Olive Signature, which is the exceptional collector's edition division of Olive Films, does the 1945 Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman classic "The Bells of St. Mary's" more than proud as to the November 26, 2019 pristine Blu-ray release of that Oscar-winning classic. The typical sturdy artful sleeve, the comprehensive written essay, and the equally educational and entertaining BD bonus features are pure Signature in a manner that shows that Olive ain't just whistlin' Dixie as to its motto "cinema lives here."
Crosby reunites (and it feels so good) with legendary veteran writer/director/producer Leo McCarey to continue the story of Crosby's Oscar-winning Father Chuck O'Malley from "Going My Way." The Crosby-style charm and wit of that man of the cloth likely provides the Catholic Church with its best propaganda of the '40s. (A BD bonus feature provides copious enlightenment as to the biopic-worthy career of McCarey.)
Our story begins with O'Malley arriving at the titular House of God in his capacity as the new pastor. The circumstances regarding this change-of-command reflect the not-uncommon real-life situation in which a priest well past his prime is a figurehead, and the penguins run the aquarium. This plays a role as to the ready-for-primetime O'Malley sometimes leaving stern but loving Sister Benedict (Bergman) with egg on her face.
The aforementioned Crosby style particularly shines in early scenes in which he inadvertently rings the school bell an hour before the beginning of classes and later shows the students that there is a new Sheriff Taylor in town. Benedict particularly is not amused as to the largess of the new boss but holds her tongue, as she amazingly does throughout the film.
An early highlight is O'Malley being unaware of why the nuns validly are laughing during his introduction of himself to them; one can say that the cat has got the tongues of his audience,
An even more adorable scene come roughly halfway through the film; we see the first-graders rehearsing their version of the Nativity story. Much of this involves a very young Joseph knocking on doors only to be told to take a powder because he does not have any money.
The central conflict between O'Malley and Benedict is highly relatable in this modern era of church closings, The necessity of funds for repairs already has required selling the former playground of the property. Developer Horace P. Bogadus (Henry "Clarence" Travers) is making solid progress with his building on that site and has his eyes on the school as the location of a parking lot.
Laid-back O'Malley is accepting the strong probability that the St. Mary's students will need to be bused to St. Vincent's across town. Benedict has a perish the thought attitude regarding the closure of her home. A "God will get you for that" attitude of O'Malley plays a role.
The response of every viewer with a soul to a shock soon after an apparent resolution to this challenge is a prime example of the impact of this perfect film. You WILL respond as intended to every character and feel his or her pain.
Our leads also clash as to new girl in class Patsy. This girl entering adolescence prompts her single mother to convince O'Malley to give Patsy an education and a "proper" home. Of course, O'Malley responds with exceptional kindness and compassion.
As a BD bonus in the form of an engaging interview with a nun who is a film reviewer states, it is almost certain that the mother either practices the oldest profession in the world or relies on the kindness of strangers. This bride of Christ also shares how her own experience allows her to relate to Patsy. The rest of us will think of a "Facts of Life" episode in which Eve Plumb of "The Brady Bunch" fame plays a young nun who has a profound impact on one of the Eastland girls.
The other primary source of conflict between O'Malley and Benedict is the former making a sacrifice for the good of the latter, who incorrectly thinks that she is being punished for adhering to her principles (rather than to her principal). Once again, the real-life nun speaks for the rest of this as to her response to this.
Every thread of the "St. Mary's" story aptly comes together at the commencement ceremony, which is one of the final times that Benedict shows O'Malley who's the boss, at the end of the film. Everyone ends up where he or she belongs in true Golden Age fashion.
Hopefully as shown above, the blessing and the curse of "St Mary's" is that it reminds us of what movies can be. Neither O'Malley nor Benedict outwardly lose their tempers (or end up in bed together), and there is no violence or shock-and-awe humor.
One must believe that there still are filmmaker like McCarey out there. It is less likely that there are enough Americans who still have a soul to allow another "St. Marys" to return a reasonable profit.
Olive Films truly earns the superlative awesome regarding following up the Olive BD release of the previously suppressed 1946 John Huston documentary on WWII PTSD "Let There Be Light" with the BD release of the 1955 Oscar-nominated semi-docupic "Strategic Air Command." "Light" includes a real-life Army fly boy Jimmy Stewart hosted WWII-era recruiting film for pilots. "Strategic" stars Stewart as fictional retired Army WWII pilot/current baseball phenom Robert "Dutch" Holland, who gets called back into service.
The blu-ray enhancements to the then-state-of-the-art VistaVision that is used to film "Strategic" greatly adds to watching the epic scenes in this film that centers around aviation.
The following YouTube clip of the "Strategic" theatrical trailer nicely illustrates (pun intended) the aforementioned good cinematography and the apt dramatic style of the film.
Dutch is living the American dream at the beginning of "Strategic;" he is a star with the St. Louis Cardinals, is married to the lovely and loving Sally (June Allyson), and even has a wonderful relationship with his in-laws. All this changes when his former commander/Army buddy shows up with the bad news that Holland is being called into active duty.
The rationale is that maintaining the Cold War era peace requires that the titular branch of the Air Force constantly patrols the skies for the unstated (but clearly implied) red menace that threatens the American way of life. This logic includes that this program requires the skills of Stewart and others who flew during "The Big One."
The awesomeness of "Strategic" extends beyond building on the earlier Stewart film. Holland accepts his fate and does not make run for the Canadian border but also does not start waving the flag or otherwise exhibit an ounce of enthusiasm for his new career. The realism continues with Holland getting a less-than-warm-welcome at the front gate of his new base and soon learning that rank does not always have its privileges when it comes to military housing,
For her part, Sally is a dedicated military wife to a point. She contentedly uproots herself to live in the aforementioned fixer-upper accommodation and is supportive regarding the demands of the new job of her husband. However, she has her limits and reaches them.
Great behind-the-scenes insight in "Strategic," which is made with the cooperation of the actual SAC, include a scene surrounding a security drill and a separate segment that provides a detailed tour of the then-state-of-the-art B-36 bomber.
The B-36 additionally has a prominent role in the climatic final scene. Stewart suffers a disabling (and mission-threatening) relapse of a physical problem while commanding a rigorous mission on a B-36, and Sally is not a content spouse.
The effectiveness of "Strategic" extends well beyond the aforementioned realistic tone of the film; the filmmakers pull off a Hollywood ending that does not make your teeth ache.
The Olive Films May 29, 2018 DVD release of the 1959 film "A Bucket of Blood" that Olive describes as a "black-comedy-beatnik-culture-horror film" by a man that Olive shares is known as "The Pop of Pop Culture" is a wonderfully perverse cult classic with great significance.
This film enhances the Corman films in the Olive catalog by joining "Gas-s-s-s," "The Wild Angels," and the recent Olive release of "The Trip" starring Peter Fonda. The bigger picture is that "Bucket" is a precursor to the better known 1969 Corman black comedy "The Little Shop of Horrors."
Both "Bucket" and "Shop" feature a total nerd giving into an awesomely dark bloodlust in a bid to win the hot chick at work. "Shop" florist employee Seymour Krelborn provides carnivorous plant Audrey II the desired sustenance in a bid to win the heart of the babe for whom he names the plant.
Walter Paisley is a used and abused busboy at The Yellow Door coffeehouse, which is a beatnik hangout, at the beginning of "Blood." The object of his affection is cool cat Carla.
The same type of accident that is happy for the born loser and unhappy from the perspective of society that sets Seymour on the path to success in "Shop" involves a sacrificial cat in "Bucket." The poor kitty who uses up his ninth life is the beloved pet of the landlady of Walter.
Walter stupidly but accidentally killing the pussy leads him to conclude that making art is the best course of action when life gives you a dead mouser. The very avant-garde sculpture "Dead Cat" brings Walter instant fame (and an unfair portion of fortune) at the coffee shop.
Undercover narc Lou Raby (Bert Convy) making the rookie mistake of bringing a gun to a skillet fight inspires the second (and more grotesque) work "Murdered Man." The neighborhood whore subsequent learns not to tease any repressed psycho even if he is not one in Mom's clothing. We further get a local resident paying for what he saw.
The overall beatnik culture contributes much of the fun in "Bucket." The king of the scene embracing Walter to the extent of literally placing him on a throne provides further good period-piece entertainment. This is not to mention seeing the extent to which greed and an equal lust for celebrity outweighs morality.
Corman does even better presenting the truth literally beginning to reveal itself and the surface-thin cool composure of Walter melting away until the mob wants him in an undesirable manner. This leads to enacting the Corman form of justice.
The bigger Corman picture is that this genius fully embraces every element of the B-movies of which he is a master. This includes (such as in "Shop" and "Blood") shooting in black-and-white when not opting for lurid vivid color, using low-budget effects, and figuratively sticking to the script each time. He further is set apart from the makers of other guilty pleasures in that he sets out to create trashlicious garbage each time and greatly succeeds. This (along with the obvious drug influences) makes him the one-man Sid and Marty Krofft of the silver screen.
The recent Olive Films Blu-ray release of the gay-themed dramedy "Partners" is a great example of the '80slicious titles that comprise a significant percentage of the Olive DVD and Blu-ray catalogs. The brat pack classics "Class" and "Making the Grade" are two of scads of bodacious examples of these films.
The following YouTube clip of the "Partners" theatrical trailer nicely showcases the early '80s style of the film, the good performances, and the era-appropriate humor.
"Partners" takes a nice twist on the odd couple theme by pairing hunky homophobe cop Benson pair with closeted desk jockey officer Kerwin for an undercover mission in West Hollywood to investigate the murders of young gay men. Dreamy funny Ryan O'Neal and very talented John Hurt play Benson and Kerwin respectively.
Veteran gruff character actor character actor Kenneth McMillian, who perhaps is best known as rough but kind costume shop owner Jack Doyle on the '70s sitcom "Rhoda," shines as the stereotypical commanding officer of the pair. His threatening to put police detective Benson back in uniform and on the beat in the worst part of the city and his aggressively pushing a very insecure Kerwin out of the closet to get the men to work together are highlights.
The comedy cred. of "Partners" relates to James Burrows, who is behind "Rhoda" and too many other to mention classic sophisticated '70s and '80s sitcoms, directing the film. The street cred. comes from having Francis Veber, whose gaycom credits extend well beyond "La Cage Aux Folles" and the "Folles" American cousin "The Birdcage," scribe the film.
The early scenes in "Partners" have Benson and Kerwin set up housekeeping in a West Hollywood apartment building. Benson stereotypically hurls slurs at Kerwin and is otherwise brutal. The submissive manner in which Kerwin reacts both reflects the less accepting '80s regarding alternate sexual orientations and is a perfect analogy for the verbal abuse that many black people passively accepted for years before expressing their own well-deserved pride.
Other outdated prejudice comes in the form of both Benson and the commanding officer of the team discount theories of Kerwin simply because he is gay, Anyone who has been in the position of knowing that he or she is right but cannot get people to listen can relate to this.
Benson getting his eyes opened on finding himself on the other end of sadistic gay bashing by the police is another positive message in an era in which even seeming to be gay can have serious negative consequences.
An unduly brief cameo by Jay Robinson as the old queen landlord of the boys is a real treat for fans of the Sid and Marty Krofft '70s Saturday morning show "Dr. Shrinker" in which Robinson plays the titular madman with an evil mind who is as crazy as you'll ever find. Being able to joke "so that's what happened to Igor" in response to the landlord sharing the tale of the end of a 20-year relationship is some compensation for his very limited screen time.
Much of the humor predictably comes from the assignment requiring that a devastatingly humiliated Benson wears revealing and/or fetish clothes and subjects himself to equally unwelcome groping by gay men. A particularly embarrassing bow-and-arrow "outfit" of an oiled-up Benson is a personal favorite.
Seeing Kerwin and Benson grow as a professional and a personal team is very sweet; one especially endearing scene has Benson express great delight in having Kerwin surprise him with a homemade gourmet feast to celebrate their one-week anniversary.
The supporting actors and the extras who play the members of the West Hollywood community representing a wide spectrum of the population is another awesome aspect of "Partners." A blond haired blued eye preppy who is attracted to Kerwin is one of the more likable secondary characters; others in the group are disco queens, leathermen, and just ordinary blokes.
On a larger level, "Partners" is very far from being a documentary on the Stonewall riots or other significant moments in gay history but does provide an entertaining history lesson on the attitudes toward gay people in the early days of the pride movement. The strong probability that many gay men did not see the film in the theater out of fear of being labelled as homosexual is an aspect of this. Olive allowing the men to buy the Blu-ray and throw a fabulous fondue party to watch it is a good thing.
Olive Film once again simultaneously lives up to its guiding principle "cinema lives here" and proves that we're not worthy with the separate Blu-ray and DVDs releases of two cult classics on June 25, 2019. The 1965 beach-musical "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" is the topic du jour.
The equally good (and equally they don't make 'em like that anymore) occult thriller "The Believers" (1987) is a topic for early next week. Blu-ray does films justice, but the bright and sunny musical "Bikini" particularly looks and sounds spectacular in that format.
Doing "Bikini" any justice at all (pun intended) requires much more space than this forum can provide. Suffice it to so that it has every element (and more) of the beach movies of the '60s. You cannot help but feel good while watching it. This is not to mention the star-studded cast of A- and B-Listers that rivals the ensemble of the 1963 "Cannonball Run" style comedy "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."
Comparing "Bikini" to an episode of the wonderfully, zany, madcap kidcom "The Monkees" of the same era provides additional context. Both shows feature the nicest kids in town enjoying the sun and surf of California as they rock out at the drop of a hat while contending with comical villains and square adults. Yes, they are too busy singing to put anybody down.
The closest modern equivalent is the way-cool movie-within-a-movie "Wet Side Story" that is a major element in the Disney Channel "Teen Beach Movie" franchise starring "Austin and Ally" star/real-life rocker Ross Lynch. The inexcusable delay in releasing the long-promised "Teen Beach Movie 3" is disappointing.,
Veteran beach movie and "Bewitched" director (as well as real-life husband of "Bewitched" star Elizabeth Montgomery) William Asher provides "Stuffed" additional '60scom cred. Further, "Stuffed" centering around the work of Tahitian witch doctor Bwana (Buster Keaton) is only one way that Asher pays homage to his day job. The other connection is too awesome to spoil.
We further get "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" star Dwayne Hickman keeping the TV Land spirit alive. The occasions on which Hickman, as literal man in the gray flannel suit Ricky, breaks the fourth wall evokes wonderful memories of "Gillis."
Beach-movie goddess Annette Funicello rounds out our top three as virtuous beach bunny Dee Dee. This character supports the theory that dames ain't nothin' but trouble.
Our story begins with Dee Dee beau Frankie (Frankie Avalon) serving naval reserve duty in Tahiti; his getting restless with a native girl triggers thoughts that the girl back home may conclude that what is good for the goose may be worth a gander.
The island girl then brings Frankie to Bwana; the two men strike a not-so-gentlemanly deal whereby Bwana will provide the titular bikini, babe Casandra with which to stuff it as a decoy for the Moondoggies back in Cali, and a deep undercover spy to both keep tabs on Dee Dee and to serve as a rooster blocker. The other side of the bargain is that Frankie makes a daily payment for the rendered services.
Some of the rest of the story is that Ricky and madman Peachy Keane (Mickey Rooney) make the scene in the quest to find the girl and the boy next door to be the wholesome image of a motorcycle company. This honor goes to the couple that wins a motorcycle race. Their competition includes reformed biker Eric Von Zipper (beach-movie veteran Harvey Lembeck), who zeros in on Casandra as the one whom he wants.
Hilarity ensues as Ricky pursues Dee Dee, the beach boys (including Bonehead) woo Casandra, and Von Zipper and his gang enact their evil scheme.
All of this culminates in the titular contest with strong elements of the cartoon of the era "The Wacky Races." Dirty tricks galore keep the fun going. This leads to the related bestowing of the modeling contract and the right boy getting the girl. One should keep in mind that Frankie getting Annette is not set in stone.
Wrapping up the four-part series of reviews on the uber-diverse Olive Films August 16, 2016 Blur-ray/DVD releases that has dominated Unreal TV this week with the very groovy psychedelic 1968 dramedy "Wild in the Streets" arguably saves the best for last. This is because this satire regarding granting the actual disenfranchised the vote is very relevant in what arguably is a satirical actual presidential campaign makes it the most relevant of the four.
"Wild," which has a wonderful LSD vibe sound track, opens with '60s style surreal scenes of the oppression/abuse and subsequent drug activity and related rebellion during the childhood and teen years of later counterculture rocker 24 year-old Max Frost. Dreamy Christopher Jones of "Ryan's Daughter" does a terrific job playing Max as someone mainstream enough to (initially) not scare parents while being enough of a rebel to be a teen idol in this era of free love.
Using what seems to be the living room set of the wholesome '50s sitcom "Leave it to Beaver" for the childhood home of Max is almost as awesome as casting top-billed Shelley Winters as his status-obsessed (and later borderline-incestuous) typical '60s housewife mother Daphne.
The action soon shifts to the palatial estate where multi-millionaire commodity Frost lives with his entourage/band. These include adorable 15 year-old Yale Law graduate/accountant/guitarist Billy Gage (who looks as if he is one of My Three Sons). Richard Pryor does well in his early film career role as hilariously named drummer Stanley X.
Classic TV fans will enjoy seeing Kellie Flanagan of the '60s fantasycom "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" as the young daughter of Fergus. As a first aside, Flanagan states during a May 2015 Unreal TV interview that "Wild" star Hal Holbrook is extremely caring and nice. As a second aside, Flanagan gets one of the best lines in the film during her final scene in which she takes Frost to old school.
"Youthful" 38 year-old California Congressman/U.S. Senate candidate Johnny Fergus (played by a wonderfully youthful Holbrook) recruiting Max and the band to play at a campaign rally gets those kids thinking about the real-world issue regarding 18 year-olds being eligible to be drafted and sent to Viet Nam but not being allowed to vote until they are 21. A related thought is that the majority of the American population is 25 or younger.
These events soon lead to Fergus losing control of Max, who begins an aggressive campaign to lower the voting age to 14 as shown in an awesome video courtesy of YouTube. This, in turn, lead to other satirical reforms that take the '60s concept of not being able to trust anyone over 30 to a hilarious extreme. The expert handling of this includes every scene with Fergus and Frost having the other appear much taller than the latter and looking like father-son interaction.
The related hilarity includes what can be considered weaponized LSD, an outraged senior in every sense U.S. Senator witnessing the free-spirited debauchery at Chez Frost, and the straight-laced teen son of Fergus engaging in the cutest form of rebellion ever.
Like all great satire, this exagerated version of reality in "Wild" works because it uses a talented writer and director to determine what likable and/or absurd characters say and do. Being given power is a fantasy of the young, and absolute power corrupts absolutely regardless of who yields it.
On a larger level, "Wild" is fun nostalgia for folks old enough to remember psychedelic cinema and a great look at the "ancient" past for folks who have never seen a corded telephone.
Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition Tops Holiday Gift Guide in DVD/Blu-ray Renaissance
The response of studios great and still great but small to increasing incursion of streaming into the DVD/Blu-ray/4K market reinforces the belief of Unreal TV that physical media rules and online content drools. The primary principle is that having something physical facilitates being able to watch what you want when desired.
Discs eliminate any chance of buffering, content slowing down other devices, or a streaming service pulling the content. You additionally do not have the aggravation of having to subscribe to multiple services to get the desired content.
The aforementioned defense to the offense of streaming, which has value when you are away from home, is to make physical releases more special. On a basic level, this involves designing new packaging to makes a release look cool and to incorporate it into a series of releases, This marketing may apply to the '80s teencoms, classic horror films, or the CGI-animated movies of a a studio.
Holy Hi-Def, Batman!
The Warner Brothers Home Entertainment October 30, 2018 Blu-ray release of Batman: Complete Animated Series Deluxe Limited Edition is a PERFECT example of the renaissance in the home-video industry. WBHE has expertly remastered every episode in this 1992-95 series. We also get Blu-ray versions of the equally well resurrected (reviewed) "Mask of the Phantasm" and the (also reviewed) "Batman and Mr. Freeze: Subzero."
The set packaging is very stylish, and there are special features galore. WBHE goes further by including three mini-figures, placing the discs in a collectible hard-cover book, and providing 7 lenticular cards with "original animation artwork." This is not to mention limiting the run of the sets to 69,048; I scored the relatively low number of 11,601.
A brief diversion into Blogland is that the TAS set is personally particularly special. It is reminiscent of the even-more special WBHE numbered limited-edition Blu-ray release of the Christopher Nolan "Batman" trilogy, which has better packaging and includes toy cars. This set was the first Christmas gift from the highly significant other who has tolerated your not-so-humble reviewer for six years and counting.
Olive Films Garden
Purveyor of Hollywood classics, cult films, and art-house fare Olive Films takes top honors regarding taking art-gallery-worthy DVD and Blu-ray packaging to the next level. The Olive Signature division of this company does particularly well regarding collector's editions that put a highly arrogant competitor to shame.
Many posts on Olive releases can be found in the Olive section of this new-and-improved site; several more are slowly but surely being copied over from Unreal TV 1.0.
The beautifully remastered collector's edition Blu-ray releases from Signature feature aptly high-end art. Olive supplements this with picture-perfect (no pun intended) remasters. The extra-rich icing on the cake is the copious PBS-worthy documentaries and other features in Signature releases The additional awesomeness is these being limited editions that make them that much more special.
Warner Archive Awesomeness
Archive always will have a special place in my heart. Lovers of television and film can thank Ted Turner buying the video libraries of several studios to provide his fledgling basic-cable networks content for Archive having a seemingly bottomless pit of resources 40 years later. These riches include classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, all-time favorites and forgotten big-screen gems from every 20th-century era of Hollywood, and some of the best sitcoms and dramas to hit television from the early days of that medium to the present.
Archive reflects the trend toward enhanced packaging by reproducing the theatrical posters for films on the DVD (and increasingly Blu-ray only) releases of those movies. Archive is even more fully getting with the times by fully stepping with special features.
The bigger picture is that Archive is embracing the idea of leitmotifs that scream for bundled gifts . A few of many examples include releasing Christopher Lee "Dracula" films. Hitchcock movies, Silver Age musicals, etc. within several weeks of each other.
Most new releases of Golden Age fare provide a full night at the movies by including a cartoon, a newsreel, and a short from the era. We also often get footage of the premiere of the main feature. Archive releases of films from the '40s through the '70s typically have wonderful making-of documentaries that feature film experts such as Robert Osborne, Leonard Maltin, and Peter Bogdanovich.
The Archive section of this site provides a taste of these releases, including the aforementioned sub-genres; copying over the other 100s of reviews on Unreal TV 1.0 will require years.
Mill Creek Entertainment Springs to Life
Mill Creek Entertainment earns a completely sincere and equally heartfelt "Most Improved" award. No one loved the MCE collections of public-domain content more than your not-so-humble reviewer. Getting to see childhood favorites, such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction" was great fun. This is not to mention the glee associated with watching less-frequently syndicated classic sitcoms that include "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Burns and Allen."
MCE began stepping up in 2017 with Blu-ray complete-series sets of programs such as "Quantum Leap" and "That '70s Show."
MCE built on the foundation of "Leap" and "Show" by fulling with other awesome complete series Blu-ray sets in 2018. The MCE section of this site includes posts of the Showtime series "Masters of Sex," the especially good release of the Hulu animated series "The Awesomes," and the one-of-a kind Denis Leary NYFD firefighter series "Rescue Me."
MCE also is getting into the enhanced packaging/awesome special features game regarding classic '80s and '90s films. The current catalog includes the original star-studded "Flatliners" and the rising-star-laden '90s teencom "Can't Hardly Wait." Mid-January "retro" releases include the Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy "Last Action Hero" and the John Candy slapstick-comedy Who's Harry Crumb."
Aptly for this time of the year, the above discussion of the featured studios is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the gift-worthy releases from them. Everyone from a hard-core cinephile to an amateur sofa spud will delight in the initial thrill of seeing an artful set, will love the high-quality production, and will delight in learning more by watching the extras.
'Mr. Capra Goes to War: Frank Capra's World War II Documentaries' Blu-ray and DVD: Acclaimed Director Tells GIs Why We Fight
The Olive Films separate DVD and Blu-ray releases of "Mr. Capra Goes to War: Frank Capra's World War II Documentaries" make November 6, 2018 a date that will live in infinite joy. These beautifully remastered "Why We Fight" films that include entertaining in-depth insights by film historian and Capra biographer Joseph McBride are equally entertaining and educational. Watch your back, Maltin.
"Capra' stands very well on its own and is a PERFECT companion to the (reviewed) Olive release "Let There Be Light." Light" features the contributions of equally legendary film director John Huston to the war effort.
The McBride-hosted half-hour special feature "Frank Capra: Why We Fight" is must-see to fully understand and enjoy the propaganda-laden documentaries that comprise the bulk of this collection. We learn about the military service of Capra and the ways in which his public image is inaccurate. We further see how he comes to work for Uncle Sam and manages to produce films for a small fraction of the cost of his Hollywood productions.
McBride shares additional film-specific information in his introductions to each film; this context is just as fascinating as "Fight."
"Prelude to War" focuses on the event leading to WWII and on explaining the importance of red-blooded American boys joining the fight. A nice aspect of "Prelude" is that it does not dumb-down the material; the only animation is Disney-produced footage that illustrates (no pun intended) the incursion of Axis forces into other countries.
The scope of this one encompasses a discussion of WWI and the resulting international pact prohibiting waging war to settle dispute. This includes showing America reducing its military resources in reliance on that agreement,
The introduction to the two-part "The Battle of Russia" is especially interesting. McBride reminds us of the basis for the U.S.-Soviet alliance and tells us that Russia supplies Capra all of the footage for the film. That source material perfectly reflects Soviet propaganda.
The main theme this time is that the Nazis can be stopped from advancing and can actually be driven back. We also see a favored Nazi tactic used against the Germans. The symbolic value of Moscow is another theme.
It is indisputable that the propaganda level in this one is particularly strong. We see the vast resources of Mother Russia and her happy people working in the fields and the factories. We also hear about their heroic natures. The gruesome footage of dead German soldiers is less appealing.
McBride further shares that the purpose of "The Negro Soldier" extends beyond encouraging black men to join the fight. This film also is intended to have white soldiers feel proper regard for the black brothers-in-arms.
A "and the rest" film is "Tunisian Victory about the joint American and British effort in North Africa. The last but not least has Capra and Theodore Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) team up to help maintain the moral of folks who remain in Germany as occupiers after the war.
Watching these films both greatly expands an understanding of Capra and demonstrates the nature of propaganda. A perfect example of this "Soldier" omitting inconvenient truths. Chances to watch these films is rare enough; watching them accompanied by the comments of McBride is a unique opportunity that should not be squandered.
The Olive Films November 6, 2018 separate Blu-ray and DVD releases of the 2004 "based on a true story" Spanish film "The 7th Day" perfectly illustrates the art-house spirit of Olive; a gift from the catalog of this global film god is sure to delight the cinephile on your shopping list. It is worth mentioning as well that the beautiful cinematography of "Day" REQUIRES buying it in BD.
A related plug for Olive before discussing the many merits of "Day" is that this release coincides with a (soon-to-be-reviewed) Blu-ray release of WWII-era documentaries by Frank Capra. This one also is available on DVD.
The distinctiveness of multi-award-winning "Day" that earns a place in the Olive Films Hall of Fame begins with this art-house classic having relatable depth. It uses a highly symbolic narrative to chronicle a decades-long feud between the Fuentes and Jimenez families. The quirky edge of the film further illustrates that Olive values art over commerce.
The root of the difficulties around which "Day" centers is Amadeo Jimenez abruptly breaking off his relationship with Luciana Fuentes. This triggers Luciaana going fully Havisham with consequences that include her brother responding to the break-up with extreme prejudice. This in turn, leads to the Fuentes family home burning while the matriarch is inside.
The action then shifts forward several years to focus on the next generation of Jimenezs. The specific focus is on the three daughters of Jose the butcher. All of this is in the wake of an exodus resulting from shame and guilt. We additionally witness the ongoing impact of Amadeo determining decades earlier that he just is not that into Luciana.
A combination of the past returning and history threatening to repeat itself leads to a climax that puts the title of the film in PERFECT context; the cynical nature of the message regarding the nature of humankind is a notable twist.
The moderate-sized picture this time is that the shock value of "Day" includes the aforementioned aspect of being based on a true story. The bigger picture is that micro and macro events sadly demonstrate that this is not an isolated incident; the sins of the father (and of the mother) truly have enormous half-lives.
The bad news is that the 1956 scifi horror thriller "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" being a prominent topic in film study and political science courses precludes giving the Olive Signature division of Olive Films October 16, 2018 Blu-ray release of this classic due regard. The first good news is that the copious in-depth and insightful bonus features do show "Body" proper regard and give current students a good shot at boosting their grade at least a notch.
Audio commentary by "Body" stars Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter (and by Gizmo's birth dad Joe Dante) further enhances the Signature release of the film.
The second good news is that the recently beefed-up Olive Films section of Unreal TV 2.0 includes reviews of other cult classics that Signature has shown tremendous love. The first releases are the 1952 classic Western "High Noon" and the more campy 1954 Joan Crawford Western "Johnny Guitar." This collection including the lesbiancentric 1996 neo-noir film "Bound" demonstrates the range of Signature,
"Body" is based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. The aforementioned special features shows how this tale of the fruit of seeds from outer space replacing ordinary townfolks in a '50s Everytown U.S.A. speaks to (hilariously named) producer Walter Wanger. We additionally get the perspective of director Don Siegel.
As the oft-mentioned extras remind us, one aspect of "Body" that makes it notable is being the first in a long series of "pod people" films that still entertain movie goers and provide sitcom writers who are desperate for a Halloween episode script fodder for a dream-sequence. However, this does not prevent Siegel and his team from borrowing from "Citizen Kane" and many other classics.
Just as "Kane" opens with the death of the titular William Randolph Hearst pod person and goes on to portray the key events in the life of the clone, the first scenes in "Body" show a crazed and disheveled Dr. Miles J. Bennell (McCarthy) restrained in a hospital and ranting about the titular offensive. This leads to a psychiatrist agreeing to hear his story in order to calm him down.
"Body" then depicts an equally standard opening scene; we see a train pull into the station at Santa Mira, California. The protagonist (Bennell) disembarks and meets his nurse. The audience learns on the ride to the office both that Bennell has good-natured arrogance and that he is returning from a two-week trip to a medical conference. Bennell learns that chaos in the form of people flooding his office with claims of replicas replacing locals has erupted in his absence,
The mystery deepens when Bennell finds his office empty and all seeming quiet on this western town front. Things get more interesting when Becky Driscoll (Wynter), with whom Bennell has an "its complicated" past, shows up after an extended absence, This reunion leads to a joke about divorce that is shocking for the '50s but very funny in 2018.
The initial investigation by those "meddling kids" Bennell and Driscoll bears little fruit until they experience a major breakthrough. This phase of the investigation ultimately leads to hot pursuit of Bennell and Driscoll that includes era-apt propaganda in the form of coaxing the couple by telling them that they will be much happier if they no longer think or feel.
The bonus regarding this is that falling asleep creates a significant risk of a fate different then death, Seeing Bennell being particularly clever in evading his former friends and neighbors is another aspect of "Body" that distinguishes it from other '50s scifi fare.
The quality continues to the end; the opening scenes establish that Bennell does not lose his humanity. However, suspense remains whether "Abner" believes "Gladys" that "witches" are among us. The outcome demonstrates why "Body" has endured so long.
The final mention of the numerous short documentaries and related material in the Signature release is that the filmmmakers never divulge their intents regarding "Body" being right or left-wing propaganda. That ambiguity adds to the fun of the film and reminds us of a kinder and gentler (although equally paranoid) era,
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.
'Streets of Vengeance' Blu-ray: Awesome Homage to Trashy Fare of USA Up All Night & Debbie Rochon Films
Olive Films aptly takes us to camp with the July 24, 2018 Blu-ray release of "Streets of Vengeance." Olive captures the tone of of "Vengeance" in describing it as "a throwback to the gritty action-thrillers of the '80s." The bonus fun comes via this Slasher//video joint being presented in the format of a fictional basic cable show that is just as cheesy and tawdry as the real "USA Up All Night" that gave trashy films new life on weekend nights from 1989 to 1998. One difference is that the graphic sexual and violent content remains intact this time.
A more modern modern reference is to the oft-hilarious and always perverse films of 21st-century scream queen Debbie Rochon.
The brilliance of "Vengeance" is that ipurposefully making a twisted bad film elevates otherwise pure trash into an awesome guilty pleasure. An example of this is the phrase "choke on your own cock" not just being an expression this time. The only surprise is that the central vigilantes do not have a targeted misogynist suck a bag of dicks.
The larger reference thus time is to the mother of all bad movie showcases "Mystery Science Theater 3000." The best brains behind that '90s basic cable series spare intentional garbage by limiting their selections to movies that the filmmakers believe to be good.
"Vengeance" opens with porn star Mila on the verge of hanging up her G string at the same time that the San Francisco slasher is killing women who use their sex appeal to pay the bills,
A retirement party (sans gold garter belt) for Mila ends badly when a cult member grabs her outside the venue and brings her to his lair. This male chauvinist pig makes the common mistake of film villains by telling Mila of the cult objective of ridding the world of women who tease and otherwise abuse men with their slutty behavior. Suffice to say two damaged individuals enter, one porn actress leaves.
Mila subsequently initially teams up with muscle, who essentially acts as the pimp of the all party-girl army that Mila assembles to take back the street corner. In true revenge-film style, this battle of hos v. bros amps up in a manner that puts Mila on the radar of the cult leader, who is connected with a man for whom the battle is particularly personal.
This leads to the inevitable battle royale that leads to the inevitable mano-a-womano showdown between the cult leader and Mila. Suffice it to say this time, Mila shows that her stiletto-heel boots are made for more than walking.
Olive further enhances the "Vengeance" experience with a feature-length making-of film and a bushel of other Blu-ray extras. These include cast interviews, a blooper reel, a music video, and several trailers.
The Olive Films May 29, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 1971 Norman Lear comedy film "Cold Turkey" awesomely fills the void regarding an absence of witty character-driven fare summer fare at the cineplex. Sharing that "Turkey" costars Dick Van Dyke as a minister spearheading an effort to get his town to kick the habit and Bob Newhart as a corrupt PR man trying to thwart that effort should persuade folks regarding whom Lear is not an adequate draw to add this one to their collections.
A perspective to which Millennials can relate is to think of "Turkey" as an episode of the Amy Poehler sitcom "Parks and Recreation" in which Leslie Knope (Poehler) convinces her eccentric friends and neighbors in Pawnee, Indiana to stop smoking in order to get a big payoff.
The premise of "Turkey" is that Valiant Tobacco Company head Hiram C. Grayson (Edward Everett Horton) signs off on the PR idea of Merwin Wren (Newhart) to offer a $25 million award to any American town that quits smoking for 30 days. The obvious sales pitch by Wren is that the offer makes the company look good and will not cost a cent because no town will accept the challenge.
The second piece of the "sit" that paves the way for the "com" in this feature film is that the closing of an Air Force base has left Eagle Rock, Iowa in dire straits. The opening scenes that establish that this community essentially is a ghost town clearly establishes the extent of this desperation.
The same hope that the current bidding to be a headquarters site of an online Pacific Northwest retailer that shall remain shameless represents comes in the form of an Air Force general informing the powers-that-be in Eagle Rock that the town is a contender for a new plant. The catch is that the town first must improve itself to a level that makes it a desirable community.
Rev. Clayton Brooks (Van Dyke) convinces the aforementioned pillars of the community that the Valiant offer is the answer to the prayers of the community. Of course, this is the first nail in the coffin of Wren.
The figurative of cast of 1,000s of (mostly TV) stars comprise the great ensemble in "Turkey." We get Jean Stapleton of "All in the Family" as a housewife who comically overeats on going cold turkey, Paul Benedict of "The Jeffersons" as a very '70s style hypnotherapist who provides a hilarious form of contrary therapy, television/film star Barnard "Doc" Hughes aptly as hilariously especially addicted smoker Dr. Proctor, hilariously feisty old lady character actress Judith Lowry (who has two one-shot appearances on "Maude") as a senior citizen right-wing nut, etc.
The confidence of Wren remains high when the month begins but wanes roughly halfway in; that prompts him to go to the town and engage in hilariously frantic efforts to get at least one Eagle Rockian to light up.
Twists and hilarity galore build to the climax as Wren faces a literal ticking clock; this prompts the most unexpected surprise in the film that offers memorable commentary on corporate politics of the '70s and today.
The outcome is equally special and reflect the related Lear cynicism and talent for breaking the rules
The Olive Films February 27, 2018 DVD of the 1979 film adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical "Hair" is further proof that Olive reflects the criterion for DVD and Blu-ray releases of art house and cult films. This release coinciding with separate Blu-ray releases of the very different Burt Lancaster films (the soon-to-be-reviewed) "The Birdman of Alcatraz" and (the reviewed) "The Hallelujah Trail" further proves this.
As a first aside, the Lancaster releases follow simultaneous Olive Signature extras-laden Blu-ray releases of the Cary Grant films "Father Goose" and (the reviewed) "Operation Petticoat."
As a second aside, this remastered DVD presents the film in a scope with a sound that is better than seeing it in a theater in 1979 and is ALMOST as good as watching a live-stage production.
The third aside is that folks who are only familiar with the stage musical will notice several differences. Most of the alterations make sense, and all of them enhance the social conscience aspects of the production.
The awesomeness of "Hair" extends well beyond the iconic soundtrack (the title song, "Good Morning Starshine, "The Age of Aquarius," etc.) and the famed nude scene. This phenomenon has enough social commentary for three productions.
Director Milos Forman ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Amadeus") "Hair" opens with "Aquarius" accompanying aptly drab scenery of the Oklahoma countryside as local farmboy/draftee Claude Bukowski (John Savage) waits for the Trailways bus to take him to New York. His awkward goodbye with his father, who is torn between wanting his son to do his duty (and to not end up either in jail or Toronto) but knowing that he probably is going to die in Vietnam, perfectly represents that aspect of that era.
Bukowski arriving in bright, sunny, colorful Central Park is comparable to Chez Gale crashing down somewhere over the rainbow. He soon encounters a "tribe" of Broadway/Hollywood friendly hippies led by George Berger (Treat Williams). (One spoiler is that the film version of "Hair" excludes a look at the treat of Williams and everyone else.)
The other fateful encounter at that time involves making extended eye contact with horseback riding debutante Sheila Franklin (Beverly D'Angelo). All three worlds collide with the hippie shenanigans/harassment of Franklin lead to Bukowski jumping on a horse and showing the entire group his mad riding skills.
In a manner that remains true to the vibe of two strange dogs literally and figuratively sniffing each other out during this entire portion of the film, Berger soon convinces Bukowski the Okie to abandon plans to visit the Empire State Building in favor of hanging out and smoking hash. Suffice it to say that our hero soon adapts to his new environment.
The next morning brings heavy symbolism as Berger defaces an image of Sheila in a highly meaningful way and then essentially whistles over a retreating Bukowski and convinces him to join the pack in crashing a party at Chez Franklin. Watching the long-haired tye-dye wearing interlopers and Bukowski in his ugly brown polyester suit from Sears among the impeccably dressed one-percenters cannot get any better until it does when a patriarch sends a wimpy preppy school boy over to confront the group.
The real fun begins when all assembled gather for a formal sit-down lunch and efforts to oust Berger leads to an elaborate "Coyote Ugly" style song-and-dance number. Seeing Charlotte Rae get into the spirit of things in full Edna Garrett fashion is the icing on the cake. (Another fun moment comes on recognizing the voice of Nell Carter ("Gimme A Break") emanating from a Central Park hippie.)
The aftermath involves a wonderfully enthusiastic "Chicago" style song-and-dance number involving the titular tune; this portion of the film also provides greater insight into Berger.
The hi-jinks continue until Bukowski and his fellow draftees undergo a purposefully humiliating induction procedure; this being "Hair," a hilarious raucous counter-culture song-and-dance number lightens the mood.
The film then moves in a different direction in every sense as Berger convinces his people (and a few tag-alongs) to take a road trip to the Nevada Army base where Bukowski is undergoing basic training. This leads to further counter-culture mischief with a surprise twist on the end that everyone knows is coming.
The ending is very true to the spirit of both the musical and the film. The genocide of boys-next-door in Vietnam was to benefit the people who stayed at home. Further, going over there was a rite-of-passage that sobered up boys who either were cruising around suburbs and small towns in their American cars or were smoking hash and taking acid in the big city.
Either way, their deaths destroyed their futures and devastated all who loved them. This is not to mention the guys who made it back but still are screwed up 50 years later.
The DVD extra is the extended theatrical trailer.
'Stay Hungry' Blu-ray: TFB Jeff Bridges & Body Builder Schwarzenegger Unlikely Friendship in '70s Era Gym
The Olive Films October 31, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1976 dramedy "Stay Hungry" by Bob Rafelson of the counter-culture classics "Five Easy Pieces" and "Head" hits the trifecta of being a perfect example of the urban gritty comedies of the era, bringing this Golden Globe winning acting debut of Arnold Schwarzenegger back to life, and showing that some things never change in reel or real life. Having numerous future well-known members of the B List in supporting roles is a terrific bonus.
Jeff Bridges stars as 20-something trust fund baby Craig Blake, who experiences a severe existentialist crisis in the wake of the sudden death of his parents. He is fairly literally rattling around alone in the family mansion on the "hill" outside Birmingham, Alabama.
The effort of Blake to define himself and to meet the directive of his uncle that he perform a useful function in life prompts working for unscrupulous Birmingham real-estate developer Jabo (Joe Spinell of the "Godfather" trilogy). The assignment that Blake has no choice regarding accepting is to be a strawman in a transaction in which he buys a run-down gym and then sells it to the company of Jabo to facilitate a construction project.
Blake subsequently integrates himself in the life of the gym to the extent of befriending very odd aspiring Mr. Universe Joe Spano (Schwarzenegger) and pursuing a romance with gym receptionist/former Spano squeeze Mary Tate Farnsworth (Sally Field). These relations with working-class folks get Blake thinking about his own lifestyle and prompt second thoughts about facilitating the scheme to oust his new friends from their home away from home.
The adventures of Blake include getting in a bar fight and escorting Farnsworth to a country club event where a club friend (Ed Begley, Jr.) pursues her.
This mixing of classes in a manner that centers around blue blood dating blue collar is not the only similarity with the better-known (and more comedic) 1981 Dudley Moore/Liza Minnelli film "Arthur." Character actor Scatman Crothers plays long-time family servant William who reaches his considerable limits when Blake essentially makes Farnsworth the lady of the manor. Watching William literally take what he considers his due is hilarious.
Rafelson does a terrific job building up to the madcap climax; quirky middle-aged gym owner Thor gets very excited when Jabo brings him "masseuses" as an incentive to sell the gym, Farnsworth finds herself in related peril, and Blake becomes under attack as well. This leads to a hilarious version of the running of the bulls with just as much beefcake.
As mentioned above, the timeless themes of Wall Street driving out Main Street for fun and profits and the challenges related to the mixing of the classes make films such as "Hungry" timeless. The visual images are a little dated, but the messages remain just as powerful 40 years later.
These musings regarding the launch of the Olive Films Signature collection including the September 20, 2016 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 1952 Stanley Kramer classic "adult Western" "High Noon" reinforce the thoughts in the Unreal TV review of the simultaneous Signature releases of the 1954 Nicholas Ray (of "Rebel Without a Cause" fame) Western with equally mature themes "Johnny Guitar" that Olive wisely pairs the two. One cannot imagine a better weekend afternoon double-feature.
Part of the fun of "Noon" relates to regular references to a tin star; that badge is the title of the magazine article on which the film is based.
The four Oscar wins for this Old West version of the Kiefer Sutherland drama series "24" include Best Actor for Gary Cooper in his role as perhaps the first lawman to have a horrible last day on the job Marshal Will Kane. The awesome Tex Ritter song "High Noon (Don Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin')," which provides classic Western style (and '60scom "F Troop" spoofed) exposition is awarded Best Original Song for 1953. Other awards include several Golden Globes.
"Noon" is also notable for being a Stanley Kramer joint. Kramer goes on to produce scads o' '50s and '60s classics. A woefully incomplete list of these films includes "The Caine Mutiny," "Judgment at Nuremberg," and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."
Grace Kelly rounds out this top three as Grace Fowler Kane (rather than Amy Farrah Fowler) , who is a Quaker whose honeymoon period with Will lasts less than five minutes. This actress who goes on to be one of Hitchcock's favorite blondes shows equally quickly that she is far more than just another pretty face. Her quiet strong will (no pun intended) and limited willingness to stand by her man make her an early film feminist hero.
Just as "Guitar" dramatically opens with blasting rock as part of a railroad expansion that is integral to that film. "Noon" commences with a gathering of outlaws ahead of their recently paroled leader scheduled to arrive at the titular hour.
The action soon shifts to the closing moments of the Sunday morning wedding of recently resigned Marshal Will and Amy (Wamy?). The pronouncement of that union is barely out of the mouth of the presiding Quaker minister when a literally rude awakening comes in the form of Will leaning that Frank Miller, who is a particularly ornery outlaw that Will arrested five years earlier, is paroled and is arriving in just over an hour. None of the assembled group doubts that revenge against Will and the other locals responsible for that not-so-unfortunate incarceration is the motive for that visit.
The ensuing real-time period between Will receiving the dual bad news and the anticipated showdown is sure to have fans of the aforementioned Sutherland series imagine a digital clock on the screen and hear accompanying ominous music. "Noon" director Fred Zimmerman, who also is behind-the-camera for dramas that include "From Here to Eternity" and "A Man for All Seasons," provides the effective substitute of still shots of a wall clock.
The "24" vibe continues with the lone wolf aspect and related betrayals of that series. We further get plenty of the moral dilemmas that contribute to Sutherland's Jack Bauer literally sleepless nights.
The Kramer-caliber substance of "Noon" that separates it from stampedes and gunfights style Westerns also commences with the countdown to the titular time. Will must initially determine that staying to fight is the better course than running, try to convince the town folks to stand with him, and confront his past demons. The latter include incompetent interim Marshal (and former deputy) Harvey Pell, whom Lloyd Bridges perfectly portrays, and Will former flame/Harvey current love interest Helen Ramirez. The spot-on portrayal of Ramirez by Katy Jurado earns her a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe.
It seems that tough and independent saloon owner Helen inspires the tough and independent saloon owner Vienna whom Crawford plays in "Guitar." They both have a "past" about which neither is ashamed. An awesome scene in "Noon" refers to the history of Helen by having a hotel owner comment that Will knows the way when the former asks if Helen is in her room.
Another parallel exists in the form of the earnest boy who is eager to prove that he is a man. Turkey in "Guitar" is a barely post-adolescent who wants to prove that he is as tough as any man. One of the best scenes in "Noon" has a teen trying to convince Will that the lad has what it takes to be the Robin to Will's Batman.
Kramer and Zimmerman also add their own artistic touches to the shootout that comprises most of the final 15 minutes of "Noon." Rather than merely being two foes facing each other on an otherwise deserted dusty street, the gun battle looks more like a modern police drama chase. A highly symbolic scene in this segment has an "in imminent peril" Will take the time to save a herd of horses.
The involvement of Kramer and "Noon" not being your typical kiddie matinee oater leaves the barn door open for the possibility of a finale that is not a typical Hollywood ending. Determining if Kramer adheres to the Hayes Code in having Frank Miller killed or jailed and Will riding off in the sunset with Amy requires watching the beautifully restored film; the semi-spoiler is that its complicated.
The booklet, which seems to be a Signature staple, that the (awesomely produced) Blu-ray set includes has an essay that offers more insight into "Noon" than one could hope for. This article expands beyond the themes discussed above to discuss the involvement of blacklisted screenwriter Carl Foreman and the relevancy of the film in this era of the Trump candidacy. We further learn of the parallels between "Noon" and the 1929 Cooper film "The Virginian," based on the classic 1902 novel of the same name.
The special features also include the theatrical trailer, documentaries on the editing of "Noon " and the awesomeness of Kramer productions, and a Must-See "making-off" feature narrated by recently deceased young actor Anton Yelchin.
The new Olive Films Olive Signature collection chooses perfectly in launching its DVD and Blu-ray releases with two '50s Westerns that are much more than shoot-em-up kiddie matinee fare. The 1954 Joan Crawford film "Johnny Guitar," which is our current topic, is an apt predecessor of the 1955 film "Rebel Without A Cause" by "Guitar" director Nicholas Ray. Our focus tomorrow shifts to the equally deep 1952 classic "High Noon" starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.
As an aside, the spectacular (discussed at the end of this review) extras in both "Guitar" and "Noon" are a notable part of what distinguishes Signature releases from the lost treasures and other drool-worthy titles in the main Olive catalog.
The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-LADEN theatrical trailer for "Guitar" emphasizes the good sizzle over the even better substance of the film.
The elements that make adult Western "Guitar" Signature worthy are the aforementioned attributes that earn it the titles of "adult" and "feminist" Western, associated heavy symbolism in color and narration, having Hollywood royalty Joan Crawford star with fellow box office legends Sterling Hayden as the titular crooner/gunslinger and Best Actress winner for "All The King's Men" Mercedes McCambridge as the sexually repressed (and possibly bisexual) proper lady Emma Small, and the restoration of "Guitar" looking and sounding so amazing on Blu-ray that it does justice to the red rock scenery of the Sedona, Arizona shooting location.
Crawford stars as tough-as-nails saloon owner Vienna, regarding whom it is suggested spent a great deal of time on her back to raise the money required to get her business on its feet. The reasoning of this 19th century entrepreneur is that the relatively imminent expansion of the railroad literally to her formerly remote front door will bring the business to her.
The "crimes" of Vienna including her being a strong and independent woman in a strongly male-dominated society, having a relationship with an ambiguous amount of closeness with the Dancing Kid and a related triangle with ambiguous aspect with Emma, and welcoming the Kid and his gang that claim to be silver miners but are suspected of being outlaws into her business. This long list of offenses provide the catalyst for Emma and wealthy landowner John McIvers to use every arguable excuse to literally or figuratively come gunning for Vienna and to fabricate a rationale if none exist.
As an aside, the web verifies the sense from the clear animosity that Crawford and McCambridge direct at each other that Bette Davis is the first choice for the role of Emma; The story goes that Davis wanted too much money and that second choice Barbara Stanwyck also passed on the chance to battle Crawford on (and almost certainly off) screen. The expertly written insightful booklet in the Signature release shares both that Crawford and McCambridge do battle off-screen and that Hayden and that cast and crew side with McCambridge.
The fictional drama that sets "Guitar" in motion is a stage coach robbery in which the brother of Emma is killed; this loss and the aforementioned resentments bring Emma, McIvers, and the Marshal to Vienna's in the wake of an even more dramatic entrance of our titular character. Although the stated purpose of the newcomer for being there is to entertain the customers, it soon becomes clear that Vienna summons him based on their shared history and on his skill as a gunfighter.
The Old West elements continue with Vienna facing an effective order to be out of town by sundown, a daring daytime bank robbery, a pursuing posse, a lynching, a few shootouts, etc. Anyone even remotely familiar either with Ray or "Guitar" know that all of this is merely the outer layer of the savory onion.
A coerced betrayal based on a false promise provides commentary by a blacklisted writer (who uses a front) who contributes to the "Guitar" script, the aforementioned history of Johnny and Vienna and a scene between the two is very reminiscent of Ilsa and Rick from "Casablanca," the unconventional reversals of the white hats and the black hats, a highly symbolic barrier, etc all show both why Americans who come expecting non-stop gun fights and little dialog are disappointed and Europeans embrace "Guitar" enough to have it inspire the New Wave directors.
A simpler way of understanding this is that the emphasis in this oater is much more on opera than horse. The stirring soundtrack (which makes great use of BD), the majestic scenery, and the flowing white dress and other costumes of the highly expressive Crawford evoke a stronger sense of the Met than the multiplex.
The plethora of Turner Classic Movie-quality extras in "Guitar" extend beyond the aforementioned booklet. Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese starts things with a Robert Osborne-worthy introduction to the film. Other features include a panel of film critics discussing the work, a short film on the McCarthy element, and the aforementioned SPOILER-LADEN theatrical trailer. Aside from being great retro fun, the non-enhanced trailer perfectly illustrates (no pun intended) the value of watching even '50s-era films that make great use of technicolor and related technologies in Blu-ray.
The Olive Films September 13, 2016 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray sets of all thrill-packed 12 episodes in "Commando Cody"from the '50s makes this Saturday review of that kiddie matinee feature very apt. One spoiler is that that the titular Sky Marshal of the Universe gets his name from his daring wartime exploits, not from a habit of opting out of wearing underwear.
Although much of the initial excitement surrounding these full 30-minutes of awesome low-budget '50s scifi goodness relates to the late '80s-early '90s basic cable show "Mystery Science Theater 3000" often featuring the show, watching the expertly crafted Blu-ray set shows that the episodes are even better when you get to watch the whole story in one sitting and (albeit hilarious) sarcastic comments do not drown out the dialog.
The overall theme and feel of the series is that of the "Flash Gordon" serials. The jet-pack that Cody straps to his back and the bullet-shaped helmet and leather jacket that he wears while doing so are well-represented in the 1991 Disney live-action film "The Rocketeer."
Great cost-cutting elements include the pilot seats in the rocket ship of Cody being undisguised desk chairs of the day with seat belts, an alien compound clearly being a model, and a robot looking like the Halloween costume of a 12 year-old.
"Cody" begins with a three-episode arc in which our hero and his team first learn of the existence of the alien villain The Ruler. The first nefarious attempt of this bad guy involves a fairly straightforward effort to conquer earth and enslave mankind. This also is the first time that The Ruler attempts to penetrate the cosmic dust barrier that is the creation of Cody designed to protect earth from alien threats. This Star Wars style defense and the attempts to penetrate it remain an element through the run of "Cody."
The modern-day elements of "Cody" extend well beyond having a defense shield that is intended to neutralize missiles and other harmful projectiles. The heavy eco elements include separate plots by The Ruler to create massive storms to cause catastrophic storms and to increase global warming to a degree (no pun intended) that the entire earth literally bakes.
Further, The Ruler with his Eastern European accent, spies on earth, and fondness for stealing secret plans and breaking the communication system of Cody add a wonderful Cold War feel to the episodes.
This all amounts to a chance to watch a vintage "one more" worthy Saturday afternoon matinee series without a theater full of screaming kids.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The particularly special nature of the topic of this post results in the following being more "bloggy" than usual. Regularly scheduled programming will resume with the next post.]
Purveyor of wonderfully quirky and/or thought-provoking domestic and foreign classics Olive Films provides a great reminder of the joy of good satire regarding the recent Blu-ray release of the 1980 Martin Mull comedy "Serial." These films having a special place in the memories of those of us ancient enough to remember their releases is a bonus. The personal memory of "Serial" is a Colby College (a.k.a. ColbyCo) film society screening of it providing the first sense that college is cool.
The following YouTube clip of a "Serial" promo. nicely illustrates the aforementioned coolness.
On a very general level, the awesome (but truly unoffensive) un-pc nature of "Serial" is a great example of the theme of the Unreal TV reviewed modern documentary "That's Not Funny," which analyzes the loss of a sense of humor in America. As an aside, Robin Williams responding "because you killed all the funny people" when a German television interviewer asked why there was no comedy in Germany remains a personal favorite Williams joke.
Bill Persky of the '80s CBS Monday night comedy "Kate and Allie" centers "Serial" around middle-level bank executive Harvey Holroyd (played by Mull) and his spirituality/self-awareness obsessed wife Kate (played by '60s sex kitten Tuesday Weld.) A relatively unknown fact about Weld is that her first major role is as gleefully admitted gold digging high school student Thalia Menninger (opposite Warren Beatty) in the early '60s sitcom "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis;" the oft-repeated rationale of Menninger is hilarious,
Sally Kellerman (who plays Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan in the film version of "M*A*SH") plays the oft-married Martha, who begins the film days away from a very non-traditional (and hysterical) commitment ceremony. Mull making jokes during the ceremony and the current life partner of Martha discovering an ex-husband while reviewing her marital history are some of the best scenes in "Serial."
Neither last nor least regarding either the quirky characters or the B-level stars who portray them is Bill Macy of the '70s Bea Arthur sitcom "Maude." The executive whom Macy portrays has a '70s California mid-life crisis that evokes thoughts of the leisure suits that still fill a closet of the (then recently divorced) father of your (occasionally) humble reviewer.
Another "funny because its true" element revolves around Harvey and his fellow commuters riding their bikes to the ferry. A '70s era story in a large metropolitan newspaper includes a photo of a rear view of the very portly uncle of your (at times) humble reviewer riding his bicycle to his law firm. The ginormous headphones-style radio (almost certainly tuned to NPR) with the long antennas makes the photo.
Secondary characters who steal scenes include a brutal gay biker gang that listens to Judy Garland songs while on the open road. A blink and you will miss it moment in which the group begins a raid from a YMCA is a great sight gag, gets the The Village People song of the same name stuck in your head, and makes you want to rewatch the "People" film "Can't Stop the Music."
The humor in "Serial" does not get nearly as edgy as that of Williams but includes a hilarious line in which a 10-year old boy tells his cocaine-snorting and pill factory operating psychiatrist (played by Peter Bonerz of "The Bob Newhart Show") that he does not spend time with the "Gay Bruce" doll that is designed to increase his cultural sensitivity because he killed him. The shocked shrink asking the boy the reason for the Kenocide prompts the response "because he's a fag" and an assurance that his motive is no deeper. Bruce coming in a box designed to look like a closet contributes to the humor regarding this topic.
The most awesome part of "Serial" is that those of us who remember the swinging '70s can relate to the humor and folks who still have all their hair will get a fun look at the goofiness of it all.
As the recent review of the Olive Films Blu-ray release of the restored 1914 Hungarian silent film "The Undesirable" mentions, Olive is also the force behind the Blu-ray of the controversial John Huston WWII documentary "Let There Be Light." This brings that film into the sunshine after several decades of the Army suppressing this look at treating the veterans of that war for PTSD. (The juvenile impulse to state "Huston, we have a problem" regarding this censorship is too strong to resist.)
The Hollywood Royalty pedigree of Huston starts with "The Maltese Falcon" and goes on to include fellow Bogart classics "Key Largo" and "The African Queen." His latter work includes "Prizzi's Honor."
The following YouTube clip of footage from "Light" conveys the rawness and the power of the film.
The comprehensive 26-minute introduction that precedes "Light" and the other three WWII-era documentaries from the time that Huston spends in the Army uber-awesomely explores every film and how each of them reflect the impact of the war on the psyche of Huston. The coverage of the re-enactments in the latter two of the films, and the audio clips of Huston discussing the productions are highlights.
The first documentary, "Winning Your Wings," is a delightful 1942 short in which charming and earnest Army fly boy Lt. Jimmy Stewart puts his folksy manner to good use regarding selling high school and college boys on voluntarily enlisting in the Army Air Corps before their draft number comes up. Stewart emphasizing the monetary compensation, the possibility of starting in the middle, and the wide range of available jobs is upbeat and wholesome fun.
The less upbeat Academy Award winning 45-minute documentary "Report From the Aleutians" achieves the genre ideal of entertaining and informing. We learn of the harsh climate of the titular land masses off the Alaskan coast, their strategic importance, and the men who are stationed there. The scope of this coverage also includes the men who do not return from the daily attacks on the nearby Japanese stronghold. In other words, "Aleutians" depicts the daily lives of the folks whom "Wings" entices to join the military.
The roughly hour-long "Light," which is a National Film Registry selection, is a documentary in the purest sense. Huston merely turns on the camera and lets the traumatized newly returned soldiers and the psychiatrists who are treating them at the stateside Army hospital do their thing. We meet both groups on the arrival of soldiers and follow their stories until the end of their hospitalizations.
The unflinching eye of the aforementioned camera does a good job capturing the twitching eyes and other nervous tics of the patients. We additionally hear their stories directly from their mouths. As the narration explains, much of the problem stems from these boys being taught while growing up that war and killing are bad but then being forced into the middle of both in their late teens.
Olive Films presenting these documentaries (as well as an unwatched film on the fighting in San Pietro, Italy) in chronological order helps the audience understand why Huston goes from gung-ho to gun shy during the war. A large portion of the American public experiencing comparable feelings creates the bonus of Huston expressing these validly unpatriotic views during an era of rampant propaganda presenting far less realistic images of the war.
The BD extras consist of the raw camera footage from "Pietro" and the entire "Grey" documentary.
The OliveFilms Blu-ray release of the recently discovered and restored 1914 Hungarian silent film "The Undesirable" makes a terrific topic for the inaugural Unreal TV review of an Olive release and an apt opportunity to touch on the Olive release of four recently released John Huston WWII-era propaganda films during his tenure in the Army. This (soon-to-be-reviewed) collection is under the title of the (until recently banned) documentary "Let There Be Light." The decades-long suppression of this documentary on treating WWII soldiers for PTSD relates to the film not being flattering toward the military.
General notable things that must be said regarding "Undesirable, " which "Casablanca" director Michael Curtiz helms. are that the dialog title cards are in English and that the picture quality is virtually flawless; there is nary a scratch or other defect, and there are absolutely no jerky edits. The toned backgrounds in a few spots contributes nice richness to the film.
Additionally, the newly commissioned orchestral score is perfect to the degree that the music is coordinated with the breathing of the actors. This makes the viewing experience light years beyond the piano playing that often accompanies silent films.
The story centers around 20-something Betty, who flees to the big city in the wake of a literal deathbed confession. The ensuing adventures of Betty include becoming a working girl, falling in love with a charming and good-looking young man whom the society of that day (and ours) considers out of her league, being accused of a crime, literally confronting her past, and obtaining justice regarding those developments. The commentary on the bourgeois lifestyle is tasty icing on the cake.
The talents of the actors and the behind-the-camera crew exceed all expectations regarding "Undesirable" being a run-of-the-mill silent film. The cast does adhere to the American model of over emoting due to their stage training and the lack of spoken dialog, but do so to a far less degree than their American cousins. The better sets and reduced melodrama are further enhancements regarding typical American fare from the same era.
All of the above results in a good chance to see a long-lost film that is still highly relevant and entertaining 102 years after its debut.