Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Twilight Time - KHARTOUM & MAN IN THE DARK on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Twilight Time - KHARTOUM & MAN IN THE DARK on Blu-ray

KHARTOUM(1966; Basil Dearden)
It's probably known here that I am actually a pretty big Charlton Heston fan. For an example of said fandom, check out this recent blogathon post I did:
OMEGA MAN was very I first started to like him and I've expanded out into his vast filmography over the years. I've only somewhat recently come to realize he may have been a rather significant influence one another icon of cinema - the character of INDIANA JONES. Heston's underseen film SECRET OF THE INCAS is a documented influence for sure and when you watch it, you'll see how true that is (and by the way, I would LOVE to see a nice Blu-ray of that movie come out if anybody out there is listening). But in a broader sense, Heston is an "epic adventure" kinda guy and has made a lot of films in that vein. Another of his adventure classics that has fallen through the cracks a bit is 1966's KHARTOUM. This flick is basically Heston's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA meets PATTON, and can be said to be one of the last great, sprawling Hollywood epics that were made on this scale. As was the case with such epics, there tends to be lots of scenes of people talking to each other and somewhat less action than we 'be certainly become accustomed to these days, however I do miss this sort of epic nonetheless. In the case of KHARTOUM, it even has the requisite overture and intermission sections and would have been presented in an old movie palace with programs and other gerneral fanciness. 
The Blu-ray transfer here was culled from original 65mm elements so it is, as you might expect, quite gorgeous.
Included as special features on this disc are a nice isolated track for English Composer Frank Cordell's score(from the original master tapes btw) for the film and a commentary track from Lem Dobbs (screenwriter of such gems as THE LIMEY and DARK CITY. among others), Julie Kirgo (who has done the excellent essays Twilight Time has included with their discs) and Nick Redman (co-founder of Twilight Time). All three are well prepared and well researched and the track is a thorough educational supplement that is on par with a Criterion Collection commentary. There is background and context provided for not only the film  itself, but also there is lots of historical context given as well which is great. Lem Dobbs even goes so far as to go into some critical examinations of the script at certain points so the track is not all "this is the best movie ever" kind of stuff. I respect that. All three are obviously fans of the film, but don't exalt it to some unrealistic level. Further, Dobbs speaks about Heston quite a bit and I found that just fascinating. It's also always a pleasure for me to hear cinephiles do a commentary as they can't help but make reference to other films, filmmakers and actors throughout. That sense of a deep deep love of movies is palpable throughout. 
Just a quick 'by the way' -- Nick Redman and Lem Dobbs also previously collaborated on a commentary track for DOUBLE INDEMNITY and that is equally excellent and worth listening to for sure. Further, they have a track on the current Twilight Time Blu-ray of ZULU and the upcoming TT Blu-ray release of THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT. I can't wait to hear those commentaries as well.

MAN IN THE DARK (1953; Lew Landers)
I received the sad news last year that Los Angeles Egyptian theater would be ending its semi-regular run of its 3D Expo film festival. I have gone a few times over the past 10 years and it's always been such a treat. My wife and I were able to see CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and HOUSE OF WAX projected during one of the Expos and during this last run, we took my son to see the amazingly bizarre ROBOT MONSTER. It was glorious. But it did break my heart a little when they announced that many of the prints they had screened were probably not going to run through projectors again. I'm not a brasher of the current 3D that we are all used to by now. It's fine, and in some cases (this past year's GRAVITY for instance), it can be downright stunning. That said, there really is something magical about the old 3D films that were part of the early craze of the 1950s. Sure, they are much less subtle and quite a bit more simple about their approach to the actual 3D, but I kinda love that about them. So when I heard the L.A. Expo was finished, I started to think about what would become of these wonderful little curios. It's sad to think that folks may not be able to experience them with a crowd again, but I was at least slightly optimistic when I was able to see Warner Brothers 3D Blu-ray of HOUSE OF WAX last year on a nice 3D television. It looked pretty great and compared favorably to the 2 or 3 times I had seen in projected over the years. Then I saw Universal's 3D Blu-ray of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and I was equally impressed. It gave me some hope that these films might stick around and find new audiences and impress people like they were really capable of doing (& and I hate to sound lame, but you really haven't seen CREATURE or HOUSE OF WAX till you've seen them in 3D). At least the big classic 3D films from that era might be preserved, I thought. But what about the smaller, lesser known, but still interesting 3D movies from that period? Would those get decent 3D Blu-ray treatment? Well Twilight Time has answered that question with a resounding 'yes' with their excellent new 3D release of MAN IN THE DARK from 1953. MAN IN THE DARK is the first 3D Blu-ray (also contains a 2D version by the way) for Twilight Time and I, for one, am very excited for the possibilities of what other 3D offerings they may bring forth in the coming years. 
MAN IN THE DARK is a breezy, 67-minute 3D noir film. The premise calls to mind a bit of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. In this case, a criminal (Edmund O'Brien) has a brain operation as part of an experimental rehabilitation process and loses all memory of his crime and criminal ways. There's just the little matter of the $130,000 he stole and there are several interested parties who'd like to find out if his memory of where he put that money might return. It's classic 50s pop-up-book type 3D and this disc looks great. It's neat to see some of the noir tropes find their way into a 3D landscape. The 3D viewer of this movie is made to experience car chases, car crashes, guns being fired directly at them, punches thrown at them and lit cigars poked at their eyes.. Sure it's gimmicky, but being as most of the 3D movies I've seen from this era are horror or monster related, I found it quite refreshing to see this kind of story told this way. According to noir guru Eddie Muller, MAN IN THE DARK was only the 2nd 3D feature released subsequent to BWANA DEVIL, and it came out only a day prior to HOUSE Of WAX.
Extras include an isolated score track and the theatrical trailer for the film.


dfordoom said...

I've been a Charlton Heston fan ever since I saw The Naked Jungle on TV as a kid. I bought the movie on DVD a couple of years ago and I still adore it. Now I must see Secret of the Incas. I wonder if the Spanish Region 2 DVD release is any good?

Rupert Pupkin said...

Good question, I may have to look into that disc. I saw it on Netflix Instant a while back when it was still on there. Hoping for an Olive Films Blu-ray at some point.