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The Long Ships

by Glenn Erickson

At the intersection of big-star international dealmaking, the 70mm epic, and the humble sword ‘n’ shield actioner, this comic book viking saga stacks one absurd, borderline bad taste action scene on top of another. It’s an irresistible mash-up of earlier successes, well directed visually by Jack Cardiff. Richard Widmark at forty must play the Viking…

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands

by Glenn Erickson

The most popular Brazilian film for decades, this funny & steamy erotic ghost story took the world by storm and made a star of Sonia Braga. Bruno Barreto adapted a Jorge Amado ‘Bahía’ novel, one that celebrates the positive role that plain old-fashioned carnal lust can play in this world. The bereaved widow Dona Flor…

Planet of the Vampires

by Glenn Erickson

There’s no getting around it — Mario Bava’s one space opera is now confirmed as a classic. Barry Sullivan and Norma Bengell must oppose invisible aliens that possess the corpses of their fellow space men. Bava’s ‘gothic’ Haunted Planet recipe just adds more weird colored lights and swirling fog to his supernatural Gothic formula. The…

Bullfighter and the Lady

by Glenn Erickson

Budd Boetticher’s excellent semi-autobiographical film may be Hollywood’s most uncondescending depiction of high-end Mexican culture. Robert Stack is the pushy Gringo who only slowly understands Latin society’s definitions of loyalty and machismo; his rocky relationship with Joy Page’s cultured señorita is as important as the bullfighting story with Gilbert Roland. It’s Boetticher’s best film, presented…

The Killing 4K

by Glenn Erickson

This picture looks as modern and radical as anything from Italy in the 1960s, yet it’s a tough-talking take on hardboiled crime caper fiction. In three pictures Stanley Kubrick went from amateur to contender: now he has a like-minded producer, a top-flight cast, and the help of the legendary pulp author Jim Thompson. Sterling Hayden,…

Battle of the Worlds

by Glenn Erickson

Antonio Margheriti made several space epics about ‘errant planets’ posing dangers to Earth; this one gets all the attention via star casting. Claude Rains’ bombastic but brilliant scientist advises space command to blow up the planetoid, and then chooses attack day to go see its interior for himself. Toy rockets, overripe dialogue and thunderous acting…

Damn the Defiant!

by Glenn Erickson

Haven’t yet seen all the best old-school vintage naval combat epics?  This color & ‘scope thriller has a terrific cast of Brit stars and up-n-comers, can boast excellent visuals and is historically accurate. Alec Guinness captains a ship during the Napoleonic Wars, and finds his duty complicated by a psychopathic top officer (Dirk Bogarde) who…

Jack and the Beanstalk

by Glenn Erickson

It’s a case of cold-blooded, premeditated nostalgia: Abbott & Costello’s fantasy musical is innocent comedy rooted in early ’50s kiddie entertainment — a vein perfectly suited to the duo’s talents. Lou Costello makes a fine underdog fantasy hero, too. The feature restoration is quite an achievement for the 3-D Archive, as cine-archeology was required to…

Devil in a Blue Dress 4K

by Glenn Erickson

After bouncing about in a couple of good Blu-ray editions, Carl Franklin’s superior film adaptation of the great Walter Mosley novel makes the jump to 4K. Denzel Washington’s star quality and acting prowess shine in the smart production, with Tak Fujimoto cinematography that put the color back into ’90s filmmaking. There’s plenty to enjoy in…

Summertime

by Glenn Erickson

After twenty years honing his craft on ever-more precise filmic constructions, David Lean opened up his imagination for a story of loneliness and romance in Venice, Italy. A vacationing American woman searches for — she doesn’t know what. Katharine Hepburn reveals the vulnerable side of her personality, and the woman eventually leaves her fears behind….

The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee 2

by Glenn Erickson

Collector’s box on the horizon: Severin assembles hours of video extras and text illumination for another group of films featuring favorite actor Christopher Lee. The roundup of titles bookends his career as a screen vampire, with one of Lee’s earliest vampire roles and also his last turn as Count Dracula. Looming large on the academic…

Pink Flamingos

by Charlie Largent

Pink Flamingos Blu ray Criterion 1972 / 1:66:1 / 93 Min. Starring Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey Written by John Waters Directed by John Waters In 1980, J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum began an exploration into those elusive films that could only be seen at the witching hour—a time when most theaters were closed and,…

Marty

by Glenn Erickson

Humble Marty Piletti finally gets to home video in its proper widescreen format. Paddy Chayefsky’s TV play-turned theatrical feature really shines in Kino’s new 4K remaster. The performances of Betsy Blair and especially Ernest Borgnine provide the gentle magic, as non-glamorous Bronx-ites learn that two lonely people can find romance. It’s a winning formula and…

A Night to Remember

by Glenn Erickson

This meticulous docu-drama is still the best show about the Titanic, the awesome disaster that has never lost its grip on the imagination. Roy Ward Baker leads an enormous cast of Brit character actors through 2.5 hours of true-life terror in the icy Atlantic — Kenneth More, Honor Blackman, David McCallum, Laurence Naismith, Anthony Bushell….

The She-Creature

by Glenn Erickson

Part of a perfect 1956 matinee double bill, Alex Gordon’s supernatural thriller features an iconic monster, a piece of real horror art from monster-maker Paul Blaisdell. The production can best be described as ‘pedestrian’ but there’s no denying that the movie is an odd nostalgic favorite — a great poster helps. The cast mixes veterans…

Downton Abbey A New Era 4K

by Glenn Erickson

It may be this year’s ‘comfort food’ film but Julian Fellowes’ second theatrical sequel to his revered long-running TV show is quality goods — and may be better than the first one. Almost every actor is back, seemingly pleased as plum puddings to repeat their roles as either landed nobility or downstairs staff. The storyline…

The Flesh Eaters

by Glenn Erickson

We still remember the scary AM radio ads from back in the 6th grade: THEY EAT HUMAN FLESH! Mainstream ‘nabe theaters that wouldn’t show Herschell Gordon Lewis movies played this proto-gore horror show, an ingeniously crafted thriller that captures the horror comic vibe with clever, gruesome special effects. The flesh eaters are glittering bits of…

Violent City

by Glenn Erickson

Director Sergio Sollima sets the template for twenty years of violent action cinema for Rough Tough Charles Bronson. Precise stunt scenes and clever direction are at the service of a script that can’t produce a convincing line of dialogue. It’s a mishmosh of sex, bullets and car chases. Bronson is betrayed by his love for…

Miller’s Crossing

by Glenn Erickson

Feature number three for the Coen Brothers is an eccentric gangster saga with a wonderful slate of mugs — Gabriel Byrne, John Turturro, Albert Finney, Jon Polito, J.E. Freeman, Steve Buscemi — slinging highly entertaining hardboiled dialogue. The witty, insightful story is at heart not a comedy, and the direction impresses in the formal sense…

In the Heat of the Night 4K

by Glenn Erickson

Walter Mirisch earned his Oscar for this Sidney Poitier hit directed by Norman Jewison. The tense mystery thriller was also a significant cultural step for Civil Rights, Hollywood-style: Poitier’s Virgil Tibbs claims the right to not turn the other cheek. Stars Rod Steiger, Lee Grant, Warren Oates and Larry Gates are in top form. Kino’s…

The Brain from Planet Arous

by Charlie Largent

The Brain from Planet Arous Blu ray The Film Detective 1957 / 1:33:1, 1.85:1 / 71 Min. Starring John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Robert Fuller Written by Roy Buffum Directed by Nathan Hertz (Juran) In 1957, Screen Gems released 52 of Universal’s classic horror films to television in a package called Shock! Typically broadcast around the…

Touch of Evil 4K

by Glenn Erickson

One of Orson Welles’ best has arrived in 4K!  Kino Lorber has revived Universal’s 3-version study of the bordertown crime & corruption drama, that knocks us out with Welles’ colorful, weird characters, intricate scene blocking and infinitely creative camera work. Almost all of the extras from the earlier DVD and Blu-ray editions are here, with…

The Brotherhood

by Glenn Erickson

Lewis John Carlino’s family-oriented Mafia tale was filmed four years before The Godfather: Kirk Douglas is a loose-cannon capo who bosses his own brother Alex Cord and won’t listen when his fellow kingpins talk about modernization. Irene Papas and Susan Strasberg are married to the mob, while veteran hoods Luther Adler and Eduardo Ciannelli provide…

The Impossible

by Glenn Erickson

Easily one of the best movies of its kind, J.A. Bayona’s minute-by-minute tale of survival poses an immediate challenge to audiences: could I survive that?  The genuinely terrifying true story of one family lost in the middle of a devastating disaster is even more relevant now, with similar disasters seemingly happening daily. The near-flawless direction…

Columbia Noir # 5 Humphrey Bogart

by Glenn Erickson

This grouping of Bogart’s Columbia output has one bona fide noir, a pair of exotic ‘romantic intrigue’ thrillers and three social issue pictures. It’s a good set, with films directed by John Cromwell, Nicholas Ray and Mark Robson, and with leading ladies Lizabeth Scott, Florence Marley, Marta Toren, Jody Lawrance and Jan Sterling. And the…

Love Slaves of the Amazons

by Glenn Erickson

“Woman Warriors in Brutal Death Battle!”  This adventure thriller has no reputation to speak of, and is mainly notable as a strange chapter in the topsy-turvy life of Curt Siodmak, who as a producer-writer-director, filmed this and another equally absurd jungle romp on location in Brazil. How Siodmak got these pictures going is a mystery…