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CineSavant 2018 Favored Disc Roundup

by Glenn Erickson Jan 01, 2019

 

CineSavant
2018 Favored Disc Roundup

Savant picks The Most Impressive
Blu-rays and DVDs of 2018

 

Welcome again to the most self-indulgent list of 2018, accompanied by personal photos of limited interest!  *  The CineSavant brain trust once again convenes to peruse a year’s worth of Blu-ray releases, searching for the wisdom to cull out twenty or so discs that demand to be listed as top titles for the year. Sometimes I claim that I’m championing restorations, or the revival of old favorites, but this is really a list of the pictures I’d save first should my house be threatened by flood, fire, typhoon or tariffs.

* An explanatory list for the images is at the bottom of the article.

Yes, this is an idiosyncratic parade of my peculiar taste, there’s no denying it. I’m limited to what I had access to review, which doesn’t include everything worthwhile that floats by on the release calendar. Vanity Fair might laud the incredible new Ingmar Bergman Box, but Criterion would be crazy to send out non-VIP review copies for something that lavish. Film history-wise, the new disc of The Magnificent Ambersons is probably the most significant release of the year, but it doesn’t need more promotion — you can read about it everywhere. One particular company no longer provides screeners for its branded line of vintage fantasy and horror, so I only covered a few of its titles this year. But I’m happy to say that screener access here is still excellent overall.

The non-demise of hard media video.

I first heard about the imminent extinction of DVDs and Blu-rays at least ten years ago — the corporate minds behind streaming and digital downloads generated a great deal of propaganda, methinks. Blu-rays are holding their popularity despite the negative publicity. It is true that disc media will not be the primary delivery system for mass-media entertainment. Most people just don’t have the room to accumulate more than a few shelves of favorite movies, and most people don’t need to see most movies more than two or three times, tops. But for collectors it’s a different story. There’s no guarantee that everything worthwhile will always be available digitally. Last November’s chloroforming of the popular streaming service Filmstruck hit fans of vintage pictures where it hurts — diamonds may be forever, but access to those amazing Janus foreign films, etc., comes and goes at the whim of corporate gatekeepers.

Even people who buy digital ‘cloud’ versions of films have received rude awakenings — every now and then a particular purchased title is withdrawn. If one complains, “But I bought it, it should be mine forever,” the answer will be “It’s no longer available, here’s $2 to order something else and have a nice day.”

Nowadays, legal text is so pervasive that bubble gum wrappers probably say that the act of chewing indicates a legal agreement, that the bubble gum company now owns our teeth. I’ve never read the fine print on a download, but I’m told that a download is yours to access until some attorney decides it isn’t any more. In other words, if you really want a movie you buy today to be ‘for always,’ it better be on disc. Unless you hold hard media in your hot little hands, it’s not really yours to keep. As for discs rotting and becoming unplayable, as happened with many 1990s laserdiscs, I suppose that’s possible eventually. In all my time I’ve only found one DVD disc that clouded up and wouldn’t play after ten years.

Also in November, the Blu-ray industry suffered a brief production stumble, that I think put a positive stir on the format’s future. When ‘production capacity’ at the disc replicators ran into a bottleneck, some companies couldn’t make their deadlines and had to adjust their release dates. Mass orders of video games — many are delivered on Blu-ray as well — apparently slowed down disc replication for many labels. A big industry name I talked to seemed almost pleased, because the alarm that went out on the web, the many inquiries, etc., impressed execs with the fact that Blu-rays are alive and well and in demand.

You choose the movies how?

As is well known, I am mighty proud of CineSavant’s consistent record for answering questions nobody asked. The list below is not an objective tally of the best-looking or most lavishly appointed discs. They aren’t only of ‘miracle’ restorations or recovered lost titles, although that figures in quite a bit. I basically go through the year and tag titles that seem especially worthy and re-viewable, ones that I’m most excited to have found. My top title this year is practically the definition of the word ‘obscure’ — but I had read about its filmmaker for decades and consider finding it a major personal discovery.

The usual number of genre favorites pop up, but I think each has a revelatory quality. In one instance a movie seen numerous times flat, suddenly changes in character when viewed in Blu-ray 3-D. And for the first time I’m listing a 1970s TV movie that was restored and remastered this year as a labor of love by a boutique Blu-ray company. What with the enormous popularity of streaming TV serials, maybe it’s time to reevaluate TV movies, too.

 


 

So without further delay, here is the

 

CineSavant 2018 Favored Disc Roundup:
The Year’s Most Impressive Blu-rays and DVDs

1.

The Milestone Cinematheque

Strange Victory
Blu-ray
DVD
The motto ‘This Picture Kills Fascists’ would fit this bombshell essay documentary to a T. Everybody makes ‘daring, controversial’ political docu-essay films today, but in an earlier age the practice was considered suspect, especially for filmmakers arguing for unions, social justice and civil rights. This beautifully assembled show is more commonsense truthful than it is leftist; its emotional pull is irresistible. It’s also a social barometer for the sense of moral anxiety and despair that came in the wake of WW2.

Leo Hurwitz’s film wasn’t made welcome in 1948; it’s just too &%#$ truthful and blunt about good old American bigotry and injustice. The passionate, jarring plea for humanist sanity really shakes up viewers, but in a constructive way. One TV executive Hurwitz compared it to The Sermon on the Mount, and it’s still a lightning bolt against fascist ideas flourishing in the Land of the Free. Narrated by Alfred Drake, Muriel Smith, Gary Merrill, Saul Levitt and Faith Elliott Hubley.

 



2.

BFI

It Happened Here
Blu-ray
In film school we were advised not to ape Hollywood forms, but to make our own kinds of movies, about things we knew. Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo were genuine adventurers, too green to know that such rules existed. Still teenagers when filming began on this superlative wartime thriller, they barged ahead anyway, putting in seven years on their incredibly sophisticated show. It’s a political science fiction, a ‘what if’ tale that imagines life in an England occupied by Nazi Germany and run by home-grown English collaborators.

The BFI’s restoration is impeccable, allowing us to appreciate a filmic realism that outdoes big-studio pictures. The period detail and military hardware are uncannily authentic. The young filmmakers stage entire street scenes with period extras, busses and even tanks. A German Army band marches below Big Ben. Brownlow also pushes the limit of the documentary form by using the ugly testimony of real English fascists in a fictional context. The celebrated film expert and author opens up his behind-the-scenes film archive for this dual-format release. With Pauline Murray and Sebastian Shaw.

 



3.

The Cohen Group

La belle noiseuse
Blu-ray
The soul of the French New Wave, the late Jacques Rivette didn’t share in the general acclaim given Godard and Truffaut. Great films like his amazing Paris Belongs to Us remain semi-obscure. This acclaimed 1991 film is the most intense, honest look at the artistic process that I’ve yet seen. It’s a full four hours in duration, and all of it is spent in first-person dialogues, encounters and long, obsessive painting sessions.

Rivette knocks us silly with a breathtaking, demanding meditation on what it means to be an artist, and what art demands of those that believe in it. Roped into posing nude for a famed but insecure painter, an adventurous woman undergoes several intense days of compliant collaboration. Rivette’s unforced style gives the impression of life as it is being lived; his commitment is matched by that of actors Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin and Emmanuelle Béart.

 



4.

The Criterion Collection

Memories of Underdevelopment
Blu-ray
Memorias de subdesarrollo — Who says that communist countries don’t produce fully honest films about life in an ongoing People’s Revolution?  Well, I haven’t seen many. Perhaps the top cinematic output of Cuban filmmaking is Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s investigation of a man who doesn’t embrace the revolution, yet stays on while his relatives and estranged wife emigrate to Miami, with the exodus of Cubans wishing to keep their riches. Preferring to remain apolitical, the handsome Sergio pursues attractive women, as well as the illusion of his own cultural superiority. He’s resolutely selfish, and not a joiner. The state has appropriated his multi-story apartment building, but will allow him to keep charging rent for years. Caught in a morals dispute with the family of one of his lovers, he’s surprised to find that the ‘new’ law doesn’t automatically blame ‘the rich guy.’

Alea’s account of life with Castro is a contemplative look at political change and personal intransigence. It doesn’t shirk from an honest view of conditions in the embargoed island, between The Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Starring Sergio Corrieri, Daisy Granados and Eslinda Núñez.

 



5.

The Criterion Collection

The King of Jazz
Blu-ray + DVD
Entire books have been written about early talkie musicals, most of which are no longer available in anything like their original form. Studios churned out soppy operettas and static recordings of stage acts, and the audience turned their backs as soon as the fad died down.

Back from the cinema graveyard in excellent condition is a genuine rarity: a lavish color musical extravaganza from 1930 that’s been effectively MIA for generations. Who would believe that Universal would undertake such a daunting restoration of this ‘revue-‘ style spectacle?  The playbill includes a full presentation of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in its original orchestration. Starring bandleader Paul Whiteman, John Boles, Bing Crosby (unbilled), Laura La Plante, Glenn Tryon, Slim Summerville and Walter Brennan.

 



6.

Olive Films

Mr. Capra Goes to War:
Frank Capra’s World War II Documentaries

Blu-ray
Film critics have been rather rough on the legacy of the great Frank Capra; and have undercut the reliability of his 1971 autobio. Capra’s fascinating wartime informational films show the director to have been an unbeatable organizer of talent toward a propagandistic goal; they’re efficient communicators of national spirit and resolve. Capra had to formulate the reasons ‘why America must fight’ on his own: when he asked Washington for guidance he was told to just take the ball and run with it.

Critic Joseph McBride’s critical accompaniment is what makes this a must-see disc for serious students of film history, and 20th century history in general. McBride offers a refreshing revisionist take on one of America’s more revered film directors, and nails the meaning of five groundbreaking works of wartime indoctrination. The films are Prelude to War, The Battle of Russia (1+2), The Negro Soldier, Tunisian Victory and Your Job in Germany. Get ready to hear plenty of ‘why we fight’ rhetoric and to see all those dramatic animated maps, with swastika daggers making entire countries bleed.

 



7.

Universal Home Entertainment

Revenge of the Creature
3-D Blu-ray
Released as part of the Creature from the Black Lagoon Complete Legacy Collection.

By 1954 the 3-D craze begun by Bwana Devil was washed up; due to exhibitor complaints and disinterest, even some painstakingly expensive studio releases in 1953 were mostly released flat. When Universal set out in 1955 to make a sequel to its 3-D monster hit Creature from the Black Lagoon, it had to cobble together new equipment for the job. Now seen in 3-D only in special screenings, and poorly served by non-functioning anaglyphic video releases, this ‘bring ’em back alive’ sequel shows director Jack Arnold getting more impact from his efficient 3-D setups, especially some striking underwater photography at a Florida marine life park.

John Agar & Lori Nelson perform underwater psychology experiments on the Gill Man, now on display chained like Sampson at a tourist-destination seaquarium. The Gill Man ignores his cattle-prod conditioning and bides his time until the moment arrives to break free, knock some icthyologist’s heads together and kidnap the shape-of-water shapely leading lady. The monster suit is a little different around the eyes but director Arnold finds new ways to make the Creature menacing — no more wiggly clawed hands reaching at the camera. Our scaled Rebel without a Lung seizes his partner right in the middle of a rock ‘n’ roll song, but, as a traditional amorous monster before Barbara Peeters and Guillermo Del Toro, he doesn’t get to first base in the Old Spawning Game.

Universal flubbed the encoding of Revenge, and the fix-up replacement also has some drawbacks, but the 3-D version here is excellent. The Complete collection includes the first Creature movie plus the very interesting second sequel, The Creature Walks Among Us.

 



8.

The Warner Archive Collection

The Thing from Another World
Blu-ray
Who would have thought that Howard Hawks’ carved-in-stone classic would have spent so long a time out in the freezing? cold of restoration limbo?  A 1990 (+/-) laserdisc restored scenes dropped for a 1950s re-issue, but they didn’t look so hot when higher-res DVD came along. With the missing six minutes finally replaced from rather good 35mm elements, and buttressed by a quality Blu-ray soundtrack featuring Dimitri Tiomkin’s nerve-rattling music score, the menacing invader from space has the ability to jolt viewers once again. It’s first and foremost a superior exercise in suspense: boffo blocking and editing nail several unforgettable ‘boo!’ moments.

Intrepid soldiers and scientists battle a bloodsucking super-carrot at the top of the world!  Hawks’ long takes and overlapping dialogue push his directing style to the limit. We’re barely aware of cuts, which means that when James Arness comes at us in surprise, the effect is tripled. The accomplished cast of non-stars includes Kenneth Tobey (who should have been a bigger star), Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, Dewey Martin and two notable voice-talent stars, Paul Frees and George Fenneman.

 



9.

Eureka / Masters of Cinema

Death in the Garden
Blu-ray + DVD
The mischievous surrealist and ‘devout blasphemer’ Luis Buñuel extended his acid social comment deeper with a jungle survival epic that begins like Vera Cruz (on some of the same locations) but turns into a searing critique of human corruption, from predatory political systems to individual greed and treachery. Filmed in Mexico in the French language — he was still barred from fascist Spain — Buñuel’s second film in color follows a cross-section of folks ‘on the margin’ caught up in a revolution. The adventurer helps a cheated prospector, an untrustworthy prostitute and a confused priest to escape down a river. Their fate is more in line with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness than the romantic The African Queen.

The director’s filmic obsessions again steer toward the anarchistic, the anti-clerical and the anti-bourgeois, with just a slight surreal spin, and shot through with Buñuel’s signature negativity — it could be titled “The Bad, The Greedy and the Faithless.” It’s worth the price of admission to see the crusty survivalist hero Georges Marchal give the finger to a line of riot troops. The rest of the cast is all-star caliber: Simone Signoret, Charles Vanel, Michel Piccoli, and Michèle Girardon.

 



10.

Flicker Alley

The Man Who Cheated Himself
All-region Blu-ray
All hail The Film Noir Foundation, which is racking up an impressive roster of prime films noir rescued from the brink of obliteration. Two years ago the FNF plucked Woman on the Run from doom through an act of ‘benign film piracy.’ The trick for this picture was apparently re-establishing a chain of title that allowed the independent production’s original elements to be sourced for a snappy new transfer.

Felix Feist’s murder coverup tale begins with a shooting in a mansion, roams all over San Francisco and for a stunning finale races to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Feist’s excellent direction also covers up some head-scratching casting: slightly saggy Lee J. Cobb as a romantic leading man?  Sunny, everybody’s-mom Jane Wyatt as a duplicitous killer?   Bring it on!   Also starring John Dall and actress Lisa Howard, whose political backstory is one of the strangest in Hollywood history.

 



11.

Kino Lorber

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
DVD
Matt Tynauer’s frank, unrated documentary is not for all viewers — it knows that its target audience is the Hollywood Babylon fan base, and doesn’t spare the explicit dialogue and a few explicit images. But its amazing show biz saga is too good to pass up: the wild career of gay and straight hustler-procurer Scotty Bowers is built around his 2012 tell-all book about the Hollywood sex underground of the late ’40s and ’50s. Scotty explains what happened in a way that compels belief. It’s a fine docu, sort of an exposé item but far more credible than Kenneth Anger- grade smarm.

In 1946 gay ex-Marine Bowers hit Hollywood as a gas pump boy, and in no time at all became the trusted source for forbidden sex linkups. The amazing thing is that it was all kept secret — through personal integrity and an avoidance of money issues that would attract the Vice Squad. Studio clout probably had a hand in the secrecy as well.

Amazingly, instead of being repelled, we’re charmed by the octagenarian Bowers’ open personality, his candid explanations and his total lack of guilt: he believes in his lifestyle, and he has the kind of integrity one would like in a next-door neighbor.

 



12.

Olive Signature

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Blu-ray
What, this one again?  Don Siegel’s tale of creeping ’50s paranoia strikes back in a worthy new remaster, but the special edition extras make all the difference. I suppose that all of the decade’s sci-fi sagas about ‘the remote control of human beings’ can be traced to Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, but this variation goes a step further, to propose that humans can be replaced by undetectable duplicates that lack only a difficult-to-define human essence. A subversive conspiracy is methodically wiping out humanity, and nobody can tell the difference.

The real treat here is a block of extras we’ve awaited for 12 years — they were produced for an aborted DVD and feature never-before-seen interviews and never-before-heard commentaries with beloved actors that have since passed away: stars Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy. The late sci-fi film authority Bill Warren returns as well; officiating on a couple of the insightful added-value features is director Joe Dante.

 



13.

Powerhouse Indicator

Night of the Demon
Blu-ray
The reputation of this this adaptation of Casting the Runes has soared in the last few years; even Andrew Sarris once condemned it the dismissive phrase ‘on the commercial downgrade.’ We now see Jacques Tourneur’s superior horror drama as central to the ’50s revival of the horror film, parallel with Hammer. Sort of a super-supernatural extension of the Val Lewton horror universe, Demon mixes poetic visual beauty with a sensational controversial demon monster — no fantastic devil-creature ever appeared to more chilling effect (as opposed to gross effect).

The special edition offers the ability to shuffle alternate versions by length, title sequence and aspect ratio: one basic movie but six separate encodings. The fascinating, in-depth extras feature a killer versions comparison feature. Special note; Wayne Schmidt wrote up an illuminating article about his rescue of the uncut version of Night of the Demon for CineSavant in 2017. And don’t forget, “You have only your time allowed!”

 



14.

Powerhouse Indicator

The Stranglers of Bombay
Blu-ray
Released as part of the Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror collection.

The other three pictures in the Blood and Terror collection have their good points, but Terence Fisher’s 1959 shocker is the legendary item that’s attracted so much curiosity over the years, from fans wondering how English censors could tolerate such gruesome tortures and mutilations, to a prurient interest in brief but telling deletions involving Hammer’s most extreme glamour starlet of the day, Marie Devereaux. Were those rakish Hammer execs committed to screen horror, or were they more concerned with having a hot date for the weekend?

David Zelag Goodman’s outrageously non-PC screenplay leaps beyond Hammer sexism to queasy racial arrogance, based on a fuzzy chapter of history that may have been exaggerated to justify the need for English supervision in India. A fanatical cult commits systematic slayings in worship to an ‘evil’ god: “Kali bids us to Kill! KILL!” The depraved leaders are also greedy hypocrites, although a vein of anti-colonial revolt is present as well. Depicted are the sadistic mutilation of eyes, limbs and tongues, not to mention human branding and a foe staked out for murder by King Cobra. The ‘life-is-cheap’ thrills give way to pure horror delirium: Ms. Devereaux’s busty witness to the atrocities implies a Fu Manchu- like Third-World conflation of cruelty and eroticism. Starring Guy Rolfe, George Pastell, Marne Maitland and Jan Holden.

 



15.

Severin Films

Threads
Blu-ray
What with the Blu-ray reissues of the Regan/Thatcher- era The Atomic Cafe and The Day After, 2018 was a big year for nervous Atom Fear. With public awareness of the risk of nuclear annihilation having dropped since the days of Dr. Strangelove, this TV movie informed U.K. audiences about the great time we’d be having if the nuclear powers plunged us into a nuclear winter. The post-atomic horrors traumatized England in 1984, and even saw some cable airings in the U.S. thanks to the liberal media magnate Ted Turner.

The Day After depicted a horrendous thermonuclear attack on Middle America, but Mick Jackson’s TV movie shows the full consequences of a nuclear exchange years after the bombs fall. The Brits actually try to implement their useless civil defense plans, to no avail: the blast, blight and shock is so severe that there’s little in the way of lawless post-nuke anarchy… just an instantaneous regression, in one generation, back to pre-civilized oblivion.

 



16.

Shout Select

Matinee
Blu-ray
Joe Dante & Charles Haas’ ode to adolescent monster fandom has finally been accepted as an audience-favorite classic. It tells the world where much of American youth was in ’62: at the Saturday matinee going nuts over E.A. Poe’s latest adventures starring Vincent Price!  Several themes of the Kennedy era are folded into this layer cake of a comedy about monster movie fandom, but the one that sticks is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kids in Florida’s Key West are just reaching dating age, and suddenly everybody’s afraid that the world might end. The attack scare arrives just as horror-meister John Goodman comes to town with his latest gimmick-laden attraction, “Mant!’  The picture only gets more charming and funny with time, with its great cast of teens responding to the perfect pitch of John Goodman and Cathy Moriarty’s bigger-than-life characters.

Before this year’s happy Region A release, a French Region B Blu was out of the reach of American fans, and all Universal came up with was a shoddy domestic DVD. This excellent new Blu is loaded with the great extras we expect from every Dante-involved home video offering; as he once explained, that’s why he saves cut scenes and other goodies in his garage.

 



17.

Redwing

Sunshine
Blu-ray
This show, The Day After, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler may be the beginning of an encouraging new trend, the remastering of 1970s TV movies and ‘limited series’ in quality HD. I remember watching most of Holocaust, which introduced us to Meryl Streep and Michael Moriarity, but have not seen a good-looking video rendering. The DVDs of the TV movies The Deadly Tower and Helter Skelter were fairly disappointing. Reader response convinces me that Sunshine is a nostalgic favorite. Viewers that saw it in its first broadcast still remember it, even though it’s been out of reach for 45 years.

Remember when TV movies were dissed with the put-down phrase ‘disease of the month?’  This 1973 show surprised and moved audiences with the realistic, true-life story of a young mother facing a fatal illness. It’s directed by the great Joseph Sargent and graced with the music of John Denver, but its impact rests upon the remarkable, affecting performance of actress Cristina Raines, then just twenty years old. With locations in the ‘country roads’ of British Columbia, and co-starring Cliff De Young, Meg Foster, Brenda Vaccaro, Bill Mumy and Corey Fischer, it comes off as a top-quality item.

 



18.

ClassicFlix

Raw Deal
Blu-ray
The long reach of the Film Noir Foundation extends wherever the film style throws a shadow on noir revivals, theatrical and hard digital media. The FNF’s Alan K. Rode produced extras last year for a trio of noir releases from ClassicFlix, and this one combines his talents with those of writers Julie Kirgo, Max Alvarez and Jeremy Arnold. Raw Deal is nowhere near as well known as its Eagle-Lion sister film T-Men. Director Anthony Mann and cameraman John Alton turn their talents to a film that’s less prestigious but more entertaining than many a big-studio noir.

The intoxicating atmosphere begins with the musings of the gangster’s dame Claire Trevor, as she worries whether or not her lover Dennis O’Keefe will still want her after she helps him break out of prison. Sure enough, they’re forced to kidnap Marsha Hunt, a younger woman who soon has O’Keefe’s full attention. Instead of a cold-blooded romantic triangle, the women communicate a range of feminine values — the ruthless villainy is provided by John Ireland and Raymond Burr. Alton’s high-contrast images isolate doomed characters in merciless shadows, and Mann’s signature sadism gives us a fight in a general store, where O’Keefe tries to force Ireland’s face onto the sharp antler prongs of a mounted deer head. Style is the star here, in an on-the-run noir as intense and as rich as the best pulp crime fiction.

 



19.

Twilight Time

No Down Payment
Blu-ray
By 1957 the blacklist was striking back — writer Ben Maddow and director Martin Ritt found a way to get this socially conscious exposé of suburban anxiety and alienation onto the schedule at 20th Fox. As the title proclaims, no money up front will make you the mortgage-holder of the ‘estate’ of your dreams, provided you’re white. Possibly a little too direct in its messaging of sickness in the American dream, much of what we see in the ticky-tacky housing subdivision of Sunrise Hills rings true for those of us who lived it.

Ritt doesn’t pull any punches in scenes in which stressed suburbanites fret over lost status and career limitations due to education. Housewives are linked to their provider-husbands as ‘domestic teams’ in competition with other couples. The crowded cluster of neighbors in Sunrise Hills ensures that nobody can keep a family secret, whether it be alcoholism, career anxiety or plain lust for the neighbor’s wife just over the backyard fence. The cast of young hopefuls, most of them Fox contractees, can’t be beat: Joanne Woodward, Sheree North, Tony Randall, Jeffrey Hunter, Cameron Mitchell, Patricia Owens, Barbara Rush and Pat Hingle. This is likely Ms. Woodward’s last feature before becoming an above-the-title star.

 



20.

The Warner Archive Collection

The Sea Hawk
Blu-ray
There’s still a strong desire for classic-era pictures, but the studios are slow to remaster many titles in need of significant restoration. In terms of Warner Brothers, Humphrey Bogart is fairly well covered, while there are numerous big shows with Errol Flynn, Bette Davis and James Cagney just begging for revisitation; I just saw that a new remaster of Kings Row was cablecast on TCM. Cagney’s White Heat was a revelation restored for HD, and the same holds for the Michael Curtiz / Errol Flynn The Sea Hawk — its incredible production values, exciting direction and amazing music score re-weave the old magic. I intended to spot-check the disc, and ended up going back and humming my way through the whole show.

The Sea Hawk is a thrill ride 1940-style, showing us how much production value Warners could lavish on an exciting, artful swashbuckler. The miniature special effects and full-sized ship sets impress in ways that computer generated images never will. The rousing music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold seals the deal — the term ‘Timeless Adventure Classic’ was invented for marvels like this. Errol Flynn is at his glorious best in grand action on the high seas, backed by greats in fine form: Flora Robson, Henry Daniell, Claude Rains. The underrated but worthy heroine is Brenda Marshall.

This one ignited an unexpected flood of comments at Trailers from Hell, when I described it as a direct influence on Star Wars. I didn’t say it was the only influence, but I was taken to task anyway.

 



21.

Arrow Academy

Inferno: L’enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot
Blu-ray
When does a film abandoned in mid-production warrant an entire feature explaining what happened?  A cinematic puzzle and a filmic detective piece, Serge Bromberg’s examination of H.G. Clouzot’s catastrophic, never-finished production fascinates and dazzles. Clouzot normally pre-planned his fascinatingly precise pictures. On this one he tried for a looser approach, and seems to have lost his way. The ‘hell’ of the title is meant to be the hell of jealous fury, but for the director the torment was being stuck in a film project in which he had lost faith.

If the particulars of Clouzot’s experimental epic remain clouded, the astonishing visuals he created are a total knockout. Romy Schneider is the focus, and the outtakes — apparently dream images meant to express her character’s intoxicating sexual appeal. In the best of the raw dailies, shimmering light effects, all organically created, induce a dizzying sensual overload. Working with hours of uncut dailies and precise collaborator memories, director Bromberg gives us the most interesting filmic autopsy on record. Incredible stuff! Also starring Serge Reggiani and Dany Carrel.

 



 

 

Just as good… the cream of 2018 on disc.

The following list of quick links to original reviews are the 2018 disc releases that I’d recommend to anybody — discs that I try to keep in the front of the shelves, so I won’t lose them. If you see a favorite here maybe it will be a good reminder for something you missed. Some of these would easily make it to a typical ‘Savant Favorites’ list; others are just great pictures released in excellent presentations. Note: All are Blu-rays, except where noted.

 

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer  KL Studio Classics
Age of Consent  Powerhouse Indicator
The Atomic Cafe  Kino Classics

Billy Budd  The Warner Archive Collection
The Vampire Doll on The Bloodthirsty Trilogy  Arrow Films
The Bravados  Twilight Time
A Bucket of Blood  Olive Films
Cash on Demand on Hammer Volume Two: Criminal Intent  Powerhouse Indicator
Cinderella Liberty  Twilight Time
The Colossus of Rhodes  The Warner Archive Collection
Cradle Will Rock  KL Studio Classics
The Cyclops  The Warner Archive Collection
The Day After  KL Studio Classics
Day of the Jackal  Arrow Video
De Niro & De Palma The Early Films  Arrow Video
Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood: Morocco, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress, The Devil is a Woman  The Criterion Collection
Filmworker DVD  Kino Lorber
Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott at Columbia, 1957-1960: The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome, Comanche Station  Powerhouse Indicator
Gas, Food Lodging  Arrow Academy
Gosford Park  Arrow Academy
Gun Crazy  The Warner Archive Collection
Hallelujah the Hills  Kino Classics
The Hanging Tree  The Warner Archive Collection
Hitler’s Hollywood DVD  Kino Lorber
Home from the Hill  The Warner Archive Collection
Hope and Glory  Olive Films

The Horror of Dracula  The Warner Archive Collection
The Horror of Party Beach  Severin Films
The Hospital  Twilight Time
The Incident  Twilight Time
Kameradschaft  The Criterion Collection
The Last Hunt  The Warner Archive Collection
Les Girls  The Warner Archive Collection
Liquid Sky  Vinegar Syndrome
The L-Shaped Room  Twilight Time
The Magnificent Ambersons  The Criterion Collection
The Man Who Cheated Himself  Flicker Alley + DVD
A Matter of Life and Death  The Criterion Collection
The Maze  3-D  KL Studio Classics
Midnight Cowboy  The Criterion Collection
The Misadventures of Biffle and Shooster! DVD  Kino Lorber
My Man Godfrey  The Criterion Collection
The Naked Prey  The Criterion Collection
Never Take Sweets from a Stranger on Hammer Volume Two: Criminal Intent  Powerhouse Indicator
Night of the Living Dead  The Criterion Collection
Nowhere in Africa  Kino Lorber
The Official Story  The Cohen Collection
The Outer Limits Season One;  The Outer Limits Season Two  KL Studio Classics
Rocco and His Brothers  The Milestone Cinematheque
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers  The Warner Archive Collection
The Seven-Ups  Twilight Time
The Silence of the Lambs  The Criterion Collection
Sisters  The Criterion Collection
The Stranglers of Bombay on Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror  Powerhouse Indicator
The Tingler on William Castle at Columbia Volume One  Powerhouse Indicator
The Tree of Life  The Criterion Collection
True Stories  The Criterion Collection
The Vampire and the Ballerina  Scream Factory
The Witches (Le streghe)  Arrow Academy
Women in Love  The Criterion Collection

 



 

 

So 2018 comes to a close. It was a year of changes that began with a second trip out of the country. Everybody stayed healthy; I’ve kept close with friends and cut down on industry screenings — my luck with theatrical pictures was not good: A Quiet Place, First Man. We caught up with most of the year-end Oscar Bait movies for the Online Film Critics Society but only a handful really felt special.

Here’s looking forward to 2019, which gives us hope that our off-balance country can find its center again. Are things ‘as bad as they can be?’   Perhaps the present situation will persuade more of us to choose a saner path.

Thanks again,
Glenn Erickson, December 31, 2018

 

Photos at top of column:
1.  Daughter’s dog Mishka watching television, Christmas 2018.
2.  Sign indicating author’s appropriate residence, from TCM.
3.  Gill Man coming out of the closet as a righteous superhero to heal the moral-ethical void of American politics, July 4, 2018.
4.  Allan Peach’s photo from the Santa Monica Pier, of the Woolsey fire in Malibu, November 2018.
5.  Yours truly as a high school senior, with older sister and younger Brother, San Bernardino 1970.

Photos below disc picks:
6.  Recreating 1969 ‘Columbia’ studios (actually Paramount Pictures on Melrose Blvd) for upcoming Tarantino film. August 11, 2018.
7.  Daughter’s ‘Gort themed’ Christmas banner, December 2018
8.  Grossly overloaded beast of burden CineSavant at Macchu Picchu, Perú, January 2018
09.  Face painting at Day of the Dead celebration at Forever Hollywood cemetery, October 2018.
10.  Glenn visits Bronson Caverns, Labor Day 2018.
11.  Indexing poster collection with Wayne Schmidt, April 2018.
12.  Bugs Bunny and cartoon dog in panicked free fall, not knowing what will happen next. That’s 2018 in a nutshell.


Nostalgic?
Check out previous DVD Savant Favored Disc Roundups:


Savant’s 2017 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2016 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2015 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2014 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2013 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2012 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2011 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2010 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2009 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2008 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2007 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2006 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2005 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2004 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2003 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2002 favored disc roundup
Savant’s 2001 favored disc roundup

This has been a yearly tradition since 2001. Happy Holidays!

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Text © Copyright 2018 Glenn Erickson

About Glenn Erickson

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Glenn Erickson left a small town for UCLA film school, where his spooky student movie about a haunted window landed him a job on the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS effects crew. He’s a writer and a film editor experienced in features, TV commercials, Cannon movie trailers, special montages and disc docus. But he’s most proud of finding the lost ending for a famous film noir, that few people knew was missing. Glenn is grateful for Trailers From Hell’s generous offer of a guest reviewing haven for CineSavant.