Hey folks, Harry here catching up on Picks & Peeks with the first two weeks of March's releases! I'm actually about a quarter done with the next column and want to get it posted before SXSW kicks off and it gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the insanity that awesome fest brings to life here in Austin, Tx! Now the images and links will take you to Amazon if you click through. By doing that you can learn more upon the title in question, or you can order it, and a small portion of that price goes to support the best efforts of this column! Now let's kick this off with a BLACULA double feature!!!
Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
BLACULA / SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM Blu Ray
If you’re not aware of the pure awesome that was the great William Marshall… well, this is as good a start to discovering one of the most fun takes on the DRACULA – Vampire mythology in film history. You see, Marshall plays an African Prince who went to Dracula to petition him to gain his support in putting an end to the slave trade, but Drac… well he’s a fucking bastard of the first degree and curses him to be a vampire. As luck would have it, a couple of centuries go by and we’re smack in the midst of the Seventies and some poor fools open the coffin unleashing the greater glory of BLACULA! I grew up with BLACULA and SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM… along with ABBY (the Black Exorcist), DR. BLACK & MR. WHITE, J.D.’S REVENGE and SUGAR HILL trailers on Dad’s grindhouse horror trailer reels in 16mm – and we saw a lot of these at drive-ins. But when you look at a film like BLACULA or SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM – remember – these films – along with flicks like COFFY & SHAFT & SUPERFLY and the other great Blaxploitation films – while the genre became known as Blaxploitation – this was actually an emergence and a celebration from a lot of the old stereotypes. Past the days to Stepinfetchit and Mantan Moreland, which were working decades before. William Marshall is a powerful man in the role, his voice alone will command you to attention, when SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM comes along and we’ve got the PAM GRIER!!!! Oh and all kinds of VOODOO hijinks! I actually prefer SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, but that’s cuz I have a forever love of Pam Grier like all sensible humans. Now, because this is SCREAM FACTORY – not only are both films beautifully preserved and presented, but we get a commentary by Film Historian David Walker talking about the film and Blaxploitation. Then there’s interview with Richard Lawson talking about his experiences on SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM! But really – buy this as a primer for your passion for the great performer, William Marshall! Who most of you probably know as Pee Wee’s KING OF CARTOONS!!! This is an outstanding Blu!
FOXCATCHER Blu Ray
I couldn’t stand this movie at all. The entire time I sat through it all I could do was wish that I was watching VISION QUEST (1985) instead… and I hadn’t thought about VISION QUEST in years. It was a “Wrestling” flick as well, only by Harold Becker of ONION FIELD, TAPS, SEA OF LOVE fame – and it had that awesome score by Tangerine Dream which I just have an undying appreciation of. I really don’t know… I just didn’t dig the film. I think that has more to do with the fact that classic wrestling has never been one of those things I have ever really experienced. But then, after you’ve seen Kerry Von Erich leap off the top ropes of a Wrestling ring situated in a barn in Megargel, Texas… then growing up with WWF insanity… This was all too sedate – and I found myself wishing the film wasn’t about the “inspirational” story that it was, but would’ve focused exclusively on the Du Pont family which is just… endlessly fascinating to me. That kind of wealth is just stunning and the Du Pont family history is an epic. I’m gonna keep this Blu Ray around though – give it a shot down the road, when it isn’t being Ballyhoo’d as one of the premiere films in the 2014 race to claim excellence – and just see it as a movie without grandiose expectations. There’s a little over 16min long making of story, where the best stuff has to do with Carrell’s transformative makeup, then there’s just a couple of deleted scenes that didn’t blow my skirt up, nor my petticoat.
KISS ME KATE 3D Blu Ray
Now this is 3D I friggin love! First off – it’s Cole Porter’s KISS ME KATE which had Kathryn Grayson, the princess I fell madly deeply in love with and it gets renewed everytime I watch 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD! But also, the great Ann Miller, the very fun Keenan Wynn, but you also get to see a far younger James Whitmore, who you’ll recall as being the old convict in Darabont’s SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and us Genre Geeks knows from THEM and PLANET OF THE APES along with his amazing turns in GIVE EM HELL, HARRY! And BATTLEGROUND. But this is classic era 3D and eye-blowing Technicolor adaptation of Shakespeare’s TAMING OF THE SHREW – and by the awesome director of BYE BYE BIRDIE and VIVA LAS VEGAS… but again… IN 3D!!! Now – what is particularly remarkable about this is… unless you ever saw this film in a theater that really understood how to set up proper polarized 3D with the multiple projectors being perfectly aligned… you never came close to seeing it this good. The work done on this restoration is perfect and the results are seriously eye-popping! Now the disc has both 2D and 3D versions, but by all means if you have a proper 3D set up, this 3D will make you long for more vintage 3D choices – along with Disney releasing their 3D films in that format day and date with the 2D releases!!! Or at least domestically! Yeesh! There’s a just under 10 minute Cole Porter featurette that’s nice, along with a celebration of Cole Porter’s New York – along with a BARNEY BEAR CARTOON!!! Yeah, this just kicks ass!
THE BAND WAGON Blu Ray
Vincente Minnelli’s THE BAND WAGON with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse… it’s just one of those great Technicolor musicals… From the Penny Arcade Shoeshine number to the classic “That’s ENTERTAINMENT” to the really magical “Dancing in the Dark,” well… that long art deco body of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse just captures you with their grace and elegance and even passion. The Baby number is one of the weirder and more delightful musical numbers that Astaire was ever a part of – and Nanette Fabray is great here too! The Blu looks tremendous, it’s loaded with a Commentary from Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein! A making of BAND WAGON, a period documentary about Vincente Minnelli, a musical short and the cartoon, THE THREE LITTLE PUPS! Love this one!
EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 Blu Ray
How influential was George Miller’s ROAD WARRIOR? One – it defined post-apocalypse visuals for quite some time worldwide, and the Italians fucking LOVED it! They started doing their own takes like right away and because there were never nearly enough MAD MAX flicks… I embraced them! Back then, a great idea was followed by world cinema giving the successful title a go, and that is exactly how we get a film like EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000! Now, that doesn’t make the film any great piece of cinema… but if you’ve seen George Miller’s awesome flicks endlessly like me, a film like this not only serves to give you a whole lot of giggles, but also a finer appreciation for what Miller did with Max. Filmmaking is a terrible bitch of work and labor and failure and successes. For every take you like, there could be a tireless boredom of takes that just were not right – and this is a Waterless apocalypse. Think DUSTWORLD rather than WATERWORLD and it’s a chaotic crashploitation mess of a flick, but it has its charm. And it only serves to make Miller’s films even better. Damn FURY ROAD can’t get here soon enough! This has a nearly 18 minute interview with director Robert Iannucci about the film and a commentary by him. The print, is kind of amazing. I’m still used to seeing trash transfers of these Italian Mad Max ripoffs, so this… it’s kinda amazing to see this look as good as this does!
CALAMITY JANE Blu Ray
This is Doris Day’s musical take on CALAMITY JANE, and I am one of those people that prefers this film to ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, which it was a response to, but then… I prefer CALAMITY JANE to ANNIE OAKLEY, mainly because my Mom instructed me to, cuz her middle name was JANE, just like the titular character and Mom loved being a Cowgirl, Quarterhorse riding, gun shooting Texas Lady that left this world too early. But pay that no mind. This film is 100% happy. Now, this and the other two musicals in this section are packaged all together with SINGING IN THE RAIN for a little over $21, if you click through, you’ll probably see it as an option when Amazon comes up. Personally, I have SINGING IN THE RAIN, and these three I ordered separately. Mainly because I wanted to get that KISS ME KATE in 3D and send a signal that vintage 3D is desired! Now, this disc comes with… DUCK DODGERS IN THE 24 1/2th CENTURY, a Joe McDoakes Short, the Rapid City premiere, some Photoplay Film Awards footage and that’s about it! This film is very very charming and fun.
THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD Blu Ray
Errol Flynn was my favorite classic era movie star. I love his adventures, his swashbucklers, his westerns and well… just about everything he did. The man exuded through cinema a spirit of FUCK ALL and EMBRACE GLORY with such abandon that as a kid, I felt a passion for life lit through that tooth shit eating grin of his! Then, you stop being a kid, you read Flynn’s AutoBiography, you read other books, by other people – and because my Dad had a Nostalgia Business with my Mom, we had all the tabloids, the scandal sheets – and I hated that information. Flynn was a billion times more powerful in the force than Luke Skywalker! He was elfier than Legolas! And the ladies seemed to love him. Then you read the scandal sheets. You read people pointing to him being raised in Tasmania where the Age of Consent was… just insane by all modern tolerance… but still. This film is about THAT part of Errol Flynn’s life. The tumbling star part. Kevin Kline is brilliant as Flynn and Dakota Fanning… well, it mentally feels as wrong as Flynn was on screen. Yet the film plays it as an amazing triangle with Dakota’s Mother character, played electrifyingly by Susan Sarandon. She’s… Amazing. Amazing here. The movie plays the subject straight, without it’s own weight of judgement, but rather tries to find the story they imagine was there. That the film feels oddly sweet, is probably why the film works as well as it does. There’s still room for a great Young Flynn movie to be made, that rascal of a Tasmanian that swept through Hollywood like nothing before or since. Now – the sad thing about this disc is it is absolutely bare of extra content. That’s a shame.
Tuesday, March 10th, 2015
DON’T GO IN THE WOODS Blu Ray
Kids go into the woods, your kid, Maniac’s in the woods. This maniac. Farwell and adieu… hehe. It is a human shark in the woods scenario. Friends decide exercise is a good activity to do, so they hike into the woods and… well, as you can see from the Title. You’re not supposed to go in the woods in a movie called DON’T GO IN THE WOODS! It’s just not done! Especially in a low budget grade Z 1981 Slasher crap world. The film isn’t great, but really, that’s not what its about is it. This is a film you watch because, you’ve seen every 80s horror film and you proably need to see this. In fact, it’s beginning to itch on you now, isn’t it? Now, you know all these releases… no real exhaustive extras yet. Well here you have 3 different commentaries. An almost hour long interview with cast and crew in a variety of locations and it’s funky video quality, but its there. Then all the T.V. spots. A nearly 30 minute Autograph party. Tons of stills and artwork – Over a 100 pieces. Oh – and the Script. That’s what I love about the Horror genre, the professionals and fans get what they want. I wish the studios felt that way on every genre, they might see an improvement in their sales.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 Blu Ray
I actually think this feels like the best in the series. I like it that the games are behind us and we’re in actual revolution and propaganda mode. I like the missions that Jennifer’s Katniss goes on, where she discovers the scale of inhumanity that fuels and outrage and a defiance that is used to inspire and embolden a revolution. The hardest part is seeing Phillip Seymour Hoffman in these. His loss is rather profound to film in my opinion. Fierce intelligence in performances are so rare, and though he’s by no means a huge part of this film, which is squarely upon Jennifer’s shoulders… but still, every moment on screen, I find my eyes shadow him. Taking in every detail of what performances of his we have left. There’s an 11+ minute tribute to PSH that’s really really sweet. Then there’s a 2 hour and 14 minute exhaustive making of, Lorde’s music video, 11+ minutes of Deleted Scenes and Lorde discussing the Soundtrack and how it came together. Really well made series of films thus far, and a very nice and classy Blu!
THE SOFT SKIN Criterion Blu Ray
Truffaut… A film lover who changed film in return and we love him for it. I don’t want to clumsily hack away at the cruelly laughing melancholic sadness and beauty of THE SOFT SKIN, but as you’ll find as you put this disc in and hit play on the feature, you’re in a master’s hands. You will feel a variety of emotions and think about what it is you’re seeing and realizing… fucking Truffaut man. This movie. Damn! He makes you feel what he wants you to and he does it masterfully. Nothing wasted. Everything counts. This wasn’t loved when it came out, those critics were fucking wrong. Plain and simple. They did not know what they were talking about. Perhaps it is that we live in the times we do, but you watch this and call it anything other than the brilliant film it is… I just don’t know what I’d say to ya, either to sit down, this is gonna take a while, or… Alright, so brilliant cinema is off the table, How about that HUNGER GAMES? Here, Truffaut is getting a bit more Hitchcocky with film, and that’s a wonderful thing. Shot in Paris, wonderful. Criterion has loaded it with a Commentary and 3 features totally over 50 minutes. They’re wonderful, but they’ve nothing on the film. It’s just a favorite.
THE PROWLER Blu Ray
In yesterday’s posting of PICKS & PEEKS – we talked a bit about THE MAJESTIC, which makes a stab at telling a fictional tale about the Congressional Hearings trying to find Communists in Hollywood, if you could imagine such a thing, ha! Well, this fantastic Film Noir was written by one of the infamous Hollywood Ten that refused to testify before the House of Un-American Activities. Now, THE PROWLER is a helluva Noir. It stars one of my fave old timey character actors, who is really quite tremendous consistently, Van Heflin! He plays an officer that is called in to investigate a Peeping Tom call, but then becomes drawn to the lovely lady, whose husband is a late night DJ, and she’s just so helpless. This film was so good, that director Joseph Losey got the job to remake M in 1951. That was less successful, but Losey went on to escape to Europe, rather than be brought before HUAC. It forced him to work in England, where he made quite a few great flicks. If you love THE PROWLER like I did, dig into his work. It really is quite worth it! Especially those Harold Pinter flicks and MODESTY BLAISE! THE PROWLER is one of the great Film Noirs, if you love the genre or have only lightly explored it, this is a guaranteed winner!
LATE PHASES: NIGHT OF THE LONE WOLF Blu Ray
Horror films set in retirement communities kind of feel unfair… But here, you have a story about an elderly blind Vietnam Vet, who is being moved into a retirement community of two story duplexes. His son is a bit of a dick, but then, so is the old man, who insists he’s a weapons expert and as a completely blind man often brandishes loaded and cocked firearms around strangers. In fact, this movie is being sold on the WEREWOLF IN A RETIREMENT COMMUNITY flick… but really… this Nick Damici, he’s just in makeup and it kinda makes him look a bit like a blind Charles Bronson badass. We’ve seen him in STAKE LAND and THE SACRAMENT, but here… he’s really having fun with this role! The film also has Tom Noonan, Larry Fessenden, Ethan Embry and The Last Starfighter himself, Lance Guest. Stick with the movie, it definitely pays off! This is a damn good Indie horror!
FIREPOWER Blu Ray
This is one that I’ve ordered, because… well frankly, look at that crazy cast… then realize, this is the director of THE MECHANIC, DEATH WISH 1,2,3, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH and that poster in the basement PLAY IT COOL, that was his too! Apparently this was supposed to star Clint Eastwood, then Bronson… and finally they went with James Coburn! I can’t resist movies like this… I mean, what if it is great for me? I’ve gotsta know!
PIONEER Blu Ray
A slow purposeful suspense film tooled around a true life event that took place at the beginning of the 80’s Norwegian Oil Boom in the North Sea. No, don’t be expecting some crazy ABYSS turn, but this is about the reality of Deep North Sea Oil work and there’s just a natural tension with knowing, this could go terribly bad. This is not safe easy work. The film is mainly in Norwegian, but because the real event had the aide of some Americans, we get the fantastic Stephen Lang and Wes Bentley in this superior film! We get Aksel Hennie, the star of the Norwegian HEADHUNTERS (really great flick!) Directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, he’s the man behind the original 1997 INSOMNIA and PROZAC NATION. Beautifully shot and performed. You’ll feel right there with them every second!
Well, that's it for this week, next week we'll be looking at EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS 3D Blu, LADY FROM SHANGHAI, RIDE THE PINK HORSE Criterion Blu, THE WILD ONE Blu, AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD Blu, MARK OF THE DEVIL Blu, HESTER STREET Blu, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD Blu and perhaps a few more.