Rupert Pupkin Speaks: October 2015 ""

Friday, October 30, 2015

Olive Films - MANNEQUIN and BLUE CITY on Blu-ray

MANNEQUIN (1987; Michael Gottlieb)
One of the things I miss most dearly from the 1980s is the plethora of fantasy films that were strewn about theaters throughout the decade. Fantasy took the form of all kinds of things from body-switch movies to BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. On a larger scale, things like LEGEND and WILLOW found their way into theaters. THE NEVERENDING STORY proved true to its title when it had  sequel arrive at the turn of the decade into the 1990s. People seemed to enjoy fantasy films of all kinds and to a degree they absolutely still do. The mega blockbusters of the present are mostly super hero movies that inhabit their own fantastic and epic universe. But in the 1980s, fantasy could be more intimate and frankly more silly and that seemed to be alright. MANNEQUIN is a perfect example of a movie of this type that I feel could only be made in the 1980s. Even movies like TEEN WITCH live on as a cult favorites today and I don't think many people could have seen that coming. Even TEEN WITCH's plot isn't quite as ludicrous as MANNEQUIN's though. I mean this in a good way. When other than the 1980s would Hollywood have thought to make a film about an ancient Egyptian Princess (Kim Cattrall), trapped in the body of a department store mannequin who can come to life at random moments and present herself to just one dude. And only in the 1980s would that one dude be Andrew McCarthy. McCarthy is an interesting cat in that he took hold and became popular via the Brat Pack movies but he was a much quieter and more reserved leading man than a lot of his contemporaries. I understand that his soft-spoken/high pitched voice way of being might grate on some folks, but he did have legit appeal for a little while (though I never totally understood the draw he was supposed to have for Molly Ringwald in PRETTY IN PINK). So anyway, when you have a film that has a magical girl that only one other character can see, you know it's a recipe for hilarity (and inferred perversion). More memorable than Cattrall and McCarthy in this movie is the late great Meshach Taylor as "Hollywood". He may have been one of the first gay characters I was exposed to in mainstream cinema as a young kid from south central Wisconsin. I can't remember what I thought of him then, but now I find him to be pretty adorable in both this movie and its sequel. He is just a character that does his own thing and makes no apologies and I like that. He also has awesome sunglasses and that can't be underrated.
One thing I learned from this rewatch of MANNEQUIN was the value of store window displays. I have tied this movie so directly to window displays over the years now that when I see a lackluster display I can't help but be saddened by it. I was just shopping at one of those seasonal Halloween stores over the weekend and I notice they had a lovely display window, but no display in it at all! Talk about a missed opportunity. I really do believe that in this ay and age of online stores beating the crap out of brick and mortar institutions, it really behooves business to do interesting and dynamic window displays. But I digress. 
MANNEQUIN is an 80s classic and any kid who came of age during that time knows not only the film itself, but also the famous Starship song, "Nothings Gonna Stop Us". I am honestly torn between this song and "We Built This City" (which is a karaoke duet favorite of mine) as to which is my favorite Starship tune. Depends on my mood. If I'm feeling more sentimental, "Nothings Gonna Stop Us" is just the ticket. I saw MANNEQUIN at a drive-in theater when it came out and I still remember my family loading into the car and driving off with the radio (tuned to the drive-in's station) still blaring that tune as we headed home. If the 80s taught us nothing else, it taught us the importance of a good closing credits song and we have let that lesson fall by the wayside.

MANNEQUIN can be purchased on Blu-ray here:
http://amzn.to/1GN0rX4



BLUE CITY (1984; Michelle Manning)
I have an odd fondness for Judd Nelson's non-BREAKFAST CLUB films. I've seen FROM THE HIP, RELENTLESS and also MAKING THE GRADE (more times than is like to admit). I'm even a fan of the true strangeness that is THE DARK BACKWARD (see that movie ASAP if you haven't). What it is about him as an actor that compels me I cannot quantify at all. He's far from the greatest thespian of his generation, but it might go back to his career-defining portrayal of John Bender in that John Hughes classic. Something about his irreverent, blue collar James Dean act just hooked me. He does kinda do the same sorta thing as far as character goes in a lot of his films, but what can I say - I enjoy a good smart-ass. All that said, I'd never seen BLUE CITY. I'd circled it for years and even picked up a used VHS of it when I was in my 80s-movies-collecting prime. Never took the time to watch it though so seeing it for the first time on Blu-ray was nice for sure. It's fascinating to me to see the various paths the different Brat-Packers took as they were becoming Brat-Packers.
Judd Nelson plays a troublemaking son of a small town mayor in this particular movie. The titular Blue City is a coastal Florida village that's become a much darker place since Nelson was last there. When he returns home from a period of gallivanting about the country he finds that his father has been mysteriously killed and the local police seen pretty apathetic. He makes it his mission to find his father's murderer. To help him, he has his old best friend (David Caruso) and a local gal he used to know (Ally Sheedy). Everyone lives in fear of a local scumbag (Scott Wilson) and his goons (watch for Tiny Zeus Lister as one of them). The whole thing has a film noir-lite feel, but Judd Nelson brings his classic audacity to liven up the proceedings.
A few other interesting tidbits about this movie. First, it is given a bit of extra personality via a guitar-based score by the great Ry Cooder. It's also co-written and co-produced by Walter Hill. 

BLUE CITY can be purchased on Blu-ray here:
http://amzn.to/1Hepo8x

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - THE HURRICANE on Blu-ray

THE HURRICANE (1937; John Ford)
I do enjoy the film convention of opening the story in the present and flashing back. In the case of THE HURRICANE, it's one of those openings that sets up the fate of many of the characters we will come to meet. As he passes a small, barren lump of sand - more or less a sand bar - Thomas Mitchell blows a kiss and tells his female traveling companion that it was once a great and lovely island. When the woman asks what happened, Mitchell replies that it had the unfortunate luck of being born in the center of the hurricane belt. As director John Ford dissolves one shot of the desolate island into another shot of it as a lush paradise, we know that the story we will see will show us the island's destruction. That sort of fatalistic setup always functions as a poetic and existential precursor which gives extra added heft to the dramatic tale enfolded within.
Of the many things that John Ford is most well remembered for, being the grandfather of the modern disaster movie is not one of them. I would argue that he is exactly that and between this movie and STAGECOACH, you can see the situational and character roots of the genre beginning to take hold. There are lots of stock characters in that film (elevated by amazing character actors) and it is an ensemble in a similar way to many of the disaster films that would come to prominence in the 1970s cycle and beyond. THE HURRICANE is more specific in its setting and so it feels a little more intimate than even STAGECOACH. It has a nice setup that involves a lonely Polynesian wedding and a love story at its center that really makes the actual hurricane sequence that much more harrowing. And I have to say that the sequence itself is really quite remarkable. When I think of a what a disaster movie from 1937 might look like, this far exceeds that. It is really well done and whatever special effects Ford Is employing are quite well integrated. The hurricane part of the film runs about fifteen minutes and it is a fantastic climax that really elevates this movie to be among my favorite John Ford efforts. I like Fords films for the most part, but don't love him in general. There are a few of his movies that I think are amazing, but on the whole his specific brand of sentimentality grates on me. THE HURRICANE has a little of that, but for the most part it seems to be coming from a different guy than the one who made all those westerns later in his life. The filmmaking is still top notch, but it's just the tone of the thing that's a little different and in a good way. I'm very excited that Kino has brought this out as it is not a Ford film that enough people talk about. Much like another of my Ford favorites - THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING - it is ripe for rediscovery and the transfer here looks quite good. THE HURRICANE should certainly be part of the conversation when talking about the best of Ford's early work. It's way up there. The cast includes Dorothy Lamour, Mary Astor, Jon Hall, Raymond Massey, John Carradine and the previously mentioned (and always excellent) Thomas Mitchell.
The disc includes a solid commentary from from Film Historian Joseph McBride (author of Searching for John Ford: A Life). Its a Criterion-level track. This disc is well worth picking up.

THE HURRICANE blows onto Blu-ray on November 24th and can be pre-ordered here:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Scream Factory - ARMY OF DARKNESS on Blu-ray (Collector's Edition)

ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992; Sam Raimi)
EVIL DEAD II was one of those remarkably impactful movies for me in high school. I remember watching it over at my best friend's house one night and not knowing how to feel about it. The tone was strange to me in that I couldn't get a handle on whether or not I was supposed to laugh or be scared. I opted for scared, but when the scene of Bruce Campbell's hand attacking him came on I couldn't help but snicker. It was a mesmerizing experience and it was made all the more alluring by the fact that we had borrowed the movie from my best friend's older brother. His brother was really into some cool stuff at the time and I'd never have seen that film or A CLOCKWORK ORANGE without his awesome collection of movies on VHS tapes. EVIL DEAD II though was thing that really stuck with me for a while afterward.  I hadn't really seen anything like it and I was just coming to realize that that was one of the remarkable aspects of cult movies in general. I wasn't aware of cult movies at that time really. I had seen a few, but none that had twisted my brain around like EVIL DEAD II or CLOCKWORK had. When I would later read about the cult movie phenomenon in Danny Peary's books, it all clicked into place. I could see exactly why Sam Raimi's oddball sensibility had grabbed a hold of me and dug out a place in my memory forever. 
So as much as I was a Raimi fan by 1992, I somehow missed ARMY OF DARKNESS altogether and caught it a few laters on VHS. It was an absolute delight to me at the time as it veered even further into comedy than EVIL DEAD II had. Bruce Campbell's Ash character was even more over the top and dumb and arrogant and I loved every minute of it. It seemed impossible for anyone to watch that movie and not come out quoting at least one or two of Campbell's many outstanding and quippy bits of dialogue. One of my first repertory screening experiences was with ARMY OF DARKNESS actually. It was at my University and Bruce Campbell was there in person. They showed a 16mm print of ARMY and the crowd hooted and cheered their way through it. Bruce did a Q& A after the movie and it was absolutely perfect. He was as unruly as Ash himself and even declared that one of the inquires that he got was "a stupid question" and moved one. The crowd went nuts. He did a signing after and even signed my original VHS of EVIL DEAD (if I recall, he said something like, "Where'd you dig this up?" as the tape was pretty rare at the time). The whole thing was really glorious and one of my first voyages into seeing a movie with a packed auditorium full of die hard fans. The energy that you can feel in a screening like this is truly palpable and you come out of it even more in love with the film you are watching than you were before. Everyone should try to seek out screenings like this as often as they can as it is truly an elevating affair all around. ARMY OF DARKNESS is absolutely one of those films that you can point to as defining the "cult film" aesthetic and it's easy to see why the fans are so devoted to it. ARMY holds an additionally special place in my heart also for the fact that it was one of the earliest films I shared with my son. When he was about 7 or 8 years old, we began a tradition of having a "Family Movie Night" every Friday night. It was a big deal to him, but it was just as much a fantastic thing for me. I began sharing my favorites with him and some of the first things we watched were BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and ARMY OF DARKNESS. It as a gamble to show him these two, because they were right on the edge of being too scary for him. I rolled the dice though and it payed of exponentially in that they became a couple of his favorites and I think not only gave me some cred with him in terms of  picking movies, but also helped propel him further into a broad love of cinema in general. The EVL DEAD films are really a kind of litmus test at this point for me. It's not a make or break thing and they are certainly more widely known now than 10 years ago, but they still seem to define a certain kind of personality type that I tend to relate to.

The cult of THE EVIL DEAD movies, Raimi and Bruce has really stood the test of time and only become stronger and more far reaching in the years since the movies came out. We are now obviously on the precipice of the new ASH VS. THE EVIL DEAD series coming out and old fans of the series couldn't be more excited. It seems sure that this series will also turn a lot of new fans onto the property and it seems like a no-brainer that they would want to pick this Blu-ray up. A must own for sure. I know that fans who've bought ARMY OF DARKNESS many times in previous editions and formats may be skeptical about dipping in on yet another one, but trust me this is pretty much the definitive set.

Special Features:
This 3-disc set is loaded to the gills with supplements (some old and some new) and should please all fans of this outstanding cult comedy.


DISC ONE (Theatrical Version – 81 min.) – 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0
-Medieval Times: The Making Of "Army Of Darkness" Featuring Interviews With Star & Co-Producer Bruce Campbell, Actors Marcus Gilbert, Ted Raimi, Timothy Quill, Richard Grove, Bill Moseley, Patricia Tallman And Angela Featherstone, Director Of Photography Bill Pope, Editor Bob Murawski, Production Designer Anthony Tremblay, Composer Joseph Lo Duca, Costume Designer Ida Gearon, Special Make-Up Effects Artists Howard Berger, Tony Gardner, Robert Kurtzman, And Greg Nicotero, Performer And Effects Artist William Bryan, Mechanical Effects Artist Gary Jones, First Assistant Director John Cameron, Visual Effects Supervisor William Mesa, and Stunt Coordinator Christopher Doyle (96 min.).
-Original Ending.
-Original Opening with Optional Commentary By Sam Raimi And Bruce Campbell.
-Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary By Sam Raimi And Bruce Campbell.
-Theatrical Trailer.
-TV Spots.
-Home Video Promo.

DISC TWO (Director's Cut – 96 min.) – 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0.
-Audio Commentary with Director Sam Raimi, Actor Bruce Campbell, and Co-Writer Ivan Raimi.
-Additional Behind-The-Scenes Footage From KNB Effects (55 min.).
-Vintage “Creating The Deadites” Featurette (21 min.).
-Vintage "Making Of" Featurette.
-Extended Interview Clips With Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Robert Tapert.

DISC THREE (International Cut – 88 min.) – 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.78:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & 2.0.
-4K Scan Of The International Inter-positive.
-Television Version With Additional Footage (90 min., Standard Definition (1.33:1), DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0).
-Theatrical Trailer.
-Still Galleries With Rare Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Production Designer Anthony Tremblay, Visual Effects Supervisor William Mesa And Special Make-Up Effects Artists Tony Gardner, and KNB EFX, Inc. (Over 200 Stills).
-Still Gallery Of Props And Rare Photos From The Collection Of Super Fan Dennis Carter Jr.
-Storyboards For Deleted Or Alternate Scenes.
-Vintage “The Men Behind The Army” Featurette (19 min.).


*Note - I've heard mention of a missing shot in the theatrical version of the movie and as far as I know, Scream Factory hasn't announced details of a disc replacement program yet. Guessing they will soon, but keep in mind you may have to send in that disc to them at some point.

The ARMY OF DARKNESS Collector's Edition Blu-ray can be purchased here:
http://amzn.to/1NwGeUX

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

New Release Roundup - October 27th, 2015

SPECIAL EFFECTS COLLECTION Blu-ray (Warner Bros)
http://amzn.to/1jDbrfA


MULHOLLAND DR. Blu-ray (Criterion)
http://amzn.to/1NqsF9E


ARMY OF DARKNESS Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
http://amzn.to/1jDbtE8


JOHN CARPENTER'S VAMPIRES Blu-ray (Twilight Time)
http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/john-carpenters-vampires/


PHASE IV Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1NqtNKo


DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1NqtSxH


THE ONE AND ONLY Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1XniEPa


METEOR MAN Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1XniJlV


BREEDERS Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1Nqu7Zu


THE DEADLY BEES Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1PErDda


BLUE CITY Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1NqudR1



GET MEAN Blu-ray (Blue Underground)
http://amzn.to/1NquiUK


THE RATS ARE COMING! THE WEREWOLVES ARE ARE HERE! Blu-ray (Code Red)
http://www1.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/30229/THE-RATS-ARE-COMING!-THE-WEREWOLVES-ARE-HERE!-1972-LIMITED-EDITION/


TERROR CIRCUS Blu-ray (Code Red)
http://www1.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/30228/TERROR-CIRCUS-1973-LIMITED-EDITION/


FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD Volume 9 DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1MnlkEK



THE CHIEF DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1Mnl0FZ


HOTEL PARADISO DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1PEst9Q


MAN-PROOF DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1XnjafZ


IT'S IN THE AIR DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1Xnjewg

Monday, October 26, 2015

Underrated '55 - KC (Of A CLASSIC MOVIE Blog)

Kendahl "KC" Cruver writes about movies at A Classic Movie Blog and as a regular contributor to ClassicFlix. You can find her all over the web:
aclassicmovieblog.com
https://twitter.com/classicmovieblg
https://www.facebook.com/classicmovieblog
http://pinterest.com/classicmovieblg/boards/
http://instagram.com/kcclassic

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My Sister Eileen (1955; Richard Quine)
I like the easygoing feel of this high-spirited musical, set in a Manhattan with spotless alleys that clearly do not smell like urine. Janet Leigh and Betty Garnett are sisters living together in a Greenwich Village basement apartment. They are romanced by Bob Fosse and Jack Lemmon, whose quirkiness adds a great deal of interest to the squeaky clean 1950s-ness of it all. The songs are charming, if not terribly memorable, and Fosse's choreography, already clicking with those famous finger snaps, has a simplicity that non-dancer Leigh can manage, but is also energetic enough to get your blood pumping. Fosse's also great in a non-stinky alley dance-off with Tommy Rall.

Pete Kelly's Blues (1955; Jack Webb)
Janet Leigh again, this time as a wealthy flapper girl playing support to Jack Webb's troubled bandleader. Their romance doesn't make a lot of sense, but the real reason to see this movie is the musical interludes featuring Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald. Lee is also very effective in her role as a battered, alcoholic moll.

Female on the Beach (1955; Jospeh Pevney)
One of Joan Crawford's "twentysomething going on fifty" dramas, where everyone is supposed to act like she's young and innocent, even though she looks like she could bring you down with a twitch of those magnificent eyebrows. There's a fascinating scumminess to the characters that surround Ms. Joan; the performances by Jeff Chandler, Jan Sterling, Cecil Kellaway and Natalie Schafer are so shady that you still feel you can't trust the ones that turn out to be okay. 

Dementia/Daughter of Horror (1955; John Parker)
I had a hard time believing this grotesque horror noir was made in 1955, and I still marvel that it was not only made, but distributed. It features Adrienne Barrett in a one-off starring role as a psychopathic killer who wanders through a nightmarish night in the city. Essentially an experimental film, dialogue free and with stylistic nods to Maya Deren and Jean Cocteau, it would have been interesting to see how the drive-in crowd reacted to this one. I saw the version narrated by Ed McMahon, which gives it an occasional Ed Wood vibe, but doesn't ruin it the way purists will tell you.

Man Without a Star (1955; King Vidor)
I actually don't remember this modern Western very well, except that I really liked Kirk Douglas' performance, and he's not an actor I tend to enjoy. There are also a few beautifully executed shots by director King Vidor that stick in my mind. I'll need to watch this one again soon.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Vinegar Syndrome/Exploitation.TV - DEMONOID on Blu-ray

DEMONOID (1981; Alfredo Zacharias)
Synopsis (from Vinegar Syndrome's site)
At a dig in rural Mexico, a British industrialist accidentally unleashes an ancient evil: a severed hand, possessed by a vengeful demon, that attacks, kills and takes over the hand and mind of anyone who interferes with its ruthless quest for violence. Determined to stop the bloodshed, the wife of the industrialist (Samantha Eggar) joins forces with a renegade priest (Stuart Whitman), but will they be able to conquer the evil hand before the forces of hell overtake them?

Alfredo Zacharias is an interesting filmmaker. He's from Mexico City and his filmography only consists of a few movies with English language titles. Prior to DEMONOID, he made THE BEES in 1978 and that movie is something else. Check out the trailer:
As you can see, Alfredo can make a pretty nutty movie. While it came out the same year as THE SWARM, the two films aren't quite the same to say the least. I like that Alfredo is not afraid of using stock footage for dramatic effect. He and Ed Wood have that in common. That said, their is something about filmmakers from outside the U.S. that tends to make their films interesting even when the quality could be better. There's just this intangible "why?' factor to some of the choices you see made in films like this (and especially Italian films). I always see it as some sort of shifted cultural point of view that brings about certain decisions and some of those can be the most entertaining things about these kind of movies. DEMONOID for instance has this repeating motif of a high-pitched choir as score that comes up throughout the movie. It's almost a droney kind of thing with the choir maintaining certain notes for long periods. It feels like someone trying to emulate sort of an OMEN kind of vibe on a smaller scale. It plays kind of funny, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It goes with DEMONOID's over the top story of possession and evil on the loose quite well. What I like about director's like Alfredo is that you can tell that they cared about the movie they were making. There is a (perhaps misguided) passion there that can be felt throughout and I don't find that passion present in a good amount of the movies I watch these days. That kind of ernest dedication really goes a long way. Let me be right up front with you though (in case I wasn't clear), this movie is kind of bananas. It's creepy and sleazy and just bizarre at times. It lands squarely in "HolyF*ckingSh*t!" territory. If that is your bag, then I think you will like it. It has a lot of crazy stuff - the least of which is a 300-year-old disembodied hand that crawls around grabbing people. One of the grabbed folks is the lovely and talented Samantha Eggar. I just had the unique experience of rewatching her performance in THE BROOD right before seeing DEMONOID and it made for a memorable comparative experiment. It comes down to direction and story and obviously David Cronenberg wins the day in both cases. It was fascinating though to see Eggar, only a few years on from THE BROOD, playing this role in DEMONOID. She is called upon to do some kinda ridiculous stuff and the closing shot of the film exemplifies the pinnacle of ludicrous goofball antics for sure. I love that Vinegar Syndrome got their hands on this one and it goes quite well with other off-the-wall movies in their catalog like RAW FORCE and RUNAWAY NIGHTMARE. To call these "bad" movies is remarkably reductive and doesn't properly allow for the entertainment value that they provide (which is a good deal greater than a lot of current Hollywood films). If you have a taste for adventurous, oddball cinema then Vinegar Syndrome is a company you should really be keeping an eye on.
Special Features:
+ Restored in 2k from 35mm camera negative.
+ Alternate International version: MACABRA (90 min).
+ New video interview with Director Alfredo Zacarias.
+ Multiple theatrical trailers and TV spot.
+ Original artwork gallery.
+ Reversible MACABRA artwork.
+ Optional French soundtrack for MACABRA.
+ English SDH subtitles for both DEMONOID & MACABRA.
+ Blu-ray/DVD Combo | Region Free | 1.85:1 OAR.
(All extras on both Blu-ray and DVD)
DEMONOID can be purchased on Blu-ray through Amazon, Vinegar Syndrome and other online retailers.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Underrated '55 - Kristina Dijan

Kristina Dijan loves all kinds of movies, blogs at Speakeasy and tweets @HQofK.
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A Man Alone (1955; Ray Milland)
Star Ray Milland made his directorial debut with this interesting experimental western. Milland plays an infamous gunfighter who happens upon a stagecoach massacre and is naturally assumed to be the culprit. He hides from a lynch mob in the house of the ailing sheriff (Ward Bond) and his daughter Mary Murphy. Murphy comes to believe and then love Milland, and defends him to her corrupt father and to the skeptical townspeople. All the while, crooked banker Raymond Burr, the man responsible for the stagecoach murders (along with henchman Lee Van Cleef) works hard to frame Milland. The notorious outlaw has a hard time proving his innocence and an even harder time convincing himself he deserves the kind of happiness a life with Murphy might offer. If he can even get out of that house alive. Milland doesn’t speak for the first half hour of the movie and that silence forces him to communicate his character’s past and intentions in fascinating ways (he got a lot of practice in 1952’s The Thief, where he didn’t speak at all). 

Cast a Dark Shadow (1955; Lewis Gilbert)
Killer fortune hunter Dirk Bogarde sets his sights on rich older widow Margaret Lockwood. He seems to have met his match because she’s no pushover. She closely watches him, keeps him on a short leash when it comes to money, and seems to have her own sinister agenda. When a rich younger woman gets Bogarde’s attention, he plots to get rid of Lockwood, and Lockwood realizes she loves and wants to keep him. Bogarde makes his villain more disturbing and unpredictable but playing him as an immature psycho with a self-image so delicate that he can’t stand mockery or failure. Lockwood was one movie away from ending a brilliant career that was so much more than The Lady Vanishes. She could play everything from innocent romantic heroines to wicked villainesses, and it’s fun to see her here as a cougar who finds she needs affection even if it comes from a warped man-child and potential murderer.


Tight Spot (1955; Phil Karlson)
1955 was a good year for director Phil Karlson, who had 4 movies out. The best known should be his shocking reality-based corruption expose Phenix City Story, so I’m picking another Karlson movie from that year, Tight Spot. Here, Ginger Rogers plays a framed gangster’s moll sprung by D.A. Edward G. Robinson, who needs her to testify against her former mob friends. Cop Brian Keith has to keep her alive for the court appearance, while mobster Lorne Greene plots her murder. Greene is a scary gangster who seems to have endless ways into Rogers’ hotel room, including exploiting Keith’s questionable past. Rogers sometimes overdoes it with the tough cookie attitude but is good overall at showing the anger and cynicism not only of a disposable floosie but of a woman aging out of mob favor (and out of Hollywood for that matter; Rogers was 44 and would only make a few more films). Keith and Robinson are both riveting and director Phil Karlson keeps the tension tight in this great looking noir.


Wichita (1955; Jacques Tourneur)
Jacques Tourneur directs and Joel McCrea stars as Wyatt Earp. Earp wants some peace and quiet and a life as a businessman, but trouble follows him to town. He’s reluctant to take the position of marshal until the wild cattlemen kill a child. His gun ban isn’t popular with the businesses who depend on letting even the worst-behaving customers have their way, and soon the townspeople start to hate him and his strict controls. But he gets support from reporter Bat Masterson (Keith Larsen), the daughter of a town VIP (Vera Miles), and from his brothers, who arrive in time for a showdown. A personal and petty grudge nursed by villain Lloyd Bridges bookends the larger struggle against corruption and crime, as well as the effort to make a skeptical town change their ways. It’s all sorted out by a friendly lawman who’d rather be doing other things but steps up when nobody else is qualified to make and keep order.

We’re No Angels (1955; Michael Curtiz)
It’s a Christmas movie that’s anything but sweet. This Michael Curtiz comedy has Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray playing killers and escapees from Devil’s Island prison. Their conscience overrides their criminal intentions when they decide against robbing a merchant and stick around to help him save his business. If by help you mean cheating shoppers and planning to bump off the proprietor. They get emotionally involved with the family running the store (Leo Carroll, Joan Bennett and Gloria Talbott), even butting in to the love life of the merchant’s daughter. When their evil uncle and store owner Basil Rathbone comes at Christmas threatening to shut things down and throw the family out on the street, the three convicts protect the family the only way they know. Dark humor comes from watching these tough guys use their talent for good without ever converting to angels themselves. Bogart and Ray are charming, while Ustinov steals it with his deadpan readings and slick con man ways.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Scream Factory - DEMON KNIGHT & BORDELLO OF BLOOD on Blu-ray

TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT (1995; Ernest Dickerson)
Tales From the Crypt was one of the early TV shows that really got my attention when I would get glimpses of it on the occasional free HBO weekend my family would be privy to every once in a while. It was one of the first shows that I had seen that combined explicit violence/horror with sex and nudity. I had gotten hooked on anthology shows as a kid with the classics like The Twilight Zone and here was an r-rated horror version of that. Granted Tales From the Crypt was no Twilight Zone, but it resonated in a similar way because the "Tales" were almost always stories of comeuppance for the main characters. It has this cynical morality about it that was both offputting and yet it somehow jibed with me when I was first seeing the show. Since it was during high school when a saw the show, it might have given me a little bit of pause when it came to thinking about misbehaving as some of my classmates did. Not to say that Tales From the Crypt kept me out of trouble in high school (it was mostly fear that did that), but it certainly crept into my subconscious a bit. To this day I still have a knee-jerk reaction to "too-good-to-be-true" scenarios and I do believe that some of it stems from that show. All that said, I wasn't sure what to expect of a Tales From the Crypt movie. It seemed that most shows that were adapted into movies didn't really work. DEMON KNIGHT works though, interestingly enough.
One thing I always tend to like from a movie is when it doesn't try to give me all the story information up front. I can wait to figure things out if I feel like I'm in the hands of a solid filmmaker who isn't jerking me around by just being sloppy with the exposition. DEMON KNIGHT opens with a little car chase & collision between drivers Willam Sadler and Billy Zane. We don't know why Zane is pursuing Sadler, but it soon becomes clear that something strange is afoot. Another thing I like to see is when a movie becomes a "siege movie". Siege movies are always great drama. If done well, they can really be engaging despite it typically meaning that the film will take place mostly in one location. John Carpenter's ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 is a great example of what this subgenre has to offer in terms of solid entertainment. ASSAULT traces its roots back to Hawks' RIO BRAVO which is probably the greatest siege film ever for my money, so it's a pretty glorious sub-genre. So DEMON KNIGHT establishes the siege early, but even then it leaves some questions about William Sadler's character unanswered. It also establishes that this isn't any ordinary attack on a building. Nope, this one is freakin' supernatural. A siege by a vicious street gang is one thing, but a siege by a bunch of demons is something altogether more gnarly. Especially when one of the demons (Zane) can charm his way into possessing the bodies of the poor mortals within the place and infiltrate that way too. DEMON KNIGHT is fun though and pretty clever. Clever not only in its plotting and exposition, but also with its gore. William Sadler is one of those guys that you might forget about if you haven't seen him in a bit. He's one of the great modern character actors though and DEMON KNIGHT affords him the opportunity to show what he can do. I love it when actors like him get a nice leading part to strut their stuff. Dick Miller is in this too and though it's far from a lead role, he still gets a lot more screen time than in most of his other appearances and that is a very welcome thing. Speaking of underrated and underused guys (at least in the present), Billy Zane absolutely kills it in this movie. He was much more obligatory in the 1990s, but I can never understand why actors like that fade away from prominent use. Examing Zane's IMDB, it's clear he's never stopped working and continues to do several projects a year. He just deserves to be put into something like JURASSIC WORLD or some other large budget item. He's a dude who delivers the goods when it comes to slick, evil characters. So DEMON KNIGHT has a whole heap of things in its corner and it seems to be now getting a good deal more recognition for its quality as a genre classic of sorts. Well worth picking up folks.
Special Features:
-A NEW Audio Commentary With Director Ernest Dickerson.
-A NEW Audio Commentary With Special Effects Creator Todd Masters, Visual Effects Supervisor John Van Vliet, Special Effects Coordinator Thomas Bellissimo, And Demon Performer Walter Phelan.
-NEW "Under Siege: The Making Of Demon Knight" – Featuring Interviews With Director Ernest Dickerson, Co-producer A.L. Katzm Screenwriters Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, And Mark Bishop, Stars Billy Zane, William Sadler, Brenda Bakke, Charles Fleischer And More.
-A Panel Discussion From The American Cinematheque Featuring Director Ernest Dickerson, Actor Dick Miller And Special Effects Maestro Rick Baker.
DEMON KNIGHT can be purchased on Blu-ray here:
http://amzn.to/1kiDRLS

TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: BORDELLO OF BLOOD (1996; Gilbert Adler)
Early on in Tainted Blood - The Making of BORDELLO OF BLOOD, the new retrospective documentary on this Scream Factory Blu-ray, it is made quite clear that this was a problematic movie. The doc Includes interviews with Corey Feldman, A.L. Katz, Stephen Loevejoy, Todd Masters, Angie Everhart and Erika Eleniak. As the title would imply, this documentary doesn't shy away from the troubles that this production had and instead its participants discuss them very candidly. I appreciate this quite a bit actually as many pieces like this just turn into lots of back patting and inflated compliments. As much as I get that show business is very tricky and nobody wants to burn bridges by calling other people out for lame behavior, it feels starts to feel ambiguously disingenuous when people say that everyone was a "joy to work with". Not so here though as I said and one cast member in particular is hung out to dry for his prima donna behavior. That would be Dennis Miller and based on all accounts here, he was more than a bit challenging to work with on this movie. It always saddens me to hear stories about people not being at all enthusiastic about the work they are doing on a film an how they can make things more difficult for everyone involved with their crap. Like I said though, it is nice to hear people call him out for it. The movie had more problems to deal with than just Miller though and it's kind of amazing the movie turned out as well as it did. Not to say it's some amazing or remarkably memorable piece of cinema, but it's not as bad as it was purported to be at the time it came out. Apparently Dennis Miller chose to not do a lot of the dialogue as it was written in the script and instead opted to ad lib is own clever witticisms a lot of the time. While I must say I found some of his quips to be entertaining, this certainly proved difficult for the other actors when he decidedly didn't stick around to shoot any shot he wasn't the main focus of. So they would shoot everything of Dennis' and he would ad lib and then bail on the other actors when they were shooting the reverse angles. I understand that there are some gigantic stars that may decide they don't want to be in the shots that they aren't in, but then there are the real pros who will hang around to help the other actors and give them something real to play off of. It just makes for better performances and a better movie all around you'd think. Anyway, as much as it bums me out to hear tell of such disrespectful behavior on a movie set, I was reminded that this is just how the business can be sometimes and the fact that we get as many good movies out of Hollywood in a year as we do is truly stunning. I cannot imagine the difficulty of finishing a movie on any scale and having it turn out well. So the neat thing about wonderful boutique labels like Scream Factory bringing out these older genre artifacts is that it is much easier to view the films themselves as basically new discoveries that are completely detached from the circumstances surrounding them when they were originally released. I can't remember if I ever even saw BORDELLO OF BLOOD when it hit VHS. It had such a bad rap, I may have skipped it altogether. It actually became a situation where I assumed I had watched it and had found it so forgettable that I couldn't recall a thing about it (which has certainly happened before). Not sure if that was the case, but I must admit that it was fun to watch it with low expectations and it ended up being a good time.
Special Features:
-A NEW Audio commentary with Producer/Writer A.L. Katz, moderated by Rob Galluzo (of Blumhouse.com and Killer POV). Katz is quite vocal about the rough spots with this production and there is some overlap with some of the areas he touches on in the Making of, but there's a lot to be learned from this track and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
-NEW Tainted Blood: The Making Of Bordello Of Blood – Interivews With Actors Corey Feldman, Angie Everhart, Erika Eleniak, Co-Writer & Co-Producer A.L. Katz, Editor & Second Unit Director Stephen Lovejoy, And Special Effects Creator Todd Masters.
BORDELLO OF BLOOD can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Release Roundup - October 20th, 2015

MODERN GIRLS Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
http://amzn.to/1RBHd7F


TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
http://amzn.to/1RBHjML


TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: BORDELLO OF BLOOD Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
http://amzn.to/1K3jzL6


THE LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
http://amzn.to/1K3ikeL



DEMONOID Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
http://amzn.to/1LIckO4


FRIGHTMARE Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
http://amzn.to/1OPWQIT


THE OBLONG BOX Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
http://amzn.to/1K3jKWI


KWAIDAN Blu-ray (Criterion)
http://amzn.to/1K3jSp5


JURASSIC WORLD Blu-ray (Universal)
http://amzn.to/1jjyY59


Z FOR ZACHARIAH Blu-ray (Lionsgate)
http://amzn.to/1OsGqro


THE WOLFPACK Blu-ray (Magnolia Pictures)
http://amzn.to/1K3koU6


DIARY OF A LOST GIRL Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
http://amzn.to/1VN8SD9


SLAM DANCE Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
http://amzn.to/1RBHZ4x


INDEPENDENCE DAY DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1GEsORR


RAPA NUI DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1Mnl0FZ


THE MAD GENIUS DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1MnlwUl


THE GREAT MAN VOTES DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1N8UtyV


NEVER A DULL MOMENT DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1N8UXFt


CONSOLATION MARRIAGE DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1MnmkZp


SWEET ADELINE DVD (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1MnmrUS



ANNE VICKERS DVD (Warner Archive)

http://amzn.to/1GEuISg



A BUCKET OF BLOOD Blu-ray (The Film Detective)

THE BAT Blu-ray (The Film Detective)