Sunday, August 24, 2014

MAN HUNT (1941 - U.S) Twilight Time blu-ray

D: Fritz Lang.  A big game hunter named Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, the movie) has the leader of the Third Reich in his rifle scope's cross-hairs and is about to pull the trigger!  This is the startling opening sequence to one of Lang's lesser known pre-WWII noir thrillers.  Soon the hunter becomes the hunted in a riveting thrill ride obstacle course through war torn London that echoes elements of Richard Connell's THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME.  The story was probably innovative for its time and the plot twists and turns are still captivating due to the dynamic visuals.  Joan Bennett (SUSPIRIA), soon to become a noir femme fatale, co-stars as Jerry, a street-wise young woman, who romantically falls for the safari hunter and takes great risks to aid and hide him from his ruthless pursuers.  Producer Daryl Zanuck and the Fox studio brass tried to reign in the German refugee director's strong anti-Nazi sentiments since the U.S. was not yet at war with the Fuehrer.

Bennett's character was also toned down to be more vague and appear less blatantly streetwalker. Although this would change by the time Bennett returned to the same on-screen occupation in Lang's WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (1944) and SCARLET STREET (1945).  Bennett would work with Lang again in 1947's SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR.  The top-notch supporting cast includes George Sanders (PSYCHOMANIA), Roddy McDowall (PLANET OF THE APES), John Carradine (BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA), Lester Matthews (WEREWOLF OF LONDON) and Ludwig Stossel (HOUSE OF DRACULA).  Pidgeon and the young Roddy would co-star together the same year in Zanuck's HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.  The archtypal Germanic character actor Stossel would appear in at least two other Hitler related movies- HITLER'S MADMEN and THE STRANGE DEATH OF ADOLF HITLER, both in 1943.

The Twilight Time BD is a limited pressing (3,000 copies) and is a monochrome wonder to behold.  The film's grain is very fine with deep black levels, a rich gray scale and razor sharp focus.  The package, including scholarly extras and a booklet, make this a good value for serious noir connoisseurs and Lang completists.

Available here:

DEEP END (1970- U.K./Germany) BFI blu-ray

D: Jerzy Skolimowski.  An under-appreciated, little known art house oddity from Polanski 's script collaborator on KNIFE IN THE WATER.  John Moulder-Brown (VAMPIRE CIRCUS) is gangling, hormone-wracked Michael, a freakish puberty-impaired boy who gets a job at the local bath house where he is relentlessly teased by his slightly-older mod, mini-skirted, flame-haired co-worker, Susan (Jane Asher of MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH).  Abused by the middle-aged female clientele and driven to delirious desire and jealously over Susan's two unworthy boyfriends, Michael tries to get a grip on his raging sexual urges.  One of the film's many highlights includes Michael funny, trippy and infernal trip through the sleazy Soho subculture of strip clubs, hookers and hustlers. A series of erotically bizarre, humorous and disturbing events leads to a sexually dark climax that will challenge your emotions in a revealing way, although many initial viewers were not so pleased.  If you give yourself up to Skolimowski's vision, you will have a great time wallowing in the DEEP END.
All the performances are stellar.  Also features Christopher Sanford (DIE SCREAMING MARIANNE), Dieter Eppler (SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES) and a stand out, mostly improvised ,cameo by bloated ex-sex bomb, Diana Dors.  Keep an eye out for Burt Kwouk (Cato of the original Pink Panther series) as a hot dog salesman.  The score consists of a Cat Stevens main theme and contributions by kraut-rock band CAN and Richard Wagner.
The quality of this U.K. 1.85, all-zone/region BFI restored blu-ray/DVD combo is excellent as well as the generous extras and profusely illustrated booklet.  An odd bit of trivia is revealed in the featurette is that art director Anthony Pratt is the nephew of Boris Karloff and proves it by proudly displaying an autographed photo!  The Paramount print has been shown uncut a few times on Turner Classics but has never had an official U.S. video release.  Asher was probably more famous for her long-time romance with Paul McCartney than her rather extensive film, TV and modeling career.  Moulder-Brown dialed up the freak factor in Skolimowski's more overtly comical follow-up, KING, QUEEN, KNAVE (1972) with David Niven and Gina Lollobrigida and currently not on DVD.


D: Andre De Toth.  Robert Ryan (THE NAKED SPUR) is Blaise Starrett, a cranky rancher who lives among a small community of disgruntled ranchers in a lawless, snowbound wilderness.  Starrett gets into a petty disagreement over a barbwire fence with a fellow stubborn rancher  that results in verbal death threats. Surprisingly, the rancher's wife (Tina Louise of TV's GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) offers her smokin' body to Starrett in exchange for the sake of her husband's life and to keep the peace.  As tensions and tempers mount, things only get worse when a psychopathic posse led by the cold-blooded Bruhn (played by usually jovial Burl Ives  of TV's RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER) who gallops into town and declares new rules.  One of the crazy new rules demands that the ranchers' wives be available to Ives and his posse on demand!  This is one of several the final straws that force the ranchers to set aside their petty differences to plot and dispose of the despicable mini-despot.  In typical noir style, things get much worse as the suspense and body count mounts.

As usual, Ryan is excellent as the perpetually pissed Starrett and he's more than adequately supported by a colorful cast of B thespians that include Elisha Cook Jr. (THE MALTESE FALCON), Betsy Jones-Moreland (CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA), Alan Marshall (William Castle's THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL), David Nelson (TV's OZZIE & HARRIET), Lance Fuller (THIS ISLAND EARTH), Helen Westcott (MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS) and a few other familiar faces.  Ives is good in an atypical sinister role that is similar to the novel use of Sebastian Cabot (FAMILY AFFAIR's mannered Mr. French) in Joseph H. Lewis' TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN (1958).  The terse hard-boiled dialog is courtesy of veteran scribe Philip Yordan (JOHNNY GUITAR).  From the eye-patched director of Vincent Price's 3D classic HOUSE OF WAX (1953).  The image is 16x9 framed at 1.78, from a pristine but grainy print.  Quality is fine for a triple feature, single disc budget-price DVD.  The MGM single DVD is out of print and pricey.   Here's the amazon link but the disc can be found even cheaper at liquidators and dollar stores.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Original Saw Will Shine Again on the Big Screen!

The original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE has been restored in 4K splendor (for the first time from the original 16mm A&B rolls!) and will tear up the big screen once again!  I'm sure we can expect a new blu-ray release shortly after.  Read here for more details:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Angela Mao finally gets her own box!

Shout Factory unleashes a box set of Angela Mao's best- WHEN TAE KWON DO STRIKES, THE TOURNAMENT, A QUEEN'S RANSOM,THE HIMALAYAN, STONER, BROKEN OATH.  STONER, co-starring George (007) Lazenby, is especially a favorite of mine.   No disc specs yet but stay tuned...

To pre-order:

Sunday, January 5, 2014


MGM/Timeless Media Group. D: Sydney J. Furie.  In a rural community, a herpetologist injects his pregnant invalid wife with King Cobra venom to cure her insanity.  The wife's anxiety over the venom's affect on her unborn daughter foreshadows the film's premise when she gives birth to a cold, clammy, unblinking baby.  The mother doesn't survive the traumatic premature delivery and the villagers storm the scientist's lab where he is engulfed in flames along with his scaly specimens.  Soon after, the baby girl goes missing.  Years later, a rash of mysterious cobra bites in the village catch the attention of Scotland Yard who send their best man (John McCarthy of DR. STRANGELOVE) to investigate.  Predictably, the detective meets the alluring, all-grown-up serpent vixen (Susan Travers of THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, PEEPING TOM) and tries to save her from the wrath of the angry, torch-wielding townsfolk.  

The film's screenplay makes the ridiculous mistake of believing that a cold-blooded animal is actually ice cold to the touch!  Obviously hoping to ride the wave of success that Hammer studios were enjoying, this black-and-white programmer blatantly misses all the cues that would insure even the slightest spark of box office fire.  The script is clumsy, overly-talkative and there is practically no action to allieviate the plodding pace.  Any potential thrills or chills are merely talked about amongst the characters.  Most annoying is the repetitive structural device whereby an event plays out and the characters verbally reiterate it in the proceeding scene.

All the characters are really dumb and the disappointing, abrupt wrap-up is trite as hell!  This film had all of the basic production elements for a competent effort but the screenplay and direction annihilate any chance of that.  Hammer took a similar premise and not much more budget to create the enjoyable and colorful THE REPTILE (1966).   Director Furie (DOCTOR BLOOD'S COFFIN) went on to make real studio movies like THE IPCRESS FILE,  LADY SINGS THE BLUES, SUPERMAN IV and others.  The DVD quality is sharp and clean with a 1.66 letterboxed image inside the 4x3 frame.  On the same quadruple feature disc as THE FACE OF MARBLE (see below).