"Well, most people like it and I like it, and I'm working hard and trying to keep the cost down"

J. Russell Finch CEO & President
The Pacific Edible Seaweed Company
Fresno, CA.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE on Blu-Ray


     Kino Lorber have confirmed the future release of this much requested Robert Siodmak 1946 thriller. Long OOP on DVD this is a gorgeous exercise in Gothic opulence and can be looked upon as proto-giallo (Dario Argento has cited this as an influence).
    Dorothy Mcguire plays a  young mute girl who is hired as a caregiver for an elderly matron (a wonderful Ethel Barrymore) while at the same time a killer is stalking the area whose targeting woman with physical afflictions. Also with George Brent as Barrymore's son and Val Lewton vet Kent Smith as a kindly local doctor.
    As a director of several excellent film noirs Siodmak along with art director Albert S. D'Agostino & cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca combine to create a visual feast of B&W eye candy. Complete with thunderstorms, a spooky Victorian mansion, lots of shadows (and of course a spiral staircase) it makes for prefect nighttime (or anytime) viewing.
    No release date has been confirmed but hopefully it will be sooner rather then later.



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

THE DAY OF THE LOCUST 1975


    With the upcoming release of Sidney Pollack's 1969 THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY ? on Blu-ray my thoughts have turned to this other dark drama that wallows in the dark side of 1930's Americana.
   Nathanael West's sprawling 1939 novel of the dark underbelly of the Hollywood dream factory had been knocking around as a movie project for years and had become labeled unfilmable by the time John Schlesinger finally brought it to the screen in 1975. Scripted by Waldo Salt and containing a great cast (several of whom it can be argued is their best work) it's slowly gained in stature over the years, but still is sadly left out the "classics of 70's cinema" conversation quite often.
  Starring William Atherton as Todd Hackett who as a star struck young artist arrives in Hollywood to hopefully work as an art director at a major studio. Finding a room at a dilapidated apt. complex he meets his neighbor which include the wanna be (and talentless) starlet Faye Greener who takes care of her father Harry, a broken-down vaudevillian played by Burgess Meredith. Also, residing there is child actor Adore (Jackie Earle Haley (doing a very creepy imitation of Mae West) and his(her?) domineering stage mother along with the legendary Billy Bartlett who bitterly fights with his oafish wife.
    Finding work on a mammoth production depicting the battle of Waterloo Ted is drawn to Faye and begins hanging around her and friends which includes cowboy actors Earle Shoop (Bo Hopkins) and Miguel (Pepe Serna) Tod soon finds out that Faye is part of a group on actresses who loan themselves out to studio executives for sexual favors in return for small roles in films. Harry dies and Faye is forced into prostitution but soon marries emotionally scarred man child Homer Simpson (Donald Sutherland - and yes this is where Matt Groening got the name).
    Becoming revolted at himself for being attached to Faye after seeing her for the person she is and the horrible way she treats Homer, Ted begins to be overwhelmed by the ugly seediness of his world and attempting to take solace in the crowd at a large movie premier, he horrifyingly instead witnesses a spectacle that brings the film into the realm of horror fantasy. Much of the films outdoor scenes are shot with a bright sunlit look (the cinematography by Conrad Hall is beautiful) which contrasts with the dark souls that populate it.
    Although at 37 perhaps a bit too old to being playing a hopeful young starlet Black is amazing here as she plays a truly amoral evil character but with enough sexual playfulness and innocent girl charm that we can help but see how Ted could be drawn to her. Playing out like an offspring of Kenneth Auger's Hollywood Babylon it's not a film you will revisit often but a fascinating example of what major studios were willing to take a chance on in the 70's.


 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

HAVING A WILD WEEKEND 1965

     





      Although today they barely register in the minds of all but the most serious 60's music aficionados at one time The Dave Clark Five were considered pretty stiff competition for The Beatles. Blessed with a great lead singer in Mike Smith, they were the first British Invasion band to play Ed Sullivan after The Beatles (they would later appear 12 times on Sullivan) and were one of the only British Invasion bands to be more popular in America then their native country with 17 top forty hits on the American charts along with selling almost 50,000,000 records.
     Clark (the groups drummer) was smart enough to insist on ownership of the groups master recordings, but his dictatorial control of those tapes has led to the group's music being MIA in a physical format for decades. Their sound was a combination of American Rock and Roll and R&B filtered through Clark's primitive "wall of sound" production style and by 1967 they're never evolving music was considered antiquated in the burgeoning psychedelic scene and they faded away (although a bit bizarrely they did have a late 60's renaissance in England).




     In 1965 they duly made their motion picture debut in HAVING A WILD WEEKEND. Originally titled CATCH US IF YOU CAN in England, it was the feature film debut for director John Boorman and is unique in the fact that the group doesn't preform any songs through the course of the film. Obviously patterned after The Beatles A HARD DAY"S NIGHT The Dave Clark Five don't appear as musicians but as a team of stuntmen known as "Action Incorporated", Although a few of their songs appear on the soundtrack (along with an cash-in album being released) it's not a "pop music" film at all. While A HARD DAY'S NIGHT was all loud and frantic HAVING A WILD WEEKEND's script by Peter Nichols (GEORGY GIRL) is more quiet and introspective with a surprisingly tender romance lurking in its plot. All of which led it to being a relative flop at the box office.
     The film's beginning has the group shown living together in a London flat with and as they roust  themselves up in the morning they run through some Beatles-like humor and quips. Arriving at work they're assigned to work on a series on commercials as stunt coordinators for a British meat company whose billboards with the slogan "Meat For Go !" plaster the London cityscape. Dinah, the model for the ad campaign (known as "The Butcher Girl") is played with all sorts of beguiling 60's cuteness by Barbara Ferris (CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED).




     Steve, the head stuntman (played by Dave Clark) seeing the meaningless and vapid
commercialism of his life and work steals a Jaguar sports car from the commercial shoot and along with Dinah they both run off to the English countryside with the ad company and the remainder of the group in pursuit. Finding a group of young squatters in a burned out building on the military proving grounds of the Salisbury Plain (where The Beatles would film portions of HELP ! about the same time). Steve & Dinah take refuge with the pot smoking outcasts who confess to the duo that they're looking forward too moving into heroin (which seems a pretty surprising mention in teen oriented movie from 1965).  After an attack by soldiers they flee where they next encounter an unhappily married couple in large country (played wonderfully by Yootha Joyce and Robin Bailey) who keep a large collection of antique bric-a brac in a desperate attempt to hold on to their earlier happy times. Steve and Dinah speak wishfully of making it to an isolated island off the coast of Dorset, but they along with the viewers seem to be resigned to the fact that they'll never escape.
     With it's total lack of youthful exuberance or the celebration of the liberation that the by now exploding pop music world might bring HAVING A WILD WEEKEND instead seems to look forward to burned out hope of the late 60's and one can only wonder what the gaggles of teenagers who this product was aimed at thought of it at the time. Not a great movie, but an interesting take on that fleeting moment that was the "swinging sixties".




All above screen captures are from the Warner Archives MOD DVD 






Thursday, January 28, 2016

99 RIVER STREET Coming to Blu


"Rips into you like a double crossing dame !"


    Although they haven't set a definitive street date yet. Kino have announced that 99 RIVER STREET is coming out later this year on blu-ray. Directed by the great Phil Karlson, this gritty little 1953 B&W crime drama features a perpetually pissed off John Payne as a down and out boxer who as straddled with bitchy & two timing wife Peggie Castle finds himself framed for murder. While attempting to clear himself he beats up up scads of low life criminals and along the way enlists the help of the wonderful Evelyn Keyes (in what is probably her finest performance) and character actor Frank Faylen. With atmospheric cinematography by Franz Planer (with some really excellent boxing sequences) it also features Brad Dexter along lots of squalid hotel rooms, dingy bars and of course Karlson's trademark lean, mean & tight direction. 
   Currently available through MGM on their MOD program this will be a must buy (for me at least) and anytime we can get more Phil Karlson on blu-ray it's a good thing.



Saturday, August 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Honor Blackman

         


    Born of this day 90 years ago and still going strong is Bond girl extraordinaire Honor Blackman.  Although it probably seems more accurate to call her a "Bond woman" as she was 38 years old at the time of GOLDFINGER and most likely was one of  the only Bond female counterparts that was older then the actor portraying 007.
    Before GOLDFINGER she was known to British audiences as Cathy Gale in THE AVENGERS and I think she's wonderful in Roy Ward Baker's Titanic drama A NIGHT TO REMEMBER from 1958. She also made for a beautiful goddess Hera in Ray Harryhausen's CLASH OF THE TITANS. A drive-in re-release of GOLDFINGER at some point in the 60's is one of my earliest childhood movie memories and Honor will always be my favorite Bond girl of any age.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

EMPEROR OF THE NORTH 1973

    



    Coming Sept. 8 on blu-ray from Twilight Time is Robert Aldrich's 1973 depression era action/drama EMPEROR ON THE NORTH. Upon the surface this would seem to have box office bonanza written all it - the director of such classics as THE DIRTY DOZEN reuniting with two of that films stars in the presence of Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. Based upon a couple of short stories by Jack London, it was marketed as an "action" film in the vein of THE DIRTY DOZEN and as a result struggled at the box office and for years was MIA on home video until a DVD release in 2006.
    The sparse plot concerns a hobo named A-No.1 (Marvin) who takes up the challenge to hitch a ride upon a freight train guarded by a sadistic guard named Shack (Borgnine) who takes great pleasure in killing any unwelcome riders with Carradine being a cocky (and none too bright) youngster attempting to make a name for himself. The film was originally title EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE which was a slang term for the best hobo in the world, which in hobo parlance equates being king to the same as ruling over a frozen wasteland.  It was  quickly retitled with the shorter EMPEROR OF THE NORTH.
    Filmed in the Pacific Northwest and set in almost entirely in dirty train yards and strangely empty trains that travel back and forth between two points with everything seemingly just set up as props to let Marvin and Borgnine face off like gladiators. Excellent work by the two leads (with Borgnine in probably the most sadistic role of his career) and a strangely off key movie that is well worth seeking out.






Friday, August 14, 2015

Warren Oates Day On TCM

    

    Coming up on Aug. 24 is as part of their Summer Under the Stars Series its a full day of the great Warren Oates on Turner Classic Movies. The days programming contains the usual suspects such as the classics THE WILD BUNCH and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, however there's some hard to see gems buried in there - including the still not on DVD western THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN from 1970 and the 1973 comedy THIEF WHO CAME TO DINNER.
    Also of interest is the excellent 1968 caper film THE SPLIT and in what is one of Warren's finest performances in Sam Peckinpah's grungy & sweaty neo noir road trip from hell BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (where you get to see Peckinpah directing Oates who is playing Peckinpah). Sounds like a good day to find an excuse to stay home.