Hey folks, Harry here with the latest Picks & Peeks Column and there are just some spectacularly great films on the list this week, leading off with William Friedkin’s great SORCERER! So great! As usual all the images and links take you to Amazon where you can learn more about the title in question, and if so moved, you can purchase it which helps to keep this column going! Now – let’s dive in…
Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
SORCERER Blu Ray
THE SORCERER that you see before you is not ever what has been in cinemas till now. William Friedkin personally oversaw the restoration and sound work for this spectacular presentation of what I consider to be one of the many masterpieces of William Friedkin. FRENCH CONNECTION, THE EXORCIST, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., CRUISIN, BUG…. His films have a no bullshit kick in the teeth kind of realism. Films that feel like a force of nature, inevitable stories seared into my cinematic consciousness. SORCERER is his biggest secret. Released opposite STAR WARS, the movie shriveled beneath the gargantuan weight. In truth, the film is one of the greatest remakes in the history of remakes. The original film has been issued by Criterion on Blu, and is Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 masterpiece THE WAGES OF FEAR. There’s not a pissing match between the two films, they’re both masterpieces. Brilliant man against nature stories. The biggest disappointment of the first Quentin Tarantino Film Festival was when his print of SORCERER couldn’t play because the sound was on a magnetic track and not optical. But I have seen the film projected. I cherish that experience, but watching this Blu Ray tells me exactly how that print had aged visually. Here, the colors boil off the screen. The new 5.1 “reimagined” soundtrack preserves every awesome note of Tangerine Dreams’s searing score work! The brilliant sound engineering of that awesome truck is preserved roaring through the living room! This is a formal new introduction to the film. In 1977 – the world was understandably dazed by STAR WARS. Now, behold what William Friedkin delivered the same year. A film of immense power. Perhaps the great Roy Scheider performance this side of JAWS. This is in the Digi-Book format. Really classy job. William Friedkin doesn’t believe in commentaries particularly. He’d be more interested to have you you’re your own thoughts while watching this force of cinematic nature. The idea of trying to deliver sweaty dynamite through the most questionable jungle backroads imaginable. The suspense and tension is stunning. Friedkin delivered in spades. This is my personal 2nd favorite Friedkin film. THE EXORCIST comes from another planet. This is only if put to the sword and demanding to assign an order mind you. I love FRENCH CONNECTION fiercely… but the sound design on that truck and honestly… Roy Schieder… He’s just… I love his face, those eyes. This is a spectacular release. If you have a chance to see the digital restoration in theaters, do not miss it. The film is great with audiences. It plays them REAL GOOD! Keep an eye on AICN for a special SORCERER Blu Ray signed by William Friedkin that we’re gonna do a contest for. Something epic. The only other release on home video on this was Pan & Scan. This is VASTLY superior in just giving us the original aspect ratio back.
GET CARTER Blu Ray
Once upon a time, GET CARTER conjured a single solitary brilliant film to mind. For the lucky, it still does and it points to the movie that Michael Caine starred in, in 1971. If you don’t know this version of Michael Caine, I sincerely envy you. You’re in for such a delight. If you go back in time and watch young, perilously handsome Michael Caine… steely assassin serious eyes. His brother’s dead and the facts don’t add up. He’s a gangster and has a special way of finding things out. He doesn’t pussy foot. He’s on his game and it is brutal. This is Michael Caine doing his Chow Yun Fat, his Alain Delon, his Clint Eastwood. His Lee Marvin. GET CARTER is seriously great filmmaking by Mike Hodges, who would go on to direct THE TERMINAL MAN, OMEN II, FLASH GORDON and CROUPIER. Caine’s assassin eyes are just amazing to watch. Now for the bad news, I’ve no idea how the Blu Ray came out, didn’t get a review copy (crushed), but I did find out that we do have a MiKe Hodges, Wolfgang Suschitzky and Michael Caine commentary… but that’s about it besides trailers. GET CARTER is one of the greatest British Films and does deserve a more robust Blu, but we’ve got to have this one now. On Amazon, it is under $10! Not bad for the greatness you receive!
RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 Criterion Blu Ray
This was Don Siegel’s first resounding success as a filmmaker. I like THE BIG STEAL a whole lot, but then I’m a huge Robert Mitchum fan – and late 1940’s Mitchum was a special creature, but the film didn’t receive much acclaim on original release. People took notice of Siegel with RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11, we all know Don Siegel’s later work, like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHER (1956), THE KILLERS (1964), THE BEGUILED (1971), DIRTY HARRY (1971), CHARLEY VARRICK (1973) and ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979) – but this was his first trip to prison and it is great! Shot in Folsom State Prison with real inmates and guards in 1954. The movie’s producer, Walter Wanger, had spent time in prison due to killing a man he believed was sleeping with his wife – and was shook by the conditions he saw – and upon release set about to make this film, a prison riot flick – and it is great! Criterion wouldn’t be releasing it otherwise! Criterion has put together a wonderful set of extras on this release. There’s a commentary by Matthew Bernstein, who is incredibly knowledgable about this film! There’s a 60 minute series of audio experts from a 1953 radio documentary called THE CHALLENGE OF OUR PRISONERS. Then there’s a 13 minute except from Don Siegel: Director – focusing upon RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11! And even more! Great release!
THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW Blu Ray
If you like 80’s T&A Sorority massacre movies – you really can’t go wrong with THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW. There’s not a ton of nudity, but what is there is NICE. Films like these really motivated me to do well in High School. It just seemed like if you got to College, really exciting things happened. I didn’t have a desire to stalk and murder sorority girls, but college gals just seemed to have a playfulness in these flicks and who the hell didn’t want to get playful. Also, when you talk to your parents about college, it’s usually about traditions and games and “great parties” and “good education”. But these films were never meant to be scholastically illuminating, but movies like THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW made me actively want to avoid any type of Greek organizations. My father was a founder of a Fraternity – and after seeing ANIMAL HOUSE and REVENGE OF THE NERDS, that was pretty much the only way I wanted to do college. But here’s the thing. This film has a whole bunch of girls being devious and getting killed. But when you’re a teenager and you’re watching this… just know. IT ISN’T AT ALL LIKE THIS AND NEVER WAS. But still, I’m a genuine fan of the 80’s Slasher Genre and am endlessly amused by this flick. A review disc was not available at the time, but I’m hoping it is a solid release. This isn’t an excessively gory flick, lots of the violence takes place off screen, but the funkiness is the charm here. Can’t wait for this disc to come!
THE PAWNBROKER Blu Ray
Wanna see a movie? A helluva a movie? This was the last great Rod Steiger film I had left to see. I got to act in a few scenes with Rod Steiger when I was 17 and I was absolutely already enraptured by his onscreen persona. I’d always heard of THE PAWNBROKER, it was also my last Sidney Lumet film to see. The two of them with this material is just… depressing. Sure, the subject matter of being the sole surviving Jew of your family, working a Pawn Shop in Harlem, selling memories for cash. It is electrifying life lesson stuff. There was a point in time where this life that Rod Steiger was acting out, reminded me of some of what it was like helping my Dad sell our collections to finance my college and our lives. As we sold things, the story of where it came from and why was told. For Dad it was harsh cuz so much of it was acquired with my now deceased mother… before the divorce, so every story of every movie and poster tied to a memory with her. That same kind of pain and loss amplified by the grotesque tragedy of the Holocaust… The film is all about Rod Steiger’s just intimidatingly great performance. This is just… Wow acting. You forget Rod Steiger here. He is Sol Nazerman. He disappears into the role. It is stunning stunning work. A film that seems to capture a life. A life filled with pain. But a life still going, day in, day out. Beautiful powerful filmmaking by Lumet in capturing a truly brilliant performance by one of our very best actors. The print is absolutely gorgeous black and white! Perfect film.
BIG BAD WOLVES Blu Ray
Quentin Tarantino called this the Best Film of The Year (2013). If I was forced to name the best film that I saw in 2013, I’d probably say BLUE RUIN (which is coming out this weekend), but I completely get where Quentin is coming from on this thing. This film is old school cinema. There’s a monster hunting little girls in the town. The cops are doing their best. But, it hasn’t stopped. Oh, I haven’t mentioned it, but this is an Israeli film about a serial killer stalking little girls… It’s a great genre, Fritz Lang’s M is actually my favorite. But this is riveting. The film goes to wickedly dark territory. The film has a great sense of humor that keeps it from wallowing in the shadows. The film has a big old fashioned robust orchestral score which is a huge part of the movie, frankly. This a film that movie lovers delight in. It is one of those films that reminds you why you love movies that are this well done. This is a film you introduce to other people to blow them away.
CONSPIRACY THEORY Blu Ray
I can watch this film anytime. Seriously, it’s Richard Donner making a helluva flick with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts in an absolutely delightful page turner of a flick. I really love Mel in this, he’s fully functioning looney mode here and it works splendidly! The image and sound are perfect, but there’s no extras, which is disappointing cuz that should have been an easy thing to put together. I also just love Patrick Stewart as a bad guy! It’s just perfect.
BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL Blu Ray
Among the vast amounts of collectibles that my parents dealt in… 1940’s & 50’s men’s magazines and pinups and calendars were in stock. So I knew who Bettie Page was and delighted at her inclusions in Dave Stevens’ ROCKETEER or Olivia’s prints. Dad even sold rare issues to rock poster artists that used the imagery in their posters, and I’ve sold a ton of it here in Austin myself. So I’m delighted to have this documentary about the life of Bettie Page, warts and all. It is an amazing story. Really is. She has shaped culture in an immeasurable manner. This doc takes you through her story in her words, there’s also interviews and rare footage and imagery. There’s interviews with Hugh Hefner, Dita Von Teese, Bunny Yeager and more. If you love Bettie – you owe it to yourself to chec this doc out! The Blu also has about an hour of additional material. Her horrible Hollywood screentest and what Hollywood wanted to do was so wrong. I love the story of how Bettie got her bangs. It’s great!
STRANGER ON THE PROWL Blu Ray
I love Paul Muni. He’s one of those actor’s actors. He reminds me a lot of Benicio Del Toro for some reason. I think they have sort of similar faces, and as actors they have taken really wonderful character roles where an actor loses themselves in the part. They’re just not PERSONALITY ACTORS, but the whole damn package. In short, that’s what I love about Paul Muni. If you’ve seen the original SCARFACE or I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG or THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA or COUNTER-ATTACK, you know you want to see more of him. This is one of his last films. He plays the role of “The Man”. All we know is he’s homeless, desperate to get out of war torn Italy and needs to come up with 25,000 lira by dawn and his only resource is a gun. There’s also an amazing hungry poor boy with great big emotional eyes. They’re gonna end up at the same place at the same time… and it’s kind of amazing. It really plays like an Italian Neorealist movie if I didn’t know better. The director was the blacklisted Joseph Losey, who along with Ben Barzman, who wrote the film, were credited as Andrea Forzano. This is a really good film. Great transfer.
THE MR. MAGOO THEATRICAL COLLECTION
My understanding is this is a complete theatrical MR. MAGOO collection. Never received a screener from SHOUT! on this, but even if it is just all the shorts – that is totally worth picking up, but if it has 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS… man, I can’t wait to check this release out! I love me some Mr. Magoo!
THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI
This is outstanding. Finally a documentary that focuses on all the stuff that made Muhammad Ali so iconic outside of the ring. This film goes into his Nation of Islam time, the changing of his name and his refusal to serve in Vietnam. The documentary comes to us from a team of great documentarians and directed by Bill Siegel of THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND! He picked up a certain gold man at the Oscars for that one! I absolutely hero worshiped Ali as a kid and I loved this documentary! The Greatest indeed!
LADY WHIRLWIND / HAPKIDO
Remember Bruce Lee’s sister that has that great fight and death at the beginning of ENTER THE DRAGON… I love that actress, to western audiences she was known as Angela Mao, but born Mao Lin Ying… well, she kicks ass! She was one of the early female badasses in cinema and this doublefeature definitely highlights her! I grew up knowing LADY WHIRLWIND as DEEP THRUST, a film I had the one sheet for as a kid, along with the trailer in 16mm. She plays a sister looking to exact revenge upon the man responsible. It is a very charming and fun martial arts flick. I didn’t think I’d seen HAPKIDO, but it’s totally LADY KUNG FU, I got that poster too. Here you’ll see a young Sammo Hung – and is set in Korea during the Japanese occupation. Fighting happens! It’s great! Love this as a double feature release, just wish it was on Blu!
That’s all for this week, next, we’ll be looking at SOPHIE’S CHOICE Blu Ray, THE LEGEND OF HERCULES 3D Blu Ray, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO Live Action Blu Ray, THE WIND AND THE LION Blu Ray, BETTY BOOP Volume 3 Blu Ray, IL SORPASSO Criterion Blu Ray, GAMERA on Blu, DEAD SHADOWS Blu Ray, BAD COUNTRY Blu Ray, THE DEMONS Blu Ray, HALLUCINATION STRIP Blu Ray, ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW Blu Ray, LABOR DAY Blu Ray, GODZILLA Complete Animated Series, PRINCE KILLIAN AND THE HOLY GRAIL and that’s about all…