Random Media reinforces its love for the offbeat regarding the January 15, 2019 VOD & DVD releases of the 2018 musical dramedy "Tommy Battles the Silver Sea Dragon." This tale of a 20-something (director/writer Luke Shirock) Walter Mitty with more issues than The New Yorker pulls off the tough trick of making a highly experimental film a delight. An even more notable aspect of "Tommy" is that it proves the merits of filmmaking that honors the tradition of valuing art over commerce.
Personal appreciation of "Tommy" relates to its similarities to all-time fave "Colma The Musical." That one has recent high-school grads in the titular working-class suburb of San Francisco sing and dance as they deal with poseurs and other harsh realities.
The following YouTube clip of a "Tommy" trailer highlights the surreal vibe that runs throughout the film; this promo. also demonstrates how this movie can be considered "Law and Order Rock." This is not to mention the glimpse of a hilarious scene in which Tommy turns a thrift store into his playground.
The symbolism in this mostly sung flick begins with the opening images of a full-frontal Tommy walking out of the ocean; his clothes magically fly to him and perform a reverse Full Monty.
The action takes off a few minutes later when a sleeping Tommy is awoken and quickly dragged Gestapo-style out of his home. He then is thrown into the stereotypical black sedan where he is driven to a court building for a perp. walk followed by the commencement of a trial for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Carolyn. The singing prosecutor, the warbling defense attorney, and the jury being a literal chorus provide the smoking gun that we are in for a wild ride.
Conflicting evidence regarding Tommy having accidentally shot his brother several years early provides solid proof both that we cannot believe everything that we see and that the subconscious mind of our main man drives much of the action, Subsequently learning about the real life of this reel character explains the confusion.
The presentation of evidence rehashes the course of the Tommy/Carolyn relationship from their cute meeting at the prom, through their impromptu "Young Hearts" fleeing from their childhood home, to their honeymoon period, and then to the stage between love and goodbye. This leads to the final exit that is the center of the judicial proceedings.
The nature of this nightmare dreamscape makes the heavy psychological elements very apt. It also reminds of the extent to which our childhoods shape us.
The narrative technique of making this a musical is equally appropriate. As folks who are familiar with the genre know, this form of expression typically expresses strong emotions such as the ones that Carolyn heading out into the city triggers in the man who is not deaf, dumb, or blind regarding this development.
As stated above, Shirock hits all the right notes in presenting this story in this manner. It is unlikely that you will find another quite like it and definitely not one that succeeds any better.
The good news is that anyone reading this post on the recent Warner Archive DVD release of the Gary Cooper/Patricia Neal 1949 drama "The Fountainhead" is at least a potential juror regarding the unusual level of preaching regarding the philosophies of your not-so-humble reviewer and of controversial author/screenwriter Ayn Rand. A related note is that the following takes a much more bloggy approach to the topic than is typical for this site. However, better understanding the relevant concepts requires the personal touch.
The bad news is that Archive shows a limited lack of integrity in not releasing this well remastered black-and-white film in Blu-ray. Director King Vidor ("Stella Dallas") tremendously channels Orson Welles in the use of contrasts, shadows, grand sets, and other Kafkaesque elements. This screams for a format that fully showcases this artistry.
Rand being the GOP elephant in the room requires dealing with her first; many people dislike her harsh personality and hard line regarding standing strong and independent; the rest of the story is that she merely calls for a valiant effort to support yourself before relying on the kindness of strangers. Regarding her stern personality, she simply can be considered a right-wing Hillary Clinton or Notorious RBG.
A related note that segues into "Fountainhead" is that central character architect Howard Roark (Cooper) takes self-reliance to an degree that exceeds the requirements of Rand. This man of integrity is down to his last $14.67 when a successful "sell-out" colleague offers a loan that is absolutely no sacrifice to that creditor. Roark declines that offer and subsequently takes a hot and grueling job in a granite quarry.
Roark (and Rand) strongly speak to me because this talented architect finds himself below the poverty level only because he refuses to compromise his integrity. I would not continue writing about "Fountainhead" and other limited-interest releases if the cost of that work included banging away in a quarry (or working at Wal-Mart), but I pay a price both for what I review and how I operate my site.
Just as Roark openly admits his desire for earning a good living, I would love to have more top releases interspersed among the art-house fare about which I write. I also would like to have my very respectable (and valued) readership grow to the point that equally respectable (sorry, Bezos) companies would advertise on my site. However, I feel very strongly about not directly or indirectly buying readers. I think that my posts are informative and entertaining and remain hopeful that more people will discover them and come on board simply because they value my content.
The many woes regarding the corporate site that recruited me in 2006 to write about my field of graduate study and then allowed me to start a section that "examines" TV on DVD developments includes the blatant way that that site inflates numbers. Writers are constantly told to have social media followers simply click on a post and to tell those followers that they do not need to read the content.
A little closer to home, I have a nice online friendship with an intelligent and well-educated guy who is a true blogger. Like me, he writes well and has an interesting perspective. Unlike me, he essentially prostitutes himself in recognition that sex sells.
The social media activity of my peer heavily focuses on his sexual adventures. He also regularly either posts about plans to upload revealing photos of himself or actually shares those images with the world. A recent example is a selfie in which this man is nude and standing in front of a bathroom mirror; the sink blocks everything right below his trimmed short and curlies. Just the other day finds him groping himself inside his designer unmentionables.
For the record, such a revealing photo of your not-so-humble reviewer would drive away the relatively small population of current supporters. Similarly, it is irrelevant 9.9 times out of ten what I am doing or wearing while watching a review DVD; the same is true regarding with whom I am watching the program or film. Such information is shared only in cases such as "Fountainhead" in which it is highly relevant to the topic.
Finally getting down to the film itself, the philosophy of a friend puts the story in perfect context. This belief is that arrogance is not arrogant if adequate talent supports this 'tude.
The opening scene has Roark being ousted from architecture school for refusing to conform to the norm; we then see him receiving similar treatment in the office of eccentric innovative architect Henry Cameron. Cameron does relent and provide Roark (hopefully) gainful employment.
We then catch up with a struggling Roark several years later with the aforementioned pittance in his pocket and colleague Peter Keating offering the loan. This coincides with Roark being offered a job that provides fame and fortune. His refusal to agree to demanded design changes leads to his pulling a Flintstone.
Meanwhile, socialite/newspaper columnist/Keating fiancee Dominque Franchon (Neal) is fending off the civilized advances of boss/tabloid New York Banner publisher Gail Wynand (Raymond Massey). The stresses in her life drive her to the country estate of her father.
It is lust at first site when Franchon finds a sweaty and muscular Roarke in the quarry near the estate; her intentions and clumsy ruse to get him in her bedroom being transparent do not prevent the pair delivering a very steamy love scene by 1949 standards.
Franchon and Roark ultimately return to the real world. Their lives become fully entangled when a series of circumstances lead to Franchon marrying Wynand, who is oblivious to the history of his wife and his architect when he hires the latter to design a house that is a tribute to the tribute.
Another source of drama relates to prissy Banner architecture columnist Ellsworth M. Toohey having a figurative (if not literal) hard-on for Roark. The nature of this animosity is the film-long theme of the refusals of Roark to conform to the norm and to compromise his integrity for the common good. His designing a luxury apartment building at a time that many people struggle to find decent affordable housing is one pretext for this smear campaign, In other words, Toohey is asserting that the needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the individual.
The extended climax awesomely includes Toohey admitting his covert evil scheme. These concepts that you should not believe everything that you read and that even propaganda that supports your side still is propaganda is highly relevant in 2018.
Meanwhile, Roark agrees to be the ghost architect for Keating on an affordable housing project. Anyone capable of deducing who is the villain in a "Scooby-Doo" episode can predict Keating caving regarding a demand to change the design. This leads to a highly symbolic well-known scene in which Roark demonstrates the extent to which he will protect his integrity.
This turmoil leads to an apt Mexican standoff that is comparable to the current government shutdown; Wynand essentially must decide whether is on Team Roark or Team Keating. An element of this is facing the consequences of creating a monster in a couple of senses of that word.
In what seemingly is obligatory for most movies of the '30s and '40s, the climax includes a highly charged courtroom scene. Of course, Roark makes an impassioned speech, The possibility that the integrity of Rand wins out over the demanded norm of a Hollywood ending leaves the conclusion in doubt until the judge declares the judgment.
The Warner Archive November 20, 2018 DVD release of the 1965 Natalie Wood drama "Inside Daisy Clover" evokes memories of the gritty "tell it like it is" films, such as "Easy Rider" (1969) and "Five Easy Pieces" (1970). of the era. The larger picture is that "Daisy" arguably is a brutal semi-fictionalized portrait of Judy Garland and of Wood herself to a lesser extent. Wood being 26 when she makes this film about America's 15 year-old "little Valentine" is the smoking gun regarding this theory.
Although Ruth Gordon only receives an Oscar nomination for her perfect portrayal of the senile mother of Clover, that role nets her a Golden Globe. Cast member Robert Redford gets a Golden Globe for "Most Promising Newcomer - Male" for his role as macho man movie star Wade Lewis, who is fond of beards. It is interesting that Redford is two years older than Wood but plays a character who is roughly a decade older than Clover.
The following YouTube clip of a '60stastic trailer for "Daisy" uses an entertaining apt newsreel tone to convey the "True Hollywood Story" aspect of the film.
"Daisy" opens in August 1936 with Angel Beach, California tough street kid Clover telling the audience that it is her 15th birthday; the graffiti that she adds to the wall against which she is slouching reflects her disdain for her older sister Gloria; a latter scene establishes that marrying up is the chosen route of Gloria to escape the trailer-trash existence of Clover and their mother.
Other glimpses of the "before she was a star" life of Daisy include her hilarious fending off the advances of her horny teen boy friend. We also see Gordon just now reporting the disappearance of her long-absent husband. The rationale for this delay is one of the best lines in this well-written film by Alan J. Pakula ("To Kill A Mockingbird") and Robert Mulligan ("Mockingbird" and "Summer of '42".)
Stardom literally arrives on the doorstep of the double-wide that Daisy and her mother share when Hollywood producer Raymond Swan (Christopher Plummer) sends a limousine to deliver Daisy to a screen test in response to a record of herself that she submits as an entry in a talent contest.
The realities of fame soon set in for Daisy. Gloria swoops in to get a piece of the action; Ma gets shipped off to Shady Pines, and Swan invents a new life story for his latest discovery. This is not to mention coercing Daisy into adapting her private life to conform with her public image. A notable scene in which the studio goes well beyond having Daisy wearing a Kansas farm girl outfit and toting (pun intended) a terrier is one of the most memorable in this exceptional film,
Redford showing up at just the right place and time leads to sweeping away Daisy; sadly, in true Hollywood style, the honeymoon period is cut short. Additional trauma and drama pushes our starlet closer to the edge.
All of this climaxes with the dam breaking; the final scenes truly show the price of fame.
The appeal of all this is that both Daisy and the audience learn a moral. Resenting a celebrity for earning far more in a few months than most of us earn in a lifetime is reasonable. We must remember that, especially in this Internet Age and #MeToo era, that that compensation includes payment for sacrificing any privacy and for never dropping a facade, Tom Cruise deserves tremendous credit for never responding to a cry of "show me the money" by showing that moron the finger.
Archive lightens the mood by including the 1964 Road Runner cartoon "War and Pieces" as a DVD extra. The epic name for this outing is apt based on it being the last Chuck Jones cartoon for Warner Bros until the '80s. The cleverness of the variations on the theme of traps backfiring on Wile E. Coyote are too amusing to spoil. Suffice it to say that Jones goes way beyond our villain holding a stick of dynamite when it explodes.
A year-end rush is behind a criminal delay in requesting a copy of the Mill Creek Entertainment award-worthy December 18, 2018 complete-series Blu-ray release of "The Shield." Not getting a set in time to declare this set the top release of 2018 elevates the delay-related offense from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Stating that MCE greatly outshines itself and hits almost every Unreal TV criteria for an exceptional home-video release is not hyperbole. The lack of a play-all feature is the non-fatal flaw that prevents declaring that this CS set is perfect. The serial nature of the series makes this sin a little worse than it would be in other cases; requiring a little extra navigation in the main menu adds insult to injury.
The near-perfection begins with the design-award worthy packaging. The sturdy outer-cardboard box is the first indication of love of product and attention to detail. This opens and folds out to an image of tough-as-nail rogue L.A. police detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his strike team around which "Shield" centers. This motley crew is accompanied by their colleagues who play by the rules to varying degrees.
The solidly bound book (complete with embossed shield) is encased in a holster that feature the very apt tag line "The road to justice is twisted." This reflects the Mackey philosophy that just about any means justify a proper end that includes savings his own flank. His not blinking as he brutally exterminates a rat with extreme prejudice in the pilot hits that point home.
The first page in the book is a love letter to fans by creator/producer/ "Angel" veteran Shawn Ryan, who bears a passing resemblance to Mackey. This correspondence nicely confirms that Ryan and viewers share the same high regard for the series; the answer to the question of whether "Shield" survives the test of time is a resounding yes despite the mentioned outdated tech. and references.
On a general level, having a rough average of 13 episodes in each of the seven seasons reflects the "less is more" philosophy of British series. The idea is that a handful of high-quality episodes is better than presenting 20-or-more mediocre outings,
Each subsequent well-secured page in the book includes a detailed episode synopsis and puts the corresponding BD disc in a slot that allows removing and replacing it without risk of scratching. We also get a description of the Bonus Features on the disc.
The two discs of Bonus Features are the icing on the cake. a 2018 reunion that includes Ryan, Chiklis, and other cast members that include CCH Pounder provides something to which to look forward when time permits. Theses copious extras also include an ATX Television Festival Writer's Room Panel in which Ryan also participates.
Another voluntary confession regarding this 2002-08 FX series is that an ongoing struggle to clear enough space on my two Tivos and to otherwise keep up with the many strong programs of that era are behind not watching "Shield" during its initial run; the current chance to remedy that sin of omission is another valued attribute of the MCE release.
The strongest accolade for "Shield" is IMDb users ranking it as #86 on the list of top-rated shows of all time. The series has an additional 15 wins and 58 more nominations that must include "they waz robbed" losses. One can only fantasize about putting the people responsible for those slights alone in a room with Mackey.
"Shield," which is a perfect companion to (reviewed) overlapping FX hit "Rescue Me," tells the tales of the men and women who wok out of "The Barn" in the inner-city Farmington (a.k.a. Farm) District of Los Angeles. As indicated above, Mackey and his team are more concerned with taking gaping and bleeding bites out of crime than following either police procedures or Constitutional requirements.
This theme requires a brief aside, The philosophy of Mackey reflects the dilemma that plagues law enforcement personnel. Prohibiting things such as beating a subject and many warrantless searches are in response to those tactics despite their solid results. Tying the hands of the police validly protects important rights of suspects at the expense of allowing many criminals to go free.
Another way of looking at this is that most people would say what is required to make a beating stop; we also would not want the police to knock down our front door, subject us to an extensive body search, or rip apart our car without an assurance that they have valid cause for doing so,
The cowboy tactics of Team Mackey at best earn them tacit approval; it also gets them the animosity of two colleagues who object to this coloring outside the lines.
Police Captain David Acevada is a competent Col. Klink in that he gets the corner office without spending any time in the trenches and in that his efforts to hold Mackey accountable for his misconduct (at least in S1) prove fruitless. Mackey is more like the Road Runner than Col. Hogan in that it seems that Acevada is destined to succeed until his plan explodes in his face at the last minute.
Partner-in-crime-solving Detective Holland "Dutch" Wagenbach is another thorn in the side of Team Mackey. This nerd who seems to have a night stick shoved up his butt is in constant conflict with the jocks whom he hates for their Dartmouth frat boy approach to their jobs. Good hilarity related to Wagenbach comes in the form of comeuppance that he receives. Revealing the perpetrator of that prank is icing on the cake.
Wagenbach often getting his man and showing that he has game in bringing down a particularly elusive bad hombre shows that this honor student has chops and can school the cool kids.
The central crime in the pilot perfectly illustrates both the tone of "Shield" and the arguable merits of Mackey. Initially discovering that the young daughter of a murder victim is missing leads to learning that the girl ends up in the hands of one pedophile, who transfers her to an even more twisted child molester. These desperate times lead to the desperate measure of calling in Mackey with full knowledge of how he will interrogate a suspect. It is ironic that he does not phone it in.
The pilot further establishes the pattern of snitches getting stitches. A later "student" further learns of the collateral damage regarding such well-intentioned efforts.
What starts as essentially aside comments regarding plumbing problems developing into a hilarious disaster further demonstrates the genius of "Shield." The show is like a box of chocolates in that you never know what you will get.
One S1 episode that also proves the unpredictability of "Shield" has an almost literal smoking gun leading to breaking up the strike team. This disbanding the brothers leads to pairing them up with other "Barn" animals.
The most amusing reassignment gives loose cannon team member Shane Vendrell a dutch treat in the form of working with Wagenbach. As "The Breakfast Club" shows us, the hall monitor and the QB do not need to be at the throats of each other.
Mackey teams up with pragmatic detective Claudette Wyms (Pounder). His scene-stealing moment consists of proposing that they first do things her way and then his way. He notes that the order is based on the chivalrous principle of ladies first.
Chickens aptly come home to roost in a phenomenal S1-ending story arc. The numerous hilarious cock jokes greatly contribute to the fun.
The already extensive length of this post precludes delving into the interesting private lives of our men and women in plain clothes or even into the many more cases that provide them continuing on-the-job training, The overall message is that you should trust Ryan; he knows what he is doing.
'The Karate Kid Part III' / 'The Next Karate Kid' Blu-ray Double Feature: Further Adventures of Daniel-San & Mr. Miyagi
The Mill Creek Entertainment January 8, 2019 Blu-ray double feature release of "The Karate Kid Part III" and "The Next Karate Kid" offers a chance for a fun escapist evening during the dark and cold weather that is settling in for most of us. The bright sunshine and corny plots full of teen angst and earnestness is the perfect cure for what ails us.
The best news is that rewatching the original 1984 "Kid" reinforces that it has many merits. The concept is that (somewhat ala the '70scom "Alice") teen Jersey boy Daniel Russo (Ralph Macchio) is uprooted when his mother takes a job in Los Angeles. Like "Alice," the family station wagon barely makes the trip. The other similarity that the family ends up living in a shabby apartment.
Ala '70scom "One Day at a Time," building superintendent Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) becomes a father figure. This handyman transform Daniel into the titular martial arts teen sans shell in response to that new kid in town being the victim of vicious bullying.
The quality of the first film and the cuteness and the charm of Macchio in it make it worth watching.
"Karate Kid II" commences in the immediate wake of the tournament that provides the climax of "Kid." Daniel and his sensei soon travel to the Miyagi birthplace of Okinawa where adventure and romance once again ensue for these friends.
"III" begins with flashbacks that briefly recap "I" and "II" before joining Daniel and Miyagi landing at LAX from their Asian trip, The context for the following thoughts on "III" are that it is so absurdly bad that it is good. The first problem is that Macchio is much less cute, charming, and naive than in the first film.
The comic-book nature of "III" relates to over-the-top villain Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). This grown-ass one-percenter has a ridiculous vendetta against Daniel and Miyagi for their provoked humiliation of John Kreese and the Cobra Kai "gang" of that once-respected karate master. Much of the unintended humor relates to our heroes having no idea about that animus.
A concurrent series of unfortunate circumstances lead to a premise for a sitcom in the form of Daniel moving in with Miyagi and becoming his partner in a bonsai tree store. The love interest is Jessica (Robyn Lively), who owns and operates a nearby pottery shop.
Silver recruits Cobra Kai student Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) to goad a still-oblivious Daniel into entering the tournament that he won at the end of "Kid." The idea is that Daniel will lose to Barnes and restore the "honor" of Cobra Kai.
This not-so-subtle persuasion leads to a cliffhanger that results in Daniel registering for the contest; Miyagi refusing to train him and pulling an inarguably dick move drives our still-clueless post-adolescent into the web of Silver. The "grand reveal" arguably is the best bad moment in "III."
"III" winds up with a deja-vu all over again moment; Daniel is getting badly pummeled in his championship match with Barnes; it seems that all is lost until (of course) Daniel rallies and (perhaps literally) kicks the ass of the larger and stronger Barnes. Of course, this sends Silver and Kreese into hysterical in both senses of the word tailspins.
"The Next Karate Kid" is a kinder and gentler movie that attempts to reboot the franchise. It opens with Miyagi attending a ceremony honoring his WWII Army unit; meeting the widow of his Anglo commanding officer leads to Miyagi visiting that woman, who is raising orphaned granddaughter Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank).
A series of unfortunate circumstances this time leads to Miyagi becoming the caretaker of troubled teen Julie. The love interest is hunky blond-boy Eric, who is not put off by the hostility of Julie,
The Cobra Kai element this time is the ROTC/Hitler Youth style school group the Alpha Elite, which counts a reluctant Eric among its members. The dual catalysts for conflict are Alpha Elite teen leader Ned wanting to get in the pants of a reluctant Julie and related defiance by Eric getting him ousted from the group.
The rest of the story is that Miyagi takes Julie to a Buddhist monastery for karate training that is designed to teach her discipline and to improve her 'tude..They return home only to find that things have not changed much.
Excitable boy Ned ultimately pushes Eric too far in a manner that leads to a late-night rumble. We learn whether boys do cry and the extent to which a girl must be brought in to do the job of a man.
As mentioned above, the appeal of "III" and "Next" is the escapist fun of this continuation of a franchise that has a solid base.
The Film Movement division Film Movement Classics January 8, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1997 drama "Bent" continues what Classics describes as an effort to rescue (often largely forgotten) notable films from the vault. The awesomeness of these releases extends well beyond the pristine remasters of these art-house gems and the exceptional bonus features to releasing them without the arrogance associated with a competitor (which Classics regularly outshines) that claims to set the criterion for such films.
Like all classics, the value of "Bent "includes the relatability of the movie. The broadest level is the extent to which many of us have been persecuted for what someone "bigger and stronger" considers a flaw; another aspect of this is the ongoing storm trooper tactic of dragging innocent people out of their homes regardless of the legitimacy of that act. A lighter note is that "Bent" is a darker and better-quality version of the 1993 Robert Sean Leonard and Christian Bale film "Swing Kids," which depicts a Disneyfied image of Nazi oppression.
The pedigree of "Bent" begins with screenwriter Martin Sherman basing this period piece on his play of the same name. The merits continue with Clive Owen doing an exceptional job in the lead and Sir Ian McKellen having a very memorable cameo. This is not to mention Mick Jagger dressing in drag to perform in a gay cabaret.
The opening scenes of "Bent" present additional relatable elements of the film. Openly gay Max (Owen) is waking up in 1934 Berlin with thoughts that include the prior night of decadence at the aforementioned night club in his head. His first rude awakening is in the form of partner Rudy (Brian Webber) being displeased about the presence of the younger and cuter man who spent the night.
The persistent pounding on the door turning out not to be the landlord seeking back rent is the second wake-up-call. The interlopers are Nazi soldiers that are there as part of the Night of the Long Knives that is designed to strengthen the power of Hitler. Max and Rudy get caught up in that because the twink hook-up is a particular target of that campaign.
The first bit of context is that "swing kids," gay men, and other folks who enjoy partying, boogieing, and getting down in early '30s Berlin are like those who embrace The Jazz Age of '20s America. They live in a bubble and either are oblivious to or do not care about the coming storm. This leads to their worlds immediately crashing down on them. The increasing evidence that most of us are in for a very rough period shows that these reversals of fortune are not a thing of the past.
An even more personal aspect is the price that the vast majority of us have paid for youthful mistakes in the form of bringing the wrong person home. Although this often does not involve armed invaders, we learn to deeply regret our bad judgment,
The raid ends very badly for the cute young thing and forces Max and Rudy to go on the run; Max seeking the assistance of partially closeted respectable family man Uncle Freddie (McKellen) conveys another aspect of gay life that continues today.
The Nazis catching up with our boys while they are living rough leads to the couple being put on a train to Dachau. The relatable aspect this time is Max having his loyalty to his partner tested. This leads to additional cruelty that is COMPLETELY designed to humiliate Max and another passenger for the entertainment of the soldiers.
Max continuing his pattern of cutting a deal meets moderate success at Dachau; he gets the coveted job of moving rocks from one pile to another that is designed to trigger insanity. Fellow prisoner Horst (Lotharie Bluteau) gets the same assignment.
The interaction between Max and Horst provides the most compelling moments of "Bent." It is clear that Horst has more pride and integrity than Max. The icing on the cake is the highly erotic manner in which the men get to experience intimacy under intensely close scrutiny by the guards, The skill during these scenes makes us believe that Horst feels pain despite a lack of physical contact.
This bonding makes us believe that Max feels true love for the first time and experiences a related evolution. His paying a heavy price out of that love leads to an intense scene with a tragic end. These events further demonstrate the human capacity for cruelty.
The most apt final thought regarding Bent" is the one that this post and many other articles on this film note; it reminds us that Jewish people are not the only Holocaust victims and that the persecution that it depicts is not limited to Nazi Germany.
The aforementioned extras begin with a booklet that includes essays by "Bent" director Sean Mathias on his approach to the project and by film historian Steven Alan Carr on the historical context of the film. Both writings confirm that this film is brave and bold.
The bonus features largely consist of presentations of clips from interviews with the stars. We also get Mick Jagger discussing his uncertainty regarding his ability to adapt to the style of the music in the film. A highlight is the Jagger "Streets of Berlin" music video.
The recent Warner Archive 6-disc DVD set of the 1963-64 S1 of "Mr. Novak" provides a good chance to start 2019 on the right note. This Peabody Award winning anthology drama about the challenges of the titular newbie English teacher shows us what good television drams used to be and can be again.
We meet titular idealistic young educator John Novak on his first day as an English teacher at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. Fellow newbies include once-and-future teacher (Ed Asner), who is returning to the blackboard jungle after leaving that profession to earn a more lucrative living. The very frank orientation that these rookie faculty members receive provides viewers an education regarding the perspective of the folks who try to cram knowledge into the heads of kids. These pearls of wisdom include observing that every teacher has at least one student whom he or she detests but still must instruct.
This pilot also establishes the mentor/mentee relationship that handsome young blond Novak has with older and wiser principal Albert Vane (Dean Jagger). This is comparable to the relationship between fresh-faced Dr. Kildare and crusty Dr. Gillespie in the film franchise and television series that feature that pair.
Speaking of Vane, we also get insight into the life of a principal. Not many of us think about how these men and women juggle the heavy demands on their time that largely involve meting out discipline that meets the best needs of the malfeasor, refereeing disputes, attending meetings, and ensuring that his ship stays afloat.
The aforementioned first day starts badly before Novak even enters the school; his car is the victim of a hit-and-run by a student seconds after Novak parks that vehicle. The plot thickens on the guilty literal honors student being on the verge of dropping out and his father supporting that decision.
Another early episode creates great expectations of a "Jessie's Song" episode; Novak catching an over-achieving science whiz cheating on an English assignment creates angst regarding whether to follow a procedure that will be very detrimental to the student. Although it is discovered that this model student is greatly over extended, it is disappointing that he does not turn to caffeine pills for relief,
A particularly timely episode has national treasure Lillian Gish playing veteran biology/sex ed teacher Miss Phipps. She is coming under fire for telling the kids the facts of life. A student whom it is highly suggested is the wife in a shotgun elopement helps hit the point home this time. A "do stand so close to me" outing has a young teacher who is the object of a schoolboy fantasy share the affections of that lad.
The first-half of S1 also has a twofer episode that includes the worst nightmare of any teacher. A student who already has a bad relationship with Novak gets injured while the teacher is breaking up a fight. The first part of the story is dealing with the school-related fallout associated with a faulty member using bodily force on a student. The second "fer" relates to the legal system tradition of taking the easy way out by paying a settlement without much thought to actual culpability. A reference to an attorney named Arnie Becker at an L.A. law firm adds to the fun.
The "Novak" writers especially torment Novak with a Friday from Hell that begins with parents (including a father played by Edward Platt of "Get Smart") getting very belligerent and that ends with this newbie getting schooled in the pitfalls of being tardy for committee meetings. A change of pace for Novak and the series occurs when he then accepts a last-minute invitation to a weekend party at the family estate of a wealthy former girlfriend.
Hours of abuse by the rich and powerful finally prompts Novak to give a speech to those privileged elite. This conveys exactly the right message to folks who do not think that teachers deserve much regard.
On the other side of the coin, another episode has Novak challenging the easy life of a teacher who gets by with jokes and helping students cheat. The fun in this one includes watching our fair-haired boy embrace the dark side,
Larger social issues include intense harassment of black students despite ABSOLUTELY no provocation, a problem child from a disadvantaged background, and mainstreaming blind students. We also get looks at teachers battling alcoholism and otherwise contending with the stress of their profession, The message each time is that Novak is committed to putting right what once went wrong.
The value of series such as "Novak" is that they provoke thought and discussion in ways that largely stay away from being preachy. Our hero mostly strikes the proper balance between being a crusader and a realist.
Warner Archive releasing "The 13th Chair Double Feature" on November 13, 2018 continues the grand Archive tradition of releasing two (or more) versions of the same film. In this case, the titular double-bill is two very different approaches to the titular British murder mystery.
Folks who are familiar with "Freaks" and/or other Tod Browning films can accurately predict that his 1929 production is more atmospheric and lurid than the 1937 film by George B. Seitz, whose credits include "Andy Hardy" films. The latter is lighter in tone and gives this work originally presented as play more of a live-stage vibe than Browning.
This post will respect the assumed Archive intent of wanting viewers to get the full impact of the differences in the film. A modern example of this contrast is having Tim Burton and '90s-era Ben Affleck separately direct the same story. Part of this full enjoyment relates to not spoiling the very different casting.
Both films are set in Calcutta and occur in the aftermath of the murder of an expat Brit. who is no gentleman.
The usual suspects for this type of film begins with John Wales, who is the best friend of the deceased. His literally fatally flawed plan to obtain justice for his chum includes staging a seance. Like a good Englishman, Wales hopes that stacking the deck in his favor will result in the culprit becoming a guest of the king.
We also get a royal family in the form of the Crosbys. The secretary of Mrs. Crosby planning to marry into the family contributes to the angst among the group.
The portrayals of medium Mme. LaGrange in the two films are among the most significant differences in the versions. Both are highly entertaining in that this is a very broad character. Additionally, this quirky individual shares some tricks of the trade.
The subsequent seance that inspires the title of the play and the films produces drama that greatly thickens the plot. This results in deduction that leads to the typical drawing-room scene that results in revealing whodunit. A partial spoiler is that the final scene of the Browning film greatly outshines the conclusion of the later version.
The broadest appeal of this release is the aforementioned demonstration of how the same source material can produce radically different results. The narrower focus is that this is another example of Archive facilitating modern audiences getting to see how movies should be made.
'Forever My Love' DVD: Cliff Notes Dubbed Version of Epic Trilogy Docudrama Trilogy on Life of Austrian Empress Sissi
The Film Movement November 13, 2018 DVD release of the classic 1962 period-piece romdram "Forever My L:ove" is an awesome present to both the general movie-going public and to your not-so-humble reviewer. This release of this English-dubbed condensed version of the trilogy of films known as "The Sissi Collection" allows folks who only have 2.5 hours to experience this epic to watch the version that is a holiday favorite.
This release also allows a holiday treat in the form of allowing regifting an edited version of a review of the Movement October 2017 Blu-ray release of "Collection," which includes "Forever." One disclaimer is that our topic du jour does not include every scene to which this post refers. Please consider these mentions a bonus regarding "Forever."
Folks whom this real-life fairy tale with strong elements of the Princess Diana story greatly intrigues are encouraged to purchase "Collection." The "Trekkies" (rather than "Trekkers") regarding this epic likely will be content with "Forever."
The highly significant other of your not-so-humble reviewer sharing that images of the real-life Sissi still prominently appear throughout Vienna provides a sense of the significance of both "Forever" and the trilogy.
"Sissi" from 1955 is a Cinderella story in a few senses of the word. The film opens with jocular Duke Max in Bavaria fishing with a few of his eight children in the idyllic wilderness around their castle. The group returns home to dine and is subdued by Duchess Ludovika (a.k.a. Mom).
An excited Ludovika (a.k.a. Vicki) soon summons daughter Helene (a.k.a. Nene) to privately share that Archduchess Sophie is summoning Nene to marry cousin/newly coronated Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph. A desire to conceal the purpose of this family reunion prompts bringing oblivious teen tomboy Sissi along.
The Cliff Notes of what follows is that an amusing wacky misunderstanding causes a bumbling security officer to mistake Sissi for an enemy of the state, Sissi and Franz meet and fall in love without fully realizing whom the other is, Nene and Sissi experience sibling rivalry, and our fairy-tale couple have a storybook wedding complete with fireworks but sans animated woodland creatures.
"Sissi: the Young Empress" amusingly foreshadows the Princess Di story in that newly wed Empress Sissi is highly popular with her subjects and is at war with her mother-in-law. Two particularly large bones of contention relate to Sissi having a more lenient and supportive attitude towards Hungarian malcontents than Archduchess Sophie, and Sophie literally taking the infant heir to the throne away from Sissi.
The "incognito" element is particularly strong in "Empress." A spontaneous undercover second honeymoon soon after the (presumably) first one finds our couple staying at a small rustic mountain inn. Watching these young lovers freely frolic and literally spit shine boots is great fun.
Another particularly cute scene has Franz Joseph giving homesick Sissi a literal taste of Bavaria and distressing his mother (who comes across as the party pooper) in the process. Despite the grandness of this gesture, Sissi equally literally runs home to mother to escape the trauma and the drama of palace life.
Of course, this fairy tale epic reunites Sissi and Franz Joseph and ends with the grand spectacle that is a trademark of this trilogy. These final scenes additionally incorporate the nature scenes that enhance the films and make viewers want to visit the region.
The 1957 film "Sissi: The Fateful Years" maintains the style and the quality of the other two films in the trilogy. The Di thread continues with mother-in-law problems and rumors of infidelity.
The "Forever" extras include a making-of featurette and an excerpt from the documentary "Elisabeth [a.k.a. Sissi] Enigma of an Empress."
All of this shows that either "Collection" or "Forever" provide hours of beautiful scenery, a love for the ages, and a lesson in 19th-century European history.
The recent Warner Archive DVD release of the 1950 Hitchcock melodrama "Stage Fright" allows adding the film that generally-unrepentant Hitch acknowledges betrays the trust of the viewing public to your video library. This is on top of newly-former Mrs. Reagan (and future "Falcon Crest" matriarch) Jane Wyman, Marlene Dietrich, and Alastair Sim perfectly playing their parts in the flick that the National Board of Review, USA includes in its list of the Top 10 Films of 1950.
"Fright" also is notable for joining Archive Blu-rays of two Hitchcock films for Warner. The aptly titled (and reviewed) based on a true story "The Wrong Man" has Henry Fonda portraying a musician who pays a heavy price for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The also reviewed "I Confess" has Montgomery Clift playing a priest with a past who agonizes over letting someone get away with murder. Any cinephile will delight in finding a bundle of these three releases under the Christmas tree or the Hanukkah bush.
The amusingly labeled curtain literally going up at the end of the opening credits sets the stage for Hitchcock to particularly show that he and Orson Welles are cousins in filmmaking; "Fright" being in black-and-white and making good use of shadows and other contrasts is another indication that Hitchcock and Welles influence each other.
Our story begins with Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd) making a run for the border with the assistance of once (and future?) girlfriend Eve Gill (Wyman). An amusing ancedote by Hitchcock daughter/"Fright" actress Pat Hitchcock in a Robert Osborne-hosted "making-of" feature on the Archive release discusses Dad protecting Wyman by having Pat literally sit in for her in the scenes of Cooper wildly driving through the London streets.
Flashbacks establish that this adventure begins with stage star/current object of affection Charlotte Inwood (Dietrich) showing up at Chez Cooper in a blood-stained dress with a tale of accidentally killing her husband.
The tale continues with Jonathan going to the Inwood home to get Charlotte a clean dress. This leads to a series of mistakes that lead to the police showing up at his door. Our excitable boy rabbiting even before confirming that he is a suspect does not help things and leads to heading out of town with Eve to avoid his destruction..
After safely delivering Jonathan to her roguish and quirky father (Sim) with an eye toward Dad smuggling him to Ireland, Eve figuratively and literally returns to the scene of the crime with an intent to convince Charlotte (a.k.a. Lady MacBeth) to clear the name of Jonathan.
An ideal blend of comedy, melodrama, and meta-references ensue as Eve goes undercover as a maid/theatrical dresser. This coincides with her developing a friendship with potential benefits with "Ordinary" Smith (Michael Wilding), whom Eve subsequently learns is a police detective.
Hilarity and suspense fully erupt when Eve struggles to maintain her cover as Smith escorts her among her theatrical colleagues, a "Gaslight" style plot designed to prompt Charlotte to confess hatches, and Jonathan proves that he is his own worst enemy.
Hitch masterfully keeps several plates spinning in the air throughout the climax until the curtain literally falls on our story. We have Eve confronting not-so-sweet Charlotte and Jonathan wreaking havoc; this culminates in the reveal on which the regret of Hitch is based. It is interesting to see that this man who delights in defying conventions and expectations discover that there are some rules that should not be broken and some lines that should not be crossed.
The first big picture is that "Fright" aptly provides a story that centers around the theatrical world with a strong live-stage vibe. The second big picture is that this movie is a prime example of the more artistic and substantive Hitchcock films.
The Lionsgate October 16, 2018 complete-series Blu-ray release of the lush and lavish 2014-17 Starz series "Black Sails" is the perfect way to get in the mood for lush and lavish Oscar contenders that are sure to hit the big screen in December. A related note is that the beauty and the well-orchestrated complexity of the 38 episodes in this four-season series require savoring it as much as "binging" on a gourmet meal ruins the experience and makes you feel unwell after the experience.
The two Sound Editing and one Special and Visual Effects Emmys that "Sails" wins illustrates that executive producer Michael Bay puts his talents for grandeur and explosions to good use. Shooting the series on location further enhances the episodes.
The first bit of shameful commerce is that the incredible audio and video of the Blu-rays and the copious truly special features (more below) make choosing this set over watching it on Starz or streaming it a no-brainer. A related note is that these attributes make this roughly $50 set a perfect gift for anyone who likes period pieces, pirates, and/or the Caribbean. Although stealing it from a brick-and-mortar store honors the theme of "Sails," such behavior is completely unacceptable in 2018.
The first confession is admitting to never having read the source material of this prequel to the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island. The only recognized name in "Sails" is that of a pre-Long John Silver, whose fame extends to having a descendant with a successful film career. The second confession is that "Sails" not being conducive to binging limits the scope of this review to the first two seasons; the final two will be watched in the next several weeks.
Our tale of the courage of the fearless crew that pirate captain leads begins in 1715, which is roughly 20 years before the time period of Island. The "civilized" world allows pirates to rule New Providence Island and the capital of Nassau. There is prosperity and more peace than can be expected in a place that operates in this manner.
The pilot episode perfectly sets the tone and hooks the audience; Silver soon shows himself to be the Dr. Smith of the merchant ship on which he is a crew member. Rather than help his fellow seamen fend off an attack by dread pirate Captain Flint and his pirates of the Caribbean, Silver hides in a locked room. While there, Silver obtains paper with the information that Flint is seeking.
Silver subsequently further keeps up with the Smiths in falsely asserting to the pirates that he is the cook, which is a valued position on any ship. This leads to Silver literally jumping ship to join the crew of Flint. A later incident shows why Jewish people label pork as trayf.
The pilot also educates viewers about the rules of law that govern pirates; Flint soon learns the harsh reality of any pirate captain being like a prime minster in that he serves at the pleasure of the crew and can be voted out anytime. A related aspect of this is that pirates are compensated in the form of a percentage of the booty that they plunder. Raids such as the one in which Silver is the catch-of-the-day that do not net any treasure result in Flint facing a challenge to his leadership.
This law of the sea is fascinating because it illustrates both that not much has changed in 300 years and that the means by which formal governments operate is not much different than the rules that pirate ships follow. The response to the new candidate for captain include below-decks politics that are equivalent to back-room deals. The more entertaining part is the false accusations and a confrontation that many politicians clearly would relish.
After surviving the challenge to his leadership, Flint once again devotes most of his attention to pursuing his personal white whale. The object of his obsession is the Urca de Lima, which is a ship that Flint believes is heavily laden with gold. The contribution that Silver can make regarding that quest is the only thing that has him avoid walking the plank.
Meanwhile back in Nassau, 18th-century Ivanka Trump Eleanor Guthrie is operating the brokerage business of her absent father, The basic system is that Eleanor buys the cargoes that the pirates liberate from their former owners; Guthrie then sells the goods. The risks to her continued good fortune include the sins of her father and a push to terminate the rule of the pirates.
A whorehouse with relatively liberated employees is the third side of the commerce triangle in Nassau; the first season shows how all three elements inter-relate and make strange bedfellows.
Speaking of prostitution, one of the best S1 scenes involves a negotiation for a recreational facility during the 18th-century equivalent of dry dock. One spoiler is that this discussion prompts the fun of chanting "Fuck Tent! Fuck Tent! Fuck Tent!" This also involves a cute scene in which an invitation for a "quick fuck" clearly involves pup tents but does not necessarily include the filthy whore.
We additionally get flashbacks to the aforementioned civilized world; these provide context that include showing how becoming a pirate makes Flint an entirely new person in more ways than one; this insight includes other members of the "Sails" crew.
The pursuit of the Urca is central to much of the S1 action; we also see how the related issues of maintaining peace and conducting commerce in Nassau create strange and shifting bedfellows; a notable aspect of this is a pirate crew learning the true meaning of the expression "don't fuck with me, boys." Another scoundrel who cannot produce a strong and sturdy mast discovers that Hell hath no fury like a prostitute left unsatisfied.
S1 ends on a terrific note that demonstrates the true meaning of the expression "so close, yet so far away."
As other reviewers note, "Sails" fully finds its sea legs in S2; it seems like deja vu all over again when we see pirate captain Charles Vane raid a merchant ship. The defeated crew peacefully surrendering creates an expectation that Vane is going to do things the easy way. We soon learn that Homie the pirate don't play that. This leads to Vane even more aggressively seeking dominance over the pirate community.
S2 additionally provides the second chapter in the pursuit of the Urca treasure, which aptly becomes a bargaining chip in pursuits of happiness. The S2 finale aspect of that aptly is pure gold and heightens excitement regarding S3.
The new girl in town also becomes a bargaining chip on a few levels, She is being held hostage for ransom but also is a valuable peace offering in events that determine the future of Nassau. This prompts a sort of a homecoming in which more secrets are revealed and regarding which it seems that thieves are the only one with any honor. All of this (and several other developments) offer Bay a chance to stage the epic battles for which he is so well known. Other mayhem comes in the form of slit throats and orchestrated "accidents."
Students of history and folks who use a Google search as a half-assed form of cheating know the outcome of the power struggle for New Providence Island; "Sails" shows that getting there is all the fun.
The bigger picture this time is Bay putting a more realistic spin on "The Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise and "The Pirates of Penzance" operetta sparks interest in early 18th-century world history. Everything is even more connected in that era than it is now, and we see how things evolve. We further learn that there are at least 50 shades of gray between the titular canvases under which the pirates sail and the white sails of the "good" guys.
The Blu-ray for each season has copious spectacular special features that demonstrate the love of the cast and crew. The S1 bonuses focus on creating the series and the oft-mentioned historical context. This culminates in several S4 roundtable features on topics that include "The Legends of Treasure Island" and "Fearless Fans."
This incomplete discussion of "Sails" proves that there is more than enough reason to get on board regarding the series; it truly is a unique series with feature-film quality acting and cinematography.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1948 Blu-ray release of the 1948 noir classic "Key Largo" provides a chance to add it to your collection of perfectly remastered films (including the recently reviewed "Dark Passage") starring Mr., and Mrs. Humphrey Bogart. The magic of Blu-ray allowing custom-made marathon viewings validates that the sexual chemistry between Bogart and Bacall equals that of Affleck and Damon. One difference is that no pop songs celebrate the magic regarding Batt.
This John Huston film further is notable for having a particularly strong Orsonian quality is that it has the look and themes of a Welles films. This is on top of the live-stage feel that is attributable to "Largo" being based on a play of the same name.
The opening scenes prove that the reputation of Bogart precedes him. The audience believes that his character Frank McCloud is involved when the local po po stops the bus on which he is traveling to search for less than honest injuns who are fugitives from justice. We quickly learn that McCloud is as clean as a brothel on a Tuesday afternoon.
The real fun begins when a hostile motley crew provides McCloud an unfriendly welcome on his arrival at a tourist hotel on the titular Florida island. This shady lot includes drunken floozy Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor in an Oscar-winning role). Dawn aptly steals the show in a later scene in which mob boss Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) literally makes her sing for her liquid supper.
The reception thaws on the group learning that WWII vet McCloud is there to visit the family of a man who served under him and who died in combat. Bacall plays Nora Temple, who is the widow of the dead soldier. Lionel Barrymore shows much of his broad range in playing the wheelchair-bound father of the man/hotel owner James Temple. The beloved James additionally is the unofficial mayor of Key L:argo.
McCloud shows bad timing for him and perfect timing for the audience in arriving hours before a highly symbolical hurricane is due to hit the island. Everyone in front of and behind the camera plays his or her part especially well regarding the increasing barometic and other pressures ahead of the weather event,
Things escalate to the point of Rocco holding McCloud and the Temples hostage as Rocco, his thugs, and his moll both wait out both the storm and the arrival of a business associate.
Huston PERFECTLY stages the confrontations between Rocco and McCloud and/or Temple. These typically include exchanging philosophies.
The foul weather ceasing does not coincide with the storm blowing over. McCloud and Rocco still have a score to settle and Nora needs to discover if she can connect with her "Nick" in time.
The above discussion of "Largo" provides many reasons why this Blu-ray is worthy of inclusion in your film library. The broader perspective is that the film is a perfect example of how great they used to make them and of they don't make 'em like that anymore.
It is difficult to imagine assembling a dream team that is comparable to a director like Huston working with such a talented cast that both can give nuanced performances and play off each other as well as this group,
The Warner Archive October 9, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1974 TV Movie "Bad Ronald" reminds us of the Golden Age of such guilty pleasure gems. This one has the bonus of the still-modern element of having a psycho covertly living in the walls of your home. This cult status also favors buying the Blu-ray, rather than relying on almost surely spotty inclusion on a streaming service,
This variation of "Psycho" begins with the titular excitable high-school senior (Scott Jacoby) enjoying a birthday party with his domineering mother Elaine (Kim Hunter). She is sharing her high aspirations for her boy when he cuts things short to visit the object of his affection over the objection of his mother.
The reception that dorky Ronald receives on showing up when the girl of his dreams and the other cool kids are swimming is either hilarious or heartbreaking depending on your perspective, It does prove that kids say the cruelest things.
Ronald is fresh off this experience when a subsequent encounter is the straw that broke the camel's sanity in that push comes to fatal shove. This sends Ronald into the arms of the one woman who loves him; Elaine responds in a manner that leads to Ronald simultaneously breaking the records for the amount of time that a teen boy spends locked in the bathroom and goes without changing his tightie-whities.
The plot thickens when Ronald ventures out one day to find Elaine gone and the house empty of all furniture. This changes when Mr. and Mrs. Wood move in with their three teen daughters. Fun casting related to this includes having ubiquitous '80s actor Dabney Coleman play Mr. Wood. We also get Ted Eccles of kidcom "Dr. Shrinker" fame as Duane Matthews, who is the object of the affection of one of the Wood girls and the brother of the homicide victim,
A combination of Duane telling the Wood family the history of the house and of Ronald increasingly haunting the abode particularly puts the younger members of the family ill at ease. A relatable aspect of this is the many times throughout our lives when we are certain that we had now missing food or that an object seemingly has been tampered with.
The aforementioned modern aspect enters the picture in this regard. One sign of our Dystopian Days is the regular urban myths and facts about a former owner of a house restricting his residence to a concealed area out of economic necessity and/or a disturbed mind. The really scary part is that this often can continue for extended periods before being discovered.
The tension nicely builds as Ronald increasingly loses his grasp on reality in proportion to becoming obsessed with the girls next door. Things proverbially hit the fan when the mice going away prompts the cat to prey. A highlight of this is Duane ending up in a position that will delight folks who fall within the overlap between people who enjoy S&M and "Shrinker" fans.
Things rapidly wrap up in an inevitable manner the removes any doubt regarding the erroneous belief of Elaine that Ronald is destined to be a brain surgeon.
The twofer that Warner Archive provides regarding the September 18, 2018 DVD release of the 1938 prison drama morality tale "Over the Wall" begins with this movie being a textbook example of the lost gems Golden Age B-movies that comprise a significant portion of the Archive catalog. The "two" begins with this release continuing the tradition of Archive leitmotifs. The theme this time is prison dramas, and the set includes the reviewed Warner Bu-ray release of the 1973 classic film "Papillon" about the obsessive efforts of the boy with the butterfly tattoo to escape from Devils Island.
The first of the numerous elements that make "Wall" Archive worthy begins with the unusual source material. This tale of hot-tempered brawling Irishman Jerry Davis is based on a book by real-life Sing Sing warden Lewis E. Lawes. The clear message that that well-known prison strives to rehabilitate, rather than punish, establishes both that it is the polar opposite of Devil's Island and that Davis either is going to be a better man for a dead one at the end of film.
"Wall" further reflects the studio system. The liner notes on the DVD back cover share that "Warner Bros.' celebrated 'Singing Cowboy' Dick Foran trades in his leathers for a prison jumper" to play Jerry. It is highly likely that most (if not all) the supporting characters and all the extras are largely selected based on who is available during the time allotted for making "Wall."
"Wall" not being shy about depicting the stereotypes of the era is another source of entertainment. Jerry is a perfect depiction of a 20-something New York punk who needs very little provocation to bust a window or a head; his much-younger brother Jimmy seems destined to head down the same road. Jimmy additionally represents the humorous stereotype of a prepubescent boy of the '30s who looks and sounds like a grown-ass man. This makes a scene in which the lad must relinquish the death seat and move to the bitch seat in the car of Jerry funny.
The Irish stereotype continues with the father of Jerry and Jimmy having a brogue that makes him sound as if he is fresh of the boat even though his wife lacks any Irish accent, The man who is at least in his 60s picking a fight with Jerry helps complete the picture.
Other period-specific glee relates to the spinning headlines that provide substantive exposition and a swinging pendulum of a clock accompanying months flying by to indicate the passage of time.
True to form with this type of film, Jerry barely avoids becoming a guest of the state the first time that he gets his Irish up. Of course, he ignores the advice to temper his temper.
The impetus for the events that lead to the unfortunate incarceration of Jerry is his sleazy fight manager setting him up for a literal fall in a fight that is the venture of a legitimate businessman. Emotional and physical pain prompts our raging bull to track down his manager. That altercation leads to the manager pushing up daises.
The judicial proceeding that concludes with convicting Jerry of manslaughter occurs in what aptly can be described as a boxing kangaroo court. This leads to his getting locked up in the aforementioned correctional institution.
The arrogance and related defiance of Jerry on going inside figuratively (and hilariously) places him in the bitch seat in a manner that provides numerous highlights, Modern audiences know that the real-life wake-up call would have involved a badly bruised body and Jerry becoming the wife of one or more inmates.
Prison chaplain Father Neil Connor is the primary force behind the effort to provide Jerry a form of deliverance other than the type described above. Of course, that initial effort fails.
The first turning point occurs when Jerry passes a test of character. His showing his true nature reaps immediate benefits, We next get a '30s version of a jailhouse rock that lets Foran showoff his singing voice. A positive aspect of this is that his songs provide the same type of pleasant surprise as when Jim Nabors demonstrates that his singing style is nothing like the high-pitched Southern accent of Gomer Pyle. A less-nice aspect of this scene in "Wall" is that a stereotype involving two black inmates is not laughable but is excusable in the context of the era.
The climax commences with Jerry getting a chance to prove his innocence; this results in a fast-paced final 10-minutes as Connor and other supporters try to prevent Jerry both from reverting to his old ways and from being his own worst enemy, Seeing these men team up in the name of truth, justice, and the American way strongly suggests that they would go on to star in a television series about street-wise detectives if "Wall" was made in the '70s.
Additional appeal of this highly dated fable is that it reminds us of a much happier time in which prisons had some success at rehabilitating inmates and did not just release them on the streets stronger and more crime savvy than when they entered. On the "order" side of things, this period also is known for having a judicial system with proper due process, participants who favored justice over wins and/or expediency, and in which one went wrong was more easily put right,
'Papillon' '73 Blu-ray: 'Butterfly' McQueen Shows He Does Know Plenty About Birthing Devil's Island Escape Plans
The disappointment regarding the Warner Archive September 18, 2018 Blu-ray release of the epic 1973 Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman docudrama "Papillon" has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the quality of the film or the incredibly clear Blu-ray remaster. The negative aspect is that the titular boy with the butterfly tattoo (MacQueen) and his well-heeled counterfeiter friend/fellow prisoner (Hoffman) do not adequately bond with a third character to warrant a Devil's Island triangle reference.
Archive continues its solid tradition of leitmotifs by pairing this Blu-ray with a DVD release of the (soon-to-be-reviewed) 1938 B-movie "Over the Wall" based on a story by real-life Sing Sing warden Lewis E. Lawes. "Papillon," which is a '70s sensation based on the film and the massively best-selling memoir on which is based, chronicles the incredible efforts of safecracker Henri Charriere to escape the aforementioned French Ghana prison camp. The nickname of this man relates to the aforementioned ink on his chest.
Writing the book makes sharing that Charriere ultimately succeeds not much of a spoiler. However, like most film and television stories, the entertainment value is watching the compelling story of his prison break.
Adding horrific abuse that includes sadistic starvation of prisoners who must wear filthy pajama-like striped uniforms contributes a disturbing concentration camp vibe to this classic film. Of course, McQueen doing his usual excellent job portraying an obsessively determined tough guy and Hoffman channeling creepy scumbag Ratso Rizzo to play Louis Dega superbly bring the script by famously blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to life.
The impact (which includes the concentration camp vibe) begins with the naked new fish assembled in a courtyard. They are instructed about what lies ahead before being told to dress just ahead of a heavily guarded walk of shame through crowded city streets. The spectacle/ritual aspect of this greatly establishes the tone of the film.
Some of the limited but very good humor of "Papillon" relates to the conviction of that man. He is an admitted safecracker but is convicted for murdering a pimp. The response to that alleged crime makes it seem as if France puts men who keeps both whores and tricks in line on the same social level as Nobel Prize winners.
The prisoners then board a sea-worthy vessel that evokes thoughts of a slave ship; they are herded aboard and crammed into locked below-deck cages; their bathing consists of a fire hose blasting water through the bars. We additionally see them being served what already likely is watered-down soup on the deck in in the pouring rain.
The savvy Papillon uses this time to begin plotting his escape; learning that Louis is a good candidate to provide the capital for that venture is the start of a beautiful friendship,. Louis realizing that Papillon can help assure living to bride guards another day seals the deal.
One of the best scenes in the film revolves a scheme for desired employment. Our boys are a heartbeat away from literally making the best of a bad situation when Louis experiences karma. Stating that Papillon and Louis end up to their elbows in alligators is not far from the truth.
Subsequent events result in Papillon experiencing a massively unfortunate incarceration; his adhering to the principle of snitches get stitches is what makes that particularly bad situation worse. These scenes additionally prove that McQueen waz robbed regarding not even being nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award.
The nature of the extended absence makes the heart of Louis grow much fonder for his protector. Things quickly going awry with their Plan C for escape turns this film into a dark variation of a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby road movie, This also provides the context for additional beautiful travelogue scenery that makes good use of Blu-ray technology.
The end of this portion of the adventure will make you want to shout "that bitch" despite fully knowing that doing so ensures that you will go to actual Hell. The self-righteous betrayal of Papillon is bad enough; the insult that is added to the injury reinforces what virtually every Catholic school student has ever asserted.
This leads to resuming the battle of wills regarding which the guys in charge seem to not realize that someone with nothing to lose has no reason to stop trying to get away. Making it clear that punishment, rather than rehabilitation, is the goal of the imprisonment does not help matters.
As stated above, this 20th-century Hollywood movie delivers a happy ending. Determining how Charriere becomes one of the few men to ever beat the house and whether Louis makes it as well requires watching the film. One hint is that Papillon shows that he is more resourceful than the professor of "Gilligan's Island" fame.
The 12-minute bonus feature "The Magnificent Rebel" greatly enhances the "Papillon" experience. This making-of documentary from the time of filming the movie introduces us to the real Charriere and shows how the filmmakers boldly go where no man has gone before. We further get to see the state of the prison facility in the early '70s.
The bottom line regarding all this is that the biggest reason that the film continues to thrive to the extent of warranting a recent remake is that all the folks in front of and behind the camera realize that the devil is in the details.
The Warner Archive August 28, 2018 Blu-ray release of the star-studded 1958 Technicolor drama "The Naked and the Dead" proves that war pictures are far more than stories about groups of men shooting each other in the same manner that quality film and television westerns demonstrate that that genre extends beyond stereotypical action that includes saloon fights and cattle stampedes. "Naked" is based on a Norman Mailer novel that examines how an armed conflict can prompt a war of wills with intense collateral damage.
The first note is that seeing a scene that highlights the beauty of Hawaii and another moment in which a grenade creates a large fireball eliminates any doubt regarding whether buying "Naked" in Blu-ray makes sense and as to the skill of Archive regarding restoring films.
The second note is that this cast that includes Aldo Rey, Cliff Robertson, and Raymond Massey also has the lesser-known Jerry Paris, Paris is best known as the director of the classic sitcoms "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Happy Days;" he also plays neighbor Jerry Helper on "Van Dyke." All of this is a far cry from Helper playing Jewish WWII foor-soldier Goldstein in "Naked."
"Naked" opens with the dogfaces enjoying risque entertainment at a Hawaiian den of ill repute. Hillbilly enlisted man/moonshine distiller Woodrow "Woody" Wilson is the life of the party due to his enthusiastic (and requited) love for star "exotic dancer" Lily. The hilariously rude, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior of Sgt. Sam Croft (Rey) clearly establishes that he not only is not one of the boys but does not work or play well with others. We do later learn why he is so bitter and believes that dames ain't nothin' but trouble,
The party winds down as our excitable boys board a ship for a Japanese-occupied island. Their journey provides the exposition that establishes the characters. This essentially is the cross-section of young American men of that era.
The real drama begins on the group capturing a Japanese soldier on the island. The horrific manner in which Croft treats that POW and his brothers-in-arms justifies giving him the same treatment. However, his men remain loyal.
Much further up the food chain, commanding officer General Cummings (Massey) is practicing his related philosophies of flaunting his power/privilege and making the enlisted men fear him more than they fear the enemy. His reasoning is that this will cause the soldiers to fight harder.
Lt. Robert Hearn (Robertson) first gets caught up in all this on getting the outwardly desirable assignment of being the aide to Cummings. The perks include some prestige and luxuries. The costs include an expectation that he will be completely loyal to Cummings and not challenge any of his decisions or way of thinking.
An aside is that messing with guys such as Cummings whom the military perfectly brainwashes can be great fun. A highlight of conducting computer training for Air National Guard soldiers was responding to a joking threat by recent OTC graduate that I might have been scared if he was a Marine. He immediately jumped up, and the guys on either side of him almost as quickly stood up ready to grab him. We all were laughing a second later,
The inevitable absurd showdown between Hearn and Cummings PERFECTLY illustrates the military mindset and literally put Hearn on the front line with Team Croft. An exchange in which one soldier comments that the Army should have promoted Croft if it wanted his platoon to have a lieutenant is just as insightful. A comment in the film that the winning side in a war is the one that kills the most people echoes an oft-stated perspective of your not-so-humble reviewer.
Hearn leads the group on a scouting mission that is intended to end a Japanese standoff; as predicted, the threat level escalates both regarding the mission and the differing styles of Croft and Hearn. One gist regarding this conflict is that Croft agrees with Cummings that a certain number of deaths are acceptable and that some risks are worth the probability of some of his men getting killed.
The truly bittersweet outcome of that mission also reflects the flaws of military thinking. Achieving what arguably can be considered a success reinforces what most people deem to be a reckless risk. Hearn essentially gets the last word and is the true voice of reason; of course, no one listens to him.
The outward value of "Naked" is the seemingly overall realistic depiction of an experience that is foreign to most of us. At the very least, this is not a John Wayne War Hero film.
Digging a little deeper., many of us have worked for someone like Cummings. This is the manager who has an employee get him or her coffee just to show that person who's the boss. On a literally and figuratively higher level, the man or woman in the corner offices generously doles out lavish executive perks while not issuing even COLA raises. Another aspect of this is laying off people to improve profitability and then being lauded as a corporate savior.
The bottom line is that "Naked" provides an insightful that remains relevant 60 years after its release. An added thought is that it will evoke thoughts of the classic film and television series "M.A.S.H."
The Warner Archive September 28, 2018 DVD of the director's cut of the 2004 TV movie "Helter Skelter" does not quite put the viewer inside the head of cult leader/serial killer by proxy Charles Manson; it does provide good insight into the life of Manson and the members of his "family" at the time that his "children" kill pregnant actress Sharon Tate (a.k.a. Mrs. Roman Polanski), her house guests, and a couple of guys who stop by on the worst possible night.
The cred. of this equally entertaining and educational docudrama includes attorney/screenwriter Vincent Bugliosi basing the film on his insight as the real-life prosecutor in the case. Another notable aspect of "Helter" is that is offers the flip side perspective of the equally good film "Wolves at the Door." "Wolves", which is another (reviewed) member of the Archives catalog, largely is from the perspectives of the Manson Family victims.
Director John Gray ("The Ghost Whisperer") and Bugliosi start off strong with family members putting the fear of Charlie into someone whom the group concludes done them wrong, Manson (Jeremy Davies of "Lost") then shows up in a manner that suggests that Davies is basing his performance on Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." It is equally plausible that close Roman Polanski friend Nicholson bases his "Shining" performance on the rel-life Manson.
This opening confrontation in "Helter" establishes three key elements of the Manson story; Manson is violently psychotic, his "children" are fanatically devoted to him, and "Dad" is smart enough to leave the real dirty work to the kids.
The fun continues with seeing newly single mom/lost soul Linda Kasabian (Clea DuVall) get adopted and move to the western-style film lot that serves as the family home. Linda meeting future wannabe presidential assassin Squeaky Fromme (Mary Lynn Rajskub of "24) is one highlight. The minimal worldly goods of Kasabian quickly being absorbed into the Manson Family treasury reminds viewers of the modus operandi of communes/cults.
Exposition during this period includes depicting the mysterious charisma of Manson and his outlook on life. One can understand how young folks who feel unloved respond to the affection that Manson shows his offspring; it is equally predictable that the turmoil of the late '60s get them to buy into his belief that the titular race war will lead to black people dominating white people. Accepting his exit strategy of escaping into essentially a magical Sid and Marty Krofft land when the race war fully commences reflects that these disciples are enjoying the '60s too much.
The story take a more familiar turn when the friendship/collaboration between Manson and Beach Boys member Dennis Wilson goes south. Advanced-beginner Manson scholars know about this relationship and that Manson is a house guest of that teen idol until the drug use and other weirdness get to be too much even for Wilson. The events of "Helter" fill in the picture in manners that include showing the connection between that falling out and turning Chez Polanski into a murder house.
A particularly interesting aspect of the Beach Boys element is that we learn that music producer Terry Melcher plays a key role in the mayhem. A fun aside is that Melcher is the real-life son of Doris Day and the producer of her eponymous '60scom. A related bit of Hollywood history is that mismanagement by the then-husband of Day forces her to do the program. The final note is that all this reflects the que sera sera philosophy for which Day is well known.
The Tate killings and other felony-murders by family members in the same period receive surprisingly little screen time in "Helter."
The subsequent focus on the investigation of the aforementioned crimes (including the LaBianca murders) reflects "Helter" being the work of a prosecutor. Another strong reference point is that the military-style raids on Manson Family homesteads evoke thoughts of the more recent confrontation at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.
This all begins when common elements of the crimes cause light bulbs to belatedly go off in the heads of law-enforcement folks. This leads to the national obsession trials of Manson and his family. Manson insisting on defending himself will trigger memories for folks old enough to recall these proceedings.
Seeing how Bugliosi builds his cases is fascinating to both true-crime and television procedural fans. This includes get cooperation from Charles "Tex" Watson and other inner circle members. These sessions also provide a good narrative technique to provide a more detailed look at the commissions of the crimes. Learning more about the killing of Tate highlights her caring nature and the degree to which the Manson controls his followers.
Gray ending "Helter" with the standard "where are they now" inter-titles is predictable. The depth in terms of the included family members and level of detail regarding their fates goes well above and beyond the typical made-for-TV (or even theatrical) film.
Warner Archive does what it does best regarding the Blu-ray release of the 1947 noir film "Dark Passage" starring the Humphrey Bogarts. This film is among the cult classics from the Golden and Silver Ages of Hollywood that comprise a significant portion of the Archive catalog. We further get the good remastering for which Archive is known, The final piece is the bonus features that Archive typically provides and that always are excellent when they do.
"Passage" writer/director Delmar Daves of "such films" as "Destination Tokyo" and "A Summer Place" does well by Bogart and Bacall by providing them a good story and literally expert direction. The latter commences with most of the first roughly 30-minutes of the film being POV shots from the perspective of Bogart character Vincent Parry. A particularly memorable example of this is an early shot in which Parry is rolling down a hill in a barrel.
"Passage" opens minutes after Parry makes a prison break that is a not-so-great escape from San Quentin. Exposition in the form of a news bulletin heard on the car radio of good Samaritan Baker (former Little Rascal Clifton Young) tells the audience that Parry until recently being a guest of the state is because of a conviction for killing his wife.
Baker and Parry soon parting ways leads to a fateful encounter between Parry and sympathetic heiress Irene Jansen (Bacall). An essentially "come with me if you want to live" moment leads to the pair enduring challenging gauntlets before Parry obtains asylum in the luxurious San Francisco apartment of Jansen.
The intrusion of acerbic, cruel, and ruthless Madge (Agnes Moorehead of "Bewitched" playing to type) and unlucky-in-love Bob (character actor Bruce Bennett) further stir the potboiler. Madge coincidentally is the one whom Parry threw away, and Bob is the ex of Madge and currentish of Irene. On a basic level, the pair separately and collectively calling on Jansen while Parry is her house guest complicates things far beyond being potential witnesses to his presence.
The next noirish bit that comes out is that Jansen is a long=term member of Team Parry. We learn that she feels that the conviction of her father for a crime that is completely unrelated to the murder of the late Mrs. Parry is the source of Jansen attending the trial of Parry and a significant factor regarding her conclusion that his conviction is wrongful. Her being near San Quentin at the time of the break, learning of that unauthorized early parole, and making the deduction that leads to her finding the fugitive all are the type of coincidences that make noir entertaining.
The perspective changes when another chance encounter leads to Parry undergoing mob-style plastic surgery that the (reviewed) biodrama "Young Dillinger" indicates is a real thing. Not previously showing the face of Parry in "Passage" solves the problem of Bogart not looking like himself in the period before the procedure that results in his having the face that only a cinephile (and Bacall) can love.
A subsequent encounter with a former acquaintance ultimately changes everything for Parry and leads to a dramatic confrontation that also has both good and bad results for this wanted man. The manner in which Daves stages this shows why he earns the big bucks.
The final five minutes or so of "Passage" particularly aptly highlight the exceptional chemistry that shows why Bogie and Bacall warrant having it all.
The highlight of the aforementioned special features is mini-documentary "Hold Your Breath and Cross Your Fingers." This short discusses "Passage" in general with an emphasis on the location shooting; as aspect of this is stating how the beginning of the end of the studio system affects taking film crews and casts on field trips. We also hear a little about the career of Bacall and her relationship with Bogart. The highlights include having the late great Robert Osborne and film critic extraordinaire Leonard Maltin being the primary talking heads.
An even more entertaining bonus is the 1947 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Slick Hare." This one parodies both the real-life Mocambo nightclub in Los Angeles and the equally actual celebrity patrons of that establishment. A cartoon Bogart fully employing his tough-guy persona to get waiter Elmer Fudd to improvise when the club runs out of rabbit, The typical mayhem ensues and ends with Bugs expressing love that hold true in 2018.
The Olive Signature division of art and cult film god Olive Films once again shows its love of the best of the best with the phenomenal must see to believe remaster of the 1996 Wachowskis Brothers ("The Matrix and "Cloud Atlas.") classic neonoir "Bound." The adoration begins with including both the theatrical and unrated versions of this steamy mob drama that centers around illicit lesbian lovers whom Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly portray.
The artful contrasts (such as bright-red blood on gleaming white tile and perfectly laundered white shirts) and the overall cinematography look incredible in Blu-ray; the audio that plays an equally key role sounds crystal clear, The A-list group that provides the audio commentary includes the three stars and the bros.
Gershon plays butch ex-con bull dyke lesbian Corky; Tilly is seductive femme fatale lipstick lesbian Violet. Fans of classic sitcoms will respectively think of Jo and Blair of "The Facts of Life."
It is love at first sight when a tank-top and jeans wearing Corky and dressed-up to the nines Violet exchange glances at the high-end condo. building where moll Violet and gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) are shacking up in the unit next to where Corky is doing a major renovation for a client., The good humor begins Violet using one of the oldest ploys in the book to seduce Corky. This scene including Corky grabbing a pipe with her bare hands and ripping it loose is equally symbolic and humorous.
Our girls are enjoying unwedded bliss on the side when Caesar obtains temporary possession of $2M of mob money; the seduction is on the other Birkenstock when Corky convinces Violet to make that custody even more temporary than planned.
The ensuing mayhem follows the Leonard Snark (a.k.a. Captain Cold) four rules of planning such a caper; make a plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan.
Mob boss Gino Marzzone (Richard C. Sarafin) and his son Johnnie (Christoper Meloni) who proves the theory about a family business failing when the third generation takes over making a booty call plays a big role regarding the third rule. The already discussed bad blood between Johnnie and Caesar is one of many elements that makes this a notably intense and entertaining scene. This is not to mention Gino discovering the limits of his influence.
"Bound" next becomes especially Hitchcockian as the police arrive to investigate; the ode to that auteur includes a bath tub body dump and rinsing blood down the drain. The quick and efficient temporary cleanup suggests that this is is not the first trip to this type of rodeo.
It is equally inevitable that Caesar discovers the truth and obtains leverage; what ensues next is so unexpected and clever that it shows why The Wachowskis soon come to be in heavy demand. Part of the mastery is greatly honoring classic noir while keeping things fresh.
The final result stays very true to the spirit of the old and the new. A strong reflection of this film being in a neo-code era is that not every malfeasor ends up in a shallow grave, in the river, or behind bars.
The standard feature-quality bonuses that Signature includes are equally exceptional this time. Particularly notable ones are two film experts sharing their thoughts on neonoir, Meloni discussing his character, and Gershon and Tilly providing insights regarding femme fatales.
We also get a booklet with an essay by actress Guinevere Turner; her perspective is the positive role of "Bound" regarding portraying lesbians in films.
One general takeaway from the Icarus Films August 14, 2018 DVD of the 2014 docudrama "Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart" is that it shows that lesser filmmakers should be careful when telling reviewers to go ahead and try if they think that they can do better. In this case, former Cahhiers du Cinema critic Cedric Anger shows that those of us who watch and analyze more than 300 movies every year know of which we write. A side note is that Anger is a very apt surname for a film critic.
Anger management by the writer/director of "Heart" begins with the ripped-from-the-history-books story of actual gendarme/serial killer Alain Lamere, whose killing spree keeps him busy during the winter of 1978-79. The name has been changed to Frank Neuhart in absolutely no effort to protect the not-so-innocent.
The following YouTube clip of the "Heart" trailer perfectly conveys the drama of the film and the stone-cold nature of the killer.
The opening scenes of "Heart" establish the modus operendi of our excitable boy. Two teen girls are headed out on their Vespas for a night on the town not knowing that Neuhart is stalking them. He runs one off the road before shockingly and brutally attacking the other and then goes back for a second bite of the apple. The title of the film relates to his choice of her body part to shoot,
The next big shock occurs when Neuhart returns home, strips down, follows a bizarre rite, and then dons his gendarme uniform. Thus begins the most creepy aspect of the film in the form of watching Neuhart being a major player in the investigation of those killings and the subsequent murders.
A personal experience with a psychotically scary creepy respondent to a roommate ad being the same guy as someone presenting himself as very normal and once even denying being the other dude shows that Lamere/Neuhart has cousins out there. But for the brains of Nelson, the psycho would have had his address and done God knows what. But for the compassion of Nelson, this guy would have ended up with a roommate who would have put him on the receiving ends of the acts in which he desired to engage with your not-so-humble reviewer. The rest of the story is that local gendarmes scared this nutcase far away from Nelson.
An element of "Heart" that would be amusing in lesser hands but is chilling under Anger is the Superman aspect of the investigation, Neither victim, nor witnesses, nor fellow officers recognize Neuhart as the killer even when he is holding a very accurate police-artist sketch of the killer. One spoiler is that Neuhart does not bother putting on glasses in an attempt to conceal his identity.
Old-fashioned thinking even by '70s standards is almost as disturbing, Neuhart making a rookie mistake that prompts his "superiors" to suspect that one of their own is the killer illogically prompts focusing the investigation on the gay community.
The investigation taking that left turn is a meta reflection of an issue that early gay-rights organizations raise. These activists protest that films only depict homosexual men as limp-wristed sissies and/or vicious murderers. An interesting aspect of this is that Anger indicates that Neuhart is closer to the middle range of the Kinsey Scale than that not-so-macho man realizes.,
Other forms of l;aw-enforcement negligence include not seeing literally what is under their noses as Neuhart increasingly should be a prime suspect. This includes virtually catching him in the act and revealing his subterfuge.
A more fascinating aspect is that manner in which Neuhart suppresses his dark passenger while he goes through the motions of doing his job. It shows the extent to which people with severe mental issues literally can get away with murder.
The big picture this time is that "Heart" proves both that truth often is stranger than fiction and that a good story and talented actors can draw an audience into a film without giving them copious nudity and/or bloodshed. As mentioned above, the background of Anger teaches him that less can be more.
The Warner Archive July 17, 2018 DVD release of the 1965 bio-noir film "Young Dillinger" is part of the recent biopics leitmotif of some new additions to the Archive catalog. These include the (reviewed) John Huston directed Paul Newman bio-western "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean."
Nick Adams of the television series "The Rebel" stars as the titular Depression Era Public Enemy Number One who is a weak-willed young man in love when we first meet him. Former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley stars as rich girl femme fatale Elaine, who starts our boy on his life of crime before becoming his moll.
These small-town young lovers ala Jack and Diane of the John Cougar Mellencamp song of the same name are dreaming of wedded bliss when Elaine suggests robbing the safe of her father to finance their elopement and subsequent new life. Her method of persuasion includes that Daddy will not prosecute them if they get caught.
One interesting aspect of this is the ambiguity regarding the motives of Elaine. She seems more interested in escaping a privileged but dull life and in sticking one to Daddy then in becoming Mrs. Public Enemy Number One.
A reluctant Dillinger goes along; the heist hitting a snag provides him his first taste of clearly liked violence., A subsequent confrontation with a not especially peaceful justice of the peace and his brutish wife turns Dillinger into a rebel with a cause. This also leads to the first of several police chases.
The honeymoon that Dillinger and Elaine are enjoying without benefit of marriage is cut short when the cops knock at the door and begin searching for their ill-gotten booty. Doing this without benefit of a warrant or a warning illustrates how search-and-seizure requirements have evolved since that era.
Dillinger once again proves himself to be a sap in agreeing to chivalrously take the full rap for the caper. The outcome justifies adding reassurances from a dame or her old man to statements regarding a promise of help from the government and pledges of agreeing to stop before completion if provided oral gratification to the list of particularly big lies.
Dillinger soon falls in with a bad crowd, who manipulate him just as effectively as Elaine does, This leads to his facilitating a prison break and subsequently going into business with "Pretty Boy" Floyd (Robert Conrad) and "Baby Face" Nelson. By this time, Dillinger is fully feeling the effects of the literal and the figurative hard knocks he is enduring.
Wonderful camp includes Dillinger meeting the brains of the operation, This portion of the film in which the gang plans their next job clearly shows where writers of pulp fiction and B-movies of the era get their inspiration.
Even tastier cheese comes when a sleazy doctor manipulates Elaine into taking morphine so that he can receive payment-in-kind for the procedure that he is performing on an incapacitated Dillinger.
Dillinger fared better regarding having one of the best ever reasons for not putting a ring on it; this involves reminding how making an honest woman out of his partner-in-crime likely will lead to a long-distance marriage.
The brilliance of all this is that "Dillinger" use a true story of a good boy turned bad as the basis for the type of social commentary film that addresses youthful offenders and related ills. The chases and gun fights simply makes it fun for the kids.
The Icarus Films July 10, 2018 DVD release of the 2015 French romdram "In Harmony" once again shows how the viewing public benefits from that company filling its catalog with "films from independent producers worldwide." This tale of unmarried recently paraplegic horse trainer/equestrian Marc and married insurance company rep. Florence charged with having Marc accept a low-ball settlement shows that films about relationships in which loathe turns to love can be much more than an unwatchable chick flick.
A related big takeaway for straight dudes is that "Harmony" can score you twofer points in terms of it being a romdram and a French film. The best part is that you will like this movie that lacks any overblown angst and melodramatic declarations of love.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Harmony" achieves its purpose of accurately conveying the tones of the film.
Florence literally and figuratively comes on the scene in the wake of her colleague failing to get Marc to accept what he considers an inadequate amount for the harm from falling off his symbolically named horse Othello while doing a stunt for a film. Writer-director Denis Dercourt uses clever exposition by having Florence view a DVD with relevant footage of the circumstances of the accident.
Marc giving Florence the same "and the horse you rode in on" message that he gave her colleague sends her back empty-handed to her not-so-pleased employer, The gist of the matter is that the company is facing heavy liability regarding the accident,
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Marc is contending with the dual challenges of his personally designed rehab. and the insurance company essentially trying to starve him out.
The impact of the events on Florence include Mark doing what he loves best and being determined to return to it reminding her of abandoning her dreams in favor of a a steady paycheck. She further is reminded of the ruthless nature of the insurance industry.
This leads to the initial betrayal of the insurance company by Florence that is typical in this type of film. This leads to the also standard true test of loyalty regarding her having to make a strong stand on one side or the other.
All this occurs in the background of our couple developing a more stable relationship and Florence helping Marc get back in the saddle. The nice thing this time is that both people are nice and lack the extreme personalities that characterize the lesser fare of this type that Hollywood produces.
Decourt also handles the inevitable meeting between Marc and the husband of Florence well. One spoiler is that no punches are thrown. This good track record continues to the end with Dercourt providing a somewhat unexpected but happy ending for all that makes the audience want to see the Chapter Three of the leads.
The Lionsgate July 17, 2018 separate DVD and Blu-ray DVD releases of the 2017 drama "You Were Never Really Here" proves that sensitive character studies and blood-drenched vengeance flicks are not mutually exclusive. The film additionally makes good use of the talent of Joaquin Phoenix ("Walk the Line") for playing a sullen brooding tortured soul of little words in this work based on a novel by Jonathan Ames of "Bored to Death" fame.
The accolades this time include Phoenix winning a Best Actor award and writer/director Lynne Ramsay bringing home a Best Screenplay honor from the 2017 Cannes festival.
The following YouTube clip of the "Here" trailer perfectly conveys the spirit of the film.
"Here" is almost pure noir in that virtually every event occurs after dark on gritty New York streets. This highly silent film that largely has Joe go about his dirty business without being seen by those around him opens in typical fashion for this sub-genre. This pitch-dark knight finishes up work before going on to his second job as the caretaker to senile and difficult "Joe's Mother" (Judith Roberts).
It is equally typical that we see Joe collect payment for his most recent project and get word of a new job from the intermediary between our hero and his employer. An incident during this visit provides foreshadowing that Joe regrets ignoring.
The mission that Joe chooses to accept involves rescuing the mid-teen daughter of a state senator, who is the middle-aged son of a wealthy man.
The real fun begins when Joe intercepts the poor pervert who is leaving the location of the icky business where the daughter is white slave labor. These leads to a violent rescue that does not phase the "seen it all before" Joe.
More creepiness ensues when the desk clerk at a hot-sheets hotel does not seem to even literally blink when Joe checks in with a clearly shell-shocked tween girl, It is equally clear that the reason for that visit is of absolutely no concern to this guy who merely collects the money and hands out room keys.
Our unlikely friends learning of shocking events starts the final roller coaster ride of "Here." Joe next opens the hotel room door to be greeted with here's blood in your eye. He then makes his established and new rounds only to find that someone always is one step ahead of him.
The final showdown occurs when the cylinders fully start clicking in the brain of Joe. This bloodshed seemingly leads to more normalcy only to find that Ramsay and Ames have one more dark-humor trick up their sleeves. Suffice it to say that the final minutes pay homage to "Death" fellow HBO series "The Sopranos."
Warner Archive combines its best elements in the Blu-ray release of the 1953 Hitchcock drama "I Confess." This Montgomery Clift-Anne Baxter tale of a priest who is a prime suspect of a murder for which the killer confesses to him is a lesser-known classic and ties into the more recent Archive release of the (reviewed) Hitchcock film "The Wrong Man" because Hitchcock identifies both as his favorites of his films. "Confess" additionally masterfully reproduces a beautifully shot black-and-white film. The typical cherry on the sundae is a few high-quality bonus features. In other words, Archive outshines an arrogant (and grossly overpriced) purveyor who releases films that meet the criterion of that company.
Justifiable arrogance regarding "Confess" starts with feeling that Hitchcock is adopting the style of the French New Wave filmmakers and then seeing a comment in the "making-of" special features sharing that that film is a favorite of those Europeans for that reason. The basis for this observation is the copious imagery and excellent use of the contrast between black and white (which looks perfect in Blu-ray). An example of this is Father Michael Logan (Clift) walking past sculptures of soldiers forcing a bent-over Christ to carry his cross to his crucifixion.
This technique (and the strong noir element of "Confess") is clear from the opening scenes. The film opens on a dark night and begins with a series of shots of one-way street signs in Quebec.
The audience quickly learns of the aforementioned killing, and we see a wolf in priest's clothing seemingly flee the scene. This leads to Logan investigating on seeing the man in black enter his church.
More terrific imagery and symbolism follows as WWII German refugee Otto Keller confesses both to his wife Alma Keller and to Logan. The insult that is added to the central injury relates to Logan having taken in the Kellers and allowed them to live with some dignity in the post-war period.
The rookie mistake of Logan that enhances the scrutiny of investigating officer Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) is returning to the scene of the crime the next morning. The bigger picture is that this reflects the Hitchcock leitmotif of the scary ease with which an innocent man or woman can get caught up in the system.
The Hitchcock blonde this time is Anne Baxter of "All About Eve." Her innocent/femme fatale Ruth Grandfort is the former lover of Logan and the current wife of a prominent politician. The murder victim being a man who knew too much regarding this triangle contributes to putting a nail in the coffin of Logan.
The suspense escalates to the point of Logan being tried for the murder while Otto essentially sits knitting away in his catbird seat at the trial. Clift puts his method acting technique to good use depicting the Christ-like anguish of watching the evidence pile up against him while the nature of confession ties his hands.
While lesser filmmakers would end their projects with the reactions of the principals on the reading of verdict in the trial of Logan, Hitchcock validates the basis for his reputation as Hollywood royalty. Logan is subjected to a virtual stoning by the outraged masses and finds himself in a final confrontation that truly tests his faith.
The bigger picture (pun intended) is that Hitchcock greatly emulates his actual peer Orson Welles. This comparison extends beyond the New Wave style of filming in black-and-white in this CinemaScope era. Hitchcock and Welles share a similar sensibility of the nature of post-war Germans. The related broad messages are that living under the rule of Hitler affects everyone and that the true nature of all of us ultimately emerges for better or worse. Throwing in commentary on the Catholic Church contributes more food for thought.
The other Blu-ray features are fun newsreel footage of the Quebec premiere of "Confess" and the theatrical trailer of the film.
The Warner Archive January 2016 Blu-ray release of the Kafkaesque 1956 Hitchcock docudrama "The Wrong Man" continues a series of reviews of exceptional Archive releases from the not-too-distant past. Hitchcock forgoing his usual Stan Lee style tongue-in-cheek cameo for a highly-stylized introduction is the first indication that this largely shot on location one is different.
The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer (which the BD includes) for "Man" features the monolgue that is discussed below. It also highlights the suspense and (also mentioned below) soundtrack.
This opening monologue stating that The Master of Suspense is shifting his focus from tales of murder and mayhem to the real-life story of the titular "innocent" Stork Club musician Christopher Emmanuel "Manny" Balestero (Henry Fonda) is another indication of a deviation from the norm. "Psycho" co-star Vera Miles playing Balestero spouse Rose and composer of the peerless "Psycho" theme (and other music of that film) Bernard Herrmann doing his thing here provide a sense of business as usual.
A coincidental sense of continuity is that "Man" is one of three recently acquired Archive releases that includes a new DVD of the (soon-to-be-reviewed)1966 Doris Day romcom "The Glass Bottom Boat" in which Day sings her signature song "Que Sera Sera" that she premieres in the 1956 Hitchcock thriller "The Man Who Knew Too Much."
The larger theme is a combination of a concept that makes Hitchcock so great and a related "it could happen to you" element of the work of Franz Kafka that Hitchcock often emulates. The Hitchcock formula for success includes moving terrifying events from the creepy mansion on the hill to the house next door. The source of fear this time is being wrongfully accused of a crime getting you wrapped up in a legal system that often is defended on the basis that it is the best alternative out there.
Readers are asked to consider the following discussion of "Man" both in the context of imagining themselves in the shoes of Manny and regarding the larger issue of the "Me Too" movement. The SINCERE disclaimer regarding this is that the discussion of "Me" is not intended to suggest anything other than the harm IF an accusation is false. No opinion is being expressed regarding the validity of ANY "Me" claim.
Men and women in power often abuse their positions and most claims of abuse by Hollywood power brokers are undisputed. Further, determining the truth in disputed cases involving 30 year-old events can be very challenging; this is not to mention one man's innocent hug being another woman's sexual assault
The other side of the coin is that "Me" is subject to abuse by someone who wrongfully targets a person with a solid decades-long reputation that is worth millions of dollars and that allows him or her to walk the streets without being the subject of active scorn.
In typical Hitchcock style, "Man" begins depicting the then ordinary life of Manny before it spirals out of control. He is happily jamming in the New York landmark that employs him, takes the subway home, checks in on his peacefully sleeping young sons, and then goes into his marital bedroom to learn that the pain of four impacted wisdom teeth are keeping Rose awake.
The everymanny sense of the main character continues with him and Rose discussing their poor fiscal health and options for funding the dental procedure that she requires. Their fateful decision the next morning to borrow from the life insurance policy on Rose triggers their nightmare.
Manny goes to the insurance company office later that day thinking that inquiring about the value of the policy as collateral for a loan is going to be routine. The reality is that a woman who works there mistakenly recognizes him as the man who robbed the business months ago.
A subsequent police report puts NYPD Blue on the trail of Manny; being a nice guy and believing that his innocence is his get out of jail free card prompts our innocent to fully cooperate with the detectives who literally knock on his door.
The cringing by viewers begins with the detectives questioning Manny without reading him the well-known Miranda rights that the U.S. Supreme Court establishes 10 years later. Their criminally negligent behavior continues with conducting numerous blatantly suggestive witness identification procedures that include having Manny walk through robbed stores without informing him of the purpose for doing so.
This leads to arresting Manny without even telling him of his rights to an attorney and to remain silent as the cell door slams. The detectives additionally still are telling their suspect that he has no cause for concern if he is innocent.
Hitchcock and Kafka fully merge in this black-and-white film as the shadow of the cell bars falls across the face of a terrified Manny. This leads to a memorable scene as he sits still while the camera spins around him in a manner reminiscent of several "Psycho" shots.
Audience sympathy grows for Manny as defeat repeatedly is snatched from the jaws of victory. This includes the highly improbable thwarting of every effort to establish what should be a solid alibi. This likely raises the thought of many viewers in this age in which many of us live alone and that DVRs and/or On Demand video (not to mention highly portable cell phones) are in virtually that PROVING that we are "home watching television" on a "night in question" may be very difficult.
The additional element that attracts Hitchcock to the story is the toll on Rose. The overall experience and the related thoughts cause her great angst with effects that last well beyond the truth coming out.
Archive supplements the film with the making-of documentary "Guilt Trip: Hitchcock and the Wrong Man." Peerless film historian Robert Osborne and genuinely acclaimed film director Peter Bogdanovich are among the talking heads who provide insight regarding this compelling docudrama
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