Kino Lorber has released the documentary "The Last Resort" as a DVD special edition. It's yet another worthy niche market film that the company is helping to find an audience. The movie, impressively directed by Dennis Scholl and Kareem Tabsch, at first seems to be a lighthearted, sentimental and amusing look at the elderly Jewish community that settled in Miami Beach, specifically the South Beach section, in the 1950s-1970s. Florida destinations for tourists and transplants from the northern states did not occur until the advent of air conditioning and its widespread use, which mitigated the humidity and allowed elderly people in particular to visit or move there in droves. Jews were not particularly welcome, however, as many of the more desirable apartment complexes, hotels, clubs and restaurants blatantly forbade them from entering. Yes, folks this was after the U.S. waged war against Adolf Hitler and his genocidal hoards. When new laws stopped such discriminatory practices, Jewish communities thrived and at one point, South Beach's population was 75% Jewish. Many of the elderly people who settled there were Holocaust survivors who relished the opportunity to finally find some peace and solace among others of their faith. Here they could freely practice and celebrate ancient religious and cultural rituals without interference. Miami Beach also became a haven for celebrities, a kind of southern Las Vegas. When Jackie Gleason decided to film his weekly variety show there, it inspired millions to visit the state. On every show, Miami Beach was referred to as "The sun and fun capitol of the world!" Even James Bond gave his endorsement, with the opening sequence of "Goldfinger" set the Fontainebleau Hotel, the ultimate symbol of Miami Beach's upscale status.
"The Last Resort" centers on the unique efforts of Gary Monroe and Andy Sweet, two college students and amateur photographers, who made it their mission to document what they correctly perceived would be a temporary oasis for the elderly Jewish residents of South Beach. In the pre-digital age, their commitment to this cause cost them time and money in an era in which film still had to be purchased and developed. Still, they persevered and took many thousands of wonderful shots, Monroe working in B&W and Sweet in color. Through their photographs a joyous community was brought to life and we relish the sight of elderly people attired in the garish styles of the day singing, dancing, taking in the surf and just sitting around making small talk. Their contentment is quite apparent. But the film takes a darker turn when it chronicles the rapid demise of Miami and South Beach. This occurred when the U.S. government negotiated a deal with Fidel Castro to allow for vast numbers of Cubans to immigrate to the United States through the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980. Although the majority of the immigrants were simply seeking freedom from a totalitarian state, Castro shrewdly through a twist into the plan by secretly freeing the most dangerous criminals from his jails and placing them on the boats. When many of these convicts settled in and around South Beach, the area declined virtually overnight and Miami Beach became the U.S. city with the highest murder rate. (This dark period is the setting for Brian De Palma's "Scarface".) The elderly Jewish population had already dwindled substantially due to attrition and the crime rate discouraged anyone else from wanting to settle there. Time magazine documented the deterioration with a cover that read "Paradise Lost". The film provides interviews with Monroe and his friends and colleagues who discuss how the older people were now often living along and terrified in neighborhoods that only a few years previously had been their salvation. As the area further deteriorated, Andy Sweet began to associate with the wrong crowd. He was brutally murdered in his own apartment in 1982, not yet 30 years of age. (The details of the crime are left strangely murky despite the fact that a man was tried and convicted of his murder.) As the city managed to ultimately reduce the social problems and lower the crime rate, South Beach became a haven for the hip, young party crowd. Prices soared and the area's signature art deco buildings were converted into expensive business venues and luxury apartments. Andy Sweet's friends mounted an organized campaign to showcase his life's work, the collection of many thousands of photos. Their trials and tribulations in doing so is a testament to their devotion to him and the result is this film.
Nicholas Ray’s “The True Story of Jesse James” (1957), now
available on a Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray, is one of those movies
that really depresses me whenever I see it. It’s a reminder how life sometimes
just seems to go out of its way to be unfair... and it’s got nothing to do with
Jesse James at all. It’s about James
Ray had just finished directing Dean in “Rebel Without a
Cause,” and the word is that if Dean hadn’t wiped himself out in a Porsche
Spyder down in Bakersfield, Ray would have cast him in “True Story’s” title
role. It would have been perfect casting. Dean, an actor who could reach down
into the cauldron of seething emotion that smoldered deep inside him, would
have electrified the screen with a Jesse James that nobody’d ever forget.
Instead, what we got was a bland, lifeless performance by Robert Wagner as
Jesse, aided and abetted by Jeffrey Hunter, another fifties pretty boy, as
Jesse’s brother Frank. Hunter at least was capable of an occasional angry scowl,
but Wagner’s magazine cover good looks never changes expression once during the
entire 92 minutes of the film. “The True Story of Jesse James,” is an
opportunity lost, a muffed chance at what could have been a classic American
That’s not to say it’s not an interesting movie. Nicholas
Ray never made an uninteresting film. Ray’s approach to the outlaw’s story is
definitely his own. The script by Walter Newman (“The Man with the Golden Arm”
1955) is a rewrite of the screenplay written by Nunnally Johnson for the
earlier “Jesse James” (1939) film, which was directed by Henry King and starred
Tyrone Power as Jesse and Henry Fonda as Frank. Johnson’s script made the
argument that it was the encroachment of the railroad and the way it grabbed
the land of Missouri farmers that caused the James boys to turn outlaw. The
story shows how the James’ fight with the railroad escalated, with the powerful
railroad executives, crooked lawyers and corrupt judges pushing Jesse and his
friends into a corner, forcing them to turn to violence. The James brothers and
their pals, the Youngers, the Fords, and the Millers, moved up from robbing
trains to banks, culminating in the disastrous robbery of the Northfield,
Minnesota National Bank, which basically ended the outlaws’ careers.
“The True Story of Jesse James,” tells a different story,
and tells it in a different way. In Ray’s version it wasn’t the railroad that
was responsible, it was the fact that the James boys fought for the Confederacy
but lived in an area of Missouri surrounded by Yankee sympathizers. Their
neighbors hated them for riding with Quantrill’s Raiders, and persecuted them,
siding with Union soldiers when they came to arrest Frank. Arkew (Chubby
Johnson), one of the neighbors, whips Jesse with his belt to make him tell
where Frank is hiding. Jesse refuses to tell and promises him “someday” he’ll
settle the score. It’s a pretty bland threat coming from Wagner, and it almost
forces you to imagine how Dean would have played it. Later in the story, it is
a crucial plot element, when just on the eve of being granted amnesty by the
governor, Jess runs into Arkew, and kills him, ruining the chance for a
peaceful outcome. That scene would have been colossal in Dean’s hands, but lacks
the impact it should have had.
Newman’s screenplay doesn’t stop at blaming the war for
Jesse’s activities, it tries to go deeper. A newspaper editor refuses to write
up an obituary in advance because he says first he has to know what made Jesse
the man he was. Preacher Jethro Bailey (John Carradine, who played Bob Ford in
the earlier film) blames the devil for what he became. But Zee, Jesse’s wife
(Hope Lange) disagrees, saying he was a “sweet, gentle boy” who was pushed into
outlawry by the haters all around him and his family.
Not only are the causes of Jesse’s behavior explained
differently, the way Jesse’s life is examined is different as well. In the
earlier film, the story is told chronologically. But “The True Story of Jesse
James” begins at the end with the Northfield bank robbery and tries to put the
puzzle of James’s personality together through flashbacks. This
socio/psychoanalytical approach is one that Ray could have used successfully
with Dean in the title role, portraying Jesse as another one of his rebel-without-a-cause
characters. But Wagner lacked the depth to be able to come to grips with the
demands the part called for, and it appears that Ray simply gave up trying to
get more out of him. The film lacks the energy of most of Ray’s other films, with
many scenes consisting of stretches of dialogue that go on far too long. And,
for whatever reason, Ray actually re-used footage from the earlier movie. The
train robbery with the silhouetted figure of Jesse running over the top of the
cars, and the scene during the Northfield raid where Jesse and Frank ride their
horses through a storefront window were both clipped from the earlier film. Had
Ray lost enthusiasm for the movie by the time it came to shoot those scenes? We
may never know.
Twilight Time presents “The True Story of Jesse James,”
in its original 2.35:1 Cinemascope aspect ratio in a very sharp 1080 p high
definition transfer. The film was shot with Twentieth Century Fox’s Color by De
Luxe and looks great. All of Fox’s Cinemascope films had terrific stereo
soundtracks, and Twilight Time has transferred it in optional 5.1 DTS HD, or
2.0 DTS. The 3,000 unit limited edition comes with a separate audio track for
Leigh Harline’s music score. There’s also some Fox Movietone newsreel footage as
well as the theatrical trailer. Twilight Times’ Julie Kirgo provides an
informative essay along with some stills in an 8-page booklet.
Sometimes life is unfair. We didn’t get to see James Dean
in what could have been one of his greatest roles, but at least we have
Twilight Time preserving the kind of films that remind of us of when we were
young and what it was like to be a rebel.
The success of Larry Cohen’s 1973 Blaxploitation classic,
Black Caesar, was so immediately
evident that producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, then head of American International
Pictures, put the sequel wheels in motion almost instantly. The follow-up, Hell Up in Harlem, was released just 10
months later, still in 1973. Such a hasty turnaround certainly makes its mark
on the completed picture, with a frenetic tempo, chaotic storyline, and haphazard
construction that all seems to mirror its own pace of production. Yet even in
the face of this slapdash development, the film itself is thoroughly
entertaining, if not quite living up to its predecessor.
Reprising his role as Tommy Gibbs, the shrewd criminal
entrepreneur who worked his way up through the underworld ranks in Black Caesar, Fred Williamson starts off
the sequel in dire straits. As seen in the earlier film, Tommy had proudly
flaunted an aggressive charm, with a sly sense of humor that worked in tandem
with his brazen confidence. He knew where he wanted to go in life and was assuredly
willing to do whatever it took to get there, be it learning Italian so as to
ingratiate, impress, and ultimately usurp the more ethnically traditional
mobsters in the city, or simply to do the dirty deeds necessary to establish
his prominence—if there was territory he wanted, his fierce ambition secured
it. Before long, Tommy assumed a swaggering spot center stage on the streets,
branching out from low-level misdemeanors to criminal enterprises with broad
ramifications. Needless to say, he also made more than a few enemies in the
process, and his brutal track record catches up with him. As Black Caesar ends, Tommy has been shot,
mugged, and left for dead outside the dilapidated apartment building he used to
These final minutes are recapped during the opening
credits of Hell Up in Harlem, now
available on Blu-ray from Olive Films. We also see that Tommy’s nascent archenemy,
District Attorney DiAngelo (Gerald Gordon), had set up the hit, with a little
help from Tommy’s scorned ex, Helen, played by Gloria Hendry. In this manic
opening, with its looming threat of death, Tommy appears slightly more
vulnerable than he had in Black Caesar,
or would again in Hell Up in Harlem (after
Arkoff saw the instant potential of Black
Caesar, he recalled and quickly altered certain prints of the film,
adjusting what was supposed to have been Tommy’s fatal dénouement). It gives
him a tinge of fallibility, but there is little doubt he will be back on top in
no time. The depleted hero still has a few friends left, and most importantly,
he is still in possession of vital ledgers detailing the rampant misdeeds of
several high-ranking city officials. Aside from using this information to
essentially erase the transgressions and conflicts of Black Caesar, holding the books as leverage to set things right, Tommy
plans to crack down on the city’s drug trade and, with Jennifer (Margaret
Avery), his generally inconsequential new love interest, he hopes to move into
a life of legitimacy. All of this is easier said than done, of course, and Tommy
is soon embroiled in police conspiracy and in-house treachery: his
overly-ambitious enforcer, Zach (Tony King), has been scheming since the
beginning, and is none too pleased when Tommy’s father re-enters the picture to
assume a more prominent role.
There are many ways to approach reviewing a movie like
“Crazy Six.” You could join all the disgusted and angry user reviews on IMDb
and call it the worst freaking movie you’ve ever seen. It’s got an incoherent
script, if there was any at all. The art nouveau cinematography only further
distracts from any sense the story might have made. There’s no continuity, with
scenes following each other without any narrative logic and actors all seeming
confused and dazed (as opposed to dazed and confused), standing around on the
set as if they weren’t sure where to stand, and even less certain what their
Or you could discuss the career of the film’s director,
Albert Pyun, a B-movie director who has been called today’s Ed Wood, and who is
most famous for using the sets and costumes from a Spiderman movie that never
got made and a canceled “Masters of the Universe” movie, to cobble together the
hit sci-fi film “Cyborg,” (1989) which made Jean Claude Van Damme a superstar. He
is considered in some circles a creative, edgy director with films like “The
Sword and the Sorcerer” (1982), and “Radioactive Dreams” (1985). He also
directed a pretty decent “Captain America” (1990), with Matt Salinger, J.D.s
kid. (BTW where are all those books J.D wrote but were never published?) But Pyun eventually wound up as one of those
guys making movies for the direct-to-video market. By 1997, he was directing
schlock like “Crazy Six.”
Another way to review “Crazy Six” would be to focus on the
cast. With names like T, Lowe, van Peebles, and Reynolds appearing on the
poster for the film, you might expect one or two good performances, at least.
Unfortunately, the actors look as though they were shipped out to Prague or
wherever in Eastern Europe this was filmed, and shoved off the bus onto the
grimy streets of “Crimeland,” (which is what the written out prologue calls the
place at the start of the movie), looking like they just escaped from a way-off
Broadway production of Pirandello’s Four
Characters in Search of a Better Agent.
After the fall of communism, the prologue explains, rival
gangs took over this part of Eastern Europe now known as “Crimeland.” Ice-T is
the head of one of the gangs, Mario is head of another, and Rob Lowe another
(although his character is stoned out of his mind most of the film.) By the
way, Lowe’s character is called “Crazy Six,” he says, because he was the sixth
child in his family and he’s, well, nuts, I guess. Crazy has a sexy blonde
girlfriend (Ivana Milicivic), who sings in a nightclub and, I swear, every shot
she’s in, all through the picture, she’s smoking a cigarette. There are
literally dozens of close ups of her sucking on a ciggie, smoke lit up
dramatically all around her, as if they were shooting a bootleg Marlboro
commercial. It’s the first movie that ever made me feel like I was having an
Van Peebles plays Dirty Mao. He and his gang all wear
wide-brimmed black fedoras and black suits. Dirty Mao carries a Chihuahua, and
talks with a fake French accent. Ice T is Raul, a Spanish gangster, who has
little dialogue. Maybe T didn’t want to fake a Spanish accent. He mostly stands
leaning against walls, with a really pissed off (more than usual) look on his
face, as though he’s contemplating walking off the set any second.
The local Crimeland
police are at a loss battling these laughable crime lords, but lucky for them
they have the help of an expatriate American detective on the force named
Dakota, played by Burt Reynolds, wearing what looks like the same cowboy hat he
wore in “Hooper,” along with a trench coat. While Van Peebles and Ice-T seemed
to have no clue that they were actually in a movie, and Lowe played a character
stoned on drugs in every scene, only Reynolds actually attempts to play a
character. Of course, he’s playing himself, as he always did, but he at least
gets some laughs out of it. At the end of the film he ends up with Dirty Mao’s
Chihuahua. Somebody asks him whose dog is that? He says. “Meet my new partner,
Actually, there really is no way to review “Crazy Six,”
because there’s nothing there to review. This movie is strictly for Pyun fans
who want a complete collection of his work, or fans of Burt Reynold, for the
same reason. While everybody looks miserable in “Crazy Six”— and it certainly
is without a doubt the nadir of Reynolds’ career— don’t feel too bad for him.
He probably got a good check and a trip to Europe out of it. Hollywood. It’s a
tough town. Everything’s a gamble and you never know when you’ll hit the
jackpot. The same year he made this turkey, he made “Boogie Nights,” and found
his career suddenly revived.
“Crazy Six” has been released on Blu-ray by the MVD Marquis
Collection.Picture and sound are
excellent. A 2.40:1 aspect ratio was used and the sound is PCM Stereo. The only
extras are some trailers for other MVD releases. Unless you’re a masochist, or
a true Burt Reynolds fan, don’t waste your money. Maybe it’ll show up on cable.
"The High Cost of Loving" is yet another worthy film that has been plucked from obscurity by the Warner Archive. The 1958 comedy offered a rare starring role to Jose Ferrer as well as an opportunity for him to direct a feature film. Ferrer plays Jim Fry, a 15 year veteran of working diligently in the purchasing department for a mid-size company. He is frustrated with the corporate red tape that inhibits productivity but is overall happy in his work as well as with his home life. Why not? He's in his late 40's and his wife Ginny (Gena Rowlands in her big screen debut) is a ravishing blonde beauty twenty years younger than him (though the poster for the film simply ignores this and refers to them as the "young couple".) The film opens on an amusing note that will be familiar to many working couples. We see Jim and Ginny go through their morning workday rituals in an almost robotic fashion, barely saying a word to each other as they each perform their unspoken duties. He gets breakfast ready, she serves him orange juice in the shower. They both sit silently at the table, each taking a quick read of sections from the newspaper. They both climb into their vehicles and pull out of the garage in tandem before, each en route to their jobs. Ginny, against the fashion of the day, has her own career working at a small company. Jim still considers himself a rising star in his own company, a conceit that is reinforced by the news that his employer is being taken over by a much larger corporation. Warned that this often results in layoffs, Jim feels he is immune. He also isn't sympathetic to those who might lose their jobs, attributing it to social Darwinism and "the law of the jungle".
Jim's smug attitude goes into a nosedive when he discovers that virtually all of his fellow executives have been summoned to a forthcoming luncheon as a get-acquainted meeting with the new brass. The problem is that he didn't receive the invitation. Assuming it must have been a mistake, he pretends he did receive it and joins in all the backslapping among his colleagues who view this as a way to make a good impression on the new bosses and rise the corporate ladder. As the days pass, it becomes apparent an invitation isn't in the cards for him. His concern turns to paranoia as he tries to analyze why all his years of devoted service have resulted in him being bypassed. He becomes obsessed to the point that he barely acknowledges Ginny's news that she is pregnant, something that both have been hoping for quite some time. (Although the film hints at sexual activity, the prudish norms of the time in the film industry relegates both husband and wife to separate beds.) To bolster his spirits, Jim's best friend from the office, Steve Heyward (Bobby Troupe) arranges for he and his wife Syd (Joanne Gilbert) to go to dinner with Jim and Ginny. However, the evening is ruined by Syd's incessant chatter about the importance of the corporate luncheon, which she doesn't realize Jim has not been invited to. The script plays out predictably with Jim interpreting every action (or inaction) of his new bosses as a sign that he is about to be fired. He looks up an old business contact in hopes of getting a new job but not only are there none open, but he is warned that in terms of his age, he might be considered "over the hill" in the corporate world. Now enraged, Jim plans to have a showdown with the brass and tell him what he thinks of them, unaware that his snub from the luncheon was due to a bureaucratic mistake that they intend to rectify.
"The High Cost of Loving" is a modest production shot in B&W on a fairly low budget (most of the scenes are studio interiors). However, the movie signifies that paranoia about one's place in their jobs is not a new phenomenon and that discrimination based on age in the corporate world is also a long-standing concern. There is also plenty of sexism that never gets addressed. When she announces she is pregnant, Jim orders Ginny to quit her job ASAP. The corporate world is made up entirely of men in management positions and bosses refer to keeping an eye out for good "men" they can promote. All of the women in the office are clearly in secretarial positions. Ferrer gives a wonderful performance (did he ever not?) and has a deft hand at the comedic elements of the script. He never allows the characters to depend on slapstick or one-liners to get a quick laugh. They all talk the way real people would in the circumstances. There is also a great deal of pathos involved as Jim comes to a life lesson that no one should define the worth of their character on the basis of a specific job. The film boasts a wonderful supporting cast with Rowlands displaying the star qualities that would serve her well in the years to come. There are also some fun appearances by TV sitcom stars of the future including Jim Backus ("Gilligan's Island"), Werner Klemperer ("Hogan's Heroes"), Edward Platt ("Get Smart") and uncredited appearances by Nancy Kulp ("The Beverly Hillbillies") and Richard Deacon ("The Dick Van Dyke Show" and the only character in the film allowed to go a bit over the top.)
The film is not only delightful but unexpectedly poignant. The DVD includes the original trailer.
“The Revolt of the Slaves” (1960), now available on a
spectacular-looking Blu-ray from Kino-Lorber, tells the familiar story of a
beautiful Roman woman of high birth (Rhonda Fleming), who falls in love with a Christian
slave (Lang Jeffries) during the period when Emperor Maximian (Dario Moreno)
was busy feeding said Christians to the lions.It’s based on a 19th Century novel by Nicholas Patrick
Wiseman called “Fabiola,” and, although the liner notes say Fleming plays
Fabiola, in the English language version of the movie, which was written by Hollywood
veteran Daniel Mainwaring (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), they call her
Claudia. Maybe Mainwaring just didn’t like a weird name like Fabiola (or maybe
Fleming didn’t think it was sexy enough). Who knows? But the fact is, the whole movie is pretty weird that way.
It’s an Italian-Spanish-German production done in a style that is a crazy mix of
a Steve Reeves sword and sandal peplum (minus
Hercules), and the religious spectacles of the early 1950s, like “Quo Vadis,” “The
Robe” and “Demetrius and the Gladiators.” Director Nunzio Malasomma (“15
Scaffolds for a Murderer,” The White Devil”) has a real flair for juggling the
two styles—for example cutting from the reverential tone of a scene depicting
faithful Christians down in the catacombs praying, to a shocking close-up of a Christian
getting an arrow right in the bread basket. In a bizarre touch, the arrow is
fired by an African mercenary clad in over-the-shoulder leopard skins—one of
the emperor’s private security force hired because he doesn't trust the Roman Praetorian
Guard. “I’m not going to be done in by my own men, like Nero was,” he says. It
may or may not be historically accurate, but it’s a nice touch.
The plot of “The Revolt
of the Slaves” is pretty simple. The idea seemed to be to hustle the cast and
fifty or sixty extras around from one set to another for 104 minutes until they
all finally end up in the arena where they will face various means of
execution. The movie seems to have been influenced mainly by 20th
Century Fox’s “Demetrius and the Gladiators,” which starred Victor Mature and
Susan Hayward and featured a stand-out performance by Jay Robinson as Caligula.
(Remember Robinson standing over the dead Christian he had just killed, holding
the Robe he believed had magical powers, commanding him to rise? “Rise
Christian! Rise! Why won’t he rise?”) “Revolt” suffers quite a bit in comparison with
“Demetrius,” however. Rhonda Fleming,
who did a good job as Claudia/Fabiola, never became as big a star as Susan
Hayward, and Lang Jeffries as Vibio, her love interest in the film (and in real
life), was definitely no Victor Mature. But there is one performer in “Revolt”
who stand out almost as much as Robinson did in “Demetrius.” Serge Gainsbourg
plays Corvino, head of the emperor’s secret police. Physically, he resembles
Robinson, and plays Corvino as a hawk-nosed, sniveling, nasty little cutthroat
who keeps a pit of hungry dogs in his house and he’s always throwing somebody
or other into it. The unknown actor who dubbed his English dialogue almost
seems to be channeling Robinson’s nasal speaking voice. Director Malasomma
gives us our first glimpse of Corvino in a characteristically eccentric scene
with Corvino tied down on a torture rack, writhing and screaming “Stop! Stop!
It hurts!” as a big guy turns the crank. The torturer guy stops and says: “You
wanted to see if it worked.” “It works,” Corvino says, getting up, rubbing the
soreness out of his limbs. “I can’t understand why he didn’t talk.” “He’s a
Christian. The more you make a Christian suffer, the better they like it.”
It’s Corvino who sets the wheels of the plot in motion
when he spies on Claudia/Fabiola’s cousin, Agnese (Wandissa Guida) at a secret
meeting of Christians in the catacombs and reports it to the emperor. Corvino lies
and tells the emperor that Claudia and her whole family are Christians and
Claudia soon finds herself locked up with Vibio and Agnese in the emperor’s
dungeon and learns her father’s been killed. Vibio chisels out a stone in the wall of the dungeon to
let water from the sewer on the other side pour into the dungeon. There’s a
trap door in the ceiling and when the water rises they’ll float up and climb
out through the trap door. A nice clean getaway. Once they’re out, they’re on
the run. However, Claudia/Fabiola goes back to the emperor and denounces
Christianity. She’s freed, but when she finds out the emperor has gone bonkers
and is sending every Christian in Rome to the arena and that Vibio has gone there
to rescue them, she tries to help but ends up in the arena herself.
Woven into the story are a couple of real-life martyrs of
the early church, St. Sebastian (Ettore Manni) and St. Agnes of Rome.
Sebastian’s death was particularly gruesome and this film version is historically
accurate. The emperor ordered him to be tied to a tree and shot with arrows in
every part of his body except his heart, so that he would suffer great
long-lasting pain. He lives through it briefly, as a human pin cushion, but is
killed later in the emperor’s palace, when he goes to plead mercy for the
Christians. Agnese, Claudia/Fabiola’s niece, is actually a fictionalized
version of St. Agnes. In the movie she was in love with Sebastian, but in
reality the two never met. It wouldn’t have mattered if they did, since Agnes
was 12 years old when she was martyred. In the movie she dies in the arena by a
spear tossed by one of the African mercenaries.
Like most Italian epics there is action and spectacle
aplenty in “The Revolt of the Slaves”, especially during the final 20 minutes when
all the Christian extras are herded into the arena and dozens of Roman extras
up in the cheap seats start screaming for their blood. The film could have
redeemed itself with a decent ending even halfway close to reality, but instead
Malasomma went for a totally make-believe finish that you can’t help laughing out
“The Revolt of the Slaves” is a colorful spectacle that comes
pretty close to matching the size and splendor of those earlier Christian
persecution movies. The costumes and sets (especially the throne room of the emperor’s
palace) are large scale, a visual treat in high def. Kino-Lorber’s 1080 p
transfer of the 2.40:1 image brings it all to vibrant life. The original trailer is included along with trailers for other Kino Lorber releases: "The Vikings", "David and Bathsheba", "Kings of the Sun" and "Those Redheads from Seattle". Even if it leaves a
lot to be desired in the script department, the movie is fun to watch, partly
for the way it looks, but mainly for Gainsbourg doing his Jay Robinson impression.
If you enjoy weird spectacle and colorful action, “The Revolt of the Slaves” is for
For decades Bob Hope was one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. In the 1940s and 1950s, his films were regarded as sure-fire moneymakers. Studios loved Hope productions. They were generally filmed on modest budgets and returned major profits. By the late 1960s, Hope was still very much in-demand on American television. His TV specials for NBC always topped the ratings and Hope was a ubiquitous presence on TV chat shows. He even had a semi-permanent gig as the most beloved of all hosts for the annual Oscars broadcast. However, his status in the motion picture industry had diminished substantially. Hope's style of old-fashioned family films was becoming outdated in an era that saw new freedoms in on-screen sex and violence. When biker movies were depicting gang bangs and Bob and Carol were under the same sheets with Ted and Alice, Hope's sitcom-like comedies seemed as though they were from distant past. One of his more promising feature films was the 1969 production, "How to Commit Marriage", one of many sex-oriented comedies that were all the rage in the mid-to-late 1960s. (i.e. "The Secret Life of an American Wife", Divorce American Style", "A Guide for the Married Man", "The Tiger Makes Out", "How to Save a Marriage (and Ruin Your Life)", "Marriage on the Rocks".) In an attempt to remain relevant to modern audiences, this was the most adult-themed of Hope's big screen comedies.
Hope plays Frank Benson, a wealthy L.A. real estate agent who seems to have an idyllic life with his wife of many years, Elaine (Jane Wyman). However, their relationship is fracturing and the two spend most of their time together griping about the other and trading cruel insults. They agree to get a divorce and file the necessary paperwork. However, before they can be officially divorced, they receive a surprise visit from their teenage daughter Nancy (JoAnna Cameron), who returns from college with her new boyfriend David (Tim Matheson). He's a clean-cut type who is studying classical music and Nancy announces they intend to marry, largely because she has been so inspired by her parent's loving relationship. Frank and Elaine don't want Nancy to become disillusioned and decide to withhold the news about their pending divorce until after Nancy and David marry. However, there is a complication: David is the estranged son of Oliver Poe (Jackie Gleason), a rich promoter of rock 'n roll bands who resents Frank for selling him a Malibu mansion that was in a mudslide zone, thus resulting in Oliver losing his entire investment. He's an obnoxious boor and braggart with a sexy mistress (Tina Louise) and when he discovers the Bensons are secretly planning to divorce, he cruelly informs Nancy and David. Heartbroken and disillusioned, the young couple decides to eschew marriage and simply live together (still a shocking concept for a "nice" girl in 1969). Making matter worse, Oliver convinces the couple to quit college and join his latest band, The Comfortable Armchair, which is becoming all the rage. Distraught by the developments, Frank and Elaine begin to live in separate houses. Frank takes up with Lois Gray (Maureen Arthur), a voluptuous widow while Elaine begins dating Phil Fletcher (Leslie Nielsen), a suave rival of Frank's in the real estate trade. When both couples accidentally end up sitting beside each other at a Comfortable Armchair nightclub concert, they notice that Nancy is very obviously pregnant. They also discover that she and David have become disciples of a con-man posing as a guru named The Baba Ziba (Professor Irwin Corey). Oliver has bribed Baba Ziba to convince Nancy and David that it is in their spiritual interests to put their baby up for adoption. In reality, Oliver is motivated by his desire that the couple stay with the successful rock band and not become traditional parents.
John Payne was one of those “meat and potatoes” kind of
actors. Nothing fancy. No complicated method acting style. He just gave good,
solid, straight off-the-page performances in dozens of films and television
shows over a span of nearly 40 years. I think of him primarily as the guy trapped
and fighting for survival in old black and white film noirs of the 1950s--
films like “Kansas City Confidential,” “99 River Street,” and perhaps one of
the best noirs ever—“The Crooked Way.”
He made a number of interesting westerns however, including
“El Paso” (1949), the first of a several he made for the Pine-Thomas Productions
B-movie unit of Paramount. It was notable for the fact that it was the first
Pine-Thomas movie to have a decent budget-- $1 million. It was filmed partly in
El Paso, but mostly on the Iverson Ranch, which, film historian Toby Roan
explains in the audio commentary, was basically a western town built for the
studios to use for outdoor location shooting.
Another notable fact about “El Paso” is that it was
filmed in Cinecolor, a two strip process that was used by some studios because
it was cheaper than Technicolor. It wasn’t a very good process. Cinecolor
movies look mostly orange, with some dark blue and green. Kino Lorber transferred
“El Paso” to Blu-ray disc using a “brand new HD Master from a 4K scan of the 35
mm original 2-color negative and positive separations.” I have no idea what
that means, but that’s what is says on the box. Toby Roan swears that the image
you see on your TV is exactly the way Cinecolor movies looked back in the day.
“El Paso” was written and directed by Lewis R. Foster,
based on a story by J. Robert Bren and Gladys Atwater. It’s set just after the
Civil War, and Payne plays Clay Fletcher a Confederate Army Captain and a lawyer
who comes home to Charleston but isn’t quite ready to settle down yet. His
grandfather, a Judge (played by the saintly H. B. Warner, who played Jesus in
Cecil B. DeMille’s “King of Kings”) learns that his friend Judge Henry Jeffers
(Henry “Werewolf of London” Hull) is in some kind of trouble down in the El
Paso settlement. Clay jumps at the chance to go see what the problem is. Not
too unbelievable when we have already seen him fondly remembering that the
judge has a fine-looking daughter (Gail Russell) who he had a relationship with
before the war.
So Clay arrives in El Paso and finds the town is run by
land developer Bert Donner (Sterling Hayden) who is slowly gobbling up all the
land owned by ranchers and farmers. His number one henchman is Sheriff La Farge
(Dick Foran), who is busy either scaring or killing off any land owner who
won’t sell. In El Paso the law is whatever Donner and LaFarge say it is,
because Judge Henry has become a broken down drunk, probably driven to alcohol
by his sense of impotence at doing anything to stop the bad guys. But now Clay
Fletcher has arrived and sparked by his interest in Susan, the Judge’s
daughter, he intends to bring law and order to El Paso, not by taking them on
at gunpoint, but by using the law.
Cinema Retro has released the following press release pertaining to the Region 2 UK edition:
Steven Spielberg is
one of the greatest and most influential directors of our time, his CV spanning
an incredible array of iconic and unforgettable films such as Jaws, Jurassic
Park and Schindler’s List to name but a few. To celebrate the 25th anniversary edition of
Schindler’s List, which is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on
February 25th, we’re taking a look back at the history of Steven
Spielberg’s legendary cinematic work.
Dun Dun. Dun Dun. Dun
Dun Dun Dun Dun… JAWS. Spielberg’s first ever blockbuster movie released in the
summer of 1975 became one of the first ever movies to gross over $100 million.
Additionally, it was also one of the first movies to use animatronics
extensively and although to the modern eye it might appear robotic and fake, it
traumatised the audience of its time. Spielberg’s demands whilst directing Jaws
was that it had to be shot in the sea rather than a tank. In an interview he
stated “had we shot on the tank I don’t think Jaws would have been very
successful, because it would look really phony”. Although this did bring many
problems whilst shooting – to the point that Spielberg was almost fired because
he went over-schedule and budget – producers were so confident in his work that
they carried on and made one of the most famous films of our time.
E.T. phone home... a
story of a gentle alien stranded on earth and befriends a young boy called
Elliot. But where did this idea and vision come from? Spielberg expressed
whilst talking about E.T. that it didn’t just come to him in a flash, it was
several experiences from watching Peter Pan to witnessing meteor showers when
he was six. Spielberg explains that when shooting E.T. he aimed for reality;
although the narrative was a fantasy he believed that shots should appear as
realistic as possible. In the hope that everybody who saw the film would
believe that E.T could come into their lives. His technique and drive paid off,
as E.T. grossed $619 million worldwide.
Jurassic Park is one
of largest film franchises; it made over $50 million on its opening weekend and
became one of the biggest grosser of all time. Unlike Jaws, Jurassic Park was
ahead of schedule whilst filming as Spielberg’s creative process was more
organised and visual. He states in an interview "Every single action
sequence on this movie was storyboarded almost two years before we ever shot
scenes”. Additionally, the dinosaurs themselves were a massive element in the
success of Jurassic Park. Most of the dinosaurs were shot life size with cabled
eyes, mouth and limbs including a 20ft T-Rex, as Spielberg wanted to shoot the
action sequences live.
A more mature and
serious directing role for Spielberg was Schindler’s List, which he earned
nothing from as he used his earnings to set up the USC Shoah Foundation in
memory of those in the holocaust. Set during World War II the narrative follows
businessman Oskar Schindler who arranges to have his workers protected from the
SS so his factory doesn’t close down, but intern releases he is saving innocent
people’s lives. Schindler’s List had been on Spielberg’s desk for over a decade
before anything started moving, it was one of Spielberg’s favourite projects due
to its importance. Filming only lasted for 72 days with a small budget of $22
million which was roughly a third of the cost of Jurassic Park. Spielberg
excelled his directing ability during this project, as whilst recreating the
terror of Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp Spielberg was also over-seeing the
special effects for Jurassic Park. Schindler’s List made over $96million and 25
years on is still one of Spielberg’s most significant films.
LIST 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION IS AVAILABLE ON 4K ULRA HD, BLU-RAY
AND DVD ON FEBRUARY 25 2019
Marcello Mastroianni has a terrific role in the little-remembered 1968 comedy caper film "Diamonds for Breakfast" which doesn't appear to have enjoyed an American theatrical release. (In the U.K., it opened on as the bottom half of a double bill with a spaghetti western.) Mastroianni excelled at playing lovable rogues and here he is in his element as Grand Duke Nicholas Wladimirovitch, a descendant of the ill-fated Romanov family that was notoriously executed in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Nicky has the requisite swagger of someone descended from Russia's last czar but he has fallen on hard times. His charm, charisma and good looks ensure a bevy of willing women (especially in the new era of sexual liberation) but his finances are dwindling. While in London he discovers that the Soviet Union has agreed stage a museum display of the Romanov family jewels that were seized as property of the state after the czar was overthrown. Nicky decides that he must honor his family's legacy by stealing them back, although his motives seem to based less on principal than on securing his own financial situation. He concocts an audacious scheme to enlist a wacky artist, Bridget Rafferty (Rita Tushingham) and a team of gorgeous young women as his partners in crime. The first order of business is to convince Popov (Warren Mitchell), the high-strung Soviet representative who has duty of ensuring the safety of the jewels, to allow them to be utilized in a charitable event at a manor house (actually Blenheim Palace) where they will be modeled by Nicky's team of allies. Popov initially resists but ultimately is charmed by the pleas of the young women to relent. From there the film chronicles the elaborate enactment of the crime that involves too many elements and deceptions to analyze in detail. Suffice it to say that one of the most clever elements involves carrier pigeons to secure the heisted goods are brought to a designated location.
The film is directed at breakneck speed by Christopher Morahan and in that respect, it mirrors the type of production that had emerged in movies depicting the on-going "mod" crazy that was sweeping England in the late 1960s. Morahan is also not subtle in his handling of the humor, occasionally crossing over into slapstick with a Keystone Cops-inspired chase. The screenwriters also fall short. Although the actual caper scenes, which comprise the bulk of the film, are often clever, they are also somewhat ludicrous with the crooks relying on unpredictable instances of happenstance and good luck in order to achieve their goal. The man asset of the production is Mastroianni, who once again plays a handsome ladies man who also possesses all-to-human failings. He literally slips on a banana peel and makes other bumbling mistakes even though he's quite competent at finding gorgeous bed mates. Rita Tushingham is unfortunately relegated to a minor role once the other women become more prominent in the story. (Among them: Margaret Blye, Elaine Taylor and Francesca Tu.) Leonard Rossiter is amusing as a police inspector who is beguiled by the seductive models and Warren Mitchell is encouraged to chew the scenery as the angst-filled Soviet who knows his life probably depends upon getting back the stolen diamonds. The whole affair ends up with an ironic ending, as many of these comedic caper films do.
"Diamonds for Breakfast" is a mildly amusing farce with some good production values and some wonderful memories of the mod era with those sexy fashions and models who have the code number "007" written on their thighs. Mastroianni and some lush scenery provide the primary reasons for giving it a chance. The Kino Lorber transfer looks very good indeed and there is a generous trailer gallery of other Mastroianni and Tushingham films, though surprisingly, "Diamonds for Breakfast"'s trailer is not included.
Burt Lancaster fans can rejoice that his 1974 thriller "The Midnight Man" finally gets a home video release in America with Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release. Even better news is that this is a special edition with an informative commentary track. Lancaster co-wrote and co-directed (both with Roland Kibbee) the murder mystery that plays out like a TV movie-of-the-week from the era. That isn't meant as a knock, given how good so many of the TV crime productions were in the 1970s. The film is based on David Anthony's novel "The Midnight Lady and the Mourning Man" and, refreshingly, it has an offbeat quality about it due to its location filming in and around Clemson University in South Carolina, which was very much a sleepier locale than it is today. Lancaster is cast as Jim Slade, a once respected Chicago police officer who flew off the handle and shot his wife's lover (though it isn't clear if he killed him.) He's spent a lot of time in stir and when we first see him, he is arriving in a small southern town by bus to pick up the pieces of his life. He's broke with few prospects except a job offered to him by his old friend and police colleague Quartz (Cameron Mitchell), who is now retired from the police force and heading a security company that looks after the local university. Slade will be working in the seemingly boring job of night watchman on the midnight shift at the school, where crime isn't a major problem. However, his timing is right in terms of alleviating boredom. No sooner does Slade start the job than a psychiatric counselor for troubled students informs him that his office had been broken into and the only thing missing were several audio tapes in which students confessed the most troubling aspects of their lives. The highly confidential tapes had not been listened to but it becomes clear that one student in particular, Natalie (Catherine Bach) is particularly troubled. Slade befriends her and discovers she's an emotional wreck about the missing tape but she won't tell him what was so sensitive about the recording. When Natalie ends up dead in her dorm room, the local police captain, Casey (Harris Yulin) takes over the case and immediately arrests a local Peeping Tom who had an interest in the victim. Slade, however, voices his skepticism and starts his own ad-hoc investigation. Along the way he ends up romancing his parole officer, Linda Thorpe (Susan Clark), who has a big city mentality when it comes to sexual permissiveness.
"The Midnight Man" is a complex thriller with plenty of requisite false leads and red herrings. It's leisurely-paced and that's a good thing in the current era of shoot 'em up crime movies and TV series. There are some exciting action scenes in the film but it's primarily about following clues, which Slade doggedly does despite being targeted for murder and not being able to trust anyone, including Captain Casey, with whom he is in constant conflict. Lancaster provides one of his most low-key performances. Some critics said he was sleepwalking through the part but this isn't so. He's an ex-con with a lot to lose so it's appropriate that he would maintain a quiet, polite demeanor. Lancaster never gave a bad performance in his career and he's particularly good here. The film has a marvelous supporting cast and directors Lancaster and Kibbee use them well. It's great to see Lancaster teamed again with the ever-underrated Susan Clark after the two starred in "Valdez is Coming" a few years before. Clark has an important role here and she's excellent. So, too, is Cameron Mitchell as the only true friend Slade seems to have in an increasingly hostile and dangerous town. It's also good to see Robert Quarry in small, non-horror film (he's very good.) Lancaster's son Bill also has a supporting role and acquits himself well. The finale unloads an abundance of complex explanations in a voice-over by Lancaster as the mystery is solved. Your mind might end up reeling but if you stop and think about it all, the clues were provided throughout the film.
The Kino Lorber release has a typically fine transfer and the audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson is highly engaging and their subdued manner fits with the mood of the film itself. They genuinely like the movie and provide an abundance of interesting facts and insights. There is a also a trailer gallery for other Lancaster films available through Kino Lorber. Highly recommended.
In “Goldstone” (2016), a Lightyear Blu-ray release, Aaron
Pedersen returns as Aborigine detective Jay Swann, first seen in the 2013 crime
drama Mystery Road. Only this time out, Jay is in lousy shape. He’s suffering
emotional trauma over the loss of his daughter, and first appears on screen
driving drunk on a long, long stretch of road out on the vast, vast Australian Outback.
After driving past a sign announcing that he’s entering the town of Goldstone,
which consists of half a dozen trailers and shacks, he’s pulled over by young
local cop Josh Waters (Alex Russell). Josh tosses him into a cell in the back
of the double-wide that serves as police headquarters, where he’s allowed to
sleep it off.
Josh is about the only law enforcement officer in
Goldstone, which until now that has suited the purposes of the powers that be in
Goldstone just fine. The powers that be, in this case are Furnace Creek, the
giant mining company that is exploiting the area’s resources and aboriginal
people; the corrupt lady mayor Maureen (Jacki Weaver), who keeps the lid on
everything in town; Johnny (David Wenham), the head of security out at the mine; and Josh. Josh is young, easy to get along with and
hasn’t really bothered to pay much attention to the corruption going on all
But when Jay swerves into town and finally sobers up and starts
asking questions about a missing person’s case he’s been sent to investigate,
everybody gets a little tense. It isn’t long before some Aussie bikers wake him
up with their version of “Good Morning, Goldstone!” by riddling his trailer
with bullet holes, while he’s sleeping in it. The missing person investigation
leads to Swann uncovering a human trafficking operation run by an Asian woman
who flies girls in and out to work at another double-wide called The Ranch,
where horny miners spend their leisure time and money. The missing girl had
been one of the girls working at The Ranch.
“Goldstone,” is a slow burn. Indigenous Australian director/writer
Ivan Sen plays his cards very close to the vest, imparting little bits and
pieces of character and plot in small doses, letting the audience only
gradually grasp the bigger picture of what’s happening in the story and the
town, which of course is a metaphor for Australia as a country, and the world
as a whole. He keeps the tension low-key but constant, and throws a bit of
twist in the mix when we learn Swann came from this region originally. He meets
Jimmy (David Gulpilil), an aboriginal old-timer who has seen a little too much
of what’s going on in Goldstone. Jimmy knew his father and takes him upriver by
canoe to a canyon where aboriginal markings on the walls of a narrow passage
tell Swann something about his own spiritual heritage.
“Goldstone” is not only about Swann’s possible rehabilitation
by getting closer to his roots, it’s also about Josh, finally realizing what he
has let happen to his town. By looking away, and letting himself be
smooth-talked by the lady mayor, who bribes him with homemade apple pies, and
Johnny the mining operation security chief who offers him a stack of dough,
he’s let the place become a mini-Sodom and Gomorrah.
“Mystery Road” won a number of film awards in Australia
and “Goldstone” has received mostly praise from the critics. Sen not only
wrote, directed and photographed it, he also did the music score. His script
for “Goldstone” is a good blend of noir and social consciousness, highlighting
the theme of racial discrimination and a search for identity, wrapped up in a
murder mystery. My only quibble with the film is that it doesn’t go far enough
into the characters so that we really care what happens to any of them. Swann
is the only character with any real depth, the others are mostly clichés. But even
Swann’s inner turmoil is given only surface treatment. Still, it’s an
entertaining film that deals with serious themes, which is more than can be
said for most movies today.
Lightyear did a tremendous job transferring “Goldstone’s”
2.35: 1 image to Blu-ray. Sen’s cinematography of the long, level stretches of
arid land in the Queensland area of Australia is awe-inspiring. John Ford might
have shot it better, but not by much. The disc comes with five featurettes,
including “The Corruption of Goldstone,” “Detective Jay Swann,” “The Indigenous
People of Australia,”
Alex Russell as Josh Waters,” “Ivan Sen,” and “Jacki Weaver as the Mayor.” The
sound is 5.1 Dolby Digital.
Adventures of Hajji Baba,” a 1954 Walter Wanger production for Allied Artists
Pictures and 20th Century Fox, has been issued by Twilight Time in a Blu-ray
limited edition of 3,000 units.At the
time of its theatrical release, the film was a commercially successful entry in
the popular 1950s formula of swashbuckling romances about the legendary Middle
East of Sinbad, Ali Baba, and the Arabian Nights.In today’s post-9/11 world, when the American
public is more aware of the region’s grim reality, the Arabian Nights genre
survives, just barely, in rare efforts like “Disney’s Aladdin” and the “Prince
of Persia” video-game franchise.
the 1954 movie, Hajji Baba (John Derek), a young Persian barber, sets out to
make his fortune in the wider world.Meanwhile, across town in the Caliph’s palace, spoiled Princess Fawzia
(Elaine Stewart) wants to marry an ambitious neighboring prince, Nur-el-Din
(Paul Picerni).Her father objects,
having heard about Nur-el-Din’s cruel temper.“Think of all the wives he’s had, and how he’s treated them,” he warns.“No one can hold him.” Undeterred, the
headstrong Fawzia disguises herself as a boy and sneaks out to meet the
prince’s emissary at a nearby oasis.There, she encounters Hajji, whom she mistakes for the courier.She offers him a valuable emerald ring for
help in evading her father’s pursuit.
the two proceed together across the desert, they’re captured by a gang of lady
bandits led by the red-haired Banah (Amanda Blake), and eventually they realize
that they’ve fallen in love with each other.Escaping from Banah, the pair fall into the hands of Nur-el-Din, who
exercises his prior claim on Fawzia’s affections.Surrounded and outnumbered by the prince’s
armed retinue, and believing that it’s Fawzia’s preference anyway, Hajji
relinquishes the princess to Nur-el-Din in exchange for the ring that had been
promised to him earlier.Irked, Fawzia
rides off with the prince, who secretly orders two of his soldiers to ride
back, kill Hajji, and retrieve the ring . . .
of the time were inclined to dismiss Arabian Nights escapism of this sort, as
modern reviewers do every time a new Dwayne Johnson or Mark Wahlberg action
picture debuts.In his New York times
review, Bosley Crowther suggested that the movie needed “someone in it like Bob
Hope to kid and lampoon the ostentation of its lush Oriental gewgawry.”But most middle-class audiences were less
exacting, and looked only for “The Adventures of Hajji Baba” to provide a
couple of hours’ relaxation from the grind of work and school.The kids could enjoy the widescreen swordplay
and horseback chases, Mom might think tingly thoughts about John Derek, and Pop
could ogle Amanda Blake, Elaine Stewart, and the numerous other starlets in the
cast in their skimpy harem girl costumes.That was about as racy as Hollywood products got in those days.Compared with the boxy, black-and-white image
that moviegoers were used to watching at home on TV, the film’s sumptuous
CinemaScope, Color by De Luxe photography was sensational stuff.
2.55:1 widescreen aspect and rich color are beautifully transferred on the
Twilight Time Blu-ray, a welcome upgrade from the pan-and-scan print of the
film that airs now and then on cable’s Fox Movie Channel.Modern viewers may be put off that the Arab
and Farsi characters are played by actors whose accents are more Parsippany,
New Jersey than Persia, but that was standard practice for the day, and even
today’s Millennials will have to admit, if they’re honest, that the
old-fashioned romance between Hajji and the willful Fawzia isn’t much more
contrived than the plot of the average confection today on the Hallmark Movie
Channel, or for that matter the tortuous complications on “reality” TV’s “The
Bachelor.”Fans of ‘50s lounge music are
likely to be amused by the title tune that wends its way through the soundtrack
-- music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Ned Washington, arrangement by Nelson
Riddle, and vocal by Nat “King” Cole.The music and effects are isolated on an alternate audio track on the
Twilight Time disc.Other extras are the
original theatrical trailer, SDH subtitles, and an informative insert-booklet
by the reliable Julie Kirgo.The Blu-ray
is available HERE.
Last September, Time Life released the ultimate Robin Williams video set. Here is the official press release:
"You know that cartoon, that Tasmanian devil that comes
out and just spins --
he was that, but eloquent and hilarious."
-- Billy Crystal
"He was like something waiting to happen...a very
-- Steve Martin
"Everybody else prepared, Robin was just a natural...
and he worked on every level."
-- Jay Leno
THIS SEPTEMBER, JOIN TIME LIFE FOR THE
DEFINITIVE DVD COLLECTION CELEBRATING
THE COMEDY CAREER OF A BELOVED ICON
ROBIN WILLIAMS: COMIC
Across 22 DVDs and 50+ Hours, the Electrifying Comic Lights
Up the Room in This Ultimate, One-of-a-Kind Compendium Spanning 40 Years
on TV, Including All Five HBO Stand-Up Specials Together for the Very
First Time, Never-Before-Released Performances and Backstage Footage, Talk Show
and Late Night Appearances, Rare Archival Clips, Brand New Interviews Featuring
Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Martin Short, Pam Dawber, Lewis
Black, and Zak Williams, a Collectible Memory Book Featuring Archival
Photos, Robin's Tour Notes, and More!
FAIRFAX, VA (September 25, 2018) - Robin Williams was a
generational talent, graced with comedic brilliance, rapid-fire improvisation,
and a deep well of warmth and compassion that translated to every role he
inhabited. From his breakout role in ABC's Mork & Mindy to his Academy
Award®-winning performance in Good Will Hunting, the iconic actor displayed an
inimitable artistry that made him beloved by millions. This September, join
Time Life, in conjunction with the Trustees of the Robin Williams Trust, in
celebrating the incomparable career of the singularly innovative actor with ROBIN
WILLIAMS: COMIC GENIUS.
Available exclusively at RobinWilliams.com
beginning September 25th, this definitive collection of Williams' comedy
highlights arrives as interest in his life and career increases in the wake of
HBO's critically acclaimed documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
from Emmy® Award-winning director Marina Zenovich and Oscar-winning producer
Alex Gibney, and Dave Itzkoff's biography Robin, a New York Times best-seller.
Celebrating the actor's memorable 40-year career, from his uproarious turn as
loveable alien Mork and his legendary HBO stand-up specials to his numerous
appearances on late night, this handsome, 22-disc collection, housed in deluxe
All five HBO stand-up specials together for the very first
time, including Off the Wall (1978), An Evening with Robin Williams (1983), An
Evening at the MET (1986), Live on Broadway (2002) and Weapons of Self
Never-before-released concert specials, including Robin's
full MGM Grand Garden stand-up from 2007 and the Montreal stop on his last
tour, a conversation on stage between Williams and comedian David Steinberg
Memorable talk show and late night TV appearances on The
Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Oprah
Winfrey Show, The Graham Norton Show, Saturday Night Live and more
Rare, never-before-seen clips including early stand-up, raw
footage from HBO's promo shoots, a hilarious toast to Richard Pryor by Robin as
Mrs. Doubtfire, and more
Brand new interviews with close friends and family including
Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, Eric Idle, David Steinberg, Lewis Black
and Zak Williams
11 hilarious episodes of Mork & Mindy, including the
James Lipton's Emmy® Award-nominated 90-minute interview with
Robin on Inside the Actors Studio, plus deleted scenes
A comprehensive collection of Robin's USO shows around the
Original and newly created bonus features including
behind-the-scenes footage, local highlights from tour stops, promos and more.
Featurettes include: The Early Years, San Francisco: Where It All Started, Comic
Genius, and TV's Best Guest
Critically acclaimed 2018 HBO documentary, Robin Williams:
Come Inside My Mind from Emmy® Award-winning director Marina Zenovich and
Oscar-winning producer Alex Gibney.
"Robin Williams: Uncensored", a collectible
24-page, full-color memory book featuring rare, archival photos from
award-winning photographer Arthur Grace, reminiscences from friends and
colleagues, Robin's personal tour notes and more.
Uncensored, electric, intense and unfailingly hilarious,
Williams made it his life's work to make people laugh--whether he was holding
forth on culture, politics, the human body or drugs--with razor-sharp wit and
insight. As his long-time friend Billy Crystal said, "In the 40 odd years
he was in front of us, especially on television, he never let you down. He was
always funny, he always did something new." And, in unforgettable ways,
ROBIN WILLIAMS: COMIC GENIUS reveals and celebrates the wide range of his incredible
talents like never before.
Adventures of Robin Hood,” which aired on CBS from 1955 to 1959, was an early
example of a television series produced in the U.K. and imported by an American
network into U.S. living rooms with great success -- a forerunner of numerous
hit shows to follow from across the Atlantic, including “The Avengers,” “Secret
Agent/ Danger Man”, too many “PBS Masterpiece Theater” favorites to list, and
more recently “Downton Abbey.”It was
also an early example, replicated as well by “Downton Abbey,” of a popular TV
series leveraged into a big-screen theatrical movie.The year after “The Adventures of Robin Hood”
ended its U.S. network run, its producer Sidney Cole and star Richard Greene
created a feature-film version, “Sword of Sherwood Forest,” in partnership with
Hammer Studios, for release here through Columbia Pictures.Although supporting roles were recast, Greene
returned as Robin, and some principals from the series’ production crew were
reunited as well.Director of
Photography Ken Hodges returned, the screenplay was provided by Alan Hackney,
who had scripted many of the episodes of the series, and the director was
Terence Fisher, already a Hammer veteran, who had directed several series
episodes.Media historians tend to
characterize the TV and theatrical movie industries in the 1950s and early ‘60s
as bitter rivals for viewership, but the two industries in fact often enjoyed a
friendlier synergy of mutual convenience.In the case of “Sword of Sherwood Forest,” the popularity of the earlier
series provided theaters with a built-in audience for the movie.In turn, the film reminded fans to watch for
the syndicated reruns of the TV show, which continued to be broadcast on local
stations well into the 1970s.
the movie, which has been released on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in a limited
edition of 3,000 units, a well-dressed, badly wounded man flees into Sherwood
Forest, escaping from a posse led by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Peter
Cushing).Through Maid Marian (Sarah
Branch), the sheriff approaches Robin Hood with the offer of a pardon if he’ll
turn over the wounded fugitive, but Robin refuses.He knows, even if Marian has yet to learn,
although she quickly does, that the offer of clemency from his old enemy the
sheriff “isn’t worth the breath he uses to make the promise.”The fugitive eventually dies from his wound,
but not before passing along a brooch stamped with a mysterious emblem, and
mentioning the name of a town, Bawtry.Leaving Little John (Nigel Green) to lead the Merry Men in his absence,
Robin investigates with the help of Marian and Friar Tuck (Niall McGinnis). Gradually,
they uncover a plot involving the charming but secretive Earl of Newark
(Richard Pasco), his henchman the sheriff, an attempted land grab, a visit by
the Archbishop of Canterbury, and plans to carry out a high-level assassination
if the land grab fails.
Kino Lober is releasing a number of value-priced Blu-ray double features with similarly-themed films. Among them is the combo of "Betsy's Wedding" and "Holy Matrimony". The first movie is a 1990 release starring and directed by Alan Alda, who had directed three previous feature films. Anyone who has been involved in planning a wedding knows that the old adage "The more the merrier!" rings hollow. In fact, the logistics of planning a wedding can become increasingly complicated and frustrating in direct correlation with the number of well-meaning people who decide to involve themselves. There's always the risk that the betrothed couple will be overwhelmed by logistics and that the wedding plans are catered to please everyone but them. Such is the case in "Betsy's Wedding". Alda is cast as Eddie Hopper, a successful real estate speculator who invests money in building homes that he hopes to sell for a quick profit. Lately, however, his instincts have been troublesome and his latest venture is proving to be a white elephant that is draining his savings. At the same time, his youngest daughter Betsy (Molly Ringwald) and her boyfriend Jake (Dylan Walsh) announce they intend to get married. Both are left-wing progressives who are also social activists who disdain blatant displays of wealth. They want a low-key civil ceremony with only a handful of guests. However, Eddie and his wife Lola (Madeline Kahn) argue that a much grander, traditional wedding is called for so as not to offend family members. Their resistance worn down, Betsy and Jake reluctant concede, which opens a Pandora's Box of bad luck for all involved. Eddie can't afford to put on the wedding he has lobbied for so he turns to his brother-in-law Oscar (Joe Pesci), a slimy business "tycoon" who, in reality, is also short of cash. Since he can't find the money to lend Eddie for the wedding, he introduces him to a local mob boss, Georgie (Burt Young), who puts up the funds but then integrates himself into Eddie's life and plans for the wedding. A parallel story line centers on Eddie and Lola's other daughter Connie (Ally Sheedy), a New York City police officer who is stuck in a perpetual mode of depression, shying away from people and bruised by the fact that her younger sister will marry before she does. She is elevated from the blues by Georgie's bodyguard Stevie Dee (Anthony Lapaglia), a slick mobster who sounds like Rocky Balboa on steroids but who curiously speaks to everyone with excessive politeness. Has is obsessed with Connie and slowly but surely succeeds in wooing her into coming out of her shell. As the wedding date nears, the pressure mounts on everyone. Eddie's business dealings with George almost get him assassinated in an attempted mob hit, Betsy and Jake are barely on speaking terms and on the wedding day and a torrential rain storm threatens to collapse the large tent structure the reception is being held in. Eddie receives solace from imaginary conversations with his dear, departed father (Joey Bishop).
"Besty's Wedding" was not well-received by critics or audiences back in the day and proved to be the final feature film to date directed by Alan Alda. Yet, I found it to be consistently funny and Alda excels as both actor and director, milking maximum laughs from an inspired cast. The scene-stealer is Lapaglia, one of the few cast members to receive kudos from reviewers. His sensitive tough guy routine is both amusing and endearing. The film isn't hilarious at any point but it's never less than entertaining, as you might imagine any movie that teams Joe Pesci and Burt Young would be.
"Holy Matrimony" was unceremoniously dumped by Disney into a handful of theaters in 1994 before being relegated to home video. It's total theatrical gross in North America was about $700,000. As with "Betsy's Wedding", it was directed by a popular actor, in this case Leonard Nimoy. Ironically, just as "Betsy's Wedding" represented Alda's last direction (to date) of a feature film, so too did "Holy Matrimony" mark Nimoy's last directorial effort on the big screen. The premise is hardly original, centering on a protagonist who seeks shelter in a religious community to evade pursuers. This plot device dates back to the 1940s with John Wayne in "Angel and the Badman" and its unacknowledged 1984 remake "Witness". Here we find Patricia Arquette as Havana, a sultry young woman from the other side of the tracks who is fed up with being exploited by performing provocative routines at a carnival tent located in a fairgrounds. She is paid a miserly wage by the owner who she comes to resent. She and her equally impoverished boyfriend Peter (Tate Donovan) rob the owner and flee in their car, but not before being identified. With the police searching for them, they cross into Canada and take refuge in an Amish-like religious colony where Peter was raised before leaving for the outside world. They pretend to want to immerse themselves in the rustic lifestyle but Havana's coarse nature and foul mouth make the elders suspicious of their motives. Peter hides the cache of stolen loot but before he can divulge its location to Havana, he is killed in an automobile accident. The colony elders view this as a way to get rid of Havana by informing her that customs dictate that she must marry Peter's brother, in this case twelve year-old Ezekiel (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). However, Havana- who needs to stay until she can locate the stash of hidden money- agrees to the arrangement, much to the shock of all involved- especially young Ezekiel who is appalled at having to be married at such a young age. The film deftly handles the possible distasteful elements of this reverse "Lolita" situation by making it clear that both husband and wife sleep in separate rooms. The one funny sex gag involves Ezekiel trying to impress his friends that he is satisfying his new wife only to have the scenario backfire much to his embarrassment when it is revealed he is actually in the bedroom alone.
Much of what follows is predictable. As with all movie plots in which the male and female protagonists start off hating each other, there is no doubt that Havana and Ezekiel will grow to respect and like each other, with Havana acting more like a big sister than a wife. Once the money is located, Havana is told to accompany Ezekiel back to the States to return the loot to its rightful owner. What follows is a road trip in which the two share plenty of personal thoughts and have to avoid a corrupt FBI agent (John Schuck), who is hot on their trail, determined to steal the money for himself. The story climaxes back at the state fair where Havana originally worked. She's now determined to return the stolen money, all the while trying to evade the police and the FBI guy who are hot on her trail. Director Nimoy capably blends both sentiment and comedy during the course of the film, though the movie's main attributes are the performances by Arquette and especially young Gordon-Levitt who shows star power even at this early stage of his career. There is also a very fine performance by Armin-Mueller Stahl as the elder of the religious community. Refreshingly, the film doesn't mock or humiliate the members of the religious colony. Rather, it is "fish-out-of-water" Havana who bears the brunt of most of the humor. While "Holy Matrimony" is nothing very special, it does seem to have suffered an undeserved fate by being released to only a small number of theaters. It is certainly on par with most mid-range comedies but apparently Disney felt it had very little boxoffice appeal.
The Kino Lorber Blu-ray combo features very fine transfers of both films and includes their original trailers. Recommended.
RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST ARTICLES FROM CINEMA RETRO'S ARCHIVES
By Lee Pfeiffer
Sony has released the 1955 crime drama 5 Against the House as a burn-to-order DVD. The little-remembered film is interesting on a number of levels and boasts an impressive, eclectic cast. The low-budget flick depicts four young ex-G.I.s who fought in Korea who return to the States and enroll in college. Al (Guy Madison) is a straight-as-an-arrow type who is engaged to sultry nightclub singer Kay (Kim Novak). Ronnie (Kerwin Matthews) is a brainy upstart with delusions of grandeur and a superiority complex. Roy (Alvy Moore) is an affable joker who is very much a follower, not a leader. Brick (Brian Keith) is the most troubled of the group. He bares psychological problems from his combat experience and has a hair-trigger temper. The guys' only vices are taking an occasional trip to Reno, Nevada and engaging in some minor gambling and womanizing. However, Ronnie concocts an audacious plan to prove he can outwit the authorities and rob a casino. He suggest that the plan be put into operation with the intention of returning the money to the casino after the fact. Ronnie wants to build his ego, not his bank account. Roy and Brick sign on to the plan, but when Al balks, Brick's anger comes through. He threatens his friends with a gun and forces them to pull off the incredible scheme. The film, deftly directed by Phil Karlson, makes effective use of on location shooting in Reno at a place called Harold's Casino. The movie works best as a character study and the performances are all first-rate, with the exception of Madison, who is a bit of a stiff in the lead role. Novak is her usual sexy self and Keith, long-underrated for his dramatic capabilities, gives a powerful performance. The film is one of the earliest to take a sympathetic look at the emotional toll war takes on returning veterans. 5 Against the House is engaging throughout and although it is unremarkable in the long run, it represents the kind of overlooked gems that the burn-to-order DVD format is rescuing from complete obscurity.
An original trailer is included.
Click here to order from the Cinema Retro Movie Store.
If you’ve ever read one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan
novels, you know that there has always been a big difference between Tarzan as
he is in the movies versus Tarzan in the books. For some reason Hollywood has
never really been able to get the character exactly right. As much fun as the
Johnny Weissmuller and Lex Barker Tarzan movies are, for example, they really
didn’t get close to Burroughs’ concept of the ape man. The real Tarzan didn’t
speak Pidgin English for one thing. He actually spoke fluent English and French.
He was as at home in an English Tea Room as the son of a British Lord, as he
was in the prehistoric land of Pal-ul-don. While the movies showed Tarzan as
protector of the animals, and friends with cute chimpanzees, in the books
Burroughs present a world where death usually came on four feet, although man
was often the most treacherous enemy. It was a jungle out there, and it was
survival of the fittest, baby.
In 2016, Warner Bros. attempted to restart the Tarzan
series with the $180 million “The Legend of Tarzan.” The film made double its
budget at the box office worldwide, but it didn’t excite audiences or studio
heads enough to continue with a sequel. So it looks like Tarzan will be on
sabbatical for a while. Part of the reason for the film’s failure was the
script’s presentation of Tarzan. They got the outer dimensions of the character
right, but included too many politically correct ideas that weakened the
Burroughs concept. For one thing, Tarzan lost too many fights, with both humans
and apes. You don’t get to be King of the Jungle by losing fights. But I think
it was the total reliance on CGI to create Tarzan’s Africa that was the main
reason for the film’s failure. Except for the occasional aerial footage shot
over the jungles of Gabon, the entire film was shot on sound stages in England.
The movie lacked the reality that a fantasy like Tarzan needs to be believable.
Which brings me to the subject of this review. In the
opinion of most true Tarzan fans there has only ever been one Tarzan film that
really captures what Tarzan is all about. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably
the closest they’ll ever get. In 1959, producer Sy Weintraub took over the
Tarzan franchise from Sol Lesser after it was moved to Paramount Pictures.
Weintraub injected the series with new energy and new ideas. He wanted to make
an “adult” Tarzan flick and he wanted to shoot on location in Kikuyu, Kenya.
He hired a top flight cast of British actors to play the
villains in the piece. Anthony Quayle, whose acting experience ranged from
potboilers to Shakespeare, was cast as the main villain, Slade, an escaped con
and old enemy of Tarzan. Next up, none other than 007 himself, Sean Connery, in
an early role as O’Bannion, a tough Irish gunman, who, being too young for the
Irish Rebellion, decides there are no causes worth fighting for because “They
don’t pay well.” Next is Nial MacGiniss as Kruger, a German diamond expert who
doesn’t want to be reminded of the old days of the Third Reich. Al Muloch plays
Dino, captain of the boat the gang is riding up river, who has a strange
attachment to a locket he wears around his neck. And finally, Italian actress
Scilla Gabel as Toni, Slade’s girl. There’s plenty of internal conflict and
tension among these five on board a small jungle boat as it makes its way up
river to a diamond mine.
The film starts with the theft of explosives from a
compound run by a doctor friend of Tarzan’s. The gang needs the gelignite to
excavate a diamond mine located upriver, just north of Tarzan’s tree house. It’s
interesting to note that the script by Berne Giler is based on a story written
by Les Crutchfield, a veteran writer who wrote 81 Gunsmoke radio scripts, and
was himself an explosives expert and a mining engineer before he started
writing. Explosives figure prominently in the plot.
I have to admit that I hadn't a clue as to what Intruder in the Dust was about until I viewed the DVD released through the Warner Archive. The film is a powerful indictment of the horrors of racism, filmed by MGM during a period when the American Civil Rights Movement was just beginning to heat up. We have a tendency to accuse Hollywood studios of relegating African-American actors to being mere window dressing in films of this era, or worse, casting them as comic relief in often degrading ways. However, this 1949 achievement should be much higher on the radar of retro movie lovers. While most studio productions steered clear of the problem of racism in the American South during the period when segregation was still law, this excellent film addresses the issue head-on. There were some talented people who brought the story to the screen in 1949. Esteemed director Clarence Brown was behind the camera and the screenplay was written by the great Ben Maddow, based on a novel by William Faulkner.
The film was shot on location in Oxford, Mississippi and centers on
the murder of a local white businessman who was shot in the back. The
prime suspect is Lucas (Juano Hernandez), a middle-aged black farmer who
has incurred the wrath of local bigots because he is proud and
independent and fails to take on the subserviant persona of the "good
Negro". Causing more resentment is the fact that Lucas owns his own
farm, a prime piece of land that invokes jealousy from less successful
local whites. Lucas maintains his calm demeanor even when he is jailed
and is awaiting the inevitable murder at the hands of a mob. His one
white friend comes to his aid: a teenager named Chick Mallison (Claude
Jarman Jr.). Chick convinces his uncle, lawyer John Stevens (David
Brian) to defend him. Stevens agrees because he doesn't want a murder
committed, but even he believes Lucas is guilty. He tells the seemingly
doomed man that he can't get a fair trial, that he doesn't believe he is
innocent and that he should have shown proper deference to the bigots
at all times. This attitude is what passed for enlightened thinking
during this period. Ultimately, Stevens becomes convinced that his
client is being framed and the plot turns to to who-dunnit as an oddball
group of progressives fights against time to find the real murderer
before Lucas is lynched or burned alive. The only whites in town who
will assist Stevens and Chick are an elderly woman (Elizabeth Patterson)
and the local sheriff (Will Geer), who has a condescending attitude
towards blacks but is courageous enough to stand up to the worst
elements of the population.
In my review of Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release of the 1979 disaster film "Meteor", I observed that the disaster movie genre had peaked with the release of Irwin Allen's "The Towering Inferno" in 1974. Yet, that didn't stop studios from beating a dead horse in an attempt to squeeze some more juice out of the tried-and-true formula of gathering an all-star cast, then figuring out ways to drown, bury or incinerate the characters portrayed on screen. One of the more obscure attempts to keep the disaster film cycle relevant was "Avalanche", a movie produced by Roger Corman and directed and scripted by one of his proteges, Corey Allen, who would go on to establish a respectable career as a director of major television shows. When you approach a Corman production, you tend to give some special dispensation for certain cinematic sins that you wouldn't accord more mainstream productions. Corman, who happily embraces his legendary status as a man who made major profits from films with minor budgets, knew how to stretch the soup in the cinematic sense. Rarely armed with ample production funds, Corman cut corners whenever possible but still managed to retain a certain elegance to his productions. In 1978, he jumped on the fading disaster movie bandwagon with "Avalanche". He hired Rock Hudson as the leading man because Hudson, at this point in his career, realized that he was no longer a hot commodity as a boxoffice draw in feature films (although he did successfully transition to a popular presence on television.) Corman also cast Mia Farrow and respected supporting actor Robert Forster for additional name recognition. He secured permission to film at a major ski resort in Durango, Colorado and out-sourced the special effects work to a company called Excelsior!
The film follows the general formula of the disaster film genre in that the victims-to-be are gathered for a major social occasion, unaware that nature is working overtime to thwart their fun. Rock Hudson plays David Shelby, an arrogant developer who has invested his life savings to build a vacation paradise in the Rocky Mountains. He has disdain for local environmentalists who have warned him that his destruction of an an abundance of trees on his massive property has removed a natural barrier to the inevitable avalanches that will occur. Shelby is preoccupied with his grand opening festivities and is simultaneously trying to woo back his ex-wife Caroline (Mia Farrow), who is attending as his guest. He's also busy trying to entertain his sassy, wise-cracking mother, Florence (Jeanette Nolan), who is being shepherded around the resort by David's major domo Henry McDade (Steve Franken in a rare dramatic role.) Meanwhile, local environmental activist and nature photographer Nick Thorne (Robert Forster) becomes increasingly concerned about the massive buildup of snow on the mountain peaks that are directly in line with the resort. He attempts to alleviate some of the danger by strategically using a snow cannon to set off controlled mini avalanches. Intermingled with all of this are the expected subplots involving minor characters who are set up to be inevitable victims. Barry Primus is a TV sports announcer who is broadcasting from the grand opening and who must contend with the fact that his estranged wife Tina (Cathey Paine) is on premises and rubbing his nose in it by blatantly carrying on an affair with egotistical super star skier Bruce Scott (Rick Moses). Scott, in turn, is rubbing Tina's nose in it by blatantly sleeping with another woman, thus causing Tina to go ballistic and consider suicide. Meanwhile, David Shelby finds time to unwind by spending some quality time in a hot tub with with his naked secretary (thus allowing Roger Corman to slip in a bit of T&A). Although the story seems set up to have the disastrous avalanche occur during the opening night festivities, screenwriter Allen throws the audience a curve ball by avoiding that cliche and saving the action for the following afternoon when, amid a particularly vicious snow mobile race, a small plane piloted by one of Shelby's employees encounters bad weather and slams into a nearby mountain, thus triggering the avalanche. This is where the movie progresses beyond cliches and becomes unexpectedly enjoyable. All of the standard disaster movie shtick is present, as both lovable and loathsome characters meet predictable fates, but the film's limited production resources somehow work in its favor. We're well aware that we're watching a Corman production but somehow the inventiveness that is required to carry it all off is quite admirable. Certain plot points are introduced and inexplicably abandoned including an insinuation that Shelby has bribed local political officials to overlook his clear violation of environmental protection rules in order to build his resort. This was one of Rock Hudson's final films as an "above the title" leading man. He's grayer and a bit paunchier than we'd seen him during his heyday, but he still had star power to spare and made for a dashing leading man, whether its skinny dipping in the hot tub or personally leading rescue parties in acts of derring doo to extricate victims of the tragedy. The film's showpiece sequence is a climactic scene in which Shelby must rescue Caroline, who is dangling from wrecked bridge above a ravine. It's well-directed and genuinely suspenseful.
It' easy to pick apart a film like "Avalanche", as it squarely fits into the "guilty pleasure" category. However, the film does a lot with very little as opposed to other misfires in this genre that did very little with a lot (aka "The Swarm"). The Kino Lorber Blu-ray edition features the original trailer and a "making of" featurette in which Roger Corman extols the virtues of the film. He admits the effects were rather shoddy and recalls his outrage when he discovered the SFX company had added "red snow". Corman hit the roof and it was changed to a bluish substance that he admits still looks pretty phony. Robert Forster recalls that the "snow" was actually little pieces of plastic that were strewn by the hundreds of thousands over the scenic landscape. He remembers his dismay at the realization that none of these bits were biodegradable and many must still be contaminating the landscape of the Durango ski resort where the movie was filmed. Corman makes the claim that the film was actually a major financial success. He says his budget was only $1.7 million and that a TV sale for $2 million netted him an immediate $300,000 profit. The tale sounds a bit fanciful because it seems hard to believe that even in 1978 you could make a movie like this with three relatively big names for only $1.7 million. (Other sources give unsubstantiated estimates of the budget at around $6 million, which seems more plausible.) "Avalanche" is not near the top of the heap of disaster movies but it certainly doesn't rank at the bottom of the pack, either. The Kino Lorber release has an impressive transfer and the inclusion of those bonus extras make this title highly recommended for fans of this genre.
Samuel Fuller's 1959 crime thriller "The Crimson Kimono" has been released as a Twilight Time limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray. The film finds Fuller in full "triple threat" mode as director, producer and screenwriter. It's also fits comfortably into Fuller's oeuvre in that it's an off-beat story with quirky, well-defined characters and relationships. Set in Los Angeles, the movie opens with the shocking cold-blooded murder of a popular stripper by an unseen assassin. As with the works of Hitchcock, Fuller dismisses the notion that there is safety in numbers, as the victim is killed while fleeing her pursuer through crowded streets. The killer gets away and the story introduces us to the detectives assigned to the case. They are Det. Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) and his partner Det. Joe Kojaku (James Shigeta), two Korean War veterans who served together in combat and who are now chummy enough to share a fashionable bachelor pad. They discover that a local artist, Chris Downs (Victoria Shaw), had some interaction with the stripper and is aware of a suspicious man she associated with. When Chris's sketch of the suspect ends up on the front pages, she finds herself the target of a failed assassination attempt. Charlie and Joe suggest that she can be safely hidden away in their apartment. Naturally, sparks begin to fly considering the three principal characters are extremely attractive. Charlie finds himself falling hard for Chris, but she is unaware of his feelings. Meanwhile, she expresses her desires for Joe, who clearly wants to reciprocate but is hesitant to humiliate the love-struck Charlie. If all this sounds like a high school romance it must be said that under Fuller' assured direction, it is anything but. The scene in which Chris and Joe slowly and almost reluctantly admit to their mutual attraction is superbly written and enacted by Shaw and Shigeta and brims with sexual tension.
The murder mystery is clearly the MacGuffin here. It's mostly a catalyst to bring this love triangle to life. Fuller places most of the action in L.A.'s Little Tokyo community and the film concentrates on the character's interactions with the Japanese-American population. The most interesting character is Joe, who is Japanese-American. When we first see him he is confident, witty and charismatic, all traits that are shared by Charlie. The Butch and Sundance-like relationship goes into a nosedive after Joe confesses his love for Chris. Although clearly heartbroken, Charlie keeps his reaction restrained, only to have the guilt-ridden Joe accuse him of latent racism. He's wrong but can't be convinced otherwise. A lifetime of battling to be socially accepted in a predominantly white society has brought out his own paranoia and reverse racism. It all leads to a tension-packed conclusion that mingles the strained relationship between the three characters and a chase for the killer through an exotic parade celebrating Japanese culture that plays out in similar style to the Junkanoo sequence in "Thunderball".
There is much to commend about this film, which- like most Fuller productions- was shot on a modest budget in B&W with actual locations favored over studio sets. Perhaps Fuller didn't have the funds to rely heavily on sets and thus filmed on location. In any event, this tactic adds immeasurable grit and realism to his movies. Glenn Corbett is likable and fine in an understated performance, Victoria Shaw is excellent as the woman who innocently becomes the instrument that divides two good friends and James Shigeta, who along with Corbett made his screen debut with this film, shows the skills that would quickly elevate him to international stardom. Anna Lee is outstanding as "Mac", an aging artist with a gruff personality who swizzles hard liquor and smokes stogies while churning out comments like "A man is just a man, but a good cigar is a smoke!"
When Olive Films released its highly impressive new special Blu-ray edition of the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", the initial run sold out before we even got around to promoting it. Due to overwhelming demand, however, Olive has made the title available again. Here are the details from Olive Films:
“They’re already here! You’re next!” With these chilling words, Invasion of
the BodySnatchers sounded a clarion call to the dangers of
conformity, paranoia, and mass hysteria at the heart of 1950s American life.
Considered one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, Invasion of
the Body Snatchers stars Kevin McCarthy (Academy Award® nominee, Best
Supporting Actor, Death of A Salesman – 1952) as Miles Bennell, a doctor
in a small California town whose patients are becoming increasingly
overwrought, accusing their loved ones of being emotionless imposters. They’re
right! Plant-like aliens have invaded Earth, taking possession of humans as
they sleep and replicating them in giant seed pods. Convinced that a
catastrophic epidemic is imminent, Bennell, in a terrifying race for his life,
must warn the world of this deadly invasion of the pod people before it’s too
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by the accomplished Don Siegel
(Dirty Harry, The Shootist) and co-starring Dana Wynter (Airport),
Carolyn Jones (A Holein the Head), Larry Gates (The Sand
Pebbles) and King Donovan (The Enforcer), was photographed by
Academy Award nominee Ellsworth Fredericks (Best Cinematography, Sayonara
– 1958) with production design by Academy Award winner Ted Haworth (Best Art
Direction, Sayonara – 1958).
High-Definition digital restoration
Commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith
Commentary by actors Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, and filmmaker Joe
Stranger in Your Lover's Eyes" – A two-part visual essay with actor
and son of director Don Siegel, Kristoffer Tabori, reading from his
father's book A Siegel Film
Fear is Real" – Filmmakers Larry Cohen and Joe Dante on the film's
No Longer Belong: The Rise and Fall of Walter Wanger" – Film scholar
and author Matthew Bernstein discusses the life and career of the film's
No More: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Revisited" –
Never-before-seen appreciation of the film featuring actors Kevin
McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along with comments from film directors and
fans, John Landis, Mick Garris, and Stuart Gordon
Fear and the Fiction: The Body Snatchers Phenomenon" –
Never-before-seen interviews with Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, along
with film directors John Landis, Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon, discussing
the making of the film, its place in history, and its meaning
archival interview with Kevin McCarthy hosted by Tom Hatten
to Santa Mira" – An exploration of the film's locations
In a Name?" – On the film's title
of rare documents detailing aspects of the film's production including the
never-produced opening narration to have been read by Orson Welles
by author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse
Years before Michael Cimino released his Socialist-themed Western Heaven's Gate, director Stanely Kramer took a less heavy-handed approach with his 1973 film Oklahoma Crude, which has been released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time. Unlike
Cimino's dark and message-laden epic, however, Kramer made the
political aspects of his film secondary to the lighthearted tone of the
story. Faye Dunaway, seen here in the least glamorous role of her
career, plays Lena Doyle, a bitter, man-hating independent woman who is
determined to make a success of her wildcat oil drilling venture on the
plains of Oklahoma during the early 1900s. Beset by the frustration of
consistently having her rig dig up dirt instead of oil, she also has to
contend with a bigger threat: a major oil company is determined to seize
her land by hook or by crook. When she turns down the offer of a buyout
from their cut throat representative (Jack Palance), the oil company
moves a virtual army on to Lena's land with the intention of taking her
rig by force. Although a crack shot, Lena concedes she can use help and
reluctantly hires a down-and-out drifter, 'Mase' Mason (George C. Scott)
to help her keep her the assailants at bay. The two have an abrasive
relationship, with Lena never smiling or showing an interest in anything
other than drawing oil from her rig. They are also assisted by Lena's
father Cleon Doyle (John Mills), a charismatic Englishman who is trying
to win Lena's love and respect after having deserted her many years ago.
Lena can barely stand the sight of him, but faced with the thugs are
her doorstep, she has to accept his help.The story mostly takes place on
the hillside where Lena's cabin is situated. 'Mase' proves to be a
courageous and innovative ally, acquiring U.S. Army hand grenades and
using them with devastating effect against the heavily armed gangs from
the oil company who try repeatedly to take Lena's hilltop rig and cabin
Oklahoma Crude was a late career project for Kramer (he would
only make two more films). Dismissed at the time as a routine Western
comedy, the film comes across as a sheer delight when viewing it today.
The thin story line isn't the main attraction. Rather, it's the combined
talents of four Oscar winners- Scott, Dunaway, Mills and Palance- that
add so much zest to what could have otherwise have been a routine
experience. They are all delightful to watch, with Scott at his best and
Mills in a scene-stealing, wonderful performance as a flawed but
charming tenderfoot who summons incredible courage when it is needed
most. Kramer hired the best of the best for his crew including
cinematographer Robert Surtees, who makes every other frame look like an
Andrew Wyeth painting. There is also a fine musical score by Henry
Mancini which perfectly fits the "never a dull moment" mood of the
The film is a sheer delight from beginning to its finale, which features a refreshing plot twist.
The Twilight Time Blu-ray release boasts the expected excellent transfer, an informative collector's booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo, an isolated score track and a commentary track by this writer and fellow film historian Paul Scrabo. This release is limited to 3,000 units.
"The Secret Partner" is yet another unheralded gem from the cinematic past that has been made available through the Warner Archive. It's a fairly low budget British film noir that nevertheless is completing engrossing and will have viewers guessing throughout. Stewart Granger is John Brent, a successful executive at a London shipping company who we find in great distress from early in the film. It seems Brent is being routinely blackmailed by his milquetoast dentist, Beldon (Norman Bird). We don't know what he has on Brent until much later in the story, a clever device used by screenwriters David Pursall and Jack Seddon that only increases the interest of the viewer. Brent understandably despises Beldon but is intimidated enough by him that he continues to pay astronomical sums of money to buy his silence. In the interim, Brent can't explain to his wife Nicole (Haya Haraeet) why their money is disappearing almost as fast as he can earn it. She logically suspects that he is seeing another woman and their marriage very publicly goes on the rocks when she moves out. Meanwhile, Beldon himself is subject to the terrors of blackmail when a masked man with a gun demands that he follows explicit instructions to administer a drug to Brent during his next dental visit. While under the influence of sleeping gas, Brent is injected with a truth serum that results in his telling Beldon the combination of his company's safe. Additionally, Beldon follows instructions to remove Brent's office keys and make a clay impression of them. The masked man promises Beldon a payoff of 15,000 pounds if he complies- and death if he doesn't. Beldon pulls off his end of the scheme and Brent appears to be none the wiser. Predictably, the office safe of Brent's employer is rob of 130,000 quid and he is the logical suspect. The case falls into the lap of Det. Superintendent Frank Hanbury (Bernard Lee), a veteran cop who is counting the days until his imminent retirement. He questions Brent but when Brent realizes he is about to be arrested for grand larceny, he flees. Hanbury relentlessly pursues him even as his investigation leads him to believe that Brent might have been set up as a fall guy. Hanbury repeatedly interviews Nicole and discovers that she is apparently having affairs with some of Brent's most trusted friends and co-workers. Meanwhile, Brent is trying to avoid the police while he conducts his own investigation, desperate to prove he is innocent.
"The Secret Partner" is a prime example of the kind of efficient, low-profile films that used to be turned out regularly decades ago and this one is top notch throughout. It's impressively directed by the ever-capable Basil Dearden, who helmed other gems like "Woman of Straw" and "Khartoum". Granger, who should have been a much bigger star, is dashing and determined as a leading man and he plays well off of the great British character actor Bernard Lee. Lee's slow, unemotional approach to solving the case is a joy to watch, as he patiently absorbs the facts and tries not to jump to conclusions even as he smokes what must be a record number of cigarettes ever consumed by one actor in one film. The film is peppered with fine performances from an impressive supporting cast with Harareet especially enticing as Brent's sexy, estranged wife. Even the smallest roles are well-performed (keep an eye out for Paul Stassino, the ill-fated NATO pilot from "Thunderball" as a pimp!). There is also a funky if somewhat bombastic jazz score by Philip Green and some nice period photography around London. The real pay off is a surprise revelation near the end of the film that I doubt even the most astute viewer will see coming.
"The Secret Partner" is a thoroughly enjoyable film that represents the cliche "They don't make 'em like that any more!"
CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM THE CINEMA RETRO MOVIE STORE
of Linda Blair acting in the 1970s, and the ’73 horror classic The Exorcist
will likely be the first film that comes to your mind. But while there’s ample
reason for that movie to stand out as it does, Blair put on an equally
memorable performance – albeit in a completely different type of movie – in
1974’s made-for-TV feature Born Innocent.In that release, which has the feel of an especially harsh ABC
Afterschool Special, Blair plays an average, highly likable teenage kid who
becomes estranged from her worthless parents and winds up in a rough juvenile
detention facility, following some runaway attempts. Born Innocent can be
lumped in with the “babes behind bars” exploitation subcategory of films, but
there’s nothing campy about the TV movie. It’s downbeat, super realistic, and
five months after Born Innocent originally aired on NBC, the network showed
Blair in a similar type of story, with their broadcast of Sarah T.-Portrait of
a Teenage Alcoholic, in February of ’75. Shout! Factory has just introduced a new
Blu-ray version of the film. Blair, who
turned 16 a few weeks before the movie reached households, plays the troubled
title character, Sarah Travis. Sarah is a lot like Blair’s character Chris
Parker from Born Innocent. She’s a normal, relatable, well-intentioned teenage
girl going through some rough times. Sarah’s parents divorced a few years
before the outset of the story, when her materialistically ambitious mother got
tired of her artistically inclined husband’s (played by Larry Hagman)
unreliable ways. The mother (Verna Bloom plays her) remarried a more stable,
financially healthy man (William Daniels), and the family - which includes
Sarah’s older, married sister – moves from San Francisco to an upscale
neighborhood in Southern California.
are some factors that differentiate Sarah Travis’s life predicaments from Chris
Parker’s. While Chris is (was, before being sent to the reform school) being
raised by a physically abusive father and an emotionally absent mother, Sarah’s
three parents are actually trying to be good to her. Her artsy dad doesn’t have
the wherewithal to be a provider to her, and he often leaves her disappointed
by not being available enough to her; but at least he loves her and sometimes
has fun with her. And while Sarah’s mom is a feminist’s nightmare whose answer
to every life problem is “I’ll let my husband decide what to do about that,”
she means well in attempting to create a stable home environment for her
daughter. Ditto Sarah’s stepfather, who tries his best to connect with the girl
and see to her needs, without attempting to completely overtake the role of
father in her life. Also, Sarah has a love interest – a bright, sensitive guy
who is played by Mark Hamill, a couple years before Hamill’s breakthrough role
in Star Wars.
Sarah’s life is challenging for her, even if it’s not as seemingly hopeless as
Chris Parker’s situation. She misses her real dad and feels alienated by how
focused her mother is on social status, and how completely her mom defers to
her new husband in all matters. She’s had to change high schools, and faces the
same social pressures and anxiety any 15-year old would experience in having to
make that adjustment at such a psychologically volatile time in life. And while
the guy she likes enjoys her company and cares about her, he’s not ready to get
emotionally involved with her, the way she would like. All of this leads Sarah
to continually turn to alcohol, to “help me feel good.” What starts as an
occasional sneaky nip during a stressful moment, becomes a debilitating habit.
story of Sarah T. was written by the TV writing/producing husband and wife team
of Richard and Esther Shapiro, who are best known as the creators of Dynasty
and its spin-off series The Colbys. A novel based on the film, which shares its
title and plot elements, was written by author Robin S. Wagner and published as
a Doubleday paperback original a month after the movie aired on television. The
book is not something anyone needs to read if they’ve seen the film, and is
most memorable for its lurid cover image, that shows Sarah’s downcast face
superimposed over the contents of a pint of whiskey. The Sarah T. film was
directed by Richard Donner, whose other directorial efforts from the decade
include The Omen (’76) and Superman (’78).
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
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new Paul Newman 6-Movie DVD Collection boasts classic films highlighted by
Newman’s Oscar®-nominated performance in Hud. The collection also includes
dramas Road to Perdition and Fat Man and Little Boy, the comedy/drama Nobody’s
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Mark Wahlberg 5-Film DVD Collection celebrates the charisma and range of one of
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RETRO-ACTIVE: THE BEST FROM THE CINEMA RETRO ARCHIVES
BY LEE PFEIFFER
It may seem hard to believe in an era in which every personality on screen seems to be wearing a cape and tights but there are some intelligent films still being made for discriminating, mature viewers. The problem is that you often have to search to find them. Case in point: "The Lady in the Van", a 2015 British comedy/drama that found its intended audience but was relegated largely to the art house circuits in big cities. The movie is about as off-beat as you can imagine in terms of the central premise but we are told that it is mostly based on fact. Alex Jennings plays the film's real-life British playwright Alan Bennett, on whose experience the screenplay is based. Jennings was an aspiring playwright in 1974 when he moved to a relatively upscale neighborhood in London's Camden Town section. Bennett was enjoying some success with a show on the West End and was leading a fairly comfortable existence, though - at least in the film- he was frustrated by the fact that he no significant other. As a gay man, his unease was understandable- until 1969 homosexuality was a felony crime in Britain. Coming out of the closet was not something most gay people felt comfortable doing. The film presents Bennett creating his own live-in companion- an imaginary alter-ego with whom he trades barbs and discusses problems ranging from writers block to everyday household chores. His life takes an unexpected turn when a homeless woman arrives on his street driving a barely operable old van. She identifies herself as Mary Shepherd and is about as lovable as a tarantula. Mary becomes the talk of the posh neighborhood, moving her van occasionally to park in front of various houses. Some of the locals are kindly to her while others clearly disdain her, but all of them tolerate her presence and gets used to her. Mary keeps her "alternate side of the street" lifestyle going for several years. The van is her abode and she defends it with pride. She accepts handouts from neighbors but her prickly nature never results in her uttering the words "Thank you". Alan, like most of the locals, regards her with a bit of frustration as well as fascination. When a parking ordinance forces her van off the street, Alan offers his driveway as a place she can park "temporarily". You know how these things go. Before long, Mary has not only established the driveway as a permanent residence but is also making various demands on Alan to allow more privileges. Slowly, the months turn into years and both become accustomed to the bizarre living arrangements.(Mary never enters his home and the resulting effect on her hygiene is played for laughs). The two have a sometimes uneasy relationship but the gentle, meek Alan begins to care about her more than he will even admit to his alter-ego. He is wracked by guilt because his own aging mother is slowly deteriorating both mentally and physically and he feels guilty about having to have her committed to a nursing home. He uses Mary has her proxy so that an act of kindness towards her might help Alan alleviate some of his guilt about his mother.
Ultimately Alan's relationship turns to caregiver. Some of Mary's demands are reasonable (jury-rigging wires from his house so she can watch TV in her van) while others are too extravagant to comply with (constructing a tent so she can indulge in more hoarding of useless objects.) He also learns what the viewer has known from the opening, shocking frames: that Mary is hiding a terrible secret and lives in constant fear of being arrested. She, too, is wracked by guilt because she once killed a motorcyclist in an accident and fled the scene. We also learn that she is being blackmailed by an eyewitness (Jim Broadbent) to the event. Gradually, Alan sees her as a source of material for a writing project. He tracks down her only living relative, a brother who is somewhat estranged from her. He relates some remarkable details about her once-promising life and how it all went wrong when she sacrificed a musical career in order to join a convent. (The Catholic Church and religion play key roles in her life.) Nothing overly dramatic takes place in the leisurely-paced story but there is something remarkable the fact that Alan Bennett allowed this eccentric woman to spend a full 15 years residing in his driveway until her death in 1989.
Bennett published a journal about the experience titled "The Lady in the Van". In 1999, he adapted it into a play starring Maggie Smith. It was a major hit, running over 900 performances on the West End. The play's director, Nicholas Hynter, is a frequent collaborator of Bennett's, having worked with him on adapting Bennett's plays "The History Boys" and "The Madness of King George" for the screen. In 2015 they finally brought "The Lady in the Van" to the screen as well with Maggie Smith reprising the title role. Smith was now of an age where she could be even more convincing as the elderly eccentric and Bennett ensured that the movie was shot in the very house in Camden Town where the actual events took place. For all its charming aspects and the fact that the production presents two extraordinary performances by Smith and Alex Jennings, the end result is a mixed bag that you expect to move you in a more emotional way than it actually does. This is largely because Smith's character remains crusty, self-centered and pretty much an ingrate throughout. In the film's final moments, which details her death, Bennett and Hytner do manage to convey a softening of her persona in the final moments of her life but they then attempt to make her more lovable with an ill-advised funeral sequence in which we see the ghost of Miss Shepherd assuring us that she has found happiness in Eternity. The scene smacks of being a well-intentioned gimmick and seems somewhat out of place with the rest of the film. Jennings, known primarily as a stage actor, gives a marvelous performance as Bennett and manages the considerable achievement of not being overshadowed by the great Dame Maggie. The film starts off rather weakly but becomes more engrossing and satisfying if you stick with it. This is largely due to Bennett slowly unveiling key details about Miss Shepherd's challenges in life and the fact that she missed out on a promising musical career. Although Smith is very amusing in the comedic sequences, she is even more impressive in these dark, dramatic scenes. The end result is a mixed bag. The film is to be commended for presenting that rarest of screen experiences nowadays: an intelligent story aimed at adult audiences who seek fine performances and dialogue rather than mindless explosions. There are uneven and unsatisfying patches throughout but the performances alone merit it for recommended viewing.
Sony has released an impressive special edition Blu-ray of "The Lady in the Van". There are numerous featurettes including extensive interviews with Maggie Smith, Alan Bennett, Alex Jennings and Nicholas Hytner that give some interesting perspectives on the long history of the real life events that inspired the play and film. There is also a director's commentary with Hytner and some deleted scenes, some of which clearly show that Miss Shepherd is actually nt only extremely eccentric but is also suffering from dementia, as evidenced by her belief that she can be elected Prime Minister.
If you think extremist talk radio is a relatively new phenomenon, the release of the 1970 film WUSA on DVD by Olive Films shows just how far back the not-so-grand tradition goes. The notion of reaching out to the fringe elements of society is well-documented here, with Paul Newman as a down-and-out musician with some broadcasting experience who sells his soul by taking a job as a DJ on right wing extremist radio station WUSA in New Orleans. Newman knows he's being used as a pawn for white supremicist tycoon Pat Hingle, but willingly accepts the fame and fortune that he receives when his star begins to rise - despite personally despising the words he reads on the air. In between playing cornporn patriotic ballads, Newman's character, known as Rheinhardt, spouts incendiary rhetoric designed to empower racists who want to combat expansion of the welfare state. Along the way, he hooks up with sexy-as-hell Joanne Woodward, playing an equally down-and-out woman whose fortunes have declined so badly that she is rejected when she applies to be a stripper. If the film seems especially harsh on the right wing fringe, liberals aren't spared, either. Anthony Perkins plays a stereotypical do-gooder, a true believer that LBJ's war on poverty would result in the establishment of his Great Society. What he fails to realize is that he, too, is being used as a dupe by community leaders who are secretly being paid off by WUSA management. Thus, both the forces of right and left collaborate to ensure inertia among opportunities for the impoverished.
The mega-budget Waterworld laid a gigantic egg at the boxoffice when it was released in 1995. However, as with many commercial failures, there is considerable interest in the production even today, as evidenced by the ambitious release of a special edition Blu-ray through Arrow Films. Here is their official press release:
The most expensive film ever made at the time of its release,
Waterworld has thrilled audiences through the years with its awe-inspiring
action scenes, gargantuan maritime sets and ground-breaking special effects. A
definitive post-apocalypse blockbuster, Waterworld stars Kevin Costner (The
Untouchables) as The Mariner - a mutant trader, adrift in a dystopian future
where Earth is submerged under water and humankind struggles to survive on
boats and in ramshackle floating cities. The Mariner becomes embroiled with the
Smokers, a gang of pirates who, led by villainous leader Deacon (Dennis Hopper,
Blue Velvet), are seeking Enola (Tina Majorino, Napoleon Dynamite), a girl with
a map to the mythical realm of "Dryland" tattooed on her back. Famous
for both its epic scale and the controversy that swirled around its production,
Waterworld is a key cult film of the 1990s, and an essential entry into the
subgenre of ecologically-minded blockbusters. Presented here in an exclusive
new restoration, in three different cuts, and with a wealth of extra material,
this high-water mark of high-concept Hollywood can now be enjoyed as never
New restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
by Arrow Films, presenting the film in three cuts
Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 stereo audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of
Six collector’s postcards
Double-sided fold-out poster
Limited edition 60-page perfect-bound book featuring new
writing on the film by David J. Moore and Daniel Griffith, archival articles
and original reviews
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly
commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the
original theatrical cut
Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld, an all-new,
feature-length making-of documentary including extensive cast and crew
interviews and behind the scenes footage
Original archival featurette capturing the film's
Global Warnings, film critic Glenn Kenny explores the
subgenre of ecologically aware Hollywood blockbusters
Production and promotional stills gallery
Visual effects stills gallery
Original trailers and TV spots
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the
extended US TV cut, which runs over 40 minutes longer than the theatrical cut
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the
extended European “Ulysses” cut, which includes censored shots and dialogue
At the time of its release in 1962 critics treated director J. Lee Thompson's "Taras Bulba" as just another action epic. Well, back in those days, every week seemed to see the release of a worthwhile action epic. However, retro movie fans have long held this film in a place of honor. It has an intelligent script, fine performances and sequences that are truly magnificent in their scope- all set to the legendary Franz Waxman's superb, Oscar-nominated score. The film is unusual on many levels beginning with the period of history it covers: the battles between the Cossacks and Poles for control of the Ukraine Steppes in the early 16th century. When the film opens, the Cossacks are fighting with the Poles to thwart an invading Turkish army. However, the Poles double-cross their allies after victory has been achieved, slaughtering many of the Cossacks, whom they fear will be a future threat. The mantle of Cossack leadership falls to the courageous warrior Taras Bulba, who vows revenge against Poland no matter how long it takes. The Cossacks spend many years rebuilding their strength. During this time, Bulba fathers two sons: Andrei (Tony Curtis) and Ostap (Perry Lopez), both of whom do instill him with pride for adapting the rough-and-tumble ways of the Cossack warriors. When tensions ease with the Polish government, Taras instructs his sons to attend university in Kiev, ostensibly to get an education. In reality, he wants them to study Polish customs and habits, all the better to serve in the forthcoming war against them that he is planning. While in Kiev, the boys suffer the indignities of ridicule, beatings and hazings. (There is an amusing, if unintended,homo erotic aspect to some of these scenes, with sweaty, shirtless men whipping each other.) Andrei finds it's all worthwhile when he catches a glimpse of Natalia Dubrov (Christine Kaufmann), a beautiful young Polish girl who is from an influential family. Against all odds, he manages to catch her eye and ingratiate himself to her. The would-be lovers find ways to secretly meet to carry out their forbidden romance. (The notion of a Polish noblewoman carrying on a love affair with a crude Cossack warrior may seem far-fetched, but if the Cossack is Tony Curtis, I guess anything is possible.) When Andrei's interest in Natalia is discovered by her brother, a sword fight ensues in which Ostap mortally wounds the Polish army officer. The brothers escape back to the Steppes and the arms of their mother and father but Andrei still pines away for his lost love. Taras rallies the various Cossack tribes to join him in an assault on a city held by Poles. After a vicious battle, he bottles up his enemies inside the walls of the town and begins to starve them out. However, Andrei learns that Natalia is within the city and when plague breaks out, he makes an ill-fated decision to attempt to rescue her. This leads to the film's dramatic and very emotional climactic seen between Taras and Andrei.
"Taras Bulba" has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The transfer is outstanding and is so clear that some of the film's technical weaknesses appear more prominent than they probably did on the big screen. The scenes within Kiev are clearly achieved through the use of studio sets and matte paintings. Some scenes have a noticeable graininess to them and in certain cavalry charges, you might observe horsemen moving at sped up motion in the manner of the Keystone Cops. Nevertheless, this is an epic film indeed when it comes to the action sequences. One scene in particular is literally thrilling: the joining of the Cossack warriors on the open plain, all galloping at high speed to Franz Waxman's addictive musical score. The performances are also first-rate with Brynner giving a larger-than-life interpretation of Bulba in manner that no other actor of this era could achieve. Tony Curtis once again overcomes a New York accent (as he did in "The Vikings") and somehow appears completely credible. (An interesting footnote: Bulba's right hand man Shilo is played by Brynner's "Magnificent Seven" co-star Brad Dexter.) Christine Kaufmann was only 16 years old at the time of filming and the on-screen love affair with Tony Curtis replicated itself in real life: they began dating on the set and ended up getting married, though they divorced in 1968.
The Blu-ray disc includes an original trailer that absurdly proclaims, in the typical hyperbole of the day, that the film should be added to the list of "Wonders of the World"! Not quite. But say this for "Taras Bulba": it represents the kind of first rate action adventure epic of which it is often said "They sure as hell don't make 'em like that anymore."
Andrew V. McLaglen was almost predestined to be a movie director. The son of the legendary character actor Victor McLaglen, Andrew came of age on movie sets. His father often appeared in John Ford Westerns and Andrew developed a passion for the genre. He ultimately gained a foothold in the television industry during the late 1950s and early 1960s when TV Westerns were all the rage. He proved himself to be a capable and reliable director and eventually moved on to feature films. McLaglen scored a major hit with the rollicking Western comedy "McLintock!" starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in 1963. Two years later, he teamed with James Stewart for the poignant Civil War drama "Shenandoah". The film was a big success with both critics and at the boxoffice. Thus, Universal, the studio that released "Shenandoah", hoped to capitalize on the film's success and re-teamed McLaglen and Stewart for a Western, "The Rare Breed". Adding to the reunion aspect of the production, it co-starred Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith. O'Hara had co-starred with Stewart in the 1962 comedy "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" and Keith was O'Hara's leading man in the Disney classic "The Parent Trap". Got all that? The script by Ric Hardman takes an unusual aspect of the Old West for its central plot line. Martha Price (O'Hara) and her daughter Hilary (Juliet Mills) have arrived in Texas from their home in England. They are bringing with them their prized Hereford bull, a breed not known in America. Their hope is to sell the animal at auction so that cross breeding American cows will eventually result in superior stock. The prim and proper upper-crust British ladies have endured a tragedy that isn't depicted on screen: the death of Martha's husband on the ship en route to America, although they seem fairly unperturbed, as they only fleetingly reference the dearly departed in the course of what follows. The Hereford is mocked by the cattle barons because it lacks the signature horns of traditional Texas steers. In a convoluted plot device, a smarmy rich man (David Brian) with an obsession for seducing Martha, bids on the Hereford to impress her. When his awkward attempts to bed her fail, somehow another unseen buyer steps forward and the beast must be transported to him via the efforts of a wrangler named Burnett (James Stewart). At this point, the story becomes difficult to follow. Suffice it to say that Burnett agrees to escort Martha, Hilary and their prized bull to the far-off destination to conclude the deal. Along the way, they are ambushed by Simons (Jack Elam), a greedy crook who causes a stampede of another cattle herd being escorted by Burnett's friend Jamie (Don Galloway.) In the resulting chaos, Simons intends to steal the Hereford as well as the money Martha has been paid to deliver the bull. If all of this sounds confusing, watching it unfurl on screen makes the plot even more fragmented when Martha accuses Burnett of also trying to swindle her. Ultimately, they all wind up at the outpost of the new owner, Bowen (Brian Keith), a Scottish eccentric who runs his own cattle empire and sees the possibility of crossbreeding the Hereford with his own herd.
Kudos to everyone at Kino Lorber for bringing about this vitally important set. Here is the official press release:
York, NY -- November 13, 2018 -- Kino Classics is proud to announce the Blu-ray
and DVD release of Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, a monumental 6-disc
collection, curated by Shelley Stamp (author of Lois Weber in Early Hollywood)
and executive produced by Illeana Douglas, celebrating the ground-breaking
early female directors of American cinema who helped shape the language of
First Women Filmmakers will become available on Blu-ray and DVD November 20,
2018, with a SRP of $99.95 for the Blu-ray and $79.95 for the DVD. The films in
this collection are accompanied by music scores composed by Renee C. Baker, The
Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, Makia Matsumura, Maud Nelissen, Dana Reason,
Aleksandra Vrebalov, and others. Special Features include an 80-page booklet
with essays and photos, eight short documentaries featuring Interviews with
historians and archivists, and audio commentaries for select films.
by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers
continues the legacy begun by Pioneers of African-American Cinema, equally
ambitious in scale, and every bit as historically significant. Presented in
association with the Library of Congress (and drawing from the collections of
other world-renowned film archives), Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers is the
largest commercially-released video collection of films by women directors,
focusing on American films made between 1911 and 1929 -- a crucial chapter of
our cultural history.
2K and 4K restorations of more than 50 films, including features, shorts and
fragments, this collection includes more than 25 hours of material, not only
showcasing the work of these under-appreciated filmmakers, but also
illuminating the gradual changes in how women directors were perceived (and
treated) by the Hollywood establishment. Included are films by such pioneering
filmmakers as Ruth Ann Baldwin ('49-'17), Grace Cunard (The Purple Mask),
Dorothy Davenport (Linda, The Red Kimona), Alice Guy-Blaché (Algie the Miner,
The Little Rangers, Matrimony's Speed Limit, The Ocean Waif), Zora Neale
Hurston (ethnographic films), Cleo Madison (Eleanor's Catch), Frances Marion
(The Song of Love), Alla Nazimova (Salome), Mabel Normand (Caught in a Cabaret,
Mabel's Blunder), Ida May Park (Bread), Nell Shipman (Back to God's Country),
Lois Weber (Hypocrites, Suspense, Scandal, Where Are My Children?), Elsie Jane
Wilson (The Dream Lady), Marion E. Wong (The Curse of Quon Gwon), and many
showcasing the ambitious, inventive films from the golden age of women
directors, we can get a sense of what was lost by the marginalization of women
to "support roles" within the film industry.
names Alice Guy-Blaché, Lois Weber, Dorothy Davenport Reid, and other
significant female directors deserve to have their names celebrated next to
DeMille's, and Griffith's as the early pioneers of Hollywood," said
Illeana Douglas. "Just as these woman told powerful stories to raise
awareness and educate, we must do the same! I am honored to be a part of
Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers, so that these films, and filmmakers, can be
put in the pantheon of cinema where they belong."
played an extraordinary role in early filmmaking, but this history has been
largely forgotten," said Shelley Stamp, author of Lois Weber in Early
Hollywood. "I'm so thrilled that these films have been restored and
re-scored so that contemporary audiences will have a chance to see what female
filmmakers were up to 100 years ago."
the early decades of cinema, some of the most innovative and celebrated
filmmakers in America were women. Alice Guy-Blaché helped establish the basics
of cinematic language, while others boldly continued its development: slapstick
queen Mabel Normand (who taught Charlie Chaplin the craft of directing), action
star Grace Cunard, and LGBTQ icon Alla Nazimova. Unafraid of controversy,
filmmakers such as Lois Weber and Dorothy Davenport Reid tackled explosive
issues such as birth control, abortion, and prostitution. This crucial chapter
of film history comes alive through the presentation of a wide assortment of
films, carefully curated, meticulously restored in 2K and 4K from archival
sources, and presented with new musical scores.
Twilight Time has released the 1969 British anti-war comedy/drama "The Virgin Soldiers" as a limited edition (3,000 units) Blu-ray. Adapted from the 1966 novel by Leslie Thomas,who based the tale on his personal experiences while serving in Malaya in the early 1950s when British troops were called into action to quell political unrest and violent uprisings. The film has been compared to Robert Altman's "M*A*S*H" which was released the following year and which focused on American forces serving in the Korean War. Both films were riding the wave of anti-Vietnam War protests and their geographical locations could easily be swapped for those in Vietnam. Additionally, the two movies both have a similar tone in that they mix a cynical, comedic view of life in the military with morbid scenes that display the carnage of the conflicts. In "M*A*S*H" the human toll of war is confined to scenes in the operating room where over-stressed surgical teams try to save the lives of those who were badly wounded. In "The Virgin Soldiers", the horrors of war come late in the film with a surprise attack by insurgents on a train carrying soldiers to an location where they were supposed to enjoy some leave time. But there are major differences in the way the story lines are presented. The Altman film dealt primarily with the antics of a trio of wiseguy anti-Establishment types while "The Virgin Soldiers" chronicles the personal experiences of a private, Brigg (Hywel Bennett) and a young civilian woman, Phillipa Raskin (Lynn Redgrave), who is forced to live on a military base where her father (Nigel Patrick) serves as the R.S.M. Most of the screen time is devoted to the Brigg character as he tries to get through his obligatory stint in National Service unscathed. The film presents the usual scattershot collection of men in the regiment as an eclectic bunch ranging from cowards to unlikely heroes. There is even an openly gay couple, which defies credibility since homosexuality in British society was considered to be a criminal act at the time.
The early part of the movie depicts the young soldiers as untested, naive and afraid of actually going into combat- all perfectly human concerns. They are also bored on the base due to lack of female companionship and are desperate for sex with any available woman. Amidst an atmosphere in which his fellow soldiers brag about their sexual conquests, Brigg nervously tries to arrange losing his virginity while posing as an experienced lady's man. He tries to satiate his sexual desires with a local hooker,
Juicy Lucy (winningly played by Tsai Chin), whose heart of gold extends
to giving credit on account to any soldier who suffers impotence from
performance anxiety. The unit's sergeant, Driscoll (Nigel Davenport), instills military discipline in his charges while also acting as a father figure, recognizing that these frightened young men are far away from home and are facing a conflict in an exotic land that they don't even understand. A parallel plot centers on the miserable existence of Philippa whose father is a strutting misogynist and comically inept figure. Her mother (played by Redgrave's real-life mum Rachel Kempson) is a dippy eccentric whose primary focus seems to be on the well-being of her pet goldfish. Phillipa is much-desired by every soldier on the base, given the lack of females in their vicinity. They view her as a sultry woman of the world when, in fact, she, too, is also a virgin, much to the consternation of her father, who constantly derides her for not yet having taken up with a man. He even chides her by telling her that the local gossip speculates she might be a lesbian. Phillipa is emotionally alone in the world in a location she can't relate to and doesn't want to be in, much like the young recruits on the base. She refuses to be a temporary bed mate for soldiers who are moving on.
Any retro movie lover would be forgiven for thinking there would be a multitude of pleasures in The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday, a
1976 Western comedy top-lining such considerable talents as Lee Marvin,
Oliver Reed, Robert Culp, Kay Lenz, Elizabeth Ashley, Sylvia Miles and
the always watchable Strother Martin. Sadly, the film is a complete
misfire with nary a true guffaw to be found throughout. The movie is
directed by Don Taylor, who helmed some fairly good films including Escape From the Planet of the Apes, Damien: Omen II and The Final Countdown. However,
comedy is not Taylor's strong suit, as evidenced by the
over-the-top elements of the movie. The quasi plot finds Marvin as Sam
Longwood, an eccentric plainsman who is partnered with Indian Joe Knox
(Oliver Reed) and Billy (Strother Martin) in an attempt to track down
their former partner Jack Colby (Robert Culp) who fled with the haul the
gold hoarde the four men had discovered years before. Colby has used
the stolen loot to establish himself as a respectable politician. Sam,
Joe and Billy concoct a scheme whereby they will blackmail Colby into
returning their share of the money by kidnapping his wife Nancy Sue
(Elizabeth Ashley), a loud-mouthed and obnoxious woman who has had
romantic ties to Sam in the past. For reasons far too labored to go
into, the trio of men are also accompanied by a seventeen year-old
prosititute named Thursday (Kay Lenz) who is seeking to escape the clutches of her
former madam (Sylvia Miles).
The film has boundless energy but the non-screenplay leads the
characters to dead-ends. Taylor inserts numerous slapstick comedy bits
that bring out the worst in Marvin, as he goes into his over-acting mode
routinely. Most embarrassing is the bizarre casting of Reed as a Native
American. Cursed by having to wear a mop-haired wig and grunting "Me
Tarzan, You Jane"-style dialogue, Reed does the most harm to the image
of the Indian since the massacre at Wounded Knee. The film lurches from
extended fistfights to boring chase sequences, all designed to mask over
the fact that the script is a bland, pasted together conconction. There
is also a jaunty musical score by John Cameron that is played almost non-stop, causing you to keep the remote on "mute" mode. The
only people to emerge relatively unscathed are Lenz, Culp and Martin,
who provided whatever wit and charm the film boasts. On paper, the
project probably looked promising, but in terms of any genuine
laughs...well, they went that-a-way.
Kino Lorber has released the film on Blu-ray with a good transfer and an abundance of trailers (including one for this movie) that prove to be far more entertaining than the main feature.
Racial tensions are flaring in the deep South. White supremacists are marching with members of the Klan, as progressive counter-protestors face off against them amidst a media frenzy. Confederate banners are proudly waved opposite those displaying the American flag. You would be forgiven for thinking this scenario describes the USA in the year 2018 but in actuality it's the setting for the 1996 political thriller "The Chamber", based on the novel by John Grisham. Like other Grisham cinematic tales, it's a complex story of eccentric characters, some laudable, others villainous, and its decked out with an atmosphere of Southern fried hatred. The film opens in Mississippi in 1967 when a Jewish civil rights lawyer makes the fatal mistake of taking his two young sons to work with him on the very day the Klan has placed a time bomb in his office. The resulting blast kills the boys and injures the father, who later commits suicide, leaving his widow (Millie Perkins) to cope with a lifetime of unspeakable sorrow. The story then cuts to the present day (1996) where we find Adam Hall (Chris O'Donnell), a bright, dedicated young lawyer, determined to intervene on behalf of the man who was convicted of the hate crime and who is now about to be executed after many years of exhausted appeals while on Death Row. The culprit is Sam Cayhall (Gene Hackman) and he is Adam's grandfather, though the young man has never met him. This introduces the first problem with the screenplay by the usually estimable William Goldman: we are never really clear about why Adam is so dedicated to savING the life of a grandfather he has never met. He is clearly haunted by the fact that his own father committed suicide when Adam was a child, presumably out of the overwhelming shame of being Sam Cayhall's son. Adam's motives are left murky, especially when there is no doubt that Sam did plant the deadly device in the lawyer's office. Is Adam grasping at straws in trying to reclaim some dignity for his family's name or is he on to something more intriguing? Because this is a Grisham tale, our hero does turn detective and learns that Sam had at least one co-conspirator, a local white supremacist (Raymond J. Barry) who was never on law enforcement's radar. Turns out he is actually Sam's brother and has been living under an assumed name. In a dramatic meeting, Sam's brother implores him not to spill the beans and to continue to cover for him until he is executed a few days later in the gas chamber. Sam responds with a verbal onslaught against his brother, screaming out that the plan was never to kill anyone. If that's the case, why is Sam willing to go to his death to continue to cover up for his slime bag brother? The question is left ambiguous.
There's a lot of legal maneuvering as Adam exhausts the options available to save Sam, who he has met and formed a bond with. Behind Sam's exterior of hatred and racism we learn there is a deep-thinking, intelligent man who is more nuanced than one might think when it comes to race relations. This warm, fuzzy side of the character doesn't ring true and seems to be a plot contrivance to make the audience sympathize with his plight. Helping matters is the fine performance by Gene Hackman, which goes a long way to making Sam accessible from an emotional standpoint even if his conversion is unconvincing. (After all, he still had willingly carried out a terrorist action in the name of racism.) The supporting cast includes Faye Dunaway as Sam's estranged and long-suffering daughter who saw him murder a black man when she was a child. She's now living the life of a Southern belle and is not too happy with being outed as Sam's offspring. The script does allow for father and daughter to have a somber reunion in prison and it's one of the few scenes that works credibly in the film. (It's also enjoyable to see Hackman and Dunaway reunited for the first time since "Bonnie and Clyde" 29 years earlier.) Lela Rochon is tossed into the mix in an under-written role as a young African American attorney who is being manipulated by the Mississippi governor (David Marshall Grant, playing the role like Snidely Whiplash) to befriend Adam in order to find out what legal strategies he is employing. The implication is that the Governor and other top officials have a lot to fear if Sam is not executed on schedule, but these factors are left frustratingly murky.
a banquet, and most sons of bitches are starving to death!”
Warner Archive has just released the Blu-ray version of Mame, 1974’s film
version of the hit Broadway show.The
musical itself was based on the play Auntie Mame starring Rosalind Russell,
also a film and also available from the Warner Archive.
paper, this movie had “hit” written all over it with Mame’s Broadway director
Gene Saks on board along with Bea Arthur (Saks’ wife) and Jane Connell
reprising their stage roles.The popular
score by Jerry Herman was augmented with a new song, Loving You.Phillip H. Lathrop was the cinematographer,
Onna White staged the production numbers and veteran composer/arranger Fred
Werner supervised the music.
casting of the title role created controversy at the time as the star of the
Broadway version of Mame, Angela Lansbury, was overlooked in favor of
television and film legend Lucille Ball.It was decided at the time that Ms. Ball would draw a larger audience as
film musicals had been sputtering at the box office.Previous efforts such as Paint Your Wagon,
Hello Dolly and Lost Horizon had been financial disasters, and the studio
wanted to stack the deck in favor of Mame breaking this trend.
Ball had never been known as a singer and at age 63 she may have not been as
nimble on her feet as she was in earlier musicals.One just has to remember her taming the cat
dancers with a whip in MGM’s Ziegfield Follies in 1946.Ms. Ball’s performance as Mame Dennis is
still enjoyable and, if anything, is somewhat restrained.Scenes involving a comic foxhunt with Mame
riding sidesaddle and a disastrous stage debut could have turned into Lucy
Ricardo style slapstick, but were wisely held in check by director Saks.Ms. Ball conveyed warmth, strength and gentle
humor in her performance as the eccentric, but lovable aunt.
story follows the young and recently orphaned Patrick Dennis being sent to New
York to live with his only living relative: his father’s sister Mame, a
free-spirited bachelorette socialite.Mame instantly takes a liking to her nephew and vows to show him all the
culture and unconventional personalities of Manhattan during the late 1920s.Her friends include a stage actress of dubious
talent, the headmaster of a Bohemian nudist school, a less- than- successful
stockbroker and a loyal houseboy.
escapades with Patrick are made aware to his guardian, a conservative bank
president, who sends the child to boarding school.Despite this setback, Auntie Mame remains the
main influence on her nephew’s upbringing, and the story tracks their
relationship through Patrick reaching adulthood and his preparations to
marry.Along the way Mame encounters the
stock crash of 1929, employment in customer service, marriage to a Southern
aristocrat and a sudden tragedy.Her one
constant through everything is her loving relationship with young Patrick.
fantastic supporting cast includes Bea Arthur as actress Vera Charles, Jane
Connell as Patrick’s nanny Agnes Gooch, Robert Preston as Mame’s love interest
Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, George Chiang as the houseboy Ito, Joyce
Van Patten as Southern belle Sally Cato, Bruce Davison as the adult Patrick and
John McGiver as Mr. Babcock, Patrick’s guardian.
highlights include the beautifully staged title number sung by Robert Preston,
a touching duet, My Best Girl, between Mame and Patrick, the hilariously wicked
Bosom Buddies, where Mame and Vera confirm their lifelong friendship and a
genuine holiday moment with the charming We Need a Little Christmas.
script by Paul Zindel does drag a bit in the second act as adult Patrick
contemplates marriage.There is an
awkward jump as one wedding is called off and another takes place.Zindel does include many of the one-liners
that made the stage version so humorous.Chiang, the houseboy answers a call from Mame’s financial adviser asking
“he wants to know what to do with your stocks before he jumps out the
window.”Vera enters the room after an
all-night binge and declares: “Somebody has been sleeping in my dress!”
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Kevin Costner stars in and directs the triumphant cinematic
masterpiece Dances with Wolves, based on the novel by Michael Blake. Available
November 13th, 2018 from Shout! Factory, this breathtaking three-disc Steelbook
Collector’s Edition includes the original theatrical cut for the first time on
Blu-ray, an extended cut of the film and an entire disc of bonus features.
Winner of seven Academy Awards®, including Best Directing
and Best Picture, this modern classic tells the story of Lt. Dunbar (Costner),
a Civil War hero who befriends a tribe of Native Americans while stationed at a
desolate outpost on the frontier. What follows is a series of unforgettable
moments — from Dunbar’s tender scenes with Stands With A Fist (Mary McDonnell),
to the thrilling, action-packed buffalo hunt. Experience the excitement,
emotion and sweeping beauty of this cinematic treasure as never before on
Dances with Wolves Bonus Features
Disc One: Theatrical Cut
Disc Two: Extended Cut
Commentary with actor/producer/director Kevin Costner and producer Jim Wilson
Commentary with director of photography Dean Semler and editor Neil Travis
Disc Three: Bonus Features
· A Day in
the Life on the Western Frontier
Original Making of Dances with Wolves
Creation of an Epic - A Retrospective Documentary
· Music Video
Vignettes (Second Wind, Confederate March and Music, Getting the Point, Burying
the Hatchet, Animatronic Buffalo)
How you’ll feel about MGM’s “The Last Hunt” (1956), a
grim depiction of the decimation of the buffalo herds out west in the 1880s,
depends on how you feel about actually seeing buffalo shot down before your
eyes while the cameras rolled. Writer/director Richard Brooks wanted the film to
be a searing indictment of the men who ravaged the western frontier, especially
those who made their living hunting bison. For the sake of authenticity, he and
producer Dore Schary went out on location to Custer National Park, South
Dakota, where they still have a small herd of buffalo. They got some
spectacular footage of the buffalo stampeding over the Black Hills and had
government permission to film during the annual “thinning of the herd,” when sharpshooters
are invited to kill a limited number of buffs to keep them from overpopulating.
As a result. there are scenes in “The Last Hunt” in which we see buffalo
hunters Charlie Gilson (Robert Taylor) and Sandy McKenzie (Stewart Granger)
shooting down a dozen or more of the majestic beasts as they sit peacefully
unaware by a watering hole. It is isn’t a reenactment. It’s real and it’s disturbing
But that was Brooks’ intent. He wanted to show how greed
and hatred of the Indian brought the buffalo to near extinction. Buffalo hides
not only brought the hunters a good price but in their minds a dead buffalo
meant less meat for the Indians. Brooks personifies these attitudes most
vividly in the psychopathic Charlie Gilson. He is a man who hates everything,
especially buffalo and Indians. He gets a real kick out of killing, too. He
says it makes him feel alive. Taylor is convincing as a truly bad man, although
his performance is somewhat one-dimensional. In most of the scenes, he’s either
drunk and surly or just plain mean and surly.
On the other hand, McKenzie is a gentler soul who only
agrees to go on the hunt when his small herd of cattle is wiped out by a
buffalo stampede. He has no animosity against Native Americans and keeps
telling Charlie he needs to chill out. Granger gives a good performance as a
nice guy, but he’s almost too nice to be believable. Also in the hunting party
are Lloyd Nolan as Woodfoot, a skinner with a peg leg and Russ Tamblyn as
Jimmy, a redheaded half-breed, whom Charlie can barely tolerate. Woodfoot could
have been an Ahab-type character with a grudge against buffalo for losing his
leg, but he’s more philosophical than that. He’s seen a lot. He explains
Charlie’s hatred for Indians to Jimmy by showing how much alike they are. He
says Charlie eats without a fork, just like an Indian, he’s free with his women
just like an Indian, he even blows his nose in his fingers like an Indian. “But you see, Charlie don’t like himself very
much,” Woodfoot says, “so it’s only natural he’d hate Indians.”
The four men manage an uneasy coexistence until their
pack mules are stolen one night by a small band of roving Indians. Sandy and
Woodfoot are willing to let it go, but Charlie rides off after them with blood
in his eye. He tracks them down, kills them and wounds an Indian Girl (Debra
Paget) traveling with a small boy. He brings the girl and boy back to camp and beds
down with her, much to Sandy’s dislike. Charlie gets drunk and mistreats the
girl, while Sandy seethes, but remains silent. Sandy and the Indian girl begin
to get closer, however, when Charlie’s not around or just passed out and
tension slowly builds.
Things come to a head when Sandy hesitates to shoot a
white buffalo because he knows it has religious significance to the Indians.
Charlie has no such qualms. He knows the hide will bring a price of $2,000. He
kills it and now both the Indian girl and the white buffalo hide become the
sources of conflict that eventually leads to a violent and chilling climax.
“The Last Hunt” is an interesting film made by an
interesting director. Like some of Richard Brooks’ other films, such as “In
Cold Blood” and “Bite the Bullet,” it’s hard-hitting, almost merciless, in its
portrayal of the darkness that lies just below the thin veneer of civilization.
It could have been a classic, but it has become a victim of the era in which it
was made. It’s not likely that any major studio today would release a film
showing the deliberate killing of live animals, no matter what the reason. For
one thing PETA would make life miserable for the film makers, and today’s
audiences would most likely condemn it as well. The casting of Debra Paget as
the unnamed “Indian Girl” is another strike against it. The casting was not
Richard Brooks’ fault. Movie studios in 1956 never cast Native Americans in
major roles. Indian characters were usually played by Mexican actors like
Delores Del Rio or Gilbert Roland. Paget
does a great job, but it’s a false note in a film that tries so hard to be
But the biggest problems with “The Last Hunt” is its slow
pace. The film focuses too much on the five main characters bogged down in
their own personal conflicts. It takes forever for McKenzie to finally have his
fill of Charlie’s constant bullying and mean-tempered treatment of the woman
and the half-breed. He’s too mild-mannered and when the final showdown does
happen it’s a long, drawn out affair that lacks suspense.
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
Universal City, California, November 1, 2018 – Five of
some of the most timeless holiday films come together on Blu-ray™ and DVD in The
Original Christmas Specials Collection: Deluxe Edition available now from
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Featuring all-new bonus features and
unforgettable characters, experience these five classic holiday specials with
your whole family.
‘Tis the season to enjoy the timeless holiday classics in
The Original Christmas Specials Collection: Deluxe Edition featuring 5
unforgettable stories. Produced by the legendary Rankin/Bass, Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and The Little Drummer Boy
feature iconic Animagic™ stop-motion animation and Frosty the Snowman and Cricket
on the Hearth are beautifully illustrated. Starring the voice talents of Fred
Astaire, Jimmy Durante, Mickey Rooney, Danny Thomas, Burl Ives and many more,
these favorites also feature some of the most beloved songs of the season and
are sure to entertain audiences of all ages for generations to come!
The Original Christmas Specials Collection: Deluxe
Edition includes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), Frosty the Snowman (1969),
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970), The Little Drummer Boy (1968), Cricket on
the Hearth (1967). Along with The Original Christmas Specials Collection:
Deluxe Edition, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Santa
Claus is Comin’ to Town are also available in individual new Deluxe Editions on
Blu-RayTM and DVD.
· The Animagic
World of Rankin/Bass: An all-new documentary celebrating the legacy of the
holiday specials created by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass including
interviews with filmmakers and historians.
· Restoring the
Puppets of Rudolph: Discover how the puppets from the beloved special were
· Reimagining Rudolph
in 4D: A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the new Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Reindeer attraction film.
· Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer Attraction Film: A short stop-motion film originally created
for a Rudolph 4D experience.
Rudolph and the Reindeer Games: A video storybook including the untold story of
the Reindeer Games
· Frosty the
Snowman Original Pencil Test
on Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
has released an interesting time capsule of a boxed set that features early work
by director Brian De Palma and starring a very young Robert De Niro before
either of them were significant names in the motion picture industry. The films
are The Wedding Party (made in 1963,
released in 1969), Greetings (1968),
and Hi, Mom! (1970).
Palma had embarked on a film career in the very early 1960s when he was a
student at various institutions. While at Sarah Lawrence College in New York,
he collaborated with then-theatre-professor Wilford Leach (who went on to
become a major stage director, designer, and writer) and Cynthia Munroe (who
provided much of the script and funding) to make a feature entitled The Wedding Party. Most accounts (including
IMDb) state that the movie was made in 1963; however, an essay by Brad Stevens
in the accompanying Blu-ray booklet claims that the film was shot in 1964-65. It
was eventually copyrighted in 1966, but wasn’t released until 1969, after the
moderate success of De Palma’s first mainstream (of sorts) picture, Greetings (released a year earlier in ‘68).
most interesting thing going for The
Wedding Party is that it also sports the movie debut of De Niro, as well as
Jill Clayburgh, William Finley, and Jennifer Salt (although De Niro’s name is
misspelled in the credits as “Denero”—go figure). It’s one odd little movie,
very low-budget, shot in black and white, and in a style reminiscent of early
silent comedies (although it has sound). In a supplemental featurette, critic
and filmmaker Howard S. Berger cites Richard Lester’s The Running, Jumping, and Standing Still Film (1959) as an
influence, and one can see that. There is speeded-up footage in which
characters run around, jump, fall, and drive cars in a comic, Keystone Cops
fashion. There is also a French New Wave feel in that the picture is full of
radical jump cuts. De Niro’s character, Cecil, is really a supporting role/groomsman
to protagonist Charlie (Charles Pfluger), the groom of the titular event, and
Josephine (Clayburgh), the bride. William Finley, who went on to star in other
De Palma pictures, particularly Phantom
of the Paradise, is another groomsman. The
Wedding Party is a black comedy about the hypocritical rites of a wedding
and the familial events leading up to it. There’s a laugh or two.
Greetings was another black
comedy made in collaboration with co-writer/producer Charles Hirsch as the kind
of pseudo-underground, low-budget, counterculture art film that budding
filmmakers were creating to appeal to the college crowd in the late 60s (movies
like Bob Rafelson’s Head or some of
Roger Corman’s hippie-biker pictures come to mind). De Niro shares protagonist
status with Gerrit Graham and Jonathan Warden as Jon, Lloyd, and Paul,
respectively. Each young man is rebelling against society in some way. Paul
wants to avoid the draft (so his pals help him be “gay”); Lloyd is obsessed
with the Kennedy assassination and seeks to uncover its secrets; and Jon wants
to be a pornographer. The picture is shot in a similar vein as was Wedding Party, albeit in color this
time, with even more uncompromising editing. This time it’s got the whole
late-60s pop thing going for it—shock-value subject matter, political
commentary, drugs, violence, and sex. In fact, the latter component earned Greetings the distinction of being the
first American mainstream movie to be officially given the “X” rating by the
newly-established MPAA (it has since been re-rated “R”).
to Hirsch, Greetings got mixed
reviews but did good business, especially in New York, where it played well at
art houses. It was decided that a sequel was in order, originally called Son of Greetings, but the title was
eventually changed to Hi, Mom!
Released in 1970, Mom almost received
an “X” rating, but De Palma deleted part of a scene to get an “R.”
Hi, Mom! is yet another black
comedy, and this one’s particularly subversive. It focuses solely on De Niro’s
character, Jon, who has returned to New York after serving in Vietnam. Now he’s
radicalized and wants to make a statement to the world. Hirsch calls the character
“Taxi Driver Light,” and one can see a glimpse of Travis Bickle here in De
Niro’s Jon. This time, Jon continues his venture into smut-making (with the
help of pornographer Allen Garfield, continuing a role he started in Greetings) by filming across the street
into people’s apartment windows, Rear
Window-style. He falls for one of the victims of his voyeurism, Judy
(Jennifer Salt). Most notable in the picture is a disturbing black and white
sequence in which an off-off-Broadway troupe of black actors perform a show
entitled “Baby, Be Black,” in which white audience members are forced to participate
in the show, put on blackface, eat soul food, and then be terrorized by the
actors (who are painted in whiteface). Not sure how this sequence would play
for a modern audience! Look for early appearances by Charles Durning (credited
as Charles Durnham) and Paul Bartel.
has done a top-notch job with these cinematic oddities. The High Definition
Blu-ray (1080p) presentations with original English mono audio (uncompressed
LPCM) look and sound surprisingly good. There are optional English subtitles. Supplements
are plentiful. There’s a new audio commentary on Greetings by Glenn Kenny, author of Robert De Niro: Anatomy of an Actor; a new appreciation of De Palma’s
and De Niro’s collaborations by critic and filmmaker Howard S. Berger; new
interviews with Charles Hirsch; the pressbook for Greetings; the theatrical trailer for Hi, Mom!; reversible sleeves on the two jewel cases with
commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin; and booklets featuring pieces on the
films by Brad Stevens, Chris Dumas, and Christina Newland, and an archival
interview with De Palma and Hirsch.
three films are curiosities, certainly fare for film historians and serious
enthusiasts of De Palma and De Niro. For others, the trio will be considered
very strange pieces of cinema that merely reflect the times in which they were