Rupert Pupkin Speaks: KL Studio Classics - THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD and THE MAZE (3D) ""

Friday, June 15, 2018

KL Studio Classics - THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD and THE MAZE (3D)

THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD (1975; J. Lee Thompson)
Peter Proud is having bad dreams. He keeps having one nightmare in particular wherein he finds himself - as another man - swimming out to a rowboat at the night in the middle of a lake. There’s a woman in the boat (Margot Kidder) and as he reaches the edge of it, he apologizes to her for an argument they’ve just had. She forgives him and says they shall never speak of this again. As he begins to pull himself into the boat with her, she smashes him on the head with s wooden oar and he falls back into the water. She then whacks him one more time on the skull for good measure - drowning him. Proud wakes up screaming in a voice that isn’t his own. All of this really creeps out his “girlfriend” and perfectly perplexes a sleep study doctor who Proud has taken to seeing for assistance. All the while he keeps having flashes of something that seems clearly to be from another life. The “reincarnation” of the film’s title. It’s very much the tale of a man whose former life is trying to make itself known and heard through his present day life/identity. He becomes obsessed with trying to find out why. It’s a really fascinating mystery that is far more experimental than most anything else that director J. Lee Thompson ever did. It feels very much of a piece with some of the strange and ambiguous cinema of the 1970s. It's kind of a trippy film and the periodic flashes of memory bits - a woman, a building, embraces between several men and women - all make for a bizarre atmosphere that adds to the mystery. There's a bit of a VERTIGO vibe to the whole thing. I’m sure that’s part of what drew David Fincher to the material in the first place. I once read that he was angling to remake this movie and was attached to it for a period.
Michael Sarrazin, who plays the lead, is one of those 70s actors who isn't remembered all that well and that I have a lot of affection for from his varied and interesting career. He feels to me like some kind of amalgamation of Robert Redford and Peter Fonda (or something along those lines). I think I first saw him in the amazing THEY SHOOT HORSES DON'T THEY (also on Blu-ray from Kino) where he starred opposite Jane Fonda (in one of her best performances) and really impressed me. From there, he next cropped up for me in the wacky cross-country road race comedy THE GUMBALL RALLY (which is really entertaining and sadly underseen). If memory serves, PETER PROUD was one of the next features that I saw him in and it truly cemented my fandom for him as an actor.
The Jerry Goldsmith score is quite haunting - it reminds me ever so slightly of the Sonic Youth cover of the Carpenter’s song “Superstar” in terms of the melody, but with some electronic blippy stuff and piano mixed in. While beautiful, romantic and melancholy, it is also unsettling and works well to keep the viewer I’ll at ease.
I can't say for sure how I feel about the idea of reincarnation, but there was a time in my life when I was prone to many spells of deja vu and it made me think that there might be something to it (I was a kid at the time). Now all I can say is that I certainly don't know what to believe, but I am intrigued by the concept and find it makes for a very interesting structural device for a movie. I'm a fan of mystery films in general, but I often find myself more drawn to them when they add a supernatural element as well. This one feels like it has a slight kinship with something like THE CHANGELING, though plays for for suspense than horror. I'd seen PETER PROUD circa 2000 on laserdisc, but had not returned to it since. I know I've said this quite often about a lot of different films, but I am very glad to have this movie finally on Blu-ray. It really has become quite obscure these days and very much deserves a platform for rediscovery.

The special features include a new and insightful commentary track from Lee Gambin. In addition, the disc also has:
-Spanish Super 8 Bathtub Scene with Spanish Audio
-Spanish Super 8 vs US - Side by Side w English Audio
-TV Spot
-30 Second Radio Spot
-60 Second Radio Spot
-Animated Image Gallery – International Posters and Lobby Cards (5:38)
-Animated Image Gallery – International Promotional Material (1:55)
-Animated Image Gallery – International Home Video Releases (0:48)
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THE MAZE (1953; William Cameron Menzies)
I have a small obsession with this era of 3-D movies - 3-D in general honestly, but there’s something aesthetically enjoyable and compelling for me about the ones that came out in the 1950s in particular. I can’t explain what it is, but it has something to do with the blocking of the actors and the arrangement of the frames to “optimize” the format that draws me in. Often it can lead to somewhat clunky narratives (as is the case with THE MAZE), but I'm fine with that as long as they can deliver on some fun 3-D. The one thing I would say about this film is that with that title as the hook (for me at least), there’s not quite enough maze in it. Of course it is a cinematic (and often budgetary) tradition to withhold things until the last reel, but the big reveal with this one ends up being a little silly to say the least. That said, I was still amused by it overall and I must admit that I really did want to know the answer to the mystery at the center of the movie. 
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON fans will immediately recognize actor Richard Carlson (who was also in IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE among others) and wish he perhaps had a little more to do. He plays a man who is engaged and about to be married in two weeks, when he is called away to deal with the ailment of a his uncle who lives in a creepy castle in the Scottish Highlands known as Craven Castle. When he's gone for weeks with no response to her telegrams, his fiance (Veronica Hurst) drags her aunt to the castle to see what is going on. When they finally see Richard Carlson again, he looks as though he's aged twenty years and almost immediately insists that the two women leave the castle at once. Clearly something is up, but for some reason he can't talk about it. He is just incredibly grumpy and inhospitable to them and offers no explanation for the weird sounds coming from the maze and creeping through the castle at night. That's the frustrating thing I think is that Carlson is forced to just acted annoyed for the second half of the movie and not given a whole lot else to occupy himself. Nonetheless, I couldn't stop watching it so I must give it credit for drawing me in in that "what's really going on in this creepy old castle" Scooby-Doo kind of way, so props for that. Also, this 4K digitally restored print (from the original left and right eye camera negatives) looks quite nice - actually much better than I expected. It also has restored three-channel stereophonic sound, which was nice.

The special features on this disc include an excellent commentary from Film Historians Tom Weaver, Bob Furmanek, Dr. Robert J. Kiss and David Schecter as well as an Interview with actress Veronica Hurst (6 mins).
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