Twilight Time Zone #14
 

By Andrew Bemis, Scott MacDonald, Bobby Morgan & David Steigman

Alexander the Great

Director - Robert Rossen

Cast- Richard Burton, Frederic March, Clair Bloom

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- David Steigman

If you are a fan of Greek mythology, sword and sorcery, historically accurate or otherwise than you will likely enjoy Alexander the Great. The movie is a telling of the life and times of Alexander. Richard Burton stars as Alexander, Ďsoní of Philip II of Macedonia (Fredric March) who will be his successor. There is a rift between father and son as Alexanderís mother was not impregnated by a God, basically ruining the reputation of both parents; the mother Olympias (Danielle Darrieux) is seen as an adulterer while the father Philip is seen as a bastard. Despite the friction, father and Ďsoní fight together in Persia. Later after Philip II has been murdered by Alexanderís loyal friend, Pausanias (and is immediately killed by Alexander) Alexander, now the ruler wants to conquer Asia, Granicus and Babylon.

Even though the acting and direction are fine, and the scenery is outstanding, Alexander the Great is another film that I personally didnít find very interesting, coming from me, because I very much enjoy Ben Hur, and several of the Italian-made Hercules films, which also is why I wanted to watch this movie. However those that are fascinated by this subject matter, the life and times during 300BC may see something in it that I didnít.  Peter Cushing fans and completests will get a kick of out him in a pre-Hammer horror role.

Twilight Time presents Alexander the Great with an MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1080p transfer supplied by MGM, this looks mighty good. Colors are sharp and vivid generally speaking. Grain is present. There are some speckles / print damage here and there but overall the picture quality is a very serviceable

The audio for this release is a DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 track Ė and it can be booming. No audio issues with music dialog or effects.

Extras on this release include - Claire Bloom talks about Alexander the Great (about 15 minutes), the original theatrical trailer, an MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer  and as always the isolated score track, which is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.

Rounding it all off is of course, liner notes by the one and only Julie Kirgo

 

 

The Film: 3/5

Audio/Video: 4/5

Extras: 2/5

Overall: 4/5

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Anastasia (1956)

Director - Anatole Litvak

Cast- Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner, Helen Hayes

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- David Steigman

 

When in the cinematic universe, there is often a star, a male lead or a leading lady that you enjoy seeing in films that you seek out other films they were in to see if you want to add that movie to your private collection. Such is the case for me with Ingrid Bergman, whom Iíve been a fan of ever since I first watched the timeless classic Casablanca many years ago. After that it was Notorious, Spellbound, Gaslight, Murder on the Orient Express; the list goes on and on. Anastasia is the latest movie with Ingrid Bergman that I wanted to get acquainted with. In this film, she as it always seemed to be, playing a suffering character, at first anyway. Without much of a memory or anything to be happy about or live for, she is about to commit suicide when she is saved by General Sergei Pavlovich Bounin , played by Yul Brynner of Westworld fame and Boris Adreivich Chernov, played by Akim Tamiroff (he who went back and forth between great classics and great schlock such as The Black Sleep and the Vulture). She is saved by them because she strongly resembles thought dead The Grand Duchess Anastasia. They devise a scheme to turn her into the long lost Anastasia and if she able to convince her family that it is her, she (and the two schemers) will inherit 10 million pounds. Both Bounin and Chernov train her and work feverishly along with ďAnastasiaĒ to have this scheme work. It works so well that ďAnastasiaĒ actually thinks that she is Anastasia and is able to convince her toughest doubters. Does the plan work ? Watch and see !

Anastasia is another classic that is well acted, with great performances by Bergman, Brynner, Tamiroff, Helen Hayes and many others; itís also well directed, beautifully shot and has a great musical score by Alfred Newman. Despite all of this, this movie wasnít something I would add to my collection; not because itís an awful movie and I didnít dislike it by any stretch; in fact I encourage classic film lovers who havenít seen this film to watch it. Yes, there are movies that are good, even excellent,  that arenít necessarily going to be in oneís tastes; for me this one of those films.

Anastasia is presented from Twilight Time on Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1080p transfer, letterboxed and the results look really good, if not overwhelming. The colors are dominated by greys, dark reds and browns, but you will notice how vibrant the colors of Anastasiaís clothes are, especially at the end. There are moments when it looks simply stunning, and how clear and detailed the sets look. I did notice in two parts where the screen shakes or bumps, both around the 30-31 minute mark, which I discovered is referred to as something called stability issue where the scene isnít still. It wasnít major but I noticed it twice during the film.

The audio for this release, is the usual formula.  Twilight Time uses DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 for the soundtrack

Twilight Time has provided several extras for this release :

Fox Movietone Newsreels, a song demo with Alfred Newman playing the piano and Ken Darby doing the singing, an original theatrical trailer

There is also not one, but TWO Audio Commentaries for this movie.

The first one is with screenwriter Arthur Laurents, Actor James MacArthur, and film historians Jon Burlingame and Sylvia Stoddard, while the second commentary consists of David Del Valle and Julie Kirgo, she who writes those great liner notes.

There is also the Isolated Score Track which is pretty much automatic with Twilight Time releases.

Anastasia is a great film with a great release given by Twilight Time and this bluray is not to be missed by anyone who wants a quality release from a reputable label. Twilight Time, youíve done it again Ė highly recommended!

 

 

The Film: 3/5

Audio/Video: 4/5

Extras: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

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In the French Style

Director - Robert Parrish

Cast- Jean Seberg, Stanley Baker

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- David Steigman

 

In the French Style is a French-American romantce drama about a young girl from Chicago, IL, USA, Christina James (Jean Seberg) who is a student studying art in France. At first, Christina wants to be a successful painter, but she gives that up to have a career in modeling. While working on her careers in France, she gets involved with several men, Guy (Phillippe Forquet), Stanley Baker (Walter Beddoes) and later Dr John Haislip (James Leo Herlihy). Amidst her romantic affairs and interludes, her rich father, Mr. James (Addison Powell) comes to France to bring her daughter back home to Chicago but she declines. It seems that Christina is enjoying all the romance, aka playing the field which France is offering, but at one point, she grows tired of falling for these men who donít feel the same toward her. Christina finally decides to settle down with one of the men who shares the same feelings as she does. I guess that helps in relationships

The movie is really well done, good acting, excellent photography, but I didnít find the movie compelling or interesting enough for multiple viewings. Christinaís character didnít appeal to me, and maybe I wasnít the target audience to view this film

In the French Style gets its blu-ray debut in the USA, via Twilight Time (which is limited to 3000 units), and the presentation is brilliant. Thanks to Sonyís HD master, the film is released in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC encode; the picture quality is just astounding, The black and white film will never look any better; to me, the image is crystal clear , strong texture and black levels are fine. No ongoing inconsistencies such as print damage was spotted

The audio, a DTS-HD master mono 1.0 track, is more than serviceable with no real sound issues with the music or dialog

The extras include an audio commentary with Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, an isolated track score, original theatrical trailer. Rounding it all off is another great eight page booklet essaying the film by Julie Kirgo.

 

 

The Film: 3/5

Audio/Video: 5/5

Extras: 3/5

Overall: 4.5/5

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Julia

Director - Fred Zinnermann

Cast- Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- David Steigman

Never let it be said that the 1970s didnít bring us some wonderful, powerful dramas. Taking place in the 1930s, Julia is a gripping drama about a playwright Lillian (Jane Fonda) and her very close, dear friend Julia (Vanessa Redgrave) who gets involved in a very dangerous mission that threatens the lives of both of them. Both of them were raised by Juliaís grandparents and then go their separate ways. Lillian with the help of her teacher (and lover) Dashiell (Dash) Hammett (Jason Robards) becomes a successful playwright, while her close friend Julia, who has been fighting Nazism in Germany. Julia requests the aid of Lillian; she is to smuggle money into Germany, which will help Julia fight and stop the terror of the Nazis. The two finally meet for the first time in years in a cafť and talk briefly. Julia informs Lillian that she has had a baby and wants her to take care of her daughter, Lilly. What this leads to is very startling and I will not post any spoilers about the climax in this review.

Julia is a terrific film, and admittedly at first, I didnít think I was going to be interested in it. I stuck with it and found it to be a very good, well-acted, well-directed tense drama that was thoroughly enjoyable. Some parts of the film had no music or dialog which really adds a certain chilling quality to movies.

Julia gets its blu-ray debut in the USA, via Twilight Time (which is limited to 3000 units), and the presentation is flawless. Thanks to Foxís HD master, the film is released in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC encode; the picture quality is just astounding, Flesh tones are spot on; colors are clear and sharp with great texture, especially those in daylight, the scenery in HD is just delightful !

The audio, a DTS-HD master mono 1.0 track, is more than serviceable with no real sound issues with the music or dialog

The extras include an audio commentary with Jane Fonda and Nick Redman, an isolated track score, original theatrical trailer. Rounding it all off is another great eight page booklet essaying the film by Julie Kirgo.

 

The Film: 3.5/5

Audio/Video: 4.5/5

Extras: 3/5

Overall: 4.5/5

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10 Rillington Place

Director - Richard Fleischer

Cast- Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, John Hurt

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- David Steigman

 

Iím not 100% sure what first led me to watching 10 Rillington Place, but ever since my first viewing Iíve always had the film in my movie collection, be it an imported DVD, the Sony MOD release and now the blu-ray from Twilight Time. Based on a true story, 10 Rillington Place is a fascinating, yet tragic crime thriller about a man, Mr. John Christie (Richard Attenborough) who appears on the surface, a mild mannered married man, living quietly with his wife Ethel (Pat Heywood). Underneath that quiet demeanor is a sexually deprived psycho who murders women with carbon monoxide gas, plus strangulation, and then rapes his victim (at least this is implied). The main plot point to this film is when he murders a pregnant woman, Beryl Evans (played by Judy Geeson) and with his far superior intellect is able to convince, and trick her illiterate now distraught husband Timothy Evans (played by legendary actor John Hurt, the victim of the first ever chest-bursting scene from Alien) to more or less take the fall for the crime. Unable to defend himself because he lacks the intelligence to do so, Timothy Evans get hanged for two murders he did not commit, the one of his wife and also of first child. Of course the film doesnít end on such a morbidly sour note as it is eventually discovered that it was not Timothy Evans who committed the murders after all; they were all masterfully done by John Christie, but one flaw has finally caught up to him.

Brilliantly directed by Richard Fleischer (son of animator Max Fleischer, who brought Betty Boop and other great legendary cartoons to life) and wonderfully acted by the cast, especially Richard Attenborough, who admitted he did not like the role, but played it perfectly and John Hurt who received a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his role as Timothy Evans, 10 Rillington Place is a Ďbloodyí good classic!

Twilight Time has released 10 Rillington Place on blu-ray, which is limited to 3000 units, and the presentation is flawless. Courtesy of Sonyís HD master, the film is now released in its original aspect ratio of 1:66:1, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC encode; the picture quality is just phenomenal, the best it has ever looked. Flesh tones are spot on; colors are sharper, bolder than ever. It simple words, it blows the DVD releases away.

The audio, a DTS-HD master mono 1.0 track, is more than serviceable with no real sound issues with the music or dialog

10 Rillington Place also gets a great amount of supplements. There are two audio commentaries; a new one with Judy Geeson, and film historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman, plus the audio commentary with John Hurt which was ported over from the DVD, and also of which blu-ray collectors always appreciate. Also included is the original theatrical trailer, the usual Twilight Time special isolated score track and an eight page liner notes booklet by the lovely Julie Kirgo

 

The Film: 4/5

Audio/Video: 5/5

Extras: 4/5

Overall: 5/5

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Cowboy

Director - Delmar Daves

Cast- Glenn Ford, Jack Lemmon

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- Andrew Bemis

 

While writer/director Delmar Daves worked in a variety of genres in the heyday of the studio system, heís probably best known for his westerns. 1958ís Cowboy isnít quite on the level of classic Daves westerns like 3:10 to Yuma or Jubal, itís still an entertaining story about a group of men on a cattle drive, like a more modest version of Red River. Cowboy benefits from enjoyable performances from its two stars and the supporting cast, as well as Davesís economical, unpretentious storytelling style. The directorís take on the west is romantic but unsentimental; at a brisk 92 minutes, itís less interested in mining the Old West for poetry than in matter-of-factly showing life on the trail from the perspective of a wide-eyed newcomer.

 

 That would be Frank Harris (Lemmon), whose (largely fabricated) memoir is the basis for the film. At the movieís start, Harris is working in a Chicago hotel and is smitten with one of the hotelís guests, Maria (Anna Kashfi), the daughter of SeŮor Vidal (Charles Randolph), a cattle baron. One of the other guests is Tom Reece (Glenn Ford), who makes a deal for a herd of Vidalís cattle in Mexico. Frank tries to convince Tom to let him join him on the trail; during their first meeting, Tom is too drunk and busy shooting at cockroaches to bother with Frank, but after Tom loses all of his earnings in a poker game and Frank offers his savings in exchange for a chance to join him, Tom reluctantly accepts.

 

 While Ford doesnít quite veer into Lee-Marvin-in-Cat Ballou territory, itís fun to watch him play the grizzled veteran whose disdain for his eager new cowhand eventually gives way to begrudging respect. Lemmon looks comparatively awkward in a Western, but as heís supposed to be a greenhorn, it works, though less so during a section later in the movie where weíre supposed to believe heís been hardened by his experiences on the trail (heís brittle at most). The cast also features familiar faces like Richard Jaeckel and Dick York; while Daves is more interested in the charactersí functions in the story than getting into character development, the supporting cast are believable in their respective roles.

 

 The directorís emphasis on economical storytelling is also evident in his visual sensibility; the movie features some beautiful exteriors, but rather than lingering on them as John Ford might have, Daves is clearly only interested in using them to advance the story before getting on with it. That said, he and cinematographer Charles Lawton make the most out of each shot, and the movie is filled with subtly striking compositions both in the exteriors and the stylish hotel sets that bookend the movie. And though itís hardly a study in brutal realism  at one point, the plot hinges on Frankís attempt to prove his worthiness to Mariaís dad by fighting a bull - screenwriters Edmund H. North and an uncredited Dalton Trumbo is smart and unsentimental. After one characterís accidental death, the movie briefly pauses to mourn him and note the arbitrariness of his fate, before promptly turning its attention back to the cattle drive. As with so many westerns, Cowboy defines its characters by what they do and is fascinated by how they do it.

 

 Twilight Timeís Blu-ray of Cowboy is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer that preserves the movieís original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Itís a strong transfer that particularly shines during the movieís colorful interiors and nighttime exteriors. The graininess of Lawtonís cinematography sometimes affects fine detail, but it has a pleasantly filmic look that feels organic to the original movie. The DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack is clear throughout, and George Dunningís score is included on an isolated DTS-HD 2.0 stereo track. In addition, the disc includes the original theatrical trailer and an audio commentary by film historians Paul Seydor, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman. Liner notes featuring by Kirgo about the film and Daves are included.

 

The Film: 3.5/5

Audio/Video: 4.5/5

Extras: 3.5/5

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The Fortune

Director - Mike Nichols

Cast- Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer-Bobby Morgan

 

 

Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty may be longtime pals in real life, but they were rarely seen together on the big screen. Nicholson played the celebrated playwright Eugene OíNeill in Beattyís 1981 historical epic Reds, and six years before that the two Hollywood legends starred in Mike Nicholsí The Fortune, an amusing little trifle of a period piece screwball comedy making its Blu-ray debut.

 

Nicky Wilson (Beatty) and Oscar Sullivan (Nicholson) are con artists in the 1920ís who have set their sights on sanitary napkin heiress Fredericka Quintessa Bigard (Stockard Channing), or Freddie for short. Freddie only has eyes for Nicky, but since heís already married and the Mann Act (a federal law passed by Congress in 1910) prohibits transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes, Nicky proposes she marry Oscar. Thus they will be free to carry on an affair once the trio moves to Los Angeles. This doesnít stop Oscar from wanting to get a little erotic gratification from Freddie, and when she starts to sense that neither man really loves her she threatens to give every dime of her inheritance to charity. Backs firmly pressed against the wall, Nicky and Oscar begin devising a plan to murder her and make it look like a suicide. Considering weíre not exactly dealing with the sharpest tacks on the bulletin board here, things donít transpire according to plan.

 

The Fortune is a very weird film, a complete anomaly in the filmographies of all involved. It was made during a revolutionary decade for the industry when studios were giving exciting young cinematic voices license to create enduring works of art for little expense with little-to-no interference. It was directed by a man who broke through with films such as The Graduate and Whoís Afraid of Virginia Woolf after breaking new ground in stand-up comedy with his legendary partner Elaine May, and starred two of that eraís biggest male movie stars. The Fortune is a movie about the 1920ís made in the 1970ís that wants badly to be a frothy and innocuous farce fueled by pure star power and chemistry with witty dialogue delivered at top speed. Itís just that Nichols and Five Easy Pieces screenwriter Carole Eastman (credited as Adrien Joyce) fail to completely grasp how master screwball comedy directors such as Howard Hawks and Blake Edwards were able to make their classics of hilarity with perfect timing, sharp writing, and performances from their actors that heroically kept up with the fast-paced material and direction while maintaining their dignity with relative ease and professionalism. They truly believed in what they were doing, even if it didnít always work out as well as they hoped.

 

There were good intentions that went into the making The Fortune, but the film often seems to be ashamed of its own origins. We know Beatty and Nicholson could do better than this because they had before and they did constantly in the years since, and we know Nichols can make wonderful acerbic comedies when his energy, imagination, and confidence are at their peak. Eastman previously wrote the scripts for Five Easy Pieces and Monte Hellmanís underrated downbeat western The Shooting (featuring a pre-stardom Nicholson). But the creative talent on both sides of the camera in the making of this movie couldnít help but treat it as a distracting time-killer incepted merely to make some money for financier Columbia Pictures and give its cast and filmmakers undemanding, well-compensated work while waiting for better projects to come to fruition. Basically weíre watching movie stars get paid to wear expensive period clothing and act like buffoons. So be it.

 

At least The Fortune is mostly a good time with some funny dialogue and involved performances from Nicholson, Beatty, and best of all, Stockard Channing as the eccentric target of the con menís schemes and unlikely object of their affections. Sheís a genuine delight to watch every time sheís on screen. Beatty does his best Clark Gable impression as the charming straight man of the team, while Nicholson gets to indulge in some primordial goofiness as his horny, hapless schmuck of a partner-in-crime. Dub Taylor (The Wild Bunch), Scatman Crothers (One Flew Over the Cuckooís Nest), and a young Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap) put in minor bit performances as various characters our main trio encounter in their travels. Florence Stanley (The Prisoner of Second Avenue) gets a few fleeting moments to shine as their dowdy neighbor Mrs. Gould. David Shire (The Conversation) contributes a jazzy and upbeat music score that suits the story and the production design from Richard Sylbert (Chinatown) and John A. Alonzoís (The Bad News Bears) sun-dappled cinematography do an excellent job of recreating the California of the 20ís without going overboard with the period details.

 

Twilight Time presents The Fortune in a strong and crisp 1080p high-definition transfer framed in the filmís original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. Grain is reduced to a fine layer that is consistent from start to finish and details are sharp and pronounced. The color scheme is as warm as the California sun and the filmmakersí preferred palette of drab browns and reds looks its finest here. Traces of print damage are very minimal. The only audio option is a lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track but it serves the film well with a clean and uncluttered presentation of the dialogue, music, and sound effects mixes. The volume of the dialogue dips on occasion, but this could be due to the amount of lines that had to be re-recorded in post and the difficulty in making out what the characters are saying during scenes where the dialogue overlaps. English subtitles have also been included.

 

Extra features are limited (and boy howdy do I mean limited) to an isolated music and effects track in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, the Twilight Time Catalogue, and another essential booklet of liner notes written by the companyís highly informed film historian Julie Kirgo.

 

 

The Film: 3/5

Audio/Video: 4/5

Extras: 1/5

Overall: 3/5

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Where the Sidewalk Ends

Director - Otto Preminger

Cast- Dana Andres, Gene Tierney

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- David Steigman

 

Many years ago, after watching and thoroughly enjoying classic Film Noirs such as Anatomy of a Murder, Fallen Angel and Laura, all of which were directed by Otto Preminger, I came across yet another Noir from the same director. Where the Sidewalk Ends not only is has the same director, but two of the key actors in Laura were in it as well. And itís another tense, well played Noir thriller.

Dana Andrews (Laura, Curse of the Demon) stars as a ruthless, violent, hater of criminals, Detective Mark Dixon. In fact, his viciousness led to the accidental death of a murder suspect, Ken Payne (as war hero Craig Stevens) Dixon initially goes to Payneís house for questioning of a murder that happened at a gambling event. Payne punches Dixon who punches him back right in the face. Payne lands on the floor dead. Dixon, now having to cover up the mess that he has just made, is plotting to frame the murder on someone else. That someone else is cab driver, Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully). The plan works out well, but he falls in love with the cab driverís daughter, Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney) who was slapped by her husband, ironically enough, Ken Payne at that same gambling event where the first murder occurred. What happened was Morganís father went to Payneís house to get even but was unsuccessful as Detective Dixon had Payneís dead body and was preparing his cover up. Dixon found a way to make Taylor the scapegoat from this, but once he falls for Morgan he looks for a way to clear him while also trying to cover his own tracks. What Dixon should have really done to save himself from all of this grief is to simply call his superiors at the police district he works in and explain what had happened. But then, this movie wouldnít have existed and been so much fun if he did that!

Where the Sidewalk Ends is a well done, well-acted, tense Film Noir. The cast is great, including Karl Malden (The Cat Oí Nine Tails) as LT. Thomas, Neville Brand (Eaten Alive, DOA) as a thug, and Guy Merrill (Mysterious Island) as Tommy Scalise, who is Detective Dixonís arch-enemy. Dixon especially dislikes him because his father was a criminal who had run-ins with Scalise and will stop at nothing to take him down.  If you have seen The Big Heat, you will notice that Dixonís character is quite similar to Glenn Fordís, both being brutal officers of the law, who take the law into their own hands. Dixon is a somewhat complex character as he wants to uphold the law, but his utter hatred for criminals reduces to no more than a thug with a badge.

Twilight Time has released Where the Sidewalk Ends on bluray for the first time in the USA.  The video quality, with its MPEG-4 AVC encode is excellent. It boasts great contrast, accurate black levels, good detail and some grain is present. Itís simply a really good full screen black and white transfer, very much like The Big Heat, also reviewed by me. The audio is the usual DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 1.0, with no sound issues with the music or dialog (or explosions!) It is region free and it is limited to 3000 units.

This release from Twilight Time has a couple of extras:  an audio commentary with film historian Eddie Muller (ported over from the DVD release), the original theatrical trailer for Where the Sidewalk Ends, an isolated track score, and linear notes by Julie Kirgo.

 

 

The Film: 4/5

Audio/Video: 5/5

Extras: 2.75/5

Overall: 4/5

________________________________________________________________________________ The Big Heat

Director - Fritz Lang

Cast- Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- David Steigman

 

By the 1950s, Film Noirs were in full swing with so many dark, creepy, atmospheric movies all coming out around the same time. There were so many great stylish Noirs but very few, if any were as hard hitting, shocking or explosive as The Big Heat. Directed by Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M) this is a powerful tale of a police sergeant, Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford), who investigates a crime scene where police officer Tom Duncan has killed himself. What Bannion learns is that, the officer was part of crime syndicate including boss Mike Laguna (Alex Scourby), Vince Stone (Lee Marvin) and Mrs. (Bertha) Duncan (Jeanette Nolan) that were involved in both illegal activities and blackmail. The closer Bannion gets to the truth, the more he and his family become endangered. When the mob plants a bomb in Bannionís car to kill him, it winds up exploding while his wife, Katie (Jocelyn Brando) was inside the automobile. Bannion, filled with anger, and rage uses ruthless aggression to end the syndicate once and for all. He gets help from Debby (Gloria Grahame) who was Vince Stoneís girlfriend until he does the unthinkable to her, taking her beauty away. Also filled with vengeance, she assists Bannion in getting sweet revenge.

The Big Heat is an outstanding vengeance themed Film Noir, filled with a lot of gangster style action, and excellent performances by the cast. Glenn Ford is at first both a cop and a family man, who then turns into a very aggressive anti-hero, resembling more of Marvel Comicsí The Punisher as he goes after the crime syndicate that murdered his wife. He was as brutal and vicious as 1953 would allow. Lee Marvin is excellent as Vince Stone, who adds great depth and character to his role, as we learn that heís basically a woman beater, but canít pick on people his own size, or gender. And, lest we will not forget the lovely Gloria Grahame as Stoneís main squeeze, Debby, in one of her best roles. Her role was originally set to be played by Marilyn Monroe, but the studio did not like the financial demands to have her in the film. Director Lang once again shows his ahead of his time style and why he was a notch above many directors with this gem. He not only gives us what was a very shocking murder scene at the time, but an unforgettable scene with hot coffee to the face, which actually gets done a second time ! It was the hot coffee that for me made this an instant keeper in my DVD now blu ray collection. I remember being really shocked by that scene when I first watched the movie. There are also some other subtle scenes that caught my attention including a cute where Bannion and wife are sharing a beer and eating a big juicy steak and a scene with the two leading ladies in the film Debby and widow Mrs Duncan having a scene with both wearing fur coats. Lang, always looking for something groundbreaking, succeeded mightily here with The Big Heat.

 

Twilight Time has reissued The Big Heat to those who missed out on the first go-around, and for those who wanted more than a bare bones release which was the case of its initial blu ray release. The video quality, which more or the same is the same as the previous release, with its MPEG-4 AVC encode is delightful. Excellent contrast, black levels, detail and grain is present. Itís just a great full screen black and white transfer!  The audio is the usual DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 2.0, with no sound issues with the music or dialog (or explosions!)

This new release from Twilight Time has a couple of extras not present in the first release. This release has a commentary with film historians Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo and Lem Dobbs, two separate interviews with filmmakers Mark Scorsese and Michael Mann discussing The Big Heat, an original theatrical trailer, an isolated track score, and linear notes by Julie Kirgo.

 

 

The Film: 5/5

Audio/Video: 5/5

Extras: 4/5

Overall: 4.25/5

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La bambola di Satana

Director - Ferruccio Casapinta

Cast- Erna Schurer, Roland Carey

Country of Origin- Italy

Discs-1

Reviewer- Scott MacDonald

 

When Twilight Time announced La bambola di Satana I will admit I became immediately excited. Regardless of the film, I am always pleased when any label throws their hat into the EuroCult and Eurohorror landscape. Also, I had never seen the film before, and only heard minor things about it. Though most of my searching on them came up with mostly negative opinions, being a long time fan of Italian horror that did not calm my desire to see the film. What did become apparent is that it was a very early entry into the giallo genre, falling between Mario Bavaís genre prototype Blood and Black Lace, and the film that would bring the genre to the popular public conscience Dario Argentoís Bird with the Crystal Plumage.  

   La bambola di Satana actually blends elements from two popular Italian genres of the 60's the burgeoning giallo genre as previously mentioned, and the gothic horror film that had dominated Italy's horror landscape throughout the 60's.  The film follows Elizabeth (Erna Schurer). Elizabeth is a young women, who accompanied by 2 friends is at her late Uncle's estate at a reading of his will. As it turns out she is the sole beneficiary of his estate including his castle, and the surrounding property. She, however, does not want the castle, and wishes to sell to an interested neighbor.  However, an old family friend of her uncle wants to prevent the sale as he believes it to be against the will of her uncle, and states he has documents to prove it.  He is soon murdered by a man in black. After that event reality begins to break down for Elizabeth, and she is unable to tell what is a nightmare and what is real.

   OK, so the short of this. La Bambola di Satana is not good.  I sit through a lot of Italian trash, and some of it can be entertaining even at their worst (see the films of Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragrasso), but La bambola di Satana's cardinal sin is that it is simply boring. During my viewing of the film I had to keep skipping back to rewatch parts of the film as my attention kept wandering off.  There are some cool moments sporadically throughout the film, but to get to them one has to make it through piles of exposition and even a nonsensical seemingly unrelated dance scene.   There are some cool atmospheric moments and the establishing shots of the castle are interesting to look at, but overall there is really no substance in this one, and worse yet no real entertainment value.

   The Blu-ray from Twilight Time looks surprisingly good. When a good many transfers coming out of Italy are marked with noisy and DNR lader transfers Twilight Time's La bambola di Satana is largely natural looking. The transfer is presented in a 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. There are solid colors here, fine detail is solid with the exception of some out of focus shots, and only the occasion instance of damage. The audio is presented with a similarly solid DTS-HD 1.0 mono track in Italian with optional English subtitles. The dialogue and score are audible throughout with no issues to complain about. Extras include a quite informative and engaging commentary track by David Del Valle with Derek Botelho. There is also the isolated score, and a booklet of liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

 

 

The Film: 1.5/5

Audio/Video: 3.5/5

Extras: 2.5/5