The recent Warner Archive DVD release of the 1951 comedy "Soldiers' Three," which is based on a Rudyard Kipling story, nicely proves that a classic story never gets old. The theme this time is that man can never permanently change the course of a river.
The following YouTube clip of the "Soldiers" trailer shows how the combination of literary and screen star power makes for an exciting and amusing action-adventure film. It also shows the basis for calling the titular British GIs the Queen's Hard Bargain.
Our story begins in the present of the film; a group of young Turks is listening to an old war horse of a general cynically discuss how he achieves that high rank. The action then shits to 19th-century Indai, where we meet our central rogues.
Privates Ackroyd ( Stewart Granger), Sykes (Robert Newton), and Malloy (Cyril Cusack) are up to their usual exploits. These escapades continue in a manner that shows that these three actors make the Three Stooges look like Adam Sandler or James Franco and their respective posses.
Our excitable boys soon take things too far. They not only make an unauthorized trip into a not-so-nearby town but make a grand return in a manner and at a time that maximizes embarrassment to commanding officer Colonel Brunswick (Walter Pidgeon).
The real fun begins with Brunswick trying a tactic that it is believed also is used in an episode of the '60s militarycom "Gomer Pyle," Brunswick calls the guys in to announce that he is using a divide-and-conquer approach in the form of promoting one of them to sergeant regardless of whether that private wants that rank. The rest of that story is that the group is ordered to select the unlucky man among themselves. The manner in which this is worked out is a prime example of the aforementioned wonderful comedic chemistry among the actors.
Things take a expected turn as the reluctantly assumed responsibilities that are thrust on Ackroyd due to his enhanced rank causes the predicted dissension among the ranks. This largely is in the form of resentment by those left behind.
The game-changer comes in the form of Ackroyd being the odd man out when the rest of his comrades find themselves in a very sticky wicket. This situation also reflects some of the tensions related to the British presence in India.
The manner in which thing work out nicely reflect modern military thinking.
The bigger picture is that "Soldiers" shows the potential for an Army buddy comedy.
Warner Archive continues to prove that they don't make 'em like that anymore regarding the recent expertly remastered DVD of the 1935 noircom "Woman Wanted" starring Maureen O' Sullivan and Joel McCrea, This tale of wrongly convicted "innocent" Ann Gray on the lam hooking up with playboy attorney Tony Baxter (McCrea) has strong shades of the more comedic 1931 classic "The Front Page." That one has a newshound hiding a convicted murderer on the afternoon of the scheduled execution of the latter.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Woman" demonstrates the "Thin Man" style melange of crime drama and humor. This is not to mention the hysterically crude special effects.
"Woman" opens in a very "Page" centric manner. Gray is in a conference room waiting for the verdict in her trial for a murder that she did not commit. Baxter merely seeing her from a room on the other side of the building prompts making a mimed move without knowing her purpose for being in the courthouse.
The opening scenes also introduce the audience to the gangsters with a horse in the race. We only get a portion of the story in learning that Gray frying in Old Sparky will cost the crime boss a cool $250G.
This fiscal motivation prompts the aforementioned respectable businessman to arrange a "Fugitive" style crash on the way to the prison where Gray will be a dead woman walking. This plan goes awry when Gray takes a powder after the collision.
Amusement ensues when Baxter discovers the current object of his affection on the running board of his car while he is driving. Her quickly suggesting that they go to his place provides him even more reason to believe that he is being rewarded.
This couple that can state when they met it was murder soon arrive at the swanky bachelor pad of Baxter. This amenities of this abode include loyal but quirky gentleman's gentleman Peedles.
Baxter still is in the dark when Gray requests an opportunity to freshen up; the arrival of designing woman Betty Randolph complicates things.
Our central couple soon heads out to a farmhouse in the country in support of the cause of Gray; things not going as well as expected prompts a backwoods chase that leads to hilarity as Baxter takews a book from both Bugs Bunny and Shaggy and Scooby in donning a hasty disguise to avoid a fate equal to death.
Of course, both the coppers and the gangsters close in on Gray. This leads to a well-executed (no pun intended) 11th-hour showdown as Baxter must rescue his damsel in distress.
In true classic Hollywood style, all end up where they need to be in a manner that restores faith in the American judicial system.
The bigger picture regarding all this is that "Woman" shows that a film can do a good job providing something for everyone when all concerned play their roles.
The recent pristinely remastered Warner Archive DVD release of the 1932 crime melodrama "Unashamed" allows folks who think that Golden Age films lack any real salacious edge to see how terribly wrong they are regarding that belief. This pre-Code shouldabeen a classic has plenty of illicit sex, bloodshed, and reprehensible behavior to satisfy the most prurient interest.
The slightly bigger picture this time is that this release roughly coincides with Archive bringing the similar (reviewed) 1931 William Wellman crime melodrama "The Star Witness" out on March 12, 2019. That tale of a typical American family having their lives turned upside down on witnessing a blatant murder has even more social commentary than "Unashamed."
"Unashamed" opens with titular heiress Joan Ogden having a joyous reunion with polo playing playboy beau Harry Swift, who unbeknownst to that loose woman is born Harry Schmidt. The first of many creepy moments involving Joan sibling Dick Ogden (Robert Young of "Father Knows Best" and "Marcus Welby") has the lovebirds joke about the brother and the sister relationship being a source of jealousy.
The audience soon is let on the scheme of Swift; he is after a $3 million inheritance that Joan will receive on whatever comes first regarding her father releasing that money or her having an impending milestone birthday. This lad conning his (apparently very successful) old-world style grocer father out of the seed money reinforces that he deserves the fate that he experiences.
Swift steps up his game by (apparently easily) seducing Joan into spending the night at a hotel with him; the idea is that Mr. Ogden will release the inheritance to facilitate avoiding a scandal by having Joan marry Harry. This is not the premise of the '50s sitcom "I Married Joan."
The existing melodrama amps on the morning after the walk of little if any shame; excitable boy Dick defends his own honor and that of his sister by killing Harry.
This transitions "Unashamed" to a wonderfully Depression-era courtroom drama. A highlight is having Lewis Stone of the "Andy Hardy" film series play defense attorney/family friend Henry Trask. The loyalty of Joan to her dead boyfriend is behind her failure to cooperate regarding the plan of Trask to present an "unwritten law" defense on behalf of Dick.
An uneasy truce results in Joan moving from the family home to a hotel; she agrees to attend the trial of Dick, but not to actively advocate on his behalf, Meanwhile, the prosecutor is asserting that there is not such thing as unwritten law. He further mercilessly grills Dick on the stand.
Things looking dire for Dick leads to arguably the best scene in the film. Joan is seated in an armchair with her hands firmly clasped against the arms of the chair and her legs pressed against the legs of the chair as Trask graphically describes the process of being fried in Old Sparky.
This wake-up call presents a dilemma for Joan in a manner that shows that chops of actress Helen Twelvetrees. Our lady effectively of at least one evening must resolve how to credibly change her story from asserting that Harry did not nothing to provoke the killing and to maintain what she considers her integrity while avoiding becoming an only child.
The 11th-hour solution is a good believable twist that somewhat reflects that the court system delivers justice, It also reflects the impending Hays Code by showing that no sin goes unpunished,
The Warner Archive March 12, 2019 DVD release of the Oscar-nominated 1931 crime melodrama film "The Star Witness" is part of an awesome recent series of Archive releases of this niche genre. Upcoming posts on "Unashamed" and "Woman Wanted" reinforces the star power and the entertainment value of movies with this theme.
"Witness" has the best pedigree and the related most depth of the three films. William Wellman of "The Public Enemy" and the 1937 version of "A Star is Born" directs. The cast includes Walter Huston and vaudeville legend Charles "Chic" Sale.
Written narration at the beginning of "Witness" sets the stage for the story and the theme of the morals by stating that the action occurs in every American city.
The plot thickens a few minutes into the film as the Leeds family settles down to dinner. Father George is a middle-aged middle-management bean counter; spouse Abby is a typical housewife who tries to keep everyone well-fed and clean and also tries to maintain domestic tranquility.
Eldest son Jackie is a cautionary tale; he is an unemployed high-school dropout who spends his days at the pool hall and has unrealistically grand expectations. He also has very little respect for George despite that man providing him a comfortable standard of living in those very rough economic times. Daughter Sue is a modern woman with a job and a boyfriend with whom she openly gets affectionate in his car while parked outside the Leeds family home.
Little Rascal Donny is a tough-talking little-league loving everyboy; he deals with his low position on the family totem by bullying baby of the family Ned. This does not prevent Ned from idolizing his slightly older brother.
The "Grandpa Simpson" of the family is feisty Battle of Bull Run veteran "Private Summerhill." This feisty old codger barges in uninvited playing his fife as the family is eating dinner. The added insult to the injury is his announcement that he staying for a couple of days.
Relative calm has descended when the clan hears a ruckus in the street below; this prompts the group to rush to the window in time to see a wild chase complete with gunfire; this culminates in an essentially front-row seat for a man fatally shooting two others.
The plot further thickens on the gunman rushing into the Leeds home and terrorizing the family before taking a powder.
The cops soon show up and conduct what may be the most laughably suggestive identification process in film history; this leads to arresting gangster Maxey Campo.
The resolve of the Leeds family is tested as Team Campo puts on the heat to get them to change their story; this includes an entertaining beatdown of a gullible George, Meanwhile District Attorney Whitlock (Huston) is trying to get the titular smoking gun to not waiver from fingering the perp. at his trial.
Eleventh hour pressure creates drama as both sides strive for a favorable outcome. A sign of the times that represents a generation gap has Jackie balking at sticking his neck out for the greater good and his grandfather advocating fulfilling a patriotic duty.
The moral of this tribute to truth, justice, and the American way is not let bullies prevent you from doing the right thing despite the cost of standing up to tyranny.
The Warner Archive February 26, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1971 Blake Edwards comedy-western "Wild Rovers" coinciding with the (reviewed) Archive release of the innovative 1947 audience-participation noir film "The Lady in the Lake" once again shows that Archive is the best friend of lovers of non-cookie-cutter films.
One note regarding both films is that Archive also does its usual expert remastering decades old films.
This early '70s-style western (complete with the ubiquitous old-timey font of the era) centers around Montana cowboy Frank Post (Ryan O'Neal) having a quarter-life crisis at the the same time that 50 year-old co-worker/partner-in-crime Ross Bodine (William Holden) experiences a mid-life crisis. One spoiler is that a scene in an old-style bathhouse gives the audience a look at the paper-white moon of O'Neal.
The unwritten rule that almost anything goes in the saloon conditioned on paying for your fun also reflects the era.
Post and Bodine are living quiet lives of moderate desperation working round-ups and doing related tasks at the cattle ranch of Walter Buckman (Karl Malden) when a workplace accident triggers concurrent existential crises in our leads. Bodine fully realizes that he is too old for this stuff, and Post concludes that he wants a lifestyle change before he reaches that point. The underlying theme is the capitalist model that is based on the guy with the gold obtaining and keeping it by exploiting the guys who do the heavy lifting.
The era-apt get-rich-quick scheme of Post and Bodine is to rob the local bank. The many inter-related aspects of that crime of the 19th century reflect the off-beat comic genius of writer-director Blake Edwards.
Elements that establish our leads as good guys include Bodine playing Robin Hood with a portion of the ill-gotten goods and Post strongly bonding with a newly born puppy. That dog playing a significant role in much of the film contributes strong charm and humor,
Buckman already is dealing the arrival of a new whore at the local house of ill-repute greatly exciting the horny son of the cattle baron. An unrelated cause for consternation is the neighboring sheep herder allowing his flock to graze on the land of Buckman. At the same time, a two-birds-one-stone solution would save the son a trip into town and a few dollars.
Buckman believing that his payroll is headed to Mexico with his ex-employees prompts him to send his randy son and the brother of that excitable boy in lukewarm pursuit,
The wonderful interaction between Bodine and Post that begins with the genesis of their conspiracy gets even better as they bicker, bargain, and bond their way to Mexico. Highlights that are reminiscent of an old married couple include the eternal horse v. donkey debate and Bodine planning to leave Post behind when he goes off for an evening in town.
A precursor to "The Gambler" occurs when Post joins a high-stakes poker game with some bad hombres who are sore losers.
All of this climaxes with a mixed Silver Age message regarding whether crime pays. This also reflects the waning days of the Hays Code in which a felon does not necessarily end up either in the graveyard or the local jail.
The expertly remastered Warner Archive February 26, 2109 DVD release of the innovative 1947 noir film "Lady in the Lake" provides a chance to watch a well-produced film that is unlike anything that you previously seen. This version provides the sharp visual contrasts between dark and light that enhance the enjoyment of this genre.
The general concept of this film version of the titular novel by pulp-fiction god Raymond Chandler is boilerplate (pun intended); the execution sets it apart from the better-known fare that particularly showcases the talents of Humphrey Bogart.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Lady" both explains and illustrates the aforementioned innovation. This predecessor to the 1996-2007 children's program "Blue's Clues" has Marlowe (Robert Montgomery) lead the viewer through the investigation around which the film is centered. Additionally, the POV entirely shifts to the perspective of Marlowe after he clues (pun intended) us in on the concept of the film.
The manner in which Marlowe gets embroiled in the latest adventure that proves that dames ain't nothin' but trouble and that no one can be trusted also deviates from the norm. Rather than reading a newspaper article about a nefarious act or having a damsel in distress or other asserted innocent come to his office, Marlowe proves to be his own worst enemy from the outset.
Setting the film in the days leading up to Christmas and having it conclude on that special day adds a wonderful touch of cynicism; we learn that death, deceit. and betrayal do not take holidays.
Our adventure begins with the private dick expressing his creativity by writing a short story; this prose catching the eye of pulp-fiction magazine editor A (for Adrienne) Fromsett brings him to her office, On arriving, he learns that the lady doth prevaricate too much.
Fromsett uses the story as a pretense to sell Marlowe on locating the wife/object of monetary-based affection Derace Kinmgsby. The rest of the known story is that Mrs. Kingsby is a runaway spouse purported to run for the border to get a quickie divorce.
The trail stops at the same place that the plot thickens. Fromsett steers Marlowe to a vacation cabin of the Kingsburys. A report of the drowning of the wife of the caretaker validly triggers the spidey sense of Marlowe.
An interview with a local playboy putting Marlowe on the radar of the police, and a cop that Andy Sipowicz of "N.Y.P.D. Blue" would describe as having a hard-on for Marlowe in a not-good way having an interest in the aforementioned death well outside his jurisdiction further prompts potentially fatal curiosity of that cool cat Marlowe.
Marlowe discovering a body and finding himself both repeatedly knocked out and set up for falls keeps things traditional for the noir genre. This climaxes in two gunpoint confrontations that reflect the Bond villain flaw of boasting about your success merely when you have the upper-hand over your pursuer.
The bigger picture is that the experimental nature of "Lake" exceeds the interactive and "through-the-eyes" of perspective, Montgomery is a relatively mild-mannered and light-drinking Marlowe, His quips and Chandleresque imagery is much more subdued than recalled in the novels and definitely in pure classic and neo-noir. All this makes "Lady" more of a traditional murder mystery than a detective novel; thus, it is not your grandfather's Marlowe film.
The Warner Archive January 28, 2019 DVD release of the 1986 Wes Craven film "Deadly Friend" literally has everything (and more) for which you could hope from a teen movie. The treats include a scene straight out of the Craven "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise. '80stastic campy gore, and strong intentional and unintentional humor. The homoerotic undertones are a bonus.
Matthew Labyorteaux ("Little House on the Prairie") plays whiz kid Paul Conway, who uses weird science to transform very recently deceased girl next door Samantha "Sam" Pringle (a pre-"Mannequin" sequel Kristy Swanson) into a not-so-small wonder (a.k.a. Bride of Frankenteen). One spoiler is that this dream sexbot turns into the worst nightmare of her creator.
The "special relationship" between Paul and a friend with whom he seemingly would like to enjoy benefits adds an amusing but enlightened element to "Friend." (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)
Paul meets fellow mid-teens dude Tom soon after the new boy in town begins his university studies on the working of the human brain. Tom quickly awkwardly asking Paul if he is in the 10th grade and seeming disappointed on being told no is that first sign that Tom likes other boys "in that way."
Paul soon asking Tom what he likes to do and if he has a girlfriend is an early indication that the interest is mutual. Tom replying that he does not have a girlfriend and that all the local girls are stuck up provides further evidence of interest in doing more than grabbing some Micky Dees with Paul.
Several scenes throughout "Friend" further show that Tom wants to be the "buddy" of Paul, The many references to keeping their mutual secret is one example.
Non-Craven creepiness enters the picture in a couple of scenes with the single mother of Paul. The first one has our mad scientist Cosby Mom so that she will sleep through his sneaking to the hospital to steal the corpse of Sam in order to reanimate her. Paul and Tom exchanging broad grins as Paul spikes the coffee of his mother is very Menendez brothers.
Another eeewww moment has Paul tightly hug his mother in the middle of the night in an effort to conceal that he has a dead girl in the house. Mom responding "that's worth waking up for" is cringe-worthy.
On a lighter note, well-known '80s psychotically grumpy old woman Anne Ramsey ("Throw Momma From the Train") plays a stereotypical nasty old bitch neighbor. Her confiscating the rock that the teens use to play hoops allows her to have three balls.
The Craven terror begins with the BB (sans 8) prototype robot that is the creation of Paul becoming an increasing threat as it develops a great degree of independent thought.
History repeats itself with extreme prejudice when Sam 2.0 goes on a killing spree that is directed against those who dun her wrong during her life. Her scene with Ramsey is priceless. Of course, this prompts Paul to urge Tom to not reveal their secret,
All of this climaxes when Sam goes completely off the rails in a manner that arguably includes a jealous rage. We learn that Hell hath no fury like a Cylon scorned.
The bigger picture is that Labytorteaux and Swanson both play their parts well and avoid camping it up with the possible exception of Swanson doing the robot. The Paul and Tom spark explains the limited on-screen chemistry between the leads.
The recent Warner Archive DVD of the Oscar-winning 1943 Bette Davis anti-fascist drama "Watch on the Rhine" provides a good chance to watch a film with a still highly relevant message, This story beginning life as a play helps explain the live-stage vibe. The thoroughly delightful "Warner Night at the Movies," which includes a newsreel and a HILARIOUS Daffy Duck cartoon, greatly enhances the WWII-era experience of watching "Rhine."
The screen cred. this time extends well beyond Davis; Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman collaborate on the screenplay, We also get Davis co-star Paul Lukas winning a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar. The supporting cast including Geraldine Fitzgerald, Beulah Bondi, and Lucille Watcon reinforces that this is one to add to your home-video library.
Watson and Hammett only being nominated for Oscars shows that "Rhine" don't get nearly the deserved respect. The New York Film Critics awarding "Rhine" Best Picture honors in 1943 and the USA National Board of Review similarly lauding the movie and Lukas is solid compensation.
The following YouTube clip of a "Rhine" trailer highlights all of the elements touched on above; it also shows why the peepers of Bette Davis warrant an '80s pop song.
Our story begins with expat heiress Sara Mueller (nee Farrelly), her German born-and-raised husband Kurt Mueller (Lukas), and their three children heading El Norte across a wall-free border from Mexico to the United States in 1940. They are going to the Virginia family estate of Sara. Widowed Fanny Farrelly (Wilson) still rules the roost with an white-glove-clad iron fist,
One can easily imagine the reactions of the Von Trapp children on landing in Vermont being akin (pun intended) to that of the Mueller kinder on arriving at the home of their grandmother. This would be especially so if the Von Trapps had lived an impoverished nomadic existence for the prior several years.
The action soon shifts to breakfast time at Chez Farrelly. Ala Southfork, the adult kids and extended houseguests call the showplace home. Son David has a respectable job befitting the offspring of a former U.S. Supreme Court justice. However, his personal life is not quite as above reproach, His misdeeds include borderline inappropriate behavior with long-time family friend/houseguest Marthe de Brancovis (Fitzgerald).
The loathsome Count Teck de Brancovis is enjoying a life of luxurious leisure SOLELY courtesy of his marriage. His numerous sins include amassing debt that he has no prayer of repaying and gambling the cash that he acquires. His lenient attitude toward the Nazis displays another of his many characters flaws.
Worlds collide when anti-fascist Kurt moves into the same house as Teck; the political views of the former and suspicions that he raises prompt the latter to develop thoughts of profiting from his poker-playing Aryan brothers at the German Embassy.
The aforementioned suspicions include Sara and Kurt being cagey regarding their life during much of the '30s. They clearly have something to hide, particularly from Teck.
Much of the mastery of "Rhine" relates to the manner in which it depicts the rapidly increasing turmoil in Europe proportionately affecting American families. Our central household goes from daily life and Fanny excitedly preparing for the arrival of her daughter and her grandchildren to the tension that must be seen to be understood,
Things fully come to a head when overseas news equally emboldens Teck and causes Kurt justifiable angst. Anyone familiar with Golden and Silver Age Hollywood fare know that both men react in manners that are very true to their characters. At the same time, the resolution is shocking.
Hammett and Hellman additionally deliver regarding penning a conclusion that is far from a "happily ever after" Hollywood ending. We fully see that war is Hell.
Warner Archive misses it by that much regarding releasing the beautifully remastered Blu-ray of the 1985 crime drama "Year of the Dragon' on February 19 2019, which is a few weeks after Chinese New Year. Although it is is unknown if traditional Chinese culture considers the number 21919 lucky, it is certain that that sequence of digits is lucky for fans of quality neo-noir.
The street creed. of "Dragon" begins with Mickey Rourke doing his unhinged outsider bit very well as crusading police captain/Vietnam vet Stanley White, who changes his name to conceal his Polish ancestry. The pedigree continues with director Michael Cimino, whose credits include "The Deer Hunter;" we do not discuss "Heaven;s Gate." Cimino also provides audio commentary for this release.
The man who needs no introduction Oliver Stone co-writes the sceenplayer. Super-producer Dino De Laurentis oversees the entire project.
The overall theme of "Dragon" is that there is big trouble in Little China (a.k.a. the Manhattan Chinatown). Gangs of young punks are moving in on the territory of the established crime bosses; this largely takes the form of muscling in on the protection rackets and enforcing the "or else" aspect of this with extreme prejudice, For their part, the caught-in-the-middle respectable Italian businessmen are upset with the old bosses for not keeping the kids in line.
Stereotypical son-in-law Joey Tai (John Lone of "The Last Emperor)) also is a man in the middle. His impatience regarding waiting for his father-in-law to retire prompts Joey to commit his own act of extreme prejudice. The consequences of this include the seemingly age-old pattern of a family business suffering each time that the next generation assumes leadership of the enterprise,
The civilian with a horse in the race is Asian television reporter Tracy Tzu, who is investigating the increased violence in Chinatown. The good news is Tzu represents a positive image of a well-educated Asian woman with a success story that begins with a great-grandfather whose life in America consists of difficult menial work under very difficult circumstances.
The bad news is that many folks who are familiar with the long-running crude animated sitcom "Family Guy" will think of the character whose on-air reports always begin with "this is Asian reporter Tricia Takanawa" when they see Tzu on the job. The better news is that such a reprehensible connection prompts deep feelings of shame.
Our oft-transferred White knight, who does not work or play well with others, enters the picture in the midst of all this, Irony appears in the form of the same police officials who look the other way in exchange for the Old Guard keeping the peace in Chinatown calling in White knowing that he does not play that way.
On the homefront, Mrs. Connie White is fully frustrated regarding the prices that she pays regarding the efforts of her husband to protect and serve the general population with doing either her. His teaming up with Tzu does not help matters.
The rest of the story is that a hilarious noir version of divine intervention is helping White with his effort to disrupt a massive drug deal with which Tai is involved. Other humor enters the picture in the form of a rookie being the only reliable option regarding using an undercover cop.
Our team of experts in-front-of and behind-the-camera particularly deliver as events build to the inevitable showdown between White and Tai. The collateral damage is high and more violent than expected, and White learns that no good deed goes unpunished. The lack of a sequel is the real crime.
As the disclaimers (and the reference to Takanawa) regarding the depiction of Chinese culture reflect, "Dragon" sadly is a film that likely would not be made in 2019. The backlash against the stereotypes despite the sympathy expressed toward the treatment of Asian immigrants would be the tip of the iceberg. The violence against women and the lack of female police officials would seal the deal regarding "Dragon" not even seeing the light-of-day as a direct-to-video release in the Wal-Mart bargain bin.
The same right-thinking people who do not judge people based on stereotypes and who find abuse of anyone abhorrent should realize that fictional depictions of those ills are PURELY for entertainment purposes and do not necessarily reflect the views of those associated with the production. It does not seem that depicting a female who ultimately must obey her man and allow him to imprison her in a bottle for merely asserting her views stops anyone from loving "I Dream of Jeannie,"
Context, people. Context.
The readily-available vintage Warner Archive DVD of the 1955 action-adventure period-piece "Moonfleet" (1955) is a wonderful Band-aid for what ails most of us during our winter of extreme discontent. The bright and wide CinemaScope format greatly enhances this atmospheric piece set in the titular community on the moors of Dorsetshire.
Fritz Lang ("Metropolis") utilizes his off-beat style very well in this Dickens/Stevenson tale of orphaned boy John Mohune going to Moonfleet to start a beautiful friendship with Jeremy Fox (Stewart Granger), who has a history with the mother of the boy. Although not explicitly stated in this '50s film, there is little doubt that the fox made his way into the hen house and that John is the product of that welcome incursion.
The opening scenes have John walking the moors in search of his new life; a fright for both him and the audience leads to his waking up in a tavern surrounded by a motley crew. The dashing upper-class Fox soon arrives on the scene and takes control.
We soon see that the road that is Hell on which to ride on is paved with good intentions as Fox has the lad shoved into a carriage and shipped back to civilization, The manner in which Fox describes the intended schooling of John is hilarious. Our excitable boy will have none of that and escapes.
The journey continues as John arrives at his ancestral house that Fox now owns. The debauchery that the once heir to the manor witnesses furthers his education. Suffice it to say, Fox is not pleased to see this minor inconvenience.
The Robert Louis Stevenson vibe is particularly strong as an eerie night-time wandering by John leads to his literally stumbling into the lair of a group of smugglers. Learning the extent to which this activity hits home is the first shock for our boy; finding himself without an immediate exit strategy is the next.
Additional harrowing events lead to a father-figure and son treasure hunt that they hope will go well. This involves bonding that extends beyond the divorced dad staple of a round of mini-golf. Nothing strengthens family ties more than fleeing from Redcoats.
Fox subsequently taking a powder is slightly surprising; his return is not, but does lead to another surprise. The two lessons are that a leopard cannot change his spots and that you sometimes must be cruel to be kind in the right measure.
The recent Warner Archive Blu-ray of 1941 Hitchcock film "Suspicion" reinforces that The Home Video King of Classic Movies and The Master of Suspense is a match made in cinephile heaven. This tale of the rushed courtship of sheltered heiress Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) and shillingless playboy Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) joins the growing listing of Blu-ray Hitchcock titles in the Archive catalog. The loving restorations alone justify adding these releases to your collection.
A personal cool aspect of this release is noting the same points that Robert Osborne and other film historians state in the documentary "Before the Fact" Suspicious Hitchcock" that is a Blu-ray extra. This feature also tells about the member of the Hitchcock family who plays a supporting role in "Suspicion."
"Suspicion" comes on the heels of the reviewed Archive release of the aptly titled Jane Wyman film "Stage Fright" in which Hitch has director's remorse regarding a Moby-Dick sized red herring. Other notable Hitchcock films that Archive has adopted include the (reviewed) "ripped-from-the-headlines" Henry Fonda film "The Wrong Man," and the (also-reviewed) "I Confess" that has Montgomery Clift playing a priest who is facing the prospect of letting a murderer escape the earthly consequences of his act. Whether God will get either man for that remains unknown.
Our leads are strangers on a train when they meet; steerage passenger Johnnie sneaks into the first-class carriage in which Lina is riding. Learning that he lacks the funds for the upgrade is the first of several red flags in their relationship.
The paths of Johnnie and Lina cross again during a hunt; the latter soon getting a wake-up call regarding her spinsterhood causes her to latch onto the first gigolo that crosses her path.
The honeymoon period ends on the couple moving into their showplace on returning from their post-wedding trip, Lina learns that Johnnie plans to live large on her nickel. One challenge is that the family fisc is smaller than assumed.
Johnnie continues to show his true colors in ways that include digging his debt hole deeper, continuing to gamble, and getting caught with his hand in the company til. Lina discovering all this on her own does not help matters.
Mounting evidence that includes a friendship between Johnnie and murder-mystery writer Isobel Sedbusk is pure Hitchccok in that it increases the titular response in Lina regarding her belief that Johnnie intends to get a divorce by poison. This element of the film puts an amusing spin on the adage about not buying the cow when you can get the milk for free.
Another fun aspect of "Suspicion" involves having Nigel Bruce of the "Sherlock Holmes" films of the era play long-time Johnnie friend Gordon "Binky" Cochran Thwaite. Bruce does his usual good job playing the good-natured sidekick; he also holds himself very well regarding Grant.
All of the action climaxes with Lina reasonably believing that she is facing imminent mortal danger; This scene with Johnnie shows why he and Fontaine get the big bucks. In true Hitchcock style, the plausible conclusion will surprise you.
The combination of quality source material, a skilled director behind the camera, and a talented ensemble easily earn allay any suspicions that this movie is an outdated production that is not worthy your time in 2019.
The awesomeness of the beautifully remastered Warner Archive January 15, 2019 Blu-ray of the 1963 Paul Newman drama "The Prize" begins with this release adding another Newman film to the Archive catalog. This inventory includes the (reviewed) "Harper" and the (also reviewed) "Drowning Pool" series in which the salad-dressing king plays gumshoe Lew Harper.
This film based on an Irving Wallace novel also is a perfect example of a Hitchcockian Cold War era movie. This comparison begins with Newman playing rugged everyman/Nobel Prize winning novelist Andrew Craig getting in over his head (pun intended) due to a series of unfortunate circumstances.
60s sex-kitten Elke Sommer fills the role of a Hitchcockian blonde who becomes the partner-in-crime-solving of the leading man. The credits of screenwriter Ernest Lehman including the 1958 Hitchcock film "North by Northwest" further contributes to the Hitch cred. of "Prize." You will want to keep your eyes on this one.
The Cold War element comes courtesy of fellow Nobel winner German physicist Dr. Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson) not seeming to be himself during the festivities related to the Nobel ceremony. The plot thickeners include current American Max having worked in his native country (for a stated good reason) during WWII. His clandestine meeting with a former colleague and other indications of nefarious doings contribute to the sense that something is rotten in the state of Sweden.
The "Grand Hotel" vibe begins with "Prize" centering around the stays of Andrew, Max, their fellow Nobel winners, and the companions of those folks who are the top members of their professions, The Grand Hotel hosting this group seals the deal even more than an amusing Greta Garbo joke with which Newman runs.
The following YouTube clip of the '60stastic trailer for "Prize" highlights all the above elements in a manner that screams for watching the film.
Sommer plays local handler Inger Lisa Andersson, who finds "problem child" Andrew far more than a handful. This hard-drinking womanizing cynic makes it clear that the cash award is the only prize that interests him.
Andrew divides his romantic pursuits between Inger and Max niece Emily (Diane Baker). Emily almost literally is the girl-next-door but may be far less pure than she seems.
The rest of the gang includes married French scientists Denise and Claude Marceau, who amusingly lack any chemistry between them. Claude keeping his beautiful "secretary" in an adjoining room prompts Denise to dictate to Andrew.
The game fully gets afoot when a puzzling remark by Max triggers the spidey sense of Andrew; this soon leads to our hero obtaining solid proof of an evil plot. Of course, no one believes him.
The lukewarm pursuit sends Andrew to a private sanitarium and then hilariously seeking cover at a meeting of a nudist group; this being a '60s Hollywood film precludes getting a glimpse of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids.
This leads to Inger Lisa fully becoming a pawn in the intrigue; the ensuing rescue attempt involves a good mix of cunning and brute strength, This leads to a wonderful scene in which it is clear that Andrew does not have a gun in his pocket but is glad to see Inger Lisa.
Of course, the Nobel ceremony provides the setting for the climax of "Prize." Andrew predictably saves the day, but the truly surprising twists at the end deserve a revered place in Hollywood history. This verifies that "Prize" is much more original "Manchurian Candidate" then "White House Down."
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.
The Warner Archive leitmotif to which the January 22, 2019 Archive Blu-ray release of the 1959 movie "The Giant Behmoth" belongs is '50s sci-fi. Although very entertaining based on its own merits, the so-bad-they're-good stock footage and special effects greatly add to the enjoyment of watching this one. Further, the Blu-ray remaster of this low-budget cult classic looks and sounds good.
The addition of "Behemoth" to the Archive catalog follows the (reviewed) Blu-ray release of the Howard Hawks mainstream classic "The Thing From Another World." These releases (and similar fare) facilitate recreating the awesome Saturday afternoon marathons at movie theaters. Watching the films back-to-back on the evening of a horrible day was exactly what the cinephile ordered.
The following YouTube clip of a Archive highlight video of "Behemoth" showcases the aforementioned effects that make the production values of the live-action Saturday-morning series "Land of the Lost" seem like something from a Merchant-Ivory film. A related depicted element is the cool way that "Behemoth" recreates the vibe of the WWII-era blitz.
This "Godzilla" begins with Yank Steve Karnes in King Robert's Court to lecture on little-considered fallout from A Bombs; his topic is how the radiation affects sea life but does not specifically address fish developing a third eye. This scene is particularly notable for a clever narrative technique that identifies Karnes.
Karnes is about to leave England for his home turf when a news report of sea monster who is far from lovin' and laughin' his life away prompts this science guy to head to the coastal scene of the crime. One of the coolest scenes from this portion of the film is discovering a radioactive element in a dissected fish.
Finding radiated Nemo allows narrowing the search for the titular sea monster. Rather than using a dory, our team boards a helicopter to search the targeted area of ocean. The arguably best effect ensues in the form of the Biblical beast swimming just below the surface. This scene arguably inspires similar moments in the awesome Brit series "Primeval" and "Primeval New World" that have prehistoric creatures respectively terrorizing England and Vancouver.
The same in-the-know viewers who yell "don't go in there" during horror movies surely predict that the plan to lower the helicopter to get a better look is a fatal mistake. They may as well have had Henry Blake on board.
The behemoth going on land and leaving behind physical evidence of (presumably) his presence leads to bringing in paleontologist Dr. Sampson. Sampson is a somewhat absent-minded professor who steals every scene in which he appears.
The conclusions of Samson being spot-on does not prevent mayhem that arguably is the most hilariously cheesy scene in the film. Our monster attacks a ferry full of passengers with extreme prejudice,
All of this leads to a literal plan-of-attack that finds the proper balance between ridding the U.K. of the terrible lizard and taking a scorched-earth approach. The ensuing action revolves around getting the rampaging beast to take his medicine.
Hilarity and drama ensue in equal measure as the potential saviors strive to complete their mission; consensus regarding this effort avoids any barney.
As indicated above, the silliness of "Behemoth" provides roughly 90-minutes of unreal entertainment. Ambiguity regarding whether this big guy is a teenage mutant sea creature or a long slumbering dino who is awoken provides a good discussion topic.
Seeing truly is believing regarding the pristine Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1951 Howard Hawks sci-fi classic "The Thing From Another World." The legacy of this tale of a broccoli from another planet terrorizing a group ar the actual Santaland includes the equally classic 1982 John Carpenter film "The Thing."
As indicated above, the video of this crystal-clear remaster of this '50s flick is amahzing. The same is true regarding the audio.
Hawks clearly shows his well-known diversity by hitting a home-run with this one that goes beyond sci-fi to also be a military buddy comedy, a romcom, and a morality tale.
Our story begins with jovial Air Force Captain Patrick Hendry (character actor Kenneth Tobey) joking with his crew and with newspaperman Ned Scott (character actor Douglas Scott) at an Anchorage Air Force base. In a manner that is particularly familiar to fans of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Team Hendry soon is called in to investigate a weird occurrence at a North Pole research center; Scott convinces the crew to let him tag along.
The humor continues with the flyboys and what passes for ground control at the North Pole making light of hazardous landing conditions. One spoiler is that the plane and all souls safely land.
The "rom" element soon enters the picture in the form of awesomely named office worker Nikki Nicholson; Nicholson portrayor Margaret Sheridan is known as the equivalent of a Hitchcock blonde in the eyes of Hawks (pun intended).
The onscreen chemistry and bantering between Tobey and Sheridan help elevate "Thing" from merely being kiddee matinee fare. Sheridan receiving top billing over Tobey, Nicholson being the one to hit it and quit it (and leaving a hilarious "Dear John" letter) in the relationship, and the nature of playful light bondage clearly define that dynamic.
The sci-fi element heats up on the newcomers learning that a UFO has crashed landed and is frozen beneath the ice; discovering the titular alien (James Arness of "Gunsmoke") at the Roswell North site compensates for a glitch while recovering the craft.
The sci-fi staple of a fatal mistake this time consists of bringing this outer-space equivalent of Encino Man inside to slowly thaw him. Inadvertently expediting this process allows the accidental tourist to explore his new surroundings sooner than expected. Suffice it to say both that first contact does not go as planned and that the man with that duty may as well have been wearing a red shirt.
The most awesome thing about this new threat is that it FINALLY introduces real conflict in the film; Dr. Arthur Carrington (character actor Robert Cornthwaite) plays the dual roles of "The Professor" who by far is the smartest guy in the room and the dick who regularly clashes with Hendry. The disagreement relates to accepting the reality that you need to crack a few skulls to make a scientifically important omelet.
An early detection system provides our group an advantage in its effort to find and neutralizes this threat with a somewhat plausible basis for lacking any emotion or compassion. However, this proves to be little help regarding the final mano a mango battle.
This confrontation at the North Pole really going south at one point adds good suspense that contributes to the classic status of the film. A mix of humor and potential for peril enters in the form of speculating about a previously unconsidered advantage of the rampaging rutabaga.
The bigger picture is whether mere mortals can defeat a creature that is bigger, stronger, smarter, and lacks any regard for human life. This provides the rest of the human population reason to anticipate fairly literally becoming cattle.
The epilogue to all this is that "Things" hits all the right notes and speaks to everyone.
The Warner Archive December 4, 2018 DVD release of the 1996-97 S6 of the ABC TGIF sitcom "Perfect Strangers" brings us close to the finish line for this 8-season classic and allows Millennials another chance to see a sitcom done right.
This set, which comes relatively close on the heels of the (reviewed) Archive release of "Strangers" S5, chronicles (pun intended) the further misadventures of uptight Chicago Chronicle reporter Larry Appleton (Mark Linn Baker) and his freshish off the boat cousin Balki Bartokomous. Don't be ridiculous, of course they follow in the grand tradition of Oscar and Felix and Laverne and Shirley.
The sitcom veterans, whose numerous prior credits include "Mork and Mindy" and the "Strangers" esque "Bosom Buddies" with Tom Hanks, behind "Strangers" take a nice "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach to the series. These pros begin with standard sitcom plots and amp things up to comic degrees that provide entertaining freshness.
We also get related "Easter egg" references throughout "Strangers." Earlier seasons include mentions of Cunningham Hardware of "Happy Days" fame. The S6 "very-special" two-part episode involving especially serious danger includes a "Laverne and Shirley" mention and a quick shot of the exterior of the Burbank apartment complex where those girls live in latter seasons. The boys go to La La Land on a newspaper assignment, and the encounters include meeting an ice-cream truck driver who claims to be a movie producer.
The validation of the ability of Linn Baker and Pinchot to deliver the goods include Lucille Ball being a fan. The Ball dynamic includes Larry and Balki often including their respective significant others Jennifer and Mary Anne in the fun. An S6 example is the girls working as waitresses when Balki greatly overextends himself regarding catering jobs.
The fun this season begins with Larry behaving in character (pun intended) on overreacting to a relatively minor burglary. He gets a bank-quality security system installed in the mid-sized apartment that he shares with Balki. Yes, that leads to the boys getting trapped and facing punishment with extreme prejudice regarding being considered intruders,
The show runners straddle the line between jumping the shark and having events follow their natural course by having Larry and Jennifer get engaged in response to a serious threat to their relationship. Largely keeping the engagement in the background throughout the season keeps things on the side of natural progression. Limiting the appearance of a rambunctious moppet to one episode shows the same restraint.
Additional restraint is shown regarding the seemingly obligatory episode in which a lead become a star. Creating rapper "Fresh Young Balki B" does not lead to fame going to the head of Balki; instead, we learn once again that you can take the boy out of Mypos but not the Mypos out of the boy.
S6 wraps up with arguably the most predictable episode of the season; Balki administers a compatibility test to nervous Larry and Jennifer. Although the test results and the responses of the loving couple are predictable, the journey to that point is a true joy ride. The bigger picture is equally pure sitcom in that a nottie without any fame or wealth almost never lands a hottie. The perseverance that almost always pays off in TV Land almost always end with a restraining order in the real world.
As oft stated in these posts but never meant more than in this instance, they don't make 'em like "Strangers" anymore. Modern sitcoms either have edge, cruelty, or simply no humor. Conversely, old-school series find decent to good "com" in a slightly exaggerated "sit" to the delight of most.
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.
The Warner Archive November 27, 2018 DVD double-feature release "Janie" (1944)/"Janie Gets Married" (1946) provides a much-needed tonic for our troubled times. The back-cover liner notes for this release share that these tales of the titular WWII-era All-American girl are based on a popular Broadway play of the same name.
The opening scenes of "Janie" establish that Hortonville (a.k.a. Anytown U.S.A.) is a peaceful community where Charles Conway (Edward Albert), who is the father of Janie and "problem child" Elspbeth (a.k.a. Elspbitch), is the prosperous conservative publisher of the local newspaper. An indication of the aforementioned wealth is full-time servant April (Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel of "Gone With the Wind).
The chaos at the opening of "Janie" is of the relatively wholesome teenage variety. Our "Gidget" is playing her Top 40 record too loud, tying up the only telephone line in the house with calls to friends, and is plotting to sneak out to a blanket party. Although that party has potential to be a swinging bash, it merely involves young lovers smooching on the grass.
Seeing Richard Erdman of "Community" play high school sweetheart/world-class doofus Scooper Nolan is great fun. This is particularly so when former Yale man/current Army private Dick Lawrence literally and figuratively enters this picture. His subsequent courting of Janie creates an awesome "screw you, Leonard" relationship with Erdman. For his part, Scooper valiantly tries to be a Dick blocker.
The bigger picture is that Dick and his widowed helicopter mother are in town because of a new Army base; this provides hilarity in the form of Charles being up in arms regarding the threat of horny soldiers corrupting Janie and her peers.
All of this culminates in a development that is relatable to modern teens. Janie and Richard planning a quiet evening while her parents are out soon becomes a wild bash with high-school girls, their soldier-boy beaus, and seemingly every dogface on the base. Although no crystal eggs are casualties, there is ample property damage. A sad part is that we are denied hearing April say that she don't know nothin' 'bout throwin' no party.
Of course, everything works out well in the end with Charles having the proper perspective and even achieving a film-long goal courtesy of a bureaucrat whom Alan Hale, Sr. plays to a tee.
"Married" picks up two years later. Nineteen year-old Janie is all-grown up and is a newly-wed with husband Dick. Their twin beds being pressed closed together at the beginning of the film suggests that the honeymoon period is not over.
Dick has a clearly token job at the newspaper of his father-in-law. Taking care of their one-bedroom cottage seems to be too-much for stay-at-home Janie; "wicked witch" housekeeper Mrs. Angles (Margaret Hamilton of "The Wizard of Oz") seemingly comes every day to over-starch the shirts of Dick and to disregard each request of Janie.
Voluptuous Army buddy Spud Lee (Dorothy Malone) coming for a surprise visit prompts most of the ensuing hilarity. That friendship beginning with Dick jumping in the foxhole of Spud does not help matters. Spud sofa surfing at Chez Lawrence really does not help.
In true sitcom fashion, a jealous Janie dupes a clueless Scooper into helping her with her plan to get back at Dick. Of course, this goes comically awry.
The culmination this time is Janie hosting an intimate dinner party for her family and for the straight-laced man to whom Charles wants to sell the newspaper. A put-out Dick, drunken Army buddies, a temporarily homeless soldier, and a wacky misunderstanding creates chaos that the typical last-minute miracle resolves.
The joy of all this is silly light-hearted fun that shows that good humor does not require shock and awe. We also see that teenagers and romantic problems have not changed much in 70 years,
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.
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.
The Warner Archive November 27, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1974 musical-comedy "Mame" allows fans to judge this one for themselves. This film is based on the stage-version of the 1958 Rosalind Russell comedy "Auntie Mame," which based on a story by and about Patrick Dennis.
One sadly undisputed aspect of this film is that having Lucille Ball having a very raspy and deep voice at this point in her career should have precluded having her playing any role that requires singing. The same is true regarding Bea Arthur, who reprises her role as best frienemy stage actress Vera Charles from the 1966 Broadway production. (Yes, I know that God will get me for that.)
"Mame" begins at the end of the Jazz Age; the titular society girl is living it up and thinks that the party will never end until she receives an almost-literal wake-up call during The Crash of '29. This sets the stage (pun intended) for Vera to delver one of the best lines in the play by stating that she is glad that she never set aside any money.
The rest of the story is that The Crash also comes soon after prim-and-proper orphaned nephew Patrick and his frumpy nanny Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell) come to live with his auntie. The foresight of his late father allows Patrick to attend a respectable boarding school and largely avoid the bad influence of his only living relative.
Meanwhile, Lucy puts her brand of comedy to good use as Mame is required to cut back and to attempt several jobs to keep the roof of her luxurious townhouse over her head. This quest for full employment brings her in contact with future husband/savior Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, "Music Man" Robert Preston, who is best-known to modern audiences for his role in "Victor/Victoria," excels in every aspect of his performance as Beauregard. He gets the bonus of performing "Loving You," which is written for the film.
Lucy again shines on her trip to the Burnside plantation to meet the mother (Lucille Benson) of Beauregard. Hilarity ensues when a woman scorned and general southern hostility toward damn Yankees combine to set up Mame for a fall. However, that New Yorker wins over the crowd by showing that she is more than a one-trick pony. This leads to the chorus singing the title song that lauds the titular free spirit.
A notable segment that follows is a montage that shows Patrick first growing from a cute and studious lad to a dreamy horndog high school boy and then a skirt-chasing college man. A very cute Bruce Davison of 258 IMDb credits plays that version of Patrick.
This maturity sets the stage for the final conflict. Patrick is engaged to textbook WASP woman Gloria Upson from Connecticut. This Junior League stereotype and her family are ultra-conservative to the extent of only barely concealing their prejudices. Of course, this does not sit well with bon vivant Mame,
Stereotype Lucy once again appears in a scheme near the end of the film. She hilariously exposes the nature of the Upsons both for personal satisfaction and to provide Patrick a wake-up call.
Of course, Mame and Patrick get a Broadway/Hollywood ending.
The special features include the theatrical trailer and an eight-minute promo. that celebrates Lucy starring in the film.
The epilogue is that a mediocre film starring Lucy and featuring Bea Arthur is better than the best film that is a showcase for virtually any current Hollywood royalty.
'Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1' 1st Release of 14 Technicolor Adventures of Spinach-Loving Strongman
The Warner Archive December 11, 2018 Blu-ray release of "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume i' is the latest example of Archive coming to the rescue. This first-ever release of the first two-seasons (1943-44 and 1944-45) of Technicolor "Popeye" cartoons comes several years after Warner Prime only takes this series of those theatrical shorts up to 1943 in three volumes. This is one of numerous examples of Archive "adopting" abandoned film and television series.
The titular squid is an everyman who temporarily develops super-strength and speed on ingesting spinach. The prelude to this typically involves Popeye stumbling into a bad situation and getting along without his 'roid until he finds himself badly defeated. This setback often comes at the hands of nemesis/antagonist Bluto (sometimes Brutus). The source of their conflict regularly is their concurrent courtship of lanky Olive Oyl.
"Her Honor, The Mare" is the first of the 14 beautifully remastered shorts in Volume One. This somewhat change-of-pace adventure has the Huey, Dewey, Louie, and my other brother Louie style nephews of Popeye first sneaking a horse into his house and then trying to coerce him into letting him keep their new pet. This arguably is the most cute one in the set and establishes that the first several cartoons are the "missing link" between the more crudely animated black-and-white offerings and the more polished color cartoons that many folks remember from after-school airings.
Up next is the "Marry Go Round." The notable aspects of this one include featuring Navy buddy Shorty and a "don't ask, don't tell moment" that is surprising for the '40s. The plot this time is Shorty helping his buddy wok up the nerve to propose to Olive.
This leads to the technicolor-popping "We're On Our Way to Rio." This first Bluto cartoon in "Volume One" has him and Popeye competing for nightclub performer Olive. This time, spinach helps Popeye by turning him into a dancing fool.
One of the strongest offerings comes fairly late in the set. "For Better or Nurse" is one of the first with the more polished look. This especially amusing tale has Popeye and Bluto simultaneously trying to get injured and prevent the other one from getting hurt. Their motive is to be admitted to the hospital where Olive is the titular health-care provider.
"Nurse" is notable for a few twists that all are too good to spoil.
The first side note is that these war-time productions surprisingly have virtually no propaganda; the second side note is that Pop-pie ala Mode sadly more accurately reflects the era. Insensitive depictions of stereotypes can be dismissed as reflecting less enlightened times; however, the presentation of dark-skinned cannibals who are duping Popeye with an eye toward feasting on him pushes the envelope even for the '40s.
The aforementioned vintage animation style and unique characteristics of the early 40s fully prove that they don't make 'em like that anymore. Sets like "Volume One" show we have reason to be glad that Archive brings 'em back.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1956 CinemaScope scifi film "World Without End" once again proves the Archive commitment to releasing DVDs and Blu-rays that fit in awesome leitmotifs. In this case, it is bright and bold CinemaScope scifi B flicks.
The recently reviewed Archive Blu-ray release of "The Queen of Outer Space" starring Zsa Zsa Gabor is another member of the low-budget sci-fi movies section of the seemingly endless Archive catalog. Of course, these releases make a great double-feature gift for fans of good bad '50s scifi movies. A related note is that the back-cover liner notes for "World" state that it is the first CinemaScope scifi thriller.
Warner does its usual excellent job remastering both "World" and "Queen" for Blu-ray. The flawless images are crystal clear and incredibly vivid; the audio literally would allow hearing a pin drop.
The numerous similarities between "World" and "Queen" are attributable to Edward Bernds directing both; he pulls double duty as writer on "World." A synopsis of the films is that red-blooded American astronauts crash their ship and get tangled up with space babes. This screams for a book on the psyche of Bernds.
One difference is that "World" has more of an Irwin Allen feel than "Queen." This begins with a strong lost in space vibe, continues with stronger camaraderie among the macho men leads, and includes the stronger cheesy creature element.
The four astronauts in "World" are on a data-collecting mission when a freak storm near Mars causes their ship to go wildly out-of-control. They awaken to find their vehicle stuck in the mother of all snow banks.
The formulaic fun begins with the quartet discovering a massive spider web and soon wrangling with the not-so-sweet Charlotte who is its creator. The manner in which the group fends off this comical mutant establishes their approach to defending themselves from every savage foe.
The next adventure is straight out of "Queen." The men in both cases pay the price for lacking the foresight to assign someone to stand watch while the others sleep in their alien environment. The rude awakening in "World" comes courtesy of mutated cavemen.
The ensuing cat-and-mouse game results in the astronauts seeking refuge in a cave; that temporary refuge becomes more permanent on this tactic leading to the group entering the fortified underground world of the civilized inhabitants. This leads to reveals regarding where the space travelers have landed in time and space.
The honeymoon period quickly ends on the guests learning that their very timid hosts are unwilling either to help them repair their ship or use the resources that allow establishing an outpost on the surface. The aforementioned eye candy is some consolation; the new arrivals being far more macho in mind and body than the wimps who rule the place further enhances their status.
Of course, things soon come to a head in a manner that requires that every male man up. This initially leads to a wonderfully campy power struggle. This results in which is a happy ending on the surface (pun intended) but is horribly wrong from a more enlightened 21st-century perspective.
The happy ending for us higher beings is that Archive allows us the treat of a "World" and"Queen" double feature. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
Warner Archive goes all-out Nightmare Before Christmas in releasing a series of Christopher Lee Dracula horror films from Hammer Studios on Blu-ray in this period of Santa and candy canes. These include "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" and "Horror of Dracula."
The Archive Blu-ray release of "Dracula A.D. 1972" from 1972 is our current topic. The moderately well-known spectacular film chemistry between Lee and co-star Peter Cushing in all their joint projects is the tip of the wooden stake regarding the quality of this one.
Virgins in the context of "1972" are in for an exceptional treat regarding this film far exceeding all expectations. Anticipating an entertaining low-budget production that is equal parts cheese and camp leads to sheer delight in finding a well-crafted film with performances that range from good to excellent and a compelling story that makes sense in the context of Dracula lore. The one exception regarding the production values is a spurting blood scene that is reminiscent of a volcano that is a school science-fair project.
The jazzy soundtrack adds an element of unintended humor; this fast-paced music and the strong early '70s vibe of the film create an expectation of the words "A Quinn Martin Production" appearing on the screen.
The bigger picture (pun intended) is that the usual expert Archive resurrection of classic and cult-classic films for Blu-ray releases makes "1972" seem as if it has risen from the grave and been entirely reborn. It truly looks and sounds mahvelous, simply mahvelous.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "1972" is notable for the opposite reason that the film is must-see. This promo. inexplicably underplays the quality of the movie. The narration is thoroughly cheesy and does not properly showcase the production values; it does include a good sense of the plot and the "Clockwork Orange" aspect of the production.
Our story begins in 1872 as a spokesperson narrates a battle between Dracula (Lee) and Lawrence Van Helsing; this high-stakes confrontation concludes with the defeat of Dracula.
We quickly jump ahead a century as a group of uninvited hippies are throwing a wild party in the home of a wealthy woman in London; the planning and the execution of the exit strategy of the young people provides good humor.
The plot begins to thicken on group leader/minor league Manson Johnny Alucard convincing the group to participate in a Satanic ritual at an abandoned church. The naivety of the gang prompts them to go along with this plan for what they think is innocent fun.
Young unwitting Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham of "Dynasty") is unaware both that the rite of passage is intended to raise Dracula and that she is his bride in an arranged marriage courtesy of Johnny. Her rude awakening comes when everything gets very real.
Other good humor enters the picture when Dracula acts like an ungrateful genie freed from a bottle; Johnny expects a major pat on the head and barely avoids a kick in the pants. Dracula finding that his fiancee is not his intended does not help matters.
Current Van Helsing patriarch Lorrimer (Peter Cushing) enters the picture on Jessica acting oddly and expressing an interest in the occult. The police soon coming knocking after finding the mangled body of the most recent Countess Dracula provides the final piece of the puzzle.
Hilarity and horror ensue as Lorrimer confirms to Johnny that you cannot trust anyone over 30. The relentless manner in which the man attacks the boy is highly cathartic for all of us who must deal with Millennials. We also a "Batman '66" style battle as Jessica is lured into a fiendish trap that is designed to get her to the church on time.
All of this culminates in the predicted battle royale between Lorrimer and Dracula that brings the film full circle back to the beginning.
All of the aforementioned aspects of this unexpectedly good film provide a good reminder that horror need not be unduly graphic, exploitive, or otherwise excessively perverse. You simply need good source material and adequate talent on both sides of the camera that can make the story seem plausible.