Harry's 13th Picks & Peeks of 2013! Kazan, Fuller, Giant Flying Robots, Stuart Gordon, Coscarelli, Spielberg, Chaplin, Ford & more!
Hey folks, Harry here with a real monster of a column. Well over 4000 words. There’s just an awful lot of really great films that are necessarily widely known, so I got carried away writing about them. You really do deserve to check out a high amount of these titles. As usual, the images and links take you to AMAZON where you can learn more about the titles, and if you pick something up, you’re helping to keep this column coming as best I can. Also check out the app for the iPhone, I love how these format on those, plus the ability to search and find every title I’ve ever covered in the 11 years of doing this column… Well, just imagine the hours of laughter…
Tuesday, March 25th, 2013
Ok folks – here’s a legitimately fucking amazing movie. Elia Kazan’s PANIC IN THE STREETS feature Richard Widmark as a Public Health employee on a desperate case of trying to track down some bad guys with the plague. This is one of those Hot Zone style stories – but the criminals… they’re played the the utmost screen chewing by Jack Palance and Zero Mostel. The film won the Oscar for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story – and it’s a real compelling work. Palance and Mostel are fantastic, and Widmark is brilliant at waking the cops and the city up to the danger this threat represents. I love when weird elements work their way into Film Noir. If you love this, be sure to check out Widmark in KISS OF DEATH, THE STREET WITH NO NAME, NIGHT AND THE CITY, NO WAY OUT, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET. And if you like this type of Noir, be sure to check out KISS ME DEADLY or SPLITSECOND. Saddest bit of trivia about this movie is that just a couple years after Kazan made this film, he rolled over and named Zero Mostel on the House of Un-American Activities and help cut this brilliant actor / comedian’s career short. Mostel continued to work, but barely. It was really A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM and THE PRODUCERS that helped break him out of the corner he was placed in by Kazan. Having this film on Blu Ray is outstanding. Looks like 35mm, gorgeous.
CHINA GATE Blu Ray
Now if you want a film geek to respect ya, know your Sam Fuller films. Sam Fuller is one of the great characters of cinema. If you’re a fan of John Milius, you’ll find a lot of similarities between these two great directors. On Sam’s movies action was the pull of a trigger and the blast of a gun. He wanted urgency and vitality from his performers – and his background as a journalist and in WWII – gave him a no bullshit kind of attitude that made his films sweat. CHINA GATE is a Vietnam film made in 1957. Yes, 1957. This isn’t about the USA’s ill-fated excursion to Vietnam, but deals with French Legionnaires and Mercenaries. RIO BRAVO’s Angie Dickinson plays a Eurasian ex-wife of WAR OF THE WORLDS’ Gene Barry. Lee Van Cleef plays the leader of the Vietcong, that they’re trying to … you’ll see. My fave character in the film is played by Nat “King” Cole – who also sings the title song. Worth the price of the Blu Ray all on his own, The King is a war vet of both WWII and the Korean War. It has given him a perspective, that I wish more would listen to before jumping into the most unpleasant of human endeavors, War. This is a vital pick up for your Samuel Fuller collection. You can’t possess all of his work on Blu Ray, but SHOCK CORRIDOR and THE NAKED KISS are available. But for me, he’s one of the directors that I’ve been fortunate enough to see his entire filmography in 35mm in a theater. I love them all. For most of you, you may know THE BIG RED ONE, which is tremendous, but if you have a love cinema, discover everything he directed and wrote. Read about his life and be inspired. They broke the mold with this fella!
JOHNNY SOKKO AND HIS FLYING ROBOT: The Complete Series
This was before my time, but I had the Flying Robot in my Tin Robot Collection as a boy. Once I got older, I found out what the robot was from, but never really tracked the show down. Then this showed up the other day – and I was hypnotized by its spell. I watched the first seven episodes quickly – and only when my wife wanted her husband to return, where the 6 year old was sitting… I’d probably still be watching this. Goofy grin. Watch it, but don’t think too hard – or do, and laugh with it. Johnny Sokko like Stringfellow Hawke after him, essentially steals this Giant Flying Robot. You see, this Gargoyle Gang were making this Giant Flying Robot for nefarious reasons, but lil Johnny Sokko and his fellow Unicorn Gang member Jerry Mano, happen upon the situation – and the Giant Robot gets hooked on the boy’s voice. The Gargoyle Gang unleashes Giant Monsters all in an attempt to destroy or reacquire the Giant Robot. Sokko & Mano by the second episode have fucking JET PACKS!!! So cool. I want a jet pack and my own giant flying robot. I would rule the world so good! Here you get everything – and it’s the perfect way to begin to get super excited in a childlike way for PACIFIC RIM! ENJOY!
FROM BEYOND Blu Ray
I have mad love for Stuart Gordon’s masterful FROM BEYOND… an H.P. Lovecraft tale starring the amazing Jeffrey Combs, the beautiful and sultry Barbara Crampton and the great Ken Foree as they do battle with Dr. Edward Pretorius’ Resonator which stimulates your Pineal Gland. Don’t know about your Pineal Gland? Then watch this film immediately so you can discover its importance to the evolution of everything we know. In addition to being a great Lovecraft adaptation, in addition to being gory beyond all belief… FROM BEYOND is one of the most vibrant visual movies you’ll see. This Blu Ray is a true wonder to behold. I was worried that the high resolution might reveal the limitations of the practical effects – but fear not, it exhibits their strength and power. If you love horror, but know nothing about this – don’t say that out loud. Just pick this up and smile knowing that you’re going to expose so many people to the genius of H.P. Lovecraft, Stuart Gordon and this amazing cast! I’d seen some reviews of this disc, where the reviewer has obviously never seen the film in 35mm and doesn’t seem to realize that this is EXACTLY WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE. Especially in the brain eating scenes. SHOUT! Gives us two different Audio Commentaries, an extensive Makeup and Creature Effects doc (over twenty minutes), An interview with Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, Producer Charles Band, Stuart Gordon, and Richard Band again, but as composer. Great looking Blu Ray with great special features. As good as it gets. If you love early Raimi and early Peter Jackson… then get with FROM BEYOND and Stuart Gordon’s career!
FUTUREWORLD Blu Ray
I love WESTWORLD, because it is pure Michael Crichton – written and directed by. With FUTUREWORLD, they went in a different direction – and I love it too. Why? Because while the first film is a vacation turned bad, this one is set when DELOS decides to try and reopen their robotic vacation destination, that a few years prior had resulted in wanton death and destruction when contrary to Ian Malcolm’s assertion of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, here… the Robots did kill all the guests… well, basically. Anyway DELOS invites a some reporters and dignitaries to help ease the terrible bad publicity from the first disaster. Peter Fonda gets contacted by an informant that’s trying to give him some inside conspiracy material on DELOS – but dies before fully explaining. Fonda accompanies Blythe Danner’s Top Journalist Commentator for the IMC Network that has exclusive coverage rights to DELOS reopening. It is far worse than they could possibly imagine. They’re going expecting for there to be some kind of killer robot scare… but that’s not really the problem. I won’t spoil what does happen, cuz I know that a lot of folks haven’t seen it, but it is a whole different direction – one worthy of COBRA or SPECTRE or AIM.
McLINTOCK! Blu Ray
Who says the Duke don’t do SHAKESPEARE? Well, saddle up for his TAMING OF THE SHREW! You probably have been exposed to McLINTOCK!, it is one of Wayne’s most rollicking good time westerns. The film just kicks off with the most cheerful opening title song over some very fun Western engravings that are sometimes animated. Almost trippy. McLINTOCK was always a big film with my mother. Now, she loved a lot of John Wayne movies, but her Grandfather Harry took her to see McLINTOCK! And he was very much a McLintock kinda guy. Big time rancher, big in communities – and to my Mom the biggest man ever – and McLINTOCK! Is the bubblegum vision of a modernizing Western. Now, Wayne doesn’t have a single line of the Bard’s I believe – and neither does anyone else. This TAMING OF THE SHREW is something you’ll see if you know the play. Otherwise, it just seems like a western comedy that’s damn good. “Awww, you have no milk of human kindness. Wayne has an amazing cast – In addition to John Wayne, you get Maureen O’Hara, one of my all time fave co-stars of his, there’s Chill Wills to strangle language and Strother Martin is up to his tricks. King Kong’s Bruce Cabot is pals with Wayne – and you’ll spy Oscar Winner Hal Needham in there! And Bob Steele, but my fave is Hank Worden. You might remember him as Old Mose in THE SEARCHERS, if you know your Wayne flicks, he’s one of your faves. You’ll also see John’s son Patrick “Sinbad” Wayne. And you even have Yvonne De Carlo to oogle. I’ve always been in love with Lily Munster! This is just a blast – and shows a more socially acceptable version of John Wayne. Unless you count that whole spousal abuse thing. Kinda. I love it! You just have to love George Washington McLintock! He’s a rascal. HAPPY DAYS! No extras though.
MONSIEUR VERDOUX Criterion Blu Ray
Remember that time Charles Chaplin played a serial killer? Ya know, MONSIEUR VERDOUX is criminally unappreciated by folks – and mainly that’s because his earlier work tends to be what gets the folks attention. But then black comedy has never been as popular as the more straight forward variety. Chaplin plays Henri Verdoux – a man of many guises. Though never The Tramp. He’s a killer here and a different kind of creation. But Criterion, oh yes, they give it its due. It is so refreshing to watch this movie, cuz Chaplin is using that amazing charisma, charm and sense of timing to a whole different set of laughs. Kinda proof that Chaplin could do anything. And here’s what Criterion adds to sweeten the package:
• New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Chaplin Today: “Monsieur Verdoux,” a 2003 program on the film’s production and release, featuring filmmaker Claude Chabrol and actor Norman Lloyd
• Charlie Chaplin and the American Press, a new documentary featuring Chaplin specialist Kate Guyonvarch and author Charles Maland
• New video essay featuring an audio interview with actress Marilyn Nash
• Radio advertisements and trailers
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky and reprinted pieces by Chaplin and critic André Bazin
LINCOLN Blu Ray
Most importantly – the film glows off the screen, the use of light and most importantly, shadow – make this Blu Ray transfer something to be appreciative of. I was initially cool to the film, the first time I watched it, I was wanting more of Lincoln’s life, but revisiting it on Blu Ray – I loved the political shenanigans that Honest Abe had to commit just to do the greatest thing this country has done. Can you imagine how exhausting that battle had to be. To have to bribe people to do the right thing, in order for them to look past their own arrogance, prejudice and stupidity. Just imagine how it must be today, when honor is something we laugh at. I do think the extras are a bit slight here. I would have loved to have seen much more. In particular that original enormous script. Bet that was some fascinating reading! Daniel Day Lewis is the performance that steals the light from all others in this film. It feels like LINCOLN is in the room. His portrayal is so completely different than expected, that it feels honest. True. I don’t know what it is that Daniel Day Lewis does, I just hope he does it for a very very long time. Tommy Lee Jones’ character grows upon each viewing. There is an hour of extras – but that is a pebble, given the wealth of work that was done here. Of course, if you’re really interested there are books and books and books tied into this movie. And I remember those fabulous Laser Discs where they’d store a library of images you could step through. C’mon – MORE IS BETTER!
TO THE ARCTIC Blu-Ray 3D
For some ABSURD reason, this 3D BluRay is being marketed as a Blu-Ray + DVD + ULTRAVIOLET across the banner… then, on the sticker that most of us ignore because it is usually some sort of promotion that annoys us it says, Bonus 3D Version. Yes, it is a beautiful 3D Imax film that has Meryl Streep narrating and Paul McCartney singing… So swimming with herds of walruses, follow the caribou and behold the stunning disappearing Arctic. Wonderful 3D – only 40 minutes, but beautiful.
STAR WARS LEGO: THE EMPIRE STRIKES OUT
Ok – so it isn’t exactly EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – it has Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Darth Maul and ol lightning fingers himself. AND you get a Lego Darth Vader with a Medal! Ewwwoooowwwweeewwwww!!! Yeah, and it’s just $10. If the simple act of Star Wars branded CG Legos gets you going – this is a purchase – just for that figure. But let’s be real… it is goofy fun. Far from great fun though.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY Blu Ray
Not a Hong Kong movie about Hitmen. It’s far more subtle than that. The film is a Hitman tale on the surface, but as you watch the film, if you have an eye for metaphor and symbolism you’ll see a movie of rather intense passion. Pitt is great here, give it a look see if you love Pitt’s headier films. Really well done and gorgeous on Blu.
PHANTASM II Blu Ray
Ok – this is just aggravating. This PHANTASM II Blu Ray is just absolutely terrific. SOMEBODY – please give SCREAM FACTORY the license on all the film in the franchise – because I want Coscarelli, Scrimm and Bannister commentaries on all of these. Interviews for every film. This is a beautiful Blu Ray – just like the FROM BEYOND disc on this list. That said, I refuse to watch the whole of this disc right now, not until PHANTASM I, III, IV are released on Blu Rays as beautiful. In my opinion, these films don’t work out of order. I can only watch them all in a row, because that’s what the Tall Man intends. Also, when you see it that way, you discover how brilliant these films are. So, get this piece right now, put the others on your Netflix queue on DVD – and enjoy all of them with a really pretty PHANTASM II to tease us for the higher resolution that will eventually come for them all. Cuz all of us horror fans want and crave that… RIGHT?
THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT Blu Ray
I feel that THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT is the clearest indication of John Ford’s feelings about post-Civil War Southern politics and race relations. It’s a remake of an old Will Rogers character named Judge Priest. Now Charles Winninger play Judge Priest, a proud Southern veteran of the Civil War. He has a Man-Servant played by Stepin Fetchit – and before you start rolling your eyes and screaming stereotypes – if you watch this film, Stepin Fetchit is taking full advantage of his relationship with the Judge. The Judge is in a bitterly fought reelection battle with a Yankee, and a bit of a bastard as well. Fetchit worries about how the Judge and him are being voted out. But it is when a young black banjo player ends up in Judge Priest’s court, Fetchit interferes with the proceedings to coach the kid to play Battle Hymn of the Republic which gets the court on his side – and the Judge dismisses the charges and gives him a clean chance at starting a life in their Kentucky Community. Later when the same banjo player ends up on the run from Bloodhounds for an alleged rape that had occurred, Judge Priest stops a lynch mob that need only believe the barking of their hounds. Priest tells the mob that bloodhounds are fool dogs and not to be trusted. And later he reveals the true criminal. Priest at one point uses the teachings of Jesus to change the community’s feelings about woman out of wedlock… a woman of sin. This look at 1905 Kentucky is a telling piece, I love how Ford has everyone hanging out at their windows, but then… no radio, no tv, no phones, no air conditioning… the window was a nice place to be – and if something were to start in town, you could hear and see it. It’s used powerfully at the end of the film. It is said that this was John Ford’s favorite film of his career – I didn’t know that when I started watching, but I suspected it. You can feel a lot of passion! Film played at Cannes and was up for the top awards and was nominated BEST FILM at the BAFTAS. There’s a lot of subtext layered beautifully throughout the film. In some ways it feels like a movie that led the way for something like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – they have very similar messages, though they take place decades apart. This is absolutely a tremendous film and a real discovery for me. Keep your eye out for Slim Pickens!
THE COLLECTION Blu Ray
If the original BLADE didn’t horrifically put you off of clubbing, then THE COLLECTION may very well end a period of your life. Heh. You know those club parties that get passed around on the internet. You have to have a password, usually ends up in an abandoned building? Mhm. Yeah, what if a crazed super psycho – used that method to gather a high body count. THE COLLECTION begins with a grand guignol celebration that if you dig gore – you’re going to be cheering with your friends or screaming. One or the other. It’s is big and over the top and beautiful. THEN the rescue team arrives and you have a very different film, that becomes something like ALIEN, in the sense that they’re searching and something… is hunting them. This is the sequel to THE COLLECTOR – and the poor sonuvabitch from the first film is in here – and he’s great. Highly recommended for gore loving horror fans that enjoy high body counts!
STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE – Season One Blu Ray
Ok – so I already have a crush on the Vulcan and I’ve always liked Scott Bakula – and I like that this is before the rules have been set by Starfleet – and this Enterprise is really and truly boldly going. NOW – I hate the opening song, it kind of drives me insane, but luckily Blu Ray chapter breaks making hopping it simple. I’m about 12 episodes in – and I’m really enjoying it. A lot. I like how T’Pol and Archer are working together. I like that I think she sees the value of Human Curiosity to DISCOVERY. They’re clumsy, but they make alliances that the Vulcans couldn’t make. I’m very much looking forward to checking out the rest of the show. Once I’m done with the episodes, I’ll dig into the extras – which are quite extensive. Give the show a shot, it’s got a different feel, but it earns it.
A MAN ESCAPED Criterion Blu Ray
So you like Prison Escape movies, but you want to see one that feels real. The organic discovery of the plan, the methodical method to the escape, the impressions of the incarceration – in exquisite detail. That’s Robert Bresson’s A MAN ESCAPED, a true story – shot in a manner that makes it feel even moreso. The film is based on the life in prison and the escape of Andre Devigny, one of the valiant French Resistance movement – and Bresson was also POW too. So his eye is especially well tuned. Bresson is not for all tastes or even most tastes I’m afraid to say, but if you want to develop your taste for great world cinema – give this a shot. It’s breathtaking in its way. And the subject matter lends suspense in loads. Check it out!
• New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Bresson: Without a Trace, a 1965 episode of the television program Cinéastes de notre temps in which the director gives his first on-camera interview
• The Essence of Forms, a forty-five-minute documentary from 2010 in which some of Bresson’s collaborators and admirers, including actor François Leterrier and director Bruno Dumont, share their thoughts about the director and his work
• New visual essay with text by film scholars David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson
• New English subtitle translation
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Tony Pipolo
THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES
Did you know that back in 1942, Charles Coburn was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this movie? I didn’t. It also was nominated for best original screenplay – and when the crazy opening titles begin and I saw the Production Design credit belonging to William Cameron Menzies – and then I turned everything off – and watched this film, because anything designed by Menzies is something you dedicate your time to watching. It is a shame that I’ve known DEVIL IN MISS JONES since about 1985 and am only just now getting to see the film that inspired the porn…. Though not really. I love Jean Arthur from way back due to her work in films like MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and SHANE. Well, she actually did a bunch of Capra flicks. She’s amazing at light comedy – and this is very sophisticated one. It’s great. Especially Charles Coburn. Love this guy – and Menzies hand is felt with the sets. Unmistakable work. No extras, just the film, but never expected to have a Blu on this title.
LAWBREAKER – Lee Marvin Presents DVD
Ok, simply put there are not enough movies with Lee Marvin, thankfully he did some TV, I’d seen M SQUAD, but I’ve never had a chance to see Lee Marvin Presents LAWBREAKER until this came from SHOUT! The show is shot in a documentary fashion, realistic portrayals of true crime. This is all manners of crime, and they’re all based upon some crime in a city – and the team reached out to law enforcement for their recommendations for Crime stories that their departments were a part of. All narrated by the one, the only, LEE MARVIN. These are excellent. THE DALLAS STORY is fun! Over 12 hours of content!
HELL’S HALF ACRE Blu Ray
Any time that I see Elsa Lanchester or Keye Luke’s names on a title that I haven’t seen, I get interested. HELL’S HALF ACRE, a film noir from the mid-fifties set on Hawaii. A woman’s missing husband is suspected of being a prisoner in a Hawaiian Prison – But before she can see him, he escapes…. This takes our characters on a tour of the seedy side of Hawaii – in the era of the Hayes Code, which means it isn’t getting too SALO, but you will see some adorable Hula dancing and threatening scenes. Keye Luke (Number One Son from the CHARLIE CHAN series, KUNG FU the blind master and GREMLINS) gets to play the Police Chief, so right there for a mid-1950’s film, this film has me clapping at that casting alone! In fact, the idea of the Bride of Frankenstein being a Hawaiian Shirt wearing Cabbie would get me to buy the film. This is a really fun flick, the period noir in Hawaii, well, it has a charm.
THE ATOMIC KID Blu Ray
Written by Blake Edwards, before his Peter Sellers team ups… He writes this crazy comedy for Mickey Rooney, where he plays a Uranium prospector lost in the desert with his best friend Robert Strauss. They find themselves nearly dead wandering the desert when they stumble upon a track home with a bunch of dummies. Strauss goes for a walk, while Rooney makes himself a peanut butter, pickle & sardine sandwhich and hangs out in the pantry for a ground zero atomic bomb blast. Which he serves barely toasted, but sounding like he’d breathed a whole lot of helium – Helium bombs. Get it. I have to say, I think the science on this film is dodgy as hell, but the movie is a hoot. I love Lon Chaney Jr as the INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN, but having a hot hopped up Mickey Rooney with a Giger Counter watch that goes off when he gets horney with Elaine Devry, his nurse. There’s a Soviet subplot – and Strauss is terrific, but if you remember his work in STALAG 17, that should be no surprise… I’ve been curious about this movie for a very long time. Thought it was a lot of fun, specially the glow in the dark turn on. Oh Mickey!
Well everyone, that’s it for this week – helluva week. That wraps up March. Next week, we’ll kick off April with the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One super set. HELLO, DOLLY! Blu, THAT THING YOU DO! Blu, JOHN DIES AT THE END Blu, THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS Blu, TORMENTED 3D Blu, HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN Blu, STITCHES Blu and that’s it. A light week. See ya then!
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