Rupert Pupkin Speaks: November 2015 ""

Monday, November 30, 2015

Underrated '45 - Kristina Dijan

Kristina Dijan loves all kinds of movies, blogs about them at Speakeasy and tweets @HQofK
Fallen Angel. 
The men come to Pop’s diner for the coffee, and to ogle the gorgeous coffee slinger, waitress Linda Darnell, who steals from the till and serves sides of sass with every burger. Con man Dana Andrews stumbles into town doing groundwork for phone Clairvoyant John Carradine. Andrews falls hard for Darnell and they hatch a plot to get him married to wealthy local spinster Alice Faye, then run away with her money. When Darnell is murdered after breaking it off with Andrews, he becomes detective Charles Pickford’s prime suspect. Suddenly Faye’s love and the security of marriage to her seem like a way out. Director Otto Preminger’s follow up to Laura is just as stylish, far more passionate and surprisingly hopeful. It was the first of four movies he did with Darnell and the end of a career phase for musical star Faye, who gives a rich performance as the sheltered but wise and mature woman who sees Andrews as a redeemable loser and her last chance at love. 

Strange Illusion. 
King of the B-movies Edgar J. Ulmer’s Detour deservedly gets the attention in 1945 but that same year also saw the release of his low budget twist on Hamlet. An intellectual young man (James Lydon) is visited in a dream by the ghost of his recently departed father, a Judge who tells him to protect mother from a sinister gentleman caller, much like her current fiance Warren William. Details from that warning dream start coming true, and then Lydon suspects that William and his psychiatrist are connected to unsolved murders, including his father’s. Lydon feigns a breakdown to do some amateur investigating into their shady asylum and gets stuck inside with both his story and his sanity in doubt. Ulmer’s movie examines criminal and psychological mysteries and starts with a surreal dream sequence whose delirious dread lingers into the story’s waking hours.

A Walk in the Sun. 
In one of the best WW2 movies, director Lewis Milestone follows an American platoon on an intense trek from their beachhead landing to an Italian farmhouse destination where they fight Nazis. During their “walk” they talk about everyday things, reflect on their fears, confusion, memories and hopes and try to stay alert to the constant, hidden danger. Diverse, interesting characters played by a deep cast that includes Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, Norman Lloyd, Lloyd Bridges, Sterling Holloway, Burgess Meredith as narrator and John Ireland, who thinks over what he’ll write his sister and settles on the understated version, about how easy it was: all we did was blow a bridge and take a farmhouse. Lyrical, introspective and ending with a costly siege, this film was a big influence on the likes of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan. 

Dead of Night. 
Architect Mervyn Johns arrives at a home and is overwhelmed by a powerful wave of deja vu; he’s been here with these five people before, and knows exactly how and when the sixth will arrive. As he shares his story, and the events of his dream play out to their murderous finale, the other guests relate their own encounters with the paranormal. A race car driver’s premonition saves him from dying in a bus crash, a schoolgirl sings a boy to sleep and then learns he was murdered long ago, a woman buys her fiancĂ© a haunted mirror that fills him with the jealousy and murderous rage of its previous owner, golfing buddies vie for a woman and get stuck haunting each other, and most disturbing, a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) is possessed by his dummy. This is a fantastic anthology of diverse spook stories glued together by a linking narrative that calls into question the sanity of the “dreamer” Johns and the existence of these people and the whole event.  

My Name is Julia Ross. 
Speaking of questionable sanity and bent realities, here’s a great thriller starring Nina Foch as a young woman hired to be personal secretary for an elderly widow (Dame May Whitty). A couple days after taking the job, Foch awakens from a drugged state, in a different house, in an isolated location, with a new name and everyone insisting she’s had a nervous breakdown. She learns that she’s the disposable tool in a scheme wherein Whitty’s neurotic son (George Macready) will cover up his rich wife’s murder and get her inheritance. With no loved ones looking for Foch (so far as she knows) she’s on her own. Director Joseph H. Lewis wrings much suspense out of the volatile mother-son tension and the heroine’s failed escape attempts, while impressive shadowy visuals disorient and imprison her in this Gothic manor. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Twilight Time - SHADOWS AND FOG on Blu-ray

SHADOWS AND FOG (1991; Woody Allen)
When a director's career spans almost fifty years and more than fifty films, it should be expected that everything isn't going to be a masterpiece. My hats off to Woody for cranking out a movie or so a year for so long. I cannot imagine that is any easy feat, especially when the guy is now nearing just passed eighty years old.  That said, his level of quality has dipped in terms of consistency over the past decade or so. I find myself occasionally longing for the Woody of twenty to twenty-five years ago. What's nice about a filmography as long as his is that I've not bothered to see everything so it allows me to look in on his older work when I become tired of his present day stuff. Between two really great films - CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS in 1989 and HUSBANDS AND WIVES in 1992 - Woody made a couple less popular entries. ALICE came out in 1990 and I've always found it very problematic and not enjoyable, whereas SHADOWS AND FOG was one that I had never given a solid viewing of before now. The movie itself is sort of a mixed bag, but not at all worthy of being completely overlooked by Woody fans. I feel it has dropped out of the conversation as far as his 90s work goes and it is at least worth a revisit for those that might have written it off. Woody plays a familiar nebbish-y fella known only as Kleinman. His village has been besieged by a strangler who roams the streets at night, murdering innocent townsfolk. Woody is of course humorously terrified of said strangler and that always makes for good comedy. There's more drama and thriller-y aspects here though as well and that is the primary genre mix of the movie. The fact that Woody was inspired by German expressionist filmmakers like Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau for SHADOWS makes for a sumptuous film nerdy homage. The influences don't end there though. There seems to be some Fellini in the mix as well in a subplot with circus performers. The cast of this one surprised me as I had only ever thought of it a yet another Woody and Mia vehicle. But nay, there are many more high-level performers here including John Malkovich, Donald Pleasance (who looks great in B&W), Lily Tomlin, Kathy Bates, John Cusack, Jodie Foster, Wallace Shawn, Kurtwood Smith and David Ogden Stiers and even Madonna. That's one thing I do enjoy about going back to films from the 1990s is that a cast like this can really make you keep saying, "Oh hey, he/she is in this?!" and it's kind of an engaging and fun thing to watch play out.
About twenty minutes into this 1992 Woody Allen film, there is shot very very similar to a shot in Quentin Tarantino's RESERVOIR DOGS. It's that spinning camera around the center of a table as a bunch of characters talk. In RESERVOIR DOGS, it's a bunch of criminals shooting the breeze over breakfast. In SHADOWS, it's a bunch of prostitutes (and their guest) chatting about men, sex and love. I'm sure I've seen it in other movies, but I tie it closely to RESERVOIR DOGS. That was one of those films I saw at a very formative time, when I was paying wise-eyed attention to stylistic choices in everything I was watching. I'm not saying there is any theft involved at all between SHADOWS and RESERVOIR, but I think it's intriguing that both films came out in 1992 (though it looks like SHADOWS may have gotten a limited release in late '91) and have a shot like that. I was quite enamored of Jim Jarmusch's long, static takes in his excellent films STRANGER THAN PARADISE and DOWN BY LAW. Both those movies were shot in black and white and I loved that about them. For some odd reason though, despite my love of that kind of cinematography, I never ended up watching SHADOWS AND FOG in its entirety. I'm glad I waited as this Twilight Time Blu-ray is quite lovely. What a gorgeous movie it is. Especially on the new Twilight Time Blu-ray, it really sparkles. Carlo Di Palma is an artiste of the highest order and a good man to rival Gordon Willis' amazing work on MANHATTAN. While SHADOWS is not nearly on the level of MANHATTAN as a movie, it is still quite delightful to look at for sure. 
Special Features on this disc include and isolated score track and the original theatrical trailer. 
SHADOWS AND FOG can be purchased direct from Twilight Time's website:

Friday, November 27, 2015


UNDERCOVER BLUES (1993; Herbert Ross)
I often find my way into a movie via the director. Being aware of directors and their bodies of work has always proved very valuable to me in that it gives me perspective right out of the gate when I see their names pop up on screen. Suddenly a movie I don't know at all or can't remember becomes a movie by the guy who did PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, THE SUNSHINE BOYS, THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION, THE LAST OF SHEILA, PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, FOOTLOOSE, THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS and MY BLUE HEAVEN (all Herbert Ross flicks). While it may seem like a scattered bunch of stuff, I can say that I do personally like all of those movies so that is one thing. Secondly, knowing that what I'm about to rewatch (in the case of UNDERCOVER BLUES) is a comedy, I can have at least some confidence that there will be funny parts. Seeing a name like Herbert Ross just gives me a new angle on what I'm about to see. It can end up being a bad thing too and skewing my take on a movie towards dislike (which is unfair I'll admit, but it happens). Anyway, what I like about this director context is when it turns out to be on the money and I enjoy a movie that I had forgotten about or that I somehow recalled thinking was bland when I first saw it twenty years ago (man it still feels weird to say that about a 90s movie). With UNDERCOVER BLUES specifically, I can't triangulate the last time I watched it. I do know it was probably during my video store tenure in the early 2000s that I became aware that the movie had a following of sorts. At least a couple of my coworkers were fervent fans of it and I feel like we threw it on the TVs we had on display there on at least a few occasions. I was only able to half watch it at the time so my initial impression remained relatively intact and I saw it as a dopey comedy and nothing more than that. Upon this rewatch it clicked into place for me why people have a soft spot for this one. Seeing Herbert Ross's name at the top gave me some confidence that it was comedy in the hands of a man who was quite a seasoned veteran in the field. That's a solid beginning, but it was the first few scenes with Dennis Quaid and Kathleen Turner that quite amused me and I was taken with them both as a duo. They play two basically retired spies who are more or less just trying to enjoy a vacation in New Orleans with their new toddler and they keep getting pulled into one farcical espionage scenario after another. An early bit with Quaid defending himself from attackers with his martial arts skills and a baby stroller is very hilarious and sets the tone for what will be a somewhat over the top, but very entertaining screwball comedy. On top of its cleverness and comedic chops, the movie has a cast of would-be star actors in various small rolls that are sprinkled throughout the proceedings like delectable seasonings that create a flavorful mix of supporting talent. Stanley Tucci (My name is Muerte!) shows up with a young Dave Chappelle in that early ambush of Dennis Quaid, Richard Jenkins pops in as a spy co-worker, and Larry Miller and Tom Arnold make appearances shortly into the show as well (plus: Saul Rubinek!). I can't quite imagine why I didn't take to this movie when I saw it initially, but there might have been an unfortunate disconnect between me and screwball comedy when I was in high school that could explain it. As it stands, UNDERCOVER BLUES is the kind of twilight career comedy that Howard Hawks might have made had he loved to be ninety-seven. I realize that I reference Hawks a lot, but I guess that's because he's become quite engrained in my cinematic DNA and I see him and his nature in things that maybe others might not. That said, you should still watch UNDERCOVER BLUES because it is charming and quite funny.

You can buy UNDERCOVER BLUES on Blu-ray here:

LARGER THAN LIFE (1996; Howard Franklin)
This movie is anchored squarely in what might at first glance look like a slight downswing in Bill Murray's career in terms of quality films. It is followed by the delightful farce SPACE JAM (detecting my sarcasm?) with THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE in tow. There's a chance you might have lumped it in with the not-so-good Danny Glover/Ray Liotta/Dennis Leary Disney comedy OPERATION DUMBO DROP from around the same time and that could really leave a bad taste in your mouth for sure. You might take one look at all those films and then this "elephant movie" and immediately right it off, and I couldn't completely blame you but you'd be making at least a minor mistake. As I mentioned above with Herbert Ross, I often find my way in via directors. If they've earned my trust in some way, I'll allow them to briefly waste my time whilst they attempt to reveal something good that they were able to pull out of even the most seemingly slight movies. Director Howard Franklin got his start in the business as a screenwriter and then did some directing in the 1990s, but is mostly still a writer (his most recent credit is on the movie THE BIG YEAR from 2011). His script for the Sean Connery/Christian Slater movie NAME OF THE ROSE is pretty good and so is that movie (you should see it if you haven't). Franklin's true masterpiece though (which he also directed) is QUICK CHANGE. Seriously, go watch it right now. It's one of those buried treasures in Bill Murray's dense comedic filmography that has been nearly forgotten by most and unjustly so. In fact, you should make it a requirement to yourself that you see QUICK CHANGE before you see LARGER THAN LIFE. The context is very important I think. QUICK CHANGE is a story about a group of bank robbers who pull off a very slick heist, but then find themselves unable to get out of the city to get away. LARGER THAN LIFE is the story of a man who makes his living as a motivational speaker (Murray) who finds himself saddled with an elephant that he has inherited from his late father. I know you're thinking, "Oh man, an "animal" movie? It's all cute and warm and fuzzy isn't it." and you'd be partially right. There is a lot of cuddliness and warmth here, but Murray really makes it his own. Think about that scene in GROUNDHOG DAY when he's driving with the kidnapped groundhog and talking to him in the car. That's a pretty funny scene in my opinion and Murray has lots of similar jolly exchanges with the pachyderm in this movie. Beyond that (and this may be the most memorable thing) is a completely unhinged, almost Nic Cage level performance from Matthew McConaughey that is not to be missed.
As broad animal-centric comedies go, you could do a whole lot worse than LARGER THAN LIFE. It's a Bill Murray movie and a road movie and an animal movie so there's a lot going on there. It will tickle you in one way or another. If you are looking for a way to introduce your kids to Bill Murray (and why haven't you already by the way?), this might be the perfect place to start.
You can buy LARGER THAN LIFE on Blu-ray right here:

Thursday, November 26, 2015


MURDER IN THE PRIVATE CAR (1934; Harry Beaumont)
This peppy little mystery comedy is one of those fantastic just-over-an-hour long deals that were being cranked out around this period. I love movies that run anywhere from 60 to 65 minutes, especially the mystery films. 90 minutes is a great length for any movie, but shorter is almost always better. It forces there to be some economy of story and for things to really keep clicking right along. In the case of MURDER IN THE PRIVATE CAR, the title gives some indication as to what your in for. It's basically a whodunit involving a cross country train trip and a newly discovered heiress to one of the biggest fortunes in the world. While it's not quite as good as stuff like The Edna May Oliver mysteries, it's still a fun ride.
I love watching old movies for the character actors. Seeing Charlie Ruggles in a movie is certainly pleasing, but even more pleasing to me is when guys like Sterling Holloway show up for a scene or two. Holloway has a voice that is immediately recognizable because he played Winnie the Pooh for a long time. So his voice is quite comforting, but he's also a very interesting looking actor too so he's a pleasure to watch in action. But Holloway isn't even credited in MURDER IN THE PRIVATE CAR and no sooner have we left a scene with him when we move right into one with the great Porter Hall. You remember Porter Hall right? He's one of the studio execs at the beginning of SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS that is listening to John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) drone on about his movie OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOUGH. Hall chews on a cigar and delivers Preston Sturges dialogue like nobody's business. But MURDER IN THE PRIVATE CAR has not only those guys, but the leads are all kinda character actors too. You have the aforementioned Charlie Ruggles, who I first saw in Disney's THE PARENT TRAP as the grandfather. I had no awareness of him outside of that movie for a long time, but have been more than pleased to come across his earlier work in the past five years or so. He had a certain mastery of comedic pauses and double takes (both physical and verbal). He reminds me of a Robert Altman character well before there were Altman movies for him to have appeared in. Lastly, there's the always delightful Una Merkel as the best friend to the heiress girl in the movie (Mary Carlisle). Una was also in THE PARENT TRAP and so my memory roots with her go back to that as well. She is one of those actresses that is deeply embedded in the 1930s and 40s movies that Warner Archive puts out. Between 1933 and 1935 alone she made something like 27 movies and that is just one chunk of her enormous filmography. She had a tendency to play the wisecracking, cynical friend in a lot of these movies and she was always right on the mark with her performances. She and Charlie Ruggles both shine brightly and comically in MURDER IN THE PRIVATE CAR.

MURDER IN THE PRIVATE CAR can be purchased here:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Scream Factory - THE CAR & THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE on Blu-ray

THE CAR (1977; Elliot Silverstein)
There are just some movies that a different to explain to people. THE CAR, at its most basic, is a killer automobile movie, but it's oh so much more than that. For one, it is one of my very favorite JAWS knockoffs. What does a demon-posessed car have to do with a shark gobbling up swimmers off the coast of Amity Island? The two premises don't sound all that aligned form the outset, but they line up in a lot of ways. It's just about the structure of the thing. Monster on the loose, terrorizing a small community with a lone lawman left to try to save the day. Granted, Roy Scheider has help in JAWS and more less ineffectual help than James Brolin's sheriff character does in THE CAR. He just has Ronny Cox. Normally Ronny Cox would probably be of some help, but in THE CAR - not so much. So like JAWS, THE CAR starts with an opening "attack scene" involving youngsters at the beginning and things slowly begin to reveal themselves from there. The "discovery" phase of the two movies is very similar and there both even have set pieces that involve the monster menacing a large group of citizens in a public area. It's a darker, more evil and more over the top JAWS-esque story and that's part of what I love about it. It also features one of the greatest kills in the history of cinema wherein a woman is run down by the car in her own home (played basically in one shot). It's quite outstanding. One thin that always makes for a good movie is a good villain and the car itself in THE CAR is a pretty spectacularly designed sinister-mobile. Said car was design by the late great George Barris ("King of the Kustomizers") who also created the original 60s Batmobile, K.I.T.T. from KNIGHT RIDER and the less popular but equally epic SUPERVAN. The car in this film was a modified Lincoln Mark III and what a beauty she is. She looks like an armored pimp-mobile with a jet-black paint job and fully black tinted windows. A demon on wheels for sure and of course the car even has a memorable honk (which plays prominently in the trailer). It's a goofy sound to be a signature, but is nonetheless unnerving. It makes you want to see a standoff between this car and Christine. It'd be a glorious battle and whilst Christine played appropriately threatening 50s pop songs from her stereo, the car would return fire with a barrage of devilish honks. It'd be delightful. But I digress. This movie is just a hoot and has become one of my favorite horror movies. I even have the Australian poster for it framed in my office at work. It's been neat to see folks respond to that poster over the years. THE CAR is absolutely a cult favorite and that is evidenced by the fact that most folks I know that have seen it are dedicated fans of it. It is a delight from beginning to end. Very excited to own both this Blu-ray AND the Arrow Video version as well. It's the kind of movie I'll buy in every version and format basically. Worth owning!

Special Features:
-(NEW) Mystery Of The Car – An Interview With Producer/Director Elliot Silverstein.
-(NEW) The Navajo Connection – An Interview With Actress Geraldine Keams.
-(NEW) Just Like Riding A Bike - An Interview With Actress Melody Thomas Scott.
-Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot & Radio Spots.

THE CAR arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory on December 15th. Buy it for your horror-loving pals:

The cinematic capitalization of fads that were popular around a certain time period are often amusing to look back on. For one thing, by the time the fads become part of the cultural zeitgeist enough to be thought of as movie material, they are often on their way out and so look outdated even upon their initial release. To understand the significance of The Garbage Pail Kids, you must first understand the utter phenomenon that was Cabbage Patch Kids. It's difficult to fathom the remarkable popularity of these dolls unless you were around at the time, but think of it as the new iphone times 1000 in terms of the rampant "must have! must have!" sentiment that was going down circa 1982-1986 or so. They were the absolute Christmas gift that most parents wanted for their kids and they demand was far too great for the manufacturers to keep up with. Thus, these dolls were incredibly sought after and obligatory and that kind of thing can create something of a backlash eventually and that is just what happened. Around 1985, Topps (the trading card company) in conjunction with Art Spiegelman (creator of Wacky Packages as well) came up with the idea of parodying the Cabbage Patch Kids with a line of trading cards that were very much in the vein of an almost Mad Magazine style of gross out humor. These Garbage Pail Kids were a big hit with a lot of kids I knew at the time and I think part of that had to do with the off-color humor on display in their design. So one popular idea spawns another idea making fun of the original thing, but it is also popular so.... why not make a movie out of it? I think you can understand that this idea is a little flawed from conception to execution in that it takes something that was gross, but funny in an animated, two-dimensional card format and makes it "real" in the live-action sense. Do kids really wanna see these disgusting Garbage Pail Kids brought to life? The answer was of course "no, they don't" and the movie flopped and was universally panned as one of the worst movies ever made. To this day, I have seen it on many "worst of all-time" lists and that is really saying something if you think about all the bad movies that have ever been pooped out into the world. The movie did fail at the box office yes, but it cost about $1 million to make and pulled in about $1.5 million. How that happened, I don't know but clearly a movie with that meager a budget wasn't off to a great start to begin with - especially one that had some many special effects heavy costumed characters. Minor tangent - this reminds me a bit of the recent scenario with the JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS movie. This too was another very low-budgeted movie that had source material that would very much have lent itself to having a much larger production to support it. The result is a smaller movie that took a critical beating and didn't draw much box office despite not having to make much to recoup its costs. I actually enjoyed JEM for what it was so this makes me a little sad, but it was perhaps not the best idea to make a film out of that property. At least it makes for a coherent movie and the thing that the filmmakers came up with is pleasant enough and seems to make sense as a movie whereas THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE is a real head-scratcher. It's absolutely one of those "what were they thinking?" kind of deals and in all honesty, I am strangely drawn to movies like this. Is it a bad movie? A mess? Perhaps, but when you've watched enough movies there is a craving for the unusual and odd and GPK is certainly that. At the outset you might ask what kind of a story could be weaved around these little disgusting creatures and you'd be right in thinking that it might not be all that coherent. I think a lot of people have connected to it because they saw it when they kids and it charmed them with its weirdness in some way. Nostalgia is a bizarre mistress though in that it cloaks the very terrible in a layer of gooey, sweet comfort pheromones or something so that we that have it for a movie like this get some pleasure from it whilst others without can only recoil in disgust. I can't elucidate upon my affection for this offering from a literal trash bin, but it is one that I must return to regularly. Now the name Rod Amateau may not have any immediate significance for you, but I am a fan of his work. Two movies of his, DRIVE-IN and HIGH SCHOOL USA (this was a TV movie technically, but it's amazing nonetheless). He also directed a few episodes of the Patty Duke Show, so he basically gets a pass for life from me for that too. Anyway, the point here is that you should get to know Rod Amateau. 

Special Features:
Hats off to Scream Factory for not only bringing this movie out on Blu-ray (I sincerely never thought that would happen), but for also loading it up with supplements (which I never ever ever though would come to pass). Fun stuff:
-(NEW) The Effects Of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie – Interviews With Special Makeup Effects Creator John Carl Buechler And Makeup Effects Artist Gino Crognale.
-(NEW) On The Set – An Interview With First Assistant Director Thomas A. Irvine
-(NEW) The Artful Dodger – An Interview With Actor Mackenzie Astin.
-(NEW) The Kids Aren't All Right – Interviews With Garbage Pail Kids Actors Arturo Gil (Windy Winston) And Kevin Thompson (Ali Gator).
-Theatrical Trailer
THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE oozes onto Blu-ray on December 8th. A perfect gift for the 80s-obsessed goofballs in your life:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

New Release Roundup - November 24th, 2015

THE MASK on 3D Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

JOYSTICKS on Blu-ray (Scorpion Releasing)

BLOOD AND LACE on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)

GHOST STORY on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)

DON'T LOOK BACK on Blu-ray (Criterion)

IKIRU onBlu-ray (Criterion)

THE HURRICANE on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

BROTHERS QUAY: THE SHORT FILMS - 1979-2003 on Blu-ray (Zeitgeist Films)

ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE on Blu-ray (Code Red)

AMERICAN ULTRA on Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE on Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

EIGHT MEN OUT on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

UNDERCOVER BLUES on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

SMOOTH TALK on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

LARGER THAN LIFE on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

MAKING MR. RIGHT on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

MR. SATURDAY NIGHT on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

VOODOO MAN on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

THE INCREDIBLE 2-HEADED TRANSPLANT on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)

THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)

WAKE UP AND KILL on Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

ROMANCE & CIGARETTES on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

AT FIRST SIGHT on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

ALMOST AN ANGEL on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

THE KID FROM CLEVELAND on Blu-ray (Olive Films)

A CHILD IS WAITING on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Twilight Time - BROKEN LANCE on Blu-ray

BROKEN LANCE (1954; Edward Dmytryk)
BROKEN LANCE has one of those lovely enigmatic openings. A young man (Robert Wagner) is summoned to see the governor. We hear that his name is Joe Deveraux and that he's just gotten out of prison after a three year stretch. We have no real idea why he went to jail or what his deal is. When Joe goes to see the governor, there is a giant painting of another Matt Deveraux (Spencer Tracy) outside his office. It looks as though Matt Deveraux has died based on the date under his painting, and he must have been some kid of big deal based on the size of the thing. When Joe speaks to the governor, a girl is mentioned. She never married apparently. We don't know what she and Joe's relationship was before he went to behind bars. The governor then ushers in Joe's brothers, led by Ben Deveraux (Richard Widmark). They talk about the Deveraux ranch and how it's run differently now. Ben offers Joe $10,000 and some land in Oregon if he gets out of town on the next train. Joe declines in a dramatic way and leaves the governor's office. This is all the first ten minutes or so of the movie. I adore this kind of beginning as it leaves a lot of questions and sets up some serious tension right out of the gate. As viewers, we still don't know all that much about what the situation is, but we are absolutely intrigued (a good threatening scene with a smirking Richard Widmark will do that). My mind is immediately very curious what happened to Spencer Tracy. He's like the headliner of the movie and they are playing it like his character bought the farm. Is he really dead? Will his entire storyline play out in flashback? These are things I must find out! It's one of those stories that unfolds as you watch it and that is always a pleasure for me. Any movie that puts some faith in me to stick with it while things are revealed and does so in an interesting and thoughtful way has my attention and admiration right out of the gate. Hollywood films have moved away from this kind of storytelling over the years and I find it a disconcerting trend to say the least. Why must studios think that people must never be confused by a movie and allow for an audience to patiently make discoveries about the story on our own? It's just a shame, but as I said, I do appreciate it when I happen upon a film that goes about its narrative in this way.
BROKEN LANCE is one of those westerns that I saw many times in the Laserdisc rental section of my old video store. I have no idea why I never watched it. I am a big fan of director Edward Dmytryk's work so I must not have noticed this was one of his flicks. Check out MURDER, MY SWEET or MIRAGE to see how great Dmytry can be. Another reason I might have passed on BROKEN LANCE is that I may not have been fully on board with Spencer Tracy at the time I guess, but I feel pretty dumb for not giving it a look. I've come to appreciate Tracy a whole lot in the past fifteen years and I've seen lots of movies that he stars in that I consider favorites (CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS and TEST PILOT being a couple of them). He's basically one of those actors now that if I come across something of his I haven't seen, I'll likely give it a shot based on him alone. He's truly one of the great actors of Hollywood's golden era. One of my very favorite podcasts is called You Must Remember This and it is written and hosted by the delightful Karina Longworth. She just recently did an episode all about the great Spencer Tracy and it is quite fascinating. I recommend it:
I remember hearing director John Sturges talk about Tracy and his method during his excellent commentary for his film BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (another great Tracy movie). He said something about the way Tracy would memorize only his lines from the script and he would make a point of not retaining the lines of the other characters he would play scenes with. Apparently, this would allow him to really hear the actors in those scenes and it really made his performance more genuine. That story could be apocryphal or my memory of it could be completely faulty, but I always thought that was a pretty neat way to approach movie acting.
BROKEN LANCE is one of those movies that combines high drama that veers towards Film Noir almost, but that takes place in a western setting. It's a neat little tale told in that wonderful format we call Cinemascope. It was shot by Joseph MacDonald who worked with Sam Fuller (HOUSE OF BAMBOO, HELL AND HIGH WATER, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET), John Ford (MY DARLING CLEMENTINE) and Elia Kazan (PANIC IN THE STREETS) among others. He shot a bunch in Cinemascope and demonstrates his excellent ability to fill a frame in BROKEN LANCE. For fans of dark westerns, Spencer Tracy or any of the other cool folks involved in this movie, it is likely worth a blind buy.

Special Features
-Audio Commentary with Actor Earl Holliman and Film Historian Nick Redman.
-Isolated Score Track
-Fox Movietone Newsreel
-Original Theatrical Trailers

BROKEN LANCE can be purchased on Blu-ray direct from Twilight Time's website: