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Sacco & Vanzetti

by Glenn Erickson

Welcome to Ground Zero for ‘Committed Cinema’ Italian style. Director Giuiano Montaldo filmed his dream project on location in Ireland and a bit in Boston, with top stars Gian Maria Volontè and Riccardo Cucciolla. In one of the highest-profile American ‘media’ trials ever the famed immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti were tried for a crime but…

Ben & Charlie

by Lee Broughton

UK correspondent Lee Broughton returns with coverage of a well-realised Spaghetti Western, Michele Lupo’s irony-laden semi-comedy Ben & Charlie. The film’s eponymous anti-heroes are played by fan favourites Giuliano Gemma and George Eastman and the duo receive great support from a number of familiar faces including Marisa Mell, Aldo Sambrell and Giacomo Rossi Stuart. Ben…

Ilya Muromets

by Glenn Erickson

Accept no substitutes!  Aleksandr Ptushko’s fairy-tale folk hero saga is the real deal in medieval spectacle. When the nation calls, warriors rise from the steppes to defend against invaders, even if they have to defy royal authority. The first Soviet film in anamorphic scope and stereophonic sound, Ilya Muromets is an eye-opening series of fantastic…

The Counterfeit Traitor

by Glenn Erickson

George Seaton connected an ideal cast to this true-life WW2 story so good that a lazy script and slack direction can’t sink it. William Holden is the American-Swede who spies for the Allies, ruining his own reputation and schmoozing with Nazis that will kill him if he slips up. Wonderful Lilli Palmer is the patriot-agent…

Double Indemnity 4K

by Glenn Erickson

It’s back and Criterion’s got it, so be prepared for sharp-talking insights on Billy Wilder’s nearly flawless, cinema-changing ode to cold-blooded murder, Los Angeles style. Edward G. Robinson wants Fred MacMurray but Barbara Stanwyck has him wrapped around her trigger finger. James M. Cain tapped into our city’s domestic malaise — who doesn’t know somebody…

A Fistful of Dollars + For a Few Dollars More 4K

by Glenn Erickson

The good news is that Kino’s new 4K encodings of Sergio Leone’s first two Italo ‘Dollars’ oaters look terrific, with Fistful showing a lot of improvement: the basic restorations are from prime Italian film elements. And the packages are collector / home theater enthusiast friendly — standard Blu-ray encodings are part of the deal. As…

Francis the Talking Mule – 7 Film Collection

by Charlie Largent

Francis the Talking Mule – 7 Film Collection Blu ray Kino Lorber 1950 – 1957 / 1.33:1, 2:1, 1.85:1 Starring Donald O’Connor, Chill Wills, Piper Laurie, Julie Adams Written by David Stern, Oscar Brodney Directed by Arthur Lubin, Charles Lamont Born in 1909, David “Tom” Stern III was a journalist who lived a long and…

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 4K

by Glenn Erickson

What a great title to revisit — John Ford’s ‘Kabuki’ western is less about action and more about form and tradition — especially the way the truth gets plowed under in ‘the West,’ which is of course America reduced to a mythological keepsake. John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin’s characters seem to know they…

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

by Glenn Erickson

In just her fourth American movie the Swedish import Ingrid Bergman proves herself the most sensual creature in Hollywood, running away with Spencer Tracy and Victor Fleming’s remake of Mamoulian’s pre-Code classic. The morals are cleaned up and the sex angle tamed down (except for Fröken Bergman) and the acting is less stylized — overall…

Mr. Klein

by Glenn Erickson

Expatriate blacklistee Joseph Losey is the perfect director for this excellent, strange tale, a big award winner in France. The terrible Occupation-era victimization of the Jewish citizens of Paris is told tangentially from the viewpoint of a jackal-like opportunist who buys art and valuables cheaply from Jews desperate for cash. But Klein has a little…

Some Like It Hot 4K

by Glenn Erickson

This knockout comedy rates as one of Hollywood’s funniest ever — although it could be ‘cancelled’ any day now, so get ready to deny ever having laughed at it. Ultimate movie star glamour meets the apex of screenwriting hilarity: liberated by 101 cross-dressing jokes Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond jam sly sex innuendo into almost…

Murphy’s War

by Glenn Erickson

Peter Yates’ excellent war-movie follow-up to Bullitt landed in the wrong year: the beautifully produced and directed action thriller was barely seen in America. Royal Navy mechanic Peter O’Toole swears vengeance on the U-Boat commander who sunk his ship and murdered its entire crew. Locals in a Caribbean backwater help him to strike back: he…

12 Monkeys 4K

by Glenn Erickson

Here’s one that really benefits from its 4K upgrade — Terry Gilliam’s dense visuals look great with Roger Pratt’s exacting cinematography. Is this really a thinking man’s science fiction hit, or did audiences mainly want to get a look at Brad Pitt in a new mode, playing a weird motormouthed eccentric?  Bruce Willis and Madeleine…

The Hunter

by Glenn Erickson

Steve McQueen’s final film is an action-comedy compromise that will satisfy his fans even if it barely hangs together. The thrills are kinder & gentler, with plenty of hair-raising stunts but less gunplay and gore. McQueen’s eccentric bounty hunter collects toys and can barely drive a car, but he always gets his man. Kathryn Harrold…

Dr. Phibes Double Feature

by Charlie Largent

The Abominable Dr. Phibes/Dr. Phibes Rises Again Blu ray Kino Lorber 1971, 1972 / 1.85 : 1 / 94, 89 Min. Starring Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Terry Thomas Written by James Whiton, William Goldstein, Robert Blees Directed by Robert Fuest Though he thrived in light comedies and upmarket melodramas, Vincent Price didn’t really find himself…

Dementia (Region A)

by Glenn Erickson

The Cohen Film Collection brings to Region A its beautifully remastered disc of American fringe filmmaking’s weirdest, most obsessively arty shock-fest — a loving return to silent expressionist horror. The New York censors scuttled its commercial chances, and it wound up as a movie-within-a-movie footnote for Steve McQueen. We never thought we’d see the show…

Irezumi

by Glenn Erickson

Yasuzo Masumura amazes us with yet another sensual stunner. This period way-of-all-flesh tale is almost a horror film, but the supernatural shivers are far outpaced by the daily Evil that Men Do. Japanese superstar Ayako Wakao blazes across the screen as a self-decreed avenger of the female sex, who allows men to destroy themselves and…

Born to Win

by Glenn Erickson

Ivan Passer’s first American film and his first in the English language is a core life-with-a-junkie tale in a cold Manhattan winter. George Segal is the ‘habituated, not addicted’ (he says) user whose married life has already been destroyed. Can he escape with the help of his new girlfriend?  Hector Elizondo’s pimp/pusher has no intention…

Damaged Lives / Damaged Goods

by Glenn Erickson

Surprise: these are quality movies on an important subject. Entry 13 in the ‘Golden Age of the Exploitation Picture’ gives us not sleaze but two well-produced vintage public education epics on the subject of (gasp) venereal disease. Although reissued by sensation hucksters as racy ‘forbidden’ fare, they had serious social aims — the screenplay for…

Marooned

by Glenn Erickson

John Sturges’ orbital jeopardy thriller does everything right: the story is taken seriously, the actors seem committed and the special effects aren’t bad. Yet it’s more interesting for what doesn’t work than what does. As one of the first Sci-fi pictures in the wake of 2001 it wasn’t well received despite being technically astute. Did…

Jigsaw

by Glenn Erickson

Val Guest’s cinema quest for his own semi-docu style pays off in this fine, intelligent police investigation into a gruesome dismemberment murder. U.K. favorite Jack Warner is the main detective, Guest’s actress wife Yolande Donlan is a ‘person of interest,’ and the illusion of reality is enhanced by real locations in Greenwich, Brighton, Lewes and…

The Girl Can’t Help It

by Charlie Largent

The Girl Can’t Help It Blu ray Criterion 1957 / 2.35:1 / 98 Min. Starring Jayne Mansfield, Tom Ewell, Edmond O’Brien Written by Frank Tashlin Directed by Frank Tashlin In 1957 it was commonplace for burlesque comedians to share the bill with a musical act or two, but in New York’s theater district one of…

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 4K (2011)

by Glenn Erickson

This 2011 theatrical remake of John le Carré’s spy classic is a happy surprise — it’s every bit as distinctive and accomplished as the famed Alec Guinness TV miniseries. Swedish director Tomas Alfredson and the writers know how to tell a story — at just over two hours it’s neither bloated nor curtailed. Gary Oldman…

Stingray: The Complete Series Deluxe Edition

by Charlie Largent

Stingray: The Complete Series Deluxe Edition Blu ray Network 1964, 1965 / 1.33:1 / 975 Min. Starring Ray Barrett, Robert Easton, David Graham, Don Mason, Lois Maxwell Written by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson Directed by Alan Pattillo, David Elliott, John Kelly, Desmond Saunders If nothing else, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s Stingray should be celebrated for…

Walker

by Glenn Erickson

Alex Cox attacks the Reagan years with a political tale sung in the key of the Italo Spaghetti Western: expect plenty of slow motion shots of stylish pistolero mercenaries fighting for the historical ‘filibuster’ William Walker. Look him up, he’s the patron saint of every neocon and would-be soldier of fortune. Everybody on this show…

China Gate

by Glenn Erickson

The messy politics of the Indo-China War didn’t confuse writer-director Samuel Fuller; as the machine gun- toting Nat King Cole snarls, hating Commies is an end unto itself!  Fuller’s second outrageous Cold War combat fantasy pits a handful of French Legionnaires and mercenaries against the might of the International Communist Conspiracy, to stop the flow…