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post #1801 of 1869 Old 03-06-2017, 05:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), produced and directed by Robert Aldrich.

Further exploiting a genre he pretty much invented with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Aldrich gives us even more elaborate crazy-old-lady adventures of Bette Davis.

Unkindly, these are called "psycho-biddy" or "hag-sploitation" films. Aldrich just owned them, which is strange because he split his time between these and war or tough-guy films like Attack (1956), The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). The only common theme seems to be unsentimentality.

This time he steals plot from Diabolique (1955) and lurid thrill techniques from Roger Corman and William Castle. Seriously: this is their sort of film done big budget with major stars, introducing upscale audiences to hauntings and severed limbs. I'll bet they screamed and screamed.

For extra flavor the film is dunked in deep gooey Southern Gothic mannerisms. Everyone goes way overboard, with a special award for Agnes Moorehead showing everyone else how it's done.

Joan Crawford was supposed to return but quit after location filming. She was both physically sick and sick and tired of abuse from Bette Davis. The role was offered to Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Loretta Young, and Barbara Stanwyck, but finally accepted by Davis's long-time friend Olivia de Havilland. When she first appeared -- wearing her own clothes, French fashions -- I thought, "That's the Deborah Kerr role!" I kept thinking of Kerr throughout the picture.

I was liking it but also thinking "this is going on too long" when we have shocking and exciting plot twists in the second half. The story "cheats" with scenes that make no logical sense.

Bette Davis does something brave I have never seen in film: at one melt-down shock point she doesn't scream or whimper but descends into gasping noises of animalistic panic. The crew was absolutely shocked, then applauded. That was one take only.

With Joseph Cotten. Mary Astor's last film. Bruce Dern and George Kennedy have small parts.

Music by Frank De Vol, photographed by Joseph Biroc. Both were frequent collaborators with Aldrich.

Twilight Time Blu-ray with an excellent image, showcasing the dramatic black-and-white composition.

Two commentary tracks, full of details, but also -- like the track for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) -- obsessively fascinated with the oversized grande dame personalities of the women involved and their titanic conflicts. I've had enough.



-Bill
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post #1802 of 1869 Old 03-13-2017, 07:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Wrong Move (1975), directed by Wim Wenders.

A young man wants to be a writer but doesn't know what to write about. He takes a road trip through Germany to find himself, starting from his home in a North Sea port town and ending in the mountains at the southern tip of the country. Because he is cold and doesn't like people, of course he picks up an assortment of characters along the way:

  • An old soldier and his silent granddaughter, who work as street performers and perhaps pickpockets.
  • An actress who finds him appealing.
  • A would-be poet.
  • A lonely industrialist in a decrepit old mansion.

As happens in real life, the travelers wax philosophical, although real people seldom speak in such well-formed paragraphs. They seem to need to find a philosophy of life before really living, which perhaps makes more sense on the Continent than in the Anglo-American tradition. I wasn't able to follow their existential difficulties.

A little romance and a small bit of actual drama: our hero figures out that the old man is a former nazi officer who sings a bitter song about "Rosenthal", which from this and Grand Illusion (1937) I figure is an antisemitic typical Jewish name. I think another character -- "Landau" -- is also a Jew and the old man gives him the evil eye.

The ex-nazi sleeps with a whip for self-flagellation but that doesn't stop our hero from regarding him with murderous intent.

People traveling, discoursing on imponderables: doesn't sound very interesting, does it? I'm strangely fond of it, perhaps because decades ago I worked my way through the early Wim Wenders shelf at Blockbuster Video and remember them all. Of course, I never really saw these when limited to videotape; the Criterion Blu-ray is a revelation by comparison.

Mostly I love the look of the production and the story of how it was made. Robby Müller, the director's usual photographer, produces something much like his work for The American Friend (1977). No storyboards, a tiny crew on the road making up the shots day by day. The images have a fast, unplanned, non-arty look but are still beautifully composed. They had a complete script this time.

A favorite sequence: a long walk up a mountain road to an overlook above the Rhine. As they walk and talk we see the way they have come in a series of extended takes. Their "dolly" was the director's Renault 4 which everyone not in front of the camera had to push, giving a fluid, pre-Steadicam look.

All natural sound, no dialogue looping. Very little extra lighting. No sets. Jürgen Knieper's discordant score is strangely ominous.

About Nastassja Kinski:

  • Her first film. She took acting lessons afterwards.
  • Discovered in a club where she said she was 16 to get in. When they got her mother involved it turned out she was really 13.
  • They did not know she was Klaus Kinski's daughter at first.
  • This is a nonspeaking part, which is fine. Her job is to be young and watching.
  • You couldn't have done this in an American film: she has a brief nude scene and implied sex. (Our hero was looking for the actress and found the wrong bedroom and a willing Mignon. He stayed).
  • Wenders said the hardest part of filming that scene was her uncontrollable giggling, which would set off the rest of the crew for long periods. Watch her face, he says, she's thinking "must not giggle".
  • The writer criticized Rüdiger Vogler for keeping his briefs on when laying with her. His response: "Are you kidding? She was 13!" Which makes it cinematically safer, somehow.

Available on Criterion Blu-ray. The director's commentary is from 2002: fond, sometimes sparse. He marvels at how he and his crew worked back then.



-Bill
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post #1803 of 1869 Old 03-13-2017, 04:49 PM
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(cross-post) ... The blond actor in baseball jacket, Rüdiger Vogler, is an actor who shows up in six or seven Wenders films, usually with the same name of Philip Winter (though not in Wrong Move), often as a film technician of some kind. He's kind of Wender's alter ego on screen.

I didn't realize this when I saw Until The End of the World, but started catching on when I saw Lisbon Story (correction). The former is another road movie, the latter is a "destination movie."

The town in the valley behind the characters during the walk up the mountain road, is the town Wenders' mother grew up in.

Wrong Move, part of Criterion Collections's Wim Wenders Road Trilogy, is featured on Filmstruck.com this month [March, 2017], along with "Three For The Road," an hour long interview with Wenders about the making of his "Road" pictures.
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post #1804 of 1869 Old 03-14-2017, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by hitchfan View Post
A snippet of final moment dialogue to ponder from two back-to-back Hitchcock masterpieces.

VERTIGO, Hitchcock in perhaps his most profound, serious mood:
Stewart says, "You shouldn't have been...you shouldn't have been...so sentimental."

NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Hitchcock in a much lighter mood:
Saint says, "Ah. this is silly."
Grant says, "I know. But I'm sentimental."

Does it have a deeper meaning than Hitch (and his screenwriter) merely resorting to a handy final concept from the earlier film to but a button on it? It being Hitchcock, I think so. He often carried over, more deeply examined or re-considered character traits and themes from previous films. But I always love hearing his two greatest leading men, each roughly from the same generation as Hitchcock and all a bit beyond middle age, commenting on the light vs dark, double edge sword of "sentimentality" in each of the last two occasions when they would work together.
I think Hitch was a sentimentalist, and maybe somewhat embarrassed by it, because it wasn't a "manly" trait. But not very demonstrative in real life.
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post #1805 of 1869 Old 03-14-2017, 04:40 PM
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James Mason: what to say? Deliciously, imperially wicked, but always well mannered.


Very well put, Bill. Mason was always one of my favorite heavies, in a film career that spanned half a century (1935-1985). One could do worse (a lot worse) than spending an evening or even a week or two just watching old James Mason movies.

Some of his other memorable roles for me (mainly as a kid) were Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (shown above), Sir Oliver in Journey to the Center of the Earth, Rommel in The Desert Fox, Dr. Polidori in Frankenstein: The True Story, Mr. Jordan in the 1978 remake of Heaven Can Wait, and of course the infamous Mr. Straker in Salem's Lot...





Like most well-employed actors he also did quite a few stinkers (e.g. Yellowbeard),... but that hardly even scratches the surface of his work.

The Shooting Party and The Verdict (with Paul Newman) were apparently two of his most lauded later roles. He also produced and acted in a kind of fun little anthology picture (in sort of the "Hitchcock Presents" mold) with his wife Pamela called Charade (1953), which can be viewed on YouTube or the Internet Archive.
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post #1806 of 1869 Old 03-14-2017, 10:21 PM
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ODD MAN OUT is an early classic of his, showing just how marvelous an actor he would always be (whether the role was large or small). Available on a Criterion Collection Blu-ray. Highly recommended Carol Reed film.

Someone wrote about James Mason some liner notes about how his voice was a special effect unto itself. "At least let me afford you the opportunity to survive the evening...."

He's my favorite part of SALEM'S LOT. The scene where he puts the little boy's body in the basement for Barlow is chilling. He's so gentle with the boy, but what he's doing is so fiendish.

"Not very sporting, using real bullets...." Van Damme, on seeing Leonard shot, NORTH BY NORTHWEST.
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post #1807 of 1869 Old 03-20-2017, 09:14 AM - Thread Starter
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Colorado Territory (1949), directed by Raoul Walsh.

An outlaw is broken out of prison so he can commit a train heist. He doesn't much like the helpers they've given him, but grows close to the half-Indian woman hanging out with the gang. They are all doomed. The problem with crime is the people you have to deal with.

Interesting because it is a remake of Walsh's own High Sierra (1941) from just eight years earlier. I think it works better as a crime story than as a western, and Joel McCrea doesn't have the hardness or pain of Humphrey Bogart. Skin-toned Virginia Mayo is fetching as the bad-girl love interest.

David Buttolph score. The music and emotion swell as they approach the tragic ending, and we have some lovely cinematography by Sidney Hickox. Unfortunately the Warner Archive DVD has a very soft image.



-Bill
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post #1808 of 1869 Old 03-27-2017, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
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One Million Years B.C. (1966), directed by Don Chaffey.

When you see a smoking volcano in a caveman-and-dinosaurs picture, it had better erupt with big lava flows before the end or there is going to be trouble in the theater. No problem here: it looks like the end of the world when the mountain explodes.

An adventure fantasy probably intended for young people, this is worth reviewing because:

  • Hammer's most successful film.
  • Ray Harryhausen stop-motion effects. To his later regret, he also used old-style live iguana monsters.
  • Star-making vehicle for Raquel Welch.

Welch had just done Fantastic Voyage (1966), but it was a dramatic photo and poster that made her a worldwide sensation:



She was on location in the spectacularly primeval-looking Canary Islands for weeks and did not know she had become a famous sex symbol until she returned home.

Notes:

  • In the first minutes you can't help thinking of the Dawn of Man opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
  • No English spoken: all caveman talk.
  • Freezing cold on location, including the swimming scenes.
  • Welch's leather bikini would stretch and become loose after becoming wet and they had to keep taking it in.
  • The scenes where she emerges from the water seem to be a quote of Dr. No (1962). Ursula Andress had been offered this part but turned it down.
  • Other Bond connections: Welch was supposed to play Domino in Thunderball (1965) but the studio pulled her back to do Fantastic Voyage (1966) and this film. Martine Beswick, her opponent in the big girl-fight, was in From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965).
  • On the non-documentary nature of mixing cavemen and dinosaurs, Harryhausen said: we didn't make it for professors. No one who cares comes to see pictures like this.

Finally, something to think about: in comparing the brutish Rock Tribe with the more advanced and pleasant Shell Tribe, we gather that caveman utopia is just being with people you can trust. This is probably the key component of Utopia in all ages.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino: both the US and International versions on separate discs. The US edition cut 9 minutes, partly for running time, but also to shorten some violent sequences and one sexy dance by Beswick.

A film scholar gives a very good commentary track, both loaded with production details and unexpectedly insightful about the differences between the two tribes.



-Bill
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post #1809 of 1869 Old 03-27-2017, 03:12 PM
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.....but it was a dramatic photo and poster that made her a worldwide sensation
And paved the way for Andy's escape from nasty Shawshank prison!
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post #1810 of 1869 Old 03-27-2017, 07:12 PM
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And paved the way for Andy's escape from nasty Shawshank prison!
Funny you should reference The Shawshank Redemption. I watched it again last week. It hasn't lost a step.

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post #1811 of 1869 Old 03-27-2017, 08:26 PM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

Oh, it wasn't Rita Hayworth? (I can't remember the movie. The novella, in DIFFERENT SEASONS, IIRC, is what sticks in my mind.)

But on a side note ... watched THE GREEN MILE again last month, and it isn't dated at all. Tom Hanks, David Morse, Sam Rockwell, Michael Clarke Duncan, Michael Jeter, James Cromwell, others who certainly deserve remembering....
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post #1812 of 1869 Old 04-02-2017, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Cul-De-Sac (1966), directed by Roman Polanski.

An odd couple -- meek Donald Pleasence and his gorgeous young French wife, Françoise Dorléac -- living in a medieval fortress on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland, England, UK, cut off by the tide twice a day -- are held captive by a pair of bank robbers (?) on the lam. This is not the best couples therapy for them.

It is a dark, absurdist comedy, sort of a European screwball treatment as informed by Samuel Beckett. I don't remember hearing of it until it appeared on Criterion Blu-ray. It was a good find, recommended if you like a little absurdist theater.

Pleasence was a remarkable package of talent: both mild and intense, self-effacing and psychotic.

Little flashes of nudity by Dorléac, well-placed and made more alluring by being so brief.

Watching this, I was thinking how much she looked like Catherine Deneuve in Polanski's Repulsion (1965) the previous year, a remarkable resemblance with her hair arranged the same way. Then I remembered: they were sisters. I presume Polanski was smitten with both; I know François Truffaut was.

I last saw her in Billion Dollar Brain (1967). She died at age 25 in a car accident as that film was being finished.

The big gunman is gruff-voiced American actor Lionel Stander, last seen in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). He's pretty great but as far as I know he always did supporting character roles.

His partner is Irish actor Jack MacGowran (another Beckett connection) who was in many Polanski films, notably as the goofy Einstein-like professor in The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), a spoof of Hammer Dracula films.

Early appearance of "Jackie" Bisset in a small role.

Photographed by Gilbert Taylor.

Criterion Blu-ray.



-Bill
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post #1813 of 1869 Old 04-09-2017, 06:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Seven Days in May (1964), directed by John Frankenheimer.

A nice mix of detective story and political thriller, my favorite. How quickly can Kirk Douglas come to believe that a military coup is scheduled for the weekend, how to convince the president, and how to stop it?

It's a great cast but the two utterly believable performances are Fredric March as the President and Martin Balsam as his chief of staff. They could be those people.

Burt Lancaster is the perfect soldier, brave, precise and scrupulously if pointedly polite, but also our egomaniac villain.

Ava Gardner is a love-lorn ex-girlfriend and Edmond O'Brien the hard-drinking senior senator from Georgia who is on the side of the angels.

John Houseman had been a long-time producer. At age 62 he got his first real acting part as the patrician admiral who will only bet on a sure thing.

Screenplay by Rod Serling; now and then I can hear his voice when the characters start to lecture.

Jerry Goldsmith score.

Available on DVD with a relaxed, conversational commentary track by the director. As always he lavishes praise on his cast and crew. He collects people who are dedicated and hard working. He says:

  • The picket riot at the beginning was staged with amateurs and quickly got too real.
  • They had permission to shoot outside the White House and photograph the interior for their own set construction because JFK and his press secretary Pierre Salinger had enjoyed The Manchurian Candidate (1962). (Think about that...)
  • Fredric March was one of the two finest actors he knew, and he didn't name the other.

Where's the Blu-ray?



-Bill
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post #1814 of 1869 Old 04-12-2017, 08:09 AM - Thread Starter
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The Most Dangerous Game (1932), directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack.

A big game hunter (young Joel McCrea), shipwrecked on a fortress island, finds himself the hunted when a mad Russian aristocrat explains his own sporting innovations.

This was made by the same crew as for King Kong (1933) and uses the same jungle sets. They fit it in when Fay Wray had down time from the other picture, the same way she was able to work on Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). She was a horror-thriller specialist during this period and has 11 film credits for 1933 alone. Her clothes are always getting ripped up or off.

The plot has been used many times since. This version was supposed to be more ambitious but after losing half the budget they chopped out everything inessential, resulting in a quick 63 minute cut. Which is all to the good; you don't need to drag this out.

They did have more footage of Count Zaroff's trophy cellar, but the exhibits were too much for preview audiences who were leaving the theater, so that was also cut.

The other pre-Code excess was not skin this time, but rather blunt sexual menace. Zaroff announces he becomes romantic after killing a man and will turn his attention to Eve after dispatching Bob. So our hero must not only save his own life, but keep Eve safe from rape and probably gruesome murder. Eighteen months later and that plot would not have been allowed.

Once the hunt starts it is awfully exciting, and the King Kong (1933) locations are easy to spot.

Does Leslie Banks' accent seems a bit much? They had two Russian-speaking language coaches on hand.

Max Steiner score.

Available on DVD from Criterion. The film is in the public doman and this version is just fair. It has a good commentary track giving both production details and an insightful analysis of the psychological deviance on display.

Flicker Alley has it on Blu-ray but I haven't seen that.



-Bill
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post #1815 of 1869 Old 04-14-2017, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Hondo (1953), directed by John Farrow.

An Army dispatch rider walks into an isolated homestead, bearing news of the Apache uprising. He finds a woman and child with the husband mysteriously absent. It becomes a fatherhood competition: who is going raise the boy, and in what culture? Turns out the kid admires the Apache war chief, as does Hondo himself. But that won't prevent them from fighting.

Hondo lived with the Apache and had an Indian wife. "It was a good way of life", he says, but knows that when the Army arrives that will end. Still, he won't lose sleep over it. Quick wrap-up and on to California.

This is imitation "John Ford" with big overlap in cast and crew. It must have been a complicated production: three cinematography credits, two for the music, and Wayne took over directing sometimes. As was his wont, except with tough directors like Ford, Howard Hawks and William A. Wellman.

Then Ford himself showed up and Wayne got him to direct the final action escape and battles with the circled wagons.

First major film credit for Geraldine Page, better known for theater work then. She later costarred with another Western icon in The Beguiled (1971).

The location shooting was in Mexico, which everyone remembered as being Very Hot. You can tell.

From a story by Louis L'Amour; the movie helped put him on the map.

A 3D production made just as the craze was collapsing. Most people did not get to see it in that format at the time. It has been shown in 3D since but is not available on home video as such.

As I noted with Dial M For Murder (1954) (also photographed by Robert Burks) the focus often seems "off", probably a struggle with the 3D cameras. There are only a few "gimmicks" with the photography: the titles are in your face there are some into-the-lens fight moves.

Available on Blu-ray with a happy commentary track by Leonard Maltin and Frank Thompson with inserted reminiscences by Lee Aaker, who played young Johnny.

The two scenes he gets asked about: did they really cut his thumb for the blood brother scene? He has a scar there for something else so he always says "yes". And getting thrown into the river by John Wayne, "teaching" him to swim.



-Bill
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post #1816 of 1869 Old 04-14-2017, 06:58 PM
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One of the few "older" movies I would have guessed right. I think I read all the Louis L'Amour books at one time. Really enjoyed them for what they were. Big fan of Shad Marone. Paraphrasing , after someone confirmed that their English was indeed "good". - "In that case, you know what **** you means". Heh.
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post #1817 of 1869 Old 04-17-2017, 09:48 PM
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A 3D production made just as the craze was collapsing. Most people did not get to see it in that format at the time. It has been shown in 3D since but is not available on home video as such.
 
Ya I hadnt ever seen this movie Billy.... I found a VHS tape @ salvation army with ET on it months ago and the movie before that was HONDO.... They showed it in 3D format and it looked horrible!! (The colours were aweful,etc)

It was recorded from analogue cable in my area in 1991 (a local channel here (CBS))


ET IS GORGEOUS BUT HONDO LOOKED LIKE CRAP..... If they had shown the original analogue version it might have looked ok!!

Is HONDO a good movie?? (I couldnt stand looking @ it the way they were showing it)
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post #1818 of 1869 Old 04-18-2017, 07:26 AM
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A VHS tape recorded off cable on an unknown VHS recorder is about as reliable as a wet grocery sack full of hungry mice.

Also a copyright violation.
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post #1819 of 1869 Old 04-18-2017, 12:21 PM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Seven Days in May (1964), directed by John Frankenheimer.

Where's the Blu-ray?
Well, Bill. It's funny you should ask…

http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=21176

This is great news, by most accounts, the Warner Archive group put out first rate remasters and BD presentations.
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post #1820 of 1869 Old 04-18-2017, 12:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, Bill. It's funny you should ask…

http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=21176

This is great news, by most accounts, the Warner Archive group put out first rate remasters and BD presentations.
Yes, their product is often quite good. I have wondered if the "Archive" program just means "no marketing budget".

Physical media may be dying but I'm going to shake the tree as long as I can.

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post #1821 of 1869 Old 04-18-2017, 01:21 PM
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Yes, their product is often quite good. I have wondered if the "Archive" program just means "no marketing budget".
Warner Archive's DVD releases are on burned DVD-Rs. The Blu-rays, however, are professionally pressed discs. In addition to no marketing, Warner saves on overhead by selling them directly to consumers rather than distributing them to other retailers.

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post #1822 of 1869 Old 04-18-2017, 01:25 PM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

I've read several Blu-ray.com reviews that identified WA releases as having excellent masters, transfers, etc.

I've seen two occasions (not necessarily WA) in which discs had issues, and people simply had to e-mail Warner's customer service lady (forget her name), and promptly got replacements with a nice letter. In my case, the RIGHT STUFF BDs were supposed to be 96khz audio, weren't, so a massive replacement program happened. A LOT of happy campers at blu-ray.com forums.

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post #1823 of 1869 Old 04-18-2017, 04:20 PM
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.... the Warner Archive group put out first rate remasters and BD presentations.
I wish Fox did the same. Their recent BD release of Sitting Pretty ain't much of an improvement over the DVD.
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post #1824 of 1869 Old 04-21-2017, 01:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Julia (1977), directed by Fred Zinnemann.

The presented-as-true tale of Lillian Hellman and her aristocratic friend Julia, who became an anti-fascist activist in dangerous 1930s Europe. Lillian herself is recruited to carry resistance money into Berlin. They tell her: "You are perhaps not the best choice, being a Jew". No kidding.

Exquisite period detail and the ominous rise of the nazis is stomach-churning in its intensity: soldiers everywhere, always having to show your papers, people disappearing, being watched. And yet the clubs and restaurants are still open and tourists can have a great time all night long.

Perhaps lost in the film because never clearly explained, even to each other, is the story of Julia & Lillian. A great passion, platonic but still grand, ending in tears.

I saw this in the theater back then and it did not make much of an impression. Now it seems finely done if slowly paced in the first half. Lillian and Dashiell Hammett -- both writers, after all -- tend to declaim at each other, and Lillian has the irritating habit of bellowing in English over the phone in countries where people don't speak the language.

I also thought Jason Robards looked like Jane Fonda's grandfather. How my perspective changes with time! And he was only 15 years older anyway.

Lovely composition by photographer Douglas Slocombe. As was popular in the 1970s, the camera used filtering to give a soft, classic film look.

Georges Delerue score.

Available on Twilight Time Blu-ray.

Nick Redman interviews Jane Fonda for the commentary track. I always expect Fonda to be hyper-political and radically chic, but she comes across as a normal well-balanced person. She met the elderly Lillian Hellman and described her as both fascinating and difficult.

Hellman's account of this as a true story has been challenged, to put it politely.



-Bill
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post #1825 of 1869 Old 04-23-2017, 09:12 PM
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Julia (1977), directed by Fred Zinnemann.





Nick Redman interviews Jane Fonda for the commentary track. I always expect Fonda to be hyper-political and radically chic, but she comes across as a normal well-balanced person. She met the elderly Lillian Hellman and described her as both fascinating and difficult.
But it was Vanessa Redgrave who raised a then-notorious political kerfuffle at the 1978 Academy Awards ceremony when she accepted her Best Support Actress award for her role. In hindsight it seems like a teapot tempest, but I still remember the very loud and audible (on ABC-TV's broadcast) of gasps from the audience in attendance. She's not alone, Brando did it too.

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post #1826 of 1869 Old 04-26-2017, 02:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Angel Face (1953), produced and directed by Otto Preminger.

An ex-soldier, now a paramedic, wants nothing more than to become a race car mechanic and maybe settle down with his girl. When he meets the intense rich girl who drives a Jaguar and hates her stepmother, well what's a guy to do in a story where powerful women drive the plot?

This is just six years after Out of the Past (1947):



The look is the same:



...but the plot has turned over into something entirely new. Just as Hamlet found himself in a revenge story he wanted to escape, so Robert Mitchum understands that he's in Double Indemnity (1944) and doesn't want to play the Walter Neff part.

How do you escape film noir doom and evade the lures of the femme fatale? Don't play the game. He tells her:

Quote:

I don't pretend to know what goes on behind that pretty little face of yours -- I don't want to. But I learned one thing very early. Never be the innocent bystander -- that's the guy that always gets hurt. If you want to play with matches, that's your business. But not in gas-filled rooms -- that's not only dangerous, it's stupid.
And he packs his bags. Well, he can't actually get away. Partly it's his own fault, partly his "I just can't win" destiny.

Something else is new: she has regrets and tries to confess, sacrificing herself for him. That's not allowed, either. Neither can win.

Dimitri Tiomkin tragic, cascading piano score permeates the film, wonderfully accenting a strange late sequence where Jean Simmons wanders from room to room in the empty mansion, life now without meaning. Tiomkin was a pianist and is very strong with this type of score. I hear hints of it in later Morricone music.

The story is efficiently told, one of Preminger's skills. It bogs down in a standard courtroom scene; I wish they would just cut to the summing up and verdict for those sequences. The final moments of the film are a bit "abrupt".

The film has a backstory: briefly, RKO head Howard Hughes bought Jean Simmons's contract, that being his method of buying women. Neither she nor husband Stewart Granger found the idea very appealing and took him to court. As a settlement she would do three films for RKO, wisely stipulating they had to be done by a certain date, else he would have strung her out for years.

So, the deadline was approaching with 18 days left to make another picture. Hughes got Preminger because (a) he worked quickly, and (b) was a tyrant on set and would be his tool for punishing Simmons. It was an unpleasant experience.

Available on DVD with a fun commentary track by author Eddie Muller. He says:
  • Famously, part of Simmons' punishment was being slapped take after take by Mitchum, who got tired of it and turned around and belted the director a good one. "Is that how you want it, Otto?"
  • Preminger immediately went to Hughes and insisted Mitchum be fired. Didn't happen.
  • Mitchum became protective of Simmons and you can see this in their chemistry. He offered to rough up the director some more if he didn't lay off her. I imagine this made for a chilly working relationship, but they made River of No Return (1954) the next year. Another difficult project and Marilyn Monroe hated doing it.
  • Preminger messed with Simmons' hair so much that she finally cut it off with shears and wore a wig for the film.
  • Decades later she was unable to sit through a showing. Still too painful.
  • Muller discusses the theories of why the femme fatale villain became so prominent during this period. Some have said it was the returning veterans' resentment of women who had taken their jobs during the War. He points out the characters already existed in fiction before the war and thinks it is more of a class distinction. None of the prominent femme fatales work for a living; the Good Girls all have jobs and have their heads screwed on right.

My own thoughts: I wonder if it wasn't actually a desire for more sexual equality. Women were traditionally portrayed as more passive; if both men and women wanted that to change ("step up, make an effort, put some passion into it") then a fantasy of the powerfully alluring dangerous woman might appear.

Or, it's just a masochistic desire to be betrayed and punished.



-Bill
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post #1827 of 1869 Old 05-04-2017, 05:14 AM - Thread Starter
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The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), directed by William A. Wellman

Two cow-pokes -- in town for a quiet drink -- are unwillingly swept up into a lynch mob seeking vengeance for cattle rustling and murder. They try to put brakes on the blood-lust, but sometimes the thoughtful, law-abiding citizens are just outnumbered.

This is more of a civics lesson than an actual western, and must have been jarring to people looking for relaxing entertainment. It is a dark, bitter vision of vigilante justice.

One of the voices of reason and restraint is Sparks (Leigh Whipper), an itinerant black preacher, who tells of how his brother was lynched. The Message doesn't get more blunt than that. He sings an early version of "Lonesome Valley".

Filmed on backlots with some unusual scenes for that era: the posse silently entering the suspects' camp is very eerie. The mob picnics on the condemned men's food.

Cast notes:

  • Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews do the fine work we always expect from them. Gary Cooper turned down Fonda's role. Fonda went into the Navy just after making this.
  • Anthony Quinn at age 28 is still in his dangerously suave phase.
  • Harry Morgan's second year in the movies; it's startling how far back he goes.
  • Jane Darwell usually got comic or sympathetic roles. Something different this time: a bloodthirsty, cackling crone who wants to hang someone right now. She and the town drunk make quite a pair.

The opening bar scene was repeated in the director's Yellow Sky (1948). Same bartender, different painting.

Photographed by Arthur Miller.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The edited commentary track includes a film scholar and more from the director's son. Wellman sounds like he was a tough character. He bought this script, the only time he put his own money into a picture.



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post #1828 of 1869 Old 05-10-2017, 05:50 AM - Thread Starter
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The Old Dark House (1963), produced and directed by William Castle.

This light, very silly comedy-thriller is nothing like the James Whale version: The Old Dark House (1932).

Some charm, mostly tepid. I've never warmed up to Tom Poston as an actor, but the film has points of interest:

  • Always good to see what William Castle was up to.
  • A collaboration with Hammer Films.
  • Strong British cast: Robert Morley, Mervyn Johns, Peter Bull (as twins!)
  • But mostly for Janette Scott, last seen in Crack in the World (1965). I don't know why, but I'm always looking out for her.
  • Rather good score by Benjamin Frankel, better than the film deserves.

The credits were drawn by Charles Addams and the whole project has an Addams Family quirkiness:



My DVD was without subtitles but did have old-style Closed Captions, if you know how to deal with those. Castle's Mr. Sardonicus (1961) was on the same disc but is also available on Blu-ray elsewhere.



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post #1829 of 1869 Old 05-11-2017, 04:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Five (1951), written, produced and directed by Arch Oboler.

I had never heard of this obscure post-apocalyptic movie until reading about it in Douglas Brode's Lost Films of the Fifties. The micro-budget and relationship-heavy plot make it seem like a Euro-art film.

It's hard to believe this is from 1951; it looks like something made 10 years later. I'd file it with other films in the atomic war genre, such as:


The dialogue is sometimes artificial, but always very serious. The actors are not well known, but had TV careers.

The only one I know I've seen before is the dangerous, always sinister James Anderson, best known as the racist farmer in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Younger here and with a surprising teutonic accent, he's the nazi serpent in the little garden the other survivors are trying to build. The racial enmity comes to a head when he speaks his mind and their black member says "Now it's out", and Anderson agrees, unashamed, "Now it's out".

And that's a another distinctive feature of this 1951 film, that we have a black actor playing a real person without good/evil exaggeration, but also dealing with a race angle in an adult fashion.

It's not a happy vision: five people left and they are still hating and fighting. One can make life miserable for the many, one of the sad laws of life.

The mountain home is the director's Frank Lloyd Wright house.

Available on DVD.



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post #1830 of 1869 Old 05-11-2017, 07:10 AM
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Arch Oboler, writer/director of Bwana Devil and The Bubble? Based on those two, it's hard to imagine he'd be capable of making a movie interesting for something other than gimmicky 3D effects.

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