praise from critics at the time because it so deftly avoids emulating the ridiculously cheery productions that were generally aimed at teens. It holds up well as a curiosity and affords some nostalgic insights into a time when the counterculture movement was on the verge of exploding. The DVD presentation by the Warner Archive presents a crisp, clean transfer sans any extras. One hopes that someday, Dave Clark might be asked to participate in a special edition of the movie.
SECOND TAKE: ALTERNATE OPINIONS ON FILMS PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED BY CINEMA RETRO
BY TIM GREAVES
Castle’s Strait-Jacket was a pretty
big deal for Joan Crawford. Her biggest successes lay behind her, but she was
shrewd enough to understand that even a low-budget horror film was money in the
bank and, with the alternative for many actresses of her age (and younger)
being protracted unemployment, she put her heart and soul into it. She participated
in a pre-production featurette entitled “How to Plan a Murder”, alongside
director/producer (and unsurpassed gimmick maestro) William Castle and writer
Robert Bloch, jovially discussing the best ways to dispose of someone on
screen. And, upon its release in 1964, she toured with the film, making a
number of personal appearances that drew crowds in their droves. As to her performance
within, if nothing else she should be applauded for having the temerity at the
age of almost 60 to play not only a character some 15 years her junior, but (in
flashbacks) a character some 35 years her junior; the latter, it has to be said,
she monumentally fails to pull off!
front of her terrified little girl, Lucy Harbin (Crawford) takes an axe to her
philandering husband and his lover, after which, despite protestations of her innocence,
she is hauled off – in a strait-jacket, no less – to an institution for the
criminally insane. Twenty years later she is deigned fit for release and goes
to stay on a ranch with her brother (Leif Erickson) and his wife (Rochelle
Hudson), and her own daughter (Diane Baker) who has been in their care and is
now an adult on the verge of matrimony. But as Lucy struggles to exorcise the
demons of her past and attempts to forge a relationship with the daughter whose
growing-up she has missed, she begins to have visions of decapitated heads and
bloodied axes. Is she losing her mind, or is something far more sinister going
on? Suffice to say it isn’t long before the murders begin…
touch creaky by today’s standards and riddled with some pretty clunky dialogue,
it’s nevertheless easy to conceive that Strait-Jacket
was fairly shocking stuff back in the day. However, it’s fair to say that
it’s still a very watchable little chiller, with a tangible snifter of Psycho running through its veins. Beyond
the fact it emerged from the pen of Psycho-scribe
Robert Bloch and was shot in crisp black and white (which served to lessen the
impact of a number of its sanguinary sins), the premise of an elderly woman with
a penchant for hacking up those who cross her prowling about a remote property certainly
has a ring of familiarity about it. And, as with Psycho, it’s just possible that not everything is as it first
seems. Anyone familiar with the twists in 1964’s Bette Davis starrer Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte (which, it
should be noted, Strait-Jacket preceded
into theatres by some 11 months) will probably cotton on to what’s going on.
cast is strong, particularly Diane Baker as Crawford’s daughter and George
Kennedy as a bad-toothed ranch-hand-turned-blackmailer (who, despite carrying
an axe everywhere, may as well have “red herring” tattooed on his forehead).
Watch out, too, in the opening scenes for the uncredited screen debut of Lee
Majors in the role of Crawford’s so-to-be-headless hubby. But, make no mistake,
this is 100% Crawford’s show, effortlessly traversing personality swings that
vacillate between pitiably timid and contrite and vampishly gregarious and
carefree. Proof, were it needed, that regardless of the quality of the material
at hand, she always gave it her all. (For further compelling evidence on this
score, check out 1970’s Trog.)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,
released two years earlier, remains this writer’s favourite Joan Crawford film,
for undemanding chills and spills – or simply to see the actress firing on all dramatic
thrusters – they don’t come much better than Strait-Jacket. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled to the screen
for the closing Columbia Pictures logo, slyly tinkered with by Castle in a
wickedly comic wink that none of this stuff should be taken too seriously.
film is available on disc as part of Sony Pictures’ Choice Collection and comes
with a respectable array of supplementary goodies. Along with “Battle Axe” (an
entertaining retrospective that runs just shy of 15-minutes and includes an
interview with Diane Baker), there’s the vintage promo featurette mentioned at
the start of this review, some 1963 Crawford wardrobe test footage, brief axe
test footage (conspicuously more gruesome than anything that made it into the
finished film) and a TV spot. Regrettably the transfer of the film itself is a
little disappointing, the image often resembling that of an old VHS recording
desperately in need of a tweak on the tracking; not a deal-breaker, but
certainly worth keeping in mind.
By the late 1960s, Jacqueline Bisset was clearly one of the "It" girls among a bevy of starlets who crossed over from flash-in-the-pan status to becoming a genuine star in her own right. Her breakthrough role opposite Steve McQueen in the 1968 blockbuster "Bullitt" helped catapult the British beauty to the top ranks of actresses who were deemed to have international boxoffice appeal. Among her major Hollywood successes: "The Detective", "Airport" and "The Deep". In between, however, Bisset was open to appearing in off-beat films that were most suited for the art house circuit. One of the more unusual productions was "Secret World", a 1969 French film that was the antithesis of the commercial successes she was enjoying. The film was directed by Robert Freeman, a famed photographer who is credited with shooting many of the classic album covers for The Beatles. (Some sources credit Paul Feyder as co-director but the film does not give him this status in the main titles or on the poster.)The film is a moody, slow-moving tale about troubled people in troubled relationships. It's nevertheless oddly compelling and retains the viewer's interest because of the unveiling of key information about the characters and their motives on a drip...drip...drip basis.
The film opens with scenes of Francois (Jean-Francois Vlerick, billed here as Jean-Francois Maurin), an 11 year-old boy who is rather morose and somber. He is living in a French country manor house that, like the family that inhabits it, has seen better days. Francois is under the care of his Aunt Florence (Giselle Pascal) and Uncle Phillippe (Pierre Zimmer, a forty-something couple whose marriage is strained. They go through the motions of keeping their relationship civil, but it's clear the passion is long gone. We see Francois finding some degree of enjoyment in solitude when he retreats to his tree house where he peruses a small box of "treasures", which are various household oddities that he has secreted in his domain. Florence and Phillippe receive an unexpected visit from their son Olivier (Marc Porel), a handsome but irresponsible young man who lives off his parent's money. Like the relationship between his parents, Olivier's dealings with them are similarly strained. Francois observes all of this somberly, rarely speaking unless spoken to. Phillippe announces that they are to have a visitor arriving soon from London: Wendy (Jacqueline Bisset, quite becoming as a blonde), the daughter of an old war buddy who once saved his life. When she shows up, her presence has an immediate impact on everyone in the house. Wendy is polite, out-going, generous and stunningly beautiful. Immediately, Olivier decides to postpone his departure in the hopes of wooing and seducing her. Phillippe seems similarly smitten and Florence is clearly threatened by the arrival of the attractive young woman. As the days pass, she also builds a relationship with Francois, who becomes obsessed with her. He steals a bottle of her perfume so he can have a constant reminder of her presence. She, in turn, plays a combination role of big sister and mother, taking Francois under her wing and spending quality time with him. She later learns that he was been adopted by his aunt and uncle after his parents died in a terrible car crash. Worse, Francois suffered the trauma of being trapped under his mother's body for hours. With Wendy able to reach him in a way that no one else can, Francois's mood begins to lighten. Before long, he is bragging to his small circle of friends that she is his girlfriend, although it is never clear whether his fascination with her is based on his budding sexual instincts or simply because she has fulfilled a nurturing role that has been absent from his life since the death of his mother. As the story progresses, we also learn that Phillippe and Wendy are actually long-time lovers and that her visit from London has been arranged simply so they can spend time together. Before long, Phillippe finds himself in competition with Olivier for her attention. Florence clearly suspects that her husband's interest in Wendy is more than platonic. In a rather cringe-inducing scene, she is mocked by the male members of her household when she decides to have her hair dyed blonde in an obvious attempt to compete with the younger woman. The relationships between the principals continue to deteriorate even as Wendy and Francois become closer. An off-hand remark made by her in jest is taken seriously by the young boy who believes that they are to run away together and live in England, which leads to the inevitable heartbreaking conclusion.
There are no dramatic fireworks or show-stopping moments built into the script but the film is extremely well acted and at some points, you feel as though you are eavesdropping on a real family. Bisset ignites the screen in this early starring role as a woman who is the unintended catalyst for a lot of anxiety for the males in her life. Director Freeman handles the proceedings with sensitivity and he gets significant assistance from the fine cinematography of Peter Biziou. The U.S. marketing campaign for the film was somewhat misleading with its implication that it centered on an illicit sexual relationship between a young woman and an under-age boy. In fact, the sexual element is completely one-sided from standpoint of Francois and there aren't any erotic sequences in the film at all- just an abundance of good actors working with a believable and engrossing script.
The film has been released as part of Fox's Cinema Archives burn-to-order DVD series. The transfer is impressive. Click here to read original New York Times review. Click here to watch a clip.
Although he was regarded as a comedy genius, the sad truth is that Peter Sellers was more often than not misused in big screen comedies. After making it big on British TV and in feature films in the late 1950s, Sellers became an international sensation with his acclaimed work in big studio feature films such as "Lolita", "Dr. Strangelove", "The World of Henry Orient" and the first entries in the "Pink Panther" series. Through the mid-Sixties, he did impressive work in films like "After the Fox", "The Wrong Box" and "What's New Pussycat?" If the films weren't classics, at least they presented some of Sellers' off-the-wall ability to deliver innovative characters and comedic situations. By the late Sixties, however, his own personal demons began to get the better of him. Sellers was the epitome of the classic clown: laughing on the outside but crying on the inside. His insecurities began to affect his work habits and he became known as moody, temperamental and unreliable. Producer Charles K. Feldman was so fed up with Sellers' behavior on the set of "Casino Royale" that he fired him, even though Sellers had not yet completed pivotal scenes for the movie's climax. After this, Sellers seemed adrift. He found steady work, to be sure, but the quality was sagging. Even when he attempted to do something daring like improvise his role throughout an entire feature film in Blake Edwards' "The Party", the result was a misfire. By the mid-1970s, Sellers was struggling to regain his cinematic mojo and reluctantly agreed to re-team with Blake Edwards to revive "The Pink Panther" franchise. The two men despised each other personally but they knew that there would still be an audience for Sellers' immortal depiction of Inspector Clouseau. They were right. The revived "Panther" films did well at the boxoffice but both Sellers and Edwards got lazier with each successive film until it was clear they were simply going through the motions in search of an easy pay check. Sellers would die young at age 55 in 1980. Fortunately, his career saw at least one last triumph with his Oscar-nominated performance in Hal Ashby's 1979 classic "Being There". The film revived interest in his career and suddenly Sellers was a hot commodity again. Death cheated us from knowing if he would have successfully capitalized on the momentum. Certainly,his last credited starring role in "The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu" should give us pause when considering whether his new found respectability was merely a fluke.
One of Sellers' final films was "The Prisoner of Zenda", a comedy version of the classic 1894 adventure novel by Anthony Hope. The Sellers version came and went rather quickly and was eclipsed by the acclaim accorded him for "Being There". Universal has released "Zenda" as a burn-to-order title and in viewing the film for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it is. The movie affords Sellers the opportunity to do what he did best: play multiple roles, as he did so brilliantly in "Dr. Strangelove". The film, set in the Victorian era, opens with the accidental demise of Rudolf IV, king of a fictitious European nation. Sellers plays the bumbling monarch, who perishes in a balloon accident. We next see Sellers as the heir to the throne, Rudolf V. He is a prissy, self-absorbed playboy who is more suited for frequenting London gambling clubs than governing a nation. He gets word that he must return home immediately to be coronated. He reluctantly agrees but evil forces are out to thwart him from taking the throne. Rudolf's younger brother Michael (Jeremy Kemp) is not about to let his bumbling ingrate of a sibling rule the country and devises a method to murder him. The plot goes awry thanks to the intervention of Sydney Frewin, a humble London Hansom cab driver, who saves Rudolf's life. Sydney is, remarkably, almost an exact double for Rudolf. Knowing that Michael will try another assassination attempt, Rudolf's loyal bodyguard, General Sapt (Lionel Jeffries), comes up with an audacious plan. He enlists a reluctant Sydney to pose as Rudolf while the real heir to the throne is smuggled without fanfare back to his kingdom-in-waiting. It is only after Sydney is almost assassinated himself that General Sapt comes clean about the plan and his motives. Sydney is persuaded to continue masquerading as the hapless Rudolf but before the coronation can take place, Rudolf is kidnapped by Michael and his confederates and held in a dank cell at remote Zenda prison. When the coronation day arrives, however, Michael is thwarted when Sydney appears in the guise of Rudolf and is crowned king. Realizing that a charade is taking place because the real Rudolf is a prisoner, Michael and his conspirators engage in elaborate and increasingly ambitious plans to kill both Sydney and the real king.
The film, which was shot in Austria, features some lush landscapes and impressive costumes and production designs. Director Richard Quine gets a far more inspired performance from Sellers than his frequent collaborator Blake Edwards had been able to get, at least since Sellers' in "The Party" a full decade before. Sellers' Sydney is a refreshingly normal man, not prone to being courageous and also not prone to make bumbling errors. In fact, he's downright quick-thinking when trouble arises. Sellers plays him with a Cockney accent and invests in the character some admirable traits. As Rudolf, Sellers reverts to one of his more traditional impersonations. The would-be monarch is very much a boob, as well as a self-centered elitist. As is the norm with a Sellers creation, Rudolf has a notable eccentricity: he suffers from a speech impediment that makes him sound like Elmer Fudd. Yet, Sellers ultimately manages to convey some admirable qualities in him especially in the zany, chase-filled finale in which both characters get to engage in some derring-do. The movie has an impressive supporting cast topped by Sellers' "Shot in the Dark" co-star Elke Sommer. There are deft comedic turns by Lionel Jeffries, Jeremy Kemp, Norman Rossington, Simon Williams and Stuart Wilson. Gregory Sierra is especially funny as an insulted Count who thinks the new king is carrying on with his wife. His numerous attempts to kill the monarch are the stuff of slapstick but are nonetheless consistently amusing. Sellers' real-life wife Lynne Frederick and Catherine Schell provide additional sex appeal and Sellers' "Pink Panther" co-star Graham Stark also turns up in a bit role. Henry Mancini provides a sweeping and highly enjoyable musical score.
The film is very funny throughout and Sellers is in top form. Unlike most of the gross-out comedies released today, "The Prisoner of Zenda" has a quaint sweetness about it and it's perfect for family viewing. It's a truly underrated gem from the latter part of Sellers' career.
The film is available through the Universal Vault's burn-to-order DVD line.
The Sony Choice Collection has rescued another long forgotten TV movie from obscurity and released it as a burn-to-order title. "Kiss Me...Kill Me" is a crime thriller that was originally telecast in 1976. Compared to similar fare from that era, the film is fairly routine, though it might well be more appreciated today than it was at the time of its original airing. This is due to the fact that it boasts a strong cast of seasoned veteran actors- something that was relatively common in the 1970s, when the concept of TV movies became very popular. Most of these productions had star power and audiences enjoyed seeing some of their favorite movie stars on the small screen. "Kiss Me...Kill Me" stars Stella Stevens as Stella Stafford, an L.A-based investigator for the District Attorney's office. She is assigned to an especially disturbing murder case involving Maureen Coyle (Tisha Sterling), a respected young woman who teaches at a school for handicapped children. Maureen suffers from a disability herself: she has a leg disorder that causes her to walk with a limp. When she is discovered murdered in her apartment, the D.A.'s office is put under pressure to find the culprit behind the especially gruesome killing. Stella is assigned to work the case with veteran detective Harry Grant (Claude Akins). The two are old friends- and perhaps more. They interact with intimate familiarity and socialize at Stella's apartment. Harry's career has been in decline and views this case as a way of re-establishing his reputation. Before long, he has his first suspect: Edward Fuller (Robert Vaughn), an elitist owner of a major advertising agency who was seen lurking around Maureen's apartment building prior to the murder. Under questioning, he is less than co-operative and can't provide a logical reason for his being there in the dead of night. In looking into Maureen's personal life, a shocking secret emerges. Turns out she enjoyed kinky, rough sex and was known to frequent a seedy bar trolling for one night stands. Ultimately, Harry finds another suspect: a young black man named Hicks (Charles Weldon) who admits to having bedded Maureen. Harry's strong-armed tactics results in the down-and-out Hicks eventually confessing to the killing but Stella suspects he is not the real killer. This puts her at odds with Harry, who accuses her of sabotaging his case by continuing the investigation beyond Hicks, who she feels was coerced into confessing. Ultimately, the trail leads to Douglas Lane (Bruce Boxleitner), an arrogant young hunk who was using Fuller as a sugar daddy. Fuller is clearly infatuated with Lane and tries to buy his love and respect but all he gets is public humiliation. Stella becomes convinced that Lane is the real killer but trying to prove it could cost her her own life.
"Kiss Me...Kill Me" is rather provocative for a TV movie from this period, though overt discussion of S&M sex and gay relationships have to be hinted at rather than explicitly discussed. The film contains some rather routine chase scenes and action sequences but the script is more successful in regard to presenting some interesting characters and developing their relationships. The tensions between Stella and Harry boil over to the breaking point and there is good on-screen chemistry between Stella Stevens and Claude Akins, one of cinema's best "second bananas" who gets a rare leading man role here. It's also interesting to note that Stevens is the real star of this movie in an era when actresses were breaking the glass ceiling and emerging as popular action stars. (Think "Police Woman", "Wonder Woman" and "Charlie's Angels", all of which came about within a couple of years of each other.) The best performance is by Robert Vaughn, who boldly discards his image at a suave ladies man to play a weak, vulnerable aging gay man. In one scene he is publicly humiliated by the bisexual object of his affection and instead of going Napoleon Solo on the guy, Vaughn's character meekly endures the shame. It's a cringe-inducing scene that makes you feel sympathy for a character who is not very sympathetic. The are some other veteran actors in the flick, which helps elevate its status. They include Michael Anderson Jr, Dabney Coleman, Steve Franken and even Pat O'Brien as an elderly, wise-cracking morgue worker. In all, a rather enjoyable visit back in time to the glorious era of '70s TV movies. Let's hope Sony keeps making these long-unseen productions available.
The transfer is excellent but the release, unsurprisingly, has no extras.
a sucker for military movies. I’ve enjoyed the genre since I was a kid and that
pleasure continues to this day. As a former military guy, it matters very
little to me the time period or whether the movie is attempting to present a
message as long as the story is good and holds my interest. Director Tom Jeffrey's “The Odd Angry
Shot” is a military movie about the Vietnam War which certainly held my
interest and with great enthusiasm.
see the Vietnam War as America going it alone and for the most part that’s true
in terms of troops sent and the high cost. Almost forgotten now and little
discussed at the time is that there was an alliance between South Vietnam and
America which included South Korea, Thailand, Laos, Taiwan, Philippines, Iran,
West German, Spain, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
is among the members of this alliance to send troops to Vietnam and “The Odd
Angry Shot” is about a fictional deployment of Australians in the late 1960s.
The movie is based on the novella of the same name by William R. Nagel who
served as a cook in the Australian Army and deployed to Vietnam. He was a keen
observer during his time in Vietnam and created an award winning story of
movie is notable as one of the earliest movies to deal directly with combat
during the Vietnam War and specifically the soldiers of the Australian Army.
Sets for the movie were built on the Sydney Showgrounds in Sydney, New South
Wales, and later transported to the Australian Army’s Jungle Warfare Training
Center in Canungra, Queensland. This is where those serving in the Australian
Army trained before deploying to Vietnam.
movie is in a different category from Vietnam movies like “Apocalypse Now,” “The
Deer Hunter” and “Platoon” which take their subject very seriously and have
much to say about the war. The movie isn’t quite a comedy or even dark comedy,
but the tone is unusual compared to most movies about this war. “The Odd Angry
Shot” is a more light-hearted and even snarkier than those movies and resembles
“M*A*S*H” with a bit of “Catch-22.” Its focus is a group of men as we follow
them from pre-deployment at home in Australia to engaging the enemy in Vietnam.
When not out on patrols, where some receive the literal odd angry shot, they
deal with the inevitable boredom of deployments with beer drinking, writing
home to family, receiving “Dear John” letters, joking around, friendly brawls
and passing the time with a scorpion/spider fight.
movie features a mostly Australian cast, some of them recognizable as character
actors in Australian movies made over the past 35-years. John Jarratt plays the
central character, Bill, and has appeared in a wide variety of mostly
Australian productions from “Picnic at Hanging Rock” to the recent “Django
Unchained.” Probably the biggest name outside of Australia is Bryan Brown as
Rogers in one of many fine performances. Fans of “Mad Max” will recognize Tim
Burns in a “blink or you’ll miss him” part as a birthday party guest at the
beginning of “The Odd Angry Shot.” He was memorable as Johnny the Boy in “Mad Max,”
the guy faced with sawing off his own foot at the end of that movie.
Blu-ray includes a nice pile of extras including the trailer, an interview with
stunt man Buddy Joe Hooker and one of the better audio commentary tracks I’ve
listened to in a while with director Tom Jeffrey, producer Sue Milliken and
actor Graeme Blundell. It’s entertaining and the contributors are enjoying
their time discussing and reminiscing about their work on the movie.
movie looks terrific and sounds great. Regardless of your personal feelings of
the Vietnam War, this movie is an outstanding addition to any war movie
collection or fan of Australian cinema and certainly worthy of repeat viewings.
There are those who consider the Peter Sellers/Blake Edwards 1968 collaboration "The Party" to be an underrated comedy classic, while others feel it is a complete misfire. Count me among the latter. I can appreciate the audacity of making a minimalist comedy that was largely designed to be improvised- but there lies the rub. Sellers and Edwards succeeded in their quest to make this experimental film based on a threadbare script (60 pages) but the movie has a patchwork, almost desperate feel about how to fill up 99 minutes of screen time with what amounts to approximately 15 minutes of inspired material. Sellers is in top form, performance-wise, playing Hrudni V. Bakshi, an almost surrealistically polite Indian actor who we first see playing the title role in a big budget remake of "Gunga Din". With millions of dollars on the line, it's up to Bakshi to carry off his pivotal death scene so that a massive explosion can be detonated that will destroy an expensive set. In the film's funniest scenes, Bakshi drives the director crazy by screwing up even the simplest of tasks and prolonging his death scene for an absurd period of time. Then, carrying through on the age-old "Ready when you are, C.B" joke, he inadvertently ends up detonating the explosives and destroying the set before the cameras are rolling. Bakshi is immediately fired and his name is added to a studio blacklist so that he will never be hired again. Through a slight error, however, the studio boss, Fred Clutterbuck (J. Edward McKinley) mistakenly assigns his name to the invitation list of a party he is holding at his posh L.A. home. Thinking he has been forgiven for his costly mishaps, Bakshi is all too happy to attend the party, where the Hollywood "A" list crowd will be assembled.
Things start off promisingly as Sellers' ability for clever improvisation pays off. His initial Maxwell Smart-like bumblings are low-key enough to be believable. He mingles with the ever-growing crowd of snobbish party-goers and makes the acquaintance of a beautiful actress, Michele Monet (Claudine Longet), who is constantly being sexually harassed by her date, a hyper-mode, chauvinistic studio executive, C.S. Divot (Gavin MacLeod) who becomes increasingly desperate to bed her right there in the house where the party is taking place. For reasons never explained-and which defy credibility- she finds herself smitten by the innocent Bakshi and the two flirt, much to the consternation of Divot, who is the executive who fired Bakshi only the day before. In another strained plot device, he fails to recognize the same bumbling man he chastised and fired. The film traces Bakshi's increasingly disastrous mishaps at the party, which become more surrealistic with every passing minute. Comic actor Steve Franken appears as a tuxedo-clad waiter who walks about serving champagne on a tray but who has a nasty habit of taking liberal gulps of the bubbly himself. Edwards features the character in interminable amounts of footage, as the waiter becomes increasingly drunk. Although the scenes are skillfully played by Franken, the one-note joke becomes another repetitious absurdity. By the end of the film Edwards pulls the plug on any semblance of sanity and resorts to pure chaos. The midst of over-flowing toilets, sexual escapades, overbearing kids and their drill instructor-like nanny (a woefully underutilized Jean Carson), Edwards centers the action on a large swimming pool where, inexplicably, the household teenagers arrive with their hippie friends and a baby elephant (!) in tow, though it is never explained how suburban kids get their hands on a baby elephant. Then the pool is submerged in a never-ending sea of soap bubbles as everyone parties with the semi-submerged elephant. Keeping in mind that the film was released at the dawn of the hippie era, every major studio tried desperately to tap into the youth market, Blake Edwards included. Devoid of any meaningful concept of how to end the movie, he obviously decided that if he put in blaring music and a bunch of drunken or drug-induced party goers, the psychedelic imagery would mask the lack of genuine comedic content. The epilogue of the movie finds Bakshi mercifully back in real life, but driving a vintage 1930s three wheel classic British sports car by the Morgan Motor Company. (The car's appearance in the film became somewhat iconic.) He pays a visit to Michele's apartment and it becomes clear the two will form an unlikely romance.
Despite my reservations about "The Party", I can heartily recommend the new Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber. The first reason is because there are many people who seem to think this film is terrific and the opinion of this reviewer is definitely in the minority. The second reason is the quality of the Blu-ray itself, which does justice to one of the film's greatest assets, its creative production design by Fernardo Carrera. The transfer looks great and the colors practically leap out of the screen. Over a decade ago, MGM, which initially released the film on DVD, commissioned extras to be shot for inclusion in a special edition of "The Party". For reasons unknown, those extras were never released in the United States but were included on a UK DVD release. Why MGM didn't feel the extras were worth including in the North American market is a mystery because they feature extensive insights from Blake Edwards and other cast and crew members. Fortunately, Kino Lorber managed to rescue some of these bonus extras for inclusion on this release. One featurette details the over-all making of the film, while another is particularly fascinating, as it points out how this movie marked the first time that a video assist technique was employed on a major studio film. The innovation involved attaching a video camera to the main 35mm camera, thus allowing Edwards to view what he had just shot instead of having to wait for the dailies. It was a refinement of a technique that Jerry Lewis had been experimenting with for years. Edwards realized this would change how films were shot and at one point ended up buying the rights to the technology before relinquishing them back to the inventor, who by this point, had found a way to build a video camera inside the 35mm camera. Edwards states that he simply didn't have time to run the company while in the middle of making films, though he acknowledges that his decision probably cost him a small fortune in future profits. The Blu-ray also includes the original trailer and career over-views of Edwards and producers Walter Mirisch and Ken Wales.
So there you have it: a rare case where I can't recommend the main feature but enthusiastically recommend the Blu-ray special edition.
A long time ago in our own galaxy, major American television networks once aspired to raise the quality of the medium through the presentation of prestigious TV movies and mini-series. The trend began in earnest in the 1970s and continued through the next decade before a new generation of executives decided to dumb down the quality in favor of sensationalism. Ironically we are living in what many consider to be a new "Golden Age" of television- but the caveat is that most of the good stuff requires viewers to pay to view it through HBO, Showtime, Amazon Prime and Netflix. American network "free" TV is pretty much worth what we're paying for it with an endless array of smutty sitcoms, various "reality" shows that star real-life miscreants and a largely indistinguishable batch of urban cop shows that have so exhausted the premise that I expect CBS to announce "NCIS: Mayberry" as a new series. Add to this the interminable number of commercials and you have a medium that is self-destructing before our eyes. Even if you can become engrossed in a mystery show, the mood is rather negated by seeing countless ads for male sexual stimulants coupled with warnings that a dangerous side effect might be a four hour erection. (I have yet to meet a middle aged male who wouldn't welcome this particular "ailment".) Yet we still have visual records of the glory days of American television and that includes the availability on DVD of many high quality TV productions that were known as the "Movie of the Week". All three major networks sank a lot of money into these ventures and attracted top names to star in them. The format also afforded many aspiring young talents behind the cameras to emerge in prominence, the most notably Steven Spielberg', whose 1971 TV thriller "Duel" remains a timeless classic.
The Warner Archive has released the 1973 TV movie "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" as a burn-to-order title. The film was originally telecast in 1973, an era when some fine work was being done in the realm of the horror genre. (Both "Don't Look Now" and "The Exorcist" were released theatrically that year.) Kim Darby gives a fine performance as Sally Farnham, a young wife who has inherited a large, old world house that had once belonged to her grandparents. She moves in with her husband Alex (Jim Hutton), an up-and-coming executive whose workaholic ways causes some occasional tension in the marriage (this being an era in which the standard role for women was to keep the house tidy until her hubby came home.) The couple begins a vigorous and ambitious redecorating project and hire an interior designer (Pedro Armendariz Jr.) to redo most of the rooms. Things go well enough initially but when Sally pokes around a long-neglected study she ponders why the fireplace has been bricked up to make it as secure as a bank vault. Mr. Harris (William Demarest), a long-time handyman who worked for Sally's grandparents, informs her that he bricked up the fireplace at the insistence of her grandfather. Without telling her precisely why, he advises her to leave well enough alone and not pursue plans to make the fireplace operational. In true horror movie tradition, she instantly ignores his advice and breaks through part of the brickwork, opening a vent to a seemingly bottomless drop below. Before you can say "Vincent Price!", strange things start happening. Sally feels as though she is being watched and she hears eerie voices whispering throughout the house. In another tried-and-true horror movie tradition, her husband instantly dismisses her concerns- even when she realizes her imagination isn't playing tricks on her.
From almost the very beginning of the film, director John Newland lets the viewer in on the fact that the house is indeed haunted, though her forestalls showing us the intruders. Instead, we hear them whisper and giggle among themselves as they celebrate being free to roam the house. They know Sally by name and make it clear that they intend to steal her soul and make her one of them. The action picks up when Sally and Alex host a prestigious dinner party for his business contacts. The party goes disastrously off course when Sally catches her first glimpse of who is menacing her. It is a gnome-like little creature that stands about one foot tall and he is perched directly beneath her at the dinner table. She screams in panic and of course the creature slips away before anyone else can see him, leading Alex to chastise her later for ruining a perfectly good dinner party. She is later menaced by the creatures while she is in the shower (another horror movie tradition). This is followed by what appears to be the accidental death of visitor to the house, but Sally knows it was murder caused by the gnome creatures. With Alex leaving on a business trip, Sally does defy one horror film tradition by vowing to get the hell out of the house instead of staying around to see what happens next. Before she can leave, however, the little devils manage to incapacitate her with a sleeping pill. Only the presence of her friend Joan (Barbara Anderson) prevents them from taking her into their lair beneath the house. Joan begins to believe that everything Sally has feared is actually true and in a tense climax, the house is plunged into darkness and Joan races against time to save her friend from an unthinkable fate.
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" has built a loyal following over the decades after it's sensational initial telecast in 1973. The film is extremely well-made and intelligently scripted by Nigel McKeand. Darby and Hutton offer some real star power and William Demarest, who was primarily known for playing cranky old guys in comedies, is well-cast in a highly dramatic role that he carries off very effectively. Director Newland, an old hand at supernatural tales (he hosted the TV series "One Step Beyond") might have milked more suspense from the script by never actually showing the creatures that menace Sally. However, given the fact that he chose to do so, it must be said they are genuinely creepy. The special effects are all the more impressive given the fact that the film was made in the pre-CGI era. The cackling little demons sound like Munchkins but there's nothing cute about them. Thanks to some very good makeup effects, they provide some memorably chilling images.
The Warner Archive edition contains a bonus audio commentary track with horror movie screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick ("Final Destination", "Day of the Dead") and film historians Steve "Uncle Creepy" Barton and Sean Abley. The three are definitely in full "Mystery Science Theatre" mode, joking and mocking various aspects of the production. They pounce on the casting, saying that Darby looks like Jim Hutton's daughter instead of his wife and take some very funny potshots at the awful '70s styles Darby is seen sauntering around in. (They refer to her wardrobe as a form of birth control.) Just when their sarcasm about the film seems to be going into the realm of disrespect, they make it clear that they very much admire the film as a whole and appropriately commend key aspects of the production. Their commentary is consistently insightful when discussing its place within the horror genre but at least two of them seem a bit ignorant of movie history in general, as evidenced by the fact they have no idea that Jim Hutton was a major star in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the commentators does at least know that "he's Timothy Hutton's father". In all, the commentary track is a very nice bonus feature one would not readily expect to find on a title such as this.
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is a bit dated in concept and execution but it stands light years ahead of most of the gore-drenched "dead teenager" movies that define the horror genre today, as evidenced by the lackluster response accorded to the 2010 big screen remake.
Vinegar Syndrome has released a limited edition (1,500 units) dual format edition of the 1978 adult movie hit "Pretty Peaches" by director Alex deRenzy, who was perhaps the most prolific director the medium had ever seen. deRenzy didn't crank out cheapo grind house movies. Instead, he tried to incorporate relatively high production values, often shooting in outdoor locations. He also had an eye for attracting some of the most exotic actresses of the era. "Pretty Peaches" is one of deRenzy's most notable achievements. The movie introduced Desiree Costeau, who would go on to be a legendary name in erotic cinema. deRenzy made hardcore movies with some substance and style and this title is no exception. The plot finds the title character, Peaches (Costeau), an amiable but air-headed young beauty, racing along in her jeep in a hurry to get to Virginia City, Nevada, in the hopes of attending her father's civil wedding ceremony to his second wife, a young black woman with an insatiable sexual appetite. Peaches arrives just in the nick of time for the ceremony but after making some small talk with her father, she speeds off again in her jeep en route to San Francisco. Along the way, her jeep goes off the road and she is knocked unconscious. Two young men race to her assistance but, upon examining the scantily-clad Peaches, become sexually aroused. One of them goes so far as to violate her while she is still unconscious. When she finally awakes, she has complete amnesia. The men use this to their advantage by convincing her that they own the jeep and offer her a ride to San Francisco, where they coincidentally share an apartment. Peaches goes along but is troubled by the fact that she can't recall her name or anything about her background. While in the big city she tries to find professional help but ends up receiving treatment from a mad, sex-crazed doctor whose "therapy" consists of inducing enemas! She doesn't fare much better when she applies for a job as an exotic dancer and ends up being violated by a gang of lesbians. Peaches is also uncomfortable living with her two male companions, who have a steady stream of loose women over to the apartment who they bed down without any regard for privacy concerns. Ultimately, she meets a handsome, kindly psychiatrist who offers to help her if she drops by his house that evening. Naturally, this offer isn't what it seems, either, and Peaches ends up in a major orgy where her memory is jolted back in an unpleasant way when she sees her own father (!) participating in the goings-on.
"Pretty Peaches" is very much from the school of 1970s erotica that blended slapstick comedy with hardcore sex. As the title character, Desiree Costeau is quite a find- at least in terms of her physical qualifications. She also gives an amusing performance, though it's doubtful Katharine Hepburn lost much sleep about her entry into the acting profession. The film is populated with other mainstays of the adult film industry of that time period including John Leslie, Joey Silvera and Paul Thomas. Juliet Anderson (aka "Aunt Peg") also makes her screen debut in this flick playing an assertive maid who ends up in a threesome with Peaches' dad and his new bride. Director deRenzy has good instincts when it comes to turning down the comedy elements when the action gets hot and he does provide some genuinely erotic sequences- but in the aggregate, the film will probably appeal most to those who like to mix laughs with their salacious cinematic thrills.
The Vinegar Syndrome transfer is just about perfect, having been remastered from a 35mm source print. Chances are the film looks better today than it did on the big screen. The release contains some special features including three trailers for other deRenzy films and an interview with film historian Ted Mcilvenna, who knew deRenzy since the 1960s. Mcilvenna was a social activist in San Francisco who was fighting for sexual freedom and crusaded against the archaic laws in Britain that criminalized homosexuality until 1967. he relates how deRenzy was so prolific in his work that he once discovered 19 completed feature films in his archive that the director had not gotten around to editing. There is also a rare interview with deRenzy himself, shot on VHS tape shortly before his death in 2001. Vinegar Syndrome believes this is the only known filmed interview with deRenzy.