APES ON FILM: 2021 Gift Giving Guide

Posted on: Dec 6th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

If you have a retro cinema and television buff in your life, consider yourself lucky! Finding gifts for them just got a whole lot easier thanks to our handy gift giving guide. Below are our deep dive (and shallow end) choices for the greatest gifts released in 2021 for lovers of physical media. All titles are in Blu Ray or 4K format unless otherwise noted. Get the popcorn ready and Happy Holidays!

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

MULTI-DISC/TITLE SETS

KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (THE COMPLETE SERIES) – Kino Lorber: Yep, the whole Kolchak television series shebang in one beautiful set. Jammed full of great commentaries and special features and sourced from new 2K masters, this premium presentation is on the level of Kino’s OUTER LIMITS sets from 2018, and it should be – it features many of the same commentators. With new cover art by Mark Maddox (check out his ATLRetro Kool Kat interview here), how can you go wrong? Poke around Kino’s website and you’ll also find the original two Kolchak television movies, THE NIGHT STALKER and THE NIGHT STRANGLER. Collect them all!

THE EUROCRYPT OF CHRISTOPHER LEE – Severin Films: Ever wonder what Christopher Lee Was up to between all those Dracula movies he made for Hammer Films? Wonder no longer! Thanks to Severin, this box set collects a smorgasbord of five of these Lee classics – the 1964 gothic shocker CRYPT OF THE VAMPIRE; the 1964 cult hit CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD co-starring an unknown Donald Sutherland; 1962’s celebrated SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE; 1967’s lurid favorite THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM and the rarely-seen 1963 oddity CHALLENGE THE DEVIL – with the 24 surviving episodes of the 1971 Film Polski anthology series THEATRE MACABRE hosted by Lee, all remastered from original negative materials with over 10 hours of trailers, rare promos, audio commentaries & vintage interviews, plus the CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD soundtrack and an all-new 88-page book by Lee biographer Jonathan Rigby.

SPACE: 1999 THE COMPLETE SERIES (ULTIMATE EDITION) – Imprint Television: Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s (and Fred Frieberger’s) most popular television series in the United States by far, Space: 1999 is often a love it or hate it proposition for science fiction fans. I’ve always been enamored by its thoughtful, almost poetic ruminations on man’s place in the galaxy during Series 1, and the colorful, action oriented and more humorous pace of Series 2. There are a few clunkers throughout, but the Andersons and cast managed to create quite a few modern classics with this series, and the gorgeous photography and special effects throughout are a major draw. This set collects both series as well as nearly all of the special features from earlier releases, as well as the four completion films released to television in the 1980s! If you’re a fan of the show, this is a must-have set. Though this set is Australian, it is region-free and will play on US Blu-ray players. [Full disclosure: I wrote questions for the Barbara Bain and Nick Tate interviews included, and created commentaries for two episodes on this set.]

THE MONSTER COLLECTION – Doppelgänger Releasing: If your film lover has a curiosity about the making of his or her favorites, this set is a great addition to their menagerie. Featuring two documentaries by filmmakers Gilles Penso and Alexandre PoncetCREATURE DESIGNERS: THE FRANKENSTEIN COMPLEX and PHIL TIPPETT: MAD DREAMS AND MONSTERS this set offers up secrets behind special effects make-up, stop-motion animation and a plethora of other cinematic techniques by masters such as Tippett, Rick Baker, Guillermo del Toro, Greg Nicotero, and many more. Seminal information presented in an entertaining package, and highly recommended.

GAMERA: THE HEISEI ERA – Arrow Video: Go ahead, make fun – but the Gamera movies released from 1995 to 2006 are great! This set collects GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE, GAMERA 2: ATTACK OF THE LEGION, GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS, and GAMERA THE BRAVE.  Directors Shûsuke Kaneko and Ryuta Tasaki, writer Kazunori Itô and SFX director Shinji Higuchi hit it out of the park with this quadrilogy! If your cinema buff enjoys kaiju from the Showa era, they’ll enjoy these films, guaranteed. Sourced from 4K restorations and featuring a whole slew of turtle-riffic extras, you’re guaranteed to get a smile and a BIG thank you when they open this.

 

SINGLE TITLE/DISC GIFTS

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY – Kino Lorber: Is this the greatest western ever made? If not, it’s sure up there. Find out for yourself with Kino’s 4KUHD/Blu-ray package, jam packed full of extras. “There are two kinds of people in this world; people with loaded guns, and people who buy this disc. You… buy this disc.”

THE STING – Universal Home Entertainment: Since we’re talking about greatest movies of their genre anyway, why not grab THE STING in 4K UHD and Blu-ray while you’re grabbing? Again, with the plethora of bonus features and even a download code. I think this is one of the best written, directed, and acted movies ever; you know I’m buying this.

BLOOD FOR DRACULA – Severin Films: Paul Morrissey’s take on the classic tale puts Udo Kier in the cape and sets him off to Italy in search of the blood of virgins. Over the top? Sure, but still worth watching in 4K or Blu-ray, one again easy to do since both are included here as well as a soundtrack CD and much, much more.

THE VAMPIRE LOVERS – Shout! Factory: And now on to vampires who couldn’t care less about your sexual history as long as you’re willing! Shout! Factory brings us a new Blu-ray package of Hammer Films’ sexy, fang- filled romps. Sourced from a new 4K scan, this disc is also bursting at the seams with extras. A classic of lesbian vampirism, and Ingrid Pitt is radiant.

 

Folks, I could go on for pages and pages. We’re living in a jet stream of great releases and film fans should be very happy about that. Check out my previous and future columns for more recommendations and HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM APE CITY!

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review, Shop Around, Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Who is THE (Real) VICTIM Here?

Posted on: Nov 22nd, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

 

THE VICTIM – 1972 (TV MOVIE)
2 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Elizabeth Montgomery, Eileen Heckart, Sue Ane Langdon , George Maharis
Director: Herschel Daugherty
Rated: NR
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A (Locked)
BRD Release Date: October 5, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 16-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 73 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

THE VICTIM opens with Kate (perennial television favorite Elizabeth Montgomery) deciding to check in on her sister Susan (Jess Walton), who has told her she’s about to divorce her husband Ben (Maharis). Unable to reach her by phone, Kate decides to brave an oncoming storm and drive the hour or two to Susan’s house, finding it empty and her sister missing. As we the viewers have seen, Susan was confronted by an “unknown” visitor, and it didn’t seem to end well for her. The problem with this movie is that we all know who the visitor is, what’s happened to Susan, and what will happen when Kate arrives.

The movie is clearly shot on a minimal budget which is apparent early on. For example, pulling into a filling station for gas, Kate’s Rolls Royce is caught in a downpour that only extends about twenty feet into the shot. In the background, the road is dry, and no rain is visible. Also distracting are many shots that barely qualify as “in focus” – apparently the standards for NTSC resolution shooting were pretty slack in the early 70s, as I’ve noticed this in quite a few period TV movies when presented in high definition.

This story could have at least been a taut, but unremarkable, episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents at a half-hour running time. Montgomery is always watchable, and soldiers on as best she can through the additional forty-three redundant minutes of the movie. It’s based on a short story by McNight Malmar, and it must have been a very short story as director Daugherty returns over and over to the same stale, red herring plot points and distractions in order to fill out the running time of THE VICTIM. Even worse, he never actually resolves the story at the climax, figuring that a few obvious clues should do that job – but he also put the clues there to try and lure viewers away from the thin plot and create false suspense. Very frustrating.

Kino Lorber’s presentation on Blu-ray is sourced from a new 2K restoration of the original picture elements and is very watchable, though not as clean as some of their other recent releases of similar material. Grain is visible throughout, and black density varies from shot to shot occasionally. Still quite an improvement from the only available versions until now. Audio is about what I expected for a TV movie from 1972, and Gil Mellé ’s score is good, though not as memorable as say, KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER or FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY.

So, who is the real victim here? This film reminds me of the children’s book, The Monster At The End of This Book. Throughout, narrator Grover from Sesame Street begs kids not to turn the pages to find out who the monster is, and on the last page there’s a mirror and young readers find out that THEY are the monster! I fear that in relation to this film—we the viewers are the victim at the end of the movie. Watch at your own peril.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Scream, Pretty Peggy, Scream!

Posted on: Nov 8th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

SCREAM, PRETTY PEGGY – 1973
3.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Ted Bessell, Bette Davis, Sian Barbara Allen
Director: Gordon Hessler
Rated: NR
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A
BRD Release Date: October 5, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 16-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 71 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

One thing that early 1970’s network television seemed to get right more often than not was made-for-TV movies, especially in the horror genre. Kino Lorber has recently released a slate of classics from that era including THE VICTIM, THE SCREAMING WOMAN, (reviews coming soon), and SCREAM, PRETTY PEGGY. An overwrought (but imminently watchable) combination of Hitchcock, Hagsploitation, and histrionics, PEGGY stands out among a cadre of memorable programming.

Allen is a college student in search of an easy gig cleaning the house of her favorite sculptor, Bessell, who lives with his drunk mother, Davis. There’s also Bessell’s missing sister that may or may not be a murderer loitering around the property and skulking about after dark.

Written by Hammer Films stalwart Jimmy Sangster and one-hit-wonder Arthur Hoffe , the film borrows heavily from classics of the big screen like HUSH…HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE and PSYCHO. And “borrows” is putting it politely. Though the plot is quite derivative, the film itself doesn’t suffer too badly in comparison to its source materials; the cast and director Hessler (who would go straight from this film to THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD) make the whole thing a bit of an inside joke. If you’re familiar with the films it’s aping, there are a lot of visual and tonal easter eggs that call back to them. If you’re not familiar, it’s a good amount of Davis chewing scenery, Bessell looking distraught, and Allen trying to figure out what’s going on. Yes, everyone is here for a paycheck, but it’s still a bucket of ugly fun.

The music by Robert Prince  contributes nicely to the mood and atmosphere, and art direction by JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND production designer Joe Alves is outstanding. Bessell’s sculptures are fantastic and terrifying, and the most memorable things in the film from my first viewing on television when I was nine years old.

Kino’s disc presents the film in its original aspect ratio, and looking fabulous from a new 2K restoration. Audio is also very good, and extras include a new commentary by Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson as well as TV spots for the film and other Hessler helmed episodes from the era, including one from Kolchak: “The Night Stalker.”

Surely my enjoyment of this film is partly due to nostalgia from having watched it on its first airing, but I still deem it worth a look for genre fans of all ages. Not a bad way to spend seventy-one minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD: A Far Cry from Romero’s Classic

Posted on: Oct 4th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD – 2021
1 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Josh Duhamel Dulé Hill Katharine Isabelle Katee Sackhoff  Will Sasso  Nancy Travis
Director: Jason Axinn
Rated: R
Studio: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Region: A
BRD Release Date: October 5, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
German: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Run Time: 71 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Remember the train wreck sequence in THE FUGITIVE (1993), with Harrison Ford? It was amazing—an unforgettable visual montage of destruction that far surpassed everything that had come before it. I used to think that was the greatest cinematic train wreck in history until I watched NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD.

I honestly sat mouth agape at times while watching this disc. It is the most unnecessary and egregious horror remake that I can think of, and I’ve seen a whole bunch of unnecessary and egregious horror remakes. This is a – wait for it – animated remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), with more gore and a few added sequences. At first I thought it might just be a copyright grab, since George A. Romero’s original film was released sans copyright notice and fell immediately into the public domain. But changing the name from “Living” to “Animated” eliminates any benefit of a new copyright for merchandising or marketing purposes.

The animation here reminds me very much of the Bart Simpson or Tweety Bird statues one might see for sale on the roadside near Tijuana, Mexico; yes, they’re painted yellow, they sort of resemble the characters, but you’re not going to be fooling anybody into thinking they’re quality merchandise. To be honest, I’ve seen animatics (video storyboards) for other films that looked better than NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD. I’m not exaggerating when I say the animation resembles clip art figures manipulated by the same team that made the Marvel Superhero cartoons of the 1960s.

The film misfires at every turn with almost nothing to recommend about it at all. It lacks the urgency and panache of the original. The voice cast does include some wonderful actors – Dulé Hill, Nancy Travis, Will Sasso, and even Josh Duhamel gives a good performance. It’s unfortunate the talent was wasted on such a bizarre and dreadful project.

The only supplemental material is a “Making Of” featurette. My goodness, the producer and director are certainly proud of their film and express their appreciation of each other and the cast effusively. It does include some interesting side-by-side sequences with the original film, and the cast have some insight into the characters. Thankfully someone did.

Wish I could recommend this for Night of The Living Dead completists, but I just can’t disregard this film highly enough. This is the kind of entertainment that soon-to-be-ousted Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar championed, and all I can say is the future looks brighter in his soon-to-be absence.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: A Little Sci-Fi, A Little Bourgeois: The Cool Lakes of Mars

Posted on: Sep 14th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

FLIGHT TO MARS – 1951
2 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz, Virginia Huston
Director: Lesley Selander
Rated: NR
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A, B
BRD Release Date: July 20th, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-2
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 72 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

To have produced amazing films such as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), WEST SIDE STORY (1961), THE PINK PANTHER (1963), IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967) and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971), Walter Mirisch started at the bottom of the film industry, working for one of the lowest of low budget companies on Hollywood’s “Poverty Row” – Monogram. The company subsisted by cranking out sensationalistic crime melodramas, program westerns, and mostly yawn-inducing horror films, with the inherited-from-Fox Charlie Chan series remaining as their claim to fame.

FLIGHT TO MARS is clearly aimed at the grown-up crowd, but would have been better off treated as fodder for Saturday kids’ matinees by the studio. As an adult drama, it’s unbelievably silly and offensively misogynistic, casting women in a variety of stereotypical roles with little to do but look pretty or be bitchy – or both. As science fiction, it’s an insulting blend of self-righteous ignorance of science and an affront to fiction as the screenplay by Barry Conners and Philip Klein never misses a chance to land squarely on the nose of whatever trope they’re appropriating at the moment. The miniature and effects work is poorly rendered when compared to higher budget studio fare of the time, unsurprisingly. Honestly, there’s little to recommend about the movie itself.

The Film Detective’s presentation of the film is a different matter, however. Gleaned from a new 4K scan of the original source materials, the film looks and sounds very good. The color isn’t on par with three strip technicolor, but it’s bright and well-saturated, and the sound is unobtrusively well-mixed. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by author/film historian Justin Humphreys, “Walter Mirisch: From Bomba to Body Snatchers,” a new documentary short from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, “Interstellar Travelogues: Cinema’s First Space Race,” a new documentary short with celebrated science fiction artist/historian Vincent Di Fate also from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, and a full color insert booklet with an essay by Don Stradley.

I wish I could recommend this film, but I fear it’s for the completist only. If you decide to buy it, enjoy the featurettes, commentary, and booklet–they’re definitely more fun than the movie.

 

 

THE COOL LAKES OF DEATH – 1982
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Renée Soutendijk, Erik van ‘t Wout, Derek de Lint, Adriaan Olree
Directed By: Nouchka van Brakel
Studio: Cult Epics
BRD Release Date: May 11, 2021
Region: A, B
Rated: Unrated
Audio Formats: TBA
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC from 4K Restoration
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
Run Time: 125 Minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

THE COOL LAKES OF DEATH contains a tour de force performance by Renée Soutendijk as a woman who goes from insufferably naive to outright insane, and finally arrives at an uneasy peace. Soutendijk is possibly mostly well-known to American filmgoers from her next film, Paul Verhoeven‘s THE 4TH MAN (1983) in which she co-starred with Jeroen Krabbé. Both men became fixtures in American films while Soutendijk continued to add to her impressive resume in Europe and her native Holland, which is shameful – she’s impossible not to watch when onscreen and at least as talented as either one of them.

She plays Hetty, a young lady who misunderstands all that happens to her, skewing her view of the world in ways that her suitor, husband, and lover simply can’t fathom; she’s a code with no key, to herself and to all around her including the viewer. Eventually her naivety gives way to sheer negligence that ends in tragedy, the aftermath of which is truly difficult to watch, a credit to both director and performer. The end credits roll over a shot of Soutendijk glancing sideways at the camera, with a slight smile. Whatever happens to Hetty in the end, this is the only clue director Nouchka van Brakel left for us. All of this takes place inside the lush visuals of cinematographer Theo van de Sande, who has clearly been influenced by John Alcott‘s work on Stanley Kubrick ’s BARRY LYNDON (1975).

Cult Epics’ presentation of the film is a revelation, as the disc is culled from a new restoration and 4K transfer from the original negative. I don’t recall it looking this good in the theater in 1982. Sound is good, and well balanced with no stentorian volume shifts between scenes.  Bonus features include a Polygoon Journal Newsreel (1982, HD), poster and photo gallery, theatrical trailers and Ltd. Edition Packaging featuring original and newly designed art. Audio is in original Dutch (with English interspersed) with English subtitles. Recommended.

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Viva Karloff!

Posted on: Aug 16th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

 

VIVA – 2007
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Anna Biller, Bridget Brno, Chad England, Jared Sanford
Director: Anna Biller
Rated: R
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A
BRD Release Date: August 24th, 2021
Audio Formats: TBA
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 121 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Anna Biller’s VIVA is a spot-on parody of early 1970’s porn films without the explicit sex – and you’ll never miss it. Biller the auteur has curated every visual, every performance and every sound to reflect the awkward, amateurish filmmaking of the San Fernando Valley of the decade to bring forth a polished, hilarious spoof of the rite of passage that was the sexual revolution. Biller the actress commits fully to her role of Barbie, a naive housewife on the verge of shedding her inhibitions in favor of awkward sex with a cadre of cringe-inducing men and a lovely female friend played by Robbin Ryan. Actually, what makes the film so watchable is that Biller and company aren’t playing the roles assigned to them in the script; they’re playing a bunch of bad actors attempting to play those roles and failing, which makes for a much more subtle performance. The howlingly amusing dialog (and confused smoldering looks) is delivered just as poorly as if it was lifted wholesale from a Gerard Damiano movie set.

Having enjoyed Biller’s second feature, THE LOVE WITCH (2016), I was eager to see her initial offering and wasn’t disappointed. The whole film is stylized and over the top, but Biller manages to evoke a sincere nostalgia for the 1970s, and the over-saturated cinematography of M. David Mullen  reinforces that. The director/actress not only wrote, directed, and starred in VIVA, she also edited it, created the costumes, sets, music, set decoration and designed the production. With the results she achieved on such a shoestring budget here, I’d love to see her sink her teeth into a larger budget production with some dramatic chops; she’d kill something like BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997).

Kino Lorber’s presentation of the film looks gorgeous and sounds great, naturally. Extras include a new audio commentary by writer/director/star Anna Biller, behind-the-scenes footage narrated by Biller, and the theatrical trailer. I’m surprised to find the film with an R rating instead of NC17 — it’s very, VERY naked throughout.

VIVA is the kind of film I like to see being made and released in this era of tentpole franchise mania among studios. Biller’s signature touches are unmistakably those of someone who loves and reveres the films she’s spoofing. Worth a watch for the fabulous costumes alone, including a Paco Rabanne dress that appeared in the original  CASINO ROYALE (1967).

 

 

KARLOFF AT COLUMBIA – The Black Room / The Man They Could Not Hang / The Man with Nine Lives / Before I Hang / The Devil Commands / The Boogie Man Will Get You
3.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Boris Karloff, Marian Marsh, Lorna Gray , Roger Pryor , Evelyn Keyes , Richard Fiske , Peter Lorre
Directed By: Roy William Neill, Nick Grinde, Edward Dmytryk, Lew Landers
Studio: Eureka! Classics – 2 Disc Limited Set (3000 copies)
BRD Release Date: May 03, 2021
Region: B
Rated: Unrated
Audio Formats: English: LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC 2K
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.34:1, 1.33:1
Run Time: 400 Minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Boris Karloff is most closely associated with the Universal Monsters films of the 1930s and 40s, having played Frankenstein’s monster several times as well as essaying memorable roles in films like THE BLACK CAT (1934), THE RAVEN (1935), TOWER OF LONDON (1939) and HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944), to name just a few. While he cranked out horror hits for Universal, Karloff was also a man about town working for other studios as well including Columbia, for which he created a cycle of “Mad Doctor” films and a single period gothic terror called THE BLACK ROOM (1935). His Columbia movies have now been collected into an excellent box set by Eureka! Classics in the UK.

THE BLACK ROOM finds Boris playing a set of twins cursed by fate to murder each other, and allows him to really stretch his acting muscles as he portrays the pair, one benevolent and caring, the other a despicable tyrant. In fact, watching all six films, I was struck by what a good actor he truly was, and what he was able to create in performances beyond the guttural murmurings he was limited to in portraying Frankenstein’s monster. He really is quite watchable in all six films, and elevates even the least of the films into an hour or two well spent.

The other five films comprise his mad doctor series for the studio, and sadly they all seem cut from the same cloth in terms of story, characterization, and performances by other cast members. Clearly, Karloff was a star that Columbia was afraid to take a chance on in a dramatic role unassociated with the genre that spawned him. Don’t think I didn’t enjoy these films, I did; but they are similar in many ways and by the end of the run I felt the concept had been strip-mined and was happy to move on. THE DEVIL COMMANDS (1941) ramped the crazy science factor up in an attempt to keep viewers interested, and THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU (1942) is an outright comedy, most likely because Karloff had co-starred in the smash hit comedy play ARSENIC & OLD LACE on Broadway the same year.

Eureka! Entertainment’s box set is a wonderful presentation of these films. Though unrestored, all the prints are watchable though feature damage in some areas. Film grain is high throughout as well, and there are some audio artifacts present that are occasionally distracting. Truthfully, I’m certain this is still the best all of these films have looked in years. Extras include new audio commentaries on THE BLACK ROOM, BEFORE I HANG and THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby as well as new audio commentaries on THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG, THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES and THE DEVIL COMMANDS with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman, plus a collector’s booklet featuring writing on all six films by Karloff expert Stephen Jacobs (author of Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster); film critic and author Jon Towlson; and film scholar Craig Ian Mann.

If your experience of Boris Karloff is limited to his Universal horrors or some of his later films like THE COMEDY OF TERRORS or THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI, grab this set and enjoy him in a different light. You won’t regret it. Make sure you live in Ireland or the UK or have a region free player, though.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: DOCTOR X Builds a Creature while BABYDOLL Gets Scandalous!

Posted on: May 17th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny. Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

 

DOCTOR X – 1932
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Lionel Atwill , Fay Wray, Lee Tracy , Preston Foster
Director: Michael Curtiz
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: April 20, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC. New 4K HD Transfer Restoration by UCLA Film and Television Archive and The Film Foundation, in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 76 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Director Michael Curtiz is best known for making film classics like CASABLANCA, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, and CAPTAIN BLOOD, but he also directed a trio of significant early horror films as well. DOCTOR X was the first of these, followed by MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933 – reviewed here), and THE WALKING DEAD (1936). The first two films were shot using two-strip Technicolor®, while the third was shot in black and white. Warner Archive Collection has just released a fully restored version of DOCTOR X and the results are breathtaking. Once again, the UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Film Foundation have done an incredible job in reviving an important film from a dull, damaged carcass.

Featuring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray (just as Wax Museum did), DOCTOR X is another pre-code horror title of the type that would be defanged by the censors had it been released just a few years later. The film has much to recommend about it. For example, Ray Rennehan’s cinematography is lush and fluid, art direction by Anton Grot is well ahead of its time, and many of the performances are quite good. It deals in cannibalism and body horror, perhaps the first Hollywood film to do so. However, the film is unfortunately saddled with some far-fetched and frankly ridiculous characters and situations that became overused tropes almost by the time it was released.

Atwill and Wray acquit themselves well, but Lee Tracy is nearly unwatchable as a Leo Gorcey-like newspaper reporter that is the least funny comic relief ever. Full of 1930s mannerisms (ok, I get it – it was the 1930s) and catchphrases, he comes off as pandering to an audience who came fully prepared to see a horrifying thriller. He seems to have been inserted by the WB brass who were afraid that the horror film “craze” started at Universal Studios wouldn’t translate to their gangster and crime-themed format. Also stinking up the joint – a police commissioner who allows Atwill’s Dr. Xavier forty-eight hours to conduct his own investigation to determine which of the professors at his university is a serial killer at large before letting his detectives take over. That kind of malarkey would get you fired even in 1932, folks. This film definitely seems like a precursor to Wax Museum, with many similar (though better presented) themes recurring in that film.

Warner Archive’s disc is presented very well, with only a few jump cuts throughout where the team was unable to spread available imagery far enough to account for missing frames. Audio is also quite good. The disc comes with a black and white version of the film that was shot simultaneously, as well as a slew of special features such as new commentaries by Alan K. Rode and Scott MacQueen, documentary “Madness & Mystery: The Horror Films of Michael Curtiz” (HD, 27:39) by Constantine Nasr, “Doctor X: Before and After Restoration Reel” (HD, 7:40), and the theatrical trailer: black and white version (HD, 2:15).

This is the kind of amazing restoration and packaging that Warner Media chair Jason Kilar is trying to kill; he’s a digital streaming-only zealot. If he has his way WB would release no physical media at all, and the public will be deprived of this kind of release. If you love classic films and physical media, let Warner Brothers know. Buy this or their other discs. Write them letters. Show them that there will always be an audience for great movies from the past that can be owned outright.

 

 

 

BABYDOLL – 1956
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Karl Malden, Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach
Directed By: Elia Kazan
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
BRD Release Date: February 16, 2021
Region: A
Rated: Unrated
Audio Formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC New 2K Master
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 115 Minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

With a director, cast and writer like this, it’s hard to go wrong – and BABYDOLL doesn’t. Steeped in the kind of sultry, southern-gothic atmosphere and seething sexual tension one expects of a Tennessee Williams script, the film is bursting at the seams with tawdry dialog, black comedy, backhanded insults, and character flaw reveals of the highest level.

Baker plays Babydoll, Malden’s virginal wife who is promised to him sexually when she turns twenty, a few days hence. Down on their luck financially, the couple’s furniture is repossessed. Malden blames his cotton ginning competitor Wallach (in his debut screen role) for their fate and burns down his plant. Wallach sets upon Babydoll to confirm his suspicions of arson, and the pair spend a day barely avoiding falling into each other’s arms. The trio burst into open hostility when Malden arrives, with Wallach and Baker using each other to taunt and belittle him into a rage of jealousy.

The film was denounced by the Catholic church’s National League of Decency on release, and pulled from distribution a few weeks later by Warner Brothers. It’s easy to see what it was so controversial; BABYDOLL and a handful of other films railed against the Hays Code, which had banned exactly this sort of film in 1934 and would continue to keep films at “G” to PG” equivalent rating until it was overturned in 1968. Though nothing explicit is shown onscreen, the overt sexual tones and themes are vividly on display. Despite its chilly reception, the film would garner several Academy Award nominations and was a hit with critics. Kazan won a Golden Globe and Wallach a BAFTA Award for BABYDOLL.

Warner’s presentation Blu-ray is once again a pleasure to view. The picture is flawless, and sound is good, though there’s quite a dichotomy of volume for some of the dialog, and a few of the lower volume examples might have been amplified a bit. Special features are sparse. There’s a featurette from 2006 – “See No Evil: Baby Doll” (SD, 13 minutes) which includes interviews with the three principles, and a HD theatrical trailer (3 minutes).

While not the milestone that LOLITA (with which this film has been compared) was, BABYDOLL is an important and entertaining movie with great performances and direction.  Recommended.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: PUMP UP THE EURO KINK!

Posted on: Apr 5th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

 

 

MADAME CLAUDE – 1977
2.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Françoise Fabian, Dayle Haddon , Murray Head , Klaus Kinski , Robert Webber, Ed Bishop
Director: Just Jaeckin
Rated: R/Unrated
Studio: Cult Epics
Region Free
BRD Release Date: February 9, 2021
Audio Formats: LPCM 2.0 Mono/DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono/Dolby Digital 2.0
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC. New 4K HD Transfer (from original 35mm negative) supervised by cinematographer Robert Fraisse
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Run Time: 109 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Following up on his globally successful films EMMANUELLE and THE STORY OF O, French director Just Jaeckin offered up this ostensible “thriller” based on a true story about a very successful Paris Madame whose stable of women service ambassadors, world leaders, and other government higher-ups caught in a web of intrigue that could topple her empire. The problem is that the plot fails to intrigue and serves mainly to string together a series of sex scenes played out to Jane Birkin’s trilly singing and Klaus Kinski’s forehead menacing the ladies. Along the way, Murray Head (yep, that “One Night in Bangkok” guy) chews scenery, Francoise Fabian smokes too much, Dayle Haddon tries to remember her motivation, Robert Webber collects a paycheck, and Ed Bishop skulks about, looking lost. None of which serves the premise of the film, and Jaeckin’s missed opportunity– to tell the story of Madame Claude herself.

Fabian’s character is interesting enough to be the focus of the film, but it’s not. Instead, the barely credible story of Head trying to blackmail princes and prime ministers and getting caught in a CIA operation takes center stage. Much preferable would have been Jaeckin’s intimate tale of a women so divorced from society and the concept of romantic love that she builds walls between herself and the world, letting only one or two men into her private life (but calling all of her clients “friends”) – and even then she hasn’t the ability to make love to them herself, pawning them off on her new recruit, Haddon. Haddon’s Elizabeth is a doll for Claude to play with, acting out her fantasies of trust and sex and love – everything she has put behind her and can’t face…but clearly she craves contact and relief from the isolation to which she’s consigned herself. Can she learn to trust again? That’s the story I wanted to see, and what the director and writers missed.

Cult Epics’ Blu-ray presentation is the best it can be – sourced from a new 4K scan of the original negative – however, the picture is disturbed by infrequent digital density anomalies. The visuals are otherwise acceptable, but I was expecting more from a new transfer. Audio is pleasing, except for Birkin’s singing. Serge Gainsbourg’s score is memorable if a bit dated. Both the original French audio with English subtitles as well as the English dubbed versions are present. Supplemental features include an audio commentary from author Jeremy Richey, a new interview in HD with Jaeckin, a vintage French theatrical trailer, Cult Epics trailers, and a double-sided sleeve for the first printing only.

Madame Claude is a bunch of sexy people playing contrived spy games, but could have been so much more. A remake of the film has just been released and I’m curious to see what story that version will tell.

 

PUMP UP THE VOLUME – 1990
3.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Christian Slater , Samantha Mathis , Ellen Greene , Annie Ross
Directed By: Allan Moyle
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
BRD Release Date: February 15, 2021
Region: A, B
Rated: R
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 102 Minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

At the climax of Allan Moyle’s PUMP UP THE VOLUME, Christian Slater’s Happy Harry Hardon, teen pirate radio provocateur, urges his suburban high school audience to take the airwaves for themselves, to make their own voices heard, and to tell their own truths. He couldn’t possibly have predicted the utter wasteland of self-proclaimed media moguls, influencers, and voices-of-their-generations spawned by reality television, and later by the open mic night that is YouTube and the internet. Luckily, there are some lights shining in that darkness if you’re willing to look for them.

Honestly, it’s hard to hate a movie about teens speaking truth to power at great personal peril. Especially when the soundtrack is jammed with amazing songs; this film introduced Leonard Cohen to a much broader audience, and if for nothing other than that it gets a salute from me. Slater acquits himself well, but several other performances are shaky including Samantha Mathis as the object of his affection. The adult characters are more aptly called caricatures, drawn from extremely broad stereotypical cloth; the clueless parents, the young teacher who “gets it,” the evil school principle, and the snidely guidance counselor. Authority is much harder to topple when it’s relatable, apparently.

Warner Archive’s new Blu-ray presentation is a fine watch, though sadly void of supplemental features. Only the theatrical trailer is included. Picture is well saturated and appropriately grainy, with dense blacks. Audio is a joy, especially while Harry plays Cohen, the Beastie Boys, Peter Murphy, Sonic Youth, the Pixies and more greats.

The problem with PUMP UP THE VOLUME is that it never truly punches through the archetypes it portrays into the hearts of its characters the way THE BREAKFAST CLUB did, and it’s not as cleverly written or as paradigm-shifting as HEATHERS. It’s a good film and worth watching, but it’s not the classic it might have been.

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Mr. Roberts and The H-Man Battle In Outer Space!

Posted on: Feb 8th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

 

ISHIRO HONDA DOUBLE FEATURE: THE H-MAN & BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1958-59)
3.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Yumi Shirakawa , Kenji Sahara , Akihiko Hirata  / Ryô Ikebe , Kyôko Anzai , Minoru Takada
Director: Ishiro Honda
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Eureka!
Region: B
BRD Release Date: November 16, 2020
Audio Formats: LPCM 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Run Time: 79/90 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

If you’re a fan of giant monsters stomping Japanese cities flat, then you know the name Ishiro Honda, the man who directed GODZILLA, RODAN, MOTHRA, THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, and most of the rest of Toho Companys’ kaiju faire from the 1950s up through the year 2000. Now two of Honda’s other pictures for the studio have gotten the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray release treatment from Eureka! Video in the UK. One is a monster film of a different stripe, the other a sci-fi actioner whose tropes were later refit for a beloved British children’s television series.

THE H-MAN is essentially a proto-psychedelic noir/procedural about radioactive snot monsters invading Tokyo and dissolving the population. Hey, who doesn’t love a good snot monster, am I right? Starting at sea and moving into the city via the sewers, the snot gives the local gendarmes a run for their money but are (of course) defeated in the end. Or are they? This was 1958, before that particular trope was so overused as to have become offensive. I feel that cinematographer Hajime Koizumi’s highly-saturated color motifs may well have influenced Mario Bava, at a nascent point in his directing career but already well-respected as a cinematographer himself. A few of the sequences look as though they might have been shot by Bava himself – an impossibility, of course. Though director Honda and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya were already masters of the visual, the lack of suspense during a slog of a second act brings the film down a notch in comparison to much of their kaiju work.

BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE has much to recommend – Tsubaraya’s effects are front and center from frame one, and rightfully so. Compared to much of the American sci-fi cinema of the time, the model work here is of the highest quality and the recipient of Koizumi’s deep, colorful lighting, making it stand above the pack. Strip-mined for premise as well as art direction by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s CAPTAIN SCARLET AND THE MYSTERONS (1967) television series, the film is honestly a joy visually, but suffers a similar fate as THE H-MAN when the second act unfolds. Both films are stuffed with what author and film commentator David J. Schow calls “shoe leather;” unnecessarily long shots of mundane action, dialog that could easily be excised, etc. Essentially, padding to expand the running time of the film which adds nothing to the viewing experience. BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE does accelerate once the U.N. forces reach the moon and attack the alien base there, however.

I do recommend this set, even though both films would benefit from the editor having a stern talking-to by say, Akira Kurosawa. It comes in an “O” card slipcase for the first 2000 copies and includes both Japanese and English versions of each film, presented across two Blu-ray discs. Other extras include a brand-new audio commentary with authors and Japanese sci-fi historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski on THE H-MAN, as well as one on BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE with film historian and writer David Kalat. Further, included are stills galleries and a collector’s booklet featuring essays by Christopher Stewardson and Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp.

The Masters of Cinema package by Eureka! is definitely worth a pick up if you’re in the UK or Ireland, or have a region-free player.

 

 

MISTER ROBERTS – 1955
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon
Directed By: John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
BRD Release Date: December 15, 2020
Region: A, B
Rated: Unrated
Audio Formats: DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 – English (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: New 2020 1080p HD Remaster from 4K Scan of Original Negative
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1-16×9 LETTERBOX
Run Time: 121:00 Minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Some films are classics because of writing, some because of their performances, or direction, or cinematography. MISTER ROBERTS is a classic for all these reasons and more. Based on the play by Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan  (itself based on Heggen’s novel), the film is simply a masterpiece of cinema and of storytelling.

A character study of a man desperate to be a part of something bigger than himself and to make a real difference in the Second World War, the film features Fonda‘s pitch-perfect performance as Lt. (j.g.) Douglas Roberts, stuck aboard a dreary naval cargo ship in a Pacific backwater, far from the fighting. At constant odds with his Captain (Cagney in bravura performance of pure, hilarious evil), Roberts takes solace in his relationship with Powell’s Doc, a sympathetic veteran too tired to complain any longer, and his bunkmate, Ensign Frank Pulver (Lemmon), a braggadocious schemer who never quite follows through on his plans. Executive officer of the boat, Roberts is also popular with the crew for his passive-aggressive war with the Captain, who terrorizes them regularly.

It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like on the set of this movie, but man…what an amazing place it must have been. Fonda was on the upper curve of his peak, with 12 ANGRY MEN a mere two years in the future; Lemmon gives his breakthrough performance as Pulver. Powell, Cagney, and Ward Bond  were all on the downward slide and past their leading man days but give wonderful performances…and imagine the tales they had to tell. Rounding it all out is a cadre of young actors playing the ship’s crew, many of whom were on the way to distinguished careers, like Ken Curtis , Tige Andrews , Buck Kartalian, and a wide-eyed and fresh-faced Nick Adams , whose future looked very bright, but would fall short of his expectations and end tragically. Rumor has it that director Ford was replaced after socking Fonda in the jaw during a heated discussion, though it was more likely due to emergency gall bladder surgery.

Warner Archive Collection’s Blu-ray presentation is absolutely breathtaking. Remastered from a new 4K scan, the picture is truly one of the best I’ve ever seen in this format, with little to no film grain visible throughout, colors balanced and saturated well, and deep blacks supporting a generous midtone range. The only flaws I saw were minimal focus issues near the vertical screen edges occasionally, artifacts of the original CinemaScope projection process most likely. Sound is also above expectation, and a real joy in 24-bit 5.1 surround. Extras include the original theatrical trailer and a scene-specific audio commentary by Jack Lemmon, carried over from a previous release.

Honestly, this is the best restoration I’ve seen all year on a film that I recommend everybody should own. Do yourself a favor and grab it while Warner makes it available. You never know when they might decide to go to an all-streaming model and ditch traditional media sales.

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 *Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Frankenstein -vs- Jimmy Stewart!

Posted on: Jan 4th, 2021 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

 

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (2 Disc SE)- 1957
4.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Peter Cushing , Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart , Christopher Lee
Director: Terence Fisher
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: December 15, 2020
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: New 2020 1080p HD Restoration Masters from 4K Scans of Preservation Separation Elements
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1, 1.67:1, 1.85:1
Run Time: 83 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

It’s the holiday season, and a great time to make a gift of your current disc copy of Hammer FilmsTHE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Not to a friend, but to an interested acquaintance or an amiable stranger – share the gift of a wonderful classic film in an adequate digital presentation and give yourself (and a friend) a gift by ordering the new, restored version of the film from the Warner Archive Collection. After viewing this presentation of the film, you’ll never be able to go back to the current disc in your collection, whether DVD or Blu-ray. For a taste of what I mean, click the title link above to see a comparison video of the restored vs. unrestored version.

Warner Archive’s new two-disc special edition lovingly gives this film the attention it deserves, including not one, not TWO… but THREE different prints in varying aspect ratios as released in theaters. It also includes a great slate of supplemental features produced by Constantine Nasr, a man who knows his mid-century British horror movies. He’s assembled a set of in-depth featurettes that include context, history, and opinions from the likes of Dick Klemensen, publisher of Hammer-centric fanzine Little Shoppe of Horrors, Sir Christopher Frayling, who provides an excellent history of gothic literature and how Hammer’s films were affected by it as well as how they affected it, David J. Miller, who contextualizes fellow director of photography Jack Asher’s work on the film and his subsequent work at Hammer, and composer Christopher Drake on the film’s score and it’s composer, James Bernard. Nasr and historian Jack Haberman also provide a new audio commentary. The film’s original trailer has also been restored and is included.

As for the film itself, it looks and sounds better than it ever has. One of the cornerstones of Hammer’s success, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was very much a gamble when the company undertook it’s production. Horror movies were at a low ebb in the mid-1950s, and the company was under scrutiny not only by the British Board of Film Classification but by Universal Studios, who wanted to make sure they weren’t appropriating any copyrighted material or designs from the 1930s films. Writer Jimmy Sangster created a totally new take on the story, focusing on the evil Baron Frankenstein rather than the monster, and injected a bit of Jane Eyre to play up the gothic aspect. Add blood, cleavage, and one-strip Eastmancolor film stock and you have a perfect storm which kicked off a decade’s worth of profitable releases for Hammer and their competitors.

If you’ve never seen it and aren’t a big fan of this type of movie, you might want to hold off on buying this set – an acquaintance or amiable stranger may be giving you an earlier disc release of it in the near future. If you are a fan, order now – this is essential viewing, and should be in any horror fan’s library.

 

THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER – 1940
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Margaret Sullavan , James Stewart , Frank Morgan , Joseph Schildkraut
Directed By: Ernst Lubitsch
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
BRD Release Date: December 22, 2020
Region: A
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 99 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

What would the holidays be without an annual viewing of that timeless Jimmy Stewart classic? You may think I mean IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but I’m talking about THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, a deeper dive and totally worth adding to your Christmas movie viewing list. Remade in 1998 as YOU’VE GOT MAIL starring Tom Hanks  (well, who else could carry Stewart’s mantle?) and  Meg Ryan , with the original outshining the remake on all counts. The cast is perfect; Stewart, Sullavan, and Morgan essay their characters well, dodging and parrying each other with jabs and lunges of Runyun-esque dialog provided by writer Samson Raphaelson. Lubitsch’s direction brings it all in dramatically as well as comedically, making for a tender and frustrating love story between two headstrong people trying to define themselves through the eyes of others. We know in the end they’ll come together, but the journey is the satisfying part of this film, not the destination.

Warner Archive’s presentation seems sourced from a new 2K scan of the original interpositive materials and is a marked improvement from past releases. The picture is sharp and gray tones and blacks are well defined throughout. Audio is also improved, especially in regard to dialog, which is tossed about like hand grenades by the cast – fast, furious, and much more in evidence than musical cues. Supplemental materials include a vintage MGM promotional film, THE MIRACLE OF SOUND, a Screen Guild Theater radio broadcast (Sept. 29, 1940) with Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan, as well as the Lux Radio Theater broadcast (June 23, 1941) with Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche, and the remastered original theatrical trailer for the film.

Don’t look for a plot-heavy story here–this is all holiday fantasy, and the focus is on the characters. If that appeals to you, then make sure you get this disc and keep it handy every year around this time. It’s worth the watch.

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 *Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2022 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress